September 9th, 2007

Angleton’s 1966 Memo to Helms re Hunt’s presence in Dallas

Copied below are two famous magazine stories from 1978 regarding a memo that James Jesus Angleton, the notorious and somewhat screwy head of CIA counterintelligence during the agency’s early decades, gave to Richard Helms as the latter assumed directorship of the agency in 1966.

The memo informs incoming director Helms that CIA has a problem: CIA officer E. Howard Hunt was in Dallas when JFK was shot.

The memo surfaced circa 1978 during the investigation of the murders of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King by an ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives: the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

It seems the best guess that the HSCA got hold of the memo via CIA officer Victor Marchetti, who later penned an insider’s critique of the agency, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, 1983.  And it seems the best guess that Marchetti’s source was Marines intelligence officer William Corson, who published his less-than-flattering history of the CIA, Armies of Ignorance: The Rise of the American Intelligence Empire during the heat of the HSCA investigation in 1977.

Whatever the precise chain of custody of the HSCA’s copy, shortly after word was out that the Committe had the memo, Angleton himself showed a copy to journalist Joseph Trento.

The world at large then got wind when Marchetti and Trento each published magazine articles about the memo in August 1978.


Victor Marchetti’s story about the Angleton-Helms memo appeared in a small magazine called The Spotlight.

Its publication led Howard Hunt (who seems to have always been short of cash and successfully sued for libel several times) to sue the publisher — a right-wing fringe unit called Liberty Lobby.

Attorney Mark Lane defended Liberty Lobby, and won. Jury members afterward told the press that it had been demonstrated to their satisfaction that the CIA was complicit in Kennedy’s murder.

This was in 1985. And well ignored by the mainstream press. But you can read all about it in Lane’s must-read book, Plausible Denial.

Here is Victor Marchetti’s story:

The Spotlight — August 14, 1978

A few months ago, in March, there was a meeting at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., the plush home of America’s super spooks overlooking the Potomac River. It was attended by several high-level clandestine officers and some former top officials of the agency.

The topic of discussion was: What to do about recent revelations associating President Kennedy’s accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, with the spy game played between the U.S. and the USSR? (Spotlight, May 8, 1978.) A decision was made, and a course of action determined. They were calculated to both fascinate and confuse the public by staging a clever “limited hangout” when the House Special Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) holds its open hearings, beginning later this month.

A “limited hangout” is spy jargon for a favorite and frequently used gimmick of the clandestine professionals. When their veil of secrecy is shredded and they can no longer rely on a phony cover story to misinform the public, they resort to admitting – sometimes even volunteering some of the truth while still managing to withhold the key and damaging facts in the case. The public, however, is usually so intrigued by the new information that it never thinks to pursue the matter further.

We will probably never find out who masterminded the assassination of JFK – or why. There are too many powerful special interests connected with the conspiracy for the truth to come out even now, 15 years after the murder.

But during the next two months, according to sensitive sources in the CIA and on HSCA, we are going to learn much more about the crime. The new disclosures will be sensational, but only superficially so. A few of the lesser villains involved in the conspiracy and its subsequent coverup will be identified for the first time – and allowed to twist slowly in the wind on live network TV. Most of the others to be fingered are already dead.

But once again the good folks of middle America will be hoodwinked by the government and its allies in the establishment news media. In fact, we are being set up to witness yet another coverup, albeit a sophisticated one, designed by the CIA with the assistance of the FBI and the blessing of the Carter administration.

A classic example of a limited hangout is how the CIA has handled and manipulated the Church Committee’s investigation of two years ago. The committee learned nothing more about the assassinations of foreign leaders, illicit drug programs, or the penetration of the news media than the CIA allowed it to discover. And this is precisely what the CIA is out to accomplish through HSCA with regard to JFK’s murder.

Chief among those to be exposed by the new investigation will be E. Howard Hunt, of Watergate fame. His luck has run out, and the CIA has decided to sacrifice him to: protect its clandestine services. The agency is furious with Hunt for having dragged it publicly into the Nixon mess and for having blackmailed it after he was arrested.

