When you write about political matters, does that mean you are engaged in politics? Some people would say that if you’re not in the arena, you are an observer. Others would say that taking a stand, trying to persuade people – whether or not you’re fighting the lions down in the arena – is a political act. You can’t separate telling the truth as you see it, from engagement in other kinds of political activity.
That distinction – or lack thereof – holds especially when you write about something as fraught and unsettled as Kennedy’s murder. Each generation has measurably more freedom to take controversial positions or publish controversial evidence than the generation before. Nevertheless, advancement is slow.
An example of how politics and authorship come together comes from a book by Peter Janney called Mary’s Mosaic. The book also illustrates the intersection of family relationships and politics. The book is about the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer in September 1964, shortly before the Warren Commission report came out.
Mary was Jack Kennedy’s mistress while he was president. Their relationship lasted almost two years: a lot longer than his one night stands. Mary Meyer knew that the Warren report would be a whitewash, and had stated her intention to say so in public. Given her prominence in Washington society, no one knew a good way to keep her quiet.
Mary’s former husband was Cord Meyer, a good friend of Wistar Janney. Both gentlemen came from wealthy families; both went to Ivy League schools and had the right East coast establishment pedigrees. Wistar Janney was Peter Janney’s father. Peter Janney discovered as he wrote his book that his father knew about plans to murder Mary Meyer.
That’s a little background. The background does not connect directly with the correspondence quoted below, but it gives you a feel for the intensity of the threats contained in the first email message. The excerpt shows a brief exchange between two researchers and authors, Joe Trento and Gregory Douglas. In their work, Joe Trento defends the CIA; Gregory Douglas exposes CIA crimes. The exchange gives you an inside look at the kind of interaction that can occur when your research leads you to probe an exposed nerve.
Joe Trento authored The Secret History of the CIA. He is unhappy with what he sees in Gregory Douglas’s book, Regicide, to say the least. In Regicide, Gregory Douglas uses material obtained from Bob Crowley, former leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, to demonstrate that the CIA was involved in Kennedy’s murder:
Just read a copy of the Kennedy book. I want you to know, as I told Walter earlier, that I am the literary executor of Bob Crowley and that I have the legal right to all of his documents. I notice that you are using documents from him in your book and this has to be stopped right now. This is a gross slander on the reputation of a fine American and, I want you to know, these papers are all classified documents under Federal law and you may not keep or use them. I intend to write to your publisher and inform him that if he does not cease and desist selling this book, I will sue him and you. Also, I have strongly suggested to Emily and Greg [Bob Crowley’s son] that they sue you for defaming Bob’s good name. Now you can stop all of this legal action by sending me a full list of all the papers you got from Bob and then sending me the actual papers.
…If you want to avoid future problems, I suggest you do as I say, make a list of all your documents you got from Bob, send it to me and then return all of these documents to me immediately. Tom Kimmel has told me all about you and I want you to know I won’t hold still for any monkey business from you and if you don’t want the FBI knocking your door down, do as I say.
What would you do if you received a message like that in your inbox? Gregory Douglas wrote back to Joe Trento the same day:
Please be advised that Bob sent these to me prior to his death and that they therefore do not fall under any literary property over which you now claim to have rights.
In answer to your specific demands, be advised that I have no intention of sending you any list of this material in question and neither do I have any intention of sending you anything else.
In the event that you dare to address me again, I will personally post some of the more sensitive documents on the Internet and personally thank you for having sent me these from your own holdings of Crowley’s papers.
Bob told me you were a light weight hack and it is also obvious that you have no knowledge of the law.
When you involve yourself in controversy about Kennedy’s assassination, you don’t know what kinds of threats you’ll receive in your mailbox!