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Gaeton Fonzi was born in Philadelphia on 10th October, 1935. He attended public schools in West New York, New Jersey, and graduated as an honors journalism major from the University of Pennsylvania in 1957. He served as a commissioned officer in the US Army Infantry and in a Civil Affairs reserve unit. He worked briefly as a general assignment reporter with the Delaware County Daily Times and as an associate editor with the Chilton Company.
In 1959 Fonzi joined Philadelphia Magazine where he later was named Senior Editor. Herbert Lipson, the son of the owner of the magazine, claims that: "In those days, we wanted to cure all the ills of the world and it could take him years... to gather enough to finally publish an investigation." This included the exposure of Harry J. Karafin, a reporter for the Knight-Ridder chain of newspapers. According to According to Walter F. Naedele of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Fonzi "authored a lengthy piece accusing Harry J. Karafin of having extorted money from his subjects in exchange for not publishing stories about their misdeeds.... It was a piece that led to Mr. Karafin's indictment and imprisonment."
It has been argued that Fonzi was "the first to turn regional magazines into investigative instruments". He was also interested in national stories. Fonzi became a harsh critic of the Warren Report. In an article for Philadelphia Magazine he wrote, "The Warren Report is a deliberate lie. The Warren Commission's own evidence proves there was a conspiracy to murder President Kennedy."
In 1972 he became editor of Miami Magazine and senior editor of its sister publication, Gold Coast . Fonzi won the magazine's first national journalism award and wrote more than 100 major feature articles, including two book-length specials. Bernard McCormick, a fellow reporter on the magazine, commented that Fonzi's "gentle, slow talking, sometimes inaudible manner belied his aggressive journalistic style". McCormick claimed Fonzi "joked that his mumbling, halting interview technique worked to his advantage when subjects couldn't stand his pace and blurted out information." During this period he also published Annenberg: A Biography of Power.
Robert Groden and Gaeton Fonzi examines the evidence (1992).
In 1975 Senator Richard Schweiker, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, asked him to join his staff investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Two years later Fonzi was invited to join the House Select Committee on Assassinations as a staff investigator. As a special team director, he wrote and edited a major appendix, Volume X, of the Committee's Final Report. His book-length feature article for Washingtonian magazine, detailing the political limitations of the Committee's investigation, received national coverage and resulted in a record readership issue for the publication.
In 1993 he published The Last Investigation, a book detailing his research into the assassination. It is considered by many critics as among the best books on the JFK assassination and is currently recognized as an authority on those aspects of the assassination involving anti-Castro Cubans and the intelligence agencies. As Paul Vitello pointed out in the The New York Times: "He (Fonzi) chronicled the near-blanket refusal of government intelligence agencies, especially the C.I.A., to provide the committee with documents it requested. And he accused committee leaders of folding under pressure - from Congressional budget hawks, political advisers and the intelligence agencies themselves - just as promising new leads were emerging."
In the book Fonzi criticized G. Robert Blakey, the chief counsel and staff director of the House Select Committee on Assassinations for being overly deferential to the CIA. Blakey now accepts that Fonzi was probably right about this. Blakey was shocked in 2003 when declassified CIA documents revealed the full identity of the retired agent who had acted as the committee’s liaison to the agency, George Joannides, who had also overseen a group of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Dallas in the months before the assassination, when Lee Harvey Oswald was in contact with them. Blakey issued a statement where he said: "I am no longer confident that the Central Intelligence Agency co-operated with the committee.... I was not told of Joannides' background with the DRE, a focal point of the investigation. Had I known who he was, he would have been a witness who would have been interrogated under oath by the staff or by the committee. He would never have been acceptable as a point of contact with us to retrieve documents. In fact, I have now learned, as I note above, that Joannides was the point of contact between the Agency and DRE during the period Oswald was in contact with DRE. That the Agency would put a 'material witness' in as a 'filter' between the committee and its quests for documents was a flat out breach of the understanding the committee had with the Agency that it would co-operate with the investigation."
Gaeton Fonzi in 1993.
Throughout his career, Fonzi has written for New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Penthouse, Avenue Magazine, the New York Daily New and the Chicago Tribune. Fonzi has won numerous awards including the Philadelphia Business Club Award, the Philadelphia Bar Association Award, two local Sigma Delta Chi Awards, a National Sigma Delta Chi Award, Four Florida Magazine Association Awards, a City Regional Magazine Association Award, a Florida Atlantic University Enterprise Reporting Special Award, a Washington Monthly Award. Fonzi was a finalist in Columbia's National Magazine Awards and has received the William Allen White Investigative Journalism Award from the University of Kansas. He has been a guest lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, and Stetson University.
Gaeton Fonzi, an avid runner and sailor, he lived in Florida with Marie, his wife of 55 years. They had four children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. He was also a member of the South Florida Researchers' Group.
