Thursday, 04 May 2023 08:44

Case Closed 30 Years On: Even Worse - Part 2/5: Posner's Portrait of Oswald Color Corrected

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Part 2 of 5 of British researcher Martin Hay's review of Gerald Posner's 1993 book Case Closed.

Oswald, the Weapons, and the Walker Shooting

In January 1963, according to Posner, Oswald mail-ordered a Smith & Wesson .38 special revolver from Seaport Traders, Los Angeles, to be delivered C.O.D. to a Dallas post office box that he had begun renting in the autumn of 1962. Two months later, according to Posner’s narrative, he ordered a 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago. Both purchases were allegedly made using the alias “A.J. Hidell.” The author goes on to say that, on March 25, Oswald picked up the rifle from the post office, “and then travelled across town for the revolver that was sent to the offices of REA Express.” (Posner, p. 105) Of course, none of this is as cut and dried as Posner makes it out to be.

To begin with, when shipping the pistol, REA was required by law to obtain “a certificate of good character” for the individual who placed the order, but there is no evidence this ever happened. Additionally, a signed receipt for the cash-on-delivery and proof of identification on a 5024 form should have been obtained from “A.J. Hidell” before the pistol was released to him. And, since the post office would not handle packages for a private company, REA would have had to have sent a postcard to Oswald’s P.O. box, notifying him of the arrival of the pistol. Yet, as John Armstrong reports, “the REA office had no notification card, no receipt for the payment of C.O.D. charges, no signed receipt for the package, no form 5024 as required, and no identification of the person who picked it up. REA had nothing that showed either the identity of the individual who picked up the package or the date of the pickup.” (Armstrong, p. 483) In fact, there is not even any evidence that the FBI ever went to REA after the assassination.

There is a similar lack of evidence regarding the collection of the rifle. Dallas Postal Inspector Harry Holmes told the New York Times a few days after the assassination that “no person other than Oswald was authorized to receive mail” through his post office box. (Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment, p. 138) This was substantiated by the FBI who reported on July 27, 1964, that “Our investigation has revealed that Oswald did not indicate on his application that others, including an ‘A. Hidell,’ would receive mail through the box in question.” (See CE 2585, WC Vol. 25 p.859) Postal regulations in 1963 explicitly stated that “mail addressed to a person at a post office box, who is not authorized to receive mail, shall be endorsed ‘addressee unknown,’ and returned to sender where possible.” (Lane, p. 140-141) Therefore, since the name on the order to Klein’s was Hidell, the rifle should have been immediately returned to Klein’s Sporting Goods, with Oswald being none the wiser. Furthermore, postal regulations mandated that both the sender and recipient of firearms were to fill out and sign a 2162 form which was to be retained for four years. No such form has ever been produced, leaving open the question of who, if anyone, picked up and signed for the rifle.

In light of the above, Posner’s claim that Oswald collected both items on March 25, 1963, is without any supporting evidence. In fact, his source for this assertion, which is page 337 of Marina and Lee, only says that Oswald “probably” picked up his rifle on that date and “probably” picked up the pistol “on Monday or Friday evening of that week.” Author Priscilla McMillan then admits in a footnote that “the dates of arrival have to be guessed at.” So not only is Posner withholding from readers the curious lack of paperwork that should exist, but he is also misrepesenting his own source and presenting guesswork as established fact. And this is the book that historian Stephen Ambrose called a “model of historical research.”

Posner continues to toe the Warren Commission line by asserting that on April 10, 1963, Oswald used the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to try to assassinate former Army General Edwin Walker, a prominent right-wing zealot. As Posner tells it, Oswald spent weeks locked in his study, compiling an “operations manual,” filled with photographs he had taken of Walker’s house, as well as plans on where to stash the rifle, and “maps of a carefully designed escape route.” (p. 105) Then on the evening of April 10, he left the house shortly after supper, leaving Marina to wonder where her husband had gone. After putting the baby to bed, she walked into Oswald’s study and found a note, instructing her on what to do should he fail to return home. He reappeared, however, at 11:30 pm, “pale and out of breath,” telling her he had taken a shot at Walker. The following morning, when Oswald switched on the radio, he was upset to discover that he had missed. Reports indicated that Walker had been sitting behind a desk in his dining room when a bullet had crashed through the window and into the wall behind him. Oswald was, according to Marina, “very sorry that he had not hit him.” (p. 113-117)

There are numerous issues with this story, the most important of which being that the bullet that was recovered from Walker’s home was described by police at the time as a steel-jacketed, 30.06 round, completely incompatible with “Oswald’s” rifle. Posner labels this identification a mistake and insists later in the book that when the bullet―dubbed CE 573 by the commission―was examined for the HSCA, it was identified “as a Western Cartridge Co. 6.5mm Carcano bullet, the same brand Oswald used in the presidential assassination.” (p. 341n) What Posner does not say is thatGeneral Walker himself wrote a letter on February 12, 1979, which said, “The bullet used and pictured on TV by the…Committee on Assassinations is a ridiculous substitute for a bullet completely mutilated…baring no resemblance to any unfired bullet in shape or form. I saw the hunk of lead, picked up by a policeman in my house, and took it from him and I inspected it very carefully. There is no mistake.” To those who say the HSCA used a whole bullet only as an example for the expired one, that does not explain the police report. The report referred to a steel-jacketed projectile not a copper jacketed one, which is what Oswald’s rifle fired. (General Offense Report of 4/10/63)

