Category Archives: Mysteries

A Patsy Speaks


Compiled by Mae Brussell

the following is taken from The People’s Almanac #2,
by David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace, Bantam Books, 1978, pp. 47-52.

Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone in shooting Pres. John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, or did he conspire with others? Was he serving as an agent of Cuba’s Fidel Castro, himself the target of American assassins? Or in squeezing the trigger of his carbine was he undertaking some super “dirty trick” for a CIA anxious to rid itself of a president whose faith in the “company” had evaporated in the wake of the Bay of Pigs fiasco? Or was he representing a group of Cuban exiles, the Teamsters Union, the Mafia? Indeed, was it Lee Harvey Oswald at all who killed JFK? Or was there a double impersonating Oswald? These questions continue to nag many people more than a decade and a half after that dreadful day in Dallas, in spite of the 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits served up by the Warren Commission, the congressional investigations, the release of heretofore classified FBI documents.

Almost everyone, it seems, has been heard from on the Kennedy assassination and on Lee Harvey Oswald’s guilt or innocence, except one person — Lee Harvey Oswald himself. From the time of Oswald’s arrest to his own assassination at the hands of Jack Ruby, no formal transcript or record was kept of statements made by the alleged killer. It was said that no tape recordings were made of Oswald’s remarks, and many notes taken of his statements were destroyed.

Determined to learn Oswald’s last words, his only testimony, “The People’s Almanac” assigned one of the leading authorities on the Kennedy assassination, Mae Brussell, to compile every known statement or remark made by Oswald between his arrest and death. The quotes, edited for space and clarity, are based on the recollections of a variety of witnesses present at different times and are not verbatim transcripts. “After 14 years of research on the JFK assassination,” Mae Brussell concludes, “I am of the opinion that Lee Harvey Oswald was telling the truth about his role in the assassination during these interrogations.”

12:30 P.M., CST, NOV. 22, 1963
Pres. John F. Kennedy Assassinated

12:33 P.M.

          Lee Harvey Oswald left work, entered a bus, and said, “Transfer, please.”

12:40 – 12:45 P.M.

          Oswald got off the bus, entered a cab, and said, “May I have this cab?” A woman approached, wanting a cab, and Oswald said, “I will let you have this one. . . . 500 North Beckley Street [instructions to William Whaley, driver of another cab]. . . . This will be fine.” Oswald departed cab and walked a few blocks.

1:15 P.M.   Officer J. D. Tippit Murdered

1:45 P.M.   Arrest at the Texas Theater

          “This is it” or “Well, it’s all over now.” Oswald arrested. (Patrolman M. N. McDonald heard these remarks. Other officers who were at the scene did not hear them.) “I don’t know why you are treating me like this. The only thing I have done is carry a pistol into a movie. . . . I don’t see why you handcuffed me. . . . Why should I hide my face? I haven’t done anything to be ashamed of. . . . I want a lawyer. . . . I am not resisting arrest. . . . I didn’t kill anybody. . . . I haven’t shot anybody. . . . I protest this police brutality. . . . I fought back there, but I know I wasn’t supposed to be carrying a gun. . . . What is this all about?”

2:00 – 2:15 P.M.   Drive to Police Dept.

          “What is this all about? . . . I know my rights. . . . A police officer has been killed? . . . I hear they burn for murder. Well, they say it just takes a second to die. . . . All I did was carry a gun. . . . No, Hidell is not my real name. . . . I have been in the Marine Corps, have a dishonorable discharge, and went to Russia. . . . I had some trouble with police in New Orleans for passing out pro-Castro literature. . . . Why are you treating me this way? . . . I am not being handled right. . . . I demand my rights.”

2:15 P.M.   Taken into Police Dept.

2:15 – 2:20 P.M.

          “Talked to” by officers Guy F. Rose and Richard S. Stovall. No notes.

2:25 – 4:04 P.M.   Interrogation of Oswald, Office of Capt Will Fritz

          “My name is Lee Harvey Oswald. . . . I work at the Texas School Book Depository Building. . . . I lived in Minsk and in Moscow. . . . I worked in a factory. . . . I liked everything over there except the weather. . . . I have a wife and some children. . . . My residence is 1026 North Beckley, Dallas, Tex.” Oswald recognized FBI agent James Hosty and said, “You have been at my home two or three times talking to my wife. I don’t appreciate your coming out there when I was not there. . . . I was never in Mexico City. I have been in Tijuana. . . . Please take the handcuffs from behind me, behind my back. . . . I observed a rifle in the Texas School Book Depository where I work, on Nov. 20, 1963. . . . Mr. Roy Truly, the supervisor, displayed the rifle to individuals in his office on the first floor. . . . I never owned a rifle myself. . . . I resided in the Soviet Union for three years, where I have many friends and relatives of my wife. . . . I was secretary of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans a few months ago. . . .

While in the Marines, I received an award for marksmanship as a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. . . . While living on Beckley Street, I used the name 0. H. Lee. . . . I was present in the Texas School Book Depository Building, I have been employed there since Oct. 15, 1963. . . . As a laborer, I have access to the entire building. . . . My usual place of work is on the first floor. However, I frequently use the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh floors to get books. I was on all floors this morning. . . . Because of all the confusion, I figured there would be no work performed that afternoon so I decided to go home. . . . I changed my clothing and went to a movie. . . . I carried a pistol with me to the movie because I felt like it, for no other reason. . . . I fought the Dallas Police who arrested me in the movie theater where I received a cut and a bump. . . . I didn’t shoot Pres. John F. Kennedy or Officer J. D. Tippit. . . . An officer struck me, causing the marks on my left eye, after I had struck him. . . . I just had them in there,” when asked why he had bullets in his pocket.

3:54 P.M.

          NBC newsman Bill Ryan announced on national television that “Lee Oswald seems to be the prime suspect in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.”

4:45 P.M.   At a Lineup for Helen Markham, Witness to Tippit Murder

          “It isn’t right to put me in line with these teenagers. . . . You know what you are doing, and you are trying to railroad me. . . . I want my lawyer. . . . You are doing me an injustice by putting me out there dressed different than these other men. . . . I am out there, the only one with a bruise on his head. . . . I don t believe the lineup is fair, and I desire to put on a jacket similar to those worn by some of the other individuals in the lineup. . . . All of you have a shirt on, and I have a T-shirt on. I want a shirt or something. . . . This T-shirt is unfair.”

4:45 – 6:30 P.M.   Second Interrogation of Oswald, Captain Fritz’s Office

          “When I left the Texas School Book Depository, I went to my room, where I changed my trousers, got a pistol, and went to a picture show. . . . You know how boys do when they have a gun, they carry it. . . . Yes, I had written the Russian Embassy. (On Nov. 9, 1963, Oswald had written to the Russian Embassy that FBI agent James Hosty was making some kind of deals with Marina, and he didn’t trust “the notorious FBI.”) . . . Mr. Hosty, you have been accosting my wife. You mistreated her on two different occasions when you talked with her. . . . I know you. Well, he threatened her. He practically told her she would have to go back to Russia. You know, I can’t use a phone. . . . I want that attorney in New York, Mr. Abt. I don’t know him personally but I know about a case that he handled some years ago, where he represented the people who had violated the Smith Act, [which made it illegal to teach or advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government] . . . I don’t know him personally, but that is the attorney I want. . . . If I can’t get him, then I may get the American Civil Liberties Union to send me an attorney.”

“I went to school in New York and in Fort Worth, Tex. . . . After getting into the Marines, I finished my high school education. . . . I support the Castro revolution. . . . My landlady didn’t understand my name correctly, so it was her idea to call me 0. H. Lee. . . . I want to talk with Mr. Abt, a New York attorney. . . . The only package I brought to work was my lunch. . . . I never had a card to the Communist party. . . . I am a Marxist, but not a Leninist-Marxist. . . . I bought a pistol in Fort Worth several months ago. . . . I refuse to tell you where the pistol was purchased. . . . I never ordered any guns. . . . I am not malcontent. Nothing irritated me about the President.” When Capt. Will Fritz asked Oswald, “Do you believe in a deity?” Oswald replied, “I don’t care to discuss that.” “How can I afford a rifle on the Book Depository salary of $1.25 an hour? . . . John Kennedy had a nice family. . . .” (Sheriff Roger Craig saw Oswald enter a white station wagon 15 minutes after the assassination. Oswald confirmed this in Captain Fritz’s office. A man impersonating Oswald in Dallas just prior to the assassination could have been on the bus and in the taxicab.) “That station wagon belongs to Mrs. Ruth Paine. Don’t try to tie her into this. She had nothing to do with it. I told you people I did. . . . Everybody will know who I am now.”

