The Morrow-Kohly-Nixon Connection

by
Peter R. Whitmey
From The Third Decade, November, 1992. Posted with the permission of Peter Whitmey.
In early 1976, during a period of intense re-examination of the assassination of President Kennedy, an intriguing book entitled Betrayal, by former CIA contract agent Robert D. Morrow, was published by Henry Regnery Co. in Chicago (now Regnery/Gateway of Washington D.C.). Written like a novel, with a great deal of dialogue and a plot reminiscent of a typical espionage thriller, Betrayal alleged to expose the real killers of JFK, although with pseudonyms used in many cases unless the person was already dead.

One of the most important individuals in Morrow's account, and who had passed away in 1975, was Mario Garcia Kohly. Morrow had met the extreme anti-Castro defector in 1960, while working as a consulting engineer, during a round of golf at Burning Tree Gold Club in Washington D. C., in the presence of Vice-President Richard Nixon, assistant CIA Director Charles Cabell, and CIA official "Ed Kendricks" (whom Morrow revealed in his 1988 book The Senator Must Die was Tracy Barnes, fourth-in-command at that time and allegedly Morrow's future case officer when he was hired as a technical adviser in 1961; in my opinion it is much more likely he was hired by E. Howard Hunt, although Morrow denied this suggestion to me during a telephone conversation.)

Peter Whitmey is among a small but active group of Canadian assassination researchers. His colleague Ulric Shannon has written a comprehensive essay on Morrow and the credibility of his claims.

Although much of what Morrow has written in his first book should be taken with a large grain of salt, especially since he uses no documentation to support any of his claims, I did find some intriguing references in the New York Times to events described both in Betrayal and The Senator Must Die, with connections to Morrow, Kohly and Richard Nixon.

The first reference in the Times under the name "Kohly" goes back to July 16, 1930, at which time Kohly's father, who was then the Cuban Ambassador to Spain, was to become the next Cuban Secretary of State in the Machado cabinet. However, an article in the August 13, 1933 Times still referred to Kohly, Sr. as the ambassador, announcing that he would be returning to Cuba with his son, Mario Garcia Kohly, Jr., along with his son's American wife (from Miami), following the overthrow of Machado. I was unable to locate any further reference to Kohly, Sr. through the Times index, but a short article did appear in the Oct. 26, 1962 edition during the Missile Crisis under the headline "Cuba Underground Warns President," originating in Miami. The report indicated that a telegram had been sent to Kennedy from 40,000 members of eight anti-Castro organizations in the Cuban underground (which included the Christian Democratic Movement and the Movement of Revolutionary Recuperation, both later investigated by the HSCA.) Clearly anticipating the overthrow of Castro, a spokesman for the eight organizations stated that Dr. Mario Garcia Kohly, a former investment banker in Havana, had been elected president of the "Cuban Government in arms in exile" at a June 20, 1962 convention. Kennedy was being warned not to impose a new government in Cuba following Castro's overthrow, making it quite clear that they expected Kohly to be the new leader. Kohly himself was quoted as anticipating an attack upon Castro by "300,000 Cubans ... within the next few months" which, of course, never materialized. (In late June, 1963, as reported by Time in their June 28th edition and by Newsweek in their July 1 issue, there were ominous reports of such an attack involving 3,000 anti-Castro Cubans, according to sources close to Florida Congressman Paul Rodgers, who urged U.S. support; it turned out to be a well-planned charade involving only a handful of infiltrators connected to the C.D.M. group.)

The next Times reference to Kohly, which is discussed at length in Betrayal, involved the death of a New York real estate developer with close ties to Kohly named Louis Berlanti, in a Florida plane crash which also took the life of Frederick Berlanti, his son. An investigation had eliminated the possibility of sabotage, allegedly involving agents of Castro (or JFK supporters as suggested in Betrayal). The accident had occurred only days after Berlanti pledged $500,000 worth of bonds to support Kohly's "Organization for the Liberation of Cuba" - the official name of his umbrella group. The offer was contingent upon Kohly obtaining official recognition from an unnamed Latin American government (possibly Venezuela.) Berlanti had apparently lost several million dollars in Cuban investments as a result of Castro's conversion to Marxism.

