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FTR #1049 Interview #18 with Jim DiEugenio about “Destiny Betrayed”

Guy Banister employee Tommy Baumler: ” . . . . whatever happens, the Shaw case will end without punishment for him [Shaw], because federal power will see to that.”

This is the eighteenth of a planned long series of interviews with Jim DiEugenio about his triumphal analysis of President Kennedy’s assassination and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s heroic investigation of the killing.

This interview continues with the analysis of Clay Shaw’s trial.

Exemplifying the power that was marshaled on behalf of Clay Shaw was the treatment accorded FBI agent Regis Kennedy.

Not only did the Department of Justice intercede ahead of time to limit Kennedy’s testimony, but Nixon’s Attorney General John Mitchell “severely curtailed” his testimony “mid-trial.”

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 298.

. . . . The only witness that Garrison was able to produce to inquire into the official investigation of the assassination in New Orleans was FBI agent Regis Kennedy. And even then, by prior arrangement with the Justice Department, Kennedy would only testify about a certain area of his inquiry, namely his interview with Dean Andrews and his consequent search for Clay Bertrand. This limitation hurt the DA since Kennedy was a relevant witness to other aspects of the case. For instance, along with several others, he had been a member of the Friends of Democratic Cuba group set up by Guy Banister and William Dalzell. Further, there were witnesses who put Kennedy in Banister’s office. Therefore, what Kennedy could have told the court about Banister, Ferrie, their association with the Cubans–especially Sergio Artcacha Smith–and Oswald, was very likely considerable. But he was not allowed to testify about any of those important matters. Consequently, when Alcock asked him if he was involved with the investigation into President Kennedy’s death prior to his interview with Andrews, Kennedy said he was not sure if he could answer that question. The discussion then went inside the judge’s chambers. Connick then called Washington. After this, the jury was called back inside. Alcock then asked Kennedy if, prior to his interview with Andrews, had he been engaged in the inquiry into President Kennedy’s assassination. Kennedy replied in the affirmative. Alcock then was allowed to ask the follow-op question, which related to the first: Was Kennedy seeking Clay Bertrand in connection with his overall investigation into the assassination. Kennedy said that he was.

There was a code to all this that Alcock could not have known about. But it was part of the reason that Attorney General John Mitchell severely curtailed Regis Kennedy’s testimony in mid-trial. . . .

A major element in the testimony during Clay Shaw’s trial was the testimony of autopsy surgeon Army Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Finck. The autopsy was being controlled by one of the high-ranking military officers present at the procedure.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 300.

. . . . Finck replied that he was not running the autopsy, it was Commander James Humes. When Oser asked if Humes was actually in charge, Finck made a disclosure which literally changed the face of the autopsy evidence forever. And it should have rocked the news media if [media hatchet man James] Phelan had not been controlling it. Finck replied that Humes actually stopped and asked, “Who is in charge here?” Finck then said he heard an Army General say, “I am.” Finck then added, “You must understand that in those circumstances, there were law enforcement officials, military people with various ranks, and you have to coordinate the operations according to directions”. . . .

Then, Jim notes that Alvin Oser had to ask Finck eight times as to why Finck did not dissect the track of the neck wound. Finck’s response–that he was ordered not to do so by one of the high-ranking officers present, is proof of a conspiracy.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 302.

. . . . [Alvin] Oser then moved on to another key issue that exposed the pathologists as pawns. A very important point about the autopsy is its failure to convincingly prove directionality. That is, from which direction did the bullets enter the body? There have always been serious queries about whether the wound in Kennedy’s throat was an entrance or exit wound. If that wound was one of entrance, then Kennedy was shot at least once from the front. That shot could not have been from Oswald, therefore the murder was a conspiracy. What makes this possibility very real is that Malcolm Perry said during a televised press conference on November 22 that the throat wound was one of entrance. He repeated this three times that day. Since he did the tracheotomy right over that wound, he should certainly know. The best way to have proven this point once and for all was to have dissected the wound track. Amazingly, this was not done. When Oser tried to find out why it was not done, Finck used every evasion he could to avoid answering the question. Going over the transcript of this exchange is a bit startling. The reader will find that Oser had to pose the question eight separate times. It got so bad that Oser even had to request that the judge direct the witness to answer the question. Finck finally answered with, “As I recall I was told not to, but I don’t remember by whom.” Again, someone was controlling the pathology team in a way that prevented them from doing a full and correct autopsy. . . . Further, the fact that the doctors were ordered not to track the wound indicated the military brass may have been trying to cover this point up. . . .

