George Joannides

George Joannides

George Joannides, the son of a journalist, was born in Athens, Greece, on 5th July, 1922. His family arrived in New York in 1923. After graduating from the City College he received a law degree from St. John's University. He worked for the Greek language National Herald before moving to Washington in 1949 to work for the Greek Embassy Information Service.

He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1951 and later became chief of the Psychological Warfare branch of the CIA's JM/WAVE station in Miami. In this role he worked closely with the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE), a militant right-wing, anti-Communist, anti-Castro, anti-Kennedy, group. This was a group that Lee Harvey Oswald was in contact with in New Orleans in August 1963. Journalist Jefferson Morley says he knows of no evidence that Joannides was in contact with Oswald during this period.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Richard Helms appointed John M. Whitten to undertake the agency's in-house investigation. After talking to Winston Scott, the CIA station chief in Mexico City, Whitten discovered that Lee Harvey Oswald had been photographed at the Cuban consulate in early October, 1963. Nor had Scott told Whitten, his boss, that Oswald had also visited the Soviet Embassy in Mexico. In fact, Whitten had not been informed of the existence of Oswald, even though there was a 201 pre-assassination file on him that had been maintained by the Counterintelligence/Special Investigative Group.

John M. Whitten and his staff of 30 officers, were sent a large amount of information from the FBI. According to Gerald D. McKnight "the FBI deluged his branch with thousands of reports containing bits and fragments of witness testimony that required laborious and time-consuming name checks." Whitten later described most of this FBI material as "weirdo stuff". As a result of this initial investigation, Whitten told Richard Helms that he believed that Oswald had acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

On 6th December, Nicholas Katzenbach invited Whitten and Birch O'Neal, Angleton's trusted deputy and senior Special Investigative Group (SIG) officer to read Commission Document 1 (CD1), the report that the FBI had written on Lee Harvey Oswald. Whitten now realized that the FBI had been withholding important information on Oswald from him. He also discovered that Richard Helms had not been providing him all of the agency's available files on Oswald. This included Oswald's political activities in the months preceding the assassination and the relationship Joannides had with the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil.

John M. Whitten had a meeting where he argued that Oswald's pro-Castro political activities needed closer examination, especially his attempt to shoot the right-wing General Edwin Walker, his relationship with anti-Castro exiles in New Orleans, and his public support for the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Whitten added that has he had been denied this information, his initial conclusions on the assassination were "completely irrelevant."

Richard Helms responded by taking Whitten off the case. James Jesus Angleton, chief of the CIA's Counterintelligence Branch, was now put in charge of the investigation. McKnight (Breach of Trust) Angleton "wrested the CIA's in-house investigation away from John Whitten because he either was convinced or pretended to believe that the purpose of Oswald's trip to Mexico City had been to meet with his KGB handlers to finalize plans to assassinate Kennedy."

In 1976 Thomas N. Downing began campaigning for a new investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Downing said he was certain that Kennedy had been killed as a result of a conspiracy. He believed that the recent deaths of Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli were highly significant. He also believed that the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had withheld important information from the Warren Commission. Downing was not alone in taking this view. In 1976, a Detroit News poll indicated that 87% of the American population did not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who killed Kennedy.

Coretta Scott King, was also calling for her husband's murder to be looked at by a Senate Committee. It was suggested that there was more chance of success if these two investigations could be combined. Henry Gonzalez and Walter E. Fauntroy joined Downing in his campaign and in 1976 Congress voted to create a 12-member House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) to investigate the deaths of Kennedy and King.

Joannides was appointed as the agency's liaison to the HSCA. The CIA did not reveal to the committee that Joannides had played an important role in the events of 1963. Some critics believe that Joannides was involved in a conspiracy to link Lee Harvey Oswald with the government of Fidel Castro.

On 16th May, 1978, John M. Whitten appeared before the HSCA. He criticised Richard Helms for not making a full disclosure about the Rolando Cubela plot to the Warren Commission. He added " I think that was a morally highly reprehensible act, which he cannot possibly justify under his oath of office or any other standard of professional service."

Whitten also said that if he had been allowed to continue with the investigation he would have sought out what was going on at JM/WAVE. This would have involved the questioning of Ted Shackley, David Sanchez Morales, Carl E. Jenkins, Rip Robertson, George Joannides, Gordon Campbell and Thomas G. Clines. As Jefferson Morley has pointed out in The Good Spy: "Had Whitten been permitted to follow these leads to their logical conclusions, and had that information been included in the Warren Commission report, that report would have enjoyed more credibility with the public. Instead, Whitten's secret testimony strengthened the HSCA's scathing critique of the C.I.A.'s half-hearted investigation of Oswald. The HSCA concluded that Kennedy had been killed by Oswald and unidentifiable co-conspirators."

John M. Whitten also told the HSCA that James Jesus Angleton involvement in the investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was "improper". Although he was placed in charge of the investigation by Richard Helms, Angleton "immediately went into action to do all the investigating". When Whitten complained to Helms about this he refused to act.

Whitten believes that Angleton's attempts to sabotage the investigation was linked to his relationship with the Mafia. Whitten claims that Angleton also prevented a CIA plan to trace mob money to numbered accounts in Panama. Angleton told Whitten that this investigation should be left to the FBI. When Whitten mentioned this to a senior CIA official, he replied: "Well, that's Angleton's excuse. The real reason is that Angleton himself has ties to the Mafia and he would not want to double-cross them."

Whitten also pointed out that as soon as Angleton took control of the investigation he concluded that Cuba was unimportant and focused his internal investigation on Oswald's life in the Soviet Union. If Whitten had remained in charge he would have "concentrated his attention on CIA's JM/WAVE station in Miami, Florida, to uncover what George Joannides, the station chief, and operatives from the SIG and SAS knew about Oswald."

Joannides left the CIA in 1979. He began a law practice in Washington and apparently he specialized in immigration matters. George Joannides died in Houston in March 1990.

It was only after his death that it was revealed that Joannides was in contact with Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) in 1963. G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, was furious when he discovered this information. He issued a statement where he said: "I am no longer confident that the Central Intelligence Agency co-operated with the committee.... I was not told of Joannides' background with the DRE, a focal point of the investigation. Had I known who he was, he would have been a witness who would have been interrogated under oath by the staff or by the committee. He would never have been acceptable as a point of contact with us to retrieve documents. In fact, I have now learned, as I note above, that Joannides was the point of contact between the Agency and DRE during the period Oswald was in contact with DRE. That the Agency would put a 'material witness' in as a 'filter' between the committee and its quests for documents was a flat out breach of the understanding the committee had with the Agency that it would co-operate with the investigation."

In recent years investigators into the assassination of John F. Kennedy such as G. Robert Blakey, Jefferson Morley, Anthony Summers, John McAdams, John M. Newman, David Kaiser, Michael Kurtz, Oliver Stone, David Talbot, Cyril H. Wecht, David R. Wrone and Gerald Posner have campaigned for the CIA to release the files concerning the activities of Joannides in 1963.

In October, 2006, Judge Richard Leon upheld the CIA's right to block disclosure of records about Joannides's operational activities in August 1963. As Rex Bradford pointed out: "Judge Leon upheld the CIA's right to block disclosure of records about Joannides's operational activities in August 1963. That's when Joannides' agents in a Cuban exile student group had a series of encounters with accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and used U.S. government funds to call attention to his pro-Castro activities."

While researching a documentary, Shane O'Sullivan discovered a news film of the Ambassador Hotel on the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Bradley Ayers and other people who knew them, identified David Sanchez Morales, Gordon Campbell and George Joannides as being three men in the hotel that day. An article about this story appeared in The Guardian and on BBC Newsnight on 20th November, 2006.

Journalist Jefferson Morley who uncovered the Joannides story - and the only known autheticated photos of Joannides - asserts emphatically and unequivocally that neither Gordon Campbell nor George Joannides are the men depicted in this photograph. Morley notes that Campbell died in 1962 and that there is no corroborated evidence that Joannides was in Los Angeles in June 1968.

George E. Joannides, 67, a retired lawyer at the Defense Department who later established a private law practice in Washington, died March 9 at St. Luke's Hospital in Houston, where he had undergone heart surgery.

Mr. Joannides, Potomac resident, was born in Athens. He came to this country when he was 1 year old, and he grew up in New York City. He graduated from the City College of New York and received a law degree from St. John's University.

Before moving to Washington in 1949 he worked for the National Herald, a Greek-language newspaper published in New York.

In Washington, Mr. Joannides worked for the Greek Embassy Information Service for a year. In 1951, he went to work for the Defense Department. His assignments included service in Vietnam and Greece. He retired in 1979.

When he left the government, Mr. Joannides began a law practice in Washington in which he specialized in immigration matters.

I am no longer confident that the Central Intelligence Agency co-operated with the committee. My reasons follow:

The committee focused, among other things, on (1) Oswald, (2) in New Orleans, (3) in the months before he went to Dallas, and, in particular, (4) his attempt to infiltrate an anti-Castro group, the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil or DRE.

These were crucial issues in the Warren Commission's investigation; they were crucial issues in the committee's investigation. The Agency knew it full well in 1964; the Agency knew it full well in 1976-79. Outrageously, the Agency did not tell the Warren Commission or our committee that it had financial and other connections with the DRE, a group that Oswald had direct dealings with!

What contemporaneous reporting is or was in the Agency's DRE files? We will never know, for the Agency now says that no reporting is in the existing files. Are we to believe that its files were silent in 1964 or during our investigation?

I don't believe it for a minute. Money was involved; it had to be documented. Period. End of story. The files and the Agency agents connected to the DRE should have been made available to the commission and the committee. That the information in the files and the agents who could have supplemented it were not made available to the commission and the committee amounts to willful obstruction of justice.

Obviously, too, it did not identify the agent who was its contact with the DRE at the crucial time that Oswald was in contact with it: George Joannides.

During the relevant period, the committee's chief contact with the Agency on a day-to-day basis was Scott Breckinridge. (I put aside our point of contact with the office of chief counsel, Lyle Miller) We sent researchers to the Agency to request and read documents. The relationship between our young researchers, law students who came with me from Cornell, was anything but "happy." Nevertheless, we were getting and reviewing documents. Breckinridge, however, suggested that he create a new point of contact person who might "facilitate" the process of obtaining and reviewing materials. He introduced me to Joannides, who, he said, he had arranged to bring out of retirement to help us. He told me that he had experience in finding documents; he thought he would be of help to us.

I was not told of Joannides' background with the DRE, a focal point of the investigation. In fact, I have now learned, as I note above, that Joannides was the point of contact between the Agency and DRE during the period Oswald was in contact with DRE.

That the Agency would put a "material witness" in as a "filter" between the committee and its quests for documents was a flat out breach of the understanding the committee had with the Agency that it would co-operate with the investigation.

The committee's researchers immediately complained to me that Joannides was, in fact, not facilitating but obstructing our obtaining of documents. I contacted Breckinridge and Joannides. Their side of the story wrote off the complaints to the young age and attitude of the people.

They were certainly right about one question: the committee's researchers did not trust the Agency. Indeed, that is precisely why they were in their positions. We wanted to test the Agency's integrity. I wrote off the complaints. I was wrong; the researchers were right. I now believe the process lacked integrity precisely because of Joannides.

For these reasons, I no longer believe that we were able to conduct an appropriate investigation of the Agency and its relationship to Oswald. Anything that the Agency told us that incriminated, in some fashion, the Agency may well be reliable as far as it goes, but the truth could well be that it materially understates the matter.

What the Agency did not give us none but those involved in the Agency can know for sure. I do not believe any denial offered by the Agency on any point. The law has long followed the rule that if a person lies to you on one point, you may reject all of his testimony.

I now no longer believe anything the Agency told the committee any further than I can obtain substantial corroboration for it from outside the Agency for its veracity. We now know that the Agency withheld from the Warren Commission the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro. Had the commission known of the plots, it would have followed a different path in its investigation. The Agency unilaterally deprived the commission of a chance to obtain the full truth, which will now never be known.

