Lee Oswald became visible to the public in New Orleans, as a champion of the Cuban revolution, a Russian defector and generally as a “commie”, his on air acceptance of Marxism cinched that for the listeners.  According to the Warren Commissions later characterization, all of Oswald’s activities that summer were simply part of Oswald’s plan to lay the groundwork for being accepted into Cuba.  Yet what the Commission most definitely  did not surface were the indications that Oswald’s activities were more structured and that the press coverage he received was not simply coincidental.

As an example, he wrote to the FPCC, describing in some detail a street confrontation with Cuban exiles.  Such a confrontation did occur, but a week following his letter and that incident led to him requesting the police arrange an interview with him by the FBI.  In her book Farewell to Justice, Joan Mellen describes an interview with former New Orleans  Police Lt. Irwin Magri.   Magri had requested the interview by handing him a note asking that he call the FBI, tell them that Lee Oswald was in custody and that the note should be given to them.  The note contained the name of a specific agent – Warren DeBrueys.  DeBureys worked the subversives beat in the FBI office and would have been individual to handle a compartmentalized Oswald informant file (described by another office clerical employee).   Later, during the Garrison investigation, Attorney General Ramsey Clark ordered one local agent (DeBureys was gone from the office)  first not to testify at all and then granted him the option invoking privilege in his testimony.  The agent (Kennedy) did just that, refusing to answer any questions about Oswald other than admitting that the federal agents in New Orleans had a knowledge of Lee Oswald.

Oswald in New Orleans is a long story, covered in many books.  In his most recent update Tony Summers interviewed yet more individuals who stated that it had been known within the FBI office that Oswald was acting as an informant. Earlier numerous employees of former FBI agent and in 1963 private investigator Guy Bannister had confirmed that it was generally known that Oswald was some sort of an informant, providing information on his contacts with Cuban exiles and others.  It is also of note that Bannister’s office had been screened as a CIA propaganda cover by the CIA during the ramp up to the Bay of Pigs and that the Agency had initiated anti-Castro propaganda operations in New Orleans as early as 1961.

In New Orleans Lee Oswald developed the public image of a pro-Cuba activist while at the same time it was becoming known to a number of individuals that  he was not totally what he seemed and that at a minimum he was providing information to the FBI and very possibly being used – knowingly or unknowingly – in a much more complex and highly effective anti-Castro, anti-Communist propaganda campaign.  Oswald was becoming known, and Oswald was being “tagged” as a potentially  useful asset, very likely to the CIA’s own escalating FPCC campaign, which was being set up to extend across Latin America.  In fact the CIA had even asked the FBI for its FPCC membership and mailing lists to help develop the new campaign.  In the summer of 1963 the two agencies were in the midst of the AMSANTA campaign using FPCC members and the CIA was moving to showcase the FPCC as example of the dangers of Communist  infiltration and subversion.  And at just that point in time Lee Oswald had become the symbol of that propaganda campaign – his radio interviews would be featured on a propaganda record intended for broad distribution beginning in the fall.

But Lee Oswald had also come to the attention of other people, foreigners to New Orleans who had begun to show up in the city that summer.  FBI informant  Orest Pena and a fellow worker at the Habana bar both described Lee Oswald in the company of a “Mexican looking” individual.  If you have SWHT you will find further details on Oswald’s contacts with similar individuals in Chapter 3,  Harold Weisberg’s book on Oswald in New Orleans is also highly recommended. The upshot of it all is that Lee Oswald was contacted by newcomers to New Orleans while engaged in his FPCC advocacy and those individuals began to take Oswald off in a very different direction.  If you were to believe the Warren Commission, Oswald’s activities in New Orleans were all designed to take him on his way to Cuba.  However that is in direct conflict with what Oswald himself was doing by the end of the summer – Oswald was watching the departure of his pregnant wife and young child to the Dallas area, to live with the Paines, while Oswald himself was preparing to depart for the north-east, the Washington/Baltimore area.  Cuba was not his destination and he was making that rather clear to a number of people.  In particular he was making it clear in a paper trail of correspondence to Socialist Party of the USA, to the Worker (newspaper of the CPUSA), and to the Communist Party of the USA itself – the organization that Oswald had so dramatically rejected earlier (indeed he still rejected Communism per se in his radio appearances, declaring himself only a follower of Marxist social views).

