How the CIA and Corporate Media Covered Up the JFK Assassination
Piecing together the dark shadow over the nation
In Part 1 of this series, I explored how, during World War II, Wall Street oligarchs decided that the US should become a global empire. These men were connected to the pinnacles of power in media, big business, and politics. Their tremendous wealth and power allowed the US power elite to sell their plans to the US public. In Part 2, I looked at how key institutions were forged in the aftermath of World War II—institutions that would allow the US to manage the imperial project domestically and internationally. These included media assets—not just friendly media tycoons, but also a new intelligence service, the CIA. The Agency would serve to manipulate and manage politics and the media to advance the “national interest”—read: the imperial interests of the Wall Street overworld. US elites also relied on the CIA to manage vast networks of repurposed “ex”-fascists and other paramilitary actors. Media tycoon and imperial publicist Henry Luce may have said it best. Summing up the twilight struggle of the US oligarchs, Luce surmised, “Freedom requires and will require far greater living space than tyranny.” This was reference to the Nazi concept of lebensraum (“living space”). I ended Part 2 in the aftermath of the JFK assassination, and that is where I begin Part 3, the last part in this series.
Unlike almost all the other members of his famous family, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. does not mince words about the assassination of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy. He recently stated his perspective succinctly on New York City radio: “There is overwhelming evidence that the CIA was involved in his murder. […] I think it’s beyond a reasonable doubt at this point.” Kennedy is also a signatory to the Truth & Reconciliation Committee’s “Joint Statement on the Kennedy, King, and Malcolm X Assassinations and Ongoing Cover-Ups.” The statement closes with this powerful summation:
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The JFK assassination was just one of four major political murders that traumatized American life in the 1960s and have cast a shadow over the country for decades thereafter. John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were each in his own unique way attempting to turn the United States away from war toward disarmament and peace, away from domestic violence and division toward civil amity and justice. Their killings were together a savage, concerted assault on American democracy and the tragic consequences of these assassinations still haunt our nation.
These assassinations were a key element in the story of how the US was beset by what RFK Jr. has called “the corrupt merger of state and corporate power.” The relationship between the corporate oligarchy, corporate media, and the CIA has been a crucial feature of these dynamics. Decisively, this nexus serves to obscure the deadly veto power which the clandestine state exercises over democracy. The “free press” in America has been captured, and one of its main functions is to obscure this antidemocratic and covertly fascistic element of our system.
An examination of the JFK assassination and its aftermath in light of these facts will tell us much about the structure and life cycle of the US empire, the reasons for our deep distrust of politicians and the corporate media, and the urgency of voting Kennedy into the White House in 2024.
Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin of President John F. Kennedy, was himself assassinated on Sunday, November 24, 1963. He was shot by Dallas underworld figure Jack Ruby in a room full of journalists and police officers. Less than three hours after Oswald was pronounced dead, an establishment lobbying campaign commenced. Its target was the new president, Lyndon Johnson. It appears that the campaign began with a call to White House aide Bill Moyers from the Dean of the Yale Law School, Eugene Rostow—a man who also happened to be the brother of Walt Rostow, deputy to JFK’s national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy. During that call on November 24, Rostow suggested to Moyers that a “Presidential commission be appointed of very distinguished citizens in the very near future.”
Rostow would be joined in this campaign by Joseph Alsop, another blue blood establishment figure. Alsop, as discussed in Part 2, was later revealed to be one of the CIA’s most notable assets in the US media. When more documentation from the aftermath of the assassination was eventually declassified, it became clear that these men were likely acting on behalf of establishment luminary Dean Acheson—Harry Truman’s Secretary of State. Acheson was the man whose subordinates penned the “Long Telegram” and NSC-68, laying the strategic bases for the Cold War and the military industrial complex, respectively. In short, Acheson represented the apex of observable US establishment power.
One day after Rostow’s call, Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s acting deputy in the Justice Department, Nicholas Katzenbach, sent a memo to LBJ’s aide, Moyers. The November 25, 1963 memo stated:
The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial. Speculation about Oswald’s motivation ought to be cut off, and we should have some basis for rebutting thought that this was a Communist conspiracy or (as the Iron Curtain press is saying) a right-wing conspiracy to blame it on the Communists. Unfortunately the facts on Oswald seem about too pat—too obvious (Marxist, Cuba, Russian wife, etc.). The Dallas police have put out statements on the Communist conspiracy theory, and it was they who were in charge when he was shot and thus silenced.
As the JFK assassination archivists at the Mary Ferrell Foundation point out, “Given that the authorities could not possibly by November 25 know these things to be true, and Katzenbach later admitted he knew very little at this stage, the memo is clearly advocating a political course irrespective of the truth of the assassination.” In other words, there is no way that President Johnson, or the FBI, or establishment figures—Rostow, Alsop, and Acheson—could have possibly known that there was not a conspiracy behind the bullets in Dealey Plaza.
When the president finally agreed to create an ad hoc, blue-ribbon panel to handle the official investigation, he used the threat of nuclear war to convince reluctant candidates to join the commission. Most notably, Johnson used this angle to browbeat Chief Justice Earl Warren and Senator Richard Russell into serving on the president’s panel, later to be known as the Warren Commission.
