In Part I of this article, we saw that Sirhan could not have shot Kennedy. Indeed, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that Sirhan was firing blanks. If Sirhan did not shoot Kennedy, who did? Why? And how is it that Sirhan's own lawyers did not reveal the evidence that he could not have committed the crime for which he received a death sentence?
Before one considers the above issues, one larger issue stands out. If Sirhan did not kill Kennedy, how has the cover-up lasted this long? In the end, that question will bring us closer to the top of the conspiracy than any other. No matter who was involved, if there were a will to get to the bottom of this crime, the evidence has been available. The fact that no official body has ever made the effort to honestly examine all the evidence in this case is nearly as chilling as the original crime itself, and points to a high level of what can only be termed government involvement. In the history of this country and particularly the sixties, one entity stands out beyond all others as having the means, the motive, and the opportunity to orchestrate this crime and continue the cover-up to this very day. But the evidence will point its own fingers; it remains only for us to follow wherever the evidence leads.
It has often been said that a successful conspiracy requires not artful planning, but rather control of the investigation that follows. The investigation was controlled primarily by a few key LAPD officers and the DA. Despite Congressman Allard Lowenstein's efforts, no federal investigation of this case has ever taken place. In other words, a small handful of people were capable of keeping information that would point to conspirators out of the public eye. The Warren Commission's conclusions were subjected to intense scrutiny when their documentation was published. Evidently the LAPD wanted no such scrutiny, and simply refused to release their files until ordered to do so in the late '80s.
SUS members predominantly came from military backgrounds.1 Charles Higbie, who controlled a good portion of the investigation, had been in the Marine Corps for five years and in Intelligence in the Marine Corp. Reserve for eight more. Frank Patchett, the man who turned the Kennedy "head bullet" over to DeWayne Wolfer after it had taken a trip to Washington with an FBI man, had spent four years in the Navy, where his specialty was Cryptography. The Navy and Marines figured prominently in the background of a good many of the SUS investigators. The editor of the SUS Final Report, however, had spent eight years of active duty with the Air Force, as a Squadron Commander and Electronics Officer.
Two SUS members were in a unique position within the LAPD to control the investigation and the determination of witness credibility: Manuel Pena and Hank Hernandez. Pena had quite the catbird seat. A chart from the LAPD shows that all investigations were funneled through a process whereby all reports came at some point to him. He then had the sole authority for "approving" the interviews, and for deciding whether or not to do a further interview with each and every witness. In other words, if you wanted to control the flow of the investigation, all you would have to do is control Lt. Manuel Pena.
In a similarly powerful position, Sgt. Enrique "Hank" Hernandez was the sole polygraph operator for the SUS unit. In other words, whether a witness was lying or telling the truth was left to the sole discretion of Hernandez. Some people mistakenly think that a polygraph is an objective determiner of a person's veracity. But a polygraph operator can alter the machine's sensitivity to make a liar look like a truth teller, or a truth teller look like a liar. In addition, the manner of the polygraph operator will do much to assuage or create fear and stress in the person being polygraphed. In addition, no less than William Colby himself said it is possible to beat the machine with a few tricks. For these and other reasons, no court in America allows the results of polygraph tests to be used as evidence. But Hernandez's polygraph results were given amazing weight in the SUS investigation. Indeed, his tests became the sole factor in the SUS's determination of the credibility of witnesses.
Because of their prominent roles in the cover-up, the background of Pena and Hernandez has always been of special interest. Pena has an odd background indeed. His official SUS information states he served in the Navy during WWII and in the Army during the Korean War, and was a Counterintelligence officer in France. According to Robert Houghton, he "spoke French and Spanish, and had connections with various intelligence agencies in several countries."2 Pena also served the CIA for a long time. Pena's brother told the TV newsman Stan Bohrman that Manny was proud of his service to the CIA. In 1967, Pena "retired" from the LAPD, leaving to join AID, the agency long since acknowledged as having provided the CIA cover for political operations in foreign countries. Roger LeJeunesse, an FBI agent who had been involved in the RFK assassination investigation, told William Turner that Pena had performed special assignments for the CIA for more than ten years. LaJeunesse added that Pena had gone to a "special training unit" of the CIA's in Virginia. On some assignments Pena worked with Dan Mitrione, the CIA man assassinated by rebels in Uruguay for his role in teaching torture to the police forces there. After his retirement from the LAPD (and a very public farewell dinner) in November of 1967, Pena inexplicably returned to the LAPD in 1968. 3
Hernandez had also worked with AID. During his session with Sandy Serrano, he told her that he had once been called to Vietnam, South America and Europe to perform polygraph tests. He also claimed he had been called to administer a polygraph to the dictator of Venezuela back when President Betancourt came to power.
One of Hernandez's neighbors related to Probe how Hernandez used to live in a modest home in the Monterey Park area, a solidly middle-class neighborhood. But within a short time after the assassination, Hernandez had moved to a place that has a higher income per capita then Beverly Hills: San Marino. He came into possession of a security firm and handled large accounts for the government.
Another all-important position in the cover-up would necessarily have been the office of the District Attorney, then occupied by J. Evelle Younger. Evelle Younger had been one of Hoover's top agents before he left the FBI to join the Counterintelligence unit of the Far East branch of the OSS.4
Under these three, credible leads were discarded. Younger wrote off the problem of Sirhan's distance as a "discrepancy" of an inch or two, when in fact the problem was of a foot or more. Truthful witnesses were made to admit to impossible lies under Hernandez's pressure-cooker sessions. Pena took a special interest in getting rid of the story of the girl in the polka dot dress. But no investigation could be considered fully under control if one did not also have control over the defense investigators. Sirhan's defense lawyers could not be allowed to look too deeply into the contradictory evidence in the case.
The "Defense" Team
Despite the late appearance of the autopsy report (after the trial had already commenced), its significance was noted and reported to Sirhan's lead attorney, Grant Cooper by Robert Kaiser. Why did Cooper not act on this very important information? Was Cooper truly serving Sirhan, or was Cooper perhaps beholden to a more powerful client? What of the others on Sirhan's team? Just what kind of representation did Sirhan receive?
Several people were key to Sirhan's original defense. These were – in order of their appearance in the case – A. L. "Al" Wirin, Robert Kaiser, Grant Cooper, Russell Parsons, and Michael McCowan. Who were these people?
Upon Sirhan's arrest, he asked to see an attorney for the ACLU. Al Wirin showed up. In 1954, Wirin had brought a suit against the LAPD over the legality of some of the department's wiretapping methods.5 Most people might expect that a lawyer for the ACLU would care a great deal about the rights of the accused; that's what the American Civil Liberties Union is supposed to be all about. But that evidently wasn't Abraham Lincoln Wirin's style. Consider the following information from Mark Lane:
On December 4, 1964, when I debated in Southern California with Joseph A. Ball... [of the Warren Commission and] A. L. Wirin....Wirin made an impassioned plea for support for the findings of the commission....He said, his voice rising in an earnest plea:
"I say thank God for Earl Warren. He saved us from a pogrom. He saved our nation. God bless him for what he has done in establishing that Oswald was the lone assassin."
The audience remained silent. I asked but one question: "If Oswald was innocent, Mr. Wirin, would you still say, 'Thank God for Earl Warren' and bless him for establishing him as the lone murderer?" Wirin thought for but an instant. He responded, "Yes. I still would say so."6
Wirin has made a number of claims, including that Sirhan confessed the assassination to him. Given the evidence, such a confession is of little value, since no matter what Sirhan thought, he could not have been the shooter. But more troubling is the fact that an ACLU lawyer would share a comment made by a prisoner in confidence to what he thought was a legal representative there to help him. And when Sirhan requested a couple of books relating to the occult shortly after his arrest, Wirin felt the need to report this to the media.
How Robert Blair Kaiser entered the case is a bit fuzzy. According to Melanson and Klaber, Wirin commissioned Kaiser to approach Grant Cooper. But according to Kaiser, he had injected himself into the case right after the assassination. Upon hearing of the assassination, he claimed he "choked, cried, cursed, and, instead of sitting there weeping in front of the TV, tried to do something." His something was to call Life magazine's LA Bureau, where he "found that the bureau needed [his] help and tried to get on the track of the man who shot Kennedy."7
One of Kaiser's first acts on the case was to interview Sirhan's brother Saidallah in his Pasadena apartment on the night of June 5th, less than 24 hours after RFK had been shot. Kaiser brought along Life photographer Howard Bingham, who tried to take Saidallah's picture. Saidallah did not want his picture taken.8 Saidallah later filed a police report detailing an incident later that night after Kaiser's visit. The LAPD record states:
At approximately 11:30 p.m. he heard someone kick on his front door. He answered the door and just as he unlocked the screen, the door was kicked open. A man rushed through the door and struck [Saidallah] Sirhan in the cheek with his fist and stated, "Damn it, we're gonna kill all you Arabs."...The man stated, "If you don't give your photograph to Life, we're going to take it from you." He took a photograph of Sirhan from a small table and walked out of the apartment. Another man was with the one who entered Sirhan's apartment, but he did not enter.
Kaiser claims this event never happened. But how could he know? On a strange note, Kaiser gave Sirhan a copy of Witness, the book detailing Whittaker Chambers' account of "exposing" Alger Hiss.9
Kaiser initiated contact with Sirhan by calling Wirin to ask if he could get him in to see Sirhan. During the call, Kaiser mentioned that he had discussed the case with Grant Cooper, a well-known Los Angeles criminal attorney. When Wirin heard Kaiser knew Cooper, Wirin asked Kaiser to urge Cooper to help Sirhan. Curiously, Sirhan had also picked out Cooper's name when shown a list of lawyers. It seemed everyone wanted Cooper in this case, including Cooper himself.
Cooper had an interesting background. He had, but a year earlier, gone all the way to Da Nang, Vietnam to defend a Marine corporal on a murder charge before a military court. Why would a Los Angeles lawyer fly all the way to Vietnam to defend a man in military court? Answered Cooper, "I'd never been asked to defend a man before a military court before."10 This highly paid lawyer with no reported proclivities for lost causes nonetheless agreed to take on Sirhan's case, even though the family had virtually no money to offer for Sirhan's defense. He couldn't do so immediately, however, as he was busy defending an associate of Johnny Roselli in the Friar's Club card cheating scandal. Roselli was hired by Robert Maheu to head up the CIA's assassination plots against Castro. Roselli spent time at JMWAVE, the CIA's enormous station in Miami, training snipers among other activities.11 Cooper's client was also accused by another associate of Roselli's, of having passed him money to pay for a murder.12
As Probe readers saw in Jim DiEugenio's landmark piece about how the CIA worked hand in hand with Clay Shaw's attorneys to undermine New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison's investigation of John Kennedy's murder, the CIA maintained a "Cleared Attorneys' Panel" from which they could draw trustworthy, closemouthed representation as needed.13 When someone as knowledgeable as Roselli of the CIA's innermost secrets is being defended, one would assume that the CIA would go to great lengths to provide him legal assistance. Cooper was in direct and extensive contact with Roselli's lawyer James Cantillion. In connection with this case, Cooper himself obtained stolen grand jury transcripts by bribing a court clerk, a very serious (not to mention illegal) offense. In addition, Cooper had twice lied to a federal judge. Frankly, Cooper sounded more like a candidate for the CIA's Cleared Attorneys' Panel than for the role of a justice crusader. The notion that he would volunteer to defend Sirhan at a time when his own legal troubles were raging around him is preposterous. Something besides pity for a penniless, guilty-looking client was likely motivating Cooper.
