JFK Lancer Conference Registration

I wanted to advise everyone that there is now have a registration page up for the JFK Lancer 2021 Conference – you will find it at:


Note the new domain name for JFK Lancer and a new site is under development. That will take some time, bur the conference itself will stream separately – as well as have its own attendee Facebook page.

There have also been comments that a virtual conference does not allow for the guided walking tours of the Plaza that we had routinely done over the years.  As it so happens Gabriella and I recorded and extended video of that walking tour last year, unfortunately we had some problems getting it  posted on Facebook. This year she has new video editing software, and we are certainly going to try to make that available for the attendees.  The good news is that if that works there will be no risk of the rain or sleet or cold wind we sometimes ran into in November in the “live” tours.

As a reminder, this year’s scheduled speakers include:

Scheduled presenters at this time include Jim DiEugenio, David Boylan,  Donald Jeffries with Chuck Ochelli, Larry Schnapf, Mike Chesser, Bill Simpich, Andrew Kiel, Debra Conway, Larry Hancock, Stuart Wexler, Malcolm Blunt, Bill Kelly, Russ Baker, Gill Jesus, Robert Groden, and Brent Holland. 

For more details about the conference and speakers you may want to listen to a short interview that Doug Campbell was nice enough to do so that we could elaborate on some of the speakers and how the conference operates:

JFK Lancer 2021 Conference

JFK Lancer will host its 2021 annual conference November 19-21.   The conference will again be “virtual” with presentations streamed during the conference dates and with a dedicated Facebook page for registered attendees to ask questions and participate in dialogs with presenters.  The feel  will be $64.99 for conference viewing only and $119.99 for conference viewing plus digital download.

Scheduled presenters at this time include Jim DiEugenio, David Boylan, Bill Simpich, Donald Jeffries with Chuck Ochelli, Larry Schnapf, Mike Chesser, Andrew Kiel, Debra Conway, Larry Hancock, Stuart Wexler, Malcolm Blunt, Bill Kelly, Russ Baker, Gill Jesus, Robert Groden, and Brent Holland.  Other presenters have been invited but have not yet committed as of this date. 

Due to web hosting issues JFK Lancer is in the process of opening a new web site – with a new domain name – and that site should be available shortly. It will provide the access to register for the 2021 conference. 

Work on the conference itself is well under way and proceeding on schedule – the conference itself will be streamed independently through a commercial web company. 

I will provide further updates here, but if possible please share with others that the 2021 conference itself is indeed alive, well and proceeding towards November. 

Lee Oswald

Recently I’ve been involved with a number of online discussions relating to Lee Oswald, including a scenario which would involve his volunteer participation in what would be considered an a “false flag” attack on President Kennedy – intended to point the blame for the incident on Cuba and Fidel Castro.  A “false flag” hijacked by conspirators and turned real.  Some people see Oswald accepting a role in that type of action, even a role that involved making intentionally missed shots from the sixth floor and framing himself.

Personally, I have lots of issues with such a scenario – although as I’ve said in the past, I would consider the concept as a type of “cover” to recruit certain very low-level participants, such as Jack Ruby, into minor roles.  Roles which about twelve thirty on November 22, 1963 unexpectedly turned them into accessories to murder.

This post is not about the idea of such a “false flag”, instead it is about my view of Lee Oswald after some 30 years of looking at him from the “outside in” – I have no training or experience in profiling, however I’ve spent so much time on his activities, social interactions, his writing, his notebook entries, and even photographs of him from childhood on (the photographs demonstrate he was never a “lone nut” but that he very much did like girls) that I’ve developed my own impression of his personality and motivations.

Based on that I offer the following as my overall view of Oswald:

As a youth Oswald was not a loner, he did have teenage friends, and he was also considered a bit of a clown (that is shown in photos of him cutting up in the classroom). He was not someone inclined to follow the rules in class or for that matter elsewhere.  It seems fair to say that he also had a problem with “authority figures’, probably based on his rather chaotic home life. Still, he could follow the rules – when he wanted to and was necessary to his personal agenda and interests.

