PART 2 / REALITY
THE CRAFT OF DECEPTION
The mounting of strategic deception calls for the cooperation and high security of all parts of the government engaged in the effort.
—ALLEN DULLES in The Craft of Intelligence
The Fourth Dimension
The main reason for the inability of the American people and the press to recognize the conspiracy to kill President Kennedy was the fact that its operations all occurred in another dimension, a dimension which generally is not known to exist in our nation. Few Americans are aware that one of the by-products of the cold war has been the development of a huge intelligence structure within their country. This invisible monster serves not the American people but the warfare complex. Its capabilities go far beyond the gathering of secret information and embrace a variety of services ranging from murder to the creation of misinformation to be fed to the press to a multitude of refinements of thought control. The rationale for its existence in an ostensibly open society is national security, although it is difficult to conceive of any greater threat to the security of a democracy than a clandestine government agency which specializes in deceiving the public.
Consequently, an operation executed in this invisible dimension is neither perceivable nor understandable to the great mass of people whose experience has been acquired in the three-dimensional world of everyday life. All they will perceive are the results of the operation: a bullet tearing off the side of a man’s head, the arrest of a scapegoat, a litter of evidence seemingly pointing to the scapegoat and a jackstraw clutter of irrelevant leads to keep the curious occupied.
The invisibility of its domestic intelligence apparatus typifies the modern warfare state’s tyranny, which is also invisible to the populace. Not only are most of the people unaware of the repressive capabilities of their government but, to the contrary, many of them believe that freedom flourishes. They are enjoying their economic benefits and consider restrictions of individual rights as negligible. The people are reminded that, to use former President Johnson’s words, they never had it so good. The opponents of the warfare state must fight the war apparatus without expecting widespread understanding of what is happening by those around them. The apparatus victims are assumed to be victims of fate. Heart attacks, falls, shootings by “deranged” men and dozens of other kinds of misadventures are skillfully wrought by technicians of the warfare state to eliminate its enemies without disturbing the lethargy of the multitude.
The inhumanity of Hitler Germany and Stalin Russia was visible but was accepted to a degree because of the authoritarian traditions of those countries. In America, the inhumanity brought by the new warfare state has been kept out of sight because of the danger that it might not survive a confrontation with the country’s libertarian traditions. As a consequence of the concealment of the inhumanity of the warfare state apparatus, most adult Americans still believe they are living in the land of the free and the home of the brave, with substantial, if not perfect, liberty and justice for all.
In our country all of the trappings and bywords of liberty are still paid homage. But where the interests of the war machine are concerned there exists, behind the star-spangled façade of freedom, government force that is as criminal as the Germany of Hitler or the Russia of Stalin.
The vehicle for obtaining authoritarian results in the new imperial America is the government intelligence agency, most particularly the Central Intelligence Agency. In its original concept, the CIA was merely an intelligence coordinating body. However, as the war interests acquired more power, its operations function was steadily increased at home as well as abroad.
Ultimately the corruption of America by the cold war produced extensive domestic intelligence machinery which with savoir-faire could accomplish deeds which our traditions would not have tolerated. The domestic operation of the intelligence complex became a clandestine part of our government. Totally invisible, its existence never acknowledged in the press, it could discredit or destroy virtually any opponent of the expanding power of the warfare interests. Furthermore, it could conceal its actions with charades which caught and confused the eyes of Americans still accustomed to the comfortable adage that seeing is believing.
When the time came for the removal of a President who threatened the survival of the war machinery, the apparatus was ready and waiting. Afterward nothing remained except the picture of a meaningless act by an irrelevant young man, a fiction made generally acceptable by promptly produced evidence that the young man had been to Russia and had engaged in leftist activities on his return. There followed, of course, the solemn authentication by government leaders that all was well, and, in due course, the planeloads of troops flew westward to Asia. Thus does a domestic intelligence apparatus alter the course of government by the people and transfer uncontrolled power to the military leaders who are protected by their moats and revetments from the elective power of the people. These leaders are protected even more by the lack of awareness of the people that anything is happening.
The greatest, and most sinister, accomplishment of the CIA has been the creation of the belief that it does not operate domestically. It has accomplished this by various means. High officials have lied about its existence in the United States, all, to be sure, in the interest of national security. Most of the agents operating within the boundaries of the United States have vocations which are superficially unrelated to the intelligence organization, thereby saddling anyone who perceives an intelligence operation with the burden of overcoming disbelief in his efforts to communicate what he has encountered. The field headquarters for an operation similarly will appear to be something other than what it is. Because of the close relationship of the military and the CIA, cover assignments to nearby military installations are useful. Thus the CIA agent appears to be almost anything but a CIA agent.
The intelligence activity itself is made to appear to be activity unrelated to intelligence by the use of a cover story. When a mission, such as an assassination, is accomplished, false sponsors are created by prior planning and by the planting of leads trailing away from the intelligence organization. These are to draw the attention of investigators who might want to dig below the surface of the cover story. At a more superficial level, an abundance of leads is planted by prior planning to provide a frame-up of the preselected scapegoat.