Significantly, the Warren Commission's conclusion that the agencies of the government cooperated with it is, in retrospect, not the truth.

We also now know that the Agency set up a process that could only have been designed to frustrate the ability of the committee in 1976-79 to obtain any information that might adversely affect the Agency.

Many have told me that the culture of the Agency is one of prevarication and dissimulation and that you cannot trust it or its people. End of story.

I am now in that camp.

One of the most closely held of Helms's secrets had to do with George E. Joannides, the JM/Wave contact officer for the DRE in 1963. Helms never revealed that the CIA was funding the directorate when the DRE had contact with Oswald, who was publicly agitating in favor of the Castro revolution in New Orleans during the months of July and August. Joannides probably knew more about Oswald and his relationship with the DRE and other anti Castro exile groups in New Orleans than anyone else in the government. It was Helms who assigned Joannides to the CIA's Miami station because he was skilled in psychological warfare and disinformation operations. It was Helms who assigned veteran clandestine officer John Whitten to head up the CIA's in-house investigation of the Kennedy assassination and then withheld from him important information from Oswald's pre assassination file. When Whitten protested, Helms removed him and turned the investigation over to Angleton. It might have been just another awkward coincidence that David Atlee Phillips, the DRE's first contact officer, was chief of covert action in the Cuban Section of the CIA's Mexico City station when Oswald arrived in Mexico City in September 1963."

Thomas Powers's biography of Richard Helms, The Man Who Kept the Secrets, could not have had a more fitting title. Helms kept Joannides and his DRE connections secret through four investigations into the Kennedy assassination." Joannides's name did not publicly surface until the 1990s, when the so-called JFK Act led to the establishment of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). Over a four-year period the ARRB, empowered to declassify JFK files, dislodged somewhere between four and five million pages of declassified documents. Joannides's record was one of those files, and his personnel records revealed that he had been the DRE's contact officer when the CIA claimed it had no contact with the directorate in 1963. But his file was purged, according to the Washington Post's Jefferson Morley, who is the researcher responsible for introducing Joannides into the historiography of the JFK assassination. Morley described the file as "thin." There were no reports in the Joannides file for the entire seventeen months that he was the DRE's contact officer. All that his personnel file revealed is that Joannides was paying the directorate for "intelligence" and "propaganda." John Tunheim, now a federal judge in Minneapolis, chaired the ARRB. After reviewing all the CIA suppression and stonewalling surrounding the Joannides story, Tunheim remarked to Morley, "[This] shows that the CIA wasn't interested in the truth about the assassination.

All the indicators strongly point toward Oswald having been connected to an American intelligence source. There is persuasive circumstantial evidence that Oswald was building a pro-Castro cover as part of an intelligence plan that ultimately took him to Mexico City. What we know today of his activities in Mexico City far exceeds what the Warren Commission chose to include in its report, out of design but more significantly because the CIA saw to it that the evidence was not available to the Commission and its staff lawyers.

As published authors of divergent views on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we urge the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense to observe the spirit and letter of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act by releasing all relevant records on the activities of a career CIA operations officer named George E. Joannides, who died in 1990.

Joannides's service to the US government is a matter of public record and is relevant to the Kennedy assassination story. In November 1963, Joannides served as the chief of the Psychological Warfare branch in the CIA's Miami station. In 1978, he served as the CIA's liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

The records concerning George Joannides meet the legal definition of "assassination-related" JFK records that must be "immediately" released under the JFK Records Act. They are assassination-related because of contacts between accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and a CIA-sponsored Cuban student group that Joannides guided and monitored in August 1963.

Declassified portions of Joannides's personnel file confirm his responsibility in August 1963 for reporting on the "propaganda" and "intelligence collection" activities of the Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil (DRE), a prominent organization known in the North American press as the Cuban Student Directorate.

George Joannides's activities were assassination-related in at least two ways.

(1) In August 1963, Oswald attempted to infiltrate the New Orleans delegation of the DRE. The delegation - dependent on $25,000 a month in CIA funds provided by Joannides - publicly denounced Oswald as an unscrupulous sympathizer of Fidel Castro.

(2) After Kennedy was killed three months later, on November 22, 1963, DRE members spoke to reporters from The New York Times and other news outlets, detailing Oswald's pro-Castro activities. Within days of the assassination, the DRE published allegations that Oswald had acted on Castro's behalf.

The imperative of disclosure is heightened by the fact that the CIA has, in the past, failed to disclose George Joannides's activities. In 1978, Joannides was called out of retirement to serve as the agency's liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The agency did not reveal to the Congress his role in the events of 1963, compromising the committee's investigation.

It is disappointing to learn that the Central Intelligence Agency filed motions in federal court in May 2005 to block disclosure of records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy forty-one years ago.

In response to the journalist Jefferson Morley's lawsuit brought under the Freedom of Information Act, the CIA is seek-ing to prevent release of records about a deceased CIA operations officer named George E. Joannides.

Joannides's story is clearly of substantial historical interest. CIA records show that the New Orleans chapter of a Cuban exile group that Joannides guided and monitored in Miami had a series of encounters with the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald three months before Kennedy was murdered. Fifteen years later, Joannides also served as the agency's liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. He did not disclose his role in the events of 1963 to Congress. The public record of the assassination and its confused investigatory aftermath will not be complete without his story.

The spirit of the law is clear. The JFK Records Act of 1992, approved unanimously by Congress, mandated that all assassination-related records be reviewed and disclosed "immediately."

When Morley filed his lawsuit in December 2003, thirteen published JFK authors supported his request for the records in an open letter to The New York Review of Books.

Eighteen months later, the CIA is still stonewalling. The agency now acknowledges that it possesses an undisclosed number of documents related to Joannides's actions and responsibilities in 1963 which it will not release in any form. Thus records related to Kennedy's assassination are still being hidden for reasons of "national security."

As published authors of divergent views on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we say the agency's position is spurious and untenable. Its continuing non-compliance with the JFK Records Act does no service to the public. It defies the will of Congress. It obscures the public record on a subject of enduring national interest. It encourages conspiracy mongering. And it undermines public confidence in the intelligence community at a time when collective security requires the opposite.

We insist the CIA observe the spirit of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act by immediately releasing all relevant records on the activities of George Joannides and any records at all that include his name or relate in any way to the assassination story - as prescribed by the JFK Records Act. The law and common sense require it.

G. Robert Blakey , former general counsel, House Select Committee on Assassinations

Jefferson Morley, journalist

Scott Armstrong, founder National Security Archive

Vincent Bugliosi, author and former prosecutor

Elias Demetracopoulos, retired journalist

Stephen Dorril, University of Huddersfield

Don DeLillo, author of Libra

Paul Hoch, JFK researcher

David Kaiser, Naval War College

Michael Kurtz, Southeastern Louisiana University, author of Crime of the Century

George Lardner, Jr., journalist

Jim Lesar, Assassination Archives and Research Center

Norman Mailer, author of Oswald's Tale

John McAdams, moderator, alt.assassination.jfk

John Newman, author of Oswald and the CIA

Gerald Posner, author of Case Closed

Oliver Stone, director JFK

Anthony Summers, author of Not in Your Lifetime

Robbyn Swan, author

David Talbot, founding editor, Salon.com

Cyril Wecht, former coroner, Alleghany County, PA

Richard Whalen, author of Founding Father

Gordon Winslow, former archivist of Dade County, Florida.

David Wrone, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point, author The Zapruder Film

People interested in the JFK story will be interested to know that the CIA is due to file papers in court tomorrorow, May 20, to block release of certain JFK assassination-related documents.

The records in question concern a deceased CIA officer named George Joannides. At the time of Kennedy's death, Joannides was the Chief of Psychological Warfare branch of the Agency's JM/WAVE station in Miami.

Among his primary responsibilities were guiding, monitoring and financing the Revolutionary Cuban Student Directorate or DRE, one of the largest and most effective anti-Castro groups in the United States. CIA records show, and the group's former leaders confirm, that Joannides provided them with up $18-25,000 per month while insisting they submit to CIA discipline. Joannides, in his job evaluation of 31 July 1963, was credited with having established control over the group.

Five day later, Lee Harvey Oswald wandered into the DRE's New Orleans delegation, setting off a string of encounters between the pro-Castro ex-Marine and the anti-Castro exiles. Members of the DRE confronted Oswald on a street corner. They stared him down in a courtroom. They sent a DRE member to Oswald's house posing a Castro supporter. They challenged him to a debate on the radio. They made a tape of the debate which was later sent to Joannides. And they issued a press release calling for a congressional investigation of the thoroughly obscure Oswald. This, at a time, when the DRE had been warned to clear its public statements with the Agency.

What, if anything, Joannides made of the encounters between his assets in the DRE and the future accused assassin is unknown. Former leaders of the DRE are divided on the question.

Within an hour of Oswald's arrest on Nov. 22, 1963, the DRE leaders in Miami went public with their documentation of Oswald's pro-Castro ways, thus shaping early press coverage of the accused assasssin. Joannides told the group to take their information to the FBI.

Joannides connection to Oswald's antagonists was not disclosed to the Warren Commission.

In 1978, Joannides was called out of retirement to serve as CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Joanndides did not disclose his role in the events of 1963 to investigators. HSCA general counsel Bob Blakey says that Joannides's actions constituted obstruction of Congress, a felony. Joannides's support for the DRE was uncovered by the Assassination Records Review Board in 1998. Joannides died in 1991.

I filed suit against the CIA in December 2003 seeking records of Joannides's activities in 1963 and 1978. In December 2004, the CIA gave me about 150 pages of heavily redacted and obviously incomplete records from Joannides's personnel file. The Agency informed me that it retains an unspecified number of records about Joannides actions that it will not release IN ANY FORM.

Thus JFK assassination records are kept secret in 2005 in the name of "national security."

The records that CIA gave me are not reassuring. They show that Joannides travelled to New Orleans in connection with his CIA duties in 1963-64. They also show that he was cleared for two highly sensitive operations in December 1962 and June 1963. The nature of these operations is unknown.

It would be premature and foolish to speculate on what George Joannnides was doing in New Orleans in 1963. What is certain is that he had a professional obligation to report on the activities of the DRE in August and November 1963, especially as they related to Oswald. The CIA is legally obliged to make such records public. Instead, they are stonewalling in court. This is a disappointing, if not disturbing.

I am interested in hearing from JFK researchers willing to publicly support a call to Congress to enforce the JFK Records Act. I know that the Joannides records are not the only assassination-related material that is being illicitly withheld so I am also interested in hearing from researchers about specific groups of records, known to exist, that have not been released.

Whatever one's interpretation of November 22, 1963, I think we can all agree that these records should be made public immediately.

Oct 2, 2006: Jefferson Morley's lawsuit to obtain CIA records of officer George Joannides was dismissed last Friday by Judge Richard Leon (see judge's opinion). Joannides was the former chief of anti-Castro psychological warfare operations in Miami in 1963, which included oversight of the DRE, the Cuban exile group whose members knew Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans. For background on the Joannides story, see our Unredacted interview with journalist Jeff Morley (pictured at left) and AARC President Jim Lesar.

Judge Leon upheld the CIA's right to block disclosure of records about Joannides's operational activities in August 1963. government funds to call attention to his pro-Castro activities.

At the time, CIA records show that Joannides was guiding and monitoring the Cuban Student Directorate and providing it with up to $25,000 a month. When JFK investigators later questioned Joannides about his knowledge of Oswald and the events of 1963, he stonewalled. In fact, the CIA had placed him in a position as liaison with the House Select Committee on Assassinations, without informing them of Joannides' prior role. When G. Robert Blakey, the House Committee's Chief Counsel, learned of this recently, he wrote a scathing response which begins: "I am no longer confident that the Central Intelligence Agency co-operated with the committee."

The dismissal of the Morley lawsuit shows that, with the demise of the Assassination Records Review Board, there is a problematic lack of enforcement of the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act.

