Flashback Friday: Skull And Bones

An eye-opening exposé on the secret organization swaying our government.
Flashback Friday: Skull And Bones
Andrew Zuckerman

Is George W. Bush connected to the most dangerous society in America? Could Yale alumni be the real power behind the “Secret Government”? In this January, 2000 High Times story, R.A. Kris Millegan tries to find out if the secret police really controls the planet.

“These secret societies are behind it all,” my father told me many years ago. During the early ’50s he was a CIA branch chief, head of the East Asia intelligence analysis office. “The Vietnam War,” he said soberly, “is about drugs.” Many years later I finally had some understanding of what Dad was talking about. I wish I had asked more questions. Like, was he was talking about the Order of Skull and Bones?

It’s a symbol used by pirates and poisons, but it’s also a “fraternity’’ at Yale University. College kids having fun? Not quite.

Fifteen juniors are tapped on a Thursday in May each year. Around 2,500 have been members, mostly white males from wealthy Northeastern families: Bush, Ford, Goodyear, Harriman, Heinz, Jay, Kellogg, Phelps, Pillsbury, Pinchot, Rockefeller, Taft, Vanderbilt, Weyerhauser and Whitney are some of the names on its roster. Minorities were brought in in the 1950s, and the first women were admitted in 1991.

The Order of Skull and Bones is a secret society founded at Yale by William Huntington Russell (S&B 1833). His cousin Samuel Russell’s family enterprise, Russell & Company, was the largest American opium smuggler, working with the Scottish firm Jardine-Matheson, the world’s largest.

Many New England and Southern families in the “China Trade” sent their sons to Yale, and many were “tapped” into Skull and Bones. From Yale, “Bonesmen” went into and were very influential in the worlds of commerce, communications, diplomacy, education, espionage, finance, law and politics.

There have been two Skull and Bones presidents, at least 10 senators, two chief justices of the Supreme Court and many US representatives and state governors. Bonesmen have held myriad lesser appointed posts and positions, with a particular affinity for the Central Intelligence Agency. This year, a Bonesman—George W. Bush (S&B 1968) is the leading contender for the presidency.

The Bush Bonesmen

George W. Bush is the third generation of Bush Bonesmen to become prominent in national politics. His father, President George H.W. Bush, joined S&B in 1948. His grandfather, Prescott Bush (S&B, 1917) was a senator from Connecticut from 1952-62, a partner in the Brown Brothers, Harriman investment-banking firm, and a director for CBS, Pan Am and Prudential. He was one of President Dwight Eisenhower’s favorite golfing partners and a member of Washington’s elite Alibi Club.

But there was more to Prescott than met the resume. He had served as a US Army Intelligence liaison officer during World War I. Prescott’s boss, W. Averell Harriman (S&B 1913), worked closely with fellow “Bonesman” Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett (S&B 1918) to organize US intelligence activities in the early Cold War. They created a framework to run covert operations and psychological warfare.

In 1954, H.S. Richardson, the maker of Vick’s cough drops and Vapo-Rub, wrote in a letter to Senator Bush; “I want to get your advice and counsel on a subject—namely what should be done with the income from a foundation, which my brothers and I are setting up.”

Eugene Stetson (S&B 1934), an assistant manager at Brown Brothers, Harriman, organized the H. Smith Richardson Foundation. It participated in MK-ULTRA, a secret CIA domestic psychological-warfare operation, and helped to finance the testing of psychotropic drugs, including LSD, at Bridgewater Hospital in Massachusetts in the ’50s.

In the ’80s, the Richardson Foundation was a “private donors steering committee,” working with the National Security Council to coordinate the Office of Public Diplomacy. This was an effort to provide money and cover for arming the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, and to coordinate published attacks on opponents of the program.

In 1962, Prescott founded the National Strategy Information Center, with his son, Prescott Bush, Jr. and future CIA director William Casey, an investment banker and veteran of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA’s predecessor. The center laundered funds for the dissemination of CIA-authored “news stories” to some 300 newspapers.