It wasn't long before Kohly made the Times again with his arrest in New York City by an undercover agent of the Secret Service, reported on October 3, 1963 under the headline "Exile Leader Seized Here in Plot to Flood Cuba With Bogus Pesos". Also arrested in Baltimore were "...Robert Morrow, 39, an electronics engineer and his wife, Cecily, an artist," described by attorney Robert M. Morgenthau (now district attorney of New York City, heading the BCCI prosecution case and at that time, a close friend of Robert Kennedy) as being responsible for the counterfeit plates. In addition, a fourth accomplice, Bill Grosch, also known as Bill Evans (his CIA name perhaps), was still at large. (Presumably he died by 1976 since his real name is used in Betrayal; Morrow described himself in the book as being much younger and a bachelor, with the woman who was arrested depicted as a colleague's wife.)

Kohly was described in the Times report as president of the United Organization for the Liberation of Cuba, having fled to the U.S. in 1959, living at 16 South Joyce Street in Arlington, VA, with an office at 1025 Connecticut Ave. in Washington D.C. (Morrow quotes from an interview with an old friend, Albert Moakler, in The Senator Must Die, who makes reference to a mobster named Mickey Wiener, seemingly connected to: Bobby Baker, Senator Williams, a LBJ protege named Frances Russell, as well as Johnson's military adviser, Howard Burris, identified as "SIO - second intelligence officer" in his 1988 book; Wiener's office was at 1028 Connecticut Ave. in the LaSalle Building.)

Although Kohly and the Morrows had not counterfeited U.S. currency, and seemingly were involved in activities beneficial to the U.S., they were nevertheless charged with conspiracy, punishable by five years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine, but were released after being arraigned in separate courts on $5,000 bond (only details of Kohly's arraignment were given in the Times, but several other reports emphasizing the involvement of the Morrows appeared in the Baltimore papers.) Kohly told the court that his father had been a diplomat in Cuba and that he graduated from Columbia University; he was described as speaking English without an accent, and having worked as a supplier for the Cuban Navy under Batista prior to defecting. He was presently receiving $600 per month from the UOLC.

It should be pointed out that the arrest of Kohly, according to Morrow in both Betrayal and The Senator Must Die, was the "last straw" from the point of view of the conspirators in New Orleans, which included Shaw, Banister, Hall, Howard, and Seymour (the last three were referred to as Hart, Hunter and Gememo in Betrayal but identified correctly in Morrow's April 23, 1976 follow-up report "Behind Betrayal," which I obtained from the A.A.R.C.), plus "Manuel Rodriguez," a composite character based on Eladio Del Valle and Bill Grosch, along with Oswald, Ruby and others in Dallas. He doesn't directly implicate Kohly in his first book, but he certainly does in his second, as well as linking him to the massive cover-up (even the suspicious death of Mary Meyer).

Although author Anthony Summers was not able to ascertain if Kohly was directly involved in the assassination, he did learn the following from Kohly's son (by the same name, who worked for UOLC in Miami as head of the communications with the underground in Cuba itself): "In 1978 I interviewed the son of the late Mario Kohly, extreme right-wing Cuban leader and self-styled President-in-exile, who by 1963 had long since broken with the mainstream exile movement. Kohly too was bitterly opposed to President Kennedy and convinced that Soviet missiles were still in Cuba. The younger Kohly recalled opening a bottle of champagne at the news of President Kennedy's death and then calling his father. According to Kohly, 'My father seemed elated and quite relieved; he seemed more pleased, I would say, than surprised. I am sure he had knowledge of what really happened in Dealey Plaza. But, if you'll recall, everyone that has had knowledge ended up dead." (1)

Even though Kohly would not specifically indicate who he thought was behind the assassination, he suggested it was likely the work of the anti-Castro movement, designed to make it look like Castro himself was responsible, in order to increase the possibility of an invasion of Cuba. Earlier in Summers' book, he also quoted Kohly's son as having recalled his father labelling Kennedy not only a traitor, responsible for the Bay of Pigs disaster, but as being a communist. (2)

According to Robert Morrow, he and his wife were tried in Baltimore court in February 1964 and both pleaded "nolo contendere"; despite the seriousness of the charge, they were given suspended sentences. As for Kohly, he wasn't so lucky. A lengthy report written by Clark Mollenhoff in Washington D.C. dated April 12, 1964, which Morrow includes in the appendix of The Senator Must Die, indicated that his trial was to begin on April 27 with U.S. Attorney Charles Fanning "...pushing the case as if it were vital to put Kohly out of circulation." After some delay upon his conviction (and that of Bill Grosch, now in custody), Judge Weinfeld sentenced both to a one-year term in prison, in part because the counterfeit money had been used for personal use, as well as for arming the underground and for bribes. Both Kohly and Grosch were freed on $5,000 bail pending appeal, as reported in a brief article in the July 16, 1964 Times. It was also revealed that an attempt had been made to induce Secret Service agents posing as printers to invest in the scheme. Grosch was identified as being Kohly's chauffeur and also a resident of Arlington, VA., aged 50.