While Cooper was waiting to finish the Friar's Club case, Wirin showed Cooper a list of attorneys that included the names of Joseph Ball and Herman Selvin. Curiously, it was Ball and Selvin who had participated with Wirin in the debate with Mark Lane (all three defending the Warren Report against the attacks of Mark Lane). Ball and Selvin were Cooper's first choices, but they turned him down.14 Two others on the list included Russell E. Parsons and Luke McKissack. Cooper chose Parsons, saying he did not know McKissack, but that he had " worked with Russ before."15 (McKissack was later to become a lawyer for Sirhan.16) Parsons immediately accepted defending this "poor devil in trouble," as he characterized Sirhan.17 For whatever strange reason, LAPD files record Russell Parsons as having an alias: Lester Harris.18 Perhaps that was a remnant from his days as a Mob lawyer.19
Parsons, in turn, brought Michael McCowan into the case as a private investigator. McCowan was an ex-Marine, an ex-cop and an ex-law student.20 Michael McCowan had been expelled from the LAPD in the wake of his dealings with David Kassab and others who were running a land scam deal in the San Fernando Valley in 1962. In the SUS files, there are continual references to the "Kassab Report", a report of an investigation into "alleged ties between the J.F.K. and the R.F.K. assassinations." The report itself is nowhere to be found. Listed as being in the report are names such as Clay Shaw, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy, Jim Braden, Russell Parsons, and many others of interest to assassination researchers. The report is over 900 pages long, according to page references scattered among these files. Why was such a massive report compiled? Why do so many references to it appear in the SUS files? And why has the full Kassab report been suppressed to this day?
McCowan had other problems to bring to the table beyond the Kassab deal. A former girlfriend of his notified the police that he kept a large stash of weapons in his residence. The police issued an order to investigate whether the weapons represented "loot" from other crimes, but asked that the investigation be kept quiet. At the time McCowan entered the Sirhan case, he was on a three-year probation, having appealed a five-year sentence he received in conjunction with theft and tampering with U.S. mail.
Following his involvement in the Sirhan case, McCowan worked as a defense investigator for peace activists Donald Freed and Shirley Sutherland. Freed and Sutherland had been set up by a self-proclaimed former CIA Green Beret named James Jarrett. In March of 1969, Freed and Sutherland helped organize "Friends of the Black Panthers." Jarrett had infiltrated the group by offering training in the area of self-defense, as members of the group had experienced assaults and even rape. Freed asked Jarrett to buy him a mace-like spray to use for defensive purposes. Jarrett instead presented Freed a brown-paper wrapped box of explosives while wearing a wire and attempting to get Freed to say that the "stuff" was for the Panthers. Minutes after the exchange, agents of the FBI, LAPD and Treasury raided Freed's home. Freed was charged with illegal possession of explosives. McCowan was hired by the defense as an investigator. McCowan in turn hired Sam Bluth to assist the defense. But Bluth worked instead as a police informant, stealing defense files and witness lists and proffering them to the police.21
Cooper had originally secured an initial agreement from yet another lawyer to participate in the case: the famous Edward Bennett Williams. Williams had represented the Washington Post during its Watergate coverage while also representing the target of the break-in, the Democratic National Committee. He had defended CIA Director Richard Helms when he was charged with perjury in the wake of the revelations about the CIA's participation in the events surrounding the assassination of Allende in Chile. Williams in fact defended a number of CIA men.
Williams had also defended Jimmy Hoffa when Robert Kennedy was aggressively pursuing him. And he had the gall to ask Robert Kennedy's personal secretary Angie Novello, recipient of the John Kennedy autopsy materials, to work for him after Robert was killed. Novello refused until Williams convinced her (rightfully or wrongly) that he and Bobby had made up in the wake of the Hoffa pursuit. In addition, Williams had defended Joseph McCarthy when he was under attack from the Senate. (Perhaps that is why Kaiser gave Sirhan Witness to read!) Lastly, and perhaps importantly, Williams had become good friends with Robert Maheu, the man who had hired Roselli to kill Castro on behalf of the CIA. Maheu himself appears to play a larger and more interesting role in the story of the RFK assassination, a point to which we'll return. All in all, Williams was a most curious choice of Cooper's, and one wonders what moved Williams to make even a tentative agreement to represent Sirhan.
When Williams bowed out, Cooper turned to Emile "Zuke" Berman. Berman's biggest case had involved defending a Marine drill instructor who had led his troop into a fast-rising estuary. Six drowned in this incident. Berman was able to get the man's sentence reduced to six months, and then obtained a full reversal from the Secretary of the Navy. Berman was later accused by Cooper of leaking the story of a proposed plea bargain (in which Cooper would plead Sirhan guilty to 1st degree murder in the hopes of avoiding a death sentence) to the press during the trial. (Judge Walker claimed he had been told the source was Kaiser.22) Berman was distressed that the Israeli/Palestinian battles were being given focus by the defense team during the case, and Kaiser was later to say Berman was "there in name and body only; his spirit wasn't there."23
Now if you temporarily throw out any questions raised by the evidence that has just been presented, and focus solely on how well these people served Sirhan, the picture is grim indeed. On the key point of the lack of a clear chain of possession of the bullets, Cooper met with the prosecuting attorneys in Judge Walker's chamber on February 21, 1969. The way Cooper gives in on an issue he has every reason to fight goes to the heart of the credibility of how well he defended his client. Here is the relevant section:
Fitts (Deputy DA): Now, there is another problem that I'd like to get to with respect to the medical. It is our intention to call DeWayne Wolfer to testify with respect to his ballistics comparison. Some of the objects or exhibits that he will need illustrative of his testimony will...not have adequate foundation, as I will concede at this time.
Cooper: You mean the surgeon took it from the body and this sort of thing?
Fitts: Well, with respect to the bullets or bullet fragments that came from the alleged victims, it is our understanding that there will be a stipulation that these objects came from the persons whom I say they came from. Is that right?
Cooper: So long as you make that avowal, there will be no question about that.
Fitts: Fine. Well, we have discussed the matter with Mr. Wolfer as to those envelopes containing those bullets or bullet fragments; he knows where they came from; the envelope will be marked with the names of the victims....24 [Emphasis added.]
Cooper would make many strange moves, allegedly in "defense" of Sirhan. He kept the autopsy photos from being presented in court under the notion that they would cause sympathy for Kennedy and arouse even more ire against his client. But that was the evidence that could have been used to absolve Sirhan of guilt in the case. But Cooper wasn't looking for evidence of Sirhan's innocence. In addition, Sirhan's notebooks were found during an illegal search (a search authorized by Adel, but Adel had no legal authority to give such authorization) of Mary Sirhan's house, where Sirhan was living at the time. Cooper had every reason to bar these notebooks from being admitted into evidence, but he chose not only to admit them into evidence, but even had Sirhan read portions of them from the stand. And it was Cooper who supplied Sirhan the motive he lacked, claiming that Sirhan was angry that RFK was willing to provide jets to Israel. Sirhan, lacking any memory of the crime or why he was there with a gun, readily accepted this in lieu of the only other explanation suggested to him, that he was utterly insane.
Kaiser involved himself with Sirhan's defense team by negotiating a book contract, claiming that a portion of the proceeds could be used to pay the lawyers. In return for his access, he would work as an investigator for Sirhan. It was Kaiser who brought the distance problem regarding Sirhan's position relative to Robert Kennedy's powder burns to the attention of Sirhan's defense team, albeit late in the game. Yet Kaiser believes that Sirhan and Sirhan alone fired all the bullets in the pantry. Kaiser was also the first to bring attention to the strange behavior of Sirhan during the crime that so strongly suggested to Kaiser that he was under some sort of hypnotic influence.
This issue is all-important to the question of Sirhan's guilt. The ballistics and forensic evidence indicates clearly that there was a conspiracy. So wasn't Sirhan a conspirator? Not necessarily. The question has always been this: did Sirhan play a witting, complicit role; or was he guided in some manner by others to the point where he was not in control of his actions and their consequences? This most serious issue was never brought up during Sirhan's only trial.
The Question of Hypnosis
The defense team hired Dr. Bernard Diamond to examine Sirhan to ascertain his mental state, and to find out if Sirhan could be made to remember what happened under hypnosis. As soon as Diamond hypnotized Sirhan, he found that Sirhan was an exceedingly simple subject. In fact, Sirhan "went under" so quickly and so deeply that Diamond had to work to keep him conscious enough to respond. Kaiser recorded that the very first words that Sirhan spoke to Diamond when put under hypnosis were "I don't know any people."25 Such rapid induction generally indicates prior hypnosis.
The tapes of Diamond's hypnosis sessions reveal a man that sounds like he is more interested in implanting memories than recovering them. This has been well detailed in the literature elsewhere so I will not focus on it here. Diamond, however, argued against Kaiser's notion that Sirhan had been somehow hypnotically in the control of another, and claimed Sirhan had hypnotized himself. But self-hypnosis rarely (if ever) results in complete amnesia. In addition, Sirhan "blocked" when asked key questions under hypnosis, such as "Did you think this up all by yourself?" (five second pause), and "Are you the only person involved in Kennedy's shooting?" (three second pause).26 In hypnosis, blocks are as important as answers, in that they can indicate some prior work in that area. Skilled hypnotists can place blocks into the subject's mind that prevent memory of actions undertaken and associations made while under hypnosis.
Dr. Eduard Simson-Kallas, the chief psychologist when Sirhan was at San Quentin Prison, remains convinced that Sirhan was hypnoprogrammed. He spent hours getting to know Sirhan, and when Sirhan talked about the case Simson-Kallas said it was as if he was "reciting from a book", without any of the little details most people tell when they are recounting a real event. Sirhan came to trust the psychologist, and asked him to hypnotize him. At this point, the psychologist was stopped by prison authorities who claimed he was spending too much time on Sirhan. Simson-Kallas resigned from his job over the Sirhan case. Simson-Kallas also said he had no respect for Diamond, who claimed both that Sirhan was schizophrenic, and that he was self-hypnotized. Schizophrenics cannot hypnotize themselves.27
The evidence that Sirhan was in some mentally altered state on the night of the assassination is plentiful. By his own account he had about four Tom Collinses. But not one person reported him as appearing drunk. Sandy Serrano, who had seen him walk up the back steps into the Ambassador had described him as "Boracho" but specifically explained that by that she didn't mean drunk, but somehow out of place. Yosio Niwa, Vincent DiPierro and Martin Patrusky all saw Sirhan smiling a "stupid" or "sickly" smile while he was firing. Mary Grohs, a Teletype operator, remembered him standing and staring at the Teletype machine, nonresponsive, saying nothing, and eventually walking away. And then there was the issue of his incredible strength. Sirhan was a fairly small man, and he was able to hold his own against a football tackle and several other much larger men in the pantry. George Plimpton recalled that Sirhan's eyes were "enormously peaceful". Plimpton's wife said Sirhan's "eyes were narrow, the lines on his face were heavy and set and he was completely concentrated on what he was doing." Joseph Lahaiv reported Sirhan was strangely "very tranquil" during the fight for the gun. Some have claimed Sirhan was simply tranquil because he was fulfilling his quest to kill Kennedy. But he didn't kill Kennedy, and even if he did, such a premise would have required at least a recollection of having finally completed successfully the planned act, if not an exclamation of "Sic Semper Tyrannus". Sirhan, like the other "lone nut assassins" of the sixties, was neither jubilant nor remorseful. But he could not claim that he hadn't shot Kennedy, because he truly didn't remember anything from that moment.
