Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Supremes Get Morley v. CIA

JFK Records Suit Tests CIA Secrecy on Assassination

April 30, 2019

On April 29, my attorney Dan Hardway filed a petition for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to review my case, Morley v. CIA. When I filed this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit 16 years ago, I sought certain files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

The JFK story still resonates, albeit more faintly than it once did. Kennedy was a popular liberal president who, at the time of his death, was challenging the country to embrace civil rights and “a strategy for peace” to end the Cold War. Detested in the Pentagon and CIA as a weakling and traitor, Kennedy was shot dead as his open-air motorcade passed through downtown Dallas on a sunny day in November 1963.

I never expected the case would take so long or rise so high. Yet I am not surprised. I always believed FOIA litigation could shed new light on the causes of JFK’s assassination, a national trauma on par with 9/11 for the next generation. I anticipated new information would clarify long-standing questions about America’s most enduring murder mystery. And I expected the CIA would resist full disclosure. The federal courts have been divided on the merits of my case, leaving the Supreme Court as the final arbiter.

My lawsuit, filed in December 2003, sought records to clarify the CIA’s response to JFK’s murder. After Kennedy was killed, the Dallas police department immediately picked up an ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald and claimed he shot the president. Oswald denied the charge and was killed in police custody the next day. A year later, a commission of Washington insiders concluded Oswald acted “alone and unaided.” JFK’s death was not politically motivated, it was proclaimed.

As the biographer of two top CIA operations officers who were deeply knowledgeable about the events of 1963, I don’t find the official story of a “lone gunman” to be credible. The CIA men I wrote about did not believe it, not in the privacy of their thoughts and actions. They knew far more about Oswald, the supposed assassin, before JFK was killed than they disclosed to investigators. Declassified records and interviews demonstrate that the agency settled on the story of a “lone gunman” in order to conceal its deep pre-assassination interest in Oswald from law enforcement, Congress, and the American people.

With the help of Jim Lesar, a veteran FOIA litigator, I sought to learn more via a request for information about a Miami-based CIA operative named George Joannides who handled sensitive matters for senior officials in Langley. The request turned into a long-running lawsuit. Thanks to a unanimous December 2007 appellate court decision, issued over strenuous CIA objections, I obtained more than a thousand pages of material.

‘Presumed Assassins’

The redacted Joannides files illuminated two previously unknown aspects of the JFK story.
The first was Joannides’ role in an authorized and deniable CIA psychological warfare operation that generated propaganda about Oswald. A job evaluation from 1963 revealed Joannides ran a CIA-funded anti-Castro student group, the Cuban Student Directorate, known by the code name AMSPELL. Within 48 hours of Kennedy’s death, Joannides’ agents published the first JFK conspiracy theory, claiming Oswald and Cuban leader Fidel Castro, were “the presumed assassins.”

The second story revealed by my lawsuit was Joannides’ obstruction of a congressional investigation. In 1978, after the Watergate-era revelations about CIA abuses, Congress re-opened the JFK probe by creating the House Select Committee on Assassination.  The agency called Joannides out of retirement to serve as liaison with the Committee investigators. He shut down their inquiries. Even under direct questioning, he did not disclose the Oswald-AMSPELL activity. A 1979 job evaluation praised Joannides as “the perfect man” for dealing with the Committee. In 1981 he received the agency’s Career Intelligence Medal for “exceptional achievement.”

Intrigued, I sought to obtain another 330 records about Joannides that the agency withheld on grounds of “national security.” In June 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected my arguments and said the CIA had complied with the FOIA. The substantive part of the case was over.

I then asked the court to order the government to pay for cost of my litigation, namely Lesar’s fee for hundreds of hours of time he spent crafting the arguments that freed the Joannides files. Under the FOIA, the government is required to pay court costs if the plaintiff has “substantially prevailed.”

The law is designed to incentivize the government to follow the FOIA and to compensate citizens, reporters, and whistleblowers who seek information in the public interest. One of the four factors in awarding legal fees is whether the information sought has the potential to benefit the public.

I thought I cleared that bar easily. The New York TimesFox NewsAssociated PressPolitico, and USA Today covered Morley v. CIA. The Washington Post and two dozen other mainstream news sites published the AP story. The Times and other sites published a photo, obtained via FOIA, which showed Joannides receiving his medal.

In December 2011 District Court Judge Richard Leon dismissed my request for legal fees, asserting the litigation had uncovered little of substance. I appealed. In June 2013 the Court of Appeals reversedLeon’s decision. In July 2014, Leon threw out my case on different grounds. In January 2016, the appellate court reversed him again.

