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Jim Garrison's Playboy Interview

Part Three

PLAYBOY: Between June 25th and 29th, CBS telecast a series of four special shows revealing the findings of the network's own seven-month investigation of the assassination. CBS agreed with the Warren Commission's conclusion that Oswald was the assassin, that he acted alone and that only three shots were fired; but it theorized that the first shot was fired earlier than the Warren Commission believed, thus giving Oswald sufficient time to fire three well-aimed shots at the President with his Mannlicher-Carcano --- and overcoming the implausibility of the Commission's conclusion that he had scored two hits out of three shots in only 5.6 seconds. Don't you consider this a logical explanation of the discrepancies in the Commission's time sequence?

GARRISON: I'm afraid it's neither logical nor an explanation.

In case your readers aren't familiar with all the ramifications of this question, the Commission's entire lone-assassin theory rests on the fact that all three shots were fired, as you point out, within a period of 5.6 seconds. Now, the film taken of the assassination by Abraham Zapruder proves that a maximum of 1.8 seconds elapsed between the time Kennedy was first hit and Governor Connally was hit --- this is crystal clear from their own reactions --- but it requires 2.3 seconds just to work the bolt on a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. To escape this dilemma, the Commission produced the magical bullet, Exhibit 399, which I referred to earlier. Apart from the pristine condition of 399, the whole time sequence was the weakest link in the Commission's shaky chain of evidence, and CBS seems to have taken it upon its shoulders to resolve the problem by inventing a new time sequence. What they did was to have a photo analyst, Charles Wyckoff, examine the Zapruder film and find that certain frames were blurred. Wyckoff arbitrarily decided that these blurs were caused by Zapruder's physical reaction to the sound of shots ringing out --- although by the same logic, Zapruder could just have sneezed.

Now, the Warren Commission had concluded that Kennedy would not have been visible to Oswald until Frame 210 of the Zapruder film; until then, he was obscured by an oak tree --- and was first hit in Frame 222 or 223. But Wyckoff detected a blur in the vicinity of Frame 186; and on the basis of this, CBS speculated that Zapruder heard a shot at Frame 186 --- the first shot in CBS' revised time schedule --- which Oswald allegedly fired at Kennedy through the branches of the oak tree. CBS even speculated that the bullet lodged in the trunk of the oak tree, and sent a team of men with metal detectors scurrying up it, but to no avail; the commentator explained that maybe someday more sophisticated detection devices would be developed and the bullet would be found. Sure.

This scenario, of course, gave Oswald several extra seconds in which to take careful aim and fire his subsequent shots --- and thus let the Commission off the hook. The only trouble here is that the people who conducted the CBS study --- like most defenders of the Warren Report --- didn't do all of their homework. They forgot, or chose to ignore, that by the Commission's own admission, the bullet
that missed Kennedy --- the second bullet in the Commission's sequence --- hit the curb on Main Street near the railroad underpass 100 yards ahead of the limousine, shattering into fragments and causing superficial wounds on the face of a bystander, James Tague. But the trajectory of any bullet fired from the sixth floor of the Depository through the branches of the oak tree is such that it could not conceivably hit within a city block of the underpass. So please excuse me if I'm not overwhelmed by the ineluctable logic of CBS' presentation.

And just let me add a footnote here: CBS made a great deal out of its assumption that the blurs on Zapruder's film indicated a reflexive reaction to shots ringing out. But they never asked Zapruder about his statement to Secret Service agents after the assassination about the origin of the shots; along with the majority of the witnesses to the assassination, he said the shots came from the grassy knoll, on which he was standing --- from behind the stone wall, which was only a few dozen feet from him, in the opposite direction from the Depository. Like the Warren Commission, CBS was scrupulously selective in its choice of evidence. Its broadcast wasn't a hatchet job like the NBC show, but it was equally misleading and, however unintentionally, dishonest. I'm not imputing sinister motives to CBS; it appears that its greatest handicap was its own ignorance of the assassination.

PLAYBOY: To return to your own investigation of the assassination: Have you discovered the identity of any of the conspirators you say were involved in the actual shooting?

GARRISON: I don't want to sound coy or evasive, but I'm afraid I can't comment on that. All I can say is that this is an ongoing case and there will be more arrests.

PLAYBOY: Let's move on to the events that followed the assassination. What reason do you have for believing that Oswald didn't shoot Officer Tippit?

GARRISON: As I said earlier, the evidence we've uncovered leads us to suspect that two men, neither of whom was Oswald, were the real murderers of Tippit; we believe we have one of them identified. The critics of the Warren Report have pointed out that a number of
the witnesses could not identify Oswald as the slayer, that several said the murderer was short and squat --- Oswald was thin and medium height --- and another said that two men were involved. The Warren Commission's own chronology of Oswald's movements also fails to allow him sufficient time to reach the scene of Tippit's murder from the Book Depository Building.

