Who paid for the first JFK conspiracy theory?

The answer: certain employees of the U.S. government’s Central Intelligence Agency, otherwise known as the CIA.

Within hours of JFK’s death on November 22, 1963, members of the Cuban Student Directorate, a CIA-funded organization based in Miami, linked suspected assassin Lee Oswald to Cuban president Fidel Castro. They were “the presumed assassins.” The allegation was published in a special edition of the group’s publication, Trinchera (Trenches) dated November 23, 1963.

This was the first JFK conspiracy theory to reach public print. According to declassified records, it was paid for by a decorated undercover CIA officer, the late George Joannides.

The leaders of the Directorate, also known by its Spanish acronym DRE, received $51,000 a month from the CIA, according to this April 1963 memo found in the JFK Library in Boston.

Within the CIA, the Directorate was known by the code name AMSPELL. The group was “conceived, created and funded by the Agency in September 1960 and terminated in December 1966,” according to a CIA memo, dated April 1967.

“Members were used through 1966 as political action agents for publishing propaganda … and producing radio propaganda and special propaganda campaigns,” the CIA memo states.

Joannides served as chief of psychological warfare operations in the CIA’s Miami station. He also  handled contacts with the DRE, according to his July 31, 1963, job evaluation. In return for CIA support, the group engaged in “intelligence collection, political action and propaganda.”

The DRE’s post-assassination scoop publication emphasized the pro-Castro remarks that Oswald had made during debate on a New Orleans radio program with DRE delegate Carlos Bringuier three months before. Oswald had been exposed as a communist — and now he had killed the president.

He and Castro, the group declared, were “the presumed assassins.” The DRE used its international network to publicize the charge throughout Latin America, according to this document found in the DRE Papers at the University of Miami library.

What Joannides thought of the DRE’s use of CIA funds to publicize its view of Oswald is unknown. The CIA recently admitted for the first time that Joannides maintained a residence in New Orleans as part of his assignment in 1962-64.

The publication was handed out to worshippers arriving at a Catholic Church on Key Biscayne on the morning of November 24, 1963. A FBI agent in the crowd took a copy and filed it at the office.

Thus the first JFK conspiracy theory was published within 48 hours of Kennedy’s murder, and the CIA had paid for it.

Background:

CIA admits undercover officer lived in New Orleans (Nov. 11, 2013)

 5 Decades Later Some JFK FIles Still Sealed (Associated Press, Aus. 18. 2013)

Justice Dept. denies CIA officer was honored for coverup (JFK Facts,Dec. 17, 2012)

Court uphold public benefit of disclsoure about CIA officer in JFK story (JFK Facts, June 19, 2013)

CIA Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery (New York Times, October 17, 2009)

Morley v. CIA: Why I sued the CIA for JFK assassination records (JFK Facts, Feb. 23, 2013)

 

 

 

45 comments

  1. Brad Milch says:

    I don’t recall Vincent Bugliosi (& others like him that routinely label those exploring & analyzing the JFK assassination outside the Warren Report box as ‘kooks’ & ‘silly’) mentioning CIA operative Joannides was behind the very 1st printed conspiracy theory published post-assassination.

    I can’t help but wonder if the CIA funded newsprint was created prior to 22 November 1963 (as was the Viet Nam reversal paperwork sitting on JFK’s desk awaiting signature 21 November 1963 that Johnson later signed).

  2. Chad Brown says:

    One of the pieces of evidence that should be explained by a full theory is the existence of Vincent Bugliosi’s book. I cannot claim to have read all of it but I have read enough to see that is is a legal brief taking one side, and not an even-handed inquiry into the subject. It makes sense that the CIA would have hired Bugliosi to represent it in the “court of public opinion” Also, the mock Oswald trial in London, which can be seen on You Tube, strikes me as very one-sided with Gary Spence, supposedly representing the defense, coming across as relatively incompetent. The trial and the book are too much for most people to tackle on their own, and so they can default to believing them.

    • Ronnie Waynethe says:

      Read Reclaiming Parkland.

    • If you want to read a more accurate trial interpretation, read “The People v. Lee Harvey Oswald.” Bugliosi drowns in deep water in that book, which I had thought at the time would be my first. The Warren Commission’s own “facts” prove Oswald could never have been convicted.

