By Guest Writer Paul W. Rea, PhD
Just days before John Kennedy took office in 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about the dangers of its growing “military-industrial complex.” At that time, neither leader could have foreseen how prophetic those words would become.
Today, after half a century of dealing with doubts, thoughtful Americans are returning to the JFK assassination better informed by new research and fresh thinking. As a result, we’re able to support an emerging narrative: the story of a brave president committed to peace who repeatedly resisted intense pressures from ultra-nationalist groups and the national-security establishment—especially the CIA—and paid the ultimate price.
For better and for worse, stories do matter. On so many issues, most of us sense that government officials and corporate media aren’t telling us the truth. Sometimes, though, the tales they tell get way too tall. It’s small wonder that two thirds of Americans doubt the standard story that a “loner” killed JFK and then, two days later, another “loner” shot the killer—and that neither had a good reason. That won’t pass the sniff test.
Highly Improbable Official Narratives
The “lone gunman theory” advanced by the Warren Commission asks us to believe that Lee Harvey Oswald alone assassinated President Kennedy, firing three shots. As the story goes, the second shot struck and the third shot killed the president. His motivations? The Commission’s Report stated that Oswald was a disturbed loner whose Marxist political views and depression had led him to commit the crime alone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy).
Although Oswald supposedly “defected” to the USSR in 1959, he likely spied for US military intelligence. When, two years later, he returned to the US, he never faced the consequences of a defection, an act tantamount to treason: the State Department even paid his way back to the US, as well as that of his Soviet wife. Once back in the country, Oswald’s statements and actions alternated between affirming and rejecting Marxism (http://22november1963.org.uk/the-career-of-lee-harvey-oswald). These facts, however, were lost on news media which, quick to blame communists, rushed to present Oswald as someone with pro-Cuban sympathies, often to fan the flames of “revenge” against Cuba.
“The Magic Bullet”
Once the Warren Commission had decided on a single shooter, it had to go with a “single-bullet theory.” That is, the first bullet caused all of Kennedy’s and Connally’s non–fatal wounds by entering Kennedy’s back, exiting through his throat, entering Connally’s back, exiting his chest, passing through his right wrist, severing a tendon in his thumb, and lodging itself in his left thigh. That one bullet sure did get around.
As if all this weren’t enough of a stretch, this story asked us to believe that the same bullet which struck Kennedy in the shoulder blade also caused his throat wound; this, too, is problematic, since the back wound was at least six inches below the throat level, and the angle of the shot was downward.
Surely government storytellers must have realized this story would be tough for thinking citizens to accept, but what choice did they have? If they didn’t stick with the single-bullet, then someone other than Oswald must have fired at least one shot. In that case, either Oswald had at least one accomplice or he wasn’t a shooter at all (http://22november1963.org.uk/single-bullet-theory-jfk-assassination). That would never do.
The Number and Direction of the Shots Fired
The Warren Commission Report claimed only three shots were fired, with the two that stuck Kennedy coming only 1.8 seconds apart. Using the very same rifle, top military marksmen could not get off three accurate shots in such a short time at a stationary target, let alone a moving one. Besides, Sgt. Nelson Delgado, who knew Oswald in the military, recalled that Oswald wasn’t a good shot. The FBI pressured him to change this appraisal (http://www.wf.net/~biles/jfk/delgado.htm).
Beyond the many testimonials of observers in the Plaza, forensic evidence also contradicts the official claim of only three shots. When a bullet hole was discovered in the windshield of the limousine, the FBI claimed that what looked like a bullet hole had “occurred prior to Dallas.” Following the shooting, a Ford Motor Co. employee who helped replace the glass reported that he’d been instructed to destroy the old windshield, which revealed a hole from a bullet fired from the front of the limo (Robert Groden, Killing of a President, pp. 142-44).
The Warren Commission not only ignored the many observers in Dealey Plaza who heard four or five shots, but also those eyewitnesses who testified about the direction of the shots. Hoping to correct the record, the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation concluded that at least four shots were fired (House Select Committee Final Report, pp. 65-75).
