Friday, 06 January 2023 09:22

Gus Russo: There is Nothing in those Damn Files!

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James DiEugenio takes a critical look into Gus Russo's background and his claim that there was nothing of value in any of the JFK materials ever released.

Last year and this year, Gus Russo did columns on the John Kennedy assassination for Spy Talk. I would hope these two nothingburger pieces would get him eliminated for the 60th anniversary next year. But, realistically, they look like auditions to the MSM for that target date. The overall theme of his 2021 piece was that there was nothing in--not just the newly declassified documents President Biden had released--but really, there was nothing in any of the JFK material ever released. Not just by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). Even though Russo admitted he only had time to scan the declassified pages Biden released in 2021, he assured us that there was nothing in them of any merit or value. Therefore, the media was making Much Ado about Nothing.

Gus then leaned back in his chair and looked up at his bookshelf. He now added his punch line. Look you dummies, back in 1964, the Warren Commission issued 26 volumes of evidence and testimony, added to their 888 page report. In 1966 President Johnson released thousands of pages of material from the National Archives. In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations issued 12 volumes of testimony, interviews and evidence. In 1998 Gus says the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) declassified 5 million pages. His (unsubtle) implication was that the whole expanse of those documents contains simply more of “Oswald did it”.

The last statement about the ARRB is in error. The Board declassified 2 million pages, and they did not do it all at once. They did it over four years. It is this material that Russo has avoided when serving as reporter for the late Mike Sullivan at PBS in 1993, for the late Peter Jennings at ABC in 2003, and for Tom Brokaw at NBC in 2013. If anyone can show me where Russo interviewed anyone on the ARRB for any of those programs, please do. I (painfully) watched all three of them; I do not recall him doing such an interview, or even mentioning the Board. In fact, the first two programs were so loaded up with compromised sources that the roster guaranteed nothing from the Board could be mentioned, let alone discussed. Consider some of the following talking heads:

  • Carlos Bringuier
  • Ed Butler
  • Edward Epstein
  • Richard Helms
  • Priscilla Johnson
  • Ruth Paine
  • Gerald Posner
  • David Slawson
  • Larry Sturdivan
  • Sal Panzeca
  • Nicholas Katzenbach
  • Hugh Aynseworth
  • Jack Valenti
  • Robert Oswald
  • Michael Paine
  • Sam Halpern
  • Milton Brener
  • Rosemary James
  • John Lattimer
  • Robert Dallek

I would argue that some of the more interesting disclosures of the Board concern some of these very persons e.g. Bringuier, Butler, Johnson, Halpern, to name just four. So how could Russo go that route? He would be impeaching his own program.

Nothing in those ARRB files: really Gus? Let us turn back the clock to the time frame of 1994-98, plus some years beyond, since the Board placed a timed release stamp on some of their documents. Now let us list some of the things that the ARRB managed to both declassify and discover through both their inquiries and through the acquisition of files from both federal sources, and other personages, like J. Lee Rankin Jr. and Jim Garrison.

