Sunday, July 11, 2010

Baker's Misfocused 'Family of Secrets'

By James DiEugenio
July 11, 2010

Russ Baker's Family of Secrets has a rather deceptive title. In two ways.

Read on.


Kevin Ryan said...

This hit piece is everything it claims Baker's book to be. Filled with vague insinuations, the article claims that Baker's book is "suspect" but doesn't clarify what suspicions it should arouse.

I agree that Baker's book would have been much better if it had included information on the October Surprise and Iran/Contra escapades of GWH Bush. DiEugenio starts with these two shortcomings, but then goes on a badly conceived, contrarian tirade in an attempt to trash an excellent book by a great investigative writer.

DiEugenio should note that Operation Mongoose was formally named in November 1961, so obviously it had to have begun before 1962. And the initial operation was first approved by Eisenhower in March 1960, so the planning would have occurred before that. For example in the late 1950s, just as Baker suggests. This is just one example of the errors made by DiEugenio as he pompously scolds Baker.

Worse yet, he repeatedly uses Webster Tarpley as a reference to debunk Baker. Clearly Mr. DiEugenio is not familiar with his sources if he thinks Alex Jones is a problem but Webster Tarpley (who works with Jones) is a good resource.

Tarpley's work is generally sensational and badly crafted. He is better known for accusing others of being "agents", and trying to disrupt the peace movement (see "The Kennebunkport Warning"). Frankly, Tarpley's presence as a primary source to debunk Baker makes DiEugenio the one who is "suspect."

DiEugenio ultimately justifies this piece by writing that Baker is "always getting at something or other" and that "the overall poor quality of this work" will make people watch Alex Jones and drive people away from the Huffington Post. No kidding, that's really why he wrote, and you published, this article?

Overall, this attack piece is a real disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Baker did make a mistake with the Mongoose time frame, but if Zapata was a CIA front, which is a good possibility, it very likely was working with the CIA on their various Cuban operations. That makes this error not really so terrible, just a little sloppy.

Jim D. is very solid on the JFK assassination, but I think that he may have been working in that area so long that his bullshit detector is overly sensitive. That is kind of understandable, but still unduly harsh to Baker who has put a lot of work into this.

Jim D. and Russ B. are both far superior to Tarpley and Jones (who is so dumb that it makes it impossible to see just what his angle is).

Jim DiEugenio said...

1.) Mongoose started in 1962. You can look that up in any number of sources.
2.) Tarpley's book on Bush is much more solid and fact based than Baker's. To call it sensational and Baker's not is almost funny. I have not used any of Tarpley's work for anything else. Since I have not read any of his other books.
3.) You completely distorted my last point. What I said was it is a pity that the New Media makes us choose between quasi MSM clones like Huffpo and Daily Beast and conspiracy demagoguery like Jones and Baker. What you did with that was a deliberate smear.


Kevin Ryan said...

The Operation Mongoose point is moot because in looking at Baker’s book again, I see he never actually said that it started in the 50s. I made the mistake of thinking you were using actual statements from the book while you were trashing it.

The CIA plot to kill Castro was first approved by Eisenhower March 1960. This was Bissell’s program JMARC. It went through a number of incarnations, with the basic idea surviving the Bay of Pigs to evolve into Operation Mongoose, which was the plot to kill Castro with additional economic and psychological terrorism. As named, Mongoose never really got off the ground anyway, so it’s fair to say that the earlier incarnations of the program are the things to consider.

Even if we say that, technically, Operation Mongoose was only the last incarnation of the program, despite the fact that it included the same players (Shackley, Atlee, Hunt, etc) with the same basic goal, then we must admit that Operation Mongoose started in 1961. No reference I’ve found says it started in 1962. That would be a little like saying Operation Iraqi Freedom started sometime after people noticed that Operation Iraqi Liberation had a telling acronym.

And if you like Tarpley, you’ll really like his colleague Fetzer. Have you heard of him?

Finally, to accuse a reader of a deliberate smear is a bit defensive for someone who just wrote an unsolicited attack piece. Besides, why would I smear you if I’ve never even heard of you?

JIm DiEugenio said...

Wrong again Kevin.

What Baker was using was a source out of Trento. And I used a whole section of the review to show why this was unwise. That source said that Bush was first used by the CIA in the late fifties as part of Mongoose. And I used a direct quote from page 16 of Baker's book. You missed that? Its not accurate. And Baker should have said something. Or at least acknowledged the problem.