Besides, Hunt is vulnerable — an easy target as they say in the spy business. His reputation and integrity have been destroyed. The death of his wife, Dorothy, in a mysterious plane crash in Chicago still disturbs many people, especially since there were rumors from informed sources that she was about to leave him and perhaps even turn on him.

In addition it is well known that Hunt hated JFK and blamed him for the Bay of Pigs disaster. And now, in recent months, his alibi for his whereabouts on the day of the shooting has come unstuck.

In the public hearings, the CIA will “admit” that Hunt was involved in the conspiracy to kill Kennedy. The CIA may go so far as to “admit” that there were three gunmen shooting at Kennedy. The FBI, while publicly embracing the Warren Commission’s “one man acting alone” conclusion, has always privately known that there were three gunmen. The conspiracy involved many more people than the ones who actually fired at Kennedy, both agencies may now admit.

A.J. Weberman and Michael Canfield, authors of Coup d’Etat in America, published pictures of three apparent bums who were arrested at Dealy Plaza just after President Kennedy’s murder, but who were strangely released without any record of the arrest having been made by the Dallas police. One of the tramps the authors identified as Hunt. Another was Frank Sturgis, a long time agent of Hunt’s.

Hunt immediately sued for millions of dollars in damages, claiming he could prove that he had been in Washington D.C. that day-on duty at CIA. It turned out, however, that this was not true. So, he said that he had been on leave and doing household errands, including a shopping trip to a grocery store in Chinatown.

Weberman and Canfield investigated the new alibi and found that the grocery store where Hunt claimed to be shopping never existed. At this point, Hunt offered to drop his suit for a token payment of one dollar. But the authors were determined to vindicate themselves, and they continued to attack Hunt’s alibi, ultimately completely shattering it.

Now, the CIA moved to finger Hunt and tie him to the JFK assassination. HSCA unexpectedly received an internal CIA memorandum a few weeks ago that the agency just happened to stumble across in its old files. It was dated 1966 and said in essence: Some day we will have to explain Hunt’s presence in Dallas on November 22, 1963 — the day President Kennedy was killed. Hunt is going to be hard put to explain this memo, and other things, before the TV cameras at the HSCA hearings.

Hunt’s reputation as a strident fanatical anti-communist will count against him. So will his long and close relationship with the anti-Castro Cubans, as well as his penchant for clandestine dirty tricks and his various capers while one of Nixon’s plumbers. E. Howard Hunt will be implicated in the conspiracy and he will not dare to speak out — the CIA will see to that.

In addition to Hunt and Sturgis, another former CIA agent marked for exposure is Gerry Patrick Hemming, a hulk of a man-six feet eight inches tall and weighing 260 pounds. Like Sturgis, Hemming once worked for Castro as a CIA double agent, then later surfaced with the anti-Castro Cubans in various attempts to rid Cuba of the communist dictator. But there are two things in Hemming’s past that the CIA, manipulation HSCA, will be able to use to tie him to the JFK assassination.

First, Castro’s former mistress, Marita Lorenz (now an anti-Castroite herself), has identified Hemming, along with Oswald and others as being part of the secret squad assigned to kill President Kennedy. And secondly, Hemming was Oswald’s Marine sergeant when he was stationed at CIA’s U-2 base in Atsugi, Japan-where Oswald supposedly was recruited as a spy by the Soviets, or was being trained to be a double agent by the CIA.

In any event, Hemming’s Cuban career and his connection with Oswald make the Lorenz story difficult for him to deny, particularly since the squad allegedly also included Hunt and Sturgis.

Who else will be identified as having been part of the conspiracy and/or coverup remains to be seen. But a disturbing pattern is already beginning to emerge. All the villains have been previously disgraced in one way or another. They all have “right wing” reputations. Or they will have after the hearings.

The fact that some may have had connections with organized crime will prove to be only incidental in the long run. Those with provable ties to the CIA or FBI will be presented as renegades who acted on their own without approval or knowledge of their superiors.

As for covering up the deed, that will be blamed on past Presidents, either dead or disgraced. Thus, Carter will emerge as a truth seeker, and the CIA and FBI will have neatly covered their institutional behinds.

