by Bonnie James
September 27, 2013
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Neil Gallagher, who was a member of Congress from New Jersey (1959-73), tells the story of his efforts to expose and defeat the secret government during the 1950s and ’60s, in which he risked his political career—and his life—by speaking truth to power.
LaRouchePAC has produced a remarkable new 100-minute video interview under the above title, which digs up long-buried and forgotten secrets, presented in the voice of one individual who was at the center of the dramatic events of the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s; this was the period of the McCarthy witchhunts; the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King; the upsurge of the rock-drug-sex counterculture, and much more. That individual, Cornelius (Neil) Gallagher, now a feisty 92-year-old, served as the Democratic Congressman from Bayonne, N.J., from 1959 to 1973—when he was driven out by the spider at the center of the secret government’s web: J. Edgar Hoover. 
Given the vast expansion of the secret government today—NSA spying on Americans; the corruption of our political process and institutions of government (especially the Congress) by the Wall Street financial imperium— it is urgent that the story presented here be given the widest circulation.
The Kennedy Assassination
Gallagher’s friendship with Jack Kennedy dated from the 1956 Democratic Convention, when Kennedy was a young Senator from Massachusetts and Gallagher was a Freeholder from Bayonne. In 1958, Gallagher was elected to Congress, and by then, Kennedy was contemplating a run for the Presidency. Kennedy’s election in 1960, and Gallagher’s position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, put the two men in frequent contact, and they collaborated on the creation of the Peace Corps, among many other things.
Asked in the interview, who he thought was behind the assassination of JFK, he said: “I was convinced that, if there was a conspiracy, there was only one group that could have brought it off, and that was [FBI Director J. Edgar] Hoover. And Hoover hated the Kennedys. . . . I never could figure out whether or not he really set up Oswald. . . . And this guy, Lee Harvey Oswald had been to Russia. . . . So here you had a guy came back from Russia, was known to the FBI, went to the FBI! The FBI investigated him, and he was unloosed, and nobody knew what the hell was going on. And yet, there’s no way that the FBI could not have been monitoring Lee Harvey Oswald, all the time. Because they monitored everybody!”
The Warren Commission
A key figure of the period, and friend of Gallagher, was Hale Boggs of Louisiana, who was the House Majority Leader (1971-73) and member of the Warren Commission. In September 1966, Boggs came to Gallagher’s office and told him that Hoover had lied to the Commission, that the lone gunman story was a fraud, and that the investigation should be reopened. Boggs added that, “Hoover and the CIA have bugs planted in the House Caucus Rooms and most of our offices.”
“Suddenly everybody is scared of the FBI, is scared of Hoover, is scared of his spooks,” Gallagher said.
By this time, Gallagher reported, Boggs had begun to believe that Oswald had been set up. “And if you looked at the committee, the Warren Commission, it was the Chief Justice; and then it was John J. McCloy, the chairman of the board; Allen Dulles,” Gallagher said. “McCloy is the guy who did all the work and he wrote the opinion, along with the support of Dulles. And I asked President Johnson, one time, ‘How did you come to put Allen Dulles on there, who was an enemy of Kennedy’s?’ And he just avoided the whole question.”
“If Hoover didn’t set this whole thing up,” he added, “then there was only one other guy who could have done it, and that was Allen Dulles! Because Allen Dulles’s job, in Europe during World War II, was to run assassination committees, groups, all around Europe, when he was head of the OSS over there.” And, he noted, “He was an enemy of Kennedy.”
Gallagher’s courage asserted itself as well, in his refusal to have anything to do with Sen. Joe McCarthy and his witchhunts of Americans based on charges of “Communist sympathies.” Even as “a little county commissioner” in the 1950s, Gallagher refused to sponsor McCarthy at a communion breakfast in his church. “I hated everything McCarthy stood for, and I guess it was contrary to what you were supposed to be if you were an Irish Catholic from Bayonne. But I had an innate feeling against injustice, and [McCarthy] was one of the worst provocateurs of injustice in America in those days.” Later, Gallagher, then in Congress, was approached by McCarthy’s sidekick, Roy Cohn, who, by that time, was one of Hoover’s political hit men, with a huge FBI dossier on then-Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy. When Gallagher refused to hold hearings on the FBI’s charges against RFK, mafioso Sid Zagri, who accompanied Cohn, offered a him $100,000 bribe—and Cohn added a threat, that Hoover would not consider Gallagher a “friend,” if he refused. “I’m everybody’s friend, Roy,” the Congressman replied, “but I’m nobody’s whore.” Soon after that, Cohn returned with another demand from Hoover, which Gallagher rejected. Cohn threatened, “This is the last chance you are going to get!”
