Author Topic: Program Transcript: Jefferson Morley  (Read 12721 times)

Alan Dale

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Program Transcript: Jefferson Morley
« on: March 12, 2014, 07:29:59 PM »
Transcription courtesy of Mary Constantine


Welcome to JFK Lancer Conversations, an on-line interview program featuring discussions with prominent authors, historical researchers and notable personalities associated with the study of President Kennedy's assassination.


DATE: MAY, 2013

DURATION: 1:11:52

ALAN DALE: Welcome to Conversations; my name is Alan Dale. On the 27th of April 1961, in an address before many of America's most influential newspaper executives, President Kennedy said this:

"Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed, and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian law-maker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy, and that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment: the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution; not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply give the public what it wants, but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mould, educate, and sometimes even anger public opinion"

He continued:

"And so it is to the printing press, to the recorder of men's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent."

Our topic today is investigative journalism. Investigative journalism may be described as a vivid, dynamic, methodical process which seeks to reveal and report the documented truth: in-depth, unscripted, often unprecedented; without fear, and in the service of public interest. Investigative journalists inspire debate, promote accountability, create controversy, merely by insisting that a free society depends upon a free press and an informed citizenry.

The late Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Gary Webb chose a quote from legendary journalist I F Stone as an appropriate introduction to his distinguished and disturbing investigation into the CIA covert operations in Latin America and drug traffickers operating on the streets of our inner cities. Webb's 1998 book 'Dark Alliance: the CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion' begins with this: "Every government is run by liars, and nothing they say should be believed." The book concludes with the author's admission that what we can do once the facts are out there is very little: not much, not now, and certainly not until the American public and its Congressional representatives regain control of the CIA and shred the curtain of secrecy. 

Our guest today is one of our nation's most intrepid investigators, whose brilliance and persistence have brought measurable progress to the subject of the CIA and its curtain of secrecy. He is the author of 2008's 'Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA' and, most recently, 'Snowstorm in August' which focuses on an extraordinary and deeply fascinating episode involving President Andrew Jackson and a politically ambitious prosecutor about whom at least one thing is well known; Washington DC District Attorney Francis Scott Key. It's my pleasure to introduce Jefferson Morley. Thank you for joining us.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Thank you for having me Alan.
ALAN DALE: Real pleasure, sincerely. Before his passing in 1991 Graham Greene was widely quoted as saying: "Media is just a word that has come to mean bad journalism." So I'd like to begin by asking you how you might describe the current state of investigative journalism relevant to our purpose here today: in relation to mainstream media and its handling of President Kennedy's assassination during this, the 50th anniversary year.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: What's striking about the state of journalism around the JFK story and the continuing controversy about it is how little of it there is, and this is something that I've been trying to reflect upon even today.

Why is it that a subject that is the subject of profound differences of opinion, of continuing public interest, of a large body of disputed facts, attracts so little journalistic interest? It's really paradoxical when you think about the stated journalistic enterprize: to expose the workings of power; to understand the processes of history; to bring new evidence and information to the fore; to discredit bad information and credit good information, and yet around this subject; around this enduring historical controversy, we actually we have relatively little journalism. We have some scholarship: historians are beginning turn their attention to the subject, in the past ten years, in a way that they hadn't done before that, but we don't have a lot of JFK journalism, and that's very interesting.

ALAN DALE: You sound a little confounded by the facts as you've relayed them; the fact that this is arguably the most consequential American story of the last 50 years – I would say unquestionably – and yet it's treated as if it is a fringe issue, irrelevant, in the same category as whether or not people are encountering Bigfoot. There are a number of very, very high profile television journalists in particular, who really equate – or at least publicly equate – the circumstances of President Kennedy's assassination with sort of pop, transient preoccupations like UFOs and Bigfoot and stuff like that.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yeah, I think I am confounded by the problem, and I think that what's at work is I'm trying to understand the difference between what people in positions of power think and what these journalists think; what our opinion-makers think.

You know, among Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, Fidel Castro, there was widespread and deep suspicion of a conspiracy. Castro and Johnson were certain of it: Jackie and Bobby deeply suspected it and never shook their suspicions. And yet our journalists and our media spokesman are quite confident.

So how to explain the difference between the two? And I think that the difference is that for people close to power the Kennedy assassination and understanding it was a matter of personal survival – for Lyndon Johnson, for Bobby Kennedy, for Jackie Kennedy and for Fidel Castro: to understand the motive forces that were at work in the ambush in Dallas was a very important and visceral thing for them. I think for our opinion-makers and our media personalities today, they don't have that gut-level understanding of it; they have a more detached, professional understanding of it.

I think that detachment is a good quality, but they don't – they also have something to lose by undertaking a consideration of a body of very conflicting and disturbing evidence. And so I think that that, that personal self-interest, overrules a more detached understanding of this body of complicated, disturbing evidence; and drives people away from it, and I also think that there's a – it's a disturbing story, and to acknowledge the possibility that the President was gunned down in broad daylight in a brutal attack, seated next to his wife, in front of a friendly crowd, for political purposes, and somebody got away with it. To recognise that fact is to understand or accept something that's disturbing about American life, and I think that's very difficult for people, so I think that what drives this certainty and this dismissal, is a kind of defensiveness among journalists and opinion-makers, a fear of acknowledging some disturbing truths.

So you have this certainty and almost contempt for people who entertain the doubts that they themselves don't want to entertain. And yet in longer view we can see that this kind of defensiveness and this contempt is a kind of brittle thing. We've had other controversies in public life where we heard a very similar tone: think of the controversy over Thomas Jefferson and whether he had an affair or a relationship with one of his enslaved – one of the women who he owned. For decades this possibility was dismissed, in the same sort of unequivocal and contemptuous terms that we hear in the JFK debate: "It's absurd". It was absurd to think that Jefferson might have had a slave mistress. It was contemptible; it was unpatriotic. Historians said this for decades. And then scientific evidence came along, and now it's quite clear and widely accepted that Jefferson indeed did have this relationship. So we can see that things can turn round, and we can see that the self-interest of the historian class; of the journalistic class may be totally mistaken. And so I think that that may well be the case.

