FBI docs: Kennedy faced death threat from brother’s assassin

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.


A federal prisoner said he was offered $1 million and a car by fellow inmate Sirhan Sirhan to kill Edward Kennedy. His name redacted from the FBI documents, the prisoner said he declined to take the contract.

“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 People’s Party.

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 Kopechne’s name.

“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.


And a wealthy socialite allegedly had “considerable information concerning sex parties” involving Kennedy and his brothers, according to the documents. The parties were said to have taken place at Hotel Carlyle in New York City and also involved Sinatra, Monroe and Sammy Davis, Jr.The FBI found nothing to the allegations.

“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.