The CIA Killed Peace in 1963
Having reached the 50th anniversary of one of the seminal moments in American history – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963 – I thought it appropriate to learn more than I had already known about the dark conspiracy that terminated one of the most hopeful periods of the recent past, when to many the nation felt almost charmed.
The lines “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot”, from the musical Camelot, were quoted by the widow Jacqueline as being from his favorite song in the score. “There’ll be great Presidents again, but there’ll never be another Camelot again” she said in an interview with Theodore H. White, published in Life on December 6, 1963.
The sub-headline on the front page of the London Herald of 11/23/1963 read “America Mourns Camelot Dream”. It seemed to some that King Arthur had died once again.
While the youngest president, with his charisma, eloquence and good looks (as well as the first non-WASP in the White House) offered a sense of promise and renewal to many Americans of the time, it was little appreciated that JFK was quickly undergoing a metanoia in regards to his long-standing fierceness as a Cold Warrior. Kennedy hated what Communism represented, but he quickly came to loathe even more what he discovered behind closed doors in the highest echelons of the military and intelligence establishments – in fact, precisely what Eisenhower had warned of as he left the office of the presidency:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Former General and then President Eisenhower knew all too well the corrupt power of the shadow government when he was forced to cancel a summit meeting with Khrushchev after a U2 spy plane crashed in Russia subsequent to the president having ordered the spy missions cancelled.
John Kennedy’s first address to the nation, on the day of his inauguration, included both promise and warning:
“We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom – symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning – signifying renewal, as well as change…”
“The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life…”
“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans – born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
But, what JFK learned in his 1,036 days in the White House was that there was a center of power in the offices of the CIA, as well as the FBI, that considered itself above the office of the presidency. J. Edgar Hoover was so arrogant as to have memos to him addressed to S.O.G. (seat of government). The CIA, needless to say, was more clandestine in its arrogance.
What the young, but headstrong former Naval officer JFK quickly discovered was a Pentagon and CIA determined to initiate and win a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, even at the potential cost of tens of millions of American civilian lives.
According to Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived, a 2008 documentary film by Koji Masutani, there were six moments in which Kennedy was forced to resist the unanimous insistence of his military and intelligence leaders, and even his own State Department as well as the covert coercions of the CIA, to engage in a nuclear face-off with Nikita Khrushchev.
1) Bay of Pigs Crisis, April 1961
1200 anti-Castro Cubans were being trained by the CIA in Honduras to get on repainted American naval ships to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro. The CIA had advance knowledge that the KGB had warned Castro of the impending assault, but allowed the attack to fail in order to coerce JFK into a military escalation. The Cuban exiles were being slaughtered at the Bay of Pigs, but Kennedy refused to send in the several thousand Marines waiting just two miles offshore, personally calling the commander of the troop ship to tell him we’re not getting involved in jungle warfare in Cuba and to order him away from Cuba. He also refused to supply air support during the invasion. There was talk of impeachment.
2) Laos Crisis, 1961
The North Vietnamese were taking increasing territory in Laos and the USSR was supplying materiel, advisors and heavy weapons and supporting the Pathet Lao communists. JFK insisted on a political settlement in Laos against unrelenting pressure to engage. He ordered a few ships to the Thailand/Laos border, but no combat troops, and initiated negotiations with the Kremlin. Within two months, he established a cease fire and neutrality for Laos.
3) Berlin Crisis, Aug-Nov 1961
On August 13, the Berlin wall began to be erected, and Gen Lucius Clay moved US tanks into position at the border in defiance of presidential orders, which pushed the Soviets to move their tanks to the other side of the border. JFK called Clay directly and ordered him to “get those god damned tanks out of sight”.
4) Showdown over Vietnam, November 1961
JFK sent Gen Taylor to Vietnam to appraise the situation. On November 15, JFK faced off against his advisors, all of whom argued for a combat initiative. After listening for two hours, Kennedy said he’s not giving them a single combat troop, but offered planes and military advisors.
5) Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962
Evidence showed Soviet nuclear missile sites under construction in Cuba, denied by the USSR. The Joint Chiefs were unanimous in pressing for a military response, but Kennedy instead ordered a strict military blockade and announced that any offensive missile strike from Cuba against any nation in the Western hemisphere would be considered an attack on the US by the USSR requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union, and called on Khrushchev to stabilize relations. Khrushchev informed Kennedy that all missiles would leave Cuba, and Kennedy agreed to remove missiles from Turkey as long as it wasn’t mentioned as a quid pro quo.
6) Withdrawal from Vietnam, November 1963
In spite of continued pressure to escalate US involvement in Southeast Asia, including the CIA-backed coup d’etat and assassination of South Vietnam president Ngo Dinh Diem on November 2, JFK proposed a quiet withdrawal of US advisors from Vietnam rather than a formally announced policy, and signed National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263 on October 11, calling for the withdrawal of 1,000 US military troops from Vietnam by the end of the year and a total withdrawal by the end of 1965, including all CIA operatives.
Kennedy and Khrushchev communicated often during the last year of Kennedy’s life. They spoke about having more in common with one another than with their generals. Kennedy initiated three policy changes that put him at odds with his generals, with most of his party leaders and most definitely with the military-industrial complex. He sought a nuclear test ban treaty as a way to slow, if not stop, Cold War escalation; he opened secret lines of communication to Fidel Castro, with an eye toward rapprochement with the Cuban regime; and he made firm plans to end the Vietnam War before it started.
It was not only JFK’s efforts toward resolving the Cold War through direct negotiations (by-passing even his own State Department officials) rather than military interventions that infuriated the career warriors in the Pentagon and CIA headquarters, but also the utter arrogance of an upstart president to countermand the prerogatives of the military-industrial hierarchy which had successfully made America the pre-eminent power on the planet and believed themselves charged with protecting that position at any cost and by any means.
Since its inception with the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been charged not only with collecting, by overt and covert means, foreign intelligence and analyzing it for national security value, but also authority to conduct “subversive operations abroad”.
It was not, however, until June 25, 2007, sixty years later, that what became known as the “Family Jewels” were revealed to the public. These were reports commissioned in 1973 by then CIA director James R. Schlesinger, in response to press accounts of CIA involvement in the Watergate scandal – in particular, support to the burglars E. Howard Hunt and James McCord, both CIA veterans. The actions listed in the reports covered the period of the 1950s to the mid-1970s. William Colby, who was the CIA director in the mid-1970s and helped in the compilation of the reports, dubbed them the “skeletons” in the CIA’s closet.
Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed some of the contents of the “Family Jewels” in a front-page New York Times article in December 1974, in which he reported that:
“The Central Intelligence Agency, directly violating its charter, conducted a massive, illegal domestic intelligence operation during the Nixon Administration against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States according to well-placed Government sources.”
While today, thanks to the courage of Edward Snowden, the American people know more about the abuses of power of the NSA, it’s little known that these abuses go back a half a century. In his 1985 book, Secrecy and Democracy, former CIA chief (1977-1981) Admiral Stansfield Turner admitted:
“Some 300,000 Americans considered to be potentially dangerous to our national security were indexed in a CIA computer, and separate files were created on approximately 7,200. Millions of private telegrams were obtained by the NSA between 1947 and 1975. Countless ‘dangerous’ citizens were placed under surveillance, with bugs on their telephones, microphones in their bedrooms, or warrantless break-ins of their homes. There was extensive use of fellow citizens as informants. Tax returns were obtained form the IRS and scanned for information about citizens. Army intelligence infiltrated domestic dissident groups, collected information on prominent citizens sympathetic to such groups, and created an estimated 100,000 files on Americans between mid 1960s and 1971.”
An intelligence/covert operations community – including the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the FBI – that feels free to ignore the entire canon of US law in order to fulfill what they believe to be their inviolable mission, would not be ethically restrained from “terminating with extreme prejudice” anyone, including heads of state, who were seen as enemies, domestic or foreign.
After all, the military oath of office begins:
“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…”
It is well documented today that the CIA has been involved in attempts to assassinate as many as 50 heads of state and other leaders, some of them successful. During the JFK presidency, the focus was on Fidel Castro, who was hated not only by the US intelligence community but by the Mafia and thousands of Cuban exiles who had fled Cuba following the 1959 revolution. Cuba offered a competing example of an economic and political system that provided more equitably for its people than any other on earth, and just 90 miles off the Florida coast in “our” hemisphere. It was also preventing US corporate interests from exploiting the land and people as they had become accustomed during the previous Batista regime (75% of Cuban land had been owned by foreign interests, mostly American, and Castro nationalized the holdings, including those of his own family).