Throughout this legal slog, the CIA and Justice Department’s lawyers have insisted there is no public benefit to the disclosure of Joannides’ JFK-related activities. Move along, says the CIA. There’s nothing to be learned in the Oswald-AMSPELL story or in the ancient Joannides files that contain sensitive valuable “national security” secrets.

Last July, on a fourth hearing, a divided three-judge panel dismissed my case. Now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in his last decision before he joined the high court, assessed the value of my FOIA lawsuit as “small.”

Judge Karen Henderson, the senior judge on the D.C. Court of Appeals, issued a stout dissent, saying I clearly deserved to have my court costs paid. Kavanaugh’s decision, she declared, “ignored our precedent and misapplied our mandate.”


What has Morley v. CIA revealed about JFK’s assassination?

For 16 years, I resisted definitive conclusions about Joannides’ role in the events that led to JFK’s death. I truly wasn’t sure. I wanted to see all of the CIA’s records on the subject first.

I awaited the promise of the JFK Records Act of 1992: full disclosure. The law, passed unanimously by Congress, mandated the release of all of the government’s JFK files within 25 years, that is to say, by 2017.  The promise, alas, was betrayed by President Trump. He used the one loophole provided in the law, allowing for continued postponement of release of assassination records. Trump, the conspiracy theorist, certified that disclosure would cause “an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations” and that “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

In his October 2017 White House directive, Trump stated he had “no choice” (curious phrase) but to allow federal agencies to continue to withhold thousands of JFK assassination files from public view– including the Joannides files. In April 2018, the National Archives reported that 15,834 assassination records remain redacted, most of them by CIA and FBI. These files will remain sealed until April 2021 at the earliest, 
‘No-Brainer’ on Secret JFK Files

The continuing secrecy around thousands of JFK files surprises Judge John Tunheim, former chair of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). The ARRB was a civilian review board that declassified hundreds of thousands of JFK files in the mid-1990s.

“My assumption was that all the remaining records would simply be released in 2017,” Tunheim, now the senior federal judge in Minnesota, told me in an interview. “At that point in time [1998], our thinking was there is no legitimate reason to withhold information about how we collected information fifty years ago, that there would be no legitimate reason for protecting things that were that old.”

The agency’s stance on the Joannides files is particularly obtuse, Tunheim said. In 1998, the JFK review board asked the agency to provide relevant Joannides files. The agency handed over exactly 11 pages of material. The CIA “fooled’ the board about the extent of the Joannides files, Tunheim said. “We would release them in full today without a moment’s hesitation,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

Of course, the fact that the CIA is sitting on thousands of JFK files in 2019 does not necessarily mean the U.S. government is hiding evidence of a conspiracy in 1963. As President Obama said in a 2009 memorandum, “the problem of overclassification” is endemic in the federal government. I’m pretty sure that 95 percent of the still-secret JFK files are historically irrelevant. It’s the remaining five percent, however, that interests historians, researchers, journalists and students.

The files I sought in my lawsuit are a case in point. They do notcontain evidence that Joannides plotted against JFK’s life. They contain plenty of evidence that he abetted those who did, after Kennedy was dead. He wasn’t in Dallas when JFK was killed. He helped run the coverup in Miami and Langley afterwards. He died in March 1990.

‘We Were Used’

I did not take my case to the Supreme Court to vindicate any conspiratorial interpretation of JFK’s death. I pursued new information to fill out the fact pattern around the assassination with confidence that people can make up their own minds about what it shows.

My reading of the evidence conforms with that of knowledgeable observers. Attorney General Robert Kennedy concluded his brother was ambushed by enemies in his own government. So did the widowed First Lady, Jackie Kennedy.

Two astute contemporaries, Fidel Castro and Charles DeGaulle, also believed that Kennedy fell victim to a conspiracy emanating from within U.S. security forces. Castro was a battle-hardened Marxist revolutionary. DeGaulle was a continental conservative snob. They knew, as well as anyone, the workings of American power and the machinations of the CIA. More recently, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a retired CIA station chief and Just Security editor, told a conclave of retired spies that he believes if the CIA were responsible for JFK’s murder, it was likely certain rogue CIA officers in Miami.

