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Sunday, August 04, 2013

Old spook stuff

A few readers have asked me to drop the other shoe. An earlier post mentioned the late former CIA Director Richard Helms, and I hinted that I knew a cute story about him. Time to tell it.

In 1993, PBS broadcast a rather infamous Frontline special on Lee Harvey Oswald. I say "infamous" not just because the show favored the lone nut scenario -- no surprise there -- but because, during production, certain spooked-up pseudo-journalists associated with the show (I'm thinking particularly of a guy named Gus) privately told JFK researchers that the program would establish, once and for all, that LHO had worked for the CIA. This lie bought a lot of cooperation which otherwise might not have been forthcoming.

The program featured an interview with Helms, perhaps the cagiest and shiftiest of the CIA chieftains. Oliver Stone's Nixon originally contained a deleted scene in which the whites of Helms' eyes suddenly go black. The scene should have stayed in the movie, because its poetic truth is undeniable.

Former Army Intelligence officer John Newman, author of a supremely important work called Oswald and the CIA, also appeared on that Frontline special. After his scenes were shot, he remained on the set while Richard Helms took his turn in front of the cameras.

Before we proceed with this story, you must understand one thing: Over the years, the CIA has always maintained that no-one from the Agency -- indeed, no-one from the entire government -- had debriefed Lee Harvey Oswald after the supposed defector returned to the United States. During the interview, Helms repeated this story.

When the cameras stopped, Newman stepped forward and asked: ""Mr. Director, what would be so bad about the CIA interviewing Oswald on his return from Russia? I mean, isn't that what they were supposed to do? Doesn't it therefore look bad if you say you didn't?"

Helms thought it over, and somewhere beneath those all-ebony eyes, a lightbulb went on. He said: "You're right."

And then he told the director that he wanted to re-film part of the interview. This time, he would say that the CIA did debrief Oswald!

The director decided not to roll the cameras again. Too bad. I would have loved to see the two versions of that statement spliced together. Such a comparison not only would have proved the CIA's willingness to lie in the JFK case, it would have told Americans how to react whenever the spook leadership (I'm thinking particularly of a guy named Keith) says: "Hey, you can trust us...!"

The question arises: Why wouldn't the CIA debrief Oswald?

Turns out, they did. We know this from a guy named Don Deneselya, who had worked as a translator for CIA in 1962. Deneselya told Professor Joan Mellen that, to his certain knowledge, Oswald was indeed a fake defector, working for the CIA all along. Upon his return, LHO was interviewed by one Andy Anderson, who reported directly to Robert Crowley, who was very close to...

...wait for it...

...Jim Angleton. The ultra-paranoid Angleton, ostensibly the head of counterintelligence, ran a CIA-within-the-CIA. He was (as that guy in Inception might have put it) a man of some radical notions. For one thing, Angleton denied the reality of the split between China and the USSR. For another thing, he concluded that British PM Harold Wilson and Swedish PM Olaf Palme were Soviet agents.

Some of you may be familiar with what happened to those two guys. Wilson was the victim of an epic smear campaign; Palme was murdered. 

Angleton drank a lot (and by "a lot," I mean a lot) and he had private motives for his many resentments. A dangerous man to hold such power.

I believe that Angelton masterminded the hit against JFK. This review of Newman's book gives some of my reasons. Basically, we have much evidence indicating that Angleton ran LHO all along. The whole "Oswald in Mexico" excursion has Angleton's fingerprints all over it.

I don't think that Oswald ever actually went to Mexico. His wife denied it. J. Edgar Hoover privately said LHO had been impersonated. Oswald was seen in Texas at a time when he was supposedly traveling south. The "Oswald" photographed and recorded by CIA operatives in Mexico looked and sounded nothing like the real guy.

The CIA station chief in Mexico, Win Scott, had tapes of the psuedo-Oswald stashed in his safe. When Scott died in 1971, a high-ranking CIA officer -- in such a rush that he forgot his passport -- flew down to Mexico to grab the contents of that safe. The name of that officer was...

...wait for it...

...James Jesus Angleton.

He had a history of such burglaries. There was the time when his "mole" in French intelligence, Philippe di Vosjoli, helped him break into the French embassy. (Alfred Hitchock's worst movie, Topaz, gives a ludicrously false accounting of the Angleton/di Vosjoli relationship.) Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post, reported that Angleton broke into Mary Pinchot Meyer's pad after she had been murdered. (Meyer, the estranged wife of CIA man Cord Meyer, reportedly had an affair with Kennedy.)

