CONSPIRACY / Mob Connections


Peter Dale Scott

[Editor's Note: During an interview with Russ Tarby
for NEW TIMES, Peter Dale Scott, who has been called "the
Dean of the Research Community", traces many underworld
connections between the Kennedys and the mob but also
includes links to J. Edgar Hoover and his techniques
for blackmailing prominent politicians.

Our most nagging national nightmare unfolded on an otherwise glorious autumn afternoon. After a misty morning in Dallas, the sun finally emerged on Nov. 22, 1963, its warm rays belying the darkness that enveloped Dealey Plaza as John Fitzgerald Kennedy's presidential motorcade approached.

After 33 years, two federal investigations, scores of conspiracy conferences, some 2,500 books and several films, the darkness still dominates.

For many Americans, the myth of Camelot casts a rosy pallor over the grim realities of the early 1960s. Renegade historian Peter Dale Scott, however, refuses to perpetuate myths. He applies a unique, behind-the-scenes approach--a probe into what he calls "deep politics"--to shed new light on the myriad forces that combined to commit and cover up the Crime of the Century. Scott, a poet and professor of English at the University of California in Berkeley, has emerged as the world's foremost expert on the political context of the JFK assassination.

A former Canadian diplomat with a Ph.D. in political science, Scott began studying the president's murder in 1969. While researching a book on the Vietnam War (The War Conspiracy, Bobbs Merrill, New York, 1972), he discovered a crucial shift in U.S. war policy followed within 48 hours of Kennedy's killing. Although controversial at the time, Scott's analysis of the war's escalation was recently verified by the published memoirs of JFK Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.

Standing head and shoulders above your stereotypical conspiracy theorists, the 67-year-old author exemplifies a new breed of Warren Commission critics. He's not the type who sees gun-toting badmen lurking in the bushes in snapshots of the Grassy Knoll. He doesn't bother much with the obvious inconsistencies of the Magic Bullet Theory or the botched autopsy evidence.

Instead, Scott immerses himself--and readers of his current paperback Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (University of California Press, Berkeley, 413 pages, $14.95)--in the netherworld where organized crime and government join forces to achieve common goals. With pit bull tenacity, Scott doggedly chases documents hidden away in Washington and elsewhere to follow the movements of military intelligence, the FBI and the CIA as these officials interface with foreign operatives and domestic insurgents alike.

He may not analyze the trajectory of the bullets that hailed down on the president's Lincoln convertible that day, but he does analyze the intelligence backgrounds of each Dallas Police officer riding in the motorcade's lead automobile. He does delve deeply into Jack Ruby's checkered career and his connections to the police, to the Mafia, to corruspt labor unions, and to wealthy Texas businessmen. He does analyze a century's worth of drug smuggling, gun-running and corruption in Central America's banana republics. He knows who was trafficking heroin and who was running the big craps games in Texas. He knows who was sharing the booty--and inside information--with local cops and federal investigators. And he knows who was sleeping with who, who was wiretapping who and who was blackmailing who.

"One of the most under-reported political topics is the extent to which prostitution in Washington has been the key to ongoing corruption and scandal in that city," he writes in Deep Politics. And, using meticulous scholarship and dozens of first-hand sources, he discusses the women that the Mafia supplied to the Kennedy brothers, and how the mob and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wiretapped those sexual liaisons for extortion purposes.

Such topics, rarely considered by conventional historians, are the essence of Scott's deep political analysis. "I define deep politics as all those political practices and arrangements, deliberate or not, which are usually repressed rather than acknowledged," he writes. "Sometimes the secret is an open one, as when a particular city knows that its cops are on the take, or a nation knows that its parties have completely thwarted the intentions of campaign-financing laws. But some secrets are more closely held."

Such as the secrets surrounding the JFK hit.

