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Why Did Helms Lie?

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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.

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  • 6 months later...
11 minutes ago, Michaleen Kilroy said:

Forgot I had posted it here before:

FYI, I sent it to Robert Blakey who emailed me back this: 

“I read your piece with great interest. Sadly, I don’t think anything will come of it in our lifetime.”



Using Joannides to infiltrate the congressional investigation into the JFKA was highly illegal and is something that I think could more likely get traction.

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5 minutes ago, Michael Clark said:

Using Joannides to infiltrate the congressional investigation into the JFKA was highly illegal and is something that I think could more likely get traction.

It’s all of a piece, isn’t it? Don’t think I have anything new but I like to try to point out issues that maybe the uninitiated may understand.  The CIA’s obvious malfeasance means the case is never closed until they come clean on what the hell they were doing with LHO.

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