Woolsey is not the first CIA man to reject the Warren Commission

Two former intelligence chiefs have written a book about the assassination of President Kennedy that is being hyped by the not-always reliable Daily Mail.

The internet is piling on. I’m reserving judgment.

Operation Dragon by James Woolsey, former CIA director, and Ion Mihai Pracepa, former chief of Rumanian intelligence.

The book, Operation Dragon, is co-authored by James Woolsey, director of the CIA, 1993-95, and the late Ion Mihia Pracepa, former chief of the Rumanian intelligence service.

The early reviews are dismal.

Woolsey’s theory is “Cra-Cra,” says Gus Russo at MSN. Russo defends the official theory that one man alone and unaided killed President Kennedy for no reason (and that the alleged assassin was then killed by another man for no reason.) Russo likens Woolsey’s theory to QAnon, while admitting he hasn’t actually read the book.

Woolsey and Pacepa, who recently died of Covid, reportedly argue that Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev personally ordered Lee Harvey Oswald to kill the president. Since there’s no evidence that Khrushchev and Oswald ever met, this claim is open to challenge. “So how did that happen?” asks John Sipher, a former CIA officer, a necessary question.

Here’s where the story gets puzzling. The Daily Mail reports that the authors do not claim to have new evidence. They say the Warren Commission’s evidence support this claim. Since the Warren Commission articulated the theory of the “lone gunman” as historical truth, this doesn’t make sense. Since I don’t entirely trust the Daily Mail, I’m going to read the book to find out.

On social media Woolsey’s reputation as one of the worst CIA director’s ever does not help his credibility. But whatever you think of him, Woolsey is a man who has reached senior positions in the U.S. government. Pracepa served in a senior position in the Rumanian government. These are men who know something about power and intelligence operations.

If nothing else, the dissent of a former CIA director on a big historical controversy seems noteworthy.

Other CIA Dissidents

One fact missing so far from the coverage of Operation Dragon; James Woolsey is not the first CIA man to reject the Warren Commission’s conclusions.

Winston Scott, Mexico City station chief in 1963, privately concluded there had been a communist conspiracy. He wrote as much in an unpublished memoir. The CIA seized his manuscript and suppressed it for decades.

(I tell the story in my book, Our Man in Mexico)

In November 2019, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, veteran operations officer who teaches at Harvard, gave a presentation in Dallas arguing that JFK was killed by enemies in the CIA.

I think Mowatt-Larssen’s analysis, while not definitive, is compelling.

So Woolsey’s opinion is less idiosyncratic than some may believe.

The impulse to attack Woolsey without hearing him out is standard practice on the internet today. That strikes me as unfair, if not unprofessional. So I’m not going to pass judgment on Operation Dragon until I’ve actually read it. It’s a very 20th century habit, I know. To actually hear out somebody with whom you disagree, but I can’t help it.

I’ll report back shortly.

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