Ever since 1979, when the House Select Committee on Assassinations reported JFK was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy, many writers have explored the alliance between Mafia leaders and the CIA in a plot to murder Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. But Scott goes much further, tracing the mob's government ties back to World War II's "Operation Underworld," which evolved into a government-protected narcotics business overseen by people such as Lucky Luciano and Meyer Lansky. And he goes even further in Lee Harvey Oswald's hometown of New Orleans, tracing the nefarious activities of that city's fruit conglomerates, dockworkers unions and Mafiosi all the way back to the 1880s.

Scott's analysis of the corruption of Central America by U.S. fruit companies and the CIA led him to co-write a book with San Francisco Chronicle journalist Jonathan Marshall about more recent government-protected drug dealing. Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies and the CIA in Central America (1991, University of California Press), was cited as a primary source for the San Jose Mercury's August 1996 expose of how the CIA funded Nicaraguan Contra rebels by allowing cocaine traffickers to operate in California cities. That story then became a hot topic on the Internet, and the revelations inflamed the African-American community, which has long suspected government acquiescence in the proliferation of freebase cocaine in the country's inner cities.

At the Fourth Decade Conference on the JFK assassination, staged at SUNY Fredonia in July just before the CIA/cocaine story hit the mainstream media, Scott delivered the keynote speech, discussing many avenues of research on the president's murder. One of those dark avenues converges with the CIA/cocaine/Contra conspiracy. Scott focused on newly released documents from the Assassination Records Review Board detailing surveillance of Oswald's alleged trip to Mexico City in late September 1963. Mexico's secret police worked for the CIA by spying on people who made contact with the Cuban and Soviet consulates in Mexico City in 1963, and they also played key roles in drug smuggling during the 1970s and '80s.

Peter Dale Scott spoke at length with The New Times about his wide-ranging research into our nation's deep politics. Here are some of his insights.

Q    According to your research, the Mexican secret police played crucial roles in both Oswald's alleged trip to Mexico in late September 1963 and in the CIA/cocaine conspiracy os the 1980s. What's the connection?

A:    The secret police in Mexico, from World War II to 1985 were called the Direcion Federal de Seguridad (DFS), the Federal Directorate of Security. With respect to the drug problem, by the 1980s the DFS was in effect taxing, regulating and almost administrating the drug traffic in Mexico. The DFS chief had successfully persuaded the major traffickers to relocate to Guadalajara, and that became the so-called Guadalajara Cartel, enjoying a good relationship to the CIA because they were giving money to the {Nicaraguan} Contras and apparently even training Contras in Mexico.

The DFS had CIA guidance. Since the late 1940s, all of the DFS chiefs were CIA assets. {In the early 1980s,} DFS head Miguel Nazar Haro was about to be indicted in San Diego as part of the largest stolen car ring in North America--more than 4,000 hot autos moving across the border from the U.S. into Mexico--but the CIA intervened, saying, "You mustn't indict this man because he's our most important asset in Mexico and one of our most important in Latin America."

That encapsulates the problem we've had with drugs, and also gives us serious insight into what happened in the Kennedy assassination.

All the drug traffickers in Mexico operated with impunity because they all carried little DFS passes, prompting someone in the DEA to say that having a DFS pass was virtually a license to traffic in Mexico. The name DFS is gone--there were too many scandals in the 1980s--but the organization is still there under another name and is suspected in several recent assassinations in Mexico.

Q:    What was the role of the DFS, the Mexican secret police, in the 1963 Kennedy assassination?

A:    The DFS played a much more active role in generating the information--some might say the disinformation--about Oswald's supposed visit to Mexico in September-October 1963. Everyone said that the CIA monitored Oswald's phone calls from the Cuban consulate, and the reality is that--although the thing was set up by the CIA--the actually monitoring was done by the DFS, as was the photography {of people entering and exiting the consulate}. So we end up with a false phone call involving Lee Harvey Oswald on Sept. 28. We also have photograph of somebody--an older, heavy set man--who was identified as someone who called himself Oswald but clearly was not our Oswald. I've been telling the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB), which was established by the JFK Records Act, that they should push hard on the Mexican government to release their records about the assassination.

