Tuesday, 10 October 2017 22:12

Bill Davy at the VMI Seminar

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The following is a transcript of the talk Bill presented for the seminar held at the Virginia Military Institute on Saturday, September 2, 2017.

Alan Dale:

I have the honor of being your host, your emcee. I'd like to begin by introducing our first speaker. William Davy is a longtime researcher and writer, a respected contributor to Probe Magazine. He's been published as an essayist and reviewer. He's the author of a monograph on Clay Shaw, which he further developed into his illuminating and much admired work, Let Justice Be Done: New Light on the Jim Garrison Investigation. Please welcome Bill Davy.

Bill Davy:

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, Lee, and good evening everybody. Just give me a second to get settled here and get my eyes on. Okay. All right.

The topic of my presentation tonight are the new documents and the Season of Inquiry. By the Season of Inquiry, I’m talking about essentially the 1970s. It really was a season of inquiry. We have Watergate, of course, the Pike Committee, the Rockefeller Commission, the Church Committee, and House Select Committee on Assassinations. It seemed like at the time the politicians in the country in general were more interested in uncovering the political state. Pardon the term. Present company excluded, of course.

We're going to go into some of the documentary evidence, but oftentimes when I've given talks to, say, a less sophisticated audience, just to start off, I've asked the question, "What do you feel is the government's official position on the JFK assassination?" and people will say something like, "Well, Oswald did it," or, "That Warren Commission thing." I say, "No, that's not the official position at all. The official position of the federal government is that JFK was killed by a conspiracy."

It's right there. That is the copy ... Or it's right here. It's the final report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. God knows there's all kinds of problems with the HSCA. You can do a whole symposium on some of the in-fighting and backstabbing and so forth.

But that aside, they did some good work, and a lot of that good work found its way into the report itself. I just want to take a quick look at some of the findings of the report. I hate talking at people because everybody can read, but a few of these are worth noting.

First, "The committee believes on the basis of the evidence available to it that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as result of a conspiracy." Further, "The committee found that, to be precise and loyal to the facts it established, it was compelled to find that President Kennedy was probably killed as a result of a conspiracy." Compelled to find, pretty strong language, even though they keep slipping the 'probably' in there.

We're talking about the scientific evidence here. The evidence available to the committee indicated that it was "probable that more than one person was involved in the president's murder. That fact compels acceptance." Again, with the compelling. "And it demands a reexamination of all that was thought to be true in the past."

Further, they conclude, "Neither Oswald nor Ruby turned out to be loners, as they'd been painted in the 1964 investigation," and indeed in the media, ongoing as a matter of fact.

"The committee found that the CIA-Mafia-Cuban plots had all the elements necessary for a successful assassination conspiracy: people, motive, and means; and the evidence indicated that the participants might well have considered using the resources at their disposal to increase their power and alleviate their problems by assassinating the president."

Again, talking about the scientific evidence. "Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the president." They're talking about the stuck open mic of the motorcycle policeman who essentially recorded the assassination as it happened.

Further, in talking about the photographic evidence, "A fleshtone comparison performed by analyzing measurements of color values," and this is on Willis photograph number five. "A fleshtone comparison performed by analyzing measurements of color values on an object located behind the west end of the retaining wall," this is on the grassy knoll, "confirmed that the image perceived was actually a human being." They found photographic evidence of a human being behind the retaining wall on the grassy knoll.

"The panel did perceive 'a very distinct straight-line feature' near the region of this person's hands, but it was unable to deblur the image sufficiently to reach any conclusion as to whether the feature was in fact a weapon," but they found a person and they found what appeared to be a weapon behind the grassy knoll.

"During the course of its investigation, the committee developed several areas of credible evidence and testimony indicating a possible association in New Orleans and elsewhere between Lee Harvey Oswald and David W. Ferrie." I'll assume most people know who David Ferrie is, so we don't have to go down that road.

"The committee found that the Clinton witnesses ... " This may require a little explanation. What they're talking about here is the town of Clinton, Louisiana, which is just outside of Baton Rouge. It was uncovered during the Garrison Investigation and the subsequent Shaw trial that Lee Harvey Oswald was seen in Clinton, Louisiana at a voter registration incident with not only David Ferrie but Clay Shaw as well.

"The committee found that the Clinton witnesses ... ," and there was a whole cross-section of people up there testifying to this. "The committee found that the Clinton witnesses were credible and significant. It was the judgment of the committee that they were telling the truth as they knew it."

