Thursday, February 5, 2009

CIA Files on Covert Officer Remain Secret


According to journalist and author Jefferson Morley, CIA lawyers continue to block his Freedom of Information Act request for access to files pertaining to deceased former agent George Joannides, whose 1963 exploits allegedly crossed paths with presumed Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

In a Washington Independent article this week, Morley reports a sworn declaration, filed in court in November, 2008, by Delores Nelson, chief of CIA information programs, acknowledges that Joannides had worked on two “covert projects” during his 28-year career – one was running covert operations in Miami in 1963 and the other was serving as the CIA’s liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978.

“Joannides served undercover in both of these assignments,” Nelson said.

According to Morley, the exact nature and purpose of Joannides’ undercover mission with the HSCA, if there was one, remains unknown.

The CIA did not tell Congress about Joannides’ undercover role as liaison to the HSCA, according to G. Robert Blakey, the former federal prosecutor who headed the 1978 congressional investigation into Kennedy’s murder. Nor was Blakey aware at the time of Joannides’ connection to the DRE, a Miami-based, anti-Castro Cuban, student group that sought to publicize Oswald’s pro-Castro activities after the assassination.

Oswald got into an altercation on the streets of New Orleans in August, 1963, with DRE member Carlos Bringuier and several associates. Bringuier later debated Oswald on a broadcast radio program and sent a tape-recorded copy of the program to DRE headquarters in Miami. In the wake of the assassination, the tape was retrieved from the DRE files and given to Joannides, the FBI, and the news media.

According to the declaration filed in November, the CIA retains 295 documents surrounding Joannides’ operational activities in 1963 and 1978 that it will not release in any form. Nelson claimed that their release would threaten the national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S. government.

The 1992 JFK Records Act, which was unanimously approved by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, mandates that all assassination-related records be reviewed and released “immediately.”

The CIA rebuffed a National Archives request to review the disputed Joannides’ records, saying it wouldn’t allow access as long as the Morley lawsuit was pending.

The lawsuit, filed in December, 2003, is still pending before Judge Richard Leon in Washington federal court.

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