The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt
What secrets do they hold? researchers demand sealed files about JFK assassination be made public on eve of fiftieth anniversary
Even fifty years after JFK's assassination there are still documents related to his death that have not been released to the public.
Rolling Stone | April 5th Edition
He was the ultimate keeper of secrets, lurking in the shadows of American history. He toppled banana republics, planned the Bay of Pigs invasion and led the Watergate break-in. Now he would reveal what he'd always kept hidden: who killed JFK
>> Who assassinated JFK? The conversation continues in our politics blog, National Affairs Daily .
Once, when the old spymaster thought he was dying, his eldest son came to visit him at his home in Miami. Long past were his years of heroic service to the country. In the CIA, he'd helped mastermind the violent removal of a duly elected leftist president in Guatemala and assisted in subterfuges that led to the murder of Che Guevara. Diminished too were the old bad memories, of the Bay of Pigs debacle that derailed his CIA career for good, of the Watergate Hotel fiasco, of his first wife's death, of thirty-three months in U.S. prisons -- of, in fact, a furious lifetime mainly of failure, disappointment and pain. But his firstborn son -- he named him St. John; Saint, for short -- was by his side now. And he still had a secret or two left to share before it was all over.
They were in the living room, him in his wheelchair, watching Fox News at full volume, because his hearing had failed too. After a while, he had St. John wheel him into his bedroom and hoist him onto his bed. It smelled foul in there; he was incontinent; a few bottles of urine under the bed needed to be emptied; but he was beyond caring. He asked St. John to get him a diet root beer, a pad of paper and a pen. But now, in August 2003, propped up in his sickbed, paper on his lap, pen in hand and son sitting next to him, he began to write down the names of men who had indeed participated in a plot to kill the president. He had lied during those two federal investigations. He knew something after all. He told St. John about his own involvement, too. It was explosive stuff, with the potential to reconfigure the JFK-assassination-theory landscape. And then he got better and went on to live for four more years.
That December, Hunt's wife, Dorothy, carrying $10,000 in $100 bills, was killed in a plane crash, foul play suspected but never proved. "She got on that plane willingly and lovingly, because that's the kind of woman she was," the younger Hunt says. "They had lots of marital problems, but when it came down to it, she had his back, and she could hang in there with the big dogs. She was really pissed at Nixon, Liddy, all those guys, and she was saying, 'We're not going to let them hang you out to dry. We're going to get them. Those motherfuckers are going to pay.' So I've never held what happened against him. I had bitterness and resentment, but I always knew he did what he had to do given the circumstances."
Two years later, impeachment imminent, Nixon resigned his presidency. And in 1973, E. Howard Hunt, the man who had unwittingly set all these events in motion, pleaded guilty and ultimately spent thirty-three months in prison. "I cannot escape feeling," he said at the time, "that the country I have served for my entire life and which directed me to carry out the Watergate entry is punishing me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to do."
After his release, Hunt moved to Miami, where he remarried, had two more children and spent three decades living a quiet, unexceptional life, steadfastly refusing to talk about Watergate, much less the Kennedy assassination. His connection to the JFK assassination came about almost serendipitously, when in 1974 a researcher stumbled across a photo of three tramps standing in Dallas' Dealey Plaza. It was taken on November 22nd, 1963, the day of Kennedy's shooting, and one of the tramps looked pretty much like E. Howard. In early inquiries, official and otherwise, he always denied any involvement. In later years, he'd offer a curt "No comment." Not surprisingly, those things he wrote down about JFK's death and gave to his eldest son don't make an appearance in the book, at least not in any definitive way. E. Howard had apparently decided to take them to the grave. But St. John still has the memo -- "It has all this stuff in it," he says, "the chain of command, names, people, places, dates. He wrote it out to me directly, in his own handwriting, starting with the initials 'LBJ' " -- and he's decided it's time his father's last secrets finally see some light, for better or for worse.