Hal Hendrix

Hal Hendrix

Harold (Hal) Hendrix was born in 1922. He was educated at Rockhurst University before joining The Kansas City Star in 1944. Initially a local news reporter, he eventually covered Latin America.

In 1957 he was recruited by The Miami News. He specialized in Latin American affairs. The authors of Deadly Secrets: The CIA-Mafia War Against Castro and the Assassination of JFK (1992) reported that a former JM/WAVE agent recalled: "A paper like the Miami Herald would have one or two reporters with jurisdiction for Cuba, and we would give them access to the station. So we would feed them information and give them a career out of handouts. The guys learn not to hurt you. Only occasionally do you give them a big lie, and then only for a good reason. The paper was always willing to keep things quiet for us."

Other journalists nicknamed Hendrix the "Spook" because they suspected he was being provided with information from the Central Intelligence Agency. Some years later, the Senate Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations discovered that Hendrix was used by the CIA during the late 1950s and early 1960s to write "black propaganda" against Fidel Castro.

Cuban Missile Crisis

In October, 1962, Hendrix reported on the Cuban Missile Crisis. According to William Pawley, Hendrix was fed information by Ted Shackley, the CIA chief in Miami (quoted by David Corn in his book, Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades). As a result Hendrix wrote a number of articles on the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The following year he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism as a result of his reports on Cuba.

Henry Luce and Clare Booth Luce were strong opponents of Fidel Castro and his revolutionary government in Cuba. They joined forces with Hal Hendrix, Paul Bethel, William Pawley, Virginia Prewett, Dickey Chapelle, Edward Teller, Arleigh Burke, Dickey Chapelle, Leo Cherne, Ernest Cuneo, Sidney Hook, Hans Morgenthau and Frank Tannenbaum to form the Citizens Committee to Free Cuba (CCFC). On 25th March, 1963, the CCFC issued a statement: "The Committee is nonpartisan. It believes that Cuba is an issue that transcends party differences, and that its solution requires the kind of national unity we have always manifested at moments of great crisis. This belief is reflected in the broad and representative membership of the Committee."

Hal Hendrix - CIA Asset

In September, 1963, Hendrix joined Scripps-Howard News Service as a Latin American specialist. Instead of moving to Washington he remained in Miami "where his contacts were". In an article on 24th September, 1963, Hendrix was able to describe and justify the coup that overthrew Juan Bosch, the president of Dominican Republic. The only problem was the coup took place on the 25th September. Some journalists claimed that Hendrix must have got this information from the CIA.

A few hours after John F. Kennedy had been killed, Hendrix provided background information to a colleague, Seth Kantor, about Lee Harvey Oswald. This included details of his defection to the Soviet Union and his work for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. This surprised Kantor because he had this information before it was released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation later that evening.

However, Jeff Morley has pointed out that there is another explanation for this story. "A tape of the WDSU radio debate was first played on the air by NBC television at 3:30 Central Time (4:30 Eastern) on November 22. So the imputation that Hendrix had some inside knowledge is not confirmed. He could have gotten the information about the WDSU debate that he relayed to Kantor from watching TV."

In her book, A Farewell to Justice (2005) Joan Mellen argues that Hal Hendrix was one of a group of journalists in Miamia working for the CIA. Mellen claims that Don Bohning was given the code-name AMCARBON-3. On 8th September, 2005, Larry Hancock speculated on the Education Forum that whereas Bohning was AMCARBON-3, Hal Hendrix was AMCARBON-1 and Al Burt, also a journalist at the Miami Herald, was AMCARBON-2.

Hendrix left the Scripps-Howard News Service in 1966 and went to work for the International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation, as director of inter-American relations in Buenos Aires. Officially, Hendrix worked in public relations but according to Thomas Powers, "he was something in the way of being a secret operative for the company". Later Hendrix moved to ITT's world headquarters in New York City.