At first, it seems an open-and-shut case. On June 5 1968, Robert Kennedy wins the California Democratic primary and is set to challenge Richard Nixon for the White House. After midnight, he finishes his victory speech at the Ambassador hotel in Los Angeles and is shaking hands with kitchen staff in a crowded pantry when 24-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan steps down from a tray-stacker with a "sick, villainous smile" on his face and starts firing at Kennedy with an eight-shot revolver.

As Kennedy lies dying on the pantry floor, Sirhan is arrested as the lone assassin. He carries the motive in his shirt-pocket (a clipping about Kennedy's plans to sell bombers to Israel) and notebooks at his house seem to incriminate him. But the autopsy report suggests Sirhan could not have fired the shots that killed Kennedy. Witnesses place Sirhan's gun several feet in front of Kennedy, but the fatal bullet is fired from one inch behind. And more bullet-holes are found in the pantry than Sirhan's gun can hold, suggesting a second gunman is involved. Sirhan's notebooks show a bizarre series of "automatic writing" - "RFK must die RFK must be killed - Robert F Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 68" - and even under hypnosis, he has never been able to remember shooting Kennedy. He recalls "being led into a dark place by a girl who wanted coffee", then being choked by an angry mob. Defence psychiatrists conclude he was in a trance at the time of the shooting and leading psychiatrists suggest he may have be a hypnotically programmed assassin.

Three years ago, I started writing a screenplay about the assassination of Robert Kennedy, caught up in a strange tale of second guns and "Manchurian candidates" (as the movie termed brainwashed assassins). As I researched the case, I uncovered new video and photographic evidence suggesting that three senior CIA operatives were behind the killing. I did not buy the official ending that Sirhan acted alone, and started dipping into the nether-world of "assassination research", crossing paths with David Sanchez Morales, a fearsome Yaqui Indian.

Morales was a legendary figure in CIA covert operations. According to close associate Tom Clines, if you saw Morales walking down the street in a Latin American capital, you knew a coup was about to happen. When the subject of the Kennedys came up in a late-night session with friends in 1973, Morales launched into a tirade that finished: "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard." From this line grew my odyssey into the spook world of the 60s and the secrets behind the death of Bobby Kennedy.

Working from a Cuban photograph of Morales from 1959, I viewed news coverage of the assassination to see if I could spot the man the Cubans called El Gordo - The Fat One. Fifteen minutes in, there he was, standing at the back of the ballroom, in the moments between the end of Kennedy's speech and the shooting. Thirty minutes later, there he was again, casually floating around the darkened ballroom while an associate with a pencil moustache took notes.

The source of early research on Morales was Bradley Ayers, a retired US army captain who had been seconded to JM-Wave, the CIA's Miami base in 1963, to work closely with chief of operations Morales on training Cuban exiles to run sabotage raids on Castro. I tracked Ayers down to a small town in Wisconsin and emailed him stills of Morales and another guy I found suspicious - a man who is pictured entering the ballroom from the direction of the pantry moments after the shooting, clutching a small container to his body, and being waved towards an exit by a Latin associate.

Ayers' response was instant. He was 95% sure that the first figure was Morales and equally sure that the other man was Gordon Campbell, who worked alongside Morales at JM-Wave in 1963 and was Ayers' case officer shortly before the JFK assassination.

I put my script aside and flew to the US to interview key witnesses for a documentary on the unfolding story. In person, Ayers positively identified Morales and Campbell and introduced me to David Rabern, a freelance operative who was part of the Bay of Pigs invasion force in 1961 and was at the Ambassador hotel that night. He did not know Morales and Campbell by name but saw them talking to each other out in the lobby before the shooting and assumed they were Kennedy's security people. He also saw Campbell around police stations three or four times in the year before Robert Kennedy was shot.

This was odd. The CIA had no domestic jurisdiction and Morales was stationed in Laos in 1968. With no secret service protection for presidential candidates in those days, Kennedy was guarded by unarmed Olympic decathlete champion Rafer Johnson and football tackler Rosey Grier - no match for an expert assassination team.

Trawling through microfilm of the police investigation, I found further photographs of Campbell with a third figure, standing centre-stage in the Ambassador hotel hours before the shooting. He looked Greek, and I suspected he might be George Joannides, chief of psychological warfare operations at JM-Wave. Joannides was called out of retirement in 1978 to act as the CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) investigating the death of John F Kennedy.

Ed Lopez, now a respected lawyer at Cornell University, came into close contact with Joann-des when he was a young law student working for the committee. We visit him and show him the photograph and he is 99% sure it is Joannides. When I tell him where it was taken, he is not surprised: "If these guys decided you were bad, they acted on it.

We move to Washington to meet Wayne Smith, a state department official for 25 years who knew Morales well at the US embassy in Havana in 1959-60. When we show him the video in the ballroom, his response is instant: "That's him, that's Morales." He remembers Morales at a cocktail party in Buenos Aires in 1975, saying Kennedy got what was coming to him. Is there a benign explanation for his presence? For Kennedy's security, maybe? Smith laughs. Morales is the last person you would want to protect Bobby Kennedy, he says. He hated the Kennedys, blaming their lack of air support for the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961.

We meet Clines in a hotel room near CIA headquarters. He does not want to go on camera and brings a friend, which is a little unnerving. Clines remembers "Dave" fondly. The guy in the video looks like Morales but it is not him, he says: "This guy is fatter and Morales walked with more of a slouch and his tie down." To me, the guy in the video does walk with a slouch and his tie is down.

Clines says he knew Joannides and Campbell and it is not them either, but he fondly remembers Ayers bringing snakes into JM-Wave to scare the secretaries and seems disturbed at Smith's identification of Morales. He does not discourage our investigation and suggests others who might be able to help. A seasoned journalist cautions that he would expect Clines "to blow smoke", and yet it seems his honest opinion.

As we leave Los Angeles, I tell the immigration officer that I am doing a story on Bobby Kennedy. She has seen the advertisements for the new Emilio Estevez movie about the assassination, Bobby. "Who do you think did it? I think it was the Mob," she says before I can answer.

"I definitely think it was more than one man," I say, discreetly.

Morales died of a heart attack in 1978, weeks before he was to be called before the HSCA. Joannides died in 1990. Campbell may still be out there somewhere, in his early 80s. Given the positive identifications we have gathered on these three, the CIA and the Los Angeles Police Department need to explain what they were doing there. Lopez believes the CIA should call in and interview everybody who knew them, disclose whether they were on a CIA operation and, if not, why they were there that night.

Today would have been Robert Kennedy's 81st birthday. The world is crying out for a compassionate leader like him. If dark forces were behind his elimination, it needs to be investigated.

On November 20, 2006 - the day that would have been Robert Kennedy's eighty-first birthday -- the BBC program Newsnight aired a startling report alleging that three CIA operatives were caught on camera at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of Kennedy's assassination. The story suggested that they were involved in his killing. The BBC broadcast, produced by filmmaker Shane O'Sullivan, identified the three CIA operatives as George Joannides, David Morales and Gordon Campbell. All three were known to have worked for the Agency in Miami in the early 1960s when the White House ordered up a massive, not-so-secret effort to overthrow Fidel Castro's communist government in Cuba...

We spent six weeks interviewing dozens of people from Washington DC to Florida to California and Arizona who knew Joannides, Morales and Campbell at different times in their lives. We spoke with former CIA colleagues, retired State Department officials, personal friends and family members...

Several people who had worked with Joannides over the years said the man in the Ambassador Hotel photograph was identical to the man they knew. But other former colleagues disagreed, as did relatives and close friends. Helen Charles, widow of Greek Embassy spokesman George Charles who was one of Joannides' closest personal friends in Washington for four decades, said the man in the BBC photo was not Joannides. "That's not George," said Mitzi Natsios, widow of a fellow Greek-American CIA colleague who knew Joannides well. Robert and Louise Keeley, a retired State Department officer and his wife, who worked and socialized with Joannides in Greece in 1965-68, also said they did not recognize the man depicted in the BBC report. "That is not my uncle, I can tell you that," said Timothy Kalaris, a nephew of Joannides who lives in the Washington area. "I don't know how anybody who ever knew him could say that's him." Photographs of Joannides, whose picture has never been published before, show him at a June 1973 CIA party in Saigon where he served as chief of political action operations. Joannides wears glasses as did the man in the BBC report but he has a more pointed jaw, larger ears, a different hairline, and a more olive complexion. The CIA also declined to release Joannides’ travel records. Most likely he was in Athens in June 1968.

Perhaps the single most intriguing story to emerge from the JFK files concerns a career CIA officer named George Joannides. He died in 1990 at age 67, taking his JFK secrets to the grave in suburban Washington. His role in the events leading up to Kennedy's death and its confused investigatory aftermath goes utterly unmentioned in the vast literature of JFK's assassination. Vincent Bugliosi's otherwise impressive 1,600 page book debunking every JFK conspiracy theory known to man mentions him only in an inaccurate footnote. In 1998, the Agency declassified a handful of annual personnel evaluations that revealed Joannides was involved in the JFK assassination story, both before and after the event.

In November 1963, Joannides was serving as the chief of psychological warfare operations in the CIA's Miami station. The purpose of psychological warfare, as authorized by U.S. policymakers, was to confuse and confound the government of Fidel Castro, so to hasten its replacement by a government more congenial to Washington. The first revelation was that Joannides had agents in a leading Cuban student exile group, an operation code-named AMSPELL in CIA files. These agents had a series of close encounters with Oswald three months before JFK was killed.

The second revelation was that the CIA's Miami assets helped shape the public's understanding of Kennedy's assassination by identifying the suspected assassin as a Castro supporter right from the start.

The third revelation, the one that is most shocking, is that when Congress reopened the JFK probe in 1978, Joannides served as the CIA's liaison to the investigators. His job was to provide files and information to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. But far from being a helpful source and conduit, Joannides stonewalled. He did not disclose his role in the events of 1963, even when asked direct questions about the AMSPELL operation he handled.

When the story of the Joannides file emerged, former HSCA chief counsel G. Robert Blakey was stunned by the audacity of Joannides's deception. Blakey, a former federal prosecutor, thought the Agency had cooperated with Congress's effort to look into JFK's murder. Twenty-three years later he learned that the CIA bureaucrat ostensibly assisting his staff was actually a material witness in the investigation. "The Agency set me up," reported the Washington Post.

Blakey, now a law professor at Notre Dame, says Joannides's actions were "little short of outrageous. You could make a prima facie case that it amounted to obstruction of Congress, which is a felony."

Blakey has long argued that organized crime figures orchestrated Kennedy's assassination. The revelation of Joannides's unknown role has given him second thoughts about the CIA's credibility.

"You can't really infer from the Joannides story that they [the CIA] did it," he says. "Maybe he was hiding something that is not complicitous in a plot but merely embarrassing. It certainly undermines everything that they have said about JFK's assassination."

In November 1963, Joannides was serving as the chief of psychological warfare operations in the CIA's Miami station. It certainly undermines everything that they have said about JFK's assassination."

"We are going to kill Castro"

In July 1963, George Efythron Joannides turned 41 years old. He was a 10-year veteran of the clandestine service who presented himself as a lawyer for the Defense Department. He dressed well, spoke several languages and enjoyed the confidence of CIA Deputy Director Richard Helms. In his cables, he was identified as "Walter Newby." To his Cuban friends in Miami he was "Howard" or "Mr. Howard."

Joannides's chief job responsibility in 1963 was handling AMSPELL, a program of CIA support for the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil, also known as the Cuban Student Directorate. By 1962, the DRE was perhaps the single biggest and most active organization opposing Fidel Castro's regime. In Miami, Joannides was giving the leaders of the group up to $25,000 a month in cash for what he described as "intelligence collection" and "propaganda."

