Two Smart Birds

by William Weston and Peter Heitmann

Jack Linkletter, alias D. B. Cooper, was the hijacker of a Northwest Airlines jetliner on November 24, 1971, according to letters written by Marie Vigil to the FBI in Portland and the Federal Aviation Authority in Seattle.

Jack Linkletter

Seven months later, she sent a letter to American Airlines in St. Louis, Missouri (with an attention heading for the FBI) identifying Robert Linkletter as the hijacker of a Boeing 737 on June 23.

Robert Linkletter

Enclosed with the letter was a picture showing both Robert and Jack.

Here is a pretty picture of two smart birds plus a few other interesting people I could identify.

Robert Linkletter has had complexion problems that comes and goes, then returns. Is about 6 feet tall, 180 to 200 lbs. Is a master of disguises, changes his appearance constantly.

An exceptionally poor copy of the picture exists in the D. B. Cooper files of the FBI.

This picture was taken May 15 1972 in Wheaton. Does include Jack and Robert Linkletter who have gone into the skyjacking business to finance gunmen, bombings, etc. They use a small jet as backpack for a soft and controlled landing. Are both bald.

The date and location refer to a political appearance made by Governor George Wallace of Alabama, when he was running for president. On May 15, 1972 he made a campaign stop at a shopping center in Wheaton, Maryland. After speaking to a crowd of 1500 people, he continued on to Laurel, Maryland where he appeared at another campaign rally. It was there that he suffered multiple gunshot wounds, effectively removing him as a serious contender in the presidential race.

A search among news stories dealing with the Wallace shooting on led to the discovery of a photo that perfectly matched the few sketchy lines visible in the picture kept by the FBI, such as the policeman’s helmet on the far left, the bushy haired man wearing glasses, the background curve separating crowd and sky, a face with sunglasses in the center, the contour of the policeman’s shoulder on the right, even the cropping around the photo. Apparently, Vigil clipped her picture from a newspaper, pasted labels on it, and sent it to American Airlines.

A better picture is below.

Front and center is the alleged assassin Arthur Bremer, who was five foot seven inches. The label “D. B. Cooper” indicates Jack, who was six foot three.

Jack Linkletter. Picture on the right appeared in a newspaper December 7, 1972.

A redacted label signifies the face of a dark-haired man with sunglasses. This must be Robert. Since both were bald, it can be assumed that they were wearing wigs that day. Their close proximity to Bremer highlights the importance of their functions in the plot to shoot the governor.

Robert Linkletter

Robert Linkletter holding a child.

The fixed expression on Robert’s face photographed from separate angles indicates a latex overhead mask. The wig and sunglasses would be add-ons. Holding a child would be a useful tactic to divert the glances of security personnel, who might otherwise take a long look at him.

In an attempt to entice investigators to follow up on the lead she was giving them, Vigil said that that there were “other interesting people” in the picture. One might be the dark-haired man with sideburns and moustache visible just above Bremer’s head.

The faces of one or two women might also have been recognizable to her. Although it is unlikely at this point in time to determine who any of these people are, Vigil’s comment nevertheless hints at the size of the cadre threatening the governor.

Bremer is the central figure in a lot of pictures.

Jack has a young boy in front of him. During film segments of the Wheaton rally, the boy’s gaze was always directed at Jack and never at the governor.

In the close-up view above, the jaw and mouth of the man on the left can be compared to those of Jack Linkletter when he was on his father’s show.

These pictures come from newsreel footage taken by CBS cameraman Laurens Pierce. Prior to the arrival of the governor at the Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center, Pierce made cut-away shots of the assembling crowd. As he did so, he spotted a man with blonde hair, blue suit, red-white-and-blue shirt, sunglasses, and a silly grin. Pierce went up to him and asked, “Have I seen you at other Wallace rallies?”

“Oh, no, not me!” answered Bremer, who quickly disappeared into the crowd. Pierce would later tell fellow newsmen that he had seen him at a Hagerstown, Maryland rally on May 6. Pierce’s camera captured continuous views of Bremer and the tall man next to him.

Wallace rallies typically followed a well-established format. A country western band led by Billy Grammer would come on stage and warm up the audience with songs such as “Gotta Travel On” and “Detroit City.” As the band played “Dixie,” Wallace would walk on the stage and stand behind a podium topped by a 600 pound bulletproof shield draped in red, white, and blue. During a forty-five minute speech, he would lambast the abuses of the federal government, the usurpation of the powers of the states by the Supreme Court, the unfairness of mandatory busing of children to integrated schools, and the laughable behavior of “pointy-headed intellectuals” (specifically, Supreme Court justices and social scientists) who can’t park their bicycles straight.

