Heard on the Hill: Deceiving Kennedy

Posted July 11, 2011 at 6:55pm

The head of police for King Hussein of Jordan pulled off a trick worthy of a Broadway producer, alleges Jack O’Connell in his posthumously published memoir, “King’s Counsel.”

In the book, O’Connell, the ex-CIA station chief in Amman, claimed that when the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former Rep. John Tunney (D-Calif.) visited Jordan in 1966, the pair toured a refugee camp filled with fake refugees.

Kennedy, chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Refugee Affairs at the time, insisted the U.S. group’s visit include a stop at the camps. He told the St. Petersburg Times during the trip that the state of Palestinian camps “must concern all Americans who are distressed by the homeless and concerned for the welfare of children.”

Col. Mohammed Radi Abdullah, Jordan’s head of police, “was adamantly opposed” to the Senator’s visit to the camps because the lawmakers were visiting not long after Israel’s attack on the camps.

Following conflict, the Jordanian government came under harsh criticism for its failure to protect refugees.

As a result, Abdullah “didn’t know how the Palestinians would react,” O’Connell wrote. “And he wasn’t sure he could guarantee the senator’s safety.”

So the head of police “moved all of the refugees out of one part of the camp and brought in a bunch of his own people,” O’Connell wrote. “He dressed them up and briefed them on how to act and what to say.”

According to O’Connell, Abdullah warned Kennedy “not to go too far inside the camp.”

The trick seemed to work.

In the St. Petersburg Times’ story from December 1966, the “refugees” Kennedy spoke to spouted anti-Israeli sentiments, but “[t]here was no outward show of refugee unrest.”

“Kennedy talked to the group of supposed refugees without ever knowing that he was interviewing a group of policemen,” O’Connell wrote.