Review: Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer and Their Vision for World Peace, author: Peter Janney
Part 1 is followed by a transcript of an interview with Peter Janney that was broadcast on November 28, 2019. Video link here.
In Mary’s Mosaic Peter Janney recounts his lifetime of research on the unsolved murder of Mary Meyer in Washington, DC in October 1964. Mary Meyer was a frequent private visitor to the White House during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, particularly when his wife was out of town. She was also the ex-wife of high-ranking CIA officer, Cord Meyer, and had a reputation of being critical of the agency and a passionate advocate for global peace-building and the end of American hegemony. This coincided with JFK’s famous “turn to peace” during the last year of his life, and Janney contends that Mary was a strong influence on his shifting policy after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Peter Janney’s father, Wistar Janney, was also a high-ranking CIA officer who lived in the same neighborhood as the Meyers. Peter was the best friend of Mary’s son until he was killed in a traffic accident at the age of nine. Peter was comforted by Mary after this traumatic loss, and for him she became a sort of second mother because, as he says in the interview cited above, she was more adept than his own parents in helping him process the loss of his friend. Thus Mary’s death struck him hard, and he ended up pursuing the mystery of her murder over several decades while her own children, family and friends preferred to let the matter rest.
Janney’s thesis is that Mary was killed in a well-planned CIA hit because of her refusal to quietly accept the official explanation of the JFK assassination. She had been talking to her powerful friends in Washington and bad-mouthing the CIA to her circle of friends who were “CIA wives.” She also had a diary that purportedly revealed shocking details of her private meetings with JFK. What happened to the diary and what was written in it have never been determined.
Mary was murdered during her routine walk through a Washington park. According to Janney’s thesis, an innocent patsy, Ray Crump, was set up and charged with the murder, but he was acquitted for a lack of forensic evidence. After that, District of Columbia police dropped the case and were never interested in pursuing the possibility that the real killer was still at large.
Janney’s book has been criticized for not convincingly solving the case with reliable confessions from insiders or forensic evidence that clearly points to the real killers. The book also involves a great deal of speculation about Mary’s influence on JFK and what she knew that was so threatening to those who were covering up the true nature of the assassination. There is no record of her making speeches or publishing papers about what she knew, and she had no established standing as a government official or scholar in international relations.
Two well-respected researchers of the Kennedy assassinations, Lisa Pease and James DiEugenio, wrote brutal reviews of the first edition of Mary’s Mosaic in 2012, saying that Janney let his childhood attachment to Mary Meyer blind him to the fact that she wasn’t much of an influence on JFK nor a threat to the CIA., Many Washington insiders, some more powerful and influential than Mary, doubted the Warren Commission report, but the broadcast networks, New York Times and the Washington Post simply ignored them. It is hard to imagine how one angry woman could have ripped the lid off the story and woken up a nation that had already made a firm decision to go back to sleep and ignore all disturbing questions about the assassination.
As for her diary, no matter how shocking its contents might have been, nothing in it could have been corroborated. Its revelations could have been easily dismissed, and the writer could have been maligned as a liar, a homewrecker of the Kennedy household, or just someone who wanted to exploit the situation for her own gain. Assassination isn’t necessary when character assassination would work just as well.
Skeptical critics also find some of Janney’s sources unreliable and believe that the patsy actually did commit the crime. There was enough circumstantial evidence to point to his guilt. They caution that assassination researchers have to be careful to not let their theories get ahead of the evidence. And this caution comes from Lisa Pease, someone who says, in her book about the Robert Kennedy assassination, that the evidence shows that Sirhan Sirhan was hypnotized at the time he was set up as the patsy in the assassination of Robert Kennedy. That is quite a “crazy” and difficult conspiracy theory for people take seriously, even though she has compelling evidence for it, so it is odd that she rejects a fellow researcher like Janney who seems like he would be an ally in the long struggle to reveal the truth about the age of assassinations (1963-68). Like other theses about the assassinations, his also requires a similar acceptance that reality is stranger than spy fiction, that government agencies can and do carry out elaborate secret plots to eliminate people who “get in the way.”
Janney contends that Mary Meyer was surveyed by a team for several days until they knew her routine movements and until the perfect stranger appeared to be set up as the patsy. It was in one part a plan meticulously made in advance, and in the other part an act of improvisation reacting to what was happening in the park on the day she was killed. Janney alleges that the team might have attempted the plot several times and aborted it several times until the right circumstances presented themselves. On the day of the murder, the hit team saw Crump arrive in the park in the morning, after which they assembled a jacket-and-slacks combination that resembled his outfit and put them on a stand-in for the killer. That person was made to be seen standing over the body by a witness that was made to appear in the park at the right time. A stalled vehicle was left nearby, and a call had gone out to a car repair shop in order to make the witness (a car mechanic) appear on the scene just as shots were fired. He ran up an embankment just in time to see, from a considerable distance, the Ray Crump look-alike standing over the body.
