CIA director Dick Helms should have lost his job after JFK’s assassination

Richard Helms, retired CIA director, is one of the most important figures in the JFK assassination story. He was one of the senior CIA officials responsible for the intelligence failure that culminated in the breakdown of presidential security in Dealey Plaza. He should have lost his job after President Kennedy was killed because at least five of his subordinates knew all about the accused assassin Lee Oswald before November 22, 1963.
In this 1992 interview, Richard Schlesinger of CBS News aggressively questioned Helms about the role of the CIA in the events of November 22, 1963. Usually a masterful witness, Helms look defensive and unconvincing.
Helms, who died in 2002, was dubbed “The Man Who Kept the Secrets” by his biographer Thomas Powers. He was in Powers’ phrase a “gentlemanly planner of assassinations.”
In November 1963 Helms served as the deputy director of the CIA. He became Director of Central Intelligence in 1966. He served until 1973 when he was forced out by President Richard Nixon
At least five undercover officers reporting directly or indirectly to Helms (David Phillips, Win Scott, Ann Goodpasture, John Whitten, Bill Hood, and Tom Karameesines) knew about the travels, politics, and contacts of a young man named Lee Oswald before President Kenned was killed.
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The proof of their knowledge is found in this CIA cable about Oswald, dated October 10, 1963. Six weeks later, the man whom they were writing about  allegedly killed the president of the United States.
Helms and his colleagues concealed their knowledge of Oswald from investigators. Instead of losing his job, he served another decade. He died in October 2002.

51 comments

  1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

    Aside from missing LHO as security risk, Helms tried to cover the corporate ass by designating J. J. Angleton as the pivotal person with the WC on LHO. Tipped off by ex CIA director Dulles, Angleton rehearsed with FBI to tell the story that LHO was affiliated neither with CIA nor with FBI (See Peter Grose´s Gentleman Spy, p. 547 f.) However, many researches have found rational clues of LHO as CIA provocateur and FBI informant, above all in regard to their joint operation against the Free Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). The corp of evidence can be examined in Destiny Betrayed, by Jim DiEugenio, and Oswald and the CIA, by John Newman, but we can´t find any of it in the WC Report.

    • bogman says:

      I don’t have any doubt anymore that’s exactly what the CIA and FBI were doing with Oswald. What “nobody” is propagandized by CIA assets AND requests a one-hour meeting with FBI all in the same fricking day? Anybody here ever interface with the CIA or FBI their entire lives much less on the same day?

      How that operation tied to the assassination, and who did the tying, is the key for me.

  2. Paul Turner says:

    In answering if he could prove the CIA wasn’t involved in the assassination, Helms says “How would you expect me to prove it?”. He should know how to prove it, I would think. He thus lacked the confidence to prove it.

    • David M says:

      Oh cmon man. Proving a negative?

      • Paul Turner says:

        Yes, proving a negative. That’s what the interviewer asked of Helms, thus the interviewer wanted to see what Helms would say and how he said it. Point being,proving a negative in this case would be good for Helms to have done; he didn’t do it.

  3. Sam says:

    If only interviewer Schlesinger had asked more pointed questions, about files still withheld from the public, and about David Atlee Phillips’ admission to Mark Lane that he was involved with Oswald prior to the assassination (see Plausible Denial book by Lane).

    • Yes the interviewer had dropped the ball when he asked Helms whether he can PROVE that he did not have President Kennedy killed. He would have done very much better to try and HELP him to prove that, by asking where George Bush had been at the time, for example, if not in Dealey Plaza, where some investigators think he had been, and the same for General Lansdale?

  4. Where is the laugh-track for this video?

    Helms was absolutely flummoxed! It would be hilarious if the subject weren’t so tragic.

    Just that should be enough to convince anyone that the CIA was most certainly involved in the Kennedy Assassination.
    \\][//

    • Yes flummoxed as you say but if he had also been guilty then it would be an odd thing that he would go out of his way to talk about it on television?

      • Ramon F Herrera says:

        [Peter:]

        “an odd thing that he would go out of his way to talk about it on television?”

