Russ Baker on the Power Behind the Presidency, and Much More

Hoarders and Wasters, Illustration by Gustave Doré, 1857. Photo credit: Adopted by WhoWhatWhy from (eyecmore / Flickr - CC BY-SA 2.0)
Reading Time: 27 minutes

How realistic is this story: A man who was a state senator just a few years before becoming president all of a sudden gains the expertise and vast knowledge to deal with complex, weighty global issues — many of them literally matters of life and death?

Not very realistic, you’d say? Not even for a smart, educated man like Barack Obama.

In truth, everyone who takes possession of the Oval Office ultimately has to trust others to provide crucial advice and counsel — and, frankly, in many cases, to tell him or her what to do. Yet as far as the most of the public and much of the media are concerned, this decision-making backstory simply does not exist. The president is the president, a strutting figure on the stage of state, with a firm grasp of every issue and a finger on every pressure point.

In a wide-ranging interview, WhoWhatWhy Editor-in-Chief Russ Baker discusses the dangers to democracy posed by our failure to acknowledge the hidden factors that influence presidential decisions, including the many private individuals and organizations that exert power over those within government.


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Full Text Transcript:

Pat: Good evening it’s 8:51 on KGO. I’m Pat Thurston. So you just heard the interview with Kristen Breitweiser from the 9/11 families about the new law now that it’s been put into place. I’ve seen a number of the editorial pieces today and it’s kind of funny because it does cross some political lines. But it seems to be mostly Democrats who are really staunchly opposed to allowing the 9/11 families to sue the Saudis. Holy mackerel! Russ Baker is sitting here next to me. What better person to ask about this? Hi Russ!

Russ: Hey Pat, it’s great to be back.

Pat: So good to talk to you. So Russ’s website is WhoWhatWhy.com. It’s fabulous, it’s real investigative journalism, and it’s the kind of thing when you go to his site you’re going to read things that you won’t find any place else. He actually investigates things that some people take for granted and don’t think you have to ask questions about. Russ asks the questions. And you’ve been on the Saudi trail with 9/11 for a long time.

Russ: Yes, in fact we started so early that as often happens with stories, people say: “You’re crazy. This is ridiculous. There’s nothing here.” They throw around those words like conspiracy theory. Now it is years later and things have shifted enough that when I raise it, people say “Oh well everybody knows about it.” So we went from “it’s crazy” to “everybody knows about it.” And I said, “Did I miss that mid phase where we were actually interested?”

Pat: The 9/11 families, I’m sure you’re aware, the JASTA legislation has passed unanimously, in the Senate and the House and Obama vetoed it. It goes back. They override the veto which doesn’t happen very often and they do it in large numbers, although there were a few holdouts this time. Now it becomes law. Do you think it’s going to make any difference?

Russ: I think it may. One of the interesting things, and the reasons they say that they don’t want this to be law is because they’re afraid that it will open up an opportunity for individuals around the world to sue the US government for things that happened, that affected them, or afflicted them, to which many people might say “Yeah! This is good. Let’s get some accountability.” We don’t know what the real reasons are. We know that there is a very deep and profound story behind 9/11 that has never come out and while I don’t claim to know what it is, I don’t consider myself to be in any camp on that. As you know Pat, I pride myself on being a forensic investigator like you have been in some of your past lives. We don’t try to prejudge things, but we certainly look. We go with an open mind. And so, it is entirely possible. Let me put it this way. With our website WhoWhatWhy – by the way we are WhoWhatWhy.com, but we’re also WhoWhatWhy.org., that’s the one we use mostly which signifies that we are a nonprofit, we don’t take any ads, and we rely entirely on public support – anyway, with the Saudi story, what we found was that there was an enormous documented cover-up by the FBI and by the US government. They did not want people to find out about these connections between the Saudi royal family and these hijackers committing one of the greatest crimes in US and I guess you could say in world history. They don’t want us to look into that. So there is much, much more.

Pat: So they don’t want us to look into that. So that kind of puts the lie to the idea that they’re really worried about the United States being subject to actual laws, being held accountable for the misdeeds that we’ve committed around the world. Because prior to any of this lawsuit idea, they didn’t want us to have the information ever and they whisked the Saudi’s out of the country before they could be interviewed. And there are all these financial connections that you were connecting the dots on long before the 28 pages were ever released. And did the 28 pages tell you anything that you didn’t already know?

