Richard Billings was the son of John Shaw Billings (1891–1975) the first managing editor of Life Magazine. Richard Billings also became a staff writer with the magazine. He was also involved in working with the Central Intelligence Agency in its attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro in Cuba.
In the winter of 1962 Eddie Bayo claimed that two officers in the Red Army based in Cuba wanted to defect to the United States. Bayo added that these men wanted to pass on details about atomic warheads and missiles that were still in Cuba despite the agreement that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bayo's story was eventually taken up by several members of the anti-Castro community including William Pawley, Gerry P. Hemming, John Martino, Felipe Vidal Santiago and Frank Sturgis.
William Pawley became convinced that it was vitally important to help get these Soviet officers out of Cuba. Pawley contacted Ted Shackley at JM WAVE. Shackley decided to help Pawley organize what became known as Operation Tilt. He also assigned Rip Robertson, a fellow member of the CIA in Miami, to help with the operation. David Sanchez Morales, another CIA agent, also became involved in this attempt to bring out these two Soviet officers.
In June, 1963, a small group, including Billings, William Pawley, Eddie Bayo, Rip Robertson and John Martino made a secret trip to Cuba. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to find these Soviet officers and they were forced to return to Miami. Bayo remained behind and it was rumoured that he had been captured and executed. However, his death was never reported in the Cuban press.
In November, 1963, Billings was a member of the Life Magazine team in Dallas that purchased the Zapruder Film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Soon after the assassination they also successfully negotiated with Marina Oswald the exclusive rights to her story. This story never appeared in print.
Billings continued to took an interest in the John F. Kennedy assassination. In November 1966 Jim Garrison told a journalist, David Chandler, that he had important information on the case. Chandler told Billings and in January 1967, the Life Magazine reporter arranged a meeting with Garrison. Billings told Garrison that the top management at Life had concluded that Kennedy's assassination had been a conspiracy and that "his investigation was moving in the right direction". Billings suggested that he worked closely with Garrison. According to Garrison "The magazine would be able to provide me with technical assistance, and we could develop a mutual exchange of information".
Garrison agreed to this deal and Billings was introduced to staff member, Tom Bethal. In his diary Bethal reported: "In general, I feel that Billings and I share a similar position about the Warren Report. He does not believe that there was a conspiracy on the part of the government, the Warren Commission or the FBI to conceal the truth, but that a probability exists that they simply did not uncover the whole truth." Billings managed to persuade Bethal that Clay Shaw was innocent. Later it was revealed by W. Penn Jones that "Bethal made the entire trial plan, a complete list of State's witnesses and their expected testimony and other materials available to the Shaw defense team."
In September, 1967, Billings told Jim Garrison that Life Magazine was no longer willing to work with him in the investigation. Billings claimed that this was because he had come to the conclusion that he had links to organized crime. Soon afterwards, Life began a smear campaign against Garrison. It was reported that Garrison had been given money by an unnamed "New Orleans mobster".
The House Select Committee on Assassinations was established in September 1976. Billings was recruited by G. Robert Blakey, its chief counsel, as editorial director. Later Billings and Blakey were the co-authors of The Plot to Kill the President (1981). In the book Billings and Blakey argue that there was a conspiracy to kill John F. Kennedy. Billings claims that Lee Harvey Oswald was involved but believes that there was at least one gunman firing from the Grassy Knoll. Billings comes to the conclusion that the Mafia boss, Carlos Marcello, organized the assassination. The book was reissued in paperback in 1993 as Fatal Hour: The Assassination of President Kennedy by Organized Crime.
Carl Oglesby summarized Blakey and Billings theory as follows:
(a) Oswald alone did shoot and kill J.F.K., as the Warren Commission deduced.
(b) An unknown confederate of Oswald's, however, also shot at the President, firing from the celebrated "grassy knoll." This shot missed.
(c) Apart from the question of the number of assailants in the attack, Oswald acted as the tool of a much larger conspiracy.
(d) The conspiracy behind Oswald was rooted in organized crime and was specifically provoked by J.F.K.'s anti-crime program. Singly or in some combination, prime suspects are Carlos Marcello and Santos Trafficante, godfathers respectively of the New Orleans and Tampa Mafias, and Teamster racketeer James Hoffa. Each one had the motive, means, and opportunity to kill J.F.K.