(1) Vincent J. Salandria speaking to Gaeton Fonzi in 1975. Quoted in The Last Investigation (1993)
I'm afraid we were misled. All the critics, myself included, were misled very early. I see that now. We spent too much time and effort microanalyzing the details of the assassination when all the time it was obvious, it was blatantly obvious that it was a conspiracy. Don't you think that the men who killed Kennedy had the means to do it in the most sophisticated and subtle way? They chose not to. Instead, they picked the shooting gallery that was Dealey Plaza and did it in the most barbarous and openly arrogant manner. The cover story was transparent and designed not to hold, to fall apart at the slightest scrutiny. The forces that killed Kennedy wanted the message clear: 'We are in control and no one - not the President, nor Congress, nor any elected official - no one can do anything about it.' It was a message to the people that their Government was powerless. And the people eventually got the message. Consider what has happened since the Kennedy assassination. People see government today as unresponsive to their needs, yet the budget and power of the military and intelligence establishment have increased tremendously.
The tyranny of power is here. Current events tell us that those who killed Kennedy can only perpetuate their power by promoting social upheaval both at home and abroad. And that will lead not to revolution but to repression. I suggest to you, my friend, that the interests of those who killed Kennedy now transcend national boundaries and national priorities. No doubt we are dealing now with an international conspiracy. We must face that fact - and not waste any more time microanalyzing the evidence. That's exactly what they want us to do. They have kept us busy for so long. And I will bet, buddy, that is what will happen to you. They'll keep you very, very busy and, eventually, they'll wear you down.
(2) Gaeton Fonzi, speech on receiving the Mary Ferrell-JFKLancer Pioneer Award (21st November 21, 1998)
Like most other Americans, after the initial shock of President Kennedy's assassination had dimmed, we fell into the comfortable assumption that the Government was handling the matter judiciously, that the prestigious panel of respected individuals, headed by the most prestigious member of the American judicial system, would provide us with a thorough and valid appraisal of exactly what had happened when President Kennedy was killed. What led me to clip the article by Vincent Salandria is that it ran counter to that assumption.
It dealt with only one aspect of the report - the sequence of events surrounding the number and direction of the shots. But that just happened to be the area assigned to another Philadelphia lawyer, a young assistant district attorney whose quick intelligence and impressive record had landed him a staff job on the Warren Commission. His name, of course, was Arlen Specter.
I didn't initially understand some of the technical and complex points Salandria made in his article, but I did grasp the fact that what Salandria was implying was that the Warren Commission Report was wrong...
Local reporters had, of course, asked Specter about the Warren Report when it was released. He was vigorous in defense of its conclusions. He called the Commission's investigation the most exhaustive and complete in history. The single bullet theory, he insisted, was the only possible way to explain how Lee Harvey Oswald had shot President Kennedy. The reporters dutifully reported what he said.
Amazingly enough, even after all those months had gone by since the release of the Warren Report, I was the first journalist to ask Specter about specific details and about the Report's inconsistencies. I apparently caught Specter off guard.
I was shocked by his confusions, his hemming and hawing, his hesitations and evasions. This from someone who was the epitome of the always cool, collected and verbally masterful lawyer, the former star of the Yale Law debating team. I was even more shocked by his inability to provide valid explanations for some of the most blatant inconsistencies in the Report.
I believe the most crucial was the discrepancy between the levels of the so-called "exit" wound in Kennedy's throat and the holes in the back of Kennedy's jacket and shirt. Why were the holes in his back lower than the hole in Kennedy's throat? I still remember Specter hesitating, stuttering, making a few false starts in attempting to answer that question. Finally, he got up from his desk and came around to stand behind me. Well, he said, it was because the President was waving his arm, and then, trying to illustrate why the jacket would ride up, Specter pulled my arm high over my head - far higher than the Zapruder film showed Kennedy waving his hand. "Wave your arm a few times," Specter said, "wave at the crowd." And then jabbing a finger at the base of my neck - not six inches below my collar, where the holes in Kennedy's jacket and shirt were - Specter said, "Well, see, if the bullet goes in here, the jacket gets hunched up. If you take this point right here and then you strip the coat down, it comes out at a lower point."
"A lower point?" I repeated, wondering if Specter were trying to confuse me or was confused himself.
If the entrance holes were at a lower point than the exit hole, how could Oswald have shot Kennedy from the sixth floor window of the Book Depository?
In the end, Specter admitted they had what he described as - quote - "some problems with that."
My interviews also revealed that the Commission had "some problems" with other troublesome evidence, including the so-called "pristine" bullet, the angle of Governor Connally's wounds, the timing of the shots. "Some problems," indeed. I'll never forget the numbing disbelief I came away with after my interviews with Specter. Vince Salandria was right, the Warren Report was wrong, there had to have been a conspiracy.
