|From the May-June, 1998 issue (Vol. 5 No. 4)|
In Part I of this article, we saw that Sirhan could not have shot Kennedy. Indeed, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Sirhan was firing blanks. If Sirhan did not shoot Kennedy, who did? Why? And how is it that Sirhans own lawyers did not reveal the evidence that he could not have committed the crime for which he received a death sentence?
Before one considers the above issues, one larger issue stands out. If Sirhan did not kill Kennedy, how has the cover-up lasted this long? In the end, that question will bring us closer to the top of the conspiracy than any other. No matter who was involved, if there were a will to get to the bottom of this crime, the evidence has been available. The fact that no official body has ever made the effort to honestly examine all the evidence in this case is nearly as chilling as the original crime itself, and points to a high level of what can only be termed government involvement. In the history of this country and particularly the sixties, one entity stands out beyond all others as having the means, the motive, and the opportunity to orchestrate this crime and continue the cover-up to this very day. But the evidence will point its own fingers; it remains only for us to follow wherever the evidence leads.
It has often been said that a successful conspiracy requires not artful planning, but rather control of the investigation that follows. The investigation was controlled primarily by a few key LAPD officers and the DA. Despite Congressman Allard Lowensteins efforts, no federal investigation of this case has ever taken place. In other words, a small handful of people were capable of keeping information that would point to conspirators out of the public eye. The Warren Commissions conclusions were subjected to intense scrutiny when their documentation was published. Evidently the LAPD wanted no such scrutiny, and simply refused to release their files until ordered to do so in the late 80s.
SUS members predominantly came from military backgrounds.1 Charles Higbie, who controlled a good portion of the investigation, had been in the Marine Corps for five years and in Intelligence in the Marine Corp. Reserve for eight more. Frank Patchett, the man who turned the Kennedy "head bullet" over to DeWayne Wolfer after it had taken a trip to Washington with an FBI man, had spent four years in the Navy, where his specialty was Cryptography. The Navy and Marines figured prominently in the background of a good many of the SUS investigators. The editor of the SUS Final Report, however, had spent eight years of active duty with the Air Force, as a Squadron Commander and Electronics Officer.
Two SUS members were in a unique position within the LAPD to control the investigation and the determination of witness credibility: Manuel Pena and Hank Hernandez. Pena had quite the catbird seat. A chart from the LAPD shows that all investigations were funneled through a process whereby all reports came at some point to him. He then had the sole authority for "approving" the interviews, and for deciding whether or not to do a further interview with each and every witness. In other words, if you wanted to control the flow of the investigation, all you would have to do is control Lt. Manuel Pena.
In a similarly powerful position, Sgt. Enrique "Hank" Hernandez was the sole polygraph operator for the SUS unit. In other words, whether a witness was lying or telling the truth was left to the sole discretion of Hernandez. Some people mistakenly think that a polygraph is an objective determiner of a persons veracity. But a polygraph operator can alter the machines sensitivity to make a liar look like a truth teller, or a truth teller look like a liar. In addition, the manner of the polygraph operator will do much to assuage or create fear and stress in the person being polygraphed. In addition, no less than William Colby himself said it is possible to beat the machine with a few tricks. For these and other reasons, no court in America allows the results of polygraph tests to be used as evidence. But Hernandezs polygraph results were given amazing weight in the SUS investigation. Indeed, his tests became the sole factor in the SUSs determination of the credibility of witnesses.
Because of their prominent roles in the cover-up, the background of Pena and Hernandez has always been of special interest. Pena has an odd background indeed. His official SUS information states he served in the Navy during WWII and in the Army during the Korean War, and was a Counterintelligence officer in France. According to Robert Houghton, he "spoke French and Spanish, and had connections with various intelligence agencies in several countries."2 Pena also served the CIA for a long time. Penas brother told the TV newsman Stan Bohrman that Manny was proud of his service to the CIA. In 1967, Pena "retired" from the LAPD, leaving to join AID, the agency long since acknowledged as having provided the CIA cover for political operations in foreign countries. Roger LeJeunesse, an FBI agent who had been involved in the RFK assassination investigation, told William Turner that Pena had performed special assignments for the CIA for more than ten years. LaJeunesse added that Pena had gone to a "special training unit" of the CIAs in Virginia. On some assignments Pena worked with Dan Mitrione, the CIA man assassinated by rebels in Uruguay for his role in teaching torture to the police forces there. After his retirement from the LAPD (and a very public farewell dinner) in November of 1967, Pena inexplicably returned to the LAPD in 1968. 3
Hernandez had also worked with AID. During his session with Sandy Serrano, he told her that he had once been called to Vietnam, South America and Europe to perform polygraph tests. He also claimed he had been called to administer a polygraph to the dictator of Venezuela back when President Betancourt came to power.
One of Hernandezs neighbors related to Probe how Hernandez used to live in a modest home in the Monterey Park area, a solidly middle-class neighborhood. But within a short time after the assassination, Hernandez had moved to a place that has a higher income per capita then Beverly Hills: San Marino. He came into possession of a security firm and handled large accounts for the government.