Morley v. CIA produced documentary evidence consistent with the Castro-DeGaulle-Mowatt-Larssen interpretation of November 22, 1963. The Joannides’ files laid bare agency operations around Oswald. Joannides’ propaganda agents among anti-Castro Cuban students created a plausible public record—in intelligence parlance, a “legend”—that Oswald was a leader of a pro-Castro group called Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in New Orleans. The FPCC was a popular socialist organization with 30 chapters on college campuses that defended Castro’s revolution, which had abolished racial segregation and redistributed land to poor people.

The CIA operation that monitored and manipulated Oswald emerged from a joint CIA-FBI program known as COINTELPRO. Short for Counterintelligence Program, COINTELPRO sought to undermine and destroy civil rights and antiwar organizations from 1958 to 1974. According to this declassified memo, the CIA was conducting a secret operation against the FPCC as of mid-September 1963.

Joannides was involved. Within hours of Oswald’s arrest, his AMSPELL agents in the Cuban Student Directorate fed reporters the story that the president had been killed by a leader of the FPCC.

One of those AMSPELL agents was Jose Antonio Lanuza. A retired school teacher in Miami, Lanuza served as spokesman for the CIA-funded Cuban Student Directorate in 1963.  According to a JFK Library memo, the Cuban students received $51,000 a month from the CIA.

On the night of November 22, 1963 Lanuza recalls the group communicated with the group’s CIA handler, Joannides, whom he knew as “Howard.” Lanuza also recalls speaking with a dozen local and national reporters about the connection of Kennedy’s accused killer to the pro-Castro FPCC. The next day, the AMSPELL information fueled headlines that the American president had been killed by a “pro-Castro assassin.”

“We were used by the people who wanted to make Oswald take all the blame for killing Kennedy,” Lanuza said in an interview. “We were ideal cover for using the theme of Oswald being a Castro supporter. Somebody wanted to build up that story. That’s where we came in.”

The first-day AMPSELL publicity blitz did much to convince the public that a liberal president had been killed by a communist.

But was it true? Under interrogation, Oswald denied shooting Kennedy. He told reporters that he was a “patsy.” The next day he was shot dead in police custody by a Dallas nightclub owner with organized crime connections. These shocking and baffling events gave birth to a thousand conspiracy theories.

I took my case to the Supreme Court to bypass the theories and get the facts: to complete the historical record of a critical moment in which American democratic institutions were attacked, a record that the American people do not yet fully possess.

CIA Medal

Perhaps the biggest single revelation generated by Morley v. CIA was the medal given to Joannides. Inside the agency, one might say that Joannides protected the agency’s “sources and methods” around the Oswald/AMSPELL/FPCC operation. Outside the agency, you could say he was honored, at least in part, for perpetuating the JFK cover-up.

House Select Committee on Assassination general counsel G. Robert Blakey, now emeritus professor at Notre Dame law school, told PBS Frontline that Joannides had obstructed Congress’ investigation, a felony. Was he concealing the existence of a CIA operation to falsely blame Oswald for killing JFK? Or just CIA incompetence? Absent full disclosure, definitive conclusions are elusive. 

Morley v. CIA fell short of getting the whole story. The agency identified but never released 330 Joannides files I sought. These include 44 documents from 1963 and 1978, which concern Joannides’ cover and “intelligence methods.” They are key to the JFK story. I suspect they identify the senior agency officers who authorized psychological warfare operations that linked Oswald to Castro’s Cuba before and after JFK was killed.

According to the agency, not a single word contained in these antique records – even with any potentially appropriate redactions for sources and methods – can be made public in 2019 without threatening “national security.”  Given that most of the records in question are more than 50 years old, the claim seems far-fetched, if not suspicious. Nonetheless, the federal courts agree it is accurate.

‘Entirely Unreasonable’

The question now before the Supreme Court is not conspiracy. The issue is accountability and how the FOIA seeks to insure it. In the July 2018 majority opinion, Kavanaugh ruled the CIA acted “reasonably” in spurning my JFK queries. Judge Henderson countered that the government’s actions were “entirely 
unreasonable” and I should be awarded court costs.

The high court now has the opportunity to decide. The answers are a long time coming. 

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Newman on JFK v. Lemnitzer - The Burris Memo


According to Howard Burris’ memo—the only surviving record of what happened at the meeting—"The president directed that no member in attendance at the meeting disclose even the subject of the meeting.” National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy described the president’s adverse reaction to the proposed surprise strike: “He expressed his own reaction to Dean Rusk as they walked out of the cabinet room to the Oval Office for a private meeting on other subjects. “And we call ourselves the human race.”

The timing of the chiefs’ proposal was not lost on the president. Kennedy was facing Soviet ultimatums on Berlin at a time when conventional U.S. military forces, by themselves, could not prevent the loss of West Berlin to East Germany. All present at the meeting understood that without the American nuclear deterrent, Berlin could not be saved.

