The Garrison Commission On the Assassination of President Kennedy
by William W. Turner
Part 1- Jim Garrison
Part 2 - CIA: The Common Denominator
Part 3 - The Making of a Patsy
Part 1 - Jim Garrison
JIM GARRISON IS AN ANGRY MAN. For six years now he has been the tough, uncompromising district attorney of New Orleans, a rackets-buster without parallel in a political freebooting state. He was elected on a reform platform and meant it. Turning down a Mob proposition that would have netted him $3000 a week as his share of slot machine proceeds, he proceeded to raid Bourbon Street clip joints, crack down on prostitution, and eliminate bail bond rackets. His track record as the proverbial fighting DA is impressive: his office has never lost a major case, and no convictions have been toppled on appeal because of improper methods.
Garrison is angry right now -- as angry as if some bribed cops had tried to steer him away from a vice ring or as if the Mob had attempted to use political clout to get him off their backs. Only this time, the file reads, "Conspiracy to Assassinate President Kennedy," and it isnt' COSA NOSTRA, but the majestic might of the United States government which is trying to keep him from his duty.
"Who appointed Ramsey Clark, who has done his best to torpedo the investigation of the case?" He fumed in a recent speech before a gathering of southern California newscasters. "Who controls the CIA? Who controls the FBI? Who controls the Archives where this evidence is locked up for so long that it unlikely that there is anybody in this room who will be alive when it is released? This is really your property and the property of the people of this country. Who has the arrogance and the brass to prevent the people from seeing that evidence? Who indeed?
"The one man who has profited most from the assassination -- your friendly President, Lyndon Johnson!"
Garrison made it clear that he was not accusing Johnson of complicity in the crime, but left no doubt that as far as he was concerned, the burden had shifted to the government to prove that it was not an accessory before or after the fact.
"I assume that the President of the United States is not involved," he said. "But wouldn't it be nice to know it?"
The simple probity of Garrison's challenge is underscored by the fact that the government and government-oriented forces have concealed and destroyed evidence, intimidated witnesses and maligned, ridiculed and impeded Garrison and his investigation. In short, the conduct of the government has not been that of an innocent party, but of one determined to cover its tracks. For the past nine months, I have worked closely with the DA and his staff, hoping to contribute to their investigation. In my opinion there is no question that they have uncovered a conspiracy. Nor is there any doubt that Jim Garrison is one of a vanishing breed: a Southern populist anchored in very traditional American ideals about justice and truth, who can neither rationalize nor temporize in pursuit of them.
By design or ignorance, the mass media -- from NBC to Life -- have created an image of Garrison as a ruthless opportunist with vaulting political ambition, which naturally leads to the conclusion that he is trying to parlay the death of a President into a political tour de force. He is, in fact, neither knave nor fool. No politician on the make would be reckless enough to attempt to usurp the findings of the seven distinguished men of the Warren Commission. "It's not a matter or wanting to gain headlines," says Garrison indignantly. "It's a matter of not being able to sleep at night. I am in an official position in a city where the greater part of the planning of the assassination of President Kennedy took place, and this was missed by the Warren Commission. What would these people who have attacked me do if they were here and had official responsibility? Would they be able to say, 'Jack Kennedy is dead and there is nothing I can do about it?"
THE MAKING OF A DA
GARRISON'S ATTITUDES were undoubtedly set by his experiences during World War II in Europe where, while flying a Piper Cub as an artillery spotter during the Allied sweep, he came upon Dachau. The residue of horror he witnessed there etched itself so deeply on his conscience that in the foreword to a collection of criminology essays published in 1966, he deplored the apathy that permitted Dachau. Since man emerged from the mists of time, he wrote, "such reason as he possesses has produced the cross, the bowl of hemlock, the gallows, the rack, the gibbet, the guillotine, the sword, the machine gun, the electric chair, the hand grenade, the personnel mine, the flame thrower, poison gas, the nearly obsolete TNT bomb, the obsolescent atom bomb, and the currently popular hydrogen bomb -- all made to maim or destroy his fellow man." Garrison, who is fond of allegorical example, pictured an extra-terrestrial being happening upon a self-desolated world and asking, "What happened to your disinterested millions? Your uncommitted and uninvolved, your preoccupied and bored? Where today are their private horizons and their mirrored worlds of self? Where is their splendid indifference now?"
With a diploma from Tulane University law school, Garrison tried the life of an FBI agent but found the role too circumscribed to be stimulating. A stint with a firm specializing in corporation law was likewise unrewarding. After another tour of duty in the Korean War -- he is presently a Lt. Colonel in the Louisiana National Guard -- he latched on as an assistant DA in New Orleans and began his public career. After two unsuccessful tries at elective office, he pulled an upset in the 1961 district attorney race. Bucking the Democratic machine and backed only by five young lawyers known as the "Nothing Group" because of their lack of money and prestige, he took to television and came on strong. Like Jack Kennedy, he projected a youthful vigor and enthusiasm that was missing in the stereotyped politicians he was opposing.
Garrison's current battle to get the Justice Department, the FBI, and the CIA to release evidence about the assassination is not the first time he has tangle with anal retentive government authorities. After the DA's Bourbon Street raids, the city's eight criminal judges began blocking his rouce of funds for the raids, a fines forfeitures pool. Garrison took on the judges in a running dispute that was the talk of New Orleans. On one occasion, a luncheon of the Temple Sinai Brotherhood, he likened the judges to "the sacred cows of India." On another, he accused them of goldbricking by taking 206 holidays, "not counting legal holidays like All Saints' Day, Long's Birthday and St. Winterbottom's Day." Outraged, the judges collectively filed criminal defamation charges. (Complained one, "People holler 'Moo' at me.") The case escalated to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a landmark decsion upheld Garrison's right to criticize public officials.
He exercised that right. When Mayor Victor H. Schiro vacillated on an he quipped, "Not since Hamlet tried to decide whether or not to stab the kihng of Denmark has there been so agonizin a decision." But if he was an embarrassment to officials, he was a delight to the voters. In 1965, he was returned to office by a two to one margin -- the first New Orleans DA to be reelected in 30 years.
GARRISON's POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY defies definition. He subcribes in part to Ayn Rand's individualist dogma, but is too much of a traditional democrat to accept its inevitable elitism. He is friendly with segregationists and archconservatives, but bristles at the mention of the Ku Klux Klan. Negro leaders have no quarrel with his conduct of office, and he has appointed Negroes as asistant DAs. Several years ago when the police vice squad tried to sweep James Baldwin's "Another Country" from bookstore shelves, he refused to prosecute ("How can you define obscenity?") and denounced the censorship in stinging terms, thus incurring the wrath of the White Citizens Council. He sees no virtue in capital punishment, but is somewhat ambivalent on the libertarian trend in court decisions. In a law quarterly he predicted that increasing emphasis on "the rights of the defendant against the state may come to be seen as the greatest contribution our country has made to this world we live in"; yet on occasion he has implied that Supreme Court decisions are a factor in the rising rate of violent crime.