  3. al says:

    Meyer Lansky said he paid for the JFK Bullet. He worked closely with the CIA (via Operation Underworld) and FBI (Blackmailed Hoover with Photos of Gay Relationship). See http://www.noplaceforcorruption.com Docs Section PDF

  4. Hmmm…Benefit of the doubt, maybe Joannides/CIjust wanted to get ahead of the curve, to make sure Americans and the world weren’t mislead by other nations’ intelligence agents planting different and even confusing theories or truths in the press. Much more thoughtful to firmly hammer home one timely, direct and simple lie. Nah, more likely just a small aspect of the broader conspiracy to commit treason.

  5. Jeff, you have admitted that the DRE asked the CIA about blaming Castro, and were told by the Agency to hold off.

    But the DRE did it anyway.

    Your claim was that the CIA really wanted them to do it. But then why did the CIA tell them to hold off?

    Did I miss your admitting this in the article above?

    • PBR says:

      There is no allegation in Jeff’s post above that the CIA, “wanted them to do it”. The author has simply stated, correctly and factually, that the CIA paid for this publicity. DRE was a creation of the CIA as the documentary evidence makes clear. Furthermore, the JMWave upper echelons took no steps to actively counter this conspiracy theory in the days and weeks following the massive publicity blitz by DRE. Joannides only asked them to hold off on the initial publication but subsequently stood back and dispensed the funds as DRE continued to aggressively trumpet their ‘Castro did it’ allegation. There is no documentary evidence of a strategy to dilute or challenge the DRE theory by CIA or to bring their paid agents in the DRE to heel. Phillips may have been unhappy by the slipshod and amateurish manner in which Bringuier and his colleagues attempted to tie Castro to the assassination but recorded only mild disapproval. Conclusion? The CIA were content to let the story run. Moreover, they continued to fund DRE until 1966.

      • There is a difference between some group, supported by the CIA, doing something at the behest of the CIA, and the group “going rogue.”

        Jeff wants to imply that the former happened. The evidence is that the latter happened.

        • PBR says:

          The documentary evidence shows that Joannides demanded that all planned actions and operations of DRE be presented to him for approval before clearance would be provided. That was part of the funding deal, the quid pro quo, so to speak. DRE presented their ‘Castro did it’ plan almost immediately after the assassination. At no stage is it recorded that Joannides opposed the plan. The evidence is simply that he asked the DRE to hold off until he, Joannides, could clear the action with Washington. Clearly he was hedging his bets and was keen to test the waters at that early stage. DRE may well have beaten him to the punch. At no stage did Joannides order DRE to stand down. On the contrary, he subsequently stepped back and threw funds at DRE to carry on their propaganda onslaught against Castro. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that JMWave officers took serious exception to the subsequent DRE media barrage. Whilst LBJ was moving quickly to scotch the rumour mill, specifically the charge that Castro had a hand in the assassination, the CIA’s assets in DRE were acting in direct conflict with the President’s agenda. No effort was made by CIA to counter the DRE media blitz. No orders to curtail the operation were issued. The,’rogue element’ theory is certainly plausible, but is circumscribed by the inaction of JMWave in the weeks following the assassination and by DRE’s utter dependence on CIA funds and directions. The secrecy of the CIA’s creation, funding and thus promotion of DRE dictated that the provenance of DRE could not be revealed for if it had been, the spotlight would have illuminated the hidden machinations of CI/SIG and JMWave regarding Cuba. As such the plausible deniability option had been kept open to throw any investigation off the scent and Mexico City Station had been kept in the dark as to the clandestine anti-Castro operations being run by Joannides, Phillips et al. The evidence suggests that JMWave were only too keen to distance themselves at this early stage from the DRE campaign against Castro. After all they had wound this particular clock. All they had to do was stand back and watch it strike. To argue that DRE had the financial and political clout to defy or to stand alone against the might of the CIA is simply not credible. DRE disappeared in 1966 as quickly as it had appeared. The CIA shut it down. That’s the real proof as to where the power lay in the relationship.

          • To argue that DRE had the financial and political clout to defy or to stand alone against the might of the CIA is simply not credible.

            To argue that they had the power to “go rogue” a time or two on a particular issue is perfectly credible.

        • RJ says:

          All of the evidence is not in the open. Without it your opinion is speculation. Other educated conclusions has just as much validity as yours, despite the finality that you use in your post. Your interpretation of the available evidence could very well be 100 percent incorrect, and the available evidence can back that up.

