* In 1967, the conspiracy movement was given an apparent boost when New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison identified a New Orleans businessman, Clay Shaw, as a suspect in the Kennedy assassination. It seemed to many at the time that evidence had emerged there had really been a conspiracy, but doubts about Garrison's claims soon began to surface.
* Jim Garrison had been an Army pilot who had seen combat over Europe in World War II, with his postwar activities including a stint as an FBI agent. He was elected as the district attorney of New Orleans in 1962. He was articulate, energetic, extroverted, and generally well-liked by the electorate; the fact that he was strikingly tall -- about 198 centimeters (6 feet 6 inches) -- and had a resonant speaking voice didn't hurt. He went hard after local corruption; his enemies, he had enough of them, hinted that he was too cozy with the local Mob since he left them alone, but in reality the Mob was mostly the business of the Federals, and there is little credible evidence that Garrison was "on the take".
In the fall of 1966, Garrison became interested in the Kennedy assassination. His first major "lead" traced back to a call made to the New Orleans DA's office on 24 November 1963, two days after JFK's assassination, by a local private investigator named Jack Martin, born Edward Suggs. Martin claimed that David Ferrie -- a New Orleans resident, an airplane pilot who also played at being a private investigator along with an extended list of other endeavors -- had recently been in Dallas where Ferrie had dealt with Oswald, even teaching him how to shoot.
The FBI quickly got their hands on Ferrie and had pointed questions for Martin. The investigators found out that Ferrie hadn't been in Dallas for six years, and also discovered that Martin had a long rap sheet, having done considerable time in lockups and mental institutions. Martin was generally described by those acquainted with him as a malicious, schizophrenic drunk who had a habit of calling up people he was angry at and threatening to kill them, as well as calling up everyone he could think of to spread vicious stories about his enemies.
Martin had been on familiar terms with Ferrie, but Ferrie had crossed him and so Martin started calling around. Martin had heard on the radio that Oswald had been in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol for a while in 1955; knowing that Ferrie had also been a member of the New Orleans CAP at the time, he made a connection and tried to play it up. Martin's story didn't have a lot of substance to it in the first place, and to the extent that the FBI could track down the facts, they found nothing interesting. The FBI checked out Ferrie thoroughly and saw no reason to link him to the assassination. They closed the file on him, judging Martin a nut and a waste of time.
About three years later, Garrison decided that there was something suspicious about Ferrie after all. Certainly Ferrie was a person who attracted attention: he had an obscure disease that had caused him to lose all his hair, so he made do by gluing on a wig of sorts as well as caterpillar-like eyebrows. People remembered him when they saw him. Ferrie was regarded as pleasant, bright, somewhat pompous person, with a tendency to tell boastful stories about the amazing things he had done. Ferrie was something of a loser; he always had one scheme or another going, some of them dubious, none of which really went very far. He was also gay, and had got into trouble picking up teenage boys.
On 22 November 1963, Ferrie had gone with two friends, Al Beauboeuf and Melvin Coffee, to an ice skating rink in Houston. That was a five or six hour trip from New Orleans, but the closest ice rink was in Houston, and Ferrie was thinking of opening up an ice rink himself in New Orleans as yet another one of his fast-buck schemes. Garrison found the story suspicious, coming up with a theory that Ferrie had been employed by the conspiracy, with Ferrie to fly Oswald out of the country after the job was done. In support of this notion, Garrison pointed to a phone call made on 24 September 1963, about the time Oswald left New Orleans, from the office of a New Orleans lawyer named G. Wray Gill.
How did this call connect Ruby to Ferrie? It's complicated. At the time, Ferrie was working for Gill, with Gill saying that Ferrie made long-distance calls from Gill's office at times. One of the residents of the Chicago apartment block was a young woman named Jean Aase. A few days before the assassination, Aase had gone to Dallas with a Chicago salesman named Larry Meyers, a married man about twice her age, who described her as a "dumb but accommodating broad", a "party girl", and a "semi-professional hooker". Meyers had dropped into Ruby's Carousel Club once on a visit to Dallas, and learning that Ruby was also from Chicago, struck up a friendship with him. Meyers liked to drop into the club when business brought him to Dallas, and on 20 November he brought Aase along and introduced her to Ruby. There was nothing more to it than that. Conspiracists find Meyers suspicious, but nobody ever found credible evidence that he was anything but what he seemed to be, a salesman.
OK, so that's the connection, such as it was, between Aase and Ruby. What about the connection between Aase and Ferrie? There wasn't much of one there, either. Did Ferrie actually make the call? Gill was asked about the matter in 1967, but to no surprise, all he could reply was, essentially: "Who knows?" That ambiguity did not disturb Garrison, nor the did the fact that the Chicago apartment block had over a hundred apartments, and the call record said nothing about who the caller was trying to get in touch with. Garrison took great stock in "propinquity" -- that is, if two or more people crossed paths in any way, that implied an association between them. It wasn't that important to him to actually validate such an association; propinquity was good enough.
