By Kyle Whelton
Who is Tosh Plumlee? William Robert Plumlee, alias William H. Pearson, is a man who claims to have worked for the CIA as pilot transporting weapons to Cuba in the 60’s and being involved in drug running during the Reagan administration. Plumlee did actually testify before the Select Committee on Intelligence Activities in 1977 and again to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1990 and 91. However, his real claim to “fame” came when he “outed” himself as being involved in a CIA plot to stop the assassination of President Kennedy.
Plumlee claims that in 1963 he was a contract pilot for the CIA operating out of Miami and that on November 20th he was “assigned to be a co-pilot on a top secret flight.” The mission was to abort the assassination of President Kennedy and he would be flying a covert team capable of thwarting the assassins. He claims that on the 21st he and his co-pilot, Emmanuel Rojas, left Miami and headed for Tampa to pick up “other personnel” which included John Roselli. On the morning of November 22nd Plumlee claims they landed at Red Bird Airport and that he was asked by a member of the abort team if he would like to come along and see the President. According to Plumlee, the team was looking for a minimum of 19-20 assassins in Dealey Plaza that day. When Kennedy was, shot Plumlee says he was standing on the south side knoll on Commerce Street. Plumlee says that the team packed up and left at around 2 PM that day from Redbird Airport. In the last part of his story he states that the ride home was very quiet and somber as all the men felt they had failed. To this day he firmly asserts that the CIA had nothing to do with the assassination.
Plumlee’s story sounds tempting because he claims that the CIA had intercepted information about a plot to assassinate Kennedy and simply failed to stop it. This flatly contradicts the vast majority of CIA conspiracy theories, which claim that the Agency wanted JFK dead. His story may be attractive, but should we believe him?
Before we get into the history of Tosh Plumlee, let’s focus simply on his story. When you look at Plumlee's full official statement on the assassination, there are several issues. The first is that there is no record of Plumlee ever being in employed by the CIA in any way shape or form other than his personal statements. It is not uncommon that someone will work for the CIA or be contracted by them and there is no existing documentation of their employment, especially during cover operations. The problem for Plumlee is that there is no one who can corroborate his story. The website jfkmurdersolved.com has a cache of files on Plumlee’s “CIA Involvement.” However all of these files are either accounts of Plumlee bothering various Federal officials with his claims, or descriptions of operations Plumlee claims to have been involved in without any mention of him.
Researcher Greg Jaynes interviewed Plumlee in 2002. Click on the link below to hear the interview.
There is, in other words, zero corroboration in the documents of any of his claims.
Plumlee also has a factoid and assassination lore problem to deal with. In his official statement Plumlee claims “[t]he original information the team had received from sources in Texas and the CIA was an attempt was going to be made outside the Adolphus Hotel, but for reasons unknown to them, I was told, the routing of the motorcade had been changed at the last minute to Dealey Plaza.” This is an old assassination factoid dating back to 1964 in Joachim Joesten’s book Oswald: Assassin Or Fall Guy? that claimed to have discovered a changed route based off of newspaper maps of the route. Plumlee also claims they “would be looking for a type of triangulation ambush.” This piece of assassination lore is as old as the assassination itself. It is a classic piece of logic for conspiracy theorists who like to point out that it would make much more sense to have three shooters who can “Triangulate” their fire on Elm Street. Such claims are well designed to gain acceptance from assassination buffs who believe in a conspiracy.
What about his presence in Dealey Plaza? If you’re thinking, “There are plenty of photos taken that day so surely there must be one of the area he claims to have been standing in” then you would be correct. Plumlee told a class of Jim Marrs’ students at the University of Texas at Arlington that he was standing on the Commerce street sidewalk at the time the shots were fired. This places him on the South Knoll which is pictured in the Cancellare photo and the Couch Film. Gary Mack, curator of the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, was in this class and asked Plumlee to point himself out in both of these photos. He was unable to because there is no one there.
With so many plot holes in his story, why would Plumlee go around spreading this? The easier answer is to assume that he is an attention seeker that has finally found an audience that’s willing to listen to his tall tales. However, we cannot come to that conclusion without some type of evidence to back it up. Fortunately, there is a good amount contained in documents about Plumlee in the National Archives. It turns out that in 1959 Plumlee was interviewed during a FBI investigation of a massive weapons theft of the Ohio National Guard. The agent who conducted the interview in Denver Colorado stated:
“It is noted that Plumlee tells a very confusing, illogical story, with a complete lack of specifics, and that he has indicated that he has, in the past, used his imagination for the purpose of making his story more believable, i.e. in that he has admitted making up names of persons allegedly contacted by him.” (Memo: From, SAC, Denver; To: Director, FBI; NARA Record Number 124-90100-10258)
Another document related to the same case says:
"Although it appears that the subject [Plumlee] fabricated much of his story, a review of the facts in this case do not reflect evidence to warrant further consideration. . . ." (Memo: From, SAC, Cincinnati; To, Director, FBI; NARA Record Number 124-90100-10307)
Along with that, in 1963 he was charged for stealing an aircraft and passing fraudulent checks. In the investigation the FBI noted that “(Plumlee) known to Miami office as an unreliable chronic complaint.” He also gave out several false addresses and phone numbers during the investigation. (Federal Bureau of Investigation; Investigative report by Special Agent Calvin Knott; National Archives Record Number 124-90033-10039)
Note that these documents detailing his unreliability date from 1959 and early 1963, which is well before the FBI could have had any reason related to the JFK assassination to try to discredit him.
Like may assassination conspiracy witnesses, Plumlee has incorporated a variety of conspiracy tales, some of them related to issues besides the assassination, into his account. For example, in November of 1990 Colonel James Sabbow of the United States Marine Corp was implicated in a scandal at MCAS El Toro, in which government aircraft were misused for personal travel, and relieved of all duties. Plumlee has insisted that this was all really connected to a Latin American drug running operation, but a thorough investigation by the Naval Investigative Service showed it to be merely what it seemed to be: an instance of corruption not part of any wider scheme.
Not only is Plumlee’s story farfetched, but he has a history of pestering the Feds with conspiracy theories and telling tall tales. While his story has a nice ring to it (I mean, who doesn’t want to believe that the CIA knew that someone was trying to kill the President but just failed to stop the plot in time) there are far too many inconsistencies and not any evidence to corroborate his story. Plumlee, as the 1959 FBI documents show, likes to tell tall tales. Apparently, he has continued to do so in the years since.