Several films show how, immediately after shots rang out, Dallas police converged on the famous “grassy knoll.” One officer ran his motorcycle up the slope; another rushed toward the fence at the top of the grassy knoll. At least 50 witnesses have confirmed that shots came from the nearby knoll—which, tellingly, was not even mentioned in the Warren Commission Report.
Smoking Guns Observed
• Richard C. Dodd, who worked for the Union Terminal Railroad, observed from the overpass above Dealey Plaza, also saw the puffs of smoke on the grassy knoll (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiGtgWSl5Gw).
• James Leon Simmons, another railroad worker observing from the overpass, not only saw the puff of smoke near the picket fence but also observed fresh footprints (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5No9Jiu0GI). Neither Dodd nor Simons was ever interviewed by the Warren Commission.
• Jesse Price, still another railroad worker, believed the shots came from “behind the picket fence.” He later claimed to have seen a man wearing a white shirt running away from the fence, “towards the passenger cars on the railroad siding after the volley of shots” (Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy, p. 39).
• Lee Bowers, Jr., observing from the railroad tower overlooking the parking lot serving the Plaza, recalled observing suspicious activity in the lot before seeing a “flash of light or smoke” coming from the trees near the picket fence, where two men were standing (Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment, p. 31). After receiving death threats, Bowers died in 1966 when, according to an eyewitness, “he was driven off the road by a black car” (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKbowers.htm).
• Along with his wife, Gail, Bill Newman was standing near the curb; he recalled the president “jumped up in his seat” just before a final shot “came from the mound” (the grassy knoll) (http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/fact-check/credible-witness-bill-newmans-story).
• And Charles Brehn was standing on the street only 20-25 feet away from motorcade; he recalled that pieces of bone and tissue were blown from the right toward the left and rear of the car (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YcPzPt8XcM). The Book Depository Building was behind the limousine, but the grassy knoll and fence were directly to its right. Brehn, too, was never allowed to testify before the Warren Commission.
A study summarized in Science & Justice, a quarterly publication of Britain’s Forensic Science Society, found a 96% certainty, based on analysis of audio recordings made during the assassination, that one or more shots were fired from the grassy knoll in front and to the right of the presidential limousine (Washington Post 3/25/01).
The Commission’s denial is hardly difficult to understand, for to admit that shots came from somewhere other than the Book Depository implied two or more shooters, exploding the single gunman theory.
A Significant Shift in the Official Story
In the late 1970s, the feds told a different, more realistic story. The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that JFK “was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. . . and at least two gunmen fired at the president” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_Select_Committee_on_Assassinations).
But in America “we don’t do conspiracies,” so this important revision didn’t receive much air time in the corporate media. From 1979 to the present, the mass media, including NPR and PBS, have largely served to reinforce the myth of the lone gunman: witness the much-hyped anniversary specials by CNN and NOVA, “Frontline” and “Cold Case” on PBS, and “Passionate Eye” on Canadian Broadcasting. Over the years, even the few exceptions have rarely examined possible involvement by government agencies (http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2013/11/07/jfk-assassination-anniversary-tv-programs/3426879).
Despite all the media reinforcement, however, the public still isn’t buying the official story. In 2002, an ABC News poll found that 70% of respondents suspected that the assassination involved more than one person. These days, with greater skepticism about government, this percentage has run even higher. On the 50th anniversary, surely Americans deserve an honest account. It’s high time to find and face the truth.
How JFK Made Powerful Enemies
Although most Americans have long revered the charismatic John Kennedy, at the time of his presidency powerful players detested the Kennedys. Southern segregationists feared a rising Civil Rights Movement, which both John and Bobby were starting to support; the Mafia hated Bobby’s vehement attacks on their bosses; and anti-Castro Cuban exiles felt the administration had squandered opportunities to overthrow the Cuban leader. Even more importantly, within the federal establishment “the best and the brightest” were incurring the wrath of both the Pentagon and the CIA.
