Saturday, May 17, 2008

New Canadian Film Focuses on Mafia Connection to JFK's Murder

"Le Piege Americain", (The American Trap) a new Canadian film sheds light on the life and career of Lucien Rivard, a Montreal mobster who was involved with Santos Trafficante, the Florida mafioso and others. Rivard was active in the heroin operations of the Corsican mafia in Cuba until he was expelled by Castro. He may be a person of interest in the assassination of President Kennedy but information is sketchy. The cast of characters includes CIA agents; a "Maurice Bishop" is depicted. Here's a brief synopsis: " It is the mid-1960s. The Cold War is raging. The world is still reeling from the assassination of JFK - but has yet to lose his kid brother Bobby. In the midst of all this, a reluctant hero by the name of Lucien Rivard becomes enmeshed in a web of global political intrigue and corruption. The United States, Russia and France are embroiled in a strategic battle over Third World natural resources. To keep the upper hand, each of their secret services has joined forces with various organized crime factions. Lucien is the go-between, travelling to the casinos of Havana, the night clubs of Dallas, the seedy heroin labs of Marseille, the tropical jungles of Indonesia and the urban jungles of New Orleans and Montreal. As tensions heat up, he becomes a secret weapon for a black ops organization over which he has no control - and an unwitting protagonist as a tragic chain of events begins to unfold before his very eyes"
Why the synopsis describes him as a "hero" is beyond me.
The real Rivard had been involved in drug trafficking in Canada since the 1940's and was eventually captured in France. He made a dramatic prison escape in 1965 (while awaiting extradition in Bordeaux) and wrote a letter while at large to Prime Minister Lester Pearson which led to allegations of his involvement with Canadian government officials. The scandal provoked the resignation of Canada's attorney general Guy Favreau and led to the rise of Pierre Trudeau who eventually became prime minister. Rivard was extradited to the USA through the efforts of Robert F. Kennedy and was tried for heroin trafficking in Houston Texas and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was paroled in 1975 and returned to Montreal where some say he continued to direct a criminal empire until his death in 2002 at age 86.

The official site of the film is here:

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Theodore Sorensen Writes New Book on JFK

Theodore Sorensen, speech writer and advisor to John F. Kennedy has released a new book on the president he served and admired.

From the publisher's website:

"In this gripping memoir, John F. Kennedy's closest advisor recounts in full for the first time his experience counseling Kennedy through the most dramatic moments in American history.
Sorensen returns to January 1953, when he and the freshman senator from Massachusetts began their extraordinary professional and personal relationship. Rising from legislative assistant to speechwriter and advisor, the young lawyer from Nebraska worked closely with JFK on his most important speeches, as well as his book Profiles in Courage. Sorensen encouraged the junior senator's political ambitions—from a failed bid for the vice presidential nomination in 1956 to the successful presidential campaign in 1960, after which he was named Special Counsel to the President.
Sorensen describes in thrilling detail his experience advising JFK during some of the most crucial days of his presidency, from the decision to go to the moon to the Cuban Missile Crisis, when JFK requested that the thirty-four-year-old Sorensen draft the key letter to Khrushchev at the most critical point of the world's first nuclear confrontation. After Kennedy was assassinated, Sorensen stayed with President Johnson for a few months before leaving to write a biography of JFK. In 1968 he returned to Washington to help run Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign. Through it all, Sorensen never lost sight of the ideals that brought him to Washington and to the White House, working tirelessly to promote and defend free, peaceful societies.
Illuminating, revelatory, and utterly compelling, Counselor is the brilliant, long-awaited memoir from the remarkable man who shaped the presidency and the legacy of one of the greatest leaders America has ever known."
Walter Isaacson : "This is an important book, and it’s also a poignant one. As Jackie Kennedy once said of a speech that Ted Sorensen gave about her husband, it captures not only the soul of John Kennedy but also the soul of Sorensen. This clear-eyed but loving memoir is fascinating."
Robert A. Caro : "Ted Sorensen’s Counselor is that rare gift to history: an account of mighty events by a participant who stood at their heart, and a writer masterful enough to make us understand them as well."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

"RFK" selected as Gala Opening Night Feature


"RFK" selected as Gala Opening Night Feature at Seattle Independent Film Festival; Festival screening marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Kennedy

May 5, 2008

The new independent documentary feature film by Director Mark Sobel, "RFK," has been selected to be the spotlight opening night presentation at the Seattle Independent Film Festival on June 6. This is of particular note, since the start of the 40th anniversary-year of the tragic assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy coincides the day before on June 5.

