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Jim Garrison's Playboy Interview

Part 2

PLAYBOY: Accepting for a moment your contention that there was a conspiracy to assassinate President John Kennedy, have you been able to discover who was involved --- in addition to Ferrie --- how it was done and why?

GARRISON: Yes, I have. President Kennedy was killed for one reason: because he was working for a reconciliation with the U.S.S.R. and Castro's Cuba. His assassins were a group of fanatic anti-Communists with a fusion of interests in preventing Kennedy from achieving peaceful relations with the Communist world.

On the operative level of the conspiracy, you find anti-Castro Cuban exiles who never forgave Kennedy for failing to send in U.S. air cover at the Bay of Pigs and who feared that the thaw following the Missile Crisis in October 1962 augured the total frustration of their plans to liberate Cuba. They believed sincerely that Kennedy had sold them out to the Communists.

On a higher, control level, you find a number of people of ultra-right-wing persuasion --- not simply conservatives, mind you, but people who could be described as neo-Nazi, including a small clique that had defected from the Minutemen because it considered the group "too liberal." These elements had their canteens ready and their guns loaded; they lacked only a target. After Kennedy's domestic moves toward racial integration and his attempts to forge a peaceful foreign policy, as exemplified by his signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, they found that target.

So both of these groups had a vital stake in changing U.S. foreign policy --- ideological on the part of the paramilitary rightists and both ideological and personal with the anti-Castro exiles, many of whom felt they would never see their homes again if Kennedy's policy of d...tente was allowed to succeed. The CIA was involved with both of these groups. In the New Orleans area, where the conspiracy was hatched, the CIA was training a mixed bag of Minutemen, Cuban exiles and other anti-Castro adventurers north of Lake Pontchartrain for a foray into Cuba and an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro. David Ferrie, who operated on the "command" level of the ultra-rightists, was deeply involved in this effort.

The CIA itself apparently did not take the détente too seriously until the late summer of 1963, because it maintained its financing and training of anti-Castro adventurers. There was, in fact, a triangulation of CIA-supported anti-Castro activity between Dallas --- where Jack Ruby was involved in collecting guns and ammunition for the underground --- and Miami and New Orleans, where most of the training was going on. But then, Kennedy, who had signed a secret agreement with Khrushchev after the Missile Crisis pledging not to invade Cuba if Russia would soft-pedal Castro's subversive activities in the Americas, began to crackdown on CIA operations against Cuba. As a result, on July 31, 1963, the FBI raided the headquarters of the group of Cuban exiles and Minutemen training north of Lake Pontchartrain and confiscated all their guns and ammunition --- despite the fact that the operation had the sanction of the CIA. This action may have sealed Kennedy's fate.

By the early fall of 1963, Kennedy's plan for a d&eactue;tente with Cuba was in high gear. Ambassador William Attwood, a close personal friend of the late President, recounts that a thaw in U.S.-Cuban relations was definitely in the works at this time and "the President more than the State Department was interested in exploring the [Cuban] overture." One of the intermediaries between Castro and Kennedy was the late television commentator Lisa Howard, who met secretly with Ernesto Che Guevara to prepare peace terms between the U.S. and Castro. Miss Howard was arranging a conference between Bobby Kennedy and Guevara when the President was shot in Dallas. In a United Nations speech on October 7, 1963, Adlai Stevenson set forth the possibility of a termination of hostilities between the two countries, and on November 19th. Presidential aide McGeorge Bundy, who was acting as an intermediary in the secret discussions, told Ambassador Attwood that the President wanted to discuss his plans for a Cuban-American d&eactue;tente in depth with him right after "a brief trip to Dallas." The rest is history. One of the two heads of state involved in negotiating that detente is now dead, but the survivor, Fidel Castro, said on November 23rd that the assassination was the work of "elements in the U.S. opposed to
peace," and the Cuban Foreign Ministry officially charged that "the Kennedy assassination was a provocation against world peace perfectly and minutely prepared by the most reactionary sectors of the United States."

Most Americans at the time, myself included, thought this was just Communist propaganda. But Castro knew what he was talking about. A few weeks after the assassination, the Cuban ambassador to the UN, Dr. Carlos Lechuga, was instructed by Castro to begin "formal discussions" in the hope that Kennedy's peace plan would be carried on by his successor. Ambassador Attwood writes that "I informed
Bundy and later was told that the Cuban exercise would be put on ice for a while --- which it was and where it has been ever since." The assassins had achieved their aim.

PLAYBOY: This is interesting speculation, but isn't that all it is --- speculation?

GARRISON: No, because we know enough about the key individuals involved in the conspiracy --- Latins and Americans alike --- to know that this was their motive for the murder of John Kennedy.

