Summary of The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the C.I.A., and the rise of America’s secret government

David Talbot’s book The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government is a biography that reads like a spy novel. It is painful to read because of all the injustice it exposes. Almost every page makes me groan with a sense of outrage.

Most of the book summarizes the history of skullduggery by Dulles during WWII and at the head of the CIA under Eisenhower, Truman, and JFK. The book ends with several chapters devoted to allegations and evidence about CIA involvement with the JFK assassination.   Dulles and his buddies in the CIA, in the military, in Wall Street firms, in the oil business, in the Cuban exile community, and in the Republican Party opposed FDR, the New Deal, the Kennedys, and, most ardently, communism.

This article summarizes the contents of the 620 page book and includes various quotations from it.

Talbot is up front about his judgement of Allen Dulles — he thinks he’s evil.   Up til the chapters on the JFK assassination, the content seems unassailable and well documented.   The evidence for some sort of CIA involvement in the JFK assassination strikes me as strong. Talbot compiled quotations and summarizes from numerous primary and secondary sources.   Even presidents and former CIA people condemned the CIA. The official Warren Commission Report was a whitewash — Dulles helped lead the commission. Near the ends of their lives several people involved accused the CIA of involvement. Some witnesses mysteriously died right before they were due to testify. But the truth about the CIA assassination is difficult to discern, and this book is most valuable as a condemnation of the CIA in general.   Talbot’s writing style is lively — he even includes some steamy details about characters’ sex lives.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post chose not to review Devil’s Chessboard, presumably judging it to be conspiracy theory.   Perhaps that’s because of CIA infiltration of the media? (Or is that a conspiracy theory?) The Huff Post has a favorable review, as does Kirkus.

The Devil's Chessboard by David Talbot

Alan Dulles and his brother John Foster Dulles worked for the law firm Sullivan and Cromwell and had close connections to Wall Street firms which had business dealings with Nazi corporations. During the war, Dulles was stationed in Europe. Due to his fear and hatred of Stalin, Dulles worked to make a separate peace treaty between the U.S. and Germany — disobeying direct orders from FDR. After the war, Alan Dulles saved Nazis from accountability at the Nuremberg trials, helping them escape to Spain or South America, or recruiting them to work for the U.S. against the Soviet Union.

One such former Nazi was Reinhard Gehlen, who had been Hitler’s intelligence chief on the eastern front, where he fought the Soviets and also pinpointed the location of Jews so they could be executed.   Dulles and the CIA strongly defended working with Gehlen and others like him. One of Gehlen’s “most repellent recruits” was Konrad Friebig, “who was later charged with murdering eleven thousand Jews in Belarus during the war.”

As head of the C.I.A. Dulles assassinated foreign leaders and help overthrow governments. In many cases, the C.I.A. acted contrary to the wishes of U.S. presidents.

In the early days of the Cold War with the USSR, Dulles and his colleagues thought up various cloak-and-dagger schemes to counter the Soviets. In one scheme, they spread rumors that an American academic and friend of Dulles was a C.I.A. spy. When the academic arrived in East Germany, he was thrown in prison, as were his family members who later went in search of him. Stalin’s paranoia grew and ended up resulting in the deaths and imprisonment of millions of people. This pleased Dulles.

Dulles and his friends on Wall Street helped launch Richard Nixon’s career, by funding his campaign against the committed New Deal regulator Jerry Vorrhis, about whom they spread rumors and accused of being Communist. Such dirty tricks became models for Republicans working to undermine the New Deal.

“The Cold War furies that Nixon and the Dulles brothers helped to unleash scoured all nuance and charity from American politics.”

If the political winds had been blowing in a different direction in 1948, it might well have been men like Foster and Allen Dulles, Thomas McKirttrick of BIS, and Walter Teagle and William Stamps Farish of Sandard Oil instead of New Dealers like [Alger] Hiss and [Harry Dexter] White who were put under the the investigative spotlight for treason. But by turning the table on the New Deal officials such as White, who had long wanted to prosecute these high-level Nazi collaborators, the Dulles group ensured their own legal protection. By seizing the investigative momentum, Republicans like Dick Nixon, whom Loftus called “Allen Dulle’s mouthpiece in Congress,” made sure that the Dulles circle would never have to answer for their wartime actions.

