June 8, 1968.  Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in the crowded “pantry” (actually, a food preparation area) of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after his primary election victory.1   His alleged killer, 24-year old Palestinian-American Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, never got close to Kennedy.  He fired shots that hit five bystanders as Kennedy supporters struggled to subdue him; but none of his shots hit Kennedy.  The fatal shot behind Kennedy’s ear came from just 1-3 inches away, according to Thomas Noguchi MD, who performed the autopsy.It was apparently fired by right wing security guard Thane Eugene Cesar, who had gripped Kennedy’s arm as they walked through the crowd, or possibly by a second Palestinian-American gunman behind Kennedy.

Sirhan Sirhan was found guilty of murder in the first degree and condemned to death, but this was changed to life imprisonment with a possibility of parole.  Well before the assassination, a throw from a horse had caused him brain damage.  Treatment by at least eight medical doctors had failed to stop his pain.  In the process he was found to be extremely easy to hypnotize.  Sirhan’s notebooks and his trance-like behavior during the shooting suggest that he was programmed by post-hypnotic suggestion to murder Kennedy, but also to forget who had programmed him or why (he had imbibed several Tom Collinses as well) .

The Los Angeles Police Department insisted from the outset that Sirhan was a lone gunman, despite a daunting array of evidence and testimony to the contrary.  The LAPD refused to follow leads, ignored key witnesses, bullied witnesses into changing their stories, changed other stories without consent, destroyed evidence that more bullets were fired than the eight in Sirhan’s handgun, and destroyed some 2400 photos.  Sirhan’s lawyer performed in a thoroughly incompetent manner.  Both prosecution and defense psychiatrists sought to inculcate in Sirhan under hypnosis their views of the case.  The media did not seriously challenge the official story.  Years later, questions raised by outraged witnesses and independent researchers led to calls for reinvestigation.

The interest shown by CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton in the case and various allusions to national security have led some observers to suspect that CIA arranged the assassination.  The eerie resemblance of a seemingly hypnotically programmed Sirhan to a Manchurian candidate assassin added to suspicion of CIA, especially as its MKULTRA mind control program became widely known.  But we will see reasons to doubt that CIA was behind the murder.  Meanwhile, some observers have thought that the mafia sought to eliminate Robert Kennedy lest he be elected president and renew his campaign as attorney general against organized crime.  Yet the mafia had experienced much turmoil in the aftermath to the JFK assassination, so it would have been reluctant to take on a second such venture.  Also, there is no direct or circumstantial evidence other than the mafia’s dislike and fear of RFK.

The KGB makes a much more persuasive organizer of the assassination.

What motives did the KGB have?

  1.  To complete its revenge against the Kennedys for the Cuban Missile Crisis, in which RFK had played a key role.
  2.  To keep a popular, tough RFK from becoming president.
  3.  To cast suspicion on CIA.
  4.   To alienate Americans from their government and media.
  5.   To demoralize Americans and undermine support for democracy in an election year.

The KGB must have been experimenting with mind control and undoubtedly had a keen interest in CIA’s research on hypnotism; but it was not constrained by its mission or by the same degree of fear of exposure, as was CIA.  It appears that the Palestinian Mahmoud Hamshari had obtained protection money for Olympic Airways from Aristotle Onassis.  He headed to Los Angeles with the idea of killing a prominent American.  An assistant to Onassis referred him for his headaches from Los Angeles smog to renowned hypnotist William Bryan MD in LA.2

Some hypnotherapist with KGB ties seems to have programmed Sirhan.  Various Palestinian-Americans were eager to murder Kennedy for having approved the sale of 50 Phantom jets to Israel, though Sirhan does not appear to have had this motive.  The KGB brought the left-leaning Palestinian-Americans together with right wing haters of Kennedy such as Thane Eugene Cesar and Michael Wayne (Wien), who acted as a distractor and facilitator at the hotel.  The role of middleman and orchestrator fit the KGB better than CIA or FBI in regard to interacting with the Palestinians.

Bryan had worked as a consultant to CIA’s MKULTRA project.  His subsequent death at 51 in a Las Vegas hotel room has been attributed to a heart attack.  But it is possible that the KGB kidnapped him, interrogated him about his hypnotic lore and the MKULTRA project, and murdered him with an injection that caused a heart attack.

Years later, when James Angleton was replaced as head of counterintelligence at CIA, his successor found special files in his office on the assassinations of JFK and RFK, including autopsy photos of RFK’s naked corpse.3  He considered it bizarre and inappropriate for Angleton to have these photos, and so he ordered them destroyed.  But the photos could have contained evidence of wounds inflicted from behind by KGB-hired assassins.  So it was highly appropriate for Angleton as chief of the Counterintelligence Staff to have them.  Angleton evidently suspected the KGB of the assassinations of both JFK and RFK.

Meanwhile, the programming of Sirhan was highly consistent with the KGB’s interest in mind-control methods.  CIA had a similar deep interest, yet, as noted above, CIA had major disincentives to murdering RFK.  Thus the evident programming of Sirhan made the KGB the leading suspect.

Therefore, the KGB emerges as a good deal more likely than CIA and much more likely than FBI, the mafia, the Palestinians (but they played roles, including Sirhan and his handler), and others to have organized the assassination of RFK.

This article forms part of The KGB Theory of American Assassinations: https://www.scientiapress.com/kgb-theory.


Kenneth J. Dillon is an historian and former State Department intelligence analyst who writes on science, medicine, and history.  See the biosketch at About Us.  See also his novel Rosemarie (Washington, D.C.:  Scientia Press, 2021).

1. See William Klaber and Philip H. Melanson.  Shadow Play.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 1997; Richard Belzer and David Wayne, Dead Wrong.  New York:  Skyhorse Publishing, 2013, pp. 189-209; and Lisa Pease.  A Lie Too Big to Fail.  Port Townsend WA:  Feral House, 2018.
2. Peter Evans.  Nemesis.  New York:  HarperCollins, 2004, pp. 166, 175
3. Jefferson Morley.  The Ghost:  The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton.  New York:  St. Martin’s Griffin, 2017, p. 239
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