In August 1963, the DRE's New Orleans chapter had taken a vocal and very public interest in an itinerant ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald because of his blatantly pro-Castro politicking. Oswald was 23 years old, an erratic but street-smart schemer who knew how to make his way in the world. He lived in the Soviet Union for a couple of years and was married to a Russian woman, the former Marina Prusakova. He wrote letters to left-wing political organizations and drifted from job to job. And then in early August 1963 he attempted to infiltrate the DRE.

Oswald approached Carlos Bringuier, a 29-year-old lawyer who served as the group's spokesman in the Crescent City. Oswald offered to help train DRE commandos to fight the communist government in Cuba. A few days later, when the DRE boys saw him on a street corner passing out pamphlets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC), a notoriously pro-Castro group, they picked a fight with him.

Bringuier took an interest in Oswald. He directed a DRE member to go to Oswald's house and pose as a Castro supporter to learn more about his background. Bringuier also debated Oswald on a local radio program, and sent a tape of the debate to DRE's Miami headquarters. He also sent one of Oswald's FPCC pamphlets. Bringuier went so far as to issue a press release on Oswald, calling for a congressional investigation of the then-obscure ex-Marine. "Write to your congressman for a full investigation on Mr. Lee H. Oswald, a confessed 'Marxist,'" the DRE spokesman wrote on August 21, 1963.

Did George Joannides of the CIA ignore Bringuier's prescient and potentially life-saving call for investigating Oswald? Bringuier, now retired and living in Texas, refused to be interviewed for this article. He said he never received money from the CIA and said he did not know Joannides or "Howard." But other DRE members were more forthcoming.

"He definitely knew about what we we're doing with Oswald," says Isidro Borja, a Miami businessman who was active in the DRE in 1963. "That was what he was giving us the money for -- for information we had."

To get a flavor of the dangerous psychological warfare that George Joannides was waging at that time take a look at the cover of See, a men's magazine from the fall of 1963. "The CIA Needs Men -- Can You Qualify?" asked one headline. Next to this recruitment pitch was a poster, "Wanted Dead or Alive: Fidel Castro for Crimes Against Humanity." The article inside, bearing a byline of a DRE member, was headlined "We are going to kill Castro." In the article, the group announced it was offering a $10 million reward "for the death of the Cuban tyrant."

Now let us put the crime scene in a larger context, the context of CIA intelligence gathering and psychological warfare operations in late 1963. Let us return now to the man who didn't talk.

What was George Joannides's reaction to Oswald's appearance at the Dallas scene?

"We called him right away," says Tony Lanuza, a Miami businessman who was active in Cuban politics in 1963. He served as the coordinator for the far-flung delegations of the Cuban Student Directorate. When he and his friends heard that a man named Oswald had been arrested for killing Kennedy, Lanuza immediately recalled the confrontations between Carlos Bringuier and the obnoxious interloper from the Fair Play for Cuba Committee the previous August. They rushed to the Directorate's headquarters in South Miami, where someone called their CIA contact to inform him the group had evidence about the communistic ways of Kennedy's killer.

Joannides's first impulse was to consult with his superiors, two months before the DRE was recruiting assassins to kill Castro. What did they know about Oswald was one question that an intelligence officer might want answered.

"He told us to wait an hour," Lanuza recalls. "He had to consult with Washington."

The DRE started calling reporters anyway with the scoop on Kennedy's killer. He was a communist and a Castro supporter. A headline in the DRE's newspaper the next day described Oswald and Castro as "the presumed assassins." When Joannides called back, he told them to take their evidence to the FBI.

The CIA man apparently did not investigate Oswald's Cuban contacts. No former DRE leader can recall any conversations with Joannides about the accused assassin. Joannides did not account for the contacts between the AMSPELL network and the accused assassin, at least not according to the available CIA records. His role as sponsor of Oswald's Cuban antagonists was not disclosed to the Warren Commission. He preserved the U.S. government's ability to "plausibly deny" any connection to the Cuban students who publicized Oswald's pro-Castro ways.

All the while, the DRE leaders continued to feed JFK information to Joannides. The group's records from early 1964 include several memos to CIA contact "Howard" about Jack Ruby's Cuban connections. From New Orleans, Carlos Bringuier sent a report about the ongoing Warren Commission investigation there. That too was passed to Joannides.

On April 1, 1964, the Warren Commission sent Carlos Bringuier a letter informing him that a commission staff would be contacting him soon about taking his testimony about the DRE and Oswald. According to a CIA travel form made public in 2004, Joannides, the DRE's case officer and an attorney, traveled from Miami to New Orleans that same day for unknown reasons.

For the rest of his career, Joannides would be commended for his actions around events related to the Kennedy assassination.

In May 1964, his bosses praised him as a "hard-working, dedicated and effective officer" with a flair for political action operations. His annual job evaluation made no mention of the fact that his AMSPELL assets had tried and failed to call attention to the man who apparently killed Kennedy or that his young friends in the DRE were using agency funds to allege that Oswald acted at Castro's behest. Joannides received the highest possible marks for his service in 1963.

He went on to serve in Athens, Saigon and CIA headquarters. In 1979, after Joannides stonewalled congressional investigators about his knowledge of Oswald he received praise from CIA director Stansfield Turner and other top agency officials. "He was the perfect man for the job," said one.

Two years ago, the CIA acknowledged in a court filing that Joannides had received an even greater honor upon retirement. In March 1981, he received the Career Intelligence Medal, bestowed for "career contributions" to the Agency.

Why Joannides was honored after his Oswald cover-up remains a secret -- for reasons of "national security." In September 2006 federal judge Richard Leon upheld the CIA's arguments in a Freedom of Information lawsuit that it did not have to release the JFK material in Joannides's file. The National Archives then requested the Joannides files from the Agency earlier this year. As of late October 2007, the CIA was still resisting disclosure.

So what can one safely and reliably conclude about the JFK story today?

On the crime scene evidence, reasonable people will differ. To me, the single bullet theory, the forensic linchpin of all arguments for Oswald's sole guilt, has lost scientific validity in the past decade via both Pat Grant and Erik Randich's ballistics analysis and via the sworn testimony of FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill.

The JFK medical evidence is much less trustworthy than was known a decade ago. Photographs have been culled from the collection. Multiple new witnesses say independently and under oath that Kennedy's body and wounds were cleaned up before being photographed for the record. Any indictment of Oswald based on the medical evidence of Kennedy's wounds has been undermined.

The acoustic evidence remains in dispute. In my view, it has not been disqualified until an alternative explanation for the order in the data is confirmed.

The new JFK forensic science, in short, has narrowed the limits of plausible conjecture by eliminating the single bullet theory as an explanation of Kennedy and Connally's wounds and by not eliminating the possibility that the fatal shot was fired from the grassy knoll.

The best minds in forensic science might be able to clarify things, Pat Grant told me in an e-mail following our interview. Grant admitted that he and probably most other experts in the most advanced forensic techniques are not up to date on the acoustic evidence and other JFK evidentiary specimens.

"The evidence should be viewed and examined by a select group of forensic scientists, by invitation only, that best represents the most advanced forensic methods possible today," Grant wrote, adding, "These cannot be encompassed solely by the practices of today's criminalistics labs." He proposed these scientists prepare "a summary report detailing prioritized recommendations for ensuing analyses, their estimations for success of each recommended analysis and the anticipated information to be gained from each."

As for the new JFK evidence from CIA archives, that too awaits clarification. Some of the most basic questions about George Joannides -- what did he know about Oswald and when did he know it? -- cannot be answered as long as the Agency withholds his files from public view. The CIA's insistence, 44 years later, that it cannot declassify those files for reasons of "national security," not only encourages the notion the Agency is still hiding something significant, it also reminds us of the infuriating truth. When it comes to the JFK story we know a lot more than we did a decade ago: We know we still don't have the full story.


George Joannides

George Joannides, the son of a journalist, was born in Athens, Greece, on 5th July, 1922. His family arrived in New York in 1923. After graduating from the City College he received a law degree from St. John's University. He worked for the Greek language National Herald before moving to Washington in 1949 to work for the Greek Embassy Information Service.

He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1951 and later became chief of the Psychological Warfare branch of the CIA's JM/WAVE station in Miami. In this role he worked closely with the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE), a militant right-wing, anti-Communist, anti-Castro, anti-Kennedy, group. This was a group that Lee Harvey Oswald was in contact with in New Orleans in August 1963. Journalist Jefferson Morley says he knows of no evidence that Joannides was in contact with Oswald during this period.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Richard Helms appointed John M. Whitten to undertake the agency's in-house investigation. After talking to Winston Scott, the CIA station chief in Mexico City, Whitten discovered that Lee Harvey Oswald had been photographed at the Cuban consulate in early October, 1963. Nor had Scott told Whitten, his boss, that Oswald had also visited the Soviet Embassy in Mexico. In fact, Whitten had not been informed of the existence of Oswald, even though there was a 201 pre-assassination file on him that had been maintained by the Counterintelligence/Special Investigative Group.

John M. Whitten and his staff of 30 officers, were sent a large amount of information from the FBI. According to Gerald D. McKnight "the FBI deluged his branch with thousands of reports containing bits and fragments of witness testimony that required laborious and time-consuming name checks." Whitten later described most of this FBI material as "weirdo stuff". As a result of this initial investigation, Whitten told Richard Helms that he believed that Oswald had acted alone in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

On 6th December, Nicholas Katzenbach invited Whitten and Birch O'Neal, Angleton's trusted deputy and senior Special Investigative Group (SIG) officer to read Commission Document 1 (CD1), the report that the FBI had written on Lee Harvey Oswald. Whitten now realized that the FBI had been withholding important information on Oswald from him. He also discovered that Richard Helms had not been providing him all of the agency's available files on Oswald. This included Oswald's political activities in the months preceding the assassination and the relationship Joannides had with the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil.

Photograph that Shane O'Sullivan claims shows Gordon Campbell and George

Joannides at the Ambassador Hotel on the night Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated.

Journalist Jefferson Morley who uncovered the Joannides story - and the only known

autheticated photos of Joannides - asserts emphatically and unequivocally that neither

Gordon Campbell nor George Joannides are the men depicted in this photograph.

Morley notes that Campbell died in 1962 and that there is no corroborated evidence

that Joannides was in Los Angeles in June 1968.

John M. Whitten had a meeting where he argued that Oswald's pro-Castro political activities needed closer examination, especially his attempt to shoot the right-wing General Edwin Walker, his relationship with anti-Castro exiles in New Orleans, and his public support for the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Whitten added that has he had been denied this information, his initial conclusions on the assassination were "completely irrelevant."

Richard Helms responded by taking Whitten off the case. James Jesus Angleton, chief of the CIA's Counterintelligence Branch, was now put in charge of the investigation. According to Gerald D. McKnight ( Breach of Trust ) Angleton "wrested the CIA's in-house investigation away from John Whitten because he either was convinced or pretended to believe that the purpose of Oswald's trip to Mexico City had been to meet with his KGB handlers to finalize plans to assassinate Kennedy."

George Joannides (centre) in Vietnam in 1973.

In 1976 Thomas N. Downing began campaigning for a new investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Downing said he was certain that Kennedy had been killed as a result of a conspiracy. He believed that the recent deaths of Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli were highly significant. He also believed that the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation had withheld important information from the Warren Commission. Downing was not alone in taking this view. In 1976, a Detroit News poll indicated that 87% of the American population did not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman who killed Kennedy.

Coretta Scott King, was also calling for her husband's murder to be looked at by a Senate Committee. It was suggested that there was more chance of success if these two investigations could be combined. Henry Gonzalez and Walter E. Fauntroy joined Downing in his campaign and in 1976 Congress voted to create a 12-member House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) to investigate the deaths of Kennedy and King.

Joannides was appointed as the agency's liaison to the HSCA. The CIA did not reveal to the committee that Joannides had played an important role in the events of 1963. Some critics believe that Joannides was involved in a conspiracy to link Lee Harvey Oswald with the government of Fidel Castro.

