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  Before the November 1964 election, no military advisors were withdrawn, but – still – no combat troops were committed to the fray.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.


Tuesday, October 27, 2015


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[1] 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.[2]
I. 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.”[3]
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.’”[4]
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.
II. “[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.”[5]
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,[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] In addition, the HSCA also pointed out that the CIA had failed to provide material information in its possession regarding Luisa Calderon.[11] 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.”[12] 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.”[13] 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.”[14]
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.[15]
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.[16]
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?
IV. “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.[17]
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.
V. 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.[18] 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.”[19]
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,[20] 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.
VI. “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.[21] 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.”[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]
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.”[25]
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.”[26]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.”[27] 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,’[28]
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.[29] 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.[30] 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.”[31]
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.”[32] 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.
Warren: Why?
Dulles: He ought not tell it under oath. Maybe not tell it to his own government but wouldn’t tell it any other way.[33]
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.”[34]
John McCone and Richard Helms testified together before the Warren Commission[35] – 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.”[36]
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.[37] 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.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40] 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?
IX. “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.’”[41]
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.
X. “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.[42] Very tellingly, he states that the shared interest is in “avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories….”[43] 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.
XI. “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.”[44]
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.[45] 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.[46] 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.[47] 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.”[48]
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,[49] which followed not long after the Executive Session in May where the remarkable conversations about the possibility of LHO being a government asset happened.[50] 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.[51]
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.[52]
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
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.[53]
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.[54] 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.”[55]
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….”[56]
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.”[57]
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.”[58]
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.”[59]
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.”[60]
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.[61] Later that evening he told members of his staff, “Subject to me getting elected, I would like to reopen the Warren Commission.”[62] 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.[63]
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.[64]
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.’”[65]
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….”[66]
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 …”[67]
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.
XV. 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.[68]
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.”[69]
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.[70]
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.[71]
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.
1. Phil Shenon, “Yes, the CIA Director was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up,” Politico, 10/06/2015, available at
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 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
6 Gibson, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-up, p. 51.
7 The full report is available at
8 The book is out of print, but is available used at
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
15 See, e.g.,
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
19 Full test of Executive Order 11130 available at
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
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
48 Full memo available at
49 See;
50 See note 33 above and accompanying text.
51 See
52 Emphasis added. Full recording of the conversation available at
53 Email from David Talbot to author, October 11, 2015.
54 Full taped conversation available at
55 Talbot, Brothers, at p. 274, note.
56 Talbot, The Devil’s Chessboard, pp. 573-574.
57 Id.
58 Katzenbach memo to Moyers, 11/25/1963, available at
59 Sources for the quotes in this paragraph can be found at
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
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.