The Dulles brothers and their ilk were deeply involved in the battle against FDR and the Democratic Party. “For a brief period during the widespread devastation of the 1930s, the New Deal was able to challenge the ‘plutocracy’, as Roosevelt called it… But the militarization of government during World WAR II began to return power to the corporate elite… The Eisenhower presidency would complete this political countertranfsormation, as Washington was taken over by business executives.”

During the Eisenhower administration, the Dulles brothers would finally be given full license to exercise their power in the global arena….. they would impose an American reign on the world enforced by nuclear terror and cloak-and-dagger brutality… The Dulles brothers would prove masters at exploiting the anxious state of permanent vigilance that accompanied the Cold War.

During the 1952 presidential race, Dulles proved his loyalty to the Eishower-Nixon campaign by channeling funds to the Republican ticket through CIA front groups and by leaking embarrassing intelligence of the Korean War — flagrant violations of the CIA charter that forbids agency involvement in domestic politics.

“The Dulles brothers had demonstrated their dedication to their former Sullivan and Cromwell petroleum clients soon after President Eisenhower took office by sabotaging a Justice Department antitrust case against the Seven Sisters oil giants.”

The Dulles brothers took the lead in the brutal overthrow of the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh, Prime Minister of Iran.

“The Eisenhower-Dulles era was a Pax Americana enforced by terror.”   Eisenhower hoped that the combination of nuclear weapons and a brutal, covert, ruthless CIA would scare enemies and avoid the need to send troops overseas.   “He once said that he feared his own ‘boys’ in the military more than he did a sneak attack from the Soviets, who, as he observed, had suffered so devastatingly during World War II that they would be deeply reluctant to risk World War III.”

Secretary of State Foster Dulles often pushed Eisenhower to use nuclear weapons tactically.     Nikita Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that he observed Dulles handing notes to Eisenhower at summits, as if Dulles was in charge. Talbot writes, “Foster succeeded in undermining or deflecting every tentative step that the president made towards detente with the Soviet Union.”       In the words   of Randolph Bourne, “War is the health of the state.” Talbot wrote, “It was this permanent war fever that empowered the country’s political and military hierarchies and enriched the increasingly militarized corporate sector. It was the very lifeblood of this ruling group’s existence — even if, in the atomic age, it threatened the existence of humanity.”

The chapter on the CIA-backed coup against Guatemalan coup against democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz was particularly painful to read.  Árbenz was a decent, idealistic man — think of Hubert Humphrey or Robert Kennedy — who wanted to help peasants suffering under crushing inequality and exploitation of the United Fruit Company.   Árbenz was not a communist. But the CIA poured arms and money into opposition groups, filled media with lies about his government, and humiliated Árbenz by forcing him to disrobe in front of cameras when he was leaving the country. Even after he left, his opponents harassed him.   His government was replaced with a brutal regime that murdered, tortured and imprisoned its opponents.

This is an example of the sort of mind-blowing revelation that made me angry:

In 1952, West German police discovered that the CIA was supporting a two-thousand-member fascist youth group led by ex-Nazi officers who had their own alarming plans for terminating democracy. Police investigators revealed that the CIA-backed group had compiled a blacklist of people to be “liquidated” as “unreliable” in case of a conflict with the Soviet Union. Included on the list were not just West German Communists but leaders pf the Social Democratic Party serving in the Bundestag, as well as other left-leaning government officials. There were cries of outrage in the German parliament over the revelations, but the State Department worked strenuously behind the scenes to suppress the story, and similar alarming measures continued to be quietly contemplated throughout the Cold War.

Frank Olson was a bacteriologist who worked on the CIA’s MKUltra mind-control program, which used LSD and other chemicals on unwitting victims (e.g, prisoners). When Olson started having moral qualms about his work, he was poisoned with LSD, and he later jumped out of a window to his death. The CIA alleged he had committed suicide, but they had taken over the investigation from the NY City police, and there is evidence that he was murdered by the CIA because he was deemed a security risk.

In 1957 then Senator John F. Kennedy said in a speech on the Senate floor:

The most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile €“ it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism €“ and today that means Soviet imperialism and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism.

Thus the single most important test of American foreign policy today is how we meet the challenge of imperialism, what we do to further man’s desire to be free. On this test more than any other, this Nation shall be critically judged by the uncommitted millions in Asia and Africa, and anxiously watched by the still hopeful lovers of freedom behind the Iron Curtain. If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.

