washingtonpost.com - collage courtesy of Steve Brown
[California parole commissioners recommended on August 27th, 2021 that Sirhan Sirhan should be freed after spending more than 50 years in prison for assassinating Robert Kennedy. Governor Gavin Newsom (D), however, rejected parole for Sirhan in January. Strong evidence suggests that Sirhan was not the real killer and would be exonerated in any new and objective trial. This article is another in CAM's series on political assassinations. It was originally published in September 2021 and is being reposted on the anniversary of Robert Kennedy's assassination.--Editors]
"The color of the Statue of Liberty
Grows ever more deathly pale
As, loving freedom with bullets,
You shoot at yourself, America."
-- Yevgeny Yevtushenko, "The Freedom to Kill," 1970.
On June 5, 1968, a few minutes after midnight, Robert Kennedy was shot and killed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles while walking through a narrow serving area called "the pantry." Kennedy had just won the California primary and was on his way to a room where print media reporters were waiting to hear him speak.
In early March, Lyndon B. Johnson had thrown open the race by announcing that he would not seek re-election because of the failure of his Vietnam policy. Kennedy emerged as a leading contender by energizing the youth wing of the party with his calls for sweeping social change.
Kennedy was in many ways a strange liberal icon because he grew up idolizing Herbert Hoover, was closest in his family to his father, Joseph, the millionaire business tycoon, began his career supporting Joseph McCarthy's anti-communist witch-hunt, called for victory against communism in Vietnam in the early 1960s, and oversaw a terrorist campaign designed to overthrow the Cuban government.
Biographers Lester and Irene David wrote that Bobby was the Kennedy who "felt deepest, cared the most, and fought the hardest for humanity--crying out against America's involvement in the Vietnam War, championing the causes of blacks, Hispanics, and Mexican-Americans, and crusading against the suffering of children, the elderly and anyone else hurt or bypassed by social and economic progress."
After Kennedy's death, the Democratic Party became a shadow of its former self, with six of the next nine presidents being Republicans. The Party in this period abandoned its core base--union laborers, minorities, and blue-collar workers--focusing instead on Wall Street.
According to the official version, Kennedy was shot and killed by a lone gunman, Sirhan Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian-born Jordanian citizen who was allegedly aghast by Kennedy's recent decision to send 50 jet bombers to Israel to do harm to the Palestinians.
According to his mother, Sirhan had been traumatized as a child by the violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His family home in East Jerusalem was destroyed by an Israeli bombing raid and he had witnessed the death of his older brother, who was killed by a Jordanian military vehicle that was swerving to escape Israeli gunfire.
Subsequently, he was arrested and convicted of the murder.
The prosecution during his trial--led by World War II hero Lynn "Buck" Compton who was subsequently appointed by Governor Ronald Reagan as Justice of the California Court of Appeals--showed that Sirhan was seen at the Ambassador Hotel on June 3, two nights before the attack, to learn the building's layout, and that he visited a gun range on June 4.
Alvin Clark, Sirhan's garbage collector, testified that Sirhan had told him a month before the attack of his intention to shoot Kennedy--a fact seemingly confirmed by diaries that Sirhan kept which showed premeditation.
Sirhan initially confessed to the killing but later claimed to have no memory of it. After the events transpired, he had appeared calm, but not "in complete control of his mind."
Sirhan's death sentence was commuted to a life prison sentence and he was denied parole fifteen times, though recommended for release on August 27, 2021 after over fifty years behind bars.
In a 2018 interview with The Washington Post, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., said that he traveled to meet with Sirhan at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional facility in San Diego County, and, after a relatively lengthy conversation, believed that Sirhan did not kill his father and that a second gunman was involved.
Kennedy Jr.'s view is shared by his sister, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, and by Paul Schrade, regional director of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and one of Bobby's closest advisers, who was shot the night that he was killed.
In 2016, Schrade testified in support of Sirhan's parole, stating his belief that a second shooter killed Kennedy and that Sirhan was intended to be a distraction from the real gunman by an unknown conspiracy.
Kennedy Jr. has pointed out that Sirhan's appointed lawyer at his original trial, Grant Cooper, was Johnny Rosselli's personal lawyer. "Roselli," he said, "was the mobster who ran the assassination program for the CIA against Castro. Cooper pressured Sirhan to plead guilty so that there was no trial."
Kennedy believes the real assassin was Thane Eugene Cesar, an employee of Lockheed's Burbank facility--which manufactured the CIA produced U-2 spy plane--and previously Hughes Aircraft who was moonlighting as a security guard for Ace Security Services.
After the shooting, Kennedy Sr. was photographed with Cesar's clip-on tie next to him, which he had apparently yanked off.
Cesar had told police that he had a hold of Bobby's right arm when Sirhan began firing at him, and then pulled his gun and grabbed the Senator and fell backwards. Later, however, Cesar changed his story and said that he was shoved by an unknown individual after Sirhan opened fire and drew his gun only after he scrambled to his feet.
In one interview Cesar said he did not see Kennedy get shot and in another--given right after the shooting when doctors had not yet examined Kennedy or issued any statements--stated that he saw Kennedy get shot four times, in the head, chest and shoulder.
Jim Yoder, who bought the alleged assassination weapons from Cesar after Kennedy's death, claimed that Cesar worked in off-limits areas at Lockheed, to which only special personnel had access. These areas were under the control of the CIA.
