Tuesday 2 March 2004

Confessions of an American Exile Who Managed Somehow to Survive

by Trowbridge H.Ford

In 1989, I decided to leave the United States permanently because it was such a difficult, expensive, and repressive place to live in. While I had retired early from a tenured position in an undergraduate college three years earlier for similar, though not quite so negative, reasons, hoping that a different position in society would change my outlook on life, it backfired.

During my retirement, I planned to complete a two-volume biography of English barrister, and later Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham, a project which just made my marriage more shaky. My wife, I believe, could not understand, much less accept, how I could settle for such a lowly function with such low status. After her father and mine died, she went completely off the rails, and after a few attempts to revive the relationship - which everyone who knew us was trying to prevent - I settled for a divorce.

After spending some months with my sister trying to adjust, I decided that I had to something more positive if I hoped to achieve some kind of happy ending to my life. While I found employment with a local, weekly newspaper as its sport editor, resuming activity which I had first experienced when I was discharged from the US Army 35 years before, I started living with another woman. With her employment, mind, and the early pension I was receiving from my former college employer, we were just able to make ends meet, given the area's extremely costly housing, the need to maintain two cars to perform our jobs, and the fact that we had to have personally-financed insurance to be sure of continuing them.

In the hope of making things a little easier, I sought part-time teaching jobs at nearby educational institutions, offering to teach a course on British imperialism at a nearby university, an introduction to political science at an undergraduate college in New Haven, and an adult education class on where communism was headed. These courses are most demanding upon teachers, explaining why institutions are willing to have outside instructors teach them on an adjunct basis. Adjunct teaching is the new thing, courses being taught on an hourly basis without any benefits or perquisites. It is strictly cash and carry instruction. I even started reviewing books for $25 an effort at the weekly newspaper to increase the cash flow.

The courses were most demanding since they covered a wide time span, and cut across all kinds of fields and specialities. A course on British imperialism, for example, called for a knowledge of British colonial history, international relations, and comparative judgments of an economic, political, and moral nature. Any introduction to politics, or politicial science as the American professoriate prefers to say, is a mixture of historical, theoretical, comparative, national, and international experience which continues to confound the abilites of teachers would are required to attempt it. The future of Soviet communism at the end of the 1980s was a conundrum for students of Russian history, covert government, Marxism, and the Cold War.

You can imagine my shock when only one adult signed up for the course about the USSR's future, causing the course to be canceled. It had nothing to do with me as I was totally unknown in the area. It was understandly just a question of the bottom line for the university, but it was still quite a shock to me. The course on British imperialism was composed of Anglophiles who could see some benefit in what the Brits had attempted, and Anglophobes who considered Britain no better than Spain and Portugal. The course had hardly begun before the Anglophobes departed, causing all kinds of concerns with the bursar. My introduction to political science soon caused such a stir in the class that the departmental head started monitoring sessions unannounced. While he never was able to provide a basis for making such visits - what I considered just pressure to reduce the student workload, and raise the grades - I continued my controversial approach. At its end, the college even asked me if I would like to make a contribution to it from the measly money I was being paid.

One morning when I was rushing off to the paper - breaking a coffee urn in the process which more than wiped out the payment for a book review - I decided things had to be better somewhere else, and chose to make a new start in central Portugal, on the Silver Coast between Foz do Arelho and San Martinho. By putting a good bit of my saving into buying a very nice house with a lovely garden, I found that I was immediately living better retired than back in the States still working. Instead of slaving over stories about sports, reviews of books, and lectures for classes, I could concentrate upon things like playing sports, doing research and writing of my biography of Brougham, and travelling around the Iberian Peninsula and beyond.