He offered his services as a photographer to The Worker since he was relocating to its area and on September 1 he wrote for instructions on how to contact both representatives from both the SWP and CPUSA since he was moving to the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area.  In even stronger terms, his letter to CPUSA asked for guidance on going “underground” to continue the revolutionary struggle – something totally foreign to any of Oswald’s previously expressed views or remarks.  Interestingly, following the assassination, some of the earliest FBI questions – asked in great confidence – of Marina Oswald related to her knowledge of Oswalds trips to Mexico City – and Washington D.C.

Oswald’s plans for Washington seem quite clear, certainly they seemed so in his letters.  His motive was perhaps less clear. While Marina Oswald was packing to move to her friend Ruth Paine, a Quaker,  a couple of Quaker women were assisting her pack in New Orleans.  Thanks to the research of Greg Parker, we have details of a conversation with Oswald at that point in time. One of the two was a younger women, she would later relate Oswald’s attempts to “chat her up” and his remarks about his upcoming trip to Washington. When she asked him to elaborate on the trip and his plans he became flustered, made some remarks about having business to do and “picking up a gun”, then dropped the conversation.  All in all, something had taken Oswald very off on a tangent by early September – or so it would appear.  In the next posts it will become clear that it was not nearly as much a tangent as it might seem and very much in line with the plans of certain visitors to New Orleans during the summer of 1963

 

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

9 responses »

  1. Gene Kelly says:

    Larry:
    I’m a big fan of your work, and follow these posts with great interest. I’ve found myself intrigued by certain aspects of the JFK “story” (e.g. historical backdrops such as Bay of Pigs, Harvey and Morales, the autopsy, Lansdale etc.) and this varies over the years. Of course, the enigma known as Oswald is a central mystery, and there’s much intrigue that surrounds his legend. Most recently, I’ve been drawn to the Tippit murder and have read everything I could find on it, including Joseph McBride’s book and Forum posts by many excellent researchers (e.g. Duke Lane). Two individuals stand out as glaring evidence of the Oswald ‘patsy’ setup: Captain William Westbrook and Sargent Gerald Hill of the DPD. They appear to be controlling the post-assassination evidence closely, and ensuring the incrimination of Oswald in the immediate hour after the murder. To me, they’re clear evidence of a Plot, and a common tactic of using police in such covert actions. I also see striking similarities to RFK’s murder and the later use of LAPD officers. I’d be interested in your insights on the CIA’s use of ground police for cover, control and intimidation, as well as how one could find out more about Hill and Westbrook, and what became of them after Dallas.

    Gene Kelly

    • Wow, that’s a tough one Gene. As you know I’ve studied both the JFK and RFK cases pretty intensely and honestly what I see happening within local police departments seems to me to be more of a matter of departmental and city politics than anything else. There are some intense turf battles within law enforcement organizations and between them and other elements, in particular the DA’s office. You also have to factor in the psychology that law enforcement and DA’s like simple cases and clearly filter the evidence for use in court. That’s a lot easier to see in LA than in Dallas, but DA’s are political animals and their jobs are based on obtaining convictions, not losing high profile cases.

      You also have to add in the fact that the legal system is – in my opinion – inherently hostile to conspiracy. And for that matter, so are both DA’s and the Justice Department. Conspiracy is a lot harder to prove in court, and except in RICO or financial prosecutions it seems to be avoided like the plague. For defense attorney’s introducing conspiracy simply means admitting their client is guilty in some form, and not mentally unbalanced, or some more desirable defense strategy. For the prosecution it means they have to build a much larger and broader case, generally on purely circumstantial evidence. When you have one guy dead to rights – think Sirhan – the best way to a conviction is to go after him, not muddy the waters with alleged second and third parties.

