Nothing in the JFK files? Take a look at Birch O’Neal.

Birch O'Neal
Birch O’Neal as a young man. A counterintelligence officer, O’Neal opened the CIA’s Oswald file in November 1959.

As for those 14,000+ JFK files that still contain redactions, some friends tell me, “There’s nothing in there of significance.” This is reassuring. But is it true?

We may find out later this year. President Biden has ordered all JFK files to released by December 15, 2022. I’m looking forward to seeing the unredacted files of those CIA officers most knowledgable about Lee Harvey Oswald before JFK was killed.

For example, Birch Dilworth O’Neal. O’Neal’s 224 page CIA personnel file, released in April 2018, still has scores of redactions.

Why is Birch O’Neal significant?

A career officer, O’Neal served as station chief in Guatemala during the 1954 CIA coup. He went on to work for counterintelligence chief James Angleton in a supersecret office called the Special Investigations Group, known as CI/SIG. O’Neal opened and controlled the Agency’s file on Lee Harvey Oswald, starting in November 1959.

[For the whole story, read my biography on Angleton, The Ghost.]

From November 1959 to November 1963 O’Neal’s office received more than 40 reports on Oswald’s travels, politics, and personal life. After President Kennedy was killed and Oswald arrested, O’Neal told the FBI that there was nothing in the CIA’s Oswald file that had not come from FBI or the State Department. The implication was, ‘We don’t know much about this guy.”

O’Neal lied. The CIA had been reading Oswald’s mail, which the FBI and State Department knew nothing about it. In other words, O’Neal concealed the depth of the Agency’s interest in the accused assassin, which is to say he participated in the CIA’s JFK cover-up from Day One. When the Warren Commission pressed the Agency for the full Oswald file a few months later, O’Neal’s boss, Angleton, said he wanted to “wait out” the Commission.

This sorry record is one reason why people suspect CIA malfeasance in the death of the president. Someone who seeks to “wait out” homicide investigators is most likely someone with guilty knowledge.

When his identity was first revealed in 1993, O’Neal declined to talk to PBS Frontline. He died in 1995.

O’Neal’s 224 page CIA personnel file was released in April 2018. It still has scores of redactions.

Birch O'Neal, molehunter
Excerpt from the personnel file of Birch O’Neal, senior counterintelligence officer who monitored the movements and activities of Lee Harvey Oswald from 1959 to 1963.

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