He was a brilliant tactician who had the patience to cultivate orchids as a hobby. He was the master of manipulation who cultivated evidence. Opening people’s mail—that was his program, collecting their pictures and diaries—this is what James Jesus Angleton did.
When I put on my conspiracy cap and muse about who were the powerful men that are ultimately responsible for JFK’s assassination, be they Mafia bosses or corporate bosses or whoever they were, I cannot envision a plan that did not have designed into its very fabric a failsafe mechanism to neutralize the intelligence and security apparatus and insure that there would be no real investigation. Whoever they were, their reach extended into this apparatus to someone who knew its workings so well that he could design a plot that could do this.
My pick is James Jesus Angleton for who he was, who he knew, and because [Lee Harvey] Oswald was his creature from cradle to grave.
—Professor John M. Newman
Historian and author of Oswald and the CIA1
COMFORTED BY HIS CIA colleague Richard Helms and his close friend Jim Angleton, Cord Meyer had wept openly at Mary’s funeral. His former wife, the love of his life and the mother of his three children, had again departed, this time forever. The finality had to have evoked a myriad of emotions for Cord. Sixteen years later, in his book Facing Reality, Cord starkly concluded the following: “I was satisfied by the conclusions of the police investigation that Mary had been the victim of a sexually motivated assault by a single individual and that she had been killed in her struggle to escape.” Cord then proceeded to insist that in spite of unspecified “journalistic speculation that Mary’s death was the result of some complicated Communist plot,” he was absolutely sure there “was no truth whatever to these stories” and “never suspected the tragedy of having any other explanation than the one the metropolitan police reached after careful investigation of all the evidence.”2
Cord’s defense of the official story was nothing less than a ploy—a deflection away from the stubborn facts that have forever haunted this case and remained unexplained until now. It was no coincidence he was out of town on the day of Mary’s murder. His absence had to have been part of the operation, designed to create an appearance of innocence for Cord. Removing him physically from Washington had diverted any suspicion of his involvement. If Mary confronted Cord with her accusations of CIA involvement in Kennedy’s assassination after she had read through the Warren Report—as Leo Damore maintained from having read her diary—Cord’s complicity would have been inevitable. How could one of the highest-ranking CIA covert operatives notknow about such an undertaking? Indeed, E. Howard Hunt’s deathbed confession—that Cord was part of the ‘mastermind’ behind Dallas—might have contained some kernel of truth. Yet there would never be proof, at best only scant evidence—except possibly for the contents of Mary’s diary.
Cord Meyer died in the spring of 2001. To my knowledge, after the release of his book Facing Reality in 1980, he never said anything further publicly regarding the death of his former wife. Two years later, however, Cord’s former research assistant and Meyer family friend Carol Delaney was quoted in C. David Heymann’s book The Georgetown Ladies’ Social Club as saying the following: “Mr. Meyer didn’t for a minute think that Ray Crump had murdered his wife or that it had been an attempted rape. But being an Agency man, he couldn’t very well accuse the CIA of the crime, although the murder had all the markings of an in-house rubout.”3 The statement was breathtaking, particularly coming from someone so close to Cord. The only question was, had Ms. Delaney actually said it?
Provocative as it was, the statement was never confirmed by Carol Delaney on the record. Yet in the last seven years, I’ve seen nothing indicating that she ever repudiated it. When I first questioned Ms. Delaney in 2004, she wouldn’t give me an answer. Instead, she immediately called Cord’s widow, Starke Meyer, informing her of the book project I was undertaking. Starke then took it upon herself to “sound the alarm,” calling Mary Meyer’s sons, Quentin and Mark, as well as other members of the Pinchot-Meyer clan, even calling my mother, not only to complain (“What does he think he’s doing?”), but to urge everyone to remain silent. The attempted stonewalling replicated author Nina Burleigh’s experience when she first began her own research for A Very Private Womanin the mid-1990s. The CIA’s community of former operatives, their wives and families, secretaries and research assistants, adhered to a Mafia-like code of silence. To challenge their version of events was to call into question the entire edifice of the secretive house of cards within which they lived.
Six years after my first attempt to interview Ms. Delaney, I called her again in 2010, asking her a second time to confirm or deny her account of Cord Meyer’s statements, attributed in Heymann’s book. Hostile, Ms. Delaney wanted to know, “Are you a friend of the Meyer family?” “Yes,” I said, “I’ve known the family for more than fifty-five years.” But she still wouldn’t answer the question. “Why don’t you send me an email, and I’ll think about it,” she finally said, then abruptly hung up. Her statement was just code for cowardice; she never said anything further, at least not to me.4
The other Cord Meyer tidbit in Heymann’s undocumented book was what the author alleged Cord himself had said to him shortly before his death. Heymann claims he managed to sneak into Cord’s nursing home to ask him about Mary’s murder—specifically, who Cord thought had committed “such a heinous crime”? According to Heymann, Cord “hissed … the same sons of bitches that killed John F. Kennedy.”5 However titillating the statement, Heymann’s credibility has been seriously called into question over the years.6 Visiting his New York residence, I gently inquired whether he had taped his interview with Cord. He hadn’t.7 When I finally confronted him, he became defensive and insulting. Several days later he left me a voice mail, saying, “I’m beginning to think you’re working for the CIA …”8
It is perhaps inevitable, given Jim Angleton’s ubiquitous CIA presence, that my journey should reach some finality with him. So overpowering was his influence that after his unceremonious dismissal by CIA director William Colby in 1974, two of Angleton’s closest comrades conspired to preserve his reputation and reign by gathering up his files and cultivating sympathetic writers to rehabilitate his tattered legacy. In so doing, they set in motion a complex chain of events that shone the bright light in unexpected ways upon some of the most significant questions surrounding Mary Meyer’s murder. That chain of events bears the most careful scrutiny, not because it is conclusive in and of itself, but because, in the aggregate, and viewed in context of other statements and documented facts, it moves us ever closer to the horrifying truth.
The chief architect of the mission to burnish Angleton’s controversial career was one of the Agency’s most formidable covert action specialists, Robert T. Crowley. A Chicago-born West Pointer who’d served in Army intelligence during World War II in the Pacific, Crowley joined the Agency at its inception and rose quickly through the ranks despite the fact that he lacked the Ivy League pedigree of most of his associates. As assistant deputy director for operations, he was second in command in the clandestine services directorate until his retirement in the mid-1980s. Nicknamed “the Crow,” he was one of the tallest men to ever to work at the Agency, and his career was legendary. Crowley was the chief go-to guy in the CIA’s liaison with multinational corporations—the largest of which was International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT)—which the Agency often used as fronts for moving large amounts of money to fund international covert operations. Intimately involved with the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically elected Allende government in Chile in 1973, Crowley had earned the highest regard from his colleagues.
In Molehunt: The Secret Search for Traitors That Shattered the CIA (1992), author David Wise referred to Crowley as “an iconoclast, and a man of great wisdom with a gift for metaphor.”9 Within the Agency, and particularly within covert operations and counterintelligence activities, mutual loyalty and trust among operatives were always the gold standard of conduct. In evaluating personnel for any covert operation, Crowley’s quintessential question, a reference to the intricate teamwork required in deep-sea diving, inevitably came down to this: “Would I want this guy on my air hose at two hundred feet?”10
Two Crowley colleagues who most definitely wanted “the Crow” on their “air hose” were William R. Corson and the already well-known, mercurial James Jesus (“Jim”) Angleton, the CIA’s notorious counterintelligence chief. Bob Crowley and Bill Corson were “bosom buddies,” the closest of friends and colleagues, and together coauthored a book in 1985 entitled The New KGB: Engine of Soviet Power. While Bill Corson was never officially titled in the Agency, his close ties to both Crowley and Angleton, as well as his many covert operations for U.S. intelligence, were well known. Corson was a brilliant strategist, an intellectual powerhouse in his own right, and a man who didn’t want to be ultimately tied to anybody or anything. On the verge of being promoted to brigadier general in 1968, Corson had literally walked away in disgust from his Marine Corps career by doing the unthinkable: exposing in his book The Betrayal President Lyndon Johnson’s White House lunacy and the venality of America’s entire Vietnam War effort.11 As Cold War intelligence historian Fletcher Prouty once quipped to author Joseph Trento, “For Bill Corson, the CIA was support staff. He needed to know; they didn’t.”12
“The Three Musketeers”—Corson, Crowley, and Angleton—thus formed a unique phalanx of “intelligence intelligentsia,” and while it might not have been exactly “all for one” or “one for all,” their commitment and loyalty to each other and, of course, the Agency were legendary, as was their alcohol consumption. When William Colby finally sacked Angleton in 1974, it was Corson and Crowley who devised a plan to secretly squirrel away Angleton’s most highly classified, top secret files out of Langley. The cache allegedly included Mary Meyer’s real diary.
