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The Rise of America’s Secret Government: The Deadly Legacy of Ex-CIA Director Allen Dulles Pt. 2

Web ExclusiveOctober 14, 2015
Media Options

Extended web-only interview with David Talbot, author of “The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government,” about how Dulles’ time at the CIA helped shape the current national security state. Talbot discusses Dulles’ close ties to The New York Times, the CIA-backed coups in Iran and Guatemala, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and more.

Watch Part 1 of the Democracy Now! interview

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StoryOct 13, 2015The Rise of America’s Secret Government: The Deadly Legacy of Ex-CIA Director Allen Dulles
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest is David Talbot. His book is The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. He’s the founder and former CEO and editor-in-chief of Salon. Let’s start with the title, The Devil’s Chessboard. Why did you call it that, David?

DAVID TALBOT: The Devil’s Chessboard refers to the fact that the Dulles brothers—John Foster Dulles, who’s secretary of state under Eisenhower, and his brother, Allen Dulles, who I focus on, head of the CIA—they loved to play chess with each other. They would go at it for hours, even when Allen Dulles was about to be married. He kept his wife-to-be waiting around while the two brothers went at it. And they tended to look at the world as their chessboard. People were pawns to be manipulated. So I felt that was a—you know, an apt metaphor.

But, Amy, I wanted to go back to what you were talking about—alternative media—before this. I think—I just want to underline what you were saying about how essential it is to have countervoices. They are the lifeblood of democracy. And shows like yours and public radio are just essential. You know, my book is having a hard time getting through the media gatekeepers. They don’t want to hear about this, and in part because the CIA, particularly under Allen Dulles, but even today, are masters at manipulating the media. I’ve been on shows and been bumped. I was scheduled to be on shows at the last minute, strangely. I was supposed to write something for Politico magazine. Someone there called the book a “masterpiece.” They wanted the book to be, you know, showcased there. Instead, I was bumped from Politico. And an article based on recently leaked CIA documents—conveniently leaked—was written by a former New York Times reporter, Phil Shenon, and what he did was to basically accuse Fidel Castro of assassinating President Kennedy. This has been a CIA disinformation line for years. So the CIA is still manipulating the media, and it’s essential that independent media exists, like this.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the relationship between The New York Times publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, and Allen Dulles?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, the Sulzberger family had a long relationship with Dulles. When he was inaugurated as CIA director, one of the Sulzbergers wrote to him, saying, “This is the best news I’ve heard in years.” In another letter, he calls him affectionately “Ally.” They were on a first name basis. They belonged to the same clubs. They were masters at—the Dulles brothers, particularly Allen—at manipulating the media. After the Warren Report comes out, the official investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy, one of the top editors at Newsweek writes to Allen Dulles. And I’m getting all this from Allen Dulles’s own files; he was very proud of the fact that he could—he had the media in the palm of his hand. But this Newsweek editor writes to him, “Thank you so much for basically directing our coverage of the Warren Report. We couldn’t have done it without you.” So, you know, this was the kind of cozy relationship that existed between the CIA and the media in those years. CBS, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, they were all in the palm of the CIA’s hands. They all lived together in Georgetown. They had cocktail parties together. It was a very cozy set.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, in Guatemala today, there has been a popular uprising. It has been quite astounding. Otto Pérez Molina, OPM, the president, was thrown out, is in jail right now. I wanted to go to Allan Nairn, longtime investigative reporter, who was in Guatemala during this period. And this also goes back to 1954. But Allan Nairn has been covering Guatemala since the 1980s.

ALLAN NAIRN: This is an oligarchy in Guatemala which kills its own unionists, which kills peasants who try to organize the plantations, which works hand in glove with Washington and is now trying to hold onto their power, because, for the first time, it’s under threat. I mean, this is a historic moment. It all began in 1954, when the CIA invaded Guatemala, overthrew a democratically elected government and put the army in power. And now, the people have risen.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Allan Nairn talking about this most recent uprising. But, David Talbot, can you go back to 1954, where we left off in Part 1 of our conversation, and talk about what actually happened? Who was Allen Dulles, the CIA director, and his brother, John Foster Dulles, the state—the secretary of state, working for?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, of course, their original power goes back to Sullivan & Cromwell, this very powerful Wall Street law firm that John Foster Dulles ran and where Allen Dulles worked. And among their clients was United Fruit. United Fruit, of course, was this colossus, this corporate colossus, that ruled much of Latin America, owned, you know, vast acreage in Guatemala and many other countries. They weren’t just a banana company. They were a multinational real estate company. They owned often the utilities. And they owned the local political elites in those countries.