Russ: They didn’t tell us anything we didn’t know. They confirm that we are on the right path. Also, it was very interesting that after all these years when they finally released them, they did that trick of releasing them on a Friday. You know Friday was a holiday weekend, three-day weekend, or something. And when they released it, it’s still heavily redacted and so you can’t read a lot of the key things. Very interestingly, Senator Bob Graham, a moderate Democrat, former governor of the southern state Florida who went on to be a US senator and the chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, he has been on a crusade you might say to try to get this stuff out. I think he’s an honest guy and a decent and serious guy and he’s spooked by the fact that his own government – and here he’s in a position where you think he’s privy to all this stuff – doesn’t want this to come out. He himself is basically threatened, and we did a piece at WhoWhatWhy.org about this where he talked about how the FBI basically pulled him off a plane into a room and told him to stop looking into all this. This is the chairman of the Senate!

Pat: Was this while he was still in the Senate?

Russ: No, this is after.

Pat: My god! That is nervy, that is truly what we call ballsy.

Russ: It is, but it is also kind of terrifying. If somebody who’s in the establishment at that level and he’s basically the head of oversight over all of these sort of covert operations and they’re telling him “Keep your nose out,” we’ve got real problems.

Pat: Yes, it is truly awful and that’s one of the things that we’re going to talk about and the reason that I wanted you to come in today. It really was amazing because I thought we were to be talking via telephone and it’s just really my luck that you happened to be in San Francisco and I am just delighted that you’re here. You wrote a piece called What Presidents Are Up Against? Unseen Forces Are Always Present. We’re going to talk about that when we come back. So stick with us. Russ Baker is here in the studio with me and if I haven’t mentioned it, he wrote one of the best books that you could possibly ever read and it’s called Family Of Secrets. We’ll talk with Russ just a little bit about that as we go forward in this discussion because it is just incomparable. You read this book and you will never forget that you have read this book and you will never regret it. I’m Pat Thurston with Russ Baker. We will be right back. You’re listening to KGO.

Good evening, it is 9:06 on KGO. I’m Pat Thurston. Russ Baker is here in the studio with the website WhoWhatWhy.org, but you can also go to .com. But go to WhoWhatWhy.org. He also wrote the book Family of Secrets and he just wrote a piece, well, he published a piece, that relates to Barack Obama shortly after he was elected. Anyway, it’s called What Presidents Are Up Against? Unseen Forces Are Always Present. It sounds kind of ominous –

because it is. So Russ, you asked the question in here: how much can any president accomplish against the wishes of recalcitrant power centers within his own government? What are the recalcitrant power centers?

Russ: I think in any society, in any organization, in any structure, in any family, there are continuities and we don’t think about that. We don’t consider that when we talk about the United States. We treat each president, each election as a new beginning and we sort of act as if each of these people – it reminds me as if we were still back in high school. It was a high school election and we vote for the new student body president, isn’t that great, and now they’ll do something. Well of course you know in high school the student body president doesn’t actually do anything. It is actually the administration that is really making all the decisions and if they put something in the student newspaper that they don’t like, they stop it. That’s sort of the way it is here in our US government.

Pat: You mean, they’re not omnipotent? But they’re not. What we think about is that the balance of the power is through the legislative and the judicial. They balance out the executive. But there’s more than that.

Russ: There is. In fact, that model that we’re all taught in school and in the textbooks is what I think people would like us to believe. Obviously, it does exist. We just saw with Obama with the 9/11 victims families where he was overridden I guess for the first time in his administration. But the truth is that on the deeper levels, many of those people don’t fully grasp how things happen, how things are shaped. What I mean by that is, you take a guy like Barack Obama. Six years before he was president of the United States he wasn’t even a U.S. senator. He was a state legislator. He was a very low level guy in Illinois. Now suddenly he’s being asked to make decisions of highly complex situations and trade agreements and so on. How can he possibly really master all of that and really know what to do? So he turns to people who advise him. Who advises him? Well, he doesn’t even know most of those people. Those people come in through these think tanks, they come in through bureaucracies and so on, they come in with their military people. They come in and present a couple of different scenarios for him. So he’s largely influenced by the options that are presented to him and those options that are presented to him are themselves the result of consensusses that are being created. If you take, let’s say, the military at the highest levels, even those people, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, don’t just do whatever they want to do because they also have their own networks of power. They have their own sponsors. And of course, when they leave the military, as many of them do fairly young, and then go into another career, they mostly go into the corporate world typically working for the large military contracting firms. That’s really where they get their big cash out. So those entities, the boards and stockholders of these companies, in many ways, have as much or more influence on the ultimate product that is presented to the American people.