But since the start of his assassination probe, his views on many issues have changed appreciably. "A year ago I was a mild hawk on Vietnam," he relates. "But no more. I've discovered the government has told so many lies in this [th assassination] case it can't be believed on anything." He fears that the U.S. is eveolving into a "proto-fascit state," and cites as one indication the subtle quashing of dissent by an increasingly autocratic central government. The massive and still growing power of the CIA and the defense establishment, he contends, is transforming the old America into a Kafkaesque society in which power is equated with morality.
Garrison detests being called flamboyant, which is the most common adjective applied to him, and in truth he makes no conscious effort at ostentation. But he is one of those arresting figures who automatically dominates any gathering, and his bold strokes in battle, as deliberate as his moves in chess, seem to dramatize his formidable personality. He also must rank as one of the more intellectual big city DAs. He avidly devours history -- it reflects in his metaphor -- and quotes everything from Graham Greene and Lewis Carroll to Polonius' advice to Laertes. But he is not exactly a square. Once known as a Bourbon Street swinger, he is still familiar in a few of the livelier French Quarter spots, where he can sometimes be found holding forth on the piano and crooning a basso profundo rendition of a tune popular half a generation ago. But mostly he sticks to his study at home, and his striking blonde wife and five kids.
It may be that in the end, the rank unfairness of the current siege on Garrison will be its undoing, for the American sense of fair play is not easily trifled with. But do the people really want the truth about the assassination, or is it more comfortable to let sleeping dogs lie? Garrison sees this as the pivotal question in the history of the American democratic experiment: "In our incipient superstate it really doesn't matter what happened. Truth is what the government chooses to tell you. Justice is what it wants to happen. It is better for you not to know that at midday on November 22, 1963, there were many men in many places glancing at their watches. But if we do not fight for the truth now, we may never have another chance."
The FBI Clears a Suspect
ON THE MORNING AFTER the assassination, as the nation lay stunned by grief, [Jim] Garrison summoned his staff to the office for a "brain- storming session" to explore the possibility that Lee Harvey Oswald had accomplices in New Orleans, where the previous summer he had stumped the streets advocating Fair Play for Cuba.
The DA's men put out feelers into the city's netherworld, and it was First Assistant DA Frank Klein who registered the first feedback. A slight, furtive sometime private eye named Jack S. Martin confided that a David William Ferrie had taken off on a sudden trip to Texas the afternoon of the assassination. The tipster knew Ferrie well, although there was bad blood between them. Both had worked intermittently for the same detective firm, W. Guy Banister & Associates, and were affiliated with the Apostolic Orthodox Old Catholic Church, a sect steeped in theological anti-communism. An exceptionally skilled pilot, Ferrie had been dismissed from Eastern Air Lines in 1962 due to publicity over alleged homosexual activities.
According to Martin, Ferrie had commanded a Civil Air Patrol in which Oswald had once been a member. He had taught Oswald to shoot with a telescopic sight, and had become involved with his protege in an assassination plot. Less than two weeks before the target date, Ferrie had made a trip to Dallas. His assigned role in the assassination, Martin said, was to fly the escaping conspirators to Matamoros, Mexico, near Brownsville, Texas.
When Ferrie returned to New Orleans on the Monday following President Kennedy's death, he was interrogated by the DA's office. He said his trip had been arranged "on the spur of the moment." With two companions, Alvin Beauboeuf and Melvin Coffey, he had driven straight through to Houston Friday night. On Saturday afternoon, the three skated at an ice rink; that evening they made the short jog to Galveston and hunted geese Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon they headed back to New Orleans, but detoured to Alexandria, Louisiana, to visit relatives of Beaubeouf.
Garrison was unconvinced by Ferrie's account. An all-night dash through the worst rainstorm in years to start a mercurial junket of over 1000 miles in three days for recreational purposes was too much to swallow. "It was a curious trip to a curious place at a curious time," the DA recalls. He booked Ferrie as a "fugitive from Texas" and handed him over to the FBI. The G-men questioned him intensively, then released him.
Since the 40-odd pages recording the FBI interrogation of Ferrie are still classified in the National Archives, one can only surmise the reasons the Bureau stamped its file on him "closed." 
Apparently the FBI did not take the pilot too seriously. A short Bureau document in the National Archives reveals Ferrie had admitted being "publicly and privately" critical of Kennedy for withholding air cover at the Bay of Pigs, and had used expressions like "he ought to be shot," but agents agreed he did not mean the threat literally.
Most convincing at the time, the fact that Ferrie did not leave New Orleans until hours after the assassination seemed to rule out his role as a getaway pilot. Moreover, the Stinson monoplane he then owned was sitting at Lakefront Airport in unflyable condition.
Accepting the FBI's judgment, Garrison dropped his investigation. "I had full confidence in the FBI then," he explains. "There was no reason to try and second guess them."
For three years the DA's faith in the Bureau's prowess remained unshaken. Then in November 1966, squeezed into a tourist-class seat on an Eastern jet headed for New York, his interest in the possiblity of a conspiracy was rekindled. Flanking him were Senator Russell B. Long of Louisiana and Joseph Rault Jr, a New Orleans oilman. The previous week, Long had remarked in the course of a press conference that he doubted the findings of the Warren Commission. It was at the height of the controversy stirred by publications ripping at the Commission's methods and conclusions.
Garrison bombarded the senator with questions in the manner, he reminisces, "of a prosecutor cross-examining a witness." Long maintained that there were grievous flaws and unexplored territory in the Warren Report. He considered it highly implausible that a gunman of Oswald's "mediocre skill" could have fired with pinpoint accuracy within a time constraint barely sufficient "for a man to get off two shots from a bolt-action rifle, much less three."
The DA's mind reverted to the strange trip of pilot David Ferrie, and he began to wonder how perceptive the FBI had really been in dismissing the whole thing. When he retruned to New Orleans, he went into virtual seclusion in his study at home, lucubrating over the columns of the Warren Report. When he became convinced that Oswald could not have acted alone, and that at least a phase of the conspiracy had been centered in New Orleans, he committed his office to full-scale probe. He launched it quietly, preferring to work more efficiently in the dark.
THE PROBE REFOCUSED ON on Ferrie, and on December 15 he was brought in for further questioning. Asked pertinent details of the whirlwind Texas trip in 1963, he begged lack of memory and referred his questioners to the FBI. What about the goose hunting? "We did in fact get to where the geese were and there were thousands," he recounted. "But you couldn't approach them. They were a wise bunch of birds." Pressed for details of what took place at the ice rink, Ferrie became irritated. "Ice skate -- what do you think?" he snapped.
It didn't take the DA's men long to poke holes in Ferrie's story. Melvin Coffey, one of his companions on the 1963 Texas trip, deposed that it was not a sudden inspiration:
Q: The trip was arranged before? A: Yes. Q: How long before? A: A couple of days.
The probers also determined that no one had taken along any shotguns on the "goose-hunting" trip.