Toward the end of their careers, the Three Musketeers appeared to have decided it was time for the world to know their true history, or at least some of it. It was Bill Corson who initially started to court newspaper reporter Joseph Trento in 1976.6 Forcing Trento to jump through any number of hoops to prove his trust, Corson one day told him it was time he met Jim Angleton. “You’ve got to know him before he drinks and smokes himself to death,” announced Corson, who was far along the same path himself. A few days later, Trento met Angleton for the first time. Sometime after Bob Crowley’s CIA retirement, it would be Angleton who closed the circle and introduced Trento to Crowley. Once a lone pyramid protecting America’s most dastardly deeds, the Musketeers had chosen a scribe, or so it appeared. They were going to reveal to Joe Trento some of “the secret history” of the CIA.
Somewhat reluctantly, Bob Crowley went along with the plan, at least for a while. Crowley, it turns out, may not have trusted Trento in the end. After Angleton died in the spring of 1987, Corson and Crowley began volunteering to Trento some of Angleton’s most cherished secrets, files they had kept “in trust for their old friend.” The deal was that nothing could be published until 1997, ten years after Angleton’s death. When Bill Corson died in 2000, Joe Trento managed to come “into possession of all of his files, tapes, and writings.” When Bob Crowley passed away several months later that same year, “his extensive files—and those of James Angleton—were also turned over to me,” wrote Trento in the preface of his 2001 book, The Secret History of the CIA.13
But very possibly not everything was turned over. At least six years before his death and well before the onset of his final health crisis, Crowley had become a bit disenchanted with Trento. According to this account, Crowley had decided he wanted the truth to come out about the CIA’s role in the Kennedy assassination. Whether this had Angleton’s and Corson’s blessing wasn’t entirely known. For years, Corson had met regularly and held court with a group of his former students from the Naval Academy. The group enjoyed long lunch discussions together, coupled with a generous intake of alcohol. One favorite topic was the Kennedy assassination, and the flap that Oliver Stone’s film JFK had been creating since its release in 1991. J. Michael Kelly, a former student of Corson’s at Annapolis, gave two interviews for this book in which he stated definitively that Corson had told him in 1998 that he had in his possession, in his safe-deposit box, the critical Crowley document that outlined the CIA’s engineering of the Kennedy assassination “from soup to nuts.”14
Michael Kelly clearly recalled he had asked Corson in 1998, “Bill, don’t you think Oliver Stone did a disservice to America by implicating the Armed Forces and the Joint Chiefs of Staff?” Corson was already into his second lunch martini. At that moment, Corson reached over, said Kelly, and slapped him on the arm, saying, “Michael, I’ll tell you, you’ve got my permission when I die to take my attorney, who is Plato Cacheris, go to my safe-deposit box with Plato—he’ll let you in there—and you’ll find out who really killed John Kennedy.”15
Two other former students of Corson’s were aware of this exchange and vouched for it: Roger Charles, who had assisted me in the identification of William L. Mitchell, and who became the executor of Corson’s estate; and a senior FBI agent named Tom Kimmel, the grandson of four-star Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, who served as commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.16
J. Michael Kelly never forgot what Corson had told him. Within two months after Corson’s death, Kelly contacted Corson’s executor, Roger Charles, whom he knew well from their days together at Annapolis. They discussed the matter and agreed the next step was to approach Corson’s attorney, Plato Cacheris, whose office was in the same building as Joseph Trento. Cacheris had been a well-known figure in Washington power circles for years, first defending Nixon attorney general John Mitchell of Watergate fame, then representing Fawn Hall, who worked with Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal. His clients included the infamous CIA spy Aldrich Ames, as well as the FBI’s Robert Hanssen, both of whom were able to avoid the death penalty, thanks to Cacheris’s legal prowess. Of course, in exchange, both had to reveal everything they had given the Soviets, before Cacheris brokered the deal.
So Kelly got together with Cacheris over lunch at a restaurant called Morton’s on a Thursday. He told Cacheris what Corson had said to him, and that he had Corson’s permission to open his safe-deposit box, all of which was supported by Corson’s executor, Roger Charles. Cacheris seemed to play along with the request at the time, said Kelly, and was actually enthusiastic about it. He told Kelly he would get back to him on the Monday of the following week. But when Cacheris called, he abruptly stepped back, saying something to the effect that he didn’t have “written authorization” to allow Kelly to open Corson’s safe-deposit box. It would never happen. Kelly has since always suspected that after his lunch with Cacheris, the lawyer had contacted Joe Trento. No doubt Trento regarded whatever was in Corson’s safe-deposit box as a part of Corson’s papers that had been legally bequeathed to him. Thus Trento was able to secure the contents of Corson’s safe-deposit box. According to Kelly, Trento knew the contents were highly incriminating of the CIA.
Though Plato Cacheris would admit he knew Bill Corson, in an interview for this book he said he didn’t think he had ever “represented him.” He wouldn’t say for sure whether he remembered having lunch with J. Michael Kelly, but he affirmed unequivocally that he and Joe Trento never went into Bill Corson’s safe-deposit box. Despite writing a blurb for the back of Trento’s book Secret History, Cacheris said he only knew Trento “very superficially,” though he admitted they did work in the same building at one time.17 However, Roger Charles, Corson’s executor, was adamant that “Plato was Bill’s attorney during the The Betrayal flap. It was definitely a good move on Bill’s part to use Plato, who beat the military brass and LBJ down when they were after Bill’s scalp.” Furthermore, Bill Corson’s son, Chris, was sure “he [Plato Cacheris] was dad’s attorney” during his parents’ divorce. Chris then conferred with his mother and asked her what she recalled about Plato Cacheris. “Plato Cacheris was dad’s attorney,” said Chris to Roger Charles after talking with his mother. “He settled the divorce in 1966 in Washington, D.C. and [it] was stated in court that he [Cacheris] was also dad’s retained attorney for matters above and beyond that.”18
For whatever reason, it seems that Cacheris wanted to distance himself not only from Bill Corson and Joe Trento, but also from having facilitated Trento’s procurement of the contents of Corson’s safe-deposit box. The importance of this event will soon become clear.
In the end, it was not Joe Trento who precipitated Bob Crowley’s most critical revelations of Agency secrets, but a relatively obscure, unknown writer calling himself Gregory Douglas. “Douglas”—whose real name is Peter Stahl and whose email alias is sometimes “Walter Storch”—captured the attention of both Corson and Crowley in 1995, at which point the Crowley saga took a critical turn. It was Corson’s former student, senior FBI agent Tom Kimmel, who brought to his mentor’s attention Douglas’s recently published Gestapo Chief: The 1948 Interrogation of Heinrich Müller (volume 1, 1995). Gregory Douglas, it appeared, had a vast knowledge of Nazi Germany, including the Gestapo, an abbreviation of the German word for “Secret State Police,” of which Heinrich Müller had been director during World War II. In the first volume of Gestapo Chief, Douglas documented the fact that Heinrich Müller and a number of other high-level Nazi officials, scientists, and the like had all become covert CIA assets at the end of World War II. They were smuggled into the United States under new identities to join America’s Cold War against the Soviets. The undertaking was finally revealed as the CIA’s Operation Paperclip and has been well documented since, although there is still debate as to whether Heinrich Müller was part of it. Douglas claims that he met Müller in California and the two became instant friends, with Müller eventually giving Douglas some of his personal diaries.
