Tuesday, 13 June 2023 00:04

For Reasons of National Security - Reframing the Assassinations of the 1960s and the Case Against the CIA - Part 2

Written by

Alexander Sill explores the likely reasons for the death of President Kennedy, evidence against probable suspects, Harry Truman's ominous and prophetic warning a month later, and the dangers of America living in a veiled state about its past.

Muddied Waters and the People Who Talked

“They muddy the water to make it seem deep,” is one of Nietzsche’s many poignant aphorisms. Often seen as a critique of scholars who obfuscate a lack of depth through intellectual gloating, I think it can apply to the CIA treatment of the Kennedy case. Theories ridiculous and worthwhile still abound regarding the Kennedy assassination, distracting from a simple truth: that the CIA has demonstrated continued mendacity regarding the murder of a president and is still withholding documents directly related to it. As Jefferson Morley put it, we don’t need a theory to point out that the CIA’s behavior is suspicious. The agency has muddied the waters for decades with false stories, but has now backed itself into a corner. They are at a loss for available cover stories, so stonewalling and kicking the can down the road is the best recourse they have.

A couple of questions that continue to be begged regarding these examples of CIA dishonesty:

  1. Just what are they actually hiding?
  2. And why has the agency felt so inclined to fabricate so many differing, and false narratives over the years when the case against Oswald is supposedly so ironclad, even sacrosanct?

Though I do not claim to know the answers, the following discussion may provide indications as to why. A more specific, yet related question relevant to document disclosure is this: which higher up was authorizing the operations concerning Joannides and the militant DRE? This is especially important as it relates to the activity surrounding Oswald in the summer of 1963. Disclosure of such information could potentially confirm well-founded suspicions regarding an intelligence operation involving Oswald, and as we will postulate, possible conspirators in the assassination.

The erroneous stories promoted by various CIA affiliates over the years were often characterized by the implication of some sort of Cuban and/ or Soviet conspiracy involving Oswald. In his book Legend, this is what Edward Epstein postulated, and we know that book was cooperated on with James Angleton. David Phillips was one of the agency officers promoting what are now provably false stories of such an international plot, even while the official government position precluded any idea of conspiracy. One bogus story involved an informant named Gilbert Alvarado, who claimed to have seen Oswald at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City receiving money from a red haired Cuban for the purposes of assassinating the President. Various aspects of the story, including the initial date Alvarado claimed the exchange took place, did not add up, and thus the story was eventually retracted, adding to the air of suspicion surrounding why the tale was treated so seriously in the first place and promoted by the like of Phillips. (Scott,Dallas ’63, pg. 26-29)

Phillips’ behavior and contradictory statements regarding the Oswald legend bothered House Select Committee members, including Richard Sprague who stated while questioning Phillips, “to some degree you have slithered around what are quotes by people in the news media.” Again, why, if Oswald was a lone nut-job, would Phillips continue to tell such conflicting stories? (Morley, “JFK Most Wanted”) From the obfuscation regarding the supposed surveillance of Oswald at the embassies in Mexico City, to the Alvarado story, Phillips’ behavior has justifiably aroused concern from investigators and researchers over the years. House Select investigator Gaeton Fonzi’s book The Last Investigation is particularly enlightening when it comes to this particular topic, and also the matter in general of how the CIA obstructed the HSCA’s investigation.

In another fascinating exchange, attorney and author Mark Lane met with Phillips for a recorded debate at the University of Southern California in 1977. At one point during the debate, Phillips back-pedaled even further than he had on previous occasions, stating that “I have not said that there was not a conspiracy to kill Jack Kennedy…I don’t know what happened in Dallas.” (Our Hidden History) Phillips is not the only CIA officer who attempted retreat into “limited hang out” territory over the years. Other key players have come to terms with how the government’s official story has devolved into further implausibility.

