Biographies & Memoirs

12

How It Went Down: The Anatomy of a CIA Assassination – Part I

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.

—Abraham Lincoln

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it.

He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

WITH NEW ENGLAND blanketed by a winter blizzard in early 2004, I found myself stranded in Santa Monica, California, when my return flight to Boston was canceled. Rescheduling at a local travel agency, I ran into Hollywood actor Peter Graves. Graves, readers may recall, was one of the stars of the 1966 television series Mission Impossible. The show was a fictionalized chronicle of an ultrasecret team of American government agents known as the Impossible Missions Force. Peter Graves played the part of Jim Phelps, the team leader who began each episode selecting a cadre of skilled contract agents to accomplish the assigned clandestine mission. Each week a new episode followed the exploits of the elite Impossible Missions Force as it employed the latest technological gadgets and state-of-the-art disguises in an effort to sabotage unfriendly governments, dictators, crime syndicates—any enemy of American hegemony. The organization that masterminded these covert operations was never revealed, yet a little imagination led to the doorstep of the CIA. So successful was Mission Impossible, it has currently (as of 2011) spawned four blockbuster Hollywood action films starring Tom Cruise.

As Peter Graves and I waited in line, I introduced myself, then started regaling him with how I had watched the show with my father, who had been instantly enamored, never wanting to miss an episode. Mentioning my father’s CIA career, and how he’d been such a fan of Graves’s character, Jim Phelps, I shared with him the memory of one particularly exciting episode, filled with intricate disguises, duplicity, and intrigue. At the end of the episode, my father had abruptly chortled, intriguingly smiling, finally blurting out, “We do it better.”

“I’m not at all surprised,” Peter Graves shot back. “We had several ex-CIA people who worked with the writers for the show. We could never have thought a lot of that stuff up on our own.”

The serendipity of this encounter eluded me for months. For years during my research, the “Rubik’s Cube” of the murder of Mary Meyer had remained impenetrable—until a mysterious linchpin was uncovered and further corroborated. It was only then that I began to understand the ingenious design that had been employed—one that created the illusion of something very different from what had actually occurred.

Throughout the three years Leo Damore spent interviewing attorney Dovey Roundtree, the two were unequivocally convinced that Ray Crump Jr. could never have murdered Mary Pinchot Meyer. The seasoned defense attorney, imbued with an instinctive, gut-level feeling for who people really were—saints and murderers alike—never forgot her impressions upon first meeting Crump. “He was,” Roundtree said in her 2009 autobiography, “incapable of clear communication, incapable of complex thought, incapable of grasping the full weight of his predicament, incapable most of all, of a murder executed with the stealth and precision and forethought of Mary Meyer’s [murder].”1

Yet tow truck driver Henry Wiggins Jr. had, in fact, seen somebody standing over Mary’s corpse within fifteen seconds or so right after the second, final shot rang out. Whoever it was, he might well have been approximately “5 feet 8 inches” in height and weighed “185 pounds.” But it couldn’t have been Ray Crump. Indeed, the most intriguing aspect of Wiggins’s testimony during the trial concerned the appearance, clothes, and demeanor of the man he saw standing over the body. Wiggins had described the color and style of the clothes in some detail—dark trousers, black shoes, a beige-colored, waist-length, zippered jacket, and a dark-plaid brimmed golf cap—all of which matched what Crump had been wearing that day. Prosecutor Alfred Hantman had explicitly asked Wiggins about the appearance of the man he saw standing over the body:

  Hantman: 

  Could you tell the court and the jury the state of the jacket at the time you saw it on the individual 

 

  who stood over the body of Mary Meyer? 

  Wiggins: 

  The jacket appeared to be zipped. 

  Hantman: 

  Did you see the jacket torn in any manner at the time? 

  Wiggins  :

  I didn’t notice any tear.  2

Nor had Wiggins mentioned seeing any stains—blood or anything else—on the zipped-up, light-colored beige jacket worn by the man who supposedly, just seconds before, had been engaged for more than one minute in a violent, bloody struggle during which the first gunshot, according to the coroner, had produced “a considerable amount of external bleeding.”3 In fact, Wiggins never indicated anything about the man’s appearance being in any way disheveled, given the murder that had just taken place. Neither his demeanor nor his clothes had ever, according to Wiggins’s testimony, indicated the man had been in any struggle just seconds before. His golf cap was perfectly in place; his jacket, clean and zipped.

Also intriguing was the demeanor of the man. Upon looking up and seeing Wiggins staring at him, he was composed and unconcerned—certainly not at all agitated or anxious that Wiggins had spotted him.

  Hantman: 

  Now, what, if anything did you see this man do who you say was standing 

 

  over a woman on the towpath at that time? 

  Wiggins: 

  Well, at that time, when I saw him standing over her, he looked up. 

  Hantman: 

  Looked up where? 

  Wiggins: 

  Looked up towards the wall of the canal where I was standing. 

  Hantman: 

  Were you looking directly at him at that point? 

  Wiggins: 

  I was looking at him. 

  Hantman: 

  Then what happened? 

  Wiggins: 

  I ducked down behind the wall at that time, not too long, and I come back up from behind 

 

  the wall to see him turning around and shoving something in his pocket.  4

The man then, Wiggins added, “turned around and walked [author’s emphasis] over straight away from the body, down over the hill [embankment].”5 It was as if he wanted Wiggins to see him before he, according to Wiggins, calmly walked away over the embankment. His unflustered demeanor appeared to contrast sharply with that of a trembling, petrified Ray Crump, only because they weren’t the same person.

Nearly thirty years later, in 1992, Leo Damore interviewed Henry Wiggins. The government’s star witness still vividly remembered, Damore said, the man standing over the woman’s body. “He wasn’t afraid,” Wiggins recalled to Damore. “He didn’t appear to be worried that he’d been caught in the act. He looked straight at me.” Ray Crump’s acquittal, however, had come as a surprise to Wiggins. He confided to Damore that he felt “strung along” by the prosecution and had been “used” to present their case. After Wiggins testified, Hantman told him that he “hadn’t done well as a witness.” Wiggins told Damore, “I just told the truth as I saw it. That’s all. The police didn’t do a damn thing to support it.”6

As the interview came to an end, Henry Wiggins proffered one last reflection about what had happened that day. “You know, sometimes I’ve had the feeling I was kinda set up there that morning to see what I saw.”7 It was the kind of remark that wouldn’t have been lost on a crime sleuth—someone like Sherlock Holmes, or Leo Damore.

Almost from the moment Lieutenant William L. Mitchell, USA, had appeared at D.C Metropolitan Police headquarters the day after Mary’s murder, attorney Dovey Roundtree’s suspicions had been aroused. Mitchell told police he not only believed he had passed the murder victim as he ran eastward toward Key Bridge from Fletcher’s Boat House that day, but also that he was sure he had passed a “Negro male” following her. His description of the man and his clothes closely matched Wiggins’s.

