A transcript from the 2011 Coalition on Political Assassinations Conference. Journalist Jefferson Morley, editor of JFKFacts.org and author of Our Man in Mexico, discusses the the JFK Assassination and its connections to CIA psychological warfare operations that came before and after it. Original video of the talk can be found on COPA's ustream channel here.
BEGIN TRANSCRIPT: Hello, Jeff Morley here, talking to you from Washington D.C. Pleasure to be with this group, and talking about this subject. I want to give my thanks to John, who I ran into in the Starbucks on Capitol Hill a couple weeks ago, and he reminded me of the importance of talking about this subject, and invited me to be here, so thanks to John.
I got to say, the JFK is very difficult, it's a very difficult subject. It's irritating, it's confusing, it's controversial, and so I've never found any subject more difficult to write about in my journalistic career. Tonight, I want to talk about that, the difficulty of this subject, and also about new evidence in the case, and what my own research and my own thinking about it, what has come to me over the past year or two as I've continued to work on the subject, and to try and figure out how to get through the confusion and the controversy that still surrounds this subject, and to be able to talk about it in a way that everybody can understand and accept.
First, I want to say I've been at this a while. I realize that the first article that I edited, about the JFK story, was 28 years ago. It's kind of scary to think about that. I've been at it a while, I've thought about it a long time. I've written a book about it. Actually, my book, here's my book, "Our Man in Mexico", is actually not about the JFK assassination. In fact, it's agnostic on the assassination. It doesn't attempt to answer the question of who was responsible for the assassination.
Instead of doing that, I decided early on, when I was writing "Our Man in Mexico", that I would focus on something different: not to solve the assassination, to resolve the question of who was responsible, but rather I had a more modest goal, which was to describe how the assassination looked through the eyes of a senior CIA official, Winston Scott, the chief of the Mexico City station: a trusted CIA insider, a loyalist, a distinguished intelligence officer who was responsible for the surveillance of the Cuban and Soviet embassies at the time that Lee Harvey Oswald visited there in October, 1963.
"Our Man in Mexico" tells the story of what this crime looked like through the eyes of Win Scott, and for anybody who's interested in the assassination, I can recommend it. I'm biased, of course, but I think that it presents an unusually lucid view of what the assassination looked like in the eyes of people inside the CIA, and I think that's an important perspective. It's an important objective perspective for anybody who's trying to understand the assassination. There's a lot of compromised views, but I think that the perspective of somebody like Win Scott is important in understanding what happened.
The book, I should say, is also available in Spanish: "Nuestro Hombre en Mexico", so you can give that to your Spanish-speaking friends, as well, who are interested in the assassination. If you're interested in what I've written about the assassination, you can look at some of my articles on JeffersonMorley.com: click on the "articles" tab, and there's a list of my JFK reporting over the years, so you can look at some articles there. You can also find me on Facebook, glad to talk about JFK with anybody who's on Facebook. I'd be glad to be your friend about that.
With that introduction, I want to now move into my presentation. I should say ahead of time, I think some of you will find that it is perhaps unduly cautious. I'm not somebody who comes to you and says, "I know who killed JFK." I have rather more modest aims. I want people to understand what the new historical record of the assassination is, what the latest records show, and in particular what the role of CIA officers in the surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination was, and in particular, the role of CIA officers with responsibility for psychological warfare. I think that this, these officers are a key to understanding what happened and why the president died when he did.
I should say that my presentation is not directed at a conspiratorial audience. I don't have a conspiratorial reading of history, I'm not a conspiracy theorist. Some people talk about 9/11: 9/11 was definitely the result of a conspiracy, and we know who was responsible. It was a man named Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was working with Osama Bin Laden, but it was primarily Khalid Sheik Mohammed's idea, and so if you want to talk about 9/11 conspiracies, I'd be glad to talk about the role of Khalid Sheik Mohammed in that.