ALAN DALE: I'm curious though about – I don't know if I'm curious – that's not the right way to say it - will note the fact that two centuries passed since the issues relevant to understanding something about Thomas Jefferson have resulted in sort of a turnaround in terms of the initial resistance to a concept in ultimate acceptance.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: I wasn't – I didn't mean to suggest that it might take two centuries to resolve JFK's matter. These things can turn around very quickly too, and if you look at other contemporary historical controversies; for example the notion that Alger Hiss had been a Soviet spy. Quite controversial, and yet new evidence emerged and I think that it's not that controversial any more, and can turn around very quickly, so I think that in my view of the body of evidence, I think that we could have a very quick turnaround, based on not a lot of evidence because, you know, also what's striking is the difference between public opinion and elite opinion on this.

And while you have – you know, JFK is compared to belief in UFOs, and the moon landing was a fake and all of that, the numbers are quite different; I mean, in those cases where you and I would agree that these are kind of expressions of popular irrationality, they're held by ten or 20, sometimes even 30 per cent of the public; when it comes to the case of JFK all of the polls show, and have shown since the first week after the crime, that more than half, and upwards to 80 per cent, of people believe that there's been a conspiracy.

So in terms of a kind of commonsensical understanding of the issue there is widespread agreement, and I think that it's not impossible that we might quickly have a shift among the minority that clings to the official story. Some significant portion of those people might come around and we might have a change, and a more consensual understanding of JFK's assassination.

ALAN DALE: Boy, I certainly hope that's true, and I realise there maybe is some evidence, some part of which may simply require the demise of some of the older representatives of the elite – let's put it that way – who have been very adamant that there's nothing there.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yes, and I would just supplement by saying I don't think it's just a matter of media personalities; I also think that it's a matter of political arrangements. I think that the death of Fidel Castro will remove a political obstacle to understanding this controversy because the death of President Kennedy was, and always has been, tied up in the antagonistic relationship between the governments of the United States and Cuba, and with the death of Fidel Castro I think that relationship may well change in fundamental ways.

Another obstacle that I have found in my own research is that, after 10 years in court with the CIA I think that; my understanding of it is that the information that I was seeking is simply too embarrassing for the current custodians of those records to release. They would have too much to lose in terms of the Agency's public reputation - and its budget.

But that could change in the years ahead: the CIA's primary place in the US national security agencies has changed since 9/11, and so the bureaucratic interests that are still at stake in the controversy over Kennedy's assassination, they too could change. And so that could lead to a change in public understanding. I think that the views of media spokesmen who have always been invested in the first story that came out: the official story, the Government's first official story: the passing of those people may change public opinion; the new information could change public opinion, and the change in power arrangements in Washington and Havana could change the way the issue is perceived. So I think that there is potential for this issue to take a different form very quickly, and I think the 50th anniversary is very interesting in that regard, because it is going to be a time when a lot of media attention is focussed on the subject; when anybody who has new information or new arguments to bare is going to bring them to market, and so we're going to have a lot of media attention and discussion of this issue at the end of this year and that could lead to a change.

ALAN DALE: We're speaking with Jefferson Morley, the author of 'Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA' and, most recently, 'Snowstorm in August'. We're going to take a very brief intermission and we'll return in a moment.
« Last Edit: March 12, 2014, 07:34:51 PM by Alan Dale »
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Alan Dale

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Re: Program Transcript: Jefferson Morley
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2014, 07:32:17 PM »
ALAN DALE: We're speaking with Jefferson Morley and we just touched, a moment ago, upon the complexities which relate Cuba to the circumstances surrounding President Kennedy's assassination, and that brings us to the figure who is at the center of your ten-year quest to force the CIA to comply with the law in the release of relevant materials pertaining to President Kennedy's assassination, and that figure is a man named George Joannides. Jeff, could you tell me how you became aware of Joannides and how this particular chapter in your life began? Because there was a point at which you had never heard of George Joannides; there was a point where all we knew about him was that he was appointed to come out of retirement to be the CIA's liaison to that congressional investigation. So how did it all begin for you in relation to George Joannides?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: I first became professionally interested in the assassination of President Kennedy in the early 1990s. Congress had just passed the JFK Records Act in response to the success of Oliver Stone's movie, and in response to that controversy Congress said the US Government should release all assassination-related records in its possession as a way of clearing the air. And when that law passed I realised that there was going to be a whole new body of information coming out.

I'd read a lot of books about JFK's assassination; I'd never been particularly satisfied by any of them. I read the official story and found myself unconvinced by that as well. So I thought in this mass of new information surely there would be interesting stories about JFK's assassination.

I had no illusions about solving the crime; I just thought that in this extraordinary moment, that had been the subject of widespread popular interest, there would be stories that the reading public would be interested in, and that these might shed light on the circumstances of the assassination.

And so I began to study the assassination and I, in the course of that, met John Newman, who had recently retired as an Army Intelligence Officer, had written a book about JFK and Vietnam, and was turning his attention to the assassination. And so I began to look at the new records and what to make of them, and one thing that another person had said to me as I was reviewing these documents, Paul Hoke, who was a long-time scholar of the assassination, a computer programmer at the University of California and very knowledgeable.

And he had pointed out to me one thing that was interesting, which was in the conflicts in the story of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of killing President Kennedy, there was an interesting incident in New Orleans in the summer of 1963 in which Oswald got into an altercation – a series of clashes really – with anti-Castro exiles in New Orleans. And what Paul pointed out to me was interesting was that in the course of that these opponents of Castro had issued a press release in which they called for a congressional investigation of Oswald. And I thought was remarkable, that three months before Oswald became world famous, here were these people saying Congress should investigate him. And, knowing something about the anti-Castro movement, I suspected that those anti-Castro exiles might have been in the pay of the CIA. I thought that would be an interesting story.