One of Garrison’s strongest weapons in his counterattack against the forces running interference on behalf of Shaw and others involved in the assassination was the Zapruder film, which clearly shows Kennedy’s body being thrown back and to the left, indicating a shot from the front.

Media hatchet man James Phelan who, like Walter Sheridan and Hugh Aynesworth worked with the intelligence services, became a defense witness for Clay Shaw and also played what was, in effect, a supervisory/PR role in presiding over a consortium of journalists covering the Shaw trial.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; pp. 289-290.

. . . . That journalistic duo, Phelan and Ayneswoth, were both on the scene: Phelan as a witness for the defense and Aynesworth to help Shaw’s attorneys. An odd thing about this was that neither man had any ostensible writing assignment at the time. But it turned out that Phelan had a very special function for his backers. Most reporters in town to cover the proceedings rented a hotel room, but not Phelan. Phelan rented a house. Why would he do such a thing if he was not there to write a story? because his was a much bigger assignment. His job was to put the spin on each day’s testimony for the residing press corps, thereby controlling the entire national media reportage on the Shaw trial. How did he do such a thing? He would invite all the reporters over to his rented house at the end of each day. He would then serve them refreshments and snacks. He then would spell out the next day’s story on a chalkboard. This is how some of the most interesting and important testimony presented during the proceedings got covered up by the media. On the day the Zapruder film was shown, Phelan had his work cut out for him. For the repeated showing of the film was shown, Phelan had his work cut out for him. For the repeated showing of the film—depicting Kennedy’s body being violently knocked back—really shook up the press. It appeared Garrison was right, it was a conspiracy. But when they arrived at Phelan’s rented house, the reporter pulled a proverbial rabbit out of his hat. He took out his chalkboard, raised up his piece of chalk, and he began to outline the dynamics of the so-called “jet-effect” explanation for the action of the film. That is, if Oswald was firing from behind Kennedy, why does Kennedy’s body recoil with tremendous force to the rear of the car? What Phelan and the jet effect proffer is that somehow, the spurting of blood and brains served as a jet that drove Kennedy’s head backward with overpowering force. This is how determined Phelan was to keep a lid on what came out of the trial. . . .

In our previous program, we highlighted the attempt on booking officer Aloysius Habighorst’s life on the eve of his testimony in the Clay Shaw trial. When he testified, Judge Haggerty refused to allow his testimony into evidence.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; pp. 306-308.

. . . . When Shaw was first arrested in March of 1967, Habighorst had handled the booking. Before having him sign the fingerprint card, the officer had routinely asked if the defendant had ever used an alias. Apparently unsettled by his arrest, Shaw had replied “Clay Bertrand.” Habighorst typed this on the card and Shaw signed it. Alcock now wanted to admit both the card and the officer’s testimony as evidence into the trial. This seemed powerful, damning evidence because it came right out of Shaw’s mouth and hand. . . .The prosecution’s protestations fell on deaf ears. Judge Haggerty would not allow the evidence. . . .

Alcock leaped out of his chair. His face red and his voice cracked with emotion. “Your Honor. Are you ruling on the credibility of officer Habighorst?” . . . .

. . . . “The whole world can hear that I do not believe Officer Habighorst. . . . .”

“I demand a mistrial,” Alcock shouted. “A judge’s unsolicited comment on evidence . . . .”

“Denied,” said Haggerty. . . .

The program concludes with discussion of Harry Connick’s destruction of Garrison’s files and of the government’s efforts to discredit Garison. This will be taken up at greater length in our next program.


FTR #1048 Interview #17 with Jim DiEugenio about “Destiny Betrayed”

Guy Banister employee Tommy Baumler: ” . . . . whatever happens, the Shaw case will end without punishment for him [Shaw], because federal power will see to that.”

This is the seventeenth of a planned long series of interviews with Jim DiEugenio about his triumphal analysis of President Kennedy’s assassination and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s heroic investigation of the killing.

