TRACES OF INTRIGUE
Yes, there will come a time. But it might not be in your lifetime. I am not referring to anything especially, but there may be some things that would involve security.
—CHIEF JUSTICE EARL WARREN, in reply to a question as to whether the commission’s inquiry would be made public.
The Texas Tableau
While Dallas is not a melting pot in the sense that New York and other Eastern cities are, it does have a small Russian community. These are White Russians who are strongly anti-Communist. Many of these people can recall the loss of their family property to the Communists back in Russia. Some can recall the deaths of relatives murdered by the Communists. The only way they could ever hope to regain the old family estates would be in the event of war between Russia and America, assuming, of course, that America won and that these estates as well as the planet itself remained.
When Lee Oswald came to Dallas from Fort Worth in the early autumn of 1962, the White Russians comprised most of the group with whom he and Marina spent most of their limited social life. The White Russians knew that Oswald had spent thirty months in Russia. Yet they did not treat him as if he were a Communist or a radical of any kind. A genuine Communist, assuming that he were so ill-advised as to set up light housekeeping in Dallas, ordinarily could not have made himself welcome in the company of the Texas White Russian community.
All of this community spoke Russian, of course, and because of their or their families’ experiences, they ardently favored continuation of the cold war and militantly opposed peaceful coexistence with Russia. Their philosophy was indistinguishable from that of the upper echelon of the American military and intelligence establishments.
The wealthy White Russian associates of the Oswalds paid Marina a great deal of attention, and she began to develop a liking for them. They bought her many dresses. After Oswald had been charged with killing the President, who was attempting to end the cold war, his Russian-speaking friends would testify before the Warren Commission about his brutality toward his wife and his dedication to Marxism. Lee Oswald now was a long way from Warren Easton High School on Canal Street.
Oswald frequently was in the company of some older man. Invariably, his mentor was a worldly individual whose background included an uncommon familiarity with far-away places or an uncommon propinquity to people from other lands. The government was never able to explain what it was about Oswald in the year preceding the assassination that caused the company of this itinerant laborer to be so acceptable to the older, sophisticated men whose horizons of interest were far beyond those of the average individual. Unless it is assumed that Oswald secretly had attended a Dale Carnegie course and had acquired a magnetic personality, it is difficult to find an acceptable explanation for his extraordinary welcome among people whose ideologies purportedly differed radically from his own. What more probable explanation is there for these interpersonal triumphs of Oswald other than that he was recognized as a member of the intelligence community wherever he lived?
After Oswald arrived in Dallas in 1962, his closest acquaintance was George de Mohrenschildt. De Mohrenschildt was bom in czarist Russia, the son of a nobleman and landowner. His family had fled from the Communists, and for a time his father had been jailed by them. His schooling extended from Poland through Belgium and France to Texas. During World War II, De Mohrenschildt had worked for French intelligence. He spoke French, Russian, Polish, Spanish, German and “a smattering of other languages.”
De Mohrenschildt was a consulting geologist who had traveled extensively throughout the world. He had spent a year in Yugoslavia, representing the International Cooperation Administration, located in Washington. He had gone to Ghana allegedly as a stamp collector, although he was a consulting geologist for an oil company at the time. During the Bay of Pigs, he was in Guatemala where he had just concluded a long trek through Central America. At the time of the President’s assassination, he was in Haiti. He was a member of the exclusive Dallas Petroleum Club and had many high-level contacts in the business world.
De Mohrenschildt stated that he was unable to remember exactly how he first met Lee Oswald, but it was his recollection that he went with a friend of his, a man identified only as Colonel Orlov, to Oswald’s residence in the Fort Worth slums before Oswald moved to Dallas.
Not only were Oswald’s Texas contacts rather singular individuals, but at least one of the companies he worked for was in a very unusual line of business. Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall company, which hired him as a photographer, had been given a security clearance to do work for the Defense Department. Their labors involved charting and mapping of coastlines, sea bottoms and some land areas. This work was done with regard not only to the continental United States but to foreign countries as well.
