The story

Gus Russo


On November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, I was a 13-year-old freshman attending Mount St. Joseph's High School, a Catholic school in Baltimore, Maryland. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the first whispered rumor-in the hallway on my way to a sixth period biology class. I recollect just as distinctly what I heard: "Some Cuban guy working for Castro shot the President!" It wasn't long before I heard a new explanation for the president's murder: "It was a Russian agent working for Khrushchev!' None of us knew which was the more shocking or potentially dangerous rumor.

In the blur of that first horrible day came yet another news report, this one stating that the President had been shot by a former Marine hiding in a book warehouse and using a German Mauser-type rifle. Hours later, the Dallas police took such a man into custody five miles away, in a Dallas movie theater. Two days later, by the end of that paralyzingly sad weekend, the story of JFK's assassination had turned 180 degrees: Now, according to most of the reports, the President had been shot in the back of the head by a Castro sympathizer using an Italian rifle.

I couldn't help but be intrigued.

After the suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, was gunned down on the way from one Dallas jail to another, President Lyndon Johnson put together an august body, headed by Supreme Court Chief justice Earl Warren, to find out definitively (or so it was thought) who had killed the president and why. Ten months later, without any equivocation, it concluded that Oswald, an American and a former Marine, had acted alone with no clear motive, and certainly without evidence of any involvement by Cuba, the Soviet Union, or any other foreign nation.

My own initial skepticism over the 1964 Warren Commission findings was fueled by the naivete (perhaps it was the arrogance) of a seasoned teenager who had read all the James Bond novels. I knew about spies, and fake defectors, and sharpshooters, and patsies. The government couldn't fool me! My suspicions were heightened by the obvious government secrecy over the investigation, especially the sealing of the Warren Commission records for 75 years. Thus, I, like many of my age group, became an amateur investigator pursuing the ultimate truth-what exactly happened on November 22, 1963.

In 1966, with the publication of Mark Lane's book Rush to Judgment; I became convinced that the government itself was covering up the true nature and cause of the JFK assassination. Others, encouraged by the popularity of Lane's book, accused the federal government of conspiring to murder JFK. Years later, I would come to realize Lane's tome for what it was: a lawyer's masterful brief for his "client," the deceased Lee Oswald. Reading it as a teenager, I had no inkling of the ease with which a competent attorney could find discrepancies in any murder investigation, let alone one In which 25,000 interviews were conducted. In truth, Lane went far beyond the pale, taking evidence and testimony so far out of context that their original import (if any) was unrecognizable. His treatment of Jack Ruby's testimony was a virtual masterpiece of lawyerly obfuscation. But it took a while for me to come to this realization.

With the bootleg release of the Zapruder film in 1975, conspiracy fever reached its high mark. The home movie seemed to show JFK reacting to a shot from the front, while Oswald's "sniper's nest" (as termed by the Warren Commission) had been behind the presidential motorcade. Like many others, I was convinced that the Zapruder film proved Kennedy was shot from the front. I also was persuaded that Oswald wasn't a talented enough shooter to pull off the shooting alone. On both counts, I was wrong.

This entire period-from 1963 through 197S--was marked by a continual barrage of ideologically-driven books on the Kennedy assassination. Ideologues are dangerous enough, but the books and authors of this time inspired a clique of followers, all with a pathological hatred of the US. government. These "conspiracy would make any leap of logic necessary in order to say that Lee Oswald had been an unwitting pawn of the evil government conspirators. And anyone believing otherwise was branded as a CIA agent (more than one prominent critic has labeled me as such), or a gullible lackey. The atmosphere of intellectual anarchy frightened off almost every serious historian. If they looked at the Kennedy murder, they concluded, they too would be branded as "kooks."

When the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) began gearing up in 1978, I spoke often with its staff members, directing them to areas I believed important. It was their meticulous photographic, forensic, and ballistic work that convinced me that Oswald alone shot President Kennedy. From that point on, only one question remained for me to answer: Was Oswald a hired gun?

Over the next dozen years, I suggested to numerous broadcast entities that they should reinvestigate the Kennedy assassination in a long-form TV documentary. PBS showed some interest, and a research grant I was given produced some interesting interviews. But none of the media wanted to pursue the matter further.

Temporarily abandoning the idea of a documentary I resuscitated an old fictional screenplay I had written as a roman A clef on the Kennedy killing. However, in the Hollywood of 1990, the number of directors interested in making political statements could be counted on one finger His name was Oliver Stone.

The brilliantly talented Stone seemingly showed interest in my screenplay By sheer coincidence, and unbeknownst to me, the powerful filmmaker had recently decided to write and direct a film on JFK's murder. I was invited to meet with Stone in Dallas. To my shock, Stone informed me, apparently without consulting anyone who had studied the case for decades, that he would base his film on the most flawed and controversial character ever connected with it, the District Attorney of New Orleans, Jim Garrison. Stone said he rejected my screenplay, among other reasons, because it was a work of fiction. In the drink-filled haze of the Stoneleigh Hotel bar I tried to tell him that Garrison's story was fictional, too. At the same time, Stone also plunked down $80,000 for the rights to an obviously concocted story peddled by some local "entrepreneurs." Their tale purported to prove that a Dallas cop, moonlighting as an intentional assassin, really had shot Kennedy.