That scenario seems far-fetched and very difficult to pull off, but as I read it I thought of something that Janney perhaps never considered as a possible way to prove the concept. A team of improv actors could simulate this plot by trying to duplicate it, of course without a murder at the end of it. If one actor played the part of the victim walking past a known place at a known time, could the other actors manipulate an unwitting patsy and unwitting witness to be in the right place at the right time? How many times would they have to abort the mission before succeeding? In fact this is the sort of thing that reality television shows do all the time, so perhaps this would be a way to illustrate to skeptics the way such plots could work.
If one reads the harsh reviews mentioned above, published when the first edition of the book was released, they seem quite devastating. However, not every source Janney used was unreliable, and he admitted the limitations of the ones that critics questioned. His thesis remains valid because of the other sources that are reliable and because of the overall weight of the evidence. The critics chose not to mention one key finding that truly exculpates the alleged killer, even though it was not in the trial record. He was in the vicinity of the murder scene because he was hooking up with a woman he wasn’t supposed to be with. The two of them had got drunk and had sex on the river bank, but he passed out afterwards and she left him there—with his fly open—and went home. The accused named her as his alibi, and she confirmed the details. She refused to testify because she feared being killed “by her husband,” but she might have also feared being a key witness in a case that was obviously drawing much official heat and light. She did provide a written affidavit, but the judge dismissed it.
If one finds this alibi unreliable, one has to believe that this working class woman conspired with Crump in a plot in which he was going to commit a sexual assault and murder and she was going back him up by saying that she was drinking with him on the riverbank the whole morning, but then she didn’t want to testify in court. It’s hard to see what her motive to lie could have been. That she was lying is much more implausible than the theory about how the assassination team pulled off the crime.
As an aside, note here the uncanny common story element between two men who couldn’t be farther apart in the social hierarchy. They were both undone by how they unzipped. Illicit sex is at the fulcrum of this triple tragedy that brought down JFK, Mary Meyer and Ray Crump. The young Ray Crump at least had the excuse of having lived in crushing poverty, but the other two should have known better by middle age and by their advantages in life. Would JFK have lived longer and been more effective in politics if his sexual misbehavior had not strengthened his opponents and exposed him to blackmail? What if Mary Meyer had chosen to not get involved with her friend’s husband? If Ray Crump had gone to work that day instead of hooking up with his girl on the side, he would have saved himself from ruin, and the murder of Mary Meyer might have been called off, at least for that day, and maybe forever.
There was other compelling evidence, besides Crump’s alibi, that Janney uses to support his case. The killer grabbed the victim before shooting her in order to have her scream be heard by the necessary witness. She fought back more than expected, which made the first shot to the head fail to penetrate and stop her on the spot. She ran off a few feet, then was captured and killed with the second shot. The coroner concluded that the shooter was ambidextrous and well-trained. The first bullet was shot by the assassin’s left hand while the last shot was fired by his right hand into the right shoulder blade, pointing down to the left toward the heart, killing her instantly. This technique was too professional to be the work of an amateur such as Crump, a man of slight build who didn’t use guns and had been drinking all morning. The victim was also dragged back onto the footpath, as if the killer wanted the body to be seen there.
Another piece of evidence is in the way information about the killing spread to people connected to the victim. Her ex-husband, a CIA officer, had been sent to New York, perhaps to take suspicion off of him. Janney’s father, also a CIA officer, called Mary Mayer’s brother-in-law, Ben Bradlee (future editor of the Washington Post) to tell him of news of a murder near Mary’s home. For some unusual reason he was listening to the radio at work and just happened to hear news of a murder that had taken place about an hour previously. The name of the victim was not announced until several hours later. A worried mother might have a lot of anxiety if she heard about a murder happening in the park that her child passes through every day. She would imagine the worst and not be able to relax until she confirmed that it wasn’t her child. But a disinterested, rational person calculates the odds and assumes the description could be a match for thousands of people in a city such as Washington. Most people would wait for confirmation and not panic. But here we have high-ranking intelligence officer who participated in all the dark arts of the CIA, and we are to believe he listened to local AM radio while at work and suddenly became worried that his colleague’s ex-wife, divorced from him years ago, was the murder victim—so worried that he had to arouse anxiety in others instead of waiting for the police to identify the victim. As it turned out, there was a reason he wanted Ben Bradlee to hurry down to the morgue to identify the victim.
