Subject: ON "WHO DONE IT" STRATEGIES FOR SOCIAL REFORM : FROM THE
CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL
MOVEMENTS, GRENOBLE, FRANCE.
18 December 2003
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Who assassinated JFK on November 23, 1963 remains to this day an unanswered question.(Please see below a new attempt to find the answer, sent to us by Professor John Gerassi of Queens College, New York City.) In my contemporary American history classes I opine that this question is of relatively minor importance, as Kennedy represented a remarkable continuity with the Truman, Eisenhower cold-war legacy. There are political CIA-supported assassinations and coups d'etat that have arguably changed the course of history : Mossadegh in 1953, Arbenz in 1954, Patrice Lumumba in 1960, Ché Guevara in 1967, Salvador Allende in 1973, Orlando Letelier in 1976, Omar Torrijos in 1983, and the tens-of-thousands of school teachers and village officials in Vietnam during the CIA's "Operation Phoenix" program in the 1960s. This list just touches the surface of the CIA's "strategic assassination" programs.(For a more complete list of proven and suspected CIA assassination plots, see Mark Zepezauer's provocative book, "The CIA's Greatest Hits" (Odonia Press, 1997. Also, see William Blum's book, "Killing Hope," which is a carefully documented history of American interventions since 1945.)
Today, we are witnessing an historic division within the American ruling classes. The crisis of international capitalism is forcing into the open what normally would be assigned to covert operations (i.e. Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954), with highly visible full-scale military invasions accompanied by blatant disinformation, thus breaking with the hypocritical "Open Door Policy" proclaimed by the American State Department since the end of the 19th century. For the fist time since its 19th-century territorial annexations, the U.S. is pursuing a policy of territorial conquests, establishing permanent U.S. military bases in the oil rich areas (i.e. western Asia) and in rich agricultural areas (i.e. South America)of the world. U.S. imperialism has regressed back to a variation of the tactic of 19th-century colonialism, with the structure of "permanent" U.S. military presence imposed on a dominated people.
Indeed, this is "a different world" as Richard Cheney has repeatedly declared after 9/11. But the reason for this change is not 9/11, it is rather due to limitations on American corporate dominance, such as the challenges which a United Europe and a strong Euro currency represent to the growth and stability of the American market and the failing economic hegemony of U.S. corporations.
There is a significant sector of the American ruling class which perceives the United States as being ill-equipped to confront the low-tech resistance to American imperialism. Their crisis is that it is more and more difficult to make a respectable profit, and the tactic of impoverishing the competition does not necessarily make you more wealthy or even less vulnerable. This disagreement on how to proceed in the pursuit of private profits (George Soros's opposition to President Bush is only one example) represents a deep division within the capitalist classes (nationally and internationally), and what we can expect is a greater diversity of democratic activities at the grassroots level --experimentations and dissident movements surfacing from long-repressed desires and needs.
These activities sooner or later must be co-opted by the ruling classes if they are to continue to rule. The ultimate question is what concessions can be won in this period of effervesce? Certainly full employment, a livable wage, job security, free medical care, and early pension guarantees will be high on the list of demands.
But "who killed JFK" is not a central question in this quest for justice and equality. Kennedy was not an advocate of meaningful social reform. He was an all-too typical political opportunist. His death had little effect on the course of history from where I stand. At best the answer to this question might represent just one more feather lost on the tail of the American eagle. And why not? The predator should be exposed! but at the cost of international solidarity; positive social movements for meaningful economic and political reforms should not be displaced by an hysterical anti-Americanism.
Too often the celebrated truth,"THE KING WEARS NO CLOTHES!" has been followed by default with the popular refrain: "LONG LIVE THE KING!"
Our resaerch center encourages historical research on the important
questions concerning political mutations which are occuring within American
institutions,and the effectiveness of social movements within the United
States that are reinforcing traditional democratic values still held by
millions of American citizens.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
from John Gerassi :
December 17, 2003
Celebrated authors demand that the CIA come clean on JFK assassination
Gerald Posner, Norman Mailer and Don DeLillo back lawsuit to open secret
files on CIA mystery man tied to Lee Harvey Oswald.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Jefferson Morley
Dec. 17, 2003 | A diverse group of authors and legal experts have
announced their support for a lawsuit that demands the release of secret CIA
records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
At issue in the suit, filed Tuesday in Washington, are records on the
unexplained role of a Miami-based undercover CIA agent named George
Joannides in the months prior to Kennedy's murder on Nov. 22, 1963. The
authors supporting the suit include anti-conspiracist Gerald Posner, author
of the 1993 book "Case Closed," and Norman Mailer and Don DeLillo, two
leading novelists who have explored the mysteries surrounding accused JFK
assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Also backing the lawsuit are legal experts G.
