top of page
  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Jefferson Morley: Able to Leap Intellectual Chasms in a Single Bound

Updated: Jan 25

I am a paid subscriber to Jefferson Morley's JFK Facts Substack. Unlike some conspiracy theorists like James DiEugenio and Paul Bleau, Morley is a serious researcher whose views frequently cross over to the mainstream press. Scott Sayare's article in New York magazine which featured Morley's research was #2 on its most-read articles of the year. Unfortunately, Morley is prone to reading way too much into the evidence and to make leaps in logic that are completely unwarranted.

Over the last year, Morley has repeated certain themes over and over again. Tracy Parnell has done a very good job debunking many of Morley's allegations. I have also debunked many of his Substack posts (see the links below). But as Morley repeats these stories, he also tends to add to or change their meanings.

Jefferson Morley, a writer who has chronicled the events surrounding Kennedy’s assassination and is vice president of the nonpartisan Mary Ferrell Foundation, said the group — which pushes for more disclosures about the events surrounding Kennedy’s death — “did not expect JFK’s assassination to be an issue in the 2024 election. But it is and it doesn’t surprise us.”
Morley summed up why he thinks the release of the remaining documents is so important: “If you want to get full disclosure on 9/11, unidentified aerial phenomenon, you’ve got to start with JFK. OK, if the CIA gets their way on the murder of a president, you know, then they’re going to get their way on other issues.”

But Morley's quote "if the CIA gets their way on the murder of a president," is somewhat obtuse. Perhaps it should be read as "if the CIA gets their way on keeping redactions secret ..." Journalists usually pride themselves on the clarity of their language. Morley thrives on ambiguity and obfuscation.

The only thing the CIA truly cares about regarding the JFK assassination, is protecting their sources and methods.

And tying this to "full disclosure on 9/11"? Is Morley a 9/11 truther? That sentence cries out for elaboration.

Much as Morley would like, the JFK assassination is not going to be an election issue except for followers of RFK Jr. who also want to make vaccines an election issue.

Morley's notion that we cannot understand 9/11 or UAPs if the CIA does not come clean on JFK is eerily similar to the notion, pushed by Fletcher Prouty and Oliver Stone, that the United States can only move forward as a nation if it solves the JFK assassination. Until then, they claim, the United States is stuck.

In Sayare's article, Morley is wrong about the secrecy of documents:

At least 320,000 “assassination-related” documents have been released; by one estimate, some 4,000 remain withheld or redacted, the majority belonging to the CIA.

These documents are not withheld. They do have some redactions. If you want a very good analysis of the state of the documents, please read Robert Reynolds' blog.

On other issues, Morley's assertions leap well beyond the evidence.

With the release of long-secret JFK files in recent years, the CIA’s surveillance of accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald from November 1959 to November 1963 has gone from a speculative proposition to a well-documented fact.

Morley details the timeline of the supposed surveillance. He links to an earlier article about the opening of a CIA file on Oswald in 1959. But all you will learn is that Lee Harvey Oswald was put on the mail-interception watchlist on November 11, 1959, because of his defection to the Soviet Union. Oswald was removed from the HT-LINGUAL watch list on May 28, 1962, because he returned to the United States.

With regard to Oswald, why is this nefarious? With the release of long-secret mail interception records well before 2023, why is this even news?

Morley goes on to claim that J. Edgar Hoover forwarded a report of an Oswald interview with FBI agent John Fain James Angleton in the CIA. But he provides no sources that Hoover sent it to Angleton.

The FBI sent the report of John Fain to ONI New Orleans, INS Dallas as well as 5 copies to FBI Headquarters. Copies were also sent to the State Department, the CIA and other agencies.

Morley alleges that because it was routed to the Counterintelligence Operations office (CI/OPS) that this "is strong evidence that the returning ex-Marine defector was being used for operational purposes. Why would CI/OPS be notified about Oswald if he was not involved in counterintelligence operational activity?"

There might be many reasons.

We have no idea of who actually read the file at CI/OPS, how closely it was read, or what some people might have thought, let alone if Angleton read it. There were probably many documents routed through the office that were of limited interest.

It's easy to read too much into routing slips. I worked for Intel Corporation for nine years. I was included in many email strings in which I had absolutely no interest. I'd hate for Morley to review my emails from Intel -- I am sure he would find all sorts of anomalies.

In and of itself it is not evidence that Oswald "was being used for operational purposes."

Another part of the CIA's supposed surveillance was one of Morley's big stories in 2023. It was the story of Reuben Efron, described by Morley as the spy who read Oswald's mail. I debunked all of Morley's claims in this blog post.

Reuben Efron didn't read Oswald's mail. He just read a letter from Marguerite Oswald to Lee Harvey Oswald that was captured through the HT-Lingual program. He had learned of Oswald's impending return to the United States, and he checked the intercepts and found the letter. That's it.

