Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chappaquiddick: Teddy’s Version

There is no better way to relate Edward Kennedy’s version of how Mary Jo Kopechne died than to quote him in his own words. In the statement he gave to police on the Morning of July 19, 1969, Kennedy wrote:

On July 18, 1969, at approximately 11:15 PM in Chappaquiddick, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, I was driving my car on Main Street [he’s actually referring to Chappaquiddick Rd.] on my way to get the ferry back to Edgartown. I was unfamiliar with the road and turned right onto Dike Road, instead of bearing hard left on Main Street. After proceeding for approximately one-half mile on Dike Road I descended a hill and came upon a narrow bridge. The car went off the side of the bridge. There was one passenger with me, one Miss Mary [Kopechne—Kennedy misspelled it], a former secretary of my brother Sen. Robert Kennedy. The car turned over and sank into the water and landed with the roof resting on the bottom. I attempted to open the door and the window of the car but have no recollection of how I got out of the car. I came to the surface and then repeatedly dove down to the car in an attempt to see if the passenger was still in the car. I was unsuccessful in the attempt. I was exhausted and in a state of shock. I recall walking back to where my friends were eating. There was a car parked in front of the cottage and I climbed into the back seat. I then asked for someone to bring me back to Edgartown. I remember walking around for a period of time and then going back to my hotel room. When I fully realized what had happened this morning, I immediately contacted the police.
In a televised speech crafted six days later by former JFK advisor Ted Sorensen, Kennedy filled in a couple of details. He blamed his failure to call police on “a jumble of emotions,” which prevented him from thinking clearly. During the course of the speech, he said that he had enlisted the aid of Paul Markham and Joe Gargan, who accompanied him to the accident scene and also dove in to find Kopechne. He also lashed out at rumors insinuating any impropriety, and denied that he was drunk.

This version of events is, by and large, the official one. Kopechne’s death was ruled an accident. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury, and received a suspended jail sentence of two months.

Like many official versions, this one has a number of problems. As presented, Kennedy’s statements aren’t very believable in their entirety. For starters, if the ferry to Edgartown left at 12:00 midnight, then they were leaving the party pretty early at 11:15pm. One has to wonder why Kopechne would leave a festive, comfortable cottage to wait for at least a half an hour alone at the ferry landing. And unless he had ulterior motives, it would make very little sense for the Senator to insist upon driving her there personally, since he had no valid driver’s license and his chauffer, John Crimmins, was on hand. Some accounts have Kennedy and Kopechne leaving at 11:50pm, which would make more sense if they wanted to catch a 12:00 ferry. Yet Crimmins insisted that the Senator demanded the keys to Oldsmobile at 11:15pm.

What that means is Kennedy and Kopechne left the party much earlier than they had to. I can think of only two plausible explanations for why Kennedy needed to accompany her: either (1) they had business to discuss, or (2) the Senator was hoping to score.

Kennedy also said that he was unfamiliar with the island’s layout. That might be true to some extent, given the fact that he mistakenly referred to Chappaquiddick Rd. as “Main Street.” At the same time, however, Kennedy and the rest of the Lawrence Cottage crowd had already partied on the beach next to Dike’s Bridge earlier that day. So he had recently been there. Plus, one has to wonder how he could have mistaken the unpaved Dike Rd. for the paved Chappaquiddick Rd.

Only if the Senator were intoxicated would this make sense. Indeed, Gargan and Markham conceded that earlier that day Kennedy had three rum-and-Cokes on a yacht, a couple of beers at the beach, three more beers at the hotel, and two more rum-and-Cokes at the party. Still a man of Kennedy’s size (6’2”, robust frame) could have easily metabolized this amount within the hours between the yacht and the party.

Kennedy’s statement also doesn’t explain how he got out of the car once it skidded into the drink. According to him, he doesn’t remember. There was an open backseat window (see Figure 4 of the previous post). Perhaps he got out that way. But if he could get out, one has to wonder why Kopechne could not. Perhaps she was frozen in terror. Perhaps she was rendered unconscious when the car hit the water. That still doesn’t explain why Kennedy, Markham and Gargan could not find her on “repeated dives,” especially since she was in the backseat.

The most difficult thing to square with Kennedy’s explanation is what the late Professor Melanson referred to as ‘time and motion.’ According to Kennedy’s sequence of events, the car must have gone off of Dike’s Bridge at about 11:25pm. But there’s compelling evidence that he, the car, and Kopechne were all still very dry at 12:00 midnight. The car would have to have passed Dike House, yet the Malms heard no one driving on the dirt road until well after midnight. More important, the car was spotted by off-duty Deputy Sheriff Christopher Look at approximately 12:40am.

