Saturday, January 28, 2023

Oliver Stone's Film Flam by Fred Litwin

Fred Litwin's third book on the JFK assassination is called Oliver Stone's Film Flam: The Demagogue of Dealey Plaza. While the title accurately describes the main subject of the book, it cannot begin to convey the depth of material covered by Litwin. This is really a reference work for debunkers and those seeking the truth about the JFK murder that goes well beyond the abuses of the truth by Oliver Stone and his screenwriter James DiEugenio. Litwin is also releasing a list of online references to accompany the print version of the book that will be a useful tool for anyone doing research on the matter. Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Look Before You Leap

Journalist turned conspiracy theorist Jefferson Morley appeared at a Mary Ferrell Foundation press conference on December 6th 2022 to promote his latest JFK assassination theory. Morley claimed that the CIA was hiding a "covert operation that involved Lee Harvey Oswald" in the summer of 1963. Although he said he was "not crazy" about the term "smoking gun" Morley insisted such "proof" of an "undisclosed Oswald operation" was to be found in 44 documents in the possession of the CIA related to deceased officer George Joannides who managed the anti-Castro DRE group in the early sixties.

What Morley didn't explain was how he knows that the files, which he has not seen, contain "smoking gun" proof of an Oswald operation. Morley also did not explain how ARRB researcher Michelle Combs, whom he praised for locating Joannides' files in the CIA system, failed to note the presence of the alleged operation after a review of the material. Instead, Combs noted that the Joannides files were "very general" and contained "no specific reference to [Joannides'] relationship with the DRE." Combs added that there was "no mention of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in the file and no information relevant to the assassination in the file."

While offering no specific proof for his claims, Morley did produce a document that he claimed was "significant." This document was a request for clearance for "special intelligence" for Joannides. While again offering no evidence, Morley insists that this term refers to specifically to "wiretapping." Morley says that this clearance request is significant because the CIA was wiretapping Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) members at the time and Oswald was later picked up by agency surveillance during his visit to Mexico City.

At least one media outlet attached an importance to the Joannides document that was unwarranted but understandable in light of the attention Morley was attracting. Newsweek reported that the Joannides clearance request was "new" (it has been around since 2004) and that it had been obtained by a recent MFF lawsuit. But attorney Lawrence Schnapf, who filed the lawsuit, told me that no documents had been uncovered by the legal action.

Morley's characterization of the evidence in the Joannides matter seems to depend on who he is communicating with at any given moment. In early 2022, Morley responded to an article by JFK document expert Robert Reynolds that was understandably critical of his research methods. In that piece, Morley again mentioned the Joannides clearance request. When Reynolds criticized Morley for claiming he had "proof" of CIA complicity in the assassination, Morley admonished him. "I have never said, written or believed that I have 'proof' of CIA’s complicity" Morley wrote.

Morley went on to explain that the "most plausible explanation" for the fact that the CIA is withholding material is "there are CIA 'sources and methods'–perhaps an operation–concerning Lee Harvey Oswald that has to be hidden." Morley also told Reynolds "I don’t make many assumptions about documents I can’t see" and that he was "waiting for full disclosure before I jump to conclusions" (emphasis added). What a difference a year makes. Morley has indeed leapt feet first into an unwarranted conclusion. And his reasonable characterization of a "possible" operation has morphed into "smoking gun" proof (in 44 documents that Morley hasn't seen) of an "undisclosed Oswald operation."

What has prompted this shift in Morley's belief regarding the alleged operation? Evidently Morley's exasperation after the nearly two decade battle he has waged with the CIA coupled with his desire to bring media attention to his cause are the only factors that resulted in the change from "possible" operation to "smoking gun" proof. Indeed, Morley admits that "the shroud of operational secrecy [that] still surrounds documentation of the CIA’s interest in Lee Harvey Oswald while JFK was still alive" is the "JFK news of 2022." This "news" and the endorsement of his cohort and former CIA employee Rolf Mowatt-Larssen gave Morley the "confidence" to write about the "smoking gun" proof despite a lack of compelling evidence for it.

Getting back to the document that Morley displayed at the presser, he has stated that it contains "evidence of the undisclosed Oswald operation." His eBook Morley v. CIA: My Unfinished JFK Investigation provides a clue to what he finds so suspicious and "significant" about this document:

Two blocks of redacted text indicated that two officials had responded. Their comments, dated June 1, 1963, were entirely censored, save a handwritten notation: “OK.” Joannides’ clearance had been approved. If nothing else, the memo was proof positive that Joannides was handling extraordinarily sensitive missions in the summer of 1963.

