In the wake of the Kennedy assassination, the Dallas Police Department did everything it could to shift any possible responsibility for the tragic events to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Had they stuck to the truth, their finger-pointing might seem quite justifiable; but they did not stick to the truth.
When FBI counter-intelligence agent James Hosty learned that a suspect named Lee Oswald was under arrest for the murder of Officer J. D. Tippit, Hosty immediately realized that Oswald was in all likelihood involved with the assassination of JFK. Hosty was aware of Oswald's Communist leanings and he had been informed by Ruth Paine a few weeks earlier that Oswald worked at the Texas School Book Depository on Elm Street. With police bulletins naming the Depository as the possible origin of the shots, on top of Hosty's suspicion that the Tippit murder was linked to the assassination forty-five minutes earlier, it seemed crystal clear to Hosty that Oswald was a likely candidate for presidential assassin.
Hosty reported this to the first police officer he encountered that afternoon -- Lieutenant Jack Revill of the DPD intelligence unit. It would soon be claimed that Hosty had actually said something quite different, and in April 1964, this allegation became public.
Here is James P. Hosty, Jr.'s account of the episode from his book, Assignment: Oswald, co-authored with Thomas Hosty (New York: Arcade, 1996), pp. 119-25:
As soon as I walked into [Dallas Special Agent in Charge Gordon] Shanklin's smoke-filled office, I saw the copy of the newspaper lying on his desk. I grabbed it. Staring back at me in bold, black print was the front-page headline: FBI KNEW OSWALD CAPABLE OF ACT, REPORTS INDICATE.
"Oh God," I groaned.
I quickly scanned the first few paragraphs while Shanklin sat quietly behind his desk puffing away. The story read, "A source close to the Warren Commission told the Dallas News Thursday that the Commission has testimony from Dallas police that an FBI agent told them moments after the arrest and identification of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, that 'we knew he was capable of assassinating the president, but we didn't dream he would do it. . . .' In a memorandum to supervisors on Nov. 22, Lt. Jack Revill, head of the Dallas police criminal intelligence squad, reported that FBI special agent James (Joe) Hosty had acknowledged awareness of Oswald in the basement of the City Hall at 2:05 PM, Nov. 22. His remark was made as five officers brought Oswald in from Oak Cliff, Revill reported.
The article ended with some enlightening comments from the police: "Dallas police officers watched several known extremists prior to the Kennedy visit and even sent representatives as far as 75 miles to interview others thought to be planning demonstrations. [Police chief Jesse] Curry privately has told friends, 'If we had known that a defector or a Communist was anywhere in this town, let alone on the parade route, we would have been sitting on his lap, you can bet on that.' But he refused public comment."
The police were blatantly trying to wriggle out from under a rock. . . . I wanted to laugh. The police had a long list of well-known Communists in Dallas, and not one had a police officer sitting on his lap on November 22. In fact, Detective H. M. Hart told me that the police neither picked up nor watched anyone the day of November 22. Clearly, someone from the police department had fed this story to [reporter Hugh] Aynesworth. . . .
[J. Edgar] Hoover came out blasting. He categorically denied the story's contentions. Revill himself partially retracted some of the article's allegations; he told the Dallas Times Herald that the comment that I never dreamed Oswald would kill the president was all someone else's fabrication. But Aynesworth and the Morning News had done the damage. It would prove to be irreversible regarding my relationships with the Dallas police and the Dallas media.
Two of my fellow agents, Bob Barrett and Ike Lee, later told me about their conversation with Revill after the story broke. Revill told Barrett and Lee that he had not wanted his November 22 memo to be released to the Warren Commission or the press, but police chief Jesse Curry threatened to charge Revill with filing a false police report if Revill wouldn't swear to the truth in his memo. The police then got a memo from Detective Jackie Bryan, who had been standing near Revill and me during this brief garage conversation. Contrary to Aynesworth's assertion, Bryan supported my version of the events. He reported that he did not hear me make any kind of comment suggesting I knew Oswald was capable of killing the president.