For some reason, both Corson and Crowley were immediately smitten with the Douglas book; they believed the Douglas account was accurate, and they thought the author had been courageous for stepping forward to write such an account. In fact, they were so enamored that they contacted him and began a collegial relationship. Two years later, in 1997, Corson and Crowley, the two biggest intelligence titans of the Cold War, each contributed a short, highly favorable foreword to Douglas’s second volume of what would become a trilogy about Müller and his life in the United States. Crowley in particular, it seemed, gave Douglas an unqualified stamp of approval: “Where possible, each revelation has been challenged and examined using all available resources to include: individual military records, released US communication intercepts and captured documents. To date, the Müller documents have met every challenge.”19
In early 1996, Bob Crowley and Gregory Douglas began an intense telephone relationship that lasted nearly three years.20 Often speaking with Douglas in substantial detail as frequently as twice a week, Crowley allegedly started to reveal intimate details about people and operations he had been involved with during his CIA career, including the Kennedy assassination. Intrigued by what he was hearing, Douglas allegedly began, apparently unbeknownst to Crowley, tape-recording and transcribing many of the calls.
By the end of 1996 Crowley and Douglas, who had still not met face-to-face, finally scheduled a luncheon for Monday, December 9, 1996, at the University Club of Washington. Tom Kimmel and Bill Corson were also invited to the lunch. Crowley’s plan, according to Douglas, was that he and Douglas were first going to meet alone before noon. Crowley wanted to personally deliver to Douglas a collection of CIA documents relating to the Kennedy assassination, in particular a lengthy document that Crowley himself had written and typed, entitled “Operation Zipper.” This document, reprinted in Douglas’s 2002 book, Regicide, was Crowley’s “personal insurance policy, should someone start to point the finger at him,” said Gregory Douglas in 2007 in an interview for this book. “He would take down everyone if this should happen. He considered the Zipper document to be his most important paper.”21 Douglas was also aware that Crowley had made a copy of the document for Bill Corson, and that Corson was keeping it in his safe-deposit box.
Unfortunately, the day before the University Club luncheon, Crowley was hospitalized with an acute case of pneumonia. Crowley’s wife Emily recalled, “Bob was so looking forward to meeting this guy, but he never did. He felt very bad about it.”22 Douglas showed up in Washington anyway and had lunch with Bill Corson and Tom Kimmel, a fact Kimmel subsequently confirmed.23
The Crowley-Douglas telephone relationship resumed in earnest shortly thereafter, and Douglas allegedly continued to record their conversations, transcribing each of them. But Douglas has never produced any of the actual recordings on which Crowley’s voice might be confirmed. This, among other things—including Douglas’s history of shady dealings and trouble with the law—has led to skepticism regarding the journalistic credibility of “Gregory Douglas,” now considered a pariah within the JFK assassination research community. But it turns out that Gregory Douglas’s material, which precisely matches the sworn testimony of principals in the diary caper, may in fact hold several “master keys.”
Throughout the mid- to late 1990s, Crowley’s evolving admiration of Douglas continued to baffle Tom Kimmel, the senior FBI man. “The guy [Gregory Douglas, a.k.a. Peter Stahl] was obviously enormously bright,” Kimmel recalled in 2007. “But I could never understand why Corson and Crowley embraced Stahl so unequivocally. I just couldn’t understand it because Corson and Crowley were introspective, very accomplished intelligence officers, especially Crowley—not one to go off half-cocked at all. They didn’t raise any objections or doubts, and that was not the way they approached anything. I mean, these guys doubted everything and everybody, but not Stahl. I could never figure that out.”24
Pressured by his family in late 1997, Bob Crowley would again be admitted to the hospital for exploratory surgery for lung cancer. Again, as legend had it, fearing he wouldn’t come out alive, he packed up two footlockers of documents and sent it all by mail to Gregory Douglas before going to the hospital. The deal was that they were not to be opened until after Crowley’s death. Crowley, unfortunately, came back from the hospital with severe dementia, remained mostly bedridden, and died in October 2000.
Shortly after receiving the cache of Crowley documents, Douglas mentioned the transaction to Tom Kimmel. Increasingly concerned by the national security implications, and knowing something of the enormity of Crowley’s involvement in CIA covert operations, Kimmel started pressuring Douglas to reveal what Crowley had given him. But Douglas wouldn’t break his agreement with Crowley.
“Crowley knew Stahl [Gregory Douglas] was crazy enough to publish whatever he gave him,” Kimmel revealed in an interview for this book. Did he, Kimmel, believe Crowley wanted the real story of the Kennedy assassination to be revealed? I asked
“That’s why he gave it all to Stahl as opposed to Trento or someone else,” replied Kimmel. At the time, so alarmed had Kimmel finally become, he ordered an FBI team to investigate the matter, even dispatching a female agent to Crowley’s house. “It was Bob’s relationship with him [Gregory Douglas] she was investigating,” recalled Crowley’s wife, Emily, in 2007. “The FBI lady was very down on him. I’m not sure why, but she was.”25
It’s not clear whether anyone has ever seen, or verified, the documents Crowley allegedly sent to Douglas, other than what Douglas included in his 2002 book Regicide, which highlighted Crowley’s Operation Zipper record. Nor has anyone ever been able to listen to any of the Crowley-Douglas conversations that Douglas allegedly recorded. When I asked Douglas to produce the tapes, he said he had destroyed them, but later contradicted himself. However, the transcriptions of these alleged calls were available. I reviewed many of them in detail, traveling to Chicago to meet with Douglas on several occasions. Some of the transcripts remain not only intriguing, but also fascinating in terms of certain pieces of information—including specific details about Mary and Cord Meyer that Douglas, in my opinion, could never have fabricated.
In January 1996, Douglas began asking Crowley for specifics about the Kennedy assassination. Point-blank, he asked Crowley: “Was Oswald a patsy?” Crowley’s answer was simple and complete: “Sure. He worked for us once in Japan at Atsugi and also for ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence]. Not high level, but he was a soldier after all.” Crowley then mentioned what a “first class bitch” Oswald’s wife, Marina, had been to deal with when she finally realized the impasse she was in. “No wonder she did what we told her,” he said.
The two men then chauvinistically ruminated about “the mystery of women,” with Crowley finally blurting out, “Most company [CIA] wives are a pack of nuts. Did I mention Cord’s wife?” Douglas vaguely remembered the name Cord Meyer from somewhere, but he wasn’t sure. He appeared to know nothing in 1996 about Mary Meyer.
Crowley then described Cord’s wife as a “very attractive woman but her sister [Tony] was even better. She married Bradlee who is one of the company’s [CIA’s] men. He’s on the Post now. Cord’s wife was what they call a free spirit, liked modern art, ran around naked in people’s gardens and so on. Pretty, but strange and unstable. She and Cord got along for a time but time changes everything. They do say that, don’t they? They broke up and Cord was so angry at being dumped, he hated her from then on. She took up with Kennedy. Did you know that?”
“No,” replied Douglas.
“Oh yes. After Mary—that was her name, Mary. You haven’t heard about her?”
“No,” Douglas said again.
“After Kennedy bought the farm,” Crowley continued, “ex-Mrs. Meyer was annoyed. She had become the steady girlfriend and he was very serious about her. Jackie was brittle, uptight and very greedy. Poor people usually are. Mary had money and far more class and she knew how to get along with Jack. Trouble was, she got along too well. She didn’t approve of the mass orgies and introduced him to pot and other things. Not a good idea. Increased chances for blackmail or some erratic public behavior. But after Dallas, she began to brood and then started to talk. Of course she had no proof but when people like that start to run their mouths, there can be real trouble.”
