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The CIA vs. Kennedy, Horman, and Teruggi


Ten years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, agents of General Augusto Pinochet, the leader of the 1973 military coup in Chile, took tens of thousands of people into custody, brutally tortured and raped them, and murdered some 3,000 of them. Their crime? They were all accused of believing in socialism or communism or of having supported the ousted regime of Salvador Allende, the self-proclaimed communist-socialist whom the Chilean people had democratically elected to be their president.

Among the people taken into custody, tortured, and killed by Pinochet’s goons were Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, two young American journalists who, as “liberals” or progressives, ardently believed in Allende’s socialist philosophy. They also worked for a small Chilean newspaper that reported on the activities of the U.S. government and American corporations in Chile. Horman also had discovered evidence of U.S. complicity in the coup and was going to disclose it, notwithstanding the fact that U.S. officials wanted U.S. participation in the coup to be kept secret for reasons of “national security.” There is also circumstantial evidence to suggest that U.S. officials, who had labeled Teruggi a “subversive” in a secret file that the U.S. national-security state kept on him back in the States, owing to his leftist views, provided coup officials with Teruggi’s address in Santiago.

In 1977 the Horman family filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government arising out of Horman’s killing. As part of that lawsuit, the State Department released a memorandum that expressly applied to both Horman and Teruggi and which stated in part as follows: “This case remains bothersome. The connotations for the Executive are not good. In the Hill, academic community, the press, and the Horman family the intimations are of negligence on our part, or worse, complicity in Horman’s death…. we believe we should continue to probe.”  A section of the memo was blacked out, based on “national security. “

The U.S. District Court refused to permit the Hormans to take oral depositions of U.S. officials to search for evidence of U.S. complicity in the killing, and then dismissed the case based on the Hormans’ failure to provide sufficient evidence of U.S. complicity in the assassination.

Later, in 1999, the State Department declassified the memo with the previously blacked-out section no longer being blacked out, which stated in part: “There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest U.S. intelligence may have played an unfortunate role in Horman’s death.” (Remember: This was a sentence that was blacked out in the original version of the memo that was released to the Hormans because of the danger it purportedly posed to “national security.”)

(See here for both versions of the memo.)

The Justice Department has never conducted an investigation into the killings of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. And neither has Congress. (In 2011, a Chilean court charged a U.S. military official, Ray E. Davis, who had commanded the U.S. military mission in Chile during the coup, with conspiracy to kill Horman, but the 88-year-old Davis has reportedly passed away.)

Let’s assume, just for argument’s sake, that the CIA did, in fact, orchestrate or participate in the assassinations of Americans Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi and that the CIA wanted to keep it secret. Wouldn’t one of the principal things the CIA would do is erect an impenetrable stone wall around the CIA in order to prevent any evidence of CIA complicity in the assassinations to surface?

If neither of the other two branches of the federal government — the legislative branch and the judicial branch — or, for that matter, the Justice Department as part of the executive branch — is able or willing to penetrate the CIA’s stone wall, then how is one expected to come up with direct evidence that the CIA has committed the crime? It would, in fact, be the perfect crime, one that could be committed with impunity, with the CIA knowing that no one could penetrate its stone wall protecting the secrecy of its commission of the crime. The stone wall would also encourage the CIA’s advocates in the mainstream press, along with its supporters in Congress and the federal judiciary, to declare, with straight faces, that no one has ever come up with direct evidence that the CIA committed the crime.

Yet, we know that there is persuasive circumstantial evidence that the CIA did either orchestrate or participate in the assassinations of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. What is that persuasive circumstantial evidence? That State Department memo! It reflects that people in the State Department did, in fact, conduct an investigation into the assassinations of Horman and Teruggi and that that investigation found evidence that pointed in the direction of the U.S. national-security state as having played a role in their assassinations.

Obviously, that memo is not sufficient evidence to convict. But it is certainly sufficient evidence to justify targeting both the CIA and the U.S. military — i.e., the U.S. national-security state apparatus — with an aggressive investigation into the role, if any, they played in the assassinations of Horman and Terrugi.

Yet, no such investigation has ever been conducted into whether the CIA and the military were complicit in those assassinations. We don’t know how the authors of that memo arrived at their conclusions. We don’t know the nature of their investigation. We don’t know the people they spoke to. We don’t know what records they discovered. We don’t know anything about how they conducted their investigation and arrived at their conclusions.

If the federal judiciary had permitted the Horman family to take the depositions of the authors of that memo or if Congress had subpoenaed the authors of the memo to testify at a congressional investigation into the killings, it is virtually certain that we would know a lot more than we do today. Indeed, if the CIA and U.S. military did, in fact, orchestrate or participate in Horman’s and Teruggi’s assassinations, we might even know the identity of the CIA or U.S. military officials who did it and also whether higher-ups, including President Nixon and other high U.S. officials, gave the okay to the assassinations.

