It was a warm November day, as November days in New Orleans are apt to be, when my chief assistant bolted into the office. “The President’s been shot!” he yelled.
I had been working on some long-since forgotten matter and I shoved it to the side. Soon Frank Klein and I were downtown where we could find out what had happened in Dallas. A small restaurant on Royal Street had a television set. We ordered something and watched the news coming in bits and pieces from Texas.
Things were moving fast on television. Now the President was dead. The news shifted to the manhunt, to the surprisingly quick cornering of the alleged killer in the theater. As the news bulletins steadily appeared, a great amount of information about Lee Harvey Oswald was becoming available unusually fast.
I recall that everything else seemed to have stopped, that everywhere people were gathered around television sets. Increasingly, the news was about Oswald. The news seemed to be very detailed for such a new personality on the scene. Now it was reported that Oswald had spent thirty months in Russia as a defector. Now it was reported that Oswald was originally from New Orleans and had spent the past summer in New Orleans.
In retrospect, it is apparent that there was too much about Oswald and that it came too soon. There was a prefabricated quality about the whole affair. I was not conscious of this at the time, however, being much more conscious of my feelings for the young President who had just been murdered.
That Sunday afternoon Klein and I met at the office with a handful of other members of the District Attorney’s staff. This had become a custom of ours whenever New Orleans appeared possibly involved in any unusual case. For example, in the Chicago murders of eight nurses some years back, the knots with which they had been bound were apparently the work of a seaman. New Orleans is a seafarer’s port of call, so we spent the better part of a weekend going through arrest and conviction records of men with seagoing experience.
In the Oswald case, we had a lead regarding one David Ferrie. Someone informed us that Oswald and Ferrie had been associated together in the Civil Air Patrol and that Ferrie may have taken part in the assassination. It took about 15 minutes to establish that Ferrie had not been in Dallas on the day of the murder. However, I could not get Ferrie, who had been known to our office for some time, out of my mind. After my staff checked him out thoroughly, I remained unconvinced by his explanation about a mysterious trip he had made to Texas on the day of the assassination. So I ordered him held for questioning by the FBI. We were about to have our first encounter with the federal government in the case. (It is somewhat analogous to bobbing for apples with your hands tied behind you.)
After preliminary questioning, the FBI ordered Ferrie released and then took the surprising step of issuing a news story saying that it had not requested he be picked up. There matters stood for three years. We had come across a strange man, an acquaintance of Oswald’s, making a strange trip into Texas at a strange time, and we had turned him over to the federal government. And the federal government indicated he was not involved. The FBI agent who questioned Ferrie assured me that he had no connection with the assassination. So far as they were concerned on the Dallas end, it was Oswald alone and unaided.
Nothing was farther from my mind than the possibility that the federal government might have a reason to lie. It did not occur to me that there was such a thing as domestic espionage in the United States or that New Orleans had been used to create a scapegoat history for Oswald.
In the autumn of 1966 I was in New York visiting Senator Russell Long of Louisiana. The talk turned to the assassination of President Kennedy. I was astonished to hear him say that he felt there was a question about the Warren Commission’s inquiry. I had assumed that the matter had fully and honestly been looked into by the commission. My mind turned back to our office meeting the weekend of the assassination and to our questioning of David Ferrie.
When I returned to New Orleans I began reading the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission’s hearings and exhibits as well as the commission’s conclusions. It became apparent that its official conclusion that Kennedy had been killed by a single marksman, shooting at him from behind, was totally impossible. It also began to seem that Lee Harvey Oswald quite possibly had not fired any shots and had been a mere scapegoat.
Then what was the meaning of these 26 volumes of evidence? Why was the government lying to the people? Who had killed President Kennedy and why?
Thus I began my own inquiry. I started quietly with a small team from the office staff, our jurisdiction based upon the fact of Lee Oswald’s curious activities in New Orleans in the summer of 1963 and upon his seeming involvement with the assassination.
Soon enough, however, what we were doing became known. Some newspaper reporters had noticed that we were taking unusual trips and were engaged in unusual activity. A front-page story appeared reporting that we were engaged in a new investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. Although I gave no interviews, a rash of news stories appeared across the country saying that I was only seeking headlines.
On March 1, 1967, I made my first arrest. Although I did not expect a great deal of help from the federal government, I must admit that I was rather surprised when it immediately went to the aid of the defendant. Attorney General Ramsey Gark, commenting on the arrest, said that the defendant had been checked out by the FBI and cleared, “more or less.” President Johnson said that he saw no reason to reopen the Warren Commission investigation. Subsequently, a series of press accounts appeared charging that I was conducting a reign of terror, using improper methods in my investigation and abusing the defendant’s constitutional rights—charges I found ironic since philosophically I tend to side with the individual against the potentially oppressive state.