The same group of CIA operatives, Mafia figures and Cuban exiles involved in the Bay of Pigs and other attempts to undermine the Castro regime, were also engaged in dozens of attempts to assassinate the Cuban leader. After the CIA’s failed attempt to coerce the president into a war with Cuba (and, by extension, the Soviet Union), JFK signed NSAM 55, 56 & 57, which “stripped the CIA of its cherished covert operations role, except for small actions…The military-industrial complex was not pleased”, said L. Fletcher Prouty, chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs (and later critic of the CIA).
In September of 1961, JFK forced CIA director Allen Dulles (formerly banker and corporate lawyer), Deputy CIA Director Charles Cabell, and Deputy CIA Director for Plans (covert ops) Richard M. Bissell Jr. to resign, and said he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds”. In the meanwhile, Kennedy transferred authority for the anti-Castro covert operations to his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.
On November 30, 1961, following the Bay of Pigs fiasco, JFK authorized what became known as Operation Mongoose, led by Air Force General Edward Lansdale and William King Harvey at the CIA, and ostensibly under Robert Kennedy’s control. Some of the plans of action included use of Army Special Forces, and the Operation Northwoods that was proposed in 1962 by the unanimous Pentagon Chiefs of Staff was intended to use false flag terrorist operations on US soil, blamed on Cuba, to justify a military response. Kennedy refused the Pentagon plan, but the highly clandestine Operation Mongoose aimed for a military invasion by October of 1962.
It was the ongoing Mongoose operation which led the Soviet Union to stage nuclear missiles on Cuban soil as a deterrent to a US invasion of the island, as well as the subsequent 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world closer to nuclear Armageddon than at any other time, before or since.
On October 28, 1962, Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed to de-escalate and work instead toward nuclear disarmament, and on October 30, JFK ordered the cessation of Mongoose operations. However, the CIA’s Task Force W, created as part of Operation Mongoose, was not terminated and sabotage teams on the island were not withdrawn. The covert leadership of the United States continued to ignore the president’s orders and try to subvert JFK’s attempts at detente.
Though Kennedy’s efforts to shift from aggressive confrontation and military intervention to negotiations and de-escalation of threats was worrisome enough to the shadow government based at the CIA, the final straw was Jack’s and Robert’s intention to wait until they were safely ensconced in a second term to remove J. Edgar Hoover from his “seat of government” at the FBI since 1924, and to dissolve and replace the CIA with an international intelligence organization accountable to the President. Neither the CIA nor Hoover were going to allow that to happen, and the CIA already had a well-oiled covert assassination team composed of contract agents, Cuban exiles and Mafia hit men – all sufficiently distanced from the Langley headquarters for “plausible deniability” – a core concept of covert operations and a term first used by CIA Director Allen Dulles.
JFK’s metamorphosis from ardent Cold Warrior to peacemaker was well-documented in the book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James Douglass, 2008.
James Douglass was a theological adviser on nuclear war and conscientious objection to Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council in Rome, and founder of Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action beside the Trident submarine base near Seattle, as well as Mary’s House, a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Birmingham, Alabama for homeless families. Since then Jim has participated in peace walks and witnesses in Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Iraq, Sarajevo under siege, and elsewhere. Since 1996, Jim has been researching and writing on the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The “Unspeakable” in the title of Douglass’ book came from the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and refers to “an evil whose depth and deceit seemed to go beyond the capacity of words to describe”.
Since, as Douglass writes, most Cold Warriors believed it was “better to be dead than red”, their attempts to subvert both the presidency and any peace efforts led JFK “to trust Khrushchev more than people within his own government”.
At American University on June 10, 1963, JFK spoke about his desire for world peace. He communicated his resolve to form a new relationship with Khrushchev. He spoke about the necessity of a pursuit toward disarmament. He related his intentions to establish a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He acknowledged his country’s past faults and recognized the Russian people as wanting peace as much as the American people. “And we are all mortal,” he stated. Though this extremely important speech was ignored in the United States, it was disseminated throughout the Soviet Union, per order of Khrushchev, who was prepared to respond favorably to JFK’s peace initiative. The speech also certified JFK’s death warrant. With so many powerful enemies opposing his policies and hating him, JFK didn’t have a chance as he was being maneuvered into the crossfire in Dallas.