We were young once and not so brave. We wanted to cling to the myth of a mystery. We wanted to hang onto the questions of motivation and parade the usual suspects and the illusion of a dilemma before the American people. Could the Mob have killed President Kennedy? Could the KGB have killed President Kennedy? Could Castro have killed President Kennedy? Could anti-Castro Cubans have killed President Kennedy? Could the CIA have killed President Kennedy?
I suggest to you that if it ever becomes known what specific individuals comprised the apparatus that killed Kennedy, those individuals will have some association with any or all of the above. And still the emergence of such individuals, dead or alive, will add but inconsequential detail to the truth about the assassination. Because we have known -- and have long known - who killed President Kennedy.
Could any but a totally controlling force - a power elite within the United States Government itself - call it what you will, the military-intelligence complex, the national security state, the corporate-warfare establishment - could any but the most powerful elite controlling the U.S. Government have been able to manipulate individuals and events before the assassination and then bring such a broad spectrum of internal forces to first cover up the crime and then control the institutions within our society to keep the assassination of President Kennedy a false mystery for 35 years?
Is there any doubt that the Warren Commission deliberately set out not to tell the American people the truth?
There is a brief glimpse, an illustration of the level at which that deceit was carried out, in an incident that occurred during the Warren Commission's investigation. Commission chairman Earl Warren himself, with then Representative Gerald Ford at his side, was interviewing a barman, Curtis LaVerne Crafard. Crafard had worked at Jack Ruby's Carousel Club before he was seized by FBI men as he was hightailing it out of town the day after the assassination, having told someone, "They are not going to pin this on me!"
In the interview, Warren asks Craford what he did before he was a bartender.
"I was a Master sniper in the Marine Corps," Craford answered.*
The next question that Warren immediately asked was: "What kind of entertainment did they have at the club?"
(3) Gaeton Fonzi, interviewed on 8th October, 1994.
Veciana was introduced by name to Phillips twice, once in the banquet hall and once in the hallway. Phillips even asked that it be repeated and then, when Veciana asked him, "Don't you remember my name?" Phillips responded, "No." As Veciana himself later pointed out, that was odd considering that Veciana had been exceptionally well-known in anti-Castro activity, being the founder, key fund-raiser and spokesman for Alpha 66, the largest and most militant anti-Castro group. It was odd because anti-Castro activity was the heart and soul of Phillips' mission during the period in question. It was impossible for Phillips not to know or remember Veciana's name. Phillips had simply been caught off-guard by Veciana's surprise appearance at Reston and had a little "slip of tradecraft." Phillips himself must have later realized that because later, under oath during his Committee testimony, he decided the only way he could rectify that "slip of tradecraft" was to lie and say that Veciana was never introduced to him by name at that encounter. I urged Chief Counsel Bob Blakey to recommend Phillips be charged with perjury, since we had three witnesses to that Reston encounter: myself, Veciana and an aide from Senator Schweiker's office. Blakey declined to take on the CIA.
(4) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)
One demolishes the single-bullet theory: the locations of the bullet holes in the back of Kennedy's jacket and shirt - hard, tangible, measurable evidence - obliterate the possibility of a bullet emerging from Kennedy's throat and striking Governor Connally. Single-bullet-theory author Arlen Specter conceded this was a worrisome contradiction. The other substantiation came from validating Sylvia Odio's report that Oswald, or someone who resembled him (it matters not), appeared at her door in Dallas with two associates, one of whom would link Oswald to the notion of killing the President. That was a deliberate act of connecting Oswald to the assassination before the assassination. Beyond all the other evidence indicating conspiracy, all the acoustic tests, the autopsy evidence, the bullet trajectory theories and what have you, even beyond all the other evidence of Oswald's associations, the Odio incident absolutely cries conspiracy. In fact, I have no hesitation in declaring the Kennedy assassination a conspiracy based strictly on Sylvia Odio's consistently credible testimony and, more important, the fact that our investigation proved it true.
(5) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)
It was while sitting in the El Molino one night, that Ruben Carbajal told Bob Dorff and me about the times he and Bob Walton had gone to Washington to meet Morales and about the trip on which they met other high-ranking CIA officials. To obtain more details about those meetings, I suggested we talk to Walton. The next morning, a Saturday, Carbajal called him and Walton agreed to drive down from his home in Scottsdale to meet the three of us at the Holiday Inn.
Walton is in his mid-fifties, a pleasant, ruddy-faced fellow with Irish good looks and an easy, straightforward manner. He remembers their first trip to Washington as being in the spring of 1973. "I had had a coronary in November of 1972 and Rocky and I started talking about getting into business shortly after that. When you're from a dry climate like Arizona and you go back there in the summer you're just sweating like a pig. But I don't remember being uncomfortable, so I think it was early in the spring of 1973."
