The lives of CIA spouses and children often make for compelling reading. A good example being Frank Olson's children and their quest for truth concerning the secrecy about his death. Not to mention the nature of his work. Ian Shapira of the Washington Post wrote an excellent article concerning sons and daughters of other deceased agents who were left wondering what Mum and Dad did for a buck. It is important, touching riveting stuff. Unfortuantely, such is not the case after reading Saint John Hunt's book about the dubious confessions of his father in the JFK case. Bonds of Secrecy does not come close to be touching or riveting.
For instance there are accounts from his sister Kevan and Lisa who have disowned Saint John Hunt and brother David (more about him later). Now, that would have made for a more credible tale. Hunt needed as a ghost writer a person ready to ride hard on Hunt's tale (and tail). With that, the book could have been something of an underground hit. As it stands the original PDF book is merely poor; the Kindle version is a bloated, tacky and unappealing roadside attraction.
During my time with CTKA, I have become dubious of books with elongated prefaces, forewords and introductions. These are usually included to give the book an air of credibility. They don't work. And I don't know anybody who follows CTKA who would find Doug Caddy a credible commentator. Jesse Ventura would also have been better advised to steer clear of the book. I also think these came as something of a letdown to Saint John Hunt. Despite the dubious and often contradictory information his work contains, the original flows pretty well and has an air of 'take it or leave it' to events.
Conspirahypocrite Feeding Frenzy
However, conspirahypocrites just cannot help themselves.
In the Kindle edition, there are some 52 pages of fluff praising the dubious credibility of E. Howard Hunt's story at the beginning. This is hyperbolic overkill. Ventura, while slightly more measured in his appraisal of E. Howard Hunt, like Caddy, seems to buy into the banal LBJ involved/kingpin thesis. As CTKA has proven many times over, the LBJ angle simply does not have a lot of credibility to it-at leasat not yet. So let us return to Mr. Caddy, who was briefly Howard Hunt lawyer at the time of Watergate. Caddy has also been active with an LBJ disinformation guru: He is Billy Sol Estes' attorney. Thus it is no surprise he stumps for LBJ. Nor is it any revelation he endorses the myth of Hunt being a naive patriot betrayed during Watergate.
Caddy admits to having worked for William F. Buckley in the founding of the Young Americans for Freedom. This was way back in the late fifties and early sixties, in his high school days. Caddy was the first National Director of the group, which had been founded on the Buckley estate in Connecticut. Caddy states that when he met Hunt at the Mullen Company in Washington, Hunt told him that Buckley had been a CIA agent under Hunt in Mexico City. This was after Buckley had graduated from Yale. This is not exactly accurate. For as HSCA investigator Dan Hardway discovered, Buckley was actually a CIA officer and he was at about Hunt's level, not beleow him. According to Caddy, he was at the Mullen Company working the PR desk for General Foods, who he was a counsel for at the time. Then Robert Bennett bought the company. Bennett now became president, and Hunt became Vice-President. Bennett had been part of the Hughes Corporation account there. Considering what we know about Hughes at the time, this roughly means that the company was then being run by the CIA. Considering also, that, as even Caddy admits, Hunt never actually retired from the Agency as he said he did in 1970. Hunt also admitted his continuing employment to Canadian journaist David Giammarco when Giammarco was negotiating with Hunt to do a documentary about his life and possible involvement in the JFK case. That fact, of course, tells us much about Watergate. Since it was from the Mullen Company that Hunt then emigrated over to the White House to work with another "retired" CIA officer, James McCord, on the Plumbers Unit. Why a Vice-President of a major PR firm in Washington would do such a top to bottom transfer is anyone's guess. Caddy then quit the Mullen Company and went to work for a Washington law firm that later represented Hunt. Caddy was then Hunt's first lawyer when he was arrested for the Watergate break-in. Caddy actually writes that the hush money raised by Herbert Kalmbach for the Watergate defendants was somehow justified since Judge John Sirica was so biased against Caddy and the defendants.