RFK Jr. believes that Cesar was the one that shot his father in the back of the head after hiding in the pantry and waiting for his appearance in the pantry or, alternatively, that he held his father and shot him three times under the arm, while another assassin--a man dressed in a busboy outfit, fired the two shots to Kennedy's head that killed him--with a gun that was disguised or small enough to remain hidden.
Planning at one point to visit Cesar in the Philippines until he demanded a payment of $25,000, RFK Jr. stated: "With 77 people in the pantry, every eyewitness said Sirhan was always in front of my father at a 3-6 feet distance. Sirhan fired two shots toward my father before he was tackled. From under the dog pile, Sirhan emptied his 8-chamber revolver firing 6 more shots in the opposite direction 5 of them striking bystanders and one going wild."
"Cesar was a bigot who hated the Kennedys for their advocacy of Civil Rights for blacks. By his own account, Cesar was directly behind my dad holding his right elbow with his own gun drawn when my dad fell backwards on top of him. Cesar repeatedly changed his story about exactly when he drew his weapon."
"According to the Coroner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, all 4 shots that struck my father were ?contact' shots fired from behind my dad with the barrel touching or nearly touching his body. As my dad fell, he reached back and tore off Cesar's clip on tie."
"Cesar sold his .22 to a co-worker [Yoder] weeks after the assassination, warning him that it had been used in a crime. Cesar lied to police claiming that he'd disposed of the gun months before the assassination."
Kennedy Jr. concluded, "Police have never seriously investigated Cesar's role in my father's killing," adding that the LAPD unit which investigated his dad's assassination was "run by active CIA operatives" who "destroyed thousands of pieces of evidence."
Thane Cesar dailymail.co.uk
The case against Sirhan being the lone gunman can be summarized in six key points:
Sirhan's gun had eight bullets in it. According to officials, three of Sirhan's bullets hit Kennedy (a fourth went through his coat), and five bullets struck the other victims.
But one bullet was also lost in the ceiling space. And crime scene photos show investigators pointing to bullet holes circled in doorframes and a ceiling panel.
Investigators found twelve points of entry in the six victims, with three bullet holes photographed in the ceiling. LAPD criminalist DeWayne Wolfer said "it's unbelievable how many holes there are in the kitchen ceiling."
L.A. County Coroner Thomas Noguchi's report--which mysteriously went missing from the LAPD's final report--found that Kennedy had been hit by three bullets from the rear, including one in his head behind his right ear. This conclusion rules out Sirhan who was identified by all witnesses as having shot at Kennedy from the front.
Noguchi, Wolfer and Pasadena criminalist William Harper, drawing on forensic and eyewitness evidence, all concluded that the shots which killed Kennedy came from close range--a point of near direct contact. Sirhan never got anywhere near that close--he was at least three feet away.
Sirhan's gun was never matched to the bullets that killed Kennedy. William Harper, who survived an assassination attempt on the eve of his scheduled testimony before a grand jury investigating the handling of firearms evidence, concluded that two .22 caliber guns were involved in the assassination.
Evan Freed, a photographer who was standing near Kennedy when the shooting started, said that another man besides Sirhan--who looked like Sirhan but was wearing darker clothing--fired the first shot at Kennedy and that a man made a failed attempt to grab him afterwards and he ran out of the pantry.
Donald Schulman, a runner for Los Angeles TV station KNXT, reported on the air minutes after Kennedy's assassination that, after Sirhan fired his gun, a security guard--referring to Cesar--fired back and struck Kennedy three times.
Schulman also stated that he spotted two revolvers other than Sirhan's and that both had been fired--an observation confirmed by testimony and statements introduced at an official hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court.
One of the most important witnesses was, Karl Uecker, a maitre d' at the Ambassador Hotel, who was the first one to grab Sirhan during the shooting in an attempt to subdue him. He told filmmaker Ted Charach that Sirhan could not have been the killer. He stated:
"Sirhan at no time was firing from behind Senator Robert Kennedy. No! No! Not an inch from Kennedy's head--I don't believe that it was Sirhan's gun firing back from an upward direction. I think I would have seen it. I was the closest one. In order for Sirhan to get that close to Senator Kennedy from behind he would have had to pass me and didn't pass me at that point. I had him very tight, pushed against the steam table while Senator Kennedy staggered back and Mr. Schrade dropped to the floor first. So this does not fit with what Mr. Fitts [prosecuting attorney later promoted by Governor Reagan to California's Superior Court] told the jury."
Uecker also said that he saw a guard--Thane Cesar--who brandished a gun which was odd. He testified that he had grabbed Sirhan after the second shot, not the fourth shot--which would further prove the existence of a second shooter because Kennedy was shot three times under the arm and twice in the head, and seven bullets were recovered from six victims.
Investigator Lisa Pease wrote that, "if Uecker had grabbed Sirhan after the second shot, then someone else had to have shot Kennedy at least twice, as Kennedy had provably been shot four times from near-contact range."
Not only was Kennedy shot from the back, but witnesses saw someone shooting at him from an elevated position twelve to sixteen inches above Kennedy's head, with knee or body on a steam table.
This could not have been Sirhan who was identified by four credible witnesses, including Uecker, as shooting at Kennedy from the floor on a slightly upward trajectory, which made sense since Sirhan was four inches shorter than Kennedy.
Uecker specified further that he pushed Sirhan up on a table after he grabbed him in a headlock; he was not on a table before.
Richard Lubic, a 31-year-old television producer and campaign aide, heard a voice--"Kennedy you son of a bitch"--and then heard two shots from what sounded like a starter pistol at a track meet.
