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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Jefferson Morley's Claims about Reuben Efron

A recent blog post by Jefferson Morley alleged that a CIA employee, Reuben Efron, was "a clandestine operative who read the mail of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald for twenty months before the assassination" of JFK. Morley claims the memo "sheds new light on secret CIA operational activities around Oswald." He also alleges that "Reuben Efron helped in the [counterintelligence] effort," and "the CIA hid his story for 60 years."

With only Efron's name redacted, copies of this memo had been released in 1993, and in 1998.

Here is a short guide to Morley's claims about this memo:

Morley Claim. -- The CIA was reading Oswald's mail.

Fact. -- True, but the focus on Oswald as a target is misleading. The CIA ran a program called HT-Lingual which intercepted some mail going to and coming from the Soviet Union. On November 9, 1959, Lee Harvey Oswald's name was added to the watch list because of his defection to the Soviet Union. The Church Committee estimated that 75% of the letters that were opened were chosen at random, not because the name was on the watch list. The program intercepted a letter from Marguerite Oswald to her son and that was it. After the assassination, additional items of potential relevance to the assassination investigation were recovered from the HT-Lingual files, but those additional items did not include any correspondence to or from Oswald himself.

Morley Claim. -- This new document shows that Reuben Efron read Oswald's mail for 20 months.

Fact. -- All the document shows is that Efron read Marguerite Oswald's letter to Lee Harvey Oswald (perhaps for the first time) after learning of his impending return in a 1962 Washington Post article. It is not clear where Morley's "20 months" comes from. The dates he cited cover less than 14 months.

Morley Claim. -- This was the first time that "the CIA had ever disclosed that Efron read Oswald's mail and that he was a CIA employee."

Fact. -- Efron's name was released in 2017 in this testimony before the HSCA, In fact, James Angleton was asked about Efron during his HSCA testimony. Here is another document which was made public in 1998, which shows that Efron translated and circulated a post-assassination (1964) letter from Marina Oswald. In addition, John Newman mentioned Efron (as Ephron) in his 2017 book Countdown to Darkness.

Morley Claim. -- "The memo is strong evidence that Angleton was running a covert operation that used Oswald for intelligence purposes."

Fact. -- The memo does no such thing. Efron saw an article in the Washington Post about Oswald, went into the files, and found the letter from Marguerite Oswald.

Morley Claim. -- Efron reacted to a Texas newspaper article.

Fact. -- No, he was responding to a Washington Post article, from June 9, 1962 which said that Oswald was on his way back to the United States. No one was feeding Efron an article from an obscure source.

Morley Claim. -- "[The person] who gave Efron the assignment of reading Lee's mail and watching Marina's testimony ... was almost certainly counterintelligence chief James Angleton."

Fact. -- Efron might have been there because he was friends with Richard Russell, with whom he had seen UFOs in 1955, and who might have wanted Efron's take on Marina Oswald's testimony. A week before Marina's testimony, Russell recommended Efron as a translator to Lee Rankin at a Warren Commission meeting. Harold Weisberg published that Commission executive session transcript with Efron's name in 1974. In addition, if the CIA had wanted him at Marina's interview for some covert reason, Efron would not have been identified using his true name.

Morley Claim. -- "The CIA's 'no comment' speaks volumes."

Fact. -- The CIA does not comment on most allegations.

Morley Claim. -- Angleton's operation using Oswald is "why Efron's name was classified long after this death: because his operational work in 1963 was -- and is -- so sensitive."

Fact. -- There is no shortage of names and items that the CIA has redacted over the years for no apparently good reason. Not every redaction is proof of an operation, or evidence of operational sensitivity. Robert Reynolds has discussed on his excellent blog the existence of zombie redactions: “A zombie redaction is a redaction in copy X of a document which has already been released in copy Y of the same document, tucked away in some other file or folder or microfilm reel.” While the Efron memo is not exactly a "zombie redaction," it is close. The similar Efron memo about a Marina Oswald letter did have him identified years ago.

Morley Claim. -- "They [the CIA] were reading his {Oswald's] mail, they had insight into his personal thinking." Morley also claimed “The memo shows that high-level CIA officers were interested in the smallest details of Oswald’s life 17 months before Kennedy was killed,”

Fact. -- The letter from Marguerite Oswald did not give the CIA insight into Oswald's personal thinking. The memo shows that it went to people above Efron because of an article in the Washington Post.

Morley Claim. -- "The family history cited by JTA says he worked for the Pentagon, raising the question of whether he was also reading Oswald’s mail on behalf of the Defense Department."

Fact.-- A JTA article in Haaretz mentioned that Efron worked for the Pentagon. This may be true, but perhaps that was his cover. There is no evidence Efron was also "reading Oswald's mail on behalf of the Defense Department."

For the last several years, Jefferson Morley has claimed that there is evidence of a CIA operation around Lee Harvey Oswald in the personnel files of George Joannides. However, the ARRB examined these files and only put five documents in the JFK assassination record collection, deeming the rest of the documents not relevant.

To Morley, the so-called disclosure of Reuben Efron's name reinforces his view that there was some sort of undisclosed CIA operation surrounding Oswald. The truth may simply be that Oswald just happened to bump into a variety of sensitive but unrelated operations: surveillance of the Russian and Cuban embassies in Mexico City; opening of mail (not just his) to and from the Soviet Union; anti-Fair Play for Cuba Committee activities (not just against him) by the DRE; coverage of the mail of the Russian embassy in Washington D.C.; and even (back in 1960) the FBI's monitoring of 'funds transmitted to residents of Russia.' The sensitivity of all of these could easily make a lone-gunman assassination look conspiratorial.

It's just a matter of time before another supposed discovery will, once again, confirm to Morley that there was a supposed "Oswald operation."

While Jefferson Morley can generate headlines in the New York Times and the Times of Israel, sooner or later, news outlets will realize that they've been had and that the "Oswald operation" is just a hypothesis with no actual evidence.

Research and analysis for this article was contributed by Jerry Shinley, Robert Reynolds, Larry Haapanen, Gerald Posner, Mark Zaid, Mark Allen, Steve Roe, Tracy Parnell and Paul Hoch (who also helped edit this article).

Previous Relevant Blog Posts

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.


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