US National Archive
US CIA FOIA files
Less than one day after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, a Central Intelligence Agency-funded organization in Miami published a special edition of its monthly magazine in which it linked the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, to Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Moreover, the CIA propaganda effort remains exactly that -- a lie and an attempt to spread a conspiracy theory -- because there has never been a preponderance of evidence -- let alone incontrovertible evidence -- that Castro or Castro-backed groups organized or implemented a plot to murder the U.S. president.
The Nov. 23, 1963, special edition of the magazine, Trinchera (in English: Trenches), was published by members of the Cuban Student Directorate, a CIA-funded organization based in Miami.
Leaders of the Directorate, also known as the DRE, its Spanish acronym, received $51,000 per month in 1963 dollars ($389,000 per month in 2013 dollars), or roughly $4.8 million per year, from the CIA, according to an April 1963 memo found in the JFK Library in Boston.
Declassified CIA records prove that the publication was paid for by undercover CIA Officer George Joannides, who was chief of psychological operations in the CIA’s Miami station.
Ongoing Suit To Make Public JFK Assassination Files Held By CIA
Morley is the plaintiff in the ongoing Morley v. CIA suit, which seeks to make public Joannides’ classified files.
Morley believes Joannides’ files -- and at least some of the information in the more than 1,100 other related classified files from key CIA officers -- will provide more information regarding the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President Kennedy. The CIA, which said the files are “not believed relevant” to the JFK assassination, has refused to make public the files, citing “national security.” However, the CIA's claim has never been independently verified.
In Morley’s suit, his attorney has responded to the CIA’s latest brief, on the issue of court fees. Having won on appeal twice, the plaintiff Morley argues that the standard practice of the U.S government paying court fees for a successful appeal should apply. The CIA counters that the litigation has not generated any significant new information, and therefore the government should not have to pay the court fees. The issue is now in the hands of U.S. Judge Richard Leon.
Other files related to the JFK assassination that the CIA refuses to make public include the files of CIA Officers David Atlee Phillips, Birch D. O’Neal, E. Howard Hunt, William King Harvey and Anne Goodpasture.
Regarding the Directorate (DRE), within the CIA, the south Florida Anti-Castro group was known by its code name AMSPELL. The group was “conceived, created and funded by the Agency in September 1960 and terminated in December 1966,” according to a CIA memo, dated April 1967.
CIA Miami Psychological Warfare Operations Chief Joannides handled contacts with the DRE, according to Joannides’ July 1963 job evaluation. With the CIA’s support, the DRE engaged in “intelligence collection, political action and propaganda.”
In its Nov. 23, 1963, special edition, the DRE's Trinchera focused on comments Oswald made during a debate on a New Orleans radio program with DRE Delegate Carlos Bringuier in August 1963. The DRE asserted that Oswald and Castro were “the presumed assassins.”
Also, earlier, in August 1963, Joannides’s AMSPELL had a series of encounters with a Castro supporter named Oswald in New Orleans. The Cuban students confronted and publicized Oswald’s one-man chapter of the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which generated newspaper, radio and TV coverage of Oswald’s obscure, tiny political action group.
Hence, two objective facts stemming from the above are:
1) Joannides was running “psychological warfare” operations aimed at discrediting Castro supporters in the United States in the summer of 1963.
2) Members of Joannides’ AMSPELL network played a leading role in publicizing Oswald’s pro-Castro views both before and after Kennedy was assassinated.
The question Morley v CIA seeks to answer is: are the two facts related?
The CIA could clarify the situation, but, as noted, the CIA won’t make public or release the aforementioned files on Joannides, nor will it make public the files of the other key CIA officers.
CIA: Pattern Of Obstruction Regarding Joannides, Et Al.
So what, one may ask, is the CIA hiding? What is in the Joannides’ file and the other CIA officers’ files that the Agency is so worried about?
It might be something as minor as an operation or project that was mismanaged or had failed despite a large amount of money, time, energy or resources allocated to it. No U.S. government department wants to be seen foundering or mismanaging public dollars -- particularly not in the current era of fiscal austerity.
