Thursday, 20 April 2023 15:18

Sy Hersh Falls on his Face Again, Pt. 2

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In Part 2, Jim DiEugenio continues his undressing of Sy Hersh. This time by using the work of John Newman, Lisa Pease and David Talbot to expose the prevarications of his source Sam Halpern, on both Bobby Kennedy and Charles Ford and the plots to kill Castro. We also look at the dubious claims about a 1962 Italy trip by both men and a final look at the problems with his Nord Stream claims.

On March 29th, Sy Hersh was at it again. He wrote about a split between the CIA and the Kennedy White House over the plans to do away with Fidel Castro. In a reversal of the factual record, he makes the Agency out to be reluctant to do such a thing, while the Kennedys were urging the plots forward.

As I wrote in Part 1, this is utterly false. And both the Church Committee and the CIA’s own Inspector General Report proved it so. John Kennedy was so opposed to these kinds of plots that when Senator George Smathers proposed it to him, he literally broke a plate over a table and said he did not want to hear any of this anymore. (Alleged Assassination Plots, p. 124) Smathers also told the Church Committee that the Agency frequently did things Kennedy was not aware of and this troubled the president. He said that JFK thought that assassination was a stupid thing to do, and he wanted to get control of what the CIA was doing. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, p. 329). When one combines this with the fact that the CIA’s own Inspector General Report—which is the most extensive study of the Castro plots—concluded that the Agency never had any presidential approval for the plots, that is the ultimate word. (See IG Report pgs. 132-33) Hersh can rattle on as much as he wants but it’s the equivalent of urinating into the wind.

That IG report was filed for Director Richard Helms at the request of President Johnson. (Click here for it) The Church Committee heard testimony from FBI official Cartha Deloach that, after Johnson read the IG report he concluded that the CIA was involved in the JFK assassination. (Washington Post 12/13/77) Until the Church Committee inquiry, Helms reportedly kept only one copy of this report stashed safely at CIA headquarters. Presumably because he did not want the word to get out that the Agency, under Dick Bissell and Allen Dulles, had sanctioned the plots and kept them secret from Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. In an interview Helms did with Vincent Bugliosi for his book Reclaiming History, the former CIA director said that the Kennedys were not privy to the plots.

All of which vitiates Hersh’s latest piece of nonsense concerning the plots themselves. He says that Richard Helms understood there was no turning down the mission. Since there was no request from the White House to do so, that statement is malarkey. But further, Helms had the plots ongoing on the very day JFK was killed. In preparation for a meeting with a proposed assassin in Paris, Helms cleared a CIA officer to invoke Bobby Kennedy’s name in conduct of the plots, knowing that RFK never granted such permission to do so! (IG Report, pp. 89-93) This would indicate to any objective person that Helms knew Bobby would never allow it and he would have stopped the plots, since he knew how his brother felt about such things. And also, as we shall see, after the CIA told Bobby they had been stopped.

Further showing how wrong Hersh is, the plots did not stop with JFK’s death as he says they did. Helms full well knew they were continuing into 1966. That phase was called Project AM/LASH. And it is listed right in the Inspector General’s table of contents, dates and all. (See pp. 78-111) Therefore, the plots began in 1960, before JFK was president, and continued until 1966, encompassing three presidents who the CIA decided not to reveal them to. So everything that Hersh says in his first two paragraphs of his latest is wrong.