While speaking to reporter Seymour Hersh, counter intelligence czar James Angleton cryptically stated, “A mansion has many rooms. I’m not privy to who struck John.” Former CIA station chief Rolf Mowatt-Larsenn attempted to decode the puzzling language so typical of Angleton: “The mansion refers to CIA. The rooms refer to compartments, where we hide information, control information. ‘I’m not privy’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I don’t suspect.’ ‘I’m not privy’ [means] ‘I wasn’t in the loop.’” To Mowatt-Larsenn this confirmed “…at a gut level, if not on an analytical basis, that he [Angleton] had a suspicion [of a plot to kill JFK], if not more than that.” Not only did Seymour Hersh feel the same way, but he also felt Angleton was attempting to avoid some guilt or blame by implicating another faction of the agency. When speaking to this analysis, Jefferson Morley contended, “This story, however, tests the limits of Mowatt-Larssen’s theory that ‘CIA rogues’ ambushed Kennedy in Dealey Plaza. Angleton was one of the most powerful men in the agency. If he condoned a plot, then complicity in the assassination reached the highest levels of government and was not confined to the Miami station, as Mowatt-Larssen contends.” (Morley, “CIA Tradecraft”) Nonetheless, it’s worth explaining what sort of “rogues” Mowatt-Larssen could have been referring to.

The Bays of Pigs fiasco and its aftermath came to exemplify two divergent paths of American foreign policy. On one path, detente combined with reluctance to invade militarily (i.e. Kennedy), and on the other, bellicose, “anti-communist” colonialism with a proclivity towards assassination. In the latter camp was a CIA, Cuban exile contingent with real skin in the game. They had seen their compatriots captured and killed due to what they thought was all Kennedy’s doing, and later saw Kennedy moving towards detente with the man who was their mortal enemy, Fidel Castro. Career CIA officer and assassin David Morales labeled Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs conduct as “traición (betrail/treason).” (Scott, Dallas ’63, pg.51) Another career CIA officer, E. Howard Hunt stated,

Under the [Kennedy] administrations philosophy, the real enemy became poverty and ignorance; any talk of an international communist conspiracy was loudly derided. Detente and a positive approach of easing international tensions filled the Washington air, to the wonderment of those who still remembered Budapest, the Berlin wall, and the fate of Brigade 2506 [at the Bay of Pigs]. (Howells)

The Miami Station and Morales

More telling than Robert Kennedy being suspicious of the CIA following his brother’s death (Morley, Scorpions’ Dance, pg.54), or the public being suspicious, or even President Johnson suspecting a CIA plot (ibid, pg. 87) there is this: the CIA was suspicious of the CIA. In a recently un-redacted memo, officer Donald R. Heath details a specific and internal investigation the Agency secretly conducted soon after Kennedy’s death. In attempting to come clean in this 1977 memorandum, Heath details that, as part of the intra-agency investigation, he requested “...all possible data on any Cuban exile” his colleagues knew of “who disappeared just before or right after the Kennedy murder and has since been missing from Miami under suspicious circumstances.” Going further, Heath asked for info on associates who may have been approached during 1963 by Cuban exiles who were seeking “assistance in getting sizeable (sic) amounts of funds, weapons or cars.” Heath’s requests also included a “list of all Cuban exiles or Cubano-Americans” who would have been “capable of orchestrating the murder of President Kennedy in order to precipitate an armed conflict between Cuba and the USA.” (Heath Jr.) We don’t know what, if any answers Heath received regarding this inquiry.

