Dr. Peter Janney, a psychologist reared amongst Washington’s elite in the family of a high-ranking CIA official, undertook a decades-long effort to solve one of the nation’s most important murder mysteries.
The result is: Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer and Their Vision for World Peace. Janney, at left, described his findings Aug. 16 on the MTL Washington Update radio show I co-host with network founder Scott Draughon.
Janney’s 548-page book is well-crafted, entertaining, courageous, suspenseful, passionate, and so controversial that most media outlets dare not address its themes, although they would doubtless use other excuses if asked.
By the book’s end, I am persuaded that major news outlets worthy of the name owe it to their audiences at least to challenge Janney’s impressive documentation.
Click here to listen to our interview, now available nationally by archive. The segment on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) network comprises about 20 minutes of the show. The full hour of the weekly show is here.
To set the stage for Janney’s book: It would be hard to imagine a more explosive and complex theme in modern politics — or an independent author better-positioned to provide a best-effort at unraveling the mysteries.
Let’s start with the big controversy: Janney concludes that Mary Pinchot Meyer, the beautiful and warm-hearted mother of his best friend, was murdered in 1964 via a well-crafted hit organized by a high-ranking executive at the CIA.
The reason? She was, in Janney’s view, on the verge of denouncing as bogus the Warren Commission’s then-recent announcement that Lee Harvard Oswald acted alone in assassinating President John Kennedy. Kennedy is now known almost indisputedly as Mary’s lover, friend, and sympathizer in reducing Cold War tensions to advance world peace.
Further, Janney argues that the CIA at its highest levels, including his own father, nearly framed an innocent black man for Mary Meyer’s shooting death in the C&O canal pathway in Georgetown while she was walking along her regular exercise route. Janney shows also that Newsweek/Washington Post icon Benjamin Bradlee had long, compromising ties to the CIA and to the victim. Also: Bradlee was complicit in blocking basic news coverage — and perhaps in much more sinister activities.
About now, I expect to lose some readers who suspect that none of this could be possible. So be it. For others willing to explore new ideas, read on.
Mary Meyer was Bradlee’s sister-in-law and also the ex-wife of Cord Meyer, the CIA’s high-ranking covert liaison to the nation’s news industry. Descendant of a wealthy and politically prominent family in Pennsylvania, she was extraordinarily beautiful, capable, and gracious. This began in her teenage years. Kennedy first became attracted to her at a Choate prep school dance in 1936 when she was 15. She published a poem in the New York Times at age 19, portending her auspicious future.
An independent spirit, she married Cord, a prize-winning Yale grad, after he became a World War II war hero. He went on to become a best-selling author, and worked closely with her to become, at age 26, one of world’s most famous and influential peace advocates. He led a global organization, and lectured tirelessly to advocate for a world without war, and joined the CIA fulltime following recruitment by Allen Dulles, the longest-serving CIA director in history.
The CIA, begun in 1947, heavily recruited such well-bred Ivy grads, both as full-timers and part-time “assets” while they pursued work in such fields as business, journalism, and academia. The CIA even funded the Communist Daily Worker and many left-wing groups as part its complex anti-Communist efforts, according to Tom Braden, Cord Meyer’s boss and one of the agency’s highest-ranking officials before he became a CNN host and syndicated news pundit.
Mary divorced Cord in 1956 when she could not bear his revised mission of working for the CIA, where employees kept their activities secret even from their families.
We now know that he directed such initiatives as Operation Mockingbird. This was a program to tilt the nation’s news coverage to CIA-friendly themes by anonymous official briefings and scoops for friendly reporters, along with payments, and threatened or implicit reprisals against unfriendly journalists. Cooperating newspaper publishers in what was regarded as the fight to retain freedom reputedly included Philip Graham, owner of the Washington Post. Thus, lower-level journalists might find it difficult to publish different perspectives, especially since the existence of Operation Mockingbird was unknown except to key supporters at the highest level of government and the media.
