The spymaster on November 22

Excerpted from Scorpions’ Dance: The President, the Spymaster and Watergate (St Martin’s Press, 2022

“Richard Helms disliked the term spymaster, but no other word captures his extraordinary—and invisible—position in the wake of Kennedy’s assassination. The deputy director had one hand-picked case officer in Miami, George Joannides, running the AMSPELL network, which was generating headlines across the country and around the world that Kennedy had been killed by a communist

Richard Helms
Richard Helms, CIA director, 1966-73.

“He had another hand-picked case officer in Paris, Nestor Sanchez, who advancing the AMLASH operation to assassinate Castro and mount a military coup.

“And in Langley, his top aide was seeking to preserve “freedom of action” on “the question of Cuban responsibility” for Kennedy’s murder. “For the very few people in Washington who knew about Operation Northwoods, the scenario was faintly familiar: A spectacular crime against a U.S. target had taken place and CIA assets were seeking to lay the blame on Cuba.

“Helms worried, at least in passing, that CIA people might have involved in the Dallas ambush. In 1992, he told CBS News the Agency had “made sure we had no one in Dallas on that particular day.” Correspondent Richard Schlesinger asked “Why did you do that? Had anybody accused the CIA at that time?”

“Helms was at a rare loss for words. He knew of Castro assassination plots and Pentagon engineered provocations but he couldn’t talk about any of that.

“The place was in an uproar,” he finally said. “…There was great concern this might have been a foreign doing of some kind.”

Did someone ask you to check on your agents in Dallas, Schlesinger persisted?

 “I just thought it was a wise thing to do….” Helms finished. “ I did not think anybody [from the CIA was involved] and don’t try and make me say it.”


Scorpions' Dance

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Eye-opening investigation” -Publishers’ Weekly

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