Oswald always displayed an adventurous nature and a wide range of interests, ranging from amateur astronomy to aircraft and flying – as seen in his joining a Civil Air Patrol youth squadron. Later it was most likely a bit of a technical bent that landed him in training and a job assignment in radar once he was in the Marines. His earlier interests (even his science fiction reading) may have helped him score relatively high in the standard recruit placement tests.

Beyond that Oswald was a “populist” in his political beliefs, anti-establishment in a sense, but more anti-authority in attitude. That shows up in his disciplinary problems in the service, and is certainly confirmed in personal descriptions from individuals he served with in the Marines. In terms of broad political views, he did lean towards socialism (as he admitted in a radio interview) but certainly not Lenin’s views of communism.

Oswald’s library reading records, and more importantly his activities inside Russia, show no particular interest in communism; even in Russia he associated with none of the available political groups nor explored political ideology.  What he did do was make friends, go hunting on occasion and in particular chat up as many potential girlfriends as possible.

(note: the following bolding and font size is courtesy of WordPress and I’ve had no luck changing it so please just read on)

Most likely the best general view of Lee Oswald was summed up in remarks from his friend George de Mohrenschildt.  George was as close as Lee as anyone was, especially following Oswald’s return from Russia in 1962.  He described Oswald (whom he appeared to actually like in some ways) as being limited in his political knowledge, more inclined to parrot slogans than anything else. Overall, George descried him as a proto-hippie, socialist in attitude, very contrarian, anti-authority, and generally argumentative – given to being annoying if the conversation drifted into political topics.

Beyond that what can be said positively about Oswald is that he was always an “adventurer”, curious and interested in new experiences, a risk taker, emotional if irked, not afraid of physical conflicts (demonstrated by fights in school and even a fight on a bus about racist seating practices) and even an incident with a Sergeant in the Marines. 

It can also be said that Oswald had an interest in foreign affairs, but most specifically in events where populist/anti-colonial action was in play.  While in the Marines he appears to have focused in on the revolution against Batista in Cuba (per his friend Nelson Delgado) and the possibility of similar revolutions against Yankee imperialism across Central America – he even tried to get his buddy Delgado to quite the Marines with him and go join those movements.

Oswald’s interest in Cuba continued while in the Marines (including his contacts with the Cuban embassy in Los Angeles when stationed in California) and resurfaced once he was back from Dallas – and very disillusioned by what he had seen in Russia (as evident in the manuscript he prepared about this time there).

There is certainly reason to think that he was pro-Castro revolution, pro-Castro regime, and anti-imperialist.  His manuscript definitively shows him opposed to Soviet Union nationalism which he felt was simply using the political facade of communism.

Oswald’s engagement with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and his attempts to infiltrate an anti-Castro activist group in New Orleans are both quite consistent with that view, as was his reporting on the anti-Castro exiles to the FBI.  As a Castro regime supporter, he was inherently hostile to anti-Castro Cubans and their efforts.

The one major inconsistency we do find are his late summer letters to the Communist Party USA, especially his remark about going underground.  Certainly, that is in conflict with his manuscript remarks about CPUSA being essentially a tool and dupe of the Soviet nationalist agenda. The most interesting point of the letters is that they position Oswald as more politically radical than any of his known public remarks or activities (such as leafleting and protesting) up to that point in time.

However, the letters were also sent at a point in time in which he had been acting as a source for the FBI in New Orleans, and the letters themselves were collected by an asset the FBI had placed in the FPCC’s own headquarters. Discussion of Oswald’s “use” by the intelligence community is something far beyond this post, and may have begun as early as certain of his activities in Japan.  I’ve written about this at some length and previously used the term “dangle” to describe him.  While that may have been true on a couple of occasions, I’ve become more inclined to see him as “tagged”, visible to multiple groups and agencies and simply monitored – for multiple purposes but certainly to identify individuals who might respond to his public “image”.  