Walton corroborates the reason for the trip and the meeting with Morales: "We felt, or at least Rocky felt, that he could give us an inside track on who were the people who were for real and who were not. That was a big concern of mine because I had already been on one wild goose chase, spent an expensive week in Nassau waiting for a transaction to close and it never did."
Their evening with Morales, Walton remembers, was both very pleasant and, in more than one way, especially memorable. "We all went out for dinner, which was very nice. It was Rocky and his wife, me and my wife and Rocky's mother and father."
Morales, not someone who trusted strangers or even associates easily, obviously was impressed by Walton's character and, although their commodities business never took hold, he later called on Walton to represent him on a few matters back in Phoenix. It was something Morales said at one of those subsequent encounters in Phoenix that makes Walton put what had happened in Washington in a very special perspective.
"Morales was building a big, new house out near Willcox," Walton says. "Actually, it was in a little town called El Frita, which is about half-way between Willcox and the Mexican border. It's a remote area, I've only driven that road once in my life. It's an agricultural area, they grow the famous jalapenos peppers there. I never got to see the house, but he had just finished it and was describing it to me when he mentioned that he put in it the best security system in the United States. And I remember asking him, thinking he was worried about burglars or being robbed, 'What do you need so much security for? You're still thirty miles from the Mexican border.' And he said, 'I'm not worried about those people, I'm worried about my own.' "
That struck Walton as curious. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"I know too much," Morales said, then quickly dropped it.
Remembering that now, Walton views his first meeting with Morales in Washington as being far more significant than he realized. After dinner, the whole party went back to the Dupont Plaza Hotel. It was late and Carbajal's parents and his wife returned to their rooms and Ruben and Morales returned to the Waltons' room with them. "Didi ended up staying all night," Walton recalls. "My wife went to sleep somewhere around two in the morning and Rocky and I and Didi drank and talked from when we got back from dinner - maybe that was about eleven o'clock at night - until about six in the morning. "
The drinking got heavy. "We had consumed quite a bit of alcohol," remembers Walton. "At one point, between the three of us we had gone through a fifth of Scotch and we had to re-order. It was a real contest." He pauses and smiles. "Ah, my younger days, my misspent youth!" And as the night and the drinking go on, defenses come down and candid truths emerge. "You know," says Walton, "you get in a kind of position where you say, 'All right, I told you everything about me, what are you all about?' "
Morales began with his war stories. Walton remembers him talking about the killing in Vietnam and Laos, about being involved in the capture of Che Guevara in Bolivia, of hits in Paraguay and Uruguay and Venezuela. ("He said his wife was [in the country] with him and they had real trouble getting him out of town. They almost bought the farm on that one.")
The drinking and the talking continued. At one point, Morales began probing Walton for a bit of his own background. Walton had gone to Amherst College in Massachusetts and, as part of his developing interest in political science and politics, he had done some volunteer work for Jack Kennedy's Senatorial campaign. Later, at Harvard Law, Walton was head of a student group which invited then Senator Kennedy to speak at Cambridge.
Walton never got to explain the details of that association. At the first mention of Kennedy's name, he recalls, Morales literally almost hit the ceiling.
"He flew off the bed on that one," says Walton. "I remember he was lying down and he jumped up screaming, 'That no good son of a bitch motherf*****!' He started yelling about what a wimp Kennedy was and talking about how he had worked on the Bay of Pigs and how he had to watch all the men he had recruited and trained get wiped out because of Kennedy."
Walton says Morales's tirade about Kennedy, fueled by righteous anger and high-proof booze, went on for minutes while he stomped around the room. Suddenly he stopped, sat back down on the bed and remained silent for a moment. Then, as if saying it only to himself, he added:
"Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn't we?"
I looked at Ruben Carbajal, who had remained silent while Walton was telling me this. Carbajal looked at me and nodded his head. Yes, he was there, it was true. But, in all the long hours we had spent together and all the candid revelations he had provided, it was a remembrance he couldn't bring himself to tell me about his friend Didi.
(6) Robin Ramsay, Who Shot JFK (2002)
While reporting on CIA assassination plots abroad, both the Church Committee and the separate inquiry chaired by Nelson Rockefeller, had declined to look at the King and Kennedy assassinations of the previous decade. But two members of the Church committee. Republican Richard Schweiker and Democrat Gary Hart were allowed to create a subcommittee to investigate not "Who killed Kennedy?" but the performance of the intelligence agencies in relation to the Kennedy assassination. They hired one researcher, Gaeton Fonzi, a journalist who had been interested in the case since the 1960s. Fonzi became the first person employed by the US federal government to investigate the Kennedy assassination under the assumption there was a conspiracy. But the subcommittee had limited time and limited budget and just when Fonzi found an apparently important lead, the sub-committee was wound up. The chair of the main committee, Frank Church, 'was chomping at the bit, anxious to get into the Presidential sweepstakes,' and wanted his committee's report published. The Hart/Schweiker subcommittee was forced to issue a report with what it had.