Look clocked off his shift at 12:30 that morning in Edgartown. A friend gave him a yacht ride to the ferry landing where his car waited. Look then proceeded to drive home. But at the T-intersection where Chappaquiddick Rd. bends ninety degrees to the south, and Dike Rd. lies opposite, a car--an Oldsmobile of the same make, year and model as the one Crimmins rented--had stopped kitty-corner from him. He could not make out specific faces, but he noticed that car contained a male driver, and two female passengers, one in the front seat and one in the back. Thinking the driver was lost, Look got out of his vehicle to offer assistance. As he approached on foot, the car sped away down Dike Rd., but not before Look got a partial license plate number, which began with “L” followed by a “7,” and ended with a “7.” Kennedy’s plates were L78207.

The fact that Look saw two women in the car explains one of the more puzzling aspects of the incident, namely why Kopechne had been riding around in the backseat. Since Evelyn Keough’s purse was recovered from the front seat, one might reasonably guess that she might have been the second passenger, yet to my knowledge, no one has ever said right out that she had been in the accident. At the inquest, the coroner ruled that Keough must have left her purse in the car earlier that day.

Kennedy could have stopped at Dike house or two others to phone for help, yet allegedly walked back to Lawrence Cottage. Anyone there could have phoned police. As to why they didn’t, it’s reasonable to guess that they were still trying to resolve the situation without getting the cops involved. After all, many people at the time thought that Kennedy might very well be elected President of the United States in 1972 or 1976. Trying to rescue Kopechne quietly in order to save Kennedy’s career makes some sense.

What doesn’t make sense, however, is why they did not report the accident to police after numerous rescue attempts came up with zilch. Surely, they couldn’t hide what had happened. Not reporting it could only make a horrific situation even worse. If we buy Kennedy’s explanation for why he waited until the next day to talk to police, we still have to ask ourselves why Gargan or Markham did not call the police after their fruitless search. Gargan didn’t witness the accident, and as Kennedy’s attorney he would not have been legally bound to name the Senator as the driver (attorney-client privilege). He could have just said that the car was in the pond. If diver John Farrar were correct, Kopechne might have still been alive at the time and still able to be rescued, thus allowing the Senator to dodge a whole lot of political hit points.

Then Kennedy somehow got to Edgartown by 2:25am, in time for him to complain to Russell Peachey that there’s too much noise going on in the room next door. Kennedy later explained that he swam there from Chappaquiddick. Yet when he sees Peachey, his clothes are dry. One would have to admire the Senator's quick change ability. One would also have to admire his stamina if he could have actually negotiated the choppy straits between Chappaquiddick and Edgartown after expending the energy necessary to extract himself from the accident, dive in repeatedly for Kopechne, and walk back to Lawrence Cottage after drinking all day.

So, while Senator Kennedy made a confession of sorts, his explanation strains our common sense. This is not to say that he might not have been in an accident, but rather that an accident could not have occurred precisely as he stated it. But if the incident were not an accident, then we only have two other explanations: manslaughter, or murder.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Stipulated Chappaquiddick

True, nobody can know all of the facts about the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident. Nevertheless, there are a number of things about Mary Jo Kopechne’s death that are stipulated, and thus beyond conjecture. Before comparing one person’s speculation to another’s, perhaps it’s time to take a look at what we do know of the incident.*

Chappaquiddick Island

Chappaquiddick is a tiny island off of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. The point where it comes closest to Martha’s Vineyard is the narrow strait opposite of Edgartown. A ferry service takes cars and passengers across. In 1969, the last daily ferry to Edgartown shuffled off at 12:00 midnight.

Figure 1. Map of Chappaquiddick Island (click to enlarge)

Dike’s Bridge is located on the side of the island farthest away from Edgartown.

Figure 2. Dike's Bridge on the morning of the accident.

Dike Road was a dirt road. Chappaquiddick Road, which led to the ferry, was paved.

Sylvia Malm, who had rented a house (Dike House) for the summer, had been awake past midnight on July 18-19, 1969. Dike house is located about 150 yards from the bridge.

The Party

Joseph Gargan, Ted Kennedy’s cousin and attorney, and Paul Markham, former Federal Prosecutor for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, arranged the party.

The party was held on Friday, July 18, 1969 at Lawrence Cottage.

Figure 3. Lawrence Cottage

In attendance with Kennedy, Gargan, and Markham:

John Crimmins—Kennedy’s chauffer
Rosemary Keough—RFK staffer, currently an attorney.
Mary Jo Kopechne—RFK staffer
Ray LaRosa—A fireman, and Kennedy campaign worker
Mary Ellen Lyons—RFK staffer and sister of Nancy Lyons, currently an attorney
Nancy (Nance) Lyons—RFK staffer and sister of Mary Ellen Lyons. currently an attorney.
Esther Newberg—RFK staffer, currently a prominent literary agent whose clients include novelist Dr. Patricia Cornwell
Susan Tannenbaum—RFK staffer, currently a consumer advocate and lobbyist
Charles Tretter—An attorney and Kennedy aide

The party ate at 9:45. Alcohol was served throughout the night.

