Thursday, 17 March 2011 22:33

Journalists and JFK, Part 2: The Real Dizinfo Agents at Dealey Plaza

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Bill Kelly examines the Luce empire and its connections to the CIA.

Part 1
Part 3

Henry and Clare Booth Luce, C. D. Jackson & Issac Don Levine – That’s LIFE

In the immediate aftermath of the assassination of President Kennedy a decision was made at the highest levels of government; that, even though the evidence indicating the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was acting at the behest of Cuba was not true, it could be used to strong arm reluctant leaders in the legislative and judicial branches of government to do what the new president wanted.

Earl Warren later explained in an oral history interview for the LBJ Library, that after he was asked to head the commission, “I told them I thought I shouldn’t do it, and I made some suggestions to them as to people whom they might get who would fill the purpose. And I thought that was the end of it. And then in about an hour I got a phone call from the White House and was asked if I could come up and see the President. And I said, ‘certainly,’ so I went up there. And the President told me that he was greatly disturbed by the rumors that were going around the world about a conspiracy and so forth, and that he thought that it might because it involved both Khrushchev and Castro – that it might even catapult us into a nuclear war if it got a head start, you know, and kept growing.”

“And he (LBJ) said that he had just been talking to McNamara, who was Secretary of Defense then,” Warren continued, “and that McNamara had told him that if we got into a nuclear war that at the first strike we would lose sixty million people. And he impressed upon me the great danger that was involved in having something develop from all this talk. He said he had talked to the leaders of both parties and that members of Congress – Dick Russell and Boggs on the Democratic side and Ford and Cooper on the other side – and John McCloy from New York and Allen Dulles would be willing to serve on the commission if I was to head it up.” (1)

And this was not just an off-the-cuff decision, as John Newman puts it, “It is now apparent that the World War III pretext for a national security cover-up was built into the fabric of the plot to assassinate President Kennedy.” (2)

By threatening nuclear war if it were true, LBJ used the disinformation of Castro and Cuban complicity to convince the Chief Justice and congressmen to join the Commission. The nuclear threat helped persuaded them to go with the Lone-Nut scenario because a conspiracy had to be a foreign one. To accept the Lone-Nut scenario as possible or even plausible, all of the accused assassin’s intelligence connections had to be ignored and the assassin portrayed as a sociopathic loser acting upon unknown psychological motives. (3)
Life magazine was one of the most prolific supporters of this fairytale. Just as it had been previously in leaking Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis and Mongoose intelligence. And as it would after the assassination in anointing the disputed Tonkin Gulf Incident in order to get Congressional authorization for the war in Vietnam. (4)

As the most popular magazine in America, Life was more influential than radio and TV news at the time. Life was the perfect platform to deliver any disinformation the CIA wanted widely distributed to a mass audience. It was used to influence key policy makers as well as the public, and also to discredit President Kennedy, as it tried to do on numerous occasions.

Who were these guys? Well in looking at the Life magazine masthead of that era you will find a number of pertinent names – including Henry and Clare Booth Luce, C.D. Jackson and Issac Don Levine.

Henry Luce, born in China to missionary parents, attended Yale, was a member of Skull & Bones, and with his schoolmate and partner Briton Hadden, quit the Baltimore News to form Time Inc., publishing Time Magazine in 1926, Fortune in 1930 and Life magazine in 1936. He remained editor-in-chief of all his publications until 1964. A powerful Republican Party leader and committed anti-communist, he was a strong supporter of Chiang Kai-shek and “the China Lobby,” and against Castro in Cuba. Although Henry Luce died in 1967, his legacy continues to make an impact today. (5)

It wasn’t a one-man show. Luce surrounded himself with like-minded publishers, editors, photographers and writers, most notably his second wife, Clare Booth Luce.

Before dealing with Clare Booth Luce, it should be noted for the record that Henry Luce is also said to have had an affair with Mary Bancroft, one of Allen Dulles’ OSS agents and paramour, while Dulles is said to have been intimate with Luce’s wife. And in retrospect, Clare Booth Luce was in many ways more of a player than Henry Luce himself. (6)

Before she became a Congresswomen and ambassador (to Italy), Clare Booth Luce had struck up an early friendship with John F. Kennedy, sending him a good luck coin during World War II. (7)

