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CTKAformerly published Probe Magazine. Most of the articles on this site first appeared in Probe.

If you would like to submit an article to be considered for publication on this site, please send mail to us at here.


Jim DiEugenio's Upcoming appearances and radio Interviews:

October 16-19th Passing the Torch Conference, at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh

November 21-24, November in Dallas, at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas


“BILLBOARD”

New Articles/Reviews

General Giap Knew
by Mani S. Kang

Review of Destiny Betrayed, 2nd edition
by Albert Rossi

The Bonds of Secrecy, by Saint John Hunt
Reviewed by Seamus Coogan

Ron Rosenbaum Fires the First Salvo
by Jim DiEugenio

Fifty Reasons for Fifty Years
From our friends at Black Op Radio

The mystery of CE163
by Gokay Hasan Yusuf

Citizen Wilcke Dissents
Brigitte Wilcke protests conspiracy program on the public airwaves

JFK: The French Connection,  by Peter Kross  Review by Seamus Coogan

Notes on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012
By Vincent Salandria

Part 1: Review of Peter Janney’s "Mary’s Mosaic"
By Lisa Pease

Part 2: Entering Peter Janney’s World of Fantasy
By James DiEugenio

The Awful Grace of God, Religious Terrorism, White Supremacy
and the Unsolved Murder of Martin Luther King, Jr.
by Martin Hay

MRS. KENNEDY & ME: A Very Good Book With A Few Pages of Trouble
by Vince Palamara

Jim DiEugenio analyzes and summarizes Larry Hancock's interesting and unique new book Nexus: The CIA and Political Assassination

Jim DiEugenio reviews the work of Chris Matthews on the life and death of President Kennedy, including his latest biography, "Jack Kennedy: Elusive hero".

Reviews of John McAdams' book JFK Assassination Logic by:
— Pat Speer

David Mantik

Frank Cassano

Gary Aguilar

BETRAYAL IN DALLAS: LBJ, the Pearl Street Mafia, and the Murder of President Kennedy
Reviewed by William Davy

The Second Dallas,
a DVD Robert Kennedy documentary produced, written and directed by Massimo Mazzucco. Reviewed by Jim DiEugenio

The Connally Bullet Powerful evidence that Connally was hit by a bullet from a different assassin, by Robert Harris

Journalists and JFK,
those who were in and around Dealey Plaza that day and those who made a career of the case afterwards.
Intro By Gary King.

Joseph Green on the late Manning Marable's new full scale biography of Malcolm X.

JFK and the Majestic Papers: The History of a Hoax by Seamus Coogan

- and -

LBJ and the Conspiracy to Kill Kennedy: A Coalescence of InterestsSeamus Coogan on Joseph Farrell's new book

Hear No Evil: Social Constructivism and the Forensic Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination
by Donald Byron Thomas
A Comprehensive Review by David Mantik
of

The Real Wikipedia? by JP Mroz and Jim DiEugenio (3 part series)

Sirhan and the RFK Assassination
Part I: The Grand Illusion
Part II: Rubik's Cube by Lisa Pease

Who is Anton Batey?
CTKA takes a close look at a most curious radio host who is a JFK denier, Chomskyite, and yet happens to be in league with John McAdams and David Von Pein. Yep, its all true.
Part 1
Part 2

Inside the ARRB
Reviews of Douglas Horne's multi-volume study of the declassified medical evidence in the JFK case. Reviewed by
Jim DiEugenio, David Mantik and Gary Aguilar.

 

COMING SOON:

Exclusive excerpts from Mitchell Warriner's long awaited new book on
the Jim Garrison investigation

 

 

Review of Peter Janney’s Mary’s Mosaic

Part One by Lisa Pease

Part Two by James DiEugenio

 

Peter Janney wrote a book entitled Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and their Vision for World Peace. From the subtitle, researchers can be forgiven for thinking that Janney’s book is a serious contribution to our side, as many of us believe that the CIA killed John Kennedy in part because he was trying to end the Cold War and rein in covert operations. But Janney’s book is such a frustrating mix of fact, fiction, speculation and unverifiable data that I cannot recommend this book. Indeed, I’d rather it came with a warning label attached.

Most people don’t read books the way I do. Most people assume the data presented is true unless proven false, and they give the author the benefit of the doubt. On any topic of controversy, especially the JFK assassination, which has become so imbued with disinformation that it’s hard to know whom to believe, I take the opposite approach. I pretty much dare the author to prove his case to me, and I check every fact I don’t already know from elsewhere against the author’s sources to determine whether or not I find his “facts,” and therefore his thesis, credible.

When I first picked the book up in the store, I turned to the footnotes. You can tell a lot about an author by the sources he cites. From that moment, I knew the book would not be worth reading. As I flipped through the pages, I saw Janney attempt to resurrect long-discredited information as fact. Frankly, I wouldn’t have wasted the time reading it at all had I not been asked to review it.