In short, my view of Oswald circa 1963, is that while he had become discouraged over the Soviet model of socialism/populism, there is no sign that he felt the same about the Cuban experience and in fact championed it as being something that he could endorse, and actively promote.  While he would have been encouraged by JFK’s public commitment not to invade Cuba following the missile crisis (his remarks about JFK appear generally positive) he was also increasingly frustrated by not being able to join in the Cuban experience personally.

His own experiences with the American system were taking him nowhere in particular, and Cuba still appealed to him – in fact that summer his wife had agreed to go along with him to Cuba, if he could come up with a way to get there.  She told him if he could get there alone, and then send for her, she would do that as well.

November in Dallas 2021

JFK Lancer will be hosting a 2021 conference in its long running series of research seminars relating to the political assassinations of the 1960’s. As with last year’s event, this year the conference will continue to be “virtual”, with presenters recorded in advance and streamed during the three days of November 19-21.

A conference page will also be available so all those who register can directly chat with and submit questions for the presenters, that worked especially well last year and there were some excellent discussion threads during the conference.

There will be a number of well respected, long time researchers as well as some new names this year, but as usual the focus will be on providing as much new research and information as possible. We will also have speakers relating some very interesting personal experiences and insights into the inquiries and investigations of the very first years work (and first generation researchers) related to both the JFK and RFK assassinations.

A full list of presenters will be made available as soon as everyone confirms, that is still some weeks down the road at this point, and of course the same is true for the presentation schedule.

At present JFK Lancer is going though the throes of moving its WEB site onto a new, updated, server and the site itself is not available as Debra Conway works with the server hosting company – those things are never as easy as anyone would hope, so it may be several days before the site is back up and before conference registration will be available.

In the meantime, if you have questions or if you need to place orders for materials you can email Debra directly at debraconway@jfklancer.com


I haven’t blogged in recent weeks because I’ve been deeply involved in unanticipated and lengthy research on a couple of leads that were mentioned in Tipping Point, leads related to Red Bird airfield in Dallas, to Wayne January, and to an expanded study of activities surrounding Lee Oswald in the fall of 1963. And, as has happened before, the additional work has expanded into another rather lengthy research paper.  Its in version six at the moment with more to be done including further peer review.

My research partner David Boylan and I do intend to present on this new work it in a couple of venues this fall, first in a podcast with Doug Campbell, and later in two separate sessions during the JFK 2021 Virtual Conference in November.  

At the moment though, I feel compelled by the years I spent researching and writing about American activities in Afghanistan and the “war on terror” to at least comment on what has happened in the last year and some months since the Trump administration pact with the Taliban for an American military exit from that country.

While I’ve often been charitable to mainstream media news reporting over the years, recently it seems that more and more I’m seeing a decline in news reporting and a shift to little more than editorial commentary with little historical context.  

For contrast, I would urge everyone to read one of the best discussions of the overall American experience in Afghanistan, coming from Steve Coll, a man with extensive experience on the ground, over an extended period of time. I also heartily recommend his books on the region.


If you would like some objective context in regard to the origins of the Taliban and why it has such total control over much of that country, I address that in my book Shadow Warfare, which details the involvement of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United States (the latter being a totally naïve actor amount the three enablers of the Taliban).

In Surprise Attack I return to the region to cover the origins and true transnational nature of al Qaeda, its roots in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and the decades long struggle of the U.S. to understand it, much less deal with it effectively. I trace that experience though its attacks in both 2000 and 2001and continue through the American entry into Afghanistan.

Very little of the current news coverage appears to me to convey the real nature of either al Qaeda or ISIS, both organizations being  “virtual” with their foundations in extremist religious beliefs, cultural fundamentalism, and the ability to mobilize a renewable body of young “fighters” who have extremely limited prospects either financially or socially – a factor especially important in Afghanistan where much of the country has always been controlled by tribal leaders with standing militia or by about the warlords who pray on them.