Our invisible government begins and ends with deception. Perceiving this deception is the key to understanding how the assassination of President Kennedy was accomplished. Understanding the motivation for his assassination is the key to understanding what has happened to America.
Join the Marines and See the World
It is a long way from Warren Easton High School on Canal Street in New Orleans to intelligence training at Atsugi Air Base in Japan. Lee Oswald made it—and then some. Both of his brothers were in the service. At the age of 16, Oswald tried to enlist in the Marines but was rejected because he was too young. At 17 he applied again and became a Marine.
Soon after his enlistment he was selected to receive radar training. He completed this course and then was selected to receive training in Russian language at Atsugi. The attorneys for the Warren Commission inferred throughout their questioning of witnesses that Oswald, presumably driven by a desire to become a Communist, had learned Russian on his own. However, during the course of his testimony concerning Oswald’s military record, Lieutenant Colonel Allison G. Folsom happened to read out loud one of Oswald’s grades in an examination in Russian which was given to him at El Toro Marine Base the same year he left for Russia. Seldom do the armed forces waste Russian language instruction on ordinary trainees.
Thus, by 1959, when the CIA was expanding its U-2 program, Oswald had been given training not only in radar but in the Russian language as well. It is hardly surprising that his security classification was higher than that of the average Marine.
Oswald’s specialty in the armed forces was not in shooting, his marksmanship being below average, but in intelligence. It is to be remembered that one of the government files classified as secret on the grounds of national security is the file entitled “Lee Oswald’s Accessibility to Information about the U-2.”
It is not surprising that Lee Oswald was selected for such special training. He was above average in intelligence and was capable of thinking conceptually, which is not a common faculty. He was, in short, quite a different person from the image of the deranged drifter created by the government after the assassination. A glance at the list of books which Oswald borrowed from the New Orleans Public Library indicates that his mind was hardly that of the typical itinerant laborer unable to perform a job well. Among the books were: Brave New World and Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley, Everyday Life in Ancient Rome by F. R. Cowell, This is My Philosophy edited by Whit Burnett, Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy, Five Spy Novels edited by Howard Haycraft, The Berlin Wall by Dean and David Heller and several dozen other books. This was Oswald’s reading fare for four months in the summer of 1963. It is not representative of the official portrait of the leftist who was labeled the murderer of John F. Kennedy.
Oswald applied for his passport to Europe while still on duty with the Marines. His discharge at the time was honorable, although it was later changed to dishonorable. Within a week he was in New Orleans, where he bought a steamship ticket at the International Trade Mart. The cost of his steamship ticket was more than he had saved in his bank account during his service in the Marines.
Upon his arrival in Russia, Oswald announced that he had left the United States permanently and that he was going to give military secrets to Russia. It was apparent that the Russians accepted this with a grain of salt; however, they assigned him to live in Minsk, and he was allowed to work in a radio factory there. By this time it had become customary on each side of the iron curtain to allow individuals who were apparently lower level espionage agents claiming to be defectors to settle in the country to which they had defected. There they were isolated from any sensitive security operations and kept under observation.
The FBI, following Oswald’s announcement in Russia that he was going to give military secrets to the Russians, inquired about him through the State Department. The reply came back: “The Embassy gave him a clean bill.”
After thirty months in Russia, Oswald returned with a young Russian wife and child. The money for his return was advanced to him by the State Department of the United States. Although he repaid the State Department later in the year, it is to be noted that for several months he made large repayments to the State Department which would have had to constitute a heavy burden on his extremely modest income. Oswald’s 1962 income tax return, filed the year after his return from Russia, was still classified as secret information more than five years after the assassination.
Perhaps the most significant thing about Lee Oswald’s return from Russia is the aforementioned fact that this supposed defector from his homeland was never charged and tried, although his pronouncements concerning his intention to reveal American military secrets on his arrival in Russia, assertedly having left America forever, ordinarily would have resulted in charges. Furthermore, customarily he would not have been able to obtain a passport again for he had previously announced that he was going to give secret radar information to the Russians. Such an action would be expected to result in drastic limitation on his future travel to other countries. Yet, as noted, when he applied for a passport in New Orleans in the summer of 1963, he received it within 24 hours while every one of the other applicants was still waiting. The government’s response to Oswald’s supposed defection was not to charge him and put him on trial but to continue to give him unique treatment not accorded the average person.
The special relationship between Oswald and the federal government would continue until the time of his arrest. Then only was he abandoned by his employers. Until that time arrived, he was treated by the government not as an enemy agent but rather as a protégé.
The comment made about Oswald by the FBI shortly after his return to Texas was representative of the official government attitude toward him. A lady who had observed a copy of Karl Marx’s treatise Das Kapital at the Oswald apartment called the local bureau office and confided her concerns. She was informed by the spokesman for the FBI that Oswald was “all right.”