The timing of the hearings is another clue of what to expect and why. The committee has scheduled its open sessions of network TV to begin after Congress adjourns for the election campaigns. The first order of business will be the Martin Luther King, Jr. hearings-with James Earl Ray and his family as the star witnesses. Then there will be a short break and the JFK hearings will begin.

The committee plans to conclude its work by early October, just a month before the elections, perfect timing to cash in on the publicity the hearings are certain to create. And perfect timing for the Carterites to get the American public to forget about inflation, taxes, foreign affairs, and other White House blunders and elect a Congress more indebted and responsive to the presidency.



Joseph Trento’s story — co-authored by Jacquie Powers — appeared six days later in a small Washington weekly called The Sunday News Journal.

Trento was a longtime press corps mouthpiece for Angleton, who provided Trento with a copy of the memo to read when Trento specifically inquired about it (having been clued in to its existence by staff at HSCA).

Angleton at this point was no longer with CIA, having been cashiered with predjudice by Director William Colby, who took of the agency with something of a mandate to clean house after its horrific behavior in the 60s. Trento did not reveal his source for the memo until after Angleton’s death.

Here is the Trento-Powers story:

Sunday News Journal — August 20, 1978

A secret CIA memorandum says that E. Howard Hunt was in Dallas the day President John F. Kennedy was murdered and that top agency officials plotted to cover up Hunt’s presence there.

Some CIA sources speculate that Hunt thought he was assigned by higher-ups to arrange the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Sources say Hunt, convicted in the Watergate conspiracy in 1974, was acting chief of the CIA station in Mexico City in the weeks prior to the Kennedy assassination. Oswald was in Mexico City, and met with two Soviet KGB agents at the Russian Embassy there immediately before leaving for Dallas, according to the official Warren Commission report.

The 1966 secret memo, now in the hands of the House assassination committee, places Hunt in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963.

Richard M. Helms, former CIA director, and James Angleton, former counterintelligence chief, initialed the memo according to investigators who made the information available to the Sunday News Journal.

According to sources close to the Select Committee on Assassination, the document reveals:

* Three years after Kennedy’s murder, and shortly after Helms and Angleton were elevated to their highest positions in the CIA, they discussed the fact that Hunt was in Dallas on the day of the assassination and that his presence there had to be kept secret.

* Helms and Angleton thought that news of Hunt’s presence in Dallas would be damaging to the agency should it leak out.

* Helms and Angleton felt that a cover story, giving Hunt an alibi for being elsewhere the day of the assassination, “ought to be considered.”

Hunt, reached Friday at his Miami, Fla., home, denied that he was in Dallas on Nov. 23, 1963, and denied that he had been in Mexico City any time after 1961.

Hunt said that he was in Washington the day of the Kennedy murder. “I have plenty of witnesses. I took off at noon that day and went shopping and had a Chinese dinner in downtown Washington with my wife.”

Hunt said he knew of no reason for such a memo to exist. He said he had he had never heard of the memo’s existence.

CIA sources, who have provided the assassination committee with material pertaining to Hunt’s alleged presence in Dallas, say that Hunt’s story about shopping in downtown Washington was a cover story concocted as a result of the memo. They say all Hunt’s witnesses are CIA arranged and that his wife cannot be questioned because she was killed in a plane crash.

The assassination committee will open hearings this fall on the Kennedy murder.

Dawn Miller, spokeswoman for the committee, said that there would be “no comment on the report of a memo. We will be holding detailed hearings in September. Because of committee rules that is all I am permitted to say.”

Committee sources told the Sunday News Journal that both Helms and Angleton had been questioned by committee investigators but that the issue of the memo was not raised with either witness. Sources say Helms told the committee he could not answer specific questions on the CIA’s involvement because of “an inability to remember dates.”

Helms’s faulty memory on ITT’s involvement in Chile led to his sentencing last year of two counts of withholding information from Congress, a charge reduced from perjury by order of President Carter.

Helms could not be reached for comment. A secretary said that he was out of town and would not be available.

When Angleton was questioned by committee staffers, he was “evasive,” according to a source who was present. Angleton could not be reached for comment.

