August 18, 2013

Sealed JFK probe files tantalize

Conspiracy buffs are not the only people who are eager to know what the documents contain.

By DAVID PORTER The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy ride in the back seat of an open limousine on Nov. 22, 1963, as their motorcade approaches Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.

The Associated Press

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CIA agent George Joannides was case officer for a group involved in a street fracas with Lee Harvey Oswald.

Warren Commission staff counsel Burt Griffin, now a retired judge, calls it "an act of bad faith" by the CIA.

"I think they had an obligation to tell the chief justice (Earl Warren, commission chairman) about that, and then that decision would have been his and the commission's to make," Griffin said.

In separate interviews with The Associated Press, Griffin and fellow staff counsel David Slawson stood by the Warren Commission's conclusions.

Each pointed to a series of personal rejections behind Oswald's deadly action: Weeks after he made an unsuccessful attempt in Mexico City to get a visa to Cuba, his wife Marina rejected his attempts to reconcile their rocky marriage.

It was during Oswald's visit, the night before the shooting, to the suburban Dallas home where his wife and two young daughters were staying that he packed up his disassembled Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to take to work the next day, the Warren Commission determined. That next morning, he removed his wedding ring, left his money with his wife, and departed to carry out the assassination.

"If she had taken him back," Slawson said, "he wouldn't have done it."

More complex and sinister theories about his motivation have been offered, of course, some flowing from the release in the 1990s of previously classified documents.

Kaiser, the historian, has postulated that Oswald, long seen as a devout leftist, was in fact being manipulated by right-wing and mob elements in his final months and that his visit to the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City in the fall of 1963 was part of an attempt to reach Cuba and kill Castro. Release of documents held by those governments could be revealing, Kaiser said.

By the time the House Select Committee on Assassinations convened in the mid-1970s to probe the Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. killings, other congressional investigations had exposed the CIA's activities in the early 1960s, including plots to assassinate Castro.

Those revelations would be overshadowed, however, by the House committee's JFK conclusion: That sound impulses recorded on the microphone of a Dallas police officer amounted to evidence of a shot from the infamous "grassy knoll" in Dealey Plaza, and thus of an additional gunman besides Oswald firing from a building window.

Kennedy, the committee's final report said in carefully tempered language, was "probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy. The committee is unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy."

Subsequent analyses have cast doubt on the acoustic evidence, and the issue is considered unresolved.

JOANNIDES WAS MIDDLEMAN

That evidence was, of course, only part of the mountains of material considered by the committee, some of it from the CIA. And the CIA's liaison to the committee was none other than George Joannides, by then retired from the agency.

Blakey, the committee's chief counsel, recalled how the CIA brought in Joannides to act as a middleman to help fill requests for documents made by committee researchers. "He was put in a position to edit everything we were given before it was given to us," Blakey said.

But Blakey didn't learn about Joannides' past until Morley unearthed it in files declassified years later.

"If I'd known Joannides was the case officer for the DRE, he couldn't have been liaison; he would have been a witness," Blakey told The Associated Press. Blakey added: "Do I think I was snookered, precisely like the Warren Commission was? Yes."

 

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