The following is an excerpt from Chapter 6-Secrecy of FFF’s new book Regime Change: The JFK Assassination by Jacob Hornberger.
Immediately after the assassination [of President John F. Kennedy], a shroud of secrecy was placed over it and its aftermath. Moreover, when the Warren Commission conducted its investigation several months later, many of its proceedings were held in secret, and many records and documents were ordered sealed for 75 years.
The high-level, long-term secrecy surrounding the Kennedy assassination worked to the benefit of the national-security state apparatus. By the time some of the secrecy was lifted years and even decades later, deaths of participants, memory lapses, “routine” destruction of evidence, public indifference, and the lack of subsequent official investigations enabled national-security state officials to avoid having to respond to aggressive inquiries, either by official bodies, private researchers, or journalists.
Let’s consider just three of the many mysteries surrounding the Kennedy assassination which, owing to secrecy and the passage of time, have still not been resolved.
1. The first mystery involves a CIA agent named George Joannides and the anti-Castro organization run by Cuban exiles known as the DRE (Directorio Revolucionario Estundiantil), which was mentioned in chapter 1.
Immediately after Lee Harvey Oswald was taken into custody, the DRE launched a publicity campaign, including press releases and radio appearances, advertising Oswald’s bona fides as a communist. They pointed to his defection to the Soviet Union, his support of Fidel Castro, and his connections to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.
What was unknown at that time was that the CIA was funding the DRE and supervising its operations. In November 1963, the CIA’s supervising agent was George Joannides, who held the position of chief of psychological operations at the CIA’s JM/ WAVE station in Miami.
When the Warren Commission took the sworn testimony of Richard Helms, who at that time was serving as deputy director of plans for the CIA, he failed to disclose the CIA’s connections to the DRE and the role that Joannides had played with the DRE prior to and after Kennedy’s assassination.
Helms also later kept the information secret from the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), the committee that conducted a reinvestigation into the Kennedy assassination during the 1970s owing to widespread skepticism of the findings of the Warren Commission. Perhaps I should also note that some years later, Helms would be convicted of lying under oath to Congress about the CIA’s involvement in the events leading up to the 1973 military coup in Chile, an event that we will examine more deeply in chapter 7.
Even more mysterious, when the HSCA was seeking assassination-related records from the CIA in the 1970s, the agent who was assigned to be the CIA’s liaison to the committee was none other than George Joannides, whose ostensible mission was to ensure that the committee had the full cooperation of the CIA.
Oddly, by that time Joannides ostensibly no longer worked for the CIA, having retired and gone into the private practice of law. Why did the CIA bring him out of retirement to serve as its liaison rather than simply assigning an active CIA official to serve in that capacity?
We don’t know the answer to that question because by the time it was discovered that the CIA had been funding the DRE and that Joannides had been supervising the DRE’s operations up to the time that President Kennedy was assassinated, he had passed away. Moreover, by that time the CIA was claiming that its files did not contain the standard operational reports on the DRE in 1963 that Joannides would have been expected to file.
What we do know, however, is that Joannides not only did not cooperate with the House Select Committee’s investigation, he actually obstructed it, according to committee investigators Dan Lopez and Dan Hardway.
It gets worse.
When the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) was established in the 1990s to secure release of assassination-related records, the CIA falsely told the board that no one in the CIA had had contact with the DRE throughout 1963.
In a 2009 article in the New York Times entitled “C.I.A. Still Cagey About Oswald Mystery,” federal Judge John Tunheim, who chaired the ARRB, was quoted as saying, “I think we were probably misled by the agency. If we had known of his [Joannides’s] role in Miami in 1963, we would have pressed for all his records.” G. Robert Blakey, the staff director for the House Select Committee, felt the same way: “If I’d known his role in 1963, I would have put Joannides under oath — he would have been a witness, not a facilitator.”
As former Washington Post reporter Jefferson Morley, who first disclosed the Joannides’ relationship to the DRE in 2001 and who has doggedly sought release of all of the CIA’s files on Joannides, put it, “I know there is a story here. The confirmation is that the C.I.A. treats these documents as extremely sensitive.”
Thus, in the matter of George Joannides and the DRE, CIA delay, deception, and secrecy paid off. Neither Joannides nor the CIA ever had to explain under oath the nature of the CIA’s relationship to the DRE, the role they played in the post-assassination publicity campaign advertising Oswald’s connections to communism, or why Joannides and the CIA had misled official investigators for decades.