Without the bullet, the whole story rests on Marina’s testimony which, as previously noted, was often contradictory and unreliable. So much so, in fact, that staff for the HSCA complied a report totalling more than thirty pages titled “Marina Oswald Porter’s Statements of a Contradictory Nature.” To be fair to Marina, it must be remembered that almost immediately after her husband was murdered, she was whisked away to the Inn of Six Flags in Arlington, Texas, by the Secret Service. There, she was kept incommunicado for two months and repeatedly interrogated by the Secret Service and FBI, under threat of deportation. (Warren Commission Vol. 1, p. 79, p.410) During that time she went from insisting that she knew of no acts of violence perpetrated by Oswald to giving the most damning evidence against him. Twenty-five years later, Marina confessed that she had been led to paint the portrait she did. “I didn’t realise how they led me,” she said. “…I think the Warren Commission used me as a spokesman to advance their theory of a single gunman, because it comes out stronger; after all, the wife knows…I buried him. I was introduced as a witness, and I became his executioner.” (Ladies Home Journal, Nov 1988)

The only items of evidence offered in support of Marina’s story are a handwritten note that purports to be the one Marina found in his study the night of the attempted shooting, and a few photographs of Walker’s residence that were supposedly found among Oswald’s possession on the weekend of the assassination. Yet the note is not dated and makes no reference to General Walker or an attempt to kill him. Additionally, as researcher, Gil Jesus has astutely observed, the note instructs Marina that the "money from work" will be "sent to our post office box. Go to the bank and cash the check." But the last job Oswald had before April 10, 1963, was at Jaggars-Chiles-Stovall and they did not mail his paychecks. This clearly suggests the note was not written around the time of the Walker attempt and was, therefore, written for some other reason.

As for the photographs, their very existence in November 1963 makes little sense. Posner himself states that Oswald had placed the photos he took inside the “operations manual” he allegedly created, detailing his Walker plans. Yet Marina said that she watched him burn the whole notebook a few days after April 10. (WC Vol. 11 p.292) She did not say she saw him pull out a few pictures to keep and it makes little sense to suggest that he did. Perhaps Posner believes that Oswald decided to keep a few of these incriminating pictures around so that one day he could gather the family together to share a laugh about the time Papa went crazy and tried to murder a fascist. But, to my mind, there is just no logically acceptable reason for Oswald not to have disposed of those pictures along with the rest of his alleged “operations manual”. Which, I believe, leaves open the possibility that they were planted among his possessions.

Oswald was never considered a suspect in the Walker shooting when it was originally investigated by Dallas police, whose files make clear that they thought it to be an attempted “burglary by firearms.” Furthermore, the eyewitness account of Walker’s neighbour, Walter Kirk Coleman, indicated that more than one person was involved. Posner attempts to muddy Coleman’s account by writing―without citation―that “Contrary to press reports that he saw two men get into separate cars and race away, he told the FBI that he only saw one car leave, and it moved at a normal rate of speed.” (p. 117n) But what Coleman told police at the time was that almost immediately after the shot was fired, he saw two men getting into two different cars in the nearby church parking lot. One of these men bent over the front seat of his car “as if putting something in the back floorboard.” The other man got into a light green or blue Ford and “took off in a hurry”. (WC Vol. 24, p.41) Oswald, it should be noted, could not drive and did not own a car. Later, when shown pictures by the FBI, Coleman said that “neither man resembled Oswald and that he had never seen anyone in or around the Walker residence or the church before or after April 10, 1963, who resembled Lee Harvey Oswald.” (WC Vol. 28, p.438)

General Walker was not the only political figure whom Marina claimed her husband had designs on killing. During her second appearance before the commission, she said that on April 22, 1963, Oswald had grabbed his pistol and headed for the door after learning that Richard Nixon was coming to Dallas. To thwart his plan, Marina called Lee into the bathroom and, after he entered, she jumped out of the room and kept the door shut until he calmed down. Even the Warren Commission struggled to swallow this whopper. Not only because records showed that Nixon did not visit Dallas that day but also because the bathroom door to the Oswald’s home, like most bathroom doors, closed and locked from the inside, requiring Marina to physically overpower her husband for several minutes.

None of this is a problem for Posner. He repeats the whole story as if it were written in stone. He quotes Marina as saying that Lee was “not a big man…and when I collect all my forces and want to do something very badly I am stronger than he is.” (p. 120) Of course, Posner does not question where this superior strength was during the numerous, savage beatings he described Oswald giving Marina over the preceding months. Nor does he consider it a problem that Nixon was not in Dallas that day. He solves this little issue by lamely suggesting that the supposedly dyslexic Oswald could have confused Nixon with Lyndon Johnson. (p. 120n) Which, quite frankly, is absurd. In the end, it must be said that if Marina’s story of Oswald attempting to shoot Walker is questionable, then the whole Nixon tale is downright ridiculous and entirely unworthy of belief.

Oswald in New Orleans

Two weeks after the Walker shooting, Oswald climbed aboard a bus headed for his hometown of New Orleans, ostensibly to look for work. While Marina and June went to stay in Irving, Texas, with a 31-year-old Quaker named Ruth Paine. The Oswalds had first met Ruth in February 1963 at a dinner party arranged by Volkmar Schmidt, a friend of George de Mohrenschildt. Ruth and her husband Michael would later emerge as persons of great interest to Kennedy assassination researchers, partly as a result of their intriguing connections to US intelligence agencies. Ruth’s sister, Sylvia Hyde Hoke, had been an employee of the CIA for eight years by 1963, and, shortly after the assassination, their father, William Avery Hyde, received a three-year government contract from the Agency for International Development, an organisation closely associated with the CIA.

Michael’s stepfather was Arthur Young, the inventor of the Bell Helicopter and his mother, Ruth Forbes Paine Young, was a lifelong friend of OSS spy Mary Bancroft, a girlfriend of CIA director Allen Dulles. It is interesting to note that Robert Oswald was immediately suspicious of the Paines when he met them on the day of the assassination, writing in his diary, “I still do not know why or how, but Mr. and Mrs. Paine are somehow involved in this affair.” (WC Vol. 1 p. 346) In fact, he quickly advised Marina to “sever all connections with Mr. and Mrs. Paine…I recommended that she did not talk to Mrs. Paine at all nor answer her letters…” (Ibid, pp.420–21) None of this is mentioned in Case Closed.