“What was the outcome?” asked Douglas.
“We terminated her, of course,” Crowley told him.
“That I didn’t know. How?”
“Had one of our cleaning men nail her down by the towpath while she was out for her daily jog.”
“Wasn’t that a bit drastic?”
“Why? If you knew the damage she could cause us.”
“Were you the man?” Douglas wanted to know.
“No, Jim Angleton was. And [Ben] Bradlee, her brother-in-law, was in the know. After she assumed room temperature, he and Jim [Angleton] went over to Mary’s art studio to see if she had any compromising papers, and ran off with her diary. I have a copy of it.”
“Could I see it?” asked Douglas.
“Now, Gregory, don’t ask too many questions. Maybe later.”
Later on, during the same conversation, Crowley referred to his colleague Cord Meyer as a “nasty, opinionated, loud, general asshole.” Douglas was curious to know how Cord felt about the CIA “terminating” his wife. Crowley replied matter-of-factly: “Ex-wife. Let’s be accurate now. Ex-wife. When Jim [Angleton] talked to Cord about this, Cord didn’t let him finish his fishing expedition. He was in complete agreement about shutting her up. Gregory, you can’t reason with people like her. She [Mary] hated Cord, loved Kennedy, and saw things in the Dallas business that were obvious to insiders or former insiders, but she made the mistake of running her mouth. One of the wives had a talk with her about being quiet, but Mary was on a tear and that was that.” Crowley then added, “It wasn’t my decision [to “terminate” Mary Meyer]. I was there, but Jim [Angleton] and the others made the final decision. You know how it goes.”26
The two continued their conversations throughout 1996 about various aspects of the Kennedy assassination, but in early April of that year the subject of Mary Meyer came up again. In this instance, Crowley talked about how the sale of Newsweek to the Washington Post had been engineered by the CIA’s Richard Helms.
“In the early 1960s,” Crowley said, “Helms told Bradlee that one of his relatives wanted to sell Newsweek, and Bradlee brokered the deal with the Post people. We [the CIA] had a firm ‘in’ with the Post [already] and now with Newsweek, a powerful opinion molder and a high-circulation national magazine.” Crowley continued: “Then there was the towpath murder. Cord’s ex-wife was one of Kennedy’s women and everyone felt she had too much influence with him, not to mention her hippifying him with LSD and marijuana. We can discuss the Kennedy business some other time, but Mary was threatening to talk and you know about the rest.”27
Without access to Douglas’s tape-recorded phone calls with Bob Crowley, it is impossible to confirm whether the voice speaking was Crowley’s, and therefore impossible to verify the authenticity of the statements. Moreover, the unsavory character of “Gregory Douglas” (a.k.a. Peter Stahl and/or Walter Storch) leaves a great deal to be desired. And yet there remain details included here that are confirmed by other, more credible sources already presented.
First of all, Crowley’s allegation that Cord Meyer was devastated after Mary left their marriage was true. It was well known to Cord’s CIA colleagues and closest friends that he had been furious. “Cord was so angry at being dumped, he hated her from then on,” said Crowley. Indeed, Mary’s departure from the marriage had turned Cord upside down. He became increasingly hostile, and increasingly alcoholic. Cord, the reader will recall, had once lunged for Ben Bradlee’s throat during a Washington dinner party conversation subsequent to his divorce from Mary. Cord’s Yale classmate, U.S. attorney David Acheson, recalled Cord physically threatening to fight another guest “at a dinner party at my house. We had to tell him to calm down. Cord could be downright mean.”28 Crowley’s account also dovetailed with what journalist Charlie Bartlett, Cord’s close friend and Yale classmate, told me: “Cord was shaken after his divorce. He played on the wild side. He was drinking too much and making an ass out of himself.”29
Second, Crowley mentions twice the fact that both Angleton and Bradlee together were in Mary’s studio sometime after her murder that evening. According to Crowley’s account, it appears that Jim Angleton had, in fact, accompanied Ben Bradlee to Mary’s studio on the night of the murder, and that this was when Mary’s real diary had been stolen. How could Crowley—or Gregory Douglas—have fabricated the content of Bradlee’s obscure 1965 trial testimony, if it weren’t true? Bradlee himself appeared to have lost track of his various versions of the story, as he completely contradicted his own sworn testimony thirty years later in his memoir.
Leo Damore told his attorney Jimmy Smith that he had recovered Mary’s diary (“The diary found!”), and that it, or a copy of it, had apparently come from Bernie Yoh in 1990, to whom Jim Angleton himself had given it in 1980. That likely meant that Angleton had made at least one copy of the diary, before giving what he had to Yoh.
Damore, the reader will recall, had been very specific about what was in the diary: “Mary made connection w/it [the Kennedy assassination] … CIA involved … James Angleton.” Her murder, said Damore, had been “an operation. … standard CIA procedure.” “It wasn’t the affair,” he said, “but the murder of JFK” that had done Mary in. “Mary – stepped in shit! She would not back down …”30
As Crowley allegedly told Douglas, “she [Mary] made the mistake of running her mouth … she was threatening to talk.” He also said: “Good old Ben and his friend Jim went to Mary’s little converted garage studio which Ben just happened to own, and finally found her diary. They took it away and just as well they did. She had it all down in there, every bit of the drug use, all kinds of bad things JFK told her as pillow talk, and her inside knowledge of the hit [Kennedy’s assassination]. Not good.”31 Crowley’s account of what Mary’s diary actually contained further dovetailed with what Damore had told his attorney, Jimmy Smith, was in the copy of the diary that he (Damore) now possessed. Mary’s mosaic had been completed. She had finally put the pieces together and was getting ready to talk. Alas, it was Mary’s “inside knowledge of the hit” that made it necessary for her to be “terminated.”
Intriguing also, was Crowley’s statement about how they had used another CIA wife to try to persuade Mary to keep quiet: “One of the wives had a talk with her about being quiet but Mary was on a tear and that was that.” The reader will also recall from a previous chapter CIA contract agent Robert Morrow’s account of a conversation with his CIA boss, Marshall Diggs, in which Diggs told him the following: “… there’s a certain lady [Mary Meyer] in town who has an inside track to Langley, and most importantly, to Bobby [Kennedy]. Fortunately, an intimate friend of mine is one of her best friends…. [Mary] Meyer claimed to my friend that she positively knew that Agency-affiliated Cuban exiles and the Mafia were responsible for killing John Kennedy. Knowing of my association with [Mario] Kohly, my friend immediately called me.”32 Was Diggs’s “intimate friend” the CIA wife that Crowley said “had a talk with her [Mary] about being quiet”? Additionally, recall that right before his death, Robert Morrow told his biographer-to-be, John Williams, that he was more sure than ever that “Angleton did it.”33
If the Crowley account approximates some level of truth, it also increases the likelihood that Mary and Jack did have some involvement with psychedelics, that Mary had been “hippifying him with LSD and marijuana.” Crowley also mentions that “everyone [within the CIA] felt she had too much influence with him.” Kenny O’Donnell had expressed a similar fear regarding Mary’s influence. Mary did, in fact, have significant influence with Jack, particularly in matters that involved the pursuit of world peace after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Was it any surprise then that Jack, according to O’Donnell, wanted to divorce Jackie so that he could be with Mary after he left the White House?34
There is one last linchpin to the Crowley-Douglas caper that gives it further credibility. After the publication of Joseph Trento’s The Secret History of the CIA in 2001, Gregory Douglas sent Trento a congratulatory email in November 2001. It read, in part, as follows:
From: G Douglas [email address withheld]
Sent: Monday, November 19, 200 11:17 P.M.
To: Joe Trento [email address withheld]7
Dear Mr. Trento:
I got your address from Walter Storch.
I enjoyed reading your book on the CIA and was gratified to see your comments on the CIA’s employment of Heinrich Müller on page 29. Also gratified to note your citation of Crowley’s CIA files as a source.