With that, I want to turn, now, to a JFK story, and my presentation is really about how I think about the JFK assassination story, and about how I think people should think about it, and by "people", I mean everybody: people who agree with me, people who disagree with me, people who know nothing about the subject, and people who know a whole lot about the subject. I've always wanted to reach as wide as possible an audience with my journalism about JFK, and so my presentation tonight is part of that.
We are now at the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. In two years, we will observe the 50th anniversary, and I think that that is likely to be a moment of considerable national introspection about this tragedy. It will also be an opportunity to complete the historical record of the assassination; yet, I should say, I think that it is quite likely that the CIA is likely to object to declassifying all of its records about the crime and the tragedy of Dallas. The question that we face over the next two years is whether the CIA's extreme claims of secrecy around the JFK story, which are reiterated, and will be reiterated this year by CIA lawyers in federal court in Washington, can be overcome. I think that's the question. I think that's what I'm aiming to do, is figure out how to complete the record of the assassination over the next couple of years.
How do we do that? One, I think we'd need to start with some very basic facts: that the unresolved case of the assassinated president never quite goes away as some people would wish. Stephen King has a new book out about the subject, "November 22nd, 1963", and this is yet another imaginative retelling of this critical day in American history, a very densely-layered epic that appeals to the enduring impulse of Americans to understand what happened, how did it come to pass that the president of the United States was gunned down in broad daylight, and no one was ever brought to justice for it. This is the impulse that has been articulated in other masterpieces of the JFK story, such as Don DeLillo's "Libra", and James Elroy's "American Tabloid". This is what sustains public interest, and I think we need to, at the beginning, just say, "This is an enduring feature of American culture. People want to know what happened."
Of course, the official story is still defended by an articulate minority, that there was no conspiracy. Vincent Bugliosi, I know probably not had a lot of fans, there, but in his critically acclaimed book, "Reclaiming History", he restates the official story. As somebody who's written and reported about the JFK story for a long time, I don't agree. I think that the record of the JFK story as it has emerged over, especially in recent years, belies that claim. There's a lot of implausible JFK assassination theories out there, and the notion that a lone nut was responsible is one of them. I think it's more likely that Kennedy was ambushed by his enemies, who made sure that they could not be identified.
You're not going to hear that from Chris Matthews, but that is what Jackie Kennedy believed, and that's what Bobby Kennedy believed. As David Talbot pointed out in his 2008 book, "Brothers", RFK never lost his conspiratorial understanding of his brother's death, and I think that's an important thing to understand as we look back on this event. This notion of conspiracy was one that was held by people who were very close to the president, the closest to the president: his widow and his brother.
I think that a story that I'd recommend to everyone is the story that's told in the 1999 book by Alexander Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, about the Cuban Missile Crisis, "One Hell of a Gamble". In there, they tell the story that after the assassination, a week after the assassination, Bobby and Jackie Kennedy sent a friend to Moscow with a message for the leadership of the Soviet Union, and their message was that they wanted the Soviet leadership to know that, and this is from Fursenko and Naftali's book: "Despite Oswald's connections to the communist world, the Kennedys believe that the president was felled by domestic opponents." I can't underscore this finding enough. Bobby and Jackie Kennedy believed that the president was felled by domestic opponents.
I was very interested in this story, and I emailed Tim Naftali, who is now the director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in California, and he stood by the story and explained how he and Fursenko came by it in considerable detail. They learned the story from a Soviet diplomat named Georgi Bolshakov; they found a written account of Bolshakov's message, or Bobby and Jackie's message, as reported by Bolshakov in the Soviet archives, and Naftali told me, "I thought it was surprising that the story didn't get more attention."
Certainly, Bobby and Jackie were not alone in suspecting a conspiracy at Dallas. JFK's successor, Lyndon Johnson, thought there'd been a conspiracy. He suspected a plot emanating from Cuba or Vietnam. In Havana, Fidel Castro, a man whose peaceful dotage is proof positive that he knows something about detecting conspiracy plots, concluded that JFK had been killed by a faction within his own government. Other realistic men of power in Washington came to the same conspiratorial conclusions: Senator Russel Long, Joseph Califano, both Washington power brokers par excellence, concluded that JFK had been killed by his enemies. In other words, the notion that JFK was ambushed is not exactly exotic; nor is it a product of any political tendency. Rather, it is a lot of, what a lot of people at the upper levels of the American government believed at the time.