I cannot, in a book review, take on the task of refuting every factual error and pointing out every unsubstantiated rumor-presented-as-fact in this book, because there seemed to be at least a few per page, and it’s just too big a task. So I’ll focus on challenging some specifics regarding the three key points of Janney’s overall thesis, which are: 1) that Mary Meyer was not killed by Ray Crump, the man arrested and tried but not convicted of her murder; 2) that Meyer had an ongoing, serious sexual relationship with a President Kennedy that involved drug use; and 3) that Meyer’s investigation into the CIA’s role in the JFK assassination got her killed.

Janney believes these three conclusions to be true. After reading his presentation, and doing a little additional research of my own, I’m convinced that none of these are true.

Let’s start with Mary Meyer’s murder. If Crump was truly framed for a crime he didn’t commit, the CIA theory is at least possible, if not exactly probable. But if Crump actually committed the crime, then Janney’s thesis, and indeed, the thrust of his whole story, goes out the window. So let’s examine that issue first, based on the evidence Janney presents.

The Murder

Janney opens his chapter on Mary’s murder with witness Henry Wiggins, Jr. While on the road above the tow path where Mary was killed, Wiggins heard “a whole lot of hollerin,” followed by a shot. He ran to the edge of the embankment, heard a second shot, looked down toward the canal, and saw an African American man standing over Mary Meyer’s body. Wiggins described the “Negro male” as having a “medium build, 5 feet 8 inches to 5 feet 10 inches, 185 pounds.” Wiggins said the man was wearing a beige zippered jacket, dark trousers, dark shoes, and a dark plaid cap. What was Crump wearing that day? According to his neighbor, who remembered Crump passing that morning, Crump had been wearing, quoting Janney, “a yellow sweat shirt, a half-zipped beige jacket, dark trousers, and dark shoes.” Quoting the neighbor, via Janney, “he had on a kind of plaid cap with a bill over it.” That’s a pretty exact match.

Crump would eventually get off because his very astute lawyer, Dovey Roundtree, harped on the height discrepancy. Her client was much shorter than 5'10". His driver’s license, says Janney, said he was 5'3½" and 130 pounds. But Janney doesn’t tell us when Crump got his license. Lots of kids sprout another inch or two (or more) after getting their driver’s license. Your height isn’t verified when you renew your license. In addition, Janney tells us the police measured Crump upon his arrest and recorded his height as 5'5½". Janney says “it’s not clear” whether Crump was measured with the 2" heels he was wearing that day. Even my doctor makes me take my shoes off to weigh me and to check my height. I have trouble believing the police would do less, especially in a murder investigation, and especially when the person was not in flat-soled shoes. So I believe, from Janney’s own evidence, that Ray was likely 5'5½", wearing 2" heels, putting his overall height at 5'7½", close enough to Wiggins’ lower end of 5'8". Janney also quotes Crump’s emotionally invested lawyer Roundtree as saying Crump was shorter than her. But if she were wearing heels, and if Crump were wearing prison flats, that could explain her perspective. (At one point Janney is naïve enough to say Roundtree would never have represented a guilty man. Clearly, the woman believed Crump was innocent. But that doesn’t mean her faith in him was justified.).

In addition, Janney shows, in a picture, that Crump was a fairly normal-sized man, not skinny, not heavy. A “medium build,” just like Wiggins described. And Crump weighed in at 145 pounds, which was fifteen pounds more than the weight on his driver’s license. Does Janney want us to believe Crump had 15-pound shoes on? Or was it simply that time had clearly passed between the time the young man got his driver’s license and the time of his arrest? And if the young man had gained weight, couldn’t the young man have grown a couple of inches, too? (I knew someone who was short until he went to college, where he suddenly grew by several inches.) If Crump was only 5'3", 145 pounds would have made Crump look downright stocky. That many pounds on a 5'5½" frame, however, would look simply healthy, matching what we see in the picture Janney provides of Crump on the day of his arrest.

I asked a police officer just before finishing this review if people were measured with shoes on. “Sometimes,” the officer replied. “What if the person had 2" heels on?” “It happens,” the officer said a bit sheepishly, to my surprise. So let’s assume for a second that the police did measure Crump with his shoes on, and that Crump really was just 5'3½" tall. That still doesn’t discount Wiggins’ identification. Wiggins was looking down on him from above, and that foreshortened perspective could easily have affected Wiggins’ height estimate.

In addition, Crump lied to the officer who arrested him several times, immediately. The officer asked Crump if he had worn a jacket and cap. Crump said no, but a beige-zip up jacket was found nearby that fit him perfectly, as did a plaid hunting cap that was also found nearby. (Nina Burleigh, A Very Private Woman, p. 234). In response to the question of why he was dripping wet, Crump claimed he had been fishing and fallen in the water. But he had no fishing tackle on him, and his fishing equipment was still in his garage at home. Asked why his hand was bleeding, Crump claimed he had cut it on a fishhook (Burleigh, p.265). His pants were unzipped and when the officer asked why, Crump said because the officer had roughed him up. Crump sounded more like a pathological liar than an innocent man.

