Sunday, 15 October 2000 16:42

James Jesus Angleton and the Kennedy Assassination, Part 2

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If anyone was in a position to move Oswald around prior to the assassination and control the cover-up afterwards, it was Angleton, writes Lisa Pease, in this excerpt from the second part of her study of the CIA counterintelligence chief.

From the September-October 2000 issue (Vol. 7 No. 6) of Probe

Bobby knows so little about us. One night he began to talk of muffled suspicions and stifled half-certainties, and said to me, "I had my doubts about a few fellows in your agency, but I don't anymore. I can trust John McCone and I asked him if they had killed my brother, and I asked him in a way that he couldn't lie to me, and he said he had looked into it and they hadn't. 

I told that story to Hugh. You know how rarely he laughs aloud. He actually struck his thigh. "Yes," he said, "McCone was just the man to ask." 

"What," I asked him, "would you have answered?" 

"I would have told Bobby that if the job was done properly, I would not be able to give a correct answer." 

- From Norman Mailer's novel Harlot's Ghost. (The character of Hugh Montague (Harlot) is based on James Angleton)

The most consistently prominent players in the assassination saga continue to be James Jesus Angleton and his counterintelligence staff. They held a file on Oswald predating the assassination by at least three years. After the assassination, Angleton and his closest associate, Ray Rocca, served as the gateway between the Warren Commission and the CIA. If anyone was in a position to move Oswald around prior to the assassination and control the cover-up afterwards, it was Angleton.

The key associates of Angleton who show up frequently in the Oswald/JFK assassination story are Raymond G. "The Rock" Rocca, Ann Egerter, Scotty Miler, and Birch O'Neal. Rocca had been with Angleton since his OSS days in Italy, and would control the Warren Commission's relationship with the CIA. The latter three were members of the tiny CI/SIG unit. Egerter opened Oswald's 201 file under the name "Lee Henry Oswald." Scotty Miler controlled the watch list during the period when Oswald was placed on and taken off that list. Birch O'Neal controlled CI/SIG during the period of the building of Oswald's strange 201 file.

In Part I, we examined the likelihood that Oswald was directly involved with Angleton's counterintelligence unit in the CIA. When queried about this, Anne Goodpasture, who played a role in the Mexico City aspects of Oswald's story, did not deny a relationship between the two:

Q: Have you had any reason to believe that...CI staff had any role in respect to Oswald prior to the assassination?

A: I don't know.1

She was not asked if she had any knowledge, but if she had any "reason to believe." If she truly had no reason to believe this, her only possible response would have been "no." Her response indicates clearly that she does have some doubt about the matter, that she may indeed have had reason to believe this.

Another group that shows up in a few places in the assassination story is Army intelligence. It is worth noting that, during the interim between the ending of the OSS and the formation of the CIA, Angleton served as a major in the Army and helped organize Army Intelligence's efforts to track down German agents who were using false identity cards.2 Angleton was not one to lose a contact. Once made, he would continue to use contacts for life.

Other CIA people who show up often in this story include David Atlee Phillips of the Western Hemisphere division, who worked with Bill Harvey and later Des Fitzgerald on Cuban operations; Win Scott and his "right-hand man" Anne Goodpasture from the Mexico City station; John Whitten ("Scelso") of the Western Hemisphere, Division 3; Charlotte Bustos of the Mexico City desk at Headquarters; and Richard Helms and his deputy Thomas Karamessines, who play large roles in the pre- and post-assassination paper trail. We should also note that the entire Western Hemisphere was run by J. C. King, a man closely linked to Nelson Rockefeller. King himself had been involved in the CIA's assassination plots involving Castro and Trujillo.3

Interweaving Mexican Threads

There are strange connections that link these various players. Shortly before the assassination, Oswald's CI/SIG-held 201 file was transferred to the Mexico City Headquarters desk, responsible to John Whitten and supported by desk officer Charlotte Bustos. (Bustos is identified as Elsie Scaleti in the Lopez Report.4)

Bustos, Ann Egerter of Angleton's CI/SIG unit (the woman who opened the 201 file on "Lee Henry [sic] Oswald"), and Stephan Roll, Angleton's CI liaison to the SR (Soviet Russia) division, drafted the two now infamous communications that cause much suspicion of the CIA's involvement in the Kennedy assassination.5 Although the two communications were drafted at the same time, the cable to CIA in Mexico City describes Oswald as 5'10", 165 pounds, with light brown hair; whereas the teletype to the State Department, Navy and the FBI describes Oswald as being approximately 35 years old, 6' tall, with an athletic build and a receding hairline. Why would Angleton's people be collaborating with the Mexico City desk officer to mislead other agencies within the government unless they were in some measure trying to hide or protect Oswald's identity?

