Wednesday, 04 November 2015 21:33

Shenon and the CIA’s Benign Cover-Up

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Arnaldo follows up his original critique of Shenon's book with a reply to the article published in Politico on October 6, 2015.


After failing to use a crap detector in order to provide a reasonable answer to a key question like "What Was Lee Harvey Oswald Doing in Mexico?" (Politico Magazine, March 18, 2015), Philip Shenon has returned this fall. But again without such a tool in hand. So he asserts again that the Warren Commission was not really fraudulent or wrong, but rather did not have all the facts on time.

His newest piece "Yes, the CIA Director Was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover Up" (Politico Magazine, October 6, 2015) emphasizes that CIA Director John McCone "was long suspected of withholding information from the Warren Commission. Now the CIA says he did."

Shenon is trying to take advantage of a declassified chapter of the still classified biography of McCone written by CIA historian David Robarge in 2005. It was internally released as a report two years ago ("Death of a President: DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy," in Studies in Intelligence 57, No. 3, September 2013). After being redacted for its public release on September 29, 2014, it´s now available at the National Security Archive.

Robarge didn´t question the Warren Commission findings, especially that Oswald was the lone gunman. Shenon adds that it’s "a view shared by ballistics experts who have studied the evidence." In making that preposterous statement about the evidence in the case, Shenon ignored the quanta of proof to the contrary. Which was furnished by, among others, Martin Hay in his essay Ballistics and Baloney. Shenon also snubbed the fact that the WC reported a wrong Mannlicher Carcano carbine as the murder weapon, (Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, p. 477), a wrong CE 399 as the Magic Bullet (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 227), and a wrong CE 543 shell (Kurtz, Crime of the Century, p. 51). And finally, as Dr. David Mantik has revealed, the current autopsy report, that is by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, wants us to think that the bullet which killed Kennedy – that is the one which struck him in the head – also has magical properties. Why? Because it struck Kennedy in the rear of the skull, then split into three parts. Miraculously, the middle part stuck in the rear of Kennedy’s skull without penetrating it. But the head and tail of this same bullet proceeded through his brain, went out the side of his head, and fell onto the front of the limousine. (See DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, pp. 133-35) Nowhere in any of Shenon’s growing archive of literature on the JFK case, does he ever confront any of these disturbing, but true, facts. He just assumes that the ballistics evidence supports his thesis. It does not.

Shenon focused on Robarge´s suggestion that "the decision of McCone and Agency leaders in 1964 not to disclose information about CIA’s anti-Castro schemes might have done more to undermine the credibility of the commission than anything else that happened while it was conducting its investigation." In other words, Shenon is again ginning up the old news about the CIA not telling the Warren Commission about the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro. Which has been around since the Church Committee report in 1975. In other words, for 40 years. Thusly, the former New York Times reporter persists in reopening a line of inquiry already proven fruitless: that the Kennedy brothers and the CIA compelled Fidel Castro to take a preemptive lethal action against a sitting U.S. President. As if the Cuban leader wasn´t aware that killing JFK wouldn´t solve anything, but entailed risking everything. And at the same time that President Kennedy was engaging in back-channel diplomatic moves to establish détente with Cuba, something that Lyndon Johnson, with help from the CIA, dropped after Kennedy’s death – much to Castro’s chagrin. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, p. 394)

For Robarge and Shenon, the cover-up by McCone and others – Deputy Director Richard Helms, Counterintelligence Chief James Angleton, former Director Allen Dulles – may have been benign under the bureaucratic impulse towards CIA self-preservation. But it was a cover-up nonetheless, since it withheld information that might have prompted an aggressive investigation about Oswald’s ties to Castro. In reality (something absent in Shenon’s writings), the CIA’s cover-up was aimed at avoiding a deep investigation of Oswald’s ties to itself and to anti-Castro Cuban exiles.

The key is not that the CIA revealed nothing about the assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, but that it revealed very little about its close tabs on Oswald: the CIA knew what he was doing and was evaluating him. As John Newman, and others, have noted, three CIA teams were watching Oswald all the way down from Moscow (1960) to Dallas (1963): the Counterintelligence Special Investigation Group (CI-SIG), Counterintelligence Operations (CI-OPS), and the Counter-Espionage unit of the Soviet Russia Division (CE-SR/6).

Oswald's longtime friend and Civil Air Patrol colleague, David Ferrie, was also a CIA trainer for the covert operations against Castro codenamed Pluto (Bay of Pigs) and Mongoose. He blatantly lied about not knowing Oswald and having no association to any Cuban exile group since 1961.