Even at the police station, Sirhan's conversation could only be termed bizarre. He would not tell his name, didn't talk about the assassination, and was interested only in engaging in small talk with the frustrated officers around him. These trained officers tried every tactic they knew to get him to talk, but Sirhan remained silent on anything relating to his identity. When he was arraigned before the judge, he was booked only as "John Doe" until his identity was eventually discovered. This point worried the police; usually when a subject didn't divulge his identity, it was a ruse to protect confederates, giving them a chance to get away.
An Arab doctor spoke Arabic to Sirhan, but obtained no response in recognition. Sheriff Pitchess would say of Sirhan that he was a "very unusual prisoner...a young man of apparently complete self-possession, totally unemotional. He wants to see what the papers have to say about him."28 At the station in the middle of a hot Los Angeles June night, Sirhan got the chills. He exhibited a similar reaction every time he came out of hypnosis from Diamond.
Sirhan's family and friends insisted that Sirhan had changed after a fall from a horse at a racetrack where he was working as an exercise jockey. One of his friends from the racetrack, Terry Welch, told the LAPD that Sirhan underwent a complete personality change; that he suddenly resented people with wealth, that he had become a loner. After the fall, Sirhan was treated by a series of doctors. It's possible that one of these doctors saw Sirhan as a potential hypnosis subject, and started him down a path that would end at the Ambassador hotel. Curiously, renowned expert hypnotist Dr. George Estabrooks, used by the War Department after Pearl Harbor, suggested planting a "doctor" in a hospital who could employ hypnotism on patients.29
The strange notebook entries, if they were indeed written by Sirhan, show certain phrases repeated over and over, including "RFK must die" and "Pay to the order of". Other words that pop up with no explanation, scattered throughout the writing, are "drugs" and "mind control". Diamond once hypnotized Sirhan and asked him to write about Robert Kennedy. Out came "RFK must die RFK must die RFK must die" and "Robert Kennedy is going to die Robert Kennedy is going to die Robert is going to die." When asked who killed Kennedy, Sirhan wrote "I don't know I don't know I don't know."
Just hours after the assassination, famed hypnotist Dr. William Joseph Bryan was on the Ray Briem show for KABC radio, and mentioned offhandedly that Sirhan was likely operating under some form of posthypnotic suggestion. Curiously, in the SUS files there is an interview summary of Joan Simmons in which the following is listed:
Miss Simmons was program planner for a show on KABC radio and was contacted regarding allegations of Sirhan belonging to a secret hypnotic group. She stated that she knew nothing of a Doctor Bryant [sic] of the American Institute of Hypnosis or Hortence Farrchild. She was acquainted with Herb Elsman [the next few words are blacked out but appear to say "and considered him some right-wing extremist."]
Dr. Bryan was the President of the American Institute of Hypnosis, the headquarters of which were located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Bryan was famous for having hypnotized Albert De Salvo, the "Boston Strangler" and claimed to have discovered De Salvo's motive under hypnosis. There is good reason to doubt that De Salvo was in fact the killer, according to Susan Kelly in her recent, heavily documented book The Boston Stranglers.30 And if he was not, that throws a more sinister light on Bryan's overtly coercive involvement with De Salvo. Curiously, De Salvo was the topic of one of Sirhan's disjointed post-assassination ramblings at LAPD headquarters, and references to "Di Salvo" and appear in Sirhan's notebook.
Bryan, by his own account, had been the "chief of all medical survival training for the United States Air Force, which meant the brainwashing section."31 He also claimed to have been a consultant for the film The Manchurian Candidate, based on Richard Condon's famous novel about a man who is captured by Communists and hypnotically programmed to return to the United States to kill a political leader. Condon's novel was itself based upon the CIA's ARTICHOKE program, which sought to find a way to create a programmed, amnesiac assassin. ARTICHOKE became MKULTRA.
Bryan bragged to prostitutes that he had performed "special projects" for the CIA, and that he had programmed Sirhan. Publicly, Bryan denied any involvement with Sirhan. Bryan was a brilliant but sometimes insufferable egotist who seems to have had a ready opinion on nearly any subject. But whenever Sirhan came up, with the exception of that first night, he uncharacteristically shut down and refused to discuss the case. It would appear that if Bryan was not himself directly responsible, he had some inside knowledge perhaps as to who was, and chose not to reveal it. Ultimately, the case for hypnosis does not rest on Bryan, and whether or not he worked on Sirhan has no bearing on the overall issue of Sirhan having been hypnotized.
After seeing the movie Conspiracy Theory, many people wondered if MKULTRA was indeed a real government program. Yes, Virginia, there was a sinister mind control program in which people were made to undergo hideous, obscene mental and physical tortures in the CIA's quest for a way to create a Manchurian Candidate. It should be noted that Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, and surprisingly, the Rockefeller Foundation were instrumental in developing, supporting and funding the CIA's various mind control programs.32
Most CIA doctors and hypnotists will claim that they never found success, that they could never program someone to do something against their will. Not true, argue others. On the latter point, the simple way to get someone to do something against their will is to alter their reality. Estabrooks had salient comments in relation to this point:
There seems to be a tradition that, with hypnotism in crime we hypnotize our victim, hand him a club, and say, "Go murder Mr. Jones." If he refuses, then we have disproven the possibility of so using hypnotism. Such a procedure would be silly in the extreme. The skillful operator would do everything in his power to avoid an open clash with such moral scruples as his subject might have.33...
Will the subject commit murder in hypnotism? Highly doubtful – at least without long preparation, and then only in certain cases of very good subjects....Yet, strange to say, most good subjects will commit murder....For example, we hypnotize a subject and tell him to murder you with a gun. In all probability, he will refuse....But a hypnotist who really wished a murder could almost certainly get it with a different technique....he hypnotizes the subject, tells the subject to go to [the victim's place], point the gun...and pull the trigger. Then he remarks to his assistant that, of course, the gun is loaded with dummy ammunition [even though it is not].34
Under such a scenario, Estabrooks and other hypnotists are certain that creating a murderer is possible.
But even more to the point is a note John Marks makes in his book The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, which details the CIA's efforts in this regard. He quotes a veteran CIA officer who says that while it would be highly impractical to program an assassin, due to the unpredictable number of independent decisions the subject might encounter which could lead to exposure before the deed was done, creating an assassin in this manner is also unnecessary, as mercenaries have been available since the dawn of time for this heinous act. Marks then adds the following:
The veteran admits that none of the arguments he uses against a conditioned assassin would apply to a programmed "patsy" whom a hypnotist could walk through a series of seemingly unrelated events – a visit to a store, a conversation with a mailman, picking a fight at a political rally. The subject would remember everything that happened to him and be amnesic only for the fact the hypnotist ordered him to do these things. There would be no gaping inconsistency in his life of the sort that can ruin an attempt by a hypnotist to create a second personality. The purpose of this exercise is to leave a circumstantial trail that will make the authorities think the patsy committed a particular crime. The weakness might well be that the amnesia would not hold up under police interrogation, but that would not matter if the police did not believe his preposterous story about being hypnotized or if he were shot resisting arrest. Hypnosis expert Milton Kline says he could create a patsy in three months; an assassin would take him six.35 [Emphasis added.]
Sirhan exhibited behavior during the trial that also appeared to indicate post-hypnotic suggestion. One day, two girls showed up in court that Sirhan identified as Peggy Osterkamp (a name that appeared frequently in the notebook) and Gwen Gumm. Sirhan became enraged at their presence and demanded a recess, asking to talk to the judge in chambers. The judge refused to hear Sirhan in chambers, and Sirhan, visibly fighting for self-control, said "I, at this time, sir, withdraw my original please of not guilty and submit the plea of guilty as charged on all counts." Asked what kind of penalty he wanted, Sirhan answered "I will ask to be executed," Asked why he was doing this, Sirhan replied, "I killed Robert Kennedy willfully, premeditatedly, with twenty years of malice aforethought, that is why." This ridiculous "confession" that a four-year old Sirhan was contemplating the murder of a man not yet famous almost half a world away strains credulity past the breaking point.
Making this even more bizarre is the fact that the two girls were not the two girls Sirhan said they were, but in fact two other people, identified by Kaiser as Sharon Karaalajich and Karen Adams. Sirhan's extreme reaction to two people who were not the people he thought they were forced Kaiser to conclude that "Sirhan was in a kind of paranoid, dissociated state there and then...."36 It follows that if someone programmed Sirhan to be the perfect patsy, they would likely also have programmed a seemingly spontaneous "confession" that could be spouted at the appropriate time, triggered by some person or event.
In an interesting little book named 254 Questions and Answers on Practical Hypnosis and Autosuggestion, author Emile Franchel put forth some very interesting and relevant information on hypnosis. For example, asked how long a person could be held in a hypnotic state, Franchel replied: "With sufficient knowledge and skill on the part of the hypnotist, indefinitely." Asked whether the hypnotic state could always be detected, Franchel said no, not in all cases. Franchel referred to hypno-espionage without further explanation, and when asked what official government agencies he worked for, Franchel declined to answer. He stated that he felt he was a bit of a "black sheep" among associates, explaining, "I help the innocent as well as convict the guilty."
The following question and answer pair seemed particularly relevant to Sirhan's case. Recall that Sirhan kept firing his gun, even while six big men were pounding him, causing a sprained foot and a broken finger.
Q: Reading about an assassination attempt recently, the report described how it took six or more bullets to stop each assassin. Could these assassins have been "conditioned" with hypnosis not to feel any pain?
A: Well, I am not sure who is going to like or dislike my answer to your question, but I read the same reports that you did. Unfortunately, I do not have access to any more official information. From what I read, I would conclude that they not only had been hypnotically conditioned to feel no pain, but in all probability were working, perhaps partly of their own free desires, but also under hypnotic compulsion, to complete a given mission.
The reports seem to clearly indicate that the assassins had to have a bullet placed in a vital organ to stop them. Bullets that hit anywhere else did not apparently deter them in any way.
For whatever reason, in this 1957 book, Franchel felt compelled to offer a warning regarding hypnosis and its usage:
[A:] The hypnotic techniques being employed at present make the hypnotic technicians of the ex-Nazi regime look like well meaning psychiatrists....
Q: Do I understand correctly, that you are saying that hypnotism is being abused, completely without regard to human rights?