But the crisis over Berlin wasn’t all that Kennedy had on his mind during that bizarre Net Evaluation presentation. Twice, the president obliquely broached something that those present could not yet have been aware of. Burris’ memo captured what else might have been on Kennedy’s mind: The president asked for an appraisal of the trend in the effectiveness of the attack. General Lemnitzer replied that he would also discuss this [later personally] with the president. Because Kennedy had already been told that the best window of opportunity for such a nuclear attack against the USSR would occur in late 1963, his question about the predicted trend line betrays his interest about a time other than late 1963.

And Kennedy’s next comment revealed what that period was: Since the basic assumption of this year’s presentation was an attack in late 1963, the president asked about probable effects in the winter of 1962. Mr. Dulles observed that the attack would be much less effective since there would be considerably fewer missiles involved. Only the president knew what he was thinking about: how would the Cold War landscape look in late 1962? And, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know what the Kennedys had in mind. Their intention—after dealing with the flash points in Berlin, Laos, and Vietnam—was to reactivate the plan to overthrow Castro. The question was: what would Khrushchev be able to do about it?


The fact that no detailed record other than Burris’ memo of the meeting survived raises questions. Why was the National Security Council (NSC) record of the NSC Net Evaluation Subcommittee presidential briefing destroyed? Why was there no JCS record kept? And, more importantly, how did Burris make such a detailed report of the discussion? The most likely scenario is that—like the Northwoods documents from 1962—Lemnitzer was able years later to get the records destroyed except for the Burris account. The surviving Northwoods documents appear to be not the JCS records—which they should be. Instead, what we have what appears to be from the Vice-Presidential Security File, which would almost certainly have been copies Burris made for LBJ. Bromley Smith was Executive Secretary to the National Security Council. Burris was routinely was given access to NSC agendas and meetings by Smith—whether or not the agenda items made it to President Kennedy. Smith made it a point to personally meet and brief Burris “never less than once a week” and provide him with the latest drafts of all NSC papers.



Burris, the vice president’s Military Representative, vividly remembers the confrontation between Johnson and Kennedy after JFK ordered LBJ to go on a trip to Vietnam: Burris was SITTING AGAINST THE WALL IN AN NSC MEETING “listening to all this screaming taking place. Kennedy said he wanted Johnson to go and Johnson just refused. But, like it or not LBJ was going to Saigon. Johnson first met with Diem began on 12 May. LBJ invited Diem to write a letter to JFK with a shopping list in it—a digression that HAD NOT BEEN PLANNED BY KENNEDY. Concealed behind Johnson’s suggestion lay a venturesome plan in which Lansdale’s hand was involved. At the next meeting LBJ suggested that Diem JFK about introducing U.S. combat troops in Vietnam.

Diem replied that he did not want U.S. troops in Vietnam but that he did want an increase in U.S. training personnel. On cue, the U.S. Military Advisory Group Chef, General McGarr, immediately asked Diem if he would accept the introduction of U.S. combat troops “for training purposes.” With no argument or comment whatsoever, Diem agreed. That plan was precisely the formula Lansdale had inserted on 27 April Vietnam Task Force Report. The Joint Chiefs wanted to put U.S. combat troops into Vietnam, but they needed Diem’s approval. Everyone had to play their part to get it.

Did Johnson know what McGarr was up to? Johnson’s military “aide” Colonel Burris did. “I remember about McGarr saying the troops were for training,” Burris recalls, “but it was really just under the guise of training.” Colonel Burris told me he was specifically instructed, by persons he calls “the boys in the woodwork,” not to discuss the combat troops issue with his own boss, Vice President Johnson. I asked, “But why?” “I was not authorized to,” Burris replied, and added darkly, because “Diem was a marked man,” and someone who should not be dealt with on this issue.

This much is clear: while we don’t know if someone rehearsed Johnson, there is no doubt that someone rehearsed Burris. Who was giving orders to the vice president’s military aide? And why?

The above episode is evidence for my current hypothesis that Burris was not just an aide to LBJ; in fact, he was acting as LBJ’s case officer.

Part IV: As promised this is a sneak preview from Volume IV--"Armageddon"--about a moment of high drama in Colonel Howard Burris's subterranean prowling in March 1962:

The showdown between Lemnitzer and JFK over U.S. 

intervention in Cuba took place during four crucial days in mid-March 1962.

