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JFK Records Suit Tests CIA Secrecy on Assassination

The JFK story still resonates, albeit extra faintly than it as soon as did. Kennedy was a well-liked liberal president who, on the time of his dying, was challenging the country to embrace civil rights and “a strategy for peace” to finish the Cold Struggle. Detested within the Pentagon and CIA as a weakling and traitor, Kennedy was shot lifeless as his open-air motorcade passed via downtown Dallas on a sunny day in November 1963.

I never anticipated the case would take so long or rise so excessive. But I’m not stunned. I all the time believed FOIA litigation might shed new mild on the causes of JFK’s assassination, a national trauma on par with 9/11 for the subsequent era. I anticipated new info would make clear long-standing questions about America’s most enduring murder thriller. And I expected the CIA would resist full disclosure. The federal courts have been divided on the merits of my case, leaving the Supreme Courtroom as the ultimate arbiter.

My lawsuit, filed in December 2003, sought data to clarify the CIA’s response to JFK’s homicide. After Kennedy was killed, the Dallas police division immediately picked up an ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald and claimed he shot the president. Oswald denied the charge and was killed in police custody the subsequent day. A yr later, a fee of Washington insiders concluded Oswald acted “alone and unaided.” JFK’s demise was not politically motivated, it was proclaimed.

As the biographer of two prime CIA operations officers who have been deeply knowledgeable concerning the events of 1963, I don’t find the official story of a “lone gunman” to be credible. The CIA males I wrote about did not consider it, not within the privateness of their thoughts and actions. They knew much more about Oswald, the supposed assassin, before JFK was killed than they disclosed to investigators. Declassified data and interviews reveal that the company settled on the story of a “lone gunman” with a view to conceal its deep pre-assassination curiosity in Oswald from regulation enforcement, Congress, and the American individuals.

With the assistance of Jim Lesar, a veteran FOIA litigator, I sought to study more by way of a request for information about a Miami-based CIA operative named George Joannides who handled sensitive issues for senior officials in Langley. The request was a long-running lawsuit. Because of a unanimous December 2007 appellate courtroom determination, issued over strenuous CIA objections, I obtained greater than a thousand pages of material.

‘Presumed Assassins’

The redacted Joannides information illuminated two previously unknown points of the JFK story.

The first was Joannides’ position in a licensed and deniable CIA psychological warfare operation that generated propaganda about Oswald. A job analysis from 1963 revealed Joannides ran a CIA-funded anti-Castro scholar group, the Cuban Scholar Directorate, recognized by the code identify AMSPELL. Inside 48 hours of Kennedy’s dying, Joannides’ agents revealed the first JFK conspiracy principle, claiming Oswald and Cuban chief Fidel Castro, have been “the presumed assassins.”

The second story revealed by my lawsuit was Joannides’ obstruction of a congressional investigation. In 1978, after the Watergate-era revelations about CIA abuses, Congress re-opened the JFK probe by creating the House Select Committee on Assassination.  The agency referred to as Joannides out of retirement to function liaison with the Committee investigators. He shut down their inquiries. Even beneath direct questioning, he did not disclose the Oswald-AMSPELL exercise. A 1979 job evaluation praised Joannides as “the perfect man” for coping with the Committee. In 1981 he acquired the company’s Profession Intelligence Medal for “exceptional achievement.”

Intrigued, I sought to acquire one other 330 data about Joannides that the company withheld on grounds of “national security.” In June 2010, the U.S. Courtroom of Appeals rejected my arguments and stated the CIA had complied with the FOIA. The substantive a part of the case was over.

I then requested the courtroom to order the government to pay for value of my litigation, specifically Lesar’s charge for lots of of hours of time he spent crafting the arguments that freed the Joannides information. Beneath the FOIA, the government is required to pay courtroom costs if the plaintiff has “substantially prevailed.”

The regulation is designed to incentivize the government to comply with the FOIA and to compensate residents, reporters, and whistleblowers who seek info within the public interest. One of many four elements in awarding authorized charges is whether or not the knowledge sought has the potential to profit the general public.

I assumed I cleared that bar simply. The New York Occasions, Fox Information, Related Press, Politico, and USA In the present day coated Morley v. CIA. The Washington Publish and two dozen other mainstream news websites revealed the AP story. The Occasions and other websites revealed a photo, obtained by way of FOIA, which showed Joannides receiving his medal.

