Last month I was fortunate to interview Dan Hardway, an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations back in the late 1970s. Hardway shared with me his work for the committee, how the CIA thwarted his investigation and why the future looks bleak for finding the truth on the JFK assassination.

Hardway was a Cornell Law School student working in a summer job with the Cornell Institute of Organized Crime, a training program for federal prosecutors run by G. Robert Blakey.

In 1976, when the U.S. House of Representatives authorized a committee to investigate the murder of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King.

Blakey was made Chief Counsel in 1977 and brought with him to the committee staff in Washington, D.C., 4 promising Cornell students, including Hardway who saw it as a chance at an exciting opportunity.

Hardway said Blakey is one of the smartest men he’s ever met. “He was a good leader, was great to work for, great to work with,” Hardway said.

Hardway was assigned to Team Five which was to look at intelligence agencies and their response to the JFK assassination. “Within that team I was primarily responsible for investigating the (Oswald) Mexico City trip and CIA’s response to Oswald’s presence in Mexico City,” he said.

His investigation begins

He and the team were set up with an office in the CIA building in Langley, Virginia. Blakey had to negotiate a non-disclosure agreement with CIA to gain access for unexpurgated access to all documents that were requested by the team.

“We were supposed to be getting them without prior review. We started getting that access in November of 1977. For a while we had really great access,” Hardway told me and also explained how he also had time to look into related matters, like Castro assassination plots and people, like William Harvey, David Atlee Phillips and Mitch Werbell as examples. “I also got into back channel communications on how they communicated with each other. Mainly I was looking hard at Bill Harvey. He emerged as the focus of my other efforts.” Harvey had relations with John Roselli of the Mob, anti-Castro Cubans and of course the Agency.

The team had 2 clerks assigned to them that would bring the documents to the team rather quickly, but in mid-1978 things changed. Scott Breckenridge of the CIA’s legal counsel office came to Blakey and said he needed to bring someone in to help with the requests. “They brought in a guy named George Joannides. They assured Bob (Blakey) he was coming out of retirement and had nothing to do with anything that was related to our investigation and that he was just an innocent guy that knew the filing systems and could help us.”

Document access slows

“So they brought him on and he immediately began slowing down the process. We ended up not getting the quick turn around on our requests and we started getting stuff that was really suspiciously absent materials. We started getting files with really strange gaps in them,” Hardway explained. By October they were not allowed to see certain files.

I asked Hardway if he thought the change was because he was getting close to something CIA didn’t want him to know. He answered by telling me Joannides got a CIA accommodation for his handling of the upstart, arrogant law students who weren’t to be trusted, so yeah. “So what do you think,” he asked me. Hardway and his co-investigator Edwin Lopez were on to something. “I think they were trying to keep me away from something, but not sure how relevant that is. Not sure where that finger points.”

At that time Hardway, unbeknownst to him, was looking into information that directly involved Joannides background in Miami where he was running a propaganda operation.

No wonder Joannides stopped the flow of requested materials. Joannides was the case officer for anti-Castro DRE (Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil) group operations. This is very relevant because a DRE representative, Carlos Bringuier, had a well-publicized “fight” with Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans in August 1963.

This altercation is what linked Oswald to be seen by the public as a Communist and surely on Joannides radar.

“Joannides would have been a major witness for us (HSCA), except we didn’t know anything about him or who he was or anything about his involvement. We requested many times from the CIA the identity of their case officer who was working with DRE in 1963. We were told that all support for DRE was cutoff in April 1962 and there was no case officer assigned to them.”

“Joannides himself had the audacity to tell Bob {Blakey} that they were looking for the records, but could not find them and that they would continue searching for them. If we find them we’ll let you know. The point is that the very guy we are looking for is the guy telling us they can’t find the records. He was reviewing my and Ed’s research into the propaganda operations that were conducted around the time of the assassination.

Consequently we were getting cut off pretty severely from the major things we were looking at by someone who knew exactly where to keep us from looking.” Hardway, Blakey and others were not aware of this for more than a decade later when Joannides records came to light thanks to research by Jefferson Morley.

Oswald in Mexico City?

Hardway and Lopez wrote a lengthy, detailed report for the committee on Oswald in Mexico City. I asked if he believed the Lee Harvey Oswald arrested on Nov. 22, 1963, was in fact in Mexico City. “I don’t know. There was someone there claiming to be Oswald,” said Hardway.

This remains a mystery because of very credible testimony by Dallas resident Sylvia Odio that states Oswald and 2 other Latin men were at her apartment at the same time Oswald is said to have been in Mexico City. Hardway believes “Oswald” visited the Cuban consulate and Russian embassy there, has no idea if Oswald had associates there at that time and that Oswald was likely being impersonated. “It’s very hard to say that he wasn’t in my opinion,” he said.

Why, I asked. “Because of the telephone logs and records of the calls that were linked to Oswald. The questions are such that you almost have to believe he was at least impersonated on the telephone. Either that or the telephone records and transcripts were themselves doctored. I think it’s fairly safe to say he couldn’t have made all the calls attributed to him.”

Why impersonation? Because of many operations going on during that time, including DRE propaganda operations, which were being run by Joannides, and kept from theHardway/Lopez team.

Hardway said there were many operational reasons why the CIA would want 2 Oswalds.

Maybe wittingly or unwittingly Oswald could have been a used as a “dangle” (someone who pretends to be interested in something) to plant information, or influence someone, or attempting a propaganda purpose, or use him to elicit responses from people in a mole hunt or intelligence operation, perhaps related to the Fair Play For Cuba Committee, of which Oswald was a member.

