The CIA Throws Former Director McCone Under The Bus

October 12, 2015

Various news outlets are reporting that the CIA’s in-house historian David Robarge has released a report that appears to be preparing the agency for “a soft landing” regarding the planned release of Kennedy assassination records in 2017. The report is on a 20-page pdf, which I will provide a link to at the bottom of this article. Two things about this pdf; the cut-and-paste did not translate very well, there were some names redacted and for some reason that resulted in a somewhat disjointed appearance and some incorrect spelling. I will not attempt to correct these. Secondly, as I labored through this process, there was some unusual downloading occurring that I have never seen on my computer before. Nothing seems to have been affected and it may have been completely unrelated. With that said, here are a number of select paragraphs that suggest the CIA is planning for a certain amount of bad news with the 2017 document dump, and have shifted much of the blame for misinforming the Warren Commission to former director John McCone. I will highlight my comments to avoid confusion with paragraphs of the report:

(U) Under McCone’s and Helms’s
direction, CIA supported the Warren
Commission in a way that may best
be described as passive. reactive. and
selective. In early 1965, McCone told
the Department of Justice that he had
instructed Agency officers “to cooperate
fully with the President’s Commission
and to withhold nothing from
its serutiny,” and, through October
1964, CIA provided it with 77 documents
and prepared 38 reports of
varying lengths in response to its
taskings. •
(U) That cooperation, however, was
narrower than those numbers might
suggest. CIA produced information
only in response to commission
requests-most of which concerned
the Soviet Union or Oswald’s activities
while he was outside the United
States–and did not volunteer material
even if potentially relevant-for
example, about Agency plans to
assassinate Castro. Helms told the
House of Representatives’ Select
Committee on Assassinations in 1978
that be “was instructed to reply ‘to
inquiries from the Wan:en Commission
for information fiom the
Agency. I was not asked to initiate
any particular thing.” When queried,
“[I]n other words. if you wen:n ‘t
asked for it you didn’t give it?,”
Helms replied, “That’s right”
(S) No documentary evidence indicates
whether McCone ordered the •
circumscribed approach on his own
or at the White House’s behest. but
DDCI Marshall carter recalled that
McCone said he would “handle the
whole [commission] business myself,
directly” -including, presumably,
establishing, or at least ratifYing, the
chain of command and degree of
responsiveness. Moreover, the DCI
shared the administration’s interest in
avoiding disclosures about covert
. actions that would circumstantially
implicate CIA in conspiracy theories,
and possibly lead to calls for a tough
US response against the perpetrators
of the assassination. If the commission
did not know to ask about covert
operations against Cuba, he was not
going to give them any suggestions
about where to look.
(S) The DCIIater said the chief justi.
ce seemed “quite satisfied” with
what he saw. In May, McCone discussed
with Warren and McCloy the
need for the commission to refute
conspiracy theories even if doing’ so
gave them unwamntcd publicity. “If
your report doesn’t dispose of it [the
••second gunman” scenario] point by
point, your report is a whitewash,” .he
warned McCloy.

The definition of “Whitewash’ is “an act or instance of glossing over or exonerating”. I would suggest that’s exactly what the Warren Commission did – whitewash the facts surrounding the assassination.

AJso in May, the
DCI discwsed his upcoming testimony
before the commission with its
general COIDISCI, J. Lee Rankin.
Rankin told him the subjects he
would be asked about~ainly •’your
knowledge about Oswald being an
agent or informer … [and] your
knowledge of any conspiracy, either
domestic or foreign.”

I would suggest that informing a witness (McCone) may be a violation of the law.

(U) One reason for all this attention
to conspiratorialists was that the ideas
of one of the earli~ of them,
Thomas Buchanan, were circulating
widely by the time McCone testified.
to the commission. Buchanan, an
expatriate American communist and
former reporter for the Washington
Evening Star, had published articles
in the French periodicali’E:xpress and
produced a ~k, Who Killed Kennedy?,
based on them in May 1964.
The book’s thesis, which anticipated
many criticisms of the commission’s
findings, contended that a second
gunman had fired on Kennedy from
the Grassy Knoll because the wind-•
shield of the presidential car had a
small hole in it. Only that scenario,
Buchanan argued, would explai~ the
anomalies regarding the bullets’
paths, the timing and locations of the
wounds on Kennedy and Texas Governor
John Connally, and the conttadictions
between the emergency staff
at Parkland Hospital in Dallas and the
doctors who perfonned the autopsy,.
on the president’s body at Bethesda
Naval Medical Center.

The above information is generally accepted as the actual facts of the shooting.