In 1970 ITT sent Hendrix to represent the company in Chile. On 4th September, 1970, Salvador Allende was elected as president of the country. Hendrix was disturbed by this development as Allende had threatened to nationalize $150 million worth of ITT assets in Chile if he won the election. It later emerged that Hendrix worked with the CIA in the overthrow of Allende. His CIA contact during the Chile operation was David Atlee Phillips.

On 20th March, 1973, Hendrix gave evidence before Frank Church and his Multinational Corporations Subcommittee. He denied ever being a paid agent of the CIA. However, an investigation by Justice Department lawyer Walter May discovered documents that showed that Hendrix had lied when interviewed by Church's committee. Hendrix was allowed to plead guilty to lying under oath (which cost him a $100 fine and a one-month suspended sentence) in return for his cooperation with the Justice Department in its pursuit of perjury charges against higher-ranking ITT and CIA officials in the Chile matter.

According to editor David W. Dent, the author of U.S. - Latin American Policymaking: A Reference Handbook (1995), a CIA official told The New York Times in 1977 that Hendrix was an agency "asset." Hendrix responded that he simply had a "normal journalistic relationship" with the CIA.

Hal Hendrix died aged 92 in Vero Beach, on 12th Febuary, 2015.

Primary Sources

(1) Seth Kantor, Who Was Jack Ruby (1978)

Some of the more disrespectful reporters in Scripps-Howard's Washington bureau referred to Hendrix as "The Spook", because of the handouts he reputedly took from the CIA.

Some years later, information received by the Senate Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations was that Hendrix had been into "black propaganda" during the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Castro was establishing and strengthening his power base in Cuba. Black propaganda is a CIA term for political stories, not necessarily supported by fact, floated to hurt "the other side."

Perhaps Hendrix was not a black propagandist, but here is an example in an article he wrote, November 11, 1964, of his approach. The article dealt with the success of "spontaneous" sabotage "which increases Castro's inability to cope with communist Cuba's steady economic disintegration." In the article, Hendrix quoted unnamed Cuban escapees who were praising the work of saboteurs smuggled into Cuba, but "they add bitterly that considerably more could be done to make life increasingly miserable for Castro if infiltration and raiding parties were not harassed by both British and United States authorities."

It was about 6 p.m., November 22, 1963, when I telephoned Hendrix at his Coral Gables home, apologizing because I had to place the call collect from the Dallas police station. He said that was no problem, and he was preparing to embark immediately on a trip into Latin America; otherwise he would be writing the information he was about to give me himself.

The information he gave me, according to my notes, concerned details of Lee Harvey Oswald's past, particularly Oswald's time span in Russia and his later connection with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans. Hendrix gave me a bunch of knowledgeable background on Oswald's appearance on New Orleans radio station WDSU, the previous August. In a show moderated by William Kirk Stuckey, Oswald had debated Carlos Bringuier, an anti-Castro activist and Cuban refugee. On the show, Oswald had been sharply critical of U.S. intolerance of the Castro government.

(2) Warren Hinckle & William Turner, Deadly Secrets: The CIA-Mafia War Against Castro and the Assassination of JFK (1992)

The Miami newspapers remained as obliging as during the Bay of Pigs preparations. A former JM/WAVE agent recalled: "A paper like the Miami Herald would have one or two reporters with jurisdiction for Cuba, and we would give them access to the station. So we would feed them information and give them a career out of handouts. The guys learn not to hurt you. Only occasionally do you give them a big lie, and then only for a good reason. The paper was always willing to keep things quiet for us." At the smaller Miami News the editor, Bill Boggs, was a close friend of the Kennedys, and the chief Latin American reporter, Hal Hendrix was close to the CIA.