The officer concluded Crump was a likely suspect and that he had jumped in the river to attempt to swim away. Janney tells us that was impossible because Crump couldn’t swim. But plenty of people would choose water over arrest if they thought that was their only chance of escape. Anyone can dog paddle. You don’t need to know how to swim to attempt to do so. Janney explained the wetness by saying Crump had fallen asleep drunk after a tryst with a girlfriend, after which he woke and stumbled into the river. Nina Burleigh discounted this because Crump only came up with this after his fishing rod was found at his home. In other words, this wasn’t an explanation; it was just another excuse.

Janney trots out the suggestion that Crump’s arrest and prosecution were racially motivated. Yet Wiggins, the original witness, was himself a black man. Three-quarters of the jury was black. Dovey Roundtree was black. If anyone ever got a fair shake, it was Crump. Crump would later be arrested 22 more times(!) for crimes that included raping a 17-year-old daughter of a friend, dousing his second wife’s home with gasoline and setting fire to it while she and her children were inside, and threatening his second wife with a gun to the point where she jumped out a window to escape him, breaking her ankle and fracturing her collarbone in the process.

Janney tries to argue that a sweet young man was turned to a life of crime after having been jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. That is provably untrue, and Janney should have known that. Janney quotes from Nina Burleigh’s book A Very Private Woman, a biography of Meyer in which Burleigh discusses her murder in depth. But Burleigh pointed out that Crump had a criminal record before the Mary Meyer murder. Did Janney just miss that crucial bit of information? Or did Janney choose not to share that information with his readers because it would not further his argument?

And so, we get to the crux of the problem with Janney’s book. He discounts evidence that discredits his thesis, no matter how credible, and props up information that supports it, no matter how insubstantial. I find that disturbing. If it only happened a couple of times, that’s understandable. We all make mistakes. But when it becomes a pattern, there are only two possible conclusions: either Janney really doesn’t understand the evidence, or he hopes we don’t.

Time-challenged

Before I leave Crump’s case, I want to point out one episode in particular, because I think it illustrates Janney’s shortcomings as a researcher. An officer casing the area after the murder saw a black man poke his heads out of the woods after the crime had been committed but before Crump’s arrest. Naturally, if the man were Crump, that adds to the case for his guilt. So to support his thesis that Crump was innocent, Janney tries to show that this man couldn’t have been Crump and was, instead, a second suspect. The problem is that Janney has to distort math and time to do this.

Detective John Warner arrested Ray Crump at 1:15 p.m. Janney tries to make a big deal out of a statement by another officer in court, who said he saw a black man poke his head out of the woods at about 1:45 p.m. Everything else the officer says makes it likely he meant 12:45 p.m., not 1:45 p.m. But Janney needs to make the later time stick in order to prove the officer couldn’t have seen Crump and that there was, therefore, a second black suspect in the woods that day.

Janney says officers Roderick Sylvis and Frank Bignotti arrived at a boat house about a mile east of the murder scene at about 12:30 p.m. Janney says they waited “about four or five minutes” after arriving at the scene. Then, he says they exited their patrol car and spent “about five minutes positioning themselves for their eastward trek toward the murder scene.” I don’t believe officers would rush to a murder scene and then sit in the car for four or five minutes before getting out. That makes no sense. It sounds more like Janney has used the same five minutes twice to make ten. Next, Janney says the two got out of the car, walked about 50 feet (4 yards), and stopped to talk to a couple on the path to ask what, if anything, they had seen. The officers said this took about five minutes. Even if Janney was right to add the first five minutes twice, adding another five minutes should bring Janney to 15 minutes, making the time 12:45 p.m. Janney says, however, that 30 minutes had then provably elapsed, that the time by now was about 1:00 p.m.. I’m not kidding. See for yourself on pages 122-123 in his book.

And it gets worse. Janney says Officer Sylvis then walked a mile towards the murder scene, at which point he saw the head of a black man pop up from the woods to look at him. Janney allows that he could have walked a mile in 15 minutes. I agree. But that puts the time at 1:00 p.m., even with Janney double-counting those first five minutes. That’s fifteen minutes before Crump was arrested. But Janney can’t even follow his own math here and states that 45 more minutes had elapsed, putting the time well after Crump had been arrested. Can anyone else add 5+5+5+15 and get 75, the number of minutes Janney wants us to believe this episode took to push the time of the sighting out to 1:45 p.m.? I can’t. Janney did.

Sylvis said it took him about 15 minutes to return to his fellow officer along the path he had come. That makes sense. If it took 15 minutes to get out about a mile, it should take the same 15 minutes to return. That puts his total time on the ground there at about 45 minutes (5+5+5+15+15), which is also what Sylvis testified to in court.

If we don’t double-count the first five minutes, as Janney apparently did, the time that Sylvis would have seen the man in the woods was about 20 minutes before his arrest. That would have been about 12:55 p.m. – not 1:45 p.m. That would make sense, and would have given Crump and the cop who eventually arrested him time to get to the same place by the time of Crump’s arrest at 1:15 p.m.

Janney claims in an interview with Sylvis, Sylvis confirmed the “1:45 p.m.” timeframe for the sighting. But without knowing what exactly Janney asked, and what exactly Sylvis answered, I don’t find this useful. Did Janney just read him his testimony and say is that what you meant? Presented out of context, such an answer would be meaningless. And Janney offers no other new information from Sylvis that would explain how 45 minutes became 75.

