Saturday, April 28, 2012

Morley v. CIA Continues

Morley v. CIA Update
Re: CIA Records of George Joannides

Here is a description of the case from the Assassination Archives and
Research Center - AARC:AARC - Assassination Archives and Research Center

This is the second trip to the United States Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia in the Morley case. This is journalist Jefferson
Morley's effort to obtain records pertaining to George Joannides, the CIA
case officer for the DRE (Directorio Revoluciionario Estudantil), the Cuban
exile organization which had contacts with Lee Harvey Oswald in the months
prior to President Kennedy's assassination. The prior appeal was a landmark
decision which ruled that the CIA had to search its normally exempt
operational files for responsive records. As a result of this victory, it
was revealed that Joannides was working undercover when he was made the
CIA's liaison to the House Select Committee on assassinations. In that
capacity, Joannides never revealed to the HSCA that he had been DRE's case
officer when Oswald was in contact with it. Instead, he deflected the HSCA's
requests both for documents about DRE and for the identity of DRE's case

On remand to the District Court, operational files were searched and
additional information released. However, the CIA still withholds 295
documents in their entireties and has not located the monthly progress
reports detailing the funding of the DRE during the 17-month period when
Joannides was its case officer.

Here is the Appellant Brief:

Here is the CIA Brief:

Here is the Reply Brief for the Appellant:

[BK Notes: This is an excerpt of Jim Lesar's Appellant Briefs, sans the legal aspects. For notes and sources see the original briefs.]

Brief for Appellant – U.S. Court of Appeals – D.C. cir. No. 10-5161
Jefferson Morley, Appellant, v. Central Intelligence Agency, Appellee
Oral Arguments were held on April 16, 2012

By James H. Lesar


AMBARB             DRE psywar propaganda project in Latin America
AMHINT              Project for support of DRE leaders in Latin America
AMHINT-2           DRE co-founder Juan Manuel Salvat
AMHINT-53         DRE Secretary General Luis Fernandez Rocha
AMSPELL            Project in support of DRE headquarters in Miami
ARRB                    Assassination Records Review Board
CCC                      Cuban Coordinating Committee
Crozier, Ross         DRE Chief os Station before Joannides;
                               Pseudonym: Harold W. Noemayr
DRE                       Directorate Revolutionary Estudantil, anti-Castro Cuban exile                             -                              organization funded by CIA
HSCA                     House Select Committee on Assassinations
JM/WAVE             CIA Headquarters in Miami, also “WAVE
KUBARK              Central Intelligence Agency
MOB                      Military Operations Branch of DRE
Newby, Walter       Pseudonym for George Joannides, aka “Howard” or “Mr.                       -                              Howard”
Noemayr, Harold   Pseudonym for Ross Crozier
ODYOKE              Code name for U.S.
PBRUMEN            Code name for Cuba
SAS                        Special Affairs Staff
Shackley, Ted        Andrew R. Reuiteman


A. Procedural History

On July 4, 2003, appellant Jefferson Morley (“Morley”) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request for records pertaining to George Joannides (“Joannides”), a CIA officer who in 1962-1964 served as case officer for the Directorio Revolcionario Estudantil (“DRE”), a CIA-financed anti-Castro Cuban exile organization whose members were in contact with alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (“Oswald”) prior to the assassination of President Kennedy, and who immediately after the assassination used information obtained from their contacts with Oswald to propagate worldwide the first JFK assassination theory – that Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro was behind the crime.

Later, as a result of disclosures made under the President John F. Kennedy Assassinations Records Collection Act of 1992 (“JFK Act”), it was learned that in 1978 Joannides had been called out of retirement to act as liaison between the CIA and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (“HSCA”), which at that time was investigating the JFK assassination. In that role, he hid from Congress that he was the CIA case officer the committee wanted to question about the DRE’s pre-assassination contacts with Oswald, and he failed to turn over records on that association it had requested.

The CIA initially failed to respond to Morley’s FOIA request at all.

After four months of delay, it then claimed that the records he requested had been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”) to be part of the JFK Records Act Collection….After Morley filed suit, the CIA invoked its “Glomar” defense, refusing to confirm or deny the existence of records pertaining to any “covert program, operation or assignment” regarding Joannides that was not previously acknowledged.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court ruled in favor of the CIA. Morley appealed. This Court ruled that the CIA had to search the CIA’s operational files. It also ordered the CIA to provide Morley with responsive records that had been transferred to NARA, and it remanded the case to the district court for further substantiation on several search and exemption issues. On remand, the CIA conducted further searches, including a search of some operational files on Joannides.

In August 2008, it released 293 operational records from its Directorate of Support and National Clandestine Services files. In doing so, the CIA, employing a new affiant, now acknowledged Joannides’ “participation in two specific covert projects, operations, or assignments: JM/WAVE…from 1962 through 1964 and Joannides’ service as a CIA representative to the [HSCA] from 1978 to 1979.” 

It also withheld 295 operational records in their entirety. It also advised that Joannides’ assignment as liaison to the HSCA was undertaken in a covert capacity.

After making disclosures, the CIA again moved for summary judgment. Morely cross-moved, and the District Court award judgment to the CIA. This appeal followed.

B. Critical Nature of the Issues Raised

The issues raised in this case were before the Court in Morley v. C.I.A., but they now come into focus in a context which has greatly increased the tension between the secrecy for reasons of national security and the people’s right to have access to information which enables public accountability of government agencies.

