*[ E. Howard Hunt & JFK ]*
FD: You mentioned E. Howard Hunt earlier.
I understand that you wrote an article for a Washington-based
publication about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and Hunt
sued the publication, charging libel.
Could you give us some background on this matter?
The article was written in the summer of 1978 and published by
SPOTLIGHT, a weekly newspaper that advertises itself as `The
Voice of the American Populist Party.'
At the time I wrote the article for SPOTLIGHT the House Select
Committee on Assassinations was getting ready to hold its
hearings reviewing the Kennedy and King assassinations.
I had picked up some information around town that a memo had recently
been uncovered in the CIA, and that the CIA was concerned about it.
I believe the memo was from James Angleton, who at the time was chief
of counterintelligence for Richard Helms. I forget the exact date,
but this memo was something like six years old, while Helms was
still in office as director.
The memo said that at some point in time the CIA was going to have
to deal with the fact that Hunt was in Dallas the day of the Kennedy
assassination or words to that effect.
There was some other information in it, such as did you know anything
about it, he wasn't doing anything for me, and back and forth.
I had that piece of information, along with information that
the House Select Committee was going to come out with tapes that
indicated there was more than one shooter during the Kennedy
assassination and that the FBI, or at least certain people in
the FBI, believed these tapes to be accurate and had always
believed that there was more than one shooter.
I was in contact with the House Select Committee, and they were
probing real deeply into things and they were very suspicious of
the Kennedy assassination. There were some other reporters
working on the story at the time, one in particular who has a
tremendous reputation, and he felt there was something to it.
So we rushed into print at SPOTLIGHT with a story saying, based
on everything we put together, that we had this information, and
we tried to predict what was going to happen.
In essence we said whats going to happen is that the committee is
going to unearth some new information that there was more than one
shooter and probably come up with this memo, this internal CIA
memorandum, and there will be some other things.
Then the CIA will conduct a limited hangout, and will admit to some
error or mistake, but then sweep everything else under the rug,
and in the process they may let a few people dangle in the wind
like E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, Jerry Hemming, and other people
who have been mentioned in the past as being involved in something
related to the Kennedy assassination.
It was that kind of speculative piece.
What happened is that about a week after my article appeared in
SPOTLIGHT the Wilmington News-Journal published an article by Joe
Trento. This was a longer and more far-ranging article, in which
he discussed the memo too but in greater detail.
A couple of weeks after that Hunt informed SPOTLIGHT that he wanted a
retraction. I checked with my sources and said I don't think we
should retract. I said we should do a follow-up article.
Now by this time some CIA guy was caught stealing pictures in the
committee, some spy, so things were really hot and heavy at the time.
There was a lot of expectation that the committee was going to
do something, some really good work to bring their investigation
around. So I said to SPOTLIGHT let's do a follow-up piece, but
the publisher chickened out and said, nah, what we'll do is tell
Hunt we'll give him equal space. He can say whatever he wants
to in the same amount of space.
Hunt ignored the offer. A couple of months later Hunt comes to town
for secret hearings with the committee, and was heard in executive
session. Hunt was suing the publisher of the book `Coup D'Etat in
America,' and deposed me in relation to that case, and then he
brought in, he tried to slip in, this SPOTLIGHT article.
I was under instructions from my lawyer not to comment.
My lawyer would have me refuse to answer on the grounds
of journalistic privilege, and also on the grounds of
my relationship with the CIA.
My lawyer had on his own gone to the CIA before I gave my
deposition and asked them about this, and they said to tell
me to just hide behind my injunction.
I told my lawyer I don't understand it, and he told me all that
the CIA said is that they hate Hunt more than they hate you and
they're not going to give Hunt any help. So that's what I did,
and that was the end of it. We thought.
Two years after it ran Hunt finally sued SPOTLIGHT over my
article. SPOTLIGHT thought it was such a joke, all things
considered, that they really didn't pay any attention.
I never even went to the trial. I never even submitted an
affidavit. I was not deposed or anything. The Hunt people
didn't even try to call me as a witness or anything.
