John Alex McCone was born in Los Angeles on 4th January, 1902. A child of Scotch-Irish parents, he was raised a devout Roman Catholic. McCord studied engineering at Berkeley, where he met Stephen D. Bechtel, his future business partner. Following graduation, McCone found work at the Llewellyn Iron Works. He started off as a riveter but by the age of 26 he had become construction manager.
In 1931 McCone was appointed sales manager for Consolidated Steel. The company was in financial difficulty but McCone came to the rescue when he sold 55 million tons of steel to a group of Californian businessmen building the Boulder Dam (later renamed the Hoover Dam). This group of businessmen included Henry J. Kaiser and Stephen D. Bechtel.
In 1937, McCone left Consolidated Steel to join Bechtel and Kaiser. Initially they established the Bechtel-McCone Corporation. Over the next few years the three men formed several companies with them taking it in turn to become the front man. In some cases, they remained silent partners in these business ventures.
The first major customer of Bechtel-McCone was Standard Oil of California (Socal). The company obtained a contract to build Socal’s new refinery in Richmond. It was the first of many refineries built by Bechtel-McCone. By 1939 the company had more than 10,000 employees and was building refineries, chemical plants and pipelines all over the world.
In the summer of 1940 McCone and Stephen D. Bechtel had a meeting with Admiral Howard L. Vickery of the U.S. Maritime Commission. Vickery told the men he “had received a telegram from the British Purchasing Commission (BPC) urgently requesting that the Maritime Commission arrange the building of 60 tankers to replace the ships the British had lost to German torpedoes”. At another meeting a few weeks later, Maritime Commission chairman, Admiral Emory S. Land, told Bechtel and McCone that: “Besides building ships for the British, they would have to build them for the Americans as well. Not merely tankers, but Liberty and Victory cargo ships, troop transports, the whole makings of a merchant navy.” Admiral Land confidently added that thousands of vessels would be needed as “America was headed into war.”
As a result of these two meetings, Bechtel, McCone and Kaiser built shipyards at Richmond and Sausalito. Several of their companies were involved in this project that became known as “Operation Calship”. This included Kaiser Company (78 ships), Kaiser-Swan Island (140 ships) and Kaiser-Vancouver (118 ships).
It was a terrible gamble because at that time they were relying on the predictions of Admiral Emory S. Land. However, Land was right and only a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Maritime Commission awarded Calship its first shipbuilding contract. Within a year, Calship was employing over 42,000 workers at its shipyards.
In 1942 McCone and Stephen D. Bechtel obtained a contract to build aircraft at Willow Run in Alabama. The War Department agreed to pay all the company’s costs plus 5 percent on work estimates presented by Bechtel-McCone every six months. A 300-acre factory was built and 8,000 employees hired to staff it. However, no aircraft were built. Employees were paid for doing nothing. A local man, George P. Alexander, discovered details of this scam and collected affidavits from workers who admitted that they “went in every day at 9.00, punched the time clock, then went home”. They then returned to the factory at 5.00 to “punch out”.
Alexander filed suit against Bechtel-McCone in federal district court on 31st July, 1943. He claimed that the company had made “many and various claims against the government of the United States, or a department or officer thereof, knowing such claims to be false, fictitious or fraudulent.” However, the judge dismissed the case. The problem was with the contract, not the claims by Bechtel-McCone. As John McCone admitted to Fortune Magazine on 17th May, 1943: “Every six months, we estimate how much work we expect to do in the next six months and then we get a fee of five percent of the estimated amount of work regardless of how much work we actually do turn out.”
Bechtel-McCone was also involved in another scandal concerning war contracts. Lieutenant General Brehon Somervell, head of the Army Sources of Supply Command, decided to build “a major refinery at the Norman Wells oilfields in Canada’s Northwest Territories, and run a pipeline from there 1,200 miles southwest through the Yukon Territory into Alaska.”
The contract to do this was given to John McCone and Steve Bechtel. The terms of the contract were very unusual. The Bechtel-McCone Corporation was guaranteed a 10% profit on the project. The other surprising thing about the Canol Project was that it was to be a secret contract. It seems that Somervell did not want anyone outside the War Department and the Bechtel-McCone Corporation to know about this deal. The reason for this is that Harold Ickes, as Interior Secretary and the head of the Petroleum Administration for War, should have been the person who oversaw this project.
The $35 million for the project came from within a massive war appropriations bill that was passed by Congress in April 1942. After working on it for a year the cost had reached over $100 million. It was finished in May 1945. However, the wrong sized pipes had been used and it was discovered that to pump the oil it cost $150 per barrel rather than the $5 estimated by Somervell, Bechtel and McCone. Less that a year after it was finished, the plant and pipeline was abandoned. It had cost the American taxpayer $134 million.
After the war the “General Accounting Office told a House Merchant Marine Committee investigation that the company had made $44,000,000 on an investment of $100,000. The same committee a few months later complained that Mr McCone's company was “paid $2,500,000 by the government to take over a shipyard costing $25,000,000 and containing surplus material costing $14,000,000.”
