In response to Phil Shenon’s article on the CIA’s JFK cover-up in Politico magazine, David Talbot disputed the claim that Robert Kennedy was responsible for Allen Dulles being on the Warren Commission.
Dan Hardway offers another gem of historic audio to our discussion of how Allen Dulles came to be named to the Warren Commission. He cites this phone call that President Johnson made to Allen Dulles on November 29, 1963, informing him he would be on the Commission.
“I see there’s a suggestion on your site, in response to my POLITICO piece, that Bobby Kennedy would never have recommended Allen Dulles for membership on the Warren Commission. I continue to believe the record shows that RFK did propose Dulles, and not just because LBJ (more than once) said that was the case.
By focusing on the one man at the epicenter of both World War II and the Cold War as well as the assassination – Allen Welsh Dulles, Talbot puts his finger on the pulse of power, and without promoting any conspiracy theory in regards to the assassination, he sets the stage for rational discussion and historic acceptance of such theories, for certainly one of them must be true.
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: Read more
“Did your guys do it?” RFK asked CIA director John McCone after JFK was killed. (photo credit: CIA)
Phil Shenon continues his intrepid reporting on the assassination of JFK with a report in POLITICO Magazine.on the findings of the CIA’s in-house historian that former director John McCone covered up key information from assassination investigators.
The CIA, it turns out, has confirmed that yet another senior agency official–McCone–withheld significant information from the Warren Commission. The story is accompanied by the agency’s assurances–and Shenon’s–that the Warren Commission’s conclusions about who killed JFK were correct in every respect.
The weakness of this claim should be obvious. If the Warren Commission investigation was compromised from the top by CIA officers–and now even the agency belatedly agrees it was–then confidence in its findings must be reduced. Logically, one cannot impugn the investigation without impugning its findings.
But the CIA is willing to try.
The modified limited hangout
The CIA is now playing defense against the widespread and accurate public perception that it is not being forthcoming about JFK’s assassination. The agency, for example, retains 1,100 JFK assassination records that it may or may not release as mandated by law in October 2017.
The CIA’s cooperation with Shenon, along with its release last month of presidential daily briefings from the Kennedy era, are intended to show the public that the agency is being candid, willing to admit mistakes, and so on.
To be sure,the agency’s very limited disclosures are something of a contribution to the record of JFK’s assassination.
A November 25, 1963, briefing for President Johnson, was revealing. It showed what the CIA wasn’t telling the White House. The agency didn’t care to share just how much senior officers knew about the obscure Lee H. Oswald before President Kennedy was killed.
The Politico story shows that McCone dutifully went along with another aspect of the CIA cover-up. He knew about–but did not tell the Warren Commision about–the CIA’s conspiracies to kill Castro, leader of the communist revolution in Cuba.
So we can now say, without fear of contradiction, that the top three officers of the CIA did not cooperate with the investigation of JFK’s murder.
Deputy director Richard Helms and counterintelligence chief James Angleton took the lead in the CIA cover-up and McCone followed.
The CIA is engaged in what one conspirator in the Watergate era called “the modified limited hangout.” This is the Washington art of disclosing lesser crimes and misdemeanors in service of hiding greater wrongdoing.
Now in 2015
This is a sorry episode in American history that invites–nay, demands–public suspicion.
The Politico story tells us that Director John McCone’s control of the CIA in 1963 was nominal. It confirms that senior CIA officials agreed they should not cooperate with law enforcement efforts to investigate President Kennedy’s murder. And it shows that CIA officials today–52 years later!–feel the need to manage the problem of secrecy around JFK’s assassination. Fifty two years later.
The good news is that when Washington officials with something to hide go into “modified limited hangout” mode, they are usually in trouble, and frequently subject to more embarrassing disclosures.
The bad news is that “perception management,” which is what the CIA is now engaged in, is often successful.
The JFK acid test will come in October 2017. That’s when the CIA is supposed to release those 1,100 documents. As Politico and JFK Facts have reported, those documents could be embarrassing for the agency.
Shenon makes one significant mistake in his piece where he writes:
“Robert Kennedy’s friends and family acknowledged years later that he never stopped fearing that Castro was behind his brother’s death.”
This is not factually supported. From the moment his brother was attacked, Bobby Kennedy suspected anti-Castro Cubans and/or organized crime figures were responsible.