In the early '50s, Jacobo Árbenz, this young military officer, a reform officer, starts to emerge as a potential leader. He runs for president and is elected by his people on a reform campaign. And one of the first things he does, of course, in this country that's basically a medieval country ruled by land barons, is to begin to nationalize some of the land, that’s not being even used by United [Fruit], and give it to the people themselves, the farmers, to work. And this provokes a major backlash from United Fruit, from the local political elites, the oligarchs, and from the CIA. Allen Dulles, working for Eisenhower as CIA director, portrays Jacobo Árbenz as a dangerous communist—he wasn’t—and prepares to overthrow him in a military coup, which does occur.

What I tell the story of, mostly I focus on, is the tragic aftermath of that coup, because not only for the Árbenz family, which, in some ways, were the Kennedys of Guatemala—glamorous, young couple, Jacobo and María Árbenz, their children, very good-looking, wealthy, but very committed to uplifting the poor in that country. And after the coup, they’re sent into a terrible exile. No country will touch them, because CIA pressure. The CIA and the State Department pressure every country, from Mexico throughout Latin America, not to take the Árbenz family in. They’re finally forced to go behind the Iron Curtain to Czechoslovakia to seek exile. They’re not happy there. They finally end up back in Mexico, but they’re under tight supervision. The family is haunted. It’s stalked wherever it goes. One of his daughters commits suicide. And Jacobo Árbenz himself ends up dead under mysterious circumstances—scalded to death in a bathtub in a Mexico City hotel. His family today believes that he was assassinated. And given the fact that the CIA had a death list of left-wing figures, journalists, political leaders, after the coup that were to be eliminated, that, you know, is a distinct possibility.

So, these ripples of tragedy, after these coups, go on and on. You know, the CIA and Allen Dulles told Eisenhower after the Guatemala coup, “Oh, it was a clean coup. You know, hardly anyone died.” But the fact is, tens of thousands of people died in the killing fields of Guatemala as a result of that coup, and that violence continues today.

AMY GOODMAN: And wasn’t it also a precursor to what happened with the Bay of Pigs? Move forward like, what, six years, and explain what happened.

DAVID TALBOT: Right. Well, emboldened by how easy it was to do a regime change in Guatemala, yes, when Fidel Castro comes to power in Cuba, he again antagonizes the same corporate interests that the Dulles brothers represent—oil companies, like the Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil, and others, agribusiness firms. So they believe that Fidel has to be eliminated, and they begin plotting, under the Eisenhower administration, with Eisenhower’s approval, to kill, to assassinate Fidel Castro. And, in fact, at one point, Fidel Castro, who was beloved in this country after the revolution—he had overthrown a thug, a Mafia-backed thug, Batista, a very corrupt and violent dictatorship. He was seen as the future, and very glamorous, he and Che Guevara and so on. They would come to New York and would be mobbed by people in the streets. When they came to New York for a U.N. meeting in 1960, though, the Eisenhower administration was already pushing back, and no hotel would take them. Finally, a hotel in Midtown did take them, but there was—they asked for so much money as security, they were basically blackmailing Fidel. He was outraged, and he ended up staying in a hotel in Harlem that took him in.

AMY GOODMAN: Hotel Theresa.

DAVID TALBOT: Hotel Theresa. And they stood up to this Washington pressure, the manager of that hotel, who was African-American. He had grown up in Jim Crow South. And he said, “You know, I know what it’s like to be denied a roof over your head. This Cuban delegation can stay here.” So it was a very—

AMY GOODMAN: Did he meet Malcolm X there?