Another all-important position in the cover-up would necessarily have been the office of the District Attorney, then occupied by J. Evelle Younger. Evelle Younger had been one of Hoovers top agents before he left the FBI to join the Counterintelligence unit of the Far East branch of the OSS.4
Under these three, credible leads were discarded. Younger wrote off the problem of Sirhans distance as a "discrepancy" of an inch or two, when in fact the problem was of a foot or more. Truthful witnesses were made to admit to impossible lies under Hernandezs pressure-cooker sessions. Pena took a special interest in getting rid of the story of the girl in the polka dot dress. But no investigation could be considered fully under control if one did not also have control over the defense investigators. Sirhans defense lawyers could not be allowed to look too deeply into the contradictory evidence in the case.
Despite the late appearance of the autopsy report (after the trial had already commenced), its significance was noted and reported to Sirhans lead attorney, Grant Cooper by Robert Kaiser. Why did Cooper not act on this very important information? Was Cooper truly serving Sirhan, or was Cooper perhaps beholden to a more powerful client? What of the others on Sirhans team? Just what kind of representation did Sirhan receive?
Several people were key to Sirhans original defense. These werein order of their appearance in the caseA. L. "Al" Wirin, Robert Kaiser, Grant Cooper, Russell Parsons, and Michael McCowan. Who were these people?
Upon Sirhans arrest, he asked to see an attorney for the ACLU. Al Wirin showed up. In 1954, Wirin had brought a suit against the LAPD over the legality of some of the departments wiretapping methods.5 Most people might expect that a lawyer for the ACLU would care a great deal about the rights of the accused; thats what the American Civil Liberties Union is supposed to be all about. But that evidently wasnt Abraham Lincoln Wirins style. Consider the following information from Mark Lane:
On December 4, 1964, when I debated in Southern California with Joseph A. Ball... [of the Warren Commission and] A. L. Wirin....Wirin made an impassioned plea for support for the findings of the commission....He said, his voice rising in an earnest plea:
"I say thank God for Earl Warren. He saved us from a pogrom. He saved our nation. God bless him for what he has done in establishing that Oswald was the lone assassin."
The audience remained silent. I asked but one question: "If Oswald was innocent, Mr. Wirin, would you still say, Thank God for Earl Warren and bless him for establishing him as the lone murderer?" Wirin thought for but an instant. He responded, "Yes. I still would say so."6
Wirin has made a number of claims, including that Sirhan confessed the assassination to him. Given the evidence, such a confession is of little value, since no matter what Sirhan thought, he could not have been the shooter. But more troubling is the fact that an ACLU lawyer would share a comment made by a prisoner in confidence to what he thought was a legal representative there to help him. And when Sirhan requested a couple of books relating to the occult shortly after his arrest, Wirin felt the need to report this to the media.
How Robert Blair Kaiser entered the case is a bit fuzzy. According to Melanson and Klaber, Wirin commissioned Kaiser to approach Grant Cooper. But according to Kaiser, he had injected himself into the case right after the assassination. Upon hearing of the assassination, he claimed he "choked, cried, cursed, and, instead of sitting there weeping in front of the TV, tried to do something." His something was to call Life magazines LA Bureau, where he "found that the bureau needed [his] help and tried to get on the track of the man who shot Kennedy."7
One of Kaisers first acts on the case was to interview Sirhans brother Saidallah in his Pasadena apartment on the night of June 5th, less than 24 hours after RFK had been shot. Kaiser brought along Life photographer Howard Bingham, who tried to take Saidallahs picture. Saidallah did not want his picture taken.8 Saidallah later filed a police report detailing an incident later that night after Kaisers visit. The LAPD record states:
At approximately 11:30 p.m. he heard someone kick on his front door. He answered the door and just as he unlocked the screen, the door was kicked open. A man rushed through the door and struck [Saidallah] Sirhan in the cheek with his fist and stated, "Damn it, were gonna kill all you Arabs."...The man stated, "If you dont give your photograph to Life, were going to take it from you." He took a photograph of Sirhan from a small table and walked out of the apartment. Another man was with the one who entered Sirhans apartment, but he did not enter.
Kaiser claims this event never happened. But how could he know? On a strange note, Kaiser gave Sirhan a copy of Witness, the book detailing Whittaker Chambers account of "exposing" Alger Hiss.9
Kaiser initiated contact with Sirhan by calling Wirin to ask if he could get him in to see Sirhan. During the call, Kaiser mentioned that he had discussed the case with Grant Cooper, a well-known Los Angeles criminal attorney. When Wirin heard Kaiser knew Cooper, Wirin asked Kaiser to urge Cooper to help Sirhan. Curiously, Sirhan had also picked out Coopers name when shown a list of lawyers. It seemed everyone wanted Cooper in this case, including Cooper himself.