Similarly, in his "smoking gun" blog article a caption below the Joannides clearance request reads "Smoking gun? This key JFK file from May 1963 is still heavily redacted." So, Morley wants to know who the officials were and what other information might have been redacted. I set out to see if that information was discernible through a study of similar documents.

Here is the document which the CIA provided to Morley back in 2004:

The first sentence reads "the above individual is under consideration for clearance for special intelligence." When you search the MFF website for that phrase, you get 40 hits in documents. Unsurprisingly, these documents are also requests for clearance for special intelligence and contain names familiar to those who have studied the CIA during this period. David Phillips, Howard Hunt, Guy Vitale, Barney (Balmes) Hidalgo and Calvin Hicks are some of the officers who, like Joannides, were under consideration for special clearance.

Without exception, the unredacted parts of these documents refer to not what the clearance was for but instead discuss if the applicant was qualified to receive the clearance usually through a cursory examination of their family background. For example, Guy Vitale's unredacted clearance request from 1960 contains handwritten notes that say his father was born in Italy in 1871. Also handwritten is "OK for SI" an obvious reference to special intelligence.

Vitale's clearance request also reveals the designation "DDP," short for Directorate of Plans, next to his name. This is likely the same designation that is redacted in the Joannides document. Vitale's document also reveals to whom the Joannides request was likely sent—the Chief of the Personnel Security Division.

Looking at the clearance request for Barney Hidalgo, there are extensive handwritten additions. These notes again discuss Hidalgo's family background and say "OK for SI." Note that Joannides was born in Greece, so it is likely that the large redactions in his clearance request, like Vitale, Hidalgo and others, concern family background.

Researcher Larry Haapanen sent me a document that details the reason behind the agency's concern about family background of certain employees. The document notes that individuals cleared for special intelligence "should be of native born parents." Haapanen also pointed out that Joannides' May 1963 special intelligence clearence request was likely triggered ahead of his promotion as Chief of Psychological Warfare at JM/WAVE, a position he assumed in late July.

The identities of two of the individuals who are responsible for reviewing the clearance request are revealed. They are John F. Meredith and Henry E. Thomas. The latter was the Chief of the OS (Office of Security) Special Clearance Center as of November 1962 which was the date of Hidalgo's clearance request. Note that this is only a few months before the Joannides request of May 1963. So, it is likely that the names of Meredith and/or Thomas (or perhaps their successors) are are among those on the Joannides document.

Finally, Morley highlighted a redaction in yellow to the right of "OK" in the the Joannides document. But there is no mystery here. When looking at the clearance request for Joseph Piccolo we see the following:

So, the redaction to the right of "OK" in the Joannides document is almost certainly "SI" meaning Joannides was approved for special intelligence, a fact that Morley already knows.

In conclusion, the Joannides clearance request that Morley presented at the MFF press conference and claimed was "significant" is not. It is a standard request no different from those of several other prominent CIA officers of the period. And the document will almost certainly not contain information about the special intelligence that Joannides was cleared for. The presentation of the document by Morley at the press conference gave a false impression that it held special significance and led to at least one inaccurate media report.

Jefferson Morley should look before he leaps and stick to his early 2022 statements to Reynolds when evaluating the evidence in the George Joannides matter. That is, he should qualify an "Oswald operation" as "possible" rather than being a "smoking gun", he should not make assumptions about documents he hasn't seen and he should wait for the documents to be disclosed before "jumping to conclusions."

Thanks to Robert Reynolds for his assistance with this article.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

More Morley Misinformation 2

On his Substack blog, journalist turned conspiracy advocate Jefferson Morley claims that you should subscribe to his site "To support the authoritative journalism that seeks to clarify the causes of JFK's assassination and to abolish the official secrecy that still surrounds it." Unfortunately rather than "clarifying" anything Morley is continuing to spread misinformation. For example, at the December 6th Mary Ferrell Foundation Press Conference, Morley said this:

David Atlee Phillips was the case officer who helped create and fund the DRE-AMSPELL operation and there is [a] credible uncorroborated uh report that Phillips was seen in Oswald's company in Dallas in 1963 ... What exact role [Phillips] played we don't know because we don't have the documents.

