Inside the Garrison JFK Assassination investigation.

Part 7 of 9

Thursday, Feb 22, 1968

Office closed for George Washington's birthday. I went in to the office in the afternoon. As usual when the office is closed, Garrison was there. I talked to him for close to an house in his office. Unusually, he outlined the future possibilities for the investigation. For the first time, he seems to be seeing an end to it, and he talked about the thing being over by the summer time, and talked about everyone taking vacations, etc., which he said there had not been time for up till now. Before that, however, he seems to want to charge Ed Butler (INCA -- now with Patrick "Up With People" Frawley of Schick) and Carlos Bringuier. Garrison says that the conspirators -- generally referred to as "they" -- performed two functions with Oswald in New Orleans: 1) "Custodial", and 2) "Image-creating." By custodial he refers to "baby-sitting", generally looking after, and making sure that he behaves properly. By image creating he means preparing the ground-work for later representing Oswald as a Communist. According to Garrison, this latter role was performed largely by Thornley, Butler and Bringuier. The custodial work was done by Shaw and Ferrie, and I think Garrison regards this part of the mystery as cleared up and dealt with. The common link to all of these people is -- Garrison says -- the CIA.

Alcock had a confrontation with Garrison today -- alone in his office. I asked Alcock what had happened when he came out. He said that he had told Garrison that he didn't believe anything Garrison was saying about the CIA etc., and that none of it could be proved in court. Alcock added, for good measure, what no-one else in the office (except Boxley) believed it either. Then Alcock said :You know, Jim, we get disturbed when we see you listening to Boxley, giving you all that bull..."

"I've learned one thing about Boxley," Garrison replied. "He's right."

Alcock told me this as though he was exasperated by Garrison, but also as though he was amused by him. "That guy," says Alcock, shaking his head and grinning slightly, "he's something, isn't he?" Alcock went on again about "all these bums" like Beckham and Jack Martin supposedly working for the CIA.

Friday, Feb 23. 1968

Garrison did not come in. Ivon told me that Lawrence Howard was coming in to the office tomorrow with Steve Burton from the West Coast. Mark Lane in office today. He's not been in for some time.

Sunday, Feb 25, 1968

Howard in office with Steve Burton. Steve had persuaded him to come to New Orleans voluntarily, without an attorney, etc., and talk to Garrison. Howard is an immensely powerful looking man, with a great barrel chest, but is surprisingly mild in voice and manner. He also seemed quite intelligent. During the course of the afternoon (tape recorded by Louis Ivon) he persuaded Garrison that he had nothing to do with the assassination. He answered questions tactfully, and gave in to Garrison's expectation whenever it was feasible and didn't actually incriminate anyone. E.g. he would agree that the CIA undoubtedly had connections in the Miami area during the summer of 1963, but did not give us any names. He handled Garrison cleverly, I thought, and I'm sure he could have told us more, although I was also persuaded that he knew nothing whatever about the assassination. But Howard was smart enough to flatter Garrison.

Steve Burton seems an intelligent young man, definitely above the average "Assassination Inquiry Committee" type. Even Louis Ivon, who generally despises these people (too often, he has to end up giving them DA's investigator credentials), approves of Burton.

Monday, February 26, 1968

When I arrived in the office in the morning, Steve Burton was already there, going through some of the files in my office. Evidently Ivon had let him in. Of course, most of the sensitive files (Shaw, Bradley, Thornley) are not there, but in Louis Ivon's office. Burton had, however, made a bee line for the next most interesting file -- Ferrie (actually two files on Ferrie.) He had looked through them already and was looking at something else. I started to talk to him a bout something and then he said: "I think it's a good idea not keeping the Shaw file here where people could see it. I notice you have got all the important material withdrawn from the Ferrie file as well." I said nothing, just vaguely nodded. Of course, he had seen the Ferrie file in its entirety.

Tuesday, Feb 27, 1968

Office closed for Mardi Gras. I later learned from Louis Ivon that Garrison came in, as usual when no one else is there.

Wednesday, February 28, 1968

Nothing much. Answered letters. Garrison not in.