(3) Anthony Summers, The Kennedy Conspiracy (2002)

In 1975 a distinguished Washington newspaper correspondent, Seth Kantor, discovered that the FBI was continuing to suppress 1133 and was bemused to find that the document was a record of his own phone calls from Dallas on the afternoon of the assassination. The journalist found that the official reason for turning his calls into a state secret was that public disclosure "might reveal the identity of confidential sources of information...." Kantor began an intensive effort to get the document released and crosschecked with his own notes of that afternoon, which he had kept. In the end he was given the document, which appeared to contain the less-thanworld-shaking information that Kantor had placed phone calls from Dallas City Hall, Parkland Hospital, and the airport at Love Field. Kantor's notes finally revealed that one of the calls he made was to a Florida number, Coral Gables MO 5-6473. This was the number of Hal Hendrix, a Miami journalist, also working for Kantor's newspaper group, who was offering information on Oswald. Hendrix, on the afternoon of the assassination, was able to give Kantor details of Oswald's past, his defection to Russia, and his pro-Castro activities on his return-information that would become common knowledge soon enough, but the Hendrix call has a special significance. He was no ordinary journalist.

Hendrix had won a Pulitzer Prize earlier in 1963 for his coverage of the Cuban missile crisis, and in autumn that year he excelled himself again. In September, he predicted the coup that ousted the pro-Kennedy President Bosch of the Dominican Republic. Hendrix appeared to have an inside track, for he wrote of a coup twenty-four hours before it happened. A key advantage Hendrix had, reportedly, was a CIA source at Homestead Air Force Base, south of Miami. In the months and years to come, Hendrix became known as "The Spook" to his Washington colleagues because of his phenomenal relations with American intelligence. In 1976 he pleaded guilty to withholding information from a Senate committee investigating links between multinational corporations and the CIA. He had lied to the committee with the collusion of the CIA and had concealed his access to CIA information. This was the man who knew so much about Lee Oswald on the afternoon of November 22, 1963.

(4) Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (1993)

The trail that led from Maurice Bishop to Virginia Prewett to the Citizens Committee to Free Cuba produced another individual with close ties to David Phillips. In 1961, when Phillips was handling the propaganda desk for the Bay of Pigs operation and, as such,was in constant contact with friendly media types, there was a reporter on the Miami News named Hal Hendrix, whose coverage of the invasion seemed to be deeper and more detailed than any other journalist's, local or national. In 1962, Hendrix's coverage of the Cuban missile crisis was so penetrating and insightful it garnered his paper a Pulitzer Prize. The next year Hendrix got himself promoted to a more prestigious job, covering Latin America for the Scripps-Howard News Service. Still based in Miami, Hendrix's sources remained quite extraordinary. In a piece for Scripps-Howard dated September 23rd, 1963, Hendrix wrote a colorful and detailed description of the coup that toppled Juan Bosch, the leftist president of the Dominican Republic. If Hendrix's report didn't come from inside sources, it was an amazing display of clairvoyance-the coup didn't take place until the following day. Hendrix's close ties with the CIA were so apparent that, according to one staffer, he was sometimes referred to in Scripps-Howard's Washington office as "The Spook." However, that wasn't something Seth Kantor particularly remembered when he called Hendrix in Coral Gables on the afternoon of November 22nd, 1963.

Seth Kantor was the Scripps-Howard representative in the President's press corps that tragic and chaotic day in Dallas. The weight of the news service's coverage fell especially heavy on Kantor because he had worked for a Dallas newspaper and knew the locals. (One local he knew was Jack Ruby. Kantor had met and spoken with Ruby at Parkland Hospital moments before Kennedy was pronounced dead. Ruby later denied he was there and the Warren Commission, eager to squelch any evidence that Ruby's shooting of Oswald wasn't spontaneous, concluded that Kantor was mistaken.) After Oswald was arrested, Kantor checked in with his managing editor in the Washington office and was told to call Hal Hendrix at home in Florida. Hendrix was leaving for an assignment in Latin America, Kantor was told, but had some background information on Oswald he wanted to relay. Kantor called him and Hendrix provided a detailed briefing about Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union and about his activities in New Orleans handing out pro-Castro leaflets. Calling from the hectic Dallas police station, Kantor was too busy with what he was hastily scribbling to bother asking Hendrix where he had gotten the information-or how he had gotten it so soon after Oswald had been arrested and connected to the assassination.

