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Full Disclosure: I'd like to start out by talking about your well-known book, `The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence.' What edition is that in today?
Marchetti: The latest edition came out last summer. Its the Laurel edition, Dell paperback.
FD: Its gone through a couple of printings?
Marchetti: Yes. It was originally published by Alfred Knopf in hardback and by Dell in paperback. That was in 1974 with Knopf and 1975 with Dell. Then a few years later we got some more of the deletions back from the government, so Dell put out a second printing. That would have been about 1979. Then recently, during the summer of 1983, we got back a few more deletions and that's the current edition that is available in good bookstores (laughs) in Dell paperback, the Laurel edition.
Originally the CIA asked for 340 deletions. We got about half of those back in negotiations prior to the trial. We later won the trial, they were supposed to give everything back but it was overturned at the appellate level. The Supreme Court did not hear the case, so the appellate decision stood. We got back 170 of those deletions in negotiations during the trial period. A few years later when the second paperback edition came out there were another 24 deletions given back. The last time, in 1983, when the the third edition of the paperback edition was published, there were another 35 given back. So there are still 110 deletions in the book out of an original 340.
As for the trial, the CIA sued in early 1972 to have the right to review and censor the book. They won that case. It was upheld at the appellate court in Richmond some months later, and again the Supreme Court did not hear the case. Two years later we sued the CIA on the grounds that they had been arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable in making deletions and were in violation of the injunction they had won in 1972. We went before Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr., and in that case, he decided in our favor. Bryan was the same fourth district judge in Alexandria who heard the original case. He said that there was nothing in the book that was harmful to national security or that was logically classifiable. Bryan said the CIA was being capricious and arbitrary. They appealed, and a few months later down in Richmond the appellate court for the fourth district decided in the government's favor, and overturned Bryan's decision. Again, the Supreme Court did not hear the case. It chose not to hear it, and the appellate court's decision stood.
By this time, we had grown weary of the legal process. The book was published with blank spaces except for those items that had been given back in negotiations. Those items were printed in bold face type to show the kind of stuff the CIA was trying to cut out. In all subsequent editions, the additional material is highlighted to show what it is they were trying to cut out.
Of course the CIA's position is that only they know what is a secret. They don't make the national security argument because that is too untenable these days. They say that they have a right to classify anything that they want to, and only they know what is classifiable. They are establishing a precedent, and have established a precedent in this case that has been used subsequently against ex-CIA people like Frank Snepp and John Stockwell and others, and in particular against Ralph McGee. They've also used it against (laughing), its kind of ironic, two former CIA directors, one of whom was William Colby. Colby was the guy behind my case when he was director. In fact, he was sued by the CIA and had to pay a fine of I think, about $30,000 for putting something in that they wanted out about the Glomar Explorer. He thought they were just being, as I would say, "arbitrary and capricious," so he put it in anyway, was sued, and had to pay a fine. Admiral Stansfield Turner was another who, like Colby when he was director, was the great defender of keeping everything secret and only allowing the CIA to reveal anything. When Turner got around to writing his book he had the same problems with them and is very bitter about it and has said so. His book just recently came out and he's been on a lot of TV shows saying, "Hells bells, I was director and I know what is classified and what isn't but these guys are ridiculous, bureaucratic," and all of these accusations you hear. It is ironic because even the former directors of the CIA have been burned by the very precedents that they helped to establish.
FD: What are the prospects for the remaining censored sections of your book eventually becoming declassified so that they are available to the American people?
Marchetti: If I have a publisher, and am willing to go back at the CIA every year or two years forcing a review, little by little, everything would come out eventually. I can't imagine anything they would delete. There might be a few items that the CIA would hold onto for principle's sake. Everything that is in that book, whether it was deleted or not, has leaked out in one way or another, has become known to the public in one form or another since then. So you know its really a big joke.
FD: Looking back on it, what effect did the publication of the `The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence' have on your life?
Marchetti: It had a tremendous effect on my life. The book put me in a position where I would forever be persona non grata with the bureaucracy in the federal government, which means, that I cannot get a job anywhere, a job that is, specific to my background and talents. Particularly if the company has any form of government relationship, any kind of government contract. That stops the discussions right there. But even companies that are not directly allied with the government tend to be very skittish because I was so controversial and they just don't feel the need to get into this. I have had one job since leaving the CIA other than writing, consulting and things like that, and that was with an independent courier company which did no business with the government, was privately owned, and really didn't care what the government thought. They ran their own business and they hired me as their friend. But every other job offered to me always evaporates, because even those individuals involved in hiring who say they want to hire me and think the government was wrong always finish saying, "Business is business. There are some people here who do not want to get involved in any controversial case." Through allies or former employees somebody always goes out of their way to make it difficult for me, so I never have any other choice but to continue to be a freelance writer, lecturer, consultant, etcetera, and even in that area I am frequently penalized because of who I worked for.
