The CIA’s National-Security Nonsense on JFK Records
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Over the weekend, the Dallas Morning News published an interesting article entitled “What We Still Don’t Know About the Kennedy Assassination” by former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley. According to the article, the CIA continues to keep secret some 1,100 records relating to the Kennedy assassination, which, from what I have been told, amounts to an estimated tens of thousands of pages.
I’ll give you a hint: The justification for this continued secrecy after 50 years is based on the two most important (and meaningless) words in the lives of the American people in our lifetime.
You guessed it: “National security,” a term that isn’t even found in the U.S. Constitution.
Now, what in the world could the CIA be concerned about if they were to release their secret JFK documents before the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination next month?
Maybe it’s the possibility that Cuban president Fidel Castro will put his army into rafts and send them to invade Miami, where they will then sweep up the Eastern shore, ending up in Washington, conquering everyone in their path, and ultimately taking control over the IRS and the public schools.
Or maybe it’s the possibility that Vietnam will finally cause those communist dominoes to start falling, with countries all across Asia and Europe turning Red, and ultimately start tipping the Latin American dominoes, until they finally reach the Big Domino, the United States, which finally tips over into the Red zone, including full federal control over all healthcare.
Or maybe it’s the possibility that the Fair Play for Cuba Committee will come back to life and end up with 300 million members, all demanding that the decades-long U.S. embargo against Cuba be lifted.
Or maybe it’s the possibility that those still-secret documents put the CIA in a very bad light, which has always been the biggest reason for keeping records secret under the rubric of “national security.”
As Morley points out, the documents include files relating to a CIA agent named David Morales, aka “El Indio.” He played an important role in the CIA’s regime-change operation in Guatemala nine years before the Kennedy assassination. That was the operation in which the CIA ousted the democratically elected president of the country, Jacobo Arbenz, and replaced him with a U.S.-installed military dictator. According to files that the CIA long kept secret under “national security,” the CIA also had a top-secret assassination plan for officials serving in the Arbenz government.
During the 1970s, after Morales had retired, he was sitting around having drinks with some close friends. When President Kennedy’s name came up, Morales, who by this time was highly inebriated, went into an angry tirade about Kennedy, including JFK’s betrayal of Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs. Morales angrily declared: “Well, we took care of that son of a bitch, didn’t we?”
The CIA’s still-secret files also relate to CIA agent George Joannides. He was the CIA’s contact with the DRE, a fierce anti-Castro group in New Orleans, which was secretly receiving lots of CIA money. The DRE had some fascinating encounters with Lee Harvey Oswald in the months prior to the Kennedy assassination, when Oswald was living in New Orleans, including an offer Oswald made to help the DRE. It’s interesting to note that in the first hours after Oswald was arrested on November 22, the DRE, funded by the CIA and monitored by CIA agent Joannides, took the lead in advising the news media of Oswald’s purported devotion to communism.
For some reason still unknown to this date, the CIA kept Joannides’ role with the DRE secret from the Warren Commission. In fact, the CIA also kept his role secret from the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s, which was re-investigating the Kennedy assassination.
During the recent conference on the Kennedy assassination that I attended at Duquesne University, I sat in on a lecture by an attorney named Dan Hardway. When he was a law student, he went to work as a staffer on the House Select Committee. He and another law student were assigned to work on searching out CIA files relating to the assassination. The CIA permitted these two law students to request and read CIA files but only on the condition that all their work be done within CIA headquarters. They were permitted to take notes on what they were seeing but the CIA prohibited them from taking their notes out of the building.
Hardway said that at first the CIA was cooperative and brought them files they were requesting. But it got to the point where the CIA obviously realized that these two law students knew what they were doing and where they were going with their requests. At that point, according to Hardway, the CIA called Joannides out of retirement and put him in charge of handling the two law students. At that point, Hardway said, everything changed and the CIA, with Joannides now serving as the CIA’s contact with the House Select Committee, became obstructionist.
Another interesting twist to the Joannides story was provided by another speaker at the JFK conference at Duquesne. He pointed out that when the CIA called Joannides out of retirement, he was actually recovering from recent heart surgery. The obvious question arises: Why would the CIA call on Joannides to serve as the CIA’s liaison with the House Select Committee rather than simply have an active-duty agent serve in that capacity? That’s still a mystery.
Later, in the 1990s, the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) finally learned about Joannides’ role with the DRE, which both he and the CIA had kept secret from the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee. By this time, Joannides was dead. As the New York Times reported in a 2009 article entitled “C.I.A. Is Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery,” Federal Judge John R. Tunheim, who headed the ARRB, stated, “I think we were misled by the agency. If we’d known of his role in Miami in 1963, we would have pressed for all his records. This material should be released.” According to that article, G. Robert Blakey, who was the House Select Committee’s staff director, was “flabbergasted” over the CIA’s failure to disclose Joannides’ role with the DRE. Blakey stated, “If I’d known his role in 1963, I would have put Joannides under oath — he would have been a witness, not a facilitator. How do we know what he didn’t give us?”
It’s obvious that keeping the Joannides files secret from the American people is still important to the CIA because they fought Morley for years in a lawsuit he brought to force disclosure of the Joannides files. To this day, the CIA refuses to release them.
President Kennedy once stated: “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Beliefs in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
Fifty years of the CIA’s national-security nonsense on its JFK records is enough. The American people have a right to know what is in those records. If the CIA has nothing to hide, what is it afraid of?