In Houston, the ice skating alibi was similarly discredited. In 1963, the FBI had interviewed Chuck Rolland, proprietor of the Winterland Skating Rink. "FERRIE contacted him by telephone November 22, 1963, and asked for the skating schedule," a Bureau report, one of the few unclassified documents on Ferrie, reveals. "Mr. FERRIE stated that he was coming in from out of town and desired to do some skating while in Houston. On November 23, 1963, between 3:30 and 5:30 PM, Mr. FERRIE and two companions came to the rink and talked to Mr. ROLLAND." The report continues that Ferrie and Rolland had a short general conversation, and that Ferrie remarked that "he and his companions would be in and out of the skating rink during the weekend" (Commission Document 301). When Garrison's men recently talked to Rolland, they obtained pertinent facts that the FBI had either missed or failed to report in 1963. Rolland was certain that none of the three men in Ferrie's party had ice skated; Ferrie had spent the entire two hours he was at the rink standing by a pay telephone -- and finally received a call.
At Houston International Airport, more information was gleaned. Air service personnel seemed to recall that in 1963 Ferrie had access to an airplane based in Houston. In this craft, the flight to Matamoros would take little more than an hour.
Ferrie had patently lied about the purpose of the trip. One of the standard tactics of bank robbers is to escape from the scene of the crime in a "hot car" that cannot be traced to them, then switch to a "cold car" of their own to complete the getaway. Garrison considers it possible that Ferrie may have been the pilot of a second craft in a two- stage escape of the Dallas assassins to south of the border, or may have been slated to be a backup pilot in the evnet contingency plans were activated.
Did Ferrie know Oswald? The pilot denied it, but the evidence mounts that he did. For example, there is now in Garrison's hand information that when Oswald was arrested in Dallas police, he had in his possession a CURRENT New Orleans library card issued to David Ferrie. Reinforcing the validity of this information is a Secret Service report on the questioning of Ferrie by that agency when he was in federal custody in 1963. During an otherwise mild interrogation, Ferrie was asked, strangely enough, in he lent his library card to Oswald. No, he replied, producing a card from the New Orleans public library in the name of Dr. David Ferrie. That card had expired.
When he realized he was a suspect in Garrison's current investigation, Ferrie seemed to deteriorate. By the time he died on February 22, 1967, he was a nervous wreck, subsisting on endless cigarettes and cups of coffee and enough tranquilizers to pacify an army. He had sought out the press only days before his death, labeling the probe a "fraud" and complaining that he was the victim of a "witch hunt." "I suppose he has me pegged as a getaway pilot," he remarked bitterly.
When Garrison delivered his epitaph of Ferrie as "one of history's most important individuals," most of the press winked knowingly. The probe was, after all, a publicity stunt, and the DA had had his headlines. Now that his prime suspect had conveniently passed away, he had the perfect excuse to inter his probe alongside the deceased pilot.
But for DA Jim Garrison, it was not the end but the beginning.
544 CAMP STREET, NEW ORLEANS
"WHILE THE LEGEND '544 Camp St., NEW ORLEANS, LA.' was stamped on some of the literature that Oswald had in his possession at the time of his arrest [for "disturbing the peace"] in New Orleans, extensive investigation was not able to connect Oswald with that address" (Warren Report, p.408). So said the Commission. But Garrison *has* connected Oswald with that address. His investigation shows that Oswald functioned in a paramilitary right-wing milieu of which 544 Camp Street was a nerve center, and that Oswald's ostentatious "Fair Play for Cuba" advocacy was nothing more than a facade.
The dilapidated building at 544 Camp Street is on the corner of Lafayette Place. Shortly after news of Garrison's investigation broke, I went to 531 Lafayette Place, an address given me by Minuteman defector Jerry Milton Brooks as the office of W. Guy Banister, a former FBI official who ran a private detective agency. According to Brooks, who had been a trusted Minutemen aide, Banister was a member of the Minutemen and head of the Anti-Communism League of the Caribbean, assertedly an intermediary between the CIA and Caribbean insurgency movements. Brooks said he had worked for Banister on "anti-Communist" research in 1961-1962, and had known David Ferrie as a frequent visitor to Banister's office.
Banister had died of an apparent heart attack in the summer of 1964. Brooks had told me of two associates whom I hoped to find. One was Hugh F. Ward, a young investigator for Banister who also belonged to the Minutemen and the Anti-Communism League. Then I learned that Ward, too, was dead. Reportedly taught to fly by David Ferrie, he was at the controls of a Piper Aztec when it plunged to earth near Ciudad Victoria, Mexico, May 23, 1965.
The other associate was Maurice Brooks Gatlin Sr, legal counsel to the Anti-Communism League of the Caribbean. Jerry Brooks said he had once been a sort of protege of Gatlin and was in his confidence. Brooks believed Gatlin's frequent world travels were as a "transporter" for the CIA. As an example, he said, Gatlin remarked about 1962, in a self- important manner, that he had $100,000 of CIA money earmarked for a French right-wing clique that was going to attempt to assassinate General de Gaulle; shortly afterward Gatlin flew to Paris. The search for Gatlin, however, was likewise futile: in 1964 he fell or was pushed from the sixth floor of the El Panama Hotel in Panama during the early morning, and was killed instantly.
But the trip to 531 Lafayette Place was not entirely fruitless. The address, I discovered, was a side entrance to 544 Camp Street. Entering either at the front or the side, one arrives via a walkup staircase at the same second floor space. That second floor once housed the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front and W. Guy Banister & Associates.
Guy Banister had been in charge of the Chicago FBI office before retiring in 1955 and becoming New Orleans deputy superintendent of police for several years. He was regarded as one of the city's most vocal anti-Castroites, and published the racist Louisiana Intelligence Digest, which depicted integration as a communist conspiracy. Evidence of his relationship with the federal intelligence apparat has recently surface. A man who knew Banister well has told Garrison that Banister became associated with the Office of Naval Intelligence through the recommendation of Guy Johnson, an ONI reserve officer and the first attorney for Clay Shaw when he was arrested by Garrison.
A copyrighted story in the New Orleans States-Item, April 25, 1967, further illuminates the Camp Street scene. The newspaper, which at the time had an investigative team working parallel to the Garrison probe, reported that a reliable source close to Banister said he had seen 50 to 100 boxes marked "Schlumberger" in Banister's office-storeroom early in 1961 before the Bay of Pigs. The boxes contained rifle grenades, land mines and unique "little missiles." Banister explained that "the stuff would just be there overnight ... a bunch of fellows connected with the Cuban deal asked to leave it there overnight." It was all right, assured Banister, "I have approval from somebody."
The "somebody," one can surmise from the Gordon Novel episode which follows, was the CIA. Novel is wanted by the DA as a material witness in the 1961 burglary of the Schlumberger Well Co. munitions dump near New Orleans. Subpoenaed by the grand jury last March, Novel fled to McLean, Virginia, next door to the CIA complex at Langley, and took a lie detector test administered by a former Army intelligence officer which, he boasted to the press, proved Garrison's probe was a fraud. He then skipped first to Montreal and then to Columbus, Ohio, from where Governor James Rhodes, in one of the most absurd stipulations ever atached to a normally routine procedure, refuses to extradite him unless Garrison agrees not to question him on the assassination.