The shots came from a man who had his knee on a small table or air conditioning vent and lifted himself up on his knee to obtain elevation while shooting. He had bare arms when firing; Sirhan was wearing long sleeves.
Some witnesses thought Sirhan was firing a cap gun. The real assassins appear to have waited until Sirhan fired the first shot and people focused on him, and then moved quickly to get the job done.
The fact that the shooter was elevated would have also been part of the plan, since people's natural instinct in a crisis is to look around them and not upward.
After the shooting, Sandra Serrano, a 20-year-old Pasadena City College student, observed a twenty-something "Hispanic-looking" man wearing a gold sweater and a dark-haired Caucasian girl with a "good figure" and "funny nose" wearing a white dress with black polka dots. The two were running down a hallway to a fire exit.
Serrano had seen the pair with Sirhan earlier in the night, while Vincent Di Pierro said he saw Sirhan and the girl in the polka-dot dress just before Kennedy was shot with wicked smiles.
As the girl was running to the fire exit, she turned to Serrano, laughing, and said. "We shot him! We shot him." Astonished, Serrano asked "who did you shoot?" and she replied "Senator Kennedy!"
An elderly couple named Bernstein witnessed this exchange and told LAPD Sergeant Paul Sharaga, who put out an all-points bulletin on the pair.
Afterwards, Detective Inspector John Powers ordered a cancelation of the description of the two suspects, saying that "we don't want to make a federal case out of it. We've got the suspect in custody." These comments suggest a police cover-up that was planned beforehand.
Tim Tate and Brad Johnson, authors of the 2018 book The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-Up--A New Investigation, wrote that the LAPD:
"constructed the criminal equivalent of a Potemkin Village [Soviet model villages that masked underlying brutality of the Soviet system]--a Hollywood style set whose façade concealed the truth that evidence was overlooked, destroyed or suppressed, and witnesses were ignored or intimidated into silence. After which L.A. law enforcement locked the whole sorry saga away, hiding their misdeeds and incompetence behind impenetrable walls of official secrecy for two full decades."
As an example of police malfeasance, no effort was made to perform a ballistics test on Thane Cesar's .22 caliber gun to see whether the bullets matched those that killed Kennedy.
In addition, a) bullets were planted in Sirhan's car; b) the crime scene area was never properly roped off; c) hotel employees were allowed to mop up blood from the kitchen floor right after; and d) the LAPD burned more than 2,400 photographs from the crime scene and investigation in a medical waste incinerator before Sirhan's trial.
The LAPD task force set to investigate the killing--the "Special Unit Senator" (SUS)--was headed by 22-year LAPD veteran Lt. Manuel Pena, who reportedly killed eleven people in the line of duty--more than any other officer in the history of the department.
One of his colleagues was Daniel Mitrione, an Indiana police officer who was kidnapped and killed by left-wing guerrillas in Uruguay in retaliation for his promotion of torture techniques among the U.S.-trained police.
Charles A. O'Brien, California's Chief Deputy Attorney General, told William Turner that USAID was being used as an "ultra-secret CIA unit" that was known to insiders as the "Department of Dirty Tricks" and that it was involved in teaching foreign intelligence agents the techniques of assassination.
To help oversee the RFK investigation, Pena selected another CIA compatriot, Sgt. Enrique "Hank" Hernandez, a polygraph specialist who was subsequently promoted to lieutenant in recognition of his performance on the SUS.
Hernandez had played a key role in the CIA's "Unified Police Command," a training operation for Latin American countries and received a medal from the Venezuelan government for his efforts in helping prevent Fidel Castro's exportation of the Cuban revolution onto its soil.
Under Hernandez and Pena's direction, SUS became what authors William Turner and Jonn Christian termed a "kind of Bermuda triangle" into which reports and major leads on the case--including any that pointed to CIA or FBI involvement--disappeared."
The SUS further tried to have Coroner Noguchi commit perjury.
The LAPD took no action additionally when Roy Donald Murray, a prosperous cotton rancher in the northern California town of Earlimart who hated Kennedy and Cesar Chavez, was overheard by a local police officer in May 1968 boasting about pledging $2,000 to his mafia friends in Las Vegas for an assassination fund.
The FBI also did not follow up on a report by Edward Hugh Pole, who served time with Jimmy Hoffa in the Lewisburg penitentiary and said that Hoffa had boasted to fellow prisoners that he had put a hit out on Bobby Kennedy--who had been the one during his stint as Attorney General to put him in jail.
Lisa Pease referred to Sirhan's trial as a "show trial." Key witnesses were never asked to testify, ballistics tests were never ordered, and discrepancies in the LAPD's story and shoddy investigation went unchallenged by Sirhan's defense team.
Remarkably, Coroner Noguchi's report, which detailed the existence of two shooters and specified that Sirhan could not have been the one to deliver the lethal shots, was not entered into evidence at the trial and Sirhan's lawyer, Grant Cooper, cut short Noguchi's testimony.
Cooper also cut short the testimony of LAPD criminalist DeWayne Wolfer, who was cited in later probes to have been negligent in his conduct, and who had been photographed pointing to bullet holes in the walls which he now said were not genuine.
William Pepper, who took over Sirhan's case in 2010 after serving as the Martin Luther King family lawyer, said that "there can be no reasonable doubt that this conflict influenced, more precisely directed Cooper's lamentable trial performance."
In her 2018 book A Lie Too Big to Fail, Lisa Pease suggests that the hit team included a 21-year-old bookstore clerk named Michael Wayne and the girl in the polka-dot dress, who collected press badges which enabled members of the team to go anywhere in the hotel.