Almost a year later, the Times reported on the initial stages of Kohly's appeal (with no reference to Grosch) in the June 10, 1965 edition under the headline "Cuban Says U.S. Knew of Counterfeiting Plan". Kohly had stated in court that he was encouraged to pursue his counterfeit operation by both the Pentagon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, only to see them stand by "as he was arrested and tried". Kohly presented an affidavit signed by a Colonel Warren H. Hoover of the U.S. Army, who recalled being asked by William McCormick of the Pentagon to speak with Kohly about his counterfeit scheme in August 1961, which, of course, was during the first year of Kennedy's administration and after the Bay of Pigs debacle. Kohly had suggested that the money be used to purchase arms for the Cuban rebels and to weaken the economy. Hoover had spoken to Gen. Maxwell Taylor about Kohly's plan, and had, indeed, supported it, suggesting to the court that Kohly should have been advised as to whether such a plan was legal.

Kohly also presented a letter from Gen. J. Ewell, a former aide to Gen. Taylor, who recalled that Taylor was "dubious of the plan because he did not think Mr. Kohly had strong backing among the Cuban people." No furthur contact by Taylor's office had been made with Kohly.

Last, but certainly not least, Kohly presented a copy of a letter written by Richard Nixon, whom Kohly had met on a golf course where he outlined his plan, allegedly being put in contact with the CIA by Nixon. In the course of the letter (no date is given nor to whom it was written), Nixon asked the court to consider giving Kohly a suspended sentence, since he felt that Kohly might have mistakenly believed he had the backing of the U.S. government, although Nixon also pointed out that he had no knowledge of "the particular circumstances". Oddly, the outcome of the appeal was not reported in the Times, although in a one-paragraph report dated March 26, 1966, the reader learned that Kohly's one-year sentence, unsuccessfully appealed, had been increased to two years by Judge Murphy, when Kohly failed to surrender in July, 1965 to begin his one-year sentence.

As for Nixon's letter to the court, a copy was published by Robert Morrow in The Senator Must Die (exhibit 11, pp. 260-61), addressed to Judge Weinfeld after Kohly's initial conviction (there is obviously a typing error, in that the date of March 9, 1965 is given as March 9, 1964 on page 2.) Morrow also includes a letter dated April 21, 1966 from attorney Robert R. Thornton, an associate of Richard Nixon at the same law firm (Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie and Alexander) to Mrs. Mario Garcia Kohly, in response to her letter of April 19 and an earlier one of April 4, in which she enclosed a copy of Judge Murphy's decision. Thornton indicated to her that he was prepared to apply for a reduction in sentence on the conviction of jumping bail, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court, but needed to know Kohly's whereabouts in order to obtain his authorization and signature. In the final paragraph, Thornton let Mrs. Kohly know that "...Mr. Nixon has authorized me to offer his services in this matter without charge to Mr. Kohly." And yet despite Richard Nixon's obvious ongoing concern for Kohly's well-being, not one word about Kohly is mentioned in any of Nixon's books, nor in any book about Nixon. In this regard, I wrote about Kohly to Prof. Stephen Ambrose, who has published three volumes on Nixon's life, but I did not receive a reply.

I was unable to locate any further references to Kohly's legal troubles in the Times after the very brief March 26, 1966 reference, although Morrow indicates in Betrayal that Kohly served nine months before being pardoned by President Johnson in 1967. His name was back again in the Baltimore Sun on Sept. 24 and 27, 1971 (exhibit 21 in The Senator Must Die), when he spoke on behalf of Robert Morrow during the latter's failed attempt to be elected to the Baltimore City Council, after the press revealed details of Morrow's murky past related to the counterfeit scheme. Sometime in 1971 Kohly also apparently spoke to the late Bernard ("Bud") Fensterwald about legal representation, which Bud confirmed to me in a letter of March 22, 1990, after I had noted a memo about Kohly referred to in The Fish is Red(3). Apparently "..his case was virtually hopeless" but I have no idea what, specifically the case was about. (Deportation maybe?)

