Following are the first articles of a new AARC feature presented with the author’s permission. Beginning in 1978, Dan Hardway served as one of the principle investigators assigned to the CIA by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA). These blog posts were published online beginning October, 2015 and continue to the present. We are very pleased to publish them here in their chronological order.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
THANK YOU, PHIL SHENON
By Dan Hardway © 2015
We all need to thank Phil Shenon for bringing attention to the CIA’s latest position in their continuing stonewalling of the truth in regard to the JFK assassination. The new limited hang-out that Shenon helps test float in his October 6, 2015, Politico piece, “Yes, the CIA Director was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up,” is acknowledgment that DCI John McCone participated in a “benign cover-up” by withholding crucially important information from the Warren Commission. Once again, we can benefit from what is normally gleaned from a limited hangout: 1) it will fill in some blanks; 2) point the way to further avenues of investigation; 3) illustrate the continued lying while admitting to past lying; 4) illuminate the real issues by its misdirection; and 5) ultimately contribute to the long unravelling leading to the eventual revelation of truth. In this case, Shenon’s latest spin on the CIA’s new limited hangout does all this and more. I say “his spin” deliberately because Mr. Shenon’s latest article in Politico1 doesn’t even accurately represent his cited CIA source.
We can elucidate this from an examination of some of the specific assertions Mr. Shenon makes in his article which is based on a recently declassified chapter out of a top secret CIA biography of former CIA Director John McCone.
- John McCone was a “stranger to the clubby, blue-blooded world of the men like Dulles…”
The purpose of this statement, made early in Shenon’s article, appears to be to try to reinforce the idea that McCone was a Kennedy man, and, consequently, one who may have been more inclined to side in any dispute with the Kennedys rather than with the CIA’s insiders, including Allen Dulles. Both the statement, and the implication, are misleading at best.
While I am not aware of any information about McCone’s membership in any clubs prior to his appointment as Director of the CIA, it is true that he did not share an east coast patrician background with “men like Dulles.” But he very much did share the political and business background of men with whom Dulles was comfortable. He was a very successful industrial businessman from California, having founded the Bechtel-McCone engineering company in 1937. W.A. Bechtel bought him out after the end of the Second World War. After selling his business, McCone began a career of public service, working as a Deputy Secretary of Defense and an Under Secretary of the Air Force before being appointed to head the Atomic Energy Commission by President Eisenhower in 1958. McCone would, after his stint as DCI, become a director of ITT, where he admitted that he offered money to the CIA to prevent the election of Salvador Allende to the office of President in Chile. While McCone would testify that then CIA Director Richard Helms declined the offer, the CIA did eventually assist in getting $350,000.00 of ITT funds to Allende’s opponents in Chile.
After the Bay of Pigs, John Kennedy contemplated a serious restructuring of the CIA, having threatened to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind.” He appointed a commission, headed by General Maxwell Taylor, to investigate the fiasco. After that commission made its report, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was tasked with developing a reorganization plan for the intelligence service. While that plan was never implemented, due to political opposition in Congress, Kennedy did begin cutting funds from the CIA, reducing the number of employees working there, transferred primary responsibility for covert military action to the military forces, and to the Agency’s great resentment, appointed his brother Bobby to ride herd on the Agency’s covert operations.
Both Robert Kennedy and Schlesinger favored a former Justice Department prosecutor, Fowler Hamilton, to take Dulles’s position at CIA after his retirement as part of the shake-up of the Agency that could be accomplished politically at the time. The Agency opposed that choice and Kennedy ended up appointing John McCone over the objection of RFK and Schlesinger who opposed him as a Republican holdover from the Eisenhower administration. W. Averill Harriman, who had replaced John J. McCloy as Kennedy’s chief arms control negotiator, let Schlesinger know that McCone would not change much at the CIA. He felt that the CIA, under McCone, was actively undermining the administration policy of neutrality in Laos. Harriman felt that JFK’s purge of just the top leaders of the CIA had not been sufficient, that the purge should have been more sweeping. Two years into McCone’s tenure, Dulles would tell a reporter, “Since my retirement there have been few important policy changes [at the CIA], and I am wholly in support of its new chief and of its recent work.” In June of 1963 McCone would not hesitate to speak about his opposition to the administration’s economic policies in Schlesinger’s presence. Prior to the assassination, McCone routinely “checked in with his predecessor, dining with him and sending him cordial notes.”
President Kennedy was aware of McCone’s less than enthusiastic embrace of his administration. As reported by Talbot in The Devil’s Chessboard,
“In March, the president’s secret White House recording system picked up a heated conversation between the Kennedy brothers about their increasingly disloyal CIA director. McCone, Bobby informed his brother, was going around Washington feeding anti-Kennedy information to the press. ‘He’s a real bastard, that John McCone,’ responded JFK. ‘Well, he was useful at a time,’ observed Bobby. ‘Yeah,’ replied the president ruefully, ‘but, boy, it’s really evaporated.’”
McCone was never a Kennedy man. He was a Republican businessman much more at home with the political ideas and inclinations of Dulles and the military/industrial/security class than he was with the policies of the Kennedy administration. By the time he was called on to testify before the Warren Commission, he was no longer a stranger to the Dulles/CIA insider group, if he ever had been, whose views were more compatible with his than the Kennedys ever would be.
- “[T]he commission came to agree with McCone’s depiction of Oswald … as a delusional lone wolf.”
Mr. Shenon here misleadingly takes the position that the egg came before the chicken. The question that isn’t stated is whether the conclusion that Oswald was “a delusional lone wolf” preceded or followed the commission’s investigation. The way Mr. Shenon states it, you would think that McCone formed that belief early and the Warren Commission came to it after due investigation and deliberation. That is far from the truth.
The Shenon article is based on a chapter of the David Robarge’s authorized, and largely still classified, biography of John McCone. The Robarge article reports that one of the first things RFK asked McCone on November 22, 1963, was whether the CIA had been involved in killing his brother. McCone, without the benefit of any review or investigation, told RFK that the CIA had not been involved in the assassination.
Robarge also reported that McCone had “had the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) officers analyze the [Zapruder film] footage (particularly the time between shots) and prepare briefing boards for the service.” Robarge, however, does not provide any details about the conclusions reached by the NPIC, the use and disposition of the briefing boards, nor what McCone did as a result. Shenon doesn’t bring the subject up at all, but it is very relevant to the issue of McCone’s belief in regard to whether the assassination was a conspiracy in those early days after the assassination.
According to the retired Chief of NPIC, and Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., McCone not only formed opinions about the possibility of a conspiracy based on the NPIC analysis of the Zapruder film, he informed Robert Kennedy of his early conclusion that there had been a conspiracy. Jeff Morley reports on his website, JFKFacts:
“At around 10 p.m. on the night of November 23, two Secret Service agents delivered a copy of Zapruder’s film to the new state-of-the-art NPIC facility where Brugioni was working as duty officer.
“In an extended interview, conducted in 200X [sic], Brugioni told Doug Horne, a former chief of military records for the JFK Assassination Records Review Board, what happened next:
“Brugioni’s team analyzed the film and made still enlargements of select individual frames that were mounted on briefing boards. They worked on the film throughout the night. On early Sunday morning, November 24, Art Lundahl, the director of the NPIC, took the briefing boards to CIA headquarters in Langley. Lundahl was Brugioni’s mentor. He won the confidence of the Kennedy White House with the CIA’s rapid analysis of aerial surveillance photos of Soviet missile installations in Cuba in October 1962.
“According to Brugioni, Lundahl went to the office of CIA Director John McCone, taking along briefing notes Brugioni had prepared for him. Lundal briefed McCone on the CIA’s analysis of the blown-up frames of the Zapruder film. He returned to NPIC later Sunday morning, November 24, and thanked everyone for their efforts the previous night, telling them that the briefing of McCone had gone well.
“What Lundahl told McCone in the briefing is unknown but Lundahl’s sources are not. He relied on the NPIC analysis of the original Zapruder film and the reports of the Secret Service agents who witnessed the assassination….
“McCone had already spoken once with Attorney General Robert Kennedy about his brother’s assassination. RFK had called McCone to come talk to him at his home in McLean, Virginia, on the afternoon of November 22 to ask him about his brother’s murder. McCone was surprised when RFK asked him if the CIA was involved.
“Because McCone was not a career CIA man, RFK trusted him more than anybody else at the agency. McCone assured him agency personnel were not involved.
“At some point in the next two weeks McCone gave RFK a more informed view.
“On December 9, 1963, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., adviser to President Kennedy, met with RFK and asked him what he thought about his brother’s assassination. As Schlesinger wrote in his diary, published in 2007:
“‘I asked him, perhaps tactlessly about Oswald. He said there could be no serious doubt that he was guilty, but there still was argument whether he did it by himself or as a part of a larger plot, whether organized by Castro or by gangsters. He said the FBI people thought he had done it by himself, but that McCone thought there were two people involved in the shooting.” [Emphasis added] (Journals 1952-2000, p. 184).
“John McCone was not just speculating. His had been briefed by the CIA’s leading photo analyst and seen the NPIC blowups of frames of the Zapruder film.”
The great weight of the evidence is that the Warren Commission, which had no investigators of its own, set out with the purpose of confirming the FBI conclusion that LHO had acted alone. By 4:00 p.m. on November 24, 1963, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was telling presidential aide Walter Jenkins that the new administration needed to have “something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.” On November 25, 1963, Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who was already aware that the FBI had concluded that LHO was the sole assassin, sent a memo to presidential aide Bill Moyers which opened with:
“It is important that all of the facts surrounding President Kennedy’s Assassination be made public in a way which will satisfy people in the United States and abroad that all the facts have been told and that a statement to this effect be made now.
“1. The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”
The FBI would issue its initial investigative report on December 9, 1963, concluding that LHO was the lone assassin. The original idea was that the Warren Commission would just review this report and affirm it. It was soon realized that wider scope of review for the commission was necessary due to the gross deficiencies of the initial FBI report.
As Robarge reported in his article in the CIA’s in-house classified magazine, the members of the Warren Commission “saw their function as bringing their collective experience and reputations to calm the shaken populace – or, in McCloy’s words, to ‘lay the dust….[and] to show the world that America is not a banana republic where a government can be changed by conspiracy.’”
At the third meeting of the Warren Commission, the first meeting after the Commissioners had taken their oath of office, on December 16, 1963, Allen Dulles gave each member a copy of a book written by Robert J. Donovan, The Assassins, which argues that all assassinations of American presidents are done by loners, solitary fanatics. He told the commissioners, “It’s a fascinating book, but you’ll find a pattern running through here that I think we’ll find in this present case.”
A fair review of the available evidence would seem to indicate, contrary to Shenon, that the finding that LHO was the lone assassin was a foregone conclusion at the inception of the commission and that McCone changed his own early opinion to conform with that predetermined view. So, why would Phil Shenon want to obscure that point? Why would the CIA and the administration, as reported by Robarge, take so much care to try to steer the commission away from any lines of inquiry that could lead to possible conspiracies? Why does Shenon spin his presentation to create the opposite idea even when his source article admits it? Why does Shenon not report the predetermination of Oswald as the lone assassin made by the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, President Johnson, Allen Dulles, John McCloy, and so many others? Why does he try to preserve the tattered facade of alleged Warren Commission objectivity?
III. “[T]he spy agency acknowledges what others were convinced of long ago: that McCone and other senior CIA officials were ‘complicit’ in keeping ‘incendiary’ information from the Warren Commission.”
In 1976, the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations (the “Church Committee”) concluded that the CIA had failed to disclose important information about the Agency’s Castro assassination plots to the Warren Commission. The CIA responded with a Task Force Report in 1977 that was very critical of the Church Committee conclusion and argued that the CIA had fully cooperated with the Warren Commission. In 1978 the House Select Committee on Assassinations reviewed both the work of the Church Committee and the CIA’s response to the Church Committee’s Report. The HSCA agreed with the Church Committee’s conclusion in regard to the Castro assassination plots. In addition, the HSCA also pointed out that the CIA had failed to provide material information in its possession regarding Luisa Calderon. The main HSCA conclusion was couched in usual bureaucratic ambiguity: “The Central Intelligence Agency was deficient in its collection and sharing of information both prior to and subsequent to the assassination.” A more pointed comment was provided in the supporting analysis: “[D]ue to dissimilar standards with respect to the relevancy of materials to the committee investigation adopted by the CIA and the committee, certain files requested by the committee for review were made available to the committee in redacted form or were withheld. The evidence collected in this staff report is based on the evidence available to the committee, which might not have been all the relevant evidence to which the Agency had access.” The CIA has vigorously denied these conclusions from 1978 up until now.
Having worked as a member of the staff of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (“HSCA”) investigating the CIA in 1977 and 1978, I can personally attest to the fact that the CIA withheld information from the HSCA, stonewalled our researchers and investigators, and actively worked to subvert the Committee’s investigation. The most egregious CIA action involved hiding the background of George Joannides and foisting him on the Committee as a liaison to researchers who were inquiring into the specific area about which he would have been a critical witness had his background been disclosed. Joannides effectively ended any further investigation into a critical area of inquiry ino propaganda operations, and possible ties between Oswald, anti-Castro Cuban groups, and the Agency. Joannides, unbeknownst to us, and actively concealed from us at the time, was the case officer for the anti-Castro group that had the street and media confrontations with Oswald in New Orleans in August, 1963. G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the HSCA, has called this action on the part of the CIA obstruction of justice. In a paper presented to conference in Bethesda, Maryland, the former HSCA chief counsel said,
“I can no longer say with confidence, as the HSCA Final Report did, that Oswald had no significant relationship with DRE. At this point what we know is that the CIA has hidden this information from every investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the assassination. Indeed, they have not just hidden the information, they have lied to, at least, both the HSCA and the ARRB. I believe that this rises to the level of probable violation of the law that prohibits impeding the due and proper inquiry of a committee of Congress.
“I no longer trust anything that the Agency has told us in regard to the assassination. It lied to the Warren Commission. It lied to the ARRB. It lied to the HSCA. In admitting that Joannides was employed in a covert capacity as liaison with the HSCA, it has admitted that it violated its charter and ran a domestic covert operation aimed at subverting the HSCA and its investigation.
“….That the Agency would put a material witness in a covert capacity as a filter between the committee staff and the Agency was an outrageous breach of our understanding with the Agency, the Agency’s charter and the laws of this country. As a result, I now believe that we were not able to conduct an appropriate investigation of the CIA.
“What the Agency did not give us, none but those involved in the Agency can know for sure. I do not believe any denial offered by the Agency on any point. The law has long followed the rule that if a person lies to you on one point, you may reject all his testimony. The CIA not only lied, it actively subverted the investigation.”
The CIA continues to withhold any release of information regarding George Joannides, his work with DRE, or his undercover assignment as liaison to the HSCA. It has fought, successfully, to prevent disclosure of such documents in response to Freedom of Information lawsuits pursued by Jeff Morley and the Assassination Archives and Research Center for the past decade or more.
So, both Senate and House investigating committees, in 1976 and 1978, respectively, concluded that the CIA had withheld information from the Warren Commission, i.e., had covered-up information. Both committees, in their reports, indicated a willingness to consider the possibility that such a cover-up was “benign.” But the Agency has vigorously contested the fact of the cover-up, benign or otherwise, until the declassification of the Robarge article last year, upon which Mr. Shenon has now based his Politico article. What happened, or is about to happen, that would cause the CIA to change its tactics at this point? As most anybody even remotely familiar with the history of the JFK assassination, and the investigations, both governmental and private of that murder, are aware the fact that there was a government cover-up of critical facts has long been known, although denied by government representatives. Why is the CIA now publicly admitting to what they have so long denied, although trying to label the cover-up “benign” by using the circular logic that Oswald was guilty so any contrary evidence or investigative leads were irrelevant? Even Phil Shenon acknowledges that a CIA cover-up is something “others were convinced of long ago.” I suggest that the CIA has finally accepted, in light of the scheduled release of the remainder of classified documents related to the assassination in October 2017, that their denial of a cover-up is no longer defensible in any manner. It is still possible, however, that by getting out in front of the story, they may be able to characterize the cover-up as benign and, totally disclosed at this point. If so, they may be able to rely on the usual media response of, “No news here, all old stuff, move on folks, nothing to see here.” As such, the creation of a full back cover story, and Shenon’s spin on it, may be part of the CIA’s preparation for the release, or non-release, of all remaining CIA documents related to the assassination in 2017. Remember, the CIA can ask the president to delay the release of any or all of those documents. Are they preparing to be able to say something like, “We’ve admitted to our errors, there was a benign cover-up, but all that information that was covered up has been released now and admitted, and the remaining documents don’t need to be released, wouldn’t add anything that would justify the damage they might do to national security?” Et cetera.
Robarge’s book, from which the article was excerpted was written in 2005. The chapter which is the source of Shenon’s article was published in the CIA classified in-house magazine in 2013. The article, with redactions, was declassified in 2014 but the source notes for the article remain classified. But the story is only now being given worldwide publicity by Shenon’s article published in Politico on October 6, 2015, and picked up by other news repeaters all over the U.S., and indeed, the world. Is it possible that this timing is related to the scheduled publication of David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard the following week? Indeed, considering the focus provided in that book on the roles of Allen Dulles and Richard Helms in dealing with the Warren Commission, the manner that Shenon spins Rogarge’s report about the CIA/Warren Commission interactions becomes very interesting. To put it mildly, as will be discussed in more detail later in this article, Shenon does not fairly present the contents of the Robarge article on the relative roles of McCone, Dulles, James Angleton, the Counterintelligence Staff in the CIA’s interaction with the Warren Commission. Among other things, Shenon would lead one to think that DCI McCone was primarily responsible for the CIA’s posture towards the commission, the “benign cover-up,” if you will. If McCone was the primary party responsible, it might reinforce the idea that it was benign because, after all, he was a Kennedy appointee, “a stranger to the clubby, blue-blooded world of the men like Dulles,” right? But, as discussed below, to imply, as Shenon does, that Robarge says McCone was central in developing the CIA policy and continuing interaction with the CIA, is misleading at best, and possibly just downright dishonest. That should be apparent to anyone who reads the Robarge article for themselves.
Allen Dulles, in July, 1964, is alleged to have told his fellow members of the Warren Commission, “But nobody reads. Don’t believe people read in this country. There will be a few professors that will read the record… the public will read very little.” While the quote may be apocryphal, an analogy applies in this case. It is likely that few people will read the actual Robarge article which is not being widely disseminated, nor is it being reviewed and reported on by any reporters or new source other than Shenon and Politico. On the other hand Shenon’s Politico piece is getting wide dissemination and is being repeated by many other media outlets worldwide without, apparently, the media repeaters bothering to check Shenon’s article against the source he cites: Robarge’s article. In such an environment, someone who wants to put a particular spin on the information, can fairly safely assume that they will have first shot a forming public opinion with little chance of being called on any misdirection or misconstruction of the source. So, if the idea gets planted that, “Oh, yeah, there was a cover-up, but it was benign, and it was Kennedy’s own man that did it,” then who is ever going to be the wiser?
- “The most important information that McCone withheld from the commission in its 1964 investigation, the report found, was the existence, for years of CIA plots to assassinate Castro….”
Early in the article, Shenon is reinforcing by emphatic repetition that it was McCone who withheld information from the Warren Commission. But, as discussed below, McCone’s involvement was not central. Indeed, a fair reading of Shenon’s source would seem to indicate that the purpose of the article that Mr. Robarge wrote is to show that McCone’s role was minimal although it may have been a bit more culpable than previously believed.
But here, Shenon throws out another astoundingly misleading conclusory statement. Unless you know everything that has been withheld, how can you say that the Castro assassination plots were the most important information withheld? The statement by Robarge upon which Shenon’s assertion is based may be understandable in the context of the CIA writing and declassifying a limited hangout article designed to limit the damage to things already disclosed, but how can an objective reporter, especially with what is known today about what the Agency has done, just accept and repeat such an assertion without question? The Chief Counsel of a Congressional investigation into the Agency’s role in the assassination has explicitly said that the Agency has lied to every investigation made into its involvement with the Warren Commission and its handling of the investigation of the assassination. He has said that, in his opinion, the Agency actively worked to subvert a Congressional investigation into possible Agency involvement with Lee Harvey Oswald and the assassination. He said, “What the Agency did not give us, none but those involved in the Agency can know for sure. I do not believe any denial offered by the Agency on any point.” CIA Officer George Joannides was the case officer for the DRE in 1963. The CIA affirmatively lied to the HSCA when it told them that the CIA had severed all support for the DRE in 1962. The HSCA was actively investigating the role of CIA assets in propaganda activities, including DRE, as part of its investigation. At the time the CIA advanced Joannides as a liaison with HSCA staff, it affirmatively said that he had no connection with any area of HSCA investigation or potential interest. The CIA has since admitted that Joannides was on an undercover assignment on behalf of the CIA in his work with the HSCA. The CIA’s deception was revealed in the early 2000’s. Since that time the Agency has fought tooth and nail to keep all details of his activities, both in 1963 and in 1977-1978, classified top secret. How can we evaluate the importance of this withheld information? How can we say it is less important? But, if it can be sold by Shenon and the Agency that the most important information withheld was the Castro plots, then this information is, necessarily, less important and no one should be upset that it remains classified.
The CIA’s failure to inform the Warren Commission about the Castro plots was, without any doubt, incredibly important and significantly hindered the commission’s investigation, allowing the Agency and its representatives to carefully circumscribe the investigation and to steer it away from knowledge they did not want the commission, or the public to have. But given that, doesn’t it at least raise the question about what the information was that the CIA didn’t want the commission to encounter if they were to dig into those plots? If the answer offered to that question is that it were the plots themselves that the Agency didn’t want the commission to find – the Robarge/Shenon limited hangout thesis– then you have to, at least, ask, “Why, then, did the Agency continue to stonewall, mislead, lie to, and subvert the subsequent investigations? Those investigations knew about, and investigated, those plots. What is the information the Agency was seeking to protect in those subsequent investigations? If it was not at least as important as the Castro plots, why did they go to such lengths to resist, mislead and subvert the inquiries?” In this regard it should be noted that, to the best of our knowledge, the Agency did not run an undercover operation designed to mislead and stifle any area of the Warren Commission inquiry. The Agency has, however, admitted that George Joannides was operating in an undercover capacity in his work with the HSCA. Had we known who he was, and what he had been doing in 1963 in New Orleans and Miami, he would have been treated as a critical witness and would never have been allowed into a position where he could derail an important portion of the HSCA staff investigation. What secret was protected by the CIA taking this drastic action of running a disinformation campaign directed against a Congressional investigative committee in violation of their charter and the criminal laws of the United States? How can Shenon so blithely repeat that the most important information suppressed by the CIA has been disclosed in light of what they have admitted they did to the HSCA? Again, one has to wonder if preparatory work is being done for the position the CIA is planning to take, and the propaganda effort that may even now be being launched in support of that position, in regard to the October of 2017 scheduled release of the remaining JFK assassination documents.
Shenon’s acceptance of the CIA’s assertion that the Castro assassination plots were the most important information withheld from the Warren Commission is even more blatantly misleading when you consider the final two sentences of his article: “[T]here are 15 places in the public version of [Robarge’s] report where the CIA has deleted sensitive information…. It is an acknowledgment, it seems, that there are still secrets about the Kennedy assassination hidden in the agency’s files.” The fact that, even with that acknowledgment that secrets remain, secrets zealously guarded for fifty years, calls into serious question whether what has been revealed to have been hidden from the Warren Commission is really the most important information the obstructionist conspiracy has suppressed. Even more possibilities will become apparent as we continue to analyze Robarge and Shenon’s reportage.
- The “benign cover-up” was “intended to keep the commission focused on ‘what the Agency believed at the time was the ‘best truth’ – that Lee Harvey … had acted alone….”
This statement, in the third paragraph of Shenon’s article, is from the conclusion of Robarge’s article. Robarge after pointing out the conflict between the stated purpose of the commission to ascertain the facts of the assassination, and unstated purpose of reaching the publically reassuring conclusion that Oswald had acted alone, says, “The DCI was complicit in keeping incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission’s agenda and focusing it on what the Agency believed at the time was the ‘best truth’: that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.” The DCI was complicit. Complicity implies involvement of others, but we’ll return to that issue later.
The concept of a “best truth” is intriguing when used in the context of an organization of professional conspirators and propagandists. Robarge is careful to say that this is the truth the CIA thought was best “at the time.” Shenon has argued that it is still the best truth. That is, apparently, what makes the cover-up “benign.” Anyone who has taken introductory logic will recognize the circularity of the invalid argument that Oswald’s guilt makes a full investigation irrelevant. Such a concept should be abhorrent to any conception of American justice. Robarge and Shenon both make it clear that this is the “best truth” as determined by and for the CIA. Selling the lone-nut theory, and restricting the investigation, may, indeed, have been the best way to assure the public that all was copasetic and to guarantee that no real investigation was done if what you wanted was a placated public and an aborted investigation. It is clear that was what the Johnson administration and the CIA wanted. It is also clear that that is what the CIA, and Phil Shenon, still want.
As I said, however, the concept of a “best truth” is intriguing in that, at least, it implies that there could be a “good truth”, a “better truth” and, ultimately a “best truth”. Robarge says that the Agency thought the lone nut theory was the best truth at the time. The formulation also raises another question that never seems to occur to Shenon: is this the best truth for the Agency or some other principal interested in the truth? Is the best truth for one necessarily the best truth for another? What criteria is used to determine the best truth? Who ultimately makes the decision about what is the best truth?
And therein lies the rub. It is clear that Robarge asserts, and Shenon accepts, that it is the CIA that is best equipped to make the determination about what is the best truth. That, in and of itself, is an admission of not just a benign cover-up, but a subversion of the governmental institutions of the country. Why no headlines about this? Can the CIA, and the spinners who are popularizing the story, get away with avoiding the scandal here by admitting to a lesser infraction? When LHO was shot, the normal governmental process of a police investigation, a grand jury indictment, and a criminal trial was derailed. The question then became, essentially, what governmental process could be substituted to determine the truth? In the days after the assassination of the assassin, some advocated a Congressional inquiry. Lyndon Johnson favored a Texas Court of Inquiry, a judicial proceeding unique to Texas. The final solution adopted by Presidential decree was an investigation to be conducted by a Presidential Commission.
The Warren Commission was created by Executive Order No. 11130 on November 29, 1963. The Order very clearly makes the commission the entity also charged with determination of not just the truth about the assassination, but the relevance and materiality of the information, testimony, and evidence, that is to be sought in order to find the truth. The Order says, in relevant part,
“The purposes of the Commission are to examine the evidence developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and any additional evidence that may hereafter come to light or be uncovered by federal or state authorities; to make such further investigation as the Commission finds desirable; to evaluate the facts and circumstances … and to report to me its findings and conclusions.”
So, while labeling what they had done a “benign cover-up,” what the CIA is actually admitting is that they subverted the very purpose and process created and sanctioned by law for the determination of the truth about the assassination. In other words, they are admitting to, at a minimum, obstruction of justice. But even more importantly, they are admitting to preventing the commission from being the entity to determine the matters it was charged to determine and substituting themselves as the determiner of the truth, as being better able not only to determine the “best truth” but also the areas that had to be investigated or covered-up so as to be certain of arriving at the “best truth.” In other words, they denied the Warren Commission any possibility of actually carrying out the lawful charge placed upon them by the President’s Executive Order creating the commission. This is not only obstruction of justice, it is subversion of democratic, constitutional government.
At this point, one might be tempted to say, “Yeah, but McCone is dead now so what difference does it make. Nothing left to do.” But, remember, the CIA, through Robarge admits not that McCone did it, but rather he was complicit in this obstruction of justice and subversion of due legal process established by the president acting under the law of the land. To be complicit means to be involved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing. Another way of describing those who are complicit in illegal activity is to say that they conspired or participated in a conspiracy. Who was McCone complicit with? It was not just other individuals, although other individuals in both the CIA and the FBI, among other institutions, were undoubtedly involved. The primary actor, however, as is clear from the Robarge article, was the CIA as an institution. And that institution is still here and should still be subject to investigation and sanction. By admitting the lesser sin the CIA may hope to avoid any investigation and sanction. By spinning the story to focus it on McCone instead of the organization, Shenon carries the water for the Agency in its attempt to satisfy the public with propaganda that obfuscates the real issue revealed: The CIA conspired to obstruct justice by withholding information from the Warren Commission and continues to obstruct any and all attempts to investigate the most notorious crime of the last Century.
Robarge, in a part not quoted by Shenon, offers that the Agency was really trying to help by “keeping incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission’s agenda.” Even were this not obstruction of justice, it would indicate an incredible contempt for the legal process and institutions of the nation. The president had determined that it was the commission that was to determine not only the truth of the case, but its own investigative subjects and issues. As it has developed, no one now knows what “incendiary and diversionary issues” were hidden from the commission and the public. We have no assurance of the only one being the Castro assassination plots. Indeed, there are indications in Robarge’s article that the Castro assassination plots may not have been the incendiary issue covered-up by the CIA. Think about this for a minute. A supposedly subsidiary institution of government decides that the truth-finder cannot be relied upon to adequately focus its investigation. It further decides that a major challenge to that focus would be if the truth-finder started to investigate the subsidiary institution’s own illegal and immoral conduct that was directly and clearly relevant to the investigation. So, benignly, the subsidiary institution decides to help the truth-finder maintain its focus by concealing its own misconduct from the truth-finder. How convenient. Every criminal defendant would love to have such a privilege. There are very good reasons why the normal administration of justice doesn’t give any defendant that privilege and why a defendant trying to exercise such a privilege commits the crime of obstruction of justice. And we are supposed to buy the idea that this was a benign cover-up? What basis do we have for that other than the word of a lying, corrupt, immoral institution that has repeatedly shown its willingness to mislead investigations, obstruct justice, and subvert democratic institutions of governance? Well, we do have the additional word of Mr. Shenon, trustworthy as he may be deemed to be in these circumstances.