Wallace at the Wheaton Rally

Wallace got the governorship of Alabama in 1963 and in 1971. In 1968 he was a presidential candidate for the American Independent Party. Although he lost the election to Richard Nixon, he managed to draw ten million votes. As a Democratic candidate in 1972, he was doing so well in state primaries that it became increasingly possible that he might not only win the nomination but also split Republican and independent voters in the general election and consequently upset Nixon’s bid for a second term. 

Wallace and his entourage rolled into Wheaton shortly before noon. Security men wearing suits and dark sunglasses advanced into the area to check out the situation. One of them, Secret Service agent Lawrence Dominguez, immediately sensed hostile vibes emanating from the crowd. He noticed streaks and smears of eggs that had been tossed at the stage. As he scanned the crowd for trouble, he saw Wallace walking up to the stage to give his speech. According to the Baltimore Sun, the governor “was assailed by insults, McGovern and Humphrey signs, symbolically clenched fists, and tomatoes.” As he spoke, protesters threw pennies, paper airplanes, oranges, and eggs. Alabama State troopers dressed in civilian clothes used pieces of cardboard to swat away flying objects. When a tomato nearly hit him, Wallace taunted his assailant by calling out, “They ought to sign you up for the Baltimore Orioles.” 

The security man on the left has a piece of cardboard to block flying objects.

A reporter for ABC news, Steve Bell, said: “It was really the only time I saw not only protestors, but people throwing things, like rotten fruit, at Wallace. And [Wallace] loved it. He was taking them on verbally and standing his ground. . . . This was unlike any event previously that year, in 1972.” 

Jack Linkletter jeering the governor. A woman in back holds a sign mocking George Wallace and Shirley Chisholm, another Democratic candidate, in a satirical imitation of the famous “American Gothic” painting.

Most of the people laughed and cheered the governor’s pungent remarks, but the loudest one cheering him was the smiling blonde-haired man. During moments of applause, he clapped very energetically and went on ten seconds longer than anyone else. His fervent enthusiasm was an odd counterpoint to the insults that emerged from those standing around him.

The loud and persistent jeering of the hecklers compelled Wallace to finish his speech fifteen minutes early. As he was walking back to his car, CBS newsman Fred Farrer overheard Bremer ask a Montgomery County police officer whether he could steer Wallace toward him because he wanted to shake his hand. The police officer politely said that the governor made his own choices of where he would go and that he could not assist Bremer in meeting him. Bremer then departed from the scene and drove his car to the Laurel Shopping Center. He got there at 1:55, about an hour before the second rally of the day was scheduled to start.

Wallace and his staff had lunch at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant before proceeding to Laurel. They arrived shortly after 3:00. Gathered in the parking lot in front of a specially erected stage were over 1000 people. It was a relief that they were friendlier and more receptive than the crowd at Wheaton.

Crowd at Laurel Rally. The partially bald man on the left might be James McCord.

Crowd at Laurel Rally. The man in the straw hat might be Donald Segretti. The man with hat and glasses might be E. Howard Hunt.

Wallace ended his speech with the exhortation to vote for him in the primary and “shake the eyeteeth of the Democratic Party.” 

At about the same time, Pierce saw Bremer a second time that day and said: “I have photographed you at a rally before.”

Bremer quickly raised his hands in front of his face, turned his back to the camera and shouted “no, no, no.” 

As Billy Grammer’s band played “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” Wallace stepped off the speaker’s stand and moved down the cordon line to shake hands with his supporters. Following him was Laurens Pierce with his shoulder-mounted camera. Then five shots rang out.

Wallace greets his supporters at the Laurel Rally. Jack Linkletter in a different wig has a polaroid camera.

As Wallace comes closer Jack Linkletter snaps a picture. He might have caught Wallace’s facial expression the instant he was shot or when he recognized he was going to be shot. Such a picture, if done right, would have been a source of amusement for the plotters.

Jack looks unconcerned and even slightly amused, while other people have expressions of shock and dismay.

The bald-headed man next to Jack might be his brother Robert in disguise.