From his Ohio sanctuary the fugitive cryptically asserted that the munitions caper was one of "the most patriotic burglaries in history." When an enterprising reporter took him to a marathon party, Novel's indiscreet tongue loosened further. According to the States-Item article, Novel's oft-repeated account was that the munitions bunker was a CIA staging point for war materiel destined for use in the impending Bay of Pigs invasion. He is quoted as saying that on the day the munitions were picked up, he "was called by his CIA contact and told to join a group which was ordered to transport munitions from the bunker to New Orleans." The key to the bunker was provided by his CIA contact. Novel reportedly said the others in the CIA group at the bunker were David Ferrie, Sergio Arcacha Smith -- New Orleans delegate to the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front -- and several Cubans. The munitions, according to his account, were dropped in Novel's office, Ferrie's home and Banister's office-storeroom.
Ferrie worked on and off for Banister as an investigator, and the mutual affinity was such that in 1962, when Eastern Air Lines was in the process of dismissing Ferrie for publicity over alleged homosexual acts, Banister appeared at a Miami hearing and delivered an impassioned plea on his behalf. When Banister suddenly died, the ex-pilot evidently acquired part of his files. When he realized he was a prime suspect in Garrison's probe, Ferrie systematically disposed of his papers and documents for the years 1962 and 1963. But in phtocopying the bibliography of acancer paper he had written (at one time he had caged mice in his home on which he experimented with cancer implants), he inadvertantly overlapped the bottom portion of notes recording the dispositions. Included is the notation: "Copies of B's [presumably Banister's] microfilm files to Atlanta rite-wingers [sic]."
The Banister files were reputed to be the largest collection of "anti- communist intelligence" in Louisiana, and part were sold by his widow to the Sovereignty Commission, a sort of state HUAC, where a Garrison investigator was able to examine them. Banister's filing system was modeled after the FBI's, and contained files on both friends and foes. The "10" and "23" classification dealt with Cuban matters; 23-5, for example, was labeled Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front and 10-209 simply Cuban File. There was a main file, 23-14, labeled Shaw File, but someone had completely stripped it before Garrison's man go there.
The Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front, which occupied what was grandiosely called Suite 6 at 544 Camp Street, was the coalition of Cuban exile "liberation" groups operating under CIA aegis that mounted the Bay of Pigs invasion. Arcacha, the New Orleans delegate of the Miami-based organization, is a dapper, moustachioed man who had served in Batista's diplomatic corps. There are numerous witnesses who attest that he was a confidant of Banister and Ferrie, and that his office was a way station for the mixed bag of Cuban exiles and American adventurers involved in the "liberation" movement. Late in 1962, the Front closed up shop, at which time Arcacha became a founder of the Crusade to Free Cuba, a paramilitary group of militant right wingers. In March 1963, he moved to Houston, Texas. Early in his investigation, Garrison charged Arcacha with being a party to the munitions burglary with Novel and Ferrie, but by this time he was living in Dallas, where he refused to talk to the DA's men without Dallas police and assistant DA Bill Alexander present. When Garrison obtained an arrest warrant and sought to extradite him, Texas Governor John Connally would not sign the papers.
As for Oswald and 544 Camp Street, Garrison declares that "we have several witnesses who can testify they observed Oswald there on a number of occasions." One witness is David L. Lewis, another in Banister's stable of investigators. In late 1962, Lewis says, he was drinking coffee in the restaurant next to 544 Camp street when Cuban exile Carlos Quiroga, who was close to Arcacha, came in with a young man he introduced as Leon Oswald. A few days later, Lewis saw Quiroga, Oswald and Ferrie together at 544 Camp Street. A few days after that, he barged into Banister's office and interrupted a meeting between Banister, Quiroga, Ferrie and Leon Oswald. It was not until he was interviewed by Garrison that Lewis concluded that Leon Oswald was probably Lee Harvey Oswald. Noting that the "natural deaths of Banister and Ferrie were strikingly similar," Lewis has slipped into seclusion.
Part 2 - CIA: THE COMMON DENOMINATOR
ON OR ABOUT THE NIGHT of September 16, 1963, a nondescript Leon Oswald, the brilliant, erratic David Ferrie, and a courtly executive-type man name Clem Bertrand discussed a guerilla ambush of President Kennedy in Ferrie's apartment. There was talk of "triangulation of fire ... the availability of exit ... one man had to be sacrificed to give the other one or two gunmen time to escape." Escape out of the country would be by a plane flown by Ferrie. This was the hub of the testimony of Perry Raymond Russo at a preliminary hearing for Clay Shaw, accused by Garrison of conspiracy in the assassination. Russo identified Leon Oswald as Lee Harvey Oswald, and Clem Bertrand as Clay Shaw.
What would bring three such widely disparate men together in the first place? One possible answer: the CIA.
On the fringe of downtown New Orleans, the building at 544 Camp Street is across the street from the government building which in 1963 housed the local CIA headquarters. One block away, at 640 Magazine Street, is the William B. Reily Co. a coffee firm where Oswald was employed that pivotal summer. He worked from May 10 to July 19, earning a total of $548.41 (Commission Exhibits 1154). Despite this, he did not seem hard put to support Marina and their child. Nor did he seem particularly concerned about being fired. The personnel manager of the Reily Co. told the Secret Service that "there would be times when Oswald would be gone for periods of an hour or longer and when questioned he could not furnish a plausible explanation as to where he had been ..." (CE 1154).
Next door is the Crescent City Garage, whose owner, Adrian T. Alba, testified that Oswald spent hours on end in his waiting room buried in gun magazines (Warren Report, Vol. 10, p.226). Shortly before leaving the coffee firm, Oswald mentioned to Alba that his employment application was about to be accepted "out there where the gold is" -- the NASA Saturn missile plant at Gentilly, a suburb (Vol. 10, p. 226).
On the face of it, the idea that Oswald could get a job at a space agency installation requiring security clearance seems preposterous. He was a self-avowed Marxist who had tried to renounce his American citizenship in Moscow, married the niece of a Soviet KGB colonel, openly engaged in "Fair Play For Cuba" activity, and attempted to join the Communist Party, U.S.A. But Garrison points out that it is an open secret that the CIA uses the NASA facility as a cover for clandestine operations. And it is his contention that Oswald was a "witting" agent of the CIA.
There is a surfeit of indications of Oswald's status. One is the story of Donald P. Norton, who claims he was impressed into the Agency's service in 1957 under threat of exposure as a homosexual. In September 1962, Norton related, he was dispatched from Atlanta to Mexico with $50,000 for an anti-Castro group. He had no sooner registered in the Yamajel Hotel in Monterrey, Mexico, per instructions, than he was contacted by one Harvey Lee, a dead ringer for Oswald except that his hair seemed slightly thicker. In exchange for the money, Lee gave him a briefcase containing documents in manila envelopes. According to plan, Norton delivered the briefcase to an employee of an American oil firm in Calgary, Alberta, who repeated the pass phrase, "The weather is very warm in Tulsa."