Cooper had an interesting background. He had, but a year earlier, gone all the way to Da Nang, Vietnam to defend a Marine corporal on a murder charge before a military court. Why would a Los Angeles lawyer fly all the way to Vietnam to defend a man in military court? Answered Cooper, "Id never been asked to defend a man before a military court before."10 This highly paid lawyer with no reported proclivities for lost causes nonetheless agreed to take on Sirhans case, even though the family had virtually no money to offer for Sirhans defense. He couldnt do so immediately, however, as he was busy defending an associate of Johnny Roselli in the Friars Club card cheating scandal. Roselli was hired by Robert Maheu to head up the CIAs assassination plots against Castro. Roselli spent time at JMWAVE, the CIAs enormous station in Miami, training snipers among other activities.11 Coopers client was also accused by another associate of Rosellis, of having passed him money to pay for a murder.12
As Probe readers saw in Jim DiEugenios landmark piece about how the CIA worked hand in hand with Clay Shaws attorneys to undermine New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrisons investigation of John Kennedys murder, the CIA maintained a "Cleared Attorneys Panel" from which they could draw trustworthy, closemouthed representation as needed.13 When someone as knowledgeable as Roselli of the CIAs innermost secrets is being defended, one would assume that the CIA would go to great lengths to provide him legal assistance. Cooper was in direct and extensive contact with Rosellis lawyer James Cantillion. In connection with this case, Cooper himself obtained stolen grand jury transcripts by bribing a court clerk, a very serious (not to mention illegal) offense. In addition, Cooper had twice lied to a federal judge. Frankly, Cooper sounded more like a candidate for the CIAs Cleared Attorneys Panel than for the role of a justice crusader. The notion that he would volunteer to defend Sirhan at a time when his own legal troubles were raging around him is preposterous. Something besides pity for a penniless, guilty-looking client was likely motivating Cooper.
While Cooper was waiting to finish the Friars Club case, Wirin showed Cooper a list of attorneys that included the names of Joseph Ball and Herman Selvin. Curiously, it was Ball and Selvin who had participated with Wirin in the debate with Mark Lane (all three defending the Warren Report against the attacks of Mark Lane). Ball and Selvin were Coopers first choices, but they turned him down.14 Two others on the list included Russell E. Parsons and Luke McKissack. Cooper chose Parsons, saying he did not know McKissack, but that he had " worked with Russ before."15 (McKissack was later to become a lawyer for Sirhan.16) Parsons immediately accepted defending this "poor devil in trouble," as he characterized Sirhan.17 For whatever strange reason, LAPD files record Russell Parsons as having an alias: Lester Harris.18 Perhaps that was a remnant from his days as a Mob lawyer.19
Parsons, in turn, brought Michael McCowan into the case as a private investigator. McCowan was an ex-Marine, an ex-cop and an ex-law student.20 Michael McCowan had been expelled from the LAPD in the wake of his dealings with David Kassab and others who were running a land scam deal in the San Fernando Valley in 1962. In the SUS files, there are continual references to the "Kassab Report", a report of an investigation into "alleged ties between the J.F.K. and the R.F.K. assassinations." The report itself is nowhere to be found. Listed as being in the report are names such as Clay Shaw, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Jim Braden, Russell Parsons, and many others of interest to assassination researchers. The report is over 900 pages long, according to page references scattered among these files. Why was such a massive report compiled? Why do so many references to it appear in the SUS files? And why has the full Kassab report been suppressed to this day?
McCowan had other problems to bring to the table beyond the Kassab deal. A former girlfriend of his notified the police that he kept a large stash of weapons in his residence. The police issued an order to investigate whether the weapons represented "loot" from other crimes, but asked that the investigation be kept quiet. At the time McCowan entered the Sirhan case, he was on a three-year probation, having appealed a five-year sentence he received in conjunction with theft and tampering with U.S. mail.
Following his involvement in the Sirhan case, McCowan worked as a defense investigator for peace activists Donald Freed and Shirley Sutherland. Freed and Sutherland had been set up by a self-proclaimed former CIA Green Beret named James Jarrett. In March of 1969, Freed and Sutherland helped organize "Friends of the Black Panthers." Jarrett had infiltrated the group by offering training in the area of self-defense, as members of the group had experienced assaults and even rape. Freed asked Jarrett to buy him a mace-like spray to use for defensive purposes. Jarrett instead presented Freed a brown-paper wrapped box of explosives while wearing a wire and attempting to get Freed to say that the "stuff" was for the Panthers. Minutes after the exchange, agents of the FBI, LAPD and Treasury raided Freeds home. Freed was charged with illegal possession of explosives. McCowan was hired by the defense as an investigator. McCowan in turn hired Sam Bluth to assist the defense. But Bluth worked instead as a police informant, stealing defense files and witness lists and proffering them to the police.21
Cooper had originally secured an initial agreement from yet another lawyer to participate in the case: the famous Edward Bennett Williams. Williams had represented the Washington Post during its Watergate coverage while also representing the target of the break-in, the Democratic National Committee. He had defended CIA Director Richard Helms when he was charged with perjury in the wake of the revelations about the CIAs participation in the events surrounding the assassination of Allende in Chile. Williams in fact defended a number of CIA men.
