Jim Garrison: Interview with Playboy
6: Oswald’s Role in the JFK Conspiracy
Oswald and Anti–Castro Cubans
Playboy: Was Oswald involved with paramilitary activists and anti–Castro Cuban exiles in Dallas, as well as in New Orleans?
Garrison: Oh, God, yes. In fact, many of his New Orleans contacts overlap with those in Dallas. Jack Ruby, who played a key role in smuggling guns to the anti–Castro underground — on behalf of the CIA — was one of Oswald’s contacts in Dallas. Furthermore, Oswald was virtually surrounded by White Russians in Dallas, some of whom were CIA employees. Moreover, some of Oswald’s anti–Castro friends from Miami and New Orleans showed up in Dallas in October of 1963.
In a “Supplementary Investigation Report” filed on November 23, 1963, by Dallas policeman Buddy Walthers, an aide to Sheriff Bill Decker, Walthers stated: “I talked to Sorrels, the head of the Dallas Secret Service, I was advised that for the past few months at a house at 3128 Harlandale, some Cubans had been having meetings on the weekends and were possibly connected with the Freedom for Cuba Party of which Oswald was a member.”
No attention was paid to Walther’s report, and on November 26th, he complained: “I don’t know what action the Secret Service has taken, but I learned today that some time between seven days before the President was shot and the day after he was shot, these Cubans moved from this house. My informant stated that subject Oswald had been to this house before.” This was the last that was ever heard of the mysterious Cubans at 3128 Harlandale.
A significant point in Walthers’ report is his mention of the Freedom for Cuba Party. This appears to be a corruption of the anti–Castro Free Cuba Committee of which Oswald, Ferrie and a small cadre of neo–Nazis — including the man we believe was the “second Oswald” — were members. You may remember that on the night of the assassination, Dallas D.A. Henry Wade called a press conference and at one point referred to Oswald as a member of the “Free Cuba Committee” instead of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Jack Ruby, who just happened to be there, promptly chimed in to correct him.
Ruby was obviously in the jail that night on a dry run prior to his successful murder of Oswald on Sunday — a possibility the Warren Commission never bothered to consider — and could hardly have been eager to draw attention to himself. However, he must have been afraid that if the press reported Oswald was a member of the “Free Cuba Committee,” somebody might begin an investigation of that group and discover its anti–Castro and ultra–right–wing orientation. And so he risked his cover to set the record straight and protect his fellow conspirators.
Oswald: Decoy, Patsy and Victim
Playboy: In regard to Oswald’s role in the conspiracy, you have said that “he was a decoy at first and then he was a patsy and then he was a victim.” Would you explain what you meant by that?
Garrison: Oswald’s role in the proposed assassination of Kennedy, as far as he seems to have known, was strictly political: not to fire a gun but — for reasons that may not have been explained to him by his superiors at their planning sessions — to establish his left–wing bona fides so unshakably that after the assassination, quite possibly unbeknownst to him, the President’s murder would appear to be the work of a sharpshooting left–wing fanatic and thus allow the other plotters, including the men who actually shot Kennedy, to escape police attention and flee Dallas.
Though he may not have known why he was instructed to do so, this was undoubtedly why he got the job at the Texas School Book Depository Building; we’ve learned that one of the members of the conspiracy was in a position to learn from perfectly innocent Dallas business contacts the route of the Presidential motorcade more than a month before Kennedy’s visit. The conspirators — more than probably not including Oswald — knew this would place him on the scene and convince the world that a demented Marxist was the real assassin.
Playboy: Even if Oswald was unaware of his role as a decoy, didn’t he suspect that he might be double–crossed by his co–conspirators?
Garrison: We have uncovered substantial evidence that he was influenced and manipulated rather easily by his older and more sophisticated superiors in the conspiracy, and it’s probable that he trusted them more than he distrusted them. But even if the opposite were true, I think he would have done what he was told.
Playboy: Even if he suspected that he might be arrested and convicted as the President’s assassin?
Garrison: As I said, I don’t think it’s likely that he was aware of his role as a decoy. But even if he was, it’s probable that he would have been given some cock–and–bull assurances about being richly rewarded and smuggled out of the country after Kennedy’s death. But it’s even more probable, in my opinion — if he did know the true nature of his role — that he wouldn’t have felt the necessity to escape. He would have known that no jury in the world — even in Dallas — would have been able to find him guilty of the assassination on the strength of such transparently contrived circumstantial evidence.
Playboy: That’s debatable. But even if Oswald had been brought to trial for and acquitted of the assassination, what reason would he have had to believe that he would also be exonerated of involvement in the conspiracy — which you’ve admitted yourself?
Garrison: I don’t want to evade your question, but I can’t answer it without compromising my investigation of a crucial new area of the conspiracy. I’m afraid I can’t discuss it until we’ve built a solid case. I can say, however, that whatever his knowledge of his role as a decoy, he definitely didn’t know about his role as a patsy until after the assassination.
At 12:45 P.M. on November 22nd, the Dallas police had broadcast a wanted bulletin for Oswald — over a half hour before Tippit was shot and at a time when there was absolutely no evidence linking Oswald to the assassination. The Dallas police have never been able to explain who transmitted this wanted notice or on what evidence it was based; and the Warren Commission brushed aside the whole matter as unimportant. I think it’s obvious that the conspirators tipped off the police, probably anonymously, in the hope — subsequently realized — that all attention would henceforth be focused on Oswald and the heat would be taken off other members of the plot.