On 16th May, 1978, John M. Whitten appeared before the HSCA. He criticised Richard Helms for not making a full disclosure about the Rolando Cubela plot to the Warren Commission. He added " I think that was a morally highly reprehensible act, which he cannot possibly justify under his oath of office or any other standard of professional service."

Whitten also said that if he had been allowed to continue with the investigation he would have sought out what was going on at JM/WAVE. This would have involved the questioning of Ted Shackley, David Sanchez Morales, Carl E. Jenkins, Rip Robertson, George Joannides, Gordon Campbell and Thomas G. Clines. As Jefferson Morley has pointed out in The Good Spy: "Had Whitten been permitted to follow these leads to their logical conclusions, and had that information been included in the Warren Commission report, that report would have enjoyed more credibility with the public. Instead, Whitten's secret testimony strengthened the HSCA's scathing critique of the C.I.A.'s half-hearted investigation of Oswald. The HSCA concluded that Kennedy had been killed by Oswald and unidentifiable co-conspirators."

John M. Whitten also told the HSCA that James Jesus Angleton involvement in the investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was "improper". Although he was placed in charge of the investigation by Richard Helms, Angleton "immediately went into action to do all the investigating". When Whitten complained to Helms about this he refused to act.

Whitten believes that Angleton's attempts to sabotage the investigation was linked to his relationship with the Mafia. Whitten claims that Angleton also prevented a CIA plan to trace mob money to numbered accounts in Panama. Angleton told Whitten that this investigation should be left to the FBI. When Whitten mentioned this to a senior CIA official, he replied: "Well, that's Angleton's excuse. The real reason is that Angleton himself has ties to the Mafia and he would not want to double-cross them."

Whitten also pointed out that as soon as Angleton took control of the investigation he concluded that Cuba was unimportant and focused his internal investigation on Oswald's life in the Soviet Union. If Whitten had remained in charge he would have "concentrated his attention on CIA's JM/WAVE station in Miami, Florida, to uncover what George Joannides, the station chief, and operatives from the SIG and SAS knew about Oswald."

Joannides left the CIA in 1979. He began a law practice in Washington and apparently he specialized in immigration matters. George Joannides died in Houston in March 1990.

It was only after his death that it was revealed that Joannides was in contact with Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE) in 1963. G. Robert Blakey, chief counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, was furious when he discovered this information. He issued a statement where he said: "I am no longer confident that the Central Intelligence Agency co-operated with the committee. I was not told of Joannides' background with the DRE, a focal point of the investigation. Had I known who he was, he would have been a witness who would have been interrogated under oath by the staff or by the committee. He would never have been acceptable as a point of contact with us to retrieve documents. In fact, I have now learned, as I note above, that Joannides was the point of contact between the Agency and DRE during the period Oswald was in contact with DRE. That the Agency would put a 'material witness' in as a 'filter' between the committee and its quests for documents was a flat out breach of the understanding the committee had with the Agency that it would co-operate with the investigation."

In recent years investigators into the assassination of John F. Kennedy such as G. Robert Blakey, Jefferson Morley, Anthony Summers, John McAdams, John M. Newman, David Kaiser, Michael Kurtz, Oliver Stone, David Talbot, Cyril H. Wecht, David R. Wrone and Gerald Posner have campaigned for the CIA to release the files concerning the activities of Joannides in 1963.

In October, 2006, Judge Richard Leon upheld the CIA's right to block disclosure of records about Joannides's operational activities in August 1963. As Rex Bradford pointed out: "Judge Leon upheld the CIA's right to block disclosure of records about Joannides's operational activities in August 1963. That's when Joannides' agents in a Cuban exile student group had a series of encounters with accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and used U.S. government funds to call attention to his pro-Castro activities."

While researching a documentary, Shane O'Sullivan discovered a news film of the Ambassador Hotel on the day Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. Bradley Ayers and other people who knew them, identified David Sanchez Morales, Gordon Campbell and George Joannides as being three men in the hotel that day. An article about this story appeared in The Guardian and on BBC Newsnight on 20th November, 2006.

Journalist Jefferson Morley who uncovered the Joannides story - and the only known autheticated photos of Joannides - asserts emphatically and unequivocally that neither Gordon Campbell nor George Joannides are the men depicted in this photograph. Morley notes that Campbell died in 1962 and that there is no corroborated evidence that Joannides was in Los Angeles in June 1968.

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JFK: What the CIA Hides

When I launched JFK Facts, a blog about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in 2012, I was often asked by strangers, “So who killed JFK?” “I don’t know,” I shrugged. “It’s too early to tell.” Given that the handsome liberal president had been shot dead a half-century before, my answer was a lame joke based on an apocryphal story. Henry Kissinger once said that when he asked Zhou Enlai, “What was the effect of the French Revolution on world history?” the Chinese statesmen replied, “It’s too early to tell.”

True to Kissingerian form, the story turns out to be not exactly true. Zhou was actually responding to a question about France’s political convulsions in 1968, not 1789. But Kissinger’s spin on the anecdote struck me as perceptive. The meaning of a great historical event might take a long time–a very long time–to become apparent. I didn’t want to jump to conclusions about the causes of JFK’s murder in downtown Dallas on November 22, 1963.

It’s still too early to tell. Fifty six years after the fact, historians and JFK researchers do not have access to all of the CIA’s files on the subject The 1964 Warren Commission report exonerated the agency with its conclusion that Kennedy was killed by one man alone. But the agency was subsequently the subject of five official JFK investigations, which cast doubt on its findings.

The Senate’s Church Committee investigation showed that the Warren Commission knew nothing of CIA assassination operations in 1963. JFK records released in the last 20 years show the Commission’s attorneys had no real understanding the extensive counterintelligence monitoring of Lee Harvey Oswald before JFK was killed. We now know that senior operations officers, including counterintelligence chief James Angleton, paid far closer attention to the obscure Oswald as he made his way to Dallas than the investigators were ever told.

To be sure, there is no proof of CIA complicity in JFK’s death. And conspiracy theories spouted by the likes of the Alex Jones and James Fetzer deserve no attention. The fact remains some of the most astute power players of 1963–including Lyndon Johnson, Charles DeGaulle, Fidel Castro, and Jackie and Robert Kennedy–concluded that JFK was killed by his enemies, and not by one man alone. Did these statesmen get it wrong, and the under-informed Warren Commission get it right?

The new documentary, Truth is the Only Client, says yes. The film, shown last month in the auditorium of the U.S. Capitol, features interviews with numerous former Warren Commission staffers. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who served as a fact checker for the Commission in 1964, defends the lone gunman conclusion, saying, “You have to look at the new evidence and when you do, I come to the same conclusion.”

Justice Breyer, oddly, passes judgment on evidence he has not seen. The record of the CIA’s role in the events leading JFK’s assassination is far from complete. In 2013 I reported on JFK Facts that Delores Nelson CIA’s information coordinator had stated in a sworn affidavit filed in federal court, that the agency retained 1,100 assassination-related records that had never been made public.

A small portion of this material was released in 2017, including new details about the opening of the CIA’s first Oswald file in October 1959.

Yet thousands of JFK files remain secret. According to the latest figures from the National Archives, a total of 15,834 JFK files remain fully or partially classified, most of them held by the CIA and FBI. Thanks to an October 2017 order from President Trump, these documents will not be made public until October 2021, at the earliest.

The assumption of Justice Breyer and many others is that any and all unseen CIA material must exonerate the agency. It’s an odd conclusion. If the CIA has nothing to hide, why is it hiding so much? While 95 percent of the still-secret files probably are trivial, the remaining 5 percent—thousands of pages of material–are historically pregnant. If made public, they could clarify key questions in the long-running controversy about JFK’s death.

These questions have been raised most concisely by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a career CIA officer who served in senior positions. Now a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, Mowatt-Larssen has implicated his former employer in the Dallas ambush. In a presentation at Harvard last December, Mowatt-Larssen hypothesized that a plot to kill JFK emanated from the CIA’s station in Miami where disgruntled Cuban exiles and undercover officers loathed JFK for his failure to overthrow Castro’s government in Cuba.

Mowatt-Larssen has yet to publish his presentation and documentation, so I can’t say if he’s right or wrong. But he asks the right question: “How can intelligence operational and analytical modus operandi help unlock a conspiracy that has remained unsolved for 55 years?” And he focuses on the right place to dig deeper: the CIA’s Miami office, known as WAVE station.

My own JFK questions involve George Joannides, a decorated undercover officer who served as branch chief in the Miami station in 1963. He ran psychological warfare operations against Cuba. In 2003, I sued the CIA for Joannides’ files. The lawsuit ended 15 years later in July 2018, when Judge Brett Kavanaugh, in his last opinion before ascending to the Supreme Court, tossed my case. Kavanaugh declared the agency deserved “deference upon deference” in its handling of Freedom of Information Act requests about JFK files.

Nonetheless, my lawsuit illuminated the extraordinary sensitivity of the psy-ops Joannides ran out of WAVE station. As reported in the New York Times, Fox News, Associated Press, and Politico, Morley v. CIA forced disclosure of the fact Joannides had received the CIA’s Career Intelligence Medal in 1981. The honor came two years after he stonewalled the House Select Committee on Assassination about what he knew of Oswald’s contacts with pro-and anti-Castro Cubans in the summer and fall of 1963.

I believe Joannides was honored because he concealed the existence of an authorized covert operation involving Oswald that has never been publicly acknowledged. In CIA lingo, Joannides protected the agency’s “sources and methods” concerning Oswald. And he might have done more. His actions may have also shielded other officers who knew of a scheme to kill the liberal president and lay the blame on Cuba.

Never been seen by JFK investigators, they contain details about his Joannides’ undercover work in Miami in 1963, when he funded Oswald’s antagonists among the anti-Castro Cuban exiles. They also detail his work in 1978, when he duped chief investigator Robert Blakey and the House Select Committee on Assassination. These records, the agency says, cannot be released in 2019 without risk of “irreversible harm” to national security.

It’s a bizarre claim, at odds with the law. These ancient documents, all of them more than 40 years old, meet the statutory definition of “assassination-related,” according to federal judge John Tunheim. He chaired the Assassination Records Review Board which oversaw the declassification of 4 million pages of JFK files between 1994 and 2017. In an interview, Tunheim told me that, under the terms of the 1992 JFK Records Act, the Joannides files are subject to mandatory review and release. “It’s a no-brainer,” he said.

Yet the files remain off-limits to the public. Thanks to the legal consensus, articulated by Justices Kavanaugh and Breyer, the CIA enjoys “deference upon deference” when it comes to the JFK assassination story. As a result, the JFK Records Act has been flouted. The public’s interest in full disclosure has been thwarted.

Yet legitimate questions persist: Did a plot to kill JFK originate in the agency’s Miami station as Mowatt-Larssen suggests? The fact that the CIA won’t share the evidence that could answer the CIA man’s question is telling.

So these days, when people ask me who killed JFK, I say the Kennedy was probably victimized by enemies in his own government, possibly including CIA officers involved in anti-Castro and counterintelligence operations. I have no smoking gun, no theory. Just look at the suspicious fact pattern, still shrouded in official secrecy, and it’s easy to believe that JFK was, as Mowatt-Larssen puts it, “marked for assassination.”

Jefferson Morley, author of The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton, is the editor of The Deep State blog. He is a member of the Truth & Reconciliation Committee, founded to reopen the investigations of the assassination of JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X.


The Day the Government “Solved” JFK and MLK’s Assassinations

It was, to put it mildly, ambitious.

One document would attempt to assuage public doubts about two of the most famous murders in American history: The assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the sniper shooting of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Two killings that—while understandably linked in the public mind as assassinations that occurred during the 1960s—are otherwise very separate events.

After all, they occurred over four years apart, in different cities located in different states that are separated by 450 miles. The two men certainly had connections but weren’t particularly close the Christian Science Monitor dubbed them “wary allies.”