ALAN DALE: Were you with the Post at this point? Were you working as a reporter?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yes, I was working as an editor in the 'Outlook' section – the Sunday opinion section - of the Washington Post, and I was pursuing this on the side, with the idea that if I found an interesting story that would be something I could run in the Post. And so I pursued the idea that Paul had said to me – that this was an interesting incident – and I found records that were relevant in the new documents that were emerging as a result of the JFK Records Act, and those were records that concerned an anti-Castro organization called the Revolutionary Student Directorate, or Cuban Student Directorate, or in its Spanish acronym, DRE. So DRE, Cuban Student Directorate, and Revolutionary Student Directorate are all the same thing. It was a Cuban student group composed of middle-class Catholic students, mostly from the University of Havana, who were disturbed by this Communistic trend of Castro's revolution and opposed him, and then took up arms against him.

And so I found these records that concerned the DRE, and they were CIA records, and it was clear from those records that the DRE had a relationship with the CIA, and that they were in touch and, at that point I assumed were funded by them, although I didn't know that for sure. And so these records made reference to a man named Howard: the Cuban students would send Howard information that they had gotten, they would tell him about what they doing. And I thought that was interesting: so who was Howard? I thought that – and when I showed these records to John Newman he agreed - that would be an interesting thing to run down.

So I went and I looked up the former members of the DRE and I found them, in Miami, and they were mostly middle-class professional men who had been active in the anti-Castro cause in their early days, and then had abandoned it and then gone on to lead normal lives as doctors and engineers, book-publishers and the like. And so I went to them and I said: "Who was this guy Howard?" and they said: "Oh, well we remember him well" and they told me about him. He was a guy from New York, he would dress very well, he was an impressive character; very forceful, knew what he was talking about and, yes, he gave them money to support their activities, but he was also quite demanding about what he expected, so they described a close but conflicted relationship with this man Howard. But they said they did not know his real name; that he only went by this name Howard, or Mister.

So at that time there was an entity in existence called the Assassination Records Review Board. It had been created by the JFK Records Act and the Assassination Records Review Board had the job of enforcing the JFK Records Act. Congress said to the Government, and all agencies in the Government: "You have to make public all of your JFK records." and the Assassination Records Review Board was designed to review those records, make sure that there was no national security or privacy information contained in them, and then make them public, with appropriate withholdings of super-sensitive or private information, or whatever. The law mandated broad public disclosure, and the JFK Board was the entity that did this. 

So I went to the JFK Records Board – to the staff - they had an office here in Washington, and I said: "If you're collecting JFK records from government agencies, why don't you ask the CIA for the records of this man named Howard, because he was in Miami running this Cuban student group; the Cuban student group had this contact with Oswald, indeed they had suggested a congressional investigation of him; so who was Howard?"

ALAN DALE: And at this point in time, for all we knew, Howard might still be alive; we could go see him.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yes, and that was my hope; that Howard would be alive and could give his reaction to this prescient press release of the Cuban students that somebody investigate Oswald, and so what did he make of that? Did they investigate Oswald; did they care about that? What would he think? So I thought that he might well be alive, and I did a lot of research and talked to former CIA people, and nobody knew anybody named Howard working at that time who matched the description that I got from them. So I went to the JFK Review Board, to the staff, and I said: "If you're looking for JFK-related documents why don't you ask the CIA for the records of this man named Howard? That would be worth getting, and those might be revealing documents about Oswald and his antics before the assassination."

And so that was in late 1997, and about a year later I got notice that the JFK Review Board had located records, and in November of 1998 they released five fitness evaluations – annual personnel evaluations – of a man named George Joannides, who was in fact the case officer or the main person handling the contacts for the Cuban Student Directorate in 1963.

ALAN DALE: And does 'case officer' mean he's directing their activities? Is he their paymaster? Is he the source of their agenda? Is he directing the actual activities of the group?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Well, he is the CIA's point of contact with the group, which meant a couple of things: Yes, he gave the money to the group, so the money actually changed hands between him and the leaders of the group.

ALAN DALE: And the guy paying gets to choose what to do, right?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Well, no, I would not say he – he did not control the group; he did not tell the group what to do. This was a group of students who had been formed on their own, and then gained the support of the CIA. They thought of themselves as independent, although they acknowledged that they were dependent on CIA funding. So as I talked to the former leaders of the DRE they described a complex, not a simple relationship. It was not that the CIA controlled what they did. As one of them told me: "We worked with the CIA; we did not work for the CIA."

But on the other hand they were financially dependent in that the CIA paid the salaries of these young men; paid the rent at a couple of buildings in downtown Miami, where they had a headquarters. So they had to go along with what the CIA wanted. Now, they did share a goal, which was the overthrow of the Castro Government. They had their differences about the best way to pursue that: the CIA had its own agenda of course, so there was this complicated relationship but the fact was that when I learned in November 1998 that a man named George Joannides was Howard, and was the person who controlled this group, the story entered into a whole different dimension.

First of all I quickly found out that Joannides was dead; he had died in 1990 - his obituary had appeared in the Washington Post - so there was no possibility of interviewing him. But there were many people who obviously knew about him and I was very eager to try and figure out more about him. And so that's when I began reporting on who he was in the CIA and how did he fit into the CIA scheme of things. It was in November 1998, in those documents, that we also learned that Joannides had resurfaced in the JFK story in 1978, so in 1963 he is a case officer based in Miami, he's running covert operations.

ALAN DALE: And there are records. There are records of him.