The clincher, as far as I'm concerned, is that four cartridges were found at the scene of the slaying. Now, revolvers do not eject cartridges, so when someone is shot, you don't later find gratuitous cartridges strewn over the sidewalk --- unless the murderer deliberately takes the trouble to eject them. We suspect that cartridges had been previously obtained from Oswald's .38 revolver and left at the murder site by the real killers as part of the setup to incriminate Oswald. However, somebody slipped up there. Of the four
cartridges found at the scene, two were Winchesters and two were Remingtons --- but of the four bullets found in Officer Tippit's body, three were Winchesters and one was a Remington! The last time I looked, the Remington-Peters Manufacturing Company was not in the habit of slipping Winchester bullets into its cartridges, nor was the Winchester-Western Manufacturing Company putting Remington bullets into its cartridges.

I don't believe that Oswald shot anybody on November 22nd --- not the President and not Tippit. If our investigation in this area proves fruitful, I hope we will be able to produce in a court of law the two men who did kill Tippit.

PLAYBOY: How do you explain the fact that the Warren Commission concluded that the bullets in Officer Tippit's body had all been fired from "the revolver in the possession of Oswald at the time of his arrest, to the exclusion of all other weapons"?

GARRISON: The Warren Commission's conclusion was made in spite of the evidence and not because of it. To determine if Oswald's gun had fired the bullets, it was necessary to call in a ballistics expert who would be able to tell if the lines and grooves on the bullets had a relation to the barrel of the revolver. The Commission called as its witness FBI ballistics expert Cortlandt Cunningham, and he testified, after an examination of the bullets taken from Tippit's body, that it was impossible to determine whether or not these bullets had been fired from Oswald's gun. Yet, on the basis of this expert testimony, the Warren Commission concluded with a straight face that the bullets were fired not only from Oswald's gun but "to the exclusion of all other weapons." They simply chose to ignore the fact that revolvers don't eject cartridges and that the cartridges left so conveniently on the street didn't match the bullets in Tippit's body.

PLAYBOY: You mentioned earlier that a so-called "second Oswald" had impersonated the real Lee Harvey Oswald before the assassination in an attempt to incriminate him. What proof do you have of this?

GARRISON: I hesitate to use the words "second Oswald," because they tend to lend an additional fictional quality to a case that already makes Dr. No and Goldfinger look like auditors' reports. However, it is true that before the assassination, a calculated effort was made to implicate Oswald in the events to come. A young man approximating Oswald's description and using Oswald's name --- we believe
we have discovered his identity --- engaged in a variety of activities designed to create such a strong impression of Oswald's instability and culpability in people's minds that they would recall him as a suspicious character after the President was murdered.

In one instance, a man went to an auto salesroom, gave his name as Lee Oswald, test-drove a car at 80 miles an hour --- Oswald couldn't drive --- and, after creating an ineradicable impression on the salesman by his speeding, gratuitously remarked that he might go back to the Soviet Union and was expecting to come into a large sum of money. Parenthetically, the salesman who described this "second Oswald" was subsequently beaten almost to death by unknown assailants outside his showroom. He later fled Dallas and last year was found dead; it was officially declared a suicide.

In another instance, this "second Oswald" visited a shooting range in Dallas and gave a virtuoso demonstration of marksmanship, hitting not only his own bull's-eye but the bull's-eyes of neighboring targets as well --- thus leaving an unforgettable impression of his skill with a rifle. The real Oswald, of course, was a mediocre shot, and there is no evidence that he had fired a rifle since the day he left the Marines. Consequently, the fact that he couldn't hit the side of a barn had to be offset, which accounts for the tableau at the rifle range.

I could go on and on recounting similar instances, but there is no doubt that there was indeed a "second Oswald." Now, the Warren Commission recognized that the individual involved in all these activities could not be Lee Oswald; but they never took the next step and inquired why these incidents of impersonation occurred so systematically prior to the assassination. As it turned out, of course, the organizers of the conspiracy needn't have bothered to go to all this trouble of laying a false trail incriminating Oswald. They should have realized, since Oswald was a "self-proclaimed Marxist," that it wasn't necessary to produce any additional evidence to convict him in the eyes of the mass media; any other facts would simply be redundant in the face of such a convincing confession of guilt.

PLAYBOY: You've given your reasons for believing that Oswald, despite his leftist "cover," was involved with the conspirators and with the CIA. Do you have any evidence indicating that he was also connected with the FBI, as some critics of the Warren Report have alleged?

GARRISON: Let me preface my answer by saying that I believe the FBI was not given the full picture of Oswald's CIA involvement. I have nothing but respect for the Bureau and feel that if it weren't for the FBI reports still available in the Commission exhibits, the door would have been closed forever. While the CIA has behaved like a cross between the Gestapo and the NKVD, the FBI has worked assiduously in many different areas and gathered facts that have proved of great value to those interested in uncovering the truth about the assassination. It isn't the FBI's fault that dozens of its reports have been classified top secret in the Archives by order of certain officials in the Department of Justice. The trouble I face today is that, after four years, not only are these documents unavailable but the trail has grown cold in many areas. Ruby is dead. Ferrie is dead. Many other witnesses with valuable information have either been murdered or fled the country.