Immediately following the assassination, Bustos allegedly found a photo of Oswald from the CIA's Mexico City surveillance operations. Phil Agee, Joseph Burkholder Smith, Daniel Watson, and Joseph Piccolo, all CIA employees at some point, recalled hearing aboutóand in the latter two cases, actually viewingósuch a photo. According to Agee, Bustos found the photo within an hour or two of the President's assassination. John Whitten said of Bustos that she had a "fantastic memory" and yet, like E. Howard Hunt, Bustos cannot recall what she was doing the day of the assassination.6 But Anne Goodpasture is the person who supplied the photo the CIA showed to the FBI as a possible picture of "Oswald". (Curiously, Goodpasture said in an unsworn ARRB interview that headquarters refused to send a photo of Oswald to Mexico City, and she was never sure why.7 Of course we know from Oswald's CIA file that indeed news clippings from his defection with his photo were present, so the CIA did have a photo of Oswald to share, and could also have easily obtained more had they asked the Navy or FBI.)

If Bustos had found a photo, another question is raised. Was Bustos' picture a true picture of Oswald? Or was it a picture of just another person who was not Oswald? If Bustos' picture was of Oswald, for the CIA to have supplied Goodpasture's "Mystery Man" photo in place of the real photo suggests a deliberate effort to deceive. In that case, Bustos' picture would have to have been "disappeared" by the agency, lest the evidence of their deception come to light. And if Bustos' picture was not Oswald but another man who looked like him, that also suggests a deliberate effort to deceive, as the picture was shown to at least two others within the CIA as evidence that Oswald had been in Mexico City, a point which has never been fully proven. To date, the CIA has taken the only safe road available, claiming (despite multiple accounts to the contrary) that no such picture was ever found.

Anne Goodpasture told Jeremy Gunn of the ARRB that she had worked at one point during her CIA career for James Angleton as a counterintelligence officer, and that it was the CI group that sent her to Mexico City in 1957.8 Asked to explain the difference between CE (counterespionage) and CI (counterintelligence), Goodpasture replied, "Counterespionage was the activity and Counterintelligence was the product."9

From Mexico, Goodpasture had worked on the case of Rudolph Abel,10 a Soviet agent working in New York City and curiously, living one apartment below famed author, FPCC activist and latter-day CIA apologist Norman Mailer.11 Angleton said of Goodpasture, "I personally have had very little dealings with her but my men had had a lot of dealings with her. She was always in on very sensitive cases."12 Goodpasture was also involved with Staff D, which was seriously involved with several coup attempts and assassination plots. To the ARRB, Goodpasture downplayed her involvement in Staff D, claiming that she was simply involved in duplicating and distributing materials.13 However, according to Angleton, Goodpasture was "very close" to Bill Harvey.14

Goodpasture maintained that in 1963 her sole duty was to the Mexico City station and Win Scott.15 Goodpasture tells us that Win Scott was "very, very conservative. He was from Alabama and I think he was a supporter of George Wallace."16

Goodpasture was later to receive a career achievement award on the recommendation of David Atlee Phillips, who cited her for having discovered Oswald at the Cuban embassy. Goodpasture was responsible for delivering the "deep snow"17 photo of the Mexico "Mystery Man". Significantly for our purposes, Goodpasture was also the liaison and in most cases, the sole point of contact, outside of Win Scott, David Phillips, and Scott's deputy, Alan White, to the other agencies of the U.S. government regarding the Mexico City station's CIA operations.18 And like too many others in this small cadre of CIA employees, Goodpasture has trouble remembering the moment of Kennedy's assassination:

