The year after the Warren Report
was issued, Ford published his own book called Portrait of the Assassin. Ford arranged for John Stiles, his first campaign manager and Nixon's campaign field director, to be his assistant while on the Commission. Their book was essentially a rehash of the Commission's view of Oswald
. It made for dull reading. Consequently, the publisher told them to spice it up. So they added a section about the report from Texas of Oswald being an FBI informant. (See this review, Pt. 7, Section 6) The problem was that at the time the book was published the records of that Warren Commission
executive sessions were classified. Evidently, Ford had little problem with violating the law in order to smear Oswald
and make a little money in the process. But in 1973, Nixon chose Ford to replace Spiro Agnew as his Vice-President. Ford was now questioned about his use of classified material. He lied under oath about what he had done. He said he only used material in the Warren Commission volumes for that book – which he clearly had not. When later exposed, Ford apologized for his misdeed. (Marrs, p. 467) Six months after he became president, Ford declassified the material in question. (ibid)
While a congressman, Ford developed a reputation for being one of the CIA's best friends. (ibid, p. 466) In 1974, when Nixon resigned under the pressure of the Watergate scandal, President Ford
immediately began to prove his reputation. Many people on the Watergate Committee, like Sen. Howard Baker, suspected that the CIA had played a role in that affair and that Richard Helms had manipulated the FBI inquiry
. (Daniel Schorr, Clearing the Air
, p. 139) Consequently, there was a movement to investigate the crimes of the CIA and FBI. Ford gave a speech at the time in which he defended the Agency against the rumors that they had overthrown Salvador Allende in Chile the year before. Which turned out to be true. When asked if this action was not in violation of international law, the new president replied with "I am not going to pass judgment on whether it is permitted or authorized under international law. It is a recognized fact that historically as well as presently, such actions are taken in the best interest of the countries involved." (Time, 9/30/74) In other words: Uncle Sam Knows Best. Time commented "Ford's words seemed to represent an anachronistic, cold-war view of national security reminiscent of the 1950"s. Complained Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho: 'Its tantamount to saying that we respect no law save the law of the jungle.' " (ibid)
In late 1974, even more friction came between President Ford and Sen. Church. James Angleton had badly divided the CIA over the Yuri Nosenko affair
. In order to force him to resign as counter-intelligence chief, Director Bill Colby had given a story to the CIA friendly Sy Hersh
. This story uncovered some of the illegal surveillance operations Angleton had run out of his shop. When exposed at Christmas time in the pages of the NY Times, the story created a sensation. Angleton resigned. Ford called Colby for a briefing. Realizing this would give Frank Church the opening he needed for a full-scale inquiry into the intelligence community, Ford tried to divert that by appointing his VP, Nelson Rockefeller, to run his own inquest. (Schorr, p. 143) Called the Rockefeller Commission, this was seen as something of a whitewash. The report contained an annex on the JFK assassination. But since Ford brought back Warren Commission assistant counsel David Belin
as Executive Director, this was viewed as something of a joke: two original cover-up men redoing the cover-up. In fact, the report deliberately distorted the testimony of Dr. Cyril Wecht
. (See Cover-Up, by Gary Shaw and Larry Harris, p. 29) It was also the first official JFK inquiry to use the goofy "neuromuscular reaction" as a way to explain Kennedy's violent rearward action at the time of the head shot (ibid)
The appointment of Belin indicated Ford's stance during the entire 18 months of what one author has called "the season of inquiry". This refers to the two investigative committees set up in congress: the Pike Committee
in the House and the Church Committee
in the Senate. They ended up replacing the Rockefeller Commission. This is as close as the USA has ever come to explaining to the public just what the CIA and FBI have done in the name of national security. Who knows what they would have achieved if Ford had not fought them. Why did he resist an open-ended inquiry? It might be that he understood that his work on the Commission could have been exposed for the sham it was. Why do I say that? Because Ford did.
On January 16, 1975 he held a White House luncheon for the editors of the NY Times. Someone asked why Ford had picked such a conservative and defense minded panel to make up the Rockefeller Commission
(e.g. Ronald Reagan
was a member). The president said he needed people who would not stray from the straight and narrow. If they did, they could stumble upon matters that might hurt the national interest. The editor asked "Like what?" Ford replied with, "Like assassinations!"
