November 22, 2001

"The Ghosts of November" by Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan (updated November 2001, from the 1994 article)


By Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan

[updated in the November 2001 “Vanity Fair magazine,” from their original 1994 article]

Almost four decades after the assassination of President
Kennedy, argument persists as to what really happened.
The release of more than four million pages of classified
documents, many of them only in the nineties, has not
resolved the troubling questions in the case. They provided,
rather, fresh evidence of C.I.A. and F.B.I. cover-ups and
even of a second gun.

Add the confession of a dying man and many suspect more
than ever that Lee Harvey Oswald was no loner; he was
caught in the web of frustrated Cuban exiles, vengeful
mobsters, and U.S. intelligence operatives.

EDITORS NOTE: The authors have never been tagged
as “conspiracy buffs”, and – largely because of their
regard for strict accuracy – can be advertised as offering
readers real expertise and editorial balance. You could
end the standfirst with a line like “On the thirty-eighth
anniversary comes this in-depth report from Anthony
Summers and Robbyn Swan, acknowledged authorities on
the crime of the century.”

On the eve of the Millennium in Washington, D.C., six
eminent Americans ended a mammoth task. Led by the
chief deputy attorney general of the state of Minnesota,
three historians, an archivist, and the Justice Department’s
former head of research on Nazi war crimes, they reported
on the mission they had been assigned by the Congress
and President Clinton. Barely known to the public at large,
they were the Assassination Records Review Board,
charged with examining all withheld government records on
the assassination of President Kennedy and releasing as
many of them as possible.

It was the latest milestone on a long road, coming 35 years
after Dallas and 34 since the Warren Commission had told
us Lee Harvey Oswald did it on his own. An attorney named
Mark Lane fanned the flames of controversy with his 1966
book, "Rush to Judgment." In 1967 the case was muddied
by the follies of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison,
who claimed to have uncovered a plot hatched by “the
military and intelligence power elite.” Twelve years later,
reporting to Congress after a long and costly inquiry, the
House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that
there had “probably” been two gunmen in Dealey Plaza –
one of them Oswald and thus “probably” a conspiracy. The
committee hinted that the Mafia was responsible, then
passed the buck to the Justice Department, which just sat
on its hands.

The 1993 book "Case Closed," by New York lawyer Gerald
Posner, was as loaded a brief for the prosecution of the
“Oswald lone assassin” theory as Lane’s book had been for
Oswald’s defense. A veteran assassination scholar, former
Senate investigator Harold Weisberg, replied with "Case

In 1963, as early as two weeks after the assassination, a
Gallup poll found that 52 percent of the American people
thought there had been a conspiracy. In the early 90’s, a
CBS News poll reported that 89 percent of the population
had come to believe that, and 81 percent thought there has
been an official cover-up.

Oliver Stone’s 1991 movie "JFK" was a dubious piece of
scare mongering, yet it was in response to the concern
aroused by the movie that Congress passed the John F.
Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act. Since then,
well in excess of four million pages of documents have been
placed in the National Archives, largely by the C.I.A. and the

The job of the Records Review Board was to rule on those
massive withholdings. While its powers were limited to
enforcing the release of official records, the board had the
right to subpoena witnesses and hold public hearings. “I see
our primary responsibility.” said John Tunheim,
“as…assuring the Congress and the American people that
information about the Kennedy assassination is not being
hidden by any branch or agency of the federal government.”

Back in 1964, asked whether his Commission’s documents
would be made public, Chief Justice Earl Warren replied,
“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. This would
be preserved but not made public.

In 1998, when its mandate ended, the Review Board said it
had confronted a cold-war culture of secrecy that had not
significantly changed. In spite of all that it did achieve, and
refreshing cooperation from some government agencies,
others had been obstructive. It worried that, even now,
“critical records may have been withheld.” Why?

Our investigation establishes that skepticism about
assassination orthodoxy is by no means limited to eccentric
“buffs.” The man who inherited the presidency, Lyndon
Johnson, juggled conspiracy theories and did not believe in
the analysis of the shooting on which the lone-assassin
verdict is founded. Nor did several members of the
Commission that endorsed it. And while the predominant
conspiracy theory proposes that the Mafia killed Kennedy,
the nature of the mysteries surrounding the case points to a
more complex scenario.

Clues proliferate, some brand-new: leads indicating that we
have not been told the truth about U.S. contacts with
Oswald during and after his defection to the Soviet Union;
the discovery that a journalist who featured large in the
case is listed in C.I.A. files as an Agency “collaborator”;
credible evidence that the C.I.A. has concealed or
destroyed its surveillance tapes of an Oswald visit to
Mexico City; and the damning findings of the first
professional intelligence analyst to work fulltime on the

All this, and more, boosts suspicion that, even if U.S.
intelligence operatives played no part in the assassination,
their agencies have long hidden a relationship with Oswald.
In the course of that subterfuge, they may have blocked
exposure of a darker truth: our work led us to a man with
links to both the Mafia and U.S. intelligence, a man who
confessed before dying that he himself had been involved in
the conspiracy which, he claimed, killed the president.

The truth according to the Warren Commission – its 888
page report – was delivered to President Johnson on
September 24, 1964, by Chief Justice Warren and his
Commission members: Senators John Sherman Cooper of
Kentucky and Richard Russell of Georgia, Representatives
Gerald Ford of Michigan and Hale Boggs of Louisiana,
former C.I.A. director Allen Dulles, and U.S. disarmament
coordinator John J. McCloy. The Commission said Lee
Harvey Oswald, aged 24, former Marine and onetime
defector to the Soviet Union, had acted alone. He killed
John Kennedy on November 22, 1963, with three shots
from a Mannlicher-Carcanno rifle, firing at the president’s
motorcade from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book
Depository, where he worked as a laborer. Two days later,
in police custody, Oswald himself was shot dead by a local
nightclub operator, Jack Ruby. Both men had been driven to
kill by some inner compulsion. There was no evidence of

“The monumental record of the President’s Commission will
stand like a Gibraltar of factual literature through the ages
to come.” said Gerald Ford. Yet a stream of prominent
Americans have remained skeptics, including members of
the Commission itself. Senator Richard Russell, for
instance, later said of Oswald, “I’m not completely satisfied
in my own mind that he did plan and commit this act
altogether on his own.” “I no longer feel we simply had no
credible evidence or reliable evidence in proof of a
conspiracy…,” said John McCloy in 1978. The F.B.I.’s
domestic-intelligence chief, William Sullivan, remained in
doubter: “There were huge gaps in the case, gaps we
never did close.” The Dallas police chief at the time of the
assassination, Jesse Curry, believed two gunmen were

The Secret Service agents who guarded President Kennedy
never spoke on record. But we now know what the agent
who sat with Kennedy in the limousine thought: Roy
Kellerman’s widow, June, says he “accepted that there was
a conspiracy.” Kennedy’s close aide Kenneth O’Donnell
rode in the car immediately behind the president’s.
O’Donnell told the late Tip O’Neill that he was pressured by
the F.B.I. not to say what he firmly believed, that gunfire
had come from in front of the motorcade.

Although C.I.A. director John McCone told the president’s
brother Robert early on that he thought two gunmen had
fired, Robert is not known to have expressed his own doubt
until years later. In 1966, he told former White House aide
Richard Goodwin, “If anyone was involved, it was organized
crime. But there’s nothing I can do about it. Not now.” With
publisher William Attwood, he spoke of “reasons of national
security” for keeping a lid on the case. A campaign aide,
Richard Lubic, still has his note of what Bobby said several
days before he in turn was killed. “Subject to being elected
(president),” Bobby said, “I would like to re-open the
Warren Commission.”

Faith in the Warren Commission was also shaken by
congressional investigations. Probes by the Intelligence
Committee in the Senate and by the Constitutional Rights
Sub-committee in the House left many convinced that the
C.I.A. and the F.B.I. had something to hide. Richard
Schweiker, the senator who spearheaded the Intelligence
Committee probe, said he believed “the Warren
Commission was set up at the time to feed pabulum to the
American people for reasons not yet known, and that one of
the biggest cover-ups in the history of our country occurred
at that time.”

Judge Earl Warren Jr. and Jeff Warren, son and grandson
respectively, of the Californian who gave the Commission its
name, have insisted that the Chief Justice was not party to
a cover-up. “He had no doubts,” says the grandson. “I
remember one time he said to my mother, `I can assure
you, Margaret, Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president.’
There was no question in Papa Warren’s mind.”

William T. Coleman Jr. was a senior Commission counsel,
with special responsibility for Area IV, “Possible
Conspiratorial Relationships.” At 74, after a career that
included a post as secretary of transportation under another
Commission alumnus, President Ford, he lounged in his
Washington law office and affirmed, “I’ve always felt, and
feel even more strongly today, that I’m sure, as sure as
human beings can be sure, that we got it right.”

In the nineties, the Lyndon B. Johnson Library released a
string of recordings of phone conversations. They show
Kennedy’s successor wheedling, flattering, and browbeating
people as he struggled to form an acceptable Commission.
Senator Richard Russell pleaded in tones of desperation
that he did not have the time. “The hell…we’ll just make the
time,” Johnson growled. “There’s not going to be any time
to begin with. All you gotta do is evaluate a Hoover report
he’s already made.”

F.B.I. director Hoover’s report had not even been
completed when that call took place, a week after the
assassination, but it is clear what he and Johnson wanted.
“The thing I am most concerned about,” Hoover said in a
call to the White House two hours after Oswald’s murder,
“is having something issued so we can convince the public
that Oswald is the real assassin.” The new president
appointed the Warren Commission to head off pressure for
congressional investigation and to stop rumours of an
international Communist conspiracy.

Barely two hours after Oswald’s arrest, according to
Assistant Attorney General Norbert Schlei, Hoover was
declaring himself “quite convinced they have found the right
party.” The next day, though, he told Johnson in a private
call, “The evidence that they have at the present time is not
very, very strong…The case as it stands now isn’t strong
enough to be able to get a conviction.”

The details of Dealey Plaza can seen mind-boggingly
tedious. It is folly to form an opinion, however, without
taking a hard look at the facts. How does the evidence
stand in now?

