CIA MAN: Ben Bradlee & The Mystery Of The Missing Diary Of JFK’s Suddenly Dead Mistress


DAILY BEAST: Suicide was not uncommon among the Mad Men of the Cold War, and Janney makes much of the timing of the death of Washington Post publisher Phil Graham, whose suicide in the summer 1963 was preceded by a notorious breakdown in which he grabbed the stage at a gathering of national newspaper editors and, drink in hand, proceeded to call them all assholes, and reel off the names of women sleeping with Kennedy, before bursting into tears. For Janney, the unhinged newsman had to die, because the dark forces plotting to kill Kennedy knew they needed a compliant press for the cover-up.

One newsman who did survive those years was the father of Watergate, Ben Bradlee, a bit player in the Mary Meyer murder mystery. Bradlee was married to Mary’s sister Toni, and played a role in the search and subsequent disappearance of her diary. Shortly after Mary was murdered, Bradlee reported (years later, in his memoir) that he and Toni received a frantic call from one of Mary’s friends, the artist Anne Truitt, (whose alcoholic husband James Truitt also lost the plot, moved to Mexico, and later sold the story of Mary smoking dope with JFK to the National Enquirer) telling them to rescue Mary’s diary.

Superspook Angleton and Ben Bradlee ran into each other while breaking into Mary’s house to search for the diary that night or the following day, but no one ever told a straight story about exactly when they learned she was murdered, why they were at her house, and precisely when they arrived. Janney finds all this further proof of conspiracy. The fact is, it’s astonishing these people could remember who they had ordered assassinated, given the amount of alcohol they consumed at lunch.

Bradlee was plausibly involved in the diary search as a family member, but the fact that he waited more than 30 years to reveal his role in handing off a piece of possible evidence to the CIA in one of his town’s “enduring mysteries” says everything about his reputation as a great American journalist. Janney confirms what I and others who have studied the era have found, that Bradlee was mobbed up with the CIA, as were many of the most prominent Cold War journalists. MORE

RELATED: Less well known was Meyer’s friendship with then-Harvard professor and LSD guru Timothy Leary, whom she visited several times at his office in Cambridge, Mass. Janney’s book contains the most exhaustive account to date of Meyer’s communication with Leary, who died in 1996. MORE

RELATED: When I was writing my book in D.C. in 1996 and 1997, I became aware of a cult of believers who were certain, absent any proof, that Mary had turned JFK on to LSD, and that she was behind the moves toward rapprochement with Russia and Cuba that he seemed to have been making in the months before he was killed. Mary Meyer had to die, the theory went, because she knew why “Jack” was killed, and maybe even—since CIA men were her friends and lovers—who was behind it. MORE

RELATED: Also missing from the history books is a diary that Meyer is said to have kept, which her brother-in-law at the time, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, sought to retrieve sometime in the 24 hours after her death. Bradlee said the diary contained mostly sketches, but Janney said he believes it held a detailed account of her affair with Kennedy, and may have revealed who might have wanted her killed. There are conflicting accounts of what happened to the diary. Meyer’s sister, Tony Bradlee, said she burned it. Damore claimed to have located a copy. There are questionable secondhand accounts claiming it was turned over to CIA spymaster James Angleton. MORE

RELATED: In 1952 Bradlee joined the staff of the Office of U.S. Information and Educational Exchange (USIE), the embassy’s propaganda unit. USIE produced films, magazines, research, speeches, and news items for use by the CIA throughout Europe. USIE (later known as USIA) also controlled the Voice of America, a means of disseminating pro-American “cultural information” worldwide. While at the USIE, according to a Justice Department memo from an assistant U.S. attorney in the Rosenberg Trial, Bradlee was helping the CIA manage European propaganda regarding the spying conviction and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on June 19, 1953.

Bradlee was officially employed by USIE until 1953, when he began working for Newsweek. While based in France, Bradlee divorced his first wife and married Antoinette Pinchot in 1957.[7] At the time of the marriage, Antoinette’s sister, Mary Pinchot Meyer, was married to Cord Meyer, a key figure in Operation Mockingbird, a CIA program to influence the media. Antoinette Bradlee was also a close friend of Cicely d’Autremont, who was married to James Jesus Angleton. Bradlee worked closely with Angleton in Paris. At the time, Angleton was liaison for all Allied intelligence in Europe. His deputy was Richard Ober, a fellow student with Bradlee at Harvard University. MORE

RELATED: On December 13, 1952 a Mr. Benjamin Bradlee called and informed me that he was Press Attache with the American embassy in Paris, …He further advised that he was sent here by Robert Thayer, who is the head of the C.I.A. in Paris. His phone number here was Rhinelander 4-2595.