Thursday, October 26, 2017

HSCA investigator Dan Hardway discusses imminent release of JFK assassination files

Dan Hardway read many of the documents that are about to be released during his role as an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s. As such, he can tell us a great deal more than the average person about what this release may prove. Here is his "for release" comment on these, "rush job - proofed only once".

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WHAT WERE THEY HIDING AND WHAT SHOULD WE LOOK FOR?

By Dan L. Hardway © October 26, 2017

                As we go into the hysteria of a massive JFK document dump, there is one remarkably surviving document that has already been released that we should keep in mind – especially when reading news coverage of the documents scheduled for release today. 

                On April 1, 1967, the Head of the Covert Action Staff of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sent a dispatch to many of the CIA stations and bases around the world.[i]  That the document survived may be remarkable as it is clearly marked as “Destroy when no longer needed.”  Or, then again, maybe it is not remarkable that it has not been destroyed because the government and intelligence community’s efforts to silence those who question the official story about John Kennedy’s murder has never succeeded and, hence, the dispatch remains needful from their viewpoint.

                The dispatch lays out a plan for defending the lone nut theory first advanced as the major theme of the government cover-up of the assassination investigation.  The dispatch labels people who question the lone nut theory as “conspiracy theorists”.  It plainly states the purpose of the dispatch “is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists…. Our play should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (i) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (ii) politically interested, (iii) financially interested, (iv) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (v) infatuated with their own theories.”  It goes on to suggest that critics be countered by advancing arguments such as they have produced no new evidence, that they overvalue some evidence while ignoring other evidence, that large scale conspiracies are “impossible to conceal in the United States,”  that Oswald would not have been any “sensible person’s choice for a co-conspirator”, and by pointing out the comprehensive work of the Warren Commission which was composed of men “chosen for their integrity, experience, and prominence.”    

                Many of the claims in the dispatch are ludicrous in hindsight, but are still parroted by main stream media sources.  We’ve seen them trotted out by lone nut theory defenders every time there has been a major breakthrough in the assassination investigation.  As I’ll discuss below, we are already seeing some of these “plays” (as the dispatch calls them) already before the JFK document release and I suspect we’ll see a lot more of them in the coming days. Let’s start by looking at the possible validity of the plays. 

                At this point in time, fifty-four years after the assassination and fifty-three years after the publication of the Warren Report, there are researchers, analysts, historians, attorneys and many others who have been researching this case for most of that time.  Many of them do not advance “theories” about what happened, but rather try to find and analyze the facts that have been hidden for so long and ask questions about what they mean.  They certainly are not wedded to theories that were adopted before the evidence was in.  And let’s think about that for a moment.  The cover-up of the assassination began on Air Force One as it flew back to D.C. from Dallas.  The seeds are there in the released transcripts of Lyndon Johnson’s telephone calls.  If the standard is waiting to see all the evidence, then the Warren Commission is totally discredited as it has now been shown beyond any reasonable argument or doubt that not only did they not have all the evidence in before issuing their report, the very investigating agencies upon whom they relied actively conspire to keep evidence from them – just as they have, and still do, actively conspired to keep the evidence from the American people.  Lone nut theorists appear to be the ones wedded to the theory adopted before the evidence is in and doing all they can to spin the evidence as it comes out to try to shore up support for their theories.

                To try to argue that the Warren Commission members, its supporters since, and those covering up the evidence and resisting release of documentation, were not politically or financially interested in the cover-up should be accepted as facially absurd at this point.  Indeed, even in 1967, the CIA dispatch openly admits to such interest, pointing out that opinion polls showing that more than half of the public was questioning the Warren Commission’s lone nut theory reflects a “trend of opinion [that] is a matter of concern to the U.S. Government, including our organization.”  Questioning the rectitude and wisdom of the members of the Warren Commission would “tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society.”  An “increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited”[ii] could implicate him.  Such concerns “affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government.”[iii]   The Chief of Covert Action then acknowledges the Agency’s own interest: “Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation.”  Indeed, they also covered-up information, as they have now admitted.[iv]  The Agency’s concern, one that continues to this day, is plainly stated: the conspiracy theories expose them to “suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us.”  The CIA’s main personal, if you will, stake in covering up and countering criticism has always been to deflect any possible focus on their relationship to the purported lone-nut assassin. 

