The CIA and JFK: a reliable primer

CIA headquarters, Langley, Va.

From the Mary Ferrell Foundation, a useful and informative introduction to a central issue in American History: The CIA and the JFK Assassination.

Without resorting to conspiracy theorizing, MFF Webmaster Rex Bradford lays out the historical context and the key questions that endure about the role of CIA personnel in the events leading to Kennedy’s death.


  1. Mike Rago says:

    James Angleton helped to establish the Israeli Intelligence Agency Mossad…

    From the Book “James Jesus Angleton, the CIA and the Craft of CounterIntelligence”

    “…As the relationship developed, Angleton expressed discomfort with the security implications of the emigration of Jews from Eastern Europe., some of whom be believed were working for the Soviet intelligence services.
    The Israelis persuaded the CIA that the situation might be played back to the advantage of the West, using emigres as the sources of information about the Soviet Bloc. Under the U.S.-Israeli intelligence agreement the two countries agreed not to spy on one another and began to exchange information between their secret intelligene ageincies….

    It was about this time that Angleton was moving from the foreign intelligence collection duties to the post of chief of the Counterintelligence Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency that he was –most unusually–given the independent post of head of the Israeli section of the Directorate of Intelligence….
    …Tom Mangold asserted in a note to his Cold Warrior that “Angletons closest professional friends overseas…came from the Mossad”…”William Hood noted that after his death, not one but two monuments to Angleton were dedicated at memorial services in Israel.

    • D. Olmens says:

      “James Angleton helped to establish the Israeli Intelligence Agency Mossad…”

      From all accounts Angleton had a close relationship with Mossad. He was also a friend of Kim Philby. People tend to have connections and acquaintances in their field of work. But what does any of this have to do with the JFK assassination? In relation to the assassination, some of the main points of interest I can see regarding Angleton are his internal CIA “investigation”, the question of what he witheld from the WC/HSCA/etc., the events in Mexico City, and the precise nature of CI’s interest in and knowledge of Oswald beforehand. None of which have anything to do with Mossad. This is the same as pointing out that Angleton read a eulogy at the funeral of Howard Hughes. An interesting historical footnote, but one that has nothing to do with the assassination.

      • Mike Rago says:

        As I pointed out in another thread, JFK was adamantly against Israel developing nuclear weapons.

        The Kennedy Ben-Gurion Nuclear Exchange

        Quote from “James Angleton, The CIA and the Craft of CounterIntelligence”

        “Why did it take more than 3 years for the American intelligence establishment to reach the conclusion that Israel was planning to build nuclear weapons at the “peaceful” nuclear research station at Dimona? According t Avner Cohen’s account in “Israel and the Bomb”, Information about Israel was jealously held within the CIA, where James Jesus Angleton was in charge of the Israeli desk. Angleton did not share sensitive information with other agencies, and also withheld much of it from other CIA sections. ….Seymour Hersh has made the more conservative claim that Angleton was aware of the weapons program from its inception but did not actively sound the alarm”…

        • Photon says:

          Actually the Israeli nuclear program was the Franco-Israeli nuclear program. JFK and the CIA were aware of the cooperative effort as at the time France was almost the exclusive supplier of advanced arms to Israel and nuclear cooperation was a secret part of the deal.
          Israel never had to test a nuclear device as its first bomb was detonated in Algeria under a French code name.
          By the time tests were moved to Polynesia Israel had enough data to go it alone and militarize the device.
          The original French fission device was vastly more powerful than any previous first detonation, reflecting Israeli boost-fission contributions.
          JFK and the U.S. government were shut out and he didn’t like it. Unfortunately the program was well underway before JFK even took office.

          • Mike Rago says:

            You need to provide a source for you comment that “JFK and the CIA were aware of the coopoerative effort”. You make it sound like JFK and the CIA hand no problem with Israel developing nuclear weapons, which is totally wrong and gives a false impression.