The CIA’s Miami JM/WAVE station in Miami was the location in which many of the agency’s Cuban exile operations were based, including those directed by previously mentioned head of para-military operations, David Morales, who happened to lead the same sorts of militant Cuban and unaccountable “shadow” groups detailed as suspicious in the Heath memo. (Hancock, pg. 111-112) Beyond his being a specialist in liquidation, Morales did not hide his contempt for John or Robert Kennedy. In a story corroborated by both Morales’ lawyer Robert Walton, and lifelong friend Ruben Carbajal, Morales ended an alcohol fueled, anti-JFK tirade by muttering, “Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn’t we?” (ibid, pg. 115). Walton, on a separate occasion, paraphrased another of Morales’ concerning comments, one that implicated him (Morales) in both Kennedy brother murders: “I was in Dallas when we got that motherfucker [John Kennedy], and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard [Robert Kennedy].” (RFK Must Die)

In a 1994 letter to John Tunheim, Bradley Ayers, a CIA officer once stationed at JM/WAVE, claimed that there were nine individuals based at the Miami station who had “intimate operational knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the assassination” of John F. Kennedy. This list included station chief Theodore Shackley and David Morales. Interestingly, Ayers also stated that Morales would often be “off station” from JM/WAVE during 1963, frequently traveling to Mexico City, the scene of the aforementioned intrigue regarding an Oswald imposter.(Hancock, pg. 113)

It’s one thing to hear some farfetched, alien type conspiracy theory related to Kennedy’s death. It’s another to have corroborated stories regarding people like Morales, especially as it relates to potential motive and means, and the fact that the milieu Oswald found himself in in 1963 regarding Cuban operations involved very specific individuals (e.g. Joannides) whose operations we know for a fact, constitute a part of the documents the CIA is still withholding. To someone not familiar with the particular details we’ve been covering, some unknown like David Morales bragging about killing the Kennedys is just another of many anecdotal “confessions” made by mob bosses and others over the decades. In light of what we now know about Morales, however, the statement is disturbing.

There were also other CIA officials who, at the very least, were suspicious of their cohorts when it came to the Kennedy assassination. Richard Helms, director of CIA covert operations in 1963, was caught off guard in a 1992 CBS interview when asked about potential agency involvement. The exchange was televised as follows:

Helms: I am simply stating this on television, because I would like the American public to understand, that the CIA was not involved in that assassination, regardless of what anybody says. I tell you, we checked up on it later, not only at the time, but when the Warren Commission was sitting and so forth, [to] be sure that nobody had been in Dallas on that particular day.
Richard Schlesinger (interviewer): You did that in November of 1963?
Helms: Of course.
Schlesinger: Why did you do that? Had anybody accused the CIA at the time?
[At this point, Helms’ body language changes. He’s visibly uncomfortable and is at a loss for words. After a few moments of silence, he responds.]
Helms: The place was in an uproar, the country was in an uproar. There was a great concern that this might have been a foreign doing of some kind.
Schlesinger: So who asked you to check where your own agents were?
Helms: We did that in our own.
Schlesinger: Why?
Helms: Well, because I just thought it was a wise thing to do.
Schlesinger: Why?
[Helms once again appears to be flustered, and pauses. With a slight smirk that expressed his discomfort, he stutters into his next response.]

Phillips and Mexico City

So what could Helms have been privy to, or at the very least been suspicious of? Groups like the David Morales led Special Affairs Staff of JM/WAVE? David Phillips? Phillips, in his new 1963 role at CIA, not only answered to the Special Affairs Staff, but also handled the intel regarding Cuba which came out of Mexico, intel that undoubtedly included information and surveillance regarding the person who identified themself as Lee Oswald. (Scott, Dallas ’63, pg. 52-53) All of this being in addition to his previous psychological warfare operation against the FPCC. Plus the fact that Howard Hunt told the HSCA that Phillips helped create the DRE. These three situations represent massively important events in pre-assassination knowledge of Oswald, and Phillips was (at least) tangentially involved in all three. Still withheld information and documentation regarding the nexus that links JM/WAVE, affiliated Cuban exiles, and Oswald in 1963 is what is still being treated with the utmost secrecy by the CIA in 2023.