"If the witnesses were not only truthful but accurate as well in their accounts," they're talking about the Clinton witnesses, "they established an association of an undetermined nature between Ferrie, Shaw, and Oswald less than three months before the assassination." "The committee was, therefore, inclined to believe that Oswald was in Clinton, Louisiana in late August, early September '63 and that he was in the company of David Ferrie, if not Clay Shaw."

"The committee also found that there was at least the possibility that Oswald and Guy Banister were acquainted." Banister, Ferrie, and Shaw were a triumvirate of suspects and intelligence operatives that had come into the orbit of the Garrison investigation. Anybody who's seen Oliver Stone's film, JFK, certainly knows who these players are. The committee found that there was at least a possibility that Oswald and Banister were acquainted. We'll show later that that was more than a possibility.

"The committee obtained independent evidence that someone might have posed as Oswald in Mexico in late September and early 1963." This was the imposter down in Mexico City. Dr. Newman will probably be covering some of that later.

On the Warren Commission, the committee found that it "failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the president", that it "presented as conclusions in its report in a fashion that was too definitive". It "overstated the thoroughness of its investigation", and that "It is a reality to be regretted that the commission failed to live up to its promise."

A summary of the House Select Committee's conclusions. President Kennedy's assassination was the result of CIA-Mafia-anti-Castro conspiracy. A gunman fired from the grassy knoll. Oswald was associated with Ferrie, Shaw, and Banister. Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City. The Warren Commission was a failure. Does that remind you of anybody? The House Select Committee's conclusions vindicated Jim Garrison.

Further vindication of Garrison comes in the form of the Church Committee. This is a rather misleading title document of Oswald in New Orleans. It's 155 pages and there's very little in it on Oswald in New Orleans. Again, this comes from the files of the Church Committee. This is the cover sheet: Oswald in New Orleans. One that's of importance for us here is this interview with Wendell Roach.

Now Mr. Roach at that time was in charge of the INS in New Orleans. That was the Immigration and Naturalization Service. It's since become part of DHS, known as ICE and Customs and Border Patrol. But back before 9/11, it was known as INS. Wendell Roache was in charge of the New Orleans office. They interviewed Roach and ... According to Roache, the INS' role was to determine who was an alien and prevent unauthorized border crossings, et cetera. As part of their duties, they had the responsibility of surveilling these various Cuban groups in New Orleans, and there were a ton of them at the time, mainly these anti-Castro groups.

The INS had them under surveillance. Included in the surveillance was the group of nuts, as he calls them, headed by David Ferrie. Roache knew the details of Ferrie's dismissal from Eastern Airlines, various sordid details of his private life, et cetera. As part of surveilling these Cuban groups, they picked up surveillance on David Ferrie because he was closely aligned with these anti-Castro groups.

As they were surveilling Ferrie and the anti-Castro groups, they picked up surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald. As we can see here, Roache revealed that during the course of their surveillance, they picked up Lee Harvey Oswald going into the offices of Ferrie's group. The offices of Ferrie's group was at 544 Camp Street, which was Guy Banister's office. Oswald had used that address and stamped that address on the literature that he was handing out in New Orleans. He was seen going into the offices of Ferrie's group, Banister's office, and Oswald was known to be one of the men in the group.

Here you have an investigative body of the United States government in the person of Wendell Roache admitting that in the course of their surveillance, routine surveillance, they picked up David Ferrie associating with Lee Harvey Oswald, and the two of them going into Guy Banister's office. Let's see if we can blow this up a little bit.

He also said that the anti-Castro Cubans have been trained by a six-foot ex-marine out of Lake Pontchartrain. He could be referring to Gerry Patrick Hemming here. Just throw that out there because he mentions ... He goes out of his way mentioning a six-foot ex-marine.

His take on Garrison was that Garrison had something: I read his reports in the newspaper, and they were correct. He received good intelligence, whether he was using it for politics or not. Roache noted that Garrison was all eyes and ears in the French Quarter.

Further, he adds a little something extra to the Oswald story. When Oswald was arrested for the street scuffle with Carlos Bringuier in the summer of 1963, he was taken into custody. As the official record shows, the first thing he did he asked for an FBI agent, which was suspicious in and of itself.

But there was an extra part of this story that hadn't been revealed, at least I'd never heard of it until I found this document, and that is when they took him into custody, Oswald would only speak in Russian. When the NOPD had him, they assumed he was a Russian. They called INS. Of course, they would have responsibility for foreign aliens and so forth.