- “Without this information, [about the Castro assassination plots] the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots…. information … that might have prompted a more aggressive investigation of Oswald’s potential Cuba ties.”
This is pure spin on the part of Shenon designed to limit the damage of the admission that the CIA has made. At this point in the article, Shenon is explaining how the Agency’s failure to disclose the CIA’s plots, “in cahoots with the Mafia” undermined the commission’s inquiry. If all you read is Shenon, you may think that the only place an investigation of the CIA shenanigans with the Mafia could have led was to Castro and Cuba. But that is far, far from the truth. If the commission had opened the CIA/Mafia/anti-Castro Cuban anti-Castro operations can of worms, much more would have demanded investigation than just the possibility of Cuban government retaliation. Maybe the best way to illustrate that would be to restate this assertion by Shenon: “The commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in, or was used by, persons in Miami, New Orleans, the Mafia, the anti-Castro Cuban organizations, or the intelligence agencies who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for his abandonment of the anti-Castro operations, his back-channel negotiations with Castro, his actions during the Bay of Pigs, his failure to invade Cuba during the missile crisis in October as he was strongly urged to do by the national security establishment.” Do you see the problem? An investigation into the CIA/Mafia Castro assassination plots inevitably leads to the broader questions and a broader investigation. These questions are truly incendiary. It is understandable why the Agency would not want these issues investigated. It is also clear that the cover-up, consequently, was anything but benign. Shenon’s attempt to restrict the implications to just the possibility of a Cuban government sponsored retaliation, without ever even acknowledging these broader possible implications, is a strong indication of where he wants to lead a hopefully gullible reading public.
Perhaps the best proof of the validity of this expanded proposition, that revelation of the Castro assassination plots leads to a broader investigation, is history. All you have to do to understand that revelation of the Castro plots inevitably leads to opening up the whole incendiary spectrum of possible suspects and conspiracies is to look at what actually happened when those plots were revealed. When those plots did come to light in the Church Committee’s investigation, the immediate follow-up line of investigation as pursued by the HSCA was not just to investigate the possibility of Cuban national retaliation, but to also pursue the implications of possible involvement in the Kennedy assassination of the frustrated actors in those plots: the CIA, the Mafia and the anti-Castro Cubans. As has been demonstrated widely in the literature since 1978, those three groups had an abundance of possible motivation. Indeed, in the time that has now passed since the public confirmation of the CIA’s involvement in the Castro assassination plots, the great weight of the investigatory evidence and analysis tends to show that there is no basis for finding that Castro’s government was involved in a retaliatory strike. Even Robarge reports, “McCone was convinced that neither the Cubans nor the Soviets had sought revenge against John Kennedy, largely because SIGINT [Signals Intelligence] had disclosed the stunned reactions of Cuban and Soviet leaders to Kennedy’s death.” Indeed, Robarge also acknowledges Oswald’s “extensive pro-Castro activity and contact with the Soviet embassy in Mexico City violated a longstanding KGB prohibition on its overseas agents having contact with domestic communist parties or Soviet legations.”
Why, then, is Shenon so insistent on reviving the theory that the assassination was a Castro retaliation? Robarge tells us, as many others have since revelation of the Castro assassination plots in the 1970s, that the concern was that revelation of those plots which may have provided a motive for Castro retaliation and that possibility by itself was enough to possibly cause a nuclear war “that can kill 40,000,000 Americans in an hour,” as President Johnson put it. So, even though a lot of disinformation work was done by CIA assets to set up that scenario immediately after the assassination – most of which assets had links to CIA Officer David Atlee Phillips who was succeeded in Miami by George Joannides who still worked for him – it was not used or acknowledged by the government. Even though the theory is rejected by even Robarge, however, it is now safe to assert it as no one thinks that it could lead to war after the passage of so much time. So, in Shenon’s able hands, it is now becoming the fallback position favored by those who still don’t want any investigation of possible incendiary operations that would implicate the CIA in anything more than a benign cover up.
On the other hand, and contrary to Shenon, the evidence fairly evaluated calls into serious question whether the assassination can be laid at the feet of the CIA, the Mafia, the anti-Castro Cubans, or a combination thereof. In light of that, do you not have to wonder whether the CIA’s trying to keep incendiary and diversionary issues from the commission was, in fact, an attempt to keep this incendiary issue from the commission by diverting them to the sole issue of LHO as the lone nut assassin? It should now become more clear why the CIA would finally admit to conspiring to obstruct justice and conceal the Castro assassination plots from the Warren Commission. It wasn’t just to prevent investigation into a communist plot, although that provided convenient cover, it was to prevent investigation into activities that directly implicate the Agency and its allies in the assassination. The cover-up conspiracy was hardly benign, but the Agency realizing that it can no longer legitimize its claim of no cover-up, now seeks to avoid the full implications of their guilt in the cover-up with a propaganda campaign that both labels the cover-up as benign and seeks to, once again, legitimize the propaganda ploy of blaming Castro and the communists for the assassination of the President – the very first theory first floated by the CIA funded anti-Castro Cuban group DRE the day after the assassination, the same DRE that was once run by David Atlee Phillips, that ran what appears to be a propaganda operation in New Orleans in August 1963 involving Oswald, and was run by George Joannides in 1963; the same George Joannides who worked as a CIA undercover operative to derail the HSCA investigation into the post-assassination disinformation efforts of the Agency and the anti-Castro Cubans. Benign, indeed. The conspiracy continues unabated. The disinformation and propaganda campaigns continue unabated. Robarge and Shenon perform their roles, and their articles can only be properly understood, as part of that continuing propaganda campaign.
VII.“Robarge’s article says that McCone [was] quickly convinced after the assassination that Oswald acted alone….”
If Robarge says that, I have not been able to find it. Robarge spends several pages early in the article detailing how McCone kept open the consideration of the possibility of a foreign conspiracy in both his reports to his superiors and to overseas CIA stations. Indeed, there is credible record evidence that McCone initially told Robert Kennedy that two different people shot at the president in Dealey Plaza and, therefore, there was evidence of a conspiracy.
Robarge does, however, address McCone’s testimony before the HSCA about how the CIA dealt with the Warren Commission in which he denied knowing about the Castro assassination plots at the time of his testimony before the Warren Commission. Asserting that McCone’s testimony was untruthful (an issue addressed below), Robarge asserts that, “McCone judged that he should defer to the DDP’s [Richard Helms] assessment that the plots to kill Castro had no bearing on the assassination, and – consistent with the Agency policy of only giving information on request and the ‘need to know’ principle – did not tell the commission about them. In his mind, the evidence showed Oswald was guilty….” Robarge goes on to observe that this “reasoning fit into the consensus that had quickly developed in the highest levels of the US government after the assassination that the public needed to be convinced that Oswald was the lone gunman….” It was not, necessarily, McCone’s opinion that quickly changed. The lone gunman consensus, on the other hand, “quickly developed in the highest levels of the US government.” McCone, before his testimony before the commission, brought his own opinion into conformity with the high level consensus. In other words McCone became complicit with others about the outcome that was required from the Warren Commission and joined the effort to assure that outcome.
Unfortunately, neither Robarge nor Shenon offer us any clue as to how McCone was brought around to the consensus position. We do have some hints, such as Robarge’s report that SIGINT convinced McCone that neither the Cubans nor the Russians were involved. And the indication that, in this matter, he followed the lead of Richard Helms. In another context, Robarge reports that McCone expressed a suspicion of Castro because of his intemperance, but was willing to dismiss the Russians with the reservation that he had some concern because “I don’t know how completely Khrushchev controls the KGB.” As presented in this, and other official versions of the story of the assassination, the possibility of a domestic conspiracy was never taken very seriously by any of those in the “highest level of the government” where the consensus quickly formed that LHO had acted alone.
It is somewhat ironic that McCone expressed concern about Khrushchev’s control of the KGB. There is good evidence that the Kennedy brothers were also very concerned with their lack of control over the CIA. But if that lead anyone in the highest level of the government, other than Bobby Kennedy, to question the possibility of CIA involvement in the president’s murder, they did not express their concerns. John Seigenthaler, Robert Kennedy’s administrative aide until 1962, has said,
“I thought and I still think that the CIA was always a rogue agency – it did wet work on its own…. The concept of plausible deniability, under which the CIA took action with the so-called tacit consent of the president, gave men like Helms the excuse to do whatever they wanted…. My own instinct was that the relationship between the CIA and the Kennedy White House was not a healthy one. The administration was particularly vulnerable with someone like McCone in charge over there – he was in over his head…. And Bob shared that feeling – he didn’t have any confidence that John McCone had the slightest idea of what the CIA was doing…. I don’t think the Kennedys believed you could trust much of what [the CIA] said…. We were trying to find a way out of the Cold War, but the CIA certainly didn’t want to.”
VIII. McCone “was much more hands-on in the CIA’s dealings with the commission … than had previously been known.”
This is where Shenon tries to force McCone to take front and center stage in the cover-up conspiracy contrary to the great weight of the evidence and the information reported in the Robarge article. Shenon bases this assertion on a single quote in the Robarge article where he reports that the then Deputy Director of the CIA, Marshall Carter, said that “McCone said he would ‘handle the whole [commission] business myself, directly.” The accuracy of DDCI Carter’s statement as a description of McCone’s actual role is not supported by the immediate context of the statement in the Robarge article. Robarge offers the Carter quote as a hedge on his immediately preceding statement that “No documentary evidence indicates whether McCone ordered the circumscribed approach on his own or at the White House’s behest.” Neither does the remainder of the article support Shenon’s spin. It is clear from the remainder of the Robarge article, and other documents and testimony of record, that the “hands-on” dealing with the commission was delegated within the CIA by McCone to DDP Richard Helms and by him to James Angleton and the Counterintelligence Staff. As Robarge accurately reports, “Transactions between the Agency and the commission were channeled through Helms but were conducted between the CI Staff – mainly by Angleton, Rocca, Arthur Dooley, and Thomas Hall – and the commission’s counsel or staff….” Robarge reports that McCone’s interaction with the commission was limited to high level communication with the commissioners themselves with whom McCone would have dealt for “protocol reasons,” concluding that McCone “did not participate much in the investigation and left most of the work to staffers.”Shenon ignores this aspect of the Robarge article for a reason.
John Seigenthaler claims that after McCone was appointed DCI, it soon became “clear that McCone was out of the loop – Dick Helms was running the agency. Anything McCone found out was by accident.” There is significant evidence that Dulles remained very significantly involved with the CIA after his retirement due to the Bay of Pigs. He met regularly with Helms and Angleton, for example. He spent the weekend following the assassination at the CIA’s Camp Perry alternate command center in Virginia. Robarge addresses Dulles continuing role only to note, first, that he and McCone did “not appear to have had any explicit, special understanding” about “steering the inquiry away from controversial Agency operations,” but, second, that McCone “could rest assured that his predecessor would keep a dutiful watch over Agency equities and work the commission from pursuing provocative lines of investigation, such as lethal anti-Castro covert actions.” The two statements appear, just in the context of Robarge’s reporting, somewhat contradictory. Even Shenon sees the juxtaposition of these two statements as being a disclosure of Dulles role in the conspiracy to obstruct the Warren Commission, saying, “If there was, indeed, a CIA ‘cover-up,’
a member of the Warren Commission was apparently in on it: Allen Dulles, McCone’s predecessor, who ran the CIA when the spy agency hatched the plots to kill Castro. “‘McCone does not appear to have any explicit, special understanding with Allen Dulles,’ the [Robarge article] says. Still, McCone could ‘rest assured that his predecessor would keep a dutiful watch over the Agency equities….” Note here the significant question he raises: McCone was personally complicit in a “benign cover-up”, and Dulles was likewise complicit, but Shenon artfully tries to, at least, keep the question of the organization’s complicity in question: “If there was, indeed, a CIA ‘cover-up.’” He tries to prevent the public from taking the next logical step to the conclusion that the organization was a co-conspirator, a truly incendiary idea. This is only possible because he ignores the remainder of the available evidence about the role of Helms, Angleton, and the CI Staff in the conspiracy and their interaction with Dulles, evidence that is briefly referred to by Robarge, but not developed by him. Hence, it is clear that the purpose of Shenon’s spin is to try to close off that line of inquiry into the CIA’s organizational complicity.
Let’s look a bit closer at Robarge’s two statements about Dulles. How could McCone be assured of his complicity absent an explicit understanding with him? First, I would note that no one familiar with how the CIA operated in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s would expect any explicit agreement between Dulles and McCone to have been memorialized in any manner. These are, after all, the men who kept the secrets. Secondly, the evidence appears to indicate that Dulles’s main interaction with the Agency about the commission, and how to handle it, was primarily with Angleton’s staff, with some additional contact with the staff of the Soviet Russia Counterintelligence section. It is this interaction, none of which includes a memorialized explicit agreement about how to proceed in general, that gave Helms and McCone the assurance they needed to be sure that Dulles was onboard in support of the cover-up. Abundant evidence of the understanding is available in the record.
For example, an April, 1964, CIA memo raises the question of whether Dulles was serving the Commission or the CIA. The memo, from Lee Wigren, who worked in the Soviet Russia counterintelligence section, to the Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Helms, reflects extensive planning between Allen Dulles and the CIA staff about how the Warren Commission’s questions would be posed to the Agency, and how the Agency would answer them. The Commission was concerned about how to ask the Agency questions and how they might respond. Dulles contacted the Agency to get the Agency’s advice so that he could advise the Commission. One of the sensitive issues was whether Oswald was an agent of the CIA. Dulles let them know that a letter from the Director of the FBI on the same issue had satisfied the Commission. The Wigren memo goes on to record the former DCI’s advice to his former employees: “Mr. Dulles felt the reply should be straightforward and to the point. He thought language which made it clear that Lee Harvey Oswald was never an employee or agent of the CIA would suffice.” He went on, “Mr. Dulles did not think it would be a good idea to cite CIA procedures for agent assessment and handling to show that it would have been unlikely for Oswald to have been chosen as a CIA agent to enter Russia. There are always exceptions to every rule and this might be misunderstood by members of the Commission with little background in activity of this sort.” The CIA counterintelligence officer, noted that “he agreed with him that a carefully phrased denial of the charges of involvement with Oswald seemed most appropriate.”
As it turned out, a simple letter with a ‘carefully phrased denial” was not sufficient. When the Commission was considering whether Oswald may have been an agent of the FBI, Allen Dulles, a former DCI and a member of the Commission, was forthcoming with the Commission on the question of whether CIA officers would tell them the truth. He told them, at one executive session meeting, that there could be CIA agents employed by the Agency with no paper record existing of such employment, or with only “hieroglyphics that only two people know what they mean, and nobody outside the agency would know and you could say this meant the agent and someone else could say it meant another agent.” Then this interesting exchange occurred:
“Boggs: The man who recruited him would know, wouldn’t he?
Dulles: Yes, but he wouldn’t tell?
Warren: Wouldn’t tell under oath?
Dulles: I wouldn’t think he would tell it under oath, no.
Dulles: He ought not tell it under oath. Maybe not tell it to his own government but wouldn’t tell it any other way.
David Talbot picks up the story:
“How could the panel dispel persistent rumors that the CIA was somehow a ‘sponsor’ of Oswald’s actions? The story had broken in the press the previous month, when Marguerite Oswald declared that her son was a secret agent fo the CIA who was ‘set up to take the blame’ for the Kennedy assassination. [Commission Chief Counsel J. Lee] Rankin had obligingly suggested that Dulles be given the job of clearing the CIA by reviewing all the relevant agency documents that were provided to the commission. But even Dulles thought this smacked too much of an inside job. Instead, after conferring with [Angleton’s assistant Ray] Rocca, Dulles proposed that he simply provide a statement to the commission swearing – as Rocca put it in his report back to Dick Helms – ‘that as far as he could remember he had never had any knowledge of Oswald at any time prior to the date of the assassination.’
“But Senator Cooper thought the allegations that Oswald was some kind of government agent were too serious to simply be dispelled by written statements. During a Warren Commission executive session in April, he proposed that the heads of the CIA and FBI be put under oath and questioned by the panel. It was a highly awkward suggestion, as Dulles pointed out. ‘I might have a little problem on that – having been [CIA] director until November 1961.’ There was a simple solution, however: put his successor, John McCone on the witness stand. That was fine with Dulles, because – as he knew – McCone remained an agency outsider, despite his title, and was not privy to its deepest secrets.”
John McCone and Richard Helms testified together before the Warren Commission – an unprecedented joint appearance not repeated by anything similar until the joint Bush/Cheney appearance before the 9/11 Commission; the main difference being that Bush/Cheney were also allowed to testify without being placed under oath. Chairman Warren stated the purpose of the testimony to be to address the issue of “whether Lee Harvey Oswald was
ever an agent, directly or indirectly, or an informer or acting on behalf of the
Central Intelligence Agency in any capacity at any time, and whether he knows of any credible evidence or of any conspiracy either domestic or foreign involved in the assassination of President Kennedy….” Both McCone and Helms testified, rather summarily, that Oswald had no connection with the Agency and that the Agency was not aware of any evidence of any domestic or foreign conspiracy. In addressing the issue of Agency recruitment and use of an agent or informer, when asked “Without disclosing something that might be a security matter, could you tell us how that is handled in a general way in the Agency?” McCone deferred to Helms to answer. Contradicting what Dulles had told the commissioners in executive session, Helms replied, “[W]e have a specific procedure which we follow in all cases where the Agency is in contact, for the purposes of acquiring intelligence or whatever the case may be, with an individual. We not only have a record of the individual’s name, but we also usually get information of a biographical nature. We then check this individual’s name against our record. At that point we make a determination as to whether we desire to use this man or not to use him. It varies from case to case as to how many officers may be involved in approving a specific recruitment.”
As Robarge reports, in answering the question about a possible conspiracy, McCone very carefully stated, “‘an investigation of all developments after the assassination which came to our attention which might possibly have indicated a conspiracy” ruled it out. Robarge provides the emphasis and notes that the answer “precluded providing details about earlier covert actions that might have seemed pertinent.” [Emphasis in the original.] Helms, on the other hand had been aware of “the extensive documentary record that Angleton’s department had amassed on Oswald” and the Castro plots, and possibly his use in a New Orleans disinformation program in August 1963 and his contact with David Phillips in Dallas in September 1963, simply lied. Helms would, subsequently, be convicted of lying to the Church Committee. He went to the grave considering the conviction a badge of honor. Helms, in his conduct, confirmed what Dulles had told his fellow commissioners at their meeting in January of 1964 and gave the lie to Director McCone’s testimony.
Concerning where the conspiracy to limit information going to the Warren Commission originated, Helm’s did not, as reported by Robarge, tell the HSCA that “He ‘was instructed to reply to inquiries from the Warren Commission for information from the Agency. I was not asked to initiate any particular thing.’ When queried, “[I]n other words, if you weren’t asked for it you didn’t give it?,’ Helm’s replied, ‘That’s right.’” The testimony was delivered to the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations. There is no record that I have found to date as to whether anyone ever asked Helms, “Who so instructed you?” The quoted questions were posed by Senator Morgan. Helms also told Chairman Church, who had said that he would have thought Helms would have told the Warren Commission about the plots, “Mr. Allen Dulles was a member of the Warren Commission. And the first assassination plot happened during his time as director. What he said to the Warren Commission about this … I don’t know. But at least he was sitting right there in [the Commission’s] deliberations and knew about this, and I am sure that the same thought that occurred to you must have occurred [sic] to him.” Although the origin of the idea of only responding to specific questions asked by the Warren Commission may well have been in Dulles’s interaction with the CIA counterintelligence officers, the issue was not adequately explored in Helms’s HSCA testimony either. From the evidence currently available, it appears that the strategy was developed by Allen Dulles working with the actual CIA liaison staff at the Agency. In other words, they were the primary conspirators involved in the cover-up from an operational standpoint. Shenon’s spin is a vain, but valiant attempt to hide this.
From the evidence discussed, and other available which is not discussed due to space limitations, it is apparent that the main participants in the conspiracy to obstruct the Warren Commission inquiry now admitted to by the CIA was widespread and included, at the least, the former DCI and commission member Allen Dulles, DCI McCone, DDP Helms, Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton and his staff members, Raymond Rocca, Arthur Dooley, and Thomas Hall, and members of the Soviet Russia Division’s counterintelligence unit such as Lee Wigren. In other words, it is so extensive that there can be no denying that there was an organizational complicity in the cover-up conspiracy involving at least one Commissioner. The only real questions remaining, ones which it appears Shenon does not want asked, is: 1) should the CIA be required to give a full accounting of their actions and all the information that has been covered-up; and, 2) how far outside of the Agency did the conspiracy go?
- “The [Robarge article] offers no conclusion about … why [McCone] would go to lengths to cover-up CIA activities that mostly predated his time at the agency.”
This is true. David Talbot, however, in his book The Devil’s Chessboard fills in this gap by documenting Dulles’s continued influence in the Agency after his resignation, and by telling a fascinating story that illustrates the depth of Dulles’s personal identification with the on-going operations of the Agency:
“Two years into McCone’s tenure as CIA director, syndicated newspaper columnist Henry Taylor published a surprisingly critical piece about the intelligence agency, calling it a ‘sick elephant’ and urging it to ‘quit stalking through foreign political backrooms and … building its own empire.” A few days later, Dulles wrote his old colleague a letter, letting Taylor know that he viewed his column as a personal betrayal as ‘a direct attack on me [since] most of what you say [about the agency] happened while I was Director.’ Taylor quickly replied with a long, groveling telegram, pleading that nothing he had written – or ever would write – was critical of the spy agency under Dulles’s leadership. ‘Certainly you must know that any attack on you by me is inconceivable…. No one has served this country with greater distinction, selflessness and success than you.’ But Dulles made it clear to Taylor that he was still running the show at the CIA, so any distinction the columnist tried to draw between his tenure and McCone’s was false. ‘Since my retirement,’ Dulles told Taylor, ‘there have been few important policy changes, and I am wholly in support of its new chief and of its recent work.’”
McCone and Dulles protected the Agency. Not just under their personal administration, but under each others’. It would have to await the advent of William Colby, and post-Watergate scandals, for a Director who would be willing to allow public exposure of past Directors’ misdeeds. An even more cogent consideration is that, even had McCone been inclined to expose misdeeds that occurred under Dulles’s leadership, he would have had to have done so in a room where Dulles was one of the judges and Dulles’s long-time protégé, and McCone’s minder, Dick Helms, was sitting in the witness chair beside him. Not a very conducive setting for an open, honest, and frank discussion.
- “McCone ‘shared the administration’s interest in avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate [the] CIA in conspiracy theories and possibly lead to calls for a tough US response against the perpetrators of the assassination.’”
Shenon acknowledges that the Robarge article “suggests that the Johnson White House might have directed McCone” to participate in the cover-up, by quoting the above portion of a sentence from the Robarge article. The full context of the quote in the Robarge article is helpful in understanding the implications of this statement. It is made in the context of there not being any documentary evidence of such an order from the administration to the DCI:
“No documentary evidence indicates whether McCone ordered the circumscribed approach on his own or at the White House’s behest. but DDCI Marshall Carter recalled that McCone said he would ‘handle the whole [commission] business myself, directly’ -including, presumably, establishing, or at least ratifying, the chain of command and degree of responsiveness. Moreover, the DCI shared the administration’s interest in avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories, and possibly lead to calls for a tough US response against the perpetrators of the assassination. If the commission did not know to ask about covert operations against Cuba, he was not going to give them any suggestions about where to look.”
It is critical in evaluating this statement to remember that the CIA, in the Robarge article, has now admitted that there was a conspiracy to obstruct the Warren Commission investigation. The issue is the scope of the conspiracy and the information it sought to suppress. Even Shenon recognizes Robarge’s implication that the conspiracy to obstruct the Warren Commission’s investigation may have extended to the White House. At a minimum, he indicates an agreement between the administration and the Agency on the conclusion to be reached by the Commission, even if there were no explicit recorded directions about what actions to take to achieve the desired result – something usually called “plausible deniability.”
What Shenon does not do is look hard at the subject matter that constituted the administration and Agency’s “shared … interest.” Shenon speaks throughout his article as if the interest was solely hiding the Castro assassination plots with the attendant possibility of the assassination being a Cuban retaliatory action. While in most places in Robarge’s article, he similarly directs the focus towards the Castro assassination plots, he does not put near the emphasis on possible Cuban retaliation as Shenon does. Robarge, however, notes that possible Cuban and Soviet government involvement in the Kennedy assassination was fairly quickly ruled out by the CIA based upon their knowledge of the operating procedures of the KGB and contemporaneous signals intelligence. Given that the Agency had determined that, how could they be concerned with giving the Warren Commission information that would have led them to investigate the possibility? The Robarge article itself contains the refutation of concern about investigation of possible Cuban government retaliation as the motivation for covering up the Castro assassination plots. Something else was going on.
In the passage of the article quoted above, addressing the possible Johnson administration role in the conspiracy to obstruct the investigation, Robarge doesn’t follow his usual pattern of clearly limiting the concerns to the disclosure of the Castro assassination plots. Very tellingly, he states that the shared interest is in “avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories….” This may, in the context of this article, be one of the most amazing admissions by the CIA that I have ever encountered. If you read just the Shenon article you’ll never know how unique this passage is. If you read the whole Robarge article, you would, based on his other references to what was withheld, think that he would have limited this passage to the Castro assassination plots as well. But in the wording of this passage this careful author does not do that. He broadens the scope very considerably. The shared concerns were not just about the Castro assassination plots and the possibility of Cuban retaliation. Indeed, the concern was about the more general “covert actions” of the CIA. And not just, generally, covert actions, but rather those that “would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories”! Note here: 1) not covert actions that might implicate, or that might lead to inconvenient questions and investigation. The concern is about covert actions, not limited to the Castro assassination plots, that would create an implication; and 2) not that might implicate the Cuban government in retaliatory conspiracy theories but “would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories”! As we know, according to Robarge, the CIA had already strongly discounted Cuban government involvement in the assassination based on signals intelligence. So, the concern was not implication of the Cuban government in conspiracy theories. The concern was information they knew to exist in regard to covert operations aimed at Cuba that would implicate the CIA.
Robarge goes on to say, “if the commission didn’t know to ask about these covert operations against Cuba they were not going to be told where to look.” This blackout went beyond the Castro assassination plots which, as Shenon so often points out, does not implicate the CIA in conspiracy theories but does raise an issue about whether the Cuban government had a possible motive to retaliate. Robarge indicates that the conspiracy to obstruct by hiding information and evidence covered a whole expanse of “covert operations against Cuba” that, if known, would have implicated the CIA in conspiracy theories. And not just any conspiracy theory and, in the clear context here, not the conspiracy to kill Castro, or to obstruct the Warren Commission, but in a theory or theories about an actual conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. This passage, in effect, is a clear indication that the motivation for the cover-up was to prevent investigation into covert actions that could have implicated the Agency itself in a conspiracy to assassinate the president. In light of their lying to and subversion of the HSCA and other investigations subsequent to the Warren Commission, and their continuing stonewalling regarding still classified files, it is likely that we have not, even to this date, had a full disclosure of the files related to the covert operations against Cuba that the Agency, possibly with the knowing complicity of the Johnson administration, is hiding that would implicate them. We can surmise, however, that at one time, maybe as recently as 2005 when Robarge wrote this article, there existed information about covert actions against Cuba that would have implicated the CIA in conspiracy theories about the assassination of President Kennedy.
Given this, how is one to explain Shenon’s focus and emphasis on the possibility of a Cuban government retaliation? Why isn’t this admission of such a self-serving motivation for the CIA’s continued cover-up the headline spread around the world? I suggest the answer is simple. By limiting the supposed disclosure to a Cuban retaliation, the full implications of the admissions now made by the CIA are avoided, as are calls for the immediate release of information and reopening of the investigation of the Agency’s role in the assassination. At a minimum, this astounding admission should result in hearings in Congress on the Agency’s compliance with the JFK Records Act. Ideally, in a nation where justice meant as much as, if not more than, power politics, the entire investigation into the assassination would be reopened and the CIA would finally be scattered to the winds.
- “But [Robarge’s article] concluded that ‘McCone’s testimony was neither frank nor accurate,’ since it was later determined with certainty that he had been informed about the CIA-Mafia plots nine months before his appearance before the Warren Commission.”
Shenon’s article, including the above quoted statement, is not sourced. He repeats Robarge’s charge in this regard but does not provide any support for his revisionist claim. McCone continued to claim that he was not aware of the plots against Castro when he testified in 1975 before the Church Committee and again in 1978 when he testified before the HSCA. Robarge, in his article, does not cite a source for his claim that McCone was aware of the plots nine months before his testimony. The article indicates that original source notes are available in the published version of the book from which his article is excerpted. The book, including source notes, however, remains classified. The note says that the source notes in the book are available online, but the online sites where they are available are not available to the public.
To date, I am unaware of any information that supports this assertion. I am not saying that it is not true, just that it is impossible to evaluate without knowing the information upon which the assertion is based. Such an evaluation has to await further disclosure from the Agency of Robarge’s source for the statement.