JFK exchanged private letters with Khrushchev, which infuriated the CIA, and secretly initiated plans to attain rapprochement with Cuba, which further incensed the Agency. Fidel Castro, whom the CIA hated as intensely as it hated Kennedy, was equally eager to begin an America-Cuba dialogue. In fact, Castro was meeting with a JFK representative when the President was murdered. Just the night before, French Journalist Jean Daniel, who was acting as informal liaison for JFK, was told by Castro that “Kennedy had the possibility of becoming, in the eyes of history, the greatest President of the United States, the leader who may at last understand that there can be coexistence between capitalists and socialists, even in the Americas. He would then be an even greater President than Lincoln.” JFK died a martyr and the forces of evil that killed him also killed his vision of peace.
Lyndon Johnson, the CIA’s ally, assumed the presidency. He cancelled talks with Khrushchev and refused Castro’s pleas to continue the dialogue. He reversed JFK’s withdrawal plan from Vietnam as well as his plan to keep Laos neutral. The military industrial complex took control of the country. The policy of plausible deniability led the way to assassinations of foreign leaders, the overthrowing of foreign governments and horrors committed all over the globe. If JFK had not been murdered, we would not have had the prolongation of the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the purported War on Terror and the steady moral deterioration of America. Interestingly, one month after JFK’s assassination, President Truman (who created the CIA) wrote an article for The Washington Post cautioning about the threat of the CIA taking over America.
In the book Plausible Denial, Mark Lane describes the evidence he uncovered of CIA involvement in the JFK assassination and details how he presented it to a jury in a 1985 federal civil defamation trial by E. Howard Hunt, then already convicted for his role in Watergate, against a publication which printed an article about Hunt’s participation in the Kennedy murder. The jury accepted the well-researched evidence as proof of CIA complicity in the JFK assassination as well as Hunt’s role in it, thereby removing any basis for a charge of libel. The only successful court action to prove the CIA’s central role in the assassination, like the similarly successful 1999 civil trial on behalf of the Martin Luther King family which proved a CIA, FBI, Mafia and US Army conspiracy to kill the man whom J. Edgar Hoover described as “the most dangerous man in America”, was blacked out by the national news media and kept from the attention of the American people.
Mark Lane is an author, lawyer and activist. As a political friend of Jack Kennedy who, along with Eleanor Roosevelt, endorsed his 1960 campaign for NY State Assemblyman, Lane’s was the first voice to publicly question the top secret 1963-64 investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and his bestselling book, Rush to Judgment (1966), was one of the first to question the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. His next book, A Citizen’s Dissent, recounts the vast efforts of our government and the establishment media to suppress his investigation into the assassination of JFK and to silence and destroy him for his work. After publication of Plausible Denial in 1991, his most recent book, Last Word (2011) details the role played by the CIA and Secret Service in the 1963 murder. Lane crossed the country speaking at countless colleges and other institutions about the murder of the president, sparking the creation of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which looked into the assassinations of Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Freedom Rider while he served in the New York Legislature in 1961, Mark Lane has defended the rights of the voiceless from his beginnings in East Harlem to Wounded Knee, where he successfully defended the leaders of the American Indian Movement. He freed James Joseph Richardson from prison, a black man framed in rural Florida for the murder of his own seven children, after he served more than 20 years, many of them on death row – described in Arcadia (1970). He is a survivor of Jonestown, as described in The Strongest Poison (1980) and was a leader of the anti war movement during the Viet Nam era, as told in Chicago Eyewitness; Conversations with Americans (1968), Lane’s autobiography, Citizen Lane, was published in 2012.
Following is an expansion of the chronology and cast of characters from his book, Plausible Denial, which will serve as a summary of the book’s content.
Sept 1947 The CIA is established by President Truman.
June 1949 National Security Council Directive on Office of Special Projects (NSC 10/2) gave the CIA the authority to carry out covert operations “which are so planned and conducted that any U.S. government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them.”