On 13 March Lemnitzer, forced by the Kennedy brothers' knee-capping of Lansdale a few days earlier, sent his Northwoods invasion plans to Kennedy. On 16 March, in front a dozen senior officers from the White House, Pentagon and State Department, Lansdale was on hand to watch and record the face-to-face showdown between the president and the chairman of the JCS.

At this crucial inflection point of history, Lemnitzer could not afford for the president to know the truth about Vietnam, where he was also pressing JFK to intervene. During those same four days in March 1962, Colonel Burris (LBJ's putative "aide") was in discussions with the Joint Chiefs’ staff and General Taylor’s office about the failing war effort in Vietnam. Burris told me that they all knew that McNamara was not being told the truth about Vietnam. On 16 March—the very day of the Kennedy-Lemnitzer faceoff over invading Cuba — Burris told Vice President Johnson in a memo that the chiefs knew the truth about the failing war effort in Vietnam. Four days later Burris scrawled this dark note at the bottom of that memo: “This same question of ‘where are we in Vietnam’ still disturbs Mr. McNamara. He is leaving today, 20 March, for meetings in Honolulu, where he hopes to obtain some answers.” Of course, all McNamara got from the military was more lies on Vietnam. President Kennedy, however, rebuked Lemnitzer in front of those gathered at the Cuba showdown and sent the JCS chairman packing.


RESEARCHERS NOTE: The above sketch is only made possible by combining material from Chapters Twelve and Thirteen in "JFK and Vietnam" and from Chapters Fourteen and Fifteen in "Into the Storm."
The destruction of the 1961 Net Evaluation records as well as the 1962 JCS copies of Northwoods, were most likely the result of Lemnitzer's handiwork. He has also successfully destroyed much of his own official records during the Kennedy Administration. It is more likely that his motive was to hide his own actions than to do it just to paint a false picture of Kennedy; trying to paint JFK as a war monger turns out--once the documents began streaming out with the Foreign Relations of the U.S. series--was about as easy as a camel passing through the eye of a needle!

[On Col. Howard Burris] His vacation before the assassination and his retirement after LBJ was ensconced in the Oval Office = mission accomplished. There have been a few reasonable beginnings on researching Burris but not a full blown job yet. You might think that's because the records aren't there. But you would be wrong about that. The problem is that it's hard to do document research at a high level of granularity for very long--and to apply that kid of research continuously over a long stretch of time against discreet targets and topics. It's really old fashioned police work. We need more of it on this case. Too many in our "research" community publish books principally by reading other books. Anyway, I have Burris dead center in the cross hairs at the moment and moved the heavy artillery up for the job.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

NPIC Assassination Records at Smithsonian

BK Notes: The bottom line is the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) never followed up on this lead and checked with the Smithsonian to see if they had any NPIC or assassination records or any records stored there at the request of RFK. Now I will have to do that. 

On Monday, April 8, 2019 at 2:07:56 PM UTC-4, Bill Kelly wrote:

In a ARRB Memo, it is noted that a secretary for the National Photo Int. Center (NPIC) Velma Reumann was interviewed and she reported that Robert F. Kennedy ordered NPIC assassination records boxed and delivered to the Smithsonian rather than to NARA. 

Can you tell me if the ARRB followed up on this report and checked with the Smithsonian for any NPIC assassination records, or if RFK had a storage area at the Smithsonian were he kept records? 
Thank you, 

William Kelly 

The full memo is attached, this is the relevant portion: 

"She has a strong, independent recollection of NPIC personnel boxing up all photographic materials (“everything we-the film department-had”) related to the assassination on the orders of Robert Kennedy and sending them to the Smithsonian Museum for permanent storage sometime within 6 months or so after the assassination."

"She cannot remember whether the orders from Robert Kennedy were in writing, or oral, but she was quite firmly of the impression in 1996 that the direction had come from Robert Kennedy. In order to test the strength of her Smithsonian recollection, I asked her whether she may have been confusing the Smithsonian with the National Archives or some other government body; she replied emphatically that she knew the difference between the National Archives and the Smithsonian, and reiterated that the boxed material went to the Smithsonian. She said she was certain of this because she, herself, was required to call an official at the Smithsonian to discuss the imminent transfer, and recalls that the individual to whom she spoke was as surprised by the selection of the Smithsonian as she was. Unfortunately, she does not remember the official’s name or job description, nor does she remember the exact date of this transfer."

