John M. Newman spent 20 years with the U.S. Army Intelligence. This included serving in in Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, and China. He eventually became executive assistant to the director of the National Security Agency (NSA).
After leaving the NSA Newman joined the University of Maryland where he taught courses in Soviet, Chinese Communist, East Asian, and Vietnam War history, as well as Sino-Soviet and U.S.-Soviet relations.
John M. Newman is the author of JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue, and the Struggle for Power (1992) and Oswald and the CIA (1995). He also served as served as an adviser to Oliver Stone while he was making JFK and was one of the experts called upon to advise the JFK Assassination Records Review Board.
In 1995 Wayne Smith, chief of the Centre for International Policy in Washington, arranged a meeting on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, in Nassau, Bahamas. Others in attendance were John M. Newman, Gaeton Fonzi, Dick Russell, Noel Twyman, Anthony Summers, Peter Dale Scott, Jeremy Gunn, John Judge, Andy Kolis, Peter Kornbluh, Mary and Ray LaFontaine, Jim Lesar, Alan Rogers, Russ Swickard, Ed Sherry, and Gordon Winslow.
Some high-level Cuban officials attended the conference. This included Fabian Escalante, Carlos Lechuga, a former Cuban diplomat, and Arturo Rodriguez, a State Security official. Escalante revealed details of the confession made by Tony Cuesta. He also informed the group they had a spy in the anti-Castro community in Miami and knew about the plot to kill Kennedy.
A new edition of Oswald and the CIA was published in 2008. Newman argues that James Angleton was probably the key figure in the assassination of John F. Kennedy: "In my view, whoever Oswald's direct handler or handlers were, we must now seriously consider the possibility that Angleton was probably their general manager. No one else in the Agency had the access, the authority, and the diabolically ingenious mind to manage this sophisticated plot. No one else had the means necessary to plant the WWIII virus in Oswald's files and keep it dormant for six weeks until the president's assassination. Whoever those who were ultimately responsible for the decision to kill Kennedy were, their reach extended into the national intelligence apparatus to such a degree that they could call upon a person who knew its inner secrets and workings so well that he could design a failsafe mechanism into the fabric of the plot. The only person who could ensure that a national security cover-up of an apparent counterintelligence nightmare was the head of counterintelligence."
On September 10, 1963, Special Agent Hosty sent a report on Oswald to the Bureau and to New Orleans. It was the first FBI document to make it into Oswald's CIA files since the Fain report of August 30, 1962. Hosty began by acknowledging Oswald's Magazine Street address, an address everyone else in the FBI had known about for a month. Hosty then said Oswald had been working at the William Reily Coffee Company on August 5. He apparently did not know that Oswald had been fired from his job at Reily Coffee on July 19.103 Hosty did mention the April 21 Oswald letter to the FPCC from Dallas. It would appear, however, that he did not know about Oswald's arrest in New Orleans or chose for some reason not to say anything about it. Hosty did not know about the Quigley jailhouse interview.
On Monday, September 23, the employees at CIA headquarters were still catching up on the weekend's traffic when Hosty's report arrived under FBI director Hoover's signature. It was 1:24 in the afternoon when someone named Annette in the CIA's Records Integration Division attached a CIA routing and record sheet to the report and sent it along to the liaison office of the counterintelligence staff, where Jane Roman was still working. As discussed in Chapter Two, Roman received the first phone call from the FBI about Oswald on November 2, 1959.
When Jane Roman got the Hosty report, she signed for it and, presumably after having read it, determined the next CIA organizational element to whom it should be sent. The office she chose was Counterintelligence Operations, CI/OPS. The telltale "P" of William ("Will") Potocci, who worked in Counterintelligence Operations, appears next to the CI/OPS entry, along with the date that Roman passed the report on to him-September 25. Potocci presumably worked in this office, although something on the routing sheet-probably Potocci's name or some activity indicator in CU OPS-is still being withheld by the CIA.
