Alex Constantine - June 22, 2022
Why Tim Weiner Never Called Me
By James DiEugenio - Kennedys and King, December 21. 2021
In response to Tim Weiner’s hatchet job on JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass in Rolling Stone magazine, Jim DiEugenio exposes the false alternatives and hypocrisy used in this review, which ignores the work of the Assassination Records Review Board and other new evidence presented in the film.
On November 22, 2021, Tim Weiner wrote an article about Oliver Stone’s new documentary dealing with the JFK assassination for Rolling Stone. It’s really a hit piece, the literary equivalent of a drive by shooting. And, as we shall see, it’s not about what Weiner says it’s about.
Weiner begins by saying that JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass is “rooted in a big lie.” What is that lie? According to Weiner, the lie is that Kennedy was murdered by the Deep State (i.e. the CIA backed by the military-industrial complex). From here, one would think that Weiner would now confront the evidence in the film and, point by point, counter it and thus reduce Oliver Stone to, in his words, “a tinfoil-hatted fabricator.”
He does not do that. Not even close. Like a cardsharp, Weiner skips that step and jumps to this accusation: if anyone thinks the CIA killed Kennedy, you are being deluded by a Soviet era disinformation campaign. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding. But before Weiner begins playing his Russian aria, he first does a prelude. He says this about JFK’s assassination:
Either Lee Harvey Oswald, trained by the United States Marines as a sharpshooter before he defected to the Soviet Union, got off a million-to-one shot in Dallas. He acted alone. Or he was an instrument of a conspiracy so immense that it staggers the mind.
Right out of the gate Weiner sets up a game of false alternatives, because JFK Revisited shows Oswald’s “million-to-one shot” did not happen. The film takes pains to demonstrate that the Warren Commission’s Magic Bullet, labeled CE 399, was not fired in Dealey Plaza that day. JFK Revisited proves this on more than one basis. The film also proves that the FBI and the Warren Commission lied about the provenance of CE 399. It does this with evidence made possible by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), but Weiner does not want the reader to know this since it knocks out one of his false alternatives. If he admitted this evidence, then one would be left with, well, a conspiracy.
This phony prelude leads to Weiner’s main theme. It’s not an easy job to soften and make acceptable the life and career of CIA Director Allen Dulles. One would think that, after all we know about Dulles today, no one would try, but Weiner has to, in order to sketch in his other false alternative. Namely that Stone says that Dulles was the “presiding genius of the plot against the president.” (The film doesn’t really say that, but accuracy is not what Weiner is after.)
So now Tim pulls out his make-up kit for Dulles. He writes that the CIA Director did not back the plots to overthrow Charles de Gaulle of France, which is a startling statement. For many interested observers, one of the best books on the career of Allen Dulles is The Devil’s Chessboard. Author David Talbot uses a variety of sources to show that Weiner is wrong. For example, the newspaper Paris-Jour centered on Dulles as the main culprit in the attempted overthrow of April 1961. Later, bestselling French author Vincent Jauvert traced the sources of these stories in the French press to de Gaulle’s own foreign ministry. (Talbot, p. 414) In fact, De Gaulle had come to this conclusion himself. (London Observer, May 2, 1961) Author Andrew Tully also noted columns in Le Monde and l’Express which he wrote were owed to high French officials. (CIA: The Inside Story, pp. 48–49)
In the USA, The Nation reported that high level French government employees thought the CIA had encouraged the attempted overthrow. And using l’Express, they wrote that one of the dissident French generals had several meetings with CIA agents who advised him that getting rid of de Gaulle would do the free world a great service. (The Nation, May 20, 1961) These stories also appeared in American mainstream newspapers like The Washington Post. (April 30, 1961) Most fatally for Weiner, his former employer The New York Times also printed the story. Scotty Reston wrote that the CIA was indeed “involved in an embarrassing liaison with the anti-Gaullist officers.” (New York Times, April 29, 1961) But further, Talbot goes into the reasons behind the conflict between Dulles and de Gaulle. It was the desire of the French leader to get rid of NATO’s Operation Gladio elements in France and also his intent to set free the French colony of Algeria in North Africa. (Talbot, pp. 416–17) One would think that all this would be enough to satisfy most objective observers.
