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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Does it Matter Where Allen Dulles was on November 22, 1963?

Updated: Aug 10, 2023

Screen shot from Jefferson Morley's Substack of August 5, 2023.

A recent article on James DiEugenio's website makes a big deal out of the whereabouts of Allen Dulles on the weekend right after the JFK assassination:

According to [David] Talbot, Dulles was in Washington that day but he did not spend the late afternoon or evening at his home in Georgetown. He was at the top secret CIA facility known officially as Camp Peary. It was unofficially known as The Farm. And according to the date book, Dulles was there from at least late Friday afternoon, through Saturday and Sunday of that dramatic weekend. In other words during the Kennedy autopsy, while Lee Oswald was in detention and after Jack Ruby shot the alleged assassin.
This is odd since, at the time of the assassination of President Kennedy, Allen Dulles had no formal role in the government of the United States. He was what was called a “gray eminence” a figure from a storied past collecting his civil service pension and giving speeches promoting the Cold War. But The Farm, located in southeast Virginia’s, York County, was not a club for Agency veterans to swig bourbon and talk about the overthrow of Mossadegh. It was a busy, coordinated center for testing and experimenting clandestine activities. This huge, sprawling base—over 9000 acres—is partly used to train CIA employees in the Directorate of Operations, as well as their equivalent in the, at that time, new Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). (An example would be the opening scene in David Mamet’s spy thriller Spartan.) Interestingly, according to Wikipedia, it is also available for off-site conferences and working groups. According to a CIA officer who visited there for three weeks, one thing they did was to stage mock executions. It was heavily guarded, but with a living legend like Dulles that stricture probably did not apply.

Here are the relevant pages from the Dulles' desk calendar:

Morley quoted a recent message from David Talbot, author of The Devil's Chessboard:

I reported in my book that according to Dulles's daybook, he met with unnamed "bankers" in the days before the assassination. But I didn't see the Nov. 23, 1963, page until Morrow distributed it. According to that page, Dulles had dinner with banker John Simpson the day after the JFK assassination while he was staying at the Farm.
Again, why was Dulles at this top-secret CIA facility when President Kennedy fired him from the CIA two years before? And while he was staying there, why did he have dinner the day after the assassination with a former executive of the Nazi-controlled J. Henry Schroder bank (where Dulles was a director), who then joined the OSS, and after the war became finance chairman of the Bechtel Corp., a construction and engineering giant with strong connections in the US intelligence world?

First, it is not clear that Allen Dulles actually spent the weekend at "the farm," as originally planned. It appears that he did not.

Here is a listing from his diary for November 21, 1963: Download the file and in the last folder you will find a list of files. The above is the file 19631122_0000034513.pdf.

Dulles had a scheduled dinner at the British Embassy at 8:00 PM, which means he had to fly back to Washington D.C. that day. Here is his schedule for November 22, 1963:

Dulles flew to Newport News in the morning and then gave a speech at 9:00 AM. The notation indicates that he "returned to Washington with John Warner after hearing of JFK"s death." Warner was the CIA's Legislative Counsel during and after Dulles' tenure as DCI.

The notations for "the farm" on the desk calendar appear to be Dulles' plans for the weekend -- after all most people use desk calendars to mark their upcoming events. I am old enough to remember using one when I worked in Toronto many years ago.

An entry in his call diary indicates that his appearance at the farm was cancelled via a phone call from Matthew Baird, who was involved in training at the CIA.

Dulles most likely went back to Washington D.C. with John Warner shortly after news of the assassination reached the Brookings conference. From a letter from F. W. Luikart of the Brookings staff to Dulles on December 9:

The tragic circumstances which brought our conference to a close in November prevented me from expressing to you my thanks for your participation in an adequate fashion. It was only this final sad note which detracted from an otherwise very successful conference in which you played a most important part. The participants to a man were pleased with your session and from it each, I am sure, derived a great deal of benefit.

It makes sense that he would want to be in D.C. right after the assassination. After all, he would want to pay his respects to the Kennedy family, and be available for any official events that might take place.

Dulles had planned to have dinner on November 23rd with John Simpson, a friend from Bechtel Corporation. Talbot makes it sound nefarious but they were old friends.

In my opinion, all of this is completely unremarkable and uninteresting. Even if Dulles had been at "the farm" at Camp Peary, so what? Why wouldn't the CIA want its recruits to hear from a former DCI?

And even though Allen Dulles was not longer the Director of the CIA, he still had many 'official' duties. In February 1962, he was appointed to a Defense Department high-level advisory committee on non-military instruction in the Armed Forces. That was followed a few months later by his inclusion in a government study group that went to South Vietnam on a mission to review "non-military instruction" at military installations. He found that many of the troops were "confused about American aims in Southeast Asia."