Thursday, Feb 29, 1968


Friday, March 1, 1968

Lane came in and asked for material on Mays which I had previously shown to Garrison. Garrison had ben unimpressed at the time, but was later persuaded otherwise by Lane, and Boxley was then sent to Miami to meet Mays. He carried a copy of Rush to Judgement in his hand to act as an identification signal. Mays originally contacted Tink Thompson, who sent Mays' letter to me. Mays also had contacted Ed Horsey in Michigan (a low grade assassination buff) and Horsey passed the information on to Lane. Mays claims to have been approached to take part in the assassination, and now wants $25,000 to tell all.

Sunday March 3, 1968

Did not go in to office, and Garrison is briefly out of town, but I received an alarm call from Sylvia Meagher who had heard (I think) from Tink Thompson that Garrison "no longer trusted me." I then called Thompson, and learned that this information came from Horsey, via Mark Lane.

Monday, March 4, 1968

Garrison still away. Did memo on "4900 Block, Magazine Street", at Garrison's request. Garrison believes that the 4900 block of Magazine Street is a "safe block", ie owned by the CIA, and used as a sort of parking place for agents awaiting assignments.

Tuesday, March 5, 1968

Change of Venue hearing opened. I spoke to Hoke May in the corridor of the Criminal Court Building and I expressed some interest in the 544 Camp St. affair. He told me about bill Nitsehke, an ex-FBI agent who used to hand around with Guy Banister. He said that Nitsehke had been shown the WDSU picture of the unidentified man passing out the leaflets with Oswald and had identified him as having been up in Banister's office at one time. I had not heard this before, but it is of interest as it connects two of the unresolved problems about Oswald in New Orleans -- the unidentified man and 544 Camp St.

Hoke May said that he and Ross Yockey had written a book about the Garrison investigation, but that he had just recently received a rejection slip from his agent in New York, saying that it would be impossible to get it published because there was basically no interest in the case among publishers. He and Yockey are now handing their material over to Mark Lane, May informs me. Very generous of them. I also briefly spoke to David Chandler, covering the hearing for Life.

In the evening Matt Herron came in and spoke to Sciambra in my office re the Phelan story. "Going over the chronology for them again, Moo?" Alcock remarked as he walked by, grinning all over his face. Sciambra now has an interesting addition to his story, which I had not heard before. That Russo, when he initially talked to Sciambra in Baton Rouge, (Feb 25, 1967) referred to the "meeting" as a political meeting and not as a party. It was only in the sodium pentothal sessions with Chetta the the word "party" was used. Thus, Sciambra did not refer to a party in his memo. The trouble is, as Sciambra still does not seem to understand, this still does not explain why he did not refer to a political meeting in his memo. The point of the discussion with Herron was to go over -- with Russo at a later date -- the substance of Phelan's discussion with Russo in Baton Rouge after the Preliminary Hearing. Herron was present at this discussion.

Sciambra also said, and Herron corroborated, that when Phelan spoke to Russo in BR after the Prelim Hearing, Phelan told Russo that he had only mentioned seeing Shaw twice, and was quoted thus is Sciambra's memo. To this Russo replied. "I should have said three times." Sciambra doesn't seem to realise how damaging this reply is, if it really is what Russo said. Because if so, it means that Russo is admitting that he didn't mention the conspiracy meeting to Sciambra in Baton Rouge. If he had in fact mentioned it, and Sciambra had omitted it, Russo's logical answer to Phelan would have been "He should have said three times."

It really seems to me that Russo did not mention the conspiracy meeting to Sciambra at Baton Rouge -- all the evidence points to that conclusion. Sciambra says that the reason he did not include it in his memo was that he was so anxious to tell Garrison about it that he told him verbally at a restaurant the night he came back from Baton Rouge. I must say that is pretty hard to believe. If Phelan is right--as it looks as though he is--Sciambra would have done much better to have admitted as much. As it is, he is in a real jam, which will no doubt be evaded in legal proceedings. Of course, if Russo did not mention the conspiracy meeting the first time, then Shaw is innocent. Because Russo was the only witness they had when Shaw was arrested. All the other evidence that has been accumulated comes either after the arrest (Bundy) or after the widely publicized Preliminary Hearing (everything else.) None of this later evidence can have any validity if there was no basis for the initial arrest.