Of course, that should have been the end of the story - what one would expect I would not be bothering viewers with. No sooner had a left the States in November 1989, though, than a leading investigator of the JFK assassination, Jim Marrs, published Crossfire in which he, unbeknownst to me, completely trashed all my work on the Dallas assassination by claiming that President Nixon had had a long covert relation with Jack Ruby, going all the way back to the late 1940s. According to another JFK assassination researcher, Jim DiEugenio, though I have not seen the book, Marrs wrote this about about my work: "By the early 1980's, Ford told this author he had studied literally thousands of genuine FBI documents, and had slowly come to the conclusion that the Nixon-Ruby memo was probably legitimate." (e-mail, Oct. 20, 2003)

As far as I remember - though my former college employer destroyed all my files on the JFK assassination shortly after my departure, and without any consultation with me when I had persmission from my replacement to keep them in my old office until I had found new storage facilities, so I cannot be sure - I have never talked with with Marrs. The reference to the early 1980s sounds completely bogus as I was overseas from May 1981 until August 1984. I certainly know that I have never studied "literally thousands of genuine FBI documents," probably a handful at most. I have never visited any Bureau facility where they are stored. More importantly, I never came to believe the memo genuine. I originally was willing to look into its authencity, though I had not discovered it, but I quickly came to the conclusion that it was a forgery.

These are the biggest lies I can conceive of - what I thought had been properly disposed of 13 years before - and I would have immediately started a libel action against the publisher, Carroll & Graf, if I had known about it. The book went through more than one printing, even appearing in paperback, so I could have collected substantial damages, and would have paid whatever was necessary to obtain them. By the time I learned about them, though, the statute of limitations prevented any legal action.

During the height of the Watergate scandal, J. David Truby, a media professor at Pennsylvania's Indiana University, started talking to me over the phone about my research of the Dallas assassination - what he had been tipped off about by CIA's Ed Tatro because of articles appearing in Computers and Automation about my research, and what I was saying during appearances on area radio and TV programs. While I described the whole Dallas conspiracy, as best I could, Truby was most interested in information about President Nixon's involvement - what could lead to his impeachment, and removal from office. The problem was that Truby could not find enough information to satisfy his publisher into taking on the President in print, and Truby's employer, apparently Nixon Chief of Staff General Alexander Haig aka 'Deep Throat', was most anxious to drag out the process so that Nixon would be forced to resign.

Ultimately, after Truby had written a draft article, and provided 10 pages of documentation, The National Tattler agreed to publish it since one of the documents was a memo by a Bureau staff assistant to a House committee stating the following: "It is my sworn statement that one Jack Rubenstein of Chicago, noted as a potential witness for hearings of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, is performing information functions for the staff of Cong. Richard M. Nixon, Republican of California. It is requested Rubenstein not be called for open testimony in those aforementioned hearings." By this time, though, I had concluded the memo was a forgery, especially since it had a distinct line running across it, indicating that the FBI lettterhead had been pasted onto the memo's body, and I threatened Truby by Western Union telegram that I would sue him if he published the story.

My biggest complaint of the memo, though, was that it contradicted my research. I discovered a compilation of documents that HUAC had prepared in 1939 as background for dealing with the alleged communist menace, and among them was a document, stating that Miriam Silvis and Jack Rubenstein had been dropped from the leadership of America's Young Communist League as part of Stalin's takeover by William Z. Foster of the whole operation. (Exhibit No. 211, "A Compilation of Sources Used as Exhibits to Show the Nature and Aims of the Communist Party," Congressional Hearings, House Un-American Activities Committee, 76th Congress, 1939-40, Appendix 1, pp. 919-22) By tracing Rubenstein's subsequent career - joining the Mafia, moving to Dallas, and changing his name to Ruby - Nixon helped find the basis of the Nixon-Mundt Bill which was intended to make other communists change their lives in similar ways. In sum, Nixon knew all he needed to know about Rubenstein without ever meeting the former communist, or using him in any way.

While my threat deterred Truby, it did not stop publication of a watered-down version of his claims. The June 1975 issue of The National Tattler had the following front-page headline: Professor at Holy Cross Charges...Nixon Tied to Suspects in JFK Assassination. Just inside, there was an article, written by Tattler Staff Reporter Tom Lutz. After stating that I was a prominent professor and former CIC officer whose claims were so hot that former House Judiciary Committe special counsel John Doar refused to discuss them, Lutz added: "Part of Ford's documentation is the revelation that Nixon, acting as a member of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947, bailed Jack Ruby out of a jam with the committee." (p. 3)

The memo, while Truby had made it part of the documentation, was neither found nor supplied by me. The claim that Nixon had gotten Ruby out of a jam - what implied that he would be willing to do something for the Congressman in return - was completely false. Nixon had so turned up the heat on the former communist, and seller of Iskra in Chicago that he had become a runner for Sam Giancana in Dallas. Lutz did repeat, though, that "I'd be more than happy to explore our arguments in court" with all concerned, explaining why nothing resulted from them for fear that any action, and clarification would just compound Nixon's problems.