But as I showed HERE, Phillips was never a DRE "case officer." This Morley claim is evidently based on the book Flawed Patriot by Bayard Stockton. While Stockton did indeed claim that Phillips was the group's first case officer, he offered no citation. And my study of the DRE's founding showed no evidence that Phillips "created" or "funded" the group only that he may have recommended them to the CIA hierarchy.

Waiting to meet the DRE founders when they got off the boat in Miami was not Phillips but Ross Crozier (the real first case officer) and William Kent.

As for the "credible uncorroborated"(?) report, that is a reference to the ramblings of Antonio Veciana which I wrote an entire book about. The last paragraph of that tome reads:

Probably the most consequential conclusion in this book is one that was first provided by [Gaeton] Fonzi himself in his HSCA writeup. He wrote, “No corroboration was found for Veciana's alleged meeting with Lee Harvey Oswald.” Absent such confirmation, the Veciana story goes nowhere.

Seated beside Morley at the MFF presser was Fernand Amandi, a political analyst who thinks Veciana was “one of history’s most important individuals.” So, perhaps the recent misinformation campaign by Morley should not be a surprise.

Another claim from the presser that Morley repeated on the Glen Beck Show, is that the FBI's COINTELPRO was a "joint CIA-FBI program." But the Church Committee, which studied intelligence abuses, said it was "an FBI program." Morley seems intent on spreading this bit of misinformation to promote his theory that the CIA (through the DRE) and the FBI worked to create a "legend" that Oswald was a Castro supporter. Apparently Oswald's wife Marina and Marine Corps pal Nelson Delgado also worked to create this "legend" since they confirmed Oswald's pro-Castro proclivities.

During a dramatic audio-visual presentation, Morley showed the same phony 544 Camp Street handbill that was used in the Oliver Stone film Destiny Betrayed. Fred Litwin explained this issue in a recent blog article.

One piece of misinformation from the presser came not from Morley but from his friend Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former CIA employee. Mowatt-Larssen said "I don't see how you can make it [the case for withholding documents] when our own government has established that there probably was a rogue conspiracy to kill the President." Morley greeted this remark with laughter.

But as Morley knows and Mowatt-Larssen should know, the government-endorsed "conspiracy to kill the President" was based on the HSCA acoustics issue. But that claim has been thoroughly debunked for years. Interested readers may consult Nick Nalli's review of Josiah Thompson's Last Second in Dallas for an excellent and reasonably concise summary of the matter. Those looking to dig deeper may see Louis T. Girdler's review of Thompson.

Of course, the biggest whopper from the press conference was Morley's claim that 44 documents from the file of George Joannides withheld by the CIA "include information about a CIA operation involving Lee Harvey Oswald that has never been disclosed." Since Morley has not seen the documents how can he know what they say?

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Morley's "New Story"


Conspiracy gadfly Jefferson Morley recently published a four-part series at his Substack blog. This series of articles tries to bolster his unsubstantiated claim that the "proof" of an "undisclosed Oswald operation" managed by the CIA is found in 44 files of CIA officer George Joannides still withheld by the agency. Morley also maintains that his work has led to the emergence of a "new story" that is now being promoted by a suddenly sympathetic media.

This article is part of a ongoing effort to fact check Morley's claims. Quotes by Morley appear in green.


In November 2021, the Washington Post published a piece attributing the enduring skepticism about the Warren Commission to, yes homophobia.

Morley is referring to an article by Alicia Long, author of the book Cruising for Conspirators which chronicled the homophobic nature of the Jim Garrison probe in New Orleans. But as Morley was informed months ago, neither Long's book nor her Wapo article asserts that skepticism of the Warren Commission critics is founded in homophobia. See my piece from January of 2022 that discussed Morley's similar assertions about Long published in Counterpunch.

Also see Fred Litwin's article correcting Morley's false claims on this matter.

Destiny Betrayed

Morley thinks that Destiny Betrayed, Oliver Stone's "documentary" on the JFK assassination is "factually sound" and that critics of the film were "uninformed about Kennedy’s assassination and/or prejudiced" against Stone. But Fred Litwin, who is certainly not "uninformed" about the JFK case, has written extensively on the film and its shorter counterpart JFK Revisited. He found innumerable glaring errors and inconsistencies.

JFK Story "Recast"

The JFK story was recast. The JFK story was not framed as a question of conspiracy. It was framed as a question of accountability, yes or no?

This might be true if it were not for the December 6th press conference. That briefing was very much about Morley's conspiracy theories which he admits generated "even more favorable news coverage" than the lawsuit.

