Spartacus Blog

The Death of John F. Kennedy

Saturday, 23rd November 2013

John Simkin

Eight years ago today I was in Dallas to give a lecture on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Just before I was due to speak, William Law and Mark Sobel showed a filmed interview with Gene Wheaton that a taken place a few months previously. I did not know at the time that while watching the film I would discover the names of the men who killed Kennedy.

Wheaton was an interesting character who had appeared in the news in the 1980s. According to David Corn, the author of Blonde Ghost: Ted Shackley and the CIA Crusade, in 1985 Gene Wheaton and Carl Elmer Jenkins, a former senior CIA agent, met Paul Hoven. At the time the men were involved in trying to "win federal contracts to transport humanitarian supplies to anticommunist rebels, including the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan and the Contras". They failed in this venture and then complained to the State Department about the activities of Richard Secord, Oliver North, Ted Shackley, Edwin Wilson and Tom Clines.

Hoven arranged for Wheaton to meet with Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton told him that Tom Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro. Hoven also put Wheaton into contact with Newt Royce and Mike Acoca, two journalists based in Washington. The first article on this scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 27th July, 1986. As a result of this story, Congressman Dante Fascell wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, asking him if it "true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations." Two months later, Weinberger denied that the government knew about this illegal operation.

On 5th October, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. He also provided information on two Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Savador. This resulted in journalists being able to identify Rafael Quintero and Felix Rodriguez as the two Cuban-Americans mentioned by Hasenfus. It gradually emerged that Clines, Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.

On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the Irangate scandal. He also claimed that Thomas Clines and Ted Shackley were running a private assassination program that had evolved from projects they ran while working for the CIA. Others named as being part of this assassination team included Rafael Quintero, Richard Secord, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim. It later emerged that Gene Wheaton and Carl E. Jenkins were the two main sources for the Secord-Clines affidavit.

It was eventually discovered that President Ronald Reagan had sold arms to Iran. The money gained from these sales was used to provide support for the Contras, a group of guerrillas engaged in an insurgency against the elected socialist Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Both the sale of these weapons and the funding of the Contras violated administration policy as well as legislation passed by Congress.

Gene Wheaton was therefore involved in bringing to light the Iran-Contra scandal. He later recalled: "This stuff goes back to the scandals of the 70s... of Watergate and Richard Helms, the CIA director, being convicted by Congress of lying to Congress, of Ted Shackley and Tom Clines and Dick Secord and a group of them being forced into retirement as a result of the scandal over Edmond P. Wilson’s training of Libyan terrorists in conjunction with these guys, and moving C-4 explosives to Libya. They decided way back when, ‘75-’76, during the Pike and Church Committee hearings, that the Congress was their enemy... Ted Shackley and Vernon Walters and Frank Carlucci and Ving West and a group of these guys used to have park-bench meetings in the late 70s in McClean, Virginia so nobody could overhear they conversations. They basically said, "With our expertise at placing dictators in power," I’m almost quoting verbatim one of their comments, "why don’t we treat the United States like the world’s biggest banana republic and take it over?" And the first thing they had to do was to get their man in the White House, and that was George Bush. Reagan never really was the president. He was the front man. They selected a guy that had charisma, who was popular, and just a good old boy, but they got George Bush in there to actually run the White House."

However, William Law and Mark Sobel did not visit Gene Wheaton because of his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal. They went to see him because of a letter they found in some recently declassified files. In 1995 Gene Wheaton approached the Assassination Records Review Board with information on the death of John F. Kennedy. Anne Buttimer, Chief Investigator of the ARRB, recorded that: "Wheaton told me that from 1984 to 1987 he spent a lot of time in the Washington DC area and that starting in 1985 he was "recruited into Ollie North's network" by the CIA officer he has information about. He got to know this man and his wife, a "'super grade high level CIA officer" and kept a bedroom in their Virginia home. His friend was a Marine Corps liaison in New Orleans and was the CIA contact with Carlos Marcello. He had been responsible for "running people into Cuba before the Bay of Pigs." His friend is now 68 or 69 years of age... Over the course of a year or a year and one-half his friend told him about his activities with training Cuban insurgency groups. Wheaton said he also got to know many of the Cubans who had been his friend's soldiers/operatives when the Cubans visited in Virginia from their homes in Miami. His friend and the Cubans confirmed to Wheaton they assassinated JFK. Wheaton's friend said he trained the Cubans who pulled the triggers. Wheaton said the street level Cubans felt JFK was a traitor after the Bay of Pigs and wanted to kill him. People "above the Cubans" wanted JFK killed for other reasons." It was later revealed that Wheaton's friend was Carl E. Jenkins. Wheaton also named Irving Davidson as being involved in the assassination.