Wayne later helped provide a diversion while the assassin(s) got away. Suspiciously, he was found with the business card of Duane Gilbert, a right-wing extremist and militant involved in a previous theft of dynamite.
Throughout the night, the hit teams communicated through radio--with different teams likely prepared for Kennedy in different rooms of the hotel.
One of the team members manned the southwest fire escape so the girl in the polka-dot dress could sneak Sirhan into the hotel that way. A man in a maroon coat stood next to the door all night holding a radio.
When the woman in the polka-dot dress shouted "we shot him" as she and the assassin were making their escape, she may have been trying to alert her cohort at the back door.
The secret team appears to have been part of a highly sophisticated intelligence operation that required a large support team and compliance with the with LAPD, L.A. County's Sheriff's Department and District Attorney's Office, state government, the media and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
An Irish filmmaker, Shane O'Sullivan, identified two men photographed at the Ambassador Hotel on the night Kennedy was killed as Bulova Watch Company sales managers attending the company's convention. O'Sullivan stated that Bulova was a "well-known CIA cover." One of the men bore some resemblance to CIA agent George Joannides, chief of the CIA's psychological warfare branch in Miami during the early 1960s who served later as a CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassination.
CIA agent Bradley Ayers and diplomat Wayne Smith, who worked with him at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, identified CIA assassin David Sanchez Morales as the man in a photo taken at the Ambassador Hotel on the night of Kennedy's killing--though others who knew Morales said it was not.
O'Sullivan featured an interview with Morales's former attorney Robert Walton, who quoted Morales as having said, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard."
Another important potential CIA connection emerges with the mysterious girl in the polka-dotted dress. Witnesses believe she may have been Patricia Elayn Neal, a high-school drop-out from Red Bluff, California.
In 1973, she married Jerry Capehart, a Korean War veteran who managed Hollywood musical star Rosemary Clooney as well as country singer Glenn Campbell and 1950s rock star Eddie Cochran, with whom he co-wrote some famous songs.
Not coincidentally, Sirhan appears to have been subjected to mind-control experiments and programmed to be part of the assassination plot.
In 2010, attorneys acting for Sirhan filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Central District of California which argued that he was "an involuntary participant" in the shooting in the Ambassador Hotel pantry because he had been "subjected to extensive and sophisticated hypno-programming and mind control"--which had turned him into a robot assassin--a real-life "Manchurian Candidate."
The Manchurian Candidate film dovetailed with a CIA disinformation campaign that helped convince the public that the North Koreans and Chinese had brainwashed U.S. POWs during the Korean War.
This belief justified the CIA's efforts to develop truth drugs and advance brainwashing techniques under Operations Artichoke, Bluebird and MK-ULTRA--and to hire hypnotists with the goal of programming people.
One Bluebird memo asked: "Can we create by post-H control an action contrary to an individual's basic moral principles? Could we seize a subject and in a space of an hour or two by post-H control have him crash an airplane, wreck a train, etc.? Can we alter a person's personality?"
The answers appear to be yes.
In May 2008, Sirhan was examined by Dr. Daniel Brown, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and expert on hypnosis, who revealed evidence of hypnotically induced altered personality states.
Brown observed Sirhan switch into a personality state that responds in robot-like fashion to certain cues and adopting the behavior of firing a gun at a firing range. While in this state, Sirhan showed a loss of executive control and complete amnesia.
After the assassination, LAPD officers had noticed in Sirhan an eerie calm--as if he did not genuinely know what he had done. Two of the men who had overpowered him during the shooting observed in Sirhan a tranquil look, with his eyes appearing peaceful. When asked by an NBC reporter whether he had planned to kill Senator Kennedy, Sirhan replied "only in my mind. I did it, but I was not aware of it."
The Search for the Manchurian Candidate? [Source: scalar.usc.edu
Dr. Eduard Simson-Kallas, a San Quentin psychologist who worked extensively with Sirhan in 1969, described Sirhan's comments about Arab-Israeli politics relating to the assassination as "very repetitious" and "spoken like an actor playing a role, reading a script."
Sirhan revealingly had no memory of writing his diary in which he expressed outrage about Kennedy's sending jet bombers to Israel two days before he learned about it by reading an article in the newspaper.
There were also statements in the diary denouncing capitalism and pointing to Kennedy as a reactionary, when Sirhan was not known to espouse left-wing views or to even have an interest in politics.
Walter Crowe, Sirhan's closest friend at Pasadena City College (PCC), had once tried to form a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) group at the college, but Sirhan was "apathetic" and would not participate.
His diary--written under hypnosis--appears to be a key part of the conspiratorial plot whose aim was not only to have Kennedy killed but also to discredit left-wing views.
He made frequent trips at the time to Corona--where there was a huge Naval Surface Warfare Center, implying work for the U.S. government. Sirhan's name appeared at the Corona Police Department firing range, where he was training for his special mission.
Herb Elfman reported to police that Sirhan belonged to a secret hypnosis group and referred them to a local radio station employee, Steve Allison, who managed a radio show that interviewed Dr. William Joseph Bryant (1924-1977) of the American Institute of Hypnosis.
Bryant was a pioneer hypnotist who served as chief of all medical survival training for the U.S. Air Force, or brainwashing section in South Korea during the Korean War.
A consultant on The Manchurian Candidate film, he had a long history of hypno-programming with the CIA.
Bryant's possible connection to Sirhan is reflected in a reference that Sirhan made in his diaries to the Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, with whom Bryant had worked. Afterwards, Sirhan had no memory of ever writing about DeSalvo and did not appear to have any knowledge about him.