ALAN DALE: Extensive, right.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Right. And so there would have to be records of him. I had, in the course of learning about the way the CIA worked, with the help of John Newman and others, had come to understand kind of how covert operations are run and how case officers handle client groups like the Cuban Student Directorate, and I came to an understanding that it's not like Hollywood; it's more like a bureaucracy, albeit secret, and albeit with special kinds of rules but in general, intelligence work involves a lot of paperwork: putting everything down on paper and reporting it and organizing it and trying to understand it is very fundamental to the enterprise of intelligence agencies.

ALAN DALE: So if there's an interruption in that record, that paper-trail, the documents that explain or describe a particular officer's activities or duties or their travel records or things like that; if there's an interruption of those materials then that draws attention to itself, doesn't it?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yes, because all of an intelligence officer's activities are very well documented, and one of the striking things about the records related to the Cuban Student Directorate was a hole in the records. The case officers who handled the group before and after Joannides always filed what was called a monthly progress report, and if you look at the whole body of records of the CIA in anti-Castro operations in the 1960s the monthly progress report is a standard reporting form for CIA-funded groups. The CIA gives the groups money and then reports on: How did they spend it? Did it help achieve US policy goals? Was it effective in X, Y and Z areas? What were the effectiveness of the leaders? and so on, and so the monthly progress reports are a detailed way for the Agency to keep track of its money and achieve its purposes.

So the case officers who came before George Joannides in handling the DRE in 1960, '61 and '62 had always filed monthly progress reports about the group and I found those in the archives, and I could understand how the process worked. But when 'Howard' took over the handling of the DRE in December 1962 there were no monthly progress reports, and for the next 17 months, from December 1962 to May of 1964, there were no monthly progress reports in the CIA files. And yet, as we learned in November 1998, Joannides was clearly the case officer for the group during that time.

So the question arose – one question in my mind was – where were those monthly progress reports? They should have existed. And I talked to retired CIA officers, and they said: "Yes, if you're running a large complex – running a relationship with a large complex organisation like the Cuban Student Directorate, which had maybe 20 employees and a wide variety of activities, then you have to write down that relationship. You have to record it so that anyone can come along and figure out: Is the Agency achieving its purposes here?" And those records were missing, so that was noteworthy, and interesting to me right away.

And so I began to do a lot more reporting about the group, and I realised just how important this relationship was. I found a document at the JFK Library in Boston which showed that in April of 1963 the CIA was giving the Cuban Student Directorate $51,000 a month. So if you want to understand that in – how much that would be worth in 2013 dollars - you should multiply by about six, so that would be like about $150,000 a month: well, that's like about $1.5m dollars a year.

ALAN DALE: It's a lot!

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yeah, so it's a significant relationship.

ALAN DALE: Yeah, not a modest commitment on the part of the CIA.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Right! Now what was interesting not only about the Cuban Student Directorate and the JKF story and Joannides' role in it, was the Cuban Student Directorate had played an influential role in the immediate press coverage of the assassination. On the day – within hours of – Kennedy's assassination and the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald the leaders of the DRE went public with their story about their clashes with Oswald, that he was pro-Castro, that he had attempted to infiltrate their group, that they had debated the Cuba issue on the radio with him, they had a tape-recording of that issue, so the role of the DRE in the JFK story was both before and after the assassination: before the assassination they had contact with Oswald; repeated contact in New Orleans; after the assassination they used the information that was gathered there.

ALAN DALE: To incriminate him.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: To incrimin… - well, to identify him publicly as a supporter of Castro. That was noteworthy to me, and then there was one more thing in the documents disclosed in 1998 that was worth noting, which was that in Miami Joannides was not only the case officer for the DRE; he also had a staff position, and he was chief of what was called the Psychological Warfare Branch of the CIA station in Miami.

And psychological warfare is the art of getting across information that helps you prevail in the political conflict at hand. So as a psychological warfare specialist it was Joannides' job to influence US perceptions of the Castro government, and to kind of confuse and confound and harass them, so as to hasten its overthrow. So to me it was very striking that a group that was paid for by the CIA, and in contact with a psychological warfare operation officer, had this influential role in the media. That's what psychological warfare operations are all about; is influencing media perceptions. And here was this officer who had done just that with his Cuban allies.

So I felt like that was a very good and interesting story at that point. I brought it up with my colleagues at the Washington Post, who were intrigued by the story, but I never found anybody who was willing to say: "We should put this in the paper." And I was very frustrated by that: I felt like this was compelling new information; it was interesting that the CIA's role - the CIA's financial connection to Oswald's antagonists in the Cuban exile community - had never been made public before. But nobody in the paper was willing to go to bat for the story.

So that relates to your first question about the journalistic lack of interest, and we can go into that, but I think that media criticism is one thing: I want to stay focussed here on the real history in the investigation. Frustrating as that was to me I decided that I needed to kind of generate news myself, and I decided to do that by seeking more documents. I was interested in what happened to the monthly progress reports that Joannides generated.

And the JFK Review Board in November 1998 had only released a handful of documents; these fitness evaluations, and so I thought that there had to be other records out there. So in – I'd done a lot more reporting, and in July of 2003 I filed a Freedom of Information Act request, very broadly speaking for all records about Joannides in his entire CIA career. And when the CIA wrote back and said that they had no documents responsive to my request I was certain that that wasn't true, and that's when I decided to file a lawsuit. So I filed the lawsuit in December 2003, seeking the records of George Joannides throughout his CIA career, and that lawsuit has been going on for 10 years now.

ALAN DALE: I need to ask you; I'm not clear about the chronology: Did I hear you say that in 1998 you discovered that Joannides had been brought out of retirement to be the liaison to the HSCA?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yes, I forgot to mention that. In the documents released in November 1998, both describe Joannides's role - his activities and his assignment - in 1963 at the time of the assassination, but they also included this other fact; that in 1978 he had reappeared in the JFK story, resurfaced, when he was named to be the CIA's principal liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which had reopened the JFK investigation 15 years after the crime.

