Seymour Hersh

Seymour Hersh

Seymour Myron Hersh was born in Chicago on 8th April, 1937. After graduating from the University of Chicago he became a police reporter. Later he worked as a journalist for the United Press International and the Associated Press.

Hersh reported on the Vietnam War and in 1969 exposed the My Lai Massacre. As a result of this work Hersh received the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. Hersh also published two books on the subject, My Lai 4: A Report on the Massacre and Its Aftermath (1970) and Cover-up: the Army's Secret Investigation of the Massacre at My Lai 4 (1972).

In 1972 Hersh began working for the New York Times. He also became a regular contributor to The New Yorker. A book on Henry Kissinger, entitled, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, appeared in 1983. Other books by Hersh includes: The Target Is Destroyed: What Really Happened to Flight 007 and What America Knew About It (1986) and The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (1991).

Hersh also wrote a book on John F. Kennedy. His book, The Dark Side of Camelot (1997), looked at his relationship with Lyndon B. Johnson and the scandals surrounding Kennedy including those involving Bobby Baker, Ellen Rometsch, Don B. Reynolds, Johnny Roselli, Judith Campbell, Santo Trafficante and Grant Stockdale.

Other books by Hersh include Against All Enemies: Gulf War Syndrome: The War Between America's Ailing Veterans and Their Government (1998) and Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (2004).

Primary Sources

(1) Seymour Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot (1997)

Bobby Kennedy soon had more on his mind than the Journal American and its uncooperative reporters. On July 3 Hoover informed him of yet another allegation about his brother-one involving Ellen Rometsch. Hoover reported, according to a summary written by Courtney Evans to an assistant FBI director, that a sometime bureau informant had spent time with Rometsch and been told that she was having "illicit relations with highly placed governmental officials." That phrase, Evans and Bobby Kennedy had to assume, included the president. There was an ominous new factor in Hoover's revelation, however: "Rometsch is alleged," Evans quoted Hoover as saying, "to be from East Germany and to have formerly worked for Walter Ulbricht," the communist leader of East Germany. The Profumo affair had arrived in Washington.

Bobby Kennedy quickly sought to minimize the report, telling Evans that "he was appreciative of the Director's sending this information to him on a confidential basis, and there always are allegations about prominent people that they are either homosexuals or promiscuous." But the attorney general was anything but casual about Hoover's allegation. "It was noted," Evans said in a memorandum to Hoover, "that the AG made particular note of Rometsch's name." Bobby Kennedy also expressed "his appreciation," Evans said, for the FBI's discretion in handling the matter.

That summer, the FBI's counterintelligence division opened an investigation into Rometsch as a possible spy. "I knew the allegations," Raymond Wannell, head of FBI counterintelligence, said in a 1997 interview for this book. "I knew it was a serious matter. I didn't know if they were proved" or disproved.

The Kennedy brothers did not wait for the FBI's report. On August 21, 1963, Rometsch was abruptly deported to Germany, at the official request of the State Department. She was escorted home by LaVern Duffy, one of Bobby Kennedy's associates from his days on the Senate Rackets Committee; the two flew to Germany on a U.S. Air Force transport plane. There are no known records documenting her departure, according to the State Department. Rolf Rometsch left the country a few days later; he was granted a divorce in late September on grounds of his wife's "relations with other men."

Duffy, a lifelong bachelor who died in 1992, had been dating Rometsch for months before she was deported; he was seen having drinks with her in the summer of 1963 at the Quorum Club. It was that connection, apparently, that prompted Bobby Kennedy to ask for Duffy's help in getting Rometsch out of Washington and in keeping her quiet. There is much evidence that Rometsch and Duffy were in love. Over the next few months, Rometsch sent Duffy a series of passionate letters, expressing her deep feelings about him - and also thanking him for sending her money. One of Rometsch's letters, dated April 8, 1964, and made available for this book, urged Duffy to send her money by personal check rather than by money order. "Which way you send it is up to you," Rometsch wrote in her fractured English. "The bank is telling me that it would be more easy for them and the money would be fester in my hands if you should make up a check payable to me. You ask your Bank about it. It was not clear whether Rometsch was referring to a token gift from Duffy or a substantial transfer of funds. money.

(2) Seymour Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot (1997)

In September newspapers and magazines began unraveling a seamy story of Baker's financial ties to a fast-growing vending machine company. Baker and a group of investors, it turned out, had been awarded many contracts while the new company was still being organized, and had also received instant credit from a bank controlled by Democratic senator Robert Kerr, of Oklahoma, and his family. By October the Baker scandal had turned into a newspaper tempest, and reporters were beginning to dig up dirt on a number of present and past senators - including Baker's mentor, Vice President Johnson. A Maryland insurance broker named Donald Reynolds met privately with Senator John Williams of Delaware, a Republican, and complained to him about advertising he had been forced to buy on the vice president's radio and television stations in Austin, Texas, as a condition of writing Johnson's life insurance policy. Johnson also demanded, and got, a television set and a new stereo from Reynolds as a cost of doing business. John Williams's best friend in the Senate was Carl Curtis of Nebraska, the senior Republican on the Rules Committee. As the scandal spread in the newspapers, alarming other Democrats - including senators who had received many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions through Baker - the Rules Committee announced an all-out investigation. Baker's personal life was soon thrust into the limelight, along with the mysterious goings-on at the Quorum Club. It took only days for the Republicans on the committee to find out all they needed to know about Ellen Rometsch.