Several shots rang out in rapid succession at 12.30 pm on
November 22, 1963, as President Kennedy rode through
central Dallas in his limousine. He and Texas governor John
Connally, riding in front of the president, both suffered
multiple gunshot wounds. They were rushed to Parkland
Memorial Hospital, but Kennedy died without recovering
consciousness. Connally survived.

The Dallas coroner, accompanied by a justice of the peace,
wanted to perform an autopsy, as Texas law required.
Presidential aide Kenneth O’Donnell, emotionally
overwrought, told the judge to go screw himself. Secret
Service agents, guns displayed, shoved past the coroner
and rushed the president’s body to the airport. Not one of
the doctors at the autopsy, performed that night at the
Bethesda naval hospital, near Washington, was a practicing
forensic pathologist. They were further handicapped by
instructions relayed by phone from Kennedy’s brother
Robert, huddled with the widow in a V.I.P. suite upstairs. A
1992 report in The Journal of the American Medical
Association confirmed that the family, concerned that the
world would learn Kennedy suffered from a progressive
disease of the adrenal glands, wanted to prevent several
routine procedures. The organs of the neck were not

We still do not know the precise nature of Kennedy’s
injuries. The autopsy doctors described four wounds: a
small wound at the back of the skull, a massive defect long
reported to have been to the right side of the skull, a small
hole near the rear base of the neck, slightly to the right of
the spine, and a hole in the throat.

The throat wound had been obscured by the Dallas doctors
when they inserted an airway to try to save the president’s
life. Unnecessary confusion, however, reigns over the injury
supposedly located near the back of the neck. The Autopsy
Descriptive Sheet placed it five and a half inches below the
tip of the right mastoid process, a bump at the base of the
skull. The autopsists’ working sketch, the death certificate,
a report by F.B.I. agents present at the autopsy, the
statements of several Secret Service agents, and the holes
in Kennedy’s jacket and shirt are consistent with a wound
some six inches lower than reported.

The doctors failed to dissect this wound, an elementary
procedure that might have established the path of the bullet.
The hole was merely probed, not opened up and tracked to
its destination. Documents now available indicate that
photographs and X-rays were taken during the probing
attempt, but their current location remains unknown.

The exact nature of the wound is a crucial issue. It brings us
to the “magic bullet,” the virtually intact slug found at
Parkland Hospital. Why does it matter so much? The
amateur movie of the assassination made by bystander
Abraham Zapruder gave investigators a time frame for the
shooting. It appears to show that a single gunman could not
have had time to fire again between the moment Kennedy
was first seen to be hit and the moment Connally appeared
to react to being shot. Rather than allow for the alternative,
that two gunmen had fired almost simultaneously, Warren
Commission lawyer Arlen Specter – today the Republican
senator from Pennsylvania – credited the magic bullet with
having hit both the president and Connally. It had, he
proposed, entered Kennedy’s back, exited through his
throat, then whizzed on to cause Connally’s multiple
wounds. Thus was the single-bullet theory born, and you
must accept it if you want to believe there was only one

Yet, in a later interview, Specter himself had no good
answers to questions raised about his theory. At the time,
doubters included members of the Commission itself and
the president to whom they reported. John McCloy had
difficulty accepting it. Hale Boggs had “strong doubts.” And
John Sherman Cooper remained “unconvinced.” On one of
the White House tapes, Richard Russell is heard telling
President Johnson, “I don’t believe it.” And the president
responds, “I don’t either.”

Those who don’t buy the theory cannot accept that the
magic bullet could have caused multiple injuries to Kennedy
and Connally, smashing bones in the governor, without
losing more of its metal content. Tests, one of which was
reported in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons
in 1994, suggest that such a phenomenon can occur. There
are other problems, however, with the magic bullet.

There is doubt as to whether the bullet was found on
Connally’s stretcher, as the Commission claimed, and about
the number of bullet fragments recovered. Nurse Audrey
Bell, the operating room supervisor, told us that she later
saw and handled “four or five bullet fragments” after their
removal from Connally’s arm. The smallest, she recalled,
was as big as the striking end of a match, the largest twice
that size. “I have seen the picture of the magic bullet,” she
said, “I can’t see how it could be the bullet from which the
fragments I saw came.” Nor could Dr. Pierre Finck, one of
the autopsists. “There are,” he testified, “too many

Three days after the assassination, one of the Parkland
medical staff handed “more than three” other fragments to
a patrolman guarding Connally’s room. X-rays, moreover,
show that one fragment remained buried in Connally’s thigh.
The doctors chose to leave it there, and it was still in his
body when he died in 1993. Did all those fragments really
come from the magic bullet? If not, there was more than
one assassin in Dealey Plaza.

There has long been confusion about the fatal injuries to
Kennedy’s head. In the past, the autopsy doctors are
reported to have identified a small hole in the skull as the
entry point for a bullet that blasted a crater in the right side
of the head. Other medical panels, working years later from
the X-rays and photographs, decided the small wound was
four inches higher than originally described. Startlingly,
moreover – and contrary to what was long believed – the
Review Board probe established that the medical personnel
involved at the time were unanimous in describing a gaping
hole in the rear of the President’s head – the rear rather
than the side.

The autopsy doctors failed to shave the president’s head,
apparently because Kennedy’s family wanted him to look
good should the casket be left open. The president’s brain
was not sectioned – another essential procedure. It later
vanished. So did bone fragments, tissue slides of the skin
that surrounded the president’s wounds and, reportedly,
photographs of the interior of his chest.

There is no consensus among those who have seen the
photographs and X-rays. Some believe, contrary to the
opinion of congressional consultants, that they have been
tampered with. “These are fake X-rays,” claimed Jerrol
Custer, a technician who made some of the autopsy X-rays
in 1963. The photographs are “phony and not the
photographs we took,” said Floyd Reibe, who took some of
the pictures. One of the surgeons who worked on the
president in Dallas, Dr. Robert McClelland, also examined
the X-rays. “There is an inconsistency,” he said in 1989.
“Some of the skull X-rays show only the back part of the
head missing… (Others) show what appears to be the
entire right side of the skull gone…I don’t understand that,
unless there has been some attempt to cover up the nature
of the wound.”

A physicist and radiation therapist at the Eisenhower
Medical Center, Dr. David Mantik, submitted the X-rays to a
technique called optical densitometry. “This data,” he told
us, “provides powerful and quantitative evidence of
alteration to some of the skull X-rays. They appear to me to
be composites.”

The Assassination Records Review Board announced that a
second set of autopsy photographs may have survived,
photographs apparently made from the original negatives
and thus presumably authentic. If so, they remain missing.

The hoo-ha over forensics is about one central issue. Was
just one gunman at work in 1963, or were other marksmen
involved? The House Assassinations Committee, relying on
the testimony of acoustics experts and witness accounts,
concluded in 1979 that a second gunman did fire from in
front of the president, but missed. Other studies were to
claim that the purported acoustics evidence, an old
Dictabelt of police radio transmissions, was probably just
static, not – as believed by the committee’s consultants – a
recording of the gunfire.

This year, to add to the confusion, came a peer-reviewed
article in the Journal of Britain’s Forensic Society. Its
author, D.B. Thomas, faulted the doubters and declared the
acoustics evidence does indeed indicate – to a more than
96% certainty – that a second gun was involved.

The lone dissenter on the committee’s medical panel, Dr.
Cyril Wecht – a former president of the American Academy
of Forensic Sciences – suspected there had been two
virtually simultaneous shots to the president’s head, one
from the rear and one from somewhere else. He is no
longer the only medical expert to have suggested that. Dr.
Mantik told us he was confident that Kennedy was hit in the
head by two gunmen, one firing from behind and one from in
front. He believed the alleged X-ray fakery was designed to
cover up evidence for the frontal shot.

Dr. Randolph Robertson, the only radiologist not attached
to a government inquiry to have examined the X-rays, did
not think they were tampered with. Yet he too believed, on
the basis of a pattern of intersecting fracture lines, that the
president was hit in the head from both behind and in front.
While other doctors have disagreed, a colleague, Dr.
Patrick Barnett, wrote to us supporting Robertson’s
interpretation. Dr. Joseph Riley, an expert in neuroanatomy,
concentrated on two key X-rays. He said they are
authentic, but have been misinterpreted. “The autopsy
evidence,” according to Riley, “demonstrates conclusively
that John Kennedy was struck in the head by two bullets,
one from the rear and one from the right front.”

Gerald Posner claimed in his book that computer
enhancement “settles the question” of the timing of the
shots, and that test-firing “provided the final physical
evidence necessary to prove the single-bullet theory.”
Posner failed to tell readers in the first edition of his book
that the computer work had been done for the prosecution
side in a mock trial of Oswald conducted by the American
Bar Association. There was also a case for the defense,
and – after a brief trial covering only limited areas of the
evidence – the “jury” split, seven members favoring
conviction, five favoring acquittal.

When John Connally died, the F.B.I. supported calls for
postmortem removal of the bullet fragment lodged in his
thigh. Modern tests might have gone far to resolving doubts
about the magic bullet, but Connally’s family refused
permission. The burial went ahead.

X-ray evidence, meanwhile, suggests that one large
fragment, like dozens of tiny ones, was never removed from
the head of the president. “The final truth concerning the
location of the wound in the back of the President’s head,”
radiologist Robertson told a congressional committee, “is
lying in a cemetery in Arlington with an eternal flame
flickering over it.” For the foreseeable future, any proposal
to disturb the grave of John F. Kennedy seems likely to be
greeted with revulsion. Thanks to the initial mishandling of
the evidence, we inherit only one certainty. Theories about
the meaning of the physical evidence are just that – theory
and speculation, an evidentiary quicksand that compels
belief in neither a lone assassin nor a conspiracy.