Most students of the JFK case know that Mongoose is one thing, and the CIA plots to kill Castro are another. Or are you now going to say that Bush was involved in the Castro plots also? Please, don't give Baker any ideas. I fear he'll write a sequel.

According to John Newman, who was doing a long history of Kennedy and Cuba, Mongoose was officially operative for about eight months in 1962. Until the Missile Crisis ended it. Or maybe everyone who reported on it, and the sources he used, like FRUS, were hallucinating? Another source would be Deadly Secrets which has Shackley arriving at JM Wave to run the secret war in February of 1962. ( p. 126).

FYI Fetzer does not really write on the JFK case in his books. He is more of an editor. I use things in his JFK books that are good and written by others like Gary Aguilar.

A smear is a conscious distortion of what someone writes. Which you did. Whether you know me or not, you did it. You obviously fell hard for Baker's confection, and you don't like anyone spoiling your sundae.

Finally, maybe you don't know this, but most all reviews are "unsolicited". When someone writes a new angle on the JFK case, I usually review it. You didn't know that either? Maybe, because you fell so hard for it, you just wanted to read press releases on Baker's book.

But that's not the real world.

Kevin Ryan said...


I fell hard for you man. Anybody who can, with a straight face (I assume), pump out so much acrid miasma and still get published, deserves a fan base. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for your future hack jobs.

Did you even notice yourself writing -- "I use things in his books that are good" -- while simultaneously attributing any and all perceived errors in Trento's book to Baker, when he didn't even use the quotes you refer to?

Where does that stop? Can we attribute everything in Tarpley and Fetzer's works to you because you have used them as references? For example, can we assume that you subscribe to Fetzer's published position on the value of false information, or on the Star Wars beam destruction of the WTC?

Maybe you ought to give it a rest if you can't get the basics on Operation Mongoose right yourself, and you don't know much about the sources you are referencing.

Anonymous said...


It is sillier than you know for you to scold Jim D. about his knowledge of Mongoose and you sound pointlessly arrogant when you say you haven't heard of him (or if you say that about anyone for that matter).

Maybe the source that Baker was quoting was using "Mongoose" as shorthand for all the CIA Operations against Castro. Shouldn't the question be about the reliability of Trento's source?

I believe that Trento's source was the book Immaculate Deception by the mysterious virtual non-person Russell S. Bowen. He was a Brigadier General who claimed to be working for the CIA when he was incarcerated while trying to expose cocaine trafficking tied to GHW Bush. Maybe he was telling the truth, or maybe a general in the army was a drug mule for somebody but it seems strange to be unable to find any documentation either way.

It seems that to question Russ Baker on this point, one needs to question whether or not Bowen was reliable on this point. I also believe that L. Fletcher Prouty said something similar about GHW Bush and Zapata Oil's role in the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Considering Prescott's closeness with the Dulles brothers and Harriman, Brown, & Root (and thus all of the Military Industrial Complex/Old Boy network of the CIA) it seems reasonable that Zapata could have been CIA all along.

Whether there is anything to Poppy's connections to Watergate and the people behind it, I don't know enough to say.

But even though I think Trento's book flinches in some areas (especially ignoring the Kennedy assassination) a lot of it jives with Peter Dale Scott's The Road to 9/11 regarding the importance of the Halloween Massacre and the Safari Club and BCCI and Poppy's connections to these networks which related to to the October Surprise and Iran-Contra-Crack conspiracies and later spawned al Qaeda.

It is easy enough to see where Trento pulls punches, but it doesn't mean his book is useless. Even if Trento was a "limited-hangout" author in the past, that does not make any of his revelations less damning, especially when they include facts that point historical systemic corruption.

It must be a pretty awful situation if even the "limited-hangout" narratives point to the gravest of high crimes by networks of officials in the highest positions of government.

The overlapping characters in these "Deep" events should alarm anyone paying attention, and no name seems to pop up in all these awful Postwar events as often as "Bush." That is true regardless of the relative strengths and weaknesses of Baker's book.

If one wants to know who to blame for America's Postwar decline, one could do worse than to look at the Bushes and their friends and sponsors in high places.

Anonymous said...

I take it back. According to Baker, Trento's source was Robert Crowley who was a CIA guy who dealt with multinational corporations.

That does mean that three guys - Prouty, Bowen, and Crowley put Zapata and Bush with the CIA well before 63. Zapata Petroleum and Zapata Offshore were created in 53 and 54 respectively. Those were the years that the Dulles brothers started overthrowing governments... Is it really so implausible that these two companies, filled with many associates of the Dulles Bros, would be CIA front companies from the beginning? Is the word of possibly three CIA associated officials to be ignored until there is documented proof of Zapata's front company status?