The next step was inevitable. On October 26, 1963, the investigative reporter Clark Mollenhoff published a dispatch in the Des Moines Register revealing that the Rules Committee was planning to hear testimony about Ellen Rometsch and her abrupt August expulsion from the United States. Mollenhoff's story, like the one on the Profumo scandal published four months earlier by Horan and Frasca, did not name names, but it noted that the committee was "in the process of examining allegations regarding the conduct of Senate employees as well as members of the Senate" with Rometsch. The committee's interest went beyond the Senate: "The evidence also is likely to include identification of several high executive branch officials as friends and associates of the part-time model and party girl," Mollenhoff wrote.

(3) Seymour Hersh, The Dark Side of Camelot (1997)

His (Grant Stockdale) reward was to be appointed in 1961 as ambassador to Ireland. The post had obvious sentimental value for Kennedy, and Stockdale was flattered. Once in Ireland, he went all out to represent the new administration and lavishly spent his personal money on embassy entertaining. Eighteen months later, he told Kennedy he was broke and had to go back to his real estate business in Miami.

The president understood. Stockdale appealed to Kennedy, perhaps, because he was all the things Kennedy was not: a self-made man who was precisely what he seemed to be. He had been a football star in college before serving in the war as a marine intelligence officer in the Pacific. "His life was an open book," Stockdale's son, also named Grant, told me in a 1996 interview. "When he got back to Miami, he told his friends he was broke. He was happy to have served, but happy to get back to his business."

Stockdale also knew how to keep his mouth shut. He had joined Kennedy in 1962 at one of his private parties in the Carlyle Hotel in New York, and later told his son that "there were women, beautiful women there." It was a world, Grant said of his father, "that was too fast for him. He was completely out of his league." He did not go back.

But now it was November 1963 and Stockdale was in the Oval Office. Grant told me the story his mother, Adie, had told him. Kennedy said, "I need you to raise some dough - fifty thousand dollars: "Why me?" "Because I need it and I can count on you to keep it quiet."What's it for?"It's for personal use."'

The president's request made his father very uneasy, Grant said. "He raised money," Grant told me. "That's what he did for the Democratic National Committee. But not for personal use. Stockdale asked the president, his son said, "How are you going to acknowledge this money [to donors]?" Kennedy said, 'It's never going to be acknowledged." His father returned to Miami and did what Kennedy asked - he raised $50,000 in cash, telling contributors that the money was for Jack Kennedy. "He hated it," Grant told me, "but he felt, Shit, it's the president: He was very distressed about being asked to raise cash for the president's personal use when he's got his own money problems. The clincher was the part about no acknowledgment. There was something wrong with the whole thing. He knew he was being used, and my mother knew he was being used. She really resented it. 'It's the craziest thing I've ever heard,' she said. `Don't do it. Turn it down.' But he felt he couldn't."

"So," Grant continued, "my father went around and collected money. I think he did it not believing that Kennedy wouldn't acknowledge it (as a loan or contribution) in some way. He couldn't believe it was so underhanded." There was no secret in Miami about Stockdale's money needs. "All of his buddies knew he was broke," Grant said, "because he was open about it: "Hey guys, I'm broke." He had trouble raising the $50,000 in cash, Grant told me. "Some of the people he approached were as incredulous as my mother was. They were simply disbelieving, and turned down the request:" Word began spreading in Miami, Grant added, that Stockdale was really raising the money for himself - that there was no Kennedy connection. "My father was devastated when he heard that story," Grant told me. "It got to his core. My father was still trying to figure out how he could get Kennedy to acknowledge the contributors when November twenty-second came."

A family friend had gone with his father, Grant said, to the Kennedy compound to deliver the money. "Kennedy said, Thank you, opened a nearby closet door, and threw the briefcase in there," Grant was told. "The closet was full of briefcases."

Kennedy's assassination devastated the Stockdale family, and left Stockdale with a serious problem, his son recalled. "He told everyone that the money he had collected was for Kennedy, but now he had no proof." Grant said that his father "was very worried about Bobby Baker. Why would my father be worried about Bobby Baker?"

Edward Grant Stockdale committed suicide by jumping from his office window in downtown Miami ten days after the president's murder. He was forty-eight years old. His son still wants to know why Kennedy needed the money.

(4) David Wrone, Review of Seymour Hersh's The Dark Side of Camelot, Capital Times (16th January, 1998)

In an interview given on publication of his alleged expose of John F. Kennedy's private life and public policies, the famed investigative reporter Sy Hersh said he wanted to make "a big score" and retire.