Compared to the rest of Garrison's case against Ferrie, the connection to Ruby via Aase was rock-solid. On investigation, it was solidly established by witnesses that Ferrie was in New Orleans during the day on 22 November, not leaving for Houston until about 6:30 PM; since Oswald had been in custody for hours by that time and effectively everyone in the USA knew it, the idea that Ferrie was trying to keep an appointment to fly Oswald out of the country seems a bit implausible -- all the more so because the trio didn't get to Houston until the dark hours of the next morning. Their movements, the motels they stayed in during their weekend excursion, were documented and revealed nothing sinister. The most Garrison could specifically point to on the trip that seemed suspicious was that a witness reported Ferrie didn't do any ice skating and that he made a number of phone calls, hanging around the pay phone to wait for return calls. Beaubouf and Coffee said he had skated a bit but couldn't get into it; Ferrie gave an account of his calls that revealed nothing suspicious about them, and investigators found nothing to suggest he was lying.
* Along with Martin, Garrison was pursuing a lead of sorts from a fat, chatty, cheerful New Orleans lawyer named Dean Andrews. Andrews was the sort who just liked to tell stories, the more colorful the better, and was generally known as a "bullshitter". After JFK's assassination, Andrews told the FBI that he had done legal work for Oswald in the summer of 1963, supposedly to deal with Oswald's "less than honorable" discharge from the Marines. The FBI didn't believe Andrews, since he couldn't provide any corroboration or paper trail -- he claimed the papers had been stolen from his office.
Andrews also claimed he had been in the hospital on 23 November 1963, recovering from pneumonia and heavily drugged, when he was called by a "Clay Bertrand", who asked Andrews to defend Oswald. That sounded bogus on the face of it, since Oswald had repeatedly asked to get in touch with lawyer John Abt and refused to consider anyone else. It sounded even more bogus when Andrews couldn't say where the supposed Bertrand might be found. When the FBI came back to Andrews in April 1964 and said they couldn't find any person with that name in the New Orleans area, Andrews admitted that he had made the whole story up.
However, Andrews ended up testifying before the Warren Commission and gave the "Clay Bertrand" story all over again, though the second time around he gave a different description of the man, shorter and with different hair color. When pressed by the commission's counsel on details of his testimony, he confessed: "Yes, I would say I have a pretty vivid imagination ... I was full of dope."
It might be thought that nobody would have considered Andrews a credible witness given his track record, but Garrison called him into his office and pumped him for stories; Garrison then concluded that "Clay Bertrand" was actually Clay Shaw, a prominent New Orleans citizen. Shaw had a distinguished military career and moved in the higher social and business circles of the city. He was also a closeted gay.
Although Shaw didn't match any of the physical descriptions of "Bertrand" provided by Andrews, Garrison was undisturbed, suspecting Shaw was really "Bertrand" because the first name of both was "Clay". The fact that both Shaw and Ferrie were gay suggested to Garrison the two men might be romantically connected, though socially the two men were worlds apart. In other words, the only reason Garrison tagged Shaw as a suspect was because of his first name and his sexual orientation.
* In December 1966, Shaw was called into the DA's office and questioned. Shaw was of course extremely surprised, and the results of the questioning clearly gave no hint that he had anything to do with the assassination of JFK. That might have been the end of it, but early the next year, 1967, the DA's office had to file public papers to justify the use of additional funding for investigating the JFK assassination. Reporters spotted the papers, the story got into the New Orleans press, and the tale that New Orleans district attorney's office might be on to something spread across the USA. Reporters flocked to New Orleans, along with conspiracists such as Mark Lane who wanted to help Garrison "crack the case".
Now Garrison began to squeeze Ferrie harder, hunting around for Ferrie's supposed associates. One was Guy Banister, the New Orleans private eye mentioned earlier whose office had been around the corner from the 544 Camp Street address Oswald had put on one of his Fair Play For Cuba flyers. Why anyone would have made a fuss about the fact that there was a detective named Banister who had an office near an address referenced by Oswald might seem hard to understand, neither here nor there; the reason it became important was because Garrison made it so.
Garrison's office had talked a good deal with Jack Martin. Martin had an association with Banister, and like much else in Martin's life it was not a particularly harmonious one. On 22 November 1963, the day of the assassination, Banister got mad at Martin for making long-distance phone calls from Banister's office, leading to Banister giving Martin a pistol-whipping with a 0.357 magnum revolver. Martin ended up getting stitches and the police got involved. Lieutenant Francis Martello of the New Orleans police -- who had dealt with Oswald a few months earlier over Oswald's confrontation with the New Orleans Cubans -- wrote up a report, detailing the incident and saying that Martin chose not to press charges on Banister. As it turned out later it was David Ferrie, who sometimes worked for Banister as an investigator, who had told Banister that Martin was making the long-distance calls. That seems to have been the reason Martin was spreading vicious rumors about Ferrie two days later.