Q:    What's your relationship with the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). Will the board continue to function after its legislation runs out in October 1997?

A:    I'm grateful for whatever they release, and undeniably they have released some interesting information. The CIA has released a great deal of information itself. The problem is with agencies which haven't seen the light and come clean--starting with the FBI and including the military--there hasn't been any real progress there.

The style in Washington is not to rock the boat too much. It's quite clear that with some agencies, we're not going to get the documents unless the review board is quite adversarial and uses subpoena powers.

One of the big things they should do is take officers who participated in a cover-up back in 1963 and interview those people, if necessary depose them under oath and probably do it publicly in order to scare these people into cooperating. But it's a lame duck board in a way, and I don't think they'll act aggressively unless there is some outpouring of public opinion.

Q:    In Deep Politics, you indicate that Chicago mobster Sam Giancana and Jack Ruby--who was originally from Chicago--both were involved in drug trafficking via Mexico.

A:    There has been an important drug connection between Mexico and the city of Chicago going back to the 1940s, when there was a very major opium and heroin operation--now it's chiefly cocaine, but in those days it was chiefly opium and heroin. Ruby was obviously involved in the major opium bust in 1947. The fact that the old Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) didn't go after him suggests to me that he was probably an FBN informant. And in the 1950s, a very good FBI informant told them that Jack Ruby was the person you had to get the OK from to run drug deals from Mexico through Dallas.

Those two facts often go together: the informant is also the connection, because an informant is in a position to say which deals will go through and not be arrested. Those deals he doesn't approve of, he tells the police, and there's an arrest. Three or four Dallas policemen have told us Ruby was their informant on narcotics matters. We know he was. What has not been conceded, but I think it's probably true, that he was an informant on the federal level as well. Which would've made him quite an important guy.

Q:    Who in Chicago was most interested in this Mexican drug connection?

A:    The Mafia had mixed feelings about drugs--they seemed to feel it was all right to deal drugs in foreign countries but maybe not here in the United States. But Sam Giancana focused on international activities. He was very active in Mexico, and eventually went to live in Mexico, where he spent most of his last years before he came back and was killed in Chicago.

Giancana's sidekick, Richard Cain, travelled all over the world for him, mostly setting up casinos. Now casinos and drugs go together. Couriers go from casino to casino, they handle the drugs, and the money can be laundered by being bet and lost on a roulette wheel. So it's a pretty common symbiosis, whether it's Lebanon or Havana or Las Vegas.

Q:    In Deep Politics you identify Tony Zoppi--who was Ruby's alibi for 12:30 in the afternoon on Nov. 22, 1963--as a major casino guy.

A:    Well, he became a major casino guy. He was sort of one even at the time, because {as a columnist for the Dallas Morning News}, he wrote about what was going on in the nightclubs, so he was part of that milieu. He ended up as an employee of a Las Vegas casino, in fact a notorious Chicago-owned casino, the Riviera.

Q:    Another casino operator was Jack Ruby's old buddy Lewis McWillie, who was interviewed by the FBI two days before the assassination, something about Giancana's secret ownership of a Lake Tahoe casino called the Cal/Neva Lodge.

A:    McWillie--who'd previously worked at Meyer Lansky's Tropicana casino in Havana--worked at the Cal/Neva Lodge in 1963, and we know that the FBI was closing in on Giancana in 1963. And yes, he was interviewed by the FBI, in Las Vegas, on Nov. 20, 1963, but we don't know enough about why they were interviewing him. They did establish that he'd worked at the Cal/Neva, where Marilyn Monroe often met with Giancana.

The House Assassinations Committee heard evidence that Ruby visited Las Vegas in the weeks prior to the assassination, and if he did, it was certainly to see McWillie, and it was also rumored he saw {Johnny} Rosselli at that time.

Q:    In their book Double Cross, by Sam Giancana's relatives Sam and Chuck Giancana, they depict the mobster hosting both Kennedy brothers for sex parties in the cabins at the Cal/Neva Lodge sometime in 1960.

