Harrelson professed ignorance. "Knowledgeable case officers" had been consulted, he wrote, and no one knew of any officer using the name Howard who had dealt with the Cuban students. The CIA, he claimed, had no evidence that Howard was an "actual person."
At this the review board staff grew skeptical. Empowered by the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, the board was able to conduct its own check of agency files, and in March 1998 Michelle Combs, an investigator who had once worked at the CIA, uncovered Joannides's personnel file. The board ruled that the file was an assassination-related record and ordered that it be made public.
The file seems unexceptional. It contains just four performance reviews, three of them written during Joannides's tenure at the South Dade JM/WAVE station and one from 1978. The reviews describe his day-to-day responsibilities, grade his performance, and include written comments from his supervisor. That much was fairly routine.
More intriguing was what the files did not contain. The CIA's archives contained no reports, receipts, memoranda, notes, or cables that accounted for how the Directorate spent U.S. funds in August 1963 (when Joannides's Cuban charges were in contact with Oswald) or for November 1963, when Kennedy was slain. In fact there are no reports in the file for the entire seventeen-month period he handled the DRE, from December 1962 to April 1964. Although Joannides's personnel file stated he was paying the Directorate for "intelligence collection" and "propaganda," the CIA's Office of Historic Review maintained that it had no reports from Joannides about the group's intelligence and propaganda activities.
Why is the absence of those documents significant? Because such reporting almost always was mandatory. Contrary to Hollywood images of espionage, operations officers spend a lot of time at their desks doing paperwork. As a bureaucracy that collects information systematically and processes it efficiently, the CIA expects and requires its employees to account for their efforts. Such written reports were filed monthly by Joannides's predecessor, Ross Crozier, and are found in declassified CIA files. Reports were filed monthly by Joannides's successor as well. (And Joannides himself received praise in a July 1963 performance evaluation for his "adherence to valid reporting techniques.")
From the public record, we know how the JM/WAVE station, located adjacent to what is now Metrozoo in South Miami-Dade, operated during Joannides's tenure in Miami. Case officers such as he were required to file reports with their "reporting officers." These rewrite men synthesized the information for station chief Ted Shackley, who reviewed the reports, edited them, added his own comments, and sent them on to Washington. In a brief telephone conversation in December 1998, Shackley confirmed that Joannides did report regularly on the DRE, if not monthly then at least quarterly. But when pressed to explain why no reports could be found in the files, he replied that he wouldn't want to speculate, then canceled a previously scheduled interview.
Six retired CIA operations officers interviewed for this article agree that after November 22, 1963, Joannides had a duty to report, in writing, whatever he knew about the relationship between the Directorate and Oswald. "He would have been completely remiss if he didn't," says Justin Gleichauf, a retired CIA official who worked in Miami in the early Sixties. "[The Directorate's members] were up to their eyes with this guy [Oswald], and they hadn't told him? He must've been hot about that. He undoubtedly reported it, and in writing."
John Pereira, retired chief of the CIA's Office of Historic Review, concurs. "On anything that important," he says, "the normal reporting would have gone in writing."
"There may not be a report in the file," adds Peter Jessup, a CIA officer assigned to the National Security Council in 1963, "but you can be sure there was a report."
If there were such a report, someone at the CIA either destroyed it without authorization or is still keeping it secret. The former would be a violation of Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, the latter a violation of the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act.
If DRE members were "up to their eyes" with Oswald in August 1963, the modest propaganda victory provided by the WDSU radio debate was just the impetus they needed for ratcheting up their anti-Castro schemes. In early September the JM/WAVE station received a copy of a national tabloid called See, in which the DRE had taken out an advertisement offering ten million dollars to persons willing to help the group assassinate Fidel Castro.
On September 15, the DRE's records show, Salvat and his cohorts used $660 provided by the CIA to travel to New York City to challenge pro-Castro students speaking at a conference in midtown Manhattan. The resulting brawl made page one of the New York Times.