That speech upset Eisenhower and Dulles, who thought JFK was naive.

By the end of his presidency, Eisenhower was furious at Allen Dulles and complained that he had been unable to rein him in. Various foreign policy groups had made recommendations to take control of the CIA, but Eisenhower was unable to implement the recommendations and complained that he would leave a “legacy of ashes” for his successor. One of the triggers for Eisenhower’s anger at Dulles was the shooting down of a U-2 spy plane days before a peace summit with Krushchev; many people suspected the CIA of intentionally setting up the incident to sabotage chances for peace with Russia. Dulles had promised him that the aircraft was safe from Soviet anti-aircraft missiles.

Another target of CIA brutality was Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically-elected leader of Congo. Lumbumba wanted to liberate his people from exploitation by Belgium and U.S. colonialism.   He explicitly aimed to avoid subservience to either the U.S. or the USSR, but he still fell victim to Cold War hysteria and to the opposition of mining interests.   President Eisenhower, who by the end of his presidency was “sick, tired, and cranky” gave direct approval to “eliminate” Lumumba.     The New York Times and other publications denounced Lumbumba as being corrupt and unstable. (One of the NY Times reporters who covered Congo was Paul Hofmann, who had been a top aid to notorious Nazi general and convicted mass murderer Kurt Malzer. Hofmann was associated with CIA operative Jim Angleton.) The CIA worked with Beligan intelligence to engineer a coup.     But removing him from office was not enough. The CIA “recruited two cutthroats from the European underworld .. such loathsome mercenaries that even their CIA handlers found them ‘unsavory.'”   Lumumba ended up being beaten on camera. (The section is painful to read.) Later, he was beaten to death, apparently by order of the CIA. When President Kennedy heard the news — over a month after the fact — he was heart-broken. The scandal caused world-wide condemnation but the CIA denied responsibility. Talbot writes:

With one of Africa’s brightest lights extinguished, the Congo slid into an endless nightmare of tyranny and corruption. Propped up by the United States, Mobutu began a thirty-year dictatorship that looted the country of its wealth and left the nation in ruins.”

Both Alan Dulles and CIA operative Larry Devlin (who had been partly responsible for the coup and assassination) later admitted that the CIA had over-reacted in the Congo.

The Bay of Pigs disaster humiliated the CIA and hardened JFK’s opposition to the agency.   Investigations revealed that the invasion was poorly planned, with mediocre people in charge.   Dulles and the CIA tried to suppress the facts.   The CIA had been counting on JFK to send in troops to back up the invaders, but JFK refused.

Soon after the Bay of Pigs disaster, the CIA’s reputation was again tarnished when there were reports that it had been behind an attempted coup against Charles de Gaulle.     Talbot presents evidence backing the reports.   The CIA and others in the U.S. military establishment were unhappy that de Gaulle refused to be subservient to the U.S. For example, France had an independent nuclear force.   The CIA was also upset that de Gaulle wanted to grant independence to Algeria.   JFK tended to support Algeria   and other foreign nations’ independence.   The coup leaders had support in the French airport, as well as troops on the outskirts of Paris.   De Gaulle gave an impassioned speech to the French people calling for their help in stopping the coup.   The coup leaders, including many former Nazis and allies of Dulles were arrested or fired.     JFK apologized to De Gaulle and complained that elements of his government were out of control. His advisors said the U.S. too needed to purge the country of traitors (in the CIA).

After JFK purged Dulles and some of his allies from the CIA and the military, Dulles continued to wield influence, for example, by promoting anti-JFK articles in the press.

JFK’s administration had a “civil war” between pacifists –such as JFK, his brother Robert, and uber-intellectual Arthur Schlesinger — and the national security elite, including Alan Dulles and his followers. Schlesinger was actually a moderate (“in the name of Cold War fraternity, Schlesinger was willing to make his own political compromises — even with men like Allen Dulles, whose Wall Street Republicanism and bullying foreign interventionism represented everything the historian opposed”). But Schlesinger was portrayed as communist by his Republican enemies.   Both JFK and Schlesinger became more and more pacifist.

By 1963, Kennedy would come to the conclusion that “the hardliners in the Soviet Union and the United States fed on one another” — an observation that struck Schlesinger as wise.Kennedy liked to surround himself with intelligent men, but he was usually the most perceptive man in the room.