Bob sent me two large boxes of his files in 1996 in which his connections with Müller were documented therein. I have written six books on the subject of Müller and his CIA connections and authoritative support is certainly helpful.35
Here, Douglas noted Trento had verified, through Crowley’s bequeathed papers and files, that Heinrich Müller had, in fact, been employed by the CIA. Douglas then mentioned the fact that Crowley had sent him “two large boxes of his files in 1996.” Trento appeared to be oblivious to the Douglas bombshell statement. In a subsequent email communication later that same day, Douglas also mentioned “there is a new book coming out around Christmas  on the Kennedy assassination with great emphasis on papers from Crowley.” Unbeknownst to Joe Trento, Douglas was referring to his own book, Regicide.
It would be another year – November 2002 – before Trento read Regicide; and when he did, he began to see red. He threatened Douglas immediately:
From: Joe Trento [email address deleted]
To: G Douglas [email address deleted]
Sent: Sunday, November 03, 2002 7:14 P.M.
Just read a copy of the Kennedy book. I want you to know, as I told Walter earlier, that I am the literary executor of Bob Crowley and that I have the legal right to all of his documents. I notice that you are using documents from him in your book and this has to be stopped right now. This is a gross slander on the reputation of a fine American and, I want you to know, these papers are all classified documents under Federal law and you may not keep or use them. I intend to write to your publisher and inform him that if he does not cease and desist selling this book, I will sue him and you. Also, I have strongly suggested to both Emily and Greg [Bob Crowley’s son] that they sue you for defaming Bob’s good name. Now you can stop all of this legal action by sending me a full list of all the papers you got from Bob and then sending me the actual papers. Apparently you got an original file that Bob made a copy of and gave to Bill Corson. This copy was retrieved by myself after Bill’s death and returned to the proper agency but apparently, Bob had sent out the original to you. As you know, Bob was badly failing in his last years and I and others, including Tom Kimmel, think it was a low blow for you to trick a trusting Bob into giving you sensitive papers. If you want to avoid future problems, I suggest you do as I say, make a list of all your documents you got from Bob, send it to me and then return all of these documents to me immediately. Tom Kimmel has told me all about you and I want you to know I won’t hold still for any monkey business from you and if you don’t want the FBI knocking your door down, do as I say.
Joe Trento had just inadvertently confirmed that the Crowley documents Douglas had in his possession were, indeed, legitimate. That included the Crowley “Master Plan”—the file entitled “Operation Zipper,” which was a time line and a logistical account of telephone calls, meetings, people, and places, all indicating how the CIA had orchestrated the plan to assassinate the president of the United States.37 Nowhere in Trento’s book The Secret History of the CIA does he even mention or allude to Crowley’s “Operation Zipper” document (although Trento was well aware it existed); nor had Trento discussed the CIA’s involvement in the Kennedy assassination. Instead, Joe Trento had done what Bob Crowley feared he would do: He pimped Angleton’s ridiculous, longtime public assertion that the Kennedy assassination was the work of the Soviet KGB using Lee Harvey Oswald as a tool.38 Trento appeared to be unaware (or possibly colluding to obfuscate the truth) that Angleton himself had designed the demonic, viral master plan that would paralyze the entire national security apparatus, including the CIA, except for a “gifted few,” from discovering the real conspiracy that had actually taken place under Angleton’s direction. Trento’s shoddy journalism was both underhanded and deceitful.39
Likely, it was attorney Plato Cacheris who alerted Trento to the importance of Corson’s safe-deposit box. In any case, Trento noted the contents were “returned to the proper agency,” undoubtedly referring to the CIA. But he also finally realized it had only been a copy—”apparently, Bob [Crowley] had sent out the original to you.” The cat, indeed, was out of the bag!
Two hours after receiving the Trento threat, Gregory Douglas responded in kind:
From: G Douglas [email address deleted]
Sent: Sunday, November 03, 2002 9:15 P.M.
To: Joe Trento [email address deleted]
The documents I received from Bob Crowley, mailed by his son Greg, in 1996, were freely given to me as an author. Bob had been assisting me with important material for several years previously.
His only caveat was that I not make use of these before he died and I have not done so.
I know from Bob that he gave a copy of the Kennedy file to Corson and that it vanished after his death.
What I have are the originals and also the originals of many other fascinating subjects.
Please be advised that Bob sent these to me prior to his death and that they therefore do not fall under any literary property over which you now claim to have rights.
In answer to your specific demands, be advised that I have no intention of sending you any list of this material in question and neither do I have any intention of sending you anything else.
In the event that you dare to address me again, I will personally post some of the more sensitive documents on the Internet and personally thank you for having sent me these from your own holdings of Crowley’s papers.
Bob told me you were a light weight hack and it is also obvious that you have no knowledge of the law.
It would seem the elusive, infamous Gregory Douglas (a.k.a. Peter Stahl/Walter Storch) may have been somewhat truthful regarding what had transpired between himself and Bob Crowley. But it will never be known how truthful, unless Douglas produces both the Crowley cache of documents and the recordings he allegedly made of their conversations. Yet despite the remaining ambiguity surrounding the Crowley-Douglas affair, the details purportedly revealed by Crowley—about Mary Meyer, her diary, and her murder—are solidly supported and substantiated by other events and accounts covered in this book.
Ben Bradlee never took kindly to anyone who accused him of having CIA connections. Bob Crowley not only reiterated Bradlee’s role in bringing Newsweek to the Post through the gracious hands of the CIA’s Richard Helms, but he also referred to Bradlee as “one of the company’s [CIA’s] men,” who was “on the Post now.” Had the sale of Newsweek to the Post started opening doors for “good old Ben”? During the 1950s and 1960s, working for, or with, the CIA, directly or indirectly, didn’t necessarily mean being on the CIA payroll as an employee. In the Cold War era, many journalists considered cooperation with the CIA a kind of patriotic duty. After Watergate, however, it was considered deeply suspicious, if not downright duplicitous, because so much CIA chicanery had been exposed.
Deborah Davis and her book Katharine the Great paid the ultimate price in 1980 when, under great pressure from both Ben Bradlee and Katharine Graham, her publisher, William Jovanovich, recalled and shredded her book—some twenty thousand copies—just two months after the book’s release. (It appears that “Freedom of the press,” as A. J. Liebling once famously put it, “is guaranteed only to those who own one”). It was Davis’s assertion in her book that Bradlee’s job as press attaché at the American Embassy in Paris in 1952–1953 functioned as a CIA front at the time. Bradlee was writing propaganda aimed at “persuading” Europeans that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were spies and deserved to be executed. Of course, Bradlee was purposely not on any CIA payroll as an employee; that would have made it too obvious. Yet his assertion that he “never worked for the CIA” was just semantics.41
In later editions of Katharine the Great, Davis included documents that corroborated Bradlee’s CIA connections. One such document was a United States Government Office Memorandum, dated December 13, 1952, which a Rosenberg case assistant prosecutor named Mr. Maran wrote to Assistant U.S. Attorney Myles Lane describing Bradlee’s request to examine the Rosenberg file, which Maran was safeguarding (see appendix 4). Bradlee stated to Maran that he (Bradlee) had been sent to review the Rosenberg case file “by Robert Thayer, who is the head of the C.I.A. in Paris.” Bradlee also disclosed, again according to Maran, that he was to have been met “by a representative of the CIA at the airport, but missed connections,” and was therefore “trying to get in touch with Allen Dulles but … [had] been unable to do so.”42 Despite the first edition of the Davis book being recalled in early 1980, damage to Bradlee’s reputation had already been done. It upset Bradlee profoundly—and shook the pedestal onto which the Washington Post had been elevated since Watergate.