ALAN DALE: So that's a bit of a bombshell, is it not?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: That was – all of the information that came out at that time was interesting, and that was the single most interesting thing. Not only had he played a role in 1963; he had played a role in 1978, and I called up Bob Blakey, who had been the General Counsel for the HSCA investigation and was now a professor at Notre Dame, and I said: "Bob (who I knew slightly), Bob, do you recall this fellow Joannides who was the CIA liaison in 1978?" And he said: "Yes, I do. We had a few meetings with him." I said: "Bob, did you know what he was doing in 1963?" And he said: "Oh, well, he wasn't doing anything in 1963 connected to the assassination, because we had an agreement with the CIA that they would not assign people who had operational responsibilities in 1963 to the investigation." And I said: "Well, Bob, think again, because this guy was up to his neck in the events of 1963, in his handling of the Cuban Student Directorate." And Blakey was shocked, and subsequently said that he had changed his opinion of the assassination, based on the fact that he had been deceived by the CIA.

ALAN DALE: And that Joannides could be charged with Contempt of Congress, or lying to Congress.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Well that's what Blakey said, based on what I told him, he said: "He was a material witness. If I had known who he was I would have put him under oath; I would have taken a statement from him." And of course that wasn't possible now that Joannides was dead. So that piqued my interest in the story all the more, and I found other members of the – other investigators for the HSCA and asked them about Joannides, and they were shocked too: Dan Hardway was one; Ed Lopez was another; Gaeton Fonzi was a third; and Fonzi said: We were trying to figure out who was the contact officer for the DRE when we were doing our investigation in 1978, and in fact we had gone to Joannides and we'd asked him: "Could you get those records? Who ran that?" And Joannides, who was the answer to his question, came back and said: "I'll see what I can find".

ALAN DALE: Oh, man! It's astonishing isn't it? Isn't it just enough to make you just soak your head? It's just beyond belief; it's reminiscent really of John Whitten being succeeded by, of all people, James Angleton to be the liaison from the CIA to the Warren Commission. I mean there's a pattern there of this kind of improbable irony, you know?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Certainly what it showed was that Joannides' actions in 1963 were so sensitive that he was willing to risk Obstruction of Congress – a felony: he was willing to risk breaking the law in order to keep the secret, so to me that suggested that what he was doing in 1963 was extraordinarily sensitive. And in the course of my litigation with the CIA over ten years I learned exactly that, because the CIA said over and over and over and over again that the material I was seeking was national security information that could not possibly be released without harming the current US national security of the United States.

So the CIA itself was vouching for the fact that Joannides' actions were extremely sensitive in 1963, and fifty years later most of those operations remain hidden from public view. So we don't know exactly what he was doing. But in the course of the litigation I obtained a lot of documents: first the CIA in December of 2004 provided a whole bunch of documents; their initial statement to me – their initial response to my FOIA request that they had no responsive documents was not true, and they admitted it was not true when they gave me a couple of hundred pages of information which came from Joannides' administrative file.

OK, there's two kinds of files in the CIA: there's an administrative file for Joannides which, like any administrative file, contained information about his health care benefits and his social security and FICA withholding and all that, and then there's operational files, about what he was doing in his day-to-day job. I didn't get anything from the operational files, but I got a lot from the administrative file. And the CIA said: Now we've complied with the law, please go away.

And the Federal Court judge in September of 2006 dismissed the case. The judge said there was not a scintilla of evidence that this had anything to do with Kennedy's assassination, which clearly wasn't true: I mean, Bob Blakey said that, and everybody who I talked to at the Post said: "Wow! This is an intriguing story." So my journalistic sense, verified by the statements of my sources, confirmed to me that there was a story here. So I appealed the CIA's decision and said: "No, you've not searched enough records; you've not explained why you can't find the monthly progress reports." - a whole variety of issues about CIA record-keeping that they really hadn't responded to.

And in December 2007 I won that case, unanimously, in the DC Court of Appeals, and a three-judge panel said the CIA had not yet complied with the law, and had to undertake a whole bunch more searches, which they did. And in August of 2008 I received another batch of information about Joannides, mostly from the administrative file. And in that batch of records there was yet another interesting – very interesting – disclosure. Actually there were two. And that was that in the spring of 1964 there were two travel records which showed that Joannides had gone to New Orleans – had gone to New Orleans in April and May of 1964. What was significant about that?

Well, that was the time when the staff of the Warren Commission went to New Orleans to investigate Oswald's contact with the anti-Castro exiles. In fact April 1st 1964 was the day that the Warren Commission wrote to Carlos Bringuier, the DRE's delegate in New Orleans and the man who had the most contact with Oswald in the summer of 1963, to tell him that they wanted to interview him for the Warren Commission and to learn more about his encounters with Oswald. That was the day; April 1st 1964; that Joannides went to New Orleans.

ALAN DALE: Probably just a coincidence!

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Well, there was no indication in the record about why he went. That would obviously be in the operational files, not in the administrative files, but he went there twice, in April and May of 1964, at the same time that the Warren Commission was there. So that was significant to me because it showed that Joannides' work did take him to New Orleans. One possible explanation of what had happened that I had to entertain was that Joannides in Miami simply did not know about the contacts between the DRE and Oswald in New Orleans: it happened in another city and he was never notified about it. I thought that that was unlikely for a variety of reasons: Joannides was a very diligent reporter and he kept very close track of everything the DRE did, but I had to consider it as a possibility. When I obtained the documents in August 2008 I had confirmation that no, his job duties took him to New Orleans and it was reasonable to conclude that he had known about the contacts between Oswald and the DRE that had taken place in New Orleans, so those records were certainly relevant.

The other thing that I obtained at that time was photographs that were taken at a medal ceremony held at CIA Headquarters in 1981, and the medal ceremony showed that Joannides had received what's called the Career Intelligence Medal: it's the second highest honor a CIA officer can receive, and that was the case; that Joannides had received this medal in July of 1981. That was two years after he had deceived the Congressional investigators about his actions in 1963. So not only had Joannides been financially related to the anti-Castro Cubans who encountered Oswald before the assassination and denounced him as a Castro supporter afterwards; not only had he deceived Congressional investigators who came to ask about that; but after all of that he had received a medal from the CIA.