  • In Volume 7 p. 37, the HSCA wrote that witnesses at Bethesda morgue disagreed with those at Parkland Hospital since they did not see a baseball sized hole in the rear of JFK’s skull. False, The ARRB proved they did see it. (James DiEugenio, JFK Revisited, pp. 127-28)
  • Warren Commissioner Gerry Ford altered the draft of the Warren Report by moving Kennedy’s back wound into his neck, thereby making the Single Bullet Theory more palatable. (NY Times, 7/3/1997)
  • John Stringer, the official autopsy photographer, told the ARRB that he did not use the kind of film or photographic process used in the photos of Kennedy’s brain, so he could not say under oath he took them. (Doug Horne, Inside the ARRB, pp. 806-07)
  • White House photographer Robert Knudsen told the HSCA that he also took autopsy photos, and his pictures---including one with a cavity in the rear of the skull-- had now disappeared. (Horne, pp.266-67)
  • Sandy Spencer was a photo technician who also saw autopsy photos of JFK that weekend which differed from the extant ones. His body was cleaned up but there was a neat hole in the back of his skull. Again, that hole is not present in the extant photos.(Horne, pp. 314-15)
  • Due to work by Doug Horne of the ARRB, one can now make the case—through three lines of evidence-- that the brain photos at NARA can’t be Kennedy’s. (DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, pp. 160-65; Oliver Stone’s film JFK: Destiny Betrayed)
  • FBI agents at the autopsy both said the wound to JFK was in his back, not his neck, and it did not perforate the body. They swore that Commission lawyer Arlen Specter lied about their testimony.(Horne, pp. 699-705)
  • ARRB declassified documents of 1997 prove that Kennedy was getting out of Vietnam at the time of his death. (Records of the May 1963 Sec Def Conference; DiEugenio, JFK Revisited, p. 78)
  • The ARRB declassified the CIA’s IG Report in which they themselves say they never had any presidential approval for the plots to kill Castro. (DiEugenio, JFK Revisited, p. 75)
  • In 1962, Kennedy turned down a Joint Chiefs plan to create a false flag operation, called Northwoods, in order to invade Cuba. (DiEugenio, JFK Revisited, pp. 180-81)
  • HSCA researcher Betsy Wolf discovered that the CIA had rigged entry and distribution of Lee Oswald’s file in 1959; when CIA officer Peter Bagley saw this altered routing system, he said Oswald was a witting defector. (See “Creating the Oswald Legend Pt.4” by Vasilios Vazakas)
  • The FBI had several sources who informed them that Clay Shaw was Clay Bertrand. And they were given his name as part of their JFK inquiry back in 1963. (William Davy, Let Justice be Done, pp. 192-93)
  • Under oath for the HSCA in 1978, Sheriff John Manchester identified Clay Shaw as the driver of a car in the Clinton/Jackson area in late summer of 1963. His passengers were Oswald and David Ferrie. (Davy, pp. 105-6)
  • Hugh Aynseworth offered a bribe to Manchester to leave the state so he could not testify for Jim Garrison. Manchester replied with this comment: “I advise you to leave the area. Otherwise Ill cut you a new asshole.” (Joan Mellen, A Farewell to Justice, p. 235)
  • In September 1967. the CIA assembled a Garrison Group to obstruct the DA’s inquiry. They thought if they didn’t Shaw would be convicted. This activity went on before, during and after Shaw’s trial. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, 2nd edition pp. 270-71)
  • CIA lied to HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey about George Joannides, who had funded and supervised the Cuban exiles Oswald interacted with in the summer of 1963. With that hidden, Joannides served as a liaison to the HSCA.. (DiEugenio, JFK Revisited, pp. 233-35)
  • Priscilla Johnson, had tried to join the CIA in 1949 and was later classified as a witting collaborator. She then tied up Marina Oswald with a book contract for over a decade. That book was issued during the HSCA. (See Max Good’s film The Assassination and Mrs. Paine.)
  • If Oswald had spoken with KGB agent Valery Kostikov in Mexico City, why did it take seven days for that cable to get to CIA headquarters? This was so suspicious that David Phillips lied about it. (DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, p. 290)
  • The FBI had a flash warning on the Oswald file since 1959. Why did they remove it on October 9, 1963 right after Oswald allegedly got back from Mexico City. That removal enabled Oswald to be on the motorcade route on 11/22/63. (DiEugenio, ibid, p. 301)
  • In 1963, Earle Cabell was mayor of Dallas. He was the brother of Deputy Director of CIA Charles Cabell, fired by Kennedy over the Bay of Pigs. It turns out Earle was a CIA asset. (Click here)

I could easily add another 20 items of either equal or similar importance. But the point about Russo’s implication is made. Because these disclosures, in and of themselves, alter the contours of the JFK case. And, as one can see, they do so on different planes: in forensic evidence, with Kennedy’s foreign policy, with Oswald’s associations, and his connections to the intelligence community. In that regard the information by Betsy Wolf and Pete Bagley is of the greatest interest. Unless, of course, you are part of the MSM.

Gus Russo had three opportunities to disclose at least some of this material. As far as I can see, he never did. But someone will say, in 1993, during the making of the PBS program, the ARRB was not appointed yet. My reply is that there were still files being disclosed, at least in part, at the time. Some of them en toto. I know since I had two friends who were there looking through them.

Bur Russo was not just implying nothing important existed, he was finding ways around their import.

A good example of this avoidance is that, although the 1993 PBS program dealt with Mexico City, the authors of the legendary Lopez Report, Dan Hardway and Ed Lopez, were absent. What did the show give us instead? For starters, how about Robert Blakey and Dick Helms. After mentioning that there was no picture available of Oswald entering either the Russian or Cuban consulate, Blakey assured us that Oswald was in Mexico City since he was photographed for and filled out a visa application.

