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I'm thinking about posting this on Medium.com in support of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee's petition to reopen investigations into the 1960s political assassinations. Welcome any thoughts or suggestions. A JFK Assassination Question that Still Requires an Answer: Why Did Richard Helms Lie? It came to me between innings at my daughter’s softball game one lazy summer afternoon. “Helms lied,” I thought. “Under oath. Repeatedly. It’s in the record.” After spending a good five years studying the JFK assassination case, and after maintaining a steady interest since I used to pour over Life magazine issues of the tragedy as a kid, I found a disturbing fact that could not be debated down the rabbit hole of meaninglessness like so many of its anomalies. Richard Helms, deputy director of plans for the CIA during the JFK years who later served as CIA director in the late 60s and early 70s, repeatedly lied under oath to the two major federal investigations into the assassination: as the CIA’s liaison to the Warren Commission in 1964 and again to the House Subcommittee on Assassinations in the 1978 as a retired CIA official. What did he lie about? That he and the agency had provided all the material evidence they could about the assassination to federal investigators. But they hadn’t - not by a long shot. Of course, we’ve known since the early ‘70s that Helms and the CIA withheld information from the Warren Commission on the agency enlisting the Mafia’s help to try and kill Castro. (Commission member and former CIA director Allen Dulles undoubtedly knew this as well but did not tell his fellow members.) But Helms’ other omission was bigger and more incriminating to him and the agency, in my opinion. Helms withheld his personal knowledge that the CIA founded, funded and guided the anti-Castro Cuban group known as the DRE that Oswald very publicly tangled with in New Orleans in the summer of 1963. Helms, in fact, personally appointed the new case officer for the group in December 1962 and had the agent, a man named George Joannides but known as “Howard” to the DRE leadership, report directly to him. Nov. 22, 1963. The president is shot dead in Dallas. A suspect is picked up within 90 minutes of the crime. Before the suspect is even charged with shooting the president, on national TV that evening is footage of Lee Harvey Oswald handing out Fair Play for Cuba fliers on the streets of New Orleans. The fact that footage existed at all can only be credited to the existence of the CIA-sponsored propaganda group the DRE. In the summer of ‘63, Oswald was acting as an agent provocateur, first approaching Carlos Bringuier, the publicity director of the DRE’s New Orleans chapter, to offer his military knowledge from his time in the Marines to help the DRE bring down Castro. Bringuier didn’t trust him and actually thought Oswald might be with the FBI or CIA. A couple of days later, Oswald is seen handing out fliers supporting the pro-Castro group the Fair Play for Cuba Committee just a couple of blocks away from Bringuier’s place of business. Bringuier and a few other DRE members confront Oswald, a fracas ensues, and all parties are arrested. The DRE members make bail but Oswald spends the night in jail (not leaving, however, until he requests and secures a one-hour conversation with the local FBI agent in his cell). The local media cover the incident and trial with Oswald interviewed at length on radio and participating in a televised debate with Bringuier. From the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Helms and his fellow spooks must have seen all these stories about the DRE tumbling out in the immediate aftermath of the assassination with shock and dismay. They were seeing the agency’s favorite, secretly sponsored anti-Castro propaganda outfit somehow associated with JFK’s alleged assassin. But did Helms and his CIA compatriots ask themselves, “How could this be possible?” Were they shocked and dismayed at the incredible odds that this “lone nut” somehow stumbled upon a key CIA front group being used in the propaganda war against Castro? As members of the national security community, did Helms and his fellow CIA officials immediately alert the FBI or other law enforcement to this strange coincidence to offer any insights that could be critical in a search for the truth? In a word, no. Any agent who knew anything about the agency’s relationship to the DRE kept it under wraps. Helms would later keep it under wraps under oath. In the 1990s, a former Washington Post reporter named Jefferson Morley made a surprising discovery from materials released by the AARB. The man the CIA appointed as its liaison to the HSCA in the ‘70s was none other than George Joannides. Joannides never mentioned his role managing the DRE during