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Thomas Hercules Karamessines

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I have been doing some research on Thomas Hercules Karamessines. He joined the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) in 1948 (like the rest of them he had been a member of OSS during the war).

Karamessines worked undercover in Greece until 1953. He was Chief of Station in Rome in the early 1960s before being appointed Assistant Deputy Director for Plans under Richard Helms. He held the same post under Desmond FitzGerald.

After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Helms and Karamessines were responsible for investigating the activities of Lee Harvey Oswald. According to Robert J. Groden and Harrison E. Livingstone (High Treason) Karamessines sent a memo to Helms pointing out that he had discovered that E. Howard Hunt had been in Dallas on CIA business on the day that Kennedy was murdered.

When Desmond FitzGerald died of a heart-attack in July, 1967, Karamessines was appointed Director for Plans. His deputy was Cord Meyer. Along with Richard Ober they worked on Operation Mockingbird. This included a major campaign against the left-wing press. Called MHCHAOS it targeted some 500 newspapers. CIA agents infiltrated those papers that were opposing the Vietnam War.

Karamessines, as chairman of the Chile Task Force, played a major role in FUBELT, the covert operation against Salvador Allende in Chile. In a secret cable to Henry Hecksher, CIA station head in Santiago, dated 16th October, 1970, Karamessines pointed out: "It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup ... it is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG (Unites States Government) and American hand be well hidden."

Karamessines has also been blamed for the plot against René Schneider, the army chief commander who refused to support a coup against Allende. The CIA provided guns and money for kidnapping Schneider, but he was killed inside his car during the operation.

The Watergate Scandal caused problems for Karamessines and Helms when it was revealed that three of the central figures in the operation, E. Howard Hunt, Eugenio Martinez and James W. McCord had close links with the CIA. By this time Richard Nixon was beginning to have doubts about the loyalty of Helms. In February, 1973, Nixon sacked Helms. Karamessines resigned in protest.

Thomas Karamessines was expected to be questioned by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. However, he died of an apparent heart attack on 4th September, 1978, at his vacation home in Grand Lake, Quebec, before he could give evidence before the HSCA.

Karamessines was only 61. He must have known a great deal about the CIA and Oswald. Those involved in the conspiracy (and cover-up) must have been very pleased to hear about his death.

Would be grateful for any information you might have on Karamessines.


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In another strange case of coincidence Thomas Karamessines worked with Edwin Walker during the 1948 period of the Greek Civil War. At that time there were about 44 Americans involved in the supply, training, etc. that centered around this period of history that led to the Truman Doctrine.

Of course my interest is in the Walker connection!

My schedule has been such that my available time for posting has been very limited.......I will attempt to add more to this post as time permits.

Jim Root

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Thomas Karamessines is discussed in Richard Helms 2003 book, A Look Over My Shoulder. I guess I don't have to remind you to consider the source. Here's a photo of Karamessines.

Afer Jim Root came forward with the information that Karemessines had worked with Walker I pulled out every book I had on the CIA and read every word on Karemessines. And the consensus seemed to be that he was very professional and very cautious, and that he was fiercely loyal to Helms. This led me to doubt that he'd have anything to do with the Kennedy Assassination, outside of helping Helms keep the lid on info that was damaging to the CIA. As I remember it, both Karemessines and Phillips were against track II in Chile, and were quite upset with Nixon and Kissinger for putting the CIA in such a difficult predicament.

John, perhaps you can ask Joe Trento to fill us in on the memo Angleton showed him. I was under the impression it was from Angleton to Helms, and here you mention that Groden and Livingstone have written that it was from Karemessines... Perhaps Trento can clear this up.

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Afer Jim Root came forward with the information that Karemessines had worked with Walker I pulled out every book I had on the CIA and read every word on Karemessines.  And the consensus seemed to be that he was very professional and very cautious, and that he was fiercely loyal to Helms.  This led me to doubt that he'd have anything to do with the Kennedy Assassination, outside of helping Helms keep the lid on info that was damaging to the CIA.  As I remember it, both Karemessines and Phillips were against track II in Chile, and were quite upset with Nixon and Kissinger for putting the CIA in such a difficult predicament.

I agree that Karamessines had nothing to do with the assassination of JFK. However, along with Helms, he was responsible for investigating the activities of Oswald. I am sure he discovered interesting links between Oswald and the CIA. Karamessines also managed CIA staff involved in covert activities. This brought him into contact with people like Morales, Robertson, Hunt, Phillips, Harvey, etc. It was apparently in 1966 that Karamessines discovered that Hunt was on CIA business in Dallas on the day of the assassination.

Karamessines does appear to have been a fairly honest person. Maybe that was why the conspirators could not allow him to give evidence before the HSCA in 1978. Helms could be trusted to lie (as he did before the Frank Church committee in 1977).