After conversations with Garrison, however, Martin's story became much more sinister, with Martin asserting that the squabble on 22 November 1963 was over Banister's supposed involvement with the JFK assassination. Now Martin had not only managed to implicate Ferrie in the conspiracy, he had also dragged in Banister, though at least Banister had the good fortune of sorts of being dead and out of Garrison's reach. Garrison was still able to inflate Banister into a "CIA operative" who was involved in secret plots with anti-Castro Cubans, with Garrison building up a linkage between Ferrie, Banister, and Oswald.
Unfortunately for Garrison, Oswald and Banister were dead, and Ferrie was unsurprisingly denying all the accusations against him. The only witness Garrison could find that established the hoped-for linkage was David Lewis, a shipping clerk who claimed to have seen the three together in early 1962 -- which was when Oswald wasn't actually in New Orleans, being in transit from the USSR to Texas. Lewis was an associate of Jack Martin's, said to have been cut from the same cloth. Conspiracists assert the two have been smeared by debunkers, but it should be noted that Garrison's own investigative team never tried to bring either Martin or Lewis into court to testify, their testimony obviously not being seen as credible to a jury.
* There were other "witnesses" against Ferrie that Garrison did not try to use. One was a Winnipeg salesman named Richard Giesbrecht, who wrote an article in MACLEAN'S in 1967 saying that he had been sitting in the lounge of the Winnipeg airport in early 1964 and overheard a group of men discussing the JFK assassination. When Ferrie became notorious in 1967, Giesbrecht claimed he recognized Ferrie as one of the men at the Winnipeg airport. Garrison's office called him up and spoke with him; seeing no value in him, they then promptly forgot about him.
Giesbrecht said he had actually talked to the FBI early on about the "case", reporting that the FBI agent said Giesbrecht had given them "the break we've been waiting for" -- but Giesbrecht felt that his report had been "buried". It turned out that he had spoken to one Agent Merle Nelson of the Grand Forks, North Dakota, office. Nelson said that he had simply asked Giesbrecht some questions and recorded the answers, giving Giesbrecht no reason to think he had made much of an impression. Giesbrecht hadn't, or at least he hadn't made a good impression. When Giesbrecht went public in 1967, the special agent in the Minneapolis, Minnesota office told FBI headquarters to ignore Giesbrecht, saying there was no need to give any credence to "the ridiculous comments of this individual" by issuing an denial. Obviously, the FBI did not think it plausible that members of a sinister conspiracy would discuss their plans in a public place where they could be overheard.
Another was Carlos Quiroga, an anti-Castro Cuban who claimed to have known both Ferrie and Guy Banister. Garrison's people interviewed him but didn't find him all that useful, Quiroga admitting that Ferrie did have contacts with the anti-Castro Cubans and was actively sympathetic to their cause, but saying that didn't amount to much. Quiroga described Ferrie as a "bullshitter", a big talker -- and added that Ferrie's sordid reputation made him untrustworthy. However, Quiroga also believed that Ferrie had help stash arms for the movement in 1961, and even wrote an effusive letter of recommendation of Ferrie. As far as Banister went, Quiroga said he was also very sympathetic to their cause, but Quiroga said he had no information on any activities Banister had taken to support it. That was as far as the interrogation of Quiroga went.
By the way, Ferrie claimed to have have flown airstrikes in support of anti-Castro Cubans during the Bay of Pigs operation; this story still lingers, though there's no evidence that he did, and it appears to have just been Ferrie pumping himself up by telling tall tales. In an FBI report dated 25 November 1963 on the bureau's original interrogation of Ferrie, he made no mention of involvement in the Bay of Pigs operation, though he did say he was active with the anti-Castro Cubans, specifically naming Sergio Arcacha Smith. Maybe Ferrie wanted to keep his involvement a secret? If so, why would he be blabbing about it to anyone? Although conspiracists like to claim that Ferrie was working for the CIA, there's no credible reason to believe he was.
Unbelievably, decades later Jack Martin was built into a "CIA operative", by a conspiracist named Joan Mellen. In her 2005 book, A FAREWELL TO HISTORY, written in praise of Garrison's investigation, Mellen asserted he was really Joseph J. Martin, who had retired from the agency after working there through most of the 1950s. Mellen claimed Joseph Martin had continued to be a covert agent for that time. Like Jack Martin, Joseph Martin was known to be an alcoholic with a history of mental problems; however, he lived in Washington DC, and he died in 1975 -- which made Jack Martin's testimony to the HSCA in 1978 a bit hard to understand.
In other dubious revelations, when Beverly Oliver, the supposed Babuschka Lady, came forward with her tales in the early 1970s, she not only said she saw Oswald at Jack Ruby's Carousel Club, she also claimed she saw Ferrie there so often in 1962 and 1963 that she thought he was an assistant manager for the club. Nobody else ever said they had seen Ferrie there, and since Ferrie was clearly in New Orleans in that timeframe, it would seem something of a long commute between there and Dallas on a regular basis.