ALAN DALE: For a job well done!

JEFFERSON MORLEY: So one could only conclude that one thing that he had done well was protected the Agency's interests, its sources and methods.

ALAN DALE: During a pesky Congressional investigation.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Of the murder of a sitting president.

ALAN DALE: Right, right. Jeff, we need to take a brief intermission. I'm speaking with Jefferson Morley, author of 'Our Man in Mexico', and we'll take a brief intermission: we'll be right back.
Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny.


Alan Dale

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Re: Program Transcript: Jefferson Morley
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2014, 07:33:47 PM »
ALAN DALE: And we're back. Our guest is Jefferson Morley, author of 'Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA' and 'Snowstorm in August', which focuses on an extraordinary criminal case set in the Nation's capital in 1835 and he, with distinguished scholar from Mary Ferrell, Rex Bradford, is the host of an online website called

We were speaking about George Joannides and the intricacies of his career, and the extraordinary revelations that have come about as the result of your intrepid pursuit of these stories and his relationship to anti-Castro activities which touched upon Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination. But there's another area of interest which I haven't really touched upon at all, and that is the story of a Math teacher from Alabama who, as improbable as it sounds, was such an exceptional person that he found his way from there to London, where he was working in the company of people like Bill Donovan, the founder I guess - the head - of the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA; found himself in the company of people whose careers would become legendary in the CIA, and maybe even elsewhere.

And the story of your association with Winston Scott, who became head of the CIA station, the very very important CIA station; arguably the most important CIA station in the world, Mexico City, which you've described as a sort of Casablanca of the Cold War because it included assassins, and it included spies, and incredible surveillance methods, and real James Bond kind of stuff. Can you tell me a little bit about how you became aware of Winston Scott and how it is that his story is relevant to our interest?

JEFFERSON MORLEY:  As my interest in the JFK story was growing and I was looking for interesting stories to tell, a friend of mine, an attorney here in Washington, said: "Jeff, I've got a client who's got a fascinating story; he's the son of a former CIA officer, and he's been pursuing the story of - his father's life story in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, and you should talk to him."

And so I said: "Well, that sounds interesting" and I met as a result of that Michael Scott, the son of Winston Scott, who had served as the chief of the Mexico City Station from 1956 to 1969. And Win Scott had a piece in the JFK story as well, so I thought Michael Scott's story would be interesting, and in fact it was more than fascinating; it was a window into the first 25 years of the CIA, and a window into the assassination story as it was perceived within the CIA.

I was especially fascinated by the Win Scott story because I saw it as a way of getting out of the bind of addressing JFK's assassination through the lens of conspiracy. As I told you, when I first starting reading about the JFK assassination story I read a lot of conspiracy books and I wasn't very impressed: I read the Government's official story, an anti-conspiracy theory, and I wasn't impressed by that either. I really was dissatisfied with the state of writing, and I thought that I could write a more interesting book about the assassination that didn't have the inevitable limitations of looking at a historical event purely through the lens of conspiracy; I mean it's a weird way of understanding history; we don't look back on World War II and say "Where's the conspiracy?" We try and understand all sorts of things that went into it.

Now a single event like an assassination, it's tempting to look at through the lens of conspiracy, but I felt reductive, and as I began to learn the story of Win Scott through Michael Scott I thought that what was interesting about the story was not to try and develop my own interpretation of the Kennedy assassination, but try to understand why, and how, a man like Winston Scott, a very – a superbly – accomplished intelligence professional with a distinguished 25-year career in the CIA, how did he understand the assassination? What did he make of it? I mean, I was in kindergarten when it happened, and I wasn't in Dallas, and I don't know anything about guns and…so rather than try and impose my views on it – I mean, really, who cares what I think? – I thought it was more interesting: how did Win Scott see the assassination?

So 'Our Man in Mexico' was an effort to recreate the life of Win Scott, who had an extraordinary career in intelligence and was a fascinating and passionate and interesting man in his personal life, but also to see how did he understand what had happened in Dallas; what did he make of it. I mean he was really in a position to know. He was a guy who was involved in the surveillance of Oswald, when he visited Mexico City six weeks before the assassination; he knew how the CIA worked; he knew how the Soviet Union's intelligence services worked; knew how the Cubans…so he really was in a position to know a lot.

And so 'Our Man in Mexico' was not a book about the assassination, but rather a book about how Win Scott understood the assassination. And the long and the short of it was he was very disturbed by it. He did not believe the official story, at least privately, and he wrote a manuscript to say so, and planned to publish it. And when he died his long-time friend James Angleton, the chief of counter-intelligence, flew to Mexico City and immediately seized the manuscript and suppressed it, and it remained secret for another 25 years. So that was just a great dramatic story that was very revealing about how the assassination – the reality of the assassination inside the CIA. And the beauty of this story in my mind was that this was not my opinion, because again who cared about my opinion, this was actually what a very accomplished CIA professional thought. And this was a kind of – as the subtitle of the book – this was kind of a hidden history of the CIA and a hidden history of the assassination.

ALAN DALE: Even hidden from his own family, because he wasn't in a position to share things relevant to his duties, and I find one of the poignant elements to this story; I would refer to Michael Scott's quest to seek and document his father's story, and his description of that process being infused with anxiety because of concern about what he might find by digging too deeply, and that part of it is a very human and rather touching attribute.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yeah, and I thought very courageous of Michael, and he was very generous with me in not seeking to – in telling me the story and not seeking me to tell it one way or to conform to his expectations or his hopes. He said: "I'm going to help you with this search for my father's life story, and you tell me what you find". I think Michael was very brave, and I think it comes back to your first question about journalism.

