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JFK Assassination Review Board
Releases Top Secret Documents
Anna K. Nelson, American University
Copyright   ©   Organization of American Historians

See also Kermit Hall, " The Kennedy Assassination in the Age of Open Secrets", OAH Newsletter, 25 (February).

One year ago, Kermit Hall reported some of the findings of the JFK Assassination Records Review Board in the OAH Newsletter. The board has since been hard at work opening and processing relevant documents. Many of them were released last November, and are published here for the first time. In addition to the noteworthy reaction of Soviet officials to the President's death, the documents also reveal U.S. plots against the Cuban government that had approval at the highest levels in this country. The following notes were provided by Anna Nelson, one of the Review Board members. Transcriptions of the original documents follow Professor Nelson's notes.

Note: Facscimiles of the documents which are referred to in the text are not yet online.

Document One

This is an FBI document that illustrates the information originally "redacted" and the document as it now appears. It is an interesting document because it discusses Soviet reaction to the assassination It also illustrates the FBI at work at counter-espionage.

Document Two

The body of this document which describes the substance of a Communist party meeting in Steubenville, Ohio was opened but the first page was almost completely black. This page lists sources of FBI information. It is interesting, not only because the meeting discusses the assassination but because the FBI was concerned about the meeting of 7 people (at least three of whom were FBI sources).

Document Three

This is one of the CIA documents describing their operations in Mexico City (noted by symbol LI) and Oswald's trip there in October 1963. CIA had covered all the information between the brackets so the reader, for example, would not know the source was a double agent. This document also illustrates the use of substitute language for sensitive operations. In this case, "designated meeting times" has been substituted to protect the vulnerable agents still in Mexico or Cuba.

Document Four

This document from the National Security Agency indicates that as early as Dec. 6, 1963, John J. McCloy, a member of the Warren Commission, had misgivings about the "credibility" of that investigation. The original release completely obscured this information.

Documents Five, Six, and Seven

These documents are part of a larger body of material released by the Department last November. Five is from the Papers of Joseph Califano, who was a special assistant and counsel to the Secretary of the Army. Six and Seven come from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They are of great interest because they illustrate that the CIA was not the only agency plotting the demise of Fidel Castro. While Five has samples of their ideas, Six indicates that the President approved the anti-Castro efforts. Seven has special interest because it is dated after the Cuban Missile Crisis and only five months before Kennedy's death. These pages are small examples of the countless meetings and papers on Cuba within the Defense Department in 1962-63.

Document 1

1 - Mr. DeLoach

1 - Mr. Wick

1 - Mr. Gale

1 - Mr. Sullivan

1 - Mr. Branigan

1 - Mr. Lenihan

December 1, 1966


A source who has furnished reliable information in the past and who was in Russia on the date of the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy advised on December 4, 1963, that the news of the assassination of President Kennedy was flashed to the Soviet people almost immediately after its occurrence. It was greeted by great shock and consternation and church bells were tolled in the memory of President Kennedy.

According to our source, officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the "ultraright" in the United States to effect a "coup." They seemed convinced that the assassination was not the deed of one man, but that it rose out of a carefully planned campaign in which several people played a part. They felt those elements interested in utilizing the assassination and playing on anticommunist sentiments in the United States would then utilize this act to stop negotiations with the Soviet Union, attack Cuba and thereafter spread the war. As a result of these feelings, the Soviet Union immediately went into a state of national alert.

Our source further stated that Soviet officials were fearful that without leadership, some irresponsible general in the United States might launch a missile at the Soviet Union. It was the further opinion of the Soviet officials that only maniacs would think that the "left" forces in the United States, as represented by the Communist Party, USA, would assassinate President Kennedy, especially in view of the abuse the Communist Party, USA, has taken from the "ultraleft" as a result of its support of peaceful coexistence and disarmament policies of the Kennedy administration.