On June 5, 1968 in the early moments of the morning, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was brutally gunned down in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California Democratic primary in his bid for the Presidency in the 1968 election. Kennedy was running on an anti-war platform that was in opposition to the official position of his own party and Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, his rival for the nomination. Because of the unelected super-delegates already pledged to the Vice-President as a result of his incumbency, Humphrey was seemingly assured of the nomination until Kennedy entered the race and promised a fight from the floor to amend Democratic Convention rules to allow pledged delegates to vote for, what they perceive to be, "the will of the people." Kennedy, riding a wave of political victories in his late entry into the race, told the cheering crowd at the Ambassador in his midnight victory address that change would only come about if the super-delegates at the upcoming Democratic convention in Chicago that summer were freed from their pledge to Humphrey on the first ballot and be allowed instead to vote their conscience. The historic battle that was brewing for the convention nomination was cut short by an assassin's bullets at 12:15 a.m. as the Senator greeted-well wishers among the hotel staff in the kitchen pantry as he headed for a press conference. 4 shots struck the Senator, one passing harmlessly through his jacket, two non-fatal shots entering under his armpit, and a fatal shot that entered at the rear of his skull just behind the right ear. He was pronounced dead almost 26 hours later, practically 2 months to the day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

In his 1968 campaign bid, Kennedy often repeated that "the American People want no more Vietnams" and that the American people needed "honesty and accountability from their elected leaders, and from the President of the United States;" words that clearly parallel today's Presidential race more closely than at any other time in the 40 years since the Senator's death.

"RFK" is not a conspiracy film, nor a tabloid-style "who-done-it," but rather the first contemporary documentary feature to present a detailed historical account of the night of June 4-5, 1968, of the subsequent trial of Sirhan Sirhan, and the 40 year aftermath that the assassination had on the lives of those who were present that night as part of the group of friends and associates encircling him at the moment of the fatal shooting. The film also presents to the American theatrical film-going public for the first time the long-vaulted hypnosis recordings of Sirhan Sirhan as he undergoes time-regression hypnosis in an effort to jog his amnesia relating to the events of the assassination. For 40 years Sirhan has continued to maintain that he cannot recall shooting the Senator, has no memory of planning the assassination, nor of writing the bizarre statements in his journal, such as "Robert Kenney must be assassinated before 5 June 68." At the 1969 trial, the defense admitted that Sirhan committed the crime, but sought reduced charges maintaining that he was acting at a reduced mental capacity at the time of the shooting. In testimony that created a sensation the world over, the defense psychiatrist argued that hypnosis sessions performed on Sirhan just prior to the trial convinced him that Sirhan was in a hypnotic trace at the moment of the fatal shooting, and that he had written many of his inflammatory statements in his journal while under a state of hypnosis. The jury rejected the defense arguments.

"RFK," Directed by Sobel, and Produced by Sobel and author/historian William Law, recently won the award for "OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY FEATURE" in its World Premiere at the Sacramento International Film Festival this past April. Pantry survivor Vincent Di Pierro appeared at a press conference in Sacramento at the time of the Film Festival, and requested that the California State Legislature place Sirhan Sirhan --- who is now 64 years-old and still in State custody --- back under time-regression hypnosis today, in an effort to discover who Sirhan was in contact with during the months leading up to the assassination, and exactly how the bizarre entries in his diary came to be written by Sirhan, and whether under hypnosis. Given the Defense plea, the 1969 trial had no reason to seek answers to these questions. Di Pierro said that it is still not too late for the 40th anniversary-year of the murder to prove to be "the year of full disclosure" relating to the 4-decade disputed case.

As no other Film Festival screenings are scheduled for "RFK" in the month of June, the Gala Screening of the feature on the opening night of the Seattle Festival is, effectively, its official 40th anniversary public presentation. The feature has not yet been screened by theatrical film distributors. The Festival runs June 6 - 15.

