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The CIA at work

As I noted earlier this week in “From the Angleton conference,” Edward Jay Epstein is the author of notable books including several that are derived in one way or another from his relationship with the late, legendary CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton, as well as a forthcoming book on l’affaire DSK to be published later this month by Melville House. Ed’s first book, on the Warren Commission investigation into the assassination of JFK, put him on the map. After Angleton’s involuntary retirement from the CIA in late 1975, with Angleton’s assistance Ed explored the possible KGB connections to Lee Harvey Oswald. He has discovered that his first book caught the attention of the CIA and has now filed this report explaining how he became known as a conspiracy theorist (even without a theory):

The CIA recently released this April 1967 Document #1035-960, marked “PSYCH” for Psychological Warfare Operations, in the division “CS” (the Clandestine Services), providing instructions for its “media assets.” Paragraph #3, (b), explains why it labelled me a “conspiracy theorist,” even though my book Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth contains no theory other than that the Warren Commission conducted a flawed investigation. See document excerpt below:

RE: Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report

1. Our Concern. From the day of President Kennedy’s assassination on, there has been speculation about the responsibility for his murder. Although this was stemmed for a time by the Warren Commission report, (which appeared at the end of September 1964), various writers have now had time to scan the Commission’s published report and documents for new pretexts for questioning, and there has been a new wave of books and articles criticizing the Commission’s findings. In most cases the critics have speculated as to the existence of some kind of conspiracy, and often they have implied that the Commission itself was involved. Presumably as a result of the increasing challenge to the Warren Commission’s report, a public opinion poll recently indicated that 46% of the American public did not think that Oswald acted alone, while more than half of those polled thought that the Commission had left some questions unresolved. Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse results.

2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization. The members of the Warren Commission were naturally chosen for their integrity, experience and prominence. They represented both major parties, and they and their staff were deliberately drawn from all sections of the country. Just because of the standing of the Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society. Moreover, there seems to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way responsible for the assassination. Innuendo of such seriousness affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government. Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation. Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.

3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the assassination question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active [business] addresses are requested:

a. To discuss the publicity problem with [?] and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors), pointing out that the Warren Commission made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.

b. To employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories. In the course of discussions of the whole phenomenon of criticism, a useful strategy may be to single out Epstein’s theory for attack, using the attached Fletcher [Knebel] article and Spectator piece for background. (Although Mark Lane’s book is much less convincing that Epstein’s and comes off badly where confronted by knowledgeable critics, it is also much more difficult to answer as a whole, as one becomes lost in a morass of unrelated details.)

So thanks, CIA. Your “media assets” bought the label.

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