That a CIA counterintelligence operations officer read Oswald’s mail for two years before JFK was killed, belying the claim that Kennedy was killed by a loner whose private thoughts were unknown to authorities.

How exactly does the Efron story bely the claim that JFK was killed by Oswald?

Talk about a leap of logic! It's probably not a leap - it's just Morley's use of sloppy language. He probably meant that "Oswald was a loner whose private thoughts were unknown to authorities."

Another one of Morley's stock stories is that of George Joannides.

Morley's Substack just before the end of the year described George Joannides as an officer "whose agents generated propaganda about Lee Harvey Oswald before and after Kennedy was killed." What ever happened to his supposed "Oswald operation?"

And Morley is now certain what Joannides personnel file contains:

The 44 documents held in Joannides’ personnel file, for example, do not mention Oswald’s name but they do concern the intelligence methods and the cover—the false identity—that Joannides used in late 1963 when his psy-war agents collected intelligence on and generated propaganda about Oswald, depicting him as a pawn of Fidel Castro.

There is one thing we do know about these files, and that is that the ARRB deemed them not relevant to the JFK assassination. And who exactly were Joannides' "psy-war" agents? Certainly not Carlos Bringuier, who couldn't even spell press release. And this was well before the JFK assassination.

Joannides hardly had to direct the DRE anti-Castro Cubans to talk about Oswald's connection to Castro. Without any prompting, Carlos Bringuier knew exactly whom he should blame for the assassination.

And Morley understood this at one point. Here is a quote from his 2008 book, Our Man in Mexico: Winston Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA: (page 175)

All the former DRE leaders emphasized that they did not take orders from the CIA, and there is good reason to take them at their word. In 1963, they were passionate young anticommunists who feared their homeland was in danger of slipping under one-party control forever. They did not need a CIA man from Washington to tell them to take action against a public supporter of Castro like Oswald.

And then there was this whopper in a Washington Post article:

And then-Deputy Director Richard Helms testified, falsely, that the agency had only “minimal information” about Oswald before Kennedy was killed.

Mr. Dulles: Looking back now that you have the full record, do you feel that you received from the State Department adequate information at the time that they were aware of Oswald's defection and later activities in the Soviet Union, did you get at the time full information from the State Department on those particular subjects?

Mr. McCone: Well, I am not sure that we got full information, Mr. Dulles. The fact is we had very little information in our files.

Mr. Helms: It was probably minimal.

Representative Ford: In this case, Oswald attempted to defect, he did not, he subsequently sought the right to return to the United States, he had contact with the Embassy. Was the Central Intelligence Agency informed of these steps, step by step, by the Department of State?

Mr. McCone: You might answer that.

Mr. Helms: Mr. Ford, in order to answer this question precisely I would have to have the file in front of me. I have not looked at it in some time so I don't have it all that clearly in mind. But it is my impression that we were not informed step by step. When I say that there is no requirement that I am aware of that the State Department should inform us and when I said a moment a go that we ha minimal information from them, this was not in any sense a critical statement but a statement of fact.

Of course, defenders of the official story will insist there is no rational reason to doubt the story of a “lone gunman.” One man killed JFK for no reason, they say, and another man killed the assassin in a fit of passion. They add, accurately enough, “There’s no smoking gun proof of conspiracy.” Therefore, they assure us, there’s nothing to talk about.
After calendar year 2023, this stance is less defensible than ever. From a fact-finding point of view, it is close to obtuse. The past year saw four significant factual revelations about the assassination story, as well as the emergence of the most significant new JFK narrative since Oliver Stone’s compelling but controversial movie, “JFK.”
To claim the lone gunman story is indisputably true is an expression of denial, not a description of the new evidence.

Where to even begin?

What "defender of the official story" has ever said that Oswald "killed JFK for no reason"?

I strongly suggest that Morley read Jean Davison's terrific book, Oswald's Game. Davison makes the case that Oswald was upset at sabotage raids on Cuba and killed Kennedy as a blow for the Cuban revolution. Oswald certainly had a motive, although because he was killed two days after the assassination, we can only speculate because he never told us.

Morley also regularly sends out Substack posts with subscriber opinions without comment. For instance, his December 15th, a subscriber wrote "I supported your work because JFK was killed by our government and we the people have been lied to." Is it unfair for a reader to infer that Morley agrees that the government killed JFK? That does not seem to be a problem for Morley.

Morley believes that there are four things which "the American people learned in 2023" but none of the four significantly changes our knowledge of what happened.

  1. "The CIA’s top men in Miami rejected the lone gunman scenario; they investigated JFK’s Cuban enemies in 1963 and concealed their findings." This is just not true -- there is no evidence that they rejected the lone gunman scenario; they were asked to investigate leads related to Cuba and to anti-Castro Cubans. All that was added in 2023 was Donald Heath's name.

