Friday, August 8, 2014

Jim Garrison and the Still Secret JFK Assassination Files

Jim Garrison and the Still Secret JFK Files – Bill Kelly

When it was suggested that a conference be held in New Orleans on the 2017 anniversary of the Garrison investigation into the New Orleans aspects of the assassination, I thought New Orleans a great place to hold a conference, as I look forward to visiting all of the French Quarter bars that are mentioned in Garrison’s book “On the Trail of the Assassins,” some of which are featured in Oliver Stone’s JFK movie, which is based in part on that book.

There’s Tortorich’s on Royal Street, where Garrison watched the breaking news of the assassination on TV, the Katzenjammer Bar on Camp Street where Guy Bannister and Jack Martin got drunk at the same time, the Bourbon House at Bourbon and St. Peter Streets where Barbara Reid sat down with ex-marine buddies Kerry Thornley and Lee Oswald over burgers and beers, Ryder’s Coffee House at Vieux Carre where Thornley hung out, Broussard’s Restaurant where Garrison had lunch with Dean Andrews, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop where Garrison investigated the background of “Clem Bertrand,” Cosimo’s on Burgandy Street where “Bertrnad” was identified as Clay Shaw, the Masquerade Bar on St. Louis Street where Shaw was known by the “Bertram” alias, and the Absinthe House, where Shaw and David Ferrie were seen together. I was in New Orleans when Stone was filming JFK and visited some of these haunts, but the Habana Bar, where Oswald was also known to drink lemonade with the Cubans, is no longer there.

The suggested date of a New Orleans conference – 2017, I noted, is also when, according to the JFK Act of 1992, the still-sealed government records on the assassination are scheduled to be released, and I recalled Garrison saying he asked his son to be there when the secret records are released.

In response, Don Carpenter wrote: “Bill, Just to add a little context, Garrison died in Fall of 1992, before ARRB even began to crank up its very basic operations. Garrison may have made the statement about all the still-sealed documents as of 1992, or probably years before when he made the statement (probably in the 1967-69 period), but most of whatever he was talking about has already been released. He was not talking specifically about what is left to be declassified, although I think we all are anxious to see if there is anything in there.”

Carpenter also said that he didn’t think “Garrison was on to something,” though he is willing to be persuaded otherwise.

Well I don’t think that the New Orleans crew that Garrison “was on to” – the same Yahoos who carried out the Houma Bunker raid [], could have successfully pulled off the relatively complex Dealey Plaza covert operation, which included the framing of Oswald, a professional Level One sniper taking the head shot, a Northwoods-type disinformation twist to blame Castro and the officially sanctioned cover-up that continues today. That’s a very sophisticated operation, one well planned out in advance and not one that some New Orleans Yahoos or the Mafia could have successfully pulled off. The Dealey Plaza operation was successfully conducted by a domestic anti-Communist intelligence network closely affiliated with the military-industrial complex that continues to function today.

And I think that what Garrison was “on to,” wasn’t the Bannister, Ferrie, Clay Shaw and the Yahoos, but rather Garrison eventually realized was that Kennedy wasn’t killed by a deranged lone nut, or even by the New Orleans contingent he tried to prosecute – but what happened at Dealey Plaza was a covert coup conducted by JFK’s rich and powerful enemies in Washington who were beyond his jurisdiction.

You can argue over whether Garrison was “on to something” or not, but what he says rings true –
“More than anything,” Garrison wrote, “what has changed in the years since President Kennedy’s assassination is our national consciousness. We have been through so much. There were, for example, the assassinations of Medgar Evers, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X. There were assassination attempts on presidential candidate George Wallace and presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. We lived through nine horrifying years of the Vietnam War, the trauma of Watergate, the revelations during the 1970s about the CIA, and more recently the Iran/contra affair. This extraordinary succession of events has ended our innocence. Looking back today with new information and new insights, it is possible to put together an informed historical speculation of what happened to President Kennedy and why. I believe that what happened at Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963 was a coup d’etat. I believe that it was instigated and planned long in advance by fanatical anticommunists in the U.S. intelligence community, that it was carried out, most likely without official approval, by individuals in the C.I.A.’s covert operations apparatus and other extra-governmental collaborators, and covered up by like-minded individuals in the F.B.I., the Secret Service, the Dallas Police Department, and the military, and that its purpose was to stop Kennedy from seeking détente with the Soviet Union and Cuba and ending the Cold War.”

“This coup d‘etat had accomplished its objective with clock-work precision. The life had been ripped from the chief executive of the United States government, and major changes in American foreign policy would be arriving not in months or weeks, but in the next several days. Meanwhile, the cover-up was progressing…As soon as the non-participating elements in the intelligence community saw that a coup d’etat had occurred, they moved quickly to support the official story. Motivated in some instances by self-preservation and in others by a belief that Kennedy  had brought the assassination on himself by compromising too often with the Soviets, the remainder of the government – from high elected officials to heads of departments and agencies – lined up to add their solemn voices to the growing chorus chanting the great lie.”