Norton also contends he met David Ferrie earlier in his CIA career. In early 1958, he was tapped for a courier trip to Cuba and told to meet his contact at the Eastern Air Lines counter at the Atlanta airport. The contact was a singular appearing man who called himself Hugh Pharris or Ferris; Norton now states it was Ferrie. "Here are your samples," Ferrie remarked, handing Norton a phonograph record. "It is in the jacket." "It" was $150,000, which Norton duly delivered to a Cuban television performer in Havana. Norton asserts he went to Freeport, Grand Bahamas, on an Agency assignment late in 1966, and upon his return to Miami his contact instructed that "something was happening in New Orleans, and that I [Norton] should take a long, quiet vacation."
He did, and started to fret about the "people who have died in recent months -- like Ferrie." Then he decide to contact Garrison. Norton was given a lie detector test, and there were no indications of deception.
Garrison believes that Oswald was schooled in covert operations by the CIA while in the Marine Corps at the Atsugi Naval Station in Japan, a U- 2 facility (interestingly, two possibly relevant documents, "Oswald's access to information about the U-2" [CD 931] and "Reproduction of CIA official dossier on Oswald" [CD 692] are still classified in the National Archives). Curiously, the miscast Marine who was constantly in hot water had a Crypto clearance on top of a Top Secret clearance, and was given two electronics courses. "Isn't it odd," prods Garrison, "that even though he supposedly defected to the Soviet Union with Top Secret data on our radar nets, no action was taken against him when he came back to the United States?"
Equally odd is Oswald's acquisition of Russian language ability. Although the Warren Report spread the fiction tha he was self-taught, and Oswald himself falsely told a New Orleans acquaintance that he had studied Russian at Tulane University, the likelihood is that he was tutored at the CIA's Atsugi station. Marine Corps records reflect that on February 25, 1959, at the conclusion of his Atsugi tour of duty, he was given a Russian language proficiency test (Folsom Exhibit No. 1, p. 7). A former Marine comrade, Kerry Thornley, deposed to Garrison that Oswald conversed in Russian with John Rene Heindel every morning at muster.
Oswald's "defection" to the Soviet Union also smacks of being CIA- initiated. In retrospect, the clearance of U.S. departure and reentry formalities seems unduly expeditious. When the Marine Corps post facto downgraded his discharge to less than honorable, Oswald indignantly wrote Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally, "I have and allways [sic] had the full sanction of the U.S. Embassy, Moscow USSR and hence the U.S. government" (Warren Report, p. 710). When an interviewer on a New Orleans radio station asked him on August 21, 1963 if he had had a government subsidy during his three years in Russia, the normally articulate Oswald stammered badly: "Well, as I er, well, I will answer that question directly then as you will not rest until you get your answer, er, I worked in Russia, er, I was er under the protection er, of the er, that is to say I was not under protection of the American government but I was at all times er, considered an American citizen..." (This is the original version as disseminated by the Associated Press. The version released by the Warren commission has been edited to delete the hemming and hawing and the apparent slip of the tongue, "I *was* under the protection..." [Vol. 21, p 639].)
Possibly the most cogent suggestion of Oswald's mission in the Soviet Union can be found in the testimony of Dennis H. Ofstein, a fellow- employee at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall Co. in Dallas (this is the photographic/graphic arts firm where Oswald worked upon his return from Russia; it receives many classified government contracts). Ofstein's smattering of Russian evidently set the usually phlegmatic Oswald to talking. "All the time I was in Minsk I never saw a vapor trail," Ofstein quotes him. "He also mentioned about the disbursement [dispersement?] of military units," Offstein continued, "saying they didn't intermingle their armored divisions and infantry divisions and various units the way we do in the United States, and they would have all of their aircraft in one geographical location and their tanks in another geographical location, and their infantry in another ..." On one occasion, Oswald asked Ofstein to enlarge a photograph taken in Russia which, he explained, represented "some military headquarters and that the guards stationed there were armed with weapons and ammunition and had orders to shoot any trespassers..." (Vol. 10, p. 202). Oswald's inordinate interest in the contrails of high flying aircraft, Soviet military deployment and a military facility involving an element of risk to photograph hardly seems the natural curiosity of a hapless ex-Marine private.
An intriguing entry in Oswald's address book is the word "microdots" appearing on the page on which he has notated the address and phone number of Jaggers-Chiles_Stovall (CE 18, p. 45). Microdots are a clandestine means of communication developed by German intelligence during World War II and still in general use among espionage agencies. The technique is to photograph the document to be transmitted and vastly reduce the negative to a size that will fit inside a period. The microdot can be inserted in an innocuous letter or magazine and mailed, or left in a "dead drop" -- a prearranged location for the deposit and pickup of messages.
Thus it may be significant that Oswald obtained library cards in Dallas and New Orleans, and usually visited the libraries on Thursday. The possible implication of his visits was not overlooked by the FBI, which confiscated every book he ever charged out, and never returned them. A piece that may fit into the puzzle is the discovery by Garrison of an adult borrower's card issued by the New Orleans public library in the name Clem Bertrand. The business address shown is the International Trade Mart [Shaw's former place of employment], and the home address 3100 Louisiana Avenue Parkway, a wrong number, but conspicuously close to that of David Ferrie at 3330 Louisiana Avenue Parkway. There may be a pattern here, since Oswald supposedly carried a card issued to Ferrie when arrested in Dallas.
Still another hint of Oswald's intelligence status is the inventory of his property seized by Dallas police after the assassination. Included is such sophisticated optical equipment as a Sterio Realist camera, a Hanza camera timer, filters, a small German camera, a Wollensak 15 power telescope, Micron 6X binoculars and a variety of film -- hardly the usual accouterments of a lowly warehouseman (Stovall Exhibits).
Upon his return from Russia, the man who subscribed to Pravda in the Marine Corps and lecutred his fellow Marines on Marxist dialectics set about institutionalizing his leftist facade. He wrote ingratiating letters to the national headquarters of the Communist Party, Fair Play for Cuba Committee and Socialist Workers Party (a copy of the famous snapshot of Oswald with a revolver on his hip, a rifle in one hand and the Party organ, the Militant, in the other was mailed to the SWP office in New York in April 1963.) Garrison believes the facade was intended to facilitate his entry into communist countries for special missions.
Ferrie's involvement with the CIA seems to stem mainly from his anti- Castro paramilitary activity, although there is a suggestion that he was at one time a pilot for the Agency. In the late 1940s and early 1950s he flew light planes commercially in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and was rated by his colleagues as an outstanding pilot. In the middle 1950s there is an untraceable gap in his career. Then he turns up as an Eastern Air Lines pilot. Although he supposedly obtained an instrument rating at the Sunnyside Flying School in Tampa, Florida, there is no record that any such school ever existed.