      In the RFK case investigation, the LAPD became so frustrated by their own failures that they initially broke the law in regard to Serrano, accepting clearly incorrect polygraph evidence to shut down the issue of the polka dot dress girl and in doing so the whole investigation of conspiracy. I go into great deal on that in my essays on the RFK case and if you follow the paper trail, it all comes down to them not being able to find the individuals described by the witness and effectively deciding to cover their rears by witness harassment.

      I could go on and on with this but the bottom line is that the whole investigative process seems to be to isolate a suspect as soon as possible and then do everything necessary to assemble evidence for a legal prosecution, things that don’t fit get dumped and leads get closed as soon as a viable suspect emerges. Of course that is the theme in almost every television murder mystery show but that’s because that is truly the reality…its just SOP. Too many cases, too many crimes, too little resource and too little time – plus public opinion and elected law enforcement positions.

      Of course none of that means there are not dirty cops, and I suspect there were in Dallas. But my view is that dirty cops are used in the crime, not the coverup. Any good frame will plant enough evidence to allow the system to identify a suspect and from then on the system will concentrate all its efforts on convicting the patsy, not looking for a broader conspiracy. If more than one person doesn’t get isolated within the first 24-48 hours the investigation begins do focus and dial down dramatically.

      Finally, and especially on Hill, what you do find is a great deal of stress among officers who need to fall in line behind the official investigation, many times they know things that don’t exactly fit – say the fact that there were multiple wallets, or the fact that Frazier’s polygraph would have virtually devastated the entire case against Oswald in court. What happens then, well stress, memory problems, and a lot of obfuscation. Look at the voice stress responses of everybody involved with the polygraph, and their conflicting statements…clearly they were running away from a problem of evidence – one that could have been a career killer.

      A long winded answer, probably not one you want to hear. One other point though, one thing I have learned about covert operations is how deniablity works, and that means that if there were dirty cops in DPD they would have been worked though cut outs with no connection to the agency but rather a connection to other parties (if things fell apart). Think Jack Ruby…

      • Eugene Kelly says:

        Thanks Larry… great insight. Your answer is satisfying, as I have no preconceived notions about any of “this”, other than it was clearly put together by people and organizations who know how to do it expertly. I am an engineer in the nuclear industry, and have experience conducting extensive technical and human performance investigations. While not a law enforcement person, my professional instincts and the facts tell me that Oswald did not shoot Tippit. As aptly characterized by others, a “chess game” was at play in that first hour or so after the assassination. My recent Tippit interest was heightened by a comment that I read on the Education Forum about Captain Westbrook:

        “Westbrook by 1966 was working for the CIA in Saigon training South Vietnam’s secret police… and therefore likely affiliated with the Agency in 1963.”

        I unfortunately have no corroboration of that statement, or its provenance. My suspicions also gravitate toward Seargent Gerald Hill (dubbed “Officer Everywhere”) because he:

        . arrived at the TSBD very early, and he left early; arrived at the Tippit scene early, and then left early.

        . is inked with the shells and wallet at 10th & Patton, as well as the grey zipper jacket, the gun on Oswald, and the bullets in his pocket.

        . unearthed the bus transfer (McWatter’s bus just happened to be at Jefferson & Marsalis during the library scene).

        . Participated in Oswald’s arrest, along with Westbrook, and his initial questioning

        Critics claim that Gerald Hill lied about all of his movements prior to the Texas Theater arrest. Hill is described as a downtown “beat sergeant” on temporary loan to Captain Westbrook’s personnel department to purportedly help vet incoming Police Academy cadets. He is not mentioned much in the Warren Report, and yet he managed to be center stage at all of the strategic locations and events of the day, with first-hand knowledge unsurpassed by any other Dallas law officer. So, I smell a ‘rat’ here… to many coincidences. It appears to me that Hill and Westbrook are persons of interest, who quickly controlled the evidence and witnesses while securing a bear trap around Oswald. I’d love to know more about each of them, and what happened to them in the years following Dealey Plaza.