“Can I get an attorney?. . . I have not been given the opportunity to have counsel. . . . As I said, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee has definitely been investigated, that is very true. . . . The results of that investigation were zero. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee is not now on the attorney general’s subversive list.”

6:30 P.M.   Lineup for Witnesses Cecil J. McWatters, Sam Guinyard, and Ted Callaway

          “I didn’t shoot anyone,” Oswald yelled in the halls to reporters. . . . “I want to get in touch with a lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City. . . . I never killed anybody.”

7:10 P.M.   Arraignment: State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald for Murder with Malice of Officer J. D. Tippit of the Dallas Police Dept.

          “I insist upon my constitutional rights. . . . The way you are treating me, I might as well be in Russia. . . . I was not granted my request to put on a jacket similar to those worn by other individuals in some previous lineups.”

7:50 P.M.   Lineup for Witness J. D. Davis

          “I have been dressed differently than the other three. . . . Don’t you know the difference? I still have on the same clothes I was arrested in. The other two were prisoners, already in jail.” Seth Kantor, reporter, heard Oswald yell, “I am only a patsy.”

7:55 P.M.   Third Interrogation, Captain Fritz’s Office

          “I think I have talked long enough. I don’t have anything else to say. . . . What started out to be a short interrogation turned out to be rather lengthy. . . . I don’t care to talk anymore. . . . I am waiting for someone to come forward to give me legal assistance. . . . It wasn’t actually true as to how I got home. I took a bus, but due to a traffic jam, I left the bus and got a taxicab, by which means I actually arrived at my residence.”

8:55 P.M.   Fingerprints, Identification Paraffin Tests — All in Fritz’s Office

          “I will not sign the fingerprint card until I talk to my attorney. [Oswald’s name is on the card anyway.] . . . What are you trying to prove with this paraffin test, that I fired a gun? . . . You are wasting your time. I don’t know anything about what you are accusing me.”

11:00 – 11:20 P.M.   “Talked To” by Police Officer John Adamcik and FBI Agent M. Clements

          “I was in Russia two years and liked it in Russia. . . . I am 5 ft. 9 in., weigh 140 lb., have brown hair, blue-gray eyes, and have no tattoos or permanent scars.”

(Oswald had mastoidectomy scars and left upper-arm scars, both noted in Marine records. “Warren Report,” pp. 614-618, lists information from Oswald obtained during this interview about members of his family, past employment, past residences.)

11:20 – 11:25 P.M.   Lineup for Press Conference; Jack Ruby Present

          When newsmen asked Oswald about his black eye, he answered, “A cop hit me.” When asked about the earlier arraignment, Oswald said “Well, I was questioned by Judge Johnston. However, I protested at that time that I was not allowed legal representation during that very short and sweet hearing. I really don’t know what the situation is about. Nobody has told me anything except that I am accused of murdering a policeman. I know nothing more than that, and I do request someone to come forward to give me legal assistance.” When asked, “Did you kill the President?” Oswald replied, “No. I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about it was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question. . . . I did not do it. I did not do it. . . . I did not shoot anyone.”

12:23 A.M., NOV. 23, 1963   Placed in Jail Cell

12:35 A.M.   Released by Jailer

          Oswald complained, “This is the third set of fingerprints, photographs being taken.”

1:10 A.M.   Back in Jail Cell

1:35 A.M.   Arraignment: State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald for the Murder with Malice of John F. Kennedy

          “Well, sir, I guess this is the trial. . . . I want to contact my lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City. I would like to have this gentleman. He is with the American Civil Liberties Union.” (John J. Abt now in private practice in New York, was the general counsel for the Senate Sub-Committee on Civil Liberties from 1935-1937, and later served as legal adviser for the Progressive party from 1948-1951. Mr. Abt has never been a member of the ACLU.)

10:30 A.M.-1:10 P.M.   Interrogation, Capt. Will Fritz’s Office

          “I said I wanted to contact Attorney Abt, New York. He defended the Smith Act cases in 1949, 1950, but I don’t know his address, except that it is in New York. . . . I never owned a rifle. . . . Michael Paine owned a car, Ruth Paine owned two cars. . . . Robert Oswald, my brother, lives in Fort Worth. He and the Paines were closest friends in town. . . . The FBI has thoroughly interrogated me at various other times. . . . They have used their hard and soft approach to me, and they use the buddy system. . . . I am familiar with all types of questioning and have no intention of making any statements. . . . In the past three weeks the FBI has talked to my wife. They were abusive and impolite. They frightened my wife, and I consider their activities obnoxious.”

(When arrested, Oswald had FBI Agent James Hosty’s home phone and office phone numbers and car license number in his possession.)

“I was arrested in New Orleans for disturbing the peace and paid a $10 fine for demonstrating for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. I had a fight with some anti-Castro refugees and they were released while I was fined. . . . I refuse to take a polygraph. It has always been my practice not to agree to take a polygraph . . . The FBI has overstepped their bounds in using various tactics in interviewing me. . . . I didn’t shoot John Kennedy. . . . I didn’t even know Gov. John Connally had been shot. . . . I don’t own a rifle. . . . I didn’t tell Buell Wesley Frazier anything about bringing back some curtain rods. . . . My wife lives with Mrs. Ruth Paine. She [Mrs. Paine] was learning Russian. They needed help with the young baby, so it made a nice arrangement for both of them. . . . I don’t know Mrs. Paine very well, but Mr. Paine and his wife were separated a great deal of the time.”

(Michael Paine worked at Bell Aerospace as a scientific engineer. His boss, Walter Dornberger, was a Nazi war criminal. The first call, the “tipoff,” on Oswald, came from Bell Aerospace.)

“The garage at the Paines’ house has some seabags that have a lot of my personal belongings. I left them after coming back from New Orleans in September. . . . The name Alek Hidell was picked up while working in New Orleans in the Fair Play for Cuba organization. . . . I speak Russian, correspond with people in Russia, and receive newspapers from Russia. . . . I don’t own a rifle at all. . . . I did have a small rifle some years in the past. You can’t buy a rifle in Russia, you can only buy shotguns. I had a shotgun in Russia and hunted some while there. I didn’t bring the rifle from New Orleans. . . . I am not a member of the Communist party. . . . I belong to the Civil Liberties Union. . . . I did carry a package to the Texas School Book Depository. I carried my lunch, a sandwich and fruit, which I made at Paine’s house. . . . I had nothing personal against John Kennedy.”

1:10 – 1:30 P.M.   Lee Harvey Oswald Visited by Mother, Marguerite Oswald, and Wife, Marina Oswald

          (To his Mother.) “No, there is nothing you can do. Everything is fine. I know my rights, and I will have an attorney. I already requested to get in touch with Attorney Abt, I think is his name. Don’t worry about a thing.”
(To his Wife.) “Oh, no, they have not been beating me. They are treating me fine. . . . You’re not to worry about that. Did you bring June and Rachel? . . . Of course we can speak about absolutely anything at all. . . . It’s a mistake. I’m not guilty. There are people who will help me. There is a lawyer in New York on whom I am counting for help. . . . Don’t cry. There is nothing to cry about. Try not to think about it. . . . Everything is going to be all right. If they ask you anything, you have a right not to answer. You have a right to refuse. Do you understand? . . . You are not to worry. You have friends. They’ll help you. If it comes to that, you can ask the Red Cross for help. You mustn’t worry about me. Kiss Junie and Rachel for me. I love you. . . . Be sure to buy shoes for June.”