With all of this evidence in mind, skeptics still could say Crump did it, and this is what the critics cited above said in their reviews of the first edition. However, after the first edition of the book was published, Janney received further help from professional investigators who were able to find a key witness for the prosecution who had gone missing after the trial. This witness, William L. Mitchell, appeared after news of the murder was broadcast. He was a military officer who at the time was said to be assigned to the Pentagon. He offered to testify that he had been jogging through the park at the time of the murder and had seen Mary and her alleged assailant approaching two hundred feet behind her. There was no witness who could corroborate his presence in the park that day, and he was never questioned about his background, his job at the Pentagon, or why he was jogging at lunch time in a place so far from his work place where employees usually exercised on sports grounds nearby. Janney always suspected he was an intelligence agent inserted into the plot to lend weight to the prosecution’s case, which was extremely weak without him, but he had vanished after the case concluded with an acquittal.
For the third edition of the book, Janney now had an extra chapter on this missing witness, and with it he was able to refute the critics—the conspiracy researchers who had dismissed him as a conspiracy nut. He launched a civil lawsuit and hoped to compel Mitchell to testify. William L. Mitchell had by now legally changed his name to just Bill Mitchell. Janney hoped that a judge would agree that, because of his childhood attachment to the Meyer family, he was an aggrieved victim who could sue for damages. He knew that argument was weak and that a judge might dismiss it, but the legal danger for Bill Mitchell caused him to come forward with a proposed deal. He would agree to be deposed, with lawyers present, if Janney agreed to drop him as a witness in the civil suit. Janney agreed, knowing that the lawsuit might never occur in any case.
During the long deposition, Bill Mitchell, of sound mind at age seventy-four, maintained an unwavering inability to recall any of the details of the trial—something which for any other person would be an unforgettable experience. Could you forget participating as the key witness in a high-profile murder trial—one in which you heroically volunteered to come forward in order to bring justice to the aggrieved family of the victim?
Bill Mitchell also refused to explain the mysterious gaps in his military career, why he had moved around so much after the trial, and why he had changed his name exactly when the congressional investigations into the CIA were heating up in 1974. Everything about him suggested he had been a covert agent. He showed the sort of stonewalling, denial, and failure of memory that every detective and prosecutor recognizes as an implicit non-confessing confession. As a useful and familiar comparison, one could think of Frank Sheeran in The Irishman, Martin Scorsese’s “version of the truth” of the Jimmy Hoffa murder mystery. At the end of the story, the FBI agents come to ask Frank—whom they suspect is the killer—if he wants to shed light on the mystery now that everyone is dead. “Who are you protecting?” they ask, but he maintains his silence. It was a similar scene during the deposition of Bill Mitchell as he steadfastly avoided saying anything that might be incriminating. An intelligence officer is, after all, like the organized crime figures in The Irishman. There is a lifelong omerta that few agents dare betray, either out of loyalty, fear for their own safety, or fear of what psychic pain would come from telling others the truth.
With the heavy weight of the circumstantial evidence that Janney provides, the reader can agree that there is a high degree of certainty that Mary Meyer was killed in a covert operation, but the evidence is not conclusive. The book still does not provide definitive proof of who killed her, who was involved in the plot, and precisely why she was such a threat. Just as Ray Crump had to be acquitted for lack of forensic evidence, every other suspect would also be cleared in a court of law, unless someone started talking, which is impossible now that so many years have passed.
It is also still reasonable to ask how Mary Meyer could have possibly been such a threat that she had to be killed. Whatever was in her diary could never have been corroborated, and she had no official role in government that would have made her a star witness or given her knowledge of government malfeasance. Her word could have been spun as the unreliable word of a divorcee homewrecker who had a scandalous affair with the president. This is not the sort of person that either major political party, the East Coast elite or Main Street Americans would rally behind. The media would shut her out just as they shut out everyone else who questioned the Warren Report. It is hard to imagine that someone in her position could have struck fear into the hearts of Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover or others in the Washington war machine during a time when they were pre-occupied with civil strife, the USSR, China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Latin America.
It is more plausible that Mary Meyer’s murder occurred for no serious reason of state but rather just because the CIA had such a habituated taste for blood by that time that personal animosities became the rationale for concluding she was a security threat that had to be eliminated. Jim Marrs noted in his book Crossfire that more than one hundred people who knew key details of the JFK assassination died in suspicious circumstances, thirty of them by gunfire. As Janney writes, “Mary Meyer’s murder was number fifteen on this list. It wasn’t just Mary’s murder anymore, but all the suspicious ‘suicides,’ ‘heart attacks,’ ‘cancers,’ or ‘accidents.’”