Not surprisingly, despite the passage of 40 years, the families of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi still want the truth regarding possible U.S. complicity in those two assassinations, as reflected in op-eds by Charles Horman’s wife and by Frank Teruggi’s sister during the recent 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup.

It seems to me that a governmental system is fundamentally flawed when a federal agency wields the power to shield itself from a targeted investigation from Congress, the Justice Department, and the federal courts into whether that agency orchestrated the assassination of an American citizen or participated in the assassination, especially when there is circumstantial evidence that points in that direction.

The same principle holds true, of course, in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

For more than 50 years, the CIA has succeeded in shielding many of its critically important JFK-related records from public view. It kept them secret from the Warren Commission in 1964. It kept them secret from the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s. It kept them secret from the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. It steadfastly keeps them secret today, more than 50 years after Kennedy’s assassination.

Here is a link to a list of “The Top 7 JFK Files the CIA Still Keeps Secret,” as compiled by Jefferson Morley, a former reporter for the Washington Post who edits JFKfacts.org.

Among the records that the CIA wants kept secret are those relating to a CIA agent named George Joannides. It turns out that he was serving as the CIA’s contact man and funder of an anti-Castro organization named the DRE, an organization that immediately after JFK’s assassination began publicizing (with CIA money) Oswald’s supposed connections to Fidel Castro, an allegation that easily could have been used to justify a U.S. regime-change operation in Cuba, something the CIA and the U.S. military had longed for ever since Castro took power in 1959.

During his time in New Orleans, Lee Harvey Oswald had some fascinating encounters with the New Orleans chapter of the DRE. He first offered to help them out, which was somewhat strange given that the DRE was anti-Castro and Oswald was supposedly pro-Castro. He then had a much-publicized encounter with the DRE while passing out pamphlets to U.S. servicemen promoting the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a national organization that the CIA considered a subversive pro-communist organization, which it was trying to destroy. He then had a much-publicized debate with the head of the DRE on a New Orleans radio station.

The problem is that as records have slowly been declassified over the decades since Kennedy was assassinated, assassination researchers have compiled a very persuasive amount of circumstantial evidence indicating that Oswald wasn’t a genuine communist at all but instead a U.S. intelligence operative whose job was to play the role of a devout communist with the aim of infiltrating the Soviet Union, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and possibly even Cuba itself.

After all, how many communist Marines have you ever met? How did a U.S. enlisted man learn fluent Russian while he was in the military if he wasn’t tutored by military language experts? Why was a communist Marine stationed as a radar operator at the military base from which the top-secret U-2 spy plane was being flown, and why was he given a high security clearance? Why was a supposed defector to the Soviet Union permitted to return to the United States without being interrogated, abused, harassed, tortured, subpoenaed, indicted, prosecuted, convicted, or even assassinated? Remember, this was the height of the Cold War, when the FBI, the CIA, and the U.S. military were doing their best to destroy, kill, or ruin anyone with even the slightest hint of being a communist, as the U.S.-supported Pinochet would do several years later as part of the “war on communism.”

Indeed, why would the U.S. government lend Oswald the money to return to the United States if he really was a communist traitor? Why would he be permitted to work in a company in Dallas that required security clearances to develop top-secret U.S. photographs, including those taken of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Why would he be befriended by a Dallas right-winger who had connections to U.S. intelligence? Why would he have been hired by a New Orleans company owned by a fierce anti-communist? Why would some of those Fair Play for Cuba Committee pamphlets that Oswald was distributing have “544 Camp St” printed as their return address, when that was the office address of a retired FBI agent who had close connections to the anti-Castro exile community?

Would those super-secret CIA records on George Joannides reflect that Oswald was in fact an intelligence agent and FBI informant, a possibility that the Warren Commission itself was extremely concerned about? In fact, it was such a deep concern for the commission that it even ordered the transcription of the session where the possibility was discussed to be destroyed so that the American people would never learn that it had even been talked about by the Warren Commission. (The destruction would have worked but for the court reporter’s failure to destroy her tape of the proceedings, which assassination researchers discovered much later.)

We don’t know what is in those super-secret CIA records because the CIA has been totally successful in keeping whatever is in those records secret from the American people for more than 50 years. Indeed, even those who tell us that the CIA could never keep a secret for 50 years cannot tell us what is in those super-secret records.

What we do know is that the CIA misled and deceived the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee, the ARRB, and, through them, the American people.