After Ventura's short and Caddy's very long prefaces, the thrid person involved with this book is Eric Hamburg, who reportedly helpd Hunt write the book. Eric used to work for Oliver Stone and ended up being a producer for the film Nixon. Hamburg later wrote the book based on his experience with Stone JFK, Nixon, Oliver Stone and Me. For his part, Hamburg decides to add many, many pages of his rather meandering musings in the Afterword. Adding this to the already sloppy 52 page start the book has, we have well over a hundred pages of well, what? Let us call it, to be kind, rather undistinguished material. We should also discount 11 pages of Saint John Hunt's eulogy at his father's funeral in Chapter Sixteen (this was the first Chapter in the original). Then throw out the two final chapters detailing Saint John Hunt's opinions on "The Conspiracy" and "Watergate" (in both versions). The grand total of non narrative, which now includes, Ventura, Caddy, Hamburg and Saint John Hunt and his dealings with his father; amounts to well over 150 pages. This padding takes up just under half the Kindle book.
Contradictions and Exagerations
Oh Brother where art thou?
Before I checked the inconsistencies between Saint John Hunt's Rolling Stone interview and his book, I came across these comments he made about his brother David Hunt in Bonds of Secrecy.
"Shipped off to live in Miami with his Godfather, the ex Bay of Pigs leader Manuel Artime, he quickly found solace and purpose in the glamorous life of a rich Miami cocaine dealer."
Later Saint John Hunt states:
"Attorneys came and took David away. The only explanation they gave was that they (my father) felt it would be a better environment for him if he moved in with his godparents in Miami. This would prove to be a huge mistake; Miami would soon be the cocaine capital of the world, and David was right smack in the middle of it. He would be raised with few good influences and no real love."
Yet, in his reply to a piece by Carol J Williams, David takes offense at Williams' depiction of his godparents.
"Spin: I am a partner in a successful Los Angeles business and reside in Beverly Hills. The years I spent with my godfather and second family were some of the happiest and most loved times of my life. It sounds as if I was in some crazed military camp to make my involvement look suspect and desperate."
As it turns out he was also talking smack, at one point of his diatribe he says:
"Unfortunately neither Austin nor Hollis were present during the interviews. This was a condition set by my father who kept his second family isolated from his previous life. It was an opportunity for a second chance. He had gotten out of jail, married an innocent civilian and spent his remaining 27 years trying to live a normal life."
The last refers to the fact that Hunt's first wife Dorothy died in a famous plane crash during Watergate. Howard Hunt was then jailed. When he got out he remarried, and the childen he had with his seocnd wife were not nearly as aware of who he was as his older children. This whole E. Howard Hunt's innocent second family 'interefering constantly' is also a constant theme in this book. However, Hunt keeping his former life secret from his second wife Laura is not really kosher. In an interview with Slate in 2004, Laura the 'innocent' certainly knew a few of E. Howard's old mates (calling one notorious exile Felix Rodrieguez by his first name). And Howard had no problems discussing his background in front of her. Consider the following grisly detials about the murder of Che Guevara:
"Hunt: I have no idea. But I talked with Felix about it. I said, "You were there when Che expired." He said they had taken him into this room, and they shot him there and killed him. And they had kind of a medical examination table. They put his body on that and cut off his hands. They fooled around for a day or so before they disposed of the body. And that was done in a very sloppy fashion. The colonel had a shallow grave dug and his remains were dumped in there.
Laura Hunt: [Interjects] For all we know, Felix [Rodriguez] did shoot him."
Thus for all this flipping and spinning, I would like to know what Dave thought a year later, when he read his brother's book? Quite clearly Saint John Hunt was as ill-informed about his younger brother's time with people like the rabid rightwing anti-Castro Cuban Manuel Artime. as was Carol J Williams who had conducted the interview. It gets even more peculiar though. David says he arranged the meeting and not only that, he praises Eric Hamburg, Hunt's aforementioned ghost writer, for being the guiding light of the project.
Papa was a Rolling Stone and Mum too
One of the oddities about Hunt's book is that it differs in content to the Rolling Stone interview he conducted in April of 1997. Let's examine some of his comments in the magazine, starting with those about his Mum.
"Saint John feels that he never got to know her. She told him that during World War II, she'd tracked Nazi money for the U.S. Treasury Department, and Saint John believes that early in her marriage to his father, she may have been in the CIA herself, "a contract agent, not officially listed."