In an effort to convict Crump, neither the police nor the prosecution team had bothered to investigate William L. Mitchell’s story. Carefully and methodically during the trial, Mitchell additionally described how he had passed “a couple walking together twice,” as well as another runner, also passed twice, someone that he thought “was a young student … about twenty, wearing bermuda [sic] shorts.”8 Mitchell said he first came upon the couple “on the road leading down to the canal [towpath] near Key Bridge.” Having run out to Fletcher’s Boat House, Mitchell claimed to have passed the couple a second time “half way between Key Bridge and Fletcher’s…. And this time I was running back from Fletcher’s and they were walking West at the time.” Mitchell said he twice passed the other runner “wearing bermuda shorts,” both times “close to Fletcher’s Boat House.” All of this took place, he testified, before he stopped at the westward end of the narrow footbridge to allow the westwardheaded Mary Meyer to cross.9 Nobody, however, had corroborated Mitchell’s story, or ever testified to seeing Mitchell on the canal towpath the day Mary Meyer was murdered.

The reader will recall that police officer Roderick Sylvis, having raced to Fletcher’s Boat House to close off the exit within minutes after the murder, had himself encountered a white couple, “a young man and woman … in their thirties” walking westward about “fifty feet” from Fletcher’s Boat House approximately ten to fifteen minutes after he and his partner, Frank Bignotti, arrived. However, the officers, in a peculiar lapse of procedure, had neglected to get the couple’s names. Moreover, no matter in which direction the “bermuda shorts” runner was headed, at some point he, too, would have run into the murder scene, either before or after the police had arrived. But his identity, like that of the young white couple, would remain unknown. With such an intense, all-encompassing, citywide—even national—media blitz taking place, why hadn’t the “bermuda shorts” runner and the young white couple come forward to police, as William L. Mitchell had? Why hadn’t the police broadcast a request for them to do so?

Throughout their many hours of tape-recorded discussions that began in 1990, both Dovey Roundtree and Leo Damore independently reached the same inevitable conclusion: the personage of William L. Mitchell was highly suspicious. Roundtree had tried in vain to speak with Mitchell before the trial, she told Damore, but he would never return her phone calls. During several years of intense research, Leo Damore did what he did best: doggedly and exhaustively chased down any lead in order to get what he wanted. His signature tenacity took him on a journey that began with Mitchell’s listing in the Department of Defense Telephone Directory [DoD Directory] in the fall of 1964. Upon giving his account to police the day after the murder, William Mitchell said he was stationed at the Pentagon. His listing in the DoD Directory read: “Mitchell Wm L 2nd Lt USA DATCOM BE1035 Pnt.” It included a telephone extension of 79918.10 Mitchell also gave his address as 1500 Arlington Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia—a building known as the Virginian. According to the Arlington telephone directory in 1964, Mitchell lived in apartment 1022, and his telephone number was (703) 522-2872. His name would remain listed until 1968, and then vanish.

During Damore’s extensive search, William L. Mitchell was nowhere to be found. He had left no forwarding address. Neither the directories of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point nor of the Army itself produced any identification or record of any William Mitchell stationed at the Pentagon in 1964. No record was ever located. At the time of Mitchell’s trial appearance, Washington Star reporter Roberta Hornig identified Mitchell as “a Georgetown University mathematics teacher.”11 But no one at Georgetown University could ever locate any record of any “William L. Mitchell” having ever taught there. If Mitchell had been employed by Georgetown University, Damore reasoned, he might have been using a different name, or the record had been intentionally removed.

Sometime in 1992, Damore interviewed former CIA contract analyst David MacMichael, who still lived in the Washington area. The two soon became friends. “Leo wanted to know who this guy [William L. Mitchell] really was,” said MacMichael in 2004 during an interview for this book. He was sure he [Mitchell] had misrepresented himself as to his real identity.” On one occasion, MacMichael recalled, he and Damore drove out to Mitchell’s former address, the apartment building at 1500 Arlington Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia. There, MacMichael confirmed to Damore that the address had been a known “CIA safe house.”12 That observation was further corroborated by another former CIA operative, Donald Deneselya, who added that during his employment at the Agency in the early 1960s, the CIA regularly used faculty positions at Georgetown University as covers for many of its covert operations personnel. That fact was further substantiated by former disaffected Agency veteran Victor Marchetti, whose books—The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence and The Rope Dancer—the CIA had tried to suppress from publication.13 Any trail of Mitchell’s identity or subsequent whereabouts, however, appeared to have vaporized.

Still searching for Mitchell in early 2005, I was introduced to military researcher and investigative journalist Roger Charles. A former lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps, Charles was a Naval Academy graduate who had been a platoon leader in Vietnam before serving under the late colonel David Hackworth as part of the organization Soldiers for the Truth (now called Stand for the Troops). Early in his journalism career, Roger Charles had fired his first salvo with a Newsweek cover story entitled “Sea of Lies.” The story exposed the Pentagon’s attempted cover-up of the US Vincennes’s downing of an Iranian civilian airliner in 1988. In 2004, Charles had been part of a 60 Minutes II team headed by Dan Rather that aired the first photographs to reveal some of the most unconscionable American military behavior since the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War: the prisoner abuse in Iraq at Abu Ghraib. Charles had been an associate producer for the 60 Minutes II segment, “Abuse at Abu Ghraib.” He and his colleagues provided the viewing public with a picture of the horrors inflicted by American soldiers on Iraqi prisoners. That year, the segment would win the prestigious Peabody Award.14

Roger Charles had learned his craft under the tutelage of former marine colonel William R. Corson, author of the controversial book The Betrayal. Courageously exposing President Lyndon Johnson’s corrupt, deliberate deception during the Vietnam War in 1968, Corson created a huge crisis that nearly brought him a court-martial. However, had Corson not done what he did, the Vietnam War would undoubtedly have been even further prolonged. Corson went on to write several more books, including The Armies of Ignorance, Widows, and The New KGB: Engine of Soviet Power, which he coauthored with Robert T. Crowley, an elite operative in the CIA’s covert action directorate and a close colleague and friend of Jim Angleton’s. (All three individuals will be discussed further in the next chapter.) Not only did Roger Charles become Corson’s protégé and chief research assistant, but a trusted confidant, and eventually the executor of the Corson estate.

With regard to William Mitchell, Roger Charles was asked to review Mitchell’s office listing in the 1964 DoD telephone directory. Through his own channels, he sent an inquiry to the U.S. Army military database in St. Louis for any “William Mitchell” who was stationed at the Pentagon in 1964. There was none. Further examining other Pentagon directories, Charles discovered that Mitchell’s name no longer appeared after the fall 1964 edition. He next investigated the military personnel who were located physically adjacent to Mitchell’s alleged office (BE 1035), creating a list of approximately twenty individuals. Fifteen of those individuals could be verified through their military records, but none of the other five servicemen—Mitchell and four others in adjacent offices—had any military record in any service database. The phantom William L. Mitchell had indeed evaporated into thin air.

