September 9th, 2007

Trento re the Angleton-Helms Memo of 1966 re Hunt in Dallas

Copied below is an interview with journalist Joseph Trento conducted by Gary Buell, originally posted in 2001 at


Correspondence with Trento on Hunt, Angleton and the Memo.

Posted by Gary Buell 11/04/2001

Members who have looked at Joseph Trento’s new book “The Secret History of the CIA” know that it contains material of interest concerning the assassination, mostly from the perspective of James Jesus Angleton of the CIA.

What it does not contain is anything about the alleged memo re Howard Hunt in Dallas which Trento had written about in an article in the Sunday News Journal, August 20, 1978, and which is reproduced in Plausible Denial by Mark Lane.

So I thought I would ask him about it. What follows is our correspondence via e-mail:

Gary Buell: I am currently reading your fascinating new book. My particular interest is the JFK assassination and the information you received from Angleton deserves careful consideration.

I think that there was one serious omission in your book in that regard. That is the lack of any mention of the memo that Angleton showed you concerning Howard Hunt’s alleged presence in Dallas on 11/22/63.

Many researchers believe that was an Angleton disinformation ploy of some sort but whether the memo was genuine or not I do not see how the reader can be expected to evaluate Angleton’s views on the assassination without considering this material.

I believe you yourself once speculated that he may have been attempting to obscure his own role in sending Hunt to Dallas. And, if I am not mistaken did you not also once suggest that Hunt may have been sent to Dallas by a KGB mole? Did you ever discuss this memo or its contents again with Angleton before his death?

Joe Trento: I left it out because Hunt’s role had been so discussed.

My view is that Hunt’s presence was more an embarrassment then anything significant. That’s how Angleton treated it. Lane made much more of this then I believe it deserved.

Gary the real question is was it Angleton’s disinformation or someone trying to force the CIA’s hand by demonstrating employees had come to Dallas. The original manuscript did include the material but the publisher could not publish a 1,000 page book.

Gary Buell: Thanks for the prompt reply.

I am not real clear on your answer. If it was Angleton’s disinformation to what end? And was Hunt in Dallas or not and who sent him? If I recall your original article (which I did read quoted in Lane’s book) you refer to sources at the HSCA admitting having this memo, which was later denied.

The whole thing is confusing, particularly your coment about someone trying to force the CIA’s hand. I mean Angleton was behind this in one way or another. I would be most interested in reading the section of your book on this that was cut for space, if you are agreeable.

Joe Trento: For contractual reasons I cannot give you the cut material to read.

But to clarify the Angleton matter: I was originally tipped off by an assassination committee employee. They contacted me because I had written about Angleton and had access to him. They showed me a copy of the memo about Hunt being in Dallas. I called Angleton and he said he was aware of the memo and may even have a copy. He didn’t. But a close friend of his did — and that friend said Angleton had entrusted to him. I read that copy, they matched.

Jim did this sort of thing in an effort to get sensitive documents out during the months after his firing in 1974. I suspect Jim felt the document and Hunt story would come out anyway so he orchestrated the leak through me and the committee. The committee denial came because the document was never in the official group of documents they received.

Jim told me he thought Hunt’s presence was meaningless. He first claimed the reason the committee had the memo was because someone wanted to demonstrate he and Helms were covering up. I am convinced that the memo was written while Angleton did his internal probe to see what the Agency had done or not done and they ran across this business with Hunt and realized they had a potential public relations problem if the information got out. I never was told or got the impression that it was anything very significant – just very interesting.

Did Jim tell me the truth on this? The answer is yes and no. I think Lane used this and other events to keep himself as part of the story. The reality is that all of this sideshow stuff diverted folks from looking at what the Soviet’s did with LHO [Lee Harvey Oswald] in Russia. I suspect at the time of the leak that’s what Angleton and friends did not want researchers or reporters looking at.

Gary Buell: Thank you for your lengthy reply which answers some questions and raises others.

So the HSCA did have the memo but could not confirm its authenticity because it was not officially turned over – that is interesting. To my knowledge this memo has never turned up in the archives of the committee or ever been acknowledged. I wonder if it still exists.

Re-reading your original article you seem to have placed a great deal more importance on the memo at that time. You cite unamed CIA investigators who theorize that Oswald was working for US Intelligence and turned by the KGB. And that Hunt was in Dallas on the orders of a high-level CIA official who was in reality a KGB mole and who ordered Hunt to kill Oswald. Do you think Angleton sent Hunt to Dallas? If this were a movie then Angleton would turn out to be the mole but in real life I think that is far-fetched.

What is your take on all this now? Was the memo authentic? Did Angleton send Hunt to Dallas and, if not, who did? If he was in Dallas at all. And what was his mission? Was Oswald a double- or triple agent?

Joe Trento: Angleton thought very little of Hunt so I doubt that they ever had much to do with each other. I suspect that the CIA successfully cited national security considerations regarding some of the JFK/ Soviet stuff. We had a number of sources from the CIA office of Security who offered a variety of theories.

As far as it not showing up in the committee records, I suspect an agreement was made between the CIA and the Chairman. I would have never heard except from my staff sources. One possibility is they wanted to do something with it in the hearings and the members were against it, I may have been used as a trial balloon. At the time my colleague and I wrote the piece I suspected everyone’s motives. Considering what I know now of the other screw ups the CIA and FBI perpetuated in this case the memo reflected potential public relations problem.

Gary Buell: Thanks for the reply. Obviously the CIA was able to cover-up this “public relations problem”, thanks, as you said, to Blakey. Let me ask a few direct questions:

1. Do you think Hunt was in Dallas? If so, any idea who sent him and on what mission? Or are we left simply with speculation? The most fascinating speculation was that he was sent by the KGB mole.

2. Do you think there was a high-level mole in the CIA? If this is in the book, I apologize as I am still reading it. Can we rule out Angleton? Helms? You have been very gracious thus far and I realize that you cannot correspond endlessly with every reader.

Joe Trento: I think Hunt must have been in Dallas — perhaps not even on CIA business. Probably coming back from Mexico. I think the idea that a mole ordered him to Dallas was far fetched. You would have to assume he was competent and could carry out what the mole wanted. I don’t think Helms or Angleton were moles. But it is clear that there were at least mid-level moles. Finish the book. You might want to get my previous book (with Bill Corson and Susan Trento Widows.) All best.