2:15 P.M.   Lineup for Witnesses William W. Scoggins and William Whaley

          “I refuse to answer questions. I have my T-shirt on, the other men are dressed differently. . . . Everybody’s got a shirt and everything, and I’ve got a T-shirt on. . . . This is unfair.”

3:30 – 3:40 P.M.   Robert Oswald, Brother, in Ten-Minute Visit

          “I cannot or would not say anything, because the line is apparently tapped. [They were talking through telephones.] . . . I got these bruises in the theater. They haven’t bothered me since. They are treating me all right. . . . What do you think of the baby? Well, it was a girl, and I wanted a boy, but you know how that goes. . . . I don’t know what is going on. I just don’t know what they are talking about. . . . Don’t believe all the so-called evidence.” When Robert Oswald looked into Lee’s eyes for some clue, Lee said to him, “Brother, you won’t find anything there. . . . My friends will take care of Marina and the two children.” When Robert Oswald stated that he didn’t believe the Paines were friends of Lee’s, he answered back, “Yes, they are. . . . Junie needs a new pair of shoes.”

(Robert Oswald told the Warren Commission, “To me his answers were mechanical, and I was not talking to the Lee I knew.”)

3:40 P.M.   Lee Harvey Oswald Calls Mrs. Ruth Paine

          “This is Lee. Would you please call John Abt in New York for me after 6:00 P.M. The number for his office is ___________, and his residence is _______________ . . . . Thank you for your concern.”

5:30 – 5:35 P.M.   Visit with H. Louis Nichols, President of the Dallas Bar Association

          “Well, I really don’t know what this is all about, that I have been kept incarcerated and kept incommunicado. . . . Do you know a lawyer in New York named John Abt? I believe in New York City. I would like to have him represent me. That is the man I would like. Do you know any lawyers who are members of the American Civil Liberties Union? I am a member of that organization, and I would like to have somebody who is a member of that organization represent me.” Mr. Nichols offered to help find a lawyer, but Oswald said, “No, not now. You might come back next week, and if I don’t get some of these other people to assist me, I might ask you to get somebody to represent me.”

6:00 – 6:30 P.M.   Interrogation, Captain Fritz’s Office

          “In time I will be able to show you that this is not my picture, but I don’t want to answer any more questions. . . . I will not discuss this photograph [which was used on the cover of Feb. 21, 1964 Life magazine] without advice of an attorney. . . . There was another rifle in the building. I have seen it. Warren Caster had two rifles, a 30.06 Mauser and a .22 for his son. . . . That picture is not mine, but the face is mine. The picture has been made by superimposing my face. The other part of the picture is not me at all, and I have never seen this picture before. I understand photography real well, and that, in time, I will be able to show you that is not my picture and that it has been made by someone else. . . . It was entirely possible that the Police Dept. has superimposed this part of the photograph over the body of someone else. . . . The Dallas Police were the culprits. . . . The small picture was reduced from the larger one, made by some persons unknown to me. . . . Since I have been photographed at City Hall, with people taking my picture while being transferred from the office to the jail door, someone has been able to get a picture of my face, and with that, they have made this picture. . . . I never kept a rifle at Mrs. Paine’s garage at Irving, Tex. . . . We had no visitors at our apartment on North Beckley. . . . I have no receipts for purchase of any gun, and I have never ordered any guns. I do not own a rifle, never possessed a rifle. . . . I will not say who wrote A. J. Hidell on my Selective Service card. [It was later confirmed that Marina Oswald wrote in the name Hidell.] . . . I will not tell you the purpose of carrying the card or the use I made of it. . . . The address book in my possession has the names of Russian immigrants in Dallas, Tex., whom I have visited.”

9:30 P.M.   Lee Harvey Oswald Calls His Wife, Marina, at Mrs. Paine’s Home

          “Marina, please. Would you try to locate her?” (Marina had moved.)

10:00 P.M.   Office of Captain Fritz

          “Life is better for the colored people in Russia than it is in the U.S.”

9:30 – 11:15 A.M., SUNDAY MORNING, NOV. 24,1963   Interrogation in Capt. Will Fritz’s Office

          “After the assassination, a policeman or some man came rushing into the School Book Depository Building and said, `Where is your telephone?’ He showed me some kind of credential and identified himself, so he might not have been a police officer. . . . `Right there,’ I answered, pointing to the phone. . . . `Yes, I can eat lunch with you,’ I told my co-worker, `but I can’t go right now. You go and take the elevator, but send the elevator back up.’ [The elevator in the building was broken.] . . . After all this commotion started, I just went downstairs and started to see what it was all about. A police officer and my superintendent of the place stepped up and told officers that I am one of the employees in the building. . . . If you ask me about the shooting of Tippit, I don’t know what you are talking about. . . . The only thing I am here for is because I popped a policeman in the nose in the theater on Jefferson Avenue, which I readily admit I did, because I was protecting myself. . . . I learned about the job vacancy at the Texas School Book Depository from people in Mrs. Paine’s neighborhood. . . . I visited my wife Thursday night, Nov. 21, whereas I normally visited her over the weekend, because Mrs. Paine was giving a party for the children on the weekend. They were having a houseful of neighborhood children. I didn’t want to be around at such a time. . . . Therefore, my weekly visit was on Thursday night instead of on the weekend. . . . It didn’t cost much to go to Mexico. It cost me some $26, a small, ridiculous amount to eat, and another ridiculous small amount to stay all night. . . . I went to the Mexican Embassy to try to get this permission to go to Russia by way of Cuba. . . . I went to the Mexican Consulate in Mexico City. I went to the Russian Embassy to go to Russia by way of Cuba. They told me to come back in `thirty days.’ . . . I don’t recall the shape, it may have been a small sack, or a large sack; you don’t always find one that just fits your sandwiches. . . . The sack was in the car, beside me, on my lap, as it always is. . . . I didn’t get it crushed. It was not on the back seat. Mr. Frazier must have been mistaken or else thinking about the other time when he picked me up. . . . The Fair Play for Cuba Committee was a loosely organized thing and we had no officers. Probably you can call me the secretary of it because I did collect money. [Oswald was the only member in New Orleans.] . . . In New York City they have a well-organized, or a better, organization. . . . No, not at all: I didn’t intend to organize here in Dallas; I was too busy trying to get a job. . . . If anyone else was entitled to get mail in P.O. Box 6525 at the Terminal Annex in New Orleans, the answer is no. . . . The rental application said Fair Play for Cuba Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union. Maybe I put them on there. . . . It is possible that on rare occasions I may have handed one of the keys to my wife to get my mail, but certainly nobody else. . . . I never ordered a rifle under the name of Hidell, Oswald, or any other name. . . . I never permitted anyone else to order a rifle to be received in this box. . . . I never ordered any rifle by mail order or bought any money order for the purpose of paying for such a rifle. . . . I didn’t own any rifle. I have not practiced or shot with a rifle. . . . I subscribe to two publications from Russia, one being a hometown paper published in Minsk, where I met and married my wife. . . . We moved around so much that it was more practical to simply rent post office boxes and have mail forwarded from one box to the next rather than going through the process of furnishing changes of address to the publishers. . . . Marina Oswald and A. J. Hidell were listed under the caption of persons entitled to receive mail through my box in New Orleans. . . . I don’t recall anything about the A. J. Hidell being on the post office card. . . . I presume you have reference to a map I had in my room with some X’s on it. I have no automobile. I have no means of conveyance. I have to walk from where I am going most of the time. I had my applications with the Texas Employment Commission. They furnished me names and addresses of places that had openings like I might fill, and neighborhood people had furnished me information on jobs I might get. . . . I was seeking a job, and I would put these markings on this map so I could plan my itinerary around with less walking. Each one of these X’s represented a place where I went and interviewed for a job. . . . You can check each one of them out if you want to. . . . The X on the intersection of Elm and Houston is the location of the Texas School Book Depository. I did go there and interview for a job. In fact, I got the job there. That is all the map amounts to. [Ruth Paine later stated she had marked Lee’s map.] . . . What religion am I? I have no faith, I suppose you mean, in the Bible. I have read the Bible. It is fair reading, but not very interesting. As a matter of fact, I am a student of philosophy and I don’t consider the Bible as even a reasonable or intelligent philosophy. I don’t think of it. . . . I told you I haven’t shot a rifle since the Marines, possibly a small bore, maybe a .22, but not anything larger since I have left the Marine Corps. . . . I never received a package sent to me through the mailbox in Dallas, Box No. 2915, under the name of Alek Hidell, absolutely not. . . . Maybe my wife, but I couldn’t say for sure whether my wife ever got this mail, but it is possible she could have.” Oswald was told that an attorney offered to assist him, and he answered, “I don’t particularly want him, but I will take him if I can’t do any better, and will contact him at a later date. . . . I have been a student of Marxism since the age of 14. . . . American people will soon forget the President was shot, but I didn’t shoot him. . . . Since the President was killed, someone else would take his place, perhaps Vice-President Johnson. His views about Cuba would probably be largely the same as those of President Kennedy. . . . I never lived on Neely Street. These people are mistaken about visiting there, because I never lived there. . . . It might not be proper to answer further questions, because what I say might be construed in a different light than what I actually meant it to be. . . . When the head of any government dies, or is killed, there is always a second in command who would take over. . . . I did not kill President Kennedy or Officer Tippit. If you want me to cop out to hitting or pleading guilty to hitting a cop in the mouth when I was arrested, yeah, I plead guilty to that. But I do deny shooting both the President and Tippit.”