CIA readers of the Hosty report were treated to the outlines of the story we have followed in this and the previous three chapters: how Oswald had returned from Russia to Fort Worth, Texas, where he subscribed to the communist newspaper the Worker, and then moved to New Orleans, where he took a job in the Reily Coffee Company; most important, the CIA learned that on April 21 Oswald, having moved from Fort Worth to Dallas, contacted the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New York City. The report also recounted Oswald's claim to have stood on a Dallas street with a placard around his neck that read "Hands Off Cuba-Viva Fidel."
The CIA did not put this report into Oswald's 201 file, but instead into a new file with a different number: 100-300-11. We will return to that file in Chapter Nineteen. Even as the Hosty report made its way from Jane Roman to Will Potocci, an FBI agent in New Orleans was preparing yet another report on Oswald that would arrive at the CIA on October 2. This, as we will see, was the very day that Oswald, having spent five nights in Mexico City, departed from the Mexican capital.
On his way from New Orleans to Mexico City, Oswald is reported to have visited the home of Silvia Odio in Dallas. The Odio "incident," as it has become known with the passage of time, was labeled by researcher Sylvia Meagher as the "proof of the plot," because the Warren Commission accepted that Odio was visited by three men-one of whom was "Oswald." Meagher's point was that whether it was an impostor or Oswald himself, as Odio believes, the group that visited her apartment and phoned her afterward, and their pre assassination discussion of killing Kennedy, is awkward, if not antithetical, for the lone-nut hypothesis. The Warren Commission accepted that the event occurred, but dismissed Odio's version of it. First, the commission found that a September 26 or 27 visit was not possible given Oswald's time requirements for arriving in Mexico City at ten A.M. on September 27.
Second, the Warren Commission believed it had identified the three men who visited Odio: Loran Eugene Hall, Larry Howard, and William Seymour, who was "similar in appearance to Lee Harvey Oswald." All three were soldiers of fortune involved with the Cuban exiles. Hall was a self described gun runner." As discussed in Chapter Fourteen, Seymour was an associate of Hemming's.
Both of these Warren Commission contributions damaged the public's understanding of the facts in the case and the public's confidence in the integrity and objectivity of the Commission's work. The Hall-Howard-Seymour story, supplied by the FBI just in time to save the Warren Report - on its way to press - the embarrassment of not having discredited Odio's version of the incident, later turned out to be wholly fraudulent. No official connected to the Warren Report has ever apologized to the public or Silvia Odio for their shabby treatment of her and their acceptance of a concocted story, an egregious error given what was at stake.
In spite of this, strong feelings about the Odio incident remain. Silvia Odio is "full of hot air," FBI special agent Hosty said in a recent interview. Hosty did not elaborate further about the meaning of this remark, but he offered an interesting variation of the Hall and Seymour part of the story: "Hall told us [the FBI] that it was he who had been by Odio's. When the police arrested Hall they talked to Heitman." Special Agent Heitman, Hosty says, was the FBI agent "who worked among the Cubans. I was working the right wing extremists, like General [Edwin] Walker, etc." After Hall told the authorities he had visited Odio, Hosty claims, "Seymour threatened him and so he changed his story." Hosty's account also raises the possibility that William Pawley might have been involved.
"I knew of him," Hosty said of William Pawley in a recent interview."' As discussed in Chapter Seven, Pawley was working for the CIA in Miami, reporting on the Cuban situation through an extensive network of contacts. Hosty told researcher Dr. Larry Haapanan in 1983 that he thought the men who visited Odio might have been agents working for Pawley. In 1995 Hosty contacted the author, and in a follow-up interview he said, " It could be Pawley. H. L. Hunt was backing Pawley's people, and they were also getting support from Henry Luce. It could be that Pawley's guys spying on JURE (Junta Revolucionaria Cubana, led by Amador Odio]. They could have been working for Pawley or one of the other splinter groups.