Williams had also defended Jimmy Hoffa when Robert Kennedy was aggressively pursuing him. And he had the gall to ask Robert Kennedys personal secretary Angie Novello, recipient of the John Kennedy autopsy materials, to work for him after Robert was killed. Novello refused until Williams convinced her (rightfully or wrongly) that he and Bobby had made up in the wake of the Hoffa pursuit. In addition, Williams had defended Joseph McCarthy when he was under attack from the Senate. (Perhaps that is why Kaiser gave Sirhan Witness to read!) Lastly, and perhaps importantly, Williams had become good friends with Robert Maheu, the man who had hired Roselli to kill Castro on behalf of the CIA. Maheu himself appears to play a larger and more interesting role in the story of the RFK assassination, a point to which well return. All in all, Williams was a most curious choice of Coopers, and one wonders what moved Williams to make even a tentative agreement to represent Sirhan.
When Williams bowed out, Cooper turned to Emile "Zuke" Berman. Bermans biggest case had involved defending a Marine drill instructor who had led his troop into a fast-rising estuary. Six drowned in this incident. Berman was able to get the mans sentence reduced to six months, and then obtained a full reversal from the Secretary of the Navy. Berman was later accused by Cooper of leaking the story of a proposed plea bargain (in which Cooper would plead Sirhan guilty to 1st degree murder in the hopes of avoiding a death sentence) to the press during the trial. (Judge Walker claimed he had been told the source was Kaiser.22) Berman was distressed that the Israeli/Palestinian battles were being given focus by the defense team during the case, and Kaiser was later to say Berman was "there in name and body only; his spirit wasnt there."23
Now if you temporarily throw out any questions raised by the evidence that has just been presented, and focus solely on how well these people served Sirhan, the picture is grim indeed. On the key point of the lack of a clear chain of possession of the bullets, Cooper met with the prosecuting attorneys in Judge Walkers chamber on February 21, 1969. The way Cooper gives in on an issue he has every reason to fight goes to the heart of the credibility of how well he defended his client. Here is the relevant section:
Fitts (Deputy DA): Now, there is another problem that Id like to get to with respect to the medical. It is our intention to call DeWayne Wolfer to testify with respect to his ballistics comparison. Some of the objects or exhibits that he will need illustrative of his testimony will...not have adequate foundation, as I will concede at this time.
Cooper: You mean the surgeon took it from the body and this sort of thing?
Fitts: Well, with respect to the bullets or bullet fragments that came from the alleged victims, it is our understanding that there will be a stipulation that these objects came from the persons whom I say they came from. Is that right?
Cooper: So long as you make that avowal, there will be no question about that.
Fitts: Fine. Well, we have discussed the matter with Mr. Wolfer as to those envelopes containing those bullets or bullet fragments; he knows where they came from; the envelope will be marked with the names of the victims....24 [Emphasis added.]
Cooper would make many strange moves, allegedly in "defense" of Sirhan. He kept the autopsy photos from being presented in court under the notion that they would cause sympathy for Kennedy and arouse even more ire against his client. But that was the evidence that could have been used to absolve Sirhan of guilt in the case. But Cooper wasnt looking for evidence of Sirhans innocence. In addition, Sirhans notebooks were found during an illegal search (a search authorized by Adel, but Adel had no legal authority to give such authorization) of Mary Sirhans house, where Sirhan was living at the time. Cooper had every reason to bar these notebooks from being admitted into evidence, but he chose not only to admit them into evidence, but even had Sirhan read portions of them from the stand. And it was Cooper who supplied Sirhan the motive he lacked, claiming that Sirhan was angry that RFK was willing to provide jets to Israel. Sirhan, lacking any memory of the crime or why he was there with a gun, readily accepted this in lieu of the only other explanation suggested to him, that he was utterly insane.
Kaiser involved himself with Sirhans defense team by negotiating a book contract, claiming that a portion of the proceeds could be used to pay the lawyers. In return for his access, he would work as an investigator for Sirhan. It was Kaiser who brought the distance problem regarding Sirhans position relative to Robert Kennedys powder burns to the attention of Sirhans defense team, albeit late in the game. Yet Kaiser believes that Sirhan and Sirhan alone fired all the bullets in the pantry. Kaiser was also the first to bring attention to the strange behavior of Sirhan during the crime that so strongly suggested to Kaiser that he was under some sort of hypnotic influence.
This issue is all-important to the question of Sirhans guilt. The ballistics and forensic evidence indicates clearly that there was a conspiracy. So wasnt Sirhan a conspirator? Not necessarily. The question has always been this: did Sirhan play a witting, complicit role; or was he guided in some manner by others to the point where he was not in control of his actions and their consequences? This most serious issue was never brought up during Sirhans only trial.
The defense team hired Dr. Bernard Diamond to examine Sirhan to ascertain his mental state, and to find out if Sirhan could be made to remember what happened under hypnosis. As soon as Diamond hypnotized Sirhan, he found that Sirhan was an exceedingly simple subject. In fact, Sirhan "went under" so quickly and so deeply that Diamond had to work to keep him conscious enough to respond. Kaiser recorded that the very first words that Sirhan spoke to Diamond when put under hypnosis were "I dont know any people."25 Such rapid induction generally indicates prior hypnosis.
