Monday, December 19, 2022

More Morley Misinformation

Former Washington Post reporter and editor turned conspiracy theorist Jefferson Morley has been all over traditional and social media in recent days talking about the December 15th National Archives' release of records from the JFK Assassination Records Collection. Morley is effectively accusing the Central Intelligence Agency of running a disinformation campaign to coverup their complicity in the murder of the 35th President.

Here is one example out of many. At his blog, Morley alleged that the agency is engaged in "deception" and is running a "shell game" designed to "fleece those rubes [US citizens]" who are seeking full disclosure of the material. As an agency charged with keeping the nation's secrets, there is no doubt that the CIA has sought to withhold certain records that theorists believe are relevant to the assassination. The CIA says that this is to protect sources and methods rather than conceal secrets about JFK's death.

But Morley doesn't believe the CIA and has been engaged for years (28 by his own count) in an effort to paint the agency in the worst possible light by insinuating that they were somehow responsible for JFK's death. And he has used rhetoric that ranges from misleading to provably false to do it.

This article will highlight a few of Morley's recent misrepresentations. It was prepared with help from researchers Paul Hoch, Robert Reynolds and Fred Litwin who have recently been fact checking Morley's various claims.

Handbill Hoax

Hoch noticed that during Morley's multimedia presentation during the dramatic December 6th press conference he displayed the same fake 544 Camp Street handbill that was used in the Oliver Stone film Destiny Betrayed. As Fred Litwin explains, Lee Harvey Oswald never used the 544 Camp address on handbills he gave out. He only used his real address or Post Office box.

A Medal for Stonewalling?

One of the more ridiculous claims made by Morley is that CIA officer George Joannides, who Morley believes covered up for higher-ups who perpetrated the JFK murder, received the CIA's Career Intelligence Medal "in part" for "stonewalling" HSCA investigators. And Morley has doubled down on these claims as recently as the December 6th presser.

But Morley knows that Joannides received the medal "in recognition of his exceptional achievement with the Central Intelligence Agency for more than 28 years." In fact, the medal citation comes from his own website. Judge Richard Leon noted in a 2011 decision resulting from Morley's 16-year battle with the CIA that he "overstates the medal's importance to his case" since the award was for all Joannides' service from 1950 to 1978 and not specifically for the years 1963 and 1978 as Morley implies.

Mysterious Redactions That Weren't

Again at his blog, Morley wrote about his examination of 33 previously redacted documents that he believes are "potentially interesting." Morley complained that only 13 of these records had been released in full. But author and researcher Fred Litwin notes that one of the documents that Morley alleged were "as secret as ever" regarding Cuban Herminio Diaz is available with almost no redactions and looks much different that the heavily redacted version displayed by Morley. Either Morley has not done his research or he is engaged in the same disinformation that he accuses the CIA of.

Similarly, Morley is concerned about the "testimony of a senior CIA officer" on why Oswald was not debriefed on his return from the Soviet Union. Morley specifically links to page 20 of that testimony which contains redacted information. But again, there is a version of the document available that contains the unredacted paragraph that Morley is worried about. The innocuous section discusses Robert Webster who was also a US serviceman who defected to the Soviet Union around the same time as Oswald.

The Harrelson Memo

One of Morley's biggest complaints about the CIA goes all the way back to a January 20, 1998, memo by the agency's Barry Harrelson which responded to an Assassination Records Review Board request for information. Morley says that the ARRB wanted the CIA to do "two things." The first was to "identify the case officer who handled the DRE in 1963 and was identified in this September 23, 1963, memo as 'Howard' …."

But a look at the original ARRB request (located by Hoch and Reynolds) shows Morley's statement is not entirely accurate. The ARRB memo states "... we request that the CIA work to discover the identity of 'Howard,' the CIA officer mentioned in the DRE files." It does not specifically ask for the identity of the DRE case officer.

Who was "Howard?" Morley believes that he was DRE case officer George Joannides and his claim certainly makes sense. Morley has the statements of former DRE members who saw photos of Joannides and say he was "Howard." But the DRE men saw the photos of Joannides at least 30 years after their experiences with "Howard." So we only have those old memories to go on.

Because as Morley knows, the CIA reviewed their files and found no record of "Howard" as the "true name of any case officer associated with the DRE." Harrelson also noted that "Howard" was not a "pseudonym" or a "registered alias" of any CIA employee. And as ARRB researcher Michelle Combs reported, "personnel files typically would not reveal [aliases] one way or another." So, there is no reason to believe that what Harrelson told the ARRB was untrue.

Admittedly, at the time of Harrelson's statement there was information in the CIA files that indicated that Joannides was the DRE case officer. But it is unclear if Harrelson knew that at the time he replied to the ARRB. In any case, the fact that Joannides was the DRE case officer became known less than two months after the Harrelson reply through Combs' memo. The bottom line is Morley's statement that Harrelson "replied in writing that he had no record of the DRE's case officer" is untrue.

