On this edition of Real Politik James is joined by Peter Janney, author of Mary’s Mosaic: The CIA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and Their Vision for World Peace. The book tells the story of Dr. Janney’s relationship with Pinchot Meyer and the quest to resolve her murder, the implications of which figure centrally in further explaining what took place on November 22, 1963.
Dr. Janney is the son of Wistar Janney, a senior career CIA official. The Janney family was among many of Washington’s social and political elite that included the family of Mary and Cord Meyer, as well as other high-ranking CIA officials, including Richard Helms, Jim Angleton, Tracy Barnes, Desmond FitzGerald, and William Colby.
Janney is a graduate of Princeton University, he earned a doctoral degree in psychology at Boston University in 1981, and has been a practicing psychologist and consultant for over 30 years. In 2002, Dr. Janney completed an MBA degree at Duke University.
Janney situates the storyline of Mary’s Mosaic to “the mid-to-late fall of 1960, right after [Kennedy] won the election. It was at that point that really something qualitatively changed,” between JFK and Mary Pinchot Meyer, who had known each other for over twenty years.
I think Mary was, of course, interested in Jack’s new-found status as the President of the United States. But he had always been taken with her, and what happened in the next three years is what I try to write about in the book. It has to do with her influence on President Kennedy and, in a sense, it became a relationship of redemption for President Kennedy.
Along these lines, Janney argues that Meyer was likely the first woman JFK identified with intellectually and perhaps also spiritually. “As most people know now JFK had a real problem with intimacy with women,” he notes. “In today’s parlance it would be called a sexual addiction.” Must has been written about Kennedy’s sexual dalliances.
But when Mary came into his life she was someone who he grew to respect very quickly. And I think that’s because she was very independent. She did not need a man in her life. She was independently wealthy as well. I think she offered Jack a chance to really explore what having a real relationship with a woman might be about. This went on through his entire presidency. They were lovers, and then simultaneously she became very instrumental in helping him understand what he was up against in terms of things like the CIA and the Pentagon, and how they were trying to manipulate him. I think she really helped him wake up to a large extent.
Mary Meyer was brutally murdered with a handgun in broad daylight on October 12, 1964. An African-American day laborer, Roy Crump Jr., was prosecuted for the killing and successfully defended by legendary African-American attorney Dovey Roundtree.
In January 2014 Janney deposed William Mitchell as part of a wrongful death civil lawsuit to procure information on Mitchell’s potential responsibility for Meyer’s murder. “I am still in the last stages of my research that I hope will pull the pieces together that may point to the fact that [William] Mitchell had a specific role in this event on October 12, 1964. But I do want to make clear that I no longer believe that he was the actual assassin.”
On Jim Douglas’ important 2008 work, JFK and the Unspeakable:
I really think this is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the pivotal decade of the 1960s, and why it has set the stage ultimately for where we are today. The world would have been a far different place had Kennedy lived. He clearly would have won the 1964 election, and with that we would not have had the conflict in Vietnam and Southeast Asia that we had. I think so many things would have been different, including a real trajectory of nuclear disarmament and a kind of new-found relationship with the Soviet Union that really would have underscored the importance of everyone working toward world peace and all the initiatives that could have taken place during that time.
An important influence on Dr. Janney’s research was Leo Damore, author of Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Coverup, who was working on a book probing Meyers’ death and had already gathered a good deal of information relating to Meyers’ death. “I was not that up on things when I met with Leo, and he shared with me a great deal of what was going on in Mary’s life, and particularly in Mary and Jack’s life,” Janney observes. Yet Damore’s untimely emotional disintegration and passing coincided with his progress on the Meyer case.
Now the interesting thing is that as Leo got closer to finishing this book he started to undergo a profound agitated depression. I think he became increasingly paranoid. He believed someone had poisoned him, and eventually he took his own life in an apparent suicide. I use the word apparent, because I think he was really pushed to it. It’s clear now from congressional testimony that the CIA had a whole arsenal of chemicals, drugs, that could do almost anything—push people into suicidal depression, give them cancer, render them incapacitated in any way, shape or form … My disposition is, in terms of everything I know about Leo, and having gotten hold of his diaries through his family, is that the CIA was really on to Leo and what he was about to uncover. I believe his suicide was not an accident. As one very famous CIA asset said, “Anyone can commit a murder, but it takes an expert to commit a suicide.”
So, why doesn’t the American public as a whole understand the real history underlying the tragic deaths of JFK and Mary Pinchot Meyer? According to Janney, over the past sixty or so years the National Security State has acted to undermine public opinion through its infiltration of the news media. Such actions have been absolutely necessary in terms of pulling off major political assassinations on US soil.
We don’t have a free press in this country anymore. One could argue that possibly we never did, although I think since the CIA came into inception, particularly in the 1950s, we had more of a free press that we certainly have today. It’s really clear that the mainstream media is scripted by the national security apparatus. You don’t hear them talking about alternative theories of what really happened to the World Trade [Center] on 9/11. That wouldn’t be allowed, right? And you didn’t hear anything in 2013 at the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s assassination. There was no talk of alternative theories about what really happened. There was just so much emphasis put on the ‘fact’ that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone nut assassin, when in fact he never fired a shot.
A case in point involves Washington Post publisher Phillip Graham, who supposedly committed suicide in August 1963. Similar to the unexpected death of Leo Damore, the political circumstances that served as a background for Graham’s death fit the template of a possible CIA-orchestrated “suicide.”
You have to understand, the one thing the CIA needed to pull off the JFK assassination was a media that would be totally supportive of whatever the government’s case wanted to be. They couldn’t have someone as prolific and prominent out there saying, ‘Well, we have to look at some other possibilities here. Maybe Oswald didn’t do it.’ And, of course, Mary Meyer was a friend of Phil Graham’s. If she had gone to him and said, “Phil, I’ve got evidence that this was not the case. Oswald was not the culprit. He was really the patsy,” you better believe that Phil Graham would have listened to her. If he had been running the Washington Post, the post would not have been necessarily supportive of the government’s case. With Katherine Graham on board, ever since the Kennedy assassination she has pretty much taken the position of whatever the government wants to have portrayed in the media. That, I think, is a really sad commentary.
Dr. Janney will be speaking at the Assassination Archives Research Center’s conference acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the Warren Commission Report’s official release. The conference takes place from September 25 to 28 in Bethesda, Maryland. Additional information on the conference is available here.