In December 2011 District Courtroom Decide Richard Leon dismissed my request for legal fees, asserting the litigation had uncovered little of substance. I appealed. In June 2013 the Courtroom of Appeals reversed Leon’s determination. In July 2014, Leon threw out my case on totally different grounds. In January 2016, the appellate courtroom reversed him again.

All through this authorized slog, the CIA and Justice Department’s legal professionals have insisted there isn’t any public benefit to the disclosure of Joannides’ JFK-related actions. Transfer along, says the CIA. There’s nothing to be discovered within the Oswald-AMSPELL story or in the historic Joannides information that include sensitive useful “national security” secrets.

Final July, on a fourth listening to, a divided three-judge panel dismissed my case. Now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in his final choice earlier than he joined the excessive courtroom, assessed the value of my FOIA lawsuit as “small.”

Decide Karen Henderson, the senior decide on the D.C. Courtroom of Appeals, issued a stout dissent, saying I clearly deserved to have my courtroom prices paid. Kavanaugh’s choice, she declared, “ignored our precedent and misapplied our mandate.”

Findings

What has Morley v. CIA revealed about JFK’s assassination?

For 16 years, I resisted definitive conclusions about Joannides’ position within the events that led to JFK’s demise. I actually wasn’t positive. I needed to see all the CIA’s data on the topic first.

I awaited the promise of the JFK Records Act of 1992: full disclosure. The regulation, passed unanimously by Congress, mandated the release of all the government’s JFK information within 25 years, that’s to say, by 2017.  The promise, alas, was betrayed by President Trump. He used the one loophole offered within the regulation, allowing for continued postponement of release of assassination data. Trump, the conspiracy theorist, certified that disclosure would cause “an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations” and that “the identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

In his October 2017 White Home directive, Trump said he had “no choice” (curious phrase) however to permit federal businesses to proceed to withhold hundreds of JFK assassination information from public view– including the Joannides information. In April 2018, the Nationwide Archives reported that 15,834 assassination data remain redacted, most of them by CIA and FBI. These information will remain sealed until April 2021 on the earliest,

‘No-Brainer’ on Secret JFK Information

The continuing secrecy around hundreds of JFK information surprises Decide John Tunheim, former chair of the Assassination Records Evaluate Board (ARRB). The ARRB was a civilian evaluate board that declassified tons of of hundreds of JFK information in the mid-1990s.

“My assumption was that all the remaining records would simply be released in 2017,” Tunheim, now the senior federal decide in Minnesota, advised me in an interview. “At that point in time [1998], our thinking was there is no legitimate reason to withhold information about how we collected information fifty years ago, that there would be no legitimate reason for protecting things that were that old.”

The agency’s stance on the Joannides information is especially obtuse, Tunheim stated. In 1998, the JFK assessment board asked the agency to offer related Joannides information. The agency handed over precisely 11 pages of material. The CIA “fooled’ the board about the extent of the Joannides files, Tunheim said. “We would release them in full today without a moment’s hesitation,” he stated. “It’s a no-brainer.”

In fact, the truth that the CIA is sitting on hundreds of JFK information in 2019 does not essentially imply the U.S. government is hiding proof of a conspiracy in 1963. As President Obama stated in a 2009 memorandum, “the problem of overclassification” is endemic in the federal government. I’m pretty positive that 95 % of the still-secret JFK information are historically irrelevant. It’s the remaining 5 %, nevertheless, that pursuits historians, researchers, journalists and students.

The information I sought in my lawsuit are a working example. They do not include evidence that Joannides plotted towards JFK’s life. They include loads of proof that he abetted those who did, after Kennedy was lifeless. He wasn’t in Dallas when JFK was killed. He helped run the coverup in Miami and Langley afterwards. He died in March 1990.

‘We Were Used’

I did not take my case to the Supreme Courtroom to vindicate any conspiratorial interpretation of JFK’s demise. I pursued new info to fill out the very fact sample around the assassination with confidence that folks can make up their own minds about what it exhibits.

My reading of the evidence conforms with that of knowledgeable observers. Lawyer Basic Robert Kennedy concluded his brother was ambushed by enemies in his own authorities. So did the widowed First Woman, Jackie Kennedy.

Two astute contemporaries, Fidel Castro and Charles DeGaulle, additionally believed that Kennedy fell victim to a conspiracy emanating from inside U.S. security forces. Castro was a battle-hardened Marxist revolutionary. DeGaulle was a continental conservative snob. They knew, in addition to anybody, the workings of American power and the machinations of the CIA. Extra just lately, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a retired CIA station chief and Just Safety editor, informed a conclave of retired spies that he believes if the CIA have been chargeable for JFK’s homicide, it was probably certain rogue CIA officers in Miami.

