Notes on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012

November 8, 2012

This thoughtful and provocative piece comes from an early and brilliant Warren Commission critic and lawyer Vincent Salandria, author of False Mystery. He has taken the position for years that the visible facts in the case were transparent from the start, without ever being officially confirmed. In his view, we already know who killed President Kennedy and why, but to admit that to ourselves would lead to an imperative for action with unknown consequences. He continues these themes in this recent piece sent to us for public consumption. Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania passed away recently after a long battle with cancer and never recanted his conclusions about the single bullet theory he propounded for the Warren Commission to explain multiple wounds in President Kennedy and John Connally on November 22, 1963.

Notes on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012

On January 4, 2012 at 11:25 a.m. I arrived at the Oyster House restaurant in Philadelphia for a meeting with former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter. He had called me a week or so earlier and suggested we have lunch.

We met, shook hands, and seated ourselves at a table. I thanked him for suggesting having lunch with me.

I told him that I viewed his work on the Kennedy assassination as very likely having saved my life. I also wanted him to know that if I had been given his Warren Commission assignment, and if I knew then what I know now about power and politics in our society, I would have done what he did. Of course, as a pacifist peace activist with socialist leanings, such as I was and am, I would never have been selected for Specter’s job with the Warren Commission. Arlen Specter was neither a pacifist nor a peace activist. He was a lawyer. I believe that Specter did not know that after the assassination of President Kennedy he was no longer a citizen of a republic but rather was a subject of the globally most powerful banana republic.

But if I had been chosen for his assignment, i.e. to frame Lee Harvey Oswald as Kennedy’s killer, I would have done what Specter did. As a lawyer I would have had been obligated to serve the best interests of my client, the U.S. government. My assignment would have been to cover up the state crime, the coup. I said that not to do that work and not to steer the society away from the ostensible pilot to kill President Kennedy, which plot had as its central theme a pro-Castro and pro-Soviet origin, would have resulted in terrible political consequences.

I told Specter that the American people could never have accepted my view of the assassination as a covert military-intelligence activity supported by the U.S. establishment – not then, and not now. They would have readily accepted as truth the leftist-plot script that the assassins employed. Even now, most Kennedy assassination critics will not accept my view of a U.S. national security state military-industrial killing. I explained that my very bright and rational wife could and would not completely accept my version of the meaning of the Kennedy assassination.

The U.S. national security state’s killing of Kennedy was cloaked in the Oswald myth. That myth included a supposed U.S. defector to the Soviet Union who headed up a Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and who before the assassination allegedly sought a Cuban passport. Therefore, the myth pointed an accusing finger at Fidel Castro and the Soviets.

If the U.S. public had been convinced that Castro and the Soviets were behind the killing of Kennedy, then the military would have considered the killing an act of war, and a military dictatorship in the U.S. would have probably resulted.

Oswald, a U.S. intelligence agent whose past had been molded by the C.I.A., could have been cast into whatever his intelligence masters chose. If the Oswald myth had completely unraveled and had exposed the joint chiefs to the U.S. public as the criminals behind the coup, they, the joint chiefs, would never have quietly surrendered their newly acquired power. I believe that instead, they would have sought to preserve and exploit their newly acquired status of possessing ultimate power over the U.S. arms budget and foreign policy. I believe that they would have proclaimed a national security emergency and imposed martial law. They would have declared a state of emergency, to a state of war, and would have designated the replacement for President Kennedy as a unitary president. We now have been made to understand that the unitary president is unhampered by constitutional separation of powers and the restraints of the bill of rights. In short, the unitary president is a euphemism for the correct political designation of a dictator.

Specter asked me what I thought was the reason for the assassination. In reply I asked whether he had read the correspondence between President Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. He had not. I explained that my reading of the correspondence convinced me that Kennedy and Khrushchev had grown very fond of one another. I saw them as seeking to end the Cold War in the area of military confrontation. They were in my judgment seeking to change the Cold War into a peaceful competition on an economic rather than military basis, testing the relative merits of a free market and command economy. I saw the U.S. military intelligence and its civilian allies as being opposed to ending the Cold War.

I told him that I concluded that there was also a conflict between Kennedy and our military on the issue of escalation in Vietnam. In order to deter the efforts of Kennedy and Khrushchev to accomplish a winding down of the Cold War, the C.I.A, with the approval of the U.S. military, killed Kennedy.

I said that I believed the assassination was committed at the behest of the highest levels of U.S. power. I said that I did not use sophisticated thinking to arrive at my very early conclusion of a U.S. national-security state assassination. I told him that I think like the Italian peasant stock from which I came. We use intuition.