FD: The government views you as a troublemaker or whistleblower?
Marchetti: As a whistleblower, and, I guess, troublemaker. In the intelligence community, as one who violated the code.
FD: The unspoken code?
Marchetti: Right. And this has been the fate of all those CIA whistleblowers. They've all had it hard. Frank Snepp, Stockwell, McGee, and others, have all suffered the same fate. Whistleblowers in general, like Fitzgerald in the Department of Defense, who exposed problems with the C-5A, overruns, have also suffered the same kind of fate. But since they were not dealing in the magical area of national security they have found that they have some leeway and have been able to, in many other cases, find some other jobs. In some cases the government was even forced to hire them back. Usually the government puts them in an office somewhere in a corner, pays them $50,000 a year, and ignores them. Which drives them crazy of course, but thats the government's way of punishing anybody from the inside who exposes all of these problems to the American public.
FD: Phillip Agee explains in his book the efforts of the CIA to undermine his writing of `Inside The Company' both before and after publication. Have you run into similar problems with extralegal CIA harassment?
Marchetti: Yes. I was under surveillance. Letters were opened. I am sure our house was burglarized. General harassment of all sorts, and the CIA has admitted to some of these things. One or two cases, because the Church Committee found out. For example, the CIA admitted to working with the IRS to try and give me a bad time. The Church Committee exposed that and they had to drop it. They've admitted to certain other activities like the surveillance and such, but the CIA will not release to me any documents under the Freedom of Information Act. They won't release it all -- any documents under FOIA, period.
FD: About your time with the CIA?
Marchetti: No, about my case. I only want the information on me after leaving the agency and they just refuse to do it. They've told me through friends "You can sue until you're blue in the face but you're not going to get this" because they know exactly what would happen. It would be a terrible embarrassment to the CIA if all of the extralegal and illegal activities they took became public.
The most interesting thing they did in my case was an attempt at entrapment, by putting people in my path in the hopes that I would deal with these people, who in at least one case turned out to be an undercover CIA operator who was, if I had dealt with him, it would have appeared that I was moving to deal with the Soviet KGB. The CIA did things of that nature. They had people come to me and offer to finance projects if I would go to France, live there, and write a book there without any censorship. Switzerland and Germany were also mentioned. The CIA used a variety of techniques of that sort. I turned down all of them because my theory is that the CIA should be exposed to a certain degree in the hope that Congress could conduct some investigation out of which would come some reform. I was playing the game at home and that is the way I was going to play. Play it by the rules, whatever handicap that meant. Which in the end was a tremendous handicap.
But it did work out in the sense that my book did get published. The CIA drew a lot of attention to it through their attempts to prevent it from being written and their attempts at censorship, which simply increased the appetite of the public, media, and Congress, to see what they were trying to hide and why. All of this was happening at a time when other events were occurring. Ellsberg's Pentagon Papers had come out about the same time I announced I was doing my book. Some big stories were broken by investigative journalists. All of these things together, my book was part of it, did lead ultimately to congressional investigations of the CIA. I spent a lot of time behind the scenes on the Hill with senators and congressman lobbying for these investigations and they finally did come to pass.
It took awhile. President Ford tried to sweep everything under the rug by creating the Rockefeller Commission, which admitted to a few CIA mistakes but swept everything under the rug. It didn't wash publicly. By this time, the public didn't buy the government's lying. So we ultimately did have the Pike Committee, which the CIA and the White House did manage to sabotage. But the big one was the Church Committee in the Senate which conducted a pretty broad investigation and brought out a lot of information on the CIA. The result of that investigation was that the CIA did have to admit to a lot of wrongdoing and did have to make certain reforms. Not as much as I would have liked. I think everything has gone back to where it was and maybe even worse than what it was, but at least there was a temporary halt to the CIA's free reign of hiding behind secrecy and getting away with everything, up to and including murder. There were some changes and I think they were all for the better.
FD: So instead of some of the more harsher critics of the CIA who would want to see it abolished you would want to reform it?
Marchetti: Yes. Its one of these things where you can't throw out the baby with the bathwater. The CIA does do some very good and valuable and worthwhile and legal things. Particularly in the collection of information throughout the world, and in the analysis of events around the world. All of this is a legitimate activity, and what the CIA was really intended to do in the beginning when they were set up. My main complaint is that over the years those legitimate activities have to a great extent been reduced in importance, and certain clandestine activities, particularly the covert action, have come to the fore. Covert action is essentially the intervention in the internal affairs of other governments in order to manipulate events, using everything from propaganda, disinformation, political action, economic action, all the way down to the really dirty stuff like para-military activity. This activity, there was too much of it. It was being done for the wrong reasons, and it was counterproductive. It was in this area where the CIA was really violating U.S. law and the intent of the U.S. Constitution, and for that matter, I think, the wishes of Congress and the American people. This was the area that needed to be thoroughly investigated and reformed. My suggestion was that the CIA should be split into two organizations. One, the good CIA so to speak, would collect and analyze information. The other part, in the dirty tricks business, would be very small and very tightly controlled by Congress and the White House, and if possible, some kind of a public board so that it didn't get out of control.
