CIA disclosures bare the origins of the JFK cover-up

Three days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the CIA told his successor Lyndon Johnson a bit of news: the agency’s sources had just confirmed press reports that accused assassin Lee Oswald had visited the Cuban and Soviet Embassies in Mexico City two months before.

Here’s what the President’s Intelligence Checklist (TPIC)– just released by the CIA and LBJ Library–reported on November 25, 1963.

Presidential Intelligence Checklist

It was revealing moment. Intentionally or not, the CIA was misleading the new U.S. president about what Agency personnel knew of the man accused of killing his predecessor.

Some people in the CIA knew much more than that about the accused assassin than the TPIC indicated

Released by the CIA with much fanfare, the November 25, 1963, TPIC informed the new president that CIA had only learned about Oswald’s contacts with the Cubans and Soviets in the days and hours after Kennedy’s death.

This was newsworthy. The Washington Times proclaimed the CIA had “confirmed” Oswald’s links to the Soviets and Cubans within days of the assassination. Politico included the November 25 briefing among “13 newly released presidential briefs you’ll want to read.”

What did they know and when did they know it?

The story needs historical context.

CIA records declassified in the 1990s show that a host of senior CIA operations officers had already learned — and conferred among themselves — about Oswald’s foreign contacts six weeks earlier, in early October 1963, when JFK was very much alive.

Here’s the proof: a top-secret four-page CIA cable about one  Lee Harvey Oswald, dated October 10, 1963

William J. Hood, retired CIA officer
William J. Hood at his home in Amagannsett, New York in April 2011. (Photo by Jefferson Morley)

What the CIA’s disclosure show, inadvertently I’m sure, is damning.

The CIA didn’t tell the LBJ that certain senior officers had known about Oswald’s actions in Mexico City almost as soon they occurred. If that fact had been shared with a shocked and grieving nation in late 1963, some senior CIA officers could have–and probably should have–lost their jobs.

That didn’t happen. The men and women of the CIA who knew about Oswald’s contacts with communist officials in Mexico City while JFK was alive ranked high in Langley.

They included:

Thomas Karamessines, assistant deputy director;

William J. Hood, the chief of CIA operations in the Western Hemisphere, and;

John Whitten, chief of the Mexico desk.

All three men reported to Richard Helms, the deputy director of operations.

Oswald’s visits to the Cuban and Soviet embassies were also known in October 1963 to Jane Roman and Ann Egerter, senior aides to James Angleton, chief of the agency’s Counterintelligence Staff.

The November 25, 1963, presidential briefing represents one of the first signs of the CIA’s cover-up of information related to JFK’s assassination.

The continuing cover-up

The JFK cover-up continued in December 1963 when John Whitten, an honest and highly competent CIA officer, tried to investigate Oswald’s pre-assassination activities.

As I reported in the Washington Monthly in 2003, deputy director Helms and counterintelligence chief Angleton were hostile. Angleton attacked Whitten’s draft conclusions; Helms ordered Whitten to cease his Oswald investigation, and re-assigned him.

The CIA was not going to allow any investigation of what its undercover officers knew about  Oswald in the summer of 1963 That was simply too sensitive a “national security” issue to be discussed in public.

In early1964, when Warren Commission investigators started to ask questions about what the CIA knew of Oswald in Mexico City, Angleton told an aide he wanted to “wait out the Commission,” rather than respond.

The cover-up continues 52 years later.

As first reported in JFK Facts in 2013, the agency retains more than 1,100 documents related to the death of the 35th president. These records will not be released until October 2017 at the earliest,, according to the National Archives.

What do we know now?

CIA director George Tenet
CIA director George Tenet, defender of secrecy.

The CIA, it is fair to say, is seeking favorable attention by releasing secret records that CIA Director George Tenet once claimed could never be released for publication “no matter how old or historically significant it may be,”

So as the CIA touts its revelations online, the November 25, 1963, presidential briefing illuminates a dark truth about the history of the agency.

