Last week, over 3,800 CIA and FBI documents related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy were released to the public. To put the release in context, we spoke with John Newman, a leading historian of the conspiracy.
2 August, 2017 | Pacific Standard Magazine | Jack Denton |
Few events in American history have been the subject of as much intrigue as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That morbid fascination has stemmed not only from from what is known by the public, but—even more centrally—what isn't. The long-murky record around the event has made it fertile ground for conspiracy theories and historiographic debate, in part because a number of intelligence agency documents surrounding the assassination have remained classified. Last week, the National Archives and Records Administration substantially expanded the public record of the assassination, with a surprise release of 3,810 previously classified or redacted documents from the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation related to the assassination. The document dump should help clear up the mystery, at least a little.
Through fits and starts over decades, the availability of these intelligence agency records to historians and the American public has inched ever closer to transparency. In 1964, a commission headed by then-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Earl Warren published a report on the assassination, which concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald had acted alone. The Warren report included with it a few thousand pages of supporting documents, but several million pages of records pertaining to the assassination were ordered sealed for 75 years. The year 1991 saw the release of Oliver Stone's controversial film JFK, which suggested that American intelligence agencies might have played an important role in Kennedy's murder. The film and surrounding media hysteria renewed interest in the assassination's narrative, and eventually resulted in the passage of the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act in 1992. This act forced the release of 88 percent of the previously sealed records over the next few years. The remaining roughly 70,000 pages were to remain fully classified or heavily redacted for 25 years, when all of the documents were to be released in full, barring the intercession of the president. Though the 25-year deadline for full release is October 26th, 2017, about a quarter of the remaining files were released early last week.
For John Newman, like many JFK record-watchers, the early release came as an unexpected Christmas in July. Newman is a retired major in the United States Army, where he served for 21 years as an intelligence officer in China, Thailand, and Japan, often working closely with the National Security Agency. A chance meeting introduced Newman and Stone, and resulted in Newman working as a consultant for the JFK screenplay. He says he wrote nine scenes for the film—"all the Vietnam stuff." As Newman tells it, the NSA attempted to suppress the publication of his history Ph.D. dissertation, JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue,and the Struggle for Power (which served as source material for the Stone film). Now a professor of political science at James Madison University, he has published four history books related to the Kennedy assassination (with more on the way). His work has long been considered relatively hawkish with respect to its conviction regarding CIA involvement in the assassination, a hawkishness that he says has been continually vindicated by each release of more documents.
To understand the significance of last week's release, Pacific Standard caught up with Newman, after he and his team had already blazed through several thousand pages of the newly released and un-redacted documents.
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For decades, those investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy have been eagerly anticipating the release of previously withheld documents scheduled for later this year, October 26. One major question that remains is whether President Donald Trump will use his authority to further keep these documents from the public eye.(1)
Fifty-four years is long enough.
The potential for discovery represented by the recent and upcoming release of remaining government files on the Kennedy assassination was realized this week with the startling revelation that beginning in 1956, Earle Cabell, brother of Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Charles P. Cabell and Mayor of Dallas at the time JFK was assassinated, was a CIA asset.
We are now able to review his 10/17/56 CIA Secrecy Agreement, his CIA 201 file cover sheet, his 5/13/57 CIA Personality 201 File Request, and a cover sheet indicating that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) reviewed his 201 file. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) master listing of files scheduled for release indicates that the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) classified these records as “Not Believed Relevant” (NBR). ARRB Director Judge John Tunheim, speaking at the National Press Club during a CAPA sponsored event this past March, said that he now believes that many of the NBR-designated documents are indeed relevant. With the benefit of hindsight, that may have been an understatement.