11:10 A.M.   Preparation for Oswald’s Transfer to County Jail

          “I would like to have a shirt from clothing that was brought to the office to wear over the T-shirt I am wearing. . . . I prefer wearing a black Ivy League-type shirt, which might be a little warmer. I don’t want a hat. . . . I will just take one of those sweaters, the black one.”

11:15 A.M.   Inspector Thomas J. Kelley, U.S. Secret Service, Has Final Conversation with Lee Harvey Oswald

          Kelley approached Oswald, out of the hearing of others, except perhaps Captain Fritz’s men, and said that as a Secret Service agent, he was anxious to talk with him as soon as he secured counsel, because Oswald was charged with the assassination of the President but had denied it. Oswald said, “I will be glad to discuss this proposition with my attorney, and that after I talk with one, we could either discuss it with him or discuss it with my attorney, if the attorney thinks it is a wise thing to do, but at the present time I have nothing more to say to you.”

11:21 A.M. Lee Harvey Oswald Was Fatally Wounded by Jack Ruby

Tagged , , ,

A Washington Death

44 Years Later, a Washington, D.C. Death Unresolved

Mary Pinchot Meyer’s death remains a mystery. But it’s her life that holds more interest now

By Lance Morrow, Smithsonian magazine, December 2008

Mary Pinchot Meyer

Mary’s marriage to Cord Meyer would reflect Washington’s gender dramas.
On a perfect October day in 1964, Mary Pinchot Meyer—mistress of John Kennedy, friend of Jackie Kennedy and ex-wife of a top CIA man, Cord Meyer—was murdered in the rarefied Washington precinct of Georgetown.

It was half past noon. I was a cub reporter on the Washington Star. In the classically scruffy pressroom at police headquarters, I heard the radio dispatcher direct Cruisers 25 and 26 (which I recognized as homicide squad cars) to the C&O Canal. I alerted the city desk, drove to Georgetown, ran to the wall overlooking the canal and saw a body curled up in a ball on the towpath. Two men who had been changing a tire nearby told me they had heard a shot…a cry for help…a second shot…and had called the police.

There were no cops with the body yet. But in the distance, between the Potomac and the canal, I saw the lines of the police dragnet closing in along the towpath from west and east.

Because I had played there as a boy, I knew there was a tunnel under the canal a few hundred yards west of where the body lay. I knew the killer was still at large and might also have known about it. But the tunnel would be the quickest way for me to get to the other side of the canal, to where the body was. I pushed aside the vines at the tunnel entrance and hurried through, heart pounding, and burst into sunshine on the other side. I approached the body of Mary Pinchot Meyer and stood over it, weirdly and awkwardly alone as the police advanced from either direction.

She lay on her side, as if sleeping. She was dressed in a light blue fluffy angora sweater, pedal pushers and sneakers. She was an artist and had a studio nearby, and she had gone out for her usual lunchtime walk. I saw a neat and almost bloodless bullet hole in her head. She looked entirely peaceful, vaguely patrician. She had an air of Georgetown. I stood there with her until the police came up. I held a reporter’s notebook. The cops from the homicide squad knew me. They told me to move away.

The police found a man in the woods down by the river. His name was Ray Crump Jr., and he was black. His clothes were wet. He had cut his hand. He gave the police a couple of stories. He said he had been fishing and had dropped his fishing pole and gone into the river to retrieve it; he said he had been drinking beer and went to sleep and fell in. The two men who had heard the shots told the police they had seen Crump standing over the body. He was booked for homicide. The police found his jacket and cap in the river. His fishing rod was in a closet where he lived, on the other side of the city. The murder weapon was never found. It may still be at the bottom of the river. Crump eventually was acquitted for lack of evidence.

That October day rests in a corner of my mind, a vivid and mysterious curio. I pick it up from time to time and examine it in different lights. I have not figured it out, though I have theories. I thought of Mary Meyer’s murder again during the presidential campaign, when the drama of a black man, Barack Obama, and two women, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, in a race for the top places in American government took me back over a distance of time to a city that was then, for black people and for women, a different universe.

When Mary Meyer died, no one knew about her affair with John Kennedy, or about her ex-husband’s job managing the CIA’s clandestine services. In newspapers, Cord Meyer—wounded World War II hero and young idealist who helped found the United World Federalists—was identified as an author, with a vague government job. The papers noted that Mary, 43, was a Georgetown artist, born to a wealthy Pennsylvania family, daughter of Amos Pinchot, the Progressive lawyer, and niece of Gifford Pinchot, the conservationist and Teddy Roosevelt’s chief forester. Her younger sister, Tony, was married to Ben Bradlee, then of Newsweek, later of the Washington Post. It was Bradlee who identified the body at the morgue.

Then other news supervened. There was a presidential election coming, Johnson (who had recently signed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution) versus Goldwater (the warmonger, according to the 1964 narrative). Khrushchev was deposed. China exploded its first nuclear bomb.

But over the years, sensational fragments of the story (JFK, CIA) turned up. Inevitably, conspiracy theories emerged. Who killed Mary—really? Was Ray Crump set up? By whom? Why?

As real evidence went mute, the public imagination worked on two possible narratives.

The first was what might be called the Oliver Stone Solution—that is, to posit a conspiracy elaborate enough and sinister enough to do imaginative and, as it were, cinematic justice to the murder of a woman with such suggestive, powerful connections. The journalist Nina Burleigh sifted through plot possibilities in her excellent book on Meyer, A Very Private Woman (1998), and quoted the critic Morris Dickstein on the temptations of the 1960s’ paranoid style—”a sense at once joyful and threatening that things are not what they seem, that reality is mysteriously overorganized and can be decoded if only we attend to the hundred little hints and byways that beckon to us.”

Thus in the Stone Solution, popular on the Internet, Meyer was done in by “the same sons of bitches that killed John F. Kennedy,” as one writer, C. David Heymann, claims he was told by the dying Cord Meyer. Another writer, Leo Damore (also dead), argued that Crump “was the perfect patsy, better even than Lee Harvey Oswald. Mary Meyer was killed by a well-trained professional hit man, very likely somebody connected to the CIA”—the idea being that she knew “too much for her own good.”

The second scenario might be called the Richard Wright Solution, after the author of the 1940 novel Native Son, whose protagonist, Bigger Thomas, is tormented by the oppressions of poverty and racism: “To Bigger and his kind white people were not really people; they were a sort of great natural force, like a stormy sky looming overhead, or like a deep swirling river stretching suddenly at one’s feet in the dark.” In this scenario, Crump one day left his home in black Southeast Washington, crossed the segregated city, passing the Capitol and the White House, and entered white Georgetown. And there—on the home turf of mandarins, of Joe Alsop and Kay Graham and Scotty Reston and Dean Acheson—his path intersected for a moment with Mary Meyer’s.