Pat: When you look at some of the things like Barack Obama, one of the things we thought he would do instantly is to change, or repeal whatever it would take “don’t ask, don’t tell”. I mean, he wouldn’t do it. It took quite a long time. It was one of the things that was really making people angry and he kept saying that he wanted to do it through legislation. He didn’t want to do it with a sweep of his pen. What do you think was going on there? Was that some power behind the power that was instructing him not to take that action?

Russ: I suspect the military is a big problem in every country or at least in most countries. We are getting little rumblings right now. We know now historically if we look back, Richard Nixon was engaged in a power struggle with the military. This has not been reported, I think, ever by mainstream historians. Some of it’s in my book Family Of Secrets.  There are other books that go into that. There was a kind of a power struggle between Nixon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. John F. Kennedy – and I’m working on a new book about John F. Kennedy – he was in a power struggle with the generals. Jimmy Carter was in a power struggle with the generals. Of course, none of this is ever talked about openly. None of this is ever presented on the news. Barack Obama was in a power struggle with the generals and we saw that. I think this relates to “don’t ask, don’t tell” because that was one of the areas where he decided to back off for a while and then take some of the heat off of himself. But remember, when he came in, he wanted to shut down Guantanamo, and he wanted to do a lot of things. He wanted to take the troops out of Afghanistan. I still remember very clearly how he wanted to do that. Then suddenly these leaks began appearing, principally to Bob Woodward in the Washington Post, saying that the military felt this was a very bad idea. This was dangerous and so forth. Of course, not only is that disloyal, ugly, and unpatriotic, it’s also probably illegal for them to be doing it because it is privy to classified information. They were supposed to be loyal to the quote unquote commander-in-chief and yet they were feeding this stuff through Woodward and it damaged Obama. He was very angry, but it forced his hand. He ended up not only not being able to bring the troops down but actually to have to increase the number of troops there. So we see this again and again, but it’s not something that’s on the radar of the media. It’s not something you’ll see on CNN. I don’t think these things are ever discussed. My main point is that the way things really work, is never discussed, it’s all that circus. You know, Donald Trump and his infidelities and did Hillary look sick and so on because it’s easier for people to grasp. It’s less threatening.

Pat: Yes, it is. But it’s also less responsible and allows us not to really know what’s going on and not to be accountable for the things that happen. But it’s even more than that, Russ. It’s more than the military, it’s more than the monied interests, the big donors, the corporate lobbyists. It’s more than that. It’s also the national security apparatus.

Russ: Yes, it certainly is and that has been a focus of my reporting throughout my career. I kind of came at it by accident because I was covering various charities, foreign aid, humanitarian aid organizations. I start discovering how many of them were cover for covert operations abroad where they were really trying to influence outcomes and governments in other countries. Certainly in Nicaragua, in Guatemala, and so forth, but really all over the world. There are covert structures everywhere. The national security apparatus is vast. I’m not just making this up. I mean, even there. They tried to classify their budget. They didn’t want anyone of us to know the total number of their budget, no accountability. The presidents don’t have any grasp on any of this. One president was actually told he couldn’t know something because it was above his pay grade.

Pat: Who was that?

Russ: I think Nixon was one because he went to Richard Helms and he said he wanted to see the files on the Kennedy assassination. They said “You can’t see it.”

Pat: Above your pay grade. That’s hysterical!

Russ: Yeah, they say, “Listen, you’re a temporary guy.” I’m serious. “You don’t have the clearance to know this stuff.”

Pat: Right.

