Friday, 03 August 2007 17:44

BBC RFK Update

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An update on the BBC Report on RFK's assassination concerning claims that Gordon Campbell, George Johannides and David Morales were present in the Ambassador Hotel that evening.

June 2007

In David Talbot's new book Brothers he reveals that both he and Jefferson Morley of the Washington Post Online did a follow up inquiry on the Shane O'Sullivan report with the BBC. The investigation was commissioned by The New Yorker. According to Talbot's book, the pair traveled widely, "interviewing dozens of relatives, friends and former colleagues" of their principal subjects (p. 397). They discovered that Gordon Campbell "died in 1962, making it impossible for him to have been filmed in 1968 at the Ambassador Hotel" (Ibid). In an interview with Rex Bradford Talbot revealed that they had also attained good photos of both Morales and Joannides taken around the 1968 time period. When they were compared to the BBC Ambassador Hotel footage, it was evident that they did not match. Or as Talbot told Bradford, "'s simply not the man caught on camera at the Ambassador."

Interestingly, the New Yorker decided against publishing an article based on this work. Talbot, as of yet, has not revealed the reasons behind this curious decision.

The BBC RFK Report

February 2007

On November 20, 2006, the British Broadcasting Corporation showed a 15-minute report about the Robert Kennedy assassination. Put together by Shane O'Sullivan, it is supposed to be part of a longer documentary work-in-progress.

The BBC report began with the late Larry Teeter, former attorney for Sirhan Sirhan, going over the autopsy evidence in the Robert Kennedy case. As most people know, this evidence strongly indicates a conspiracy. The report then used some photographs and films to present the case that there were three CIA officers at the Ambassador Hotel the night RFK was killed. They were identified as David Morales, Gordon Campbell, and George Joannides. All three men are known to have worked out of the infamous Miami CIA station codenamed JM/WAVE in the sixties.

The basis for the photo identifications were four men who had interacted with the trio in the sixties and seventies. Wayne Smith, a former State Department employee, worked with Morales when Smith was stationed in Cuba in the late fifties and sixties. Ed Lopez, a former investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, interacted with Joannides in the seventies when the latter was the CIA liaison to the Committee. Brad Ayers, who worked out of JM/WAVE in the early sixites, identified Campbell and Morales. And another CIA operative, David Rabern, also identified Morales since he knew him at that same time. Rabern says he was actually at the Ambassador that night and added that he recalled Morales talking to Campbell, even though he did not know who Campbell was at the time.

The BBC special is designed to give the impression that O'Sullivan discovered these photos and put together this evidence. But if you take a look at the entry for Brad Ayers on the JFK Research Forum on the Spartacus site, you will learn that Ayers told Jeremy Gunn of the Assassination Records Review Board back in 1995 that he had a "credible witness who can put David Morales inside the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of June 5, 1968." It seems that Ayers is clearly referring to Rabern here. O'Sullivan does not make it clear that he knew this in advance. He seems to indicate that Ayers led him to Rabern. But if that is the case then Ayers already knew that Rabern would make the ID. Further, Ayers was predisposed to making the Morales ID himself since he found Rabern credible at the much earlier date. The Campbell identification is totally reliant on Ayers, since Rabern did not seem to know who he was in 1968.

The BBC report also included a short interview with Robert Walton. Walton first appeared in Gaeton Fonzi's memoir about his HSCA experience entitled The Last Investigation. And for all intents and purposes that book, published in 1993, is where Morales first figured in any significant way in the JFK case. Fonzi mentions Ayers there and talks about some investigatory work Ayers did on his former colleague Morales. Fonzi concluded his section on Morales by introducing Walton. Walton, who did some legal work for Morales, related a story in which he was drinking with Morales one night. President Kennedy's name came up and Morales exploded in anger at what Kennedy had done to the Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs. The tirade concluded with the following line: "Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn't we?" (Fonzi, p. 390)

The source given by Fonzi for this quote is Walton. But in the BBC special this quote is now expanded in both length and reference points. Walton now states that Morales said he was in Dallas when "we got that mother fucker and in LA when we got that little fucker." This is a serious revision of the original comment since it now means that Morales was actually on the scene in not just one place for one assassination but in both. It is hard to believe that Fonzi would not have recorded and printed the much more specific quote back in 1993. But the altered quote does jibe with what the BBC report is now saying.

Ever since Fonzi's book came out, the Morales angle has had a strong influence on the literature. For example, Noel Twyman in Bloody Treason spent a lot of time examining what Morales did with the CIA. And Morales is also mentioned a lot in that bloated piece of pap, Ultimate Sacrifice. But this is the first time in a printed or broadcast report that a named witness connected him to the RFK case.

Ayers has been obsessed with Morales for a long time. As Lisa Pease notes on her Real History blog, he once tried to convince her and myself that Morales was involved in the MLK case. But he did not tell us at the time about Morales and the RFK case and he never mentioned David Rabern. If one believes Ayers, then Morales was somehow involved with the murders of JFK, MLK, and RFK. He told us that he thought Morales actually ran the street operation in Dealey Plaza. But, strangely, it was not for the CIA. Back then he thought it was for Barry Goldwater and he linked this to the notorious 1976 murder of Arizona reporter Don Bolles. It was somehow a way for Goldwater to get elected in 1964.

An interesting question is why was Rabern at the Ambassador that night? If he was a covert operator, was he from the liberal wing of the CIA who supported RFK? And how does he remember Campbell so clearly talking to Morales if he did not know who Campbell was back in 1968? If one takes this report at face value, there were four CIA operatives at the Ambassador that night. All out in the open in the midst of cameras, film equipment, and tape recorders. And if Rabern recognized Morales, didn't Morales recognize Rabern? If so, what did he say to him?

Now, the BBC report has stirred at least two reactions. Mel Ayton, a British anti-conspiracy author, wrote up a reply about a week later, and updated it a week after that. The first part of his response is worthless since it uses the shameful work of Dan Moldea to respond to the points made by Teeter. But he does bring up some notable disagreement with the photo identifications. For instance, Dan Hardway who worked with Lopez at the HSCA did not identify Joannides in the pictures. He said his encounter with him was too long ago for him to venture an opinion on the matter. Ayton says he talked to Grayston Lynch, who also worked out of JM/WAVE and knew Campbell. Ayton writes, "According to Lynch the man in the LAPD film footage is not Campbell." Ayton also quotes a man named Col. Manuel Chavez who worked with Morales for a period of time in 1964. Chavez says the man depicted in the special "does not look like Dave Morales."

Now the above does not mean that the BBC special is wrong, but it does point up the problems with using photo identification as a tool to solve a crime. Tony Summers chimed in on this point by saying, "Photographs and photographic recognition are infamously unreliable, especially coming from witnesses so long after an event." I should point out that in the JFK case, the photo identifications of the three tramps in Dealey Plaza have been a continual source of error and embarrassment. As has the alleged identification of Joseph Milteer along the motorcade route.

In speaking with author David Talbot, he and Jefferson Morley were commissioned by The New Yorker to do a follow up story on the BBC report. Talbot has been working for years on a book about Robert Kennedy. The New Yorker got hold of a galley proof of his long-awaited book and they were impressed. They are going to excerpt the book and also do a supplementary report on this alleged identification. This report is scheduled to run in May. Hopefully Morley and Talbot will be able to do more ground work on the matter. Like, for example, finding the three CIA officers next of kin and asking if they were with them on that rather memorable night.

Last modified on Saturday, 08 October 2016 16:09
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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