The press failed to point out the extensive steps I took to protect the defendant’s rights, including the virtually unprecedented one of filing a motion for a preliminary hearing so that the court itself could determine whether the defendant should be bound over for trial. After receiving a unanimous ruling, we presented the case to the Grand Jury, which indicted the defendant on the charge of participating in a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. I took these steps—anyone of which, if unsuccessful, would have ended the case then and there—because I felt that the enormity of the charge required me to exercise every conceivable caution on behalf of the defendant.
For the next two years my staff and I sought to get the defendant to trial. During this period the national press—television, magazines and newspapers—continued to attack me both professionally and personally.
The battle was not restricted to the media alone. For the first time in my career as District Attorney, I began to experience some difficulties in getting witnesses and defendants to appear in a Louisiana court. Some courts even refused to extradite defendants charged in our jurisdiction. When we subpoenaed witnesses from other states to appear before the Grand Jury, we discovered that the courts in other jurisdictions for vague reasons were refusing to honor and enforce our subpoenas. We subpoenaed Allen W. Dulles, onetime director of the CIA, with regard to Lee Harvey Oswald’s activities with that organization. However, the U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C. who would normally handle this request wrote us a letter in which he said, “We decline to represent you in this matter. Accordingly, I am returning the documents you forwarded, including the check, so that you may pursue the matter yourself or arrange for other counsel.” Needless to say, we never got to talk to Mr. Dulles.
Nor did we get to see the photographs and X-rays of the President’s body and other articles relating to the assassination which were subpoenaed unsuccessfully by our office as vital evidence in our case and which still remain locked up until the year 2039.
Meanwhile the battle continued. J. Edgar Hoover refused to furnish information requested by my office. The American Civil Liberties Union charged me with misuse of my office. My resignation was called for at least once a week. A national magazine tried to link me with the mob, and Ramsey Clark had already commented that he “might prosecute Jim Garrison.” Texas Governor John Connally, who had never talked to me, said that I had turned up nothing “credible” in my investigation. The federal court temporarily stopped the prosecution.
A wealthy businessman from the West asked if he could drop by. He was one of countless persons, with varied ostensible purposes, who came to my office and sought to know just what I was doing. When he finally arrived, he seemed restless and uninterested in discussing the assassination and repeatedly adjusted the Annapolis ring on his finger. Then he came to the point: “Would you be interested in a federal judgeship?” When I said “No” and that I would not do anything to stop our investigation, he left. A few months later, Internal Revenue Service intelligence agents appeared in my office and informed me that they were conducting a criminal investigation of me for possible income tax violations. We had turned down the carrot; now we were getting the stick.
U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark’s appearance, requested by our office through due legal procedure, was blocked by the federal government. Wesley J. Liebeler, assistant counsel to the Warren Commission, refused to appear as a witness. Chief Justice Warren stated to the press that he saw no new evidence.
Finally, on the eve of the trial, after our trial brief had been stolen and turned over to the defense, the Justice Department released a secret study by a medical panel backing the findings of the original autopsy report The move was obviously intended to influence prospective jurors. In view of its timing, there was some thought about delaying the trail, but it was finally decided to proceed. After all, I could hardly count on being the district attorney in 2039 when the federal government proposed to release its great mass of evidence.
Much has been said about the trial, both pro and con. Some were glad to see parts of the Warren Commission evidence crumble in the face of a genuine courtroom proceeding. Others, who quite apparently had not read the testimony, called the trail a fraud and me a publicity seeker, unaware that I still refused to give interviews concerning the case. The national press criticized our witnesses, without reporting that the only convicted felon to appear as a witness in the trial appeared for the defense, and seemingly overlooked Dr. Pierre Finck’s testimony which, by revealing that more lead was removed from Governor Connally’s wrist than was missing from the bullet which the commission claimed had gone through the President and the Governor, virtually destroyed the Warren Commission’s position.
The local press, in contrast to most of the national media, was relatively objective during the trial. This was somewhat surprising because I had never briefed the reporters nor given them any background concerning the case. Undoubtedly, they were as unaware of the federal government’s role as I was when I first began to look into the case. It must have appeared to them that I was presenting a scenario which featured abominable snowmen as the assassins. The rules of evidence, however, obstructed the presentation of evidence we had developed concerning the existence of a major domestic intelligence operation in the United States.
As our legal system would have it, a jury of twelve men heard the evidence and returned a verdict of not guilty. They did this because in their minds the evidence presented by the state did not prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crime of conspiracy to murder the President. As a district attorney I accept the verdict of the jury. However, to misconstrue this verdict as an acquittal of the federal government in its involvement in the assassination of the President and in its suppression of the evidence would be a serious mistake.