You could choose your movie. Solution One drew Mary Meyer into the world of James Ellroy, the grassy knoll, Jim Garrison, the Mafia, Judith Exner, Fair Play for Cuba, Operation Mongoose and so on. Solution Two inserted Mary Meyer by accident into an entirely different story: the primal drama of race in America.

The Oliver Stone Solution regards Ray Crump as misdirection. The Richard Wright Solution regards the conspiracy as misdirection. I don’t buy either—the conspiracy theory smacks of the Oedipal paranoid (fantasies of hidden plots by sinister super-elders), and the other doesn’t cover the particularities of this act. (At the same time, given what the two witnesses said, and given Crump’s alcoholism and mental instability and criminal record before and after the murder, I believe the jury erred in acquitting him.)

In retrospect, the case suggests other movies, ones from Mary Meyer’s youth—like the intricate murder puzzle Laura, or else that Greatest Generation favorite Casablanca, with its throbbing moral choices, worked out over endless cigarettes and sacramental booze.

Sometimes, the mere whodunit questions about Mary Meyer’s murder seem mechanical. Especially today, in the context of Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi and others who have enlarged the professional horizons of women, the memory of Washington at the earlier time returns with a certain sadness and sense of waste.

It is less the mystery of Mary Meyer’s death—I am used to that—than something complicated and poignant and elusive in her life that I have come to find moving.

I grew up watching my mother and a number of women of her generation (which included Mary Meyer, born two years before my mother) struggling, in different ways, with the dilemmas of marriage and children and power and alcohol and ambition in a city that was politically charged, noisy with controversy and at the same time stunningly dull. There was hardly a decent restaurant in town, and not much theater beyond the pedestrian National Theatre down by the Treasury Department. (The National offered visiting Bulgarian dance troupes, dancing dogs, perhaps, and an occasional Broadway roadshow.) Sunday afternoons seemed to go on for months. Washington was hermetically segregated, ideologically overtriumphant, militarily overpowerful…yet also overanxious, overboozed, overstretched.

You saw those traits in Georgetown, which seemed to house half the hierarchy of the State Department and the CIA and the journalistic establishment, many of whom gathered for argumentative high-policy dinner parties on Sunday nights (“the Sunday Night Drunk,” as one regular called it). Men from Wild Bill Donovan’s old OSS and Allen Dulles’ CIA and other cold warriors out of Groton and Yale and Princeton would drink too much and shout and might even, toward one or two in the morning, go for one another’s throats. They would send a note of apology next day. The expensively educated had styles of cluelessness and overcompensating machismo that would come to grief at the Bay of Pigs.

Mary Meyer was a 1940s-50s American housewife (postwar marriage, suburbs and children in the Eisenhower years) who plunged headlong (with an aristocratically concealed recklessness that was a trademark of hers) into the ’60s and into her private new frontiers. After her divorce, she had moved to Georgetown, become an artist (and longtime lover of the painter Kenneth Noland), experimented with drugs (in part, it seems, under the tutelage of Timothy Leary, who, in a book many years later, claimed that Mary wanted to turn Camelot into a peace-and-love acid trip). Mary climbed the back stairs of the White House to have her affair. Then she died on the towpath—woman interrupted. By unhappy irony, the questing, independent woman would be known after her death not as an artist, but as Kennedy’s girlfriend.

Washington was a small town. My parents’ cast of characters and Mary Meyer’s cast of characters overlapped sometimes. I played touch football on Saturday mornings at the playground field at 34th and Q streets, near Mary’s house, with Bobby Kennedy and his cronies, with Byron “Whizzer” White and others. John Kennedy sometimes came to watch, leaning on crutches.

It was a masculine town. Joe Kennedy was known to remark that if his daughter Eunice had been born male, “she would have been a hell of a politician.” Bobby Kennedy became furious in a football game when his wife, Ethel, about six months pregnant, dropped a pass. The drama of the transformation of Washington women began with gunshots to the head—Philip Graham’s suicide in August 1963; John Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963; Mary Meyer’s death in October 1964. Katharine Graham, the formerly suppressed wife (mousewife/housewife, by her own account) of Philip, took over his job running the Washington Post after his death. She became a national force. It was Kay Graham who decisively ended the after-dinner ritual of having the ladies go off by themselves to powder noses and discuss women’s things while the men had coffee and cognac and talked about the cold war. She simply balked at this one night at Joseph Alsop’s.

The Washington gender dramas had been going on for a long time, with different casts and styles. Kay Graham had an interesting predecessor, Cissy Patterson, editor of Hearst’s old Washington Herald in the ’30s and ’40s. She was a stylish drinker, imaginative newspaper editor and occasional hell-raiser, an heiress of the McCormick-Medill-Patterson newspaper dynasty who in her heedless youth had gone off and married a Polish count. Cissy once said most men thought of women editors as Samuel Johnson had famously regarded women preachers: “Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

But women like my mother, or like Cissy Patterson, or like Mary Meyer, enjoyed the surprise and the delight that they were able to elicit in men—a little like the effect Marlene Dietrich achieved in Blonde Venus when she came on stage dressed in a gorilla suit and slowly removed the head to reveal her taunting, spectacular self. They knew the uses of electrical currents, erotic jolts that were lively with a cross-grained politics of sex. Exceptional women of that era were more interesting, more vivid, more dramatic—if sometimes more troubled and vulnerable and prone to folly—than some of the ironclads that emerged in Washington later on, after Mary’s death, evolving through the generation of Barbara Jordan and Bella Abzug and on into the accession of Hillary Clinton or Condoleezza Rice. The political success of women—still only partial—sometimes has the perversely flattening and narrowing effect of making them (much like male politicians) a little dull, a little relentless and charmlessly self-important. Although Sarah Palin, of course, proved to be, for better or for worse, not dull.

Kennedy did not treat Mary Meyer as one of his mere sexual conveniences. He cherished a quizzical respect for her originality and independence. He told Ben Bradlee, more than once, “Mary would be rough to live with.” Bradlee, her brother-in-law, agreed.

My mother, Elise Morrow, wrote a syndicated column called “Capital Capers” that appeared in papers around the country. She had an extravagant admiration for Cissy Patterson, though she disapproved of Patterson’s anti-FDR isolationism. My mother’s column worked the after-dark borderline between Perle Mesta’s territory (parties, ladies, gossip, Embassy Row, the things that senators and congressmen said at night after several drinks) and the men’s world of power and cold war.

My mother was a small woman who looked a bit like Ingrid Bergman and affected a knowing Mae West swagger. I have a photograph of her posed behind her Smith Corona, wearing long black evening gloves, with a glass of white wine on the table beside her. She knew how to drink like a man, and how to cuss like a man as well, a talent that Lyndon Johnson found hilarious. She could always get his attention.

One night at some political dinner at the Shoreham Hotel she sat next to Richard Nixon, then a young congressman. They both got a little drunk. My mother told Nixon he should get out of politics because he did not understand people and if he did not get out, things would end badly. The next day Nixon telephoned my father at his office at the Saturday Evening Post, where he was an editor, and said, “Hugh, can’t you control your wife?” The answer was no.

Nixon’s own wife went a separate and, when possible, more private road. An attractive, able, courageous woman, Pat Nixon had no interest in banging her head against the Washington wall that my mother banged her head against. She regarded women like my mother, media types, as the enemy. She settled into what turned out to be the complicated fate of being Mrs. Richard Nixon.

My mother had two marriages and seven children. She was an avid, headlong and brilliantly self-educated woman (married at 15!) who wanted a great deal (motherhood, a career as a great writer, lovers). Her fate was complicated as well.

Mary Meyer did not survive. My mother did. She lived to be 84. She thought now and then of writing a memoir called Before My Time. On a drizzly morning not many months ago, as she had wished, my brothers and my sister and I brought her ashes—coarse, grainy, salt-and-pepper ashes, all that was left of a vivid life—to the bank of the Potomac above Great Falls and scattered them on the surface of the brown, swollen river. The ashes swirled off downstream toward Washington, and for a second I imagined them floating down by Georgetown, passing over a pistol in the mud.

Lance Morrow, a former essayist for Time, is writing a biography of Henry Luce.