In a neat bit of cherry picking, Weiner never mentions any of these sources. He borrows a trick from Max Holland and says that the idea that the CIA backed the attempts by dissident French officers to overthrow de Gaulle was all part of a Russian disinformation campaign that began in Italy. To most informed observers the idea that Scotty Reston would rely on the Italian newspaper Paese Sera is ridiculous on its face.
But further, for Weiner to use Holland as a source for the John F. Kennedy assassination is inexcusable. Ten years ago, Holland made one of the worst documentaries ever produced on the Kennedy assassination. In fact, as Pat Speer has noted, there were indications that Holland knew his thesis was faulty before the documentary even aired. How bad was it? Even Commission zealots Dale Myers and Todd Vaughan attacked the show. The Lost Bullet was so indefensible that one would think no one would ever treat Holland with any degree of respect again. (Click here for details)
But this is the JFK case, so normal rules of credit and reference do not apply. Therefore, Weiner trots out Holland once more. And he then doubles down on the man. He says that New Orleans DA Jim Garrison arrested Clay Shaw because of a story that ran in Paesa Sera three days after. (Hmm) He then adds that Garrison bandied this story about as a basis for his prosecution of Shaw and also that it became a central basis for his whole case against the Central Intelligence Agency.
Again, this derives from Max Holland. Holland has been selling this line for a very long time. He was pretty much eviscerated on it by Gary Aguilar back in 2004. This was during a debate that was broadcast by CSPAN and is still available on the web; therefore Weiner could have easily located it. (Click here for the debate) Aguilar proved that, unlike what Holland and Weiner imply, Garrison did not make the Paesa Sera story a part of his case against Shaw—either in public or at Shaw’s trial. For example, in his 26 page Playboy interview—the longest ever run by the magazine at that time—the DA never brought it up.
But then Weiner does something that is probably even worse. And it shows his utter disdain for the work of the Assassination Records Review Board. He says that Shaw was not a longtime operative of the CIA. Because of the work of the Board, we now have documentation that proves that the defendant lied about this at his trial. Shaw had three CIA clearances, one of them being a covert security clearance. (William Davy, Let Justice be Done, p. 196) As Joan Mellen discovered, Shaw was also a valuable and well-compensated contract agent. (Mellen, Our Man in Haiti, p. 54) Adding the documentation up, Shaw’s CIA career extended over a period of 23 years. Unlike Tim, most people would think that qualifies as being longtime. In fact, the Board’s CIA specialist also discovered that the CIA had destroyed Shaw’s 201 file. Why? (Click here for details)
Virtually everything in the above paragraph is displayed in the film. Somehow Weiner either missed it or chose to ignore it, but in JFK Revisited we also feature authors Jefferson Morley and John Newman. Those two discuss what Garrison based his own investigation on at its inception: Oswald’s activities in New Orleans. Specifically, how he interacted with the CIA run anti-Castro Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE) and the fact he stamped his pro-Castro flyers with the address of the extremely rightwing Guy Banister. We then detail how:
1.) The FBI covered up Oswald’s association with Banister, (Newman, Oswald and the CIA, p. 310); and
2.) The CIA lied about their liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations having no association with the Oswald case in 1963. The truth was that George Joannides was the CIA handler of the DRE in 1963. (Miami New Times, April 12, 2001, “Revelation 1963”)
Most people, as Garrison did, would think that this information about Oswald in New Orleans would tell us something about him, probably that he was not really a Marxist. The latest discoveries on this issue were made possible by the ARRB and are in the film.
In fact, one of the most shocking things about Weiner’s article is this: He cannot bring himself to mention by name the Assassination Records Review Board. Or the fact that JFK Revisited uses their work to an unprecedented degree. This is quite a bit of alchemy since the film interviews three men who worked for that body, and it mentions the Board throughout. In addition, it displays declassified documents which back up many of the declarations in the film. Weiner does not refer to any of these documents or witness statements.
