Long-suppressed documents released last week about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas show that the city’s mayor at the time had a covert relationship with the CIA.
Documents showing the CIA status of the late Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell (shown at left) were among the 3,810 released by the National Archives on July 24 as it approaches its deadline of Oct. 26 to release the final batch of government documents pertaining to Kennedy’s assassination.
As mayor, Cabell and his team would have helped plan, among other things, the bizarre parade route (marked in red on the adjoining chart) that brought the president’s limousine to a crawl at a sharp and seemingly unnecessary turn as it entered the kill zone at Dealey Plaza (marked in green).
Cabell, who went on to election as the region’s congressman during the rest of the 1960s, was already known to be a younger brother of former CIA Deputy Director Charles Cabell, a general whom Kennedy had forced out in a purge of the top three CIA leaders late in 1961 after the disastrous, CIA-orchestrated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba earlier in the year.
The July 24 document release — with overviews here from the National Archives, National Archives Begins Online Release of JFK Assassination Records and here Released JFK Documents) — is prompting a flare-up of serious disputes within JFK research circles.
As usual, the dispute is between critics of official accounts and those establishment media and academics who endorse the government’s view that ex-Marine Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (as determined the FBI and Warren Committee), or nearly alone (as later found by congressional investigators in 1979), to kill JFK because of Oswald’s allegedly troubled past and Marxist sympathies.
Many critics cite the now-extensive evidence that Oswald was a low-level undercover military, law enforcement and intelligence asset whose superiors manipulated him into suspicious actions.
In this view, Oswald served as a fall-guy or patsy for a high-level conspiracy by rogue officials within the CIA and elsewhere to murder the president and use their allies in law enforcement, courts, Congress, academia and the media to cover-up how the crime unfolded.
Oswald was murdered by mob figure Jack Ruby in a Dallas police station (as shown in an iconic photo at right) two days after the assassination. Oswald had desperately proclaimed his innocence, including a shouted comment to reporters “I’m just a patsy!”
University of Virginia historian Larry J. Sabato (shown at left) and former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, both authors of prominent books on the assassination, rekindled this passionate debate by co-authoring columns in the Washington Post on July 25, President Trump, give us the full story on the JFK assassination, and in the Capitol Hill insider tabloid Politico on Aug. 2, How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK’s Murder.
These columns revived establishment views that critics are unfairly tarnishing the CIA. Part of this argument is the claim long floated by CIA loyalists and others that Oswald killed JFK out of deranged loyalty to Communists, including to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whom some American officials sought to kill or otherwise remove during the Kennedy administration.
Historian John M. Newman has authored four major books so far on Oswald, the assassination and Kennedy’s daring effort to end the Vietnam War at the risk of further antagonizing Cold War hawks already furious with him for his Cuban and Soviet policies and for forcing from office top officials from the CIA and Pentagon he did not trust to advance his policies. Newman, a longtime military intelligence officer and university professor, is among those challenging Sabato, Shenon and others who advocate conventional wisdom that JFK remained a hawk and that Oswald was a Communist loyalist.
Newman presented his views at a March 16 forum at the National Press Club organized by Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) focused on this year’s forthcoming release of documents. Documents and film of the four-hour forum are here: At CAPA Forum, JFK Experts See Need, Momentum For Assassination Records Release. Newman is shown in a photo by Noel St. John
News Coverage of Current Releases
Today’s column excerpts document releases and major commentaries since the National Archives released on July 24 the latest batch of declassified documents. The materials are arranged in reverse chronological order below, with hot links to the original coverage. Some four million pages of declassified documents had been released previously, including via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, experts have calculated.
Our coverage of the latest release is part of a so-far 40-part “Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination” excerpted below and published on a joint project by the Justice Integrity Project (JIP) and CAPA.
The Washington bureau of the Cox Media Group and Connecticut radio host Phil Mikan interviewed this editor this week about the document release and their continuing importance. The Cox interview has a broadcast soon on a date TBA as part of a survey of the JFK research community. The two hour-long interviews for “The Phil Mikan” show were broadcast Aug. 3 and 4 on WLIB-AM and WMRD-AM in Connecticut.
For all three interviews, I described the JFK document releases as a “Rosetta Stone” that, like the one found in 1799 deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, now helps us interpret current events that are inherently secret, such as the ramped-up FBI investigation of President Trump (Special Counsel Robert Mueller Impanels Washington Grand Jury in Russia Probe) or reputed end of covert CIA operations Syria (Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War In Syria).
Secret operations are always difficult for the public to assess, particularly as the Trump administration’s Justice Department announces on Aug. 4 a major crackdown on leakers.
For such reasons, current government operations and that of such watchdog institutions as the media and academia can be better understood by assessing their performance (compared to documentary evidence) regarding such an important and well-documented historical event as the JFK assassination. Even before last week’s document release, so much had been released regarding the JFK murder that most reasonable persons could understand the main outlines of the killing and what appears to have been a cover up, as indicated by such factors as the long-suppressed documents.