Tommy Corcoran was not the only person arranging for people like McCone, Kaiser and Berchtel to obtain lucrative government contracts during the war. John L. Simpson was a close friend of an interesting group of people including Allen Dulles, John Foster Dulles, Dean Acheson and William Donovan. In 1942 Simpson was recruited into the OSS by Allen Dulles. His official title was chief financial advisor for the U.S. Army in Europe. In 1944 Simpson returned to San Francisco and became a consultant to the Betchtel-McCone Corporation. His arrival brought even more contracts from the War Department.
At the end of the Second World War the Bechtel-McCone company was brought to an end. John McCone now invested much of the profits he had made from war production in Pacific Far East Lines. McCone was the majority stockholder but Henry J. Kaiser and Stephen D. Bechtel were also silent investors in this company. McCone also formed a partnership with Henry Mercer, the owner of States Marines Lines, whose vast fleets operated in the Atlantic. As Laton McCartney pointed out in Friends in High Places: The Bechtel Story, McCone was now “one of the dominant shipping figures in the world.”
McCone and Bechtel were also directors of the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). McCone was also chief fund-raiser for the California Institute of Technology, whose scientists had been involved in the development of the atom bomb and were now involved in nuclear research.
McCone took a keen interest in politics and was a fanatical anti-communist. McCone told his friends that the Soviets intended to achieve “world domination”. I. F. Stone described him as a “rightest Catholic… a man with holy war views.”
John L. Simpson, chief financial officer to the various corporations owned by Stephen D. Bechtel, introduced McCone to Allen Dulles at a meeting in 1947. It was at this time he became friends with William Knowland and Dwight D. Eisenhower.
In 1948 Harry S. Truman appointed McCone as Deputy to the Secretary of Defense. According to Laton McCartney, despite his title “it quickly became apparent that he was the department’s real boss.” In 1950 he became Under Secretary of the Air Force. While in these posts McCone gave contracts to Standard Oil and Kaiser Aluminum, two companies in which he had financial connections.
McCone was an ardent Cold War warrior and in 1956 attacked the suggestion made by Adlai Stevenson that there should be a nuclear test ban. McCone, a strong supporter of Dwight Eisenhower, accused American scientists of being "taken in" by Soviet propaganda and of attempting to "create fear in the minds of the uninformed that radioactive fallout from H-bomb tests endangers life."
In 1958 President Dwight Eisenhower rewarded McCone by appointing him Chairman of the Atomic Energy commission. After the Bay of Pigs disaster, President John F. Kennedy sacked Allen W. Dulles as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Under pressure from right-wingers in the intelligence community, Kennedy appointed McCone as the new director of the CIA.
It is assumed that McCone was informed of Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power). However, McCone always denied any knowledge of this policy. This included the ZR/RIFLE project, a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. Robert Maheu, a veteran of CIA counter-espionage activities, was instructed to offer the Mafia $150,000 to kill Castro. The advantage of employing the Mafia for this work is that it provided CIA with a credible cover story. The Mafia were known to be angry with Castro for closing down their profitable brothels and casinos in Cuba. If the assassins were killed or captured the media would accept that the Mafia were working on their own.
In April 1963 McGeorge Bundy suggested to President John F. Kennedy that there should be a "gradual development of some form of accommodation with Castro". In an interview given in 1995, Bundy, said Kennedy needed "a target of opportunity" to talk to Fidel Castro. Later that month Lisa Howard arrived in Cuba to make a documentary on the country. In an interview with Howard, Castro agreed that a rapprochement with Washington was desirable.
On her return Howard met with the Central Intelligence Agency. Deputy Director Richard Helms reported to John F. Kennedy on Howard's view that "Fidel Castro is looking for a way to reach a rapprochement with the United States." After detailing her observations about Castro's political power, disagreements with his colleagues and Soviet troops in Cuba, the memo concluded that "Howard definitely wants to impress the U.S. Government with two facts: Castro is ready to discuss rapprochement and she herself is ready to discuss it with him if asked to do so by the US Government."
McCone was strongly opposed to Lisa Howard being involved with these negotiations with Fidel Castro. He argued that it might "leak and compromise a number of CIA operations against Castro". In a memorandum to McGeorge Bundy, McCone commented that the "Lisa Howard report be handled in the most limited and sensitive manner," and "that no active steps be taken on the rapprochement matter at this time."
When John F. Kennedy was assassinated McCone immediately sought a meeting with Robert Kennedy. The two men met between 2 and 2:30 p.m. Kennedy later told his aide Walter Sheridan: "I asked McCone if they had killed my brother."
On 23rd November, 1963, the day after the assassination, McCone informed Lyndon B. Johnson that Lee Harvey Oswald had been in contact with Valery V. Kostikov, a Soviet diplomat, in Mexico. He also passed on information that Winston Scott, CIA station chief in Mexico, believed that Kostikov was a KGB agent who specialized in assassination.
Four days after the assassination, McCone sent a copy of a highly classified document to the White House, the State Department and the FBI. This document claimed that on 18th September, 1963, Gilberto Alvarado, an agent of the Nicaraguan Secret Service, had infiltrated the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City, saw an employee of that embassy give $6,500 to Oswald, to carry out the assassination of an "important political figure."