        =============================

        He had little choice in the matter. This is the way things work: A journalist or book author requests an interview: “I am writing a book about you”, or “We have a TV program about the CIA during your tenure”. They may be Epstein sitting with de Mohrenschildt, Schlesinger with Helms, Cronkite with LBJ or Frost with Nixon. The sessions last 2-3 hours, even more.

        For reasons that need no explanation, the famous person (often a former VIP) cannot:

        – Deny to be interviewed. We are not talking reclusive Howard Hughes or Michael Jackson types here.

        – Place an extremely suspicious sine qua non condition such as “Sure, but not a word about the JFK murder” to which no responsible media will accede.

        The date was 1992, when JFK interest from the public was at its peak.

        Not unlike a matador, they both know that the question is coming, they better be ready for those climactic moments. They have even rehearsed those moments.

        Later, you, me and the rest of JFKfacts participants only see the 1:59 minutes that interests us.

  5. GM says:

    In terms of the assassination of JFK, I have read more on the likes of Dulles, Harvey, Angleton, Phillips, Morales, than Helms. There was the incident with the alleged arms seizure at the White House prior to Dallas, but other than that Helms seems to be out of the picture somewhat, whether deliberately or not.

    • JohnR says:

      I am unaware of an “alleged arms seizure at the White House.” Could you post a reference, please?

      • GM says:

        Apologies JohnR. I think I might have confused you. There was no arms seizure at the White House. Richard Helms meet JFK in November 1963 at the White House. He produced a rifle, and said it was part of an arms cache seized by the CIA in a South American country. I think Helms was trying to link it to Castro and Cuba. My recollection of reading about it is patchy. JFK appears not to have been very interested in it, and passed it on to Robert Kennedy.

        • Ramon F Herrera says:

          [GM:]

          “it was part of an arms cache seized by the CIA in a South American country.”

          ===================

          I believe I know the country. At the time the guerrillas in Venezuela and Colombia were gaining strength and Castro was attempting to export his revolution. A ship loaded with weapons:

          From: Fidel
          To: The Venezuelan Guerrillas

          was captured in a Venezuelan beach. As a result of this incident, Cuba was unanimously fired from the O.A.S. (Organization of American States), status in which it remains to this day.

          • leslie sharp says:

            Ramon Herrera, do you think Bolivia in any way figure in this equation?

            Are you familiar with the career of Adolf Berle, American statesman, OAS expert?

  6. Steve Stirlen says:

    Photon:

    Care to comment on this post? Care to still use the word “mistake” in defense of this liar and his actions or non-actions? Or, because you have no defense of Helms, will you avoid answering the question directly?

    As you stated, the “CT” have to result to making things up or distorting the “truth.” Here is a man that is a known liar or “maker-upper.” I am sure hoping to see the same outrage from you about Helms as the outrage you exhibit about those who dispute Connally’s wounds or any other part of the murder that goes against the official version.

    • Photon says:

      How do you know that the “mannerisms” Helms has in this video are not related to the Agency’s failure to follow up information on Oswald, as opposed to any active involvement in the assassination as postulated by so many CTers? I suspect that that failure was the etiology for any obfuscation from the CIA in regards to records or release of information.
      Jeff seems to forget that the job of monitoring domestic defectors was the business of the FBI and that Presidential protection was that of the SS.Nowhere in Oswald’s history after the return from the USSR is there any evidence of known violence or illegal activity that would have prompted closer monitoring-monitoring that in the absence of such evidence would have been difficult to justify.
      After 50 years you would think that the SS would have Presidential protection down pat. After 9/11 you would think that procedures to protect the Capitol would be down pat. But despite all that, the action yesterday should removal all doubt that those procedures are flawed and MISTAKES happen-even at top levels of government. And no one is ( or will be) held accountable .Why is the CIA any different?

      • Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

        Simply because an ex Marine, re-defector from the Soviet Union, subscriber of U.S. red newspapers and pro-Castro activist on the streets, was discovered by the CIA trying to travel illegally to Cuba with the clearly stated intention to go on to the URSS on September 27-28, 1963. The CIA had been handling three files on Oswald, and it should immediately notify the FBI about this security risk. It would have prevented the cancellation of LHO Flash by the FBI on October 9, 1963.

      • Paulf says:

        Photon, you think intelligence agencies would leave Oswald alone as long as he wasn’t violent? That’s not credible in the least.