However, Buttimer did not do anything about this interview with Wheaton. However, it was amongst the files that were later declassified. Law and Sobel went to see Wheaton and asked him if he was willing to be interviewed on film about the Iran-Contra scandal. During the interview the letter to the Assassination Records Review Board was mentioned. Wheaton explained how one night Jenkins and his friend, Rafael Quintero, had told him they had been involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

At the time of the interview Carl Jenkins had never been mentioned in relation to the assassination of Kennedy. According to Larry Hancock, the author of Someone Would Have Talked (2006), in the early 1950's Jenkins "became a CIA paramilitary, survival, evasion and escape trainer for the CIA." It was during this period that he first worked with Tracy Barnes, E.Howard Hunt, William (Rip) Robertson, David Atlee Phillips and David Morales. Hancock adds that: "From 1955-1958 Jenkins served as an instructor for paramilitary tactics and resistance and trained cadre for both the Thai Border Police and the Chinese Nationalist Special Forces". Carl Jenkins became Training & Operations Officer for maritime infiltration of small teams in SE Asia Project. This involved Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines (1958-1959).

On his return to the United States he joined Ted Shackley at JM WAVE in Miami. In 1960 he was appointed as Chief of Base for Cuban Project. He was responsible for selection and training of cadre, assignment of officers for invasion brigade, maritime infiltration and operational management of small teams and individual agents. Carl Jenkins was also involved in AMWORLD, a CIA program to overthrow Fidel Castro. In the summer of 1963 he worked closely with David Morales in providing paramilitary training for Manuel Artime and Rafael Quintero and other members of the Movement for the Recovery of the Revolution (MRR).

Wheaton claimed in the interview that Jenkins told him that the team that were being trained to kill Castro were switched to another operation. The killing of John F. Kennedy. The reason for using this team of men was an inspired act. The operation to kill Castro had been ordered by Robert F. Kennedy. When he discovered the men behind the killing of his brother, he would be forced to join in with the cover-up.

I attempted to contact Rafael Quintero via his close friend, the journalist, Don Bohning. Quintero refused to be interviewed but he did say that Gene Wheaton was telling the truth as "he knew it". His explanation of Wheaton's story was that he and Carl Jenkins had been lying to him when they said they were involved in the assassination. However, Quintero was once quoted as saying: “If I were ever granted immunity, and compelled to testify about past actions, about Dallas and the Bay of Pigs, it would be the biggest scandal ever to rock the United States.”

Rafael Quintero died on 1st October, 2006. As far as I know, Gene Wheaton is still alive, but in order to keep it that way, he no longer gives interviews on the assassination. Carl Jenkins is also still alive but he refuses to talk to me. I was contacted by his granddaughter, who complained about what I said about him. She did talk to her grandfather about the matter but refused to disclosure any details about his CIA activities.

So was Gene Wheaton telling the truth during the interview? Well, I was convinced. The most remarkable aspect of the interview was when one of the interviewers asked Wheaton if David Morales was involved in the assassination. Wheaton jumped up from his kitchen table and said this meeting was at an end. By mentioning his name, the interviewer had told him that he was not having a casual conversation about the assassination. The next thing he said was highly significant. I must go and pick up my granddaughter from school. People have not been kept quiet by threats to themselves. There is a far more effective way to stop people from talking about the assassination.

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