Which brings me to today's hearing. One point strongly emerged: the blatant way in which the judge continually sided with the state. If the trial itself goes this way, things do not auger too well for Shaw. I wish I knew why criminal judges apparently find it necessary to reside in the pocket of the D.A. Garrison was on the stand for hours, but little was accomplished as Haggerty sustained nearly all of the states objections. Specifically, he was not permitted to respond to the question: did the Shaw conspiracy come to fruition in Dallas? The defenses point is that Garrison, by talking publicly so much about a conspiracy, has prejudiced potential jurors' minds on an issue which remains to be proved--that there was in fact a conspiracy. The state objects to most questions on the ground that the question is only relevant if it can be shown that a potential juror has been prejudiced, and Garrison is not a potential juror.

Wednesday, March 6, 1968

Second day of hearing, which I did not attend. Defense has subpoenaed 1300 potential jurors. Mark Lane was on the stand today, and he came back and glowingly told Garrison of his replies to Dymond.

Garrison in a good mood today, full of ideas about 4900 block, Magazine. I am now starting to make duplicate files for Garrison -- at his request. He believes that one day we will come into the office and find that the files have been ransacked by the CIA or whoever. Ivon concedes that this is a ridiculous idea, and reluctantly told me to go ahead and start making duplicate files. He's afraid that Garrison will show them to everyone. Ivon tipped me off to start off with unimportant files, in the hope that by the time we get to the important files, Garrison will have forgotten about it.

Garrison said he had raised some money from an ‘industrialist' in Miami, enough to last four or five months, and says that he will give me a raise and hire someone else in Florida to work on the case.

I'm working on the Guy Banister angle of 544 Camp St., and told Garrison about it. I found that there was a memo in the files of an interview with Bill Nitsehke, and he discussed various people in the WDSU picture, but according to a numbered system, and the picture with the numbers on the figures is not there. I told Garrison of the possible importance of Bill Nitsehke and he said maybe he would talk to him again. Garrison seemed to have forgotten about him.

Thursday, March 7, 1968

A letter arrived from a lady in Ohio who had bought a $750 "teletrap" from Gordon Novel -- a device which is supposed to prevent phones being bugged. She complains to us that it does not work. (How does she know?) Ivon told me that the D.A. in Columbus, Ohio -- Howard Johnson -- is now helping us. Why? Because Gordon Novel's attorney there, Weiner, is running against him in the next D.A. election.

Bill Turner in town again, and in the evening I had dinner with him and 5 very old friends he met through Warren Hinckle of Ramparts. Also present were Jim Garrison, and Harold Weisberg. At the end of the evening (a private room in the Rib Room of the Royal Orleans Hotel) Mark Lane also showed up. The five friends were a young English couple (not married) Mark Pepplo and Caroline X (didn't get all the last names), a young American couple, Bill Y and Ellen Z, and another young bearded American. All were dressed more or less as beatniks. However they appeared to have unlimited money. One, Bill Y gave Garrison $2000 cash, in $100 bills. However that was by no means the whole story. They were talking in terms of much larger sums in an apparently serious attempt to get Garrison to run for President! They are also interested in doing a movie about Garrison, although they do not seem to have a very clear idea of what they want to do with it or how to do it. In addition, they want Jim Garrison to write a book for something called Chelsea House publishers, which I believe one of them -- maybe the English girl -- worked for. Garrison has been expressing interest in the idea of writing a book about the case, which I gather will be on the order of the Salandria-Katen piece: Why Kennedy was killed.

Weisberg dominated the conversation to an unpleasant extent at dinner. He hardly stopped talking or attempting to inflate his ego in some way. Sparrow, for instance -- the Warden of All Souls who recently came out with a pro-Warren piece, is "afraid to debate" Weisberg. How many times have we heard this drivel from Weisberg! He annoys me more and more, he is so stupid and besides he is a compulsive collaborator with newsmen -- a weakness which resulted in his suspension as a Senate investigator, as I believe Joe Pyne alleged.