Asked to explain why a potentially damaging cover-up plot would be put out on paper, one high-level CIA source said, “The memo is very odd. It was almost as if Angleton was informing Helms, who had just become director, that there was a skeleton in the family closet that had to be taken care of and this was his response.”

One committee source says the memo “shows the CIA involvement in the Kennedy case could run into the CIA hierarchy. We are trying not to get ahead of ourselves but the mind boggles.”

As part of its $5-million expenditure on the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations, the committee contracted a Cambridge, Mass., sonics firm to review tape recordings made as shots were fired at the Kennedy motorcade.

The firm has provided the committee’s technical staff with new evidence which shows that four shots and not three were fired at the Kennedy car. Sources say this would have made it impossible for Oswald to act alone.

“Combined with the memo covering up Hunt’s involvement in Dallas that day, what we have so far puts a real dent in the Warren Commission version,” a committee source contends. Helms and Angleton currently are targets of an internal CIA probe and a new Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the possibility that the Soviet KGB penetrated the CIA with a mole, or a high-level double agent.

Cleveland Cram, the former CIA station chief in Ottawa, Canada, was called out of retirement to investigate Angleton’s and Helms’ role in the penetration. Cram came across the Hunt memo in his mole study,” one investigator suspects.

The urgency of the mole investigation within the agency has reached “a more intense level since the memo was discovered,” according to a source close to the internal investigation.

Herbert E. Hetu, public affairs director of the CIA, told the Sunday News Journal, “I had heard rumors of such a memo but had been unable to track them down. I checked with our liaison with the assassination committee and he didn’t know about it.”

The possibility of a “mole” or double agent in the CIA in connection with Oswald was first brought to light in Edward J. Epstein’s book, Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald.

That book details Oswald’s ties with U.S., Soviet and Cuban intelligence. According to Epstein’s editor at Readers Digest Press, which published the book, Angleton was a main source for the author.

In 1964, a Soviet defector named Yuri Nosenko told the CIA that Oswald did not act as a Russian agent in the Kennedy assassination. For years, according to the book, a battle within the agency ensued as to whether or not Nosenko was telling the truth.

That battle ended in 1976 when Nosenko was accepted as a genuine defector and put on the CIA payroll and given a new identity.

According to the book, Angleton urged that Nosenko not be accepted because he believed the Russian to be a double-agent.

Hunt’s appearance on the scene in Dallas and in Mexico City at the time of the murder adds strength to a theory shared by some internal CIA investigators. They believe Oswald was working for US intelligence, that he was ordered to infiltrate the KGB, and that this explains his life in Russia. They also believe that Oswald proved to be so unstable that he was “handled by the KGB into becoming a triple agent, and assigned for the Dallas job.”

The same investigators theorize that Hunt was in Dallas that day on the orders of a high-level CIA official who in reality was a KGB mole. Hunt allegedly thought he was to arrange that Oswald be murdered because he had turned traitor. Actually he was to kill Oswald to prevent him from ever testifying and revealing the Russians had ordered him to kill Kennedy, the CIA sources speculate.

CIA investigators are most concerned that either Helms or Angleton might be that mole.

Hunt first detailed the existence of a small CIA assassination team in an interview with the New York Times while in prison in December 1975 for his role in Watergate. The assassination squad, allegedly headed by Col. Boris Pash, was ordered to eliminate suspected double agents and low-ranking officials.

Pash’s assassination unit was assigned to Angleton, other CIA sources say.

Hunt’s fondness for strange plots has ‘been widely reported. He is alleged to have concocted schemes ranging from Watergate to a plot to assassinate columnist lack Anderson. Hunt is also the author of 45 spy novels.

It was also learned from CIA and committee sources that during the time that the Warren Commission was investigating the Kennedy assassination, Angleton met regularly with a member of the commission – the late Allen Dulles, then head of the CIA and Angleton’s boss.

Dulles, on a weekly basis, briefed Angleton about the direction of the investigation. Angleton, according to sources, in turn briefed Raymond Rocca, his closest aide and the CIA’s official liaison with the commission.

Rocca, now retired was unavailable for comment. His former wife, who also worked for Angleton, is now working for Cleveland Cram as part of the CIA mole investigation team.


Well then. What is one to think?