Jack Linkletter in the aftermath of the shooting

The newsreel caught the right arm of a blonde-haired man thrusting a pistol toward Wallace, shooting at him at point blank range. Security men immediately grabbed Bremer’s arm and took him down. Wallace fell on the ground, conscious and bleeding from numerous wounds. Someone picked up a .38 caliber revolver that was near the spot where the governor fell. Pierce raced over to where the police were putting Bremer into a car and recorded the action. Wallace was put inside an ambulance and taken to Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Springs, Maryland. 

Five bullets struck the governor. Two passed through his right arm and shoulder and entered his chest. Another glanced off his left shoulder blade. A fourth bullet perforated his stomach, tearing through intestinal ligaments and brushing the large intestine on the left side. The worst wound was a slug that entered his spinal column and came to rest opposite the first lumbar vertebra just at the waist. Wallace would never be able to walk again. An Alabama State trooper, E. C. Dothard, was hit in the stomach. Secret Service agent Nicholas Zarvos got a throat wound. Dora Thompson, a local Wallace campaign worker, was hit in the right leg. 

Also wounded were Alabama State Trooper E.C. Dothard, Secret Service Agent Nicolas Zarvos, and local campaign worker Dora Thompson

Four persons suffered at least eight hits from a purported maximum of five shots from Bremer’s gun. Obviously, the official version of a lone gunman could not account for the extra bullets. 

Diagram from R. Frank Salant in The Continuing Inquiry, October 1976

Hardly an hour passed after the shooting of Wallace, when White House counsel Charles Colson instructed E. Howard Hunt, a “former” CIA agent, to fly immediately to Milwaukee and break into Bremer’s apartment. Colson told Hunt to bring back information that might be useful in linking Bremer to left-wing causes. Hunt refused to go, saying that it would be impossible to get to Milwaukee in time to grab the evidence before the FBI got there.

The FBI went to Bremer’s apartment but turned around and left it unsecured for about an hour and a half. According to Bremer’s landlady, the first press representative to show up after the shooting was someone from a shadowy organization called TIPS (Transcontinental International Press Service). When the FBI belatedly returned to search the apartment, they found evidence that the suspect was allied with left-wing causes including a Black Panthers publication. It is quite likely that the man from TIPS planted radical leftist literature and removed anything that would link Bremer to the White House.

During the trial, Bremer’s defense attorney, Benjamin Lipsitz of Baltimore, raised substantial doubts as to whether his client actually fired the Charter Arms .38 caliber revolver found next to the governor. FBI lab expert Robert Frazier admitted that he could not match bullets taken from the Wallace shooting to the gun. He had to concede Bremer’s palm and finger prints were not on the gun. Paraffin tests were negative regarding the presence of gunpowder residue on his hands and cheeks. In spite of these evidentiary anomalies, Bremer was convicted and sentenced to 53 years in prison.

Wallace was among those who did not believe Bremer was a “loner.” From Walter Scott’s newspaper column “Personality Parade” April 28, 1974:

The Governor asks: “How can one fellow who hardly made $40 a week in his life buy two guns, an automobile, stay at the Waldorf, rent limousines, travel to Canada and Michigan, follow me all around the country? Where’d he get the money to do all that? Most of the time he was broke, worked as a bus boy. I have questions in my mind about how he got his money. 

The money probably came through  Bremer’s handler, Dennis Cossini, of whom more will be said later. 

Martha Mitchell, the estranged wife of Attorney General John Mitchell, visited Wallace at the governor’s mansion in Montgomery, Alabama. Wallace told her, “Nixon was the one who had me shot.” He had proof that a member of the “dirty tricks” department had visited the gunman before the shooting. (AP article dated September 22, 1974)

A tall, husky man with a New York accent was seen with Bremer in April 1972. The description fits a White House operative named Anthony T. Ulasewicz. Confirmation of a meeting between Ulasewicz and Bremer came from Roger Gordon, a member of the Secret Army Organization, according to information given at a San Francisco press conference on September 25, 1974 by investigators Donald Freed and Rusty Rhodes. As reported by Steve Long for the Berkeley Barb: 

Freed charged that a member of the SAO, Roger Gordon, had information that Anthony T. Ulasewicz, a White House operative, was seen with Arthur Bremer, the convicted assassin of Governor Wallace. Gordon fled the U.S. to Australia on July 13, 1973, according to Freed.