XII. “In that sense…McCone may be regarded as a ‘co-conspirator’ in the JFK assassination ‘cover-up.’”
Shenon, here, quotes of the last line of the Robarge report. Robarge’s conclusion is worth considering in context:
“McCone did have a place in a ‘benign cover-up,’ or what also has been termed “a process designed more to control information than to elicit and expose it.’ The proactive response by McCone and other US government officials was inherent in the conflict between the Warren Commission’s stated purpose – ascertaining the facts of the assassination – and implied in its mission – defending the nation’s security by dispelling unfounded rumors that could lead to destructive international conflict.
“The DCI was complicit in keeping incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission’s agenda and focusing it on what the Agency believed was the ‘best truth’: that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy. Max Holland, one of the most fair-minded scholars of these events, has concluded that ‘if the word ‘conspiracy’ must be uttered in the same breath as ‘Kennedy assassination,’ the only one that existed was the conspiracy to kill Castro and then keep that effort secret after November 22nd.’ In that sense – and that sense alone – McCone may be regarded as a ‘co-conspirator’ in the JFK assassination ‘cover-up.’”
One admission here is that what Robarge and Phil Shenon have throughout their respective articles, called a “benign cover-up” was in actuality a proactive intelligence operation designed to control the information that was released about the assassination. In light of the other statements in the article, it was an operation specifically designed to prevent the release of information about covert operations aimed at Cuba, including but not limited to the Castro assassination plots, “that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories.” Consequently, while the assertion that McCone may only be regarded as a co-conspirator in a cover-up may be correct in that, if there was CIA involvement in the assassination, McCone very likely was unaware of it. But the assertion contained in the Max Holland quote is purely specious in light of the evidence of record and the remainder of Robarge’s article. Indeed, the statement represents the story the Agency will now try again to sell to the public so as to avoid any inquiry into those incendiary covert operations “that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories” even 50 years after the assassination. Shenon lends, once again, his media prestige and credibility to the Agency’s efforts “more to control information than to elicit and expose it.”
Another way to describe Shenon and the Agency’s efforts “to control information [rather] than to elicit and expose it” might be to call it disinformation by limited information. If something has to come out, if your prior cover story has become untenable, release a little more information, or admit to something already widely known but previously denied, and peddle as hard as you can to spin it so that the conclusions you want are the ones drawn and attention is directed away from the real information you want to keep hidden. The interpretation you are able to sell with your new limited hang-out will become the fall-back cover story. And, who knows, maybe if you are lucky and your propaganda is good enough, the new cover story will last another 50 years. The effectiveness of such a strategy is illustrated by the Warren Report. As Robarge points out, prior to the issuance of the Warren Report, only 29% of Americans thought LHO acted alone. After publication of the Report, 87% believed it. While the effect didn’t hold, it was able to get the Agency past those first critical years when a real investigation into those incendiary circumstances could have born real fruit in so far as revelation of the truth is concerned. By the time the Warren Report had lost its persuasive power, the assassination was old news. The Agency’s new fall-back cover story, as advanced by Robarge and Shenon, may not have to serve so long – just long enough to get past the publication of books like David Talbot’s The Devil’s Chessboard and the October date for the release of the remaining classified files related to the assassination.
XIII. “Johnson appointed Dulles to the Commission at the recommendation of then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy”
David Talbot, in his brief Facebook response to Phil Shenon’s article in Politico Magazine denied the claim that Robert Kennedy was responsible for Allen Dulles being on the Warren Commission. Shenon had said: “[President] Johnson appointed Dulles to the commission at the recommendation of then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy.” Talbot responded, “Shenon also repeats the old canard that RFK urged President Johnson to appoint former CIA director Allen Dulles to the Warren Commission. This bogus story apparently originated with Lyndon Johnson himself, who alleged in his 1971 memoir that Bobby recommended both Dulles and John McCloy, another Republican pillar of the Wall Street-national security world. Johnson, of course, was one of the most notorious fabulists who ever occupied the Oval Office. And his hatred of Bobby Kennedy, who by 1971 was conveniently dead, was one of the core passions of LBJ’s life. The notion that Johnson would huddle with his arch enemy to make such a politically delicate choice as the makeup of the Warren Commission is absurd. So is the idea that Bobby himself would recommend two men who were political enemies of his late brother — two men with whom JFK had strongly clashed over national security policy. In truth, as close CIA associates of Dulles later revealed, such as Richard Helms, Dulles himself arm-twisted his way onto the Warren Commission, where he and McCloy soon established themselves as the dominant players. This is one more example of Shenon’s gullibility when it comes to covering CIA-related issues.”
In addition to David’s very valid points about the antipathy between Johnson and RFK which, if anything, David understates here, and Johnson’s slim acquaintance with the truth, I would like to point out a couple of additional reasons to reject the idea of RFK being behind Dulles’ appointment to the Warren Commission. As David says, this story’s first public appearance was in LBJ’s memoirs as an unsupported allegation. An earlier telephone transcript of a telephone call between LBJ and Abe Fortas, in December of 1966, has Johnson saying “We even asked the Attorney General to name people he wanted. He recommended people like Allen Dulles and John McCloy.” The context of the conversation, however, is about countering criticism of the President that they think may be coming from Nicholas Katzenbach, President Johnson is telling Fortas that he needs to talk to Katzenbach and telling him what to say to him. The statement is made in the context of LBJ and RFK’s continuing disputes and animosity.
It should be noted that no one who was close to Robert Kennedy, including his Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, has ever confirmed his input into the selection of the members of the Warren Commission, let alone his nomination of Allen Dulles and John J. McCloy. In addition, there is only one document that can be cited as in any manner supporting RFK’s involvement in the selection of the members of the Warren Commission. The document is a Memorandum from Walter Jenkins, LBJ’s top administrative assistant who had worked for him since 1939, to the President. The brief memo is dated 11/29/63. It reports: “Abe [Fortas] has talked with Katzenbach and Katzenbach has talked to the Attorney General. They recommend a seven man commission – two Senators, two Congressmen, the Chief Justice, Allen Dulles, and a retired Military Man….” A hand written note at the bottom of the page says “orig. not sent to files.” The memo also bears the a stamp that indicates it was not received by Central Files until April 20, 1965. It is unlikely that this document could, or should, ever be used as evidence on several grounds. The statement that RFK approved Dulles is, at best triple hearsay – allegedly, RFK may have told Katzenbach who may have told Fortas who may have told Jenkins who, apparently, wrote the memo. The document also does not bear standard indicia of credibility in that, as it notes, the original was not preserved in the normal course of business, and a copy was not recorded until seventeen months after the original had been written. The memo asks LBJ to respond to three questions. I have not been able to find a copy of any response. If no response exists, it provides additional grounds to question the authenticity of the memo. The memo would clearly be excluded as an exhibit in any proceeding following the Federal Rules of Evidence. The exclusion of the memo would be proper because of its multiple hearsay and its lack of the usual indicia of trustworthiness and authenticity. Hence, its value as evidence in any forum, including that of public opinion, is minimal at best, and, if we are honest, nil. It should also be noted that no contemporaneous document supports the assertion that RFK was involved in the selection of the members of the commission.
Interestingly enough, LBJ also met with J. Edgar Hoover on November 29, 1963, the same day as the supposed Jenkins memo. They discussed the composition of the Commission Johnson was considering, as Hoover reported in a memorandum:
“He then indicated the only way to stop [a rash of investigations] is to appoint a high-level committee to evaluate my report and tell the House and Senate not to go ahead with the investigation. I stated that would be a three-ring circus.
“The President then asked what I think about Allen Dulles, and I replied that he is a good man. He then asked about John McCloy, and I stated I am not as enthusiastic about McCloy, that he is a good man but I am not so certain as to the matter of publicity he might want. The President then mentioned General (Lauris) Norstad, and I said he is a good man. He said in the House he might try (Hale) Boggs and (Gerald R.) Ford and in the Senate (Richard B.) Russell and (John Sherman) Cooper. I asked him about Cooper and he indicated Cooper of Kentucky whom he described as a judicial man, stating he would not want (Jacob K.) Javits. I agreed on this point. He then reiterated Ford of Michigan, and I indicated I know of him but do not know him and had never seen him except on television the other day and that he handled himself well on television. I indicated that I do know Boggs.”
There was no discussion here of the Attorney General nor of any recommendations he may have made. Johnson and Hoover went on to discuss other matters, including some discussion of the Attorney General, but did not discuss anything about the Attorney General and any suggestions he may have made regarding the composition of the commission.
Jim Lesar and Dan Alcorn have called my attention to another recorded telephone call between LBJ, RFK and Allen Dulles on June 23, 1964. The purpose of this call is to recruit Dulles to take a fact-finding trip to Mississippi in an effort to establish a communication link between the administration in D.C. and the state government in Mississippi regarding the civil rights issues then exploding in the state. This is truly a remarkable, fascinating conversation, especially considering the strained relationships between RFK and LBJ and RFK and Dulles. Those considerations make some of the conversation’s subtleties ambiguous at best. Of particular note are the references to the Warren Commission and its on-going work:
At the 5:23 mark in the conversation, Dulles says to RFK, “What is the timing on this? (The proposed Dulles trip to Mississippi). I’m on this other Commission you know, and we are trying to finish up our work, you know, and I wouldn’t want the Chief Justice to think I’d run out on him.” Is he concerned that this is a move by RFK to get him less involved in the final deliberations of the commission? Missing a perfect opportunity to remind RFK that he is on the Warren Commission by his nomination, Dulles here says nothing about it. Neither does RFK nor LBJ. Note the proximity of this conversation and assignment to the commission’s un-transcribed Executive Session of June 29, 1964, which followed not long after the Executive Session in May where the remarkable conversations about the possibility of LHO being a government asset happened. Dulles was present at the June 29 meeting, apparently arriving back in D.C. from Mississippi in the early morning hours of 6/26/64.
At the 7:03 mark Dulles asks RFK, “Why did you pick me for this?” RFK responds, “Because I know you,” to which Dulles responds with a long hearty laugh, adding, “I’ve been a little mad at you, you know, oh a little bit on this Bay of Pigs book, but I might forget that very easily.(laughing)” RFK: “Well, anyway…” Dulles: “I don’t stay angry long.” RFK: “Fine.” RFK then turns the conversation back to Mississippi. You can hear the irritation in RFK’s voice at this point. He never joins Dulles’s laughing. “This Bay of Pigs book” that Dulles refers to was, most likely, Haynes Johnson’s The Bay of Pigs: The Leaders’ Story of Brigade 2506, which was published in May, 1964– the month before this conversation. Given the long prior relationship between RFK and Haynes Johnson, Dulles may have considered the book to be part of his ongoing propaganda battle with RFK over the Bay of Pigs that started with the post-invasion press maneuvering and the Taylor Commission. It is another indication of continued antagonism between RFK and Dulles, further weakening the case for believing that RFK would have nominated Dulles to serve on the Commission charged with investigating his brother’s murder.
At the 8:43 mark, Dulles says to LBJ, “You remember that I’m on this, that you put me on this Commission that I’m working on with the Chief Justice and the others… and that is reaching a point where I would not want to neglect that work…for anything.” The ellipses represent LBJ interjections of affirmation and understanding. Johnson then assures him that he will have access to a presidential jet and that he would be going down to Mississippi and back very quickly.
The most remarkable thing about the conversation is that nothing is said about RFK involvement in selecting Dulles for the Warren Commission. When talking to RFK, Dulles did not say anything about serving on the Commission at his request or nomination. In speaking with LBJ, he points out that he is serving on the Commission by LBJ’s appointment, but does not say anything to him about his appointment being in any way connected with RFK. Also, the exchange between Dulles and RFK, would seem to indicate that the relationship between the two men was, even at this point, strained at best. You have to hear the voice tones to really appreciate this. And in this context, at the 2:00 minute mark, Dulles opens his conversation with RFK by expressing his condolences about, apparently, Ted Kennedy’s illness, is downright strange, even chilling.
Over all, the predominant subtext seems to be that Dulles’s main concern is that this is designed to divert him from his involvement with the Warren Commission’s final deliberations. Hence, the need to reassure him of the minimal role he is to have in Mississippi, the expeditious travel arrangements, and the time assurances. From the LBJ/RFK side, it is apparent that they have agreed in advance to ask Dulles to do this. But, on the other hand, there is absolutely nothing in this conversation to indicate that they had agreed previously on his appointment to the Warren Commission by LBJ. Indeed, listening to the whole conversation, especially that between RFK and Dulles about the reason for his selection to go to Mississippi strongly militates against believing that RFK had been involved in Dulles’s appointment to the Commission.
But don’t take my word for it, listen to the conversation yourself at http://millercenter.org/presidentialrecordings/lbj-wh6406.15-3868.
David Talbot comments, in regard to this conversation:
“This is indeed a fascinating conversation, which I’m just now absorbing. I completely agree with your analysis. I would add how unnerving it is to hear Dulles tell Bobby how sorry he was about his brother (meaning Teddy, of course, not JFK…but still).
“I would also add this as general context: At this point in his life, Bobby is still in major turmoil and uncertain of how to proceed in his political career. He suspects the assassination came from within the CIA’s plot against Castro, but he probably hasn’t focused on Dulles yet, who after all was supposedly out of the CIA by the time of the assassination. (RFK was likely unaware of the extent to which Dulles was STILL involved with CIA affairs, as I report in my new book.) And Bobby, though he and LBJ hated each other, was still figuring out whether he should stay in the Johnson administration — and even had hopes that Johnson would pick him as his running mate in ’64. (This conversation about Mississippi took place in June of that year, while Bobby didn’t announce for the Senate until Aug. 25, after Johnson had made clear he would not pick him.) So everything is up in the air for Bobby at this stage.
“The one thing he remained focused on during this period as attorney general was civil rights, since he knew that would be a big part of his brother’s and his legacy. And my guess is Bobby thought that by sending a heavyweight like the former director of the CIA down to Miss would put the fear of God in the locals. At this point, they hadn’t even found the bodies of the young civil rights workers, and I’m sure RFK wanted to send a strong message to the governor et al that they better cooperate if they knew what was good for them.
“Despite Dulles’s concerns about being pulled away from his Warren Commission work, Bobby clearly had no respect or concern for that (he knew by then it was going to be a whitewash.) I doubt that sending Dulles to Miss was an attempt to deflect him from his commission work (since he was only going to be gone a couple of days). But it certainly showed that RFK considered this civil rights crisis more important than whatever Dulles was doing on the commission, whose conclusions RFK regarded as foregone.
“And finally, yes, I find the uncomfortable little exchange about “the Bay of Pigs book” very telling. As Dan says, the ideological battle over the telling of the Bay of Pigs story remained a huge point of contention between the Dulles and Kennedy camps. Dulles clearly hated the Haynes Johnson book (Johnson in fact told me he was the target of CIA spleen after the book came out). And he was so disturbed by the way Schlesinger and Sorensen wrote about the BoP (as a fast one pulled on JFK by the CIA) the following year, that he put a great effort into telling his version of the operation in an article for Harpers (which he finally abandoned). Dulles clearly knew that Haynes Johnson was a Kennedy confidante and his book reflected that. Here, in this conversation, Dulles tries to laugh off the fact that “I’ve been a little mad at you on this Bay of Pigs book.” But, he goes on to say, I don’t stay mad long. Hah! This was a man who nursed grudges long and hard and never forgot them.
“RFK’s response to Dulles is terse and equally telling. He knows the subject is a minefield and he moves swiftly on.
Another taped conversation relevant to this question is a call President Johnson made to Allen Dulles on November 29, 1963, to advise him that he would be on the Commission. This is one of the shortest calls that LBJ had to make to the potential members of the Commission. Unlike others who were reluctant to serve, Dulles expressed no reluctance – the call only lasted approximately a minute and thirty or so seconds – but Johnson tries to repeat the arguments he had had to make to others anyway.
In this call to Dulles, neither Dulles nor LBJ mention Robert Kennedy or his possible involvement in Dulles selection. The conversation opens with LBJ apologetically advising Dulles: “I have some unpleasant news for you.” Dulles says, “Yes.” LBJ goes on, “We are going to name very shortly a presidential commission made up of seven people … as a study group to go into this FBI report … in connection with the assassination of our beloved friend, and you’ve got to go on that for me.” Dulles responds, “Because I can really serve you,” and LBJ interrupts saying, “I know you can, I know you can, not any doubt about it. Just get ready now to go in there and do a good job. America’s got to be united in this hour.” At this point the tape becomes somewhat garbled and hard to understand as Dulles says something about his “previous job.” LBJ’s response is very garbled for me to understand well, but LBJ can be heard to say “you always do a good job as I found out long ago.”
It is generally considered that Dulles, in raising his previous job, is expressing a concern that his service as the director of the CIA would disqualify him from service on the commission. Many consider that he did so based on a concern that it could serve as a basis for adverse propaganda. On the other hand, it could be that he knew, especially considering the circumstances of his departure from the job, that he had a serious conflict of interest that should prevent his serving. The nature of the basis of his concern is not apparent from the conversation. No one at the time, however, raised Dulles apparent conflict of interest.
Dulles telling Johnson that he could “really serve you,” along with his dominance of the commission where he was the most active and involved member, really sheds light on the June 26 call about Mississippi. Dulles’s statement to Johnson that the commission is reaching a point where he, having been appointed by LBJ to really serve him on the commission, “would not want to neglect that work … for anything.” Johnson, recognizing the importance of keeping Dulles involved at this critical stage, promises him access to presidential transportation.
Is there a countervailing theory as to how Dulles got on the Warren Commission? In his 2007 book, Brothers, David Talbot says that Allen Dulles lobbied to be appointed to the Warren Commission. He also reported that Dulles’s biographer, Peter Grose, concluded that there is “no evidence that the younger Kennedy played any role in the composition of the commission.”
David Talbot returned to this issue in his recently published book, The Devil’s Chessboard:
“The Dulles camp itself made no bones about the fact that the Old Man aggressively lobbied to get appointed to the commission. Dick Helms later told historian Michael Kurtz that he ‘personally persuaded’ Johnson to appoint Dulles. According to Kurtz, Dulles and Helms ‘wanted to make sure no agency secrets came out during the investigation…. And, of course, if Dulles was on the commission that would ensure the agency would be safe. Johnson felt the same way – he didn’t want the investigation to dig up anything strange.
“William Corson, a former Marine Corps officer and Navy intelligence agent who was close to Dulles, confirmed that the spymaster pulled strings to get on the Warren Commission. He ‘lobbied hard for the job,’ recalled Corson….”
Interestingly enough, I have not been able to find a recorded conversation between LBJ and John J. McCloy regarding his service on the Warren Commission. Talbot, however, finds it “preposterous” that RFK would have sought to have him or Dulles placed on the commission investigating his brother’s murder:
“Like Dulles, whose former agency Bobby immediately suspected of a role in the assassination, McCloy was a Cold War hard-liner. McCloy had resigned as JFK’s chief arms negotiator at the end of 1962, in frustration with what he felt was Soviet intransigence. But it was McCloy himself who was the obstacle. Several months after Kennedy replaced him with Averell Harriman … the two superpowers reached a historic agreement to limit nuclear arms testing.”
Michael Kurtz’s characterization of the motivations behind LBJ appointing Dulles to the commission is given some support from statements made in Robarge’s article on McCone. Robarge reports that, while there is “[n]o documentary evidence indicat[ing] whether McCone ordered the circumscribed approach [to providing the Warren Commission information] on his own or at the White House’s behest …. the DCI [McCone] shared the administration’s interest in avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories and possibly lead to calls for a tough US response against the perpetrators of the assassination.” [Emphasis added.] Unfortunately, Robarge does not say where he found the expression of the administration’s interest, or how it was expressed or communicated. He just rules out it being done in a documented order from the White House. Since Robarge’s sources are still classified, it may even be that Kurtz is Robarge’s source for this statement.
Later, in the same article, Robarge says, “McCone and Dulles both wanted to draw attention away from CIA and encourage endorsement of the FBI’s conclusion soon after the assassination that a lone gunman, uninvolved in a conspiracy, had killed John Kennedy. The DCI could rest assured that his predecessor would keep a dutiful watch over Agency equities and work to keep the commission from pursuing provocative lines of investigation….” Indeed, in keeping with the interests they shared with the Johnson administration, Dulles proved true to his comment to LBJ on November 29, 1963, the he could really serve him. He, indeed, very effectively protected the administration and the CIA’s interest in preventing a real investigation of the murder. He did a good job, as Johnson had learned long before. But, as Robarge reports, there is no documentation that either Johnson or his administration ordered the CIA cover-up of relevant information about the Kennedy assassination.
RFK’s deputy at the Justice Department, Nicholas Katzenbach, as is abundantly verified by the record, did lobby for the appointment of a Presidential Commission in opposition to just relying on the FBI Report or Johnson’s preference for a Texas Court of Inquiry. Early after the assassination, LBJ was expressing a desire for a Texas Court of Inquiry to handle the investigation into the assassination. It appears that the idea for a Presidential commission came from Washington pundits, such as the CIA connected Joseph Alsop, and from Nicholas Katzenbach. Katzenbach’s interest in such a commission was first reported by J. Edgar Hoover in a call to Walter Jenkins on November 24. That same day, Eugene Rostow, Dean of Yale Law School, called Bill Moyers and reported the same thing. On November 25, Katzenbach delivered his famous memo on the subject to Bill Moyers. It is this memo that begins:
“It is important that all of the facts surrounding President Kennedy’s Assassination be made public in a way which will satisfy people in the United States and abroad that all the facts have been told and that a statement to this effect be made now.
“1. The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”
These actions on Katzenbach’s part, taken while RFK was largely incapacitated by his grief in the days immediately following the assassination, do not lend any credence to the idea that RFK nominated McCloy and Dulles to serve on the commission. Indeed, there is no mention of such a nomination in any of the contemporaneous documentation presently available on Katzenbach’s activities. Indeed, there is no contemporaneous document at all in the record to support the idea. A highly suspect memo from Walter Jenkins is the only document anyone has cited to support the idea. No witness, other than LBJ and his discredited crony Abe Fortas, neither of whom are renowned for the reputations for veracity, are the only two people who have ever said that Robert Kennedy had any input into the composition of the Warren Commission.
In view of all this, it is my opinion that there is minimal, if any, real evidence that RFK had anything to do with Allen Dulles being on the Warren Commission. Shenon’s flat statement otherwise can be nothing more than an attempt to try to buttress his discredited theories about the assassination.
XIV. “Robert Kennedy’s friends and family acknowledge years later that he never stopped fearing that Castro was behind his brother’s death.”
This statement is simply not true. According to Haynes Johnson, not long after the assassination, Bobby Kennedy told Harry Ruiz-Williams, an anti-Castro Cuban activist, “One of your guys did it.” Johnson claims to have been with Ruiz-Williams when the statement was made. Frank Mankiewicz, a Robert Kennedy aide whom he tasked to look into the assassination says, “I came to the conclusion that there was some sort of conspiracy, probably involving the mob, anti-Castro Cuban exiles, and maybe rogue CIA agents.” Arthur Schlesinger has stated, “We [the Kennedy administration] were at war with the national security people.” Dick Goodwin, who worked for both Kennedys, says “We know the CIA was involved, and the Mafia. We all know that.”
William Walton delivered a message to the Russians at the request of Bobby and Jackie Kennedy not long after the assassination. David Talbot describes the message:
“What Walton told Bolshakov … stunned the Russian. He said that Bobby and Jackie believed that the president had been killed by a large political conspiracy. ‘Perhaps there was only one assassin, but he did not act alone,’ Walton said, continuing the message from the Kennedys. There were others behind Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun. J. Edgar Hoover had told both Bobby and Jackie that Oswald was a communist agent. But despite the alleged assassin’s well-publicized defection to the Soviet Union and his attention grabbing stunts on behalf of Fidel Castro, the Kennedys made it clear that they did not believe he was acting on foreign orders. They were convinced that JFK was the victim of U.S. opponents.”
In the 1968 presidential primary campaign, Robert Kennedy began to walk back and hedge his prior statements of support for the Warren Commission. At a rally in Los Angeles, California, shortly before his death, he told a crowd of students that records in the National Archives about his brother’s death “will be available at the appropriate time.” The crowd, understanding that RFK meant when he became president, cheered the statement. Later that evening he told members of his staff, “Subject to me getting elected, I would like to reopen the Warren Commission.” In the days immediately following the assassination of President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy tasked three trusted aides with beginning an investigation into possible involvement of the Mafia, Jimmy Hoffa and the Secret Service.
Peter Lawford, RFK’s brother-in-law, told a friend that while at the White House with RFK the weekend following the assassination of the president, RFK told him he believed that he had been killed as a result of a plot growing out of the government’s secret anti-Castro operations, but that he could, at that point, do nothing about it since they were facing a formidable enemy and the Kennedys no longer controlled the government.
Jefferson Morley has also recently addressed the question of whether Robert Kennedy thought that Castro might have been behind the president’s assassination, a question he bluntly answers before explaining:
“No, he did not. Robert F. Kennedy suspected organized crime and CIA-backed Cuban exiles might have been complicit in his brother’s death. He did not suspect the Cuban communist leader.
“Politico propagated this mistake in Philip Shenon’s recent piece about the CIA’s JFK cover-up. ‘Robert Kennedy’s friends and family acknowledged years later that he never stopped fearing that Castro was behind his brother’s death,’ Shenon wrote.
“I never heard that so I asked David Talbot, author of Brothers, an investigation of what RFK thought of his brother’s death. He replied via email.
“‘Phil Shenon continues to recycle the myth — long propagated in CIA circles — that Fidel Castro was behind the JFK assassination. He now adds another piece of disinformation, asserting that Robert Kennedy also fell for this CIA propaganda line. This is completely false. I interviewed over 150 close friends, colleagues and family members of Bobby Kennedy, including Kennedy administration officials and insiders, for my book, ‘Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years.’ NONE of them indicated to me that Castro was among Bobby’s leading suspects in the assassination of his brother.
“‘Instead, they said that RFK immediately focused on the CIA and its ANTI-Castro operation as the source of the plot against President Kennedy. My sources included close advisors of Bobby Kennedy like Adam Walinsky, Frank Mankiewicz, Ed Guthman, Richard Goodwin — as well as assassination researchers with whom Bobby Kennedy met during his secret search for the truth. I also interviewed the widow and close associates of Walter Sheridan, Bobby Kennedy’s top investigator ever since his days as the chief of the 1950s Senate rackets probe. Who are Shenon’s sources?
“‘RFK was fully aware of how politically explosive his search for the truth about Dallas was, considering the enormous power wielded by the U.S. security forces that he suspected, and the criminal underworld elements with whom they were aligned. So he was very careful in his public remarks about the Warren Report, which he privately considered a whitewash. It is clear from my research that Bobby Kennedy was biding his time until he could return to the White House, at which point he planned to use the full powers of the executive branch to track down those in Washington who were responsible for murdering his brother.’”
Bryon Bender, writing in the Boston Globe, reported on RFK’s suspicions after the assassination: “There is no indication that Bobby ever found evidence to prove a wider conspiracy. But judging from his actions after hearing the news out of Dallas, it’s clear that he quickly focused his attention on three areas of suspicion: Cuba, the Mafia, and the CIA. Crucially, Bobby had become his brother’s point man in managing all three of those highly fraught portfolios. And by the time the president was gunned down, Bobby understood better than anyone how all three had become hopelessly interwoven….”
Shenon’s Politico article provides no source for his statement that RFK suspected Castro. I am aware of none. Indeed, the most recent statement from an RFK family member was made by his son, Robert Jr., in Dallas in 2013. In an appearance at the Winspear Opera House, he acknowledged that his father had thought the Warren Commission’s report to be a “shoddy piece of craftsmanship.” He continued that he did not, himself, accept the lone gunman theory. Then this exchange occurred between RFK Jr, and Charlie Rose, who was interviewing him:
KENNEDY: “I think my father was fairly convinced at the end of that there had been involvement by somebody …”
ROSE: “Organized crime, Cubans …”
KENNEDY: “Or rogue CIA …”
Shenon drags out the old, long discredited petard of RFK suspecting Castro in a desperate attempt to buttress his own bankrupt theory that the Castro did it theory has, or ever had, any credibility. His doing so here just shows the CIA’s increasing desperation to divert the attention from their own conduct in covert activities that would implicate them in possible conspiracies to assassinate John F. Kennedy.
- RFK’s alleged participation in Castro assassination plots.
The issue of whether RFK participated in any Castro assassination plots is still a hotly contested issue, whether it should be or not. Robarge and Shenon both repeat the allegation. Shenon quotes Robarge: “Robert Kennedy had overseen the Agency’s anti-Castro covert actions – including some of the assassination plans….” Shenon cites no other source for the allegation than the quotation. Robarge’s sources are, of course, still classified and, therefore, not subject to evaluation at this point.
There is no question that RFK, while serving as Attorney General, learned of the CIA/Mafia plots that had been started during the Eisenhower administration and had ended prior to his learning of them – the so-called “Phase I” plots. It is also pretty definitively settled that the CIA led Kennedy to believe that those Phase I plots which had been terminated were the only plots. The controversy continues to exist, however, as to whether RFK was aware of plots undertaken by the CIA after being informed that those early plots were terminated.