But my favorite tale of Angletonian burglary involves J. Edgar Hoover's blackmail files.

Cool story, that. I'll tell you all about it on some other Sunday.
When Oswald and Marina returned from Russia they were met by Spas T. Raikin.
Raikin had worked for the CIA and was also the secretary-general of the ABN - Anti-Bolschevik Nations:

That Oswald was interviewed by Anderson under Crowley is news to me. Joseph Trento ("Prelude To Terror") used Crowley as a prime source, so he may have insight into that.
But the fact that Oswald is met by the fiercly anti-communist Raikin and hangs out with the "white" Russian community in Dallas - while he himself was an alleged defector - speaks to Oswald as an agent on a leash.
Ben Bradlee's relationship with Richard Helms and James Jesus Angleton makes for an interesting read as well...
Joe--Of course the false defector Oswald was debriefed. But Angleton and David Atlee Phillips made sure there wasn't a paper trail. Likewise for the rest of the patsy's short life.

Among its many other jawdroppers, John Armstrong's massive, out-of-print book "Harvey and Lee" shreds the documentary record on "Oswald" entering and exiting Mexico. There are zero uncorrupted records from the bus companies or Mexican immigration to confirm that LHO rode to Mexico City and back. (The book controversially claims that many of the Oswald sightings between '55-'63 were of a Hungarian-born, Agency-trained double. It sounds ludicrous, but by cross-referencing hundreds of school, workplace and military records, Armstrong makes an extensively footnoted case that there was not only a second Oswald but a second Marguerite. If you don't have access to the book, I can provide.)
TJ: I'll get the book, which I have not read but very much want.

About the idea of an Oswald double -- that there was one such double has been established beyond doubt. His name was John Thomas Masen. He was a young gun dealer who had been arrested some days before the assassination, and was out on bail. The ATF officer who arrested him took one look at Oswald and was sure it was the same guy -- until he established that they were two different people.

The ATF officer, a guy named Ellsworth, thought that they could have been identical twins. I just now saw a picture of the young Masen, and I don't think he looked like Lee all that much. Still, the general head shape was the same, and they both had prematurely thinning hair.

So the Masen thing proves, if nothing else, that a "double" need not be an exact double. He just needed to be a similar type. Two other claimed doubles, Gordon Novel and William Seymour, looked kinda sorta like Oswald but not really, really like Oswald.

First I've heard of a Hungarian born double...!
Thanks for the interesting read. I have a question that maybe Joseph can address, or another commenter.

Oswald's bizarre connections and the accumulated shady goings-on at the CIA and what have you compel me to believe there was some kind of conspiracy. But I'm not convinced, because of this nagging question:

If Oswald was an asset "activated" by persons unknown to kill Kennedy, where does his getting the job at the Depository fit into the conspiracy? He got that job through unimpeachable family friends, and he got the job before Kennedy's route through the plaza was known. It's too much of a stretch for me to believe that Oswald was a CIA/other asset who, through an unrelated chain of events, also happened to have a job that would give him a perfect shot at Kennedy.

For now, I believe that Oswald was a shady man with shady connections, who opportunistically, and on lone initiative, prepared to shoot Kennedy when he learned the president's route would take him right by his workplace. But perhaps others here can argue that? I'd love to discuss it.
Or as Robert Anton Wilson suggests in his "Illuminatus" series (Cosmic Trigger) that Kerry Thornley was an Oswald double.
Just for shits and grins at least.

