Electronic Assassinations Newsletter

Issue #2 New Discoveries in the Recently Released Assassination Files


Sunshine in Dark Corners: Covert Intelligence Operatives and Lee Oswald

by Martin Shackelford (mshack@juno.com)
Part Four of a Series
Special to Review Magazine

In Part One, we learned how public pressure resulted in a law requiring Kennedy Assassination records to be opened much more fully than ever before, and creating the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) to administer it. Parts Two and Three summarized what we've learned about the real Lee Harvey Oswald.

Released records have covered such topics as the last of the Warren Commission documents, Secret Service protective division documents, the Garrison investigation in New Orleans and its suspects, associates of Oswald, CIA personnel, interviews of medical witnesses, FBI surveillance of Warren Report critics, and organized crime meetings in Miami.

This time, we'll take a look at a few of the other secrets liberated from the covert files, including some unusual friends of Lee Harvey Oswald.


George deMohrenschildt: This Dallas oil geologist had a history of intelligence involvement. His acquaintances included right-wing billionaire H. L. Hunt, oilman George Bush, Jackie Kennedy's father, and members of Lyndon Johnson's inner circle. Dallas CIA man J.Walton Moore first mentioned Lee Oswald to deMohrenschildt in 1961, before Oswald returned to the U.S. In 1962, an associate of Moore gave deMohrenschildt Oswald's address, and suggested contact. After double-checking with Moore and sources in the FBI, deMohrenschildt approached Oswald. His contacts, which resulted in a series of debriefing reports to the CIA, covered a period when the government had no official contact with Oswald. He encouraged Oswald "to write a detailed memoir," received the manuscript in October 1962, and allowed Moore to copy it. After Oswald left Dallas in April 1963, the CIA requested an "expedite check" on deMohrenschildt. He went to Washington in May, where he discussed Oswald with the branch chief of the CIA Soviet Russia division, to which his debriefing reports had gone. In late 1963, after the assassination, an unexplained sum of over $200,000 was deposited into his bank in Haiti from a Bahamian bank.

Guy Banister: Another person whose contacts with Oswald began during a period when the government was officially out of touch was Banister, a former Naval Intelligence man and FBI field office chief who ran a detective agency, belonged to the right-wing Minutemen, and worked with the CIA. Oswald worked for him in New Orleans, as increasing numbers of former Banister employees have attested. Also, Oswald told local attorney Dean Andrews he was being paid $25 a day to leaflet (he told his friend Ron Lewis, another Banister employee, that the money was coming from Clay Shaw). This supports the statement of Banister's secretary, Delphine Roberts, that when asked about Oswald's pro-Castro activity, Banister had said not to worry, "He's with us." Other witnesses saw them together around New Orleans. The FBI and Warren Commission suppressed evidence of this connection, along with another: Lewis reports Jack Ruby was involved in Banister's gun-running operations. Evidence of Ruby's involvement with gun-running comes from a variety of other sources. Another anti-Castro operative and sometime CIA asset, Gerry Patrick Hemming, said Banister offered him a CIA contract to kill JFK in September 1962, about the time Mob bosses Carlos Marcello and Santos Trafficante were talking about a hit on JFK. A corrupt union controlled by Marcello owned 544 Camp St., the building in which Banister's offices were located.

David Atlee Phillips: As we've seen, CIA propaganda expert Dave Phillips, a veteran of the CIA overthrow of Guatemala's government in 1954, was involved in both the Castro assassination plots and the CIA counterintelligence operation against the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, working under Watergate's James McCord. By the Fall of 1963, he was in charge of anti-Cuban operations in Mexico City at the time of Oswald's visit, but was out of town and didn't return until about a week after Oswald left; a cable from Mexico City suggests the CIA station there held materials about Oswald's visit for Phillips to pick up. Every key source who tried to tie Oswald to Castro after the assassination had links to Phillips.

Ann Goodpasture: Dave Phillips described her as "the case officer who was responsible for the identification of Lee Harvey Oswald in his dealings with the Cuban Embassy in Mexico." She worked for Staff D, William Harvey's highly classified CIA division which handled communications intercepts, and also housed the ZR/RIFLE assassination project (it provided the poison pen weapon, intended to kill Castro, handed to an agent the day of the JFK assassination). She lied to the House Assassinations Committee about what the Mexico City station had told CIA headquarters. She denied any photographs were taken of Oswald, then said they were probably among records destroyed by a colleague; the colleague denied any record destruction. She was recently re-interviewed by the ARRB.


When New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison linked several figures in his investigation to the CIA, the Agency issued a flat denial, which its own documents now show was false.

Clay Shaw, whom Garrison prosecuted, worked during World War II for an Army Counterintelligence group called the Special Operations Section; his military record remains classified; he told reporters he was in the Medical Corps. Shaw was affiliated with the Centro Mondiale Commerciale (CMC), a CIA front organization located in Rome, and served as a CIA informant. Between 1948 and 1956, he filed reports with the CIA's Domestic Contact Division, and provided documents to the Foreign Documents Division. In 1955, the CIA paid for one of his trips, and the following year he actively solicited information for them. His documented connection to the CIA suddenly ended in 1956, odd for someone a CIA internal report called a valuable informant.

The House Committee learned, but didn't report, that Shaw was heavily involved in anti-Castro activities; he allowed one group rent-free space in the International Trade Mart, also providing cover for CIA operations. Some of the new evidence indicates a working relationship between Shaw and Guy Banister.

Shaw was definitely with Oswald and David Ferrie on an August 1963 trip to Jackson and Clinton, Louisiana. Witnesses also reported other connections to Ferrie, who Shaw's former secretary said had "privileged access" to Shaw's office. Shaw's close associates owned the media outlets which publicized Oswald's pro-Castro activities; others sponsored Latin American Reports, whose editor William Gaudet was in front of Oswald in the line to get Mexican visas. Despite later denials, documents show the FBI did investigate Shaw prior to his arrest by Garrison, and confirmed his alias of Clay Bertrand.

As late as 1967, Shaw had a "covert security" classification for a program called QKENCHANT, so highly classified that we are still unable to learn what kind of program it was. Former CIA official Victor Marchetti said it was most likely run out of the Domestic Operations Division, headed by Tracy Barnes. Also involved with QKENCHANT was Barnes' assistant, E. Howard Hunt, one of the few Americans unable to account for his whereabouts at the time of the Kennedy assassination (he has given three different stories).

During the Garrison investigation, Shaw was sure that he would be protected, as high-ranking government officials were involved. Inquiries about Shaw by 1976 were coordinated by J. Walton Moore, George deMohrenschildt's former CIA contact in Dallas.

Suspect David Ferrie, who died early in the investigation, became a CIA operative in the late 1950s. He was a pilot in anti-Castro activities, paid by a CIA front organization, Double-Chek Corp. of Miami, paymaster for pilots in the 1961 Bay of Pigs operation. In the Fall of 1963, he flew Clay Shaw on CIA business to a CMC gathering in Montreal, and to another meeting related to business interests in Cuba. One House Assassinations Committee document released in 1993 was a flight plan dated April 8, 1963: pilot Ferrie, passengers Hidell (an Oswald alias), Lambert (an alleged Shaw alias) and Diaz, flying from New Orleans to Garland, Texas.

Gordon Novel was an important witness who evaded Garrison's attempts to extradite him. Novel was under contract to the CIA in 1962 and 1963 to aid anti-Castro groups, including supplying weapons.

In Part Five, we'll take a look at sealed records from the early investigations.

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