Foreword to Mary's Mosaic by Dick Russell
Early in 1976, about six months after I began probing into the Kennedy assassination for The Village Voice, an article caught my attention in – of all places – the National Enquirer. The weekly tabloid was not generally known for its investigative veracity, but this particular story was thoroughly documented. The subject was Mary Pinchot Meyer, a Washington socialite who’d been shot twice and murdered while walking near the Potomac River on October 12, 1964. Since the originally accused assailant had been acquitted, the identity of her killer remained unknown. Publicly, so did the identity of her lover, until the Enquirer story alleged that for almost two years before his assassination on November 22, 1963, Mary Meyer had been having an affair with President John F. Kennedy.
The Enquirer recounted – and this would soon be corroborated in other periodicals – that Mary had kept a diary. The weekend after her death, a small group of people were said to have gathered at her Georgetown home in search of it. Cord Meyer, her ex-husband and a high official in the CIA, was there. So was James Angleton, head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, and his wife Cicely, a close friend of Mary’s. Also present was Tony Bradlee, Mary’s sister and the wife of Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee.
The story went that none of them could locate Mary’s diary and that her sister had later found it inside a locked steel box containing dozens of letters, including some from the slain president Kennedy. Bradlee had then turned the box over to Angleton, who took the material to CIA headquarters. James Truitt, a journalist for Newsweek and another friend of the Meyers, said he’d received a letter from Angleton saying: “As to the diary and related papers, I burned them.”
For more than 20 years, Angleton had been a “spook’s spook” who roamed the Agency corridors looking to ferret out penetrations by the Soviet Union. Then in 1974, a new CIA Director, William Colby, leaked word to the media that Angleton had also been in charge of Operation CHAOS, a domestic intelligence-gathering program that far exceeded the CIA’s original charter. Angleton was forced to resign. Not long thereafter, he began meeting with journalists for the first time, obviously intent on getting his side of certain stories on the record.
I was one of them, although I never really understood why Angleton chose to wine and dine me on three occasions at his customary meeting place, Washington’s Army-Navy Club. After all, The Village Voice hardly seemed like his cup of tea. And I did not disguise the fact I was looking into a probable conspiracy in the death of President Kennedy. Indeed, the first time we met, late on a mid-December afternoon in 1975 in the plush club lounge, I gave him one of my Voice articles to leaf through. Angleton lit a cigarette, took a sip of his martini, and said: “The subject is a far more complex one than reflected in your article.”
After the assassination, Angleton’s Counterintelligence branch had been assigned as the CIA’s direct liaison to the Warren Commission, of which former CIA Director Allen Dulles was a member. I wondered, why Angleton’s office? “Because we had the research facilities, knew the mechanisms of the KGB and foreign intelligence,” Angleton replied quickly. “We knew every assassination in history, knew more about the sophistication of the Cuban DGI, that type of thing.” Pretty obviously, he was trying to steer my thoughts toward possible foreign involvement. Angleton dismissed the rumors that Lee Harvey Oswald might have been an American agent as “completely false” and continued: “Unless one knows the dossiers that are in Moscow and Cuba, there can be no ultimate determination.” Several times over the course of our get-togethers, he would raise the specter of the KGB’s Department 13, which specialized in what those in the trade called “wet affairs” (assassinations).
Angleton was one of the strangest men I ever met: tall, bespectacled, stoop-shouldered, with his appearance calling to mind the image of an ostrich whose head seemed, despite itself, to be peering out at the world after a lifetime buried in the sand. But what secrets was he willing now to unearth, and what was his motivation? Was he still, in fact, covering someone’s tracks – even, perhaps, his own? In April 1976, we met for the second time and one of the first things I asked him about was the Enquirer’s revelatory piece about Mary Meyer and her diary. Angleton gazed out the window for a long moment. Then he replied that he had been acting in a private capacity for the family, and in no way for the CIA, which he hastened to add had nothing to do with her death. He went on to relate a fascinating, even occult, story.