First of all, you have to understand the mentality of these people. Take the Cuban exiles involved; here are men, some of whom survived the Bay of Pigs, who for years had been whipped up by the CIA into a frenzy of anti-Castro hatred and who had been solemnly assured by American intelligence agencies that they were going to liberate their homeland with American support. They had one disappointment after another --- the Bay of Pigs debacle, the failure to invade Cuba during the Missile Crisis, the effective crushing of their underground in Cuba by Castro's secret police. But they kept on hoping, and the CIA kept fanning their hopes.

Then they listened to Kennedy's famous speech at American University on June 10, 1963, where he really kicked off the new drive for a d&eactue;tente, and they heard the President of the country in which they'd placed all their hope saying we must make peace with the Communists, since "we both breathe the same air." Well, this worries them, but the CIA continues financing and training their underground cadres, so there is still hope. And then suddenly, in the late summer of 1963, the CIA is forced by Presidential pressure to withdraw all funds and assistance from the Cuban exiles. Think of the impact of this, particularly on the group here in New Orleans, which had been trained for months to make an assassination attempt on Castro and then found itself coolly jettisoned by its benefactors in Washington. These adventurers were worked up to a fever pitch; and when the CIA withdrew its support and they couldn't fight Castro, they picked their next victim --- John F. Kennedy. That, in a nutshell, is the genesis of the assassination. President Kennedy died because he wanted peace.

PLAYBOY: How many people do you claim were involved in this alleged conspiracy?

GARRISON: Too many for their own security. If they had let fewer men in on the plot, we might never have stumbled onto it. But let me add one additional point here: The brief account I've just given you shouldn't be construed to indicate that any of the legitimate anti-Castro organizations were involved in the assassination --- or that all Minutemen were implicated. Nor should the fact that there was a conspiracy from the paramilitary right be used to start a witch-hunt against conservatives in general, any more than Oswald's phony pro-Communist record should have been used to purge leftists from our national life. In this case, the very terminology of "right" and "left," which is essentially an economic definition, has little validity as a description of those fanatic war lovers who were ready to assassinate a President because he worked for peace. If you go far enough to either extreme of the political spectrum, Communist or
fascist, you'll find hard-eyed men with guns who believe that anybody who doesn't think as they do should be incarcerated or exterminated. The assassination was less an ideological exercise than the frenzied revenge of a sick element in our society on a man who exemplified health and decency.

PLAYBOY: You've outlined the genesis of the alleged conspiracy as you see it. Will you now tell us how it was carried out --- and by whom?

GARRISON: I won't be able to name names in all instances, because we're building cases against a number of the individuals involved. But I'll give you a brief sketch of how the conspiracy was organized, and then point by point we can go into the participants we know about so far and the role we believe each played. Let me stress at the outset that what I'm going to tell you is not idle speculation; we have facts, documents and reliable eyewitness testimony to corroborate much of it --- though I can't lay all this evidence before you without jeopardizing the investigation. But there are many pieces of the jigsaw puzzle still missing.

Not one of the conspirators has confessed his guilt, so we don't yet have an "inside" view of all the pre-assassination planning. In order to fill in these gaps for you, I'll have to indulge in a bit of informed deduction and surmise.

It may sound melodramatic, but you can best envisage the plot as a spider's web. At the center sit the organizers of the operation, men with close ties to U.S. and western-European intelligence agencies. One of them is a former associate of Jack Ruby in gun-smuggling activities and a dedicated neo-Nazi in close contact with neo-fascist movements in Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy.

Radiating out from these key men, the strands of the web include a motley group of political adventurers united only in their detestation of Kennedy and their dedication to the reversal of his foreign policy. One such man was David Ferrie. Another member of this group is an individual who deliberately impersonated Lee Oswald before the assassination in order to incriminate him: we believe we know his identity. Several others, about whom we have evidence indicating that they helped supply weapons to the plotters, were the right-wing extremists I mentioned earlier who broke off from a fanatic paramilitary group because it was becoming "too liberal."

Also involved is a band of anti-Castro adventurers who functioned on the second, or "operative," level of the conspiracy. These men include two Cuban exiles, one of whom failed a lie-detector test when he denied knowing in advance that Kennedy was going to be killed or having seen the weapons to be used in the assassination --- and a number of men who fired at the President from three directions on November 22nd. The link between the "command" level and the Cuban exiles was an amorphous group called the Free Cuba Committee, which with CIA sanction had begun training north of Lake Pontchartrain for an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro, as I mentioned earlier. It was this group that was raided by the FBI on July 31st, 1963, and temporarily put out of commission. Our information indicates that it was shortly after this setback that the group switched direction and decided to assassinate John Kennedy instead of Fidel Castro, after the "betrayal" of the Bay of Pigs disaster.

That's it in a nutshell, but I think the development of the conspiracy will become clearer if you ask me one by one about the individuals involved.

PLAYBOY: All right, let's begin with Clay Shaw. What was his role in the alleged conspiracy?

GARRISON: I'm afraid I can't comment even inferentially on anything pertaining to the evidence against Mr. Shaw, since he's facing trial in my jurisdiction.