Morley says the second thing the ARRB wanted the CIA to do was provide the monthly progress reports for the DRE. Morley is right in this instance. But the CIA searched and found no such reports. Harrelson suggested that the reports were not "missing" at all but had never been filed in the first place and offered an explanation that Morley simply scoffs at. First, Harrelson cited "major policy differences between the CIA and their DRE charges. These differences, as Morley knows, led to the military section of the DRE being defunded in November of 1963 and the entire DRE operation being mothballed by 1966.

Harrelson also noted that the DRE got a new case officer (Joannides) in late 1962 which was exactly when the monthly reporting stopped. "It seems probable these events are linked" Harrelson sensibly noted. In other words, the new case officer —Joannides— simply did not file monthly reports for whatever reason. And Morley admitted years ago that Joannides "received praise in a July 1963 performance evaluation for his 'adherence to valid reporting techniques.'" So, it is certain that Joannides was doing what the CIA wanted when it came to reports.

The "Smoking Gun"

Finally, the most serious piece of disinformation being promoted by Morley is his recent claim that there is "smoking gun" proof of "an undisclosed Oswald operation" that the CIA was running in 1963. The evidence for this operation is found, according to Morley, in the unreleased Joannides files. Morley says only "full disclosure" will reveal if the "undisclosed Oswald operation" is evidence of the CIA's "complicity in JFK's assassination" or "incompetence." Morley has promised on his blog that "evidence" including the statements of "witnesses" will be presented to bolster his theory.

The identity of one of Morley's witnesses is now almost certain. He is likely former DRE member Jose Antonio Lanuza (sometimes spelled as "Lanusa" in official documents) who is now 83 years old. According to a Miami Herald story, Lanuza has a theory that he and other DRE members were "used" by Joannides to "create and later spread the fake narrative that Oswald was a pro-Castro sympathizer, providing a handy motive for the assassination."

But the problem with this theory is that Oswald's wife Marina would have to be in on the plot since she talked at length about her husband's affinity for Castro. Also in on such a scheme would be Oswald's Marine buddy Nelson Delgado who stated that Oswald had expressed pro-Castro views as far back as 1958. So, the beliefs of Lanuza and other DRE members would not constitute "smoking gun" proof of anything.

Getting back to Morley's theories, he says that the DRE created a "legend" that Oswald was a Castro supporter. But the DRE delegate who had the most contact with Oswald and who would certainly have to have been acting at the behest of the CIA disagrees. Carlos Bringuier told researcher Dale Myers:

In regard to my relationship with the headquarters of the DRE in Miami, I was the Delegate in New Orleans. I never received any money from the CIA or the DRE. On the contrary my Delegation was sending money (little, never high amounts) to Miami. I was an anti-Communist Cuban not an employee of the DRE. If they [Miami DRE] were receiving money from the USA government, which it is possible, I was never informed of that. I was working very hard as a salesman to provide for my family.

Bringuier also stated "Maybe I visited that [DRE] office one or two times while I had been vacationing in Miami. I never met George Joannides nor any other non-Cuban person during those couple of visits to the Miami office.” So, the man who would have been manipulating Oswald for the agency denies that he ever received a nickel from them or that he knew Joannides at all.

The overwhelming evidence shows that the DRE was not directed by the CIA to do the things they did regarding Oswald. As anti-Castro activists, they did not have to be. In fact, they often disobeyed CIA orders and ultimately were defunded because of that fact.

The final nail in the coffin of Morley's "smoking gun" theory is the fact that ARRB researcher Michelle Combs saw the relevant Joannides files and reported:

During the period December 1962 to April 1964, Mr. Joannides was assigned as a covert action officer at JMWAVE, serving as deputy and then chief of the station's covert action branch. During this time period, Mr. Joannides was the case officer for the Cuban exile group Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE). The descriptions of his duties and accomplishments in the personnel file are very general and contain no specific reference to his relationship with the DRE. There is no mention of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in the file and no information relevant to the assassination in the file (emphasis added). There is also no indication that Mr. Joannides may have used or been known by the name "Howard" during his contacts with the DRE, although personnel files typically would not reveal this information one way or another.

Note also that according to the Herald article the CIA released a statement that said "CIA believes all substantive information known to be directly related to Oswald has been released. The few remaining redactions protect CIA employee names, sources, locations, and CIA tradecraft." The agency also stated that Morley's claim that it has not disclosed a set of documents about Oswald that were part of Joannides’ files in the JFK Collection at the National Archives “is false."

Simple logic tells us two things. First, it is unlikely in the extreme that both an ARRB researcher in the nineties and the CIA today are misrepresenting what is in the Joannides files. After all, Biden or a subsequent President could order the files to be released or reviewed so what would be the point of such a canard? Finally, logic also dictates that Morley could not possibly have knowledge of a "smoking gun" in files that he has never seen.


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