The JFK connection: Why COINTELPRO still matters

The Today Show’s story about the break-in at an FBI office in 1971 is important because it reminds us of the pregnant connections between COINTELPRO and the assassination of President Kennedy.

From Michael Isikoff’s story:

“Members of the burglary team, armed with little more than a crowbar and wearing  suits and ties, then walked off undetected with suitcases stuffed with sensitive bureau files that revealed a domestic FBI spying operation known as COINTELPRO. The heist enraged the bureau’s legendary Director J. Edgar Hoover, who launched a massive but ultimately futile manhunt.”

via “After 43 years, activists admit theft at FBI office that exposed domestic spying.” (The New York Times has picked up on the story too.)

What’s the JFK connection?

Remember that COINTELPRO is short for “Counterintelligence Program.”

Remember that the Counterintelligence Staff, headed by James Angleton, was the component of the CIA that tracked Lee Harvey Oswald closely from October 1959 to November 1963.

Historian David Kaiser
Historian David Kaiser

As historian David Kaiser revealed in his deeply researched book The Road to Dallas,” COINTELPRO targeted the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee for disruption and discrediting in the summer of 1963. At the time Lee Harvey Oswald was founding his own chapter of the FPCC in New Orleans — over the written objections of the FPCC’s leadership. 

As Bill Simpich documents in his revelatory and important ebook, “State Secret,” the FBI and the CIA’s counterintelligence staff worked together on a program to discredit the FPCC 1963 throughout the fall of 1963.

Here’s the CIA’s Sept. 16, 1963 memo to the FBI about the operation to discredit the FPCC “in foreign countries.”

The author of the memo, John Tilton, was a supervisor of George Joannides, the Miami-based undercover officer whose paid assets in the Cuban Student Directorate (DRE) publicized and denounced Oswald’s pro-Castro activities in New Orleans in August 1963.

Eleven days after Tilton wrote his memo, a man identifying himself as Lee Harvey Oswald appeared at the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City applying for a visa to travel to Cuba. He gave his self-made FPCC membership card as part of his visa application. Officials in the Cuban Embassy were suspicious of Oswald and rejected his application.

After JFK was killed, Joannides’s assets in the Cuban Student Directorate published the first JFK conspiracy theory linking Oswald to Castro. The group cited Oswald’s FPCC activities in New Orleans as evidence.

After Oswald was killed in police custody, the White House and the FBI moved to convince the public Oswald was the sole assassin.

At the CIA, Angleton killed John Whitten’s efforts to investigate Oswald’s Cuban contacts.

The wishes of the CIA and FBI came true. The FPCC disbanded on December 27, 1963, its name forever tainted by the linkage to the accused assassin.

As Simpich notes correctly, “Counterintelligence is the hidden heart of the story…”

And we first learned about COINTELPRO thanks to the people who came forward today.

Will we ever know the full story?

Among the secret JFK files still held by the CIA are the operational files of Bill Harvey, Birch O’Neal, and David Phillips, all of whom worked on anti-FPCC counterintelligence operations.

These files will be released in October 2017 at the earliest.



The CIA targets the FPCC in a foreign country in September 1963. 

CIA and FBI target the Fair Play for Cuba Commitee
This document was not shared with the Warren Commission.
It was not made public until 1998, thirty five years after the fact.


24 thoughts on “The JFK connection: Why COINTELPRO still matters”

  1. George de Mohrenschildt was not involved with the Bay of Pigs invasion. After his son died of Cystic Fibrosis in 1960 he and his wife hiked through Mexico and then much of the rest of Latin America down to Panama. They would stop at the American embassy in most of the countries and send messages to friends; Sam Ballen, for example. While in Guatemala City they spotted what appear to have been pilots belonging to the Alabama Air National Guard who had role in the invasion. As he typically did de Mohrenschildt misidentified them, describing them as marines.

    1. George de Mohrenschildt cover was a hike lasting a year. Gary Taylor,G deM X son inlaw testifide to WC that deMohrenshild’s spent over 3 weeks in Guatemala at highth of invation at friend of N Tilton home uninvited. He also stated he thought his Father inlaw was a spy.
      John De Menil head of Schlumberger Co. and deMohrenschild may have provided arms for the invation.

  2. Was Nancy Tilton and John Tilton related? George de Mohrenschildt Died in Nancy TIlman’s home and Nancy earlier raised the suspicion that De Mohrenschildt was involved in Bay of Pigs Invasion by being in Quatemala

    1. I’d love to know. I’ve looked at it, can’t find any proof either way. I think would be the way to go.

  3. For a supporting different take on COINTELPRO read James Douglass “The Murder and Martyrdom of Malcolm X” in “The Assassinations” on it’s role in his Murder.

  4. Oswald’s stunts in NO look obviously counter-intel related.

    My question has always been how did Oswald know Carlos Bringier was head of the DRE chapter in NO and how did he know where he worked when he walked in to ‘help’ them and got the whole episode started.

  5. Not meaning to sound dense here, but are you saying JFK could’ve been killed to discredit the FPCC? Or that it appears Oswald was part of the program and then possibly used for the assasination in a differerent operation? i know we want fo stick to the facts but want to understand what the implications are.