In response, on April 25, Gene Morris wrote:
William E. Kelly:

This is in response to your April 8, 2019, request for information about the records of the JFK Assassination Records Collection. Specifically you are seeking information about Assassination Records Review Board records relating to the possible transfer of Naval Photographic Interpretation Center or the Naval Photographic Center (NPIC or NPC) assassination related records to the Smithsonian Institution in 1963 or 1964. We received your request on April 12, 2019.

We searched the finding aids to the records of the ARRB and identified several boxes as possibly being relevant to your search. We found copies of the memo in question in both Series 4: Research and Analysis, Box 52, Folder 4.0.5 Depositions/Interviews Madonia, Vincent and the Files of T. Jeremy Gunn, Box 7, folder  RP/Madonia. 

We also found a file on Velma Vogler in Box 13 of the Files of Douglas P. Horne. None of those files contained any information indicating that the ARRB followed up on the implication that some assassination related material may have been sent to the Smithsonian.

There are no files labeled as pertaining to the Smithsonian in either Gunn's or Horne's files, nor are there any such labeled files in the Series 4. In Series 4, we also searched the folders 4.0.2 Subject Files Photographic Issues in Box 30, 4.12.2 Navy in Box 86 and 4.12.3 Navy ARRB Correspondence & Contacts in Box 87, and still found nothing indicating that the ARRB either investigated or dismissed the possibility of records being moved to the Smithsonian in 1963/1964.

Some of the files are fairly large and we did not do a page by page search of them. It may be that other documents within those files directly contradict the recollection of Mrs Reumann. A page by page search of the files is not a level of service we can provide.

We can make these records available to you at our College Park, Maryland, facility, should you wish to go through them yourself.

We regret that we could not be of more assistance to you. If you have any further questions, please feel free to respond by return e-mail or by calling (301) 837-1993.

Gene Morris
Archives II Textual Reference Branch (RDT2)
Room 2400

BK Notes: Now I will be traveling soon to DC to the National Archives to review these records as well as search for the ONI Defector File - an AMTRACK train trip from Philly to DC Union station, get a hotel room, and visit the Smithsonian to see what assassination, NPIC or RFK records they hae. I will report back as to what I find. Please help defray the expense of this trip by supporting JFKCoutnercoup research. 

Larry Hancock - Wheaton Names Update

Wheaton Names Update

by larryjoe2
Larry Hancock

This update is for the folks who have been following our Wheaton Names research over the past several months. I’ve blogged a few times and we did put up a link to an early research paper on the work, but since then we’ve gone much further in some respects…and hit a bit of a wall in the process.

With the assumption that Wheaton did hear remarks about the attack on JFK, among the “war stories” that Carl Jenkins and Rafael Quintero were exchanging with their friends, the obvious question is who were those friends and what would Jenkins and Quintero have in common with them.

That obvious answer – given that Wheaton and Jenkins were trying to get into the air transport/supply business for the Contra military effort against the Sandinista’s, is that they were meeting with the two field agents in charge of handling those shipments. That would be Rafael Quintero and Felix Rodriquez.

Further research shows that both Quintero and Rodriquez had an extended history in anti-Castro paramilitary operations Carl Jenkins, making Jenkins a perfect selection for Wheaton as his sales manager.  That history, combined with the documented personal relationship between Wheaton and Quintero, explains why Wheaton might well have been in a position to hear the sorts of war stories and remarks about JFK which he ultimately attempted to report to the ARRB.

Research into Quintero and Rodriquez has also provided a good deal of detail on their association with Jenkins. It began with the earliest volunteers for the CIA’s Cuba project, and their training at a base in Panama – training overseen by Carl Jenkins. During 1960 a group of those earliest volunteers was pulled for additional training at the secret CIA training installation in Belle Chase, outside of New Orleans.

Ultimately those individuals, along with personnel trained in intelligence collection and practices by David Morales, were covertly inserted into Cuba to make contact with resistance groups and report on conditions inside Cuba.  Several of them were also deployed on maritime insertion missions in the months immediately before the landings at the Bay of Pigs, on supply missions – and as we learned – on highly secret attempts to kill Fidel Castro in a series of planned ambushes and sniper attacks.

They were part of a last ditch effort  to decapitate Cuban leadership before the landings, an effort which included the notorious poisoning project but which was more extensive than the CIA ever admitted in its reports on the Cuba Project, or later to the Church committee.

Due to the nature of those missions, the majority of those individuals, including both Quintero and Rodriquez, did not end up in Cuba prisons; they and several of the other individuals being used in the pre-landing maritime missions (operated out of the Florida Keys, with some, including assassination missions overseen by Carl Jenkins) continued working in covert CIA operations including maritime missions into Cuba – overseen by CIA paramilitary specialist Rip Robertson.

