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Monday, 15 March 2010

Why we will never know the truth about the JFK assassination

I have come to the conclusion that we will never discover the truth about the people behind the assassination of JFK. I think in time, probably in about 2063, the US government will appoint a respected historian to examine the classified documents related to the case. They will then report that a conspiracy and a cover-up did take place but the available evidence makes it impossible to identify those responsible for these events.

This is what happened with the Labour Government decided to announce an investigation into the Zinoviev Letter that was published in 1924. For many years, people had been claiming that the letter was part of a conspiracy organized by British Intelligence and the Conservative Party.

On 10th January, 1996, Ken Livingstone, made a speech in the House of Commons naming the agents responsible for this conspiracy. It is believed that Livingstone got this information from agents within MI5 who were sympathetic to the Labour Party.

When the Labour Party gained power in 1997, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, announced that he had ordered the Foreign Office, to carry out an investigation into the case. He also put pressure on MI5/MI6 to open up their files on the Zinoviev Letter.

First, let me give you some background details on the case. In the 1923 General Election, the Labour Party won 191 seats. Although the Conservatives had 258, Ramsay MacDonald agreed to head a minority government, and therefore became the first member of the party to become Prime Minister. As MacDonald had to rely on the support of the Liberal Party, he was unable to get any socialist legislation passed by the House of Commons. The only significant measure was the Wheatley Housing Act which began a building programme of 500,000 homes for rent to working-class families.

In October 1924 the MI5 intercepted a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Vernon Kell, head of MI5 and Sir Basil Thomson head of Special Branch, were convinced that the letter was genuine. Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. It was agreed that the letter should be kept secret but someone leaked news of the letter to the Times and the Daily Mail. The letter was published in these newspapers four days before the 1924 General Election and contributed to the defeat of MacDonald and the Labour Party.

Gill Bennett was the historian selected to carry out this investigation. She discovered Stanley Baldwin, the head of the new Conservative Party government, set up a Cabinet committee to look into the Zinoviev Letter. On 19th November, 1924, the Foreign Secretary, Austin Chamberlain, reported that members of the committee were "unanimously of opinion that there was no doubt as to the authenticity of the letter". However, eight days later, Desmond Morton, the head of the Secret Intelligence Service's Section V, dealing with counter-Bolshevism, admitted in a letter to MI5 that "we are firmly convinced this actual thing (the Zinoviev letter) is a forgery."

Morton also wrote a report for Chamberlain's Cabinet Committee explaining why the SIS originally considered the Zinoviev letter was genuine. According to Gill Bennett, Morton came up with "five very good reasons" why he thought the letter was genuine. These were: its source, an agent in Moscow "of proved reliability"; "direct independent confirmation" from CPGB and ARCOS sources in London; "subsidiary confirmation" in the form of supposed "frantic activity" in Moscow; because the possibility of SIS being taken in by White Russians was "entirely excluded"; and because the subject matter of the Letter was "entirely consistent with all that the Communists have been enunciating and putting into effect". Bennett goes onto argue: "All five of these reasons can be shown to be misleading, if not downright false."

The problem for Gill Bennett was that a lot of the relevant documents had been destroyed. It was therefore impossible to say who was really behind the forged letter and its publication in the press. However, she suspected that Desmond Morton was the key figure behind the Zinoviev Letter.

In 1998 Robin Cook reported back to the House of Commons that although the Zinoviev Letter was almost certainly a forgery, its precise authorship cannot be determined. Nor could it be confirmed that the SIS and the Conservative Party were part of a conspiracy to remove the Labour government.

In her published report in 1999 Gill Bennett was keen to distance herself from conspiracy theories: The propagation of conspiracy theories is always unprofitable, as it is impossible to prove a negative.” However, she did argue that Desmond Morton, like other members of establishment, was appalled by the idea of a Prime Minister who was a socialist. She pointed out: "It was not just the intelligence community, but more precisely the community of an elite - senior officials in government departments, men in "the City", men in politics, men who controlled the Press - which was narrow, interconnected (sometimes intermarried) and mutually supportive. Many of these men... had been to the same schools and universities, and belonged to the same clubs. Feeling themselves part of a special and closed community, they exchanged confidences secure in the knowledge, as they thought, that they were protected by that community from indiscretion." If that is not a conspiracy I do not know what is.

During this same period, MI5 decided to open up its files to the historian, Christopher Andrew. In his book, The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009), Christopher Andrew argues that on 9th October 1924 SIS forwarded the Zinoviev letter to the Foreign Office, MI5 and Scotland Yard with the assurance that “the authenticity is undoubted” when they knew it had been forged by anti-Bolshevik White Russians. Desmond Morton, the head of SIS, provided extra information about the letter being confirmed as being genuine by an agent, Jim Finney, who had penetrated Comintern and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Andrew claims this was untrue as the so-called Finney report does not make any reference to the Zinoviev letter. Andrew also argues that it was probably George Joseph Ball, head of B Branch, who passed the letter onto Conservative Central Office on 22nd October, 1924. As Andrew points out: “Ball’s subsequent lack of scruples in using intelligence for party-political advantage while at central office in the later 1920s strongly suggests” that he was guilty of this action.

However, like Bennett before him, Andrew discovered that most of the important documents surrounding the case had been destroyed. Therefore, it was impossible to name the “guilty men”.

Bennett thought it might be a good idea to write a biography of Desmond Morton. When she began examining the documents concerning his life she realized she had problems. It seems that Morton had used his position in SIS to destroy this evidence. This even included his time at Eton College and the Royal Military Academy.

Despite his statement in the House of Commons about the Zinoviev Letter, privately, Cook knew that the British intelligence services could not be trusted. Cook refused to believe the evidence provided by the intelligence services concerning WMD in Iraq. On 17th March 2003 he resigned from the Cabinet. Cook was of course right, unfortunately, he never got the chance to know this for certain as he died from a "heart-attack" on 6th August 2005. He would of course been the star witness in the subsequent inquiries into the background to the Iraq War.

I would argue that any opening of the classified files on the JFK case would follow the same pattern as that of the investigation into the Zinoviev Letter.

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