Rip Robertson... was brought back into CIA operations for the Bay of Pigs commanding the supply ship Barbara J and leading exile frogmen onto the beach. Robertson later became affiliated with JM WAVE operations and was the officer who debriefed John Martino upon his release (Florence Martino identified someone she knew only as "Rip" making numerous visits to their house). Robertson died in 1970, supposedly of the aftereffects of malaria contracted during service in Vietnam.
In addition to Bayo, Pawley, Martino and Robertson, the expedition was accompanied by Dick Billings, a LIFE staff writer obtained through the Pawley-Luce connection. Billings would later head the LIFE team in Dallas which purchased the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination, as well as Marina Oswald's story rights (neither of which saw public exposure under LIFE auspices). Much later. Billings was hired by Robert Blakey, the second head of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, as editorial director for the final report of the HSCA.
About this time, in early 1967, we had an unexpected lucky break Dick Billings, an editor from Life magazine, arrived at the office. He was a slender man with a quick mind and delightful wit. After talking with me at some length, he informed me confidentially that the top management at Life had concluded that President Kennedy's assassination had been a conspiracy and that my investigation was moving in the right direction. Inasmuch as Life was conducting its own investigation Billings suggested that we work together. The magazine would be able to provide me with technical assistance, and we could develop a mutual exchange of information.
The offer came at a good time. I had been wanting to increase my stakeout coverage of David Ferries home but did not have the personnel to spare, particularly an expert photographer. We had succeeded in establishing a friendly relationship with the couple who lived directly across the street from Perrie on Louisiana Avenue Parkway. Like him they lived on the second floor of a duplex and also had a screened porch in the front. I described this situation to the Life editor, and within days a top-flight photographer arrived in town. We promptly installed him at his observation post on the second-floor porch across the street.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Sciambra talked to (Perry) Russo in Baton Rouge on Feb. 25. Back in New Orleans the next day Sciambra gave the following account of what Russo told him:
Russo said, he had known Ferrie since 1962, when they made a deal to market pornographic films. Ferrie, who often hung around with tough-looking Cubans, talked openly of an assassination during the summer of 1963, but President Kennedy was not named as the target.
Then, at Ferrie's apartment in September, Russo was introduced to a roommate. He described this roommate as "a man in his middle 20s with dirty blond hair and a scrubby beard, a typical beatnik." At the meeting an assassination was discussed, and Kennedy was to be the victim.
Sciambra showed a picture of Shaw to Russo, who said he had seen the man, though he was unable to identify him, at two different times: once in 1962 when Kennedy spoke at the dedication of a new warf in New Orleans, and once with Ferrie in a service station. He did not say he had ever seen Shaw at Ferrie's apartment. Shown a picture of Oswald, Russo said it looked a little like Ferrie's roomate, but only after a beard was drawn on the photograph, could he confirm the "identification."
Early December (Dec. '66), trip to New Orleans after report from [David] Chandler that Garrison working on assassination - had a suspect - file from Chandler told of raid on Ferrie apartment, mentioned that two boys picked up held visa applications signed by Marcello Washington lawyer Jack Wasserman (this came from source outside Garrison's office who also alleged case was closed by a bribe, a report denied by DA's office)...
Met with Garrison, who outlined "the Smith case." He began with history - Oswald in New Orleans, the raid on Ferrie, Ferrie's arrest, description of Ferrie, and he produced B of I photo... Ferrie was arrested as fugitive from justice in Texas...
Garrison says that when Oswald in New Orleans in 1963 (April to September) he was seen two or three times with Ferrie - at office of W. Guy Banister, former FBI agent (SAC, Chicago), right wing extremist, later a private eye in New Orleans until he died in June 1964... Information apparently came from Jack Martin, the man who had tipped DA's office that Ferrie had known Oswald, had taught him to fire a rifle and had flown him to Dallas in September-October, 1963... interesting point about Banister-Martin: police report shows Banister pistol whipped martin on day of assassination, reportedly - by a secretary in office - in an argument over JFK... Charges dropped by Martin, who turns out to be an undependable drunk and a totally unreliable witness...