A clue to Ferrie's activities may lie in the loss of hair he suffered. A fellow employee at Eastern recalls that when Ferrie first joined the line he was "handsome and friendly," but in the end became "moody and paranoiac -- afraid the communists were out to get him." The personality change coincided with a gradual loss of hair. First a bald spot appeared, which Ferrie explained was caused by acid dripping from a plane battery. Then the hair began falling out in clumps -- Ferrie desperately studied medicine to try to halt the process -- until his body was entirely devoid of hair. One speculation is that he was moonlighting and suffered a physiological reaction to exposure to the extreme altitudes required for clandestine flights. Chinese Nationalist U-2 pilots reportedly have suffered the same hair-loss phenomenon.
One of Ferrie's covert tasks in the New Orleans area was to drill small teams in guerrilla warfare. One of his young proteges has revealed that he trained some of his Civil Air Patrol cadets and Cubans and formed them into five-man small weapons units, this under the auspices of the Marine Corps and State Department. Coupled with this is the information from another former protege that Ferrie confided "he was working for the CIA rescuing Cubans out of Castro prisons," and on one occasion was called to Miami so that the CIA could "test him to see if he was the type of person who told his business to anybody." In a speecdh before the Military Order of World Wars in New Orleans in late 1961, Ferrie related that he had trained pilots in Guatemala for the Bay of Pigs, and professed bitter disappointment that they were not used.
Clay Shaw, an international trade official with top-level contacts in Latin America and Europe, would have been a natural target for CIA recruitment. Gordon Novel, who was acquainted with Shaw, was quoted by the States-Item as venturing that Shaw may have been asked by the CIA to observe the traffic of foreign commerce through New Orleans. More persuasive is Shaw's membership on the board of directors of a firm called Centro Mondiale Commerciale in Rome. According to the newspaper Paese Sera of Rome and Le Devoir of Montreal, among others of the foreign press, CMC was an obscure but well-financed firm that was ousted from Italy by the police because it was suspected of being a CIA front. It transplanted its operation to the more friendly climate of Johannesburg, South Africa, where it still functions.
The same group that incorporated CMC also set up a firm called Permindex Corporation in Switzerland, but that company was dissolved by the Swiss government when it was proved to be a conduit for funds destined for the Secret Army Organization (OAS), a group of right-wing French officers dedicated to "keeping Algeria French" by force of arms. The composition of the CMC group with which Shaw was associated is of more than cursory interest, since it includes a former U.S. intelligence officer, now an executive of the Bank of Montreal; the publisher of the neo-Nazi National-Zeitung of Germany; Prince Guitere de Spadaforo, an Italian industrialist related by marriage to Hitler finance minister Hjalmar Schacht; and the lawyer to the Italian neo-Fascist Party. Through his attorney, Shaw has stated he joined the CMC board of directors in 1958 at the insistence of his own board of directors of the International Trade Mart of New Orleans.
ON AUGUST 1, 1963 the front page of the States-Item carried two news stories which, Garrison asserts, symbolize the bitter end of the paramilitary right's tolerance of John F. Kennedy. "A-Treaty Signing Set On Monday" was the lead to one story, disclosing that the test ban treaty was about to become reality and that a NATO-Warsaw bloc nonaggression pact was in the wind. "Explosives Cache Home Lent to Cuban, Says Owner's Wife," announced the lead to another story, telling of an FBI raid on a military training site and arms cache on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. Agents had seized more than a ton of dynamite, 20 100-pound bomb casings, fuses, napalm ingredients and other war materiel.
The whipsaw developments -- Kennedy's patent determination to effect a rapprochement with the communist nations on the one hand, his crackdown under the Neutrality Act on anti-Castro paramilitary groups on the other -- triggered a rage against the President that would find vent in his assassination.
The true nature of the group raided at Lake Pontchartrain was not evident from the story. The FBI announced no arrests, and the wife of the property owner, Mrs. William J. McLaney, gave out the cover story that the premises had been loaned to a newly-arrive Cuban named Jose Juarez as a favor to friends in Cuba. (McLaney had been well-known as a gambler associated with the Tropicana Hotel in Havana before being ousted by Castro in 1960.)
According to information leaked to Garrison by another government agency, the FBI had in fact arrested 11 men, then quietly released them. Among those in the net was Acelo Pedro Amores, believed to be a former Batista official who slipped out of Cuba in 1960. Also caught was Richard Lauchli Jr, one of the founders of the Minutemen. Lauchli who possessed a federal license to manufacture weapons in his Collinsville, Illinois machine shop, was arrested again in 1964 when Treasury investigators, posing as agents of a South American country, trapped him in a deal to sell a huge quantity of illicit automatic arms. The other arrested were American adventurers and Cuban exiles.
Garrison believes that the assassination team at Dealey Plaza included renegade Minutemen operating without the knowledge of the group's central headquarters. Free-lance terrorism has plagued Minutemen national coordinator Rober DePugh since the organization's inception, and there have been several abortive assassination schemes hatched by individual cliques.
For example, in 1962, a Dallas extremist using the pseudonym John Morris was given money by a Minutemen clique at the Liberty Mall in Kansas City to subsidize the sniper slaying of Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The plan called for Morris to escape in a plane flown by a Texas man, but DePugh got wind of it and aborted it. And a Cuban exile close to Guy Banister has told Garrison that in 1962 Minuteman Banister seriously discussed "putting poison in the air conditioning ducts in the Havana Palace and killing all occupants."
The latest plot to surface was formulated in Dallas in September 1966; its target was Stanley Marcus of the Neiman-Marcus department store, a pro-United Nations liberal who somehow has managed to thrive in rigidly conservative Dallas. According to an informant who was present, several Minutemen decide to ambush Marcus outside of Dallas, because "another assassination in Dallas would be too much." Again, there was a leak and the plan fell through. However, as the Warren Report might phrase it, such schemes "establish the propensity to kill" on the part of the radical right.
"Minutmen" has become an almost generic term for the paramilitary right, a far from homogenous movement. Some elements are driven primarily by race hatred and anti-Semitism, others by perfervid anti-communism, still others by a personal interest in overthrowing Castro and regaining property or sinecures in the Cuban bureaucracy. There is considerable cross-pollination, especially in the south. A graphic example can be found in rurual St. Bernard Parish, near New Orleans. A state police undercover investigator relates that inside a farmhouse which serves as a Ku Klux Klan regional headquarters are Nazi emblems and a shrine to Horst Wessel, and in back, behind a copse of trees, a rifle range and large cache of guns belonging to Minutemen.
There is intense factionalism inside the paramilitary right, and in recent years a power struggle for hegemony over the movement raged between DePugh of the Minutemen and the late George Lincoln Rockwell of the American Nazis. In a recent public statement DePugh commented that "fascism is the number one danger in this country today," and that the "fascists" are using anti-communism as a smokescreen to cover their own rush for power. I had occasion to talk to DePugh, and suggested to him that the guerrilla team that bushwhacked the President included Minutemen who had drifted into the Nazi orbit. "I'm inclined to agree," he said.
One of the most inexplicable entries in Oswald's address book is "Nat. Sec. Dan Burros, Lincoln Rockwell, Arlington, Virginia" (CE 18. p55). Other right-wing figures in the address book are Carlos Bringuier of the Cuban Student Directorate in New Orleans and retired General Edwin Walker of Dallas. Bringuier told the Commission that Oswald had approached him and offered to train Cuban exiles in Marine tactics, but he suspected Oswald was a plant.