Kennedy and Kopechne left together sometime between 11:15pm and 11:50pm.

The Accident

Malm heard a car racing by after midnight, July 19, 1969. Up until then, the road had been quiet.

At 8:00am, local fishermen told Malm that there’s a car upside down in the water (Poucha Pond). She phoned police. Until the time of her telephone call, police have no idea that there has been an accident.

Police chief Dominick Arena received word of the accident at 8:20am on the morning of the 19th. John Farrar, Captain of the Edgartown Volunteer Rescue Squad and experienced diver, got word five minutes later.

Police find the car, a rented late model Oldsmobile, in the water approximately thirty-five feet from the bridge.

Farrar found the car tilted in the water, with the front buried into the bottom (because of the weight of the engine), and the trunk slightly above the water line. Although the skid marks indicate that the vehicle was traveling east, the front of the car pointed west, indicating that it had flipped over.

Figure 4. Police dragging the Oldsmobile from the water.

Farrar also found Kopechne’s body in the back seat, on the passenger’s side, facing the floor. He immediately noted that the body had at least one-quarter buoyancy, which meant that she did not drown. Furthermore, Farrar estimated that she must have been alive for an hour or two after the car had hit the water.

Figure 5. A sketch of Farrar's description of the accident scene.

The police found Rosemary Keough’s purse in the front seat of the Oldsmobile.

Senator Edward Kennedy

Gargan and Markham, stipulated that the Senator had been drinking all day, even though they indicate that his drinking had tapered off to two rum and Cokes during the entire party.

Kennedy’s driver’s license had expired that February. The Senator had forgotten to renew it.

Russell Peachey, who worked at the Shiretown Inn where Kennedy stayed the entire weekend, encountered Kennedy at 2:25am on the morning of the 19th. Kennedy, wearing dry jacket, shirt and slacks, complained to him about the noise of partygoers in a nearby room.

While riding back to Chappaquiddick on the 9:00an ferry with Gargan and Markham, a local resident informed Kennedy that Kopechne had been found dead in his car. Witnesses describe Kennedy’s mood as “jovial” before learning of Kopechne’s death.

At 10:00am, Chief Arena met Kennedy at his office, where the Senator made a statement. Arena neither questioned nor charged Kennedy.

Kennedy met with Ted Sorenson and other advisors continually until July 25, 1969, when the Senator issued a press statement about the incident.

Mary Jo Kopechne

Chappaquiddick may have been Kopechne’s last brush with scandal, but it certainly was not her first. Working for Senator George Smathers, she and her roommate Nancy Tyler allegedly found out about JFK’s plan to dump LBJ—because of a scandal brewing with his aide Bobby Baker—and nominate Smathers for the Vice Presidency in 1964. In her 1968 book Kennedy and Johnson, JFK’s former secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, accused Kopechne and Tyler of leaking JFK’s plan to the press.

Medical Examiner Dr. Donald Mills examined Kopechne’s body, and found no evidence of trauma. He did find on Kopechne’s blouse, however, small bloodstains that were almost completely washed away by the water.

Although a reputed teetotaler, Kopechne’s blood alcohol level was .10 at the time of her death.

Through their attorney, Joseph Flanagan, Kopechne’s parents filed a successful petition to keep Dr. Mills from conducting an autopsy on her.

*Some of the images, as well as confirmation of the above material above came from Y Ted K, an anti-Ted Kennedy site.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gemstone: A Tale of Two Teds, Pt. 2

Edited for accuracy, 3/23/07

Bruce Roberts’ spent a good deal of his writing mourning the woman we might regard as the patron saint of Gemstone. Roberts referred to former RFK staffer Mary Jo Kopechne (sitting farthest to the left) again and again, for she symbolized (to him) everything that was pure and innocent. He depicted her death not as a tragic accident, but rather as the blood sacrifice, a lamb caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Roberts’ version of Kopechne’s 1969 death continued the Kennedy-Mafia-Vatican-Onassis theme that lurked in the background of his Howard Hughes story.

On the weekend of July 18, 1969, Ted Kennedy held a party for his late brother Robert’s staff on Chappaquiddick, a small island off of Martha’s Vineyard (MA). The staff, mostly nubile young women, included Kopechne, a devout Catholic and former-schoolteacher, who gave up her classroom in order to make the world a better place by working through the political system. According to Roberts, Ted Kennedy attended the party intending to enjoy the company of a bevy of young beauties. Unfortunately for him and one of the beauties, an urgent business call interrupted his good time.

The business concerned a putative dispute over California politics. John Tunney, son of former heavyweight champion Gene Tunney and Ted Kennedy’s old friend from college, wanted to run for US Senator. But someone had bribed Democrat Jess Unruh to switch from the gubernatorial race to the Senate race.* While John Tunney was a shoe-in for the Democratic nomination, and therefore the Senate race, Unruh would have surely beaten him in the primary.

