The Power of the Press

       Priscilla Johnson McMillan      

     Priscilla Johnson McMillan      

A nation of citizens that desires a free press must seek to promote an informed public and must at times rely on the content of the independent press to provide them neutral inspections that reports without agenda. The Fourth Estate is an honorary title reflecting the power of influence relegated to members of the media because they have no official power. Yet they do choose what historical and contemporary issues of importance are widely known to many citizens and their stories often can make and destroy the careers and lives of nearly any person no matter how beloved or reviled. However, we should also consider those revealed by evidence abusing this position to influence the public.
 
The Kennedy Assassination is among the most controversial topics dismissed by some media outlets and there is no shortage of bad ideas offered by some officials and fringe conspiracy advocates, yet there is a substantial amount of verifiable contending evidence as well.  Evidence that confirms a minority of high officials sought to use the press to shield them from reasonable skepticism and the historic mistakes that still haunt their past investigations. A huge omniscient cover-up did not occur, but a series of multiple cover-ups by various officials to protect their reputations, hide past illegalities, and deny all possible ties linking them to people and suspects important to the case did repeatedly. When official narratives require a journalist to propagate them some are too willing to participate and do not understand every official interest regarding them might one day be revealed.

Businessperson Stuart Holmes Johnson and socialite Eunice Clapp Caroll were engaged in 1922 and subsequently married and had four children, among them was a daughter Priscilla Mary Post Johnson born in Glen Cove, New York on July 19, 1928. i Priscilla's family spent her formative years in a rich household within New York State and feasibly at the couple's summer residence as well. She later attended local elementary and high school in Long Island and New York respectively and began her college education at Bryn Mawr College earning a degree in 1950.ii She reportedly applied for Central Intelligence Agency employment in 1952.iii 

By 1953, she had learned proficiency in three additional languages and gained her master's degree from Harvard College. The same year Priscilla graduated from Harvard she would serve for one month as the researcher on Southeast Asia for Senator John F. Kennedy.iv Following extensive investigation Agency officials disapprove her for employment due to connections with subversive groups and Johnson's liberal education.v Among these likely security risks was her employment for the Current Digest of the Soviet Press at Columbia University. She would make three trips to the Soviet Union according to her testimony and later withdrew her prior application for CIA employment.vi   

Priscilla decided instead to use her diverse skills to become a reporter and she wrote articles for Colliers Magazine and became a freelance journalist in 1955. Subsequently Johnson began traveling the world working for various media companies abroad. She joined the North American Newspaper Alliance and travels to Europe to report about the Geneva Summit in 1955, the gathering reportedly was to deescalate and possibly end the Cold War.  Johnson made contact and was debriefed by a case officer in 1956, and was issued provisional operational approval (POA).vii According to her Office of Security file Johnson "Johnson has been of prior interest to this Agency...was employed on a part time basis in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during two periods of residence in Russia."viii  

In April of 1958, authorities issue another POA request for Johnson and because she met the requirements for her use as a traveler and informant. Officials contend that Priscilla Johnson would be receptive to their proposal but the request canceled months later. During May, she consents to a "...'Embassy' briefing prior to departure to SU. (Soviet Union)" and she "Expressed willingness to do what could. Believe could act as spotter and contact appropriate Soviets of interest." Subsequently officials again disapprove Johnson for security clearance and deny the request for her use as a legal traveler "spotter". 

However later clandestine Agency interest directed at Johnson was largely unknown to her. In September of 1958, Agency officials began targeting Johnson with the HTLINGUAL mail intercept program to observe her communications and they collected over thirty pieces of mail regarding her in the following years.ix She also worked as a translator for the Moscow desk of the Reuters news agency and states using diplomatic pouches at times to send letters and minor reports to the United States. Johnson also utilized some travelers to deliver her messages and stories to avoid Russian censorship.x   

In 1959, Lee Harvey Oswald had been suggested a local hotel by Edward Snyder, a Consul official and CIA agent with State Department cover. John McVickar a different consul official at the United States Embassy in Moscow suggests that Priscilla Johnson meet with the defector Lee Harvey Oswald. Johnson interviewed Oswald for five hours in Moscow at the Hotel Metropol, where she too was a resident. She reported that from the interview she believed he was a soft spoken but angry young man who was an ideological Marxist defector. 