Seven months later, the respected Writer's Digest published two articles relating to my problems, one entitled "Tattling on The National Tattler," showing what a sleazy, fly-by-night publication it was, and another dealing directly with Truby and me, "Meanwhile at The Tattler: 'Dirty Tricks and Terror'." I was quite satisfied with it because it showed that Truby had learned of me through Tatro, had gotten the memo from a Justice Department source, had misunderstood its content in a way I never would have - claiming that Jack Rubenstein was an alias of Ruby when it was his real name - and had supplied the memo both to the tabloid and Writer's Digest. (January 1976 issue, p. 34) The rest of the article was more in keeping with the first one, Truby claiming that the Lutz article had been stolen from him, and demanding payment, though the WD one did repeat my challenge to Nixon, Connally, Helms, and other to sue me if they objected to my claims, and explained that I was not suing anyone in order not to ruin my contentions about the conspiracy over minor mistakes.

In fact, I was so confident that claims about the memo were dead that I never even mentioned its existence when I had a three-part article on the JKF assassination published in The National Exchange, only adding this to what was said before about the former President's knowledge of Ruby: "Nixon had come across this one-time member of the national bureau of the Young Communist League when he was researching his two monographs for HUAC on what to do about Communists in the wake of the House citing the 'Hollywood Ten' for contempt of Congress." (vol. 2, no. 9, April 1978, p. 8)

While I had forgotten about the memo, America's secret government, and the CIA clearly had not, as the publication of Marrs' book right when I was departing permanently from the country dramatically demonstrated. While individuals can forgive, and forget anything they don't like, and normal institutions can at least learn to overlook some complaint with an employee, permanent government bureaucracies do neither about anything important, as I was slowly to learn to my drastic detriment.

While my first four years in Portugal went without mishap, as I put to bed my last academic efforts before the publication of the first volume of my biography of Henry Brougham - seeing to the publication of an article which I gave at the 1989 Consortium on Revolutionary Europe in Charleston about his promotion of the Great Reform Act of 1832, and giving a paper on the Whig barrister's performance on the Northern Circuit before he became Lord Chancellor at a legal history conference at Oxford - there was another reminder of my past in America which I missed. I was oblivious of that fact that when Jonathan Vankin, who had interviewed me twice while still in Connecticut about the JFK assassination, and the denial of my academic freedom while teaching at Worcester, Mass., published his book, Conspiracies, Cover-ups and Crimes, in 1991, he understandably repeated a wildly incorrect version of the memo, and who found it: "Trowbridge Ford discovered a document showing that in 1947 Ruby, the (sic) called Jacob Rubenstein, had been an informant for a crusading anti-communist senator named Richard Nixon." ("Where Were You When They Had the Coup?," MSN's web site on me, #6)

I was still so angry about any convincing investigation of the JFK assassination that I refused to pay taxes on the sale of stocks necessary for buying the house in Portugal until it was done, a silly jesture which just cost me $180. Also, I instructed my brother-in-law to investigate Holy Cross College's destruction of my papers on the Dallas assassination, only to discover that another statute of limitations prevented any recovery action. Soon we were totally absorbed in playing tennis and swimming in the ocean, walking the dog and visiting friends, and traveling. In this case, though, ignorance did not turn out to be bliss.

This apparently bucolic scene was broken by 1994 when we both started experiencing dizziness, a process compounded by my accidentally running across a copy of Peter Wright's Spycatcher. What Wright said about Harvey, Angleton, Helms, and others filled in many of the blanks I had about the JFK assassination - what Colonel Prouty had said I would have to look higher to resolve - the dizziness increasingly made things difficult. My girl friend had trouble finding my relief for her deteriorating condition - what once required her to be taken to the hospital by ambulance, the whole village turning out to make sure she made it, while I was often seized by dizziness in the middle of the night, resulting in vomiting. While at the time, I thought it was just a sign of growing old, or high living, I'm not sure at all now.