My theory is, and I've proved it over and over again along with other people, is that the basic reason for secrecy is not to keep the enemy from knowing what you're doing. He knows what you're doing because he's the target of it, and he's not stupid. The reason for the CIA to hide behind secrecy is to keep the public, and in particular the American public, from knowing what they're doing. This is done so that the President can deny that we were responsible for sabotaging some place over in Lebanon where a lot of people were killed. So that the President can deny period. Here is a good example: President Eisenhower denied we were involved in attempts to overthrow the Indonesian government in 1958 until the CIA guys got caught and the Indonesians produced them. He looked like a fool. So did the N.Y. Times and everybody else who believed him. That is the real reason for secrecy.
There is a second reason for secrecy. That is that if the public doesn't know what you are doing you can lie to them because they don't know what the truth is. This is a very bad part of the CIA because this is where you get not only propaganda on the American people but actually disinformation, which is to say lies and falsehoods, peddled to the American public as the truth and which they accept as gospel. That's wrong. It's not only wrong, its a lie and it allows the government and those certain elements of the government that can hide behind secrecy to get away with things that nobody knows about. If you carefully analyze all of these issues that keep coming up in Congress over the CIA, this is always what is at the heart of it: That the CIA lied about it, or that the CIA misrepresented something, or the White House did it, because the CIA and the White House work hand in glove. The CIA is not a power unto itself. It is an instrument of power. A tool. A very powerful tool which has an influence on whoever is manipulating it. But basically the CIA is controlled by the White House, the inner circle of government, the inner circle of the establishment in general. The CIA is doing what these people want done so these people are appreciative and protective of them, and they in turn make suggestions or even go off on their own sometimes and operate deep cover for the CIA. So it develops into a self-feeding circle.
FD: Spreading disinformation is done through the newsmedia.
Marchetti: Yes. Its done through the newsmedia. The fallacy is that the CIA says the real reason they do this is to con the Soviets. Now I'll give you some examples. One was a fellow by the name of Colonel Oleg Penkovsky.
FD: Penkovsky Papers?
Marchetti: Yes. I wrote about that in `The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence'. The Penkovsky Papers was a phony story. We wrote the book in the CIA. Now, who in the hell are we kidding? The Soviets? Do we think for one minute that the Soviets, who among other things captured Penkovsky, interrogated him, and executed him, do you think for one minute they believe he kept a diary like that? How could he have possibly have done it under the circumstances? The whole thing is ludicrous. So we're not fooling the Soviets. What we're doing is fooling the American people and pumping up the CIA. The British are notorious for this kind of thing. They're always putting out phony autobiographies and biographies on their spies and their activities which are just outright lies. They're done really to maintain the myth of English secret intelligence so that they will continue to get money to continue to operate. Thats the real reason. The ostensible reason is that we were trying to confuse the Soviets. Well that's bullshit because they're not confused.
One of the ones I think is really great is `Khruschev Remembers.' If anybody in his right mind believes that Nikita Khruschev sat down, and dictated his memoirs, and somebody -- Strobe Talbot sneaked out of the Soviet Union with them they're crazy. That story is a lie. That book was a joint operation between the CIA and the KGB. Both of them were doing it for the exact same reasons. They both wanted to influence their own publics. We did it our way by pretending that Khruschev had done all of this stuff and we had lucked out and somehow gotten a book out of it. The Soviets did it because they could not in their system allow Khruschev to write his memoirs. Thats just against everything that the Communist system stands for. But they did need him to speak out on certain issues. Brezhnev particularly needed him to short-circuit some of the initiatives of the right wing, the Stalinist wing of the party. Of course the KGB was not going to allow the book to be published in the Soviet Union. The stuff got out so that it could be published by the Americans. That doesn't mean that the KGB didn't let copies slip into the Soviet Union and let it go all around. The Soviets achieved their purpose too.
This is one of the most fantastic cases, I think, in intelligence history. Two rival governments cooperated with each other on a secret operation to dupe their respective publics. I always wanted to go into much greater length on this but I just never got around to it. Suffice it to say that TIME magazine threatened to cancel a two-page magazine article they were doing on me and my book if I didn't cut a brief mention of this episode out of the book.
FD: How was this operation initially set up?
