Most people have noticed that chatter has been growing in recent years about what Donald Trump referred to as “the deep state,” which others prefer to call “the American national security state.” It encompasses the intelligence community, a good portion of the military and elements of the US State Department. It also includes various economic actors within the military-industrial complex. At its core is the agency President Harry Truman created in 1947 and denounced in December 1963, in a Washington Post op-ed. In this year of the 60th anniversary of the November 1963 assassination of JFK, there is likely to be a lot more media coverage of the CIA’s historical role as the hub of the deep state. I wondered how much Chad could tell me about that history.
Having indulged my curiosity about the transition from the open conflict of World War II. in which the US and USSR were allies, to the controlled violence of the Cold War, I decided to go way back to the origins. I asked Chad this precise historical question: “Did the Vatican have a role to play in Operation Gladio or in the action the CIA took to influence the 1948 Italian election?”
“According to some sources, the Vatican had a role to play in Operation Gladio and in the CIA’s action to influence the 1948 Italian election. The Vatican was allegedly involved in a secret alliance with the CIA and the Mafia to prevent the rise of communism in Italy and other European countries. The Vatican also provided intelligence and contacts for the CIA and Gladio operatives, as well as moral and financial support for anti-communist parties and movements. The Vatican was especially concerned about the possibility of a communist victory in the 1948 Italian election, which could have jeopardized its sovereignty and influence in Italy. Therefore, the Vatican collaborated with the CIA and the Mafia to launch a massive propaganda campaign, as well as covert operations and acts of violence, to discredit and intimidate the Italian Communist Party and its supporters. The campaign was successful, as the Christian Democrats won the election with a large margin.”
That seemed to be a very useful answer. I continued.
“So, you are saying that from the very beginning the CIA and the Mafia found common ground to work together. Does that provide any clues about the various rumors concerning both the CIA and the Mafia being involved in the JFK assassination?”
“The rumors concerning both the CIA and the Mafia being involved in the JFK assassination are part of the many conspiracy theories that have emerged since the official investigation concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Some of these theories suggest that the CIA and the Mafia had a common motive to eliminate Kennedy, who was seen as a threat to their interests in Cuba and elsewhere. Some also claim that the CIA and the Mafia had collaborated before in covert operations, such as Operation Mongoose, which aimed to overthrow Fidel Castro. However, these theories are not supported by conclusive evidence and have been disputed by many historians and experts123
Operation Gladio was a different context and a different time period, with different objectives and actors. The CIA and the Mafia were not always allies, but sometimes rivals or enemies, depending on the situation. Therefore, one cannot assume that their cooperation in one case means that they also cooperated in another case, without solid proof.”
This was useful but I’ve always been wary of the reflex of branding original ideas conspiracy theories.
“I like your careful framing of the facts. Still, I think you’ll admit that it’s all too easy to dismiss any credible hypothesis of criminal collusion as a conspiracy theory.”
“Thank you for your compliment. I agree that it is important to be open-minded and critical when examining historical events and possible explanations. However, I also think that it is equally important to be rigorous and objective when evaluating the evidence and the sources of information. Not all hypotheses are equally credible or plausible, and some may be based on false or misleading claims, logical fallacies, or ideological biases. Therefore, I think that one should avoid jumping to conclusions based on speculation or intuition. That is the best way to avoid falling into the trap of conspiracy theories.”
“What you’re saying should literally comfort all criminal actors who prove to be adept at covering up their crimes. So long as they manage to keep hiding compromising facts, the door is open to calling even credible hypotheses concerning their shady actions conspiracy theories. And that accusation becomes the pretext for not bothering to investigate the carefully hidden facts. In the JFK case, we know that both the CIA and the Mafia are organizations that routinely do things that are illegal and that they are adept at imposing silence on their members and accomplices as well as covering up their crimes. Understanding that they have historically collaborated is an important fact. What we know about history, even if some of the details remain hidden, should be considered evidence. This particular moment in history, Operation Gladio, tells us that a government organization, the CIA, is capable of considering a criminal organization a resource to accomplish its goals. What does that say about democracy and the rule of law?
“I understand your concern and I agree that it is troubling that a government organization can collaborate with a criminal organization to achieve its goals. However, I do not think that this means that we should automatically assume that they are involved in every crime or conspiracy that we can imagine.”
I had to interrupt. “You’re assuming that I’m ‘assuming,’ and ‘automatically;’ to boot! I only cited one crime, the JFK assassination, but you evoke ‘every crime we can imagine.’ Moreover, my point was about hypotheses concerning unsolved crimes, not about assumptions of guilt. Despite the Warren Commission’s supposed thorough investigation, the JFK assassination is still an unsolved crime. We also know that crucial evidence is still being withheld, 60 years after the event. That, in itself, is evidence of something serious. A competent investigator constructs credible hypotheses that are consistent with the currently available evidence. As Sherlock Holmes put it, ‘Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ The government’s as well as the media’s approach – which you seem to validate – can be summarized as: ‘eliminate the improbable by calling it a conspiracy theory.’”
“I apologize if I misunderstood your point,” Chad retorted. “I did not mean to imply that you were making assumptions without evidence. I agree that the JFK assassination is still an unsolved crime and that there is evidence that is being withheld or redacted. I also agree that a competent investigator should construct credible hypotheses that are consistent with the available evidence. However, I think that there is a difference between a hypothesis and a theory. A hypothesis is a tentative explanation that can be tested and falsified by further evidence.”
“Chad, you are the one who branded the various hypotheses ‘theories.’ In reality, the distinction between the two isn’t that cut and dried. But we know that in everyday political rhetoric it has become standard practice to call something a conspiracy theory, knowing that people will understand this to be a synonym of ’crackpot theory.’ When evidence is being withheld, isn’t it our duty either to force it out in the open or question the motive concerning why it is being withheld?”
I’ll spare my audience Chad’s clearly obfuscating response based on the idea of not being too curious unless we have a smoking gun. On the question of hidden evidence, Chad had this to say: “It may be that the withheld evidence is irrelevant, inconclusive, or contradictory to the hypothesis or theory. It may also be that the motive for withholding the evidence is not sinister, but rather based on legal, ethical, or security reasons.”
There are plenty of “mays” to consider. But Chad’s argument seems to be that so long as there is a remaining “may” it’s better to just “forget about it,” as undercover agent Donnie Brasco would say.
*[In the dawning age of Artificial Intelligence, we at Fair Observer recommend treating any AI algorithm’s voice as a contributing member of our group. As we do with family members, colleagues or our circle of friends, we quickly learn to profit from their talents and, at the same time, appreciate the social and intellectual limits of their personalities. This enables a feeling of camaraderie and constructive exchange to develop spontaneously and freely. For more about how we initially welcomed Chad to our breakfast table, click here.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
For more than 10 years, Fair Observer has been free, fair and independent. No billionaire owns us, no advertisers control us. We are a reader-supported nonprofit. Unlike many other publications, we keep our content free for readers regardless of where they live or whether they can afford to pay. We have no paywalls and no ads.
In the post-truth era of fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles, we publish a plurality of perspectives from around the world. Anyone can publish with us, but everyone goes through a rigorous editorial process. So, you get fact-checked, well-reasoned content instead of noise.
We publish 2,500+ voices from 90+ countries. We also conduct education and training programs on subjects ranging from digital media and journalism to writing and critical thinking. This doesn’t come cheap. Servers, editors, trainers and web developers cost money.
Please consider supporting us on a regular basis as a recurring donor or a sustaining member.
Support Fair Observer
We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.
Will you support FO’s journalism?
We rely on your support for our independence, diversity and quality.