Whatever happened in Mexico City in the fall of 1963, it bears the marks of spy craft. Someone knew how to manipulate the Oswald file to not only frame him and implicate the Cubans and/or Soviets, but also leave what author John Newman has called a “World War III virus” that would lead to a pressure to accept a more safe, “lone nut” conclusion on the Warren Commission’s part. In order to help convince Chief Justice Earl Warren to head the Commission, President Johnson brought up the potential of global nuclear annihilation that had to be avoided. The questionable information about a potential communist conspiracy apparent in Mexico City, which Johnson was privy to, most certainly played into not only influencing Warren to sign on, but also indicates how a “lone nut” conclusion was further necessitated by the dangerous intel. (DiEugenio, JFK Revisited, pg.92-93) There can be little doubt that Warren was fiercely intimidated and did not want to go anywhere near a real investigation. In fact, at first, he did not even want them to either gather evidence or call witnesses. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, p. 359).

Whoever was manipulating the Oswald and Mexico City intelligence had to be within the CIA; or at the very least, had to have intimate working knowledge of the CIA’s files on Oswald, the complete overview of which was only available to James Angleton. The conspirators were also almost certainly aware of the fact that the intel coming out of Mexico City involved the highly secret LIENVOY intercept program, the potential disclosure of which would have leveraged other unwitting government officials into cover up of any related circumstance. (Scott, Dallas ’63, pg.48) What likely began as a separate counterintelligence operation involving Oswald ended up being co-opted by a more clandestine “dark operation” that was utilized in the plot to kill the president, and force a cover up on people privy to the sensitive knowledge of the original intelligence operation(s). (Newman, xv)

Here we have a two for one motive: get rid of Kennedy and lay the blame at Castro’s door step. Or as the Heath memo stated, “precipitate an armed conflict between Cuba and the USA.” This is right out of the CIA playbook, specifically, officer William Harvey’s playbook. In his handwritten notes regarding ZR/Rifle, an agency assassination program which drew from underworld figures, Harvey wrote, “Cover: planning should include provision for blaming Czechs or Sovs in case of blow. Should have phony 201 in RI to backstop this, documentation therein forged and backdated. Should look like a CE [CounterEspionage] file.” (Mary Ferrell Foundation, Cryptonym ZRRifle) Considering not only the legend of Oswald’s supposed pro-Castro sympathies, the attempted framing of the Soviets in the Oswald imposter wiretaps from Mexico City, but also the strange treatment of Oswald’s 201 file, the correlations with Harvey’s notes are uncanny.

William Harvey: From Rome to Dallas?

Harvey, another figure of suspicion to the House Select Committee, was a notorious drunk known for his “thug” like behavior. (Talbot, pg. 502) He was essentially banished to the Rome CIA station following the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 for his highly dangerous, unauthorized, cowboy like predilection towards war. Robert Kennedy had made clear to then CIA director John McCone that all covert operations against Cuba were to be halted during the crisis. After Kennedy found out that Harvey had ignored this order by sending out commando teams for a potential invasion of Cuba, Harvey was demoted and sent to Italy. Harvey was aware that Bobby Kennedy was responsible for having him reprimanded, and it was no secret that he "hated Bobby Kennedy's guts with a purple passion.” (Spartacus Educational, “William K. Harvey”) It just so happened that Harvey’s ZR/Rifle assassination program was housed within Staff D, the same arm of the CIA that controlled intercept info out of Mexico City. Harvey was also linked with Morales, both on an operational level (sometimes in unauthorized mingling with the likes of mobster Johnny Rosselli), but also in an outwardly shared, venomous hatred of the Kennedy brothers. (Scott, Dallas ’63, pp. 17, 51)

Harvey’s deputy at the Rome CIA station, Mark Wyatt, recounted that in November of 1963, Harvey coincidentally traveled to Dallas, and tried brushing it off with some innocuous excuse to the effect of “I’m here to see what’s happening.” (Talbot. 477) House Select Committee investigator Dan Hardway detailed how his team requested from the CIA the travel vouchers of William Harvey for the fall of 1963. Details of Harvey’s simple whereabouts from the 1960s should in theory, not be damning. Yet the agency has still refused to release such documents. Hardway also stated of Harvey:

We considered him one of our prime suspects from the very start. He had all the key connections— to organized crime, to the CIA station in Miami where the Castro plots were run, to other prime suspects like David Phillips. (Talbot, p.477)

In a 2016 Freedom of Information Act Request, I personally asked the CIA for the November 1963 travel logs of Harvey, E. Howard Hunt, and David Atlee Phillips. The agency replied eleven months later. They wrote that they “did not locate any records responsive” to my request. Regarding the records that still exist, or that the public has access to, our means of proper historical evaluation is handicapped. And although no “smoking gun” document(s) exist, or may ever come to light necessarily, the activity of certain CIA members connected with Oswald and affiliated organizations in Mexico City and Miami is highly suggestive of a matrix where a potential conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy could have been hatched.

False Flags and Alien Conspiracies

The sentiment of Kennedy enemies in the CIA represented a portion of the jingoistic, and mutinous milieu the president found himself in, the existence of which extended into the military. Operation Northwoods, a false flag operation proposed to the president by his Joint Chiefs of staff, not only typified a foreign policy approach anathema to the direction JFK was heading—rapprochement with Cuba--but provides further context to the assassination when seen as another means for preemptive war.

The plans for Northwoods essentially called for both staged and actual acts of terrorism conducted by the United States that were to be blamed on Cuba which included, but were not limited to these ideas: “A 'Remember the Maine' incident” in which the US would “blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba..." and a “terror campaign…pointed at refugees seeking haven in the United States” in which they would “sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated).” (Mary Ferrell Foundation, “Operation Northwoods”) Kennedy was having none of it. But it is worth noting the correlation with what the Kennedy assassination ended up representing in light of Oswald being painted as a Castro agent: a potential false flag means of galvanizing support for war against Cuba. This gets closer to the fuller historical context of the assassination, not just bits of anecdotal information blaming a “lone nut” with no motive.

A further means for providing context involves a discussion of how we have come to think about assassinations. As alluded to in the work of Peter Scott, the socio-political milieus surrounding events like the Kennedy assassination, especially when discussed by government investigative bodies, are often viewed as aberrations rather than structural issues more inherent or endemic to how our political economy has operated. Scott brings up the previously mentioned HSCA chief counsel Robert Blakey as an example. Blakey, when discussing potential Mafia involvement in the assassination, framed the information from the point of view of an isolated issue, instead of recognizing how deeply involved the Mafia was with the CIA for the purposes of attempting to execute Castro, and for instance, illicit drug smuggling and weapons trafficking during the period in question. All of which were concealed by a sometimes complicit law enforcement. (Scott, Deep Politics, Pg. 72) The Iran Contra scandal is also among a long list of numerous related incidents that come to mind on the topic of “supra-constitutional,” and unaccountable activity by the CIA and affiliated underworld organizations.

Similarly, the danger also exists of lumping real issues of historical importance in with “alien conspiracies,” either for reasons of stifling conversation, or for the sake of avoiding the discomfort surrounding this subject. We must not conflate legitimate issues with Qanon chat room fodder. Especially in the early decades of the CIA, assassinations, coups and the like were, although covered up, the norm and far from rare, especially at the behest of corporate interests. (Talbot, pg. 248) These state sponsored acts of assassination and terrorism extended well beyond the government of any one nation, and represented a warped zeitgeist in certain intelligence and military circles against “communism.” William Harvey, along with many of his compatriots, participated in an organization born of these circles called Operation Gladio. This multinational effort involved “stay behind groups” following World War II which conducted sabotage and terrorist operations for the purposes of stifling progressive government movements in Europe and to push against Soviet expansion into the continent. In a startling example of Northwoods style plans come to fruition, Gladio networks succeeded in bombing public locations in Italy, including the Bologna railway, killing hundreds of innocent civilians, and after the fact, blaming radical left wing groups. (Howells)

As Tim Howells put it:

Clearly these men firmly believed that the war against communism was too important to be entrusted to the democratically elected government of the United States. Extraordinary measures were justified to save the American people from themselves.” (ibid)

The “patriots” working for the government such as Harvey, Phillips, Morales and the like would have made no distinction between eliminating foreign targets and a president who they considered a threat to the American way of life. To them, Kennedy was a communist traitor and had to be removed for reasons of national security. It may be naive to think that the covert assassination tactics utilized by the intelligence community abroad haven’t ever come to roost here at home. Are we mistakenly trying to make ourselves an exception by thinking “It could happen in banana republics, but never here”?

