tv Face the Nation CBS October 27, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm PDT
"face the nation." we're going to continue our conversation with phil shenon. it is well known that lee harvey oswald went to mexico city in the weeks before the assassination. the warren commission concluded the trip didn't figure in the killing of president kennedy. but this man thought otherwise. he is winston scott, seen here in a 1962 home movie taken in mexico city where he was the c.i.a. station chief. though he and others told the commission that the c.i.a. had limited know of oswald's visit, he later wrote that he knew and suspected much more. when he died in 1971, a top c.i.a. official flew to mexico city and removed several boxes of documents from scott's house. one of those documents quietly declassified in the mid-1990s was a section of scott's
unpublished memoirs, a section devoted to oswald's trip to mexico. lee harvey oswald became a person of great interest to us. quote scott, "oswald's visits at both the communist cuban embassy and the soaf embassy in mexicoico city during his brief five-day stay in september-october, 1963, are together with what is known what took place during these visits sufficient to make him a suspect agent acting on behalf of the soviets in self things, possibly including the assassination of president kennedy." so i have to ask you, phil, is winston scott and what he wrote in this diary to be taken seriously? was that conjecture on his part? we have the information that he might have had evidence to back that up. >> apparently, in his memoirs, he describes photographs, c.i.a. photographs that were taken of oswald in mexico city, and he describes tapes of wiretapped
conversations in which oswald was involved, and all of that disappeared. those-- certainly none of that material was ever provided to the warren commission. >> schieffer: was he the one that came up with the story about that oswald actually had some sort of a relationship with a woman, a cuban woman in mexico city? that was new to me when i read your book. >> there is some evidence to suggest he had a brief relationship with a young mexican woman who worked at the cuban embassy in mexico city. the warren commission actually wanted to interview that woman, but chief justice warren made the decision she would not be interviewed because he said she was a communist and we don't interview communists. >> schieffer: but this information was not passed on to the warren commission, and was not passed on to the amies in dallas in those days before president kennedy came to dallas. >> absolute. and when scott told the warren commission there was not a
conspiracy, in the memoir he said exactly the opposite. >> schieffer: so for whatever reason he didn't shoot straight with the warren commission. >> i think that's clear. >> schieffer: there was another, tom johnson, in the 1970s was the publisher of "dallas times herald," and later the head of cnn. we want to bring tom in now. he is with us this morning. tell us what you discovered-- when was it, 1975-- about some information that you came to know about. >> bob, it was 1975. i was sitting by an agent of the f.b.i. that i had come to know over time. we were talking about the warren commission and whether there had been any new information that was discovered. he told me that oswald had come to the dallas office of the
f.b.i., had left a threatening note several days before the assassination, and that that note had been flushed-- that is to say, had been destroyed. >> schieffer: how did that come about? how did you-- what did you find out about how the note came to be destroyed? and do you know what was on the note? >> i did not know precisely what was on the note. the work that diwith a great deal of cooperation, incidentally, from then-f.b.i. director clarence kelly showed the note had been been a threatening note, threatening to ploa up the dallas office of the f.b.i., the building, if the agents did not cease trying toirnt view oswald's wife, marina. >> schieffer: we know, of course, they had been in contact with both marina and lee harvey oswald because he had defected to the soviet union, and she was, of course, a russian national. >> the fact that she spoke no
english at the time, and the two agents were showing up at the residence to try to interview her as a matter of some routine for those citizens of russia who were living in the united states. but she was terribly frightened, and thought perhaps that these men were even k.g.b. >> schieffer: and you were not about to publish something like this, though you checked it out. if i remember, you flew to washington and met with the then-head of the f.b.i., clarence kelly. >> i had heard so many rumors over the years, so many conspiracy theories, and here i was as the publisher of the dallas paper, they felt this information had to be checked every possible way. so i asked for an emergency meeting with the then-f.b.i. director clarence kelly. he and assistant director james adams agreed to see me the following day. i flew to washington and described to thoam what i had learned. i also asked them to confirm it or deny it for me with one
