To the Editors:
As published authors of divergent views on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we urge the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense to observe the spirit and letter of the 1992 JFK Assassination Records Act by releasing all relevant records on the activities of a career CIA operations officer named George E. Joannides, who died in 1990.
Joannides’s service to the US government is a matter of public record and is relevant to the Kennedy assassination story. In November 1963, Joannides served as the chief of the Psychological Warfare branch in the CIA’s Miami station. In 1978, he served as the CIA’s liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).
The records concerning George Joannides meet the legal definition of “assassination-related” JFK records that must be “immediately” released under the JFK Records Act. They are assassination-related because of contacts between accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and a CIA-sponsored Cuban student group that Joannides guided and monitored in August 1963.
Declassified portions of Joannides’s personnel file confirm his responsibility in August 1963 for reporting on the “propaganda” and “intelligence collection” activities of the Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil (DRE), a prominent organization known in the North American press as the Cuban Student Directorate.
George Joannides’s activities were assassination-related in at least two ways.
(1) In August 1963, Oswald attempted to infiltrate the New Orleans delegation of the DRE. The delegation—dependent on $25,000 a month in CIA funds provided by Joannides—publicly denounced Oswald as an unscrupulous sympathizer of Fidel Castro.
(2) After Kennedy was killed three months later, on November 22, 1963, DRE members spoke to reporters from The New York Times and other news outlets, detailing Oswald’s pro-Castro activities. Within days of the assassination, the DRE published allegations that Oswald had acted on Castro’s behalf.
The imperative of disclosure is heightened by the fact that the CIA has, in the past, failed to disclose George Joannides’s activities. In 1978, Joannides was called out of retirement to serve as the agency’s liaison to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The agency did not reveal to the Congress his role in the events of 1963, compromising the committee’s investigation.
In 1998, the Agency again responded inaccurately to public inquiries about Joannides. The Agency’s Historic Review Office informed the JFK Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) that it was unable to identify the case officer for the DRE in 1963. The ARRB staff, on its own, located records confirming that Joannides had been the case officer.
This is not a record that inspires public confidence or quells conspiracy-mongering. To overcome misunderstanding, the CIA and the Defense Department should make a diligent good-faith effort to identify and release any documents about George Joannides.
The government should make these records public in conjunction with the fortieth anniversary of the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 2003, so as to help restore public confidence and to demonstrate the agencies’ commitment to compliance with the JFK Assassination Records Act.
The law requires immediate disclosure, nothing less.
G. Robert Blakey
Former General Counsel
House Select Committee on Assassinations
Also signed by:
and six others
December 18, 2003