        These organizations kept close tabs on actors, writers, peace activists, civil rights activists, anybody who did anything at all they didn’t like. They tried to get ML King to kill himself. You really think a Marine defector from the hated USSR, who brought a Soviet citizen with him, at the height of the Cold War would not be of even more interest?

        If you can’t admit that that is suspicious, and improbable, then I don’t know what to say.

      • Robert Paul says:

        Photon, please put your Logic 101 hat on – If the CIA had no evolvement, why would Helms’ VERY first reaction to the shooting be to ask, “Do have anyone in Dallas.” If the lawn is white it’s safe to assume that it snowed. Helms had to know that it snowed or, at the very least, that the possibility that some of his people’s participation was the cause. Why else would he come to that instant conclusion?

      • Thomas says:

        “How do you know that the “mannerisms” Helms has in this video are not related to the Agency’s failure to follow up information on Oswald, as opposed to any active involvement in the assassination as postulated by so many CTers?”

        It’s called plausible deniability. The “failure to follow up” is a strategy for allowing Oswald to be undetected so he has the opportunity to shoot the president.

      • Ramon F Herrera says:

        [Photon:]

        “the “mannerisms” Helms has in this video are […] related to the Agency’s failure to follow up information on Oswald”

        ==============

        Suuuuuure, Helms had every reason to be agitated and discombobulated: As we know, screwing up, failing to prevent (including predicting the future) is the most shameful of all violations humanly possible.

        Contrast with the alternative:

        Being accused of treason and murder? Meh! No biggie. That’s petite pommes de terre!

        Your argument reminds one of Seinfeld:

        “This detergent is really good to wash blood away!”

        – Jerry: “Doesn’t it occur to you that for a person in that situation, perhaps laundry is the least of his worries?”

      • Fearfaxer says:

        The CIA was, illegally, spying on US citizens who showed any sympathy towards Castro’s regime. The idea that Oswald somehow “slipped through the cracks” of their spyglasses is laughable. It is far more likely that any lack of surveillance was deliberate.

  7. Samuel Rinn says:

    Had President Kennedy survived the ambush in Dallas, I believe a US Government Intel shakedown & house cleaning of unprecedented proportions, spearheaded by Congress, would have followed. ‘The Bay of Pigs thing’ success of Castro should have demonstrated clearly to JFK that his Intel agencies were compromised & JFK should have asked congress & the us citizens they represent for help in establishing a non-infiltrated status quo.

    The appearance of LHO as an agent of the Soviet Union & Cuban governments on US soil was a missed red flag that would have caused many ‘heads to roll’, had JFK lived. Helms’ head would have been one of the 1st to drop to the floor & begin rolling.

    As it was, JFK’s replacement elected to keep a lid on the boiling pot & continue with ‘business as usual’; a ‘turn the other cheek’ approach that has religious merit but is not an effective remedy for an enemy strangling a government from inside it.

  8. Richard Brown says:

    To say that Helms looked “defensive and unconvincing” in this video is a bit of an understatement. He looked discombobulated and nervous. I have been a trial lawyer for 34 years, have deposed hundreds and hundreds of witnesses, and have examined hundreds of witnesses at trial. Helms exhibits overt mannerisms or signs (anger, stammering, hesitation before answering, exaggerated hand movements, looking away from the questioner and breaking eye contact right after a difficult question or statement — such as Schlesinger’s suggestion that the CIA had JFK killed–) that quite often accompany the testimony of prevaricators, those who either overtly lie or consciously evade the truth. Given Helms’ normally calm, urbane demeanor and experience with tough questioning, this seems particularly telling.

  9. Ronnie Wayne says:

    It’s not impossible, from what I’ve read on him (and I’m no expert) that maybe Angleton skirted around him in some ways on the assassination. I don’t think so thought. Ideally his feet should have been held to the fire by the the Warren Omission. If he wiggled and waffled like he does here he should have been tried for obstruction of justice. If guilty as he sounds he should have been fried as a conspirator or at the least received life in prison (with a daily beating for good measure, like in a CIA prison, water boarding too?).

  10. David Regan says:

    How fitting the only DCI to be convicted of misleading Congress should serve in that capacity under Johnson and Nixon.