Janney uses similarly questionable math with Detective John Warner, who said he got to the canal path at about 12:30 p.m., waited a few minutes, and then walked 45 minutes west, at which point he found the wet Ray Crump. Janney presents the trial testimony of Warner’s account of a question and answer exchange between Warner and Crump. Janney claims, incredibly, that the time it would have taken to have this conversation and then walk a tenth of a mile would have been ten minutes. I decided to check this out. It took me about 45 seconds to repeat, out loud, at a normal conversational pace, the seven questions and answers, and I even elaborated on the answers. Let’s round that off to a minute. How long does it take to walk one-tenth of a mile? If you can walk one mile in 15 minutes, as Janney has already conceded, then you can walk a tenth of a mile in 1.5 minutes. That’s 2.5 minutes, total, not 10. It’s hard to believe that a man with a BA from Princeton, a PhD from Boston University and an MBA from Duke could have such trouble with simple math. But logic does not define Janney. What defines him is his desire to promote his theory of who killed Mary Meyer and why. Any evidence that gets in the way is simply discarded or reshaped to fit his theory.

Co-authored by Damore

The lack of logical rigor is not Janney’s problem alone. He shares that with Leo Damore, who should reasonably be called the book’s co-author. Janney relies on him at every turn, even buying Damore’s deus ex machina solution to Meyer’s murder: a CIA hit man did it. Which hit man? William Mitchell, says Janney, based on Damore’s lawyer’s notes of a call with Damore.

A jogger named William Mitchell had gone to the police after hearing of the murder to describe a man who had been following Mary. The man that Mitchell saw exactly fit Crump’s clothing and description. And what is Damore’s evidence that Mitchell was hit man and not just witness? Janney tells us that Mitchell appeared to have used military and teaching titles as fronts for CIA work, and once lived in a nearby CIA safe house.

William Mitchell may well have been an intelligence agent, but that doesn’t mean he killed Mary Meyer. Oh, but Mitchell confessed, according to Damore, says Janney. That’s right. Janney actually believes a CIA hit man would confess to a journalist who had every intention of making the comment public that he had killed Mary Meyer. Any hit man worth his salt knows better than to confess to a gig, especially if he ever wants to work again, much less live to talk about it. (No tape of this allegedly taped conversation has ever surfaced.) And the story is really even flimsier, as Janney didn’t even get this second-hand from Damore. He got this third-hand, from Damore’s lawyer.

Janney would have us believe the following scenario: Meyer, an essentially powerless citizen who held no elected office, who was so private it was noted in the title of her only biography, is targeted for assassination. Why? Because she didn’t believe the Warren Report. I kid you not, that is the extent of what Janney offers as a motive, although he takes many more pages to do it. To control the damage, lest the private woman start espousing conspiracy theories to her CIA neighbors (who would then presumably turn suddenly chatty after years of keeping the Agency’s secrets), a large-scale assassination plot, comparable to the one that killed Kennedy, is launched, according to Janney. Unlike the Kennedy assassination, however, where Oswald was designated as a patsy in advance, Crump is chosen as the designated patsy the morning of the crime, in Janney’s scenario. Someone on the hit team radios Mitchell what Crump is wearing. Presumably, Mitchell then runs to J. C. Penney, waits for the store to open, finds just exactly the right combination of clothes, right down to the plaid hunting cap, which miraculously fit both him and Crump exactly, and rushes back to the tow path in time to kill her shortly before 12:30 p.m.

Not only does Janney have Mitchell killing Meyer in essentially plain sight, he then has Mitchell stopping and pausing deliberately to allow witness Wiggins to get a good view of him. Evidently, Mitchell was some sort of mentalist, too, as he convinced Wiggins to identify him as a black man, instead of the white man that he was.

Based on Damore’s rantings to his lawyer and the lawyer’s cryptic notes of that session, Janney concludes that Damore had learned that Mitchell killed Meyer for the CIA. But Damore was, by then, paranoid. Janney mentions in the beginning of the book that Damore “began a mysterious downward of spiral of paranoia and depression” toward the end of his life. Some of Damore’s closest friends, according to Janney, claimed Damore thought his phone was being tapped. One of them said Damore thought he had been poisoned. But what was the real cause of Damore’s paranoid behavior? You don’t learn until the end of the book that, in the last year of his life, Damore had an undiagnosed brain tumor and ended up committing suicide. Janney suggests the CIA manipulated him into committing suicide, even though Damore had told Janney he had thoughts of suicide and begged Janney to take him in. Extraordinary claims deserve extraordinary evidence. Janney offers nothing in that regard.

And Janney does not stop at Damore’s wild and possibly tumor-induced scenario regarding Mitchell as CIA hit man. He makes his own father a part of it. Wistar Janney, a CIA analyst, called two friends to alert them to the likelihood of Meyer’s death early in the afternoon: Ben Bradlee, whose wife was Mary’s sister, and Cord Meyer, whose wife used to be Meyer. I don’t see anything sinister in the timing. The radio identification matched that of Mary and she lived in the area. It was a logical assumption. Astonishingly, author Janney leaps to the most sinister explanation possible: his father was privy to the hit and therefore culpable in the murder.

