Revelation 19.63

Page 5 of 10

"That is correct, and I think those -- the fact that I did live for a time in the Soviet Union -- gives me excellent qualifications to repudiate charges that Cuba and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee is communist controlled," Oswald replied, obviously taken aback.

"I would like to know," Bringuier chimed in, "if it is the Fair Play for Cuba Committee or Fair Play for Russia Committee."

Bringuier was pleased with the program. When it was over, he drafted a press release that called on the U.S. Congress to investigate Lee Harvey Oswald and denounce the FPCC. A rewritten and slightly toned-down version of the press release was issued in the name of the Directorate, as well as Alpha 66 and five other hard-line exile groups. Bringuier also sent a note to Lanuza three days after the debate, stating, "You can rest assured that the traitor Lee H. Oswald (the same one who tried to infiltrate the DRE here) came off looking so bad that it is possible that he will have to be transferred by his organization to another city."

(Although Fernandez-Rocha says he has "no specific recollection" of telling George Joannides about the Directorate's actions against Oswald, Borja recalls that the CIA officer was "definitely" informed. "That's the kind of thing we took a lot of merits and credits for," he says. "That's what the money [given to the DRE] was for.")

Perhaps humiliated in the radio debate, Oswald did indeed cease all public activities in support of Castro. According to his wife, he spent his time reading books and cleaning his rifle on their back porch. The Directorate, Bringuier now says, soon forgot about the FPCC adventurer. A few weeks later, Bringuier says he ran into an FBI agent who told him Oswald had left New Orleans. That was true. In late September Oswald took a bus to Mexico City, where he tried to obtain a visa for travel to Cuba and the Soviet Union. (Coincidentally David Atlee Phillips, the DRE's first CIA handler, was monitoring the Cuban embassy at the time.) Oswald's request was denied. Returning to the States, he went to Dallas, where he moved into a boardinghouse under an assumed name. Seven weeks later Kennedy was dead.

George Joannides's name is unknown to JFK historians. Unlike the countless scoundrels and spies who haunt the vast literature of the assassination, his cameo role in the tragedy has been neither documented nor debated. His name does not appear in the 26 volumes of evidence collected by the Warren Commission in 1964. His relationship to the DRE was unknown to New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, whose JFK conspiracy case failed to persuade a New Orleans jury in 1969. Joannides's actions do not figure in the twelve volumes of evidence and analysis that accompanied the report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979. He does not appear in any of the hundreds of books about the assassination. There is no character based on him in Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK.

Joannides's career was only forced into the public record by the immense popularity of Stone's movie. In response to renewed interest in the JFK murder, open-government advocate Rep. Lee Hamilton, an Indiana Democrat, secured unanimous passage of the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, intended to clarify public confusion about the Dealey Plaza tragedy. The law created an independent civilian panel with unique powers to declassify JFK files, even over the objections of federal agencies. Between 1994 and 1998, when its funding ran out, the panel, known as the Assassination Records Review Board, dislodged four million pages of classified documents. Among the new records were portions of George Joannides's personnel file. They confirmed he was the DRE's case officer.

During its existence the review board and its staff solicited help from the public in locating JFK records. In December 1997 I suggested that the board ask the CIA to review its files on the Revolutionary Student Directorate. An official in the CIA's Office of Historic Review, J. Barry Harrelson, responded with a memo stating that no agency employee had been in contact with the DRE in 1963. "Major policy differences between the agency and DRE developed ... because the DRE would not take directions or instructions about a number of operational matters, insisting on engaging in activities the agency did not sanction," Harrelson wrote. It was a mystifying response, especially since the CIA had already allowed publication of the name of Joannides's predecessor, Ross Crozier.

Then who, I asked, was Howard? Former members of the DRE had described him in detail to me. The Directorate's records corroborate their accounts of working closely with him in 1963.

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Jefferson Morley