DAVID TALBOT: He did. It was a very dramatic moment. Malcolm X makes a visit to the Hotel Theresa. He squeezes into his suite, where there’s dozens of people crammed. They have a very interesting encounter, Fidel and Malcolm. And it really changed their lives and had a big impact on both of those men for years afterwards. In fact, Malcolm said he was one of the few white men that he learned to respect and appreciate. And, by the way, there was an FBI guy taking notes the whole time in that hotel room, so we know some of what happened there and the dialogue, because of the FBI report on this.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was it?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, his name was not revealed, but there was an agent surveilling him. But meanwhile, while Fidel is there, meeting with Khrushchev from the Soviet Union and Nasser from Egypt and the world leaders and embarrassing the Eisenhower administration, because here he’s gone to Harlem, and, you know, no one else would take him in, in Midtown Manhattan—meanwhile, the Mafia is meeting with CIA agents at the Plaza Hotel, just blocks away, plotting his assassination. So, a lot of intrigue in 1960 going on in New York. And then, to make it even more interesting, a young JFK, who’s campaigning for president, after Fidel has left, shows up at the Hotel Theresa and basically says, “This is revolutionary ground I’m standing on. And we should welcome the winds of change and the revolution, the future. We shouldn’t be afraid of it.” So, very end—and begins to talk about the mortality rate of black infants in Harlem and many of the issues that are still current.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, look at what President Kennedy, then President Kennedy, did, when it came to Cuba—


AMY GOODMAN: —what happened under his reign, from the Bay of Pigs to the endless assassination attempts of Fidel Castro.

DAVID TALBOT: Kennedy did do a flip-flop, to an extent, after that. He came in as president. He was young. He was untested, under a lot of pressure from the national security people in his administration. He inherited the Bay of Pigs operation, the plans for that. He was basically told, “Look, if you pull the plug on this thing, it’s so far along now, there will be a major political backlash against you.” So he was kind of sandbagged by the CIA. He did go through with it, but he had no intention of widening it into an all-out U.S. military assault on the island, on Cuba. But that’s what the CIA had in mind. They knew that this motley crew of Cuban exiles they put together to invade the island wasn’t sufficient to unseat Castro. But what they hoped and what they planned was that a young President Kennedy, as this invasion was bogged down on the beaches of the Bay of Pigs, would be forced then to send in the Marines and the U.S. Air Force to topple Castro.

AMY GOODMAN: And then, of course, the Cuban missile crisis, the closest we ever came to a nuclear war.

DAVID TALBOT: Well, but Kennedy stood his ground, and he didn’t do that. And that was the beginning of his break, at the Bay of Pigs, between the CIA and Cuba—and President Kennedy. And then, yes, that became even more severe with the Cuban missile crisis the following year. Again, the military in this country and the CIA thought that we could take, you know, Castro out. During the Cuban missile crisis, they were prepared to go to a nuclear war to do that. President Kennedy thought people like Curtis LeMay, who was head of the Air Force, General Curtis LeMay, was half-mad. He said, “I don’t even see this man in my—you know, in my sight,” because he was pushing for a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union. And even years later, Curtis LeMay, after years after Kennedy is dead, in an interview that I quote from in the book, bitterly complains that Kennedy didn’t take this opportunity to go nuclear over Cuba. So, President Kennedy basically, I think, saved my life—I was 12 years old at the time—saved a lot of our lives, because he did stand his ground. He took a hard line against the national security people and said, “No, we’re going to peacefully resolve the Cuban missile crisis.”

AMY GOODMAN: And then President Kennedy, on November 22nd, 1963, was assassinated.

DAVID TALBOT: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to David Talbot, who is author of The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. What did you find when it came to Kennedy’s assassination?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, first of all, after Kennedy did fire Allen Dulles after the Bay of Pigs, Dulles didn’t get the memo. He went home to Georgetown and continued to operate from his home as if he were still running the CIA. His top deputies came on a regular basis to meet with him. He—

AMY GOODMAN: You had notes of his wife and his mistress.

DAVID TALBOT: That’s right. I found his daybook, who he was meeting with. I read his—the correspondence. I read his mistress’s diaries and journals.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was his mistress?

DAVID TALBOT: A woman named Mary Bancroft, a very interesting woman, related to the gentleman who started or was the top editor at The Wall Street Journal. She had aspirations of her own. She became a spy for Allen Dulles in Switzerland during World War II when they started their affair. And curiously, then, when his wife shows up in Switzerland at the end of the war, Clover Dulles, the two women become friends. Clover Dulles figures out what’s been going on. She kind of gives it a pass. And the two women then form a tight bond throughout the rest of their lives. And their correspondence is fascinating. They both were patients of Carl Jung, one of the founding fathers of psychiatry in Switzerland.