A couple of weeks after Oswald first arrived in New Orleans, he found himself a job at the William B. Reily Coffee Company. Reily Coffee was described in the Warren report as “an enterprise engaged in the roasting, grinding, bagging, canning, and sale of coffee.” (WR p. 726) More intriguingly, it was described in a formerly secret CIA memo as being “of interest” to the Agency as of April 1949. (William Davy, Let Justice be Done, p. 36) It’s owner, William Reily, was a prominent anti-communist who provided financial support to CIA-affiliated groups like the Information Council of Americas and Crusade to Free Cuba. Furthermore, according to author Joan Mellen, Reily “was the subject of two CIA files in the Office of Security, a ‘B’ file and a ‘C’ file, indicating he was both a covert and an overt CIA asset.” (Joan Mellen, A Farewell to Justice, p. 66)

Shortly after Oswald secured his job at Reily Co., he put down a deposit on a ground-floor apartment. Marina was then driven the 500 miles from Irving to New Orleans by Ruth Paine so that she could join her husband in their new home. Their reunion was not a particularly happy one, however, as Marina was decidedly unimpressed by the “dark and dirty” apartment he had found. (p. 125) Very soon thereafter, Lee apparently gave up trying to please her in favour of a new preoccupation: Castro’s Cuba. He would spend much of the summer of 1963 promoting an ersatz chapter of the pro-Castro organization, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). Predictably, Posner wants readers to believe that Oswald conducted his FPCC activities entirely alone and solely for his own amusement. The evidence suggests otherwise.

For example, on several occasions over the summer of 1963, Oswald took to the streets of New Orleans to hand out pro-Castro literature, ostensibly to gain membership and support for his FPCC chapter. On at least one occasion, the address for this fictitious local branch that he hand-stamped on his pamphlets was 544 Camp Street. As Jim Garrison discovered in 1966 when he began investigating Oswald’s New Orleans escapades, 544 Camp Street was the side entrance to 531 Lafayette Street, where the office of private detective agency, Guy Banister Associates, Inc., was located. Guy Banister was a former FBI agent and extreme right winger who appears to have operated his detective agency as little more than a cover for his own anti-communist crusade. A diehard segregationist who believed the civil rights movement was a communist plot against America, Banister was a member of both the John Birch Society and the Minutemen. He was also affiliated with numerous CIA-funded Cuban exile guerrilla groups who spent much time in and around his office. According to Joe Newbrough, a former Banister investigator, “Guy was a conduit of ‘Company’ money…he passed out money for the [Cuban exile] training camps.” (Davy, p. 15)

As Posner writes, “Another frequent Camp Street visitor was David Ferrie, a rabid anti-Communist who worked with Bannister, for some of the most radical anti-Cuban groups, and also for the attorney of [Carlos] Marcello.” (p. 137) It is fair to say that Ferrie cut a most unusual figure. As a sufferer from alopecia totalis, an affliction which caused him to lose all body hair, he wore a wig made from reddish-brown monkey fur and drew on makeshift eyebrows with greasepaint. A one-time pilot for Eastern Airlines who was investigated by U.S. Customs for gunrunning and ultimately fired for a “crime against nature” involving a 15-year-old boy, Ferrie once wrote, “There is nothing that I would enjoy better than blowing the hell out of every damn Russian, Communist, Red or what-have-you. We can cook up a crew that will really bomb them to hell…I want to train killers, however bad that sounds. It is what we need.” (Davy, p. 7) It perhaps goes without saying that Ferrie’s views made him an unlikely friend to an alleged Marxist and defector to the Soviet Union like Oswald. And yet, the pair had a relationship that went back to Oswald’s days in the Civil Air Patrol.

Shortly after the assassination, Garrison’s office was contacted by one of Banister’s private investigators, Jack Martin, who said that he believed Ferrie might have been Oswald’s superior officer in the CAP. (HSCA report, p. 143) Two days later the FBI interviewed Edward Voebel who confirmed that “he and Oswald were members of the Civil Air Patrol in New Orleans with Captain David Ferrie during the time they were in school.” (FBI 105-82555 Oswald HQ file, section 11, p. 34) By the time that Voebel appeared before the Warren commission, following repeated interrogations by the FBI, he appeared less certain in his recollection. However, both Garrison’s office and the HSCA located other cadets who confirmed Voebel’s original statement. One such cadet, Jerry Paradis, told the HSCA, “Oswald and Ferrie were in the unit together. I know they were because I was there…I’m not saying that they may have been there together, I’m saying it is a certainty.” (Davy, p. 5)

Posner, who makes no mention of Paradis―or any of the other cadets―writes that CAP records show Ferrie had been disciplined in 1954 for giving “unauthorized political lectures to cadets” and was not reinstated until 1958, three years after Oswald left. (p. 143) Shortly after Case Closed was first published, he said the same thing for the PBS Frontline TV special, Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? Unfortunately for Posner, immediately after he made this assertion, Frontline cut to a then recently unearthed photograph that clearly showed Ferrie and Oswald together at a CAP cookout. As author Bill Davy later explained, an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration revealed that Ferrie had run his own non-chartered CAP squadron at Moisant Airport in 1955 when Oswald was a member. (Davy, p. 6) Obviously there is no longer any debate about whether Oswald met Ferrie in the CAP. And Posner ended up with custard pie on his face.