PLAYBOY: Can you answer a charge about your case against him? On March second of this year, shortly after Shaw's arrest, Attorney General Ramsey Clark announced that Shaw "was included in an investigation in November and December of 1963 and on the evidence that the FBI has, there was no connection found between Shaw and the President's assassination." Why do you challenge the Attorney General's statement?

GARRISON: Because it was not true. The FBI did not clear Clay Shaw after the assassination. You don't have to take my word for it; The New York Times reported on June third that "The Justice Department said today that Clay Shaw. New Orleans businessman, was not investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation ... The statement contradicted Attorney General Ramsey Clark ... A Justice Department spokesman said that Mr. Clark's statement last March second was in error."

Now, the Attorney General's attempt to whitewash Shaw via the FBI, as you pointed out, was made immediately after our office arrested him, and it really constituted the first salvo of the propaganda barrage laid down against us. The natural reaction of many people across the country to Clark's statement, which was carried prominently on TV and in the press was, "Well, if the FBI cleared him, there can't be anything to this whole conspiracy business." Most defendants have to wait for trial before they're allowed to produce character witnesses. When, three months later, the Justice Department finally admitted Clark was "in error," the story appeared in only a few newspapers and wasn't picked up by the radio or TV networks. But what was even more significant about the Justice Department's attempt to bail out Shaw was the fact that the day after Clark's statement, The New York Times' Washington correspondent. Robert B. Semple, Jr., reported that he had been told by an unnamed Justice Department spokesman that his agency was convinced "that Mr. Bertrand and Mr. Shaw were the same man" --- and that was the reason Clark released his untrue story about the FBI's having cleared Shaw! In other words, knowing that our case was based on fact, the Justice Department deliberately dragged a red herring across the trail.

PLAYBOY: Are you free to discuss Oswald's role in the conspiracy?

GARRISON: Yes, but before you can understand Oswald's role in the plot, you've got to jettison the image of him as a "self-proclaimed Marxist" that the mass media inculcated in the public consciousness after his arrest on November 22nd. Oswald's professed Marxist sympathies were just a cover for his real activities. I don't believe there are any serious students of the assassination who don't recognize that Oswald's actual political orientation was extreme right wing. His associates in Dallas and New Orleans --- apart from his CIA contacts --- were exclusively right wing, some covert, others overt: in fact, our office has positively identified a number of his associates as neo-Nazis. Oswald would have been more at home with Mein Kampf than Das Kapital.

PLAYBOY: If Oswald wasn't a leftist, what motivation would he have had for shooting at another right-winger, Major General Edwin Walker, eight months before the assassination

GARRISON: If he did it, his motive --- which is to say the motive of those behind him --- was a simple one: to ensure that after the assassination, people would ask this very question and assume that because Oswald had shot at General Walker, he must have been a left-winger. It was just another part of Oswald's cover; if you defect to Russia, pass out pro-Castro leaflets on street corners and take a pot shot at General Walker, who on earth would doubt you're a Communist?

Of course, if you really look deeply into this incident, there is no real proof that Oswald was the man who did it; the whole charge rests on the unsupported testimony of Marina Oswald, after she had been threatened with deportation if she didn't "cooperate." It makes little difference, though, whether this incident was prepared in advance to create a cover for Oswald or fabricated after the assassination to strengthen his public image as a Marxist.

But we've gotten ahead of ourselves. Let's backtrack a bit to fill in the background of Oswald's involvement in the conspiracy. After "defecting" to Russia, where he served as an agent for the CIA --- perhaps this is where his knowledge about the U-2 becomes relevant --- he returned to this country in June 1962, lived in Fort Worth and Dallas until April 1963, and then went to New Orleans, where he
resumed his friendship with David Ferrie, whom he had met several years before when he belonged to a Civil Air Patrol unit led by Ferrie. We have evidence that Oswald maintained his CIA contracts throughout this period and that Ferrie was also employed by the CIA. In this regard, we will present in court a witness --- formerly a CIA courier --- who met both Ferrie and Oswald officially in their CIA connection. Parenthetically, Ferrie gave his name as Ferris to this witness --- a name recorded without further explanation in Jack Ruby's address book.

In 1963, Ferrie and Oswald worked together closely. They were two of the organizers of the group of anti-Castro exiles and Minutemen who trained north of Lake Pontchartrain for a foray into Cuba to assassinate Castro --- the venture that changed direction in the summer of 1963 and chose John Kennedy as its new victim. Toward this end --- for reasons that will become clear --- it became Oswald's role to establish his public identity as a Marxist. It appears that it was with this plan in mind that Oswald was sent to Mexico City in order to get a visa for travel to Cuba, where he planned to solidify his Marxist image, perhaps by making himself conspicuous with a few incendiary anti-Kennedy speeches, and then return to Dallas in time for the assassination. However, this end of the plot was frustrated because the Soviet and Cuban intelligence services apparently had Oswald pegged as an intelligence agent, and he was refused visas at both embassies.