JFK wanted to "make Dulles's exit as gentle and graceful as it could." Not exactly what you would expect from someone who supposedly wanted to smash the CIA into a thousand pieces.

The reason this is all nefarious to Talbot and DiEugenio is that they suspect Dulles had some role in the assassination of JFK. To them, Dulles was bitter and angry at being forced out of his top position at the CIA. In fact, Talbot believes that Dulles set up a government-in-exile at his home after the assassination: (JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, page 325)

DiEugenio: Was Allen Dulles really fired?

Talbot: In reality, Allen Dulles recovers very quickly. He retreats to his home in Georgetown and he begins basically to set up a government in exile there. The top people at CIA do not regard John McCone, the new CIA director, really as their boss. So people like Richard Helms, James Angleton still feel they’re part of the Allen Dulles circle. They go to his home frequently or at the Metropolitan Club. Dulles is not only seeing his old CIA lieutenants, but generals, admirals, the national security network. He begins to operate a government in exile that is opposed to Kennedy policy and is creating opposition to the Kennedy administration.

On C-SPAN in 2015, Talbot said this (33:07, emphasis added)

... So, in 1961 on the heels of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, young President Kennedy, who's just been inaugurated a couple months before, is now faced with another crisis related to the CIA. Charles de Gaulle and his government are furious, are screaming that the CIA is backing a right-wing military coup against him, and President Kennedy's put in the extremely awkward position of telling the de Gaulle government, well, I'm not in control of the CIA. I can't speak for them. I'm not supporting this coup, but I can't speak for the CIA. And then finally, I think the big headline, of course, in my book, that's getting a lot of pushback from the media gatekeepers, looks at Allen Dulles' involvement in the Kennedy assassination itself. De Gaulle, by the way, felt that these Dulles forces were behind the assassination of President Kennedy. He told his information minister, when he came back from the funeral of John Kennedy, that the same national security forces in the U.S. that targeted me killed President Kennedy. That has never been reported in this country. That book has never even been translated. It was a memoir by de Gaulle's information minister, that he wrote that was published in France, never translated in the U.S. So, that's very important. I present, I think, very compelling new evidence that ties Dulles to the assassination and, of course, to the cover-up, because he played such a critical role on the Warren Commission ...
Over the final months of JFK’s presidency, a clear consensus took shape within America’s deep state: Kennedy was a national security threat. For the good of the country, he must be removed. And Dulles was the only man with the stature, connections, and decisive will to make something of this enormity happen.
He had already assembled a killing machine to operate overseas. Now he prepared to bring it home to Dallas. All that his establishment colleagues had to do was to look the other way — as they always did when Dulles took executive action.

James DiEugenio noted in the Afterword to his book JFK Revisited: (page 264)

In the Destiny Betrayed version of the film, we suggest that two possible suspects in the coup were former CIA Director Allen Dulles and Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay.

Talbot and DiEugenio are just plain wrong. Whatever enmity there may have been between Allen Dulles and the Kennedy brothers just doesn't come close to justifying Talbot's and DiEugenio's suspicions.

Gus Russo, in his book Live by the Sword, notes the close relationship between the Kennedy brothers and Allen Dulles: (page 71)

The Kennedy brothers had also preserved a long-lasting association with Allen Dulles, then CIA Director. Letters in both the Kennedy and Dulles collections reflect that John and Robert Kennedy maintained correspondence with both Dulles brothers from at least 1955. Traveling in the same social sphere, Allen Dulles and John Kennedy were “comfortable with one another and there was a lot of mutual respect,” Richard Bissell said in an interview. In fact, Kennedy was known to regard Dulles as a legendary figure. Historian Herbert Parmet wrote, “Dulles often went to the Charles Wrightsman estate near Joe Kennedy’s Palm Beach House. As far back as Jack’s early days, they socialized down in Florida, much of the time swimming and playing golf.” Dulles himself said, “I knew Joe quite well from the days when he was head of the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Their friendship blossomed: (Russo, page 72)

Dulles first met Jack Kennedy at the Kennedy Florida compound in 1955. They became fast friends. “Our contact was fairly continuous,” Dulles later said. “When [JFK] was in Palm Beach, we always got together.” Jack came to revere both Dulles’ intellect and accomplishments.

