ROBERT F. KENNEDY HAUNTED BY MURDER OF HIS BROTHER; DID NOT BUY OFFICIAL EXPLANATION OF JFK ASSASSINATION

06/06/07 Robert Lorei
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Today on Radioactivity: an interview with the author of BROTHERS: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years (Free Press) by Salon.com founder David Talbot.

In a piece for Salon.com Talbot wrote: "One of the most intriguing mysteries about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, that darkest of American labyrinths, is why his brother Robert F. Kennedy apparently did nothing to investigate the crime. Bobby Kennedy was, after all, not just the attorney general of the United States at the time of the assassination -- he was his brother's devoted partner, the man who took on the administration's most grueling assignments, from civil rights to organized crime to Cuba, the hottest Cold War flashpoint of its day. But after the burst of gunfire in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, ended this unique partnership, Bobby Kennedy seemed lost in a fog of grief, refusing to discuss the assassination with the Warren Commission, and telling friends he had no heart for an aggressive investigation. "What difference does it make?" he would say. "It won't bring him back."

But Bobby Kennedy was a complex man, and his years in Washington had taught him to keep his own counsel and proceed in a subterranean fashion. What he said in public about Dallas was not the full story. Privately, RFK -- who had made his name in the 1950s as a relentless investigator of the underside of American power -- was consumed by the need to know the real story about his brother's assassination. This fire seized him on the afternoon of Nov. 22, as soon as FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, a bitter political enemy, phoned to say -- almost with pleasure, thought Bobby -- that the president had been shot. And the question of who killed his brother continued to haunt Kennedy until the day he too was gunned down, on June 5, 1968.

Because of his proclivity for operating in secret, RFK did not leave behind a documentary record of his inquiries into his brother's assassination. But it is possible to retrace his investigative trail, beginning with the afternoon of Nov. 22, when he frantically worked the phones at Hickory Hill -- his Civil War-era mansion in McLean, Va. -- and summoned aides and government officials to his home. Lit up with the clarity of shock, the electricity of adrenaline, Bobby Kennedy constructed the outlines of the crime that day -- a crime, he immediately concluded, that went far beyond Lee Harvey Oswald, the 24-year-old ex-Marine arrested shortly after the assassination. Robert Kennedy was America's first assassination conspiracy theorist.

CIA sources began disseminating their own conspiratorial view of Kennedy's murder within hours of the crime, spotlighting Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union and his public support for Fidel Castro. In New Orleans, an anti-Castro news organization released a tape of Oswald defending the bearded dictator. In Miami, the Cuban Student Directorate -- an exile group funded secretly by a CIA program code-named AMSPELL -- told reporters about Oswald's connections to the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. But Robert Kennedy never believed the assassination was a communist plot. Instead, he looked in the opposite direction, focusing his suspicions on the CIA's secretive anti-Castro operations, a murky underworld he had navigated as his brother's point man on Cuba. Ironically, RFK's suspicions were shared by Castro himself, whom he had sought to overthrow throughout the Kennedy presidency.

The attorney general was supposed to be in charge of the clandestine war on Castro -- another daunting assignment JFK gave him, after the spy agency's disastrous performance at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. But as he tried to establish control over CIA operations and to herd the rambunctious Cuban exile groups into a unified progressive front, Bobby learned what a swamp of intrigue the anti-Castro world was. Working out of a sprawling Miami station code-named JM/WAVE that was second in size only to the CIA's Langley, Va., headquarters, the agency had recruited an unruly army of Cuban militants to launch raids on the island and even contracted Mafia henchmen to kill Castro -- including mob bosses Johnny Rosselli, Santo Trafficante and Sam Giancana, whom Kennedy, as chief counsel for the Senate Rackets Committee in the late 1950s, had targeted. It was an overheated ecosystem that was united not just by its fevered opposition to the Castro regime, but by its hatred for the Kennedys, who were regarded as traitors for failing to use the full military might of the United States against the communist outpost in the Caribbean."

WMNF's Rob Lorei interviewed Talbot about the book, what Kennedy confidantes had told Talbot and why RFK kept his fears out of the public.

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