November 30, 2003

Remember The HSCA

Like a lot of people, I've read a few articles and watched a TV special or two on or about the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination, and my sense is that there is a growing acceptance in this country of the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. This development baffles me.

It seems that stating one's belief in the "lone assassin theory" has become the vaccine used by media people, bloggers, and even minor league catchers to inoculate themselves against potential charges of irrationality. It is preferably specified up-front, so that whatever else they are about to say can be considered reasonable, sane, and non-partisan. The term "grassy knoll" has come to be associated with slightly loony conspiracy theory, from the Leno monologue to the op-ed pages. The message is clear. If you don't believe what the Warren Commission told you, you are a little bit crazy, or at best, gullible.

Ten years after the publication of his 1993 book, Case Closed, lone assassin theorist Gerald Posner has been held up as the example of sanity by the same media that acclaimed the book back then, in order to reassert the claim that yes, Oswald acted alone. That Posner's omissions, distortions and factual errors have been amply documented since 1993 seems to have escaped the scrutiny of his media admirers.

There is even an effort to rehabilitate the long-discredited Warren Commission Report. A piece by Gleaves Whitney at NRO a week ago contains his bald assertion that "Warren was right" and further, that:

"No significant, credible body of evidence indicates that Oswald acted in concert with others. There was no conspiracy, foreign or domestic, that brought Kennedy down".

I suppose Mr. Whitney's perspective should be considered however, in light of his position as the head of The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One assumes that the Center's "studies" focus largely on Grand Rapids' "favorite son", and the lone surviving member of the Warren Commission, Gerald Ford. Could this be a case of resume-polishing?

Whitney also makes the following claim as a simple statement of fact. The reality is that it contains a blatant falsehood:

In 1979 the House Select Committee on Assassinations reopened the case and concluded that the commission, in the main, got it right: that Oswald fired the gun that killed the president, and that he likely acted alone."

Back to that lie in a minute.

The fact that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was even necessary is a result of the politicized, compromised, distortion of fact that was the Warren Commission Report. In 1976, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that, "almost immediately after the assassination", the administration pressured the FBI to "issue a factual report supporting the conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin." And Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach said three days after the shooting that "speculation as to Oswald's motivation ought to be cut off".

In 1966, when the Warren Commission's primary evidence became available to the public, and the report's omissions and distortions of their own evidence became apparent, a diverse group of prominent citizens and organizations, including William F. Buckley, Walter Lippman, Richard Cardinal Cushing, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Life Magazine, and others called for a new investigation.

Now, by way of my own little disclaimer, let me say that I am by no means a JFK assassination scholar, nor even a "hobbyist", as some of these folks call themselves. A few years ago I was researching voter fraud and possible Mob influence in the 1960 presidential election, and was referred by a national opinion columnist to a 1988 book called Contract on America, by David Scheim. In that book, subtitled "The Mafia Murder of President John F. Kennedy", Scheim works exclusively with evidence already accumulated by the official investigators to make the case that JFK was murdered by a group associated with Carlos Marcello, the New Orleans Mafia boss, and that this group included, as either player or "patsy", Lee Harvey Oswald.

And while I was then, and am still to this day persuaded that Scheim has it right, it was one of the very first statements cited in the book, and one not wedded to any particular conspiracy theory, that struck me that day. It is the proof of the "lie" by Gleaves Whitney referenced above, and a fact seldom cited by the media in TV specials or documentaries.

In 1979, in the report of its findings, after an exhaustive two-year study of the available evidence, the House Select Committee on Assassinations stated: "The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."

I remember that my reaction reading this, circa 1996, was something like, "Huh?...Really?... They found that?...That's what the report said?"

I mean, I knew that by about 1976 polls showed that 75-80% of Americans believed that a conspiracy was involved in the assassination, but somehow, the fact that this had also been the conclusion of the House Committee had "left" me. (Full disclosure: One of my overused gags about my first fifty years on the planet is that there are by now "a few things I can't the 70's.") It's no wonder people lose sight of the 1979 HSCA findings these days, what with all the scorn now routinely heaped on anyone who dares suggest such a thing now that the years have rolled along, and memories have faded. A young person watching a Peter Jennings JFK special might assume that the official "government" position was, and always had been, the "lone assassin" position.

But there it is. Right on the website of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in the text of the summary of the HSCA Findings:

I. Findings of the Select Committee on Assassination in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

I.A. Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the President. The third shot he fired killed the President

I.B. 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. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations

I.C. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy

I.D. Agencies and departments of the U.S. Government performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of their duties. President John F. Kennedy did not received adequate protection. A thorough and reliable investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination was conducted. The investigation into the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination was inadequate. the conclusions of the investigations were arrived at in good faith, but presented in a fashion that was too definitive.