Garrison, a former FBI agent himself, says he turned file in 1963 over to Bureau, but he never heard from them again . . . He says, "you can't work with the Bureau . . . It's not interested in real investigation - operates with 20/20 hindsight"... Garrison says after Bureau cleared Ferrie, "We let it go, but it has bothered me ever since." . . . Says he got interested again by reading critics' books, Esquire and Life... "There's no way to look at this in depth and not conclude there was a second assassin. There are too many coincidences... "
Garrison, interviewed on television the previous Sunday night, did say as reported that it was his belief that Oswald did not fire the shots that killed the President. He said he has known that for some time, and he is certain that Oswald was simply a minor character in the plot, clearly a decoy or patsy, or both; and it's Garrison's opinion that Oswald probably thought he was at least deluded into thinking he was infiltrating some kind of group, but that his role, though he had a role, was a minor one. Now, the key to this, says Garrison, is the statement by Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig of Dallas, who swore that he saw Oswald leaving the Texas School Book Depository in a light-colored station wagon, testimony that is not believed by the Warren Commission, incidentally. Craig said that later that afternoon, after Oswald was arrested, he saw the suspect in the office of Police Captain Fritz, and he says, Craig testified, that Oswald said at that time: "Now everyone will know who I am." Garrison further finds it interesting that the police in Dallas failed to record or take stenographic record of Oswald's statements for 12 hours after his arrest, which he considers to be quite suspicious; and moreover, Garrison has studied the location of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, where it was found in the Book Depository building. It was far from the window where Oswald allegedly fired the shots, and it was under a couple of boxes. It is Garrison's opinion, in which he concurs with many of the critics, that Oswald would not have had time to try to hide the rifle under those boxes at such a distance from the window...
Garrison says that a letter has been found in the apartment that Gordon Novel vacated, a rough draft of a letter, apparently one that was later typed by Novel, to a Mr. Weiss. This letter, if it's not a plant, or if it's not a Novel trick, clearly links his past activities with some kind of intelligence operation in New Orleans.
It is necessary here to go back over Garrison's relationship with Novel. Novel set on Garrison during an election campaign, and he told the District Attorney that he had done some bugging for one of his opponents. Garrison says that he, Novel, wanted me to know my phone was bugged, and he wanted to do some counter-bugging for me. Seems to be, according to Garrison, Novel's modus operandi to work both sides, and during this investigation -- this would be in January -- through a friend and supporter of Garrison's by the name of Willard Robertson, Novel got in touch with Garrison and told him that five FBI agents had interviewed him over the past three or four days, wanting to know if he, Novel, had been hired by Garrison to do any bugging or any counter-bugging. It was obvious by this time to Garrison, he now says, that Novel is working both sides, and Garrison asked him to specify the names of the FBI men, and Novel surprised him by doing so. Novel was anxious to tell about an adventure that he was aware of in Houma, La., which involved the -- a burglary of weapons and explosives. Novel said that he could tell about the thing, but he wasn't involved; it turns out later that he was, although it was Novel's intent to keep himself on the sidelines of this operation. For a short period, Novel was a confidential source, but the manner of his providing Garrison with information, phony information, and then turning it over to news media, prompted the District Attorney to promote Novel first to material witness and later to defendant, and that is when Novel skipped town. Apparently, right after he wrote he letter to Mr. Weiss, and then, at a later time, he was interviewed in Columbus, Ohio by a reporter named Endicott, the story that was picked up and developed further and run in the States-Item. We understand from the States-Item reporter, Hoke May, that Novel told Endicott a story of his working for the CIA; he told the story late one night, he was tired, he had been drinking, and he spieled out this story and said, you can print it; and then the next day he called up Endicott and pleaded with him not to print it, but the story broke anyway.
It is important to note here that, though it appears to be fairly certain that Novel had a connection with the intelligence agency, this in no way ties him or the agency to the assassination, though the tone of the letter and statements in the letter and Novel's apparent - obvious fear of Garrison would seem to indicate at least a high degree of suspicion.