Further investigations revealed that Alvarado admitted that he had made up this story to incite hostilities between the United States and Cuba. However, Alvarado's story continued to be promoted by McCone and Thomas C. Mann. In his book, The JFK Assassination Debates (2006), Michael L. Kurtz claims that both McCone and Mann "received reprimands" for trying to blame the assassination of John F. Kennedy on Fidel Castro.
In 1964 McCone arranged for the CIA and other agencies to provide the opponents of Salvador Allende with funds of $20 million. He was also active in helping to establish military rule in Ecuador.
McCone had clashed with President John F. Kennedy over his decision to try and withdraw from Vietnam. He got on better with President Lyndon B. Johnson but he objected to his Vietnam policy on the grounds that it could not be successful and advocated the use of increased force. This led to his resignation in 1965 as Director of the CIA.
Soon afterwards McCone was appointed to investigate the Watts Race Riot. The McCone Commission report was published in December, 1965. This was not well received. The California Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights claimed that "the report is elementary, superficial, unorganized and unimaginative... and... a marked and surprising lack of understanding of the civil rights movement.... The McCone Commission failed totally to make any findings concerning the existence or nonexistence of police malpractices."
McCone became a director of ITT. He also did consultancy work with the CIA. In 1970 McCone met with Henry Kissinger and CIA director Richard Helms. McCone later testified that he tried to persuade Helms to accept $1 million in order to prevent the election of Salvador Allende in Chile. The offer was refused by Helms, but $350,000 did pass from ITT to Allende's opponent with CIA assistance. This included implementing ITT dirty tricks campaign in Chile.
In retirement McCone was also director of Pacific Mutual Life Insurance, United California Bank, Standard Oil of California, and Western Bancorporation.
McCone also helped to establish Committee on the Present Danger. A pressure group that campaigned against cuts in military spending.
John Alex McCone died on 14th February 1991.
(1) I. F. Stone, I. F. Stone's Weekly (9th October, 1961)
The C.I.A. is an intelligence organization run from the rather stuffy conventional wealthy businessman's point of view. It is staffed, from the top down, by Wall Streeters, Ivy League dilettantes, superannuated colonels from the armed forces and scholars, whose loyalty can be kept certified only by a fanatical anti-Communism. The main lesson of the Cuban fiasco is that an organization of this kind cannot be relied upon to know what ordinary people are thinking. But President Kennedy does not seem to have learned that lesson at all. In replacing Allen W. Dulles by John A. McCone, he picked a man who is if anything considerably less literate and less knowledgeable than Dulles, and fully as incapable of understanding the resentments and the aspirations that are the dynamic factors in today's world.
Mr McCone's rising fortunes, financial and political, have been associated with the war and the arms race. In 1937 he helped to form the Bechtel-McCone-Parsons Corporation, a construction and engineering firm. In January 1941 he organized and became the president of the California Shipbuilding Company; the Bechtel concern was then given a management contract to run the shipbuilding company. After the war the General Accounting Office told a House Merchant Marine Committee investigation that the company had made $44,000,000 on an investment of $100,000. The same committee a few months later complained that Mr McCone's company was paid $2,500,000 by the government to take over a shipyard costing $25,000,000 and containing surplus material costing $14,000,000.
Mr McCone did not confine his interests to shipbuilding. Bechtel-McCone-Parsons also built a huge installation at Birmingham, Alabama, during the war for the air force andbecame a leading construction firm for the A.E.C. Mr McCone also organized a private shipping company which did a big transport business for some of the largest A.E.C. contractors, firms like Union Carbide and Dow Chemical. These diverse enterprises had a common stake in armament expenditure, and Mr McCone made his debut in public service as a member of Truman's Air Policy Commission which in 1948 advocated a stepped-up indefinitely prolonged arms race. The report became the bible of the aviation lobby. His views recommended him to the alarmist Secretary of Defence Forrestal who made Mr McCone his deputy. In 1950-51 he was Under-Secretary of the Air Force.
With the Democrats out, Mr McCone returned to California and Republican politics. There his principal associations, political and religious, were of the right. He became a major money raiser for former Senator Knowland, often referred to as the Senator from Formosa, and he was close to Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles, not one of the more liberal members of the American hierarchy. In 1958, Admiral Strauss picked Mr McCone to succeed him as Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission; they shared the same hostility to public power and to cessation of nuclear testing. At his nomination hearing, one of the exhibits was an angry letter Mr McCone had sent in 1956, as a Caltech trustee, to ten Caltech faculty members (including Harrison Brown and a Nobel laureate in physics) for releasing a statement supporting Adlai Stevenson's proposal for a ban on H-bomb testing. Mr McCone, a friend and admirer of Edward Teller, accused the ten professors of echoing Soviet propaganda in what he called an attempt `to create fear in the minds of the uninformed that radioactive fallout from H-bomb tests endangers life'.
To control the nation's intelligence is to be in a position to shape decisions of war and peace. The C.I.A. is an enormous bureaucracy, with millions at its disposal to corrupt men abroad and perhaps at home; a rival, shadow State Department with a foreign policy even less enlightened. Its network of cloak-and-dagger operatives abroad move in a murky realm where provocations can make peace untenable. The U-2 was one sample. The Joint Intelligence Board over which Mr McCone will also preside coordinates all the multifarious snooper organizations of our government - there must be half a dozen beside the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. - and also our growing para-military agencies which can engage secretly in war. Mr Kennedy could not have made a more appalling choice for so crucial a post.