  11. Robert Paul says:

    His obit says it all: http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/24/obituaries/24HELM.html

    Deceit was his life’s work. To his credit, he did it well.

  12. Ronnie Wayne says:

    Here’s another article Jeff did on the other Tricky Dick of the era. I don’t know if the Angleton to Helms memo about Hunt has ever surfaced or not. What I’d forgot about was Helms assigning Joannidies to the Cubans/DRE. Has that been proven? If he personally did so that’s pretty incriminating regarding his knowledge of operation.

    http://jfkfacts.org/assassination/richard-helms-kept-the-cias-secrets-on-jfk/

  13. Vanessa says:

    Helms wasn’t the only one who should have lost his job after the assassination.

    As far as I know no-one lost his (they were all men) job after the assassination of the President.

    Not one single person.

    • Paul Turner says:

      Vanessa..you’re probably right about none of the “bad guys”(my quote)losing his job after 11-22-63. But it made me think of Roger Craig being fired 4 years later for not changing his story about seeing 2 figures in that Rambler right after the shooting, one of whom he believed was LHO. Thus, a “good guy” was fired, not a bad guy, and that is very sad.

      • Vanessa says:

        Thanks Paul. Personally I think the head of the SS and FBI both should have ‘offered to resign’ after the assassination. And those offers should have been accepted. The fact that they didn’t offer is interesting.

        • Ramon F Herrera says:

          [Vanessa:]

          “The fact that they didn’t offer is interesting.”

          ==========================================

          Let me tell you why that customary, expected resignation didn’t happen. It is not exactly what you think.

          Do you remember how Obama kept Bush’s Secretary of Defense? Recall the American spirit in the weeks and months after 9/11? People were carrying flags, in a show of unity.

          Since (wink, wink) it was Fidel (according to LBJ) or the Soviets (per Angleton) we were being “attacked by or mortal enemies!! We must stick together!!” (another pair of winks).

          In another world (non-coup d’etat) LBJ would have reorganized the cabinet, with his close allies, his people. Every president does that. They are expected to.

          Check the other Johnson (1865), all VPs who become presidents by death do that. All new presidents, regardless of reason for becoming one do that.

          “Truman asked FDR’s cabinet to remain in place as he settled into the presidency. Yet the new President had little confidence in this group; by the spring of 1946, he had replaced many of those officials with men of his own choosing.”

          http://millercenter.org/president/truman/essays/biography/print

        • Paul Turner says:

          Yes, it shows us that John Ed Hoover(FBI)felt he wasn’t personally at fault for the assassination. I don’t know the name of the SS Director, but same could be said of him. I don’t think history would agree in either case.

    • lysias says:

      Same thing happened after 9/11. Nobody was fired, or even disciplined.

  14. Stephen Roy says:

    This article is misleading about what they knew and when they knew it. It almost suggests that they bear responsibility for what happened.

  15. This is a very good interview and a very bad collection of interpreters. Of course a director who may as well deserve to have silencers in his basement would feel like slamming the door in your face or otherwise stomping on someone when you ask him whether he had had President Kennedy killed. Is that suspicious? If everyone else and people all over the country and all over the world kept making it seem as if I must have had President Kennedy killed then I would eventually get all fed up with it too.

  16. Cassandra Jones says:

    Richard Helms should have been prosecuted for his role of obstructing justice in the Garrison case against Clay Shaw. According to Jim DiEugenio’s excellent second edition of DESTINY BETRAYED, Helms held weekly meetings with CIA members and asked, “Are we giving him (Clay Shaw) all the help we can down there (New Orleans, site of Garrison’s case)?” As Garrison said about his case,”I knew I was dancing with the CIA.”

  17. Fearfaxer says:

    Yes, Helms should have lost his job in late 1963. James Jesus Angleton should have lost his job earlier that year when Kim Philby was finally exposed. In fact, Angleton should have been either fired, demoted, or moved sideways into a job without serious responsibility when Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean fled to Moscow in 1951 and Philby was suspected of having tipped them off. Moving on to later scandals, somebody should have realized Aldrich Ames fit perfectly into the profile of a spy during all those years he was falling asleep drunk at his desk in the middle of the day.