A: You understand correctly. I am fully satisfied that hypnotic techniques are being used on a vast scale, both criminally and for other terrible reasons. Perhaps one day I might be permitted to tell you.
Q: I have heard you say many times during your television programs [Adventures in Hypnosis] that a subject under hypnosis "cannot be made to do anything that is against his moral or religious beliefs." How can you say that now?
A: I am afraid you have not been listening too closely to what I was saying. The only similar remark I have made is, "IT IS SAID that a person under hypnosis cannot be made to do anything that is against their religious or moral beliefs." I trust that the implication is clear.
It should be noted that hypnosis is considered dangerous enough that it is illegal to broadcast a hypnotic induction on television.
If Sirhan was indeed programmed, then his statements at the trial, his appearance at the shooting range hours before the assassination and his firing of a gun in the pantry may all have been actions carried out without the intervention of will. There is a strong possibility that Sirhan was not only hypnotized but additionally drugged by alcohol or some stronger substance. Frankel warned that drugs could shut down the conscious mind, preventing it from filtering what reaches the subconscious, adding:
With the conscious filter action removed, anything can be forced into the subconscious mind, which must obey it in one way or another, as the subconscious cannot argue but must believe all information reaching it, and use it.
Had Sirhan had a real trial, the possibility of his having been hypnotized may have provided reasonable doubt on the question of his guilt. But if Sirhan wasn't guilty, then who was?
The Polka Dot Girl and Company
One of the most intriguing figures in this case has been "The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress" who was seen with Sirhan immediately prior to the shooting, and who was subsequently witnessed running from the scene crying "We shot him! We shot him!" The LAPD tried to shut down this story by getting the two most public witnesses to retract their stories. But there were so many credible sightings of this girl that the police were forced to take a different tack. They identified first one, then a second woman as "the" girl, despite the fact that neither bore much of a resemblance to the girl described. Meanwhile, languishing unnoticed in the LAPD’s own files is the name of a far more likely candidate, someone who leads to a host of suspicious characters.
Over a dozen witnesses gave similar descriptions of a girl in a polka-dot dress who for varying reasons drew their attention. The two most famous of these were Vincent DiPierro, a waiter at the Ambassador Hotel, and Sandy Serrano, a Kennedy volunteer. DiPierro first noticed Sirhan in the pantry because of the woman he saw "following" him. The LAPD interviewed him the morning of the shooting (Kennedy was shot at 12:15 A.M. the morning of June 5th). During one interview, DiPierro gave the following information about the girl:
A (DiPierro): The only reason that he [Sirhan] was noticeable was because there was this good-looking girl in the crowd there.
Q: All right, was the girl with him?
A: It looked as though, yes.
Q: What makes you say that?
A: Well, she was following him.
Q: Where did she follow him from?
A: From—she was standing behind the tray stand because she was up next to him on—behind, and she was holding on to the other end of the tray table and she—like—it looked as if she was almost holding him.
DiPierro reported that he saw Sirhan turn to her and say something, to which she didn’t reply, but smiled. He said Sirhan had a sickly smile, and said "When she first entered, she looked as though she was sick also." He described her as Caucasian and as about 20 or 21 years old, definitely no older than 24. She was "very shapely" and was wearing a "white dress with—it looked like either black or dark violet polka dots on it and kind of a [bib-like] collar." He said her hair color was "Brown. I would say brunette," "puffed up a little" and that it came to just above her shoulders. DiPierro told the FBI that she had a peculiar-looking nose.
That same morning, Sandy Serrano had described to the LAPD a "girl in a white dress, a Caucasian, dark brown hair, about five-six, medium height...Black polka dots on the dress" in the company of a man she later recognized as Sirhan and another man in a gold sweater. She had seen this trio walk up the back stairs to the Ambassador earlier in the night. Sometime later, the girl and the guy in the gold sweater came running down the back stairs. Serrano recalled to the LAPD this encounter:
She practically stepped on me, and she said "We’ve shot him. We’ve shot him." Then I said, "Who did you shoot?" And she said, "We shot Senator Kennedy."
She described the girl’s attitude in this manner:
"We finally did it," like "Good going."
Serrano thought the girl was between the ages of 23 and 27, with her hair not quite coming to her shoulders, done in a "bouffant" style, wearing a polka dot dress with a bib collar and ? length sleeves. She also recalled that the girl had a "funny" nose.
Ultimately, the LAPD pressured Serrano and DiPierro into backing down on these stories, getting each to admit they had first heard of the girl from the other, an impossibility the LAPD hoped would go unnoticed. Across page after page of witness testimony cover sheets Pena scrawled "Polka Dot Story Serrano Phoney", "Girl in Kitchen I.D. Settled", "Wit[ness] can offer nothing of further value" or "No further Int[erview]." But the interviews behind these sheets tell a different and compelling story.
Dr. Marcus McBroom was in the pantry behind Elizabeth Evans, one of the shooting victims. He exited the kitchen through the double doors at the West end and noticed a brunette woman aged 20-26, medium build, "wearing a white dress with silver dollar size polka dots, either black or dark blue in color." The report of his LAPD interview records what drew McBroom’s attention to the girl:
This young lady showed no signs of shock or disbelief in comparison to other persons in the room and she seemed intent only on one thing—to get out of the ballroom.
George Green was also in the pantry during the shooting, and reported seeing a girl in a polka dot dress (early 20s, blond hair) and a young, thin, taller male with dark hair. He saw this couple earlier in the night and after the shooting. Afterwards, Green stated, "They seemed to be the only ones who were trying to get out of the kitchen...Everyone else was trying to get in."37
Ronald Johnson Panda told the LAPD that a good-looking girl, about 5’6", in a polka dot dress ran by him in the Embassy room immediately after the shooting yelling "They shot him." He had seen her earlier that night carrying some drinks.
Eve Hansen had talked to a girl in a "white dress with black or navy blue polka dots approximately the size of a quarter" who had dark brown hair that hung just above the shoulders, who had a "turned-up nose." The girl gave Hansen money for a drink and Hansen ordered the drink. When she brought it back to her, the girl made a toast "To our next President" and shortly thereafter left the bar.
Earnest Ruiz reported something he thought was odd to the police. He had watched a man and a girl in a polka dot dress run out of the hotel, but said the man later came back as Sirhan was being removed and was the first to yell, "Let’s kill the bastard."
Darnell Johnson, another pantry witness, told the police the following:
While I was waiting [for Kennedy], I saw four guys and a girl about halfway between Kennedy and where I was standing. The girl had a white dress with black polka dots. During the time that a lady yelled, "Oh, my God," they walked out. All except the one...this is the guy they grabbed [Sirhan]. The others that walked out seemed unconcerned at the events which were taking place.
Johnson also told the police that he had received threatening phone calls and that his car brakes had been tampered with, causing a near-accident.
Roy Mills also observed a group of five people, one of which was female, standing outside the Embassy Room as Kennedy was speaking. He claimed that Sirhan was one of the four males in the group, remembering him distinctly for his baggy pants. He thought one of the other men was a hotel employee. He couldn’t remember anything about the girl except that she was wearing a press pass. Curiously, Conrad Seim—who, like Serrano, DiPierro and Hanson, had noticed the girl’s "funny nose"—reported being asked by a girl in a white dress with black or navy polka dots for his press pass. He refused her request, but she came back about 15 minutes later. "She was very persistent," he told the police. He thought the girl’s nose might have been broken at one time, and described her as Caucasian but with an olive complexion.
Bill White saw a female Latin and two male Latins near the door of the embassy room. Their dress looked out of place. He also noticed a busboy wearing a white button-down jacket in the Anchor Desk area sweeping up cigarette butts where there were no butts to be swept up. He wasn’t sure this was really a busboy.
Earnest Vallero was a job dispatcher for the Southern California Waiters Alliance. He reported that a man resembling Sirhan appeared at the union office two or three weeks prior to the assassination and requested placement as a waiter at the Ambassador Hotel. Vallero said the man got upset when he was refused, and flashed an Israeli passport.
A Hungarian refugee "with absolutely no credentials at all"38 named Gabor Kadar had been turned away from the Embassy Room during the night, but found a waiter’s uniform, and donned it. Kadar later involved himself directly in the struggle to wrest the gun from Sirhan.
Booker Griffin, another pantry witness who had reported seeing a woman in a polka dot dress,39 asked Richard Aubry, a friend of his who was also in the pantry during the shooting, "Did they get the other two guys?"40
At about 9pm the night of the 4th, Irene Gizzi noticed a group of three people who "just didn’t seem to be dressed properly for the occasion." Her LAPD interview report summarizes the events as follows:
[Gizzi] saw a group of people talking who did not seem to fit with the exuberant crowd. Observed the female to be wearing a white dress with black polka dots; approximately the girl was standing with a male, possible Latin, dark sun bleached hair gold colored shirt, and possible light colored pants, possibly jeans. Possibly with suspect [Sirhan] as a third party...."
A friend of Gizzi’s who was also present, Katherine Keir, gave a very similar description of this group, describing a male in a "gold colored sport shirt" and blue jeans, another man of medium build with a T-shirt and jeans, both with dark brown hair, and a girl in a black and white polka dot dress. Keir was standing at a stairway when the polka dot dress girl ran down yelling, "We shot Kennedy." The police were able to persuade Keir to consider that she had heard the girl say instead, "Someone shot Kennedy."
Jeanette Prudhomme also saw two men, one of which looked like Sirhan and the other of which was wearing a gold shirt, in the company of a woman who appeared to be 28-30, with brown, shoulder length hair, wearing a white dress with black polka dots.
A couple of people even recalled seeing this girl on the CBS broadcast. A Mr. Plumley, first name unrecorded, claimed he had seen a polka dot dress girl in the CBS broadcast the night of June 4th. Duncan Grant, a Canadian citizen, wrote the LAPD when he heard they were canceling their search for the polka dot dress girl, stating that he had seen her on the CBS broadcast. He wrote:
We could hear two shots fired and then another burst of shots. At this moment someone shouted that the Senator had been shot. There was more confusion and at this moment a young lady burst in on the picture and she shouted We have shot Kennedy then shouted again We have shot Senator Kennedy. She was what I would call half-running and she crossed right in front of the camera from left to right and disappeared from view.
Sirhan himself remembered talking to a girl shortly before he blacked out that night. According to Kaiser, one of Sirhan’s last memories is of giving coffee to a girl of "Armenian" or "Spanish" descent in the pantry:
"This girl kept talking about coffee. She wanted cream. Spanish, Mexican, dark-skinned. When people talked about the girl in the polka-dot dress," he figured, "maybe they were thinking of the girl I was having coffee with."41
Sirhan had been at the Ambassador the Sunday before election night. A girl matching the description of the polka dot dress girl was also seen there Sunday. Karen Ross described her to the LAPD as having a nose that had been "maybe fixed", a white dress with black polka dots, ? length sleeves, dark blond hair worn in a "puff" and with a round face. Sirhan and a girl were also recorded as behaving suspiciously at a previous Robert Kennedy appearance in Pomona on May 20th.