Marchetti: I don't know all of the ins and outs of it. I imagine what happened is that it probably started with somebody in the Soviet Politburo going to Khruschev and saying, "Hey, behind the scenes we're having lots of trouble with the right-wing Stalinist types. They're giving Brehznev a bad time and they're trying to undercut all of the changes you made and all of the changes Brehznev has made and wants to make. Its pretty hard to deal with it so we've got an idea. Since you're retired and living here in your dacha why don't you just sit back and dictate your memoirs. And of course the KGB will review them and make sure you don't say anything you shouldn't say and so on and so forth. Then we will get in touch with our counterparts, and see to it that this information gets out to the West, which will publish it, and then it will get back to the Soviet Union in a variety of forms. It will get back in summaries broadcast by the Voice of America and Radio Liberty, and copies of the book will come back in, articles written about it will be smuggled in, and this in turn will be a big influence on the intelligentsia and the party leaders and it will undercut Suslov and the right wingers." Khruschev said okay. The KGB then went to the CIA and explained things to them and the CIA said, Well that sounds good, we'll get some friends of ours here, the TIME magazine bureau in Moscow, Jerry Schecter would later have a job in the White House as a press officer. We'll get people like Strobe Talbot, who is working at the bureau there, we'll get these guys to act as the go-betweens. They'll come and see you for the memoirs and everyone will play dumb. You give them two suitcases full of tapes (laughs) or something like that and let them get out of the Soviet Union. Which is exactly what happened.
Strobe brought all of this stuff back to Washington and then TIME-LIFE began to process it and put a book together. They wouldn't let anybody hear the tapes, they didn't show anybody anything. A lot of people were very suspicious. You know you can tell this to the public or anybody else who doesn't have the least brains in their head about how the Soviet Union operates and get away with it. But anybody who knows the least bit about the Soviet Union knows the whole thing is impossible. A former Soviet premier cannot sit in his dacha and make these tapes and then give them to a U.S. newspaperman and let him walk out of the country with them. That cannot be done in a closed society, a police state, like the Soviet Union.
The book was eventually published but before it was published there was another little interesting affair. Strobe Talbot went to Helsinki with the manuscript, where he was met by the KGB who took it back to Leningrad, looked at it, and then it was finally published by TIME-LIFE. None of that has ever been explained in my book. A couple of other journalists have made references to this episode but never went into it. It's an open secret in the press corps here in Washington and New York, but nobody ever wrote a real big story for a lot of reasons, because I guess it's just the kind of story that it's difficult for them to get their hooks into. I knew people who were then in the White House and State Department who were very suspicious of it because they thought the KGB...
FD: Had duped TIME?
Marchetti: Exactly. Once they learned this was a deal they quieted down and ceased their objections and complaints, and even alibied and lied afterwards as part of the bigger game. Victor Lewis, who was apparently instrumental in all of these negotiations, later fit into one little footnote to this story that I've often wondered about. Lewis is (was)... After all of this happened and when the little furor that existed here in official Washington began dying down, Victor Lewis went to Tel Aviv for medical treatment. He came into the country very quietly but somebody spotted him and grabbed him and said, "What are you doing here in Israel?" "Well I'm here for medical treatment, " Lewis said. They said, "What?! You're here in Israel for medical treatment?" He said, "Yes." They said, "Well whats the problem?" "I've got lumbago, a back problem, and they can't fix it in the Soviet Union. but there's a great Jewish doctor here I knew in the Soviet Union and I came to see him. "That sounds like the craziest story you ever wanted to hear. But then another individual appeared in Israel at the same time and some reporter spotted him. He happened to be Richard Helms, then-director of the CIA. He asked Helms what he was doing in Israel, and he had some kind of a lame excuse which started people wondering whether this was the payoff. Helms acting for the CIA, TIME-LIFE, and the U.S. government, and Lewis acting for the KGB, Politburo, and the Soviet government. Its really a fascinating story. I wrote about briefly in the book and it was very short. You'll find it if you look through the book in the section we're talking about. Publications and things like that. When I wrote those few paragraphs there wasn't much further I could go, because there was a lot of speculation and analysis.
Around the time my book came out, TIME magazine decided that they would do a two-page spread in their news section and give it a boost. Suddenly I started getting calls from Jerry Schecter and Strobe Talbot about cutting that part out. I said I would not cut it out unless they could look me in the eye and say I was wrong. If it wasn't true I would take the book and cut the material out. But neither of them chose to do that. Right before the article appeared in TIME I got a call from one of the editors telling me that some people wanted to kill the article. I asked why and he said one of the reasons is what you had to say about TIME magazine being involved in the Khruschev Remembers book. I asked him, "Thats it?" I had talked to Jerry and Strobe and this was their backstab. This editor asked me if I could find somebody who could trump the people who were trying to have the article killed. Somebody who could verify my credentials in telling the story. I said why don't you call Richard Helms, who by that time had been eased out of office by Kissinger and Nixon, and was now an ambassador in Teheran. So this editor called Helms to verify my credentials (laughing) and Helms said, "Yeah, he's a good guy. He just got pissed off and wanted to change the CIA." So the article ran in TIME. I think you're one of the very few people I've explained this story to in depth.
FD: Did this operation have a name?