He was indeed all right as far as the government was concerned. Oswald had served a lengthy assignment in Russia, an assignment not without risks, and was a member of that exclusive fraternity whose members refer to it as the intelligence community. After his return to the United States, his relationships were almost exclusively with individuals in that community or otherwise connected with the business of national defense. As young as he was and as poor as he was, Oswald was a member of the lodge until after the President was ambushed and they needed someone to throw to the people. Then the rewriting of history began, and Lee Oswald became expendable.
The Banister Apparatus
Lafayette Square in New Orleans is antiquated and worn. Its resident population consists largely of pigeons which have fluttered down from the old post-office building to peck at objects in the grass and an occasional wino fast asleep under a bush with an empty wine bottle at his side. The air is filled with the smell of coffee from the Reily Coffee Company, where Lee Oswald worked, just on the other side of the post office. It is a section given over to threadbare bars, used furniture stores, ancient warehouses and fifty-cents-a-night hotels. The section is gray and dingy and there are few pedestrians. It is a good location for a domestic intelligence operation.
Directly across Camp Street from Lafayette Square is a weatherbeaten, three-story structure built in 1879 and bearing, over the entrance doors, the aging inscription that this once was the Stevedores’ and Longshoremen’s Building. In large print by the door is the street number 544. On the leftist pamphlets which he handed out in New Orleans in the summer of 1963 Lee Oswald had stamped 544 Camp Street as a return address for anyone requesting information about Fair Play for Cuba.
In 1963, Guy Banister had his private detective business in this building. Banister had very little actual detective business, nor was he apparently greatly interested in acquiring any. He showed considerably more interest in subversive activities in the Caribbean countries. His daily concerns were in fact those of a man engaged in government business, a pursuit not inconsistent with his interests of earlier times when he was in charge of the Chicago office of the FBI. One of the enterprises which he operated from this building was the Anti-Communist League of the Caribbean, an organization which existed more in name than in deeds. Another was Friends of Democratic Cuba, which in 1961 attempted to purchase equipment for the CIA invasion of the Bay of Pigs.
Odd characters, many of them Latins, others clad in guerrilla fatigues and boots, trooped in and out of 544 Camp Street. By 1963 there was still training for anti-Castro missions going on north of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, although not as much as there had been in 1961, and Banister’s office was the New Orleans headquarters for anti-Castro activity. After Oswald came to New Orleans from Texas, he did not spend all of his time at the Reily Coffee Company around the corner. He also was a visitor at the office of the former head of the Chicago FBI office.
A regular attendant at Guy Banister’s office was David Ferrie, an expert flier and adventurer for hire who had trained Cuban pilots at Retalhuleu, Guatemala, for the CIA Bay of Pigs venture. Ferrie had made many special flights for the government from Swan Island, where the CIA operated a radio transmitter heard throughout the Caribbean, to Cuba itself, where he landed men and equipment in the mountains for the anti-Castro guerrillas. Ferrie previously had a separate enterprise in another office at 544 Camp Street where he had helped to operate the Cuban Revolutionary Front. This enterprise, like Friends of Democratic Cuba—indeed, like virtually everything at 544 Camp—was a cover operation for the CIA and was terminated when it failed to attract even minimal support among Cubans in New Orleans.
David Ferrie knew Lee Oswald from some years earlier when he had been a captain in the Civil Air Patrol and Oswald had been a young cadet under him. In the summer of 1963 they were back in each other’s company in Guy Banister’s office. Banister’s office then was like a crossroads where men on intelligence assignments for the government encountered familiar faces while in New Orleans.
In the same building was the Mancuso Restaurant, where the hangers-on and visitors drifted down for coffee from Banister’s office. Lee Oswald came down for coffee also, along with some of the others from upstairs. One of the unusual characteristics about the young man who was to become world famous as the lone assassin was that he virtually never was alone. He was never alone because by the summer of 1963 he had become an indispensable figure. There were few young men who had spent thirty months in Russia as part of their personal history. He would not be alone until that moment in the Texas Theatre when he was grabbed by the Dallas police and the minutes of his life began running out.
One odd thing about the men who hung around Guy Banister’s office was that most of them had rented mailboxes in the post office across the street. Their post-office box keys gave them a reason to be frequently in the old building, which had a number of federal offices upstairs, including the office of naval intelligence. These men who had post-office box keys seemed to have unusual connections with the government and were in one way or another engaged in the intrigue revolving around the Banister office. Oswald’s post-office box number in New Orleans was 30061. In Dallas, where his post-office box was only a few feet from Jack Ruby’s, his number was 2915 before he came to New Orleans and 2915 on his return to Dallas.
The approved dogma holds that Oswald was something of a stranger to the government until he appeared in Dallas. In point of fact, however, he was well enough known to intelligence agents in New Orleans even before the Bay of Pigs assault in Cuba so that his name was used in association with obtaining equipment for the CIA’s 1961 invasion attempt. On January 20, 1961, two representatives of Friends of Democratic Cuba appeared at the Bolton Ford Company, 1483 North Claiborne Avenue. They explained to Fred Sewell and Oscar Deslatte that they wanted to purchase ten pickup trucks and wanted Bolton Ford to bid for the purchase. One of them, a Cuban, expressed the opinion that they should be given the trucks at cost, the inference being that they were for use in a special cause and the company should not be seeking a profit. The other man, an American in his early twenties, identified himself as Lee Oswald and advised that he would be handling the money. He printed his name on the bid for trucks, and the two left. The real Lee Oswald was in Russia on that day, and it would be sixteen more months before he was to return to the United States.