After Oswald left New Orleans to return to Dallas by way of Mexico, his family moved into the home of Michael and Ruth Paine in Irving, a suburb of Dallas. Michael Paine, who worked for Bell Helicopter and had received security clearance, moved out of the house, where Ruth Paine was subsequently joined by Marina Oswald and her children. The Paines later explained that at this time they had separated temporarily. Immediately after the President’s assassination and the departure of Marina Oswald and her children, the Paines were reunited and Michael Paine moved back into the house. During the months his family was at the Paines’, Oswald stayed at a rooming house in Dallas and visited them on weekends. Paine’s temporary departure and Oswald’s move to a Dallas rooming house created the illusion of a disassociation between Lee Oswald and Michael Paine, an individual possessing a security clearance and working for a manufacturer of military hardware.
Ruth Paine spoke Russian and was acquainted with some members of the small Russian group in Dallas. It was Ruth Paine who was instrumental in obtaining the job for Oswald at the Texas School Book Depository. She called the manager, Roy Truly, told him of Oswald’s need for work and recommended that Truly hire him. Shortly after Oswald began to work at the depository, a much better job opportunity presented itself for him and the employment agency called twice about it at the Paine residence. The job opening was at the airport and would have paid him considerably more. Apparently Oswald never learned of the better job, for on the day of the assassination he was still employed at the book depository, in close proximity to the scene of the President’s murder. He would be near enough that the leaders of his country would be able to close the gap between him and the death limousine, shrugging aside the towering improbabilities of fact and concealing their hypocrisy with noble phrases.
Just before driving Oswald’s family from New Orleans back to Dallas in late September, 1963, Ruth Paine drove to the Washington, D.C., area to visit her sister and brother-in-law. She then drove down to New Orleans to pick up Oswald’s family. Eight days after Oswald returned to Dallas from Mexico, and shortly after his family’s return from New Orleans, Ruth Paine got him the job at Dealey Plaza.
The income tax reports of Ruth and Michael Paine were classified by the government as secret. Commission documents 212, concerning Ruth Paine, and 218, concerning Michael Paine, were classified as secret for reasons of national security. Commission documents 258, concerning Michael Paine, and 508, concerning Ruth Paine’s sister, also were classified as secret for reasons of national security, as were commission documents 600 through 629, concerning relatives of Michael Paine. It is extraordinary how fearful the government became of national security where information concerning the Paines and their families was concerned.
Two months after the assassination, the general counsel of the Warren Commission received a telephone call from Waggoner Carr, the attorney general of Texas. Carr informed the commission’s chief lawyer that information had been uncovered which indicated that Lee Oswald was an undercover employee of the United States government and that his undercover number was S-179. The same information was also supplied to the commission by the Dallas District Attorney.
News articles had already found their way into print about Oswald’s ease in traveling across borders and about the curious availability of funds whenever he engaged in international travel ... to Russia ... from Russia ... to Mexico. The commission held an emergency meeting amidst what one commission member later described as “consternation” and requested the Texas officials to come secretly to Washington to discuss this unexpected development.
The members of the commission concluded that they should conduct extensive hearings of as many witnesses as necessary to exhaust “this rumor.” Somehow the hearings on the possibility that Lee Oswald was a government agent never materialized.
The emergency meeting concerning this uncomfortable possibility was never mentioned in the Warren Commission’s final report or in the millions of words of testimony or in any of the exhibits. A similar omission from the final report of the Warren Commission was the fact that the FBI initially failed to inform the commission that the name and unlisted phone number of Dallas FBI agent James Hosty were written in Oswald’s address book. The FBI’s summary of the contents of the address book listed all of the other data in the book and left out this one notation—a rather intriguing one to have been made by the presumed assassin of the Chief of State.
The commission’s reluctance to examine information that Oswald was a government agent is reminiscent of its refusal to look at the photographs of the President’s autopsy. It is troublesome to imagine which would have been more injurious to the commission: finding out that the President was killed by a shot from the front when the scapegoat was positioned in the rear, or discovering that the official assassin was an undercover employee of a government agency when he had been governmentally depicted as a leftist.
Viewed as elements of a domestic intelligence structure, Oswald’s associates in Dallas would have to be classified as Euro-Asian in orientation. Such an operation would be useful for the debriefing and control of an individual recently returned from the Soviet Union. Furthermore, such a group would be useful in helping to create the false impression that a particular individual was a supporter of the Soviet Union rather than the United States.