    That’s the CIA, where nothing succeeds like failure. Just ask Howard Hunt and James McCord. Any private corporation that allowed foul-ups like them to rise so high would have been driven out of business by their various fiascos.

  18. JR says:

    I have replayed the tape over and over and I think spills the beans on why the CIA was interested if any agents/case officers were in Dallas. I don’t have the equipment but if some one could digitize the interview and slow down the sounds they will find it sounds like “we had reports of CIA agents in Dallas.” The big question is who provided the reports. Did they come from Secret Service agents at the hospital who claim to have encountered a CIA agent or did it come from Dallas police.

  19. gerry campeau says:

    I think Richard Helms coverup and his ordering destruction of all the filles on MKULTRA was Helms bigest Crime. Don’t forget Helms was at crisis meeting on MKULTRA 4 days after JFK burial.

  20. Christopher V. Pike says:

    Helms wrote in his autobiography, A Look Over My Shoulder, his final position on the matter, which reads at page 229: “By the time I reached my office, Elizabeth Dunlevy had notebook and pencil in hand. Within a few minutes we had prepared a priority book message: “Tragic death of President Kennedy requires all of us to look sharp for any unusual intelligence developments, although we have no reason to expect anything of a PARTICULAR MILITARY NATURE (my caps) all hands should be on the quick alert for the next few days while knew president takes over reins.” Then he writes: “The events of that ever so sad day have all been laid bare and documented. I have only a few observations to make. First, all of the speculation and conspiratology notwithstanding, I have not seen anything no matter how far fetched or grossly imagined, that in any way changes my conviction that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated Kennedy, and that there were no co-conspirators. Furthermore, I know of no information whatsoever that might have any bearing on the assassination that has been concealed from the public.” But E. Howard Hunt shortly before his death stated that he was just a “benchwarmer”, decades after he published his Watergate period auto bio “Give Us This Day” taking the view that Oswald acted alone. And so the contradictions of CIA super spies go…

  21. bogman says:

    Interviewer: Was there reason to be scared of the fact that the president was that mad at the CIA?

    Helms: We were not happy but what would you expect us to do about it?

    Isn’t that definitive proof of the split between JFK and the CIA?

  22. D. E. Mitchell says:

    LHO was a paid asset of the FBI. He was also most likely the source for the Nov. 18 telex in Miami. do your homework. I’m quite sure you can literally findout the number.LHO was mostlikely recruited into an ONI/CIA program for “defectors”(see,LEGACY OF ASHES). The only unidentified latent fingerprint found in the nest on the 6th floor of the TSBD belonged to that of Mac Wallace, id’ed in the late 90’s…34pts! Wallace was a pet of Texas string pullers. One in paticular was LBJ!

    • Paul Turner says:

      When the FBI sat on the Wallace proof for so long, then denied the print belonged to Wallace, I bet they said “My god, we can’t confirm this. If we do, it’s Conspiracy City, baby!!”

  23. D. E. Mitchell says:

    Pretty sure Helms was NOT envolved in “THE BIG EVENT”, but i’d bet that Allen Dulles knew about it…if not before than after the fact! We’ll never know!

    • David Regan says:

      I’m not so certain. Helms sent Desmond Fitzgerald to meet with Rolando Cubela at a CIA safe house in Paris under the guise of a U.S. Senator who was representing the authority of RFK to murder Castro. The Church Committee, following the CIA’s IG Report, discovered that Richard Helms had “agreed that Fitzgerald should hold himself out as a personal representative of Attorney General Robert Kennedy.” As the CIA’s own internal report admitted, Helms had also decided “it was not necessary to seek approval from Robert Kennedy for Fitzgerald to speak in his name.” — Inspector General’s Report pp. 88-89

      This scheme appears to be a blatant attempt by the CIA to destroy both Kennedy brothers, while serving as a way to blame RFK for the killing of his own brother.

  24. D. E. Mitchell says:

    If somebody wanted to know what really happened, they’d probably have to find Ruth Paine out in California someplace and give her 3cc of sodium ammatol…she knows where all the bodies are buried…metaphorically speaking i’m sure…naturally, i’m only kidding;but only about the ammatol!!

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