The CIA’s secret files on Jim Garrison, the prosecutor celebrated in ‘JFK’

The CIA retains two secret files on New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, the crusading prosecutor who inspired Oliver Stone’s hit movie “JFK.”

The files–whose existence was first reported by JFK Facts–are among the 3,600 secret U.S. government records related to JFK’s assassination that are scheduled to be released in October 2017.

The two Garrison files contain 16 pages of undated and unclassified material, according to the National Archives’ online database of JFK assassination records.

One file– labelled “CIA File on Garrison, James”–contains ten pages of material. The other–described as “Illegible Document, Garrison Investigation”–has six pages.

The CIA says that both files are “Not Believed Relevant” to the JFK’s assassination.

How a CIA file on Jim Garrison could not be relevant to the JFK story is one of those questions that only the metaphysicians of Langley can answer.

Richard Helms
Richard Helms, CIA director, targeted ‘conspiracy theorists.”

‘Highly-paid CIA source’ on trial

In the early 1960s Jim Garrison was a crusading local prosecutor dedicated to the Sisyphean task of stamping out the engrained vices of the city they call “The Big Easy.” His law enforcement work was of no conceivable interest to the CIA–until February 1967. That’s when Garrison made headlines around the world by announcing he was investigating a possible conspiracy behind JFK’s assassination,

Until that point no one had ever charged with the murder of the 35th American president, who was shot dead in front of a friendly crowd in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Top CIA officials worried about what Garrison might find as he started his probe.

On April 1, 1967, CIA director Richard Helms launched a secret world-wide campaign, entitled “Countering Warren Commission critics,” which sought to discredit JFK ‘conspiracy theorists” with newspaper editors and reporters.

James Angleton
James Angleton, counterintelligence chief, targeted Jim Garrison

At  the same time, James Angleton, chief of the agency’s Counterintelligence Staff, established a secret committee, which monitored Garrison’s investigation for the next two years.  Declassified documents show that Angleton’s “Garrison Group” identified scores of CIA assets and sources who figured in the New Orleans investigation.

While intensely suspicious of the CIA, Garrison actually underestimated the extent of the agency’s interest in accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald before JFK was killed.

Angeton’s staff had monitored Oswald for four years after his defection to the Soviet Union in November 1959, according to declassified records released in 1990s. Jane Roman, an aide to to Angleton, told the Washington Post that certain CIA officials had “keen interest” in Oswald in late 1963.

Six senior CIA officers reporting to Helms and Angleton in the fall of 1963 were informed about Oswald’s travels, political activities, and foreign contacts six weeks before JFK was killed. (The names of these officers are found on the last page of this pre-assassination cable on Oswald, dated October 10, 1963.)

Another undercover officer reporting to Helms, George Joannides, the chief of psychological warfare operations in Miami, maintained a residence in New Orleans un 1963-1964, according to a sworn 2013 affidavit filed in federal court by Ron Machen, U.S. Attorney for Washington D.C.

While CBS News, the Washington Post and other national news organizations scoffed at Garrison’s investigation in the late 1960s, the high-level CIA interest in his investigation went undetected and unreported.

So did the agency’s pre-assassination interest in Oswald.

Shaw acquitted

In January 1969 Garrison brought charges against Clay Shaw, a prominent New Orleans businessman, alleging he was a CIA asset who had conspired to assassinate President

Clay Shaw
Clay Shaw, acquitted

Kennedy. At the time, the CIA denied any connection to Shaw, and Shaw denied any animus against Kennedy. After a trial featuring several less-than credible witnesses, Shaw was acquitted.

But a declassified 1992 document revealed that Shaw did work for the agency. One official who reviewed the agency’s records on Shaw described him as a “highly paid CIA contract source” (The quote is found on the the bottom of page 2 of the document.)

For some reason, Shaw’s documented relationship with the CIA is not mentioned on Wikipedia.

Question for 2016

Garrison died in 1992, less than a year after the release of Stone’s Oscar-winning movie in which he was portrayed by Kevin Costner. Twenty three years later, the CIA is still concealing the information it collected about him–for reasons that have yet to be explained.

Neither of the secret Garrison files is classified according to the Archives’ database, indicating they do not contain sensitive national security information.

Martha Murphy, chief of the National Archives’s JFK collection, told Politico that her staff is preparing to make all of the records public by October 2017.. However, the CIA and other federal agencies have the right under the law ask the president to postpone release of the records beyond 2017.

The CIA declines to say if the agency will request postponement of any of the 1,100 CIA records that have never been seen by the public.

“We are aware of the process and will work judiciously within that process, ”Dean Boyd, a CIA spokesman, told Politico.

Translation:: If the CIA thinks it can get away with keeping some, or all, of its JFK record secret past October 2017, it will.

Which begs a question for 2016 presidential candidates: “Do you favor the immediate release of the CIA’s files on Jim Garrison?”


Garrison files
The Garrison files, as listed in the National Archives online database


My new ebook, CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files, available on Amazon, provides the fullest account yet of the JFK records that the CIA is still concealing.


13 thoughts on “The CIA’s secret files on Jim Garrison, the prosecutor celebrated in ‘JFK’”

  1. I feel like I’m missing something in Garrison Research. I read that a court in Canada has ruled that Bloomfield’s widow cannot extend the time before his personal files are released. The Clay Shaw – Bloomfield – Permindex link is established. Why aren’t Bloomfield’s papers being studied? Has Permindex been found to be a red herring?