But what suprises me is how much sourcing is placed on the supposed Oswald trip to Mexico, as in the review you linked to.
I had previously considered that just a passing interest, perhaps it is way more significant.
Here's Armstrong theory: With Angleton at the helm, the Hungarian-born, Rusian-speaking double was raised in New Orleans, New York and Fort Worth on a parallel track with the real Oswald. He joined the Marines at the same time as LHO and fake defected to Russia, where he married counter-spy Marina. He returned to the U.S. (with suspicious ease), played the role of a commie in the Fair Play for Cuba charade, got a job at the Depository (thanks to the spooky George De Mohrenschildt and Ruth Paine), was framed for the JFK shooting and was silenced by Jack Ruby. Meanwhile, the real LHO was a right-wing lunkhead and may have been the Tippit shooter. He got smuggled out the back door of the Texas Theater while Oswald #2 was arrested. After the patsy's death, an anonymous caller phoned a Tippit relative to spill the beans on the Hungarian Oswald. This all sounds crazy, but the Armstrong book seems airtight. Jim DiEugenio's Probe magazine excerpted the book, favorably. Before the Man deletes it, a PDF is available among the treasures here:

Soon, offline, I'll send you my own humble introductory book on the case. Keep the faith.
"He got that job through unimpeachable family friends..."

He got that job through Ruth Paine, who was -- is -- about as impeachable as impeachable gets. "Destiny Betrayed" does as good a job as I've ever seen, when it comes to impeaching her.

Although I don't think the book goes deeply enough into the miniature Minox spy camera and its contents. I think it was Ruth who said that the camera belonged to her husband, not to Lee. Well, even if it was Michael Paine's camera, that's damning enough. Did you ever see the photos found within it? Asian military installations...!

Dojo Rat: I should do a whole post on Thornley, because that's a wild story. DiEugenio has stuff on Thornley I've never seen in print before. Of all the reported "Oswald doubles," KT was the one who looked most like LHO.
One of my sources in the past was a former law enforcement official in Texas. In uniform, he went to the shooting range where Oswald made a scene years before.
The same guy was running the range. When my source asked (just for his own interest) about the supposed Oswald shooting range incedent, the manager freaked out.

Once he knew it was a personal interest issue and off-the-record, the manager said that it was definately not Oswald that caused the shooting range disturbance.
A double for sure.
TJ -- thanks, and now I'm sorry I kind of dissed Morrow in an earlier post.
Ruth Paine's sister and father both worked for the CIA. (The latter overtly, the former through the Agency for International Development--for whom Obama's mom also worked.) Ruth has plenty of explaining to do --about the Minox, about the gun blanket, about the Imperial Reflex camera (linked to the backyard photos) that she "found" two weeks after the cops combed her house. In the '80s, she spied on American peace activists in Central America. Paine's own daughter disowned her for her role in the JFK assassination. As for the Depository, all motorcades through Dallas pass through Dealey Plaza. The villains just made sure that this one took a zigzag onto Elm.
Just for reference, here's the scene where "Helms' eyes turn black":
Thanks for the response, Joseph.

"He got that job through Ruth Paine, who was -- is -- about as impeachable as impeachable gets. 'Destiny Betrayed' does as good a job as I've ever seen, when it comes to impeaching her. "

I don't know much about Ruth Paine but, putting her aside, there's still a problem. Ruth heard about the job from neighbors, and passed along the opportunity to Oswald. This when there was no conceivable way of knowing that Kennedy would pass through the plaza (I don't even think his trip had been announced - but could be wrong on that point).

On what basis can we believe that Paine planted Oswald in the depository before a motorcade route or even a presidential trip was established? Did Paine hear about the job opening and think, "By golly, that would be a great vantage point from which to shoot the president if he ever comes through Dallas. Let me install CIA asset Oswald in that job. He can stack books and then shoot the president when the time comes." Implausible in the extreme.

It seems to me that Oswald's shady connections don't necessarily force us to consider a conspiracy, let alone add up to one. A man surrounded by that kind of weirdness may fit the profile for a presidential assassin: immersed in extremist or highly ideological politics, and spooky intrigue, he would've found the notion of assassinating a president much more plausible than anyone other than the mentally ill who usually commit such acts.
All motorcades in Dallas traditionally went through the triple overpass. We have no independent confirmation for how Ruth Paine found out about that job.

The fact that the Paines (and before them, de Mohrenschildt) took the Oswald's under their wings speaks volumes about the CIA's interest in him.

And don't forget -- Dallas was the backup plan. The Chicago plot came first. There are indications of a Los Angeles plot as well.
The idea of a presidential visit was first floated in the spring. it was formally announced in September. Oswald got the job in October. Neighbor Mrs. Randle denied that she told Ruth Paine there was an opening at the Depository. Paine called the Depository and got Oswald the job. The Depository was owned by right-wing oilman and LBJ crony D.H. Byrd, who was probably in on the plot. And for god sake, Oswald didn't shoot anyone. Like he said, He was downstairs having lunch, as witnessed by building secretary Carolyn Arnold. The FBI could not find his prints on the gun, which did not smell of gunpowder. There was no trace of nitrates on his cheek, a fact which would have been enough to legally exonerate him.
Thankis, TJ, for doing the job I should have done.

