It has long been suspected and now officially confirmed by the CIA themselves – agency Director John McCone withheld key information about the assassination of John F. Kennedy from the Warren Commission during its investigation of the assassination. The new report, which was assigned “SECRET/NOFORN” (not to be shared outside the agency) and quietly declassified by the CIA in the late-September 2014, concludes that McCone, who ran the agency when Kennedy was shot in November 1963, led the cover up in order to keep the commission focused solely on Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin of the president.
The report was published as part of a classified article in the CIA’s Studies in Intelligence (Vol 57, N0. 3) periodical which drew on information in a still-classified biography of Director John McCone. According to the CIA, the decision to declassify the report was made in order to quell rumors that the CIA was involved with the assassination of a U.S. President. The declassified report does not address the potential motive behind McCone’s cover-up of CIA activities that would have occurred before his tenure with the agency began. The report however, does suggest that the directive to withhold information came from a much higher level – the Johnson White House.
What information was withheld and why it would have been vital to the investigation
The Warren Commission was established by President Johnson in the days following the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. The new CIA report, written by top CIA historian David Robarge and still partially-redacted, confirms that McCone and others were “complicit” in keeping information from the commission. The Warren Commission’s final 888-page report ultimately agreed with McCone’s directive that Oswald, a Marxist, was the “lone gunman” and acted alone.
The Robarge report also disclosed that McCone was more involved with the Warren Commission investigation than originally believed and that despite promising full cooperation in the investigation, directed the CIA to provide only “passive, reactive, and selective” assistance to the commission. The report quotes another senior CIA official, who heard McCone say that he intended to “handle the whole commission business myself – directly”.
Thus far, the known information McCone withheld includes CIA plots to assassinate Castro which entailed cooperation with the American Mafia. Without this information in hand, the commission did not know to investigate Oswald’s Cuban connections nor the mob connections to other key participants in the assassination event. The new information strongly suggests that Cuba sanctioned the assassination of John F. Kennedy in retaliation for the CIA’s failed Bay of Pigs operation which was intended to remove Fidel Castro from leadership (by assassination).
According to the report:
“McCone shared the administration’s interest in avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate [the] CIA in conspiracy theories and possibly lead to calls for a tough US response against the perpetrators of the assassination. If the commission did not know to ask about covert operations about Cuba, he was not going to give them any suggestions about where to look.”
The report goes on to note McCone’s knowledge of Robert Kennedy’s suspicion that the Cubans assassinated his brother (the public record confirms that Robert Kennedy and McCone discussed the assassination in the hours immediately following the event). The Roberage report reveals that in 1975, a Warren Commission lawyer recalled:
“McCone said he feels Kennedy may very well have thought that there was some connection between the assassination plans against Castro and the assassination of President Kennedy. He also added his personal belief that Robert Kennedy had personal feeling of guilt because he was directly or indirectly involved with the anti-Castro planning.”
The report pointedly concludes that McCone’s testimony was “neither frank nor accurate” placing him well in the realm of perjury.
New information confirms what most already suspected
Within an hour of Kennedy being shot, Lee Harvey Oswald, who worked in the School Book Depository building, killed a policeman who questioned him. He was arrested minutes later. However, Oswald was murdered the next day by mob-connected Jack Ruby, while being taken to a more secure facility. Oswald’s motives and potential connections were never fully revealed. For decades, opinion polls have shown that most Americans reject the Warren Commission’s findings and believe Oswald did not act alone.
Interestingly, four of the seven Warren commissioners were members of Congress, and included McCone’s predecessor, former CIA Director Allen Dulles. The report notes that each member saw their function as “bringing their collective experience and reputations to calm the shaken populace and to show the world that the U.S. government cannot be changed by conspiracy.” The report goes on to note that both Dulles and McCone sought to “encourage endorsement of the FBI’s conclusion soon after the assassination that a lone gunman, uninvolved in a conspiracy, had killed John Kennedy. [McCone] could reset assured that [Dulles] would keep a dutiful watch over Agency equities and work to keep the commission from pursuing provocative lines of investigation, such as lethal anti-Castro covert actions.”
Each Warren Commission member spent the remainder of their lives facing suspicion of a potential cover-up.
Why declassify this information now?
Researchers have expressed concern that it took a half-century for the CIA to acknowledge that McCone and others seriously misled the commission. According to a University of Southern California law professor, it is only natural that after a period of time has elapsed,
“The world loses interest, because the assassination becomes just a matter of history to more and more people.”
It is also worthwhile to point out that news of the declassified report comes mere weeks after current President Obama opened new talks with Cuba after tense relations lasting more than 50 years.
Why would the CIA conceal this information?
Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis
The public has long believed the CIA withheld information about Kennedy’s assassination. In fact, in 1979, the House Assassination Committee declared that in the area of Cuban involvement and operations, “the CIA’s actions might well be described as reluctant”.
To understand why the CIA would conceal information about potential Cuban or Mafia involvement in the assassination of JFK, we have to consider the context of the time. Only two years prior, the United States had attempted to remove Fidel Castro from power during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. In years past, Cuba was a top vacation spot for American tourists seeking the mafia-controlled Vegas-like entertainment Cuba provided. This ended after Castro gained control of Cuba’s leadership during the Cuban Revolution, replacing American ally Fulgencio Batista. Make no mistake – the Bay of Pigs invasion was an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro and the failed invasion only strengthened Castro’s position as well as his ties with the USSR.
Following the failed invasion, one year prior to Kennedy’s assassination, America found themselves in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union over soviet ballistic missiles deployed in Cuba (only 90 miles away from the U.S. border). Today we know that the crisis was so severe, we were literally minutes from full-scale war.
Kennedy assassination – how it would have triggered a new World War
If Cuba sanctioned or led the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, they were merely countering a similar American attempt – only theirs succeeded where the U.S.’s failed. Regardless, an assassination of a foreign president is an act of war and would have required an American response. This in turn would have drawn the Soviet Union into the arena turning the Cold War into a real war. Effectively, if the United States found that Cuba assassinated Kennedy, an American response would have been required and the world would have been dragged into another major war (a war that a worried-President Johnson posited could “kill 40 million Americans in an hour”) – all over an act that the United States had attempted themselves only two years prior. It would have been much simpler to chalk the Kennedy assassination off as “quid pro quo” rather than trigger a war that effectively, the United States started.
You may view the full declassified CIA report here: Declassified CIA report – DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy (PDF)
President Johnson’s “wink and a smile”
On Air Force One, immediately after being sworn in as the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson turned to his long-time crony, Texas Congressman Albert Thomas. As captured in this photo. Thomas gave him a wink and a smile. When asked about this wink, The White House Photographer taking this photo, Cecil Stoughton, acknowledged that it could have been “innocent, or sinister, and I have leaned to the latter.” Johnson’s own behavior was also questioned. The man in charge of Air Force one, General Godfrey McHugh, complained that Johnson’s behavior aboard the plane had been “obscene”.