Clare Booth Luce has been aptly described as, “One of the wealthiest women in the world, widow of the founder of the Time, Inc. publishing empire, former member of the House of Representatives, former Ambassador to Italy, successful Broadway playwright, international socialite and longtime civic activist, Luce was responsible for later ‘leads’ in the JFK assassination aftermath. Luce will later claim that sometime after the Bay of Pigs she receives a call from her ‘great friend’ William Pawley – who wants to put together a fleet of speedboats which would be used by the exiles to dart in and out of Cuba on ‘intelligence gathering’ missions. Luce eventually sponsors one of the boats. She refers to the crew of this boat as ‘my boys.’ Luce will also maintain that it is one of these boat crews that brings back the first news of Soviet missiles in Cuba. JFK, she says, didn’t react to it so she helped to feed the information to Senator Kenneth Keating, who made it public.” (8)

She sat in the same limo with LBJ on JFK’s inauguration day, and when she asked him why in the world he took the Vice Presidential slot instead of staying in the more powerful position he held in Congress, she quoted him as saying, “Clare, I looked it up; One out of every four presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only chance I got.” (9) Although the true odds were one in five presidents, or twenty percent, died in office, perhaps LBJ knew he could improve those odds, and it wasn’t such a gamble at all.

With the new Democratic administration, Luce brought aboard a new publisher, C. D. – Charles Douglas-- Jackson, an OSS hand and President Eisenhower’s personal administrative assistant on psychological warfare and Cold War strategy. (10)

While Jackson would remain in the background, devising strategy, Clare Booth Luce wrote a weekly column and an occasional photo feature for Life. The magazineran articles on the impending invasion of Cuba before the Bay of Pigs, and in one column, a week before the Cuban Missile Crisis, Clare Booth Luce chastised the President for ignoring the evidence of offensive missiles in Cuba. (11) She says she had been told this by ‘her boys,’ who ran commando missions in and out of Cuba. But she also apparently saw the U2 photos leaked by the Air Force liaison to the National Photographic Interpretation Center, before they were revealed to the president. The NPIC U2 photos of missiles in Cuba were also shown to Sen. Keating (R. NY) by Col. Philip J. Corso, who later bragged about leaking it in his book The Day After Roswell. (12)

After the Cuban Missile crisis was successfully resolved, Luce began writing stories about Mongoose, the CIA’s covert operations against Castro, which you could have read all about in Life, as they ran photos and stories about Operation Red Cross (aka the Bayo/Pawley Mission), and other anti-Castro missions. Clare was particularly proud of “her boys,” the team of anti-Castro commandos who ran maritime missions into Cuba in their speed boat, and she financially backed, though they were also supported by the CIA. They were based out of the CIA’s JMWAVE base in Florida, affiliated with the DRE and led by JulioFernandez. (13)

On the night of the assassination, Clare Booth Luce says she was awakened from sleep by a phone call by Fernandez. He claimed to have exclusive knowledge of the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, including recordings of him, and other records that appeared to substantiate his pro-Castro leanings i.e. the original Phase One cover-story., Castro did it. Luce told him to call the FBI. But he didn’t, or at least there is no record of him having done so. (14)

The Luces could have slept soundly that night, knowing that Life was on top of the story. They had people at Dealey Plaza - the scene of the crime of the century. And before the weekend was over they would have sole ownership of the single most desired peace of evidence in the case, the Zapruder film. They would also obtain the infamous Backyard Photos of the accused assassin, his “Historic Diary,” exclusive photos of the Oswald family and then contractually tie up Marina’s story for decades.

But before the weekend was out, the accused assassin would be killed while in police custody, and then branded the lone assassin. It was just a matter of whether he was going to be portrayed as part of a Cuban Communist conspiracy or as a deranged, lone nut, the answer to which would depend on how it all played out in public.

Life had a good team working on the assassination. Texas bureau chief, Holland McCombs was in Austin, working on a story about the sex lives of college students. McCombs got the job at Life after giving Henry Luce a raucous tour of Texas, introducing him to cantinas, tequila and hot peppers. After Luce hired him, its rumored that his first job was to get a spy in the office of the president of Mexico, clearly showing Luce’s interests also went south of the border. (15)

McCombs had served in the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) so such an operation was within his wherewithal. McCombs later helped abort Life’s belated 1967 investigation of a domestic conspiracy. McCombs supported his friend Clay Shaw, a suspect in Jim Garrison’s case in New Orleans, even though his own team had developed evidence that supported a conspiracy.

As early as February 1964 McCombs and Life had developed the fact that the McCurley brothers, who had assisted Oswald in handing out the FPCC leaflets in New Orleans, patronized the Black Lamp, a gay bar in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. At that tavern, there was a bartender named Frankie Hydell. The Warren Report claimed that there was no such person as Hidell, which was the name Oswald used as an alias. And the information McCombs and Life developed went uninvestigated by both Life and the Warren Commission. (16)

Although McCombs was in Austin at the time of the assassination, he had hired a young intern and stringer, Patsy Swank, who was heels on the ground in Dallas and would come up with the scoop on the Z-film.