I think Michael undertook something that journalists have been loath to do, which is the possibility of discovering something very disturbing and personal, and in Michael's case it was very; it was literally his father. Would he find that his father was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy? And I found that, and concluded that, he was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, although he had inside information about the story, and very important inside information about the story.

But Michael took on that task of confronting the unknown and seeking the truth, and I think that journalists when they come to this story are reluctant to do that. You know, there's a lot to lose; it's not personal for journalists in that familial sense that Michael faced, but it is personal in the sense that you do have a lot to lose if you take on the CIA, and if you come forward with a narrative that is not going to be popular with your bosses and all of that. So Michael was very courageous in taking that on, and I think that the journalism has not been that courageous.

ALAN DALE: Among the many incredibly fascinating and revealing parts of you book 'Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA' you certainly did not have an opportunity to speak with – as far as I'm aware – did you ever interview Richard Helms?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: He would never speak to me.

ALAN DALE: Right! But you did get to speak with Nestor Sanchez, who was an aide; high-ranking assistant, and Sam Halpern.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yes, several of Helms' aides did talk to me; Nestor Sanchez and Sam Halpern most importantly. And Ted Shackley.

ALAN DALE: Yeah, and were you struck, as I was, by how uniformly their distaste toward President Kennedy and his foreign policy was still, at that point during your period of research of this book, just so full of vitriol and so full of anger – or would it be too much to say 'hate'?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yes. Hostility to JFK's Cuba policy was quite explicit in the minds of Sam Halpern and Nestor Sanchez, and other CIA officers who I spoke to, although they were particularly explicit about their criticism of JFK some 35 and 40 years later, so that was something that I really came to understand in a vivid way; was that there was a deep-seated hostility in the upper ranks of the CIA against Kennedy for his Cuba policy in 1963. And that was not associated with any conspiracy theory; that was what these men told me when I sat down with them and talked to them face-to-face.

ALAN DALE: One of the face-to-face encounters that I found to be so instructive, and so valuable, and something that - I don't want to gush, but I just cannot express adequately the gratitude that I personally feel towards you and Dr Newman for the efforts that you've made to understand what to ask if you have these extraordinary opportunities to speak to some of these principals who were engaged in a level of deception, which we haven't even touched upon, that existed between particular compartments; particular divisions of CIA, and other areas of CIA; incredible complexity which is illuminated in your book in detail and in a couple of other books that we could name, but at some point you decided to engage John Newman to accompany you to meet with a woman named Jane Roman.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Jane Roman was a name that I had run across in the new JFK records, and her name was – I found her name on a document dated before November 22nd 1963 that mentioned Lee Harvey Oswald, and I thought that was interesting: so here was a CIA person who knew about the President's alleged assassin before the assassination. So I thought that was inherently interesting: what did she make of Oswald?; what did she make of the crime and what was going on there?

And so (I) did some research and figured out – I found her daughter, and then eventually I found her, and she was living just a mile or two away from me in Washington, so (I) went to see her. I was not that conversant with CIA operations at the time, so I brought along John Newman to – because he was more – he had a professional interest and professional experience in intelligence work, and so I brought him along and we did have this very illuminating interview, where she talked about CIA intelligence-gathering on Oswald before the assassination.

And this I thought was a remarkably interesting story; it was not something that was well-understood: it was not something that the almost prosecutorial investigations of the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee had ever really sought to lay bare, you know; those investigations were charged with figuring out who was responsible for the death of President Kennedy, but quite apart from that, a person like Jane Roman really shed more light on how the CIA functioned at the time, and how they collected information on Oswald, the man who allegedly shot the president.

ALAN DALE: So she wasn't an operations, in-the-field kind of person: she was a desk officer who oversaw the communications.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yes, she was an aide to James Angleton, the Chief of Counter-Intelligence, and what she did for Angleton was coordinate the communications between the counter-intelligence staff, which was charged with detecting threats to the confidentiality of Agency operations, and the rest of the US Government. So if Angleton wanted to communicate with the FBI, which also had counter-intelligence responsibilities, or the FBI wanted to communicate with Angleton's office, all of that communication would go through Jane Roman: she was the person who handled those things for him.

So she was in a position of high trust with Angleton, who was one of the most powerful people in the Agency, and Jane Roman was indeed highly trusted. Her husband Howard Roman was a friend and aide to Allen Dulles who had been the Director of the CIA from 1952 to 1961, so Jane Roman was an extremely knowledgeable source, who was in a position to talk, like few others, about the operations of the agency in 1963. So that's why I was so interested in talking to her, and that's why the interview that resulted was so interesting and important.

ALAN DALE: One of the questions that I have for you is something that is almost cinematic in my imagination; something that would represent kind of a pivotal scene if some intelligent film-maker or screen writer ever made a movie out of your story and the work that you've put into these controversies, and that is the moment after the interview, where I believe you - if I understand it; I'm doing this from memory; but if I remember correctly, basically you didn't even get back to your cars, or to your car: right after you left her house the two of you – you and Dr John Newman – looked at each other and said: "What just happened in there?" And I think that's a very interesting and compelling moment, where for the first time ever someone who was in a position to know, admitted that what the subject of your interview really ultimately culminated with, represented a keen interest in Oswald, held close to the vest on a need-to-know basis six weeks prior the assassination, and she's referring to executives above her, maybe in the Special Investigations Group of Counter-Intelligence Division, which James Angleton ruled like a living god.

JEFFERSON MORLEY: Yeah, I mean, what Jane Roman said was very interesting and important because it made clear that the official story that CIA spokesmen had talked about for many years: that the Agency's pre-assassination interest in Oswald was, quote 'routine' unquote: simply wasn't true, according to somebody who was there. That in fact this interest in Oswald was held at the top of the Agency, among people like Jane Roman and her bosses, which was the very top of the CIA. It was closely held: this was not casual information, but this was information to be controlled; this was information of operational interest and that it was keen - that was the word she used - this was a keen interest, it wasn't a routine interest, it was a keen interest, and so yeah, when John and I came out of there we really thought: this is important.