  6. Fascinating to see the Tilton memo regarding the FPCC.
    And then you start to consider the fact that LHO started a chapter of the FPCC in New Orleans.
    Then you think about how he clashed with the DRE and this information was omitted from the Oct 10 cable by senior CIA staff.
    And then you have the George Joannides saga, showing the level of deceit by the CIA regarding this issue.
    And then the CIA operation to discredit the FPCC.
    I feel that you are left with the distinct possibility that LHO was some kind of CIA operative involved in the operation to discredit the FPCC.

    1. Tilton was the deputy chief of the Military Operatons Branch (MOB) of the Special Affairs Staff. So he didn’t report directly to Phillips. But since Phillips was chief of Cuba Operations he was pretty much superior to everybody in SAS except for C/SAS Desmond Fitzgerald.

  7. Ruth Paine spyed on many of these good Quakers. And in 1963 LHO was on assignment with her in PA, spying on the pacifist March from Montreal, through PA, to Cuba….

    1. I wonder how Mrs. Paine would deal with your slander if she paid attention to this blog? At least Stone was smart enough to change her name to avoid a libel suit. It is fine to speculate about the dead or demented. But accusing living innocent people of unproven crimes or associations without any evidence is libel.
      Too many times on this blog posters have crossed that line. To drag the innocent into conspiracy fantasies is despicable.

      1. Oh dry up! It’s not a secret that Ruth Paine was widely suspected of spying on groups of American volunteers working with the Sandanista government during the Reagan/Bush I years. I believe she was invited to depart from the camps of two such groups.

        Given that your no little bit of a drive-by slander artist yourself, this is laughably hypocritical.

      2. I would think that there are some in the research community that would welcome such a suit if only for the airing of information that would be necessary to allow for a thorough defense against the alleged crime.

      3. Read pages 193-208 of Destiny Betrayed Paul. “Michael Paines ancestors…Forbes and Cabot.” “Ruth…father OSS in WWII. …AID regional director…AID infiltrated top to bottom by CIA agents.” To summarize one section, Ruth Forbes, (Ruth’s mother) best friend Mary Bancroft was an agent ran by Allen Dulles in WWII that he slept with. “Ruth admitted…her father, William Hyde worked for the CIA.” “Ruth…sister…Sylvia…1993…CIA Security file…revealed…had been employed by the Agency for several years prior to 1963.” The same sister she visited before picking up Marina in New Orleans on her way back to Dallas. There is more, all well documented.

        1. Since when do the actions of relatives and friends become evidence of what an individual actually does or believes? Perhaps in the mind of somebody willing to believe anything as long as it conforms to that person’s preconceived ideas.
          Mrs. Paine has long been a practicing Quaker who actually tries to follow the path of that peaceful group. She has actually been involved with women’s health in Nicaragua while conspiracy groups have slandered her with false accusations, almost entirely based on one report from a Mr. Jones who never identified his source. Her colossal misfortune of being associated with Oswald after trying to show Christian charity has made her fair game for some of the most immoral attacks coming out of the conspiracy community. That commuNnity ignores the facts about Oswald because he never came to trial. Yet it seems willing to convict Mrs. Paine of conspiracy to commit murder with NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER .
          I find that disgusting. And terribly unfair.

      4. Ramon F Herrera

        “I wonder how Mrs. Paine would deal with your slander if she paid attention to this blog?”

        That is BS, Mr. “Photon”. Mrs. Paine had a *choice*. After her WC subpoena duty, she could have informed the media that she was unfortunately and involuntarily involved in the events and requested respect for her privacy until the day she died (even afterwards).

        She clearly failed to do so, and hence she is fair game.

        The proverbial cake eating+keeping applies. You are either a private citizen or a public person. She chose the latter.

  8. I was trained as an army counterintelligence officer. I can report that army counterintelligence operatives routinely collected information domestically and abroad; no surprise, but certainly some Fourth Amendment concerns as to domestic anti-war intelligence gathering.

    What is not widely known is that in Viet Nam the CIA “borrowed” volunteers from army intelligence units to carry out CIA missions. Nothing improper here from what I saw.

    The sorts of counterintelligence activities carried on by the FBI and described here weren’t intelligence operations; they were harassment and disruption operations. Clearly operations that needed to be kept secret because of their First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendment disregard.

  9. There are many important connections to the assassination including the facts that Ruth and Michael Paine were married in Media, a Quaker community, and Tink Thompson taught nearby, and Vince Salamdria was suspected, and there are associations with both Temple and Haverford colleges.

    Who says nobody can keep a secret?

    1. Bill,

      Please stick to the facts. I like your factual posts. But to connect Haverford College, Tink Thompson, Vince Salandria, the 1971 break-in — is CT.

      Any of us can make lots of connections. That are meaningless.
      For example, I saw Jada perform in Chicago in December 1963 and have an item from James Tague.

      1. The fact is the Paine’s are very important to any serious investigation. They both had intelligence connections.

        1. As I was saying before a computer glitch posted my incomplete comment, Michael Paine’s WC testimony suggests to me that he was attending meetings of various groups like the John Birch Society and ACLU at least partly as an informant to the local police Red Squad and/or various alphabet agencies, and that he may have been doing this in tandem with Oswald a few times. It’s also pretty obvious that Michael and Lee were developing a genuine friendship, and had much more than the nodding acquaintance Paine tried to claim they had after Oswald was killed.

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