1953 United States v. Reynolds created the State Secrets Privilege, a judicially recognized extension of presidential power, which effectively prevents prosecution of intelligence agents on the basis of national security.
Jan 1, 1959 Fidel Castro and Che Guevarra succeed in their revolution against the Batista regime and turn Cuba into a revolutionary socialist state, with close ties to the Soviet Union, just 90 miles off the Florida coast.
Mar 17, 1960 Eisenhower approved plans for a Cuban invasion by anti-Castro insurgents.
Nov 1960 JFK is elected president.
April 1961 The Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba fails, as was anticipated by the CIA which hoped to force JKF into providing air support and/or a Marine expeditionary unit.
June 13, 1961 The Cuban Study Group, headed by Gen. Maxwell Taylor, delivered its recommendations to JFK on restraining and limiting the role of the CIA to no firepower beyond handguns.
June 28, 1961 National Security Action Memoranda 55, 56 & 57 “stripped the CIA of its cherished covert operations role, except for small actions…The military-industrial complex was not pleased.” – L. Fletcher Prouty, chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs.
Sept 1961 CIA director Allen Dulles (formerly banker and corporate lawyer), Deputy Director Charles Cabell, and Deputy Director for Plans (covert ops) Richard M. Bissell Jr. were forced to resign, and JFK reportedly said he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.”
Oct 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis – the 13-day nuclear standoff precipitated by Operation Mongoose.
JFK & RFK made plans to remove J. Edgar Hoover from his “Seat of Government” (as he called it) at the FBI since 1924, and to dissolve and replace the CIA with an international intelligence organization accountable to the President, following their 1964 re-election. Neither the CIA nor Hoover were going to allow that to happen.
Aug 5, 1963 The US and USSR sign a Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which is ratified 9/24 and effective 10/10.
9/26–10/3/63 Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly visits the Cuban and Soviet Embassies in Mexico City.
Sept 1963 JFK asks Ambassador William Attwood to investigate the possibility of negotiations with Cuba.
Oct 2, 1963 JFK signs National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263, an order for the immediate withdrawal of 1,000 US military advisers from Vietnam and a timetable for complete withdrawal of all US personnel, including CIA operatives by end of 1965. L. Fletcher Prouty later said that, when JFK signed NSAM 263, he signed his own death warrant.
Oct 24, 1963 In an interview with Jean Daniel, JFK said “I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.”
Nov 10, 1963 L. Fletcher Prouty was sent to McMurdo Base in the Antarctic to prevent him from protecting JFK.
Nov 18, 1963 JFK, addressing the Inter-American Press Associates in Miami, said “Every nation is free to shape its own economic institutions in accordance with its own national needs and will… we will extend the hand of friendship” to Cuba.
Nov 20, 1963 French journalist Jean Daniel , a friend of Attwood acting as JFK’s unofficial envoy, interviews Fidel Castro in Havana and describes JKF’s willingness to pursue detente. Castro agrees. Two days later, they were meeting on the beach when they heard the news, and Castro said “Your mission of peace has ended.”
Nov 22, 1963 JFK is assassinated in Dallas, Texas Governor John Connally is injured, and Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit is killed. (Prouty, looking later at a picture taken in Dallas, identified Maj. General Edward Lansdale, CIA liaison to McNamara and head of Operation Mongoose, which operated outside of the president’s control.)
Nov 22, 1963 RFK confronted the new CIA director John McCone, asking him “Did the CIA kill my brother?”
Nov 24, 1963 Oswald, while in police custody, is shot and killed by Jack Ruby, an FBI informant since 1959 and a mob hitman since 1939, who met with Frank Sturgis and Marita Lorenz in Dallas on Nov 21, 1963 after the two delivered weapons in a road trip from Miami, paid for personally in cash by E. Howard Hunt in a Dallas motel.
Nov 26, 1963 LBJ signs NSAM 273, reversing JFK’s withdrawal orders, begins the escalation of the Vietnam War, and directs all efforts at rapprochement with Cuba to end and commando raids to resume. (The CIA Cuban assets regained influence and were later involved in Watergate, Irangate, the Contra Wars, and Reagan’s October Surprise in Iran – the Shah was said to have celebrated at the news of the assassination.)
Nov 29, 1963 LBJ establishes the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy, chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren, who initially declined but accepted knowing that his task was to limit the damage.
