Morley 3, CIA 0

A federal appellate court has again rejected the arguments of the Central Intelligence Agency in a long-running lawsuit over ancient but still-sensitive CIA files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Jim Lesar
James Lesar, veteran FOIA litigator, prevailed over the CIA attorneys for a third time.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel in Washington D.C. unanimously denied the CIA’s claim that there is no “public benefit” to the disclosure of long-suppressed records of a deceased CIA officer involved in the events that led to the death of the liberal president on November 22, 1963.

“Where that subject is the Kennedy assassination, an event with few rivals in national trauma and in the array of passionately held conflicting explanationsshowing potential public value is relatively easy,” wrote Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Williams.

The records were forced into public view by a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that I brought against the CIA in 2003. The records revealed for the first time that the officer received a Career Intelligence Medal in 1981, two years after stonewalling congressional investigators about what he knew of contacts in 1963 between accused assassin Lee Oswald and CIA-funded anti-Castro exiles in New Orleans.

“Morley’s request had potential public value,” wrote Williams in the decision. “He has proffered—and the CIA has not disputed—that Joannides served as the CIA case officer for a Cuban group, the DRE, with whose officers Oswald was in contact prior to the assassination,”

Judges Douglas Ginsburg and Sri Srinavasan joined in the opinion.

The judges were not persuaded by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benton Peterson, who contended on behalf of the CIA that there was “no public benefit” to such disclosures.

Lesar welcomed the decision saying, via email, “The Court’s decision should make it far easier for public interest FOIA plaintiffs to obtain attorney fees without interminable litigation.”

Pro bono attorney prevails

It was third time the courts have upheld the arguments of Jim Lesar, a veteran Freedom of Information Act litigator, who has argued the case pro bono for more than twelve years.

In December 2007 an appellate court panel ordered the CIA to release hundreds of pages related to Joannides’  28-year career at the CIA, including his 1981 medal and his secret operations in MIami in 1963.

In June 2013, the appellate court spurned the arguments of a cadre of highly-paid government lawyers who asserted that the Agency did not have to pay Lesar’s legal fees–even though the FOIA lawsuit forced the CIA to disclose of previously unknown JFK records.

“Where that subject is the Kennedy assassination, an event with few rivals in national trauma and in the array of passionately held conflicting explanationsshowing potential public value is relatively easy,”

On Thursday the three judges remanded the case to Judge Richard Leon, whose previously two rulings in the legal fees issue have been found faulty.

What Morley v. CIA revealed

On behalf of the three-judge panel, Williams wrote, “We agree that the released documents appear to reveal little, if anything, about President Kennedy’s assassination.”

Besides Joannides’  medal, the released documents reveal that:

–Joannides maintained a residence in New Orleans in 1963, when accused assassin Oswald tangled with members of the CIA-funded anti-Castro group.

–At the time, Joannides was giving the group’s leaders in Miami $51,000 a month (about $350,000 in 2016 dollars) for purposes of “psychological warfare,” a fact the CIA did not disclose to the Warren Commission which investigated JFK’s death.

–In 1978 Joannides stonewalled Congressional investigators by not disclosing his financial relationship with Oswald’s antagonists.

When an independent civilian review panel, the  Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), sought the Joannides files in 1998, the agency responded with “Inaccurate representations,” said federal judge John Tunheim, chair of the ARRB.

What the CIA still hides

Morley v. CIA, sought to force disclosure of the Joannides files that the CIA continues to conceal from public view.

The CIA has admitted in court filings that it retains at least 50 records related to Joannides’s tenure as Chief of the Psychological Warfare branch of the CIA’s Miami station in 1962-64,  and concering his actions as the agency’s chief liaison to the House Select on Assassinations in 1978.

One record that the CIA is still concealing in the case concerns Joannides’ employment at the U.S. Post Office in 1944, before the CIA even existed.

Agency lawyers says public release of this 72-year old document and other Joannides records would harm the foreign policy and national security of the United States in 2016.

The events in question happened fifty three years ago. George Joannides died twenty five years ago Morley v. CIA was filed thirteen years.

In 2016, the CIA retains more than 1,100 JFK files that it has never made public.

The JFK Records Act mandates the release of all of the government’s 3,600 JFK-related records by October 25, 2017.





33 thoughts on “Morley 3, CIA 0”

  1. Christopher Pike

    This court decision is narrow, in that it addresses only fees and expenses are recoverable, as expended by plaintiff Lesar and his legal team, who sought the release of Joannides files at CIA. Isn’t that right?

