Saturday, October 17, 2009

Still cagey, after all these years

Jefferson Morley, a journalist and author, on Oct. 8 in his office in Washington with documents released to him by the C.I.A.

Is the Central Intelligence Agency covering up some dark secret about the assassination of John F. Kennedy? Probably not. But you would not know it from the C.I.A.’s behavior.

For six years, the agency has fought in federal court to keep secret hundreds of documents from 1963, when an anti-Castro Cuban group it paid clashed publicly with the soon-to-be assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The C.I.A. says it is only protecting legitimate secrets. But because of the agency’s history of stonewalling assassination inquiries, even researchers with no use for conspiracy thinking question its stance.

Gerald Posner, the author of an anti-conspiracy account of the Kennedy assassination, “Case Closed” (Random House, 1993), said the C.I.A.’s withholding such aged documents was “a perfect example of why nobody trusts the agency.”

“It feeds the conspiracy theorists who say, ‘You’re hiding something,” ’ Mr. Posner said.

Central Intelligence Agency - George Joannides, center, in July 1981, with his wife, Violet, and Bobby R. Inman, deputy director of the C.I.A.

After losing an appeals court decision in Mr. Morley’s lawsuit, the C.I.A. released material last year confirming Mr. Joannides’s deep involvement with the anti-Castro Cubans who confronted Oswald. But the agency is withholding 295 specific documents from the 1960s and ’70s, while refusing to confirm or deny the existence of many others, saying their release would cause “extremely grave damage” to national security.

“The methods of defeating or deterring covert action in the 1960s and 1970s can still be instructive to the United States’ current enemies,” a C.I.A. official wrote in a court filing.

Max Holland, who is writing a history of the Warren Commission, said the agency might be trying to preserve the principle of secrecy.

“If you start going through the files of every C.I.A. officer who had anything to do with anything that touched the assassination, that would have no end,” Mr. Holland said.

Mr. Posner, the anti-conspiracy author, said that if there really were something explosive involving the C.I.A. and President Kennedy, it would not be in the files — not even in the documents the C.I.A. has fought to keep secret.

“Most conspiracy theorists don’t understand this,” Mr. Posner said. “But if there really were a C.I.A. plot, no documents would exist.”

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