Robert Blakey, the former chief counsel of the House Select Committee on
Assassinations, which in the late 1970s investigated Kennedy's death, and
John Tunheim, a federal judge who chaired the Assassination Records Review
Board of the mid-1990s.
The authors and experts differ on who was responsible for the president's
murder, but all agree that the CIA must now come clean about Joannides, a
career spy who died in 1990.
In 1963 Joannides served as chief of the CIA's anti-Castro "psychological
warfare" operations in Miami. According to declassified CIA records
corroborated by interviews, Joannides secretly financed exiled Cuban agents
who collected intelligence on Lee Harvey Oswald three months before Kennedy
was killed. Fifteen years later, Joannides was called out of retirement by
the CIA to serve as the agency's liaison to the House committee looking into
Kennedy's assassination. During this time he never disclosed his own actions
in 1963 to the congressional investigators he was supposed to be assisting.
It wasn't until 2001, 38 years after Kennedy's death, that Joannides'
support for the Cuban exiles, who clashed with Oswald and monitored him,
came to light.
"[Joannides'] behavior was criminal," said Blakey, the former House
committee counsel who was deceived by the CIA agent. "He obstructed our
"The agency is stonewalling," said Posner, whose bestselling book supported
the Warren Commission's finding that Oswald, alone and unaided, killed
Kennedy. "It's a perfect example of why the public has so little trust in
the CIA's willingness to be truthful."
Anthony Summers, a former BBC journalist and the author of "Not in Your
Lifetime,", a bestseller that presents strong evidence of a JFK conspiracy,
sees the Joannides case as "new evidence of CIA subterfuge -- perhaps the
most blatant such evidence."
"The agency should come completely clean," said Tunheim, the federal
in Minnesota who oversaw the panel that declassified 4 million pages of
once-secret JFK records.
Tom Crispell, spokesman for the CIA, insisted that the agency is "absolutely
not stonewalling." While declining to answer questions about Joannides'
actions in 1963 and 1978, Crispell said the CIA has made public "all known
records" about Joannides that are relevant to the Kennedy assassination
The lawsuit, which Washington lawyer Jim Lesar filed on my behalf this
calls for the agency to release all records on Joannides, who died in 1990.
Joannides' story first came to light in a story I wrote about him for the
Miami New Times in April 2001. Posner picked up on the story in a piece for
Newsweek last month. Leading newspapers advanced the story with front-page
coverage on the 40th anniversary of Kennedy's death, examining "the shadowy
role of a Greek-American CIA agent," namely, Joannides.
In the current issue of the New York Review of Books, a group of 13
both pro- and anti-conspiracy, who have published works about JFK's death --
including Posner, Mailer, DeLillo, Blakey and Summers, as well as Nixon
White House speechwriter Richard Whalen -- signed an open letter calling on
the CIA and the Defense Department to release all records on Joannides. The
deceased spy's story is "highly relevant" to the assassination, according to
Judge Tunheim, who also signed the letter.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
George Efthyron Joannides was a dapper, multilingual CIA man from New
City. The son of a prominent Greek-American journalist, he had dabbled in
journalism and law before joining the CIA in 1951. After a decade of service
in Athens, he came to the attention of then deputy CIA director Richard
Helms. In 1962, Helms took over the agency's clandestine efforts to
overthrow Castro. He sent Joannides, 41 at the time, to oversee a staff of
24 and a budget of $2.4 million (equivalent to $15 million today) dedicated
to mounting covert operations designed to confuse and subvert the Cuban
Chief among the spy's specific duties in mid-1963 was the handling of
Cuban Student Directorate (DRE), one of the biggest and most active
CIA-backed groups in Miami. Once upon a time the DRE was as well known to
North American newspaper readers as the Iraqi National Congress is today.
With 2,500 supporters and flattering coverage in Life magazine and the
right-wing press, the young men of the directorate were at the forefront of
the fight to eliminate Fidel Castro.
In August 1963, the DRE's large and effective network of chapters in
America first picked up on a leftist adventurer named Lee Harvey Oswald.