One man may have spent the last day of Kennedy’s life with this girl. While his tale is extraordinary, it is eerily credible for the nuances and details which matched other evidence of which he could not possibly have been aware. Kaiser and Houghton referred to this man by the pseudonym of "Robert Duane." His real name is John Henry Fahey.42
June 4th with the Mystery Girl
At 9:15 A.M. on June 4th, Fahey entered the back of the Ambassador Hotel. He had planned to meet another salesman there 45 minutes earlier, but had left late and been held up in traffic. On his way up the back stairs, he noticed two men he thought looked Spanish. When they spoke, however, he realized it wasn’t Spanish because he knew Spanish. He presumed they were kitchen workers.
While in the lobby area, he spotted a pretty girl and made a flirtatious comment to her. She asked him where the Post Office was, and he couldn’t help her, and she left. About ten minutes later, she returned. He invited her to join him for breakfast in the coffee shop at the hotel. She spoke "very good English" but also had a "slight accent" that he couldn’t place. He asked her where she was from. She said she had only been there three days, and that she was from Virginia. Fahey had a relative in Virginia, and asked her if she knew Richmond, whereupon the girl said she really had come from New York, and before that a middle-eastern country ("Iran" or "Iraq", Fahey thought). She mentioned specifically Beirut. (Fahey had to ask his interviewer if there was a place named "Beirut".) She also mentioned "Akaba". When he asked her name, she gave him one, and soon another, and another. He didn’t know what her real name was. She, meanwhile, pumped him for as much information as she could get, asking his name, his occupation, and his business at the hotel. When he asked her about her own business, she said "I don’t want to get you involved...I don’t know if I can trust you to tell you the whole thing."
She told him that they were being watched, and indicated a man near the door of the coffee shop. Fahey saw a man he thought might be Spanish or Greek, resembling one of the men he had seen on the back stairs when entering the hotel. He thought the man resembled Sirhan, except that this man was taller and had sideburns. When later shown pictures of Sirhan’s family, Fahey said the man was not one of the Sirhan brothers.
The girl wanted Fahey to help her get a passport. Fahey said he had no idea how to do that, at which point she explained to him that you just find a deceased person, use their Social Security Number and write to the place where he was born to get a passport. He said she seemed shaken, and very nervous, with clammy hands, and that she seemed to be genuinely in some sort of trouble.
He described her as "Caucasian" but with an "Arab complexion, very light." He called her hair "dirty-blond" and guessed her age might be 27-28. He said her clothes, shoes and purse were all tan. In addition, he felt the purse and stockings looked foreign. He also said "Her nose was of—on the hooked fashion where you can realize that she was from the Arabic world." Asked if the nose was what one might call prominent, Fahey answered affirmatively.
Fahey had business calls to make in Oxnard, and invited the girl to come along for the ride with him, since she seemed so troubled. When they got up to leave, she wanted to pay the bill, and opened a purse where he saw a fistful of money in her wallet—"big stuff—50 dollar bills—hundred dollar bills."
They drove up the coastal route through Malibu. Two different tails followed them for part of the way. At one point, Fahey was so nervous he pulled off the road, thinking the tail would leave him. As he started to get out of the car, he noticed the girl eyeing his keys, and thinking she might run off with his car, decided not to get out after all. During the ride, she said the people tailing them were "out to get Mr. Kennedy tonight at the winning reception." He thought they should call the police to get rid of the tail but she insisted they should not call the police, and asked to be taken back to Los Angeles. In the end, although they drove to Oxnard, Fahey opted out of his sales calls and returned with the girl to the Ambassador Hotel. After driving and eating meals, they returned at around 7pm, where he dropped her off. She wanted him to come into the hotel with her. When he refused, she got angry.
Fahey might not have thought of this incident again had it not been for the assassination and the story of the strange woman who ran out into the dark afterwards. A frightened Fahey called the FBI and told them he thought he might have spent the day with that woman. After talking to the FBI, Fahey read a story by journalist Fernando Faura in the Valley Times about the polka dot girl. He called Faura and told him he might know something about the girl. Faura was hot on the trail of the mystery girl, and took Fahey’s detailed description of the girl to a police artist. Fahey tweaked the image with the artist until he saw a match.
Faura then showed the drawing to Vincent DiPierro. "That’s her," DiPierro responded. "She’s the girl in the polka-dot dress. The girl’s face is a little fuller than this sketch has it, but this is the girl."43 Faura then brought in Chris Gugas, a top Los Angeles polygraph operator, who put Fahey and his story through a lie detector. Faura told Fahey he passed the test "like a champion."44
Jordan Bonfante, the Los Angeles Bureau Chief of Life magazine, was interested in publishing Faura’s account. Hank Hernandez of SUS, however, was busy trying to crack Fahey under his own polygraph test. Under pressure from Hernandez, Fahey told an untruth, saying it was Faura who had persuaded him to connect the girl he was with to the polka dot girl. But Fahey had made the connection to the FBI long before he ever spoke with Faura. But this lie was pronounced "true" by Hank Hernandez, proving again that a polygraph’s value depends a great deal upon the integrity of the operator. Sgt. Phil Alexander tried to persuade Bonfante that Fahey was not credible, and that Life shouldn’t run the story on the girl. Kaiser amusingly recounts this incident:
"I don’t think you’ve really proved that [Fahey] was mistaken," said Bonfante. He was right. It was practically impossible to do so. But if the police didn’t do so, the implications were that there was a girl who knew something about the Kennedy assassination and that the police couldn’t find her. That was a black eye for the department.
To Bonfante, this sounded too much like Catch 22 to be true. He decided to discover how important this was to the LAPD and let Alexander talk. Six hours later, Alexander was still talking, and had not yet managed to persuaded Bonfante there was no "girl in the polka dot dress."45
So then the final question is this. Was the LAPD really so deficient? Could they really not find the girl? Amazingly, the LAPD evidence log itself contains a plausible name that may well lead to the heart of the conspiracy.
The Girl Revealed?
A former New York Police Department detective named Sid Shepard, then working at CBS-TV in New York as Chris Borgen, happened upon Sander Vanocur’s 5:00 A.M. (Eastern time) interview of Sandy Serrano. He recalled a couple of people who seemed to fit the description of the polka dot dress girl. In fact, he had observed them at a protest demonstration in New York at the United Nations building which had been captured on 16mm film. He felt so strongly about the match that he put the film, along with a couple of blowups made from the film, onto a TWA flight for Martin Steadman of the WCBS-TV affiliate in Los Angeles. Steadman brought the film and two photos made to Rampart detectives L. J. Patterson and C. J. Hughes. These items were booked into evidence as items #69 and 70 in the evidence log for the case as follows:
#69 1 Film — 16mm roll on gry plast reel
#70 1 Photo — 8" x 10" of female (1) protest demo (taken from abv film)
Photo — 3" x 4" of female "Shirin Khan" with writing on back "Shirin Khan DOB 4/22/50 daughter of Khaibar Khan Goodarzian, presented flowers & court order to Shah of Iran in NY 6/1964."
That Shepard/Borgen would identify Shirin Khan as a likely candidate for the girl was positively uncanny. He could hardly have known at that point that her father had reportedly been seen with Sirhan at Kennedy headquarters just two days before the assassination, and that some campaign workers had identified Khan as a suspicious person in the Kennedy camp.
Khaibar Khan at Kennedy Headquarters
Bernard Isackson, a Kennedy campaign volunteer, had been at the Ambassador in the Embassy room at the time of the shooting. His interview summary contains this interesting tidbit:
Mr. Isackson was asked if anything or anyone acted strange or out of place around the headquarters. He stated the only thing that stood out as being unusal [sic] was the actions and statements of Khaibar Khan (I216). He stated Khan would never fill out cards or write on anything from which the handwriting could be positively ID as Khan. He also stated to Mr. Isackson he was from Istanbul, Turkey and currently living in England. Mr. Isackson stated Khan was very overbearing when it came to the point of trying to impress someone.
Mr. Isackson recalled one incident when Khan asked one of the office girls if she had seen a [sic] unidentified volunteer, when the office girl started to page the volunteer Khan became very nervous and told the girl to never mind. Khan would often meet volunteers entering the headquarters and escort them to the information desk to register them as if they were personal friends of his; this was evidence[d] by many of them using his address and phone number.
Khan was from Iran, not Turkey, and had been living in New York before he came to Los Angeles. He filled out over 20 volunteer cards (present in the SUS files) with names of "friends", always using his own address as their contact information. For this, and a more sinister reason, Isackson was not the only one suspicious of Khan. Several campaign workers said they had seen him with Sirhan.
Eleanor Severson was a campaign worker for RFK. She told the LAPD that on May 30, 1968, a man named Khaibar Khan came into Headquarters to register for campaign work. Khan claimed to have come to California from back East to help the campaign. From that day, Khan came into Headquarters every day until the election. The Sunday before the election, June 2, he brought four other foreigners (of Middle Eastern extraction) in to work as volunteers. Severson and her husband both said that Sirhan was one of these men. She remembered this group in particular because while she was registering the men, Kennedy’s election day itinerary was taken from her desk. Her husband thought Sirhan may have taken it. Severson reported seeing Sirhan again early in the afternoon of June 3, standing near the coffee machine.
Larry Strick, another Kennedy worker, confirmed this account. He said he had spoken to Sirhan in the company of Khan. When Sirhan’s picture was finally shown on TV, he and Mrs. Severson called each other nearly at the same instant to talk about the fact that this was the man they both remembered from Headquarters. Strick positively ID’d Sirhan from photos as the same man he had seen on June 2nd to both the LAPD and the FBI in the days immediately following the assassination.
Estelle Sterns, yet another Kennedy volunteer, claimed to have seen Sirhan at Headquarters on Election Day itself. He was with three other men of Middle Eastern extraction and a female who was wearing a white coat or dress and who had dark hair that was nearly shoulder length. Sterns said Sirhan offered to buy her a cup of coffee (a typical Sirhan act), which Sterns declined. Sterns said that Sirhan and another of the men were carrying guns. The day after the assassination, Sterns claimed to have received a phone call from a man who sounded muffled, as though he was speaking through a towel, telling her "Under no circumstances give out any information to anybody as to the number of people or their activities at your desk on Tuesday."
The LAPD loved this. They "discredited" the whole Sirhan-at-headquarters sighting by focusing solely on Sterns’ account. They even used Severson to discredit this story, although the LAPD buried Severson’s interview where she stated she too had seen Sirhan at Headquarters. The LAPD also claimed Strick had retracted his identification of Sirhan.
Surprisingly, Khan himself, as well as his "sister" (who was really his personal secretary/consort) Maryam Koucham both claimed they saw Sirhan at Headquarters. Khan claimed to have seen Sirhan standing in Headquarters on June 4th at around 5:00 p.m. in the company of a girl in a polka dot dress. The question is, did he really see a girl with Sirhan and was he trying to help, or was he instead helping to muddy the waters about a girl who may have been his own daughter? Khan also claimed to have seen Sirhan with the woman on June 3rd, the same day he brought his daughter Shirin Khan into headquarters. (On this day, he also met Walter Sheridan and Pierre Salinger at the Ambassador Hotel.) But did he bring his daughter Shirin into Headquarters, or his other daughter Rose, or some other woman, or no woman at all? Did he see a girl with Sirhan, or did Khan just say he did to deflect suspicion away from both himself and his daughter? How are we to know which statements of his are to be believed?
