The Warren Commission Power Brokers
“The Commission had been set up to lay the dust ... not only in the USA, but all over the world.”
John J. McCloy
As I have maintained in past articles we can debate forever whether or not there was a conspiracy in the death of John F. Kennedy. I am quite sure there was through my own study of the case. Until other evidence comes forward, it will always be one based on circumstantial evidence. However, it is quite apparent that a massive cover-up occurred. The concealment of important facts runs through the whole case. It can be subtle or it can be blatant. Subtle as in sealing up thousands of files on the case as state secrets and as blatant as what the government did in disrupting Jim Garrison’s trial of Clay Shaw. Many declassified files show that they were not withheld on grounds of national security; it is usually evidence that didn’t prove the lone gunman theory that is withheld.
And how do you orchestrate a cover-up? By getting the best people in the business to do the dirty work! The Warren Commission was loaded with them, both internally and externally. Internally being half of the commissioners and select members of the legal staff; externally by the outside players such as Hoover, Helms, Johnson, Specter, et all.
But there arose a power dynamic in the Commission itself that proved the most powerful. Two Eastern Establishment men, John J. McCloy and Allen Dulles and one Washington insider, Gerald R. Ford. The formed a formable tag-team which subdued Earl Warren from the beginning when he wanted his old friend Warren Olney for chief council. A cabal of McCloy and Ford along with Hoover and a few others got that snuffed out quickly resulting in J. Lee Rankin taking the post. Rankin was McCloy’s pick and would prove a useful ally of the clique.
If you take a look at the background of these men you can get a better glimpse in how they functioned during the inquest and how impotent the Commission was in investigating John Kennedy’s death, leading to the never ending controversy we experience today.
John J. McCloy...The Inside Man
In Kia Bird’s excellent biography (and aptly titled) of McCloy, The Chairman: John J. McCloy & The Making of the American Establishment, offers the best glimpse into the the life and actions of a man that would later become one of the most a powerful figures in the Warren Commission. The ultimate insider, John J. McCloy was a man who easily moved between government and the corporate world. He was a man with a unique sense of timing who arrived at the right place, at the time in history. After making his fortune as a Wall Street lawyer he did a stint as assistant secretary of War for Henry L. Stimson. At war’s end he was appointed as High Commissioner for Germany. He was at the founding of the influential Council on Foreign Relations and the World Bank, and served as chairman of both, besides do a stint as chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank. To say he was an over achiever is a major understatement. He’s the bull in the China shop that helped build the shop too.
The Japanese American Internment
It was during his stint as assistant secretary of War that McCloy made the first of many controversial, and some would say, illegal acts. Under Secretary of War Stimson he was given the task of looking into the what was called the “west coast security problem”. Namely, they were suspicious of people of Japanese decent. McCloy was in favor of rounding them up and placing them in camps as suggested by California Congressman Leland M. Ford. McCloy found few who would go along with this plot till he met the Attorney General of the State of California. Guess who? None other than, the esteemed Earl Warren! Years later Warren came to regret his part in this mess; McCloy never did and was openly opposed to reparations for Japanese Americans that were wrongfully imprisoned in the camps.
Bad enough he is involved with this, but in one of the early legal battles over this gross violation of Constitutional and civil rights, part of the plaintiff's argument was based on race. The Army admitted such in a report. McCloy got that point taken out of the report and the Japanese American’s remained in concentration camps till Mitsuye Endo, petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus on the grounds that detention in relocation camps was unlawful. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor and over 100,000 Japanese Americans were ordered released in December of 1944.
Here is John McCloy, being presented to the American public in 1964 as a man of honor with a long history of service to his country, obstructing justice and altering material evidence. But this is just a start; Germany is next on his world tour.
High Commissioner for Germany
After doing several years as president of the World Bank (1947-49), McCloy was appointed High Commissioner to Germany replacing Lucius Clay. This begins the most controversial part of his career and it revolves around two major Nazi war criminals; Klaus Barbie, the Butcher of Lyon and Reinhard Gehlen, Hitler’s intelligence chief of the eastern front. He also reviewed hundreds of cases and commuted the death sentences of numerous killers, such as a large group of SS Einsatzgruppen officers.