The three young Americans we had dinner with (and who footed the $100 bill) have reached the outer limits of paranoia -- far worse than anything I have encountered before. They routinely book airline tickets to Europe every week -- are on constant stand-by, so to speak -- so that they can leave suddenly before "the tanks are on the streets." Ellen, a very glum and depressing girl, told me with perfect seriousness that she hardily ever reads the papers any more, but when she does she assumes the exact opposite of what she reads to be true. Garrison is sympathetic to this kind of orientation, and he made a great impression on them, listening to them politely and agreeing with them, then adding something of his own about the CIA, etc in weighty, definitive tones. They obviously assumed everything he said was gospel truth. Most of the time Weisberg kept butting in, however, going on about Bringuier, Pena, etc. What really characterizes these paranoid people, of course, is their total ignorance of the facts. None knew anything whatever about the case, admitted as much, and assumed that everything Garrison said was literally true. Paranoia, it seems is the perfect excuse for intellectual laziness: what's the point of reading about it anyway because all we are ever told is lies.

It was curious that such scruffy and young looking people should have so much money, and at one point I asked one of them, Bill Y, I believe, a question along those lines. He gave some rather vague answer about striking very lucky on the stock market.

Friday, March 8, 1968

In the morning a large body of the DA's office watched Mark Lane's "Rush to Judgement" at the Paris [?] Theater on Elysian Fields. Not much to say about it except that it was a surprisingly dull film, and amateurish. We then returned to the DA's office where some of us saw rushes of Mark Lane's currently-being-made film about the Garrison investigation. We saw one part, which consisted of Garrison talking, at home, the usual stuff. Another segment consisted of Dago Garner being interviewed by Lane. Garner calmly sat there and told a story about seeing Clay Shaw with Oswald somewhere–obviously a blatant lie. In fact is was so brazen that I involuntarily laughed out loud. This was in Garrison's office, with Garrison, Lane etc., there. I don't imagine Lane was too pleased, but honestly, using Dago Garner is going too far. Alcock has said that if it ever comes to trial he will refuse to put Garner on the stand, or if Garrison insists, he will refuse to question him.

The paranoid group was also in the office, to the consternation of everyone else -- beatniks with leather jackets walking about the DA's office as though they owned the place.

Turner told me a rumor that Epstein's piece will not be published in the New Yorker because it was "too bitter". I don't believe this for one minute. Steve Jaffe called with some non-believable news about RFK running for President on a pro-Garrison ticket!! He also had some believable news: that Billings and Life are about to do an unfavorable story on the investigation.

Had supper in the evening with Bill Turner at Felix's. He's on some kind of expense account paid for the paranoid group. They had flown him to New York, and then come down with him to New Orleans, paying all his expenses. So Turner paid the bill. He admitted that they had turned out to be something of an embarrassment to him. He thought they really were serious about trying to get Garrison to run for President. He agreed that there seemed to be some kind of a puzzle about where they got their money from, and said he did not believe the stock market story. It amused me that Turner said that they had apparently become convinced, in the course of last nights dinner, that Weisberg worked for the CIA. They had confided this in Turner today, apparently. To them, it was simply "obvious" that Weisberg was a CIA agent. Turner laughed at this, and conceded that that was going too far. Turner said he thought that Lane's second film would be better than the first, "because it contains the central character of Garrison."

Saturday, March 9, 1968

Went to office in the afternoon. Bill Boxley -- who returned from Miami yesterday, and Bill Turner were there. Garrison gave Turner $300 cash to give to one Jim Rose in California to come back to New Orleans and be hired as an investigator. Turner highly recommends Rose, a youngish guy with flying experience and paramilitary connections who is a fairly agressive investigator, according to Turner. He told us some story about Rose simply burgling some guy's house when he wanted to get some information (one of the California right wingers Garrison is interesting in -- may have been Stanley Drennan or someone like that.) Anyway this guy came back when Rose was right in the act of going through his house. Rose had some kind of gun which squirts a disabling gas or fluid, fired it at the guy and escaped.