The capability to coordinate the cover-up achieved by the Warren Commission was demonstrated early in Johnson's career. As reported by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Caro, Johnson "stole his first election in 1930" for a seat on the college senior council and won another school election by blackmail.  Through many such underhanded political tricks, Johnson became "so deeply and widely mistrusted" by his classmates that they called him "Bull," for "Bullshit" -- the nickname recorded in his yearbook.  And Johnson's incessant lying earned him the reputation of being "the biggest liar on campus." 
Yet prior to 1981, not one biography of Johnson reported this information about his college years.  The reason, Caro explained, was that while still an undergraduate at the Texas State Teachers College at San Marcos, Johnsonarranged to have excised (literally cut out) from hundreds of copies of the college yearbook certain pages that gave clues to his years there (luckily for history, some copies escaped the scissors). Issues of the college newspaper that chronicle certain crucial episodes in his college career are missing from the college library. A ruthless use thereafter of political power in San Marcos made faculty members and classmates reluctant to discuss those aspects of his career. 
If the skills to coordinate an assassination cover-up were honed in Johnson's college days, the motivation to do so was indicated by two allegations of payoffs to him from organized crime. One was reported by Jack Halfen, a Dallas gangster who had graduated from criminal exploits with desperados "Pretty Boy" Floyd, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow to coordinating gambling during the 1940s and 1950s in the Houston area.  Bookmaking alone netted more than $15 million a year in Houston;  40 percent went to Carlos Marcello, 35 percent to Halfen and 25 Percent to police and politicians for bribes.  These arrangements were illuminated during Halfen's 1954 trial for income-tax evasion, which brought him a four-year prison sentence.  But prosecutor Charles Herring, a friend and former aid of Lyndon Johnson, never pressed the embarrassing issue of where Halfen's myriad payoff dollars stopped. 
Although Halfen never informed on his Mob associates, his loyalty to political collaborators wore thin as the months in jail rolled by.  And in conversations with U.S. Marshal J. Neal Matthews in 1956, Halfen provided incriminating information on several of them, including one of his closest political affiliates: Lyndon Johnson.  Halfen reported that his Mob-franchised gambling network had given $500,000 in cash and campaign contributions to Johnson over a ten-year period while Johnson was in the Senate.  In return, Senator Johnson repeatedly killed antirackets legislation, watered down the bills that could not be defeated and curbed Congressional investigations of the Mob.  For example, a U.S. Senate committee chaired by Estes Kefauver held hearings on organized crime in more than a dozen cities during the early 1950s.  But the committee never made it to Texas, reportedly as a result of Johnson's intervention.  Halfen had concrete substantiation of his association with Johnson, including a letter from Johnson to the Texas Board of Paroles on his behalf  and photographs showing Johnson, Halfen and other Texas politicians on a private hunting expedition. 
Mob payoffs to Johnson were also indicated in sworn testimony by Jack Sullivan, a former administrative assistant to Senator Daniel Brewster of Maryland.  During a 1964 cocktail party at Teamster headquarters that Sullivan attended, Brewster and Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa walked off to talk privately on the terrace overlooking Capitol Hill.  Afterward, Brewster told Sullivan that Hoffa had asked him to take $100,000 in cash for Johnson to presidential aide Cliff Carter.  The payoff was meant to enlist Johnson's support in blocking Hoffa's prosecution for jury tampering and pension fund fraud,  for which Hoffa was ultimately convicted. 
A few days after the party, Sullivan testified, Teamster lobbyist Sid Zagri came into Senator Brewster's office and gave Brewster a suitcase full of money.  Sullivan then accompanied Brewster to Cliff Carter's office and waited in the car as Brewster went into the office with the suitcase and left without it. 
Lending credence to Sullivan's testimony was Senator Brewster's indictment for corruption by a Baltimore grand jury in 1969 and subsequent conviction. And both allegations were consistent with further unsavory patterns in Johnson's political career. Johnson secured his first federal office, a U.S. Senate seat in 1948, by winning a Democratic primary election in Texas.  He won by 87 votes -- when 203 new votes suddenly turned up in alphabetical order late in the ballot tabulation.  The federal government launched an investigation for vote fraud,  and suspicions were finally confirmed in 1977 when a Texas election judge, Luis Salas, confessed that the election had been stolen at Johnson's suggestion. 