                Hasty and inaccurate in their research?  How many documents are about to be released that have never been seen?  And who is it that is sure of their theory?  What can we say now about critics who for over fifty years have called for the release of all the information so that the American people can see and judge for themselves? 

                Arguing that there is no new evidence is like standing in front of a camel and insisting it is a horse.  New evidence has dribbled out now over the decades, in small manageable doses that can be dismissed as disconnected by the lone-nut theorists.  And the blatant hubris of the argument is astounding.  These are people who can suppress the evidence and taunt you because you don’t have it!  It’s like prosecuting attorneys in criminal cases who refuse to reveal exculpatory evidence while simultaneously shifting the burden of proof to the accused.  And as for the weighing all the evidence argument, how do you expect that to go if you control the evidence and only let the evidence out that supports your theory?  Convenient.  And if someone else does come up with a fact that contradicts your lone-nut theory, you can always deny it even though you know your suppressed evidence supports it.  No wonder there has been such resistance by the Agency to full disclosure.

                Conspiracy theories can’t be hidden in America?  Really?  That’s why J. Edgar Hoover was able to do all that he did to undermine American civil liberties for fifty years without exposure that wouldn’t have even come then had not there been a break-in at a small FBI field office in Media, Pennsylvania.[v]  MKULTRA wasn’t as successful.  It was only covered up for 25 years or so, as was the CIA programs to save and use ex-Nazi scientists and intelligence officers after the Second World War.  Actually, all that needs to be said in rebuttal is that for 50 years the CIA and our government vehemently denied that there was a conspiracy to keep information from the Warren Commission.  It is a prime tenet and support of the lone-nut theorists.  In spite of the denials, finally, three years ago, the Agency in their internal secret magazine, in an article written by their official historian, admitted there was such a conspiracy, although they called it benign[vi].  We’ll return to this in a bit.

                Next, we have a point I will concede: Oswald as a co-conspirator.  I agree, he’s hardly one that a rational person might choose.  But, is he one a rational person might choose as a patsy?  -- an entirely different question.  Remember, that being a patsy was Oswald’s claim in one of the few brief encounters he had with the press.  That claim would have been, presumably, a major theme developed by competent defense lawyers had he lived long enough to be tried.  But the lone-nut theorists dismiss that possibility out of hand.  Nothing to see here, folks, just move on.  There was no investigation of this in the hasty Warren Commission investigation that led to the establishment of the lone-nut theory.

                As far as the Warren Commission membership goes, I will concede their then-prominence, but I have to wonder, in light of the evidence that has come in since, about their integrity and experience as support for the integrity of their work.  Allen Dulles was the head of the CIA fired by President Kennedy.  His collusion with the CIA in the pendency of the Warren Commission is shown in documents that have been released in the last few years.  He passed out a book to Commission members at their first meeting taking the position that American assassins are always lone-nuts.  Earl Warren was coerced into serving against his will by Lyndon Johnson and the supposed threat of nuclear war.  Gerald Ford was in J. Edgar Hoover’s pocket.  John J. McCloy was steeped in the intelligence community and was almost single handedly responsible for the end of prosecution of Nazi war criminals and the early release of those who had already been convicted when he became the High Commissioner for post-war Germany.  Richard Russell, Jr., and Hale Boggs both privately rejected the Warren Commission’s lone nut theory, as did Lyndon Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy and many, many others.  But the conspiracy of silence took years to break, and when broken, the revelations came out piecemeal and were dismissed at the time as insignificant, old news – just conspiracy theorists.

                And, speaking of that title, “conspiracy theorist”, is designed to be pejorative.  If you can stick it to someone, then you don’t have to listen to what they say.  Even if they are reporting new evidence, they’re just wacky conspiracy theorists.  Just like those nuts who for years said J. Edgar Hoover was running a program to subvert dissidents illegally, or that the CIA was illegally surveilling U.S. citizens, or that the CIA had covered up information to keep it from other government entities that were investigating the Kennedy murder, right?  Even if the person only reported facts and asked questions, they were (and are) labelled a “conspiracy theorist” solely for the purpose of undermining their credibility and lessening any impact they might have on public opinion.  And when it comes to light that the answer to the question they raised, “is it possible there was a conspiracy?’ is, “Not only is it possible, there was indeed a conspiracy,” then even a blind bird occasionally finds a worm.  And the cover-up artists say this without shame even though they have known about the conspiracy from the get-go.  The next stage is to come up with a new spin such as, the cover-up was “benign”, or shifting suspicion where they want it to go.  What, exactly, was covered up in other words.        