condition, that they would advise me of the their findings and we could then go forward with publication if it was true. >> schieffer: and they told you it was. >> and on a saturday morning in september of 1975, director kelly called me to say that it was true. he was very saddened, i think, to learn of it, and went forward with the publication. >> schieffer: and, phil, i want to get back to your book. as far as you know, this information never got to the warren commission. >> no, absolutely not. i mean the decision was made two days after the assassination to destroy this note, and we'll never know exactly what was in that note. it's been described in different ways. but, no, the warren commission knew absolutely nothing about it. >> schieffer: you know, one of the most fascinating parts of your book to me, because i've worked in washington for more than 40 years now, and i know how hard it is to keep a secret around here. i mean, you can barely keep one through a 24-hour news cycle. but you revealed a secret that
was held for 50 years and that is that an investigator on the warren commission actually interviewed fidel castro-- never made a record of it-- but tell us how that happened. >> well, this is a gentleman boy the name of william coleman, a young lawyer from philadelphia who is on the staft warren commission. >> schieffer: when who went on to become secretary of transportation in the ford administration. >> that's correct. he's in charge of the conspiracy team on the warren commission. and he actually knows fidel castro from his days in jazz clubs in harlem, and apparently during his visits to new york, castro would visit. and he, coleman, is sent out on a boat to the waters off ciewrk very secretly, to meet with fidel castro, to hear what castro has to say-- which is he insists he did not have any involvement in president kennedy's assassination. >> schieffer: you know, tom, lyndon johnson never accepted the warren commission report that there was no conspiracy.
he told joe califano, one of his senior aides, others in the information, the kennedys were trying to get castro, and castro got him first. did he ever have any evidence of that or was that just a suspicion that he had? to the best of my knowledge, president johnson, former president johnson, never had any hard evidence of that. >> schieffer: and, phil, did you ever find anything to indicate that castro did, indeed, have this connection? we know when oswald went to the cuban embassy in mexico, he tried to get a visa to go to cuba, but the cubans wouldn't give him one. my sense of that they turned him away. they didn't want to deal with him. >> that's apparently correct, or at least that is the story we were told at the time. you know, in mexico city, oswald is dealing with cuban spies and soviet spies, and mexicans sympathetic to castro, who might
have had reason to want to see the end of john kennedy's presidency, all & all those connections went uninvestigated by the f.b.i. and c.i.a. they didn't want to find out what the truth was down there. >> schieffer: tom uinterviewed castro yourself many years after that. were you with the "l.a. times? in. >> i was then with cnn. >> schieffer: did you ever get any sense that castro, there was a castro connection here? >> president castro said to me, and larry register, under no dns anybody in his government have any connection with the assassination. and i'll never forget hissy quote as translated to me. he said, "if there were ever any evidence, they would have incip railted my little island." >> schieffer: phil in your book you talk about-- and there's no question about this.
there have been reports about it sense-- there is no question the administration before that was trying to sabotage castro in every way they could. they were trying to topple him. the bay of picion had been, you know, a complete failure. but right up until the assassination, the c.i.a. was still trying to carry out some sort of a move to assassinate castro. >> they were trying to kill him. on the day of president kennedy's assassination, a c.i.a. officer in paris is handing a poison pen to a man apparently assigned to kill castro. no, the kennedy administration was very clearly trying to oust castro and almost certainly violently. >> schieffer: and from time to time came up with these various plots-- bring in the mafia to see if they could help and that sort of thing. castro had to know about that. >> he did. he did know aboutt that. just weeks before the assassination, castro gave an interview in havana saying he was aware the kennedy
administration was trying to kill him and there would be retaliation if that continued. >> schieffer: but apparently, tom johnson, came away that he thought the consequences would be disastrous for cuba if he did try something. we'll never know. obviously, he's going to deny it, but we'll never know any more than that. we'll be back in one minute. we're going to bring in peggy noonan and bob woodward into this discussion. >> we're watching an official reenactment of the murder of president john f. kennedy, filmed from the window where the alleged assassin was. when we made our commitment to the gulf, bp had two big goals: help the gulf recover and learn from what happened so we could be a better, safer energy company. i can tell you - safety is at the heart of everything we do.