David Talbot describes the circumstances surrounding RFK first learning that the CIA had been involved with the Mafia in plotting to assassinate Fidel Castro. As Attorney General he had been advised, in May 1962, that the CIA was trying to block a planned prosecution of Robert Maheu, who had bugged Dan Rowan’s hotel room as a favor to Chicago Mafia boss, Sam Giancana. When Kennedy wanted to know, at a meeting held on May 14, 1962, why he should defer the prosecution, CIA counsel Lawrence Houston and the Agency’s Chief of Security, Col. Sheffield Edwards, informed him that the Agency had enlisted Giancana in a plot to assassinate Castro. Kennedy gave the two CIA officers “a definite impression of unhappiness” according to Houston’s Church Committee testimony.
“Kennedy fixed the two obviously discomforted CIA couriers with a hard look. ‘I trust that if you ever do business with organized crime again – with gangsters,’ he said in a voice seething with sarcasm, ‘you will let the attorney general know.’
“The CIA men assured Kennedy that the Mafia plots had been terminated. But, probably unbeknownst to the two agency messengers, the murderous intrigue was still alive. In fact, around the same time Houston and Edwards were conveying their assurances to Kennedy, the CIA’s point man on Cuba, William Harvey, was delivering poison pills to Giancana confederate Johnny Rosselli, to eliminate the Cuban leader.
After years of research, David Talbot, in regard to the claims that RFK participated in Castro assassination plots, concluded: “[T]here is no compelling evidence to support this. While Bobby did indeed browbeat CIA officials to do more to disrupt the Cuban government, assassination was not among the measures he urged upon the agency. In fact, the Kennedys’ views of the Castro regime became less and less absolutist as time went on. The administration would adopt a contradictory, two-track strategy toward the Castro regime, wielding not just sticks but carrots, as the Kennedy brothers attempted to navigate their way out of the crisis atmosphere that characterized their first two years in office.”
Neither Robarge nor Shenon provide any source for their allegation that Robert Kennedy knew about continuing assassination plots. While there is much disputed information out there, perhaps the best evidence is the CIA’s own Inspector General’s report on all the plots; a report ordered by Lyndon Johnson in 1967. The report detailed the various plots against, and attempts to assassinate Castro that the CIA had undertaken, and, also, addressed the issue of the Attorney General’s possible complicity in any assassination attempts. In answer to the question, “Can CIA state or imply that it was merely an instrument of policy,” the IG responded:
“Not in this case. While it is true that Phase Two was carried out in an atmosphere of intense Kennedy administration pressure to do something about Castro, such is not true of the earlier phase. Phase One was initiated in August 1960 under the Eisenhower administration. Phase Two is associated in Harvey’s mind with the Executive Action Capability, which reportedly was developed in response to White House urgings. Again, Phase One had been started and abandoned months before the Executive Action Capability appeared on the scene.
“When Robert Kennedy was briefed on Phase One in May 1962, he strongly admonished Houston and Edwards to check with the Attorney General in advance of any future intended use of U.S. criminal elements. This was not done with respect to Phase Two, which was already well under way at the time Kennedy was briefed.
In other words, according to the CIA’s own Inspector General, who investigated the issue at President Johnson’s request not long before the beginning of the 1968 presidential primary season in which LBJ may justifiably have considered RFK to be his most threatening potential opponent, RFK was briefed in 1962 about the plots that had been terminated but was not then, or at any time, told anything about any ongoing plots to assassinate Castro. If the CIA had thought it could, in any way, justify blaming Robert Kennedy in a report made to LBJ, and at his request, in 1967 just prior to the 1968 presidential primaries where LBJ considered RFK the main threat to his chance for a second term, the Agency would likely have complied. It is a very compelling admission against its own interests by the Agency in these circumstances.
In his testimony before the Church Committee, Richard Helms acknowledged that he had never been ordered by either Kennedy to try to assassinate Castro. He testified that the Kennedys did not know about the plots Bill Harvey supervised in and after 1963 – the Phase II plots. Harvey told the committee that if RFK had wanted to kill Castro, he (Harvey) would have been the last person RFK would have chosen to run the plot. RFK and Harvey strong mutual dislike of each other is well documented. Helms, in his testimony before the Church Committee testified that he and Harvey had also chosen to keep DCI McCone ignorant of the ongoing plots.
Indeed there is little credible evidence which Shenon, or Robarge, could cite to back up this slander directed at RFK. The statement, like that about RFK suspecting Castro’s involvement, is simply offered without support in a vain attempt to buttress the propaganda point trying to be made by the articles.
What have we learned? If anything, that the media blackout on real reportage about the Kennedy assassination continues. The cover-up continues. Although we have now been given an affirmation that there was a high-level government conspiracy to withhold information from the Warren Commission, the CIA and their assets are still spinning the story to try to cast it as something still in the past and benign. In doing so, they have revealed much, probably much more than they wanted or intended to, about the real motivations for the cover-up. When we consider what has been revealed about those motivations, the Agency’s new fallback position of admitting to the cover-up but insisting it to have been benign, and over, loses any credibility it may have had. The blackout of information about what they did to the HSCA and the continued stonewalling on Joannides and other issues gives us a pretty good indication of where they do not want the inquiries to go. Finally, we’ve learned to be encouraged. It’s a slow retreat, but the Agency is in retreat. Keep up the pressure for the truth. Do what you can to expose and counter the lies.
- Phil Shenon, “Yes, the CIA Director was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up,” Politico, 10/06/2015, available at http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/jfk-assassination-john-mccone-warren-commission-cia-213197
2. David Robarge, “DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” Studies in Intelligence, (Vol. 57, No. 3, 09/2013), Approved for Release and declassified, 09/29/2014, available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB493/docs/intell_ebb_026.PDF. The book from which this excerpt was taken was published in-house by the CIA in 2005 and remains classified with the exception of this chapter.
3 David Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard, p. 449.
4 Id., at 455-456.
5 Full article available at http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/news/cia-chief-told-rfk-about-two-shooters-in-dallas/#more-2415.
6 Gibson, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-up, p. 51.
7 The full report is available at http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=10402
8 The book is out of print, but is available used at http://www.amazon.com/assassins-Robert-J-Donovan/dp/B0006AU5FY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1445354819&sr=8-1&keywords=Robert+Donovan%2C+the+assassins
9 Church Committee, Final Report, Book V, pp. 67-76.
10 HSCA, Final Report, p. 253.
11 Id., at p. 254.
12 Id., at p. 246.
13 HSCA, Appendix to Hearings, Vol. 11, pp. 474-475.
14 Available at https://aarclibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/robert_blakey_aarc_9_26_letter.pdf
15 See, e.g., http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/morley-v-cia-jfk-at-issue-in-federal-court-next-week/
16 See endnote 2 above for a site carrying the Robarge article. See footnote 1 for a site where you can find Shenon’s Politico article. Read and compare for yourself.
17 See discussion at VIII, below.
18 Shenon, A Cruel and Shocking Act, 2013. Cf., Hardway, “A Cruel and Shocking Misinterpretation,”2015, available at https://aarclibrary.org/blog/
19 Full test of Executive Order 11130 available at http://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=946#relPageId=495
20 Which, contrary to Robarge is what Shenon tries to sell, see part VIII below.
21 See, e.g., Talbot’s Brothers; Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable; Newman’s Oswald and the CIA; Hancock’s Someone Would Have Talked.
22 The CIA here, in the Robarge article, also admits for the first time I know of, that Soviet (and by implication, Cuban) use of Oswald, in light of “his extensive pro-Castro activity and contact with the Soviet embassy in Mexico City” would have “violated a long-standing KGB prohibition on its overseas agents having contact with domestic communist parties or Soviet legations.”
23 See subsection of article entitled “Initial Fears of a Conspiracy”, pp. 2-5.
24 See discussion of NPIC and Arthur Schlesinger in Part II, above.
25 Talbot, Brothers, at pp. 88-89.
26 With which staffers, it should be noted, Commissioner Allen Dulles, their recent boss, appears to have been in frequent contact.
27 Brothers, at p. 87.
28 Note here the significant question he raises: McCone was personally complicit in a “benign cover-up”, and he is about to say that Dulles was likewise complicit, but he tries to, at least, keep the question of the organization’s complicity in question. This is only possible if he ignores the remainder of the available evidence about the role of Helms, Angleton, and the CI Staff in the conspiracy and their interaction with Dulles. Hence, it is clear that the purpose of Shenon’s spin is to try to close off that line of inquiry into the CIA’s organizational complicity.
29 Memo from Wigren to DDP, 4/13/14, RIF:104-10051-10288
30 Note that this advice was offered by Dulles to the CIA after the question of Oswald’s relationship with the FBI, raised in January of 1964, had been resolved.
31 Wigren Memo.
32 Warren Commission, Executive Session Transcript, 1/27/1964, Vol. 5, p. 152.
33 Id., at 153. Emphasis added. Miles Copeland, in his 1974 book, The Real Spy World, at page 171, reports that most CIA officers did not want to know the names of agents of other officers, noting, “Richard Helms, when he was Director of Central Intelligence, refrained from learning the names of more than a handful of top agents whose cases were of such importance that he personally had to keep up with them.”
34 Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard, pp. 578-579.
35 Warren Commission, Vol. V, p. 120. Full transcript available at http://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/wc/wcvols/wh5/pdf/WH5_McConeHelms.pdf
36 Id., at 121.
38 HSCA, Final Report, p. 67.
39 Church Committee, Book V, p. 70.
40 See, e.g., HSCA, Vol. 4, p. 12.
41 Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard, at 442-443.
42 See, e.g., Robarge, at 5 (RFK’s alleged involvement in the CIA’s Castro assassination plans; see also part XV, below); 8 (“CIA … did not volunteer material even if potentially relevant – for example, about Agency plans to assassinate Castro.”); 10 (“The DCI could rest assured that his predecessor would… work to keep the commission from pursuing provocative lines of investigation, such as lethal anti-Castro covert actions.”); 12 (“McCone judged that he should defer to the DDP’s assessment that the plots to kill Castro had no bearing on the Kennedy assassination.”); 13 (McCone presumably saw no reason to raise what he regarded as peripheral, distracting, and unsettling subjects like plots to kill Castro.”)
43 Emphasis added.
45 Johnson, The Vantage Point, p. 27.
47 Full memo available at http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/pdf/WalterJenkins11-29-63.pdf
48 Full memo available at http://www.ratical.org/ratville/JFK/Hoover.html.
49 See https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=4271#relPageId=26; http://jfklancer.com/pdf/wcexjune.pdf.
50 See note 33 above and accompanying text.
51 See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMK1xGA0XYc.
52 Emphasis added. Full recording of the conversation available at http://millercenter.org/presidentialrecordings/lbj-wh6406.15-3868.
53 Email from David Talbot to author, October 11, 2015.
54 Full taped conversation available at http://web2.millercenter.org/lbj/audiovisual/whrecordings/telephone/conversations/1963/lbj_k6311_05_16_dulles_truncated.mp3.
55 Talbot, Brothers, at p. 274, note.
56 Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard, pp. 573-574.
58 Katzenbach memo to Moyers, 11/25/1963, available at https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=62268#relPageId=29
59 Sources for the quotes in this paragraph can be found at http://www.maryferrell.org/pages/JFK_Assassination_Quotes_by_Government_Officials.html.
60 Talbot, Brothers, p. 32.
61 Id., at pp. 357-358.
62 Id., at p. 359.
63 Id., at pp. 19-22
64 Id., at p. 18.
66 Full article available at https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/11/24/his-brother-keeper-robert-kennedy-saw-conspiracy-jfk-assassination/TmZ0nfKsB34p69LWUBgsEJ/story.html
68 Talbot, Brothers, p. 86. Most of the allegations that RFK knew about the continuing plots can be traced to Sam Halpern, a CIA agent of questionable credibility who was William Harvey’s loyal executive assistant.
69 Id., at 93.
70 1967 Inspector General’s Report on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro, RIF # 104-10213-10101, pp. 132-133. Emphasis added.
71 For more detail, see generally, Talbot, Brothers, at pp. 114 and following.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
A Farewell to Facebook
In October, 1968, Senator Mark Hatfield, a Republican Senator from Oregon, wrote, in an editorial in a magazine, Ripon Forum, “In 1964 the American people – trusting the campaign promises of the Democratic presidential candidate – thought they were voting for peace, only to have their trust betrayed. Candidates at all levels are again expecting voters to accept their post-election intentions on faith, and they deal with Vietnam in terms of assurances not to ‘sell out’ our men in Vietnam and vague promises for ‘an honorable peace.’ This is not enough. In the democratic process, voters should not be forced to go to the polls with their fingers crossed; they should not be forced to rely on blind faith that the man they vote for will share their views on the most important issue of the election.”
I am old enough to remember the ‘68 campaign quite clearly – anyone who lived through that summer really cannot forget it. I also am old enough to remember the ‘64 campaign, including the Daisy Commercial. But for those of you who were not old enough to have those memories, I would like to share some background on what Senator Hatfield was talking about and, then, see if I may possibly draw a few lessons from history for this coming year’s election.
In 1963 President John Kennedy had signed an executive order adopting a plan that would have had all U.S. military advisors out of Vietnam by the end of 1965. That order was classified and secret at the time. In 1963, there were no U.S. combat troops in the southeast Asian jungles. JFK was executed before the nation in the streets of Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, and Lyndon Johnson became President. Three days later, on November 25, 1963, LBJ signed another secret executive order countermanding JFK’s order scheduling the withdraw of the U.S. military advisors. The two secret orders were not declassified – the American people would not learn of them – for decades afterwards.
The 1964 presidential campaign followed hard on the heels of assassination. Before the November 1964 election, no military advisors were withdrawn, but – still – no combat troops were committed to the fray. The Republicans nominated Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona to run against LBJ. Goldwater was a hard-right conservative. He was extremely anti-Communist in a virulent anti-Communist age. But he was also open to being painted as a dangerous war-monger, which LBJ and the Democrats proceeded to do, the most famous example of which was an anti-Goldwater TV ad they ran that showed a little girl picking a daisy interrupted by a nuclear explosion, all to a chilling sound track. (You can see it on youtube by searching for 1964 Daisy Ad). As hard as it may be to believe these days, LBJ was the peace candidate.
In August of 1964 LBJ engineered an “attack” by North Vietnamese naval vessels on a U.S. Navy vessel in the Gulf of Tonkin. All the documentation at the time shows that there really was no such attack: the whole thing was a black propaganda operation aimed at world opinion, and American domestic politics, to justify (or coerce and fool) Congress into authorizing the use of U.S. military forces in the Vietnam civil war. Up to that time, there was no authorization for the use of American combat forces in that dismal jungle quagmire. The public knew that Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorizing the President to use military force in Vietnam. But, again, it would be decades before the people learned that the precipitating justification for the resolution was a totally manipulated fraud.
Although LBJ, and his intelligence/military/industrial cronies, planned on escalating the war in Vietnam from the moment they assumed power, and created false incidents and intelligence to justify it and fool Congress into acting to authorize it, yet it was all kept secret. LBJ was the peace candidate in 1964. The people were never informed of his intentions. He won by a landslide. He was sworn in as President in January 1965. In March of that year, he sent the first combat troops to Vietnam. One million three hundred and thirteen thousand deaths later, it all became history.
That was what Mark Hatfield was talking about in his reference to the ‘64 campaign and the trust the people reposed in LBJ’s lying false promises. In the ‘68 campaign between Hubert “the Hump” Humphrey, Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon, and George Wallace, the latter was probably the only one halfway clear about what he would do in Vietnam if elected. But everyone knew the race was between the Hump and Tricky Dick, and neither one of them would say anything about how they would end the war which was, by that point, tearing this country apart not to mention what it was doing to the Vietnamese. Neither candidate would address the substance. Both were just asking the American people to trust them. It was secret at the time, but decades later the documents were declassified and we have learned that Tricky Dick sabotaged the peace negotiations that were being held in Paris to make sure that he beat the Hump in the election by continuing to label him as the war President’s vice-president and water carrier. And so the war went on.
1968 sounds a bit like the Obama campaigns, doesn’t it? Except this time the Republican candidate was trying to justify his predecessor’s wars and the Democrat had the secret plan to bring peace. Party labels don’t mean a whole lot. But, again, the campaign disinformation and dissimulation is only possible because those involved are sanctioned by the government to keep the critical facts and information secret from the people – from the voters who are supposedly sovereign – until the disclosure of those critical facts, and the information necessary for informed, intelligent analysis and decision making, no longer matter. Indeed, much information remains classified even long after that point.
So here we are in 2016 at the beginning of another presidential selection season. So far as I have seen up to this point, no candidate is addressing in any substantive way what they will actually do about critical issues facing this country. But they all want our trust. And government secrecy and manipulation is more rampant now than it ever has been. It seems that we have learned nothing from history. Not just those who are too young to remember the history – they have an excuse because this history is surely not taught in our schools – but those who lived through it, at best, just don’t seem to care.
Theoretically, our representative republican democracy is governed of the people, by the people, and for the people. But how can the people govern – how can we have a representative republican democracy – when the people are never informed about what is really going on? Secrecy isn’t maintained like it is to protect national security, it is maintained so that an ignorant electorate can be manipulated into doing what the ruling oligarches want done.
I am on the point of despair for my country. Jules Witcover wrote a book about 1968 titled “The Year the Dream Died.” There are some of my generation that have refused to accept the premise of the title of that book. We’ve continued to believe and to work for the dream that America once represented. And there are many out there who still do. But the country sleeps on.
My leaving Facebook doesn’t mean that I’ve given up. Those who know me know that my motto is “Never ever ever give up.” But FB, I fear, has been taken over by the trolls. Your newsfeed is carefully controlled. Your activity is monitored. “Controversial” posts that don’t reflect the opinions of the gatekeepers tend to disappear quickly, even from your own history pages if you’ve posted them. So, I think there are more productive ways for me to use the few years remaining to me – other ways to try to lift the flags of faith, freedom and love. So I will try to pursue those.
To those who remain, I say: Wake up! Dig for the Truth, it is out there and it can be found if you will only educate yourself and dig for it. Buy or borrow a shovel and start digging. Don’t stop. Never give up. Faith, freedom and love are worth the fight.
God bless you all and have mercy upon us, ours, them, their’s and our poor, sad nation.
Friday, January 15, 2016
grace in my Father’s world. I believe in
God – transcendent, immanent, Triune – ; ifonly I have eyes, I can see His at
hand kingdom. I believe in science, I
believe in Heisenberg, Schrodinger andGodel. I believe I see as in a
dim mirror, incomplete; in part I know,
uncertain; human reason, finite and
alone, knows no infinite certitude.
Let me see Truth beyond truth, evidence
of things unseen: Reality flowing from
Trinity; three-in-one is one-in-three,
eternal separate undivided
existence, one and many reconciled
in the beginning of song allowing
the soul’s noetic/mystic/poetic/
mythic knowing beyond sense–an ethic of
love for and of the other who is as
I am, of whom I am as well as he
is of me, one nature, many persons.
In the image of tactile transcendent
Trinity, I struggle, defiant or willing,
to be found in His all-loving likeness.
One day I will know, I will see, even
as I am known, even as I am seen.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
THE PROSECUTOR’S TALE
(With Apologies to Chaucer)
By Dan L. Hardway © 2016
A Tale Well Told
For the past few years Robert Tanenbaum has been telling a fascinating tale of a 1976 encounter with David Atlee Phillips. I first heard his presentation at Duquesne University’s Wecht Institute’s Passing the Torch Conference in October, 2013. He told the story with great detail, drama and flourish.
Tanenbaum served as head of the Kennedy task force of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (“HSCA”) from late fall 1976 until July 1977. He began work there around the same time as the HSCA’s first Chief Counsel, Richard Sprague. One afternoon a week while working for the HSCA, Tanenbaum told us, his office was open to anyone who wanted to see him. On one such afternoon Mark Lane showed up at Tanenbaum’s office just long enough to hand him an envelope. Lane told him, without any further explanation, that he knew that Tanenbaum would “do the right thing” with the document that was in the envelope. The envelope contained a copy of the initial report on the FBI investigation of the assassination sent to the head of the Secret Service, James K. Rowley, on November 23, 1963, under a cover letter signed by J. Edgar Hoover. Tanenbaum calls that report “the Hoover Memorandum.” The early investigation
report contained in the Rowley Letter contains the following paragraph:
“The Central Intelligence Agency advised that on October 1, 1963, an extremely sensitive source had reported that an individual identified himself as Lee Oswald, who contacted the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City inquiring as to any messages. Special Agents of this Bureau, who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas, Texas, have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the above referred to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald.”
With this ammunition in hand, Tanenbaum asserted, he subpoenaed David Atlee Phillips to appear before the HSCA sitting in executive session. Mr. Tanenbaum did not tell us when this hearing was held. Listen while he masterfully sets the scene:
“Seated opposite me at the table, at this long table, rectangular, was David Phillips. He appeared as though he had just walked out of a coffin. He was ashen, thin, three-piece suit, very erect. He sat down. He was sworn in. The stenographer was to my left and he was where the gentlemen is right here in front of me. The rest of the committee was off to my right.”
Having set the scene in the Committee hearing room so graphically in our minds, Tanenbaum then described how he initially questioned Mr. Phillips to establish Phillips’s story about Oswald’s visit to the Soviet Embassy and Cuban Consulate, which Tanenbaum, based on the Hoover Memorandum, believed would be false. The details of the case, in Tanenbaum’s telling in Pittsburgh, weren’t really exact in detail, but his point was to let us know that he’s tying David
Phillips down in his testimony so as to catch him in a lie. He tells us that Phillips testified that the surveillance camera was broken on the day of Oswald’s visit and, consequently, the CIA sent out the wrong photo. He relates that Phillips testified that the CIA’s Mexico City listening posts recycled the tapes used to record intercepts at the Cuban and Soviet diplomatic facilities every 7 to 14 days. He tied Phillips down that it was his sworn testimony that the tape was not in existence on November 1, nor on November 22, nor on November 23, 1963.
Tanenbaum continued his dramatic account of the hearing:
“I then looked at him, and he was staring at me, and I sort of have this effect on people when I question them in court, mostly defendants. I said there are three people in this room who now know you have committed perjury, you, me and Detective Fenton who’s standing off to the right. I’m going to give you the chance to purge yourself. And he stared at me and said nothing. I then asked Cliff [Fenton] to circulate the memo that I received from Mark Lane. And the memo states as follows in substance: ‘It’s from J. Edgar Hoover to all supervisory personnel in the FBI worldwide, dated November 23, 1963. And it states that our agents, seven of them who had been questioning Lee Harvey Oswald for the past seventeen hours – keep in mind this is a pre-Miranda case– who have questioned him for the past seventeen hours have listened to the tape made by an individual on or about October 1, 1963, inside the Russian Embassy in Mexico City calling the Cuban Embassy and they can state categorically that the voice on the tape is not the voice of Lee Harvey Oswald.’ So I, he now read it. This is your chance. And in his, what we call demeanor evidence, appellate courts, Judge Breck, do not have the advantage of demeanor evidence. He looked at me and I will give you the cleanest version I can, and that is to say that in his mind his staring at me and my having the gall in his alleged mind to ask these questions of him would be the equivalent of him obliterating my presence. He simply folded up the document and he left the room.”
In Mr. Tanenbaum’s telling, one of the members of the Committee immediately questioned him – Tanenbaum – “Why didn’t we get this document before?” In Pittsburgh, Tanenbaum didn’t explain why the Memorandum wasn’t passed to the Committee members in advance of the hearing nor did he tell us how he answered the Congressman. He doesn’t say whether he told them how the document came into his possession, but he did tell us that he responded by telling the Committee members at the hearing, “We’re not playing that game, that’s the game that was played with the Warren Commission.” He said he explained to the members that he was going after the unredacted good stuff. He boldly told the Committee members, “This is what we are going to do. In order, since we are not a grand jury, we should invite him back with a lawyer, and tell him he is now committing contempt because he was subpoenaed and there’s more questions to be asked and he committed perjury and try to have him absolve himself of that and tell us the truth.” In response, according to Tannenbaum, the Committee remained silent.
In Pittsburgh, Tanenbaum then related that, after this confrontation, the Committee’s funding was cut and he had to intercede personally with every member of the House, and the Speaker of the House, to get the staff paid. As he tells the tale, the Chairman of the HSCA, whom he identifies at this point as Louis Stokes, then called Mr. Tanenbaum to his office to tell him about all the compromises that have to be made to run a Congressional Committee. In Tanenbaum’s telling, this conversation appears to be about prosecuting Phillips for contempt and perjury. Tanenbaum boldly told him that if the Committee was going to do nothing about Phillips, then he had his resignation. Returning to his office, Tanenbaum says he called Richard Sprague in Philadelphia and told him to come to D.C., “that the curtain had come down.” Sprague came down as requested and met, asking Tanenbaum what he thought they should do. Tanenbaum told him, “We’re going to resign. He said, ‘OK.’” Tanenbaum called the Chairman and told him, “Get the Committee together, Dick and I are going to resign.” Tanenbaum says he told the Committee that he was resigning because their investigation was a sham. In spite of his expressed low opinion of the Committee’s will to investigate, the Chairman and at least one member, Christopher Dodd, asked him to take over as Chief Counsel. Richard Sprague agreed with them and urged him to take the job. None of them got it, according to Tanenbaum. He wasn’t interested in the job, or in getting the Chief Counsel’s job after telling Sprague to resign. He was concerned with the truth and had determined that no one else was, Sprague included evidently.
In Tanenbaum’s tale, “They [the HSCA] never called Phillips back. So he just walked out on the Committee…. I said we would not accept redacted documents. Not only did my successor accept redacted documents, but he couldn’t even take notes from them.” And so, we are left to conclude, the best opportunity to have had the JFK murder solved by America’s best prosecutor/novelist was lost. But Robert Tanenbaum maintained his integrity.
Robert Tanenbaum repeated a very similar tale in an interview with Len Osanic and Jim DiEugenio on BlackOp Radio on May 14, 2015. In most of its details, the story pretty much tracks the tale told in Pittsburgh a year and a half before. He again attributes the resignations to the Committee’s reluctance to do anything about the “phony Oswald in Mexico City.” In both venues Tanenbaum told a story about him and Clif Fenton, his chief investigator, reviewing Gaeton Fonzi’s files from his work with the Church Committee. After they completed that review at Tanenbaum’s house, Fenton, according to Tanenbaum’s telling, looked at him and said, “We’re in way over our heads here.” Unfortunately, that may be the truest statement in the prosecutor’s tale.
The Spymaster’s Actual Testimony
Having worked for the HSCA as a researcher in 1977 and 1978 with a primary responsibility for looking into Oswald’s activities in Mexico City, I was, naturally, quite intrigued with Tanenbaum’s tale. In the 18 months I was in D.C., David Atlee Phillips and his activities were very much in the focus of my attention. When I first started working on the Mexico City area of investigation, I reviewed all the materials the Committee had up to that point on Phillips. I read his executive session testimony. I waded through his book, The Night Watch: 25 Years of Peculiar Service. But, sitting there in Pittsburgh, I couldn’t remember anything at all resembling the drama described by Tanenbaum. If this confrontation had occurred, I wanted to see the transcript. I knew that Tanenbaum’s statement that the HSCA never called Phillips back before them was incorrect. I prepared Mickey Goldsmith for that hearing, which was held on April 25, 1978. I attended the hearing, as did Ed Lopez and Gaeton Fonzi who both had spent extensive time working on Phillips after Tanenbaum jumped ship in late summer of 1977. Phillips was also called back for one last interview with staff – Gaeton Fonzi, Charles Berk, and me – in August of 1978 as we were trying to wind up our work. His assertion that Phillips was never called back before the Committee is just the beginning of the problems with the prosecutor’s tale.
David Atlee Phillips was first called to testify before the HSCA on November 27, 1976. This is the only time Phillips testified before the HSCA while Richard Sprague was Chief Counsel. I had a copy of this transcript when I began work on Mexico City and Phillips. In addition to the two Committee members who were present for the hearing, the record indicates that the following Committee staffers were also at the hearing: Richard Sprague, Kenneth Brooten, Donovan Gay, Richard Feeney, Jonathan Blackmer, Jeremy Akers, Linda Conners, Jackie Hess and Robert Ozer. Conspicuously absent from that list – and from the hearing – was one Robert Tanenbaum. According to the transcript of the hearing, Tanenbaum did not participate at all in the hearing. He wasn’t even there. All the questioning of Phillips, except that done by Congressmen, was done by Chief Counsel Richard Sprague or Kenneth Brooten, a staff attorney.
Three exhibits were used at the November hearing. The first was a redacted copy of the October 8, 1963, cable from the CIA’s Mexico City station to Headquarters first reporting Oswald’s contact with the Soviet Embassy. The second was a redacted copy of an October 16, 1963, memorandum from the CIA’s Mexico City Chief of Station, Win Scott, to the ambassador, providing some of the information contained in the other two exhibits. The third exhibit was a redacted copy of the Headquarters response of October 11, 1963 to the Mexico City Cable. Conspicuously absent from this list is the Hoover memorandum Tanenbaum said Mark Lane gave him.
Phillips did testify, under Richard Sprague’s questioning, about the erasure and reuse policy for tapes in the Mexico City Station, and about the possible erasure of the Oswald tape. No exhibits were used in this portion of the questioning, which occurred quite early in an examination that lasted more than three and a half hours, long enough to cover 134 pages of transcript. It appears that, if Mark Lane had indeed given a copy of a Hoover memorandum to Tanenbaum, Tanenbaum had either not provided it to his boss or the Committee or, if he provided it, they decided not to use it in interrogating Phillips.
