Friday, February 22, 2008

More Mark Lane Conspiracy Theories Debunked

Picture credit and story: Jane Fonda and attorney Mark Lane on an Airplane — 1970 in Cleveland, Ohio

"During the reading I checked some of Mark Lane's footnotes. The testimony he had cited as evidence that the Warren Report was a cover-up had often been quoted out of context, so that what he quoted changed the meaning of what had actually been said. For example, the way Lane wrote about Jack Ruby's testimony led readers to believe that Ruby was denied the opportunity to reveal the existence of a conspiracy.

...Ruby told Warren:

'No subversive organization gave me any idea. No underworld person made any effort to contact me. It all happened that Sunday morning...If you don't take me back to Washington tonight to give me a chance to prove to the President that I am not guilty, then you will see the most tragic thing that will ever happen...All I want is a lie detector test...All I want to do is tell the truth, and that is all. There was no conspiracy.'

The following month Ruby was allowed to take a polygraph test in his jail cell, and he showed no signs of deception when he denied being part of a conspiracy. Because of the doubts about his sanity, however, the test results were considered inconclusive.

The only part of this background that appears in Lane's book is Ruby's statement, 'All I want to do is tell the truth, and that is all.' Had he presented the accompanying material, Lane might have argued that Ruby was faking. Instead, Lane cheated. He transformed a man who seemed pathetically anxious to prove his innocence into an honest conspirator desperate to reveal everything he knew. And this was only one of many similar distortions in RUSH TO JUDGMENT.

I remember feeling outraged when I realized what Lane had done. Evidently, the Warren records were like a vast lumber yard. By picking up a few pieces here and there, and doing some cutting and fitting, any theory could be built for which someone had a blueprint." ---Jean Davison in Oswald's Game pp. 17-19.

I have written about the lawyer Mark Lane many times on this blog. He was the lawyer for the AIM terrorists during the violent 1973 occupation of the Indian village of Wounded Knee on Pine Ridge Indian reservation. During the trial of the terrorists, Mark Lane tried to put the FBI on trial.

Now we know why.

According to the retired FBI agent Joseph H. Trimbach, the author of American Indian Mafia, before allowing Mr. Lane to drive into Wounded Knee to meet with his AIM clients, the FBI even confiscated materials in his trunk that could have been used to make molotov cocktails. (paperback ed. p. 122).

Now we know why.

In 1978, Mark Lane was also the lawyer for the ill-fated people of Jonestown and one of only 9 people who escaped into the jungle when 913 people--his clients--were murdered. Mark Lane then wrote a book that claimed that the CIA killed these Americans.

Now we know why.

When the Soviet regime ended, the KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin defected to the British with documentation showing that Mark Lane received money from the KGB through an intermediary and advice from the KGB writer Genrikh Borovik and other Soviet journalists the KGB trusted.

Vasili Mitrokhin and the Cambridge historian Christopher Andrew wrote about Mark Lane in a book called The Sword and Shield, and you can read what they wrote on pages 227-228. The passage from 225-230 details the conspiracy theories of the KGB and Mark Lane about the Kennedy murder.

According to Mitrokhin and Andrew, the KGB believed that President Kennedy had been killed by right-wingers:

The choice of Oswald as Kennedy's assassin, the KGB believed, was intended to divert public attention from the racist oil magnates and make the assassination appear to be a Communist plot (225).

Mitrokhin and Andrew also detail Mark Lane's conspiracy theory:

Together with student assistants and other volunteers, Lane founded the Citizens' Committee of Inquiry in a small office on lower Fifth Avenue and rented a small theater at which, each evening for several months, he gave what became known as "The Speech," updating the development of his conspiracy theory. "This alternative method of dissent was required," writes Lane, "because not a single network radio or television program permitted the broadcast of a word of divergence from the official view." Though it dared not take the risk of contacting Lane directly, the New York residency sent him 1,500 dollars to help finance his research through the intermediary of a close friend whom Lane's KGB file identifies only as a trusted contact. While Lane was not told the source of the money, the residency suspected that he might have guessed where it came from; it was also concerned that the secret subsidy might be discovered by the FBI.

The same intermediary provided 500 dollars to pay for a trip by Lane to Europe in 1964. While there, Lane asked to visit Moscow in order to discuss some of the material he had found. The Centre regretfully concluded that inviting him to Russia would reveal its hand in too blatant a way and his proposed trip was "tactfully postponed." Trusted contacts were, however, selected from among Soviet journalists to encourage him in his research. Among them was the KGB agent Genrikh Borovik, who later maintained regular contact with Lane. Lane's Rush to Judgment, published in 1966, alleged complicity at the highest levels of government in the Kennedy assassination. It was top of that year's hardback bestseller best and went on to become the best-selling paperback of 1967, as well as enjoying what Lane modestly describes as enormous success around the world" and causing "a dramatic change in public perception" of the assassination.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Lane's success was less enormous. The most popular books on the assassination were now those that exposed some of the excesses of the conspiracy theorists." CPUSA leaders who visited Moscow in 1971, though describing Rush to Judgment as "advantageous to the Communists," claimed that Lane's main motive was his own self-aggrandizement (pp. 227-228).