As an example of current relevance of JFK studies, conventional wisdom regarding the ongoing FBI investigation of President Trump and his administration suggests that the FBI proceeds non-politically and never makes prosecution decisions because of its deference to leaders at the Justice Department.
Yet much of the evidence arising from declassified documents and other sources regarding the JFK murder shows that the FBI focused almost exclusively on evidence purporting to show Oswald’s guilt. The FBI almost entirely ignored serious pursuit of other evidence, and never wavered from its original premise in a quickly assembled 800-page finding in December 1963 that Oswald — and only Oswald — killed Kennedy.
Your Readers Guide To The JFK Assassination
The Readers Guide series began in 2013, the year of massive book, broadcast and other media coverage of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. The series started as largely a viewpoint-neutral catalog of events, books, broadcasts, and other developments with a goal of providing in one place both documentary evidence and opinion commentary, including books by the authors Sabato, Shenon and Newman cited above. Thus, one widely-read column lists about 500 major books (out of more than 2,500 total) on the killing: JFK Readers Guide: Assassination Books, Reports.
Over time, the series developed a more analytical focus, such as our column, The JFK Murder Cover-Up: Your Rosetta Stone To Today’s News. The continuing importance is in part because virtually all of the major media and most prominent academics continued to support the FBI’s original conclusion issued in December 1963 that Oswald acted alone, as concluded by the Warren Commission in 1964 with some expansion of possibilities in a report nearly two decades later by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the last official investigation of the murders of Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Those official conclusions has stood even though extensive independent commentary raised so many questions that between 60 and nearly 80 percent of the American public have asserted to pollsters for decades that they believed a conspiracy killed the president. Thus, the most recent column in the series, published June, reported the themes of conference on national security this way, Experts: Deep State Killed JFK For His Cuba Policy, Peace Advocacy.
Part of the larger issue is that the CIA was ostensibly forbidden by its charter in 1947 from engaging in domestic U.S. operations. But a vast array of evidence has emerged, including the new documents regarding the late Dallas Mayor Cabell, that the spy agency maintained a vast array of hidden relationships with officials and those in the media and academia influencing U.S. public opinion.
Cabell, for example, went on from serving as Dallas mayor to representing the region in Congress for the reset of the 1960s. Cabell’s brother, the late CIA Deputy Director Gen. Charles Cabell (shown at right), had been forced from office by Kennedy in a purge of the top three CIA officials, including CIA Director Allen Dulles.
Kennedy’s action followed the disastrous CIA-orchestrated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, a few months after Kennedy took office. Dulles later served as one of the seven-members of the Warren Commission that in 1964 endorsed the FBI’s conclusions in essence finding that Oswald acted alone and that Dallas nightclub owner and Oswald-killer Jack Ruby had no mob connections.
An artist’s rendering of the 1963 JFK Dallas parade route.
Some aspects remain in dispute, such as whether Oswald really was at the sixth floor vantage point of the Texas School Depository Building, a privately owned company where he had recently become employed. Many critics believe the place of the fatal shot occurred between numbers 3 and 4 on the map, near the picket fence on the grassy knoll and that significant evidence exists that Oswald was not at the sixth floor. A policeman saw Oswald in the building’s second floor cafeteria sipping a soft drink shortly after the shooting.
“What a cozy setup the CIA had in Dallas in 1963,” commented Kennedy and Dulles biographer David Talbot, the best-selling author of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and more recently The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. Talbot is now a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Mayor Earle Cabell was not only the brother of Charles Cabell, the former CIA deputy chief who, along with his boss Allen Dulles, was fired by JFK,” Talbot wrote on Facebook this week. “Now we learn that the Dallas mayor was also a CIA asset!”
“This is part of a pattern,” Talbot continued, writing, “the Texas School Book Depository where Oswald supposedly fired from his sniper’s nest was owned by right-wing oilman D. H. Byrd, who also had deep national security connections; the press corps covering the Kennedy motorcade was riddled with CIA assets…it just goes on and on. Thanks to author and former Army intelligence officer John Newman for helping to decipher the latest JFK document dump by the National Archives. We need to ensure that this document release continues, as mandated by law.”
These studies tend to show, furthermore, that the CIA and other such agencies are not necessarily acting to coerce other players but have been instead instruments of an essentially hidden government, or “Deep State,” that is suspected by many in the population of diverse right, left and center viewpoints.
The ongoing disclosures by the National Archives (more formally the National Archives and Record Administration) arise as witnesses and purported witnesses continue to tell their stories.
Former Cuban exile anti-Castro Alpha 66 assassination squad leader Antonio Veciana, for example, published a memoir Trained To Kill this spring alleging that his CIA handler, David Atlee Phillips introduced him to Oswald in Dallas in September 1963.
In 1975, Phillips founded the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIOS) that worked to thwart official investigations and disclosures.
Dr. Newman, the historian and a former top aide to a late National Security Agency director, reports that he has identified scores of secret identities used by Phillips in his work, which at times involved efforts to overthrow Cuban, Guatemalan and other leftist governments. Newman has argued that the identities served to disguise CIA involvement to outsiders and also to keep Phillips’s activities hidden even from his CIA colleagues except on a need-to-know basis.