“He [Bradlee] went totally crazy after the book came out,” said Davis in an interview in 1992. “One person who knew him told me then that he was going all up and down the East Coast, having lunch with every editor he could think of saying that it wasn’t true, he did not produce any propaganda. And he attacked me viciously and he said that I had falsely accused him of being a CIA agent. And the reaction was totally out of proportion to what I had said.”43
It would seem Ben Bradlee’s penchant for impenetrable deception, his playing fast and loose with pivotal facts and events that he hoped had long escaped public scrutiny, has all along been part of the Bradlee persona, karmically following like a shadow. How could Bradlee in 1965 testify under oath during the Crump murder trial that he had entered Mary’s studio with no trouble on the night of the murder, and then thirty years later spin a cock-and-bull story that he only first entered the studio the next day with his wife? “We had no key,” said Bradlee, “but I got a few tools to remove the simple padlock, and we walked toward the studio, only to run into Jim Angleton again, this time actually in process of picking the lock.”44 Part of the Bradlee story may have been designed to convince the public that he and Angleton, and the CIA, had always been adversaries, when they had been nothing of the sort. In this particular case—breaking into Mary Meyer’s studio to find her diary—they were collaborating. Bradlee never once publicly mentioned he had been inside Mary’s studio on the night of the murder. The only revelation of that fact was contained in the 1965 Crump murder trial transcript; it was never again mentioned by Bradlee himself, or anyone else (until now), including journalist-author Ron Rosenbaum or Nina Burleigh.
And who, if anybody, had accompanied Bradlee when he went to the studio on the night of Mary’s murder? According to CIA covert operative Bob Crowley, it was Jim Angleton. It was at this time, said Crowley—who mentioned it twice—that the real diary (not Mary’s artist sketchbook—the decoy) was discovered and given to Angleton for safekeeping. Ultimately, the exact account of what actually took place may never be fully known. But more than likely, as Crowley maintained, the diary was taken on the night of her murder—either from Mary’s studio, or from the bookcase in her bedroom. Mary’s bedroom, according to the statements Jim Truitt made to Ron Rosenbaum in 1976, was where she usually kept it.45
Finally, one last bit of commentary on the 1995 Bradlee memoir. On the one hand, concerning Mary’s murder, the memoir was so rife with factual errors, omissions, and contradictions that it cried out for careful scrutiny. (There was a reason why Ben Bradlee turned down Leo Damore’s request for an interview in 1991).46 On the other, Bradlee had further divulged the most critical and revealing event of the entire Mary Meyer murder conspiracy: CIA man Wistar Janney’s telephone call “just after lunch” informing Bradlee that “someone had been murdered on the towpath … and from the radio description it sounded like Mary.”47
Ben Bradlee was even more circumspect in 2010 when being interviewed for David Baldacci’s Hardcover Mysteries television documentary about Mary Meyer’s murder. Asked off-camera by director Gabe Torres how he first learned that Mary had been killed that day, Bradlee responded cryptically, “A friend called me,” carefully choosing not to reveal the identity of the “friend.”48
Forty-five years earlier, Bradlee had been equally tight-lipped. “Mr. Bradlee, I have just one question,” said defense attorney Dovey Roundtree during the Crump murder trial in 1965. “Do you have any personal, independent knowledge regarding the causes of the death of your sister-in-law? Do you know how she met her death? Do you know who caused it?”
“Well, I saw a bullet hole in her head,” Bradlee replied, dodging her inquiry.
“Do you know who caused this to be?” persisted Roundtree.
“No, I don’t,” Bradlee maintained.49
It had to have been a defining, life-changing moment in the life of forty-three-year-old Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee. Nine months earlier, he and others had conspired to erase his sister-in-law’s private life. Privy to the “master key event” of Wistar Janney’s telephone call, Bradlee, once again, lied through omission, withholding not only the critical evidence of Mary’s diary (the motive), but also the Janney telephone call (evidence of conspiracy). Was it just a case in which the ends justified the means?
At the time of the trial in July 1965, Bradlee’s career was already being transformed. Several months earlier, in March, he had been wooed back to the Washington Post after a fourteen-year hiatus by none other than Katharine Graham herself. That August, a month after the trial ended, Bradlee returned to the Post, where he had once worked as a “crime reporter,” with a new title: “Deputy Managing Editor.” Less than three months later, in October that same year, he would be promoted to “Managing Editor.”50
In 1976, after the first revelation of Mary’s relationship with President Kennedy appeared in the National Enquirer, Bradlee told journalist Ron Rosenbaum in an interview that there had been no “CIA angle,” no Agency “shadow” in Mary’s demise. “If there was anything there,” boasted Bradlee, “I would have done it [written the story] myself.”51 The statement was as ludicrous as it was egregious. But it pales against the statement in his 1995 memoir in which he mischaracterizes and thereby minimizes the last moments of Mary Meyer’s life: “She [Mary] was walking along the towpath by the canal along the Potomac River in Georgetown, when she was grabbed from behind, wrestled to the ground, and shot just once under her cheek bone as she struggled to get free. She died instantly.”52
No. Mary hardly “died instantly.” By all police, witness, and forensic accounts, she struggled mightily, screaming for twenty seconds or more, before the first gunshot ripped through her skull. Death be not proud, nor even swift. Whatever Mary’s thoughts or feelings during the final conscious seconds of her life, she had to be aware her death was fast approaching, yet she would not succumb without a fight, before the second fatal shot ended her life. Perhaps Ben Bradlee wanted to assuage his guilt by publicly spinning yet another yarn that his sister-in-law hadn’t really suffered, or that she hadn’t faced head-on the terrifying realization that her life was about to end violently. Whatever his motivation, Ben Bradlee played as fast and loose with the facts in this instance as he had with nearly every other aspect of Mary’s death.
Tony Bradlee, subsequent to the death of her sister and the “shock” of discovering Mary’s affair with Jack, retreated to studying sculpture at the Corcoran School of Art, as well as exploring the mystical and spiritual traditions of George Gurdjieff and his disciple P. D. Ouspensky. During the next few years, her marriage to Ben slowly disintegrated. For the Bradlees, “Jack Kennedy and Mary Meyer had been murdered out of our lives,” noted Ben during his meteoric rise on the Post, “out of our reservoir of shared experience, and we both had changed in coping with their loss.”53
Mary’s death took a severe toll, not only on her children, but also on other members of her extended family. “Mary believed the world could change … she was such a fascinating figure in the family,” said Nancy Pittman Pinchot, daughter of Tony Bradlee by her first marriage to Steuart Pittman. “She had a quality of aliveness. We watched the full flowering of Mary as the kind of woman that Mom [Tony Bradlee] might have become. Instead, Mom lived off the idea that JFK had a crush on her for years—before she disappeared up the asshole of spirituality. It was such a blow to her to find out Mary and Jack had been together.”54
Asked in a letter by Leo Damore in 1991 whether she would be willing to be interviewed about the events surrounding her sister’s death, Tony avoided any possibility of an encounter, replying, “I feel as I have always felt—that the case is closed, that Crump was indeed guilty. Also, I am loathe to get involved in going over that event again, with all its unhappy memories.”55 Tony Bradlee died in Washington on November 9, 2011.
Up until the very end of 2011 (December 31st to be exact) when she died just shy of her ninety-first birthday, Anne Chamberlin, a former Vassar classmate and close friend of Mary Meyer’s, had remained the only person left who could have perhaps unraveled some of the impenetrable, unanswered questions surrounding the last years of Mary Meyer’s life, and death. A known friend to Katharine Graham, regarded as an intrepid, charmingly sharp-witted commentator, who had a “distinguished and eclectic career” as a freelance journalist, Anne also maintained throughout her life an extraordinary level of physical health and vitality through a daily, grueling exercise regime.56 And yet, as adventurous and fearless as she appeared, she refused—even ran—from wanting to be associated with anything to do with Mary Meyer after her death. Her phone interviews with Leo Damore in the early 1990’s indicated she’d been a part of Mary’s Washington “LSD group” that took shape in 1962, yet she became indignant when I asked to talk with her about this. According to Damore, Chamberlin fled Washington for Maine out of fear, shortly after Mary’s murder, side-stepping being named in any of the accounts surrounding Mary’s death. Had Anne Chamberlin been privy to something so dangerous that she feared for her life, should she reveal what she knew?