    • TLR says:

      Of course the Agency claims they told them not to do it. Have you ever heard of “plausible deniability”?

  6. Arnaldo M. Fernandez says:

    The day before the CIA-backed JFK conspiracy theory on Castro behind Oswald reached public print, the same scenario had already been reached by radio.
    Local Miami stations reported [http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=7639] that DRE delegate in New Orleans had debated in August with a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) who had just been identified as prime suspect in the JFK assassination.
    The report specified that Oswald had confessed being Marxist during the debate on the New Orleans station WDSU. He was described as former U.S. Marine who traveled to Moscow in 1959, renounced his American citizenship and allegedly lived at Soviet Foreign Minister’s home for two months.
    Thus, the Oswald’s bizarre one-man chapter of FPCC in New Orleans was linked to the Commies, Castro, and the JFK assassination.
    Half a century later, nothing seems to have changed down in South Florida. The 22 November 2013 edition of El Nuevo Herald recycled Bringuier as “the Cuban who faced Oswald.” He sang the same old song: “Now I’m more convinced of Fidel Castro’s complicity.”
    Beneath the academic veneer of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami, Dr. Brian Latell supports the same point of view, by tying the WC report of the lone gunman who shot a magic bullet to the lightest version of the oldest CIA backstop: instead of “Castro did it,” he asserts that “Castro knew it” and did nothing to deter the killing.

  7. Kennedy63 says:

    The probability of a “Grassy Knoll” shooter is a specious argument. You need not argue a truth, or fact, unless the basis of the argument assumes a negative (e.g., no Grassy Knoll shooter). The Z film shows there was a frontal shot, not because of the “back and to the left” motion of JFK’s head and body at impact of missiles, but the preponderance of the evidence for such shot(s). The witnesses who stated they saw a through and through hole in the Lincoln Continental windshield; and, a frontal entry hole in JFK’s throat. Prosectors Humes, Boswell and Finck gave conflicting and incomplete evidentiary testimony regarding the throat wound, although the windshield bullet hole and other evidence supports the frontal entry throat wound. This awareness of a frontal shot favors a frontal head shot. It may not have been fired exactly from the Grassy Knoll, but in close proximity. Chief Curry, riding in the “lead” car in the motorcade, summoned DPD dispatch to “get someone up there on the railroad tracks” as he heard [a] shot(s) coming from that area, as did other witnesses. Several witnesses stated they “felt” the shock wave(s) of the bullet(s) passing near to them/over their heads (the witness: Bill Newman). We have yet to locate, or record the testimony of the two African American witnesses (possibly a male & a female) drinking soda near the small bench atop the knoll area, recessed between the retaining wall and the picket fence, at the time of the shooting of JFK. They may yet be alive. The obvious clue to the frontal shot lay in the “shadows” of this particular area. This area has most dense foliage in Dealy Plaza and presents ideal concealment for a conspirator firing bullets at the President of the United States. Zapruder initially stated he thought the shots came from behind him; not above and behind him. He stood, as most know, atop a level abutment (pergola) before the retaining wall. Please access: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5JDhi4URds

    • Jordan says:

      Chief Curry knew enough to make sure his car was far far ahead of JFK’s Limo, and LBJ’s car was stopping and the SS agents were getting out as can be seen in Altgens wide photo.
      In fact, it appears as though the entire motorcade was actually stopping prior to the fatal shot(s). That’s off-topic, but just sayin’….

  8. One more thing, Jeff.

    Your own book shows that the CIA in Mexico City was not all all keen to blame Castro.

    Ambassador Mann was the fellow who was gung ho to pin it on Castro. Phillips and Scott were not inclined this way at all.

    • PBR says:

      Scott was ‘out of the loop’, as the book demonstrates conclusively. As such he was all at sea when it came to the DRE operation. Mexico City was demonstrably kept in the dark regarding both what Jane Roman admitted was the ‘operational interest’ in Oswald and the also the need to know activities of DRE such as the anti-FPCC operation in summer 1963. Phillips, on the other hand was absolutely central to these operations. He moved quickly to cover the tracks of CIA sponsorship in the aftermath of the assassination fearing that the paper trail would lead investigators into the clandestine morass of JMWave operations. This in turn would threaten to blow the lid on the CI’s, ‘keen interest’ in Lee Oswald as proven conclusively by the cables signed off by Jane Roman. Naturally Phillips and Joannides were going to distance themselves from the actions of DRE. The logical conclusion can only be that Phillips distanced himself deliberately from the DRE and from it’s theorising regarding the assassination so as to maintain the facade of plausible deniability. That’s an old intelligence ploy. The clincher is that Angleton and his chosen coterie of agents within JMWave took no steps to subdue or quash the alleged insubordination of their DRE assets in the days and weeks following the assassination. Had they been outraged or fearful of the potential fallout of this theory they would have moved quickly and ruthlessly to rein in the DRE whilst mobilising their publicity machine to counter the allegation of Castro involvement. There were no threats to cut off the funding to DRE and CIA assets in the media were not utilised to counter the DRE line. On the contrary, CIA continued to fund the DRE’s onslaught on Castro. It flies in the face of the facts, indeed, it is a subversion of logic (given the subsequent actions of JMWave and their continued funding and support for DRE) to suggest that D.A. Phillips took any meaningful steps to kill,’the Castro did it’ theory in the cradle. After all, Phillips hand was rocking that cradle.

      • Now the theory is getting more complicated. There were “in the loop” CIA people, and “not in the loop” CIA people.

        It seems you are distancing yourself from a large number of conspiracy theorists who insist that Phillips was “in the loop.”

        • GM says:

          @John

          Is “in the loop” not just the same as the need to know basis that Jane Roman talked about in her interview with Jeff Morley in the 1990s?

        • PBR says:

          It is neither complicated, nor is it a theory. It is factual, based on the hard documentary evidence. A group within CI/SAS including Phillips held the knowledge of Oswald’s activities and his contacts with DRE on,” a need to know basis”. Win Scott did not have access to the, ‘latest HDQS info.” on Lee Oswald. Phillips was central to the LIENVOY, AMSPELL and LIENRODE operations all of which to some extent had garnered intelligence on Oswald. The full knowledge of Oswald’s activities was never disseminated to Mexico City. Jane Roman admitted that she had signed off on cables to Mexico City regarding Oswald which contained information that was, “not true”. Furthermore, she admitted that CI/SAS had an operational interest in Oswald’s file. Phillips testified under oath that he was interested in Oswald in the first week of October 1963. The only plausible reason for the withholding of key intelligence from Mexico City was to ensure deniability should the circumstances dictate. To reiterate, it is not complicated, nor is it a theory.

          • But Jeff’s book says that Phillips, like Scott, was not at all keen on blaming Castro.

            So was Phillips involved in a plot to blame Castro or not?

  9. leslie sharp says:

    Where was Hal Hendrix in this scenario of confusion and obfuscation in the immediate aftermath? I thought that Hendrix was the mainstream conduit for the initial dissemination of a description of “Oswald.” Whose payroll was Hendrix on, quite literally?

    If Joannides had a residence in New Orleans, who was his paymaster during that period? Was he drawing a check and or operating funds from HQ, or from the local CIA paymaster? Would his path have crossed with New Orleans attorney Stephen Lehmann?

  10. George Simmons says:

    All of this is great work from Mr Morley.

    I cannot get this angle of the case out of my mind.
    Did the CIA tell the WC that the DRE were CIA assets? No. Did they tell the HSCA? No.

    When the CIA put forward George Joannides as a liason to the HSCA ( despite have an agreement with the HSCA that it would be someone who was non operational in 1963!!) it was a shocking act of deception, absolutely shocking. The CIA did not reveal to the HSCA the role of George Joannides in 1963. The HSCA did not know that the DRE were CIA assets and that George Joannides was the case officer!

    George Blakey described it as a “wilful obstruction of justice”

    But if LHO was just a meaningless loner, then what did the CIA have to hide? If LHO was just a meaningless loner then why would the CIA commit a felony by misleading a congressional investigation into the murder of the president? If LHO was just a meaningless loner then why are the CIA, 50 years later, still fighting in the courts to stop the release of the Joannides records, despite the JFK records act?

    Other researchers/sites seem to skip over/avoid/make allowances for these events. I find that approach quite puzzling.

    Mr Morley is doing excellent work in this area, and that’s what makes JFK Facts the best.

  11. Jonathan says:

    I don’t care who promoted the the idea LHO killed Kennedy. I care about facts.

    The main fact is no one can tie LHO to the killing. Not John McAcadams, Jean Davison, or Photon.

    They cannot because they cannot place him in a position to fire the alleged assassin weapon at JFK.