Marchetti: It probably did but I was already out of the agency and I don't know what it was. But I do know it was a very sensitive activity and that people very high up in the White House and State Department who you would have thought would have been aware of it were not aware of it. But then subsequently they were clearly taken into a room and talked to in discussions and were no longer critics and doubters and in fact became defenders of it.
FD: Let me make sure I am clear about the CIA's motivation...
Marchetti: The CIA's motivation was that here we have a former Soviet premier talking out about the events of his career and revealing some pretty interesting things about his thinking and the thinking of others. All of which shows that the Soviet Union is run by a very small little clique. A very small Byzantine-like clique. There is a strong tendency to stick with Stalinisn and turn to Stalinism but some of the cooler heads, the more moderate types, are trying to make changes. Its good stuff from the CIA's point of view and from the U.S. government's point of view. This is what we're dealing with. This is our primary rival. Look at how they are. And Khruschev had to dictate these things in secrecy and they had to be smuggled out of the Soviet Union.
Things like this are very subtle in their consistency. It's not a black and white thing on the surface. You might say, "Well, what's wrong with that?" What's wrong with that is that it is a lie. The truth would have been much more effective. Nikita Khruschev was approached by the KGB and Soviet Politburo to dictate his memoirs, which he did under their supervision, which means we don't know if he is telling the whole story or the complete truth because they had an opportunity to edit it. The Russians were so anxious to get this information out so that it could come back to the Soviet Union for two reasons. The first was to build international pressure. The second was to build up internal pressure against the Stalinists. They were so anxious that they were willing to make a deal with the CIA, and give us this material. So that we could then prepare a book. Which we did. Thats the kind of a government we are dealing with here. These are the kinds of people they are and the kind of lies they live.
FD: Let's turn to world affairs for a moment. One of the events of recent years that has always puzzled me is United States support for the Vanaaka Party in what was once the New Hebrides Islands. In the late '70s, before the New Hebrides achieved independence, there were basically two factions fighting between themselves to see who would maintain control when the colonial powers left. The British and the French had governed the New Hebrides under a concept known as the condominium, and before independence, the British and the labor movement in Australia threw their support behind the ubiquitous socialist faction, in this case, the Vanaaka Party. The French offered some behind-the-scenes support to the second faction, which was basically pro-free market and pro-West. The U.S. under Jimmy Carter went along with the British. Do you have any idea why this might have been done?
Marchetti: Offhand, I don't. The CIA has learned over the years that you sometimes cannot support the people you would prefer to support, because they just do not have the popular power to gain control or maintain control without a revolution and things of that sort. The classic example is West Berlin. Back in the '50s we were contesting with the Russians for influence in Berlin. This was at a time when the Russians and East Germans were putting tremendous pressure on to have West Berlin go almost voluntarily into the Soviet bloc. The United States was struggling mightily to keep West Berlin free. At that point in time the strong power in West Germany were the Christian Democrats under Konrad Adenauer, and these were the people that we were supporting.
The Christian Democrats, however, just did not have the wherewithal to save West Berlin. The situation was such that the Social Democrats were the ones who could save West Berlin. Not getting into all of the whys and wherefores and policy positions, the Social Democrats also had a very charismatic person named Willy Brandt. So by backing Willy Brandt and the Social Democrats, instead of putting all of our eggs in the Christian Democratic Party basket, Brandt and the Social Democrats were able to maintain a free West Berlin and we were able to achieve our goal. There were some people in the CIA who thought this was terrible, we were not being ideologically pure, and one of them happens to be E. Howard Hunt, who actually considered Willy Brandt a KGB spy. So there are times when you have to, I guess you would call it, choose the lesser of two evils.
It might have been a miscalculated gamble. I don't have all of the facts, but maybe the thinking was that if we left the pro-West faction in power we may end up with a goddamned civil war.
FD: In retrospect, the Carter administration's decision seems even more tragic and mistaken. Since coming to power the Vanaaka Party has consolidated power in the new country, now known as Vanuatu, and established diplomatic relations with governments like Cuba and Vietnam. Socialist Vanuatu has now come to serve as a beacon of sorts for other independence movements in that part of the world, such as the Kanaks in New Caledonia, who have subsequently adopted socialism as their ideology. When I asked Jimmy Carter about this during an interview recently he said he was sorry, but he did not remember the episode. Is it possible that this may have been an incompetent blunder on the part of the U.S. government? That somebody didn't do their homework, and as a result those responsible for the decision didn't have all of the facts?
Marchetti: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. Its not the kind of an issue that draws the most attention in Washington. As you just pointed out, Jimmy Carter doesn't even remember it. I'm sure that decision was made pretty far down the line. If Carter ever had to make a decision he probably doesn't even remember it because it was probably staffed down because it was considered so inconsequential at the time by Carter and everyone involved. They considered it so inconsequential that they don't even remember it. It's something they signed off on. My guess from what you have told me is that it was a mistake.