I suspect that our house was being subjected to continuous extreme low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic waves from a boarded up house just 50 meters from my girl's friend's bedroom which led to electronic excitation - what may cause cancer or sensory difficulties. My bedroom was on the other side of the house, protected by two more walls from the suspected source. By suppressing the production of the hormone melatonin, it could have caused the strange growth on the left cheek of her face, what was just removed at Stockholm's Carolinska Hospital, and whose composition has yet to be determined. I began to suffer hearing loss in my left ear - the one on which I had had a mastoid operation when I was a child - it being replaced ultimately by continuous "microwave hearing" except when I gained high altitudes when my nornal hearing suddenly returned. I believe these to be consequences of an ELF bellringer effect when extremely low frequency magnetic waves are beamed at a target constantly, especially after what happened next.

Wright's disclosures rekindled my interest in the Dallas assassination, and I was soon discussing my ideas about the conspiracy with the proprietor of a well-advertised Thai restaurant in Caldas da Rainha, the local spa town where we did most of our shopping. He was a good English speaker for a Portuguese person, with wide-ranging interests, and knowledge about things, thanks to his having lived in the Far East. Around this time, I began to have sudden severe attacks of vomiting and diarrhea out of the blue around noon. I would wake up in the morning, feeling fine, having a full breakfast, and going out for a walk with my girl friend and the dog, only for these attacks to strike with no warning. It also almost like clockwork, about 14 hours after I had had dinner the previous evening. I later realized that they were always after I had had dinner at the Thai restaurant, though, I, of course, never raised the matter with him for fear of terribly offending him for no reason. I blissfully considered it just a result of my life style, especially my great liking for wine around dinner time.

I first began to suspect that all was not well in my new home when I finally decided to go back to the States to visit my relatives after 5 years in Portugal. When I went through emigration at the Lisbon Airport, its officials immediately took me aside, contending that I was living illegally in the country, and demanding that I pay immediately a $700 fine. I definitely had the feeling that they were operating on a tipoff, and were hoping I would make a big stink about the matter. What would have happened if I had refused to pay the fine, or could not have paid it, I shall never know as I had my own family to come back to, and I never considered refusing, though I had the impression that they would let me go without paying, provided I never returned. While the law stated, I believe, that a tourist can only stay in the country six months, travels outside Portugal no longer required passport controls at EU borders, so it was impossible for me to document my exits to Spain and beyond, though my passport was a new one, only having been issued in Lisbon 20 months before.

I suspect that the Portuguese government was most desirous of seeing my backside because I was just the kind of American visitor they no longer welcomed - a native-born U.S.A. citizen who had just started collecting his Social Security benefits, while bad-mouthing Washington all over the place. Portuguese immigrants to America, especially non-citizens who returned home after retiring, were in danger of losing theirs - part of the so-called Welfare Reform Bill - and Lisbon was doing everything it could to help them keep theirs. President Clinton had attempted to make the process more likely by just appointing a most sympathetic Ambassador, Elizabeth Frawley Bagley - thanks to her diplomatic liaison work for the Clinton-Gore ticket. She is the kind of high-flying expert who has been able to keep in touch with the leading politicians of both parties, officials inside and outside government, and think-tanks operating behind the scenes - reminiscent of the famous Valerie Plame who is causing Bush's White House so much trouble now.