  2. Repeating Jean Davison’s observation of March 14, 2015
    Concerning this from the top of the page:
    “… a CIA official later described Shaw as “a highly paid contract source” for the agency in the 1950s…”
    There’s no mystery about where this information supposedly comes from. The memo calling Shaw “highly paid” is a CIA report on a specific set of documents: “The HSCA collection (defined as all [CIA] records provided to that committee for its 1977-1979 investigation)…”
    So why didn’t the HSCA notice that Shaw was “highly paid” and comment? And why isn’t there a document saying this in what is apparently the very same collection of CIA files online:
    If it’s there, I can’t find it.

  3. The 1992 CIA document is not a reliable source for details in the reviewed documents.
    It also referred to “records relating to Gilberto Alvarado, who maintained that he witnessed Cubans passing Oswald cash at a party on the night before the assassination.” (
    That is an obvious mashup of two allegations (by Alvarado and by Elena Garro de Paz).
    The date is clearly impossible (and matches neither allegation).
    Similarly, a 1955 reference to Shaw and an International House official as “valued sources of this office [N.O. Domestic Contact Division]” ( might well have been misreported in 1992 as Shaw being a “highly paid CIA contract source.”

  4. In response to Ron’s question – all I can say is that I keep coming up with documents from 1967 where David Phillips is examining Garrison’s investigation…which is interference in domestic affairs. As always, there is more to learn about Phillips’ role.

    Here, Phillips and Broe are involved in asking JMWAVE to get the employment records of Leslie Norman Bradley without revealing why, a “former employee”.

    It turns out Bradley had been imprisoned by Cuba for plotting against Castro in 1960, was released in April 1963, spent time in Dallas and New Orleans, was a soldier of fortune, and may have been confused in Garrison’s mind with Edgar Eugene Bradley who he apparently mistakenly arrested in December 1967.

    1. As a student of the Assassination I have to ask, was not interference by a cia officer in domestic affairs not illegal per their charter?

  5. This is an excellent post. It concisely sets forth the CIA’s potential “involvement” with the Garrison investigation. Without sounding too “conspiratorial,” it sets the table for a very simple question: since the CIA took an interest in the Garrison investigation (withheld documents) and Richard Helms took a larger interest in combating critics of the Warren Report, did the CIA insert itself to undermine the Garrison investigation, and if so, How?

  6. Here are a couple of Garrison documents I recently found under the subject line of “JMSPUR”.

    Peter Dale Scott believes that JMSPUR refers to an “investigation of traces (or “spoor”) of former programs or records that for political reasons (Kennedy assassination, Watergate) became extremely sensitive More JMSPUR documents can be found among the cryptonyms listed at the Mary Ferrell Foundation website.


    10/6/67 cable from N. Gratz, WH/C/CI to JMWAVE: AMDENIM-4 (Larry LaBorde) called Identity (Jim Garrison) to discuss subject investigation. “Office refused (to) discuss matter. A/4 son visited (Garrison)several times then voluntarily told LNERGO (FBI) of visits in which he had discussed father’s past WOFACT (CIA) association and identified AMDENIM-1 as group leader.” AMDENIM-4 had called earlier re concern about being subpoenaed by Garrison, Domestic Contact Service suspected “a provocation” and offered no comment regarding the matter.


    Garrison is revealed as the focus of the previous cable. The authenticating officer was C/WH/COG David Phillips; the releasing officer was C/WHD William Broe.

    1. Thank you Sir for your work, for the rest of us, as well as that of Dr. Scott. Do I understand one aspect of this right? Four years after the Assassination David Phillips was still actively involved in the cover up of it?

  7. Whatever one thinks about the Garrison case, the fact that he was allowed to make a 30 minute presentation on national TV under the fairness doctrine (surely to the horror of the CIA and NBC) shows that America was different then – fairer, more democratic in its media, and more willing to listen to dissenting views. Its amazing to think that that presentation occurred at all, that it was enforced by the courts, and to think of the effect it must have had on those watching it. Just as surely as his appearances on the Steve Allen Show and Johnny Carson must have been.

    When your country does away with something so benign as “the fairness doctrine” you know you’re headed down the wrong road. And I’m sure the fact that Garrison was able to make his case thus was a huge factor in the establishment deciding to cut off that avenue of democratic expression.

  8. It is remarkable what Garrison knew about Oswald in the 60s. He however didnt have enough information but he tried.

    It’s going to continue to be up to JFK Researchers, Journalists and Authors to tell the story about what is in the files released so far, in 2017 and beyond.

    IMO the desire to overthrow and/or assasinate Castro unfortunately led to the Assasination of President John F. Kennedy in an as yet fully explained story.

    1. It was a very, very perilous time after Castro seized power in Cuba in the late 50s.

    2. The government of Castro became Communist. Large scale American assets were seized.

    3. A confrontation with the Soviet Union over Cuba was feared.

    JFK was brutally ambushed in Dallas but Castro has enjoyed a long life and has lived well.

    The search for the real killers of JFK was apparently secondary to keeping the secrets of American Foreign Policy as regards Cuba and the Soviet Union.

  9. If Garrison was a kook or fraud as MSM insisted then why would the CIA have files on him still classified 23 years after he died? The answer Is obvious.he was close to truth.

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