So Gleaves Whitney claimed that the HSCA "concluded" that Oswald "likely acted alone." Is that what it looks like to you that the HSCA concluded? (I think that at the very least, NRO and Whitney owe their readers a correction and/or apology)

As you can see if you follow the link, the NARA site is easily navigable, and a mouse click on the text of one of the main "findings" links to the supporting text and detailed findings of the committee for that particular topic.

Among the subheadings linked to the item I.C., on the conspiracy, are the following two "findings":

The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the national syndicate of organized crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.

The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that anti-Castro Cuban groups, as groups, were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.

Of course, the Mafia connection forms the basis of the Scheim book, but he explores the anti-Castro group involvement as well, (along with the obvious overlap between the two groups, owing to Mafia anger at the Castro regime for ousting them from their lucrative Cuban casino operations.)

The HSCA report finds that the Warren Commission never really seriously considered the possibility that underworld figures could or would assassinate Kennedy (among other things they never seriously considered). An excerpt from this section of the HSCA report:

Both Attorney General Kennedy and President Johnson privately voiced suspicion about underworld complicity.(249) The Attorney General requested that any relevant information be forwarded directly to him, and there was expectation at the time that the recently created Warren Commission would actively investigate the possibility of underworld involvement. (250)

The committee found, however, that the Warren Commission conducted only a limited pursuit of the possibility of organized crime complicity. (251) As has been noted, moreover, the Warren Commission's interest in organized crime was directed exclusively at Jack Ruby, and it did not involve any investigation of the national crime syndicate in general, or individual leaders in particular.(252) This was confirmed to the committee by J. Lee Rankin, the Commission's general counsel, and by Burt W. Griffin, the staff counsel who conducted the Ruby investigation. (253) Griffin testified before the committee that "...the possibility that someone associated with the underworld would have wanted to assassinate the President... [was] not seriously explored" by the Warren Commission. (254)

This is the kind of information that makes it all the more risible for commentators like Whitney to defend the Warren Commission by talking about things that they didn't find.

Anyone who has ever Googled the JFK assassination knows that there are dozens of web sites devoted to various conspiracy theories, (including one with a full confession by the purported Grassy Knoll trigger-man. Disputed here.) Nearly as many sites are devoted to the debunking of the former variety. One of the tactics practiced by the anti-conspiracy crowd is to dispute or disprove one aspect or detail of the theorist's argument so as to cast doubt on the grand scheme. Another is to suggest how ridiculous the scenario would be if we assumed that ALL the conspiracy theories are true. Imagine that every single Dealey Plaza "shooter" ever theorized actually existed, and envision the veritable hail of bullets directed at the presidential limo on 11/22/63.

For me, generally an Occam's Razor kind of guy, the Scheim hypothesis that a Mafia conspiracy killed JFK seems a much more plausible theory than the "lone assassin" idea, especially in light of the acoustical and video (Zapruder) evidence, along with the HSCA findings, all of which point to multiple shooters.

Scheim's Contract on America, The Mafia Murder of John F. Kennedy, is a meticulously researched book, with over 250 pages of appendices and footnotes included in its 625 pages. I can't possibly do justice to it here in trying to summarize Scheim's case. If you are reasonably interested in the case, I know you'll find the book riveting. If you're confused, conflicted or even generally ignorant about the JFK assasination case, I'd strongly suggest you just spring for the paperback, read it, and stop wondering so much about what happened in Dallas. For those who would prefer to hold onto their six bucks, I'll try to relate some of the thrust of the Scheim book, with links to text from the HSCA Report to back it up.

Scheim makes his case for a Marcello-directed Mob hit by presenting and analyzing the evidence on three main fronts:

1) Scheim documents the motives and the means possessed by Carlos Marcello, as well as by his Mafia associates Santos Traficante and Jimmy Hoffa to murder the President. He examines in great detail the network of Marcello operatives, the Cuban exile connections, and includes direct threats made by Marcello and others on the lives of JFK and Robert Kennedy. He persuasively links Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald, and other assassination suspects such as David Ferrie and Eugene Hale Brading to the Marcello syndicate, and to each other.