The first four paragraphs of Revill's five-paragraph memo were accurate. But the last paragraph, the incendiary paragraph, appears to have been added as an afterthought. The memo read:
November 22, 1963
Captain W. P. Gannaway
Special Service Bureau
Subject: Lee Harvey Oswald
605 Elsbeth Street
On November 22, 1963, at approximately 2:50 PM, the undersigned officer met Special Agent James Hosty of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the basement of the City Hall.
At that time Special Agent Hosty related to this officer that the Subject was a member of the Communist Party, and that he was residing in Dallas.
The Subject was arrested for the murder of Officer J. D. Tippit and is a prime suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy.
The information regarding the Subject's affiliation with the Communist Party is the first information this officer has received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding same.
Agent Hosty further stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of the Subject and that they had information that this Subject was capable of committing the assassination of President Kennedy.
Jack Revill, Lieutenant
Criminal Intelligence Section
Logically, that last paragraph should have been inserted into the second paragraph where Revill is quoting me. The fifth paragraph's information is much more dramatic than everything else in the memo, so why didn't Revill put it up higher? Could it be because he inserted it later?
I wasn't the only one to question the veracity of Revill's memo. The Warren Commission ordered the FBI's forensic document experts to analyze it to determine if the police had added the last paragraph after November 22. Unfortunately, the police had only supplied the Commission and the FBI forensic lab with a photocopy of the memo. Because they did not have the original memo on which to conduct a microscopic examination, the forensic lab could make no determinations.
On April 27, 1964, William A. Murphy, a retired FBI agent who had been the Dallas SAC, wrote Shanklin a letter. Murphy, just like the rest of the country, had read the press accounts quoting Revill's memo.
Murphy told Shanklin that on December 20, 1963, he had confronted Chief Curry about remarks he had made shortly after midnight the night of the assassination at a press conference. The chief had announced that the FBI knew Oswald was in town but had not warned the Dallas police. During the December 20 meeting, Murphy asked Curry what his basis was for that comment to the press. Later, in early January 1964, Curry asked Murphy to come to his office so that he could explain his November 23 comments. Curry pulled from his desk drawer the original copy of the Revill memo and handed it to Murphy.
Murphy took his time and carefully read and reread the memo, which he described as "on Police Department memorandum stationery, from Lt. Revill to either Captain Gannaway or to Chief Curry." Murphy read Revill's comment that I had reported on November 22 that Oswald was a Communist and living in Dallas.
Most critically, Murphy insisted to Shanklin, "This entire memorandum consisted of approximately three to four brief paragraphs, and positively there was no information set forth in that memorandum indicating that Hosty had in any way represented that Oswald was capable of assassinating the president." Murphy was adamant on this point. He told Shanklin that if the memo had reported I knew Oswald was capable of killing the president, Shanklin could be assured that he would have immediately reported that to the FBI. Murphy also pointed out to Shanklin that Curry, during his press conference on November 23, made no mention about the FBI supposedly knowing that Oswald was capable of killing the president.
Murphy strongly resented that the Dallas police were trying to discredit me and the FBI. Murphy didn't say it, but he was directly implying that sometime after January 1964, the police had added that explosive last paragraph to the Revill memo. . . .
The emergence of Aynesworth's worst side, however, was hardly new. He already had some dubious achievements to his credit. One such: about a week after the assassination, Aynesworth, along with Bill Alexander, an assistant district attorney in Dallas, decided to find out if Lee Oswald had been an informant of the Dallas FBI, and of mine in particular. To this end, they concocted a totally false story about how Lee Oswald was a regularly paid informant of the Dallas FBI. At the time, I had no idea what information the Houston Post was relying on; it wasn't until February 1976, in Esquire magazine, that Aynesworth finally admitted he and Alexander had lied and made up the entire story in an effort to draw the FBI out on this issue. They said Oswald was paid $200 a month and even made up an imaginary informant number for Oswald, S172 -- which was not in any way how the FBI classified their informants. Aynesworth then fed this story to Lonnie Hudkins of the Post, who ran it on January 1, 1964. Hudkins cited confidential but reliable sources for his story's allegations. The FBI issued a flat denial of the Post story. I was once again prohibited by Bureau procedure from commenting. It was clear that they were pointing a finger at me, since I was known to be the agent in charge of the Oswald file.