Another way in which Oswald tried to establish his procommunism was by setting up a letterhead Fair Play for Cuba Committee --- of which he was the only member --- and distributing on street corners leaflets praising Castro. He made two blunders here, however. First, one of the men helping him hand out leaflets was a fanatic anti-Castro Cuban exile whom we've subsequently identified from TV footage of a street incident. Second, Oswald "blew his cover" by using the wrong address for his phony New Orleans Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

PLAYBOY: Will you elaborate on this second point?

GARRISON: Yes, because this incident ties together some of the strands of the spider's web. At the time Oswald started his so-called Fair Play for Cuba Committee, two men --- Hugh Ward and Guy Banister --- operated a private investigative agency at 544 Camp Street in downtown New Orleans. There are some intriguing aspects to their operation. For one thing, Guy Banister was one of the most militant right-wing anti-Communists in New Orleans. He was a former FBI official and his headquarters at 544 Camp Street was a clearinghouse for Cuban exile and paramilitary right-wing activities. Specifically, he allowed his office to be used as a mail drop for the anti-Castro Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front; police intelligence records at the time reported that this group was "legitimate in nature and presumably had the unofficial sanction of the Central Intelligence Agency." It did.

Banister also published a newsletter for his clients that included virulent anti-Kennedy polemics. My office also has evidence that Banister had intimate ties with the Office of Naval Intelligence and the CIA. Both Banister and Ward were deeply involved in covert anti-Castro exile activities in New Orleans. Banister in particular seemed to have had an almost messianic drive to fight communism in every country in Latin America; and he was naturally of value to Cuban exiles because of his intimate connections with American intelligence agencies.

In the Ramparts article you mentioned earlier, ex-FBI agent Bill Turner revealed that both Banister and Ward were listed in secret Minutemen files as members of the Minutemen and operatives of a group called the Anti-Communism League of the Caribbean, which was allegedly used by the CIA in the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954. So, in other words, these are the last guys in the world you'd expect to find tied up with left-wing or pro-Castro activities. Right? And yet, when Lee Harvey Oswald set up his fictitious branch of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans, he distributed leaflets giving the committee's address as 544 Camp Street --- Guy Banister's office! Somebody must have pointed out to Oswald shortly afterward that he was endangering his cover by using this address, because he subsequently changed it to 4907 Magazine Street. But it's certainly significant that at the inception of his public role as a pro-Castro activist, Oswald was utilizing the mailbox of the most militantly conservative and anti-Communist outfit in the city.

I might add that we have several witnesses who will testify in court that they saw Oswald hanging out at 544 Camp Street. I want to stress, however, that I have no evidence that Banister and Ward were involved in the plot to kill Kennedy. Their office was a kind of way station for anti-Castro and right-wing extremists passing through New Orleans, and it's perfectly possible that they were completely unaware of the conspiracy being hatched by men like Ferrie and Oswald.

PLAYBOY: Were any of the other figures in the alleged conspiracy connected with Banister?

GARRISON: Yes, David Ferrie was a paid investigator for Banister, and the two men knew each other very well. During 1962 and 1963, Ferrie spent a good deal of time at 544 Camp Street and he made a series of mysterious long-distance phone calls to Central America from Banister's office. We have a record of those calls.

PLAYBOY: Where are Banister and Ward now?

GARRISON: Both have died since the assassination --- Banister of a heart attack in 1964 and Ward when the plane he was piloting for New Orleans Mayor De Lesseps Morrison crashed in Mexico in 1964. De Lesseps Morrison, as it happened, had introduced Clay Shaw to President Kennedy on an airplane flight in 1963.

PLAYBOY: Do you believe there was anything sinister about the crash that killed both Morrison and Ward?

GARRISON: I have no reason to believe there was anything sinister about the crash, though rumors always spring up in a case like this. The only thing I will say is that witnesses in this case do have a habit of dying at the most inconvenient times. I understand a London insurance firm has prepared an actuarial chart on the likelihood of 20 of the people involved in this case dying within three years of the assassination --- and found the odds 30 trillion to one. But I'm sure NBC will shortly discover that one of my investigators bribed the computer.

PLAYBOY: Was Oswald involved with paramilitary activists and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Dallas, as well as in New Orleans?

GARRISON: Oh, God, yes. In fact, many of his New Orleans contacts overlap with those in Dallas. Jack Ruby, who played a key role in smuggling guns to the anti-Castro underground --- on behalf of the CIA --- was one of Oswald's contacts in Dallas. Furthermore, Oswald was virtually surrounded by White Russians in Dallas, some of whom were CIA employees.