The tapes of Diamonds hypnosis sessions reveal a man that sounds like he is more interested in implanting memories than recovering them. This has been well detailed in the literature elsewhere so I will not focus on it here. Diamond, however, argued against Kaisers notion that Sirhan had been somehow hypnotically in the control of another, and claimed Sirhan had hypnotized himself. But self-hypnosis rarely (if ever) results in complete amnesia. In addition, Sirhan "blocked" when asked key questions under hypnosis, such as "Did you think this up all by yourself?" (five second pause), and "Are you the only person involved in Kennedys shooting?" (three second pause).26 In hypnosis, blocks are as important as answers, in that they can indicate some prior work in that area. Skilled hypnotists can place blocks into the subjects mind that prevent memory of actions undertaken and associations made while under hypnosis.
Dr. Eduard Simson-Kallas, the chief psychologist when Sirhan was at San Quentin Prison, remains convinced that Sirhan was hypnoprogrammed. He spent hours getting to know Sirhan, and when Sirhan talked about the case Simson-Kallas said it was as if he was "reciting from a book", without any of the little details most people tell when they are recounting a real event. Sirhan came to trust the psychologist, and asked him to hypnotize him. At this point, the psychologist was stopped by prison authorities who claimed he was spending too much time on Sirhan. Simson-Kallas resigned from his job over the Sirhan case. Simson-Kallas also said he had no respect for Diamond, who claimed both that Sirhan was schizophrenic, and that he was self-hypnotized. Schizophrenics cannot hypnotize themselves.27
The evidence that Sirhan was in some mentally altered state on the night of the assassination is plentiful. By his own account he had about four Tom Collinses. But not one person reported him as appearing drunk. Sandy Serrano, who had seen him walk up the back steps into the Ambassador had described him as "Boracho" but specifically explained that by that she didnt mean drunk, but somehow out of place. Yosio Niwa, Vincent DiPierro and Martin Patrusky all saw Sirhan smiling a "stupid" or "sickly" smile while he was firing. Mary Grohs, a Teletype operator, remembered him standing and staring at the Teletype machine, nonresponsive, saying nothing, and eventually walking away. And then there was the issue of his incredible strength. Sirhan was a fairly small man, and he was able to hold his own against a football tackle and several other much larger men in the pantry. George Plimpton recalled that Sirhans eyes were "enormously peaceful". Plimptons wife said Sirhans "eyes were narrow, the lines on his face were heavy and set and he was completely concentrated on what he was doing." Joseph Lahaiv reported Sirhan was strangely "very tranquil" during the fight for the gun. Some have claimed Sirhan was simply tranquil because he was fulfilling his quest to kill Kennedy. But he didnt kill Kennedy, and even if he did, such a premise would have required at least a recollection of having finally completed successfully the planned act, if not an exclamation of "Sic Semper Tyrannus". Sirhan, like the other "lone nut assassins" of the sixties, was neither jubilant nor remorseful. But he could not claim that he hadnt shot Kennedy, because he truly didnt remember anything from that moment.
Even at the police station, Sirhans conversation could only be termed bizarre. He would not tell his name, didnt talk about the assassination, and was interested only in engaging in small talk with the frustrated officers around him. These trained officers tried every tactic they knew to get him to talk, but Sirhan remained silent on anything relating to his identity. When he was arraigned before the judge, he was booked only as "John Doe" until his identity was eventually discovered. This point worried the police; usually when a subject didnt divulge his identity, it was a ruse to protect confederates, giving them a chance to get away.
An Arab doctor spoke Arabic to Sirhan, but obtained no response in recognition. Sheriff Pitchess would say of Sirhan that he was a "very unusual prisoner...a young man of apparently complete self-possession, totally unemotional. He wants to see what the papers have to say about him."28 At the station in the middle of a hot Los Angeles June night, Sirhan got the chills. He exhibited a similar reaction every time he came out of hypnosis from Diamond.
Sirhans family and friends insisted that Sirhan had changed after a fall from a horse at a racetrack where he was working as an exercise jockey. One of his friends from the racetrack, Terry Welch, told the LAPD that Sirhan underwent a complete personality change; that he suddenly resented people with wealth, that he had become a loner. After the fall, Sirhan was treated by a series of doctors. Its possible that one of these doctors saw Sirhan as a potential hypnosis subject, and started him down a path that would end at the Ambassador hotel. Curiously, renowned expert hypnotist Dr. George Estabrooks, used by the War Department after Pearl Harbor, suggested planting a "doctor" in a hospital who could employ hypnotism on patients.29
The strange notebook entries, if they were indeed written by Sirhan, show certain phrases repeated over and over, including "RFK must die" and "Pay to the order of". Other words that pop up with no explanation, scattered throughout the writing, are "drugs" and "mind control". Diamond once hypnotized Sirhan and asked him to write about Robert Kennedy. Out came "RFK must die RFK must die RFK must die" and "Robert Kennedy is going to die Robert Kennedy is going to die Robert is going to die." When asked who killed Kennedy, Sirhan wrote "I dont know I dont know I dont know."
Just hours after the assassination, famed hypnotist Dr. William Joseph Bryan was on the Ray Briem show for KABC radio, and mentioned offhandedly that Sirhan was likely operating under some form of posthypnotic suggestion. Curiously, in the SUS files there is an interview summary of Joan Simmons in which the following is listed:
Miss Simmons was program planner for a show on KABC radio and was contacted regarding allegations of Sirhan belonging to a secret hypnotic group. She stated that she knew nothing of a Doctor Bryant [sic] of the American Institute of Hypnosis or Hortence Farrchild. She was acquainted with Herb Elsman [the next few words are blacked out but appear to say "and considered him some right-wing extremist."]
