Anyone looking through the old tales of hookers and mobsters in Seymour Hersh's new JFK book, Dark Side of Camelot will come to some interesting new information. Hersh reports that members of the security operation for General Dynamics broke into the apartment of Judith Exner Campbell in August 1962. According to Hersh, they used whatever they found there to black mail JFK into making a controversial award of the TFX (Tactical Experimental Fighter) plane development to General Dynamics. (The TFX later evolved into the F-111) Hersh claims all this became known because the FBI spied on the General Dynamics spies.
Such private covert ops as a tool of corporate control grew from practices like those of former Senator George Smathers, interviewed by the ABC television program based on Hersh's book. In the 1950s, Smather's law firm hired guards from a subsidiary of the security services apparatus of his friend George Wackenhut. The guards worked at the nuclear-bomb site in Nevada and Cape Canaveral, despite federal prohibition against such an arrangement between government and private police. The private group Wackenhut still supplies security to the US-owned Area 51. Steamshovel examines this issue in the book NASA, Nazis and JFK (click Steamshovel book cover above), and also makes available The Torbitt Document Supplement, with a longer article on Smathers.
Additionally, Steamshovel presents here JFK's public statements as president on the TFX. It includes references to various dimensions of the controversy surrounding the contract with General Dynamics, the topic of Kennedy's last speech on November 22, including early financial commitment to it from Australia, home of Pine Gap, the down-under version of Area 51.
THE PRESIDENT: I see nothing wrong with the Congress looking at these matters. My judgment is that the decision reached by Secretary McNamara was the right one, sound one, and any fair and objective hear- ing will bring that out. Mr. McNamara chose the plane he chose because he felt it most efficient, because he thought it would do the job and because he thought it would save the Government hundreds of millions of dollars. Everything I have read about the TFX and seen about it confirms my impression that Mr. McNamara was right. We have a very good, effective Secretary of Defense with a great deal of courage, who is willing to make hard decisions, and who doesn't mind when they are made that a good many people don't like it. This contract involves a large amount of money and naturally some people would prefer it to go another place than the place which the Secretary chose. I think the Secre tary did the right thing and I think this in- vestigation will bring that out, and I have no objection to anyone looking at the contract as long as they feel that a useful function is served.
Q. Do you think the hearing that has been held has been fair and objective?
THE PRESIDENT: I would think that-I'm confident that we all know a lot more about the TFX than we did before, and that's a good thing. And my judgment is that the more this hearing goes on, the more con- vinced people are finally that Secretary McNamara is a very effective Secretary of Defense and that we're lucky to have him. ...
Q. Mr. President, the TFX fighter plane controversy has drawn more attention to Senator Case's criticism of those poli- ticians who in recent campaigns have urged the public to elect candidates on the grounds that they can bring more big defense con- tracts into those particular States, the impli- cation being that they could use political influence to do this. Now, do you feel that this sort of a proposition to the public builds confidence that these big defense contracts are being let fairly?
THE PRESIDENT: I think the contracts are being let fairly. But of course, there's great competition, and it's no wonder because thousands of people, jobs are involved. The fact of the matter is defense contracts have been concentrated in two or three States really, in space contracts, because those States have had the historical experience and also because they have a concentrated engineering and educational infrastructure which puts them in a successful position. For example, a good percentage of the con- tracts traditionally in space have gone to the State of California, and in defense, because the great defense plants-for all the reasons, really, since the end of World War 11. So Senators and Congressmen who are con- cerned about unemployment among their citizens, who are concerned about the flow of tax dollars, will continue to press. But the fact of the matter is that we have a Secretary of Defense who's making very honest judg- ments in these matters, and I know from per- sonal experience that some Senators and Congressmen who recently visited Secretary McNamara, asking to present plans from being turned down, who happen to be mem- bers of my own party, and indeed, even more closely related, have been rejected by the Secretary of Defense.
Q. Mr. President, if I may follow that up, Senator Case has proposed that a watchdog committee be created to look into these--
THE PRESIDENT: To watch the Congress- men and Senators? Well, that will be fine, if they feel they should be watched! ...
Q. Mr. President, in regard to the TFX contract, would you describe your per sonal role, specifically? Did you make any suggestions as to who should get the con- tract?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I did not. No. This was completely the Defense Department.
Q. Mr. President, do you share the view of some officials in the Pentagon that mem- bers of the McClellan committee, particu- larly those up for reelection next year, may have been politically motivated in attacking the award to General Dynamics?
THE PRESIDENT: As I said, when a contract goes to one State, then the company may involve or the Senators may involve or the Congressmen want it to go to another. I would not get into that question, because I do not think that is the important point. I assume that the McClellan committee, on which I once served, will render a fair judg- ment. Number 2, I am confident of the TFX contract because I am confident of Secretary McNamara. Therefore, as I've said, this hearing can go on as long as they feel it serves a useful result, and whatever the motivations may be-and I wouldn't attempt to explore them-I have confidence in the committee and the members involved.
Q. Is it valid, sir, for the Govern- ment to give a defense contract to a firm in order to keep that firm as part of the pro- duction arsenal of this country? And, two, did that happen in the case of the TFX award to General Dynamics?
THE PRESIDENT: No, to the last part. In the first case, if it is a hypothetical case, I would say it would depend on the circum- stances, how great the need is. Is it for par- ticular kinds of tools which we might need in the case of an emergency? I can think of cases where it would be valid. It has nothing to do with the TFX.
Q. Sir, the fact that Admiral Anderson was not retained as Chief of Navy Operations has been written about in such a way as to imply that he did not measure up to your expectations as a head of the Navy, that he might have bucked reorgani- zation plans, that he opposed Defense Sec- retary McNamara on the TFX, and other things which you probably are familiar with Is it true that he was not retained as a sort of warning to others in the Navy to get in line with the Secretary and yourself?
THE PRESIDENT: No, that isn't the reason As a matter of fact, Admiral Anderson is going to continue to serve the United States Government. I am very gratified that he has. I talked with him today and he has agreed to accept-to continue to serve the United States Government in a position of high responsibility. So quite obviously, the reasons-if I did not have the highest con- fidence in him I would not want him to continue.
Q. Could you tell us what post, Sir, he will serve in?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I--he continues as, of course, head of the Navy through August and therefore at an appropriate time this summer we will make an announcement. But he has agreed to continue to serve and I am delighted because I think he will be a great addition to the Government in this new position which requires a good deal of skill, which requires a good deal of dedication, and to which I would appoint someone for whom I had only a high regard.
Q. Mr. President, do you see anything in the relationship of the Secretary of the Navy Korth to the TFX contract which would suggest a conflict of interest?
THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't. I have the highest regard for Mr. Korth, Mr. Gilpatric, Mr. McNamara, and it seems to me the matter has been looked into for many months and I think they have emerged in a very good position.
Q. Mr. President, Navy Secretary Korth had some correspondence which in- dicated he worked very hard for the Con- tinental National Bank of Fort Worth while he was in Government, as well as for the Navy, and that during this same period of time that he negotiated, or took part in the decision on a contract involving that bank's-one of that bank's best customers, the General Dynamics firm. I wonder if this fulfills the requirements of your Code of Ethics in Government, and if, in a general way, you think that it is within the law and proper?
THE PRESIDENT: In the case of the con- tract-the TFX contract-as you know, that matter was referred to the Department of Justice to see whether there was a conflict of interest and the judgment was that there was not. That is number one. Number two, the amount of the loan to the company. That bank was one of a num- ber of banks which participated in a line of credit and it was relatively a small amount of money, as bank loans go. So in answer to your question, I have no evidence that Mr. Korth acted in any way improperly in the TFX matter. It has nothing to do with any opinion I may have about whether Mr. Korth might have written more letters and been busier than he should have been in one way or another. The fact of the matter is, I have no evi- dence that Mr. Korth benefited improperly during his term of office in the Navy. And I have no evidence, and you have not, as I understand it-the press has not produced any, nor the McClellan committee-which would indicate that in any way he acted im- properly in the TFX. I always have be- lieved that innuendoes should be justified before they are made, either by me, in the Congress, or even in the press.
Remarks in Fort Worth, November 22, 1963
Remarks in Fort Worth, November 22, 1963