It is also mistaken to ascribe to the way Warren Commission defenders continue to misinterpret theories regarding potential CIA involvement. One way is how they try to imply or present that researchers are arguing that the entire Agency was involved, which is fudging the issue. We need intelligence agencies to help defend the country, but the fact that certain people who have worked for the CIA over the years did morally reprehensible and highly illegal things is not up for debate. Institutions chartered to defend the public interest and people who operate beyond constitutional boundaries while working for said institutions are not mutually exclusive in this case. Just because we need agencies like the CIA, doesn’t mean there does not need to be reform on some level. That reform starts with regaining an already damaged public trust. Trust is earned, not coerced. Would current CIA officials care to defend the record of the likes of Morales, Dulles, and Harvey? Then by all means, defend their valor and release the apparently innocuous, yet still classified material regarding the assassination.

Truman and Dulles: December 1963

It’s telling that on December 22nd, 1963, a month to the day after JFK was killed, former president Harry Truman published an op-ed that expressed how he was perturbed by what the CIA had become since he signed its existence into law in 1947. Truman wrote that he was, “disturbed by the way the CIA had been diverted from its original assignment.” Further that, “It has become an operational and sometimes policy making arm of the government” of a “sinister” nature. He went even further, stating, “There is something about the way that the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel we need to correct it.” (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, pg. 378-380) It turned out that Truman started writing the piece on December 1st. In other words, a bit more than one week after Kennedy was killed. Admiral Sidney Souers, who offered input on the drafting, congratulated Truman on the editorial and said that Dulles “caused the CIA to wander far from the original goal established by you, and it is certainly a different animal than I tried to set up for you. (ibid)

As much as Souers liked the piece, Allen Dulles did not. And recall, he was sitting on the Warren Commission at this time. In April of 1964, he went so far as to visit Truman at his home in an effort to have the story retracted. Truman denied the former spy man’s request, but Dulles went on to tell CIA counsel Lawrence Houston that Truman had confessed being in error, which was a complete lie. (Morley, “After JFK Was Killed”)

Even more fascinating was Dulles’ parting words for Truman in which he rejected another recent “attack” that the CIA had incurred in the press. This was most likely referring to the October 1963 New York Times/Washington Daily News op-eds, written by Richard Starnes and Arthur Krock that took issue with the Agency’s Vietnam policy. This included the damning statement of an insider source who labeled Central Intelligence as a “malignancy” which the White House couldn’t even rein in. Vietnam was another issue Kennedy had been at loggerheads with the CIA as well as the military establishment over. Yet the full extent of this dispute was not really known during the period in question. Given the reason for Dulles’ visit, it’s interesting how he seemed to be implying that Truman’s own attacks were somehow correlated, being that no one had yet connected the dots between Vietnam policy and the bad blood between Kennedy and the CIA. It was almost as if Dulles knew what Truman was implicitly stating in his op-ed, and had revealed a guilty conscience. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed pg.380-381)

Disclosure and Deep Politics

A blanket excuse that the intelligence community continues to use for withholding certain pertinent documents relating to the JFK case is that it’s “for reasons of national security.” To playdevil’s advocate for a minute: what is the possible double meaning of this tired phrase the CIA and National Security Council continue to stall with? It can’t be for reasons of endangering agents in the field. Everyone in question has long since passed. That the agency is protecting “sources and methods” is dubious sixty years after the fact, and a potentially never-ending excuse. I can’t help but wonder if “for reasons of national security,” is a veiled admission in that, if the full extent of documents were released, faith in the national security state would be compromised to an unparalleled degree and undermine our national security institutions. Modern distrust of the federal government has already been stoked by the CIA’s ongoing mendacity, however, and coming clean is the only healthy way forward.

