Electronic Assassinations Newsletter
We began this series by reviewing the history of the JFK Assassination Records Act, and the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) which it created. In Part Two, we began taking a look at the real story of Lee Harvey Oswald, as reflected in the newly-released documents and other new evidence. As we concluded, Oswald and his family had just left the Soviet Union for the United States.
Shortly after his return, Oswald arrived at the Fort Worth FBI office unannounced, responding to attempts to interview him. This interview is the only FBI report that wasn't circulated to the CIA. At some point after his return, he was debriefed by a CIA employee named Andy Anderson, but only a brief reference to this interview has so far surfaced. The CIA has always denied debriefing Oswald. As we will see next time, there was another debriefer.
Knowledge of the active CIA and FBI counterintelligence operations against the Fair Play for Cuba Committee sheds new light on Oswald's strange activities in connection with that group. We now know that he worked for New Orleans detective Guy Banister, who had extensive intelligence ties. This was the period during which he was organizing his one-man Fair Play chapter. Someone other than Oswald, described as a "husky laborer-type," ordered his Fair Play printed materials, but we don't yet know who. Two witnesses at Jones Printing reported the handbills were picked up by Oswald's Marine buddy Kerry Thornley, who later denied having any contact with Oswald that summer. Evidence indicates another Oswald handout, a pamphlet, came from CIA stocks."
Copies of his Fair Play flyers turned up at Tulane University and the Port of New Orleans. It has been surmised that Oswald's job was to draw out the Castro sympathizers in town (he told attorney Dean Andrews he was being paid $25 a day to leaflet), or tie it to members of a Tulane peace group. Ruth Paine, with whom Oswald's wife lived on and off, put a member of the Tulane group in touch with Oswald.
Ruth Paine and her husband Michael are proving to be much more complex individuals than they appeared. Many events which they described as happening unexpectedly have turned out to be planned. Both had extensive family ties to the intelligence community. Ruth, who was more conservative than portrayed, may have worked for the government during the Contra era in Nicaragua, in a Quaker group funded by "wealthy conservatives." She claimed to be gathering information for the Nicaragua Network, but it had never heard of her.
In June, Oswald leafletted the crew of the U.S.S. Wasp, an aircraft carrier then in port, and seemed to invite arrest. Both in New Orleans, and later in Dallas, he made contact with people connected with the DRE (Cuban Student Directorate), an extreme anti-Castro group (CIA code name AMSPELL). They allegedly suspected Oswald of being an FBI infiltrator, partly because he showed up attempting to buy DRE bonds just after the DRE had been told it was illegal to sell them without a permit.
The DRE's August confrontation with Oswald led to his arrest; it seems to have been patterned after a propaganda technique DRE leader Carlos Bringuier learned in Argentina, involving a manufactured confrontation. Again, Oswald seemed to be provoking a fight. The outcome: they all got plenty of media attention. Shortly after, a DRE member (allegedly gay, and previously described as pro-Castro) appeared at Oswald's home with "a stack" of Fair Play handbills (the size described would be about 1000).
Bringuier, the radio and TV station owners who publicized Oswald, and even Tulane's president, were all involved in a rightist propaganda group called the Information Council of the Americas (INCA), founded by former Army intelligence officer Ed Butler, which used the Oswald tapes for years afterward in its work. Many in INCA were friends of Clay Shaw, and fearing D.A. Jim Garrison would target them, they created a private organization, Truth or Consequences, which helped fund his investigation. For added safety, the New Orleans-based group moved its files to Los Angeles, out of Garrison's reach.
Ed Butler also had a cooperative relationship with the CIA, through its deputy director Charles Cabell, brother of Dallas mayor Earl Cabell. After the assassination, the CIA's E. Howard Hunt helped circulate the Oswald tapes. Bringuier planned a press conference to publicize them even before Kennedy's body was back in Washington.