According to our source, Soviet officials claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald had no connection whatsoever with the Soviet Union. They described him as a neurotic maniac who was disloyal to his own country and everything else. They noted that Oswald never belonged to any organization in the Soviet Union and was never given Soviet citizenship.

(CG 5824-S*)

A second source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised on November 27, 1963, that Nikolai T. Fedorenko, the Permanent Representative to the Soviet Mission to the United Nations, held a brief meeting with all diplomatic personnel employed at the Soviet Mission on November 23, 1963. During this meeting, Fedorenko related for the benefit of all present the news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and stated that Kennedy's death was very much regretted by the Soviet Union and had caused considerable shock in Soviet Government circles. Fedorenko stated that the Soviet Union would have preferred to have had President Kennedy at the helm of the American Government. He added that President Kennedy had, to some degree, a mutual understanding with the Soviet Union, and had tried seriously to improve relations between the United States and Russia. Fedorenko also added that little or nothing was known by the Soviet Government concerning President Lyndon Johnson and, as a result, the Soviet Government did not know what policies President Johnson would follow in the future regarding the Soviet Union.

According to our source, Colonel Boris Ivanov, Chief of the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB) Residency in New York City, held a meeting of KGB personnel on the morning of November 25, 1963. Ivanov informed those present that President Kennedy's death had posed a problem for the KGB and stated that it was necessary for all KGB employees to lend their efforts to solving the problem.

According to our source, Ivanov stated that it was his personal feeling that the assassination of President Kennedy had been planned by an organized group rather than being the act of one individual assassin. Ivanov stated that it was therefore necessary that the KGB ascertain with the greatest possible speed the true story surrounding President Kennedy's assassination. Ivanov stated that the KGB was interested in knowing all the factors and all of the possible groups which might have worked behind the scenes to organize and plan this assassination.


Our source added that Ivanov also emphasized that it was of extreme importance to the Soviet Government to determine precisely what kind of man the new President Lyndon Johnson would be. Ivanov said that President Johnson was practically an unknown to the Soviet Government and, accordingly, the KGB had issued instructions to all of its agents to immediately obtain all data available concerning the incumbent President. Ivanov said that it would be necessary for KGB personnel to gather and correlate all information concerning President Johnson, including his background, his past working experience and record in Congress, his present attitude toward the Soviet Union, and particularly all information which might have bearing upon the future foreign policy line he would follow (NY 3653-S*)

On September 16, 1965, this same source reported that the KGB Residency in New York City received instructions approximately September 16, 1965, from KGB headquarters in Moscow to develop all possible information concerning President Lyndon B. Johnson's character, background, personal friends, family, and from which quarters he derives his support in his position as President of the United States. Our source added that in the instructions from Moscow, it was indicated that "now" the KGB was in possession of data purporting to indicate President Johnson was responsible for the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy. KGB headquarters indicated that in view of this information, it was necessary for the Soviet Government to know the existing personal relationship between President Johnson and the Kennedy family, particularly between President Johnson and Robert and "Ted" Kennedy.

On March 3, 1964, Yuri I. Nosenko, Soviet defector whose bona fides has not been established, advised that he was handling Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB) investigations of tourists from the United States at the time Lee Harvey Oswald visited Russia in 1959, and consequently was fully cognizant of the Lee Harvey Oswald case.

According to Nosenko, Oswald came to the attention of the KGB when he expressed a wish to defect to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics shortly after his arrival in Russia. However, the KGB, after inquiry, decided he was mentally unstable and informed him he had to return to the United States upon completion of his visit. Thereafter, when Oswald missed a sight-seeing tour he was to take, his hotel room was forced open and he was found with one of his wrists badly cut.