Some conspiracists believe Oliver was telling the truth. They also play up remarks made by Ferrie to Garrison's investigators in which Ferrie warned them: "This case is too big for you." He did say such things, but even Garrison's people never took it as evidence for Ferrie's complicity in the assassination, which Ferrie always loudly denied. The irony was that Ferrie had actually been a bit of a conspiracist himself, researching the assassination and suspecting there had been a "plot" to kill JFK -- and though he didn't have a handle on the specifics, he was sure the New Orleans DA office was out of its depth.BACK_TO_TOP
* To greatly complicate matters for Garrison, on 22 February 1967 Ferrie was found dead in his apartment. Garrison described it as a suicide, on the basis of angry and despairing letters in the tone of "I wish I was dead / I'm not long for this world" found in the apartment. They certainly do read like suicide notes, but the coroner unambiguously stated that Ferrie had died of an aneurysm; there was no trace of drugs or toxins in his blood, and there were no signs of external injury. Conspiracists assert insist that Ferrie was murdered and that there was a cover-up, but no credible evidence supports that claim, and those who had seen Ferrie in the days leading up to his death said he looked terrible. Ferrie told them he felt very sick, was suffering from bad headaches, and he was obviously physically and emotionally miserable. Given the tremendous pressure he was under, he had every good reason to feel like he was fixing to die.
With Ferrie gone, that only left Garrison with the mysterious "Clay Bertrand" described by the talkative Dean Andrews. The only person Garrison had managed to link to "Bertrand" was Clay Shaw. Although Garrison would later claim that investigation around the French Quarter of New Orleans revealed that "everybody knew" Clay Shaw was "Clay Bertrand", in reality his investigators were only able to find one, a dubious character named William Morris who was never used as a witness.
Garrison was still certain Shaw was "Bertrand". On 1 March 1967, Shaw was arrested and charged with conspiracy to assassinate JFK. When asked by reporters a few days later about the conspiracy, Garrison painted it as a "homosexual thrill-kill" by Shaw, Ferrie, and Oswald -- Garrison now having tagged Oswald as gay. People who knew Shaw were shocked. Although Garrison never had any evidence of substance against Ferrie, Ferrie was certainly a shady character, having worked as an investigator for New Orleans Mob boss Carlos Marcello. In fact, Ferrie had left on the trip to Houston after finishing up work for Marcello on a court case, having received a payoff for his work. Shaw, in contrast, was a prominent and well-respected citizen.
Garrison's basis for charging Shaw with a crime was trifling. It was absurd to think Shaw had been using an alias, with Shaw later pointing out in an interview with PENTHOUSE magazine:
... if there was anyone in New Orleans who would have difficulty using an alias, it would be me. ... For about 17 or 18 years I had been managing director of the International Trade Mart here and in that capacity I was in the public eye a great deal. I was on television quite often and my picture had been in the local papers. I attended many civic affairs, luncheons, meetings.
In addition, I'm a highly recognizable fellow. I'm rather outsized -- 6 ft 4 inches tall -- and I have a shock of prematurely grey hair that is almost white. In a town of this size, where I had made perhaps 500 speeches and knew literally thousands of people, the idea that I would go around here trying to use an alias is utterly fantastic.
At the outset, Garrison couldn't actually establish a connection between Shaw and Ferrie. Garrison did have a connection between Ferrie and Oswald, since they had crossed paths in the New Orleans Civil Air Patrol in 1955 -- in fact it was that connection that brought down suspicion on Ferrie in the first place. However, it was a weak connection. Ferrie said he had no recollection of Oswald; the HSCA later checked on other people who had been with the New Orleans CAP organization at the time who said that Oswald did show up repeatedly in classes given by Ferrie, but added that Oswald was "a real quiet kid" who did nothing to attract attention to himself. He only stayed with the CAP for about two months.
Nobody denies that Oswald and Ferrie were in the New Orleans CAP at the same time, but nobody's ever been able to show that amounted to anything. How many dozens of people were there in the CAP at that time? The only reason to single out Ferrie for an association with Oswald, instead of drawing some other name from the CAP roster out of the hat, was because Ferrie was picked by Garrison to be a conspiracy "fall guy".
Decades later a photo came to light, provided by one John Cirovalo who had been a CAP cadet in the mid-1950s, showing both Ferrie and Oswald at a CAP field mess. Conspiracists point to the photo as proof of their suspicions, but the photo showed nothing that wasn't known before: there were ten people in a loose group, with Ferrie at one side of the group and Oswald at the other, the two not paying each other any particular mind. Cirovalo told author Patricia Lambert: "I'm in the picture, and I'm sure David Ferrie wouldn't remember me, either."
