by Trowbridge H. Ford
The biggest problems for any researcher into covert operations, especially ones of a developed state, have been to gain access to reliable information and find someone respectable to publish it - what the perpetrators of such actions have so many means of preventing - oaths of secrecy, Special Access Programs (SAP), severe penalities for unauthorized disclosure of such information, media restrictions on divulging seemingly incredible leaks for fear of allegedly damaging national security, the public having increasingly little interest about what is going on in a world already on a downward slide, potential writers fearing that such efforts will just result in their being labelled 'conspiracy theorists' too, established ones determining that there is nothing in it for them either because it might very well tarnish a good reputation, and even the internet getting involved in seriously rectifying the deteriorating situation because it is increasingly swamped by scam from those ill-informed but well-intentioned or those well-informed but not well intentioned. As a result, there is increasingly less and less serious investigative journalism into what is wrong with our world, just giving covert operators more and more room to maneuver without fears of damaging blowback from what they attempt.
There are some exceptions, though, mainly by those researchers who swim against the tide of non-disclosure, and who have few career worries because they have retired from paid employment. Moreover, the internet provides immediate publication of such work without all the hassle which existed before - e. g., getting peers to at least tolerate the publication of deviant views, finding publishers willing to do so, and money to pay for the costs involved.
Still, there is little to be done if reliable sources of some sort are not found, and some author is not willing to take the risks of making the findings public knowledge. There is just so much that can be done with an unexpected leak, a set of surprisingly suspicious coincidences, a retired covert operator who is willing to talk about some operations out of boredom, nostalgia, or disinformation paid for by the piece. The internet, though, does provide for the surfacing of much more speculative articles than when the print media controlled what the paying public saw. Once, a blogger gets some kind of following, he can become more and more adverturesome as the people whose toes are stepped on have an increasingly difficult time in stopping it, given the use of sites around the world, of authors who use them, and the difficulties of those exposed stopping it either by injunctions or damaging libel suits.
I learned all this as I tried to move up the academic ladder in political science after getting my Ph.D. from Columbia in the late 1960s. My disseratation is about a 19th-century British politician, Henry Brougham, and the reason why I was interested in such an historical figure was to help rectify the overtheorizing that political scientists, especially contemporary political theorists, were engaging in, particularly when it came to their use of British political development to justify their claims. Perhaps the best received article I ever wrote was "Towards a Better Relation between History and Political Science" which appeared in the Spring 1972 issue of Government and Opposition, attacking the broad claims of Gabriel Almond, Karl Deutsch, S. E. Finer, and others. I went on in other articles to examine the poltical activities of a most respected legal theorist and law professor, A. V. Dicey, contending that his political activities were more important in the development of the United Kingdom than any series of lectures he ever delivered about English law in general and the conflict of laws in particular.
The trouble with such efforts is that they drew such harsh criticisms from academics who had invested considerable labor in other ideas, individuals and theories. While I like and expect discussion of any contentions, mine or those by others, it gets increasingly frustrating to deal with critics or opponents who dismiss ideas out of hand. Of course, anything untoward about Western governments, and their key players - is rarely worth more than cryptic contempt. To overcome such complaints in the academic world, one has to engage in constant consultation, and cooperation with those involved in possible peer review of one's efforts or simply perish. It can become an all-time occuptation, especially if it comes to getting a controversial book published, as I duly learned in getting my most critical biographies of Brougham and Dicey printed. It even apparently required getting my most bitter opponents to agree to the appearance of what I had written if others were to see it too - what my ultimate publisher, Barry Rose, fortunately drew the line against.
As a result, I increasingly engaged in more current political activity and writing about it, especially the conspiracy which asssassinated President Kennedy, and resulted in America's Vietnam war. After an extended leave in England, I thought of an early retirement from academe, and with the coming of the neo-cons on the political scene, I was able to arrange it just after Swedish statsminister Olof Palme had been assassinated at the end of February 1986 by some of them and others. While I originally thought of remaining in the USA in order to finish my manuscripts on Brougham, and possibly seeking part-time employment in journalism - what I had done after I was separated from the US Army's Counter Intelligence Corps in July 1954 after I had been drafted during the Korean War - I finally decided to leave the States in 1989, settling on Portugal's Silver Coast between Foz do Arelho and San Martinho for my retirement.