Moreover, some of Oswald's anti-Castro friends from Miami and New Orleans showed up in Dallas in October of 1963. In a "Supplementary Investigation Report" filed on November 23, 1963, by Dallas policeman Buddy Walthers, an aide to Sheriff Bill Decker, Walthers stated: "I talked to Sorrels, the head of the Dallas Secret Service, I was advised that for the past few months at a house at 3128 Harlandale, some Cubans had been having meetings on the weekends and were possibly connected with the Freedom for Cuba Party of which Oswald was a member."

No attention was paid to Walther's report, and on November 26th, he complained: "I don't know what action the Secret Service has taken, but I learned today that some time between seven days before the President was shot and the day after he was shot, these Cubans moved from this house. My informant stated that subject Oswald had been to this house before." This was the last that was ever heard of the mysterious Cubans at 3128 Harlandale. A significant point in Walthers' report is his mention of the Freedom for Cuba Party. This appears to be a corruption of the anti-Castro Free Cuba Committee of which Oswald, Ferrie and a small cadre of neo-Nazis --- including the man we believe was the "second Oswald" --- were members. You may remember that on the night of the assassination, Dallas D.A. Henry Wade called a press conference and at one point referred to Oswald as a member of the "Free Cuba Committee" instead of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Jack Ruby, who just happened to be there, promptly chimed in to correct him. Ruby was obviously in the jail that night on a dry run prior to his successful murder of Oswald on Sunday --- a possibility the Warren Commission never bothered to consider --- and could hardly have been eager to draw attention to himself. However, he must have been afraid that if the press reported Oswald was a member of the "Free Cuba Committee," somebody might begin an investigation of that group and discover its anti-Castro and ultra-right-wing orientation. And so he risked his cover to set the record straight and protect his fellow conspirators.

PLAYBOY: In regard to Oswald's role in the conspiracy, you have said that "he was a decoy at first and then he was a patsy and then he was a victim." Would you explain what you meant by that?

GARRISON: Oswald's role in the proposed assassination of Kennedy, as far as he seems to have known, was strictly political: not to fire a gun but --- for reasons that may not have been explained to him by his superiors at their planning sessions --- to establish his left-wing bona fides so unshakably that after the assassination, quite possibly unbeknownst to him, the President's murder would appear to be the work of a sharpshooting left-wing fanatic and thus allow the other plotters, including the men who actually shot Kennedy, to escape police attention and flee Dallas. Though he may not have known why he was instructed to do so, this was undoubtedly why he got the job at the Texas School Book Depository Building; we've learned that one of the members of the conspiracy was in a position to learn from perfectly innocent Dallas business contacts the route of the Presidential motorcade more than a month before Kennedy's visit. The conspirators --- more than probably not including Oswald --- knew this would place him on the scene and convince the world that a demented Marxist was the real assassin.

PLAYBOY: Even if Oswald was unaware of his role as a decoy, didn't he suspect that he might be double-crossed by his co-conspirators?

GARRISON: We have uncovered substantial evidence that he was influenced and manipulated rather easily by his older and more sophisticated superiors in the conspiracy, and it's probable that he trusted them more than he distrusted them. But even if the opposite were true, I think he would have done what he was told.

PLAYBOY: Even if he suspected that he might be arrested and convicted as the President's assassin?

GARRISON: As I said, I don't think it's likely that he was aware of his role as a decoy. But even if he was, it's probable that he would have been given some cock-and-bull assurances about being richly rewarded and smuggled out of the country after Kennedy's death. But it's even more probable, in my opinion --- if he did know the true nature of his role --- that he wouldn't have felt the necessity to escape. He would have known that no jury in the world --- even in Dallas --- would have been able to find him guilty of the assassination on the strength of such transparently contrived circumstantial evidence.

PLAYBOY: That's debatable. But even if Oswald had been brought to trial for and acquitted of the assassination, what reason would he have had to believe that he would also be exonerated of involvement in the conspiracy --- which you've admitted yourself?

GARRISON: I don't want to evade your question, but I can't answer it without compromising my investigation of a crucial new area of the conspiracy. I'm afraid I can't discuss it until we've built a solid case. I can say, however, that whatever his knowledge of his role as a decoy, he definitely didn't know about his role as a patsy until after the assassination. At 12:45 P.M. on November 22nd, the Dallas police had broadcast a wanted bulletin for Oswald --- over a half hour before Tippit was shot and at a time when there was absolutely no evidence linking Oswald to the assassination. The Dallas police have never been able to explain who transmitted this wanted notice or on what evidence it was based; and the Warren Commission brushed aside the whole matter as unimportant. I think it's obvious that the conspirators tipped off the police, probably anonymously, in the hope --- subsequently realized --- that all attention would henceforth be focused on Oswald and the heat would be taken off other members of the plot. We have evidence that the plan was to have him shot as a cop killer in the Texas Theater "while resisting arrest."