2) He documents Ruby's extensive Mob involvement, (a fact deliberately concealed by the Warren Commission), his cozy relationship with the Dallas Police Department, and his activities during and after the weekend of the assassination and the Oswald murder, all of which point overwhelmingly to his involvement in the greater conspiracy to murder the President, and not simply to silence his assassin. Included in this mountain of evidence is the trail of records that shows extensive telephone contacts and personal meetings between Ruby and a number of national Mafia figures, clustered in the seven month period between the initial announcement of JFK's Dallas visit and November 22, 1963. He recounts Ruby's literal stalking of Oswald for the entire weekend after the murder, and reconstructs the meticulous timing and planning of the Oswald shooting, including Dallas Police involvement, demolishing Ruby's story of a "spontaneous" fit of grief and anger, that moved him to shoot Oswald.

3) Scheim documents the stories of the many witnesses, reporters, mobsters, and other figures who were murdered, (many in typical Mob fashion) either just before they were scheduled to testify before one official investigation or another, or just after having done so. He names numerous others who were beaten, intimidated, or simply fled for their lives out of fear that they would be killed for what they knew. People like reporters Bill Hunter and Jim Koethe, Hank Killiam, one known pre-assassination link between Ruby and Oswald, Rose Cheramie, Lee Bowers, Mobster Johnny Roselli, George DeMohrenschilt, Roger Craig, and oh yes, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Note: Because the Scheim material from Contract on America is not available online and thus cannot be "linked", I have included some rather large excerpts in the remainder of this post, for which I am hereby apologizing in advance. I have included some historical and contextual detail from the book to try to broaden the picture, (not to attempt to set a record for longest blog post ever).

For some detail on that first item relative to Carlos Marcello, the following is excerpted from Scheim, (pp 78-82):

Carlos Marcello

Under Robert Kennedy’s leadership, by the year 1963 the size of the Justice Department’s antiracketeering section had quadrupled, the list of Mob targets for prosecution had grown from 40 to more than 2300, and the rate of convictions against racketeering figures had more than quadrupled…

…While the Mafia chafed under the aggressive anticrime program of Robert Kennedy, the root of its problem was his brother, the president. As a Senator on the McClellan Committee in the late 1950’s, John Kennedy had acquired the same orientation toward what he called a “nationwide, highly organized, and highly effective internal enemy”

One particular member of the Mafia National Committee had the power, the jurisdiction, and the rabid hatred of the Kennedys to coordinate an assassination contract against the President in Dallas…

As reviewed for Congress in 1970 by Aaron Kohn, director of the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission, (Carlos) Marcello’s criminal enterprise:

“required, and had, corrupt collusion of public officials at every critical level including police, sheriffs, justices of peace, prosecutors, mayors, governors, judges, councilmen, licensing authorities, state legislators, and at least one member of Congress.”

…Before Kennedy became President, Marcello enjoyed the dearth of official interference characteristic of his profession…But Marcello’s free ride came to a halt in 1960, with the election of President Kennedy. Even before the president’s inauguration, Attorney General-designate Robert Kennedy targeted the Mafia overlord of Louisiana for special attention by the Justice Department. And just three months after President Kennedy assumed office, under Robert’s instructions, Marcello was arrested, handcuffed, and summarily flown to Guatemala, pursuant to a longstanding order to deport him. When the enraged Mafia boss illegally reentered the United States and had his lawyers challenge the order, the Kennedy Justice Department greeted him with federal indictments on charges of fraud, perjury, and illegal reentry. In addition, following Robert Kennedy’s guidelines, the FBI intensified its scrutiny of Marcello.

In November 1963, Marcello was cleared of the fraud charge, after a trial marred by alleged jury tampering and a plot to murder a prosecution witness. His acquittal was announced just three hours after the event that spelled his ultimate freedom from the law; the assassination of President Kennedy. And the following report provides an initial clue that this too, was within the sphere of Marcello’s murderous machinations. The information was first disclosed in The Grim Reapers, published in 1969, by Ed Reid, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and former newspaper editor. The source was Edward Becker, a businessman and sometime private investigator. Becker confirmed Reid’s report and provided additional information in a 1978 interview with the House Assassinations Committee.

In September of 1962, Becker and an associate, Carl Roppolo, met with Marcello to seek financing for an oil additive product they were planning to market. The meeting was arranged without difficulty because of Roppolo’s close relationship with Marcello. The site of the gathering was an elegantly furnished office in a farmhouse on Churchill Farms, Marcello’s 3,000-acre plantation outside New Orleans. As author Reid recounted, the conversation began with underworld pleasantries, the talk becoming relaxed and familiar as the Scotch flowed. But Carlos’ mood changed when the government’s drive against organized crime was brought up and Robert Kennedy’s name was mentioned:

“Livarsi na petra di la scarpa” Carlos shrilled the Mafia cry of revenge: “Take the stone out of my shoe!”