(7) Gaeton Fonzi, interviewed on 8th October, 1994.
Q: How do you view Posner's technique on this subject vs. your own? For example, it does not appear from the notes in the back of his book that he interviewed her, relying instead on her testimony to the WC, yet, he doesn't hesitate to mention her emotional problems, her divorceor that there isn't one piece of corroborating evidence for her post-assassination claim that one of the men who visited her was introduced as 'Leon Oswald'. Could he have interviewed her? Should he have interviewed her? What >makes< her credible, in your opinion?
A: First of all, let me say at the start, that I view Posner's book as a dishonest book. Posner called me early on when he was beginning to work on the book. He asked me about those areas of the investigation in which I was involved. I told him briefly, gave him some specifics. He said that they seemed very interesting and very important and that he would have to come and talk with me in detail about it. And I said he was welcome to do that. This was way before I even began my book. He said that he would do that and I never heard from him again. As far as Posner's handling of Odio, he never talked to Odio. The testimony and what he does in his book in terms of building up a tremendous emotional problem that she had by using an individual, quoting an individual who Silvia Odio never met, who happened to be a friend of her uncle's, I think. To me, was, again, misleading and dishonest. As far as, it isn't true, as this says, that there isn't one piece of corroborating evidence for a post assassination claim that one of the men who visited her was introduced as Leon Oswald. That's simply not true because her sister was at the apartment at that time. We got corroboration from her sister. Could he have interviewed her? I don't know, whether or not he could have interviewed her. Should he have interviewed her? Of course he should have interviewed her. And what makes her credible, of course, is the fact that everything she says, we got corroboration about. We got a corroboration in terms of the details which are more important. And in fact, even additional corroboration has come forward when a priest, who we couldn't locate, a friend of hers, specifically recalled her saying, talking about the visit prior to the assassination. On a specific evening. He pinpointed the evening closer than she had before. So, as far as Posner goes, and his credibility in the Odio area, I think it's dishonest.
(8) Gaeton Fonzi, interviewed on 8th October, 1994.
Q: Do you think that de Mohrenschildt committed suicide because you were going to see him? What was your reaction upon hearing of his suicide?
A: Yeah. Again, this is my opinion. At the time de Mohrenschildt committed suicide, there were a number of things taking place, and a number of specific factors that put a lot of pressure on him. The House Committee was getting started again. He was being asked, I believe, to begin another role in his relationship to the assassination and his testimony before the Warren Commission. He was taken, just before he committed suicide, he was taken to Belgium by a foreign journalist. He was, I believe he felt he was, being set up. He was supposed to have a meeting with a KGB official, I believe, but he ran away. He came back to Florida. He believed he was being set up to make it appear that there was a link between him and the KGB. And then obviously a link between Oswald and the KGB because of his link to the KGB. And then, Epstein shows up. And once again, spends a whole afternoon with him at a hotel in Palm Beach. And, I think, he's under a lot of pressure. He comes back home and his daughter hands him my card. I had been there in the morning and I told his daughter that I wanted to talk to him and that I would be back in touch. He puts the card in his shirt pocket and goes upstairs and blows his head off. And so, I think you have a whole series of linkages there. He hadn't been a well man, mentally. Just months prior to that he had been treated for mental problems. So I think the linkage is there in terms of the pressures being put on him. And I do believe he committed suicide. I don't think there's enough evidence to indicate that he didn't.
(9) Gaeton Fonzi, interviewed on 8th October, 1994.
Q: Did David Atlee Phillips ever recruit Frank Sturgis at any time for any job? If yes what job or use was Sturgis to Phillips?
Fonzi: I've got no indication that Phillips ever worked with Sturgis. And knowing this, what sticks in my mind, whenever I would bring up Phillips' name to Sturgis, Sturgis would go ballistic in terms of how much he hated Phillips. Absolutely wild in terms of his reaction to anything, any mention of David Phillips at all. He [(said he) "hated the son-of-a-bitch". And the reason he said he hated him was because Phillips claimed that Sturgis never had anything to do at all with the CIA. And that made me suspicious about that connection. Veciana said that at one point, Maurice Bishop asked him to sit, or go to a meeting, monitor an operation that Sturgis was involved in called Cellula Fantasma. And Veciana did and reported back to Bishop about what was happening. I believe it was a..... there are all kinds of reports now exactly what it was. When I asked Sturgis about it, I think he told me it was " a leaflet dropping mission." There were indications that it may have been something other than that also. But that's the only connection I could come up with between Phillips and Sturgis.