Russ: Even when they ask… Bill Clinton was very interested in knowing was there any truth to any of the sightings of UFOs and so on. He struggled and he couldn’t get access to that stuff. They’re all curious. Clinton wanted to know more about the Kennedy thing. Why the government, even after they were forced to release all those files, still held onto 50,000 files about a guy, Lee Harvey Oswald, who they said, “acted alone and had no connections to anybody.” So we know that there’s cover-ups going on all the time and even this national security apparatus, the CIA and so on, they don’t operate alone because in our society, there is a consensus that usually emerges outside of government. It’s typically – I don’t say it’s corporations but – it’s circles of individuals, very wealthy, very powerful individuals, typically what you might called right-wing, very conservative. They are pretty tough customers and they made their money and consolidate their power ruthlessly. That’s how they work. They view governments as tools, when necessary, if their reform is to be neutralized and otherwise to be deployed in advantageous ways. And the real history course of our country is one of using the military, the spy agencies, and so on, to intervene on behalf of private interests all over the world. This has been going on from the beginning.

Pat: Yes, like Chicita. As you’re talking, one of the stories that keeps coming to my mind is when the weapons inspectors, the UN weapons inspectors, were in Iraq and Saddam Hussein was concerned and accused them of having US spies there.

People from the CIA and everyone here in this country scoffed at that idea, but Scott Ritter who was on the team said, “Of course there were.”

Russ: Sure. And the Iranians were concerned about the same thing when they said, “Let us into these plans.” They had very good reason to be concerned. By the way, all the stuff about hacking and that the Russians are hacking us and before that it was the Chinese. This is very politicized because the United States is a very formidable hacking operation and we’re hacking everybody too. So at least let’s be honest and admit that that’s a tool of the trade, let’s say.

Pat: So they hack and we hack and they hack back. Okay, we’re going to take a break. Russ Baker is here with me. If you’d like to join the conversation, the numbers are 808-0810. I’m Pat Thurston and you’re listening to KGO.

Good evening, I’m Pat Thurston. Russ Baker is my guest. He’s in studio with me. His website is the investigative journalism site. It’s called WhoWhatWhy.org and his book that I absolutely love is Family of Secrets and you’re writing another book and it’s on the JFK assassination.

Russ: It is.

Pat: When’s it going to be published?

Russ: Well, when I finish it.

Pat:  When are you going to finish it?

Russ:  You know, Family of Secrets I spent five years on. I had no idea where I was going with that. I just wanted to know if there was more of a story behind the rise of the Bush Dynasty. After a few years of banging on doors and going down blind alleys, I found out: yes indeed there was. It was a very good and compelling story. And out of that came my interest in the Kennedy assassination and now I’ve spent quite a few years on it. I would hope in the next couple of years I’d be able wrap it up, but the learning curve and the amount of information that has been suppressed from the American people and the sense of what it really means, what it’s about, and how it affects us to this day in America and to our degraded democracy is so profound that you can’t get your hands around it very easily.

Pat: So it was 1962?

Russ: ’63 was the assassination..

Pat: November 22, 1963. So this is 2016. How long do they keep this information that they’ve secreted? How long do they keep it away from us?

Russ: Well, the latest information is that they keep it until next year 2017. They’re supposed to release all the remaining documents. There were millions of documents supposedly somehow related to the Kennedy assassination and those were suppressed and then Oliver Stone heroically did the film JFK in ’91/’92. Congress, as they’ve done with this 9/11 victims bill, overwhelmingly passed this thing. Of all people, George H.W. Bush felt compelled to sign the bill because he was going to be overridden and all these documents came out. But they withheld… the ones released, by the way, were still redacted in many of them, but they withheld 50,000 more documents and those are supposed to come next year unless they decide to hold them back again and the president and so forth, they can decide to not release them.

Pat: 808-0810 is our telephone number. Let’s get a couple of phone calls. This is Jacob. He’s calling from San Jose. Jacob, hi and welcome to KGO. You’re on with Russ Baker. Go ahead.

Jacob: Yes, Mr. Baker, do you recall during the George W. Bush’s administration–I believe it was 2007–there were cruise missiles that were nuclear armed cruise missiles that went from Minot Air Force Base to Barksdale. They were going to fly them up fully armed, it was a B-52 off the United States fully armed. But they were somehow discovered. There were seven or eight. One is still missing. They recalled all the others and secured them. But do you know if it was a hoax, if this whole thing was a hoax, or an act? Or actually it was a conspiracy? Did it go up to President Bush or was it true that it actually went up to Vice President Cheney?