I couldn’t help but think, at this point, of Jim DiEugenio’s hilarious recounting of Robert Slatzer’s efforts to promote a story about Marilyn Monroe. The man Slatzer approached told Slatzer he didn’t find his story credible, but that if he had been married to Ms. Monroe, now that would be a story. A week later Slatzer returned to the man and said hey, I forgot. I was married to Marilyn, for 72 hours, in Mexico. Yeah right. I couldn’t help but wonder if Janney’s “revelation” about his father’s involvement had a similar genesis, given how long Janney had been trying to sell a project based on a CIA murder of Mary Meyer.

A mutual friend had put me in touch with Janney years ago, and we had a series of email arguments back and forth. At that time, Janney was peddling a screenplay based on this scenario, with the added twist that Kennedy and Meyer were killed because they knew the truth about UFOs. I told him at that time that I had not found Damore’s work credible. Janney defended him vigorously. Damore’s most famous book, Senatorial Privilege, which is essentially a hit piece on Ted Kennedy over the Chappaquiddick murder, was so bad it was rejected by the publishing house that had initially given him a $100,000 advance to write it: Random House (which eventually went to court with Damore over the advance.) Predictably, Damore blamed the Kennedy family, claiming they had pressured the publisher to cancel the book. As Jim DiEugenio noted, “The judge in the case decided that, contrary to rumor, there were no extenuating circumstances: that is, the Kennedy family exerted no pressure. He ruled the publisher had acted in good faith in rejecting the manuscript.” In addition, Damore had been accused of “checkbook journalism,” i.e., paying his sources. As the FBI found out so often in the 1960s, if people find there’s a value in their information, they will soon start inventing more to keep the cash coming. Did Damore not learn that lesson?

DiEugenio noted that Damore’s next book agent was Lucianna Goldberg, adding that the “nutty and fanatical Goldberg has made a career out of targeting progressives with any influence e.g. George McGovern, Bill Clinton, the Kennedys.” Goldberg was a natural ally for Damore’s Kennedy attacks. For someone who either has or likes to cultivate the appearance of a liberal bent, it’s frankly bizarre how Janney is so credulous of Damore.

In her New York Times review of Senatorial Privilege, former New York Times correspondent and journalism teacher Jo Thomas questioned a central point of Damore’s thesis. Damore credits particularly incriminating information to Kennedy cousin Joseph Gargan, the host of the party preceding the tragic event in which Kennedy’s car disappeared off a bridge into the water, drowning Mary Jo Kopechne. Thomas notes: “What undermines Mr. Damore's account is that these accusations, while seeming to come from a first-hand source, are not direct quotes from Mr. Gargan, nor are they attributed directly to the 1983 interviews. (And this is, otherwise, a carefully attributed book, with 45 pages of footnotes.) One cannot tell if they are true, Mr. Gargan's interpretation of the Senator's behavior or, worse, the author's own interpretation, based on what Mr. Gargan told him in 1983.”

Put more plainly: Thomas found no basis to believe Damore regarding this particular account. And if you can’t believe him on one of his most important interviews, how much can you believe of the rest? As Jim DiEugenio has previously noted, “That book used a collection of highly dubious means to paint Kennedy in the worst light. For instance, Damore misquoted the law to try and imply that the judge at the inquest was covering up for Kennedy. He used Kennedy's cousin Joe Gargan as a self-serving witness against him, even though Gargan had had a bitter falling out with the senator over an unrelated matter. He concocted a half-baked theory about an air pocket in the car to make it look like the victim survived for hours after the crash. This idea was discredited at length by author James Lange in Chappaquiddick: The Real Story (pgs. 82-89). In other words, Damore went out of his way to depict Kennedy's behavior as not just being under the influence, or even manslaughter, but tantamount to murder. “ This is the guy Janney trusts?

In his own notes at the end of the book, Janney rightfully points out factual errors in Damore’s research, without weighting that properly. In the law there’s the saying, “false in part, false in whole,” meaning, if any part of something is not true, all of it should be called into question. Janney has legitimate reason to question the rest of Damore’s account due to this. That’s not to suggest nothing Damore said could be believed, but one should take far greater caution than Janney has.

The most serious credibility issue regarding Damore is his – or Janney’s – allegation that Damore had interviewed Kenneth O’Donnell, a trusted intimate of John and Robert Kennedy. If O’Donnell truly said the things attributed to him, that would be good enough evidence for me. The problem is that Janney references no actual tapes. He says he saw “transcripts” of these conversations. It’s hard to believe the son of a CIA agent, who knows how the CIA operates, could fall for something like that. Damore or frankly anyone could have made up those conversations and injected them into the record, waiting for some gullible soul like Janney to fall for them. The book is so credulous of these kinds of sources that the possibility that Janney himself invented these transcripts cannot be dismissed out of hand, either. I’m not accusing him of that. I’m only saying that it would be easier for me to believe that the son of a CIA agent was actively involved in creating disinformation than to believe that the son of a CIA agent was such an unwitting dupe of it.