Where does the evidence leave Oswald? Here are the key
facts. Oswald did have a rifle in the spring of 1963.
Handwriting evidence suggests that he bought it, by mail
order, using the name Hidell, and his widow said she took
the famous photographs of him holding a rifle in their
backyard. That rifle appears to be the 6.5mm. Mannlicher-
Carcanno found after the assassination, dumped among
cartons on an upstairs floor of the Depository. One live
round remained in the breech, and three used cartridge
cases were found near a sixth floor window. Experts say
the cartridges had been fired in the Carcanno, as had the
magic bullet reportedly found at Parkland hospital. They
add that fragments retrieved from the president’s and
Connally’s wounds, and from the limousine, were almost
certainly from just two bullets fired from the Carcanno.

Oswald was carrying a package when he went to work on
November 22. A palm print allegedly found on the underside
of the gun was Oswald’s. Three prints on cartons found
near the suspect window were his. Oswald left the
Depository soon after the assassination, and was arrested
less than an hour and a half later, close to where a
policeman had been shot dead in a hail of revolver fire.
Although the ballistic evidence in the policeman’s murder is
less convincing, Oswald was carrying a revolver when
arrested. Meanwhile, persuasive testimony and evidence
suggest that, one night seven months earlier, Oswald had
fired a shot through the window of an ultraconservative
retired general, Edwin Walker, but missed.

Oswald steadfastly denied having shot anyone on
November 22, and there were some weaknesses in the
prosecution case. It was not established that it was he who
had picked up the mail-order rifle at the post office. Also, to
the horror of congressional staff, it was discovered in the
70s that the chain of possession and storage of the
fragments of bullets, allegedly fired from the Carcanno, had
been hopelessly inadequate. A fragment from the limousine
had vanished, and one fragment container was found to be
empty. If some of the ballistic evidence is missing and some
remains in the bodies, the shooting cannot be blamed
conclusively on one man with one gun.

The evidence that the rifle was stored in the garage of the
house where Oswald’s wife was staying, and where he
slept the night before the assassination, is thin. “The fact
is,” wrote Commission lawyer Wesley Liebeler in a memo
requesting changes to the draft of the Warren Report, “that
not one person alive today ever saw that rifle in
the…garage in such a way that it could be identified as that
rifle.” He was ignored.

Three of Oswald’s prints were found on cartons near the
suspect window, but Oswald’s job had involved working on
the sixth floor. Prints belonging to others were also found on
the cartons, one an identifiable palm print never linked to
any Depository employee, nor to any law-enforcement
official known to have handled the boxes.

Most agree that to have fired the Carcanno three times –
twice accurately – in the 4.8 to 5.6 seconds the Warren
Commission established as the minimum time span would
have been a remarkable feat. No professional marksman
was able to achieve that in subsequent tests. At most, the
time span was about eight seconds. The record shows that,
years earlier in the Marines, Oswald was at best a
competent marksman. And there is scant evidence that he
practiced with a rifle in the remaining four years of his life.
Suggestions to the contrary were published in the Warren
Report, again in spite of protests from Commission counsel
Liebeler about “the level of reaching that is going on.”

The attempt to kill General Walker occurred when Walker
was seated in a well-lit room, opposite an uncurtained
window. If Oswald was such a good shot, how come he
missed Walker but hit the president in a moving car twice in
the space of a few seconds?

It is not true, as some have claimed, that a new analysis of
the fingerprint evidence ties Oswald more closely to the
crime. Experts disagree as to whether the marks in
question – partial prints found near the Carcanno’s trigger
guard - are identifiable as Oswald’s. The Oswald palm
print, said to have been lifted by the police but not to have
been detectable when it reached the F.B.I. laboratory, was
on a part of the gun accessible only when the weapon was
disassembled. “I would say,” says former police lieutenant
Carl Day, who handled the fingerprint evidence in Dallas,
“that this print had been on the gun several weeks or
months.” If the print was authentic, it indicated only that
Oswald had handled the weapon at some time, not
necessarily on November 22. No prints were found on the
spent shells, nor on the live round remaining in the chamber.

“We don’t have any proof that Oswald fired the rifle,”
former Dallas police chief Curry said in 1969. “No one has
been able to put him in that building with a gun in his hand.”

Under arrest, Oswald would claim he had been eating in the
first-floor lunchroom at the time the president was shot. He
said – accurately as it turned out – that two specific fellow
workers had walked though the room at one point. If
Oswald was not in that room, it is remarkable that he
correctly described two men out of a staff of 75. Another
witness has placed Oswald in the second-floor lunchroom
at 12.15 pm, or a few minutes later. That is where he was
seen right after the assassination by the first policeman to
enter the building.

The president was shot at 12.30 pm, but, according to the
published schedule, had been due to pass the Depository at
12.25. Would a killer planning to shoot the president have
been sitting around downstairs at 12.15 pm, or later, if he
expected to open fire within minutes? No official inquiry has
pursued this question.

Once the mind is open to such issues, the questions come
tumbling. Witnesses to the murder of policeman J.D. Tippit
and the attempt to kill General Walker spoke of not one but
two suspects near each crime scene. Witnesses to the
assassination spoke of seeing two men with a gun on a high
floor of the Depository. Two policemen encountered men
behaving suspiciously on the infamous “grassy knoll.”

Just when you think the story holds no more factual
surprises, it tends to produce one. An F.B.I. report has
surfaced revealing that, at 7.30 on the morning after the
revolver was found near the Book Depository – “IN THE
IMMEDIATE VICINITY,” according to other F.B.I. reports.
Whether or not the weapon has any significance, it is a
scandal that the public had to wait 30 years to learn that a
second gun was found at the scene of the crime.

In the summer of 1964, when the Warren Report was being
drafted, Oswald’s elder brother Robert received a call from
a Commission lawyer holed up in a cabin in Vermont,
working on the chapter that would deal with why Oswald
had killed President Kennedy. Robert Oswald was
“flabbergasted,” he told us, that the Commission had yet to
find a motive for the man it had pegged as the lone

It is clear from a dozen witnesses that Oswald repeatedly
spoke about John F. Kennedy in terms of admiration. He
“showed in his manner of speaking that he liked the
president,” said a policeman who talked with him in August
1963. In a conversation about civil rights a month before the
assassination, Oswald said he thought Kennedy was doing
“a real fine job, a real good job.”

The writers of the Warren Report fell back on painting
Oswald as having “an overriding hostility to his
environment.” “We ducked the question of motive,”
Commission counsel Burt Griffin admitted years later.

“I’m just a patsy,” Oswald insisted to reporters in the police
station. Yet if Oswald was framed, his actions and words
made him look guilty as hell – of something. He carried
false ID, used phony names, and lied repeatedly. Was
Oswald, whether lone assassin or accomplice in an
ambush, a witting participant? Was he manipulated by
others into committing the deed? Was he munching his
lunch downstairs while others fired, only to realize afterward
that he had been made the fall guy?

Shortly after 6.15 pm on November 22, as a helicopter bore
Lyndon Johnson to the capital from Andrews Air Force
Base, the new president discussed the terrifying prospect
that Kennedy’s murder might be the prelude to a nuclear
attack by the Soviet Union. In the hours that followed,
troubling information reached Washington. From the C.I.A.
in Mexico came reports that Oswald had visited the Soviet
and Cuban Embassies there seven weeks earlier. While his
ostensible purpose had been to apply for visas, he had
talked with Consul Valeriy Kostikov, a K.G.B. officer
believed by the C.I.A. to be a specialist in murder and
sabotage. Then came fresh cables from Mexico. A
“professed Castroite Nicaraguan” was claiming that he “saw
Lee Oswald receive $6,500 in a meeting inside the Cuban

Less than three months earlier, Fidel Castro had fulminated
about American efforts to kill him. “U.S. leaders should
think,” he warned, “that if they are aiding terrorist plans to
eliminate Cuban leaders, they themselves will not be safe.”

Since 1960, the United States had been running what
Johnson was to recall as “a damned Murder Inc. in the
Caribbean.” As the public learned only in the mid-70s,
senior C.I.A. officers connived with Mafia leaders and anti-
Castro Cubans in a series of plans to have Castro

A mounting body of testimony suggests that the Kennedy
brothers approved these plots. Before his death in 1994, a
former C.I.A. deputy director, Richard Bissell, went further
than previously toward saying as much. George Smathers,
former U.S. senator from Florida and the president’s close
friend, told us flatly, “Jack would be all the time, `If
somebody knocks this guy off, O.K., that’d be fine’…But
Kennedy obviously had to say he could not be party to that
sort of thing with the damn Mafia.” Did Bobby Kennedy
know? “Sure,” said Smathers.

On the day Kennedy was assassinated, C.I.A. officer
Nestor Sanchez was in Paris, passing an assassination
device – according to C.I.A. sources, a Paper Mate pen
modified to serve as a poison syringe – to Rolando Cubela,
one of Castro’s close associates. The new head of the
Agency’s Cuba operations, Desmond FitzGerald, had met
with Cubela three weeks earlier, claiming to be Robert
Kennedy’s personal representative. He promised that the
U.S. government would back any anti-Communist group that
“neutralized” the Cuban leadership.

Manuel Artime, a Cuban exile leader much favored by the
Kennedy’s, told a congressional investigator that the
president personally was behind the Cubela plot. “Artime
stated he had direct contact with J.F.K. and R.F.K.,” the
investigator noted. “They in turn contacted the
C.I.A….AM/LASH (the C.I.A. cryptonym for the Cubela
operation) was proposed by J.F.K.”

On the morning of Kennedy’s death, FitzGerald attended a
meeting to put the finishing touches to another murderous
scheme, one promoted by Robert Kennedy. Those present
allegedly included future Watergate villains E. Howard Hunt
and James McCord – although Hunt, whose movements
that day have long been a contentious issue, claims he
attended no such meeting and was not handling Cuban
matters at the time. (McCord did not respond when we
attempted to reach him.) On the other hand, Harry Ruiz-
Williams, a Cuban exile whom the president’s brother had
taken into his confidence, admitted having been present.
Robert Kennedy had made favorites of a handful of exiles,
invited then to his home, and plotted mayhem with them.
One of these Cubans, while insisting on anonymity, told how
in 1963 another senior Castro official, not Cubela, agreed
that – for a large cash payment – he would organize the
violent overthrow of Castro and key colleagues. Robert
Kennedy arranged for a deposit to be paid into a foreign
bank, and by November 22 the operation was imminent.
Had the president’s assassination not intervened, the exile
go-between would have set off on a secret mission to
Havana. The coup, to be followed by American support,
was expected to occur within 10 days.

Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann, two Atlanta
researchers, have obtained corroboration of its existence
from U.S. military and government sources. Former
secretary of state Dean Rusk said he learned of the coup
operation after the president’s death.

Even so, in the weeks before Dallas, U.N. delegate William
Attwood was talking with his Cuban counterpart and a
Castro aide about a possible peace initiative. The last call
to Havana occurred at 2.00 a.m. on November 18 with
Castro listening in on an extension. All this was done with
the approval of President Kennedy, whose brother was
overseeing current plans for Castro’s removal. The height of
duplicity? “Oh, there’s no particular contradiction there,”
Dean Rusk told us. “It was just an either/or situation. That
went on frequently.” All the same, Rusk admitted that the
Kennedy’s were “playing with fire.”

Did Kennedy die in Dallas because a nonentity named
Oswald read about Castro’s retaliation threat in the
newspaper and took matters into his own hands? Or did
Castro learn that the Kennedys themselves were behind the
plots, and hit back just as he had said he would? Was
Oswald, wittingly or unwittingly, manipulated by Havana?

There is nothing in the Warren Report about plots to kill
Castro. Years later, when their existence was revealed,
some former Commission members were outraged, saying
the C.I.A. had kept them in the dark. According to Earl
Warren’s son and grandson, however, the chief justice did
know about the plots. The notion that Castro was behind
the assassination was taken seriously, so seriously that
Warren dispatched staff counsel William Coleman on a
secret mission. Coleman, who has spoken of the trip
privately, was closemouthed when we asked about it. “I
can’t talk,” he said. “It was top-secret.” Asked to confirm or
deny that he had met Castro, he said only, “No comment.”

What Coleman will say is that his mission helped convince
him that Castro had nothing to do with the president’s
death. The Warren Report, and that of the House
Assassinations Committee, took the same view. It would
have been suicidal folly for Castro to risk provoking a
devastating American revenge attack. It would have been
even greater insanity to use a known pro-Castro activist like
Oswald, whose involvement would point straight to Havana.

Nor does any serious observer suspect the Soviets were
involved. We talked in Moscow with Vladimir Semichastny,
who headed the K.G.B. while the alleged assassin lived in
the Soviet Union. “I can say from what I saw in the file,” he
told us, “that neither we nor the military ended up interested
in Oswald. Obviously he was questioned on behalf of the
K.G.B., though probably not directly. There was also the
possibility of him being an American agent, and of course
we had to watch him. If he had seemed of potential use to
us, we might have tried to use him. But he didn’t, and we

There is no evidence worth a damn to link Moscow to
Kennedy’s murder.

The most durable conspiracy theory is that the Mafia killed
the president. Believable memories tell us that the shiny
Kennedy political machine was oiled with dirty grease.
Kennedy dollars, in a rich man’s briefcase, handed by the
candidate to his mistress to carry on the night train to Sam
Giancana, the Mafia boss in Chicago; a million in Mob
dollars in a satchel, stashed in a Las Vegas hotel suite by
the candidate’s brother-in-law; the stench of corruption over
the razor-thin vote margin that gave Kennedy victory over
Richard Nixon; then, once Kennedy was in office, the
continued use of Giancana and Florida Mafia boss Santo
Trafficante in the plots to kill Castro.

The Mafia thought they had a deal, their help in exchange
for a complaisant Justice Department. But Attorney General
Robert Kennedy, “full of piss and vinegar,” as F.B.I. agents
who admired him used to say, moved to crush the very men
who thought they had earned an easy ride.

“He’ll get what he wants out of you,” an F.B.I. bug
overheard Giancana say of the president, “but you won’t
get anything out of him.” The Kennedy’s, Trafficante told an
associate in late 1962, were “not honest. They took graft
and they did not keep a bargain.”

“The Mob typically doesn’t hit prosecutors or politicians,”
said former Assassinations Committee chief counsel Robert
Blakey. “You are all right…just as long as you do not `sleep
with them,’ that is, you do not take favors, either money or
sex. Once the public official crosses the line, he invites
violent retribution.” Blakey believes that is what happened.
While his committee merely identified Trafficante and New
Orleans mobster Carlos Marcello as suspects, Blakey went
further. “The Mob did it,” he said. “It is a historical truth.”

It seemed that this truth was being hammered into place in
1994, with the publication of Mob Lawyer, the
autobiography of Frank Ragano, an attorney who long
represented Trafficante, Marcello, and crooked teamsters
leader Jimmy Hoffa. “Santo, Carlos, and Jimmy” often
spoke of their wish to see both Kennedy brothers dead,
wrote Ragano. In July 1963, he claimed, Hoffa dispatched
him to New Orleans to ask Trafficante and Marcello to kill
the president. The mobsters’ reaction, when he passed on
the message, led Ragano to think the idea “had already
seriously crossed their minds.” After the assassination, a
gleeful Hoffa allegedly exclaimed, “I told you they could do
it. I’ll never forget what Carlos and Santo did for me.”
Marcello supposedly said, “When you see Jimmy, you tell
him he owes me and he owes me big.”

According to Ragano, Santo Trafficante phoned on March
13, 1987, four days before his death, to request a meeting.
When the lawyer arrived to take him for a drive, the ailing
72-year-old shuffled to the car in pajamas and a terry-cloth
robe. Then, slumped in Ragano’s Mercedes-Benz, he talked
in Sicilian of the old days, old murders, and the Kennedy’s.

“That Bobby,” Ragano quoted the dying mobster as saying
“made life miserable for me and my friends…God damn
Bobby. Carlos e futtutu. Non duvevamu ammazzari a
Giovanni. Duvevamu ammazzari a Bobby.” (“Carlos
(Marcello) fucked up. We shouldn’t have killed John. We
should have killed Bobby.”) Trafficante did not elaborate,
and the lawyer said he did not ask him to. He worried for a
while after the mobster died, then confided in his wife, and
eventually went public. “I went over it with Ragano pretty
carefully,” chief counsel Blakey told us, “and my judgment
was that this was him simply remembering what happened.”

Trafficante’s widow, his two daughters, and several friends
and neighbors, however, say the March 13, 1987, meeting
never happened. Ragano claimed it occurred in Tampa, the
family’s traditional base and his own hometown. But
Trafficante had long since made his principal residence in
North Miami Beach, and according to the family he had not
visited Tampa since the Christmas holidays. He was so ill,
they insisted, what with heart disease, thrice-weekly
hospital visits to have kidney dialysis, and a permanent
colostomy bag, that travel had become a major

Ragano wrote in his book that he met Trafficante on the
afternoon of March 13. The time, he said, was about 1.30.
Yet Jean Amato, the widow of one of Trafficante’s close
associates, says she visited the Trafficantes at home in
North Miami Beach between noon and two pm. Jack Hodus,
a pharmacist, said he was there about six pm and other
accounts place the mobster in Miami for dinner. Even if only
Jean Amato has told the truth, Trafficante could not
possibly have been in Tampa, as Ragano claims, at 1.30

Ragano claimed he could respond with three witnesses of
his own, but declined to produce them unless the
Trafficantes tried to take him to court for libel. Meanwhile,
there is the medical evidence. The records of Miami’s
Mercy Hospital indicate the mobster was being treated in
the dialysis unit until 7.15 pm the previous day, and was
back in the unit by the afternoon of March 14. Dr. Felix
Locicero, Trafficante’s Tampa nephrologist, told us he knew
of no visit on March 13 and thought it “unlikely” the mobster
was in town.

Absent stronger evidence, Ragano’s account of the
Trafficante confession cannot be relied upon. Yet exposing
Ragano as a liar would not dispose of the “Mob dunnit”
”theory, nor of the notion that Trafficante and Carlos
Marcello played some part in Kennedy’s murder. “Mark my
word,” Trafficante is reported to have said to a close
associate in September 1962, “this man Kennedy is in
trouble, and he will get what is coming to him…He’s not
going to make it to the election. He is going to be hit.”

That same month, Trafficante’s friend Marcello was burning
with hatred, and had a special, personal reason to wish the
Kennedy’s removed from power. He was not a U.S. citizen,
and the president’s brother had used the fact to boot him
out of the country the previous year. Although now back in
New Orleans, Marcello remained under constant threat of

According to Ed Becker, a Californian entrepreneur,
Marcello became enraged during a business meeting. As
the whiskey flowed, he “clearly stated he was going to
arrange to have President Kennedy murdered.” As
“insurance” for the assassination, he spoke of “setting up a
nut to take the blame.”

Was Oswald that nut? Congress’ Assassinations
Committee noted that the alleged assassin’s childhood and
youth had been spent in New Orleans. Oswald’s mother’s
friends included a corrupt lawyer linked to Marcello’s crime
operation and a man who served Marcello as bodyguard
and chauffeur. One of Oswald’s uncles, John “Moose”
Murret, had been seen by police in Marcello’s company.
Another, Charles “Dutz” Murret, a bookie in the Marcello
gambling network, was a father figure for Oswald – whose
natural father had died before he was born. In the spring
and summer of 1963, when Oswald went back to New
Orleans, he at first stayed with the Murrets. When he got
arrested, after getting into a brawl with Cuban exiles while
passing out pro-Castro leaflets, it was the Murrets who
organized bail. The man they asked to arrange it was close
to one of Marcello’s oldest friends, Nofio Pecora, Pecora’s
New Orleans office number, phone records show, was
called three weeks before the assassination by Jack Ruby.

The Warren Commission misled the American public by
describing Ruby as a “moody and unstable” character with
no significant link to organized crime. The later
congressional probe established that he did have multiple
underworld connections. His bosom pal, Lewis McWillie,
had worked in Trafficante’s Cuban gambling operation in the
Batista days and Ruby reportedly visited Trafficante when
he was detained in Havana after the revolution.