        Gene

      • Thanks Gene, certainly I think a chess game was in play from the first minutes after the shooting…I also think many of the pieces had been per-positioned as part of the frame and I don’t think the Tippett encounter was a random incident either.

        In regard to Sgt Hill and Captain Westbrook, first off I would refer you to some interesting studies of Westbrook by Ian Griggs and also to Ian’s hopefully forth coming in depth work on the entire DPD, a monumental research effort that should provide extensive background and context.

        I’ve been suspicious of Hill’s activities for some time, I don’t pretend to fully understand them but I’m betting that he knows things that he is not telling and has engaged in obfuscation at a minimum.

        As to Westbrook and Vietnam, after my work on Shadow Warfare and tracing a great number of individuals who served there from earlier assignments I can say it was pretty routine for former police and military officers, especially older individuals, to take up training positions in Vietnam. They were recruited based on experience and willingness to take on hazardous assignments – you find the same thing with the contract employees who have recently been doing police and security contract training in Iraq and Afghanistan.

        — Larry

      • Eugene Kelly says:

        Larry:

        Thanks you again for the response. I look forward to Ian Griggs’ work. I remain convinced there was something sinister to Captain William Westbrook. He was supervising a small unique group, and I don’t belive he’d been with DPD very long. Nor did he stay with them more than a year or so after the assassination. He also didn’t have much to say to the Warren Commission, and they didn’t have much interest in putting him on the record.

        Both he and Hill responded pretty quickly to the TSBD … strange considering their normal day jobs and official roles in DPD. They were not foot soldiers or beat cops. Having worked in government (and if police departments are analogous), when an ’emergency’ happens, responders are trained and disciplined on who does what. They are conscious of roles and responsibilities, have assigned positions, and don’t all ‘run to the ball’ (like a 9-year old soccer game). In fact, there should probably be a pecking order as to first responders, such as detectives and crime scene investigators. I appreciate that this was probably chaos and confusion, as a Presidential shooting is probably as exciting as it gets, crime-wise. But you’d also think that there would be federal types (in droves) that would also take precedence and subsume the DPD response. Perhaps things were different in Dallas that day.

        I was also struck by Hill’s testimony to the Warren Commission, and Forum researchers subsequently attempting to match up his statements with his journey and appearances at the TSBD, Tippit murder scene, ALT temple, and Texas Theater. How he got there, in whose car, why he stayed on it, etc. Somebody was dropping key evidence along the trail to the Texas Theater (gun, wallet, bullet shells, jacket) and both Hill and Westbrook have their hands literally all over those articles. I find it hard to believe an escaping assassin would carelessly leave or lose all of that evidence in his path … particularly after shooting a cop. A trained assassin would behave quite the opposite (although arguably Oswald was not such an operative) becoming inconspicuous, blending into the surroundings, travelling light etc. The proximity of Hill and Westbrook to all of this is a huge coincidence that I just can’t get over.

        In my line of investigative work, we’re also trained to think like the “perpetrators”… put yourself in their shoes and become the argument, so to speak. In the course of anyone seriously digging into the JFK story, you encounter the world of intelligence, spooks, executive action and the machinations of CIA and other agencies. I’m lecturing at the choir master here, so forgive me. I’ve of course become fascinated by shooter teams, black and false-flag operations, the use of doubles and twins, and historical intrigues like BOP and Northwoods. I appreciate that – in a plot as sensitive as this one – there would be extreme deniability, cut-outs, diversions and extraordinary operational security. I don’t doubt that there were several shooter teams and backup contingencies (i.e. other hit locations, escape routes), and that the real shooters themselves were likely dead within a year. I’ll stop with all of this speculation, since I’m practicing brain surgery without a medical license in evaluating such operations. However, the idea of constructing a police officer’s murder (as a diversionary tactic and emotional event) is a masterful addition to a Plot. And having it lead to the patsy is almost too good to be true. But so is the use of police as shooters (or shooters dressed as police), evidence planters, witness intimidators and crime scene cleaners. Were I to devise such a Plot, I’d certainly use a selected few police figures for all of these aspects, as they’re generally trusted, expected to be at these locations (i.e. not suspicious), and have the best alibi’s (read plausible deniability) in the world. The abuse (i.e. impersonation or doubling) of such an authority figure is truly diabolical. That’s why the use of local police in JFK and RFK is a theme worth pursuing, in my judgment.