Her ex-husband was displeased by her scandalous behavior during and after the breakup of the marriage, and she was known to have a loose tongue when voicing her opinions about the CIA’s crimes. JFK was killed for the threat his policies posed to varied interests who stood to lose billions of dollars. Mary Meyer was no such threat. She may have been killed simply because she was undermining Washington elite society’s faith in its husbands and its institutions. An example had to be made of someone who was getting too uppity. Janney mentions several people close to himself and Mary Meyer who refused to discuss the case, and some resented him for his persistence, which indicates that her murder did indeed intimidate them into silence. Another explanation might be that she was rattling the cages of people with guilty consciences, so she may have prompted them into acting out of fear rather than a logical assessment of the risks she posed.
It is also easy to imagine another motive that could have been real, or fabricated as needed, if a government-linked assassin had ever been arrested. A “lone rogue agent” might have said he killed Meyer to defend the honor of Jacqueline Kennedy and the Kennedy family, just as the mob-linked Jack Ruby said, laughably, after he killed Lee Harvey Oswald.
It may be slightly unsatisfying that Janney’s book doesn’t definitively solve the murder mystery, but that is asking too much. He has solved the mystery as much as anyone could at this point fifty-five years after the crime. This book should be appreciated more for how it illuminates a distant socio-political era that still has profound effects on the present.
Janney devotes many pages to the East Coast private school and Ivy League milieu that produced the Kennedy brothers and other key figures in this story. JFK knew Cord Meyer in his youth and competed with him even then for Mary’s attention. The two men fought in WWII and came back as progressive peace-seeking liberal journalists, but both of them got eaten up by the cold war political machinery. One person quoted in the book wrote, “…many of the most percipient men of my generation killed off those parts of themselves that were most vulnerable to pain, and thus lost forever a delicacy of feeling on which intimacy depends. To a less tragic extent we women also had to harden ourselves and stood to lose with them the vulnerability that is one of the guardians of the human spirit.”
It was particularly grim to read how Mary’s husband, Cord Meyer, shut down emotionally as he went from war hero, to honored journalist and essayist, to peace activist, to ending up as an alcoholic and bitter high-ranking CIA officer overseeing domestic propaganda, destabilization campaigns, coups and assassinations. During that time he lost a brother, a son, and his wife, first in divorce and finally in her death. He didn’t handle any of it well.
At the same time, Cord Meyer’s rival, JFK, wasn’t a model of emotional health, either. This is another area in which the book excels because it portrays JFK realistically. The critics who slammed the first edition expressed disgust with the way the CIA had conducted a “second assassination” of JFK by leaking sordid details of his private life to the tabloid press, and they accused Janney of being part of this trend. They said there was a determined effort to knock the halo off JFK’s head, starting in the late 1970s when the CIA was under investigation in Congress. However, Janney’s account shouldn’t be smeared this way because it refrains from wallowing in the gutter, but it makes no attempt to put a halo on JFK’s head that never should have been there. JFK was a son of a millionaire, an aggressive, handsy, entitled serial seducer with a failing marriage that he didn’t want to deal with until after re-election. His friends, family and widow—not his enemies—gave corroborating accounts of his “problems with intimacy,” which is a kind way of putting it reserved only for political leaders one likes. JFK wouldn’t dare to even enter a presidential primary race in the cultural climate of the Me Too era.
Most remarkable, perhaps, is Janney’s unbiased account of his own father, a CIA colleague and friend of Cord Meyer. Janney tells of how disorienting it was as a child to slowly realize what a dark world these men inhabited. His father once blurted out, in describing a family friend that his children knew, “Hod Fuller was one of the best damn assassins we ever had.” Janney was always disturbed by his father’s stoic reaction to Mary’s murder, but through his research he came to believe (as described above) that his father had foreknowledge of the plot against her. He also came across minutes of a CIA meeting chaired by his father in which someone said he was certain that New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison was going to get a conviction in the trial of Clay Shaw, which would be a court ruling confirming that there was a conspiracy to murder JFK. Thus the document showed this room full of CIA officers admitting to the conspiracy, which meant Janney’s father was a key figure in the coverup of the JFK assassination.
It is this dimension of the story that makes the book worthwhile because most people in such circumstances tend to do one of two things. They idolize father and country when confronted with such disturbing truths, or the truth drives them into an impotent depression or a reckless anger, like Hamlet’s tragic reaction to the ghost of his father demanding revenge. Janney is to be commended for the courage it took to stare into the abyss and come back to tell the story of his quest to honor what Mary’s ghost whispered into his soul.