James Jesus Angleton had what might be called a “second career” sending newspaper reporters and journalists on never-ending wild-goose chases. Sailing on the edge, always well-oiled and three sheets to the wind, Angleton relished seeing how far he could push their limits of gullibility; and, like a Shakespearean actor, he did so convincingly, often leaving many of them awestruck, as if they had just been given the actual location of Noah’s Ark or the whereabouts of Jimmy Hoffa’s body. There was a reason why former military intelligence officer and historian John Newman, author of Oswald and the CIA, a person with more than twenty years of experience as an analyst for U.S. military intelligence, told me during an interview for this book that he considered Angleton as “one of the most diabolical figures in all of human history.”57 What took place in 1976 after the National Enquirer exposé involving Mary’s relationship with Kennedy supported historian Newman’s point of view.
The 1976 Enquirer story had opened a huge can of worms. It would take a masterful performance from the master Angler himself, along with supporting actors like Ben Bradlee, to neutralize its implications. The elite circle of Mary’s acquaintances—the people who had taken an “omertà oath” of allegiance never to reveal the facts surrounding either her diary or her murder—had to figure out how to hoodwink journalists Rosenbaum and Nobile, who were intent on writing the whole story. The two most high-profile players among them—Jim Angleton and Ben Bradlee—were forced to make a showing. For whatever reason, Cord Meyer and Anne Chamberlin would remain hidden, as would Anne Truitt, and to a large extent Tony Bradlee. Like his misleading trial testimony in 1965, Bradlee’s 1976 selective recollections carefully excluded the most critical events. Dare it be said that had Rosenbaum and Nobile become aware of these linchpin events, the Angleton-CIA house of cards would have collapsed immediately.
But it didn’t collapse, and for several reasons. Within the hallowed halls of the Agency, the ruling leaders of America’s premier intelligence establishment had learned how to manage almost any crisis, particularly when it came to accountability to the public, or even to Congress. In CIA parlance, it’s called “a limited hang-out.” With their backs to the wall, the Agency gives up a few classified, titillating tidbits, making everyone feel as though they’ve actually come clean, when in fact they’ve done nothing of the sort, continuing to withhold what is most critical. No greater master ever demonstrated this technique more skillfully than James Jesus Angleton, the “Delphic Oracle” of counterintelligence, the chief himself. Angleton was the consummate actor and seducer. He completely dazzled Ron Rosenbaum and coauthor Phillip Nobile into thinking that they had closed the door on the case, solving everything. Alas, the authors declared, Mary’s murder, like Jack’s before her, was a random, indiscriminate, violent murder committed by a deranged, lone gunman.
So powerfully beguiling and enchanting was Angleton’s influence on Rosenbaum in 1976, it likely ignited his fascination with Angleton’s mentor, Soviet double agent Kim Philby. Philby and Angleton had met during Angleton’s stint in the OS during World War II, while Philby was ostensibly working for the British Secret Intelligence Service. Under the masterful Philby tutelage, Angleton learned all the fundamentals of the craft of intelligence, including masterminding the world of counterintelligence. Angleton came to revere his mentor just the way Philby wanted him to; it was part of Philby’s strategy. After the war, Philby would come to Washington as the chief British intelligence liaison to the fledgling CIA. The eager-beaver Angleton consulted Philby on almost everything, sharing with him all that was going on at the highest levels of American intelligence. Therein lay Angleton’s tragic fatal flaw—trusting anybody, and particularly Kim Philby. That mistake would eventually eviscerate Angleton, and he would never recover, only deteriorate. Kim Philby, as it was finally revealed in 1963, was a Russian spy, an agent allied with the KGB. So deeply had the entire arena of American intelligence been penetrated that Angleton sank even deeper into paranoia, his daily alcohol-nicotine intake dismembering his overall capacity and grasp on reality, cell by cell. Everything, and everybody, viewed through the Angleton prism, was vermin—moles, to be exact—digging relentlessly and eternally, no matter how circuitous the route, toward Langley, Virginia, their final destination CIA headquarters. That was the footprint that “Mother” Angleton would create and leave behind.
To his great credit, in an attempt to further describe what the life of Kim Philby must have been like, journalist Ron Rosenbaum delivered a riveting, quintessential vision of the character of Kim Philby—unaware he was also describing someone he had encountered years earlier:
The mole, the penetration agent in particular, does not merely betray; he stays. He doesn’t just commit a single treacherous act and run; his entire being, every smile, every word he exchanges, is an ultimate violation (an almost sexual penetration) of all those around him. All his friendships, his relationships, his marriages become elaborate lies requiring unceasing vigilance to maintain, lies in a play-within-a-play only he can follow. He is not merely the supreme spy; he is above all the supreme actor. If, as [John] le Carré once wrote, “Espionage is the secret theater of our society,” Kim Philby is its Olivier.58
Indeed, for a time, Kim Philby had been “the secret theater’s” Olivier; and inevitably, that meant James Jesus Angleton had been his understudy. Angleton had successfully modeled his entire being on how Philby had shaped his own. Eventually, karma delivered fate. It was no accident that the obsessive mission of “Angleton the mole hunter,” forever protecting his beloved Agency no matter what the cost, resulted in paralyzing entire sections of the CIA’s operational directorates, and eventually gave rise to the biggest crisis the American intelligence establishment ever faced.
By the 1960s, it was well known within the highest levels that the CIA had been penetrated. During that time, Edward Clare Petty, a protégé of Angleton’s and a member of the Special Investigations Group within Counterintelligence (CI/SIG), was ordered to begin an extended study to identify who the mole was, and how he was able to operate. Angleton, of course, thought his clout would allow him to contain the study, and slant it in any direction he wanted. Such turned out not to be the case. Before his retirement in 1975, Petty turned in his report, revealing to his superiors, including CIA director William Colby, that the mole Angleton had been hunting for twenty-five years was, in fact, Angleton himself. One source confirmed that the so-called Petty Report was so explosive that it had been kept under armed guard when it was first completed. Jim Angleton had been officially fired by Colby in December 1974, ostensibly because he had violated the Agency’s charter, infringing upon the privacy rights of certain citizens, as disclosed by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in the New York Times. While all true, Angleton’s real reign of terror had been far more nefarious.
So in 1976, when authors Rosenbaum and Nobile relied on Jim Angleton as a primary source for their seminal article “The Curious Aftermath of JFK’s Best and Brightest Affair,” their efforts to solve the mystery were immediately contaminated—they allowed themselves to be seduced by one of the greatest tricksters of the twentieth century. In addition, Rosenbaum’s own certainty about his rightness further precluded any real penetration and exposure of the evil that had been perpetrated.
In 1964, Angleton’s reputation was legendary, in and out of the Agency. Covert operative David Atlee Philips once made the comment that “Angleton was CIA’s answer to the Delphic Oracle: seldom seen but with an awesome reputation nurtured over the years by word of mouth and intermediaries padding out of his office with pronouncements which we seldom professed to understand fully but accepted on faith anyway.”59 Together with Allen Dulles, with the completion of the Warren Report in 1964, Angleton had not only just masterminded the greatest cover-up in all of American history, but had duped the entire national security apparatus, including the CIA, into believing that Oswald had been collaborating with both Cubans and the Soviet KGB during his trip to Mexico in the fall of 1963, setting up his plan to assassinate President Kennedy later that fall. President Lyndon Johnson then used “the Mexico City trump card” of a World War III nuclear confrontation that would kill 40 million Americans in the first hour to persuade people like Supreme Court justice Earl Warren to make sure the Warren Commission would establish Oswald as a lone nut assassin acting on his own.60 William Colby would say of Angleton in 1973: “Mr. A is an institution.” In 1980, Clare Booth Luce, wife of Time-Life publisher Henry Luce, told Angleton in private communication, “There’s no doubt you are easily the most interesting and fascinating figure the intelligence world has produced, and a living legend.”61
Every detail, however minute, had to be taken into account in an “operation” of such magnitude as Mary’s “termination,” so as to arouse as little suspicion as possible. Jim Angleton was Cord Meyer’s closest and dearest friend, and the godfather to his children. (Angleton was supposedly also a “dear friend” of Mary’s, though with friends like Angleton, who needs enemies?) And so the question still remains: Why hadn’t Jim Angleton called Ben Bradlee “just after lunch” on the day of Mary’s murder, as well as his dear friend and colleague Cord Meyer later that afternoon—particularly after his wife Cicely’s alleged panicked call to him at CIA headquarters who believed the murdered woman might be Mary? Why not Angleton instead of Wistar Janney? The answer: Any overt involvement by “Mother” Angleton would have forever raised dangerous suspicion.
