Not sure anyone wants to hear from an “irresponsible fanatic” (I’ve been called worse things) — especially one who hardly followed the JFK controversy for 25 or so years after working for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, but I want to add to the point of a recent JFK Facts post: the CIA chose to wait out the Wareen Commisions
They did the same to us at the HSCA.
To correct Jim on one point, as to degree, we never had indictments drawn on anyone; that’s not something Congress does. What we did do was push for a referral for a perjury investigation to the Justice Department, and, hopefully, an indictment. But that didn’t happen. By the time we spoke to Anne Goodpasture, we thought she had also committed perjury but we knew that we weren’t going to get a referral on her after we had been rebuffed on Phillips.
So we didn’t even push internally that hard on that one. (That illustrates how fanatical we were, I am sure.)
Advice from a CIA man
At the very beginning of my involvement with the investigation, I interviewed Joseph Burkholder Smith, a retired CIA officer. Upon our arrival, we handed him our HSCA credentials, telling him we were there to ask him some questions on behalf of Congress. He flipped the credentials back at us and told us, “So you represent Congress, what the f*** is that to the CIA. You’ll be gone in a few years and the CIA will still be here.” He knew they could wait us out, and would.
The issues on which the HSCA met the most resistance was Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko, Bill Harvey’s security files, and Mexico City. See Record No. 180-10124-10039, Record Series: Transcript of Executive Session Hearings, Record p. 17, Tran. p. 14 (Aug. 15, 1978).
While we were able to negotiate on Nosenko, and Harvey’s files dropped off the table, Mexico City was the point of most serious resistance. Bob Blakey, HSCA general counsel at that time, speculated that the Agency was either “terribly concerned that we are looking into something and will find something wrong,” or “we are touching on very sensitive issues of Agency performance and sensitive sources and methods.” The latter, in my opinion, did not justify the level of resistance which we met. By then, most of the world knew about the U.S. surveillance of the embassies in Mexico City.
Talking to David Phillips
The biggest stress point in the interview with David Phillips came, not when we were asking him about the Mexico surveillance operations, but when I started pressing him on all the post-assassination sources of dis-information that I could trace back to his former, or active (in ’63) assets. And I think he had a very good reason for letting that make him nervous.
An interesting configuration of — shall we call them “circumstances” — can now be pieced together from the released records. According to former CIA man Bayard Stockton, David Phillips recruited the leadership of DRE while serving in Havana in the late 1950s and was the DRE’s first case officer. (See Stockton’s “Flawed Patriot,” p. 210)
After moving to headquarters in late 1963, Phillips was responsible for some of the early disinformation operations aimed at the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (see “Oswald and the CIA” by John Newman, pp. 240-241). While overseeing anti-Castro propaganda operations at headquarters, Phillips worked directly for Bill Harvey on Task Force W. I believe his oversight of the CIA’s Cuban disinformation effort continued after his transfer to Mexico City. (I believe we documented this at the HSCA, but have not found the records.)
George Joannides was hand picked by Richard Helms to be the DRE case officer after DRE’s public opposition to the U.S. government’s policies during the October, 1962, missile crisis. Joannides was to report out of channels directly to Helms. (*Stockton, p. 221.)
So, with that background, consider these time-framed events:
On July 31, 1963, Joannides’s supervisor, in a fitness report, commended him for doing “an excellent job in the handling of a significant student exile group which hitherto had successfully resisted any important degree of control.” The same report lists his second specific duty as “Case officer for student project involving political action, propaganda, intelligence collection and a hemisphere-wide apparatus.” Record No. 104-10304-1000, Record Series JFK-MISC, Annual Fitness Report – George Joannides, Operations Officer (CIA, Jul. 31, 1963).
Between August 9 and August 21, 1963, Oswald becomes something of a celebrity in New Orleans after his encounter with the local branch of DRE while passing out Fair Play for Cuba leaflets. Joannides’s Fitness Report covering this period has not been released. On September 16, 1963, the CIA “informed” the FBI that it is considering action to counter the activities of the FPCC in foreign countries. Church Committee, Vol. 5, p. 65. (The Church Committee’s conclusion, on p. 67, that “there is no reason to think the CIA propaganda program was underway before the assassination” is based on the unfounded, and unsupportable, assumption that the CIA would not have begun the operation before receiving information requested from the FBI.)
On September 17, 1963, Oswald applies for and receives a Mexican travel visa in New Orleans. On September 27 Oswald arrives in Mexico City. On September 27, the Mexico City Station begins testing an impulse camera aimed at the door of the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City. In late September Phillips leaves Mexico City TDY for Headquarters and Miami, during which time he is promoted to Chief of Covert Operations. On October 1 the Mexico City Station sent “bulk materials” to Headquarters by an untraceable transmittal manifest (TM 251905) by pouch (No. 4083) “to be held in registry until picked up by Michael C. Choaden presently TDY HQS.” Record No. 104-10500-10077, Bulk Materials Being Sent Under Transmittal Manifest (CIA, Oct. 1, 1963).
I would have loved to have been able to question Mr. Phillips and Mr. Joannides about these “circumstances.” Did Oswald manage to connect with pro-Castro students at the University of Mexico? What did the 16mm film of the Consulate entrance show? Was film from September 28 in TM 251905? Did any of this have anything to do with Phillips’s promotion? While TDY did he meet with Helms and/or Joannides? Was the bulk material sent to Phillips at HQ showing the test results of this new program targeted at FPCC?
I realize some may consider those questions as “speculation.” They are not. They are questions that need to be asked and answered. Maybe it is just a coincidence that Eddie and I were pressing the Agency (and Phillips) hard on back channel communication methods, trying to find out to trace the transmittal manifest, Harvey’s activities with the mob plotters, Phillips’s propaganda operations and assets and their ties to the immediate post-assassination disinformation operations, and just what was he doing TDY in late September?
But just let me just ask one more question as an unreasonable fanatic: why would the Agency run an undercover operation aimed at shutting down this specific aspect of the HSCA investigation by assigning that job to a retired officer who ran the DRE after Phillips and the propops out of JM/WAVE in 1963 while lying to the HSCA to conceal that officer’s background? Just another coincidence with an innocent explanation?
If I were not such an unreasonable fanatic, I am sure that I would understand that they brought Joannides out of retirement to shut us down just to protect sources and methods, not where the bodies were buried. After all, I suspect, he knew what and where all of them were.