Now Bill Martin, the Assistant DA, has received another letter from Richard Nagell. Nagell is a man who claims to have pulled a phony bank robbery in San Antonio because he feared that his involvement and his knowledge of the assassination would get him in serious trouble, since he had been working in this country as an agent for the Soviet Union. Nagell has offered to put Garrison in touch with some tapes which recorded planning of the assassination, and has offered to tell his story to Garrison's office if this is kept on a confidential basis. Martin has been to see Nagell twice in Springfield, posing as his attorney of record. The last time he visited the institution, Nagell discovered Martin discussing the case with an official of the prison, and announced in animate and angry terms that he wanted no more to do with Martin or Garrison. A subsequent letter by Martin, which he wrote after consulting with a psychiatrist in New Orleans, was not received by Nagell, he refused to receive it, and, although Martin had the name of the man who is holding the tape, it has been decided by Garrison not to pursue that until -- letting Nagell, giving Nagell a chance to come back and proceed with an earlier plan. The plan was for Nagell to get a letter to Martin which would -- Martin would give to the man who has the tapes, and this would assure that the tape by [sic] turned over to Garrison's office. Now, this letter that Martin has just received is dated May 19th, in which Nagell says he is preparing for a writ of habeas corpus, and a long attached memorandum which he intends to file with the US District Court in Missouri or in Kansas if he, Nagell, is returned to Leavenworth before he is ready to submit the memorandum. He says that he will send a copy to Martin or to Judge Bagert, and in the memo, he will name names of people that Garrison's office may well want to subpoena. He says, "The reason for my contemplated action stems from the belief that my involvement, which, as you possibly know by now, is deeper than I admitted to you or to my sister, is going to be made public eventually anyway; in this respect, I only hope that the authorities furnish adequate safeguard for my children." And at the end of the letter, Nagell says that he has been informed that he will be returned to Leavenworth on or about June 12th.
Garrison believes that Nagell has no intention of submitting this memorandum to a court, where it would become public record. He feels that Nagell wrote the letter in order to arouse or re-arouse Martin's interest, and that when Martin returns to see him another time, that he will proceed with the plan to put Garrison in touch with the tapes and the information and the evidence that Garrison hopes will be authentic documentation that there was a conspiracy to assassinate the President. Everyone, Garrison included, is concerned with the possibility that Nagell is nothing more than a paranoid man with insane delusions. But he has obtained a transcript of Nagell's trial, which we have borrowed, and claims that in this trial, it comes clear that Nagell is not a nut, and that he committed no horrendous crime, certainly not one worthy of a ten-year prison sentence, and that this gives him reason to believe that Nagell's knowledge was known by the federal government, and for that reason, he was put away to - in order that he be kept quiet. Certainly, Nagell is well worth pursuing, and Martin plans to make a trip to Springfield immediately.
Thursday March 14: Today Dick Billings, associate editor of Life magazine arrived in New Orleans, having received a letter from Jim Garrison assuring him of immunity from subpoena or any other legal entanglement. In the morning Garrison came into my office and told me that Billings was arriving that afternoon, and was planning to stay for three months. I asked him what I was supposed to do if Billings came into my office. Was I to co-operate with him, as we had in the past, and show him the files? Garrison said emphatically not, and that he was now convinced that Life was now working with the Federal Govt, and that he himself wasn't even going to talk to Billings. He said he would prefer it if I didn't see Billings socially outside the office, although he added that he wasn't exactly ordering me not to...
At 3:00 pm. Billings arrived in the office, and sat outside in the lobby, waiting to be invited in. Eventually he spoke to Jim Alcock in Alcock's office. Billings at that time advised that Life was outraged by Garrison's recent statements about them in front of a large proportion of the D.A.'s in the country, and that Life's lawyers were instituting contempt proceedings against Garrison as a result. Alcock told him of the new office policy with regard to Billings, and that they had been told not to provide him with any more information.
Billings had still failed to reach Garrison, and he therefore come into the office again. (Garrison not in office, of course.) He spoke to Alcock and Louis Ivon on this occasion, and they told him of the subpoena of the Zapruder film, which was in fact issued today. I saw Billings briefly soon after he had met with Alcock and Ivon. He seemed depressed by his failure to make any headway; he told me he was leaving Life on April 1, 1968, with plans to be a freelance writer. We agreed to meet that evening to discuss the whole matter further.