CIA Grabs Power from Eisenhower; Kennedy Tries to Take It Back
By the late 1950s, emboldened by coups it had promoted, the CIA had become arrogant. Director Allen Dulles spoke of the CIA as “the State Department for unfriendly countries” (http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Assassinations_page/Farewell_To_Justice.html).
By 1960, “the Company” had even become a shadow government of the US; it was able, for instance, to sabotage a Summit involving President Eisenhower, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, and other world leaders. This the CIA accomplished by sending an unauthorized U-2 spy plane piloted by an Agency operative over Moscow on May 1, just when the Kremlin was parading its military prowess (http://www.history.com/topics/u2-spy-incident).
As the CIA expected, the Soviets shot down its spy plane. Incensed at the violation of their air space, Khrushchev backed out of a Summit intended to reduce Cold War tensions. Eisenhower, too, was angered by the CIA’s subversion of his initiative toward détente. But increased tensions with the Soviets suited the Agency, which had fomented more of the fear it required to justify its funding (http://www.twf.org/News/Y2001/0215-CIAfunds.html).
The CIA’s abuse of the U-2 spy plane constituted a State Crime Against Democracy (SCAD), an incident involving “concerted actions or inactions by government insiders intended to manipulate democratic processes and undermine popular sovereignty” (http://dehaven-smith.com/faq/default.html).
It didn’t take long for the CIA to provide another example.
Just weeks after the inauguration, the rogue Agency also defied Kennedy, meeting without his knowledge with assassins planning to murder President Raphael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic (Joan Mellen, Farewell to Justice, p. 165). If the CIA could defy a legendary war hero like Eisenhower, its leaders apparently surmised, why should they take orders from an inexperienced young president like Kennedy?
But JFK, a leader keenly interested in foreign policy, proved tougher than his adversaries expected. Four months into his presidency, Kennedy would became “the last President to believe he could take power” from the CIA according to one-time Agency asset Gerald Patrick (http://altnewschannel.com/kennedy). However, the triumph would be temporary—and the cost would be very high.
The Bay of Pigs: A Debacle Casts a Long Shadow
More than most Americans realize, the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs marked an early turning point—and one that probably helped seal the president’s fate. Since Ike had approved the CIA’s plan to train and arm Cuban exiles for an invasion of their former homeland, JFK reluctantly approved the secret operation for April, 1961. Kennedy was led to believe that once the invasion began, the most Cubans would rise up against Fidel Castro. What he was not told was that the CIA task force planning the invasion had deemed the invasion’s goals unachievable without US military involvement (http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/history/bay-pigs-invasion.html).
When the invasion began to falter, Kennedy realized he’d been conned into a situation requiring significant fighter and bomber support; he refused to submit to CIA blackmail and provide air support at the Bay of Pigs. With Castro himself leading the defense, the Cubans easily defeated the invaders. Admiral Lyman Lemnitzer at the Pentagon called Kennedy’s refusal “absolutely reprehensible, almost criminal”; Kennedy retorted “we’re not going to plunge into an irresponsible action just because a fanatical fringe . . . puts so-called national pride above national reason”
(Peter Kuznick and Oliver Stone, Untold History of the US, p. 292).
While some have argued that JFK was getting even with the CIA for subverting Eisenhower’s Summit initiative, it seems more likely that he was asserting his constitutional powers and showing the spy agency who was boss. “‘I’ve got to do something about those CIA bastards,’ Kennedy fumed” (Russ Baker, Family of Secrets, p. 86).
The defeat at the Bay of Pigs, though humiliating to both the new president and Washington, provided Kennedy with a pretext for firing top CIA leaders, including longtime director Allen Dulles. The dismissals wrecked careers among the elite and made powerful enemies, far beyond the CIA (R. Baker, Family of Secrets, p. 86).
Nor was this all. In May of 1961, only a month after the Bay of Pigs debacle, Kennedy formed his own Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to control intelligence agencies, in part by cutting their funding. In one angry moment, he even threatened to “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the wind” (Tom Wicker et al., “CIA: Maker of Policy or Tool?” New York Times 4/25/1966). As the administration attempted to curtail their power, many CIA officials developed an enduring hate for Kennedy.