But he isn't sure about any of it, really.
"In our family, everything was sort of like a mini-CIA," he says. "Nothing was ever talked about, so we grew up with all of these walls, walls around my father, walls around my mother, walls around us kids, to protect and insulate us. You grow up not knowing what really happened. Like, who was my mom, for Christ's sake? Was she a CIA agent? What was her life really like?"
I think there is enough independent evidence to suggest Hunt's first wife, may well have had agency connections. Thus, his testimony in his book about his mother's intelligence ties is likely credible and interesting. However, rather than grab one's curiosity as it should, it ridicules itself. If there were so many walls and the children so insulated, why did his parents expose him to so many dangers in the book? Were they truly that inept?
"I remember one day when my mother and I went out for a ride on the horses, she told me that Papa was not actually working for a public relations company, but was really working for the Nixon White House, doing some secretive things that had her quite worried. She said that against her advice, he was going ahead with an operation that was being directed at the very highest levels of government. He was now so imbedded in this mess that she could not be sure of its operational security. There were men whom she didn't trust. He had gotten in with people that weren't themselves aware of what was required of them, professionally speaking. "Amateurs" she said angrily. "Your father, as smart as he is, can't see the forest from the trees."
It's amazing the recall Saint John Hunt has here, since the above was nowhere in the interview. Did his memory improve over time? Well probably not. Because when Hunt was employed by the PR firm the Mullen Company, he was not working for the Plumbers Unit at the White House. White House hatchet man Charles Colson and Bennett arranged that after constant lobbying by Bennett. Perhaps we can chalk this up to Saint John Hunt's former life. The guy had a history as a drug abuser, including LSD, cocaine and meth---for the better part of his teenage and adult life. He actually dealt meth. Meth is notorious for causing brain damage and memory loss, in particularl after long term abuse. And don't let it bother you either, that an intelligence professional, could call others 'amateurs' after blurting out details of a sensitive ongoing operation to her son.
But it also calls into question the author's credibility. His mother by all accounts in the aftermath of Watergate appeared to be an extremely competent individual. She also had no problem working with his Dad's pals. The author skips the part where she helped organize the banquet in the Continental on the 26th of May, 1972. This banquet was disguised as a meeting for Ameritas Insurance and was a cover the first official break in of the Watergate. Which for whatever reason, was put off till the 17th of June , when Hunt's father got caught (Jim Hougan, Secret Agenda, pg 140).
Thus Saint John Hunt's comments about his family in the build up up to Watergate, seem a bit off kilter. In the April 5, 2007 article in Rolling Stone he stated ...
"They had lots of marital problems, but when it came down to it, she had his back, and she could hang in there with the big dogs."
Yet, things get more dramatic in the book. Apparently, for all the 'marital problems' his parents rarely fought. Not only that, Dad left his spy gear and fake I.D's lying around in the master bedroom.
"I had heard them fighting at night and I wondered what this was about. My parents rarely fought. I was curious, and one day when they were gone, I snuck into their bedroom at the rear of the house and looked around. What I found was some ID's with my fathers' picture on it, but his name was not E. Howard Hunt. It was Edward J. Hamilton. I also found a reddish wig. This is the famous wig that my father was reported to have worn when he interviewed Dita Beard for John Mitchell, the attorney general of the United States."
My Dad the spy wasn't the Best Parent
In the Rolling Stone interview, Hunt's portrayal of his father was generally that of a cruel, authoritarian person.
"Like Saint John says, he never felt guilt about anything: "He was a complete self-centered WASP who saw himself as this blue blood from upstate New York. 'I'm better than anybody because I'm white, Protestant and went to Brown, and since I'm in the CIA, I can do anything I want.' Jew, nigger, Polack, wop -- he used all those racial epithets. He was an elitist. He hated everybody."
In the interview he also recalls his father as 'that fucker' concerning his alibi the day of the assassination. The following essentialy says that Hunt lied under oath about where he was on the say of Kennedy's murder. Hunt said he was putting together a Chinese dinner with his wife.