March 1964 LBJ signs NSAM 288 repudiating JFK’s plan to end US participation in Vietnam by year’s end.
Sep 27, 1964 Warren Commission releases its report, ruling out conspiracy and concluding that Oswald acted alone, ignoring most of the evidence which indicated otherwise.
1966 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is implemented.
Aug 1966 Rush to Judgement is published, describing the Warren report as deeply flawed and a cover-up.
1967 LBJ confides to White House staffer, Marvin Watson, that he thought the CIA had been involved in the conspiracy to kill JFK.
1968 A Citizen’s Dissent: Replies to the Defenders of the Warren Report is published.
June 17, 1972 Watergate break-in and ensuing scandal, which eventually leads to Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Nixon attempted to coerce CIA help in the cover-up by threatening to reveal the agency’s role in the JFK murder.
1973 LBJ admits in an interview that he “never believed that Oswald acted alone”.
1974 FOIA is amended to provide easier public access.
June 1975 Rockefeller Commission (including future president Reagan) uncovers evidence of illegal CIA operations in the US.
1976-1978 The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigated the JFK and MLK assassinations and concluded that JFK was “probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy”.
Sept 1977 At a debate at the Univ. of Southern California, David Atlee Phillips, former CIA Mexico City station chief and the architect of the Oswald in Mexico City story, acknowledged that there was no evidence that Oswald was there or visited the Soviet embassy.
Aug 1978 Former CIA operative Victor Marchetti’s article “CIA to Admit Hunt Involvement in Kennedy Slaying” appears in Liberty Lobby newspaper, the Spotlight, asserting that E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis and Gerry Patrick Hemming had been involved in the plot to kill Kennedy, according to a 1966 CIA memo.
1979 The House Select Committee on Assassinations (nearly eviscerated by CIA interference) concludes that there were probably two gunmen who fired at Kennedy and that conspiracy was “likely”.
Dec 1981 First Hunt v Liberty Lobby trial results in award to Hunt of $650,000 in damages – overturned on appeal.
Jan 1985 Second Hunt v Liberty Lobby trial results (Feb 6) in jury finding Liberty Lobby not guilty of libel. The jurors later acknowledged that their unanimous decision rested on their perception that the case was clearly made for CIA and Hunt’s involvement in JFK’s assassination. It took the jury only one hour to reach their verdict, and the forewoman, Leslie Armstrong, told the waiting media: “The evidence was clear. The CIA had killed President Kennedy, Hunt had been part of it, and that evidence, so painstakingly presented should now be examined by the relevant institutions of the United States government so that those responsible for the assassination might be brought to justice.”
July-Aug 1988 The Nation publishes two articles charging that George Bush’s involvement in the CIA goes back to 1960-61, rather than 1976 as he claims.
Sept 1991 Clair George, former head of CIA covert operations, is indicted on ten counts of obstruction of a federal investigation into Iran-Contra, but pardoned by George H. W. Bush.
Nov 1991 Plausible Denial: Was the CIA Involved in the Assassination of JFK? is published.
Nov 2011 Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK is published.
Cast of Characters
E. Howard Hunt was an American intelligence officer and author of spy novels. From 1949 to 1970, Hunt served as a CIA officer. He was fired from the Bay of Pigs operation for refusing to obey orders, but was temporary Mexico City CIA station chief in August and September 1963. He testified to the Rockefeller Commission in 1974 that, at the time of the JFK assassination, he was assigned to the Domestic Operations Division in DC. In 1972, along with G. Gordon Liddy and others, Hunt was one of the Nixon White House “plumbers” – a secret team of operatives charged with fixing “leaks” (real or perceived causes of confidential Administration information being leaked to outside parties). Hunt and Liddy engineered the first Watergate burglary and other undercover operations for the Nixon Administration. In the ensuing Watergate Scandal, Hunt was convicted of burglary, conspiracy, and wiretapping, eventually serving 33 months in prison.
G. Gordon Liddy was the chief operative for the White House Plumbers unit that existed from July–September 1971, during Richard Nixon’s presidency. Along with E. Howard Hunt, Liddy organized and directed the Watergate burglaries of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate building in May and June 1972. After five of Liddy’s operatives were arrested inside the DNC offices on June 17, 1972, subsequent investigations of the Watergate scandal led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Liddy was convicted of burglary, conspiracy and refusing to testify to the Senate committee investigating Watergate. He served nearly fifty-two months in federal prisons.