The possibility that on September 25, Pawley and his right wing anti-Castro allies were using Oswald and his cohorts to collect information on the left wing JURE faction led by Silvia's father (then in one of Castro's prisons) is intriguing. It only further magnifies what the Warren Commission feared about the rest of the Odio story: It fits into the lone-nut hypothesis like a two-by-four in a Cuisinart.
On October 4, Jane Roman read the latest FBI report on Oswald's FPCC activities in New Orleans, an event that was impossible if the October 10 cable to Mexico City-which she coordinated on behalf of CI/Liaison-was true. When recently shown both the cable and the FBI report with her initials, Roman said this: "I'm signing off on something that I know isn't true." Roman's straightforward answer is as noteworthy as the fact that the CIA has released her name on these reports while redacting the names of others. One explanation might be that she was not in on the operation and therefore not in a position to question why the two cables were being drafted with such ridiculous sentences. "The only interpretation I could put on this," Roman says now, "would be that this SAS group would have held all the information on Oswald under their tight control, so if you did a routine check, it wouldn't show up in his 201 file." Roman made this incisive comment without being shown the documents lists that demonstrate that she was right. "I wasn't in on any particular goings-on or hanky-panky as far as the Cuban situation," Roman states. Asked about the significance of the untrue sentence on the "latest headquarters" information, Roman replied: "Well, to me, it's indicative of a keen interest in Oswald, held very closely on a need-to-know basis."
On December 11, 1963, John Scelso (John M. Whitten), chief of Western Hemisphere Branch 3, wrote an alarming memo to Richard Helms, deputy director of Plans. In bold handwriting at the top of the memo are the words "not sent." Below this is written "Questions put orally to Mr. Helms. 11 Nov. 63." In smaller handwriting under this are the words "Dec. presumably," reflecting the obvious fact that the Helms oral briefing was December 11, not November 11. Scelso wasted no time in throwing this stone into the pond: " It looks like the FBI report may even be released to the public. This would compromise our [13 spaces redacted] operations in Mexico, because the Soviets would see that the FBI had advance information on the reason for Oswald's visit to the Soviet Embassy."
How could the FBI have known Oswald's reason in advance? Next to this piece of text was a handwritten clue: "Mr. Helms phoned Mr. Angleton this warning." Perhaps "this morning" was meant, but in either case this may mean that CIA counterintelligence operations were involved.
It is intriguing that anyone in U.S. intelligence would have had advance notice of Oswald's visit to the Soviet Embassy. Evidently the FBI report that was mentioned was worded so that its readers might conclude that the FBI had been the source of information, but from Scelso's report, it is not hard to guess that it was the CIA's operations in Mexico that had yielded "advance information on the reason for Oswald's visit to the Soviet Embassy." But just what exactly does this phrase mean?
Oswald had told the Soviet Consulate in Mexico City that he corresponded with the Soviet Embassy in Washington about returning to the U.S.S.R. As previously discussed, the FBI would have learned of the contents of this correspondence. But this would not have compromised CIA operations in Mexico City. The CIA station monthly operational report for October 1963 did mention Oswald's visit to the Soviet Consulate, and did so under the subtitle "Exploitation of [7 letters redacted] Information." The same seven-letter cryptonym is redacted in the line beneath this subtitle, but the last letter is partially visible, enough to see that it is the letter Y In another CIA document from the Mexico City station the cryptonym LIENVOY has been left in the clear, and it was apparently used for the photo surveillance operation against the Soviet Embassy and Consulate." If this is true, the point of the Scelso memo above might have been this: Publication of the October 9-10 cables would show the telephone intercept had been linked to the photo surveillance, and that since the phone call came first, the cable showed the Agency had advance knowledge of the reason for Oswald's (the impostor) visit to the Soviet Consulate.