I was left out of everything. Hunt ended up winning a judgment
for $650,000. Now SPOTLIGHT got worried. They appealed and the
Florida Appellate Court overturned the decision on certain
technical grounds, and sent it back for retrial.
The retrial finally occurred earlier this year. When it came
time for the retrial, which we had close to a year to prepare
for, SPOTLIGHT got serious, and went out and hired themselves a
good lawyer, Mark Lane, who is something of an expert on the
They got me to become involved in everything, and we ended up going
down there and just beating Hunt's pants off. The jury came in, I
think, within several hours with a verdict in our favor.
The interesting thing was the jury said we were clearly not guilty
of libel and actual malice, but they were now suspicious of Hunt and
everything he invoked because we brought out a lot of stuff on Hunt.
Hunt lost, and was ordered to pay our court costs in addition to
everything else. He has subsequently filed an appeal and that's
where its at now. It's up for appeal.
I imagine it will probably be another six months to a year before
we hear anything further on it. Based on everything I have seen,
Hunt doesn't have a leg to stand on because the deeper he gets
into this the more he runs the risk of exposing himself.
We had just all kinds of material on Hunt. We had a deposition
from Joe Trento saying, yes, he saw the internal CIA memo.
We produced one witness in deposition, Marita Lorenz, who was
Castro's lover at one point, and she said that Hunt was taking
her and people like Sturgis and Jerry Hemmings and others
and running guns into Dallas.
Lorenz said that a couple of days before the assassination Hunt
met them in Dallas and made a payoff. What they all were doing,
whether it was connected to the assassination, we don't know.
I think if Hunt keeps pursuing this, all that he's doing is
setting the stage for more and more people to come forward and
say bad things about him, and raise more evidence that he was in
Dallas that day and that he must have been involved in something.
If it wasn't the assassination it must have been some kind of
diversionary activity or maybe it was something unrelated to the
assassination and the wires just got crossed and it was a
coincidence at the time.
One of the key points in the mind of the jury as far as we`ve been
able to tell at SPOTLIGHT is that Hunt to this day still cannot come
up with an alibi for where he was the day of the assassination.
Hunt comes up with the weakest, phoniest stories that he can't
corroborate. Some guy who was drunk came out of a bar and waved at
him. His story doesn't match with that guy's story.
Hunt says he can produce his children to testify he was in Washington.
None of his children appeared at the trial. It's a very, very
strange thing. Hunt clearly was, in my mind, not in Washington
doing what he says he was doing Nov. 22, 1963. He was certainly
not at work that day at the CIA.
This subject has come up before, whether he was on sick leave, an
annual leave, or where the hell he was. Hunt just cannot come up
with a good alibi.
Hunt has gone before committees. The Rockefeller Committee, I
believe he was before the Church Committee, and before the House
Select Committee. Nobody will give Hunt a clean bill of health.
They always weasel words. Their comment on Hunt is always some
sort of a way that can be interpreted anyway that you want. You
can say this indicates the committee looked into it and they feel
he wasn't involved.
Or you can look at it and say the committee looked into it and
they have a lot of doubts about Hunt, and they're just being very
careful about what they are saying. Hunt himself will not tell you
what happened before these committees. He says that his testimony
is classified information.
Well, if the testimony vindicates Hunt and provides him with an
alibi then why can't he tell us? The mystery remains.
FD: Do you believe it possible that the CIA knows where
Hunt was Nov. 22, 1963, but just do not want to
release that information?
That's my guess. I think that subsequently, by now, the CIA may
not have known where Hunt was at the time, and they may not have
even realized what he was up to until years after and years
later when his name started to be commonly mentioned in connection
with the assassination.
I think by now the CIA probably knows where Hunt was and what he
was doing or have some very strong feelings about that, and they're
not too happy about it. But whatever it was, and is, that Hunt
was involved in, it seems to be, or would appear, that he was in
or around Dallas about the time of the assassination, involved
in some kind of clandestine activity.
It may have been an illegal clandestine activity, even something
the CIA was unaware of. The CIA acts very strangely about this.
The CIA will not give Hunt any help. He got no help at all from
the CIA in the preparation of his case against us or in the
presentation of his case. They just left him out there.