            From Israel and the Bomb by Avner Cohen

            Kennedy’s Pressure on Israel

            Kennedy’s interest in the Israeli nuclear program was evident in his meeting with Eisenhower and his national security team on 19 January 1961, on the eve of his inauguration. …One of Kennedy’s first questions was regarding atomic weapons in other countries. “Israel and India” Herter replied. He told Kennedy that the Israeli’s had a nuclear reactor capable of generating ninety kilograms of weapon-grade plutonium by 1963, and advised Kennedy to insist on inspection and control before nuclear weapons were introduced in the Middle East. Kennedy took Herters advice seriously….On 30 January Rusk submitted a two page memo to Kennedy. From the memo and its attached chronology it is evident that the State Department had no knowledge about the Israeli nuclear program before the summer and early fall of 1960, when rumors reached our embassy in Tel Aviv”

          • Mike Rago says:

            France ended its nuclear relationship with Israel in 1960.

            From ‘James Jesus Angleton, the CIA and the Craft of Counterintelligence’

            “The French, on the other hand, were no longer so sure that they wanted Israel to join the nuclear club, notifying the Israeli ambassador in May 1960 that France had decided to end its nuclear relationship with Israel. However a distinction was made between government-to-government ties and commercial interests. French companies were allowed to continue working on the Dimona reactor and did so until it was completed in 1963 or 1964, at which point, with blueprints acquired from the Saint-Gobain enterprise, the Israelis were working on the reactors fuel reprocessing plant. The continuing French “private” support for the Israeli nuclear weapons program had not gone unobserved: “In late October and early November [1960] the United Kingdom informed the United States that it believed a reactor was under construction near Beer Sheba. On 8 November British intelligence provided CIA/PIC with ground photography of the site. The next day, based on a hurried analysis of the photography, a preliminary assessment was made in the CIA–‘the site was probably a reactor complex’. On December 2, Allen Dulles informed the National Security Council that Israel was building a nuclear complex in the Negev, probably including a reactor capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium. This was made public on December 18 when the chairman of the AEC, John McCone, announced it on the television program Meet the Press. The next day the New York Times carried the story on its front page.”


          • Photon says:

            The first Franco-Israeli nuclear detonation happened in Feb 1960-11 months before JFK even took office.It is ludicrous to state that JFK had any effect on the Israeli nuclear program when its first success happened while he was still trying to secure the Democratic nomination.
            Your sources are not valid-France was still supplying Israel with Uranium at least as late as 1965, probably even later. While “official” cooperation ended after the first test in 1960, Israeli personnel were still actively involved with the French program until the French moved to thermonuclear weapons, which Israel had no need for, as its boost-fission technology allowed it to perfect fission devices in the 100 kiloton range; only three potential targets existed for those size devices-Cairo, Damascus and Bagdad. The U.S.S.R. was not considered a potential target in those days.

          • Mike Rago says:

            You still have not provided any sources for your comments.

            As I stated several times and posted links to several times JFK was not going to let Israel develop nuclear weapons again here are the documents.

            Kennedy’s Ultimatum to Israel on July 5, 1963 4 months before his assassination.

            “On 5 July, less than ten days after Levi Eshkol became prime minister, Ambassador Barbour delivered a 3-page letter to him from President John Kennedy. Not since President Eisenhower’s message to Ben Gurion, in the midst of the Suez crisis in November 1956, had an American president been so blunt with an Israeli prime minister. Kennedy told Eshkol that the American commitment and support of Israel ‘could be seriously jeopardized’ if Israel did not let the United States obtain ‘reliable information’ about Israel’s efforts in the nuclear field. In the letter Kennedy presented specific demands on how the American inspection visits to Dimona should be executed. Since the United States had not been involved in the building of Dimona and no international law or agreement had been violated, Kennedy demands were indeed unprecedented. They amounted, in effect, to American ultimatum.”


          • Photon says:

            The ultimatum was for access to Dimona, not to suspend the Israeli nuclear program or even to slow it . JFK never made any move to limit the program, which would have been politically impossible anyhow.
            He could not block a program that had already secured nuclear weapons for the IDF before he took office.
            It is not clear what point that you are trying to make. By the time of JFK’s assassination Israel was already a nuclear power with several fission tests under its belt. By 1965 Nasser was convinced that Israel had gone nuclear; for all of the saber-rattling in May of 1967 he had no intention of going to war and was caught flat-footed when Israel struck. Israel’s overwhelming conventional military superiority ( the IDF front-line troop strength actually was greater than the combined Arab armies in 1967) precluded the need to assemble nuclear weapons a – situation that would happen in 1973 when Damascus was hours away from receiving perhaps a hundred kilotons.

        • D. Olmens says:

          “As I pointed out in another thread, JFK was adamantly against Israel developing nuclear weapons.”