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Deadly “Octopus”

The Mysterious Death of Danny Casolaro

by David MacMichael, CovertAction, Winter 1991

The following article appeared in the Winter 1991 issue of “Covert Action Information Bulletin,” #39, pps. 53-57. The author can be reached through the Association of National Security Alumni at +1-202-483-9325. In a recent telephone conversation the author identified the other FBI agent who was to have met with Casolaro the day he died as one Ted Gunderson. We discussed the possible relationship between the Casolaro case and the death threats received by Judge Col. Hamilton Gayden and attorney Albro Lundy III shortly after they were contacted by Casolaro with regard to the POW/MIA issue in the weeks prior to Casolaro’s death. MacMichael speculated that the connection was, “drugs” i.e. southeast asian heroin used in support of the Company’s black operations. –

David MacMicheal is a former CIA estimates officer. He is the Washington representative of the Association of National Security Alumni, and editor of its monthly newsletter, “Unclassified.”

Joseph Daniel Casolaro was one of many freelance investigative reporters stirring the witches brew of scandal simmering in the nation’s capitol. He was also an aspiring novelist, newsletter publisher, and freelance writer for publications running the gamut from the now defunct Washington Star to the National Enquirer. From a well-to-do family (his father, a doctor, had invested well in Northern Virginia real estate), he was 44 years old, divorced, and living comfortably on a five-acre estate in Fairfax County, Virginia — home to the CIA.

Casolaro was working on a book aimed at exposing what he called “The Octopus,” a group of less than a dozen shadowy figures whose machinations figured heavily, he claimed, in the Inslaw case, Iran-Contra, BCCI, and the October Surprise.


In the first week of August, Casolaro told friends and acquaintances that he was going to West Virginia too meet a source who would provide a key piece of evidence he needed to complete his investigation. He drove toMartinsburg, West Virginia, on Thursday, August 8, and checked into room 517 of the Sheraton Hotel. Two days later, at 12:51 p.m., hotel employees found his naked body in a bathtub full of bloody water. Time of death has been estimated at about 9:00 a.m. [1]

Both arms and wrists had been slashed a total of at least 12 times; one of the cuts went so deep that it severed a tendon. [2] Press accounts differ on minor details of the scene, but there was apparently no evidence of struggle. There was a four sentence suicide note in the bedroom.

Hotel management called the Martinsburg police who brought along the local coroner, Sandra Brining, a registered nurse. Ms. Brining ruled the death a suicide, took small blood and urine samples, and released the body to the Brown Funeral Home. Without authorization from officials or Casolaro’s next of kin, the funeral home embalmed the body as a “courtesy to the family,” according to Brining’s statement at an August 15 press conference in Martinsburg.

Martinsburg police notified the next of kin, Dr. Anthony Casolaro, also of Fairfax, of his brother’s death on Monday, August 12. Casolaro says that police explanations for the delay, like the hasty, unauthorized and illegal embalming, seemed either extraordinarily inefficient or highly suspicious. West Virginia state law requires that next of kin be notified before a body can be embalmed. [3] Casolaro requested a second  examination, which was performed by West Virginia state medical examiner Jack Frost, who stated at the same August 15 press conference that the evidence was “not inconsistent” with suicide. At the same time, he declared that he “could not rule out foul play” and admitted that performing a conclusive autopsy on an embalmed body is almost impossible. [4]

Anthony Casolaro publicly stated his disbelief that his gregarious and high-spirited brother could have committed suicide. Danny was so afraid of blood, he said, that he refused to allow samples to be drawn for medical purposes, and would never have chosen, in any case to slash his veins a dozen times. Other relatives and friends offered that same assessment: Danny Casolaro was not the suicidal type. Moreover, added a former girlfriend, he hated being seen in the nude. [5]

Brining’s blood samples showed traces of an anti-depressant drug and the non-prescription painkiller Tylenol 3. Casolaro stated that his brother was not depressed and his medical record showed no prescription for anti-depressants. On the other hand, as Ridgeway and Vaughn reported after examination of Casolaro’s medical records and conversations with his personal physician (his brother’s professional partner), there was clear evidence that the reporter was in the early stages of multiple schlerosis (MS). He had experienced incidents of loss of vision, a couple of severe falls, numbness in one leg, and persistent headaches. His resistance to blood tests could conceivably be attributed to fear that a diagnosis of MS might be confirmed.

Some press reports hint at an alcohol problem. [6] Most accounts, however, suggest that he enjoyed the company in bars more than alcohol; according to friends, he would nurse a few beers all afternoon or take four hours to finish a bottle of wine. [7] Other accounts speculated that his inability to interest publishers in the book he planned to write had made him despondent. [8] He was also alleged to have been worried about his financial situation. He had borrowed heavily to finance his research and publisher’s rejections were a blow. In a letter to his agent he referred to his debts “In September I’ll be looking into the face of an oncoming train.” Friends, however, dismissed the allegations — debt was Casolaro’s usual situation and he was given to overstatement. Said one friend, “Danny would not off himself over money problems.” [9] Also, he was negotiating the subdivision of his five acres, a deal that should have netted him several hundred thousand dollars. His employment of a full time housekeeper suggests that he was not severely strapped.

Casolaro had spoken to family and friends of the danger of his  investigations, warning them not to believe it if he died of an “accident.” But one of Casolaro’s sources claims that despite being cautioned, the reporter was cavalier about taking safety measures. [10]

In April 1991, Casolaro told longtime friend and former business associate, Pat Clawson that he had uncovered a “web of corruption” while investigating the Inslaw case. The “web” involved top-ranking Justice  Department officials, New York organized crime figures, and Medellin Cartel drug trafficers, jointly bankrolling “off-the-books” intelligence projects, including Iran-Contra. Their fund-raising schemes, Casolaro said, included: software exports restricted under the Export Control Act, gunrunning, illegal arms sales, bogus mineral and oil investment scams, and drug smuggling through Canada. Monies generated were so immense, Casolaro said, that government officials regularly skimmed off a hefty percentage. None of this has thus far been documented.


Casolaro’s death was promptly linked to that of other journalists in Guatemala and Chile. On January 29, 1991, Lawrence Ng, a stringer for the London Financial Times, was found shot dead in the bathtub of his Guatemala City apartment. Ng had been probing BCCI connections to arms sales in Guatemala. [11] [See Colhoun, p. 45.] Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta have attempted to link Casolaro’s death to that of British aviation writer Jonathan Moyle — also ruled a suicide when he was found in March 1990 hanging in the closet of his hotel room in Santiago, Chile. [12] Moyle was looking into the activities of Chilean arms dealer Carlos Cardoen, who figures prominently in the Inslaw case.

Anderson and Van Atta take seriously the possibility that both reporters were murdered and that both had been tracking the same “octopus.” [13] Both were investigating the activities of Cardoen, a suspected conduit for arms sold to Iraq. According to an affidavit filed in the Inslaw case, Cardoen also played a role in the sale of Inslaw’s purloined software to Iraq. [14]

Both Casolaro and Moyle had communicated with Anderson, who believed they were “no further along in the story” than others. “On the surface,” Anderson and Van Atta wrote, “Neither man had evidence worth killing for.”

British journalist David Akerman disagrees, arguing that Moyle had uncovered information on connections between leading British arms makers and Cardoen, who used British licenses to manufacture high-technology weaponry for illegal delivery to Iraq. [15] Because the illegal weapons transfers were generally known among arms dealers, public disclosure would have been sufficiently embarrassing and financially damaging to have placed Moyle’s life in jeopardy. There are those who feel just as strongly about the facts surrounding the death of Danny Casolaro.