(2) David Wise and Thomas Ross, Invisible Government (1964)
Ralph E. Casey of the General Accounting Office, a watchdog arm of the Congress, testified in 1946 that McCone and his associates in the California Shipbuilding Company made $44,000,000 on an investment of $100,000.
"I daresay," Casey remarked, "that at no time in the history of American business, whether in wartime or in peacetime, have so few men made so much money with so little risk and all at the expense of the taxpayers, not only of this generation but of generations to come."
Again, McCone denied the accusation. He insisted that the investment of California Shipbuilding - including loans, bank credits and stock, in addition to the cash-amounted to over $7,000,000. He also disputed Casey's profit figures as inflated. In any event, he testified, the government got back 95 percent of the profits in taxes.
Another of McCone's business activities which provoked opposition was his long relationship with the international oil industry. During the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on his nomination in January, 1962, McCone told of his former directorship of the Panama Pacific Tankers Company, a large oilcarrying fleet, and of the $1,000,000 in stock he held in Standard Oil of California, which operates extensively in the Middle East, Indonesia and Latin America.
"Every well-informed American knows," commented Senator Joseph Clark, the Pennsylvania Democrat, "that the American oil companies are deep in the politics of the Middle East (and) the CIA is deep in the politics of the Middle East."
Clark opposed McCone's appointment on the ground that his ownership of the oil stock amounted to "a legal violation and a very unwise holding." McCone offered to dispose of the stock but the committee refused to consider it. From the tenor of the questioning it was clear that the great majority of senators was not at all disturbed by McCone's record. They were, in fact, abundantly impressed.
"I have not had the opportunity of knowing Mr. McCone well, only through reputation," said Senator Strom Thurmond, the South Carolina Democrat, "but in looking over this biography, to me it epitomizes what has made America great."
(3) Jack Anderson, Peace, War, And Politics (1999)
When CIA chief John McCone learned of the assassination, he rushed to Robert Kennedy's home in McLean, Virginia, and stayed with him for three hours. No one else was admitted. Even Bobby's priest was turned away. McCone told me he gave the attorney general a routine briefing on CIA business and swore that Castro's name never came up. Yet McCone's agency had been trying to kill Castro, and just two months earlier Castro had threatened to retaliate if the assassination attempts continued. Another thing: On November 22, 1963, when I could talk about nothing else, when my wife could talk about nothing else, when the entire world was riveted on Dallas, the director of the CIA claimed that he spent three hours with the brother of the slain president and that they discussed routine CIA business.
Sources would later tell me that McCone anguished with Bobby over the terrible possibility that the assassination plots sanctioned by the president's own brother may have backfired. Then the following day, McCone briefed President Lyndon Johnson and his National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy. Afterward, McCone told subordinates - who later filled me in - what happened at that meeting. The grim McCone shared with Johnson and Bundy a dispatch from the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, strongly suggesting that Castro was behind the assassination.
The CIA chief put this together with what he knew of the mood in Moscow. Nikita Khrushchev was on the ropes inside the Kremlin, humiliated over backing down less than a year earlier during the Cuban missile crisis. If Castro were to be accused of the Kennedy assassination, Americans would demand revenge against Cuba, and Khrushchev would face another Cuban crisis. He was an impulsive man who could become dangerous if backed into a corner. McCone warned that Khrushchev was unlikely to endure another humiliation over Cuba. This time he might do something reckless and provoke a nuclear war, which would cost forty million American lives. It was a staggering figure that the new president repeated to others.
(4) Richard D. Mahoney, Sons and Brothers (1999)
Between 2 and 2.30 p.m., Bobby took a call from CIA director John McCone, who told him he would drive over from Langley. When McCone arrived, Kennedy went out on the lawn with him. "I asked McCone," Kennedy was to tell his trusted aide Walter Sheridan, "if they had killed my brother, and I asked him in a way that he couldn't lie to me." McCone was one of Bobby's closest friends in the administration, and this extraordinary question revealed a deep and terrible suspicion about the CIA, something born of some knowledge, or at least intuition, and not simply the incontinence of grief.
(5) John A. McCone, interviewed by J. Lee Rankin on behalf of the Warren Commission (1964)
J. Lee Rankin: Are you familiar with the records and how they are kept by the Central Intelligence Agency as to whether a man is acting as an informer, agent, employee, or in any other capacity for that Agency?
John A. McCone: Yes; I am generally familiar with the procedures and the records that are maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency. Quite naturally, I am not familiar with all of the records because they are very extensive.
J. Lee Rankin: Have you determined whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspect in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy, had any connection with the Central Intelligence Agency, informer or indirectly as an employee, or any other capacity?
John A. McCone: Yes; I have determined to my satisfaction that he had no such connection...