“This is a typical pattern of people involved in covert intelligence work,” Charles later reported to me. “I’ve come across this kind of thing many times. People like this don’t want to be found. They’re taught how to evade all the conventional bureaucracies and channels. They don’t leave any traces. These people work undercover in places like the Pentagon all the time. Given what I see here—the fact that he’s got no matching military record I can locate—it’s almost a certainty this guy Mitchell, whoever he was or is, had some kind of covert intelligence connection. It’s very strong in my opinion.”15

Sometimes serendipity entwines with providence. In December 2009, I read H. P. Albarelli’s recently published book, A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments. Albarelli’s magnum opus took me by the hand and held me hostage for several days. Extensively researched, the book not only provided the most convincing account of how the CIA “terminated” one of its own, but possibly the best history ever written of the Agency’s infamous MKULTRA program. Albarelli and I soon began talking, and he inquired about my progress. I mumbled something about the trail having ended at “1500 Arlington Boulevard” in Arlington, Virginia. After a moment of silence, Albarelli told me he had lived at that same address when he was a student at George Washington University many years ago. I then mentioned my phantom—William L. Mitchell—and some of the dead-end information I had amassed. “William Mitchell?” Albarelli repeated. He said he would get back to me later; he thought he had come across the name before. Indeed, he had.

An important Albarelli source—someone whom the author had known for many years and whose information had been corroborated by other sources—had revealed in September 2001 something more about the identity of William Mitchell. The source, whose name Albarelli did not want to reveal, specifically identified a man by the name of “William Mitchell” as a member of “Army Special Forces kill teams” that operated domestically for the CIA and the National Security Agency (NSA). The source said he and Mitchell had become friends over the years. When Albarelli had further pressed his source in 2001 as to Mitchell’s identity, he said Mitchell was often connected with the Air Force, and that he sometimes used the aliases “Allen Crawford” and “Walter Morse.” At this juncture in his 2001 interview, Albarelli had written in his notes that Mitchell had been “involved” in the “Mary Cord Meyer case.” “Meyer murdered on towpath,” Albarelli’s notes read. Mitchell “did it,” the source had told him, “at the request of the Agency’s [CIA’s] Domestic K [contracts] Office in D.C.”16

Stunned by this sudden revelation, I asked Albarelli if he would telephone the source and confirm several of the statements he’d made during his 2001 interview. In his first attempt at this follow-up, the source wasn’t home, but his wife, whom Albarelli also knew well, was. He asked her about Mitchell. She clearly remembered him, but wasn’t at all fond of him. Mitchell and her husband, she told Albarelli, always drank too much when they were together; “they were drunk and crazy for days,” she said. She found herself “nervous” when Mitchell was around because “he had guns, all kinds of guns, all the time.” She told Albarelli that during one of Mitchell’s visits, things had gotten so out of control, she had asked him to leave.17

When Albarelli called back later that day, he reported he did finally reach the source, but he wasn’t amenable to talking about Mitchell, or even acknowledging whether Mitchell was still alive. Did Mitchell have kids? Albarelli asked. “Yeah, he had a few kids but I never met them or his wife,” the source replied. (The reader will come to know why this question was important.) Bluntly, Albarelli then asked whether he remembered telling him in 2001 that Mitchell had killed Mary Meyer. “Heard he killed a lot of people,” replied the now tightlipped source. “What difference does it make now?”18

By the end of 1992, “playing his cards close to his vest,” Leo Damore had learned something else. In the course of his interview with Timothy Leary in 1990, Damore told Leary that Mary’s real diary still existed and that he believed he had discovered its whereabouts. “Angleton offered the diary in 1980 to a person who I know…. I know where it is,” Damore told Leary. Then he added, “The man who I believe has it is maddeningly this week in Hawaii.”19 Leo had sometimes cryptically referred to Mary’s diary as “the Hope Diamond” of the Kennedy assassination, and perhaps for this reason, he faithfully guarded not only the fact that he had eventually come into possession of it, but its contents as well. He finally revealed both to his attorney Jimmy Smith on March 31, 1993, in a conversation that will shortly be discussed in more detail.

The person to whom Angleton had shown Mary’s diary in 1980 was a man named Bernie Yoh. In 1980, Yoh ran an organization in Washington called Accuracy in Media (AIM). Founded in 1969, AIM described its purpose as the pursuit of “fairness, balance, and accuracy in news reporting.” It claimed to do for print media what the Fox News Network now purports to do for TV news—providing “fair and balanced” reporting. A simple survey of AIM’s intimate connection with many conservative causes, however, left little doubt as to its real purpose: AIM was a mouthpiece for extreme right-wing views. In addition, early in the Vietnam era, Bernie Yoh had his own affiliations with CIA undercover work, although he denied ever having worked for the Agency.20

When David Martin’s Wilderness of Mirrors was published in 1980, Newsweek carried a positive review of the book that had infuriated former CIA counterintelligence chief Jim Angleton, only because of Martin’s unflattering portrayal of him. The book details the cause of Angleton’s termination in disgrace from the Agency in late 1974. His paranoia had, for years, paralyzed crucial intelligence gathering by the Agency. He had also violated innumerable laws, as had the Agency as a whole, through mail tampering and privacy invasions of hundreds of individual citizens. Finally, CIA director William Colby fired him. Angleton was devastated. He sought out Bernie Yoh at AIM, asking him to “counter-spin” the recent Newsweek story in a way that was favorable to him. Yoh willingly obliged by publishing “An AIM Report” in defense of Angleton.

In his 1990 interview with Leo Damore, Bernie Yoh revealed more about Angleton’s astonishing behavior in 1980—a time when the battered, bruised reputation of the CIA’s most elite Cold Warrior had taken a huge tumble. The grateful Angleton started hanging out at AIM’s offices. One day, according to Yoh, Angleton had “flashed his credentials,” mentioning JFK and the towpath murder of his mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer, also mentioning her tell-all diary.

“Angleton had said, and not without a bit of pride showing,” Yoh told Damore, “‘I have the diary,’ almost wanting me to ask him to produce it, eager to share the special secrets he had tended with such skill during his glory days at CIA.” That conversation, Yoh remembered, had taken place in light of some prior discussion about the Kennedy administration and related matters. At the time, Yoh himself had not fully grasped what Angleton was actually referring to.

“What diary?” Yoh asked Angleton at the time.

“That woman that was killed in Georgetown. I took care of everything,” Angleton had said. According to Yoh, Angleton then produced the diary which he still had intact in his possession, and handed it to Yoh—to show him “the real Kennedy.”

“It’s her diary,” Angleton said, as he gave what was presumably a copy to Yoh.21 At some point, Yoh shared with Damore what Angleton had given him. This was how Leo Damore had finally come into possession of Mary’s true diary.

In his conclusive attempt to finally understand how the murder of Mary Meyer had been orchestrated, Leo Damore consulted former Air Force colonel and CIA liaison L. Fletcher Prouty in 1992.22 Prouty, the reader will recall, knew all about the inner workings of America’s intelligence apparatus, having been summoned to countless classified briefings with Allen Dulles and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, even at their homes when necessary. Prouty had also attended many of the CIA’s MKULTRA meetings and was considered part of “the nerve center” of the “military–industrial complex” during its establishment in the late 1950s. As one of the architects of America’s secret government, Fletcher Prouty had created a network of clandestine agents throughout the military and other government agencies, including the FBI. But after facilitating many CIA coups d’état around the globe, including military support for these operations, he became deeply disturbed when he discovered the CIA’s involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy. He resigned his Air Force commission in 1964 and began writing the secret history of the Cold War.23 Prouty’s two books, The Secret Team (1973) and JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy(1996), have remained two of the most authoritative works of that era. It wasn’t an accident that film director Oliver Stone used Fletcher Prouty as the template for the character of X, played by Donald Sutherland, in the film JFK.