PLAYBOY: You still haven't answered the question: Was Oswald involved with the FBI?

GARRISON: Well, I just wanted to phrase my reply in such a manner that it wouldn't be misconstrued as a broadside against the entire FBI. Oswald may have been a petty informer for the Bureau, receiving small sums of money in return for information about left-wing activities in the Dallas-New Orleans area. But I must stress that there is no indication of any connection between Oswald and the FBI with regard to the assassination, and that his position with the FBI was in no way analogous to his position with the CIA; the FBI retains hundreds, perhaps thousands of such informants across the country and is no more responsible for their over-all pattern of political activity than the Internal Revenue Service is responsible for the behavior of its confidential informants on tax-evasion matters.

Oswald's possible ties to the Bureau are never mentioned in the Warren Report, but a member of the Commission, Congressman Gerald Ford, revealed in his otherwise undistinguished book, Portrait of an Assassin, that the Commission was informed by Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr and Dallas D.A. Henry Wade that Oswald had been employed by the FBI as an informant since September of 1962; his salary, they revealed, was $200 a month and his FBI code number was 179. The Warren Commission acted promptly on this information from two responsible Texas officials: Chief Counsel Rankin told the members of the Commission that "We have a dirty rumor that is very bad for the Commission ... and it is very damaging to the agencies that are involved in it and it must be wiped out insofar as it is possible to do so by the Commission."

The Commission then launched one of its typically thorough investigations: J. Edgar Hoover was asked if the alleged assassin of the President of the United States had been an employee of his; Mr. Hoover said "No"; and the Commission closed the case. If Congressman Ford hadn't developed writer's itch, we would never even have heard of the incident. Once again, the Commission made an unwise choice between tranquility and truth.

There is also other evidence linking Oswald to the FBI --- though, again, not in any conspiratorial context. A Dallas police investigative report dated February 17, 1964, describes a police interview with Mrs. Teofil Meller, a White Russian émigrée in Dallas who had befriended Oswald and Marina. Mrs. Meller revealed, according to the report, that "she saw the book Kapital, which was written by Karl Marx, during one of these visits at Oswald's house and became very worried about it. Subject [Mr. Meller] said he checked with the FBI and they told him that Oswald was all right."

So here you have this "self-proclaimed Marxist," who had defected to the Soviet Union, tried to renounce his American citizenship and was now allegedly active in pro-Castro activities, being given a clean bill of health by the FBI. It's quite possible that this clean bill of health was originally issued by the State Department, which, in reply to an FBI request for information about Oswald's activities in Russia --- this was shortly after his "defection" --- assured the Bureau that he was a solid citizen. So I don't see anything sinister in all of this, at least as far as the FBI is concerned. The Bureau has to obtain information on subversion and it's going to get what it needs not from Rhodes scholars and divinity students but from apparently marginal figures like Lee Oswald with an entree into the political underworld.

PLAYBOY: If you see nothing sinister in the FBI's relationship with Oswald, why did you subpoena FBI agents Regis Kennedy and Warren De Brueys to testify before the New Orleans Parish grand jury?

GARRISON: Regis Kennedy is one of the FBI agents who interrogated David Ferrie in November 1963, and I hoped to learn from him what information the Bureau had elicited from Ferrie. But on the instructions of our old friend Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Kennedy refused to answer the questions put to him by the grand jury on the grounds of executive privilege. Warren De Brueys is a former FBI
agent based in New Orleans who also questioned Ferrie in 1963. Between 1961 and 1963, De Brueys was involved with anti-Castro exile activities in New Orleans and was seen frequently at meetings of the right-wing Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front. I'd like to find out the exact nature of De Brueys' relationship with Lee Oswald. As long as Oswald was in New Orleans, so was De Brueys. When Oswald moved to Dallas, De Brueys followed him. After the assassination, De Brueys returned to New Orleans. This may all be coincidence, but I find it interesting that De Brueys refuses to cooperate with our office --- significant and frustrating, because I feel he could shed considerable light on Oswald's ties to anti-Castro groups.

PLAYBOY: On March 23, 1967, you ordered the arrest of Gordon Novel as a material witness in the conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy, and you have subsequently sought his extradition from Ohio. What role do you believe Novel played in the alleged conspiracy?

GARRISON: I can't go into all aspects of Novel's activities, because we have a live case against him. Novel worked closely with David Ferrie and the anti-Castro Cuban exiles. In 1961, he raided a munitions bunker in Houma, Louisiana, with David Ferrie and a prominent anti-Castro exile leader, and the weapons seized were subsequently shipped by CIA agents to the counterrevolutionary underground in Cuba. He also worked for the Evergreen Advertising Agency in New Orleans, a CIA front that alerted anti-Castro agents to the date of the Bay of Pigs invasion by placing coded messages in radio commercials for Christmas trees.

