One of the closing accusations and misrepresentations at the end of Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991) reads: “In 1979, RICHARD HELMS, director of Covert Operations in 1963, admitted under oath that CLAY SHAW had worked for the CIA.” This is presented as a vindication of Jim Garrison’s witch hunt against Shaw, but like most everything in the film it is patently dishonest.
After his Army service in World War II, Shaw helped create the International Trade Mart in New Orleans, to promote world trade, and he personally traveled to South America as part of his business dealings. Like thousands of other Americans with international connections and insights, Shaw was periodically interviewed by the Domestic Contact Division of the CIA to see what information he had that might be helpful to America. Shaw was not employed by or contracted to the CIA in any way. He was not paid for his time, he was given no assignments, and had no responsibilities expected of him. To say that Shaw, “worked for the CIA,” is like saying that anyone who has ever been asked a questions by a police officers has, “worked for the police.” Furthermore, the interviews conducted with Shaw ran from 1948 to 1956; ending four years before John Kennedy was even elected President.
Richard Helms served in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II, a precursor to the CIA. Once the Central Intelligence Agency was formed in 1947, he served there in various positions for more than two decades, under five different Presidents. Following the disastrous Bay of Pigs operation, were CIA backed Cubans failed to take the island away from the communist forces of Fidel Castro, Helms became the Deputy Director for Plans (DDP), and oversaw further efforts to remove Castro, along with other clandestine actions. In June of 1966, Helms was appointed Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) by President Johnson, and he continued in that position until he was dismissed by President Nixon in late 1972 for not helping Nixon with his Watergate problem.
Why does the text at the end of Stone’s film refer to Helms as the, “director of Covert Operations in 1963,” rather than, “a former Director of the CIA,” as would be customary? Obviously, the film is trying to suggest that Helms and Shaw worked together on, “covert operations,” for the CIA in 1963, despite that fact that there is no evidence of this and Shaw’s very casual connection to the CIA was long since over by then.
It is true that Helms was deposed in a libel case in 1979, concerning the JFK conspiracy book, Coup d’état in America. When asked if Clay Shaw worked for the CIA, Helms said, “one time, as a businessman, he was one of the part-time contacts of the Domestic Contact Division.” This is the, “under oath,” admission that Stone ruthlessly exploits with propagandistic zeal, to make it seem as if he has actually proven something factual and important.
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