Why Did CIA Want to 'Wait Out' the Warren Commission?
Counterintelligence chief James Angleton withheld three key documents from investigators for 10 weeks, then made sure they didn't see the originals.
The short answer is keep the Warren Commission in the dark about the Agency’s efforts to verify the identity of Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassination suspect who denied killing Kennedy
This is one of the most pregnant moments in the Warren Commission's unsuccessful efforts to obtain information from the CIA. It happened in March 1964.
Former HSCA investigator Dan Hardway has written about this remarkable incident. It is often cited in the JFK literature. I want to revisit it in closer detail.
I'm tell the story in my The Ghost, my 2017 biography of Angleton, and I want to get the details right. Maybe you can help.
In February 1964, the Warren Commission general counsel Lee Rankin asked the agency to provide copies of three cables from the Mexico City station chief Win Scott to CIA headquarters. The commission staff knew about the cables because copies had been shared with the Secret Service on the night of November 22, 1963.
(This February 20, 1964 CIA memo tells the back story.)
When this reasonable request went to Angleton, chief of the Counterintelligence Staff, he balked. Angleton told his deputy Ray Rocca that he "would prefer to wait out the Commission" rather than turn over the cables.
Rocca laid out "the problem" for deputy director Dick Helm in this March 5, 1964 memo.
Unless you feel otherwise, Jim would prefer to wait out the Commission on the matter covered by paragraph 2.
These cables, identified by the numbers 66846, 66891 and 66896, concerned the initial efforts to identify Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassination suspect who denied killing Kennedy and then was killed in police custody. These documents were summarized for the Warren Commission staff, which was not allowed to see the originals.
Howard Willens, a Warren Commission staffer, later admitted he was “naive to say the least” about the CIA.
There are few clearer examples of the CIA’s obstruction of the JFK investigation than this memo.