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Why Won’t the CIA Release Its Joannides Files?

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At JFKfacts.org, which is the best website for keeping up with matters relating to the Kennedy assassination, the website’s editor, Jefferson Morley, who used to be a reporter for the Washington Post, had two related postings.

One posting asked people to post requests at the National Archives’ blog site to release the 1,100 records that the CIA continues to keep secret from the American people. That posting is here.

The other posting relates to an interview that a former staff member on the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s, Dan Hardway, recently had at Black Ops Radio. That posting is here.

Hardway was a law student when he went to work for the House Select Committee, which was reinvestigating the Kennedy assassination. He and another young staffer, Edwin Lopez, who was also a law student, were assigned to delve into CIA files relating to the assassination.

The CIA required them to do all their work at CIA headquarters. They could take notes but could not remove the notes or anything else from the building. At first the CIA was cooperative, bringing whatever records Hardway and Lopez were requesting.

At some point, however, when it became clear that the two staffers knew what they were doing and where they were going, the CIA abruptly abandoned its cooperative attitude. It instead brought in a CIA agent named George Joannides to serve as the CIA representative with whom the two staffers would now have to deal. From that point on, Joannides succeeded in blocking and obstructing the investigation being conducted by Hardway and Lopez.

Many years later, after Joannides had passed away, it was learned that Joannides was a rather interesting selection to serve as the CIA’s liaison with the House Select Committee. Why? Because by that time he had already retired from the CIA. Rather than simply call on an active CIA official to serve as the CIA’s contact with Hardway and Lopez, for some reason the CIA deemed it important to call Joannides out of retirement to serve as the CIA’s contact man.

As people later found out, there was another interesting twist to the Joannides selection. He had actually played an interesting role in matters relating to the Kennedy assassination, a role that both he and the CIA, for some reason that is still unknown, kept secret from the Warren Commission in 1964 and from the House Select Committee in the 1970s.

When Lee Harvey Oswald moved to New Orleans in the summer of 1963, he had an interesting encounter with an anti-Castro group known as the DRE. When Oswald first met with the head of the DRE, a man named Carlos Bringuier, Oswald offered to help out the anti-communist DRE, which was a rather odd offer given that Oswald was supposed to be a devout communist.

Later, however, while passing out pamphlets for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a national organization that the CIA and the FBI were trying to destroy pursuant to their ardent anti-communist mindsets, Oswald got into a public altercation with Brinquier, which resulted in lots of publicity for Oswald and his affiliation with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

As a side note, another interesting twist to this story is that some of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee pamphlets that Oswald was distributing had the same return address stamped on them where a retired FBI agent named Guy Bannister, who had ties to U.S. intelligence, had his offices. In fact, witnesses said they sometimes saw Oswald in Bannister’s offices.

One of the interesting byproducts of the Kennedy assassination was that soon after JFK’s assassination, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee went out of business, in large part because of its purported affiliation with Oswald. What was also interesting is that Oswald was the only member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans and, in fact, had set up the chapter himself.

So, where does Joannides fit in this tale? It turns out that in 1963, he was serving as the CIA’s contact man for the DRE. Not only that, he was also responsible for delivering large sums of CIA money to the DRE to help fund its activities. Thus, there is a good possibility that Joannides was fully aware of those contacts that Oswald had with the DRE, both when he offered his services to the anti-Castro organization and when he had his much-publicized altercation with the DRE.

It gets more interesting. Immediately after Oswald was apprehended, the DRE went on the offensive, issuing statements to the press detailing Oswald’s purported devotion to communism. Thus, there is a good possibility that Joannides was fully aware of the details and strategy behind that publicity campaign by the DRE.

In fact, while it has always been assumed that Joannides lived in Miami when he was serving as the CIA contact with the DRE, the CIA, according to Morley, recently admitted in a court filing that Joannides was actually living in New Orleans when Oswald made contact with the DRE in the summer of 1963.

Many years ago, Morley brought suit against the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act seeking the disclosure of the CIA’s records on Joannides, especially those relating to his relationship with the DRE. The CIA fought the suit fiercely. Ultimately, the federal courts ruled in favor of the CIA, accepting the agency’s representations that disclosure of the Joannides records would threaten “national security.”

To this day the CIA steadfastly refuses to disclose the Joannides files to the American people, along with some 1,100 other records relating to the assassination, records that consist of tens of thousands of pages.

Whatever strained meaning one puts on the term “national security,” how in the world would the disclosure of the Joannides files to the public put America into jeopardy? After all, the Kennedy assassination took place 50 years ago, supposedly by a lone nut communist Marine. Surely the CIA doesn’t believe that the disclosure of the files would subject the United States to a communist takeover or that it would start the dominoes falling in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. There’s got to be another reason for keeping the Joannides files under wraps, one other than “national security.”

When the counsel for the House Select Committee, G. Robert Blakey, and the chairman of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s, federal Judge John R. Tunheim, learned that the CIA had deliberately kept Joannides’s relationship with the DRE secret from both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee, they were outraged over the CIA’s misconduct. Both of them held that that the information should have been disclosed to the Warren Commission and to the House Select Committee and that Joannides never have been serving as the CIA’s contact man for the House Select Committee. Instead, he should have been testifying as a witness. By the time the CIA’s deception was uncovered, however, Joannides could no longer testify because he was dead. The decades of CIA secrecy had inured to the agency’s benefit.

So, why is the CIA still fighting to keep the Joannides records secret and, indeed, those 1,100 other records relating to the Kennedy assassination?

Good question!

Update: See “Who Was George Joannides and Why Is His Story Important” by Jefferson Morley, posted November 15 at JFKfacts.org.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.