In its prior decision, this Court instructed the CIA to search its operational files for records on George Joannides, the CIA case officer whose activities are the subject of Morley’s FOIA request. As a result, the CIA acknowledged Joannides’ “participation in two specific covert projects, operations, or assignments. The revelation that Joannides was working in a covert capacity when he was the CIA’s liaison to the HSCA raises disturbing questions about the CIA’s use of a covert operative to subvert the integrity of a congressional committee’s investigation of the assassination of a president, since congressional committees are a hallmark of democratic accountability.
Professor G. Robert Blakey, who served as Chief Counsel and Staff Director of the HSCA, states that the CIA’s conduct in inserting Joannides “undercover” into the HSCA’s investigation “constituted not only a breach of the written memorandum of understanding the HSCA in good faith entered into with the Agency,…but a manifest, and hardly minor matter, a criminal violation of 18 U.S.C. & 1505”, which proscribes conduct that “’impedes….the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry….of any committee of either House’)….”  

Equally troubling, is the iron curtain which the CIA has erected around the 295 responsive operational records whose existence it has belatedly acknowledged. Thus, in reviewing its operational records on remand, the CIA has withheld 295 documents in their entirety, even though these records are nearly a half century old – or older – and are in form and substance and purpose intimately related to thousands of documents of the same nature which have been publicly disclosed and placed in the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection (“JFK Act Collection”) at the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”). Secrecy on a scale this vast, concerning records so old, on a subject of extreme public interest, represents a formidable assault on the FOIA.

In order to understand the context in which this frontal attack on the right of the public to obtain information about the JFK assassination occurs, it is necessary to sketch the relevant facts in some detail.

C. Factual Background

Morley’s FOIA inquiry concerns the relationship between Lee Harvey Oswald (“Oswald”) and the Directorate Revolucionario Estudantil (“DRE”), a CIA sponsored, CIA funded Cuban exile organization engaged in psychological warfare operations.

There was considerable tension in the DRE’s relationship with the Kennedy administration, particularly with its Military Operations Branch (“MOB”), a component which favored military action against Cuba. During the three and a half months preceding the assassination, Oswald was in contact with DRE representatives on several occasions. On November 19, 1963, the growing tension with DRE led the CIA to sever relations. Three days later, Kennedy was shot, allegedly by Oswald.

The complete story, as it is now known, is complex, but important to understand.

In April 1962, Joannides was transferred from Athens to the CIA station in Miami known as “JMWAVE” or “WAVE.” He was a New York lawyer who had worked for the CIA since 1950 and served as an active duty officer in the Directorate of Operations (“DO”) since 1958. In Miami, he became deputy director of the Psychological Warfare (PW) branch of JMWAVE, which had a budget of $2.4 million a year, approximately $14.4 million in 2009 dollars.

On August 24, 1962, members of DRE took credit for a cannon attack on a seaside hotel in Havana where Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro was thought to be visiting. The attack made front page headlines in the Washington Post and other major newspapers.

At the time, the DRE was entirely dependent on CIA support, according to CIA contract officer Ross Crozier (“Crozier”), who handled the group. “In addition to direct financial support,” Crozier told the HSCA in 1978, “all of the DRE’s weapons and armaments were supplied through the CIA.”

On September 14, 1962, Ted Shackley (“Shackley”), the chief of the CIA station in Miami, sent a 22-page monthly progress report to CIA headquarters about the activities, budget and intentions of the DRE in August 1962. It was based on reports filed with Shackley by case officers working with the group. In this and other agency records, the DRE is referred to by the cryptonym AMSPELL. Shackley is identified as “Andrew K. Reuteman.”

The August 1962 monthly report described the organization of the CIA’s relationship with the DRE, stating AMSPELL is “comprised of AMBARB and AMHINT activities.” Thus, AMSPELL encompassed two other CIA endeavors, AMBARB and AMHINT.

AMBARB was the CIA’s name for the DRE delegations that were organizing against Castroite communism on campuses throughout Latin America. “AMBARB serves only to promote propaganda activity in the Latin American countries where AMBARB delegates were assigned.”

AMHINT was the Agency’s cryptonym for a program of support for certain leaders of the DRE, a group that had first formed at the University of Havana and then been forced into exile by Castro’s campus enforces. The DRE leaders were identified in CIA communications with the AMHINT designation followed by a number. For example, AMHINT-53 was DRE Secretary General Luis Fernandez Rocha (“Rocha”); AMHINT-2 was DRE co-founder Juan Manuel Salvat (“Salvat”)

AMSPELL also served as the cryptonym of a specific program of support for the DRE headquarters in Maimi.

The August 1962 monthly report noted that the AMBARB section received $22,053 for salaries, operations and processing. The AMHINT station received $3,000 for support. AMSPELL received $25,000 for salaries, overhead and operations. Thus the three AMSPELL components received a total of $50,053.

The report also described how the agency handled its relationship with the Cuban students. According to Shackley’s report, there was a case officer assigned to each AMSPELL component. These officers had regular contacts with members from all the sections. Thus, the AMHINT officer, known as STNALEY ZAMKA (identity unknown), met with a Cuban exile known as AMHINT-2 (Salvat) for regular PM [paramilitary] operational purposes…. The AMBARB officer, Robert Q. Nelander (identity unknown), met with a source known as AMBARB-84 (identity unknown) as “regular operational contact,” with AMHINT-2 as “emergency AMBARB contact.” … The AMSPELL officer, Harold W. Noemayr (Ross Crozier), met with AMHINT-2 (Salvat) as “Regular overall AMSPELL control” and with AMBARB-54 (identity unknown) for “occasional legal/international” matters.

The DRE/AMSPELL attack on Havana on August 24, 1962 raised the question of whether the Miami station controlled the group. According to Shackley, “[in] spite of support at the Case Office level there is not JM-WAVE control because of the conflict between AMSPELL objectives [for] PBRUMEN (Cuba) liberation soonest and continued ODYOKE  (USA) lack of PBRUMEN policy.”