At the end of 1992, unable to locate Mitchell or any forwarding address, Leo Damore had reached an impasse. His last resort was sending a letter to Mitchell to his last known address—the CIA “safe house” at 1500 Arlington Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia. While the actual contents of Damore’s letter were never known, it had to have contained something that would motivate Mitchell to reply; and that could have only been what Damore had learned from Fletcher Prouty. Had Prouty, in fact, revealed Mitchell’s true identity? It was never known. But sometime between the evening of March 30, 1993, and early morning of March 31, Leo Damore’s telephone rang. The caller identified himself as “William Mitchell.” He had received Leo’s letter, he said, and had also read Leo’s book Senatorial Privilege. He agreed to talk with Damore, but made it clear he didn’t want to be labeled the fall guy in history. The two reportedly talked for four hours.

At approximately 8:30 on the morning of March 31, 1993, the telephone of James (“Jimmy”) H. Smith, Esq., in Falmouth, Massachusetts, began to ring. Jimmy Smith and Leo Damore were the closet of friends. Their camaraderie deep, they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. Often, as they parted, either in person or on the phone, Leo would invariably give his friend, a stalwart Boston College alumnus, his favorite parting shot, “… and fuck Holy Cross [college]!” Jimmy was also Damore’s attorney, and Leo had dedicated his 1988 book Senatorial Privilege to him, for it had been Jimmy who years earlier introduced Leo to Senator Ted Kennedy’s cousin Joe Gargan—the man who ultimately would reveal to Damore what had been taking place behind the scenes while Mary Joe Kopechne’s drowned body lay trapped underwater in Ted Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick.

Jimmy Smith had returned to his private law practice after a stint as a U.S. magistrate and federal trial judge. A longtime Kennedy insider, and a member of the elite Kennedy “Irish Mafia,” Smith had been one of Robert Kennedy’s chief advance men for his presidential campaign in 1968. As an honorary pallbearer at Bobby’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral funeral in New York, Jimmy had stood by the casket “at the last hour,” along with Kenny O’Donnell, George Plimpton, Jimmy Breslin, and others. Having endured Jack’s assassination five years earlier, Smith was so traumatized by Bobby’s death, he momentarily lost his struggle with alcoholism. Scarred again by the second Kennedy assassination, Kenny O’Donnell lost his own battle and died in 1977. Determined to save himself, Smith had returned to his law practice on Cape Cod and recommitted to a life of sobriety.

“I’ve solved the case!” were Leo’s first excited words when Smith answered the phone. Reaching for the yellow legal pad he unfailingly kept on his desk next to his phone, attorney James H. Smith began writing what would turn out to be six pages of notes, all of which he meticulously saved. The following account is reconstructed from Smith’s original notes (see appendix 3), interpreted and explained by Smith over many hours of reviewing their meaning and context.

“I cracked it!” Smith remembered Leo shouting on the phone. “I got the guy—and the [JFK] assassination link, too!” Smith quickly began writing, trying to keep up with Leo’s exhilaration. Damore mentioned a name, and Jimmy asked him to repeat it: “William L. Mitchell,” said Damore. “He was an ex-FBI man!” Damore then revealed that he had Mary’s real diary in his possession (“The diary found!”) and that in the diary, Mary had made a connection between the Kennedy assassination and the CIA that involved “James Angleton.” Mitchell, said Damore, had confessed to him a few hours earlier that morning: The murder of Mary Meyer had been “a CIA operation” in which Mitchell had been the assassin.24

“Mitchell” confirmed that his name, “William L. Mitchell,” was an alias and that he now lived under another alias in Virginia. He said his position at the Pentagon in 1964 had been just “a light bulb job,” a cover for covert intelligence work. He had done stints in the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy, he told Damore, all of which were also part of his cover, and he had also been “an FBI man” when circumstances required it. His listed residence at 1500 Arlington Boulevard in Arlington, Virginia, Mitchell told Damore, was in fact a CIA safe house. He was now seventy-four years old and had five children.

It had been “an operation,” Mitchell disclosed. He had been “assigned” in September 1964 to be part of a “surveillance team” that was monitoring Mary Meyer. Mitchell appeared to suggest that the trigger for the surveillance had been the release of the Warren Report: “24 Sept Warren Report. She hit [the] roof.” Damore reiterated that Mary had bought a copy of the paperback version of the Warren Report when it first came out.25 She was outraged by the cover-up taking place. According to Smith’s notes, “She went to husb [ex-husband, Cord Meyer] + [and] husb [Cord] to Angleton …” This particular detail came from Mary’s diary. Damore was emphatic: It was the “Angleton connection w/CIA [with the CIA]” and the CIA’s orchestration of the events in Dallas that put her in harm’s way. “Mary – stepped in shit! She would not back down. Her [something] too strong + [and] too powerful.”26

Throughout 1993, Leo Damore had always been emphatic, as he was that morning with Jimmy Smith, that it wasn’t Mary’s affair with Jack that had put her in jeopardy; it was what she had been able to put together, as Smith’s notes revealed, about “the murder of JFK.” Her indignation at the cover-up in the Warren Report pushed her to confront her ex-husband, Cord, and possibly Jim Angleton as well. Smith’s notes, however, indicated that it had to have been Cord who conveyed to Jim Angleton how infuriated Mary had become. Whether Mary subsequently had a separate confrontation with Jim Angleton alone, or with Cord present, wasn’t clear. But it was almost certain both men realized—knowing Mary as well as they did—that she wasn’t the kind of person who was going to keep quiet.27

Regarding Mitchell, Damore told Smith: “I got [the] word [about him]—he’s a killer—+ [and] he [also] has 5 kids!”28 It appeared “William L. Mitchell” had been a trained assassin. Fletcher Prouty’s former network of agents had included FBI personnel as well as CIA operatives.29 It also gave further credence to what author H. P. Albarelli had been told by his longtime source in 2001: that “Mitchell” had been “involved” in the Mary Meyer murder, and that he, in fact, “did it at the request of the Agency’s [CIA’s] Domestic K [contracts] Office in D.C.”30 Mitchell, it appears, told Damore something almost identical: “On the murder … A CIA K [contract]…. A CIA individual.”31

On page 5 of his notes, Smith wrote: “Leo had talked to Prouty (Oliver Stone guy.)” It then appeared that Fletcher Prouty had assisted Damore in understanding more clearly how Mary Meyer’s murder had itself been a microcosmic copy of what had taken place in Dallas. Like Lee Harvey Oswald, Ray Crump Jr. had been used as the patsy. And, as in Dallas, Mary’s murder had all been planned in advance, designed to take place in an open setting, away from home territory—creating the illusion of an arbitrary, indiscriminate randomness to explain the event. The murder, Smith’s notes read, had been “set up away from [Mary’s] home in [a] public place.” It was followed by the speedy apprehension of a plausible suspect, a patsy who happened to have been in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The police would also unknowingly feed the details to the media that would, in turn, be used to publicly imply the suspect’s guilt, complete with mug shots of suspect Ray Crump in handcuffs at the murder scene and the police station. It had all been “standard CIA procedure,” Mitchell said to Damore, as recorded in Smith’s notes. The couple on the towpath that morning—and seen by police officer Roderick Sylvis—had been spotters for the operation, Mitchell disclosed, as was “the bermuda [sic] shorts” runner that no one had seen except Mitchell.32

Scribbled at the bottom of page 3 of Jimmy’s notes were the words “New Agent Richard Pine.”33 Richard Pine had recently become Leo Damore’s new literary agent. “Did Leo ever tell you that he thought he had solved the murder of Mary Meyer?” I asked Pine in the fall of 2004.