The CIA generated an index card for Oswald in the FPCC file (100-300-011) on October 25, 1963. In early summer he was leafletting the obsolete 1961 edition of The Crimes against Cuba, of which the CIA had ordered 45 copies. He was running his own one-man chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in New Orleans, while the CIA and the FBI were running a joint operation against that very same committee. Oswald was really working out of Guy Banister's office and even put his address [544 Camp Street] on some FPCC flyers. A point that Banister was quite upset about. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, p. 111)

Banister was not only close to Ferrie, but also to anti-Castro belligerent groups. When Gordon Novel was invited by Cuban exile Sergio Arcacha to a meeting in Banister's office for a telethon supporting the anti-Castro cause, a certain Mr. Phillips was there, and his description aligns with CIA officer David Phillips. (ibid, p. 162) According to Cuban anti-Castro veteran Antonio Veciana, Phillips was his CIA handler, known to him as "Maurice Bishop", and met Oswald at the Southland Building in Dallas in late summer of 1963.

Just after the assassination, Phillips vouched for a "reliable" informant who told a story about Oswald being paid in advance by a "negro with red hair in the Cuban Embassy" to kill Kennedy. In 2013, Shenon followed Phillips´ steps by including, toward the very end of his book A Cruel and Shocking Act, the long-ago discredited remake of that baleful story by Mexican writer Elena Garro: that Sylvia Duran, a Mexican employee at the Cuba Consulate, was a Castro agent who cranked Oswald up to kill Kennedy in a twist party at her brother-in-law’s house, where not only the notorious red-haired negro, but Garro herself were in attendance.

Although Robarge also reported that the CIA might somehow have been in communication with Oswald before 1963, and had secretly monitored him since his defection to the Soviet Union in 1959 (through the illegal mail-opening program HTLINGUAL), Shenon overlooks this part. He wants to bolster the "Castro-did-it" propaganda campaign, apparently planted by the CIA even before the JFK assassination. Today it is clearly being orchestrated to manage public opinion in the face of the release – as required by law – of the remaining JFK records in October 2017.

Overlooking all the sound investigation after the declassification process unleashed by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), Shenon cherry-picked through Robarge´s piece in order to find "misconceptions [like] the still-popular conspiracy theory that the spy agency was somehow behind the assassination," as if it weren´t a fact that the CIA has never produced either an Oswald photo or a tape of his voice in Mexico City.

By posing again a question highly appreciated by the CIA, "Had the [JFK] administration’s obsession with Cuba inadvertently inspired a politicized sociopath to murder John Kennedy?", Shenon has no choice other than to distort the facts by asserting that "Robert Kennedy’s friends and family acknowledged years later that he never stopped fearing that Castro was behind his brother’s death."

In Brothers (2007), David Talbot has demonstrated that RFK´s suspicions settled instead on a domestic conspiracy. Neither his friends nor his relatives suggested that RFK feared that Castro was behind the assassination. On the contrary, he immediately asked DCI John McCone if the CIA was involved in the killing. His other leading suspects were the Cuban exiles and the mob. And his son RFK Jr. said the same years later in a Dallas interview with Charlie Rose (during the lead-up to the 50th anniversary: see The MSM and RFK Jr.)

Shenon of course, also adds that: 1) RFK was in on the CIA-Mafia plots, and that 2) RFK was instrumental in getting Allen Dulles appointed to the Warren Commission. The first assertion was denied by the CIA in its own Inspector General Report on the plots way back in the sixties (1967). Somehow, Shenon missed both that and the Church Committee report on the subject, which also denied that the Kennedys were in on the plots. (See The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, p. 327)

As for RFK using his influence with President Johnson to get Allen Dulles on the Commission, well, what can one say? Except the following: Everyone and his mother knows that LBJ and Bobby Kennedy hated each other’s guts from an early date. And it only got worse, not better, after JFK was killed. In light of that, the idea that Johnson would ask for Kennedy’s advice to man the Warren Commission is ridiculous. But further, as Leonard Mosley wrote many years ago in his book on the Dulles family, Bobby Kennedy was the prime mover in getting his brother to fire Allen Dulles in 1961. Not satisfied with that, he then asked Dean Rusk if any other member of the Dulles family was still in their employ. Rusk said yes, there was Allen’s sister, Eleanor. Kennedy demanded she also be fired since he did not want any of the Dulles family around anymore. So why would he then request that Dulles be brought back after he helped get him and his sister fired – let alone to investigate the murder of his beloved brother? (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, p. 395)

Martin Hay has also chimed in on this issue in his review of Howard Willens’ book, History Will Prove us Right. There is no record of any communication by Johnson with Bobby between when the Commission idea is accepted by him and his call to Dulles. LBJ suggested a series of names to J. Edgar Hoover. When he got to Dulles, he did not say a word about Dulles being suggested by Bobby Kennedy. When he got Dulles on the phone, he told the former CIA director he wanted him to join the Warren Commission "for me".