An interview with the author, Peter Janney
Interview with Peter Janney, author of Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer and Their Vision for World Peace.
Lee Camp (LC): Welcome to Redacted Tonight VIP. I’m Lee Camp. I have a truly incredible show for you today. I spoke recently with Peter Janney, an investigator and author who has uncovered the truth about the assassination of John F. Kennedy’s mistress, Mary Meyer. And, perhaps not coincidentally, Peter Janney’s father was also a high-ranking CIA official named Wistar Janney. If you haven’t heard of Mary Pinchot Meyer, it’s now accepted fact that she and JFK were lovers in the final year of his life, if not before that time. And then after his murder, Mary Meyer—who was herself part of elite Washington society, the ex-wife of a powerful CIA official—was furious after his assassination that the truth was not getting out about the real people who killed John F. Kennedy. When it became clear that she was not going to stop speaking out, she was executed in broad daylight on the canal path right here in Washington DC, in 1964. Through decades of painstaking research, Peter Janney has unearthed the truth, and it’s as horrifying as you can imagine. He’s put it all together in the book Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer and Their Vision for World Peace. So I think you’ll quickly see why I had to speak to him for the entire half hour. Here’s my conversation with author Peter Janney.
LC: Hello, Dr. Janney. Is it doctor?
Peter Janney (PJ): Call me Peter.
LC: All right, Peter, thank you so much for being here. Your book is incredible. It clearly is decades of work, and I want to try and dive into some of this. I think I want to go in with the assumption that most people know very little of the backstory of any of this because growing up, I heard rumors that JFK had some lovers, and maybe one of them had been killed in [Washington] DC, but I really didn’t know the details. So let’s start with who Mary Meyer was, and how you knew her personally.
PJ: She was a fascinating human being, and an even a more fascinating woman, from my point of view, and of course when I knew her as a young boy, she was my best friend’s mother. She and my mother had gone to college together. Her husband, Cord Meyer, and my father both worked at the Central Intelligence Agency together, and Michael and I were just the best of friends. Michael was killed. He was hit by a car one evening right before Christmas in the late 1950s. I was nine. We were both nine, and it was a very traumatic event in my life, and the loss really put me into what you would call an acute adjustment reaction. And my own parents were just mostly inept in terms of helping me deal with the grief around this, but who wasn’t inept was Mary. And she was very, very helpful to me in terms of just holding me, and not just physically but spiritually, emotionally during that time. And I really was, I think, saved by her in terms of her intervention. Mary was not a drinker like most of her social set, not that she didn’t have a little bit of wine, maybe a Dubonnet here and there, but she was very avid tennis player, walker, camper. I don’t think she got into this sort of alcoholic rut that a lot of Washington socialites get into.
LC: Well, also she probably didn’t have the guilt to deal with that maybe her husband and some others at the CIA had. So ultimately she divorced Cord Meyer, so she wouldn’t have a CIA husband anymore. She had known JFK for years and years, and ended up having an affair with him—and he had had many affairs—but this seemed far more serious. And it’s not a rumor. Many people have come forward and said this is a fact. She was pushing him on a path toward a peaceful world which he had taken many steps toward, and I think nowadays it’s been lost to history, maybe intentionally. About those steps he was taking: do you want to go through some of those?
PJ: Well, I think the pivotal event was the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October 1962, where we really, as a country and as a planet, came the closest we have ever come to nuclear Armageddon. And JFK and his brother were instrumental in pulling us out of that crisis by not invading Cuba. There was a huge opportunity in that crisis because JFK and Khrushchev really started to become friends afterwards…
LC: … through back channels, secretly.
PJ: Right. So I think at that point, President Kennedy realized that this Cold War mentality was a dead-end street, and Mary was always on him saying, “Jack, you’ve got to open up to something much, much bigger in terms of what you want your real legacy to be about.” I think Mary’s influence around world peace really started to have an increasing impact on him, but so did Khrushchev. This was when there was a possibility of our country and Russia really becoming very close to being friends. Right before JFK was assassinated in November, he gave a speech at the United Nations and basically he told the people at the United Nations that we were going to the moon. Russia and the US were going to go to the moon together. This was going to be a joint effort. It was the ultimate symbol of the end of the Cold War.
LC: So he was pushing for the end of the Cold War. You’ve got the nuclear test ban treaty. You’ve got him wanting to get out of Vietnam. We didn’t have boots on the ground there yet, but he wanted to be done with it, and he was butting heads endlessly with the CIA and basically saying he wanted it not to disband but greatly decrease its power. So it’s a lot of things that made him… the military intelligence complex was not happy with JFK in many ways, and it seems, or I think it’s pretty proven now, that they had connections to his assassination. So he was assassinated and then almost a year later Mary Meyer was killed by two gunshot wounds on a towpath here in DC, in broad daylight while she was walking. And I was wondering if you can go through the details of who they said initially killed her, and how she was killed on the towpath.