It is also critical to understand that while the Taliban is inherently tied to Afghanistan, and to some adjacent regions of Pakistan, al Qaeda’s jihadist nature makes it transnational. It doesn’t need fixed training camps (the 9/11 attackers trained in American flight training centers not camps in the remote mountains of Afghanistan), it grew out of radical madrasas in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and took grew into something significant with Saudi money (Bin Laden was not its only donor). It simply needs money, fundamentalist rage, and young volunteers.  Which is why you will see the Taliban and ISIS fight with each other at times but at other times ISIS simply become a useful source of fighters – regimes will tolerate it when its acting in their interests, whether that is in Syria or North Africa.

Context is key to understanding the much larger story of the region as well as the American experience there, and what I’m not seeing at all in the media coverage of events in a an area where culture, territoriality and local economics (including the drug trade) have repeatedly overwhelmed outsiders appearing with their own interests and “progressive” ideas – whether that be the communism of the Soviet Union or the democracy of the western nations. Reading Steve Coll will give you that context, my books might help a bit as well.  

Surrogate Operations

It’s been delayed, but I’m finally able to return to the third post which I had promised on the subject of where and how political assassinations originated within the Cold War CIA – and why assassination attempts and actual assassinations could occur without any authorization, or even involvement by senior CIA officers. Such things came about due to two basic structural issues with the way the Agency conducted covert operations.

The first issue, and fundamentally the most dangerous, was that in virtually all its military operations the CIA relied on the use of surrogates in order to preserve deniability. And those surrogates were almost all political exiles, expatriates, revolutionaries or ideologically driven volunteers. In other words, individuals with a cause, with strong commitments, and with a tightly focused personal agenda – during the Cold War that agenda was most often fueled by passionate anti-communism.

Those surrogates had a built-in drive for action and a strong sense of urgency.  And from the very beginning, in Iraq, in Guatemala, and later in Cuba, that sense of urgency often led to requests from the surrogates themselves for the CIA to support them in political assassinations. In the earliest years, assassination was openly discussed even within the Agency (and in meetings with State Department officers).

I detail that in Shadow Warfare, in regard to Guatemala where even in the beginning no official directives for assassination were issued to field officers – even though training manuals on assassination were prepared and distributed, and appropriate weapons and training were supplied (threats of assassination even became part of the basic psychological warfare program). 

Later the subject would become off limits for official meetings or memoranda, but the enablement continued – new versions of the training manuals would be prepared, and lists of “communists” to be “dealt with” (referred to as “blacklists”) would be built by CIA intelligence staff. That occurred not just in Guatemala, but in Indonesia, with regard to Cuba and on-wards.

Sharing such lists with surrogates was not considered a directive, simply support. Results were mixed, with the failure at the Bay of Pigs the blacklist for Cuba became moot, however an earlier list prepared for Indonesia lead to large scale massacres when an anti-communist military coup ravaged the islands.

The combination of passionate surrogates and “enablement” was exposed in the HSCA inquiry and best summarized by a particular incident in which a Cuban team on the island kept advising Miami Station of its preparations to assassinate Castro.  When pressed on that point the Agency response was simply that they had not actually ordered them to do any such thing, it was their own idea. Miami Station had simply not told them not to do any such thing.

The bottom line was that the use of surrogates provided deniability for the CIA, but constantly exposed it to independent and officially unsanctioned actions. The second structural problem was that the surrogates could themselves be confused (or mislead) by what was officially being sanctioned (“green lighted”). Iin some instances that simply boiled down to their interpretation of what their case officer was telling them, or even what was implied in the weapons and support that they were given.

In more than once instance rifles and explosives used in assassinations were traced back to the CIA, yet when challenged the Agency would only admit to equipping its surrogates, but not to ordering an assassination. A prime example of that was the murder of General Schneider during the Chile effort against President Elect President Allende (Shadow Warfare pages 287, 313-314). If you have a copy of Shadow Warfare you can see how Case Officer Tony Sforza carried out that assignment using surrogates, and how the CIA ultimately implied that it was all a rogue action.  Sforza himself was known to be willing to take early retirement to avoid giving testimony.

