"QKENCHANT was the name of an Agency project used to provide security approvals on non-Agency personnel and facilities. Such approvals were required so that Agency personnel could meet individuals to discuss proposed projects, activities, and possible relationships."i The Agency issued Personal Covert Security Approvals (PCSA) and Covert Security Approvals (CSA) to a variety of businesspersons. QKENCHANT began in the early 1950s and proceeded according to some files beyond 1969.ii Some however were not mere business oriented individuals. The project's varied membership includes familiar names related to infamous Central Intelligence Agency undertakings.
One person of interest for use in QKENCHANT was Hugh McDonald. McDonald later wrote a book claiming to know the identity of President Kennedy's assassin, a man assertedly named Saul. The farfetched claims of McDonald remain unsupported, yet his prior use in QKENCHANT after engaging in prior meetings with Agency officials are supported by more substantial evidence.iii iv Another member of the project was "Subject 53082" aka Leo Cherne and he was a prominent corporate officer in four separate companies. Cherne proved useful to the Agency in Cuba, Vietnam, and later joined the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.vi vii
J. Monroe Sullivan was an unwitting member of QKENCHANT and claimed to be with Garrison inquiry suspect Clay Shaw on November 22, 1963. Sullivan was the Executive Director of the San Francisco World Trade Center.viii ix Officials additionally sought to verify if Shaw's attorney Guy L. Johnson was related to Guy P. Johnson another prior member of QKENCHANT.x Multiple people surrounding Clay Shaw were members of the Agency project and some had covert Agency loyalties. E. Howard Hunt was granted a CSA for QKENCHANT on October 27, 1970 when he returned to corporate work.xi
Peter Maheu received an expedited security clearance perhaps because of a relative in the Agency's employ. Peter was the son of Robert Maheu who prior was involved in the development stages of the Agency Castro assassination plots. While the younger Maheu is utilized for QKENCHANT, his father's investigative business provided a cover mechanism for the Central Intelligence Agency.xii Despite Agency "flags" in both the Maheu files regarding questionable past actions, they were "ignored either through carelessness or oversight." Central Intelligence Agency Director of Security Howard Osborn recommended canceling all existing security clearances possessed by Maheu and Associates.xiii
The Agency pondered if QKENCHANT member Benjamin Sonnenberg was the same person who attorney Mark Lane mentioned in the acknowledgements of his book "Rush to Judgment".xiv They later verified that Sonnenberg was "a director of the publishing firm Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 383 Madison Ave, New York City, Rush to Judgment was published by Holt, Rinehart, and Wilson Inc., 383 Madison Ave., ostensibly the same company."xv Sonnenberg's additional connections to active Communists were concerning to some officials.
QKENCHANT ultimately was an intelligence-networking tool for accomplishing hidden plots using business connections. A lingering question for some is whether Clay Shaw was utilized for QKENCHANT as well. He was prior given CSA's as the program directs and volunteered intelligence to the Agency during the same period. Yet were evidence to link Shaw to this program, it does not implicate him in political assassination but to covert Agency operations.
i. Assassination Records Review Board, Sanitized Document, Memo for Laura Denk from J. Barry Harrelson, CIA IR-06, QKENCHANT, September 18, 1998, foia.cia.gov
ii. House Select Committee on Assassinations, CIA Segregated Files, Hugh Chishom McDonald's Book "Appointment in Dallas: The Final Solution to the Assassination of JFK" alleging CIA involvement, Box 43, August 3, 1976, National Archives and Records Adminstration Identification Number: 104-10120-10595
iv. HSCA, CIA Segregated Files, Request for Security Clearance/Approval and/ Or Action Re Hugh C. McDonald, Box 44, June 13, 1969,
NARA ID: 104-10124-10125
v. HSCA, CIA Segregated Files, CJO-5211 #53082, Box 40, March 3, 1951, NARA ID: 104-10110-10416
vi. HSCA, CIA Segregated Files, Leo Cherne, Box 40, (n.d.), NARA ID: 104-10109-10027
vii. HSCA, CIA Segregated Files, Cherne, Leo #53082 -Covert Security Clearance (Project) OPC, August 14, 1951, NARA ID: 104-10110-10419
viii. HSCA, CIA Segregated Files, J. Monroe Sullivan claimed to have been with Shaw in San Francisco, Box 42, September 18, 1968, NARA ID: 104-10115-10078
ix. CIA Files, Oswald 201 File, Memo - Monroe J. Sullivan, March 16, 1967, NARA ID: 104-10300-10321
x. CIA Files, The Oswald Case - Johnson, Guy Persac #11483 (C), September 9, 1967, pp. 1-2, NARA ID: 104-10418-10424
xi. HSCA, CIA Segregated Files, Box 43, Security File on E. Howard Hunt, Memo from Martin Lukoskie to Victor White, October 27, 1970, NARA ID: 1993.07.24.08:35:20:900310
xii. HSCA, CIA Segregated Files, Central Cover Staff requested an expedite QKENCHANT clearances, Box 44, February 14, 1969, pp. 1-2, NARA ID: 104-10121-10355
xiii. HSCA, CIA Segregated Files, Robert A. Maheu and Associates [Past CIA uses of Maheu_Associates], Box 44, January 20, 1971, pp. 1-3, NARA ID: 104-10122-10301
xiv. CIA , Russ Holmes Work File, Memo: Request for information on five individuals, May 10, 1968, p. 2, NARA ID: 104-10435-10002
xv. CIA, Deputy Director for Plans Files, Memorandum: Garrison and the Kennedy Assassination, June 5, 1968, p. 5, NARA ID: 104-10310-10251
Edited: December 2017