One of Roache's associates, this guy, David Smith, went to the police station, and he recognized Oswald as being part of the Banister-Ferrie group and said, "Look, this guy's an American." Once Oswald had been outed, he stopped with the Russian. It was then at that point he asked to see an FBI agent, but it was not until the INS guy had come in and said, "We recognize him from our surveillance of David Ferrie and Guy Banister."

When the Church Committee investigators finally tracked down Roache and they finally got a hold of him, this is what he said: "I've been waiting 12 years for you guys. I've been waiting for 12 years to talk someone about this." No one ever bothered to run him down, talk to him. Maybe he didn't volunteer the information either, but it's rather shameful that the FBI and the Warren Commission, who were assigned to investigate the New Orleans angle, didn't even come across this, and this is a representative of the federal government.

As they were interviewing him over the phone, the Church Committee investigator was letting him go on and Roache began talking about Oswald. He said, "I saw him around frequently. I recall that he had an office in ... " As you can see, the interviewer cut him off. I was thinking to myself, "What are you doing?" Oswald was just obviously getting ready to say ... I'm sorry. Roache was getting ready to say that they had seen Oswald had an office in Guy Banister's building. It was obviously where he was going with that, but the investigator cut him off.

Unfortunately that is about it in the files for Roache. I could not find any more follow up from the Church Committee. There was no transition of this evidence over to the House Select Committee. It's just a shameful lack of follow up on this committees and that we've got a body of the federal government, the INS, who had seen Oswald in the company of David Ferrie and Guy Banister. Again, vindicating what Jim Garrison had been saying all along.

Now what I want to do here is shift gears a little bit in that I'll talk about ... Again, this is out of the files of the Church Committee, because I think that's been an unmined area for a lot of the researchers.

This is the testimony of Scott Breckenridge. Scott Breckenridge was a counsel for the CIA. He had written the inspector general's report on the CIA assassination plots. It was written by Breckenridge and Greer and signed off by the IG Ehrman .

It came out of a Drew Pearson column that had appeared in The Post at the time. It was in response to a newspaper column by Drew Pearson, which had talked about Castro plots and how they may have backfired on the president, and Bobby Kennedy may be haunted by this. At any rate, the IG began their investigation of the assassination plot against Castro. This is some of what they came up with in the testimony of Breckenridge.

First of all, he states that the only person to have seen that report was Richard Helms. It was written for Helms. Ehrman was the inspector general who signed off on it and Greer was the other author of it. Helms returned the report to the inspector general.

What actually happened was they had one original and one copy. Helms ordered the copy destroyed and the one original got put in Helm's safe at CIA headquarters. It left one copy of the IG report. For obvious reasons, Helms did not want that getting out.

First of all, Helms didn't like the report. One of the IG's conclusions was that they concluded that the elimination of a dominant figure in government will not necessarily cause the downfall of the government. In other words, they're saying assassination will not necessarily cause the downfall of a government. Helms didn't like that. He liked assassinations. He thought it could lead to the downfall of a government.

Further on, they're talking about Phase I and Phase II plots against Castro. Phase I were the CIA-Mafia plots pre-JFK and ended under Eisenhower. Phase II were also CIA-Mafia plots. They began around November '61, some time between November '61 and April '62. This is the William Harvey ZR/RIFLE-type plots.

Some of the earlier plots to assassinate Castro were concurrent with the Bay of Pigs invasion. In other words, at the Bay of Pigs operation, a major component of that was the assassination of Castro. This information was never shared with the president, as it goes on here. Was that ever authorized by the White House, the president, and the Department of Defense? Answer: We have no record for it. Castro assassination plots, with the Bay of Pigs: not authorized. This goes on. This speaks, again, about the Bay of Pigs and the assassination plots.

Breckenridge says, "I don't think we ever found a clear record of the original authorization." Senator Baker then asks, "Is it fair to say that Phase I of this operation included a plan for assassination of the leader of a foreign state without any authority from any agency or branch of government outside of the CIA?" Answer: "It is fair to say that our records did not disclose such authority."

On the question of presidential authority for these plots, as I note in my marginalia here, the answer is unequivocal. There was none. The president did not authorize any of this activity, and this is coming right from the CIA's own inspector general report. That's why this is key, I believe.