David Ferrie has long been portrayed on paper and in film as an American grotesque: a raving hater of President Kennedy, who threatened to kill the President. He was said to be angry at JFK for failing to help the Cuban exiles restore liberty to their land. It seems certain he made a celebrated statement after the Bay of Pigs fiasco on which much of the portrait has been based. That incident occurred in July 1961, when Ferrie was addressing the New Orleans chapter of the Order of World Wars. Ferrie became so critical of Kennedy's handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion that he was asked to discontinue his remarks. But that was almost certainly taken out of context and misinterpreted.

A devout Catholic (who was, for a time, a seminarian), Ferrie voted for Kennedy in 1960 and was "elated" when he defeated Richard Nixon for the presidency that year. "Things are going to turn for the better now that a Catholic has been elected," a good friend would remember Ferrie saying. Another friend elaborated, "After all, he was an Irish Catholic too. He was an enthusiastic supporter (of Kennedy). Dave was a spokesman for the Kennedys . To him, the idea of a Catholic president was mind-boggling, He thought Kennedy was fabulous."

Gus Russo has turned twenty years of meticulous research into a thought-provoking book on the assassination of JFK. Filled with new pieces of evidence and new-found witnesses, Russo's Live by the Sword unequivocally places the guilt on Lee Harvey Oswald. He convincingly demonstrates that the cover up that followed the assassination was prompted in part by the fear of top government officials, including Bobby Kennedy, that Castro, or the climate fostered by his regime, might have played a role in the murder and that the United States' own plots to kill Castro would be exposed. This cover up mounts to a damning indictment of the investigation conducted by both the CIA and the FBI. Live by the Sword throws a bright spotlight on the politics that swirled around the murder of John Kennedy.

A tour de force. Electrifying. Live by the Sword definitively resolves the debate that's raged since the Senate and House Committee reports of the 1970s. There can be no further question - Robert Kennedy personally and singularly pushed so hard to kill Fidel Castro that it literally blew up in his brother's face. Gus Russo's unique perspective explains virtually every significant discrepancy in the JFK case that has arisen over the past 35 years. Live by the Sword finally lifts the veil of secrecy off this cockeyed, cockamamie case. It turns all the "conventional" wisdom on its head.

Because of the publication of this book, which brings together the research and the studious co-relation of thousands of bits of evidence, it's no longer necessary, it seems to me, to do additional scholarship on the Kennedy assassination. Truly remarkable truly impressive. I'm greatly impressed.

Russo makes... a very convincing case that JFK made his decisions in an emotional way, a la Clinton. For me, the most interesting thing in (Live By the Sword) is that Oswald wasn't a conspiratorialist, but was obsessed with the poor way Kennedy was treating Cuba... Live by the Sword is a very, very good book if you want to learn about Lee Harvey Oswald... Russo makes a very compelling case that he could have pulled the assassination off by himself.

Compelling, exhaustively researched and even-handed. What is most impressive about 'Live by the Sword' is that Russo is able to explain (though not condone) the actions of many of those in Government, including Lyndon B. Johnson, the C.I.A. and Robert Kennedy, all of whom fought hard to keep what Russo calls 'the secret war against Castro' from the public - thereby averting possible American retaliation and, perhaps, another catastrophic world war.

In late 1991, when Oliver Stone released JFK, Mark Lane decided to write his third book about the Kennedy assassination. Anyone who has read Plausible Denial, knows the significance of Marita Lorenz to that book. When the book became a bestseller, the media was eager to attack it. So in Newsweek, a man was quoted deriding Lorenz in quite strong terms as telling wild and bizarre stories and being generally unreliable. The source was, at that time, a little known Kennedy researcher. He was so obscure that Lane replied to the reporter, "So who is Gus Russo? Has he ever written a book? Has he ever written an article?" At that time, to my knowledge, he had done neither. But now Russo has written a book. It is so dreadful in every aspect that Lane’s question carries more weight now than then. In retrospect, it seems quite prescient.

I can speak about this rather bracing phenomenon from firsthand experience. To my everlasting embarrassment, Gus Russo is listed in the acknowledgments to my book, Destiny Betrayed. In my defense, I can only argue that my association with Russo at that time was from a distance. We had communicated over the phone a few times because I had heard he was interested in the New Orleans scene and had done some work on Permindex, the murky right wing front group that Clay Shaw had worked for in Italy in the late fifties and early sixties. Later, after my book came out in the summer of 1992, he called me and asked me for some supporting documents that I had used in writing it. My first impressions of Russo were that he was amiable, interested, and that, since he lived in Baltimore, he was quite familiar with what was available for viewing at the National Archives and at the Assassination Archives and Research Center in Washington D. C.

I encountered Russo in person a couple of times at the end of 1992 and the beginning of 1993. I attended the ‘92 ASK Conference in Dallas where I exchanged some materials with him and at which he did an ad hoc talk with John Newman. I did not actually attend that dual presentation but I heard that Russo’s part centered on some aspects of military intelligence dealing with the assassination. Specifically it concerned Air Force Colonel Delk Simpson, an acquaintance of both LBJ military aide Howard Burris and CIA officer David Atlee Phillips, about whom some significant questions had been raised. And since he was coupled with Newman, I assumed that Russo was investigating the possibility of some form of foreknowledge of the assassination in some high military circles. My other encounter with Russo in this time period was even more direct. Toward the end of 1992, I had reason to visit Washington to see a research associate and examine a new CIA database of documents that was probably the best index of assassination-related materials available at the time. We decided to call up Russo and we arranged to spend a Saturday night at his home.