I met Billings at 7 pm. And we discussed the whole subject of the assassination and the Garrison investigation for several hours. Clearly, he position is that he wants to write a book about the subject, and he has already approached about six publishers in New York, without receiving any encouragement. He feels that his problem is that he is unable to reach any conclusion on the subject. I am not too clear exactly what he means by this, but my guess is that he does not feel that he can make any positive statements about the validity of Garrison's case. (Later, 1969: Billings' position is clearer to me now. His problem at that time was that he was trying to justify - both to himself and to his employers - the position he had taken with regard to the Garrison investigation; ie. He had failed to advise his editors of the weakness of the Garrison case, and oversight which was, I believe, the cause of his losing his job with the magazine. Billings held off and held off blowing the whistle on Garrison for reasons which are probably complex. Although this is speculation, my guess would be that billings did this (a) because he thought there were genuine doubts about the assassination problem, and that Garrison might eventually hit on the solution. (b) Billings evidently had a great deal of information about Cuban exile-type plots in Miami - I mean solid evidence that such plots existed, and was hoping to see Garrison tie in these plots to the Dealey Plaza outcome. He had half the story and he was hoping Garrison would provide the other - vital - half. Boxley's remark - Life lost interest in us when we lost interest in the Cuban exiles - makes sense in this context. (c) and this is probably by no means least - Billings undoubtedly liked and admired Garrison in many ways, and probably thought that it would constitute betrayal if he informed his editors of some of the realities of the Garrison investigation. And by the end of the evening, he had convinced me that he was very well aware of the realities, probably more so than any other journalist who has worked on the case.)
In general, I feel that Billings and I share a similar position about the Warren Report. He does not believe that there was a conspiracy on the part of the government, the Warren Commission or the FBI to conceal the truth, but that a probability exists that they simply did not uncover the whole truth. When it came to the investigation of sensitive areas, such as Oswald's possible alliance with anti-Castro Cubans, he feels that the FBI tended to side-step the problem by not investigating it very thoroughly, for fear that it might upset their sole-assassin preconceptions. In corroboration of this, one need only point to the absence of any trace of an FBI investigation of the 544 Camp St problem. Billings argues that some of the classified FBI reports, if declassified, probably would reveal some interesting information, and he cited CD 1085, the FBI report on Cuban exile groups. Billings does not feel that the FBI knowingly would have filed any reports which indicated conspiracy without making it known, merely that these reports might inadvertently contain such information. I agree with this position.
As for the Garrison investigation, Billings was more guarded, but I sense that he believes that, 1. Shaw is completely innocent. 2. Garrison sincerely believes everything that he says. 3. Garrison is not motivated by political ambition, but that his motives are much more complex, or, maybe, much more simple. 4. Garrison, regrettably, has too much of a butterfly approach, and instead of concentrating on a few important areas, such as Oswald's Cuban connections, hops around from storm drain theories to the Minutemen, without ever really exhausting one line of inquiry. I agree with all these assessments, including the first, in the light of what Billings told me later on in the evening.
We discussed Life's position at some length. I said that I thought it was absurd to say that the magazine was a tool of the government in view of their Nov. 1966, article ("A Matter of Reasonable Doubt") and it was also unfair to accuse them of suppressing the Zapruder film. They have made it available for viewing in the National Archives (without restriction, as is the case with some of the other film in the Archives, eg. the Nix film,) they have published articles based on its contents criticizing the Commission and calling for a new investigation, and, above all, they are a magazine and not a TV station or a Movie company. The only decision which they made about the film which cannot easily be interpreted as simple commercial vested interest was their refusal to let CBS show it on their "Special" on the Warren Report. Such a showing would almost certainly have enhanced rather than diminished the value of the film. I asked Billings about this and he said it was one of those rather mysterious calculations made by the businessmen in the upper echelons, which, he agreed, did not seem to make good sense.