(S) McCone does not appear to
have had any explicit,’ special understanding
with Allen Dulles-the
commission member who worked
closest with CIA-that aided the former
DCI in steering the inquiry away
ftom controversial Agency operations.
McCone later denied that
, Dulles was the Intelligence Community’s
protector on the commission,
and the latter declined a suggestion
ftom the panel’s head lawyet that he
“serve as CIA file reviewer” for the
commission. Dulles did, however,
advise Agency officers of the questions
his fellow commissioners most
likely would ask. As the only commission
member who knew about the
Agency’s “executive action,. operations.
Dulles seems to have taken on
this proprietaJy responsibility himself.
(It is not known if he told any•
commissioners in private about CIA’s
plots to kill Castro.) He worked
through Helms, Rocca, Mwphy, and
other Agency officers and, as was the
case with other commissioners and
staffers, did not need to deal with
McCone directly.•

Actually, Dulles led the commission down the lone shooter path from the beginning, with a book he provided about the Lincoln assassination.

(U) The ocr also was advised that,
to protect soittces and methods. he
should not answer on-the-record •
questions about Oswald’s activities in
Mexico. The commission’s chief
counsel and a few staffers already
had received suCh information “on a
highly restticted basis.” By the time
he testified, McCone had already had
one interview about the assassination-
in mid-April with author William
Manchester, whom Jacqueline
KeMedy fwl retained to write an
account ofher husband’s death. In
Febrwuy, following accusations from
Marguerite Oswald that CIA had “set
up [her son] to take the blame” for
the assassination, McCone stated•
publicly that Oswald “was never
directly or indirectly connected with

The Mexico City trip is thought to have employed at least one of Oswald’s doubles, and was certainly used to build Oswald’s legend as a pro-communist assassin. To date, no documents have surfaced suggesting Oswald worked directly for the CIA, that would not have been necessary. It is likely however, that Oswald had Naval Intelligence connections.

(S) Although literally true,
McCone’s statement was incomplete.
A former CIA employee, who •
worked in the Foreign Documents
Division of the Soviet component of
the Directorate oflntelligence, told
the House assassinations committee
in 1978 that in-1962 he reviewed a
report on the Minsk electronics plant
where Oswald worked while in the
Soviet Union. The report, ac~•: o
to the officer. came from CIA’
~field office and was so .
~Marine who had defected and
was employed at the plant The
record does not indicate ifMcCone
knew of this report and its sourci~g
chain and chose not to tell the Warren
Commission (preswnably to conceal
an embarrassing but, in the
. context of the assassination itself,
irrelevant Unk between the Agency
and Oswald); if witting CIA officas
did not tell him about it (possibly for
the same reasons); or if it was foJgOt•
ten. not located, or not coMccted to

Here the agency provides a footnote below that suggests the information on the Minsk radio factory may have come through Oswald’s handler George DeMohrenschildt, although Oswald himself may have been the primary source.

(U) In addition, the Agency had •
acquired infonnadon ”ftom” Oswald
without his knowledge through the Cl
Staff’s mail-cover and mail-opening
program, codenamed HTI..INGUAL.
McCone may not have been aware of
that project before the assassination.
but insow as Oswald had been on
the taraet list (because of his former
defector status). it would be surprising
if the DCI were not told about the
• program after22 November. If not,
his subordinates deceived him; if he
did know about HrLINGUAL

The HTLINGUAL mail opening program began while Oswald was in Russia and continued after his return. Oswald’s files were closely held by James Angleton’s counterintelligence office.

(S)’ After the full extent of CIA”s
regime-change operations in Cuba
was revealed during the 1970s, congressional
and journalistic attention
focused more on what McCone and
the Agency had not told the Warren
Commission-particularly about the
plots to kill Castro. To many observers,
and some CIA officers as well,
these activities clearly seemed relevant
to the Kennedy assassination
and to the commission’s investiga•
tion, yet in 1964Agency officials
concluded that they were not When
the House committee asked McCone
in 1978 if CIA had withheld fiom the
commission infonnation about the
Agency’s plots to kill Castro to avoid
embamiSSmcnt or an international
crisis, McCone replied: “I cannot
answer that since they (CIA employees
knowledgeable of the continuance
of such plots) withheld the
infonnation fiom me. I cannot answer
that question. I have never been satis•
ficd as to whY, th~y withheld the
infonnation from me.” He said he
assumed Dulles, who was DCI when
the plots originated, ‘would have told
the commission about them. When
asked if the Agency had provided the
commission with infonnation about
covert action, McCone replied in the
negative, stating that a “public commission”
could not receive such
(U) McCone’s answer was neither
fiank nor accurate. By the time he
testified to the commission in May
1964, he had known abo~t the Mafia
plots to kill Castro for nine months,
but he chose not to mention them.
Moreover, McCone’s reference to the
commission about ”an investigation
of all developments a.fler the assassination
which came to our attention
which might possibly have indicated
a conspiracy” (emphasis added) precluded
providing details about etll’lier
covert actions that might have
seemed pertinent (U)
As Deputy Attorney
General Nicholas Katzenbach wrote
to presidential assistant Bill Moyers
on 26 November:
The public must be satisfied
that Oswald was the assassin;
that he did not have
confederates who are still at
•large …. Speculation about
Oswald’s motivation ought to
be cut off, and we should
have some basis for rebutting
the thought that this was a • •
Communist conspiracy or (as
the Iron Curtain press is SQ)’Ing)
a right-wing conspiracy
to blame it on the Communists
…. We need something to
head off public speculation or
Congressional hearings of the
wrong sort.”