For tickets and more Festival Information, visit:

All questions regarding "RFK" can be directed to Director Mark Sobel:

(818) 763-5428

"RFK" official website and Electronic Press Kit:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

CIA Defies U.S. Court Order on Joannides Files

From Jefferson Morley in the Washington Independent

"Flouting a federal court order, the CIA refused Wednesday to make public long-secret records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. At a federal court hearing in Washington, CIA attorneys declined to provide any records related to the secret operations of a deceased undercover officer named George Joannides whose role in the JFK story has never been explained by the agency. A three-judge appellate court panel ruled in December that the agency had to search its files for records of Joannides' secret operations in 1963, when he served undercover in Miami running "psychological warfare" operations against the government of Fidel Castro. The court also ordered the CIA to explain why 17 reports on Joannides' secret operations in 1962-1964 are missing from the National Archives. The CIA provided no written explanation of its actions during a hearing before Judge Richard Leon. Afterwords, agency attorney John Truong claimed orally that a search of files on Joannides operations found no records responsive to my 2003 Freedom of Information Act request.Truong offered no explanation, written or oral of the missing records, In December, Judge Judith Rogers ruled that the CIA's previous explanation of the 17 missing reports was inadequate. "On remand the CIA must supplement its explanation," she wrote. That has yet to happen, despite the agency promising to comply with the appellate court order by April 30. John Tunheim, a federal judge who chaired the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s, said the Joannides files should be made public."Had the Review Board known the truth about George Joannides everything bearing his name would have been made public," Tunheim said in an interview. The ARRB, a civilian review panel created by Congress in the wake of the controversy over Oliver Stone's "JFK," declassified thousands of assassination records between 1994 and 1998Joannides, who died in 1991, is the most curious figure to emerge in the vast JFK literature in recent years. Unbeknownst to investigators, Joannides' propaganda network proved influential in the media reaction to JFK's murder. Declassified CIA records show that he gave $25,000 a month to the leaders of a Cuban student group whose members had a series of encounters with Lee Harvey Oswald in August 1963. When Kennedy was shot dead on a Dallas street three months later, the CIA-funded group made headlines around the world by publicizing Oswald's pro-Castro activities and linking him to the Cuban leader.Joannides' role in enabling that story remained secret for 38 years. His financial support for Oswald's Cuban antagonists was not disclosed to the Warren Commission which investigated Kennedys' death and concluded that Oswald acted alone. In 1978 Joannides was called out of retirement to serve as the Agency's liaison to a congressional committee that reopened the JFK investigation. The Agency did not disclose his role in the events of 1963 to Congress. The story of Joannides' actions did not begin to emerge until 2001 when I published a story in a Miami newspaper. Tunheim said the JFK Records Act of 1992 requires an independent evaluation of the Joannides files. "He was central to the time period, and central to the [JFK] story. There is no question we were mislead on Joannides for a long time," he said. Officials of the National Archives have also sought access to the Joannides files in recent years but have been rebuffed by the Agency.The CIA must explain its actions in writing to Judge Leon by June 11."

RFK Featured in June "Vanity Fair"

This month's "Vanity Fair" highlights the 1968 campaign for president of Robert F. Kennedy. The article is an excerpt from Thurson Clarke's new book "The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days that Inspired America". Also included are many photographs, some never seen before.
Here's a sample from the article:
"Two months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy traveled to Asia on an itinerary that had originally been planned for J.F.K. During the trip, he visited a girls’ school in the Philippines where the students sang a song they had composed to honor his brother. As he drove away with CBS cameraman Walter Dombrow, he clenched his hands so tightly that they turned white, and tears rolled down his cheeks. He shook his head, signaling that Dombrow should remain silent. Finally he said in a choked voice, “They would have loved my brother.” Dombrow put his arm around him and said, “Bob, you’re going to have to carry on for him.” Kennedy stared straight ahead for half a minute before turning to Dombrow and nodding. It was then, Dombrow said, that he knew Bobby would run for president and realized how much he loved him.
A deep, black grief gripped Robert Kennedy in the months following his brother’s assassination. He lost weight, fell into melancholy silences, wore his brother’s clothes, smoked the cigars his brother had liked, and imitated his mannerisms. Eventually his grief went underground, but it sometimes erupted in geysers of tears, as had happened in the Philippines. He wept after seeing a photograph of his late brother in the office of a former aide, wept when asked to comment on the Warren Commission Report, and wept after eulogizing J.F.K. at the 1964 Democratic convention with a quotation from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.”