I want to thank Howard Willens for his willingness to answer questions from JFK Facts. Like most Americans, I cannot share his certitude about the Commission’s findings, and I find my skepticism fortified by his admissions about the “untruthful” and “unresponsive” posture of Richard Helms and James Angleton.
I think Willens’s focus on denying “conspiracy” question serves as a way of avoiding the implications of the CIA’s deceptive stance toward the Warren Commission. If the senior agency officials concealed the Castro assassination plots from the Commission, they could have concealed covert activities — authorized or unauthorized — around Oswald. And there is evidence of a CIA operation around Oswald, namely the October 10, 1963, cable about Oswald’s visit to Mexico City that was signed by three senior officers (John Whitten, Bill Hood, and Tom Karamessines) who had responsibility for authorizing covert operations.
Given the secrecy that still conceals the operational files of CIA officers who were familiar with Oswald’s travel, politics and contacts before JFK’s assassination (David Phillips, Anne Goodpasture) or who ran psychological warfare operations using a CIA-funded group that had collected intelligence on Oswald before the assassination (George Joannides), or who later implicated themselves in the assassination (Howard Hunt, David Morales), it would premature, if not imprudent, to dismiss the possibility of an Oswald operation.
As for the CIA’s assertion that the operational files of these officers are “Not Believed Relevant” to the assassination, this claim remains uncorroborated. Given Willens’s acknowledgement of the CIA’s mendacity toward the Warren Commission, there is no compelling reason to accept such a self-interested and unverified assertion. The peculiar and unnecessary secrecy around ancient files of deceased officers serves to further undermine Willens’s confident claims about what the evidence tells us. We haven’t seen all the evidence, so how can one make definitive judgments about it?
Finally, the legal concept of conspiracy is a narrow lens with which to view the events of November 1963. By focusing on conspiracy, Willens and the Warren Commission spared themselves the burden of addressing the question of whether Kennedy’s death was caused by other factors, such as malfeasance, negligence, or incompetence.
So until we have full disclosure, I have to respectfully disagree with Willens about the causes of JFK’s assassination. I don’t think he is cynical. I think he’s credulous.