Tucker Carlson made some explosive assertions Friday, suggesting that the CIA and the FBI brought down Richard Nixon because he was on to their efforts to undermine the American system as the Founding Fathers had intended it to run and knew that the CIA was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Carlson’s segment quickly became wildly controversial, but is it true? We may never know for sure — and that in itself demonstrates yet again the need to demand and enforce complete transparency and accountability from these agencies that all too easily can go rogue.
Carlson said: “Richard Nixon was re-elected in 1972 by the largest margin of the popular vote ever recorded before or since. Nixon got 17 million more votes than his opponent. Less than two years later, he was gone. He was forced to resign and in his place, an obedient servant of the federal agencies called Gerald Ford took over the White House.” Carlson went on to explain that Nixon believed that “elements in the federal bureaucracy were working to undermine the American system of government and had been doing that for a long time. He often said that.” He suggested that CIA and FBI operatives orchestrated both the Watergate break-in and the two-year-long firestorm that brought Nixon down.
According to Carlson, “on June 23, 1972, Nixon met with the then–CIA director, Richard Helms, at the White House. During the conversation, which thankfully was tape-recorded, Nixon suggested he knew ‘who shot John,’ meaning President John F. Kennedy. Nixon further implied that the CIA was directly involved in Kennedy’s assassination, which we now know it was. Helms’s telling response? Total silence, but for Nixon, it didn’t matter because it was already over. Four days before, on June 19, the Washington Post had published the first of many stories about a break-in at the Watergate office building.” This doesn’t add up to the CIA deciding to take out Nixon, since the break-in and the Post story both happened before the president’s conversation with Helms, unless Nixon had enunciated this before the break-in.
And he had. Tucker Carlson actually got the date wrong. The Nixon/Helms conversation didn’t take place on June 23, 1972, but on Oct. 8, 1971 (it’s further mislabeled on this audio file as taking place on Oct. 10, 1971, but the Nixon tape logs set the meeting on the 8th). Nixon said to Helms: “Uh, Who shot John [JFK]? Uh, is Eisenhower to blame? Is Johnson to blame? Is Kennedy to blame? Is Nixon to blame? Etcetera etcetera etcetera. [This] may become, may become, not by me, but may become a very, very, uh, vigorous issue. If it does, uh, I need to know what is necessary to protect our inquiries, the intelligence gathering and the Dirty Tricks Department. And I will protect it. Hey listen, I’ve done more than my share of lying to protect it. I will do it and I believe it’s totally right to do it.”
This is not all that clear or straightforward a statement, but it does give the impression, since Nixon was talking to the head of the CIA, that the “Dirty Tricks Department” was involved in the killing of Kennedy and might need protection if the full truth about the assassination came out. President Kennedy’s nephew, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., affirmed in December, in response to an earlier Tucker Carlson broadcast, that “the CIA’s murder of my uncle was a successful coup d’état from which our democracy has never recovered.” Yet in the fifty years since Nixon’s conversation with Helms, the Kennedy assassination, while spawning a cottage industry of alternative explanations to the Warren Commission report, has never really become a “very, very vigorous issue,” at least to the extent that the CIA’s role, if any, has been revealed.
Could it ever be? If the CIA really was involved in killing Kennedy and forcing Nixon to resign (which would apparently require Helms to have brushed aside Nixon’s declarations that he would protect the “Dirty Tricks Department” and to have focused solely on Nixon’s revelation that he knew about that department at all) will the American people ever know that for sure?
On Dec. 22, 1963, exactly one month after the Kennedy assassination, former President Harry Truman wrote in the Washington Post that “for some time I have been disturbed by the way [the] CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.” He added, “We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it.”
Yet it has never been corrected. The CIA and FBI are almost completely unaccountable to anyone and, it is increasingly obvious, deeply corrupt and politicized. Does anyone have the courage, or the ability, to face down these rogue agencies?