He then said that Life has in fact been dickering with the project of making a film, utilizing Zapruder and other footage which they possess, such as DCA, Dorman, Hughes, etc. However the problem has been to find a producer for it. As Billings said you cannot just splice the footage together and then shot it. You have to analyze it and come to conclusions, etc., and this is precisely what no-one in the magazine wants to do, not because anyone there knows there was a conspiracy and is trying to hide it, but because it would represent a controversial entanglement which they would rather avoid. As he said, if you showed the Zapruder film to 100,000 people, 95,000 would immediately conclude that Kennedy was shot from the front. If they made such a film it would be sold to a TV station.
Billings emphasized that he had no Federal government connections. He worked closely with Garrison during the early stages of the investigation, and was sincerely hoping for some solid proof of conspiracy, which the magazine would have published if it had existed. As he said, this would have been a considerable embarrassment to the FBI and the government, and he observed that the present rift between Garrison and Life must be a source of pleasure to the FBI. Billings said that he had suspicions about the New York Times aborted investigation, and in particular their peculiar attitude towards Garrison. He feels that many of the news media had adopted a negative attitude toward Garrison before they had had a chance to come to a valid conclusion about his evidence. I recall that this was my impression, too. I told Billings what I knew about the New York Times story. In November, 1966, before I was working for Garrison, and, I believe, almost before the Garrison investigation began, I was in Dallas with Penn Jones. To be precise, this was on November 22, 1966, at the assassination site. At that time I met Martin Waldron of the NY Times, and, he had a four or five page questionnaire of problems about the assassination he was looking into, as a part of the NY Times investigation. Most of these questions were about New Orleans, and specifically about David Ferrie. I did not see the list, but he showed it to Penn Jones. Thus, it should be emphasized, the NY Times was investigating Ferrie independently of Garrison, and possibly actually earlier than Garrison...
Billings says he first saw Garrison on December 14, 1966, (a date which keeps cropping up.) He was alerted to the fact that Garrison was up to something by David Chandler, who in turn had been alerted by me... Billings feels that Garrison was in possession of important and convincing information implicating Ferrie early on in the investigation - information which he has never made available to anyone. Billings feels this because Garrison was so positive, so sure, so convincing, about Ferrie. I do not believe this is true for a minute. Garrison has a way of being very sure and very convincing about things on precious little evidence...
Billings still considers the Sylvia Odio lead one of the most important in the case, and recently checked out the rumor that she is now living in Chicago with her husband. He concluded that she is not. He has spoken to Annie Odio, who promised to forward a letter from Billings to Odio, but she will not give him her address. In fact, no one has succeeded in interviewing Odio yet, or showing her pictures of possible suspects. Billings wants to talk to Odio's father, who may still be in jail, to find out if he still has the letter she wrote him before the assassination (?) referring to the alleged visit of "Leon Oswald". Billings feels that Castro may well co-operate in this project, and might even be able to furnish him with some valuable information. I gather he is toying with the idea of approaching Castro about this.
Billings and I then began to discuss the case of Clay Shaw. He told me he thought it was a bum rap, after I had broken to ice on the subject by telling him that, to me, the most serious criticism of the case that I had seen was the Phelan article. I told him that it was difficult to see any way around the problems created by that article. I said that Sciambra's latest position was to say that he omitted the conspiracy meeting from the memorandum because he told Garrison about it verbally when he returned from Baton Rouge. Garrison was having dinner in a restaurant, and Sciambra told him there. Billings then startled me by telling me that he was present at that meeting between Garrison and Sciambra. I think Billings said it was at Broussards. Billings related that Sciambra joined them later in the evening. He came in excited and told them that he had just interviewed Perry Russo in Baton Rouge. He was excited because Russo had said he had seen Shaw and Ferrie together on one occasion -- in a car at Ferrie's gas station, and he claimed he had seen Shaw on one other occasion -- at the Nashville Street wharf on the occasion of President Kennedy's visit.
Thus Billings' description of what Sciambra told Garrison on the night of Feb 25, 1967, is consistent with the controversial memorandum which Phelan attacked. No mention was made of a third meeting at which the assassination was allegedly discussed, no mention was made of Lee Harvey Oswald, nor of Clay Bertrand.