We saw the verdict as pointing up the impossibility of presenting an espionage case in an American court of law. The burden of proof is too heavy for the state to carry. The average American juror knows little about espionage, and about domestic espionage in particular.
All superstates engaged in efforts to gain power must maintain extensive domestic intelligence operations at home. They must seek to maintain control of individuals and ideas lest their international war adventures lose the support of the populace at home. That the domestic espionage operation may be illegal according to the law of the land is irrelevant. The issue is power, immense power, and it is not one which can be encompassed in a single courtroom and in a single trial.
It was this immense domestic espionage power which the DA’s office of New Orleans unknowingly took on when it began its investigation into the murder of John Kennedy.
From the outset I regarded the task as unpleasant but one I had to do, because no one else in public office saw need to and because part of what had happened occurred in my jurisdiction. Duty and conscience compelled me to seek the truth about the assassination. As a result, my staff and I found ourselves on a collision course with the most powerful force in the country.
The battle that followed over those three years exposed us to a part of America that we never dreamed existed. It became very clear to me that this was no longer the country that I had grown up in as a boy. It was a nation controlled by an enormous domestic intelligence organization which would seek to discredit or destroy anyone who dared challenge its authority.
The power maneuverings of the opposition which emerged against our investigation in New Orleans taught us much about the nature and operation of the new rulers of our government who had seized power through killing the President. We realized that the implications of what we had learned in New Orleans had a significance far transcending our investigation. We felt a sense of urgency that the American people should know the truth about our nation’s military-intelligence alliance. The question of who killed John Kennedy evolved into the more meaningful query of why he was killed. In turn, the question of why John Kennedy was killed became a touchstone for understanding our nation’s plight today as it suffers under the control of the new power apparatus.
It is this sense of urgency that compelled me to write this book.
Blitzkrieg in New Orleans
The verdict of not guilty for the defendant in New Orleans came approximately eight months before my campaign for reelection. Elements of the national news media, sensing my defeat, stepped up their propaganda campaign and dedicated their efforts to that end. It was a blitzkrieg of which any German Panzer division commander would have been proud. My methods were assaulted almost daily, the smears literally endless. I was accused of everything from being connected to the Mafia to slapping my wife in public, to cover only the mentionable charges.
The battle lines became increasingly clear. I was on one side and the federal government was on the other—always on the other. The longevity of our battle at times seemed likely to surpass the Greek and Trojan wars. As the election drew near, the national news media were fully prepared to record my demise. Their representatives followed me on the campaign trail where I talked to the people and stressed the accomplishments of my office, telling the people that I represented them and not the federal government and assuring them that my investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy was not yet over.
The most interesting thing about the campaign was the response of the audiences to my efforts to press for the truth in the President’s murder. Fortunately for me, the people of New Orleans were able to sense the efforts of the federal government and the news media to take over the District Attorney’s office, and they came to my aid. I was reelected in the first primary. The people had spoken and the message was loud and clear. Apparently they liked the kind of office that I had conducted over the past eight years. However, more important to me, it seemed they felt strongly about the murder of Jack Kennedy and they wanted someone to do something about his assassination. They wanted the truth brought out. They wanted an end to the steady flow of deception from Washington.
The Nearness of History
Winning the election, satisfying though the victory was, carried with it the responsibility of continuing to press forward in bringing out this truth. To understand the forces involved and their motivation is to understand all of the once-mysterious assassinations of the 1960’s, which in each instance achieved the elimination of a public figure who opposed our massive military expedition into Asia.
As American military force spreads across the Pacific into Southeast Asia, it is possible that counterforces may develop which will allow America to survive its own power explosion. However, we must begin to recognize history as it is happening to us. We can no longer toy with illusions. Our war adventures in Asia are no more related to national security, in any rational sense, than the assassination of John F. Kennedy was the work of a “lonely, disoriented man.”
The forces which our leaders have unleashed in Asia might produce a Pax Americana, as is undoubtedly intended, but it is more likely to be the beginning of the end of our country as we have known it. Sooner or later there must develop a broader base of understanding about what is happening or we will never regain control of our government. Sooner or later the relationship of assassination at home and war abroad must come to be understood.
In the past three years, I have learned more about the inhumanity of uncontrolled governmental power than I cared to learn. I have written this book so that the truth about the murder of John Kennedy finally may be brought out for every American to see. Above all, I have sought to show what has been done to our country by men who believe in solving problems by the use of force.
If you care for America, then this book has been written for you. I wrote it in the hope that it might help illuminate the peril which surrounds us. Welcome to the fight.