Kennedy Brothers Promote Both War and Peace
Soon after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, Attorney General Robert Kennedy began to work with the CIA on Operation Mongoose, a plot to assassinate Fidel Castro. With his brother’s approval, Bobby enlisted the CIA’s “executive action” capability that was eventually turned against the president (J. Mellen, Farewell to Justice, p. 169). Moreover, the president himself tasked the CIA to fight secret but very deadly wars in both Laos and Vietnam (Ralph Weber, Spymasters: Ten CIA Officers in Their Own Words, p. 22). Since disclosure of these schemes would hardly enhance the chances for reelection, the Kennedys left themselves open to blackmail by the very spy agencies they were trying to control.
Yet in September of 1961, during an especially dark period of the Cold War, President Kennedy made a courageous, even astounding speech before the United Nations. Despite ongoing tensions with the Soviet Union, Kennedy went far beyond Eisenhower’s famous warning about “the military-industrial complex”; he called for both a “new United Nations Peace[keeping] Force” and “complete world disarmament” (http://www.state.gov/p/io/potusunga/207241.htm). This little-known speech must have not only stunned UN delegates but also shocked and dismayed those in Washington deeply invested in the Cold War: the CIA bosses and the Pentagon brass.
JFK’s Gutsy Stands on Northwoods and Cuban Missiles
Soon JFK would refuse to approve another secret plan, again galling the war hawks. In March of 1962, he nixed Operation Northwoods, a covert-action provocation, this one from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Northwoods was to be a false-flag gambit against Cuba, a plot that cavalierly called for blowing up fake airliners (suggesting that the Cubans had shot them down) as well as for having Cuban exiles commit acts of terrorism against American citizens (James Bamford, Body of Secrets, pp. 85–86). As if the president’s refusal of the Pentagon’s scheme weren’t enough to further antagonize the top brass, a few months later Kennedy relieved the main proponent of the plot, Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, from his post as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs (http://abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=92662&page=2).
However, JFK appointed Gen. Lemnitzer to become the Supreme Commander of NATO. From that powerful post, the ultra hawk promoted the top secret Operation Gladio (Sword), established earlier by CIA Director Allen Dulles to crush leftist and communist movements in Italy and elsewhere in Europe (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Gladio). Lemnitzer later approved Gladio’s attempts both to assassinate French Premier Charles de Gaulle and to support a military junta overthrow democracy in Greece.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, JFK again resisted intense pressures from military hawks urging him to bomb and invade Cuba, even at the risk of nuclear war. Instead, the Kennedy administration struck a deal with the Soviets, further antagonizing much of the Pentagon brass (P. Kuznick and O. Stone, Untold History of the US, pp. 305-13). It’s sobering to contemplate that in a room of belligerent voices, the president was often the only one to seek peaceful resolution to a crisis threatening to annihilate much of humanity (PBS American Experience “JFK” Part II).
Two years later, the warmongers were brilliantly ridiculed. Gen. Curtis “Bomb’s Away” Lemay was one model for Gen. Buck Turgidson, the super-hawk played so memorably by George C. Scott in Stanley Kubrick’s classic, Dr. Strangelove.
That Ominous Last Summer
With JFK as a lead actor, the heady summer of 1963 marked turning points in American history. In his “World Peace Speech” delivered at American University in June, Kennedy hinted that he intended to phase out of Vietnam—even asking, in effect, “is the Cold War still necessary?” (Jeffrey Sachs, To Move the World: JFK’s Quest for Peace, p. xv).
• In the wake of a very close call with nuclear oblivion during the Missile Crisis, Kennedy began pursuing détente with the USSR: the 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty became a strong first step toward halting the nuclear arms race, much to the displeasure of war hawks in the military and intelligence apparatus. To many conservatives, even this very moderate step intensified fears that Kennedy was once again “too soft on Communism” (P. Kuznick and O. Stone, Untold History of the US, pp. 322–23).