That said, given the CIA’s history of failing to tell the truth and obfuscation, the Joannides’ files may indicate something more substantial, something that reflects adversely -- or worse -- on the Agency. That’s because the CIA’s latest refusal to make public the files represents the fourth time the Agency has opposed a public interest effort to obtain the full truth on the assassination of President Kennedy. Those incidences:
1) Warren Commission: delay and obstruct. In 1964, CIA Deputy Director Richard Helms, “the man who kept the secrets,” and Joannides’ boss, never told the Warren Commission that Kennedy’s alleged assassin had scuffled with the CIA-backed Cubans in New Orleans. Helms also never disclosed that Joannides -- and other CIA agents who were under his supervision and funding -- had helped communicate the story of Oswald’s pro-Castro activities. It wasn’t until 1998 -- when the CIA was forced to disclose Joannides’ support for Oswald’s antagonists among the anti-Castro students -- that the public learned of this psychological warfare operation. The Agency has resisted further disclosure about the nature, focus and objective of Joannides’ operations in 1963 ever since.
2) HSCA: lie, deflect, delay and obstruct. In 1978, Joannides served as CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), which re-investigated the JFK assassination, but he did not disclose the obvious conflict of interest to the HSCA in regard to his role in the events of 1963.
HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey said that had he known who Joannides was at that time, Joannides would have not continued as CIA liaison, but would have become a witness who would have been interrogated under oath by the HSCA staff or by the committee. In addition, Joannides’ failure-to-disclose occurred despite the fact that Blakey and the CIA had a pre-investigation agreement between the HSCA and the CIA that CIA personnel who were operational in 1963 could not be involved in the committee’s investigation.
Many would consider the above deception by the CIA audacious, to put it diplomatically.
When Morley first informed Blakey about a decade ago about Joannides’ role in the very anti-Castro activities from 1963 that the HSCA was investigating, Blakey was flabbergasted:
“If I’d known his [Joannides’] role in 1963, I would have put Joannides under oath -- he would have been a witness, not a facilitator,” Blakey, now a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told The New York Times. “How do we know what he didn’t give us?”
3) ARRB: lie again, delay and obstruct. After Oliver Stone’s seminal 1991 film “JFK” increased debate about who was behind Kennedy’s murder, the public pressured Congress to declassify more files related to the JFK assassination, and Congress created the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) to oversee the release of more documents. However, incredibly, the CIA once again failed to tell the ARRB about Joannides’ 1963 work, and the board was blinded to a legitimate and germane investigation area.
U.S. Judge Jack Tunheim, ARRB chairman from 1994-1995, said that had the board known about Joannides’ activities in 1963, it would have been a no-brainer to investigate him:
“If we’d known of his role in Miami in 1963, we would have pressed for all his records,” Judge Tunheim said, the New York Times reported.
4) Obstruction No. 4: Morley v CIA
Fast-forward 18 years into the now postmodern era, and the CIA’s response to petitions for pubic disclosure in the Morley v CIA case looks a lot like its stance versus the Warren Commission, the HSCA and the ARRB: refuse to make public the documents, seek to delay, obfuscate the issues, and do not confirm or deny.
Moreover, the CIA’s stance versus Morley looks all the more problematic due to the fact that it has been 50 years since the assassination of President Kennedy. The Cold War is over: the United States won. There is no existential threat to the United States. Russia, the world's second strongest military power, while not a U.S. ally, is not an enemy, either, but a rival. Cuba’s centrally planned communist economic model has been discredited for decades, and it will likely become a market-oriented economy in the decade ahead. Cuba also poses no threat to the U.S. or its interests in the region -- i.e., don’t expect Cuba to invade Florida or export its centrally planned economic system to Brazil or Mexico any time soon. Even so, the CIA argues that making public the classified JFK assassination files would cause “extremely grave damage” to U.S. national security.
JFK Assassination Investigation Status
It must be underscored that, to date, there is no smoking gun or incontrovertible evidence of a plot or conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy, but there is a pattern of suspicious activity, along with a series of anomalies and a commonality of interests among key parties, that compel additional research and the release of non-public documents.
Further, the CIA probably is not covering up some tectonic, systemic crisis-triggering secret about the assassination of President Kennedy, or even evidence of a colossal Agency operational failure that would prompt the American people to call for a dismantling of the national security state apparatus.
But you would not know it from the CIA’s stance toward the old, still-classified JFK assassination files.