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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

James DiEugenio Gets it all Wrong on Permindex/CMC

In a recent review of Operation Dragon, a book written by former CIA Director James Woolsey and the late Ion Mihai Pacepa, James DiEugenio included several paragraphs about Permindex/CMC and Clay Shaw.

Unfortunately, he gets it all wrong on Permindex/CMC. Here is an analysis of what he wrote:

"Another piece of confection from Mitrokhin, much appreciated by the CIA, dealt with Clay Shaw and the mysterious business entity, Permindex-CMC. Shaw was arrested by New Orleans DA Jim Garrison on March 1, 1967. Three days later, the Italian leftist newspaper Paese Sera began publishing a six part series on the activities of Permindex-CMC in Italy. In an article published in the Daily Beast by Max Holland, the Mitrokhin notes say that the USSR started this disinformation program in Paese Sera that was later picked up in New York. (Daily Beast, April 28, 2017)"

Front page of Paese Sera, March 5, 1967

Quotes from DiEugenio's review are indented:

"Since Shaw’s arrest preceded the publishing of the articles, it is unlikely they had any impact on Garrison’s indictment of Shaw. The late Bill Turner told me that in going over the Italian articles, he told the DA that, since the reportage concentrated on the entity’s business activities in Rome, it would have little relevance to his case against Shaw in the USA. And, in fact, at Shaw’s trial, they were not brought up."

The Paese Sera articles were not brought up at the trial of Clay Shaw. But that is because there was no hard information in the articles about Clay Shaw, just a bunch of rumors about his supposed involvement in Permindex/CMC.

"But the real point of the original series is not indicated by Holland or Daily Beast. I have read the articles in English translation. It was a lengthy six-part series which explored the business activities of the CMC in Italy. An investigative series like this would take a team of reporters weeks to research and then days to write and prepare for printing. But what makes the Mitrokhin story even more strained is this: there was every reason for the newspapers in Italy—and it was not just Paese Sera that printed stories—to be suspicious of Permindex. This business enterprise had previously been kicked out of Switzerland, due to there being a long, drawn out controversy over its sources of funding. In particular, one of the banks was rumored to be involved was Henry Schroder’s, which had been directly associated with CIA Director Allen Dulles. (William Davy, Let Justice be Done, pp. 96–97) Therefore, the Italian newspapers were wholly justified in investigating Permindex-CMC as a suspicious business entity when it moved to Rome and announced its real estate plans. In fact, with the Swiss example behind it, it would have been irresponsible not to."

DiEugenio says that it "would take a team of reporters weeks to research and then days to write and prepare for printing." Not when you can just take material from your archives, and then make stuff up. Here is one page from the Paese Sera series:

The third paragraph is on Louis Bloomfield, and Paese Sera got all the facts wrong. Bloomfield was not a "former American major," he was a major in the Canadian military during World War II. He was not "presently a banker in Montreal," he was a lawyer in Montreal. And he was not a shareholder in CMC - he represented some of the shareholders. And there is absolutely no evidence that "Bloomfield . . . had participated in the espionage activities of the OSS (now the CIA) during the war."

You can see a reference above to George Mantello - the founder of Permindex - saying that "Mantello's person is surrounded with clouds." Indeed, there were many negative newspaper articles about Mantello in the Swiss press in the late 1950s – almost all from one socialist newspaper - and this was largely due to antisemitism and his history in saving Jews during WWII.

You can read more about George Mantello here. He gave out about 15,000 El Salvadorean citizenship papers to Jews and saved thousands of lives. His partner at the consulate, Salvadoran consul Colonel José Arturo Castellanos, was recognized with the title of "Righteous Among the Nations" by Yad Vashem in 2010.

DiEugenio says that there was "every reason for the newspapers in Italy ... to be suspicious of Permindex. This business enterprise had previously been kicked out of Switzerland, due to their being a long, drawn out controversy over its sources of funding."

This is not true.

Permindex was not kicked out of Switzerland. They left because they could not find enough capital to build their world trade center in Basel. The local authorities also required them to build a 200-room hotel. Here is an excerpt from a State Department Despatch of May 28, 1958.

DiEugenio then goes on to claim that "one of the banks was rumored to be involved was Henry Schroder's, which had been directly associated with CIA Director Allen Dulles." Permindex did approach Schoeder, but they did not invest. Here is an excerpt from a State Department Despatch of February 1, 1957:

And an excerpt from a State Department Despatch of October 8, 1957:

And we know from the Louis Bloomfield archive in Ottawa, Canada that Schoeder never invested in Permindex. There are several hundred letters from Bloomfield to George Mantello in Italy amongst his papers. Many of them discuss financing as Permindex/CMC was always short of funds. There is not one mention of Schroder’s Bank in any letter.

But even if had Schoeder invested in Permindex, so what?