J. Lee Rankin: Will you tell us briefly the extent of your inquiry?
John A. McCone: In a form of affidavit, I have gone into the matter in considerable detail personally, in my inquiry with the appropriate people within the Agency, examined all records in our files relating to Lee Harvey Oswald. We had knowledge of him, of course, because of his having gone to the Soviet Union, as he did, putting him in a situation where his name would appear in our name file. However, my examination has resulted in the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was not an agent, employee, or informant of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Agency never contacted him, interviewed him, talked with him, or received or solicited any reports or information from him, or communicated with him directly or in any other manner. The Agency never furnished him with any funds or money or compensated him directly or indirectly in any fashion, and Lee Harvey Oswald was never associated or connected directly or indirectly in any way whatsoever with the Agency. When I use the term "Agency," I mean the Central Intelligence Agency, of course.
Gerald Ford: Does that include whether or not he was in the United States, in the Soviet Union, or anyplace?
John A. McCone:. Anyplace; the United States, Soviet Union, or anyplace...
Gerald Ford: Mr. McCone, do you have full authority from higher authority to make full disclosure to this Commission of any information in the files of the Central Intelligence Agency?
John A. McCone: That is right. It is my understanding that it is the desire of higher authority that this Commission shall have access to all information of every nature in our files or in the minds of employees of Central Intelligence Agency.
Gerald Ford: On the basis of that authority, you or the Agency have made a full disclosure?
John A. McCone: That is correct.
J. Lee Rankin: Mr. McCone, if I may return to you, I will now ask you if you have any credible information that you know of or evidence causing you to believe that there is any or was any conspiracy either domestic or foreign in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy?
John A. McCone: No; I have no information, Mr. Rankin, that would lead me to believe or conclude that a conspiracy existed.
Gerard Ford: Did the CIA make an investigation of this aspect of the assassination?
John A. McCone: We made an investigation of all developments after the assassination which came to our attention which might possibly have indicated a conspiracy, and we determined after these investigations, which were made promptly and immediately, that we had no evidence to support such an assumption.
Gerard Ford: Did the Central Intelligence Agency have any contact with Oswald during the period of his life in the Soviet Union?
John A. McCone: No; not to my knowledge, nor to the knowledge of those who would have been in a position to have made such contact, nor according to any record we have.
Gerard Ford: Did the Central Intelligence Agency have any personal contact with Oswald subsequent to his return to the United States?
John A. McCone: No.
J. Lee Rankin: Mr. McCone, your Agency made a particular investigation in connection with any allegations about a conspiracy involving the Soviet Union or people connected with Cuba, did you not?
John A. McCone: Yes, we did. We made a thorough, a very thorough, investigation of information that came to us concerning an alleged trip that Oswald made to Mexico City during which time he made contact with the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City in an attempt to gain transit privileges from Mexico City to the Soviet Union via Havana. We investigated that thoroughly.
J. Lee Rankin: Do you also include in your statement that you found no evidence of conspiracy in all of that investigation?
John A. McCone: That is correct.
J. Lee Rankin: And also the investigation you made of the period that Lee Harvey Oswald was in the Soviet Union?
John A. McCone: That is right.
Allen W. Dulles: Could I ask one question there? Does your answer, Mr. McCone, include a negation of any belief that Oswald was working for or on behalf of the Soviet Union at any time when you were in contact with him or knew about his activities?
John A. McCone: As I have already stated, we were never in contact with Oswald. We have no evidence that he was working for or on behalf of the Soviet Union at any time. According to his diary, Oswald did receive a subsidy from the Soviet Red Cross which we assume had the approval of the authorities. Such a payment does not indicate to us that he even worked for the Soviet intelligence services. Furthermore, we have no other evidence that he ever worked for Soviet intelligence.
Gerard Ford: Is the Central Intelligence Agency continuing any investigation into this area?
John A. McCone: No, because, at the present time, we have no information in our files that we have not exhaustively investigated and disposed of to our satisfaction. Naturally, any new information that might come into our hands would be investigated promptly.
(6) From CIA to USC: Political Biography of a Trustee, a leaflet distributed by the students of the University of Southern California (1977)
Several attempts on Castro's life were sponsored by the CIA after McCone took office, but no documentary evidence exists to counter his claim that he knew nothing about it. McCone's successor Richard Helms is skeptical of his testimony: "He was involved in this up to his scuppers just the way everybody else was that was in it, and... I don't understand how it was he didn't hear about some of these things that he claims that he didn't." Perhaps McCone also had no knowledge of the CIA's drug experiments on unsuspecting citizens that occurred during his tenure.
The Warren Commission investigated the assassination of Kennedy while McCone was CIA director. There is considerable evidence that the CIA (and FBI) obstructed certain avenues of inquiry. Apparently the Warren Commission report turned out to the CIA's satisfaction, for in 1967 they directed their field offices to "employ propaganda assets" to refute the report's critics.
The cover-up continues to this day. Independent investigators of the John Kennedy assassination have found new life and new leads in the connections between the CIA, Howard Hughes, the Mafia, and the anti-Castro exile community. Recent leaks from the government, on the other hand, seem designed to place the blame on Castro. Such a second-level cover-up appears likely, especially in light of the recent assassinations of Sam Giancana and John Roselli (they were part of the CIA/Mafia/anti-Castro network and were willing to talk about it), and the apparent suicide of George de Mohrenschildt...