I can't go into all the details on this, but the murder of Tippit, which I am convinced Oswald didn't commit, was clearly designed to set the stage for Oswald's liquidation in the Texas Theater after another anonymous tip-off. But here the plotters miscalculated, and Oswald was not shot to death but was merely roughed up and rushed off to the Dallas jail --- where, you may remember, he shouted to reporters as the police dragged him through the corridors on November 22nd: "I didn't kill anyone --- I'm being made a patsy." The conspiracy had gone seriously awry and the plotters were in danger of exposure by Oswald. Enter Jack Ruby --- and exit Oswald. So first Oswald was a decoy, next a patsy and finally --- in the basement of the Dallas jail on November 24, 1963 --- a victim.

PLAYBOY: Even if Oswald was a scapegoat in the alleged conspiracy, why do you believe he couldn't also have been one of those who shot at the President?

GARRISON: If there's one thing the Warren Commission and its 26 volumes of supportive evidence demonstrate conclusively, it's that Lee Harvey Oswald did not shoot John Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Of course, the Commission concluded not only that Oswald fired at the President but that he was a marksman, that he had enough time to "fire three shots, with two hits, within 4.8 and 5.6
seconds," that his Mannlicher-Carcano was an accurate rifle, etc. --- but all these conclusions are actually in direct contradiction of the evidence within the Commission's own 26 volumes. By culling and coordinating that evidence, the leading critics of the Commission have proved that Oswald was a mediocre shot; that the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle he allegedly used was about the crummiest weapon on the market today; that its telescopic sight was loose and had to be realigned before Commission experts could fire it; that the 20-year-old ammunition he would have had to use could not have been relied on to fire accurately, if at all; that the rifle quite possibly was taken from Oswald's home after the assassination and planted in the Depository; that the Commission's own chronology of Oswald's movements made it highly implausible for him to fire three shots, wipe the rifle clear of fingerprints --- there were none found on it --- hide the rifle under a stack of books and rush down four flights of stairs to the second floor, all in the few seconds it took Roy Truly and Officer Marrion Baker to rush in from the street after the shots and encounter Oswald standing beside the vending machine in the employees' cafeteria.

I could cite additional evidence proving that Oswald didn't fire a rifle from the sixth floor of the Depository, but it would just be a recapitulation of the excellent books of the critics, to which I refer your readers. There are a number of factors that we've examined independently during the course of our investigation that also prove Oswald didn't shoot at the President. For one thing, the nitrate test
administered to Oswald on the day of the assassination clearly exonerated him of having fired a rifle within the past 24 hours. He had nitrates on both hands, but no nitrates on his cheek --- which means it was impossible for him to have fired a rifle. The fact that he had nitrates on both hands is regarded in the nitrate test as a sign of innocence; it's the same as having nitrates on neither hand. This is because so many ordinary objects leave traces of nitrate on the hands. You're smoking a cigar, for example --- tobacco contains nitrate; so if you were tested right now, you'd have nitrate on your right hand but not on your left. I'm smoking a pipe, which I interchange between my hands, so I'll have traces of nitrate on both hands but not on my cheeks. The morning of the assassination, Oswald was moving crates in a newly painted room, which was likely to have left traces of nitrate on both his hands.

Now, of course, if the nitrate test had proved positive, and Oswald did have nitrate on one hand and on his cheek, that would still not constitute proof positive that he'd fired a gun, because the nitrates could have been left by a substance other than gunpowder. But the fact that he had no nitrate whatsoever on his cheek is ineluctable proof that he never fired a rifle that day. If he had washed his face to remove the nitrate before the test was administered, there would have been none on his hands either --- unless he was in the habit of washing with gloves on.

This was a sticky problem for the Warren Commission, but they resolved it with their customary aplomb. An expert was dug up who testified that in a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, the chamber is so tight that no nitrates are emitted upon firing; and the Commission used this testimony to dismiss the whole subject. However, the inventor of the nitrate test subsequently tested the Mannlicher-Carcano and found that it did leave nitrate traces. He was not called to testify by the Warren Commission. So the nitrate test alone is incontrovertible proof that Oswald did not fire a rifle on November 22nd.

We've also found some new evidence that shows that Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano was not the only weapon discovered in the Depository Building after the assassination. I recently traveled to New York for a conference with Richard Sprague, a brilliant man who's been independently researching technical aspects of the assassination, and he showed me a hitherto unpublicized collection of film clips from a motion picture taken of the assassination and its aftermath. Part of the film, shot shortly after one P.M., shows the Dallas police carrying the assassination weapon out of the Book Depository. They stop for the photographers and an officer holds the rifle up above his head so that the inquisitive crowd can look at it. There's just one little flaw here: This rifle does not have a telescopic sight, and thus cannot be Oswald's rifle. This weapon was taken from the building approximately 20 minutes before Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano was "discovered" --- or planted --- on the premises.

To sum up: Oswald was involved in the conspiracy; shots were fired at Kennedy from the Depository but also from the grassy knoll and apparently from the Dal-Tex Building as well --- but not one of them was fired by Lee Harvey Oswald, and not one of them from his Mannlicher-Carcano.