Maintaining that there is “no credible evidence that Oswald knew either Guy Banister or David Ferrie” or had any connection to 544 Camp Street, (p. 148) Posner tries to discredit Banister’s secretary and mistress, Delphine Roberts, who told Anthony Summers that Oswald had walked into Banister’s office sometime in 1963 “seeking an application form” and then had a lengthy conversation behind closed doors with Banister himself. Thereafter, she said, “Oswald came back a number of times. He seemed to be on familiar terms with Banister and with the office. As I understand it he had the use of an office on the second floor, above the main office where we worked.” (Summers, p. 324) Posner points out, that Roberts’s story grew over time and suggests that she, therefore, is not to be believed. He further claims to have interviewed Roberts and says that she admitted to him that she “didn’t tell [Summers] the truth” but had fed him a story for money. (p. 140-141) Posner leaves out the facts that Roberts was worn to secrecy by Banister after the assassination. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, p. 110). And that when she told her story more completely, first to the HSCA in classified files and then to Anthony Summers, she was not being paid. (Summers, Not in Your Lifetime, p. 433) Further that when she denied what she said to Summers, she was suffering from dementia. (1997 Interview by Jim DiEugenio with Allen Campbell)

But further, Roberts’s account about Oswald’s presence at Camp Street and his relationship with Banister is corroborated by other witnesses. For example, Dan Campbell, who infiltrated left-wing college groups on Banister’s behalf, recalled being in Banister’s office one day when Oswald walked in and used the phone. Another Banister employee, George Higginbotham, recalled bringing one of Oswald’s leafleting campaigns to Banister’s attention and being told, “Cool it. One of them is one of mine.” (Davy, p. 40-41)

On top of ignoring witnesses like Campbell and Higginbotham, Posner completely fails to provide an adequate reason as to why Oswald would stamp his pamphlets with an address to which he had no access. The best he can come up with is to suggest that since the office had been used the previous year by an anti-Castro group known as the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC), Oswald had chosen the 544 Camp Street address to try to “embarrass his nemesis…” (p. 142) This fails a basic logic test. To begin with, if such was the case, then how would Oswald know the CRC had been there the year before? Having vacated the premises, the CRC would presumably be unaware of any FPCC inquiries coming in as a result of Oswald’s campaign. Moreover, if the entire purpose of his leafleting activity was to gather supporters to his cause, it strains credulity to suggest that Oswald would have them send their details where he would never see them, thus ensuring he lost potential members. Posner’s postulate is implausible even on its face.

One of the most famous events related to Oswald’s FPCC campaign occurred on Friday, August 9, when he got into a street scuffle with some anti-Castro Cubans which led to his being arrested and spending the night in jail. A few days before, he had walked into a Cuban-owned general store and spoken to manager Carlos Bringuier, allegedly telling Bringuier that he was “against Communism,” and offered his Marine Corps expertise “to train Cubans to fight against Castro.” (p. 150-151) Then, on August 9, according to Bringuier, a friend ran into the store to tell him that he had seen an American with a sign that said “Viva Fidel! Hands of Cuba!” handing out leaflets on Canal Street. When Bringuier and two friends ran to confront this man, they were shocked to find that the American was Oswald. Incensed, Bringuier began shouting at him, “Why, you are a Communist! You Traitor! What are you doing?” Bringuier removed his glasses ready to strike Oswald who calmly put his arms down by his side and said, “Hey, Carlos, if you want to hit me, hit me.” One of Bringuier’s companions grabbed Oswald’s leaflets and threw them into the air, causing Oswald to lose his cool. Soon thereafter, police arrived and all four were arrested for disturbing the peace.

What makes this incident noteworthy is that Oswald described the event five days before it occurred. On August 4, he wrote a letter to the FPCC stating, “Through the efforts of some exile ‘gusanos’ a street demonstration was attacked and we were officially cautioned by police.” (WC Vol. 20 p. 524) The existence of this letter has led many critics to believe that the entire incident was staged, something Posner attempts to counter by quoting arresting officer, Lt. Francis Martello, as telling him, “That fight was not set up. I didn’t believe it back then and I don’t believe it now―no way.” (p. 152n)

The problem for Posner is that Martello testified to the exact opposite for the Warren Commission, telling commission attorney Wesley Liebeler that Oswald “appeared to have set them up, so to speak, to create an incident, but when the incident occurred he remained absolutely peaceful and gentle.” (WC Vol. 10 p.61) Whether Oswald set up Bringuier and his companions, or whether they knowingly helped him to stage the event, is a point of contention. What is inarguable is that it led to a radio debate on Wednesday, August 21, between Oswald and Bringuier in which Bringuier―with the help of host Bill Stuckey―was able to “expose” Oswald as a defector to the Soviet Union, thus causing embarrassment to the FPCC by linking it to Russian Communism.

Anthony Summers speculated in his 1980 book, Conspiracy, that Oswald’s contacts with Bringuier may have been part of a “staged propaganda operation” against the FPCC. He further pointed out that, during the same timeframe, the FBI, CIA, and Army Intelligence “were engaged in clandestine operations against numerous left-wing organizations” including the FPCC. (Summers, Conspiracy, p. 304) Over a decade later in his ground-breaking work Oswald and the CIA, former Army Intelligence analyst John Newman revealed―based on documents released by the ARRB―that the CIA’s operation against the FPCC was originally run by two officers: James McCord and David Phillips. (Newman, p. 236) This information seems highly significant when considered alongside Cuban exile leader Antonio Veciana’s claim to have seen Phillips, whom he knew as “Maurice Bishop,” meeting with Oswald in Dallas in August or September of 1963. (Summers, p. 356) In other words, Oswald’s actions seem to fit in perfectly with what the CIA was doing to destroy the FPCC.