Indeed, when the Mary Meyer story surfaced for the first time, in that bastion of credible reporting, The National Enquirer, the Washington Post queried Kenny O’Donnell directly regarding whether Meyer and the president were seriously involved. In the Post’s follow-up article, Don Oberdorfer reported, “Former White House secretary Kenneth P. O’Donnell said yesterday, “She knew Jackie as well as she knew Jack.” O’Donnell said allegations of a love affair were totally false.”

“Calling her ‘a legitimate, lovely lady,’” Oberdorfer wrote, “O’Donnell said Mary Meyer made infrequent visits to the White House ‘through my office -- never privately, either, not when Jackie was away or when Jackie was there.’”

The original story in the Enquirer was surfaced by James Truitt, a good friend of CIA super-spook James Angleton, the man many of us researchers believe, based on revelations from the CIA’s own files, was directly involved in setting Oswald up as the patsy and covering up the CIA’s role in the assassination after the fact. (See my long two-part article on James Angleton in The Assassinations for the wealth of evidence showing Angleton’s involvement in the Oswald story both before and after the assassination.) Angleton was a far-right-winger who ran his own set of journalist-operatives off the books, funded by his own secret source of money, according to Carl Bernstein’s landmark article “The CIA and the Media.”

Why did the story surface at that time, saying what it did? Truitt used to work for the Washington Post. Why had Truitt never told that story when he had a much bigger media outlet at his fingertips? Jim DiEugenio is the only person who has ever taken the time to put the allegations of sexual affairs between John Kennedy and Mary Meyer, Judith Exner (Campbell) and Marilyn Monroe in their proper historical and political context. No rumor of any such activities had surfaced during his presidency. It wasn’t until the Republican Party was hurting politically from the fallout from Watergate, and the CIA was under renewed scrutiny for their possible role in the assassination of President Kennedy, that these stories started to surface. I encourage people to read DiEugenio’s landmark essay “The Posthumous Assassination of John F. Kennedy” in The Assassinations for the full details of the evolution of this picture of JFK as sexual madman.

DiEugenio contrasts this evolving image based on less-than-credible sources with the image of those who provably knew him well. Charlotte McDonnell was a longtime friend of the president’s, but said there was no sex between them. Another Kennedy intimate, Angela Greene, said that he was never physically aggressive, just “Adorable and sweet.” Yet another woman who had invited Kennedy into her place was shocked when he jumped up from the champagne and low music to listen to a newscast. That is the Kennedy who ran the country. That is not the image Janney, however, wants to present.

The Enquirer article introduced a new twist to this. Not only was JFK a cheater, he was a doper, too. Kennedy never even smoked cigarettes. But we’re to believe he smoked marijuana with Mary Meyer at the White House? In the same Washington Post rebuttal to the Enquirer article, Kennedy aide Timothy J. Reardon, Jr. was quoted as saying that he had never heard of Meyer, and that “nothing like that ever happened at the White House, with her or anyone else.”

The Washington Post article appeared in February of 1976. But Janney would have us believe that a year later, O’Donnell would reverse his stance to a reporter just because Damore helped O’Donnell locate an estranged relative. Janney admits he has never heard tapes of the calls Damore claims to have shared with O’Donnell. Janney has only seen transcripts, or rather, alleged transcripts. Without tapes, we can’t know if they are, in fact, transcripts.

And why would Damore, if he had such an explosive scoop in 1977 (the last year of O’Donnell’s life), sit on that for so many years? Why do the Chappaquiddick story at all if you have a story about Ted Kennedy’s much more famous brother?

Of CIA officers, liars and forgers

But Janney’s credulity doesn’t stop there. Janney uses both Robert Morrow and Gregory Douglass as sources to the Meyer-Kennedy angle. Janney says that because their accounts corroborate each other, they should be considered credible. What kind of illogic is that? If person A lies, and person B repeats the lie, that’s not confirmation -- that’s reinforcement of the lie. How can the highly educated Janney truly not understand this?

Robert Morrow, a former CIA officer, wrote three books about the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy. The first was admittedly fiction. The second was, so Morrow claimed, the nonfiction version of what he had alluded to in his novel. The third was so far off base it was sued out of existence. Morrow accused a man of having assassinated Robert Kennedy who was provably elsewhere at the time, causing the publisher to burn the books. Yet this is a man Janney has no trouble believing.

Another of Janney’s sources is -- incredibly -- Gregory Douglas, aka Walter Storch, aka Peter Stahl, aka Michael Hunt, aka Samuel Prescot Bush, aka Freiherr Von Mollendorf, aka Peter Norton Birch, aka Peter Norwood Burch. Yes, this is another man Janney finds credible. Douglas is a self-admitted forger who also claims a relationship with American intelligence services. He also wrote exposés of the forgery of others, showing a sophisticated knowledge of the market for forged documents. This is the man Janney believes regarding the papers of Robert Crowley, a former CIA officer whom Douglas claimed entrusted him with his most sensitive documents upon his death, even though the two never met face to face.