The most politically volatile side of this story is Casolaro’s extensive investigation into the Inslaw case. Elliot Richardson is legal counsel to the Washington, D. C.-based computer software company, Inslaw. Widely respected for his ethics and legal expertise, Richardson quit as Nixon’s Attorney General in 1973 rather than carry out the order to fire Watergate Special Prosecutor Archbald Cox. In a recent radio interview, Richardson was asked if he believed Casolaro killed himself. He answered:

<blockquote>I don’t. I think everything we know makes it much more likely that he was eliminated by a person or persons unknown who feared that he was about to disclose information that would be severely damaging… he told [friends] separately that he had in hand or ready, significant hard evidence pointing to the connections betweenInslaw and these other events [Iran-Contra, BCCI, October Surprise]. He said he was going to West Virginia to get additional evidence that would really lock this whole picture into place. Now, that I think is the most significant piece of information we have. There’s no reason to suppose that he was lying to his friends. Why should he? And there’s no reason to suppose that they lied in saying that this is what he told them. [16]</blockquote>

The Inslaw case involves charges that the Justice Department, under Attorney General Edwin Meese, stole the powerful database software PROMIS (Prosecutor’s Management Information System) from Inslaw. When a federal bankruptcy court ruled in Inslaw’s favor in 1987, presiding Judge George Francis Bason concluded that the Justice Department “took, converted, and stole” the software “through trickery, fraud, and deceit.” [17]

Allegations about the theft of PROMIS have suggested three possible motives: To fund off-the-shelf covert operations; to market a “trojan horse” database which could then be easily monitored by the National Security Agency; [18] and to pay off Reagan attorney General Edwin Meese’s political crony, Dr. Earl Brian. Now president of the floundering United Press International, Earl Brian has longstanding ties to Reagan and served in his cabinet when Reagan was governor of California.

Whatever its motivations, the Justice Department has twice been found guilty of theft and was ordered to pay Inslaw $6.8 million, plus legal fees. In 1989, the decision was upheld by federal judge William Bryant who said, “the government acted willfully and fraudulently…” [19] Under both Edwin Meese and Richard Thornburgh, the Justice Department stonewalled efforts to investigate, refusing to release documents either to Senator Sam Nunn’s Government Affairs Investigations Subcommittee or to Congressman Jack Brooks’ House Judiciary Committee.

In June, after eight years of litigation, the Federal Appeals Court of the District of Columbia voided the two previous decisions. October Surprise figure Judge Lawrence J. Silberman [20] cast the deciding vote, declaring that the case had been wrongly heard in a bankruptcy court in the first place, and must be retried in a federal district court. Inslaw has appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Washington, D. C. bankruptcy court judge who had heard the case and decided in Inslaw’s favor was removed from the bench one month after his decision. [21] He was replaced by S. Martin Teel, Jr., one of the Department of Justice lawyers who had unsuccessfully argued the case. According to a writer for Barron’s, “Even jaded, case hardened Washington attorneys called the decision ‘shocking’ and ‘eerie.'” [22]


October Surprise is the as-yet unproven theory that members of the 1980 Reagan presidential campaign arranged a deal with the government of Iran to continue holding 52 U. S. hostages in Tehran until after the election in order to prevent President Carter from benefiting politically from their release.

The Inslaw case is tied to the October Surprise by the sworn affidavit of Michael Riconosciuto, a West Coast computer and weapons technician with self-proclaimed ties to the intelligence community. He testified last March that he had modified the PROMIS software for sale to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) at the request of a Justice department contracting officer named Peter Videnieks and Reagan/Meese crony Earl Brian. [23] In an unsworn statement to Inslaw’s president William A. Hamilton, Riconosciuto says he met Brian in 1980 when he helped him deliver $40 million to Tehran to consummate the October Surprise weapons-for-hostages deal. [24]

After Riconosciuto first contacted Inslaw, Casolaro traveled several times to California and Washington in 1990 and 1991 to talk to him. Riconosciuto claims knowledge of many covert activities in the U.S., Latin America, and Australia, and doubtless influenced Casolaro’s concept of the Octopus. [25] In his affidavit in the Inslaw case, Riconosciuto declared that Videnieks told him “not to cooperate with an independent investigation… by the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives.” [26]Riconosciuto also stated that Videnieks also threatened him with specific punishments he “could expect to receive from the U.S. Department of Justice… ” if he cooperated with that investigation. [27] Within eight days of swearing the affidavit, he was in fact arrested on charges of distributing methamphetamines and has been held without bail in Washington state since March. [28] My appointment to speak to Casolaro on his return concerned Riconosciuto, in whose wide-ranging, not entirely believable allegations we shared a keen interest.

Viedenieks has denied in a sworn affidavit any knowledge of or contact with Riconosciuto. Earl Brian has done the same. Although Videnieks identifies himself as an employee of the U.S. Customs in his affidavit, the customs personnel office has denied any knowledge of him. An independent check with regional Customs officials also produced no evidence of Videnieks. Casolaro, however, told Hamilton that he had contacted Videnieks at Customs shortly before his fatal trip. [29]


What is known about Danny Casolaro’s trip to Martinsburg is that he met on Thursday, August 8, at about 5:30 p.m. in the Sheraton bar with a man described by a waitress as possibly Arab or Iranian. [30] This may have been an Egyptian named Hassan Ali Ibrahim Ali. According to documents provided to Casolaro by former Customs informant Bob Bickel, Ali headed an Iraqi front company in the U.S. called Sitico.

According to Ridgeway and Vaughn, Casolaro had shown a photo of Ali to a friend shortly before leaving for Martinsburg. Middle East expert Mary Barrett has asserted that Hassan Ali — known as “Ali Ali” — had close ties to the late Gerald Bull, the American ballistics engineer working on super long-range artillery for Iraq and South Africa. [31] Bull was murdered in Brussels in March, apparently by Israeli agents. [32]

After meeting with Ali, Casolaro waited in the same bar to meet another source, who never arrived. In a conversation with Tom Looney, a fellow hotel guest he met there, Casolaro spoke of the source he was waiting for, explaining that the man had the information to solve the Octopus riddle, something which Casolaro explained in detail to his skeptical listener. Looney told Ridgeway and Vaughn that he had a hard time believing that just seven or eight men were responsible for 40 years of scandals.


On the following day, Friday, August 9, Casolaro met with a former Hughes Aircraft employee, William Turner, in the Sheraton parking lot at about 2:00 p.m. Turner gave him some papers relating to alleged corruption at Hughes and at the Pentagon.

To further complicate matters, Turner was arrested on September 26, on charges of holding up a rural bank near his home in Winchester, Virginia. In an interview with Ridgeway and Vaughn in mid-August, Turner professed to being “scared shitless” because of the evidence Casolaro had  shown him connecting “the Octopus” to Oliver North, BCCI, the Keating Five, and the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal. [33]

Finally, there is the ubiquitous Ari Ben-Menashe, the former Israeli military intelligence officer who claims to have been involved in organizing the October Surprise affair in 1980 and to have been a key element in the subsequent supply of U.S.-provided military equipment to Iran. [34]

On news of Casolaro’s death, Ben-Menashe called Inslaw’s William Hamilton to say that the two FBI agents from Lexington, Kentucky (where the Israeli lived in the late 1990 and early 1991), had been en route to Martinsburg to talk to Casolaro about their own investigation of the Inslaw case. Ben-Menashe said the agents were prepared to give him proof that the FBI was illegally using PROMIS software, Hamilton reports.

Ben-Menashe further told Hamilton that one of the agents, E. B. Cartinhour, was angry that the Justice Department was not pursuing Reagan administration officials for their role in the October Surprise.Cartinhour refused to talk to Ridgeway and Vaughn, but recently a retired agent who had worked with Cartinhour told Ridgeway that he knew of Ben-Menashe and “that involves classified information.” [35] The ex-agent also claimed knowledge of an investigation about the Hamiltons’, computers, the Justice Department, and a coverup. He told Ridgeway that if any FBI agents had been going to talk to b, it would have been to get information, not to give it. [36]

The Inslaw investigation has extended into Kentucky for very concrete reasons. One of Inslaw’s major sources is Charles Hayes, who runs a computer reconditioning business in Kentucky. Hayes, who claims to have been a former CIA asset, has found evidence of the PROMIS software in former Justice Department computers he acquired for his business. [37]

According to Ben-Menashe, Ridgeway and Hamilton had botched what he told them, and had ruined Cartinhour’s FBI career by alleging that he was going against Justice Department policy. [38] Ridgeway, for his part, says his reporting is accurate.


