The CIA reveals its family jewels

But the agency is still up to its old tricks -- including spreading lies about the Kennedys.

Topics: Books,

The CIA is coming clean. That’s the message the agency is trying to send with the release of its “family jewels” this week. The jewels are contained in a 693-page file that documents many of the clandestine service’s darkest deeds, from its post-World War II origins to the Watergate period. Among the past criminal activities to which the CIA is finally confessing are: assassination plots against foreign leaders, surveillance and wiretapping of American journalists, kidnapping of foreign citizens, opening domestic mail, and spying on U.S.dissidents. None of this is really news, since Seymour Hersh first broke the family jewels story back in 1974. But the CIA is now trying to market its new candor by declassifying these past sins.

CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden underlined the point, saying the file offers “a glimpse of a very different time and very different Agency.” But has the CIA really changed its ways? As Thomas Blanton of the National Security Archive commented, the agency still dips into its “black bag” these days, pulling out some of the very same “dirty tricks” to prosecute George W. Bush’s war on terror. Kidnapping and detention of foreign citizens? Check. Illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens? Check. Assassination plots against foreign leaders? Who knows? Hugo Chavez certainly has his suspicions.

The CIA’s new honesty is also far from complete. There is nothing in the family jewels about agency officials long suspected by congressional investigators and researchers of ties to the Kennedy assassination, including deceased agents such as William Harvey, David Phillips, David Morales and George Joannides. The agency continues to keep these records under wraps, in brazen defiance of the law.

In fact, the agency could not help taking another whack at the Kennedys with the release of its family jewels. Press reports about the declassified CIA secrets laid the blame for the assassination efforts against Fidel Castro directly on then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy. What’s the original source for this anti-Kennedy smear? None other than Richard Helms, the No. 2 man at the CIA during the Kennedy presidency and a bitter enemy of the two brothers.



Helms, desperately trying to head off congressional investigations into CIA abuses in the post-Watergate period, warned that he would drag RFK — by then conveniently dead — into the Castro controversy. By doing this, the wily Helms was clearly trying to intimidate the Democratic-controlled Congress. At a lunch meeting in January 1975, Helms told his friend Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that “Robert Kennedy personally managed the operation on the assassination of Castro” — confident that Kissinger would spread this around Washington, as he quickly did. Helms knew his accusation against RFK was a lie, and when later pressed by the Church Committee to provide proof, he could not, admitting that the CIA had misled Bobby about its plots. In truth, RFK was appalled when he learned that the agency was collaborating with the Mafia to kill Castro — and Kennedy believed that he shut down this sinister operation. But he did not succeed — the CIA continued to conspire against Castro for years after the Kennedys were removed from power.

Spreading poisonous disinformation about the Kennedys has long been one of the CIA’s oldest family jewels. Helms’ loyal aide Sam Halpern was a master at disseminating these lies to the press for years. But don’t expect the agency to come clean about this any time soon.

David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years.” He is now working on a book about the legendary CIA director Allen W. Dulles and the rise of the national security state.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Api Étoile

    Like little stars.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Calville Blanc

    World's best pie apple. Essential for Tarte Tatin. Has five prominent ribs.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chenango Strawberry

    So pretty. So early. So ephemeral. Tastes like strawberry candy (slightly).

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Chestnut Crab

    My personal fave. Ultra-crisp. Graham cracker flavor. Should be famous. Isn't.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    D'Arcy Spice

    High flavored with notes of blood orange and allspice. Very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Esopus Spitzenberg

    Jefferson's favorite. The best all-purpose American apple.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Granite Beauty

    New Hampshire's native son has a grizzled appearance and a strangely addictive curry flavor. Very, very rare.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hewes Crab

    Makes the best hard cider in America. Soon to be famous.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Hidden Rose

    Freak seedling found in an Oregon field in the '60s has pink flesh and a fragrant strawberry snap. Makes a killer rose cider.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Knobbed Russet

    Freak city.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Newtown Pippin

    Ben Franklin's favorite. Queen Victoria's favorite. Only apple native to NYC.

    Clare Barboza/Bloomsbury

    Uncommon Apples

    Pitmaston Pineapple

    Really does taste like pineapple.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>