With hours of the assassination, RFK met personally with McCone. He asked McCone if CIA people were behind his brother’s murder. McCone said no.
A few days later, Bobby and Jackie Kennedy told a friend, William Walton, that they believed JFK was the victim of a domestic, not foreign, conspiracy.
In fact, as David Talbot’s book Brothers, shows in detail Bobby’s conspiratorial suspicions rarely, if ever, settled on JFK’s enemies on the left. Bobby and Jackie asked William Walton to tell high-level contacts in Moscow that, despite Oswald’s leftist politics, they did not hold the Soviet Union responsible for events in Dallas.
In an email, Talbot wrote, “Phil Shenon continues to recycle the myth — long propagated in CIA circles — that Fidel Castro was behind the JFK assassination. He now adds another piece of disinformation, asserting that Robert Kennedy also fell for this CIA propaganda line. This is completely false. I interviewed over 150 close friends, colleagues and family members of Bobby Kennedy, including Kennedy administration officials and insiders, for my book. NONE of them indicated to me that Castro was among Bobby’s leading suspects in the assassination of his brother.”
“Instead, they said that RFK immediately focused on the CIA and its ANTI-Castro operation as the source of the plot against President Kennedy. My sources included close advisors of Bobby Kennedy like Adam Walinsky, Frank Mankiewicz, Ed Guthman, Richard Goodwin — as well as assassination researchers with whom Bobby Kennedy met during his secret search for the truth.”
Which only makes sense. If top CIA officials blocked a full investigation of the murder of a sitting president, they had something to hide. Bobby Kennedy knew that in the 1960s. And, now a half century later, we know that CIA officials still have something to hide: the 1,100 documents scheduled for release in 2017, especially the “7 JFK files the CIA still keeps secret.”
Sem Richard S. Schweiker, Warren Commission critic (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)
“The evidence the Committee has developed suggests that, for different reasons, both the CIA and the FBI failed in, or avoided carrying out, certain of their responsibilities in this matter,” Schweiker and [Senator Gary] Hart wrote in their study regarding the role of U.S. intelligence agencies in the Warren Commission’s review.”
Philip Shenon’s 2013 book, A Cruel and Shocking Act, reconstructed the story of the assassination of President Kennedy with an unusual focus: not on the perennial question of conspiracy but rather on a narrower issue: the destruction of evidence that followed in the wake of JFK’s murder on November 22, 1963.
Students of the JFK story already know much of the dismal tale, and Shenon adds story-telling verve and amazing detail to the trail of destruction, some of it human.
The book opens with the unnerving untold story of Charles William Thomas, a State Department official in Mexico City. In the mid-1960s, Thomas picked up on information about Lee Harvey Oswald’s famous trip to the Mexican capital in October 1963, six weeks before the president was gunned down in Dallas. Thomas insisted his superiors re-investigate the story. They responded by destroying his career. Thomas went on to commit suicide. The government later admitted error and compensated the family without much explanation of what had actually happened.
You have to wonder: If Oswald was a lone maniac, why destroy the man’s career for calling for a second look? You don’t have to agree with Shenon’s position on the larger conspiracy question to be impressed by the detail he brings to this story.
Shenon’s latest piece in Politico revealed that David Slawson, a Warren Commission investigator — and defender — now says the commission was deceived by the CIA and FBI and that Oswald may have had accessories in Mexico City. Read more
A faithful reader calls attention to an interview about the logic of the Warren Commission as expounded by one of the artists behind a new (and excellent) graphic treatment of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Dan Mishkin doubts a JFK conspiracy because its “hard to place him [Oswald] as a member (or dupe) of any conspiracy, largely because of the timing of his getting the job at the Texas School Book Depository and the announcement of the motorcade route.”
A faithful reader calls attention to this passage in Phil Shenon’s POLITICO Magazine article on the former Warren Commission staff David Slawson and his change of heart about the Commission’s conclusions:
“He [Slawson] was outraged, in particular, when I showed him an eye-popping June 1964 letter from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to the commission that described how Oswald, in an outburst at a Cuban diplomatic compound in Mexico City during his trip there, had reportedly been overheard threatening, ‘I’m going to kill Kennedy.’
David Slawson, former Warren Commission staffer who told Politico Magazine he has changed his mind about the commission’s conclusion, writes to say his position has been slightly misinterpreted. He does not believe there was a conspiracy to kill the president but he does think Lee Harvey Oswald had accessories. Read more