The 1975 Church Committee’s Unveiling of the CIA’s “Heart Attack Gun”


And a Close Look at the Circumstances of Adlai Stevenson’s, and Other’s, Deaths — All of Which Occurred At Highly Suspicious Times

CIA Heart Attack Gun -- Church Committee 

Senators Frank Church (D-ID) and John Tower (R-TX) examining the “heart attack gun” which could shoot a frozen projectile filled with a deadly toxin that would induce a heart attack in the victim, leaving only a small red dot on their skin, and no other substance that could be detected at autopsy.

Source: Youtube “The CIA’s Heart Attack Gun: (

 Since the beginning of the last half of the 20th Century through the recent past, many national leaders have died at unpropitiously-critical points in their careers, all apparently of heart attacks which were conveniently never fully investigated, many of which were not even followed by autopsies to verify that determination.  The ones occurring prior to January 20, 1969 (even up to his death four years later) might have been added to the official “hit list” by the most likely culprit for such terminations, President Lyndon B. Johnson.

But years later, thus beyond his reach, the most compelling example of the reality of this program was a series of six highly suspicious deaths that occurred in a five-month period of 1977.  Their common denominator was their employment by the FBI – in some cases, recently retired FBI officials—though that was not the only commonality: each of them had also recently been subpoenaed to testify to the House Select Committee on Assassinations.  They included four who were said to have suddenly died of heart attacks during the summer or autumn of that year: Donald Kaylor, a fingerprint expert; J. M. English, an expert on the rifle allegedly used by Oswald; Louis Nichols and Alan Belmont, both assistant directors.  Belmont’s obituary in the Washington Post was written in such a way as to have been vaguely ascribed merely to old age and a “lengthy illness”—but somehow the Post had erroneously advanced his age by nearly a decade, stating it to be 79, when in fact he was only 70, having been born in 1907; according to author Donald Gibson, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-up (p. 34) it was Belmont who actually directed the JFK assassination cover-up.

The two others died even more mysteriously: James Cadigan, a document expert, died of a fall in his home, and assistant director William Sullivan, while walking his dog in a field near his home, was shot dead by a hunter who mistook him for a deer.[1]  Sullivan had previously told columnist Robert Novak, “Someday you will read that I have been killed in an accident, but don’t believe it, I’ve been murdered.”

The Mysterious Death of Adlai Stevenson: Was He the Victim of LBJ’s Manipulations?

Another highly-placed person who died under strange circumstances was U.N. ambassador Adlai Stevenson, on July 14, 1965. According to a news report at the time, Stevenson “collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack Wednesday near the American Embassy in Grosvenor Square.”   His surprising death, as an active man who still played a very aggressive style of tennis at age 65, was the subject of rumors and speculations at the time, as evidenced by documents in the Harold Weisberg collection.[2]  In lengthy 1975 memoranda between Weisberg and a colleague that referenced numerous other suspicious deaths (including those of former Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, Senators Estes Kefauver and Clair Engle, CIA officials Desmond Fitzgerald and Frank Olson, several at the heart of the JFK assassination, including Jack Ruby – finally, even FDR) the U.N. ambassador’s name was added: “One of the best known victims could have been Adlai Stevenson, who was about to meet with NLF [National Liberation Front] and North Vietnam leaders in Paris when he was stricken on a London sidewalk.”

His death occurred at a time when Stevenson had become very upset with Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam policies, and that would have caused Johnson to be very upset with him, as it was well known to all of his highest-level aides that the new president demanded absolute loyalty from all of them.  Furthermore, it was also at a time when Johnson was planning to persuade Arthur Goldberg to leave the Supreme Court so that he could put his old friend Abe Fortas on it.  Apparently, Johnson let Goldberg believe that he might be reappointed—next time as “Chief Justice”—after his stint at the U.N.  His biographer, David L. Stebenne, wrote that Goldberg believed “Johnson’s request carried with it an implied promise of a return to the Court once his UN mission had been accomplished.” Moreover, Stebenne noted that Goldberg had known that Chief Justice Warren was then planning to retire and when he did, he would likely urge Johnson to appoint him as his successor, thus ending up better off than when he started.  Goldberg himself would later write that “I had an exaggerated opinion of my capacities. I thought I could persuade Johnson that we were fighting the wrong war in the wrong place [and] to get out.”[3]