Roberts alleged that Tunney called Kennedy during the Chappaquiddick party from his sister’s house. Because of his connections through his father, Joseph Kennedy, and his ex-sister-in-law Jacqueline Kennedy, Ted controlled the Democratic Party on behalf of Aristotle Onassis. Ted had promised the Senate seat to Tunney, and now Tunney wanted to know why Kennedy had reneged on his promise. Kennedy assured him that he didn’t, and got back to him after several calls to find out what was going on. Apparently, San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto had decided to run for Governor, and wanted Uhruh out of the way. Kennedy then called Alioto, and ordered him to stop interfering. Alioto refused.

So, asserted Roberts, Kennedy put out a Mafia contract on Alioto.

Obviously, putting out a hit on someone is something that you want to keep outsiders from finding out. But according to Gemstone, two unfortunate witnesses overheard the plans to kill Alioto. One was Tunney’s sister, Joan (left), who was kidnapped by a couple of Mafia hoods identified only by the surnames Adamo and Mari. The pair spirited her away to a heroin factory, where she became an addict, supposedly from the fumes. After missing for two months, she stumbled into a campground in Marseille (first week of November 1969), where she asked for a drink of water from the site's owner, who called police. The cops escorted her to a local hospital, Sainte Marguerite’s, where she stayed for awhile. Upon her release, she beheaded her husband, and was subsequently committed to Boston’s prestigious McLean Hospital, a renowned institution serving the upper crust of the mentally ill.**

Roberts identified the other unfortunate witness as Mary Jo Kopechne. Kopechne had taken on the assignment of putting Robert Kennedy’s files in order, after the Senator’s assassination. She had read through them, and had come to suspect that the Kennedy clan had deep Mafia ties. When she heard Ted Kennedy ordering Alioto’s hit over the phone, she no longer suspected. She knew. And that made her angry.

Kopechne supposedly stormed out of the party after ripping Ted a new one. He followed her outside. She told Kennedy to his face that he and his family were a bunch of crooks. She then promised to take all the dirt she had learned about in RFK’s files and the phone call to someone who could really clean up the Democratic Party: Ralph Nader. She insisted upon walking back to her lodgings, but Kennedy offered to drive her. She accepted the ride but insisted upon sitting in the back seat.

During the drive, according to Roberts, Kopechne and Kennedy bickered furiously. At one point they were forced to pull over, where they were spotted and approached by Deputy Sheriff Christopher Look. Instead of speaking to the officer, Kennedy then sped off toward Dike Bridge. Kopechne, frightened by the speed, the bad condition of the road, the dark, and Kennedy’s rage, held onto Ted’s arm. Kennedy freed himself by punching her in the face, and breaking her nose. After losing control of the car, he then opened the door, and jumped out as it approached the bridge. The car, now speeding and with no driver flew in a perfect ark into the water below. Kennedy watched it sink before walking back to the party house.

Roberts then claimed that after the accident, Kennedy family political advisor (and Nader nemesis) Ted Sorensen organized a coverup:

Ted Sorenson, an advisor to JFK, was called upon to write Teddy’s Chappaquiddick ‘walk on water’ speech. Simon Rifkind, former federal judge, and Sorenson’s partner, was a key figure in the Tammany Hall Judge Crater disappearance in the 1920’s -- an old Kennedy friend. Arthur Goldberg, former U.N. Representative and Supreme Court Justice and Labor Department head for Kennedy, and a partner in the firm, hired Esther Newburgh, one of the Chappaquiddick 'girls' -- but recently, sensing problems, resigned from the firm in favor of solo private practice.

Most important, Roberts alleged that Sorensen managed to get the Catholic Church to contribute to the coverup through Jacqueline, who pressed Cardinal Richard Cushing to arrange for Kennedy’s absolution from Pope Paul VI. Ted's absolution allowed Cushing to act on his behalf. The Cardinal met with Kopechne’s family priests, who convinced Mary Jo’s parents not to pursue the matter of her death. Consequently, the family barred an autopsy, and never filed a wrongful death claim.

Roberts' account of the Chappaquiddick incident is typical Gemstone File material. It contains a number of facts that are demonstratably true, and a number of facts that are demonstratably false. Mostly, however, he provided a lot of facts that are damn difficult to check.

*Although Roberts doesn’t mention this in the Gemstone File, Stephanie Caruana wrote in the Skeleton Key that the bribe came from a Rabbi Cyril Magnin, Mae Brussell’s uncle.

**Former patients include Sylvia Plath, Ray Charles, James Taylor, and the Olsen Twins. It was also the setting for the movie Girl, Interrupted, starring Winona Ryder and Whoopi Goldberg.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Live From New York: It's Saturday Morning

It's Saturday morning, and that means that it's time to lighten things up with a cartoon.

Unless you saw this aired during the initial broadcast of Saturday Night Live, you might have missed this. NBC and Comedy Central discretely deleted this segment in reruns.

