Is the CIA’s chief historian obstructing justice in the JFK case?

CIA lobbyPresident Trump will soon announce his decision on whether the last of the U.S. government’s JFK files will be fully released or not. April 26 will be a moment to assess what we know about JFK’s assassination that we didn’t know before, and specifically, what have we learned about the CIA’s role in the events of November 1963.

Among those vouching for the probity of the CIA in the JFK assassination story is the agency’s chief historian David Robarge.

While Robarge has acknowledged in an open-source article that the CIA did not cooperate with the Warren Commission–and indeed deceived its members about key facts–he asserts that, in the case of the murdered president, the agency was guilty of nothing more than a “benign coverup” of embarrassing information.

Peter Dale Scott, professor at the University of California and JFK author, has a different opinion: He says Robarge himself is liable for obstructing justice in the case of the murdered president.

Peter Dale Scott
Peter Dale Scott

In a 2015 article for WhoWhatWhy, Scott made a strong case that  Richard Helms, deputy CIA director in 1963, had perjured himself while obstructing the investigation of JFK’s death.

Helms swore that he had provided the Commission with “all” information that the CIA had on Oswald–which was  a lie, and thus can be described as perjury.

The agency’s own declassified records demonstrate that Helms did not tell the Commission that his friend and colleague James Angleton, chief of the Counterintelligence Staff, had tracked Oswald’s movements for four years before JFK was killed.

Nor did Helms disclose the agency’s AMLASH operation to kill Fidel Castro which one of Helms’ lieutenants was advancing with a would-be assassin in Paris at the very moment that JFK died in a hail of gunfire in Dallas.

While Helms died in 2002, Scott argued that Robarge is obstructing justice in much the same way and for the same reason.

Here’s an excerpt from Scott’s 2015 essay, analyzing what Robarge has done–and has not–done in the JFK case.

Richard Helms, CIA director
Richard Helms: The man who kept the JFK secrets

Richard Helms faced a legal dilemma after he swore to the Warren Commission “to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” (5 AH 121).

Helms was then asked “Can you tell the Commission as to whether or not you have supplied us all the information the Agency has, at least in substance, in regard to Lee Harvey Oswald?”

Helms’s answer was, “We have, all” (5 AH 122).

This was, I submit, perjury, and more. In 1964 the CIA secrets that Helms protected concerned an operation involving Oswald, whose purposes and details are still obfuscated by the agency. Oswald, the accused assassin, denied killing Kennedy, described himself as a “patsy,” and was killed in police custody before he could give his side of the story.

If Helms had told the truth to the Warren Commission, I doubt very much that the American public, already doubtful about the real causes of the assassination, would have been satisfied with the Commission’s banal assurance that it “found no evidence that…Lee Harvey Oswald… was part of any conspiracy” (WR 21).

Helms’ deceptive behavior, while understandable and even predictable given his institutional loyalty, was part of what I would have to call a systematic obstruction of justice.


In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, members of many U.S. agencies, including the FBI, Office of Naval Intelligence, U.S. Air Force, and Secret Service, withheld relevant information from those investigating the murder. But to my knowledge there is in 2015 only one U.S. agency that is still maintaining the cover-up – and that is the CIA.

I am referring to the CIA’s declassification and release of a previously classified study by chief historian David Robarge, “DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.” The essay is worth reading, and it contains interesting information on McCone’s relationship with Robert Kennedy. But buried within its discussion of McCone and the Warren Commission – a pertinent but hardly central topic – are a thesis statement and a conclusion about the CIA’s role in the events culminating in JFK’s assassination.

Coming from Robarge these assertions can be fairly described as a semi-official representation of what the agency wants American citizens and taxpayers to believe.

In the light of what I have said already about Helms, I would charge that both of these statements are false – so false indeed as to constitute, once again, obstruction of justice.

Robarge asserts:

“Under McCone’s and Helms’s direction, CIA supported the Warren Commission in a way that may best be described as passive, reactive, and selective.”

Robarge wants the American people to believe the CIA’s sins were ones of omission. But Helms’ false statements were active, not passive. Robarge wants us to focus on the failure of the CIA to tell the Warren Commission about its plots to assassinate Castro, which may very well have been relevant.

He says nothing about the agency’s suppression of its covert manipulation of information about Oswald before JFK’s assassination, which unquestionably was of very great relevance about the CIA interest in the supposed assassin.

Worst of all is the article’s conclusion:

Max Holland, one of the most fair-minded scholars of these events, has concluded that “if the word ‘conspiracy’ must be uttered in the same breath as ‘Kennedy assassination,’ the only one that existed was the conspiracy to kill Castro and then keep that effort secret after November 22nd.”

Here Robarge trades the historian’s cap for the spook’s disguise.  Holland, “the fair-minded scholar,” has been patronized by the CIA while attacking in print those who have the temerity to point out what Robarge himself admitted: that the agency’s statements to the Warren Commission were riddled with lies and self-serving omissions.

Like Holland, Robarge is trying to distract people from the well-documented facts of the agency’s misconduct in the case of the murdered president.


