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Were the Kennedys a Threat to National Security?


If someone had posited the notion that in 1961 the FBI might have monitoring President John Kennedy’s brother Ted on suspicion that the latter could be a threat to national security, statists would undoubtedly have cried, “Conspiracy theory! Conspiracy theory!”

One of the things that fascinate me about federal conspiracies is people’s reaction to them when they are confirmed. No one is ever surprised. It’s like no big deal to them.

That seems to be the general reaction to the disclosure this week of previously secret FBI documents indicating that in the FBI was monitoring Teddy Kennedy and, specifically, his contacts with communist/socialist leftists on a trip to Latin America in 1961, two years before JFK was assassinated.

Imagine that: The brother of the president of the United States is secretly being monitored by FBI agents who obviously think that something nefarious might be taking place between Ted Kennedy and communists/socialists in Latin America.

If that doesn’t reflect the paranoia that many officials in the federal government had during the Cold War, I don’t know what does.

The documents reflect that when Ted returned from his Latin America trip, he inadvertently left his diary in his airline seat. According to the New York Times, the airline turned the diary over to the FBI.

But how would that have happened? When the airline attendants found the diary, wouldn’t it have been natural for them to contact Ted Kennedy and tell him that they found his diary? Why would they call the FBI? It seems to me that it is likely that there was an FBI agent on that flight following Kennedy, and when he saw the diary either retrieved it or ordered the airline attendants to give it to him. According to the Times, “Nearly five years later, a bureau official referred to the notebook, writing, ‘a copy of the notebook and related material has been retained in this office since that time.’”

All this is especially interesting to me because of my 3-part series, “The CIA and the Assassination of John Kennedy,” which was published in the February, March, and April 2010 issue of FFF’s monthly journal Freedom Daily. (Click here to subscribe: $25 per year for print, $15 per year for email version.)

As I pointed out in that series, the CIA should have been made a target of a special and independent investigation into the assassination of John Kennedy. If officials of the CIA did, in fact, conspire to assassinate Kennedy, it would have been impossible for a political investigatory body, such as the Warren Commission, to have broken through such a conspiracy, especially given that the former head of the CIA who Kennedy had fired, was serving on the Warren Commission. Only a fierce, independent criminal prosecutor with grand-jury subpoena powers, backed by a fearless independent judge willing to enforce such subpoenas, could have pierced the stone wall that such a conspiracy would have constructed.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the CIA did in fact participate in the assassination of John Kennedy. It’s only to say that if the CIA did participate in the assassination, the only way that could ever have been discovered is through the aggressive targeting of the CIA as a target of interest by an independent and fearless criminal prosecutor.

Why should the CIA have been named a target of interest in the Kennedy assassination? As I pointed out in my article, the CIA was fully competent to pull off such a difficult feat. Among its primary missions was assassination and regime change, both of which it had already engaged in. In fact, it is undisputed that prior to the Kennedy assassination the CIA had conspired with the Mafia to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro and, thus, was fully competent to turn such a conspiracy inward.

What about the question of motive? After the Bay of Pigs disaster, there was a bureaucratic war between JFK and the CIA. The CIA was angry and bitter that Kennedy had betrayed the agency and America by refusing to send air support during the Bay of Pigs invasion. For his part, Kennedy felt he had been set up and misled by the CIA. Not only did he fire the head of the CIA and his chief deputy, Kennedy also vowed to tear the CIA into a thousand pieces.

And then there is the issue of national security. One of the finest books that has ever been written on the Kennedy assassination is JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass, which I highly recommend. (See this review of the book by Oliver Stone or listen to thispodcast interview of Douglass by Lew Rockwell.)

Douglass sets forth in careful detail the circumstantial evidence establishing how the CIA came to view John Kennedy as a threat to national security, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

In the eyes of the CIA, not only had Kennedy betrayed his country at the Bay of Pigs, which resulted in the deaths and capture of CIA operatives and anti-Castro Cubans, he also had failed to show sufficient toughness against the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis, even to the point of secretly agreeing to withdraw U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey.

Even worse, Kennedy then began secretly reaching out to Soviet President Nikita Khrushchev about ending the Cold War and to Castro about establishing better relations with Cuba. Kennedy also talked to close aids about withdrawing all U.S. forces from Vietnam after the 1964 election.

All of this could easily have been construed by paranoid military and CIA officials as effectively surrendering America to communist conquest. Kennedy’s sexual escapades, especially with Mafia girlfriends, could only have exacerbated the CIA’s concerns about national security. In fact, the recently disclosed documents reflect that some time after the JFK assassination the Mafia (the CIA’s partner) tried to destroy Robert and Ted Kennedy by disclosing secret sex parties in which they (along with JFK) allegedly participated.)

The interesting issue, of course, is this: If the CIA did conclude that President Kennedy constituted a dangerous threat to national security, what would the CIA do? Would it permit America to fall to the communists or would it employ its assassination and regime-change talents internally to save America from the communists?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.