The CIA’s modified limited hangout: Politico on the spy chief who lied about JFK

RFK and John McCone
“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.

Some of these files are potentially explosive. See “7 JFK files the CIA still conceals.”

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.

Politico’s mistake

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.”











24 thoughts on “The CIA’s modified limited hangout: Politico on the spy chief who lied about JFK”

  1. I don’t see a more appropriate thread for the following quote from David Talbot’s “The Devil’s Chessboard” so I will post it here since the conversation is veering off topic anyway:

    “Manufacturing a Motive for Oswald

    His new job on the commission gave Dulles an opportunity to connect with old friends, such as … British novelist Rebecca West. In March, Dulles wrote West, beseeching her to draw on her fertile imagination to come up with possible motives for Oswald’s crime. The commission was so baffled by the question that Warren even suggested leaving that part of the report blank.

    “I wish sometime you would sit down and write me a line as to why you think Lee Oswald did the dastardly deed,” Dulles wrote the novelist in March, as if discussing the plot of a whodunit. “All I can tell you is that there is not one iota of evidence that he had any personal vindictiveness against the man Kennedy.”

  2. I think it’s interesting that support for the “Castro did it” theory is coming out of the CIA at a time when the US is starting the process of rapprochement with Cuba. This seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

  3. I respect Dr. Scott’s work immensely though I’m just a reader and observer. His coming appearance at Judy Baker’s conference in Dulles makes me wonder though about what I think I have learned.

  4. The CIA runs two cover-up stories. The first is via the Main Stream Media and has been an unmitigated success for 54 years. The second is the CIA’s cover-up ‘Test site’. This is within the internet conspiracy websites, obscure journals and addict-only book stream that few people absorb.

    The Warren Commission is now officially discredited, the ‘Test site’ has given up on it.

    I anticipate that the CIA is confident the 2017 releases will support the new limited hangout, or at least not demolish it. Their analysis must suggest the events at Dealey Plaza will remain obscure enough to maintain the lone-gunman theory, and more importantly that improving American-Cuban relations mean the ‘Castro did it’ line can be held without fear of public outcry.

  5. Phil Shenon continues to repeat that canard, pushed by Robert Caro, that RFK pushed for Allen Dulles to be on the Warren Commission. Just laughable.

    The notion that Robert Kennedy got Allen Dulles appointed to the Warren Commission is absolutely absurd. Robert Caro says this and he uses LYNDON JOHNSON, a man who hated RFK with a white hot passion, as a source on this. LBJ said this after RFK’s death and he is not credible. LBJ also said that RFK got John J. McCloy appointed as well. McCloy was very close to Clint Murchison, Sr. who was an inner circle LBJ guy. In fact in summer 1963 McCloy went dove hunting with Murchison on his ranch in Mexico. Murchison, like LBJ, hated the Kennedys. McCloy was also a Rockefeller banker. The Rockefellers also were very close to LBJ and they also pretty much hated the Kennedys. (In fact, LBJ in April, 1968 was secretly promoting Nelson Rockefeller for president, according to Dallek’s biography of LBJ).

    No, sorry, RFK did not lobby to get these Allen Dulles or John McCloy appointed to the Warren Commision. They were “LBJ people” brought in for the cover up after Lyndon Johnson/Texas oil used CIA/military intelligence to murder JFK.

    As for Gerald Ford, he was under the thumb of J. Edgar Hoover, a blood brother of LBJ. Newsweek in 1970 called Ford “the CIA’s man in Congress.”

    As for Hale Boggs, his wife Lindsey was best friends with Lady Bird Johnson, so the Johnsons and the Boggs were quite close.

    And Richard Russell? He was the longtime father figure mentor to professional son Lyndon Johnson.

      1. This phone call – IF ANYTHING – reeks of RFK’s suspicion of Dulles. In the call, Dulles smells a rat and asks why he’s being picked for this assignment suspecting he’s being pulled from his more important work on the “other commission,” that he so cavalierly tells the dead president’s brother that he is working on. Incredibly, he then tells RFK how mad at him he still is over the, “bay of pigs thing (!)” …This is indeed a remarkable call, but not for the reasons you imply. Rather it argues for the opposite. I hope David talbot heard this call while he was working on “the devil’s chessboard.” Listening to this explosive conversation made the hairs on my neck, erect.

      2. Again,I simply cannot resist.
        This tape clearly exposes RFK respect and admiration for Dulles and puts the lie to every CT claim that RFK had an adversarial relationship with him. On the most important issue that Robert Kennedy faced as Attorney General he turned to the one man who he could trust to represent his views and carry them out. It is obvious to see why he wanted him on the committee investigating the murder of his brother, and obvious from Dulles’ comments about Teddy that there was a personal relationship.
        We also see a real civil rights President at work, a politician who knew that he was kissing the most loyal element of his political base away- because it was morally right to change things in the South.
        I see that Jim DiEugenio over at DPF is now claiming that JFK planned and was responsible for the Civil Rights March on Washington-and that RFK organized it for him. I guess the most prominent Civil Rights leaders since the Civil War weren’t up to it – even if one originally tried to stage it during FDR’s administration. Of course JFK wanted no part of the March, fearing violence, riots and possible danger to the leaders of the event. He probably will claim that this recording is faked.