In this program, we proceed into New Orleans’ DA Jim Garrison’s actual trial of Clay Shaw.

Before going into the trial, per se, we highlight the “turning” of The New Orleans States-Item. This “turning” features one of the principal infiltrators into Garrison’s office, William Gurvich.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 275.

. . . . From this interview [with Tommy Baumler], what appears to have happened is that the CIA sent someone into New Orleans to impact public opinion about Garrison. This may have been occasioned by a letter forwarded to CIA HQ to Lloyd Ray of the local New Orleans office. . . . William Gurvich, now working with Shaw’s lawyers, visited the offices of The New Orleans States-Item. Ross Yockey and Hoke May had been seriously investigating the Shaw case. And they had been doing that in a fair and judicious manner. They had uncovered some interesting facts about how Gordon Novel’s lawyers were being paid. After Gurvich’s visit, the States-Item pulled Yockey and May from the Garrison beat. When this author interviewed Yockey in 1995, he said that after this, he was then assigned to covering high school football games. With the States-Item now neutralized, the coverage in New Orleans now became imbalanced. . . .

Jim titled the chapter dedicated to the trial “Anti-Climax.” It was indeed an anti-climax after Garrison was subjected to the irresistible engine of the synthesis of: the intelligence community, their lone-wolf operators infiltrating his office, those infiltrators’ networking with the intelligence community’s media hatchet men dedicated to smearing Garrison publicly, Clay Shaw’s defense team and the Justice Department.

Garrison’s investigation was subjected to an onslaught, including outright, state-sponsored terror directed at witnesses.

A synoptic overview of the witnesses and their significance:

1.–Richard Case Nagell–A U.S. intelligence operative infiltrated into Soviet intelligence, and then assigned by KGB to assassinate Oswald, whom they knew was to be a patsy in an assassination plot against JFK for which they would be blamed.
2.–Reverend Clyde Johnson–A right-wing activist who was witness to Clay Shaw and a “Jack Rubion” networking together against JFK.
3.–Aloysius Habighorst–A good New Orleans cop who was the booking officer for Clay Shaw, when Shaw volunteered that he used the alias “Clay Bertrand.”
4.–Edwin McGehee–One of the witnesses connecting Clay Shaw to Oswald and David Ferrie in Clinton, Louisiana.
5.–Reeves Morgan–Another of the witnesses connecting Clay Shaw to Oswald and David Ferrie in Clinton, Louisiana.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 294.

. . . . Before and during the trial, Garrison’s witnesses were being surveilled, harassed, and physically attacked. For instance, Richard Case Nagell had a grenade thrown at him from a speeding car in New York. Nagell brought the remains of the grenade to Garrison and told him he did not think it wise for him to testify at Shaw’s trial. Even though Garrison had spirited Clyde Johnson out of town and very few people knew where he was, the FBI’s total surveillance eventually paid off. He was brutally beaten on the eve of the trial and hospitalized. Aloysius Habighorst, the man who booked Shaw and heard him say his alias was Bertrand, was rammed by a truck the day before he testified. After he testified, Edwin McGehee found a prowler on his front lawn. he called the marshal, and the man was arrested. At the station, the man asked to make one phone call. The call he made was to the International Trade Mart. After he testified, Reeves Morgan had the windows shot out of his truck. What makes all this violent intimidation more startling is what Robert Tanenbaum stated to the author in an interview for Probe Magazine. He said that he had seen a set of documents that originated in the office of Richard Helms. They revealed that the CIA was monitoring and harassing Garrison’s witnesses. . . .

The violent harassment of the witnesses may be viewed against the backdrop of Tom Bethell and Sal Panzeca.

Shaw attorney Sal Panzeca received a list of Garrison witnesses from Garrison office infiltrator Tom Bethell.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 290.

. . . . Tom Bethell had been one of the DA’s key investigators and researchers . . . . Since Garrison had designated him as his chief archivist, he had access to and control of both Garrison’s files and his most recent witness list. . . . Secretly, he met with Sal Panzeca, one of Shaw’s attorneys, and gave him a witness list he had prepared, with summaries of each witness’s expected testimony for the prosecution. . . .