I explained that the day after the Kennedy assassination I met with my then brother-in-law, Harold Feldman. We decided that if Oswald was the killer, and if the U.S. government were innocent of any complicity in the assassination, Oswald would live through the weekend. But if he was killed, then we would know that the assassination was a consequence of a high level U.S. government plot.

Harold Feldman and I also concluded that if Oswald was killed by a Jew, it would indicate a high level WASP plot. We further decided that the killing of Oswald would signal that no government investigation could upturn the truth. In that event we as private citizens would have to investigate the assassination to arrive at the historical truth.

Specter uniformly maintained a courteous, serious and respectful demeanor, as did I. He asked me whether I had talked to Mark Lane frequently. I told him that I had spoken to him, and that I had spoken to essentially every assassination critic then active. I described meeting Mark Lane at a dinner in Philadelphia at a lawyer’s home. The dinner was in 1964. I could not recall the name of the lawyer host. I related that Spencer Coxe, the Executive leader of the Philadelphia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, was also present.

At that dinner I informed Lane that I was interested in Oswald as a likely U.S. intelligence agent provocateur. Lane was not interested in the concept of Oswald as a possible U.S. intelligence asset. Specter asked me what Lane believed regarding the assassination. I said that at that time he believed there was a plot, but he did not name who the plotters were and did not discuss what he thought the reason was for the killing. I did say that later, Lane got a jury to decide for Lane’s client who had said that E. Howard Hunt was in Dallas on the date of the Kennedy assassination. Lane’s client had been sued for libel. He described the case in his 1991 book Plausible Denial.

In 1964, after his work with the Warren Commission was completed, Specter had been honored for this association at a meeting of the Philadelphia Bar Association. He asked me what I remembered about that event. I told him that I attended with my copy of the Warren Report and directed some questions at him regarding the shots, trajectories and wounds in the Kennedy assassination. After the meeting some of my colleagues at the bar asked me to write an article. That night I did so. I sent the article to Theodore Vorhees, the Chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association, and asked him to have it published. He sent it back and asked me to tone it down. I did so. He got it published in The Legal Intelligencer.

Specter recalled that in our confrontation I had accused him of corruption. He said that he had asked me at that time whether I would change the charge to incompetency. I had refused. I told him that I could not change it to incompetency because I knew then from his public record, as I know now, that he was not incompetent. My charge was reiterated in the Legal Intelligencer article, which described the Warren Commission’s work as speculation conforming to none of the evidence. I said the Warren Report did not have the slightest credibility, committing errors of logic and being contrary to the laws of physics and geometry.

Specter, during our 2012 lunch, asked me whether I thought that the Warren Commission was a set up. I answered that probably not all of the Commissioners knew it was a set up, but that Dulles and Warren knew. I also told him that I thought that McGeorge Bundy was privy to the plot. Specter did not respond to this.

I explained that I did not discuss with friends my view of the assassination and my conception of how controlled our society is. I said that I did not discuss with my friends matters such as we were discussing because people are just not ready to accept my view of the assassination and the tight control over our society. I said that I had nothing to offer to people in terms of solutions to the mess we are in. I related how last year, when I had a blood condition and thought I was going to die, my big regret was the mess of a society we were bequeathing to our children.

Specter commented: “Washington is in chaos.” I told him that I was deeply concerned about whether we are going to bomb Iran. Specter said, “We are not going to bomb Iran.”

I offered an example of how out of control the society is. I pointed out that he had been against escalation in Afghanistan. While Obama was supposed to be meditating over whether or not to escalate the U.S. forces there, Generals McChrystal and Petraeus were speaking to the press telling the world that we were going to escalate. These statements by the generals were made while Vice President Biden was speaking publicly against escalation. I said that I thought McChrystal and Petraeus should have been court martialed for violating the chain of command. I then said that I don’t think Obama any longer has power over the military, despite the ostensible constitutional chain of command.

I told Specter that I knew there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy notwithstanding his single-bullet theory because the holes in the custom-made shirt and suit jacket of Kennedy could not have ridden up in such a fashion to explain how a shot from the southeast corner of the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository Building, hitting Kennedy at a downward angle of roughly 17 degrees, and hitting no bone, could have exited from his necktie knot. I told him that Commission Exhibit 399 was a plant.

I admitted that I had coached Gaeton Fonzi before his interview with him on the questions that he should ask Specter. Specter asked me where Fonzi is. I told him that he lives in Florida, and that he is sick with Hodgkin’s disease. Specter said he was a good reporter. I told Specter that Fonzi was a great investigative reporter.