Gordon Gray, another of Prescott’s golfing buddies, was Eisenhower’s national-security adviser and first director of the Psychological Strategy Board in the early ’50s. Along with Averell Harriman and others, he created the modern wall of “deniability” for US covert actions, such as the overthrow of leftist governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954.

Gray’s son C. Bowden Gray was President George Bush’s White House counsel. As “protector of the president, come what may,” he helped to keep Bush “out of the loop” as George became embroiled in the evolving Iran-Contra scandal. Iran-Contra, Watergate and other scandals have many of the same players—the Cubans from the “secret war” against Fidel Castro.

What Did You Do in the Secret War, Daddy?

Henry Neil Mallon (S&B 1917), Prescott’s classmate at Yale and Dresser Industries chairman of the board, on April 10, 1953, wrote a letter to CIA Director Allen Dulles about a proposed meeting at the Carlton Hotel. At this meeting Mallon, Prescott Bush and Dulles discussed the use of drilling rigs in the Caribbean. Dresser Industries had “often provided cover employment to CIA operatives.”

In reaction to the Cuban Revolution in 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon and the National Security Council formed a working group—the “5412 Committee.” Members discussing “plausible deniability” and the option of assassinating Cuban leaders decided to use a third-party “cut-out” for the operation.

The “cut-out,” code-named Operation 40, was mobster Santos Trafficante. He had plenty of reasons to want Castro gone—and any actions could easily be laid at his doorstep. And with groundwork already laid through the World War II mob/docks deal and subsequent black-market activities in Italy, an informal financing arrangement between “intel,” the mob, assassins and arms and drug trafficking was made.

Zapata Off-Shore, an offshore oil-drilling company headed by George Bush, provided a convenient cover. CIA veterans from 1960s covert actions against Castro maintain Zapata was used “as a front,” and Zapata’s and their subsidiaries’ offshore drilling platforms were used in “operations.” And according to former senior CIA Operations Directorate officials, Bush was a paymaster for “contracted services.”

As liaison between the CIA and the Pentagon during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, Fletcher Prouty was put in charge of ordering supplies for the attack. “The CIA had code-named the invasion ‘Zapata,’ ” recalls Prouty. “Two boats landed on the shores of Cuba. One was named Houston, the other Barbara. They were Navy ships that has been repainted with new names.” At the time George Bush was living in Houston, with his wife, Barbara.

In July 1988, The Nation published a memo from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, stating that “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency” was providing information about State Department anxieties concerning the reaction of “some misguided anti-Castro” Cubans to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

After Nixon resigned as President, his staff revealed that his code name for the assassination of John Kennedy was that “Bay of Pigs thing.” One of the most important pieces of evidence in the assassination, Abraham Zapruder’s film, was purchased by Time, Inc., and locked in a vault. Time, Inc. was founded by Henry Luce (S&B, 1920).

The Zapruder film got its first public screening after being subpoenaed by Judge Jim Garrison, who tried to prove CIA involvement in the killing. Ellen Ray, who now publishes Covert Action magazine, went to New Orleans to do a documentary on Garrison. After receiving many death threats, she canceled the project, but not before she met Prescott Bush at a private dinner arranged by a writer for the New Yorker. At the dinner, Prescott tried to pump her for information about Garrison’s investigation.

Numerous government and CIA employees say under Bush’s successor, Richard Gow (S&B 1955), the US and other governments used drill rigs owned by Zapata Off-Shore and its subsidiary Rowan International for covert operations involving support and logistics for arms- and drug-trafficking operations.

“A great many of the drug smugglers in Miami today are Bay of Pigs veterans,” a Florida drug prosecutor said in 1986. “That’s why they are so tough. They are intelligence trained.”

In 1998 former Green Beret William Tyree filed a $63 million federal lawsuit against Bush, the CIA and others. His court documents allege that US military personnel were used to assist arms and drug trafficking. Tyree had started to become disenchanted with this “official” mission, and his wife, Elaine, who was working for the Army Criminal Investigation Division, started to keep diaries. She was found beheaded with a hunting knife. Tyree was charged with the murder.