"He was always looking at things like he was writing a novel; everything had to be just so glamorous and so exciting. He couldn't even be bothered with his children. That's not glamorous. James Bond doesn't have children. So my dad in the kitchen? Chopping vegetables with his wife? I'm so sorry, but that would never happen. Ever. That fucker never did jack-squat like that. Ever."
Hunt also recounted for Rolling Stone how his father unnerved him when trying to get him into a high-class prep school St Andrews during a school dinner. At dinner near the school, Hunt refused to let his son go to the bathroom. And so he urinated on himself. This tale of humiliation does not make it into this book. Nor does Hunt's tale to Rolling Stone of being sexually abused while at another school, St James. Apparently, his father E. Howard got wind of the evil deed, withdrew Saint John from the school and the teacher was never seen again. This was after Howard Hunt came to the place with with "a carload of guns"...
The bogeyman presented in the Rolling Stone interview is near non-existent in Saint John's book. In the previous article, the son said that Howard Hunt "was a mean-spirited person and an extremely cruel father." But here, his portrayal throughout is that of a flawed, stern yet ultimately heroic person. On page two of the PDF version Hunt writes
"HOW CAN I EXPLAIN A LOVE SO POWERFUL AND TRUE THE MAN THAT I HAVE TRIED TO BE IS THE MAN I SEE IN YOU."Sure it is bad form to talk ill of the dead, but Hunt's dramatic turn around, after Rolling Stone makes one a bit skeptical.
Howard Hunt and his Assassination Confession
Another issue brought up in the Rolling Stone interview, was Howard Hunt's interactions with Kevin Costner. The story pumped by the Hunt brothers since, is that after Costner offered Hunt five million dollars, he then insulted and harassed Howard Hunt. And then, although the five million was stil floating around, Costner lowered the offer to a hundred dollars per day for his time. Saint John found that insulting and he turned down Costner. Yet, the story presented in Rolling Stone by Saint John is incomplete.
The man reallly responsible for Hunt's rather dilatory attempt to make a clean breast of whatever his role was in the JFK case was not really Costner. It was not really Saint John. It was David Giammarco. Since the late eighties, the Canadian journalist had an interest in the JFK case. And he had interviewed several people about the matter. He eventuallly got around to Howard Hunt. Like a good journalist, he tried to cultivate a trusting relationship with Hunt. He talked to him on many, many occassions. He often flew down to Miami to do so. In conversations with Jim DiEugenio, David said that he really got into a very interesting and revealing friendship with Hunt. This did not happen over a matter of months. It took over several years to do so. Inevitably, Hunt talked to him about President Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy. He despised them both. Hunt was very bitter about the Bay of Pigs. He once said about President Kennedy in that regard, "JFK, may he rest in pieces."
Over time, Giammarco got around to asking Hunt about his possible role in the JFK case. For which there is some interesting evidence. Since Giammarco was pals with Costner, the actor suggested doing a documentary on the topic. Hunt seemed interested at first. Costner and Giammarco said things would be OK as long as everyone kept it secret and Hunt agreed to talk on camera about what he knew about the Kennedy assassination. But then, in 2002, Hunt seemed to back track on the idea. Both Costner and Giammarco were surprised. But the journalist persisted in talking to the spy. And Hunt relented. Hunt would do three interviews. One in Miami, one in Los Angeles and one in Dallas, in Dealey Plaza. Hunt told Giammarco about the outline of a plot led by Lyndon Johnson. It then extended down to CIA officer Cord Meyer. The project would be run out of London. The plotters included William Harvey, David Phillips, Dave Morales, Frank Strugis , Tony Veciana, and Lucien Sarti as the main assassin. Sarti was firing from a storm drain. It was now informally agreed that the three-Costner, Giammarco and Hunt-would be equal partners in a documentary. Once the project was sold, they would all share in whatever money it fetched.
The problem was twofold. First, Hunt told his attorney about the proposal. He and his lawyer now prepared a lenghty counter offer. Secondly, Hunt wanted to be paid a quarter million in advance. As far as Giammarco and Costner were concerned, this was a no-no. Because it would look like they were practicing checkbook journalism. And that would impact the credibility of the documentary. Further, Hunt wanted the funds mailed to a Swiss bank account. And he wanted 24 hour security protection before and after the documentary aired for an indefinite time. Again, Giammarco and Costner both did not want to advance the funds since it would look like they were paying for the information. As the project began to collapse, Hunt now began to discount what he knew about the conspiracy. He even said that perhaps he should novelize it.