PBS and Mike Sullivan left out something about that application and the picture. And it’s important. The FBI did a door to door search for any photographic studio in the area Oswald was abiding at. There were none. When they searched for such studios around the Cuban and Soviet embassies the results were that no one had any evidence that Oswald had his picture taken there. (John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, p. 638). And although Blakey said the signature was Oswald’s, David Josephs found the two copies. Not only do the documents not match, the signatures don’t either. (Click here) This might have been the reason that, as Josephs wrote, the Commission did not show receptionist Silvia Duran the application.

The PBS show also relied on two Australian girls allegedly on the bus with Oswald headed down to Mexico City: Patricia Winston and Pamela Mumford. But as has been delineated by John Armstrong and Josephs, the two girls don’t appear to have been on the same bus line as Oswald. And further “they said the Russian passport he showed them was stamped; but Oswald had applied for a new one in 1963 and it was not stamped.” (James DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, p. 282)

Throughout the appearance of Cuban consulate receptionist Silvia Duran, there is no mention of her discrepancy in identifying Oswald or her arrest and alleged torture at the hands of the Mexican authorities. (Mark Lane, Plausible Denial, p. 59; Armstrong pp. 673-74) But the following is key. She told Anthony Summers that she originally identified Oswald by reading his name in the papers and assuming he was the same person she met. But when Summers sent her a film of Oswald from New Orleans leafleting, she said she now doubted it was him. And in her notes she wrote down that the man she saw in Mexico was short, no more than 5’6”, and blonde. Oswald was neither. (Anthony Summers, Conspiracy, p. 350-51) She then repeated this identification to the HSCA, as did diplomat Eusebio Azcue. In 1967, student Oscar Contreras related a similar description about a man named Oswald to an American diplomat. (DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, p. 293) You will not see any of this in the Sullivan/Russo PBS Frontline Special. So the whole assumption made in Frontline, that Oswald was really there is only possible by neutralizing such key facts.

The PBS show also says that there actually might have been pictures of Oswald entering the Cuban consulate. In the declassified files, we now have the inventory report from the photography station, which reads negative for Oswald. We also have CIA reports from the Agency plants in the Cuban consulate. They were interviewed twice, and both times, they said Oswald was not there. (DiEugenio, ibid, p. 294)

The PBS program relied heavily on three KGB agents under diplomatic cover at the Russian consulate. PBS did so without ever asking them some key questions. Like, why is there no picture of the guy you say Is Oswald either entering or leaving your building? There should be four of those shots. (DiEugenio, ibid, pp. 287-88) They also never posed the question of why did the man the CIA said was Oswald spoke terrible Russian on calls to that consulate. (DiEugenio, p. 288) When in fact, four witnesses who conversed with Oswald said he spoke Russian proficiently: Marina Oswald, George DeMohrenschildt, Ernst Titovets and Rosaleen Quinn.

I could go on about this, but the reader can see my point: PBS and Sullivan constructed a slick edifice that seemed to explore the mysteries of Mexico City, but really did not.

And yet, this was not the worst part of what Sullivan and Russo did. In retrospect the worst part was the game they played with the “Rusty Livingston prints”. I will not go into all this at length since it kind of nauseates me. But specifically, what PBS did with FBI fingerprint expert Sebastian Latona was inexcusable. PBS was determined to have the viewer think that what they produced for them was a new set of fingerprints which incriminated Oswald. For instance, in their 2003 rerun, the PBS narrator said, “The FBI says it never looked at the Dallas police photograph of the fingerprints…”

Yet, in his Warren Commission testimony, Latona said the contrary. He stated that he did examine photos of the trigger guard area sent by the DPD. (WCH, Vol. IV, p. 21) And it was this print that PBS concentrated on as being some kind of revolutionary discovery. But not only was it not new, it is dubious that this was a separate set. For as Pat Speer has written, when one separates the blow ups from the originals it is likely that the number of Livingston photos was really two. And according to Speer, PBS was wrong not only about Latona, but these prints had been examined by both the FBI and HSCA. In each case they were categorized as lacking forensic value. I really do not want to go any further with this because of what it says about two men who have passed on, Sullivan and his print “analyst” Vincent Scalice. I will just advise the reader to click here and scroll down to “The Prints that Got Away” and please read it all the way through.