A story also still circulates that Oswald had Ferrie's New Orleans library card in his possession when he, Oswald, was arrested; the story turned out to be yet another tale spun by that mad chatterbox, Jack Martin. Oswald had his own library card; he liked to read, and lacking money he was inclined to get his reading material from the public library. The Warren Commission had the Secret Service trace down the books he had been recorded as having checked out in New Orleans and Dallas, in order to get an idea of his reading habits -- suggesting the commission had much more of an interest in details than conspiracists like to claim. Incidentally, the list showed he liked to read James Bond, science fiction, a smattering of history and philosophy, and of course books on Communism, such as a biography of Mao Zedong. There was nothing in the list to suggest any interest in Right-wing politics, though interestingly it included PROFILES IN COURAGE by John F. Kennedy.
* Garrison was soon able to find a witness to "confirm" the "connection" between Shaw and Ferrie as well, in the form of a 25-year-old insurance salesman from Baton Rouge named Perry Raymond Russo, who had known Ferrie. Russo had come forward after Ferrie's death, saying Ferrie hadn't liked JFK, though Russo also added that Ferrie had never hinted at wanting to kill the president. Russo didn't know Oswald or Shaw, but found vague resemblances between them and people he had seen around Ferrie.
That wasn't much to go on, so Garrison had Russo, with his consent, pumped up with drugs and hypnotized. In that state, under prompting Russo described a meeting between Ferrie, Shaw, and Oswald, in which they discussed they were planning to kill the president. Today, it would be impossible to think any testimony obtained under such circumstances as remotely admissible in court, and it appears its admissibility was generally regarded as dubious then.
Russo also underwent two sessions of polygraph tests, neither of which provided any support for his testimony against Shaw -- very much the opposite, in fact. The first test was administered by Jefferson Parish Deputy Sheriff Roy Jacob on 8 March 1967, the polygraph results giving no support for Russo's testimony against Shaw. The second was run by Ed O'Donnell, a polygraph technician in the New Orleans Police Department, on 19 June 1967, and went even worse for Garrison. O'Donnell described the session much later in an interview with ABC TV:
I asked [Russo]: "Did you ever see Clay Shaw at Dave Ferrie's apartment?"
"Mr. O'Donnell, I don't know."
"Whadya mean, 'you don't know?'" I said: "Perry, Mr. Shaw was a tall, distinguished-looking man. If he was there, you would know it." I said: "Now was he there, or wasn't he? Gimme a YES or NO answer."
He said: "If I have to give you a YES or NO answer, it would be NO, he was not there."
It really, it just hit me like a sledge hammer. I told Garrison this, Garrison went into a rage, I mean just absolute rage, hollerin' and screamin' that "he [Russo] sold out to someone." I walked out. At the end of that I said, no way can Garrison ever take Clay Shaw to trial. No way. His only witness, "star witness", is just lyin'.
Later, when Russo waffled on his story, O'Donnell tried to intimidate him by saying the polygraph test had been taped -- it hadn't, and O'Donnell's ploy was held up by Garrison's people to undermine O'Donnell's credibility. However, as far as Russo's testimony went, its credibility was far more undermined by the obvious question of why the conspirators would have so carelessly let him know about their monstrous plan. Russo, unfortunately, was stuck: he had come forward to help the authorities, but having given his testimony, he couldn't retract it without getting into big trouble.
The preliminary hearing for Clay Shaw had already taken place on 14 March 1967, with three judges to determine if the case against Shaw should proceed. Russo identified Shaw as "Clay Bertrand"; Garrison also brought out a "surprise witness", a black junkie named Vernon Bundy then serving a prison sentence, who claimed he was shooting up along the waterfront in 1963 and saw Shaw giving Oswald money. The judges ruled that the case should proceed.BACK_TO_TOP
* Then, on 19 June 1967, the same day as Russo's polygraph examination by O'Donnell, the nightly news on the NBC TV network ran an expose on Garrison's investigation. The report described how Garrison's staff had tried to bribe and intimidate witnesses into producing favorable testimony. Russo admitted to an NBC reporter that his own testimony was half-fantasy, but felt that he was trapped, that Garrison would charge him with perjury if he recanted: "The hell with truth. The hell with justice. You're asking me to sacrifice myself for Clay Shaw, and I won't do it."
NBC also found two cellmates of Vernon Bundy who reported Bundy told them he had cut a deal with the DA's office to get out of jail free, if he told the story they way they wanted him to. Finally, NBC reporters asked Dean Andrews if Clay Shaw was Clay Bertrand. Andrews replied: "Scout's honor -- he is not."
Along with the report, "defectors" who had quit Garrison's investigation were also coming forward to tell stories about how the ugly way the investigation was being conducted. CBS NEWS correspondent Mike Wallace, noted for an adversarial interview style, made Garrison squirm under the TV cameras, asking Garrison why he wasn't cooperating with the Federal government, asking exactly who in the Federal government was supposedly working against him. Garrison wouldn't say in specific -- he never would -- and Wallace skewered him with: "You're asking a good many questions, but you haven't got the answers to those questions."
