The CIA Kennedy assassination theory is a prominent John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory. The CIA's potential involvement was frequently mentioned during the 1960s and 1970s when the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was involved in plots to assassinate foreign leaders, particularly Fidel Castro.[1] Kennedy said to his collaborator Clark Clifford, shortly after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, "Something very bad is going on within the CIA and I want to know what it is. I want to shred the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter them to the four winds."[2][3][4] According to author James Douglass, Kennedy was assassinated because he was turning away from the Cold War and seeking a negotiated peace with the Soviet Union.[5] Accusations and confessions of and by alleged conspirators, as well as official government reports citing the CIA as uncooperative in investigations, have at times renewed interest in these conspiracy theories.

Background[edit | edit source]

Main article: John F. Kennedy assassination

John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on 22 November 1963. Various agencies and government panels have investigated the assassination at length, drawing different conclusions. Lee Harvey Oswald is accepted by official investigations as being the assassin, but he was murdered before he could be tried in a court of law. The discrepancies between the official investigations and the extraordinary nature of the assassination have led to a variety of theories as to how and why President Kennedy was assassinated.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded in 1979 that, although Oswald assassinated Kennedy, a conspiracy was probable, but it did not implicate US Intelligence agencies. Their conclusion was reached almost entirely because of the results of forensic analysis of a police dictabelt, which supposedly recorded the sound of a fourth bullet being fired in Dealey Plaza. The HSCA also stated that President Kennedy did not receive adequate protection in Dallas, as Secret Service agents in the motorcade were inadequately prepared to protect the President from a sniper and had not acted upon some relevant information. This lack of protection may have occurred because Kennedy himself had specifically asked that the Secret Service make itself discreet during the Dallas visit.[6]

Problems with the CIA[edit | edit source]

Main article: Central Intelligence Agency#Organizational history

The CIA had had a number of high profile conflicts with the President, despite his brother, Robert Kennedy, having effective authority over it. This included disagreements over the CIA's assassination program, many of the details later becoming public as part of the Church Committee. In one particular instance, the CIA provided $42,000 to the plotters of the assassination of President Diem of Vietnam, which was carried out by Lucien Conein.[7] Robert S. McNamara and White House historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. both stated that President Kennedy went pale when he heard the news about the coup, and was shocked that Diem had been murdered.[8]

Kennedy's relationship with the CIA was strained considerably following the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. He remarked that he wanted "to splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds."[9] The CIA had claimed, however, that this animosity was short lived. In CIA Deputy Director for Intelligence John L. Hegerson's words, "the [CIA's] relationship with Kennedy was not only a distinct improvement over the more formal relationship with Eisenhower, but would only rarely be matched in future administrations."[10] While the CIA's budget has always been classified, ranking CIA official William Colby made it clear when he wrote, "the fact of the matter is that the CIA could not have had a better friend in a President than John F. Kennedy. He understood the Agency and used it effectively, exploiting its intellectual abilities to help him analyze a complex world, and its paramilitary and covert political talents to react to it in a low-key way."[11]

Despite the claims that relations with the agency were only momentarily strained, the embarrassment to the U.S. government and to the CIA due to the failed invasion, the withholding of intelligence, and a general atmosphere of distrust led to the Kennedy brothers firing Allen Dulles, Richard M. Bissell, and Charles P. Cabell in November 1961. Allen Dulles, who had been the head of the CIA, was replaced by John McCone.[12] After the assassination, Dulles lobbied hard to be a part of the investigation.[13][14]

A particularly noteworthy article concerning Kennedy's relationship with the CIA was written by journalist Arthur Krock, and published in the New York Times on 3 October 1963. The article, entitled "The Intra-Administration War in Vietnam", quoted a high-ranking official in the government as saying "[t]he CIA's growth was likened to a malignancy" which this "very high official was not even sure the White House could control ... any longer. If the United States ever experiences [an attempt at a coup to overthrow the government] it will come from the CIA and not the Pentagon." The "agency represents a tremendous power and total unaccountability to anyone."

Three tramps[edit | edit source]

The "three tramps" were three men detained and questioned briefly by police at the time of the assassination and who have been the subject of various conspiracy theories, including some that point to them being known CIA agents. Some of these allegations are listed below.

E. Howard Hunt, a CIA station chief who was involved in the Bay of Pigs Invasion and who later worked as one of President Richard Nixon's White House Plumbers, was alleged by some to be the oldest of the tramps.

Frank Sturgis is thought by some to be the tall tramp in the photographs. Like Hunt, Sturgis was involved both in the Bay of Pigs invasion and in the Watergate burglary. In 1959, Sturgis became involved with Marita Lorenz, who later identified Sturgis as a gunman in the assassination.[15] Hunt's confession before his death also implicates Sturgis.