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Roger, Pat, John

I tend to look at the assassination as potentially two crimes, the actual assassination and, if their was in fact a conspiracy, the flawed investigation. If a person was knowingly involved in suppressing or witholding information that was pertinent to the investigation and did so with intent to mislead the investigators, they would have, in fact, committed a crime. If this same withheld information compromised national security it would also be a crime to make the infromation public. The loyal employees of our nation that are tasked with protecting the national interests would find themselves in a cunnundrum where only the most loyal could be trusted to do the most dishonest deeds.

This is where we seem to find Thomas Karasemmines and his trusted associate George Joannides monitoring the movements of Oswald before the assassination and "redirecting" the investigations toward the "company" view after the fact. Were they covering up the fact that the government had an "interest" in Oswald or that Oswald was in fact an "asset" of our intelligence agencies?

While I continue to ponder these thoughts, for myself, the association of these two men with Walker at an earlier stage in their careers seems more than just coincidental.

While perhaps a little off the subject Karasemmines was also involved with General Fredricks (another close Walker associate) at the time of Fredericks' unsavory departure from the US Military during the Greek Civil War (circa 1953). It seems some peoples loyalty and some peoples integrity could create conflicts when dealing with issues of national security. In that perticular case it seems only one choose to be guided by integrity over national security.

I sometimes wonder what choices each of us would make if put to the tests that the cold warriors went through on a daily basis.

Jim Root

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John mentions a pivotal time, the moment when R.Nixon sacked R.Helmes and T.Karamessines resigned in support of Helms. The moment DEEP THROAT appears, and McCord writes a letter to the judge!!!

In February of 1973 the Watergate campaign burglary was not the big story it became later, and Nixon's impeachment and resignation not already set in motion.

Also, this view of Karamessines is consistent with a joint agency effort spearheaded by ONI and MI directorates and the CIA and FBI left with the unenviable job of covering up any national security leads stemming from Dallas.

As I mentioned, KARAMESSINES, FITZGERALD and MARSHALL CARTER seem to have been structurally in positions to know a great deal about the 11/22/63 murders, and forced by law and tradition to remain silent and vigilant over the containment of the actual situation.

Jim Root is correct to link Karamessines to Walker and the Greek post war paramilitary research done by the MI6 Supreme Allied COmmander Burma Theater Louis Mountbatten and Prince Philip of Britain.

Mr. Pappas's extortionate relationship to Mr. Nixon may be based on a Greek power arrangement visavis these principles, Mountbatten, Philip, Karamessines, Edwin Walker, Aristotle Onassis and Frank Wisner at OPC....certainly a fertile field for intrigue on behalf of fascist anti-communists and royalist commercial interests, with the Turkish missile and Balkan black market and covert efforts providing more opportunities for violence, misdirection and manipulation of overthrown regimes.......is it not?

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I think you will like this information.

If you want to know what Thomas Karamessines and Richard Helms were up to during the period 1953 – 1965 you can find information in the following 122 page report.

But before reading the following information recall that on October 3, 1956, a few weeks before his 17th birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald wrote a letter to the Socialist Party of America based in New York City:

Dear Sirs:

I am sixteen years of age and would like more information about your youth League, I would like to know if there is a branch in my area, how to join, etc., I am a Marxist, and have been studying socialist principles for well over fifteen months I am very interested in your Y.P.S.L.


Lee Oswald

Three weeks later, Oswald enlisted in the Marines.

Final Report Of The Select Committee To Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities United States Senate: April 23, 1976.

The report begins with these words: “Between 1940 and 1973, two agencies of the federal government – the CIA and the FBII – covertly and illegally opened and photographed first class letter mail within the United States.” (pg 1)

“The CIA conducted four mail opening programs in four cities within the United States for varying lengths of time between 1953 and 1973. New York (1953-1973); San Francisco (four separate occasions, each of one to three weeks duration, between 1969 and 1971); New Orleans (three weeks in 1957) ; and Hawaii (late 1954 – late 1955).” (pg 5)

“Director Allen Dulles and Richard Helms, then Chief of Operations in the Plans Directorate, met with the Postmaster General and the Chief Postal Inspector, David Stephens, on May 17, 1954.” (pg 9)

“The CI Staff Take-Over: "More" Mail Opening. -- In November 1955, James Angleton, the Chief of the Counterintelligence (CI) Staff, submitted a proposal to Richard Helms for the further expansion of the New York mail intercept project. Until then, the CIA was only receiving access to a portion of the United States-Soviet Union mail in its New York facility; Angleton recommended that "we gain access to all mail traffic to and from the U.S.S.R. which enters, departs, or transits the United States through the Port of New York." He also suggested that the "raw information acquired be recorded, indexed and analyzed and various components of the Agency furnished items of information which would appear to be helpful to their respective missions." Perhaps most significantly, he recommended a shift in the focus of the project from photographing the mail to opening it.” (pg 9)