At the end of the three and a half hours of questioning, David Phillips was still sitting in the witness chair when Sprague admonishes him that the testimony he has given has been in executive session and “is not to be discussed anywhere.” The Committee continued Phillips’s subpoena and advised him that he remained subject to recall should the Committee wish to ask more questions. The hearing ended with Congressman Preyer, one of the members of the HSCA whom Tanenbaum says he respects, saying, “I want to thank you, Mr. Phillips….” The transcript of Phillips’s one appearance before the HSCA while Tanenbaum was employed by the Committee is not nearly as dramatic as the prosecutor’s tale told in Pittsburgh. According to the transcript of the November hearing, Phillips giving Tanenbaum the evil eye and stomping out in contempt of Congress just isn’t there. For that matter, neither is Tanenbaum.
I have not been able to find any transcript of any hearing where Phillips testified other than the HSCA executive sessions on November 27, 1976, and April 25, 1978. Robert Tanenbaum was at neither of these executive session hearings.
How the Spymaster Came to be Called to Testify the First Time.
The actual historical record indicates that Phillips’s appearance before the HSCA on Saturday, November 27, 1976, was a rather spur of the moment affair. Journalist Ron Kessler had written an article that appeared in the Washington Post on Friday, November 26, 1976, entitled “CIA Withheld Details on Oswald Call.” The article reported statements made by David Phillips about Oswald’s call to the Soviet Embassy.
The same day as the Kessler article appeared in the Post, Jeremy Akers of the HSCA staff called the CIA and spoke with Lyle Miller, the Deputy Legislative Counsel to ask whether Win Scott had been head of the Mexico City Station in 1963 and whether David Phillips had served there at that time. Mr. Miller also recorded that he had been informed by the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (DDCI) that David Phillips had been requested to appear before the Committee that afternoon “to confirm certain information in the newspaper article.” Phillips wanted to be relieved of his Security Agreement. Mr. Miller contacted Phillips and told him he was not relieved from the agreement. As it turned out, Phillips did not testify that same day, but did appear the following day.
The CIA treated the Kessler articles, and Phillips’s testimony, as a security breach and began an investigation. In connection with that investigation, the Inspector General (IG) of the CIA, John H. Waller, reported to the DDCI in a Memorandum dated December 1, 1976, that it was the intent of the IG to “let Sprague or his investigators have generally unfettered access to our relevant files here in this building. Those documents he wishes to take out would be given a minimal sterilization. Those documents which he wishes to have taken out and declassified would be sterilized for that purpose.” At that early stage it appears from the records available to us today, that the HSCA had not asked for any documents from the CIA. It was true that the HSCA, at that time, had no access to CIA classified documents – or the classified documents of any other government agency for that matter – because no one on the HSCA staff had a security clearance. But, as we will see, even Sprague accepted the fact that no one without a security clearance could see classified information under the relevant U.S. laws.
The Actual Record
Other details in Tanenbaum’s fantastic tale are also impossible to verify in the record. Tanenbaum worked much of the magic in his well-spun Pittsburgh tale by collapsing time and conflating events in regard to these details. His claim that the CIA denied access to documents is mirrored by his claim that what the HSCA eventually got was access to redacted copies from which they could not take notes. The CIA followed the law and made the Committee wait until staff members received security clearances before giving them access to classified documents. Once staffers had passed background checks, the CIA gave staff members unexpurgated access to everything we asked for, at least until close to the end of the HSCA’s life when they began to seriously stonewall on Mexico City. The staff members took extensive notes from classified documents and many, although not all, of those notes are now in the National Archives. As noted above, Tanenbaum’s claim that the CIA flatly denied access is true only if you leave out the fact that, in the time-frame he is talking about, no one on the staff had their security clearance and the HSCA had not yet requested access to documents. Thus Tanenbaum creates a very false impression of what was happening.
Richard Sprague, after becoming Chief Counsel in November, 1976, tried to negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding with the CIA so that HSCA staff could gain access to CIA materials, something he never accomplished. From the CIA’s perspective, Sprague, in the fall of 1976, appeared to be cooperative and sympathetic to the Agency’s concerns. Negotiations aimed at obtaining such an agreement had only barely begun at the time Phillips first testified. This explains why Sprague used expurgated FOIA copies of the documents used to confront Phillips at the November 1976 hearing.
Sprague met with the CIA’s Legislative Counsel, George Cary, two days after Phillips’s November 1976 testimony. The concern was that the HSCA staff had not received security clearances from the FBI. They also addressed the memorandum of understanding that would provide staffers with access to CIA documents. The CIA counsel found the discussions to be “thoroughly friendly.” Sprague assured them that “he has no desire to obtain any more classified information than is absolutely necessary and he is very mindful of the need to ‘run a tight ship’…. He also advised … that all employees hired by the Committee thus far have been appointed subject to security clearance, including himself.” At that point, the Agency’s Legislative Counsel thought that Sprague “fully understands our intentions and desire to cooperate and to be forward leaning….”
It is hard to find any record of Tanenbaum’s involvement in the negotiation of a memorandum of understanding between the CIA and the HSCA. One exception was a meeting on December 8, 1976. CIA Legislative Counsel and the CIA’s Deputy Director of Security met on that date with Tanenbaum, Robert Lehner and Stephen Fallis from the HSCA, to discuss the Memorandum of Understanding and FBI background checks for HSCA staffers. Counsel Cary noted, “Since this is a new world for these gentlemen, they did not have a very clear comprehension of security clearance procedures despite the fact that DCID 1/14 and Executive Order 10450 had been left previously for their study.” Fallis seemed to have led the discussion on the part of the HSCA staffers. The CIA’s Security representative explained the procedures to the staffers who then “seemed to have a better understanding of the good reasons for clearing their people” and Cary felt “that they will go the 1/14 route, particularly after they talk to Mr. Sprague.” He reported, “The meeting ended with Sprague’s arrival and I think on a positive note. It appears that Lehner, Tanenbaum and Fallis realize they are in a new ball game and that we demonstrated that we wished to be cooperative.” There is no record of Tanenbaum having told them that he would never accept expurgated documents. But, then again, that does not appear to be what the CIA was offering.
The negotiations eventually led to a draft agreement in February 1977 and work on ironing out the details was set to begin. But Sprague and Tannenbaum
never completed the work. In that same month the implosion that led to Sprague’s resignation took over the dynamic of the Committee. Tanenbaum would not receive his security clearance until July 15, 1977, shortly after Robert Blakey took over as chief counsel and shortly before Tanenbaum’s departure from the staff.
Tanenbaum’s spin on Sprague’s resignation is also dependent on collapsing the time frame between David Phillips’s testimony in November 1976 and Richard Sprague’s resignation in March of 1977. You can see this plainly when he talks about the funding crisis for the Committee. The way he presents it in the tale he told in Pittsburgh, he makes it sound like the HSCA’s funds were slashed because of his alleged confrontation with Phillips. He doesn’t ever say it directly, but he tries to maneuver you into a place where you are comfortable in drawing that inference. Sprague and Tanenbaum were hired in November, 1976, not long before Phillips’s testimony. The HSCA had been created in September of that year by the 94th Congress. In December, 1976, Sprague submitted his budget request for 1977. He requested a budget of 6.5 million dollars. The HSCA voted unanimously to recommend that the House approve the budget.
In addition to the budget, the HSCA authorizing resolution also had to be passed by the new (95th) Congress in order for it to continue work. Reauthorization of a select committee is usually a routine matter in early January of the first year of a new Congress. Efforts by the HSCA to do so, however, were stymied when a Republican Congressman from Maryland objected. The budget request, and Sprague’s plan to use lie detectors and stress evaluators in his investigations, created controversy and for a time the continued existence of the HSCA with the large staff Sprague was hiring, was in doubt. On February 2, 1977, the House re-authorized the HSCA but only for a four-month period. The authorizing resolution also required the HSCA to make public written rules governing its procedures by March 31, 1977. Congress also only funded the HSCA with $84,000.00 for the four months which, as represented by Mr. Tanenbaum, was not enough to cover the salaries of the staff.
Sprague fought with the new Chairman of the Committee, Henry Gonzalez of Texas. Gonzalez wanted to meet the budget short-fall by cutting staff. Sprague wanted to keep the staff and ask them to take pay cuts. The plan to use polygraphs and stress tests was also a point of contention between them. On February 10, 1977, Gonzalez fired Sprague. The HSCA members overrode Gonzalez and kept Sprague on as chief counsel. Gonzalez resigned as Chairman of the Committee on March 1, 1977, and Louis Stokes of Ohio assumed the position. With all the controversy generated by these events, it was becoming increasingly doubtful that the HSCA would be continued after the end of April when the authorizing resolution was set to expire. The rules required by the authorizing resolution, however, were adopted by the HSCA under the leadership of Chairman Stokes in a unanimous vote in early March. Under Stokes’s leadership, the investigation began to move forward with staff briefings of the members on March 9 and 10 and public hearings on March 11 and 16.
Congressman Gonzalez, however, lobbied against Sprague being retained as chief counsel of the HSCA. On March 28 and 29 he presented his version of his controversy with Sprague in speeches on the house floor. No one involved in the controversy at the time said anything about David Atlee Phillips, his testimony, or whether he should be prosecuted for perjury or contempt. Gonzalez said that he had been treated “shabbily” by his cohorts in the House and that Sprague was guilty of “insubordination…deceit and dishonesty” and “malfeasance.” Sprague resigned at midnight on March 29, 1977. His resignation was accepted by vote of the Committee on March 30, 1977. On the same day, the House passed a resolution authorizing the HSCA through the life of the 95th Congress. On April 25, 1977, Congress passed a budget of 2.5 million dollars for the HSCA for 1977. On June 20, 1977, the HSCA hired Robert Blakey as Chief Counsel. On August 29, 1977, the HSCA and the CIA completed a Memorandum of Understanding that granted staffers unexpurgated access to CIA documents.
Gaeton Fonzi’s View
Tanenbaum frequently expresses his respect for Gaeton Fonzi, an investigator for the HSCA. This is something about which he and I would certainly agree. Gaeton was a wonderful human being, an excellent investigator, a fine writer and a man of integrity. Interestingly enough, Gaeton’s account of the early 1977 implosion of the Committee tracks the account I have sketched above but in more detail. He had the impression that Tanenbaum didn’t want him “to know how chaotic things were in Washington.” Gaeton reports, “About a week after the Committee was temporarily born again [in February 1977], I received a call from Bob Tanenbaum. ‘Well,’ he sighed, ‘World War III has started in Washington. It’s Gonzalez vs. Sprague. You wouldn’t believe it. Gonzalez is taking back his stationary.’” He goes on to describe the fight between them over franking privileges. Gaeton thinks the political pressure was getting to Tanenbaum at this point. He reports, “Tannenbaum became paranoid. He took a few staff members into his confidence and distrusted everyone else.” According to Gaeton, “[w]hat drove Richard Sprague to resign as chief counsel appeared obvious. His proposed use of controversial investigative equipment, unrestricted investigation, his refusal to play politics with chairman Gonzalez….” Sprague did indicate, in retrospect after his resignation, that if he had it to do over, he would have started his investigation with an investigation of the CIA’s role. He did not indicate that Phillips or his testimony had any role in his resignation.
In the period after Sprague’s departure and before the hiring of a new chief counsel, Gaeton continued to try to conduct an investigation in Miami without much guidance from Tanenbaum or anyone else in D.C. He made his first trip to D.C. and the HSCA offices in mid-April, 1977. He reports:
“The staff was in sorry shape. Morale was horrendous. Many of the junior lawyers complained to me that Tannenbaum treated them like children. Tannenbaum complained to me that many of them were children. ‘They can’t figure out a thing for themselves,’ he moaned. The wheel-spinning had gotten to everyone. For many, the frustration peaked when Tannenbaum ordered the staff to outline the 26 volumes of Warren Commission evidence and testimony – an exercise in redundancy.
“After Sprague departed and it eventually became apparent that he wouldn’t be the new chief counsel, Tannenbaum’s attitude deteriorated. He hung on until Blakey settled in and then left Washington for private practice in California.”
In all of his writings, so far as I have been able to find, Gaeton never recorded anything that indicated that a supposed confrontation with David Phillips had anything to do with Sprague and Tanenbaum’s resignations. Given Gaeton’s tendency to tell all he safely could of what he knew, Tanenbaum apparently never told his tale to Gaeton.
When Was the Tale Told?
Tanenbaum was not inactive between Sprague’s resignation and his own. Remember, the Committee members wanted to be able to present a solid appearance of investigative progress when the issue of continuing the life of the Committee came up in April. As part of the plan to do so, Tanenbaum briefed the Committee on the staff’s best investigative leads at an executive session held on March 17, 1977. Tanenbaum briefed the HSCA on a woman who had come forward identifying herself as the Babushka lady in Dealey Plaza who was willing to testify that Jack Ruby had earlier introduced her to Oswald as being “CIA”. He reported that the investigators had developed information from a nurse at Parkland about recovery of bullet fragments from Governor Connally and the hope that they could “track down those fragments” and “conduct scientific tests on them,” including “possibly neutronic relation [sic] tests.” He proceeded to brief the members on his contacts with Willem Oltmans in regard to George De Mohrenschild. Tanenbaum then commented on “Mr. Trafficante and others of his ilk.” Most of the comments turned out to be about Jim Brady, aka Eugene Hale Braden. Tanenbaum then advised the members that the staff had “information that a person who is now a doctor, who was a resident at the time in Parkland Hospital, noticed wounds on the governor’s body that appeared to be somewhat inconsistent with the official reporting of what happened.” The staff hadn’t really heard from him, Tanenbaum hedged, but one of the doctor’s friends had come forward and told them about it. Notice there is not a word about Phillips, Mexico City or the CIA.
The March 17, 1977, executive session transcript was accidentally released to the press. A young reporter by the name of Jerry Policoff who was covering the HSCA for New Times wrote a long letter to Christopher Dodd, a member of the Committee from Connecticut, about “a section of the transcript that was largely glossed over by most of the press…. the briefing given the committee by Robert Tannenbaum [sic] regarding leads currently being pursued by the staff.” Jerry, in his own inimitable manner, gets right to the heart of the matter. “Mr. Dodd I must be frank in telling you that I was appalled to find that in his seven months with the committee Mr. Tannenbaum has apparently learned next to nothing about the case and takes seriously several leads that are dismissed as nonsense or disinformation by most if not all of the more knowledgeable critics…. If this is the material Tannenbaum feels is credible enough to present to the committee I shudder to think about what he is holding back.” Mr. Policoff then proceeds to give a fairly good summary of the already widely known credible information discrediting each of the issues raised by Tanenbaum in his briefing.
As I continued to look into this story, I wondered if maybe Tanenbaum had told others about his confrontation of David Phillips. I know from my experience that documents can go missing, even from the files of Congressional committees, once they get into the CIA’s hands. Maybe there was a missing executive session transcript out there where this integrous prosecutor confronted the steely-eyed contemptuous perjurer even though I’ve been unable to find it. Or, at least, maybe Tanenbaum told this tale before the Duquesne conference. In terms that a prosecutor would understand, such a consistent earlier telling would bolster the credibility of the testimony under question. On the other hand, finding inconsistent earlier statements discredits the testimony under question.
Like Gaeton and I, Tanenbaum testified before the Assassinations Record Review Board (ARRB) in 1996. I hoped that Tanenbaum had told his tale to the ARRB and that they had made an effort to track down the missing executive session transcript. Tanenbaum does tell the ARRB about Phillips’s executive session testimony, saying he was “stunned and disappointed” when Phillips lied. But, then instead of telling a tale like the one he told in Pittsburgh, he gives them a very tame description of Phillips’s November 27, 1976, testimony without any claim of having actually participated in the hearing. He also states that after Phillips testified “[w]e of course then came up with” a copy of the Hoover memo. But Tanenbaum doesn’t tell the ARRB anything about any dramatic confrontation with Phillips or Phillips refusing to answer and departing in contempt.
In his ARRB testimony, Tanenbaum also mentions David Phillips in connection with the budget crunch of early 1977 in the midst of his usual professions of independence, integrity and love of country. He told them:
“when it became clear that we had to recall David Phillips to the Committee, when it became clear that we had to probe into this area that burst forward like ripe peaches falling from trees, the CIA’s involvement with anti-Castro Cubans and Lee Harvey Oswald, where the Committee almost shut us down virtually. That is to say, we could no longer make long distance telephone calls. We had franking privileges removed.”
He also told them that there were “a lot of records with respect to Antonio Veciana, who had formed Alpha 66 with the help of Bishop Phillips [sic] and the whole connection of Oswald with the intelligence community. That was the prime area. Where they are today of course I have no idea.” Maybe these were the records that Gaeton says he “later learn[ed] Tannenbaum [sic] and Fenton were secreting most of my memos away in the back of their file drawers, fearful of information in them leaking out.” Most amazingly, he doesn’t tell the ARRB that there is another transcript out there somewhere where he confronted Phillips. Consequently, it appears that the ARRB never investigated the possibility of a missing transcript.
Tanenbaum testified before the ARRB on September 17, 1996. Probe Magazine published an interview with Tanenbaum in its July/August 1996 issue. In that interview, the following exchange occurred between Tanenbaum (BT) and Jim DiEugenio (JD):
“BT: …. Phillips testimony was that there was no photograph of “Oswald” because the camera equipment had broken down that day and there was no audio tape of “Oswald’s” voice because they recycled their tapes every six or seven days. The problem with his story was, we had obtained a document, it was from the desk of J. Edgar Hoover, it was dated November 23rd, 1963, the very next day after the assassination. This document was a memo to all FBI supervisorial staff stating, in substance, that FBI agents who have questioned Oswald for the past 17 hours approximately, have listened to the tape made on October 1st, by an individual identifying himself as Lee Henry Oswald inside the Russian Embassy, calling on the phone to someone inside the Cuban Embassy and the agents can state unequivocally that the voice on the tape is not the voice of Lee Harvey Oswald, who is in custody.
“JD: Did you have this document while you were questioning Phillips?
“BT: No. It was a whole separate sequence of events that occurred. But, I wanted to get him back before the Committee so we could confront him with this evidence, because we were in a position to demonstrate that that whole aspect of the Warren Report, and what he had testified to, was untrue. And of course, the Committee was not interested in doing that.”
At this point, I think it’s safe to say that the prosecutor’s tale has been discredited beyond belief by his own prior statements as well as the transcript of Phillips’s actual November 1976 testimony. We can also safely conclude that a transcript of the hearing Robert Tanenbaum fantasized about in his Pittsburgh presentation will never be found, unless, maybe, it is in one of his best-selling novels. If you are inclined to look for it, you might want to start with the novels published between 1996 and 2008, as it appears Tanenbaum changed his story about Phillips sometime after his 1996 interviews. I’m not about to spend the time necessary to read those novels to see if I can find it.
Why would a man who professes to possess such high levels of integrity and honesty so inflate this story? I’m afraid I can’t answer that. You would have to ask him and, so far as I know, no one has done so yet. An even more cogent question is why does Tanenbaum work so hard, and so deceptively, to make it look like this imagined confrontation with Phillips was the reason the HSCA imploded five months later causing Sprague, and ultimately himself, to resign? Is there, maybe, some salve there for an old guilt felt from abandoning ship when the ship got into waters over his head? Maybe it’s easier to live with yourself if you can convince yourself you didn’t abandon the task but were rather run off for being just to dad-blamed honest and virtuous.
It’s been almost three years since I first heard the prosecutor’s tale at Duquesne. In that time, I’ve thought about it quite a bit. At first, I thought that, maybe, Tanenbaum was talking about a deposition. But I couldn’t find a deposition transcript and, re-listening to his tale, its clear that he’s talking about an executive session of the Committee. I thought, maybe, I’d just missed seeing a transcript – that Phillips had been called before the HSCA more than once in 1976. But my searching has not found a transcript and has pretty conclusively shown, at least to my satisfaction, that the prosecutor’s tale is fabricated from whole cloth. I could not let the issue rest, even when I’d set it down and try to walk away from it, because this area – David Phillips and the disinformation campaign he ran until he died – is too important to the JFK case to leave the possibilities unexplored. It is also too important to let more and more misleading, obfuscating, and untrue propaganda about it to go unrefuted.
I have published this reluctantly. I am not a master researcher in the extant public JFK materials, although I like to tell myself I’m getting better at it. I may be wrong about both the Hoover Memorandum and the prosecutor’s dramatic confrontation with the spymaster in an executive session of the HSCA. Maybe there is another November 23, 1963, memo from the Director to “All Supervisory Agents.” Maybe there is an executive session transcript of Tanenbaum confronting Phillips. Either way, it’s time for the prosecutor to produce the transcript of the hearing and the Hoover Memorandum or explain what has happened to them. If he can’t, then he should take the opportunity that he says he wanted to offer Phillips: He should come back before the body politic before whom he has testified and purge himself of falsehoods.
. Robert Tannenbaum, An Analysis of Government Misconduct: The House Select Committee on Assassinations, presented at Duquesne University’s Wecht Institute’s Passing the Torch conference, 10/18/2013, (hereinafter “Analysis”) beginning at time marker 26:35.
. RIF 104-10400-10027, Letter to Rowley, 11/22/63. In his tale, Tanenbaum describes the memo as being from the Director of the FBI to “all Supervisory Agents” on November 23, 1963. I have not been able to find such a document. This cited document to Rowley is, I believe, the document to which Tanenbaum refers.
. Tanenbaum, Analysis, time marker 28:11 to 28:42.
. Id. at 30:51-33:07. You really have to see the performance, and the demeanor evidence, to really appreciate it. You may view it at http://www.c-span.org/video/?315655-3/kennedy-assassination-conspiracy-theories-robert-tanenbaum-james-lesar. Note, however, that my time references in this article are taken from a copy of the video downloaded from the Wecht Institute and the CSPAN video includes several minutes of introduction so the time references run approximately 45 seconds behind the times I have used. This quote, for example starts at approximately time mark 31:34 on the CSPAN copy.
. Tanenbaum, Analysis, time marker 33:46 – 34:12.
. Id. beginning at 35:55. Tanenbaum notes, in an aside, that the only person he knows of in modern history who was ever referred for prosecution for perjury (lying to Congress) was Roger Clemens. An interesting side question would be how he has managed to never have heard of Richard Helms’s badge of honor.
. Id. at 41:46.
. Id. at 44:00 – 44:13.
. Id. at 46:30. Tanenbaum doesn’t interrupt his narrative flow to tell us here that he did agree to stay on until a new Chief Counsel was chosen. I have tried to find a transcript of the HSCA meeting Tanenbaum says Chairman Stokes called at Tanenbaum’s request where he told them what he thought of them before they asked him to stay on as head of the Kennedy staff anyway, but, so far have been unable to find a transcript of such a meeting.
. Id. at 47:56 – 48:50
. Robert Tanenbaum, Black Op Radio #731a, May 14, 2105 at approximately time marker 49:15.
. Id. at time marker 57:30; Tanenbaum, Analysis, time marker 25:20
. RIF 180-10110-10016, HSCA Hearing Transcript, 04/25/1978, at p. 5.
. Memorandum titled David Atlee Phillips, 08/24/1978, copies available from author. This document, which I wrote, has not, to my knowledge, been located at NARA or otherwise released in response to the JFK Act. The copy I now have is redacted and was recently supplied to me by a researcher working in the JFK research community. I do not know the provenance of the document but I do recognize it as a poor copy of the document I wrote. The notes and materials collected in preparation for, and used in the interview, have not been found to date.
. RIF 180-10131-10328, HSCA Hearing Transcript, 11/27/1976
. Id. at p. 4.
. Id at p. 75 [p. 71 of Transcript]; RIF 1993.06.16.16:38:42:060000, Classified Message MEXI 6453, 10/10/1963.
. RIF 180-10131-10328, at p. 90 [p. 87 of Transcript]; RIF 104-10015-10051, Memorandum from Win Scott to Ambassador, 10/16/1963.
. RIF 180-10131-10328, at p. 90 [p. 87 of Transcript]; RIF 1993.08.12.17:31:16:400030, Classified Message DIR 74830, 10/11/1963.
. RIF 180-10131-10328, at p. 20 [p. 17 of Transcript].
. RIF 180-10131-10328, at pp. 21-26 [pp. 18-23 of Transcript].
. I have to note two things here about the memorandum upon which Tanenbaum says he was going to base his novelistic prosecution of Phillips. First, the actual document doesn’t come anywhere near to saying what Tanenbaum said it did in Pittsburgh. The existence of a tape of Oswald’s call is a hotly contested issue in JFK research and is beyond the scope of this article. But regardless of whether such a tape existed at the time of the assassination, the actual memo Tanenbaum talks about does not say, necessarily, that it was purported to be Oswald on the tape. The subject of the statement was the man in the photograph that was sent from Mexico City to Dallas on November 23rd. In that context, the statement “have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice” could be a reference to a recording of the voice of the person in the photograph who was not Oswald. In that case, Phillips’s testimony that all the recordings of Oswald had been erased and reused could not be shown to be false simply by this ambiguous double hearsay statement. If they photographed the wrong man, even if there was a tape, the tape may have been of the wrong man as well. As such, the memo provided a very thin reed upon which to bring a perjury charge. And I have to add a personal note here. I interviewed Phillips. I watched him testify to the Committee. He was smart, very smart. Gaeton Fonzi and I confronted him with questions that seriously agitated and disturbed him. I don’t think that being confronted with the Hoover memo would have disturbed him much. And he would never have done something as stupid as walking out on a Congressional committee hearing where he was appearing after having received a subpoena. This is not to say that David Atlee Phillips did not lie to Congress. He did. He lied about the existence of a tape and many other things. But that, too, is another story.
. Id. at pp. 136-138 [pp. 133-135 of Transcript].
. RIF 1993.08.03.19:34:54:090059, Ron Kessler, CIA Withheld Details on Oswald Call, Washington Post, p. 1, 11/26/1976. The November 27, 1976, HSCA questioning of Phillips focused on the discrepancies between his sworn testimony and the statements he had made just the day before to Kessler. Phillips was questioned hard about his motivations for making statements to the press the day before he testified that were not consistent with the testimony he offered to the Committee. In response he referred to his soon to be published book. Sprague returned to that at the end of the hearing, asking him to comment on the advantage gained by him in making the comments to the media. Phillips acknowledged that, “[h]aving sold this book, I obviously want it to be successful, one reason being that I have five more kids to send through college. So there is no question I am looking for an opportunity to get publicity, which will help with the book.” But, he went on to explain that the publicity had been unwelcome and disturbing to him and his family because an inference could be based upon it that he “might have played a role in a coverup of the murder of one of my Presidents….”
. RIF 1993.07.22.16:06:24:960340, Memorandum for the Record, 11/26/1976.
. RIF 104-10147-10059, Memorandum for DDCI, 21/01/1976.
. See, e.g. Dan Hardway & Edwin Lopez, The HSCA and the CIA: The View from the Trenches, AARC Conference, September 2014, available at http://2017jfk.org/watch/; Declaration of Dan Hardway, Morley v. CIA, Civil Action No. 03-02545, (D.C. Cir. 2016) available at https://aarclibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Doc.-156-1.-Dan-L.-Hardway-Declaration.pdf.
. See, for example, RIF 1993.08.04.16:33:35:430058, Memorandum for the Record, 11/10/76.
. Id. Emphasis added.
. RIF 104-10322-10262, Memorandum for the Record, 10/08/1976.
. See, for example, RIF 1993.08.05.11:02:36:46004, Memorandum for Coordination and Review Staff from Inspector General, 02/14/1977.
. RIF 1993.08.04.16:05:05:280005, HSCA Security Procedures and Clearances, 19 Oct 76 – 26 Dec 78, at p. 245.
. There was, evidently, a misunderstanding between Sprague and the then Chairman of the Committee, Henry Gonzalez, about what the HSCA’s budget would be while it awaited reauthorization with the consequence that the amount was overestimated and more staff than could be paid for was hired beginning January 1, 1977. See, e.g., Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York 1993) at p. 181.
. Congressional Quarterly Almanac, Assassinations Committee, 1977, available at https://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal77-1203687.
. RIF 180-10141-10123, HSCA/CIA Memorandum of Understanding, 08/29/1977.
. RIF 104-10404-10057, Gaeton Fonzi, Who Killed JFK, The Washingtonian, November 1980, at pp. 40 – 43.
. Id. at p. 41
. Id. at p. 44.
. Id. at pp. 45– 46.
. RIF 180-10110-10239, HSCA Executive Session, 03/17/1977, at p. 95. [p.100 of Transcript].
. Id. at p.97 [p.102 of Transcript].
. Id. at p. 98 [p. 103 of Transcript].
. Id. at p. 99 [p. 104 of Transcript].
. Id. at p. 101 [p. 106 of Transcript].
. RIF 180-10084-10418, Letter to Chris Dodd from Jerry Policoff, 04/17/1977.
. ARRB, Testimony of Robert Tannenbaum, Los Angeles, California, 09/17/1996.. Id.
. Fonzi, Who Killed JFK, at 45.
. Probe, The Probe Interview: Bob Tanenbaum, (Vol. 3, No. 5, 1996), available at http://www.ctka.net/pr796-bti.html.
. The earliest version of the prosecutor’s tale that I’ve been able to find appears in David Talbot’s 2008 book, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years (Free Press) at pp. 382-385. Talbot’s retelling was, apparently, based on his interview of Tanenbaum sometime prior to the book’s publication. See page 382 note at page 444. Talbot repeats Tanenbaum’s story without questioning or substantiating any of the details. He dryly notes: “It was a dramatic confrontation.” Talbot concluded, as have many others who have heard the prosecutor weave his dramatic tale, “It was a taste of what might have been, if key suspects in the JFK assassination had been thoroughly subjected to this type of skilled prosecutorial scrutiny.” Were that the truth was equal to the reputation created.
