Saturday, March 1, 2008

More JFK Secrets in Sixty Days?


It looks like it will be at least another sixty days before we know if there are any "smoking guns" in the CIA's George Joannides file.

CIA lawyers promised Judge Richard Leon in a Washington federal court last Wednesday (Feb.27) that they would comply with an appellate court order to produce more information on Joannides at another court hearing, scheduled for April 30.

This is all part of journalist Jefferson Morley's attempt to pry documents out of CIA vaults related to the now-deceased Joannides.

In Morley's view, the sought after CIA records on Joannides could shed new light on the assassination because of Joannides’ position as the CIA case officer for the anti-Castro organization known as the Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil (DRE) in 1963. Morley claims that the DRE had contact with Lee Harvey Oswald in the months before President Kennedy’s assassination. Disclosure of CIA records pursuant to his FOIA request will, Morley contends, help to “complete the historical record of Kennedy’s assassination, specifically CIA operations that might have collected intelligence on Oswald.”

It also would elevate Mr. Morley to the stature of superstar among the conspiracy elite, especially if Morley can connect the CIA to Oswald - something the conspirati have been licking their chops over for the passed four decades. So far, Morley has nothing more than suspicion and speculation fueling his quest.

Here's what's gone on so far:

On July 4, 2003, Morley submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the CIA for “all records pertaining to CIA operations officer George Efythron Joannides (also known as ‘Howard,’ ‘Mr. Howard’ or ‘Walter Newby’).”

The CIA sent a preliminary responded to Morley's request on November 5, 2003, informing him that “CIA records on the assassination of President Kennedy have been re-reviewed under the classification guidelines for assassination-related records of the [JFK Act]” and that such records “have been transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in compliance with this Act.”

On December 16, 2003, Morley filed a complaint for injunctive relief, requesting the district court to order the CIA to make available all documents responsive to his FOIA request.

The CIA filed a motion to stay the proceedings pending its further processing of Morley’s FOIA request, which the district court granted on September 2, 2004.

On December 22, 2004, the CIA responded to Morley’s FOIA request via letter, enclosing three documents in their entirety and 112 documents with redactions pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7(C), and 7(E). The CIA noted that it had located additional responsive material that it was withholding in its entirety under FOIA Exemptions 1, 3, and 6. It also explained that two documents required consultation with another agency and that 78 documents previously released under the JFK Act were on file with NARA. The CIA asserted that it could “neither confirm nor deny the existence of records responsive” to Morley’s request pertaining to Joannides’ participation in any covert operation.

The CIA later released the two documents requiring consultation with another agency in segregable form.

Three months later, on May 9, 2005, the CIA sent Morley a partially redacted document that it had “inadvertently failed to include” in its earlier response and identified additional material that was withheld in its entirety under Exemptions 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7(C), 7(D), and 7(E).

Morley challenged the CIA's compliance with his FOIPA request claiming that relevant records were still being withheld and that the CIA had failed to perform an adequate search for such records.

The courts disagreed, concluding that the CIA properly processed Morley’s request under the traditional standards of the FOIA, rather than the less restrictive standards of the JFK Act, which states that “all Government records concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy should carry a presumption of immediate disclosure,” in part because the FOIA, “as implemented by the executive branch, has prevented the timely public disclosure” of these records.

In Assassination Archives & Research Center v. Department of Justice, 43 F.3d 1542, 1544 (D.C. Cir. 1995)(“AARC I”), the court determined that “[t]he JFK Act and the FOIA are separate statutory schemes with separate sets of standards and separate (and markedly different) enforcement mechanisms. There is no evidence that Congress intended that the JFK Act standards be applied to FOIA review of documents involving the Kennedy assassination.” The court stated that FOIA requesters could not skirt the JFK Act’s procedures in order to capitalize on its substance.

Morley subsequently claimed that the termination of Review Board operations and the creation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which provides that all JFK records discovered after the termination of the Review Board be turned over the the National Archives, distinguished his case from AARC I because there the court rejected efforts to “secure immediate judicial application of the substantive standards of the JFK Act without having to wait for the Act’s procedures to run their course.” Now that they had, Morley asserted that the MOU should govern his request for documents.

However, the court pointed out that the MOU provided its own enforcement mechanism for procuring relevant documents from the CIA and that Morley could no more sidestep those procedures than he could those of the JFK Act.

The court further ruled that the CIA's search for records pertaining to George Joannides was adequate.

The CIA admits that it did not search its operational files for records responsive to Morley’s request because operational files are exempt from FOIA disclosure under the CIA Act, and generally include records “which document the conduct of foreign intelligence or counterintelligence operations.”