Novel himself was a paid employee of the CIA. As I mentioned earlier, Novel's own lawyer, Stephen Plotkin, has admitted that his client is a CIA agent. On May 23, 1967, Plotkin was quoted in the New Orleans States-Item as saying that "his client served as an intermediary between the CIA and anti-Castro Cubans in New Orleans and Miami prior to the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion." And that same day, the Associated Press, which has hardly served as my press agent in this case, reported: "When Novel first fled from New Orleans, he headed straight for McLean, Virginia, which is the Central Intelligence Agency suburb. This is not surprising, because Gordon Novel was a CIA employee in the early Sixties." There is no doubt that Gordon Novel was a CIA operative.

PLAYBOY: If the CIA, as you charge, not only refuses to cooperate with you but has actively obstructed your investigation, how are you in a position to know about Novel's activities on behalf of the Agency?

GARRISON: The people of Louisiana pay my investigators to investigate. But in this specific instance, we've benefited by sheer luck. After Novel fled the city in March, my investigators and the city police both scoured his apartment for evidence, but Novel appeared to have covered his trail pretty effectively. I'm afraid, in this case, we weren't as efficient as two young girls who moved into Novel's apartment a few weeks later and, during a thorough house cleaning, found a penciled rough draft of a letter under a strip of linoleum on the kitchen-sink drainboard.

One of the girls gave it to her boyfriend, a student at Tulane University, and he in turn passed it on to one of his professors, who subsequently showed the letter to Hoke May, a reporter for the New Orleans States-Item. May had the letter examined by an independent handwriting analyst, Gilbert Fortier, who compared it with other samples of Novel's writing and determined that the draft had been written by Novel --- a fact that was confirmed by Novel's attorney, who said that "everything in the letter as far as Novel is concerned is actually the truth."

This letter makes fascinating reading. It is addressed to a Mr. Weiss, Novel's apparent superior in the CIA. Novel tells Weiss: "I took the liberty of writing you direct and apprising you of current situation expecting you to forward this through appropriate channels. Our connection and activity of that period involved individuals presently about to be indicted as conspirators in Mr. Garrison's investigation."

Novel goes on to warn that my probe was in danger of exposing his ties to the Double-Chek Corporation in Miami, which the book The Invisible Government exposes as a CIA front that recruited pilots and saboteurs for the Bay of Pigs and subsequent anti-Castro adventures. Novel writes in the letter: "Mr. Garrison ... is unaware of Double-Chek's involvement in this matter but has strong suspicions." He also adds that he lied to the FBI: "I have been questioned extensively by local FBI recently as to whether or not I was involved with Double-Chek's parent holding corporation ... My reply on five queries was negative. Bureau unaware of Double-Chek association in this matter."

The letter indicates that Novel was growing edgy, because he complains: "We have temporarily avoided one subpoena not to reveal Double-Chek activities ... We want out of this thing before Thursday, 3/ --- /67. Our attorneys have been told to expect another subpoena to appear and testify on this matter. The Fifth Amendment and/or immunity and legal tactics will not suffice."

In case the CIA decided Novel was expendable, he seems to have taken out a kind of insurance policy: "Our attorneys and others are in possession of complete sealed files containing all information concerning this matter. In the event of our sudden departure, either accidental or otherwise, they are instructed to simultaneously release same for public scrutiny in different areas."

Novel concludes his little billet-doux by urging the CIA to take "appropriate counteraction relative to Garrison's inquisition concerning us through military channels, vis-a-vis the DIA man." Interesting enough, the DIA is the abbreviation for the Defense Intelligence Agency, a top-secret group set up after the Bay of Pigs to supervise the CIA and ensure increased Administration control of CIA activities --- a task
at which it has proved spectacularly unsuccessful.

PLAYBOY: Novel subsequently fled New Orleans and took refuge in Ohio. Why were you unable to obtain his extradition?

GARRISON: The reason we were unable to obtain Novel's extradition from Ohio --- the reason we are unable to extradite anyone connected with this case --- is that there are powerful forces in Washington who find it imperative to conceal from the American public the truth about the assassination. And as a result, terrific pressure has been brought to bear on the governors of the states involved to prevent them from signing the extradition papers and returning the defendants to stand trial. I'm sorry to say that in every case, these Jell-o-spined governors have caved in and "played the game" Washington's way.

To give them the benefit of the doubt, I suppose it's also possible that they just didn't want to aid and abet an investigation that every official effort, overt and covert, has been made to discredit as irresponsible and unfounded. Whatever his motivation, Governor Rhodes of Ohio, to name one, has said that he would allow me to extradite Novel to stand trial on charges arising from the CIA-inspired burglary of the ammunitions bunker in Houma, Louisiana --- but that I would not be allowed under the stipulations of the extradition agreement to question him about the assassination! In other words, it's OK for me to send a man to jail on a burglary rap, but I mustn't upset him by inquiring if he killed the President. I'm all in favor of protecting a defendant's civil rights, but this is straight out of Alice in Wonderland.