Some people have deduced, from the fact that CIA officials lied to the Warren Commission, that the CIA killed Kennedy. I myself do not believe that, though I do believe that some CIA individuals were involved, along with others in other agencies.

My hypothesis is not that the killing was a CIA operation, but that the plot was piggybacked on an authorized CIA covert operation that was not under secure control and may have been outsourced.

Some agency actions before the assassination, notably the protection of Oswald by suppressing the reported allegation that he had been in contact with presumed KGB officer Valeriy Kostikov, suggest to me that some members of the Counterintelligence Staff, and in particular CI Chief James Angleton, may have participated to some degree in the piggybacked plot.

At a minimum, we can say that the CIA was sufficiently involved in the facts of the assassination to have been embarrassed into covering them up. That coverup began the day JFK died, and it continues to this day.


Read Scott’s entire essay, “Why the CIA’s Richard Helms Lied About Oswald.”

Part I / Part II / Part III


19 thoughts on “Is the CIA’s chief historian obstructing justice in the JFK case?”


    Alot of Oswald’s actions were characteristics of a person involved in intelligence and he had too many friends connected with intelligence to consider it just a simple coincidence, In my opinion.
    We can go down this intelligence linking list for days with Oswald, Pretty rare for just a 24 year old. Im 39 and i can’t really name one thing in my whole life that could link me to intelligence. This leads me to a famous quote when describing Oswald & Intelligence. “Lee Oswald had fingerprints of intelligence everywhere he went”. With that quote I rest my case, because im 98% convinced Oswald was part of some kind of intelligence.

  2. I thought the ARRB had subpoena power. Didn’t use it with the secret service or with the senate. Further, didn’t even bother to make a little noise about it. I’m tempted to say that you messed up, but now I’m thinking you did an outstanding job.

  3. I was five years old when JFK was assassinated and have to admit that it left somewhat of a scare. Initially, it was likely from the reactions of grownups around me. Even though I was a kid from the deep south (Georgia), the mood around me was very somber. Though it didn’t mean much at the time to me, there were a lot of vocal questions regarding JFK’s successor’s possible part in the whole mess. Without going into the frustration surrounding this whole issue, I wonder if it’s time to have younger generations try and solve it. This is especially so if they have heard very little about it. I would suggest that they be limited to reading witness affadavits taken on 11/22 and shown only the WC ballistics and Connelly’s X-rays. NO zapruder film (even if it’s authentic)

  4. Not sure I’ll get a reply but I have to try. I’ve always felt that getting the Church Committee documents were the most important goal of this whole process. I have a related question. The two Angleton interviews that are not deemed material. Just exactly who made this determination and when was it known. Please don’t tell me that we have known for 25 years about this situation. Frankly, I’m very suspicious of the ARRB, Oliver Stone, and John Tunheim. I’m hoping I get a reply that makes me feel embarrassed for expressing these thoughts. A non-response also tells me a lot too.

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  6. Okay, I will ask these questions again.

    I have finished “The Ghost” and it is terrific read, great biography, a window into the CIA and post-war history.

    But “The Ghost” and this blog deal with Lee Harvey Oswald and the CIA, yet make no mention of the putative connection between Oswald and David Atlee Phillips.

    As I am sure you know, the CIA asset, anti-Castro Antonio Veciana claims to have met both men together in Dallas, in September, 1963. There is a Youtube of his account.

    Dan Hardaway (onetime HSCA staffer), on the basis of his research (and he “inside” of the CIA for a while, until cut off) speculates and reasons that far from being a KGB or Castro tool, Oswald more likely fits into the CIA asset slot.

    Perhaps Morley and readers of this bog feel Veciana’s claim, made so many years after the event, lacks credibility. Memories fade, and can play tricks. Veciana made no contemporary notes, or statements to friends and colleagues.

    And Hardaway’s intelligent reasoned conjecture is only that.

    Still, seems to me the Phillips-Oswald connection needed a page or two in ‘The Ghost,” even if treated as unverifiable. There are also the strange books Phillips wrote about a character named…Lee Harvey Oswald.

    My own guess is Oswald was a CIA asset (not agent). That alone is enough to warrant the tenacious CIA cover-up (from their perspective).

    I suspect Oswald was part of a CIA PR stunt that went wrong. Oswald was to take a couple shots at JFK and miss. The pressure would be on JFK to do something about it, and the public would be primed. This sounds whacky today, but literature of the time is even more extreme. Th early 1960s was a time when the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed a first nuke attack on the Soviet Union. They would lose 100 million and we would only lose 10 million. I lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis and I can tell it was period that lent itself to drama.

    As for JFK-CIA document releases, they are necessary, but Oswald operational paper records were probably long ago destroyed. There may have never even been paperwork on operational aspects of Oswald. Phillips may have had an off-the-record meeting with superiors, mentioned the idea of a phony assassination attempt linked to a Castro-loving lefty, which drew no comment from high-ups.

    Anyways, ‘The Ghost: is a great book and so is this blog.