On the day after the President’s assassination the Bolton Ford men recalled the incident when “Lee Oswald” had appeared there inquiring about trucks for Friends of Democratic Cuba, and they called the FBI. The firm’s copy of the bid with Oswald’s name on it was located, and the FBI agents carefully lifted it up with celluloid holders so that no fingerprints would be smudged. The paper, fingerprints and all, vanished into that special limbo reserved for significant evidence in the President’s assassination. There is no reference to Friends of Democratic Cuba in the millions of words printed by the government about its investigation.
The Civil Court records in New Orleans show that Guy Banister was one of the men who formed Friends of Democratic Cuba. On the several occasions when Banister’s name was mentioned in the federal investigation his address was given as 531 Lafayette Street. To the uninformed reader of a government report this would appear to be a location of no special import; it is, however, the side address of 544 Camp Street, the address which Oswald had stamped on the circulars which he was handing out.
Banister’s office was really everything except the office of a private investigator. On occasion there would be ammunition stacked in the back for shipment to anti-Castro groups in Miami. During the rebellion of the French generals in Algeria, the Schlumberger Company, a French corporation, seems to have been receiving ammunition from a source in the United States and storing it in its bunkers in an old Houma, Louisiana, blimp base. When the French rebellion was over, the ammunition became surplus. David Ferrie and others from the Banister menage arrived at the blimp base one night, removed the hand grenades, shells and explosives and brought them back to 544 Camp Street for shipment to Florida.
Coincidentally, the president of the Schlumberger Company in 1963 was Jean de Menil. De Menil was a friend of George de Mohrenschildt, Lee Oswald’s most frequent companion on his return to Dallas from Russia.
During Oswald’s promenades with the pro-Castro signs and the Fair Play for Cuba and Hands Off Cuba leaflets, placards with printing about Cuba were stacked in the rear of the Banister office. After Banister’s death in the summer of 1964, his wife came down from Monroe, Louisiana, to remove his belongings from the office and found some interesting mementos from Oswald’s scenes as a Communist. Among Banister’s effects there remained a stock of Hands Off Cuba leaflets.
Banister always tended his files with careful husbandry, keeping them locked and retaining for himself the only key. After his death, FBI agents appeared and carted off the files to the great national cemetery which the government maintains for the burial of evidence. They knew where to go, they knew what they wanted, and they were there within hours of Banister’s death.
Yet eight months earlier when they were investigating the assassination of the President, the government could find nothing of interest there. The synopsis of the Secret Service report, file number CO-2-34,030, reads as follows:
Extensive investigation conducted thus far has failed to establish that the “Fair Play for Cuba Committee” has offices at 544 Camp Street, New Orleans. It has likewise been impossible to find anyone who recalls ever seeing Lee Harvey Oswald at this address.
Perhaps it all depends on which door the government used. After Banister’s death, when its agent entered the side door at 531 Lafayette Street, they swept in like locusts. However, they overlooked the Hands Off Cuba pamphlets and they overlooked the index cards to the files.
The list of the index cards later were obtained by the District Attorney’s office and provided insight into the interests of the occupants of 544 Camp Street. Following are some of the Banister files, which the government seized, as well as the classification numbers used by Banister:
|American Central Intelligence Agency||20-10|
|Ammunition and Arms||32-1|
|B-70 Manned Bomber Force||15-16|
|Civil Rights Program of J.F.K.||8-41|
|Dismantling of Ballistic Missile System||15-16|
|Dismantling of Defenses, U.S.||15-16|
|Fair Play for Cuba Committee||23-7|
|International Trade Mart||23-14|
Italy, U.S. Bases Dismantled in General
Assembly of the United Nations
|Missile Bases Dismantled—Turkey and Italy||15-16|
The former chief of the Chicago office of the FBI had a most unusual set of files for a private investigator. It is therefore understandable that after Oswald’s initial arrest when giving out the pamphlets on August 9, 1963, the 544 Camp address magically disappeared from his subsequent circulars.
When a man who has been with law enforcement or the armed forces transfers to a deep cover position with government intelligence, the transition is known to the intelligence profession as “going underground.” It is standard operating procedure with intelligence agencies for such a transition to be accompanied by some incident which portrays a disassociation from his previous government occupation.
Banister made the transition from law enforcement to his deep cover role as a private investigator in 1957. The incident arranged to indicate his break with law enforcement was built around an alleged quarrel with a waiter at the Old Absinthe House. Banister was said by the waiter to have drawn a pistol and threatened him. However, there were approximately seventy-five people in the bar and only three, including the waiter, claimed to have observed such an incident. The waiter was newly hired and had previously received a dishonorable discharge from the Air Force. An examination of the New Orleans Police Department file, largely consisting of statements of persons who saw nothing, supports the idea that this incident had been a fiction patently constructed by those involved at the scene rather than a genuine occurrence.