Document 2

United State Department of Justice

Federal Bureau of Investigation

File No. CI 100-1910

Cincinnati, Ohio

December 16, 1963

On December 2, 1963, a source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, advised that on November 20, 1963, Genne Kuhn, Wheeling, West Virginia, who has previously been identified by the source as Chairman of the lower Ohio Valley Section of the Communist Party, stated that Anthony Krchmarek, head of the Communist Party in Ohio, and an Arnold, last name not mentioned, had recently visited her. She did not give the date of this visit. She stated that Krchmarek and Arnold spoke to an assembly of students at Bethany College, and that after the meeting, they were invited to a cocktail party, where Socialism was discussed until the small hours of the morning. She said that there was no show of contempt or any hard feelings, only friendliness[.] She stated Krchmarek and Arnold are to return Sunday, December 8, 1963, at 6:30 P.M., and desire to discuss matters dealing with the coal unions.

On December 2, 1963, another source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, advised that on November 15, 1963, Arnold Johnson and Anthony Krchmarek had stopped in Steubenville, Ohio, that day, and spoke at Bethany College in West Virginia. Source states that Anthony Krchmarek, at a recent meeting, had spoken of Arnold Johnson procuring speakers for college engagements.

The same source stated that on November 18, 1963, Arnold Johnson and Anthony Krchmarek again visited Steubenville, Ohio, to arrange for a meeting "down the river" on December 8, 1963, and to postpone a meeting scheduled for Steubenville on November 22, 1963, to December 13, 1963. After making these arrangements, they returned to Cleveland, Ohio.

On December 12, 1963, the first source and a third source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, advised that at 6:30 P.M., on December 8, 1963, a Communist [document ends]



FILE: P-8593





2. LIJENNET-1 WILL HAVE MEETING SOV ON EVE [designated meeting times] LITEASE-1 HAS MEET [designated meeting times] LISTEED 2 ABOUT [designated meeting times]. WILL HAVE LINILE-1 MEET SOV EARLY [designated meeting times]. HAVE SEPARATELY ADVISED HQS RE STATION'S PROPOSAL RE LINEB-1 MEETING WITH SOV.



Document 4

4 Dec 63 1000


For [omitted]

In conversation with me, MCCLOY, a member of the presidential commission stated that he has serious doubts of the credibility of the investigation to date. He does not eliminate the possibility that the attempt on KENNEDY was made by two persons. However, in view of JOHNSON's order that the commission investigate also the circumstances of OSWALD's slaying, some of the commission's operations and its report could come after RUBY's trial and perhaps even after the verdict and appeals. In the meantime the trial was postponed until 3 January [sic], and the FBI released to the press information that their investigation confirms OSWALD's guilt, and that he had no accomplices.

Document 5

Possible Actions to Provoke, Harrass [sic], of Disrupt Cuba

1. Operation SMASHER:

a. Objective: The objective is to disrupt/disable military and commercial communications facilities in Cuba.

b. Concept: This to be accomplished by the clandestine introduction of a "special" vacuum tube into selected communications equipment. The tube, which is available, is virtually undetectable inasmuch as its effectiveness is due to the insertion of a chemical compound in the base of the tube. The chemical, when heated becomes a conductor, when cooled a non-conductor.

2. Operation FREE RIDE:

a. Objective: The objective is to create unrest and dissension among the Cuban people.

b. Concept: This to be accomplished by airdropping valid Pan American or KLM one-way airline tickets good for passage to Mexico City, Caracas, etc. (none to the U.S.). Tickets could be intermixed with other leaflets planned to be dropped. The number of tickets dropped could be increased. The validity of the tickets would have to be restricted to a time period.

3. Operation TURN ABOUT:

a. Objective: The objective is to create indications to Fidel Castro that his value to the revolutionary cause has diminished to the point where plans are being made for his "removal".

b. Concept: This to be accomplished by the use of intelligence means the crecendo [sic] increasing until it culminates in Castro's discovery of the mechanism or hardware.

4. Operation DEFECTOR:

a. Objective: To induce elements or individuals of the Cuban military to defect with equipment.

b. Concept: This activity when properly planned and implemented has the effect of decreasing military capability. In a totalitarian system the immediate reaction is increased security accompanied by decreased activity. It also creates havoc in security and intelligence agencies. Could be accomplished by intelligence means and promise of rewards.

