‘Jim [Angleton] would prefer to wait out the Commission…’

“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.

James Angleton

James Angleton, chief of counterintelligence in 1963

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.”


  1. Photon says:

    What is so hard to understand about the Agency trying to protect its intelligence gathering sources, particularly in sensitive diplomatic circles? What was the point of destroying those sources for releasing information on a crime that had already been solved? Granted, there may have been some embarrassing information on surveillance of Oswald, but wouldn’t that have strengthened the case against Oswald- and merely confirmed what was already common knowledge before the Conspiracy advocates went off on their various wild goose chases?

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Or maybe he knew the guy in the picture looked nothing like Oswald. Heaven forbid there might have been two Oswalds.

    • rollo says:

      Yeah, who really needs a thorough investigation of the assassination of a US President?

    • Mitch says:

      If you had read John Newman’s ‘Oswald and The CIA’, you would know why Angleton would not cooperate with the Warren Commission.

    • JSA says:

      “What is so hard to understand about the Agency trying to protect its intelligence gathering sources, particularly in sensitive diplomatic circles?”

      Does this also apply to a historian trying to find out why and how the US military and FBI didn’t get proper information about the Japanese prior to the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor? After all, that’s “sensitive” information, right? And let’s not forget, Pearl Harbor was only 22 years earlier than the JFK assassination. So, when do you make your cut off for allowing historians to get all the access they need? Is the Revolutionary War off limits too? How about Lincoln’s assassination? I don’t see how this makes any sense.

    • Thomas says:

      The crime had already been solved?

      There is a major objectivity and credibility gap here.

    • TLR says:

      And despite all of this surveillance, the CIA officially never debriefs Oswald (or his Russian wife) after all of his travels and contacts. If LHO really met with a KGB assassination specialist, don’t you think the Feds would want to talk with Oswald about that?

    • Gerry Simone says:

      Why wouldn’t they use such ‘embarrassing information’ if it would strengthen the case against Oswald?

      It’s more logical to believe that it was not incriminating against Oswald as it was damning of the CIA.

  2. Shane McBryde says:

    Hmmm…let’s see, possible foreknowledge of a plot to kill the president? Joseph Milteer, Rose Cheramie, Richard Case Nagell, John Martino. Those are a few that come to mind. Someone would’ve talked? More like someone ought to listen!

  3. S.R. "Dusty" Rohde says:

    Photon, first let’s look at the simple answer…..witholding evidence is witholding evidence, and illegal…regardless of the guise you try to hide behind.


    “Granted, there may have been some embarrassing information on surveillance of Oswald, but wouldn’t that have strengthened the case against Oswald- and merely confirmed what was already common knowledge”

    ….not sure I’d call “framing” someone “embarrassing” information, frankly, it displays further willingness to violate the laws of the land. Yes, “framing” Oswald would most definitely would have strengthened the case against him, if they had gotten away with it. The common knowledge is that they were caught doing it.

    Or did you mean the common knowledge that Hoover stated that it wasn’t Oswald? What’s hard to understand that the CIA violated the law by witholding or refusing to release certain documents to the HSCA? Who decided that you or anyone else gets to declare the CIA above the laws of this Country? What legal Court and jury declared this crime solved? NONE…..

    Assumptions, insinuations and opinions are not facts, far from it.

    • JSA says:

      “Who decided that you or anyone else gets to declare the CIA above the laws of this Country?”

      I fully and wholeheartedly agree. The KGB was above the laws, but in this country we are supposed to be a DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. I suspect that many people who love police states would be happy living in a totalitarian regime, and are uncomfortable with democracies.

    • Photon says:

      “Assumptions, insinuations and opinions are not facts”- but seem to be the standard of evidence for virtually every conspiracy theory.
      Where is the documentation that Hoover stated that it wasn’t Oswald? Since when is “common knowledge” proof of anything?
      Exactly what “proof” do you have that anybody framed Oswald, aside from your belief that he was? How was that “frame ” done and specifically what actions were taken?
      How can you say that the CIA violated the law when Jeff has to go through these legal hoops to get records released PRECISELY because the law protects the CIA and confidential information?

      • S.R. "Dusty" Rohde says:

        “Assumptions, insinuations and opinions are what you serve up on a regular basis, as if no one has noticed.”

        Let’s try something new…..try listing some citations, some documentation, some film, or photographs to support your claims.

        I can list proof all day long….direct evidence and indirect evidence…but you, like others of your mindset simply choose to ignore completely because they don’t bolster your claims.

        Now, this is not a personal attack, just observations of your tactics from previous posts. I don’t disagree with everything you state, just most of the time.

        Anyone can prove LHO didn’t take the fatal shot, your willingness to ignore direct evidence to that fact doesn’t make it false or mean that it doesn’t exist.

        • JSA says:

          I think Hoover said to LBJ that there was another person impersonating Oswald in Mexico City. Here’s a transcript of a telephone call FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover made to President Johnson just six hours after the plane arrived in Dallas which supports the belief that FBI agents listened to a tape that suggested an impersonation.

          “We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet embassy using Oswald’s name,” Hoover told Johnson, according to a transcript of that call released in 1993. “That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man’s voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there.”

  4. John Kirsch says:

    Did anyone speak in Oswald’s defense before the Warren Commission? I suspect the answer is no, since the report reads like the world’s longest brief for the prosecution.

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