PLAYBOY: If Oswald didn't shoot President Kennedy from the sixth-floor window of the Book Depository, who did?

GARRISON: Our office has developed evidence that the President was assassinated by a precision guerrilla team of at least seven men, including anti-Castro adventurers and members of the paramilitary right. Of course, the Ministry of Truth concluded --- by scrupulously ignoring the most compelling evidence and carefully selecting only those facts that conformed to its preconceived thesis of a lone assassin --- that "no credible evidence suggests that the shots were fired from ... any place other than the Texas School Book Depository Building." But anyone who takes the time to read the Warren Report will find that of the witnesses in Dealey Plaza who were able to assess the origin of the shots, almost two thirds said they came from the grassy-knoll area in front and to the right of the Presidential limousine and not from the Book Depository, which was to the rear of the President. A number of reliable witnesses testified that they heard shots ring out from behind the picket fence and saw a puff of smoke drift into the air.

Additional evidence supporting this can be found in the Zapruder film published in Life, which reveals that the President was slammed backward by the impact of a bullet; unless you abrogate Newton's third law of motion, this means the President was shot from the front. Also --- though they were contradicted later --- several of the doctors at Parkland Hospital who examined the President's neck wound contended it was an entrance wound, which would certainly tend to indicate that Kennedy was shot from the front.

In the course of our investigation, we've uncovered additional evidence establishing absolutely that there were at least four men on the grassy knoll, at least two behind the picket fence and two or more behind a small stone wall to the right of the fence. As I reconstruct it from the still-incomplete evidence in our possession, one man fired at the President from each location, while the role of his companion was to snatch up the cartridges as they were ejected. Parenthetically, a book on firearms characteristics was found in Ferrie's apartment. It was filled with underlining and marginal notations, and the most heavily annotated section was one describing the direction and distance a cartridge travels from a rifle after ejection. Scribbled on a bookmark in this section, in Ferrie's handwriting, were the figures, not mentioned in the text, "50° and 11 feet" --- which indicates the possibility that Ferrie had test-fired a rifle and plotted the distance from the gunman to where the ejected cartridges would fall.

But to return to the scene of the crime, it seems virtually certain that the cartridges, along with the rifles, were then thrown into the trunk of a car --- parked directly behind the picket fence --- which was driven from the scene some hours after the assassination. If there had been a thorough search of all vehicles in the vicinity of the grassy knoll immediately after the assassination, this incriminating evidence might have been uncovered --- along with the real authors of the President's murder. In addition to the assassins on the grassy knoll, at least two other men fired from behind the President, one from the Book Depository Building --- not Oswald --- and one, in all probability, from the Dal-Tex Building. As it happens, a man was arrested right after the assassination as he left the Dal-Tex Building and was taken away in a patrol car, but like the three other men detained after the assassination --- one in the railroad yard behind the grassy knoll, one on the railroad overpass farther down the parade route, and one in front of the Book Depository Building --- he then dropped out of sight completely. All of these suspects taken into custody after the assassination remain as anonymous as if they'd been detained for throwing a candy wrapper on the sidewalk.

We have also located another man --- in green combat fatigues --- who was not involved in the shooting but created a diversionary action in order to distract people's attention from the snipers. This individual screamed, fell to the ground and simulated an epileptic fit, drawing people away from the vicinity of the knoll just before the President's motorcade reached the ambush point. So you have at least seven people involved, with four firing at the President and catching him in a crossfire --- just as the assassins had planned at the meeting in David Ferrie's apartment in September. It was a precision operation and was carried out coolly and with excellent coordination; the assassins even kept in contact by radio. The President, of course, had no chance. It was an overkill operation.

As far as the actual sequence of shots goes, you'll remember that the Warren Commission concluded that only three bullets were fired at the President --- one that hit just below the back of his neck, exited through his throat and then passed through Governor Connally's body; one that missed; and one that blew off a portion of the President's skull and killed him. Like most of the other conclusions of the Commission, this one contradicts both the evidence and the testimony of eyewitnesses.

The initial shot hit the President in the front of the neck, as the Parkland Hospital doctors recognized --- though they were later contradicted by the military physicians at the Bethesda autopsy, and by the Warren Report. The second shot struck the President in the back; the location of this wound can be verified not by consulting the official autopsy report --- on which the Commission based its conclusion that this bullet hit Kennedy in the back of the neck and exited from his throat --- but by perusing the reports filed by two FBI
agents who were present at the President's autopsy in Bethesda, Maryland. Both stated unequivocally that the bullet in question entered President Kennedy's back and did not continue through his body.

