Howard Hunt was a CIA operative, a Bay of Pigs veteran, a Watergate conspirator and spy novelist. He also confessed to his involvement in the assassination of JFK, implicating Lyndon Baines Johnson, Cord Meyer and others. However, aside from this one confession in 2003 he had always denied the rumors and theories, under oath to Congressional investigations, in interviews, even suing news outlets that alleged he was part of one of the highest profile crimes of the century. Even in his autobiography, which was published years after his supposed confession, he denies having anything to do with it. Was this just the CIA editing his book before publication, as we know they did, or is it something more complex?
In this episode I ask whether we should take Hunt’s confession seriously. Why would Hunt admit in 2003, on tape no less, to his involvement in the JFK assassination, only to then completely deny it in his autobiography several years later? Indeed, why did he make a confession at all, having always denied it? If this is a false confession – or even a real one that is then contradicted and denied, then what is the reason, the purpose?
Today we’re going to look at Howard Hunt, who ties in with the events we looked at in the last two episodes, the Pentagon Papers and Watergate. He was of course part of the White House Plumbers, he was just across the road when the Watergate burglars were caught.
But those of you who know about Hunt and have read his autobiography American Spy will know that he went all the way back to the OSS in World War 2. He joined the CIA in the years after the war and was a major figure in operation PB/SUCCESS, the CIA coup in Guatemala overthrowing Jacobo Arbenz. He was also centrally involved in the Bay of Pigs, where he was responsible for trying to unify all the different Cuban groups in southern Florida.
After the Bay of Pigs failed he helped Allan Dulles to write a book, The Craft of Intelligence, and Hunt also served as the first Chief of Covert Action for the CIA’s Domestic Operations Division from 1962 to 66. As we looked at in the last episode in 1970 he faked his resignation from the Agency and went to work for Mullen and Company, the publishing firm. He was still working for the CIA as a contract agent and Mullen and Company were effectively a CIA front. I’ll link up for you an Agency document that talks about how they had a long relationship.
He then gets hired as a White House consultant, helps to found the Plumbers and ends up in jail because of Watergate. He keeps his mouth shut, serves 33 months in a prison on Eglin Air Force Base, during which time his wife dies in a plane crash, and he is then pardoned by incoming president Gerald Ford in September 1974.
Hunt testified at most of the major investigative commissions in the 1970s – The Rockefeller Commission, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and while he admitted to various things and at times implicated others, he always maintained that he wasn’t in Dallas on the day JFK was killed, and knew nothing about a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Of course, he was asked about this because for years there had been rumours and claims and to some extent testimony saying that Hunt had something to do with the assassination.
In 1978 there was an article in The Spotlight, a newspaper run by the Liberty Lobby, which like some people today used the word Liberty as a mask for what was little more than neo-nazi bullshit. The article alleged that there is a CIA memo from 1966 that says Hunt was in Dallas on the day Kennedy was killed. Another article by Joe Trento and Jacquie Powers a few days later claimed the same thing. But I have never found a copy of this memo – loads of references to it, but never the original document itself. So if any of you know where I can read this document then please tell me. And of course, I will link up copies of both the Spotlight article written by Victor Marchetti and the other article.
When Hunt gave a deposition to the House Committee on Assassinations not long after these stories he denied they were true, he said he was in DC that day with his wife, still merrily working for the CIA’s Domestic Operations Division. Hunt then sued the Liberty Lobby for the Spotlight article – though he didn’t sue the other paper who published a very similar story only days later. In the initial trial he won, but then the case was overturned. In the second trial Mark Lane, a somewhat dubious figure who has been involved in the JFK case since very early on, took on Hunt and beat him. While some have proclaimed this a success for JFK conspiracy theories and proof that the CIA memo saying Hunt was in Dallas is real and does say that, that is a classic conspiracy theorist misunderstanding of the court system. Just because Mark Lane and the Liberty Lobby won the second trial doesn’t mean that the jury believed the theory they were advocating about JFK. It certainly doesn’t mean we should believe it.
Just to take a quick diversion, a similar thing happened in this country with the 7/7 case. A fucking idiot John Hill who claims he is the messiah made an awful, misleading, retarded documentary about the London bombings called 7/7 Ripple Effect. He then did everything he could to try to get himself into trouble with the law, including harassing bereaved relatives and trying to interfere with a trial. He was arrested, charged and prosecuted with attempting to pervert the course of justice, but at his trial in 2011 he was found not guilty. Supporters of this man, including close friend of David Shayler Belinda McKenzie and holocaust denier/Boston bomb fakery theorist Nick Kollerstrom, claimed that the verdict proved that his theory about 7/7 was true. Now, to even call it a theory is stretching language almost to breaking point but the point is this: To be found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice there are two parts:
1) That you intended to interfere with the judicial process. John Hill openly admitted to this in court and it wasn’t really in dispute.
2) That the things you did had a realistic chance of swaying a verdict or otherwise seriously interfering with the judicial process. The jury in John Hill’s trial watched his video, and clearly concluded that it was so weakly argued and poor put-together than it wouldn’t have convinced anyone of anything. So they found John Hill not guilty.