An important point to make here is that Operation Paperclip was in play during this time. While on the surface it looked as if the bad guys were being brought to justice as the Nuremberg trials, behind the scenes the allied governments (mainly USA and UK) and the military were making sure the Nazis that might benefit our interests were protected from the hangman’s noose and put to work. A case in point is Werner Von Braun and his team of rocket engineers that formed the cadre that beat the Russians to the moon in the formative days NASA. There were bigger fish to catch and no matter how vile they were did not matter. It was the “ends justify the means” once again.
Both Klaus Barbie and Reinhard Gehlen were major finds for the U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). Never mind that Barbie was a fiendish sadist and Gehlen did Hitler’s dirty work in the eastern front. They were both put to work for American interests. However, when you play in the mud long enough you will get dirty. And McCloy eventually had problems with his Nazis.
When René Hardy, a former French resistance member was put on trial in France on grounds of treason (helping to get fellow members killed by Barbie), the French authorities needed Klaus Barbie to testify. But McCloy had Barbie mud on his hands. Besides all the dirt he had on everybody, and infiltrating the German communists in Bavaria, he also had been working on setting up a network within French Intelligence. That genie couldn’t be let out of bottle so McCloy stalled, telling the French he didn’t know where Barbie was at. A lie of course. Barbie was tucked away in a CIC safe house at the time. René Hardy to was acquitted since the star witness never showed. Barbie escaped to Bolivia to lead a life of crime there. Reinhard Gehlen’s organization helped helped him get away. In later years McCloy denied any knowledge of Klaus Barbie.
Reinhard Gehlen was not the problem Klaus Barbie was but he carried a lot of baggage that should have put him in docket. During the war, Gehlen created partisan groups made up of Ukrainian and Slavic nationalists to fight the Soviets. These groups in turn, carried out some of the worst atrocities (ethic cleansing) that took place during the war. Gehlen did come with his own built-in intelligence network in Russia so he used that as a bargaining chip to escape trial and possible execution. He later was paid by the CIA shortly after its forming and was instrumental in the formative years of the intelligence agency. The Gehlen Organization as it became known became a safe haven for former SS and Gestapo criminals including Franz Six, the head of the Einsatzgruppen. Some of the intelligence gathered was questionable and Gehlen was experienced in telling his Masters what they wanted to hear in regards to the Soviet Cold War threat.
The End Game
So we have here a glimpse into who John J. McCloy was and how he worked through events in his career, and provide insight into how McCloy would function on the Warren Commission. Earlier, with the Japanese American internment, and later giving Nazi criminals a pass, McCloy shows a certain dishonesty of character, a distain for the rule of law, and lack of conscience. Hardly traits one would fine honorable. The idea that McCloy thought that Americans of Japanese decent could be studied like guinea pigs is no different than how the Nazi scientists viewed Jews and other Slavic peoples. Roosevelt adviser Harold Ickes once said of McCloy, “He is more or less inclined to be a fascist.” He could have added racist on top of that as well.
What McCloy displays is a lack of basic empathy for other human beings (unless they are Nazis). Lack of compassion is the trait of the sociopath. During the war years he was opposed to doing anything to help the concentration camp inmates in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. Ironically, he shows much more tolerance for their killers, not only saving many from execution, but giving them gainful employment. Reinhard Gehlen for example, made millions from his CIA contract work. This whole notion of working with such reprehensible people is repellent and was surely known to the the insiders during this period. The average citizen was of course kept in the dark. Just as the public is still kept in the dark regarding the Kennedy assassination.
What John J. McCloy was good at was being a fixer. He started out fixing things for the big name clients as a Wall Street lawyer and went to patch up dealing with unsavory characters that our government needed to do business with. He served the same purpose on the Warren Commission to make sure the lone gunman plot was followed. Laying the dust, so to speak. I guess in the world of power politics, ethics takes on a whole new meaning when the bad guys have things you need. Normal concepts of truth and justice are perverted as the ends justify the means. And John J. McCloy lived a life of it.
Sources: Bird, Kia, The Chairman...; McKnight, Gerald, Breach of Trust
Coming in Part 2: Allen Dulles, spymaster extraordinaire.