I told Specter that my very smart wife does not accept my political thinking regarding the nature of the power in control of the country and the world. Specter asked me about my wife. I told him that she is Jewish. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College. She studied at the University of Chicago and accomplished all but the dissertation in Russian Literature there. She owns and manages 41 apartments around Rittenhouse Square. Her father was a fellow traveler. He was subpoenaed before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He retained Abe Fortas as his lawyer. The hearing was cancelled. He was a philanthropist who financed the Youth Ruth Wing of the Jerusalem Museum and a college and high school in Israel.

I suggested to Specter that he was selected to perform the hardest assignment of the Warren Commission because he was a Jew. The government could have selected a right WASP lawyer for the job. I said that I had received less criticism for my work on the assassination than he had received for his work on the Commission and as Senator. He related how in Bucks County in a speaking engagement a man had risen and shouted at him that he should resign because he was too Jewish. I told him that I thought that he was a good Senator. He replied that being a Senator was a good and interesting job.

So how is it that Arlen Specter’s work on the Warren Commission saved my life? If I had been successful in arousing public opposition to the National Security State, whom I viewed at the President’s true killers, then the National Security State, possessing supreme power after its successful coup, would have liquidated any effective dissent. In 1966, after a public forum on the Warren Commission’s evidence, I was advised by Brandeis Professor Jacob Cohen that I would have to be killed. I viewed Professor Cohen as speaking for the assassins.

The Warren Report quieted the public. And as it developed, I was completely ineffective. There was no need to dispose of me. So, I consider my life was saved by the effectiveness of Arlen Specter’s work and the ineffectiveness of my own.

As we were leaving the Oyster House I gave Specter a copy of James W. Douglass’s book, JFK and the Unspeakable. I said it was the best book on the assassination, and that it was dedicated to a friend of mine and me.

Specter was smiling broadly as we left. I told him that he had a great smile, but that he did not sport it often in public. I asked him whether he was in good health. He said he was, and seemed optimistic about his well-being. I don’t know whether he was then aware of his illness. In dealing with his protracted struggle against very serious afflictions he displayed remarkable fight and courage.

Knowing what I know now, and being then, as now, committed to historical truth, I would have not changed my earliest statement that the Kennedy assassination was a crime of the U.S. warfare state. But I would not have endeavored to rally people to confront as I did the assassins. I know now that the U.S. public never did want to accept the U.S. warfare state as the criminal institutional structure that it is. I know now, that even if the U.S. public ever was ready to accept the true historical meaning of the Kennedy assassination, that there are and have been no institutional structures open to them with which they could hope to countervail successfully the Kennedy killers, the enormous power of the U.S. empire and its warfare state.

I know that my efforts to convince people to oppose Kennedy’s assassins were feckless. But was the effort of a small community of people to establish the historical truth of the Kennedy assassination valueless? I think not. I feel that historical truth is the polestar which guides humankind when we grope for an accurate diagnosis of a crisis. Without historical truth, an accurate diagnosis of the nature and cause of crisis, we would have no direction on how to move to solve societal disease.

Knowing what I know now, would I change my harsh criticisms of Arlen Specter? Yes, I would. Specter was a superior lawyer who enlisted his services to the U.S. government. The Warren Commission Report, through its lies, served to calm the U.S. public in a period of great crisis. If any serious domestic or foreign effort had been made to counter the coup, the weaponry commanded by the state criminals would have resulted in catastrophic loss of life. Therefore, in my judgment of Arlen Specter I defer to the wisdom of Sophocles, who said: “Truly, to tell lies is not honorable; but where truth entails tremendous ruin, to speak dishonorably is pardonable.”

8 Responses to Notes on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012

  1. Anita Thompson Monroe
    November 26, 2012 at 10:47 am

    You would probably be interested in what Michael Schweitzer published on FB on November 22. His articles are the result of more investigative reporting, similar to Gaeton Fonzi’s. You can see Parts ! & 2 on my own Timeline. Let me know what you think.

    Regards, Anita T. Monroe

  2. November 26, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    “If any serious domestic or foreign effort had been made to counter the coup, the weaponry commanded by the state criminals would have resulted in catastrophic loss of life.”

    What about Vietnam?

  3. December 5, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Well, assassination researchers never change, even when they get old. Salandria gets one last chance to grill Specter — and what happens? Talk, talk, talk instead of listen, listen, listen. Lots of statements, no questions.

    JFK researchers are a lot like fundamentalist Christians — constantly seeking opportunities to score a conversion. Don’t you guys GET it? You were never going to convert a guy like Arlen Specter. The best you can hope for is to get the other guy to feel relaxed and blabby. In the course of that blabbiness, he might slip out something revelatory.