On October 9, 1962, Shakley sent a 73-page monthly progress repot on DRE activities and intentions in September 1962. He reported continuing disputes between DRE leaders and CIA officers over questions of control. DRE leaders wanted to pursue military actions that were not consistent with President Kennedy’s policy. The support for the AMBARB section ($20,960), the AMHIT section ($5,000) and the AMSPELL section ($25,000) amounted to $50,960. Shackley continued to express concern about CIA control of the group. “All planning phases of AMSPELL activities supported by JMWAVE at the present time are subject to the results of meeting with AMSPELL concerning increasing control.”

From October 16 to October 30, 1962, the leaders of the United States, the Soviet Union and Cuba were engaged in the Cuban missile crisis. U.S. surveillance aircraft discovered that the Soviet Union was installing ballistic nuclear missiles in Cuba capable of striking American cities. President Kennedy imposed a naval quarantine and demanded the Soviet Union remove the missiles or face war. On October 29, the Soviet leadership relented, and announced the withdrawal of the missiles. In his telegram to Kennedy, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev explained the Soviet Union was only seeking to defend Cuba from invasion. “A piratical vessel shelled Havana,” he wrote. “They say that this shelling was done by irresponsible Cuban émigrés. Perhaps so, however, the question is from where did they shoot….This means someone put into their hand the weapons for shelling Havana.”

On November 6, 1962, Jerry O’Leary, Jr., staff writer for the Washington Star newspaper, reported that according to the DRE, the Soviet missiles had not been removed from Cuba. According to its leaders, Castro had stashed the missiles in caves outside of Havana…. President Kennedy read the story and asked CIA director John McCone about it. Kennedy suggested “an effort to persuade responsible editors to check such stories with the government before they printed them.”

On November 8, 1962, Shackley sent a 4-page monthly report on DRE activities and intentions in October. “Problems in the JMWAVE [deleted] relationship, as cited in last progress report, continued unresolved during October,” he wrote. The three AMSPELL components AMSPELL received $49,383 for the month….On November 12, Rocha (AMHINT-53), the Secretary General of DRE, repeated the “missiles in caves” story on NBC’s nationally televised “Today Show.”….

Later that day, Kennedy mentioned the Today show in a meeting with his national security advisors. He asked that every Cuban refugee making claims about arms going to Cuba be interviewed within 24 hours. “The refugees are naturally trying to build up their story in an effort to get us to invade,” Kennedy said. “We must get to the people the fact that the refugees have no evidence which we do not have.”

On November 13, (1962) CIA Deputy Director Helms summoned DRE leaders Rocha and Jose Maria Lasa to his office to discuss the CIA’s relationship with the group. Helms said that he was aware of the group’s differences with U.S. policy toward Cuba and did not know what the policy would be in the future. He said the Agency wanted to work with the DRE. To improve the relationship, Helms said he was going to assign the group a new CIA contact. “Regarding the new contact Mr. Helms stated he wanted … a man who would and cold maintain collaboration he had outlined, and would be helpful and of assistance to the DRE. He also stated that this contact would be “personally responsible to him for the relationship.”

On December 5th, Joannides met with Rocha. As Shackley reported, “Walter D. NEWBY [Joannides] was introduced to AMHINT-53 and succeeded Harold R. Noemayr [Crozier] as the case officer for the project.”…. In interviews, Rocha recalls that his new CIA contact introduced himself as “Howard.” Other former DRE leaders came to know of “Howard” (or “Mr. Howard”). The records of the DRE, donated by Salvat to the University of Miami Library’s Cuban Heritage Collection, contain numerous memos and letters in 1963 addressed to “Howard” or “Mr. Howard” concerning the DRE’s struggle against communism in Cuba.

On December 8th, Helms informed National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy that DRE was planning to issue an open letter to Kennedy calling on him to “fulfill his promises to liberate Cuba.” Helms wrote “IF the DRE goes through with its plan to present this letter to its CIA contact officer on 12 December, the office will make every attempt to dissuade the DRE leadership from this attempting to pressure the United States Government.”

On December 12th Rocha gave a copy of the DRE’s open letter to President Kennedy to his new contact, Joannides (a.k.a. Walter K. Newby a.k.a. “Howard,” or “Mr. Howard.”). He asked that the letter “be reported to [Helms] immediately.”… On December 27th, JMWAVE Chief Shackley sent a monthly progress report on the DRE’s activities and intentions in November. “Problems in the JMWAVE/AMSPELL control relationship as cited in the last Progress Report, continued unresolved during November,” he wrote. The agency’s financial support for the month came $36,968.90. The AMBARB section received $22, 134.90. For the first time in three months, the AMHINTs received no money. AMSPELL received $14, 834.

On January 11, 1963, the State Department responded to the DRE’s open letter by sending Rocha a copy of Kennedy’s recent speech on Cuba.

On January 14th, “Newby reprimanded AMHINT-53 for failure [to] report unusual substance” of coded broadcast over WMIE, a Miami radio station.” According to a JMWAVE cable to headquarters, Joannides “also pointed out this flagrant violation FCC thus placing KUBARK in embarrassing position. A-53 apologized but said it [was] urgently necessary [to] alert PBRUMEN AMPSELLs to penetration danger. This first time existence penetration reported by A-53 or other AMSPELL member.” The cable concluded, “JMWAVE now preparing independent report on AMSPELL apparat based on info collected from various sources including AMSPELL. Will use this for purposes comparison with A-53 report. At completion [of this] exercise, will forward current apparat picture plus plans for future exploitation.’”