Bringuier, it should be noted, had his own undeniable connection to the CIA. Posner tries to dispel this notion by quoting Bringuier as saying that apart from a single interview with the Agency’s Domestic Contacts Division, “it is a lie to say I had any CIA contact.” (p. 152n) But this is nonsense. Bringuier was, by his own admission, the New Orleans delegate of the Directorio Revolucionario Estudiantil (DRE), a militant anti-Castro group that was, in the CIA’s own words, “conceived, created and funded by the Agency…” The DRE, which was also known by the CIA code name AMSPELL, was given $51,000 per month by the Agency. Furthermore, as John Newman reported, “The CIA AMSPELL mission during the summer of 1963 was for propaganda, instead of military, operations.” (Newman, p. 318) In other words, Bringuier’s CIA-funded group was engaged in the very same activities of which Oswald is suspected of being involved.

The morning after Oswald’s arrest, while he was being interviewed by Lt. Martello, he made what Posner terms a “seemingly unusual request;” he asked to speak to an agent of the FBI. (p. 153) Although he did not mention it in his Warren Commission testimony, Martello later said that Oswald had specifically asked for Special Agent Warren de Brueys. (Mellen, p. 59) Since it was a Saturday and de Brueys was supposedly busy attending a barbecue, however, Oswald had to make do with a Bureau agent named John Quigley. At that point, if Quigley’s report is to be believed, Oswald had nothing of significance to say and merely fed him a bunch of lies.

If Oswald asked specifically for de Brueys, this opens the possibility that he was informing to the FBI on his FPCC activities. And in fact, as Posner admits in a footnote, Cuban bar owner Orest Pena claimed to have seen Oswald and de Brueys together on more than one occasion. (p. 166n) Posner counters this by saying that Pena “recanted his story” to both the FBI and the Warren Commission and quotes de Brueys calling him a “propagating liar.” (p. 167n) Again, its what Posner leaves out that is so important. Posner fails to acknowledge that Pena was himself one of de Brueys’ informants and that his FBI interview had been conducted by none other than de Brueys himself! Furthermore, in sworn testimony for the HSCA that was not declassified in full until 2017, Pena said that de Brueys “told me before, about a week or ten days more or less before I went to testify to the Warren Commission that if I talk about him he will get rid of my ass.” (180-10075-10168: Sworn Testimony of Orest Pena, p. 11)

Posner is so desperate to convey the idea that Oswald worked entirely alone in his FPCC campaign that he misrepresents testimony related to another of his leafleting efforts. On this occasion, the accused assassin was filmed outside the New Orleans International Trade Mart handing out his literature, accompanied by two other individuals. Posner writes that, earlier that morning, Oswald had gone

…to the unemployment office, where he offered $2 to anybody who would help him distribute leaflets for half an hour. Two accepted his offer, and they walked to the Trade Mart…One of the youngsters who helped Oswald was later identified as Charles Hall Steele, Jr…The other unemployed helper was never identified, although Steele testified the man volunteered from the unemployment line, the same as he had.” (p. 158)

Here, once again, its what Posner leaves out that is so detrimental to his story.

Firstly, although Steele did indeed testify that Oswald had offered him $2 to hand out leaflets, he did not say he was on an unemployment line. Steele told the commission that he had driven a friend to the unemployment office so that she could take a test and, while he sat waiting for her to finish, Oswald approached him with the offer. Once Steele’s friend had finished her test, he drove her to where she needed to be and then made his own way to the Trade Mart. After he arrived, Steele said, “[Oswald] and another fellow came up, and he handed me these leaflets, so I just started passing them out.” (WC Vol. 10, p.65) There is no mention in Steele’s testimony of seeing this other man, whom he described as “sort of Cuban looking,” (ibid) volunteer from the unemployment line. In fact, he had no idea where he had come from. When Steele arrived at the Trade Mart, he said, Oswald was not there, but after he “waited for maybe a minute, or a few seconds” Oswald and his “Cuban looking” companion arrived together. (Ibid p.67) Steele’s account leaves open the possibility that this unidentified man was known to Oswald and was involved with him in his FPCC activities, something Posner does not want to admit.

Perhaps the most mysterious and intriguing of Oswald’s appearances during the summer of 1963 occurred not in New Orleans but in the nearby towns of Clinton and Jackson in early September. Numerous witnesses from these small, rural towns came forward during Jim Garrison’s investigation, with several of them swearing that they saw Oswald in the company of both David Ferrie and Clay Shaw―a CIA asset and director of the International Trade Mart. Posner stoops to cheap smear types of tactics in a failed attempt to discredit these witnesses. He claims that their original statements revealed “substantial confusion” and that “only after extensive coaching by the Garrison staff did the witnesses tell a cohesive and consistent story.” (p. 145) He then spends three and a half pages detailing what he calls “considerable contradictions” that invalidate the whole story. (p. 145-148) The problem, as even Posner’s fellow lone nut author Norman Mailer admits, is that Posner is taking descriptions of events that occurred in two different towns, fifteen miles apart, across two separate days, and “mixing them together as one.” (Mailer, p. 622)

Not content with misusing eyewitness accounts to create contradictions that don’t exist, Posner suggests that the weather as described by Jackson town barber Edward McGehee and state representative Reeves Morgan placed the event later in the year, when Oswald was no longer living in New Orleans. He quotes McGehee as saying it “was kind of cool” and writes, “He remembered the air conditioning was not on in his shop.” The author further notes that Morgan “recalled lighting the fireplace,” which he portrays as significant because weather records for September show “daily temperatures above 90 degrees, with only a few days dipping into the eighties, with high humidity.” (p. 145) But what Posner fails to note is that McGehee said Oswald walked into his barber shop “along toward the evening” and the very weather records Posner cites show that evening temperatures dipped into the low 70’s. This small drop in temperature had prompted McGehee to switch off his air conditioner simply to save money. As for Morgan, the reason he had lit his fireplace was not to keep himself warm but to burn some trash as there was no refuse collection service to his home. (Davy, p. 116) Once again, Posner’s attempt to discredit inconvenient witness testimony is undone by the details he consistently omits.