    You blew your chance, Mr. Salandria.

  4. December 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I think that you have it exactly right.

  5. Ralph Adamo
    October 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    I don’t think Joseph Cannon and Michael Green understand how good attorneys work. Salandria made clear that he understood that Specter was an excellent attorney who was serving the interests of his client, the US Government, in what was tantamount to a prosecution (albeit after-the-fact) of Lee Oswald. A first-rate attorney like Specter would never spill the beans voluntarily, and even under the best of circumstances neither would he “slip out something revelatory” unconsciously nor by accident. Specter was simply too good a lawyer to do that. Salandria understood that and he clearly respected Specter as a skilled attorney, even though there was never going to be any meeting of the minds on JFK assassination. But, importantly, the meeting between Salandria and Specter does demonstrate one important thing: Specter also held great respect for Salandria’s skills as a researcher and attorney. Although this is just a reasonable inference to be drawn from the facts of this article, I think the fact that Specter even wanted to meet with Salandria to talk about the assasination and the Warren Commission and that he was willing to listen to Salandria is an indicator that Specter is conveying in some sense that he believes that there is merit to Salandria’s work and positions on the matter. If Specter didn’t think there was any merit to Salandria’s work, he never would have met with him, not even out of curiousity.

  6. December 17, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Private meetings with Specter hardly get to the point of his deliberate effort to mislead the American people about the murder of our president. His motives, whether to further his career or keep the American people from being alarmed are not relevant. He worked for our government and considered it his responsibility to make false statements about the assassination of President Kennedy. This is a democracy and it only works if the people who must make the vital decisions have been told the truth. Lying about the murder of the American President in a nuclear age is serious misconduct. Fortunately, every poll has established that the American people rejected the Warren Commission’s conclusions and Specter’s deception. Three cheers for the good common sense of our nation.In spite of Specter, the illustious members of the Warren Commissiom and the almost universal support of the established media, according to all establishment polls, Gallup and the networks, the American people showed wisdom and courage and concluded that a conspiracy had been involved and that likely an intelligence branch of our goverment was involved. Finally, even a committee of the United States House of Representatives concluded that probably a conspiracy was involved in the murder.


  7. Ralph Adamo
    March 11, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Mark, based on my understanding of Vince Salandria’s views on the JFK assasination, although many individuals had participated in the obstruction and/or coverup of the truth, the planners of the assasination were not out to commit the perfect crime. In fact, they deliberately left many loose ends and gaping holes in their official story that were just waiting to be discovered by researchers.

    For a fictional example of a much more airtight crime, check out the 1989 movie “The Package,” written by John Bishop, directed by Andrew Davis, and starring Gene Hackman and Tommy Lee Jones. In this political thriller, we have a patsy obviously modeled on Lee Oswald, who was set up to be framed for a JFK-like assasination from an upper floor of an office building. However, in this movie, the planners arranged for the patsy to be killed at the scene of the office building where the patsy would be presumed to be firing his shots, and they carried that plan out to a “T,” leaving the patsy dead on the spot.

    Similarly, the JFK murder would have been “cleaner” had the planners arranged for Oswald to be shot to death before he left the Book Depository. If the purpose of having Oswald leave the building was so that he could also be framed for the murder of a Dallas policeman, that too could have been done at the Book Depository site, planting Oswald’s handgun on him at the spot. Then, there would have been no need to order Jack Ruby to carry out the Mafia murder assigned to him. But the planners did just that, and in the most public way possible–on live television, so it could be played over and over–and thereby forever linking the Mafia to the crime on at least one level, and raising all sorts of questions that would probably not have even been asked if Oswald were simply “eliminated” at the Book Depository site, while trying to “escape.”

    No, the planners of the JFK murder weren’t out to commit the perfect crime by any stretch. If anything, as Salandria (I believe) has indicated, this was a bold, “in your face,” power grab that left the unmistakable message that extraordinarily powerful forces were now in charge.

    The planners did not mind at all that the public had thoughts that a conspiracy was involved. The real message was that what the American public thought or wanted no longer even mattered. The fact that all major media sources unanimously conveyed that message as though coming from the “Powerful Oz” (continuing to this day) had a pacifying and fear-inducing effect on the American psyche that easily cleared the path for the Vietnam War, which was one of the most important motives for the crime.

  8. Doug Harvey
    December 5, 2022 at 8:41 am

    This reads like the writings of those slavery apologists who dominate mainstream U.S. history. I agree with Mark Lane above and would add that Specter was a witting tool and should have gone to jail.

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