On January 16, 1963, a CIA polygraph specialist wrote that just before the polygraph interviews of AMHINT-53 and AMBARB 65 the previous day AMHINT/53 brought up two points which he said he was thinking of mentioning to Newby sometime soon and which the examiner would like to make sure are brought to the attention of his case officer and the Chief of Station: (1) that AMHINT-53 “was thinking seriously of setting up a systematic program for the [polygraphing] of all members of AMSPELL”; and (2) that AMHINT-53 was “checking out some indications” that a Cuban national in the U.S. army was a “communist.”

On January 19th, Joannides received his fitness report for his work in 1962. His duties included serving as the deputy chief of the psychological warfare branch of the Miami station; serving as “case officer for a student project involving political action, propaganda, intelligence collection and hemisphere-wide apparatus,” a reference to the AMSPELL, AMHINT and AMBARB projects. Joannides “has been successful in resolving complicated problems involving control of an unruly group,: another reference to the Agency’s conflictive relationship with the DRE. Joannides also had responsibility for a “teacher’s organization,” a “project producing news letter aimed at press outlets in Latin America”; and maintaining contacts with a “veteran’s type organization.” He received the highest possible rating for his performance on all of these assignments.

On February 21, 1963, Rocha told Joannides that the “present AMSPELL mood favors action ops of Havana raid type. Planning currently well underway. A-52 declared AMSPELL feels so strong on necessity [of] action that intends proceed even if KUBARK were to discontinue AM-SPELL financial support. A-53 intends this alert on raid to constitute compliance with gentleman’s agreement A-53 has with Fletcher Knight [Helms].” The cable added, “Newby reemphasized KUBARK opposition and warned that appropriate ODYOKE [U.S.] elements could not look other way but would attempt to intercept AMSPELL raiders.”

On March 31, the Kennedy administration announced a crack-down on anti-Castro groups seeking to use U.S. territory to organize or launch attacks against Cuba, according to the New York Times… On April 3rd, the Cuban Coordinating Committee (“CCC”), which oversaw cover operations against the Castro government, met with Helms and representatives of the State and Defense Departments to discuss six proposed covert operations, including the “sabotage of Cuban shipping.” The CCC “gave the CIA the option of using either its own Cubans or…. The DRE as a cut out.”

On April 4, the New York Times quoted DRE’s Secretary General Rocha’s response to the crackdown. He said, “the United States has unjustly imposed imprisonment on some of our Cuban leaders and some of them are still confined to their homes.” He said, “efforts to overthrow Castro have always culminated in abandonment, treachery, and broken promises.”

On April 4, Shackley reported that AMSPELL had called a special meeting of its military section. “Speaker was AMHINT-5 [Isidro Borja,… who had served as the chief of the DRE’s military section]. He told Military section relations with KUBARK have come to impasse and no alternative for AMSPELL but break relations and continue without aid. Citing one reason, AMHINT-5 said KUBARK wanted military section dismantled, a condition AMSPELL could not accept.”

Seymour Bolton, a senior Special Affairs Staff (“SAS”) official with responsible for Special Operations (“SO”), responded on behalf of Desmond Fitzgerald (“Fitzgerald”), the SAS Chief in Washington, the same day. “HQs does not desire KUBARK take initiative in withholding funds or terminating relationship until there evidence overt AMSPELL act, not merely AMSPELL expression of intent. Therefore request April ops advance be passed in normal manner and that simultaneously AMHINT-53 be advised subsidy will be terminated immediately if raid executed or attempted.”

As of April 1963, the DRE was receiving $51,000 a month, according to a CIA memo to the CCC. The memo listed “average monthly payments” made to groups “guided and monitored” by the Agency. It stated that payments to the DRE subsidized “the headquarters of the organization in Miami ($25,000 monthly)” while “CIA field stations are in direct contact with the fund representatives of the DRE in most Latin American countries.”

On April 29th, SAS chief Fitzgerald again ordered JMWAVE not to cut off funding for AMSPELL without approval from headquarters ... On June 24th, the DRE propaganda section addresses a memo to “Howard.” … On June 28th, DRE member AMBARB-84 gave Joannides a memo about Soviet activity in Cuba. AMSPELL was going to use the information in a press release. Joannides inquired about the source of information…  According to DRE memos, in July 1963, Joannides gave the group money for a military operation and brought the group an air condition for their headquarters.

On July 31st, Joannides received a fitness evaluation for his work since March 27th. His boss stated that he had done an “excellent job in the handling of a significant student exile group which hitherto had successfully resisted any important degree of control.” Joannides’ handling of the DRE contrasted with his work on an “unproductive” group whose funding was cut off. Joannides was promoted to the chief of the Psy War branch of the JMWAVE station.

On August 5th, Oswald visited a store owned by Carlos Bringuier (“Bringuier”) on Decatur Street in New Orleans. He headed the DRE in New Orleans. Oswald offered to help train DRE members for military operations in Cuba. Bringuier demurred. Oswald left his Marine Corps manual as a token of his good faith.

On August 8th, Joannides visited the DRE’s headquarters in Miami to help resolve a dispute about the DRE’s delegation in Costa Rica.

On August 9th, Oswald handed out pamphlets for a pro-Castro group called the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (“FPCC”), on a street corner not far from Bringuier’s store. When Bringuier rounded up three other DRE members DRE – Celso Hernandez, Miguel Cruz, and Carlos Quiroga – the Cubans challenged Oswald for his apparent double-dealing and his support of Castro and got into a fight with him. Police arrested the four Cubans and Oswald.

On August 12, Oswald and the DRE Cubans appeared in court. A TV news crew filmed the men coming and going and the local newspaper noted the incident and its resolution… August 21st Bringuier, Oswald and two local journalists appeared on Latin Listening Post, a local radio program. Bringuier was identified as representative of the DRE. The four men debated the Cuban issue for 30 minutes, with Oswald defending Castro and Bringuier asking if his organization should be called the Fair Play for Russia Committee.