It knowingly failed to disclose to the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee, and the ARRB the role that Joannides had played with the DRE. Not only that, it also, strangely enough, called Joannides out of retirement ostensibly to serve as a cooperating CIA liaison with the House Select Committee. As people later discovered, however, Joannides’ true role was to serve as the enforcer of the stone wall that the CIA had constructed around JFK-related records, doing whatever was necessary to prevent investigators from delving into the CIA’s super-secret JFK-related records.

When one compares the Kennedy assassination to the assassinations of Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, there is a much bigger mountain of circumstantial evidence pointing to the U.S. national-security state’s role in the Kennedy assassination than there is in the Horman and Teruggi assassinations, including all the evidence pointing to a fraudulent autopsy, as detailed in the five-volume book Inside the Assassination Records Review Board by Douglas P. Horne, who served on the staff of the ARRB, (See my review series of Horne’s book.)

As I previously suggested, if the CIA did, in fact, orchestrate the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the construction of a stone wall would have been among the first things the CIA would have done to ensure that people didn’t discover what it had done. It then would have put out the same message that it has used for decades in the Kennedy, Horman, and Teruggi assassinations: “We deny we did it, and anyone who does say we did do it is nothing more than a conspiracy theorist. And, no, no one will be permitted to penetrate the stone wall that surrounds our operations in an attempt to find evidence that shows we did do it.”

Two weeks ago, the Boston Herald published an op-ed by former ARRB chairman John R. Tunheim, who is now a federal judge, and fellow ARRB commissioner Thomas E. Samoluk, in which Tunheim and Samoluk accused the CIA of deceptive conduct and calling on the CIA to immediately release its long-secret JFK-related records. Here is what Tunheim wrote in part:

There is a body of documents that the CIA is still protecting, which should be released. Relying on inaccurate representations made by the CIA in the mid-1990s, the Review Board decided that records related to a deceased CIA agent named George Joannides were not relevant to the assassination. Subsequent work by researchers, using other records that were released by the board, demonstrates that these records should be made public.

Imagine that: a U.S. District Judge publicly accusing a U.S. national-security state agency of what effectively amounts to fraudulent conduct. You certainly don’t see that every day! In fact, you also don’t ordinarily see a federal judge accusing a federal agency of “treachery,” a word that Judge Tunheim applied to the CIA in a separate interview with the Boston Globe.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that a federal judge has publicly accused a federal agency of fraud, deception, and treachery, President Obama and Congress, both of whom have the power to order the CIA to immediately release the records to the public, remain steadfastly silent on the matter. For that matter, so do the New York Times, the Washington Post, and most of the other mainstream media. You would think that a federal judge’s accusing a federal agency of fraud, deception, and treachery is just a normal part of life in America.

President Obama and Congress aren’t the only ones who aren’t confronting the CIA on the issue. Just last week the National Archives bowed to the wishes of the CIA to continue keeping its JFK-related records secret from the American people.

By the way, the CIA’s super-secret records also include those relating to CIA assassin David Morales, who told some friends during a drunken rage about President Kennedy, “Well, we took care of the SOB, didn’t we.” (Emphasis added.)

Not surprisingly, the Washington establishment, mainstream public officials like Judge Tunheim, and much of the mainstream press take the position that there must be an innocent explanation (e.g., “national security) as to why the CIA is still fighting fiercely to keep its JFK-related records secret from the American people rather than constitute part of a criminal cover-up. It’s what I call the Inconceivable Doctrine — the notion that it’s just inconceivable that the CIA would assassinate an American citizen, or at least one who is a U.S. official, in the quest to protect “national security.” Oh sure, they do consider it conceivable that that sort of thing could happen in foreign countries or even that the CIA would assassinate foreigners, including foreign political leaders. But the notion that the CIA would assassinate a U.S. official who was thought to pose a threat to “national security” is simply considered inconceivable.

But there is, of course, another possible factor at work here — a deep fear among the Washington establishment and the mainstream press that whatever is in those super-secret JFK-related records will add to the mountain of circumstantial evidence that assassination researchers have discovered over the years — records that the U.S. national-security state originally thought would be kept secret from the American people until the year 2029 — evidence that inexorably points in the direction of a national-security regime change operation  on November 22, 1963, one similar to the regime-change operations that the CIA orchestrated in Iran, Guatemala, and Cuba before the Kennedy assassination and then participated in 10 years after the Kennedy assassination in Chile. (See, for example, the books JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters by James W. Douglass and Brothers by David Talbot.)

After 50 years of secrecy, deception, fraud, and treachery, isn’t it time for the CIA to finally come clean and disclose its JFK-related records to the American people? For that matter, why not do the same with the CIA’s records relating to the Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi?


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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.