A:    That's very probable. There was clearly a very strong link between the Cal/Neva Lodge and old Joe Kennedy {the president's father}. He got his Christmas tree every year from the Cal/Neva Lodge.

Q:    The longer you look at the JFK hit, the more Ruby keeps popping up everywhere. On the surface he seems a sleazy gangster wanna-be running a strip show, but he turns out to be a central figure in the assassination.

A:    I've always argued that Ruby was a much more important person. The house committee admitted that, yes, he was a mob figure but he was a two-bit punk or that sort of thing. But he was a police connection, and that's a very important part of mob activity. The reason the mob's so powerful in Chicago is they've always had someone like {master wiretapper} Richard Cain who was a policeman, once head of investigations for the Sheriff of Cook County. In other words, he was a senior law enforcement official, there but he was also a made member of the mob and very close to Giancana. He was also a top, top informant for William Roemer, who was the FBI's chief mob man in Chicago, and Cain was one of Roemer's best friends.

A big disappointment for me was that the house committee totally suppressed--and virtually lied--about Ruby's relationship to the Dallas police. Especially as an informant, Ruby embodies that link between government and crime.

Q:    As the operator of the Carousel Club, Ruby obviously rubbed elbows with B-girls and prostitutes. Deep Politics also depicts Ruby in some pretty high-class company, perhaps running gambling operations and girls, for some Texas oil men, and the Dallas-based Great Southwest Corporation.

A:    One documented case, not mentioned in the book, centered on a Galveston millionaire named Shearn Moody who was famous for holding huge sex parties at his home, and this man's name was in Ruby's address book. So yeah, he definitely knew at least some of these millionaires. Moody's family insurance company, Gold America National Insurance, was in turn invested heavily in Nevada casinos like the Sands. Ruby definitely knew him.

Q:    Why would these big businessmen have anything to do with Jack Ruby?

A:    Well, you know honest crap games--that's something the mob could offer. Moving south was a very important event in mob history. One of the justifications for the mob going into Dallas was that the local gambling was fixed. Paul Roland Jones--who knew Ruby--went down there representing a Chicago faction, and he offered people there honest gambling. In this sense, organized crime becomes, you might say, the government of those aspects of life which the official government is not allowed to recognize. Gambling is illegal but you want it regulated, so it's regulated by organized crime.

Q:    On the law enforcement side of things, J. Edgar Hoover kept what he called his Personal and Confidential files, many of which were sexual in nature. What do you know about those files?

A:    They weren't just sexual. If he had known, for example, that, shall we say, another American president had been involved in the John Kennedy assassination, that would go into the Personal and Confidential files. It doesn't have to be sexual; it's anything that's the highest level utility for potential blackmail.

Q:    How did Jack Kennedy's extra-marital sex life relate to the assassination?

A:    The mob's influence in Washington certainly is related to their provision of sexual favors for all tendencies--boys for people who like boys, girls for people who like girls. Kennedy was a notorious case. Undeniably Kennedy became involved with a mistress of Sam Giancana, Judy Campbell. This fact by itself would be important whether or not we believe the other things she has added to her story since.

The Kennedy family--old Joe Kennedy--had been involved with the mob since the days of Prohibition, and specifically with the Chicago mob. That were even references to this in the Kefauver Commission. Legitimate Kennedy investments were largely in Chicago. The Kennedys owned the Trade Mart in Chicago, which was a very major investment. After Prohibition, Joe Kennedy had a liquor distributing company along with a mob man named Joe Fusco. When John Kennedy first ran for Congress in '46, Joe Kennedy did a smart thing--he sold off his liquor interests so that he would not have these conspicuous mob connections anymore.

We do not yet fully understand that whole dynamic whereby the mob helped elect John Kennedy and then was very alienated by Robert Kennedy's prosecution of the mob and Sam Giancana in particular.