“Yeah, I believe he did,” recalled Pine. “I remember he had lots of tape. I think I remember he kept them in some kind of private place where no one could get at it…. He felt he had such dynamite material on such powerful people.”34 Yet despite the Mitchell bombshell revelations Damore possessed, all of which he recorded, he never turned in a manuscript for “Burden of Guilt” to his new agent. Two and half years later, Leo Damore, on October 2, 1995, would take his life one day after William Safire reviewed Ben Bradlee’s memoir A Good Life in the New York Times.

Damore’s former wife, June Davison, kindly gave me as much assistance as she could in my attempt to locate Damore’s tapes. At my request in 2004, she made searches of their home in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, but could find nothing. I even went to Damore’s last residence in Centerbrook, Connecticut, where he had received the phone call from Mitchell and then placed the call to Jimmy Smith on the morning of March 31, 1993. Fruitlessly, I scoured the area around the building, thinking he might have buried the tapes somewhere near, but to no avail.

In April 1993, shortly after the Mitchell call, Leo Damore returned to Washington and met with his research assistant, Mark O’Blazney, for lunch at the Henley Park Hotel. In 2008, in an interview for this book, Mark O’Blazney and his wife, Tanya, a Georgetown University Russian language instructor, talked about the luncheon. O’Blazney had worked for Damore for more than two years. He, too, had come to the conclusion that whoever William Mitchell was, he had to have been involved in Mary’s murder.

O’Blazney still vividly recalled the April 1993 meeting with Damore. “Leo was very excited that day,” he said. “He told me he’d taped the call with Mitchell. That day at lunch he had the transcription already completed and kept referring to it.” O’Blazney’s wife, though not present at the luncheon, corroborated what Mark had told her later on that after his meeting with Damore.

“Part of Mitchell’s plan,” O’Blazney remembered Damore saying, “was maybe taking Mary down when a low-flying commercial airplane was flying over on its way into National [airport] … something about muffling the sound of gunshots. But I also remember Leo saying Mitchell told him that witnesses were placed at the murder scene. The whole thing was a set-up.”35

“An operation … standard CIA procedure” was what Mitchell, according to Smith’s notes, called the murder of Mary Meyer.36 Mitchell had been assigned sometime in September 1964 to a surveillance team that was monitoring Mary Meyer. At some point—the precise date is unknown—the order was given to “terminate” her. It was to be done in a public place, then made to look like something it wasn’t. From their surveillance, the team knew Mary’s routine of taking walks around noon on the C & O Canal towpath, that she would typically walk out to Fletcher’s Boat House and then return, a distance of about four miles in total. Within that venue, a designated kill zone had to be selected where Mary would be accessible. By choosing an outside location, rather than her home, the planners wanted to create the impression of a wanton, random act of violence, unrelated to Mary’s identity or political connections. It had to be skillfully executed with Mission Impossible precision beyond the intersection of where Canal Road intersected the busier Foxhall Road. The ideal time for such an operation was determined to be a weekday, when the towpath was less frequented. The operation’s planners very likely were prepared to carry out their mission on any number of days, depending on certain variables—including the availability of an appropriate patsy. These were the kind of painstaking calculations and details that were involved in the extensive planning of professional assassinations.

There were any number of challenging factors to control and overcome; any significant mistake or oversight could be disastrous. As little as possible could be left to chance—including the whereabouts that day of Mary’s ex-husband, Cord Meyer. Was it just coincidence Cord would conveniently be out of town in New York on CIA business on the day of his ex-wife’s murder?

The team put into place to conduct this operation likely consisted of at least six to eight operatives, not including the actual architects of the plan itself, or the ancillary adjacent personnel dispatched to monitor and control other important operational details. In addition, in order to execute an operation of this nature, there had to be some kind of command center in the C & O Canal area to coordinate logistics; it would have to include radio communication to and from Mitchell, and his team, on the towpath itself.

The operational plan of “standard CIA procedure,” similar in design to what had taken place in Dallas, albeit on a much smaller scale and within a shorter time sequence, called for a patsy—someone who could be unknowingly and immediately easily framed. Such an operation required the use of disguises and/or costumes, an absolute necessity. No other entity on earth had resources like the CIA’s Technical Services Division (TSD) under the direction of Dr. Sidney Gottlieb. They could do almost anything, and quickly—from preparing lethal poisons that left no trace, to procuring articles of clothing and undetectable disguises on short notice.37

Ray Crump Jr. had been picked up by his girlfriend, Vivian, in her car “very early that morning,” shortly after eight.38 Crump was playing hooky from work. That morning, Crump and Vivian didn’t have enough money for a motel room. Crump had likely been spotted by the CIA team early that morning, as he and Vivian began walking out from the Georgetown entry point of the towpath to some predetermined area he was familiar with from earlier fishing trips to the area. It was still probably two to three hours before the murder would take place. There may have been more than one candidate for patsy the team was monitoring that morning before a decision was made. Eventually, someone was assigned—with a radio—to keep tabs on Crump and his whereabouts. Whoever the designated patsy, the operation would have immediately had to procure clothing similar to what he was wearing. In Crump’s case, that meant generic dark shoes, dark pants, a light-beige-colored Windbreaker and a dark-plaid golf cap—easily and quickly obtainable from the CIA’s TSD personnel, who were likely standing by as support personnel.

A specialized team from the CIA’s TSD had the capability of transforming almost anyone into whatever was called for, including changing someone’s race from white to black if necessary. But there was a problem not even the elite TSD could overcome on such short notice: immediately finding someone on the operational team that day who had a build and stature as slight as Ray Crump’s. So they had to make do with what was available—the man they used for the stand-in, the Ray Crump look-alike, was larger than Crump. That discrepancy would, in the end, create enough reasonable doubt to enable a masterful attorney, Dovey Roundtree, to thwart one of the key elements of the mission: railroading Ray Crump into being convicted for Mary Meyer’s murder, thereby enabling the cover-up.39 And so the man Henry Wiggins witnessed—the Ray Crump look-alike standing over Mary’s body after the second fatal gunshot—was significantly taller and heavier than Ray Crump.

Until Mary exited her studio that morning and started walking toward the canal, Mitchell’s team would not have been green-lighted and alerted to begin positioning themselves. Another member of the surveillance team—again, someone with a radio—had to be assigned to monitor her whereabouts from the moment she left her house and arrived at her studio earlier that morning. When it was clear shortly after noon that she was headed for her daily walk on the canal towpath, all operational parameters would have been initiated.