As noted by Lance deHaven-Smith, a professor at Florida State University, the CIA in 1967 began a campaign to “popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make a conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility.”  He notes that the campaign, “must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives in all time.”[vii]  He summarizes why the label has been used as a sword by those who resist the truth: “[T]he conspiracy-theory label, as it is applied in public discourse, does not disparage conspiratorial thinking or analysis in general, even though this is what the term suggests.  Rather the broad-brush ‘conspiracy theory’ disparages inquiry and questioning that challenge official accounts of troubling political events in which public officials themselves may have had a hand.  A conspiracy theory directs suspicion at officials who benefit from political crimes and tragedies.  The theories are considered dangerous not because they are obviously false, but because, viewed objectively and without deference to U.S. political officials and institutions, they are often quite plausible.[viii]

So, the first thing to remember going into the next few days is to stop when you see the label and ask, “Why is the writer of this story disparaging this idea?  Who is he trying to deflect suspicion from?  Why is he trying to direct my suspicion elsewhere? Can I reject the label and recover an objective view what this labeled individual has to say?”  Then do your best to find out what the idea being attacked really is rather than just rejecting it out of hand because of the labelling.  Remember, the term “conspiracy theory” gained prominence as a result of a CIA led propaganda initiative specifically addressed at protecting their own interests.

We see a blatant example of this dismissive labelling in CNN’s coverage of the upcoming document release.  Jeremy Diamond writes, “A decision to withhold even a sliver of the documents could give conspiracy theorists more fodder to propel their claims.”[ix]  So, what you are supposed to take away is that if anyone raises any questions about documents being withheld after the release date, they have to be a “conspiracy theorist” who isn’t worthy of your time or attention.  Consider, what is there to hide at this point?  If something is not released, why is it illegitimate to ask why, especially in view of our government’s relationship with the truth, or lack thereof, over the past six decades?  What purpose is served by Mr. Diamond’s advance labelling? 

The appeal to authority is also used in battling “conspiracy theories.”  It is seen in the CIA dispatch’s appeal to the apparent authority of the Warren Commission created by the then-reputations of its members and the superficially extensive investigation.  This technique appears again in Mr. Diamond’s article: “Historians who have closely studied the Kennedy assassination have said they do not expect the documents to … contradict the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was solely responsible for killing Kennedy.”[x]  Really, what historians?  Why are none named.  Why does he not give any consideration to people such as Dr. David R. Wrone, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, and Dr. John Newman, an adjunct professor of history at James Madison University, whose lifetime study of the subject has led them to the conclusion that Oswald could not have been solely responsible?[xi]  I haven’t spoken to them but I would venture to guess that neither Dr. Wrone nor Dr. Newman expect the documents to support Mr. Diamond’s lone-nut theory.

Then we have Phil Shenon’s return to the fray in The Guardian this morning.[xii] Even in the title of his article, “Files will shed light on a JFK shooting conspiracy – but not the one you think”, Mr. Shenon starts to try to divert attention in the direction he wants it to go.  He states plainly what he doesn’t want you to consider: first, a second assassin in Dealey Plaza even though his assertion that “most credible” evidence supports the lone-nut theory is patently not true.[xiii]  Second, about a mafia plot to kill Oswald he asks “What half-way competent Mob boss would choose a delusional blabbermouth like Ruby…?” echoing the CIA dispatch’s question about what rational person would ever choose Oswald as a co-conspirator?  Again, as with the CIA’s question, Shenon’s borrowed technique avoids the important questions and shuts off the possibility of objective investigation and consideration of other alternatives.  It’s a form of straw-man argument, but more slanderous and pernicious – you must be crazy if you don’t accept what I say.  For example, what about the possibility that Ruby was called on as an emergency stop gap measure only after an initial plan to dispose of the patsy failed?  I’m not saying that is what happened, but I am asking why it should be crazy, then or now, to consider the possibility and investigate it? Third, “a sprawling coup d’état involving everyone from President Johnson” on down the chain of command.  I, too, find that less credible than most.  But, then again, we have to consider that the evidence is now pretty much indisputable that President Johnson led the cover-up conspiracy and that his leadership and the conspiracy to cover-up anything that didn’t support the loan nut theory began immediately after the assassination.  I have to ask, “Doesn’t that raise questions in your mind that merit investigation and, if possible, answers?”  Why should we accept Mr. Shenon’s belittling dismissal of any questioning or review to see what’s actually in the evidence before we dismiss it? 