PJ: So this was about ten months later in October of 1964. Mary had read the Warren Commission report. She realized that this was turning into the biggest cover-up this country had ever seen, so she was contemplating going public with what she knew, particularly what she had discovered in the last year in terms of what really had gone on in Dallas.
LC: And she was and talking to some powerful people. She had a lot of powerful friends.
PJ: She had a lot of powerful friends, and she had a lot of insider friends who knew what was really taking place. So she took her daily walks on the towpath after she painted in the morning. She was an aspiring artist really coming into her own, so that’s when it was set up to take her out because she was on the verge of going public with who she was in JFK’s life, as well as what she had discovered in terms of the media now taking control and convincing the public that Lee Harvey Oswald had alone been the crazy man who shot JFK. She just knew it wasn’t true and she really felt the public needed to know. Had that happened, people would have been very upset to hear this story because she was not a frivolous human being. This was a very substantial woman who was highly educated.
They pinned it on a guy—his name was Ray Crump—or they attempted to pin it on a guy who was down in the towpath area that day…
LC: … a 25-year-old black man who just happened to be down there. At first there was only one eyewitness who did not say he saw this man. He just said he saw a black man who was wearing certain items…
PJ: … and following her, allegedly.
LC: So there’s this one eye witness who said he can’t identify the person, and he gave a completely different size for the man that was much taller, much wider. Then suddenly a second witness shows up the following day who’s a lieutenant in the military. He didn’t say he saw the murder, but he said he saw Ray Crump following Mary Meyer. Then there was a trial and, believe it or not, the state failed to prove it, and he was found not guilty.
PJ: Right. That’s because of this legendary female black attorney, one of the first who passed the bar in the in the DC area. Her name was Dovey Roundtree. There’s a movie currently being made about her, and the book that’s been written about her by a very good friend of mine by the name of Katie McCabe called Mighty Justice. Dovey Roundtree became a legend in Washington legal circles for having gotten Ray Crump acquitted because she said to the court, “Where’s the evidence? You don’t have a gun. There isn’t any chemical evidence linking Ray Crump to the murder scene.”
LC: There’s no blood on him. He’s a completely different size than the eyewitness says, and he’s got no motivation other than they claimed he just spontaneously decided to try to sexually assault her and then kill her within the span of about thirty seconds. It seems totally outlandish. Your book is pretty impressive in hunting down someone who basically had been missing since that trial, the second witness who saw Ray Crump on the path, Lieutenant William L. Mitchell. The guy disappeared for many years and nobody could find him, but then you tracked him down. Can you talk about how that went for a bit?
PJ: Well, when I wrote the first edition in 2012, I hadn’t found Mitchell, and I thought that he was probably the likely assassin, but then someone pointed out to me through a very elaborate Google search that this guy was probably out in California teaching in Cal State Hayward Business School. And he was a very highly educated guy…
LC: … having slightly changed his name to Bill Mitchell.
PJ: Right, from William L. Mitchell to Bill Mitchell. He legally changed his name, and, of course, I took him to task on that when I finally got him in front of the deposition.
LC: So you eventually got him in for a deposition and he answered “I don’t recall” to just about everything, half of the questions, and when asked why he changed his name he couldn’t seem to give an answer for that, either. Eventually, you got his military records which just screamed that he was a part of the intelligence community because none of them made any sense. They were all over the place.
PJ: Yes, I had a lot of help with that. Roger Charles, a world-class researcher, along with his colleague Don Devereaux. They helped me immeasurably really come to terms with who Bill Mitchell really was.
LC: So talk a little about Mary’s diary, which was a big part of this.
PJ: Well, I’ve never seen the diary. The author who attempted to write a book about Mary allegedly had some pages of it, but I never was able to get ahold of it. The only people who did see the diary were people like James Jesus Angleton at the CIA, and a couple of his colleagues. But from all the folklore around it, this is the way that Mary kept her record of what she was discovering post Dallas, in that year from November ‘63 to her death in October ’64. She wrote a lot of notes about what she had discovered. And in fact, when one CIA person who had read the diary talked to another researcher many years later, he confirmed for this guy that it was all there—all the right information, all the secrets were there in that diary.
LC: And Ben Bradlee, who was both Mary’s brother-in-law and the managing editor of the Washington Post…
PJ: … not at that time.
LC: Yes, not at that time, but for many years. He said in his memoir that he did go with, or was searching for the diary, with Jim Angleton at her house afterwards.