According to a CIA memo found at the JFK Library, Joannides was giving
$25,000 a month (about $147,000 in today's dollars) to the DRE at the time
when the group's New Orleans delegation decided to collect intelligence on
and publish propaganda about Oswald, a Castro supporter who had once lived
in the Soviet Union.
The DRE acted after Oswald had seemingly attempted to infiltrate the
On Aug. 5, 1963, he approached the DRE's delegation in New Orleans offering
to train its anti-Castro fighters in military tactics. Then, a few days
later, he inexplicably turned up handing out pro-Castro pamphlets on a
street corner. DRE members accosted him, resulting in a confrontation that
was broken up by the police. The DRE's local delegate, Carlos Bringuier,
challenged Oswald to a debate on a local radio program, then sent a tape of
the program to the DRE's Miami headquarters. The group also issued a press
release calling for a congressional investigation of Oswald -- then still an
entirely obscure figure.
Joannides' attitude toward all this activity is unknown, even though
officers working with Cuban exile groups were required to file monthly
reports on their protégés. Joannides' action reports from 1963 are missing
from CIA archives, the agency's Office of Historic Review has claimed.
Three months later, when Oswald was arrested in Dallas for the
assassination, the DRE leaders in Miami immediately called Joannides. They
then launched their second publicity offensive on Oswald in three months --
only now the former Marine was world famous.
The anti-communist activists called the New York Times and other news
organizations, telling the story of Oswald's seemingly pro-Castro ways. Thus
it was that the DRE, a CIA-funded organization, helped shape news coverage
suggesting that Kennedy had been killed by a Castro supporter.
George Joannides, in short, was a spy working near the epicenter of
history. In Washington, there were suspicions of conspiracy, even fears of
war with Cuba or the Soviet Union. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy initially
suspected CIA-backed Cubans were behind his brother's murder.
In Dallas, Oswald denied the charges. "I'm just a patsy," he shouted
reporters at the Dallas City Jail.
The next day in Havana, Fidel Castro mobilized his armed forces and
denounced the DRE's story as a CIA provocation designed to justify an invasi
on of Cuba. The revelation of Joannides' work with the DRE lends belated
credence to Castro's charge.
Then the assassin was assassinated. On the morning of Nov. 24, 1963,
national television audience watched Oswald being transferred to a more
secure jail, Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner connected to organized
crime, whose best friend was a Havana casino operator embittered by Castro's
rise to power, stepped out of the crowd and shot Oswald dead.
In Miami, Joannides continued to work with the DRE. He received a copy
the tape the group had made of Oswald's pro-Castro remarks. In the DRE's
newspaper, paid for with CIA funds, the student leaders promoted the
conspiratorial scenario that Oswald and Castro were "the presumed
assassins." They instructed their chapters in South America to promote the
Oswald-Castro connection in their local media.
Five days after the assassination the House Un-American Activities Committee
(HUAC), meeting in executive session, decided it wanted to take testimony
from three DRE leaders. At the same time, Joannides was giving two of the
anti-Castro activists CIA funds to get out of the country. They went to
Central America. A week later, the DRE's HUAC appearance was canceled.
After Kennedy was killed, Joannides' patron, Helms, shielded the Joannides
mission to Miami from review. He did not disclose to the Warren Commission
that Joannides' exiled Cuban agents had had pre-assassination contact with
The available record shows that Joannides received high praise from
superiors for his work in 1963. His job evaluation for that year made no
mention of Oswald or the Kennedy assassination, but the CIA's Miami station
chief Ted Shackley specifically cited Joannides' handling of the propaganda
efforts of the Cuban Student Directorate in awarding him the highest
possible grades. Shackley concluded that Joannides had proven he could
"translate policy directives into meaningful action programs."
Joannides went on to serve in Athens, where according to recent Greek
reports, he played a role in the political machinations that led to the
CIA-backed military coup in 1967. He also served in Saigon during the
Vietnam War, then returned to Washington, where he retired to a modest home
in Potomac, Md.
In 1978, Joannides suddenly reappeared in the JFK assassination story.
return is what especially intrigues scholars of the assassination.
By the late 1970s, the CIA had fallen into political disfavor in Washington.