But there was another reason that Johnson wanted the hardline Zionist Goldberg in the UN at that point in time, and for the too-pacifist, non-doctrinaire Stevenson to be out.  In the summer of 1965, one of President Johnson’s most secretive plots—in collaboration with Israeli leaders—was well underway: A plan to join Israel in a long-planned war with their neighbors, Egypt, Jordan and Syria, a supposedly “spontaneous war” scheduled well in advance for June 15, 1967 (that would be inadvertently jump-started ten days early).  Johnson undoubtedly knew that a critically important sub-plot—the sinking of a U.S. naval vessel as a pretext for an attack against Egypt—would require the presence of a U.N. ambassador with unquestioned loyalty to both himself and the Israeli Zionist leadership.[4]

Traces of President Johnson’s manipulative acts became visible in the immediate aftermath of Stevenson’s death: According to the account of New York Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, what followed was one of Johnson’s most enigmatic, cunning and deceitful maneuvers—of the numerous others—one that the highly regarded senator termed “an inexplicable disservice” to Arthur J. Goldberg, to leave his position on the Supreme Court against his wishes. Moynihan stated: “Neither is this a service to the Court, nor yet to the confidence with which the public will read The Vantage Point” (the title of Johnson’s 1971 memoirs). Johnson had attempted to plant the lie within his book that Arthur Goldberg actually wanted, and had requested LBJ’s blessings, to resign his position as Justice of the Supreme Court in order to take the much less-prestigious position of UN ambassador.  Johnson’s deceitful maneuvers were exposed by Senator Moynihan when he wrote a long “To the Editor” letter to the New York Times, which was printed on November 1, 1971, stating in part: [5]

In his book former President Johnson states that en-route to Ambassador Stevenson’s funeral on July 19 he mentioned to Justice Goldberg that, “I had heard reports that he might step down from the Court and therefore might he available for another assignment.” The Justice, we are told, indicated that the reports had “substance.” The next day the Justice is said to have called Mr. Valenti to say that “the job he would accept was the U.N. Ambassadorship, if I offered it to him.”

This cannot be so. At about 4 o’clock on Saturday afternoon, July 17, 1965, I received a call from Justice Goldberg asking me to come to his home. I arrived and was told the President had asked him to take on Stevenson’s post. The Justice was in the turmoil one might expect. He had not the least desire to leave the Court. I am as certain of this as one man can be of another’s feeling. . . He cared for the Court as for few things. Only an urgent and pressing appeal from the President of the United States could weigh more heavily with him, and even then he was not certain.

[ . . . ]

Stevenson [had] died on Wednesday [July 14]. On Friday [July 16] Arthur J. Goldberg was asked would he leave the Supreme Court, where he had only just begun ‘the richest and most satisfying’ period of his career, to reenter the Cabinet, and to assume the unrelenting responsibilities of his nation’s representative at the U.N. He accepted, in his words, ‘as one simply must.’ “

To learn now that the U.N. post was not mentioned until Tuesday [July 20], and then on Justice Goldberg’s initiative, is to gain further insight into what we have been through [obviously a reference to LBJ’s “credibility gap”]. On that very day, July 20, Mr. Johnson announced the appointment, stating, “At the insistence of the President of his country, he has accepted this call to duty.” (Emphasis added).

— DANIEL P. MOYNIHAN Cambridge, Mass., Oct. 27, 1971

Stevenson’s death occurred shortly after attending a UN meeting in Geneva, Switzerland and he had stopped off in London for a few days off.  Two days earlier, he had been interviewed by CBS News correspondent Eric Sevareid. [6]

On Monday, July 12, Eric Sevareid had a lengthy, heartfelt conversation with Stevenson at the U.S. embassy in London. After Stevenson’s death, the CBS newsman offered readers of Look magazine a candid profile of the exhausted statesman two days before his sudden death. Stevenson acknowledged frustration with LBJ over Vietnam and other foreign adventures, admitting to Sevareid that he longed to resign his ambassadorship and “sit in the shade with a glass of wine in my hand and watch the people dance.”

