What was a Corsican assassin doing in Dallas on the day JFK was assassinated?
The intriguing question is probed by WND senior staff reporter Jerome R. Corsi in his new book "Who Really Killed Kennedy? 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations about the JFK Assassination."
Corsi says that along with the Corsican assassin, the Vietnam War, the CIA, the international heroin trail and the 1971 movie "The French Connection" are all relevant to solving the JFK assassination.
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"Did CIA mobsters running the heroin trade in Vietnam kill JFK?" he asks.
"Who Really Killed Kennedy," released this month as the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaches, is bolstered by recently declassified documents that shed new light on the monumental event. Corsi sorted through tens of thousands of documents, all 26 volumes of the Warren Commission's report, hundreds of books, several films and countless photographs.
A Corsican in Dallas
In response to a 1976 Freedom of Information Act request, the CIA released documents 632–796 confirming for the first time that a professional assassin was apprehended in Dallas on Nov. 23, 1963.
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The CIA memo, Corsi notes, mentions Jean Souetre, a.k.a. Michel Roux, a.k.a. Michel Mertz – a world-renowned Corsican hit man with a long history as an accomplished assassin and with ties to the French Connection drug trade stretching from Southeast Asia to Marseilles, France, to New Orleans. The memo, stamped “SECRET” and dated April 1, 1964, reads as follows:
Jean SOUETRE aka Michel Roux aka Michel Mertz – On March 5, Dr. Papich advised that the French had hit the Legal Attaché in Paris and also the SDECE man had queried the Bureau in New York City concerning subject stating that he had been expelled from the U.S. at Fort Worth or Dallas 48 hours after the assassination. He was in Fort Worth on the morning of 22 November and in Dallas in the afternoon. The French believe that he was expelled to either Mexico or Canada. In January he received mail from a dentist named Alderman living at 5803 Birmingham, Houston, Texas. Subject is believed to be identical with a Captain who is a deserter from the French Army and an activist in the OAS. The French are concerned because of de Gaulle’s planned visit to Mexico. They would like to know the reason for his expulsion from the U.S. and his destination. Bureau files are negative and they are checking in Texas and with the INS [U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service]. They would like a check of our files with indications of what may be passed on to the French. Mr. Papich was given a copy of CSCI-3/776,742 previously furnished the Bureau and CSDB-3/655,207 together with a photograph of Captain SOUETRE.
The obvious assumption, says Corsi, would be that Souetre should have been placed at the top of the list of suspects in the JFK assassination. If not a shooter, the possibility remains the Corsican assassin was in Dallas to observe, oversee or perhaps even to direct and supervise shooters hoping to catch JFK in a cross fire.
Assassination researchers Brad O’Leary and L.E. Seymour in their 2003 book "Triangle of Death" suggest the “Mr. Papich” mentioned in the document may have been a CIA asset working in the legal attaché’s office as a surveillance operator or simply as an employee who served as a liaison for the U.S. Embassy.
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The SDECE is the Service de Documenation Extérieure et Contre-Espionage, the French equivalent of the CIA. The OAS, or Organization de l’Armée Secrétée, was a right-wing extremist group opposed to French President Charles de Gaulle that engaged in acts of terrorism and assassination and opposed France’s policy to grant the African nation of Algeria independence from French rule.
O’Leary and Seymour argued that the CIA document implicated the OAS, because one of its members, Souetre, was in Dallas the day JFK was assassinated, only to be captured and deported by U.S. authorities some 48 hours later.
A known assassin was apprehended in Dallas, but there is nothing to prove he was even questioned, Corsi points out. Moreover, the CIA never shared the information with the Warren Commission.
When Mary Ferrell, the renowned archivist of assassination material, found the CIA document in early 1977, she described it as one of the worst-looking documents she had encountered, virtually looking like a copy of a copy of a faint carbon copy.
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Tracking down the assassin
Investigative reporter Henry Hurt concluded it was highly unlikely the CIA officer charged with deciding on the release of secret papers in 1967 had “even an inkling of the revelations contained in this document.” Hunt further concluded the document would never have come to light had it not fallen “under the sharp eyes of Mary Ferrell.”
Hurt also determined that the “Souetre” referenced in CIA document 632–796 was not Michel Roux. Hunt found independent documentation that the FBI knew Roux was visiting acquaintances in Fort Worth on Nov. 22, 1963, and left the United States Dec. 6, 1963, at Laredo, Texas.
This Michel Roux had spent three years in the French Army in Algeria before deserting, Corsi explains. Because Roux was not deported, Hurt ruled out that Roux was Souetre. Hurt also pointed out that since his earliest days in the Senate, JFK was publicly and passionately in favor of Algerian independence, a fact that made him a natural enemy of the OAS.
Hurt traced Dr. Alderson mentioned in the CIA document to Dr. Lawrence Alderson, a respected dentist and longtime resident of Houston who insisted the FBI began trailing him immediately after the assassination and followed him for several weeks.
Finally, the FBI asked for an interview to discuss his relationship with Jean Souetre. Alderson explained to the FBI that as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army stationed in France, he met Souetre, then a captain in the French Air Force. Alderson remembered Souetre as “a political activist of the neo-Nazi persuasion.”