Since then, I think it's worth noting that there is a growing scholarly consensus that JFK was killed by a conspiracy. Since 2000, I find five tenured historians at US universities have published scholarly studies that address the cause of JFK's death. Four out of the five concluded that there was a conspiracy, though they did not all agree on who was responsible. The most recent scientific study of the Zapruder film was published in 2009 by a career government physicist, named G. Paul Chambers [book, video]. I found his explication of the scientific method quite persuasive. I think he dismantled Vincent Bugliosi's arguements, and Chambers concluded that, as a physicist, he was virtually certain that Kennedy was hit by a shot from in front of his motorcade, something that conspiracy theorists have always said.
Here, we have the conundrum of JFK's assassination: while we have a confident minority in the opinion-making class, who dismisses any consideration of conspiracy theories, saying it's a waste of time, we have a conspiracy-minded majority of the general public who is left to ponder a bewildering array of conspiracy theories, most of which are assuredly wrong, and without much guidance about what is actually the most plausible explanation of what happened. I think that the challenge for people who are serious about studying the assassination over the next two years is to pierce this confusion. I know it's a very difficult challenge, it hasn't happened yet, but I think that it's possible. When I talk to people about how can we understand the JFK story, how can we get there, I recommend, I have seven steps, and I'm going to outline those seven steps for you now.
The first is: if you're looking for evidence of a JFK conspiracy, I think we have to proceed as prosecutors and law enforcement people do when they're looking at criminal conspiracies, and that is they start in the middle, or the bottom, and they work their way up. They do not start at the top, seeking to identify the intellectual authors of the conspiracy. They start by identifying the people who were involved, but perhaps not ultimately responsible, who are knowledgeable but not culpable. In the case of the Kennedy assassination, I start by trying to identify the people who are most knowledgeable about the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, before the assassination, and in particular the people who were most knowledgeable about him, who worked for the CIA.
As soon as I say that, I want to add the second step, which is, I think it's very important that everybody understand and respect the intense psychological resistance to step one. As I have learned in 30 years of doing journalism about JFK's assassination, good journalism on the subject is rarely welcome in Washington. Even a half century after the fact, people just don't want to go there. Long ago, some concerned colleagues at the Washington Post told me that my interest in JFK's assassination was, and I quote, "Not good for my career." I must say that that warning rather piqued my interest, rather than discouraged it; yet, this defensiveness is still the norm in JFK assassination discussions that we see in the media.
Chris Matthews, who I regard as a decent spokesman for liberal causes, gets agitated at the very suggestion that a serious person might disagree with the official story. Cass Sunstein, an otherwise sane senior advisor to President Obama, has proposed the government actually infiltrate JFK conspiracy chat groups to dispel the allegedly dangerous and delusional ideas that are discussed there. I wouldn't say that this vehemence is proof of denial, but I would say that JFK avoidance is endemic in Washington, the Washington Press Corp. Recently, Bill Keller, the former editor of the New York Times, admitted that he deletes all emails on the subject of JFK's assassination without reading them, while offhandedly admitting that "There always was something suspicious about that one." That's the mentality that people who are interested in the assassination are up against: there's a kind of willful avoidance of the subject, and an intense defensiveness.
The third step, that I think is important for anybody, focuses on what I think is probably the most significant new body of records that has emerged after the JFK records act of the 1990s, and that is the operation, the papers involving Operation Northwoods. I'm sure a lot of you are familiar with the Northwoods Papers, but I think that it's really worth repeating what's important about the Northwoods Papers. The Northwoods Papers are not a smoking gun of, the proverbial smoking gun that some people demand about the assassination, but they do confirm, and they do prove a certain conspiratorial mindset that was pervasive in the upper levels of the US national security agencies in 1963.