The court held that Morley’s FOIA request met the criteria for mandating the search of the CIA’s operational files under the FOIA and because the CIA did not search these files, the court remanded the case to the district court so that the CIA could be ordered to do so. The district court was also ordered to direct the CIA to search all documents previously turned over to the National Archives for records related to Morley's FOIPA request.

The court was less persuaded by Morley's contention that the CIA's search of their records was inadequate because there were certain documents that he "suspected" the CIA had in its possession but withheld.

The next court appearance is scheduled for April 30, when CIA lawyers are supposed to produce "more information" on Joannides.

As I pointed out in "The CIA vs. Jefferson Morley," Morley claims that "the DRE had contact with Lee Harvey Oswald in the months before President Kennedy’s assassination," and that CIA files related to George Joannides, who ran the Miami-based DRE could shed light on the assassination.

Of course, it wasn't the Miami-based DRE that had contact with Oswald in the summer of 1963, as Mr. Morley suggests, but rather it was New Orleans delegate (i.e., member) Carlos Bringuier who was approached by Oswald.

Bringuier maintains that his one-man operation never had contact with Joannides and received no monies from the Miami-based organization to run or further its operations.

While I support any effort to uncover new information about he death of President Kennedy, Mr. Morley's search for CIA documents that might show a link between George Joannides and Lee Harvey Oswald (significant or otherwise) amounts to a "fishing expedition," and if the available record is any indication, he's fishing a dry hole.


Steve said...

Mr. Myers,

Jefferson Morley's search is substantially more than a fishing expedition. The CIA's record of honesty regarding George Joannides and Lee Harvey Oswald has hardly been reassuring.

First, the CIA said no officer handled the DRE during 1963 due to differences between the DRE & agency. Then, only after the AARB found Joannides was the agent handler, the CIA claimed that for the 17 months that Joannides was ran the DRE, there are no monthly reports; yet, there are such reports for the previous CIA-DRE handler and for the period after Joannides ran the group. Strange to say the least. Further, Joannides came out of retirement to be the CIA liason to the HSCA --and yet never proffered his involvement with the DRE, even though the HSCA was investigating the group.

Further, Oswald was of great interest to the CIA pre-assassination. See Morley's excellent book, Our Man in Mexico, for a full discussion, and his article "What Jane Roman Said".

Morley has never alleged a conspiracy, and has been very measured in his reporting. Keep in mind that if the CIA was using or manipulating Oswald, it may have been for an authorized, still classified intelligence operation completely unconnected to the assassination. Morley has not concluded this yet, but a reasonable interpretation of the available evidence, his reporting, and the work of others (Newman's Oswald and the CIA, for one) certainly does not exclude such a conclusion. I think all serious researchers should support Morley's cautious, incremental approach to the CIA's 44 year history of obsfucatory behavior about what they knew and when regarding Oswald.

I appreciate your efforts both here and on the JFK programs you've appeared on. Keep up the good work.


Steve Rosen

Dale K. Myers said...


It's a fishing expedition.

Mr. Morley is hoping to uncover information that George Joannides learned about Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination through his contacts and connections to the Miami-based DRE.

However, a hope is not a fact.

Mr. Morley may be successful in securing new information on Joannides from the CIA. Then again, he may not. We'll have to wait and see.

I opined that Mr. Morley is fishing a dry hole based on what we now know. I would be happy to consider changing my opinion if new information becomes available.

I am very familiar with this aspect of the case, having worked on it extensively in the early 1980's, and of Mr. Morley's writings, including his book on Win Scott.

It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Steve said...


I appreciate your response, and of course we will have to wait and see.

However, your opinion that Mr. Morley is fishing "a dry hole" based on what has been released seems both premature and contrary to what we do know: That the CIA has consistently misrepresented what it has known about Oswald, the DRE, and Joannides.

Given the history of public deception by the CIA where forthright disclosure was required by law, there is little reason to have full confidence in what the CIA has said about Oswald, the DRE, and Joannides.

There is no basis for you to speculate that the hole is dry (or for anyone else to believe it is full of fish).

In fact, though, there is something in the water -- the CIA has stated it is witholding records, the nature of which is unknown.

I'd go a step further and say Mr. Morley has hooked onto something by advancing what we know -- but at this point, we can't be sure if it's a boot in a dry hole, a minnow, or a marlin.


Steve Rosen

P.S. Did you finish Our Man in Mexico? If so what are your thoughts on David Phillips' surveillance of Oswald in Mexico City (& of course that he was the first handler of the DRE) and of the missing Oswald photos and tapes?