Provocative stuff, but is does not prove the Mafia killed
Kennedy. Another strand of evidence, one that at first
appears to point to the Mob, may lead to a more complex
truth. Right after the assassination, acting on a tip, New
Orleans law-enforcement authorities took a brief interest in
David Ferrie, then employed by the legal team working to
thwart the renewed Kennedy effort to deport Carlos
Marcello. He was released after cursory questioning, and
his name does not even appear in the Warren Report. It

After decades of debate as to whether Ferrie ever met
Oswald, an old photograph surfaced in the nineties that
appeared to settle the matter. Apparently taken in 1955,
when the alleged assassin was a teenage member of the
Civil Air Patrol, it shows C.A.P. cadets at a cookout.
Former cadets, one of whom is himself in the picture, said
they recognized both Oswald and Ferrie, who was a C.A.P.
instructor, in the photograph. Jerry Paradis, also a former
instructor, told us, “They were undoubtedly in that unit
together. I was a lieutenant coinciding with the months
Oswald was a recruit…I recall him as a very quiet, serious
young man…David Ferrie was sort of the scoutmaster.”

Ferrie, then a 37-year-old pilot for Eastern Air Lines, was a
right-wing zealot and a homosexual with a predilection for
teenage boys. Some fellow Marines wondered about the
sexuality of Oswald himself. He reportedly took friends to
the Flamingo, a gay bar on the Mexican border that he
appeared to have visited before. In Japan, he seemed
comfortable in a “queer bar.”

According to his mother, Oswald was encouraged to join
the Marines by a “recruiting officer” in uniform who had
“influenced (him) while he was with the Civil Air Cadets
(sic).” She said the man came to the Oswald apartment to
try to persuade her to let the boy join up while still under-
age. It seems unlikely that a genuine Marine recruiting
officer would have tried to persuade a cadet’s mother to
break the law. Ferrie, on the other hand, regularly urged his
charges to join the armed forces. He was also no stranger
to the fakery of personal documents, including his own
application form to join Eastern Air Lines and, years later, a
phony birth certificate for mobster Carlos Marcello.

Although the Marines spotted the forgery, and did not allow
Oswald to join up until he turned 17, a fake birth certificate
had been created for him, apparently with some help from a
lawyer linked to Marcello. In 1960, after Oswald’s defection
to the Soviet Union, there was such a flap at the F.B.I. over
the whereabouts of Oswald’s genuine birth certificate that
J. Edgar Hoover alerted the State Department to the
“possibility that an impostor is using Oswald’s birth

The F.B.I., the State Department, and the Office of Naval
Intelligence resumed exchanging reports referring to the
certificate when Oswald returned from Russia without it,
and it never did turn up. “I don’t know where the impostor
notion would have led us,” former Warren Commission
counsel W. David Slawson has said, “but the point is, we
didn’t know about it, and why not?…It conceivably could
have been something related to the C.I.A.”

The C.I.A.? From here on we tiptoe from stepping-stone to
stepping-stone across a quagmire, and the trail does not
lead only to the Mafia.

In 1955 and ’56, the teenage Oswald worked as a
messenger for Gerard Tujague’s Forwarding Company. In
1961, a few months after Hoover wrote his “impostor”
memo, an American and a Cuban exile negotiated to buy 10
Ford pickup trucks from a dealer in New Orleans. The
dealer remembered the incident after the assassination,
dug out the sales slip, and found that his memory was not
playing tricks.

One of the prospective truck purchasers named on the form
was “Oswald,” listed as representing the Friends of
Democratic Cuba. This was an anti-Castro group, and the
truck negotiation occurred during the buildup to the C.I.A.-
backed Bay of Pigs invasion. While the real, apparently pro-
Communist Oswald was far away in the Soviet Union,
someone of the opposite political persuasion may have
been using his name in the United States. A leading
member of the Friends of Democratic Cuba was Oswald’s
onetime employer, Gerard Tujague.

Another luminary of the group was Guy Banister, a former
senior F.B.I. agent who had retired, suffering from a serious
brain disorder. He was a member of the paramilitary
Minutemen organization and a disciple of myriad extreme
right-wing causes. In 1963 Banister headed a New Orleans
detective agency, in offices that served as a crossroads for
anti-Castro exiles. Recent tenants of the building had
included the Cuban Revolutionary Council, the umbrella
group created by the C.I.A.

Some of the pro-Castro literature in Oswald’s possession
that summer, produced by the Fair Play for Cuba
Committee, was stamped with the address of the premises
that housed Banister’s operation – “544 Camp St.” Three
people who worked there said later they saw Oswald in
Banister’s offices. Banister’s secretary and lover, Delphine
Roberts, made detailed allegations. She said that her boss
and Oswald appeared to know each other, and that she
had the impression Oswald was working for Banister
“undercover.” “Don’t worry,” Banister told her when she
voiced amazement at Oswald, with his pro-Castro
propaganda, being in such improbable company. “He’s with

One of Banister’s closest associates, in 1963, was
Oswald’s old C.A.P. acquaintance David Ferrie, also an
anti-Castro activist. Both men helped Mafia boss Marcello
in his fight against deportation. After the assassination, one
of Marcello’s lawyers went to Ferrie’s home to say Oswald
had been carrying Ferrie’s library card when he was
arrested. Nothing in the record confirms that such a card
was found on Oswald. Yet Oswald’s former New Orleans
landlady and a neighbor said Ferrie visited them, too,
asking about a library card. The landlady told us he seemed
frantic. He also asked one of his former Civil Air Patrol
cadets whether Oswald featured in old photographs of his
C.A.P. unit.

Ferrie, Banister, and the Camp Street connection draw one
away from suspicion of the Mafia alone, first to the notion
that anti-Castro exiles may have been involved, then to the
abhorrent possibility that some of their mentors in American
intelligence conspired with them.

For many of the quarter of a million dispossessed exiles
and their supporters, the name Kennedy was synonymous
with betrayal. Betrayal in failing to provide more American
backup at the Bay of Pigs invasion, betrayal in resolving the
missile crisis with a settlement that left Castro more
entrenched than ever. Such critics did not believe the
president’s promise that he would one day celebrate victory
with them in a free Havana. They were furious when, in the
spring of 1963, Kennedy ruled out the use of U.S. troops
and clamped down on unauthorized commando raids.

Ferrie had made an anti-Kennedy speech after the Bay of
Pigs, a speech so vitriolic that he was asked to leave the
podium. He had also been heard to say, “The president
ought to be shot.” Congress’ Assassinations Committee
was troubled by something a Cuban exile, Homer
Echevarria, was reported to have said while negotiating an
arms purchase in Chicago. The money for the guns would
come through shortly, he promised, “as soon as we take
care of Kennedy.” The date was November 21, 1963.

The following afternoon in Washington, probably about two
hours after hearing that his brother was dead, Robert
Kennedy placed a call to the Ebbitt Hotel on H Street NW, a
non-descript place the C.I.A. used to lodge visiting exiles.
He apparently spoke first with his Cuban protégé, Harry
Ruiz-Williams, just back from the meeting with C.I.A.
officials he was to recall as “the most important I ever had
on the problem of Cuba.” Then he asked Williams to pass
the phone to the man with him in the room, the journalist
Haynes Johnson. Johnson, Kennedy knew, was close to the
leading C.I.A.-backed exiles, “Robert Kennedy was utterly
in control of his emotions when he came on the line,”
Johnson recalled, “and sounded almost studiedly brisk as
he said, `One of your guys did it.’”

Kennedy was later to voice the suspicion that an element in
the C.I.A. was responsible. “At the time,” he was to tell his
aide Walter Sheridan, “I asked (C.I.A. director) McCone…
if they had killed my brother, and I asked him in a way that
he couldn’t lie to me, and they hadn’t.”

But McCone was a Kennedy appointee, and he had been
kept out of the loop by some of those handling the dark side
of anti-Castro operations. In pursuit of the Kennedy’s own
goal, the overthrow of Castro, some C.I.A. officers had
been rubbing shoulders with mobsters and passionately
committed exiles for too long, and had come to share the
resentment toward the Kennedy’s. Several had been
downright insubordinate.

There had been Gerry Droller, the C.I.A. director of
operations at the Bay of Pigs, inciting exile leaders to
pretend to imprison him and his colleagues and then “go
ahead with the program” if the administration tried to block
the invasion. There had been William Harvey, the gun-toting
operations coordinator, once introduced to President
Kennedy as a real-life 007. He was infuriated by Robert
Kennedy’s attempts to micro-manage the secret war from
Washington. Harvey referred to the attorney general as
“that fucker,” and to the Kennedy brothers as “fags.”

Things came to a head during the most perilous moment of
the missile crisis, when Bobby learned Harvey had sent
several commando teams into Cuba. Harvey was removed
from his Cuba job soon after, then sidelined to a posting in
Rome. Congressional investigators have reeled off a string
of possible reasons to suspect Harvey in the Kennedy
assassination: He hated the Kennedys. He created the
C.I.A.’s contingency plan for assassination. He selected
criminals qualified for such work, and paid them out of
C.I.A. funds. In the course of plotting to murder Castro, he
head become close to the mobster Johnny Roselli, who in
turn ran with Santo Trafficante, a primary suspect.

A torrent of prejudicial information about Oswald started to
flow within hours of the assassination. Its purpose was to
link Castro’s Cuba with the alleged assassin, and it seems
to track back time and again to U.S. intelligence or the
exiles. Shortly after the wire services identified Oswald as
the suspect, a Florida reporter named Hal Hendrix offered
colleagues a detailed brief on Oswald the pro-Castro leftist.
Hendrix has said that he did not recall doing so, but a
reporter’s contemporaneous notes indicate that he did.
Hendrix, known to his colleagues as “the Spook,” worked
closely with the C.I.A. station in Miami.

Around the same time, in New Orleans, a Cuban exile
named Alberto Fowler reportedly phoned Washington with
similar details. He asked that NBC be advised that Oswald
had been filmed passing out pro-Castro leaflets. Fowler
would shortly join the board of a right-wing propaganda
outfit called INCA, the Information Council of the Americas.
INCA’s director, Edward Butler, had that summer debated
Oswald on the radio, drawing attention to his Communist
leanings. “Butler,” says a 1970 C.I.A. document, “has
always welcomed an opportunity to assist the C.I.A.”
INCA’s chairman, Alton Ochsner, funded a newsletter
edited by a longtime C.I.A. operative, William Gaudet.
Gaudet’s name appears next to Oswald’s on the list of
permit numbers relating to his trip to Mexico.