Chauncey Holt, also alleged by some to be the oldest of the tramps, claims to have been a double agent for the CIA and the Mafia, and has claimed that his assignment in Dallas was to provide fake Secret Service credentials to people in the vicinity.[16] Witness reports state that there were one or more unidentified men in the area claiming to be Secret Service agents.[17]

The House Select Committee on Assassinations had forensic anthropologists study the photographic evidence. They claimed to rule out E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, Dan Carswell, Fred Lee Chapman, and other suspects in 1978.[18] The Rockefeller Commission concluded that neither Hunt nor Frank Sturgis was in Dallas on the day of the assassination.[19]

Individual agents[edit | edit source]

E. Howard Hunt[edit | edit source]

Former CIA agent and Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt has been named as a possible participant in several Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. He has been alleged to be one of the three tramps, has taken various magazines to court over accusations with regard to Dallas, and has now given a confession and description of the crime and conspiracy on video to his son.

Some researchers have identified Hunt as a figure crossing Dealey Plaza in a raincoat and fedora immediately after the assassination.[20]

In 1975, Hunt testified before the United States President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States that he was in Washington, DC on the day of the assassination. This testimony was confirmed by Hunt's family and a home employee of the Hunts.[21]

In 1976, a magazine called The Spotlight ran an article accusing Hunt of being in Dallas on 22 November 1963, and of having a role in the assassination. Hunt won a libel judgment against the magazine in 1981, but this verdict was overturned on appeal. The magazine was found not guilty when the case was retried in 1985.[22] In 1985, Hunt was in court again in a libel suit against Liberty Lobby. During the trial, defense attorney Mark Lane introduced doubt as to Hunt's location on the day of the Kennedy assassination through depositions from David Atlee Phillips, Richard Helms, G. Gordon Liddy, Stansfield Turner, and Marita Lorenz, as well as through his cross examination of Hunt.

Shortly before his death in 2007, Hunt authored an autobiography which implicated Lyndon B. Johnson in the assassination, suggesting that Johnson had orchestrated the killing with the help of CIA agents who had been angered by Kennedy's actions as President.[23][24] A 2007 article published in Rolling Stone magazine revealed deathbed confessions by Hunt to his son which suggested a conspiracy to kill JFK orchestrated by Lyndon Johnson, CIA agents Cord Meyer, Bill Harvey and David Sánchez Morales, and an unnamed "French gunman," who purportedly shot at Kennedy from the grassy knoll.[25]

David Sánchez Morales[edit | edit source]

Some researchers - among them Gaeton Fonzi, Larry Hancock, Noel Twyman, and John Simkin - believe that Morales was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Sanchez's friend Ruben Carbajal claimed that in 1973 Morales opened up about his involvement with the Bay of Pigs Invasion operation, and stated that "Kennedy had been responsible for him having to watch all the men he recruited and trained get wiped out." Carbajal claims that Morales exclaimed, "Well, we took care of that SOB, didn't we?" It's been suggested that Morales was the "Latin-looking" man seen with Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans in 1963. Numerous employees of New Orleans taverns saw Oswald with a man matching the appearance of Morales, as well as witnesses to Oswald's baffling public leafleting for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

Morales is alleged to have once told friends, "I was in Dallas when we got the son of a bitch, and I was in Los Angeles when we got the little bastard",[26] presumably referring to the assassination of JFK in Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963, and then the later assassination of Robert Kennedy in Los Angeles, California on 5 June 1968. Bradley Ayers, a former CIA operative, told the Assassination Records Review Board in 1995 that he had found a credible witness who could place Morales at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night RFK was murdered.

Frank Sturgis[edit | edit source]

In an article published in the South Florida Sun Sentinel on 4 December 1963, James Buchanan, a former reporter for the Pompano Beach Sun-Sentinel, claimed that Sturgis had met Lee Harvey Oswald in Miami, Florida shortly before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Buchanan claimed that Oswald had tried to infiltrate the International Anti-Communist Brigade. When he was questioned by the FBI about this story, Sturgis claimed that Buchanan had misquoted him regarding his comments about Oswald.

According to a memo sent by L. Patrick Gray, acting FBI Director, to H. R. Haldeman in 1972, "[s]ources in Miami say he (Sturgis) is now associated with organized crime activities". In his book, Assassination of JFK (1977), Bernard Fensterwald claims that Sturgis was heavily involved with the Mafia, particularly with Santo Trafficante's and Meyer Lansky's activities in Florida.