Exemplifying the effective neutralizing of witnesses is the drumbeat of discreditation and intimidation of Perry Russo, a witness to Shaw and Ferrie discussing plans to assassinate JFK. By the time of Clay Shaw’s trial, Russo relented and assented to the canard that the Shaw/Ferrie assassination planning was just a “bull session.”


FTR #1047 Interview #16 with Jim DiEugenio about “Destiny Betrayed”

This is the sixteenth of a planned long series of interviews with Jim DiEugenio about his triumphal analysis of President Kennedy’s assassination and New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s heroic investigation of the killing.

The program opens with continuation of discussion of an unfortunate piece from The Huffington Post about Clay Shaw. In addition to parroting canards about Garrison’s case being baseless, Clay Shaw being a “Wilsonian/FDR liberal” and Garrison’s nonexistent stance that the JFK assassination was a “homosexual thrill killing” by Clay Shaw & company, the HP piece mentioned an appearance by Jim Garrison on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.”

The actual story of Garrison’s appearance on Carson is important and interesting. When the brilliant comedian Mort Sahl was on Carson’s show, the subject of the Garrison investigation came up. Sahl asked the audience if they would like to have Garrison come on the show, and they responded with overwhelming enthusiasm.

Eventually, Garrison did appear on the show and Carson engaged in an openly confrontational discussion. Carson was so outraged that he told Mort Sahl that he would never appear on the program again. Mort did not appear on the “Tonight” show until Jay Leno succeeded Carson as the host.

In this regard, it is worth noting that NBC–the network that aired Walter Sheridan’s hit piece on Garrison–has profound connections to the intelligence community, as discussed in FTR #1045.

Jim also relates that, when in Los Angeles, Robert Kennedy was querying China Lee–Mort’s wife at the time–about what Garrison was doing in New Orleans. As we have seen in past programs–including FTR #’s 809, 892, 1005–Robert Kennedy was waiting until he got elected President before opening an investigation into his brother’s murder. Of course, he, too was killed before he could become President.

The program then turns to James Kirkwood, another of the designated media hatchet men who pilloried Garrison. Networked with James Phelan, he helped mint the canard that Garrison prosecuted Shaw in the context of what the DA supposedly saw as a “homosexual thrill killing.” Unfortunately, this nonsense has endured, as a Huffington Post article makes clear.

Another of the media hit men who defamed Garrison was David Chandler:

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 276.

. . . . But Chandler’s most serious blast against Garrison and his inquiry was a two-part article written for Life in the fall of 1967. This appeared in the September 1 and September 8 issues of the magazine. The pieces masqueraded as an expose of Mafia influence in large cities in America at the time. But the real target of the piece was not the mob, but Garrison. The idea was to depict him as a corrupt New Orleans DA who had some kind of nebulous ties to the Mafia and Carlos Marcello. There were four principal participants in the pieces: Chandler, Sandy Smith, Dick Billings, and Robert Blakey. Smith was the actual billed writer. And since Smith was a long-time asset of the FBI, it is very likely that the Bureau was the Bureau was the originating force behind the magazine running the piece. . . .

. . . . It was the work of Chandler, a friend of both Clay Shaw and Kerry Thornley, which was the basis of the completely phony concept that Garrison was somehow in bed with the Mafia and his function was to steer attention from their killing of Kennedy. . . .

The subject then turns to Clay Shaw’s defense team. It should never be forgotten that Shaw’s attorneys networked with: the infiltrators into Garrison’s office, the CIA and the media hatchet men who helped destroy Garrison’s public image.

We return briefly to Guy Johnson, initially a member of Shaw’s defense team. In this context, it is worth remembering what Banister investigator Tommy Baumler said:

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 274.

. . . . In the spring of 1968, Harold Weisberg interviewed Tommy Baumler. Baumler had formerly worked for Guy Banister as part of his corps of student infiltrators in the New Orleans area. Because of that experience, Baumler knew a lot about Banister’s operation. For instance, that Banister’s files were coded, and that Banister had blackmail material on the subjects he kept files on. He also knew the intelligence network in New Orleans was constructed through Banister, Clay Shaw, and Guy Johnson; how close Shaw and Banister were; and that “Oswald worked for Banister.” In Weisberg’s interview with Tommy, he would occasionally ask to go off the record by telling him to turn the tape recorder off. Clearly, there were things going on in New Orleans that Baumler considered too hot to be attributed to him.

