Shortly after Ernest Hemingway won the Nobel Prize (1954), Time Magazine writer Bob Manning visited him in Cuba to do a cover story interview. A decade later, Manning joined The Atlantic Monthly. He revisited his notes and published "Hemingway in Cuba" in the August 1965 issue of that periodical. One remembrance from that piece was Hemingway's notion of fiction writing as "to produce inventions that are true." Hemingway elaborated: "Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector (...) If you're going to write, you have to find out what's bad for you."
Philip Shenon, a veteran investigative journalist who spent most of his career at The New York Times, uses this machine for nonfiction writing on the JFK assassination. But in reverse, as a way of bringing forward the detected crap as good arguments for supporting his nonsensical hypothesis. Which is, "Oswald did it, Castro helped."
After Shenon's crap detector worked flat out in A Cruel and Shocking Act (Henry Holt and Co., 2013), it is now doing overtime in the new paperback edition of the book by Picador (2015). From its afterword Shenon has just drawn an essay, "What Was Lee Harvey Oswald Doing in Mexico?" (Politico Magazine, March 18, 2015). Here Shenon does his, by now, usual high wire balancing act about how the Warren Commission was not really fraudulent or wrong, it just did not have all the facts it should. And therefore "historians, journalists and JFK buffs...would be wise to look to Mexico City." What balderdash.
Why? Because Shenon deliberately ignores all the sound and provocative investigations that have been conducted about Mexico City since the creation of the declassification process by the Assassination Records Review Board. These inquiries would include, among others, the integral and seminal "Lopez Report" done for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, John Newman's work in Oswald and the CIA, John Armstrong in his book Harvey and Lee, Jim DiEugenio in the second edition of Destiny Betrayed and Bill Simpich in State Secret. All of these authors; along with the most recent investigator, David Josephs--get the back of Shenon's hand. As if nothing they produced has any relevance at all to the mystery of what Lee Harvey Oswald was doing in Mexico City; or if he even went there. Because, as both Josephs and Armstrong conclude, he did not; at least not the way the Warren Commission and FBI say he did.
Which brings up another dubious point about Shenon's piece. In it, he writes that the FBI never adequately investigated Oswald's voyage to Mexico City. This is simply not true. With ample evidence, both John Armstrong and David Josephs demonstrate that the FBI did investigate this aspect of Oswald's life as well as they could. The problem was that the evidence trail they found was so full of holes, and so patently falsified by both the CIA and the Mexican authorities that it was almost made to fall apart upon any rigorous review. To use just one example: to this day, no one knows how Oswald even got out of New Orleans to Houston on the first leg of his journey. Or when he actually left the Crescent City. Its not that the FBI did not investigate this aspect. They did. But they could not find any ticket made out to Oswald from New Orleans to Houston or New Orleans to Laredo, which is where the official story has Oswald headed after Houston. The FBI did an extensive check on the two bus lines that could have gotten Oswald out of New Orleans after he closed his post office box and cashed his unemployment check. They could not come up with anything to substantiate Oswald's travel to Houston. (See Commission Document 1553, based upon Bureau investigation by agent Stephen Callender.)
Or how about this one by our New York Times veteran. He writes that the CIA had Oswald under surveillance in Mexico City. If that is the case then why, when the FBI got the audiotapes of Oswald in Mexico, the tapes did not match Oswald's voice? (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, p. 357) And why has the Agency never been able to produce a photo of Oswald entering the Cuban or Soviet embassies there? Why did they send a photo of a person who was clearly not Oswald to the Warren Commission? And why did the Commission then print it in its volumes? (ibid, p. 354) Shenon tries to cover up this lacuna by saying that there is evidence some people saw a photo, and maybe station chief Win Scott saw a photo of Oswald in Mexico City at the time. For instance, if Mexico City station chief Win Scott saw a photo of Oswald why did he then not show it to David Slawson and Bill Coleman of the Warren Commission, when they visited him? They were there for that express purpose: to inquire about Oswald's activities in Mexico City. (ibid, p. 360)
Shenon fails to point up the reason we know about all these problems in the evidentiary record about Oswald and Mexico City. We know about them because of the work of Dan Hardway and Ed Lopez of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. While preparing their 300-page report about Oswald in Mexico City, they found the work of Slawson and Coleman to be completely inadequate. They then got access to the CIA cable traffic record to and from Mexico City for the period of September,1963 to November 22nd. This is something the Warren Commission never even thought of doing. Their report is largely based upon that traffic; along with the records of the raw data as produced by the CIA's electronic and photographic surveillance of the two embassies. This latter record, is again, something that Slawson and Coleman never even approached as evidence while they were there. This is why, in the Warren Report and in the Slawson-Coleman report, one comes away very puzzled over two further lacunae. Neither source record mentions either David Phillips or Anne Goodpasture. Both of these people had cleared access to the surveillance raw data out of the embassies. And there is evidence that both of them helped falsify the record of Oswald allegedly being there. (ibid, pgs. 354-55) If Slawson and Coleman had done their jobs correctly this information and falsification could have been caught back in 1964. Shenon does not mention these facts.
Nor does Shenon measure Slawson's hoary canard about how any plot could not have been a far flung or complex one since Oswald did not get his job at the Texas School Book Depository until October, and the motorcade route was not announced until November. Shenon ignored the facts that the first announcement about Kennedy's trip to Texas was made April 23, 1963. It was made by Lyndon Johnson in Dallas and reported in the Herald Tribune the next day. This was echoed with a specific note to Kennedy from a local Dallas resident already working on the visit. Again, Dallas is mentioned in the note dated June 12, 1963. There is also a story in the same paper in September which also states Kennedy will be coming to Dallas. Further, people organizing the visit that fall knew it would have to be late in November due to scheduling problems. In other words, maybe be Commission was in the dark about this, and the public. But not people in the White House, advance man Jerry Bruno, or the business and political elite in the Dallas-Fort Worth areas. (See the online essay "Why JFK Went to Texas" by Joe Backes) Further, Shenon fails to mention that the failed Chicago plot to kill JFK mirrored, in its design and mechanics, the successful Dallas one. If that is not complex planning in advance, I don't know what is. (See Jim Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, pgs. 202-18) Could Castro have really done all of this maneuvering in two cities?
Instead our intrepid NY Times veteran peoples his mission of twisting conspiracy "facts" against Castro with the following "experts:"
- Thomas Mann, U.S. Ambassador in Mexico; who "suspected" and "was under the impression..."
- Winston Scott, CIA Chief of Station in Mexico City, who also "suspected..."
- David Slawson, WC investigator, who "believes" and has another "suspicion..."
- Clarence Kelley, FBI Director, who "came to believe"
- William Sullivan, FBI Assistant Director, who "admitted huge gaps" in the record
- David Belin, WC staff lawyer, who "came to believe..."
- Charles William Thomas, U.S. diplomat, who "was told by a friend..."
- And finally, "people who suggest that Oswald had many more contacts with people in Mexico City who might have wanted to see JFK dead..."
Let's summarize. None of the Shenon's sources brought a single quantum of proof for turning plausible his Castro hypothesis. Their suspicions, impressions, beliefs, admissions, second-hand tales, and suggestions are linked to long-ago debunked stories. For sticking with them along the substantiation of his hypothesis, Shenon must concoct, among others, these facts:
"Oswald had visited Mexico City (...) apparently to obtain a visa that would allow the self-proclaimed Marxist to defect to Cuba."
Knowing that appearances deceive, Shenon fabricates this one to get around the fact; proven by both CIA transcripts of taped phone calls and eyewitnesses at the Cuban Consulate; that "Oswald" asked the Cubans for an in-transit visa with the declared intention of going to the Soviet Union. For defecting to Cuba, he would have only needed to say it at the spot. Shenon simply hides that Marxist Lee in Mexico City perfectly blends with Castroite Harvey in New Orleans due to a CIA-FBI joint operation to discredit the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). As Jim DiEugenio discusses in Destiny Betrayed Oswald was not connected with Castro, but with the CIA and anti-Castro Cuban exiles. (See especially pgs. 101-66)
"Oswald's six-day trip to Mexico was never adequately investigated by the CIA... and the State Department."
Shenon is correct here. But not in his nonsense that the plot to kill Kennedy was hatched in Mexico by Castro agents, and the U.S. agencies covered it up to avoid World War III. The cover up by the CIA started before the assassination, as John Newman has so thoroughly established since Oswald and the CIA. When CIA officers like James Angleton began to bifurcate the Oswald file in advance of the trip to Mexico. (See Newman, p. 393)
"And in fact, lots of evidence has accumulated over the years to suggest [it] would be wise to look to Mexico City."
Shenon is writing as if the HSCA's Mexico City Report, also known as the Lopez Report (1978) wouldn't have been almost fully declassified in 2003. It provides lots of collusion going on with the CIA in regard to Oswald in Mexico City, from phony cables to senior officers blatantly lying on facts as they were happening before the JFK assassination. It's almost as if Shenon does not want the reader to know about this bombshell report.
"Much evidence about Oswald's Mexico trip; including CIA tape recordings of wiretaps of Oswald's phone calls in Mexico; never reached the [Warren] Commission."
That's half-true. These tapes not only never reached the WC, but also have been never produced by the CIA, even though their transcripts were found. Since the CIA remained silent before the assassination about calls indicating that Oswald had been impersonated, no tapes at all is a conspiracy fact; as Gaeton Fonzi crystal clearly explained in The Last Investigation (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993; that turns Shenon's hypothesis into excrement. (See Fonzi, p. 294)
"If Oswald openly boasted about his plans to kill JFK among people in Mexico, it would undermine the official story that he was a lone wolf whose plans to kill the president could never have been detected by the CIA or FBI."
FBI super spy Jack Childs reported on his mission (SOLO-15) to Cuba in March 1964 that Castro himself had told him: "When Oswald was refused his visa at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City, he acted like a madman and started yelling and shouting on his way out, 'I'm going to kill this bastard. I'm going to kill Kennedy'." Shenon recycles this discredited report and magnifies such an outburst; at the Embassy, not at the Consulate; as an assassination plan. Even though the HSCA already put the issue to rest in its Final Report (1979): "Nothing in the evidence indicated that the threat should have been taken seriously, if it had occurred, since Oswald had behaved in an argumentative and obnoxious fashion." (italics added) And, in fact, as both John Newman and Arnaldo M. Fernandez have shown, it likely did not happen. (See section six of the following review for details, http://www.ctka.net/reviews/shenon.html)
Shenon's "Oswald did it, Castro helped" must match with the notorious fact that a former Marine, re-defector from the Soviet Union, who had openly engaged into pro Castro activism in New Orleans, according to Shenon, this man was spotted by the CIA in Mexico City on September 27, 1963, as soon as he visited the Cuban and the Soviet diplomatic compounds. Since the CIA and the FBI missed him as a security risk in Dallas by the time of JFK visit, Castro could have helped the killing only in a conspiracy of silence with the CIA. Thus, Shenon's crap detector didn't find out what's good for him.
"State Department and CIA records declassified in recent years show that the agencies rebuffed Thomas in his requests for a new investigation."
That's another half-truth. Thomas' request was rebuffed on the grounds that the subjacent story; told by his friend, Mexican writer Elena Garro; was mere crap, like all the other allegations of red conspiracies in Mexico City made by Gilberto Alvarado, Pedro Gutierrez, Salvador Diaz-Verson, Vladimir Rodriguez Lahera, Antulio Ortiz Ramirez, Marty Underwood... etc. Shenon interweaves some of these, and other inventions that are not true, in order to arrive beforehand at a fact-free analysis on the Castro connection. As Hemingway told Manning, "no good book has ever been written that [way]." Accordingly, Shenon's latest essay on the JFK assassination is another cruel and shocking act against his readership. But before leaving it at that, let us add one other pertinent and disturbing fact about Shenon and his latest diversion from the truth.
Why did he write such a book? In his original 2013 edition, Shenon wrote that his inspiration for writing the volume was a call he got from a junior counsel to the Commission. Once he agreed to the project, this unnamed counsel then got him in contact with the other surviving staffers. According to researcher Pat Speer, the mysterious caller was none other than Arlen Specter, Mr. Single Bullet Theory himself. Since Specter died in 2012, and Shenon's book was first published in 2013, it turns out that; via Shenon--the Philadelphia lawyer was continuing the JFK cover up from his grave.