Garrison struck back in the news media, saying he was being slandered, that he really did have the facts -- but he couldn't actually tell them just yet. The trading of accusations went back and forth, with the dispute sill lingering today. NBC News gave Garrison airtime to respond to the accusations against him, while PLAYBOY magazine decided it would only just to let Garrison give a full account of his side of the story -- of course, the fact that it would sell magazines was all for the good. He was interviewed at length by Eric Norden of the PLAYBOY staff, with the interview published in the October 1967 issue.
Garrison remains a controversial figure, and so it is hard to judge which of the many unkind things said about him can be believed. However, the PLAYBOY interview presents Garrison at face value, allowing his own words to be inspected. Norden began by asking Garrison about the accusations made by NBC News and others about the bribery and coercion involved in his investigations. Naturally, Garrison said the accusations were false, saying they were part of a smear campaign. One comment Garrison made in his defense comes across as puzzling in hindsight:
In this particular case, I've taken unusual steps to protect the rights of the defendant and assure him a fair trial. Before we introduced the testimony of our witnesses, we made them undergo independent verifying tests, including polygraph examination, truth serum, and hypnosis. We thought this would be hailed as an unprecedented step in jurisprudence; instead, the press turned around and hinted that we had drugged our witnesses or given them posthypnotic suggestions to testify falsely.
At the time, use of "truth serum" and hypnosis may have been regarded as acceptable in interrogations, at least in some courts, but now it is seen as legal witchcraft, a good way to get a witness thrown out of court. Garrison's complaints about being accused of drugging witnesses seems bizarre, given that they had been injected with sodium penthathol; it seems Garrison didn't regard it as a "drug". Garrison's reference to polygraph examinations of course didn't include that the result didn't support his case.
Another curiosity was that, although Garrison got his lead on "Clay Bertrand" from Dean Andrews, Garrison then made it clear that he didn't otherwise believe a word Andrews said:
Andrews has lied so often and about so many aspects of this case that the New Orleans Parish grand jury has indicted him for perjury. I feel sorry for him, since he's afraid of getting a bullet in his head, but he's going to have to go to trial for perjury.
Considering all the different things Andrews had said over the previous few years, had the conspiracy been inclined to kill him, he would have got a bullet in his head long before Garrison got his hands on him. Garrison played up the CIA connection, but he was careful not to directly implicate CIA leadership in the assassination:
EN: How could your probe damage the prestige of the CIA and cause them to take countermeasures against you?
JG: For the simple reason that a number of the men who killed the President were former employees of the CIA involved in its anti-Castro underground activities in and around New Orleans. The CIA knows their identity. So do I -- and our investigation has established this without the shadow of a doubt. Let me stress one thing, however: we have no evidence that any official of the CIA was involved with the conspiracy that led to the President's death.
Garrison claimed that "for at least six months, my office and home telephones -- and those of every member of my staff -- have been monitored." Garrison never provided any evidence that he was being "bugged", and nobody has found CIA or FBI records indicating that he was. Norden was unimpressed: "That's hardly conclusive evidence." Undeterred, Garrison claimed that "most of the attorneys for the hostile witnesses and defendants were hired by the CIA" -- though, again, Garrison never produced any evidence for such claims and no credible evidence has ever been found to support them.
The only known direct connection between the CIA and the Garrison investigation was a Garrison investigator named Bill Wood AKA Bill Boxley, who had been in the CIA in the late 1950s, but had acquired a "drinking problem" and resigned. Wood had no contacts with the agency after that, though Garrison ended up firing him, claiming he was a "CIA plant" sent in to "sabotage" the investigation. Continuing in the same vein on Oswald's supposed links to the CIA, Garrison said:
One of the top-secret files that most intrigues me is CD 931, which is entitled "Oswald's Access to Information About the U-2." I have 24 years of military experience behind me, on active duty and in the reserves, and I've never had any access to the U-2; in fact, I've never seen one. But apparently this "self-proclaimed Marxist," Lee Harvey Oswald, who we're assured had no ties to any Government agency, had access to information about the nation's most secret high-altitude reconnaissance plane.
As discussed earlier, Oswald had no clearance into the U-2 program and at most had simply seen one around every now and then. Garrison simply extracted from the title of the secret document the conclusion that Oswald did have access to the U-2, without Garrison having any knowledge of what the document actually said. When Norden cited former CIA Director John McCone as saying the agency had nothing to do with Oswald, Garrison, disregarding his own denials that senior CIA officials had anything to do with the conspiracy, called McCone a liar: "John McCone would swear he's a Croatian dwarf if he thought it would advance the interests of the CIA -- which he automatically equates with the national interest."