George de Mohrenschildt[edit | edit source]

After returning from the Soviet Union, Oswald made a close friend in George de Mohrenschildt. De Mohrenschildt wrote extensive memoirs on his friendship with Oswald and had a copy of one of the photos of Oswald with the rifle allegedly used in the shooting. After the assassination, the CIA requested that the FBI locate De Mohrenschildt, as he had written a letter directly to George Bush, Sr., who was a friend, appealing to him to stop the agency from taking action against him.

A few programs, including Jesse Ventura's "Conspiracy Theories", have alleged that De Mohrenschildt was Oswald's CIA handler. On 29 March 1977, De Mohrenschildt stated, during an interview with author Edward Jay Epstein, that he had been ordered by CIA operative J. Walton Moore to meet Oswald, and that he would not have if he had not been ordered to do so. After the interview, he received a letter from the House Select Committee on Assassination, but then committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.[27][28]

Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner[edit | edit source]

Organized crime and the CIA conspiracy[edit | edit source]

It is alleged that Mafia criminals may have wished to retaliate against John F. Kennedy in response to the increasing pressure put on them by Robert Kennedy (who had increased by 12 times the number of prosecutions conducted under the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower). Documents never seen by the Warren Commission have revealed that some Mafiosi were working very closely with the CIA on several assassination attempts of Fidel Castro.[29]

Jimmy Hoffa, President of the Teamsters Union, and mobsters Carlos Marcello, Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli, Charles Nicoletti, and Santo Trafficante Jr. - all of whom say Hoffa worked with the CIA on the Castro assassination plots - top the list of House Select Committee on Assassinations Mafia suspects.[30]

Carlos Marcello allegedly threatened to assassinate the President to short-circuit his younger brother Bobby, who was serving as US Attorney General and leading the administration's anti-Mafia crusade.[31][32]

In his memoir, Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story, Bill Bonanno, son of New York Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno, explains that several Mafia families had long-standing ties with the anti-Castro Cubans through the Havana casinos operated by the Mafia before the Cuban Revolution. The Cubans hated Kennedy because he failed to fully support them in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. The Mafia hated the Kennedys because, as Attorney General, the young and idealistic Robert Kennedy conducted an unprecedented legal assault on organized crime. This was especially provocative because several of the Mafia "families" had worked with JFK's father, Joseph Kennedy, to get JFK elected, and there have always been reports of voting irregularities during the 1960 election, the closest election in history at that time. Both the Mafia and the anti-Castro Cubans were experts in assassination, the Cubans having been trained by the CIA. Bonanno reports that he realized the degree of the involvement of other Mafia families when he witnessed Jack Ruby killing Oswald on television - the Bonannos recognized Jack Ruby as an associate of Chicago mobster Sam Giancana.[33]

Information released around 2006 by the FBI indicates that Carlos Marcello confessed in detail to having organized Kennedy's assassination.[34] The FBI then covered up this information, which it had in its possession. This version of events is also supported by the findings of a 1979 Congressional Committee investigation that Marcello was likely part of a Mafia conspiracy behind the assassination, and had the means and the opportunity required to carry it out. The assassination came less than a fortnight prior to a coup d'etat against Castro in Cuba by the Kennedy brothers, related to the Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Invasion.

James Files claims to be a former assassin working for both the Mafia and the CIA who participated in the assassination, along with Johnny Roselli and Charles Nicoletti, and at the behest of Sam Giancana.[35] He is currently serving a 30-year jail sentence for the attempted murder of a policeman.

Cuban exiles[edit | edit source]

The House Select Committee on Assassinations believed evidence exists that indicates violent Cuban exiles may have participated in Kennedy's murder. These exiles worked closely with CIA operatives in violent activities against Castro's Cuba, such as during Operation Mongoose. In 1979, the committee reported:

President Kennedy's popularity among the Cuban exiles had plunged deeply by 1963. Their bitterness is illustrated in a tape recording of a meeting of anti-Castro Cubans and right-wing Americans in the Dallas suburb of Farmer's Branch on October 1, 1963. (37)

Holding a copy of the September 26 edition of The Dallas Morning News featuring a front-page account of the President's planned trip to Texas in November, the Cuban exile vented his hostility:

CASTELLANOS ...we're waiting for Kennedy the 22d, [the date Kennedy was murdered] buddy. We're going to see him in one way or the other. We're going to give him the works when he gets in Dallas. Mr. good ol' Kennedy. I wouldn't even call him President Kennedy. He stinks.[36]

Author Joan Didion explored the Miami anti-Castro Cuban theory in her 1987 book "Miami."[37][38]

President Lyndon Johnson informed several journalistic sources of his personal belief that the assassination had been organized by Fidel Castro from Cuba. In 1967, Johnson had received information from both the FBI and CIA that, in the early 1960s, the CIA had tried to have Castro assassinated, had employed members of the Mafia in this effort, and that Attorney General Robert Kennedy had known about both the plots and the Mafia's involvement.[39]

It was Johnson's belief that JFK's assassination had been organized by Castro as a retaliation for the CIA's efforts to kill Castro. In October of 1968, Johnson told veteran newsman Howard K. Smith that "Kennedy was trying to get to Castro, but Castro got to him first." In September 1969, in an interview with Walter Cronkite of CBS, Johnson said that he could not, "honestly say that I've ever been completely relieved of the fact that there might have been international connections" in regards to the assassination. Finally, in 1971, Johnson told Leo Janos of Time Magazine that he, "never believed that Oswald acted alone."