However, an operation with Euro-Asian orientation would have limitations if it were desired to build a case for pointing to a nation of an entirely different ethnic make-up, such as Cuba. The fictional identification of a particular individual as pro-Russian would be of limited military value, because an attack against Russia would not be feasible. On the other hand, the CIA had attempted an invasion of Cuba in 1961 and had continued to train guerrilla troops for raids on Cuba. There was, then, a pre-existing and still abiding interest in dealing with Castro’s Cuba by means of military power. Could the man who would be named as the President’s killer be identified, by means of contrived evidence, as connected with Cuba? If so, the assassination not only could accomplish the removal of the President but it could also create an ostensible basis for military action against Cuba. Certainly it could be employed as a potential threat of a program against an inquiring left which felt inclined toward skepticism of the official version of the assassination.
It will be recalled that after Oswald’s New Orleans promenades with signs and handbills identifying him as a leftist radical and connecting him with Cuba, he next went to Mexico City and attempted to obtain a Cuban visa. Had Oswald been successful in procuring a visa, the man named as the President’s assassin, at a time when the nation was shocked and distraught, would have been found to be in possession of a visa to Cuba issued by the Cuban embassy in Mexico City. The forces pushing for continuation of the cold war would have gained the option of invading Communist Cuba. At the very least, this would have ended the detente toward which Kennedy was working. At the most, it would have been the excuse for an invasion of Cuba by American forces. In all events it would serve as a club with which to beat down liberal inquiry into the real motivation for the assassination.
In any event, the Cubanization of Lee Oswald could not be accomplished effectively by a Euro-Asian structure in Dallas. This was a project for a Latin American apparatus of the government’s huge intelligence complex. In New Orleans, the gateway to the Caribbean and to the Latin American countries, such an apparatus existed.
Lee Oswald left Dallas and arrived in New Orleans in early May. By May 9, he had a job at the Reily Coffee Company, just around the corner from Guy Banister’s office.
The New Orleans Masquerade
When Lee Oswald first arrived back in New Orleans he stayed with his relatives, the Murrets. This was the home of his first cousin, Marilyn Murret, who also was seeing more of the world than the average American.
In the summer of 1963, when Oswald was engaged in activities flamboyantly identifying himself with Cuba, Marilyn Murret was traveling through Mexico and Central America. In the three years prior to that she had visited Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaya, Beirut and various countries in Europe.
This was a traveling family. Now, after a year in Texas, Oswald was on the move again. At summer’s end he would be in Mexico, and then he would be back in Dallas. Here a job soon would be found for him in a building overlooking Dealey Plaza.
Lee Oswald had a tendency to put his trust in older persons, responding with little questioning to their suggestions and instructions. If he were told that his assignment called for him to parade in Harlem with a sign advocating white supremacy, he would have performed the task and then gone back to his reading. If he were told to parade in Lumberton, Mississippi, with a sign advocating black power, he would have done that equally well. All intelligence operations necessarily function on a need-to-know basis and the first thing a lower echelon agent learns is that he will not be given the full nature or purpose of the operation, but will be told his limited assignment and nothing more.
If, in fact, a young man were to parade in a small town in Mississippi with a black power sign, this would not mean necessarily that he was deeply committed to black power, though the men on the Warren Commission might so have concluded. To the contrary, in the mind of any reflective person, it would have raised a question as to precisely what he was up to, because a genuine supporter of such a cause would not advance it very far by parading in the streets of a small Mississippi town with a sign.
Oswald was an ideal low-echelon intelligence employee. Such close-mouthed young men, who execute assignments without question, are needed for a variety of missions ranging from courier service to penetration of allegedly subversive groups. For every James Bond type—if, indeed, such a type exists—who is informed of the overall purpose of his mission, there are a hundred Lee Oswalds who perform tasks precisely as they are directed. These are the spear carriers of the intelligence service, the privates in the invisible army of the intelligence machine.
Those individuals who were in poor economic circumstances before their entry into the intelligence service generally remain at the same economic level. Any unexplained sources of income ultimately would attract attention to and provoke questions about the agents’ personal lives. If, before becoming intelligence employees, they had to hitchhike when they traveled, they will continue to hitchhike during their intelligence service. Their payment for executing espionage assignments while continuing to live in squalid surroundings comes in the form of the secret sweets of satisfaction in playing a mysterious role. The recompense also occurs in the form of economic rewards which may be temporarily postponed. It is to be noted that Oswald’s last federal income tax return was classified as secret. Shortly after the assassination Marina Oswald received $57,000 from anonymous donors. The commission demonstrated little interest in ascertaining the sources of the gifts.