The Katzenbach memo proves that there was a “rush to judgment” from the day after Ruby shot Oswald, to pin the entire plot on Oswald. Researcher Mae Brusell had a copy of “Who’s Who In The CIA” that named Bill Moyers as a CIA employee also.

an infonner rewards provision) covering
the president and vice president;
expansion ofSecretService
agents’ investigative and arteSt powers;
establishment of a cabinet-level
group to oversee presidential protection;
and improved cooperation
among federal agencies and with
sblte and local law enforcement
departments. Several of the recommendations
that McCone and his fellow
committeemen made were soon
(U) One ofMcCone’s missions as
DCI was to keep CIA out of operational
controversies, so it is ironic
that. as. a private citizen, he later gave
infonnation to the House assassinations
committee that rekindled
ch&Jges that the Agency had hidden
its supposed clandestine relationship
with Oswald. In May I97i, columnist
Jack Anderson (citing the committee’s
files) wrote that Antonio
Vcciana, in the 1960s a member of
the anti-Castro commando group
Alpha 66, had told congressional
investigators that in Dallas in August
1963, he had met with Oswald and a
CIA officer who used the name
“Maurice Bishop.” Anderson’s story,
which the Agency described in an
internal report as “a mixture of some
fact and a great deal of fiction,” did
not hold up. A review of CIA records
found no•rcfercnce to Maurice (or
Moms) Bishop as a true name,
pseudonym, or alias; the Agency
never supported Alpha 66; and Veciana
was registered as a contact of the
US Anny, not the Agency. b
(U) The House committee picked
up the Bishop “lead” and questioned
McCone about it in August 1978.
McCone recalled a “Maurice Bishop”
and believed the man was an Agency
employee. but did not know where he
worked or what his duties were. ClA
management became concerned that
the fonner DCI’s statement, even
though in context ofthand and imprecise.
would call the Agency’s credibility
into question. Scott
Breckinridge of the Office of Legislative
Counsel met with McCone in
• early October and brought along photographs
of all past and present CIA
employees with the surname of
Bishop. After hearing that the
Agency had no record of a Maurice
or Morris Bishop, McCone declined
to look at the photographs and said he
must have been mistaken when he
gave his deposition. H~ said that the
name had come up along with a
dozen or so others after five hours of
questioning and that although Maurice
Bishop ”rang a bell” with him, he
• might have been thinking about
someone else. Brcckinridge informed
the House committee’s chief counsel,
G. Robert Blakey, in mid-October
that “Mr. McCone withdraws his
statements on this point.” Neither the
identity, nor even the existence, of
“Maurice Bishop” has ever been
established. C

The late Gaeton Fonzi of the HSCA had a source named Antonio Vecciana who saw Oswald in the company of Maurice Bishop, who was David Atlee Phillips, CIA chief of all operations in the western hemisphere.
So this leaves us with some interesting questions; does this signal that the CIA is getting nervous about the 2017 document dump – that they are going to indicate there was (as has been said) “a benign cover-up”? Blame the mess on an incompetent CIA director?
Here are some choice comments from Charlie Pierce at Esquire:

The CIA Keeps (Accidentally) Legitimizing JFK Conspiracy Theories
Now we learn that the CIA chief at the time did all he could to bury “incendiary” information.


“It’s increasingly difficult to accept the notion that so flawed an investigation, honeycombed by people with agendas contrary to its stated purpose, hobbled by lying witnesses, and denied access to relevant documents and information that might have related to the motive behind the crime, somehow stumbled into the correct conclusion anyway. It’s also hard to believe that, in case it all came apart suddenly, those same people with those same agendas didn’t have a backup plan that covered their asses and made them look wise and noble. As I’ve often said, I’m an agnostic on who shot from where and why. (If you want to convince me it was Oswald, alone, then you’ve got to give me a believable motive, which nobody ever has.) We may never know the truth about the mechanics of the murder. But we do know there was a cover-up, and that we never were told the whole truth about the events surrounding the murder of a president. That is a crime against history that remains unsolved.”

The best reporting on this as been at JFK Facts

You can read an article I wrote about interviewing David Slawson, an attorney/investigator for The Warren Commission at this link:

Researches have mentioned earlier that therapy with for genital herpes in HIV-positive patients results in a reduction in the concentration of HIV RNA in blood plasma.

And here is the link to the released CIA report:

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