JFK angrily threatened to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces.” Schlesinger wanted JFK to appoint a relatively pacifist liberal to run the CIA after the departure of Dulles, but opposition from the CIA was fierce. JFK didn’t want the United States to get entangled in Southeast Asia (Laos, Vietnam, etc), but the CIA had other plans.

JFK’s policy of neutrality was being “systematically sabotaged by the military and the CIA, [W. Averell] Harriman warned.

This is reminiscent of what happened repeatedly in the War on Terror since 9/11.

JFK fought with Big Business, as well as with the CIA. He had brokered a deal with the steel industry to stop them from raising prices, in exchange for labor negotiations. When U.S. Steel said it would renege on the deal, JFK had his brother Robert announce a grand jury probe into price-fixing, and FBI agents were sent to steel industry offices to get corporate records. The steel industry backed down, but battle lines were drawn. Republicans including Barry Goldwater accused JFK of adopting police state tactics. JFK saw himself as continuing FDR’s crusade against corporate control.

Outraged by the president’s strong stand against the steel industry, Henry Luce [founder of Life magazine] invoked the fate [assassination] of Julius Ceasar in a harsh editorial in Fortune</em. warning JFK that he should “beware the ides of April.” But Kennedy never backed down from his ongoing duel with the steel industry. In October 1963, just weeks before the his assassination, JFK’s Justice Department filed price-fixing charges against U.S. Steel and other steal companies.

Luce published increasingly critical opeds about JFK, accusing him of being soft on Communism. He “declared that if the Kennedy administration was not bold enough to overthrow Castro, his corporation would take on the task. Luce and his wife were already funding raids on Cuba, with the quiet support of the CIA…. Like the Time-Life building in Manhattan, Dulle’s brick house on Q Street was a boiling center of an anti-Kennedy opposition.” Despite having been fired, Dulles continued to meet with current and former CIA employees.

During the Cuban missile crisis, almost all of JFK’s aides urged him to launch an aggressive military response. He resisted their entreaties, just as Khrushchev resisted his hawkish aide’s advice. Afterwards, they respect one another. Daniel Ellseberg, who was then a defense analyst, later reported that the military officials had a “poisonous, poisonous” anger at JFK for not attacking Cuba, especially in the U.S. Air Force, under the command of Curtis LeMay.

As Kennedy de-escalated the U.S. campaign against Havana, the violent anti-Castro network of spooks, political extremists, paramilitary adventurers, and assassins went underground. The scheming in hotbeds of exile activity like Miami, New Orleans, and Dallas grew more vicious in the spring and early summer of 1963. Mysterious characters with blood in their eyes began to make their appearance on history’s stage.

The CIA continued to use Mafia hit men to try to assassinate Castro, contrary to the orders of JFK and his brother Robert, and despite promises that the efforts had stopped.

On Nov 2, 1963 the Secret Service broke up a plot to assassinate JFK while he was visiting Chicago. The plan had been for a “disgruntled ex-marine … and at least two Cuban marksman” to ambush the president as he rode in a motorcade — chillingly similar to what happened in Dallas later in the month. After the assassination, the Secret service planned to investigate a related threat to the president from Cuban named Paulino Sierra Martinez, who worked with the mob, but President Johnson gave responsibility to the case to the FBI, which failed to follow up. In 1970 the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy, but it was unable to fill in the dots. Sierra was one of those they suspected, since he had connections to Lee Harvey Oswald. But Alan Dulles met with Sierra in April of 1963.

Kennedy’s political opponents in the CIA and in the Republican Party were concerned by his antiwar, anti-imperialistic American University speech. Quoting Wikipedia,

The American University speech, titled “A Strategy of Peace”, was a commencement address delivered by United States President John F. Kennedy at the American University in Washington, D.C., on Monday, June 10, 1963.[1] Delivered at the height of his rhetorical powers and widely considered one of his most powerful speeches,[2] Kennedy not only outlined a plan to curb nuclear arms, but also “laid out a hopeful, yet realistic route for world peace at a time when the U.S. and Soviet Union faced the potential for an escalating nuclear arms race.”[3] In the speech, Kennedy announced his agreement to negotiations “toward early agreement on a comprehensive test ban treaty” (which resulted in the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty) and also announced, for the purpose of showing “good faith and solemn convictions”, his decision to unilaterally suspend all U.S. atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons as long as all other nations would do the same. Noteworthy are his comments that the United States was seeking a goal of “complete disarmament” of nuclear weapons and his vow that America “will never start a war”. The speech was unusual in its peaceful outreach to the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and is remembered as one of Kennedy’s finest and most important speeches.