Dr. Bryan was the President of the American Institute of Hypnosis, the headquarters of which were located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Bryan was famous for having hypnotized Albert De Salvo, the "Boston Strangler" and claimed to have discovered De Salvos motive under hypnosis. There is good reason to doubt that De Salvo was in fact the killer, according to Susan Kelly in her recent, heavily documented book The Boston Stranglers.30 And if he was not, that throws a more sinister light on Bryans overtly coercive involvement with De Salvo. Curiously, De Salvo was the topic of one of Sirhans disjointed post-assassination ramblings at LAPD headquarters, and references to "Di Salvo" and appear in Sirhans notebook.
Bryan, by his own account, had been the "chief of all medical survival training for the United States Air Force, which meant the brainwashing section."31 He also claimed to have been a consultant for the film The Manchurian Candidate, based on Richard Condons famous novel about a man who is captured by Communists and hypnotically programmed to return to the United States to kill a political leader. Condons novel was itself based upon the CIAs ARTICHOKE program, which sought to find a way to create a programmed, amnesiac assassin. ARTICHOKE became MKULTRA.
Bryan bragged to prostitutes that he had performed "special projects" for the CIA, and that he had programmed Sirhan. Publicly, Bryan denied any involvement with Sirhan. Bryan was a brilliant but sometimes insufferable egotist who seems to have had a ready opinion on nearly any subject. But whenever Sirhan came up, with the exception of that first night, he uncharacteristically shut down and refused to discuss the case. It would appear that if Bryan was not himself directly responsible, he had some inside knowledge perhaps as to who was, and chose not to reveal it. Ultimately, the case for hypnosis does not rest on Bryan, and whether or not he worked on Sirhan has no bearing on the overall issue of Sirhan having been hypnotized.
After seeing the movie Conspiracy Theory, many people wondered if MKULTRA was indeed a real government program. Yes, Virginia, there was a sinister mind control program in which people were made to undergo hideous, obscene mental and physical tortures in the CIAs quest for a way to create a Manchurian Candidate. It should be noted that Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, and surprisingly, the Rockefeller Foundation were instrumental in developing, supporting and funding the CIAs various mind control programs.32
Most CIA doctors and hypnotists will claim that they never found success, that they could never program someone to do something against their will. Not true, argue others. On the latter point, the simple way to get someone to do something against their will is to alter their reality. Estabrooks had salient comments in relation to this point:
There seems to be a tradition that, with hypnotism in crime we hypnotize our victim, hand him a club, and say, "Go murder Mr. Jones." If he refuses, then we have disproven the possibility of so using hypnotism. Such a procedure would be silly in the extreme. The skillful operator would do everything in his power to avoid an open clash with such moral scruples as his subject might have.33...
Will the subject commit murder in hypnotism? Highly doubtfulat least without long preparation, and then only in certain cases of very good subjects....Yet, strange to say, most good subjects will commit murder....For example, we hypnotize a subject and tell him to murder you with a gun. In all probability, he will refuse....But a hypnotist who really wished a murder could almost certainly get it with a different technique....he hypnotizes the subject, tells the subject to go to [the victims place], point the gun...and pull the trigger. Then he remarks to his assistant that, of course, the gun is loaded with dummy ammunition [even though it is not].34
Under such a scenario, Estabrooks and other hypnotists are certain that creating a murderer is possible.
But even more to the point is a note John Marks makes in his book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, which details the CIAs efforts in this regard. He quotes a veteran CIA officer who says that while it would be highly impractical to program an assassin, due to the unpredictable number of independent decisions the subject might encounter which could lead to exposure before the deed was done, creating an assassin in this manner is also unnecessary, as mercenaries have been available since the dawn of time for this heinous act. Marks then adds the following:
The veteran admits that none of the arguments he uses against a conditioned assassin would apply to a programmed "patsy" whom a hypnotist could walk through a series of seemingly unrelated eventsa visit to a store, a conversation with a mailman, picking a fight at a political rally. The subject would remember everything that happened to him and be amnesic only for the fact the hypnotist ordered him to do these things. There would be no gaping inconsistency in his life of the sort that can ruin an attempt by a hypnotist to create a second personality. The purpose of this exercise is to leave a circumstantial trail that will make the authorities think the patsy committed a particular crime. The weakness might well be that the amnesia would not hold up under police interrogation, but that would not matter if the police did not believe his preposterous story about being hypnotized or if he were shot resisting arrest. Hypnosis expert Milton Kline says he could create a patsy in three months; an assassin would take him six.35 [Emphasis added.]