It appears that the CIA had advance knowledge about more than Oswald's October 1 visit to the Soviet Embassy. There is circumstantial evidence that the CIA Mexico City station might have been watching Oswald since his arrival on September 27. This evidence, according to the Lopez Report, was the Agency's decision to investigate the transcripts back to September 27, before they had learned of that date through post-assassination investigation:" This Committee has not been able to determine how the CIA Headquarters knew, on 23 November 1963, that a review of the [redacted] material should begin with the production from 27 September, the day Oswald first appeared at the Soviet and Cuban Embassies".
This was an incisive point. So was the direction in which the Lopez Report then headed: what headquarters knew about Oswald's visits to the Cuban Consulate.
I first called Jane Roman in the summer of 1994. I told her that I worked as an editor for the Sunday Outlook section of the Washington Post. I told her I had seen her name on some new CIA records in the National Archives. Could she spare some time to review them with a colleague and me? Roman said she was going away for the summer, maybe when she got back in the fall. In October, I called her again in. I explained that it was very difficult to understand records like this, especially for some one like myself who had never worked at the CIA. I needed her help. I told her that I liked to work with a colleague, I preferred to tape record my interviews and thought we could cover everything in 90 minutes.
She agreed. She invited me to come to her house on Newark Street in Cleveland Park on November 2, 1994.
My colleague was John Newman. He was a 20-year veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence. He had worked in sensitive postings at the far-flung corners of the National Security Agency’s intelligence empire. He had expertise in analyzing the cable traffic of the Chinese armed forces. He had served as executive assistant to the director of the National Security Agency, which gave him a feel for high-level office politics. He had also written a book, “JFK in Vietnam” that was praised by retired CIA director William Colby and by historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. Newman had served as an adviser to Oliver Stone on the set of “JFK” and was one of the experts called upon to advise the JFK Assassination Records Review Board.
I had first met Newman two years before in 1992, at a talk he gave on his book at Georgetown University. We became friendly, sharing abiding interests in national security policymaking and the Kennedy assassination. As I learned from him how to analyze CIA cables, I did my own reading in the new JFK files and shared with him what I found. We talked about what the new records suggested, specifically about what the routing slips indicated about what the CIA knew about Oswald before the assassination. We had our theories but John emphasized to me that more information was needed.
So when Jane Roman agreed to talk to me, I knew I was going to bring John Newman along. In my phone calls to Roman, I made certain that I mentioned Newman’s intelligence training and national security background and that he would be participating.
The interview took place at Roman’s house, a classy Cape Cod cottage on Newark Street. It was a warm autumn morning. We walked up the brick path through the ivy and rang the bell. Roman greeted us graciously, ushered us into her comfortable and tasteful home and seated us at a dining room table. Newman spread out his file folders and we made small talk.
There was an awkward moment when Roman insisted I tell her how I had found her. I said, ridiculously, that I had my sources. She said she wanted to know or she didn’t see the need to go any further. I promptly folded.
“I found the property records on your daughter’s condo,” I said.
Roman nodded and seemed grimly satisfied. I pulled out my tape recorder and she balked again. Newman reassured her that taping was the best protection for all concerned. She relented.
Listening to the tape of the 75-minute interview that ensued, I am struck by several things. Above all, the tone is professional. Newman and Roman spoke as colleagues in the intelligence business. They understood what the other one was saying. Newman was assertive, well prepared, self-possessed. Roman was circumspect, thoughtful and concise.
Right from the start, Roman and Newman parried with revealing results.
Newman produced a sheath of copies of the CIA cables that Roman had signed for over the years. They were all cables about one Lee Harvey Oswald of New Orleans and his travels between November 1959 to October 1963. Roman took her time examining them.
From that point on, Roman did not dispute that she had been familiar with Lee Harvey Oswald before November 22, 1963.
Forty-two years ago, on Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas. In Bethesda, Maryland, this past weekend, a group of distinguished journalists, historians, scientists and others gathered to discuss and debate the evidence of conspiracy in the JFK case.
While the research community has often slammed the mainstream media for not covering the facts of the case, the blame must go both ways. The conference organizers offered no handouts, no summaries of what is new in the case this year, or any hook upon which a journalist might hang a story.