        Like many, I’ve read so much about this story (for 30+ years now) that it can make your head spin. Some of it is hard to fathom, and you sometimes don’t know which rabbit hole to go down. Also, when you tell people you’re a JFK buff, they sometimes look at you like you’ve got two heads. I find it difficult to describe or articulate (simply) when asked who did it, and why… difficult as in being credible. One of my practiced answers is that the earmarks or fingerprints of intelligence and tradecraft are all over this case… so too is a pattern of disinformation, again, a sign of experts in that art. But when asked what to read, I always point them to the best researchers (like you) and books like SWHT. Have fun at JFK lancer next month.

        Gene kelly

      • Gene, Ian did publish an article on Westbrook in a past issue of the DPUK journal, you might find it by searching the MFF site. As I recall he thought that Westbrooks’s actions were, if not out of character, at odds with what his normally assigned duties were. I think he raised several of the issues that you have. I certainly hope his book does make it into print because his background research on all the DPD officers has been extensive.

        Have you read the long out of print book in which the author did voice stress analysis on several officers, he went into considerable detail on Hill and issues with Hill’s actions. I don’t recall the name but I think you would find it very interesting.

      • Eugene Kelly says:

        Thanks for the tips Larry. I will look for Ian’s article. Joseph McBride told me that the Tippit murder is very revealing. I agree with him and think it’s something that points clearly to a plot and Oswald’s manipulation. If you recall, David Belin, Assistant Counsel to the Warren Commission asserted:

        “The Rosetta Stone to the solution of President Kennedy’s murder is the murder of Officer J. D. Tippit. Once it is admitted that Oswald killed Patrolman J. D. Tippit, there can be no doubt that the overall evidence shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of John F. Kennedy.”

        Some feel that Belin may’ve been speaking somewhat tongue in cheek, and that he was actually more astute that that, signaling future researchers to check into its details because it reveals the plotters… in other words, a real Rosetta Stone. Of all the anecdotes and subplots to the assassination, I find it most revealing. When skeptics push back on the loose ends and numerous facts that point to conspiracy, I think the Tippit story is (Dale Meyers notwithstanding) very convincing for conspiracy. If I could resurrect certain individuals and put them under oath (or sodium pentothal), Westbrook and Hill are at the top of my list. I have cobbled together a paper about the Tippit murder that I’ll share and attach. It’s not original work, but rather a compendium of others’ work woven into a coherent story that helps me sort the facts. It’s a work in progress but you may find it interesting.

        Best,

        Gene

  2. Ralph Westbrook says:

    Look at the article written by Ian Griggs on Captain Westbrook. Can you read this article and seriously say it was not poorly written and poorly constructed. Why would anyone want to site this article?

    • Ralph, I don’t see any link or description of a particular article…could you be more specific as to what you are commenting on and how its being cited. I do know Ian
      personally, of his career his law enforcement and of his extensive personal contacts with former personal DPD officers. If you could be specific about
      the mistakes you are describing it would be helpful. Personally I have praised Ian’s full body of work but I’m not sure I have written anything specific
      about Westbrook, in fact most recently I’ve been objecting to a lot of what John Armstrong is putting forth about him..but that’s another matter. Just don’t
      know what you are talking about from your comment. The only thing I can recall citing Ian on in my books is in regard to the DPD line up of Oswald, but
      clearly I may not be remembering something…

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