PJ: There’s a lot of fishy stories about what happened because if you read the transcript, Bradlee was in her studio the night of the murder. And I think he was there with Angleton, although he never said that. They got into her studio.
LC: He didn’t say that in the transcript.
PJ: No, he didn’t say that.
LC: He didn’t say that in the 1965 trial in which he was put on the stand.
LC: From a psychological standpoint, I found this really fascinating. In his memoir years later in the 90s, he claims that his sister-in-law was shot once and died instantly, but everyone knows that’s not true. She was shot twice. It lasted 30 seconds or more. She was screaming, which is what got the witness to look in that direction. So I think he was trying to appease his guilt by thinking she didn’t suffer.
PJ: Right. And she knew she was going to die.
LC: It’s incredibly suspicious. We have to go to a quick break, but I’ll be right back with the rest of this incredible interview. Don’t change the channel… Welcome back. I’m still Lee Camp. Let’s not waste any time. Here now is the rest of my interview with author Peter Janney.
One document you bring forward relating to JFK’s assassination that I had never heard of, and coincidentally involved your father, was this. It notes what they fear might come out of Jim Garrison’s trial. Jim Garrison, people might recall, was played by Kevin Costner in the movie JFK by Oliver Stone, and in this internal CIA document, they seem concerned that this trial is going to prove the connection to the CIA.
PJ: Well, Clay Shaw, who was being prosecuted, claimed all through the trial that he never worked for the CIA, had nothing to do with this. At this meeting that my father was chairing in September of ’67, when Garrison was building momentum for this trial, they had an upper echelon meeting of which they released the minutes. I don’t know why they did because it really is a smoking gun. One of James Jesus Angleton’s chief lieutenants, a guy named Ray Roca, came to the meeting and basically said Garrison is going to get a conviction at this trial, which is another way of saying, “Yes, Shaw is working for us, and of course we were in on it.”
LC: Right. You would only be worried that this lawyer was going to prove this if there was something there to be proven, right? It seems like an admission. And, coincidentally, your father was chairing the meeting?
PJ: Yes, that’s a whole other dimension of this story, in terms of my own personal journey, of what I went through in order to come to the conclusion that I did that not only was my father leading the cover-up of the JFK assassination, or one of the cover-ups, but he was part of the conspiracy to take Mary Meyer out. That final realization—we talked about this a little bit earlier before we went on air—it sent me back into my own personal therapy. At that juncture I said I just don’t know whether I can do this. I don’t know whether I can handle facing all of this. And luckily I had already been in therapy years earlier with a wonderful woman who just was really great, and so I just went back and saw her for several months and snapped out of it and got the book done.
LC: The truth is the truth.
PJ: Yeah. Dig it.
LC: Your father and others… One of the key pieces that you circle around and then pinpoint is when they found out, or say they found out, that Mary had been killed, and it ends up proving that they knew ahead of time. Can you talk about that?
PJ: Well, when you take a look at what happened, and you go through the trial transcript, and you see all the events that were carefully put in place, you cannot come away from that… I couldn’t, finally, come away from this without seeing this was a CIA operation from start to finish. They were controlling every dimension of the murder itself, post murder, when Crump was picked up, when the policeman showed up at Bradlee’s house and asked him to come down to the morgue to identify the body. It was like clockwork.
LC: It’s tough to keep all those lies straight, which is ultimately what slipped out because Bradlee said he found out hours before it had been publicly announced.
PJ: And he found out because my father called and said, “Ben, have you listened to the radio?” And he said, “Wistar, I’m at work. Why would I be listening to the radio?” “Well, there’s been a murder down on the towpath, and I’m just wondering where Mary is.” As if my father sits around in his office all day long listening to the radio because he has nothing better to do! It’s just very, very blatant.
LC: And it seems like they couldn’t exactly keep that straight. I wanted to real quick get into some of these immediate questions that I had when I first started reading the book, which was, “If this was a CIA hit, why wouldn’t they just do it in her sleep where they can control the environment?” There’s no eyewitness. It’s super easy—just shot in her sleep—no one knows anything. But then you realize that if she had been going around talking to certain people about how she thought CIA was involved in Kennedy’s assassination, killing her without witnesses is very bad for them. So they need witnesses.
PJ: Exactly. It was done in a very public place, and I think there was a profound amount of real engineering that went on where they were controlling the entire situation from start to finish, and it was done by professionals.
