“The Hollywood Reporter says James Franco will star as English teacher Jake Epping, who travels back in time to stop the assignation of President John F. Kennedy. The HULU miniseries, which will run a total of nine hours, is a joint project by [novelist Stephen] King and J.J. Abrams.”
King’s novel, 11/22/63, is based on the comforting but factually questionable notion that JFK was killed by one man alone for no reason. What King didn’t know when he wrote his book was how closely the CIA’s Counterintelligence Staff monitored Oswald in the four years before the tragedy of Dallas. Mistaking such facts for a conspiracy theory, King didn’t send Jack Epping, his time traveling hero, to Langley.
He might have intercepted Lee Harvey Oswald if he had. Declassified CIA records show clearly that Oswald, the future accused assassin, was well known to a host of senior CIA officers before JFK was gunned down in Dallas on November 22, 1963. (Even Times Magazine’s favorite JFK expert, the unemployed John McAdams, does not deny it.)
Epping should have talked to Jane Roman, counterintelligence liaison officer. In real life, Roman read an article in the Washington Post on Lee Harvey Oswald’s defection to the Soviet Union In October 1959 and opened the CIA’s first file on him. Four years later, when a CIA surveillance team picked up on Oswald’s visit to the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City in October 1963, Roman was still on the case. In seeking to intercept Oswald, Epping could have asked Roman why she and her colleagues sent this very inaccurate top-secret cable on Oswald six weeks before JFK was killed.
Roman later admitted in an interview with the Washington Post that certain CIA officers (she didn’t know who) involved in anti-Castro covert operations in the fall of 1963 displayed a “keen interest” in Oswald “held on a need to know basis” six weeks before JFK’s assassination.
One of those officers was David Phillips, the chief of Cuba operations in Mexico City. He ran the surveillance team that picked up on Oswald while JFK was still alive. Phillips told a variety of conflicting stories about what he knew of Oswald before JFK was killed. Antonio Veciana, an anti-Castro militant who worked closely with CIA officers for close to a decade, says he saw Phillips with Oswald in Dallas in early September 1963. If only Jake Epping had been there to see who was telling the truth.
Epping could have gone to Langley to see John Whitten, chief of the CIA’s Mexico operations desk. Whitten was also in the loop on pre-assassination reporting on Oswald. When Whitten tried to conduct a serious counterespionage investigation into Oswald after JFK was killed, deputy CIA director Richard Helms and counterintelligence chief Jim Angleton thwarted his efforts and ruined his career.
Spoiler alert: After nine hours of drama, Franco/Epping will fail to prevent JFK’s assassination. This i not because, as King would have it, a little man killed a big man but because Jake Epping doesn’t know where to look. He and Stephen King (and the rest of us) can’t go back in time to prevent the assassination because we still don’t know its real causes.