Freed said there are other indications that the attempt on Wallace’s life may have been part of Watergate Operation Gemstone. Freed charged that Nixon’s appointee as FBI Director, L. Patrick Gray, refused to investigate the allegation that Bremer, a so-called “loner,” was seen in the company of several frequent companions just prior to the assassination attempt. One of these companions, Dennis Cossini, was found dead of a heroin overdose in the trunk of his car before he could be questioned by any law enforcement officials. Freed said the source for this allegation was a member of the Milwaukee Police Dept. “Red Squad.” 

Not mentioned by the Berkeley Barb was the fact that Tim Heinan, a former undercover agent for the Milwaukee Police Department, was the source for the information on Cossini. In June of 1972 he teamed up with Alan Stang of American Opinion (a John Birch Society monthly) and began making inquiries among undercover agents to find out more about “the mystery man.” Stang and Heinan learned that Cossini was a CIA agent, who infiltrated various radical leftist groups, such as Students for a Democratic Society, the Weathermen, the Progressive Labor Party, and the Venceremos Brigade. He had close ties to a secretive Maoist gang called Revolutionary Union. As one investigator for the House Internal Security Committee observed, “the ability to penetrate such mutually exclusive groups is typically the mark of an intelligence operator.” Less than two weeks after Stang and Heinan began their investigation, the police found the body of Cossini in a parked car in Toronto, Canada on July 6, 1972. Although he had no prior history of drug abuse, he died from an overdose of heroin. One police investigator said: “Somebody gave him a hot shot.”

The man who knew about the Ulasewicz connection to Bremer, Roger Gordon, was a member of the Secret Army Organization, a group of agents provocateur recruited by the FBI in 1971 in San Diego to incite disorders as a means of neutralizing “domestic radicals,” particularly campus leaders protesting the war in Southeast Asia. The American Civil Liberties Union did an investigative report on the SAO, which became the source for an article in The New York Times, June 27, 1975:

In addition to the F.B.I.’s direct control over the Secret Army, the White House allegedly maintained contact with the group through Donald H. Segretti, who was later convicted for directing a campaign of political espionage and sabotage against the Democrats in 1972. Mr. Segretti was quoted by the A.C.L.U. as having told the Secret Army that any potential troublemakers at the 1972 Republican convention would be “gotten rid of,” an apparent reference to the so-called Liddy plan described during the Senate Watergate hearings, whereby the leaders of anti-Nixon elements would be kidnapped and taken to Mexico.  

Segretti first contacted the SAO in November of 1971, according to Louis Tackwood, a former undercover agent for the Criminal Conspiracy Section of the Los Angeles Police Department. Coincidentally, or not, November 1971 was the same month when “D. B. Cooper” got $200,000 in cash from hijacking a commercial jetliner. It is possible that the Cooper money was used to fund SAO activities in San Diego, the home base of Robert Linkletter. According to Marie Vigil, the Linkletter brothers had gone into “the skyjacking business to finance gunmen, bombings, etc.”

More from the Berkeley Barb:

In his statement read by Rusty Rhodes, Louis Tackwood said that in the summer of 1971 he had been contacted by an agent of the White House plumbers to recruit Black and Chicano agents provocateurs to carry out violent disruptions of the 1972 GOP convention then scheduled for San Diego.

Tackwood also reportedly charged that in Nov. 1971 Donald Segretti, using the code name Donald Simms, met with leaders of the ultra-right, para-military SAO at the Gun Smoke Ranch, near San Diego. At that meeting, Segretti is alleged to have passed money to the SAO to purchase high explosives and electronic equipment to be used in part in an assassination attempt on then President Richard Nixon.

The money was also to be used for the kidnapping of anti-war leaders prior to the expected San Diego demonstrations, and for the printing of leaflets with Nixon’s photograph and the caption, “WANTED FOR TREASON.” According to Tackwood’s statement, the leader of the SAO was Howard Barry Godfrey, an agent provocateur on the payroll of the FBI; and Republican Congressman Bob Wilson was also involved with the SAO.

The heading “Wanted for Treason” on the anti-Nixon leaflets appeared also on anti-Kennedy handbills circulated around Dallas in the days before the assassination of the President.

Like Kennedy in 1963, Nixon was a target for assassination in 1972. Ultra-right extremists wanted to replace him with Vice President Spiro Agnew, who could be counted on to keep the war going in Southeast Asia, to round up and incarcerate campus leaders opposed to the war, and to end Nixon’s peace initiatives to the Soviet Union and Red China.

