Beyond the smoking gun: The new JFK files fill in two holes in the assassination story

CIA SealI’ve been hearing from news reporters for major news organizations, who ask, “What’s in the new JFK files? Is there a smoking gun?”

The answer is no. There is no one piece of evidence in the 113,00 pages of JFK records scheduled to be released by October 26, 2017, that will change people’s minds about what happened long ago in Dallas.

But the new JFK files, if released in their entirety, will fill in the two key gaps in the JFK assassination story that have long been obscured by government misconduct, official secrecy, and lazy journalism.

Think of the JFK assassination story as an incomplete mosaic. The new files help complete the picture in two ways.

The new files shed light on the CIA’s use of Lee Oswald for intelligence purposes before November 22, 1963. They also illuminate the illegal actions of government officials to conceal the CIA’s manipulation of Oswald and its plot to kill Fidel Castro in late 1963.

Once all of these files are in the public record, then–and only then–can we assess what they tell us about the conspiracy question.

So I advise news reporters (and everyone else) to put aside fantasies of a “smoking gun,” and focus on what the new facts tell us.

The CIA’s Use of Oswald

Oswald in New Orleans
Oswald in New Orleans, August 16, 1963

The new files strengthen the claim–long denied by the CIA and mainstream news organizations–that the agency used accused assassin Lee Oswald for intelligence purposes.

Part of the story was brought to light the JFK review board in the 1990s when they released, a complete version of one of the agency’s many pre-assassination cables on Oswald. It was prepared by Jame Angleton’s Counterintelligence Staff on October 10, 1963.

More of the story is coming in the testimony of Orest Pena, a New Orleans bar owner who said he saw Oswald in the company of a senior FBI agents in the summer of 1963. The Pena testimony was not included in the first batch of National Archives releases last week.

The newly-declassified financial records of the CIA front group, the Cuban Revolutionary Council, are also relevant, as Larry explains at The New JFK Show Blog. In his turn as a public supporter of Castro in the summer of 1963, Oswald had repeated contacts with people associated with the CRC. I will be writing more about these records in comings weeks.

Meanwhile, intelligence historian John Newman has already begun to use the new files to develop the granular knowledge of CIA covert operations and cryptonyms necessary to tell this story.

The Criminal Cover-up

Angleton thoughtful
Counterintelligence chief James Angleton

The JFK release last week includes a great deal of material about Russian defector Yuri Nosenko, who claimed to have seen Oswald’s KGB file. The veracity of Nosenko’s claims in the face of CIA interrogation is a key issue that requires deeper analysis, as Newsweek has already reported.

Key documents to come include the still-unreleased testimony of Angleton to the Church Committee on September 12, 1975.

Also important are the operational files of CIA officers hostile to JFK who were involved in assassination operations including Bill Harvey, David Phillips, and Howard Hunt.

None of these files were included in the first Archives release.



 The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton.

The Ghost

James Angleton’s real life is the most intriguing, moving, and at time shocking spy story in American history. In The Ghost, Jefferson Morley has capture the man in all of his brilliant and sometimes delusional eccentricity.  A must read’ for anyone who wants to understand just how strange and secretive the CIA was at the height of the Cold War.

–David Ignatius, columnist for the Washington Post and author of The Director.















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