Hersh then goes from just being wrong, to being ridiculous. He actually says he did not really understand this CIA/Kennedy dispute until he talked to—please sit down—CIA officer Sam Halpern. Hersh undermines himself by explaining about Halpern: “…the only reason he ever talked to a reporter was to spread a lie.” Hersh, never noted for his humor, misses the self-parodic overtones here. As Lisa Pease notes in her book, A Lie too Big to Fail, Halpern made sure that his version of the plots reached the media: “In fact, nearly every author that has claimed Robert Kennedy was in on the Castro assassination plots sources Halpern.” (p. 479) As Lisa points out, Halpern once gave his game away. Sam worked for CIA Officer Bill Harvey. Harvey and Halpern complained that the White House only used pinpricks against Castro. Sam, I hate to tell you, assassinating Castro is not a pinprick. (ibid) Needless to add, if you read the IG report, Halpern was in on the AM/LASH plots. As was Nestor Sanchez, assistant to Helms. (IG Report, p. 92)

For any author today to use Sam Halpern in a discussion of this subject betrays a solipsistic bent. Because not only has Lisa Pease shown Halpern to be a liar, but so did David Talbot. (Brothers, pp. 105, 122-23). But beyond that, Halpern was demolished by John Newman with a completeness that was pretty much total. Let us review that demolition in order to understand just how bad Hersh is on this subject.


Newman published Into the Storm back in 2019, four years before Hersh penned his latest columns. I find it hard to comprehend that Hersh never heard of this book and never read it. For the simple reason that Newman, using declassified records, spent four chapters knocking the stuffings out of Hersh’s two sources on the Castro plots, namely Dick Bissell and Halpern.

Sam Halpern was the executive assistant to Harvey, who was a major Agency player in the Cuba operations. It is not news to anyone that—for reasons stated above—Bobby Kennedy and Harvey shared a mutual animus. It also needs to be stated that when Bobby Kennedy was told about these Castro assassination plots, the CIA lied to him about their being discontinued. They were ongoing at the time of his May 1962 briefing and the Agency briefers knew they were lying to the Attorney General. (Newman, pp. 231, 242; Pease pp.481-83) This new phase of the plots was being run by Harvey and gangster John Roselli.

Perhaps as early as 1967, but certainly by the time of the Church Committee, Halpern had created a cover story for the CIA. What is so odd about it is that Halpern’s phony story existed in a mythological netherworld, outside of what had really happened. Which the Church Committee revealed a good deal about.

Sam’s fairy tale was arranged around a deceased CIA officer who Halpern knew and knew well. His name was Charles Ford. To understand what Halpern and Hersh did to him, one must review how and why Ford met Robert Kennedy. This was over two calls that the Attorney General received in the spring of 1962 about goings on in and around Cuba. One dealt with an attorney interested in the legal proceedings against the Bay of Pigs prisoners. The other concerned a group that was encouraging an uprising on the island. RFK called CIA Deputy Director Marshall Carter for assistance and advice on both issues. (Newman, pp. 260-64)

Ford was chosen to consult with RFK on both assignments. On the former, Ford used the alias Charles Fiscalini, assigned by CIA; for the latter it was Don Barton, which was more or less chosen by him. Ford did a satisfactory job in investigating the two assignments. He concluded by telling the Attorney General that neither he, nor the CIA, should be involved in either endeavor. And here is where Newman exposed the Halpern mythology under stadium spotlights.

In his book, The Dark Side of Camelot, Hersh quotes Halpern as saying that Ford went to places like Chicago, San Francisco , Miami and one trip to Canada. But Hersh then adds that Ford never delivered any paperwork as to what he was doing to Harvey’s office. Hersh then quotes Halpern to hammer this point home: “We never got a single solitary piece of written information.” Hersh then concludes by saying these must be in classified files on the RFK papers at the John F. Kennedy Library. (Hersh, p. 287) Under the hocus pocus of Hersh and Halpern, ipso facto, Ford was working with mobsters under Bobby’s orders in order to murder Fidel Castro. And that dirty rat Ford kept it all hidden from the CIA.

Let us be plain: Everything in that above paragraph is false. As Newman discovered, for this assignment, Ford filed at least ten reports with CIA from March 30, 1962 to October 4, 1962. (Newman, pp. 258-260) Many of them went directly to Harvey’s office and Halpern signed off on at least one of them. Therefore, as Newman wrote, Halpern had to be aware of what Ford was actually doing. (Newman, p. 264) But further, Harvey wrote to the Attorney General twice about Ford’s negative conclusions. (ibid, p. 268). There was no secret since there was nothing to conceal.

