Friday, April 07, 2006

JFK: Let's admit it, the mob did it

It's been almost 43 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Don't you think it's time we admitted, once and for all, that Kennedy was the victim of a mob hit?
Over the past few years, I've read several books -- by people traveling in completely different circles of organized crime -- in which the mob takes credit for the Kennedy assassination.
That the mob was involved was always in the background, with Jack Ruby -- a known associate of the Chicago outfit -- and his takeout of alleged gunman Lee Harvey Oswald the primary link.
There are also some facts which a large number of books discuss, primarily that the mob helped steal the Illinois vote for Kennedy and that the mob backed Kennedy in other ways, primarily as a favor to an old friend (remember, the Kennedy fortune came largely from patriarch Joe's days as a bootlegger and rumrunner during Prohibition, when the various mobs built their empires).
But let's look at what the books claim, in order of credibility, from least to most.
Blood and Honor by Salvatore "Bill" Bonanno.
Bonanno, the son of legendary mobster Joe "Joe Bananas" Bonanno, talks at some length about the mob's machinations to get Kennedy elected.
But the real bombshell is a prison conversation Bonanno had with Johnny Roselli, in which Roselli says he was the other shooter in the Kennedy hit, the guy on the grassy knoll made famous by the Zapruder film.
Credibility rating: Roselli was not noted as a hit man. He was the Chicago outfit's man on the West Coast for many years. And he wasn't a younger man at that point... he was around 60 at the time of the assassination. But Roselli was a Chicago guy. Sam Giancana, the boss in Chicago at the time, hated the Kennedys. It would not be a stretch to think that Giancana ordered Roselli to do it. Also, Roselli was later killed after testifying before a Congressional committee in the 1970s investigating the CIA's ties to the mob in efforts to overthrow Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. The mob lost a fortune when Castro took over and wasn't happy about Kennedy's backing down on the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Double Cross by Chuck Giancana and Sam Giancana.
Chuck Giancana was Sam's brother; this Sam Giancana is a nephew of the mob boss. Much of the book centers around conversations Chuck had with his brother. Chuck was always on the fringes of the Outfit -- according to the book, big brother never let little brother get too involved.
But there were many detailed conversations concerning the assassination and the machinations to reclaim the mob's foothold in Cuba, including admissions by Sam that the mob was involved in the assassination.
Credibility rating: Sam Giancana trusted his brother, even though he kept Chuck on the fringes of the Outfit. There's no real reason to doubt the story Chuck tells. And there's enough information supported by other authors, especially the late FBI agent William F. Roemer Jr., to support much of the non-assassination information Chuck recounts. (Note: Roemer wrote that he did not believe that the mob was involved in the Kennedy killing, based on what he heard on wiretaps at the time.) Also, Giancana was hit prior to his scheduled testimony before that same Congressional committee Roselli talked with before he was killed.
I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt with Frank Sheeran.
This is the book in which Sheeran, a long-time Teamster low-level official, admits to killing Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa back in 1975. Brandt is a former prosecutor in Delaware who looked into Sheeran's confession and found it accurate. He also found a number of other Sheeran claims accurate, including the hit on New York mob star Joey Gallo in the early 70s.
Credibility rating: There is a quote from a conversation involving Sheeran, Hoffa, and mob bosses Russell Bufalino and Angelo Bruno in which Hoffa was warned not to try to retake the presidency of the Teamsters.
Bufalino, to Hoffa: "There are people higher up than me that feel you are demonstrating a failure to show appreciation... for Dallas."
After the sitdown, Bufalino told Sheeran, who was a staunch Hoffa supporter: "You're dreaming, my friend. If they could take out the president, they could take out the president of the Teamsters."
Later, Hoffa talked to Sheeran about the warning and about what was said.
"Dallas -- did you hear that word tonight? Remember that package you took to Baltimore? I didn't know it then, but it was high-powered rifles for the Kennedy hit in Dallas... That pilot [David Ferrie, whose name appeared in the assassination investigation] for Carlos [Marcello, the New Orleans mob boss who was also a prominent figure in the investigation] was involved in delivering the replacements you brought down....
"Jack Ruby's cops were supposed to take care of Oswald, but Ruby bungled it. That's why he had to go in and finish the job on Oswald. If he didn't take care of Oswald, what do you think they would have done to him -- put Ruby on a meat hook. Don't kid yourself. Santo [Trafficante, the Tampa mob boss] and Carlos and Giancana and some of their element, they were all in on Kennedy."
Pretty compelling stuff.
Maybe it's better to think that Oswald was just a lone nut. Maybe it was better for the collective conscience of America to believe that. Maybe it was the Camelot image of the Kennedy administration that made such dark secrets unthinkable.
But there's too much out there to think otherwise.
Perhaps it's time we admitted it.