John Barbour risked everything in the search for the truth about the JFK assassination. Now Barbour tells investigative reporter George Knapp about the odyssey, what it cost him, and who stood to gain from JFK’s death. Originally aired on Nov. 22, 2013, on KLAS TV in Las Vegas on the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the event still hits most of us on a personal level. But that is especially true for a Las Vegas man who risked everything to help in the search for truth.
The Warren Commission found that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president. A House investigation said Oswald did it, but he almost certainly had help.
Las Vegan John Barbour says both of those probes were sabotaged by the very agencies who had the most to gain by the president’s death.
Oliver stone’s brilliant but controversial movie, “JFK,” brought to the forefront the most disturbing of all the conspiracy theories: The idea that elements of the U.S. government were involved in the plot to kill the president.
Stone has been pilloried for his thesis, but he is hardly alone:
- Attorney General Robert Kennedy suspected the mob and Jimmy Hoffa were involved in the murder, then later included the CIA.
- Widow Jackie Kennedy never believed Oswald acted alone. She thought vice president Lyndon Johnson gave the green light.
- President Richard Nixon, who knew a bit about conspiracies, believed LBJ had presided over a coup by having the president killed.
- Johnson told close friends he thought the Cubans had arranged the hit, then later thought he CIA was directly involved.
“If we had had cell phones November 22, 1963, the case would have been solved that afternoon and a dozen prominent Americans would be hanging for killing JFK,” Barbour said.
Barbour’s interest in the case is both personal and patriotic. In the ‘70s, he was the host and producer of the most popular TV show in the country, “Real People.” But his career stopped in its tracks when he tried to publicize the work of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, portrayed in the film by Kevin Costner. Barbour wanted to put Garrison on national TV to talk about the only criminal case ever prosecuted in the JFK murder.
Instead, Barbour was fired. He pressed on anyway and produced his own film about Garrison in which the lawman made the case that Oswald had been a patsy.
“He felt the CIA was telling Lee Harvey Oswald there’s a plot to kill the president and we want you to infiltrate that. That’s how they set him up,” Barbour said.
As soon as word leaked out that Garrison was investigating the JFK murder, a campaign was launched against the DA. It is now well established that Garrison’s office was infiltrated, his phones bugged, and the DA’s office wasn’t allow to interview witnesses.
“All of these subpoenas were torn up by the government and thrown away,” Barbour said. “They literally broke the law to prevent Jim Garrison from prosecuting Clay Shaw.”
If Garrison’s case was as weak as critics said it was, Barbour wonders why the CIA went to so much trouble to sabotage it and to smear garrison. Why not let the case collapse in court on its own?
Forensic historian Patrick Nolan is not a big fan of Garrison’s but says there’s no doubt the CIA did a number on him.
“He knew early on that some of the people connected to Lee Harvey Oswald were also connected to the CIA, and were connected with the mob,” said Nolan, author of “CIA Rogues and the Killing of the Kennedys.”
“I think he started to put the pieces together, and they shut that down pretty quick,” Nolan said.
The heart of Garrison’s case was that Oswald, a supposed die-hard communist, had been working with anti-communist Cubans funded by the CIA. One of his associates was CIA pilot David Ferrie. Garrison found a photo of the two men together. And his witnesses say Oswald, Ferrie and Shaw met to discuss the plot to kill Kennedy. Most of the evidence about CIA involvement was either distorted or ignored by media accounts as being conspiratorial. Barbour isn’t surprised.
“In the ‘70s, the Church Committee investigated. They found the CIA had over 1,000 assets working in television, radios, newspaper, magazines. That was in the ‘70s. Can you imagine what they have now?”
The coverup didn’t start with Garrison though. John Kennedy had been at war with an out-of-control CIA. After the failed Bay of Pigs fiasco, he fired longtime CIA chief Allen Dulles and others. The Kennedys were also at odds with FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover, who tried to hang onto his job by collecting personal dirt on the brothers. But Hoover’s agents did most of the legwork for the Warren panel, which included ousted CIA boss Dulles. It is no accident the Warren report ignored possible motives and involvement by the CIA and FBI. Even writers who think Oswald acted alone agree there was a coverup.
“They certainly lied and covered up evidence after the assassination,” said Gerald Posner, who wrote a book about the JFK murder. “We know now they were trying to cover up their attempted hits on Castro and their attempted hits with the mob.”
“The people who actually carried out or masterminded the plot intentionally muddied the waters from the very beginning,” Nolan said.
Jim Garrison failed in his prosecution of Clay Shaw, but years after Shaw died, the CIA confirmed he had been a covert operative for the agency after all. The counsel for the House probe said in 2003 that the CIA withheld information and “unilaterally deprived the commission of the last chance to learn the full truth.”
Whether you buy any of the so-called conspiracy theories or not, and even if Oswald acted alone, the actions of these agencies in distorting the truth is a serious matter.