When we got there, Russo was his usual amiable self and his surroundings revealed that he was indeed immersed in the Kennedy assassination. There were photos of a man who was a dead ringer for Oswald in combat fatigues in Florida, where Oswald was never supposed to have been. Russo had obtained letters showing that George de Mohrenschildt had been in contact with George Bush at a much earlier date than anyone had ever suspected. Russo had a library of books on the Kennedy assassination that was abundant and expansive. He had secured a letter written by Jim Garrison to Jonathan Blackmer of the House Select Committee on Assassinations that examined the significance of two seemingly obscure suspects in his investigation, Fred Lee Crisman and Thomas Beckham. Russo had a letter from Beckham to a major magazine that was extraordinarily interesting. It discussed the young man’s relationship with Jack Martin, the CIA, the Bay of Pigs, a man who fit the description of Guy Banister, and a personal acquaintance of his, "this double agent, Lee Harvey Oswald." (Significantly, none of the above material appears in Russo’s book.)

In his book Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK (1998), Gus Russo argues that only one man, Lee Harvey Oswald, shot President Kennedy, but that Oswald did it at the urging of Fidel Castro's agents and that Cuban intelligence may have paid Oswald in advance to carry out the deed. Russo provides a great deal of valuable, interesting information. But he also makes numerous invalid claims and often fails to discuss relevant evidence that contradicts his conclusions. What follows is a presentation of some of the errors and omissions in Russo's book.

(1) Russo says that at least once in all the series in the various "Oswald" rifle tests, at least one rifleman was able to score two hits (p. 477). This is incorrect. In the CBS rifle test, NOT ONE of the eleven expert shooters scored two hits on the first attempt, and seven of them failed to do so on ANY attempt. This is especially revealing because the CBS test was the most realistic to date. The test used a moving target sled and a 60-foot tower. The test fairly closely simulated the conditions under which Oswald would have had to fire. And, as mentioned, not one of the expert riflemen in the test scored two hits on his first attempt, and seven of them failed to do so on any attempt, even though, unlike Oswald, the CBS shooters fired nine practice rounds prior to the test and were not required to fire through a half-open window in a cramped area.

(2) Russo says the marksmen in the Warren Commission's (WC) rifle tests "came close" to duplicating the WC's version of Oswald's feat, i.e., two hits out of three shots in 5.6 seconds (p. 476). One wonders how Russo is defining "close" here. The three Master-rated riflemen who took part in the tests missed the head and neck area of the target boards 20 out of 21 times! And this, even though the target boards were stationary, even though the riflemen were firing from only a 30-foot elevation, and even though two of the riflemen took longer than 6 seconds to fire. None of the WC's rifle tests involved moving targets or firing from the same elevation from which Oswald supposedly fired.

(3) Russo says "the most impressive" Oswald rifle simulation was the one performed in 1994 by Todd Wayne Vaughan (p. But Vaughan didn't use a moving target and not once did he get off three shots in less than 6 seconds. Furthermore, on the day of the test, Vaughan fired fourteen shots prior to starting the test, a luxury Oswald would not have had. Nor did Vaughan fire from an elevation, as Oswald would have had to do. Russo says Vaughan "never received any formal firearms training, had never been in the military, had never worked a bolt-action weapon, and had never even fired a high-powered rifle before." First of all, the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle is not a "high-powered rifle"--it's at best a medium-velocity weapon. Russo fails to mention that Vaughan is an experienced hunter, with some 15 years of experience in aiming at and hitting moving targets. So it's no surprise that Vaughan was able to hit stationary targets from a level position--yet, as mentioned, he never once fired all his shots in less than 6 seconds.

It should be pointed out that the only way one can assume a lone gunman would have had more than 6 seconds to fire is to assume he fired before the limousine passed beneath the intervening oak tree and that he completely missed the entire limousine with this first and closest shot. This would mean the gunman would have had to miss the huge limousine, which was about 20 feet long and over 6 feet wide, from less than 140 feet away and from 60 feet up. Even the Warren Commission labeled the first-shot-miss scenario an "improbability."

(4) Russo says he consulted with "numerous marksmen and current Marine trainers" and that all of them said Oswald's alleged shooting feat would have been "simple" (p. 465). That's odd, because I interviewed a former Army sniper and a competition rifleman, and both said Oswald's alleged shooting performance would have been very difficult. In addition, the most renowned sniper of the 20th Century, Carlos Hathcock, likewise said Oswald's supposed shooting feat would have been very difficult, and Hathcock added he didn't believe that only one man shot Kennedy. The Army sniper with whom I spoke said his instructors invited the students in his sniping class to try to duplicate Oswald's supposed shooting feat, and that not one of them could do it. Former Marine sniper Craig Roberts is another sniping expert who says Oswald's alleged shooting feat would have been very difficult and that no one man could have done the shooting. If Oswald's alleged shooting feat would have been so easy, why hasn't anyone ever scored two hits in three shots against a moving target from a 60-foot elevation using a Carcano rifle in 6-8 seconds on the first attempt? It should be remembered that Oswald would have had only one attempt, that he had no chance to fire "practice rounds" that day, and that he was widely regarded as a rather poor shot by those who saw him shoot.

(5) Russo says that "an FBI sharpshooter, using Oswald's rifle, fired three rapid-fire rounds and immediately took paraffin tests. Both his hands and cheek tested negative" (p. 463). Russo is taking the Warren Commission's word on this point. But when Harold Weisberg received what appeared to be records on these tests as a result of a FOIA suit, he discovered a different story: "ERDA [the Energy and Research and Development Administration] . decided to give me copies of its records. These records included the results of a number of test firings with that rifle [the alleged murder weapon] and the paraffin test made on those who fired it. The test firing left heavy deposits on all the shooters faces, quite the opposite of what the paraffin test of Oswald's face disclosed. (Never Again, p. 337)."