I think I heard about it from a phone call from our outside person on the phone tap operation, and I believe it was around lunchtime when there weren't too many people there and as they all filtered back in, there was office gossip, but I have tried to remember. I've heard so many people say I can remember, I was standing at the telephone or I was in the drugstore, or I was in church and I really don't remember who all were there at the time. Dave Phillips said that someone from the military attaché's office came up and told him about it and I don't remember that....I don't even remember him being in the station at that time.19

According to Eddie Lopez, Goodpasture, in addition to her duties for Scott, ran all of David Phillips' operations. When asked about Phillips' politics, Goodpasture tells a story that remains redacted, a fact especially disturbing when one considers the whole purpose of the ARRB was to release previously classified materials, not to add to the secrets. But from the nature of the testimony around the redacted portion, we can gather that she is giving us some indication that Phillips was not the liberal he painted himself to be. The redaction ends with Goodpasture saying,

...but there again, I hate for things like this to be published because there are 2,000 – over 2,000 books already been [sic] written. The thing that they are looking for is something of this type that they can put in the other book to come that will be just short of slander, and I feel that I shouldn't really comment on the personalities for that reason. I don't want my former co-workers or in Phillips' case, his family, to think that I'm trying to project him as a personality that was a show-off or something other than the very sincere wonderful man that they feel that he is....20

Phillips is the CIA man who most closely ties Angleton in the frequency of his appearance in the assassination story. Phillips appears to have been seen in the presence of Oswald by Antonio Veciana.21 And a "Mr. Phillips" who was running CIA operations against Cuba at a time when that was David Phillips' job was seen by Gordon Novel in the presence of Guy Banister and Sergio Arcacha Smith, who were themselves in turn seen with Oswald. Oswald even rented an office in Banister's building that had previously been rented by Sergio Arcacha Smith.22 When the HSCA investigators tracked down the many false "Castro did it" leads, they kept tracing back to assets run by Phillips.23 Dan Hardway, who had much documentation to support that allegation, told Gaeton Fonzi,

I'm firmly convinced now that he ran the red herring, disinformation aspects of the plot. The thing that got him so nervous was when I started mentioning all the anti-Castro Cubans who were in reports filed with the FBI for the Warren Commission and every one of them had a tie I could trace back to him. That's what got him very upset. He knew the whole thing could unravel.24

Angleton was close friends with Win Scott and ran operations with him. Scott, in turn, was so close to Phillips that he recommended Phillips be his deputy in the Mexico City station while waiting for the next Deputy, Alan White, to arrive.25 Phillips, in turn, connects to JM/WAVE.26 JM/WAVE is another key component in the assassination story, because JM/WAVE trained assassins and participated in some of the plots against Castro. The line between Des FitzGerald's Special Affairs Staff (the replacement for Harvey's Task Force W) and the actions of JM/Wave is blurred. The weekend of the Kennedy assassination, John McCone's executive assistant Walt Elder saw Fitzgerald, and FitzGerald told Elder he had met with Rolando Cubela. He did not tell him that he had given him a poison pen to be used against Castro, nor that he had pretended to be an emissary of Bobby Kennedy's (Helms had told him not to worry, that he would approve that lie). No mention of assassination was made. But Elder had the distinct impression that FitzGerald was particularly upset that weekend. Evan Thomas, in his book The Very Best Men, painted the following scene:

Elder was struck by FitzGerald's clear discomfort. "Des was normally imperturbable, but he was very disturbed about his involvement." The normally smooth operator was "shaking his head and wringing his hands. It was very uncharacteristic. That's why I remember it so clearly," Elder said in 1993. He thought FitzGerald was "distraught and overreacting."

Des Fitzgerald's wife told author Evan Thomas that the first and last time she ever saw her husband break down in tears was when Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby. Her husband had been upset from the moment of the assassination, and sat silently, watching the news along with millions of others around the globe. When Jack Ruby performed his deed, Fitzgerald began to cry, and said, somewhat cryptically, "Now we'll never know."27 Thomas evidently thinks this has something to do with Cubela. But does it? Cubela later turned out to be a double agent. But when was that known? Was the CIA trying to provoke Castro, knowing Cubela was his agent and planning a plot with him? Was the CIA engaging in a true assassination plot, or a deception they could later refer to in Castro-did-it scenarios?

Angleton's Back Channel?

