View Full Version : Kerry Retreats From His Denial On Vietnam Meet

03-19-04, 01:05 PM

Evidence Puts Him At Kansas Parley

By JOSH GERSTEIN Staff Reporter of the Sun

MILL VALLEY, Calif. — Senator Kerry of Massachusetts yesterday retreated from his earlier steadfast denials that he attended a meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War at which a plan to assassinate U.S. Senators was debated.

The reversal came as new evidence, including reports from FBI informants, emerged that contradicted Mr. Kerry’s previous statements about the gathering, which was held in Kansas City, Mo. in November 1971.

“John Kerry had no personal recollection of this meeting 33 years ago,” a Kerry campaign spokesman, David Wade, said in a statement e-mailed last night from Idaho, where Mr. Kerry is on vacation.

Mr. Wade said Mr. Kerry does remember “disagreements with elements of VVAW leadership” that led to his resignation, but the statement did not specify what the disagreements were.

“If there are valid FBI surveillance reports from credible sources that place some of those disagreements in Kansas City, we accept that historical footnote in the account of his work to end the difficult and divisive war,” the statement said.

It did not address the murder plot, though as recently as Wednesday a top aide to Mr. Kerry said that the Massachusetts senator and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee was “absolutely certain” he was not present when the assassination plan, known as the “Phoenix Project,” was discussed.

The New York Sun first reported last week that other anti-war activists placed Mr. Kerry at the Kansas City meeting. A total of six people have now said publicly that they remember seeing Mr. Kerry there. Participants say the plot was voted down, and several say they remember Mr. Kerry speaking and voting against it.

A historian and expert on activism against the Vietnam War, Gerald Nicosia, provided the Sun yesterday with minutes of the meeting.

Mr. Nicosia also read quotes from FBI surveillance documents he obtained under the Freedom of Information Act as he was preparing his 2001 book, “Home to War.”

“My evidence is incontrovertible.He was there,” Mr. Nicosia said in an interview yesterday. “There’s no way that five or six agents saw his ghost there,” said the historian, who lives in Marin County, north of San Francisco.

Mr. Nicosia said that the records show Mr. Kerry resigned from the group on the third day of the meeting, following discussion of the assassination plan and an argument between Mr. Kerry and another VVAW national coordinator, Al Hubbard.

Reading from an FBI informant report, Mr. Nicosia said, “John Kerry at a national Vietnam Veterans Against the War meeting appeared and announced to those present that he resigned for personal reasons but said he would be able to speak for VVAW” at future events.Another document “describes a conversation actually a confrontation between John Kerry and Hubbard that was taking place on one of the days of that meeting,” Mr. Nicosia added.

Mr. Nicosia said it is clear that Mr. Kerry and the others resigned because of the extreme actions the group was considering.

“It’s kind of unmistakable to see a pattern. All four of them were out the door, bingo, the morning after” the socalled Phoenix plot was discussed, the author said.

Mr. Nicosia generally declined to speculate on why Mr. Kerry had denied being present. However, the author did observe, “Especially if you’re running for president, you don’t want to be associated with a plot for assassinating people.”

Mr. Nicosia repeatedly stressed that he was not calling Mr. Kerry a liar and said he has no animus towards the senator. The historian said he sent copies of some of the documents to the Kerry campaign yesterday morning on his own initiative. “I think Senator Kerry better get his story straight on this,”Mr. Nicosia said.

“I’m a Kerry supporter. I honor the guy,”Mr.Nicosia said.He noted that Mr. Kerry threw a book party for “Home at War” at the Hart Senate Office Building. The senator also wrote a positive blurb for the book’s dust jacket.

The book does not mention Mr. Kerry’s presence at the Kansas City meeting. Mr. Nicosia said he did not have the FBI files as he was writing the manuscript. Other accounts led him to think that Mr. Kerry had quit the group at a July meeting in St. Louis.

Mr. Nicosia also provided the Sun with minutes of the meeting that he obtained from the Wisconsin state archives, which hold most of VVAW’s papers.

The minutes, prepared at the group’s national office in New York, recount the actions taken by VVAW’s “emergency steering committee” during the four-day meeting, which ran from November 12 to 15, 1971. The minutes indicate that at the end of the day on Saturday, November 13, discussion turned to “national actions and other things.” The meeting is reported to have adjourned at 10 p.m. and resumed at 11 a.m. Sunday. The document goes on to say that the group passed a motion to hold a “national action… in 3 to 5 different sites.”The next entry in the minutes is, “John Kerry, Scott Moore, Mike Oliver and Skip Roberts resigned as national coordinators.” A later entry indicates that it was decided that the resignations and the decision on the “national action” should be reflected in all the group’s papers.

According to Mr. Nicosia, the FBI documents and other records do not include any direct reference to the assassination plot. However, Mr. Nicosia said some informants who attended the Kansas City meeting warned the FBI of a “drastic move toward more violent actions.”

A VVAW chapter newsletter obtained by the Sun reports that after “much argument” the Kansas City meeting went into closed session “for various opaque reasons of security and expediency in order to discuss the national Christmas action.” The newsletter also notes the resignation of Mr. Kerry and the other three leaders. It cites “personality conflicts and differences in political philosophies” as the main reasons for the resignations.

A group of VVAW members seized the Statue of Liberty on behalf of the group on December 27, 1971. It’s unclear whether that action was approved at the Kansas City meeting in November.

The three other men who appear to have resigned along with Mr. Kerry did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Mr. Moore did not reply to an e-mail and messages left at his home. Mr. Roberts is now the legislative director for the Service Employees International Union, which is supporting Mr. Kerry’s presidential bid. Reached at his union office Wednesday, Mr. Roberts said he would call back but did not. Efforts to locate Mr. Oliver were unsuccessful.

Earlier in the week,some aides to Mr. Kerry suggested that because he appeared on a PBS “Firing Line” broadcast with William F. Buckley on November 14, 1971, Mr. Kerry could not have attended the Kansas City gathering. But that contention also disintegrated yesterday on closer examination.

Tapes of the “Firing Line” television program are housed at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. An archivist there, Carol Leadenham, told the Sun that Mr. Kerry and Mr. Buckley taped a program on November 2, 1971. No air date was noted, but Ms. Leadenham said it is likely that it aired about two weeks later.

“That’s about the usual time between the taping and the air date,” she said.

Some discrepancies in Mr. Kerry’s earlier statements about VVAW remain unaddressed by the campaign. Last week, Mr. Kerry said he last saw Mr. Hubbard in April 1971, shortly before a National Review article exposed Mr. Hubbard for exaggerating his rank and his service record in Vietnam. However, a New York Times report put Mr. Kerry at a fund-raiser with Mr. Hubbard on Long Island on August 29, 1971. Now, Mr. Nicosia’s documents indicate that Mr. Kerry had a verbal altercation with Mr. Hubbard in November of that year.