(10) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)
A character like Frank Sturgis illustrates some of the dilemmas in investigating the Kennedy assassination: He can't be ignored. He is, by his own admission, a prime suspect. He had the ability and the motivation and was associated with individuals and groups who considered - and even employed - assassination as a method to achieve their goals. Any investigation would have to devote some time and resources to Sturgis. But there were other, similar characters who injected themselves into the investigation and drained time and resources far beyond any valid justification. In some of those cases, I thought I caught a glimpse of an intelligence connection and, in one, there was something more: A force deliberately manipulating the investigation into turns so weird and wild I sometimes wondered if what I was doing was serious reality or if I had been lured into a carnival and thrown onto the loop-the-loop.
(11) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)
Philadelphia's Richard Sprague as the Committee's chief counsel. Sprague had gotten national attention with his successful prosecution of United Mine Workers President Tony Boyle for the murder of UMW reformer Joseph Yablonski. In Philadelphia, where as First Assistant District Attorney he had run up a record of 69 homicide convictions out of 70 prosecutions, Sprague was known as tough, tenacious and independent. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind when I heard of Sprague's appointment that the Kennedy assassination would finally get what it needed: a no-holds-barred, honest investigation. Which just goes to show how ignorant of the ways of Washington both Sprague and I were.
When he took the job, Sprague had done so with the stipulation that he would have complete authority to hire his own staff and run the investigation as he saw fit. He proposed setting up two separate staffs, one for Kennedy and one for King.
He insisted on handling both cases as if they were homicide investigations.
In the annals of the John F. Kennedy assassination, it was a novel approach. And, judging from the reaction of many Congressman, it was a far too radical approach.
The key factors that drove Richard Sprague to resign as Chief Counsel of the Assassinations Committee appeared, at the time, to be apparent and on the surface. His proposed use of certain investigative equipment, his demand for a expensive, unrestricted investigation, his refusal to pay politics with Chairman Gonzalez - all were apparent grounds for the vociferous criticism which, in the long run, was debilitating to the Committee's efforts to get on with its job. However, after his resignation and a brief respite from the turmoil of Washington, Sprague was able to view his experience in a broader perspective.
Shortly after he returned from Acapulco, he was interviewed by Robert Sam Anson of New Times Magazine. Sprague admitted that, with the barrages flying at him from all directions, he and the staff had little time to actually investigate. By his reckoning, he said, he spent "point zero one percent" of his time examining the actual evidence. Yet, he told Anson, if he had it to do over again, he would begin his investigation of the Kennedy assassination by probing "Oswald's ties to the Central Intelligence Agency." Recently, I asked Sprague why he had come to that conclusion. "Well," he said, "when I first thought about it I decided that the House leadership really hadn't intended for there to be an investigation. The Committee was set up to appease the Black Caucus in an election year. I still believe that was a factor. But when I looked back at what happened, it suddenly became very clear that the problems began only after I ran up against the CIA. That's when my troubles really started."
In the early months of the Committee's life, Sprague's critics both in Congress and in the press were not only keeping him busy dodging the shots, they were also demanding that the Committee produce some sensational new evidence to justify its continuance. Sprague, therefore, was forced to take some wild swings at what appeared to be a few obvious targets. One area that very apparently needed closer examination was the CIA's handling of the initial investigation of Lee Harvey Oswald's activities in Mexico City.
According to the information supplied to the Warren Commission by the CIA, a man who identified himself as Lee Harvey Oswald visited the Cuban consulate in Mexico City on September 27th, 1963. (That, by the way, the House Assassinations Committee would later conflictingly conclude, was possibly one of the dates Oswald appeared at Silvia Odio's door in Dallas.) The Agency told the Commission that Oswald had been in Mexico City from September 26th to October 3rd. During the time, said the Agency, Oswald made a number of visits to both the Cuban Embassy and the Russian Embassy attempting to get an in-transit visa to Russia by way of Cuba. The CIA also claimed that when Oswald visited the Russian Embassy he spoke with a Soviet consul who was really a KGB intelligence officer. It was later learned, however, that CIA headquarters in Washington was not informed of the incident until October 9th, and then told only that Oswald had contacted the Soviet Embassy on October 1st. The CIA station in Mexico City told headquarters that it had obtained a photograph of Oswald visited the Embassy and described the man in the photo as approximately 35 years old, six feet tall, with an athletic build, a balding top and receding hairline.