Of course, it's played for laughs. Nevertheless, everything in it is true (with the probable exception of GE supplying Lee Harvey Oswald with bullets).

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gemstone: A Tale of Two Teds

Of course, you know that seat belts come in all cars. In the US, every state has a seat belt law. (“Click it, or ticket,” say the public service announcements.) But if you’re my age or older, then you can probably remember a time when many cars did not have seatbelts. In the 1960s, the auto industry viewed them more as luxury items.

One contentious battle for automobile safety began in 1959, when a David from Connecticut threw a rock at Goliath over in Detroit. The David, a young Harvard-educated attorney named Ralph Nader, had taken a job with The Nation as a freelance writer in that year. Right off the bat, he wrote an article titled “The Safe Car You Can’t Buy,” in which he exposed the American automobile industry’s refusal to implement safety features, which car companies had already paid tons of money to develop:

The remarkable advances in crash-protection knowledge achieved by these research organizations at a cost of some $6 million stands in marked contrast to the glacier-like movements of car manufacturers, who spend that much to enrich the sound of a door slam. This is not due to any dearth of skill—the industry possesses many able, frustrated safety engineers whose suggestions over the years invariably have taken a back seat to those of the stylist.
After researching the topic for six more years, Nader followed up the article with a book titled Unsafe at Any Speed, which in addition to seat belts, championed the use of collapsible steering columns (a lot of drivers died when the steering wheel went right through them), and rear-suspension designed to keep cars from capsizing so easily. The book made Nader a heroic figure in the eyes of the public.

In the eyes of car companies, however, Nader became Enemy Number One. General Motors secretly launched a massive investigation against him. Leaving no stone unturned, they dug into his childhood, his school records, his personal contacts, and about every other aspect of his life hoping to find something in his past that might discredit him. Despite GM’s attempts to keep the snooping under wraps, Nader found out about it and sued them. A US Senate Subcommittee forced then-GM President James Roche to formally apologize to Nader for spying on him. Nader filed his own suit, and received a six-figure sum in settlement.*

The attorney defending GM against Nader’s suit was Ted Sorensen. Sorensen worked for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a high-powered law firm that, over the years, has represented such corporate giants as Time Warner and the Carlyle Group. Sorensen had earlier served under US President John F. Kennedy as a special counsel, advisor and speechwriter. After JFK’s death, Sorenson became an advisor to Robert Kennedy. After RFK’s death, he advised Ted Kennedy. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter nominated Sorenson to head the CIA, before changing his mind and nominating Adm. Stansfield Turner instead.

To Bruce Roberts, author of the Gemstone letters, Ralph Nader was a very potent symbol of how MMORDIS operated.** Roberts, like many Americans, initially saw Nader as a white knight, a symbol of everything good about Americans and their leaders. Later, however, Roberts suspected that the settlement from GM did not represent the mere resolution of a legal case, but a bribe. In his view, GM money corrupted Nader. Thus, many of his letters to Nader took on a nasty, accusatory tone that seemed designed to scold the allegedly wayward Ralph back to legitimacy. In a letter dated 2/10/1972, Roberts wrote:

Oh yes, Nader. The legal Mafia, which you and Barbara [Phillips, an editor at Ms. Magazine] espouse—in total cancerous treason—is shuddering a bit. The Vatican-Billy Graham-Mafia cringes. And those Mafia who own the press and TV. One of them is Onassis, whose ‘Hughes’s’ TV station has been airlifted to Peking to beam back Dickie’s image by way of a ‘Hughes’ Intelsat satellite over an Onassis-controlled Comsat satellite system. Meanwhile a bill is waiting quietly in Congress, to be attached to the first convenient ‘urgent’ major bill, which will grant ‘Hughes’ the world rights to launch a private world-wide satellite system. But those Media Mafia are feeling stomach pangs.
Roberts believed that in addition to engineering a buyout of Nader’s integrity, Sorensen, with the help of Aristotle Onassis, also engineered something else: a deal that kept Ted Kennedy from serving a life sentence, and salvaged the Massachusetts Senator’s political career.

*Depending on the source, the figures vary from $275,000 to $450,000.

**MMORDIS was Roberts' nickname for the alleged international criminal enterprise run by Aristoltle Onassis. It's short for "Moldering Mass Of Rotten Dribbling Infectious Shit."