In March 1977, Bryant was found dead at the age of 51 in the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas right after he was summoned to appear before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. He was said to have died of natural causes--as he was obese--though no autopsy was performed.
Two different insider sources told author Lisa Pease that Robert Maheu was the mastermind of the assassination.
A lifelong Republican, Maheu was a top adviser to Howard Hughes. He had mob contacts through Johnny Roselli and ran assassination plots for the CIA. When the CIA leadership decided to recruit the Mafia to murder Fidel Castro, they turned to Maheu.
His company, Robert Maheu Associates--the inspiration behind the Mission Impossible television series--fronted for CIA activities and provided a cover to CIA employees.
He knew Thane Cesar, who worked for Bel Air Patrol, which Maheu owned. Cesar was listed as a CIA contract agent in a CIA database.
John Meier, a top aide to Howard Hughes from 1966 to 1970, recounted a meeting between Maheu and Don Nixon, Richard's brother, at the Desert Inn Country Club in Las Vegas on June 6, 1968.
Maheu was all smiles and Don Nixon walked in all smiles. They embraced each other and Don Nixon said "well that prick is dead," and Maheu said, "well it looks like your brother is in now." Maheu then joked that they should now be calling Don Nixon "Mr. Vice President."
This conversation does not prove Maheu was behind Kennedy's killing, but provides a clear motive--one he shared with his former boss, Howard Hughes.
Hughes wrote to Maheu after the assassination that "the Kennedy family and their money influence have been a thorn that has been relentlessly shoved into my guts since the very beginning of my business activities ... I hate to be quick on the draw, but I see here an opportunity that may not happen again in a lifetime. I don't [sic] aspire to be President, but I do want political strength ... And it seems to me that the very people we need have just fallen smack into our hands."
After Kennedy was shot, Lyndon B. Johnson--then a lame duck president who had announced he would not seek reelection because of the debacle in Vietnam--repeatedly phoned the Secret Service to ask if Kennedy had died, pacing the floor for hours, phone in hand, muttering "I've got to know. Is he dead? Is he dead."
Johnson also instructed his aide Joseph Califano to call Larry Levinson, another aide, to get an update from the Secret Service. Levinson in turn asked Califano if this was something Johnson wished to have happen--which appears to have been the case.
According to Ted Van Dyk, an aide to Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, when Humphrey got the Commanding General of the U.S. Air Force to dispatch a plane for a top Boston brain surgeon who was to be flown immediately to Los Angeles to operate on Kennedy (who was then still alive), Johnson canceled the plane, claiming that Humphrey had no authority to send it.
Johnson had long hated Kennedy and would have been humiliated by his nomination for president. After Kennedy's death, Johnson instructed his aide to develop a "draft Johnson movement." He hoped to arrive as a surprise guest at the Democratic national convention to great acclaim as the man capable of saving the Democratic Party--but alas it was not to be.
"One More Kennedy Out of the Way"
In April 1969, Chuck Giancana, the brother of mob boss Sam, met with an old outfit enforcer named Chuckie Nicoletti on the west side of Chicago to check up on his brother who had been living in Mexico.
Sam Giancana had felt double crossed by Kennedy when as Attorney General in the early 1960s he waged war on the mafia when it had helped Jack win the presidency in 1960.
Chuckie started the conversation by stating: "one more Kennedy out of the way, huh?" and then said "so Mooney [Sam Giancana's nickname] did it again...I'll tell you, your brother's a fuckin' genius."
When Chuck asked "did what?" Nicoletti responded: "Hit Bobby."
Nicolettii went on: "setting up that guy Sirhan to take the rap, shit, didn't it work like a charm?...Hey when you work for the Outfit and owe 'em a small fortune...and you can't cough it up...that's what happens. Right? Shit, now that I think about it, it was a lot like the Ruby and Oswald deal....you know Oswald didn't really fire a shot. At least Sirhan did that much. But even if he couldn't hit the barn, it didn't matter 'cause Mooney [Giancana] had another guy do the job on Bobby...some Mexican he probably dug up down south."
Tommy Payne, an old Capone soldier, later told Chuck Giancana that the Chicago Outfit had controlled everything at the Ambassador hotel the night Bobby was killed and that the other gunman--an Outfit hitman--was a "last minute replacement" for a regular security guard. "It was all planned out...down to the last detail and covered up...just like the other brother," Payne confided.
Author Robert Morrow, in his 1988 book The Senator Must Die, suggests that Kennedy's assassin went under the pseudonym Ali Ahmand and worked for Iranian intelligence under the Shah of Iran who had also recruited Sirhan as part of the plot.
According to Morrow, the Kennedys had become enemies of the Shah--who had been installed in power in a CIA-backed coup--when as a Senator, John F. Kennedy uncovered the Shah's misuse of United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds and launched an attack on him from the Senate floor.
Bobby Kennedy subsequently snubbed the Shah by bypassing Iran on a goodwill trip around the world, and Kennedy threatened to cut off all aid after his election as president before his father, Joseph, interceded.
Alex Goodaryi, the Shah's liaison to the U.S. mafia, said that "the mob claimed with Nixon as president, the Shah would be in a position to eventually raise oil prices. Then, with U.S. backing, control the whole Middle East. However, if [Robert] Kennedy won, the Shah would be totally isolated from any further U.S. aid and military support and be subject to worldwide censure."
