A few readers have asked me to drop the other shoe. An earlier post mentioned the late former CIA Director Richard Helms, and I hinted that I knew a cute story about him. Time to tell it.
In 1993, PBS broadcast a rather infamous Frontline
special on Lee Harvey Oswald. I say "infamous" not just because the show favored the lone nut scenario -- no surprise there
-- but because, during production, certain spooked-up pseudo-journalists associated with the show (I'm thinking particularly of a guy named Gus
) privately told JFK researchers that the program would establish, once and for all, that LHO had worked for the CIA. This lie bought a lot of cooperation which otherwise might not have been forthcoming.
The program featured an interview with Helms, perhaps the cagiest and shiftiest of the CIA chieftains. Oliver Stone's Nixon
originally contained a deleted scene in which the whites of Helms' eyes suddenly go black. The scene should have stayed in the movie, because its poetic truth is undeniable.
Former Army Intelligence officer John Newman, author of a supremely important work called Oswald and the CIA
, also appeared on that Frontline
special. After his scenes were shot, he remained on the set while Richard Helms took his turn in front of the cameras.
Before we proceed with this story, you must understand one thing: Over the years, the CIA has always maintained that no-one from the Agency -- indeed, no-one from the entire government -- had debriefed Lee Harvey Oswald after the supposed defector returned to the United States. During the interview, Helms repeated this story.
When the cameras stopped, Newman stepped forward and asked: ""Mr. Director, what would be so bad about the CIA interviewing Oswald on his return from Russia? I mean, isn't that what they were supposed
to do? Doesn't it therefore look bad if you say you didn't?"
Helms thought it over, and somewhere beneath those all-ebony eyes, a lightbulb went on. He said: "You're right."
And then he told the director that he wanted to re-film part of the interview. This time, he would say that the CIA did
The director decided not to roll the cameras again. Too bad. I would have loved to see the two versions of that statement spliced together. Such a comparison not only would have proved the CIA's willingness to lie in the JFK case, it would have told Americans how to react whenever the spook leadership (I'm thinking particularly of a guy named Keith
) says: "Hey, you can trust us
The question arises: Why wouldn't
the CIA debrief Oswald?
Turns out, they did. We know this from a guy named Don Deneselya, who had worked as a translator for CIA in 1962. Deneselya told Professor Joan Mellen that, to his certain knowledge, Oswald was indeed a fake defector, working for the CIA all along. Upon his return, LHO was interviewed by one Andy Anderson, who reported directly to Robert Crowley, who was very close to...
...wait for it...
...Jim Angleton. The ultra-paranoid Angleton, ostensibly the head of counterintelligence, ran a CIA-within-the-CIA. He was (as that guy in Inception
might have put it) a man of some radical notions. For one thing, Angleton denied the reality of the split between China and the USSR. For another thing, he concluded that British PM Harold Wilson and Swedish PM Olaf Palme were Soviet agents.
Some of you may be familiar with what happened to those two guys. Wilson was the victim of an epic smear campaign; Palme was murdered.
Angleton drank a lot (and by "a lot," I mean a lot
) and he had private motives for his many resentments. A dangerous man to hold such power.
I believe that Angelton masterminded the hit against JFK. This review of Newman's book
gives some of my reasons. Basically, we have much evidence indicating that Angleton ran LHO all along. The whole "Oswald in Mexico" excursion has Angleton's fingerprints all over it.
I don't think that Oswald ever actually went to Mexico. His wife denied it. J. Edgar Hoover privately said LHO had been impersonated. Oswald was seen in Texas at a time when he was supposedly traveling south. The "Oswald" photographed and recorded by CIA operatives in Mexico looked and sounded nothing like the real guy.
The CIA station chief in Mexico, Win Scott, had tapes of the psuedo-Oswald stashed in his safe. When Scott died in 1971, a high-ranking CIA officer -- in such a rush that he forgot his passport -- flew down to Mexico to grab the contents of that safe. The name of that officer was...
...wait for it...
...James Jesus Angleton.
He had a history of such burglaries. There was the time when his "mole" in French intelligence, Philippe di Vosjoli, helped him break into the French embassy. (Alfred Hitchock's worst movie, Topaz
, gives a ludicrously false accounting of the Angleton/di Vosjoli relationship.) Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post, reported that Angleton broke into Mary Pinchot Meyer's pad after she had been murdered. (Meyer, the estranged wife of CIA man Cord Meyer, reportedly had an affair with Kennedy.)
But my favorite tale of Angletonian burglary involves J. Edgar Hoover's blackmail files.
Cool story, that. I'll tell you all about it on some other