(Schorr, p. 144) Ford added that this was off the record. But reporter Daniel Schorr deduced that since the Rockefeller Commission was investigating domestic matters, Ford must have meant American assassinations. (ibid) But later CIA Director William Colby effectively spun Ford's comment . He told Schorr that the CIA had run assassination plots abroad, but not in America. (ibid) This deftly neutralized Ford's slip. The committees would now look at CIA assassination plots against foreign leaders. In regards to the JFK case, the Church Committee would only investigate the performance of the intelligence agencies in investigating Kennedy's murder
But even Colby was too much for Ford. He was deemed too open with congress. After all, when mobster Sam Giancana
was murdered before testifying, Colby went out of his way to say the CIA had nothing to do with it. (ibid, p. 155) Colby was later fired for being too forthcoming. Ford picked George Bush to replace him. And as further signal of his new "get tough" policy, Ford made a young Dick Cheney
his Chief of Staff, and moved Donald Rumsfeld
into the Pentagon.
With all these elements in place, Ford decided to use the 1975 murder of a CIA officer as a way to squelch and smear any further investigation. Richard Welch was the CIA station chief in Athens. The CIA and Ford blamed his death on the fact that his name had been exposed by an American journal called Counterspy. In fact, the leftist rebel group who killed him had issued a communiqué beforehand that revealed they knew his name then. (Schorr, p. 191) In a classic case of political propaganda, Ford and the CIA pulled out all the stops in using Welch's funeral as psychological warfare against the committees. Welch's body was flown into Andrews Air Force Base
. But the plane circled the base for 15 minutes to time the landing for the morning news shows. (ibid) Ford attended the chapel service. But the press was barred in order to suggest that they were to blame for Welch's murder. Colby issued a statement saying that Welch's death was the result of a "paranoiac attack on ... Americans serving their country." David Phillips
was interviewed by CBS and said, American agents are in less danger today from the KGB than from the "moral primitives" who "condemn my label". (ibid) Welch's body was buried at Arlington with full military honors. His coffin was carried on the same horse-drawn caisson that carried President Kennedy's. Colby gave the flag draped over it to Welch's widow. As Schorr wrote, "This is the CIA's first secret agent to become a pubic national hero."
It worked. Henry Kissinger jumped on the committees: "I think they have used classified information in a reckless way ... " (ibid p. 194) Both committees closed up shop shortly after. Ford and the CIA held veto power over what could be published. When Otis Pike defied that agreement, Congress bottled up his report. A copy was smuggled to Daniel Schorr
. As he was arranging to have it released, his boss, Bill Paley
, lunched with Bush. (ibid, p. 201) The Pike Report was published in a special issue of The Village Voice. Forgetting his own use of classified material for his Oswald book, Ford now proposed an FBI investigation to find out who gave the report to Schorr. (ibid, p. 208) After Paley's meeting with Director Bush, Schorr was taken off the air by CBS. After a two hour impromptu interrogation – during which he was not represented by counsel – Schorr was fired by the network. He was later investigated by the House but refused to reveal his source for the report.
Ford's performance with the Pike and Church Committees reveal his character in extremis. When it came to the intelligence community and their role in covert operations – including coups and assassinations – Ford joined whole-heartedly in the cover-up. This sheds retrospective light on his performance for the Warren Commission. But you would never know that from Reclaiming History. Because you will find not one reference there to either Daniel Schorr or Richard Welch. Therefore you are not informed of how Ford engaged in warfare with the Pike and Church Committees. The Pike Committee is mentioned four times in the book, but only as a source. Bugliosi never chronicles what happened to it at the hands of Ford and the CIA. The influence of Colby's leak about Angleton to Hersh
and Ford's creation of the Rockefeller Commission is dealt with in a footnote. (p. 1236) In the references to Ford in the book, I could find no mention of the lunch with the Times and his blurting out the word "assassination" as the reason why he picked who he did for the Rockefeller Commission...
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