Hardway says the CIA had surveillance on the Cuban consulate and the Russian embassy and got photos of Oswald. “There were people in the CIA that remembered seeing photos of Oswald or of someone supposed to be Oswald. The CIA has vehemently and consistently denied they got photographs and still deny to this day they got photographs.” Some have told him there were 2 people in the photos or someone else in the photos related to Oswald. The denial would make sense if what was going on was a sensitive mission of some sort.

Asked if CIA had an operational interest in Oswald, Hardway said, from the work that he did, “I don’t think there is any doubt that they had operational interest in Oswald.” Asked if Oswald was on a CIA mission, perhaps a mole hunt, when he traveled to Russia in 1959, Hardway said, “It was awful strange if it wasn’t related.” He told me of researcher Malcolm Blunt’s time with former CIA officer Tennent Bagley (an expert on Russian ops) who suggested to Blunt that Oswald was a witting agent when in Russia.

Of course there would be no record of this, a fact that former CIA director Allen Dulles told the Warren Commission back in 1964. “We never found anything,” said Hardway, adding that what Oswald was doing in 1963 in New Orleans and Mexico City was to embarrass the FPCC and did it in a way that makes him extremely memorable, this at a time when CIA was all over the FPCC in terms of propaganda.

“It may well be a coincidence or it may well be evidence. Even if it is evidence he was being used by the CIA as an asset, witting or unwitting, it doesn’t necessarily create any evil intent on the part of the CIA or any CIA member as far as the assassination. They could well have been the most surprised people on earth on the afternoon of Nov. 22, that their asset was accused of killing the president,” said Hardway. On the other hand if Oswald was an asset, it explains why information has been withheld because of the associated embarrassment.

Other aspects of his investigation

Hardway sees former CIA agent Bill Harvey as a suspect because of his position in the CIA, his hatred of the Kennedys and his contacts with the Mafia and Cubans. “If there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy and it did not involve Bill Harvey I’d be surprised. He and {mobster} Johnny Roselli were running a rifle assassination team of Cubans to run back into Cuba to kill Castro,” (which defied Kennedy’s orders). “He {Harvey} has the connections. He knows their work. I never got his security file that I wanted to see.” Hardway assumes Joannides kept that file from his review. “They didn’t want us to dig too deep into that {Harvey and the Mafia plots}.”

I asked him about his thoughts on HSCA conclusions, that there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy and that individuals of the Mafia and Anti-Castro Cubans may have been involved. Hardway said since the Joannides information has come out, even Bob Blakey says he no longer has faith in those conclusions, that they were misled by CIA lies. “I don’t think those conclusions where we had to rely on the candor of the CIA can be credited any longer,” said Hardway.

Some have questioned the doggedness of the HSCA to actually find out more. Hardway said the staff was extremely interested in their work. “Most of the people I worked with, if not all of them, were primarily interested in finding the truth.”

Future findings possible?

As for the future, will the public learn more from the intelligence agencies? “No,” he answered, then added that he is working with John Newman (author of “Oswald and the CIA”), on something of significance, but could not elaborate. I took a guess at what it was, but Hardway would not say more.

Hardway told me of the CIA’s acknowledged policy known as “eyewash,” a policy in which CIA intentionally places misinformation in official documents and files of operations that are going on. It’s an effort to subvert the truth from being known, even by fellow employees, to hide operations, to fabricate facts, which is illegal.

“We are moving from the realm of living memory to the realm of history and we are dealing with an area of history where it is designed not to be discoverable. It’s designed to have lies told about it, designed to have layers and layers of misinformation that hide the truth,” he explained.

Thus “historian’s records that they rely upon {to write history}, in this case, have likely been fundamentally fudged from the beginning,” added Hardway. “The documentary record is at best corrupt and at worst is totally fabricated.”

Adding to this sad situation are the findings of Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, who wrote a 25,000-word article, “The CIA and the Media,” published in Rolling Stone in October 1977.

Bernstein found that “more than 400 American journalists who in the past 25 years have secretly carried out assignments for the CIA, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters.”

In particular, Bernstein mentioned the cooperation of such media giants as CBS, The New York Times and Time Inc.

He also reported that during the 1976 Senate investigation (headed by Senator Frank Church) of the CIA’s involvement with the press that “top officials of the CIA, including former directors William Colby and George Bush, persuaded the committee to restrict its inquiry into the matter and to deliberately misrepresent the actual scope of the activities in its final report.”

And it’s obvious, by 1967, that CIA was getting paranoid about the growing number of Americans that did not believe Oswald acted alone. CIA record #104-10009-1002 is titled, “Countering Criticism of the Warren Report.” The 53-page document says, among other things, “This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. Government, including our organization. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists.”

At the bottom of page 1 it says, “Destroy when no longer needed.” This is, in my opinion, further proof of CIA obfuscation.

Hardway concluded the conversation with this – when he started his HCSA work at the CIA office he was pitched by the CIA for employment. “I told them I wasn’t interested and went back to the {HSCA} committee and filed an outside contact report, reporting the contact from the CIA officer {Regis Blahut – the original liaison for getting CIA files} who approached the subject with me. As far as I know that contact report is also lost, never been able to find it.”

Jeff Meek has been researching the JFK assassination and Kennedy administration off and on for 45 years. He is the former managing editor of the Hot Springs Village Voice and is currently retired and living near family in north Texas.