        1. Photon,

          YOU ARE BACK!!!!!! Where have you been??? This site has not been the same since you have vacated because of what you believed to be “censorship” by Mr. Morley. Welcome back, ol’ buddy!

          I guess this CIA lying and cover-up and what they did or did not do will simply not leave you alone. It is extremely hard, in my opinion, to put together a giant jigsaw puzzle if SEVERAL of the major pieces have been misplaced or not brought into the light, or however you would like to phrase the “workings” of the single biggest crime organization outside of the mob. Maybe, just maybe, one day you will explain to me why people like Dulles and Helms and Angleton and McCone avoided jail time for absolute and complete perjury? Would you like to tackle that difficult question, or would you like to continue to recite the findings of the Warren Omiss…oops, I meant the Warren Report.

          Because I am relatively certain that the WR DOES NOT mention the words “benign cover-up” by the good folks at Langley. Any way you would like to spin it, you simply cannot ignore the fact that the WC and its staffers were ABSOLUTELY lied to by the CIA, and much to the dismay of most people interested in this case, REFUSED to go and dig a little deeper because of their misguided “faith” in the USA.

          Your thoughts?

      3. Jean,

        Here is the crux of what I have been asking of you and Photon—wherever he is now—and all of the other LHO did it alone folks. This is from the Politico article written by Philip Shenon. Here is a sentence taken directly from the article, “that McCone and other CIA officials were “complicit” in keeping “incendiary” information from the Warren Commission.”

        I am of the opinion, and always have been, the the WC was nothing more than a giant lapdog for LBJ, JEH, and all of the other cronies in Washington at the time. The fact that Mexico City was not fully investigated, and other witnesses that were in Dealey Plaza that day were not called to testify has always been a painful reminder that just because the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court “heads” an investigation does not guarantee a damn thing.

        After reading the above quote, do you think the time is completely past to know the full truth about what happened on November 22, 1963?

        Thank you for your time.

      4. 2+2 does not equal 5, and while this recorded conversation poses intriguing questions, introducing it into this thread serves to divert the focus from McCone’s obfuscation of the investigation. The question of whether or not Robert Kennedy might have gone along with Johnson’s appointment of Dulles to the WC is a canard; it has absolutely no bearing on the nuts and bolts investigation into the assassination itself. What it does do, and has for decades, is suggest that RFK was at best weak and at worse a self serving collaborator in covering up the conspiracy against his brother. It muddies the water.

        Can we move the discussion back to the thread, McCone’s role in withholding evidence?

        1. I agree with Leslie. Who gives a rat’s ass about a phone recording that actually exists? Why aren’t we focusing more on the CIA and what it did with the records and tapes and photographs of LHO in Mexico City? The fact that several members of the CIA never went to jail for perjury is what we should be worried about, not a phone call that exists. Where are all the LHO did it alone folks who tell everyone on this site that this case is “open and shut?” How can anything be “open and shut” when a large portion of the “evidence” was either tampered with, destroyed, or never released? It is probably WAY too late to know what really happened in Dallas, but the “LHO was a lone nut” theory is just that—a theory. And, unless the CIA is held to task under the threat of jail time for perjury, a large portion of the information contained in the WC is just another “theory.”

  6. This is an opportunity to delve deeper into McCone’s possible obstruction of the investigation. Few directors have been as entrenched in the industrial and financial arena as McCone was before and after serving as DCI; only Bush, Casey and perhaps Gates come to mind. Why would McCone ‘follow the lead’ of Helms or Angleton? I’ve read that in spite of his lack of an intelligence background, he is considered one of the better directors because of his astute management skills. Why did he not assert those skills in the the most critical months following the assassination? Did he participate directly and knowingly in the obstruction?

  7. I find it amusing that the CIA’s strategy is to try to pin it on Castro, while simultaneously the government reestablishes diplomatic ties. In the end are they going to try to convince us that Fidel acted without his brother’s knowledge? That won’t work. Not even with the most uninformed news consumer.

    1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

      You´re right. Since A Cruel and Shocking Act, Shenon is muddying the waters with Castro to divert the attention from the CIA, while supporting the WC “findings”.

  8. Gotta love this part:

    “Robarge’s article says that McCone, quickly convinced after the assassination that Oswald had acted alone and that there was no foreign conspiracy involving Cuba or the Soviet Union, directed the agency to provide only “passive, reactive and selective” assistance to the Warren Commission.”

    Just like J. Edgar, Katzenbach, Dulles, et all.. what made all these folks so “quickly convinced” Oswald acted alone before any real investigation had taken place? Amazing.

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