With the publication of Betrayal after Kohly's death the previous year, Morrow indicated having provided some of the information included to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and that certain details were not included in the book "for reasons of national security". When The Senator Must Die was published in 1988 by Roundtable Publishers in Los Angeles (which has since gone out of business), documentation was provided in the form of various exhibits, which included affidavits written by Kohly's son and Morrow on July 15 and July 19, 1976 respectively, and provided to Congressman Downing of the newly formed House Select Committee on Assassinations. Morrow also included a letter of appreciation dated Nov. 4, 1976 in regard to Morrow's assistance signed by Downing. (I wrote to Mr. Downing and received a reply dated Sept. 18, 1991 indicating that he knew Morrow , "..but not well enough to comment on his motivations or philosophies.") Hopefully, we will learn more from Morrow's recently published book First-Hand Knowledge about the Morrow-Kohly-Nixon connection and its possible relationship to the assassination of President Kennedy. (4)

Postscript (April, 1999)

Despite the fact that Morrow's second book , The Senator Must Die, about both JFK and RFK's assassinations, was a huge failure both commercially and critically, Morrow was able to benefit from the increased interest in the JFK assassination as a result of Oliver Stone's controversial film "JFK," which dealt with subject matter of which Morrow claimed to have "first-hand knowledge". His third book was published by Shapolsky in the fall of 1992, in which he admitted to unwittingly playing a role in the assassination of President Kennedy. After reading the book, I wrote to the author in Nov. 1992 and made the following comments:

"...As you have undoubtedly noticed, the proofreading of your book appears to have been virtually non-existent; even one of the chapters is obviously incorrect ('April, 1960' which should read 'April, 1961'.) You also make reference to 'Senator Robert Kennedy' while discussing events during the late fifties; I'm not sure if it should be 'Senator John Kennedy' or possibly you mistakenly thought RFK was a senator at that time. There are also several whole or partial lines at the bottom of one page that appear at the top of the next page, causing momentary confusion, along with the inconsistent spelling of 'Banister/Bannister'. Some footnotes are missing at the end of one chapter as well.

Having read your other two books, it is quite apparent that you have drawn liberally from both but especially Betrayal (which mistakenly is referred to at one point as having been written in 1981, although shortly thereafter it is obvious it had to have been written in the mid-seventies.) Given that you freely admit that much of Betrayal was fiction, it makes me wonder what parts of First-Hand Knowledge are also the work of your imaginative powers. Although you now identify 'Ed Kendricks' by his apparent real name, as you first did in The Senator Must Die, the reader has only your word that Tracy Barnes, fourth in command at the C.I.A. (who is referred to at length in the book The Man Who Kept the Secrets about Richard Helms) was, in fact, your case officer and a close associate. Despite providing some documentation in your last two books (some of it repeated), there is not one shred of evidence given to link you to the C.I.A., despite the claim made on the cover of the book of being a 'senior C.I.A. agent, reporting to the head of covert operations...' Likewise, no evidence is provided linking you to David Ferrie, Marshall Diggs (whose son, Marshall Diggs, Jr., lives in Denver), Charles Cabell, or others whom you mention. Certainly, there is evidence of your association with Mario Garcia Kohly, who is no more than a footnote in other books about the Kennedy era. What frustrates me after reading your book is the fact that you still don't make any comment about Kohly's activities or whereabouts after his arrest in early Oct. 1963, up to Nov. 22, 1963 (as you know, he was released on $5000 bail, as reported in the Times, which you also fail to mention.) What role, if any, did Kohly exercise in the planning of the assassination that you know of? Was Kohly personally aware of Oswald as a possible 'patsy'? You also make hardly any reference to the assassination team unlike in Betrayal, nor to the revelations of Didi Hess about the possible role of Colonel O'Wighton Delk Simpson and Colonel Howard Burris, although Didi has never heard of Burris (who was interviewed for JFK & Vietnam by John Newman). Possibly you and the publisher feared a lawsuit."