Further, they're talking about Sheffield Edwards. This is the briefing of Phase II by Helms and Sheffield Edwards to Robert Kennedy. They told him at the time that phase I was obviously pre-JFK and had stopped and that phase II, they did not notify him about, even though it was an ongoing operation. They told him that there were no current assassination plots.

Then they're asking who within the CIA approved the making of these false statements to Attorney General Kennedy, making of the false statements to RFK? Sheffield Edwards and Helms knew and approved making false statements to RFK. This would indicate that Colonel Edwards knew and that Mr. Helms knew, and knew that they were making false statements to RFK when they told him that phase I had been switched off and there was no phase II going on. Let's see who we have here.

This is CIA Director McCone. He had not been advised of any of the CIA assassination plots. In other words, they were worried that he would have stopped the assassination plots had he known, McCone. .. .so they didn't tell him. It was just the director of the CIA. Helms and Sheffield Edwards and Harvey withheld all this information from the CIA director.

Outside of phase I and phase II, there were other Castro assassination plots. As you can see, Breckenridge says yes in response to that. There was one plot about blowing up an electric plant in Havana while trying to get into position to assassinate Castro. That was an adjunct to these Phase I and Phase II plots, a sort of off the books, off the shelf kind of thing.

There was another CIA plot where there was an assassin who tried three times and didn't get into Cuba. After the Bay of Pigs occurred, he went on to some other activity. That was all that Breckenridge had, but there were other CIA plots to kill Castro prior to the Bay of Pigs with this one assassin trying three times.

Again, they're talking about other plots here, dropping in Cuban rifles with silencers to be used to kill Castro, correct. Also talking about the syringe with poison. This was actually a poison pen that was given to a CIA assassin. He was told that he had the approval, the tacit approval, of RFK to proceed with the assassination of Castro. That was Desmond Fitzgerald who was telling this to AMLASH, Rolando Cubela, code name AMLASH.

Here they're talking about other miscellaneous schemes prior to August 1960. It was when Kennedy wasn't even in office yet. Again, Castro assassination plots ongoing prior to JFK even taking office.

"We find no evidence of any of these schemesap proved at any level higher than division, if that." Breckenridge: "That is correct." There was no approvals as we see. There was no approval by the executive for any of these operations.

This was something I didn't know about. "Our record is not too conclusive, but when Mr. Colby," they're talking about William Colby taking over as CIA director in August of '63, "instructed that if it had not already been terminated, it should be terminated." They're talking about the ZR/RIFLE assassination plots within the CIA.

Apparently, as late as 1973, this was still an ongoing operation. It was still on the books. They didn't know if it had been switched off or not. We'll touch a little bit more on ZR/RIFLE in just a second.

One thing I want to mention here, this gets brought up a lot in the context of Garrison and Garrison being mobbed up under the thumb of various mafiosos. They like to cite thi:s that the CIA knew about Garrison talking with Johnny Roselli in Las Vegas, and it was disturbing to them.

First of all, Garrison was investigating the assassination of the president. He should be talking to Johnny Roselli. Certainly, the House Select Committee wanted to talk to him, and they did. After that, his remains ended up in an oil barrel floating outside of Miami. At any rate, what they were disturbed about was not that Garrison was mobbed up, they were concerned that Roselli was probably spilling the beans on the Castro plots to Garrison.

It says here, they're quoting from another CIA document, "Unhappily, it now appears that Garrison may also know this." They're talking about the Castro plots. Garrison may also know it because Roselli was spilling the beans to him. That's what they were worried about, not that he was mobbed up, which he was not. That's what they were disturbed about.

They're talking about Desmond Fitzgerald and the AMLASH plot and the poison pen that was given to AMLASH, and told that he had the assurances of Robert Kennedy, this was approved by RFK. F.A.O. Schwarz Jr., who was a counsel, asks, "There was no approval sought from Robert Kennedy?" Breckenridge: "That is correct." They didn't even ask for approval from RFK. They just went ahead and did it.

This goes on to mention that there was a contingency fund of about $100,000 that could be used for these type of operations, off the book-type operations, unvouchered funds that could be used for assassination plots, foreign or domestic, and no one would be the wiser.

This is actually one of the pages from the IG report itself. In the report, they ask, "Can the CIA state or imply that it was merely an instrument of policy?" CIA: "Not in this case. While it was true that phase II was carried out in an atmosphere of intense Kennedy pressure, such is not true of the earlier phase. Phase I was initiated in '60 under the Eisenhower administration." Again, phase II was never revealed to RFK or JFK. That's just the second page of that. I just want to move on quickly.

