In his news report, New CIA Information on JFK Assassination, on the release of thousands of presidential briefings from the 1960s, HuffPo reporter Keith Thomson devoted considerable effort to ridiculing unnamed JFK conspiracy theorists who attended a press briefing at the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library in Austin, Texas last week.
Along the way, Thomson managed to miss the historical significance of the CIA’s disclosure.
The declassified briefing actually did disclose something relevant to the JFK assassination story–something factual, not theoretical.
What we learned
The President’s Intelligence Checklist from November 25, 1963, shows what the CIA was not telling the White House in the wake of JFK’s assassination: that a half dozen senior undercover CIA officers knew all about the leftist politics and foreign contacts of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald six weeks before JFK was killed.
[Don’t take my word for it. Compare the CIA’s November 25, 1963 presidential briefing about Oswald’s actions in Mexico City with a CIA cable dated October 10, 1963 on the same subject. Draw your own conclusions.]
Unfamiliar with the recently declassified records, Thompson chose to focus on the “theorists.”
Why, he asked, did the CIA release this material, after insisting for years in sworn court declarations, that disclosure of the presidential briefs would harm U.S. national security?
Thomson quotes a statement from CIA Information Management Services: “To promote an understanding of the intelligence information that has helped shaped major US foreign policy decisions.”
He also quotes, rather less approvingly, a “self-described JFK conspiracy theorist: “So they say,”
As a journalist, I share Thomson’s desire for balanced reporting. I understand his impatience with obtuse JFK conspiracy theorists who respond to new evidence by reasserting their old beliefs. I agree that people who are impervious to new facts do not necessarily deserve journalistic respect.
Nonetheless, I hoped that Thomson, as a reporter for a progressive publication, might show more skepticism about a CIA-controlled media event presenting information previously denied to independent scholars.
A half dozen senior CIA undercover officers reporting to deputy director Richard Helms and Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton were well-informed about Oswald’s leftist politics, erratic ways, and foreign contacts six weeks before JFK was killed.
The larger problem is that Thomson apparently suffers from the same affliction as the conspiracy theorists he ridicules: He is responding to new evidence with a closed mind. His Huffington Post story on the CIA disclosures all but asserts there is nothing in the new disclosures that casts doubt on the official theory of JFK’s death.
The new JFK record
–After JFK was killed, the CIA did not share this information with the White House, the FBI, or the Warren Commission. When the Commission’s attorneys started asking questions, Angleton told an aide he wanted to “wait out” the Commission, rather than answer their questions about what the CIA knew about Oswald when JFK was still alive.
–In 2015, the CIA is still concealing more than 1,100 JFK files, (comprising an estimated 15-50,000 pages of material) from public view–for reasons of “national security.”
These unseen files concern the secret operations of CIA officers such as David Phillips, Bill Harvey, and Howard Hunt who: 1) knew about Oswald’s whereabouts before JFK was killed; Or; 2) participated in CIA assassination operations; Or 3) implicated themselves in the JFK assassination.
In short, the new historical record indicates (but does not prove) that the CIA might still be hiding incriminating evidence about JFK’s assassination a half century after the fact.
For the sorry details, see my story: “7 JFK files the CIA still hides.”
About this reality the Huffington Post seems clueless.
Will HuffPo learn?
What the release of the presidential briefings show–albeit inadvertently–is that the CIA’s Directorate of Operations and the Counterintelligence Staff were withholding information about what Agency personnel knew about Oswald from the White House before JFK had been buried.
As I have written, the authors of the Nov. 25 briefing were probably not intentionally deceiving LBJ. More likely, they had been left in the dark by their colleagues in Langley.
Why is a question that only the CIA can answer.
The newly-disclosed presidential briefings, in short, don’t tell us much about stupid JFK conspiracy theorists. They don’t tell us much about stupid JFK conspiracy theories (as spouted by Malcolm Gladwell and others).
Rather, they tell us something more significant: what the CIA sought to hide in the wake of JFK’s murder.
As we approach the scheduled release of JFK records in October 2017, I hope that the Huffington Post will pay less attention to JFK conspiracy theories and stick to the JFK facts.