In the typical pro-Castro demonstrations by Oswald in New Orleans, he went to an employment agency beforehand and hired someone to assist him in giving out the inflammatory circulars. He paid the hired helper $2 for fifteen to twenty minutes of this work. This was sufficient time for photographic coverage by the press. The performance ended when the press left. It was not a case of seeking new supporters for a cause. A record was being created. Oswald was putting on a Communist show unaware that, in a country which has a visceral response to the word Communist, he was digging his own grave.
The contrived nature of Oswald’s activity is readily apparent in his encounter with Carlos Bringuier, a dedicated anti-Castro Cuban exile. At the confrontation, hot words developed. Oswald then said, “Hit me, Carlos.” Bringuier obliged and struck him. In municipal court, Oswald, rather than Bringuier, pleaded guilty and paid a fine. Another scene for the drama.
On the first two such arrests, Oswald asked the police to let him talk to an FBI agent. Special Agent John Lester Quigley arrived and talked to the other participants as a group. He then took Oswald aside and spoke to him privately.
Some of the photographs showing Oswald handing out leaflets are still classified as secret, so that it is not possible to see all of the persons with him in the picture.
The masquerade itself did not occupy very much of Oswald’s time. There was the demonstration in front of the International Trade Mart, a demonstration at a wharf and the demonstration on Canal Street. The contrived record was created in still photographs and motion pictures.
In September, after the masquerade in New Orleans was completed, Oswald suddenly appeared in Clinton, Louisiana. Transferring from one farfetched enterprise to another, he now was attempting to obtain employment at the East Louisiana State Hospital for the insane at Jackson, just outside of Clinton. He also attempted to register as a voter—an unofficial requirement for employment at the hospital—but failed to meet the need for a certain period of residency. While attempting to register to vote in Clinton, Oswald showed the registrar of voters his Marine discharge card and mentioned that he was going to apply for work at the hospital in Jackson. He expressed astonishment when he learned from a barber in Jackson that the East Louisiana State Hospital was an institution for the insane.
It takes little imagination to visualize what fantasies the government and the Warren Commission could have been able to weave had Oswald spent a few weeks on the grounds of the state institution for the insane. However, the job for Oswald did not develop.
The masquerade was resumed shortly after this when Oswald appeared at the Cuban embassy and sought a visa to Cuba, ostensibly to go first to Cuba and then to Russia, a route not ordinarily taken by persons seriously headed for Russia. He produced documents which he claimed to be evidence of Communist Party membership in support of his request for a visa, but he was unable to surmount the red tape and waiting arrangements. Nevertheless, the attempt itself provided some of what was needed to season the turkey. The visit would be treated gravely by the official investigation and the Warren Commission simply as further evidence of his depraved commitment to Communism.
That Oswald never intended to go to Cuba but merely sought to obtain the visa is indicated by the change of address card he filed just before he left New Orleans. The new address in Irving and post-office box number in Dallas which he listed were in Texas, not Cuba or Russia.
Someone else back in New Orleans wanted to make sure Oswald’s address change was noted by the post office. On October 11, more than two weeks after he had left New Orleans, someone still unidentified filed a change of address card for him at the old Lafayette Square post office across from Banister’s office. It spelled out with perfect accuracy his old New Orleans address, the new Irving, Texas, address to which his family had moved and his renewed post-office box number in Dallas. Who says that lone assassins have no friends?
An International Building
In the 100 block of Camp Street, four blocks from Banister’s office at 544 Camp Street, was the International Trade Mart, a white, windowless building four stories high. In 1963 it had an exotic collection of occupants as compared with an ordinary office building. Instead of the commonplace mixture of lawyers, doctors and local business firms, its tenants came from all parts of the globe.
Among them were: the European Agencies Company, Importers; the Vanguard Export-Import Company; the Italian State Tourist Office; the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany; the Canadian Trade Commissioner; the Colombian Consulate; the Finland Exhibit of Export Goods; the Consulate General of Japan; the Consulate General of Switzerland; the American Oceanic Forwarding Company; Eagle Ocean Transport, Inc.; the Cordell Hull Foundation; the Philippine Consulate General; the British Consulate General; Mitsui, and Company, Limited, Importers; Latin American Reports, Inc.
It would not be consistent with the philosophy of the CIA to ignore the existence and have no interest in a building with such a large concentration of import and export firms and companies with varied foreign interests. Lee Oswald chose an interesting locale as the site for his distribution of Fair Play for Cuba leaflets in August, 1963.