Oswald, Odio and Mexico City

On Friday, September 20, Ruth Paine arrived at the Oswald home and stayed for the weekend. Three days later she took Marina, June, and all the family belongings back with her to Irving, Texas. According to Ruth, Oswald “did virtually all the packing and all the loading of things into the car.” Although she thought at the time Oswald was being a gentleman, Posner writes, “she is now convinced that he probably packed his rifle in one of the bags and did not want anyone else handling it.” (p. 169) This, of course, makes very little sense given that Oswald was not planning to unload the car and someone else would have had to handle the rifle at the other end. Regardless, two days after Marina’s departure, according to Posner, Oswald boarded a bus on the first leg of a trip to Mexico City where, according to the official story, he would make several visits to both the Cuban and Soviet embassies in a desperate, failed attempt to gain a visa that would permit him to return to the USSR via Cuba. There are numerous reasons to doubt the official narrative of Oswald’s activities in Mexico City, and there are strong indications that he was impersonated there. While a full discussion of this subject is beyond the scope of this review, I will address a few of the more important issues as they are presented in Case Closed.

The claim that Oswald began a bus journey to Mexico on September 25 is contradicted by the account of Sylvia Odio, a twenty-six-year-old Cuban emigree who was active in the anti-Castro underground. Odio told the FBI and the Warren Commission that on or around the evening of September 26, she had been visited at her Dallas home by three men who claimed to be friends of the cause. Two of the men were Cuban or Mexican, one called himself “Leopoldo” and the other “something like Angelo.” (WC Vol p. 370) The third man was an American who was introduced to her as “Leon Oswald” but Odio would later identify him as Lee Harvey Oswald. The men told Odio that they had come from New Orleans and were in a hurry because they were “leaving for a trip.” The next day, Odio said, Leopoldo called her, asking what she thought about Leon and claiming that “He told us we don’t have any guts, you Cubans, because President Kennedy should have been assassinated after the Bay of Pigs…” (Ibid, p. 372) The Warren Commission admitted that Odio’s account raised the possibility that Oswald had companions on his way to Mexico City. (Warren Report, p. 324) But his being in the company of individuals discussing a desire to murder Kennedy two months before the assassination clearly has much larger implications. It is little surprise, therefore, that Posner tries hard to cast doubt on Odio’s testimony.

He begins by misrepresenting her testimony to make it appear as though she was unsure in her identification of Oswald, noting that she said she was “not too sure” about his appearance in one photograph she was shown. Of course, Posner makes no reference to the fact that she saw numerous other pictures and told the Commission she was “immediately” sure and did not have “any doubts” that the man who came to her home was Lee Harvey Oswald. (WC Vol. 11, p.382) Then, referring to Odio’s belief in her Commission testimony that the visit probably occurred on September 26 or 27, Posner writes that Oswald “began his twenty-hour bus journey from Houston to Mexico City” on September 26, therefore “It was physically impossible for Oswald to visit Odio in Dallas when she claims he did.” (p. 177) There are numerous problems with that statement.

Firstly, Odio was not certain about the date. Although she did tell the FBI that she considered September 26 to be “the most probable date,” she also conceded that it might have been September 25. (WC Vol. 26,p. 836) Secondly, although Posner says that on September 25 Oswald was on Continental Trailways bus No. 5121 from New Orleans to Houston, extensive investigation by the FBI failed to uncover any documentary or eyewitness evidence to place Oswald on that bus and the driver told Bureau agents that he did “not recall ever seeing Oswald in person at any time.” (WC Vol. 24 p.722) It is possible, then, that rather than travelling from New Orleans to Houston alone by bus, Oswald went to Dallas by car with “Leopoldo” and “Angelo.” Finally, despite Posner’s claim that Oswald could not have been at Odio’s on September 26 because he was on bus No. 5133 from Houston to Mexico, no proof of such has ever been offered. Although bus company records did show that one ticket from Houston to Laredo was sold that day, the ticket agent would only say that the purchaser “could have been” Oswald. (WR, p. 323) Yet the clothing he described the person who bought the ticket as wearing―brown and white sweater, white dungarees, and white canvass shoes―did not correspond to anything Oswald owned. Therefore, Posner is on shaky ground when he claims it was “physically impossible” for Oswald to have visited Odio on September 26.

Not content with misrepresenting Odio’s testimony and overstating the evidence of Oswald’s alleged travel arrangements, Posner performs his usual trick of trying to make a troublesome witness look mentally unstable; all the while failing to show that Odio’s struggle with anxiety had any relevance to her story. Posner completes his failed attempt at discrediting Odio by writing that one of the two people whom Odio said she thought she might have told of the visit before the assassination, Lucille Connell, told the FBI that “Odio only told her about Oswald after the assassination, and then she said she not only knew Oswald, but he had given talks to groups of Cuban refugees in Dallas.” (p. 179) This last part, however, was specifically denied by Connell when she was interviewed by an investigator for the HSCA. Connell said:

I really don’t recall her telling me that. I just recall that Oswald came to her apartment and wanted her to get involved some way. But as I recall Silvia herself didn’t tell me that, it was her sister who told me that…Frankly I was not impressed with these two FBI investigators. They were rather new on the job I think. (HSCA Doc. 180-10101-10283, Box 233)

In the end, Posner fails to lay a glove on Silvia Odio. And again, he is made to look all the worse by his failure to mention in the five and a half pages he dedicates to trashing her story, that her sister Annie fully corroborated Silvia’s identification of Oswald. So, despite Posner’s best efforts, Odio’s account remains every bit as compelling today as it did sixty years ago.

