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.
‘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.
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.
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
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?”
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.