As a dinner speaker at the National Press Club in Washington, he has spoken about weapons containing depleted uranium and other toxins being used by the U.S. military that have caused cancerous conditions in veterans in the 1991 Iraq-Kuwait War, according to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans organization, attorneys, academicians and medical professionals. “As was the case with the cover-up of the effects of Agent Orange on GIs after the Viet Nam War, the Pentagon and its entities are in denial while Western Europe allies have prohibited the use of such weapons,” he commented. He has spoken about unauthorized and unlawful telephone eavesdropping on American citizens in the U.S. by the National Security Agency and has participated in panel discussions with former federal agent and intelligence offer whistleblowers. Also, he has criticized the editorial control of broadcast news organizations by their corporate owners in ways contributing to the demise of public confidence in the American news media.

Kelly’s career began as a high-school copyboy for the New York Journal-American. While participating in a training program and riding with a reporter and photographer team, one night he met famed columnist and fellow ambulance-chaser Walter Winchell sitting in a street.Winchell, a pioneering columnist and radio reporter beginning in the Roaring Twenties, was cradling in his lap the head of a car accident victim, who was gushing, “Walter! Walter!” in happiness over his brush with fame. After a stint with a New Haven newspaper and television station Kelly returned to New York to report for United Press Movietone Television News on national assignments. His coverage of the Kennedy 1960 campaign included responsibilities as the pool reporter on Election Night at Kennedy’s home in Hyannis, Massachusetts. In February 1965, he obtained an exclusive interview for NBC with Malcom X in which the black leader correctly predicted that he would not make it through the weekend without assassination. Kelly’s other work in the 1960s included first-hand reports of astronaut John Glenn’s lift-off, and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s iconic speech at the United Nations banging his shoe on a desktop for emphasis. As night editor of NBC’s headquarters news desk, Kelly obtained permission from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover for exclusive arrest footage of 13 Ku Klux Klan members for the infamous “Mississippi Burning” murders of two civil rights activists whose bodies were dumped in a swamp. Kelly was covering the United Nations Security Council when U.S. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge removing a secret microphone from artwork installed in the Moscow embassy. Soviets had given the embassy a decorative U.S. seal, but with a microphone in the eagle’s beak.

Kelly’s work included interactions on sensitive stories on teams led by NBC anchors Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, and CBS anchor Walter Cronkite. As a foreign correspondent UP Movietone in London, Kelly covered Parliament, served in Paris and covered intrigues involving Berlin Wall escapes and reprisals. Besides assignments in Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan, he covered the so-called Secret War in Laos. He lived in the mountains with anti-communist Montagnard tribes, and flew on Air America drops of rice and paratroopers. While posing as a student and traveling between Munich and Berlin through East Germany during annual Warsaw Pact Maneuvers, he was once taken into custody by the East Germany State Police and Stasi, the East German secret police. Similarly, he was taken into custody by agents of the Communist Pathet Lao and held at their headquarters in Vientiane before release.

As an NBC reporter, writer and news editor, Kelly’s assignments included living on the secret bases of the militant anti-Castro organizations Alpha 66 and Brigade 2506 as they planned commando raids on the Cuban mainland from camps in the Florida everglades. The FBI’s Hoover authorized Kelly to meet with former Soviet GRU intelligence agent Kaarlo Toumi in safe houses in New York after the Finnish-born Russian switched sides to become a double-agent for the U.S. For years, Soviets failed to detect the agent’s switch.

Later, as a reporter at CBS News, Kelly covered Watergate cover-ups in Washington, Miami and California. Among his exclusives were the Army’s use of the University of Minnesota campus police for surveillance and photographing students during rallies and campus activities. Also, Kelly broke stories showing that Army instructors rigged tests measuring Army reactions to potential missile attacks. Kelly served as a CIA action officer, but resigned after calling for a congressional investigation into Vietnam War corruption by local officials and cover-ups by U.S. officials who failed to provide oversight. “The two most abused things in Vietnam,” Kelly was quoted in media reports as saying, “are the American G.I. and the U.S. taxpayer’s dollar.”

In the administration of New York’s governor, Kelly’s responsibilities included mustering congressional support for passage of anti-organized crime legislation aimed at ending interstate cigarette bootlegging. The smuggling was siphoning $90 million of state tax revenue, with the money going into the coffers of three major organized crime families. Later, Congress enacted an omnibus anti-organized crime bill. Also, Kelly helped develop New York’s Parent and Student Savings (PASS) tuition savings program that allowed tax deductions for parents and/or guardians on their deposits for their dependents’ future student tuition. Under the new law, students could declare the funds as income on their tax returns spread over a five-year, post-graduation period.

Kelly is a Manhattan resident who serves on the boards of the New York Symphonic and the Japan-U.S. Concert Society. He co-produced at Carnegie Hall the Japanese classic Mandara. The performance showcased 58 monks of the Shingon sect that had never traveled as a group outside Japan in its 1,150-year history. Also, Kelly has co-produced events at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and in Japan. The latter included a concert of Western Hemisphere classical music at the Itsukushima Shrine on Miya Jima off the coast of Hiroshima, the first time such a concert had been held at the shrine since it was constructed more than 1,400 years ago.

John Kelly

Senior Consultant