Seth Kantor didn't recognize the significance of what had occurred until years later-although the Government obviously did much sooner. When the Warren Commission published its volumes of evidence it included a document listing the FBI's checks of telephone calls Kantor had made that day. The document, however, was based on an FBI report that was not released. Listed in the original FBI report, but not in the document published in the Warren Commission's volumes of evidence, was Kantor's call to Hal Hendrix. Why had that call to Hendrix been purged?

Some years later, Hendrix went to work for the International Telephone & Telegraph Corporation in Chile. In 1973, a Senate Multinational Corporations Subcommittee began looking at the role the CIA and ITT played in trying to prevent the election of socialist Salvador Allende in 1970. Under oath, Hendrix was asked about the source of a cable he sent to an ITT vice president notifying him that the American Ambassador in Chile had received a green light from the Nixon White House giving him "maximum authority to do all possible-short of a Dominican Republic-type action-to keep Allende from taking power." The cable also said that the Chilean army had been assured of "full material and financial assistance by the U.S." and that ITT had pledged financial support to the anti-Allende forces. As the Church Committee would later learn, David Phillips was in charge of the CIA's anti-Allende operation. But when asked during the 1973 probe about the source of the cable, Hendrix told the Senate investigators that his source was "a Chilean who was a personal friend." He lied. Three years later, a CIA cable was discovered that revealed not only that Hendrix's source was a CIA officer but that the Agency knew he was going to lie. Hey, what are friends for?

On March 23rd, 1978, I wrote a memo to Chief Counsel Blakey about Hal Hendrix. A front-page story in the Washington Post revealed that two executives with ITT had been charged in connection with the Government's probe of CIA ventures in Chile, and that Hendrix had become a Government witness. My memo noted: "The two ITT aides are now charged with conspiring with Hendrix to block the Senate investigation of charges that ITT worked with the CIA to fund opponents of Allende in 1970. Last year, Hendrix pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge after being indicted for perjury in his Senate testimony. I suggest it is a most opportune time to subpoena Hendrix before our Committee in the hope of getting some valuable information from him. Considering his recent experience, Hendrix might respond more validly to a subpoenaed interrogation than he would to informal questioning...."

I had figured, considering Hendrix's propensity to lie about his CIA activities, there was little chance of his telling the truth. Now, however, having been caught lying once, the pressure to tell the truth under oath might produce valuable evidence, both regarding his knowledge of Oswald's activities and his relationship with David Phillips. I considered Hendrix an extremely important witness.

Unfortunately, it wasn't a good time to ask Blakey to continue pursuing the evidence that pointed to the intelligence community because he was deeply involved in structuring the Committee's public hearings with their accent on Organized Crime. There was never any response to my Hendrix memo.

(5) Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets (1979)

An early focus of the inquiry was Harold Hendrix, the former Miami News reporter who had joined ITT in 1967 and who was sometimes called "Whispering Hal" by acquaintances for the sound of his voice after a throat operation. In 1970 Hendrix had represented ITT in Chile, where he had been at the heart of ITT efforts to block Allende's election. Grand jury testimony by CIA officers, as well as cables and internal memorandums subpoenaed from the Agency, allegedly turned up evidence not only of ITT's anti-Allende campaign but of plans to hide the facts in 1972 and early 1973, after it became known that Senator Church's committee on multinationals planned hearings on the Chilean episode. Hendrix was reportedly afraid the ITT-CIA connection of 1970 would emerge during the Church Committee's hearings, and he asked the CIA how he should handle the matter.

(6) David Corn, Blond Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA's Crusades (1994)

On a winter's day, Shackley drove to Capitol Hill for unpleasant business. In Church's office, Levinson and Blum were amused to meet this man. Levinson had heard from his CIA contacts that some spooks referred to the blond fellow sitting across from him as the "Butcher of Laos." He looked more like an uptight businessman-tough, but no secret agent. He was stiff, no-nonsense all the way. He made no small talk. He was there to discuss the ground rules for what would be a historic occasion: the public testimony of a CIA officer.