The Northwoods documents show the US military planners had developed a uniquely devious approach to advancing a policy of regime change in Cuba. The Northwoods concept, which James Bamford rightly described as "treasonous", called for US operatives to mount intelligence, to mount terrorist actions on US soil that could then be blamed on the Castro government. By portraying Cuba as an irresponsible actor, the US could justify an invasion, something that the joint chiefs of staff unanimously favored in 1963. It is true, as anti-conspiratorial commentators note, the JFK emphatically rejected the so-called "pretext operations" in March of 1962, but it is also true from the Northwoods Papers that the Northwoods planning continued at least through the summer of 1963.
While Oliver Stone's ungenerous critics will never acknowledge the point, the Northwoods documents actually lend credence to Stone's movie. The movie, of course, depicted Kennedy's death as the work of a high-level cabal that then sought to blame the crime on a communist to avoid detection. The Northwoods documents, which were approved by the Northwoods, operation, which was approved by the joint chiefs, showed that this scenario was not the invention of a Hollywood screenwriter, the ex post facto invention of a Hollywood screenwriter: it was Pentagon policy.
Step four in understanding the JFK story, I think, is to come to grips with the declassified records that have emerged since Stone's movies, the other material that has become public, along with the Northwoods Papers, and, again, I don't think that these documents prove that there was a conspiracy, but they do prove something else which is pretty interesting, and which we didn't, we really didn't know for certain at the time of Stone's movie.
We didn't know for certain in the mid 1990s, and that is that there was a group of senior CIA officers who knew much more about Oswald in the weeks and months before Kennedy was killed than they ever said publicly, or than they ever said privately, that they ever told investigators, that they ever told anyone. At CIA headquarters, these people were impressive: their rank was impressive. James Angleton, the chief of the agency's counterintelligence staff, his trusted aides: Jane Roman, Birch O'Neill, William J. Hood were all knowledgeable about Oswald. All signed off on intelligence cables about Oswald while Kennedy was still alive.
Thomas Karamessines, the deputy director of the CIA at the time, signed off on a cable about Oswald. So did John Whitten, who was the chief of the agency's Mexico desk in Washington. In Mexico City, Win Scott, the subject of my book, was involved in the surveillance of Oswald six weeks before the assassination. So was his deputy, David Phillips, in Miami; psychological warfare specialist, George Joannides, was running Cuban agents who had been tracking Oswald.
It's quite a lot of people who knew who Oswald was, who understood his biography, who understood his travels, his intentions, his politics. I want to say, most of these officials were not involved in an assassination conspiracy, and my research convinces me of that totally. Certainly, Jane Roman, Bill Hood, Win Scott, John Whitten were not involved in a conspiracy to kill the president. About James Angleton and David Phillips, I think there's more doubt, and we just don't know.
What can be said with certainty is that between August and November of 1963, these CIA officers, and others, kept track of Oswald: his travels, his contacts, and all of their reports went to, were funneled to a secretive office in the CIA, in the CIA counterintelligence staff, called "The Special Investigations Group". This was a small office that was run by Birch O'Neill. Birch O'Neill was an aide to Angleton; he had served as the chief of station in Guatemala City during the CIA-sponsored coup there of 1954. David Phillips had also worked in Guatemala in 1954.
When Oswald was arrested for shooting and killing the president, the reaction of these CIA officers is especially notable, and these CIA officers did not say that a lone nut had shot the president, and wasn't that unfortunate; what they said was Oswald was linked to Fidel Castro, and they hid their own knowledge of him. They hid their interest in Oswald while seeking to blame the crime, or link Oswald to Fidel Castro. I think that's not a matter of dispute, that's not a matter of debate, that's not a theory: that's what the record shows pretty clearly.