The new waiter’s dishonorable discharge from the Air Force, frequently the case when men have gone underground from the armed forces, seems to have been his own disassociation from the government prior to his entry into the field of espionage operations. Immediately afterward, the waiter left his brief employment at the Old Absinthe House, free to participate elsewhere in the endless make-believe of domestic intelligence.
In addition to servicing anti-Communist activity for the Caribbean and Latin America, the Banister operation was geared to the collection of information concerning left-wing and pro-Communist activities in the New Orleans area. Banister employed and paid selected students on the local college campuses to keep him informed concerning apparent radical activity in an attempt to penetrate such organizations at the colleges. Yet, on the day when Lee Oswald was giving out his Fair Play for Cuba pamphlets at the International Trade Mart, Banister exhibited an uncharacteristic lack of concern when told that a Communist was handing out radical literature four blocks away. He laughed and shrugged the information aside.
On the other hand, on the day of the President’s assassination, Guy Banister was considerably less nonchalant when the name of Lee Oswald hit the world headlines. He went to the Katz and Jammer Bar at 540 Camp Street and began drinking early in the afternoon. At about five o’clock he returned to his office. A part-time employee chose this inopportune moment to comment on the unusual people who had been in and out of the office several months earlier. In an explosive fit of anger, Banister struck him with his gun on the side of his head. The man had to be taken to Touro Infirmary for treatment but refused to press charges against Banister. The New Orleans Police Department report, item number K-12634-63, bears the date of the incident: November 22, 1963. Somewhere along the line Banister had lost his nonchalance about Lee Harvey Oswald.
The Night Riders
Some hours after the assassination, on the evening of November 22, David Ferrie, the bizarre associate of Guy Banister and Lee Oswald, began an all-night drive from New Orleans into Texas. The worst thunderstorm in many months was occurring, and the first part of the drive was through a torrential rain. The same evening Bruce Ray Carlin, an associate of Jack Ruby’s, also was engaged in an all-night drive from New Orleans into Texas. Ferrie was headed for Houston, from which he would drive south to Galveston. Carlin was headed for Fort Worth, from which he later would drive back to Dallas.
This was Carlin’s second all-night drive in two days. On Thursday, November 21, President Kennedy was in a parade in Houston. Carlin was in Houston that day and left in the evening for New Orleans, where he spent Friday. Carlin testified before the Warren Commission that he had come to New Orleans to sell drugstore items to motels. He could not recall at first the name of the New Orleans motel where he stayed but later decided it must have been the Sugar Bowl Motel. He said he had learned about the assassination from television at the motel. On Saturday evening, November 23, Carlin, having arrived back in Fort Worth, drove to Dallas with his wife where they made a call to Jack Ruby on a pay phone from a parking lot.
Ferrie’s all-night drive brought him to Houston that same Saturday; this was the day before Ruby murdered Oswald. In the afternoon he appeared at the Wonderland Skating Rink in Houston. When he was arrested by the New Orleans District Attorney’s office on his return to that city, he said that he had driven all night to Houston to go ice-skating. However, the owner of the skating rink testified that Ferrie never put on ice skates but stood next to a pay telephone receiving and making calls. The owner also recalled that Ferrie had aggravated him by repeatedly saying “I’m Dave Ferrie,” as if he wanted to be remembered. The skating rink operator said that FBI agents had questioned him about Ferrie’s visit but that they showed little interest in the telephone calls or the fact that Ferrie never put on any ice skates. After the phone conversation, Ferrie drove down to Galveston where he checked into a motel.
Meanwhile, Saturday afternoon another acquaintance of Jack Ruby’s, Breck Wall, drove down from Dallas, through Houston, to Galveston. This placed both David Ferrie and Breck Wall in Galveston on Saturday night, November 23. A few minutes before midnight, as the published telephone records of Jack Ruby show, he made a long distance call to Breck Wall in Galveston and talked to him for five minutes. The following morning Ruby left his apartment in Dallas, sent a telegraphed money order to Bruce Ray Carlin’s wife in Fort Worth and went into the basement of police headquarters, where, in the midst of the mesmerized Dallas police, he fatally shot Oswald.
By the time Ferrie returned from his marathon trip Sunday evening, the New Orleans District Attorney’s office had members of its staff staked out at Ferrie’s apartment waiting for him. Ferrie called his apartment after his return to the city and, apparently alarmed by hearing a strange voice answering his phone, drove to Hammond, Louisiana, where he spent the remainder of the night sleeping in the men’s dormitory of a university there. One of the students later recalled his surprise at seeing Ferrie lying on one of the cots. Plainly exhausted, he had fallen asleep with his hat still on his head.
The following day Ferrie surrendered himself at the District Attorney’s office with his attorney. After questioning Ferrie and finding indigestible his explanation that he had driven through a thunderstorm to go ice-skating in Texas, the District Attorney’s staff arrested him and ordered him held for the FBI.