RFK listed the mobsters he targeted, including Giancana and Santos Trafficante and Carlos Marcello--these are all relevant people--exactly the element of the mob that the CIA involved in plots against Castro after Robert Kennedy published The Enemy Within in 1960, in which he names these people. So there's a very complicated dance here which involves the Kennedys' relationship to the mob, the CIA's relationship with the mob, and the CIA getting more involved with the mob at a time when the Kennedys are distancing themselves from at least some elements of the mob.

Q:    You posit that a small cadre may have pulled off the murder somehow, but a much larger group of people--especially inside government--conspired on the cover-up.

A:    There are probably three categories: 1. People actually involved in the assassination, 2. Those involved in the cover-up, and 3. The Watchers who knew that the president is going to be murdered. They're not directly conspiring, but they become criminally responsible because they do not intervene to stop it. I think it's quite likely that Hoover was in that intermediary category.

Let's just take the {Joseph} Milteer statement. He was a southern racist who predicted {on a police-monitored phone conversation} that the president would be shot with a rifle from an office building, and then somebody would be picked up right away and charged with the murder. First he predicts it, then after the assassination, he says, "See, it happened the way I said it would."

Hoover knew about all of this before the assassination, and the FBI intervened both before and after the assassination to minimize the significance of this uncannily accurate prediction, and they never shared any of this information with the Warren Commission. Hoover here could be culpable of something more than just the cover-up.

Q:    So Hoover might have also known that Oswald was an FBI informant?

A:    I've speculated that he was an FBI informant; it's clear he was operating in an informant capacity, but who he was informing for is less clear. He may have been working for a private contractor such as {New Orleans private investigator} Guy Banister.

Q:    Was Oswald just a puppet for people like Banister, or do you think he really knew what he was working on and why?

A:    In my book I called him a double agent, but I really should have called him a triple agent. On one level he's acting like a leftist, and on another, deeper level he's acting like a rightist, as though he's getting Fair Play for Cuba sympathizers to send in their names and addresses to 544 Camp St. {in New Orleans} which is the address of Guy Banister, who is a very anti-Castro detective. But then, on a third level, he may have been working with Banister in order to inform someone else about Banister's own illegal activities, so that would make him a triple agent.

Once you're dealing with someone who's a double agent--and there are many historical instances of this--it's hard to know who they're working for, and sometimes even the individuals don't even know who they're really working for. Psychologically, they get so into the role playing--their reality is that they're fake. You can't reduce them to a set of simple motivations like the rest of us.

Q:    The first thing the public ever heard about Oswald was that he was part of a communist conspiracy. Later, he became "a lone nut." Why?

A:    I've said all along there were two phases to the early cover-up: false stories linking Oswald to Cuba and Soviet Union and phase two, which substituted the myth of Oswald as the KGB assassin with the story that he was a lone nut, which is no more true than the phase one story, but was a lot less likely to risk World War III.

Q:    You told your colleagues at the Fredonia conference in July that it's not so important to learn the identity of the triggermen as to understand the deep politics behind the assassination. What can that kind of understanding mean to us as a nation?

A:    Remember, I'm not talking about a historic phenomenon. I'm talking about an ongoing phenomenon. If you focus on the CIA/drug story in the San Jose Mercury, you're studying the same phenomena. The fact is there is a symbiosis between high-level people in government and high-level people in crime. We see it in the drug situation, we saw it in the Kennedy assassination and in other areas such as the South African Oil Embargo--but South Africa got its oil, people violated the embargo. We get back to the same kind of milieu where people are powerful because of their law-breaking, not refugees and people running from law enforcement. There's a much more intimate symbiotic relationship between law enforcement and criminal operations. They're not simply antithetical, as we are taught to believe in grade school. That's what I mean by deep politics. If we're going to understand the politics of our country, we're going to have to understand the deep politics of our country.

(c) 1996 Rway Communications a division of RAS, Inc.
Syracuse New Times content is Copyright 1996 by A. Zimmer Ltd., used by permission.