It could be the case that we find ourselves at a point of historical revisionism in the United States, one that may be painful, but necessary for a more effective politics. We have already revised the way we look at other key historic events in our country’s past, darker instances included. For decades it was suspected that the Reagan campaign’s “October Surprise” of the 1980 election involved a treasonous, multinational negotiation that resulted in the stalled release of American hostages in Tehran, Iran, thus putting the death nail in president Jimmy Carter’s re-election bid. Once a ridiculed “conspiracy theory” by congressional committees, admission over the existence of such a plot has been conceded, even in mainstream circles.

In a recent New York Times article, former Reagan aide Ben Barnes confirmed then campaign manager and soon to be CIA director William Casey’s skullduggery. Casey had met with Iranian intelligence officials in Europe during the summer of 1980, and in exchange for the delayed release of American hostages at the embassy in Tehran, offered the shipment of arms via Israel and into Tehran. The plan succeeded. Carter’s reelection hopes were dashed, and the hostages were released within minutes of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. As Jefferson Morley noted, not only does this demonstrate how unacknowledged “extra-constitutional” conspiracies can affect the political direction of the country, it also shows how we can actually come to terms with the reality of such events when the weight of unavoidable evidence demands and the veil of official orthodoxy is lifted. (Morley, “Once Ridiculed”)

With the killing of both Kennedy brothers, the shift in policy President Kennedy was taking became an aberration, rather than the norm. It is an aberration that has prevailed in the executive branch ever since. This topic, possibly to the same degree that discussion surrounding potential high-level assassination plots, has largely been unacknowledged in mainstream discourse. I struggle to remember any such coverage of the implications of Kennedy’s markedly different foreign policy approach in any school textbook, for instance. This is what we might call a case of covered history versus not covered history. As an example, the Bay of Pigs is covered in high school textbooks. What is not properly covered is the full extent of the fallout from the event in terms of how it pitted Kennedy against the CIA and vice versa. And the list goes on: Covered- CubanMissileCrisis, vs Not Covered- the detenteKennedy was moving towards with Russia and Castro, and the secret back channel correspondence he had with both.

A common thread here, despite various mistakes President Kennedy made during his short term in office, was reluctance on his own part toward committing to full-scale war. In the 6 major instances in which the president’s advisors urged him toward war, both nuclear and otherwise, he avoided it.

  1. At the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy refused to commit US forces in Cuba.
  2. In Laos, he opted to support a neutral government away from Soviet or American influence.
  3. At the Berlin Wall in 1961, he ordered the unauthorized tank brigade of US general Lucius Clay to retreat from the wall after the Soviets paralleled Clay’s dangerous tactic.
  4. In November of 1961, he turned down his Joint Chiefs, who proposed a massive introduction of American ground troops into Vietnam.
  5. As mentioned above, in March of 1962, Kennedy turned down Northwoods.
  6. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, in what hawkish Air Force General Curtis LeMay insanely likened to the Nazi appeasement in Munich, Kennedy avoided the recommended first nuclear strike against Cuba and the Soviets, opting for a negotiated weapons removal of both parties instead.