I'm not sure that Oswald didn't fire a gun, but in order to put him there you have to explain away credible witnesses like Victoria Adams and Carolyn Arnold. It seems difficult to argue against a gunman in the sixth floor window -- the Hughes film shows what appears to be a gun barrel, witness Harold Norman (the floor below) heard the gunfire from above, and Carolyn Walthers saw TWO men in that spot. But none of that implicates Oswald.

Still, my argument has always been a little different from that of most others who have taken an interest in the case. I say that even if you could prove that LHO was the lone shooter, we still have a conspiracy case, because of who LHO was.
Thanks for the interesting replies. I don't feel the need to make this point, but I want to say that I'm a steady reader of this blog, and I've gone back and forth on the issue in the course of my hobbyist research. I would really love to continue this discussion.

"All motorcades in Dallas traditionally went through the triple overpass. We have no independent confirmation for how Ruth Paine found out about that job."

I believe the neighbors testified that they told Ruth Paine about the job. That, to me, is independent confirmation. The conspiracy theory is unwieldy and breaks down if it has to suppose “false” testimony from the neighbors.

As for Ruth Paine, nothing strikes me as conclusively "spooky" about her, but I'm open to all factual suggestions otherwise. Incidentally, as you may know, she lives in Florida now and she's a big liberal.

"Neighbor Mrs. Randle denied that she told Ruth Paine there was an opening at the Depository. Paine called the Depository and got Oswald the job."

This is potentially very significant, given who ran the Depository (as you said, a right-wing magnate). I'm not denying that the above is true, but I won't *accept* it as truth without a citation. The rest of your post, Trojan Joe, with respect, strikes me as self-contradictory. Was LHO a CIA asset planted in the Depository? Was he an innocent bystander and "patsy"? For him to be both stretches credulity.

Also, is there any literature about when the presidential trip was planned? I would love to read it for my own research.

"Still, my argument has always been a little different from that of most others who have taken an interest in the case. I say that even if you could prove that LHO was the lone shooter, we still have a conspiracy case, because of who LHO was."

I think there's little doubt that shots were fired from the sixth floor. I'll take at your word that some witnesses don't place LHO there - I'll also take witness statements with grains of salt, since they are so often confused, contradictory and basically unreliable.

To your last point, I assume LHO fired shots. I also believe there's a case for his being a conspirator. But I think the strongest grounds for that case lie in Mexico, where he was almost certainly impersonated by a person unknown, and where the CIA did everything it could to cover his tracks. But, as with all things CIA, the motivations are foggy; and the evidence for a conspiracy remains, to my eyes, circumstantial, and does not overcome the fundamental improbability of Oswald both being a CIA asset and, by accident, finding himself in the right place, at the right time, to take aim.

Oswald was not an innocent bystander. And it is likely that there was a gunman (or two) on the sixth floor. But that doesn't mean it was Oswald or that he wasn't manipulated by handlers who included Ruth Paine. The following text about how he got the job is from Warren Commisskion testimony, via John Armstrong's book "Harvey and Lee":

As Oswald was gathering his belongings and moving into 1026 N.
Beckley, Ruth Paine was having coffee with Marina and Mrs. Bill (Linnie Mae) Randle
at the home of her neighbor, Mrs. Ed (Dorothy) Roberts. T he subject of Oswald's unemployment
came up and, according to Mrs. Paine, Mrs. (Linnie Mae) Randle mentioned
that her younger brother (Wesley Buell Frazier) thought they needed another
person at the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) where he worked.71 Mrs. Randle,
however, remembered things differently.

