by Jacob G. Hornberger
In his new book Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA by Jefferson Morley, a former Washington Post columnist, Morley delves into an interesting and revealing aspect of the John Kennedy assassination.
Morley points out that the CIA’s official story had long been that the CIA had been unaware of Lee Harvey Oswald’s trip to Mexico City in October 1963 until after the Kennedy assassination. It was during that trip that Oswald purportedly visited both the Soviet and Cuban embassies.
You’ll recall that initially unpublished portions of the Warren Report were not to be published for 75 years after the assassination. Morley points out that faced with criticisms of his movie JFK, which posited a CIA role in the killing, Stone had a telling response: If the CIA had nothing to hide, why was it still withholding files some 40 years after the assassination? Largely as a result of that pointed question, Congress passed the JFK Records Act of 1992, which ordered the release of all government records relating to the assassination.
Since Oswald visited Mexico City during Scott’s tenure as head of the CIA’s Mexico City office, Morley’s book delves into that aspect of the assassination. Morley’s examination of the documents that were released as a result of the 1992 JFK Records Act revealed that the CIA was fully aware of Oswald’s visit to Mexico City prior to the assassination.
In other words, CIA officials lied about this critical aspect of the assassination investigation and maintained the lie for some 40 years.
As Morley carefully points out, however, the lying doesn’t necessarily establish that the CIA was involved in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy but it certainly raises an important question: Why did CIA officials lie about this critically important aspect of the Kennedy investigation and why did they believe it necessary to maintain the lie for some 40 years after the assassination?
An interesting aside is that for years Morley has been attempting to secure CIA documents relating to the role that CIA agent George Joannides played in the Kennedy investigation. Despite the 1992 legislation, the CIA has steadfastly refused to comply with the law requiring the release of the Joannides files. Over the vehement objections of the CIA, Morley successfully secured a federal court order ordering the CIA to release its Joannides files.
Joannides’s role in the assassination investigation is intriguing. He was the CIA agent responsible for funding the radical anti-Castro group in New Orleans that Oswald, who was initially posing as an anti-Castro advocate, initially tried to infiltrate. Later, as a pro-Castro advocate, Oswald entered into a much-publicized altercation with the anti-Castro group.
The CIA kept Joannides’s relationship with the anti-Castro group secret from the Warren Commission.
When the Kennedy assassination was again investigated by the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s, the CIA called Joannides out of retirement to serve as a liaison between the CIA and the House Committee. While serving in that capacity, Joannides and the CIA steadfastly maintained the secrecy of his relationship with the anti-Castro group. In fact, Joannides actions remained secret until 2001 when an article published by Morley exposed them.
As U.S. federal Judge John Tunheim, who chaired the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s, put it, “[Joannides] was central to the time period, and central to the [JFK] story. There is no question we were misled on Joannides for a long time.”
Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the CIA hasn’t changed its stripes at all. In an April 30, 2008, article entitled “CIA Still Stonewalls on JFK Mystery Man,” an article that provides an excellent summary of the Joannides matter, Morley points out:
“Flouting a federal court order, the CIA refused to make public long-secret records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. At a federal court hearing in Washington, CIA attorneys declined to provide any records related to the secret operations of a deceased undercover officer named George Joannides whose role in the JFK story has never been explained by the agency. A three-judge appellate court panel ruled in December that the agency had to search its files for records of Joannides' secret operations in 1963, when he served undercover in Miami running ‘psychological warfare’ operations against the government of Fidel Castro. The court also ordered the CIA to explain why 17 reports on Joannides' secret operations in 1962-1964 are missing from the National Archives.”