The internal documents of the CIA show an intense interest in the Garrison prosecution of Clay Shaw, since Garrison had targetted the CIA as prime suspect in his supposed assassination conspiracy. So the CIA was concerned with the question of what Garrison might discover, and about whom.
The most concise treatment of the issue is the following memo from Lawrence Houston, General Counsel of the CIA.
29 September 1967Another source for "insider" CIA information is Victor Marchetti. After having worked for the agency, he defected and wrote a book critical of the agency. Two different accounts of internal agency discussions of the Clay Shaw case exist. The first is from the article "The Strange Death of Clay Shaw," in True, April, 1975, p. 79:
MEMORANDUM FOR: Director of Central Intelligence
SUBJECT: Clay L. Shaw's Trial and the Central Intelligence Agency
1. This memorandum is for information
2. The investigation of District Attorney Garrison of New Orleans into the assassination of President Kennedy, and his attack on the Warren Commission report, now focuses on one facet the trial of Clay L. Shaw, who has been indicted for conspiracy to assassinate the President. In his public announcements Garrison has been careful not to reveal his theory of the trial. Technically, he could restrict himself to an attempt to prove a conspiracy among Shaw, Oswald, the pilot Ferrie, and possibly others without involving CIA at all. As we understand Louisiana law, Garrison will have to prove at least one overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy, and with Oswald and Ferrie both dead, we do not at the moment know of such an act which he could prove.
3. We speculate, therefore, that he will try to involve others and bring out testimony that they were involved in such things as the movement of arms and money in pursuance of the conspiracy. Again, conceivably, this could be done without involving CIA. Indeed, in his most recent pronouncements, Garrison has been concentrating on an unidentified group of Dallas oil men of the extreme right-wing type, who he says were the instigators, backers, and real controllers of the conspiracy. He plays the recurring theme, however, that those who actually carried out the assassination were people who had been associated with CIA and that CIA had set up Oswald as the "patsy" to detract attention from the true assassins. He also says that CIA is a part of a giant conspiracy on the part of "the establishment" and the Dallas oil men to conceal the true facts. It would seem probable, therefore, that Garrison would attempt to involve CIA in the Shaw trial, and from what we know, he should be able to produce witnesses who can testify at least to some peripheral connection with his case. Despite the fact that Garrison's theories are basically and preposterously false, therefore, he may well be able to involve CIA in the Shaw trial.
4. Garrison has thrown out so many theories, names, and efforts in different contexts that it is difficult to construct a clear scenario, but the following speculations will serve to illustrate the problems with which we will be faced if Garrison pursues this course:a. A witness, Carlos Quiroga, might testify that Ferrie was a friend of Sergio Arcacha Smith, who was associated with the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front (CDRF) until January or February 1962 and that Ferrie and Arcacha Smith were involved in a cache of arms in 1961. Garrison attempted to extradite Arcacha Smith from Texas to testify before the Grand Jury but was not successful. The CDRF was funded by CIA in Miami, and Arcacha Smith was with the New Orleans branch.b. Rudolph Ricardo Davis might testify about a training camp across the lake from New Orleans, possibly at Lacombe, Louisiana, run by a Cuban exile group (MDC) not affiliated with CIA, and that connected with this camp were Victor Paneque and Fernando Fernandez. Davis claims he met Oswald in the fall of 1963 in connection with anti-Castro activities. Paneque was also identified by Quiroga, the possible witness mentioned above, as having been in charge of the training camp at Lacombe, which Garrison falsely asserts was run by CIA. Our Miami Station was interested in Paneque in August 1964 and requested a provisional clearance, but a report of 5 October 1965 stated that Paneque would be dropped at the end of that month for lack of any immediate operational use for him. The Fernandez mentioned by Davis was also identified by one Michael W. Laborde as being the head of the Cuban organization for which Laborde's father, Lawrence J. Laborde, had worked. Fernandez was a contact of the Miami Station. [SENTENCE REDACTED] Lawrence Laborde was a contact of the Miami Station in 1961 and 1962 and