PLAYBOY: The New Orleans States-Item of June 14, 1967, quoted Novel as saying that if he were granted immunity from the assassination investigation, he would be willing to testify on a number of points, including "international fraud, mysterious intelligence activities from November 1959 to date in the Southern quadrant of the U.S.A. and certain islands off Florida, seditious treason, hot war games and cold munitions transfers, ten 1950-model Canadian surplus Vampire jet supporter fighter aircraft and certain
Cuban-Anglo-French sabotage affairs of early 1961." Why did you reject his offer?

GARRISON: These are all intriguing aspects of Novel's career as a U.S. intelligence agent, and I'd love to hear about them --- especially his knowledge of seditious treason --- but that isn't the subject of my investigation.

PLAYBOY: Let's move on from Gordon Novel to Jack Ruby, who you claim murdered Oswald to "silence" him. Do you have any evidence that Ruby and Oswald knew each other?

GARRISON: Though Ruby and the Warren Report denied it vehemently, there is simply no question about it. We didn't even have to do a great deal of investigative digging; connections popped up everywhere we scratched the surface.

PLAYBOY: What evidence do you have to support your charge that Ruby was involved in anti-Castro exile activities with Oswald and Ferrie?

GARRISON: We have evidence linking Ruby not only to anti-Castro exile activities but, as with almost everyone else involved in this case, to the CIA itself. Never forget that the CIA maintains a great variety of curious alliances it feels serve its purposes. It may be hard to imagine Ruby in a trench coat, but he seems to have been as good an employee of the CIA as he was a pimp for the Dallas cops.

Just let me add parenthetically that I stress the word "employee" here as opposed to "agent." The CIA employs many people in many different capacities, sometimes just on a retainer basis, and these individuals do not fall under the over-all authority of the CIA. I have solid evidence indicating that Ruby, Ferrie, Oswald and others involved in this case were all paid by the CIA to perform certain functions: Ruby to smuggle arms for Cuban exile groups, Ferrie to train them and to fly counterrevolutionary secret missions to Cuba, and Oswald to establish himself so convincingly as a Marxist that he would win the trust of American left-wing groups and also have freedom to travel as a spy in Communist countries, particularly Cuba.

But I have reason to believe that none of them was a salaried agent operating under a direct chain of command. In this particular case --- though as with the others involved, it seems to have been unrelated to his CIA work --- Ruby was up to his neck with the plotters. Our investigators have broken a code Oswald used and found Ruby's private unlisted telephone number, as of 1963, written in Oswald's notebook. The same coded number was found in the address book of another prominent figure in this case. We have further evidence linking Ruby to the conspiracy, but it involves testimony to be given in court in the future, so I can't reveal it here.

On the broader point of Ruby's involvement with anti-Castro exile activity, there can be no doubt whatsoever. Let me refer you here to the testimony of Nancy Perrin Rich before the Warren Commission. This lady arrived in Dallas in 1961 with her husband, Robert Perrin, a gun runner and one time narcotics smuggler and, through police intervention, secured a job as a bartender at Ruby's Carousel Club.

She quit soon after and didn't see Ruby again until one night when she and her husband, as she tells it, attended a conference of anti-Castro exiles presided over by a lieutenant colonel --- an Army colonel, she thought. She testified that Robert Perrin was offered $10,000 if he would run guns to the underground in Cuba, and she haggled the sum up to $25,000. When Perrin demanded a cash retainer, a phone call was made and, shortly after, Mrs. Rich recounts, "I had the shock of my life ... A knock comes on the door and who walks in but my little friend Jack Ruby ... You could have knocked me over with a feather ... and everybody looks like ... here comes the Savior." Ruby was the CIA bag man --- or paymaster --- for the operation, and he left immediately after handling over a large sum in cash to the colonel. Mrs. Rich and her husband subsequently bowed out of the gun-smuggling deal, because, in her words, "I smelled an element that I did not want to have any part of."

Afraid of retaliation, she and Perrin fled from Dallas and hid out in several different cities, winding up finally in New Orleans. A year later, he was found dead of arsenic poisoning. Though it would be difficult to pick a slower and more excruciating way to kill yourself, it was officially declared a suicide. There are too many other instances of Ruby's anti-Castro activity to go into here. Ruby appears to have been the CIA's bag man for a wide variety of anti-Castro adventures. In this connection, let me point out that one of the documents classified top secret in the Archives is a CIA file entitled "The Activities of Jack Ruby." Perhaps this will become a Book-of-the-Month Club selection in September 2038.

PLAYBOY: Even if Ruby was associated with certain Cuban exile groups, as you claim, couldn't all of this be totally unrelated to the assassination?

GARRISON: It could be, but it isn't. As a result of our investigation, I can say, with the same certitude that I can say the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning, that Jack Ruby was involved in the conspiracy to kill John Kennedy. Much of the evidence we've uncovered about Ruby's involvement relates to our court case against Clay Shaw, so the canon of legal ethics prevents me from broadcasting it before trial. But I will give you one bit of evidence, recently uncovered by our office, that links Ruby to the conspiracy.