Those missions decreased over time, particularly after the agreements with the Russians which helped resolve the Cuban missile crisis of fall 1962.  By mid-1963 several of those individuals has essentially been taken off missions, some held on retainer but most simply looking for ways to continue efforts against Castro.  In the summer of 1963, several of them (who were DRE members) participated in two abortive efforts to carry out bombing missions against Cuba.

At the same time that was going on, the Kennedy Administration had decided to support a new, highly autonomous off shore effort against Castro (AMWORLD), headed by Manuel Artime and with Quintero as second in command.  Carl Jenkins was assigned to perform CIA oversight over Quintero and the initial military operations against Cuba.

What we have learned is that a particular clique of the most committed anti-Castro fighters, the earliest volunteers for the Cuba Project, the individuals given advanced training and sent into Cuba in high risk maritime missions – including assassination attempts were some of the earliest recruits into the new AMWORLD project.  The joined the project in the August and September time frame – but the project itself did not begin covertly exfilitrating personnel out of the U.S. until January/February 1964.

For all intents and purposes those key individuals, very possibly including some of the names mentioned by Quintero, Rodriquez and Jenkins in the conversations Wheaton overhead, simply go out of sight. They continued to live in the US, they continued to travel and take some amount of training, apparently most continued to reside in the Miami area.

However while they were in the process of being given covers, they simply went dark. AMWORLD did have money for domestic activities, including travel and purchases. And it was all done outside of CIA control.  It was autonomous and so were its members to a large extent. There is some indication that certain of the individuals we begin following in Carl Jenkins training camp in Panama in 1960 were traveling to Texas in the fall of 1963.

Several of them were active DRE members and could have used that affiliation as a dover in their travels to New Orleans and Dallas; some were definitely in New Orleans in the summer when Lee Oswald was there. But pinning down their movements in the fall is  a real challenge and largely speculative at the moment.
In one instance it appears that the links may extend to Red Bird airport and the remarks made to Ray January by a Cuba pilot immediately before the attack on JFK. But fully confirming that is a challenge in itself.

So…do we have names that fit the Wheaton story; absolutely. Can we show them to be associated with each other and to be among the most committed and aggressive Cuban exiles; yes.  Some among them were expert marksmen and had volunteered for use in sniper attacks on Castro. They were among the most skillful of the trainees at both infiltration and exfiltration, going in and out of Cuba multiple times even when Cuban security was at its highest. Manuel Artime had requested several of them by name as his own special security team. They were also among the first volunteers for his AMWROLD project in 1963.

Can we put them in Dallas for the attack? No we can’t.  We have suspects, at the moment because of the autonomous nature of the AMWORLD project and its limited reporting,  moving the ball further down the field is proving to be quite challenging.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

U.S. Army Ranger Captain Bradley Ayers


After reading his book “The War that Never Was” many years ago, I finally got to talk to former US. Army Ranger Captain Ayers a number of times on the telephone and exchanged letters. 

Ayers also wrote “The Zenith Secret,” about his time training anti-Castro Cuban commandos at JMWAVE. 

Ayers and Captain Edward Roderick were assigned by General Brute Krulak to train the Cubans under CIA operational control. 

The leader of the team Ayers trained was Julio Fernandez, the same name as the Cuban I was originally searching for from Case Study Number 1 - and the same name Clare Booth Luce said phoned her the night of the assassination with information on Oswald. Luce said her Cuban named Julio Fernandez was a commando team leader who had a boat, and is probably identical with the one Bradley Ayers trained at JMWAVE bases in the Everglades. 

Ayers’ first book was published by Bobbs-Merrell, an company from Indiana that had an office in the Texas School Book Depository and hired William Harvey after Harvey left the CIA. And while the CIA didn’t vet Ayers’ book, Harvey did, excising the name of Gordon Campbell as well as making other editings. 

Like Wayne Smith, Ayers was show the video of the Ambassador Hotel on the night RFK was killed and he too falsely identified two of the men as David Morales and Gordon Campbell, which affected their credibility. 

Ayers recently died, but his books say a lot. Ayers was talking with the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) when they were interviewing Gene Wheaton, and Ayers warned the ARRB that Wheaton was going to give them disinformation – though Wheaton himself didn’t know it.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Adele Edisen and Dr./Col. Jose Rivera


After reading her story in the Third Decade Magazine – that she wrote under an alias, I checked out her allegation that she first met Dr./Col. Jose Rivera (USAR) at an Atlantic City medical convention, and confirmed that convention did indeed take place at AC Convention Hall, where the JFK statute is now located on the boardwalk. 