“Don’t worry about that little Bobby son of a bitch”, he shouted. “He’s going to be taken care of.”

Becker told the House Assassinations Committee that Marcello had become very angry and had “clearly stated that he was going to arrange to have President Kennedy murdered in some way”. Marcello explained his intentions with an analogy comparing President Kennedy to a dog and Attorney General Kennedy to its tail. “The dog will keep biting you if you only cut off its tail”, Marcello observed, but the dog would die if its head were cut off. Marcello also offered a less allegorical rationale for the choice of victim, as reported in an FBI synopsis of a 1967 interview with Reid:

“They could not kill Bobby because the President would use the Army and the Marines to get them. The result of killing the President would cause Bobby to lose his power as Attorney General because of the new President”

Becker told the House Assassinations Committee that Marcello’s plan to murder President Kennedy appeared serious and deliberate. Marcello had even alluded to the manner in which he intended to carry out the contract. According to Becker, Marcello indicated that an outsider would be used or manipulated to do the job, so that his own lieutenants would not be linked to the crime.

Although Becker was disturbed by Marcello’s words, he did not believe Marcello would be able to follow through on his plan, and had grown accustomed to underworld figures making such vituperative remarks about their adversaries. But after the assassination, as the House Assassinations Committee paraphrased, Becker:

“quickly came to believe that Carlos Marcello had in fact probably been behind it. He reached this opinion because of factors such as Lee Oswald having been from New Orleans, as well as Jack Ruby’s underworld associations. Becker stated that “it was generally thought in mob circles that Ruby was a tool of some Mob group.” Becker further stated that he had learned after the assassination that “Oswald’s uncle, who used to run some bar, had been part of the gambling network overseen by Marcello. He worked for the Mob in New Orleans.”

The HSCA Report had this to say about Carlos Marcello:

(6) Carlos Marcello.--The committee found that Marcello had the motive, means and opportunity to have President John F. Kennedy assassinated, (263) though it was unable to establish direct evidence of Marcello's complicity.

In its investigation of Marcello, the committee identified the presence of one critical evidentiary element that was lacking with the other organized crime figures examined by the committee: credible associations relating both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to figures having a relationship, albeit tenuous, with Marcello's crime family or organization. (264) At the same time, the committee explicitly cautioned: association is the first step in conspiracy; it is not identical to it, and while associations may legitimately give rise to suspicions, a careful distinction must always be drawn between suspicions suspected and facts found.

As the long-time La Cosa Nostra leader in an area that is based in New Orleans but extends throughout Louisiana and Texas, Marcello was one of the prime targets of Justice Department efforts during the Kennedy administration.(265) He had, in fact, been temporarily removed from the country for a time in 1961 through deportation proceedings personally expedited by Attorney General Kennedy. (266) In his appearance before the committee in executive session, Marcello exhibited an intense dislike for Robert Kennedy because of these actions, claiming that he had been illegally "kidnaped"by Government agents during the deportation. (267)

While the Warren Commission devoted extensive attention to Oswald's background and activities, the committee uncovered significant details of his exposure to and contacts with figures associated with the underworld of New Orleans that apparently had escaped the Commission.

See also the HSCA accounts of their investigation into the possible involvement of Santos Traficante and James Hoffa


Lee Harvey Owswald's links to the Mafia are rarely discussed, but as you can see, they were not insignificant. The following is excerpted from Scheim (pp. 63-67):

Lee Harvey Oswald, age 24, had moved to Dallas from New Orleans in October 1963 with his wife Marina, and two daughters. His marksmanship was marginal, and he had no apparent motive to kill President Kennedy. Yet after the Dallas shooting, with remarkable dispatch, he was arrested, proclaimed the lone assassin and then permanently silenced by Jack Ruby’s revolver.

This rapid apprehension and judgment fixed Oswald in the public mind as President Kennedy’s assassin. But serious problems in the police case against him and evidence of a grassy knoll gunman raise questions as to his role in the events of November 22. Was Oswald set up as a fall guy, as he maintained, possibly recruited to perform some compromising action to link him to the assassination? If he was assigned to fire some shots at the motorcade, did he follow through, or did he back out at the last minute, perceiving the trap that had been laid? Was Oswald a Marxist, as some of his actions suggest, or were his many contacts with anti-Castro elements a better reflection of his political orientation? These questions are provocative, yet thousands of documents and scores of independent investigations have failed to yield definitive answers….