“With the murder plainly unsolved, a succession of Presidents and attorneys general, each with the resources of the F.B.I. and the entire federal government at their command, made no effort to get to the truth. …dissemination of disinformation is the last element necessary for a successful coup d’etat, and it also happens to be one of the specialties of the C.I.A. For many years the Agency secretly had on its payroll journalists ostensibly working for the major media but in fact disseminating propaganda for consumption by the American people…”

“The original false sponsor was the scapegoat himself, Lee Harvey Oswald…formally endorsed by the Warren Commission…However, over time it became increasingly apparent that the lone assassin fairy tale had fallen apart, and most of its supporters simply fell silent…One of the most intriguing false sponsors is Fidel Castro…Of course, the primary and most lasting false sponsor has been organized crime, the Mafia, the mob….Upon close examination,…the false sponsors all fall of their own weight. What remains as the only likely sponsor with both the motive and the capability of murdering the President is the covert action arm of the Central Intelligence Agency. Invisible as it is dangerous, the covert operations apparatus of the C.I.A. has become the most powerful element in the intelligence community….Is all of this possible? It might not have seemed so 25 years ago. However, now that we know some of the true history of the C.I.A. and its covert operations, the answer is a distinct yes. Assassination is precisely what the Agency knows how to do and what it has done all over the world for policy ends.”

“With the passage of time, we can see the enduring results of President Kennedy’s assassination…The Justice Department, knowing all that we know now, still refuses to conduct an honest investigation intot he most important political assassination of our time….It may be too late. However it is not too late for us to learn the lessons of history, to understand where we are now and who runs this country…”

From “On the Trail of the Assassins” (Chapter 20, The Secret Sponsors, p. 320-347)

While I disagree with Garrison in that the C.I.A.’s covert operational branch was the only intelligence network capable of such covert operations – the military is also proficient at such tactics, recognizing the assassination as a coup d’etat and the Modus Operandi of the murder as that of a covert intelligence operation are significant steps in figuring out what really happened and determining the truth.

And what Garrison says about the sealed government files is pertinent and significant, and I quickly found the correct quote thanks to Dave Reitzes, who also thought important enough to quote and try to denigrate when wrote “The JFK 100 – Suppressed Investigative Files”, where he refers to the part of Oliver Stone’s JFK film where Garrison mentions the secret files. Reitzes specifically quotes the part I was referring to when New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) delivers a monologue about evidence being concealed by the federal government: 

           “Let’s ask the two men who have profited the most from the assassination – your former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and your new President, Richard Nixon – to release 51 CIA documents pertaining to Lee Oswald and Jack Ruby, or the secret CIA memo on Oswald’s activities in Russia that was ‘destroyed’ while being photocopied. All these documents are yours – the people’s property – you pay for it, because the government considers you children who might be too disturbed to face this reality, because you might lynch those involved, you cannot see these documents for another 75 years. I’m in my 40s, so I’ll have shuffled off this moral coil by then, telling my 8-year old son to keep himself physically fit so that one glorious September morning in 2038 he can walk into the National Archives and find out what the CIA and FBI knew. They may even push it back then. It may become a generational affair with questions passed down from father to son, mother to daughter, in the manner of the ancient runic bards. Someday, somewhere, someone might find out the damned Truth. Or we might just build ourselves a new Government like the Declaration of Independence says we should do when the old one ain’t working....” (1)  Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, JFK: The Book of the Film (New York, Applause, 1992), p. 178.

Rather than pushing the release date back, as Garrison surmises, public pressure generated by Stone’s filim made them move it forward, so the 75 years the Warren Commission records were sealed, and the 50 years the HSCA records were sealed, have been superseded by the JFK Act of 1992 that stipulates all the records be released by 2017 – or withheld only by an order from the president, whoever she may be.
So Garrison’s son doesn’t have to wait as long as Big Jim thought.

And I like Garrison’s suggestion that we ask the President to release the still secret records, something Obama can easily do with a simple Executive Order.

In his article Reitzes asks, “Has the government really been withholding evidence of conspiracy?”
And the answer clearly is yes, even if one sticks only to the Warren Commission era records Garrison was talking about – and I will only mention three – the document that the Warren Commission lawyer was reading when he was recorded as saying: “We’ll have to find out what Oswald studied at the Monterey Institute” (now the Defense Language Institute), and the ONI and USMC investigative records and reports, but there are others.