Did the House Select Committee on Assassinations succeed? If its goal was to put questions about these matters to rest, the answer is, “Oh, hell no.” Yet it remains a fascinating attempt to reassure the public that the government is willing to recognize and address a potential shortcoming. This is how the House Select Committee on Assassinations came into existence and why it utterly failed to quell those concerns.

At First, There Was Faith

Initially, much of the public went along with the Warren Commission (named after chair Earl Warren) and their declaration that they “found no evidence that either Lee Harvey Oswald or Jack Ruby was part of any conspiracy, domestic or foreign, to assassinate President Kennedy.”

The History Channel reports that, after the Warren Commission Report was released in 1964, a survey revealed 87 percent of the American public believed Oswald acted alone in killing JFK. That conjecture, however, didn’t last—by 1976, 81 percent gravitated towards conspiracy.

The History Channel credits a flood of critical works for the shift, notably Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgement and New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison’s public campaigning in general. (Garrison wound up being portrayed by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s 1991 drama, JFK. In a nicely ironic bit of casting, Garrison appeared in the movie as Earl Warren.)

The year 1975 was particularly significant in shifting public sentiment. That year finally saw the release of the full Zapruder film, including the moment Kennedy is shot, when Geraldo Rivera aired it on Good Night America.

Doubts also lingered over the 1968 killing of King. In particular, James Earl Ray confessing but taking back his confession just days later fueled a sense that the story was incomplete. It didn’t help that Ray’s guilty plea still held even as his recollection changed—it prevented there from being a trial, much as Oswald’s death prevented one from happening for the murder of President Kennedy.

Readdressing the Record

The House Select Committee on Assassinations came to be in 1976. The New York Times reported that the “committee was formed after a subcommittee of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reported earlier this year that it had discovered evidence that raised serious questions about whether the commission, headed by the late Chief Justice Earl Warren, that investigated Mr. Kennedy’s death received full and complete information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Central Intelligence Agency.”

The most notorious omissions include CIA agent George Joannides. He was the case officer for a student group determined to get rid of Fidel Castro. Lee Harvey Oswald was caught publicly clashing with this group on behalf of Castro supporters… despite the fact that he had earlier offered his services to the Castro critics.

Was the CIA using Oswald to infiltrate Castro’s backers? Or, at minimum, was Oswald someone they were monitoring ahead of JFK’s assassination? The CIA did their best to minimize suspicions in the short term—and maximize them for future conspiracy theorists—by neglecting to reveal any of this to the Warren Commission, even though Allen Dulles was a Warren Commission member. (Dulles had been the CIA director until 1961.)

The FBI’s record proved similarly troubling. Warren Commission member (and Louisiana congressman) Hale Boggs later declared, “Hoover lied his eyes out to the commission—on Oswald, on Ruby, on their friends, the bullets, the gun, you name it.”

The FBI was also intensely hostile to King throughout his life. We are still learning about the tactics FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover used against the civil rights leader. Beyond wiretaps and bugs to surveil King both at home and on the road, occasionally they introduced measures intended to stop him outright. These include allegedly sending an anonymous letter complete with a tape recording that accused King of being a “dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile.” (It was suggested the recording documented a sexual indiscretion.) The message seemed to suggest he should commit suicide: “There is but one way out.”

This is to say that, even if the FBI and the CIA weren’t directly involved in either killing, their actions raised a lot of questions that seemed to demand answers.

New Investigation, Similar Issues

The House Select Committee on Assassinations consisted of two subcommittees: One on the assassination of Martin Luther King (headed by Chairman Walter E. Fauntroy from the District of Columbia) and one on John F. Kennedy (headed by Richardson Preyer, North Carolina).

The overall head of the committee was Thomas N. Downing. At least, he was initially, only to step down when he retired from Congress in 1977. Henry B. Gonzalez then became the chair, only to resign after getting in a dispute with another member. Louis Stokes ultimately became the third and final chair.

While musical chairpeople was a low point, the real nadir only became visible years later. As noted, a driving reason for this body’s formation was a belief the CIA had not been frank with the Warren Commission. Making it downright surreal that the the CIA named George Joannides—yes, that George Joannides—as its contact with the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

Joannides proved no more forthcoming that he’d been back in the 󈨀s.

Despite all this, the Committee moved ahead and released its report on March 29, 1979.

New Conclusions Bring More Confusion

In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone in assassinating JFK. In 1969, James Earl Ray was sentenced to 99 years for killing MLK. The House Select Committee on Assassinations suggested that there was more to both stories. Unfortunately, they didn’t really unearth exactly what that was. Among their conclusions:

# Oswald “probably” didn’t act alone: “The Committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.” (They did not offer specifics: “The Committee is unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.”)

# They excluded government involvement in this conspiracy: “The Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Central Intelligence Agency were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.”

# But they also found the government had hardly covered itself in glory: “Agencies and departments of the U.S. Government performed their duties with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of their duties.” (In particular, the Secret Service was cited as “deficient.”)

The King assessment was oddly similar to the JFK assertions:

# Once more, they concluded it was likely the work of more than a single gunman: “The Committee believes, on the basis of the circumstantial evidence available to it, that there is a likelihood that James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as a result of a conspiracy.”

# Again, the government was kept out of it: “No Federal, State or local government agency was involved in the assassination of Dr. King.” (They did note that the “Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation performed with varying degrees of competency and legality in the fulfillment of their duties.”)

The end result seemed designed to irritate as many people as possible. Those genuinely convinced that Oswald and Ray had acted alone saw their belief under attack. And those who felt there was more to the story were left frustrated by the inconclusiveness of the conclusions.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations was almost certainly doomed to fail. Why? Because it’s hard to make the public feel like they’re getting the complete truth when thousands and thousands of documents remain classified. Indeed, 2018 saw the Trump administration delay the release of some materials linked to the JFK assassination—they aren’t scheduled for release until October 26, 2021, nearly 58 years after his death. (The National Archives did release 2,800 of them in 2017 and another 19,045 in 2018. Others have apparently gone missing or been destroyed.)

The result is that we’re getting more and more of the picture… but getting it after the actual participants are long dead. George Joannides, for instance, died in 1990.

For that matter, so are people who did the investigating. All three Select Committee chairmen are dead. So is Earl Warren. Even the man who played Warren in Oliver Stone’s film has permanently left the set. (Jim Garrison died in 1992.)

It’s safe to say that—if Oswald did have help—those conspirators died long ago. Meaning even if we find the full truth, we still won’t ever be able to confirm it in a satisfying way.

And there may be even more uncertainty surrounding MLK’s death than JFK’s.

The Riddle of Ray

Most Americans have at least some knowledge of the JFK assassination. We also know that Oswald was quickly apprehended and swiftly murdered by Jack Ruby, who died himself in 1967. The result is that—while there are many questions—there is also some closure.

People tend to be less knowledgeable about King’s death and Ray in particular. For instance, they may have forgotten what a strange struggle it was to bring him to justice. The PBS series American Experience devoted an episode to King’s murder. They note that the manhunt for Ray “would last more than two months and span five countries.” Ray was finally busted at London’s Heathrow Airport, attempting to fly to Brussels. He had already flown through London once on a failed attempt to relocate to the white-run African nation of Rhodesia, which is now Zimbabwe.

Ray was even on the run before the murder: He had escaped from prison, where he was serving time for a series of robberies. Ray also escaped prison in 1977 for about 54 hours—he and six other prisoners used a makeshift ladder. (Ray ultimately died in prison in 1998.)

Ray confessed but days later insisted he had only purchased a gun and binoculars and rented a room across from King’s motel, which he had done at the direction of a man he knew as “Raoul.” King’s own family came to believe Ray did not commit the crime, highlighting this belief in a 2018 Washington Post article. King’s youngest child, Bernice, declared, “It pains my heart that James Earl Ray had to spend his life in prison paying for things he didn’t do.”

The fact remains, however, that there is a great deal of evidence against James Earl Ray, just as there is a great deal of evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald. And while we have learned a great deal of information suggesting others might have been involved, we still can’t definitively implicate anyone else specific with either killing yet.

Meaning all these decades later, we still face the possibility that America was robbed of two of our most iconic leaders by a pair of troubled men acting alone. An assistant district attorney named John Campbell once articulated why this is so unsatisfying: ”You just don’t think that these powerful people, these people who are larger than life, can be killed by some nobody with a gun. You know, there has to be more involved.

“Well, sometimes there’s not more involved.”

And so we wait, hoping against hope the next batch of declassified documents will at last provide the certainty we so desperately desire.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

The truth about George Joannides and the CIA’s fight to hide it

Second, José Pertierra has just published an exclusive interview with Morley at Cubadebate. Normally Machetera resists translating articles written by those with a perfect grasp of English, such as that possessed by Pertierra, not least because translation is invariably an imperfect art and she dislikes second-guessing an interview that undoubtedly transpired in English to begin with. But this interview is exceptionally interesting and important, and as yet, no English version has appeared. So in the meantime, with additional apologies to Morley, and to Pertierra, here it is. A bit of a filmed interview with Morley follows the interview.

Jeff Morley: “I’m only asking that the CIA obey the law” - Español

José Pertierra for Cubadebate

English translation: Machetera

Washington – The day that his brother was assassinated, the Attorney General of the United States, Robert F. Kennedy, spoke by telephone with one of the leaders of the terrorist campaign against Cuba, Enrique “Harry” Ruiz-Williams. Kennedy said to him directly: “One of your men did it.” Bobby Kennedy didn’t ask him. He told him. It came from his gut, because he knew those people. That’s how the journalist/researcher Jefferson Morley tells it in an interview he granted Cubadebate.

“The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 and the dirty war against Cuba organized by the Miami Cubans are intimately linked: they’re battles in the same war, “ said Morley.

“The anecdote about the conversation between Bobby Kennedy and Ruiz-Williams is well founded,” says Morley, “because the prestigious journalist Haynes Johnson was a witness. He was with Ruiz-Williams during the conversation with Kennedy.”

Jefferson Morley has a long career as a well-known journalist in Washington. He worked for 15 years for the Washington Post and has also been published in the New York Review of Books, the Nation, the New Republic, Slate, Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times. Recently, he published a biography of the CIA station chief in Mexico, Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA. Six years ago he filed suit (Morley v. CIA) against the CIA in order to force the Central Intelligence Agency to declassify documents dating from the period between 1962 and 1964, relative to George E. Joannides, a CIA official charged with many of the operations against Cuba in that period. On November 16 th , Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., will hold a hearing to listen to the arguments of both Morley and the CIA about the possible declassification of these documents.

José Pertierra: Why do you believe the CIA wishes to keep nearly 50 year old documents secret?

Jefferson Morley: Because they may contain something delicate or embarrassing for the CIA. The story that we’re told about Joannides is a show. A lie. According to his own documents which I’ve gone over personally, the story that the CIA tells us now about Joannides doesn’t match reality. The Agency tries to trivialize Joannides’ role in the operations that took place between 1962 and 1964, but history shows us the truth. Furthermore, if the documents being hidden truly do not incriminate the CIA, why do they want them to be hidden? Could it be because Kennedy was killed in 1963? That conditioned reflex to keep this secret hides something.

JP: Who was George E. Joannides?

JM:He was a CIA man whose assignment was to control and direct the Miami Cubans who were in charge of the operations against Cuba at the beginning of the 1960’s. Specifically, he was charged with controlling the Directorio Revolucionario Esudiantil (DRE) [Revolutionary Student Directorate]. The CIA commended him in 1963 for his good work directing the DRE. After the missile crisis in October of 1962, Washington wanted to “reign in” the DRE’s activities, and the CIA put Joannides in charge of that assignment. When the CIA gave him his evaluation in August of 1963, he was congratulated for having “controlled” the DRE.

JP: Who was the DRE?

JM:It was a Cuban organization headquartered in Miami. A CIA analyst told me that the DRE came to be “the most militant of the Miami exile organizations at the beginning of the 1960’s.”