served as an officer on a ship used for CIA Cuban operations.c. Garrison has questioned a Cuban named Santana after which Garrison inferred that Santana owned a rifle like Oswald's. Garrison alleges that Santana was in Dealy [sic] Plaza at the time of the assassination on orders of the alleged conspirators Shaw, Oswald, Ferrie, and Arcacha Smith. In June 1964 Santana listed CIA as his employer on a loan application for purchase of a car. In fact, he was [ABOUT 10 WORDS REDACTED] a guide for an infiltration operation in Cuba which was carried out in May 1963. He was dropped by the Miami Station on 15 October 1963. He knew some CIA staff members and agents by their true names.d. Garrison's office has questioned a Carlos Bringuier, who denied any CIA contact. But, according to reports, Garrison will try to introduce evidence that Bringuier had knowledge of an alleged affiliation of Oswald with CIA. Also, according to the Warren Commission report, there was an altercation and fight between Oswald and Bringuier in August 1963 and a radio debate between them on 21 August 1963 when Oswald identified himself as a Marxist. Bringuier had some contact with the Domestic Contact Service's New Orleans office and was formerly the New Orleans leader of the Student Revolutionary Directorate, which was an anti-Castro organization [REDACTED] funded by CIA.e. Garrison has falsely stated that Gordon D. Novel was a CIA agent and that one of his lawyers, Stephen Plotkin, was paid by CIA. Garrison says he can prove that Novel, along with Arcacha Smith and others, robbed a munitions bunker at Houma, Louisiana at the instigation of CIA. Garrison may claim that this robbery was one of the overt acts of the conspiracy. Actually, Novel has never at any time had any association with the Agency nor has his lawyer, Stephen Plotkin.f. Donald P. Norton has been questioned at length by Garrison, and Norton has falsely claimed in a newspaper article that he worked for CIA from 1957 to 1966, and that in 1962 Clay Shaw gave him $50,000, which he took to Monterrey, Mexico and gave to Oswald. Here again Garrison may claim that this is the overt act in the conspiracy. There is no truth in Norton's story in any respect.5. We could continue to speculate about some of the other names involved, but the forgoing is sufficient to illustrate the potential problem. Certainly, the story of CIA's connections and interrelationships would be enough to at least confuse a jury thoroughly. Shaw's lawyers have no way of refuting these stories except by attacking the credibility of the witnesses or introducing other witnesses to impeach their stories. They have so far no Government information which they can use for this purpose. The Government, and particularly CIA, is placed in a quandary. If it were to deny the Norton and Novel stories, which are wholly untrue, it would have to make some partial admissions at least in connection with Laborde, Santana, and possibly Paneque, Bringuier, and others. Shaw himself was a contact of the Domestic Contact Service's New Orleans office from 1948 to 1956 and introduced General Cabell, then Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, when he addressed the New Orleans Foreign Policy Association in May 1961. In view of this dilemma, the Department of Justice has so far taken the position that if any effort is made by either the prosecution or defense to involve CIA in the trial, the Government will claim executive privilege. This, too, can be turned by Garrison into a claim that it is part of the whole cover up by the establishment and particularly by CIA. No alternative to the claim of privilege appears to be available, however. To protect the Government's position on privilege, it would appear that the Government cannot take any action publicly to refute Garrison's claims and the testimony of his witnesses, as the Louisiana judge would almost certainly take the position that any such public statement would negate the privilege.
6. At the present time, therefore, there is no action we can recommend for the Director or the Agency to take. If during the trial it appears that Shaw may be convicted on information that could be refuted by CIA, we may be in for some difficult decisions. There is one positive aspect at the present time, which is that outside of Louisiana the U.S. press and public opinion appear to be extremely skeptical if not scornful of Garrison's allegations. We can only wait and see whether the trial will influence this attitude either way.
LAWRENCE R. HOUSTON
One of the difficulties in checking into Garrison's claims is that no high-level official of the CIA has been willing to talk openly about what really went on in the halls of the CIA secret complex at Langley, Virginia.