  2. Is it in the public interest that the truth about the JFK assasination is disclosed? Its a simple question that seems to fail to receive an answer.
    If the authorities continue to use the ‘not in the public interest’ defence then we need a clearer picture of why that defence still works over 50 years after the event.
    President Putin has just been accused of corruption by the US treasury, this is a massively provocative remark. There is always the intimation that the ‘public interest’ means the avoidence of mass deaths. I would like to compare the recent provocation of Putin with the potential allegation that the USSR killed the US President in the cold war era. I do not accept that the latter allegation is more provocative, time has diminished that threat.

    It is indisputably in the public interest if Kennedy was killed by a domestic coup. The protection of democracy trumps all domestic niceties.

  3. I join in the comments above — and salute you for your patience and perseverance, Mr. Morely.

    There is no doubt that you are pursuing the truth. There is no question that the CIA is suppressing the truth.

    Will this lead to uncovering what happened to JFK? I’m not sure.

    Is there a chance that dogged investigators such as yourself actually find the truth, which the country finds to painful to fully accept? Could be. We have to prepare for that eventuality.

  4. The only thing that troubles me about this further remand of the fees issue back to the District Court is that it’s being punted back to the same judge who twice previously had struggled to properly apply the DAVY legal test for public benefit etc. Will he get it right this time? Let’s hope so.

    1. ….fails to recognize it.

      Ronnie, “fails”???? “SUCCEEDs in not recognizing it.
      Space here does not permit more than an outline, but this is a showcase example of how it works.
      Write the story of your own family closeted skeletons (a rather full closet) related to Jim Garrison’s investigation,
      and you’re fortunate to find a publisher of it. Write a well timed, hit piece against Garrison, and….:
      Nicholas Berthelot Lemann is ..Professor of Journalism
      and Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.[1]

      …His second wife is Judith Anne Shulevitz, …now science editor at The New Republic;
      Judith Shulevitz, Nicholas Lemann
      November 7, 1999

      Judith Anne Shulevitz and Nicholas Lemann, …are to be married today by Rabbi Marion R. Shulevitz, the bride’s mother,..
      ….The bridegroom, 45, is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine.
      Ms. Shulevitz… graduated from Yale. ….
      …the bridegroom was the national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. He graduated from Harvard…He is the son of Thomas B. Lemann of New Orleans… His father is of counsel at Liskow & Lewis, a New Orleans law firm.
      003007 Stephen B. Lemann, A New Orleans Lawyer And Civic Leader… Died Friday..He Was 65. Mr. Lemann Suffered A Heart Attack…said A Partner At The Firm Of Monroe & Lemann…. Mr. Lemann Was ‘One Of The Best First Amendment Attorneys In The Country, ‘ Said Kurt Davis, News Director At Wdsu-Tv, One Of Mr. Lemann’s Longtime Clients. …..Survivors Include His Wife, …And A Brother, Thomas B. Lemann. 07-01-1995 Times Picayune

      The Movie, “JFK” opened at theaters on December 21, 1991. The January, 1992 issue of GQ Magazine featured:

      The Case Against Jim Garrison
      The ex-D.A.’s theory on who murdered JFK
      reassessed and shot full of holes
      By Nicholas Lemann
      Perry RUSSO
      CONDE NAST PUBLICATIONS d/b/a Gentlemen’s Quarterly.
      November 17, 1992.

      In its January, 1992 issue, GQ Magazine published an article entitled “The Case Against Jim Garrison” (hereafter the “GQ article”). …written by Nicholas B. Lemann,….The GQ article was a personal memoir[1] of Lemann’s recollections of growing up in New Orleans during District Attorney Jim Garrison’s prosecution of Clay Shaw for allegedly conspiring to assassinate JFK….
      . FBI 62-109060 JFK HQ File, Section 140, pg 15
      Mary’s Comments:
      See: Wm. P. Burke, Jr.; Hunter C. Leake, III; Stephen B. Lemann (resident CIA Chief in New Orleans – with Law Firm: Monroe & Lemann); Mrs. Dorothy Brandao

      1. I will add here that personally I consider the Mary Ferrell site to be a reliable “primary source” at this point in time.

        Certain Warrenista’s may find my position untenable, however I have yet to find any indication of a bias to one side or the other on the Mary Ferrell site.

  5. Thanks Jim and Jeff. I think Johannides and DRE played a significant role in pre and post assassination framing of Oswald, propagandizing for a Cuban invasion, and misdirecting focus from the organizers of the plot to Oswald as patsy. We need more complete information regarding Oswald’s New Orleans episode. I think the FBI files should also be released on this part of Oswald’s journey to infamy in Dallas.