…There is one line of evidence concerning Oswald however, as developed by the House Assassinations Committee, that may shed light on his sponsor in whatever assassination role he played.

The circumstances surrounding an arrest for disturbing the peace provide a hint of the helping hand behind Oswald. On August 9, 1963, Oswald was handing out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans for the Fair Play For Cuba Committee. He got into a scuffle with three Cuban exiles, and police intervened, arresting all four men. On the surface, the incident appeared to illustrate Oswald’s commitment to Communist causes and his propensity to commit erratic actions to further his beliefs.

Yet two features of Oswald’s arrest indicate far different involvements. First, the building at 544 Camp Street, the address on Oswald’s pro-Castro leaflets, housed only Cuban activists of an anti-Castro bent – including the Cuban Revolutionary Council, Guy Banister, and David Ferrie. Moreover, as the House Assassinations Committee reported, Oswald was associated with quite a few anti-Castro activists in 1963, despite his professed pro-Castro leanings.

The second interesting feature of this arrest was the source of Oswald’s assistance in dealing with it. Oswald was bailed out of jail by Emile Bruneau, a liquor store owner, state boxing commissioner, and associate of Nofia Pecora, one of Marcello’s three most trusted aides. (Pecora was called by Jack Ruby a month before President Kennedy was assassinated, as will be discussed later). Bruneau was also an associate of another Syndicate deputy of Marcello. And Oswald was visited the night after his arrest by his uncle Charles F. “Dutz” Murret, who questioned him at length, and advised him how to resolve it. Murret, a criminal operative in the empire of New Orleans Mafia boss Marcello, had in fact had a lifelong influence on his nephew.

Since his earliest childhood, his natural father having died months before his birth, Oswald looked upon uncle “Dutz” Murret as a surrogate father. Oswald lived with Murret and Murret’s wife Lillian until age three and at other periods during his childhood and adolescence. When Oswald and his mother got their own apartment, Oswald visited the Murrets weekly. And Oswald kept in touch with the Murrets during his years in the Marines and in the Soviet Union.

When questioned by the Warren Commission in 1964, Murret testified that he kept his distance from his nephew after Lee returned from the Soviet Union. But the record shows that their close contact continued. In April 1963, when Oswald returned to New Orleans he stayed with the Murrets while scouting out a job and a home for his family. Oswald and his wife Marina saw the Murrets frequently during 1963, during which period Murret loaned money to Oswald, gave him rides and provided him with other assistance. One of these many contacts occurred in July 1963, when Oswald traveled with Charles and Lillian Murret to Mobile, Alabama to visit their son. While in Mobile, Oswald gave a talk about his experiences in Russia. Dutz Murret paid for the trip.

Murret’s close contact with Oswald is noteworthy given his status as a long-time and lucrative bookmaker who subscribed to the Marcello-controlled racing wire service. Implicated in FBI files as having operated illegal gambling clubs in New Orleans since the 1940’s, Murret worked closely with Sam Saia, a top underworld gambling figure in New Orleans who was close to Carlos Marcello. Several witnesses told the House Assassinations Committee that Murret was probably associated with other New Orleans Mob figures, including Marcello himself. Oswald was familiar with his uncle’s criminal activities, discussing them with his wife, Marina, in 1963.

Murret was not Oswald’s only point of contact with organized crime. Oswald had grown up on Exchange Alley in New Orleans, a center of notorious underworld joints and Mafia-affiliated gambling operations. His high school was regarded by some “as the alma mater, so to speak, of kids who frequently graduated to various criminal and underworld careers.” Furthermore, Marguerite Oswald, Lee’s mother was for many years a close friend of Mobster Sam Termine, who in turn was close to Carlos Marcello. Termine had in fact “spoken of serving as a Marcello chauffeur and bodyguard”, the House Assassinations Committee reported, “while he was actually on the State payroll, in the Louisiana State Police (similar Mob-police affiliations have surfaced frequently in both New Orleans and Chicago). Marguerite Oswald twice refused to provide any specific information about Termine when questioned by the House Assassinations Committee.

These underworld family connections of Oswald, which surfaced in the assistance he received following his August 9 arrest, suggest a different picture than that of the erratic, pro-Marxist loner portrayed in the Warren Report. Also jarring to the latter was the testimony of Sylvia Odio, a wealthy Cuban exile, the most significant of several reports linking Oswald to anti-Castro activity.