... mainstream news organizations discovered a credible source—the Mary Ferrell Foundation—offering a new and credible narrative of the JFK story that conflicted with the narrative laid down by the White House and mainstream news organizations—-and had nothing to do with the eternal conspiracy question.

Again, both the lawsuit and the December 6th press conference were the product of MFF members who are among the strongest advocates for a conspiracy in the death of JFK. So, saying that this is a "new and credible narrative of the JFK story" that has "nothing" to do with the "conspiracy question" is disingenuous.

A Major Break or just Another Theory?

Our [Morley and Rolf Mowatt-Larssen] presentation led to a breakthrough in my JFK journalism six months later, which complemented the Mary Ferrell Foundation’s lawsuit and generated even more favorable news coverage for the cause of full JFK disclosure.

But I have adopted [Mowatt-Larssen's] methodology, his framework for understanding Kennedy’s assassination: as the product of a tightly-held (“compartmentalized”) operation known only to a very few, very skilled covert operators. I don’t swear on this as Historical Truth, but I think it makes a lot of sense.

There are several problems with Mowatt-Larssen's ideas. I wrote about some of these in more detail HERE. One such difficulty is the coffee klatch of housewives that resulted in Lee Harvey Oswald getting a job at the Texas School Book Depository and thus being in a position to commit the murder of JFK. The "tightly-held" theory of Mowatt-Larssen quickly evaporates since, by my count, at least 10 people would have to be involved with placing Oswald in the building. If Morley and/or Mowatt-Larssen are ready to document how the assassination occurred, I'm all ears. But that is unlikely to happen since Morley admits they "debate fruitlessly."

MFF lawyers asked me to come up with compelling examples of JFK documents that were still being kept secret. ... I came up with ten, including the files of George Joannides, ...

One of the ten files that Morley mentions is that of David Atlee Phillips one of the agency's outstanding covert officers during the cold war. Morley spent much of his book Our Man in Mexico pursuing Phillips as a suspect in the JFK murder as I documented HERE. That quest has apparently now been abandoned for the greener pastures of the "Oswald operation" allegedly managed by Joannides.

And that I realized, was the JFK news of 2022: the shroud of operational secrecy the still surrounds documentation of the CIA’s interest in Lee Harvey Oswald while JFK was still alive. What was new—and newsworthy—is the pattern of secrecy discernible in the Joannides file.

In other words, Morley's "smoking gun" proof of the "undisclosed Oswald Operation" is the fact that the CIA will not provide him with access to the Joannides files. So, he really has no proof. He only has a theory which is no better than any of the dozens of other conspiracy theories about the death of JFK offered through the years. And common sense says that if Morley had proof he would have presented it at the presser. Instead, he regurgitated a series of unproven ideas.

The story of the undisclosed Oswald operation is jarring because it is factual, not conspiratorial or anti-conspiratorial.

Let's be clear. There exists no "factual" proof of an "undisclosed Oswald operation." It is simply a Morley theory until he provides compelling evidence. Is it possible that there was such an operation? Anything is possible, although it is unlikely in the extreme.

The reason I say that is because ARRB researcher Michelle Combs looked at the Joannides file (for the years 1961-64 and 1978-79) and found that it contained "very general" information that had "no specific reference to his relationship with the DRE" and no "information relevant to the assassination."

Similarly, Judge John Tunheim, who Morley implies is of the same mindset as himself, said as recently as the December 6th press conference that there are "no bombshells" in the JFK collection. And an "undisclosed Oswald operation" would certainly qualify as a "bombshell." Finally, Carlos Bringuier told Dale Myers that he never received a nickel from the CIA and did not know Joannides.

It is very unfortunate that not one of the journalists or news organizations that Morley mentions including Marc Caputo, Axios, Brian Pfaill, and The Daily Beast thought to ask how the fact that the CIA has withheld certain files proves an "undisclosed Oswald operation." Nor did these journalists ask how an ARRB researcher failed to find evidence of such an operation.

Let's assume though, for the sake of argument, that there was an operation. Joannides became aware of Oswald and directed the DRE to find him and make the public aware of his pro-Castro sentiments and his defection to the Soviet Union (which was public knowledge anyway). How would the CIA's and the DRE's natural desire to embarrass and minimize Oswald prove that they conspired to kill JFK? And how did a "tightly-held" group of conspirators manage to frame Oswald for the murder of JFK and Officer Tippit? Morley offers no answers to these questions.

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