When the Warren Commission asked the CIA for photos of Oswald taken in Mexico City, the ones it produced depicted the man described in the original teletype - obviously not Oswald. Notified of this discrepancy, the CIA said simply it had made a mistake and that there were no photographs of Oswald taken in Mexico City. It never identified the man in the photos. In fact, the CIA was able to produce very little hard evidence regarding Oswald's activities in Mexico City. "For example," Commission Counsel J. Lee Ranking complained, "they had no record of Oswald's daily movements while in Mexico City, nor could they confirm the date of his departure or his mode of travels."
Some Warren Commission critics would later interpret the incident as an attempt by certain CIA personnel to falsely link Oswald to Communist connections even before the Kennedy assassination. When Sprague first approached this area, he discovered that the CIA officer in charge of reporting such information from Mexico City at the time of Oswald's visit was former Bay of Pigs propaganda chief David Atlee Phillips.
In the biography, The Night Watch: 25 Years of Peculiar Service (published in 1977), David Phillips spends just a few pages on the Kennedy assassination and the Mexico City incident. He blames the cable discrepancy on a mistake by an underling. He explains the lack of an Oswald photography on the CIA's inability to maintain camera coverage of the Cuban and Russian embassies on an around-the-clock and weekend basis. A seemingly strange deficiency at a period so close to the Cuban missile crisis)
Sprague called David Phillips to testify before the Assassinations Committee in November, 1976. According to Sprague, Phillips said that the CIA had monitored and tape recorded Oswald's conversations with the Soviet Embassy. The tape was then transcribed by a CIA employee who then mistakenly coupled it with a photograph of a person who was not Oswald. Phillips said that the actual recording was routinely destroyed or re-used about a week after it was received.
Sprague subsequently discovered an FBI memorandum to the Secret Service dated November 23rd, 1963. It referred to the CIA notification of the man who visited the Russian Embassy. The memo noted that "Special Agents of this Bureau who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas, Tex., have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the above-referred-to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald."
Sprague was intrigued: How could the FBI agents have listened to a tape recording in November when Phillips said it had been destroyed in October? Sprague decided to push the CIA for an answer. He wanted complete information about the CIA's operation in Mexico City and total access to all its employees who may have had anything to do with the photographs, tape recordings and transcripts. The Agency balked. Sprague pushed harder. Finally the Agency agreed that Sprague could have access to the information if he agreed to sign a CIA Secrecy Agreement. Sprague refused. He contended that would be in direct conflict with House Resolution 222 which established the Assassination Committee and authorized it investigate the agencies of the United States Government. "How," he asked, "can I possible sign an agreement with an agency I'm supposed to be investigating?" He indicated he would subpoena the CIA's records.
Shortly afterwards, the first attempt to get the Assassinations Committee reconstituted was blocked.
(12) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)
It was on that first trip, Carbajal says, that he, Walton and Morales, outlasting the others, stayed up until dawn, "just drinking and bullshitting and having a good time." On subsequent trips only he and Walton made, Morales arranged for them to meet some of his Agency associates. At a cocktail party in a large, luxury apartment somewhere in nearby Virginia, among those Carbajal remembers being introduced to were Ed Wilson, Tom Clines and Ted Shackley.
Everyone hit it off so well at that first meeting in Washington, that Morales arranged to fly the whole Carbajal family and the Waltons down to Miami with him, where he also kept an apartment. "I remember when we got to the airport there wasn't enough room on the plane," recalls Rocky, "but Didi pulls out this card, I remember it was a black card, and the stewardesses actually bumped people off that plane so we could get on." Morales showed the group a good time in Miami, and took them around to the old haunts of his anti-Castro comrades, including a visit to Les Violins, the classy Latin show bar where once the Agency spooks, the local soldiers of fortune and the Cubans would huddle at dark tables and plan their next infiltration raids into Cuba. Bob Walton still has his swizzle stick as a souvenir.
Later Morales arranged another trip to Miami for Carbajal to have him make additional contacts who might be helpful in the commodities business. One was Manuel Artime, the CIA's military leader for the Bay of Pigs. Artime was an especially valuable contact since he was then business partners with Nicaragua dictator Anastasio Somoza. Carbajal remembers meeting Artime in E. Howard Hunt's house where, he was told, Artime was living while Hunt was in prison for his Watergate role. (More likely, Artime was simply entertaining there; he actually lived across the street from Hunt.) That Morales should reveal to Carbajal the level of his associations in the Agency illustrates both his own status and his absolute trust in Carbajal. Because of that trust, one of Morales's comrades, Tony Sforza, also took Carbajal into his confidence.
"Sforza got very close to me because of Didi," Carbajal says. "Didi told him, `This is my brother, man. He's like a brother.' They both used to tell me some stories. Oh, yeah, they killed people for the Agency."