Odio told the Warren Commission that two months before President Kennedy was assassinated, three men – two Latins and an American – came to her Dallas home requesting her help in an anti-Castro fundraising campaign. The American was introduced to her as “Leon Oswald”. The next day, one of the Latins telephoned Odio to tell her that he was bringing the American into the exile underground. The man told Odio that the American was an ex-Marine and kind of crazy. He also related to her that the American had said that “ President Kennedy should have been assassinated after the Bay of Pigs.” Following the assassination, after seeing television footage of Oswald, Odio confirmed that the “Leon Oswald” she had met was in fact the suspected assassin.

The Warren Commission discounted Odio’s testimony based on the conflicting and later impeached account of another witness plus inconclusive evidence that Oswald was elsewhere around the date of the meeting she reported. After reinterviewing Odio and conducting an extensive background check on her testimony, however, the House Assassinations Committee concluded that Odio was telling the truth. The Committee noted that Odio’s sister, Annie, who was present at the meeting supported her story and found other circumstances that supported Odio’s credibility.

Oswald’s accessibility to both organized crime and the anti-Castro movement was represented in his association with assassination suspect David Ferrie. Their acquaintance probably began in the mid-1950’s, when Oswald was a cadet in a Louisiana Civil Air Patrol squadron commanded by Captain David Ferrie. Several witnesses confirmed to the House Assassinations Committee that Oswald and Ferrie were in the squadron at the same time; one reported that “it is a certainty.” Six other witnesses, whom the Committee found “credible and significant”, testified that Ferrie and Oswald were definitely together in Clinton, Louisiana, in early September 1963, less than three months before the assassination.

This early September meeting thus brought together two assassination suspects, David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald, who had spoken of a need to assassinate President Kennedy and were accessible to those with the motive to kill him.

Much of this data on the Oswald-Marcello connection is confirmed in the HSCA Report here.

David Ferrie

David Ferrie represents a direct link between Carlos Marcello and Lee Harvey Oswald, as this excerpt from Scheim demonstrates:

In February 1967, the Kennedy assassination case took a dramatic turn following a sensational development in New Orleans. Jim Garrison, the city’s district attorney, announce that he had uncovered an assassination conspiracy, and would prosecute the culprits. The press quickly identified and descended upon one of Garrison’s key suspects, David Ferrie, a pilot with a bizarre personality, who had worked for Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss of New Orleans. Among the reporters who pursued Ferrie was George Lardner, Jr., of the Washington Post, who spoke with him between midnight and 4 a.m. on February 22. The drama intensified when Ferrie was found dead in his apartment with a cerebral hemorrhage later that day.

As the Garrison probe continued, as will be discussed shortly, its thrust became increasingly questionable. Yet, the New Orleans leads to which Garrison called attention put critics on an intriguing trail – a trail that led to Mafia boss Carlos Marcello.

In the case of David Ferrie, the link to Marcello was, as Look magazine summarized, “strong” and “well known”. Ferrie knew Marcello well, telephoned him several times, and was reported by several sources to have flown Marcello back to the United States after Marcello’s deportation to Guatemala. Ferrie’s ties with the Mafia boss were particularly intensive in the fall of 1963, when Ferrie was employed by attorney G. Wray Gill on Marcello’s deportation case. And Marcello was listed as a sponsor for a service station Ferrie operated in 1964.

Ferrie was also a rabid anti-communist, demonstrating a dual affiliation that was common in the wake of Castro’s appropriation of the Mob’s lucrative gambling casinos in Cuba. He provided flight instruction, armaments and money to the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC), an anti-Castro organization. And he associated with men like Guy Banister, a private detective, and a reputed bigwig in the ultraright Minutemen. Even in his anti-Castro activities, Ferrie may have served as a financial conduit for Marcello, as suggested by an FBI report of April 1961.

Like his associates in organized crime and anti-Castro circles, Ferrie loathed President Kennedy. Questioned by the FBI after Kennedy’s death, Ferrie admitted that following the Bay of Pigs invasion, he had “severely criticized” Kennedy both in public and in private. Ferrie claimed he had no real murderous intent, but “might have used an offhand or colloquial expression, “he ought to be shot’”. Ferrie also admitted that he had said anyone could hide in the bushes and shoot the president.

Ferrie’s questionable alibi for November 22 and the few days following hardly precludes the possibility that he followed through on his “offhand” remark….