According to the late Clare Boothe Luce, wife of the
founder of Time magazine and an ardent supporter of the
exile cause, she too received a call late on the 22nd. It was
one of her “Cuban boys,” ringing with more background on
Oswald, “the hired gun of a Cuban Communist
assassination team.” The caller referred to Oswald’s recent
travel to Mexico – a fact that did not become public
knowledge until 48 hours later, but that was already known
to U.S. intelligence. Was this merely exploitation after the
fact? Perhaps not.

A prominent anti-Castro propagandist in Mexico, Eduardo
Borrell, spread word that Oswald, during his visit to Mexico
City, had had a lengthy private meeting with the Cuban
ambassador. Borrell told us that his main source for the
lead, an exile with links to U.S. intelligence, gave him the
information several weeks before the assassination.

A number of these yarns had a common thread, that
Oswald had boasted he was a marksman with a yen to
shoot either Castro or Kennedy. That allegation had first
been seeded in Dallas, on the even of the Mexico trip, when
two Latins and an American paid an impromptu visit to the
apartment of a young exile named Silvia Odio. Two months
later, when Odio and her sister saw the television pictures
of Oswald, they at once recognized him as the American in
the group. Odio says she has never forgotten the phone call
she received after the visit from one of the two Latins. He
had told her, with heavy emphasis, that “Leon Oswald” was
an ex-Marine, an expert marksman who said President
Kennedy should be shot.

It looked then, Odio said, as though the incident was part of
“some kind of scheme or plot.” Her story troubled the
Warren Commission chief counsel enough for him to press
the F.B.I. to prove or disprove her veracity. J. Edgar
Hoover obliged, just three days before the report was
delivered to the White House, saying his agents had found a
man who admitted to having visited Odio, along with two
companions, one of whom resembled Oswald, at the
relevant time.

On that basis, the Warren Report included a last-minute
note implying that the Odio episode was a case of mistaken
identity. Yet the F.B.I. at first withheld from the Commission
the fact that, faced with denials by his companions that they
had ever met Silvia Odio, the convenient witness had
recanted his story. And after the F.B.I. had belatedly come
clean – when the Warren Report had gone to press – the
Commission in turn failed to publish the information in its
volumes of evidence. Years later, the House Assassinations
Committee would describe the problem witness’s story as
having been “an admitted fabrication.” A closer look at that
witness takes us down a disquieting trail.

He was Loran Hall, alias Lorenzo Pascillo, a 33-year-old
former army sergeant who had reportedly been trained in
counterintelligence. In 1959, Hall had gone to Havana to
work in the casino of the Capri Hotel, controlled by Mafia
boss Trafficante. According to Hall, he shared a Quonset
hut with Trafficante when they were confined in a Castro
detention camp. Notes of Hall’s interviews with
congressional investigators, released lat year, indicate that
the C.I.A. contacted him the day after his release and
repatriation. A C.I.A. document says Hall was of interest
only “for debriefing.” In 1989, however, his son said in court
testimony that his father remained a C.I.A. operative for
many years.

In 1963, Hall was embroiled in the secret war against Fidel
Castro, training commandos and running guns. He said he
encountered Santo Trafficante again, at a meeting in Miami
that spring, and was asked to take part in one of the C.I.A.
Mafia operations against Castro. While the true purpose of
the mission remains in doubt, the record shows that it was
launched with C.I.A. support and had a C.I.A. code name,
Operation Tilt. Hall did not in the end take part in the
operation, which was lucky for him. Of the 10 commandos
who were landed on the Cuban coast, not one returned

In 1977, during the House Assassinations Committee
inquiry, Hall testified only with reluctance, and on condition
of immunity from prosecution. “As it stands right now,” he
explained in a taped interview that year, “there’s only two of
us left alive – that’s me and Santo Trafficante. And as far
as I am concerned we’re both going to stay alive – because
I ain’t gonna say shit.”

In a sense, though, Hall spoke volumes. What we now know
about Operation Tilt not only indicates a link between Hall
and the machinations of the C.I.A. and Santo Trafficante. It
brings into focus another player, a man who – we learned
from four witnesses – claimed to have personal knowledge
of what happened in Dallas.

The man who took him to meet Trafficante in 1963, Hall told
the committee, was an electronics expert named John
Martino. Martino, then 52, came on like a gangster without
ever quite being identified as one. In 1959, after decades in
the slot-machine rackets and a spell running surveillance at
a Trafficante casino in Havana, Martino had been
imprisoned by Castro. Although the Cubans charged him
with trying to smuggle out a counterrevolutionary, Martino
said that his principal mission had been to liberate gambling
cash left behind by Trafficante. When he emerged from jail
in 1962, white-haired and emaciated, he threw himself into
the fight against Castro.

An early F.B.I. report tags Martino as Trafficante’s “close
friend,” and the mobster was seen at his home in the mid-
60s. It is also clear, from C.I.A. documents and from
interviews with his widow and son, that Martino had
contacts with the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. William “Rip”
Robertson, a C.I.A. agent who had defied presidential
orders by going ashore at the Bay of Pigs, was a familiar
face at his home. Martino was in touch with former U.S.
ambassador William Pawley, a champion of the exiles,
whose C.I.A. file shows he was hand in glove with the
Agency’s highest officials. Martino worked closely with
Trafficante’s liaison with the C.I.A., John Roselli, and took
part in at least one of the plots to kill Castro. And
reportedly, by his own account, in a successful plot to kill
the president of the United States.

After the assassination, Martino would be one of the
noisiest of those alleging that Castro had had Kennedy
killed. Reminded of that in private years later, he would
chuckle and say that had been just a propaganda line –
Kennedy had been killed by murderers of a different hue.

We found John Martino’s widow, Florence, aged 80, living in
the Miami Beach home she and her husband bought in the
50s. Her eldest surviving child, Edward, was using an
adjoining apartment. Both had vivid memories of November
22, 1963. “John insisted he wanted to paint the breakfast
room,” Florence recalled. “We were supposed to go out to
the Americana for lunch…But it was on the radio about (the
visit to) Dallas…We were talking about President Kennedy.
And he said, `Flo, they’re going to kill him. They are going
to kill him when he gets to Texas.’” Florence questioned her
husband briefly, got no meaningful response, and went out
for a while. She was home again by the time Edward, 17 at
the time, heard the news of the assassination on television.
“When I called them in,” he remembered, “my father went
white as a sheet. But it wasn’t like `Gee whiz’; it was more
like confirmation.” Florence remembered, “He got I don’t
know how many calls from Texas. I don’t know who called
him, but he was one the phone, on the phone, one the

In the course of the publicity that accompanied his release
from jail in Cuba, Martino had met several times with a
young Newsday reporter, John Cummings. After the
assassination, Cummings began calling his contacts in the
anti-Castro movement, including Martino. “He said then,”
Cummings told us, “that there had been two guns, two
people involved…Later, when I asked if anti-Castro Cubans
were involved, he said `That’s right.’ But very often with
Martino, you knew there wasn’t any point in asking more.”

Cummings went on to become an award-winning reporter,
and stayed in occasional touch with Martino until his death
in 1975. “I called him in the spring,” Cummings said, “and he
told me he was ailing, and I went to see him. And he came
out with a mea culpa about J.F.K. He told me he’d been
part of the assassination of Kennedy. He wasn’t in Dallas
pulling a trigger, but he was involved. He implied that his
role was delivering money, facilitating things…He asked me
not to write it while he was alive.”

That same year, Martino talked with a business partner
name Fred Claasen. “Martino said Oswald wasn’t the hit
man,” Claasen said. “He told me, `The anti-Castro types put
Oswald together…Oswald didn’t know who he was working
for…He was to meet his contact at the Texas Theater (the
movie house where he was arrested)…They were to meet
Oswald in the theater and get him out of the country, then
eliminate him. Oswald made a mistake. There was no way
we could get to him. They had Ruby kill him.’”

Martino let drop two things to his wife after the
assassination. He told her, “When they went to the theater
and got Oswald, they blew it…There was a Cuban in there.
They let him come out.” He said, “They let the guy go, the
other trigger.”

Some two months before the assassination, Florence
Martino said, a “man from Washington, tall and large…in a
dark suit, like from the State Department,” had brought a
young Cuban to the house. Later, her husband would ask
her, “Flo, do you remember that good-looking kid that was
sitting on the couch? He was involved…He was one of
them.” A month after we taped Florence Martino’s
interview, she died.

The last time he met reporter Cummings, John Martino
made an astonishing claim. “It came out of the blue,”
Cummings recalled. “John told me he had himself met
Oswald several weeks before the assassination, in Miami.
He said an F.B.I. agent named Connors asked him to come
to a boat docked in Biscayne Bay, and introduced him to
Oswald by name. The impression John got was that
Oswald didn’t know his ass from his elbow, didn’t know
what he was involved in. He thought the agent wanted him
to meet Oswald because John was involved in anti
Communist activity, and Oswald was someone this agent
was running.”

We were not able to trace a Miami agent called Connors
answering the description provided by Cummings. F.B.I.
files show Martino did have contacts after the assassination
with an agent named James J. O’Connor, whom we tracked
down in retirement. “John Martino?” he said. “I’m afraid all I
can tell you is, yes, the name rings a bell…I don’t recall that
he was a regular contact.” O’Connor said he cannot recall
whether he was in touch with Martino before the
assassination. He said he never met Oswald at any time.

Cummings, an investigative reporter for more that 30 years,
did not think the Martino allegation was just a crook’s slur
against a law-enforcement officer. “I believed Martino,” he
said, “It came across, just before he died, like a
confessional. I was told that Connors, the agent he named,
was in Counter Intelligence.”

Several pages that refer to Martino were withdrawn from
the Kennedy-assassination collection at the National
Archives, at the insistence of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I.