With that, we come to step five, and step five is going to seem counterintuitive to a lot of you, and it is to me, sometimes, too, but I think it's necessary, and that is this: do not jump to conspiratorial conclusions. Rather, I think we need to take this evidence and apply some empirical reasoning to it. The new JFK files, by releasing all of this information and clarifying what CIA officials knew about Oswald in the weeks and months before the assassination allow us to test conspiracy theories. They don't prove a conspiracy theory, they allow us to test it. I disagree with people like Chris Matthews about the assassination, but I think that the important thing is for us to get this information in front of people who disagree and test it, and we can all decide what it tells us.
Let's go to the CIA records and see what they say. Did these CIA officers, one or more of them, either wittingly or unwittingly, participate or cause the death of the president? Did they conspire in the gunning down of the president, or did they simply misunderstand and underestimate Oswald, who allegedly killed the president for his own reasons? This is the question that the new evidence enables us to test: which of these two propositions is more likely, is more plausible in light of the new evidence. Full disclosure of the CIA records on the subject I think would help us answer that question.
Unfortunately, we don't have full disclosure. That's the problem that we have right now. What did the assassination of the president look like to people inside the CIA? I think when we look at the new evidence, this is what we need to try and understand, is not what argument do I want to make about it, because, hey, I was in kindergarten when it happened. I'm not an expert. These people were there, and they left considerable records about what they were doing at the time, and what they thought.
Win Scott, a schoolteacher from rural Alabama, who transformed himself into a brilliant spy and a power unto himself within the CIA: in interviewing people who knew him, and looking at the records of what Scott thought, Scott knew that there was something very wrong, something had gone very wrong with the handling of information about Lee Harvey Oswald, and he knew because he was one of the people who was wrong. He knew specifically, and I explain this in my book, that deputy CIA director Richard Helms had perjured himself to the Warren Commission about the agency's pre-assassination surveillance of Oswald. Scott knew that Helm's story to the Warren Commission was false, and he said so: he wrote it in a book.
Scott also learned that Angleton, who was a long-time friend of his, had kept him out of the loop about the latest intelligence on Oswald in 1963, when Oswald visited Mexico city. Scott realized this after the assassination. Scott, as I show in my book, also harbored intense doubts about his own deputy, David Phillips, a man who he once admired very much. Phillips was the chief of the agency's covert operations against the Castro government in 1963, but after the assassination, Scott gave Phillips low marks for his job performance, and he came to question Phillips's reporting on Oswald, as well.
A couple years later, when Scott aired some of his misgivings privately to a colleague, a friend, the head a British intelligence in Mexico City, a man named Fergie Dempster. Angleton managed to intercept the conversation by some means, and Helms return to Scott and privately warned him not to talk about the assassination to anyone. That is hardly the action of a man who is convinced of Lee Harvey Oswald's sole guilt. In the upper ranks of the CIA, among men like Win Scott, Dick Helms, and Jim Angleton, the question of who killed the president was extremely and remained extremely sensitive, and remained extremely sensitive for several years after the president's death.
David Phillips, another question. He was still alive when I first arrived in Washington in the 1980s. He had retired from the CIA to found the Association of Foreign Intelligence Officers, and to take on the agency's many critics. He was a trust fund kid, a former actor, an amateur journalist. He was a charming and cunning man, and a decent writer. He even wrote the occasional op ed for the Washington Post Outlook section, where I was working at the time. In the Washington elite, the notion that David Phillips might have had something to do with JFK's death was close to absurd. David Ignatius, now a Post columnist, told me that he had gotten to know Phillips: "He wasn't the type to be involved in an assassination plot against JFK," Ignatius once told me. That was around 1997 when he said that.
A couple years later, the national security archive released the CIA records about a notorious political assassination in Chile, in 1970. These records showed how President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had ordered the CIA to carry out an assassination. They feared leftist revolution in Mexican, in Latin America, and they demanded the CIA take action to prevent Salvador Allende, a democratically elected leftist, from assuming the presidency of Chile. CIA director Dick Helms called on David Phillips.