Mrs. Randle told the Warren Commission, " .... .1 didn't know there was a job
open (at the TSBD). T he reason we were being helpful, Wesley had just looked for a
job, and I had helped him to try to find one. We listed several places that he might go
to look for work ..... Mrs. (Dorothy) Roberts entered into the conversation and, of course,
she is more familiar with the place than I am. It was Manor Bakeries which was a home
delivery service. T hen there was this Texas Gypsum which makes sheet rock ..... "

Warren Commission attorney Ball asked, "And then you also mentioned the
Texas Book Depository?" Mrs. Randle replied, "Well, I didn't know there was a job
opening over there ..... we said he might try over there .... Mrs. Paine asked me if I would
call and see if there was a job available and I told her no, that I didn't know anybody
over there, and if she wanted to call over to the place she would have to do it ..... Mrs.
Paine told me, later, that he had applied for the job and had gotten the job and she
thanked us for naming the places and things like that."
TJ, thanks for all...

...and I'm reading the Armstrong book now. It's....


What can I say? I remain completely unconvinced by the primary thesis. But Armstrong is clearly reasonable and intelligent, and he has done a tone of research. The book is a true page-turner, which rare in this field. I don't even mind the question-begging (presenting as a given the very point one is trying to establish) because that tactic helps him tell the story in a linear, comprehensible fashion.

I just can't buy it. The main thesis. Not just an Oswald double, but -- a doubling since childhood? And Marguerite was also an imposter? And Robert Oswald (still alive, I believe) was in on it?

Naw. Sorry. No matter how well Armstrong argues...nah.

I will admit, though, he has come up with some really weird shit. Especially the North Dakota thing. And the tonsils.
So to summarize: It sounds like Ruth Paine said to her neighbor, "Who do I call at the Depository where your son works to see about getting Oswald a job there?" It wasn't the idea of the neighbor, who wasn't aware of any openings or comfortable with getting involved.
Joe, I hear you loud and clear on Armstrong. His thesis is utterly incredible. Yet the citations are extensive and paper-in-hand tangible. And he makes sure to point out that the Soviets did something similar, of which Angleton was aware. (And because Armstrong is writing such a mind-boggler, he is admirably diligent about bold-facing and differentiating between every instance of Harvey and Lee, and between tall Marguerite and short Marguerite. If you're going to lead readers into Wonderland, you have to hold their hands.) Thanks for letting me spout here. The JFK plot has been my decades-long obsession, and I'm heartened to have a smart guy like you engaged in the conversation.
That's just it, TJ -- the Soviet example isn't very similar at all. The Soviets had an imposter assume the identity of someone who died as a child (if I'm recalling correctly). Well, that's an old and familiar trick -- you can see it recommended on any number of "anarchist" type web sites.

What Armstrong is proposing has no parallel anywhere in espionology.

Look, in order for the thing to work, Robert Oswald would have to be in on it. That's what Armstrong himself proposes. Yet there's a famous story about Robert -- he said that he briefly suspected that the Lee who returned from Russia might not be the same guy, because the hair was different. Now, if Robert were in on some grand imposture, he wouldn't have said that.

And Marguerite would not have told the world that she thought her son Lee was an American intelligence operative. Actually, I don't know if she ever said that directly, but she sure as hell implied it in that video I linked to a few months back.

In other words, if this really were a family of spooks, then they would all be making every effort to seem ultra-normal, and they wouldn't be saying things designed to rock any boats -- as Marguerite did.

No, I'm going to classify Amstrong's book alongside the Robert Spencer book "Did Muhammed Exist?" which I talked about some days ago. The premise is novel, intriguing, outlandish -- and all wrong. And yet, despite this "wrongness," there's a lot of valuable research in there.
Nothing I know or believe about the case relies on Armstrong's thesis, which I agree is hard to swallow. But I'll propose this: If there were a Marguerite #2, she probably was a low-level contractor who received regular payments for babysitting this sleeper agent (whose ultimate purpose was unknown to her or his handlers). When the poor guy got whacked, the money stopped coming. After giving interviews while he was alive and attending his funeral, she couldn't exactly blurt out that the whole thing had been a ruse. She's be declared nuts. So she grumbled that "maybe" he'd been a spy. Robert Oswald, an ex-Marine, may have monetary or espionage motives of his own for not squealing. And remember: Robert Pic, the older half brother, flatly declared to the Warren Commission that the Oswald who was leafletting in New Orleans was not his brother! In any case, I don't let the bizarre theory in this nonetheless valuable book (which I just discovered last month) distract me from larger questions about Agency involvement in the plot. I think we both agree that it has been proven-as do most rational people who have looked at the evidence. Cheers.
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