Within days of JFK’s assassination, senior CIA officials were concealing their knowledge of JFK’s accused assassin from their colleagues, from the American people, and from the new president.

In other words, the newest evidence shows hat the JFK assassination cover-up originated in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations and Counterintelligence Staff.




10 thoughts on “CIA disclosures bare the origins of the JFK cover-up”

  1. Pingback: Soviet-bloc defector sheds light on new JFK document

  2. For me, this briefing is most disturbing when it’s placed in it’s proper context: 48 hours before the briefing, Hoover is telling the president that the proof provided by the CIA is inadequate to state unequivocally that Oswald visited the consulate and embassy.

    I am struck by two questions. First, did the CIA know that Hoover was contradicting them? If so, that briefing took some brass. Secondly, was LBJ remembering the Hoover conversation as the CIA officer was giving his brief? I’m curious if he said anything.

  3. Jeff,

    I agree very much with the thrust of your conclusion — a truth that needs to be widely disseminated. But I have a problem with your language. You write, “CIA officials were concealing their knowledge of JFK’s accused assassin from their colleagues, from the American people, and from the new president.”
    Throughout your essay you treat the alleged Oswald visit to the Soviet Embassy as a fact that Roman and others “knew” about.
    In my new book Dallas’63 I give reasons to doubt very much that Oswald, or even a false “Oswald,” visited the Soviet Embassy at all, and certainly not on September 28 as claimed in the TPIC.

  4. Nailed it, Jeff. Amazing how the subterfuge never ends. And also amazing how the mainstream media doesn’t report the full facts about the ongoing CIA coverup.

    Whether the CIA is trying to cover-up conspiracy or screw-up, in a democracy an intelligence organization should not be allowed to withhold information on its role in the assassination of a president for 50-plus years.

    And in a democracy, a free press shouldn’t roll over and accept whatever pablum the intel organizations feed the masses.

  5. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

    Besides the fact that “senior officers had known about Oswald’s actions in Mexico City almost as soon they occurred”, COS Win Scott knew them as soon as they happened.
    On September 27, at 16:26 hours, the CIA recorded and transcribed a call from the Soviet Embassy Chancery (Phone number: 15-61-55) to the Cuban Consulate asking if the American has been there. The Mexican employee at the Cuban Consulate answered: “Yes, he is still here”. She and the caller kept on talking about the American trying firstly to travel to Cuba (it was illegal by that time)with Russia as final destination.
    On the transcript, Scott noted: “Is it possible to identify?”, but on October 10, he wrote the report on telephone tapping for September 1963 and referred only “two leads of operational interest:” a female professor from New Orleans calling the Soviet Embassy, and a Czech woman calling the Czech one, although “the American” had called again on September 28 to the Soviet Embassy from the Cuban Consulate, and on October 1, at 10:35 hours, a man described by the CIA employee listening to the tapped telephone (15-60-55)as the same person who had called a day or so ago,called the Soviet Embassy and said: “Hello, this LEE OSWALD speaking. I was at your place last Saturday and spoke to a Consul…”
    An October-8 cable from Station to Headquarters (MEXI 6453) did report that “an American male who spoke broken Russian” had said his name was “Lee Oswald” and was at the Soviet Embassy on September 28 talking with Consul Vareliy Kostikov. This cable provided a description of a presumed American male who had entered the Soviet Embassy at 12:16 hours on October 1, but his photo wasn’t Oswald’s and it was actually taken on October 2.
    In fact, the CIA never produced an Oswald’s photo in Mexico City, although he visited three times the Cuban Embassy and two times the Soviet Embassy, both under heavy photo surveillance. And despite the availability of transcripts, the CIA has always denied having a tape with Oswald’s voice either.
    That’s why charging Castro, instead of the CIA, with a conspiracy of silence, as Dr. Latell does, seems to be a colossal joke.

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