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Willing, Richard (2007-06-26). "CIA used mobsters in plot to kill Castro, report says". USA Today. Retrieved 30 May 2012. 
  2. Speach of John F. Kennedy position about secrecy
  3. "". Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  4.[dead link]
  5. George M. Anderson (November 17, 2008). "Unmasking the Truth". America Magazine. 
  6. Bugliosi, Vincent. "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy." 2007, Norton: New York, New York. pp. 29, 38.
  7. Michael Evans. "(Document 17)". Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  8. Michael Evans. "(Note 10)". Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  9. New York Times, April 25, 1966, p. 20.
  10. John L. Helgerson, Getting to Know the President, CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952–1992, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, May 22, 1996, p. 26,
  11. 4. Colby and Forbath, Honorable Men, p. 221.
  12. CIA Briefings of Presidential Candidates, CIA Web site
  13. The Secret History of the CIA, by Joseph J. Trento, ISBN-9-780786-715008, pags: 204, 268–269
  14.[dead link]
  15. Lane, Mark. Plausible Denial: Was the CIA Involved in the Assassination of JFK? Thunder's Mouth Press 1992. ISBN 1-56025-048-8.
  16. Video interview with Chauncey Holt by John Craig, Phillip Rogers, and Gary Shaw 10/19/91.
  17. Both Dallas police officer Joe Smith and Army veteran Gordon Arnold have claimed to have met a man on or near the grassy knoll who showed them credentials identifying him as a Secret Service agent. Summers, Anthony. "Not in Your Lifetime." Warner Books 1998. ISBN 0-7515-1840-9.
  18. "Three Tramps Photos Examined by Experts". Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  19. "Were Watergate Conspirators Also JFK Assassins?". Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  20. "If This Is Hunt Are There Any Other Photos?"— Discussion of proposal identifying Hunt in photographs of Dealey Plaza
  21. "Were Watergate Conspirators Also JFK Assassins?" Knuth, M.
  22. Lane, Mark, Plausible Denial: Was the CIA Involved in the Assassination of JFK? Thunder's Mouth Press 1992. ISBN 1-56025-048-8.
  23. Hunt, E. Howard, American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond, Wiley, 2007. ISBN 0-471-78982-8
  24. Hunt Blames Jfk Hit On Lbj NY Post, 11/4/2007.
  25. The Last Confessions of E. Howard Hunt, Hedegaard, Erik, Rolling Stone 4/5/2007.
  26. "CIA role claim in Kennedy killing". BBC News. November 21, 2006. 
  27. Palm Beach Sheriff's Office, Death investigation of George de Mohrenschildt.
  28. Epstein, Edward Jay. The Assassination Chronicles: Inquest, Counterplot, and Legend (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1992), p. 559. ISBN 978-0-88184-909-7
  29. CIA offered money to Mafia. Retrieved December 3, 2006.
  30. "The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy". The Crime library. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  31. Thomas L. Jones, Punching Federale, chapter 11 of his book Carlos Marcello: Big Daddy in the Big Easy.
  32. The John F. Kennedy Assassination Information Center information on Carlos Marcello from congressional investigation, “The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and Organized Crime, Report of Ralph Salerno, Consultant to the Select Committee on Assassinations.”
  33. Bonanno, Bill (1999). Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story. New York: St Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-20388-8
  34. "A legacy of secrecy: the assassination of JFK – RN Book Show – 9 December 2008". 2008-12-09. Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  35. Dankbaar, Wim, Files on JFK: Interviews with Confessed Assassin James E. Files, and More New Evidence of the Conspiracy that Killed JFK. Trine Day 2008. ISBN 0-9794063-1-5
  36. "Report of the Select Committee on Assassinations of the U.S. House of Representatives Page 132". Retrieved 2010-09-17. 
  37. James Chace, "Betrayals and Obsession", NY Times, October 25, 1987, on Joan Didion's book MIAMI
  38. Joan Didion, "MIAMI", New York, Simon & Schuster, 238pp. 1987
  39. The Assassination Tapes, by Max Holland The Atlantic Monthly, June 2004
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