There is much controversy about not just what happened with the project, but also about the contents of what Hunt actuallly says happened. Giammarco told DiEugenio that he always felt that Hunt was not telling him the whole story. Which shows good insight on Giammarco's part. Hunt was always involved with the action oriented part of the Agency. Whereas Meyer was really a propaganda specialist. Since the fifties and the CIA coup in Guatemala, Hunt had worked with people like Tracy Barnes, Phillips, and Director Allen Dulles. This carried down to the Bay of Pigs. Since Hunt spoke fluent Spanish, he was responsible for constructing the CIA's government in exile. When Kennedy insisted on making Manuelo Ray part of that group, Hunt resigned. Ray was too liberal for Hunt, who was extremely conservative. But, as Jim DiEugenio shows in his book, Destiny Betrayed, the Second Edition, Hunt was supposed to return if the project succeeded! Therefore, he would be part of putting together the new Cuban government. And further, the CIA had secret plans to make sure Ray would not be part of it. Hunt and the Agency would put in power their favorites, like Artime. And, in fact, Operation Forty included an assassination mechanism to not just get rid of the present Cuban governmnet, but also any moderates and liberals that Kennedy wanted in power. (See DiEugenio, Chapter 3, "Bay of Pigs: Kennedy vs. Dulles." This is probably the best short treatment of that affair in book form.)
After the project capsized, Hunt then worked for Dulles. In two ways. To defend him against the investigation in the White House led by General Maxwell Taylor. And to ghost write the Dulles book, The Craft of Intelligence. Hunt was then detailed to the DOD, Domestic Operations Division, run initially be Barnes. Which, of course, the CIA was not supposed to be doing. Since their charter prohibits operating on the homefront. It appears that Clay Shaw was also cleared to work in this division. Victor Marchetti said that DOD was "into some very bizarre things." So bizarre that Marchetti did not want to artiuclate them. (DiEugenio, p. 166)
And then, of course, there is the whole Angleton/Hunt memroandum episode. This was a memo written by Angleton to Richard Helms in 1966. It said that they needed to consturct an albi for Hunt since he was in Dallas on the day of Kennedy's murder. (ibid, p. 363) As it turned out, when Hunt sued over this story, it turns out he actually did not have an alibi for where he was on the day of the assassination. (ibid) Therefore, for Hunt to say, as he did in his so-called confession, that Sturgis asked him if he wanted to be part of the plot, that seems both self-serving and illogical. If anyone was going to ask anyone, it would be the other way around. As Hunt recurited Cubans for Watergate. One of them being Sturgis.
For a time Jim Hougan, and his book Secret Agenda, was the essential tome in understanding, or at least grasping, some of the fallout from Watergate. It was that book that first brought into question who Hunt and Jim McCord were really working for while with the Plumbers Unit in the White House. It also exposed them both as lying when they said they did not know each other prior to that assignment. And it raised the ultimate question about the whole affair: Were Hunt and McCord deliberately sabotaging the Plumbers the night of the break-in? Was the goal to really topple Nixon? And is this why McCord threatened the White House in December of 1972? He wrote Jack Caufield that if President Nixon fired CIA Director Helms, and if Nixon tried to blmae the CIA for Watergate, "every tree in the forest will fall. It will be a scorched desert. The whole matter is at the precipice right now ... if they want it to blow, they are on exactly the right course." McCord was offered money and executive clemency if he would plead guilty and stay quiet. He refused the offer. Nixon then did fire Helms.