Other examples provide insight into how surrogates could be recruited (with promises of future support) – some sanctioned and others most definitely not.  Dozens of Cuban exiles were recruited for military action in the Congo, over several years. They were promised that it was part of a grand anti-Communist effort, and that when it was done they would become part of a major new effort to overthrow the Castro regime – something which was never in the cards.

One of the more dramatic examples of false recruitment is found in the case of Rafael Quintero.  Quintero had been active in the anti-Castro operations of the early 1960’s, a major figure in the AMWORLD project he had proposed assassinations of senior Castro regime figures.  In later years he had been involved with current and former CIA officers in various activities, maintaining what he felt were trusted relationships.

Much later he would become a key figure in the Iran/Contra scandal.  In the interim, circa 1976 Quintero was approached by a former CIA officer (JMWAVE) who recruited him for yet another assassination project.  As it turned out, Quintero refused that action, but only based on the advice of still another CIA officer he had worked with earlier. (Shadow Warfare, 367-368). 

The simple fact is that structurally surrogate operations allowed the CIA to conduct all its operations with deniability – but with risk of independent actions by both those same surrogates and field case officers who might well put their own personal agendas or career interests (the mission comes first) ahead of any specific directives or orders.  The surrogates had their own causes and commitments, it was up to the field officers to enable them while controlling them – a constant challenge and for some a potential temptation.

Zeroing in on the Conspiracy

I was pleased to do a recent extended interview with Doug Campbell, I always enjoy a dialog with Doug as he brings in a great deal of focus and digs deeply into areas that are not routinely discussed in conversations about the JFK assassination. If you are interested, the program it is archived and available at:

I’ll be happy to respond to comments and thoughts here as well as on Doug’s own Dallas Action Facebook page. https://www.spreaker.com/user/7338953/185-july-22-2021-logic-clear-reasoning-z

Go To Guys

Sorry for the recent absence, but I’m returning for a couple of new posts to consider the question of political assassination as actually carried out by the CIA early in the Cold War – in an effort to further explore where the actual Dallas attack on JFK most likely might originated. To do that I think its helpful to profile a few key personalities in light of what we actually know about individuals who are most often discussed in conversations about CIA orchestrated murders – and most specifically who they turned to in order to make such things happen.

Richard Bissell, perhaps the senior officer involved with the most actual assassinations, can be seen to have turned to both his country station chiefs and to the CIA’s Staff D to carry out murders. The weapon of choice in such actions appears to have been poison, although that virtually never worked and successful killings tended to be carried out more directly, with rifles and pistols employed by surrogates already working with CIA field officers.

The murder of Patrice Lumumba is a prime example, with Bissell (tasked by Eisenhower and Alan Dulles with eliminating Lumumba) turning to Sydney Gottlieb in the technical division for poison and then wrestling with a variety of Staff D officers (who pushed back against being involved) only to turn to foreign assets already employed by a European station/Luxemburg to try (and fail) to administer the poison carried to the Congo by Gottlieb.

In parallel, Bissell had charged the Congo station chief with the project and that individual turned to his own established network of contacts to find individuals who were willing to take money and CIA support – and who ultimately kidnapped and orchestrated Lumumba’s death. The who operation was chaotic, dysfunctional and only succeeded because of the local connections of station chief Develin.

The first effort to assassinate Fidel Castro turned out to be very similar, Bissell struggling to find some asset to carry out the task, turning to the CIA’s Office of Security for referrals to people with connections inside Cuba who could/would carry it out and ending up with John Roselli, former casino owners with contacts in Havana – the effort ending in yet another series of dysfunctional and ineffective efforts to carry out a poison attack. Its pretty clear that at that point the CIA had no cadre of experienced or expert “go to guys” for assassination.