          What does any of this have to do with the JFK assassination? This is an interesting historical discussion, but where’s the connection with the assassination?

          • Mike Rago says:

            Be patient and you will see.

            All I am doing now is establishing Israels strong motive to see a change in the President.

            It is hard to imagine a stronger motive than the Israelis had.

            You see the Soviet Union did not only threaten the US with nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, they also threatened Israel in 1956. That is why Israel embarked on their nuclear program.

            It is by far the most interesting power struggle the world has ever known and everyone has ignored it.

            “The Israeli nuclear bomb was to defend Israel not only, or perhaps not even primarily, against the Arab states, but also, perhaps primarily, against the Soviet Union. The need for this had become evident when the Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to Britain, France and Israel on November 6, 1956, stating that the government of Israel was “criminally and irresponsibly playing with the fate of its own people…which puts in jeopardy the very existence of Israel as a State”. Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Bulganin warned Ben-Gurion in a separate communication that this was a threat of a Soviet missile strike against Israel. Ben-Gurion immediately sent Director General of the Ministry of Defense Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Golda Meir back to Paris, where Peres requested French nuclear assistance in return for an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. The French agreed to provide the technology and the technicians needed. From that point the Israeli bomb project went down the path since followed by other second-and third-generation atomic powers: obtaining “peaceful” nuclear reactor technology from one of the four initial atomic powers, then modifying it for weapons production.”


  2. Jonathan says:

    Rex Bradford states there is only circumstantial evidence Oswald worked for the CIA.

    I’d say if it came to a trial where the question of whether Oswald was used by the CIA was an issue, a jury would determine it’s more probable than not that he did.

    The accumulation of facts pointing in that direction would tip the scales in my estimation.

    But that doesn’t suggest to me the CIA as an organization or any particular CIA officer had a hand in killing JFK. The strongest suggestion to me along these lines are the behaviors of Ruth and Michael Paine, who to my way of thinking were likely tied to the CIA and who very effectively helped paint Oswald as the lone assassin.

    • D. Olmens says:

      “I’d say if it came to a trial where the question of whether Oswald was used by the CIA was an issue, a jury would determine it’s more probable than not that he did.”

      I find it extremely difficult to believe that would be the case. It’s an intriguing suggestion, but there’s just no evidence to support the claim.

      In terms of possible CIA involvement, there has to be more persuasive indicators than the behavior of Ruth and Michael Paine. That seems a very odd way of approaching this question. You describe them as “likely tied” which doesn’t really mean anything. If you’re looking for CIA involvement, surely a better place to start is at JMWAVE? In Miami there was a combination of CIA employees who didn’t like Kennedy and a large amount of accumulated expertise in killing people.

  3. John McAdams says:

    Rex says:

    Author Bill Davy (Let Justice Be Done also uncovered a CIA memo which appears to confirm Shaw’s use of the alias “Clay Bertrand,” which was central to the trial.

    Let’s see that memo.

    • leslie sharp says:

      Mr. McAdams, weeds, nothing but weeds.

      • D. Olmens says:

        No, that’s not the one. Which is the memo Davy is referring to?

        Firstly, this memo mentions a “Clem Bertrand” alias. Not even the right alias.

        Secondly, this memo doesn’t actually confirm that Shaw was using the “Clay Bertrand” alias. The memo questions whether the alias appears on the FBI copy of Shaw’s arrest card forwarded by the New Orleans PD.

        How do you conclude that this memo proves Shaw was using the Bertrand alias?

        • Ronnie Wayne says:

          This memo does not prove such. It shows the CIA was aware of an alias on the arrest card (I’ve read Clem and Clay in different places, quite possible he may have used both under different circumstances as he had worked for the CIA – known for doing such things, E.G. Hidell). I don’t have Mr. Daveys book, it’s out of print but available on Kindle or I believe directly from him through a CTKA link. The memo does prove the CIA was vey much aware of Clay Shaw and his possible use of an alias at a time when they claimed to know nothing of him. While they were assisting him legally and in the MSM. Further support for the alias is the airport lounge signature of Clay Bertrand. Additionally, Garrison had other witnesses he did not use that asserted such. Others later said it was true but would not say such in retaliation for his crackdown on the “B” girls in the French Quarter.
          Also relating to this is how could any trial be called fair when the judge says to the court and press ” I don’t care if the whole world knows that I don’t believe Habighorst”. Last why would any person as intelligent as Shaw sign a blank arrest card as he claims he did? “Because that’s the only way he could post bail” ? (as he claims Habighorst told him).