  6. excellent outcome, one we’ll soon consider to have been worth waiting for…

    finally, some light will shine on all those spy-vs-spy shenanigans in N’Awlins during the summer of ’63…

  7. Jim Lesar has long been one of the most dogged & effective researchers relating to the JFK assassination. He was extremely helpful to me when I would visit his Assassination Archives in Washington many years ago.

    Jim has a no-nonsense approach & his reasoning & conclusions are based on primary sources & common sense. Lesar is not out for public acclaim, financial reward, & he has not written a book for
    profit – he is looking for the truth.

    It is good to see that the hard work of Mr. Lesar & Jeff Morley are bearing fruit in the courts. Lets hope that Judge Leone will come to his senses & we will have full disclosure in October 2017.

    I’m sure that Mr. Photon & Mr. McAdams are just as pleased as the rest of the JFK research community.

  8. Extremely impressive dedication. Well done to all concerned.
    If it is correct tha Oswald thought he was engaged in an anti-FPCC operation in New Orleans in the summer of 63, working with Bringuier (who had a propaganda role with the DRE) and other, then these documents relate to events surrounding the ‘set up’ phase of the overall operation (that continued later with the Mexico City / Kostikov ‘time bomb’ developed in the September).
    So much of this connects back to JMWAVE, including Atlee Phillips’ connections to so many of the post 22/11 stories around Cuban connections, with DAP having a role a JMWAVE amongst other hats at the critical time period. I won’t go into the operational side of JMWAVE and the links back to Martino, Pawley ( and from Pawley to Dulles etc). Even Richard Billings turns up at Operation Tilt, and that whole group around JMWAVE and Tilt look to be the operational team around all this (with Pawley a possible cut out to the senior leadership).
    Whilst I doubt there will be a decisive smoking gun in the documents they may well be helpful in testing out different scenarios.

    Best of luck

  9. Fantastic work and dedication to the legal battle against the forces of govt. intransigence and obfuscation, Jeff and Jim!

  10. In addition to Jeff Morley putting his name, his reputation, time and energy into the litigation, additional accolades to the skills and sacrifices of Jim Lesar and his team.

    “It was third time the courts have upheld the arguments of Jim Lesar, a veteran Freedom of Information Act litigator, who has argued the case pro bono for more than twelve years.”

  11. Congratulations! I bow to your greater wisdom, but Judge Leon should be forced to step aside after three reversals in a row.

    The best part of the ruling for me, which will aid Kennedy
    assassination researchers and other cases as well:

    “To have “potential public value,” Davy, 550 F.3d at 1159, the request must have at least a modest probability of generating useful new information about a matter of public concern.

    The higher this probability and the more valuable the new information that could be generated, the more potential public value a request has. The nature of the subject that the request seeks to illuminate is obviously important.

    Where that subject is the Kennedy assassinationan event with few rivals in national trauma and in the array of passionately held conflicting explanationsshowing potential public value is relatively easy.

    This of course does not mean that a requester’s mere claim of a relationship to the assassination ipso facto satisfies the public interest criterion…

    Morley’s request had potential public value. He has
    proffered—and the CIA has not disputed—that Joannides
    served as the CIA case officer for a Cuban group, the DRE,
    with whose officers Oswald was in contact prior to the
    assassination. Travel records showing a very close match
    between Joannides’s and Oswald’s times in New Orleans
    might, for example, have (marginally) supported one of the
    hypotheses swirling around the assassination.

    In addition, this court has previously determined that Morley’s request sought information “central” to an intelligence committee’s inquiry into the performance of the CIA and other federal agencies in investigating the assassination. Morley v. CIA, 508 F.3d 1108, 1118 (D.C. Cir. 2007). Under these circumstances, there was at least a modest probability that Morley’s request would generate information relevant to the assassination or later investigations.”

  12. Great news for Jim and Jeff and everyone who wants to find the truth about the assassination. This makes you feel that the courts will continue to rule in favor of assassination researchers and that we will continue to get closer to the truth. Jeff, I think maybe your Thomas Jefferson illustration will also come true in this case. Keep up the good work, guys!

  13. Absolutely fantastic news! I can imagine the meltdown going on at CIA at this point.

    Congratulations to all involved in this critical effort to tug the truth out of the shadows.

  14. Way to go Jim. I hope three times is the charm. I propose Jim Lesar for President, Jefferson Morley for new head of Central Intelligence.

    1. Congratulations to Jeff, and with him to all those who want to know the truth. Such knowledge is based on full disclosure and profound skepticism about the WCR and the HSCA.

      Therefore, Ms. Davidson, in all fairness, the other side (of which you are an important part, last time we checked) should receive condolences.

      Unless I am missing something here?

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