Russ: I am not an expert on that. I know that there were some very interesting things going on in that period that sadly, like so many things, deserve more investigation, need more investigation. There is enough smoke there to want to try to figure out what was going on. As you may know, one of the top military officials, I believe he was the head of the strategic air command, was relieved of his duties. The story was that he was acting bizarrely on a trip to, I think it was Moscow or somewhere. He was supposedly drunk and just acting very strange and they relieve him of duties. Then there were rumors that in fact he was involved in something and they had to get rid of him. Some people believe that his bizarre behavior was a result of possibly his drinks having been laced and so forth to create the excuse to eliminate him. Certainly what you’re talking about I think these were all happening in the same timeframe. It’s not impossible there was something there. We have to do more research and I’d love to be able to do it.

Pat: You should. You’re the man to do it, Russ Baker. 808-0810 is the telephone number. 808-0810. Let’s talk with Eid. He’s calling from Berkeley. Hey Eid, welcome to KGO.

Eid: Hi, good evening. Couple of questions: It seems mind-boggling that why did they fly the Saudis out of the US that morning on 9/11, number one, when none of the planes, all of the planes were grounded? Number two, are we told the whole story of 9/11 at all, when will we be ever told about it? Number three, I’d like to ask your guest, really, truly, thoroughly, we knew about the Neocons and their Project for the American Century, does he think they played a role directly or indirectly in 9/11? I will listen to the answers on the air.

Pat: Thank you, Eid.

Russ: Good questions. First of all, we had several points there about the neocons and then…

Pat: Flying the Saudis out…

Russ: Let me just take the first one, flying the Saudis out. You can interpret that different ways. Certainly on the surface it looks very strange, unconventional to say the least. When I do my journalism, I always try to put myself in other people’s shoes. I know that  Richard Clark who was the counterterrorism advisor said that he later on–most people don’t know this – that he said that he had been the one who ordered that. There is an explanation that may or may not be valid which is that because the hijackers are mostly identified as Saudis, certainly there was going to be tremendous animus and potentially physical danger directed toward Saudis. We know that even just Sikh cabdrivers who are not even Muslim were attacked. So there was definitely an environment of some physical danger and we’re talking about a young prince’s members of the Saudi family who were here in college and so forth. I imagine that they could’ve made a plea to get them out. It’s unusual they would comply but it is possible. More interesting to me is another story. Well, a couple of them. One that most of you have probably heard of, which is on the West Coast, these Saudi intelligence agents we believe them to be who were in contact with the people who later went on to be the hijackers. Evidence that the money, this is related to the 28 pages in the joining CORI report were suppressed, that the money was flowing from the Saudi royal family and other assistance to these people. We at WhoWhatWhy.org developed another story. Pat, you and I have discussed this on the air in the past, worth to continue to be discussed because it is so important. This is in the East Coast in Sarasota, Florida,, where the pilots were training. Right in that area, a very well connected Saudi family vanished about 10 days before the attacks and never came back and left everything in their house. They clearly left at the last moment. We now know that the FBI belatedly investigated, found evidence linking the hijackers to that family and then there was this tremendous cover-up that is continued to this day. To me, that’s probably the most explosive of all the stories. At WhoWhatWhy we connected the owner of that house, Mr. Ghazzawi. He was the president of the company where his boss, the chairman, was one of most powerful princes in the Saudi royal family, whose father is now the King of Saudi Arabia. So this, I believe, is the lodestone for figuring this whole thing out.

Pat: Russ–Oh, I have to take a break. This happens with you. We get going and then I have to take a break. We’re going to be right back. 808-0810. Russ Baker is my guest. His website is WhoWhatWhy.org and the book that you actually have to own is Family of Secrets. I’m Pat Thurston. You’re listening to KGO.

9:35 on KGO. Good evening, I’m Pat Thurston. Russ Baker is here in the studio with me. His website is WhoWhatWhy.org. His book Family of Secrets is about the Bush dynasty. It is incredible. But the question that I wanted to ask you before we went to the break, Russ… I really don’t get it. It was this JASTA legislation to sit for the 9/11 families and to be able to sue the Saudi’s for their involvement in the attacks on 9/11. It went through the Senate and it was approved unanimously. It went to the House of Representatives and it was approved unanimously. I don’t get that. How did that happen? I mean, surely they wanted to protect whatever it is that our government is covering up for the Saudis. What made them do this?

