Back Channel: William Betrand McFarland


Back Channel: Bertie MacFarland

Some books or memoirs tell the life story of the author, a family member or friend. Not this one. Some relate secrets, innermost fears or use their writing as an outlet or vehicle to enlighten readers about an issue, illness or hidden truth they or a family have lived with and have decided to share. Decide what applies to this story. Bertie Mac fought over the pros and cons of writing this detailed account of his time working for the Kennedy Administration as well as nine other presidents. The information presented would might change the way you think about our government, our Presidents and the way the lives of many are manipulated. Reliving, Back Channel will open your eyes wide to what happened during the Kennedy Administration. It will take you inside the Oval Office, allow you to hear the secret conversations between MacFarland, the President. “Decide what applies to this story, which I am treating as a memoir, but it may be historical fiction. There is no way to ascertain.”


This is the first of nine books in this series written by MacFarland who was the Special Assistant to the President.

Back Channel first began as he states in the prologue, when meeting JFK in June 1962. Let’s begin by explaining that he was involved in many covert operations. Some were by choice and others he was thrusted into by the President or a member of his administration. The author begins documenting his career by explaining how in his position he had access to the heads of government, our President and world leaders. Even after Kennedy was assassinated LBJ kept him on realizing that keeping your enemies closer was a wise decision. We begin our journey with his recruitment into the CIA but first realize that within the prologue he includes his Life Insurance and states why. With any dangerous job and this one was you often need to put precautions in place stating that if anything happens to him as a result of releasing this book and the next eight secret and classified documents stored safely would be released. He also includes at the end declassified documents dealing with “Operation Mongoose, Civil Rights Legislation and much more. The final section is an appendix, which includes supplementary materials on the mob, LBJ and others that you will definitely want to read. But, first let’s highlight the body of this book and enlighten the reader as to why Back Channel will make everyone that reads it stop and thin. You decide what is fact or fiction.


Would you want to be recruited by the CIA? What would you gain at 25 years of age working for this agency? Approached, promised a great career our young Bertie took the bait and agreed to enter their training program at what they call “The Farm.” Intense, rigorous and often at times demeaning he succeeded in surviving round one. Continuing on to the next mode of training which was paramilitary, trade crafting, Para trooping and much more. From there he entered ranger training, special point to get to operations and this was just the beginning. I bet you never realized the intensity of the training these agents go through to work for the CIA. Lonely at times, isolated and realizing any real friendships were less than short term he weathered many storms and finally entered the Monterrey Lang School and then off to Moscow where things took a sour and bad turn. Detained at the airport he was sent to Lubyanka where he was taken prisoner and tortured. After getting rescued and entering Walter Reed he finally convinced the staff to allow him to meet with JFK. What happened to him and what he learned about the Soviets would change his lives, that of Americans and what he reveals quite compelling and frightening. But, was he believed? Entering the oval office was more than just impressive but MacFarland seemed to handle himself quite well. Allowing the reader to know that he felt the government betrayed him and he relates this to the President allows the reader to understand that he was you might say in many ways the sacrificial lamb. As Kennedy reveals some startling information about what he thinks happened we learn that there might be a traitor within their mist and that someone felt Bertie knew more about what was happening and had more information than the ex-cultured attaché also in prison at the same time and place as him but treated quite differently.


The conversation is quite enlightening and there is much more to tell about what happened and his being placed in a safe house in Moscow and the events that led to this moment. The rest of the conversation refers to the late Chairman Khrushchev and two American generals who gave him a message to relate to JFK. False names, one message were the Chairman really planning some type of nuclear launch using missiles? Were these IRBM’s and others headed for Cuba? The conversation is quite compelling and the implications startling. The events recounted and the truth behind them would shake anyone’s inner most core. The rest a blur at times to him as he relates more of what he endured and his time in rehab that was just beginning. Attending Duke University, working for JFK and then the transition to LBJ he allows the reader to learn the inside thoughts and actions of these two administrations first hand. The supporting documentation that allows the reader to really understand and read first hand the workings of our government at the highest level will definitely clarify any misconceptions you might have. He continues with the history of The Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Civil Rights Legislation and references to our Domestic and Foreign Policies plus the Camelot Time. Throughout this book you will learn about many conspiracies, betrayals and at times when you hear the conversations and read the dialogue you might think they are heartfelt but at times they sound condescending. But, after several meeting and many unusual incidents he realizes that although he has been rescued he is a hunted man and lives are lost as a result of the government protecting him. Friendships that he would have liked to cultivate more come to an end because of the danger surrounding him as his feelings for Helen Edberg and her family is short lived. Imagine knowing that someone that was guarding you was killed. But why? As JFK on page 61 relates to our author what he think happens and why he is in the situation he presently encounters. Moving him once again to Blair House, the safe house he meets many new people that he hopes he can rely on and trust. But, when the President places him front and center with those that can harm him what will he do? Instructed to go the Russian Embassy to meet the Ambassador he is told to deliver a message from JFK to him and him alone. The meeting is quite interesting and the end result will let you know that our author has it under control and definitely knows how to handle foreign diplomats and others. Next, he works for Robert McNamara and joins his team but only from the safe house when not in his office. Restrictions placed upon him for safety reasons and specific protocol for contacting anyone. Just who was after him and why was security increased since the KGB was involved. Imagine that what we learn and what we see, hear and view on the news is what they want an absolute account and not always us to learn. Including next the Vietnam War and his assessment of what really went on behind the scenes this book really provides us with much pause for more than just thought. But, more deaths occur as another guard who just returned from a tour of duty is deliberately run off the road. How this made him feel and the next step is startling as it is business as usual.


Going after the man who is hunting him, winding up in Walter Reed again and the Vietnam War, interviewing the village elders and his experiences there are all graphically described as if he is reliving every moment. Chapter 6 focuses on his time at Hyannis Point and his work, family gatherings with the Kennedys, difficult situations and much more. August 1963 he adds more the close of the Vietnam War, his experiences and the rest you can read on page 139.


We come to the saddest and hardest part of this book as he recounts the moment he learned of Kennedy’s death, the questions he asked himself that so many others did and what follows. To secure his safety and his life he needed to protect himself with some type of insurance policy that in this case does not yield a monetary gain when paid off. Documents were photocopied and carefully guarded and the person of interest you might say was someone high up. Why would anyone want to kill Kennedy, a motivation for murder, Hoover and the FBI, the Mafia and their possible role and Johnson round out Chapter 8 followed by the transition in Chapter 9. As he openly and honestly relates his meeting with LBJ and his offer of remaining in government even though he wanted to leave. Why he wanted him there and what it would do to his career you have to read for yourself and decide if he made the right choice. Taking out the documents which he had secured and placing them somewhere safe, making sure that others and note to the new President. Where does he go and where does he wind up? Why does he go there and what will happen next? What happens when he returns and who is waiting for him at the airport?


This is the end of Book One and the rest you need to read as he reveals in this Official Documents much about our government and more. Why was a wanted poster included for the President? Read this outstanding account of the Kennedy years and decide what is fact and what still needs to be told. Added are accounts of attacks directed at him, the information about LBJ and his research and time with the LBJ and what he reveals is truly remarkable and frightening. Read this account of the Kennedy Years: Back Channel: fast forward to the next. Remember: this is historical fiction. I will not state whether the information is true I reviewed the book and what was presented.

Fran Lewis: reviewer