Allen Dulles was Director of Plans (1950-51), Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (1951-53), Director of Central Intelligence (1953-1961) and a member of the Warren Commission (1963-64). Between stints of government service, Dulles was a corporate lawyer. His older brother, John Foster Dulles, was the Secretary of State during the Eisenhower Administration.
John McCone served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1961 to 1965.
James Jesus Angleton served with the OSS and CIA, founded the Counterintelligence Branch of the agency in 1953, and served as Counterintelligence Chief until 1974 when he was forced from the agency by William Colby.
Victor Marchetti was a CIA operative and special assistant to Richard Helms in the late 1960s, co-author, along with John D. Marks, of the book The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence. Published an article in August 1979 in the Liberty Lobby newspaper, the Spotlight, “CIA to Admit Hunt Involvement in Kennedy Slaying”, asserting that E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis and Gerry Patrick Hemming had been involved in the plot to kill Kennedy, according to a 1966 CIA memo.
David Atlee Phillips was a CIA operative in Havana (1958-61) who blamed JFK for the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Active in Chile, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic during the 1960s, he eventually became CIA head of the Western Hemisphere, but left the agency in 1975 to found the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
Frank Sturgis (aka Francisco Fiorini) served in Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army as a soldier of fortune, and later trained Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He was a CIA contract agent working with anti-Castro Cubans in Miami at the time of JFK’s assassination, and recruited Marita Lorenz, Fidel Castro’s mistress and mother of his daughter, into the CIA to assassinate Castro.
Marita Lorenz was Fidel Castro’s mistress and mother of his daughter, since the success of the Cuban revolution in 1959, who was tricked by CIA double agent American-born Francisco Fiorini (aka Frank Sturgis), chief of security for the Cuban Air Force and a close aid to Castro, into believing Castro intended to kill her and her child. She was spirited to the US and recruited by the CIA to kill Castro with poison capsules. In 1977, she admitted to Mark Lane (and in a later sworn deposition, introduced in the 1985 civil trail) that she and Frank Sturgis, while working for the CIA, had driven from Miami to Dallas on November 21, 1963 to deliver weapons, and were paid in person and in cash in a Dallas motel by E. Howard Hunt, who was then working for the Domestic Operations Division of the CIA in DC. At the time of her admission to Mark Lane of her unwitting involvement in the JFK assassination, Lorenz was working for New York Police Department intelligence division and DEA, as a low-level employee, and had previously worked for the CIA and FBI. She also testified that she had been ordered by her superiors at the CIA not to appear before the Warren Commission. She had been reluctant to reveal to Mark Lane the names of others involved in the arms caravan, saying “You don’t know these people. They have killed and would not hesitate to kill again.” She said she was terrified of returning to Miami. But in cross-deposition by Hunt’s attorney, Lorenz reluctantly named the others in the gun caravan to Dallas as Gerry Patrick Hemming (Oswald’s Marine Sargeant at the CIA U-2 base in Japan, mercenary and CIA operative associated with attacks against on Cuba in the 1960s), two Cuban brothers named Novis and former Castro pilot named Pedro Diaz Lanz. She also stated that Orlando Bosch (Cuban exile, former CIA-backed operative, and anti-Castro terrorist involved in Operation Condor and the 1976 bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner in which 73 people were killed) had been in the CIA safehouse in Dallas where they all met. Lorenz testified that the weapons they brought to Dallas included M1s, M16s, shotguns and handguns. She further testified that, upon returning to New York after the assassination, she was interviewed by the FBI and gave them all this information. When asked if she had spoken with Frank Sturgis after the assassination, she reluctantly answered: When Sturgis tried to recruit her for another CIA operation, he told her that she had missed “the really big one” in Dallas, saying “We killed the president that day. You could have been part of it – you know, part of history. You should have stayed – it was safe. Everything was covered in advance – no arrests, no real newspaper investigation. It was all covered – very professional.”