FD: You mentioned E. Howard Hunt earlier. I understand that you wrote an article for a Washington-based publication about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Hunt sued the publication, charging libel. Could you give us some background on this matter?
Marchetti: The article was written in the summer of 1978 and published by SPOTLIGHT, a weekly newspaper that advertises itself as `The Voice of the American Populist Party.' At the time I wrote the article for SPOTLIGHT the House Select Committee on Assassinations was getting ready to hold its hearings reviewing the Kennedy and King assassinations. I had picked up some information around town that a memo had recently been uncovered in the CIA, and that the CIA was concerned about it. I believe the memo was from James Angleton, who at the time was chief of counterintelligence for Richard Helms. I forget the exact date, but this memo was something like six years old, while Helms was still in office as director.
The memo said that at some point in time the CIA was going to have to deal with the fact that Hunt was in Dallas the day of the Kennedy assassination or words to that effect. There was some other information in it, such as did you know anything about it, he wasn't doing anything for me, and back and forth. I had that piece of information, along with information that the House Select Committee was going to come out with tapes that indicated there was more than one shooter during the Kennedy assassination and that the FBI, or at least certain people in the FBI, believed these tapes to be accurate and had always believed that there was more than one shooter.
I was in contact with the House Select Committee, and they were probing real deeply into things and they were very suspicious of the Kennedy assassination. There were some other reporters working on the story at the time, one in particular who has a tremendous reputation, and he felt there was something to it. So we rushed into print at SPOTLIGHT with a story saying, based on everything we put together, that we had this information, and we tried to predict what was going to happen. In essence we said whats going to happen is that the committee is going to unearth some new information that there was more than one shooter and probably come up with this memo, this internal CIA memorandum, and there will be some other things. Then the CIA will conduct a limited hangout, and will admit to some error or mistake, but then sweep everything else under the rug, and in the process they may let a few people dangle in the wind like E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, Jerry Hemming, and other people who have been mentioned in the past as being involved in something related to the Kennedy assassination. It was that kind of speculative piece.
What happened is that about a week after my article appeared in SPOTLIGHT the Wilmington News-Journal published an article by Joe Trento. This was a longer and more far-ranging article, in which he discussed the memo too but in greater detail. A couple of weeks after that Hunt informed SPOTLIGHT that he wanted a retraction. I checked with my sources and said I don't think we should retract. I said we should do a follow-up article. Now by this time some CIA guy was caught stealing pictures in the committee, some spy, so things were really hot and heavy at the time. There was a lot of expectation that the committee was going to do something, some really good work to bring their investigation around. So I said to SPOTLIGHT let's do a follow-up piece, but the publisher chickened out and said, nah, what we'll do is tell Hunt we'll give him equal space. He can say whatever he wants to in the same amount of space.
Hunt ignored the offer. A couple of months later Hunt comes to town for secret hearings with the committee, and was heard in executive session. Hunt was suing the publisher of the book `Coup D'Etat in America,' and deposed me in relation to that case, and then he brought in, he tried to slip in, this SPOTLIGHT article. I was under instructions from my lawyer not to comment. My lawyer would have me refuse to answer on the grounds of journalistic privilege, and also on the grounds of my relationship with the CIA. My lawyer had on his own gone to the CIA before I gave my deposition and asked them about this, and they said to tell me to just hide behind my injunction. I told my lawyer I don't understand it, and he told me all that the CIA said is that they hate Hunt more than they hate you and they're not going to give Hunt any help. So that's what I did, and that was the end of it. We thought.
Two years after it ran Hunt finally sued SPOTLIGHT over my article. SPOTLIGHT thought it was such a joke, all things considered, that they really didn't pay any attention. I never even went to the trial. I never even submitted an affidavit. I was not deposed or anything. The Hunt people didn't even try to call me as a witness or anything. I was left out of everything. Hunt ended up winning a judgment for $650,000. Now SPOTLIGHT got worried. They appealed and the Florida Appellate Court overturned the decision on certain technical grounds, and sent it back for retrial. The retrial finally occurred earlier this year. When it came time for the retrial, which we had close to a year to prepare for, SPOTLIGHT got serious, and went out and hired themselves a good lawyer, Mark Lane, who is something of an expert on the Kennedy assassination. They got me to become involved in everything, and we ended up going down there and just beating Hunt's pants off. The jury came in, I think, within several hours with a verdict in our favor. The interesting thing was the jury said we were clearly not guilty of libel and actual malice, but they were now suspicious of Hunt and everything he invoked because we brought out a lot of stuff on Hunt.