Janney goes to great lengths to attempt to give Douglas credibility. Why? Because he needs the corroboration. However, another man who also stood to benefit from Douglas’ work showed more appropriate cynicism regarding Douglas’ claims. Mark Weber, director for the Institute of Historical Review, an organization that supports holocaust denial, would have benefited from Douglas’ books on the Third Reich for a series called Gestapo Chief: Gestapo Chief: The 1948 Interrogation of Heinrich Müller, had he been able to prove any of it true. But Weber, who has a Master’s degree in history, knew better than to accept Douglas’ claims at face value. He actually checked Douglas out and found him seriously wanting in the credibility department. Regarding Douglas’ work, in which one of Douglas’ wilder claims is that Hitler didn’t die in Germany but escaped to Spain, Weber wrote:

“My view that the Gestapo Chief series is an elaborate hoax is based not only on an examination of the books themselves, but on lengthy telephone conversations with the author. From these talks, I can attest that ‘Gregory Douglas’ is intelligent, loquacious, knowledgeable, and literate, but also amoral, evasive, and vindictive. Those who have spoken at any length with him are struck by his chronic cynicism -- a trait that, interestingly enough, is reflected in the words he attributes to Müller throughout the Gestapo Chief series. …

“His son, with whom I have also spoken, sometimes fronts for his father as the author of the Gestapo Chief books. For more than a year the son has been living and working in Rockford, Illinois, under the name Gregory Douglas Alford. He is also a former staff writer for the Sun-Star newspaper of Merced, California, and the Journal-Standard of Freeport, Illinois. Apparently he has sometimes used the name Gregg Stahl.”

So “Gregory Douglas” isn’t even just one person. It’s two. None of this apparently bothers Janney.

Janney appears to be the only person in the research community to have taken Douglas/Storch/Stahl/Hunt/Bush/ Mollendorf/Birch/Burch’s book seriously. Most researchers believe Douglas forged the documents he claimed to have obtained from the now dead CIA officer Crowley.

Several people have asked me lately if I found Crowley credible. How can I answer that, when it’s not clear that any of the documents Douglas/Storch provides are actually from Crowley? All we have is this proven liar’s assertion that they are.

Janney sources emails ostensibly between Joe Trento, the actual legal recipient of Crowley’s files, and Douglas. Douglas lies to Trento in these mails, saying “Walter Storch” (one of Douglas’ own aliases) gave Douglas Trento’s name. Crazy stuff. And did Janney check the emails with Trento? Or did Douglas just invent the so-called exchanges? Jim DiEugenio talked to Trento and asked him why Crowley would give his files to two different writers. Trento told DiEugenio emphatically that Douglas was "a complete liar" who didn't "have anything” of Crowley’s. Seriously, would anyone believe that a top CIA operative from the covert side of the agency would trust a man he had never even met in person with the CIA’s most important secrets? Janney would, evidently. I sure wouldn’t.

In addition, I know personally how Douglas operates. Douglas’ “news” site “TBR News” published an article ostensibly written by me that I never wrote. It was clearly designed to look like I had written it, when I had not, even to the point of including a rather awful picture of me with it. I wrote Douglas and said that article was not by me and asked that it be removed. It was never taken down, as you can see from the link above. So how can I find Crowley credible, when all the data from him comes from Douglas? How can I find Janney credible when he believes a proven liar?

Janney says he never heard tapes Douglas claimed to have from Crowley, but read transcripts, and believed them credible. What is it with Janney and transcripts? Anyone can make anything up and type it. Again, I must ask: How could a man who was born into the world of lies, whose own CIA father was friends with one of the CIA’s manipulators of the media, Cord Meyer, fail to consider these possibilities? And CIA history aside, how can a man who went to Princeton, earned a doctorate from Boston University and an MBA from Duke be that gullible, period?

And then there’s Timothy Leary. Janney’s use of Leary made me laugh outright. Janney sources the claim that Meyer and JFK smoked pot in the White House to Leary, but just a few sentences earlier, he had noted that Meyer never named names when talking to Leary. What was the source of that particular information? Leary himself! If Meyer never named JFK to Leary, why is Leary so certain the two smoked pot at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

Regarding the specific allegation about the episode between Meyer and Kennedy, Leary’s own biographer, Robert Greenfield, believed Leary had just invented the story about Meyer and Kennedy to spice up the sales of his book. Greenfield noted that Leary had fabricated having an affair with Marilyn Monroe in the same volume. As Jim DiEugenio noted, “Leary understood that sex, drugs, and a dead Kennedy sells. Apparently, so did Damore.” Janney is traveling a well-worn, but not credible, path.

DiEugenio noted that in all the many books Leary wrote prior to the one where he made the allegations re Meyer, Leary never whispered a hint that he was sitting on such information. Janney attempts to bolster Leary on this point. Janney wrote that Leary had made an initial attempt to investigate Meyer’s murder in 1965. But Janney’s source for this data is -- I kid you not -- Leary himself! How can you bolster the shaken credibility of someone by quoting the same person? To Janney, that’s credible evidence. In the real world, that’s not evidence at all!