LC: And similarly, with my next question: when the CIA wants to kill someone, or any professional hitman wants to kill someone, you assume it can be done very quickly and easily, unfortunately, however horrible that is, but this sounded so messy. She was shot once. She was still alive. She was screaming. He dragged her across the path. He then shot her again. I thought that sounds just far too messy, but then it makes sense that they needed her screaming. They needed an eyewitness. They wanted it to look like a sexual assault, which is not an executioner walking up.
PJ: No, it’s just a random act of violence. That was the framework that they wanted to try to do this with. I think they underestimated Mary. One shot wasn’t going to take her out. She struggled and she fought. As I point out in the book, the assassin was a very skilled assassin, and when he finally got her in the right embrace, the second shot just went right through her aorta and that just knocked her down and that was it. That was lights out.
PJ: You’ve talked a little about your journey in writing this book. You talked about the other authors who had tried to write this book. One of them ultimately decided not to after getting deep within it because he said he wanted to live. Who knows what kind of threats were made to him? And then the other one is Leo Damore who’s well known for the book about the cover-up of Chappaquiddick with Ted Kennedy.
PJ: Senatorial Privilege is the name of that book.
LC: Damore got years and years into researching and writing this, and then ultimately killed himself after becoming more and more paranoid, rightfully so, about being watched or possibly followed and stuff like that. Just talk about that, and talk about how that weighed on you while you were writing this.
PJ: When I found out Leo Damore was taking this topic on—I think it was probably the late 1980s, maybe very early ‘90s—I went out of my way to contact him and introduced myself, and he knew who my father was immediately because he said, “Oh, your father was one of the pallbearers at the funeral.” And I said, “Yes, that’s right.” I knew the family very well. I grew up with one of the sons who was my best friend, who was hit by a car and killed. So I befriended Leo Damore, and we had a couple of years where we would talk sometimes twice a month. I would go down to his place in Connecticut. We would do interviews, and he really had painstakingly started to put this together. Just having finished his book about Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick, he went right into researching this book. He befriended the attorney Dovey Roundtree [who had defended Crump] who started confiding to him all the little nasty things that were going on during the trial. And she would get these phone calls late at night with people just breathing on the phone but not really saying anything. They were obviously trying to intimidate her and scare her, but then something happened with Leo. I don’t have proof of it, but he complained of being poisoned. Someone might have “slipped him a mickey,” so to speak. The CIA had a whole department run by this guy Sidney Gottlieb who created all these substances, all these poisons to take people out. He wanted to do it to Castro. He did it for another individual that I talk about in the book, so I don’t think it’s far-fetched. And I have to live in conspiracy land to believe that someone got to Damore. As one famous ex-CIA person said, “It’s easy to commit a murder, but it takes a lot of expertise to know how to commit a suicide.”
LC: How horrible is that? That’s incredible. So this last question may be the hardest one. Do you feel anything has changed with the unaccountability of our intelligence community? If there’s one thing to get out of this book it’s that they felt like they just ruled the world. They didn’t have to worry even about elected officials getting in their way. They could deal with them. And you talk about how Cord Meyer was in charge of a project called Operation Mockingbird that I’ve talked about on my show before, which was to insert CIA views into various news organizations so they always could get good coverage, whatever coverage they needed at the time. Nowadays that program is not around anymore, but nowadays you don’t have to do it secretly. Our mainstream media just says here’s our CIA correspondent and they just fawn over their every word. It’s no longer a secret program. So are things worse than they were?
PJ: I would say they’re worse in some ways, but they’re better in the sense that people are waking up. There is an awakening in our culture. You now have over eighty percent of the population—I think, according to the last research done on this—believing that the Warren Commission was not truthful, that they believe that there was a conspiracy in the death of a sitting president. I think that’s what it takes, and it’s shows like yours and others that really serve to help educate anyone who’s willing to listen, to really understand what their government is truly up to. So in this day and age, we live in the surveillance age. We have whistleblowers like Ed Snowden who really tried to do the right thing, and John Kiriakou, who we talked about earlier. There are a number of them now who are coming forward, but this is what it’s going to take.
LC: Courage is contagious.
PJ: Courage is contagious, and it’s very, very necessary.
LC: Well, thank you so much, Peter. The book is Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder JFK, Marry Pinchot Meyer and Their Vision for World Peace. Thank you so much. I highly recommend it. We couldn’t get to half of what’s in there.
PJ: A lot of people tell me the book reads like a novel, so I think many in your audience will find it a valuable read.
LC: Thanks again. All right. That’s the show…
 Lisa Pease, A Lie Too Big to Fail (Feral House, 2018).
 Peter Janney, Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace, Third Edition (Skyhorse, 2016), chapter 14.
 Anne Truitt, Daybook: The Journal of an Artist (Pantheon, 1982), 200-201. In Mary’s Mosaic, chapter 7.