"But as it turns out, there was nothing for the KGB to create and hand off in the first place, which is what gives the lie to Mitrokhin and shows what a hack Max Holland was and is. Clay Shaw was on the board of Permindex as it moved to Italy in late 1958. He himself noted this in his Who’s Who in the Southwest entry and it was also announced by Permindex and relayed to Washington in a State Department cable. (Ibid, Davy p. 98)"

A gratuitous insult of Max Holland. Very typical of James DiEugenio. You can read more about his insults of Paul Hoch and myself here.

Clay Shaw was on the board of Permindex, but he never attended a Board meeting in Italy, and he knew very little of its operations. You can see Clay Shaw's Permindex file here.

"Years later, looking through the papers of Montreal lawyer Louis Bloomfield, researcher Maurice Phillips discovered that the attorney was an important figure in the Permindex scheme. Bloomfield coordinated meetings and elicited investments in the enterprise for the titular leader of the organization, Ferenc Nagy. These contributions were requested from some of the wealthiest men in the world at the time, such as Edmund de Rothschild and David Rockefeller. (Letter from Bloomfield to Dr. E. W. imfeld, 2/10/60) There can be no doubt of a CIA angle to the operation due to Shaw’s presence; plus Phillips discovered Nagy was a CIA asset who offered the Agency the use of Permindex in any capacity. (CIA memo of March 24, 1967)"

There is nothing nefarious about Louis Bloomfield trying to raise capital for Permindex. They were always short of funds, and since he represented several major shareholders, he did his utmost to help Permindex and its World Trade Center. Here is the letter from Bloomfield to Dr. Imfeld:

Yes, Bloomfield thought it might be wise for Permindex/CMC to cooperate with the Port Authority of New York. As you can see from this letter, Bloomfield had to spend a large amount of time dealing with internal problems of Permindex. When they decided to move from Basel to Rome, they had to incorporate locally, and thus the establishment of Centro Mondiale Commerciale (CMC),

Here is an earlier letter from Bloomfield about the proposed collaboration with Rockefeller:

Unfortunately, no deal was ever consummated between Permindex and the Port Authority.

DiEugenio makes much of Ferenc Nagy's offer to allow the CIA to put one of its people in Permindex. Here is an excerpt of a memo about this offer:

Given the state of the Cold War in the late 1950s, it is not surprising that the CIA might have been interested in using an international trading organization as non-official cover for an officer or agent. The memo describing Nagy’s suggestion goes on to note that “the advantages which in Nagy’s judgment PERMINDEX offers to CIA include the opportunity to develop information on and contacts in many developing countries of Asia and Africa; cover; and the possibility of influencing the economies of these countries to some extent.”

There was a very important caveat, however. Before proceeding the CIA needed “information on the financial condition of PERMINDEX, its business potential, and further comments on the backgrounds of its management.”

On 25 February 1960, an internal memo reported that “we regret to say that up to date information obtained via Agency channels does not provide us with sufficient data to form an opinion” about whether to proceed. Subsequently, a memo dated 24 March 1960 noted “we were hopeful that more valuable information could be obtained through another source. This has now been received and while it is not complete it does furnish considerably more information than heretofore obtained.”

Unfortunately for Nagy's offer, the CIA was not overly impressed with PERMINDEX/CMC. Few American tourists were likely to be interested in the exhibition since “over-the-counter” orders for merchandise were not going to be permitted. The CIA also noted that “at this stage, the venture seems highly speculative from an investor’s point of view.” Unless exhibitors were found soon to occupy all the empty space in the exhibition buildings, the CIA observed, the first year’s exhibit will be unsuccessful with the consequent result that continuation will not be possible on a profitable basis.”

Charles White, on the commercial staff of the CIA, concluded his memo by stating that “it will be noted that no contracts are claimed with any of the Soviet Bloc countries, which may be a consideration in your decision whether to inject anyone into the organization’s staff as suggested by the ex-prime minister.”

And they were right. The CMC had trouble finding tenants and had to close in 1962.

"The worst suspicions about Permindex-CMC were pretty much certified in Michele Metta’s book, CMC: the Italian Undercover CIA and Mossad Station. The brother of Shimon Peres, one Gershon Peres, was on the board of Permindex from 1967. (Metta, p. 114) But further, Permindex shared the same office space with Propaganda Due. (ibid, p. 120) P2 was one of the very worst and deadliest secret societies to exist—not just in Italy—but in all of Europe. When it was led by the infamous Licio Gelli, it was implicated in numerous crimes and murders (e.g. the death of banker Roberto Calvi). With all of this evidence in the record today, we can see the Mitrokhin scheme as being nothing but a made to order distraction. Permindex was for real, and it was what Garrison suspected it was."

James DiEugenio Uses a Crackpot Book to Buttress many of his Permindex/CMC Claims.