    That does not mean LHO had some role in the assassination.

    It only means he was possibly one of a group of characters.

    • Photon says:

      Then where was he at 12:30 on Nov. 22 and why didn’t anybody else see him at that time- except Brennan?

      • Paulf says:

        “Why didn’t anybody see him” is not evidence, on fact it is the opposite.

        Let’s say you are Prosecutor Photon, and trying LHO for the murder of the president. What is your evidence beyond a reasonable doubt? That he must have been there because he wasn’t somewhere else? Hahaha. Try that in court and get laughed out.

        You can’t tie the gun to him, can’t prove he was in the window, can’t demonstrate he did anything other than work at the depository when the president was shot. Motive is not a mandatory element to prove in court, but you have no factual basis for a motive, either. Supposition that he wanted attention is not remotely proof, especially since he denied that in public and presumably would do so again if he testified.

      • PBR says:

        Brennan hardly stands out as a credible witness. He was led by the hand while giving his WC testimony and moreover was unable to positively identify Oswald in a line up. Well, at least until well after the line up and after he had seen Oswald’s photo and heard the official line that Oswald was the killer of Tippit and was suspected of killing JFK. He later excused his inability or unwillingness to identify Oswald by claiming that he felt his life might be in danger from communists if he did so. When asked by counsel Belin why, if Oswald was under lock and key and unable to cause harm to anyone, he did not positively identify him thereby risking Oswald’s release, Brennan made reference again to the communist threat and elaborated by saying that he knew at that stage that law enforcement had their man and thus he did not have to identify Oswald as the shooter on the sixth floor. This explanation beggars belief. Brennan’s testimony is shot through with inconsistencies. Any standard cross examination would have shredded Brennan’s credibility rapidly. Why, when he was standing in the company of other individuals (as depicted in photos from the time) did no other individual see a man resembling Oswald in the window? Why did Brennan not draw the others’ attention to a man with a rifle in the window until he talked with a law enforcement officer after the fact? Is it surprising that, having returned home after the assassination and having seen Oswald’s picture twice on the TV, that he would agree with the already disseminated story that Oswald was the killer of Tippit and therefore the killer of JFK? In his testimony to the Warren Commission it was obviously a matter of, “Well I couldn’t identify him at the time but I can identify him now having seen his photo on the television.” Brennan testified that he spoke to SA Forrest Sorrells, “shorter than 10 minutes” after the shooting. That would have been at 1240pm or slightly before. The difficulty with this testimony the implication of which was, incredibly, ignored by McCloy and Belin was that Sorrells had gone to Parkland and was in Parkland when this conversation with Mr. Brennan allegedly occurred. Sorrels testified that he had returned to the Plaza between 20 and 25 minutes after the shots were fired at 12.50/55pm. How that circle can be squared is beyond me. Photographic evidence shows Brennan facing the motorcade, looking away from the TSBD at the time of the shots. He may have seen a shooter in the TSBD but given his rambling and often contradictory if not dishonest testimony his post line up identification of Oswald is shot through with a heavy dash of reasonable doubt. To conclude then, no credible witness can, as Chief Jesse Curry admitted later, put Oswald on the sixth floor with a rifle at the time of the shooting.

      • Oh, you mean the fella who later failed to confirm it was LHO he saw?

        • Photon says:

          Actually he later DID confirm it was Oswald- and stated that he didn’t pick him out of a lineup on Nov 22 precisely because he knew Oswald was the man he saw but was frightened by the possible consequences of IDing him. He also stated that as he knew that Oswald was under arrest for shooting a cop that he wasn’t going anywhere, so as long as he was in custody he could afford to await developments.

  12. leslie sharp says:

    Jonathan: “The main fact is no one can tie LHO to the killing. Not John McAcadams, Jean Davison, or Photon.”

    As I understand the argument posed by McAdams, Davison and Photon et al – representatives of the Warren Commission report – Oswald shot Kennedy from the 6th Floor, fled down the stairs (lets not address the various complications introduced by eyewitnesses as this juncture), stopped for a Coke, encountered his boss and a Dallas police officer, left the building undeterred, caught a bus, a cab, jumped out en route to his room, changed clothes, grabbed a gun, shot another police officer and “fled” into a highly public space.

    Beyond those “facts,” what I read is a spaghetti bowl of testimony and conflagration of information that proves nothing, ergo I agree with you: no one can tie LHO to the killing.

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