…Initial police suspicions of Ferrie thus proved to be solidly founded. He had made overtly threatening statements against the president. His alibi for November 22 through 25 was incongruous, contradictory, and curiously reliant on counsel by attorneys for Carlos Marcello. And Ferrie was closely involved with the Mafia boss during and before this period, meeting him personally on the two Saturdays before the assassination. These contacts were especially significant in light of Ferrie’s contacts with another prime assassination suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Jack Ruby

Scheim devotes more space to Jack Ruby in his book than to any other single character or event, and for good reason. Given what we have known about Ruby since November 24, 1963, it therefore follows that if it can be demonstrated that Ruby played a role in the murder of JFK, then "conspiracy" is proven. At this task, Scheim is utterly persuasive.

First, it is established beyond doubt that Ruby was a career gangster. He was involved in prostitution, gambling, rackets, and extortion, among other things. At the same time, he was on a first name basis with an estimated two-thirds of the 1200 Dallas City policemen, and most of the politicians and reporters. He was not a bigwig, though. He was a functionary, a "fixer". As Scheim says in the introduction to the chapters on Ruby:

It is important to understand, however, that Ruby was by no means a dominant figure in the assassination conspiracy. Rather, his role emerges like that of a plant foreman or a stage manager. His qualifications for the final act of this role, the spectacular execution of Oswald, was his special position in the Syndicate. For Ruby was not so nototiously linked to the Mafia to have made its assassination involvement obvious. Yet he was close enough to have been expected to keep its code of silence- without the help of yet another execution.

But in the last analysis, this balance of proximity collapsed on both counts. For under post-assassination scrutiny, Ruby's Mob ties were exposed. And by the time of his final official hearings, Ruby had neither the criminal loyalty nor the callousness to maintain his silence about the horrible act in which he had conspired

Because of his role as a low-level gangster and strip club owner, it is noteworthy that in the seven months between April 23, 1963 and November 24, 1963 Ruby was involved in a cluster of meetings and phone calls with not just the big time Dallas bosses like Josph Campisi and Joseph Civello, but also with national mob figures like Barney Baker, Frank Chavez, Frank Caracci, Joseph Glaser, Irwin Weiner and Alexander Gruber. He communicated with known Mob killers like Lenny Patrick and David Yaras, and was visited or called by numerous key associates to the big boys, Marcello, Traficante and Hoffa.

Scheim documents dozens of events, circumstances, and exploded alibis, and the official testimony of numerous associates, employees, friends and Mobsters that all point to the involvement of Jack Ruby in the plot to murder the President. Two at random are the accounts of Rose Cheramie and Karen Carlin.

Rose Cheramie, who had worked for Ruby, was picked up on a Louisiana highway on November 20, 1963, bruised and battered, and told her doctor at the Louisiana State Hospital two days before the event, that the "word in the underworld" was that Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas.

Karen Carlin was a stripper and reported prostitute at Ruby's Carousel Club establishment, and was to be a key player in Ruby's ill-fated alibi for his whereabouts on the morning of November 24, 1963 when Ruby shot Oswald. From the statement by Secret Service Agent Roger C. Warner, who interviewed Warner that same day:

"Mrs. Carlin was highly agitated and was reluctant to make any statement to me. She stated to me that she was under the impression that Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby and other individuals unknown to her, were involved in a plot to assassinate President Kennedy and that she would be killed if she gave any information to the authorities.

The HSCA Report sections relative to Jack Ruby can be found here. Some of the text relating to Ruby's phone and personal contacts with national Mafia figures is excerpted here:

The committee investigated other aspects of Ruby's activities that might have shown an association with organized crime figures. An extensive computer analysis of his telephone toll records for the month prior to the President's assassination revealed that he either placed calls to or received calls from a number of individuals who may be fairly characterized as having been affiliated, directly or indirectly, with organized crime. (82) These included Irwin Weiner a Chicago bondsman well know as a frontman for organized crime and the Teamsters Union;(83) Robert "Barney" Baker, a lieutenant of James R. Hoffa and associate of several convicted organized crime executioners:(84) Nofio J. Pecora, a lieutenant of Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss in Louisiana (85) Harold Tannenbaum, a New Orleans French Quarter nightclub manager who lived in a trailer park owned by Pecora;(86) McWillie, the Havana gambler;(87) and Murray "Dusty" Miller, a Teamster deputy of Hoffa and associate of various underworld figures.(88) Additionally, the committee concluded that Ruby was also probably in telephonic contact with Mafia executioner Lenny Patrick sometime during the summer of 1963. (89) Although no such call was indicated in the available Ruby telephone records, Ruby's sister, Eva Grant, told the Warren Commission that Ruby had spoken more than once of having contacted Patrick by telephone during that period. (90)