On page 233, The Sword and Shield provides the KGB's account of its efforts to blame the Jonestown tragedy on the CIA, although remarkably the book fails to mention that Mark Lane was the lawyer for Jonestown.

In 1978, a publication called the Covert Action Information Bulletin was founded "on the initiative of the KGB." The CIA defector Philip Agee and a group of supporters were the publishers (Sword and Shield. pp. 232-233).

Mitrokhin and Andrew explain:

The Centre [KGB] assembled a task force of personnel from Service A and Directorate keep the Covert Action Information Bulletin supplied with material designed to compromise the CIA...[The] task force, however, became increasingly concerned about the difficulty of finding enough secret material for the Bulletin, and recommended that it look harder for more open-source material...which could be blamed on the CIA---among them the Jonestown massacre in Guyana, when 900 members of the American religious cult the "People's Temple" had been persuaded to commit mass suicide or had been murdered (233).

Much of the information Mitrokhin brought out from the KGB files is still classified, so I don't know if this book gives a full account of Mark Lane's activities according to the KGB.

In his article "Documenting the KGB," Stephen Stromberg explains:

According to the FBI, Mitrokhin’s documents are 'the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source.' Perhaps the most significant prize for the Western intelligence community are the documents that contain the real names and identities of thousands of foreign agents the KGB recruited and kept under deep cover abroad—a rosetta stone for the spy world...Many of the documents remain classified [Full text].

Mark Lane also published a book called Coversations with Americans that told half-truths and totally fabricated stories about American war crimes in Vietnam.

Now we know why.

In 1970, Neil Sheehan, who stongly opposed the Vietnam War and felt that the American Army was sometimes guilty of war crimes, exposed the fabrications in Lane's book in the New York Times Book Review (12-27-70). You can read Sheehan's article about Mark Lane's propaganda here.

Neil Sheehan writes:

This book is so irresponsible that it may help to provoke a responsible inquiry into the question of war crimes and atrocities in Vietnam. Conversations with Americans is a lesson in what happens when a society shuns the examination of a pressing, emotional issue and leaves the answers to a Mark Lane.

Mr. Lane is a New York lawyer who charged admission six years ago to his lectures in an East Side theater about a conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy (a conspiracy Mr. Lane did not prove in his book attacking the Warren Commission report). He now purports to have assembled a collection of interviews with American soldiers and Marines who witnessed or participated in atrocities in Vietnam. The publisher, Simon & Schuster, advertised the book in the Nov. 22 issue of this review as "one of the most shocking, eye-opening books ever encountered in the annals of wartime reporting." The headline on the advertisement read: "A generation is being brutalized / Thirty-two Vietnam veterans give first-hand accounts of what is happening to our under 30's as they are trained in savagery, sadism, torture, terrorism, and murder."

..."Here the victims do not make allegations," [Mark Lane] says of his book. "Here those who performed the acts of brutality and their friends come forward to place those acts before us. It is for us to place these acts in context. In a country where one cannot imagine the police smashing the printer's plates or confiscating this book, there is yet time for analysis, evaluation and action." Mr. Lane uses his freedom to suggest the interviews show that the Army and the Marine Cops consciously operate on a moral par with Hitler's S.S. So reader, get control of your stomach and prepare for some credible testimony on atrocities from the men who attached the electrodes to the genitals of their victims, male and female, and who butchered women and children like chickens.

The first interview in the book is with Chuck Onan, who deserted the Marines in 1968 and fled to Sweden. Onan says he was in an elite Marine long-range patrol unit, that he went to parachute, frogman and jungle survival schools and received a special course in torture techniques. "How were you trained to torture women prisoners?" Mr. Lane asks.

"To strip them, spread them open and drive pointed sticks or bayonets into their vagina," Onan replies. "We were also told we could rape the girls all we wanted."

...Now here is some information that Mr. Lane did not include in his book. Marine Corps record say the only combat training Onan received was the normal boot camp given every Marine. He then, according to the records, attended Aviation Mechanical Fundamentals School at Memphis, Tenn., and next worked as a stock room clerk at the Marine air base at Beaufort, S.C., handing out spare parts for airplanes. He left Beaufort on Feb. 5, 1968, with orders to report to Camp Pendleton, Calif., for shipment to Vietnam after 30 days leave. He deserted. There is no indication in his records that he ever belonged to a long-range patrol unit and received parachute, frogman and jungle survival training. The Marine Corps contends it does not give courses in torture.