During a press conference in mid-September 1971, Tackwood said he had been contacted by two CIA agents and assigned to a group codenamed “Squad 19.” The purpose of this group was to provoke violence at the Republican Convention scheduled for July 1972 in San Diego. (Squad 19 might have been closely tied to the Secret Army Organization.) According to Tackwood:

There is a plan right now that is so monstrous that it is pathetic. It entails a detailed plan to blow up the Republican Convention. It has been worked out by the super-agencies. . . . The blame will fall on militant organizations demonstrating at the convention. The President will then be asked to declare a state of national emergency and martial law. Within 48 hours, they will arrest all known militants on the left, and a police state will then exist. . . . I am only giving up two names. There’s ‘Martin’ and there’s ‘White.’ Alright now, ‘Martin’ was the code name for my contact, and I’m going to tell you he’s CIA all the way. Are you ready for this? He was in Dallas when they got Kennedy; he left out of there for the Caribbean. And ‘Martin’ is in on the cancellation of elections, and some way in on the concentration camp thing.

Tackwood explained that undercover agents would infiltrate groups planning demonstrations against the war. These agents would then provoke street battles with police surrounding the convention hall. Additional agents would plant explosives and blow up whoever was inside the hall: delegates, congressmen, newsmen, public officials. At the same time these people would be blown up, there would be riots in the streets. The purpose of all this killing was to induce fear among people around the country, so that they would then accept the necessity of martial law and the incarceration of radicals in concentration camps. Calling for martial law in the above scenario would not be President Nixon, but his successor Spiro Agnew.

Tackwood’s press conference created a brief flurry in the news media but further reporting quickly died. However his revelations might have set in motion a chain of countermeasures that ultimately forestalled the fruition of the plot. A Jack Anderson column in February 1972 exposed a pledge of $400,000 by ITT for the upcoming Republican Convention in San Diego in a secret deal with Attorney General John Mitchell’s Department of Justice that would give the company a favorable judgment in an anti-trust case. Anderson’s revelation led to the relocation of the convention from San Diego to Miami. On June 17, 1972, five men broke into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC. Virgilio Gonzalez, Bernard Barker, James McCord, Eugenio Martinez, and Frank Sturgis were caught and put in jail. Later a sixth man was identified as being involved in the Watergate break-in: E. Howard Hunt.

DNC at the Watergate Hotel

Consequently, money that was earmarked to pay for the cadre of spies and provocateurs at the Republican Convention immediately dried up and was hidden behind multiple layers of obfuscation. An agent provocateur named Theodore Brill spoke to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for The Washington Post. Brill said he was paid $150 a week by the Committee to Re-Elect the President to spy on and disrupt anti-war demonstrators camped out in front of the White House. He was told that he would be going to Miami in August to infiltrate and disrupt radical groups at the Republican Convention. In a telephone interview, Brill said, “My job was terminated two days after the Watergate bugging broke.” (Article dated March 11, 1973)

In the aftermath of Watergate, Nixon unceremoniously expelled Agnew from his inner circle. A news item dated June 29, 1972 said “Vice President Spiro Agnew is still not sure what he’s going to do this summer, and so far the President hasn’t told him. Agnew’s administrative assistant said, ‘The vice president has his heart set on going to Miami in August, but every time he asks the Committee to Re-Elect the President about an airline reservation for him, they tell him he’s on standby.’” There was talk of replacing Agnew with Treasury Secretary John Connally. It was not until July 21 that Nixon decided to retain Agnew as his running mate.

A last-ditch effort to revive the Squad 19 plan occurred on August 10 when Andrew Topping, a CIA agent who was an investment banker and extreme right-winger living in New York City, approached an undercover Secret Service agent with $1000 to recruit him in a plot to “kill Nixon.” Topping was immediately arrested and taken to a local police station. Federal authorities later dropped the charges.

On August 21 through 23, the Republican Party held their convention in Miami. The proceedings inside were mainly uneventful and Nixon was chosen to run for a second term. Outside were large crowds of antiwar protesters. Fifty-two people were injured, including twelve policemen. Nine hundred demonstrators were arrested. Although these disturbances looked sensational on television news programs, they were nothing compared to the apocalyptic maelstrom that ultra-right conspirators were hoping to achieve. What saved the country from an epic coup d’etat was an incident that seemed insignificant at the time, what Nixon’s press spokesman Ron Ziegler disingenuously described as a “third-rate burglary” at the Watergate Hotel.