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Gemstone: She Said, She Said

As mentioned in the last post, Mae Brussell’s former collaborator, Stephanie Caruana, took issue with Mae’s two broadcasts (12/25/77 & 1/1/78) devoted to the Gemstone file. In her book The Gemstone File: A Memoir, Caruana presented an abridged transcription of the radio broadcasts, and provided running commentary. As I said earlier, the transcription, from the start, is not flawless, but it does not really distort any of Mae’s views or quote them contrary to context until we get to the part about Howard Hughes. Here, Caruana quoted Mae as saying:

[Reading from the ‘The Skeleton Key’] ‘March 1957: Aristotle Onassis carried out a carefully planned action. He had Howard Hughes kidnapped from his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel, using Hughes’s own men. Hughes, battered and brain-damaged during the scuffle, was dragged off to the Emerald Isle Hotel in the Bahamas where the entire top floor had been rented for 30 days for the ‘Hughes’ party. Hughes was shot full of heroin for 30 days. At the end of that time, hopelessly addicted, he was dragged off to a ‘hospital’ cell on Onassis’s island, Skorpios, where he spent the rest of his life, a helpless vegetable in a wheel-chair….Hughes employees either quit, were fired or stayed on in the new organization.
At this point, Brussell stopped reading, and commented:

Now the Gemstone has an error here which should be cleared up. In March 1957, Howard Hughes was kept in the bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He wasn’t kidnapped, but he was isolated. He was as good as kidnapped, but he wasn’t taken down to the Bahamas like it says. He was kept in the bungalow from 1957 to 1966, and he never saw any of his old aides.
In 2006, Caruana responded:

This is all particularly strange since Mae herself had provided the suggestion, and the research materials, for ‘our’ Playgirl article. Here she is saying that she that she didn’t believe the story to which she signed her name as co-author.
Instead, Mae has simply bought into one of the many cover stories which were floated about Hughes during this period: His isolation, fear of germs, refusal to see anyone, etc., etc., etc. This particular story seems more absurd on the face of it than many other such stories! He was ‘as good as kidnapped,’ but not kidnapped??? Kept isolated in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel for nine years, and nobody knew he was there?????? But what about his ‘marriage’ to Jean Peters, and their ‘residence’ in a Beverly Hills mansion, and his simultaneous penthouse suite in a Las Vegas Hotel? This, in a town where gossip was and is the lifeblood of the community, and is also worth big bucks? And all those casinos ‘he’ bought in Las Vegas? Did he ever ‘escape’ from Mae’s version of the ‘as good as’ kidnapping? Come on, Mae! The fact that these stories were based to some extent on Hughes’s known peculiarities only made it easier for a clever man like Onassis to suggest how the various cover stories were to be shaped. Besides, anyone could make up another story to suit their fancy—unless, of course, it approached the truth!

Here, Caruana stated that Brussell had contradicted her earlier assertion that Hughes had been kidnapped and flown to the Bahamas in 1957. Moreover, Caruana accused Brussell of propagating the ‘cover story’ that Hughes disappeared because he was obsessed with germs, refused to see anyone, and etc. (one could reasonably guess that at least one of those etc.’s was heroin addiction).

If this transcription were correct, then Caruana had a very valid criticism. Even if Mae had had a change of opinion, she would have best served her listeners by alerting them to the fact that she had changed her mind. Brussell should have also told her audience why she changed her mind.

Problem is, Mae actually said:

The Gemstone goes on: [Reading from ‘The Skeleton Key’] ‘In March 1957, Aristotle Onassis carried out a carefully planned action. He had Hughes kidnapped from the bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel using Hughes’s own men, such as Chester Davis, who was born Mr. Cesare (C-E-S-A-R-E) in Sicily, Italy. And the other Hughes men either quit, or fired, or stayed on the Onassis organization.’
At this point, Brussell stopped reading, and commented:

Now the Gemstone has an error here, which should be cleared, because people I know have copies of the ‘Skeleton Gemstone,’ and I can answer these questions for you on the air and share some of the facts with you as against what Bruce wrote. In March ’57, Howard Hughes was kept in the bungalow of the Beverly Hills Hotel. He wasn’t kidnapped, but he was isolated. He was as good as kidnapped, but he wasn’t taken down to the Bahamas like he [Bruce Roberts] says. It says he was kidnapped from his hotel. That is a fact. That is an error. He was kept in the bungalow from ’57 to ’66, and he never–1966--and he never saw any of his old aides. Noah Dietrich was fired, Robert Maheu of the CIA was taking over. He [Maheu] was also in the FBI. The assassination teams were incorporated into Hughes’s organization. And the Hughes organization, at that point, became a Hitler organization, the Nazi organization, the secret government. Hughes body didn’t matter, any more. They could give him the heroin cocaine and the injections and drug him out of his mind.

He was taken on a train from Los Angeles to Boston in 1966, and again, all these things from a doctor from the medical institute that [has an] office building in Texas, but came up to Boston. So, ’57 to ’66 he was kept in the bungalow by the Los Angeles Police Department, and the Beverly Hills Police Department, Captain Jack Egger. And that is important because the kidnapping of Hughes, or the care of Hughes, didn’t just involve Aristotle Onassis. In the Gemstone files, Bruce Roberts keeps pinpointing the Mafia and Onassis as if these were the two culprits. But it goes much bigger. It infiltrates the police departments at the local level. Beverly Hills police, Los Angeles police, the Dallas police, down in the Bahamas, in Texas, and the Central Intelligence Agency, and the FBI. It’s true that narcotics traffic is involved here, but also the satellite control of the world, the communications media that’s involved, and the Hughes companies are making the satellites for space stations and communications and for weapons. And they can use [them] for agricultural surveillance, or oil surveillance, or minerals, and affect our whole lives by these satellites. And the satellites are made by the Hughes organization, and the CIA.

