Morley v. CIA: Why I sued for JFK assassination records

Prettyman-CourthousIn reporting on my February 25 federal court date with the CIA, I explained the goals of my Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking certain ancient JFK assassination records. But a friend noted that I hadn’t really explained my theory of the case.

I get these questions a lot. What the hell is Morley v. CIA all about? What are you saying happened in Dealey Plaza? What do you think was really going on? And, inevitably, what’s your theory?

I usually shy away from answering such questions because the lawsuit seeks to answer them. Until I have all the evidence, it is not really my job as a journalist to speculate or guess. And it is the CIA’s obligation under the law to release the records, if they are related to JFK’s assassination.

But with U.S. government officials impugning my professionalism, I realize I should explain in more detail why — and how — the documents I seek are related to JFK’s assassination.

My contention is that at least some of the files I seek are related to JFK’s assassination. If this claim is correct, then certain CIA officials are violating the law in 2013.

Let me explain. In 1992, after Oliver Stone’s movie stirred fierce debate about the origins of JFK’s death, Congress unanimously passed the JFK Records Act, which requires all government agencies, including the CIA, to “immediately” review and release any assassination-related records.

I have sought to clarify the issue through official channels without success. The staff of the National Archives is responsible for enforcing the JFK Records Act. At my request, interested Archives staffers asked the CIA for permission to review the Joannides files. The CIA refused, saying the matter is under litigation, referring to my case.

The audacity of the CIA is impressive, or appalling, depending on your politics. The agency cites my lawsuit seeking release of certain ancient JFK files as a way of preventing the National Archives from enforcing the JFK Records Act, which requires release of such documents.

But what, you may ask, is the CIA so worried about?

These files contain a story about JFK’s assassination that is embarrassing to the CIA in 2013, the 50th anniversary year of JFK’s death. The CIA does not want the government of Cuba talking about this story. They don’t want President Kennedy’s only surviving child, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, to know it. They don’t want JFK’s outspoken nephew, Bobby Kennedy Jr., talking about. And they certainly don’t want the general public to know about it.

The story does not reflect well on a leading figure in the annals of the CIA, former director Richard Helms, who was a colleague of President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1963.

Here’s the story:

In the summer of 1963, one of Helms’ subordinates, George Joannides, was running highly-classified “psychological warfare” operations aimed at discrediting Castro’s supporters in the United States. Using the alias “Howard,” he funded the Cuban Student DIrectorate, a prominent anti-Castro organization in Miami, under a covert CIA program called AMSPELL.

Joannides was not a rogue operator. He was a forerunner of those CIA officers who worked with the Iraqi National Congress (INC) in the run-up to the war in Iraq in 2002. During the Bush years, the INC was a U.S.-funded exile group that supported a U.S. policy of “regime change.” That is precisely what the Cuban Student DIrectorate/AMSPELL was in 1963.

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