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Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination
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The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 triggered cover-ups by officials that continue to have a negative impact on American politics, life, and foreign policy. Legacy of Secrecy details those cover-ups and hidden investigations, many for the first time, including the reasons they were carried out under such intense secrecy. Most were spawned by John and Robert Kennedy's "top secret" 1963 plan to stage a coup against Fidel Castro--a plan so highly classified that it only started to be exposed in 2005 and is finally fully revealed in this book.
Their own confessions now show that three Mafia bosses—Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, and Johnny Rosselli—were behind JFK's assassination. They used parts of the secret coup plan to kill JFK in a way that forced Attorney General Robert Kennedy, President Lyndon B. Johnson, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and high CIA official Richard Helms to withhold crucial information not only from the public and the press, but also from each other and sometimes their own investigators. It's important to keep in mind that JFK was murdered just a year after the tense nuclear standoff during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The main goals of US officials were to prevent a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets and to protect JFK's ally high in the Cuban government: Commander Juan Almeida, head of the Cuban Army in 1963—still listed as Cuba's No. 3 official today. While US leaders managed to prevent a confrontation with Russia and preserve a critical ally high in the Cuban government, this limted the investigation into JFK's murder, allowing the three Mafia chiefs and their associates to remain free.
As a result, the long shadow of secrecy surrounding both JFK's murder and the coup plan set the stage for the murder of Martin Luther King, ultimately driving two Presidents from office, and bringing about the murders of five Congressional witnesses in the mid-1970s.
Legacy of Secrecy breaks important new ground in key areas, detailing for the first time Louisiana Mafia godfather Carlos Marcello's clear confession to ordering JFK's assassination. Marcello's criminal empire ranged from Dallas to Memphis, and previously secret files at the National Archives show that he confessed in 1985 to an FBI informant ruled credible by a federal judge, as part of a secret FBI undercover sting operation named CAMTEX. Exposed here for the first time, CAMTEX also yielded Marcello's admission that he'd met Lee Harvey Oswald and set Jack Ruby up in business in Dallas.
The operation also generated hundreds of hours of heretofore secret prison audio tapes of Marcello discussing his crimes, recorded using the FBI informant's bugged transistor radio. Yet the FBI and Justice Department withheld most of that information from the public and Congress for years, until its revelation in this book.. Carlos Marcello wasn't the only mob boss who confessed his involvement in JFK's murder to a trusted associate. Legacy also uncovers new important new information about Marcello's partners in JFK's assassination, Tampa godfather Santo Trafficante and Johnny Rosselli, the Chicago Mafia's man in Las Vegas and Hollywood. Shortly before their deaths, both mobsters admitted their roles in JFK's murder to their attorneys.
Two of their associates, with documented ties to the secret JFK-Almeida coup plan, likewise confessed. Using exclusive new information, supported by FBI files apparently withheld from Congress, Legacy names two of the Georgia men who paid James Earl Ray to kill Dr. Martin Luther King: white supremacist Joseph Milteer and Hugh R. Spake. Milteer, who had been involved in Marcello's murder of JFK, was part of a small clique of racists in Atlanta who used Marcello to broker the contract to murder Dr. King.
We document James Earl Ray's ties to Marcello's heroin smuggling operation and long-overlooked evidence in FBI files linking Ray to Marcello's associate, Johnny Rosselli. Finally, Legacy explains why Ray--while fleeing to Canada the day after killing Dr. King in Memphis--made a 400+ mile detour south to Atlanta, where he contacted Spake to get help from Milteer. In 1979, the last Congressional committee to investigate the murders of JFK and Dr. King--the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA)--concluded "that Trafficante, like Marcello, had the motive, means, and opportunity to assassinate President Kennedy." The HSCA had been created in the wake of Rosselli's sensational murder, but the HSCA "was unable to establish direct evidence of Marcello's complicity," and the same was true for Trafficante and Rosselli--because the CIA, FBI, and other federal agencies withheld so many relevant files.
The HSCA, headed by civil rights figure Rep. Louis Stokes, also concluded "there was a likelihood of conspiracy in the assassination [of Dr. King]" and that "financial gain was [James Earl] Ray's primary motivation." But they were unable to determine who had paid Ray, or how the conspiracy had worked, because the FBI and other agencies hid important files. With the help of more than two dozen associates of John and Robert Kennedy--backed up by thousands of recently released documents at the National Archives, many quoted here for the first time--Legacy tells the full story long denied to Congress and the American people.
Because top US officials covered up so much about JFK's assassination, of the dozen people knowingly involved in that murder, three were free to participate in Dr. King's slaying five years later. At the heart of the 1963 cover-ups lay the top-secret plans of John and Robert Kennedy to stage a coup against Cuba's Fidel Castro--set for December 1, 1963, ten days after JFK's Dallas trip.
The Kennedys' goal was democracy for Cuba, after what the hoped would always appear to be a seemingly internal "palace coup." The Kennedys had banned the Mafia from the operation and from reopening their casinos if the coup succeeded. JFK's plans for a coup in Cuba--which included a "full scale invasion" if necessary--were detailed in the authors' previous book, Ultimate Sacrifice. The 2006 expanded trade paperback edition first named Almeida as the coup leader, after the National Archives released his identity after more than four decades of secrecy. Ultimate Sacrifice also exposed how Robert Kennedy had US officials secretly developed plans for dealing with "the assassination of American officials" if Fidel found out about the coup plans and retaliated.
Legacy of Secrecy also adds important new information showing how Marcello, Trafficante, and Rosselli--desperate to end Robert Kennedy's unprecedented prosecution of them and their associates--infiltrated the JFK-Almeida coup plan and used parts of it to murder JFK. Their first attempts to kill JFK, in Chicago (on November 2, 1963) and during JFK's long motorcade in Tampa (November 18) failed--but because they'd planted clues implicating Fidel, Robert Kennedy and other officials had to cover up those threats to protect the security of the JFK-Almeida coup plan. The Mafia chiefs' made sure their murder of JFK in Dallas on November 22, 1963 involved ties to the coup plan and false clues pointing to Fidel.
As a result, Robert Kennedy and other high officials had to withhold key information in order to prevent, in the words of President Johnson, a nuclear holocaust that could cost the lives of "forty million Americans." Legacy provides a well-documented and definitive account of the multi-faceted cover-up that followed JFK's murder, which lasted decades longer than anyone could have envisioned in 1963. The cover-up wasn't intended to shield JFK's killers, but to protect Commander Almeida and prevent a nuclear confrontation.
However, high officials ranging from J. Edgar Hoover to the CIA's Richard Helms also used the opportunity to cover-up their own misjudgments and misdeeds. Helms needed to hide his unauthorized Castro assassination plots with the Mafia, which he had withheld from both his own CIA Director and from Attorney General Robert Kennedy (tasked by JFK with overseeing covert anti-Castro operations). Robert Kennedy had additional reasons for covering up as well, from protecting his brother's reputation to preserving his own political future. Shortly before his brother's murder, Robert Kennedy had testified to Congress that it was almost impossible to prosecute top Mafia godfathers for any crimes, let alone ordering a hit.
Robert had trusted associates secretly investigate JFK's murder, eventually concluding that Marcello was responsible. Prior to his own assassination, Robert confided to associates that only by becoming President could he conduct the truly thorough investigation needed to bring his brother's killers to justice....