William Corson was a former Marine Colonel with extensive ties to the CIA who apparently leaked an internal memo, signed by Helms and Angleton, placing Hunt in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
L. Fletcher Prouty, a former colonel in the Air Force, served as Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and subsequently became a critic of U.S. foreign policy, particularly the covert activities of the CIA, writing that he believes Kennedy’s assassination was a coup d’etat.
Yuri Nosenko was a Lt. Colonel in the KGB’s internal intelligence unit, similar to the FBI, and deputy chief of the British-American division. He was put in charge of investigating Lee Harvey Oswald when the American arrived in Moscow in 1959 with the intention to defect, and particularly determining, after the JFK assassination, whether Oswald had any association with Soviet intelligence. Nosenko determined that he had not, but was possibly involved with the CIA. Nosenko was recuited by the CIA as a double agent in 1962 and attempted to defect in 1964, wanting to testify to the Warren Commission about his knowledge that Oswald was not a Soviet agent. His CIA handlers insisted he stay in Russia, but afraid that his double-agent status had been discovered by the KGB, he fled to the US, where he was held in the basement of a CIA safehouse in MD for three years of interrogation and torture, before being released, given US citizenship, a house, an identity and an annual stipend in return for his silence. He was never allowed to give his information to the Warren Commission because it contradicted the Mexico City/Oswald/Soviet Embassy story which the CIA had carefully crafted. In 1967, retired CIA officer John L. Hart was assigned to investigate the Nosenko affair and concluded that his story had been both truthful and important. In 1978 Director of Central Intelligence Stansfield Turner gave a briefing in which he accepted Nosenko’s assertion that the Soviets had no connection with Lee Harvey Oswald, and that “The excessively harsh treatment of Mr. Nosenko went beyond the bounds of propriety or good judgment.”
George H. W. Bush, CIA Director from 1976 to 1977, and President of the US at the time of publication of Lane’s Plausible Denial, claims he had no previous CIA involvement, but research by Joseph McBride (film historian, biographer, screenwriter and professor of Cinema at San Francisco State, author of Into the Nightmare: My Search for the Killers of President John F. Kennedy and Officer J. D. Tippit, 2013) discovered a November 29, 1963 memorandum from J. Edgar Hoover to the State Department, entitled “Assassination of President John F. Kennedy November 22 1963”, which stated that on November 23, 1963, while Oswald was in police custody and available for interrogation, FBI special agent W. T. Forsyth and Captain William Edwards of the Defense Intelligence Agency briefed “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency” about potential problems related to the assassination. McBride states that “A source with close connections to the intelligence community confirms that Bush started working for the Agency in 1960 or 1961, using his oil business as a cover for clandestine operations.” Subsequently, the CIA said the George Bush who had been briefed by the FBI and DIA the day after the assassination was George William Bush, but McBride located that Bush and found he was a lower-level researcher who denied he had been so briefed. G.H.W. Bush owned or directed oil companies with the names of Zapata Petroleum of Midland and Zapata Off Shore Co. of Houston. There is evidence that a Russian oil man by the name of George de Mohrenschildt of Texas served as CIA control officer for Oswald, but died by gunshot as he was about to testify to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and had in his personal telephone book the entry “Bush, George H.W. (Poppy) 1412 W. Ohio also Zapata Petroleum Midland”. While Bush ran Zapata in 1961, the Bay of Pigs operation of that year was codenamed Operation Zapata. Special Operations Chief Prouty had secured two naval vessels for the invasion and had them repainted at an inactive naval base in North Carolina, naming the two landing craft “Barbara” and “Houston”. (Zapata’s SEC files for the years 1960–1966 were accidentally destroyed shortly after Bush became Vice President.)
On April 26, 1999 at the Dedication Ceremony of the CIA’s George Bush Center for Intelligence he said the following.
I left here some 22 years ago after a limited tenure, and my stay here had a major impact on me. The CIA became part of my heartbeat back then, and it’s never gone away. In my opinion, of the many agencies comprising the Executive Branch, the men and women of CIA – many of whom I’m privileged to say are here – exemplified the best about public service – here service to country comes first. You’re ever vigilant, always looking out for the nation’s best interests, but rarely getting the credit that you deserve.
Perhaps it’s time for the CIA to get exactly the credit it deserves.
by Robert Riversong: may be reproduced with attribution for non-commercial purposes