It was a strange trip by a strange man at a strange time, but the FBI showed no curiosity about Ferrie. He was released from jail after brief questioning. The bureau’s investigative report in effect was a self-serving statement dictated by Ferrie, uncomplicated by any inquisitiveness on the part of the agents. On reading it, it is difficult to avoid the impression that, like Oswald up to the moment he became expendable, Ferrie occupied some sort of special status in the eyes of the federal government.
The clocks were striking thirteen. Suddenly the David Ferries were being treated with a special deference.
The Secret Service’s questioning of Ferrie was equally polite; however, one question which seems to have been asked Ferrie is fascinating. The question itself was never recited in the report, but the nature of the question is implicit in his answer. The Secret Service agents reported that Ferrie said he had never loaned his library card to Lee Oswald. As proof of this he produced his own library card, a card which had expired and which bore an address from which he had long since moved. Apparently dazzled by his cooperation and his sincerity, the Secret Service let the matter drop.
Oswald had a library card on him when arrested, but the card is not available for public examination. We must presume that the Secret Service agents were reasonable men and that there was something about the card on Oswald which made them think that it belonged to David Ferrie. Otherwise it would be meaningless to place in its investigative report Ferrie’s denial that it was his. If, for example, Oswald had a library card on him bearing the name George Washington, it would not be reasonable to state in an investigative report that David Ferrie denied lending his library card to Lee Oswald. It is fair to conclude that the Secret Service knew that a library card bearing Ferrie’s name had been found on Oswald at the time of his arrest. Conceivably, the federal investigators believed that Oswald, now being built into one of history’s greatest criminals, had crowned his achievements by stealing Dave Ferrie’s library card.
It was only a few days later that the Secret Service made its investigation of 544 Camp Street, as the result of that address being printed on Oswald’s circulars, and reported that nothing could be found there. Ferrie had spent much of his time over the last year at Banister’s office. Prior to operating out of the Banister office, Ferrie helped run the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front from 544 Camp Street. Ferrie was a particularly distinctive individual since he had no hair and everything from his eyebrows to his reddish wig was either painted or glued on. He also had an arrest record.
It would have been impossible to make a serious investigation at 544 Camp without encountering the phenomenon of David Ferrie—unless the government could not afford to come across him. Nevertheless, he had been delivered into its hands by the District Attorney’s office when he returned from Texas. The government rejected him, and its agents busied themselves with getting copies of Oswald’s grades in grammar school and obtaining samples of his pubic hair.
The second conspiracy was in progress. The first conspiracy had accomplished the murder of the President, and the second would conceal the truth front the public and introduce countless diversions to prevent them from understanding what had occurred.
Ferrie’s name appears twice in an exhibit in the Warren Commission volumes, but it is misspelled once. The index to the Warren Commission testimony spells Ferrie’s name correctly, but it leads the reader to the wrong volume of testimony. If the reader accidentally stumbles across the testimony mentioning Ferrie’s name, he is treated to the gratuitous observation that Ferrie and Oswald probably were not in the Civil Air Patrol at the same time.
This was typical of the fate of relevant material when the federal investigation inadvertently encountered it. Alterations were made in statements of witnesses, language was changed, names were changed and numbers were changed, until what once was recognized as meaningful evidence began to appear immaterial. Anything which pointed to the highly organized conspiracy was put through the meat grinder until it no longer pointed anywhere.
David Ferrie was bald as an egg from head to toe. For some obscure reason he refused to wear a commercial hairpiece but wore instead a homemade affair cut out of mohair and glued to his scalp with plastic cement. His eyebrows, improbably large and invariably uneven, were painted on with greasepaint and gave him the appearance of a sad and scruffy clown.
After David Ferrie’s sudden death, when his Louisiana Avenue Parkway apartment was searched the bathroom walls by the washstand were found coated with dried glue, the accreted sediment of hundreds of mountings of his mohair wig. The remainder of the apartment looked as if it had once been hit by a large caliber howitzer shell. The dwelling had the appearance of never having been cleaned or dusted. The only sign of human habitation was Ferrie’s library and a large collection of unwashed coffee cups.
Despite his bizarre appearance, Ferrie’s most distinguished characteristic was not his physiognomy but his mind. From his years of study as a novitiate priest, before he was defrocked, he had acquired a background of Latin, Greek and mathematics. He often used this knowledge to help young men who frequented his apartment with their homework. He spoke French and Spanish and had made himself something of an amateur doctor with his collection of medical literature, a varied assortment ranging from Gray’s Anatomy to pharmaceutical literature. He boasted on occasion that he could kill himself, if he wished, and no coroner would ever find the cause.
Ferrie, after some months of work dissecting mice, once produced a paper on the possible viral origin of cancer. This paper may or may not have been of medical value, but it did demonstrate unusual erudition for a layman. For a long time afterward, he kept the remaining mice in hutches in his dining room, nursing plans for attaching small incendiary flares to them and parachuting them into Cuba’s sugarcane fields. The special fetid smell of hundreds of unattended mice in the dining room added to the unique rank odor of the dwelling, making it difficult for visitors to enter his apartment.