we've added cutting-edge technology, like a new deepwater well cap and a state-of-the-art monitoring center, where experts watch over all drilling activity twenty-four-seven. and we're sharing what we've learned, so we can all produce energy more safely. our commitment has never been stronger. now. joining us at the table, peggy noonan, columnist for the "wall street journal," and bob woodward, our old friend at the "washington post." peggy, as you sit here and listen to phil retell this story, and tom, what goes through your mind here? >> well, it's a heck of a story. we are 50 years-- we are half a
century into the story, and we are still learning new things about it, which is kind of amazing. but i also wondered,aise mentioned a moment ago, i wonder if we were not as a fully functioning nation lucky not to know all of this at the time. you wonder how destabilizing it would have been to have known of the grave doubts and the mischief and in some cases, the dishonesty of people running the united states and running great report of the tragically killed president. in a way, i mean, it's the opposite of these days where we know everything, and that has its own destabilizing effect. >> schieffer: phil writes in his book at one point, dean rusk told the-- who did he tell, the attorney general or somebody to shut down this investigation about trying to find out if it was castro? >> it's an amazing story, but the u.s. ambassador to mexico
city, a fellow by the name of tom mann, says many years after the assassination, he was called immediately after president kennedy's murder, by dean rusk, and told to shut down any investigation in mexico city that might point to any cuban involvement in the assassination. he was shocked by that. he thought the same orders were given to the f.b.i. and c.i.a. in mexico city, and it's thought because the c.i.a. was concerned their covert operations in mexico city might be exposed. >> schieffer: bob, you you and i have seen a lot of these things. >> too much. >> schieffer: the first thing that agencies tend to do is try to make sure they can't be blamed for something. and, clearly, that is why the f.b.i. and the c.i.a. did not come clean with the warren commission, and why maybe they didn't even tell the amies in dallas what was going on. >> well, initially, in the watergate cover-up, part of the argument was, oh, you'll expose
convert operations in mexico because they were laundering $89,000 of money that helped finance watergate. i think there's a theme in all of this that you have laid out that connects somewhat to what's going on now. and that is the power of this secret world-- c.i.a., f.b.i.-- particularly in what you've looked at, phil, the assassination plots geens castro. i mean, it's stunning, and this information really didn't get to the warren commission. and it's not saying that castro did it, but that there's all this secrecy and the people at the top or the people investigating the commission does not get the evidence. we look now at what's going on with all the n.s.a. wiretapping and people saying, "well, they didn't know, or they did know."
it clearly is much more extensive than people expected. you connect this with the drone strikes in pakistan, and yemen, which is our government conducting regular assassinations by air. you know, what's-- what's going on here? hois in control of it? and who can find out? you know, i think-- it's in the "new york times" this morning that there is a review that siewns rice and the national security adviser for obama has done on middle east policy. they need to review the this secret world and its power in their government because you run into this rats nest of concealment and lies time and time again then and now. >> schieffer: i want to go back to just-- because those of us who have seen one commission after another-- and i always had
the highest regard for the warren commission because of the reputation of the people who were on it. but this thing was just one step away from being totally dysfunctional. talk a little bit about that. >> just thinking,un, bob is describing this powerful secret government, and the members of the warren commission staff who really did this hard work, did the digging, they were young men who had no experience in government, most of whom had no experience in investigating. they had no idea what they were up against in the c.i.a. and the f.b.i. and these agencies that were determined to hide the full truth. >> schieffer: and the commission members themselves, though, you know, here you had earl warren who didn't want the job. you had richard russell, this distinguished senator from georgia, who could not stand earl warren and told lyndon johnson that he wouldn't be on a commission that included earl warren, and johnson said,"i'm sorry, it's too late. i've already announced you're on the commission and you're anything to have to do it." he showed up for very few
