After I read Robert Reynold’s piece in Washington Decoded, I wrote him a note in our JFK researchers list serve.…
In this piece for POLITICO Phil Shenon hews to the official theory of a lone gunman, but he makes an important point about the CIA’s changing JFK story. In 2013, the CIA’s Chief Historian David Robarge admitted the Agency had misled the American people about the man who supposedly killed Kennedy.…
President 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. …
I’ve been debating the question with CIA historian David Robarge,
In Washington Decode, he asserts “that the US government did not have actionable information that Oswald was a clear threat to the President before 22 November 1963.”
That is true. He says, correctly, that historians “must fairly assess why people acted based on what they knew at the time.”
That is exactly what I did in THE GHOST. And that’s why I think Angleton was culpable in the death of JFK. …
In a November 2017 post for the Washington Decoded blog, the chief historian of the CIA, David Robarge, joined the discussion of the causes of the assassination with JFK researchers.
As I said in my first comment on Robarge’s review of The Ghost, I take his criticism as a compliment. Clearly, my book has struck a nerve with the CIA and those who defend the widely disbelieved theory that a lone gunman killed President Kennedy for reasons known only to himself.
That nerve is the still-unexplained role of Angleton, the legendary counterintelligence chief, in the events leading up to the gunfire in Dealey Plaza.
In his review, Robarge asks
if Angleton was using Oswald for the limited purpose of helping him conduct the molehunt, then why blame him for an ‘epic’ counterintelligence failure by not stopping Oswald?
Let me explain by responding to Robarge’s comments on four of the most important findings in The Ghost.
1) Angleton and JFK’s assassination
Robarge says that I claim “Angleton and the CI Staff supposedly were, or should have been, preoccupied with Oswald.” He says, “Morley denies that he ever wrote that, but then how can he declare that Angleton’s “pre-assassination interest in Oswald” “indicates his “culpability in the wrongful death of President Kennedy?”
Here’s how. Robarge and I agree that Angleton opened an Office of Security file on Oswald in November 1959, an unusual procedure intended to assist Angleton in the mole hunt. The CIA did not share Angleton’s pre-assassination interest in Oswald with the Warren Commission, the Rockefeller Commission, the Church Committee, or the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).
Why this material evidence was withheld from investigators is not hard to guess. To admit that senior CIA officers had been following the suspected assassin for four years would have opened the agency up to legimitate questions and investigation. Angleton and others might well have have lost their jobs. So the CIA fed a lie to the Warren Commission–we didn’t know much about Oswald–and the story stayed buried for decades. When the truth could be denied not longer, it was downplayed.
In a 2013 article for a CIA journal, Robarge acknowledged that the CIA had not informed the Warren Commission about its plots to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro and described this deception as a “benign cover-up.”
I’m not alone in wondering how any CIA coverup in the murder of a sitting president could qualify as “benign,” but I agree with Robarge that it was a cover-up.
The CIA’s failure to disclose Angleton’s pre-assassination interest in Oswald also qualifies a cover-up, which Robarge also seems to view as benign. I’m not so sanguine.
To summarize what I wrote in The Ghost:
Every piece of paper about Lee Harvey Oswald that came into the CIA between 1959 and 1963 was routed into a file controlled by Birch O’Neal, chief of the mole-hunting Special Investigations Group.
As the ex-Marine made his way from Moscow to Minsk to Fort Worth to New Orleans to Mexico City to Dallas, Angleton’s mole hunters in the SIG were informed at each step of the way. And, to repeat a point that Robarge does not care or dare to dispute, as of November 15, 1963, Angleton knew Oswald was in Dallas.
(See my recent Daily Beast piece “CIA Spyhunters Knew Oswald Was in Dallas.“)
And when Oswald was arrested for killing JFK a week later, the CIA concealed the nature of Angleton’s interest–the mole hunts–from the FBI and the Warren Commission.
Robarge’s account may give credence to some of the conspiracy theories that have long swirled around JFK’s death:
Let’s say we leave the conspiracy theories out of it for now and stick to the facts, ma’am.
CIA historian David Robarge now speaks of a “benign JFK cover-up” after JFK was killed. The CIA, in this account, wasn’t really sure that the communist Oswald killed the liberal president. They just decided that was the “best truth” they could find at the time. Not the whole truth, mind you, just the best truth.
With some artful spin, the Agency spokesmen are now conceding an important point first made by CIA critics: …