Revelations about Richard Helms' role in plotting to kill Castro and other
foreign leaders had prompted Congress to take another look at the Kennedy
assassination. In May 1978 Joannides was called out of retirement by CIA
general counsel Scott Breckinridge. His assignment: to serve as the CIA's
liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which had been
charged with reopening the investigation into the murders of Kennedy and
civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Breckinridge told me in an interview before his death in 2000 that he
not know of Joannides' 1963 assignment when he chose him for the liaison
As he worked with House Assassinations Committee investigators, Joannides
again concealed the involvement of his Cuban operatives with Oswald not long
before Kennedy's murder. He withheld all records concerning his relationship
with the DRE, even when they were specifically requested, according to a log
that he kept. The log is now in the National Archives.
"The fact that the CIA didn't tell the committee everything in his
background suggests that the purpose of his assignment might have been to
protect information, not share it," said Tunheim, the Assassination Records
Review Board chair.
Blakey, the Notre Dame law professor who served as the House committee's
chief counsel, now says Joannides was guilty of obstructing Congress. "The
law says that anyone who corruptly endeavors to influence, obstruct or
impede the exercise of the power of inquiry by [Congress] is guilty of a
felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. That's exactly what he
did. He did not give us the information that was manifestly relevant."
The House Assassination Committee's final report, released in 1979,
concluded that Kennedy had been killed by Oswald and other conspirators who
could not be identified. In the report, Blakey vouched for the CIA's
cooperation with the congressional inquiry. He now says he was wrong.
When asked if Blakey had misstated any facts about Joannides' tenure
liaison to the House committee, CIA spokesman Crispell replied, "We are not
going to debate Mr. Blakey."
"The JFK records review board examined the issue of Mr. Joannides' work
the [committee] in 1998," he stated.
Tunheim, chair of Assassination Records Review Board from 1994 to 1998,
it issued its final report, disputed Crispell's assertion. He said the board
had merely identified Joannides and declassified a handful of documents from
his personnel file.
"We did not consider the matter of his obstructing Congress one way
other," he said. "I don't think we knew enough about Joannides at that point
to assess his significance. If the board was in existence now, we would
certainly pursue it."
Blakey says Joannides deceived him, and he remains angry about it 25
later. "When Congress opened its investigation, we were especially
interested in the DRE because they had pre-assassination contact with
Oswald," Blakey said. "That Joannides never told us those were his people
just makes me go ballistic. He was a material witness. He shouldn't have
been the liaison. He should have been interviewed under oath."
Blakey does not believe Joannides was part of a conspiracy to kill Kennedy.
He speculates that the CIA man learned something about Oswald that was
innocent but difficult to explain when Kennedy was killed.
Dan Hardway, a lawyer in North Carolina who worked as one of Blakey's
investigators in 1978, is more suspicious. While attempting to review CIA
records relevant to Kennedy's death, Hardway had regular contact with
Joannides. He often complained to Blakey that Joannides was deliberately
hindering his efforts. Hardway had several angry confrontations with the
uncooperative CIA man -- never suspecting Joannides was concealing his own
personal knowledge of the events of 1963.
"Now there is no doubt in my mind that Joannides deliberately hid evidence
of an assassination conspiracy from us," Hardway said in a telephone
In Miami, the former leaders of the Cuban Student Directorate who worked
with Joannides in 1963 remember him with respect. Forty years ago, they were
passionate young freedom fighters striving to save Cuba from communism. Now
they are successful businessmen and professionals in Miami. They recall a
close but combative relationship with the CIA man they knew as "Howard."
"He was an impressive man in many ways," said Luis Fernandez Rocha,
physician who served as the titular leader of the DRE in 1963 and met often
with Joannides. "He had clout. He could make decisions on the spot."
The former DRE leaders deny any knowledge of or role in a conspiracy
Kennedy. They differ on whether their CIA handler was aware of the group's
contacts with Lee Harvey Oswald in August 1963.
Bringuier says he did not know Joannides and never spoke to him.
Fernandez Rocha says he "does not recall" talking to the CIA man about
former Marine who attempted to infiltrate the DRE.
Isidro Borja, an engineer who was active in the DRE's military efforts,
that he is "certain" that "Howard" was aware of the group's efforts to
expose Oswald as a pro-Castro sympathizer in August 1963.
Whatever Joannides knew about Oswald before the assassination, he took
secret to his grave in 1990. But despite the CIA's denials, assassination
researchers suspect that records still locked away at the agency might shed
light on the subject.
"It is unfortunate that litigation is necessary to force the Central
Intelligence Agency to provide documents and information that the public has
a right to know," said Posner.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Research Center Director <http://www.u-grenoble3.fr/ciesimsa>
and Professor of North American Studies