Morley v. CIA produced documentary evidence in step with the Castro-DeGaulle-Mowatt-Larssen interpretation of November 22, 1963. The Joannides’ information laid naked company operations around Oswald. Joannides’ propaganda brokers amongst anti-Castro Cuban college students created a believable public document—in intelligence parlance, a “legend”—that Oswald was a pacesetter of a pro-Castro group referred to as Truthful Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in New Orleans. The FPCC was a well-liked socialist organization with 30 chapters on school campuses that defended Castro’s revolution, which had abolished racial segregation and redistributed land to poor individuals.

The CIA operation that monitored and manipulated Oswald emerged from a joint CIA-FBI program generally known as COINTELPRO. Brief for Counterintelligence Program, COINTELPRO sought to undermine and destroy civil rights and antiwar organizations from 1958 to 1974. In line with this declassified memo, the CIA was conducting a secret operation towards the FPCC as of mid-September 1963.

Joannides was involved. Inside hours of Oswald’s arrest, his AMSPELL brokers in the Cuban Scholar Directorate fed reporters the story that the president had been killed by a pacesetter of the FPCC.

A type of AMSPELL agents was Jose Antonio Lanuza. A retired faculty instructor in Miami, Lanuza served as spokesman for the CIA-funded Cuban Scholar Directorate in 1963.  Based on a JFK Library memo, the Cuban students acquired $51,000 a month from the CIA.

On the night time of November 22, 1963 Lanuza recollects the group communicated with the group’s CIA handler, Joannides, whom he knew as “Howard.” Lanuza also recollects talking with a dozen native and nationwide reporters concerning the connection of Kennedy’s accused killer to the pro-Castro FPCC. The subsequent day, the AMSPELL info fueled headlines that the American president had been killed by a “pro-Castro assassin.”

“We were used by the people who wanted to make Oswald take all the blame for killing Kennedy,” Lanuza stated in an interview. “We were ideal cover for using the theme of Oswald being a Castro supporter. Somebody wanted to build up that story. That’s where we came in.”

The primary-day AMPSELL publicity blitz did much to convince the public that a liberal president had been killed by a communist.

But was it true? Underneath interrogation, Oswald denied capturing Kennedy. He informed reporters that he was a “patsy.” The subsequent day he was shot lifeless in police custody by a Dallas nightclub owner with organized crime connections. These surprising and baffling events gave delivery to a thousand conspiracy theories.

I took my case to the Supreme Courtroom to bypass the theories and get the information: to complete the historical document of a important moment through which American democratic establishments have been attacked, a report that the American individuals don’t yet absolutely possess.

CIA Medal

Maybe the most important single revelation generated by Morley v. CIA was the medal given to Joannides. Contained in the company, one may say that Joannides protected the agency’s “sources and methods” across the Oswald/AMSPELL/FPCC operation. Outdoors the agency, you may say he was honored, a minimum of partially, for perpetuating the JFK cover-up.

Home Select Committee on Assassination basic counsel G. Robert Blakey, now emeritus professor at Notre Dame regulation faculty, informed PBS Frontline that Joannides had obstructed Congress’ investigation, a felony. Was he concealing the existence of a CIA operation to falsely blame Oswald for killing JFK? Or simply CIA incompetence? Absent full disclosure, definitive conclusions are elusive.

Morley v. CIA fell in need of getting the entire story. The company identified however by no means launched 330 Joannides information I sought. These embrace 44 paperwork from 1963 and 1978, which concern Joannides’ cowl and “intelligence methods.” They are key to the JFK story. I think they determine the senior agency officers who approved psychological warfare operations that linked Oswald to Castro’s Cuba before and after JFK was killed.

In accordance with the agency, not a single word contained in these vintage data – even with any probably applicable redactions for sources and strategies – may be made public in 2019 without threatening “national security.”  Provided that a lot of the data in question are greater than 50 years previous, the declare seems far-fetched, if not suspicious. Nonetheless, the federal courts agree it is accurate.

‘Entirely Unreasonable’

The query now earlier than the Supreme Courtroom just isn’t conspiracy. The difficulty is accountability and the way the FOIA seeks to insure it. In the July 2018 majority opinion, Kavanaugh ruled the CIA acted “reasonably” in spurning my JFK queries. Decide Henderson countered that the federal government’s actions have been “entirely unreasonable” and I must be awarded courtroom prices.

The excessive courtroom now has the chance to determine. The answers are a very long time coming.