Study of the Kennedy assassination fairly quickly reveals that the Central Intelligence Agency obfuscated and covered up relevant information that should have been part of the investigation, not just during the Warren Commission’s tenure but later during the HSCA effort. Their actions ranged from concealing their Castro assassination attempts (not to mention the emerging Kennedy/Castro dialog which senior Agency officers were adamantly opposing), and their prior knowledge and connections to Lee Oswald, not to mention other key information which they knowingly withheld. Our knowledge of the scope of that concealment is still limited, but one thing we have come to know is that they were very active during each of Kennedy inquiries as well as during virtually any other inquiry into their activities – from the Garrison investigation, the Church committee and beyond. Available documents reveal actions ranging from Counter Intelligence head James Angleton running domestic intelligence against individuals surfaced by District Attorney Garrison (strictly against the CIA charter) to extensive legal preparations for denying access to Agency personnel and records. During the Church committee inquiry, the Agency went to great lengths to internally search out information its employees might have had which would be relevant to the Congressional investigation – not to share it but rather to evaluate how far the Committee was getting. We now have more than ample evidence that the Agency was often cheered by what committees and even the media had missed.
Obfuscation, cover up and lies are definitely not unique to the Kennedy assassination – although documents made available through the JFK records releases should allow the American public and media to see that they are Agency standard operating procedure.
In NEXUS I write about the very unique legal relationship between the Agency and the Justice department, one which not only permits covert but criminal acts to occur with no consequences. As far as the CIA is concerned there is nothing equivalent to either the Uniform Code of Military Justice or any protection similar that offered by the military legal and justice system. Instead, the constant and ongoing response is simply to turn to protection of “sources and methods” when issues arise not only in regard to potential criminal acts of Agency personnel, but also to those of Agency “assets.”
In his work on Ted Shackley, David Corn writes about one incident in SE Asia circa 1973. In that case, a long time CIA asset (going back to their support of the Kuomintang army against the Communist Chinese in the 1950’s) was suspected of involvement in private drug smuggling. When Customs officers found a package of 59 pounds of opium mailed form Thailand to the United States they began to actively pursue an investigation and prosecution. The individual claimed that his activities were well known to his CIA boss and was prepared to defend himself on that basis, requesting specific documents for his legal defense. In 1974 the CIA responded that under no circumstances would it cooperate with the Justice Department in prosecution of the case and would turn over no documents – the case was dismissed, the CIA asset went free and so did the top man in the drug ring that had been revealed by the investigation. This gap in the legal system, and the Agencies’ manipulation of the courts continues. Decades later (as described by historian John Prados), the CIA’s deputy director of operations, Jose Rodriquez, ordered the destruction of 92 prisoner interrogation videotapes – against opinions from CIA legal counsel and at a point in time in which the Agency was certifying to a Federal Court that they did not exist!
This situation serves as a reality check for researchers and historians but also highlights the simple fact that the Agency is virtually immune to the efforts of not only Congressional committees, but also to the American legal system.