          • D. Olmens says:

            “This memo does not prove such. It shows the CIA was aware of an alias on the arrest card…”

            No, that’s not what the memo says. The relevant portions are as follows:

            “With respect to the Times-Picayne clipping of 6 Aug 68, it occurs to us that the Office of the General Counsel may wish to inquire of the FBI whether the FBI copy of Clay Shaw’s arrest card shows a Clem Bertrand alias.”

            “The card displayed by Ptn. Aloysius Habighorst apparently contained Clay Shaw’s signature as well as the Clem Bertrand alias.”

            When the memo says ‘With respect to…’ it’s clearly referring to newspaper reports about an alias. Note the use of the word ‘apparently’. This memo offers no proof of awareness other than that the Chief, St. Louis Office read about it in the Times-Picayne, clippings from which he is sending with the memo.

            It’s pretty obvious what the intention behind point number two on the memo is: attempting to clarify a possible discrepancy in the copies of Shaw’s arrest card. The reason is simple: if a discrepancy existed, it would be grounds to raise a question of fabricated evidence. It’s a suggestion.

            This is absolutely not the same as:

            “It shows the CIA was aware of an alias on the arrest card…”

            Because the Chief, St. Louis office read about it in the newspaper? That’s what the memo says.

            “The memo does prove the CIA was vey much aware of Clay Shaw and his possible use of an alias at a time when they claimed to know nothing of him.”

            Yes, but… How could they be not be aware of Shaw given the focus of Garrison’s investigation and subsequent media attention? The Chief, St. Louis office is reading about the case in the newspaper and sending clippings to the Director, Domestic Contact Service. How does this fit with your assertion? With respect, I think you’re misreading and misinterpreting this memo. It doesn’t match up with your claims.

  4. Anthony Martin says:

    Mr. Bradford’s article goes to the heart of the matter. Was Oswald a patsy? That the Warren Commission and HSCA did not aedequately answer this question is demonstrated by any number of thoughtful researchers who have tackled the subject of ‘JFK’.

    The idea, “If Oswald was a patsy, then …”, by its nature requires a study into the nature of a coup d’etat’. The basic elements of that political activity can involve: 1) The illegal removal from power of a leader or leaders; 2) The justified installation of a new leader or leaders, and 3) A transformation of the mechanics of government.

    What makes it difficult to correlate the JFK assassination with a coup d’etat is that the above mentioned elements can be integrated together from one central source or each element can have happened independently of the other, but give the perspective of an organized and connected action in the aftermath. For example: 1) A madman or a conspiracy of mad men murder the President; 2) A new President does whatever is necessary to ensure that the transfer of power, however unfortunate , was legitimate; 3) An already powerful bureaucracy, in the vacuum, acts to institutionalize its power beyond the Constitution. Or: There is a single source orignator, planner, and director of an action plan that could cause a change of political power in order to establish a desired political objective. In a theoretical word, if in 1963, a coup d’etat occurred; Was it accidental or deliberate?

    Regardless, in this matter, at a minimum, four crimes need to be investigated further: 1) The murder of JFK; 2) The murder of Lee Harvey Oswald; 3) The defamation of Lee Harvey Oswald (patsy, murderer, or both?); & 4) The creation of, for the lack of a more precise term, a shadowy 4th branch of government (security state apparatus) that acts outside the Constitution. The first three involve crimes against individuals. The fourth involves a crime against the People of the USA.

    If a government agency witholds information to the solution of these crimes, it is tantamount to that agency stating that homicide, without review, is justifiable and that due process, without review, is acceptable public policy; these actions being reserved to select individuals beyond any law. To deny that a coup d’etat can happen in the USA, is to be blind to the possibility that the next one may institute a further subversion of the Constitution and the installation of a totalitarian state. This is a relevant subject worthy of study.

    • leslie sharp says:

      Anthony Martin. This is the most concise, astute assessment relating to the assassination and permutations surrounding it’s impact on our democracy that I’ve read in decades. Thank you.

  5. Ronnie Wayne says:

    Excellent. Thank you Mr. Bradford.

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