Historian David Kaiser's meticulously researched new work, "The Road to Dallas," about the shocking and clandestine maneuverings of our CIA and FBI under President John F. Kennedy, paints a disturbing portrait of what often goes undetected at the highest levels of government.

Kaiser chronicles amazing accounts of our government's dangerous collaborations with major organized-crime figures in an attempt to remove Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders from Latin American countries that were tilting toward communist rule by methods that included planned coups and assassination plots, the bribing of foreign politicians, the spreading of lies and the invasion of other countries with secret armies.

The majority of these exercises were enacted with the consent and knowledge of the Kennedy White House.

Kaiser was able to bring his book to fruition as a result of the Kennedy Assassination Records Act of 1992. This permitted scholars to gain access to millions of pages of original documents that had never been available before. Kaiser points out that some articles were still withheld.

Much of the new data focuses on the events leading up to the assassination and information on Mafia crime bosses that was obtained for the most part by illegal wiretapping. After reviewing vast amounts of new material, Kaiser puts forth his thesis that Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy at the behest of the leaders of organized crime who were disturbed by JFK'S inability to remove Castro where they had been reaping huge profits in gambling and casino interests prior to Castro's revolution.

The Mafia bosses were also furious with JFK's brother, Robert, the attorney general, for using them for his own purposes in Cuba and elsewhere, and then turning upon them with zeal for their criminal activity here. They felt double- crossed.

Kaiser's investigation seems to put to rest the long-held notion put forth by the Warren Report that Oswald acted alone and was simply a nutty gunman. He examines new evidence that lays out Oswald's extensive entanglements with suspicious persons prior to the assassination.

The most chilling is the testimony of Cuban exile Silvia Odio, who claims to have met Oswald in the company of Cuban activists. Kaiser describes Oswald as a troubled man prone to bouts of aggressive behavior. He was extremely secretive and interested in firearms.

The complexities and contradictions of the Kennedy brothers' personalities are particularly upsetting when considered in contrast to their clean-cut and eloquent public personas. Kaiser reveals Bobby to be intensely driven, self-righteous and religious, and simultaneously insecure and determined to make his mark among his competitively charged brethren.

Jack was much cooler and more hidden, someone who though "at ease with everyone" revealed himself to no one. Jack was a compulsive womanizer who became seduced by the Frank Sinatra crowd and its hedonistic lifestyle, which brought him into close contact with many shady figures.

Kaiser's book unwittingly tracks the steady erosion of confidence in government that began with the Kennedy assassination, which 68 percent of Americans today believe was the result of a conspiracy of some sort followed by an official coverup to hide the truth.

Subsequent scandals during the past decades, such as Watergate, Iran-Contra and Guantanamo have further damaged our trust in government.

Kaiser's fine book destroys any romantic view of world politics we might wish to cling to — and shows us a much darker reality.

Elaine Margolin is a freelance book reviewer and essayist in Hewlett, N.Y.