A top-secret CIA report written in 2013 has revealed that the head of the CIA at the time of JFK’s death, John McCone, hid information from the Warren Commission (set-up to investigate Kennedy’s assassination) that implicated the CIA in being responsible for the former presidents death.
The report says that McCone was part of a cover-up at the CIA which falsely accused Lee Harvey Oswald for President Kennedy’s assassination in order to take the heat off the spy agency.
The most important information that McCone withheld from the commission in its 1964 investigation, the report found, was the existence, for years, of CIA plots to assassinate Castro, some of which put the CIA in cahoots with the Mafia. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.
While raising no question about the essential findings of the Warren Commission, including that Oswald was the gunman in Dallas, the 2013 report is important because it comes close to an official CIA acknowledgement—half a century after the fact—of impropriety in the agency’s dealings with the commission.
The cover-up by McCone and others may have been “benign,” in the report’s words, but it was a cover-up nonetheless, denying information to the commission that might have prompted a more aggressive investigation of Oswald’s potential Cuba ties.
Initially stamped “SECRET/NOFORN,” meaning it was not to be shared outside the agency or with foreign governments, Robarge’s report was originally published as an article in the CIA’s classified internal magazine, Studies in Intelligence, in September 2013, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.
The article, drawn from a still-classified 2005 biography of McCone written by Robarge, was declassified quietly last fall and is now available on the website of George Washington University’s National Security Archive.
In a statement to Politico, the CIA said it decided to declassify the report “to highlight misconceptions about the CIA’s connection to JFK’s assassination,” including the still-popular conspiracy theory that the spy agency was somehow behind the assassination. (Articles in the CIA magazine are routinely declassified without fanfare after internal review.)
Robarge’s article says that McCone, quickly convinced after the assassination that Oswald had acted alone and that there was no foreign conspiracy involving Cuba or the Soviet Union, directed the agency to provide only “passive, reactive and selective” assistance to the Warren Commission. This portrait of McCone suggests that he was much more hands-on in the CIA’s dealings with the commission—and in the agency’s post-assassination scrutiny of
Oswald’s past—than had previously been known. The report quotes another senior CIA official, who heard McCone say that he intended to “handle the whole (commission) business myself, directly.”
The report offers no conclusion about McCone’s motivations, including the question of why he would go to lengths to cover up CIA activities that mostly predated his time at the agency. But it suggests that the Johnson White House might have directed McCone to hide the information.
McCone “shared the administration’s interest in avoiding disclosures about covert actions that would circumstantially implicate [the] CIA in conspiracy theories and possibly lead to calls for a tough US response against the perpetrators of the assassination,” the article says. “If the commission did not know to ask about covert operations about Cuba, he was not going to give them any suggestions about where to look.”