While I planned to do little more serious work than finish the Brougham biography, two unexpected developments changed my plans: stumbling across Peter Wright's Spy Catcher, and being asked by a high school teacher in the Atlanta area, Randall Lynn, if I would be willing to assist his students in a seminar about the JFK assassination. The Wright volume gave me insights into the real shakers and movers of the Dallas assassination, especially the former MI5 officer himself, CIA
'Executive Action' director William King Harvey, former DCI Richard Helms, former CI chief James Angleton, and others - what had been lacking when I wrote three articles about the conspiracy for Tom Valentine's The National Exchange back in 1976.
Dealing with questions about the Dallas assassination from Lynn's students - what they hoped I would record on tape - increasingly turned on Richard Nixon's alleged relation with Jack Ruby, what had been a serious subject of discussion ever since J. David Truby had unearthed during Watergate an FBI memo, linking the two together during HUAC's inquiries in 1947 on how America should deal with its communists.
Little did I know that Jim Marrs, in putting together Crossfire, claimed falsely that he had spoken to me several times about the memo, and that I, after reading many Bureau documents, had decided that it was genuine though I had previously denied its authenticity. As far as I can remember, I have never talked to Marrs, and I have never seen any real FBI documents, only reprints of alleged ones.
Then Jennifer Caplan, a federal prosecutor in Georgia, sent me a long print out of financial material, suggesting that Nixon and Jack Ruby might have been connected in some more serious way. She did send it to my publisher in Britain, Barry Rose, and he, being a rather disorganized chap, was unable to find my address in Portugal, preventing me from receiving it until after 'Tricky' Dick had died. Ms. Caplan was obviously hoping that I would make some malacious statement about the former President, hoping what it could be used in a libel action, showing my deliberate defaming of him. In the States, a person can only reasonably sue another while he is still alive, and a successful libel action by a public official most show that the alleged libeller deliberately, falsely and malaciously libelled the person.
Once Washington learned of its inability to silence me by legal means, it put together a plan to kill me by physical means - minute ingestions of a poison like ricin which would make my death look like a natural one. The poison was placed in food, especially sweet and sour seabass, that I regularly ate at the Supatra restaurant in Caldas da Rainha, and its owner was persuaded to do it by personnel working out of the American Embassy in Lisbon, especially Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, and CIA resident MIchael D. Thomas, in the hope that it would secure full social security benefits for Portuguese citizens who had returned after spending their working lives in the States. What triggered the conspiracy was a letter that I wrote to President Clinton on April 14, 1994, denouncing the support and testimonials he had supplied the deceased Nixon, DCI Richard Helms, and General Al 'Deep Throat' Haig, especially light on their role in the JFK assassination. Similar letters which I subsequently sent to FBI Director Louis Freeh, Attorney General Jane Reno, and Mary C. Spearing, Chief of the DOJ's General Litigation and Legal Advice Section, increased the heat of my complaints on the matter without any satisfaction, as I expressed in a letter, dated September 14, 1994, to Ms. Spearing.
During this time, I was also discussing with Joäo Macdonald, a reporter working for the Portuguese periodical, Já, my explanation of the Dallas assassination, an expansion of what had appeared in Valentine's publication, especially the role of CIA's William King Harvey in recruiting assassins Richard Cain and Chuckie Nicoletti. Our discussions always took place over the phone, and when there was so much interference over the line that I could hardly make out what Macdonald was asking, I wrote to the Lisbon Embassy, asking if the Agency was involved in illegal eavesdropping on my activities. On March 24, 1995, Thomas replied: "After conducting a thorough investigation, I hereby reassure you that, to my knowledge, there is no agency of the United States government engaged in illegal activities against you." In doing so, he also included a form, asking for all kinds of data in case there was any kind of emergency concerning me, and who it may contact on my behalf - what also included a request for my passport so it could determine that if anything apparently happened to me, it could determine that it was indeed I.
The attacks started occurring just about then. I would wake up in the morning after having had dinner the night before at Supatra, feeling fine. It was only about 16 hours after having had dinner there that the attacks would occur - suddenly having incredible hot flashes towards my head which would then start spinning wildly, resulting in my vomiting and defecating repeatedly. I would then have to lie down for fear that I would fall or become unconscious.