McCone certainly knows more than he's telling, but he is not likely to reveal anything voluntarily. Before resigning as CIA director, McCone attempted to suppress the publication of The Invisible Government by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, two independent journalists. And his record after leaving the directorship is hardly better...
Presently McCone is one of the directors of the Committee on the Present Danger. This group - a recent coalition of big-name hawks, military-industrial complex leaders, and intelligence community academicians - is actively lobbying against proposed cuts in military spending.
(7) Jack Anderson, Peace, War and Politics: An Eyewitness Account (1999)
The CIA's Sheffield Edwards was supposed to make the contact with the underworld. He approached a former FBI agent and CIA operative, Robert Maheu, who moved at the subterranean level of politics. Maheu knew his way around the shady side of Las Vegas; he had been recruited by billionaire Howard Hughes to oversee his Las Vegas casinos. Happily, Hughes was a friend who owed me a favor. Intermediaries persuaded Maheu to confide in me. He confirmed that the CIA had asked him to sound out the Mafia, strictly off the record, about a contract to hit Fidel Castro. Maheu had taken the request straight to Johnny Rosselli.
Rosselli had a reputation inside the mob as a patriot; he was quite willing to kill for his country. But as he told me, there was an etiquette to be followed in these matters. Santo Trafficante was the godfather-in-exile of Cuba after Castro chased out the mob. Rosselli couldn't even tiptoe through Trafficante's territory without permission, and he couldn't approach Trafficante without a proper introduction. So Rosselli prevailed upon his boss in Chicago, Sam "Momo" Giancana, to attend to the protocol. Since Giancana had godfather status, he could solicit Trafficante's help to eliminate Castro. The project appealed to Giancana who had commiserated with other dons over the loss of casino revenues in Havana. Killing Castro for the government would settle some old scores for the mob, and it would put Uncle Sam in the debt of the Mafia.
Maheu had been ordered to keep a tight lid on the involvement of the U.S. government. The CIA was ready with a cover story that the Castro hit had been arranged by disgruntled American businessmen who had been bounced out of their Cuban enterprises by Castro.
On September 25, I960, Maheu brought two CIA agents to a suite at the Fountainebleau Hotel on Miami Beach. Rosselli delivered two sinister mystery men whom he introduced only as Sicilians named "Sam" and "Joe." In fact, they were two of the Mafia's most notorious godfathers, Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante, both on the FBI's ten-most-wanted list. They discussed the terms of Castro's demise, with Giancana suggesting that the usual mob method of a quick bullet to the head be eschewed in favor of something more delicate, like poison.
The wily Giancana was less interested in bumping off Castro than in scoring points with the federal government, and he intended to call in as many chips as he could before the game was over.
(8) John McCone, interviewed by Harry Kreisler ( April 21, 1988)
Harry Kreisler: You served Eisenhower as head of the Atomic Energy Commission. Tell us about the argument that you made during that time concerning a possible test ban.
John McCone: We were testing through the 1950s, and there was a demand to stop it. In the meantime, I became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, and under the Atomic Energy Act, the commission was responsible for ensuring that we were making maximum use of our atomic resources and that no other country was getting ahead of us. So it became necessary for us to know what the Soviets were doing, and we made various attempts at a treaty which would suspend nuclear tests in the atmosphere. Everybody was in favor of it. It had to be a treaty that could be verified.
So then they - the Soviets - proposed a moratorium. They said that they would not test. This was appealing to Eisenhower, but it was not appealing to me as chairman of the commission because our resources were detecting what they were doing. They would not guarantee against their violation of any arrangement. We wouldn't know if they were continuing with development tests. They were only small weapons but large enough to advance the state of the art as far as they were concerned. It posed a very tough argument to the president.
It was then that I had this joint Committee on Atomic Energy up on the hill breathing down my neck... and I couldn't say in all honesty that the Soviets were not making advances that we couldn't make because we were respecting this moratorium. So finally this argument was pursued all the way through the last year of the Eisenhower administration and on into the Kennedy administration.
Harry Kreisler: Did the debate on the test ban involve you in further controversy?
John McCone: In 1956, Adlai Stevenson had made a speech in San Diego in which he advocated that the United States unilaterally abandon all testing of nuclear devices. He was quite sure that if we did, the Soviets would follow the lead. I violently opposed that approach because I didn't think that the Soviets would follow. I didn't think we had the detection devices to know whether they were following for sure, and that became a source of argument with several of the professors at California Institute of Technology who were supporting what Stevenson was advocating.
(9) John McCone, interviewed by Harry Kreisler (April 21, 1988)
Harry Kreisler: Would our involvement in Vietnam have taken a different course if Kennedy had lived?
John McCone: When Kennedy took office you will recall that he won the election because he claimed that the Eisenhower administration had been weak on communism and weak in the treatment of Castro and so forth. So the first thing Kennedy did was to send a couple of men to Vietnam to survey the situation. They came back with the recommendation that the military assistance group be increased from 800 to 25,000. That was the start of our involvement. Kennedy, I believe, realized he'd made a mistake because 25,000 US military in a country such as South Vietnam means that the responsibility for the war flows to (the US military) and out of the hands of the South Vietnamese. So Kennedy, in the weeks prior to his death, realized that we had gone overboard and actually was in the process of withdrawing when he was killed and Johnson took over.