Nominally, Earl Warren was in charge. In practice, however, the most active commissioner was Allen Dulles—a Wall Street lawyer, former president of Wall Street’s Council on Foreign Relations, and retired director of the CIA. Dulles was also a bitter enemy of JFK after the president fired him for his role in the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
The question of how Dulles came to serve on the Warren Commission has been disputed for many years. In a 1971 memoir, Lyndon Johnson himself wrote that he appointed both Dulles and John McCloy to the panel because these were “the two men Bobby Kennedy asked me to put on it.” But as David Talbot points out in The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, LBJ likely went with this gambit in his memoir because Bobby was dead and could not correct the record. As Talbot writes, “[T]he idea that LBJ would huddle with the man he considered his rival and tormentor, in order to discuss the politically sensitive composition of the commission is ludicrous.” Rather, “It was the national security establishment, not Bobby Kennedy, that advised the new president to put Dulles and McCloy on the Warren Commission.”
To arrive at this conclusion, Talbot cites numerous members of the Dulles camp. Secretary of State Dean Rusk—an ex-president of the Rockefeller Foundation—urged LBJ to appoint Dulles. Johnson’s CIA director, Richard Helms himself, told history professor Michael Kurtz that he “personally persuaded” the president to appoint Dulles to the commission. He did so, as Kurtz explained, so that Dulles could “make sure no agency secrets came out during the investigation.” William Corson, a former officer in the Marines and an agent for Naval intelligence, stated that Dulles, “lobbied hard for the job [on the Warren Commission].” Dulles even assigned Corson to investigate various leads on Jack Ruby. Eventually, Corson came to suspect that Dulles was intentionally wasting Corson’s time: “It is entirely possible I was sent on an assignment which would go nowhere. […] Allen Dulles had a lot to hide.”
On November 29, 1963, Dulles accepted Johnson’s appointment to the Warren Commission. One week earlier, on November 22, JFK had been assassinated in Dallas. Dulles spent that day at a CIA outpost nicknamed “The Farm.” Talbot and other researchers speculate that his outpost at “The Farm” probably served as a sort of boiler room that day, from which Dulles could respond to events as the assassination was carried out and covered up. Unfortunately, Dulles was never deposed under oath about this.
The deficiencies of the Warren Report are too vast to catalog here. Suffice it to say, the report bore Dulles’ imprint. The same could be said for the media response to the report. After all, Dulles’ friends included Time-Life/Fortune publisher Henry Luce—Mr. “American Century” himself (see Part 1). Dulles was also friends with the publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger, as well as CBS executive William Paley. Predictably, the establishment press heralded the Warren Report’s integrity upon its publication. For example, The Washington Post described the report as “a masterpiece of its kind.” This may be true, depending on what “kind” of thing we want to call the Warren Report.
Dulles and the CIA had great influence in the media, but they weren’t going to passively stand by as critics discredited the Warren Report. A 1967 CIA memo spelled out what would become a stock CIA response to public suspicion. The memo’s authors sought “to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists” (emphasis added). To that end, CIA officers should “employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics.” As political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith pointed out, it was after this memo was issued that the term “conspiracy theorist” began appearing in the media with greater and greater frequency. Today, of course, it is constantly used as a nonsensical propaganda cudgel to summarily discredit narratives and narrators who question or falsify official stories—including, of course, RFK Jr. and his supporters.
Vast fortunes were made as a result of the assassination of President Kennedy. The Vietnam War went on to become a murderous boondoggle for the military industrial complex. Oil and gold mining interests made untold fortunes in Indonesia as a result of policy changes after JFK’s demise. Brazil and Congo were also made safe for neocolonial plunder. Greece, the Dominican Republic, and Italy all experienced years of violence and tumult as a result of the Johnson administration’s imperial turn in foreign policy. While the Vietnam War seems on the surface to have been a defeat for the US, the material wealth and power that the US subtly acquired and expanded before and during that era gave rise to a new dollar-based monetary order that was finally consolidated under President Reagan.
In the intervening years, the US and the world have been dominated by an imperial-minded oligarchy of American corporate wealth. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy sought to confront these forces back in 1968. RFK had encouraged MLK to lead a multiracial march on Washington—and to stay there until the government agreed to divert war spending to anti-poverty programs. Kennedy also planned to reinvestigate his brother’s assassination once he won the presidency. Beginning on November 22, 1963, Robert Kennedy suspected that Dallas was the work of the CIA and its friends in the mafia and Cuban exile community. Tragically, Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968 and Robert Kennedy was assassinated that June, just after winning the California primary.
To wit: after John Kennedy was assassinated, his brother Robert planned to eventually attain the presidency and use presidential power to seek justice for his brother’s murder. Today, the evidence is overwhelming that both Kennedy brothers were murdered because they challenged the US oligarchy and its overriding commitment to global empire.
Now, as we approach the 2024 election, this imperial project is nearing the end of its life cycle. The US Empire is going the way of all empires. The weight of suppressed history can no longer be ignored or obscured. The public’s current distrust of politicians and of the corporate media is well earned, to put it mildly.
The best near-term hope for responding sensibly and forcefully to these crises is represented by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s 2024 presidential campaign and his call for an American Truth and Reconciliation process.
It is hard to see how US politics could even begin to move in a positive direction for regular people as long as an oligarchy of corporate wealth can rig democracy—or veto it with clandestine state violence when standard rigging fails. Some on the Left may despair that Kennedy is not a socialist, but currently there is no viable socialist political formation in the US. While socialism may be a nonstarter in the 2024 election, Americans do believe in—or loudly profess to believe in—democracy.
Kennedy seeks to restore democracy and reinstitute the rule of law. He aims to wind down the US Empire. In sum, he seeks to renew his uncle’s quest for peace. In so doing, he is on a mission to achieve what his father was killed for trying to accomplish.
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