The charges were dropped by Massachusetts Judge James Killiam. “I didn’t believe a word the prosecution’s chief witness said,” he said in a recent A&E special. The case had been refiled by the Middlesex County DA’s office. A young John Kerry (S&B 1966) was assistant DA at the time. In the late ’80s, Kerry chaired a special Senate committee on drugs, law enforcement and foreign policy, which made much noise about government-assisted drug-trafficking, but took no action. Much in the committee’s files is still “classified.” One Army Intelligence and five Special Forces colonels associated with Tyree and these operations have since died, some under mysterious circumstances. Several have left amazing affidavits that detail massive hard-drug trafficking by government personnel under the aegis of “national security.” One of them, known as a “money man,” had phone numbers for Bill Casey and a Gambino family crime boss in his address book.

The explosive lawsuit progresses slowly and nary a peep is heard from the media.

But It’s Not the First Time

On October 20,1942, 10 months after Pearl Harbor, the US government ordered the seizure of “all the capital stock of the Union Banking Corporation, a New York corporation,” by the Alien Property Custodian; the order stated “all of which shares are held for the benefit of members of the Thyssen family, [and] is property of nationals of a designated enemy country.”

It seems that Averell Harriman and Prescott Bush—along with corporate lawyer John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen Dulles, spymaster for the CIA and the OSS—and others were involved in the buildup of Nazi Germany, supplying the Third Reich with capital and financial arrangements. This was kept quiet. Only a small notice appeared in the New York Times—years later—on Dec. 16, 1944: “The Union Banking Corporation, 39 Broadway, New York has received authority to change its principal place of business to 120 Broadway.”

No mention was made of the fact that the property had been seized for trading with the enemy, or that 120 Broadway was the address of the Alien Property Custodian.

Origins of the Order

The Order of Skull and Bones was founded in 1832 by William Huntington Russell and Alphonso Taft. Many historians claim it appeared because Phi Beta Kappa, America’s oldest Greek-letter college society, had abandoned secrecy.

Phi Beta Kappa was “founded with impressive ritual and high solemnity” on Thursday, December 5, 1776, at William and Mary College, in Williamsburg, Virginia, according to a history of the Yale chapter. The chapter at William and Mary was disbanded in 1781, making the Yale branch, which was founded in November 1780, the oldest extant chapter.

Phi Beta Kappa became an “open honorary organization” in 1832. In protest, apparently, Russell, Yale valedictorian of 1833, got Taft and 13 others “to form what is now perhaps the most famous secret society in the United States.”

From the very beginning there was resentment from fellow students. Faculty sent warning letters to early members’ parents. But the chapter persisted and flourished, and by 1884 two other senior secret societies at Yale had been formed, Scroll and Key, and Wolf’s Head. Also Phi Beta Kappa was revived after disappearing in 1871.

On September 29, 1826, the Order of File and Claw broke into the “Tomb,” the windowless Bones-owned and built meeting house. They wrote that they saw its walls “adorned with pictures of the founders of Bones at Yale, and of the members of the society in Germany, when the Chapter was established here in 1832.”

In the cellar, they found a small room, with an “always-burning lamp” and “a dilapidated human skull.” Upstairs, three rooms were found, a lodge room with its walls covered in black velvet, a table with skull and crossbones, and the “sanctum sanctorum,” furnished in red velvet. The Order of File and Claw also reported an old engraving that, along with the decor, represented aspects of the Regent’s degree in the outlawed Bavarian Illuminati.

For some understanding of the complex links between members of Skull and Bones, consider the first Bonesman to become president, William Howard Taft (S&B 1878), who is the only man to have been both president and chief justice of the Supreme Court. His father, S&B cofounder Alphonso Taft, was appointed secretary of war by President Ulysses Grant, and was later Attorney General.