. When Jim DiEugenio interviewed Tanenbaum on Len Osanic’s Black Op Radio on May 14, 2015, he evidently forgot his earlier interview for Probe magazine. They discuss the confrontation with the Hoover Memorandum beginning at around the 1:03:50 mark but never raise the prosecutor’s prior inconsistent statement.
Monday, October 3, 2016
When Simple Honesty Was Called Courage
James H. Billington, a cultural historian and author, in 1966, of The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretive History of Russian Culture, commenting on the cultural thaw under Khrushchev, after the long tyranny of Stalin, noted the opening of the Soviets to Western technologies, but observed, “The scientific and technological emphases that the Soviet leaders have built into their educational system and cultural exchange proposals have led some Western observers to fear for a ‘new illiteracy,’ whereby people are successfully taught to read and even to perform difficult technical tasks without ever learning to think critically.”
He also notes that marriage was a part of the renewed interest in Orthodox Christianity at the time; a sign he found to be a signifier of hope of renewal in the then culturally stagnant USSR. “The growing appeal of church marriages has forced the regime to set up its own grotesque ‘marriage palaces’ designed to provide all the material accouterments of a church (music, flowers, and solemn decor) for the approved civil ceremonies of the atheistic state.”
Earlier this year, Vladimir Putin, the current president of Russia, noted that “Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values. Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.” The current Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill (Cyril), has said, “The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character. We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God. We want to shout to the whole world, ‘Stop!’”. My how things can change in 70 years (a biblical evil generation). Today, our country is the one where just being honest takes courage because of the dominance of a political ideology. Our country is the one where we have taught anything and everything in the educational system except how to think critically. It is here that marriage will soon be purely a state institution as the church is forced to elect between its faith and participation in the state’s system.
In the 1950’s Paul M. Linebarger wrote a textbook for use in training the next generation of American propagandists (i.e., intelligence officers engaged in propaganda operations or “psychological warfare – yes, Virginia, in America). In that text, he noted the difference between opinion and ideology. Differences of opinion can exist so long as there is agreement on basic shared values. Problems arise when difference of opinion become calcified in ideology. As he describes, “If our difference of opinion is so inclusive that we can agree on nothing political, our differences have gone from mere opinion into the depths of ideology. Here the institutional framework is affected….Freedom cannot be accorded to persons outside the ideological pale. If an antagonist is not going to respect your freedom of speech, your property, and your personal safety, then you are not obliged to respect his….” When one ideology comes to control the mechanisms of power, the speech, property, etc., of those who disagree are oppressed. In this country, the statists have arrived at that position of cultural and political dominance, whether they be left or right. On both sides, they want to deny freedom to the other. Currently the left statists appear to be in control and their positivist, materialist, atheistic position is to be imposed on all regardless of personal opinion. (By this criticism I in no way mean to imply that a right-statist system would be better. It would not be.) As in the Soviet Union of the mid-Twentieth Century, conformity is exacted by a system of rewards and punishments.
Linebarger also lays out the fundamental mechanism of enforcement to be used by a newly established ideology, a mechanism that has been ruthlessly implemented here, but modeled on Muslim and Communist tested practice: “If immediate wholesale conversion would require military operations that were too extensive or severe, the same result can be effected by toleration of the objectionable faith, combined with the issuance of genuine privileges to the new preferred faith. The conquered people are left in the private, humble enjoyment of their old beliefs and folkways; but all participation in public life, whether political, cultural or economic, is conditioned on acceptance of the new faith. In this manner, all uprising members of the society will move in a few generations over to the new faith in the process of becoming rich, powerful, or learned; what is left of the old faith will be a gutter superstition, possessing neither power nor majesty….If Christians, or democrats, or progressives – whatever free men may be called – are put in a position of underprivilege and shame for their beliefs, and if the door is left open to voluntary conversion, so that anyone who wants to can come over to the winning side, the winning side will sooner or later convert almost everyone who is capable of making trouble.” As part of this process, Lineberger notes that in this situation, “Education and propaganda merge into everlasting indoctrination.” Note Lineberger’s method is designed to reduce “free men” “whatever [they] may be called” to underprivilege and shame for their beliefs. Welcome to modern America, the land of the indoctrinated and home of the happy consumer, as designed by your friendly, trained, educators, media commentators, and trained and equipped propaganda artists.
I started this with an observation from a Soviet poet of the upsidedown times in which he found himself, a time like unto ours here in 2015 America. So, it is only appropriate to end this with another quote, this time from a Soviet novelist, Vladimir Dudintsev, who saw that renewal was possible, even in the pall of post-Stalinist Russia: “Once a man has started to think, he cannot be denied his freedom.”
Thursday, April 20, 2017
A PROFESSIONAL CONSPIRATOR: Questions About Antonio Veciana and His Book: Trained To Kill
By Dan L. Hardway © 2016
It appears to me that Antonio Veciana has, once again, been less than forthcoming in connection with the Kennedy assassination. I will try to explain why but, first, I want to note that in 1978 I believed Veciana’s story based entirely on Gaeton Fonzi’s representation of the story and his work confirming many of the details. My crediting his story about Phillips and Oswald was based on the credibility of the rest of his story as established by Gaeton. I heard Veciana speak in Bethesda and also got to spend some time with him and Eddy Lopez outside of the conference. I still found Veciana to be essentially credible. So, I picked up the book with great anticipation to learn more about what he knows. I was disappointed.
I was very impressed with some of the careful recalling and recording of detail in the book about some of Veciana’s activities. The detail adds to Veciana’s general credibility. That holds true through the first six chapters, and, in part, the last three. Some of those details give possible further confirmation of an association with Phillips. In particular, in this regard, I note the tradecraft instructions at the end of Chapter 4 and his instruction on propaganda at the beginning of Chapter 5. Some of it could have come out of Psychological Warfare, the book written by Paul Linebarger whom we know provided training to CIA officers, very likely including Phillips. The details about how Phillips trained him, however, would have carried more weight with me had they come earlier in time. The late aspect, though, does not cause me to discredit them because, having met Phillips and studied his career, what Veciana says about this rings very true and comports with what I know of Phillips whom I investigated and interviewed repeatedly in 1978. So I do credit it as further proof of his association with Phillips.
As I mentioned, I was impressed in many places in the book with the wealth of recalled and reported detail that Veciana provides about his activities. This experience of that openness made Chapter 7 even more of a disappointment to me. The story of Phillips and Oswald meeting in Dallas has almost no detail. The only detail provided is from the story that Wynne Johnson recently came forward with. There is more detail in that reportage than there is in Veciana’s own recollections.
Up through the end of Chapter 6, Veciana reports operations undertaken in detail with names, places, plans, etc. But that changes in Chapter 7. That chapter starts with the founding of Alpha 66 after Veciana’s flight to Miami. His accounting of Phillips’s motivation for Alpha 66 rings true and credible with what I know. I like the observation that DRE had the earmarks of a Phillips operation and the frank admission that he did not know whether Phillips worked with them. When we get to the Phillips and Oswald in Dallas story, though, things get vague, very vague. For example, he never tells us why Phillips sent for him to come to Dallas in September of 1963. I would find it very hard to believe that he does not remember what that meeting was about. I would think it would be seared into his memory because of who he met and the events occurring just two months after the meeting. So, why didn’t he tell us in the book what the meeting was about.
Veciana reports that Phillips ditched Oswald so he and Veciana could talk in a coffee shop. I am sure Phillips didn’t call Veciana to Dallas because he missed him and wanted to know how his kids were doing. What did they discuss in that coffee shop? Why does Veciana not tell us what the assignment or operation was that Phillips had to see him about? And within a couple of paragraphs, Veciana can say that he didn’t remember Wynne Johnson at all and his girlfriend only vaguely but he was absolutely certain of Oswald because Bishop had taught him to notice and remember faces. I am sure that he also taught him about situational awareness and the need to be very careful about chance encounters with strangers in the vicinity of meetings with agents – indeed his descriptions of his training and activities in Cuba would indicate he was well aware of that. How could he forget such an encounter with Wynne and his girlfriend?
Veciana, in the first and last parts of his book, stresses the importance placed on tradecraft by Phillips. This, too, comports with what is known about Phillips from other credible sources. Indeed, in describing the Castro assassination attempt Veciana describes how irate Phillips was over a slip in tradecraft when Veciana used Cuban idiom while meeting another agent in Santiago. But in Dallas, Phillips evidently allowed two assets being utilized in unrelated operations meet each other? That is totally out of character with what is known of Phillips and what Veciana testifies to in every other place in his book. You would think, given his training and how well he says he learned it, that Veciana would have been upset by Phillips exposing their association to someone that Veciana didn’t know. This is, at best, an anomaly in Veciana’s story. (I am, of course, assuming the “unrelated operation.” If it was, perchance, that it was only one operation, the anomaly would not be so great.) He makes no attempt to address the problem although he should. Many, unfortunately, will see this point alone as being enough to discredit the story. I do not, however, think that it totally discredits the story. To me it is more likely an indication that Veciana is still not telling the whole story. If Phillips was using Oswald and Veciana in the same, or related, operations then the meeting in Dallas may not have been a serious tradecraft failure. But if it was not a tradecraft violation, then what were the operations?
Although he doesn’t raise the possibility at all in his book, Veciana was pretty adamant when he spoke in Bethesda in 2014 about believing that Phillips was meeting with Oswald to send him to Mexico City. (See, https://aarclibrary.org/antonio-veciana-admissions-and-revelations/) I believe that is probably true. And I have to wonder if there wasn’t a role in that Mexico City work for Mr. Veciana?
This suspicion is further reinforced by Veciana’s story about meeting Phillips again after the assassination and discussing a possible effort to bribe Veciana’s cousin, Guillermo Ruiz, who worked for the DGI in Mexico City. According to Veciana’s story, Phillips approached him in early 1964 asking him to bribe his cousin to say that Cuba was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Later, Phillips was very jumpy about having asked him to do that and told him to forget that it had happened. More work needs to be done on Ruiz’s relationship with the CIA.
There are a few problems with Veciana’s story about this meeting with Phillips. We know the CIA station in Mexico City had an interest in Ruiz and considered recruiting him, but the records were hard to pry out of the CIA back in ‘78. I haven’t reviewed what has been released since then. All the indications from the research I did back then was that much of the propaganda trying to tie Oswald to Cuba was laid on in advance of the assassination so that it was ready for publication immediately after the assassination in what may have been an attempt to rapidly force events. I tied most of the sources of this first wave of propaganda back to people with prior, or then extent, associations with Phillips – most of them as witting assets or agents. Gilberto Alvarado may have been part of that early effort to push the Cuba did it line. After that, those that held the power, rapidly backed off from the brink of war that they perceived in this stratagem. While Phillips pushed the line, so far as I can tell, to the end of his days, he didn’t try to generate more new sources that I remember finding after Alvarado. (I reserve the right to revise this observation if I can find time to look more closely into the Durans, Elena Garro de Paz, and some of the other aspects of what was going on in Mexico City in 1963.)
But if the Phillips led effort to generate anti-Castro propaganda after the assassination ended with the Alvarado debacle, it makes Veciana’s placing the approach about Ruiz in early 1964 somewhat implausible to me, especially in light of what he reports about Phillips reaction when Veciana brought the matter up again. If, however, the solicitation to bribe Ruiz occurred before the assassination and the reaction after, then Phillips’s reported reaction makes a lot more sense. Veciana changing the date of the plan to use him to solicit Ruiz also could explain most of the anomalies of his lack of detailed memory about the Dallas meeting. But if that is the case, then being fully forthcoming would possibly require Veciana to admit to having a reason to believe that an action was being mounted against Kennedy in advance of the assassination.
While it is possible, perhaps even likely, that Phillips could have been running an operation involving both Oswald and Veciana that did not disclose the assassination to either of them in advance, the possible inference remains that they both were witting of the objective. Given Phillips’s reputation for tradecraft, I think a more likely scenario would have been an approach to Ruiz in advance by Veciana to see if he could be recruited or subverted without Veciana knowing the ultimate use in connection with post-assassination propaganda. Similarly, it is quite easy to see how Oswald could be used in a dangle in Mexico City without being witting about any possible involvement in the assassination. Indeed, I can see a remote possibility that even Phillips could have been running a dangle and an attempted recruitment without knowing that in a couple months his danglee would be an accused assassin.
In Veciana’s presentation at Bethesda he says the Dallas encounter happened because he had arrived 15 minutes early at the location. Nothing is mentioned about this in the book. Again, given what he says about Phillips dressing him down severely when he made tradecraft mistakes, how does this violation of tradecraft go uncommented upon if it happened that way?
In Bethesda, Veciana went on to say: “Bishop confirmed to me in a conversation that Oswald had traveled to Mexico on Bishop’s orders. Bishop tricked Oswald into taking that trip to secure a visa from the Cuban Consulate though Bishop knew the authorities there would never grant Oswald such a visa. The reason for this trip was to create a trail that would link Oswald to Fidel Castro and help focus the blame of the planned assassination of President Kennedy on Castro.” That explosive revelation is not repeated in the book in spite of it being in his prepared statement at Bethesda. Why has he backed off of this assertion? Indeed, in the book he contradicts this and asserts that he never discussed with Phillips having seen him with Oswald except for the two subsequent Ruiz conversations. I regret that when I met with him in Bethesda, I did not ask him when this confirmatory conversation took place.
Jim DiEugenio, however, did ask Veciana when this conversation occurred in the question and answer period after Veciana’s presentation. It was the first question posed to Mr. Veciana. Mr. Veciana provides a long, fairly rambling answer lasting over ten minutes. In that answer he states that Phillips had asked him at some point before the assassination, but shortly after Castro made the statement about assassination at the Brazilian Embassy, whether someone traveling to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City could receive a visa to travel to Cuba the same day. What he actually says, through the translator, is: “This is the key moment here. Prior to the assassination Phillips asks Mr. Veciana directly, and this is post Fidel Castro’s statement at the Brazilian Embassy, if one were to go to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico, would one be able to get a visa to travel to Mexico [sic] to which the response was absolutely not.” Veciana explained that he was so sure of his answer because he had personal experience in needing a visa and had known a woman who had tried to do that and was told that it would take a minimum of four to six weeks for a visa to be issued after an application. Veciana explains that Phillips, having obtained this information from him, was able to use that knowledge to be able to use the visa application as a pretext for getting Oswald to travel to Cuba. Veciana thinks that Phillips having told Oswald that he could get an instantaneous visa was why Oswald become so upset in the Cuban Consulate when he was unable to obtain a visa.
Veciana goes on to state that the conversation where Phillips asks about trying to bribe Guillermo Ruiz happened “immediately after the assassination.” In the book, he places this conversation in Miami a few weeks after the assassination. In Bethesda, Veciana says that he tried to contact his nephew at Phillips’s request, but “by that time” Ruiz had been transferred back to Cuba and Veciana could not get into contact with him
Mr. Veciana wraps up his answer by telling Mr. DiEugenio that he hopes he has answered his question. But he didn’t. He never explicitly states when a conversation occurred in which Phillips “confirmed to me in a conversation that Oswald had traveled to Mexico on Bishop’s order….” One conversation – one that is not reported in the book – is stated to have occurred prior to the assassination but after Castro’s outburst at the Brazilian Embassy. A second conversation is described as having occurred immediately after the assassination. Veciana, at least as translated that day, does not indicate at which of these two conversations Phillips confirmed that Oswald was traveling under his orders. One possible inference from the description of the first meeting in the overall context of Veciana’s statement is that this is not something Phillips actually told him, but an inference he is drawing from both conversations. This, also, is not clearly stated and the more direct statement in Veciana’s written statement is not withdrawn.
But there is another problem presented here as well. Veciana has been vague on when the meeting in Dallas occurred. He has, fairly consistently, said that it was in late August or early September, 1963. In the book, Veciana reports that Wynne Johnson believes the meeting occurred on September 7, 1963. Wynne is said to be pretty sure it was a weekend, probably a Saturday. Veciana adds that Wynne’s dating matches his recollection of the meeting being near the end of a week in either late August or early September. But Castro’s statement to David Harker at the Brazilian Embassy about the safety of U.S. leaders were not themselves safe if they were plotting against Cuban leaders was made on September 7, 1963. So, if the meeting in Dallas with Oswald occurred on that same day, the question arises as to whether the question from Phillips about visa availability was asked at the meeting in the coffee house? Or was there another meeting between Phillips and Veciana after Dallas but before Oswald obtained his visa to visit Mexico City ten days later in New Orleans where this question was asked? And why would David Phillips have to ask Veciana about visa procedures at the Cuban Embassy? Is it possible that Phillips had Veciana in Dallas to promise Oswald that the fix was in with his cousin at the Cuban Consulate to get Oswald a visa?
Someone needs to ask Veciana these questions while he is still with us. I regret that I did not do so when I met him in Bethesda, but, as I said, it is the detail in the book about the other operations he was involved in that raised these questions in my mind. Now that he has come forward on some of what he knows, he can supply the rest if he is willing. At least tell us what his meeting in Dallas with Phillips in September 1963 was about. What operations were you working on then for Mr. Phillips? Who were your associates? What about the Dallas Alpha 66 group? Did Phillips confirm that he’d sent Oswald to Mexico City to lay the trail to Castro? When did that conversation occur? If he didn’t, why did you lie about it in Bethesda?
And, finally, Mr. Veciana holds a very unique status as being one of very, very few people officially listed as both an agent of CIA and military intelligence. How did he come about having that unique status? What work was he doing in 1963 for U.S. military intelligence? What activities did he undertake for them? Who were his contacts and case officers? Why doesn’t he say anything about this in his book?
Bottom line: While I don’t find that these problems totally discredit the basic story he tells about the Phillips/Oswald meeting, they do raise questions about his credibility. Those questions, in my opinion, however, are more about whether he still knows more than he is telling than about whether he is telling the truth at all.
Monday, October 30, 2017
WHAT WERE THEY HIDING AND WHAT SHOULD WE LOOK FOR? — (Revised October 30, 2017)
By Dan L. Hardway © October 26, 2017
(Revised October 30, 2017)
As we go into the hysteria of a massive JFK document dump, there is one remarkably surviving document that has already been released that we should keep in mind – especially when reading news coverage of the documents scheduled for release under the JFK Records Collection Act.
The Plan for Countering Criticism
On April 1, 1967, the Head of the Covert Action Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sent a dispatch to many of the CIA stations and bases around the world.i That the document survived may be remarkable as it is clearly marked as “Destroy when no longer needed.” Or, then again, maybe it is not remarkable that it has not been destroyed because the government and intelligence community’s efforts to silence those who question the official story about John Kennedy’s murder has never succeeded and, hence, the dispatch remains ‘needed’ from their viewpoint.
The dispatch lays out a plan for defending the lone nut theory first advanced as the major theme of the government cover-up of the assassination investigation. The dispatch labels people who question the lone nut theory as “conspiracy theorists”. It plainly states the purpose of the dispatch “is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists…. Our play should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (i) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (ii) politically interested, (iii) financially interested, (iv) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (v) infatuated with their own theories.” It goes on to suggest that critics be countered by advancing arguments such as that they have produced no new evidence, that they overvalue some evidence while ignoring other evidence, that large scale conspiracies are “impossible to conceal in the United States,” that Oswald would not have been any “sensible person’s choice for a co-conspirator”, and by pointing out the comprehensive work of the Warren Commission which was composed of men “chosen for their integrity, experience, and prominence.”
The Plan in Hindsight
Many of the claims in the dispatch are ludicrous in hindsight, but are still parroted by main stream media sources. We’ve seen them trotted out by lone nut theory defenders every time there has been a major breakthrough in the assassination investigation. As I’ll discuss below, we are already seeing some of these “plays” (as the dispatch calls them) already before the JFK document release and I suspect we’ll see a lot more of them in the coming days. Let’s start by looking at the possible validity of the plays.
At this point in time, fifty-four years after the assassination and fifty-three years after the publication of the Warren Report, there are researchers, analysts, historians, attorneys and many others who have been researching this case for most of that time. Many of them do not advance “theories” about what happened, but rather try to find and analyze the facts that have been hidden for so long and ask questions about what they mean. Let’s be clear here; current researchers, analysts, historians and others (hereinafter, researchers) are not wedded to theories that were adopted before the evidence was in. But, let’s step back for a moment and examine prior government investigations. The cover-up of the assassination began on Air Force One as it flew back to D.C. from Dallas. The seeds are there in the released transcripts of Lyndon Johnson’s telephone calls. If the standard is waiting to see all the evidence, then the Warren Commission, the first government investigatory effort, is totally discredited. Researchers have proved beyond any reasonable argument or doubt that not only did the Warren Commission not have all the evidence in before issuing their report, the very investigating agencies upon whom they relied actively conspired to keep evidence from them – just as they have, and still do, actively conspired to keep the evidence from the American people. Lone nut theorists appear to be the ones wedded to the theory adopted before the evidence is in and doing all they can to spin the evidence as it comes out to try to shore up support for their theories.
Now, let’s look at the political interest and financial interest argument relied upon by the CIA to counter so-called ‘conspiracy theorists’. Arguing that the Warren Commission members, its supporters since, and those covering up the evidence and resisting release of documentation, were not politically or financially interested in the cover-up should be accepted as facially absurd at this point. Even in 1967, the CIA dispatch openly admits to such interest, pointing out that opinion polls showing that more than half of the public was questioning the Warren Commission’s lone nut theory reflects a “trend of opinion [that] is a matter of concern to the U.S. Government, including our organization.” Questioning the rectitude and wisdom of the members of the Warren Commission would “tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society.” An “increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited”ii could implicate him. Such concerns “affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government.”iii
The Chief of Covert Action then acknowledges the Agency’s own interest: “Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation.” Indeed, they also covered-up information, as they have now admitted.iv The Agency’s concern, one that continues to this day, is plainly stated: the conspiracy theories expose them to “suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us.” The CIA’s main personal, if you will, stake in covering up and countering criticism has always been to deflect any possible focus on their relationship to the purported lone-nut assassin.
Next, let’s review the hasty and inaccurate in their research argument. How many documents are about to be released that have never been seen? And who is it that is sure of their theory? What can we say now about critics who for over fifty years have called for the release of all the information so that the American people can see and judge for themselves?
Arguing that there is no new evidence is like standing in front of a camel and insisting it is a horse. New evidence has dribbled out now over the decades, in small manageable doses that can be dismissed as disconnected by the lone-nut theorists. And the blatant hubris of the argument is astounding. These are people who can suppress the evidence and taunt you because you don’t have it! It’s like prosecuting attorneys in criminal cases who refuse to reveal exculpatory evidence while simultaneously shifting the burden of proof to the accused. And as for the weighing all the evidence argument, how do you expect that to go if you control the evidence and only let the evidence out that supports your theory? Convenient. And if someone else does come up with a fact that contradicts your lone-nut theory, you can always deny it even though you know your suppressed evidence supports it. Given those facts, can anyone question why there has been such resistance by the Agency to full disclosure.
Then, there is the conspiracy theories can’t be hidden in America argument: Can anyone credibly make that argument after the history the last four decades? That’s why J. Edgar Hoover was able to do all that he did to undermine American civil liberties for fifty years without exposure that wouldn’t have even come then had there not been a break-in at a small FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.v MKULTRA wasn’t as successful. It was only covered up for 25 years or so, as was the CIA programs to save and use ex-Nazi scientists and intelligence officers after the Second World War. Actually, all that needs to be said in rebuttal is that for 50 years the CIA and our government vehemently denied that there was a conspiracy to keep information from the Warren Commission. It is a prime tenet and support of the lone-nut theorists. In spite of the denials, finally, three years ago, the Agency in their internal secret magazine, in an article written by their official historian, admitted there was such a conspiracy, although they called it benignvi. We’ll return to this in a bit.
Next, we have a point we will concede: Oswald as a co-conspirator. We agree that Oswald was not the person that a rational leader might choose as a co-conspirator. But, is he one that a rational person might choose as a patsy? — an entirely different question. Remember, that being a patsy was Oswald’s claim in one of the few brief encounters he had with the press. That claim would have been, presumably, a major theme developed by competent defense lawyers had he lived long enough to be tried. But the lone-nut theorists dismiss that possibility out of hand. Nothing to see here, folks, just move on. There was no investigation of this in the hasty Warren Commission investigation that led to the establishment of the lone-nut theory.
As far as the Warren Commission membership goes, we will concede their then-prominence, but we must wonder, in light of the evidence that has become available since, about their integrity and experience as support for the integrity of their work. Allen Dulles was the head of the CIA fired by President Kennedy. His collusion with the CIA in the pendency of the Warren Commission is shown in documents that have been released in the last few years. He passed out a book to Commission members at their first meeting taking the position that American assassins are always lone-nuts. Earl Warren was coerced into serving against his will by Lyndon Johnson. Johnson used the supposed threat of nuclear war in convincing him to serve. Gerald Ford was in J. Edgar Hoover’s pocket. John J. McCloy was steeped in the intelligence community and was almost single handedly responsible for the end of prosecution of Nazi war criminals and the early release of those who had already been convicted when he became the High Commissioner for post-war Germany. Richard Russell, Jr., and Hale Boggs both privately rejected the Warren Commission’s lone nut theory, as did Lyndon Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and many, many others. But the conspiracy of silence took years to break, and when broken, the revelations came out piecemeal and were dismissed at the time as insignificant, old news – just conspiracy theorists.
Let’s not forget that the label, “conspiracy theorist”, is designed to be pejorative. If you can stick it to someone, then you don’t have to listen to what they say. Even if they are reporting new evidence, they’re just wacky conspiracy theorists. Just like those nuts who for years said J. Edgar Hoover was running a program to subvert dissidents illegally, or that the CIA was illegally surveilling U.S. citizens, or that the CIA had covered up information to keep it from other government entities that were investigating the Kennedy murder, right? Even if the person only reported facts and asked questions, they were (and are) labeled a “conspiracy theorist” solely for the purpose of undermining their credibility and lessening any impact they might have on public opinion. What happens when the answer to the question they raised, “is it possible there was a conspiracy?’ is, “Not only is it possible, there was indeed a conspiracy,”? At that point, the cover-up artists note that even a blind bird occasionally finds a worm. And the cover-up artists say this without shame even though they have known about the conspiracy from the get-go. The next stage is to come up with a new spin such as, the cover-up was “benign”, or shifting suspicion where they want it to go.
As noted by Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor at Florida State University, the CIA in 1967 began a campaign to “popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make a conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility.” He notes that the campaign, “must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives in all time.”vii He summarizes why the label has been used as a sword by those who resist the truth: “[T]he conspiracy-theory label, as it is applied in public discourse, does not disparage conspiratorial thinking or analysis in general, even though this is what the term suggests. Rather the broad-brush ‘conspiracy theory’ disparages inquiry and questioning that challenge official accounts of troubling political events in which public officials themselves may have had a hand. A conspiracy theory directs suspicion at officials who benefit from political crimes and tragedies. The theories are considered dangerous not because they are obviously false, but because, viewed objectively and without deference to U.S. political officials and institutions, they are often quite plausible.”viii
The Plan in Action?
So, the first thing to remember going into these days of disclosure is to stop when you see the label and ask, “Why is the writer of this story disparaging this idea? Who is he trying to deflect suspicion from? Why is he trying to direct my suspicion elsewhere? Can I reject the label and recover an objective view about what this so-called conspiracy theorist had to say?” Then, do your best to find out what the idea being attacked really is rather than just rejecting it out of hand because of the labeling. Remember, the term “conspiracy theory” gained prominence as a result of a CIA led propaganda initiative specifically addressed at protecting their own interests.
We see a blatant example of this dismissive labeling in CNN’s coverage of the upcoming document release. Jeremy Diamond writes, “A decision to withhold even a sliver of the documents could give conspiracy theorists more fodder to propel their claims.”ix So, what you are supposed to take away is that if anyone raises any questions about documents being withheld after the release date, they have to be a “conspiracy theorist” who isn’t worthy of your time or attention. Consider, what is there to hide at this point? If something is not released, why is it illegitimate to ask why, especially in view of our government’s relationship with the truth, or lack thereof, over the past six decades? What purpose is served by Mr. Diamond’s advance labeling?
The appeal to authority is also used in battling “conspiracy theories.” It is seen in the CIA dispatch’s appeal to the apparent authority of the Warren Commission created by the then-reputations of its members and the superficially extensive investigation. This technique appears again in Mr. Diamond’s article: “Historians who have closely studied the Kennedy assassination have said they do not expect the documents to … contradict the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for killing Kennedy.”x Really, what historians? Why are none named. Why does he not give any consideration to people such as Dr. David R. Wrone, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, and Dr. John Newman, an adjunct professor of history at James Madison University, whose lifetime study of the subject has led them to the conclusion that Oswald could not have been solely responsible?xi WE haven’t spoken to them but we would venture to guess that neither Dr. Wrone nor Dr. Newman expect the documents to support Mr. Diamond’s lone-nut theory.
Then we have Phil Shenon’s return to the fray in The Guardian this morning.xii Even in the title of his article, “Files will shed light on a JFK shooting conspiracy – but not the one you think”, Mr. Shenon starts to try to divert attention in the direction he wants it to go. He states plainly what he doesn’t want you to consider: first, a second assassin in Dealey Plaza even though his assertion that “most credible” evidence supports the lone-nut theory is patently not true.xiii
Second, about a mafia plot to kill Oswald he asks “What half-way competent Mob boss would choose a delusional blabbermouth like Ruby…?” echoing the CIA dispatch’s question about what rational person would ever choose Oswald as a co-conspirator? Again, as with the CIA’s question, Shenon’s borrowed technique avoids the important questions and shuts off the possibility of objective investigation and consideration of other alternatives. It’s a form of straw-man argument, but more slanderous and pernicious – you must be crazy if you don’t accept what I say. For example, what about the possibility that Ruby was called on as an emergency stop gap measure only after an initial plan to dispose of the patsy failed? We are not saying that is what happened, but we are asking why it should be crazy, then or now, to consider the possibility and investigate it?