Janney also uses Ann Truitt, wife of James Truitt, as if she would be a credible source. Both Ann and James were close friends of Angleton. Angleton was a master of disinformation, and used friends and mentees (such as Edward J. Epstein) to convey his thoughts to the world. So pardon me if I dismiss anything any friend of Angleton’s says with a grain of salt. She might have told the truth, but unless I could verify that independently, I’d never believe her on any point. Janney, of course, must believe all these sources, no matter how incredible, or he’d have no book.

Janney even tries, although tentatively, to use C. David Heymann to back up his allegations of the Meyer-Kennedy affair, although by then, I had written a long article showing how questionable Heymann’s work is, and Janney claims he confronted Heymann about these allegations, upon which Heymann got defensive. Yet, even after acknowledging the challenges to Heymann’s credibility, Janney still cites Heymann’s information as at least partially confirmed. C’est incredible!

Even beyond the lack of credible sourcing, the book has many other problems. Janney resurfaces long-discredited information as if it is fresh, new, and proven, such as the allegation that Robert Kennedy was at Marilyn Monroe’s house the day she died. Kennedy’s whereabouts in Northern California that day have long been established. Reading such bad history like that makes me feel like I’m playing Whack-a-mole. No matter how many times you beat the disinformation down, it keeps popping up again. (See Jim DiEugenio’s aforementioned essay in The Assassinations for a breakdown of this fiction.) There are many other such “facts” that aren’t facts at all. That’s why I think the book should come with a warning label. Most people will believe what they see in a book, thinking that publishers are checking the facts as they go. They are not! No one does that. If they did, a large number of books would have to be moved from the “nonfiction” to “fiction” sections.

Where’s the beef?

Lastly, the style of the writing itself is off-putting. I like my fiction luscious, but my nonfiction dry. When nonfiction starts to read like fiction, in my experience, it usually is. As someone who is working on a book myself at the time of this writing, I know how tempting it is to try to put words in someone’s mouth. But I resist that temptation. If I say someone “thought” this or that, it’s because that person actually wrote or told someone their thoughts at that point in time. I don’t try to imagine thoughts for them. Janney, on the other hand, relishes putting thoughts in other people’s heads. Consider how Janney embellishes the Truitt assertion that Meyer and JFK were toking at the White House:

“She was curious as to how he might react. At first, he had become ‘hungry’ for food – ‘soup and chocolate mousse’ -- before their amorous embrace that evening, where she might have held a more tender man. The connection may have frightened him initially, but her self-assured presence and trust likely conveyed that he was, however momentarily, safe -- safe in her arms, safe in her love, even safe in his own realization that it might be possible for him to face the sordid, fragmented sexuality that kept him from his own redemption.”

That’s not fact. That’s not history. That’s poor, fantasy-induced supposition and shoddy scholarship.

In addition, Janney seeks to embellish moments that should not be embellished. Does anyone really want to read this, save those with a perverse love of gore? “She must have smelled the stench of burning flesh and gunpowder as something hard and hot seared into the left side of her skull just in front of her ear. A gush of wet warmth poured down her face, soaking the collar of her blue angora sweater, turning it red.”

Janney tries to make an epic love story out of a story which, when read strictly on a factual basis, sans Janney’s spin, seems anything but. Here’s a typical passage: “What drove Jack back to Choate that weekend remains a mystery. But he returned, unaccompanied, a stag. Perhaps he thought the homecoming on familiar territory would be good for his self-confidence, which had lagged since being forced to take a medical leave from his studies at Princeton, still in the Class of 1939. Whatever the force that drew him backward (or perhaps forward) isn’t known, but something propelled him; for during the gala Winter Festivities Dance of 1936, he would encounter Mary Pinchot for the first time, etching into his being an unforgettable moment.” How many facts were in that paragraph that matter? One: the date that he first met Mary Meyer. All the rest is scenery. “Too many words!” I found myself screaming at several points while reading this book. Get to the facts and leave the speculating to some failed screenwriter. Oh, wait …

I believe and sympathize with Anne Chamberlin’s comments to Janney after his persistent requests to interview her. Janney tells us repeatedly that Chamberlin “fled” Washington to move to Maine and thinks she isn’t talking to him out of fear of retribution. But what does Chamberlin herself say? “It saddens me that you continue to pursue the long-gone phantom prey. I have nothing to say about Mary Meyer, or anything connected with Mary Meyer.” Too bad Janney didn’t make that his guiding principle as well.

Janney’s own life story would have made a better book. If Janney had written about what it was like growing up with the children of other spooks, the generation who had to deal with the fallout of the world created by their parents, that would have been a book worth reading. He wouldn’t have had to trust others. He could have simply repeated his own stories and the stories of others like Toni Shimon, daughter of Jose Shimon, a top CIA operative. The best parts of Janney’s books are direct quotes from the children of spooks who learned only slowly what their fathers really did for a living, and the emotional challenges growing up with a father who couldn’t share what he did took on the families, assuming those quotes are accurate. That would have been a book worth reading. This one, simply, is not.

June-2012


Review of Peter Janney’s Mary’s Mosaic Part Two
By Jim DiEugenio

 


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