If you want to know about how the CIA goes about killing a political enemy, you can do worse to review the records, which you can find on the national security archive website. Philips brought in a team of assassins, he armed them with untraceable guns. He talked with them about when to act, and how they might justify the crime. The conspirators ambushed General Rene Schneider, the officer in question, in traffic in Santiago, and he died a day later. Phillips then paid the killers $25,000 apiece. This is all documented on the National Security website.
David Ignatius's assurances about David Phillips suddenly seemed less than reassuring to me. Perhaps it was true that Phillips was not the type to orchestrate the assassination of an American president, but he was indisputably the type to organize the assassination of a Chilean general, and that, to me, has indicated that he should always be looked at with the closest possible scrutiny. There was one detail about the Schneider assassination that stuck in my mind. Within hours of the crime, Philips's agents in Chile generated propaganda seeking to blame the crime on the left, and that is exactly what Phillips's agencies had done in the wake of the Kennedy assassination in 1963.
Step seven is to return to step one. When thinking about a complex criminal conspiracy, start low or start in the middle, and work your way up. Thanks to the CIA records, declassified since 1998, we now know much more about a key aspect of the JFK assassination story: the agency's under appreciated role in spreading the story that JFK had been killed by a communist. As Dave Phillips mounted covert operations against the Castro government in the summer and fall of 1963, my research shows that he was assisted by a junior officer in Miami, named George Joannides. A dapper 40-year-old spy from New York City, Joannides handled the agency's contacts with a network of anti-Castro Cuban students whom Phillips had recruited from the campus of the University of Havana, before the revolution. Within hours of JFK's murders, Joannides agents had alerted reporters to the fact that Oswald was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and this revelation generated headlines across the country, generating the story that many people still believe: that JFK was killed by a communist.
The Joannides story, which was hidden by the CIA for 35 years, does not prove that Joannides was a co-conspirator in JFK's death. Rather, Joannides was an accessory after the fact. I think he did not plot to kill JFK, but I think its ... He did act to protect those who did. He died in 1991, having never been questioned by any JFK investigators. As a reporter, my ... I try and develop kind of empirical, non-conspiratorial questions to clarify the JFK story, and the question is, did Angleton, Phillips, Joannides, and these other CIA officers, run a psychological warfare operation involving Lee Harvey Oswald, targeting the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in the fall of 1963, and did that operation go terribly awry on November 22nd?
Needless to say, the CIA does not want to talk about this question. They don't want to answer it, they don't want to deal with it in any way, but over the years they've been forced to, and I can say that I have forced them to talk a little bit about this, or at least disclose some more information about it. Eight years ago, I sued the CIA for records of George Joannides's covert activities at the time of JFK's murder. In the course of the litigation, thanks to the expert legal work of Jim Lessar, the unsung hero of this entire story, the CIA has been forced to acknowledge the existence of 300 documents, still secret documents, about Joannides, many of which date back to the 1950s.
The agency is still fighting to prevent release of this antique material. Agency lawyers will be in federal court later this year, arguing that none of these documents can be made public in any form, for reasons of national security. Some people find that justification ridiculous, but I'm not one of them. The CIA says the Joannides story is very sensitive, and I believe them. I think it is very sensitive, and I think that they're justified in not wanting to release it. I think that that could do a lot of damage to the CIA. That is not the only material that remains secret. The National Archives retains at least 800 pages of material about David Phillips in the JFK assassination records collection in College Park, Maryland.
The CIA says that it will not release any of this material until at least 2017. The Phillips material, according to the CIA, has been designated NBR. NBR stands for "Not Believed Relevant to the assassination story". That designation, by the way, was made before it was revealed that Phillips had organized the assassination of General Schneider in Chile, in 1970. The JFK review board, which requested the Phillips material originally, did not know that Phillips was the organizer of political assassinations when they decided that this material was not relevant to the assassination. I'm not even sure that anybody on the JFK review board even looked at this material, but in any case, there's 800 pages, it's in the National Archives. It has never been made public.