Shackley was not taking this well. "He was very nasty," Levinson recalled. "He thought this was all a great mistake. We had to keep reminding him that we had an agreement." Helms for William Broethat was the deal. Shackley kept attempting to set limits on what the subcommittee could ask Broe. The committee lawyers did not accept his conditions. When they said, here are the questions Broe must answer, Shackley could not say no.

But there was something that Shackley could do: rig the information provided to the subcommittee. His all-important task was to preserve the cover story that while senior officers of ITT and the CIA in the United States had brainstormed on how to get rid of Allende-the ITT documents were irrefutable-CIA and ITT men in the field had not schemed together. Shackley could only do that with the cooperation of Hal Hendrix and Robert Berrellez, exnewspapermen on the ITT payroll, who had been in contact with the CIA in Chile in 1970. Fortunately, he had a close tie with one. Hendrix was the former Miami News correspondent who supposedly had used information from Shackley to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning articles on the missiles in Cuba.

The subcommittee was interested in what Hendrix and Berrellez had to say about CIA-ITT collusion. As Jack Anderson had reported, the two in September of 1970 had sent a report to ITT executives noting that U.S. Ambassador to Chile Edward Korry had received a "green light" from Nixon to block Allende's election. Levinson and Blum were curious how the ITT men had learned this. The investigators suspected that the source for the cable included local CIA officers, and they believed the cable was proof the CIA and ITT in Chile had cooperated in anti-Allende activities.

For Shackley, it was crucial to keep Church's investigators far from any trail that led them toward the highly secret doings of the very active station in Santiago, Chile. Hendrix's talks with station chief Henry Hecksher were not more scandalous than those in the United States between Broe and ITT corporate executives. But if the subcommittee started to delve into Agency actions in Chile, the CIA would be in deep trouble. At almost any cost, that had to be prevented.

Shackley assigned the case to Jonathan Hanke, chief of covert action for the division. He told Hanke to advise Hendrix what to say when called to testify. Jim Flannery, the deputy chief of the division, opposed sending Hanke to contact Hendrix. Let's stay away from Hendrix, he argued, so there is not even the appearance of collusion. Shackley ignored Flannery's recommendation. Shackley "insisted," Flannery recalled, "we were not telling [Hendrix] what to do. `They're just steering tips,' he said. That was b.s. It was part of his ability, if he deemed something to be useful, to resort to moral or legalistic sleight of hand." Shackley was conspiring to mislead Congress.

Hendrix told Shackley's emissary not to worry. He would deny to the subcommittee that he had learned of the "green light" from Hecksher. Hanke also contacted Berrellez, who also promised to falsely tell the subcommittee he had not known any CIA officers in Latin America. In early February of 1973, Hendrix and Berrellez met with Levinson and Blum of the Church subcommittee. As Shackley hoped, the pair said they had no contact with the CIA in Chile.

(7) Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked (2006)

Hal Hendrix was supportive of CIA agendas for well over a decade, from Miami to South America, but he and David Phillips were often at odds with the Kennedy Administration and the President. Hendrix's own agenda can be seen in a November 1963 story containing quotations that he attributed to unnamed Cuban escapees. The story described the success of spontaneous Cuban sabotage efforts "which increase Castro's inability to cope with Communist Cuba's steady economic disintegration." He continued, "considerably more could be done to make life increasingly miserable for Castro if infiltration and raiding parties were not harassed by both British and United States authorities." This was written at a time when the Administration, the Special Group, and supposedly JM/WAVE were doing everything in their power to shut down independent exile actions, and receiving extensive media criticism for this policy from all the elements of the Luce-Phillips media network.