          Lee Harvey Oswald Circa 1959

        Lee Harvey Oswald Circa 1959

Yet it was not this often-discussed interview or later maligning of Oswald that Johnson undertook with a seeming agenda that is most notable but instead another item she failed to mention to the President's Commission. In a subsequent interview with the House Select Committee on Assassinations, she reveals that US Moscow Embassy employee John McVickar was worried about the actions of Second Consul Snyder. Priscilla relayed McVickar's fear that Snyder had pushed Oswald and teased him "...toward defecting rather than the other way." Later in the same interview, she denies a now documented relationship with the CIA repeatedly to investigators. She also informs them that she contacted Edward Snyder about the Oswald interaction.xi Johnson reports there were few precedents then regarding defectors and "there had not been many cases of defectors coming and getting out. There were cases of...people come to Russia in the thirties who got trapped, and who were never able to leave...once you 'defected', or became a Soviet...you could never leave again. And I assumed that was the fate he (Oswald) was headed for."xii 

  US Moscow Embassy Employees John McVickar and Richard E. Snyder

US Moscow Embassy Employees John McVickar and Richard E. Snyder

Despite the prior investigations and denials, a proprietary approval late in spring of 1962 sought to utilize Johnson as a media asset. Officials issue another request for proprietary approval to use her "...as News Editor and Writer for magazines subsidized by (redacted) under project (redacted)" Johnson reported information regarding the attempted assassination of Soviet Premier Khrushchev to the CIA in September of 1962. She additionally reported further information regarding her months of travel in Moscow, Leningrad, and London to Agency officials. The Agency contacts Johnson and selects her as the likely person to write an article for Agency operational purposes "in a major US magazine for our campaign". She also "...can be encouraged to write pretty much the articles we want."xiii 
 
Yet while Johnson was interacting with the Agency in 1962, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received a list of correspondents who were possible Soviet Agents reporting political information. Richard Nixon's personal secretary Rose Mary Woods provided this list to the Agency and they began to exclude some listed names. Yet among those still under consideration during 1959 was Priscilla Johnson.xiv One file notes that in October a security check request concerning Johnson was made "...for routine exploitation of foreign positive intelligence." 
 

                     Rose Mary Woods

                   Rose Mary Woods

Near the end of the year, a provisional covert security approval request was issued regarding Johnson's contacts in the Soviet Union under "project (redacted)". During 1963 another POA was requested and Priscilla had multiple meetings was an unnamed CIA employee prior to the Kennedy assassination regarding her previous intelligence connections. Officials grant her a covert security approval (CSA) in May of 1963 to debrief her again regarding her Russian contacts. The Agency feasibly related her debriefing to project AEDINOSAUR, a program to import censored books into the Soviet Union.xv xvi  

In January of the next year, she met again with the same employee to discuss her prior interview of Lee Harvey Oswald and other related matters. She has a casual contact with an unnamed CIA component and employee that clear her for use in March of 1964.xvii Johnson writes the article "Oswald in Moscow" during April for Harper's Magazine, in the article she describes Oswald as "evasive...and too frail, psychologically, for what he had set out to do." She claimed that his alleged lethal role determined by officials was part of his "social protest", yet Oswald largely only praised President Kennedy according to related witnesses. If he wanted attention for his protests, it does not make sense that would not take credit for the allegations targeting him and forever be a part of Marxist history. Johnson speculates that President Kennedy was not a man but "a surprisingly abstract being, a soulless personification of authority." Of course, Johnson never offers evidence or sources to prove this but merely her officially aligned interpretation.   

Despite Oswald's later return to the United States Johnson seemed to believe his determination to remain in the Soviet Union and never return. Oswald reportedly states he taught himself to read and write in Russian, yet he additionally offers "But I still have trouble speaking." Johnson states after listening to Oswald discuss Marxism and Soviet economics "...that his views were rigid and naive, and that he did not know his Marxism very well."xviii This would match Oswald's public claims of being a Marxist but possessing no deep understanding of the cause he claimed to advocate for and never verifiably attending Communist or Marxist meetings as nearly every active member would. Oswald I would contend has all the seeming of a Marxist but he possessed no verified allegiances. Johnson even admits in one part of her article that "I doubt Oswald was aware that he was violating Lenin's writings on individual terror when-an if- he pulled the trigger...I suspect, rather, that he was not Marxist enough to realize (assassination)...was the ultimate anti-Marxist act."xix 