• By 1963, too, the Civil Rights Movement was “blowin’ in the wind,” culminating in the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where Dr. King spoke so eloquently. After that, the president felt compelled to act on what he’d earlier called “a moral issue.” The day after the March, Kennedy welcomed the civil rights leaders to the White House, though without much press coverage (http://www.whitehousehistory.org/whha_classroom/classroom_9-12-pressure-march.html).
• On November 5, just two weeks before the Texas trip, the president spoke with his National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy about “accommodation with Castro.” Aware the CIA thought it was running Cuba policy—and also that the Agency would likely oppose the overture—Kennedy nevertheless accepted the idea of secretly sending diplomat William Attwood to try “a sweet approach” with Castro (http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/was-jfk-going-to-make-peace-with-castro/#more-952).
Once again Kennedy was making powerful enemies within the national security establishment. Since wars bring prestige and promotions to the military and deliver big profits to its contractors, the president’s initiatives for peace exacerbated fears within the military-industrial complex. In addition, the commitment to civil rights, though long overdue, risked a segregationist backlash in the South that could have cost the president his reelection. Kennedy’s final trip was part of a Southern strategy to carry Texas, possibly without Lyndon Johnson.
Then came Dallas. JFK was dead and so were his peace initiatives. Two days after he was killed, Lyndon Johnson met with US Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge, whom JFK had considered firing. LBJ told Lodge “I am not going to lose Vietnam. I am not going to be the president who saw Southeast Asia go the way China went” (http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/john-f-kennedys-vision-of-peace-20131120?). Over the next decade, 3,800,000 Asians and 58,000, Americans would die in that genocidal war.
Was JFK Betrayed by the Secret Service?
Much as few questions were asked about the air-defense failures on 9/11, even fewer were raised about the security failures on 11/22. Only over time have questions arisen about security on the Dallas trip. For starters, if the Secret Service was able to deal so effectively with other plots against the president, why was it so ineffective in Dallas?
The Secret Service told the Dallas police they had the visit covered—not to make any special effort to protect the president. In response, Dallas Police pulled back much of its protective cordon, though twelve Police Department motorcycles did lead the motorcade. More important, though, is that in contrast to the other motorcades in Texas, in Dallas the number of motorcyles protecting the president’s flank was reduced. And, contrary to standard procedures, for much of the time no Secret Service agents were positioned on the back bumper of the president’s car (http://www.jfklink.com/articles/EmoryRoberts.html).
In Dallas, then, standard procedures weren’t followed. Secret Service agents indicated that requests such as removing the bubble top from the limousine, reducing the police motorcycle outriders, and not having agents positioned on the limousine’s rear bumper were not, as commonly believed, made by Kennedy himself (http://www.jfklink.com/articles/EmoryRoberts.html).
The breaches of protocol also became more blatant as the motorcade approached the Plaza. During the final minutes, key personnel were actually ordered to stand down. The two agents who normally rode on the back bumper of the presidential limousine were first filmed running alongside the rear of the limo; then Emory Roberts, their commander in the followup car, ordered them to fall back. As one agent, Henry Rybka, stopped and stepped away, he shrugged his shoulders three separate times, making gestures of exasperation as if to say “what’s goin’ on, boss?” As the two agents dropped farther back, both sides of the limousine were left completely exposed (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6OWcujJSCU). Contrast this exposure with that of the car just behind it, LBJ’s limo, which did have the human shields riding on both sides.
The speed of the motorcade was also compromised at a key moment. A change in route added two 90-degree turns, predictably decreasing the speed. After making the turn from Houston St. onto Elm, the limousine slowed to about 5 mph in front of the Book Depository Building as the first shot rang out. One analysis of the famous Zapruder home movie showed the president’s limousine nearly coming to a stop seconds before the fatal shot, suggesting the driver had slowed even more (Paul Chambers, Head Shot: The Science Behind the JFK Assassination, p. 240).