I had not previously mentioned Sforza's name to Carbajal and he didn't know it was familiar to me. It had appeared, along with the names of Morales and Shackley and the others, in that "Highly Sensitive" document I had received in 1978. "This man handled anti-Castro activities on behalf of the CIA," the document noted. "He still runs a Cuban `blow-up group.' Sforza is a hit man and should be regarded as dangerous." Like Morales a veteran deep-cover agent, Sforza ran an import-export business in Miami after his "retirement" from the CIA. He died within six months of Morales, also from a sudden heart attack.
(13) Paul Vitello, The New York Times (11th September, 2012)
Gaeton Fonzi was one of the most relentless investigators on the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the late 1970s, remembered by former colleagues with both awe and echoes of the impatience he inspired with his pursuit of the full story behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Mr. Fonzi was also the staff member most publicly dismayed by the committee’s final report, which concluded in 1979 that the president “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”
Of course it was a conspiracy, said Mr. Fonzi, a journalist recruited mainly on the strength of scathing magazine critiques he had written about the Warren Commission and its conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in killing the president in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. But who were the conspirators? What was their motive? How could the committee close its doors without the answers?
Mr. Fonzi, who died in Florida on Aug. 30 at 76, nailed those questions to the committee’s locked doors, figuratively, in a long article he wrote the next year for Washingtonian magazine and in a 1993 book, “The Last Investigation.” In both, he chronicled the near-blanket refusal of government intelligence agencies, especially the C.I.A., to provide the committee with documents it requested. And he accused committee leaders of folding under pressure - from Congressional budget hawks, political advisers and the intelligence agencies themselves - just as promising new leads were emerging.
“Is it unrealistic to desire, for something as important as the assassination of a president, an investigation unbound by political, financial or time restrictions?” he asked in Washingtonian.
He never got the answer he had hoped for. Congress never authorized a follow-up to the work of the committee, which, from 1977 to 1979, also re-examined the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., concluding that it, too, “likely” resulted from an unspecified conspiracy.
But historians and researchers consider Mr. Fonzi’s book among the best of the roughly 600 published on the Kennedy assassination, and credit him with raising doubts about the government’s willingness to share everything it knew. The author Jefferson Morley, a former reporter for The Washington Post, said “The Last Investigation” had refocused attention on a handful of reported contacts between C.I.A. operatives and Oswald - tantalizing leads that had long been fascinating to conspiracy buffs but that had never been fully scrutinized by a veteran investigative reporter.
The Central Intelligence Agency has denied that any such contacts occurred, and Mr. Fonzi spent most of his two years with the committee crisscrossing the world trying to prove otherwise. He considered it impossible that the C.I.A. had never made contact with Oswald, a former Marine who defected to the Soviet Union in 1959, repatriated with his Russian wife and baby in 1962, and settled in Dallas, where he openly espoused Communist views.
“We called him Ahab, because he was so single-minded about that white whale,” said G. Robert Blakey, the chief counsel and staff director of the House committee, now a professor at the University of Notre Dame Law School. The white whale for Mr. Fonzi was the meaning of those supposed contacts.
Mr. Blakey was criticized by Mr. Fonzi as overly deferential to the C.I.A., and he now concedes that Mr. Fonzi was probably right on that score. Mr. Blakey said he was shocked in 2003 when declassified C.I.A. documents revealed the full identity of the retired agent who had acted as the committee’s liaison to the C.I.A. The agency never told Mr. Blakey that the agent, George Joannides, had overseen a group of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Dallas in the months before the assassination, when Oswald had two well-publicized clashes with them.
At the time of the revelation, the C.I.A. said Mr. Joannides had withheld nothing relevant from the committee. Mr. Joannides died in 1990.
“Mr. Joannides obstructed our investigation,” Mr. Blakey said. Asked how that had affected the committee’s work, he added: “We’ll never know. But I can say that for a guy like Gaeton, a guy who really wanted to know what happened to Kennedy, it kind of tortured him.”
Gaetano Fonzi was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 10, 1935, to Leonora and Gaetano Fonzi, a barber. (He later shortened his first name.) After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he was a reporter and editor at Philadelphia Magazine. In one article, he and a co-author revealed that a former star reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Harry J. Karafin, had extorted money from local businessmen with threats of unflattering coverage.
Mr. Fonzi died of complications of Parkinson’s disease at his home in Manalapan, Fla., his wife, Marie, said. He is also survived by four children, Irene, Guy and Christopher Fonzi and Maria Fonzi-Gonzalez; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
In Florida, Mr. Fonzi worked for Miami and Gold Coast magazines, writing investigative articles. He also wrote several other books, including a biography of the media mogul and philanthropist Walter Annenberg. But the Kennedy assassination remained the story that consumed him.
“He thought the murder of President Kennedy was a turning point in history,” his wife said. “He said it was the point when the American people stopped trusting their government.”
© John Simkin, March 2013