PJM Book M and L.png

Priscilla also lived for a period with Marina Oswald and began writing her now famous book "Marina and Lee: The Tormented Love and Fatal Obsession Behind Lee Harvey Oswald's Assassination of John F. Kennedy." In 1964, she offers a narrative in the press based on speculation about Oswald's alleged mental states during the time she encountered him and beyond. Marina Oswald sends a letter to the President's Commission during this period asking for "all documents and belongings of my husband Lee Harvey Oswald...I am jointly working with Miss Priscilla Johnson on the book of my life with Lee Oswald."xx Interestingly, one anecdote Johnson offered later investigators that she omitted from her book was Marina told her Oswald contacted the US controlled Radio Liberty with a postcard to let them know he could hear them in Russia. He also listened to a broadcast of President Kennedy according to Marina.xxi   

                   George McMillan

                 George McMillan

Following Johnson's marriage to George McMillan in 1966, her name became Priscilla Johnson McMillan. By 1967, Johnson McMillan was translating the memoirs of the former Russian dictator Josef Stalin's daughter. McMillan's does not publish her book "Marina and Lee" until 1977 amid the ongoing inquiry of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. One prior article regarding Priscilla captures her style of reporting, "The where-am-I expression she seems habitually to wear is a natural disguise for a fine mind and sensibility, as well as a stubborn talent for getting what she is professionally interested in having."xxii February 2, 1978 the House Select Committee interviewed Priscilla McMillan and during her biographic statement it is noted that George McMillan her husband was the author of the book "The Making of an Assassin, the life of James Earl Ray." It seems the couple had a penchant for endorsing official narratives. 
Sincerely,
C. A. A. Savastano  
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i. Week in Society, (September 30, 1922), Mrs. Carroll and Mr. Stuart Johnson to Wed, Brooklyn Life, p. 8   
ii. House Select Committee on Assassinations, Segregated Central Intelligence Agency file, Microfilm Reel 9, Hernandez-Loganov, Folder H, Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Personal Record Questionnaire, (n.d.),  p. 2, National Archives and Records Administration Identification Number: 1994-04-07-11-53-41-840005   
iii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Box 5, McMillan, Priscilla Johnson, 201 File, April 7, 1978, NARA ID: 180-10141-10205
iv. HSCA, Seg CIA file, Security File on Priscilla Johnson Macmillan, Oswald in Moscow, Box 43, pp. 48-49, NARA ID: 1993.08.13.18:14:26:210059
v. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Box 43, Memorandum: Johnson, Priscilla Mary, March 23, 1953, pp. 1,2,8, NARA ID: 104-10120-10430
vi. HSCA, Numbered File, No Title, Interview with Priscilla Johnson McMillan, Tape 1, Side 2, NARA ID: 180-10076-10399
vii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Box 5, McMillan, Priscilla Johnson, 201 File
viii. HSCA, Seg CIA file, Security File on Priscilla Johnson Macmillan
ix. HSCA, Seg CIA file, HTLINGUAL Mail Intercepts, Box 10, NARA ID: 1993.07.12.16:57:53:000440
x. HSCA, Numbered File, No Title, pp. 7-9
xi. Ibid, p. 46, 49
xii. Ibid, p. 35
xiii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Box 5, McMillan, Priscilla Johnson, 201 File
xiv. Federal Bureau of Investigation, HSCA Subject Files, M-N, Aline Mosby, No Title, p.3, NARA ID: 124-90151-10015
xv. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Johnson, Priscilla Mary Post (Comments on Oswald), Box 47, December 18, 1963, NARA ID: 104-10132-10105
xvi. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Form - Request for Approval or Investigative Action, Box 43, NARA ID: 104-10120-10441
xvii. HSCA, Seg. CIA file, Box 5, McMillan, Priscilla Johnson, 201 File
xviii. HSCA, Seg CIA file, Security File on Priscilla Johnson Macmillan, Oswald in Moscow
xix. Ibid  
xx. FBI, HSCA Administrative Folder F-11, Outgoing Commission Volume X, Letter from Marina Oswald to the President's Commission, September 9, 1964,  NARA ID: 124-10371-10182
xxi. HSCA, Numbered File, No Title, Interview w/ PJM, p. 27
xxii. Security File on Priscilla Johnson McMillan

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