We have evidence that the plan was to have him shot as a cop killer in the Texas Theater “while resisting arrest.” I can’t go into all the details on this, but the murder of Tippit, which I am convinced Oswald didn’t commit, was clearly designed to set the stage for Oswald’s liquidation in the Texas Theater after another anonymous tip–off. But here the plotters miscalculated, and Oswald was not shot to death but was merely roughed up and rushed off to the Dallas jail — where, you may remember, he shouted to reporters as the police dragged him through the corridors on November 22nd: “I didn’t kill anyone — I’m being made a patsy.”
The conspiracy had gone seriously awry and the plotters were in danger of exposure by Oswald. Enter Jack Ruby — and exit Oswald. So first Oswald was a decoy, next a patsy and finally — in the basement of the Dallas jail on November 24, 1963 — a victim.
Oswald Did Not Shoot President Kennedy
Playboy: Even if Oswald was a scapegoat in the alleged conspiracy, why do you believe he couldn’t also have been one of those who shot at the President?
Garrison: If there’s one thing the Warren Commission and its 26 volumes of supportive evidence demonstrate conclusively, it’s that Lee Harvey Oswald did not shoot John Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Of course, the Commission concluded not only that Oswald fired at the President but that he was a marksman, that he had enough time to “fire three shots, with two hits, within 4.8 and 5.6 seconds,” that his Mannlicher–Carcano was an accurate rifle, etc. — but all these conclusions are actually in direct contradiction of the evidence within the Commission’s own 26 volumes.
By culling and coordinating that evidence, the leading critics of the Commission have proved:
- that Oswald was a mediocre shot;
- that the Mannlicher–Carcano rifle he allegedly used was about the crummiest weapon on the market today;
- that its telescopic sight was loose and had to be realigned before Commission experts could fire it;
- that the 20–year–old ammunition he would have had to use could not have been relied on to fire accurately, if at all;
- that the rifle quite possibly was taken from Oswald’s home after the assassination and planted in the Depository;
- that the Commission’s own chronology of Oswald’s movements made it highly implausible for him to fire three shots, wipe the rifle clear of fingerprints — there were none found on it — hide the rifle under a stack of books and rush down four flights of stairs to the second floor, all in the few seconds it took Roy Truly and Officer Marrion Baker to rush in from the street after the shots and encounter Oswald standing beside the vending machine in the employees’ cafeteria.
I could cite additional evidence proving that Oswald didn’t fire a rifle from the sixth floor of the Depository, but it would just be a recapitulation of the excellent books of the critics, to which I refer your readers.
There are a number of factors that we’ve examined independently during the course of our investigation that also prove Oswald didn’t shoot at the President. For one thing, the nitrate test administered to Oswald on the day of the assassination clearly exonerated him of having fired a rifle within the past 24 hours. He had nitrates on both hands, but no nitrates on his cheek — which means it was impossible for him to have fired a rifle. The fact that he had nitrates on both hands is regarded in the nitrate test as a sign of innocence; it’s the same as having nitrates on neither hand. This is because so many ordinary objects leave traces of nitrate on the hands. You’re smoking a cigar, for example — tobacco contains nitrate; so if you were tested right now, you’d have nitrate on your right hand but not on your left. I’m smoking a pipe, which I interchange between my hands, so I’ll have traces of nitrate on both hands but not on my cheeks.
The morning of the assassination, Oswald was moving crates in a newly painted room, which was likely to have left traces of nitrate on both his hands. Now, of course, if the nitrate test had proved positive, and Oswald did have nitrate on one hand and on his cheek, that would still not constitute proof positive that he’d fired a gun, because the nitrates could have been left by a substance other than gunpowder. But the fact that he had no nitrate whatsoever on his cheek is ineluctable proof that he never fired a rifle that day. If he had washed his face to remove the nitrate before the test was administered, there would have been none on his hands either — unless he was in the habit of washing with gloves on.
This was a sticky problem for the Warren Commission, but they resolved it with their customary aplomb. An expert was dug up who testified that in a Mannlicher–Carcano rifle, the chamber is so tight that no nitrates are emitted upon firing; and the Commission used this testimony to dismiss the whole subject. However, the inventor of the nitrate test subsequently tested the Mannlicher–Carcano and found that it did leave nitrate traces. He was not called to testify by the Warren Commission. So the nitrate test alone is incontrovertible proof that Oswald did not fire a rifle on November 22nd.
We’ve also found some new evidence that shows that Oswald’s Mannlicher–Carcano was not the only weapon discovered in the Depository Building after the assassination. I recently traveled to New York for a conference with Richard Sprague, a brilliant man who’s been independently researching technical aspects of the assassination, and he showed me a hitherto unpublicized collection of film clips from a motion picture taken of the assassination and its aftermath. Part of the film, shot shortly after one P.M., shows the Dallas police carrying the assassination weapon out of the Book Depository. They stop for the photographers and an officer holds the rifle up above his head so that the inquisitive crowd can look at it. There’s just one little flaw here: This rifle does not have a telescopic sight, and thus cannot be Oswald’s rifle. This weapon was taken from the building approximately 20 minutes before Oswald’s Mannlicher–Carcano was “discovered” — or planted — on the premises.
To sum up: Oswald was involved in the conspiracy; shots were fired at Kennedy from the Depository but also from the grassy knoll and apparently from the Dal–Tex Building as well — but not one of them was fired by Lee Harvey Oswald, and not one of them from his Mannlicher–Carcano.