“Jim would prefer to wait out the Commission on the matter covered by paragraph 2 …”
— CIA’s Raymond Rocca, writing to Richard Helms regarding counterintelligence chief James Angleton’s desire to stonewall the Warren Commission on certain CIA materials passed to the Secret Service.
What was so sensitive that Angleton, one of the most powerful figures in the CIA, preferred “waiting out the Commission” to cooperating with investigators?
One of the matters at hand was photographs of a “mystery man” taken in Mexico City and rushed to Dallas on the evening of November 22, 1963, and subsequently provided to the Secret Service via the White House.
On February 12, 1964, the Warren Commission wrote to CIA Director McCone, asking for all materials that the CIA had passed to the Secret Service since JFK’s assassination. Rocca’s internal letter to Deputy Director for Plans Richard Helms of March 5, 1964, transmitted his boss Angleton’s desire to demur on this request.
The materials were photographs of the so-called “Mexico City mystery man” and cables regarding the photos. In a meeting on March 9, 1964, Helms told Commission staffer Howard Willens that the CIA had “certain unspecified problems” in complying with the request. Willens refused to accept this response.
After further discussion, on March 24,1963, the CIA sent to Commission general counsel J. Lee Rankin a letter that included paraphrased versions of the cables, and arranged to allow a Commission staffer to review the original materials and the photos themselves at Langley.
The above chronology is laid out in some greater detail in investigations of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA Volume XI, p.63).
Was Angleton’s desire simply based on the need to protect CIA’s secret photo surveillance operation? The matter seems a little deeper than that.
When the Warren Commission expressed its desire to publish a single photo of the “mystery man,” to refute Marguerite Oswald’s assertion that she had been shown a photo of Jack Ruby by the FBI before Ruby shot her son, the Mexico City station went ballistic.
There were already plans to crop the background. The CIA’s Mexico City station added a request to have Allen Dulles prevail on the Commission to retouch the person’s face as well.
Why? Perhaps the answer lies in a letter that Mexico City station chief Win Scott sent to colleague J.C. King, the chief of CIA operations in the Western Hemisphere, on November 22. Scott enclosed three photos of the mystery man, describing him as “a certain person who is known to you.”
For more on this strange story, see the essay “More Mexico Mysteries: Part V. Publishing the Mystery Man Photograph.”