To this day, the CIA steadfastly refuses to open up and disclose its files relating to George Joannides.
Why would the CIA keep Joannides and the CIA’s relationship with the DRE secret? One possible reason is that the DRE’s publicity campaign on November 22, 1963, advertising that Oswald was a communist, was consistent with one of the core principles that U.S. officials taught Latin American military officials at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas: In covert state-sponsored assassinations, always blame it on a communist.
2. A second mystery relates to the autopsy examination of President Kennedy’s brain.
Most everyone agrees that the shot (or shots) that hit Kennedy in the head blew out at least one third of his brain tissue (cf. Dr. Robert McClellan of Parkland Hospital) and possibly as much as one half of his brain tissue (cf. FBI agent Francis O’Neill, who was present at the autopsy). Yet, among the many anomalies of the Kennedy autopsy is the fact that the official photographs in the autopsy record of what purports to be Kennedy’s brain depicts a full-sized, complete brain, one that is damaged but has nonetheless lost little, or almost none, of its overall mass.
Moreover, the supplemental autopsy report (which is largely about the condition of the brain) reflects that Kennedy’s brain weighed 1500 grams. That’s rather unusual given that the weight of an average male brain for a man of his age is 1350 grams. How can a brain that is missing one-third to one-half of its mass weigh more than a full-sized brain?
Equally mysterious, when the ARRB took the sworn testimony of the official autopsy photographer, John Stringer, he testified that the official autopsy photographs of the brain are not the photographs he took.
Stringer testified that the official photographs in the record are on different types of film from the two types of film he used during the brain examination. He testified that during the examination of Kennedy’s brain, three days after the autopsy on the body, the autopsy pathologists had sectioned or cut the brain, into “serial sections,” much as a loaf of bread is cut, and that he had laboriously photographed each of those sections. Yet, the official photographs are of a complete brain, not one that has been sectioned.
Stringer wasn’t the only one who questioned the authenticity of the official photographs of Kennedy’s brain. When FBI agent Francis O’Neil was asked by the ARRB to identify the official photo of what purports to be Kennedy’s brain, he testified that the photographs did not show the condition of the brain that he had observed.
Stringer told the ARRB that the brain exam in which he had participated occurred shortly after the assassination (that is, on November 25) and was also attended by autopsy pathologists James J. Humes and J. Thornton Boswell.
The third autopsy pathologist, Pierre A. Finck, however, told the ARRB that he had participated in a brain exam several days after the assassination (that is, on or after November 29), along with Humes and Boswell.
The problem is that Stringer told an ARRB staff member that Finck was not at the brain exam while Finck did not recall that Stringer was present at the brain exam he attended.
As the Associated Press reported on November 9, 1998, in its article, “Newly Released JFK Documents Raise Questions About Medical Evidence” by Deb Riechmann, and as the Washington Post reported one day later in its November 10, 1998, article, “Archive Photos Not of JFK’s Brain, Concludes Aide to ARRB” by George Lardner Jr., a staff memo, or research paper, from the ARRB concluded that there had to have been two separate brain exams, the first one almost certainly involving Kennedy’s brain and the second one almost certainly involving someone’s else’s brain.
By the time that the ARRB figured this out, however, it was too late for it to get to the bottom of it. That’s because the depositions of the key participants to the brain exams had already been taken as part of the process of securing the release of assassination-related documents. When it was set up by Congress, the ARRB, for some reason, had been prohibited from reinvestigating any aspect of the Kennedy assassination.
So, once again, we see how decades of delay, deception, and secrecy have worked to the benefit of those who were intent on keeping things secret.
Why would military and Secret Service officials want to keep the two brain exams secret? There can be only one reason: because the first brain exam showed the blowout in the back of Kennedy’s head, as attested to by the Dallas physicians and others and, therefore, a substitute brain showing no such damage would have become necessary. Since Bethesda Naval Hospital was a teaching hospital and participated (along with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) in joint weekly brain examinations before students, it wouldn’t have been difficult to secure a substitute brain and to take a new official photograph by an entirely different photographer.
3. A third mystery involved the role of Navy Chief Petty Officer Robert Knudsen, a highly skilled Navy photographer’s mate who served as an official White House photographer for five presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon….
This is an excerpt from Chapter 6-Secrecy of FFF’s new book Regime Change: The JFK Assassination by Jacob Hornberger.