Phillips denied wrongdoing during the occasions whereby outsiders pressed him for details about his work, including during a major 1970s congressional inquiry.
Filling In the Jigsaw Puzzle’
During the aforementioned broadcast interviews with Cox Media and radio host Phil Mikan, this editor emulated other research colleagues in stating last week’s revelations failed to show “smoking gun” evidence overturning conventional wisdom but instead provided extremely helpful details in filling in missing parts of an already revealing “jigsaw puzzle” regarding what happened at the assassination and what many consider a cover-up since.
As we have previously reported, for example, we know by now from declassified documents that the CIA undertook a massive secret campaign to smear critics of the Warren Commission with the label “conspiracy theorist.”
The commission, led by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (shown at left), consisted of seven members who whose regular duties left them too busy to question witnesses or otherwise investigate evidence for the most part, historians now know.
The commission’s report was thus written in major part by staff, nearly all of whom were compartmentalized so that they knew only narrowly defined tasks as part of their stepping stone to future success.
Previous revelations show that Warren Commission member Gerald Ford, who later won the U.S. presidency via two appointments (not elections), served as a source on the commission for transmitting its information secretly to the FBI and argued strongly for a long-disputed theory about the location of Kennedy’s wounds. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer served as a relatively junior staffer on the commission. But future U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter played a key role in developing the “single bullet” theory to explain what some ballistics experts describe as the seemingly impossible situation of how Oswald could have fired all relevant shots.
A smear campaign used members of mainstream media friendly to the CIA to attack New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, shown right below. Garrison was prosecuting New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw in what Garrison alleged was a conspiracy to murder Kennedy. Shaw, an OSS liaison to high-ranking British officials during World War II, founded a major regional trade mart in New Orleans shortly after the war. Garrison alleged that Shaw met with rightist opponents of JFK to plan the death.
A now-declassified 50-page CIA memo, known as “CIA Dispatch 1035-960,” instructed CIA agents to contact their media contacts and disparage as “conspiracy theorists” those, like Garrison, criticizing the Warren Commission findings that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and acted alone. That 1967 CIA document is here in the original and here in reformatted text of its summary.
Minutes of CIA meeting that same year indicated fear that Garrison would win a conviction. But a jury promptly acquitted Shaw following more than a dozen deaths (including suicide) of potential witnesses and an intense smear campaign against Garrison by the national media. NBC News hired former high-ranking Justice Department and FBI official Walter Sheridan, who had been an early recruit to the super-secret NSA in the 1950s. Publicly an investigative reporter, Sheridan was involved also in operational efforts to undermine Garrison.
Shaw denied that he had any CIA connections, helping him win acquittal, but document releases since then have undermined his claim.
Garrison’s investigation led, however, the popular 1991 film JFK by Oliver Stone, which created popular pressure persuading Congress to enact a law in 1992 requiring release of JFK records by Oct. 26 of this year. The law enabled the possibility of redactions if agencies are able to persuade President Trump to implement them.
In the meantime, the 1992 law’s requirements led to last week’s partial document dump and the commentaries described above.
Who Do You Trust?
As for the above-mentioned Shenon, his 625-page $32 opus A Cruel and Shocking Act published in 2013 failed to mention either of the Cabell brothers. Sabato’s $30 602-page The Kennedy Half Century published the same year mentioned only Earle Cabell, the Dallas mayor who went on to serve in Congress until 1971.
Sabato mentioned Cabell just once and in passing as being among the Dallas dignitaries welcoming President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy to Love Field in the city just before the start of the presidential motorcade.
When the motorcade started, Secret Service shift supervisor Emory Roberts ordered agent Donald Lawton not to assume his normal position riding on the presidential limo’s rear platform to shield and otherwise protect the president.
That scene, whereby Lawton expresses his befuddlement by waving his hands in the air three times, was captured in an iconic video by WFAA-TV here, with a labelled screenshot at right showing also agents Paul Landis and John Ready on the running boards of a Secret Service car.
Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy by Vincent Michael Palamara provided in 2013 an authoritative account of the actions, excuses and occasional bravery of those involved.
Palamara concluded that Lawton and most likely agent Henry Rybka were inexplicably removed as body shields from their normal posts riding the limo’s rear bumper, which Palamara characterized as the two most important bodyguard positions in any presidential motorcade.
Yet such mainstream outlets as the Washington Post do not quote Newman, Palamara or other critics of the Warren Report when new documents are released.
Instead, that newspaper, which like its peers almost never wavers from presenting essentially the official version of the assassination that protects the CIA, Secret Service and mayor’s office from close scrutiny, publishes Shenon and Sabato as go-to experts who insist that the evidence, old and new, still leads to Oswald and the long-debunked cover story that Kennedy was killed via Communist vengeance against the president.
An extensive appendix to the column above is contained on the Justice Integrity Project website here, with much of the material also on the CAPA website in its July-August 2017 news section. Coverage will continue as more documents are released, generating more commentary highly relevant to the rest of American government operations.