Multiple Reports of Secret Service Impersonators
Immediately after the assassination, Secret Service agents (or imposters pretending they were agents) contributed to the confusion and began the cover-up. Although only one Secret Service agent was reportedly stationed in Dealey Plaza, several witnesses stated that moments after the shooting, they had seen or encountered “agents” near the fence on the grassy knoll, on the parking lot, and especially at the School Book Depository. Both police and bystanders reported that men had stopped them, claiming they were Secret Service—flashing credentials or even brandishing revolvers—to turn them away (http://www.jfklancer.com/knollagent/index.html). (House Select Comm. on Assassinations Report p. 184). According to Mark Lane, the author and attorney who’s researched the assassination for 50 years, the CIA had taken charge of printing these credentials (KPFA Radio 11/22/13).
• Smelling gunpowder near the wooden fence, Dallas police officer J. M. Smith immediately approached a suited man near the fence (Warren Commission Document 205, p. 39). Smith believed the shots came from bushes near the overpass. When the officer approached the suited man, the latter presented Secret Service credentials that seemed genuine enough to satisfy Smith and a deputy sheriff accompanying him.
• Gordon Arnold, a young soldier, planned to film the president’s arrival. He too witnessed a suited man behind the fence wearing a sidearm and a Secret Service badge who seemed to be standing guard. When the man told the soldier to leave the area, Arnold walked along the wooden fence, pausing to aim his viewfinder (James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, pp. 261ff). After bullets whizzed by his head and he dove for the ground, Arnold remembered the suited man standing over him, waving a long rifle and demanding his film. When Arnold handed over his camera, the man removed the film and returned the camera (http://22november1963.org.uk/jfk-assassination-grassy-knoll-witnesses#arnold-bowers-hoffman).
• Other witnesses, including Jean Hill, recalled that when she ran up the knoll, men who identified themselves as Secret Service agents demanded her photos of the motorcade. In sum, multiple testimonials agree that men impersonating Secret Service agents confiscated evidence from witnesses immediately after the shooting (http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/20557-16-mind-blowing-facts-about-who-really-killed-jfk).
It’s hard not to interpret all this as strong evidence that the Secret Service had foreknowledge of when and where the shots would be fired—and, by standing down in Dallas, helped make the assassination possible.
Why might elements in the Secret Service have cooperated in a plot to kill the president? This is one among a great many questions the corporate media have never dared to raise. Clearly the Kennedys had alienated conservative Southerners, and some Southern agents had groused that if shots were fired at the president, they’d take no action to protect him. Other agents vowed they’d quit rather than give up their lives for Jack Kennedy (Abraham Bolden, Echo from Dealey Plaza, p. 19).
This is telling, but it hardly tells the whole story. Disgruntled individuals at low levels can’t effect systemic stand-downs. If a Secret Service stand-down order was given, or if agents (or imposters posing as agents) were assigned to the Plaza, then who ordered all this?
Overly Speedy Police Bulletin Raises More Questions
Less than fifteen minutes after the assassination, after only one person had identified Oswald as the shooter, somehow the Dallas Police blared out a radio bulletin describing the suspected killer: “About 30, 5’10,” 165 pounds.” Although this height and weight did not prove accurate, they did exactly match the measurements attributed to Oswald in both his FBI file and also in CIA documents (John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, p. 512).
Several reputable researchers, among them Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott, have wondered whether “someone with access to those files may have already designated Oswald as the culprit, before there was any evidence to connect him to the crime” (http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-jfk-assassination-and-9-11-the-designated-suspects-in-both-cases/9511).
As decades have elapsed, more and more evidence has confirmed that CIA officers had watched Oswald closely for four years— especially during the months before November 22—and then manipulated him for propaganda purposes after the assassination (Jefferson Morely, KPFA Radio “Morning Mix,” 11/15/13: jfkfacts.org).
Oswald and the Cuban-Exile/CIA Connection
In 1979, during the hearings held by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, J. Lee Rankin, former chief counsel for the Warren Commission and lead author of its Report, stunned the panel: he advised investigators to examine the government connections to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, the underworld figure who killed him, and more broadly investigate the role of anti-Castro Cubans within the US. With this startling recommendation, Rankin not only challenged the official narrative he’d helped to script; he also urged investigators to look at long-impounded files.