From there I confirmed almost everything she said, and through Dick Russell, even got a picture of Rivera at Fort Ditrick, Md. 

I also confirmed that Rivera’s military unit – ASCI – Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence was engaged in early MKULTRA research at Ditrick. 

Not Cuban, Rivera was born in Lima, Peru. His longest military assignment was in New Orleans, where he taught at Loyola. The only thing I couldn’t confirm was Edisen’s call to Oswald at his New Orleans residence the first week he arrived there in April 1963. 

Edisen said Rivera gave her the phone number weeks before Oswald himself knew he would be living there, so how did Rivera know that number? 

I came to know Adele personally over the years, met her in Dallas, believe her, and was sorry to hear she passed away.

Friday, April 19, 2019

John Newman's Response to Maier Updated

What is going on in this new CNN article by Thomas Maier claiming that the “U.S. Releases Most but not All JFK Assassination Files”?

It’s an interesting article, but there is nothing new here. And contrary to the video attached to the print article, no new document or documents have been recently released about plots to assassinate Castro.

The CNN article mentions CIA Deputy Director of Plans Richard Bissell's false story that--right after the inauguration--he was pressured by the White House to establish an assassination capability in the CIA to dispose of Castro. As I demonstrated in Chapter Seven of my latest (2019) volume, Into the Storm, that was a lie and Bissell knew it was a lie. 

When Bissell appeared before the Church Committee on 17 and 22 July 1975, he retracted his claim that President Kennedy told him to create an Executive Action project. At length, the committee concluded this: “His testimony, given in light of information obtained since his earlier appearances, was that there was no White House urging for the creation of the Executive Action project.” At the end of several weeks of depositions to sort out the facts, the committee’s investigation established that an Executive Action capability had neither been requested by the president nor discussed with him. What Was the Motive for Bissell’s Deception? 

This question needs to be answered and I believe it can be answered with confidence. By the time Kennedy was in the White House, Bissell was desperate for a miracle. Bissell calculated that if Harvey was convinced that the new president was secretly serious about assassinating Castro, then the gun-toting king of luncheon martinis might be motivated to help make it happen. For Bissell, much more than his position as the DDP was riding on the success or failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion. In early 1961, Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles wanted Bissell to accept the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. Bissell got an appointment with Secretary of State Rusk to talk about it, and Rusk said he would be delighted if Bissell served in that position. Afterward, Bissell spoke with the president. Kennedy told Bissell it would be best if he remained in his job as the CIA Deputy Director of Plans. Kennedy had let it be known that Bissell would be replacing Dulles as DCI in July 1961. It was “no great secret,” Bissell wrote in his memoir, that JFK “viewed me as Dulles’ successor.”

Clearly, nothing less than Bissell’s future chance to become the Director of Central Intelligence was at stake. 

This single fact explains a lot about Bissell’s flawed judgement. In his mind at the time, Castro’s assassination before the exile landing was the only card left in the deck and the only person able to play that card appeared to be (William) Harvey. 

Having accepted that the ends justified the means, Bissell lied to Harvey. Bissell fabricated his story about a presidential order at the first possible opportunity—immediately after Kennedy’s inauguration. None of Bissell’s lies resulted from a dislike, let alone a hatred, for John Kennedy. But his selfish interests had long term consequences that he could not have foreseen. His last lie was his worst lie. Bissell could never have imagined that his whopper about a presidential order to establish an Executive Action capability would ultimately fall into the hands of a CIA staff officer Sam Halpern - who held nothing but hatred for the Kennedy brothers. (Corrected) 

Bissell could never have imagined that his last lie would be used to deprecate his former friend John Kennedy in perpetuity. Bissell could never have imagined that the CIA would carry on his Mafia plot to assassinate Castro, lie to Attorney General Robert Kennedy that it had been terminated, and then continue the operation against the AG’s orders and behind his back. And, finally, Bissell could never have imagined that Sam Halpern would lie to the Agency and to the world that RFK had waged a secret Mafia campaign to assassinate Castro. All of these unforeseen events would come to pass. 

Both Bissell and Halpern lied about what I have dubbed the “White House pressures ploy.” But their motives differed. Bissell lied about it at the time (early 1961) to protect his chance to become the DCI. Halpern lied about this alleged ploy much later to buttress his forty-year-long false campaign to blame Bobby Kennedy for his brother’s assassination.