All of this was in addition to Kennedy’s anti-colonialist stance and support of Third World development and self-determination free of foreign influence. (Wiesak, pg. 53, 59, 143) Not to ignore his unprecedented moves toward disarmament referenced in his United Nations addresses (ibid, pg. 184) and “peace speech” of June 1963. All of these were among many issues that made the president a legitimate threat against hard liners in the security state and connected financial interests. (ibid, 62, 65; Talbot, pg. 549) This very real and highly volatile anti-Kennedy sentiment not only pervaded the CIA, but also the military establishment and related right-wing, nationalist circles. (Scott, Dallas ’63, pg.126,130-131,141). The evidence for this is how quickly and thoroughly Kennedy’s policies were altered and then reversed after his death. (See JFK Revisited, by James DiEugenio, pp. 209-221). And further, how much of the Third World went into mourning upon learning of his assassination. (ibid)

It’s worth noticing that anti-war, particularly anti-Vietnam war sentiment, was a through line in the major political figureheads who were assassinated in the 1960s (i.e. Martin Luther King, Robert F. Kennedy). It would serve us better if, in fact, this kind of uncovered history, as it were, was more common knowledge rather than niche knowledge. This is tantamount to what Scott might call the “deep political” history of America: A history of a country that continues to have issues related to disclosure and unwarranted secrecy.

As of this writing, the CIA is trying do away with a law set in place by congress thirty years ago pertaining to the release of all JFK assassination files i.e.. The JFK Records Collection Act of 1992. The statute set forth by congress included an October 26th, 2017 deadline for full disclosure of all relevant documents. Not only has the CIA disregarded that deadline four times in the past six years, but they are now trying to do away with a deadline altogether, essentially and undemocratically determining the law themselves. Their new, misleadingly named “transparency plan” would allow for the president to be removed from the declassification process, forever allowing the intelligence agencies (e.g. CIA, NSA, Pentagon) themselves to have the perpetual final say, and group withheld JFK material in with classified files that have nothing to do with the assassination. (Nagle)

It’s safe to say that what is lurking in those files is not innocuous. The CIA is holding a steaming bag of trash and telling us it doesn’t stink. But they cannot have it both ways. They can’t withhold the documents saying they’re innocuous and also tell us they’re too sensitive to be released. At this point, any defense of the government’s official position requires a serious mental game of Twister. But the effectiveness of their gaslighting only goes so far as the unwarranted and assumed virtue of their “official” capacity or position allows. The wizard behind the curtain is telling us to look away, but we know too much of the context relating to the situation for this to be the case. Without this context, our knowledge amounts to “Well, the CIA is telling us that such and such thing is the case. They’re designated to defend the country, and know what they’re talking about, so that thing must be so.” This type of circular reasoning allows for their excuses to be treated as ex cathedra, as infallible. “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.”

Part of the discomfort of this 60 year old event, and a big reason many avoid pondering a conspiracy of the nature we’ve been alluding to, involves recognizing the fact that the democratic ethos of America was lost on November 22nd, 1963. Further, that our institutions don’t always function healthily or follow the democratic, constitutional, or moral standards we have come to expect of them. For instance, how did the media miss the story that the Commission volumes were published in November of 1964 and, 3 months later, Lyndon Johnson was sending the first combat troops to Vietnam. Something that Kennedy refused to do in three years.

The president’s death signified a pushback of private, illicit power against the public state. Which is where the true power of democracy should lie, but is not guaranteed. It’s not that the remaining documents in question are going to detail a plot to kill John Kennedy. It’s the possibility that when seen in context of what else has been disclosed, the record will get us closer to coming to terms with our country’s collective shadow, and allow us to begin to write a better, more informed, and more robust history. Context means everything.

Go to Part 1 of 2


  1. Black Op Radio “#1129 – Jefferson Morley” Accessed 21 May 2023.
  2. Central Intelligence Agency. Countering Criticism of the Warren Report
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Last modified on Thursday, 15 June 2023 03:39
Alex Sill

Los Angeles-based guitarist and composer Alex Sill received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in the Jazz Program at California Institute of the Arts.  He has studied and performed with some of the world's top musicians, and has written for a variety of contexts, including film/trailer music, jazz bands, rock bands, orchestra and a guitar trio.  Alex has been deeply interested in history from an early age, and believes the examples set by John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. can provide a powerful impetus for social and political engagement today.  For more info visit: www.alexsill.com.

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