Jim Garrison, the KGB, and the CIA
An open letter to Foreign Affairs magazine
by Oliver Stone
The Nation magazine, August 5 /12, 2002
Last fall, Nation contributing editor Max Holland wrote an
article for the ClA publication Studies in Intelligence asserting
that former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison was duped
by a KGB disinformation operation that led him, along with most
Americans, to believe that the CIA had been involved in the assassination
of President Kennedy.
This spring, Foreign Affairs magazine published a generous
review of Hollands article. As co-writers of the film JFK, we
sent a reply to Foreign Affairs. The editors refused to publish
it. We offered to pay for an ad, but Foreign Affairs again refused.
For the record, here is our reply:
Dear Editors of Foreign Affairs Philip Zelikow's review of
Max Holland's recent article in the CIA publication Studies in
Intelligence is a disservice to your readers. Zelikow uncritically
accepts Holland's theory that a KGB disinformation operation back
in 1967 is at the root of most Americans' current belief that
the CIA was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Holland's thesis rests on one unproven premise: that the KGB
planted a false story in March 1967 in Paese Sera, an Italian
leftwing newspaper. The story reported that Clay Shaw, then recently
charged with conspiracy to assassinate the President, was a board
member of Centro Mondiale Comerciale (CMC), an organization that
had been forced out of Italy amid charges that it was a CIA money-laundering
The problem Zelikow ignores is that Holland's only evidence
to support his premise is one handwritten note by a KGB defector
named Vasili Mitrokhin that "refers to a disinformation scheme
in 1967 that involved Paese Sera and resulted in publication of
a false story in New York." The note, supposedly summarizing
a KGB document that Holland has never seen, does not mention Clay
Shaw, Centro Mondiale Comerciale, Jim Garrison, or any specific
New York publication.
Holland speculates that the New York publication may have
been the National Guardian, which based an article on the Paese
Sera series. But one short article in an obscure left-wing weekly
that routinely picked up stories from the international press
does not seem like much of an accomplishment for a KGB disinformation
operation. There is no evidence that the Guardian article was
picked up anywhere else in the U.S.
Rather than speculate, Holland might have tried to interview
the editors of Paese Sera who were responsible for the articles
on Centro Mondiale Comerciale, as scholar Joan Mellen has done
for her forthcoming biography of Garrison. They would have told
him that the six-part series had nothing to do with the KGB or
the JFK assassination, that they had never heard of Jim Garrison
when they assigned the story six months before, and that they
were astonished to see that Shaw might have any connection to
the assassination. The articles were actually assigned in the
wake of a right-wing coup in Greece and were intended to prevent
such a coup in Italy.
Holland says "everything in the Paese Sera story was
a lie." His evidence? A recently released CIA document saying
that the Agency itself looked into Paese Sera's allegations. and
found that the CIA had no connection to CMC or its parent Permindex.
Holland may be willing to accept this as the whole truth, but
it is unconvincing to the rest of us who have noticed the Agency's
tendency to distance itself from its fronts, to release to the
public only documents that serve its interest, to fabricate evidence,
and to lie outright even under oath to congressional committees.
Two important facts from the Paese Sera story remain true:
1. CMC was forced to leave Italy (for Johannesburg, South
Africa) in 1962 under a cloud of suspicion about its CIA connections.
2. Clay Shaw was a member of CMC's board, along with such
well-known fascist sympathizers as Gutierrez di Spadaforo, undersecretary
of agriculture for Mussolini; Ferenc Nagy, former premier of Hungary,
and Giuseppe Zigiotti, president of the Fascist National Association
for Militia Arms.
Holland claims that the Paese Sera articles were what led
Garrison to believe the CIA was involved in the assassination.
This is nonsense. Garrison's book On the Trail of the Assassins
describes in detail how his uncovering of various pieces of evidence
actually led him to the conclusion that the CIA was involved.
This gradual process began two days after the assassination when
he questioned David Ferrie, a pilot who flew secret missions to
Cuba for the CIA and trained Lee Harvey Oswald in his Civil Air
Patrol unit. It included his investigation of a 1961 raid of a
munitions cache by CIA operatives in Houma, Louisiana; the discovery
that several of Oswald's co-workers at Reily Coffee Company in
New Orleans now worked at NASA; the fact that Oswald was working
out of an office that was running the CIA's local training camp
for Operation Mongoose; many eyewitnesses who saw Clay Shaw, David
Ferrie and Oswald together, etc. No doubt the Paese Sera series
was another piece of the puzzle for Garrison, but it was not the
centerpiece of his thinking that Holland makes it out to be.
From the moment his investigation of the JFK assassination
became public, Garrison was pilloried in the press. This treatment
was part of an orchestrated effort by the CIA to discredit critics
of the Warren Commission. A CIA memo dated April 1, 1967, never
mentioned by Holland or Zelikow, outlines the strategy and calls
for the Agency's "assets" in the media (writers and
editors) to publish stories saying the critics were politically
motivated, financially motivated, egomaniacal, sloppy in their
research, supported the Soviet Union, etc. This is exactly the
inaccurate portrait of Garrison that emerged in the press.
With the publication of Holland's recent article attempting
to link Jim Garrison to the KGB, the CIA continues to pursue this
misguided strategy of smearing Garrison and other critics of the
Warren Commission. Fortunately, the American public has never
bought the tired old lie that the CIA's misadventures can be written
off as figments of KGB disinformation. Too bad your critic did.
Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar co-writers of the film JFK