Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2014

On anniversary of JFK assassination, investigator looks back

Q&A with Robert Blakey, former chief counsel of House Select Committee on Assassinations

Image

Steve Marcus

G. Robert Blakey speaks about the President John F. Kennedy assassination in a video being played at the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012.

G. Robert Blakey At Mob Museum

G. Robert Blakey poses at the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Forty-nine years ago today, on Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza.

The assassination and subsequent slaying of shooter Lee Harvey Oswald shocked the country. In the five decades since, the assassination continues to capture the imagination of authors, filmmakers and the public. It has sparked hundreds of conspiracy theories and studies into who — if not Oswald — was behind Kennedy’s slaying.

Robert Blakey, an attorney who served in the Justice Department in the 1960s and worked on drafting the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act, served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations that was established in 1976 to investigate the assassinations of both Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.

Unlike the earlier Warren Commission, which found Oswald acted alone, the House committee concluded its two-year investigation with a report stating Kennedy’s assassination was likely the result of a conspiracy.

Much of the evidence tied to the report was sealed from the public for 50 years. The committee specifically noted that it did not believe the conspiracy was orchestrated by the Soviet Union, Cuba, an organized crime group or any anti-Fidel Castro group but that the involvement of individual members of any of those groups could not be ruled out.

The committee consisted of 13 congressmen; Blakey served as its chief counsel and staff director from 1977 to 1979. Blakey helped draft the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 and later wrote a book about the assassination, “The Plot to Kill the President.”

Blakey, in Las Vegas on Nov. 13 for a lecture at the Mob Museum, sat down with the Sun for an interview about his knowledge of the assassination.

One of the things the House select committee did was review the investigations conducted at the time, including by the FBI, CIA and, later, the Warren Commission. What stuck out to you?

First of all it was not a (federal) crime at that time to shoot the president, except for it being murder. So the FBI had to have a predicate in order to do an investigation. (One of the) bullets hit the car, and that’s destruction of government property. So, the whole Kennedy investigation (by the FBI) was premised on the ... destruction of government property, but that meant that the people who (oversaw) it in the bureau were from the property desk, not organized crime, and not the security people. The organized crime people were in a position to look into it, and they were never asked. They were never tasked with the investigation, and I couldn’t believe it.

You worked on the legislation that allowed for electronic surveillance, which eventually led to federal wiretaps on suspected members of organized crime. What did you learn about the connections between politics and organized crime?

One of the taps was set up in the Westside Democratic Club in Chicago, and they heard the whole story of what was actually going on in a phone conversation that’s really interesting. It’s a conversation between (organized crime boss) Sam Giancana and the mob there and Roland Libonati, a congressman. They are discussing how many votes Libonati should hit in the next election, how much he should win by.

So Libonati says: ‘Well I want it to look a little better than that, I want it to look like a close race.”

What were your thoughts about the Kennedy assassination before you started work on the committee?

A lot of people working on investigating the assassination spent a lot of their time looking for a conspiracy. When I started work on the assassinations committee, I did not think the mob did it. I thought it would be too high of a risk factor for them, and I knew (FBI Director J. Edgar) Hoover had electronic surveillance on them.

I said to myself: ‘I’ll be a hero to the mob. I’ll prove they didn’t do it by getting all this surveillance.’

So I got, I think, (information from) six months before and eight months after the (assassination), and the next thing you know they start talking about whacking the president.

What were some of the more interesting things you heard?

There is one conversation in Philadelphia where assassination is mentioned and (Philadelphia organized crime boss) Angelo Bruno says: ‘No, no. We don’t do that.’ And he tells the old Sicilian story about what happens when you take a prince out. You get his son, and the son is worse than the prince. So you live with what we have, and that was the message.

That changed over time. It was very clear they were talking about it. They were thinking about it and they were very angry about it, and particularly they were angry with Kennedy and the reason they were angry with Kennedy is twofold. Giancana had gotten him votes in Chicago, and then what did he do? He put Bobby Kennedy in (as attorney general) and sicced him on them. That’s not good.

And, there were romantic relationships between John Kennedy … well there were romantic relationships between Kennedy and everybody.

There were two John Kennedys. There was the public John Kennedy, which everybody admires, and then there is the guy who is sick when it comes to women. But he had a relationship with a woman who was … also associated with Sam Giancana.

What conclusions did you come to after it was all over?

I think the mob set Oswald up as a patsy. It’s not that I think (Oswald) didn’t shoot (Kennedy), but that I think he was set up so (investigators) would focus on the Cuban connections (and not the mob). Did the mob do it? I don’t know for sure, but it explains more of the evidence than anything else.

You were a part of the Justice Department when Robert Kennedy was attorney general and vigorously went after organized crime. What happened after John F. Kennedy’s death?

Whether the mob killed Kennedy or not I couldn’t tell you, but they were the one element of society that profited the most by the assassination, because the (federal government’s) organized crime program basically collapsed.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 2 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. We may never know who the actual killers of Pres.Kennedy were.It has been said that the mob and the CIA may have worked together on this Assassination conspiracy.Whether true or not,is anyone's guess.

    It has been mentioned that FBI director J.Edger Hoover has said that there is no such thing as a nationwide criminal organization (mafia) in the U.S. while he was director of the FBI at that time.

    It was not until the Appalachian gangland conference on Nov.14,1957 in Appalchia, New York. Attended by the heads of Mafia families from across the country. It was then that FBI director J. Edger Hoover finally admitted that organized crime did infact exist in the U.S.

    Pres.Kennedy was ahead of his time.Had he not been assassinated on Nov.22,1963 the world would have been in far better shape today because of him. The rest as they say is history.

  2. I don't buy all these ideas there were conspiracies. The trend is obvious that the different people who say conspiracy this, conspiracy that all seem to feed off of others. Others who are all into this conspiracy nonsense. And when one doesn't work, they go off on another tangent. It never ends.

    Enjoyed the article, but there is one person's research these conspiracy people dare not mention regarding the Kennedy assassination.

    A former Los Angeles district attorney by the name of Vincent Bugliosi performed research on this tragedy. And it took him twenty years to finish it.

    As an aside, Vincent Bugliosi attained 32 convictions out of 33 high profile murder trials in Los Angeles. One of them was the conviction of Charles Manson and his entire family for the murders they committed back in 1969. To which he wrote the book "Helter Skelter," a masterpiece in American true crime non-fiction. He also went on to write other books, as well as performing work as a defense attorney.

    Anyways, Vincent Bugliosi wrote a book entirely devoted to the Kennedy assassination called "Reclaiming History."

    He told the truth. And in his book, which is rather long, he laid out exactly what happened before, during and after the assassination, even the subsequent murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby. In his book, he even outlined, picked apart and destroyed every single conspiracy theory there is out there, no matter how outlandish nor believable to the gullible.

    As another aside, the book delved into how absolutely devastated Mrs. Kennedy was. She was in grief and shock so badly that she left Dallas on Air Force One wearing the same pink dress spattered with her husband's blood and brains that she wore in the motorcade. It brings home the sad fact of how unbelievable horrible this American tragedy this was. And still is.

    His meticulous and in depth research proved that Oswald acted alone. There was no conspiracy. It was the act of a mad man intent on killing the President of the United States of America. He wasn't directed to do it by anyone. He acted alone. Period.

    All hard evidence points at this being the case. You can't take facts and twist them around like the conspiracy theorists have been doing, and are still doing now. Every single piece of evidence, no matter if it's hard evidence or circumstantial, points any other way. There is nothing that says this is something other than the act of a single lone and crazed gun man.

History: Table of contents »