The Ted Kennedy Chronicles: A Look at the Latest Declassified FBI Files

Another round of declassified FBI files on Senator Ted Kennedy has been released (click here and here). Fittingly, in Kennedy's case, they are as troubling as they are amusing, once again raising all sorts of questions, from the moral to the political to issues of national security. And as usual, they are also frustrating, knowing that with Kennedy's death in August 2009, and the lifelong protection of the man by a scandalously biased media, the late senator was able to escape these questions all the way to the grave, never needing to account for them -- at least in this lifetime and this world.

With that strong start, allow me to first pause with a softer, sympathetic touch. Among the documents within Kennedy's 2,200-page FBI file are materials from the mid-1960s on various lunatics threatening to shoot the newly elected senator, who in 1962 had filled the Senate seat vacated by his presidential brother. Reading those pages is a sad process, particularly as they move from not only Ted as target but to his brother Bobby as well. And then, it all strikes home -- like a punch to the gut -- when you suddenly happen upon a June 6, 1968 Western Union telegram, sent directly to J. Edgar Hoover, which states simply: "PLEASE MAKE CERTAIN THAT TED KENNEDY GETS ALL THE PROTECTION HE NEEDS WE ARE DOWN TO ONE KENNEDY THANKS."

Bobby was gone, the same manner as John before him, and now Ted was left as a living target. I don't care how much of a legitimate beef conservatives might have against Ted Kennedy and his actions and policies and politics; this has got to elicit your sympathy. That telegram chills your bones.

As to the politics, however, once again we have more declassified files producing some highly unsettling and unanswered questions. As readers of this site know, I've reported at length, here and in two books (click here and here), on Ted Kennedy's confidential outreach to Soviet despot Yuri Andropov in May 1983, evidenced by a stunning memo from the head of the KGB, Victor Chebrikov. In that memo, Kennedy made an offer to the Soviets to undermine Ronald Reagan's defense policies and, in my view, Reagan's re-election prospects as well. That entire document, which has since been resealed in Russian archives, is printed in both Russian and English in Dupes.

Do the latest FBI files produce anything at this level? Well, it's hard to equate levels of outrage, but here are key items that jump out, with the first again indicative of Kennedy's eagerness to reach out to hardened communists -- for whatever motivation.

Most serious are the documents relating to a July 1961 "familiarization and orientation tour" (in the words of the FBI officer) by Kennedy of several Central and South American countries. Throughout this tour, the 29-year-old expressed a curious desire to meet with "Leftists," explaining that he was trying to figure out what made them think the way they did (this is mentioned in at least five documents). Naturally, as the documents note, this meant that Kennedy "met with a number of individuals known to have communist sympathies." Kennedy asked ambassadors and State Department officials in these countries to help arrange some of these interviews. One official, stationed in Lima, Peru, was annoyed by Kennedy, describing him as a "pompous and spoiled brat."

What might have set off this official? Perhaps it was a particularly Kennedy-esque request made by the young Ted while in Peru. Among Kennedy's unique extracurricular activities, according to two of these documents (dated December 28, 1961 and October 20, 1964), was to make arrangements to "'rent' a brothel for an entire night." Yes, Ted allegedly wanted an entire brothel at his disposal -- part of the "familiarization" process. But he wasn't completely selfish. As the documents state, Teddy charitably invited one of the embassy chauffeurs to come inside and share in some of the pleasures.

This aspect of the files is being reported even by the liberal media in Boston, which to this day will not dare even phone me about the KGB memo on Kennedy. The roguish-philandering-comical Kennedy is acceptable for the attention of the liberal media -- no harm done there. But matters of reaching out to Soviet communists -- those get deep-sixed immediately.

Speaking of which, here is the most sobering item I saw in these latest declassified documents: Among the Leftists that Kennedy reportedly met with -- actually, dined with, in August 1961 -- was none other than Lauchlin Currie, former White House aide to FDR. As one of these documents dryly notes, "Currie's name had been mentioned in Washington investigations of Soviet spy rings."

Well, that's an understatement. Of course, this was 1961, and we now know much more about Currie than we did 50 years ago. In fact, Currie was one of the most duplicitous, suspicious Roosevelt advisers, who no doubt served the interests of the Soviet Union, and is widely suspected for espionage.

Why did Ted Kennedy want to meet with Lauchlin Currie? What was this about? What happened between them?

Unfortunately, the FBI files provide nothing but silence on these intriguing questions.

Of course, here, too, Kennedy never had to account for such activities. Our nation's esteemed "journalists" managed to miss this one as well.

Among the still-living sources that these "journalists" could interview is John Tunney, who was Ted Kennedy's law-school roommate and one of his closest pals. Tunney is the liaison noted in the KGB memo I've published. And get this: Tunney is also present in a July 24, 1961 document in this FBI file, where he is listed as one of the handful of individuals who joined Kennedy on this Latin America tour. Actually, to be specific, his name is redacted, but the rest of the sentence describes him as a "personal" friend of Kennedy and "the son of former rofessional boxer Gene Tunney."

That's John Tunney. Heck, a Google search will tell you that.

Will John Tunney be getting any phone calls from the Boston Globe or New York Times or Washington Post or CNN or NPR following up? Are you kidding?

Finally, a November 21, 1962 memo in these files reports a fascinating tidbit: the great muckraking columnist Drew Pearson was planning to publish a story claiming Teddy had been rejected from attending "a school at Fort Holabird, Maryland, while in the U.S. Army" because of "an adverse FBI report which linked him to a group of ‘pinkos.'" Apparently, Kennedy had enlisted in the Army at the age of 19 after attending Harvard for a rather unimpressive year. According to this memo, when Teddy's dad, Joseph P. Kennedy, heard of this, he got word to Pearson that he would sue him for libel if Pearson dared to print one word. As usual, Kennedy money won the day.

Of course, Joseph P. Kennedy has been dead for decades. He's no longer a threat to our "journalists" doing their job. Will they ever pause to investigate their vaunted "Last Lion?"

No, they won't. It's up to the rest of us in the alternative media to do their job for them. With this latest FBI file, the questions about Ted Kennedy continue to multiply.

Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism and the newly released Dupes: How America's Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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