Reitzes is a one-time Conspiracy Theorist who is now a Lone Nutter, and like many religious converts, he is a true believer who quotes Gus Russo and John McAdams.  And I take exception to John McAdams’ statements about Garrison, specifically the comparison of Garrison’s reference to “51 CIA documents pertaining to Oswald and Jack Ruby” and Joe McCarthy’s bogus communists in the State Department, as McCarthy’s number was made up and the communists boogey men didn’t really exist, while the secret records Garrison refers to do exist, and in fact he lists some of them. Rather than Joe McCarthy, Garrison’s role in the Kennedy assassination is more comparable to the cases of Sacco and Vanzetti or the Dreyfus Affair, in which the truth eventually emerges over time, as it is with the assassination of President Kennedy.
Reitzes also quotes McAdams’ examples of the NARA declassification of other government records, specifically those of the Fish and Game Commission, but I wonder if Reitzes, McAdams or any JFK researcher has investigated the presence of Texas Fish and Game officers in the Texas School Book Depository within minutes of the assassination, and whether or not any of them testified or wrote reports of what they were doing and what they discovered there?

                                             SOMETHING FISHY IN THE FILES

As for Garrison’s references to the secret records, in his books Heritage of Stone and On the Trail of the Assassins (p. 54-55), Garrison lists a series of Warren Commission documents that were still sealed away from public view when he wrote those books, including:
CD 321 Chronology of Oswald in USSR (Secret)
CD 347 Activity of Oswald in Mexico City (Secret)
CD 384 Activity of Oswald in Mexico City (Secret)
CD 528 re: Allegations Oswald interviewed by CIA in Mexico City (Secret)
CD 631 re: CIA Dissemination of information on Oswald (Secret)
CD 674 info given to the Secret Service but not yet to the Warren Commission (Secret)
CD 698 Reports of travel and activities of Oswald & Marina (Secret)
CD 871 Photos of Oswald in Russia (Secret)
CD 931 Oswald’s access to information about the U2 (Secret)
CD 1216 Memo from Helms entitled “Lee Harvey Oswald” (Secret)
CD 1222 Statement by George de Mohrenschildt re: assassination (Secret)
CD 1273 Memo from Helms re: apparent inconsistencies in info provided by CIA (Secret)

Garrison also writes (On the Trail of the Assassins, p. 72) that, “As a routine matter, I wanted to examine the income tax records of Ruth and Michael Paine, but I was told that they had been classified secret. In addition to the Paine’s income tax reports, Commission documents 212, relating to Ruth Paine, and 218, relating to Michael Paine, also had been classified as secret on the grounds of national security. Classified for the same reason were Commission documents 258, relating to Michael, and 508, relating to Michael Paine’s sister, as well as Commission documents 600 through 629, regarding relatives of Michael Paine. What was so special about this particular family that made the federal government so protective of it?”

“This provocative listing,” Garrison wrote, “made it appear more to me than ever that something was fishy. Next I decided to focus on Oswald’s movements immediately after he left the Marines.”

Now I’m pretty sure some of these “secret” records have been released under the JFK Act, and will check with Mary Ferrell Archives and NARA to see if they are now available, but I too am interested in focusing on Oswald’s movements immediately after the assassination, which I will get to.

But first, it should be noted that Reitzes falsely answers his question “Has the government really been withholding evidence of conspiracy?” by quoting longtime researcher and JFK movie consultant Gus Russo, who says that the film he consulted on is “misleading,” and Russo has since been exposed as a witting CIA asset who continues to promote the discredited original operational cover story that Castro was behind the assassination.

Reitzes quotes Russo as saying that when he heard Stone talk about “the sinister sealing of the Warren Commission records for seventy-five years. I was stunned. Although that had been President Johnson’s original intention, public pressure had actually forced the release of most of the Commission’s records within three years of the 1963 murder.”

Actually, it wasn’t public pressure – like that generated by Stone’s film that resulted in the JFK Act, but many of the Warren Commission records were released because of the single letter from Cedar Rapids, Iowa mayor Johnson that led to the reversal of the seventy-five year policy.

A disgruntled Allen Dulles reluctant said, “Go ahead and release them, nobody will read them anyway.”
Russo relates in his book, how he “managed to pull Stone aside, and informed him that the records we investigators really coveted were the HSCA’s sealed files, numbering hundreds of thousands of pages, as well as those of other federal agencies whose holdings could be in the millions of pages….”

I was among those infuriated when HSCA chief counsel G. Robert Blakey declared the committee records “Congressional records,” which sealed them for fifty years and since Congress exempted itself from the FOIA Act, kept them from the public. Blakey did this while saying, “I’ll rest on the judgment of historians in fifty years.”

Indeed, “we investigators” weren’t going to rest on the judgment of historians in fifty years, and particularly coveted the House Select Committee (HSCA) records, and devised congressional legislation specifically to get the HSCA records exempted from the congressional rule that mandated all congressional records be sealed for fifty years.