Seth Kantor's interest in Hal Hendrix began on November 22,1963. Kantor called his home office at Scripps-Howard after the arrest of Lee Oswald and was told that his best source of information on Oswald would be Hal Hendrix in Miami. When Kantor contacted Hendrix he found that the latter had a wealth of information on Oswald's time in Russia, his connection with the Fair Play For Cuba Committee and all the details of Oswald's activities in New Orleans including the radio debate. Although New Orleans was not on Hendrix's Latin America beat, it seems that for some reason his sources had kept him fully briefed on Lee Oswald. In fact, Hendrix had intmediateli/ contacted Scripps-Howard after the assassination and made them aware that he had Oswald's background for anyone who might need it.

Hendrix was only one cog in the CIA media network that was developed in the early 60s. The anti-Communist media that Phillips could reach stretched from Hendrix and Scripps-Howard to influential editorialists such as Virginia Prewett in Washington, D.C. and, via Claire Booth Luce and her husband, the entire Luce owned Time-Life network. An outline of the network can be seen in the more well known members of the Citizens' Committee to Free Cuba founded and led by Paul Bethel, Phillips' old friend from Havana. The Citizens' Committee to Free Cuba included William Pawley (of the Bayo-Pawley mission), Claire Booth Luce (of the Life sponsored and front-page featured Alpha 66 raids against Russian targets in Cuba), Hal Hendrix, Virginia Prewett and Ernest Cuneo of the North American Newspaper Alliance. Cuneo, an OSS veteran had also served as an unregistered agent for the Chinese Nationalist government and was well-connected to Drew Pearson. The politics of all these individuals was aggressively anti-Castro and anti-Communist. They are probably best summarized in a book which Bethel wrote in 1969 entitled The Losers, a book which identified John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, as well as certain State Department and CIA personnel as facilitating the Communist agenda."

(8) Howard Cohen, The Miami Herald (16th March, 2015)

Harold “Hal” Hendrix may have owed part of the success he had in his career as a Latin American correspondent to the swallowing of an open safety pin as an infant.

Doctors were not geared to do tracheotomies on infants in 1923 Richmond, Missouri, when Hendrix was 1. But his family found a trailblazing doctor who performed the operation to remove the pin. The procedure, however, damaged his vocal box, leaving Hendrix with a distinct rasp, not unlike laryngitis.

“In the long run that voice was an advantage for him. People in Latin America remembered him. People knew immediately who he was,” said his daughter Kathy Hendrix....

While at the Miami News, he covered Cuba extensively and was the first American journalist to report that there were Soviet missiles on the island. He reported this two weeks before the Kennedy administration made its radio and television announcement about the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962.

Hendrix earned the Pulitzer Prize in 1963 for International Reporting for his series of articles on Cuba. According to editor David Dent's U.S.-Latin American Policymaking: A Reference Handbook (Greenwood; $126) in 1995, a CIA official told The New York Times in 1977 that Hendrix was an agency "asset." Hendrix responded that he simply had a "normal journalistic relationship" with the CIA.

The Pulitzer news took awhile to reach Hendrix, who also covered Haiti, Panama, Guatemala and Venezuela during this era.

"When he won the Pulitzer he was one of the last people to find out because he was in the Dominican Republic covering a coup and there was a curfew for reporters at the hotel. By 7, it was impossible to get a call through so he didn't know about it for three days. My mother told him," Kathy Hendrix said.

Hendrix left the Miami News for Scripps Howard News Service to become its Latin American correspondent but he balked at working out of Scripps' Washington offices.

"He was the only correspondent not based in Washington and that was almost a deal-killer," his daughter said. "Dad made a point that the Cuban community in Miami made it worthwhile for him to stay in Miami and it was easier to get to Latin America from Miami. The Miami Herald gave him office space for the use of his column."

By the late '60s, the constant travel to chase stories and a journalist's pay pushed Hendrix to accept a position as director of public relations for Latin America with International Telephone and Telegraph Company. He lived with his late wife, Pat, and daughter, who survives him, in Buenos Aires for a few years before a transfer to New York.