During his years in Washington, Johnson retained his crooked habits, as disclosed by author Robert Caro:For years, men came into Lyndon Johnson's office and handed him enveloped stuffed with cash. They didn't stop coming even when the office in which he sat was the office of the Vice President of the United States. Fifty thousand dollars (in hundred-dollar bills in sealed envelopes) was what one lobbyist -- for one oil company -- testified that he brought to Johnson's office during his term as Vice President.  [Emphasis in original.]
It was perhaps through such envelopes and the blatant use of political power to further his private business interests  that Johnson accumulated a $20 million fortune during his political career. 
-- Contract on America: The Mafia Murder of President John F. Kennedy, by David E. Scheim
The Congressman’s next encounter with Cohn involved even cruder threats from Hoover: “You’ll be sorry! Because if you’re not their friend, you’re Mr. Hoover’s enemy.”
Sen. Joe McCarthy’s reign of terror against American citizens in the 1950s paved the way for J. Edgar Hoover’s gestapo that followed. The link between them was the political hit man Roy Cohn. The photo at left shows McCarthy (left) with Cohn.
The inset photo on the right is of FBI Director Hoover.
It was right after that, that “the whole goddamned thing started,” Gallagher said, meaning the FBI’s witchhunt against him. In August 1967, just weeks after Gallagher refused to blackmail Bobby Kennedy, Life magazine published an article tying Gallagher closely with the mob.
Washington, D.C. -- Rep. Cornelius Gallagher (D-N.J.) said Monday that a magazine article linking him with Joe Zicarelli, reputed mafia boss of the Bayonne (N.J.) waterfront, was a "monstrous lie."
The article, in Life magazine, tied Gallagher and Zicarelli to an "alliance of interests," alleging attempted "fixes" of the Bayonne police department, dabbling in Caribbean politics, and the promotion of a contraband "cancer cure." It alleged attempts at reducing government eavesdropping against organized crime through the congressman's chairmanship of a special congressional subcommittee investigating federal Invasion of privacy.
Published in an eight page article titled "The Congressman and the Hoodlum," the article also alleged that Harold (Kayo) Konigsberg, a convicted extortionist, removed the body of a gambler six years ago from the congressman's home in Bayonne.
"No Marks on Body"
The body was said to be that of Barney O'Brien, a small time extortionist. O'Brien disappeared in October of 1962.
The Life article said: "On a night in October, 1962, Konigsberg was summoned by Gallagher himself to the congressman's home ... Then Gallagher led Konigsberg to the basement. There was the body of Barney O'Brien.
"Kayo ... said there were no marks on the body and that he thought O'Brien may have died of natural causes. Kayo said Gallagher asked him to get rid of the body. He said he replied that he wouldn't touch it without approval from the mob.
"According to Kayo, Gallagher then made several telephone calls. Within a few minutes a call came back for Konigsberg. It was Zicarelli, said Kayo, who told him to do what he could for Gallagher. At that point, Kayo said, he carried the body of O'Brien from Gallagher's basement, dumped it into the trunk of his auto."
The justice department had no comment on the article. The FBI denied reports that it had turned over to Life purported transcripts of eavesdropped telephone conversations between Gallagher and Zicarelli.
An FBI spokesman said that any information it might have was strictly confidential.
In a six page rebuttal, the New Jersey congressman denied that he ever had any dealings with Zicarelli, which related to the ganglord's gambling network. His only connection to Zicarelli, alias Joe Bayonne, was a routine recommendation written in behalf of Zicarelli's son who wanted to enter a medical school, he said.
Gallagher said that Zicarelli was receiving no special favors. He added that he had written hundreds of such recommendations for constituents and that he would never "condemn a young man's future because of his father's past."
"I reiterate: The charge that I helped take the heat off Zicarelli's gambling operations by contacting the Bayonne police is a plain and simple lie," Gallagher said. "It is a lie that slanders both me and the Bayonne police department."
Life charged that on June 21, 1960, the ganglord telephone Gallagher and complained that the Bayonne police were cracking down on his gambling network. That was about a week after authorities began electronic surveillance of a public telephone booth often used by Zicarelli.
According to Life, shortly thereafter the congressman reassured Zicarelli that there would be "no further problem" from the Bayonne police. Gallagher mentioned to Zicarelli that he had talked to "the little guy in Jersey City," who in turn spoke with the police, the article said.
Gallagher dismissed the Life article as "malicious" and politically biased. The Life article asserted that federal officials grew alarmed by the alleged telephone conversations between Gallagher and Zicarelli.
Gallagher has asked Joseph A. Tumulty, Hudson county (New Jersey) prosecutor, for a grand jury investigation of the Life article.