That was until Victor Marchetti, a 14-year veteran of the CIA, decided to call it quits. An expert on the Soviet military, Marchetti had been recruited to the agency by a CIA-connected college professor. He rose through the ranks to become executive assistant to the Deputy Director of the CIA and finally made it to the agency's executive suite, sitting in on the CIA's most secret, highest-level staff meetings. But the more he learned, especially about the dirtier aspects of the CIA murder campaign in Vietnam, the more disenchanted he became. In late 1969 he resigned from the CIA.
When he decided to write about his experiences in The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, his book became the first in U.S. history to be censored by the government before publication. The CIA felt that Marchetti knew too much, would compromise the agency, and arranged to have key passages deleted. Although he is under strict court restrictions as to what he can reveal about his tenure with the CIA, Marchetti did agree to discuss the Kennedy assassination with TRUE magazine.
Marchetti was attending high-level staff conferences in early 1969 when Clay Shaw was being brought to trial by Jim Garrison. At these conferences, he said, it was determined to "give help" in the trial.
"I sure as hell knew they didn't mean Garrison," Marchetti said.
Whenever they talked about the trial, they spoke "in half-sentences" he said, cutting off discussion before getting to the main point. "They'd say, 'We'll talk about it later,' meaning a private chat after the meeting," Marchetti recalled.
When Marchetti tried to find out what was going on, he was informed that Clay Shaw at one time had been a contact for the CIA. His job, Marchetti was told, was to monitor businessmen going behind the Iron Curtain "you know," Marchetti said, "to try to find out if so-and-so was going to a denied-access area." The businessmen would then be debriefed by the CIA and questioned about what they had seen and done. Often this was very useful in gaining information about activity in Communist countries.
But Marchetti and the others were told that the CIA's connection with Shaw was to be top secret. The agency did not want "even a remote connection with Shaw" to leak out, Marchetti said.
Marchetti now states that Shaw's links with the CIA could have been much more extensive, and that he and the others could have been given a "cover story" to explain the agency's interest in the Clay Shaw trial. "They often lied to us," he said. "They use the term 'need to know.'"
Jim Garrison, in On the Trail of the Assassins (p. 234), quotes Marchetti also. Although Garrison cites an issue of True for his quotation, the passage apparently comes from a press release issued by Mark Lane, and not True.I used to attend, among other things, the Director's morning meeting, his morning staff meeting. This was Richard Helms at the time and he held a meeting every morning at 9, which was attended by 12 or 14 of his leading Deputies plus 3 or 4 staffers the executive assistants to the number one, two and three men in the Agency and also the Press Officer. I often used to take the minutes of this meeting . . . which are a joke because things would be left out or written in a vague fashion so they were meaningless. But during the Clay Shaw trial I remember the Director on several occasions asking questions like, you know, "Are we giving them all the help they need?" I didn't know who they or them were. I knew they didn't like Garrison because there were a lot of snotty remarks passed about him. They would talk in half sentences like "is everything going all right down there ... yeah . . . but talk with me about it after the meeting" or "we'll pick this up later in my office." So after several of these over a week or two I began to ask myself what's going on, what's the big concern. I began to ask around ... and one of the other people who attended the meeting ... at the time I said, "What's the concern about this trial and this guy Shaw?"It's astonishing that conspiracists use Marchetti as a source for Shaw being a spook, since what he explicitly says is that Shaw gave information to the domestic contact service.
I was then told, "Well ... Shaw, a long time ago, had been a contact of the Agency ... He was in the export-import business ... he knew people coming and going from certain areas the Domestic Contact Service he used to deal with them ... and it's been cut off a long time ago" . . . and then I was told "well of course the Agency doesn't want this to come out now because Garrison will distort it, the public would misconstrue it."
Marchetti speculates that this was a "cover" and that Shaw was really a spook, but Marchetti's speculation is not evidence.
The cryptic comment "Are we giving them all the help they need?" is interpeted by the Garrison crowd as meaning that the CIA was aiding the Shaw defense, but it could just as easily have been a question about whether the New Orleans CIA office had "all the help they needed" to deal with the situation which the CIA most certainly took seriously.
One very revealing comment is the claim that Garrison might "distort" Shaw's relationship to the CIA. What sort of relationship might Garrison distort? That Shaw was a deep cover spook? Garrison would not need to distort that!
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