the time of Oswald to the HSCA investigators, even when asked directly if he knew who their case officer was in ‘63. Helms, the man who appointed Joannides to the position and who received reports from him throughout 1963, also never mentions Joannides’ role during his testimony to the HSCA. At the time, the CIA maintained it had severed all ties to the DRE by April 1963. Neither Helms or Joannides disabuse investigators of that notion. So one of the CIA’s highest ranking officers in 1963 and later agency director lied under oath and withheld material evidence from the investigations into the assassination of a president. With all his personal knowledge of the agency’s relationship with the DRE, let’s see how Helms answered the questions with key excerpts of his sworn testimony below starting with his HSCA testimony and ending with his testimony to the Warren Commission. Excerpts from Richard Helms’ HSCA Testimony on September 25, 1978 Mr. GOLDSMITH – Mr. Helms, what role, if any, did the Agency have in the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy? Mr. HELMS – At the time that the Warren Commission was formed, the Agency did everything in its power to cooperate with the Warren Commission and with the FBI, the FBI having the lead in the investigation. As best I can recollect, it was the Agency’s feeling that since this tragic event had taken place in the United States, that the FBI and the Department of Justice would obviously have the leading edge in conducting the investigation, and that the Agency would cooperate with them in every way it was possible, and the same applied to the Warren Commission. ———– Mr. GOLDSMITH – What were your specific responsibilities with regard to the investigation? Mr. HELMS – As the Deputy Director for Plans, I regarded my responsibility as being one which saw to it that inquiries given to the Agency by the FBI or originated with the Warren Commission, were answered as well and as expeditiously as possible. ———— Mr. GOLDSMITH – Was the investigation of the death of President Kennedy perceived as a counterintelligence-type case? Mr. HELMS – It was not perceived in any specific terms at all that I recollect. It was perceived as a great national tragedy, and I think the feeling in the Agency was that anything it or its personnel could do to help resolve the questions that prevailed at the time, we would try to do, whether it was counterintelligence, positive intelligence, or what it was. ——– Mr. GOLDSMITH – Was all information pertinent to the Warren Commission’s work promptly given to the Warren Commission, Mr Helms? Mr. HELMS – I don’t know how to answer that question, Mr. Goldsmith. I thought we made a major effort to be as cooperative and prompt and helpful as possible. But in recent years I have been through enough to recognize that you can’t make a flat statement about anything, so I don’t know. Maybe there were some places where it wasn’t as prompt as it should have been. But I am not in a position to identify them. ——– Mr. GOLDSMITH – Are you able to state what factors governed whether information was made available to the Warren Commission? Mr. HELMS – I don’t think there were any governing factors except the necessity for us to be careful about our sources and methods in certain cases, and I believe that obstacle was gotten over by going down and having conversations with the Warren Commission at various times in order to make these points clear on what the issues were, I don’t believe we held anything back. ——— Mr. DODD – Other than the anti-Castro assassination plots, was there any other information pertaining to a possible mode or means or opportunity to kill the President that you are aware of and that Warren Commission was not told about? Mr. HELMS – I am sorry, I don’t get the— Mr. DODD – Other than the assassination plots. We know about the defector, you volunteered that. We had the voluntary turning over of the opinion with regard to Nosenko. We know today we didn’t turn over relevant information with regard to these efforts to get rid of Castro. Are there other things that you can recall that might have had relevancy–things of importance, to the Warren Commission’s investigation of the assassination of an American President. Mr. HELMS – Well, I don’t know of any others. I can’t think of what they might have been, but then we might have been guilty of some other errors of omission, I don’t know. None come readily to mind. This didn’t come readily to mind at the time. Excerpts from Helms’ Warren Commission Testimony, May 14, 1964 Representative FORD - Is the Central Intelligence Agency continuing any investigation into this area? Mr. MCCONE - So, because, at the present time, we have no information in our files that we have not exhaustively investigated and disposed of to our satisfaction. Naturally, any new information