Testimony to the committee supported the conclusion that Ruby's phone calls were, by and large, related to his labor troubles. (94) In light of the identity of some of the individuals, however, the possibility of other matters being discussed could not be dismissed.(95)

In particular, the committee was not satisfied with the explanations of three individuals closely associated with organized crime who received telephone calls from Ruby in October or November 1963. (96)

In assessing the significance of these Ruby contacts, the committee noted, first of all, that they should have been more thoroughly explored in 1964 when memories were clearer and related records (including, but not limited to, additional telephone toll records) were available. Further, while there may be persuasive arguments against the likelihood that the attack on Oswald would have been planned in advance on the telephone with an individual like Ruby, the pattern of contacts did show that individuals who had the motive to kill the President also had knowledge of a man who could be used to get access to Oswald in the custody of the Dallas police. In Ruby, they also had knowledge of a man who had exhibited a violent nature and who was in serious financial trouble.

The committee noted that other Ruby activities and movements during the period immediately following the assassination--on November 22 and 23--raised disturbing questions. For example, Ruby's first encounter with Oswald occurred over 36 hours before he shot him. Ruby was standing within a few feet of Oswald as he was being moved from one part of police headquarters to another just before midnight on November 22.(134) Ruby testified that he had no trouble entering the building, and the committee found no evidence contradicting his story. The committee was disturbed, however, by Ruby's easy access to headquarters and by his inconsistent accounts of his carrying a pistol. In an FBI interview on December 25, 1963, he said he had the pistol during the encounter with Oswald late in the evening of November 22. But when questioned about it by the Warren Commission, Ruby replied, "I will be honest with you. I lied about it. It isn't so, I didn't have a gun." (135) Finally, the committee was troubled by reported sightings of Ruby on Saturday, November 23, at Dallas police headquarters and at the county jail at a time when Oswald's transfer to the county facility had originally been scheduled. These sightings, along with the one on Friday night, could indicate that Ruby was pursuing Oswald's movements throughout the weekend.

Yes, I do realize that all of these thousands of words have proven nothing conclusively, least of all an airtight assassination conspiracy case. All I have accomplished is an airing out of information that, when taken in the aggregate, suggests some underworld involvement in the JFK murder. But for having read this far, you deserve a merciful wrap-up of this monstrocity, so here goes:

The longest, most involved and thorough investigation ever into the assassination of JFK concluded that he was probably murdered as a result of a conspiracy. All one need do is read the report of the House Special Committee on Assassinations to be overwhelmed by the "preponderance of the evidence" that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. So forgive me if I'm baffled and disgusted when the media predominantly pushes the line about the "loner" Oswald who acted alone, and strictly out of ideology, and the redneck Ruby who acted out of grief and patriotism, and put a nice little bow on the whole nasty incident.

Because it's nonsense. And that's what your Congressional committee told you in 1979, about the Warren Commission Report of 1964, albeit in the most polite way possible. It's just that nowadays, a lot of people choose not to remember the conclusions of the HSCA.

Posted by dan at November 30, 2003 12:28 AM

As a state legislator in Pennsylvania in the 1970's, I introduced a resolution calling for the the House Select Committee on Assassinations to be established by the U.S. Congress.I believe the conclusions the committee reached are reasonable,and evidence since then has only reinforced the case for conspiracy. A recent AOL poll of more than 125,000 emailers showed only about a fifth believed the Warren Commission. Even Arlen Specter, while still hewing towards his widely disbelieved single bullet theory, goes to great lengths in his autobiography, Passion for Truth, to demonstrate the desire of Warren Commission members for a speedy decision, and their lack of curiousity towards many of the issues raised by investigators or critics.
Nobody should feel that the Warren Commission Report is a flag that has to be saluted, a Constitution that has be revered, or a holy book that requires prayer. It is a deeply flawed document that failed to go beyond the surfaces of appearances and probe the ugly realities that led to the assassination.

Posted by: Mark B. Cohen at December 1, 2003 08:09 PM

Ha! Nofia Pecora Jr. is now on the run in England! Just heard on the news; running away after his alias Stryker (a landlord for years!) was busted when he applied for a shotgun license!! =)

Posted by: Zee at January 29, 2004 05:30 PM

The bush CRIME family killed ALL of the Kennedys....ALL of them...from Joseph Jr. on.

Posted by: Matrix Escapee at June 16, 2004 04:18 PM
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