The Martino episode raises grave questions about the
F.B.I., as does the Sylvia Odio story – one that strongly
suggested Oswald was being set up. Why did the Bureau
tell the Warren Commission that Odio’s testimony had an
innocuous explanation, when it knew the sole witness
statement to that effect – Loran Hall’s – was a fabrication?

Former agent Harry Whidbee, whose reports on the case
included the news that Hall and retracted, told us the
Kennedy investigation was “a hurry-up job…We were
effectively told, `They’re only going to prove (Oswald) was
the guy who did it. There were no co-conspirators, and
there was no international conspiracy.`…I had conducted a
couple of interviews, and those records were sent back
again and were rewritten according to Washington’s

“Within days,” said former F.B.I. supervisor Laurence
Keenan, “we could say the investigation was over.
`Conspiracy` was a word which was verboten…The idea
that Oswald had a confederate or was part of a group or a
conspiracy was definitely enough to place a man’s career in
jeopardy…Looking back, I feel a certain amount of shame.
This one investigation disgraced a great organization.”

According to an aide, Warren Commission member Hale
Boggs, thought F.B.I. director Hoover himself “lied his eyes
out to the Commission – on Oswald, on Ruby, on their
friends, the bullets, the gun, you name it.” Since the Mafia
may have had a hand in the assassination – and knowing as
we now do how Hoover long failed to pursue organized
crime, hobnobbed with Mob associates, and feuded with
the Kennedy brothers – some suspect the F.B.I. chief of
personal complicity. Yet Hoover’s watchword, for half a
century, was “Don’t Embarrass the Bureau,” and Oswald
may simply have been the ultimate embarrassment.

“There’s not much question,” said Congressman Don
Edwards, after chairing House committee hearings in 1975,
“that both the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. are somewhere behind
this cover-up. I hate to think what it is they are covering up
– or who they are covering for.” Edwards is himself a
former F.B.I. agent. Long after his work on the Commission
was done. Senator Richard Russell said simply, “We have
not been told the truth about Oswald.”

The C.I.A. gave the Warren Commission a solemn
assurance that Oswald had never been its agent or
informant. Internal correspondence, however, shows that
officials wanted the denial to be carefully phrased. Former
C.I.A. director Allen Dulles, who served on the Commission,
told his colleagues an Agency official might well not admit
that someone had been an agent, even under oath.

Some wonder whether U.S. intelligence was able to
pressure Oswald into service because he had committed
some crime during his Marine service, or because he had
homosexual leanings. Was his defection to the Soviet Union,
following service on a top-secret U-2 spy base, a genuine
defection? Or was Oswald a low-level tool in a Cold War
intelligence operation? Why was there no “damage
assessment” conducted by the navy, and why did the
Passport Office post no “look-out card” following Oswald’s
defection in 1959? How come his estimated expenditures
en route to Moscow exceeded his known funds? And we
discovered a new oddity.

The official story has it that when Oswald defected he went
to the American Embassy in Moscow only once, visiting only
the consular office on the ground floor. Yet the widow of the
assistant naval attaché, Joan Hallett, who worked as a
receptionist at the embassy, said Consul Richard Snyder
and the security officer “took him upstairs to the working
floors, a secure area where the Ambassador and the
political, economic, and military officers were. A visitor
would never get up there unless he was on official business.
I was never up there.” According to Hallett, Oswald came
to the embassy “several times” in 1959.

Congress’ Assassinations Committee was “extremely
troubled” by the fact that the C.I.A., which had previously
employed Consul Snyder, was “unable to explain” a
reference in his Agency file to “cover.”

While in Moscow, Oswald was interviewed by Priscilla
Johnson McMillan, a reporter for the North American
Newspaper Alliance, who had been asked by one of
Snyder’s colleagues to “help us in communicating with
him…” After the assassination, in the United States,
McMillan had early access to Oswald’s widow and later
wrote a book pinning the crime on Oswald. The House
committee concluded that McMillan had “no clandestine
relationship” with the C.I.A. In a batch of C.I.A. documents
released since then, she is listed as a “Witting Collaborator
OI code A1” in 1975, not long before her Oswald book was

“My bottom line,” McMillan told us, “is that I never worked
for the C.I.A….I don’t know what was in the mind of the
person who put me down as a Witting Collaborator…(In
Moscow) I had no way of knowing who in the American
Embassy, say, worked for the C.I.A. and who didn’t.” Other
documents show that the Agency saw McMillan as “a
promising source” in 1956, and made repeated contact with
her in the years that followed. A high-level F.B.I. document,
dated the day after the assassination, cites a State
Department security officer as saying McMillan’s contact
with Oswald had been “official business.”

For three decades, as the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. reluctantly
disgorged first a trickle and then a flood of documents on
Oswald, researchers have stared at code numbers,
cryptonyms, and marginalia with untrained eyes. Now an
unlikely champion has arrived to lead them by the hand.
Until his retirement in the mid-nineties, John Newman was a
major in U.S. Army Intelligence. He is not free to discuss
precisely what he has been doing for the past two decades,
except to say that it involved intelligence analysis and a stint
at the highest levels of the National Security Agency.
Newman is also a trained historian and the author of a book
on the relationship between the C.I.A. and Lee Harvey

“In a sense,” said Newman, “it doesn’t matter to me who
killed Kennedy. What matters to me is whether we’re told
the truth about it today. If you study recent American
history, the lies about Vietnam, Watergate, and on and on,
and see the level of cynicism and malaise that’s grown up,
it’s frightening.” “What I can do that people without my
background never could,” the former intelligence officer
asserted, “is to interpret these things, work out how many
people saw a report, how often, when, and why. I can peer
into the minds of the people who handled Oswald’s files.”

To Newman, it looks as though the C.I.A. has been lying
about Oswald for more than 30 years. The cable that
flashed from Moscow to Washington immediately after
Oswald’s defection said he had told embassy officials that
Oswald who worked on a spy-plane base had admitted he
was a traitor. Yet we are asked to believe that the C.I.A.
did not open a 201 file – a file in its central records system
– on Oswald until more than a year later.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist,” Newman told us, “to
understand that the Agency’s attempts to explain this do not
wash. I have found hard documentary evidence that other
files were opened on Oswald immediately, files that were
very, very sensitive. The alarm bells were ringing, but then
somebody pulled the switch. I have senior Agency
personnel on the record on this one. This is a configuration
consistent either with Oswald being the object of a sensitive
intelligence investigation or with Oswald as an intelligence

Newman believes he has exploded the C.I.A.’s assurance to
the Warren Commission that it never interviewed Oswald or
communicated with him “directly or in any other manner.” He
points to a memo written three days after the assassination
by an officer identified only as “T.B.C.,” the chief of SR6 in
the Soviet Russia Division, in which he recalled having
discussed “the laying on of interview(s) through the
[Domestic Contacts Division] or other suitable channels.”

While poring over records at the National Archives, Newman
found a scrawled note on a C.I.A. document that read,
“Andy Anderson OO on Oswald.” “OO” was the office
symbol for the C.I.A.’s Domestic Contacts Division, and
would seem to refer to a debriefing of Oswald, on his return
from the Soviet Union, by a D.C.D. officer called Andy
Anderson. The former deputy chief of the division said that
the C.I.A. did debrief Oswald. A former D.C.D. officer,
Donald Deneselya, recalled reading such a debriefing report
“”four or five pages in length.”

Newman notes that the SR6, the department headed by
“T.B.C.,” was also known as the Soviet Realities Branch,
which among other things, was responsible for “painting” –
spy jargon for creating “legends” for – “sleeper” agents in
the Soviet Union. The document bearing the scribble about
the Oswald debriefing is a memorandum from CI/SIG, the
mole-hunting unit in C.I.A. Counter-Intelligence.

It is not the debriefing itself, though, that concerns Newman.
“That was their job. It’s something they had every right to
do. The Agency would not lie to cover for something that
wouldn’t get them in trouble anyway. The denial that they
had any interest in Oswald is a big billboard saying there’s
something else. The denial is part of a broader lie…There’s
an unexplained anomaly, and among the questions it poses
is whether or not the Agency had an association with

In the shadows of Oswald’s life back in the United States
flicker hints of a relationship with the C.I.A. Oswald’s friend
and mentor until the spring of 1963 was Russian émigré
named George de Mohrenschildt. He later claimed he was
cleared to associate with Oswald by a D.C.D. agent. A
senior C.I.A. officer, Frank Hand, told a colleague that the
Agency had placed a “control agent” – not de Mohrenschildt
– close to Oswald and his wife to monitor their activities.
Hand, the file shows, was involved in a high-level discussion
of the plots to kill Castro.

A prominent Cuban exile leader, Antonio Veciana, says he
encountered Oswald in the company of the exile’s U.S.
case officer – whom he believed to be C.I.A. – in late
summer of 1963. According to Veciana, the case officer
was deeply involved in anti-Castro operations and fiercely
critical of President Kennedy.

When Oswald went to Mexico, seven weeks before the
assassination, his visits to the Soviet and Cuban Embassies
were picked up by C.I.A. surveillance. A long withheld
congressional report quotes several former Agency officers,
including the 1963 Mexico station chief, Winston Scott, as
saying that C.I.A. cameras got pictures of Oswald during
these visits. Why, then, has the Agency never produced
such photographs, not even for the Warren Commission?

The C.I.A. has acknowledged that tape recordings, the
harvest of telephone taps, were made of conversations
Oswald apparently had with employees at the Communist
embassies. They claim these tapes were routinely
destroyed before the assassination. Yet a senior officer
who served in Mexico at the time told us they existed after
November 22. Former Warren Commission lawyers William
Coleman and David Slawson tell us they heard such tapes,
courtesy of the C.I.A., months after the assassination. If so,
where are the tapes now?