Which is why when Richard Helms reactivated the Castro assassination effort, and handed the task off to William Harvey, Harvey essentially did a reset with Roselli and the poison effort. As of 1962 Harvey himself had no “go to guys”.  In fact, for his Staff D assignment (which involved break ins, burglaries and strong-arm work) he also had turned to the Office of Security and to European field stations to recruit the “right” type of people for such illegal actions.

Interestingly though, Harvey also reached out to someone he thought might have expertise and connections in that area – James Angleton. And Angleton was eager and apparently connected to the right people to at least make certain introductions for Harvey, including to British intelligence agency personnel. While Angleton cannot be tried to any particular assassination project, he certainly did have contacts with which he could discuss such things.

Beyond that Angleton, formerly the head of Staff D himself – and with all the dirty work and criminal connections that implied – operated on a global level, including the penetration of the Chinese embassy in Havana by a very special technical collections team led by David Christ).

Angleton was arguably the most independent operator at senior levels of the CIA. His history (including his WWII OSS work in Europe) reveals a passion for making connections and paying for information, becoming a master of collecting rumor, gossip and so-called intelligence – much of it proved in time to be woefully inaccurate or false. It was only decades later that Angleton’s legendary reputation for intelligence collection effectively imploded.

When William Colby took over the Agency and directed an inquiry into its counter intelligence work it was discovered that Angleton had investigated and declared some 22 Soviet defectors to be double agents – when in fact they had been legitimate. I review Angleton’s obsessions and failures in Chapter 14 of NEXUS, but, in short, it can be said that Angleton had extensive connections with both criminal networks and foreign intelligence services (particularly Europe and with Israel) and that he made a career of talking, gossiping, and shopping ideas and information.

What can also be said is that Angleton built a huge network of contacts, domestically and globally. He was designated as the CIA liaison to the FBI and in conjunction with Staff D work did repeatedly ask them for help or assistance with wire taps and burglaries – including for recommendations for access to underworld assets including mob lawyers. However, the FBI appears to have thought less of him as a resource, simply designated Angleton as “confidential informant T-100”

There is also little doubt that Angleton largely operated outside the CIA normal organization and its standard oversight protocols, with his own contacts, his own separate file system, even his own codes. His paranoia and his suspicions were overwhelming – as an example he viewed the following individuals as being actual Soviet agents:

Harald Wilson (British Prime Minister), Olof Palme (Swedish Prime Minister), Willey Brandt (West German Prime Minister), Averill Harriman (Gov. of New York), Lester Pearson (Canadian Prime Minister) and Henry Kissinger (Secretary of State and National Security Advisor).

If anyone thinks all this is exaggerated, I suggest a Tom Mangold’s excellent book on Angleton, Cold Warrior, James Angleton.

Yet perhaps the most interesting thing is that despite Angleton’s extensive contacts and his tendency to talk about even the most sensitive and sensational subjects,  there is little evidence that he actually did much more than “stir the pot”. His networks were extensive, his results – certainly in counter intelligence and even in assisting Harvey in an effort to assassinate Castro – were fruitless, negligible and hugely damaging to American intelligence (particularly in regard to American verification of Israel’s nuclear capability and war plans).

In my next post I’ll dig a bit more deeply into CIA personnel who did have “go to guys”, people who did carry out assassinations – in isolation from headquarters and with imminent “deniability”.

Inside the Agency – 1963

This is the third post addressing a perennial question in regard to conspiracy in the murder of President Kennedy. It was actually the first question asked by his brother on the afternoon of the assassination – asked to the Director of the CIA. Robert Kennedy directly asked the Director whether or not the CIA had been involved in the assassination. Tipping Point explores the context which led RFK to immediately suspect the CIA and its anti-Castro surrogates in the covert efforts to oust Fidel Castro.