The mysterious, stalled Nash Rambler had likely already been placed adjacent to the designated kill zone on the canal. The Rambler could have been set up earlier that morning—or several mornings in a row—before the operation was finally given green-lighted-to-go status. At some point the key(s) to the stalled vehicle would be delivered to the Key Bridge Esso station with a request for someone to fix the vehicle. Henry Wiggins was operating the station’s tow truck that morning. “I was sent from the station where I normally work,” testified Henry Wiggins, “to the other Esso station [at Key Bridge] owned by my employer to pick up a man there and go start a disabled vehicle on Canal Road, approximately seven blocks” away.40

Mary’s surveillance likely began three weeks before her death, maybe even longer. The team already would have had a good idea how fast she walked, and approximately how long it would take her to reach the wooden footbridge, a place where the vegetation around the towpath area became denser. Her assassination would eventually take place exactly 637.5 feet west of the footbridge. There were two sets of spotters, Mitchell admitted to Damore, “a couple walking together” and another runner wearing Bermuda shorts, who were clearly tracking Mary’s whereabouts on the towpath and likely communicating by radio to some unknown command center in the area. Mitchell had indicated to Damore in 1993 that there had been more than one spotter during the operation.*

Immediately prior to the murder, Mitchell could not have been running on the towpath; he and the dressed-up Ray Crump look-alike were positioning themselves on standby status. The entire operational was crystallizing—waiting for whoever was going to be servicing the stalled Nash Rambler to show up (and unknowingly play the role of “witnesses”), and waiting for Mary Meyer to approach the designated kill zone.

Meanwhile, another member of the operational team had to be monitoring the whereabouts of the real Ray Crump and reporting his activity to the command center. The team had to know where Crump was situated and when he and Vivian reached the spot on the Potomac where their tryst would take place. Even if Crump and Vivian had arrived at the towpath entrance in Georgetown as late as 10:30 A.M., that still gave the team close to two hours to set up, orchestrate, and carry out the assassination of Mary Meyer. It had likely been rehearsed many times.

The story Ray Crump told attorney Dovey Roundtree was that he and Vivian had gone to a particular spot on the bank of the Potomac that he was familiar with, having fished there before. They did some drinking, he said, then “fooled around a little,” at which point Ray passed out on some rocks at the water’s edge.41 Disoriented, perhaps a bit intoxicated, Ray slipped into the river, quickly coming to his senses as the cold water engulfed him. He couldn’t swim; he panicked and struggled to climb out, likely tearing his trousers and cutting his hand in the process.

Vivian had disappeared, however, while Ray was passed out from intoxication. Why she had just abandoned Ray was mysterious. Had she been deliberately lured away after Ray had passed out? If Ray was being monitored and set up as a patsy, then Vivian’s mere presence—an alibi for Ray—was an obstacle the operation had to surmount. Was it just serendipity that Vivian decided on her own to walk away when she did? Or had she, in some way, been forced to move out of the area shortly before, or immediately after, the murder—before Ray awoke from his stupor? The terrified Vivian would never testify, even with Ray’s life hanging in the balance. She told Roundtree she feared “being killed by her husband,” should he discover her affair.42 Whether Vivian was more forcibly threatened by something else will probably never be known.

As soon as Henry Wiggins and Bill Branch arrived at approximately 12:20 P.M., the operation to terminate Mary Meyer would have been fully greenlighted by radio communication. Mitchell would have been signaled by radio that the “witnesses”—Wiggins and Branch—were in place. According to Wiggins’s trial testimony, “less than a minute” after his arrival, he heard what “sounded like a woman screaming.” Mary’s screams from the canal lasted “about twenty seconds,” Wiggins said, before the first gunshot rang out.

As Mary walked westward into the predetermined “kill zone,” coordinated with the location of the stalled Nash Rambler, Mitchell would emerge from the embankment area and approach Mary from behind. In a full embrace, pinning Mary’s arms at her side, Mitchell now needed Mary to scream in order to attract the attention of whoever was servicing the Rambler. As a highly trained, skilled assassin, he could have easily, quickly shot Mary before she was even aware of what was occurring. Or he could have picked her off with a high-powered rifle from behind an adjacent tree as she walked by. Why didn’t he? Because Mary’s screaming, her cries for help, were essential to drawing in the witnesses to the ostensibly random, senseless murder taking place—to motivate whoever was attending the stalled vehicle to run across Canal Road and witness the Ray Crump look-alike standing over her body.

Whether Mitchell underestimated Mary’s strength and lost his grip, or whether he let go of her because he expected she would fall to the ground, fatally wounded, after his first shot, isn’t known. But Mary appeared to have broken away and tried to escape over the embankment, finally grabbing a birch tree limb with her saturated, blood-soaked glove in order to steady herself.

That wouldn’t do for Mitchell, or the operational intent of the mission. Mary had to be positioned close, or right next to, the canal itself where the murder scene would be clearly visible to someone looking across from the Canal Road wall. So Mitchell quickly grabbed Mary again and dragged her some twenty-five feet from the embankment to the canal’s edge, where, with a perfectly placed shot under her right shoulder blade angled slightly to the left, he killed her instantly. Also executed with extreme precision was Mitchell’s escape, quickly accomplished by slipping into the woods, as the Ray Crump look-alike rapidly assumed his position, standing over the now slain body of Mary Pinchot Meyer.

Almost immediately after hearing the first gunshot, Wiggins started moving toward the wall of the canal across the street from the stalled vehicle that he and his partner had come to fix. While he was running “diagonally [to the right] across the [Canal] road,” he then recounted, “I heard another shot just as I was reaching the wall of the canal.”43 Peering over the wall and looking to his right on an angle,44 he witnessed the Ray Crump look-alike standing over Mary’s body, dressed as Crump himself had been dressed that day—dark shoes, dark pants, a light-colored windbreaker, and a dark-plaid brimmed golf cap—someone Wiggins would repeatedly describe as having a “medium build” who was about “5 feet 8 inches” and weighed “185 pounds.”

After Mitchell twice shot and killed Mary, the upper part of his body and/or clothes would have almost certainly been spattered in Mary’s blood. Asked by Dovey Roundtree during his trial testimony the color of the clothing he was wearing that day, Mitchell responded, “I had on a sweat suit…. The sweat shirt, I believe, was red, the sweat pants were blue, and the track shoes were red and white.”45 He may well have been dressed in that manner. The red sweatshirt would have to some degree camouflaged the bloodstains. His likely escape was through the Foundry Underpass, the nearest exit out of the area. As a highly trained assassin from the “Army Special Forces kill teams,” according to Albarelli’s longtime source, Mitchell would have had little difficulty evading detection by police.

While Mitchell had no trouble eluding police, the reader will recall that a man thought to be a “Negro male,” very possibly the Ray Crump look-alike, had been momentarily spotted by officer Roderick Sylvis west of the murder scene more than an hour after the murder had occurred. This “Negro male,” as Sylvis described him during the trial, would also elude capture, disappearing and staying hidden, as he had no doubt been trained to do.