Harold Weisberg had this to say about Sevareid in the correspondence cited previously: “The Stevenson thing was always very odd. There is one consequence, or at least a change that abruptly followed it. Severeid (sic) was with him. Scveried (sic) changed his political view immediately and sharply.”[7]  Clearly, Senator Moynihan wasn’t the only one who had gained an instantaneous realization—an epiphany—insight about the cunning duplicitousness of President Johnson.

The contrast in their respective fates—Goldberg’s wish to remain a Supreme Court Justice and Stevenson’s desire to retire—clashed with Johnson’s determined manipulation.  It is unclear whether Johnson’s bullying might have led to a communication impasse with Stevenson and we will never know whether—had Adlai simply resigned—he might have lived long enough to enjoy  a longer life of retirement drinking wine in the shade and watching people dance.  One thing is certain however: Stevenson’s death was considered “untimely” to almost everyone.  Everyone but President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Assorted Other Mysterious Deaths

During the aftermath of Martin Luther King’s assassination, while the combined efforts of the federal and Tennessee state authorities systematically suspended James Earl Ray’s constitutional rights to a fair trial, the only judges who were reportedly set to rule in favor of Ray’s appeal for a new trial both mysteriously died of heart attacks just before they issued their rulings.  Trial Judge Preston Battle (March 31, 1969) and Appeals Court Judge William E. Miller (April 12, 1976) both died of cardiac arrest while at their desks reviewing his appeal documents; neither of them had experienced any previous heart ailments.

Among still others, the pacifist monk Thomas Merton, whose strange death (the cause of which, for five decades, remained murky due to the lack of an autopsy and numerous contradictions in various reports) was purported to be either by electrocution by a faulty electric fan and/or heart attack, was never clear until 2018.  Only then, when the book “The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton” by Hugh Turley and David Martin examined the circumstances in more detail, was it conclusively established that his death was most likely due to murder by the CIA. Other suspicious deaths included even J. Edgar Hoover’s, in his home in 1972 under uniquely mysterious conditions; the 2009 death of 52-year-old Mark Pittman, a reporter who had predicted the 2008 financial crisis and exposed suspicious Federal Reserve actions; and as recently as 2016, the inexplicably strange circumstances of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. [8]

These suspicious deaths are all plausible specific exemplars of the kind which certain members of the CIA’s secretive “Grim Reaper” department might have been responsible for.  There are undoubtedly many more which could provisionally be added to the list.  This exercise is not entirely speculative, given that this particular weapon has been acknowledged by the agency and was developed for that specific purpose at least five decades ago.  Undoubtedly, it may by now be the most primitive of their inventory of such tools, given the continually-expansive nature of that organization into every facet of American life, and death—not to mention every other country on the planet where its presence is felt.



End notes:

[1]  Sullivan had been heavily involved in surveilling—arguably “stalking”—of Martin Luther King Jr. in the mid-1960s, leading up to the suspicions by many, including members of the King family, of the FBI’s direct involvement in his assassination on April 4, 1968. For three years after that, Sullivan had increasingly become critical of Hoover’s tactics and leadership policies.    In August, 1971, Sullivan sent Hoover a letter confronting him on a number of points and recommending that Hoover finally retire. When Hoover declined he forced Sullivan to resign and their acrimonious split became public knowledge. See Who REALLY Killed Martin Luther King Jr.? The Case Against Lyndon B. Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover, pp. 20-38; 78-85.

[2] See:

[3] Stebenne, David L. (1996). Arthur J. Goldberg, New Deal Liberal. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 348.

[4] See Remember the Liberty! Almost Sunk by Treason on the High Seas TrineDay Publishing, Walterville, OR, 2017

[5] “Stevenson’s Death in 1965 Stunned World,”, By Bill Kemp, Archivist/librarian, McLean County Museum of History, July 18, 2010

[6] Ibid.

[7] See:

[8]  See “The death of Antonin Scalia: Chaos, confusion and conflicting reports,” The Washington Post, Feb. 14, 2016

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