If one was planning an assassination within CIA, wouldn't it make sense to take some precautions as to what was communicated, and through what channels? We saw in Part I of this article how Bill Harvey stressed, "never use the word 'assassination'" and that nothing should be put on paper. But some communications need to transpire nonetheless to pull an operation of that scale off. According to Anne Goodpasture, Angleton had a back channel to Mexico City, and possibly other stations as well:

Q: Could you describe the different kinds of channels of communication that Mexico City had with CIA headquarters, and by that I mean cables, dispatches and that sort of thing, if you needóif Mexico City station needed to communicate with headquarters, what would be the different methods that could be done?

A: Well, there would be cables, there would be dispatches, there would be intelligence reports, there would be attachments, I can't think of anything else.

Q: For cable communications, was there more than one channel of cables used by CIA to go to headquarters?

A: I can't really answer that but I think there was what they call back channel [sic], but I don't know the details of it. There again Mr. [Alan] White [, Scott's deputy in the Mexico City station] would be the more knowledgeable on that than I am or someone from communications.

Q: Have you heard, for example, that CI may have had a back channel, not just in Mexico City but in other stations as well?

A: Well, there's gossip that I think I have seen or have heard or I don't think I dreamed it, that they discussed things through the back channel, but I'm not sure what that was. You might checkóMr. Helms would be the person who would know.28

So Angleton appeared to have a private channel he could use with Scott and presumably other areas around the world to communicate traffic too sensitive to be seen even by other sworn CIA operatives. And Helms knew about these.


The rest of this article can be found in The Assassinations, edited by Jim DiEugenio and Lisa Pease.


1. Anne Goodpasture ARRB Deposition, December 15, 1995, p. 90.

2. Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991), p. 41.

3. Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Thy Will Be Done (New York: HarperCollins, 1995), pp. 325, 348, 354, 738-740.

4. Compare the Mexico City Report by Eddie Lopez and Dan Hardway (hereafter called the Lopez Report), p. 109, with the quote from the deposition of "Scelso", now known to be John Whitten (hereafter known as the Whitten deposition), p. 31. In both she is described as "sort of the Major Domo of the Branch."

5. Bustos' involvement is related in the Lopez Report, and Roll's involvement is revealed in John Newman, Oswald and the CIA (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995). Egerter's involvement is noted in both.

6. See "Who's Running the Country" by Lisa Pease in the Vol. 4 No. 2 (Jan-February, 1997) issue of Probe for sourcing. The allegation and investigation of Bustos' photo is investigated in the Lopez Report.

7. Anne Goodpasture ARRB Interview (unsworn, not her deposition), April 23, 1998, p. 9.

8. Goodpasture ARRB Deposition, pp. 9, 10.

9. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, p. 12.

10. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, p. 37.

11. Mark Riebling, Wedge (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), p. 145-146.

12. James Angleton HSCA deposition, October 5, 1978, p. 157.

13. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, pp. 13, 15.

14. Angleton HSCA deposition, p. 157.

15. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, p. 22.

16. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, p. 57.

17. "Deep snow" was the term given to this photo by David Phillip's friend, the FBI Legal AttachÈ in Mexico City, Clark Anderson. See the FBI memo from SA W. R. Heitman to SAIC, Dallas, dated 11/22/63 (released in 1994).

18. Goodpasture ARRB Deposition, pp. 19-20.

19. Goodpasture ARRB Deposition, p. 28.

20. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, p. 59.

21. See Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993) (much of the book is devoted to this topic), and Anthony Summers, Not In Your Lifetime (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998), pp. 370-371.

22. Gordon Novel's Playboy deposition.

23. Fonzi, pp. 292-293.

24. Fonzi, p. 293.

25. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, p. 54.

26. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, p. 54. Goodpasture confirmed that Phillips had liaison between Mexico City and JMWAVE.

27. Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995), p. 308.

28. Goodpasture ARRB deposition, pp. 39-40.

Last modified on Sunday, 16 October 2016 19:16
Lisa Pease

Lisa Pease was co-editor with Jim DiEugenio of Probe Magazine and also edited with him The Assassinations.  She has written a number of ground-breaking essays on the connections between Freeport Sulphur, the Eastern Establishment and the CIA, on James Angleton, and on Sirhan and the RFK assassination.  Lisa is currently finishing her book on the latter subject, the product of more than two decades of research.  She also runs a blogspot on recent history and current events.

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