He refused to take a polygraph or to attend a showup to identify Sirhan more positively. He was illegally in the country, having overstayed his visa. He told the police he was on the run from the Shah of Iran’s goons. But Khan had previously had a working relationship with the Shah. Khan wasn’t using his real name, but was going by the alias of Goodarzian, as was his ex-wife and daughter Shirin. He had a prior arrest recorded with the LAPD (1/13/67), at which time he had been using the alias of Mohammad Ali. And when the LAPD checked the names of the volunteers whom he had registered under a single address, the LAPD stated that "Records show that none of these persons entered the U.S. between the period of June 1968 through December 1968."46 (As an aside, thirteen Iranians suspected of participating in a political assassination in 1990 came under suspicion when it was found that they had all listed the same personal address. The address in that case turned out to be an intelligence-ministry building.47)
The address Khan used belonged to Khan’s ex-wife and Shirin’s mother, Talat Khan. Talat had lived there with sons Mike and Todd and daughter "Sherry". (After the assassination, "Shirin Goodarzian" went by the name of "Sherry Khan".) Although housing three children and herself, according to the LAPD records Talat had no source of employment. Her son Mike was working as a manager at a small pizza outlet in Santa Monica. Her daughter Shirin showed two different places of employment for the same dates. She had only just graduated from University High and allegedly worked for either or both "University Ins. Co." and "Pacific Western Mtg. Co." in Los Angeles. Despite her working status, Sherry had no social security number.
Talat told the LAPD that she was divorced from Khan. She initially told them she did not know his whereabouts, but then was able to contact him to tell him the police wanted to talk to him. The LAPD recorded that Talat was not involved in politics. She may have been involved with Khan and Koucham in a bank fraud scheme in 1963, after having divorced Khan in 1961, but the evidence in that regard is far from clear.48 Khaibar Khan, Maryam Koucham and Talat Khan became political targets when Khaibar Khan brought some astounding information to the attention of Senator McClellan’s Committee on Government Operations in May of 1963. Khan had accused several prominent Americans, including David Rockefeller and Allen Dulles, of receiving payoff money from the Shah of Iran from funds received through an American aid program. In short, Khan was no ordinary Iranian. He was master over a powerful intelligence network that had worked for and against the Shah of Iran at various points in time.
Khaibar Khan’s father had been executed by the Shah when he was only a boy of eight. Khan might have been killed as well, but a British couple named Smiley, who worked for oil interests, had taken pity on him and removed him from the country. Khan was educated in Scotland, and in 1944 joined British military intelligence. In 1948 his Iranian title was restored, and he ran a fleet of taxicabs, trucks and operated a repair shop. He also worked for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and maintained ties with British and American missions there. Fred Cook, who wrote about Khan’s life in detail in The Nation (4/12/65 & 5/24/65), dropped this interesting piece of information:
The Khaibar Khan’s role in the counter-coup that toppled Mossadegh is not quite clear, but indications are that he helped.
Was Khan working with the CIA in that operation?
Despite the Shah’s role in his father’s death, Khan and the Shah became friends. The Shah even provided Khan a villa on the palace grounds. Their friendship took a turn for the worse, however, when Khan wanted to use some of the plentiful American foreign aid coming into the country for a sports arena. The Shah and his family, however, had other plans for the land and the money, leading to a falling out between Khan and the Shah. One day, the Shah discovered that Khan’s large and lavishly equipped Cadillac El Dorado was wiretapped to the hilt, and realized that he had a major spy in his midst. Khan was warned of the Shah’s discovery, and fled the country. But Khan had spent years building up a powerful spy network. As Khan later told the Supreme Court:
...we put engineers, doctors, gardeners and as servants and as storemen; all educated people working in several different places. And we put a lot of secretaries; a lot of people who was educated in England. And we put them as secretaries.
Through this network, Khan noticed something interesting. Some $7 million of the sports arena’s funds had been redirected to the Pahlavi Foundation, the Shah’s family’s personal fund. He directed his spies to find out where the money was going, to whom and what for. What his agents found was rather astonishing, and led to a most peculiar congressional investigation. He found that just days before the Shah was to have an audience with President Kennedy in the U.S., six and seven figure checks had been cut from the Pahlavi Foundation account to a number of prominent and influential Americans. Kennedy had no great love for the Shah or his operations, and was not planning on granting the largesse the Shah was seeking. Was the Shah feathering the nest before his arrival by spreading money around? Khan’s agents photocopied a batch of checks from the Shah’s safe. The checks included payments to the following:
Allen Dallas [sic]: $1,000,000
Henry Luce: $500,000
David Rockefeller: $2,000,000
Mrs. Loy Henderson: $1,000,000
George V. Allen: $1,000,000
Seldin Chapin: $1,000,000
Henderson, Allen and Chapin had all served at some point as Ambassador to Iran, a role Richard Helms would later play when removed from the CIA by Richard Nixon. (Richard Helms, by the way, had been a childhood friend of the Shah; they had attended the same Swiss school in their youth.) David Rockefeller, Allen Dulles and Henry Luce had contributed to Mossadegh’s overthrow, an effort double-headed by the CIA and British intelligence. The Shah’s family members also received checks ranging from six to eight figures in length, the highest being a $15,000,000 check paid to Princess Farah Pahlavi. Princess Ashraf, the Shah’s twin sister, came in second at $3,000,000. High level British officials were also on the list.
Needless to say, when this news was given to Congress, the earth began to rumble. According to Cook:
The Khaibar Khan’s disclosures [of May and June, 1963] were called to the attention of President Lyndon B. Johnson in late December by one of the President’s closest advisers, Washington attorney Abe Fortas. Since then, there have been these seemingly significant developments: the American Ambassador to Iran has been relieved of his duties; the Iranian Ambassador in Washington has been recalled—and for the past year there has been a stoppage on all economic (i.e. non-military) aid to Iran....49
From the look of it, it appeared Khan’s revelations were being taken seriously. Khan’s credibility was enhanced when a secret Treasury report provided solely to McClellan’s committee was photocopied from within the Iranian embassy and given to Khan, who showed the copy to the committee. His copy proved that 1) someone on McClellan’s committee was providing information to the Iranian embassy, and 2) Khan had agents so sensitively placed within the embassy as to be able to intercept this highly sensitive information. Khan’s credibility became something that needed to be destroyed at all costs. Who in Congress dared accuse David Rockefeller, Henry Luce and Allen Dulles of receiving payoffs from a foreign government? Someone had to be taken down, and the spotlight focused on Khan. An attempt was made to physically assault Khan, but the attempt was performed in a public arena and was quickly stopped. A more violent attack was made upon Maryam Koucham in an effort to scare her into revealing Khan’s sources within the Embassy.
The publication of Cook’s article about these events in The Nation seems to have been the impetus for a sudden and furious turnaround from McClellan’s committee. After two years of pursuing evidence of what the committee had termed "gross corruption" in the use of American aid money to Iran, the committee suddenly launched an all-out assault on Khan. McClellan suddenly surfaced a letter (dated a year earlier) from the bank in Geneva from which the records of payoffs had surfaced. The letter from the bank managers stated that the records Khan had submitted were false, citing typeface difference, differing account number systems and so forth. But were this true, why did McClellan’s committee continue to investigate Khan’s allegations for a full year? Clearly the committee knew no one would buy the letter, at least at that point. But once Cook made the issue public, then anything had to be used, no matter how ill-supported, to discredit Khan. It was at this point that Khan, his ex-wife and Koucham were accused of bank fraud.
What had started as Khan’s crusade to regain money that was to be used for Iran turned into an ugly, losing battle. Khan was a very resourceful man, and knew how to play on a winning team. It seems highly unlikely that he continued forever his fight against the Shah, and more likely that he gave in to the old adage of "if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em." And a man with Khan’s sources could not be allowed to become an enemy of American intelligence. He had too powerful a network. One can’t help but wonder if the CIA took an interest in protecting the actions of their own (Dulles, Rockefeller, the Shah et. al.) while using Khan for their own purposes.
Khan appeared out of the blue at RFK Headquarters, was seen with Sirhan, lied about his background, raised suspicion by his secretiveness, and may have fathered the girl in the polka dot dress. But perhaps his most suspicious act was giving a ride on election night to a man who was arrested while running out of the pantry immediately after the shots had been fired: Michael Wayne.
Mr. Wayne was in the kitchen when Kennedy was shot, and was the subject of reports by Patti Nelson, Tom Klein and Dennis Weaver of a man running through the lobby with a long object in his hand, which appeared to be a rifle.— SUS supplement to Wayne’s interview (I-1096)
Michael Wayne, whose real name was Wien, was a twenty-one year old from England who the LAPD wrote "professes to be of Jewish background, but not from the mid-east."50 Wayne worked at the Pickwick Bookstore on Sunset Boulevard. Wayne had gained entry to the pantry by obtaining a press button, and even managed to get into Kennedy’s suite on the 5th floor. When Kennedy went down to the Embassy room to make his speech, Wayne followed. He was loitering in the kitchen, was asked to leave, and returned shortly before the shooting took place. Cryptic references in the extant files on Wayne seem to indicate that Wayne made some comment indicating foreknowledge of the assassination to a man in the electrician’s booth shortly before the shooting. In fact, the first question on the proposed list of questions to be asked of Wayne under a polygraph was this:
Did you have prior knowledge that there might be an attempt on Senator Kennedy’s life?
Curiously, that question does not appear on the actual list of questions asked.51
Right after the shots were fired, Wayne, who bore a resemblance to Sirhan, although taller and with sideburns, ran out of the East end of the Pantry and then out through the Embassy room. William Singer described this event to the LAPD:
I was in the lobby of the Ambassador Hotel right next to the ballroom. Senator Kennedy had just walked away from the podium after his victory speech. Several moments before the commotion started a man came running and pushing his way out of the ballroom past where I was standing. I would describe this man as having Hebrew or some type mid-eastern features, he was approx 18/22 5-10 thin face, slim, drk swtr or jkt, drk slacks, no tie, firy [sic] neat in appearance, nice teeth, curly arab or hebrew type hair. He may have been wearing glasses, I’m not sure. I can ID him. He isn’t one of the men in the pictures you showed me (Saidallah B. Sirhan or Sirhan Sirhan) this man was in a big hurry and was saying, "Pardon me Please" as he pushed his way out of the crowded ballroom. He was carrying a rolled piece of cardboard, maybe a placard. This placard was approx 1? yards long and 4-6" in diameter. I think I saw something black inside. Just as he got pst [sic] me I heard screaming and shouting and I knew something bad had happened. Two men were shouting to "Stop that man." these two men were chasing the first man. I don’t know if they caught him.52
Gregory Ross Clayton also reported this incident to the LAPD, adding that it was a newsman who yelled "Stop him." Clayton then tackled the man and held him while a hotel security guard handcuffed and removed the man. Clayton reported having seen this man standing with a girl and three other men, one of which resembled Sirhan, earlier that night at the hotel.53 Clayton identified Michael Wayne as the man he had seen. The LAPD confirmed that Ace Security guard Augustus Mallard had arrested and handcuffed Wayne because of his suspicious behavior running from the scene of the shooting.