Its leaders were Alberto Muller, Ernesto Travieso and Juan Manual Salvat. Salvat later started a bookstore on Miami’s Calle Ocho, called the Librería Universal [Universal Library]. One of its militants was the young Jorge Mas Canosa, who would later go on to found the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF). The DRE operated from Miami under the direction of a couple of important CIA officers: David Phillips and Howard Hunt.

One of their most well-known violent operations against Cuba took place in August of 1962, when Salvat and a group of DRE militants headed to Cuba from Miami in a small boat and attacked the Hotel Rosita de Hornedo, known after the revolution as the Hotel Sierra Maestra, in Miramar (Havana), at midnight. They attacked the hotel with a cannon, terrorized the guests, and fled. Among the DRE militants who attacked the hotel that night was José Basulto, who would go on to found the Brothers to the Rescue organization in 1995. Basulto told me personally that he was the one who purchased and shot the cannon that was used to attack the Hotel Sierra Maestra that night. He said that he’d bought it in a Miami pawnshop.

(Translator’s note: Morley repudiates the word “terrorized” as it is attributed to him.)

In August of 1963, members of the DRE in New Orleans had a series of encounters with Lee Harvey Oswald. After the assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, the members of the DRE spread a publicity campaign to insinuate that Castro had assassinated Kennedy, because Oswald was supposedly affiliated with Cuba and the Soviet Union.

JP: George E. Joannides’ official assignment was “Head of psychological warfare for JMWAVE.” What were his responsibilities?

JM: The plan was to affect the psychology of the enemy. To change their perceptions of reality in order to bring about a change in government. The best example is that of Guatemala in 1954, when the CIA orchestrated false news bulletins about an opposition to the Arbenz government, in the Guatemalan jungle. In the end, Arbenz confused fiction for reality and panic set in. Something that never happened to Fidel Castro or Che Guevara. They understood very well the difference between the fiction of psychological war, and reality.

Joannides paid the members of the DRE. He gave them a lot of money. We know that they received $50,000 a month. In today’s currency that’s more than $150,000. It was a lot of money. He was Washington’s man in Miami in charge of the DRE.

The DRE members at that time were the CIA’s favorite Cubans. Under Joannides’ direction, the DRE had four specific tasks:

  1. Political action against Cuba.
  2. Acquisition of intelligence against Cuba.
  3. Distribution of propaganda against Cuba.
  4. Distribution of its actions and propaganda toward Latin America.

JP: What is the connection between Lee Harvey Oswald, the individual who is said to have assassinated President Kennedy in November of 1963, and the DRE? What might the CIA documents tell us about that?

JM: Four months before President Kennedy’s assassination, Oswald and members of the DRE met several times in New Orleans. They had an altercation with him in the street. The DRE sent a member to his house, making him seem like a follower of Fidel. They debated about this on the radio and sent the tape of the debate to Joannides they even wrote to Congress asking for an investigation of Oswald who at that point in time was an innocuous person. You have to remember that at that time, the DRE had specific instructions to ask for the CIA’s authorization before making any kind of public declaration.

Scarcely an hour after Oswald’s arrest on November 22 nd , the DRE leaders published the documentation they’d accumulated against Oswald and in this way influenced the coverage of the assassination by insinuating that a Castro agent had killed the President of the United States.

The Warren Commission, who investigated the assassination, never realized the connection between Joannides’ employees in the DRE and Oswald. Even in 1978, when the House of Representatives Committee on Assassinations hired Joannides as an advisor to its investigation, Joannides didn’t inform the Committee about his role in the events of 1963 and the DRE.

The attorney for the House Committee, Bob Blakey, says that Joannides obstructed the investigation by not divulging the role he played with the DRE.

JP: What are you asking of the CIA with this suit you filed in December of 2003?

JM:I’m only asking that the CIA obey the law. The CIA has told me that it has more than 295 documents that it will not release for reasons of national security. The documents I have show that Joannides traveled to New Orleans to complete tasks that the CIA charged him with in 1963 and 1964. [They show] that the CIA entrusted him with delicate operations throughout 1962-64. We don’t have any information about those operations. Joannides can’t tell us, because he died in 2001. Those are the only documents about what he did in that city with the DRE members. The CIA has the legal obligation to declassify those documents, but it does not want to declassify them. It’s locked them up. I believe that the lockup sources from the CIA department in charge of Latin America. They are hiding something. The CIA tells us that Joannides had nothing to do with the DRE. I know that’s not true. The documents I have in my possession prove that indeed there was that relationship. Why do they make these statements that are so openly false? What are they hiding?

I hope that on November 16 th , Judge Richard J. Leon will support my motion to have the CIA declassify these documents, so that they may be studied. This is the only way for us to know what really happened in those two mysterious CIA operations in which Joannides worked in 1963 and 1964.

JP: The CIA says that if these documents are declassified, the national security of the United States will be endangered. Do you know what the danger is?

JM:There’s no danger. Washington has a mistaken perception about what is truly national security. I’m told that they cannot declassify nearly 50 year old documents for reasons of national security. That’s not true.

I don’t know who killed Kennedy, I don’t pretend to know. What I’m asking is that these documents be declassified which have to do with George E. Joannides during 1962 and 1964, in order to clarify the facts. This is not a threat to the country, and the Freedom of Information Act says that they must be declassified. I am only asking that the CIA obey the law.

Machetera is a member of Tlaxcala , the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.


JFK Assassination: George Joannides’ CIA Files - Can They Help Determine Who Killed President Kennedy?

Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to release classified documents in CIA Officer George Joannides’ file that could perhaps determine what really happened in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Moreover, if you think the CIA's recent secret searches of computers and its deletion of documents that were used by Senate committee members in their investigation of a controversial interrogation program, as U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., charges, is appalling, if not unconstitutional and a perversion of justice, consider what the CIA has done regarding congressional JFK assassination inquiries.

In court filings, the CIA contends that at least 295 documents in Joannides’ administrative file can never be released in any form, due to “national security.” However, the CIA’s national security claim has never been independently verified.

The ongoing Morley vs. CIA suit, led by plaintiff Jefferson Morley, the author and moderator of JFKFacts.org, seeks to make public Joannides’ classified files.

Joannides’ files are drawing the attention of assassination researchers due to the CIA’s repeated failure to disclose Joannides’ connections to an anti-Castro Cuban exile group that had an August 1963 public fight with Kennedy’s accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Oswald never stood trial because he was shot dead by Dallas strip-club owner Jack Ruby two days after Kennedy’s assassination, on Nov. 24, 1963, as Oswald was being transferred by police from a Dallas police station cell to a nearby county jail.

The release of the Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination -- which concluded that Oswald had acted alone in killing Kennedy with three rifle shots, and that Ruby had acted alone in killing Oswald -- did little to dispel public doubts t h at a lone gunman had killed the president. In the months and immediate years that followed, assassination researchers would rebuke the Warren Commission for its grossly slipshod investigative procedures -- notably for failing to collect 100 percent of the evidence, and for failing to analyze what evidence it had -- and for other serious violations of basic criminal investigation protocols.

The CIA And Lee Harvey Oswald

As the CIA’s Miami-based chief of psychological warfare operations , Joannides, using his alias “Howard,” funded the Cuban Student Directorate, or as it was known in Spanish, “Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil” (DRE). It was a major anti-Castro organization, part of a larger covert CIA program called AMSPELL. The CIA provided $51,000 per month to the DRE, which in 2014 dollars would be about $389,000 per month, or roughly $4.8 million per year. The DRE publicized Oswald’s pro-Castro activities both before and after President Kennedy was killed.

The DRE’s New Orleans chapter members also had a series of encounters with Oswald in August 1963, with DRE activists challenging Oswald’s support for Cuban President Fidel Castro. The activists also publicized and denounced Oswald’s activities on a local radio program.

In addition, less than one day after JFK’s assassination occurred in Dallas, the DRE published a special edition of its monthly magazine, “Trenches,” or as it’s called in Spanish, “Trinchera.” In that issue, it linked the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, to Castro.

According to JFKFacts.org moderator Morley, this was the first JFK assassination conspiracy theory to reach the public in print.

Moreover, the CIA propaganda effort in Trinchera remains exactly that -- conjecture/speculation and an attempt to spread a conspiracy theory -- because there has never been a preponderance of evidence -- let alone incontrovertible evidence -- that Castro or Castro-backed groups organized or implemented a plot to murder Kenned y.

The Joannides File: Essential To The JFK Assassination Investigation?

The CIA’s interactions via the DRE with Oswald may appear to be those of a government organization confronting, or interacting, with a political activist.

The problem is the CIA never mentioned its interactions with Oswald to the Warren Commission or to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) -- two boards that investigated the JFK assassination -- nor did it mention them to the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) -- a body established to release JFK assassination investigation files.

The CIA’s latest refusal in the Morley vs. CIA case is the fourth time the Agency has blocked a public interest effort to obtain the full truth on the assassination of President Kennedy. A summary of those incidences:

1) Warren Commission: Delay And Obstruct

In 1964, CIA Deputy Director Richard Helms, “the man who kept the secrets” and was Joannides’ boss, never told the Warren Commission that Kennedy’s alleged assassin had scuffled with CIA-backed Cubans in New Orleans. Helms also never disclosed that Joannides -- and other CIA agents who were under his supervision and received funding from him -- had helped communicate the story of Oswald’s pro-Castro activities. It wasn’t until 1998 -- when the CIA was forced to disclose Joannides’ support for Oswald’s antagonists among the anti-Castro DRE group -- that the public learned of this psychological warfare operation. The Agency has resisted further disclosure about the nature, focus and objective of Joannides’ operations in 1963 ever since.

2) HSCA: Lie, Deflect, Delay And Obstruct

In 1978, Joannides served as CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which re-investigated the JFK assassination, but he did not disclose the obvious conflict of interest to the HSCA in regard to his role in the events of 1963.

House Select Committee on Assassinations Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey said that had he known who Joannides was at that time, Joannides would not have continued as CIA liaison. Instead, he would have become a witness who would have been interrogated under oath by the HSCA staff or by the committee. In addition, Joannides’ failure to disclose his role occurred despite Blakey and the CIA’s pre-investigation agreement between the HSCA and the CIA, which allowed CIA personnel who were o perational after 1963 to avoid being involved in the committee’s investigation.

Many would consider the acts of deception by the CIA listed above as audacious, to put it diplomatically.

“If I’d known his [Joannides’] role in 1963, I would have put Joannides under oath -- he would have been a witness, not a facilitator,” Blakey, now a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told the New York Times. “How do we know what he didn’t give us?”

3) ARRB: Lie Again, Delay And Obstruct

After Oliver Stone’s seminal 1991 film “JFK” increased the level of the debate about who was behind Kennedy’s murder, the public pressured Congress to declassify more files related to the JFK assassination. As a result, Congress created the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) to oversee the release of more documents. However, incredibly, the CIA once again failed to tell the ARRB about Joannides’ 1963 work, and the board was blinded to a legitimate and germane investigation area.

U.S. Judge Jack Tunheim, ARRB chairman from 1994-1995, said that had the board known about Joannides’ activities in 1963, it would have been a no-brainer to investigate him:

“If we’d known of his role in Miami in 1963, we would have pressed for all of his records,” Judge Tunheim said, the New York Times reported.

4) Morley vs. CIA: Agency Again Seeks To Keep Joannides’ File Classified

Fast-forward to the smartphone / Facebook / Twitter / Internet age, and the CIA’s stance remains the same: The agency contends that at least 295 documents in Joannides’ operational file cannot be released in any form for reasons of “national security.”

What’s more, the classified files of CIA officers David Atlee Philips , who was involved in pre-assassination surveillance of Oswald Birch D O’Neal, who as counter-intelligence head of the CIA opened a file on defector Oswald and the files of officers E. Howard Hunt William King Harvey Anne Goodpasture and David Sanchez Morales -- when made public, their files will help the nation determine what really happened in Dallas, who Oswald was, and how the CIA treated and handled his file.

But as with Joannides’ file, the CIA said these files -- 1,100 files in all, which the Morley vs. CIA suit also seeks to make public -- must remain classified until at least 2017, and perhaps longer, due to U.S. national security.