Afterwards, Bringuier issued a press release in the name of the DRE calling for a congressional investigation of Oswald. “Write to your congressman asking for a full investigation on Mr. Lee H. Oswald a confessed ‘Marxist.’”

Oswald’s contacts with the DRE in New Orleans were reported to DRE headquarters in Miami and to the group’s CIA contact, according to Isidro Borja, chief of the DRE’s military section at the time. “I know that Bringuier gave us information that that had happened and that we made a report to the CIA about I,’” Borja told the HSCA in 1978.

On August 26th Richard Cain, a Chicago Police Officer, reported to the CIA that a Cuban source told him that he had been recruited by the DRE to fight Castro in Cuba. The source said he would not join any effort not backed by the U.S. government “at which point the [DRE] representative placed a phone call to Miami and with the contact listening, spoke with a Senor Salvand (or Salvat), and asked if the group was sponsored by the CIA.” Salvat replied it was sponsored by “the Pentagon, which is in competition with the CIA, and therefore all activities of the [DRE] must be kept secret.” On September 4, 1963, the Domestic Contacts Division of the CIA circulated Cain’s report on the DRE to the SAS in Washington. A notation on the routing sheet says “Sam, I talked to John Tilton about this. Mayo Stuntz.”

On September 6th, the Chief of the Military Operations Branch (“MOB”) of the SAS, sent a cable, drafted by John Tilton of the MOB, saying “HQ concurs with REF per conversation with Newby.” The SAS commented that the issue was “AMSPELL-AMBARB relations.”

On September 12th, Miami was notified that the DRE was mentioned prominently in a men’s magazine cover story calling for Castro’s assassination. The article stated the DRE was offering a $10 million reward for Castro’s death…. The Article appeared under the headline “We are going to kill Castro.” The story described how the DRE was offering a $10 million cash reward “for the death of the Cuban Tyrant Fidel Castro.” Rocha, DRE’s Secretary General, made the offer.

On September 13th, Joannides gave five DRE leaders in Miami $660 to travel to New York to challenge pro-Castro students and to Washington meet with the House Un-American Activities Committee (“HUAC”). The expenses of Salvat and Lanuza were “Both paid by Congress.”…. The pro-Castro students agreed to debate DRE members in New York, according to a page one Washington Post story…. The confrontation between pro-and anti-Castro students in Times Square resulted in a near riot that paralyzed midtown Manhattan. The leader of the DRE students, was Rocha, DRE’s Secretary General… Returning to Miami, DRE leaders stopped in Washington as planned. DRE co-founder Salvat met with HUAC’s staff. HUAC picked up some of his expenses.

On September 23rd, Fernando Garcia Chacon of the DRE responded to a JMWAVE inquiry about the See magazine article. He addressed a note to “Howard.”  “Certainly what [is] stated in this article is false,” he said.

On October 16th, JMWAVE informed Headquarters that AMHINT-53 ([Rocha] said that DRE’s military plan would be delivered to Newby [Joannides] on October 18, 1963.
On October 22nd, the Caracas and Miami stations received a cable from CIA headquarters saying “HQS concern as to how TUTOR 1 [identity unknown] involvement with AMSPELLS may affect utilization TUTO group in other station activities. Will discuss with Newby after his arrival HQS and advise.” A comment from WH [the chief of the Western Hemisphere desk at CIA headquarters] suggests that “Newby come to HQS to discuss AMHINT-5 activities in Venezuela.”

On October 22nd, the DRE submitted to “Howard” a proposed military operation against Cuba called Operation Macao IV… That same day Rocha gave Joannides a 40-page plan for military action in Cuba, written in Spanish. Shackley informed headquarters that Joannides would follow up and personally deliver his findings to headquarters. “After study by WAVE followed by Conferences with AMHINT-2 [Salvat] and AMHINT-53 [Rocha], Newby will proceed to HQs for discussion.”

On November 6th, Shackley weighed in with a detailed cable about the DRE’s plan. He said that the CIA had told the group if they had plans for military action, they should submit them for consideration. He noted that the group had been threatened with a cutoff of funding in March 1963, and this was their response. Shackely criticized the DRE leaders, saying they had had overblown view of their effectiveness. They regarded themselves as “the equals of generals and ambassadors,” he said; they also had a “penchant for insecure behavior.” He recommended cutting the group off financially.

On November 13th, DRE submits expenses to “Howard” for “Operation Macao IV.”….
On November 15th, SAS Chief Fitzgerald cabled Miami ordering the cutoff of the DRE military section, per Shackley’s recommendation. Funding for the DRE’s nonmilitary efforts was not effected.

On November 19th, Joannides told Rocha that the CIA would not support the DRE military plan. As recounted in a CIA cable, “Newby told AMHINT-532 that he regretted to inform him that KUBARK was not inclined [to] support any part [of] AMSPELL military plan, although support to AMSPELL for prop[agenda] and education of certain members would continue. NEWBY stated he was instructed [to] encourage AMSPELL to seek support of organization with which AMSPELL ideologically and military compatible…Parting was most amicable.”

At 12:30 p.m. on November 22nd, President Kennedy was shot and killed as his motorcade passed through downtown Dallas. At around 3:00 p.m. Central Time the wire services reported that a suspect had been arrested. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald.

At 6:10 p.m. a CIA cable from Miami to headquarters reported that local radio stations were “carrying a report one Lee H. Oswald arrest as primary suspect in president assassination. AMHINT-53 reports AMSPELL delegate had radio debate with Lee H. Oswald of Fair Play for Cuba Committee sometime in August 63 on New Orleans station WDSU. According [to] AMSPELL files, Oswald former U.S. Marine who had traveled to Moscow in 59 at which time [Oswald] renounced American citizenship and turned over his passport to American consulate. Allegedly lived in the home Sov[iet] Foreign Minister for two months. In course of radio debate subj. confessed he [was a] Marxist.”