Although I didn't receive a reply from Morrow, I wrote to him one more time in Feb. 1993 and made the following comments:
"...(A)re you aware of the book by Ron Lewis entitled Flashback about his alleged friendship with Oswald in both Ft. Worth and New Orleans? Several references are made to you and your first book Betrayal on pages 73, 149 and 229. I am particularly interested in his statement on p. 229, indicating that he and Oswald had talked about you. He also suggests a possible connection between you and Banister.
I wrote to Ron [Lewis] in regard to a reference made to an unidentified Canadian researcher by Priscilla McMillan, which, as I suspected, was in regard to me. In the course of Ron's reply, he states that he and Oswald had talked about you in detail, and that Ron had known you as Robert Porter. He went on to state that he knew you had been 'in Banister's office and was on intimate terms with him', which is not stated in Betrayal; I'm not sure if he is aware of your other two books. Is there any truth to the statements made by Lewis, either in his book or in his letter to me?

I'm not entirely convinced that Lewis is deriving what he describes in his book from experience (other than having spent time in Ft. Worth/Dallas and New Orleans in the early 1960s). Conceivably, it could all be from his own reading on the subject, mixed with a good imagination. One reference to Joseph Kramer, an alias used by Richard Case Nagell (and which was mentioned in the Jan. 1968 report on Garrison, by the way), suggests that Lewis might have been making ample use of your book Betrayal in 'recalling' events, in that he quotes Oswald as identifying Kramer as really being Richard Filmore, a name that you used instead of Nagell in Betrayal. Obviously, if Oswald did know Nagell, he would not have known him as 'Filmore,' would he?"

I also asked him about a statement made by his lawyer at the time Morrow was sentenced,, related to the counterfeit charge of Feb. 28, 1964, which had been brought to my attention. Mr. Weisgal, his lawyer, had stated to the court that "..Mr. Morrow, I understand, has been of some service to, I will say, the United States Government, since the time of his arrest. He has been called upon to do something, and he has performed it quite willingly." I asked Morrow what service he had performed and for whom (the C..I.A. perhaps?), and whether it had anything to do with events in either New Orleans or Dallas prior to Nov. 22, 1963. Once again, I did not receive a reply.

In the spring of 1993, I attended a JFK/RFK/MLK conference in Chicago, which included a panel discussion about the RFK assassination, featuring several speakers, including Robert Morrow. He appeared to be totally outclassed by the other participants (including William Turner, Phil Melanson and the author of RFK Must Die!). I was able to persuade his wife to purchase a copy of the issue of The Third Decade featuring my article "The Morrow-Kohly-Nixon Connection," available in the lobby, but never received any written comment on it.

Finally, it should be noted that both Kohly and Morrow are mentioned in Gus Russo's book Live by the Sword (1998), but Russo does not discuss Kohly's possible role in the assassination, although he does periodically refer to unnamed extreme anti-Castro Cubans being "out of the loop". No reference is made to my article (although I corresponded with Russo for several years after meeting him in Dallas in 1991.)

Notes

1. Anthony Summers, Conspiracy, (London: Fontana Paperbacks 1980), p. 452

2. Ibid, p. 257.

3. Warren Hinckle and William Turner, The Fish is Red (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), p. 350, footnote 48; see pages 176-80 for coverage of Morrow and Kohly's activities; also see "The Longest Cover-Up" by Peter Dale Scott in the Nov. 1973 issue of Ramparts, which includes a brief reference to Kohly on p. 54. See also William Turner, Power on the Right (Berkeley: Ramparts Press, 1971), p. 156. Turner includes a lengthy quote from Nixon's letter to Judge Weinfeld in a footnote, possibly as a result of contact with Fensterwald. He also points out that a right-wing monthly periodical called The Washington Observer, owned by Willis A. Carto and his Liberty Lobby, took up Kohly's cause in a series of articles in Oct. 1966, accusing the C.I.A. of setting up Kohly.

4. I spoke to Morrow in Cincinnati while writing this report and learned that the book has already sold 60,000 copies... (Editor's note. In the preface of John Davis to this book, Davis quotes from a paper I presented to the Fredonia conference of The Third Decade in June, 1991. While the quoatation accurately reflects my feeling-at the time-that the assassination was an "anti-Castro provocation," as suggested by Morrow, any implication that the "conference concluded" this misrepresents the variety of viewpoints expressed at that meeting." [the editor was Prof. Jerry Rose of S.U.N.Y.-Fredonia College]


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