The passage of many days, months, or years may be necessary for information to be placed in the correct context and understood as being significant. The example of George Joannides, who was brought out of retirement to act as liaison between the Agency and the HSCA, is a case in point. Joannides’ role as the CIA case officer for the DRE (Revolutionary Student Directorate), an anti-Castro group with which Lee Harvey Oswald had interacted in the summer of 1963 in New Orleans, was withheld by the agency throughout the term of the HSCA which was investigating CIA connections to the group. When asked directly if Joannides could assist the HSCA by identifying the officer who had handled the DRE during the summer of 1963, he responded by saying, “I’ll look into that.” Perhaps the CIA did not feel that revealing Joannides’ true identity to the Committee investigators was “assassination-related.”
The official ARRB classification “assassination-related” was not limited to issues or evidence pertaining exclusively to the scene of the crime.
Dr. John Newman argues that real progress in solving the JFK assassination will not come to those who await a smoking-gun revelation, but will be possible if we first have an understanding of the internal language of US government cryptonyms and pseudonyms. Only by establishing the true identities of the actors — and their locations and activities — can we hope to separate fact from fiction in this mystifying saga.
That has been his goal in a series of publications on America’s untold history over the last three decades. As a retired strategic intelligence cryptologic analyst for US Army Intelligence and the former military assistant to the director of the National Security Agency, Newman has some unique qualifications. His works on the cold war and America’s involvement in Vietnam have been recognized by many, including Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and former CIA Director William Colby to be among the most authoritative and significant yet published. In past publications he correctly foretold what we are now seeing in the 2017 release of JFK records.
His 1991 book, JFK and Vietnam, documents Kennedy’s navigation of a dangerous course through cold war hot spots and a very divided administration. What eventually emerged is an astonishingly dishonorable deception: a deliberate attempt to manipulate the President of the United States into authorizing a war policy to which he was fundamentally opposed. The media firestorm created by that thesis, that JFK was committed to withdrawing from Vietnam at the time of his death, and obstructions such as the book’s suppression by Warner Books after only five months on the bookshelves, did little to dissuade Newman from pursuing the story wherever it might lead.
It led to Oswald and the CIA. Published in 1995, his second book used the enormous collection of federal agency documents newly released by the ARRB to explore the CIA’s keen operational interest in Lee Harvey Oswald. It focused on the people and organizations who opened and maintained Oswald’s intelligence files for four years prior to the president’s assassination, and it provided evidence to explore the question of whether Oswald might have been a false defector when he left the US for the Soviet Union in 1959. [See Countdown to Darkness, Chapters One and Eighteen for a detailed account of that story.]
Newman re-entered the JFK case in 2015 with the publication of Where Angels Tread Lightly: The Assassination of President Kennedy, Volume One. The updated and expanded second edition of JFK and Vietnam appeared in January 2017, as did Volume Two in Newman’s series on the assassination, Countdown to Darkness.
CONTINUE READING AT WHO.WHAT.WHY.
August 2, 2017 | WhoWhatWhy Staff
Here is the first major revelation from the historic release of previously withheld government records on the JFK Assassination: the mayor of Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was killed in that city was a CIA asset.
We were alerted to this salient fact by retired military intelligence officer and author John Newman, who is conducting a thorough analysis of the long-secret documents.
At the time of the assassination, Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell, brother of one-time Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Charles P. Cabell, had been a CIA asset since 1956.
Read more at Who.What.Why.
Author-led discussion of The Assassination of President Kennedy, Volume 1:
Where Angels Tread Lightly.
READ A TRANSCRIPT HERE
July 22, 2005 | Dr. John M. Newman | Clip Of September 11 Commission Report Results
September 11 Commission Report Results, Pt. 1 Families of victims, former intelligence officials, and authors spoke at a daylong forum on the September 11 Commission Report. They focused on the methodology of the investigation, recommendations made by the commission, causes of the attacks, and government responses to the attacks. The first half of the forum included such topics as flaws in the process, a call for accountability, foreknowledge and forewarnings of 9/11, as well as omissions and errors in the Commissions' final report. There were also question and answer discussions between the participants.
January 4, 2010 | Afghanistan and Vietnam
Major John Newman talked about President Kennedy’s handling of Vietnam and compared his policy toward Vietnam with President Obama’s Afghanistan policy. He also responded to telephone calls and electronic communications.