Cord Meyer’s work included spinning CIA’s covert initiatives around the world. Declassified documents and many books have shown that Dulles and Counter-Intelligence Director James Jesus Angleton, among others, pulled off a wide array of activities with scant accountability by anyone. These included overthrow of democratically elected leaders around the world perceived by the CIA as too left-wing, plus bribes, false flag incidents, and assassinations.
Near the end of Angleton’s life in 1987, he confided in Joseph Trento, who published a book in 2001 based in part on records that Angleton and two top colleagues had liberated from the CIA and then bequeathed to him. The book is The Secret History of the CIA. Trento, a respected author in other respects, thus has credibility for his long interviews with Angleton, quoted also by Janney. Here is a small part: “You know,” Angleton told Trento as saying with regret about his career, “the CIA got tens of thousands of brave people killed.”
Camelot in Washington
But that was later, and it was a different story in 1961.
Reuniting with John Kennedy, Mary Meyer had a torrid sexual and spiritual affair with him through most of his White House years. He invited her to many formal appearances throughout his presidency, as well as to many secret liaisons. At times, she even attended official meetings. Kennedy once seated her and her sister,Toni Bradlee, at either side of him at a formal dinner. For years, the president flirted with Toni, married to the president’s pal, Benjamin. Janney writes that this was to divert attention away from his romance with Mary, portrayed with president at left on Sept. 23, 1963 in photo from the book.
Mary saw in Kennedy a man who increasingly shared her pro-peace viewpoint, as illustrated by his actions to exercise more control over the CIA and Pentagon. The president reportedly undertook confidential efforts to de-escalate war threats with the Soviet Union and Cuba, and to curtail United States military actions in Vietnam at a time when the nation’s commitment was just 25,000 troops.
Mary’s affair with Kennedy was totally unknown to the general public until 1976, when the National Enquirer revealed it. The affair was apparently Kennedy’s most serious, by far, during his many during his marriage. But the romance is a mere fragment of the larger story that Janney describes.
Janney grew up during the Cold War era of the 1950s and 1960s. His father, Wistar Janney, was a senior career CIA official. The Janney family was intimately involved with many of Washington’s social and political elite, as well as other high-ranking CIA officials. Peter Janney is a 1970 graduate of Princeton who earned a Ph.D. at Boston University. He extensively footnoted his book, and drew on previous commentaries, court records and confidential interviews. Some involve the papers of previous researchers, one of whom killed himself after making a breakthrough discovery. Another abandoned a planned book on these themes, reputedly out of fear of deadly reprisal.
The U.S. Department of Justice made a huge effort to convict in Mary Meyer’s murder a befuddled day laborer, Raymond Crump, Jr., a black man found drunk in the park. A jury acquitted him after his church persuaded Dovey Rountree to represent him for free. Sensing great injustice, the lawyer put her career on the line to commit to the defense vast time, her personal finances, and her exceptional skill. Against a top prosecutor and the full resources of a Justice Department that introduced into the courtroom one exhibit 55-feet wide, she proved reasonable doubt to the jury. Her main contention was that the slightly built Crump could not have overpowered the taller victim, a fitness buff who was shot twice in a hands-on struggle.
For those with a reasonably open mind or curiosity about history, the book is a trove of insider commentary on an ostensibly glamorous era in Georgetown. Myth-makers portrayed a new “Camelot” at the White House. With a dramatic story-line, Janney assembles scattered evidence to show, for example, that Kennedy planned to dump Vice President Lyndon Johnson from the 1964 re-election ticket, and divorce Jacqueline Kennedy following his political career in order to wed Mary.
Further, Janney assembles evidence that Mary, a former reporter for United Press International, was preparing to challenge the Warren Commission’s conclusion in 1964 that former Marine Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated the president by himself in 1963 with no known conspirators. Readers can decide whether it is credible that anyone, especially a woman in a pre-feminist era, would dare challenge conventional wisdom. Yet her family and personal history shows considerable independence, and her influential circle of Georgetown/McLean friends included the CIA’s own master-spy Angleton and his wife.