The press man was evidently Steve Fontanini, a photographer for the Los Angeles Times. Thinking Wayne was a suspect, he ran after him. Fontanini didn’t buy Wayne’s explanation that he was running to a telephone because he was running out of the press room (adjacent to the pantry), a room full of phones. That fact bothered neither the LAPD nor Robert Kaiser, who accepted Wayne’s explanation as the truth.
Joseph Thomas Klein, Patti Nelson and Dennis Weaver had seen Wayne run by with something rolled up in his hand. Klein originally described the roll as larger at one end than at the other. Weaver remembered Patti had yelled "He’s got a gun," although Weaver did not see a gun. Weaver said he only saw Wayne for several seconds. A month later, when questioned again, the LAPD recorded the following interesting comments, begging the question of what had given rise to them:
The man was carrying a blue poster, rolled up in his left hand. It could have been a cardboard tube, or rolled up posters. Mr. Weaver states he had a clear view of the object and states that there was no gun sticking out of the roll.
This investigator questioned Mr. Weaver additionally concerning the object being carried by the man crossing the lobby. Weaver states he is absolutely sure there was no gun protruding from the object. He states the object was blue, but was not wood colored at the one end, or even resembling a gun stock.
Patti Nelson’s interview appears to no longer exist. Joseph Klein’s, however, contained the interesting notation:
Klein states that as he pursued Wayne, he passed Nelson and Weaver and said, to them; "my God, he had a gun, and we let him get by." (Klein states this is the first time since the incident he can recall making the statement.)
What happened after Wayne was arrested and handcuffed by Ace Security Guard Mallard is unclear, and troubling. An LAPD supplemental report to Michael Wayne’s interview states:
This investigator received information that the business card of Keith Duane Gilbert was in the possession of Wayne, at the time of his apprehension after Sen. Kennedy was shot. Gilbert is reported to be an extremist and militant who has been involved in a dynamite theft, previously.
Wayne, however, denied any knowledge of Gilbert, and did not remember ever having his card. But in the SUS files, yet another problem cropped up. Gilbert’s file, when checked, contained a business card as well. The card belonged to Michael Wayne.
Sgt. Manual Gutierrez of SUS spent a great deal of time trying to find out whether there was some sinister association between Wayne and Gilbert, a radical Minuteman activist. Gutierrez did not believe Wayne’s denials of a relationship, and ultimately pushed to have Wayne polygraphed. Unfortunately, the polygraph was operated by Hernandez, whose record of truth in this case is so poor as to make his tests worthless. Not surprisingly, Hernandez determined Wayne was "truthful" about not knowing Gilbert. Gutierrez, a fitness buff, died in 1972 at the young age of forty. Turner and Christian wrote, "It was said that he [Gutierrez] had privately voiced doubts about the police conclusion [that Sirhan alone had killed Kennedy]." SUS ended up claiming that that the Michael Wayne card in Gilbert’s file referred to a different Michael Wayne. They never did explain the reverse possession.
Wayne is an interesting person. He was seen in a group that allegedly included Sirhan. He obtained a ride from the suspicious Khaibar Khan. A couple of people thought he had a gun as he ran out of the pantry. And he was apprehended by a guard from the service that employed one of the most famous alternate suspects in this case, Thane Eugene Cesar.
Thane Eugene Cesar
Thane Eugene Cesar was just behind and to the right of Kennedy at the time the shots were fired. If Cesar is telling the truth about his position, then either he was the shooter, or the shooter had to be between himself and Kennedy. Cesar denies that he shot Kennedy, and denies that anyone else in that position shot him either. Cesar’s proximity to Kennedy is graphically demonstrated by the presence of his clip-on tie just beyond Kennedy’s outstretched hand as he lay on the floor. Cesar has made many statements that he has later contradicted, adding to the suspicion of sinister involvement. For example, he told police he had sold his.22 before the assassination, and that he had lost the receipt. But the police found the receipt, and found that he had sold the gun after the assassination.
Cesar was also one of the first to accurately pinpoint where Kennedy was shot. Most people thought Kennedy was shot in the head. Cesar, on the other hand, in an interview immediately following the shooting, reported that Kennedy was shot in the head, the chest and the shoulder. He also said he was holding Kennedy’s arm when "they" shot him. Asked if Sirhan alone did all the shooting he said, "No, yeah. One man."54 Paul Hope of the Evening Star also obtained early comments from Cesar. Hope recorded Cesar’s comments as follows:
I fell back and pulled the Senator with me. He slumped to the floor on his back. I was off balance and fell down and when I looked up about 10 people already had grabbed the assailant.55
Cesar told the LAPD that he ducked and was knocked down at the first shot, hardly the same report he gave the press. Richard Drew witnessed something similar to Cesar’s original version, as he reported in a separate article in the Evening Star that same day (6/5/68):
As I looked up, Sen. Kennedy started to fall back and then was lowered to the floor by his aides.
In Drew’s LAPD interview, he reduced the plural to the singular, saying "Someone" had lowered Kennedy to the floor. Since Kennedy was shot in the back at a range of 1-2 inches, anyone lowering him to the floor should have been an immediate suspect.
Equally important was Eara Marchman’s report to the LAPD of what she witnessed prior to the assassination. Thane Eugene Cesar had been assigned to guard the pantry area that night. The LAPD recorded the following information from Marchman:
She walked out towards the kitchen area and observed a man in a blue coat, dark complexion, possibly about 5-3/6 wearing lt. colored pants, standing talking to, and possibly arguing with, a uniformed guard who was standing by swinging kitchen doors (after showing mugs susp Sirhan was pointed out, although she only saw the man from the side position).
Was Cesar arguing with Sirhan earlier that night? Cesar claims he never saw Sirhan in the pantry before the shooting, despite his having been sighted there by several other witnesses. But is Cesar to be believed?
Anyone wishing to look into the involvement of Cesar eventually runs into Dan Moldea. (See DiEugenio’s article on Moldea in this issue.) It’s almost as if Moldea has become Cesar’s handler, deciding who will get access to his prize.
Moldea spends a great deal of his book on the case discussing Cesar. Cesar was standing immediately behind and to the right of Kennedy—exactly the spot from which the gun had to have been fired, according to the autopsy report. While many researchers have felt (and continue to feel) that Cesar was the top suspect for the actual assassin of RFK, Moldea has not. Moldea, curiously, has been a defender. In his first published article on the case in Regardie’s, Moldea concluded with the following statement about Cesar:
Gene Cesar may be the classic example of a man caught at the wrong time in the wrong place with a gun in his hand and powder burns on his face—an innocent bystander caught in the cross fire of history.
Whatever Moldea’s motives may have been in 1987, when the above quotes were published, by 1997 he was singing an even more disturbing tune:
To sum up, Gene Cesar proved to be an innocent man who since 1969 has been wrongly accused of being involved in the murder of Senator Kennedy.
What would cause a man to state such a thing, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, some of which he dug up himself?
Moldea tells us that Cesar had secret clearance to work on projects at Lockheed’s Burbank facility, and at Hughes Aircraft. Note that Robert Maheu, Roselli’s partner in assassination plots, was overseeing a great deal of Hughes’ operations in 1968. Note too that the CIA has had a long and admitted relationship with Hughes. A CIA document dated 1974 but not released until 1994 relates the following:
DCD [Domestic Contacts Division] has had close and continuing relationships with the Hughes Tool Company and Hughes Aircraft Company since 1948. Both companies have been completely cooperative and have provided a wealth of information over the years....It should be noted...that in the case of Hughes Aircraft, DCD has contacted over 250 individuals in the company since the start of our association and about 100 in Hughes Tool over the same period. The substance of the contacts ranged from FPI collection to sensitive operational proposals. In addition, there is some evidence in DCD files that both companies may have had contractual relationships with the Agency. In the context of such a broad range in Hughes/CIA relationships, it is difficult to state with certainty that the surfacing of the substance of a given action would not cause Congressional and/or media interest.56
He also reveals that at a lunch with Cesar, Cesar casually mentioned that he had purchased some diamonds from a businessman who was a Mafia associate. Despite these points, Moldea writes:
For years, numerous conspiracy theories have alleged that Cesar worked for the Mafia, the CIA, Howard Hughes, or even as a freelance bodyguard, leg breaker, and hit man.
There is no evidence to support any of these allegations.
While one could argue that there is no proof, there is plenty of evidence to support such allegations. Moldea even provided some of it, but did so in a sneaky fashion. For example, the Burbank Lockheed facility is the famous "Skunkworks" facility that housed the CIA’s U-2 program. And Howard Hughes owned Hughes Aircraft. The CIA also had a stake in Hughes Aircraft (and the entire Hughes operation), a non-secret at this point. Why did Moldea leave out such salient points?
The denouement of Moldea’s exploration of Cesar comes in the form of a much-touted polygraph test, which Cesar passed. Cesar had offered to take a polygraph in the past, but LAPD consistently avoided all opportunities to do so. Moldea claims that had Cesar failed his test, he would have pursued him to the ends of the earth. But since he passed, he concludes that Cesar is credible. He could have passed some of the questions he was asked whether he was the shooter or not. Consider the following:
Between the ages of twenty-eight and forty-five, other than your kids, did you ever hurt anyone?
One can’t help but wonder, from the wording, just what Cesar did do to his kids between those ages! But worse, Cesar was twenty-six at the time of RFK’s assassination, not twenty-eight! That question and a similar one had no relevance to June 5th at all!
Examine the semantic trick in the next question:
Did you fire a weapon the night Robert Kennedy was shot?
Kennedy was shot at about 12:15 AM in the morning, so "the night" he was shot would have been the night of the 5th, long past the point at which the shooting took place. No assassin fired a gun that "night".
The wording of this next question was interesting.
Were you involved in a plan to shoot Robert Kennedy?
Note how the question was limited specifically to shooting, and not to any other broader kind of involvement in a plan to kill Robert Kennedy. What if Cesar was not the shooter, but was protecting the shooter’s identity by saying he was the only one in the shooter’s position? He might do this if he knew it could never be proved that he was the shooter. And if he didn’t fire any shots into the Senator, it would be difficult, despite circumstantial evidence, to link him in a court of law to the crime. But by saying he was there and that no one was between them, possibly he could be lying to protect someone else. If that were true, his next answer could very well be true:
Regarding57 Robert Kennedy, did you fire any of the shots that hit him in June of ’68?
The following question and answer either supports this theory, or proves Cesar to be inaccurate or lying about his position relative to Kennedy:
Could you have fired at Kennedy if you wanted to?
By his own account, he had been practically touching Kennedy, and did have a gun with him that night. So it would seem that his answer is inaccurate, unless someone was physically between him and Kennedy.