    Benjamin Cole

    1. I interviewed Veciana in person twice and I came away convinced of his credibility. Major and details of his dealings with the CIA over the course can be independently corroborated. So when he says he saw Phillips and Oswald together I believe him. But Veciana’s perception could have been off and the person with Phillips was NOT Oswald. I think Dan Hardway’s hypothesis that Phillips was using Oswald for some intelligence task is quite plausible. Someone among these CIA officers working on Cuba considered Oswald some kind of agent or asset. Whether that was Phillips, Joannides, or someone higher up the food chain I couldn’t say right now.

      1. Jeff Morley:

        Thanks for you reply.

        Well, we seem to agree about the possible Phillips-Oswald connection.

        I guess you could not fit every topic into your book. But seems to me (and I am just a wag on this topic) you could have worked in a page or two on Phillips-Oswald.

        I would like to see you expand on the Phillips-Oswald connection in your blog or elsewhere.

  7. Randy Robertson

    Jeff There is only one quick way to shut down the ” benign coverup” story which is to prove conspiracy. Two shots were fired, two areas of damage were made in the windshield which caused two flares of reflected light and Zapruder has involuntary startle reactions to each- all in .8 seconds. This is new and lone nut supporters have provided no answer. This is JFK conspiracy 101, account for all the wounds and damages incurred during the assassination. Or we can play the game where we think that conspiracy will be proven via the documents. That has not and will not work out well and Robarge counts on that.

    1. Yes. I agree. The medical evidence in this case is all we need to prove conspiracy. Consult David Mantik, Charles Crenshaw, and Doug Horne on YouTube for this information. I don’t believe any document release is going to tell us anything of importance. How many years have operatives had to remove any “smoking guns”? In my opinion, the rudiments of this story were told by Mark Lane and Jim Garrison years ago and it is so painful for me to read all the “lone nut” defenses on the MSM. I was in college when the Warren Commission was released and few of my contemporaries believed its conclusions. ON THE TRAIL OF THE ASSASSINS by Garrison is still one of the best sources for the background of the case, and although he did not know the complete story, I have always believed him when he said, “I knew I was dancing with the CIA.” Many researchers since that time have filled in the details: James Douglass, Jim DiEugenio, Fletcher Prouty, Gerald McKnight, John Newman, and master historian, Peter Dale Scott. I appreciate Morley’s attempts to get the last of the documents released, as they are part of our birthright to understand our history, but I respectfully submit that we already know the truth.

      1. Randy Robertson

        The proof of conspiracy I have noted does NOT refer to the medical evidence unless a bullet passing forward through JFK’s head and fragmenting is medical evidence. All that is needed is the speed of sound and distances. The only “neuromuscular reaction” is the well studied acoustic startle reaction not one made up as an excuse for observations that run counter to a lone gunman. Secondly I would be very cautious in listening to people who say that everything has been faked and then turn around and start drawing conclusions from this same supposedly tainted evidence.

    1. Hi Jean,

      I agree with you, but the point is that in its pre-assassination reports, the CIA suppressed Oswald’s meeting with Valeriy Kostikov in its internal communications and with other agencies.

      If Kostikov’s name had been reported – as it should have been, because Hoover was carrying on to Angleton before the visit that Kostikov was part of the KGB division focused on assassination and sabotage – then Oswald would have been under close scrutiny, certainly on the Security Index – there would have been no way to pin the JFK assassination on Oswald. The whole tragedy might never have happened – at least not in Dallas.

      Instead, Angleton and his colleague Ray Rocca paraded Kostikov to the Warren Commission as one of he most dangerous men in the world. As I wrote in my online book State Secret, this was a particularly cynical act, as Angleton had written Hoover several months before the Oswald visit and told him that he did not believe that Kostikov’s division was involved in assassination.

      1. The above has typos! I was trying to say that Angleton told Hoover he did not believe that Kostikov’s KGB division was involved any longer in assassination or sabotage.

      2. Bill, I don’t see how Oswald’s meeting with Kostikov was “suppressed” by the CIA. The FBI’s representative in Mexico reported it to FBI headquarters on October 18:

        Then the New Orleans FBI office was notified, since that was where Oswald had last been seen.

        So far as I can find, the Security Index was simply a list of dissidents who might be picked up and detained in the event of a national emergency. This link, for instance:“Security_index”

        According to this and similar descriptions in the record, putting Oswald on the Security Index wouldn’t have made any difference at all. Why do so many people assume that it would have? Is there some definition of “Security Index” I’ve overlooked?

  8. Richard Turnbull, J.D.

    The Warren Commission hearings and exhibits are available online through Project Gutenberg. org; I just checked the Helms testimony in Volume 5 page 121, following Director McCone’s testimony — it’s possible Helms was truthful in saying there was no record of contacts between Oswald and the CIA — “by anyone in the Central Intelligence Agency with Lee Harvey Oswald, ” relying on the fact that there were “only” extensive records of contacts between Oswald and groups like the DRE. DRE members were not in the CIA. So Helms would have been evasive and fundamentally lying but perhaps convinced of his own righteous cause and this ambiguity, testified as he did.

  9. Jeff, could you correct it to say Holland “has been patronized BY the CIA”… I tried to correct it but I was doing something wrong. No need to post this…

  10. Jeff, could you correct it to say Holland “has been patronized BY the CIA”… I tried to correct it but I was doing something wrong.

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