Later on in Mr. Lane's book you will meet Michael Schneider. He says that he spent a year and a half in Vietnam as an infantry squad leader and then platoon leader with the 101st Airborne Division and the 196th Light Infantry Brigade. He tells how he shot three unarmed peasants, tortured a prisoner by hooking a hand crank field telephone up to the man's testicles on orders from a lieutenant, and watched other men torture prisoners in similar fashion on several occasions. His battalion commander, he says, ordered the men to kill prisoners. Schneider says he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart with oak-leaf cluster and the Silver Star, the Army's third highest combat decoration, for his Vietnam service. He subsequently deserted in Europe.

Schneider says that he was born in Germany as Dieter von Kronenberger, but his father changed the family name to Schneider when they immigrated to the United States in 1948.

"How has your family reacted to the fact that you deserted?" Mr. Lane asks.

"My father says I'm a traitor. He says you have an obligation to be loyal to any army you are in. He's a colonel in Vietnam. He recently replaced Col. George Patton as the commander of the Eleventh Armored Calvalry Regiment. He was a captain in World War II. In the Nazi Army," Schneider replies.

"Your father is a colonel in Vietnam?" Mr. Lane asks.

"Right. Full colonel. Commanding officer in Eleventh Cavalry Regiment now." Schneider goes on to tell you that his father once worked for the notorious Nazi armor commander, Gen. Heinz Guderian. The implication is fairly obvious: The United States army has Nazis in command of important units.

There is no Colonel Schneider or von Kronenberger, according to the army records. No such man ever commanded the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. There is no trace in the records of any officer who resembles the description that Michael Schneider gives of his father.

Here is some more information from Army records that Mr. Lane also does not mention in his book. Michael Raymond Schneider left Europe last January, flew to New York and surrendered to the army at Kennedy Airport. He soon went A.W.O.L. and was arrested by police in Denver in July in a murder warrant from Oklahoma. The records last placed him in the maximum security ward of Eastern State Mental Hospital in Vinita, Okla., in October.

...It is particularly difficult to separate fact from fiction in those interviews where, to the experienced ear, the soldier or Marine obviously has seen combat and is speaking in the argot of the "grunt." The interview with Terry Whitmore, a black Marine who deserted to Sweden, is a good example.

Whitmore says he participated, among other atrocities, in a planned massacre of an entire village of several hundred Vietnamese men, women and children. Marine Crops records say Whitmore was in Vietnam over the time period he cites and in the unit he mentions. By telephone, I reached Whitmore's former battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel still on active duty, and a former platoon leader in his company, now a teaching assistant at Appalachian state University in Boone, N.C., both said no such massacre had occurred. They said that at the time Whitmore describes it as taking place, the battalion was operating in an unpopulated area near the Demilitarized Zone.

They remembered an earlier incident involving Whitmore's company in which four Vietnamese, two women, a man and a child were shot to death in a hostile area at night. The company commander, a captain, and an enlisted man, were tried by a court martial for murder. They were acquitted on the grounds that the company had just been fired upon, and it had been impossible in the darkness to distinguish the moving figures as civilians.

Is Whitmore transmogrifying this incident into a massacre of several hundred? The conflicting accounts certainly raise the question.

...Garry Gianninoto, who says he was a Navy medical corpsman assigned to the Marine infantry, describes orgies of burning and killing. "The people were terrorized by the Marines. I mean they terrorized them to death, and the people were scared."

"Did you see much of this?" Lane asks.

"All the time," Gianninoto replies. He recounts one incident in which five Vietnamese men were hanged, stabbed and then shot and their bodies tossed into a river.

Gianninoto says that, in disgust, he finally refused "to fight" and was court-martialed. Medical corpsmen normally do not fight. They do, however, often work in dangerous circumstances, saving the lives of wounded infantrymen on the battlefield and getting shot at themselves in the process.

Marine Corps records do not indicate that Gianninoto had a lot of combat experience either to fight or to witness the atrocities he describes. He was assigned to an aid station at a battalion headquarters in February, 1968, according to the records, and then court-martialed in July for twice refusing orders to work in areas where he might have been shot at. While in the brig, he signed a statement claiming that he had committed a homosexual act in the service and had taken morphine. The statement had the effect of getting him transferred to Navy hospital in New York City for evaluation. Otherwise, he would have had to finish his 13-month tour in Vietnam after he emerged from jail. He went A.W.O.L. from the hospital, the records continue, was court-martialed again and then given an undesirable discharge.

The records do show that there was an incident around the time Gianninoto cites in which five Vietnamese were hanged, stabbed, shot and thrown in a river. One Marine is now serving life imprisonment for the killings and Gianninoto could have learned of them from newspaper stories [full text].

Thanks to Vasili Mitrokhin, we now know why Mark Lane spent his career fabricating damaging stories about the FBI, CIA, and the US Army.


Blogger Mark OBLAZNEY said...

Dang, this guy is just an opportunist, good at what he tries to do.

3:44 PM  

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