And they called Allen Dulles “The Shark,” these two women, because they both knew the kind of man they were dealing with—full of surface charm and, you know, a very popular party guest on the Washington circuit, but underneath a very cold man, a man who was capable of sending people to their death with the blink of an eye, a man who was capable of putting his own child, Allen Jr., in the hands of an experimental doctor who was working for the CIA in the notorious MKULTRA program, which Naomi Klein and others have written about.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain it very briefly, and what happened to Allen Jr.?

DAVID TALBOT: MKULTRA was—they called it the Manhattan Project of the mind. It was an attempt by the CIA, funding—millions of dollars—funding scientists and doctors around the country, major institutions, to see if we could program people for whatever purpose. It was a mind control program. His son, Allen Jr., came back from the war, Korean War, with a piece of shrapnel in his brain. He was brain-damaged, and the family had difficulty with him. He was trying to find his way. And at one point, Allen Dulles put him in the hands of this scientist here in New York who did unspeakable sort of experiments on him involving insulin overdose therapy, which is a very traumatic therapy—convulsions, sometimes resulting in death. His sister was appalled—Allen Dulles’s daughter—when she went to visit him in the hospital. And it was from her that I got this story.

Joan Dulles is a very amazing woman—Joan Talley, as she’s known today, a retired Jungian therapist in New Mexico, drives a Prius with an Obama sticker on it. I’m sure her father is spinning in his grave. But she, herself, like many of us, at the age of 90 when I interviewed her, was grappling with this dark legacy in America, that played out within her own family. You know, she’s looking back on this now and is appalled, in some way, that she—it was a part of her life. But she’s reading the books—and I hope she reads mine—and is coming to some kind of determination about her father.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what MKULTRA was used for.

DAVID TALBOT: Well, MKULTRA, among other things, they were seeing if they could program a Manchurian candidate, assassins who would act in a robotic-like fashion to kill on CIA command. They were also using it as enhanced interrogation, as we call it today. Soviet prisoners who would fall into our hands, they were—

AMY GOODMAN: And the drug is actually?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, many different drugs, psychedelic—LSD was one of the drugs. They subjected—there was a particular place in Canada at the Allan Institute and McGill University in Canada, where one of these doctors, Dr. Ewen Cameron, he operated something called the sleep room, where women, many—mostly women, and patients of his would be put. These were people who were suffering from common neurotic disorders, postpartum depression and so on. And they were put in this sleep room and, through massive doses of various psychedelic drugs, were put into a sleep state, and then tape loops were played over and over again in an attempt to erase their bad patterns of thinking, and often wiping out their memory. They would come out of these experiments not knowing their family, who they were. In one case, a woman was reduced to an infantile state. She couldn’t use a toilet. And this was the wife of a Canadian—a member of the Canadian Parliament. So this was all CIA-funded research during the Cold War, and it was, you know, basically the most inhumane sort of methods being used on people.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to David Talbot, and we digressed from the assassination of John F. Kennedy.


AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what you learned in writing The Devil’s Chessboard.

DAVID TALBOT: Well, as I was saying, after he was fired by Kennedy, Dulles went to his home. He continued—

AMY GOODMAN: And why was he fired?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, he was fired after the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy realized he shouldn’t have kept Dulles on from the Eisenhower years. They were philosophically too different. And the Bay of Pigs was the final straw for him. So he was pushed out after that.

And—but Dulles, as I say, continued to sort of set up an anti-Kennedy government in exile in his home in Georgetown. Many of the people he was meeting with, several of the people, including Howard Hunt and others, later became figures of suspicion during the House Select Committee on Assassination hearings in Washington in the 1970s. You know, most Americans don’t know that that was the last official statement, the last official report, on the Kennedy assassination, not the Warren Report back in 1964. But the Congress reopened the investigation into John Kennedy’s assassination, and they did determine he was killed as the result of a conspiracy.

So a number of the people who came up during this investigation by Congress were figures of interest who were meeting with Allen Dulles. They had no, you know, obvious reason to be meeting with a “retired” CIA official. The weekend of Kennedy’s assassination, Allen Dulles is not at home watching television like the rest of America. He’s at a remote CIA facility, two years after being pushed out of the agency by Kennedy, called The Farm, in northern Virginia, that he used when he was director of the CIA as a kind of an alternate command post. Well, he’s there while Kennedy is killed, after Kennedy is killed, when Jack Ruby then kills Lee Harvey Oswald. That whole fateful weekend, he’s hunkered down in a CIA command post. So, there are many odd circumstances like this.

I also found out from interviewing the children of another former CIA official that one of the key figures of interest in the Kennedy assassination, a guy named William Harvey, who was head of the CIA-Mafia plot against Castro and hated the Kennedys, thought that they were weak and so on, he was seen leaving his Rome station and flying to Dallas, by his own deputy, on an airplane early in November 1963. This is a remarkable sighting, because to place someone like William Harvey, the head of the CIA’s assassination unit, put there by Allen Dulles, in Dallas in November of '63 before the assassination is a very important fact. The CIA, by the way, refuses, even at this late date, to release the travel vouchers for people like William Harvey. Under the JFK Records Act, that was passed back in the 1990s, they are compelled by federal law to release all documents related to the Kennedy assassination, but they're still withholding over 1,100 of these documents, including—and I—

AMY GOODMAN: Fifteen seconds.

DAVID TALBOT: I used the Freedom of Information Act to try and get the travel vouchers for William Harvey. They’re still holding onto them.

AMY GOODMAN: How many calls are you getting in the mainstream media to do interviews?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, thank God, I was saying earlier, for alternative media, like this, Amy, because there is resistance to this book. First of all, I call out the mainstream media. I say that New York Times, CBS, Washington Post, Newsweek, they were all under his thumb. They did his bidding.

AMY GOODMAN: Whose thumb?

DAVID TALBOT: Allen Dulles’s thumb. So, when the Warren Report came out, I was saying that one of the editors, top editors, at Newsweek wrote to him and said, “Thank you so much, Mr. Dulles, for helping shape our coverage of the Warren Report.” Well, of course, Allen Dulles was on the Warren Commission. In fact, some people thought it should have been called the Dulles Commission, because he dominated it so much. So, you know, it’s way too cozy, the relationship between Washington power and the media. And—

AMY GOODMAN: What was the relationship between Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, and Allen Dulles, the head of the CIA?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, they were social friends, not just him, but other members of the Sulzberger family. I found, you know, cozy correspondence between them, congratulating him when he was inaugurated, Dulles, as CIA director. They called him “Ally,” one of the Sulzberger families, in one letter. They would get together, you know, every year. Dulles would hold these media sort of drink fests for New Year’s. And these were, you know, top reporters, top editors, would get together with the CIA guys and rub elbows and get a little drunk. And, you know, when Allen Dulles didn’t want a reporter, because he felt he was being overly aggressive, covering, say, Guatemala—Sydney Gruson, the reporter—in the run-up to the coup there in 1954, he had—he made a call to The New York Times and had him removed. That was because of his relationship with Sulzberger, the publisher. So, that was the kind of pull that Allen Dulles had.

AMY GOODMAN: How did that work?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, they just took him out. They removed Gruson. They transferred him, I think to Mexico, at that point.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you compare Smedley Butler, the general, who was—called himself, what? A racketeer for capitalism, when he was asked to overthrow countries and said no—


AMY GOODMAN: —to Allen Dulles?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, one’s a hero, and one’s a villain, to put it pure and simple. Smedley Darlington Butler, who I’ve also written about—I wrote an illustrated history, for readers of all ages, called Devil Dog. Smedley was an American hero. He was a guy who joined the Marines at 16, didn’t know any better, ran off all around the world fighting America’s imperial wars from China to throughout Latin America, ended up in France during World War I. And by the time he was a middle-aged man, he had seen the kind of dirty work that was done by America’s soldiers in the name of American business interests. And he said he was like Al Capone. He said, “We marines were like Al Capone, except that Al Capone couldn’t even measure up to us, the kind of thuggery that we were capable of, that we committed in America’s name throughout Latin America, particularly.”

AMY GOODMAN: And wasn’t it just not through Latin America, like overthrowing Árbenz, but wasn’t the Pitcairn family in the United States involved with attempting a coup against FDR and wanted to recruit Smedley Butler to do it?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, that’s what—as I write in my book, that it was his great moment of heroism, because he was a hero to soldiers, to the rank and file. He had spoken to the famous Bonus Army March, where World War I veterans were demanding pay for the time they had lost when they were overseas. He spoke before them. It was a very controversial thing he did as a retired officer, retired general from the Marines. And so, because he was so popular with the rank and file, when a number of corporate families like the DuPonts and others became furious at FDR for being a class traitor, as they called him, and pushing through these Wall Street reforms and other things that were infuriating them, they went to—representatives of theirs went to Smedley Butler and said, “Would you lead a march again, like the Bonus Army March on Washington? But this time we want them to be armed, the soldiers to be armed.” Essentially, “Will you lead a coup against Franklin Roosevelt?” And instead of going along with this, he went before Congress and outed this plot.

AMY GOODMAN: And who were the families? Who were the—

DAVID TALBOT: Well, DuPonts were one of them. The family that owned Remington, the arms factory, was also involved. A number of these people were clients of the Dulleses. Foster Dulles, by the way, John Foster Dulles, who later became secretary of state, ran the Wall Street firm Sullivan & Cromwell. When FDR starts to push through some of these reforms, like the Security Exchange Commission and others, Glass-Steagall, he convenes all his wealthy clients in his office on Wall Street and says, “Just ignore this. We’ll resist this. We won’t go along with these reforms.”

AMY GOODMAN: The Nazis? Very quickly.

DAVID TALBOT: The Nazis, well, they have a very tight relationship, many Nazi businessmen, with the Dulles brothers. And when Allen Dulles was in Switzerland, supposedly working for our side, the OSS, during the war, he was actually using that to meet with a lot of Nazis and to cut separate deals with them. He did indeed finally cut a separate peace deal with the Nazi forces in Italy against FDR’s wishes. FDR had a policy of unconditional surrender. Don’t—

AMY GOODMAN: This was Operation Paperclip?

DAVID TALBOT: This was Operation Sunrise, was this deal that he made. And then he set up these rat-lines, so-called, where Nazis, leading Nazi war criminals, escaped after the war through the Alps in Switzerland, down into Italy and then overseas to Latin America and even in the United States. One of the key Nazis he saved was Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s former chief of intelligence, who he installed, Dulles, as head of West German intelligence after the war, a man who should have stood trial at Nuremberg.

AMY GOODMAN: Who turned you down?

DAVID TALBOT: You know, well, Politico was one. Politico, you know, one of the leading publications, online publications and a print publication, you know, had—I was supposed to write something for them there. Instead, they went with a piece by, as I say, a former New York Times guy named Phil Shenon, based on leaked CIA documents that basically pin the Kennedy assassination on Fidel Castro. This is absurd. Fidel Castro, when he heard about Kennedy’s assassination, crumpled. He knew that Kennedy was trying to open back channels with him to establish peace between Cuba and the United States, years before Obama finally did. In fact, Jean Daniel, who was a French reporter, was with Fidel, at Kennedy’s behest, in Havana, basically carrying this olive branch to Fidel from Kennedy, when they got the terrible news from Dallas.

AMY GOODMAN: Who do you think killed John Kennedy?

DAVID TALBOT: Well, I believe what Robert Kennedy believed. Robert Kennedy, as I showed in my book earlier, Brothers, and in this book, looked immediately at the killing team that was put together by the CIA to kill Fidel Castro. That CIA killing team, I think, was responsible for killing President Kennedy, as well. That team that was killing foreign leaders, that was targeting foreign leaders, that Dulles had assembled, including men like William Harvey, Howard Hunt, David Morales—these were all key figures of suspicion by Congress during the House Assassinations Committee investigation in the ’70s. That was the team that was brought to Dallas. I now identify those men. A couple of them admitted—Howard Hunt, on his death bed, admitted that he was involved in the Kennedy assassination, and the mainstream media completely overlooked this shocking—

AMY GOODMAN: Howard Hunt, who was Watergate.

DAVID TALBOT: He was the leader of the Watergate break-in and a legendary CIA action officer, and very close to Allen Dulles, revered Allen Dulles. On his death bed, he revealed that he was part of that plot. Again, 60 Minutes looked at it and then walked away. I know a lot about this story. But the media has been, I think, shockingly remiss in not looking into this investigation. It’s a taboo subject. But it’s clear—I think I present overwhelming evidence that Allen Dulles was complicit in this, in the assassination of the president. And he conveniently ran the investigation into the president’s murder, because he strong-armed President Johnson into appointing him to the Warren Commission, where he became the dominant figure.

AMY GOODMAN: David Talbot, author of the new book, The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government.

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