So, having told you what not to look for because even raising the questions can undermine proper deference to U.S. officials and institutions, he gives us the concession that we are now believed.  The CIA has admitted they participated in a benign cover-up of information during the Warren Commission investigation.[xiv]  Mr. Shenon acknowledges that the evidence is indisputable that both the CIA and the FBI had, at least, had Oswald under “aggressive surveillance in the months before the assassination.”[xv]  Mr. Shenon then advances the spin that the CIA and FBI embarrassment over not taking action to better protect the president in Dallas in light of what they knew is the reason for the benign cover-up: “ [I]mmediately after the assassination, panicked officials at both the CIA and FBI tried, desperately, to cover up evidence of the extent of their knowledge of Oswald, fearing their bungling of the intelligence about JFK’s assassin might be exposed – and that they would be blamed for the president’s murder.”  Yes sir, that certainly explains why the cover-up began immediately on Air Force One on the way back to D.C. on November 22, 1963.  As ridiculous as that idea is, it’s even more ridiculous to think that this embarrassment of two agencies would lead the whole government – from the president on down -- not just to cover up then, but to continue the cover-up and resist disclosure for more than fifty years of most of the documentary evidence, not to mention the massive destruction of evidence that has taken place.  When an offered concession is as implausible as this, what is the questions that the concede is trying to avoid being asked?  Could there have been other motivations for such a cover-up?

I am glad you asked.  Remember, in the 1967 dispatch the CIA acknowledged their basis of concern and, I believe, their motivation for participating in, if not leading, the cover-up of information for all these years.  Not just hiding information from the Warren Commission, but continuing to hide it and resist its disclosure even up to the present.  They acknowledged that the main CIA concern was that conspiracy theories might link them to the use of Oswald in intelligence operations.  This concern is still found in David Robarge’s article admitting CIA’s, or at least, Director McCone’s, participation in a conspiracy to hid information from the Warren Commission.  The article talks about the anti-Castro plots and the Nosenko information that was not shared with the Commission.[xvi]  This was used as an opportunity by Mr. Shenon to revive the kinda-like-maybe Castro did it theory, a theory was first raised on November 23rd in a Cuban exile publication sponsored and paid for by CIA .[xvii] 

But you have to read Mr. Robarge’s article carefully.  It is always wise to carefully parse CIA pronouncements to see what they are actually saying.  Mr. Robarge never specifically states that the CIA was mainly concerned in suppressing Kennedy murder information in preventing information about their attempts to murder Castro getting out.  Here’s what he actually says about the motivation for the cover-up: “Moreover, the DCI shared the [Johnson] administration’s interest in avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate 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 against Cuba, he was not going to give them any suggestions where to look.”[xviii] Taken in toto, the statement would draw you to infer that the Castro assassination plots were what was being covered up.  But if that is the case, why has the resistance to disclosure remained so fierce even after those plots were disclosed in 1975?  And earlier in the article, Robarge clearly states that electronic intercepts had, within a few days, convinced the administration and the Agency that neither the USSR nor Cuba had any complicity in the assassination.[xix]  So who might the “perpetrators” be against whom “calls for a tough US response“ might be made if they already knew that neither Soviet Russia nor Cuba were complicit?  Notice the specific structure of Mr. Robarge’s statement: “avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate CIA in conspiracy theories.”  I submit to you that this is the same motivation that existed in 1967 as stated by the CIA Chief of Covert Action in the April 1 dispatch: “Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us.”[xx] 

The CIA has told us what they were trying to hide.  They have been trying to hide information that could implicate them as an organization participating in a conspiracy based on the fact that Oswald was not only under aggressive surveillance, but was also being utilized in some capacity by them in active intelligence operations shortly before the assassination.   Those operations were directed at Cuba.  The ones they didn’t want to be asked about, as Mr. Robarge states, were “covert operations against Cuba,” not covert Castro assassination plans.  Please note in his article that Robarge is careful to specify the Castro assassination plots when he is talking about them.  He is equally careful here to not reference them but, rather, more general “covert operations against Cuba.”  We should be looking for information on Oswald’s involvement in those operations in this document release.  They’ve told us where to look.[xxi]