So Howard was kept in that bungalow, and then taken—literally kidnapped, after he was zonked. He was kept around for enough people to say, ‘Oh, he’s irresponsible,’ or ‘Mentally sick,’ or ‘Queer,’ or ‘He talks crazy.” And then from Boston, there isn’t a trace of a hair, or a fingerprint, or a sign of the real Howard Hughes.

The Gemstone papers go on to say that a few days later—this after March ’57, in April—Mayor Cannon, the new Senator Cannon from Nevada, arranged a fake marriage to Jean Peters to explain Howard’s sudden loss of interest in women. And this brain-damaged person was taken to the Emerald Isle Hotel in the Bahamas where the top floor was rented. Later, it said, after he was injected with heroin for thirty days, he was taken to a cell on Onassis’s island in Skorpios, where he spent the rest of his life. Onasis has a much larger power base in the United States: the Hughes empire.

Wayne Rector, the double, acted as Hughes’s double since 1945, and became Howard Hughes. Now to correct the Gemstone, I have been told that by what Brooks Randall said on Good Morning America that Brooks Randall, not Wayne Rector, is the double that was buried. But we haven’t seen a picture of Wayne Rector, or he hasn’t surfaced. So, it could be one of the two. It wasn’t after a few days the marriage to Jean Peters was faked. There’s no fingerprints of an application for the wedding [sic], or wedding certificate. Nobody saw the groom. The judge is dead. The woman at the office there in Nevada is dead. The circumstances of that wedding would prove without any doubt that there was no marriage to Jean Peters, and that this was an excuse to get everybody off of the tail of Howard Hughes.

Brussell agreed that Hughes had been kidnapped, but in 1966, not 1957, and only because he had become too far-gone to be of any value. Only then did Hughes’ controllers take him to the Bahamas. What’s important here is that in their 1974 article, Caruana and Brussell did not specifically state 1957 as the date of the Bahamas abduction, but they do have Hughes being sequestered at the Beverly Hills Hotel that year. So, it’s difficult to see where Brussell might have contradicted what she wrote earlier for Playgirl. Second, Brussell actually addressed the significance of the supposed Peters-Hughes secret wedding. Third, Brussell, like Caruana, believed that Hughes had been forcibly removed in 1957 for reasons other than paranoia, obsession with germs and drug addiction. As time went on, however, the forced chemical dependency and manipulation began to take its toll on Hughes until he became the doddering simpleton that most people of my generation think of him as. So it’s clear that Brussell disagreed with the "cover story." She never said that Hughes secluded himself in 1957 because of his own personal demons. Instead, Brussell insisted that Hughes forfeited control of his companies because of the external pressure exerted against him.

Most important, that external pressure did not come from Aristotle Onassis. As Mae saw it, Onassis served as Hughes’ caretaker, not his abductor.

Caruana accurately quoted Mae as saying:

Parts of this file are true, parts are absolutely untrue, some of it is difficult to check, some of it I have used in my own research and writing, and it is a very controversial document because it is filled with at lot of misinformation.
To which Caruana replied, “Misinformation? Where? Where?”

The where is in the section of Gemstone that deals with a subject area very close to Mae, a case in which she herself participated in an official investigation. Before going there, however, we’ll first take a look at another aspect of Gemstone, one based upon the Onassis-Kennedy-Mafia-Vatican connection proposed by Bruce Roberts.

To read earlier posts in this series, click here.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Gemstone: Where's Howie, Pt. 5

Over the course of two broadcasts of her radio show Dialogue Conspiracy, Mae Brussell reviewed the Gemstone material for listeners who had become familiar with it through the “Skeleton Key.” During both episodes, she neither endorsed Roberts’ writings, nor did she dismiss them. She made clear, however, that there was a danger in the documents because of their mixture of fact and error, and she spent this airtime listing a number of the accuracies and inaccuracies that she felt they contained.

Mae’s biggest problem with Gemstone was that Bruce Roberts blamed just about anything and everything on Aristotle Onassis. Brussell did not doubt the complicity of Onassis in many things, including the possible kidnapping of Howard Hughes. Nevertheless, she saw the shipping tycoon as more of a servant to a higher power, one that controlled both him and Hughes. This power had separated Onassis from any real authority, just as it had done to Hughes beginning in 1957.