Boxley, at Garrison's request, had put a WANTED picture of the "Frenchman" in the ‘Bingo' picture (the two tramps in Dealey Plaza) with an offer of a thousand dollar reward if he is found. The picture was put in the Miami News, together with a sizeable front page story. This is pretty silly of Garrison. If the guy sees his own picture all he has to do is come in and collect the money. Moreover, he would kill two of Garrison's birds with one stone, because at the same time he would be able to reveal the identity of ‘Bingo', and prove that it was not Bradley. If someone from the Dallas police Dept. sees the picture, he might also be able to get the reward. Because 'Bingo' and ‘Frenchman' were presumably both booked on November 22, 1963, and it ought to be possible ti find out their names if you are in the Department.

I had mistakenly thought that they had put the 'Manuel Garcia Gonzales' picture in the paper, which would have been a much better idea. I suggested this to Garrison and he thought it might be worth doing.

Boxley and Turner left, and then there was an embarrassing moment when I made some remark about "those people" being pretty crazy, referring to the paranoid group. Garrison, thinking I was referring to Boxley and Turner, disagreed. I then clarified who I was referring to, and he admitted that they had been a bit too much for him.

Garrison's outlook regarding the investigation has definitely taken a change in the last two or three weeks. He is now sick of "new leads," and doesn't want leads checked out which are not already "a part of the existing structure." I think he realizes the thing could go on proliferating for ever, and he apparently sees an end to it after, say, another 4 or 5 months. He seems to think that we have "made our point". It looks like Garrison is, at last, getting bored with the whole business. As for Clay Shaw, he is supremely confident that it will never come to trial. I drove him back to the N.O.A.C., where he said he would make some calls.

Sunday, March 10, 1968

Did not go in to office.

Monday, March 11, 1968

Garrison not in office. Not much happened that I recall. Chandler judgement reached in Federal Court.

Tuesday, March 12, 1968

Garrison in briefly with Gary Schoener from Minneapolis, and Mark Lane. Schoener has been collaborating with Salandria and Katen. Talked to him briefly in my office. In afternoon I read the transcript of a v. interesting interview Garrison had with Jack Martin, on Dec 14, 1966. It lays down much of the subsequent case, as he links Oswald with Ferrie, and also, obscurely, Sergio Arcacha Smith, whom Garrison evidently had not heard of until Martin mentioned him. The interview was tape recorded.

In the evening, 7-9 pm., there was a cocktail party at the Monteleone Hotel for the DA's convention being held in New Orleans this year. Arlen Specter and Garrison were both there, but they did not speak to each other, despite efforts by a New York Times reporter to get them together. Garrison stood near the center of the room, surrounded by the likes of Bordelon, and Lynn Loisel, receiving people rather grandly. I spoke to a guy from Oskaloosa, Iowa, quite young. I asked him who the DA was and he said he was. I asked him how many worked in the office and he said "I'm the only one." No sign of anyone from the Dallas office, incidentally. Specter left without even looking in Garrison's direction.

Wednesday, March 13, 1968

I located a copy of the Corliss Lamont pamphlet which Oswald had on his person when arrested here in August, 1963. It was in the N.O.P.D. Intelligence Division files. Frederick O'Sullivan brought it up from the Police Department. (He was questioned by the Warren Commission about his knowledge of Oswald, and was one of two witnesses Liebeler asked about Ferrie.) O'Sullivan showed it to Garrison -- who said we would be able to use it at the trial. It has the "FPCC, 544 Camp St., N.O. LA" stamp on the 39th page. I sent a xerox copy to Paul Hoch at Berkeley. He has been doing a lot of detailed research on this one point, and had tried to track down all existing copies of this pamphlet. Hoch makes an interesting point about it: the FBI got a copy from Oswald in August, 1963, and thus knew about his presumed connections with 544 Camp St three months before the assassination. There appears to have been no investigation of 544 Camp St by the FBI, despite their claim (to the Secret Service) that they had "checked this angle out thoroughly".

Weisberg still hanging around the office, driving everyone crazy. Garrison not in. Boxley has gone back to Texas.

Next: Part Eight

Back to Garrison/New Orleans Page
Back to Kennedy Assassination Home Page