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President John F. Kennedy in the motorcade through Dallas shortly before his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
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It was summer 1963 when a senior official of CIA's operations directorate treated our Junior Officer Trainee (JOT) class to an unbridled rant against President John F. Kennedy. He accused JFK, among other things, of rank cowardice in refusing to send U.S. armed forces to bail out Cuban rebels pinned down during the CIA-launched invasion at the Bay of Pigs, blowing the chance to drive Cuba's Communist leader Fidel Castro from power.
It seemed beyond odd that a CIA official would voice such scathing criticism of a sitting President at a training course for those selected to be CIA's future leaders. I remember thinking to myself, "This guy is unhinged; he would kill Kennedy, given the chance."
Our special guest lecturer looked a lot like E. Howard Hunt, but more than a half-century later, I cannot be sure it was he. Our notes from such training/indoctrination were classified and kept under lock and key.
At the end of our JOT orientation, we budding Agency leaders had to make a basic choice between joining the directorate for substantive analysis or the operations directorate where case officers run spies and organize regime changes (in those days, we just called the process overthrowing governments).
I chose the analysis directorate and, once ensconced in the brand new headquarters building in Langley, Virginia, I found it strange that subway-style turnstiles prevented analysts from going to the "operations side of the house," and vice versa. Truth be told, we were never one happy family.
I cannot speak for my fellow analysts in the early 1960s, but it never entered my mind that operatives on the other side of the turnstiles might be capable of assassinating a President -- the very President whose challenge to do something for our country had brought many of us to Washington in the first place. But, barring the emergence of a courageous whistleblower-patriot like Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden, I do not expect to live long enough to learn precisely who orchestrated and carried out the assassination of JFK.
And yet, in a sense, those particulars seem less important than two main lessons learned: (1) If a President can face down intense domestic pressure from the power elite and turn toward peace with perceived foreign enemies, then anything is possible. The darkness of Kennedy's murder should not obscure the light of that basic truth; and (2) There is ample evidence pointing to a state execution of a President willing to take huge risks for peace. While no post-Kennedy president can ignore that harsh reality, it remains possible that a future President with the vision and courage of JFK might beat the odds -- particularly as the American Empire disintegrates and domestic discontent grows.
I do hope to be around next April after the 180-day extension for release of the remaining JFK documents. But -- absent a gutsy whistleblower -- I wouldn't be surprised to see in April, a Washington Post banner headline much like the one that appeared Saturday: "JFK files: The promise of revelations derailed by CIA, FBI."
The New Delay Is the Story
You might have thought that almost 54 years after Kennedy was murdered in the streets of Dallas -- and after knowing for a quarter century the supposedly final deadline for releasing the JFK files -- the CIA and FBI would not have needed a six-month extension to decide what secrets that they still must hide.
Journalist Caitlin Johnstone hits the nail on the head in pointing out that the biggest revelation from last week's limited release of the JFK files is "the fact that the FBI and CIA still desperately need to keep secrets about something that happened 54 years ago."
What was released on Oct. 26, was a tiny fraction of what had remained undisclosed in the National Archives. To find out why, one needs to have some appreciation of a 70-year-old American political tradition that might be called "fear of the spooks."
That the CIA and FBI are still choosing what we should be allowed to see concerning who murdered John Kennedy may seem unusual, but there is hoary precedent for it. After JFK's assassination on Nov. 22, 1963, the well-connected Allen Dulles, whom Kennedy had fired as CIA director after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, got himself appointed to the Warren Commission and took the lead in shaping the investigation of JFK's murder.