I mentioned the ZR/RIFLE program. That was the assassination program run by William Harvey. This is a document from the CIA. In 1976, probably as the HSCA was ramping up, they did a review of the ZR/RIFLE file. In so doing, they found these various ZR/RIFLE files, and note the early date pre-JFK. There's a ZR/RIFLE administrative financial folder dated October 13th, 1960, and they're talking about using one of their assets QJ/WIN back in 1959. As you can see, the ZR/RIFLE program predates JFK by quite a significant period. That's just a continuation of that.

Hale Boggs was a member of the Warren Commission. He was a congressman from New Orleans. A lot of people like to cite him as one of the Warren Commissioners who didn't believe the conclusions, didn't believe the magic bullet theory.

Well, the FBI released these documents. In 1967, Boggs asked for a meeting with Deke DeLoach, who was J. Edgar Hoover's right hand, if you will. He met with the Boggs in Boggs' office. Boggs stated Garrison was making New Orleans and Louisiana the laughing stock of the world. He, Boggs, next praised the FBI and indicated that he had always been completely satisfied regarding the FBI's thoroughness. He said that he wouldn't be certain that Garrison had nothing which might bring disgrace upon him, Boggs, and his home state, et cetera.

Here Boggs has reread much of the Warren Commission report just to make absolutely certain there were no loopholes. He stated he had found none. Boggs was no advocate of the Warren Commission and he was certainly no advocate of Garrison as he was informing on him to the FBI.

Further discreditation of Garrison in the critical community came in a 1967-1968 broadcast by CBS. It was hosted by Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, and their Dallas CBS reporter, Eddie Barker. It turns out that Eddie Barker was an FBI informant. "On this date, Eddie Barker, special agent in charge of contact, and news director of KBLD Radio and TV Dallas, advised me confidentially that CBS was planning a five-hour documentary. He stated the primary purpose of this was to take the books which are critical of the Warren report, particularly Rush to Judgment, and tear them apart."

He indicated in this document that he was not going to be critical of the FBI and, in fact, would support the Warren Report. He requested that this information be kept confidential and that he would give more details at a later date. Very accommodating of CBS.

Finally, I'll just conclude here something that's not out of the files, but was actually in Vanity Fair magazine a few years ago. Yeah, 2009 actually. In it, they're talking about William Manchester who wrote the book The Death of a President. Earl Warren went to Manchester and gave him the first draft of the commission's report, of the Warren Report, and said, "Here. We'd like you to read it and approve its findings on behalf of the Kennedys." Now is that any way to run an investigation? You're having the Warren Report, the report with your name on it, vetted by the family of the murdered president? That's a disgrace, frankly.

This I apologize for the illegibility of, but this was an article from a magazine called Marin Life in 1977. It was written by a reporter named Richard Raznikov. Jim DiEugenio, who'll be on later, can vouch, as I can, that if Raznikov dug this up, it's as good as gold.

What he revealed ... It's a little hard to read; it's a little hard to read here ... Earl Warren had attended a judicial conference in the State of Florida. At that conference, he confided to Raznikov's source, who was a federal judge and a friend of Warren's, that he, Warren, was ashamed of himself and of what the Commission had done and that the whole thing had been a whitewash, and he had been coerced into it by President Lyndon Johnson, which we knew.

Again, this is from an unnamed source, but I have every confidence in this report of Richard Raznikov. If he's got a source that said it, you can be pretty damn sure that he said it. You even have Earl Warren, the man whose name is on the cover of the Warren report, revealing that the whole thing was a cover up, a whitewash, and that he was actually ashamed.

I was reading the inscription on the way in today out there, and it says, "Your services as informed citizens will be necessary to the peace and prosperity of the world." That really touched me, and I hope that my little presentation tonight has helped you be a more informed citizenry. Thank you for your time. Thank you.

This transcript has been edited for grammar and flow.

Last modified on Tuesday, 10 October 2017 22:37
William Davy

Bill Davy has been writing and researching the JFK case, with an emphasis on the Jim Garrison inquiry, since the early 1990s.  He became a contributor to Probe Magazine and then did a monograph on Clay Shaw.  That long essay turned into his fine book, Let Justice Be Done: New Light on the Jim Garrison Investigation.  Thereafter he continued to write essays and reviews for CTKA, and has also spoken at various conferences on the JFK case.

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