“While Odio thought she had been visited by Oswald in Texas,” Posner writes, “he was actually undergoing one of his most important encounters since he tried to renounce his American citizenship in Moscow in 1959.” (p. 180) This encounter, he explains, was in the Cuban embassy in Mexico City where he spoke to Cuban consul Eusebio Azcue and receptionist Silvia Duran to try to gain a transit visa that would allow him to stop in Cuba for a couple of weeks on his way to the USSR. But Oswald wound up becoming agitated and “protesting loudly” when he was informed that, unless he obtained Soviet permission to visit the USSR first, it could take up to three weeks to get the documentation he required. (p. 182) Oswald then made his way to the Russian embassy where he demanded to see “someone in charge” and ended up in a conference room with three KGB agents who were working undercover as consul officers. According to Posner, Oswald “demanded an immediate visa” and “told the KGB officers that he was desperate to return to Russia.” He further stated that it was urgent for him to get to Cuba, hinting that “he had information on American efforts to kill Castro.” Thinking him an “unstable personality,” the officers politely sent him away. (p. 183-184) The next day, Oswald returned to both embassies, becoming “furious” when the Soviets told him they had no intention of issuing a visa and then getting into another argument with Azcue before ultimately leaving emptyhanded. Two days later he telephoned the Soviet embassy, making one last, failed attempted to attain a visa. After being refused for the final time, and with nowhere else to go, Oswald got on a bus and made his way back to Dallas.

There is a myriad of problems with this story. To begin with, as Posner himself admits, Azcue told the HSCA that “the man he argued with for fifteen minutes at the Cuban embassy” did not look like Oswald and he described the man as older, thinner, and with dark blond hair. (p. 188) Posner tries to counter this by claiming that Duran and another embassy employee, Alfredo Mirabal Diaz, “positively identified the visitor as Oswald.” (p. 189) In reality, however, Mirabal told the HSCA that, whilst he did get a look at the visitor, “it was from my private office where I stuck my head over and had a look at him from that vantage point.” When shown a photo of Oswald and asked if he looked like the man who visited the consulate, Mirabal said “I believe the answer is yes” but qualified his remark by stating, “I really did not observe him with any great deal of interest.” (HSCA Vol. 3, p. 174) This hardly sounds like a positive identification.

As for Silvia Duran, she refused to identify the embassy visitor as Oswald until she was arrested by Mexican police at the behest of the CIA and thrown into solitary confinement. In her original statement of November 27, 1963, she described the man she saw as “blonde, short,” and “dressed unelegantly…” (Lopez Report, pp. 186-190) Fifteen years later, she repeated this description for the HSCA, saying he was “Short…about my size” (Duran was only 5’3”), with “blonde hair” and “blue or green eyes.” (HSCA Vol. 3, p. 69, p. 103) This is clearly not a description of Lee Harvey Oswald and Duran told Anthony Summers in 1979 that she “was not sure if it was Oswald or not…” (Summers, p. 376)

Posner writes that Oswald’s identity as the man who visited the Soviet embassy was confirmed in 1992 when KGB officer Oleg Nechiporenko “finally broke his silence” and said, “without hesitation,” that the man he spoke to was indeed “the same man who was arrested two months later for killing President Kennedy.” (p. 189) But it is fair to say that Nechiporenko is a decidedly dubious source. He was one of several KGB officers who began telling stories around the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination, all self-servingly aimed at clearing the KGB of any involvement with Oswald or his alleged crime. In 1993 Nechiporenko authored a book titled Passport to Assassination which promoted the infamous “Dear Mr Hunt” letter hoax. He also spiced up the story of Oswald’s visit to the embassy by suggesting that Oswald became “hysterical” at the mention of the FBI, “began to sob, and through his tears cried, ‘I am afraid…they’ll kill me. Let me in!’” At that point, according to Nechiporenko, Oswald “stuck his right hand into the left pocket of his jacket and pulled out a revolver, saying, ‘See? This is what I must now carry to protect my life,’ and placed the revolver on the desk” between them. (Nechiporenko, Passport to Assassination, p. 77) As John Armstrong wrote of this rather Chekovian tale, if Oswald had really pulled out a pistol,which was illegal for him to carry in Mexico, “it is reasonable to conclude he would have been immediately escorted out of the embassy by a Soviet guard and a report of his bizarre provocative behavior sent to Moscow.” (Armstrong, p. 648) Of course, he was not, and no such report has ever been produced.

On the weekend of Kennedy’s assassination, the CIA’s Mexico City station fed reports to the White House suggesting that Castro, with Soviet support, had paid Oswald to kill the president. The Agency claimed to have photographs and tape recordings of Oswald’s contacts with the Soviet embassy and shared them with the FBI. But as the Bureau quickly discovered, the photographs were not of Oswald. Furthermore, as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover wrote in a memo to Secret Service Chief James Rowley, the FBI agents who had interrogated Oswald in Dallas had listened to the tape and concluded that it was not his voice on the recording. (Lopez Report, Addendum to footnote #614)Hoover also phoned President Johnson, telling him:

We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet embassy using, Oswald’s name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man’s voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there was a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there. (Transcript of phone call, LBJ and Hoover, 11/23/63, p. 2)

Posner attempts to confuse the issue by quoting an anonymous, “retired Agency official” as saying that if there had been a tape of Oswald’s calls to the embassy:

It would have been routinely erased a week after it was made…since there isn’t a tape, no one is sure we recorded the right person. Just like we made an error in photographing the wrong man, there’s a good chance that we might have recorded the same man we photographed, thinking we had surveillance on Oswald. (pp. 187-188)

The problem for Posner is that the tapes were not erased, they were still in existence in April 1964 when WarrenCommission lawyers William Coleman and David Slawson went to Mexico City to "investigate" Oswald’s alleged activities there. Coleman and Slawson confirmed to Summers that they had listened to the tapes "mainly to check that they corresponded with the CIA transcripts." (Summers, Not in Your Lifetime, p. 277) And the transcripts, which were finally released by the ARRB in 1993, revealed that the caller identified himself as Oswald. (Newman, p. 364) Of course, Coleman and Slawson did not take the tapes back to Washington to be entered into evidence for the commission, and what ultimately became of them is unknown. Apparently, evidence that somebody was impersonating Oswald in Mexico City was not something the commission wanted as part of its record.