ALAN DALE: And you were right! It's all important, and quite a bit of it is illuminated in your book 'Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA'. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. Could never adequately express the gratitude that you deserve for your commitment to pursue these consequential aspects of the most consequential story of the second half of the 20th century. Before we conclude I would ask you very briefly: how do you feel about where we are right now in all of this? I'm not asking specifically about the case, which I realise you're awaiting a decision from your most recent appearance in court, challenging the CIA to abide by law. But where do you think we are in terms of coming to a better-defined understanding of what happened and who was responsible?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: My own thinking has come to this: I think what's most likely is that President Kennedy was killed by a faction within his own Government. We can't identify any individual co-conspirators, and certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt, but whoever was the intellectual authors of Kennedy's death, I think that they were aided and abetted by the CIA, and specifically by James Angleton and Richard Helms, and by officers who reported to them, including George Joannides. That's, I think, as specific as we can say, but I feel quite confident in saying that, and it remains a matter of mustering the political will and the government, and the national security agencies, to bring the whole story to light. And I think that that can be done; I think it will be done, but it's very difficult to say when. There is a lack of will – political will – to uncover this: there is no lack of popular will, but there's a lack of political will. It's still highly sensitive and politically fraught; a lot of money and a lot of reputations are on the line. I think with the passage of time we may view this with more detachment and come to a much clearer understanding of what actually happened. But that's my view of what happened.

ALAN DALE: Fifty years past the beginning of this dreadful journey, we do know so much more than previous generations of historical researchers who concerned themselves with this event, and part of the reason that we know more is because of the work that you have contributed, and because of the achievement of some revelations which you've introduced. And I mean it sincerely when I say that we owe you a debt of gratitude. Our guest has been Jefferson Morley, the author of  'Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA', also 2012's 'Snowstorm in August' and these books are available where, Jeff?

JEFFERSON MORLEY: On Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and bookstores near you.

ALAN DALE: And the website is My sincere thanks for joining us. You've been listening to Conversations, a JFK Lancer production.
« Last Edit: March 13, 2014, 01:14:09 AM by Alan Dale »
Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny.


Phil Dragoo

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Marvelous interview--Two significant Stand-and-Deliver moments
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2014, 05:27:21 AM »

A grand job--and blessed by a complete transcription by Mary Constantine.  Enormous task.

Two statements by Jefferson Morley leap out:

The first:

Another obstacle that I have found in my own research is that, after 10 years in court with the CIA I think that; my understanding of it is that the information that I was seeking is simply too embarrassing for the current custodians of those records to release. They would have too much to lose in terms of the Agency's public reputation - and its budget.

This, to me, is the greatest understatement:  to say Joannides' complicity in conspiracy to kill the president and obstruct investigation into the crime "is simply too embarrassing"--

I find the innocence here almost unbelieveable--  Ye gods and little fishes, an act of state removed the president and for fifty years the state has remained layered in armor plate; it is as likely to confess as the steel doors of Justice are apt to fall off their hinges and a tsunami of hitherto sealed files rush into the streets to be joined by an arm from Langley, covering the Beltway with white 8 X 11-1/2 snowflakes to ankle depth.

Does Jefferson Morley not see that the government remains an adjunct to a security state which is never wrong and never contrite, never suffers whistleblowers, whose secrets will never see the light?

And secondly:

JEFFERSON MORLEY: My own thinking has come to this: I think what's most likely is that President Kennedy was killed by a faction within his own Government. We can't identify any individual co-conspirators, and certainly not beyond a reasonable doubt, but whoever was the intellectual authors of Kennedy's death, I think that they were aided and abetted by the CIA, and specifically by James Angleton and Richard Helms, and by officers who reported to them, including George Joannides. That's, I think, as specific as we can say, but I feel quite confident in saying that, and it remains a matter of mustering the political will and the government, and the national security agencies, to bring the whole story to light. And I think that that can be done; I think it will be done, but it's very difficult to say when. There is a lack of will – political will – to uncover this: there is no lack of popular will, but there's a lack of political will. It's still highly sensitive and politically fraught; a lot of money and a lot of reputations are on the line. I think with the passage of time we may view this with more detachment and come to a much clearer understanding of what actually happened. But that's my view of what happened.

This passage is a partial concession of state agency in the assassination.  In Michael Calder, JFK vs. CIA (2000), Richard Helms is a major facilitator, situated as Director of Plans to oversee covert operations.

As we see in John Newman, only Angleton could manipulate Oswald's files.

Joannides' stonewalling Lopez and Hardaway got him a medal from Turner.

In my view this is completely beyond "highly sensitive and politically fraught" and entails much, much more than "a lot of money and a lot of reputations."

The state will never give up its power.  To admit its killing a president in an end-justifies-the-means act is entirely impossible, existentially inconceivable.

In my view, being in the midst of Stephen Kinzer, The Brothers, and Greg Parker, Lee Harvey Oswald's Cold War, the covert regime change and assassination of leaders has been part of the intelligence-military-corporate establishment since before the creation of OSS when Donovan allowed Allen Dulles to amass caches of sniper rifles and silencers in Switzerland (1941-2).

Dulles did not call in Hunt November 1963 for Craft of Intelligence alone.  A network of seasoned comrades cooperated on the mission as they had done and would continue to do.

The illusion of coincidence and innocence is created by compartmentalism and the cultural secrecy of intelligence, military, organized crime (often melting into each other like drops of mercury, forming special teams).

I have heard of certain key omissions from Our Man in Mexico which I leave to other specialized researchers for comment.  His death by heart attack four days before a face to face with Helms over a too-revealing autobiography is just another heart attack like Harvey, or Thomas Shipman, Guy Banister, and so on.

« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 05:29:10 AM by Phil Dragoo »