Similarly, there's 200 pages of material about Birch O'Neill that is held in the JFK assassination records collection that has never been made public. I'm not sure that this material has to do with the assassination per se, but the central role of Birch O'Neill and the Special Investigations Group, the SIG office, in collecting all information, all CIA information about Oswald before the assassination, is a central part of the story. Anything, any information about Birch O'Neill is, in my view, relevant to the assassination. This material, too, has been designated as NBR.
I should say, I think it's very unlikely that Joannides, the Phillips, or the O'Neill material contains a smoking gun, a proverbial smoking gun, about the JFK conspiracy, but they might. The judgment that these files are not relevant to the assassination does not stand up to any scrutiny, and I should say that it's also possible that these records exculpate David Phillips and George Joannides, and other CIA officers, from allegations that they were involved in the JFK conspiracy. If these files do contain exculpatory information, it's obviously in the interest of the CIA to release them as soon as possible, and I hope that they will.
Where does that leave us as we approach the 50th anniversary? First of all, the seven steps that I've outlined here are hardly guaranteed to work. A half century after the fact, the CIA shows no interest in full disclosure around the JFK story. They're extremely defensive. I don't think that that defensiveness is defensible, but I do think that it's understandable, because of what we now see in the historical record. There's no proof, beyond reasonable doubt, of a CIA conspiracy, in my view, but I do think that the preponderance of evidence points to that possibility.
I suggest that we look at JFK's death as a civil rather than a criminal matter. If we look at it that way, I think you can say that James Angleton and other CIA officers who were most knowledgeable about Oswald before the assassination were arguably responsible for JFK's wrongful death. If they did not conspire to manipulate, conspire with or manipulate Oswald, they certainly failed to appreciate the threat to the president that was gathering in Dallas. This is the intelligence failure, the intelligence failure of November 22nd, 1963, that the CIA does not want to talk about and does not care to exercise full disclosure around, but that is the story that needs to come out on the 50th anniversary of JFK's death, not for the sake of scapegoating the CIA or the Pentagon, but for the sake of the Kennedy family, and for the sake of the vast majority of people who want the record straight.
In the end, I think the hard part about the JFK story is not understanding what happened. Anybody can study the vast historical record and come to a conclusion convincing to themselves, if not to others. What is hard about the JFK story is getting the CIA to obey the JFK Assassination Records Act of 1992, which mandates the immediate, and that was the word, the will of Congress in 1992, the immediate disclosure of all JFK records. Here we are, 20 years, 19 years later, and the CIA is still not in compliance with the law.
I've been litigating with the CIA for eight years around this question, and I can only conclude that the agency is beyond the reach of the law at this point, when it comes to JFK records. When President Obama took office, he issued a new directive on open government. "Federal agencies," he said, "Should not engage in abstract and speculative threats to justify the secrecy of government records." The agencies ignored this directive when it comes to JFK records. After all, President Obama is merely the president, and they are the CIA. That's the story on the 48th anniversary of JFK's death: the CIA has still not released all of its records on the subject, and that is what we have two years to overcome.
That's my view of the subject, and I'd be glad to take anybody's questions to talk about it. Thank you for listening.
[Questions are inaudible. First question is in regards to E. Howard Hunt and David Morales]
Hello? Okay. Okay. Hi. Thank you, thank you. Okay. Let me talk about Hunt, first. Hunt is clearly a very knowledgeable person, the head of the domestic contacts division in 1963. I think that it's very notable that in the, after Hunt was arrested in the Watergate affair, and was facing the prospect of going to jail, the first thing he did was publish his book about the Bay of Pigs, and in the first pages of that book, the first thing that he did was he talked about the Cuban students who had identified Oswald as a Cuban, as an agent of Castro's. As Hunt well knew, those students had been recruited by David Phillips; as Hunt well knew, they were being run by George Joannides in 1963. I believe that Hunt raised this issue right after his arrest as a way of exercising leverage on the CIA, to show Dick Helms, who was the head of the CIA at the time, that he was prepared to talk about the events that led to Kennedy's assassination.