that might come into our hands would be investigated promptly. Mr. HELMS - I simply wanted to add that we obviously are interested in anything we can pick up applying to this case, and anything we get will be immediately sent to the Commission, so that we haven’t stopped our inquiries or the picking up of any information we can from people who might have it. This is on a continuing basis. ——— Mr. RANKIN - Would that be true, Mr. Helms, even after the Commission completed its report, you would keep the matter open if there was anything new that developed in the future that could be properly presented to the authorities? Mr. HELMS. Yes. I would assume the case will never be closed. End of testimony For a summary of the CIA’s subterfuge around the DRE and the assassination from someone who knows best, I recommend reading this 2014 open letter from Robert Blakey, the former chief counsel of the HSCA. If you are disturbed by any of the above and want complete answers from our government, I would also recommend adding your name to the list of prominent signatories to a petition to re-open investigations into all four political assassinations from the 1960s: JFK, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X.
Helms hiding his role in managing the DRE - and the agency's role in helping him hide it - is still outrageous and incriminating to me... Hence, my letter below to USA Today reporter Ed Brackett: Ed – Thank you for covering the Joannides court case regarding the JFK files recently. It’s really appreciated by someone like me who’s had an interest in the JFK case for years when someone from a mainstream media outlet covers this ongoing story. Maybe you’re already aware of this, but Richard Helms, the CIA’s Deputy Director of Plans at the time, was personally overseeing Joannides’ running of the DRE. This internal CIA memo are notes from a secret meeting Helms had with the leadership of the DRE in November 1962, a year before the assassination: https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=18923#relPageId=1&tab=page In the memo, Helms mentions he will be hiring a new case officer for the group that would report directly to him. That new case officer would be Joannides. One year later the assassination occurs and Oswald is taken into custody. The DRE immediately contacts Joannides who say they interacted with the suspect in New Orleans over the summer and have newspaper, radio and TV coverage showing Oswald as pro-Castro. Joannides tells the group to wait for word from Washington on what to do. Apparently the group’s leaders waited one hour and then went ahead and contacted media. One would have to assume Joannides was trying to contact his direct report regarding the DRE, Richard Helms. But whether he was able to get a hold of Helms or not, Helms, like the rest of the country, would’ve seen video of Oswald interacting with the DRE chapter in New Orleans on national TV that evening. He would’ve seen the newspaper coverage the next day that described Oswald’s antics with the DRE that summer. So let’s pretend for a minute you’re Richard Helms in this situation. Your second-in-command of the CIA (and some would say ostensibly running the agency with the departure of Allen Dulles in 1961), and have learned that the accused assassin somehow crossed paths with the anti-Castro group you manage and you know is funded and guided by the agency. In fact, if the CIA didn’t form and fund the DRE, there would not have been coverage of Oswald’s pro-Castro ways for the media to report on following the assassination simply because, as the DRE leaders say in the meeting memo above, the group would not exist without CIA funding. Does Helms tell any federal authority about the CIA’s sponsorship of the DRE in the aftermath of the assassination? He doesn’t. He doesn’t tell the Warren Commission as the CIA’s liaison. He doesn’t tell the HSCA in the 70s. Instead, Congressional investigators are told the CIA cut-off all contact with the group by 1963. Helms also doesn’t alert anyone to Joannides’ role in managing the group and reporting to him when Joannides serves as the agency’s liaison to the HSCA. That is obstruction on its face. Helms never spoke about his oversight of the DRE to anyone the rest of his life as far as I know (although Jefferson Morley tried before Helms died in 2002). The CIA has never explained why he withheld that knowledge from successive investigations. And Helms perjured himself during his HSCA testimony in 1979 with this exchange: MR DODD: Are there other things that you can recall that might have had relevancy–things of importance, to the Warren Commission’s investigation of the assassination of an American President. Mr. HELMS – Well, I don’t know of any others. I can’t think of what they might have been, but then we might have been guilty of some other errors of