In my newest work, Tipping Point, I spend a good bit of time digging into Jack Ruby’s background and examining his most likely role(s) in the Dallas conspiracy. The plural form of “roles” is intentional given that his involvement changed dramatically during the afternoon of the assassination.
The good news is that we now know far more about his associations, connections, involvement in Cuban affairs and the manner in which he would have been brought into the conspiracy than the Warren Commission, or the House Select Committee on Assassinations ever exposed. The bad news is that Ruby was one of the most significant leads immediately available to investigation and the primary subject of the Warren Commissions only two field investigators. A recent exchange with fellow researcher Paul Bleau has prompted me to revisit investigators Griffin and Hubert and review what was and was not done in regard to investigating Jack Ruby in early 1964.
We do know that primary members of the Warren Commission were themselves concerned by the fact that their work almost entirely rested on the activities of the FBI, and that they were skeptical that Hoover would fully share information with them. Their skepticism was justified, we can now document that the FBI itself destroyed evidence related to Lee Oswald, and in more than one case (as with the investigation of Sylvia Odio) Hoover’s responses to the Commission were totally at odds with the FBI’s own internal investigative reports.
Yet despite the commissioners own concerns, the Commission’s own investigators, Burt Griffin and Leo Hubert, were put into the field for only a limited time and separated from the inquiry well before their work was complete. They were tasked specifically with an inquiry into Jack Ruby and years later an HSCA interview with Griffin provided exceptional detail on how they were brought in, their tasking and generally the conditions under which they operated:
(Specific citations to the document are noted in page numbers in the following)
Griffin’s testimony makes it clear that after a couple of months work neither he nor Griffin felt that the Commission considered Ruby of anything other than peripheral interest and that their investigation was not proceeding as they would like to have conducted it. Specifically Griffin noted that several of the inquiries they recommended were not conducted, a series of requests were turned down – and that they were specifically advised that they much act “responsibly” or they could “trigger a thermonuclear war” (page 288 of the document linked above).
Interestingly that was not interpreted as a directive to conceal any information which might suggest foreign influence in a conspiracy, but rather in respect to the extreme consequences that anything of that nature had to be handled “very carefully” within the Commission itself. (page 310)
A memorandum generated by them on May 14, 1964 (page 289) – and addressed to J. Lee Rankin – gives us a clear view of the investigation as Griffin and Hubert wanted to pursue it. Among their top priorities (Summary of Evidence Suggesting Further Investigation) were Ruby’s business activities beyond his Night Clubs (which they felt had not been sufficiently detailed), the possibility that some of his more obvious activities seemed to consume much time to little profit and might have actually served as covers for making money though illegal means, and finally that his ongoing interest and connections to Cuba demanded inquiry and clarification. They also felt that while a variety of evidence showing Ruby’s interest in or connections to the John Birch Society had been treated as circumstantial, it had not been satisfactorily explained.
The Griffin/Hubert investigative memo is extremely detailed and specific, pointing out a host of “loose ends” which needed to be addressed in what was known and had been stated about Jack Ruby. It deserves to be read in detail by anyone with an interest in the Kennedy assassination.
In his HSCA interview Griffin related that by May, 1964 there was considerable time pressure to wrap up their work on Ruby and that one intent of the memorandum was to relate how much work needed to be done which had not been up to that point in time. (page 205) Griffin also noted that while the FBI had delved into Ruby’s Night Clubs, it had not pursued the other aspects outlined in their memorandum. Griffin had no recollection that the FBI ever did expand their work on Ruby nor that the two were allowed to complete the bulk of the investigative work they felt still remained to be pursued.
Griffin confirmed that they felt that Ruby’s Cuban connections and Oswald’s “Cuban interests in Dallas” had not been adequately explored – nor had the FBI been given much of a request to explore such connections and it was an area that was never “explored satisfactorily”. (page 205). Even more specifically they believed, based on then available evidence, that Ruby was involved in illegal dealings with the Cuban elements who might have been in contact with Oswald. The existence of those dealings was a matter of “surmise” but the investigation had not focused on that area.
After the review of a number of other areas, most related to Ruby’s gambling and crime contacts, a fascinating exchange occurred in which Griffin was asked whether or not the memorandum might have “scared” some people and responded that it likely did so – and that had not been written for “flimsy reasons” and was intended to get attention. Griffin appears to think that it did get that attention because at that point nothing changed in terms of advancing the investigation of Ruby, rather “the rug was pulled out from under it”. (page 302)
During the interview Griffin, then a Judge, attempted to be very precise in his wording, and relatively restrained. He did however affirm that he himself had not been satisfied with “the adequacy of the investigation of conspiracy”.
Researchers have long discussed other aspects of the two Ruby investigators, including the details of their separation and the fact that they were not brought back for the actual Commission interview and polygraph of Jack Ruby. Yet Griffin’s actual, extended testimony to the HSCA is much less frequently referenced.
If anything that testimony, and their internal WC memorandum, make it quite clear that even in the earliest months after the assassination they were looking in exactly the right places, and were keenly aware of where the inquiry should have gone – the fact that it did was not their fault. We certainly can’t pull together everything they might have learned at that point in time, but I suspect they would be quite interested in what we have learned in regard to their suspicions. And I’m sure they would not be surprised to find Jack Ruby appearing as a significant figure in an actual conspiracy scenario.