The Morley vs. CIA suit is now in the hands of U.S. Judge Richard Leon, and a decision is expected later this year.

The CIA’s stance versus Morley looks all the more problematic because it has been 50 years since the assassination of President Kennedy. The Cold War is over: The United States won. There is no existential threat to the United States. Russia, the world's second strongest military power, while not a U.S. ally, is not an enemy, either, but a rival. Cuba’s centrally planned communist economic model has been discredited for decades, and it will likely become a market-oriented economy in the decade ahead. Cuba also poses no threat to the U.S. or its interests in the region. In other words, don’t expect Cuba to invade Florida or export its centrally planned economic system to Brazil or Mexico anytime soon. Even so, the CIA argues that making public the classified JFK assassination files would cause “extremely grave damage” to U.S. national security.

The State Of The Investigation

It must be underscored that, to date, there is no smoking gun or incontrovertible evidence of a plot or conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy, but there is a pattern of suspicious activity, along with a series of anomalies and a commonality of interests among key parties, that compel additional research and the release of non-public documents.

Further, meticulous research by assassination researchers, including Morley, Bill Simpich, the author of “State Secret,” and John Newman, author of “Oswald and the CIA,” has demonstrated that the American people do not have the full truth about Lee Harvey Oswald. Here’s a summary of the post-November 1963 research that has rendered the Warren Commission’s profile of Oswald incomplete at best, and grossly inaccurate at worst:

- Far from the CIA’s stated claim that the Agency had only “routine contact” with the re-defector Oswald when he returned to the United States from the Soviet Union, an anti-Castro group funded by the CIA, the DRE, had a series of encounters with him, and the purpose and content of these encounters have never been fully delineated by the CIA.

- The CIA refused to tell three public boards about these encounters -- had those committees known that information, it would most likely have sent those investigations onto different trajectories than the ones they took -- including a systematic, comprehensive investigation of the CIA, possibly.

- The CIA also not only failed to tell the HSCA about its encounters with Oswald, but it also failed to mention that its liaison to the HSCA, George Joannides, was operational during November 1963, which should have disqualified him from that role. Joannides oversaw the CIA’s DRE program -- an egregious conflict of interest, that, as the HSCA’s Blakey noted, had it been known about during the HSCA’s investigation, it would have prevented Joannides from being a liaison to the committee, and instead he would have been a witness.

- Author John Newman’s analysis of records released by the 1994 JFK Records Act, which set up the ARRB and forced the CIA to make public additional assassination-related records, proved that the staff of CIA Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton had indeed monitored Oswald’s travels, politics and contacts closely between 1959 and 1963.

- The ARRB-released records also showed that the CIA’s SIG had controlled access to Oswald’s file from his date of defection to the Soviet Union in October 1959 to when he moved to Dallas in 1963. Angleton’s staff watched Oswald closely as he traveled from Moscow to New Orleans to Mexico City and then to Dallas.


Norman Mailer et al. say JFK conspiracy believers aren't all nuts

Not so, of course. Most of them were close to the events and people concerned, and some had privileged access to evidence and intelligence that threw doubt on the ''lone assassin'' version. That doubt remains today. Bugliosi himself this year joined us, Don DeLillo, Gerald Posner, Robert Blakey and two dozen other writers on the assassination in signing an open letter that appeared in the March 15 issue of The New York Review of Books. The letter focused on a specific unresolved lead, the discovery that a highly regarded C.I.A. officer named George Joannides was in 1963 running an anti-Castro exile group that had a series of encounters with Oswald shortly before the assassination.

This is obviously pertinent, yet the C.I.A. hid the fact from four J.F.K. investigations. Since 1998, when the agency did reluctantly disclose the merest outline of what Joannides was up to, it has energetically stonewalled a Freedom of Information suit to obtain the details of its officer's activities. Here we are in 2007, 15 years after Congress unanimously approved the J.F.K. Assassination Records Act mandating the ''immediate'' release of all assassination-related records, and the C.I.A. is claiming in federal court that it has the right not to do so.

And now your reviewer, Burrough, seems to lump together all those who question the official story as marginal fools. Burrough's close-minded stance should be unacceptable to every historian and journalist worthy of the name -- especially at a time when a federal agency is striving vigorously to suppress very relevant information.


Howard Brennan’s description of a gunman in the sixth–floor window of the TSBD matched Oswald, but other witnesses gave descriptions that did not match the accused assassin.

Neutron Activation Analysis was used on paraffin casts of Oswald’s hands and right cheek, and on fragments of bullets from JFK and Governor Connally. The House Select Committee on Assassinations claimed that NAA provided good evidence that only two bullets caused all the injuries later research refuted this conclusion.


The CIA is suppressing key JFK assassination history

The CIA is withholding key documents in the JFK assassination case. As Jefferson Morley reports in the Huffington Post:

Morley filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the CIA for failing to disclose records about a CIA officer named George Joannides. Joannides was responsible for running the DRE, an anti-Castro CIA front group that had extensive interactions with Lee Harvey Oswald in the months leading up to the assassination of President Kennedy. The CIA has consistently refused to release Joannides' records, even though they are mandated to by the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act.

What's at stake here matters greatly to all historians. If the government can simply choose which records to release, and which to withhold, they can pervert and deliberately misshape history to serve their purposes.

In this particular case, the CIA appears hellbent on ondoing the will of the people. The JFK act came into being due to an enormous outcry from the public when they learned, at the end of Oliver Stone's film JFK, that many records relating to the assassination were still classified.

Congress passed what became known as "The JFK Act," which mandated the creation of a board to declassify records and, if necessary, seek out new and pertinent records and make them public. The Board, officially named the Assassination Records and Review Board, put Joannides on the JFK assassination story map when they declassified five personnel reports of his in 1998. In addition, researchers learned that it was Joannides who had helped shut down an early investigation of the CIA's possible involvement in the assassination. Joannides was responsible for kicking out two staffers of the House Select Committee on Assassinations who had been set up with full access at CIA to CIA records pertaining to that time period. When the records they dug up got more interesting in terms of suggesting possible CIA involvement in a plot to kill Kennedy, Joannides had the two staffers removed from their temporary office at CIA headquarters.

Morley discusses why Joannides records are of interest:

Oswald approached the DRE's delegation in New Orleans and offered to train guerrillas to fight the Castro government. He was rebuffed. When DRE members saw Oswald handing out pro-Castro leaflets a few days later an altercation ensued that ended with the arrest of all the participants. A week after that, the DRE's spokesman in New Orleans debated the Cuba issue with Oswald on a radio program. After these encounters, the DRE issued a press release calling for a congressional investigation of the pro-Castro activities of the then-obscure Oswald.

The CIA was passing money to the DRE leaders at the time, according to an agency memo dated April 1963, found in the JFK Library in Boston. The document shows that the Agency gave the Miami-based group $250,000 a year -- the equivalent of about $1.5 million annually in 2007 dollars.

The secret CIA files on Joannides may shed new light on what, if anything, Joannides and other CIA officers in anti-Castro operations knew about Oswald's activities and contacts before Kennedy was killed.

Morley has spent several years now trying to obtain these records, and his frustration is palpable. But his frustration should be ours, as it's our history that is being hidden from us. If the CIA was involved in the Kennedy assassination, wouldn't that change entirely our understanding of events from that time forth, and wouldn't that call into question much of the reporting on the case, and the credibility of the media from that time forward?

And aren't laws meant to be upheld? As Morley writes:

Several former members of the ARRB, including its chairman, filed affidavits in support of Morley's request. Even anti-conspiracy authors Gerald Posner and Vincent Bugliosi have sided with the law, calling for the documents to be released.

If our government can simply choose which laws to support and which to break, is it really our government anymore?

For more information on Morley's suit, click here.

posted by Real History Lisa at 4:16 PM - Permanent Link -

7 Comments:

Curious. I always thought Morley was a Washington Post establisment mouthpiece.

The Washington Post is not a fan of Morley's interest in the JFK case. I commend him for continuing to pursue the records that could bring us closer to the truth.

A big thanks to Bob Parry for running this piece on his own site. He cares deeply about our Real History and is one of the few journalists in America who seems to get where all this is headed. If you haven't been to his site, you should check it out.

Lisa, here's that picture of Gordon Campbell and George Joannides at the Ambassador Hotel?

Do you still discount Shane O'Sullivan's theory?

First of all, Gordon Campbell was dead before that time.

I talked to David Talbot several times during the course of his joint investigation of this story with Jeff Morley. You can read what they found, which disproved entirely Shane's story, here.

Look. I have a picture of me, taken in the late 1800s in New York. But of course it isn't me, I wasn't alive then. But the woman in the picture looks JUST LIKE ME. Bizarre. But a true coincidence.

When I went to summer camp at Tanglewood years ago, I found several doubles of people I knew from school. You'd be surprised. For years people would stop me on the street in LA insisting I was some celebrity (which I never thought I remotely resembled, but I got it a lot). Photo IDs mean nothing to me, without serious backup evidence, which Shane's story entirely lacked.

Bob Parry, a most important journalist for the past ten years, should be encouraged to follow this and other JFK-related stories even further. In the past he's shied away from assassination stories, and although he's #1 lead writer on the October Surprise scandal, recently he's played this down as well.

Funny you should mention that. Parry is running this piece on his own site. He cares deeply about our real history.


JFK’s Assassination

As published authors of divergent views on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we urge the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense to observe the spirit and letter of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act by releasing all relevant records on the activities of a career CIA operations officer named George E. Joannides, who died in 1990.

Joannides’s service to the US government is a matter of public record and is relevant to the Kennedy assassination story. In November 1963, Joannides served as the chief of the Psychological Warfare branch in the CIA’s Miami station. In 1978, he served as the CIA’s liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

The records concerning George Joannides meet the legal definition of “assassination-related” JFK records that must be “immediately” released under the JFK Records Act. They are assassination-related because of contacts between accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and a CIA-sponsored Cuban student group that Joannides guided and monitored in August 1963.

Declassified portions of Joannides’s personnel file confirm his responsibility in August 1963 for reporting on the “propaganda” and “intelligence collection” activities of the Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil (DRE), a prominent organization known in the North American press as the Cuban Student Directorate.

George Joannides’s activities were assassination-related in at least two ways.

(1) In August 1963, Oswald attempted to infiltrate the New Orleans delegation of the DRE. The delegation—dependent on $25,000 a month in CIA funds provided by Joannides—publicly denounced Oswald as an unscrupulous sympathizer of Fidel Castro.

(2) After Kennedy was killed three months later, on November 22, 1963, DRE members spoke to reporters from The New York Times and other news outlets, detailing Oswald’s pro-Castro activities. Within days of the assassination, the DRE published allegations that Oswald had acted on Castro’s behalf.

The imperative of disclosure is heightened by the fact that the CIA has, in the past, failed to disclose George Joannides’s activities. In 1978, Joannides was called out of retirement to serve as the agency’s liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The agency did not reveal to the Congress his role in the events of 1963, compromising the committee’s investigation.

In 1998, the Agency again responded inaccurately to public inquiries about Joannides. The Agency’s Historic Review Office informed the JFK Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) that it was unable to identify the case officer for the DRE in 1963. The ARRB staff, on its own, located records confirming that Joannides had been the case officer.

This is not a record that inspires public confidence or quells conspiracy-mongering. To overcome misunderstanding, the CIA and the Defense Department should make a diligent good-faith effort to identify and release any documents about George Joannides.

The government should make these records public in conjunction with the fortieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 2003, so as to help restore public confidence and to demonstrate the agencies’ commitment to compliance with the JFK Assassination Records Act.

The law requires immediate disclosure, nothing less.

G. Robert Blakey
Former General Counsel
House Select Committee on Assassinations

Jefferson Morley
Also signed by:
Don DeLillo
Paul Hoch
Norman Mailer
Gerald Posner
Anthony Summers
Richard Whalen
and six others