To any normal thinking person, the above would be enough to show that Halpern was an immoral con artist. But it’s even worse than that. Charles Ford did two interviews with the Church Committee. The first one is lost. (Newman, p. 270). Which is unfortunate since Ford refers to the first interview in the second surviving transcript five times. But in the second interview, Ford says he often got assignments from Halpern. Which is something Halpern never revealed. But further, Ford says that he worked for RFK on just the two assignments as outlined above. And he specifically said he was never directed to make contacts with the underworld. Further, that he never talked to anyone about plans to assassinate Castro. Finally, he reported to Bill Harvey at this time and his title was special assistant. (Newman, pp. 274-75)

As Newman concluded, the idea that Hersh and Halpern were trying to convey—that Ford never told anyone about his work for RFK—is now exposed as simply wrong. Ford told everyone about his work for the Attorney General. As his reports were circulated to many inside the Agency. But because they did not say what Hersh and Halpern wanted them to say, they were useless to the con artist and his (rather easy) mark. Specifically, they would portray what was really happening and expose a fairy tale. And further and fatally: that Halpern knew the true facts all along.

Let us recite a recurring refrain with Hersh: How bad is bad?


What necessitated Bobby Kennedy’s briefing on the CIA/Mafia plots in May 1962? This occurred because Sam Giancana asked a favor from the man the CIA used to recruit the Mob into the plot. That was Robert Maheu. Maheu decided to help Giancana. He found a wiretapper for a hotel room since Sam thought his girlfriend, Phyllis McGuire, was sleeping with comedian Dan Rowan in Vegas. This scheme was foiled by local authorities and the FBI found out about it. When Kennedy was briefed, he asked why Maheu was so interested in pleasing Giancana. This is when he learned about the CIA’s plots for the first time. (Talbot, Brothers, pp 85-86) The rather logical deduction is that the CIA would never have had to brief him if he or his brother had been in on the plots already.

Since Giancana was a number one target for RFK as Attorney General, this made him even more angry at what the CIA had done. But unlike what Hersh suggegsts, Bobby did not stop pursuing Giancana. And Giancana eventually did go to jail for contempt in 1965. When he got out a year later, to avoid more prison time, he fled to Mexico.

This takes us to the next—and most bizarre—part of Hersh’s 3/29 pile of sludge. I had to read this section over twice to really understand it since it was like reading science fiction. As most of us who follow the career of Robert Kennedy know, the AG took a goodwill tour in February of 1962. Hersh distorts this journey also. He tries to convey that it was only to Italy. Not even close. This was a world wide goodwill tour that began in the Far East, went through the Middle East and ended up in Europe. The main point of this long tour was not Italy. Two of the stops were in Indonesia and the Netherlands. RFK was in Jakarta to negotiate the release of CIA pilot Alan Pope, shot down during the failed Agency coup of 1958. He was in Netherlands to talk the Dutch into surrendering West Irian to their former colony Indonesia, since JFK was backing their nationalist leader Sukarno. That mission, which you will not read a word of from Hersh, was successful. The other main spot for Europe was West Germany, where Bobby actually said “Ich bin ein Berliner” before JFK did.

From that mischaracterization, Hersh descends further into his own morass. He now says that RFK went to Italy in January—before the goodwill tour. This writer, and others, tried to find any notice of this January journey. I searched the following sources:

  • New York Times index
  • The Washington Post microfilm
  • RFK’s appointment book

The last was done for me by Abigail Malangone, the archivist at the JFK Library. (E mail message of 4/10/23) It eludes me as to how the Attorney General could go to Italy without a trace left behind. And, recall, back then the major newspapers and syndicates had reporters assigned to the Justice Department, as some of them do today. Bobby lived in Virginia at the time. But no reporter or anyone else saw him leave for Italy? And I could find no story about anyone who saw him in Italy either.