According to Morrow's hypothesis, the Shah ordered Colonel Mansur Rafizadeh, the head of SAVAK, the Shah's secret police that had been created by the CIA, to eliminate Kennedy, and Rafizadeh recruited Sirhan and the other main culprit, Ali Ahmand, aka Khalid Iqbal.
Iqbal was pictured in a photo at the Ambassador Hotel next to Jesse Unruh, the Speaker of the California State Assembly who was then managing Kennedy's presidential campaign, wearing a yellow sweater with a camera hanging from a strap around his neck.
Morrow believes that the camera was a disguised gun, and that Sirhan was there to provide a distraction that would enable Iqbal to carry out the killing and afterwards get away with the girl in the polka-dot dress who was his accomplice.
Sirhan fired two shots at Kennedy, was tackled and drew attention, giving space to Iqbal to rapidly pull the lethal camera up behind Kennedy's ear and shoot him four times behind the ear.
With the crowd turning on Sirhan and pandemonium breaking out, Iqbal then motioned to his accomplice and found his way through the crowd and down a corridor to an exit, after which they jumped into a shiny black car and sped down Wilshire Boulevard away from the hotel.
Although Iqbal's description matched some eyewitness accounts of the man accompanying the girl in the polka-dotted dress, proof for Morrow's theory has not been established. Iqbal, whose real name was Khalid Iqbal Khewar, sued The Boston Globe for libel for publishing Morrow's account and was awarded damages of $1.2 million after winning his case.
Allard K. Lowenstein was the former Director of the National Student Association (NSA) and Democratic Congressman from Nassau County, New York, from 1969 to 1971, who had led the "Dump Johnson" movement because of Johnson's support for the Vietnam War.
Anguished by Kennedy's death, he was able to review Noguchi's autopsy report specifying that Kennedy had been hit from behind by bullets fired at point-blank range. Lowenstein also scrutinized the trial records, searching for testimony that placed Sirhan's gun to the rear and within inches of Bobby, and finding that there was none.
Lowenstein followed up by interviewing eyewitnesses who pointed to Sirhan being several feet--rather than inches--removed from Bobby, and to him having been subdued after firing two shots. He found that their stories were consistent with their earlier testimony.
The official response to Lowenstein's queries by the LAPD was one of stonewalling, and he realized that a propaganda campaign was being fabricated to deliver information that was the exact opposite of the facts.
In March 1980, Lowenstein was shot and killed in his office by a former protégé Dennis Sweeney, who claimed among other crazy things that he had received messages in his head broadcast by a CIA transmitter. After Sweeney shot Lowenstein, Sweeney calmly waited in Lowenstein's office to be arrested. He was deemed insane and sentenced to a mental hospital.
At the time of the shooting, Lowenstein was on the verge of getting a commitment from President Jimmy Carter to reopen the investigation into the Sirhan case if Carter were re-elected to a second term that November. But as writer Robert Vaughn (The Man From UNCLE) put it: "Al died, Carter lost to Reagan, and the official veil of silence over the RFK murder has remained intact."
In 2012, while serving as California's Attorney General, Vice President Kamala "Komrad" Harris had Sirhan's request for a retrial dismissed.
She argued that "overwhelming evidence" existed against Sirhan's claims that he was hypno-programmed to fire a gun as a diversion.
Harris stated in federal court that "(Sirhan) cannot possibly show that no reasonable juror would have convicted him if a jury had considered his 'new' evidence and allegations, in light of the overwhelming evidence supporting the convictions and the available evidence thoroughly debunking Sirhan's second-shooter and automaton theories."
In fact, as this essay has displayed, there is overwhelming evidence supporting--not debunking--Sirhan's second-shooter theory.
This evidence ranges from eyewitness accounts to the autopsy report to the fact that more bullets were fired than was the capacity for Sirhan's gun.
There is also circumstantial evidence about the automaton theory which begs for further investigation.
Harris's stance is part of a 50+ year effort by government authorities to cover up the truth about Kennedy's assassination and to protect the powerful persons who coordinated it.
Had Kennedy lived, American history would have turned out differently.
Kennedy might then have replicated his brother's defeat of Nixon in 1960, and as president ended the Vietnam War, expanded the War on Poverty and scuttled the War on Drugs.
Instead of imploding under the weight of Nixonian repression, the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) might have evolved into an influential left-wing caucus in the Democratic Party or a new social democratic party equivalent to the Canadian New Democratic Party (NDP).
This was the nightmare scenario for American conservatives and the corrupt elements of "the deep state," who in carrying out Kennedy's assassination, destroyed the hope for a better America that he and his supporters represented.
See Larry Tye, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon (New York: Random House, 2017); Lester David and Irene David, Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Folk Hero (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1986); Edward R. Schmitt, President of the Other America: Robert Kennedy and the Politics of Poverty (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2011). Kennedy to be sure had some neoliberal views, suggesting not long before his death that welfare had "destroyed self-respect and encouraged family disintegration."
David and David, Bobby Kennedy, 4.
Lisa Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (Los Angeles: Feral House, 2018).
Tim Tate and Brad Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-Up--A New Investigation (London: Thistle Books, 2018) ,101; Mel Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist: Sirhan Sirhan and the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2007), 49-73.
Compton served as an LAPD detective in the 1950s and was connected to the LAPD's red squad. See Tom O'Neill, with Dan Piepenberg, Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2019), 233.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 230.
William Turner and Jonn Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: The Conspiracy and Coverup (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1993), 167, 168.