In his most recent Spy Talk essay, Russo has come out in full-fledged support of Paul Gregory’s new book The Oswalds. But before getting to that, Russo takes a blast at the CAPA Conference in Dallas this last November. What is so odd about this is that he describes it as if he was there. For instance, he states that panels denounced all of the government’s evidence as fake news. He then writes, with pugilistic vehemence, that there was a reverence for New Orleans DA Jim Garrison.

I would like to inform Mr. Russo that there was only one panel during this conference. It did not analyze any evidence. It discussed how the JFK case was treated in schools and colleges. Jim Garrison was not the focus of any panel. Former investigator Steve Jaffe discussed what he did as part of that inquiry for the DA, and he did that via Zoom. In other words, of the 18 speakers, only one talked about Garrison. Which leads one to ask: Was Russo even at the conference? According to the secretary of CAPA he did not register, and if he was there as a walk in, I did not see him. I consulted with two other attendees and they did not see him either. As for his other complaint, again, according to the secretary, Mr. Paul Gregory did not ask to address the conference about his book, The Oswalds.

Russo has fulsome praise for Gregory’s book, The Oswalds. Why does Russo think this rather incomplete book is so worthy? Well, let us take a look at his Spy Talk discussion, in which he previews the book with the following:

  1. Oswald fired a shot at General Edwin Walker
  2. Oswald was going to do away with Vice President Nixon
  3. Oswald killed patrolman J. D. Tippit
  4. Oswald tried to kill Officer McDonald in the Texas Theater

When a writer goes beyond what the Warren Commission accused Oswald of, that should be a huge warning sign. For not even the Commission bought Marina Oswald’s story about having to lock Oswald in the bathroom to stop him from killing Nixon. According to them, the bath locked from the inside, and Nixon was nowhere near Dallas or even announced to be there in the near future. (Jim Marrs, Crossfire, 1st edition, p. 272; Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, pp. 240-41).

As Sylvia Meagher noted, this should have shed doubt on Marina’s other claim: about Oswald shooting at Walker. Because the bullet found at the Walker home was not the type of projectile fired from Oswald’s alleged rifle. It was different in caliber and hue. (DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, p. 101) Further, the best witness, Kirk Coleman, said he saw two men leaving the scene, and neither was Oswald. And they drove separate cars; Oswald supposedly did not have a car, and had no driver’s license. Oswald was never considered a suspect in the Walker shooting while the DPD was inspecting the case. Only when the FBI took over and Robert Frazier now said the projectile fired was a 6.5 mm copper jacketed bullet, only now, seven months later, did Oswald become the chief suspect. (Gerald McKnight, Breach of Trust, p. 49)

As per officer Nick McDonald’s story about Oswald attempting to kill him, I could do no better than refer the reader to Hasan Yusuf’s article, which I believe to be the best exposure of Nick and that issue.

As per the Tippit case, that was dubious since 1967, when writers like Mark Lane and Sylvia Meagher began to poke holes in it. In 2013, Joe McBride published a book length study, Into the Nightmare, that redefined the outlines of that case--I believe forever. Far from Oswald accosting TIppit, the Dallas Police were looking for Oswald. (Please refer especially to Chapters 11-13)

As the reader can see, Russo’s attempts to turn Oswald into something like a cold blooded serial killer--thus establishing his guilt in the Kennedy case—betrays an almost rabid, convict at any cost mentality. And it does not matter to Gus, that he leads with his chin. It is this bombastic bias that allows him to embrace Gregory’s book with both arms, all the while patting Paul on the head.

Gregory does not write about any battering of Marina Oswald by Lee that he himself witnessed. The author relies on reports from the White Russian community. As both James Norwood and Robert Charles Dunne have shown, these are dubious since many of these witnesses were reciting hearsay evidence.(Click here and also here for Dunne's excellent work)

One thing that Russo does not mention that is relevant to the case perhaps more than anything else is this: Oswald liked Kennedy. (HSCA Vol. 2, pp. 209-10, p. 217. P. 279) In fact, when and if David Lifton’s Oswald biography is posthumously published, we will learn that Oswald actually had a picture of JFK in his Dallas apartment. Everything else Russo writes in order to demean Oswald would be strongly challenged in court if Oswald would have had an attorney. This point would not have.

For reasons explained above, Gus Russo lost his way back in 1993 over seeing something that Sebastian Latona did not. I leave it to the reader to decide who was correct on that score.