As soon as they heard about the assassination, McCombs, and the west coast editor in Los Angeles Richard Stolley, flew immediately to Dallas, probably under orders or assignment from C. D. Jackson in New York. Stolley brought along photographer Alan Grant. Writer Tommy Thompson, who was from Dallas, also flew in. Stolley set up shop in a room at the Adolphus Hotel, just across the street from the Carousel Club, and where the Secret Service and White House Communications Agency (WHCA) had their base of operations during the President’s visit. (17)

Although the FBI maintains it had lost track of Oswald when he moved to New Orleans, and he kept a room by himself in Oak Cliff, Oswald had subscribed to magazines that were sent to the Paine home, including The Worker, the official organ of the Communist Party in the USA, the Trotskyite Militant, and Time Magazine. Therefore, at the time of the assassination, Time-Life had Oswald’s address at the Paine home in their files in New York, where their offices were at Rockefeller Center. (18) Which is also where the British Security Coordination was based, and where Oswald’s mother had worked in a retail shop on the first floor of the Empire State Building. While it may have been unknown to some of the authorities who were looking for him, Time-Life had Oswald’s address in their subscription file. And it didn’t take long for the Life team to get there.

While Thompson and photographer Alan Grant went out to the Paine house in Irving, Patsy Swank was at the Dallas Police Department, where she had been tipped off about a film of the assassination. She called Stolley at the Adolphus on the phone and in a hushed voice so other reporters wouldn’t hear her, told him about the movie of the assassination that was taken by a man whose last name began with a “Z.” Stolley quickly found Zapruder’s name in the phone book, assumed it was him, and called his home every fifteen minutes until Zapruder finally answered. Mr. “Z” had been driving around aimlessly thinking about what he had witnessed through the lens of his camera. Stolley wanted to meet him immediately but Zapruder told him to see him at his office early the next morning. (19)

Meanwhile, with Grant snapping exclusive photos, Thompson had gotten Marina’s confidence, and with C. D. Jackson persuading her with cash, the wife and mother of the accused assassin agreed to give them their exclusive story if Thompson would take them to see Oswald at the jail. (20)

Although the Zapruder film, the Backyard Photos, the “Historic Diary,” Thompson’s articles and Grant’s photos that Life published, have all been examined extensively and deserve even further scrutiny, Marina’s story is the clincher. With the death of Oswald, his guilt or innocence in the eyes of the public depended on how she portrayed him for history. But it wasn’t really Marina’s portrait of Oswald in Life. It was the author’s portrait, as described, at least in part, by Marina in Russian, and translated by the author.

At first it was reported that Marina’s story would be ghost written by Issac Don Levine, its in-house Russian defector and professional anti-communist propagandist. (21) Levine would have been perfect for the job, if they were going to stick with the Cuban Communist Conspiracy Cover-story. But that fell by the wayside as it became apparent that it just was not accurate.

That didn’t matter to Levine any more than it didn’t matter to LBJ. Levine had previously written The Mind of the Assassin, about Leon Trotsky’s killer Raymond Mercader, who Levine cleverly unmasks as a deep penetration agent of Stalin’s KGB’s assassination directorate SMERSH. Mercader got to Trotsky in exile in Mexico City and stabbed him to death, was convicted for it, served time in prison and was later released. (22)

Oswald had described himself as a Trotskyite, and subscribed to The Militant, the monthly publication of the Trotskyite party in the United States, which was founded by the father of Michael Paine, Oswald’s chief benefactor at the time of the assassination. Besides providing room and board for Oswald’s wife and two kids, Michael Paine also handled Oswald’s belongings, including the alleged assassination rifle, which was kept in his garage while Oswald went to Mexico. (23)

It’s still unclear what Oswald did in Mexico City, but with his fascination with Trotsky, one must wonder if he visited the apartment where Trotsky was killed, or knew the details, as written and published by Levine in his book. If you look up Issac Don Levine’s Wikipedia biography, it fails to even mention The Mind of the Assassin, possibly his most important work. (24)

Marina’s story is not listed there either. But for a different reason. Because he never got the job. Instead, the contract was given to Priscilla Johnson (McMillan). Priscilla, like George DeMohrenschildt, had the unique attribute of having made the acquaintance of both the President and his accused assassin. Oswald’s good friend DeMohrenschildt knew the Kennedys from their support of the Cystic Fibrosis Charity that he established with his second wife, Dr. De De Sharples. Priscilla knew JFK from Massachusetts, where she worked for him in 1954, and a few years later she met Oswald in Moscow at the time of his defection. (25) So she wasn’t entering the drama cold. She was already a player, and an integral part of the disinformation network that promoted the Dealey Plaza operation cover-story and protected those responsible for the murder of John F. Kennedy.


