CIA’s Document 1035-960 is where they come up with the idea of “conspiracy” theory to counter the truth, as a way of addressing their polling that half of America didn’t believe the Warren Commission’s report on the assassination of JFK. The point of this internal memo was to explain how to use “friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors)” to push their narrative. 

Below is the actual text, here’s a PDF, and here’s a link to copies of the original version. The bold is from us.

(If you want to see some hilarious fake news, here is the CIA coming up with another alternate reality, where the JFK conspiracy all comes down to confusing false innuendo published once in an Italian communist newspaper… )


CIA Document 1035-960
Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report
CIA Document #1035-960
RE: Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report

1. Our Concern. From the day of President Kennedy’s assassination on,
there has been speculation about the responsibility for his murder.
Although this was stemmed for a time by the Warren Commission report,
(which appeared at the end of September 1964), various writers have now
had time to scan the Commission’s published report and documents for
new pretexts for questioning, and there has been a new wave of books
and articles criticizing the Commission’s findings. In most cases the critics
have speculated as to the existence of some kind of conspiracy, and often
they have implied that the Commission itself was involved. Presumably as
a result of the increasing challenge to the Warren Commission’s report, a
public opinion poll recently indicated that 46% of the American public did
not think that Oswald acted alone, while more than half of those polled
thought that the Commission had left some questions unresolved.
Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse

2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government,
including our organization. The members of the Warren Commission were
naturally chosen for their integrity, experience and prominence. They
represented both major parties, and they and their staff were deliberately
drawn from all sections of the country. Just because of the standing of the
Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast
doubt on the whole leadership of American society. Moreover, there seems
to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the
one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way
responsible for the assassination.

Innuendo of such seriousness affects not only the individual concerned,
but also the whole reputation of the American government. Our
organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed
information to the investigation. Conspiracy theories have frequently
thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that
Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide
material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists,
so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries.
Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number
of unclassified attachments.

3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the assassination
question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion
is active [business] addresses are requested:

a. To discuss the publicity problem with [?] and friendly elite contacts
(especially politicians and editors), pointing out that the Warren
Commission made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that
the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further
speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point
out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately
generated by Communist propagandists. Urge them to use their influence
to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.

b. To employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the
critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for
this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide
useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point
out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before
the evidence was in, (I) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV)
hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own
theories. In the course of discussions of the whole phenomenon of
criticism, a useful strategy may be to single out Epstein’s theory for attack,
using the attached Fletcher [?] article and Spectator piece for background.
(Although Mark Lane’s book is much less convincing that Epstein’s and
comes off badly where confronted by knowledgeable critics, it is also much
more difficult to answer as a whole, as one becomes lost in a morass of
unrelated details.)

4. In private to media discussions not directed at any particular writer, or in
attacking publications which may be yet forthcoming, the following
arguments should be useful:

a. No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not
consider. The assassination is sometimes compared (e.g., by Joachim
Joesten and Bertrand Russell) with the Dreyfus case; however, unlike that
case, the attack on the Warren Commission have produced no new
evidence, no new culprits have been convincingly identified, and there is
no agreement among the critics. (A better parallel, though an imperfect
one, might be with the Reichstag fire of 1933, which some competent
historians (Fritz Tobias, AJ.P. Taylor, D.C. Watt) now believe was set by
Vander Lubbe on his own initiative, without acting for either Nazis or
Communists; the Nazis tried to pin the blame on the Communists, but the
latter have been more successful in convincing the world that the Nazis
were to blame.)

b. Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to
place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses (which
are less reliable and more divergent–and hence offer more hand-holds for
criticism) and less on ballistics, autopsy, and photographic evidence. A
close examination of the Commission’s records will usually show that the
conflicting eyewitness accounts are quoted out of context, or were
discarded by the Commission for good and sufficient reason.

c. Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to
conceal in the United States, esp. since informants could expect to receive
large royalties, etc. Note that Robert Kennedy, Attorney General at the
time and John F. Kennedy’s brother, would be the last man to overlook or
conceal any conspiracy. And as one reviewer pointed out, Congressman
Gerald R. Ford would hardly have held his tongue for the sake of the
Democratic administration, and Senator Russell would have had every
political interest in exposing any misdeeds on the part of Chief Justice
Warren. A conspirator moreover would hardly choose a location for a
shooting where so much depended on conditions beyond his control: the
route, the speed of the cars, the moving target, the risk that the assassin
would be discovered. A group of wealthy conspirators could have arranged
much more secure conditions.

d. Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light
on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission
because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one
way or the other. Actually, the make-up of the Commission and its staff
was an excellent safeguard against over-commitment to any one theory, or
against the illicit transformation of probabilities into certainties.

e. Oswald would not have been any sensible person’s choice for a coconspirator.
He was a “loner,” mixed up, of questionable reliability and an
unknown quantity to any professional intelligence service.

f. As to charges that the Commission’s report was a rush job, it emerged
three months after the deadline originally set. But to the degree that the
Commission tried to speed up its reporting, this was largely due to the
pressure of irresponsible speculation already appearing, in some cases
coming from the same critics who, refusing to admit their errors, are now
putting out new criticisms.

g. Such vague accusations as that “more than ten people have died
mysteriously” can always be explained in some natural way e.g.: the
individuals concerned have for the most part died of natural causes; the
Commission staff questioned 418 witnesses (the FBI interviewed far more
people, conduction 25,000 interviews and re interviews), and in such a
large group, a certain number of deaths are to be expected. (When Penn
Jones, one of the originators of the “ten mysterious deaths” line, appeared
on television, it emerged that two of the deaths on his list were from heart
attacks, one from cancer, one was from a head-on collision on a bridge,
and one occurred when a driver drifted into a bridge abutment.)

5. Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the
Commission’s Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be
impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity and speed with which the
Commission worked. Reviewers of other books might be encouraged to
add to their account the idea that, checking back with the report itself, they
found it far superior to the work of its critics.

1 April 1967 (CIA no. 1035–960)

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