Harry Kreisler: So you really believe Kennedy would have made a difference?
John McCone: Very much so.
Harry Kreisler: Was his finest hour the Cuban Missile Crisis?
John McCone: He handled the Cuban Missile Crisis with a great deal of skill in my opinion. He was determined that those missiles would not be a threat to the United States. He would destroy them and have them removed irrespective of the consequences, but he always insisted on a gradual approach giving Khrushchev the opportunity to back down, which he finally did. But in order to accomplish this objective, he had to design a plan which would not be so provocative that it would have involved us in a war with the Soviet Union.
Some examples of that were the fact that he proceeded day after day up to a point where he was told by the intelligence people that he had only forty-eight hours to get rid of the missiles or they'd be ready for action against the United States. Then he ordered the action, but in doing so informed the Soviets of what he was going to do, and they immediately withdrew. He did not place a blockade on Cuba because that would have been an act of war. So he devised a quarantine which had the same effect as a blockade, but it was not an act of war.
It was an indication of his cautious but determined approach. Looking back on it, I have great respect for him, for his judgment, in the way he handled that particular problem. Now there are a number of critics who will say that he missed an opportunity to get rid of Castro. But to do that would have required action and would have spilled a great deal of Soviet blood, because there were 16,000 Soviet military in Cuba at the time and they would have retaliated in a variety of ways - taking over Berlin. There were countless opportunities for them. He was aware of that. So I believe he reached a very satisfactory answer. I think the critics did not evaluate the consequences of a different and more severe course of action had he decided upon it.
Harry Kreisler: Do you think that our understanding of the Soviets behavior has held up through time?
John McCone: I think that for a number of years the Soviets had suffered under the delusion of being attacked, and that we possessed access to property in their vicinity where we could place missiles that could do very, very serious damage to them. Italy, Turkey, England - those are just three of the locations. And they had no real estate where they could place missiles that would damage us but could not be turned around to damage them. That was why they followed a policy of never deploying their short-range missiles in their satellites: they were never sure that the satellites wouldn't take the missiles away from their protective military people and turn them on Moscow.
Now Cuba was the first and the only piece of real estate where they had that luxury. Khrushchev wanted to take advantage of that. Well, I think he had other purposes, too. He thought he could sneak those missiles in in secrecy. Then he was to make a speech in two weeks in early November at the General Assembly of the United Nations, and he could announce that he had his guns trained on the United States and they couldn't do anything about it, which was quite immature. This is what I think now. There's just as many opinions as there are people you might speak to on the subject.
Harry Kreisler: Secretary of State Rusk has revealed that President Kennedy would have been willing - if Khrushchev had not given in sooner in the crisis - to promise publicly to remove our missiles from Turkey. Do you have any comments on Rusk's revelation?
John McCone: President Kennedy and Attorney General Bobby Kennedy insisted that they at no time discussed the missiles in either Italy or Turkey with any representatives of the Soviets and that there was no such deal ever made.
Harry Kreisler: The Russians have alleged that Khrushchev was very concerned about a possible American invasion of Cuba. Do you have any thoughts on that Soviet claim?
John McCone: Yes. He was concerned about an American invasion of Cuba for the reason that there were strong forces in the United States that wanted to get rid of Castro. As long as Castro was a loose card, and was moving continually in the direction of the Soviets and away from us, it became obvious to a great many people that there was danger there. And indeed there was.
Harry Kreisler: You mentioned once that very early in the crisis you had a hunch that something was up.
John McCone: I thought that a year or more before.
Harry Kreisler: Why?
John McCone: Because Cuba was the only piece of real estate that fell into the hands of the Soviets where they could put a nuclear missile, short-range or intermediate-range, that could reach the United States but would not reach the Soviet Union. Now, on the other hand, we could put missiles in England or Italy or Turkey or Greece that could reach the Soviet Union but could not reach us. I thought this even before I became associated with the CIA at all. I mentioned it to John Foster Dulles as a reason why he should tread cautiously about disassociating the United States from Castro. Whereas Castro obviously would turn to the Soviet Union, and it would give the Soviet Union access to a valuable piece of real estate. That was with me for a long time.
Harry Kreisler: So it was a move you expected?
John McCone: Yes. I didn't like to see possession of Cuba fall into the hands of the Soviets. Then when I saw these other actions - this parade of ships from the Baltic in the North Sea heading toward Cuba, after the Soviets had equipped their 15,000 to 16,000 men with all the ordnance equipment that they needed to deploy surface-to-air missiles. Here is where I had to lean upon intuitive judgment, because I couldn't understand why these ships were coming unless they had missiles on them. Everything else was there. But that was an intuitive judgment. There was no hard intelligence because the missiles were on the ships, and an agent couldn't see them until they had been off-loaded.
Harry Kreisler: The record of the Church Committee suggests that the Kennedys were very focused on doing something about Castro. Any comments on that record?