But as Hay writes, even more convincing is LBJ’s phone call to his mentor Senator Richard Russell. Russell asked Johnson if he was going to let Bobby nominate someone. Johnson replied with a firm and direct "No." (see Willens review)

In a note to Jeff Morley at the web site JFK Facts, Shenon tried to defend his contention by pointing to a memo written by longtime Johnson assistant Walter Jenkins. This document was allegedly written on November 29, 1963, the day that Johnson called Dulles to appoint him to the Commission. Why do I say "allegedly"? Because as Dan Hardway notes, what Shenon does not mention is this: a handwritten notation at the bottom of this memo says, "Orig. not sent to files". And further, it bears a stamp saying that it was received in the central files in April of 1965! Moreover, as Hardway also points out, there was a three-way call between Dulles, Johnson and Kennedy in June of 1964. This was during a racial crisis in Mississippi. Both Johnson and Kennedy had more than one opportunity to affirm that RFK had suggested Dulles for the Commission. Neither of them did. (See JFK Facts entry of October 24, 2015)

Shenon´s approach to a benign cover-up by the CIA for diverting the WC away from Castro actually seeks to turn the public away from the largely declassified Lopez Report, the monumental 300 page investigation by the HSCA of Oswald’s alleged visit to Mexico City on the eve of Kennedy’s assassination. By doing so, he deflects the genuine line of inquiry about what appears to be the intricate CIA deception prepared in advance of the JFK assassination. In any case, Shenon and other mouthpieces for the "Castro did it" diversion – or in the light version of "Castro knew it" by Dr. Brian Latell – put the CIA in a very delicate position.

If Oswald, a former Marine re-defector from the Soviet Union, was a true believer in Marx, with the zeal to engage in a variety of pro-Castro activities in New Orleans, then it’s a colossal CIA blunder that he would be allowed to travel to Mexico City and visit both the Cuban and the Soviet embassies – which were under heavy surveillance by the Agency; and that, afterward, the CIA would lose track of him, even after the former Russian defector allegedly met with a Soviet representative in their embassy. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, pp. 354-55) And lose track of him to such a degree that no one from the FBI, the police, or Secret Service even talked to him upon his return to Dallas, despite it being just seven weeks before President Kennedy was slated to visit the city. And incredibly, the re-defector would now actually end up on Kennedy’s parade route, thereby walking through any FBI or Secret Service security scheme in broad daylight. What does the silence on the CIA-Mafia plots have to do with any of that? What makes this drivel even worse is that reportedly, Politico dropped an excerpt from David Talbot’s important new book on Allen Dulles in order to run more of Shenon’s fabricated bombast.

Shenon even avoids addressing the most recent declassification move by the CIA at a public symposium. This was called Delivering Intelligence to the First Customer at the LBJ Library. Among the 2,500 President’s Daily Briefs (PDBs) from the Kennedy and Johnson administration released on that occasion, the one from November 25, 1963 reveals that the CIA told Johnson the same blatant lie in which Ed Lopez and Dan Hardway caught CIA Inspector General John H. Waller: "It was not until 22 November 1963 (…) that the [CIA] Station [in Mexico City] learned that [the] Oswald call to the Soviet Embassy on 1 October 1963 was in connection with his request for visa [and] also visited the Cuban Embassy." In fact, six senior CIA officers reporting to Helms and Angleton knew all about "leftist Lee" six weeks before JFK was killed.

Shenon is simply performing another high-wire balancing act: dealing openly with CIA misdemeanors in order to hide more serious wrongdoing, and therefore supporting an unsupportable thesis; namely, that the WC was right about Oswald as the lone gunman.


See also Jim DiEugenio’s review of Shenon’s book A Cruel and Shocking Act.

Last modified on Saturday, 29 October 2016 15:44
Arnaldo M. Fernandez

Arnaldo M. Fernandez is a former lecturer (1997-2003) of Philosophy and History of Law at the University of Havana. He earned a Masters Degree in Journalism and taught Interpretative Journalism (2005-2010) at the Koubek Center, U. Miami. He has published a book (in Spanish) about the death of Cuban patriot José Marti (Miami, Cuban New Press, 2005). Regarding JFK research, he focuses on the Cuban connection in order to debunk the "Castro did it" and "Castro knew it" theses.

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