Third, he states that conspiracy theorists have concocted “a sprawling coup d’état involving everyone from President Johnson” on down the chain of command. We, too, find that less credible than most. But, then again, we have to consider that the evidence is now pretty much indisputable that President Johnson led the cover-up conspiracy and that his leadership and the conspiracy to cover-up anything that didn’t support the lone nut theory began immediately after the assassination. We have to ask, “Doesn’t that raise questions in your mind that merit investigation and, if possible, answers?” Why should we accept Mr. Shenon’s belittling dismissal of any questioning or review to see what’s actually in the evidence before we dismiss it?
The Cover-Up Fallback
So, having told you what not to look for because even raising the questions can undermine proper deference to U.S. officials and institutions, he gives us the concession that we are now to believe: The CIA has admitted they participated in a benign cover-up of information during the Warren Commission investigation.xiv Mr. Shenon acknowledges that the evidence is indisputable that both the CIA and the FBI had, at least, had Oswald under “aggressive surveillance in the months before the assassination.”xv Mr. Shenon then advances the spin that the CIA and FBI embarrassment over not taking action to better protect the president in Dallas in light of what they knew is the reason for the benign cover-up: “ [I]mmediately after the assassination, panicked officials at both the CIA and FBI tried, desperately, to cover up evidence of the extent of their knowledge of Oswald, fearing their bungling of the intelligence about JFK’s assassin might be exposed – and that they would be blamed for the president’s murder.”
Yes sir, that certainly explains why the cover-up began immediately on Air Force One on the way back to D.C. on November 22, 1963. As ridiculous as that idea is, it’s even more ridiculous to think that this embarrassment of two agencies would lead the whole government – from the president on down — not just to cover up then, but to continue the cover-up and resist disclosure for more than fifty years of most of the documentary evidence, not to mention the massive destruction of evidence that has taken place already. When an offered concession is as implausible as this one is, what is the question that the lone nut theorists are trying to avoid being asked?
Could there have been other motivations for such a cover-up? Are we allowed to ask? So glad you asked. You are not only allowed to ask, you should ask. Remember, in the 1967 dispatch the CIA acknowledged their basis of concern and, I believe, their motivation for participating in, if not leading, the cover-up of information for all these years. It wasn’t just hiding information from the Warren Commission but continuing to hide it and resist its disclosure even up to the present. They acknowledged that the main CIA concern was that conspiracy theories might link them to the use of Oswald in intelligence operations. This concern is still found in David Robarge’s article admitting CIA’s, or at least, Director McCone’s, participation in a conspiracy to hide information from the Warren Commission. The article talks about the anti-Castro plots and the Nosenko information that was not shared with the Commission.xvi This was used as an opportunity by Mr. Shenon to revive the kinda-like-maybe Castro did it theory, a theory first raised on November 23rd in a Cuban exile publication sponsored and paid for by the CIA .xvii
But you have to read Mr. Robarge’s article carefully. It is always wise to carefully parse CIA pronouncements to see what they are actually saying. Mr. Robarge never specifically states that the CIA was mainly concerned in suppressing Kennedy murder information in preventing information about their attempts to murder Castro getting out. Here’s what he actually says about the motivation for the cover-up: “Moreover, the DCI shared the [Johnson] administration’s interest in avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories, and possibly lead to calls for a tough US response against the perpetrators of the assassination. If the commission did not know to ask about covert operations against Cuba, he was not going to give them any suggestions where to look.”xviii
Taken as a whole, the statement would draw you to infer that the Castro assassination plots were what was being covered up. But if that is the case, why has the resistance to disclosure remained so fierce even after those plots were disclosed in 1975? And earlier in the article, Robarge clearly states that electronic intercepts had, within a few days, convinced the administration and the Agency that neither the USSR nor Cuba had any complicity in the assassination.xix Since they already knew that neither Soviet Russia nor Cuba were complicit who did the Agency fear might be the objects of calls for a tough response? Notice the specific structure of Mr. Robarge’s statement: “avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories.” We submit that this is the same motivation that existed in 1967 as stated by the CIA Chief of Covert Action in the April 1 dispatch: “Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us.”xx
The CIA has told us what they were trying to hide. Not disclosures that would implicate Cubans in Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories but rather covert operations against Cuba that could “circumstantially implicate CIA” in Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. They have been trying to hide information that could implicate them as an organization participating in a conspiracy based on the fact that Oswald was not only under aggressive surveillance, but was also being utilized in some capacity by them in active intelligence operations shortly before the assassination. Those operations were directed at Cuba. The ones they didn’t want to be asked about, as Mr. Robarge states, were “covert operations against Cuba,” not covert Castro assassination plans. Please note in his article that Robarge is careful to specify the Castro assassination plots when he is talking about them. He is equally careful here to not reference them but, rather, more general “covert operations against Cuba.” We should be looking for information on Oswald’s involvement in those operations in this document release. They’ve told us where to look.
A Smoking Gun?
The most common question I’ve been asked the past week or so is, “Do you think there will be a smoking gun in the documents that will be released by the National Archives?xxi Let’s listen in while members of the Warren Commission members discuss whether they might find documentary evidence, or even truthful sworn testimony, that Oswald had some kind of working relationship with the FBI or the CIA:
“Sen. Russell. If Oswald never had assassinated the President or at least been charged with assassinating the President and had been in the employ of the FBI and somebody had gone to the FBI they would have denied he was an agent.
Mr. Dulles. Oh, yes.
Sen. Russell. They would be the first to deny it. Your agents would have done exactly the same thing.
Mr. Dulles. Exactly.[a long discussion then follows about whether and how the Commission should investigate the allegation that Oswald may have been and FBI informant, then:]
Mr. Dulles. There is a terribly hard thing to disprove, you know. How do you disprove a fellow was not your agent. How do you disprove it.
Rep. Boggs. You could disprove it, couldn’t you?
Mr. Dulles. No.
Rep. Boggs. I know, ask questions about something —
Mr. Dulles. I never knew how to disprove it.
Rep. Boggs. So I will ask you. Did you have agents about whom you had no record whatsoever?
Mr. Dulles. The record might not be on paper. But on paper would have hieroglyphics that only two pople knew what they meant, and nobody outside the agency else could say it meant another agent.
Rep. Boggs. Let’s take a specific case, that fellow Powers was one of your men.
Mr. Dulles. Oh, yes, he was not an agent. He was an employee.
Rep. Boggs. There was no problem in proving he was employed by the CIA.
Mr. Dulles. No. We had a signed contract.
Rep. Boggs. Let’s say Powers did not have a signed contract but he was recruited by someone in CIA. The man who recruited him would know, wouldn’t he?
Mr. Dulles. Yes, but he wouldn’t tell.
The Chairman. Wouldn’t tell it under oath?
Mr. Dulles. I wouldn’t think he would tell it under oath, no.
The Chairman. Why?
Mr. Dulles. He ought not tell it under oath. Maybe not tell it to his own government but he wouldn’t tell it any other way.
Mr. McCloy. Wouldn’t tell it to his own chief?
Mr. Dulles. He might or might not. If he was a bad one then he wouldn’t.
….Mr. McClou[sic]. Allen, suppose somebody when you were head of the CIA came to you, another government agency and said specifically, “If you will tell us”, suppose the President of the United States comes to you and says, “Will you tell me, Mr. Dulles?”
Mr. Dulles. I would tell the President of the United States anything, yes, I am under his control. He is my boss. I wouldn’t necessarily tell anybody else, unless the President authorized me to do it. We had that come up at times.
Mr. McCloy. You wouldn’t tell the Secretary of Defense?
Mr. Dulles. Well, it depends a little bit on the circumstances. If it was within the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Defense, but otherwise I would go to the President, and I do on some cases.
Mr. Rankin. If that is all that is necessary, I think we could get the President to direct anybody working for the government to answer this question. If we have to we would get that direction.
Mr. Dulles. What I was getting at, I think under any circumstances, I think Mr. Hoover would say certainly he didn’t have anything to do with this fellow.
Mr. McCloy. Mr. Hoover didn’t have anything to do with him but his agent. Did you directly or indirectly employ him.
Mr. Dulles. But if he says no, I Ididn’t[sic] have anything to do with it. You can’t prove what the facts are. There are no external evidences. I would believe Mr. Hoover. Some people might not. I don’t think there is any external evidence other than the person’s word that he did or did not employ a particular man as a secret agent. No matter what.”xxii
According to Allen Dulles we should not expect to find anything in writing that would finally settle the issue of whether Oswald was an agent or asset of the CIA, let alone whether the CIA was involved in a conspiracy to kill John Kennedy. Indeed, the frequent demand for such “smoking gun” proof in the news coverage of these released documents is just the CIA’s 1967 argument trying to put the burden on researchers to produce new evidence.xxiii Only this time those echoing the CIA’s play are specifying the only evidence that they will consider: something that meets their criteria of a smoking gun. In light of what Dulles told the Commissioners, we can understand how they might well be comfortable in making that demand while fully knowing that it can never be met. In this way, they again try to control the public perception of the story in advance of anything that may come from the documents – whatever it might be, it won’t be the smoking gun they demand.
But in the light of what Dulles has told us, the absence of such written proof cannot be considered to be proof of the absence of a relationship between Oswald and an intelligence agency. According to the most experienced CIA Director at the time, even if such a relationship had existed it would be denied even under oath regardless of how shocking that may have seemed to the Chief Justice. The CIA might have told the President if he asked directly. But, in this case, the President was Johnson and he was clearly on the cover-up bandwagon. I doubt that he ever asked Dulles. Actually, we should be quite surprised and skeptical if we were ever to find written, official documentation of a relationship between Oswald and the CIA.
Covert Operations Against Cuba: What We Know and What We Might Learn.
Let’s go back to what Mr. Robarge told us about what was being hidden by the CIA from the Warren Commission. As we shall see, it is also what they have tried to hide from every subsequent investigation into the assassination as well: Covert operations that were ongoing in 1963 that might implicate CIA in conspiracy theories about the Kennedy Assassination. Mr. Robarge has told us that the information is circumstantial – i.e., we shouldn’t expect a smoking gun like a written statement that Oswald was used in this or that particular covert action aimed at Cuba.xxiv So, an examination of what we know about some of the circumstances relating to covert actions aimed at Cuba and Oswald’s activities in 1963 may provide some hints about what we should be looking for in these newly released documents.
In 1977 and 1978 I looked into some of these issues as a researcher for the House SelectCommittee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives. I looked hard at the activities of David Atlee Phillips who, in 1963, ran the covert actions against Cuba out of the CIA’s Mexico City Station. I was able to link almost every story appearing shortly after the assassination linking Oswald to Cuba and pro-Castro groups to an asset or agent ran by Phillips. But in the late 90’s, with the release of documents collected by the Assassination Records Review Board, I learned why and how my researches into this area of investigation by been frustrated in 1978.xxv The CIA brought an officer out of retirement in May, 1978, to serve as a liaison to the Committee, especially to work with me and my research partner, Edwin Lopez. This officer was George Joannides.
In August 1963 Oswald had been involved in a street fight with members of an anti-Castro Cuban student group, the DRE, in New Orleans. It resulted in a lot of publicity and showed Oswald and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in a fairly negative light. The HSCA, naturally, wanted to explore whether there was a relationship between the CIA and the DRE in 1963. The CIA was officially asked about this, directly, on at least three occasions and each time denied that there was any relationship. When Joannides was assigned to work with as liaison, the CIA was asked whether he had any connection with, or knowledge of, anything related to the assassination and the CIA assured the Committee that he did not. According to G. Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel of the HSCA, Joannides blatantly lied to him and the Committee:
“When working as Chief Counsel for the HSCA, I requested all the Agency files on the DRE and its members as early as March of 1978. That request included a demand that the Agency identify any employees who had, in the period from 1960 to 1964, worked with the DRE. After that initial request for records, at least two additional requests were made in May and July of 1978. The Agency repeatedly assured the Committee that they had no contact with the DRE in 1963, having severed all contacts in April of that year. The leaders of the DRE, in interviews with the Committee’s staff, indicated that they worked with a CIA case officer in 1963. The Agency assured me they would search their records to try to identify such an officer. The Agency employee who contacted me to advise that they could find no record of any such case officer was George Joannides. He did tell us, however, that he would keep looking.”xxvi
As the case officer for the DRE George Joannides had to work directly with David Phillips in anti-Cuban propaganda operations in 1963. This is one of the covert action operations against Cuba that we know the CIA has fought tooth and nail to keep covered-up. As Mr. Blakey put it, “The CIA never told the Warren Commission about their support of, and work with, the DRE in 1963. To my knowledge, the CIA never told the Church Committee about it. The ARRB asked the Agency about DRE at the suggestion of Jeff Morley. The CIA initially told the ARRB the same thing they told me and the HSCA: the Agency had no employee in contact with DRE in 1963. The ARRB conducted its own examination of CIA records and found Joannides personnel file with its clear indication that he was the DRE case officer.”xxvii Jefferson Morley sued the CIA seeking more information on Joannides’s operations in a case filed in Federal Court in 2003, a case that is still on-going and in which the CIA has been able to successfully use the Courts to claim that “national security” prevents the release of any further information about what Joannides was doing in 1963 or 1978, although the CIA has admitted under oath in that case that Joannides was acting in a covert capacity in dealing with the HSCA.xxviii
Here’s what we know now about what Phillips and Joannides were doing in the early 1960’s that might be relevant. David Phillips recruited a group of students in Havana to work against Castro while Phillips was serving under deep cover in Havana in the late 1950’s. At the time, the group was known as the Directorio Revolucionario, or DR. Phillips was the DR’s first case officer.xxix When the DR’s leadership fled Cuba in 1960, William Kent organized them into an effective organization in Florida, known as the Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil, or DRE.xxx The DRE was headquartered in Miami but had branches in other places, including New Orleans.
Most of the funding for the DRE was provided by the CIA, but the organization resisted Agency control. The week after the missile crisis ended in October, 1962, an article appeared in the Washington Evening Star newspaper alleging there were still Russian missiles hidden in Cuba. The story ran with a front-page head line. The DRE was the source of the story. Shortly afterward the leader of the DRE appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” where and claimed to have seen, with his own eyes, nuclear missiles still hidden in caves and hills in Cuba.xxxi This was contrary to the Agency script.
As a result, Richard Helms, the then head of the Agency’s covert action arm met with the leader of the DRE in the fall of 1962. Helms promised the DRE that a case officer who would be personally responsible directly to him.xxxii The case officer Helms assigned was George Joannides. Joannides was very effective in his work with the DRE. His July, 1963, fitness report noted that Joannides “has done an excellent job in the handling of a significant student exile group which hitherto had successfully resisted any important degree of control.”xxxiii Not long thereafter Joannides became the manager of the propaganda operations at the CIA’s Miami Station and the only organization that he retained under his direct control as case officer was DRE.xxxiv By March of 1964 Joannides had been promoted to head the Cover Action branch of the Miami Station. He continued, however, to maintain personal oversight of the DRE.xxxv It was in this period that Oswald who was handing out leaflets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee had his run-in with the DRE in New Orleans – August, 1963 – that resulted in most of the reports tying Oswald to Castro after the assassination. In fact, the very first assassination conspiracy theory appeared on November 24, 1963, in the DRE’s CIA financed newspaper, Trinchera. The story was covered in both the Miami Herald and the Washington Post the next day.xxxvi
In the early 1960’s, David Phillips was working at Headquarters where he, along with Cord Meyer, developed the first disinformation operations aimed at the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.xxxvii During the Bay of Pigs, Phillips was in charge of anti-Castro propaganda operations at Headquarters.xxxviii As such, he worked closely with Doug Gupton, who was his counterpart at JMWAVE in Miami.xxxix Gupton was not a registered pseudonym but was, rather, a cover name that William Kent, the officer’s true name, used in the field.xl Phillips described their working relationship as very close.xli Kent acknowledged that when he was running propaganda operations in Miami, David Phillips had been his immediate supervisor.xlii He said he was in contact by telephone with Phillips while in that position and that Phillips visited Miami “quite often.” He kept Phillips informed of the propaganda operations he was running in Miami.xliii It is very likely that William Kent’s registered pseudonym, in 1963, was Robert K. Trouchard.xliv In an attempt to prevent unnecessary confusion, for the remainder of this paper, I’ll refer to Kent/Gupton/Touchard as “Kent”; Phillips/ Choaden as “Phillips”; and Joannides/Newby as “Joannides.” Phillips’s work on Cuban disinformation continued after his transfer to Mexico City in 1961 until he left in 1965.xlv
In the fall of 1962, when Joannides was hand-picked by Richard Helms as the DRE case officer, he replaced Ross Crozier in Miami. Crozier had been brought in earlier as the DRE case officer to assist Kent. Joannides reported directly to Helms.xlvi Joannides’s registered pseudonym was Walter D. Newby. His supervisor was Kent. Up to 90% of the DRE’s operating funds came from the CIA.
The ARRB managed to force the CIA to declassify a few of Joannides’s fitness reports.xlvii On July 31, 1963, Joannides’ supervisor, Kent, with whom Phillips had a “very close” working relationship, commended Joannides for doing “an excellent job in the handling of a significant student exile group which hitherto had successfully resisted any important degree of control.”xlviii The same report lists his second specific duty as “[c]ase officer for student project involving political action, propaganda, intelligence collection and a hemisphere-wide apparatus.”xlix Between August 9 and August 21, 1963, Oswald became something of a celebrity in New Orleans after his encounter with the local branch of DRE while passing out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets. Joannides’s quarterly fitness report covering this period has not been released, remaining classified and withheld in full for reasons of national security.
At some point between July 31, 1963, and May 15, 1964, Joannides replaced Kent as chief of covert operations at JMWAVE. While the scant release of documents on Joannides makes it impossible to pinpoint the time, Kent references in JMWAVE files end after 7/25/63. By October, 1963, Kent is working at the Covert Action desk of the Western Hemisphere division at CIA headquarters.l Where Kent was between the end of July and October 11, 1963, is not known. It is reasonable, therefore, to presume that Joannides became the director of covert operations at JMWAVE sometime between the end of July and the beginning of October, 1963.li As that director, he is said to have had “a distinct flair for political action operations and can translate policy directives into meaningful action programs….”lii As director of covert action, Joannides only retained direct responsibility for one operation: the student project involving “distribution of printed propaganda, production of radio programs, and the development of political action programs.”liii
So, the DRE originated as the DR under the tutelage of David Phillips in Havana in the late 1950’s. William Kent took over running the group, now known as the DRE, once they had fled from Havana to Miami. In his position, he was responsible to Phillips. Crozier came in to assist Kent with his workload. Kent and Crozier were not too successful with the hard to control group and Richard Helms gave them an officer responsible directly to him, Joannides. But Joannides’s performance evaluations indicate that his immediate supervisor, prior to October 1963, was Kent. We do not know what working relationship Joannides had with Phillips either directly, or indirectly through Kent. We know even less about reports he may have made directly to William Helms. It is not, however, to much of a leap to suspect that Phillips continued to be involved in, or at least kept apprised of, operations of a group that he had started and nurtured, both directly and indirectly, that was operating directly in his area of responsibility. Indeed, it would not be at all surprising that he used that group in operations against the Fair Play for Cuba Committee or that he had continued to be involved in disinformation operations aimed at the group, having designed the first one, and still being tasked as the officer with executive responsibility for all such activity in 1963.
In the month after Oswald’s media-coverage generating encounter with DRE in August, on September 16, 1963, the CIA informed the FBI that it was considering action to counter the activities of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in foreign countries.liv In New Orleans, on September 17, 1963, Oswald applied for, and received, a Mexican travel visa.lv On September 27 Oswald arrived in Mexico City. On that day, and the following day, Oswald, or someone impersonating him, may have visited the Cuban Consulate. On those same days, the Mexico City CIA Station was testing an impulse camera in their photo surveillance operation aimed at the door of the Cuban Consulate. Sometime in late September Phillips left Mexico City on a temporary duty assignment at CIA Headquarters.lvi It is at this time that Phillips was promoted to chief of anti-Castro operations in Mexico City – the Cuba desk.lvii On October 1 the Mexico City Station sent “bulk materials” to Headquarters by an allegedly untraceable transmittal manifestlviii in a diplomatic pouchlix “to be held in registry until picked up by Michael C. Choaden [David Phillips] presently TDY HQS.”lx In 1978 we were not able to find out what was in the pouch. On October 8, 1963, HQ sent a cable to JMWAVE advising them that Phillips would arrive there the following day for a two-day visit.lxi That means he would have been in Miami where Joannides was working on October 9 and 10, 1963, returning to the Mexico City Station on October 11, 1963.
From all this, it appears that, sometime in the fall of 1963, Kent was promoted from JMWAVE Miami station to Western Hemisphere Covert Action at CIA Headquarters while Joannides was promoted to Kent’s old position in Miami and Phillips was promoted to the Cuban desk in Mexico City. Were these rewards for a successful disinformation operation aimed at the FPCC in New Orleans, an operation that the Agency thought it could export to Mexico? In August, Lee Harvey Oswald and DRE had had their fun in New Orleans. In September the CIA notified the FBI about exporting their successful, but unspecified, domestic anti-FPCC operation overseas. The day after the CIA notice, Oswald applied for a Mexico visa in New Orleans, standing in line behind an acknowledged CIA agent. Oswald, or someone impersonating him, visited, or at least appears in the CIA telephone tap records as visiting, the Cuban Consulate on September 27 and 28.lxii Those days are the days that the CIA Mexico City Station tested an impulse camera to photograph people using the door of the Cuban Consulate that Oswald would have had to have used. The impulse camera generated over ten feet of 16 millimeter film that has disappeared.lxiii Phillips was TDY at Headquarters where the Mexico Station sends him an allegedly untraceable transmittal manifest with unspecified bulk materials– to be delivered to him personally. From HQ Phillips arrived in Miami on October 9 where he spends two days on temporary duty assignment at JMWAVE, the CIA’s large covert action station in Miami, Florida, on his way back to Mexico City.
Did Phillips meet with Kent at HQ? Did he meet with Joannides in Miami? Did they review the results of a disinformation and danglelxiv operation they had just run in Mexico City – their first attempt to export the successful domestic anti-FPCC disinformation operation? A dangle laying the groundwork to try to pitch a potential double agent in the Cuban Consulate? Were the bulk materials sent to Phillips in D.C. by diplomatic pouch the photos taken of the impulse camera? Did Phillips and personnel at Headquarters review the production from the impulse camera? Did Phillips use it in a presentation on the progress of an operation? We don’t know at this point because George Joannides shut down the HSCA investigation into this area and most of the information was effectively covered-up.lxv Given all this, it does not take a great leap of intuition to consider that the Oswald visit in Mexico City may have been part of an intelligence operation with both counterintelligence and propaganda purposes.
The CIA maintains several types of filing systems. One system, usually considered one of the most sensitive and especially exempted from the Freedom of Information Act requests (with a few exceptions) is a filing system for files on operations conducted by the CIA known as operational files. Most of the information discussed in the immediately preceding section has been gleaned from nonoperational files such as personnel files that have been released and contain documents such as Fitness Reports. Based on what Mr. Robarge has told us, and what we know, we should be very interested in looking for additional circumstantial evidence in NARA files contained in the JFK Collection that are required by law to be released. The most telling details would likely be contained in operational files relating to operations ran by David Atlee Phillips in 1963, George Joannides in 1963 and 1978, and by William Kent in 1963 and 1967.lxvi The JFK Collection at NARA includes files David Phillips’s operational files as well as additional files and documents on Joannides. To date, these files have not been released. They are in the group of files still being withheld while the CIA negotiates with the President over whether releasing them would compromise national security.
What would it mean if there are documents in those yet to be released that show the CIA was running covert actions against Cuba that are such that we can see that there is a very strong likelihood that Oswald was being used, whether wittingly or unwittingly, in one or more of them? For example, what if it shows that Phillips was involved in trying out an anti-Fair Play for Cuba Committee disinformation in Mexico City in September and October of 1963? Or that Joannides was working with the DRE on an operation that resulted in the media barrage in New Orleans in August, 1963? While such evidence may be circumstantial evidence that Oswald may have been used by the Agency, it is not necessarily evidence that it or its officers were involved in an assassination conspiracy. While such circumstantial evidence coupled with the extent and rapidity of the disinformation campaign linking Oswald to Castro after the assassination would seem to be strong circumstantial evidence against a conclusion that the propaganda campaign was merely ad hoc and opportunistic, it is would remain theoretically possible that Phillips had no advance knowledge of the assassination and may have been one of the most surprised men in the CIA to learn that his asset had been accused of murdering the President. But, if such circumstantial evidence arising from covert actions against Cuba is in the files, it certainly raises many more questions, all of which will be very uncomfortable for the CIA even though the fifty-plus year delay in letting such evidence see the light will make it much harder to find and verify any possible answers to the questions. It is, I believe, the closest thing to a smoking gun we’ll ever see. That does not mean that the information should not be released, that the hard questions that would arise should not be asked. It does mean that America should insist on the immediate release of all documents related to the assassination, including those not included in NARA’s JFK Collection,lxvii and the tough questions be answered.
i Dispatch, Countering Criticism of the Warren Report, from Chief of CA Staff to Chiefs of Certain Stations and Bases, April 1, 1967, RIF 104-10009-10022.
ii Que bono? Certainly not just Johnson, but the basic investigative question never seems to have even been raised, let alone considered, by the Warren Commission or the intelligence community in 1963-1964.
iii “L’Etat, c’est moi.” The Agency’s concern was well-founded. The JFK murder cover-up was the beginning of the unravelling of government credibility in the United States and led directly to the growth of the secrecy culture that subsequently allowed the Vietnam war, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraqi WMD’s, etc., etc., etc.
iv David Robarge, “DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” Studies in Intelligence, (Vol. 57, No. 3, 09/2013), Approved for Release and declassified, 09/29/2014, available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB493/docs/intell_ebb_026.PDF.
v See, e.g., Betty Medsger, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, Knopf 2014.
vi One CIA officer is also on record calling Operation Phoenix in Vietnam that tortured and killed myriads of Vietnamese civilians “benign”.
vii Lance deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, University of Texas Press 2013, at p. 25.
viii Id., at 41. Emphasis added.
ix Jeremy Diamond, JFK Files: Trump teases release as deadline arrives, CNN, 26 Oct 2017, available at https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/10/26/politics/jfk–assassination–files–classified–document–release–donaldtrump/index.html.
- xi See, e.g., David R. Wrone, Two Assassinations: Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin, Meeting (37th: 1980 : Madison), Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana (Library of Congress); https://aarclibrary.org/board–of–directors/ ; John Newman, Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK, Skyhouse 2008; John Newman, JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power, 2nd, CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2016; John Newman, Countdown to Darkness: The Assassination of President Kennedy Volume II, CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2017.
- xii Philip Shenon, Files will shed light on a JFK shooting conspiracy – but not the one your think, The Guardian, 26 Oct 2017, available at https://www.theguardian.com/us–news/2017/oct/26/john–f–kennedy–asssassinationdocuments–national–archives
xiii Most ear and eye witnesses on record from Dealey Plaza put a second shooter on the grassy knoll. Any fair analysis of the Zapruder film supports a finding of a shot from the front. The acoustics work of the HSCA showing a shooter on the knoll is also still supported by the best scientific evidence in spite of vigorous attempts to discredit it.