Nick Kollerstrom completely misunderstood this, and went around proclaiming that John Hill has been found not guilty because the jury were so persuaded by the argument in his video. He didn’t realise that if the jury had found the video persuasive that they would have had to find John Hill guilty. Quite hilarious watching these clownish buffoons at work, or it would be if the murder of 56 people weren’t at stake.
But back to Hunt – the point is that he always denied any involvement in the JFK assassination, in interviews, in sworn testimony, he sued multiple news organisations for making these sort of allegations against him. For decades he denied these claims.
Then in 2003 he apparently made a confession to his son St John Hunt implicating LBJ, CIA agent Cord Meyer, David Phillips, David Morales, Frank Sturgis and others in JFK’s assassination. I imagine most of you are familiar with this, indeed I imagine most of you are familiar with quite a lot of this. But I have always just not trusted this apparent confession, as indeed I don’t trust the confession of James Files, who says he fired the critical shot from the Grassy Knoll. The reality is that quite a lot of people have tried to take credit for the assassination and while I certainly concede that we should take Hunt’s more seriously than most, I’m still pretty sceptical.
Among other reasons, in the chapter on the JFK murder in his book American Spy he once again denies any involvement, repeats his claim that he was in DC that day, even expresses his doubt that Cord Meyer was involved. He relates the story of Cord Meyer’s wife, Mary Pinchot, who was having an affair with Kennedy and was murdered about a year after the president was. She kept a diary, and had warned people close to her to grab it if anything happened to her. Her sister, along with her husband Ben Bradlee turned up at her house shortly after Mary Pinchot was murdered, and though the doors were locked when they went inside they found none other than James Jesus Angleton, looking for the diary. As I say, this is not long after the murder, and when Mary’s sister Antoinette later found the diary she handed it over to Angleton.
However, despite relaying all this Hunt concludes that the murder was a professional hit by someone looking to protect the Kennedy legacy, and had nothing to do with Cord Meyer, Angleton, Sturgis. Hunt writes in the book ‘No one has ever made a deathbed confession about either crime’ i.e. the murders of Mary Pinchot and JFK. But by that point Hunt apparently had made a deathbed confession about his involvement in the murder of JFK. So is this just the CIA editing his book before publication, as we know they did, or something more complex? Why would Hunt admit in 2003, on tape no less, to his involvement in the JFK assassination, only to then completely deny it in his autobiography several years later? Indeed, why did he make a confession at all, having always denied it? If this is a false confession – or even a real one that is then contradicted and denied, then what is the point, what’s the reason?
Given who Hunt was – a CIA agent involved in both foreign and domestic political subversion, then why would he have been picked to be a ‘benchwarmer’ in the JFK plot? Much more in keeping with this would be the idea that he is a fake whistleblower, just like Ellsberg, that he’s blowing the whistle on a non-existent plot. Because the way Hunt tells it, this was mostly the work of LBJ. Not the black ops people Kennedy had fired or humiliated after the Bay of Pigs. Not an early incarnation of the Neo cons who didn’t like where Kennedy was going with the Cold War. No, apparently it was all LBJ’s fault. As though if Obama were assassinated we’d be pointing the fingers at Joe Biden. I mean, seriously? Everything in my brain tells me this isn’t true. Perhaps you disagree, I am expressing an opinion here but it just doesn’t ring true to me.
Then there is the problem of the tape itself, which is of pretty poor quality.
If you were going to confess to having been involved in one of the highest-profile crimes of the 20th century, you’d probably record better quality audio than something that sounds like you’re speaking through a cheese grater to a 30 year old tape deck on the other side of the room. Being a CIA agent and all.
Also, St John, the son, says he received this along with a written version of the same information, in the post from his father. This was during a brief period when he actually got along with his father, they otherwise had a pretty terrible relationship that left a lot of emotional scars on the son. So if this was a false confession, did Howard Hunt play on the fractured relationship with St John, making it seem like they were finally mending some of the damage, to sell him a fake story? The whole thing fell apart when Hunt wife Laura, to whom Hunt had sworn that he had nothing to do with the Kennedy assassination, stepped in and told them to stop. When, a few years later after Howard Hunt had died and St John and to some extent David Hunt were hawking this stuff around to the media, Laura said that she thought they had taken advantage of their father’s ill health and coached him into saying and writing these things. It is certainly true that St John Hunt, regardless of his real suffering including being molested and abused at school, has some kind of chip on his shoulder and sees this confession as his meal ticket.
So was this Hunt’s last mission for the CIA? To make a false confession implicating the wrong people? I can see the possibility that the CIA would not only encourage him to do this but also edit his autobiography to contradict this, because it creates an unsolvable puzzle. Which version do we believe? And if both versions are wrong (one version being there was no conspiracy, the other being that the conspiracy was led by LBJ) then no matter where we turn, we are being misled by the Agency. That is my considered opinion on all this. And much as I’m fascinated and horrified by Howard Hunt’s life and career, I don’t think he was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Not that I’m a JFK assassination expert by any means, nor do I particularly care about the case, I certainly don’t idolise Kennedy like a lot of people do. Frankly, I think he was a two-faced misogynistic asshole, and his brother was intimately involved in killing Marilyn Monroe so I don’t shed a tear for either of them. As I see it, they played with fire and they got burned.