I also refer you to a photograph of the President's shirt taken by the FBI, and to a drawing of the President's back wound made by one of the examining physicians at Bethesda; the location of the wound in both cases corresponds exactly --- more than three inches below the President's neck. Yet the Commission concluded that this wound occurred in this neck. This, of course, was to make it more believable that the same bullet had exited from the President's throat and slanted on down through Governor Connally. Even if this bullet had entered where the Commission claims and then exited from the President's throat, it would have been possible for it to enter Governor Connally's upper back at a downward angle, exit from his lower chest and lodge finally in his thigh --- fired, as the Commission says it was, from the elevation of the sixth-floor window of the Book Depository --- only if Connally had been sitting in the President's lap or if the bullet had described two 90-degree turns on its way from President Kennedy's throat to Governor Connally's back. Clearly, the President's throat wound was caused by the first shot, this one from the grassy knoll in front of the limousine; and his back wound came from the rear. I've already given you my reasons for reaching this conclusion.

PLAYBOY: If the first bullet was fired from the front, why wasn't it found in the President's body, or somewhere in the Presidential limousine?

GARRISON: The exact nature of the President's wounds, as well as the disposition of the bullets or bullet fragments, are among the many concealed items in this case. I told you earlier about the men on the grassy knoll whose sole function we believe was to catch the cartridges as they were ejected from the assassins' rifles. We also have reason to suspect that other members of the conspiracy may have been assigned the job of removing other evidence --- such as traceable bullet fragments --- that might betray the assassins. In the chaos of November 22nd, this would not have been as difficult as it sounds. We know that a bullet, designated Exhibit number 399 by the Warren Commission, was planted on a stretcher in Parkland Hospital to incriminate Oswald. The Commission concluded that this bullet allegedly hit both Kennedy and Governor Connally, causing seven wounds and breaking three bones --- and emerged without a dent! In subsequent ballistics tests with the same gun, every bullet was squashed completely out of shape from impact with various simulated human targets. So, if the conspirators could fabricate a bullet, they could easily conceal one.

But to return to the sequence of shots: Governor Connally was struck by a third bullet --- as he himself insisted, not the one that struck Kennedy in the back --- also fired from the rear. A fourth shot missed the Presidential limousine completely and struck the curb along the south side of Main Street, disintegrating into fragments; the trajectory of this bullet has been plotted backward to a point of origin in the Dal-Tex Building. The fifth shot, which struck the President in the right temple, tore off the top of his skull and snapped him back into his seat --- a point overlooked by the Warren Commission --- had to have been fired from the grassy knoll.

There is also medical evidence indicating the likelihood that an additional head shot may have been fired. The report of Dr. Robert McClelland at Parkland Hospital, for example, states that "the cause of death was due to massive head and brain injury from a gunshot wound of the left temple." And yet another shot may also have been fired; frames 208 to 211 of the Zapruder film, which were deleted from the Warren Report --- presumably as irrelevant --- reveal signs of stress appearing suddenly on the back of a street sign momentarily obstructing the view between the grassy knoll and the President's car. These stress signs may very well have been caused by the impact of a stray bullet on the sign. We'll never be sure about this, however, because the day after the assassination, the sign was removed and no one in Dallas seems to know what became of it.

Some of the gunmen appear to have used frangible bullets, a variant of the dumdum bullet that is forbidden by the Geneva Treaty. Frangible bullets explode on impact into tiny fragments, as did the bullet that caused the fatal wound in the President's head. Of course, frangible bullets are ideal in a political assassination, because they almost guarantee massive damage and assure that no tangible evidence will remain that ballistics experts could use to trace the murder weapon. I might also mention that frangible bullets cannot be fired from a Mannlicher-Carcano, such as the Commission concludes Oswald used to kill the President. Also parenthetically, this type of bullet was issued by the CIA for use in anti-Castro-exile raids on Cuba.

In summation, there were at least five or six shots fired at the President from front and rear by at least four gunmen, assisted by several accomplices, two of whom probably picked up the cartridges and one of whom created a diversion to draw people's eyes away from the grassy knoll. At this stage of events, Lee Harvey Oswald was no more than a spectator to the assassination --- perhaps in a very literal sense. As the first shot rang out, Associated Press photographer James Altgens snapped a picture of the motorcade that shows a man with a remarkable resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald --- same hairline, same face shape --- standing in the doorway of the Book Depository Building. Somehow or other, the Warren Commission concluded that this man was actually Billy Nolan Lovelady, an employee of the Depository, who looked very little like Oswald.

Furthermore, on the day of the assassination, Oswald was wearing a white T-shirt under a long-sleeved dark shirt opened halfway to his waist --- the same outfit worn by the man in the doorway --- but Lovelady said that on November 22nd he was wearing a short-sleeved, red-and-white-striped sport shirt buttoned near the neck. The Altgens photograph indicates the very real possibility that at the moment Oswald was supposed to have been crouching in the sixth-floor window of the Depository shooting Kennedy, he may actually have been standing outside the front door watching the Presidential motorcade.

 


Jim Garrison's Interview with Playboy, part 3

Jim Garrison's Interview with Playboy, part 1

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