Casolaro’s housekeeper reported receiving several telephone calls on Friday, August 9, at Casolaro’s house. At 9:00 a.m., a male caller announced, “I will cut his body and throw it to the sharks.” An hour of so later another caller said simply, “Drop dead.” Between then and 10:00 p.m., when she left for the night, there were three more calls in which there was only silence or the sound of music in the background. The following day, Saturday, August 10, she got a final call at 8:30 p.m. –approximately twelve hours after Casolaro’s death. A man’s voice said, “You son of a bitch. You’re dead.”  [39]

On the previous day, around 6:00 p.m., as widely reported in the press, Casolaro called his mother’s home in McLean, Virginia, to say he was on the way home but would be too late for a family celebration.

Whether Casolaro was murdered or killed himself, his death has brought the Inslaw case back into the public spotlight. Elliot Richardson, calling the situation “far worse than Watergate,” has written to the Justice Department to request appointment of an independent counsel to investigate Casolaro’s death.

If Casolaro was murdered because of what he knew, Inslaw is the most probable cause. There is no evidence that his Octopus theory, or his investigations into BCCI and the October surprise, are likely to have uncovered information worth killing for. Inslaw is a different matter. Here is a real crime, with real people who, if found guilty, would face real jail terms and stand to lose millions. It is possible that Casolaro, who was in close touch with Inslaw owners Bill and Nancy Hamilton, might have been too close to something conclusive which sealed his death warrant.

The possibility of murder remains the subject of serious inquiry, [40] but the suicide theory is gaining rapidly. Ron Rosenbaum, an investigative  reporter and longtime acquaintance of Danny’s, elaborately staged his own death. Reviewing Casolaro’s history as a journalist, Rosenbaum frames a good case showing that the dead man had neither the investigative track record, nor an adequate understanding of covert operations to make his extraordinary claims credible. [41] He also offers evidence that some of Casolaro’s death threats may have been imaginary. Rosenbaum concedes, however, that Casolaro was dealing with dangerous individuals, and that his investigations had uncovered serious new material.

Unanswered questions surrounding Casolaro’s death, including the disappearance of his briefcase and a rash of anonymous calls [42] after he died, have generated significant public pressure. Newly confirmed Attorney General William Barr has ordered a retired federal judge, Nicholas J. Bua, to conduct a 120-day “top to bottom” review of the Inslaw matter. [43] This is a welcome change from the stonewalling of Meese and Thornburgh. It remains to be seen whether Bua will conduct a thorough investigation or simply preside over yet another government whitewash.


[1] “Source May Have Disappointed Casolaro,” Washington Post, August 25, 1991, p. A20.

[2] David Corn refers to “an X-acto blade…not sold locally.” (“End of Story: The Dark World of Danny Casolaro,” Nation, October 28, 1991, p. 511.) James Ridgeway and Doug Vaughn refer to “a single-edge razor blade — the kind used to scrape windows or slice open packages…” (“The Last Days of Danny Casolaro,” Village Voice, October 15, 1991, p. 32.) Some accounts mention a  broken beer bottle, other a broken motel tumbler.

[3] Ridgeway and Vaughn, op. cit., p. 38.

[4] Author’s conversation with freelance reporter Steve Badrich, who attended the press conference.

[5] Kim Masters, “The Unlikely Suicide,” Washington Post, August 31, 1991, p. D1.

[6]Robert O’Harrow, Jr. and Gary Lee, “Frequent drinking marked writer Casolaro’s final days,” Washington Post, August 25, 1991, p. A19.

[7] Masters, op. cit.

[8] R. Drummond Ayres, Jr., “As U.S. Battles Computer Company, Writer Takes Vision of Evil to Grave,” New York Times, September 3, 1991, p. D12.

[9] Masters, op. cit.

[10] Raymond Lavas, one of Casolaro’s sources in the California electronics industry, telephone conversation with the author.

[11] Rocco Parascandola, “Who killed investigative reporters?” New York Post, August 15, 1991, p. 4; Dan Bischoff, “One more dead man,” Village Voice, August 27, 1991, p. 22.

[12] Jack Anderson and Dale van Atta, “Another Casualty in the ‘Octopus’ case,” Washington Post, August 28, 1991, p. D16.

[13] Ibid. Also, ABC-TV, Nightline, September 13, 1991.

[14] Affidavit of Ari Ben-Menashe, “Inslaw v. United States of America, and the United States Department of Justice, Adversary Proceeding No. 86-0069,” United States Bankruptcy court, Washington, D. C.

[15] David Akerman, “The disquieting death of Jonathan Moyle,” Image, London, Jult 28, 1991.

[16] Diane Rehm Show, WAMU-FM, Washington, D.C., October 28, 1991.

[17] Inslaw v. United States of America, et. al., p. 9.

[18] Elliot Richardson, “A High-Tech Watergate,” New York Times, October 21, 1991, p. A17.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Silberman is accused by Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the first elected president of Iran following the 1979 revolution, and later deposed by Khomeini, of being one of the four Reagan campaign staffers who consummated the October Surprise deal. Christopher Hitchens, “Minority Report,” The Nation, October 21, 1987,  p. 440.

[21] Maggie Mahar, “Beneath Contempt: Did the Justice Department Deliberately Bankrupt INSLAW?” Barron’s Business Weekly, March 21, 1988.

[22] Ibid.

[23] See: Eric Reguly, “Questions grow as ‘Big Daddy’ watches his empire crumble,” Financial Post (Toronto), August 19, 1991, pp. 8- 11, for background on Brian.

[24] Inslaw memorandum to The Record, June 28, 1990, “An Assessment of Michael Riconosciuto…,” p. 1.

[25] Riconosciuto, personal communication with the author.

[26] Affidavit of Michael Riconosciuto, “Inslaw v. United States of America, and the United States Department of Justice, Adversary Proceeding No. 86-0069,” United States Bankruptcy Court, Washington, D.C.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Carlton Smith, “Worldwide conspiracy or fantasy? Felon’s story checks out — in part,” Seattle Times, August 29, 1991, p. A1.

[29] William Hamilton, personal communication with the author.

[30] Ridgeway and Vaughn, op. cit. p. 39.

[31] Barrett, personal conversations with the author.

[32] Suspicion of Mossad involvement in Bull’s death has been widely reported in the mainstream press. See also: Mary Barrett, “Gerald Bull, the Canadian Ballistics Genius Who Armed Iraq,” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 1990. Bull’s family, according to Barrett, is bitter that the U.S.  government is doing nothing to investigate his death.

[33] Ridgeway and Vaughn, op. cit., p. 40.

[34] As with Riconosciuto, some reporters have avoided Ben-Menashe, because  they consider his information impossible to confirm. One exception is Seymour Hersh. The Pulitzer Prize-winning Hersh relied heavily on Ben-Menashe in his recent book on the Israeli nuclear program, “The Samson Option.”

[35] Ridgeway and Vaughn, op. cit., p. 42.

[36] Ibid.

[37] The FBI appears to have had recent contact with Ben-Menashe in Kentucky. In early 1991, FBI officers investigated a dispute between Ben-Menashe and former CIA officer Allan Bruce Hemmings. Ben-Menashe may have the protection of Kentucky Governor Wallace G. Wilkerson. (Hemmings, conversations with the author.)

[38] Ben-Menashe, conversations with the author.

[39] Ridgeway and Vaughn, op. cit., p. 38.

[40] See for example: Lisa Featherstone and Peter Rothberg, “Suicide or Murder?” Lies of our Times, November, 1991. Featherstone and Rothberg analyze the gaps in mainstream reporting of Casolaro’s death.

[41] Ron Rosenbaum, “The Strange Death of Danny Casolaro,” Vanity Fair, December, 1991.

[42] Following his death, a number of anonymous calls were placed to Casolaro’s house, and to at least two journalists, Dan Bischoff, editor of the Village Voice, and Pat Clawson of Metrowest Broadcasting in Washington, D. C. Clawson was a friend of Casolaro’s for ten years, and a business associate when Casolaro was publishing a computer newsletter.

[43] David Johnson, “Bank Inquiry Widened, Justice Dept. Nominee Says,” New York Times, November 14, 1991, p. B13.

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