An anti-Castro adventurer who trained in the Florida Keys prior to the assassination claims that by November 22, 1963 there was not one but several paramilitary teams gunning for Kennedy. They had been in contact, he said, with "wealthy backers who wanted to see Kennedy dead and had been given money to do the job."
Part 3 -THE MAKING OF A PATSY
ON JANUARY 20, 1961 TWO MEN approached Oscar W. Deslatte, assistant manager of the Bolton Ford Truck Center in New Orleans, and identified themselves as members of the Friends of Democratic Cuba. To help their cause, they wanted to purchase ten trucks at cost. Deslatte filled out a bid form, recording their names as Joseph Moore and Oswald. The young man calling himself Oswald said that if the trucks were purchased he would be the one to pay for them. This is the gist of an incident recorded by the FBI immediately after the assassination and dug out of the obscurity of the Archives by Garrison researcher Tom Bethell (CD 1542).
Garrison has located the former Bolton Ford manager who was present at the time, Fred A. Sewell. He recalled that the younger "skinny" man gave the full name *Lee* Oswald, and that "Joseph Moore" actually was a Cuban who gave a Cuban name on the bid form. What is puzzling about the incident is that Lee Harvey Oswald was in Minsk, Russia in 1961, thus raising the question of who was impersonating him and why.
Any answer must necessarily be conjecture, but it may be significant to recall that Lee Harvey Oswald spent four days in New Orleans in September 1959 before departing on the first leg of his joureny to the Soviet Union aboard the SS Marion Lykes (CE 1963). Garrison has picked up indications that Oswald's decision to embark via ship *from New Orleans* was dictated by intelligence considerations. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that during the four-day period in the city he was inducted into a CIA group, an anti-Castro member of which would later use Oswald's name.
The genesis of the Friends of Democratic Cuba is not inconsistent with this theory. One of the incorporators of the organization was Guy Banister, the Minutmen/CIA type. Another was William Wane Dalzell who knew Ferrie and Arcacha, and was still another in the Banister coterie of sleuths. To a States-Item reporter he admitted he was CIA.
The Friends of Democratic Cuba was founded January 9, 1961, less than two weeks before the Bolton Ford incident. It was intended as a kind of American auxiliary to Arcacha's all-Cuban Revolutionary Front, and Arcacha was instrumental in its creation. Government advisors to the Friends, says an informant who was closely involved with the group, were a CIA man named Logan and the FBI's Regis Kennedy, who invoked executive privilege when questioned not long ago by the New Orleans grand jury looking into the assassination. The Friends were short-lived, and the Front slowly dissolved after the abortive Bay of Pigs invasion. The die-hard remnants of these moribund groups formed the Free Cuba movement.
The Secret Service stumbled upon the Free Cuba group in its hectic post- assassination inquiries at 544 Camp Street, but apparently the T-men were completely sold on Oswald's left-wing orientation and never thought to connect him with a right-wing outfit. Learning that "Cuban revolutionaries" had occupied space at that address, Secret Service men talked to a Cuban exile accountant who said that "those Cubans were members of organizations known as 'Crusade to Free Cuba Committee' and 'Cuban Revolutionary Council.'" Arcacha, the accountant related, was authorized to sign checks on both accounts (CE 3119). He said that Arcacha continued with the Free Cuba group even after he had been ousted from the CRC (CE 1414). There is no record that the Secret Service questioned Arcacha about Oswald.
It was a grievous omission, for it is now manifest that Oswald was intimately involved with the Free Cuba group. One indication is implicit in the testimony of Mrs. Sylvia Odio, an aristocratic Cuban refugee. When Lee Harvey Oswald's picture was flashed on television after the assassination, she fainted. She explained to the Warren Commission that in late September 1963, three men appeared unannounced at her Dallas apartment seeking assistance for the anti-Castro movement. The spokesman gave a "war name" that sounded like Leopoldo; a second man was introduced as something like Angelo. The third man was introduced as Leon Oswald, and Mrs. Odio was certain he was the accused assassin.
Unsure of the trio's true allegiance, Mrs. Odio was noncommittal. They left, after commenting that they had just arrived from New Orleans and were leaving shortly "on a trip." The next morning Leopoldo telephoned Mrs. Odio with a new sales pitch. "Leon" was an ex-Marine, he said. "He told us we don't have any guts, you Cubans, because President Kennedy should have been assassinated after the Bay of Pigs...It is easy to do. He has told us." When his listener became upset at talk of killing Kennedy, Leopoldo remarked that it would be just as easy to kill the Cuban Premier. Leon was an expert shot, he said, a man who "could do anything like getting undergound in Cuba, like killing Castro" (Vol. 11, pp. 367-389).
Just before the Warren Report went to press, the FBI located three men possibly identical with Mrs. Odio's provocative visitors. Some three weeks after the visit, Loren Eugene Hall and William Seymour had been arested by the Dallas police on a technical narcotics charge. Significantly, their arrest record bore the notation: "Active in the anti-Castro movement ... Committee to Free Cuba." G-men traced them and a companion, LawrenceHoward Jr, to the west coast.
Hall admitted to the FBI that he, Howard and Seymour had been to see Mrs.Odio, whose apartment he correctly located on Magellan Circle, "to ask her assistance in the movement," presumably the Free Cuba movement. But Howard, although conceding he was with Hall in Dallas in late September, flatly denied being at Mrs. Odio's. Seymour alibied that he was working in Miami Beach at the time; the FBI verified that pay records of a Miami Beach firm showed him at work from September 5 through October 10.
In a second session with the FBI, Hall recanted his admission and claimed he had been mistaken, a turnabout that did not seem to be viewed too skeptically by the G-men. The Bureau closed its inquiry by observing that Seymour bore a striking resemblence to Oswald, a meaningless footnote considering that the pay records had been accepted as prima facie evidence that he was in Miami Beach at the relevant time.
With Seymour "out of the way," the Warren Commission had only to dispose of the possibility that it *was* Oswald at Mrs. Odio's. It did so by declaring it improbable that Oswald could have traveled to Dallas in the limited time between his departure from New Orleans and his crossing of the Mexican border. But the Commission reckoned from surface transportation timetables, and there is a suggestion he flew at least part of the way. Mrs. Horace Twiford of Houston stated that in late September, when Oswald telephoned her husband, he commented that he "had only a few hours" before "flying to Mexico" (CE 2335).
The post-assassination search at the Irving premises of Ruth and Michael Paine, with whom Marina had been staying, yielded another tie to the Free Cuba movement. Among Oswald's belongings in the garage was a barrel that had, said Deputy Buddy Walthers, "a lot of these little leaflets in it, 'Freedom for Cuba'" (Vol 7, p. 548). And at his celebrated press conference the night of the assassination, DA Henry Wade let it slip that "Oswald is a member of the Free Cuba Committe." He was immediately "corrected" by Jack Ruby who had mingled with the press: "No, he is a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee."