Oswald Returns to Dallas

Whether the real Oswald had been in Mexico City in September 1963, or whether he had been somewhere else entirely, he arrived back in Dallas on October 3. Shortly thereafter, he found himself a room in a boarding house in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas while Marina continued to live with Ruth Paine in Irving. Posner suggests that before Ruth had allowed Marina to move in with her, she discussed it with her husband Michael and the couple were concerned that Oswald might be violent towards them. He quotes Michael as saying, “We assumed or felt that―if we handled him with a gentle or considerate manner that he wouldn’t be a danger to us…that he wasn’t going to stab Marina or Ruth.” (p. 199) This a good example of Posner misrepresenting a witness’s testimony in such a way as to alter its meaning. Commission lawyer Wesley Liebeler asked Michael, “…you concluded on the basis of these discussions and your knowledge of Oswald, your collective knowledge of Oswald, at that time that he was not a violent person; is that correct?” to which Michael replied, “That he wasn’t going to stab Ruth or Marina.” Whilst on its own this response sounds sinister, on the very same pages of testimony, Michael also stated that Oswald “didn’t seem to be dangerous” and “I didn’t [think Oswald to be a violent person]…I thought he was harmless.” (WC Vol. 2, pp 422-423)By taking a snippet of his testimony out of context, Posner falsely implies that Michael genuinely thought Oswald was so unhinged he might stab someone―an implication that is refuted by reading the rest of the testimony.

With the help of Ruth Paine, Oswald found a job as an order filler at the Texas School Book Depository in downtown Dallas. He then settled into a routine of sleeping at his Oak Cliff rooming house on weekdays, then hitching a ride to Irving with fellow depository worker Buell Wesley Frazier on Fridays, so that he could spend the weekend with Marina at the Paine home. Posner writes that this routine was broken when Oswald turned up at the Paine household on Thursday, November 21―the day before the assassination―but it was actually broken when he did not visit the previous weekend. The reason for the Thursday night visit, according to Marina, was that Oswald “was lonely because he hadn’t come the preceding weekend” and he “wanted to make peace” with her after the couple had quarrelled by telephone a few days before. (WC Vol. 1 p.65) Marina, however, was not interested in making up. Oswald requested her repeatedly to come live with him in an apartment in Dallas, but she refused. He tried appealing to Marina’s materialistic side by offering to buy her a washing machine, but she continued to give him the cold shoulder. In the end Oswald went to bed alone and upset. The next morning, when Marina awoke, she discovered that her husband had gone to work, leaving behind his wedding ring, $170, and a note telling her to buy shoes for June. The next time she saw him, several hours later, Oswald was in police custody as a suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy.

It is here, then, that Posner’s “biography” of Oswald comes to an end. What can most accurately be said about the preceding 200 pages of hackneyed rubbish is that no one who reads them will be any wiser about who Lee Harvey Oswald really was. This is because Posner does not behave like a biographer but like the lawyer he is, cobbling together any scrap of information that appears to support his case while ignoring, downplaying or misrepresenting anything which does not. He wants readers to believe that Oswald showed signs of dangerousness from a young age, so he promotes the false claims of a so-called “expert” who has less credibility than Posner himself. He wants to convey the notion that Oswald was disliked by virtually everyone who knew him so, even when discussing the accused assassin’s friends, he includes only the most derogatory sounding remarks that they made―and entirely omits the names of those with nothing bad to say. He wants to convince that Oswald was a vicious wife beater, so he quotes liberally from a book published fifteen years after the assassination and ignores every one of Marina’s earliest statements and testimonies which contradict the idea. (Click here for more evidence undermining this idea) And he desperately needs Oswald to have worked alone in his political activities, so he tries every trick, and I mean every single one, in the book to make contrary evidence disappear.

The one-dimensional portrait Posner paints of Oswald may bear little resemblance to the real man, who remains one of history’s most complex characters. Although he constantly claimed to be a Marxist, Oswald never joined any such organization, and his acquaintances were almost all of a right-wing persuasion―fanatically so in the case of men like Guy Banister and David Ferrie. What is one to make of this? It certainly seems possible that Oswald was feigning a passion for far-left politics. Perhaps he was, as many critics believe, an asset of U.S. intelligence. This would, on the surface, seem to explain his lenient treatment by the Marine Corps, his defection to the Soviet Union, and his activities in New Orleans.

And yet, his private writings strongly suggest that his passion for socialism and his self-expressed desire for a better, fairer society were genuine. Is there some relevance to the fact that he was an avid reader of spy novels and that, as a child, his favourite television show was I Led 3 Lives? Was he playing some game all his own, infiltrating “enemy” groups for his own amusement? In so doing, did he unwittingly put himself in a position to be used or manipulated by the CIA, the FBI or some other organisation? Did this ultimately lead to his being left holding the bag in the assassination of President Kennedy? Or was he always a willing participant?

Questions like these continue to perplex real researchers to this day. Meaningful answers are nowhere to be found in Case Closed.

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Last modified on Thursday, 11 May 2023 12:02
Martin Hay

Martin Hay is a writer and musician living near London. He has been a keen student of the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King for over 15 years and, as well as contributing popular articles to CTKA, maintains his own well-regarded blog, The Mysteries of Dealey Plaza.

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