Of course, I did not think I had deliberately been poisoned. I just thought it was something which had upset me. The first time it happened, I had eaten a lot of fresh cherries, and suspected that they had haD some farm spray on them. Then I thought that I was alergic to the chilly peppers which were in the seabass dish, and were the only bit left undigested from the meal when I vomited. And I never went to the doctor about it in Portugal, as I felt perfectly fine after I recovered from the attack, about six hours later, and my girlfriend, who is quite prone to seek their assistance when problems develop, never suggested that I go, as we spoke Portuguese most poorly, and would have HAD most difficulty in explaining what had occurred to me since the symptoms no longer existed.
Then my sickly girlfiend went back to her native Sweden in early May 1995, quite depressed by the standard of living and services, especially medical ones, existing in Portugal. As a result, I ate out much less often, arranging for the local cleaning woman to prepare means for at least three times a week. The other times, I usually cooked them myself, though I did dine out on occasion.
Still, the attacks occurred regularly, about once a month, and there seemed to be no connection between what I had just eaten, and when the attacks occurred. And since they continued after I moved to Sweden about a year later, and they still kept occurring, there was clearly no direct connection with what I had just eaten - just a steady, slow buildup of the poison in my system. The worst attack I had in Portugal occurred in March 1996 while on my way to Spain in the mountains of central Portugal, and here in Sweden after I had had a long walk with my girlfriend in a park called Grönsta in Lidingö - what finally led to my being taken by ambulance to the hospital in Danderyd. The worst attacks always occurred after prolonged exercise, leading me finally to suspect that it was some kind of poison buildup which cyclically caused parts of my autonomic nervous system to fail. While the doctors sewed my head up, checked all my vital signs, and even gave me a catscan, they could not discover anything wrong with me.
The most disturbing event about the process, though unknown to me at the time, was the publication of a special edition of Probe magazine in Janaury/February 1996, contending that I was a covert operator, working with fellow spook J. David Truby to destroy Nixon during the Watergate scandal, thanks to my providing the fake memo, connecting the former President to Mafioso arranger of the JFK assassination, Jack Ruby, by doing him a favor during Nixon's HUAC days. The special edition of the magazine was to help rehabilitate the deceased from all the dirty work that he had been used against him, most recently Oliver Stone's film Nixon. "But as Ed Tatro said," Chairman Jim DiEugenio wrote introducing in the issue, "its real signifcance was that it showed someone was out to get Nixon and both Ford and Truby had intelligence connections." When I confronted him a decade later about his making me the leading target, he justified it in terms of my not having responded to Jim Marrs' claims if they were not true. I responded that I did not know about them until recently, having been in Portugal when the book appeared, and that one cannot reply to libels that one doesn't know about.
Then, just before I was leaving Portugal for Sweden, Joäo Macdonald's article, "JFK: Teoria Da Conspiracäo - A História Mal Contada (A History Badly Explained)," appeared in Já. While based upon my series in The National Exchange, and apparently built-up by a photographer coming by my villa to take many photos, it made Nixon's role in the conspiracy which assassinated JFK a little too central to my liking, though I did not fully realize this until later as my proficiency with Portuguese is quite spotty, and without any of the photos appearing. The article was in a section entitled, "American Gates," concentrating upon the portrayal that Stone had made of Nixon - what had angered DiEugenio so much - contending that it was just a pretext of what had really gone on in America from Presidents Washington to Clinton.
Little wonder that Macdonald only added fuel to someone getting me when he concluded the introduction to his article thus in Portuguese. "In Portugal lives a North-American investigator who has followed the case for 20 years. Trowbridge Ford stretched to prove a conspiracy theory, linking Nixon to the assassins who were brought to the surface during the Watergate scandal." (p. 30) Without this introduction, the article itself did not distort much what I still claim about the tragedy in Dallas.
With this background to my poisoning, I'm sure that no one would have seriously investigated my murder if it had occurred. Fortunately I survived to move to Sweden, setting up a new life here, believing that I had ultimately escaped from my assassins, but it was only for awhile, as the concluding article will show.