Jim Garrison: Interview with Playboy
9: Oswald and the FBI
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.
Oswald’s Links with the FBI
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 entrée 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.