When I asked Marion Johnson, the NARA archivist then responsible for the JFK assassination records, - why fifty years? Why not thirty five or seventy years?, Johnson replied “that is the estimated amount of time the people mentioned in the documents would be dead.”

So they time the release of these documents so that the people mentioned in them are dead and can’t be questioned.

But under public pressure sparked by the release of the JFK movie, which mentions the secret and sealed records at the end of the film, Congress passed a law that released not only the House Committee records we asked for, but all government records related to the assassination, which is much more than we had requested. That was still limiting though, as the HSCA MLK records remain sealed to this day.

But yes, we investigators coveted the HSCA records more than the Warren Commission documents, most of which have been released, but those that are still withheld are among the most sacred secret records that are still threatening to our national security today, over fifty years after the assassination.

Russo says that he conferred with respected Washington investigator, the late Kevin Walsh, who gave him a letter that “corroborated” what Russo had been saying, a letter Russo hand delivered to Stone – but not shared with us. And it is a shame on Russo that we can’t take his word for it.

BK Notes: Is Kevin Walsh’s letter to Oliver Stone about the still secret assassination records on the public record and available today? Someone sent me scans of dozens of letters written by Walsh, and I will check to see if that one is among them, but I don’t think it is.

And to show why the HSCA records are more valuable than the Warren Commission records I refer to the one HSCA document that I am working on at the moment, a once sealed document that indicates Lee Oswald, USMC flew to Europe on a Military Air Transport flight out of McGuire Air Force Base NJ in on his way to defect to the Soviet Union in October 1959, which contradicts the official version of events that he took a tramp steamer.

But incredibly enough, the records of that flight may still exist, and two of the people mentioned in the official congressional report may still be alive to confirm this story, over fifty years after it occurred.

In any case, the HSCA records are much more valuable than the Warren Commission records and the still secret Church Committee documents are probably even more enlightening, but we have to wait until 2017 to see them, and as Garrison says, when 2017 rolls around, their release may be pushed back even further by the sitting president.

Reitzes also quotes Michael R. McReynolds, of the NARA Textual Reference Division, who said that as of 1992, 98 percent of the Warren Commission records had been released.

Of course the 98 percent of the Warren Commission records released so far don’t include the Monterey Language Institute document or the ONI and USMC investigative reports we seek, and they are now saying the same thing about all of the government records released under the JFK Act - millions of them - 98 percent of all government records on the assassination are now in the public domain, but they don’t tell you that there are so many documents still being withheld that they can’t tell us how many there are.

“Since that time, of course,” Reitzes falsely writes, “some may have noticed that Oliver Stone hasn’t said a word about those files. That’s because they prove his JFK monologue to be little more than hot air, there were no documents withheld because they were ‘smoking guns’ proving the existence of a conspiracy.”

If Garrison’s monologue is little more than hot air, then Reitzes’ is hog’s breath, and only proves that he hasn’t bothered to read the documents released so far. Of course Stone has talked about those files – he testified before Congress about them [ ] and continues to talk about them [See: Stone at Wecht Conference]. Stone said he didn’t expect any “smoking gun” documents to be found, but instead thought that the existing records would be like the frame of a Mercedes Benz left on a street in Harlem for thirty years, stripped of all its value, which is exactly what we found.

And even though Reitzes is unaware of them, there certainly are “smoking” documents among the secret and once-sealed records that support, if not prove the fact there were criminal conspiracies committed – such as ONI Director Rufus Taylor’s November 27th memo.

It indicates there is a large and still missing ONI file on the assassination and Col. Higgins’ report of the September 24 1963 CIA briefing of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 

It confirms that the military was giving support to the CIA Cuban operations and that they were conducting a Valkyrie type plot aimed at Castro – one based on the German generals’ plan to kill Hitler, the specific operation that I believe was diverted to Dealey Plaza. 

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, not fish, and if they’ve released such smoking documents already, you can be sure the records still being withheld for reasons of national security will certainly threaten the very nature of the state.

As for Don Carpenter saying “we’re all anxious to see what’s there,” well we pretty much know what’s there, as we have all of the denials of requests for documents – such as the ONI Defector file, the documents on Ruth and Michael Paine, Collins Radio, Air Force One and not dozens, but hundreds of similar records that have been denied researchers since the passage of the JFK Act. 

So now I’m going to try to take Garrison’s advice and try to stay healthy so in late September 2017 I can stand with his son and if the president will let us, we will finally get to read some of the records that the government refuses to let us see today.

William Kelly is a freelance writer and historian, author of “300 Years at the Point” and “Birth of the Birdie,” co-founder of the Committee for an Open Archives (COA) and an original member of COPA – the Coalition On Political Assassinations [COPA | Coalition on Political Assassinations ]. He can be reached at

1 comment:

Robert Truitt said...

Bill, You have outdone yourself again. You've tied in a lot of items in a very readable form Thank you for all you do. BobTruitt