But Hersh now goes a step beyond. He says that Charley Ford was doing the same. John Newman got the records for what Ford was doing. There were none depicting any trip to Sicily. (Newman, pp. 258-60) Ford’s only trip out of the country was to Canada and that was not for RFK, but the CIA. If Hersh has evidence to counter this, I would like to see it. Because John was working with declassified files, the ones Hersh says are still hidden.

Now, why does Hersh say this stuff in the first place? Please allow me to indulge in some informed speculation. But it is based on Hersh’s past record in the field—which goes way back to his Marilyn Monroe baloney. Hersh wants to somehow depict RFK and Ford as fomenting the first Mafia War that broke out in Sicily in January and February of 1962. He actually says as much. But according to the NY Times, Bobby did not get to Rome until late in February. (NY Times, 2/21/1962) Which was after the war began in earnest. (See John Dickie’s book, Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia, pp. 241-57) Hersh pulls another one when he writes that RFK had two days of private meetings in Rome. RFK was only there for two days total. And the second day he met with Pope John XXIII. According to extant CIA records, Ford did not get there at all. Did Hersh take a page out of Sam Halpern’s book of fairy tales? But in this case, going even further than his mentor?

On, lest I forget. Hersh always has sources on the inside. (David Talbot, Brothers, p. 123) We have seen how worthless those sources are in Bissell and Halpern. And we are also supposed to think that Hersh does not know how much the CIA did not like the Kennedys.


To wrap up, on 3/29 Hersh again brings up the false info from the novel Double Cross about Joe Kennedy making a deal with Sam Giancana for the 1960 election. Again, this has been proven to be ersatz. (Click here)

But let me conclude with some questions readers relayed me about the Nord Stream explosions, Hersh’s latest ‘scoop’. Apparently, people did not click through to the links I posted. These were by Rene Tebel, Russ Baker and Oliver Alexander. As Tebel notes, Hersh is again relying on his “sources inside the system” who he takes at face value to write his story, without doing any apparent hard questioning or cross checking. (Geopolitical Monitor, story by Rene Tebel, 3/2/2023) Tebel notes that Hersh insists that the explosives were dropped during a BALTOPS exercise, more than three months before the explosions detonated. Thus ignoring more than one opportunity to do so later without such a long wait time.

For instance, during the Polish exercise Rekin-22 on September 16-18. But Tebel also notes that there were 25 ships passing in the direct or adjunct area of the explosions in the days preceding the detonations. Of those ships only two did not have transponders. These two ships were between 95 and 130 feet long and were within miles of the Nord Stream leak sites.

Russ Baker noted how thinly sourced Hersh’s story was, a recurrent theme in a lot of Hersh’s later work. He later added that news organizations rarely publish such stories. The error rate risk is too high. But yet Hersh wrote as if the story was completely sound. The questions then abound: 1.) How did the source come into all this info?, and 2.) If it is so sound why tell Hersh for Substack, why not reveal it to a writer with a major news organization? When Baker emailed Hersh about this, the reply by Hersh was “Russ…I wrote what I wrote..not much I can add…sy”. Well, same thing applies to much of the above Substack stuff, which I already exposed as dubious.

Baker went on to ask, the kind of high level source that actually knows about such things would likely not reveal it to anyone because of the huge penalties involved in being discovered. Finally, Russ pointed to how vapid the story really was. He quotes the following lines: “Nevertheless, in early 2022, the CIA working group reported back to [Jake] Sullivan’s interagency group: “We have a way to blow up the piplelines.” Russ writes that this sounds like inside info, but anyone could write such a thing not having any real knowledge. There was really very little detail, the kind of technical details that turn speculation into fact. (Russ Baker, “Nord Stream Explosion, Plenty of Gas, Not much Light” Who What Why, March 4, 2023)

Oliver Alexander showed that even those details are simply not very sound. As I previously noted, there was no need to add mine searching to BALTOPS, as it had been a part of the programs since 2019. Hersh could have easily checked that one.