Four days before the assassination, on November 18th, 1963, a young woman from Dallas named Rose Cheramie was thrown from a moving car on a highway outside Eunice, Louisiana. She was badly bruised and taken to the East Louisiana Hospital in Jackson, Louisiana. When she came out of sedation, on November 19th, she was distraught and sobbed that she had been thrown out of the car by associates of a man named Jack Ruby in Dallas. She claimed to have been sent by Ruby from Dallas to Miami to pick up a shipment of narcotics. When asked by a hospital attendant --- who fortunately took notes of her remarks, in case the police had to be called in --- why she had been hurled from the car, she replied that narcotics smuggling was one thing, but she drew the line at murder. The president, she said, was going to be killed in Dallas within a few days. At this point, sadly enough, the hospital authorities seemed to dismiss her as hysterical and lost interest in her story, although she repeated it in detail the next day. After the assassination, of course, people in the hospital became interested once more, but she had already checked out, leaving no forwarding address other than Dallas, Texas. There the story stood until a few months ago, when we began searching for Miss Cheramie, but it was too late. After the assassination, she was killed by a hit-and-run driver on a highway outside Dallas.

PLAYBOY: If Jack Ruby was really the sinister and cunning figure you paint him, why would he kill Oswald in the Dallas city jail, where his own apprehension and conviction for murder were inevitable? Wasn't this more logically the act of a temporarily deranged man?

GARRISON: First of all, let me dispose of this concept of the "temporarily deranged man." This is a catchall term, employed whenever the real motive of a crime can't be nailed down. In the overwhelming majority of instances, the actions of human beings are the direct consequences of discernible motives.

This is the fatal flaw of the Warren Report --- its conclusion that the assassination of President Kennedy was the act of a temporarily deranged man, that the murder of Officer Tippit was equally meaningless and, finally, that Jack Ruby's murder of Oswald was another act of a temporarily deranged individual. It is, of course, wildly improbable that all three acts were coincidentally the aberrant acts of temporarily deranged men --- although it's most convenient to view them as such, because that judgment obviates the necessity of relentlessly investigating the possibility of a conspiracy.

In Jack Ruby's case, his murder of Lee Oswald was the sanest act he ever committed; if Oswald had lived another day or so, he very probably would have named names, and Jack Ruby would have been convicted as a conspirator in the assassination plot. As it was, Ruby made the best of a bad situation by rubbing out Oswald in the Dallas city jail, since this act could be construed as an argument that he was "temporarily deranged."

But I differ with the assumption of your question, because, while there could have [been] no doubt in Ruby's mind that he would be arrested, he could very well have entertained hopes of escaping conviction. You've got to remember the atmosphere in Dallas and across the country at that time; when word was flashed to the crowd outside the jail that Oswald had been shot, they burst into wild applause. Ruby's lawyer, Tom Howard, spoke for a sizable segment of public opinion when he said, "I think Ruby deserves a Congressional Medal," and the largest-circulation newspaper in the country, the New York Daily News, editorialized after Oswald's death that "the only good murderer is a dead murderer and the only good Communist a dead Communist."

In the two days between his arrest and his liquidation, Oswald had been convicted by the mass media as the President's assassin and as a Communist, and Ruby may well have felt that he would be acquitted for murdering such a universally despised figure. It turned out, of course, that he was wrong, and he became a prisoner of the Dallas police, forced over a year later to beg Earl Warren to take him back to Washington, because he wanted to tell the truth about "why my act was committed, but it can't be said here ... my life is in danger here." But Ruby never got to Washington, and he's joined the long list of witnesses with vital information who have shuffled off this mortal coil.

PLAYBOY: Penn Jones, Norman Mailer and others have charged that Ruby was injected with live cancer cells in order to silence him. Do you agree?

GARRISON: I can't agree or disagree, since I have no evidence one way or the other. But we have discovered that David Ferrie had a rather curious hobby in addition to his study of cartridge trajectories: cancer research. He filled his apartment with white mice --- at one point he had almost 2000, and neighbors complained --- wrote a medical treatise on the subject and worked with a number of New Orleans doctors on means of inducing cancer in mice.

After the assassination, one of these physicians, Dr. Mary Sherman, was found hacked to death with a kitchen knife in her New Orleans apartment. Her murder is listed as unsolved. Ferrie's experiments may have been purely theoretical and Dr. Sherman's death completely unrelated to her association with Ferrie; but I do find it interesting that Jack Ruby died of cancer a few weeks after his conviction for murder had been overruled in appeals court and he was ordered to stand trial outside of Dallas --- thus allowing him to speak freely if he so desired. I would also note that there was little hesitancy in killing Lee Harvey Oswald in order to prevent him from talking, so there is no reason to suspect that any more consideration would have been shown Jack Ruby if he had posed a threat to the architects of the conspiracy.

PLAYBOY: You've claimed that many of the people involved in the conspiracy were "neo-Nazi" in their political orientation. What would motivate Ruby, a Jew, to work with such people?