Hunt lost, and was ordered to pay our court costs in addition to everything else. He has subsequently filed an appeal and that's where its at now. It's up for appeal. I imagine it will probably be another six months to a year before we hear anything further on it. Based on everything I have seen, Hunt doesn't have a leg to stand on because the deeper he gets into this the more he runs the risk of exposing himself. We had just all kinds of material on Hunt. We had a deposition from Joe Trento saying, yes, he saw the internal CIA memo. We produced one witness in deposition, Marita Lorenz, who was Castro's lover at one point, and she said that Hunt was taking her and people like Sturgis and Jerry Hemmings and others and running guns into Dallas. Lorenz said that a couple of days before the assassination Hunt met them in Dallas and made a payoff. What they all were doing, whether it was connected to the assassination, we don't know.
I think if Hunt keeps pursuing this, all that he's doing is setting the stage for more and more people to come forward and say bad things about him, and raise more evidence that he was in Dallas that day and that he must have been involved in something. If it wasn't the assassination it must have been some kind of diversionary activity or maybe it was something unrelated to the assassination and the wires just got crossed and it was a coincidence at the time.
One of the key points in the mind of the jury as far as we`ve been able to tell at SPOTLIGHT is that Hunt to this day still cannot come up with an alibi for where he was the day of the assassination. Hunt comes up with the weakest, phoniest stories that he can't corroborate. Some guy who was drunk came out of a bar and waved at him. His story doesn't match with that guy's story. Hunt says he can produce his children to testify he was in Washington. None of his children appeared at the trial. It's a very, very strange thing. Hunt clearly was, in my mind, not in Washington doing what he says he was doing Nov. 22, 1963. He was certainly not at work that day at the CIA. This subject has come up before, whether he was on sick leave, an annual leave, or where the hell he was. Hunt just cannot come up with a good alibi.
Hunt has gone before committees. The Rockefeller Committee, I believe he was before the Church Committee, and before the House Select Committee. Nobody will give Hunt a clean bill of health. They always weasel words. Their comment on Hunt is always some sort of a way that can be interpreted anyway that you want. You can say this indicates the committee looked into it and they feel he wasn't involved. Or you can look at it and say the committee looked into it and they have a lot of doubts about Hunt, and they're just being very careful about what they are saying. Hunt himself will not tell you what happened before these committees. He says that his testimony is classified information. Well, if the testimony vindicates Hunt and provides him with an alibi then why can't he tell us? The mystery remains.
FD: Do you believe it possible that the CIA knows where Hunt was Nov. 22, 1963, but just do not want to release that information?
Marchetti: That's my guess. I think that subsequently, by now, the CIA may not have known where Hunt was at the time, and they may not have even realized what he was up to until years after and years later when his name started to be commonly mentioned in connection with the assassination. I think by now the CIA probably knows where Hunt was and what he was doing or have some very strong feelings about that, and they're not too happy about it. But whatever it was, and is, that Hunt was involved in, it seems to be, or would appear, that he was in or around Dallas about the time of the assassination, involved in some kind of clandestine activity. It may have been an illegal clandestine activity, even something the CIA was unaware of. The CIA acts very strangely about this. The CIA will not give Hunt any help. He got no help at all from the CIA in the preparation of his case against us or in the presentation of his case. They just left him out there. Hunt managed to scrounge up a couple of his CIA friends who on their own were willing to give some help, but caved in right away. One guy didn't testify. Another guy gave a stupid deposition in the middle of the night to us (laughs) which wasn't worth the paper it was written on.
Helms gave a deposition which said nothing. No way would he go out on a limb for Hunt. In my own mind, I have a feeling that the CIA knows where Hunt was and what he was doing, and while they're not going to prosecute him for a lot of reasons, they're involved in the cover-up themselves and don't want to bring any embarrassment upon the agency. On the other hand, they feel if he screws around and gets his own mit in the ringer, that's his own fault, and we can cover our ass. Hunt, for his own part, apparently feels he has some sort of pressure on the CIA that while it might not be strong enough to bring them forward to defend him before any committee or in a court of law, its at least strong enough for them not to take any overt action against him. So it seems to me to be some kind of double graymail. Hunt's graymailing the CIA on one hand and they're graymailing him on the other hand. Its a very, very strange thing.
FD: Did Jerry Hemmings give a deposition? I understand he is still in prison.
Marchetti: I think Jerry might still be in. He asked not to give a deposition or be called as a witness unless it was absolutely necessary, because he was either coming toward the end of his term, or he was up for parole. He preferred not to get involved. This was pretty much the attitude of another individual who was mentioned, but I was left with the feeling that if push really came to shove, these people could be brought forward. Now what they know, or whether they were going to risk perjury, which is a pretty big gamble when you`re dealing with Mark Lane, particularly on this subject. He's not only a brilliant lawyer, but this is a subject he has a lot of background in.
FD: Did Gordon Novel fit into this at all?
FD: You mentioned that it is possible the CIA is withholding information on Hunt's whereabouts Nov. 22, 1963. The CIA has been accused many times in the past of engaging in a cover-up of the JFK assassination. Do you believe they are still covering up in a lot of ways?