By all accounts, Ray Crump was arrested sometime between 1:15 and 1:30 P.M.46 Yet when he was first spotted by Detective Warner at least ten to fifteen minutes—approximately 1:00 P.M.—before his actual arrest by Detective Crooke, Crump wasn’t wearing a light-colored beige jacket or any cap. Only after Crump was under arrest—now approaching 1:30 P.M.—did Wiggins remark to Detective Crooke that Crump looked like the man he saw standing over the body, but he wasn’t wearing any hat or jacket.47

Indeed, if Crump wasn’t in possession of his jacket or cap when first spotted by Detective Warner, nor at the time of his arrest sometime around 1:15 P.M. or a few minutes later, how could Harbor Precinct policeman Frederick Byers have received a radio call at “about one o’clock” to look for a “light colored beige jacket?”48 Who made the call to Harbor Precinct to initiate the jacket search? How did they know that Crump wasn’t wearing a jacket or a golf cap at the time? How did they know he’d had one on before then? Why was it so important?*

The answer, of course, was that the CIA operation was in control of everything. Once Crump had become the designated patsy, the team knew where he was and what he was doing at all times, and especially what he was wearing. They had gone to great lengths to duplicate his clothing for the man standing over the body, who was to be seen by Wiggins. They also knew, from their surveillance of Crump, that he had jettisoned his jacket and cap, or perhaps lost them when he had inadvertently slipped into the Potomac. It had taken Byers less than forty-five minutes to locate Crump’s jacket. How did he know where to look along the Potomac River shoreline? Likely because he was given enough direction by the CIA’s operating team. Ultimately, without these two critical pieces of Crump’s clothing—the jacket and the cap—there would be no circumstantial evidence against Ray Crump. But with their recovery, there was enough to begin framing Crump for the murder.

By 2:00 that afternoon, Deputy Coroner Linwood Rayford had arrived at the murder scene, and he pronounced Mary Meyer dead at 2:05 P.M. Meanwhile, Crump was in handcuffs and still at the murder scene. He didn’t leave the scene immediately after he was arrested because too many police cars were blocking the exit at the Foundry Underpass. Crump was finally escorted away from the area sometime between 2:00 and 2:15 P.M. and taken to police headquarters. 49 His jacket would be delivered to Detective Crooke “around 3:00 P.M.” In handcuffs, wearing a white T-shirt, Ray would be photographed and paraded around police headquarters. Before the end of the day, the media would begin drilling Crump’s guilt into the public psyche. The “trial by newspaper” had begun.

The only thing left to do was to establish Mary’s identity for police, but in a controlled manner. A detail such as this was critically important and would be carefully managed; it was part of the CIA’s “operation.”

Here, I must interject an episode that took place in the course of my own exploration of this mystery. By 2006, after several years of painstaking research, I had not yet fully grasped how comprehensive an “operation” Mary’s murder had been. There were still too many unanswered questions, too many lingering details I wasn’t able to resolve, and I had nowhere to go for answers. Early one morning, hours before dawn in February 2006, I awoke disoriented, soaking wet as if sick with a fever in a night sweat. With darkness all around, I struggled to make sense of my current disposition. Had I been dreaming? No, not exactly. I felt as if I’d been talking to someone in another dimension, almost sensing some lingering presence in my bedroom with me. But I could see no one. Increasingly anxious, I closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. Like a waterfall, rainbows of cascading images and thoughts from months of intensive study and research tumbled through my awareness. And then it happened. A horrid insight suddenly gripped me, though not yet fully comprehended or understood.

A veiled form of the clue had actually been in public view for years, since 1980 in fact, but I hadn’t noticed it then, or even when it appeared more dramatically in 1995. That February morning, I realized the “master key” was in Ben Bradlee’s 1995 memoir, A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures. There, having waited more than thirty years, Bradlee revealed that the person who had first alerted him to his sister-in-law’s demise on the day of her murder had been none other than my father, Wistar Janney: “My friend Wistar Janney called to ask if I had been listening to the radio. It was just after lunch, and of course I had not. Next he asked if I knew where Mary was, and of course I didn’t. Someone had been murdered on the towpath, he said, and from the radio description it sounded like Mary.”50

The reader may recall in an earlier chapter the mention of the telephone call that Ben Bradlee received “just after lunch” from his CIA friend. The truth was, Bradlee never revealed that his “friend” Wistar Janney was a high-level career CIA officer in this passage.51 This had been the very first moment, Bradlee claimed, when he had learned that something might have happened to his sister-in-law, Mary Meyer. His next sentence reads: “I raced home.”

My father, the reader will also recall, had been a career officer of the CIA since 1949, almost from the Agency’s inception. While not officially titled in clandestine services or the agency’s covert Directorate of Plans, his responsibilities had moved him through any number of different directorates in the Agency during the 1950s and 1960s, including the Office of Current Intelligence (OCI), as it was named at the time, and then the newer directorate Science and Technology (S&T).

What time of day did “just after lunch” actually represent? “Probably sometime after two o’clock, two-thirty, somewhere in that region or so,” Bradlee said, in an interview for this book in 2007.52 That, of course, was the time frame when the coroner had arrived (2:00 P.M.) at the murder scene and had pronounced the victim dead (2:05 P.M.). Her identity was still unknown. Ray Crump, it will be remembered, was just leaving the murder scene in handcuffs on his way to police homicide headquarters.53 The only thing left to do for the “operation” was to establish the victim’s identity. The terrible, lingering question, its stench still as foul today as it was on the afternoon of Mary’s murder, was how much did Ben Bradlee really know about what was actually taking place? And when did he first know it?

How uncannily convenient that Wistar Janney just happened to be “listening to the radio” in his CIA office, where he allegedly heard a “radio description” about a murder that had just taken place on the canal. And of course the very first thought that popped into his mind was that it had to be Mary Meyer. For what possible reason would Wistar Janney think that an unidentified murder victim was Mary Meyer? Furthermore, Mary’s outspoken, disapproving comments against the CIA not only drew resentment and outright hostility from other CIA wives, it also infuriated men like my father, whose blood boiled at the slightest criticism of his beloved CIA from anyone. Why would Wistar Janney, a trusted friend of Cord Meyer’s, have been thinking about Mary Meyer that day (or any other day)? Was it possible that his call to Ben Bradlee “just after lunch” was designed not only to notify him of the event, but begin the final piece of the “operation”—establish the identity of the murder victim?

Everything else had been completed. Mary Meyer had been successfully assassinated. The patsy, Ray Crump, had been arrested and was in custody. A conveniently placed eyewitness had identified Crump, standing over the victim just seconds after the fatal second gunshot. The media would soon proclaim him guilty in the public mind. “William L. Mitchell” would show up at police headquarters the next day to reinforce the Wiggins eyewitness account. Crump was about to be convicted in the media in a matter of hours. Game, set, and match.

At the Janney family home during the evening of Mary’s murder, a bit of veiled intrigue was occurring. Away at boarding school that fall, I was unaware of what took place. However, my younger brother, Christopher, fourteen at the time, was living at home. During the course of my research, I asked him to recollect what happened that evening. Christopher recalled that during dinner there had been absolutely no mention of Mary Meyer’s murder. But sometime after dinner, “it had to be quarter to eight, if not eight, Dad was sitting at his desk in the den paying bills,” he said, “listening to music, when the phone rang on his desk.” Christopher was in his bedroom nearby with his door open doing homework. Our mother, he remembered, was in the master bedroom, most likely either reading or working at her desk.

“Dad picked up the phone in the den,” said Christopher. The next thing he remembered was hearing our mother, hysterically crying out, “Oh no! Oh no!” He rushed into the den, wanting to know what happened.

