Here's the story of some JFK records that we are actually making progress in bringing into public view.
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A Justice Department official denied in a federal court filing last month that undercover officer George Joannides received a
medal for deceptive actions related to the assassination of President John F.
Kennedy 49 years ago but the claim cannot be verified.
CIA has consistently
challenged the notion that a career award could be seen as explicit or tacit
approval of any one assignment in Joannides’s 30-year career,” asserted Ronald
Machen, U.S. Attorney for the ,
in a brief filed on Nov. 21 in the D.C. Court of Appeals. District of Columbia
Machen’s brief is the government’s latest legal salvo in my decade-old (today) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit over JFK assassination records. At issue are ancient but still-sensitive
government documents related to the murder of President John F. Kennedy on U.S. November 22, 1963.
In recent years, the
has grudgingly acknowledged that Joannides served as the Miami-based handler
of a Cuban exile group whose members who had a series of
encounters with accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald three months before JFK was
The agency also acknowledges that Joannides served as the
principal coordinator with the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA)
in 1978 but did not disclose his role in the events of 1963 to investigators.
“That concealment has fueled suspicion that Mr. Joannides’s real assignment was to limit what the House committee could learn about C.I.A. activities,” wrote reporter Scott Shane of the New York Times in 2009.
Documents and photos released under a 2007 court order showed that Joannides received one of the agency’s highest honors, the Career Intelligence Medal in July 1981, less than three years after he stonewalled the congressional investigators.
According to the agency’s Web site, the Career Intelligence medal is given to officers with a cumulative record of service reflecting a pattern of increasing levels of responsibility or increasingly strategic impact and with distinctly exceptional achievements that constitute a major contribution to the mission of the Agency.
CIA is refusing to
pay approximately $150,000 in legal fees associated with my FOIA lawsuit. Supported
by the Obama Justice Department, the agency insists that Joannides’ medal was
not related to JFK’s assassination. The disclosure of the medal as a result of
FOIA litigation does not “meaningfully” contribute “to the fund of information
that citizens may use in making vital political choices,” Machen said.
CIA declines to
specify why Joannides was honored.
One of the documents in dispute in the lawsuit is a five-page memo, dated March 1981, that recounts why Joannides received the medal. Through ten years of litigation, the
has insisted the memo must be kept secret in its entirety “in the interest of
national defense and foreign policy.” (See “Vaughn Index” document below.)
The 1981 medal citation, declassified by the court order, makes no mention of JFK’s assassination. It states only that Joannides was honored for diverse assignments of responsibility at Headquarters, the domestic field, and overseas. His linguistic skills, area knowledge, expertise in a specialized operational activity and superb managerial techniques truly earned him the respect and admiration of superiors and colleagues.
The citation’s language does not rule out the possibility that Joannides was honored for his concealment of actions related to JFK’s assassination.
Joannides’ two-year stint in the
station in 1962-64 is his
only assignment in “the domestic field” that the Miami CIA
Within hours of JFK’s assassination, the Miami-based Cuban Student Directorate, subsidized by
officer George Joannides, was the first organization to identify accused
assassin Lee Harvey Oswald as a Castro supporter.
As the chief of the station’s psychological warfare operations, Joannides was responsible for secret activities to confuse and confound the Castro government. According to
records, he was also paying $51,000 a month to the Cuban Student
Directorate, an anti-Castro organization whose members publicized Oswald’
pro-Castro activities both before and after JFK was killed.
One of Joannides’s most important Headquarters assignments was his liasion work the HSCA in 1978. HIs failure to disclose the
financial support for the first group to identify Kennedy’s accused killer as a
Castro supporter disturbed G. Robert Blakey, a former federal prosecutor
who served as HSCA general counsel.
“[Joannides's] behavior was criminal,” Blakey, now a law professor at Notre Dame, told Salon in 2003. “He obstructed our investigation.”
Joannides won high marks for his no-disclosure stance toward the congressional
investigators. He was, wrote one of his superiors in an annual job evaluation,
“the perfect man for the job.”
disavowing that the medal conveys explicit or tacit approval of Joannides’
actions in 1963 and 1978, Machen argued in his Nov. 21 brief that my attorney
James Lesar had failed demonstrate that Joannides’s medal could be tied to the
[JFK] assassination and thereby reflect sufficient value to the public to weigh
in favor of an award of attorney’s fees. Consequently, it cannot be said that
Morley’s ‘success’ in procuring any of these documents from CIA
is likely to ‘add’ meaningfully to the fund of information that citizens may
use in making vital political choices.
Certainly, Joannides’s actions as they related to JFK’s assassination remains shrouded in official secrecy. Virtually all information about Joannides and his psychological warfare operations in 1963 remains top-secret, even a half century after the fact. The agency has acknowledged possessing 295 records about Joannides’s career that it says cannot be released in any form. At least a third of the documents are more than 50 years old.
The question remains whether Joannides’s “distinctly exceptional achievements” included concealment of information about JFK’s assassination. The top law enforcement officer in the
asserts there is no evidence of that but
of Columbia CIA is withholding the records that
could confirm (or refute) his claim.
Absent full disclosure, I will continue to litigate. Lesar will file a response to Machen’s motion in the D.C. Appeals Court on Monday, December 17. Oral arguments are scheduled for
February 25, 2013.
“Denied in Full:” In this document filed in federal court in
, the Washington CIA
explains why it will not release any information about Joannides’ Career
“Denied in Full;” This court record shows the
justification for keeping details about George Joannides’ Career Intelligence
Medal out of public view.
Re: Joannides, check out the addendum at the end of the PBS interview of House Assassinations Committee staff director Robert Blakey at