David Ferrie perennially was being defrocked, first of his priesthood, then of his hair, then of his Civil Air Patrol captaincy and then of his position as an Eastern Air Lines pilot. It is unlikely that he was unaffected by this accumulation of bitter experience. This man with a brilliant mind and a face like a clown was a dangerous man.
Above all, Ferrie was a master pilot and, because of his intelligence, could be counted on to perform missions other men could not accomplish. Somewhere along the way, certainly by the time of the insurgency against Batista in Cuba, he had become a contract employee—meaning that he was paid by the mission—for the CIA. He made no secret of this with persons he had known for a long time, for he considered his connection with the CIA a status symbol.
It is difficult to imagine Ferrie’s association with Lee Harvey Oswald, his continued presence at the Guy Banister operadon and his frequent and unexplained flights out of the country as activities typical of an average citizen. It is also difficult to envision that Ferrie’s night long trip to Texas through a thunderstorm, was exclusively an ice-skating escapade.
However, more important than all of his other actions, there is one thing which David Ferrie did which connects him with the President’s murder by a thread as thin as gossamer but as strong as steel. Among the many long-distance calls he made, one was discovered which is particularly significant. The federal government apparently did not come across this call, for if it had, it most likely would have destroyed the evidence. This call was discovered by an investigation conducted by the New Orleans District Attorney’s office which the government did not control—and which, in time, it tried to destroy.
The power to gather evidence includes the power to conceal and destroy evidence. Consequently, the corrupted power which clenched the machinery of the national government in its grip was well able to employ its investigative agencies, and the thousands of agents now held hostage to high-level corruption, to collect evidence and ship it to Washington for interment. Efficient as this massive operation was, it had one weakness. It could not prevent an independent inquiry from gathering separate evidence which, when connected with that evidence which the government thought was safe to expose, revealed the outlines of conspiracy.
For example, the federal agents failed to locate and confiscate the phone bills for long-distance calls made by David Ferrie, because he did not use his home phone for the calls. The New Orleans District Attorney’s office, after searching for his long-distance call bills, contacted the attorney for whom Ferrie was working as a part-time investigator and discovered the original bills for Ferrie’s calls. In the long list of calls to dozens of points from Guatemala to Toronto there was one in November, 1963, which led to Chicago and then to Dallas.
On September 24, 1963, the day on which Lee Oswald departed from New Orleans to go to Mexico and then to Dallas, Ferrie made a long-distance call to Chicago. The number was Whitehall 4-4970, and the phone listing was for a Chicago apartment occupied by a young lady. Examine now the phone calls listed in the Warren Commission exhibits, made public in some instances because they were thought to be safely irrelevant in the absence of additional evidence or, in a few instances, because federal investigators were unaware of their relevance.
In November, 1963, a person in the Ero Manufacturing Company, the firm for which Lawrence Meyers worked, made a long-distance call to the same number. Whitehall 4-4970 in Chicago. The call is listed in the Warren Commission exhibits because of Meyers’ contact with Jack Ruby following the call. On November 21, the day before the assassination, Meyers arrived in Dallas with the young lady who was the listed owner of the phone number which he and David Ferrie had called. That evening Meyers left his Dallas motel and spent an hour with Jack Ruby at Ruby’s nightclub. Later that night Ruby visited him at his motel.
Here we have Ferrie, Oswald’s mentor and associate in New Orleans, calling a telephone number which has a factual correlation with the patriotic nightclub owner who killed Oswald in Dallas. There is a time correlation as well. Ferrie placed the call to Chicago on the exact day Oswald left New Orleans. The owner of the Chicago telephone went to Dallas the day before the assassination with a man who then met with Jack Ruby. There are millions upon millions of telephones in America. The arm of coincidence is not so long that it can be plausibly regarded as responsible for the interconnecting relationship of one Chicago telephone to David Ferrie in New Orleans and Jack Ruby in Dallas before the assassination.
With reference to the day following the assassination, an additional long-distance call correlation can be found. The night before he murdered Oswald, Jack Ruby made a long-distance call to Galveston. Where was David Ferrie at the time of this call? In Galveston, following his all-night drive from New Orleans through a thunderstorm.
In spite of the apparent indirection employed—A does not call B but calls C who communicates to B—tracks appear to have been left by these communications. They were not destroyed in the government’s process of clearing away evidence because, in each instance, the key factor was developed by an office not controlled by the federal government. Only then did other evidence left available by the government acquire meaning. The connection of available facts: Ferrie’s phone call to Whitehall 4-4970 in Chicago before the assassination and Ferrie’s trip to Galveston afterward was worked out by the New Orleans District Attorney’s office before the government’s agencies could disintegrate the evidence.