As far as the Warren Commission went, Garrison didn't need "any explanation more sinister than incompetence to account for" the inaccuracies in the Warren Report, explaining that many of the "facts" the commission examined were "fraudulent", thanks to "the evidence withheld and manufactured by the CIA." Having become suspicious of the Warren Report, Garrison explained, he began to dig into it himself:
We discovered a whole mare's nest of underground activity involving the CIA, elements of the paramilitary Right and militant anti-Castro exile groups. We discovered links between David Ferrie, Lee Oswald and Jack Ruby ... President Kennedy was killed for one reason: because he was working for a reconciliation with the USSR and Castro's Cuba. His assassins were a group of fanatic anti-Communists with a fusion of interests in preventing Kennedy from achieving peaceful relations with the Communist world.
On the operative level of the conspiracy, you find anti-Castro Cuban exiles who never forgave Kennedy for failing to send in US air cover at the Bay of Pigs and who feared that the thaw following the Missile Crisis in October 1962 augured the total frustration of their plans to liberate Cuba. They believed sincerely that Kennedy had sold them out to the Communists. On a higher, control level, you find a number of people of ultra-Right-wing persuasion -- not simply conservatives, mind you, but people who could be described as neo-Nazi, including a small clique that had defected from the Minutemen because it considered the group "too liberal."
Garrison elaborated at length on the nature of the conspiracy, and then made statements about Oswald's political orientation that would be surprising to anyone who had known Oswald personally:
JG: Oswald's professed Marxist sympathies were just a cover for his real activities. I don't believe there are any serious students of the assassination who don't recognize that Oswald's actual political orientation was extreme Right wing. His associates in Dallas and New Orleans -- apart from his CIA contacts -- were exclusively Right wing, some covert, others overt: in fact, our office has positively identified a number of his associates as neo-Nazis. Oswald would have been more at home with MEIN KAMPF than DAS KAPITAL ...
EN: Was Oswald involved with paramilitary activists and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Dallas, as well as in New Orleans?
JG: Oh, God, yes. In fact, many of his New Orleans contacts overlap with those in Dallas. Jack Ruby, who played a key role in smuggling guns to the anti-Castro underground -- on behalf of the CIA -- was one of Oswald's contacts in Dallas.
If Oswald was a "closet Right-winger", it was an act he had been putting on convincingly since he was in high school that completely fooled everyone who knew him at all well, and there was absolutely no credible evidence to support any such notion. As already discussed, there was also no credible evidence that Oswald and Ruby had any contacts before the assassination; nobody has ever come up with credible evidence linking Ruby to the CIA, or explained why the agency would have seen any value in him. Garrison went on to discuss how Oswald had been set up as a sacrifice by the conspiracy, speculating on why Oswald went along with it and didn't blow the whistle:
JG: As I said, I don't think it's likely that he was aware of his role as a decoy. But even if he was, it's probable that he would have been given some cock-and-bull assurances about being richly rewarded and smuggled out of the country after Kennedy's death. But it's even more probable, in my opinion -- if he did know the true nature of his role -- that he wouldn't have felt the necessity to escape. He would have known that no jury in the world, even in Dallas, would have been able to find him guilty of the assassination on the strength of such transparently contrived circumstantial evidence.
EN: That's debatable. But even if Oswald had been brought to trial for and acquitted of the assassination, what reason would he have had to believe that he would also be exonerated of involvement in the conspiracy -- which you've admitted yourself?
JG: I don't want to evade your question, but I can't answer it without compromising my investigation of a crucial new area of the conspiracy ... I can say, however, that whatever his knowledge of his role as a decoy, he definitely didn't know about his role as a patsy until after the assassination. At 12:45 PM on November 22nd, the Dallas police had broadcast a wanted bulletin for Oswald -- over a half hour before Tippit was shot and at a time when there was absolutely no evidence linking Oswald to the assassination. The Dallas police have never been able to explain who transmitted this wanted notice or on what evidence it was based; and the Warren Commission brushed aside the whole matter as unimportant.
Garrison's assertion that Oswald did not know anything about the conspiracy was absurd, since if Oswald had known nothing the conspiracy would have no motive to "shut him up", and would have simply drawn unwanted attention by killing him. The idea that Oswald, having been thrown to the wolves by the conspiracy, would then cover for it was not much more believable. Garrison's claim that an APB had been issued for Oswald before his arrest was, as noted, false, the APB simply relaying a general description of the subject as per Howard Brennan; the police who grabbed Oswald at the Texas Theater didn't know who he was. On being asked why Oswald didn't believe Oswald had actually been a "shooter", Garrison listed all the usual arguments about the Carcano's alleged inaccuracy, Oswald's supposed incompetence as a marksman, and the results of the paraffin test. That led to the obvious question:
EN: If Oswald didn't shoot President Kennedy from the sixth-floor window of the Book Depository, who did?
JG: Our office has developed evidence that the President was assassinated by a precision guerrilla team of at least seven men, including anti-Castro adventurers and members of the paramilitary Right.