Metta's book is poorly translated from Italian, and it is very hard to read. I challenge anybody to buy the book and see if you can finish it ... let alone understand it. Most of the book is just “six degrees of separation” – linkages without meaning and context. There is no hard information in the book on Permindex/CMC, and what it does have is inaccurate.

Here are some examples:

1. “Bloomfield had tremendous power inside CMC, because he was the majority shareholder of this company. In other words, he had the power to do things that even all the other shareholders combined couldn’t, especially the authority of replacing corporation officers or board of directors.” (page 154)

This is completely untrue. Bloomfield was a corporate lawyer who represented some of the shareholders. As you go through his archives, it is clear that Permindex/CMC was run by George Mantello and his son Enrico. Almost 100% of Bloomfield’s letters to Permindex/CMC are to the Mantellos, and, in many of them, Bloomfield is requesting additional information on the operations of the company.

2. ‘In fact, if we dig deep enough about the Carcano, the rifle that Oswald allegedly used, we come once again across elements that are fully in turn with a conspiracy involving the CMC.” (page 68)

Metta tries to tie the Carcano rifle to Clay Shaw. Here’s how he does it: The Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was part of surplus army stock from WWII. Adam Consolidated Industries bid on a stock of rifles in 1960. Adam used another company, Crescent Firearms, to sell the Carcanos. The “factotum” of Crescent was Joseph Saik, an anti-Communist who had worked with General Eisenhower in Europe. And one of Eisenhower’s “collaborators” was General Charles Thrasher, whose aide-de-camp was Clay Shaw. Got it?

3. “The point is that there are many undeniable clues showing H.L. Hunt’s involvement right in the middle of the international plot which led to the death of the 35th President of the USA.” (page 105)

Once again, this is convoluted. Paolo Marella met with H.L. Hunt in 1966. Marella was a relative of Giuseppe Azzaretto, who was a member of the CMC [I am not sure what he means by a member] and thus the linkage.

4. “Finally, there existed a dense and long correspondence between Bloomfield, founder of Permindex-CMC, and George H. Bush. This correspondence is kept in the previous mentioned documents submitted by Bloomfield himself, as explicitly expressed in his will, to the Library and Archives Canada. However, they are still inaccessible…”

The correspondence between Bloomfield and Bush is completely open to any researcher. And guess what – the letters are completely mundane. Here is a link to the complete collection of Bloomfield-Bush correspondence.

5. “This too cryptic conduct gave reason to the assassination scholars Sprague and Cutler to make an analysis and reach the conclusion that the umbrella was used to fire a dart with a paralyzing agent at JFK to restrain his muscles and make him an immobile target far easier to kill. An explanation fully endorsed by Fletcher Prouty, one of the most relevant Dallas ambush whistleblowers.” (page 159)

6. “Gershon Peres was on the Board of Permindex from 1967-1970. Peres was the brother of Shimon Peres.”

I don’t know if this is true – but if it is, so what? Is this nefarious? Well, clearly to Michele Metta it is. After all, the subtitle of his book is The Italian Undercover CIA and Mossad Station and the Assassination of JFK. Metta tries hard to link Israel into the assassination. The only thing he lacks is evidence.

DiEugenio strains the limits of credibility when he writes that "Permindex shared the same office space with Propaganda Due. (ibid, p. 120) P2 was one of the very worst and deadliest secret societies to exist—not just in Italy—but in all of Europe.”

DiEugenio has the wrong page number. You can find this so-called claim on page 39, or page 126, of Metta's book. Here is what he writes:

"That explained, let's go now to what Paese Sera ignored because of the aforesaid unavailability of the whole amount of CMC papers: meetings of the IAHC Board of Directors in a very central place in Rome; that is, Piazza de Spagna (Spanish Square -- near the Spanish Steps) at 72/A; or, as the report itself shows, "in the office of the lawyer Roberto Ascarelli."

Here’s how this one works. The Italo-American Hotel Corporation (IAHC) was supposedly a subsidiary of Permindex – and its Board meetings were held in “the office of the lawyer Roberto Ascarelli.” Ascarelli was instrumental in the rise of Licio Gelli, the leader of Propaganda Due (P2) lodge. Therefore, Permindex is linked to P2.

That's it. Extraordinary claims require ... well, at least some evidence. In this case, we just have extremely tenuous links. I should add that I have seen no references to IAHC in the Bloomfield files, or any references to Ascarelli or Gelli. The linkage of IAHC to Permindex is questionable - even the Paese Sera articles say that Mantello was just a director. And even if they had a meeting in Ascarelli's office, so what?

This is all six degrees of separation. This might be enough for DiEugenio, but not for any rational thinking person.

I do agree with DiEugenio on one thing. Operation Dragon is a pretty bad book. Click here for a more substantive review of the book.

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