As Weisberg mentions, the paraffin test of Oswald's cheeks was negative, suggesting he had not fired a rifle recently. However, I should add that paraffin tests aren't always reliable and that police departments stopped using them a long time ago.

Since the 1993 airing of the PBS Frontline episode, Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?, an astounding amount of half-truths and misinformation has made the rounds concerning yours truly. Until now, I had no desire to respond to these "critics," since the old maxim "consider the source" more than clarified this flow of lunacy to anyone who had evolved beyond the homo erectus stage. However, one recent diatribe is so alarming it must be dealt with post haste. I refer of course to an article that appeared in the January-February 1999 issue of an anti-government rag with a richly-deserved microscopic circulation. That piece of claptrap is entitled Probe, and purports to be the mouthpiece of a group who call themselves the Committee to Investigate the Kennedy Assassination (CTKA). (Many believe the title Probe is actually a thinly-veiled reference to a device that is employed by a cult with a fondness for proctological exams. I myself would never believe such a thing. But who knows?)

The guru of the "Probers" is an unrepentant Jim Garrison apologist who goes by the name Jim DiEugenio, and in this recent issue he authored an article ("Who is Gus Russo?") that is more error-ridden than the 1965 New York Mets. What makes it dangerous, however, is the possibility that someone is using Jim's name in an elaborate smear campaign - a foreign intelligence apparatus perhaps (?). The proof is rooted not only in the unique history of Jim DiEugenio, but in a tell-tale oversight in the article, missed by the smear perpetrators. Even the best make mistakes.

I first met the man "who represented himself as Jim DiEugenio in 1992. He seemed to be earnest, if overly brooding and paranoid. However, he gave the mistaken impression that he was a hard-working investigator who was writing a book on the Garrison saga. Although I had strong disagreements with DiEugenio over the Garrison scenario, we nonetheless had some overlapping interests and thus traded some information. I looked forward, however, to Jim's book, feeling that once he conducted first-hand interviews in New Orleans, he would come to the same beliefs as most New Orleaneans about the lunacy of the Jolly Green Giant.

Thus I was startled when his book, Destiny Betrayed, arrived. Two things stood out about this masterwork; he bought the Garrison demagoguery hook, line, and sinker; and this hard-working investigator's notes cite a total of eight original interviews - five with other researchers, two with Garrison aides, and one with the widow of a cop whose evidence against Clay Shaw was so tainted, the presiding judge disallowed it as unworthy of even Garrison's circus.

Nowhere in Destiny Betrayed is there seen an attempt to contact the countless dozens who fall prey to Jim's (Garrison or DiEugenio's) ad hominum vitriol. Everyone is accused of something, but virtually no one was contacted for their side of the story. Of course this is a common tactic usually perpetrated by those who fear that they might be confronted with a fact that destroys the melodramatic underpinnings of their thesis. But more than that, it is patently unfair and downright bad journalism to perpetrate such a shoddy work concerning a subject of such importance. (In my own book, Live By the Sword, I cited over 500 original interviews, in addition to over one thousand conducted on background. I wrote over four hundred letters requesting interviews to first-hand participants in the event, including all those I found at fault in my conclusion. For example, many aides to Robert Kennedy were approached.)

Not surprisingly, DiEugenio's predictable conclusion was that Garrison was correct in his anti-government harangue. My shock eventually faded, that is until I was sent the recent, cited, DiEugenio missive. The usual unchallenged incendiary was there - no surprise - however, I noticed something else that may shed some light on how such irresponsible poppycock came to be in the first place.


Gus Russo - History

Two former intelligence chiefs have written a book about the assassination of President Kennedy that is being hyped by the not-always reliable Daily Mail.

The internet is piling on. I’m reserving judgment.

The book, Operation Dragon, is co-authored by James Woolsey, director of the CIA, 1993-95, and the late Ion Mihia Pracepa, former chief of the Rumanian intelligence service.

The early reviews are dismal.

Woolsey’s theory is “Cra-Cra,” says Gus Russo at MSN. Russo defends the official theory that one man alone and unaided killed President Kennedy for no reason (and that the alleged assassin was then killed by another man for no reason.) Russo likens Woolsey’s theory to QAnon, while admitting he hasn’t actually read the book.

Woolsey and Pacepa, who recently died of Covid, reportedly argue that Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev personally ordered Lee Harvey Oswald to kill the president. Since there’s no evidence that Khrushchev and Oswald ever met, this claim is open to challenge. “So how did that happen?” asks John Sipher, a former CIA officer, a necessary question.

Here’s where the story gets puzzling. The Daily Mail reports that the authors do not claim to have new evidence. They say the Warren Commission’s evidence support this claim. Since the Warren Commission articulated the theory of the “lone gunman” as historical truth, this doesn’t make sense. Since I don’t entirely trust the Daily Mail, I’m going to read the book to find out.

On social media Woolsey’s reputation as one of the worst CIA director’s ever does not help his credibility. But whatever you think of him, Woolsey is a man who has reached senior positions in the U.S. government. Pracepa served in a senior position in the Rumanian government. These are men who know something about power and intelligence operations.

If nothing else, the dissent of a former CIA director on a big historical controversy seems noteworthy.

Other CIA Dissidents

One fact missing so far from the coverage of Operation Dragon James Woolsey is not the first CIA man to reject the Warren Commission’s conclusions.