Deputy Walthers added a final link. In a "Supplementary Investigative Report" dated November 23, 1963, he stated that he had advised Dallas Secret Service Chief Forrest Sorrels that "for the past few months at a house at 3128 Harlendale some Cubans had been having meetings on the week ends and were possably [sic] connected with the 'Freedom for Cuba Party' of which Oswald was a member." Three days later, when the Secret Service had evinced no interest, he wrote a wistful addendum: "I learned today that sometime between seven days before the President was shot and the day after he was shot these Cubans moved from this house. My informant stated that subject Oswald had been to this house before" (Decker Exhibit No. 5323).
Why Oswald's anti-Castro comrades decided to make him the patsy is open to conjecture. Perhaps he balked at going through with the assassination. Perhaps they did not trust him and suspected he was an infiltrator. The most likely explanation is a pragmatic one: they needed a patsy and he was the ideal candidate. To make the assassination look like the work of an avowed Marxist and Castro sympathizer would have been a propaganda tour de force. "Even so," offers Garrison, "I think the big money backers of the plot were a little disappointed. Oswald was supposed to be killed trying to escape, and if those Cuban and Soviet visas he applied for but didn't get could have been found on his body, public opinion against Ruissia and Cuba would have been incited to a dangerous pitch."
In the weeks preceding the assassination, there are a number of instances of an Oswald double in Dallas who probably was instrumental in "setting him up." Gunsmith Dial D. Ryder told the Commission that in early November, someone giving the name Oswald brought in a rifle to have a telescopic sight mounted; he produced a repair tag in that name as confirmation (Report, p. 315). Garland G. Slack and other target shooters patronizing the Sports Drome Rifle Range reported that a man resembling Oswald had practiced there as late as November; the man made himself obvious, at one time incurring Slack's displeasure by firing on his target (Report, pp. 318-319).
An incident at Downtown Lincoln-Mercury is highly revealing. Immediately after the assassination, salesman Albert Guy Bogard reported to the FBI that a man giving the name Lee Oswald, who closely resembled the accused assassin, came into the showroom on November 9. Remarking that in several weeks he would have the money to make the purchase, he test-drove an expensive model on the Stemmons Freeway at 60 to 70 miles an hour. Both Bogard and another salesman, Oren Brown, wrote down the name Oswald so that they would remember him if he called back. A third salesman, Eugene M. Wilson, recalled that when the man purporting to be Oswald was told he would need a credit rating, he snapped, "Maybe I'm going to have to go back to Russia to buy a car" (Report, p. 320).
Given a lie detector test by the FBI, Bogard's responses were those "normally expected of a person telling the truth." Nevertheless, the Warren Commission dismissed the incident by noting that Oswald supposedly could not operate an automobile and that on November 9 he allegedly spent the day drafting a lengthy letter to the Soviet Embassy. It evidently never considered the possiblity someone might be impersonating Oswald. But Bogard will never identify the impersonator. He stuck to his story in news interviews, and subsequently was beaten to within an inch of his life by an unknown assailant and arrested by the Dallas police on seemingly trumped-up bad check charges. He retreated to his native Louisiana, where on St. Valentine's Day 1966, he was found dead of exhaust fumes in his automobile.
The main ingredients of the patsy theory are wrapped up in a story that has gradually filtered out of Leavenworth Penitentiary. The story is that of inmate Richard Case Nagell, and paradoxically, the most cogent confirmation for it is the manner in which he wound up sentenced to ten years in federal custody.
Nagell was a highly decorated infantry captain in the Korean War who, he claims, subsequently became a CIA agent. It is a matter of record that in 1957 he was seriously injured in a plane crash in Cambodia, which tends to support his contention, since Cambodia was not exactly a tourist playground. On September 20, 1963, Nagell walked into a bank in El Paso, Texas, fired a gun into the ceiling, and then sat outside waiting to be arrested. He says he stage the affair because he wanted to be in custody as an alibi when the assassination took place. It was a desperate measure, he admits. But he had sent a registered letter to J. Edgar Hoover warning him of the impending assassination, which he says was then scheduled for the latter part of September (probably the 26th in Washington, D.C), and the letter had gone unanswered.
There is an incredibly brief FBI interview report stating, in part, that on December 19, 1963 Nagell advised, "For the record he would like to say that his association with Oswald (meaning LEE HARVEY OSWALD) was purely social and that he had met him in Mexico City and in Texas" (CD 197). Another report states that when the prisoner was being led from court on January 24, 1964, he "made wild accusations to newspaper reporters, accusing the FBI of not attempting to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy..." (CD 404).
That the charges may not be so wild is indicated by the fact that the government threw the book at Nagell, a first offender who says he expected to be charged only with discharging a firearm on government- protected property. Since his sentencing, he has been shuttled between Leavenworth and the federal medical center (a euphemism for mental institution) at Springfield, Missouri. While the government has suggested in court that his airplane crash mentally affected Nagell, the fact remains that he was given intelligence training *after* the crash. What Nagell alleges is damning not only to the FBI, but to the CIA. In brief, he says that the motive for the assassination was Kennedy's move in the direction of a rapprochement with Castro, which was a rank betrayal in the eyes of anti-Castro elements. As he puts it, an anti- Castro group in New Orleans and Mexico City, code name Bravo Club, decided to give Kennedy a "Christmas present" to be delivered September 26, a date that was postponed. A party was required. Two members of Bravo Club approached Oswald while he was working at the Reily coffee firm in New Orleans in the summer of 1963, and appealed to his ego in setting him up as the patsy. When the "delivery" site was shifted to Dallas, Bravo Club enlisted the aid of a Dallas "subsidiary," Delta Club.
Meanwhile the CIA got wind of the plans and sent several agents into the field to ascertain whether they were "for real." Nagell says he was one of the agents dispatched. Within a short time, he claims, he was pulled in. It had been verified that the plans were authentic, that "gusanos [anit-Castroites] were making the watch tick," and that the sum of the plot was right-wing in nature. Nagell says that he was instructed to "arrow" the patsy, that is kill him, after the assassination. At this point, he contends, he got cold feet and bailed out. "I would rather be arrested than commit murder and treason," he declared in a self-prepared petition for habeas corpus.
In the petition, Nagell asserts that he used the pseudonyms Robert Nolan and Joseph Kramer in the U.S. and three foreign countries under the authorization of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He states that the files of the FBI and the CIA contain information that Oswald was using the aliases Albert Hidel and Aleksei Hidel. He charges that the FBI illegally seized from him evidence crucial to his defense, such as notebooks containing the names of certain CIA employees, photographs, two Mexican tourist cards (one in the name Joseph Kramer, the other in the name Albert Hidel), and receipts for registered mail, including the one for the letter sent Hoover warning of the assassination.
When Nagell complains he has been "salted away" because of what he knows, he just might be making the understatement of the year.
"The Garrison Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy" by William Turner is reprinted from Ramparts, January 1968. Copyright (c) 1968 by Noah's Ark, Inc. All rights reserved.