If Crowley via Trento is indeed the source of the quote in the review, that does not automatically discredit him because he may have been familiar with GHWB's CIA role due to the corporate aspect of it, and he could have speaking about Mongoose extemporaneously even though that was not his realm 40 years earlier


since it was an interview, it could be that he did not really mean the second sentence to pertain exactly to the first. That is a semantic argument I know, but not impossible.

And isn't the quote used in the FoS review from Trento's book and not Baker's? It doesn't appear on p. 16 of my copy of Family of Secrets.

As Jim D. suggests, Trento's book really is kind of a neutered version of Peter Dale Scott's The Road to 9/11 with additional Bush tendentious Bush scapegoating thrown in. The book itself seems to be an effort to throw the Bushes under the bus, while not exposing the extent of the operations or their backers.

That said, does it automatically follow that the Bushes don't deserve to be thrown under the bus?

Trento tries simultaneously scapegoat the Bushes and create a fictionalized account of "rogue" intelligence operatives and foreign agencies empowered by the "rogue" agents. I believe that this is done to create a believable tale of "Blowback" as an explanation of the War on Terror.

What I mean is that even the BS conclusions in Trento's book may may be illuminating. The omissions likely say a lot...

What I would like to read would be Peter Dale Scott's assessment of Family of Secrets because this is sort of his genre. Whereas Jim D. is less concerned about networks and writes more to make airtight arguments that refute the CIA-sponsored proponents of lone-nut assassin fairy tales. DiEugenio and Scott are both great at what they do.

I would also like to hear Jim Hougan's take on Baker's Watergate...uh, insinuations.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy D. is a bitter old fool who spends his time these days trying to bring down his betters. Almost everything he now writes -- or sputters or giggles(for high comedy check out his appearances on Len Insanity's radio show) -- is to trash other members of the JFK research community who have actually, ya know, published something.

The strange thing about this dude -- aside from mustache -- is how intensely he defends all things Bush. This crap on Russ Baker's book is merely Jimmy D's latest attempt to trash anyone who thinks that perhaps this Family of Ghouls could be capable of anything. (Just wait 'til we get Jeb the Jughead.)

DiEugenio is being eaten alive with jealousy. Soon he'll consume himself. However, the research community still has not recovered from John McAdams cleaning this chump's clock in the "debate" hosted by Len Insanity. John McAdams!! My little girl could beat that dis-info waste product in a debate. Not Jimmy D. . .

Anonymous said...

I dare anyone not working for the CIA to listen to that debate between McAdams and DiEugenio and not conclude DiEugenio won. ;-) And don't just pretend you don't work for intel. Any sane person can see what happened there.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous McAdams fan, I hope you are either a McAdams aka John Nolan sockpuppet and/or work for the CIA.

If you are spamming, Pro Bono, on behalf of secret agent, disinformationist & professor of Unhistory John McAdams, then that is just sad.

And for the record, it is not my thing to go around calling people full-on disinformationists, but McAdams is so blatant and transparent that he really should never be referred to except when describing what internet disinformation looks like.

Relaxed Guy said...

Reading these comments sure is a waste of time. I like most of DiEugenio's work very much. Destiny Betrayed is a very good book, and The Assassinations (articles from Probe that he and Lisa Pease edited) is excellent.

But I think Russ Baker's book is good too, and I don't think Baker's speculation, which reads as speculation to me, is all that bad. DiEugenio knows way more about the evidence than Baker, so Baker probably did make mistakes he wouldn't have made, but Baker covered a lot of ground and was doing something quite ambitious. So I think some mistakes were inevitable. It's a book, not a Bible.

Chet said...

Kevin Ryan is right. I'll use the Operation Mongoose reference as an example of the sloppiness and inaccuracies of DiEugenio's hit piece.
Baker only mentions it once, on pg 35, in passing, with no mention of dates, etc. As an alleged investigator, DiEugenio fails miserably. Gus Russo and Kevin Ryan have said all that needs to be said. By the way, I'm not a writer or an investigator.

Jim DiEugenio said...

The source about Bush and Mongoose is in the Trento book. In that part of the review, I was showing why baker should not have trusted Trento and the sources are to Trento's Prelude to Terror.

I did not have the Baker book with me at the time I first responded to Kevin Ryan. So I could not double check.

What I was trying to say, and if you read that part of the review it is clear, is that Baker should not have relied so much on one source for his pre Bay of Pigs info on Bush. Not when mistakes like that are in it.

With that correction, I stand by the review.