Angleton and his wife had planned to go out to dinner and a show with Mary Meyer that October evening in 1964. When news came over the radio that someone had been killed in a park not far from where she lived, Cicely Angleton had a premonition that it was Mary. So that night, they drove over to her house, but found it completely dark. A grim foreboding grew stronger in Angleton’s wife. Angleton said he’d called Meyer’s answering service, which at first simply said that she wasn’t in. But when Angleton explained they had a date with her, and that his wife was hysterical in the car, he was told of Meyer’s death.
The entire time Angleton was relating this, I noticed that he was digging his fingers deeper and deeper into the wooden arm of the comfortable chair in the Army-Navy Club.
I have puzzled over that moment for many years. Over the course of time, I read Timothy Leary’s memoir that only added to the mystery of Mary Meyer – maintaining that he’d turned her on to LSD, that she may even have taken a “trip” with President Kennedy, and that she’d called Leary the day after the assassination indicating that “he was changing too fast; they couldn’t control him anymore.” They clearly implied that JFK had been assassinated by elements within our own government.
Now, with Peter Janney’s remarkable book Mary’s Mosaic, the questions that long haunted me have been largely answered. Now I see how Angleton was trying to bend the truth, and why. Not only about Mary Meyer, but about who killed Kennedy, which all but certainly involved the same element of individuals.
Those questions had long haunted Janney as well, and in a deeply personal way. For, as a child growing up in close proximity to the Meyer family home in McLean, Virginia, one of the Meyer boys had been his best friend. Peter was himself the son of a high-level CIA official, Wistar Janney. When that son set out on his many-year quest to ascertain who was behind the death of his best friend’s mother – and how this may have been related to the assassination of President Kennedy – the journey was one with many surprising, and heartwrenching, twists and turns. In some ways, this book reads like a murder mystery, but ultimately it is more like a Greek tragedy: one that does not spare the Homer of this saga, Peter Janney himself.
In painstaking detail, he sets down the sequence of events around Meyer’s demise, a sequence that leaves no doubt that the “official version” was concocted and an innocent black man charged with the crime. This is a story that recalls the Zeitgeist of the 1960s, from the civil rights movement to consciousness-raising through psychedelics – and the change wrought in Kennedy’s conscience and leadership following the near apocalypse of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and through the influence and vision of a beautiful, amazing woman.
Mary’s Mosaic is also a story about intertwined destinies, about human strength and weakness, and finally about forces of good and evil. The book makes a reader consider those possibilities within each of us, even as what unfolds is on a Shakespearean stage. For those were, indeed, momentous times, and times that reverberate to this day across our national landscape. As we live in one of the most polarized junctures in American history, Peter Janney gets at the root of the origins, the “primary causes” of dysfunctionality and disunion that we need to understand. The author has given us a penetrating insight into the still-hidden history of an era that few other books have achieved. As the philosopher Santayana once said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
I don’t want to steal the thunder from what also stands as a mesmerizing page-turner, but here are some broad brush-strokes: In Mary’s Mosaic, you will learn not only how covert actions are orchestrated, but the many-layered duplicity it takes to conceal the truth about them. You will see how, to use a cliché, “love conquers all” – when a woman of integrity is able to help bring a transcendent vision to the most powerful man in the world. You will observe her courage in seeking to bring out the truth of what happened to him, even knowing full well the powers-that-be she was up against. And you will contemplate, too, the courage of author Janney in pursuing what became a terribly agonizing truth about the role of his own father.
I wish I could anticipate that Mary’s Mosaic will be widely reviewed by the major media. But after finishing this book, you will know why this cannot be the case. The CIA set out to manipulate the free flow of information long ago, a blow to our democracy that now sees near total control by fewer and fewer large corporate owners. The Rupert Murdochs of today would not have been possible without the Ben Bradlee’s of yesterday, no matter their seeming ideological differences. That is another sad legacy of what happened almost fifty years ago to JFK and Mary Meyer.
So be prepared to be surprised, even astonished, and ultimately outraged by what is set forth in these pages. Not all the answers to what bedevils our nation are here, but enough to make you take a deep breath and realize – if we do not fight for what we believe in, and from the personal depths of our being, then America is doomed to the fate that befalls all imperial powers. Denial will be our downfall, the illusion that things like this do not happen here. But not if Peter Janney has anything to say about it.
Proceed to Part I: Introduction to Mary's Mosaic by Peter Janney