Sirhan exhibited behavior during the trial that also appeared to indicate post-hypnotic suggestion. One day, two girls showed up in court that Sirhan identified as Peggy Osterkamp (a name that appeared frequently in the notebook) and Gwen Gumm. Sirhan became enraged at their presence and demanded a recess, asking to talk to the judge in chambers. The judge refused to hear Sirhan in chambers, and Sirhan, visibly fighting for self-control, said "I, at this time, sir, withdraw my original please of not guilty and submit the plea of guilty as charged on all counts." Asked what kind of penalty he wanted, Sirhan answered "I will ask to be executed," Asked why he was doing this, Sirhan replied, "I killed Robert Kennedy willfully, premeditatedly, with twenty years of malice aforethought, that is why." This ridiculous "confession" that a four-year old Sirhan was contemplating the murder of a man not yet famous almost half a world away strains credulity past the breaking point.
Making this even more bizarre is the fact that the two girls were not the two girls Sirhan said they were, but in fact two other people, identified by Kaiser as Sharon Karaalajich and Karen Adams. Sirhans extreme reaction to two people who were not the people he thought they were forced Kaiser to conclude that "Sirhan was in a kind of paranoid, dissociated state there and then...."36 It follows that if someone programmed Sirhan to be the perfect patsy, they would likely also have programmed a seemingly spontaneous "confession" that could be spouted at the appropriate time, triggered by some person or event.
In an interesting little book named 254 Questions and Answers on Practical Hypnosis and Autosuggestion, author Emile Franchel put forth some very interesting and relevant information on hypnosis. For example, asked how long a person could be held in a hypnotic state, Franchel replied: "With sufficient knowledge and skill on the part of the hypnotist, indefinitely." Asked whether the hypnotic state could always be detected, Franchel said no, not in all cases. Franchel referred to hypno-espionage without further explanation, and when asked what official government agencies he worked for, Franchel declined to answer. He stated that he felt he was a bit of a "black sheep" among associates, explaining, "I help the innocent as well as convict the guilty."
The following question and answer pair seemed particularly relevant to Sirhans case. Recall that Sirhan kept firing his gun, even while six big men were pounding him, causing a sprained foot and a broken finger.
Q: Reading about an assassination attempt recently, the report described how it took six or more bullets to stop each assassin. Could these assassins have been "conditioned" with hypnosis not to feel any pain?
A: Well, I am not sure who is going to like or dislike my answer to your question, but I read the same reports that you did. Unfortunately, I do not have access to any more official information. From what I read, I would conclude that they not only had been hypnotically conditioned to feel no pain, but in all probability were working, perhaps partly of their own free desires, but also under hypnotic compulsion, to complete a given mission.
The reports seem to clearly indicate that the assassins had to have a bullet placed in a vital organ to stop them. Bullets that hit anywhere else did not apparently deter them in any way.
For whatever reason, in this 1957 book, Franchel felt compelled to offer a warning regarding hypnosis and its usage:
[A:] The hypnotic techniques being employed at present make the hypnotic technicians of the ex-Nazi regime look like well meaning psychiatrists....
Q: Do I understand correctly, that you are saying that hypnotism is being abused, completely without regard to human rights?
A: You understand correctly. I am fully satisfied that hypnotic techniques are being used on a vast scale, both criminally and for other terrible reasons. Perhaps one day I might be permitted to tell you.
Q: I have heard you say many times during your television programs [Adventures in Hypnosis] that a subject under hypnosis "cannot be made to do anything that is against his moral or religious beliefs." How can you say that now?
A: I am afraid you have not been listening too closely to what I was saying. The only similar remark I have made is, "IT IS SAID that a person under hypnosis cannot be made to do anything that is against their religious or moral beliefs." I trust that the implication is clear.
It should be noted that hypnosis is considered dangerous enough that it is illegal to broadcast a hypnotic induction on television.
If Sirhan was indeed programmed, then his statements at the trial, his appearance at the shooting range hours before the assassination and his firing of a gun in the pantry may all have been actions carried out without the intervention of will. There is a strong possibility that Sirhan was not only hypnotized but additionally drugged by alcohol or some stronger substance. Frankel warned that drugs could shut down the conscious mind, preventing it from filtering what reaches the subconscious, adding:
With the conscious filter action removed, anything can be forced into the subconscious mind, which must obey it in one way or another, as the subconscious cannot argue but must believe all information reaching it, and use it.
Had Sirhan had a real trial, the possibility of his having been hypnotized may have provided reasonable doubt on the question of his guilt. But if Sirhan wasnt guilty, then who was?
The rest of this article can be found in The Assassinations, edited by Jim DiEugenio and Lisa Pease.
1. The SUS files begin with biographies of all the SUS members, including military service information.
2. Robert A. Houghton with Theodore Taylor, Special Unit Senator (New York: Random House, 1970), pp. 102-3.
3. Jonn Christian and William Turner, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (New York: Thunders Mouth Press, 1978), pp. 64-66.
4. Richard Harris Smith, OSS: The Secret History of Americas First Central Intelligence Agency (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), p. 20.
5. Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege, p. 249. For his efforts, Wirin, a native-born Russian, was branded a Communist. One can only wonder at the effect that had on his career or his subsequent actions.
6. Mark Lane, Plausible Denial (New York: Thunders Mouth Press), p. 52.
7. Robert Blair Kaiser, R. F. K. Must Die (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1970) p. 102.
8. Kaiser, pp. 103-104.
9. In Kaisers own book, he writes that he had been the one to recommend the book to Sirhan (p. 239). But in his January 17, 1969 article for Life magazine, Kaiser writes that Sirhan "requested" the book Witness. Similarly, in RFK Must Die Kaiser writes that Eason Monroe, the president of the ACLU, had called A. L. Wirin after the assassination with the suggestion that Wirin approach Sirhan (p. 60). But in the Life article, Kaiser implies that Adel Sirhan brought Wirin into the case.