meetings. some of the other commission members seldom came when they met. you have gerald ford who went on to become president who early on called the f.b.i. and said, "listen, i'll be glad to be your guy, and i'll keep you informed." i mean, these tales are just astonishing to me how they ever got anything done. >> of the seven commissioners, really only two or three were ever involved in this investigation at all. >> i think in part what we're talking about is the deep state, even then, even 50 years ago, there were so many key agencies, and they had so much going on, and there was so much information coming in, and there were humans who were mishandling it-- and i mean some innocent people such as i think the agent in dallas who was doing his best with lee harvey oswald but didn't think he should be followed in the days before the assassination. it was an honest judgment. but my point is in governments,
which are living organisms, there can be so much stimuli coming in, that you lose it, but also people realize they're kind of powerful on midlevels. and we see this same thing today when there's even more information coming in. there's opportunity for even more mischief, things that get lost, but also things that get bottlenecked. bureaucracy can have a profound effect and being powerful but can also lose a million threads. >> it's for a good purpose-- we want to stop terrorism in this country and the world. so all of this power has gone to the intelligence agencies. it's actually-- it's astounding what we spend on it, tens of billions of dollars. the problem is-- and the peep who do lot of this work do it in good faith-- but it's on automatic pilot. kill this person because we think he might be a terrorist. in some cases, they have these
signature strikes. well, it looks like terrorists. they're doing things like terrorists do. so let's kill them. or let's get chancellor merkel's conversations on the cell phone. now, what's interesting here is the technology that gives us the information about the terrorists is very similar, essentially, to the technology that allows us to get conversations of world leaders on cell phones. and somebody's got to look at this and see where it's going. i mean, it is-- you get to a point where what do you worry about? secret governments. >> schieffer: let me ask both of you. tell me what your take is now on this whole rolled out of obamacare? where does this go, peggy. >> oh, it has been, i believe, a
political disaster for the white house. it has made people in america nervous, anxious, and confused. look, bottom line, it seems to me, this whole thing should be delayed. but deep inside myself, i really think, look, they can probably get this tech end to work in a certain amount of time, but the internals of the law, the content of the law is already causing problems. i wish we could stop the whole thing, go back to point one, and say let's try this again. i think it's not working. >> it clearly isn't working. and, you know, we'll see. they've put a lot of people on it. and they promised to deliver. but, again, this connects to this theme of we've got an incredibly powerful government that gets on automatic pilot and you have people with inexperience who don't know
about nuts and bolts questions, people who don't go in and say, "well, now is this going to work? let's test it?" we were talking earlier about the raid that killed osama bin laden. that was run by leon panetta, who was c.i.a. director, who knew to make sure you checked all of the boxes, and they literally had a place where it was a compound that they reconstructed and they practiced. and we didn't been practice obamacare. >> schieffer: all right, we have to end it there. tom jawnsop, thank you. you did some greet reporting back there, but when you did honest work, being a real shoe leather reporter. >> thank you, bob. >> schieffer: and phil shenon, congratulations. it's a remarkable book. >> thank you. >> schieffer: we'll be right back.
special, "as is happened, john f. kennedy " on saturday november 16, followed by a live broadcast of "face the nation" from the site of the school book depository, which is now the 6 form museum in dallas, the nmorning, november 17. plus there will be coverage all that week on "cbs this morning "and the cbs evening news with scott pelley. bam in a minute. i'm beth... and i'm michelle. and we own the paper cottage.
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streets... on a busy sunday. tightening the rules for gun owners. what one bay area city is proposing... to cra down. and... with bart trains a suspect shot on a busy sunday. tightening the rules for gun owners. what one city is proposing for a b.a.r.t shutdown. state leaders are working to keep employees from walking out in the future. good evening. right now, the police are combing through an area of san francisco's marina district. saying two people got into a fight at 12:30 and chestnut and pierce. one of the men ran off and got a couple blocks away before the cops caught up with him. brian webb joins us from the scene, brian this is a rare area for a shooting like that? >> yes. the
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