[i]  Dispatch, Countering Criticism of the Warren Report, from Chief of CA Staff to Chiefs of Certain Stations and Bases, April 1, 1967, RIF 104-10009-10022.
[ii] Que bono?  Certainly not just Johnson, but the basic investigative question never seems to have even been raised, let alone considered, by the Warren Commission or the intelligence community in 1963-1964.
[iii] “L’Etat, c’est moi.” The Agency’s concern was well-founded.  The JFK murder cover-up was the beginning of the unravelling of government credibility in the United States and led directly to the growth of the secrecy culture that subsequently allowed the Vietnam war, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraqi WMD’s, etc., etc., etc.
[iv] David Robarge, “DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” Studies in Intelligence, (Vol. 57, No. 3, 09/2013), Approved for Release and declassified, 09/29/2014, available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB493/docs/intell_ebb_026.PDF.
[v] See, e.g., Betty Medsger, The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI, Knopf 2014.
[vi] One CIA officer is also on record calling Operation Phoenix in Vietnam that tortured and killed myriads of Vietnamese civilians “benign”.
[vii] Lance deHaven-Smith, Conspiracy Theory in America, University of Texas Press 2013, at p. 25.
[viii] Id., at 41.  Emphasis added.
[ix] Jeremy Diamond, JFK Files: Trump teases release as deadline arrives, CNN, 26 Oct 2017, available at https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2017/10/26/politics/jfk-assassination-files-classified-document-release-donald-trump/index.html
[x] Id.
[xi] See, e.g., David R. Wrone, Two Assassinations: Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, Lincoln Fellowship of Wisconsin, Meeting (37th: 1980 : Madison), Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana (Library of Congress); http://aarclibrary.org/board-of-directors/ ; John Newman, Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK, Skyhouse 2008; John Newman, JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power, 2nd Ed., CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2016; John Newman, Countdown to Darkness: The Assassination of President Kennedy Volume II, CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2017.
[xii] Philip Shenon, Files will shed light on a JFK shooting conspiracy – but not the one your think, The Guardian, 26 Oct 2017, available at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/26/john-f-kennedy-asssassination-documents-national-archives
[xiii] Most ear and eye witnesses on record from Dealey Plaza put a second shooter on the grassy knoll.  Any fair analysis of the Zapruder film supports a finding of a shot from the front.  The acoustics work of the HSCA showing a shooter on the knoll is also still supported by the best scientific evidence in spite of vigorous attempts to discredit it. 
[xiv] Technically, the Robarge article, see note iv above, did not concede CIA participation so much as to blame the JFK appointed Director of Central Intelligence, John McCone, of participating in a benign cover-up.  See, Dan Hardway, A Cruel and Shocking Misinterpretation, 2015, available at http://aarclibrary.org/a-cruel-and-shocking-misinterpretation/; Dan Hardway, Thank You, Phil Shenon, 2015, available at http://aarclibrary.org/thank-you-phil-shenon/
[xv] A more objective and careful review of CIA documentation shows that there is even more documentary evidence that the CIA was using Oswald as a witting or unwitting asset in at least one intelligence operation.  See, e.g., John Newman, Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK, Skyhouse 2008; John Newman, Countdown to Darkness: The Assassination of President Kennedy Volume II, CreateSpace Independent Publishing 2017; JFKFacts, Exclusive: JFK investigator on how CIA stonewalled Congress, http://jfkfacts.org/hardway-declaration-cia-stonewalled-jfk-investigation/; Declaration of Dan L. Hardway, Morley v. CIA, CA # 03-02545-RJL, D.C.D.C. 11 May 2016, Docket No. 156.
[xvi] Robarge above at n. 4.
[xvii] See, Phil Shenon, Phil Shenon, “Yes, the CIA Director was Part of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up,” Politico, 10/06/2015, available at http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/jfk-assassination-john-mccone-warren-commission-cia-213197; Dan Hardway, Thank You, Phil Shenon, 2015, available at http://aarclibrary.org/thank-you-phil-shenon/
[xviii]  Robarge, above, n. 4, at p. 9.
[xix] The National Security Agency has never released such intercepts. 
[xx]  Dispatch, above at n. 1.
[xxi] This article is going out quickly and will be reviewed and supplemented in the future.  One supplement will address the modus operandi of CIA cover-up and obstruction of investigations. Another will deal with what we know before the present document release about possible covert operations against Cuba that may have involved Oswald. 

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