“This proposal was approved by Helms on December 7, and funds were authorized by the Acting Deputy Director for Plans on March 3, 1956.” (pg 9)

“The only written approvals for the project as it subsequently developed during Dulles' tenure appear to be those of Richard Helms and the Acting Deputy Director for Plans. In December 1955, Helms approved the concept as outlined by James Angleton”

While it is unclear whether Dulles was ever informed about the laboratory, he was apparently at least made aware of the fact that mail was being opened. In May 1956, he received a memorandum from James Angleton in which Angleton noted that "for some time selected openings have been conducted and the contents examined." (pg 18)

“When the first request for formal approval had been submitted to Helms in November 1955, a branch chief of the CI staff suggested to, James Angleton that "in view of the sensitivity of this project, steps should be taken to have this proposed project approved by the Director without recourse to the normal channels for presentation of projects." (pg 19)

“Even James Angleton, the project's strongest supporter and, as Chief of the CI Staff, the official most directly responsible for its operation, testified that his understanding of its legality was simply: "That it was illegal." When asked how he could rationalize conducting a program he believed to be illegal, he answered that in his opinion, the project's benefit to the national security outweighed legal considerations.” (pg 38)

By 1965 Thomas Karamessines was Richard Helms point man in covering up this project

“In 1965, the Long Subcommittee hearings on the use of mail covers and other investigative techniques by federal agencies caused the Agency serious concern about possible Congressional discovery and revelation of the project. It is noted above that in September 1965, as a result of this concern, CIA officials briefly considered informing Postmaster General Gronouski of the project. When this proposal was rejected, presumably because Gronouski had cooperated extensively with the Subcommittee, Thomas Karamessines, then Acting Deputy Director for Plans, "suggested that, in his opinion, the President would be more inclined to go along with the idea of the operation." Karamessines "gave instructions that steps should be taken to arrange to pass through McGeorge Bundy to the President after the Subcommittee has completed its investigation." (pg 30)

“Three years later, the Long Subcommittee's investigation was believed to increase the risk of project exposure. An internal CIA memorandum dated April 23, 1965, states:

Mr. Karamessines [Assistant Deputy Director for Plans] felt that the dangers inherent in Long's subcommittee activities to the security of the Project's operations in New York should be thoroughly studied in order that a determination can be made as to whether these operations should be partially or fully suspended until the subcommittee's investigations are completed. (pgs 40 & 41)

In one document we bring together Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, James Jesus Angelton and Thomas Karamessines. We also show that Oswald’s letter to the Socialist Workers Party would have placed him, at minimum, on a “Watch List” of the CIA and perhaps was opened and read by some of the same people that would be monitoring his movements before the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Was the CIA aware of Oswald as early as 1956, we must not discount the possibility!

If Oswald was in fact on this “Watch List” it would make it unlikely that he would be given the security clearances necessary to work on the U-2 while in the Marines, unless of course the “agency” had other plans for him.

The Watch List:

“Letters were selected for opening by two basic methods: (1) on the basis of a list of names known as the "Watch List," and (2) randomly. By one CIA estimate, the "Watch List" accounted for approximately 25% of the total volume of mail that was opened; random selection for 75%.” (pg 11)

“The Watch List. -- The Watch List originated in the mid-1950's, at which time it consisted of only ten to twenty names. With the SR Division, the CI Staff, the Office of Security, and the FBI all contributing names to the list it grew rapidly, however: by the end of the project the Watch List totaled about 600 names.” (pg 12)

Within a short time, the Watch List had expanded far beyond these relatively narrow and well-defined categories. The names of individuals who were in contact with Watch Listed persons and organizations were frequently added to the list themselves, and, as an August 1961 memorandum points out, a very large percentage of the names on the list were placed there because of "leads which came about through the random selection." (pgs 11 & 12)

Jim Root

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  • 2 years later...


While that particular file is locked away at the moment and I cannot place my hand on the document itself I can give you the backround of it, how I obtained it and how it relates.

The document itself is a phone registry for the American Advisory group in Greece while General Fredericks was the commanding officier. It gives the positon that Karamessines was assigned but without it in hand I cannot recall exactly what that position was. Walker at the time was running the Greek Desk at the Pentagon after a stint at the War College where the new Cold War policies were being discussed in general and the 'Greek Problem" (end of British aid to Greece in particular were discussed). These war college sessions were influenced by the teachings of George Kennan and the select group that participated became our Cold Wariors of the 1950's, 1960's. One of my many conclusions is that Walker was not the idiot that most people today believe that he was and his association with so many people who surround the assassination story is not a coincidence.