When the Warren Commission completed its work in 1964, it had sealed thousands of such files for 75 years. If finally released, these still-classified documents would no doubt shine light into the shadows, finally illuminating the mysteries that haunt the national psyche. These include the key issue of what information US intelligence agencies had collected on Oswald: what did they know, and when did they know it?
Hundreds of the suppressed files concern George Joannides, former chief of CIA covert operations in Florida. Based in Miami but with another residence in New Orleans, Joannides obstructed two official JFK investigations, refusing to disclose what he knew about contacts between anti-Castro Cubans and Oswald (http://jfkfacts.org/tag/george-joannides).
In New Orleans, apparently at the behest of Joannides, Oswald tried to infiltrate an anti-Castro group of Cuban exiles. As a leftist and a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, however, his real sympathies remained with Castro. So when the exiles found Oswald handing out “Hands Off Cuba” leaflets, they confronted him. After a fight broke out, Oswald was arrested for disturbing the peace.
At the police station, the alleged assassin asked to speak with FBI Agent John Quigley, who spent over an hour with him. When someone at FBI headquarters in Washington observed that Oswald was engaged in pro-Castro activities and instructed the field office to interview him, the field office didn’t indicate it had already interviewed him. Why, one has to wonder, wouldn’t the New Orleans field office have mentioned the earlier interview? (http://www.npr.org/2013/11/10/243981006/inconsistencies-haunt-official-record-of-kennedys-death).
In a supreme irony, when the FBI put Oswald under surveillance, it reported back to Attorney General Kennedy. Though Bobby sensed a threat to his brother, he figured “if the FBI’s controlling him, he’s no problem” (http://www.joanmellen.net/NYC_2006article.html). All this meant that both the CIA and the FBI must have known a lot about Oswald; how, then, could they have been taken by surprise when he allegedly murdered the president?
Who Dunnit? Analyses Have Repeatedly Cited the CIA
The list of responsible analysts who’ve implicated the CIA continues to grow. It began even before the crime.
• Six weeks before it, New York Times columnist Arthur Krock warned of CIA malfeasance. The CIA, Krock charged, was a “malignancy” on the American body politic. If the country ever experienced a coup, Krock warned, “It would come from the CIA, not the Pentagon” (New York Times 10/3/1963).
With uncanny prescience, Krock anticipated the demise of the Kennedy administration. After all, the CIA had long been in the business of “black operations” involving heads of state, and had long been targeting Castro. These allegations were validated during the Church Committee hearings on US spy agencies held during the 1970s (http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/churchcommittee.html). Long before the assassination, the White House and the CIA had been waging “an intra-administration war,” with the CIA serving “the military and its contractors that stood to gain most from war” (J. Mellen, Farewell to Justice, p. 161ff)
If this seems extreme, consider that L. Fletcher Prouty, Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Kennedy, concluded the president’s assassination was actually a coup d’état: both for better and for worse, the new Johnson administration pursued significantly different policies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy_assassination_conspiracy_theories).
• Just a month after Kennedy’s death, writing in the Washington Post, former president Harry Truman expressed dismay that the CIA he’d created had become a shadow government—that, going far beyond gathering and synthesizing intelligence, it had been making policy and doing “special operations,” many involving assassinations of heads of state. Without mentioning the JFK assassination explicitly, Truman declared that the CIA was “in urgent need of correction” (http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/on-this-date/dec-22-1963-truman-calls-for-abolition-of-cia/).
• Other truth tellers weren’t so lucky. J. Garrett Underhill, Jr., a former military affairs editor and CIA informant at LIFE, pointed to “a small clique in the CIA” as most responsible for the assassination. “Oswald is a patsy. They set him up. . . .” On May 8, 1964, as he was getting ready “to blow the whistle,” Underhill was found with a bullet wound behind his left ear (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Garrett_Underhill,_Jr.).