However, Director McCone was not part of the long time OSS cadre which had launched the CIA into the Cold War nor did he have any extensive operational experience. McCone had come out of the private sector and himself had very little experience in intelligence, he had largely been dealing with strategic national security issues such as the Soviet missile crisis and the American involvement in SE Asia. While he had opposed the coup against Diem, he was in support of JFK’s plan to accelerate covert military action against North Vietnam. Some solid context in regard to his relationship with JFK is contained in the following paper:


Looking downwards inside the Agency in 1963, in regard to political assassination things had changed from the era of the Dulles brothers. Richard Bissell was gone and no longer represented the nexus for assassination suggested by the in house gossip that described he and Tracy Barnes as being in charge of the CIA’s “health alteration committee”.

Richard Helms followed Bissell as the key player responsible for regime change activities, including efforts where assassination remained an option. However Helms was more of a political (read career oriented) animal (having protected himself by avoiding the the disastrous Cuba Project) and an expert at even internal deniablity. When he turned over political assassination to William Harvey in Staff D, he did so in such a matter that even Harvey could only guess at where the orders were originating. One thing that can be said about Helms is simply that nobody, including Congress, could expect the whole truth from him.

In one sense its hard to see Helms committing himself to anything other than his career, of being an efficient administrator and a generic defender of the Agency. He was so effective and so sincere at doing those things that he developed a real reputation for honesty. As noted in the proceeding that reputation should have been considered as quite “situational” but it did stick though most of his career. This article gives some interesting insight into Helms and why he was trusted as a source when he most likely should not have been https://www.rollingstone.com/culture/culture-news/the-rise-and-fall-of-richard-helms-191224/

As to political assassination specifically, by 1962 Helms had assigned that task to William Harvey – but Harvey had run afoul of RFK during the Mongoose project (both men were “hands on” and Harvey had no respect at all for RFK based on his lack of experience and personal engagement with anti-Castro Cuban activists). Still, Castro remained a declared target and even though Harvey was reassigned in 1963 its difficult to tell exactly when and if Harvey’s program against Castro actually shut down (it may have been even more difficult for those involved). Certainly Harvey stayed in the Staff D intelligence loop through the summer of 1963. However in terms of assassination, that appears to have moved over a topic being discussed under the new head of the anti-Castro effort, Desmond Fitzgerald.

So for a “tops down” CIA plot against JFK, the most well placed people to contemplate such a thing, and with access to the assets to make it happen (in particular in a form which would use anti-Castro assets and attempt to blame the attack on Fidel Castro), would seem to be Helms, Fitzgerald or Harvey. Note: While some will still champion Dulles, who retained some high level influence with old line CIA cadre, he would have to have personally co-opted someone within the CIA’s operations directorate, with direct access to assets either via Staff D or in Miami. Either that or taken entirely separate measures outside the Agency.

So back to “tops down” inside the Agency. In considering Richard Helms it is hard to picture him as a virulent enemy of President Kennedy – or even willing to later smear his reputation when pressured to do so under the Nixon Administration:


He certainly did not agree with JFK on all points and during 1963 was unilaterally opposed to any number of administration discussions of negotiations with Castro or a a change in the basic regime change strategy. This is clear in an ongoing series of documents and extends into the fall when JFK informed the CIA of his back channel contacts with Castro.

Helms openly opposed it, came up with a variety of delaying tactics (such as “war gaming” contacts before any dialog began) and began efforts to monitor and possibly obstruct the Cuban side of the effort – targeting Castro’s contact personnel via CIA assets at the UN, via Miami Station and even thorough AMOT intelligence collection in Mexico City. He was definitely in the “opposition” camp, but very openly and very bureaucratically.

Next down, and someone with a much more direct control over assets, would be Fitzgerald. However all signs are that he had signed on to the administration regime change track and was busying himself with all the new projects ranging from AMTRUNK and AMLASH to autonomous action via AMWORLD and even direct action using JMWAVE for the new Commando Mambises missions. If anything he was excited by the fact that as of October he had managed to get JFK to approve an entire series of new sabotage missions against Cuba.