omission, I don’t know. None come readily to mind. This didn’t come readily to mind at the time. If Richard Helms were alive today, the questions would be many, including: Why did you keep your oversight of the DRE and the agency’s sponsorship role a secret from investigative bodies? Did you know about Oswald’s antics in New Orleans through Joannides’ reports on the DRE prior to the assassination? In your meeting with DRE leadership in 1962, you asked that they alert you to any further TV coverage of the group. Were you alerted about their TV coverage in New Orleans with Oswald? How did you miss a press release by the New Orleans chapter of the CIA-funded group calling for a Congressional investigation into Oswald three months before the assassination? Did you know Joannides maintained a residence in New Orleans during the time Oswald was there? Everyone knows there was a lot of animosity by the DRE and other anti-Castro groups against JFK regarding Cuba in 1963. Wouldn’t it be logical to assume the CIA would have reams of info on what these groups discussed, who hated JFK the most, what role they might’ve played in the assassination, etc.? Why didn’t you help investigators with this information? But for me, the implications can be summed up simply by paraphrasing the old line from “Casablanca”: Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, how did the alleged assassin of the president walk into the CIA's? Thanks again for the story and thanks for listening.
As a part-time student of the assassination, I compared the sworn testimony of CIA officers to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) from the ‘70s with what is known today from the document releases of the past two decades. I found the most interesting disparity between what former CIA chief Richard Helms told the HSCA compared to the known facts today. For simplicity's sake, you can compare Helms' testimony to the 2014 open letter from Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel of the HSCA, detailing the CIA’s subterfuge around agency case officer George Joannides and the Cuban student group DRE: http://aarclibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/robert_blakey_aarc_9_26_letter.pdf[aarclibrary.org The known facts in Blakey’s letter directly contradict this statement from Helms to HSCA investigators on September 25, 1978: MR DODD: Are there other things that you can recall that might have had relevancy–things of importance, to the Warren Commission’s investigation of the assassination of an American President. Mr. HELMS – Well, I don’t know of any others. I can’t think of what they might have been, but then we might have been guilty of some other errors of omission, I don’t know. None come readily to mind. This didn’t come readily to mind at the time. [source: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/russ/jfkinfo2/jfk4/hscahelm.htm[mcadams.posc.mu.edu] To summarize the timeline: December 1962 - Helms appoints agency case officer George Joannides to run the DRE and have Joannides report personally to him. August 1963 – Lee Harvey Oswald has several run-ins with the New Orleans chapter of the DRE that are publicized in the local news. The DRE chapter even writes a press release denouncing Oswald and asking for a Congressional investigation of the ex-Marine: http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/images/dre_press.gif[mcadams.posc.mu.edu] Nov. 22, 1963 – Broadcast video of Oswald handing out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans is delivered to Congressional representatives and media in Washington DC by a fervent anti-communist based in New Orleans named Ed Butler, who had also participated in a radio interview with Oswald and a DRE representative in August 1963. Butler actually arrived with the video in DC before the president’s body did from Dallas. DRE officials also contacted media and reported on Oswald’s pro-Castro activities the day of the assassination with the tacit permission of the CIA. 1964 - Serving as the CIA’s liaison to the Warren Commission, Helms does not tell the WC anything about the CIA’s founding and continued funding and guidance of the DRE, or his appointment of George Joannides to run the group. 1977 – George Joannides is appointed as the CIA’s liaison to Congress and HSCA investigators, never revealing his role as the case officer to the DRE during 1963 and, as Blakey notes, lying directly to investigators and slowing the process of producing documents. 1978 – Helms makes his above statement to the HSCA. As Blakey writes, the CIA at the time still maintained that the agency had no contact with the DRE in ’63. Not sure if anyone else has delved into comparing the known facts with CIA testimony. Also, I would love to know if anyone has a link to the primary doc that shows Helms' appointment of Joannides. Thanks.