5. Operation BREAK-UP:

a. Objective: To clandestinely introduce corrosive materials to cause aircraft, vehicle or boat accidents.

b. Concept: This activity, if possible should be aimed primarily toward the Soviet-provided aircraft. If properly accomplished it would degrade confidence in the equipment, increase supply and maintenance problems and seriously affect combat capability.

6. Operation COVER-UP:

a. Objective: The objective is to convince the Communist government of Cuba that Naval Forces ostensibly assigned to the MERCURY project is merely a cover.

b. Concept: It should not be revealed as to what the cover is--this should be left to conjecture. This could tie in with Operation DIRTY TRICK.

7. Operation DIRTY TRICK:

a. Objective: The objective is to provide irrevocable proof that, should the MERCURY manned orbit flight fail, the fault lies with the Communists et al Cuba.

b. Concept: This to be accomplished by manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the Cubans.

8. Operation FULL-UP:

a. Objective: The objective is to destroy confidence in fuel supplied by the Soviet Bloc by indicating it is contaminated.

B. Concept: This to be accomplished by introducing a known biological agent into jet fuel storage facilities. This agent flourishes in jet fuel and grows until it consumes all the space inside the tank.

9. Operation PHANTOM:

a. Objective: The objective is to convince the Castro Government that clandestine penetration and resupply of agents is being is being regularly conducted.

b. Concept: This to be accomplished by use of BJ, UDT, AND JJ capabilities to create the impression that landings have been made on beaches and air drops have been made in other areas.

10. Operation BINGO:

a. Objective: The objective is to create an incident which has the appearance of an attack on U.S. facilities (GMO) in Cuba, thus providing the excuse for use of U.S. might to overthrow the current government of Cuba.

b. Concept: This to be accomplished by the use of SNAKES outside the confines of the Guantanamo Base. SNAKES simulate an actual fire-fight and upon hearing such a sound it is entirely feasible that the immediate reaction on G'Mo would be that the base is being attacked. This would, with proper preparation, be followed by a counterattack and with adequate planning the base at G'Mo could disgorge military force in sufficient number to sustain itself until other forces, which had been previously alerted, could attack in other areas. It is envisaged that a schedule of operations similar to the following would overwhelm the Cuban military and cause its defeat:

(1) Simulated attack on Guantanamo.

(2) Word flashed to the President.

(3) President orders counterattack to include:

(a) Immediate launch of alerted aircraft whose targets are Cuban airfields.

(b) Immediate launch of counterattack down strategic lines in communication in Cuba.

(c) Fleet force standing by on alert would make way toward pre-selected targets/landing areas.

(d) Immediate embarkation of airborne troops previously alerted to pre-selected targets.

(e) Launch of additional combat aircraft to clear drop areas and further interdict lines of communication.

(f) Ships and aircraft would land/airdrops troops and secure airfields, road/rail terminals, etc.

Document 6



Subject: Guidance from the Deputy Secretary of Defense and his Reaction to Original Proposed Policy for CIA Support by the Department of Defense of CaribbeanSurvey [sic] Group (30) January 1962)

Mr. Gilpatric did not like this paper at all. He indica[ted] the paper was too negative and restricted as though a policy towards an enemy like we are dealing with the Germans or Itali[ans,] not a fellow department of our Government. This is a red line operation with the blessing of the President and approved by him as a most important task. This is probably the most important mission we have in the government today. When a request comes in from CIA, you (Craig) will evaluate it and request the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their evaluation and recommendations. The Secretary of Defense will determine, after considering the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wha[t] the decision will be, not the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This decision is the prerogative of the Secretary of Defense.