To this end the Pulitzer prize winner has prostituted his nation's history and, at the same time, sustained the intelligence and military forces that bitterly opposed JFK - those who among other infamies sunk us in Vietnam and who tried and failed to initiate nuclear war over Cuba. Hersh does it with a corruption of scholarship perhaps unequalled in recent times.

He uses not a single source note, but employs caption notes that refer to many books and no pages, so a reader cannot easily check his truthfulness. Hersh has corrupted the facts. On major issues he is coy, strongly using suggestive language with a statement of fact where none exists. Sources are often made up to fit his perceived beliefs. In addition he relies on interviews with people bitterly opposed to JFK's policies and usually not identified as such.

Hersh reviews JFK's rise to power and then largely concentrates on the foreign policies of his presidency, alleging that the crude principles of his reckless and corrupt personal life - astutely masked during his lifetime by his power and friends - led the United States into one disaster after the other.

Hersh suffuses the book with putative accounts of JFK's sex scampers but these are a honey trap to snare a reader into accepting Hersh's false presentation of his foreign policy - which is the true intent of the book.

How bad is Hersh's scholarship? Consider the Section of The Dark Side of Camelot in which Hersh states that JFK "endorsed" the CIA assassination of Lumumba of the Congo. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since CIA thugs beat Lumumba to death on January 17 and JFK was sworn in on January 20, Hersh must overcome a serious chronological problem. He does this by baldly asserting Kennedy vigorously supported and emphatically agreed to Eisenhower's policy to kill the African leader.

Hersh carries this subterfuge off by only quoting former CIA men who were ideologically opposed to JFK's policies, by refusing to cite the copious well-known record affirming an opposite interpretation, and by not interviewing the numerous individuals who would have provided a true picture.

Early in January 1961, Kennedy's staff and special Congo study group had alerted the CIA that American reactionary policies in the Congo would change and that a JFK emissary had warned Belgium intelligence services not to "liquidate" Lumumba. By February 2, Kennedy had devised a plan for a new Congo policy that would ultimately include Lumumba. He did not learn of the murder of Lumumba until February 13; a famous photograph depicts him receiving the news, his head bowed in anguish.

Hersh also devotes much attention to "proving" JFK tried to assassination Castro using the CIA and Mafia. In the course of this effort, he asserts that President Kennedy used Judy Exner, a sex partner, to carry cash to the mob bosses to pay for making the hit.

A key document of the Castro murder attempts is a 1962 Department of Justice memorandum by the CIA's inspector general Sheffield Edwards. Hersh uses parts of the document in other contexts, but when he comes to the attempts on Castro's life he carefully omits what it says about them, since the document's contents would destroy his framing of JFK.

The CIA-Mafia attempts on Castro began in August 1960 and ended in November 1960, before JFK took office in 1961. Only six people knew of it, all CIA men, and they only orally. No one else knew - not Ike, not JFK - until many months after the fact when the FBI stumbled onto a bungled CIA phone tap for a mobster and it exposed the affair. A shocked Robert Kennedy ordered a complete explanation.

As it turns out, the CIA had set aside $150,000 for the job, but the Mafia said no and refused to accept any money. Exner could not have carried money, as she told Hersh; there was none to carry and the affair had occurred and was over before he entered office. There were, in fact, no JFK directed or encouraged attempts on Castro's life.

Hersh frequently castigates JFK for using private back channels to negotiate a secret deal with Khrushchev to end the Cuba missile crisis - a deal Hersh suggests Kennedy pursued in order to improve his standing with the American people. The fact is back channels worked and, after the crisis, the executive branch institutionalized it with direct phone lines and other systems, which later presidents have found to be quite useful.

The real reason JFK kept the pact secret was spelled out in Khrushchev's memoirs, Khrushchev Remembers, and in Robert Kennedy's writings on the subject. It had nothing to do with self-promotion. The Kennedys were intensely afraid of an American military coup d'etat and overthrow of the U.S. government accompanied by a launching of a massive nuclear strike against the whole of the communist world. Only through this private method could and did JFK hold the irate military in check.

It can be argued today that nuclear war was avoided by President Kennedy's unparalleled action.

Even in the minor themes of The Dark Side of Camelot, Hersh perverts our history. He states a high-ranking Navy officer told him that, "at the request of Robert Kennedy", the notes containing vital information about JFK's postmortem were not published. By exclusively relying on that prejudiced source, Hersh sustains the generation-old effort of many federal officials to blame the failed inquiry into JFK's death upon his brother's refusal to give them access to key medical records.

But in well-known sources, which were spurned by Hersh, we know RFK by letter gave explicit permission to use all autopsy materials. The same definitive sources also show it was the FBI that, after realizing the materials might hold data incompatible with its invented lone assassin theory, manufactured the libel that Robert Kennedy had denied access.

Significantly, prosecutors did take the critical notes. They were not destroyed and were, in fact, placed in Navy hands. They were released by the Navy for Arlen Specter, Warren Commission counsel, who used them to examine the autopsy doctors. They were supposed to be part of Exhibit 397 of the Warren Commission, but it does not contain them. They are not in any archive or known agency files. On this serious issue--which genuinely is worthy of discussion - Hersh is embarrassingly silent.