Cesar stated that he "never would have voted for Bobby Kennedy because he had the same ideas as John did, and I think John sold the country down the road. He gave it away to the commies ... he literally gave it to the minority." Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 231. In the 1980s, Cesar supported Ronald Reagan.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail. According to researcher Alex Botus, Cesar was connected to the California mobster John Alessio. Robert Melanson, Who Killed Robert Kennedy? (Berkeley, CA: Odonian Press, 1993), 42. Cesar told journalist Dan Moldea about diamond purchases he had made for the Chicago mob between 1968 and 1974.
Robert Maheu and Richard Hack, Next to Hughes: Behind the Power and Tragic Downfall of Howard Hughes by His Closest Advisor (New York: HarperCollins, 1992).
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 483.
Chris Spargo, "Robert F Kennedy was assassinated by Thane Eugene Cesar, declares RFK Jr, who says it was the security guard who fatally shot his father from behind after planning the murder with Sirhan Sirhan," Daily Mail, September 12, 2019, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7456521/Robert-F-Kennedy-assassinated-Thane-Eugene-Cesar-Sirhan-Sirhan-says-RFK-Jr.html
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 256; Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 138; Mikko Alanne, "Why the RFK Assassination Case Must Be Reopened," The Huffington Post, April 4, 2012, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/rfk-sirhan_b_1251410. Pease suggested that the number of bullets could be as high as 17.
Melanson, The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination, 41. Two ceiling tiles were allegedly removed, including several outside of Sirhan's range of fire.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 191, 195, 196. Nina Rhodes-Hughes, a Kennedy fundraiser, stated that she heard 12-14 shots fired, though the FBI quoted her falsely as having heard eight shots, which she explicitly denied is what she told them. Some claim the sound of shots in Pruszynski's audio tape may have been sounds of people fumbling or microphones bumping into things. Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist, 133,
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 86, 87; Philip Melanson, The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination: New Revelations on the Conspiracy and Cover-Up, 1968-1991 (New York: Shapolsky, 1991), 34, 35.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 183. Wolfer interestingly later became president of Ace Security Services, the same company which Thane Cesar had worked for on the night of RFK's assassination.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail; Lisa Pease, "Sirhan Says ?I Am Innocent,'" in The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X, James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, eds. (Los Angeles: Feral House, 2003), 532; Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 158.
William Klaber and Philip H. Melanson, Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy (New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2018) 106, 107. Freed related that he was contacted by the FBI afterwards but that they "seemed to be avoiding asking me questions about the 2nd gunman." According to most witnesses, the second shooter was taller than Sirhan,
Klaber and Melanson, Shadow Play, 108, 109; Robert Blair Kaiser, "R.F.K. Must Die!": Chasing the Mystery of the Robert Kennedy Assassination, rev ed. (Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press, 2008), 73.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail; Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, xxiv, 161, 165; Klaber and Melanson, Shadow Play, 98. Schulman specified that the security guard behind Kennedy had fired his gun. He said Kennedy had been shot three times, but the FBI insisted to him that he had been shot twice which was wrong. Curiously, there is no record of him having been interviewed by the LAPD.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 213.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 213. [NOTE: Should 23, 24 and 25 be "Idem."? They are identical to note 22.]
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 213.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 213.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 280.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail.
Robert D. Morrow, The Senator Must Die (Santa Monica, CA: Roundtable Publishing, 1988), 203, 204, 211; Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 248, 249, 250; Melanson, The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination, 183, 244. Strangely, the LAPD's log omits reference to the girl in the polka-dot dress. One witness, Earnest Ruiz, thought he saw the man later come back into the pantry as Sirhan was being removed and was the first to yell "let's kill the bastard." An alternative scenario with the woman in the polka-dotted dress is presented in Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist, 154.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 211. For a reporter's quest for the truth about the woman in the polka-dot dress, see Fernando Faura, The Polka Dot File on the Robert F. Kennedy Killing: The Paris Peace Talks Connection (Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2016).
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 360.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 360; Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist, 142; The Assassinations, Pease and Di Eugenio, eds., 533. The LAPD also "lost" the records from Sirhan's blood test and destroyed the doorframes from the crime scene that possessed the bullets.
Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 64. LAPD chief of detectives Robert Houghton, in his book Special Unit Senator: The Investigation of the Assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy (New York: Random House, 1970), boasted that Pena had commanded detective divisions, supervised a bank robbery squad, spoke French and Spanish and had connections with various intelligence agencies in several countries.
On the OPS, see Jeremy Kuzmarov, Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation Building in the American Century (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012).
See A.J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors: The Truth about U.S. Police Operations in Latin America (New York: Pantheon, 1979). Mitrione's motto was "the right pain, in the right place, at the right time."
Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 65. FBI agent Roger LaJeunesse claimed that Pena had been carrying out CIA special assignments for at least ten years. This was confirmed by Pena's brother, a high school teacher, who told television journalist Stan Bohrman a similar story about his CIA activities.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 210. Hernandez had claimed to have administered a polygraph test to Venezuelan dictator Marco Jimenez who was replaced by CIA favorite Romulo Betancourt. Hernandez died in 1972 at age 40. At the time of his death, he had begun to express doubt about the Sirhan lone gunman theory.
Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, xxiii.
Melanson, The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination, 134, 135.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 276; Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 213; Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, xxiv.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 212. Scharaga subsequently was forced to leave the LAPD.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 223. Thomas Noguchi, Coroner (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983).
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 211, 212, 213. The Garrison documents included one obtained from a raid on the right-wing National States Rights Party which had the initials of three people to be eliminated: JFK, MLK, RFK.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 214, 216, 216, 217.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 221, 222.