Lanuza and Bringuier spoke to reporters extensively that night, recounting Oswald’s pro-Castro activities in New Orleans. The story received prominent coverage in many leading newspapers the next day. “Suspect Denied Being a Communist on Aug. 20,” said the Washington Post.

On Nov. 23rd, the DRE distributed a special edition of its newspaper Trinchera. The accompanying article described the DRE’s encounters with Bringuier in New Orleans. Photographs of Oswald and Castro appeared under the headline, “The Presumed Assassins.”

On November 27th, the New York Times reported, “A Cuban exile leader said tonight that Lee H. Oswald had boasted that if the United States attempted an invasion of Cuba he would defend Fidel Castro.”

That same day in Washington, HUAC designated a subcommittee to take testimony from “three young members of the [DRE]” at a hearing scheduled for December 10, 1963. On December 4, HUAC chief of staff Francis McNamara informed Committee members that the DRE leaders could not give testimony until mid-January and that the hearing on Oswald and his Cuban activities had been postponed indefinitely.

On December 13th, Shackley forwarded a tape recording of the DRE radio debate with Oswald in New Orleans to the chief of SAs. Shackley passed along the reel of tape, which came in a box addressed to “Howard.” …. Rocha says the writing on the box is his.

On April 1, 1964, the Warren Commission sent a letter to Bringuier saying a Commission attorney would like to interview him in the coming weeks ….. That same day, according to a leave of absence form he signed, Joannides traveled to New Orleans…. On April 7-8, 1964, Bringuier testified under oath to the Warren Commission lawyers in New Orleans.

On May 15th, Joannides signed his fitness report for his job performance since April 1, 1963. His specific duty Number 1 was to supervise and manage the Station’s covert action branch; Duty Number 2 was to serve as “senior case officer for a student project which involves the distribution of printed propaganda, production of radio programs and the development of political action programs.” He received the highest possible rating for his performance of these duties. Station chief Ted Shckely stated that Joannides “managed a branch that had a yearly budget of two million four hundred thousand dollars. These funds were judiciously spent on printed propaganda, white and black radio program and on political action operations which were implemented via labor, student and professional groups.”

On June 8, 1964, the new officer handling the DRE, known by cryptonym “Keith T. Bongirono,” filed a monthly progress report on their activities.

From 1964 to 1976, Joannides served as an operations officer. In April 1978 he was assigned to serve as “Principal Coordinator for the [HSCA].”….In July 1981, he received the Career Intelligence Medal.


Plaintiff Jefferson Morley (“Morley”) seeks records on CIA case officer George Joannides (“Joannides”) who handled a Cuban exile organization, the Directorio Revolucionaire Estadantil (“DRE”) which was involved in activities with Lee Harvey Oswald in the three and a half month period preceding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. On a remand which included instructions to search its operational files, the CIA revealed that Joannides had worked in a covert capacity while acting as its liaison with the House Select Committee on Assassinations (“HSCA”). In that capacity the CIA concealed facts from Congress, including the fact that Joannides had been the DRE’s case officer when he was liaison to the Congressional committee. In the view of the HSCA’s former Chief Counsel, Prof. G. Robert Blakey, it violated both its Memorandum of Understanding with the HSCA and criminal law.

Although the CIA searched some pertinent operational files on remand, it did not search all of them. It did not, for example, search the records of the AMHIN, AMBARB, and MOB projects, which were components of the DRE project. It claimed, first, that these terms were not within the scope of Morley’s request, even though his request specifically sought any materials on Joannides pertaining to any project in which he had participated. Second, it refused to concede that these projects had been officially acknowledged, despite the fact that it approved the release of scores of documents detailing them in disclosures made under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1991 (“JFK Act”). Neither of the CIA’s positions passes legal muster and District Court erred in sustaining them.

The adequacy of the CIA’s search is called into question by the failure to search these (and other) terms. With respect to the 17 missing monthly reports, the CIA also claims that they never exist. It rests this claim on speculation which is based on error-laden memoranda written by a CIA employee who was unable to identify Joannides as the DRE’s case officer even though there was abundant evidence from this in the CIA files. Morley showed that the monthly progress existed before and after the 17-month period when Joannides was in charge. The CIA produced no evidence that they had been destroyed. The existence of such records is basic to democratic accountability and requires a thorough search if the Agency’s operations are not to be run on an off-the-books basis. The facts put forward by Morely raised, contrary to the District Court’s finding, a disputed issue of material fact precluding summary judgment.

The CIA has employed Exemptions 1 and 3 to erect and maintain an iron curtain of secrecy against the disclosure of 295 documents withheld in their entirety despite their age – three decades to half a century – and the vast public disclosure of JFK assassination records. The withholding of 295 documents in their entirety undermines the credibility of the CIA’s claims that they must be withheld in the interest of national security. Morley places in the record a very detailed account of the DRE’s activities based on officially disclosed records which have been released despite formerly having been classified. This creates a disputed issue of material fact with respect to whether or not release of such information can reasonably be expected to damage national security.

The credibility of the CIA’s national security claims is further undercut by the bad faith conduct which the CIA has engaged in with respect to obtaining information on the DRE from congressional committees and the Assassination Records Review Board. Section 1.8 of Executive Order 12958 provides that information may not be classified in order to prevent embarrassment, but the circumstances here suggest that that has occurred in this case.

Section 3.2(b) of E.O. 12958 provides that “the need to protect such information may be outweighed by the public interest in the disclosure of the information, and in this instance the information should be classified.” 

Section 3.2(b) also provides that when such questions arise, “they shall be referred to the agency head or the agency official “who will determine….Whether the public interest in disclosure outweighs the damage to national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.” Neither the CIA nor the District Court addressed that issue.