Brussell hypothesized that Howard Hughes was not, in fact, kidnapped in 1957. Rather he was strongarmed out of the leadership role of his own business empire so that the CIA, through Robert Maheu, could take it over as a conduit to funnel technology, hardware and cash to certain problems related to espionage and operations. Hughes remained, more or less, under house arrest until his mental stability began to deteriorate due to isolation, his own feelings of powerlessness, and his increasing use of recreational drugs (or as we would call it today, self-medication). For nine years, the agency used him to relay their orders to his subordinates. Since none of them had any contact with him, they could not see the Company pulling his strings. But by 1966, Howard’s mental facilities prevented him from serving his masters even as a puppet. It was at this time, she guessed, that he was kidnapped, and taken to Skorpios to be cared for under Onassis’ watchful eye.

Onassis, like Hughes, was also strongarmed out of control of his empire, according to Mae. As it did for Hughes, the controlling faction arranged a marriage to explain his sudden loss of interested in other women. In this scenario, Onassis’ new bride, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, was a shrewd agent of this controlling faction whose job was, frankly, to “babysit” Onassis, and make sure he complied with orders.

On the occasion when Aristotle acted independently, he was reminded of his place swiftly and brutally. In 1973, Onassis’ twenty-five-year-old son, Alexander, died in a plane crash. Bruce Roberts cited the cause of the crash as a broken altimeter. But Gerald Carroll interviewed Alan Hunter, a private investigator hired by Onassis to find out what had happened to his son, and learned through him that the cause of the crash was due to a mixing-up of the controls. Someone had rigged the plane to turn right when the pilot turned the steering wheel left, and left when he turned the steering wheel right. Noticing that he had been drifting left, the pilot kept steering right, only to go further and further left until he had driven the plane into the ground. Whereas Roberts would dismiss the death as an accident, Brussell and Carroll asserted that Alexander Onassis was murdered. The alleged coverup into the investigation of the crash only convinced Mae that the elder Onassis had no real authority, and that he too had been a victim of this controlling faction. She cited Arstotle’s death two years later as representative of another plot.

Later conspiracy researchers would also single out the strange 1989 death of Onassis thirty-seven-year-old daughter Christina (left), who had attempted to take greater control of her father’s empire, as another case of the controlling faction’s attempt to maintain control over vast corporate wealth.

What was the name of this controlling faction, you ask?

Mae would call it ‘The Gehlen Organization.’ I’ve touched upon this thesis briefly in the past, and intend to talk a great deal more about it in the future, but there is substantial evidence to indicate that Martin Bormann and other Nazis who disappeared after World War II transferred the loot that they had stolen during the war and fled to South America in order to re-establish their plans for global dominion. In order to do this, they first had to control powerful governments that might try to stop them, and first on their list was the US.

Reinhard Gehlen, the Nazi’s chief spymaster on the Soviet Union, offered his services to the US after the war. Many believed that he helped the US found the Central Intelligence Agency, which had as its secret goal the execution of operations against targets resisting their brand of globalism. Whether he did or not, Gehlen actually had a lot of clout within US Intel, and undoubtedly had strings to pull within the Agency. Getting Hughes and Onassis out of the way, taking over the wealth, and using their own corporations to launch a number of black ops would be an attractive maneuver were one to attempt to take over the world.

At least Mae Brussell thought so. That’s why she raised her eyebrow at Roberts’ attempts to blame everything on Onassis. For her, focusing attention towards Aristotle meant diverting attention away from the true threat, namely the re-emergence of international Nazism.

Others did not think so at all, among them Mae’s former collaborator Stephanie Caruana. In her 2006 book The Gemstone File: A Memoir, Caruana took Brussell to task over these two broadcasts dated Christmas 1977, and New Year’s Day 1978. Caruana believed that Brussell mischaracterized Gemstone in order to criticize it unfairly. By drawing attention away from Onassis, Brussell alledgedly obfuscated tenuous ties that might have existed between the Onassis organization and her family (I’ll get into this later). In a chapter titled “1977-1978: ‘Dialogue Conspiracy’ or Why I Am Not a Brussell Sprout,” Caruana presented an abbreviated transcript of the shows, and added commentary in italics.

I happen to own a copy of these two broadcasts, so I listened to them as I followed along their transcriptions as printed in The Gemstone File: A Memoir. In some of her comments, Caruana correctly points out factual errors that Mae committed. For example, Mae characterized the contents of Gemstone as Bruce Roberts’ letters to his mother. Yet such is obviously not the case as many of the letters are written to Ralph Nader, with other letters written to foreign embassies and other political players. Caruana also correctly notes that Mae did not read from the Gemstone file as she claimed, but rather from the “Skeleton Key.” (Mae made other factual goofs that Caruana did not comment upon.)

The transcription, however, is interesting, for it is not a verbatim account of what Mae actually said during these broadcasts. For the most part, the discrepancies between the transcript and the broadcast are minor. Although one would ideally like to have a verbatim transcript at hand for the sake of integrity (you never want to put words in someone else’s mouth), these differences neither change Brussell’s meaning, nor do they portray her remarks contrary to their context--that is, until you get to the part of the transcription that deals with the Howard Hughes affair.

To read later posts in this series, click here.

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