Winston Scott, Mexico City station chief in 1963, privately concluded there had been a communist conspiracy. He wrote as much in an unpublished memoir. The CIA seized his manuscript and suppressed it for decades.

(I tell the story in my book, Our Man in Mexico)

In November 2019, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, veteran operations officer who teaches at Harvard, gave a presentation in Dallas arguing that JFK was killed by enemies in the CIA.

I think Mowatt-Larssen’s analysis, while not definitive, is compelling.

So Woolsey’s opinion is less idiosyncratic than some may believe.

The impulse to attack Woolsey without hearing him out is standard practice on the internet today. That strikes me as unfair, if not unprofessional. So I’m not going to pass judgment on Operation Dragon until I’ve actually read it. It’s a very 20th century habit, I know. To actually hear out somebody with whom you disagree, but I can’t help it.


The Outfit

This is the story of the Outfit, the secretive organized crime cartel that began its reign in prohibition-era Chicago before becoming the real puppet master of Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Washington D.C.

The Outfit recounts the adventures and exploits of its bosses, Tony 'Joe Batters' Accardo (the real Godfather), Murray 'The Camel' or 'Curly' Humphreys (one of the greatest political fixers and union organizers this country has ever known), Paul 'The Waiter' Ricca, and Johnny Rosselli (the liaison between the shadowy world and the outside world). Their invisibility was their strength, and what kept their leader from ever spending a single night in jail. The Outfit bosses were the epitome of style and grace, moving effortlessly among national political figures and Hollywood studio heads-until their world started to crumble in the 1970s.

With extensive research including recently released FBI files, the Chicago Crime files of entertainer Steve Allen, first-ever access to the voluminous working papers of the Kefauver Committee, original interviews with the members of the Fourth Estate who pursued the Outfit for forty years, and exclusive access to the journals of Humphrey's widow, veteran journalist Gus Russo uncovers sixty years of corruption and influence, and examines the shadow history of the United States.

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LibraryThing Review

A detailed history of the birth of organized crime in the 'Second City'. Filled with fascinating (if repellent) characters, Russo captures the pragmatic mentality of the upper echelons of crime. The . Читать весь отзыв

The Outfit: The Role of Chicago's Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America

In this impressive work, investigative journalist Russo (Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK) combines hundreds of his own interviews and newly revealed government . Читать весь отзыв


Catonsville resident honors memories of JFK assassination 50 years later

Almost every American who was alive when it happened can remember exactly where they were, who they were with and what they were doing on Nov. 22, 1963, when they heard that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

Catonsville resident Gus Russo recognized this phenomenon and — in partnership with Tom Brokaw and NBC — has filmed a documentary and written a book chronicling the stories of American citizens and where they were on that fateful day.

Kennedy was riding in a presidential motorcade with his wife, Jacqueline, Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife, Nellie, in Dallas when, at about 12:30 p.m., he was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald. He died later that day at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

"It was such an incredibly dramatic moment for those of us who lived through it," said Russo, 64. "It's burned into our cortex, every detail of where we were."

Russo was a student at Mount St. Joseph High School when Kennedy was shot. He still has vivid memories of that fateful day 50 years later.

"I was in the hallway before eighth period, Mr. Hall's biology class," he said. "Just going down the hall and there was this whisper, 'Did you hear? Kennedy's been shot. The president's been shot.'

"We go into biology class and the principal came over the intercom," Russo said. " 'The president has been shot.'

"It was the worst thing. The principal told everybody to pray," he said. "We went to our homeroom and then the announcement came that he was dead.

"A room full of boys and half of them were crying, sobbing," he said.

Russo, a renowned author and documentary film maker, has spent more than 20 years researching and writing books on the Kennedys and organized crime.

In 1993, for the 30-year anniversary of Kennedy's death, he was one of two leading reporters on the documentary "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?"

He is also the author of "Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK." The book went on sale Nov. 5.

Earlier this year, as the 50th anniversary of the event approached, Russo got a call from his friend and long-time 60 Minutes producer, Harry Moses.

"He said 'What are we going to do for the 50th?' " Russo said.

Moses asked Russo where he was when he heard the news in 1963 and, with that, the "Where Were You?" documentary was born.

"It just kind of came up haphazardly," Russo said.

Once Russo was partnered with NBC and Brokaw, he only had about four weeks to gather his research before the team's first filming in New Orleans.

"It was a very quick thing," he said. "I had no time, by comparison to other projects, to do the research that I wanted to do."

Luckily, he had almost 25 years worth of research and sources from previous projects. As interviews for the documentary progressed, Russo felt there was something missing.

"It's really tough to do something like this in a very short time," Russo said. "With any of these [documentary] shows, you film people for an hour and you use about eight seconds. It's frustrating having an hour of great material whittled down to a few seconds, especially something as emotional as this."

So Russo and Moses struck up a deal to publish transcripts of the full interviews in a book, in order to do the extensive, often heartfelt, interviews justice.

"That's part of the reason for doing the book," Russo said. "To explain to people who weren't born why it was so important to us.

"I'm going to do a project about what it was like to live through it," he said. "It's a very big deal, because I don't think there's anything that could happen today that would be comparable."

Russo compared Kennedy's presidency to something of a fantasy. When he was killed, that illusion was not the only thing shattered.

"Before Kennedy came along, in the world of the 1950s, everything was gray and black and white and was run by very old people," Russo said. "It was just boring and a different world.

"His [Kennedy's] inauguration was the first one in color," Russo said. "He was gorgeous. He looked like a movie star. His wife looked like the most beautiful woman you'd ever seen. It would be like, today, having Brad Pitt and Angelina [Jolie] as the president and first lady," he said.

"And then all of a sudden he gets his head blown off and you're back to LBJ, another old politician," Russo said. "It was jarring."

George Derek Musgrove, assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, agreed with Russo that nothing in modern day history — except perhaps the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — has had a comparable impact on the American people.

He said the invention of television also played a big role in the impact the event had on the public.

"It was almost entirely a TV event," Musgrove said.

"Large numbers of Americans saw the motorcade and the fatal shot, his wife scrambling out of the car and much of his funeral was on TV live. That in and of itself was a remarkable departure from past political events," he said. "There was both a national trauma, and a national attempt to come to terms with what had just happened.

"It was the only assassination of a modern American president," he said. "The last assassination [before Kennedy] was [William] McKinley in 1900 and you don't even have the radio announcing it to everyone then.

"Everyone has come to the understand that the event was so jarring, and so important that anyone that was alive when it happened can say exactly where they were when it happened," Musgrove said.


Gus Russo


Gus Russo is a veteran investigative reporter, musician, and author. His first book, Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK (Bancroft, 1998), was praised by the New York Times as “compelling, exhaustively researched and even handed.” Kirkus Reviews called Sword, “Probably the last book on the Kennedy assassination you will need to read. Gripping and convincing!” The book was a Book of the Month Club and History Book Club Featured Alternate. Sword was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999, and has been scripted for a mini-series by Showtime Networks. Russo next authored The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America (Bloomsbury, 2002). It was described as “seamless” (Baltimo
Gus Russo is a veteran investigative reporter, musician, and author. His first book, Live By the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK (Bancroft, 1998), was praised by the New York Times as “compelling, exhaustively researched and even handed.” Kirkus Reviews called Sword, “Probably the last book on the Kennedy assassination you will need to read. Gripping and convincing!” The book was a Book of the Month Club and History Book Club Featured Alternate. Sword was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1999, and has been scripted for a mini-series by Showtime Networks. Russo next authored The Outfit: The Role of Chicago’s Underworld in the Shaping of Modern America (Bloomsbury, 2002). It was described as “seamless” (Baltimore Sun), “a tireless read. a saga. 550 pages of good journalism” (Chicago Tribune), and “one of the essential works on the subject of organized crime” (Los Angeles Times). The Outfit was also nominated for the Pulitzer, and was optioned before publication by USA Networks.
Russo’s next book, Gangsters and GoodFellas (June 2004, M Evans Pub.), was a collaboration with former NY gangster Henry Hill, a sequel to his 1985 biography Wiseguy, which was the basis for the hit 1990 movie GoodFellas, starring Robert DeNiro.
Russo followed with Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America’s Hidden Power Brokers (Sept. 2006) Supermob film rights were sold before publication to CBS-Paramount, and is being developed as a television series. Regarding this book, Publishers Weekly stated: “Veteran investigative author and organized crime expert Russo's magnum opus is a compelling look at one of the last century's major power players. Russo's extensive research is amply evident, and he has made use of recently disclosed records to paint a fuller picture than predecessors such as Seymour Hersh and Brian Ross were able to. a worthy addition to the genre.” Chicago Sun-Times: “An exhaustive look at [Korshak’s] exploits… Russo does a masterful job… The amount of research in the book is staggering… Russo pulls plenty of substantive dirty deeds done by Korshak into the light. Korshak would have cringed.” Kirkus: “there are plenty of revelations in this absorbing book.” SF Chronicle: “[Supermob] adds up to a compelling picture of the exercise of power in the 20th century… Russo’s chapter on the shameless plundering of the assets of imprisoned Japanese Americans during World War II, presided over by a bevy of Korshak’s associates, is particularly stirring.”
In January 2006, Russo, as co-writer with Wilfried Huismann, delivered a breakthrough 90-minute documentary for the German public television network WDR. The film, “Rendezvous With Death,” clarifies the relationship between Cuba’s intelligence service and JFK’s killer. At this writing, the film has aired in fifteen countries. In addition, Russo is also an occasional consultant to Hollywood screenwriter Ron Bass. Russo’s fifth book (w/ Steve Molton), is Brothers in Arms: The Kennedys, the Castros, and the Politics of Murder (October 2008). This book was inspired by the “Rendezvous” film. Brothers was named Winner of the 2008 History Prize by the New York Book Festival.

In 2009, Russo produced and co-wrote Generation 9-11, a documentary feature film on the West’s misconceptions about Islam, for Academy Award-winning director Nigel Nobel. Most recently, Russo’s The Outfit was optioned by top Hollywood producer Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland) as a television series, and his original feature script, Django, ¬is currently being read by Mick Jagger for possible purchase by his Jagged Films Production Co.

Russo released his sixth book, a memoir entitled Boomer Days, in May 2011.

Previously, Gus Russo has worked an investigative reporter for PBS’ Frontline series, as well as ABC News Special Reports w . more


Forget the Smoking Gun… – Gus Russo 󈨌

Catonsville resident Gus Russo ’72, political science is married to the mob. And to U.S. history. He is a writer and investigative reporter specializing in the shadowy netherworld of American crime and politics. Russo has worked on 15 television documentaries for major networks in the United States and elsewhere, and he is the author of seven books – including “Where Were You? America Remembers the JFK Assassination” (Lyons Press, 2013).

The 1960s and 1970s (when I was a student at UMBC) were not just defined by musical revolutions, but also by the tumult of politics and conspiracy – and the frantic efforts by public officials to keep secrets: Who killed JFK, MLK and RFK? Why were we in a senseless and seemingly endless war in Vietnam? Who ordered the Watergate break-in and what were the burglars after in the Democratic National Committee headquarters? What were all those silver discs people thought they saw in the sky?

In the 1980s, I gave up work as a musician to embark upon a journey to find answers to those sorts of questions as an investigative journalist. While it’s often portrayed as a glamorous profession, the skills and tools I employ are the same mundane ones that previous generations of gumshoes have relied upon: developing and working sources, skip-tracing (locating subjects), and obtaining documentary records from courts, real estate transactions, federal archives and law enforcement agencies.

Other than giving faster access to a small percentage of available records, the digital revolution hasn’t changed the work much. Investigative reporters rarely find their best stories online. The real truth (or as close as we can get to it) often lies buried in undigitized repositories of primary source documents, or in the closely guarded memories of the first-hand players and witnesses.

It’s often hard to win the trust of those actors and witnesses to history. It requires patience and perseverance, especially in the areas that most interest me: organized crime and intelligence agencies domestic and foreign. Old school wiseguys and retired spies don’t open up their vaults (or memories) just because you sent a nice email or even snail mail. I’ve sent Christmas presents, birthday presents, get-well cards, and funeral floral arrangements. (When I’m in the middle of a project, I have “Edible Arrangements” on speed dial.) I’ve hopped on countless planes, trains and autos to take someone out to dinner and slowly gain their trust. It often takes many months. In some cases, years.

But more often than not, determination pays off. When I flew to Chicago in 2000 to take ten members of former boss Sam Giancana’s family to dinner in a suburban restaurant infamous for its parking lot whackings, I thought I must have lost my mind. But it worked. The clan introduced me to many of Sam’s still-living friends and associates – a treasure trove of information for my then work-in-progress, The Outfit.

Then there is the paper trail – and the elusive “smoking gun” that everybody wants to find. But the truth is that document trolling is painstaking and boring 99 percent of the time. (I should know: Staff members at the National Archives have told me I’ve spent more hours there over the last 20 years than any other researcher.) And for every useful page, I’ve discarded a thousand others.

It’s also difficult to find the best documents. They certainly aren’t all at the National Archives. I’ve pulled FBI files from garages and attics of retired agents. My eyes have gone blurry pouring over faded real estate quitclaim deeds. I’ve begged Congressional committee chairmen to open up investigative files stored in the Library of Congress before the traditional 50-year lockdown date expires, and appealed FBI and CIA denials more times than I can count. When the FBI tried to tell me they only held 275 pages on the mob’s longtime fixer, Sidney Korshak, I hounded them for two years to obtain the rest of what I intuited they must possess. Eventually I was rewarded with 7,500 pages delivered to my doorstep at no charge. Maybe they felt guilty about the two-year runaround.

There was gold in those files, but there were no “smoking guns.” In fact, that concept should be erased from the minds of budding and seasoned journalists alike. The only “smoking gun” proof is the literal kind: a perpetrator caught holding one of them over the body of a victim. Nothing that dispositive can ever be found after the fact. Any document can be forged, any picture Photoshopped, and any witness mistaken or corrupted.

The seasoned investigative reporter knows that the more sensational the information you have, the more corroboration is needed so that one can arrive, at best, at an approximate truth based on a preponderance of evidence. If you require concrete proofs in your life, I suggest majoring in math. Otherwise you’ll be in for one major disappointment after another.

Serious investigative work – pounding the pavement, working the phones, and poring through over documents – can max out your stamina and your credit card. But it’s the only way I have been able to find answers to the questions that dog me about the shadow powers in our country.

Plus, you make some lasting human connections along the way. (What a concept!) In the week that I wrote this piece, I had phone calls from Sam Giancana’s daughter, Carlos Marcello’s son, the man who found Lee Harvey Oswald hiding in a Dallas theater after the Kennedy assassination, and two members of JFK’s Secret Service detail.

Often when these friends call or we visit in person, I feel sad for a generation that has been led to believe that all information, knowledge and wisdom reside inside in an invisible digital server or the “cloud.” It is a failure of my generation, which created and sold the myth, and it certainly doesn’t bode well for the future of my profession.


Learn More

* Mary Ferrell.org, has the largest online collection of JFK assassination records and the most concise guides to the JFK debate.

* JFK Lancer holds an annual conference in Dallas highlighting the latest JFK research and revelations.

* 2017 JFK has a detailed guide to the massive JFK disclosures scheduled for October 2017.

* Assassination Archives and Research Center leads the fight in federal court for full JFK disclosure.

* JFK Facts editorJefferson Morley will personally answer your JFK questions. Write to [email protected]


Our Story

We are a small, family-owned and family-operated business with deep, local roots and a meaningful history of giving back to the community. We are also recognized as industry pioneers in sourcing local produce, and offering unique, cross cultural products. Long before “local” became the trendy term that it is today, A. Russo & Sons intuitively recognized the priceless relationship between wholesalers and local farmers.

This is in part because the founder of Russo’s, our great-grandfather Antonio Russo, owned his own farm in Watertown back in the early 1900s. He sold tomatoes, beans and lettuce to his neighbors and at Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market in Boston.

Today, Tony Russo, continues to respect, admire and nurture relationships with local farmers. In fact, in the 1970s Tony was a pioneer in this regard. He was a supporter of the then-nascent slogan 'Massachusetts, Grown & Fresher' - which supported local farming - rolled out by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture and overlooked at that time by far too many.

Russo's is dedicated to providing the highest quality produce to its wholesale and retail customers. Tony works tirelessly to source his products from the best local, regional, national and international growers. Tony is committed to selling his incredible selection of wholesale and retail products at the best prices.

Our first retail store "Town Garden" was located on Main Street in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Olgo Russo, Gildo Russo and Antonio "Papa" Russo at our original warehouse on Lexington Street in Watertown.


History of cannabis and its preparations in saga, science, and sobriquet

Cannabis sativa L. is possibly one of the oldest plants cultivated by man, but has remained a source of controversy throughout its history. Whether pariah or panacea, this most versatile botanical has provided a mirror to medicine and has pointed the way in the last two decades toward a host of medical challenges from analgesia to weight loss through the discovery of its myriad biochemical attributes and the endocannabinoid system wherein many of its components operate. This study surveys the history of cannabis, its genetics and preparations. A review of cannabis usage in Ancient Egypt will serve as an archetype, while examining first mentions from various Old World cultures and their pertinence for contemporary scientific investigation. Cannabis historians of the past have provided promising clues to potential treatments for a wide array of currently puzzling medical syndromes including chronic pain, spasticity, cancer, seizure disorders, nausea, anorexia, and infectious disease that remain challenges for 21st century medicine. Information gleaned from the history of cannabis administration in its various forms may provide useful points of departure for research into novel delivery techniques and standardization of cannabis-based medicines that will allow their prescription for treatment of these intractable medical conditions.


Mafia Jews: Inside a Genuine Cabal

The Jewish people are instructed to be a “light unto the nations” — and what society could use more illumination than the underworld? So goes the story of mob lawyer Sidney Korshak, whose partnerships with Chicago gangsters led him to be named the most powerful lawyer in the world by the FBI. As part of his, er, “covenant,” he steered the mob toward a path of respectability, serving as its go-between with the white-collar world.

Sidney who, you ask? Those with a passing pop-culture familiarity with the Mafia know that Chicago was famous for its Italian Mafiosos, like Al Capone and Tony Accardo. New York City, of course, had its share of “tough Jews,” including Meyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel. But for much of the past century, the real center of mob power was a Chicago-born Jewish lawyer — or so says investigative reporter Gus Russo in his new book, “Supermob: How Sidney Korshak and His Criminal Associates Became America’s Hidden Power Brokers.”

The Supermob — the term was coined by late Senate investigator Walter Sheridan — was, according to Russo, a group of mostly Jewish men who made a fortune by collaborating with Chicago’s underworld. Generally, these men took mob money and funneled it into such respectable outlets as real estate and the burgeoning film industry.

The fact that these men were Jewish is crucial to Russo’s story. His telling of the Supermob tale begins in the Pale of Settlement and quickly advances to the Lawndale section of Chicago, a place so crowded with Jews that it was known as “Kosher Calcutta.” There, living amid crowded streets and a corrupt civic landscape, is a band of young, first-generation immigrant Jewish kids who are determined to make it big in American life — at any moral price. These Jewish gangsters would never make the headlines instead, they’d serve as the behind-the-scenes masterminds of the mob.

And according to Russo, this is the role that Jews traditionally played. “Throughout history,” he writes, “the Jews were never the public leaders they were always the kingmakers and power brokers.They knew from experience that a Jew would not get a top spot, however low the level, because of the existing anti-Semitism, even in America. They were always aware that their wealth and position in society could be noticed and another pogrom would ensue. Thus they worked surreptitiously, choosing to focus on the substrata of a business or an event.”

Russo takes great pains to promote Korshak’s Jewish identity the man attended the Herzl Grammar School, he lent financial support to Israel and, as a retiree in Beverly Hills, he collected Marc Chagall paintings. But early on, Korshak’s decidedly, well, goyish qualities are what set apart the rising star. Frequently referring to Korshak as “fair-haired,” Russo writes: “The adjectives most often used to describe the young barrister — suave, slim, tall and imperious — were the same attributes that made him the perfect corporate liaison for the most powerful underworld organization in the history of the nation.”

Korshak, too, represented a sort of duality. Though he prospered enormously from his mob ties — and used to brag about his early Capone associations — it seems he was conflicted, too. More than once, according to Russo, Korshak indicated that he wanted out — and, in an effort to put a tikkun olam wash over the criminal things he’d done, he donated large sums of money to charity.

Still, the Supermob’s reach extended far beyond the shtetl by the time Korshak headed to Los Angeles in the 1950s, his list of associates read like a “Who’s Who” of American politics and business in the 20th century. Among Korshak’s cohorts were Jules Stein, founder of Universal Pictures and the Music Corporation of America, Conrad Hilton, Howard Hughes, Ronald Reagan and former California governor Jerry Brown.

Korshak lived the kind of riveting life that’s ripe for fiction — and indeed, he allegedly inspired the Tom Hagen character, played by Robert Duvall, in “The Godfather.” (Incidentally, Korshak was instrumental in securing Al Pacino for the film’s title role, as well as in staving off interference from the Mafia and the Italian-American Civil Rights League.) And yet, Russo forgoes narrative in favor of a heavily sourced, academic approach. The result is a brilliantly researched book that too often reads like a term paper. There are some interesting parts: The chapter on the Chicago Outfit’s involvement in the creation of Las Vegas — it actually predates that of the New York gangsters — is particularly compelling, while the chapter on the Supermob’s seizing of Japanese Americans’ property during World War II illuminates

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