November 2019

Featuring Lana Rhoades

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The JFK Files


For almost six decades now, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has been a controversial tragedy haunting the American psyche. A majority of Americans remain convinced that our government has never told us the complete truth about what happened on November 22, 1963. Justly so, because relevant government documents have been absurdly classified for decades. Flushing them out has been like wrestling meat from a shark. If there’s nothing incriminating to hide, why sequester these files for over half a century?
The whole remaining cache was supposed to have seen sunlight last year, as mandated by the JFK Records Act passed in 1992. That act granted 25 years to slowly trickle them out, until the ultimate deadline, October 2017. But there was one big catch: The President could allow the affected agencies—read CIA and FBI—an additional six months to review them. Although a staggering 19,045 documents were released in April, Trump declared that 520 files would still be kept under lock and key until at least 2021 “to protect against identifiable harm to national security, law enforcement or foreign affairs that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in immediate disclosure.”
If that smells like a pile of evasive bullshit, your nose is well attuned. What “sources and methods” (the usual excuse) from five decades ago could be so endangering to present-day “national security” or “foreign affairs”? And how could they possibly outweigh the “public interest” in laying to rest doubts about the most disputed and obsessively studied event in American history? The rationale is preposterous. But after five decades of relentless research by an army of journalists, scholars and activist citizens, we do have some clues about what those 520 “family jewels” contain. This body of research is a massive opus—hundreds and hundreds of books and documentaries—of varying quality. It’s a complex field, but it can be understood by following the trajectories of two essential characters: Lee Harvey Oswald and E. Howard Hunt.
Born in New Orleans in 1939, the alleged assassin of JFK, Lee Harvey Oswald, joined the Marine Corps in 1956 and was subsequently stationed at the top-secret U-2 spy plane base in Atsugi, Japan. There he began spouting Communist jargon, without getting any flack from his hard-core anti-Communist Marine superiors. Some of his fellow Marines suspected it was an act, that maybe he was being “sheepdipped” for an intelligence mission, similar to other Marines who had been recruited as false defectors to the Soviet Union. In 1959 Oswald took a U.S. Army Russian language exam—peculiar training for a buck private. He soon received the chance to practice his Russian when later that same year he defected to the Soviet Union, telling an officer at the U.S. embassy in Moscow that he would reveal everything he knew from his stint as a radar operator for the U2 flights. The most closely guarded secret was the exact altitude at which the U-2s flew. For four years the spy planes had penetrated Soviet air space with total impunity; Russian antiaircraft missiles and interceptor jets were incapable of attacking them. But that suddenly changed after Oswald’s defection. In May 1960 Francis Gary Power’s U-2 was shot down over Russian territory, sabotaging an imminent peace summit between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Khrushchev.
Two years later Oswald returned to the U.S. with his Russian bride, Marina. He landed in Dallas, where a Russian exile, oil man and alleged CIA informant, George de Mohrenschildt, shepherded him and Marina around town. Despite his defection and threats to divulge top-secret information to the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, Oswald was never investigated or prosecuted for treason. Then, incredibly, he landed a job at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall in Dallas—a firm processing photos from the U-2 flights over Cuba! Incredible because the records prove that Hoover’s FBI was keeping firm track of Oswald this whole time.
In April 1963 Oswald abandoned Marina in Dallas and moved back to his hometown, New Orleans, where he started a one-man Fair Play for Cuba operation, distributing pro-Castro flyers with an address—544 Camp Street—that turned out to be identical to that of Guy Bannister, an ex-FBI agent and fanatical leader in the anti-Castro exile movement. This is what New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison later discovered in 1967, among other clues, leading to his independent investigation of the case (depicted in Oliver Stone’s film JFK). Oswald then made a mysterious trip to Mexico City, where he visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies, before returning to Dallas and getting a job at the Texas School Book Depository.
Up until the assassination on November 22, an imposter claiming to be Oswald made several incriminating appearances—at a gun range and a car dealership—while the documentary record clearly establishes that the real Oswald was elsewhere. Some of these impersonations occurred while Oswald was in the Soviet Union. In fact, in 1960 FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wrote a memo stating that there “is a possibility that an imposter is using Oswald’s birth certificate.”