JFK visited Italy and supported the alliance between the Socialist Party and the ruling Christian Democrats. The CIA worked behind the scenes to undermine that alliance, by funding opposition groups and, later, launching false-flag bombings to blame on leftists. JFK and foreign leaders sensed that a shadow government in the U.S. was out of his control.

One of the CIA officials who worked in Italy was Bill Harvey, who had earlier caused a scandal by disobeying JFK and sending armed groups to Cuba in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. One of Harvey’s deputies was F. Mark Wyatt, who had suspicions that Harvey had prior knowledge of the JFK assassination. When news of the assassination first broke, Harvey said something to suggest he expected it. Wyatt later told a journalist that Harvey had been in Dallas in November 1963. House Assassination Committee investigator Dan Hardway was in charge of investigating possible CIA involvement. He suspected that Harvey was involved, since he had connections both to the mafia and to the Cuban exile community. Hardway requested Harvey’s files from the CIA, but the CIA refused to turn them over. David Talbot (the author of the book) also tried, unsuccessfully, to obtain CIA files on Harvey.

It’s these sorts of provocative bits of evidence that caused Charles de Gaulle to wonder why the Americans refused to pull the threads of evidence to see what emerged. De Gaulle believed the JFK assassination was an inside job.

Kennedy alienated Texas oilmen by working to close tax loopholes such as the oil depletion allowance. Kennedy was so unpopular in Texas, that when he convened a planning meeting for the 1964 re-election campaign, he didn’t invite his vice-president, LBJ. Kennedy’s civil rights policies also alienated southerners.

Talbot summarizes some of the conspiracy theories explaining CIA involvement in the Kennedy assassination, the “crime of the century.” Howard Hunt (of Watergate infamy) confessed some of the story to his son. Alleged co-conspirators include William Harvey, Cord Meyer, David Sánchez Morales, David Atlee Phillips, Frank Sturgis, and possibly LBJ.   Many of the co-conspirators were involved with the CIA.   Several of them were in Dallas before the assassination.   Sharpshooters from the Corsican mafia like did the hit.   House committees investigated some of the “threads” but were unable to find definitive answers. At some point the CIA seemed willing to throw Hunt and Harvey under the bus and blame it all on them.

This Politico article from 2021, What Biden is keeping secret in the JFK files,   reviews the history of efforts to get federal agencies to release all their records about the JDK assassination.

Lee Harvey Oswald had a troubled childhood — his father died young and his mother was unable to care for him, so he ended up in group homes and then in the military.     He got into trouble in the military and was court-martialed. Then he “defected” to the Soviet Union, where he worked for two years and married a Soviet woman who was raised by an uncle who worked for the KGB.   Oswald announced his defection at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.   Yet when he decided to return to the U.S., the government made it easy for him to return and the State Department even gave him a $35 loan.   No federal agents met him at the airport.   Republican Senator Richard Schweiker, who served on the Church Commission investigating the CIA, said of Oswald, “Everywhere you look with him, there are fingerprints of intelligence.”

One of Oswald’s close friends was George de Mohrenschildt, whose family fled Tsarist Russia and was ardently anti-Soviet.     Talbot presents (convincing) evidence that de Mohrenschildt was “minding” Oswald for the CIA. Later in life he wrote that he couldn’t say that he wasn’t a CIA agent but nor could he say he was.   (Talbot thinks de Mohrenschildt was an “asset” but not an agent.)   De Mohrenschildtd had as friends and associates many people in the Texas oil business, which was ardently anti-Kennedy, with connections to conservatives such as the Bush dynasty, William F. Buckley’s father, LBJ, Edgar Hoover, Allen Dulles, and D.H. Byrd (the owner of the Dallas School Book Repository (from which Oswald allegedly fired a shot at JFK). “The international oil business and the U.S. intelligence establishment were overlapping worlds, and de Mohrenschildt soon found himself with a foot in each one.   He testified to the Warren Commission that Oswald was maniacally jealous of Kennedy   — thus providing a motive for the assassination — but also that Oswald deeply “admired” Kennedy. The Warren Commission didn’t investigate the CIA connections.