GARRISON: Money. As far as my office has been able to determine, Jack Ruby had no strong political views of his own. Historically, of course, there have been a number of self-hating Jews who abetted their own tormentors: Adolf Hitler's mentor in Vienna, Karl Lueger, was born a Jew, and I understand that one of the leading pro-Nazis in New York City, a retired millionaire who finances anti-Jewish activity across the country, is the son of a rabbi.

But I don't believe Jack Ruby falls into this category; he was just a hoodlum out for a buck. I will say --- with the understanding that it's pure speculation --- it's not impossible that Jack Ruby developed certain guilt feelings in prison over his role in the plot. Remember his repeated lament, "Now there will be pogroms. They will kill all the Jews."? Most people assumed this was just the fantasy of a crumbling mind. But maybe Jack Ruby knew better than the rest of us what the master-racist authors of the assassination had in mind for the country.

PLAYBOY: Let's move on from Jack Ruby to David Ferrie. Wesley Liebeler, the Warren Commission counsel who handled the New Orleans end of the inquiry, said Ferrie "was picked up shortly after the assassination and questioned by local officials of the FBI. I remember specifically doing up a substantial stack of FBI reports on Ferrie that we reviewed in order to make our determination." He states that the FBI reports on Ferrie were not included in the Commission's 26 volumes of evidence, "because it was so clear he wasn't involved." Why do you refuse to accept this explanation?

GARRISON: I think it's a lovely explanation. Now perhaps Mr. Liebeler will intercede with the Department of Justice to release 25 pages of the FBI report on Ferrie that have been classified top secret in the Archives. Then we'll all have a chance to see for ourselves how clear it is that Ferrie wasn't involved. Every scrap of evidence we've uncovered --- and it hasn't been difficult to find --- reveals not only the fact of his involvement but the reasons for it. His politics were ultra-right wing, as I indicated earlier, but we've been able to determine conclusively that his motivation was closer to that of the Cuban exiles on the "operative" level --- a burning hatred of Fidel Castro.

When Castro was a guerrilla in the Sierra Maestra, Ferrie is reliably reported to have piloted guns for him. But in 1959, when Castro started to show his Marxist colors, Ferrie appears to have felt betrayed and reacted against Castro with all the bitterness of a suitor jilted by his girl. From that moment on, he dedicated himself to Castro's overthrow and began working with exile groups such as the Cuban
Democratic Revolutionary Front and planning airborne missions against Castro's military installations. He was reported to have been paid up to $1500 a mission by an ex-Batista official named Eladio del Valle. But I haven't been able to check out Del Valle's involvement with Ferrie, because on February 22, 1967, the same day Ferrie died in New Orleans, Del Valle's head was split open by a hatchet and he was shot through the heart in Miami. His murder is listed as unsolved by the Miami police.

In any case, Ferrie was recruited by the CIA, which employed hundreds of such people in their network of anti-Castro exile activities. From the Bay of Pigs on, he hated Kennedy as much as he did Castro; he felt that J.F.K. had betrayed the invasion brigade by not sending in air cover. As the events I described earlier led to a détente between Russia and America, and as the FBI --- under Kennedy's orders --- started cracking down on the CIA-supported anti-Castro underground, Ferrie's hatred for Kennedy grew more and more obsessive.

Let me add here that this isn't just speculation on my part; we have a number of reliable witnesses who were privy to Ferrie's thoughts at this period and saw his hatred of Kennedy develop into a driving force. After the assassination, as a matter of fact, something psychologically curious happened to Ferrie: He dropped out of anti-Castro exile activities, left the pay of the CIA and drifted aimlessly while his emotional problems increased to the point where he was totally dependent on huge doses of tranquilizers and barbiturates. I don't know if Ferrie ever experienced any guilt about the assassination itself; but in his last months, he was a tortured man.

PLAYBOY: After Ferrie's death, you called it "an apparent suicide," but the coroner announced that the autopsy showed death was due to a ruptured blood vessel at the base of the brain, which caused a fatal hemorrhage. Have you subsequently resolved the discrepancy in your points of view?

GARRISON: Dr. Nicholas Chetta is an excellent coroner, and inasmuch as he found a total absence of traceable poisons or barbiturates in Ferrie's system, I would respect his opinion that it was a natural death. On the other hand, I can't help but lend a certain weight to two suicide notes Ferrie left in his apartment, one of which said how sweet it was to finally leave this wretched life. I suppose it could just be a weird coincidence that the night Ferrie penned two suicide notes, he died of natural causes.

PLAYBOY: Your critics have charged that your relentless investigation of Ferrie and the publicity the press gave to your charges against him induced the state of hypertension that was said to have caused his fatal hemorrhage. Do you feel in any way responsible for Ferrie's death?