John McCone: Well, you don't have to go to the Church Committee. All you have to do is go to the campaign that President Kennedy used when he was getting elected. He was campaigning against Nixon on the basis that the Eisenhower administration, in which Nixon was the vice-president, had been soft on Castro, and had been soft on communism elsewhere. So this was carrying out his campaign pledge to do something about Castro and Cuba.
(10) Ray S. Cline, Secrets, Spies and Scholars: Blueprint of the Essential CIA (1976)
After a decent interval, to all appearances without vindictive feelings toward either Dulles or Bissell, Kennedy set out to restructure the high command at CIA. For a brief period during 1962 and 1963 CIA operated at its peak performance level in the way that its functional responsibilities called for, with greater emphasis on intelligence analysis and estimates and an attempt at greater circumspection and tighter control in covert action. The key to success was Kennedy's appointment of a new Director of Central Intelligence, John A. McCone, in November 1961. It was a bold move by Kennedy to pick McCone, an active Republican and a businessman turned government administrator, rather than someone with experience in intelligence. It turned out well.
CIA needed a man with personal political stature to represent it at the highest levels in the White House and in Congress, especially in the dark days after the Bay of Pig. McCone was an engineer who had made a fortune in construction and shipbuilding enterprises. He was well acquainted in private industry and, in addition, had earned respect as a public servant by working first as Under Secretary of the Air Force and later as Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. He had great energy and - above all - the inquiring, skeptical turn of mind of the good intelligence officer. He is the only DCI who ever took his role of providing substantive intelligence analysis and estimates to the President as his first priority job, and the only one who considered his duties as coordinating supervisor of the whole intelligence community to be a more important responsibility than CIA's own clandestine and covert programs. Kennedy gave him a letter of instructions on January 16, 1962 designating him as the "government's principal foreign intelligence officer" with a charge to "assure the proper coordination, correlation, and evaluation of intelligence from all sources and its prompt dissemination...." It also tasked him with "coordination and effective guidance of the total U.S. foreign intelligence effort."
McCone tried to live up to this heavy responsibility and came closer to discharging it than anyone else. He hated being called a "spymaster," as he often was in press comments echoing the Dulles tradition. In collection efforts he took primary interest in the technical programs, especially the rapidly expanding satellite photo systems. Covert actions were small in scale and quietly carried out in this period and agent collection was recognized as a useful but intricate job best left to Dick Helms and his professional staff, provided they could answer McCone's occasional barrage of questions.
(11) John Simkin, JFK Assassination Forum (25th June, 2004)
I thought it might be a good idea to start a thread where we vote and speculate on who killed JFK. I will start the ball by suggesting the Military Industrial Complex. The operation was a complete success and the group achieved all its objectives. This includes the cover up that involved the implication of several groups and individuals in the plot. One reason for this was to guarantee the help of these individuals and groups in the cover up. This involved implicating LBJ, the CIA, the FBI and the Secret Service. It also involved implicating the Kennedy brothers in other terrible events. This ensured that the Kennedy family and its close associates joined in the cover up. This cover up included both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee of Assassinations (this involved a change in tactics with the finger now being pointed at the Mafia).
It also included a far more sinister cover up that will have long term implications for the history of the world. I believe that the CIA and FBI were involved in destroying a large number of documents relating to the assassination in November and December, 1963. These were replaced with false documents that have yet to be released. These documents will only become available when all those who are referred to are dead. These documents, because of the fact they have been held back, will be believed to be genuine. They will do two things: (1) They will show that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman. (2) They will link the Kennedy brothers with a series of crimes and wrongdoings, including the murder of Marilyn Monroe. Others smeared will be those associated with what the Military Industrial Complex would refer to as dangerous radicals (Martin Luther King, etc.)
I believe that the people behind the assassination were representatives of what Eisenhower called the Military Industrial Complex. The main objective was to ensure the continuance of the Cold War. To achieve this they had the convince the American public that they faced a real communist threat. The presence of a revolutionary communist government on its doorstep (Cuba) was permanent evidence of this. So also was the presence of WMD in the Soviet Union and China. As in Iraq, we now know the CIA and MI5 exaggerated this threat.
Therefore we have to identify the representatives of the Military Industrial Complex in the government. Their main man was John McCone, Director of the CIA. That is not to say that the assassination of JFK was a CIA operation (although it did use a CIA agent, David Morales, to organize the assassination).
McCone is a classical case of a representative of the Military Industrial Complex. The owner of a small engineering company before the war, between 1942-45 his new company, California Shipbuilding, made $44 million in profits from an investment of $100,000.
After the war McCone was brought into the government and served as Deputy to the Secretary of Defense (1948) and Under Secretary of the Air Force (1950-1951). What did he know about these matters? Only that it was in the best interests of MIC to spend increasing amounts of money on the arms trade. McCone was an ardent Cold War warrior and in 1956 attacked the suggestion made by Adlai Stevenson that there should be a nuclear test ban. McCone accused American scientists of being "taken in" by Soviet propaganda and of attempting to "create fear in the minds of the uninformed that radioactive fallout from H-bomb tests endangers life." Read that quote again if you did not get it the first time. Now that is what I call disinformation.