A month later, McCord wrote his letter to Judge John Sirica. He said that perjury had been committed in his court room. Witnesses testified under pressure and duress. In a meeting with Sirica, McCord said that the witnesses and defendants lied at the behest of the White House, specifically Attorney General John Mitchell and White House counsel John Dean. McCord said that although the Cubans, recruited by Hunt, may think that the CIA had something to do with Watergate, the Agency really did not. It was this act which exploded the Watergate affair just when it was about to go gently into the night. As Hougan writes in his wonderful book, there was something peculiar about McCord working for the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). In his office, he did not have a photo of Nixon on the wall. He had a picture of Helms there. It was signed "With the deepest affection." Further, McCord worked the security detail at Langley. He was known as a first rate, black bag man. That is, he was good at secretly breaking into places. Yet, it was McCord who acually retaped the door after the security guard first removed the tape on it. It was that inexplicable act which guaranteed the break-in would be discovered and the police would be called. When people in the CIA heard about what McCord did, they understood something was up. Someone that good would not do something that stupid. Hence the title of Hougan's revolutionary book, Secret Agenda. And in that fine book, Hougan also accuses Hunt of being part of the secret Helms operation inside the Plumbers.
Now, in the Rolling Stone article, Saint John says that his father retired from the CIA some time after the Bay of Pigs. He then went ahead and joined the Plumbers Unit at the White House. That summary does not seem to jibe with what Hougan dug up about Hunt through his research. Or what Hunt told Giammarco. Hunt appears to be employed by the Agency throughout this time period. Which, combined with what we have learned about McCord, makes a strong case that neither McCord nor Hunt was really working for either CREEP or Nixon at the time of the Watergate break-in. In the Rolling Stone article, the son has the father waking him up in the middle of the night after the Watergate break-in. Howard then has him help him throw some bugging and surveillance equipment into the C & O Canal near the Potomac River. The point though is that in Hougans's book he has Hunt taking this stuff to McCord's house, since it was his equipment. In the article, the son says that Hunt did all this because he had botched the break-in. Which, as we have seen, is a highly debateable point. Neither McCord's nor Hunt's bizarre actions that night were ever explored by the Senate Committee led by Sam Ervin, or the Watergate prosecution led by Leon Jaworksi. The CIA connections to the crime were not explored until the Pike Committee was disbanded in the House of Representatives. Later, congressman Lucien Nedzi did do an inquiry into CIA participation in Watergate. This helped form the basis for Hougan's work. So based on Hougan's book, maybe Hunt should have made a confession about Watergate instead of the JFK assassination.
However, as big a fan as I am of Jim's investigative work, it had the misfortune of examining multiple threads in a confused Watergate quagmire. Some of which were dead ends. For example, it was many years after Hougan's book came out, that Mark Felt was named as the near mythical 'Deep Throat'. While Hougan hit on a lot of interesting information, with regards to call girl rings, it appears that ultimately that part of the story only had legs in it's initial phases. Yet it did not really pan out regarding John Dean and his wife. As Jim DiEugenio explained in an e-mail in March of this year.
"When they went to court, Philip Bailey ended up being a poor witness. And that whole call girl angle ended up being very questionable. Today, I think its the worst part of Hougan's book.
What they appeared to want out of Spencer Oliver's desk was his strategy for stopping McGovern. He was the guy in charge of that effort. This is new stuff that Bob Parry dug up.
What they wanted from O'Brien was anything they could get on him because of Hughes to negate any thing they would try to connect Hughes to Nixon with."
Consortium News Journalists Robert Parry and Lisa Pease have slightly different appraisals, needless to say. Watergate is a complex business and the truth of the matter lies somewhere between these the musings of Hougan, DiEugenio, Parry and Pease, all of them skilled researchers. Yet none of their intelligent analysis is found anywhere in the pages of Hunt's Kindle book (bar some quotes from Hougan). So I discourage anyone from going to Bonds of Secrecy for any lessons on Watergate. (Hougan is reportedly working on a sequel to his book focused on the call girl ring and John Dean. So this may not be the last word on that issue.)
United Airlines Flight 533
The United Airlines flight 533, in December 1972 was a tragic air accident that claimed the life of Dorothy Hunt, among with over forty others. It is a matter of some debate as to what really happened. Dorothy was carrying thousands of dollars with her as she was in the process of paying money to certain witnesses to stay quiet. Needless to say I find little, if anything, Saint John or his buddies say about it as credible. What's interesting is that Hunt apparently had his wife take out 250,000 dollars worth of flight insurance payable to E. Howard Hunt.