As one of the reporters said in a panel discussion, this is a story without an ending, and how satisfying is that?
But that is a tragedy, in light of the Downing Street Memo and other evidence that the Bush administration’s case for war in Iraq was built on a false platform. The common thread throughout the weekend was that secrecy and democracy cannot safely coexist, that the more we have of the former, the less we have of the latter.
The credentials of the speakers this year was more impressive than in previous conferences. Featured speakers included former presidential candidate Gary Hart, author James Bamford, journalists Jeff Morley and Salon founder David Talbot, and historians David Wrone and John Newman (who was a military intelligence analyst), and the former head of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, G. Robert Blakey....
Former military intelligence analyst John Newman was the only speaker willing to speculate about a potential conspirator, based on the documentary record.
Professor Newman reviewed how CIA reports of Oswald’s trips to the Cuban and Soviet embassies was a key factor in getting President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Warren Commission members to go with the Oswald as lone assassin line.
Newman described how the reports in essence created a “World War III” virus, such that after the assassination, no one wanted to look too closely at who Oswald served, lest it touch off a nuclear war with the Soviets or the Cubans.
Newman traced how false information that helped promote this WWIII virus got into Oswald’s file and concluded that the person who controlled the file at those points was Ann Egerter, one of the six or so hand-picked operatives working in James Jesus Angleton’s CI/SIG unit – the Special Investigations Group within the larger 200-man Counterintelligence group at CIA.
Newman also pointed out how many in the Agency feared Angleton, feared for their lives if they crossed him, and suggested Egerter would not have manipulated Oswald’s file on her own, but only under express instructions from Angleton himself.
It is possible that Joannides was not presented with Oswald's name prior to the assassination, but the latest declassified records confirm that a half dozen other top CIA officials were aware of the itinerant ex-Marine and interested in his movements. In September 1963, a month after confronting Joannides's assets in New Orleans, Oswald went to Mexico City and visited the Cuban consulate, seeking a visa. He passed through a CIA surveillance program code-named LIERODE. He then visited the Soviet Embassy where his voice was picked up by a telephonic wiretapping program known as LIENVOY. (These recordings of Oswald, seized from the home office safe of Mexico City station chief Win Scott, were hidden from investigators and later destroyed.) Then, in November, after he returned to Dallas, Oswald wrote a letter to the Soviet Embassy in Washington about his contacts with the Cubans and Soviets in Mexico. The letter was opened by the FBI who shared it with the CIA's counterintelligence staff which had responsibility for tracking Soviet defectors.
John Newman, an Army intelligence analyst turned historian, was the first to parse the new records in his 1995 book Oswald and the CIA. "What we've learned since Stone's movie is that the CIA's interest in Oswald was a lot deeper than they have ever acknowledged," Newman wrote. "As Oswald made his way toward Dallas, the reporting about him was channeled into a file controlled by an office in the counterintelligence staff called the Special Investigations Group."
The SIG, as it was known, was the operational office of James Angleton, the first chief of counterintelligence for the CIA, a legendary controversial figure whose exploits inspired the movie The Good Shepherd. Some thought him a charming and brilliant theorist; others thought him a bully and a paranoid menace. "When Oswald shows up in Mexico City," Newman explains, "his file goes over to the Western Hemisphere division which reviews it and sends out a cable to the State Department and other agencies that is -- how can I put it? -- very selective."
This cable, dated October 10, 1963, is no smoking gun. But is one of the key new documents in the JFK paper trail whose significance is not appreciated by the mainstream media or the furious partisans of the JFK chat groups. The cable, not fully declassified until 2002, was sent after a CIA surveillance microphone picked up Oswald's name during his conversations with the Cubans and Russians in Mexico City. "Who was Oswald?" station chief Scott asked headquarters. "We don't know," replied Langley in the cable. The "latest HDQS info," dated May 1962, was that Oswald was returning from the Soviet Union and had matured politically. In fact, that was not the CIA's latest information, as one of Angleton's aides admitted to the Washington Post in 1995. Acknowledging that she helped draft this cable, this aide said in a tape-recorded interview: "I'm signing off on something I know isn't true." What the cable's authors deliberately omitted, among other things, was mention of a September 1963 FBI report on Oswald's encounters with the DRE in New Orleans.