The public interest in disclosure of these records on the assassination of President Kennedy is at its zenith. The 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination is rapidly approaching with major movies and plethora of new books on the way. A revived national debate on the assassination is beginning to heat up, yet the CIA is resisting disclosure of the records which remain withheld to the hilt and has avoided making the public interest determination required by the Executive order.



Executive Order 12958, as amended, was in effect when the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) reviewed the records responsive to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request of appellant Jefferson Morley (“Morley”) for records on CIA case officer George Joannides (“Joannides”).

That order provides that the need to protect classified information “may be outweighed by the public interest in disclosure.”….The CIA protests that “[t]his is not an exceptional case under this provision or under Agency regulations.” This is in line with the persistent efforts of the CIA throughout its brief to downplay the public interest in the information sought and belittle it as not pertinent to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

While they may not be “exceptional” in the CIA’s view, the underlying circumstances are far from ordinary. They concern George Joannides, Chief of the CIA’s Psywar Branch of its JMWAVE station in Miami, who was case officer for the DRE (“Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil”), a CIA-funded Cuban exile organization, when, in the months before Kennedy’s murder, alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was engaged in activities involving the DRE. Immediately after the assassination, the DRE provided to the press a radio tape of a debate between Oswald and a DRE member in which Oswald was portrayed as a defector to the Soviet Union who was a pro-Castro Marxist. This became the basis for worldwide dissemination of the first or “Castro did it” conspiracy theory.  

These facts raised questions which demanded answers from the Government. Yet until the Assassinations Records Review Board (“ARRB”) learned of Joannides in the waning days of its existence, “the CIA had never taken the positive step…of identifying to any government agency the role that Mr. Joannides held with regard to his activities in 1962-64, that pertain (directly or indirectly) to Lee Harvey Oswald, nor did the CIA proactively inform the [ARRB] that he was one and the same person who was a CIA liaison to the [HSCA].” Declaration of T. Jeremy Gunn (“Gunn Decl..”),.. Gunn, who served as the ARRB’s Executive Director, notes that the “CIA did not disclose this critical information about Mr. Joannides to the Warren Commission, the HSCA [House Select Committee on Assassinations], or the Review Board…” He adds, “this information is without any question an extremely important part of the larger story of the assassination. Records related to Mr. Joannides activities in 1962-1964 and 1978, unquestionably fall within the scope of the JFK Act as was consistently held by the Review Board that had statutory responsibility for interpreting the scope of the JFK Act.”

Morley, in his quest for data on Joannides and the DRE, discovered that that Joannides had been pulled out of retirement to become the CIA’s liaison with the HSCA in 1978. In that capacity he did not disclose to the HSCA that he had been the DRE’s case officer in 1962-64, and he rebuffed congressional efforts to obtain information about the Oswald/DRE relationship. And, as a result of this Court’s remand requiring the CIA to search its operational files, Morley learned that Joannides was working in an undercover capacity when he was the CIA’s liaison to the HSCA.

This led Prof. G. Robert Blakey, who served as Chief Counsel of the HSCA, to charge that the CIA’s conduct in inserting Joannides “undercover” into the HSCA’s investigation “constituted not only a breach of the written memorandum of understanding the HSCA in good faith entered into with the Agency…., but a manifest, and hardly minor matter, a criminal violation of 18 U.S.C. &1505”, which proscribes conduct that “impedes…the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry…of any committee of either House’)…”

While the CIA may not consider these circumstances “exceptional,” its response to Morley’s lawsuit clearly is. It has withheld at least 295 documents in their entireties, citing multiple overlapping exemption claims to conceal information that pertains to bygone days and is the subject of deep public interest. The CIA mindset displayed by these facts must be kept centrally in mind in evaluating the credibility of its claims.


The records on former CIA case officer George Joannides are of substantial public interest and are relevant to Jefferson Morley’s study of the assassination of President Kennedy, and, in particular, questions concerning alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s relationship with a CIA-funded Cuban exile group in the months before the assassination. Records on this topic have been officially disclosed by the CIA under the JFK Act. Despite this authorized official release of this information, the CIA is withholding 295 records in their entirety.

…The CIA’s brief does assert that, “[t]The CIA employees who worked with and supervised Joannides also have a significant privacy interest,” ….The CIA says that disclosing this information, including affiliation with Joannides or the CIA “would undoubtedly subject them to intensive questioning from a variety of sources, that is, the media, family, friends, neighbors, etc.”….The CIA is, of course, principally concerned with the media. It does not however, cite any authority showing that they are required to answer such inquiries, nor does it provide any plausible explanation showing that as a class they are too weak-willed to resist unwanted press inquires. Nor does it explain how resisting Morley’s right to obtain such information is consistent either with the First Amendment or the right of democratic accountability embodied in the FOIA.

The CIA also asserts that “[s]imilarly, the disclosure of this information could also place the CIA employees and their families in danger from individuals seeking retribution against Joannides directly and the CIA generally.” But this speculation is unsupported by any evidence of its likelihood. Under the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (“JFK Act”), the CIA has released at least 300,000 pages of records pertaining to the JFK assassination which contain this type of information, but the CIA fails to point to any instances where that massive disclosure has produced this kind of retribution it speculates might occur.

As to the names of Joannides’ supervisors and co-workers, the CIA has not even claimed that they are still living. In the absence of such a claim, alleged possible retribution is totally speculative and lacks any factual predicate. Given the passage of more than three decades since these officials and employees last worked for or with Joannides, it is likely they, like Joannides, are deceased.