As the JFK motorcade, stripped of standard security procedures (according to the testimony of L. Fletcher Prouty, a Pentagon-CIA liaison officer), slowly proceeded through Dealey Plaza, shots rang out, wounding Governor John Connally and eventually killing the President. Some of the Dealey Plaza witnesses said the shots came from the school book depository where Oswald worked—but a large number of witnesses said they came from the infamous “grassy knoll” to the right and in front of the President’s car. And here lies a damning fact that Warren Commission apologists can never explain: Dallas policemen and citizens who rushed to the grassy knoll allegedly encountered men displaying Secret Service credentials. But all Secret Service agents in Dallas that day were in the motorcade—none were on the streets. These men on the knoll were clearly imposters. They were almost certainly shielding the getaway of a second gunman, who delivered the fatal head shot blatantly depicted in the Zapruder film. (Abraham Zapruder was a clothing manufacturer filming the procession on a home-movie camera.)
Oswald fled the school book depository after the assassination and was arrested in a movie theater in Oak Cliff. While in custody, he was also questioned about the nearby shooting of a Dallas police officer, J.D. Tippit. Two days later Oswald was shot dead in the basement jail building by Jack Ruby, a mob-connected nightclub owner. The Dallas police had interrogated Oswald for two days (“I’m just a patsy!” he had proclaimed), but strangely they had not recorded the sessions, standard operating procedure for far lesser crimes. The “Mannlicher-Carcano” rifle he is alleged to have used had a misaligned scope, and a paraffin test provided proof that Oswald had not fired a rifle that day. Apologists for the Warren Commission gloss over these astounding “anomalies” and “oversights.” But to me, the most plausible explanation is that Oswald was working as a deep-cover CIA agent who continued to masquerade as a Communist after his return from the USSR. Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr testified to the Warren Commission that Oswald had also been a paid FBI informant.
Most damning, however, is the admission of Antonio Veciana, a leader of the radical CIA-sponsored Alpha 66 anti-Castro paramilitary group. When the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) reinvestigated the case in the late ’70s (concluding “probable conspiracy”), Veciana testified that in September 1963 he met with his CIA handler, alias Maurice Bishop, in Dallas—and saw Bishop meeting with none other than Lee Harvey Oswald (only because Veciana arrived 15 minutes early). HSCA members speculated that Bishop was really David Atlee Phillips, the CIA’s Western hemisphere chief. Veciana refused to publicly identify Phillips as Bishop at the time. He was shot in the head in 1979, but survived, and at a JFK research conference in 2014—as well as in his 2017 book Trained To Kill—the aging Veciana came clean: “In reality, what happened that day was a coup d’état. President Kennedy’s death was a result of a conspiracy planned by CIA operatives and supported by a handful of high-ranking military officers and members of the Mafia. The conspirators believed that the President was a traitor who had jeopardized national security by establishing a foreign policy of dialogue and conciliation with the traditional enemies of the United States. I want to unequivocally state that Maurice Bishop was David Atlee Phillips.”
In 1978 former CIA accountant James Wilcott testified under oath to the HSCA that Oswald received “a full-time salary for agent work for doing CIA operational work.” This session was classified for decades.
One argument repeated ad nauseam by defenders of the “Oswald as lone nut” theory: If there was a broad-ranging conspiracy, “somebody would have talked by now.” This ignores the long list of witnesses and players who conveniently died before they could testify, from national journalist Dorothy Kilgallen (who conducted the only private interview with Jack Ruby in his jail cell before she supposedly died of an alcohol and drug overdose; her interview notes were never found), to David Ferrie (a Civil Air Patrol pilot who had cavorted with Oswald in Louisiana), to the aforementioned George de Mohrenschildt (shotgun blast to the head, ruled a suicide, just before he was to meet with HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi). The dead tell no tales and serve as a warning to others. But in 2006, while he believed he was drying, one CIA agent long suspected as a key player in the assassination, E. Howard Hunt, made a startling confession.
Hunt gained infamy as one of Nixon’s “plumbers” in the Watergate scandal. Early researchers had noted his resemblance to one of the three “tramps” arrested in the railroad yards behind Dealey Plaza and released by the Dallas police with no identification or investigation. In 1981 Hunt sued The Spotlight newspaper for an article alleging that he was in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and had participated in the assassination. Former CIA agent Victor Marchetti was the article’s author. The defendant publisher, Liberty Lobby, hired Mark Lane, the famed attorney who represented Oswald posthumously and published the first best-selling book critical of the Warren Commission, Rush to Judgment. Lane turned the courtroom into a de facto trial of the JFK assassination, destroyed Hunt on the witness stand and won the case. The forewoman of the jury made this statement to the Miami news media: “Mr. Lane was asking us to do something very difficult. He was asking us to believe John Kennedy had been killed by our own government. Yet when we examined the evidence closely, we were compelled to conclude that the CIA had indeed killed President Kennedy.”

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