GARRISON: I had nothing but pity for Dave Ferrie while he was alive, and I have nothing but pity for him now that he's dead. Ferrie was a pathetic and tortured creature, a genuinely brilliant man whose twisted drives locked him into his own private hell. If I had been able to help Ferrie, I would have; but he was in too deep and he was terrified. From the moment he realized we had looked behind the facade and established that Lee Oswald was anything but a Communist, from the moment he knew we had discovered the role of the CIA and anti-Castro adventurers in the assassination, Ferrie began to crumble psychologically. So, to answer your question directly --- yes, I suppose I may have been responsible for Ferrie's death. If I had left this case alone, if I had allowed Kennedy's murderers to continue to walk the streets of America unimpeded, Dave Ferrie would probably be alive today. I don't feel personally guilty about Ferrie's death, but I do feel terribly sorry for the waste of another human being.

In a deeper sense, though, Dave Ferrie died on November 22, 1963. From that moment on, he couldn't save himself, and I couldn't save him. Ferrie could have quoted as his epitaph the last words of the Serb partisan leader Draja Mikhailovitch before Tito shot him for collaboration: "I was swept up in the gales of history."

PLAYBOY: Many of the professional critics of the Warren Commission appear to be prompted by political motives: Those on the left are anxious to prove Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy within the establishment; and those on the right are eager to prove the assassination was an act of "the international Communist conspiracy." Where would you place yourself on the political spectrum --- right, left of center?

GARRISON: That's a question I've asked myself frequently, especially since this investigation started and I found myself in an incongruous and disillusioning battle with agencies of my own Government. I can't just sit down and add up my political beliefs like a mathematical sum, but I think, in balance, I'd turn up somewhere around the middle.

Over the years, I guess I've developed a somewhat conservative attitude --- in the traditional libertarian sense of conservatism, as opposed to the thumbscrew-and-rack conservatism of the paramilitary right --- particularly in regard to the importance of the individual as opposed to the state and the individual's own responsibilities to humanity. I don't think I've ever tried to formulate this into a coherent political philosophy, but at the root of my concern is the conviction that a human being is not a digit; he's not a digit in regard to the state and he's not a digit in the sense that he can ignore his fellow men and his obligations to society.

I was with the artillery supporting the division that took Dachau; I arrived there the day after it was taken, when bulldozers were making pyramids of human bodies outside the camp. What I saw there has haunted me ever since. Because the law is my profession, I've always wondered about the judges throughout Germany who sentenced men to jail for picking pockets at a time when their own government was jerking gold from the teeth of men murdered in gas chambers. I'm concerned about all of this because it isn't a
German phenomenon; it's a human phenomenon. It can happen here, because there has been no change and there has been no progress and there has been no increase of understanding on the part of men for their fellow man.

What worries me deeply, and I have seen it exemplified in this case, is that we in America are in great danger of slowly evolving into a proto-fascist state. It will be a different kind of fascist state from the one of the Germans evolved; theirs grew out of depression and promised bread and work, while ours, curiously enough, seems to be emerging from prosperity. But in the final analysis, it's based on power and on the inability to put human goals and human conscience above the dictates of the state. Its origins can be traced in the tremendous war machine we've built since 1945, the "military-industrial complex" that Eisenhower vainly warned us about, which now dominates every aspect of our life. The power of the states and Congress has gradually been abandoned to the Executive Department, because of war conditions; and we've seen the creation of an arrogant, swollen bureaucratic complex totally unfettered by the checks and balances of the Constitution.

In a very real and terrifying sense, our Government is the CIA and the Pentagon, with Congress reduced to a debating society. Of course, you can't spot this trend to fascism by casually looking around. You can't look for such familiar signs as the swastika, because they won't be there. We won't build Dachaus and Auschwitzes; the clever manipulation of the mass media is creating a concentration camp of the mind that promises to be far more effective in keeping the populace in line. We're not going to wake up one morning and suddenly find ourselves in gray uniforms goose-stepping off to work. But this isn't the test. The test is: What happens to the individual who dissents? In Nazi Germany, he was physically destroyed; here, the process is more subtle, but the end results can be the same.

I've learned enough about the machinations of the CIA in the past year to know that this is no longer the dreamworld America I once believed in. The imperatives of the population explosion, which almost inevitably will lessen our belief in the sanctity of the individual human life, combined with the awesome power of the CIA and the defense establishment, seem destined to seal the fate of the America I knew as a child and bring us into a new Orwellian world where the citizen exists for the state and where raw power justifies any and every immoral act. I've always had a kind of knee-jerk trust in my Government's basic integrity, whatever political blunders it may make. But I've come to realize that in Washington, deceiving and manipulating the public are viewed by some as the natural prerogatives of office. Huey Long once said, "Fascism will come to America in the name of anti-fascism." I'm afraid, based on my own experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of national security.

PLAYBOY: Considering all the criticism that has come your way, would you still launch your investigation into the assassination if you had it to do over again?

GARRISON: As long as the men who shot John Kennedy to death in Dallas are walking the streets of America, I will continue this investigation. I have no regrets about initiating it and I have no regrets about carrying it on to its conclusion. If it takes me 30 years to nail every one of the assassins, then I will continue this investigation for 30 years. I owe that not only to Jack Kennedy but to my country.

 


Jim Garrison's Interview with Playboy, part 2

Jim Garrison's Interview with Playboy, part 1

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