Peter Grose notes in his book, Gentleman Spy: (page 530)

Gus Russo says that Dulles helped JFK by keeping some secrets to himself: (Pages 73 - 74 in the Kindle edition)

Dulles kept a variety of Kennedy secrets from the public. For example, when John Kennedy won the election in November 1960, the CIA under Dulles conducted a background investigation of Kennedy in anticipation of his first intelligence briefing as President-elect on November 18. Such investigations were designed to predict how the subject would respond when informed of the full range of CIA operations, and to show Dulles the most effective method of appeal. Prepared by CIA psychologists, the study included hot evidence from the FBI: the indiscretion of a youthful Jack Kennedy, at the height of World War II, with alleged Nazi spy Inga Arvad Fejos. In 1942, while serving in the Office of Naval Intelligence in Washington, Jack Kennedy had established this potentially dangerous liaison. The FBI, which had wiretapped Arvad, initially compiled the file. Historian Thomas Reeves wrote:

When Jack’s relationship with the woman became known to Navy officials, the assistant director of the Office of Naval Intelligence wanted to cashier the young ensign from the Navy. A witness remembered the officer being “really frantic.” Reminded of Joe Kennedy’s prestige, however, the official eventually calmed down and consented merely to give Jack a speedy transfer to an ONI outpost in Charleston, South Carolina.

(FBI sources state that it was Hoover’s direct pressure that brought about the transfer. The potential value of this kind of political dynamite was most assuredly never lost on the FBI Director. It was just the kind of file that kept Hoover’s power inviolate for so long.)

Dulles’ decision, or favor, to keep this matter secret was quite possibly rewarded later, when Kennedy, as president-elect, retained Dulles as CIA Director. It may also have played a part in Kennedy’s initial refusal to accept Dulles’ resignation after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

On November 28, 1961 JFK helped inaugurate the new CIA headquarters at Langley. He took the opportunity to award the National Security Medal to Allen Dulles:

Mr. Dulles, Mr. McCone, General Cabell, members of the Central Intelligence Agency: I want, first of all, to express my appreciation to you all for the opportunity that this ceremony gives to tell you how grateful we are in the government and in the country for the services that the personnel of this Agency render to the country. It is not always easy. Your successes are unheralded--your failures are trumpeted. I sometimes have that feeling myself. But I am sure you realize how important is your work, how essential it is--and how, in the long sweep of history, how significant your efforts will be judged.

So I do want to express my appreciation to you now, and I'm confident that in the future you will continue to merit the appreciation of our country, as you have in the past. I'm also particularly grateful because this ceremony gives us all an opportunity to pay tribute to an outstanding public servant. Allen Dulles' career as a citizen of this country--and as one who has made his vast personal resources available to the country-stretches all the way back to the administration of President Woodrow Wilson. I know of no other American in the history of this country who has served in seven administrations of seven Presidents--varying from party to party, from point of view to point of view, from problem to problem, and yet at the end of each administration each President of the United States has paid tribute to his service--and also has counted Allen Dulles as their friend. This is an extraordinary record, and I know that all of you who have worked with him understand why this record has been made. I regard Allen Dulles as an almost unique figure in our country. I know of no man who brings a greater sense of personal commitment to his work--who has less pride in office--than he has. And therefore I was most gratified when we were permitted today to come out to the Agency to present this award to him in your presence. I'd like to read the citation.

"Allen Welsh Dulles is hereby awarded the National Security Medal.

"As principal intelligence adviser to the. President of the United States, Mr. Dulles has fulfilled the responsibilities of his office with unswerving purpose and high dedication. His ten years of service in the Central Intelligence Agency have been the climax of a lifetime of unprecedented and devoted public service beginning in the First World War, and stretching through the administrations of seven Presidents.

"The outstanding contributions Mr. Dulles has made to the security of the United States have been based upon a profound knowledge of the role of the intelligence office, a broad understanding of international relations, and a naturally keen judgment of men and affairs. The zestful energy and undaunted integrity of his service to his country will be an enduring example to the profession he has done so much to create."

Conspiracy theorists have constructed a mythical Allen Dulles who is an evil mastermind so at odds with JFK that he had him assassinated. It makes for a tantalizing plot line, but not great history.

Research and analysis for this article was contributed by Jerry Shinley, Larry Haapanen, Mark Allen, and Paul Hoch (who also helped edit this article).

Previous Relevant Blog Posts on Allen Dulles and the CIA:

This blog posts contains excerpts from RFK's oral history book which has a lot of nice things to say about Allen Dulles.

David Talbot puts words in JFK's mouth about the CIA.

JFK did not splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces.

The CIA did not support a coup attempt in France.

It was RFK who asked Lyndon Johnson to put Dulles on the Warren Commission.


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