“Mary Meyer has been shot,” he remembered our father saying. Christopher further recollected it had been “the police” who had called our father “because they couldn’t reach Cord, so Dad was next on the list, something like that.” Both parents were upset, Christopher recalled. “Dad was more calm. Mom was more hysterical, but that was the first they’d heard about it.”54

During the seven-year period I worked on this book, my mother volunteered on two separate occasions—and with no prompting from me—her own recollections of that evening. I made a point of not leading her in any direction; I just listened and let her talk. On both occasions, she distinctly remembered the phone call that evening. “That was the first we’d heard about it,” she said repeatedly.

Shortly after “the police” phone call that evening, my father and Steuart Pittman (who had been married to Mary’s sister, Tony, before Ben Bradlee, and who remained close to Mary’s ex-husband, Cord Meyer), drove to National Airport to pick up Cord upon his return from New York.

Had the telephone call to Wistar Janney that evening come from “the police,” or from someone from CIA coordinating the operation? Since Wistar answered the call, it was his assertion alone. What was clear was that it was time to create another illusion: the grieving ex-husband, Cord Meyer, needed the appearance of being comforted.

Recall another extremely critical detail: Sometime during the afternoon of Mary’s murder, after calling Ben Bradlee, Wistar Janney had called Cord Meyer in New York, informing him of what had occurred. Feigning surprise and incredulity in his 1980 book, Facing Reality, Cord acknowledged it had indeed been his friend Wistar who had called him that afternoon: “In October of 1964, I was in New York City attending a meeting when I received a call from an old friend, Wistar Janney. As gently as he could, he broke the news that Mary had been found dead on the tow path along the canal that borders the Potomac, apparently murdered that afternoon by an unknown assailant. To my incredulous questions, he assured me that there could be no mistake. I flew back to Washington immediately to learn all that there was to know … Mary’s friends had identified her body.”55

Once again, “the cat was out of the bag”—as early as 1980: Wistar Janney had known, during the afternoon of the murder, the identity of the ‘unidentified’ murder victim. Yet he had played ignorant when he arrived home to his family, and said nothing until the mystery phone call took place. Cord Meyer, like Bradlee fifteen years later, would conveniently omit the fact in the previous description that his “old friend, Wistar Janney,” was, like himself, a high-level CIA official.

How could my father have known anything whatsoever about Mary Meyer’s death that day, unless, of course, he had been involved? How had he been able to inform both Ben Bradlee and Cord Meyer about it hours before the police had identified the victim? Recall that Mary’s identity hadn’t been established officially until Ben Bradlee identified her in the D.C. morgue, “sometime after six o’clock in the evening,” in the company of Sergeant Sam Wallace of the Metropolitan Police Department. Given the facts established, the only logical explanation was that Wistar Janney was part of the CIA operation to “terminate” Mary Pinchot Meyer, as was Cord Meyer himself, although peripherally and indirectly.

But why would Cord Meyer risk identifying Wistar Janney in 1980 as the “old friend” who had called him on the day of the murder? The same question might be asked of Ben Bradlee, especially considering the incriminating time frame of the Janney phone call (“just after lunch”) in Bradlee’s account. There are several possible reasons for their statements. First, neither Cord Meyer nor Ben Bradlee wanted to be accused of withholding critical information in their respective memoirs as to how they had first learned of Mary’s death. Since Cord had, it seemed, safely revealed this fact in 1980 with no repercussions, Bradlee may have thought in 1995 that it was safe for him to do so, given the longer span of time that had elapsed.

Yet Bradlee’s 1995 revelation of the phone call from Wistar Janney was, and still is, potentially more damaging because his entire memoir account contradicts his 1965 trial testimony. Furthermore, had it been revealed at the trial that CIA official Wistar Janney had called Bradlee to inform him of Mary’s death “just after lunch”—in other words, less than two hours after the murder took place, with Mary’s identity still unknown to police—attorney Dovey Roundtree might have nailed Bradlee as a possible accessory to murder. The trial would have been over as soon as it had begun.

Still another lingering question was whether the prosecution at any time knew about either of Wistar Janney’s calls—to Cord Meyer or to Ben Bradlee. If prosecuting attorney Alfred Hantman knew and withheld that information, he could have been disbarred for suborning perjury. The courtroom proceedings would have been exposed as nothing but a sham (as some believed they had been all along), engineered to convict Ray Crump as part of a greater cover-up, not only of Mary Meyer’s assassination, but of President Kennedy’s as well.

Finally, a more obvious reason that both Cord Meyer and Ben Bradlee felt it safe to reveal their respective calls from Wistar Janney was simply this: By 1980, Wistar Janney was dead; he died suddenly in January 1979 of a heart attack while playing squash with his friend Jack Oliver, just after lunch at the Metropolitan Club in Washington.

And so, on the evening of Mary’s murder, Wistar Janney feigned his entire reaction to his wife and youngest son. Six weeks later, home from boarding school for Thanksgiving, I would sit at our family dinner table and listen to my mother reveal the murder of Mary Meyer earlier that fall. During her explanation, some part of me would also observe my father vacantly staring off into space. It would take more than forty years to finally realize that it had been his ghostly, eerie silence that evening that had so deeply haunted my psyche.

In the post-Watergate era of the late 1970s, the CIA had experienced a slow walk through hell. The Agency was in tatters, its reputation in shambles. As it was, the CIA feared annihilation in the Church Committee hearings, though ultimately, thanks to the machinations of Richard Helms, it had managed to fend off the ultimate, well-deserved verdict for having instigated America’s first and only coup d’état: President Kennedy’s assassination and its subsequent cover-up.

To make matters worse for Wistar Janney, investigative reporting was fast becoming a career choice for talented young journalists. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, under the ironic tutelage of Ben Bradlee and Washington Post owner Katharine Graham, had raised the bar. The Post’s Watergate exposés had made the prospect of journalism glamorous again. Revealing “deep politics” and “secret history” was becoming a national obsession. Cord Meyer’s 1980 memoir, Facing Reality, would reveal Wistar’s knowledge of Mary’s identity long before the police knew. How long would it take before some hotshot journalist would actually read and study the Crump trial transcript, only to then connect the dots buried in Ben Bradlee’s testimony, and possibly persuade Bradlee to reveal Wistar’s call to him that day before Mary’s body was even cold? Or would it be Seymour Hersh himself—already having sacked the venerable CIA sacred cow James Jesus Angleton in 1975—who would finally bring down the hammer on Wistar’s head? Perhaps Wistar thought a graceful, grand exit from the play of life would spare everyone—never realizing that eventually, one way or another, the sins of the father would be visited upon the son.

During the last two years of his life, Wistar Janney was living his own private version of hell. His beloved Agency had fallen into disrepute, and with it the reputation of many of those who had been there at the beginning. Retirement at age sixty loomed ominously on the horizon, and he wasn’t at all happy about it, nor did he have any substantive plans as to how he might occupy himself. Even a doctoral graduate student in clinical psychology such as myself could see he was intermittently agitated, still drinking heavily, sneaking cigarettes whenever he could. His depression, coupled with an ongoing heart condition and no regular exercise, created an ideal prescription for an acute, made-toorder coronary event.

What, indeed, had Wistar Janney been thinking that dreary winter day in January 1979 at the Metropolitan Club? After eating his typical high-caloric, saturated-fat lunch, accompanied by a generous side order of martinis, Wistar went upstairs and played his predictably aggressive game of squash. It was, as the Beatles song lyric echoed, “a ticket to ride,” but one with no return.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!