Wistar Janney, on the other hand, wasn’t officially titled in the CIA’s covert action directorate, although Victor Marchetti had made it clear: “Your father was a company man.” A respected friend to both Cord Meyer and Ben Bradlee, Wistar Janney was the ideal go-between, someone who could contact, signal, or coordinate, among all three men: Angleton, Bradlee, and Cord Meyer. The infamous Angleton had given himself another role to play—that of procuring Mary’s diary and any other artifacts, personal papers, letters, and the like that might incriminate the CIA in her murder, or President Kennedy’s assassination.
And Jim Angleton succeeded in his mission. The “Lady Livia Augustus in drag” got everything he wanted. With aplomb, he had completely erased the most important phase of Mary’s life. With the information that Jim Truitt provided to the National Enquirer, the master fly-fisherman Angler himself, known for designing his own special fishing lures, cast his bait into just the right pool, then hooked one of his biggest catches of all time, journalist Ron Rosenbaum, intricately steering and anchoring him to the lone gunman/Ray Crump theory. Unaware, Rosenbaum had been delicately reeled into Angleton’s nexus of deception, while the master himself then drove away in his signature black Mercedes. Darth Vader couldn’t have done it any better.
Finally invaded by the mole of cancer, the “Delphic Oracle” Angleton at last confronted the final curtain on the stage of life. Even the mercurial spymaster, stricken with lung cancer and facing imminent death, earnestly, and finally, acknowledged to his scribe, Joe Trento, that Jack Kennedy and Mary Meyer “were in love. They had something very important.”62 In another end-of-life “epiphany,” he told his faithful penman: “I realize how I have wasted my existence, my professional life,” adding “I was always the skunk at the garden party, and even your friends tire of that.”
His marriage to Cicely ruptured, and his two children estranged from him, Jim Angleton’s last paternal effort was to seek out his daughter, Truffy, who had joined Yogi Bhajan’s effort to bring Kundalini yoga to the West. Truffy had years before converted to the Sikh religion. Eventually her mother, Cicely, before her death in 2011, and her sister Lucy would find a second home there, too. According to one source who knew the family well, Jim Angleton regularly consulted with Yogi Bhajan as his “spiritual adviser” in the final years of his life. Whether it was because he wanted to understand what had driven his daughters to renounce their former existence, or whether he wanted “spiritual absolution” as death drew near, his family had mostly abandoned him.
During one of Angleton’s final meetings with author Joseph Trento, the frail, emaciated, cancer-ridden “Ichabod Crane” surrendered more secrets. The man whose all-encompassing power “had struck fear into most of his colleagues, the man who had been able to end a CIA career with a nod or a phone call,” Trento wrote, was finally crumbling. Jim Angleton would tell his scribe, “You know, the CIA got tens of thousands of brave people killed…. We played with lives as if we owned them. We gave false hope. We—I—so misjudged what happened.”63
“You know how I got to be in charge of counterintelligence?” Angleton blurted out to Trento. “I agreed not to polygraph or require detailed background checks on Allen Dulles and 60 of his closest friends. They were afraid that their own business dealings with Hitler’s pals would come out. They were too arrogant to believe that the Russians would discover it all.” Later in the same conversation, Angleton added, “There was no accountability. And without real accountability everything turned to shit.”64
How had it all gone so wrong, Trento wanted to know? Weak and trembling, a cup of one of his beloved exotic teas now his most treasured companion, James Jesus Angleton gave the author his final parting reflection:
Fundamentally, the founding fathers of U.S. intelligence were liars. The better you lied and the more you betrayed, the more likely you would be promoted. These people attracted and promoted each other. Outside of their duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power. I did things that, in looking back on my life, I regret. But I was part of it and loved being in it…. Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, Carmel Offie, and Frank Wisner were the grand masters. If you were in a room with them, you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell.
Then, as he slowly sipped his tea, he added, “I guess I will see them there soon.”65
Ron Rosenbaum’s final observation about the murder of Mary Meyer was a “Postscript” to his original 1976 article that was included in his 2000 anthology The Secret Parts of Fortune. There, he described an encounter one night in the late 1980s in the Hollywood Hills of California with “a well-known West Coast figure,” an obvious attempt for some reason to camouflage the identity of Timothy Leary.
Lampooning Leary’s assertions that Mary Meyer had been killed “because of what she knew about the CIA plot to kill JFK,” then ridiculing Leary’s view that “Nixon had planned to expose the CIA’s role in JFK’s death—which was really what was erased from the eighteen minute gap on the Watergate tape”—Rosenbaum continued to brag of how thoroughly he had read the Crump trial transcript, how meticulously he had “reinvestigated the whole case,” how he had “interviewed most of the principals,” and that “no evidence was ever adduced that gives the slightest hint there was a conspiracy behind Mary Meyer’s murder—or that her death had any relation to her secret liaison with JFK.”66
Just as egregious, Rosenbaum’s parting reflection to his readers was that Nina Burleigh’s A Very Private Woman was what he termed “a recent careful reinvestigation” that further supported his overall opinion that Mary’s death had been “a random assault by a stranger.”67 And yet in the fall of 1995, three years before Nina Burleigh published her book, five years before Ron Rosenbaum’s final statement on the matter would appear in his 2000 anthology, Ben Bradlee had dramatically coughed up what Cord Meyer had only cryptically mentioned in 1980: the phone call “just after lunch” from Wistar Janney. Nina Burleigh, in particular, knew exactly who Wistar Janney was, having spent many hours interviewing me, starting in 1996, two years before her book was published. Simply put, both Cord Meyer and Ben Bradlee had, however inadvertently, revealed “the master key” that proved conspiracy—a fact that neither Rosenbaum nor Burleigh had even bothered, or possibly dared, to consider.
“No lie can live forever,” Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked. In the sacrosanct halls of the CIA, where such kingpins as Jim Angleton, Richard Helms, Cord Meyer, Wistar Janney, and others lied professionally and with impunity, a decision had been made. They may have agonized a bit—after all, Mary Pinchot Meyer was well bred, beautiful, and of the same class, one of ‘their own.’ But the stakes were too high. If she talked and told what she had come to understand about what really had taken place in Dallas, what had been done to her beloved ally, the president, and the country, and by whom, people with influence would have listened to her, people such as Philip L. Graham of the Washington Post, had he still been alive. That made Mary Meyer very dangerous.
These imperious CIA men lived in a world that answered to no authority; they knew exactly what they were doing, and how it had to be done. Engraved in the floor of the lobby at the CIA’s Langley headquarters is the Agency’s motto: “Ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free.” But it was nothing more than window-dressing, camouflage for “the ends justify the means”—the CIA’s true, unwritten code for dealing with anything, or anyone, that happened to inconveniently get in its way. And so it would be with Mary Pinchot Meyer.
And yet their fatal flaw, no matter how much water would pass under the proverbial bridge, was to underestimate something much more forceful and compelling than their corrupted, villainous power. It was, in its purest form, the supreme force of truth itself, and the human need to pursue and know it, no matter what the cost.
6 Author Joseph Trento refused to be interviewed for this book.
7 Both Joe Trento’s and Gregory Douglas’s email address have been purposely withheld. Having received email from both in previous years, I can verify that the email addresses above were valid and still in use.