1. LBJ strongarm. LBJ Library Oral History Collection.
2. See Video: J.E. Hover, L.B. Johnson, and the Warren Commission’s role -1
3. Newman, John – Oswald & the CIA (2008 edition);
4. Life and Tonkin Gulf Incident. Life Magazine August 14, 1964 p. 21 Special Report – "From The Files of Navy Intelligence Aboard the Maddox" p. 21 – Cover story on LBJ – "The Complex and Extraordinary Man Who Is The President" – In Two Articles – an intimate and revealing portrait. - v=onepage&q&f=false -
5. Henry Robinson Luce New York Times Obituary, March 1, 1967.
6. Bancroft, Mary – Autobiography of a Spy.
Also see:
7. Clare Booth Luce gives coin to JFK & JFK Letter to CBL
Clare Booth Luce background
8. Wood, Ira David III. JFK Assassination Chronology.
9. - “I looked it up; one out of every four Presidents has died in office.  I’m a gamblin’ man, darling, and this is the only chance I got.” — Lyndon B. Johnson, to Clare Booth Luce, on why he accepted the Vice Presidential nomination from JFK, January 1961. Also see: Ira David Wood III – JFK Assassination Chronology.
10. Wood, Ira David III. JFK Assassination Chronology. See above.
11. C. D. Jackson background “The CIA's assimilation of old guard fascists was overseen by the Operations Coordination Board, directed by C.D. Jackson, formerly an executive of Time magazine and Eisenhower's Special Assistant for Cold War Strategy.”
Before he became an ardent cold warrior, C.D. Jackson was
According to Carl Bernstein, Jackson was "Henry Luce's personal emissary to the CIA". He also claimed that in the 1950s Jackson had arranged for CIA employees to travel with Time-Life credentials as cover.
11. Clare Booth Luce & Cuban Missile Crisis – Cuba –and the unfaced truth – Our Global Double BindLife Magazine, Oct. 5, 1962, p. 53.
12. Corso & NPIC Leak – Corso, Philip J. (Day After Roswell, Simon & Schuster , 1997) and Wood, Ira David III. JFK Assassination Chronology.
Corso & JFK black prop op – see: “The Zipper Documents,” Gregory.
13. Clare Booth Luce & Julio Fernandez & DRE Clare Booth Luce and Julio Fernandez:
Also see Gary Shaw and John Stockwell:
14. Clare Booth Luce & Julio Fernandez on 11/22/63
15. Holland McCombs & Luce – Kelin, John – Holland McCombs – "The Investigation that Never Was."
16. Kelin, John – Holland McCombs – The Investigation That Never Was. Also see McCombs archive at University of Tennessee.
17. Life Team in Dallas Patsy Swank & Z film. Thompson, Josiah. Why The Zapruder Film Is Authentic, JFK Deep Politics Quarterly, April 1999, Vol. 4, No. 3. - FILM
18. Oswald address & Time-Life – Education Forum – Life Magazine and the Assassination of JFK – John Dolva post.
Stolley bio:
20. Thompson & Marina. Grant, Alan. The Day The President Was Shot – The Kidnapping of the Oswald Family. For Alan Grant’s photos see: Also see: Richard Stolley on Tommy Thompson:,,20087091,00.html
21. Issac Don Levine (19 January 1892 – 15 February 1981) Scott, Peter Dale,  Deep Politics and the Death of JFK (1996. says C. D. Jackson, on the urging of Allen Dulles employed Issac Don Levine to ghost-write Marina's story. This story never appeared in print. Levine background:.
Also see:
22. Issac Don Levine & Trotsky - Levine, wrote the book Mind of the Assassin, that details how the KGB’s agent Raymond Mercader assassinated Trotsky. See Peter Sedgwick’s Review
23. Michael Paine, Trotsky & Oswald in MC. Weberman. Nodule X16 CIA CONNECTIONS.pdf
Forbes Family history (Linda Minor):
Michael Paine Warren Commission Testimony:
24. Levine & Wiki & “Mind of the Assassin.” Bibliography:
25. Lee Oswald, Marina and Priscilla Johnson.
ARRB Testiomony
PBS Interview:

Last modified on Sunday, 23 October 2016 15:55
William Kelly

William Kelly is the Research Coordinator for CAPA (Citizens Against Political Assassinations,, and is the author of the blog

He can be reached at

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