There are, of course, other possibilities to the postulations I have just suggested. He might have truly had no involvement, and genuinely told the truth. Another possibility is that he faked his way through the test. No less than former CIA Director William Colby said this was doable if you knew the tricks of the trade. A third possibility is that the operator, Edward Gelb, altered the machine and/or results to achieve the desired results. And these suggestions are not mutually exclusive.
Whatever the results, Moldea was not justified in basing his sole conclusion as to the question of Cesar’s guilt or innocence upon a test that is not even admissible in court. Moldea’s unquestioning credence casts as many doubts about Moldea as Cesar’s conflicting statements continue to cast upon himself.
Lastly, there is the question of Ace Guard Services. Ace was only formed in the beginning of 1968 by Frank J. and Loretta M. Hendrix. And Cesar was only hired in May of 1968, just days before the assassination. Years after the assassination, DeWayne Wolfer, the criminalist in Sirhan’s case, became president of Ace under its newer name of Ace Security Services. Is this all just coincidence?
Lining Up the Squares
Like a Rubik’s cube, this case seems to involve many small, separate players. But as you get closer to solving the puzzle, you find there are really only a few planes, all of which connect in a single, logical fashion. The conspiracy is obvious; the players semi-obvious; but the motive is considerably less obvious. The question of Cui Bono remains all-important: Who Benefits?
Once a supporter of Red hunter Joe McCarthy, Bobby had grown a great deal since his brother’s death. He became the champion of the disenfranchised. He marched for civil rights, and lashed out at the inefficiencies in our social system. He was not a supporter of welfare handouts but of jobs for all. He was often accused of being "angry", and retorted "I am impatient. I would hope everyone would be impatient." "I think people should be angry enough to speak out." Another favorite: "It is not enough to allow dissent. We must demand it." As Richard Goodwin has written, it was the very qualities that people most appreciated that caused the establishment to loathe and fear him. The people loved a Senator who would stand up and tell it like it was, without fear, without softening rhetoric. The establishment wanted him to go away.
Bobby Kennedy had more enemies it would seem then his brother. Where John Kennedy played the politician, Bobby Kennedy played the populist. A famous episode recounted by Richard Goodwin shows how radical Bobby had become. The State Department had threatened to cut off aid to Peru over a dispute Peru had with the International Petroleum Company, a Standard Oil subsidiary. Kennedy had been outraged at the State Department, saying, "Peru has a democratic government. We ought to be helping them succeed, not tearing them down just because some oil company doesn’t like their policies." But when Kennedy was confronted with what he considered excessive anti-Americanism from a Peruvian audience, Kennedy turned the tables on them. Goodwin recounts what transpired as follows:
Irritated by the attacks, Kennedy turned on his audience. "Well, if it’s so important to you, why don’t you just go ahead and nationalize the damn oil company? It’s your country. You can’t be both cursing the U.S., and then looking to it for permission to do what you want to do. The U.S. government isn’t going to send destroyers or anything like that. So if you want to assert your nationhood, why don’t you just do it?"
The Peruvians were stunned at the boldness of Kennedy’s suggestion. "Why, David Rockefeller has just been down here," they said, "and he told us there wouldn’t be any aid if anyone acted against International Petroleum."
"Oh, come on," said Kennedy, "David Rockefeller isn’t the government. We Kennedys eat Rockefellers for breakfast."
Bobby had outraged the CIA by exercising heavy oversight after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Richard Helms, the friend of the Shah and a key MKULTRA backer, held a special animosity for Bobby Kennedy. And Bobby was the one who asked, immediately after the assassination, if the CIA had killed his brother. What might Bobby have uncovered had he been allowed to reach the office of the Presidency? Powerful factions hoped they’d never have to find out.
Kennedy himself expected tragedy for his efforts. "I play Russian roulette every time I get up in the morning," he told friends. "But I just don’t care. There’s nothing I could do about it anyway," the fatalist explained, adding, "This isn’t really such a happy existence, is it?"58
The assassination of both Kennedys guaranteed the elongation of our involvement in Vietnam, a war that personally brought Howard Hughes and everyone involved in defense contracts loads of money. Killing Bobby prevented any effective return to the policies started under John Kennedy, and prevented Bobby from opening any doors to the truth about the murder of his brother. And killing Bobby removed a thorn in the side of many in the CIA who felt he had treated them unkindly and unfairly.
Who killed Bobby? One man gave me an answer to that. I interviewed John Meier, a former bagman for Hughes and by association the CIA. Meier was one of the tiny handful of people in direct contact with Howard Hughes himself. His position gave him entry to circles most people will never see.
Meier had worked for Hughes during the assassination, and saw enough dealings before and after the assassination to cause him to approach J. Edgar Hoover with what he knew. For example, he knew that Thane Eugene Cesar had an association with Maheu. (Maheu also had an extensive working relationship with the LAPD. This partnership produced a porno film pretending to show Indonesian president Sukarno in a compromising position with a Soviet agent.59) According to Meier, Hoover expressed his frustration, saying words to the effect of "Yes, we know this was a Maheu operation. People think I’m so powerful, but when it comes to the CIA, there’s nothing I can do."
People will choose what they will believe. But the evidence is still present, waiting to be followed, if any entity has the fortitude to pursue the truth in this case to wherever it leads. And so long as Sirhan remains in jail, the real assassins will never be sought.
© 1998 Lisa Pease
Do not copy, repost, quote largely from, plagiarize, or distribute in any other form without the written permission of Lisa Pease.
Links are welcome.
1. The SUS files begin with biographies of all the SUS members, including military service information.
2. Robert A. Houghton with Theodore Taylor, Special Unit Senator (New York: Random House, 1970), pp. 102-3.
3. Jonn Christian and William Turner, The Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1978), pp. 64-66.
4. Richard Harris Smith, OSS: The Secret History of America's First Central Intelligence Agency (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972), p. 20.
5. Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege, p. 249. For his efforts, Wirin, a native-born Russian, was branded a Communist. One can only wonder at the effect that had on his career or his subsequent actions.
6. Mark Lane, Plausible Denial (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press), p. 52.
7. Robert Blair Kaiser, R. F. K. Must Die (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1970) p. 102.
8. Kaiser, pp. 103-104.
9. In Kaiser's own book, he writes that he had been the one to recommend the book to Sirhan (p. 239). But in his January 17, 1969 article for Life magazine, Kaiser writes that Sirhan "requested" the book Witness. Similarly, in RFK Must Die Kaiser writes that Eason Monroe, the president of the ACLU, had called A. L. Wirin after the assassination with the suggestion that Wirin approach Sirhan (p. 60). But in the Life article, Kaiser implies that Adel Sirhan brought Wirin into the case.
10. Kaiser, p. 124.
11. Brad Ayers, The War That Never Was (Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1976) and private correspondence.
12. Klaber and Melanson, Shadow Play: The Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, the Trial of Sirhan Sirhan, and the Failure of American Justice (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997) p. 43.
13. CIA document dated 3/18/68 referencing the "cleared attorneys' panel", quoted in Probe(7/22/97), p. 18.
14. Kaiser, p. 128.
15. Kaiser, p. 129.
16. McKissack was later removed from the Sirhan defense team and replaced with Godfrey Isaac.
17. Klaber and Melanson, p. 26.
18. SUS Files, Index Card under Russell E. Parsons.
19. Kaiser, p. 245. "In the forties...Russell Parsons was defending some well-known members of what is sometimes called The Mob...." See also the SUS final report (unredacted version), p.1430.
20. Kaiser, p. 152.
21. Frank Donner, Protectors of Privilege (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp. 261-263.
22. Klaber and Melanson, p. 72.
23. Klaber and Melanson, p. 72.
24. A copy of this transcript is provided by Lynn Mangan in her monograph on the case on p. 214 (p. 3967 of the original trial transcript). Sirhan was not present in chambers when this agreement was reached.
25. Kaiser, p. 296.
26. Kaiser, pp. 302-303.
27. Alan W. Scheflin and Edward M. Opton, Jr. The Mind Manipulators (New York: Paddington Press Ltd., 1978), p. 439.
28. Kaiser, p. 86.
29. Walter H. Bowart, Operation Mind Control (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1978), p. 58.
30. Kelly makes a good case for De Salvo's innocence, and the guilt of his closest associate, George Nasser. The lawyer in that case was F. Lee Bailey, a friend of Bryan's. Bryan helped Bailey on two other famous cases. F. Lee Bailey was later to defend a mind control victim named Patty Hearst. (Curiously, her father's first two choices for a lawyer for her defense were Edward Bennett Williams and Percy Foreman, the notorious lawyer who coerced James Earl Ray into pleading guilty, an act Ray forever after regretted.)
31. Turner & Christian, p. 226, quoting Bryan's KNX Radio Interview of February 12, 1972.
32. Allen Dulles' and Richard Helms' participation in these programs is well documented. Lesser known has been the role the Rockefeller family funds played in developing these horrific programs. The Rockefeller Foundation, for example, set up the infamous Allen Memorial Institute at McGill University in Montreal. See Thy Will be Done by Gerard Colby (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1995), p. 265.
33. George H. Estabrooks, Hypnotism (New York: Dutton, 1948), p. 172.
34. Estabrooks, p. 199.
35. John Marks, The Search for the "Manchurian Candidate" (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1979), 1991 paperback edition, p. 204.
36. Kaiser, p. 407.
37. Kaiser, p. 114 and SUS I-613.
38. Kaiser, p. 19.
39. Noted in the interview of Samuel Strain, SUS I-62.
40. Kaiser, p. 46.
41. Kaiser, p. 305.
42. The following account is taken from the SUS file on John Henry Fahey. This document is marked S.F.P.D. which presumably stands for the San Fernando Police Department. The interviewer is listed as "Fernando" and "Fdo", and is likely Fernando Faura, a journalist who was hot on the trail of the polka dot girl.
43. Kaiser, p. 174. This drawing is shown in Ted Charach's video The Second Gun.
44. Kaiser, p. 175. Gugas is a past president of the American Polygraph Association.
45. Kaiser, p. 225.
46. Supplemental Report Khaibar Khan Investigation, SUS Files, prepared by R. J. Poteete.
47. "The Tehran Connection", Time 3/21/94.
48. Fred Cook, "Iranian Aid Story: New Twists to the Mystery", The Nation (5/24/65), pp. 553-4.
49. Cook, The Nation (4/12/65), p. 384.
50. SUS Interview of Michael Wayne (I-1096).
51. SUS files contain both proposed questions and actual questions/responses. There are several differences between sets of questions.
52. SUS Interview of William Singer (I-58-A).
53. SUS Interview of Gregory Ross Clayton (I-4611).
54. Turner and Christian, pp. 167-168, sourcing a KFWB transcript.
55. "Senator Felled in Los Angeles; 5 Others Shot", The Evening Star (6/5/68).
56. CIA memo to the Inspector General regarding DCD's response to the Agency-Watergate File Review. Dated 24 April 1974; released 1994, CIA Historical Review Program.
57. "Regarding" may also have been used in the sense of "While looking at". In other words, Cesar may have shot Kennedy while not "regarding" him.
58. "Kennedy Expected Tragedy to Strike", Dallas Times Herald (6/6/68)
59. William Blum, Killing Hope (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995), p. 102.