• By 1966, New Orleans federal prosecutor Jim Garrison had concluded that Kennedy was murdered as a result of a struggle with the CIA and, behind it, the Pentagon’s “war machine”—which he determined to finally have its ground war, if not in Cuba then big time in Vietnam. Could JFK have been trusted to deliver that war? In his final few months Kennedy seemed to signal, as he did at American University, that after he was reelected he wanted out of Southeast Asia (J. Mellen, Farewell to Justice, p. 161ff).
A number of observers, including Oliver Stone, director of JFK, have concluded that Kennedy was assassinated because he was turning away from the Cold War and seeking a negotiated peace with the Soviet Union. In a similar vein, analyst and activist James Douglass argued that this “was not the kind of leadership the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military-industrial complex wanted in the White House” (Tikkun Magazine Nov./Dec. 2010).
• Jim and Elsie Wilcott, former CIA employees, revealed “it was common knowledge in the Tokyo CIA station that Oswald worked for the agency. . . . Right after the president was killed, people in the Tokyo station were talking openly about Oswald having gone to Russia for the CIA. Everyone was wondering how the agency was going to be able to keep the lid on. But I guess they did” (SF Chroncile 9/12/1978).
• Forty years after the assassination, establishment historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., a key Kennedy adviser, would affirm that the administration had been at war with “the National Security people.” More recently, distinguished scholar Joan Mellen remarked “that the CIA at its highest levels exacted its revenge on President Kennedy has been an open secret since 1963”(http://www.joanmellen.net/NYC_2006article.html).
This said, one should acknowledge that besides the Secret Service and the CIA, the FBI was also involved, especially in shaping the official myth and otherwise contributing to the cover-up. It’s crucial to look at the cover-up as well the crime—for if perpetrators don’t leave footprints at the crime scene, they usually bungle attempts to cover their tracks.
Today we Americans find ourselves half a century overdue coming to grips with a pivotal event in our history. With things not going so well for this country, we can seize the opportunity for national self-reflection. Why have elements within our government, which imagines itself the leader of the Free World, committed so many State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs)?
And if federal agencies were disrupting democracy back then, how much more out of control might they have become today? What might we have swept under the rug long ago, only to find ourselves stumbling on it today?
If, after a half century, neither a “government of the people” nor its media accomplices will tell us the truth, then we’ll continue to find it for ourselves. Unless we raise questions and seek credible answers, we’ll probably experience nagging doubts not just about our democracy, but also about ourselves.
Paul W. Rea, PhD, is the author, most recently, of Mounting Evidence: Why We Need a New Investigation into 9/11 (2011).
Recommended Readings on the JFK Assassination
Corsi, James. Who Really Killed Kennedy? 50 Years Later: Stunning New Revelations About the JFK Assassination. Washington, D. C.: WND Books, 2013.
Douglass, James. JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters. New York: Touchstone, 2008.
Gibson, Carl. “16 Mind-Blowing Facts About Who Really Killed JFK.”http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/20557-16-mind-blowing-facts-about-who-really-killed-jfk
Groden, Robert J. The Killing of a President: the Complete Photographic Record of the JFK Assassination, the Conspiracy and the Cover-up. New York: Viking Studio, 1993.
Kennedy, Robert F., Jr. “John F. Kennedy’s Vision of Peace.” Rolling Stone November 20, 2013. http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/john-f-kennedys-vision-of-peace-20131120
Lane, Mark. Last Word: My Indictment of the CIA in the Murder of JFK. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2011.
Mellen, Joan. A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination, and the Case that Should Have Changed History. Dulles, Va.: Potomac Books, 2007.
Newman, John. Oswald and the CIA. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995.
Scott, Peter Dale. Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. Berkeley: University of California, 1996.
_____________. “The JFK Assassination and 9/11: the Designated Suspects in Both Cases.” Global Research, July 05, 2008
_____________. The War Conspiracy: JFK, 9/11, and the Deep Politics of War. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013.
Shenon, Phillip. A Cruel and Shocking Act. New York: Henry Holt, 2013.
Talbot, David. Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.
Ventura, Jesse, with Dick Russell and David Wayne. They Killed the President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013.