  2. "A Secret Service agent confessed to finding a bullet at the crime scene, further undercutting the government’s rickety theory that one bullet caused seven wounds in JFK and Texas Gov. John Connally." I covered the story of Paul Landis extensively on this blog. One would think that Morley would be a little more skeptical of Landis given that his story has changed dramatically over the years.

  3. "That a CIA counterintelligence operations officer read Oswald’s mail for two years before JFK was killed, belying the claim that Kennedy was killed by a loner whose private thoughts were unknown to authorities." The only new thing we learned in 2023 about this was Efron's name. (see above for comments on the Efron story)

  4. "That the doctors who tried to save JFK’s life in Dallas agreed that he was hit by gunfire from two different directions, a story told in a remarkable new Paramount+ documentary “JFK: What the Doctors Saw.”" Again, this is not true. The doctors did not say they thought JFK was hit from two different directions; a few doctors initially thought JFK's throat wound was one of entrance. The film might be new, but the story is not.

In my own personal thinking, the testimony of one of the Dallas doctors, Dr. Robert McClelland, was particularly influential.

He wrote that "cause of death was due to massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple."

And while I do believe that Morley is a cut above other conspiracy theorists, sometimes he really does test my patience. For instance:

Most importantly, Rob Reiner and Soledad O’Brien’s hit podcast “Who Killed JFK?” synthesizes the new evidence into a rich narrative of JFK’s murder that is more factual, more detailed, more documented, and more credible as a historical account than the Warren Commission report, Stone’s “JFK,” or Posner’s “Case Closed.”

Reiner and O'Brien's podcast series is an embarrassment. They have used much of the research of Dick Russell and have accepted the stories of fabulists like Richard Case Nagell, Tosh Plumlee (also here for Plumlee), and Colonel William Bishop.

During the final episode, Russell admits that his shooting scenario is based on a "highly educated guess." He postulates at least four gunmen who were placed in the TSBD, behind the picket fence, in the Dal-Tex and perhaps the County Records building, and the fatal headshot came from the overpass at the south knoll. The shooters were:

  1. Herminio Diaz Garcia (anti-Castro Cuban)

  2. Jean Souetre (a member of the OAS, a French right-wing group)

  3. Charles Nicoletti (mob associate of Sam Giancana)

  4. Jack Canon (a CIA agent who worked for General Charles Willoughby)

Here are some other details of the plot:

That Jefferson Morley thinks there is any merit to this podcast series says a lot about him. He’s hyper-critical of anything that points to Oswald as a lone gunman but easily gives credence to really far-fetched theories of conspiracy.

His latest Substack posts challenges fact checking organizations to review Reiner's podcast series. But the fact checkers also ignored Oliver Stone's so-called documentary series JFK: Destiny Betrayed. But I was on the case and have even produced a viewer's guide. And I have also fact-checked Morley.

Back in 1991, Oliver Stone's JFK played in over a thousand theaters and it couldn't be ignored. Now, relatively few people see or care about new documentary series. Check out the Fried Green Tomato rating for JFK (over 50,000 user ratings), JFK Revisited (just over 50 ratings), JFK: What the Doctors Saw (fewer than 50 user ratings).

Jefferson Morley's Substack is titled JFK Facts. Yes, you certainly get facts, but unfortunately you also get Morley's interpretations which typically tend towards conspiratorial speculation.

Previous Relevant Blog Posts on Jefferson Morley

Chad Nagle claims there was an assassination plot against JFK in Chicago in November 1963. One problem: There is no evidence of such a plot

A response to Morley's Substack post alleging that I am a CIA apologist.

Morley thinks there are two redacted memos on CIA reorganization, but there is only one.

A rebuttal to Morley's response to my post Was Bill Harvey in Dallas in November of 1963?

There is no credible evidence Harvey was in Dallas in November of 1963.

Morley repeats the claim that Dulles was at a CIA training center during the weekend of the JFK assassination. He wasn't.

Morley's claims about Efron are all wrong.

Morley responded to my article "The Truth about Operation Northwoods." Here is my reply.

W. Tracy Parnell is one of the best JFK assassination researchers out there. Here is his look at Jefferson Morley with several important articles.

Operation Northwoods can only understood as being part of the Kennedys' war against Cuba and Operation Mongoose.

And a response from me.

There is no evidence that Dr. West petitioned the court to examine Jack Ruby before his trial.

There is absolutely no evidence that Dr. Louis Jolyon West interfered with Jack Ruby's case.

The phrase 'who shot John' does not refer to the JFK assassination.

Jefferson Morley used a fake Oswald handbill in his press conference for the Mary Ferrell Foundation.

An examination of redactions in the JFK collection of documents.


Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page