William Howard Taft was appointed by President William McKinley to be the first civil governor of the Philippines, displacing a disgruntled General Arthur MacArthur—General Douglas MacArthur’s father—who had been the military governor. Theodore Roosevelt, who became president after the assassination of McKinley, appointed Taft secretary of war (1904-08). While secretary, he was the “master overseer and troubleshooter” for the Panama Canal, provisional governor of Cuba, and played a key role in foreign policy.

Taft was elected President in 1908. He was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court by President Warren Harding in 1921, and served until just before his death in 1930.

President Taft made Henry L. Stimson (S&B 1888) his secretary of war (1911-13). Stimson was appointed to high government posts by seven presidents. He was governor general of the Philippines (1926-1928), secretary of state under President Herbert Hoover (1929-1933) and secretary of war under presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman (1940-1946). He was “ultimately responsible” for the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II, and oversaw the Manhattan Project, building the atomic bomb. He also took credit for swaying Truman into dropping the bomb.

Stimson groomed a generation of “Cold Warriors,” in what was known as “Stimson’s Kindergarten.” Among these proteges were General George C. Marshall, John J. McCloy, Dean Acheson, and fellow Bonesmen Robert A. Lovett, William Bundy (S&B 1939) and his brother McGeorge Bundy (S&B 1940).

“These men helped establish a distinguished network connecting Wall Street, Washington, worthy foundations and proper clubs,” historian and Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., wrote. “The New York and legal community was the heart of the American Establishment. Its household deities were Henry L. Stimson and Elihu Root; its present leaders, Robert A. Lovett and John J. McCloy; its front organizations, the Rockefeller, Ford and Carnegie foundations and the Council on Foreign Relations.”

Harriman and the Bundy brothers, in their positions in the State Department, Department of Defense, the CIA and as advisers to presidents Kennedy and Johnson, exercised significant impact on the flow of information and intelligence during the Vietnam War. Harriman had busy careers in business and politics, and led peace negotiations with North Vietnam in 1968. William Bundy went on to be editor of Foreign Affairs, the influential quarterly of the Council on Foreign Relations. McGeorge Bundy became president of the Ford Foundation.

The Fox and the Henhouse

George Bush was appointed by President Nixon to the White House Cabinet Committee on International Control in 1971. As vice president, he was the highest US official involved in the War on Drugs, as chairman of President Reagan’s cabinet-level working group and as director of the National Narcotics Interdiction System.

Frances Mullen, Jr., former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, called Bush’s efforts “an intellectual fraud” and “a liability rather than an asset.” Soon after these statements, Mullen resigned, and the resultant General Accounting Office report was buried.

In July 1985, the suppressed GAO paper reported that there were “no benefits from the National Narcotics Border Interdiction System, directed by George Bush. In fact, the overall effect was to encourage supply.”

Bonesmen have helped create a prohibition where plants and their by-products are sold on the black market for precious-metal prices, and uses a corrupted “secret government” for trafficking and propaganda. A cabal that use an unconstitutional Drug War for political, economic and social control.

Was Geronimo Kidnapped From the Grave by Prescott Bush?

In 1983, Prescott Bush and three other Bonesmen were accused of stealing Geronimo’s skull from the Fort Sill Army Base in Oklahoma in May 1918. Ned Anderson, tribal chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, tried to get the remains back.

An informant gave Anderson photographs of the stolen remains, and a copy of a Skull and Bones logbook that recorded a 1918 grave robbery. The informant said that society members performed rituals with Geronimo’s skull sitting on a table in front of them.

In September 1986, Anderson met with Jonathan Bush (S&B 1953), then-Vice President Bush’s brother. Jonathan told him obliquely “that he would get what he had come after,” but stalled on meeting him again.

According to a 1988 Washington Post article, Bones attorney Endicott Peabody Davison (S&B 1945) wanted the Apache leader to sign an agreement not to disclose the story. Davison said that “the Order’s own history book is a hoax,” but never gave up his stipulation that “Anderson give up his copy of the book.” Anderson refused the proffered skull and signed nothing.

Skull and Bones members say privately that “Prescott was conned” into purchasing a fake Geronimo skull. They point to reports of an archivist at Fort Sill who says the grave had been moved several years earlier.

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