It is also interesting to note that, as mentioned previously, it appears Dorothy was CIA (one of the few verifiable and relevant observations in the book). Hunt Junior believes his mother was killed by the Nixon administration. Now, this line was pushed by the late Sherman Skolnick for years, and to the author's credit, he doesn't go there. Skolnick shot the line that the reason for Dorothy Hunt's being eliminated was due to information she had about Nixon's role in plotting the Kennedy assassination. Which, if Hunt's confession is true, Nixon had no part in. Skolnick was capable of some good work. However his stuff on Watergate, and the airline crash is a little dated now. For instance, Sherman wrote that Dorothy had over 2 million dollars in her suitcase. Everyone else says it was more like ten grand.
So much has been made of this crash. Hougan believes something suspicious could have happened. So did Carl Ogelsby. Jim DiEugenio believes it was likely a fluke. I have to say I do not know. I lean on the side of something dodgy myself. Charles Colson stated to Time in the 1974, article "Colson's Weird Scenario" that he felt the CIA and Hunt where behind it. Unsurprisingly, the official version via Time was that Colson was covering for Nixon and blaming the agency. A good debate as to whether or not Nixon felt like a scapegoat of the agency, is not present in this book. Although there was no sign of sabotage found, and the communications were recovered, there was some interesting maneuvering after the crash. White House aide Egil Krogh was made Undersecretary of Transportation. Alexander Butterfield, another White house aide, became the new chief of the FAA. Dwight Chapin, Nixon's appointments secretary became a top executive with United Airlines.
None of this makes it anywhere in this book. Which, as said, goes out of its way to try selling the line of the loyal American Cold Warrior. Except he was sold out by the leaders of his country whom he served. This lame sentiment is shared by the famous William F Buckley Jr, a close friend of E Howard and one time cohort of his at the CIA. Buckley was hanging around Hunt and his family in the aftermath of Watergate and the tragedy. Yet, of course, this sort of fascinating detail is nowhere in this book. Was Buckley babysitting Hunt fo rhsi former employer? If so, why?
Near the end, in an attempt to establish credibility, Hunt and Hamburg go for a Peter Scott style enigma ending i.e. of there being multiple conspiracies to do away with Kennedy. The point of this concept is, of course, that somehow LBJ's plot worked. Or did they all spontaneously collude on the day? This is what I cannot fathom about the concept of a JFK pot pourri assassination. Is it too abstract for people to realize that Kennedy had many enemies and that the assassins took advantage of this, and coordinated a centralized and highly organized strike? Would Hunt's superiors Dulles, Angleton and Helms have allowed such a mess? Doubtful, however the lame "LBJ did it with Nixon" is the sort of story to the conspiracy that they would have covered it up with.
E Howard Hunt, was one of the most cynical and streetwise guys to have ever worked the US intelligence beat. To turn him into some kind of 'cult' intelligence hero, betrayed by those on top does not seem to wash. The people who ran Howard Hunt, were ostensibly individuals like Dulles, Helms Barnes, and to a much lesser extent, Angleton. You won't hear much of that in either his or his son's books. In fact in his book Undercover, which was the autobiography Hunt wrote after Watergate, Hunt more or less skipped the years from 1962-64. This current lame effort is just another of the many weak treatises out there at this time. Saint John Hunt's book is not credible enough to give any decent review about. Indeed, I have discussed his lack of credibility before in four essays prior to this one.
It could have been much better with more careful handling and judgement. Hunt's life, in the wake of the tragedies that engulfed his family, his downward spiral and his kicking meth (something, I respect him for), all these elements had the potential to be an interesting and moving narrative. Everybody likes the story of a rogue making good. Even more interesting would be getting verified accounts of his parents, then using the Kennedy assassination and Watergate to serve as backdrops. What, for example, did his Mum and Sisters make of JFK or Bobby Kennedy? In the early days after the Rolling Stone article appeared, it appears that he and his brother actually had a good deal of skepticism towards what their father had told him about the mechanics of the assassination.
What happened to that skepticism? Possibly a movie deal with someone less scrupulous than Costner tempted him? As stated above, Hunt's personal story, with some good supplementary research about his father and mother, could have been politically interesting and personally compelling. But as noted above, it didn't come out that way.