This end of British aid to Greece led to the Truman Doctrine and th early development of US Cold War Strategy.

If you are familiar with Fredericks he was the CO of the First Special Services Force during WWII (while Walker commanded the 3rd Regiment). When Fredericks was "moved up" (becomming at the time the youngest General in the US Army) Walker would take command of the FSSF. Both Fredericks and Walker were students at West Point during the time that Maxwell Taylor was an instructor, although Fredericks was two years Walker's senior.

Fredericks and Walker maintained a cordial relationship for the rest of Fredericks life and I obtained several pictures and documents, including the one mentioned above via the Frederics collection located at the Hoover Library at Stanford University.

Have you read NSC 68? As an attorney I would love to hear your take on it, especially the closing portion.

Jim Root

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Jefferson Morley on Karamessines, from Our Man in Mexico:

P.52 - "Win remained in touch with Dulles, who was still in New York, and the network of 0SS veterans who manned the new agency. There was Frank Wisner, a fellow southerner from a wealthy Mississippi family who had served with the OSS in Romania. There was Tom Karamessines, a plainspolken former cop and prosecutor from New York City who had overseen the transformation of the OSs into the CIA in Greece.....

P. 143 - "The new man assigned to handle the DRE/AMSPELL program was an up-and-coming forty year old officer named George Joannides. A lawyer and journalist from New York City, he was a protege of Helms's trusted deputy, Tom Karamessines. When Joannides replaced Ron Crozier as the case officer for the DRE in Miami in late November 1962, he was serving the deputy chief of psychological warfare operations in Miami. He introduced himself to the Cuban students as 'Howard....'"

P. 192 - "Win received the answer to his query about Oswald via cable on October 10, 1963, a week after Oswald returned to the United States and settled in Dallas. Defenders of the CIA and those who exclude the possiblitly of conspiracy in Kennedy's assassination contend that this communication document is 'routine.' Read the context of Win Scott's and David Phillip's operations, however, the cable shows that as the diverse streams of intelligence about Oswald were absorbed at headquarters, Win Scott was cut out of the loop."

"The response came from Dick Helms's trusted assistant, Tom Karamessines. A former OSS man like Win, Karamessines had distinguised himself as a frontline operator supporting the anticommunist forces in the vicious Greek civil war of 1946-1948. He went on to become the chief of the CIA station in Athens and patron for a generation of Greek American spies, including George Joannides, the handler of the DRE/AMSPELL acount in Miami. In the cable, Karamessines passed on what headquarters purported to know about Oswald..."

P. 194 - "...This level of scrutiny was hardly routine. Questioned about the October 10 cable years later, Karamessines said he had signed off because Win's inquiry involved the CIA in disseminating information about an American citizen. Not true, said John Whitten. In secret sworn testimony not declassified until 1997, Whitten said headquarters had often done name traces on Americans in contact with communist embassies and release the information without bothering a senior official such as Karamessines. Whitten said he could not explain why the release of information about Oswald request had to be approved at such a high level."

P. 197 - "...'I (Jane Roman) may have not noticed anything,' she said. 'And normally I wouldn't be moving the cable...I mean, higher-ups than me. I'm a desk officer, not a division chief.' That was certainly true. It was Tom Karamessines's cable."

"...'To me it's indicative of a keen interest in OSwald held very closely on a need-to-know basis.' A keen interest in Oswald. Held very closely. Need-to-know basis. This trifecta of intelligence jargon suggested the sort of activity usually associated with a covert operation. It certainly begged a few more questions."


P. 198-99 - "...(William) Hood could not explain why Oswald received such high-level attention. He told me he was puzzled that 'latest headquarters information' on Oswald had been omitted after such extensive consultation. Was it possible that Karamessines had omitted the latest information on Oswald because someone at headquarters was running an operation involving him?"

"'Absolutly not,' Hood said. 'There's no reason to. If it was something at Helms's level there would be a reason not to tell somebody in teh field. But not at this level.'"

"But the October 10 cable had reached the level of Tom Karamessines, who was Helms's most trusted deputy. Hood conceeded that 'the information that is left out is pretty significant.' The ommission os Oswald's encounter with the DRE, he said, was 'an anomaly....It really should have been sent in the cable.'"

"Thus significant information about a man who would go on to kill the president of the United States six weeks later was deliberately denied to teh CIA's top man in Mexico. Hood could not explain why, save to say, 'I would like to think that 80% [of CIA cables] would be more competent.' But he insisted, 'I don't find anything smelly in it.'"

P. 233 - "...As Angleton took over as the agency's liaison to the Warren Commission, he made sure its investigators never saw a key piece of paper: John Whitten's November 23 memo on how Tom Karamessines had ordered Win not to seek the arrest of Sylvia Duran so as to preserve 'US freedom to maneuver.' Whitten had noted his objections...."

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