Russ: It’s very hard to know. That would be a great project for our website and I’m going to point that out to some of our editors right away and see if we can look into that. One of the interesting things, of course, is that sometimes there is a sense of inevitability and everybody gets it. After 9/11, almost everybody voted for the Patriot Act or if you didn’t, it becomes inevitable and becomes very difficult to resist. There was some kind of critical mass on this. I think just as people don’t want to stick their heads out when everybody else is going with the establishment or desired consensus–

Pat: Wearing their lapel pin.

Russ: Yeah. Here, it’s sort of the reverse. A little bit like after Oliver Stone’s film came out, the public was so powerfully moved and so insistent that the records be released and all these people who had said “Well there’s nothing to this. We’re not going to release records.” Suddenly, they all said “Okay, let’s just fold.” Now the other possibility and we’ve heard little rumblings of this that for some reason the Saudis determined that either they weren’t going to be able to stop this or they didn’t want to be even seen as trying to stop this and that maybe they have a fallback position, they see another place to prevent the fruition of these lawsuits and where they could go, which could be catastrophic for them both. Well financially they’re so rich. I don’t know that any settlement of any size would really take them down. But of course if it were to be proven that they were responsible for this extraordinary attack on their close allies United States, this would be a singular event in the history of the world really. The best I can figure out is that they let it be known that they were not any longer opposing this. I’m guessing this is what happened and that they’ve got some other notion that somewhere down the line they’re going to be able to hold the fort.

Pat: That’s kind of what Kristen Breitweiser was saying earlier. There are Saudi’s who are now working on senators and congressmen to tweak the legislation, to make it somehow better for them because, I mean, look at the relationship we have with them. There is so much oil, so we know that’s a huge part of it. There’s all the arms that we sell to them so that’s a huge part of it. But look at Saudi Arabia, it’s the home of Wahhabism which is an extreme form of Islam and it is the thing that foments Jihadism. I was reading something in the New York Times the other day about the Reagan administration and there’s pictures of Reagan meeting with all the Saudi royalty. They were formulating the idea of teaching jihad to the children in Saudi Arabian schools so that they would be willing to become soldiers of jihad against the Russian incursion into Afghanistan. It was the beginning of it all, I mean the mujahedin and all of that. The United States actually paid for textbooks to teach jihad to Saudi children.

Russ: The interesting thing is we are always told or we assume that the people in charge are more competent, smarter, more accomplished than we are. The truth of the matter is very often that they have no idea what they’re doing. This is really the terrifying thing that you really won’t hear in the media because they have to create the sort of veneer of seriousness because they’re all part of the system. The truth is that a guy like Reagan, his advisers–I don’t care who it is, Dick Cheney–they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. They really don’t and this is so incredibly dangerous because they get an idea in their heads like “Hey, here’s our chance to defeat the Soviets.” Remember of course Brzezinski: “Let’s throw everything we have at this thing.” No thought at all of where these other things could lead. No thought at all of the warning or reports they were getting from their own intelligence people that the Soviet Union was coming down of its own weight. They were being told that already. They didn’t have to do that. In fact, there were elements always in the Soviet Union that wanted a rapprochement, that wanted peace. There was a way to have a kind of a stable situation. So very reckless and, of course, this kind of thing continues. What they’re doing now in Syria, the removal of Qaddafi in Libya, these are all reckless, kind of crazy moves that have only served to make the world a much more dangerous place.

Pat: So each president appoints a new director of the CIA. Is that director also fairly ignorant of the real goings-on?

Russ: I think some of them are fairly ignorant. Someone like Panetta.

Pat:  Not George Herbert Walker Bush.

Russ:  Not George Herbert Walker Bush. There are certain lifers, or insiders, and they have a pretty good sense of what’s going on.

Pat: 808-0810 is the telephone number. Let’s get another question here. Let’s talk with Jim. He’s calling from Washington. Hi Jim, welcome to KGO. You’re on with Russ Baker. Go ahead.

Jim: I’ve been following the Kennedy assassination for many years. I like to know if you agree with me that Johnson was coordinating with the CIA and the Mafia to murder Kennedy as he was about to go to prison. And I like to know the title of your Kennedy book because I would like to buy it.

 

Pat: Yeah, when he publishes it. I do too! Russ, what about it? What about LBJ’s role?