Marchetti: Oh yeah, I think so, I'd think not only they and the FBI, I think everybody is covering up.
FD: Are they covering up necessarily to just keep the American people in the dark about the episode, or cover-up because of their own guilt and complicity?
Marchetti: I think its both. I think it all started with when it happened. I don't think anybody was really sure in Washington who was behind the assassination. I think they were very fearful that if they didn't come up with a lone nut theory, and in this case a lone nut who was removed from the scene in a matter of days, that the American people might panic. They might lose their faith in the government. They might lose their faith in the institutions. They might begin to point fingers at all kinds of people. The Russians. The Cubans. Other elements of our society like the right wing and organized crime and so on. I think there was a consensus in the minds of the establishmentarians in our government which was that we should put this to bed as quickly and as quietly as possible. We'll make a hero out of Kennedy and let's forget about it. And then of course they did have to have a Warren Commission, a blue-ribbon panel which would have the right people on it and then we'll lay the thing to rest officially. Which is essentially what happened. They didn't hear a lot of evidence. They ignored evidence. Evidence was hidden. Evidence was destroyed. I think it was pretty much clear that nobody was being absolutely forthcoming.
The former head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, even said he would lie to the people about anything he considered to pertain to national security. Dulles said he would lie to the people if he had to. I think the Kennedy assassination was laid to rest by the establishment and it became just a suspicion in the minds of the people. Then came the revelations. I think by now everybody involved was deeply involved in the coverup, that that maybe became even more paramount than the question of who did kill Kennedy and why. To admit that we covered up from the very begining, and that we've been covering up ever since, I think, would be more devastating than it would have been a few years ago to say O.K., we've looked into it, and figured it out, it was CIA renegades, or whoever was responsible for murdering Kennedy. I think by now there are just too many people that feel they may have started out originally for the most noble of motives but they cannot adjust to it. We saw it with the Watergate affair, and see it every day in life. Once somebody starts lying and covering up it just snowballs. It just keeps going on and on and on and on. It keeps getting harder and harder and harder to determine the truth. I think it's pretty difficult for somebody in 1985 to come forward and say, yes, I was part of a cover-up, 22 years ago. What he's saying is that I've lived a lie all of my life. I don't think we're ever going to get the answer, frankly. I don't think we're every going to get the answer to the story.
FD: You're pessimistic about the American people discovering the real truth about the JFK assassination?
Marchetti: This is not to say that 50 years from now that some historian may get access to some material when everybody is dead and buried, and might be able to put together a pretty accurate story. But even then, with all of the time that has gone by, the myth will have been established. You have those people that will say, "Ugh. Conspiracy theorists," while other people will say, "I never believe the government." But it will have no effect.
FD: So you believe it will only be time that will reveal the full truth about the JFK assassination? The truth won't be revealed because of another big government scandal like Watergate, or a president who is committed to seeing that the case is solved?
Marchetti: One of the presidents who might have unearthed all this, actually a potential president was Bobby Kennedy, but he got rubbed out.
FD: Bobby Kennedy made a statement three days before he was murdered that he felt only the office of the presidency could get at the truth.
Marchetti: I'm not sure if thats possible. I wonder in my own mind if, let's say, Teddy Kennedy would be elected president. I wonder if he, one, would have the courage to reopen the case at this point in time knowing everything he knows about it probably. And two, if he had the courage, would he have the muscle to be able to resolve it completely and fully to the satisfaction of everyone? I think there are those things in life you either resolve at the time or never. After awhile, as the years pass by, it becomes more and more difficult until it is impossible.
FD: The American people are told that they choose their leaders and run the government. Is this true, or is it the invisible state within a state, the intelligence community?
Marchetti: I don't think the intelligence community, although it is an invisible arm of the government, runs it. I think the people who run the country are the same people who usually run things not only here but all over the world. The powerful economic interests, whether they are bankers, or industrialists, or whatever. The real solid inner core of the establishment. These are the movers and shakers, but they don't have absolute power. They may not want a certain person to get nominated by a certain party. In some cases they may not even be able to stop them from getting to power or using it. Generally speaking, they have more influence on the government than the other people do. Its manifested itself in all sorts of ways. There are all of these forces at work.
FD: One last question: PSI. Both the CIA and the KGB had a great interest in this area. One of the things I know the CIA did, attempt to recruit KGB agents in the afterlife. Are you familiar with this?
Marchetti: I do know there was great interest in this whole area of parapsychology, for whatever benefit may have been achieved. Not only the CIA, but the Pentagon was involved, and for that matter, the KGB. Everybody has apparently examined it. There were a lot of stories floating around the CIA that they had tried to contact old agents like Penkovsky, who had been captured and killed, executed by the Soviet Union, in the hope that they could derive additional information. To my knowledge none of this stuff really worked.
FD: Thank you, Victor Marchetti.
N. C. O. I. C.
Civil Intelligence Association
Defense Oversight Group