Bagley, shortly after I finally departed, was able to help end the threats to immigrants' Social Security benefits. "Upon her depature from Portugal," the Portuguese American Leadership Council ((PALCUS) proudly announced, "she received meritorious awards from the Portuguese Navy and Air Force, as well as the 'Grand Cross of Prince Henry the Navigator', the President of Portugal's highest civilian commendation." Bagley went on the help Secretary of State Madeline Albright solve the Kosovo crisis, and worked for Gore's election campaign. In 2002, she was appointed to PALCUS's Advisory Council, joining other stalwarts of America's secret government like David Abshire and Frank Carlucci. Abshire was the American Ambassador to NATO (1983-87) when the Reagan administration attempted its non-nuclear solution to the Cold War, and Carlucci had to pick up similar pieces as Admiral John Poindexter's replacement as National Security Adviser. Bagley now is a member of Bush's US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

I put myself in Bagley's sights by complaining most vigorously, and widely about American government after adjusting to my girl friend's departure from Portugal, and to the appearance of the first volume of my biography of Henry Brougham. She finally decided to go back to her native Sweden where there was most adequate medical care for dealing with her largely unknown problems, and less isolation that apparently helped bring them on. After about a year there, her problems, especially the dizziness, disappeared except for the strange, slow-growing tumor. Of course, her leaving required much adjustment on my part, and it took a few months to do so. The stress was greatly reduced, though, by the publication of the volume I had mostly written a decade before, and was understandably most anxious to see appear.

By the fall of 1995, I started making calls to various newspapers, especially in Britain, to air my views on America's secret government, going all the way back to the Dallas assassination, and writing letters to various publications complaining about their views, and articles. For example, on October 22nd, I wrote to the Times Literary Supplement, for the third time in a short period about John Newman's review of Norman Mailer's Oswald's Tale, claiming that it dismissed an obviously terrible book for all the wrong reasons. While Mailer thought KBG records would show that the ex-Marine had killed JFK for Moscow, a premise which proved most disappointing to the novelist, Newman believed that the JFK Records Act would provide the evidence needed, if we only read it, to prove how the plotters operated - Tory historiography which should blow anyone's mind about the source and scope of the conspiracies these days. A week later, I wrote to American Heritage, complaining of Max Holland's latest effort to rehabilitate America's secret government, especially CIA, contending that the Dallas assassination, like Operation Mogul in the New Mexico desert in 1947, was just a series of coincidences which was made to look like a conspiracy - offering a dozen facts which would destroy his illusions.

By the end of the year, I extended these complaints to the spying by the Agency's Aldrich "Rick" Ames, and addressed them to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence whose staff director is current DCI George Tenet, while sending copies to all the major leaders of law enforcement. I said that Ames's spying was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to rogue government under Reagan, mentioning what Peter Wright's legacy at MI5 had been able to achieve through Anglo-American secret operations, thanks particularly to Anatoliy Golitsyn's deceptions in New Lies for OLd. For anyone to think that the problems had simply been solved by his imprisonment was engaging in pure fantasy, I contended. (Jan. 13, 1996 ltr.) For good measure, I also included a copy of my letter to American Heritage.

Given the fact that there was more spying involved - that by the Bureau's Robert Hanssen - and both CIA and the FBI were frantically looking for its source while trying to cover themselves, I believe that this put me on a deadly collision course with the Agency when I started talking to the Portuguese weekly Ja´s Joäo Macdonald about my ideas in the hope that he would write an article about them. In the process of talking to him and others, though, my conversations were so filled with static, interrupted, and disconnected that I finally wrote to the American Embassy in Lisbon, complaining about the fact, and asking if the Agency was monitoring my calls. To my amazement, John White, the Embassy's First Consul (traditionally a CIA man), as I remember, replied, stating that he had looked into the matter, and could assure me that it wasn't. He strangely got my name wrong, though, calling me "Trumbridge", and requesting that I return my passport for apparent clarification, though it had been issued from the very place he was writing from. I suspected that this was a ruse to regain my passport, and keep it, what would have required my returning to the States. I declined the request.

Shortly thereafter, I had dinner again at the Thai restaurant, and told its proprietor that I was going to Spain the next day in order to keep on the good side of Portuguese emigration. The dish was my favorite sweet-and-sour whole sea bass, and, as I remember, it was uncharateriscally slow in being prepared. The next morning, I woke up, feeling fine, and after having eaten a big breakfast, set off for Valencia de Alca´ntara, a good 200 kilometers across Portugal. Just when I was at the most demanding driving of the trip - the stretch between Porto do Mos and Mira de Aire, - I suddenly almost passed out, almost losing control of the car as I attempted to pull off the road. No sooner had I finally done so with the greatest difficultly - I had almost no motor control of my arms, and eyes - than I started vomiting and defecating violently. The only thing I could think of doing was to drink as much water as I could, only to vomit it back up.