In that book, Hunt said that, basically, that Kennedy was to blame for his own assassination, through his cowardly behavior at the Bay of Pigs. Hunt's animus against JFK was obvious. In terms of evidence linking Hunt to the assassination, I've never been particularly persuaded by it. I think that the videos that he made at the end of his life with his son, St. John Hunt, which I have reviewed, are interesting. They're very interesting. I don't think they're proof positive, but they do, they are an admission against interest. Hunt was a CIA loyalist, he was a very conservative man, he was very sincere in his conservative beliefs. He was not one to traffic in a JFK conspiracy theory implicating the CIA idly. He would not have done that cynically, because of his own political beliefs.
The fact that he seems to indicate on those tapes some kind of knowledge of what he called "the big event", I think is very interesting and worth noting. I don't think that it proves anything, but I think the fact that Hunt talked at the end of his life about the possibility that CIA people had connived in Kennedy's death is an important piece of evidence that can't be wished away. About David Morales, I think the evidence is a little bit less strong. It is noteworthy that he boasted of being involved in the killing of Kennedy, but a lot of people have boasted about being involved in the killing of Kennedy, and that is not proof positive of anything. That's what I have to say about those two men.
[Questions are inaudible. Questioner is researcher Malcolm Blunt. Question is about CIA release of records.]
First of all, hello to Malcolm. Malcolm is one of the great researchers in this field, and has been an immeasurable help to me. That is news to me, that somebody from the CIA is saying that, but that doesn't surprise me. I've always thought that they were going to take, they would make every effort to keep this material out of the public view. It's clear from some external markings that some portion of those, of the David Phillips material, concerns the assassination in Chile, and the preparations around that, and the CIA is going to be loathe to disclose how its people organized the assassination. That does not surprise me.
That said, I think that the only way to overcome the CIA's secrecy in this matter is in the court of public opinion. The legal courts are not going to overrule the CIA, and I don't know that the congress is going to do it, but I think that public pressure might be able to embarrass them; but, as I said, this is a very difficult task. The hard thing is not to know what happened, the hard thing is to get the records.
[Questions are inaudible. Question is in regards to Lyndon Johnson.]
On the first point, I see no evidence connecting Johnson to the assassination. Doesn't strike me as very plausible, so that's all I can say about that. That Johnson thought that the CIA was involved in the assassination of Kennedy, I find that quite plausible. I'd like to know more about the sourcing of those two statements. I've heard that, it sounds quite plausible to me. Johnson clearly had a conspiratorial interpretation of the assassination, he had it from the day it happened until the day he died. He had a variety of- he expressed a variety of conspiracy theories to people over the years, so exactly what he thought is, it changed over time. He had different theories, and he did not know. I find that very plausible, and I find that that also tends to support the thesis that I have been offering here, that responsibility lay with CIA officers. It doesn't surprise me that Lyndon Johnson believed that.
[Questions are inaudible. First question is in regards to the personalities involved in the planning of Operation Northwoods.]
Very good question, and there is. The Northwoods planning was assigned to a psychological operations group, an inter-agency committee. David Phillips was on that committee, and there's indications, some indications from the records that he attended at least one meeting. There's also some indication that colleagues of George Joannides worked on that committee, as well. That, I think, is the thing that, in my recent research, I have been most interested in, is who was aware of the Northwoods concept, if somebody borrowed the Northwoods concept of a provocative crime to be blamed on Cuba, and perpetrated that in Dallas. Is that plausible? The fact that there's connections between the psychological operations committee that did the Northwoods planning, and Phillips and Joannides, I think is extremely, is very noteworthy.
Thank you, thank you all for having me, and thank you for listening. Like I said, I'm available on Facebook. I'm glad to communicate with any researchers on this who have serious thoughts, and I continue to do my research and to think that we can make some progress in understanding what happened, so I look forward to talking with any and all of you about that. Thank you.