the FBI files on Edward Kennedy – a 2,352-page dossier whose
release last week casts new light on the violence and sexual chicanery
that were the staples of daily life for America’s ‘first family’
– I came across one intriguing report which has been overlooked.
Logged in April,
1970, it concerns a tip-off from a man claiming to be a long-standing
Mafia member based in London. In two typed letters postmarked Wimbledon
and addressed to the FBI’s Dallas office, the informant recounts
how he became embroiled in the plot to murder President John F.
Kennedy seven years earlier – and warns that his youngest brother,
Edward, is next on the Mob’s hit-list.
‘In 1961 I
attended a general meeting of the Mafia, during which the main discussion
was the killing of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King,’ writes
the tipster, whose name has been blanked out of the file for obvious
reasons. ‘Although you may have closed your file on the killing
of the President, you are wrong. The man who actually killed him,
also the man who paid the killer, is alive and at this moment preparing
to kill Senator E. Kennedy (JFK’s younger brother Teddy) and Mr
Nixon (then newly installed in the White House).’
have harboured JFK’s hit-man in England for three years after the
president was shot, the tipster says his conscience is troubling
him and offers to help the FBI trap the assassin. But he pleads
with them to preserve his confidentiality ‘for if any of this leaks
out I am a dead man’.
the outcome of the Wimbledon letters inquiry is not recorded. And,
of course, Edward Kennedy did not fall to a hit-man’s bullet all
those years ago, like JFK and his other brother, Robert, who was
shot in a Los Angeles hotel in 1968. The youngest of the trio died
only last summer; then a florid-faced, white-haired old man of 77,
he finally succumbed to a brain tumour.
very fact that these reports were read personally by the FBI’s legendary
director, J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered his London-based agents to
meet the informer and fully investigate his story, tells us they
were taken very seriously.
historic archive – which has just been made public under U.S.
freedom of information laws, despite an attempt to keep it secret
by Ted Kennedy’s widow, Victoria – one understands why.
banal and grammatically flawed language of the ‘G-men’, as the bureau’s
gumshoes are known, one can almost reach out and touch the vicious
hatred directed towards carousing Senator Teddy and his clan of
Over the years
the FBI received many tips that the Mafia were out to get Teddy
and conspiracy theorists will make much of this. They will no doubt
claim it reinforces a long-held theory – that JFK was not murdered
by a lone gunman (Lee Harvey Oswald), but was the victim of a Mob
hit, and perhaps even Robert Kennedy, too.
The Mafia certainly
held many grudges against the family, dating back to the days when
patriarch, Joseph Kennedy, made his fortune with their help in Boston.
But they became disgruntled after allegedly rigging a key election
in JFK’s favour in Chicago in 1960. They expected the favour to
be returned, but once in office he determined to put an end to organised
crime, and as his attorney general, Robert, spearheaded his war
on the Mafia.
But the death
threats against Edward began even before he entered the U.S. Senate,
as a young man of 30, and came from almost every quarter of American
society. His innumerable enemies included embittered Vietnam War
veterans angered by his ‘Commie’ views; Irish Protestants infuriated
by his support for the IRA; white supremacists such as the Ku Klux
Klan; plus the plethora of deranged loners who simply wanted to
get him because he was a Kennedy.
were the many moralists, outraged by the married Kennedy’s serial
womanising and in particular his reprehensible behaviour after the
affair which forever sealed his reputation as a self-serving coward
. . . the death of pretty 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, whom he
left to drown when his car plunged off a bridge following a drunken
party at Chappaquiddick.
Yet, much as
the FBI files tell us about Edward Kennedy, they are perhaps more
illuminating about the enigmatic Hoover, who founded the organisation
in 1935 and remained in charge until his death 37 years later.
with the Kennedys, he was desperate to know every detail of their
lives. A closet homosexual, Hoover was particularly interested in
their innumerable sexual adventures, which at once fascinated and
One can well
imagine the goggle-eyed director, arguably the most influential
figure in America’s corridors of power, solemnly perusing the latest
through-the-bedroom-keyhole account, hot off the telex from one
of his agents.
Kennedy author Christopher Andersen attributes the FBI chief’s prurient
interest in Teddy partly to the fact that his organisation failed
to protect JFK and Robert. But, as he remarks: ‘If we didn’t already
know the Kennedys were a bizarre combination of Camelot and the
Borgias, we surely do now.
doggedly recorded every rumour, every overheard conversation, every
titbit of gossip and innuendo. No matter how unreliable or even
silly a tip was, it wound up in the files.’
All-embracing as they are, the newly released files only cover the
years from 1961 to 1985. But from the first log it is clear that
Ted Kennedy was singled out for the sort of attention we might expect
in a police state, not the world’s greatest democracy.
One early report,
made in 1961, records Ted Kennedy’s fact-finding visit to Central
and South America. On his way home, he left his diary on the plane
and it was found by a cleaner. Very conveniently, though, it was
not returned to its owner, but to the prying FBI.
page is duly photocopied and filed, and at the height of the Cold
War it isn’t only Kennedy’s earnest admiration for Venezuelan socialism
that raises eyebrows at the bureau’s Washington HQ. ’11.30. Return
to hotel – see ****,’ Kennedy has scribbled in the diary, the name
of his late-night companion having been erased presumably to spare
‘We have night-cap
and hit the sack at 12.00.’