Long before writing his popular best-seller, Killing Kennedy, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly did real reporting on the events that lead to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Here is O’Reilly on Inside Edition in 1991 doing a tough and accurate piece on retired CIA Western Hemisphere division chief David Atlee Phillips and the evidence that he associated with accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in September 1963.
When O’Reilly cites “HSCA investigators,” he is referring to his friend and source Gaeton Fonzi, who led the House Select Committee on Assassinations’ investigation in south Floriida. Fonzi later wrote a passionate but disillusioned memoir about the experience. After Fonzi died last August, the New York Times called him a “relentless investigator.” In those days, O’Reilly relied on Fonzi.
The sealed records that O’Reilly refers to in the piece were eventually opened by the JFK Records Act of 1992. The new files disgorged more damaging information about David Phillips.
In his sealed sworn testimony to the HSCA in 1976, Phillips had trouble telling a straight story about what he knew of Lee Harvey Oswald. One day he told the Washington Post that Oswald had threatened JFK in Mexico City. The next day, when testifying under oath, he denied it. HSCA counsel Richard Sprague said Phillips had “slithered” around questions about his statements to the Post.
Allegations that Phillips was involved in JFK’s assassination have never been proven. But it is now documented that Phillips orchestrated at least one assassination on behalf of the CIA.
In 1999, the non-profit National Security Archives at George Washington University obtained CIA records showing that Phillips organized an assassination conspiracy in Chile that resulted in the death of Gen. Rene Schneider in October 1970.
O’Reilly doesn’t mention Phillips or Fonzi in Killing Kennedy. He evidently changed his mind about Fonzi’s and Phillips’ credibility over the years, which is his right. But as a popular historian of the JFK story, O’Reilly should at least talk about how his thought process evolved over the years.
“Maurice Bishop…was David Atlee Phillips”
By John Kelin
Posted December 2, 2013
When he first confirmed that David Atlee Phillips was the CIA contact known as “Maurice Bishop,” Cuban exile leader Antonio Veciana did so tacitly. But Veciana’s meaning was so clear, and his guile so transparent, there was no doubt; both he and House Select Committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi began laughing.
Now, decades later, Veciana has explicitly stated that Phillips (right) was indeed Bishop, and that he did indeed see Phillips with Lee Harvey Oswald in September 1963 – thus formally linking a high ranking CIA officer with the JFK assassination.
Veciana’s admission came in a written statement issued November 22, 2013, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination. In a letter to Fonzi’s widow Marie, Veciana, the elderly, former leader of Alpha 66, said, “Maurice Bishop, my CIA contact agent was David Atlee Phillips. Phillips or Bishop was the man I saw with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on September 1963.”
Fonzi wrote of his encounters with Veciana in his 1993 book The Last Investigation, which describes his experience with the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s.
At the time of his first meetings with Veciana, Fonzi was a staff investigator for Sen. Richard Schweiker (R-Pa.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the Sub-committee on the John F. Kennedy Assassination. Fonzi told Veciana he was exploring links between government agencies and Cuban exile groups.
On March 2, 1976, Veciana told Fonzi that two months before the assassination he rendezvoused with his CIA contact “Maurice Bishop” in the lobby of a downtown Dallas office building. Bishop was already there when he arrived, Veciana said, and in the company of a young man he later recognized as Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged JFK assassin.
In subsequent HSCA testimony, however, Veciana did not identify Phillips as Bishop. But Fonzi independently determined that “Bishop” and Phillips were one and the same.
Phillips was also called before the HSCA, and under oath, denied both using the name Maurice Bishop and knowing Veciana. That ended the matter. Although Fonzi believed they could make a case for perjury, HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey declined to bring charges against Phillips.
In the early 1960s Alpha 66 was a leading anti-Castro organization, funded by the CIA. During the course of their meetings Veciana never explicitly told Fonzi that Bishop was really Phillips. Fonzi believed that Veciana would not make the identification because he thought Bishop/Phillips could further aid him in his goal of toppling Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
David Atlee Phillips was a CIA officer for 25 years. At the time of the assassination he was Chief of Cuban Operations, based in Mexico City. He died in 1988.
Initial reports of Veciana’s 2013 statement erroneously said Veciana had died.
CTKA obtained a copy of the statement from former HSCA staff member Dan Hardway, who got it from Marie Fonzi.
The bulk of this account is derived from the Appendix to Hearings Before the Select Committee on Assassination of the U.S. House of Representatives, Vol. X, pp. 37-56, and from The Last Investigation, by Gaeton Fonzi, Chapters 16 and 44.