The attack was nothing like I had ever experienced before in my life. Though it was a beautiful spring, sunny day, I felt as if I had a paper bag over my head, and could only see out through the most narrow slits in it, making me feel as if I was almost completely in the dark even when looking at the sum. I had the greatest difficultly walking, and moving my arms. While I felt like just crawling up in the back seat and simply dying, I couldn't because, as always, I had my dog Fresco with me. Then there were my two cats back at the house. Somehow, I had to drive back home, and it was the most gruelling, terrifying experience of my life. After about an hour, when the streams of stuff stopped coming out of both ends - and I do believe that drinking all the water made a big difference in stemming the attack - I started back, but I could only go for a few kilometers without having to stop, and rest. The driving itself was like a nightmare in which I wasn't sure whether I was driving into another car, or off the road. After about four or five hours, I finally had retraced the 50 kilometers back to my house, and flopped into bed, only awaking about 20 hours later, feeling amazingly good, given my ordeal.

Needless to day, I am confident that I was poisoned with something like ricin - what I had recklessly only attributed to too much alcohol up to then - given the time span involved before it took effect, and how my body reacted to it. This was the only kind of arranged murder that America's secret government could arrange with me without it being obvious - the agent of an allied power providing just enough ricin or something similar to have me lose control well into the next day while doing something physically and mentally demanding. A suspicious death, even one caused by a great amount of ricin, would have been clearly discernible to the police, and it would have to look for the culprits. A murder, made to look like a suicide, would not convince anyone who knew me, as I was most willing to sacrifice almost anything to suit the needs of my animals. Only a small enough amount of ricin - what would cause me to lose control, and hopefully kill myself in what seemed to be an accident - would do.

While I did think about going to a doctor, the police, or hiring a private detective to determine officially what had happened, I decided against it because I could not see how they could establish anything, efforts which would only encourage my doubters and critics into thinking I had finally gone completely off the deep end. How could a doctor determine traces of the poison, police believe my convoluted suspicions, and a private investigator know where to start? Instead I continued to turn out articles about my research, writing an unsolicited "Letter from Washington" for Private Eye after former DCI William Colby died at the end of April, claiming that he had committed suicide upon finally discovering that his closest associates were anything but honorable men, and then one for the same publication, requested by political editor Paul Foot, about how the just deceased Peter Wright suited them to a tee, with all his spying, and deceptions, thanks to disinformation agents like Golitsyn. They were not published, however.

By this time, my girl friend was hoping to rejoin me, provided I moved to Sweden, and I finally decided to take up the offer, given my duties, and troubles in Portugal. While I was arranging the sale of the house, I had another attack at San Martinho after another dinner at the Thai restaurant, during which the restauranter told me that he had consulted with a friend of his at Portugal Telecom, and that he had assured him that it was not tapping my telephone conversations either - a possibility I had raised a few visits before. Of course, I was no more convinced by what he said than what White had claimed from The Embassy. What's more, I learned that the proprietor was now on speaking terms with Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley. She even arranged a dinner at his restaurant for Portuguese notables in the area to get more attuned to the needs and problems of their fellow immigrants in Amerca. I ultimately decided that he was working for Portuguese intelligence. The dinner was a test case for my suspicions, and the restaurant failed it.

My decision to leave was further speeded by the publication of Macdonald's article about my theory about the Dallas assassination, "A History Badly Told," in which the roles of all the principal players were outlined (Ja´, June 27, 1996, pp. 30-1), what I have developed in previous articles here. I left Portugal at the end of October, after I had finally arranged sale of the villa.

The experience proves that I was dead wrong in assuming in my own case that America's secret government would not go to to extreme measures to get rid of me - what I was too cavalier in dismissing as a possibility in unexpected deaths of apparent principals and important witnesses in most controversial cases. They all deserve much closer examination of the circumstances, possible motives, and probable means before deciding that they were natural ones, or the result of accidents. Fortuantely, the oversight only resulted in a literal, not an actual, death. My experience in Sweden would prove to be something entirely different.