Senator Edward Kennedy attracted death threats during his political career, including some saying he would be the next to die after two of his brothers were assassinated, according to previously secret FBI records.
An anonymous letter received by police in Canada on Oct. 21, 1968, said: “A warning to the Kennedys. John Kennedy number one assassinated, Robert Kennedy number two assassinated, Ted Kennedy number three to be assassinated on a set date of Oct. 25, 1968.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation today released more than 2,200 pages of files on Kennedy covering 1961 to 1985 in response to Freedom of Information Act requests, including from Bloomberg News. Many of the documents focus on threats against Kennedy; little is provided on Kennedy driving his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969, leading to the accidental drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne.
Kennedy, a Democrat who first won election to the Senate from Massachusetts in 1962, died in August 2009 after a 15-month battle with brain cancer. His brother President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Another brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was shot in Los Angeles after declaring victory in California’s Democratic presidential primary and died on June 6, 1968.
Offer to Assassinate
After Robert Kennedy was killed, authorities received threats that Edward Kennedy would be next. One Michigan man reported that he was approached by three people, one who had a money clip with $5,000, and asked him how much he wanted to kill the senator, according to the documents. The men were supposed to contact him the next day and never did.
One document said that in 1977, a former California prison inmate told Arizona authorities that Sirhan Sirhan, the assassin of Robert Kennedy, offered him $1 million and a car to kill Edward Kennedy. The former inmate, who wasn’t identified, said he declined the offer.
Sirhan told the inmate to contact Sirhan’s mother for details when he was released if he decided to carry out the killing, according to the document. The inmate said he was in the cell next to Sirhan’s at the Soledad prison in California for 18 months ending in January 1977.
One of the death threats detailed in the documents arrived in an obscenity-filled letter in 1985, five years after Kennedy unsuccessfully sought the presidency. The letter said, “Brass tacks, I’m gonna kill Kennedy,” along with then-President Ronald Reagan. The writer was under psychiatric evaluation and was ultimately found not to be a threat.
The FBI files show that President Richard M. Nixon’s administration was interested in the Kopechne case. John Dean, while at the Justice Department in October 1969, inquired about whether she had traveled to Greece in 1968. Dean, before he moved to the White House staff, also asked the FBI for reports stemming from an investigation of her or her acquaintances.
The FBI received dozens of letters following the drowning of Kennedy staffer Kopechne in a car that the senator drove off the bridge. The letters generally expressed outrage at Kennedy’s role in the accident and urged the FBI to open an investigation.
An FBI summary of the documents says that “The FBI had no investigative role in this case, since there were no violations of federal criminal law involved.”
Leaving the Scene
Kopechne’s body was found in the car after the senator swam ashore and had waited several hours before reporting the accident. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of the accident that killed the 28-year-old Kopechne.
The scandal may have ended Kennedy’s chances of winning the presidency. He unsuccessfully challenged then-President Jimmy Carter for the 1980 Democratic nomination.
One writer, whose name was censored by the FBI, said that “Kennedy forfeited his claims to national leadership” and his actions “created a mushrooming angry cloud of resentment and doubt as to the fairness of the administration of justice in America.”
The standard reply signed by then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover stated that “there is no indication” that Kopechne’s death “involved a violation of any federal law within the jurisdiction of the FBI.”