Russ: There is some good work that has been done on this in a number of books. There is no question that the intelligence apparatus, United States, from time to time had no problem working with organized crime. This goes back to at least to the post-World War II period where they released people like Lucky Luciano from jail and sent him over to Italy to try to help stabilize other political forces including the left and the Communists. They had no problem doing that and we know that they definitely, CIA and so forth, were working with organized crime to try to remove Castro in that period.  So definitely there was a link. Yes, you’re right. Between the CIA and the mob was Johnson involved? There are many indications that Johnson was very close with Alan Dulles and others in the CIA. He also had connections at least one step removed from major figures in organized crime. I have some of that in my new book. It is also true that Johnson was being investigated and many of his top people such as Bobby Baker, his former aide in the U.S. Senate, were being investigated, were in all kinds of scandals under scrutiny. Interestingly, Bobby Kennedy and his Justice Department were leading this thing. Bobby Kennedy thought that Johnson was a crook and his Justice Department was going after him. They wanted him off the ticket in 1964. He was not going to be vice president and possibly I think could’ve ended up, in fact, in jail. I think he did know that and that has to be taken into consideration when you think about what happened to Kennedy and that there is Johnson now, not only no longer under suspicion or investigation but running the whole show.

Pat: Yes, in the Oval Office. Alright, we’re to take a break here. But in the meantime, attention moms and dads, KGO 10 has your tickets for an afternoon in Oakland to take the kids to Peppa Pig Live. It’s coming to the Fox theater in Oakland on Sunday, April 2, 2017, so call in number 10 right now to the KGO contest line. That’s 415-995-6810. 415-995-6810 will instantly win two tickets into the show. Tickets are on sale now at apeconcerts.com. Tickets are furnished by Another Planet Entertainment. I’m Pat Thurston. This is KGO.

It’s 9.49 on KGO. Good evening, I’m Pat Thurston. Russ Baker is sitting in the studio with me. I’m so glad you’re in San Francisco. It’s great to have you in the studio again

Russ: Love the city, love you, love this show.

Pat: And your mom’s here, Inez. She’s lovely. Just absolutely lovely brilliant woman. That’s where you get it from.

Russ: Indeed.

Pat: Okay, we have some calls coming in. We’ll get to some calls but there is something else that’s weighing on my mind and I’d love to get your perspective on. It has to do with the media. Your media. I’m sort of media, except I’m a talk show. It’s different. But you’re really a reporter. Your site is about investigative journalism and you report on things that other people don’t. You investigate things that other reporters don’t. I think that it’s the media that’s gotten us into a lot of the situation that we’re in today, particularly with this choice of presidential candidates. What’s your thought on America’s media today?

Russ: Well, to call it a disappointment would be an understatement. I worked in mainstream–I guess you call it–media and alternative media over the years and ultimately came to be disappointed in both because I felt that the mainstream was overly concerned with fitting in and not rocking the boat, keeping their jobs. I understand that, it’s a business. I found that the so-called alternative media was too set in their views, supporting a particular philosophical approach and they therefore weren’t particularly open, neither really being open with just following the story wherever it goes. I also think that there is a kind of denial  throughout our entire society and I think that the media epitomizes this. But it’s not just from the media. We’ve through our entire lives here as Americans were taught all these things, we’re barraged, we’re told to do certain things. American exceptionalism, that America is special, is predestined. This goes back hundreds of years. This notion that we have some vision and some purpose in the world which is good and important that no other country has. Of course, we’re barraged. The media participates in this. Every time there’s a war they quickly close ranks. They put on these shows. The reporters are embedded with the troops on one side. They play the patriotic music. They put the flags up. It’s all propaganda of which the Third Reich would’ve been proud. It’s not journalism and so whether it’s the media that’s responding or causing this, I think it’s some combination. The public in this country is sort of “dumbed” down and forced not even to think about what these things mean. What does it mean that we are in wars in all of these places? What does it mean that our largest industry is war-making and killing equipment? It is and we don’t talk about it. How about the fact that we don’t even know that these wars are going on in many of these places. We never discuss them. They’re not on the news.

Pat: And some of the war-making equipment, some of those very companies who are responsible for making that equipment, manufacturing so much of that equipment own media companies.

Russ: They own media companies and now we see, of course, the electronics industry, high-tech software, you go to Silicon Valley and a lot of defense–I hate to call it defense, it really isn’t defense–as it is overly defensive military contracting. There is a tremendous amount of the business being gotten by the companies from the NSA, CIA, NRO, and all these different agencies. This is this tremendous cash center for everybody.