Finally, there remains William Harvey, no longer in the direct chain of command (although exactly who would know he was not is an open question) and with experience under Mongoose which involved not only John Roselli but direct contacts with the full range of JMWAVE operations personnel and with a good many of their Cuban assets – including personnel involved in both poison and sniper attacks on Castro. Given his personally acknowledged and highly emotional attitudes towards both RFK and JFK, he would seem one credible starting point inside the agency, even if no longer in the direct chain of command. Beyond that there is every reason to believe he was capable of autonomous action and attracted similar personalities to himself…a classic man of action.

Of course the question remains as to whether Harvey would even have been necessary, certainly he was in no position to manage or direct the operational aspects of an attack in Dallas, or of the framing of Lee Oswald.

But that is a different question entirely.

Track 1 vs. Track 2

In my last post I outlined the history of two tracks for political assassination within the CIA during the Cold War. The first track was essentially “tops down”, in some instances beginning with remarks from the president and put into action by orders from the Director of the Agency.  Examples cited included Eisenhower’s elimination remark in regard to Patrice Lumumba, and Clinton’s kill order on Osama Bin Laden. In other instances the initiative came from within “senior levels” of the Agency – as when the head of Western Hemisphere operations proposed the “elimination” of Fidel Castro.

In practice assassinations efforts were actually overseen by senior officers in the Plans/Operations Directorate.  While best known for his success in technology projects related to the U-2 and satellite reconnaissance, Richard Bissell’s move into covert operations led him to play a key role in assassination activities. His activities included launching two separate efforts to eliminate Lumumba (one using Staff D external assets) and again turning to Staff D (and external assets) in a poison effort against Fidel Castro. For a time Bissell seems to have been at the center of CIA political assassinations activities – all of which involved the use of assets from outside the CIA (often criminal assets) or the use of CIA surrogates (as with the shipping of rifles to the Dominican Republic which were ultimately used in the assassination of Rafael Trujillo).

Bissell, acting though his aide Tracy Barnes, appears to have also exercised a decision making role in regard to assassination proposals coming up from inside the CIA (Track 2) , including those forwarded up though case officers. . In one instance Barnes had proceeded with with a plan (proposed by a Cuban contact) to kill Castro by downing a Cuban airliner – only to have the project stopped by Bissell.

Yet following the disaster at the Bay of Pigs, by early 1962 Bissell had left the CIA, replaced by Richard Helms. And Helms, in a repetition of practices, ssigned the head of Staff D, William Harvey, to the task of political assassination. Harvey, having also been assigned to head the CIA portion of the ongoing effort to over throw the Castro regime, reactivated the earlier effort against Castro.

The point of reiterating this history is literally that it is history. The activities described above were discovered by the Church committee in its work on CIA political assassination. While there were limited paper trials for certain of them, CIA funds had been approved, and the efforts which came from the top down (Director level or Deputy Director level) are visible as sanctioned projects. Humorously enough some of the records come from within operations, with supervisors requiring formal authority to spend budgeted money or assign personnel without someone telling them what was going on (as with the Castro assassination plot or the problems getting someone inside Staff D to accept the directive to target Lumumba).

Where matters get much less clear, are those assassination activities that appear to have been enabled by CIA case and field officers, most often responding to proposals from their surrogates. Examples include a series of rifle attack plans against Castro which appear to have been suggested by paramilitary assets including Felix Rodriquez in early 1961.

As I’ve written about in multiple books, there appears considerable evidence that field officers working on anti-Castro projects had become very much involved in enabling surrogates simply by allowing them to operate inside sanctioned activities, using monies, weapons and even sanctioned missions for secondary purposes. Individuals such as Rip Robertson carried piggybacked attacks in that manner, and Tony Sforza can be shown to have enabled surrogates in assassination efforts not only inside Cuba but on to the Allende coup in Chile in the early 1970s.

Which leads to the subject of my next post. In that I’ll take a look at what was happening within the CIA in regard to JFK in 1963, and the activities which provide some insight as to whether we see a Track 1 tops down vs. a Track 2 conspiracy leading to the attack on the President in Dallas. .