"I cannot now discuss in detail the reasons why Life has decided to smear my name, and has attempted to destroy my career, for these facts are spelled out in my letter to prosecutor Tumulty. Since the factual evidence of LIfe's malicious intentions now in my possession would be used in any forthcoming legal action, it would be indiscreet and improper for me to present that evidence at this time."
-- Life Magazine Links Jersey Congressman to Mafia, by The Milwaukee Journal, August 6, 1968
The Takeover of the Congress
Hoover’s capo in the Congress was Deke DeLoach: “He would bring over tapes that they had on various Congressmen and say, ‘We’re your friends and we’re in your corner,’ but that meant that they owned them. It was tantamount to blackmail. He really was the number 3 guy in the FBI.”
“If you were on the Appropriations Committee, which funded the FBI, or the Justice Department, you were in it! If you were on the Judiciary Committee, or in the top leadership, you came under their umbrella and under their threats. . . . The top three or four people on that Judiciary Committee, they were owned by Hoover.”
Ultimately, Hoover & Co. went too far, demanding that Gallagher resign from Congress. Cohn threatened: “If you don’t resign, Mr. Hoover wants you out of Congress in seven days.” If not, Gallagher’s wife would be dragged through the mud, in another smear story in Life magazine. How he got them to back off is a story we should let Mr. Gallagher tell in his own words!
Boggs Calls for Hoover’s Resignation
In April 1971, Rep. Hale Boggs met with Gallagher, telling him the repairman had found his phone bugged. The next morning, Boggs called for Hoover’s resignation on the floor of the Congress.
“The time has come for the Attorney General to ask for [Hoover’s] resignation. When the FBI taps the telephones of members of this body and the Senate, it stations agents on campuses, when the FBI adopts the tactics of the Soviet Union and Hitler’s Gestapo, it is time, it is way past time, Mr. Speaker, that the present director no longer be the director. I ask again now that you have enough courage to demand the resignation of this man.”
At the same time, Boggs pushed to reopen the investigations of the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King.
The Louisiana Congressman was close to New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison—the only law enforcement official in the United States who ever brought charges against anyone connected with the Kennedy assassination.  Garrison, like everyone else connected with the efforts to get to the truth about that terrible event, paid dearly: He was hounded and slandered, and driven out of office. But Boggs was convinced that the destruction of Jim Garrison was based on the fact that Garrison was right, that there was a conspiracy.
On April 10, 1972, a Federal Grand Jury indicted Gallagher on charges of conspiracy, perjury, and Federal income tax evasion.
Gallagher went to the floor of the Congress, and for the first time, put forward the details of the filth thrown against him under orders from Hoover, the origin of the Life magazine articles, the broad intimidation of Congress, and the incredible revelations that had been presented to his subcommittee regarding U.S. Army, FBI, and CIA abuses of the Constitutional rights of Americans.
He called for Hoover’s resignation, or firing.
Six months later, on Oct. 18, 1972, a plane carrying Hale Boggs disappeared in Alaska.
Hoover died on May 2, 1972, just two weeks after Gallagher had gone before the House, calling for his resignation.
House Majority Leader Hale Boggs of Louisiana called for Hoover’s resignation on the floor of the Congress, in April 1971. On Oct. 18, 1972, Boggs was killed in a plane crash. He is shown here with President Lyndon Johnson in the mid-1960s.
Boggs’ courage inspired Reps. Allard Lowenstein and Frank Church to reopen the investigation of the Kennedy murder, leading to the 1975 Church Committee on Assassinations and 1976-1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations.
Congressman Lowenstein, Boggs’ close collaborator, was shot and killed in 1980.
In his closing remarks of this interview, Neil Gallagher said: “I worry very much about what the hell’s going to happen to this country, unless people become aware of it. The frailty of civilization, and the ability to destroy it, is so widespread now. As long as people in the Congress don’t raise these questions about the role of the secret government in America, or the secret governments in America; or the real role of the secret societies, in America—as long as there’s no protection for them, they can be destroyed overnight.”
What we see today in the immorality and dysfunction of our institutions of government can be viewed through the prism of those terrible events described by Neil Gallagher.
“I worry very much about what the hell’s going to happen to this country, unless people become aware of [the secret government],” Gallagher said. He is shown here with President Kennedy, in the 1960s.
1. Ron Felber’s book, The Privacy War: One Congressman, J. Edgar Hoover and the Fight for the Fourth Amendment (2003), covers Gallagher’s battle to protect Americans’ from the intrusions of the secret government.
2. See Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins, One Man’s Quest To Solve the Murder of President Kennedy, 1988.