According to Robert Tanenbaum, first Deputy Counsel of the House Committee before politics led to replacements (best recounted by Gaeton Fonzi in The Last Investigation), his staff searched the archives of the Georgetown University Library, and located an anti-Castro training camp film apparently showing Oswald, David Ferrie, Antonio Veciana, and CIA agent David Atlee Phillips with Cuban trainees. Two photos of Oswald with Ferrie have turned up more recently. Former Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Clyde Johnson, a witness allegedly able to connect Ruby and Oswald that summer was murdered shortly before he was to testify in the Clay Shaw trial. The U.S. Information Service was told the anti-Castro operator of a New Orleans Spanish language school had taped conversations with Oswald (similar tapes turned up recently in possession of a Soviet friend of Oswald from Minsk).
On September 16, the CIA wrote to the FBI about a proposed campaign to embarrass the Fair Play for Cuba Committee by planting deceptive information. The next day, Oswald stood in line behind CIA operative William Gaudet, and applied for a tourist visa to visit Mexico. Gaudet's Latin American Report was sponsored by the CIA and associates of Clay Shaw.
Only hours before Oswald left New Orleans on September 23, the CIA opened a new file on him, an operational file with a Fair Play heading, kept separate from his earlier file until after the assassination. Was Oswald working for the CIA, or was an operation being planned around him? Someone, either within CIA or knowledgeable of its operations, appears to have been creating a trail of evidence tying Cuba to Oswald in a sinister way.
The House Committee report on Oswald's Mexico City trip was mostly released in August 1993, with additional portions released recently. We know from the partly-released memoirs of the CIA station chief there, Win Scott, that CIA "photographed Oswald as he entered and left each" embassy, though the photos have yet to surface. Scott described Oswald as "a person of great interest to us." The code name for the Oswald case was apparently GP FLOOR. Oddly, a CIA recheck of "all visitors to the Cuban embassy, August through November" 1963 shows NO Oswald visits!
The Mexican affiliate of the CIA, the DFS, monitored embassy phone calls for the CIA, which got copies of its tapes. From these, transcripts were made, all but one of which are now available. Some calls were made by imposters, one speaking broken Russian, another speaking broken Spanish and English. After the CIA destroyed its tapes, the DFS was apparently the source of tapes later heard by the FBI and Warren Commission.
Years after the assassination, Assistant FBI Director William Sullivan reported "a vague recollection" that Oswald had been an informant. More documents have emerged indicating that Oswald and Jack Ruby knew each other.
On November 2, Oswald test drove a car, telling salesman Albert Bogard he expected to be receiving a lot of money soon. A fellow salesman who reported the story to the FBI was fired and slandered. After Bogard testified to the Commission, he was badly beaten. This and other intriguing leads were neglected by the FBI and Commission until shortly before completion of its Report; after its publication, the FBI took a sudden new interest.
Oswald allegedly told the co-worker who drove him to work the day of the assassination that the package he was carrying contained curtain rods. Among the 1992 release of Dallas police files is an unexplained photograph of curtain rods, dusted for fingerprints.
A recent interview with Lt. J. C. Day, who then headed the Dallas Police Crime Lab, indicated that none of the fingerprints found on the Depository rifle were recent: "at least weeks, if not months, old."
In a phone call the day after the assassination, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover told President Johnson: "The case against Oswald, as it now stands, isn't strong enough to be able to get a conviction."
A woman described as a fixer and payoff contact between the Dallas Mob and Police was asked by an FBI informant if Jack Ruby's shooting of Oswald was an accident. She replied, "No, I don't think so. You know how it works."
Further evidence of Ruby's involvement with organized crime, gunrunning, and trips to Cuba appears in the new files. We are beginning to understand more clearly what he meant when he told a friend: "They're going to find out about Cuba. They're going to find out about the guns, find out about New Orleans, find out about everything."
In Part Four, we look at the covert intelligence operatives who surrounded Oswald after his return from the Soviet Union.