When Billings had finished telling me this, I started to say, "Well, that means that Sciambra..." when he interrupted me: "Sciambra's a liar," he said. He added that he considered that Sciambra was the most dangerous person in the office, because he was, among other things, stupid. I am forced to agree. It now looks as though there is no alternative to the clear cut conclusion that Clay Shaw is completely innocent. It is now clear that the sodium pentothal and hypnotism sessions which intervened between the meeting in Baton Rouge and Russo's testimony at the Preliminary Hearing were used not to "objectify" Russo's testimony, as Garrison claims, but to elicit it...
Billings pointed out a further conflict. When Russo first said he saw Shaw and Ferrie together at the gas station he said it was before the assassination. When Billings later interviewed Russo he had changed this to after the assassination, which was more in harmony with the facts, because Ferrie did not get the gas station (from Carlos Marcello) until ‘64 or ‘65. Billings also said that he was having dinner with Garrison, Sciambra, and Russo on the night of Feb 26th, I think, and at one point the name Bertrand came up. The name meant nothing to Russo because he said, "Bertrand, who is that?" or words to that effect.
Thus, Billings leaves me with no alternative but to conclude that there was no basis for Shaw's arrest. I note the following three points: 1. At the time of Shaw's arrest there was only one witness against him - Perry Russo. 2. Russo's testimony is not credible when considered in the light of Phelan's and Billing's criticisms. 3. Dean Andrews, the only person who ever claimed to know who Bertrand was, says Shaw is not Bertrand, and there is no reason to assume that Andrews is "protecting" Shaw other than by making an ad hoc assumption to that effect. (I notice that people who want to believe that Shaw is guilty do make this assumption.)
It would require the surprising disclosure of the findings of a Senate committee on intelligence in 1976 to prevent Garrison's probe from effectively ending any hope that the federal government would take a second look at the work of the Warren Commission. In short, Garrison's case was a fraud...
As for the organized-crime aspect of Oswald's associations in New Orleans, where it had been overlooked by the F.B.I, and the Warren Commission, it had been studiously avoided by the District Attorney for reasons we believed had become apparent...
Garrison was tried but acquitted in 1971 of federal charges of taking payoffs from underworld pinball operators, despite evidence that included incriminating tape recordings of Garrison and the seizure of $1,000 in marked money from Garrison's home.
Pursuant to agreement with the Select Committee on Assassinations, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation reviewed this book in manuscript form to determine that the classified information it contained had been properly released for publication and that no informant was identified. Neither the C.I.A. nor the F.B.I, warrants the factual material or endorses the views expressed.
As a Washington co-director of the Assassination Information Bureau, which was created early in the 1970s to build a movement for a new J.F.K. investigation, I watched Blakey from a short distance and sometimes close up over a period of about a year and a half as he prepared and presented his theory of the assassination for the committee's review and approval. At first I supported his Mafia theory for basically strategic reasons. It was at least a conspiracy theory that was not rightwing, it could command an official consensus, and it thus appeared strong enough to get the case properly reopened and activated by the Justice Department. Blakey believed the committee's then - fresh leads pointed to the Mafia. Many of us who were watching thought he was mistaken, and that the leads would punch right through the Mafia cover and track straight back to several departments of official U.S. intelligence. That was the gamble and the deal: Let the government start pulling the Mafia string, we thought, and we will see what else it brings with it.
Then came the Reagan era and the total freeze-out from government sympathy of any project in the least memorializing of the Kennedys. Blakey did not take the offensive when the F.B.I, rudely closed the Justice Department's door in his face, basically telling him and the committee, "We don't buy it, so you're out of luck."
Why did Blakey choose not to fight harder and more publicly about it? Why did he seem to retire from the fray?
But then: Why did he try to crucify Garrison? Why did he not credit Garrison for the contribution Garrison has made to the development of this case, though working with a fraction of Blakey's resources and under the intense pressure of an active covert opposition?
Why did Blakey ignore the evidence turned up by his own investigators that the Cuban exile community was equally well positioned to kill a President as was the Mafia? Why did he ignore the fact that this Cuban exile community was the creature of the C.I.A.'s operations directorate?