- xiii Technically, the Robarge article, see note iv above, did not concede CIA participation so much as to blame the JFK appointed Director of Central Intelligence, John McCone, of participating in a benign cover-up. See, Dan Hardway, A Cruel and Shocking Misinterpretation, 2015, available at https://aarclibrary.org/a–cruel–and–shockingmisinterpretation/; Dan Hardway, Thank You, Phil Shenon, 2015, available at https://aarclibrary.org/thank–you–philshenon/
- xiv A more objective and careful review of CIA documentation shows that there is even more documentary evidence that the CIA was using Oswald as a witting or unwitting asset in at least one intelligence operation. See, e.g., John Newman, Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK, Skyhouse 2008; John Newman, Countdown to Darkness: The Assassination of President Kennedy Volume II, CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2017; JFKFacts, Exclusive: JFK investigator on how CIA stonewalled Congress, http://jfkfacts.org/hardway–declaration–cia–stonewalled–jfkinvestigation/; Declaration of Dan L. Hardway, Morley v. CIA, CA # 03-02545-RJL, D.C.D.C. 11 May 2016, Docket No. 156.
xvi Robarge above at n. 4.
xvii See, Phil Shenon, Phil Shenon, “Yes, the CIA Director was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up,” Politico, 10/06/2015, available at http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/jfk–assassination–john–mcconewarren–commission–cia–213197; Dan Hardway, Thank You, Phil Shenon, 2015, available at https://aarclibrary.org/thank–you–phil–shenon/
xviii Robarge, above, n. 4, at p. 9.
xix The National Security Agency has never released such intercepts.
xx Dispatch, above at n. 1.
xxi But another one seems to be the one being asked by most of the media today. I got it in an email from a reporter this morning. It goes like this: “Will the release put the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination to rest at last?” Don’t you find it extremely interesting that media accounts almost always phrase it like this? Why don’t they ask something like, “Will the release finally establish the truth to a reasonable degree of certainty?” or “Will we finally feel that we have all the evidence and the truth will be possible to know?” No, those latter two questions leave open the possibility that the lone-nut theory may be wrong, a possibility that we should never entertain. If you allowed to frame the question the way you want, you are half-way to getting the answer you want.
xxii Warren Commission, Executive Session Transcript, January 27, 1964, [Emphasis added.] Available athttps://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=1328
xxiii See, for example, Adam Gopnik, The J.F.K. Files, Trump, and the Deep State, The New Yorker, October 29, 2017, available at https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily–comment/the–jfk–files–trump–and–the–deep–state/amp
xxiv See Robarge, above, at n. xviii.
xxv For a more detailed explanation of this, see Declaration at n. 15 above.
xxvi G. Robert Blakey, The HSCA and the CIA: The View from the Top, Assassinations Archive and Research Center’s Conference, The Warren Report and the JFK Assassination: A Half Century of Significant Disclosures in Bethesda, MD, 26 Sept 26, 2014. Full text available at https://aarclibrary.org/wp- content/uploads/2014/09/robert_blakey_aarc_9_26_letter.pdf.
xxviii As part of its response to Jefferson Morley’s FOIA lawsuit seeking additional Joannides records, the CIA, in a sworn affidavit, acknowledged that George Joannides was used by the Agency in a covert capacity at least twice: “the CIA acknowledged Joannides participated in a covert action codenamed JM/WAVE or JMWAVE from 1962 through 1964. Second, the CIA acknowledged Joannides served as a CIA representative to the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations from 1978 through 1979. Joannides served undercover in both of these assignments.” Morley v. CIA, Civ. Act. No. 03-02545, Declaration of Delores M. Nelson, Chief, Public Information Programs Division, Central Intelligence Agency, p.9 ¶ 16 (D.C. Dist. Court, Nov. 21, 2008) [Emphasis added]. Think about that for a minute: the CIA has admitted under oath in documents filed in a Federal Court case that they ran an agent under cover in a covert operation in connection with an investigation of the Agency by a Congressional Committee. While the Agency admitted that Joannides was under cover in his work with the HSCA, it has not admitted that this was an operation ran in contravention of their charter on domestic soil violating U.S. laws against obstruction of justice – not to mention the sheer audacity of running a disinformation operation against an investigating Congressional Committee the object of which operation could only be the deliberate prevention of the Committee ever finding critical information that could implicate the CIA in other crimes. This may be the biggest judicial admission against interest that you’ve never heard about. Joannides was commended for his frustration of our investigation into Phillips’s covert actions against Cuba while maintaining the cover-up of his own involvement in those activities. In his annual review, his boss at the CIA wrote, regarding “the firm position he [Joannides] took with the young investigators” that “if the peculiar nature of the work did not call on Mr. Joannides for all the talents of his wide experience, it nonetheless was his experience and quick perceptions that ensured a superior performance.” (George Joannides Fitness Report, RIF No. 10410304-1000 (CIA, Jan. 8, 1979). Indeed! His experience as the case officer for DRE and from working with Phillips told him what to keep me and Lopez away from and slowing down and sometimes blocking delivery of files we requested to review allowed him to quickly perceive where we were going with our investigation and what not to let us see. I only regret that we were not able to mount more of a challenge to his talents. I believe that were the iron curtain of secrecy surrounding the Agency ever to come down and we gained access to their archives, we would probably find that operations were also run against other investigations including the Garrison investigation, the Church Committee and that operations in addition to the one involving Joannides were run against the HSCA.
xxix Bayard Stockton, Flawed Patriot, p. 210 (Potomac Books 2006).
xxx Email, John Newman to Dan Hardway, 9/9/2014.
xxxi Morley, “Revelation 19:63,” Miami New Times, 4/12/2001, available at http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2001-04-12/news/revelation-19-63/.
xxxiii Joannides, George, “Fitness Report,” 07/31/1963, RIF 104-10304-1000.
xxxv Joannides, George, “Fitness Report,” 05/15/1964, RIF 104-10304-1000.
xxxvi Jefferson Morley, Who paid for the first JFK conspiracy theory?, JFK Facts (22 Aug 2014) available at http://jfkfacts.org/who-paid-for-the-first-jfk-conspiracy-theory/#more-9771
xxxvii Newman, Oswald and the CIA, pp. 240-241 (Skyhorse Publishing 2008)
xxxviii Phillips, Executive Session Testimony, HSCA, p.3 (4/25/1978).
xxxix Id. at p. 73.
xlii Notes, CIA, Files, Veciana, Antonio, Phillips, David Atlee, RIF # 180-10141-10491, p. 7.
xliii Id. at 8.
xliv It is important here to make a few distinctions in terminology. A “CIA Officer” is, generally, a paid employee of the Agency. An agent may be either a witting person who is utilized by an officer in gathering intelligence or in running a covert operation. An asset is a person who is valuable to, and used either wittingly or unwittingly by, an officer or agent. Officers have a true name – their legal birth name – and registered pseudonyms – names they are assigned for use in Agency documentation to protect their true identities – and operational aliases – unregistered names that the officer usually develops on his own that he uses in connection with a particular operation(s) in his contacts with agents/assets to protect both his true identity and his registered pseudonym. For example, William Kent is the true name of a CIA officer. His agency issued registered pseudonym, initially, was Oliver Corbuston. The Oliver Corbuston pseudonym disappears from the CIA’s records at the same time that the name Robert K.
Trouchard appears. From the circumstances found in records it appears that the Trouchard name was assigned to William Kent. In 1961 Trouchard was head of psychops at JMWAVE. Trouchard is in the record as the case officer for Bernard Baker. Other records reveal that Baker was sent to JMWAVE to help take the work load off William Kent. Kent’s intelligence medal narrative also suggests that he was Trouchard. “Doug Gupton” was an operational alias given to William Kent by his good friend, David Phillips.
xlv Phillips, Executive Session Testimony, HSCA, p. 3, 35, 59 (4/35/1978).
xlvi Id.; Stockton, p. 221.
xlvii Five Fitness Reports on Joannides, RIF 104-10304-10000. There are some interesting anomalies in the disclosed Joannides Fitness Reports. The first annual report was signed by the JMWAVE employees in pseudonym (Newby & Trouchard) on 19 Jan 63, reviewed by the Chief of Station one month later on 2/15/63. The next report is a quarterly report signed by the JMWAVE employees on 27 March 63, Reviewed by the Chief of Station one week later on 2 April 63 with a date stamped 16 Apr 63 on page one which may represent the date received at Langley HQ. The third report was signed by the JMWAVE employees on 31 July 63, reviewed by the Deputy Chief of Station (pseudonym Frederick J. Inghurst, most likely David Morales) on 9/24/63 (Note that the date stamp beside the Newby and Inghurst signatures are different than any others appearing in the fitness reports.) Note that this quarterly report was not reviewed for three months after being signed by Newby and was not date stamped at HQ until 17 Oct 63. The quarterly report for 3rd quarter covering August and September 1963 is missing from the disclosed sequence. The quarterly report for 4th quarter of 1963 is also missing. The fourth disclosed report is the an annual report covering 4/63 — 3/64 (the other annual report covered 1/1/62 to 12/31/62) which was signed by the JMWAVE employees on 15 May 1964, reviewed by the Deputy Chief of the Western Hemisphere Division at HQ two weeks later on 1 June 64 and date stamped HQ filing of 8 Jun 64. Also interesting that the June 64 fitness report is the first indication that Joannides has security duties and it is reviewed by Morales.
l See Newman email, supra; RIFs: 104-10100-10329; 104-10100-10216; 104-10100-10210.
li This is supported by the next fitness report available for Joannides covering the period 1 April 1963 and 31 March 1964. This report states that the “period covered by this fitness report represents [Joannides’s] initial Agency exposure to those first echelon management responsibilities which are implicit in a branch chief’s assignment….” Fitness Reports, RIF 104-10304-10000.
liii Id. Interestingly enough, it was during this time frame that he also assumed responsibility for security reviews on JMWAVE’s covert action operations and has his fitness review conducted by David Morales, who noted “that he would be pleased to have [Joannides] work with [me] at any other Field Station that might be entrusted to [me].” A hope that would be subsequently fulfilled in Viet Nam.
liv Church Committee, Vol. 5, p. 65 (The Church Committee’s conclusion, on p. 67, that “there is no reason to think the CIA propaganda program was underway before the assassination” is based on the unfounded, and unsupportable, assumption that the CIA would not have begun the operation before receiving information requested from the FBI.).
lv Interestingly enough, the person in line in front of Oswald to apply for a visa was William Gaudet, a known CIA agent. Gaudet claimed that this was merely a coincidence. HSCA Report, pp. 218-219.
lvi We do not know the date he left Mexico City. A cable from Headquarters to Mexico City, dated September 30, 1963, indicates that Phillips was, on that date, TDY at HQ. Phillips, Executive Session Testimony, p. 50 (4/25/1978). While Phillips frequently lied about Oswald and Mexico City, in a footnote in a little-known book he self-published, Secret Wars Diary, he once said: “I was an observer of Cuban and Soviet reaction when Lee Harvey Oswald contacted their embassies.” The chapter of the book in which the footnote occurs was first published in article about Allen Dulles, “The Great White Case Officer”, in the first issue of the Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence (Spring 1986) which article did not include the footnote. I would like to thank Steve Rosen for calling this to my attention. It is particularly interesting, on many levels, that Phillips here phrased his involvement as observing the Cuban and Soviet reactions to Oswald’s visit; exactly what you would expect him to be doing if Oswald was a counterintelligence dangle.
lvii Id. at 51.
lviii TM 251905
lix No. 4083
lx Record No. 104-10500-10077, Bulk Materials Being Sent Under Transmittal Manifest (CIA, Oct. 1, 1963). “TDY HQS” means he was temporarily assigned to duty at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va.
lxi Phillips, Executive Session Testimony, p. 50 (4/25/1978).
lxii There were also reports that Oswald spent time with pro-Castro Mexican citizens and students. Our efforts in 1978 to find those people and interview them in Mexico were repeatedly blocked by the CIA.
lxiii HMMA-22433, 11/7/63.
lxiv A “dangle” is an operation run by an intelligence agency where a controlled agent or asset is offered to a foreign intelligence service as a potential recruit of the foreign service. If the dangle is taken and the person recruited, then the original intelligence agency can use the agent as a double agent to feed disinformation to the foreign intelligence service. A dangle, structured such as Oswald’s visits to the Soviet and Cuban facilities, can also serve the purpose of allowing the first intelligence service to monitor the reaction of the foreign service to the person presenting himself by using other agents already in place, electronic surveillance, etc., so as to facilitate understanding of the foreign services processes and to facilitate planning of future operations.
- xv David Phillips, in his executive session testimony, could not even recall making this trip and was not asked about this kind of detail, because the details were not known at the time of our last interview with him.
- xvi I am also very interested in seeing the operational files from William Harvey’s operations, as well as his security files although that is a different, howbeit related, story.
- xvii Those of us who worked on the HSCA know that many of the documents we authored are not in the files listed at NARA as composing the JFK Collection. Indeed, I know of two documents that I authored that the Assassination Records Review Board could not find even after they were described to them in detail. A very poor copy of one of the documents exists and has been circulated in the critical community. At least one CIA file I saw also, according to the ARRB, must have never existed. Finally, I suspect there are many documents that exist that would be highly relevant that have never been included in the JFK Collection. For example, I know as an absolute fact that a government agency ran surveillance on me and Ed Lopez because we took coffee to the agents manning the surveillance van and very early the next morning FBI agents were waiting on our boss’s doorstep to report our activities – we had been entertaining members of Cuba’s Diplomatic Interest Section in the house we shared while working for the HSCA. To date, FOIA requests for these records, and many others that should exist but are not in the JFK Collection, have been resisted vehemently by the government.
Saturday, November 4, 2017
THE CIA FLIPS OFF AMERICA
THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY FLIPS OFF AMERICA
by Dan L. Hardway © November 4, 2017
James Angleton set the strategy in 1964. “Jim would prefer to wait out the Commission,” as one CIA memo about Warren Commission inquiries put it. They are still doing that as well as running their propaganda campaign against anyone who questions the lone-nut theory, their “best truth” according to David Robarge.
I recently published an article about the delay in releasing records under the 1992 JFK Records Collections Act. In that article I explained the CIA’s play to discredit those who question their lone-nut theory best truth and suggested that their historian, David Robarge, has told us what to look for in the documents that are still being withheld. In that article I suggested we should look for information regarding covert operations against Cuba that would “circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories” – Mr. Robarge’s words. While I doubt the existence of a “smoking gun,” the circumstantial evidence we might look for in the delayed files could show a correlation between Lee Harvey Oswald’s activities in New Orleans and Mexico City in the late summer and fall of 1963 and CIA covert operations that were occurring at that time. I specifically suggest that we look to files on operations involving George Joannides, the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (“DRE”) and David Phillips. These are files, or at least some of them, that are in the JFK records that were scheduled for release.
On October 26, 1992, the U.S. Congress passed S. 3006, with only one amendment and very little, if any, opposition. The Senate bill, introduced by Senator John Glenn of Ohio, was signed the same day by the President George H.W. Bush and became Public Law 102-526, (“JFK Records Act”). Among other things the JFK Records Act provided for the collection, preservation and eventual release of all records related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy with minimal exceptions. It mandates, in clear and unambiguous language, “[e]ach assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act.” The Act allows an exemption to this explicit mandatory requirement only if the President “certifies” that the release of each withheld document “is made necessary by an identifiable harm to” either 1) military defense; 2) intelligence operations; 3) law enforcement; or 4) the conduct of foreign relations and “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”
NARA released some of the files that I have been waiting on yesterday, November 3, 2017. The Excel spreadsheet listing the released files include four files referenced to David Atlee Phillips and one file referenced to the DRE. Of the files referencing Phillips, three are of an unspecified nature and one is listed as his Office of Personnel (OP) file. The DRE file is listed as “CIA file on DRE AMSPELL operations.”
AMSPELL is a CIA cryptonym for DRE (Revolutionary Student Directorate), the anti-Castro Cuban group that was run by George Joannides in 1963, that had the encounter with Oswald in New Orleans in 1963, and published the first conspiracy theory blaming Castro in their CIA financed newspaper in Miami on November 254, 1963. The file released yesterday, for such an active group, is a very thin 87 pages of which 61 are expurgated in full. Of the remaining 26 pages, many are largely expurgated. The Phillips files are even worse. The three files of unspecified type may be some of his operational files. These files are even more highly expurgated than the AMSPELL file. Taking the 73 page long file RIF 104-10177-10135 as an example:
3 pages are a confidential notice that the file has been processed and retired which notice is reprinted in full;
3 pages are the file’s routing sheet that has been partially released with redaction of any significant information;
2 pages are a 1975 FOIA request from The Bay City Times, a newspaper in Bay City, Michigan, reproduced in full;
1 page is a Document Transfer and Cross Reference” form indicating that records of a project apparently named “Furioso C” have been removed from this file and sent to another section of the CIA with a redaction that not only removes the substantive entry but also the name of the space on the form where the entry was made;
2 pages are partially redacted memoranda;
3 pages are Security information forms for Project Furioso C with all substantive information redacted; 2 pages are a Project Financial Data form from 1952 with no substantive information that is not redacted;
6 pages are partially redacted routing sheets for documents, none of which have the routed document attached;
1 page is a partially redacted cable from 1952;
2 pages are copies, unredacted of logs of HSCA access to the file, showing that I saw the file in 1978.
The remaining 48 pages are redacted in full.
The file that is listed as David Atlee Phillips’s OP file is not as heavily redacted as the other three Phillips files although many of the documents, mainly personnel forms, it contains have been cleansed of any significant data. That, however, is not the end of the story on this file. The file starts with a few items of post-retirement correspondence to between him and the CIA in 1975 and then proceeds chronologically backwards from his retirement in 1975. I have not yet been able to go through the 358 page file to carefully study all the documents, but I have gone through it well enough to note that all his fitness reports between 1956 and 1965 are missing – not redacted, just simply not there. Indeed, so far as I have been able to find, there is no record whatsoever of a document in the file dated between 1961 and 1965 – not redacted, just simply not there.
There has been no explanation, let alone a presidential certification, that the massive redactions in these “released in full” documents meet any of the mandatory exemptions that allow withholding. No identifiable harm is specified. No rationale is given as to why the secrets protected outweigh the public interest in disclosure. These files are not in compliance with the law no matter what the main stream media says. They are an in-your-face flipped bird to the American public. They basically tell us that the CIA is saying that they don’t have to comply with the law of the land and that they will not tell us their secrets and that there is nothing we can do about it. I’ve been here before. It was in a small room in CIA Headquarters in late 1978. I had been fighting to see a file generated by the CIA debriefing of Johnny Roselli. Scott Breckinridge and George Joannides had just handed me a highly redacted file that violated the HSCA/CIA Memorandum of Understanding mandating unexpurgated access by HSCA to CIA files. They stood by, grinning, as they watched my reaction upon opening the file to find it largely expurgated. They were grinning so hard because they knew they had waited out the HSCA and there was nothing I could do about it. The Angleton strategy still worked. It is still working today.
This release not only demonstrates that the Angleton strategy is still being applied. It also illustrates the point I have been making about what they are covering up. There may well be nothing we can do about it. It appears our lawmakers are spineless in the face of the intelligence community. Joseph Burkholder Smith, a retired CIA officer, told me and Gaeton Fonzi in 1978, “You represent Congress. What the f*** is that to the CIA? You’ll be gone in two years and the CIA will still be there.” To paraphrase that to fit the situation in which we now find ourselves: “You are the people that Congress supposedly represents. What’s that to the CIA? You’ll forget about it in a few weeks or so.”
But I won’t. I wrote a letter to my Senator yesterday before I saw the travesty that was the day’s release of JFK documents by NARA. Probably a futile gesture, but one I had to take anyway. Here’s what I told him:
“Please allow me first to introduce myself a bit. While I am your constituent, I do not believe we have ever met. I was born and raised in Webster County, West Virginia, and still reside on the farm my grandfather purchased in the 1940’s outside of Cowen. I am a graduate of WVU – 1976 – and while there got to know some of the members of your family. I had the privilege of running your first cousin Tim Manchin’s campaign for a seat on the WVU student government Board in the mid-70’s. I am a 1980 graduate of Cornell Law School and a former law clerk for Justice Tom McHugh of the West Virginia Supreme Court. I took a year and a half leave of absence from law school to work as a researcher for the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations in 1977-1978. My primary area of responsibility in the Committee’s work was to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency and Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City. Most of the work I produced for the Committee remains classified. I am presently registered to vote in Webster County with an Independent affiliation.
“I am aware that the Republicans in this state are trying to mount a serious challenge to you in the upcoming election and I am presently considering whether to become involved in the campaign and, if I do, who I am going to support. In that regard, and in view of your position on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, your position on an issue that is very important to me will influence whether I decide to actively support you in the upcoming election. That issue is the release – or I should say, the failure to release – the records currently held in the JFK Records Collection by the National Archives and Records Administration. While the records, and access to them, is of great interest to me, the real issues raised by the failure to release them are much more fundamental than just access to the assassination records. It is these fundamental issues that I want to explain and upon which I wish to hear your opinion.
“On October 26, 1992, the U.S. Congress passed S. 3006, with only one amendment and very little, if any, opposition. The Senate bill introduced by Senator John Glenn of Ohio was signed the same day by the President George H.W. Bush and became Public Law 102-526 which is codified at 44 U.S.C. § 2107 note (“JFK Records Act”). Among other things the JFK Records Act provided for the collection, preservation and eventual release of all records related to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy with minimal exceptions. Among its other provision, the JFK Records Act, at § 5(g)(2)(D), mandates in clear and unambiguous language “[e]ach assassination record shall be publicly disclosed in full, and available in the Collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of this Act.” The Act allows an exemption to this explicit mandatory requirement only if the President “certifies” that the release of each withheld document “is made necessary by an identifiable harm to” either 1) military defense; 2) intelligence operations; 3) law enforcement; or 4) the conduct of foreign relations and “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.” [Emphasis added.]
“I note that this is a law duly enacted and adopted by the democratic processes of this country in 1992 – a country where we supposedly pride ourselves on being a nation of laws, a nation where the law applies to each and to all regardless of status or position. On October 26, 2017, as I am sure you are aware, President Donald Trump, at the request of the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence community members, disregarded the clear provisions of the law and postponed release of ninety percent of the remaining withheld documents in the JFK Records Collection for an additional six months. In doing this, the President made no findings, issued no orders and certified nothing, merely issuing a statement through the press office saying that all documents will be released “with redactions only in the rarest of circumstances” by April 26, 2018.
“The President’s action was not only without authority in law, it was also taken in patent violation of the clear, unambiguous and mandatory terms of a law that your institution passed. In this situation, I would be tempted to file a suit against the President if it were not for the facts that: 1) the Courts have already held that the JFK Records Act does not provide a basis for any private cause of action for U.S. citizens, Assassination Archives and Research Center v. Dep’t. of Justice, 43 F.3d 1542, 1544 (D.C. Cir. 1995); 2) Federal Court litigation is too expensive to allow access to a normal citizen trying to hold his government accountable; and 3) it would take more than six months to get a case through to a decision in Federal Court so the action would represent no type of check or correction to the problem.
“The real problem that this presents is that it is showing to the nation that the intelligence agencies of our nation are not subject to the laws of the nation. They are effectively above the law. At their request, or pressure, the President of the United States will violate the clear mandates of enacted legislation. And, to date, the reaction of our elected representatives in Congress seems to reinforce the fact that no one is willing to stand up to such blatant disregard of the clear provisions of the duly enacted laws of the nation. I understand that it is the executive branch that is charged with the enforcement of the laws your branch enacts and, in this case, it is the executive branch that is violating the law so there can be little realistic expectation of enforcement from them. But this is the heart of the problem and why it is incumbent upon the Congress to act. At a minimum there should be oversight hearings. At a minimum the Congress should not be seen to willingly acquiesce in executive contempt for the Legislative branch of government and the law of the land.
“This action on the part of the intelligence community, the National Archives, and the Executive is only the latest in a long string of actions that disregard the provisions of the JFK Records Act that also subvert and cover up the information related to the assassination of our 35th president. Those other actions are beyond the present scope of this letter, but are things about which I would be glad to speak with you if you have any interest, so I will not go into them here.
“To my knowledge there has been no coverage or explanation of why the intelligence community has requested this delay of the President. It was made in secret. What reason have they given for the delay? What kind of pressure have they brought to bear? How can they force a president to so blatantly disregard the law? If they can do this in regard to disclosure of fifty-year-old records, in what else can they exercise a like secret influence that corrupts the laws of the nation? What affect does the existence and use of such secret power have on our democracy? If these things – not just the documents but the method of influence – remain always secret, then how can a citizenry be sufficiently informed so as to exercise their franchise to any real purpose? How can we have faith in our democracy, let alone our government, if this kind of practice is allowed to continue unchallenged? These are the questions that I would like to have answered. But, to make it easier for you, I note you are in a unique position in regard to these issues due to your membership on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Are you at least going to call and press for public hearings on any of these issues? Or are you going to join the vast majority of our representatives and once again cower before the intelligence agencies? Will you stand up for your constituents’ right to participate in their government on an informed basis? Will you stand for holding our government to a standard of open honesty before its citizens and against allowing the real affairs of state to be conducted in secret and in disregard of the laws enacted by the peoples’ representatives?
“I anxiously await your answer.”
The questions I asked Joe Manchin in that letter are even more pressing today. I don’t know if he’ll even answer, let alone do anything. Maybe like Chuck Grassley, he’ll send out an apparently frustrated tweet. Or maybe, like the main stream press, he’ll tout the release of the documents, hoping no one will look to see what a travesty the “release” is because of the massive redactions. At this point all I can do is try to tell the truth about this whole state of affairs. I also encourage you to not take this insult to your intelligence and ability to govern yourselves without reaction. Do something. If nothing else, circulate this article to everyone you know. Refuse to accept the cancer of secrecy that destroys our liberty and ability to govern ourselves. Get involved. Get informed. Stay informed. Read and follow http://2017jfk.org/home/ and http://jfkfacts.org/. Join the AARC at https://aarclibrary.org/aarc-membership/. Join CAPA at http://capa-us.org/membership/. If those who exercise the power in this country have such blatant contempt for the law, then the time for serious peaceful civil disobedience may be upon us. Get the word out. Don’t be silent any longer. This is not an issue of the left or the right. Do something. Say something. And don’t stop until you are heard.
. Raymond Rocca to Richard Helms, Memo Re Response to Rankin, 5 Mar 1964, NARA Record No. 1993.06.24.14:59:13:840170, available at https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=98075#relPageId=1&tab=page
. David Robarge, “DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” Studies in Intelligence, (Vol. 57, No. 3, 09/2013), Approved for Release and declassified, 09/29/2014, at page 20. Available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB493/docs/intell_ebb_026.PDF. Robarge wrote: “The DCI was complicit in keeping incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission’s agenda and focusing it on what the Agency believed at the time was the ‘best truth’: that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.” For my commentary on the CIA’s “best truth”, see Thank You, Phil Shenon available at https://realhillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2015/10/. Note that the “best truth” was conditioned by “at the time” leaving open the real possibility that alternative cover stories may have to be brought to play in the event that time undermined what the Agency considered to be the best truth for them.
. Dan Hardway, What Were They Hiding and What Should We Look For, 30 Oct 2017, available at https://realhillbillyviews.blogspot.com/2017/10/what-were-they-hiding-and-what-should_30.html
. Robarge, n. 2 above, at p. 9.
. This is addressed in more detail at JFKFacts, Exclusive: JFK investigator on how CIA stonewalled Congress, http://jfkfacts.org/hardway–declaration–cia–stonewalled–jfkinvestigation/; Declaration of Dan L. Hardway, Morley v. CIA, CA # 03-02545-RJL, D.C.D.C. 11 May 2016, Docket No. 156.
. 44 U.S.C. § 2107 note § 5(g)(2)(D). Emphasis added.
. https://www.archives.gov/research/jfk/2017-release, RIF Nos. 104-10176-10121, 104-10177-10135, 104-10177-10134, 104-10194-10026, and 104-10170-10121.
Friday, March 27, 2020
Douglas Valentine, a journalist, is best known for his two non-fiction works The Phoenix Program and The CIA as Organized Crime, both excellent pieces of investigative reporting. Being familiar with these two works and finding them credible, I was intrigued when I learned that he has now published a novella that is presented as a work of fiction “based on a true story.”
Anyone who has read either The Phoenix Program or The CIA as Organized Crime cannot help but notice that Mr. Valentine does not have kind feelings towards the CIA. Having myself been involved in attempts to investigate the CIA I am naturally sympathetic to him while finding most of his work very reliable. So, I approached the new novella, titled TDY, with interest.
The premise is that it is based on a true story which may be Mr. Valentine’s story or it may be something once told to him by someone else. He creates just enough ambiguity in that regard to make certain you cannot say beyond doubt that he is telling his own story. The story, including the introduction, is told in the first person. The book’s back cover blurb states that it is “based on a true story told to [Valentine] by a Vietnam veteran. The protagonist of the novella is a journalist who identifies himself as “Pete.”
The book gets off to a slow start with Pete, an Air Force Information Office enlisted man, a photographer, being enticed to volunteer for overseas temporary duty assignments (called “TDY” assignments in military jargon) by boredom at his U.S. desert posting and by the possibility of earning extra money. While the story is not written with the flourish, finesse, pacing or character development of a fully developed novel of Viet Nam, such as Matterhorn by Karl Malantes, it stands on its own merits as a book worth reading. Early on, Pete apologizes for not being able to provide better character development of the other people in his story due to the secrecy rules imposed on the mission that forms the core of the story. In spite of that early apologia, as the story progresses you feel that you do come to know, and care about, the people in this story. It really is a very good piece of writing and a fine example that even minimalist detail in the hands of a good storyteller, which Mr. Valentine is, can be used very effectively.
Pete volunteers for a mission that will take him overseas in his role as a photographer. His recruitment for the operation is low-key and Valentine does an excellent job of showing how the secrecy of a clandestine operation ensnares the “assets” who are drawn into it by the intelligence professionals in such a manner to know as little as possible and to be fully immersed before they have any chance of backing out. The mission, in this case, involves the Air Force sending a team of four photographers, under the protection of a hard-bitten security crew, into the jungles of Laos to obtain evidence of the Laotian opium trade. Pete is only incrementally advised of the mission as each step – training, deployment, implementation – unfolds.
The heart of the novella is the action-packed execution of the secret mission. As an action/adventure story, there isn’t anything really too outstanding about the book and if that was all it was, just an action adventure set in Viet Nam, I wouldn’t recommend it. But I think the book is a must read for another reason. It is a dynamic, excellent depiction of how clandestine activities are undertaken and, maybe more importantly, how the secrecy that surrounds those activities is maintained and enforced.
This book also provides an excellent illustration of the reality that the government is not monolithic in its secret operations. In this case, one agency of the U.S. government appears to be investigating the activities of another. The reasons why one agency may appear to be working against another are not always clear or even easily discerned. The central mystery in this novella – why one agency was investigating another one and why – remains unanswered.
Read the book for yourself and see if you can figure it out. The bottom line may well be that life is cheap when power is on the line. That is, at least, if power is what you live for, or if you are a true believer in your cause. After all, God is on our side, right?