John Newman found buried treasure in the files on the
Mexico visit. He discovered a sin of omission, a gap in the
record where it should chronicle the central theme of
Oswald’s life before the assassination – the Cuba
connection. “This is one of the more sensitive pieces,” said
Newman, “an enormous internal lie by the Agency about
Oswald. Mexico is part of a larger pattern, the withholding
of information within the C.I.A. itself. It’s premeditated, not
accidental, and I can prove it. Some of the C.I.A.
employees involved are alive. What we have here is a major
problem for the C.I.A.” “I’m now certain,” Newman went on,
“that Oswald was the center of attention of many people in
the C.I.A. – he was either part of an operation or an
operation was built around him.”

In the C.I.A. releases, we found a revealing batch of papers
dated two years before the assassination. They reflect
liaison between the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. on penetration of
the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, the pro-Castro group to
which Oswald would proclaim an affiliation in 1963. And
they reveal that the C.I.A. side of the operation was
directed by a Western Hemisphere Division officer, “Dave
Phillips” of “C/WH/4/Propaganda.”

David Phillips, who rose to become head of the division, has
long been a controversial figure in the assassination story.
He was in charge of anti-Castro operations in Mexico in late
1963, and would one day run into trouble with Congress’
Assassinations Committee. Chief counsel Blakey later said
dryly that the committee had been “less than satisfied with
his candor.”

A former C.I.A. Clandestine Services officer who worked
with Phillips, Joseph Smith, told us that the Agency’s
attitude toward the Fair Play for Cuba Committee – the
F.P.C.C. – was “one of great hostility…We did everything
we could to make sure it was not successful – to smear it
and I think to penetrate it. I think Oswald may have been
part of a penetration attempt.”

Members of the F.P.C.C. wondered constantly whether
their colleagues were government stool pigeons. One
former New Jersey member, Hal Verb, recalled that
suspicion even fell on one of the group’s founding directors,
a CBS Radio journalist named Richard T. Gibson. While
Gibson has staunchly denied any disloyalty, recently
released C.I.A. documents include a letter in which – more
than a decade later – the Agency formally asked a
commercial company “to assist C.I.A. by placing on retainer
Mr. Richard T. Gibson.” “How would that have come out?
…,” said Gibson, when we told him about the document,
“I’m amazed. It sounds a little bit like disinformation to me.”
He suggested that the letter might be about a different man
with the same name and middle initial.

The C.I.A. and the F.B.I. were turning screws on the
F.P.C.C. in the weeks before the assassination. The
group’s New York office had been burgled in April 1963,
and again in October. Oswald wrote a string of letters to
the F.P.C.C. that year, and the file show the F.B.I. read or
copied at least two of them. Oswald was busily involved in
Fair Play for Cuba activity in 1963.

On September 16, 1963, the C.I.A. advised the F.B.I. that it
was “giving some consideration to countering the activities
of (the F.P.C.C.) in foreign countries,” and to “planting
deceptive information which might embarrass the
Committee.” The day after the message went to the
Bureau, Oswald applied for a tourist card to visit Mexico –
there to flaunt his F.P.C.C. membership at the Cuban

Like the C.I.A., the F.B.I. solemnly assured the Warren
Commission that Oswald had never acted for the Bureau “in
any capacity.” J. Edgar Hoover said every agent who would
have had knowledge of a recruitment attempt had signed an
affidavit saying it never happened. Two agents who had
been involved in pre-assassination inquiries into Oswald’s
activity in New Orleans, however, signed no such affidavit.
One of them, Milton Kaack, became apoplectic when we
contacted him in retirement years later. He cried, “No,
No…You won’t get anything out of me.” And hung up.

As with the C.I.A., rumors of an Oswald link have hung
around the F.B.I. like smoke on a windless day. A story that
the alleged assassin was a paid informant, with a payroll
number, was one of the first problems faced by the Warren
Commission. We tracked down a former F.B.I. informant
who says he learned Oswald was indeed used by the F.B.I.
in New Orleans. Joseph Burton, now running a modest
locksmith’s business in Plant City, Florida, told us he was
employed for two years in the early 70s to pose as a
Marxist and infiltrate radical groups. Sometimes he was
accompanied by a woman from New Orleans, also a F.B.I.
asset. The Bureau has admitted that Burton was “a valuable
and reliable source” and was paid for his services. A senior
official confirmed to The New York Times that the woman,
whose name was not revealed, performed missions abroad
for the F.B.I.

“I did several trips with her,” Burton maintained, “and she
said she and her husband – they were both working for the
Bureau – knew Oswald had been connected with the F.B.I.,
in the New Orleans office. Her Bureau contact, she said,
told her Oswald had been an informant…I talked about
Oswald with the agent I usually met with in New Orleans.
And he said, `Oh, we owned him,` or something to that
effect. They always used that statement if they were paying
someone to cooperate with them.”

Dallas journalists Ray and Mary La Fontaine have
suggested an astonishing scenario. Drawing on interviews
and previously hidden records, they presented evidence
which, if valid, indicates that Oswald knew Jack Ruby
before the assassination. Shortly after his arrest on
November 22 – before Ruby’s name was linked to the
assassination story in any way – Oswald reportedly told a
cellmate he and Ruby had been present a few days earlier
at a meeting in a motel. The discussion at the meeting had
been about guns and money.

The reporters’ research reveals that in November 1963,
F.B.I. agents and agents of the I.R.S.’s Division of Alcohol
and Tobacco Tax were indeed involved – though working on
separate agendas – in investigating a weapons-trafficking
network linked to impending exile operations against
Castro’s Cuba. Jack Ruby’s auto mechanic, Donnell
Whitter, was arrested in possession of stolen weapons just
four days before the assassination.

The La Fontaines also noted that one of the agents on the
gunrunning case, James Hosty, twice visited Oswald’s wife,
inquiring about him, in November 1963. Was there
something about those visits and that agent’s role, that the
F.B.I. wanted to hide?

When the Bureau typed up the alleged assassin’s
handwritten address book and sent it to the Warren
Commission, it omitted the name, address, and the license
number of James Hosty. And there was something else,
something horrendous, which did not come to light until
1975. Two weeks before the assassination, Oswald had
gone to the Dallas office of the F.B.I. and delivered a note,
addressed to Hosty. We shall never know what it said,
because – probably acting on orders relayed from J. Edgar
Hover himself – Hosty flushed it down the toilet hours after
Ruby shot Oswald.

Hosty testified that he never met Oswald. We obtained a
copy of an affidavit given to the Senate Intelligence
Committee by a former agent who once worked with Hosty,
Carver Gayton. According to Gayton, Hosty told him he had
“listed Oswald as a P.S.I. (Potential Security Informant),”
although – Hosty said – he had never met him. The F.B.I.
has admitted that another agent, Charles Flynn, tried to
develop Jack Ruby as a P.C.I. (Potential Criminal
Informant) four years before the assassination, and met
with him nine times in a period during which Ruby made
several visits to Cuba.

“Everyone will know who I am now,” Lee Oswald is said to
have remarked under interrogation. Yet, 38 years on, we
still cannot be sure who he really was. Eight months after
Dallas, J. Edgar Hoover was asked privately whether
Oswald had really been the assassin. “If I told you what I
really know,” he replied, “it would be very dangerous to this
country. Our whole political system could be disrupted.”

David Phillips, the C.I.A. disinformation specialist in charge
of Cuban operations in Mexico during the Oswald visit, left
behind an unpublished manuscript for a novel when he died
in 1988. It features a character apparently modeled on
himself, a C.I.A. officer who served in Mexico City. “I was
one of the two case officers who handled Lee Harvey
Oswald,” the fictional character writes in a letter. “We gave
him the mission of killing Fidel Castro in Cuba…I don’t know
why he killed Kennedy. But I do know he used precisely the
plan we had devised against Castro. Thus the C.I.A. did not
anticipate the president’s assassination, but it was
responsible for it. I share that guilt.”

Before Phillips died, he had several conversations with
Kevin Walsh, a former Assassinations Committee staffer,
now working as a private detective in Washington D.C. “My
private opinion,” he told Walsh in all apparent seriousness,
“is that J.F.K. was done in by conspiracy, likely including
rogue American intelligence people.”

The known suspects are all beyond questioning now,
Oswald in a reinforced grave at Fort Worth’s Rose Hill
cemetery, Ruby in a Jewish cemetery in Chicago, Carlos
Marcello in his tomb near New Orleans, Santo Trafficante
behind bars at last, in a closed mausoleum at the Unione
Italiana cemetery on the outskirts of Tampa.

“Consider the possible reality,” former Warren Commission
counsel Burt Griffin suggested to the Assassinations
Committee, “that under the American system of civil
liberties and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable
doubt, that it is virtually impossible to prosecute or uncover
a well-conceived and well-executed conspiracy.”

The problem is compounded, of course, when the most
powerful of government agencies continue to obstruct
justice. The State Department, reported the Assassination
Records Review Board, had been “more of a hindrance
than a help.” The Office of Naval Intelligence failed to
produce reports that one of its staff swore existed. And, it
emerged this year, the C.I.A. concealed the fact that one of
its own officers had steered and funded the very anti-
Castro exiles who tailed and brawled with Oswald in New
Orleans just months before the assassination. Years later,
moreover, the Agency saw fit to assign that very officer to
handle sensitive enquiries from Congress’ Assassinations
Committee – without revealing to Committee staff that he
had personal knowledge of key details. This revelation
alone, sighed Records Review Board chairman John
Tunheim, “shows that the C.I.A. wasn’t interested in the
truth about the assassination.”

During our own investigation we interviewed Stanley
Watson, a former C.I.A. deputy chief of station in Mexico
City. Though aged and retired, he deftly fended off our
questions. Watson agreed, though, that there are still
secrets about this case. “I don’t think we’ll ever know now,”
he murmured, “or at least not until after…” His voice trailed
off, and then he added, “I was just about to commit an

“Most of us want to see full disclosure now,” John Newman
told us. “Either there’s secrecy because we’re protecting
legitimate secrets still, or somebody’s engaged in efforts to
cover their tracks because there’s something criminal there.
And I think the American people say, ‘It’s time we knew….I
don’t think there’ll ever again be a chance to convince the
public that we’re getting the truth on this thing.”

Tragically for the American people. Newman may be right.
The mysteries of the Kennedy assassination may remain
forever in limbo.

* * * * *

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United States