Was Angleton culpable in JFK’s assassination?

I’ve been debating the question with CIA historian David Robarge, 

In Washington Decode, he asserts “that the US government did not have actionable information that Oswald was a clear threat to the President before 22 November 1963.”

That is true.  He says, correctly, that historians “must fairly assess why people acted based on what they knew at the time.”

That is exactly what I did in THE GHOST. And that’s why I think Angleton was culpable in the death of JFK. 

Tomorrow: Four key JFK files that are still secret

By late September 1963, CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton knew a whole lot about the obscure Lee Oswald, a whole lot more than he told the Warren Commission. On Oswald questions, Angleton preferred to “wait out” the Commission.

That’s because he had a lot to hide.

Angleton knew that Oswald had gone to the Soviet Union threatening to reveal military secrets. He put Oswald’s name on list of people whose mail was to be opened, copied and read.

Angleton knew that he had married a Russian woman. Angleton knew that Oswald had returned to Texas in June 1962. In September 1962, the FBI’s interview with Oswald was delivered to Angleton’s office.

So in the fall of 1963, Angleton already knew a great deal about the obscure Oswald and he was about to learn more. On September 24, 1963, and October 4, 1963, Angleton’s liaison officer, Jane Roman, had signed for two recent FBI reports on Oswald.

The FBI reported that Oswald beat his wife, had been arrested for fighting with CIA-funded Cubans in New Orleans, and was active in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a pro-Castro organization, which the Justice Department listed as a subversive organization.

On October 8, 1963, Angleton’s office was notified that Oswald had appeared in Mexico City where he visited the Cuban Consulate, which Angleton had identified as a local hub of Cuban intelligence activity in this important but overlooked memo.

And Angleton was informed that Oswald had made contact with presumed Soviet intelligence agents, including Valery Kostikov, a suspected KGB assassin.

That is what Angleton “knew at the time.”

So on October 10, 1963, Angleton could have told Mexico City station that Oswald was a violent leftist who was active in a subversive organization, and in contact with known KGB agents, while seeking to travel to two hostile countries.

He could have said the same thing to the FBI in Dallas and New Orleans.

Did Angleton report accurately on Oswald?

He did nothing of the sort. Instead, Angleton’s aides (Jane Roman, Betty Egerter, Bill Hood, John Whitten, and Tom Karamessines) researched, composed, revised, and signed off on a cable to Mexico City stating, erroneously, that “the latest HDQS info” on Oswald was a 17-month old State Department report.

In the October 10 cable Angleton’s people repeated to station chief Win Scott the State Department’s outdated claim that Oswald’s time in the Soviet Union had had “a maturing effect” on him.

If we accept for the purposes of argument that Oswald killed the president on November 22, the October 10 cable is smoking gun proof of Angleton’s failure to report accurately or respond appropriately to actionable intelligence on an presidential assassin. His puzzling inaction qualifies as negligence. If he was negligent he contributed to the breakdown of security in Dealey Plaza.

Other interpretations are possible.

Maybe Angleton didn’t share timely information because he was running an operation involving Oswald. When I interviewed Jane Roman about the cable, she said that its contents indicated someone in the CIA had “a keen interest” in Oswald “held on a need to know basis.”

 

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