At this time, April of 1968, Weisberg considered Baumler to be an “unabashed fascist.” He explained this further by saying that Baumler was ‘aware of the meaning of his beliefs and considers what he describes as his beliefs as proper.” He then explained to Weisberg the following, “that whatever happens, the Shaw case will end without punishment for him [Shaw], because federal power will see to that.” He further said that this would also happen to anyone else charged by Garrison. . . .

In addition to Johnson, Irv Dymond, another Shaw attorney, networked with the intelligence community, Walter Sheridan and the spook infiltrators into Garrion’s office. In FTR #1045, we noted that Fred Leemans claimed he was coerced, in part, directly by Irv Dymond in Dymond’s law office. Dymond worked directly with Hunter Leake of the CIA’s New Orleans office.

Shaw attorneys Edward and William Wegmann also networked with the intelligence community, employing Wackenhut, formerly Southern Research, an intelligence-connected private security outfit to monitor Garrison’s communications.

Another Shaw attorney–Sal Panzeca–received a list of Garrison witnesses from Garrison office infiltrator Tom Bethell.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 290.

. . . . Tom Bethell had been one of the DA’s key investigators and researchers . . . . Since Garrison had designated him as his chief archivist, he had access to and control of both Garrison’s files and his most recent witness list. . . . Secretly, he met with Sal Panzeca, one of Shaw’s attorneys, and gave him a witness list he had prepared, with summaries of each witness’s expected testimony for the prosecution. . . .

The program concludes with the obstructive efforts of then Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

Clark tried to dismiss Clay Shaw’s involvement inthe assassination by claiming that the FBI had cleared him back in 1963.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 261.

. . . . One point man for the Johnson Administration in damaging Garrison’s case was Ramsey Clark. In March of 1867, right after his confirmation as Attorney General by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Clark made an extraordinary intervention into the case: he told a group of reporters Garrison’s case was baseless. The FBI, he said, had already investigated Shaw in 1963 and found no connection between him and the events in Dallas. . . .

Clark also assisted with the quashing of subpoenas that Garrison served.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; pp. 272-273.

. . . . At around this time, Garrison issued subpoenas for both Richard Helms and any photographs of Oswald in Mexico City that the CIA held. . . . [CIA General Counsel Lawrence] Houston then wrote a letter to New Orleans judge Bernard Bagert who had signed the subpoena. He denied there were photos of Oswald in Mexico City. This reply was run by Attorney General Ramsey Clark and White House adviser Harry MacPherson. . . .

Finally, Clark denied Garrison proper access to autopsy photos and information about the assassination.

Destiny Betrayed by Jim DiEugenio; Skyhorse Publishing [SC]; Copyright 1992, 2012 by Jim DiEugenio; ISBN 978-1-62087-056-3; p. 287.

. . . . After the Attorney General had bungled his first attempt to discredit Garrison’s case, he secretly tried another method. Garrison had been trying to secure the original JFK autopsy photos and X-rays to exhibit at the trial. They would form an important part of his case, since, to prove a conspiracy, he had to present evidence against the Warren Report, which maintained there was no conspiracy and that Oswald had acted alone. In 1968, Clark convened a panel of experts–which did not include any of the doctors who had performed the original examinations–to review the autopsy photos and X-rays. In early 1969, just a few days before he left office and on the eve of the trial, Clark announced that this panel had endorsed the findings of the Warren Report. The panel released its findings, but none of the original evidence on which it was based. This was clearly meant to influence public opinion before Shaw’s trial began. . . .


Tip of the Iceberg: The CIA and The Paris Review

Famed literary journal “The Paris Review” exemplifies the inextricable relationship between American liberal political culture and the CIA. The “Salon” piece is the tip of the iceberg and we have all booked passage on the Titanic.


FTR #401 The Day of the Cynics

Motives on both sides of War vs. Peace in Iraq are less than pure.


FTR #350 The One Who Killed Kennedy Was Trained for Three Years

Al Qaeda agent Ali Mohamed; Ramsey Clark’s role in covering up assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy.