The late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) faced a number of death threats, including one from a brother’s assassin, according to thousands of pages of documents released by the FBI Monday.
Sirhan Sirhan, the killer responsible for brother Robert’s death in 1968, was suspected of plotting against the younger Kennedy.
“Will notify Sen. Edward Kennedy’s staff of above death contract
offer,” read the documents. The FBI also said they passed on the
information to the local Secret Service and police offices.
According to the FBI, the bulk of the materials contain information
on threats made against Kennedy from organizations like the Ku Klux
Klan, “Minutemen” organizations and the National Socialist White
Kennedy’s brothers — former Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.) and
President John F. Kennedy — both fell victim to assassins’ bullets. In
his memoir, “True Compass,” Kennedy said he would jump at loud noises,
thinking they were gunshots, and threats to his life were frequent and
anonymous. Also in his memoir, Kennedy said he wrote a letter to the
Los Angeles district attorney asking him not to seek the death penalty
for Sirhan Sirhan.
That didn’t stop the threats, some of which were investigated and others passed on to Kennedy’s office.
“A warning to the Kennedys,” reads a 1968 letter. “John Kennedy
number one assassinated, Robert Kennedy number two assassinated, Ted
Kennedy number three assassinated on a set date of Oct. 25, 1968.
“I have shot good men though they were enemies — why should I let a
punk like you keep living? Take a tip in time stupid,” reads another
threat — a handwritten, scrawled note from 1971.
The FBI posted more than 2,200 pages on Kennedy online Monday. Along
with information about several threats of violence and extortion claims
made against Kennedy, the file had documents concerning his role in the
death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
The bureau stressed it collected only limited public source
information about Kennedy’s car crash on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass.,
in 1969. It did not investigate the accident, which left Kennedy’s
record tarnished when he left the crash scene and did not report it to
local police for several hours.
“The FBI had no investigative role in this case, since there were no
violations of federal criminal law involved. Although there was a
mistaken contemporary report about FBI involvement in the case, the
bureau was not asked to provide support to the local police
investigation,” the FBI said about the Chappaquiddick accident.
But the bureau was monitoring the scandal. It collected more than 70
pages of newspaper articles detailing the crash and its aftermath.
Further, a teletype sent on the day of the crash informed the FBI
director that Kennedy was the driver during the crash, misspelling
“Mary Palporki [sic] information concerning. On this date Dominic J. Arena, chief of police, Edgartown,
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, advised body of female found in
overturned car in water,” reads the teletype. “Mr. Arena confidentially
advised that driver of automobile was Senator Edward M. Kennedy who was
uninjured. Stated fact Senator Kennedy was driver is not being revealed
to anyone. End.”
The FBI also investigated a rumor that the Mafia wanted to “attack
the character” of Sen. Kennedy, his brother Bobby and brother-in-law
Peter Lawford. The plot somehow involved Frank Sinatra and Marilyn
Monroe and was to go into action at a New York party.
“This is allegedly to be accomplished by working with outfit
associates of Frank Sinatra to arrange for their women to be placed in
compromising situations in the presence of any or all of the two
Kennedys and Peter Lawford,” the documents state, attributing the rumor
to a Milwaukee Mafia source.
“The FBI did not consider the rumor solid, and no other mention of
it appears in the file, suggesting that the informant did not supply
any corroboration to the story,” the bureau says on its website.
The bureau also made it clear the documents show that Kennedy was
never investigated for committing a crime or harming national security.
“At no point do these files suggest that the FBI investigated Sen.
Kennedy for a criminal violation or as a security threat,” the FBI
states on its website.
Kennedy shared personal correspondence with longtime FBI Director J.
Edgar Hoover. Recovering in the hospital from a 1964 plane crash, the
senator wrote to Hoover asking if he would submit an essay for a book
about Kennedy’s father, Joseph.
Hoover said in a letter it would be a “pleasure” for him to submit
an essay. That request by the senator, however, led to a background
check by the FBI on his father. An October 1964 memorandum describes
Joseph Kennedy on a first-name basis with Hoover, who had “expressed a
great admiration for Mr. Hoover and the work of the FBI.”
But the FBI never completed a full investigation of Kennedy’s
father, just a “limited inquiry” in 1951 that he allegedly gave
$100,000 for “the removal of government offices” from the Chicago
building of Merchandise Mart, a company he then owned. In addition, the
State Department offered an advisory in 1953 on Kennedy’s father, but
the rest of the paragraph was redacted.
Like the State Department advisory about Kennedy’s father, several
other pages are full of redactions to protect the privacy of certain
individuals mentioned in Kennedy’s FBI file.
Originally scheduled to be released by the end of May, the FBI
delayed the release of Kennedy’s file several times before posting the
documents online Monday.
This story was posted at 10:35 a.m. and updated at 8:27 p.m.