Hersh said on a broadcast that the USA needed Norway in order to reveal the shallow part of the sea. So, the Pentagon had no such charts? Secondly, the Nord Stream 1 explosion was detonated in one of the deepest parts of the area.

Hersh now says that the divers deployed off a Norwegian Alta class mine hunter. Yet no Alta class mine sweepers took part in that particular BALTOPs exercise. Also, Hersh wrote that the charges would be detonated by a Norwegian Navy P8 surveillance plane with a sonar bouy. These planes were not active at that time. They were only in training usage in the northern part of Norway, many hundreds of kilometers away.

When Hersh was confronted with the information about the Alta, he reacted the same way he did when confronted with the forged signature of Janet DeRosiers on the phony Marilyn Monroe trust documents. He lashed out at the source and called it a stupid lie. The problem is that the last time that ship moved under its own power was about ten years ago. It was towed for scrap iron on June of 2022.

Even if Hersh made an error, not uncommon with him, ships close to that class were not in the area at the time or in a position to have planted the charges. (See Oliver Alexander’s “Blowing Holes in Seymour Hersh’s Pipe Dream”.)

Does all this mean that the USA had nothing to do with Nord Stream? No it does not. As I noted, Hersh would be a fine messenger for a faulty story. Since he has no pesky editor. Great way to distract from the real story. But I would also not rule out Ukraine or the Poles.


What I think Hersh is up to with his writings on Substack about the Kennedys is redemption. When The Dark Side of Camelot came out in 1997 it was roundly blasted by just about everyone. And this includes the LA Times, Newsweek, New York Review of Books etc. Most of the stories said that the book revealed more about the Dark Side of Hersh than Kennedy. Which is about the worst thing a critic can say about a book. What I think Hersh is trying to do is to appeal to the ignorance of a new generation of readers born in the Internet age. Whether it will work is up to those readers. And if they are willing to investigate beyond Substack, to see just how bad Sy Hersh is in that case, and some others.

In my view, Hersh was never the ace reporter he was alleged to be. And I wrote at length about the reasons why many years ago. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, pp. 367-70) In my view, the stellar reporter of that time period was Robert Parry. Parry ended up leaving MSM journalism and started his own publication, Consortium News.

The problem with Substack is this: it’s too easy. There is no editor above you to check on the facts of your story. This is one reason that both Glenn Greenwald and Hersh are on it. Greenwald did not like being edited at The Intercept. Hersh could not get some of his stories through David Remnick at The New Yorker. As the reader can see, this article which you are reading—and which you do not pay for—is plentifully referenced with credible sources. I serve as my own editor, since I know from my graduate studies what the rules of scholarship are. This kind of work takes days, at times weeks, sometimes even months, to complete. It’s not something you can turn out every other day. This kind of writing means visiting certain libraries, placing books on Inter Library Loan, driving to distant research repositories—in this case the Young Library at UCLA. Which is about a 40 mile round trip. And I did it twice. I would like to send Hersh my invoice for all this, but I know he would never repay me. He would call me something like a Kennedy apologist, as he did Janet DeRosiers.

The problem with that is simple: DeRosiers was correct. The Marilyn Monroe trust was a fraud. Do those people on Substack know that? I hope so. But I doubt it.


When I emailed Hersh about his source for Bobby Kennedy’s Italy trip in January of 1962, he asked who I was. He then said he was doing so because it was obvious from the article. I asked him if it was so obvious why could I find no source for it anywhere? That was the last communication we had. I guess this is one of those Russ Baker, “I wrote what I wrote” matters.

Go to Part 1

Last modified on Thursday, 27 April 2023 16:12
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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