Toward the end of his screed, Tim writes that he cannot tell us that there wasn’t a conspiracy. He then says that maybe there is a bombshell in the still classified archives. That utterly inane statement demonstrates why Weiner’s article is not criticism; it’s a hatchet job. As demonstrated, Tim does not want to tell the reader what is in the film. The fact that, under oath, the official JFK autopsy photographer told the Board that he did not shoot the pictures of Kennedy’s brain that are in the archives today. John Stringer gave five reasons for his denial. Two of them being that he did not use the type of film with which the extant photographs were taken, and he did not utilize the photographic process evident in those pictures. JFK Revisited has Doug Horne, an ARRB employee who was in the room with Stringer during his sworn testimony, narrate this passage. (Horne, Inside the ARRB, p. 810)
Just like he does not want to tell his readers about the above, Tim also won’t reveal that the FBI lied about CE 399, the Magic Bullet. They did so in three ways. The film proves that the Bureau lied about its identification by the first two people who handled it. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, pp. 282–84) It also proves that the Bureau lied about an FBI agent’s initials being on the exhibit. They are not. Third, by their own records, the FBI lab had the Magic Bullet before it was transferred to the agent who delivered it there. This delivery, of course, was by the agent whose initials are not on the bullet. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, second edition, p. 345)
Like the issue of the autopsy photos, the information about CE 399 is proved out in the film. It would be of great interest to anyone watching, since it goes to the heart of the Warren Commission’s case against Oswald. Like everything else above, Weiner does not mention it. In fact, before writing his piece and attributing sources of information in the script to Paese Sera, he never called this writer, which would seem to be a significant trespass of journalistic ethics since I wrote the script. I could have informed him of the actual sources we used for things like the attempted overthrow of de Gaulle or Clay Shaw and the CIA. Those sources had nothing to do with what Weiner attributes them to. When the annotated scripts are published next year, this will be made plain to anyone who reads them.
So, the question then becomes: Why didn’t Tim Weiner pick up the phone to call Jim DiEugenio? Or shoot an email to Jim to find out what my actual sources were in writing the script? It would have been simple to do either. All he had to do was call Oliver Stone’s office or find me on the web through the Kennedys and King web site.
Since Weiner neither poses nor replies to that question in his column, it leaves the answer open for speculation. He closes his hatchet job by saying something about “a moral obligation to call bullshit when we see it.” Tim is so wrapped up in his own agenda that he does not recognize his own paroxysm of hypocrisy. When a writer does not present any of the documented material that he calls “bullshit” then yes, one can declare it as such. But that is not journalism; its classic propaganda that does nothing to inform the public. When a film can document what it says with sworn testimony and documents written at the time, that is not “bullshit.” These are unpleasant facts that were kept hidden from the public for decades. And it was only through Oliver Stone’s making of his film JFK in 1991 that they finally began to emerge.
One last point about Tim’s concluding issue about disbelief in government. One can see through the graph in Kevin Phillip’s book Arrogant Capitol that, unlike what Weiner wants you to think, that erosion of belief is not a recent phenomenon. That graph extends from 1960 to the mid-nineties. The year of the single biggest drop in trust was 1964, when the Warren Report was published.
Another factor that led to overall cynicism was ten years of war in Vietnam—the most divisive conflict since the Civil War. As JFK Revisited shows, if Kennedy had lived, this would not have happened. The film also shows that President Johnson consciously reversed Kennedy’s withdrawal plan in order to escalate that war. There is no mention of this by Wiener in his article. By that excision, Wiener’s hypocrisy is in full view. For on December 23, 1997, there was an article in the New York Times about the ARRB declassifying documents from the May 1963 SecDef meeting in Hawaii where Defense Secretary Robert McNamara was collecting Vietnam withdrawal schedules from the Pentagon. The title of the story was “Kennedy Had a Plan for Early Exit in Vietnam.”
The reporter was Tim Weiner. What a convenient lapse of memory. Tim Weiner is an object lesson in why the public has lost faith in the MSM.
Click here for what appears to be Tim’s current Twitter account.