Ferrie’s association with the CIA began at least as far back as that agency’s support of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s insurgents against Batista. He made flights into their mountain stronghold with munitions and supplies. Later, when Castro developed his relationship with Russia and the CIA began to launch guerrilla raids against Castro’s Cuba, no one hated Castro more heartily than Ferrie. Ferrie spoke frequently of ways in which Castro could be assassinated, Havana harbor blown up or Cuba invaded. When the CIA trained Cubans in Guatemala for the Bay of Pigs invasion, Ferrie acted as a flying instructor at the Retalhuleu air strip in Guatemala. Shortly before the assassination, he once again flew to Guatemala for a purpose still unknown.
Ferrie made frequent and unexplained flights into Central America and back into the Cuban highlands with munitions and supplies for new insurgents who, this time, were unsuccessful. His telephone records abound with calls to Toronto, Montreal, Central America and Mexico. Until President Kennedy ordered an end to the CIA’s continued training of anti-Castro guerrillas at the small, scattered camps in Florida and north of Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, Ferrie, dressed in rumpled combat fatigues with a combat field cap perched carelessly on top of his false hair, frequently traveled to the training areas across the lake.
Once when a friend cautioned him about getting into trouble with regard to his flights into Cuba, Ferrie replied that he could not get into trouble because the government was sponsoring what he was doing. “It is the most patriotic thing I’ve ever done,” he said.
When the New Orleans District Attorney’s office realized that something was wrong with the federal investigation of Kennedy’s death and resumed its own inquiry, it succeeded in persuading a young former mechanic of Ferrie’s to resume their earlier association at the Lakefront Airport. It was hoped that something could be learned of Ferrie’s flights to distant places. This objective was not accomplished because, as an examination of hundreds of flight plans revealed, Ferrie did not speak of the destination of his flights and did not file flight plans with the airport control. He simply would take off without comment in a light plane and reappear, similarly without comment, several days later.
However, it was learned that Ferrie was receiving money in a rather unusual way. On January 8, 1967, he gave the mechanic instructions pertaining to a package to be found in a white car which would be without a license and would be waiting in front of the airport administrative building. Underneath the front seat the mechanic found a bulging brown envelope sealed with Scotch tape. Ferrie took it from him, went in the men’s room, returned with a satisfied air and mentioned that he was considering buying a new car.
Although Ferrie to all intents and purposes was unemployed at the time, except for part-time investigative work for a lawyer, an examination of his bank account at the Whitney National bank revealed that during the three week period prior to the President’s assassination he deposited $7,093.02. A few months after the assassination, Ferrie suddenly acquired a large service station. He apparently ran it in much the same way he maintained his apartment. On one occasion he had just filled the gas tank of an acquaintance and he waved him away, turning down payment for the gas. “Forget it,” he said. “The government’s paying for it anyway.”
Soon after the renewed investigation into his connection with the assassination was under way, it became apparent that Ferrie was deeply concerned. There was a loss of the aplomb which, despite his strange appearance, he previously had worn. He began to call the chief investigator of the New Orleans District Attorney’s office and to question him repeatedly about the progress of the investigation.
This was reminiscent of a technique he had used before: to pretend to be conducting an “investigation” in order to determine what information law enforcement agencies had gathered about him. For example, shortly after Ferrie returned from Texas and was questioned about the assassination and his relationship with Lee Oswald, he appeared in the 4900 block of Magazine Street, where Oswald had lived, and questioned neighbors concerning what they knew about Oswald and his activities.
Ferrie’s acute concern actually began in late 1966 when the New Orleans District Attorney’s office began its intensive investigation. At that time, he prophetically remarked to a friend, “I’m a dead man.”
Finally, Ferrie turned to the New Orleans District Attorney’s office for sanctuary from the incessant visits of the press to his apartment, an indication that he was becoming weary of the pressure he felt, and a room was obtained for him at the Fontainebleau Hotel. The staff felt that Ferrie’s deterioration portended a break in the case, that perhaps here at last was one man with enough humanity left from the dehumanizing processes of the warfare state to provide more information on the accomplishment of the President’s execution. It did not work out that way.
On February 22, 1967, surrounded by empty and half-empty medicine bottles and containers, Ferrie was found dead. The coroner’s routine toxicological tests disclosed none of the standard poisons. The cause of death was certified as natural, due to a massive brain hemorrhage. On Ferrie’s piano and table, however, were two typed suicide notes. His signature on each note was also typed.
With Ferrie’s death, there most likely faded into oblivion the possibility of uncovering in the immediate future the full meaning of the assassination.
At the city morgue the coroner’s photographers took photographs of Ferrie, who was now defrocked forever—of his mohair wig, of his role as an itinerant pilot and part-time investigator and of life itself. Across his abdomen remained the twelve-inch scar from the knife wound he received on his last flight into the Cuban highlands.
David Ferrie was a government technician in every sense of the word. Yet he was more than a technician. For that reason he seems to have been unable to survive in the warfare state, which for a time he served so well. Of all the individuals encountered by the New Orleans investigation, Ferrie was the only one who showed signs of remorse about the assassination. In the end some residual conscience, some remnants of his boyhood years with his family and of his years of study for the priesthood, surfaced in his mind and haunted him. It could be said that his death was hastened by his own humanity.