Klaber and Melanson, Shadow Play, 91, 92, 93.
Klaber and Melanson, Shadow Play, 38, 235. Cooper's strategy in the trial had been to try to avoid the death penalty by pursuing an insanity defense. Cooper stunningly admitted to onetime New York Congressman Allard Lowenstein that, "had he known during the trial" what he had since learned, "he would have conducted a different defense." The felony was for possessing stolen transcripts of the grand jury proceedings in the Beverly Hills Friar's Club card cheating case in which Johnny Roselli was one of the defendants.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 346. Famed forensic pathologist Cyril Wecht stated that "any first-year law student would have done a better job than Sirhan's counsel [Cooper]."
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail; The Assassinations, Pease and Di Eugenio, eds., 599.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 487. Researcher Philip Melanson identified the LAPD as one of the police forces that indeed maintained a clandestine relationship with the CIA. Melanson, The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination. Prosecutor Lynn "Buck" Compton and District Attorney Evelle Younger both had verifiable intelligence ties.
Manny Chavez, a former U.S. Air Force Intelligence officer who served in Venezuela as a military attaché in 1957-59 while David Morales was assigned to the CIA Station there for a year, said that, after careful study, he was convinced that the person in the photo was not Morales as he knew him up until 1963. Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist, 169.
Smith said that, if Morales was there the night Kennedy was killed, he had to have something to do with it. Morales died of a "heart attack" before he was slated to testify before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978. After Morales fell ill, it took the medics five hours to get him to a hospital and did not provide him any oxygen. His friend Ruben Carbajal told filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan that "the people who killed Morales were the same people he had worked for--the CIA--he knew too much." Carbajal, however, does not believe that the man identified by Ayers and Smith as Morales was in fact Morales.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 286, 287, 288, 291, 292. Neal died in February 2012 at age 63 from cirrhosis due to her alcoholism. She had dropped out of high school after becoming pregnant and marrying the father, her first husband, who was then shipped off to Vietnam, and may have worked at one time as a prostitute. She moved to Missouri with Capehart after their marriage in 1973 and divorced him after 11 years. Neal's kids remembered that their mother had been haunted by something in her past and expressed fears about being followed. She maintained an obsession with a polka-dotted dress she kept stored away in her home. Capehart once told the kids that she was the famous girl in the polka-dotted dress, though expressed anger when she put the dress on and was going to wear it in public at a church service.
See also Fernando Faura, The Polka Dot File: On the Robert F. Kennedy Killing (Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2016). Faura, then a reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, interviewed John Fahey, who worked at a chemical company and had breakfast with the woman in the polka dot dress at the Ambassador hotel and spent the day with her. She told him of connections to Anna Chennault, the wife of Flying Tiger Clare Chennault and a confidante of Richard M. Nixon. Faura had been spied on and harassed by the LAPD, whihc falsified records regarding his involvement in the investigation.
Frankenheimer ironically drove Robert Kennedy to the Ambassador Hotel on the night of his death in his Rolls-Royce after Kennedy stayed at his Malibu mansion.
See Jonathan Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control, rev ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1991).
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 303.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 235, 324.
Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 194; The Assassinations, Pease and Di Eugenio, eds., 533. Two waiters observed Sirhan smiling. Earlier in the evening, a witness observed Sirhan staring at a teletype machine, as though transfixed.
Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, xxix.
Melanson, Who Killed Robert Kennedy? 65.
Turner and Christian, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 199.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 334. All the other candidates in the 1968 election supported military aid to Israel, marking Sirhan's motive as generally suspect.
Melanson, Who Killed Robert Kennedy? 65.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 330, 331.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 409.
Ibid. Some researchers suspect that Sirhan was hypnotized at the Santa Anita racetrack where he worked as a jockey. Sirhan worked there with Thomas Bremer, whose brother Arthur shot presidential candidate George C. Wallace in 1972 in an attempted assassination that also benefited Richard M. Nixon's election chances.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 331; Melanson, The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination, 202.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 332.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 334.
Tate and Johnson, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, 334; Philip Melanson, The Robert Kennedy Assassination: New Revelations on the Conspiracy and Cover-Up, 1968-1991 (New York: Shapolsky, 1991).
Maheu, Next to Hughes, 108-34.
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail. One of these operations was the manufacture of a pornographic film allegedly showing Indonesia's socialist leader Sukarno in a compromising position with a female Russian agent. On Maheu's CIA ties, see also Bayard Stockton. Flawed Patriot: The Rise and Fall of CIA Legend Bill Harvey, (Virginia: Potomac Books, 2006), 171
Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail, 493.
Maheu, Next to Hughes, 206-207. After Kennedy's death, Maheu assisted Hughes in giving Hubert Humphrey a donation of $50,000.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die. Conversation between Chuck Giancana and Chuckie Nicoletti is recounted in Sam and Chuck Giancana, with Bettina Giancana Double Cross: The Explosive Inside Story of the Mobster Who Controlled America (New York: Skyhorse, 2014), 453, 454.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 176, 177.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 178.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 178.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 178.
Morrow, The Senator Must Die, 186.
Sirhan expected to be arrested but accepted the reward of a sizeable check deposited into his bank account. He believed that he would be regarded as a hero in Jordan and the Arab World.
Ayton, The Forgotten Terrorist, 159, 160.
David and David, Bobby Kennedy, 280.
Robert Vaughn, A Fortunate Life (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2008), 258.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who spearheaded the repression of the protests, supported Kennedy.
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