CIA’s ‘inaccurate representations’ blocked release of key JFK files, investigators say

John Tunheim

Federal judge John Tunheim, former chair of the Assassination Records Review Boad

[Reposted from December 2013, this news report is relevant to the oral arguments in Morley v. CIA  that will be heard in Washington federal court on March 19, 2018.]

Two members of an independent civilian review panel that oversaw the release of the government’s JFK assassination files say the CIA misled them about the records of deceased undercover officer George Joannides.

In a piece for the Boston Herald, Judge John Tunheim, former chair of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) and Thomas Samoluk, former deputy director of the ARRB, said this:

“There is a body of documents that the CIA is still protecting, which should be released. Relying on inaccurate representations made by the CIA in the mid-1990s, the Review Board decided that records related to a deceased CIA agent named George Joannides were not relevant to the assassination. Subsequent work by researchers, using other records that were released by the board, demonstrates that these records should be made public.”

They describe how the CIA duped two official investigations.

“Joannides spearheaded the CIA’s relationship with an anti-Castro exile group before the assassination. Oswald had a public fight with members of this group on the streets of New Orleans during the summer of 1963. The CIA failed to reveal details of its relationship with the exile group to the Warren Commission.”

Thomas Samoluk, former deputy director of the ARRB.


“Later, during the House Select Committee investigation in the late 1970s, Joannides was the CIA’s liaison to the committee. Once again the CIA failed to reveal Joannides’ connection to the anti-Castro Cubans who had the encounter with Oswald before the assassination.”

They close with a common sense observation.

“The point is not that the declassification will solve the assassination. Rather, release of these documents will further enrich the existing historical record, and the CIA needs to demonstrate that it is not continuing to hide relevant information from the American public simply to protect itself.”

Tunheim is a federal judge in Minneapolis. Samoluk is an attorney in Boston.

Joseph Backes has posted the complete text of Tunheim and Samoluk’s piece on his Justice for Kennedy blog.

I sued the CIA for the Joannides files in December 2003. A decade later, the case is still pending in federal court in Washington.

The CIA contends that at least 295 documents in Joannides’s administrative file cannot be released in any form for reasons of “national security.” In court filings the CIA says that it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of records related to Joannides’s secret operations in 1963.

At the time of JFK’s assassination, Joannides served as chief of psychological warfare operations in the Agency’s Miiami station. His agents among the Cuban exiles published the first JFK conspiracy theory within 48 hours of JFK’s death, claiming that Lee Harvey Oswald and Fidel Castro were “the presumed assassins.”

Joannides died in 1990, esteemed by his family and many friends. There is no evidence that he was involved in a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy.


Background to this story:

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

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

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

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

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)












  1. Bogman says:

    I think the spooks knew Castro was smarter than to allow a former Marine and alleged Soviet defector and alleged Cuba supporter who publicly takes on a CIA-sponsored anti-Castro group and acts overtly provocative in his Mexico embassy (whew) into Cuba.

    As Castro sarcastically declared after learning the assassin was an alleged member of the FPCC – “What a coincidence!”

  2. Ronnie Wayne says:

    One’s a Judge, the other an Attorney. Can they find grounds to sue the CIA also for deception regarding the release of files Tunheim was charged with evaluating?

    • Richard Turnbull, J.D. says:

      You can find grounds to file suit, but have to take into account the extensive defensive legal moves available to any bureaucracy, much less a government bureacracy, much less a putatively “secret” bureacracy.

  3. Brad Milch says:

    With the recent revelation about David A. Phillips being Maurice Bishop & until the withheld records & files Jeff Morley is valiantly trying to obtain the release of are given to the public to read & analyze all one can do following this puzzle & trying to make sense of it is speculate. From what I’ve read on the Internet & in private correspondence the popular belief at the moment is that Joannides’ D.R.E clashing with Phillip’s Lee Oswald was staged to give Oswald pro-Castro credibility that would aid getting him (or a substitute) into Cuba to take out Fidel.
    There are other scenarios being considered (trying to flush out both pro & anti Castro supporters in New Orleans & surrounding cities/states is a another one).

    It gets confusing; I find myself constantly falling back on Bill Simpich’s online ‘State Secrets’ analysis until I can obtain Jeff’s ‘Our Man In Mexico”; something fishy was going on 50 years ago with all the secretary & refusal to release information on Joannides & Phillips (among others) evident today.

  4. Thomas says:

    There’s involvement with a capital “I” and involvement with a small “i”.

    There’s no evidence of his involvement to plan and execute the assassination but all these double-dealings and obstruction imply involvement in a broad sense if you include deceit, manipulating Oswald, and the cover up.

    He’s definitely “involved” even if it’s “following orders.” He’s in New Orleans with Lee Harvey Oswald doing something that dares not be revealed and he is part of a cover up after the fact. If the CIA truly cared about the reputation of this man they would release all related documents. In the absence of doing so one has to wonder.

    • Jonathan says:

      The facts, as documented here, that David Phillips and George Joannides attempted post-mortem to tie Oswald to Castro tells me they were hip deep in trying to create a reality in which Oswald killed JFK for Castro.

      Neither Phillips nor Joannides is credible on any facet of the assassination; each was a highly trained and skilled liar.

      I say both were involved in trying to present Oswald as Castro’s agent in (allegedly) killing Kennedy.

      I bet the files Jeff Morley is trying to extract on Joannidies will be very damaging to the reputation of the CIA in 1963.

      • Clarence Carlson says:

        What we already know from the record doesn’t put the CIA in a very good light. When Oswald showed up in New Orleans either trying to infiltrate an anti-Castro group or standing on a street corner handing out FPCC pamphlets (he did both) he would have, without a doubt, then come to the attention of the CIA case officers running the DRE. Even the most benign explanation (which I am not quite ready to accept) points to an egregious failure on the part of the CIA perform their mission.

        • Richard Turnbull, J.D. says:

          Keep reading the history already on the public record, also search terms like “Oswald and ex-FBI agent, ultra right-wing Guy Banister in New Orleans” or “544 Camp Street New Orleans” will lead into the labyrinthine, interconnected fact patterns of the JFK-Tippit-Oswald murders.
          We have video of the first and the last; for the middle killing we have Warren Commisssion attorney Joseph Ball describing Tippit killing witness Helen Markham as “an utter screwball.”

  5. Dan says:

    In addition to pursuing release of 1,171 classified records in the JFK assassination collection, and release of extensive redactions in released records, there needs to be an office created to look for and release additional records. The Justice Department had an OSI to hunt for Nazi war criminals. Either the Archives or Justice Department needs to establish an office to find and release unreleased JFK assassination related files.

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