They became friends and for the next 10 years the two corresponded annually around Christmastime. Alderson told Hurt the FBI said agents “had traced Souetre to Dallas a day before the assassination and then lost him,” adding the FBI was certain either Souetre killed JFK or knew who had done it.
In 1999, O’Leary located and interviewed Souetre, who was then working as public relations director at the Casino de Divonne in Divonne les Bains, France.
Souetre explained he and Mertz were both parachute captains in the French Army and that Mertz, some 10 years older than Souetre, was in the maquis [the Resistance] during World War II. Souetre argued that it was Mertz, using Souetre’s name, who was in the U.S. at the time of the Kennedy assassination.
“What I find strange is the fact that [Mertz] was there in Dallas the day of the crime and under my identity,” Souetre said.
“What was he doing there that day? It is obvious that he knew that something was going to happen and that by implicating Captain Souetre he could blame the CNR [Comité Natinale de la Résistance, the later name of the OAS].
Souetre claimed that when U.S. authorities approached him, he proved he was not in Dallas on the day JFK was assassinated and that he had never been to the United States at any time, for any reason.
So what, Corsi asks, was Mertz doing in Dallas on that fateful day in 1963?
Heroin, Vietnam and Dallas
Souetre claimed the reason Mertz was let go and deported from the U.S. was because Mertz, when he was apprehended in Dallas, worked at the same time both for the Marseille heroin crime syndicate and for SDECE, the French intelligence service.
Souetre explained that at that time, the U.S. Mafia – and particularly crime bosses Carlos Marcello, Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante, all of whom ran vast heroin distribution networks in the U.S. – got their product from Antoine Guerini and his Marseille-based heroin enterprise."
We know that Mertz worked directly for that same enterprise,” O’Leary and Seymour wrote.
“Kennedy’s attack on U.S. Mob bosses threatened the stability of Guerini’s Marseille heroin market. Almost all of the heroin bought by U.S. addicts came from Marseille after it was processed from the opium base provided by Nhu [brother of South Vietnamese President Diem]. Hence, Guerini and his syndicate had a lot to lose if Kennedy was allowed to maintain his war on the mob.”
O’Brien and Seymour argued the reason organized crime wanted JFK dead was that the president threatened the Mafia's biggest cash cow, the security of their multi-billion heroin enterprise.
Nhu’s deal with the Guerini syndicate turned the local South Vietnamese heroin market into an enormous profit machine.
The murder of Diem in the coup d’état staged by Gen. Minh with the help and encouragement of the CIA was widely attributed to a decision made by Kennedy, even though Kennedy had given explicit orders that Diem was not to be killed.
O’Leary and Seymour concluded the JFK assassination was “a premeditated conspiracy between the U.S. Mafia, the Marseille Mafia and the highest echelons of the South Vietnamese government” to protect their heroin trade.
The CIA drug trade
Support for the O’Leary-Seymour argument can be found in history professor Alfred W. McCoy’s 1972 study, “The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade,” Corsi points out.
Noting that Diem, a pious Catholic, first launched a determined anti-opium campaign when he came into power in May 1955, McCoy documents the policy was reversed three years later by Diem’s brother Nhu, seeking additional revenue to fund an expanded network of anti-communist secret police.
Nhu imported opium into Vietnam from the Laotian poppy fields, with assistance from Air Laos Commerciale, a small charter airline managed by Indochina’s Corsican gangster Bonaventure “Rock” Francisci.
According to Lucien Conein, a former high-ranking CIA official in Saigon who helped engineer the Diem coup in 1963, the relationship between Nhu and the Corsican gangsters began in 1958 when Francisci made a deal with Nhu to smuggle Laotian opium into South Vietnam.
Most of the narcotics exported from South Vietnam were shipped from Saigon’s port on oceangoing freighters. As the Vietnam War progressed, the Corsican mobsters operating in Saigon designated Marseille as the preferred European port of entry. Conein was widely reported to have carried $42,000 in cash as a means of encouragement for the South Vietnamese generals planning the Diem overthrow.
In an important observation, McCoy noted there is a natural attraction between intelligence agencies and criminal syndicates.
“Both are practitioners of what one retired CIA operative has called the ‘clandestine arts’ – the basic skill of operating outside the normal channels of civil society,” McCoy wrote in “The Politics of Heroin.”
Among all the institutions of modern society, intelligence agencies and criminal syndicates alone maintain large organizations capable of carrying out covert operations without fear of detection.”
McCoy scoffed at the interdiction of weaker U.S. drug enforcement agencies, noting that when the U.S. Bureau of Narcotics first opened its office in Bangkok with three agents in the late 1960s, the CIA’s “massive covert apparatus” operated in the opium highlands of Southeast Asia with the very drug lords the U.S. narcotics agents were trying to apprehend.
While the CIA in Southeast Asia in the 1950s and 1960s operated with vast sums of cash, the CIA had no reason to handle heroin, preferring instead to provide its drug-lord allies with transportation for their drugs, arms and political protection.
“In sum,” McCoy wrote, “the CIA’s role in the Southeast Asian heroin trade involved indirect complicity rather than direct culpability.”
It was a perfect model for a CIA that had been molded around the theme of “plausible deniability,” concludes Corsi.
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