By the next year, de Mohrenschildt was telling Jackie Kennedy’s mother, Janet Auchincloss, that she should use her money to find out who really killed JFK. But Auchincloss, who was a Nixon supporter and was friends with Alan Dulles,   continued to say that Oswald alone was responsible.     De Mohrenschildt felt he was being used by the CIA, according to Talbot.   Later in his life, de Mohrenschildt wrote a memoir I am a Patsy, in which he retracted his earlier testimony to the Warren Commission.   Oswald, he insisted was not jealous of the Kennedy’s wealth. In fact, Oswald had little interest in wealth and high society.

Near the end of his life, de Mohrenschildt was writing his memoirs and becoming more insistent that justice had not been served by the Warren Commission. He felt that he was being monitored by the CIA and plead with his old friend George Bush, Sr — then head of the CIA — to protect him.     De Mohrenschildt was scheduled to testify to the House Select Committee on Assassination — “whose investigations were showing a keener interest in the truth than the Warren panel had.”       Before he was able to testify, he was found dead. The death was ruled a suicide, but there was rampant speculation that he in fact been murdered. Bill O’Reilly, then a Dallas TV reporter, reported on the assassination in his book Killing Kennedy.

Interestingly, there was a “flurry of other sudden exits during that season of renewed congressional inquiry into the Kennedy case.” Some died from heart attacks or suicide. Mafia-CIA go-between Johnny Rosselli was “garroted, chopped up, and stuffed into an oil drum.”

It’s difficult to summarize some of the circumstantial evidence about Oswald’s connections to the CIA: friends and relatives who were CIA assets or who were being monitored by the CIA. Oswald appearing in strange places and even meeting with known CIA people. One such friend helped Oswald get the job at the Dallas School Book Repository. Oswald was involved in both pro-Castro and anti-Castro political groups, both monitored or infiltrated by the CIA. Oswald was spotted in the company of David Atlee Phillips, according to the testimony of Antonio Veciana, a leading Cuban exile leader. Phillips was Veciana’s CIA supervisor. Veciana testified in 2014 at a conference of JFK assassination researchers, “I was trained by the CIA, as was Oswald. Oswald and Fidel Castro were ideal scapegoats for the murder of the president … It really was a coup d’etat.” Talbot writes, “In the final weeks of his life, Oswald was the subject of particularly intense CIA coverage. Some of this evidence is presented in John Newman’s book Oswald and the CIA; Newman is a University of Maryland history professor and a former military intelligence officer.

For days following the Kennedy assassination, Dulles spent time at the Farm, the CIA alternative headquarters. Though he had no formal role in the CIA, he had continued to be influential and to meet with CIA employees.

Kennedy earned the ire of bankers and industrialists such as David and Nelson Rockefeller by trying to tax the rich and by supporting democracy movements in the Latin America. He said “There’s a revolution going on down there, and I want to be on the right side of it.”

Talbot reviews some of the evidence about the assassination itself: that doctors examining the president said that there must have been multiple shooters; that bullets entered from the front; that as many as 21 police officers said they heard gunshots from the “grassy knoll” in front of Kennedy, not from the Dallas School Book Repository where Oswald worked; that ballistics evidence from the scene of the crime showed that the bullets that killed Kennedy didn’t match the fun that Oswald supposedly used; that the alleged murder weapon, a $19.95 Italian military surplus rifle, was too old and faulty to have been used in such a high precision operation; and the driver who drove Oswald to the building said he hadn’t been carrying a package big enough to hold a rifle.

Jack Ruby, who killed Oswald, was connected to the Mafia. “The list [of names in Ruby’s phone records] was almost a duplicate of the people I called before the Rackets Commission.” RFK knew that the CIA used the Mafia to do some of its dirty work.

Even Harry Truman was angry about the CIA. On Dec 22, 1963 — one month after the assassination — he published an op-ed in the Washington Post charging the CIA with being out of control. “I have never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations…. It has become an operation and at times policy-making arm of Government.” He said it cast “a shadow over our historic position [as a] free and open society.” The fact that the op-ed was published exactly one month after the assassination was suggestive that Truman suspected CIA involvement. Truman expressed regret at having created the CIA. “It’s become a government all of its own and all secret.”