Pat: And then the police now are being more militarized as well.

Russ: That’s right, and of course once we had 9/11, in addition to having all of the previous wars that we had–of course we already had a kind of war on terrorism with the national security state but then we had the Homeland Security State which was another state. So they were able to take all this vast spending  overseas and then duplicate it with a domestic model. So the media is very much part of this as you say, Pat. You look at these large corporations which are very much involved in the part of conglomerates that  benefit from this. So we all sort of, we own stock, we’ve got mutual funds. We’re all sort of, in a sense, complicit and we don’t really want to think about it because it’s unpleasant. In a way, I think we’re all responsible, but I also believe that it’s the media’s job to try to shake us out of our torpor, to wake us up, and to get us to face reality of who we are and where we are. That’s absolutely critical if we’re ever to really be good people, go in the right direction, and make the right intelligent choices.

Pat: Will we ever wrest control away from these controlling influences that are essentially running everything behind-the-scenes?

Russ: Paradoxically, I think it’s actually very easy to do. I think it could happen at any time. We need to have critical mass. And this you see, with everything you were talking about the JASTA 9/11 victims bill, there’s critical mass and certain moments and then everybody says, “Okay let’s let this thing go.” In our site WhoWhatWhy.org, we were writing about the kinds of things that Snowden came out with. Before people would say, “Well that’s crazy.” Now, every few months, people shift and say “Of course, this is going on. Of course, this is bad.” So I think that if enough–even a small number of people in the media–people with some wealth, some influence, and some activists got out there in the streets as when it was all a little bit coordinated, I think you can really get that snowball rolling downhill and growing pretty quickly.

Pat: And it could happen. That’s one of the wonderful things about the United States of America. I suppose that we can look forward to this kind of changes if we are informed and if we are motivated to do something about it and we can get off our lazy butts and do it. We’re almost out of time, but just one thing. I really want people to read your book and then I want them to be motivated to read your Kennedy book when it comes out and I want them to go to your site. So can you in just a couple of minutes explain George Herbert Walker Bush and where he was when President Kennedy was assassinated?

Russ: Wow, real fast. I was writing a book about George W. Bush. This got me interested in knowing more about his father. Turned out to be to me a much more fascinating man. But half of my book Family of Secrets is about the father. He was nothing like what we thought he was. As I explored his life, I discovered that in an interview he’d been asked this bland question: “What do you remember about the day Kennedy was shot? Where were you when you heard it? What were your thoughts?” He wasn’t expecting that kind of question and claimed not to remember where he was when he heard it. Of course as we’ve often discussed, everybody remembers where they were when they heard if they were alive at the time. So I became interested just to figure out where he was. And I also wanted to figure out why he had been CIA director because they said he had no experience or qualifications. I went down that particular rabbit’s hole and discovered that in fact he was actually experienced in intelligence work, had a whole covert background over decades, working with intelligence organizations in 1963 in Dallas, was working with the CIA, in touch with many of their other operatives who would all come into the United States, were either in Dallas or doing other things related to the events of that day. I’ve got about five chapters in Family of Secrets.  People wondering why there’s so much material ton he Kennedy assassination in a book about the Bushes. That’s why a lot of these things are connected, patterns makes sense, historical forces perpetuate themselves. There is a lot of logic out there in the universe.

Pat: If you read the book, you can follow that entire trail because that’s where Russ takes you as he investigates. He goes where the story takes him and it unfolds. It is absolutely incredible. Please read it. It’s called Family of Secrets. It’s available everywhere. Russ, I’m so glad you came in. It’s good to see you and stay in touch with me. Especially let me know when you’re ready to publish the book.

Russ: Sure, and also, our website is WhoWhatWhy.org. It’s a news site with new stuff every day. Follow us on Twitter @WhoWhatWhy and also we’ve got a Facebook page as well. Its Facebook page is @WhoWhatWhy.

Pat: It’s Facebook/WhoWhatWhy. Wonderful, thank you. Good to see you.

Russ:  Terrific. Thank you, Pat.

Russ: Terrific. Thank you, Pat.


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adopted by WhoWhatWhy from When Evil Prevails (Johnny Silvercloud / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0)

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