10. Kaiser, p. 124.
11. Brad Ayers, The War That Never Was (Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1976) and private correspondence.
12. Klaber and Melanson, Shadow Play: The Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, the Trial of Sirhan Sirhan, and the Failure of American Justice (New York: St. Martins Press, 1997) p. 43.
13. CIA document dated 3/18/68 referencing the "cleared attorneys panel", quoted in Probe(7/22/97), p. 18.
14. Kaiser, p. 128.
15. Kaiser, p. 129.
16. McKissack was later removed from the Sirhan defense team and replaced with Godfrey Isaac.
17. Klaber and Melanson, p. 26.
18. SUS Files, Index Card under Russell E. Parsons.
19. Kaiser, p. 245. "In the forties...Russell Parsons was defending some well-known members of what is sometimes called The Mob...." See also the SUS final report (unredacted version), p.1430.
20. Kaiser, p. 152.
21. Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp. 261-263.
22. Klaber and Melanson, p. 72.
23. Klaber and Melanson, p. 72.
24. A copy of this transcript is provided by Lynn Mangan in her monograph on the case on p. 214 (p. 3967 of the original trial transcript). Sirhan was not present in chambers when this agreement was reached.
25. Kaiser, p. 296.
26. Kaiser, pp. 302-303.
27. Alan W. Scheflin and Edward M. Opton, Jr. The Mind Manipulators (New York: Paddington Press Ltd., 1978), p. 439.
28. Kaiser, p. 86.
29. Walter H. Bowart, Operation Mind Control (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1978), p. 58.
30. Kelly makes a good case for De Salvos innocence, and the guilt of his closest associate, George Nasser. The lawyer in that case was F. Lee Bailey, a friend of Bryans. Bryan helped Bailey on two other famous cases. F. Lee Bailey was later to defend a mind control victim named Patty Hearst. (Curiously, her fathers first two choices for a lawyer for her defense were Edward Bennett Williams and Percy Foreman, the notorious lawyer who coerced James Earl Ray into pleading guilty, an act Ray forever after regretted.)
31. Turner & Christian, p. 226, quoting Bryans KNX Radio Interview of February 12, 1972.
32. Allen Dulles and Richard Helms participation in these programs is well documented. Lesser known has been the role the Rockefeller family funds played in developing these horrific programs. The Rockefeller Foundation, for example, set up the infamous Allen Memorial Institute at McGill University in Montreal. See Thy Will be Done by Gerard Colby (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995), p. 265.
33. George H. Estabrooks, Hypnotism (New York: Dutton, 1948), p. 172.
34. Estabrooks, p. 199.
35. John Marks, The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate" (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1979), 1991 paperback edition, p. 204.
36. Kaiser, p. 407.
37. Kaiser, p. 114 and SUS I-613.
38. Kaiser, p. 19.
39. Noted in the interview of Samuel Strain, SUS I-62.
40. Kaiser, p. 46.
41. Kaiser, p. 305.
42. The following account is taken from the SUS file on John Henry Fahey. This document is marked S.F.P.D. which presumably stands for the San Fernando Police Department. The interviewer is listed as "Fernando" and "Fdo", and is likely Fernando Faura, a journalist who was hot on the trail of the polka dot girl.
43. Kaiser, p. 174. This drawing is shown in Ted Charachs video The Second Gun.
44. Kaiser, p. 175. Gugas is a past president of the American Polygraph Association.
45. Kaiser, p. 225.
46. Supplemental Report Khaibar Khan Investigation, SUS Files, prepared by R. J. Poteete.
47. "The Tehran Connection", Time 3/21/94.
48. Fred Cook, "Iranian Aid Story: New Twists to the Mystery", The Nation (5/24/65), pp. 553-4.
49. Cook, The Nation (4/12/65), p. 384.
50. SUS Interview of Michael Wayne (I-1096).
51. SUS files contain both proposed questions and actual questions/responses. There are several differences between sets of questions.
52. SUS Interview of William Singer (I-58-A).
53. SUS Interview of Gregory Ross Clayton (I-4611).
54. Turner and Christian, pp. 167-168, sourcing a KFWB transcript.
55. "Senator Felled in Los Angeles; 5 Others Shot", The Evening Star (6/5/68).
56. CIA memo to the Inspector General regarding DCDs response to the Agency-Watergate File Review. Dated 24 April 1974; released 1994, CIA Historical Review Program.
57. "Regarding" may also have been used in the sense of "While looking at". In other words, Cesar may have shot Kennedy while not "regarding" him.
58. "Kennedy Expected Tragedy to Strike", Dallas Times Herald (6/6/68)
59. William Blum, Killing Hope (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995), p. 102.
All materials within Copyright © 2000 to CTKA. Do not republish or copy this material in any form, electronic or otherwise, without written permission from CTKA.
Home | All Articles | Action Alerts | About CTKA