Dulles was concerned about Truman’s letter and plead with him — by letter and in person — to retract it. When Truman refused to retract it, Dulles tried to claim that Truman had become senile and was confused and surprised about the letter.

“And in Italy, where the limitations of the Mannlicher-Carcabi rifle were well known to a generation of World War II vetarans, the newspaper Corriere Lombardo observerd that there was no way Oswald could have used the bolt-action weapon to squeeze off three shots in six seconds, as official reports from Dallas were claiming.”

Charles De Gaulle was convinced that U.S. security forces were behind the CIA assassination, partly because he thought the CIA had tried to assassinate himself. De Gaulle also realized that the truth would be suppressed, “In order to not risk unleashing riots in the United States. In order to preserve the union and to avoid a new civil war…. They won’t allow themselves to find out.”

Talbot says that the CIA tried to suggest that Castro or Krushchev were behind the assassination, but, in fact, both leaders were saddened by it, since Kennedy had been moving towards making peace. But the U.S. news media were not as compliant as the CIA had hoped. There were editorials attacking the CIA, including one by Senator Eugene McCarthy titled, “The CIA is Getting Out of Hand.”

But Dulles dominated the Warren Commission, which tried to whitewash the CIA from responsibility for the assassination. LBJ agreed to to let Dulles allies dominate the commission. After the report was released, friendly media voices lauded it. But Dulles fought for the rest of his life to defend it against increasing attacks by researchers, journalists, and academics who pointed out various gaps in the reasoning and ignored pieces of evidence.

Well, it’s official. Pamela Paul, the book editor of the New York Times, has informed my publisher that the Times will not be reviewing “The Devil’s Chessboard” — no explanation apparently given. This follows word from the Washington Post, as told to my book publicist, that the Post “won’t touch” my book. So despite glowing coverage in the book industry press (starred review in Kirkus, Amazon book of the month, etc) and in independent (mostly online) publications, the censorship of my book in the mainstream press is virtually complete.

What can we surmise from this media blackout of “The Devil’s Chessboard”? Clearly there are taboo subjects in the American “free press” — especially when it comes to the national security arena. Among these verboten topics are some of the darkest secrets of the CIA — as well as the shameful complicity of these very same newspapers with the CIA.

At a critical moment in American history, when the public desperately needs open discussion of U.S. foreign policy and why we are so reviled throughout the Muslim world, the leading press institutions shut off discussion of a book that sheds important historical light on this subject. In this sense, the New York Times and Washington Post — our much heralded “liberal” beacons of truth — remain a big part of the problem. Shame on the Times and Post editors for their cowardly coverup.

More and more people doubted the conclusions of the Warren Report, including Mary Dulles and some of Dulles’ friends.   Two thirds of Americans rejected the conclusions Warren Report by 1967.

Having read much of the evidence, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison subpoenaed Dulles, but the CIA fought back, infiltrated Dulles’ staff, let/caused records to be destroyed, and ended up investigating Garrison on trumped up corruption charges.

“Despite the public’s overwhelming rejection of the Warren Report, Dulles could count on the unwavering support of the Washington establishment and corporate media.”

When Richard Nixon found out that Robert F. Kennedy decided to run for president, Nixon said, “Something bad is going to come of this. God knows where this is going to lead.”     Jackie Kennedy had begged Robert not to run and observed, “Do you know what I think will happen to Bobby?   The same think that happened to Jack.”   RFK had his doubts about the Warren Commission Report but wanted to address them after he became president.   Talbot briefly mentions allegations that the CIA was behind RFK’s assassination, including alleged connections between one of RFK’s security guards, Thane Eugene Cesar, who allegedly had CIA connections, as well as claims that there had to have been a second assassin.

“Under Dulles, America’s intelligence system had become a dark and invasive force — at home and abroad — violating citizens’ privacy, kidnapping, torturing, and killing at will.”   Dulles’ techniques and philosophy continue to this day, Talbot says.

Talbot’s book ends with words spoken by Dulle’s CIA deputy James Angleton, at the end of his life. Til then he had been loyal to his CIA boss, but nearing death, he had confessions to make. “Fundamentally, the founding fathers of U.S. intelligence were liars. … Outside of their duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power. I did things that, in looking back on my life, I regret.”       Talbot wrote that Angleton mentioned the names of CIA leaders Dulles, Helms, and Wisner, saying of them, “If you were in a room with them, you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell.   I guess I will see them there soon.”

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