We do not want to get involved in a case-by-case basis, do not want individual actions on each case. We do not want masses of individual actions. This is a red line priority problem and must be handled with dispatch and without getting involved in minutia regarding expenses and reimbursement or other details. Department of Defense may have to do it themse[lves] regardless who foots the bill. In some cases, CIA will be required to reimburse if so determined by the Secretary of Defense. This is a matter which must be decided by the Secretary of Defense - not the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Department of Defense budgets for some CIA support. We have equipment of some types lying around not being used and should not require reimbursement for this type, as a general rule.

Document 7

The Joint Chiefs of Staff

Washington 25, D. C.


SACSA-M 365-63

22 June 1963


Subject: Proposed Covert Policy and Integrated Program of Action Toward Cuba

1. At TAB A is a CIA memorandum concerning a program of action against Cuba to include sabotage by hit-and-run raids, which was to be presented to the NSC Standing Group on 14 June. At TAB B is the talking paper prepared to support you in discussing this CIA memorandum at the Standing Group meeting. The meeting, as you will recall, was cancelled [sic].

2. The CIA memorandum was subsequently presented to the Standing Group on 18 June, at which time it was approved. General McKee accompanied Mr. McNamara to the meeting.

3. This could conceivably expand into an operation of substantial size requiring broad, unprogrammed [sic] support from the military. Accordingly, I recommend that at the next meeting of the Standing Group you request that CIA be directed to present to the Department of Defense a summary of CIA requirements for military support of the approved sabotage raid program.


Major General, USMC



SUBJECT: Proposed Covert Policy and Integrated Program of Action towards Cuba

I. Introduction

1. Submitted herewith is a covert program for Cuba within CIA's capabilities. Some parts of the program have already been approved and are being implemented. Being closely inter-related, the total cumulative impact of the courses of action set forth in this program is dependent upon the simultaneous coordinated execution of the individual courses of action.

2. This program is based on the assumption that current U.S. policy does not contemplate outright military intervention in Cuba or a provocation which can be used as a pretext for an invasion of Cuba by United States military forces. It is further assumed that U.S. policy calls for the exertion of maximum pressure by all means available to the U.S. Government, short of military intervention, to prevent the pacification of the population and the consolidation of the Castro/Communist regime. The ultimate objective of this policy would be to encourage dissident elements in the military and other power centers of the regime to bring about the eventual liquidation of the Castro/Communist entourage and the elimination of the Soviet presence from Cuba.

3. While the effect of a program of maximum pressure is unpredictable, it is suggested that a sustained intensive effort undertaken now to prevent the consolidation of the Castro/Communist regime may in the future present the United States with opportunities and options not now foreseeable. The consequences of a policy of allowing Castro to "stew in his own juice," however, are foreseeable. According to current estimates, barring Castro's death or a decisive change in the U.S. posture or Soviet policy toward Cuba, the Castro regime is likely to be more firmly established a year hence, despite possible economic setbacks. The mere passage of time tends to favor Castro as the population and elite groups in Cuba become accustomed to the idea that he is here to stay and as his regime gains in administrative experience and the security organs become more efficient. Over the long run, the existence of an organized party apparatus as well as a stable governmental machinery could reduce the indispensability of Castro's personal leadership. Thus, if left to chance, the U.S. must be prepared to accept for the indefinite future a Communist regime in Cuba closely tied to and a significant component of the Soviet world power structure.

4. Within the context of the policy assumptions and estimate of the situation in Cuba outlined above, CIA submits a program consisting of the following interdependent courses of action:

A. Covert collection of intelligence, both for U.S. strategic requirements as well as for operational requirements.

B. Propaganda actions to stimulate low-risk simple sabotage and other forms of active and passive resistance.

C. Exploitation and stimulation of disaffection in the Cuban military and other power centers.

D. Economic denial actions on an increased basis.

E. General sabotage and harassment.

F. Support of autonomous anti-Castro Cuban groups to supplement and assist in the execution of the above courses of action.

5. A vital feature of the foregoing program to exert maximum pressure on the Castro/Communist regime is the dependence of the impact of each course of action on the simultaneous and effective execution of the other courses of action.