The most senior official to sign off on the inaccurate cable was Tom Karamessines, trusted assistant to CIA Deputy Director Helms. If Helms was a master spy, the man who kept the secrets, Karamessines was the dependable sidekick who helped him do it. Karamessines was also the patron of his fellow Greek American, Miami field man George Joannides.
The interest of these senior officials does not necessarily imply anything more sinister than a bureaucracy's natural tendency to cover its ass. The CIA had ample reason to be monitoring Oswald in late 1963. He publicly supported the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a pro-Castro group, formally classified as a "subversive" organization by U.S. national security agencies. He attempted to travel to Cuba via Mexico, a signal of intent to violate U.S. law. Naturally, the Agency was paying attention. But for all this interest, no one thought to discuss Oswald with the Secret Service or the Dallas police. Little wonder that when the name of the suspect in the assassination was first heard at CIA headquarters in Langley, "the effect was electric," as one agency official put it, employing a phrase that was censored from public view for more than three decades.
What is clear is that Oswald was the person in whom the agency had taken considerable interest -- and whose interest it took considerable pains to cover up.
It is now apparent that the World War III pretext for a national security cover-up was built into the fabric of the plot to assassinate President Kennedy. The plot required that Oswald be maneuvered into place in Mexico City and his activities there carefully monitored, controlled, and, if necessary, embellished and choreographed. the plot required that, prior to 22 November, Oswald's profile at CIA HQS and the Mexico station be lowered; his 201 file had to be manipulated and restricted from incoming traffic on his Cuban activities. The plot required that, when the story from Mexico City arrived at HQS, its significance would not be understood by those responsible for reacting to it. Finally, the plot required that, on 22 November, Oswald's CIA files would establish his connection to Castro and the Kremlin.
The person who designed this plot had to have access to all of the information on Oswald at CIA HQS. The person who designed this plot had to have the authority to alter how information on Oswald was kept at CIA HQS. The person who designed this plot had the authority to alter how information on Oswald was kept at CIA HQS. The person who designed this plot had to have access to project TUMBLEWEED, the sensitive joint agency operation against the KGB assassin, Valery Kosikov. The person who designed this plot had the authority to instigate a counterintelligence operation in the Cuban affairs staff (SAS) at CIA HQS. In my view, there is only one person whose hands fit into these gloves: James Jesus Angleton, Chief of CIA's Counterintelligence Staff.
Angleton and his molehunters had always held Oswald's files very close to the vest - from the time of the young Marine's defection in October 1959 and his offer to provide classified radar information to the Soviets. That offer had lit up the counterintelligence circuits in Washington, D.C. like a Christmas tree. Angleton was the only person who knew - except for perhaps one of his direct subordinates - both the Cuban and Soviet parts of Oswald's story. He was the only one in the Counterintelligence Staff with enough authority to instigate a counterintelligence operation in the SAS against the FPCC.
In my view, whoever Oswald's direct handler or handlers were, we must now seriously consider the possibility that Angleton was probably their general manager. No one else in the Agency had the access, the authority, and the diabolically ingenious mind to manage this sophisticated plot. No one else had the means necessary to plant the WWIII virus in Oswald's files and keep it dormant for six weeks until the president's assassination. Whoever those who were ultimately responsible for the decision to kill Kennedy were, their reach extended into the national intelligence apparatus to such a degree that they could call upon a person who knew its inner secrets and workings so well that he could design a failsafe mechanism into the fabric of the plot. The only person who could ensure that a national security cover-up of an apparent counterintelligence nightmare was the head of counterintelligence.