The CIA tries to minimize the public interest in disclosure by arguing that Morley has mischaracterized the documents at issue in this case as “’pertaining to the assassination’ and ‘Cuban operations.’”….This, the CIA says, “is neither correct nor sufficient.” It follows this by asserting that “there was no overriding public interest that requires the disclosure of, or identifying information about the third parties at issue….”

The public interest in the records at issue had repeatedly been called to the CIA’s attention. Referring to the records on Joannides which are the subject of Morley’s request, Prof. Anna Nelson, who served as a member of the Assassination Records Review Board (“ARRB”), stated:

“It is imperative that all additional information which bears upon the CIA’s conduct regarding both the congressional investigation and the Kennedy assassination itself be made public as soon as possible so that Mr. Morely and others may continue to research these matters.”

Similarly, Jeremy Gunn, who served at overlapping times as General Counsel, Director of Research, and Executive Director of the ARRB, stated: “Prior to the time I received Ms. Combe’s [March 3, 1998] memorandum, CIA had never taken the positive step, as far as I am aware, of identifying to any government agency the role that Mr. Joannides held with regard to his activities in 1962-64, that pertained (directly or indirectly) to Lee Harvey Oswald, nor did CIA proactively inform the Review Board that he was one and the same person who was a CIA liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassination (HSCA).”

Gunn continued: “Although I have no information….why CIA did not disclose this critical information about Mr. Joannides to the Warren Commission, the HSCA, or the Review Board, this information is without any question an extremely important part of the larger story of the assassination. Records related to Mr. Joannides’ activities in 1962-64 and 1978, unquestionably fall within the scope of the JFK Act as was consistently held by the Review Board that had statutory responsibility for interpreting the scope of the JFK Act.”

John R. Tunheim, the Chairman of the ARRB stressed the important public interest in the subject of Morley’s request: “It is imperative that all additional information which bears upon the CIA’s conduct regarding both the congressional investigation and the Kennedy assassination itself be made public as soon as possible so that Mr. Morely and others may continue to research these matters.”

The CIA disregards all of this and says that “Morely has not demonstrated any public interest in this type of information or explain (sic) in any way how disclosure would shed light on government operations.”

The public interest in the names of Joannides’ supervisors is self-evident. It identifies who is responsible for overseeing Joannides’ work and holding him responsible for his actions. Identification of co-workers is particularly important for scholars, permitting evaluation of their competence, cohesion, experience and influence on activities, etc.

All of this information enables the public to evaluate who was doing what and what roles they played in government operations.

Attorney James H. Lesar has filed nearly 1,000 Freedom of Information Act requests and has obtained the release of 1 million pages of documents, primarily from the FBI and the CIA.

For any American, it is vital to keep abreast of the workings of government. The Freedom of Information Act is an important tool to empower citizens in this regard.

For 25 years, James H. Lesar has worked to increase individual access to government information under the Freedom of Information Act. A graduate of the University of Illinois and the University of Wisconsin School of Law, Lesar is widely recognized as one of the nation’s preeminent attorneys in the Freedom of Information arena.

Lesar has filed nearly 1,000 FOIA requests himself and has obtained the release of approximately 1 million pages of documents, primarily from the FBI and the CIA.

He serves as president of the Assassination Archives and Research Center, a public service organization which he co-founded with the late Bernard (“Bud”) Fensterwald Jr. The group is dedicated to “collecting, preserving and disseminating information concerning political assassinations” and has focused primarily on the killings of John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Lesar’s contributions to freedom of information and to history have been substantial.

Many of his FOIA cases have set landmark precedents, such asAllen v. U.S. Department of Defense, which established the right of a substantially prevailing FOIA requester to seek an interim award of attorney’s fees, and Summers v. U.S. Department of Justice, which held that a FOIA requester could submit an unsworn declaration to establish his identity, rather than a notarized statement.

Harold Weisberg, the U.S. Senate investigator who in 1965 wrote Whitewash: The Report on the Warren Report, told Freedom, “Without Jim, we wouldn’t know FOIA as we now know it. He fought some of the toughest cases, some of the longest. The country owes him a great debt.”

Weisberg described how Lesar represented him in efforts to obtain classified documents from the government. Lesar litigated the case, even though Weisberg was “broke and in debt,” and took it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Although they lost the case, Weisberg viewed it as a great victory because Congress cited the decision as reason to amend the Freedom of Information Act’s clause on investigatory files exemption. As a result, many FBI and CIA records became accessible.
Lesar believes that one of his greatest achievements was the release of a January 1964 Warren Commission executive session transcript that showed the commission suspected the FBI was not conducting a proper investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Lesar also played a crucial role in the passage of the JFK Records Act, a measure spurred by the groundswell of public opinion in the wake of the popular film, “JFK” against the lack of information forthcoming from government agencies regarding the Kennedy assassination. Lesar assisted those drafting the act in Congress to formulate language which ensures greater access and liberal disclosure provisions, and also testified on behalf of the act before Congress.

According to Lesar, legislation similar to the JFK Records Act is needed to complement the Freedom of Information Act, particularly in regard to historical documents.

Lesar has been at the center of virtually every major effort to uncover documents regarding the Kennedy and King assassinations. Professor David Wrone of the University of Wisconsin Department of History described his work as “invaluable to history and to the American people.” Wrone said that Lesar has frequently labored against heavy odds, and has often stood alone, with the Freedom of Information Act as his only weapon.

Such is Lesar’s dedication to freedom of information that for years he has spent nearly half his time doing voluntary legal work for the AARC. And throughout his career, he has provided free legal assistance to many private individuals utilizing the Freedom of Information Act.
James Lesar’s efforts have helped to preserve and enhance the rights of all Americans to seek and obtain access to government files.

(From Freedom Magazine)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say about Lesar except what a courageous citizen soldiering voluntarily in a war for us all!

And a note of gratitude to Bill Kelly certainly warrants it's space here!