Some sources claim that Garrison increased the number of assassins later, though more than seven would seem redundant. On considering Garrison's scenario for the events in Dealey Plaza on 22 November 1963, which recycled popular arguments of conspiracists, Norden asked:
EN: If the first bullet was fired from the front, why wasn't it found in the President's body, or somewhere in the Presidential limousine?
JG: The exact nature of the President's wounds, as well as the disposition of the bullets or bullet fragments, are among the many concealed items in this case.
In other words, when the evidence was inconvenient, the conspiracy had faked it. As one of the items in the list of "fakery" involved, Garrison trotted out the case of Billy Lovelady:
As the first shot rang out, Associated Press photographer James Altgens snapped a picture of the motorcade that shows a man with a remarkable resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald -- same hairline, same face shape -- standing in the doorway of the Book Depository Building. Somehow or other, the Warren Commission concluded that this man was actually Billy Nolan Lovelady, an employee of the Depository, who looked very little like Oswald. Furthermore, on the day of the assassination, Oswald was wearing a white T-shirt under a long-sleeved dark shirt opened halfway to his waist -- the same outfit worn by the man in the doorway -- but Lovelady said that on November 22nd he was wearing a short-sleeved, red-and-white-striped sport shirt buttoned near the neck.
As discussed earlier, Garrison's claims about Lovelady were demonstrably false. Garrison also produced bogus statements about the Tippit murder, saying that "several [witnesses] said the murderer was short and squat" -- parroting Mark Lane's attempt to con Helen Markham -- and that "four cartridges were found at the scene of the slaying ... revolvers do not eject cartridges" -- ignoring the testimony of witnesses who said they had observed shooter emptying and then reloading his revolver. Garrison also declared:
Our investigators have broken a code Oswald used and found Ruby's private unlisted telephone number, as of 1963, written in Oswald's notebook.
Also as noted earlier, Garrison had trotted out a "connection" between Oswald and Ruby from the fact that Oswald had the number PE-8-1951 in his address book and Ruby was recorded as having called that number -- though the number turned out to be that of a Dallas TV station. Apparently deciding that this "evidence" was unpersuasive, Garrison decided to focus on "secret codes", claiming to have found the same "coded number" in Shaw's address book, linking him to Ruby as well. However, even conspiracist Edward Jay Epstein found Garrison's reasoning preposterous, commenting:
... what Garrison did was take two five-digit numbers that was common to both Shaw and Oswald's address books. Transposing all the digits by choosing the nearest digit, then the farthest, then the nearest digit, Garrison managed to deduce the number 16901. The next step was to subtract the arbitrary number 1300. He got 15601. Finally, through some form of hocus-pocus Garrison converted the prefix PO to WH and presto! He came up with Jack Ruby's number, his unlisted telephone number.
And to make it even more ludicrous, by using a different method of code breaking, if we can call this nonsense code breaking, he came up with a link between Oswald, Clay Shaw, Jack Ruby and the local CIA agent.
Garrison ended the interview with a monologue about the dangers of Fascism to American democracy. The interview was the longest PLAYBOY had conducted to that time. Garrison clearly believed the CIA was at the heart of the conspiracy, though he also believed anti-Castro Cubans and Right-wing extremists had been involved. Apparently it was Garrison who established the link between the JFK assassination and the CIA. It is unclear if conspiracists had brought up the idea before him, but even if any of them had, it was Garrison and his accusations that established the connection in the public mind.
* Garrison wasn't done with the publicity game either, being interviewed by late-night NBC TV host Johnny Carson on Carson's TONIGHT SHOW on 31 January 1968. Garrison gave Carson pretty much the same story he had given PLAYBOY, Garrison claiming: "There is no question ... that an element of the Central Intelligence Agency of our country killed Kennedy, and that the present administration is concealing the facts. There is no question about it at all."
He also produced the "Three Tramps" photo, Garrison saying he had discovered the "Tramps" were connected to the assassination -- though when he held the photo up to the camera, Carson yanked Garrison's arm down, which conspiracists have interpreted as a "coverup". The reality was that Garrison was a guest on the TONIGHT SHOW, and though Carson could and did let Garrison accuse the CIA, Carson couldn't let him make accusations against individuals without risking a defamation lawsuit. Carson was not about to let Garrison use the show as a platform for libel, and in fact Carson was much less patient with Garrison than Norden, snapping back at Garrison's declarations of "facts" with: "What makes it a fact? Because you say so?" -- and in the end acidly dressing down Garrison:
You are asking us and the American public to believe that a team of seven gunmen carried this out with precision, firing from various points that day in Dallas, which is a remarkable feat in itself, and disappeared into thin air, with no witnesses who ever saw any other gunmen or getaway vehicles ... and a gigantic conspiracy in which nobody seems to have yet proved anything ... you ask us to believe that ... I find that a much larger fairy tale than to accept the findings of the Warren Report.