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Did RFK's search for JFK's killers lead to his own murder?

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The anniversary of that tragic day in November 1963 will be marked by quiet memorials by those that remember that fateful and fatal trip to Dallas by President John F. Kennedy.  The Warren Commission determined that Lee Harvey Oswald, with some difficult ballistics and a controversial "magic" bullet, acted alone to take the life of the President.


Robert F. Kennedy, the Attorney General and President Kennedy's younger brother, never did believe the Warren Commission despite his public refusal to contradict the official version of events.


The younger Kennedy began his own investigation the day of the murder convinced that members of the U.S. government were responsible for the shooting in Dallas.  Author David Talbot perhaps sums it up best in his book Brothers.  "Robert Kennedy did not resign himself to the lone gunman theory.  On the contrary, he immediately suspected that President Kennedy was the victim of a powerful conspiracy.  And he spent the rest of his life secretly searching for the truth about his brother's murder."


The Attorney General had been informed of the shooting by J. Edgar Hoover, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Hoover had no love for either Kennedy and abruptly delivered news of the shooting.  Later, Robert would tell Nicolas Katzenbach that Hoover seemed to enjoy being the bearer of bad tidings.  "I think he told me with pleasure."


Kennedy so little trusted Hoover he declined FBI protection for his family.  Uncertain if a conspiracy included members of the Secret Service, Robert pieced together his own security detail out of the U. S. Marshal Service in those early awful hours after the assassination.


With Kennedy when Hoover made a second call about the death announcement from Parkland Hospital was John McCone, director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  McCone called Kennedy when he heard the news of the shooting and Kennedy ordered him over to his house.  Kennedy grilled McCone for three hours that afternoon about whether or not the CIA had a role in the killing.


Fresh from intense behind-the-scene battles with the Cuban exile community and counter-intelligence CIA agents angry with both Kennedys over the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Robert know that lethal tempers raged.  Kennedy told his close friend Edwin Guthman, "There is so much bitterness I thought they would get one of us, but Jack, after all he had been through never worried about it.  I thought they would get me, instead of the President."


On the evening of November 22nd  Kennedy would reach out to investigators he knew familiar with organized crime to explore if the Mafia was involved.  The CIA had joined forces with members of organized crime in their clandestine efforts to kill Fidel Castro and Robert wanted answers.  Kennedy made call after call with his network of advisors, investigators and friends seeking information.


Kennedy continued to make calls while he waited for the return of his brother's body from Dallas.  Robert probed the Cuban exile community telling Enrique "Harry" Ruiz-Williams, "One of your guys did it."


When the Kennedy family gathered for Thanksgiving at their Palm Beach compound and the family struggled to regain control of emotions, Robert cordoned himself with his investigators and advisors and continued working on solving the crime.


Robert Kennedy would dispatch his own investigator to Moscow for a secret meeting with the Soviets before the year was out to find out what their intelligence agencies knew.


Kennedy refused to appear before the Warren Commission.  When Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren moved toward compelling Robert's appearance, Nicolas Katzenbach worked out a compromise, which became Kennedy's official statement on the inquiry.


"I would like to state definitely that I know of no credible evidence to support the allegations that the assassination of President Kennedy was caused by a domestic or foreign conspiracy."


In September 1964, when the Warren Commission issued its single-assassin report Kennedy, then campaigning for the U.S. Senate in New York, was pressed for his opinion of the Commission conclusions.  Kennedy adopted a terse statement that became a standard response to end questions, "I have not read the report, nor do I intend to."


But Kennedy's relentless pursuit of the truth behind his brother's death, which he privately blamed on a conspiracy within the secret branches of the U.S. government, was an inner driving force.

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Michael Richardson is a freelance writer living in Belize. Richardson writes about Taiwan foreign policy, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Black Panther Party. Richardson was Ralph Nader's ballot access manager during the 2004 and (more...)

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