To see just how bad Russo has become, we need to make a reference to the book he co-wrote with Harry Moses for the Tom Brokaw special in 2013. In his interview with journalist Richard Reeves, Reeves said that it was Kennedy who got the US into Vietnam, not Johnson, and not Nixon. (Where Were You? American Remembers the JFK Assassination, E book version, p. 174)

This is patent nonsense. On the day Kennedy was inaugurated there was not one combat troop in theater. On the day he was killed there still was not one combat troop in theater. That all changed under President Johnson. Within a year of Johnson’s election there were 170,000 combat troops in Vietnam. And the figure went up from there. Peaking under Nixon at 540,000 troops. And Nixon dropped more bomb tonnage in Indochina that Johnson. As many historians have uncovered, for example David Kaiser, Kennedy was getting out at the time of his death, and LBJ reversed that process. (See Kaiser’s book American Tragedy, Chapters 10-14)

Gene Kelly alerted me to an article Gus wrote for the blog in November of 2021. In this piece of nonsense, Russo goes whole hog for the Cuban/Russian angle manipulating both Lee Oswald in Mexico City and also the critical community e.g. Mark Lane.

He then goes after Oliver Stone, saying that he initially consulted for Stone’s film JFK, but withdrew after he read the script. This clashes with what he told me in Dallas in 1992. In a conversation with witness Al Maddox, Russo said he was a consultant on the film. And Jane Rusconi told me that Russo also helped with the Book of the Film. (Click here)

Let us leave Russo with the following sentence he wrote: Oswald was “a serial murderer wannabe and a violent sociopath….that’s what he was.” A serial murderer about whom Bob Tanenbaum, a proficient trial prosecutor, said in JFK Revisited that no jury in the country could convict. I would like to ask Gus: How many homicide cases have you tried to verdict? But I know the answer: Zero.


One of the listeners to Black Op Radio surfaced a video copy of the 2013 NBC special hosted by Tom Brokaw called Where were You? The Day JFK Died.

It was very difficult to locate as I could not find a copy in any library in America, or for sale on Amazon or Ebay. It is almost like NBC wanted it to disappear.

The reason I wanted to see it again was simple. I had a distinct memory about one of the interview subjects, the late journalist Richard Reeves. Reeves wrote a book about John Kennedy called President Kennedy: Profile of Power. The book had a major publisher, Simon and Schuster, and it was published in 1993. I could not finish the book since, as Donald Gibson said to me, “It is a piece of junk.” And there is no doubt it was and is. With what Reeves left out, one could have written another, and much better, book.

Now, why did Brokaw and his reporter Gus Russo want to interview Reeves, and not say, Arthur Schlesinger or Ted Sorenson or Pierre Salinger. These men all knew Kennedy and wrote much better books about the man. This is the likely reason. John Newman’s milestone book, JFK and Vietnam had been integrated into Oliver Stone’s film JFK. And this aspect, Kennedy’s withdrawal plan from Indochina, had a huge impact on a national scale. The message being: If Kennedy had not been killed, there would have been no Vietnam War.

Well, Reeves was there to say the opposite. As the reader can see in the main article above Reeves said that Kennedy got America into Vietnam. How he kept a straight face saying this is remarkable. But on the show he added something to this. Apparently wishing to counteract the import of the October 1963 NSAM 263, in which Kennedy ordered the withdrawal of a thousand troops, Reeves said something that is truly shocking. He said that this order only referred to support staff like cooks etc. This is why I wanted to see the program again. Because I needed to know if I recalled correctly. I did. The quote is utterly false on its face.

For example when Kennedy first instructed Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to brief the press on the order, he told him to tell them it would include helicopter pilots also. (John Newman, JFK and Vietnam, p. 415) If that is not enough, here is a link to NSAM 263. Does military personnel mean cooks to anyone? Finally, one can read the entire McNamara-Taylor report and not find anything close to what Reeves said on the program.

This was really one of the all-time lows ever for the MSM and the JFK case. Which is saying something. But what does one expect from a combination of Russo and Reeves and Brokaw. John Barbour tried to talk to Brokaw when he heard he was producing the program. He told Tom that he had hours of interviews with the late Jim Garrison to show him. Brokaw simply replied, “No Garrison John.”

No Garrison. Instead cooks being withdrawn with NSAM 263 right Tom?

Last modified on Thursday, 02 February 2023 08:05
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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