The Post article identifying Oswald as an FBI informant helped fuel another fire with me trapped in its middle. In January 1964, Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr stated before the Warren Commission that he had information that Lee Oswald was an FBI informant and that was why neither the Dallas FBI nor I had told the Dallas police that Oswald was in town. It turned out that the manager of a hotel coffee shop had overheard a conversation between a few FBI agents and had reported this to the Dallas police, who then passed it on to Carr.
One day in early December 1963, Dallas FBI agent Will Griffin had been eating in the coffee shop at the Brown Hotel with a few of the out-of-town FBI agents. I guess those agents were asking Griffin whether it was true that Jack Ruby was an informant. Griffin, who was what I would call a party-guy -- he was boisterous and loud, and thoroughly enjoyed having a good time in the off-hours -- announced to these agents, "Yes, he was an informant, and his file was sent to Washington."
The manager of the coffee shop overheard only what Griffin had said, and because he knew Griffin was an FBI agent, he assumed Griffin was referring to Oswald. A few days later, the FBI got wind of the manager's report. We figured no one would take it seriously. But when Carr went before the Commission in January, it became clear the Commission was taking the coffee shop manager's report very seriously. Headquarters wanted any FBI agent with any connection to the Oswald case to sign affidavits swearing Oswald was not a Bureau informant. . . .
In 1996's Oswald Talked, Ray and Mary La Fontaine dredged up another example of the DPD's smear attempts against the FBI. They quote a Dallas Morning News story of November 24, 1963, which stated that Lee Harvey Oswald had been interviewed by the FBI less than a week before the assassination -- a complete fabrication. The La Fontaines insist that this story be taken seriously, however, and state that Morning News reporter James Ewell today stands by the veracity of the tale. Ewell's source for the information? "DPD chief Jesse E. Curry and his police intelligence unit."
Chief Curry told the press shortly after Oswald's arrest that Oswald had been interviewed recently by the FBI, but completely and unequivocally retracted the statement the following day. At that time, he said:
There has been some information that has gone out. I want to correct anything that might have been misinterpreted or misunderstood. And that is regarding information that the FBI might have had about this man [Oswald]. I do not know if and when the FBI has interviewed this man. The FBI is under no obligation to come to us with any information concerning anyone. They have cooperated with us in the past a hundred percent. Anytime there's any information that they feel that might be helpful to us, the have always come to us with it. Last night someone told me, I don't even know who it was, that the FBI did know this man was in the city and had interviewed him. I wish to say this, of my knowledge, I do not know this to be a fact and I do not want anybody to get the wrong impression, that I am accusing the FBI of not cooperating or of withholding information because they are under no obligation to us, but have always cooperated with us one hundred percent. And I do not know if and when they have ever interviewed this man.Chief Curry was questioned by reporters:
Q. Just to make this clear, Chief, you were talking about Oswald and the reports that the FBI had information about him before the assassination.Who was Chief Curry's unidentified source for the misinformation about Oswald and the FBI? A reasonable guess would be Curry's close associate, Jack Revill.
A. That's correct. And I wish to make this statement, that I do not know, to my knowledge, whether they have anything on this man or not or whether or not they have ever interviewed him. I do say this, that they have always, in the past, if they had information that they thought would be helpful to us they have come to us with it.
Q. Had you been given an erroneous or unreliable report that they had some information on him?
A. This -- I don't know. Someone last night told me this, and I don't even know who told me. But they just said that, last night, that the FBI did know this man was here. I wish to make this statement, that I do not know whether they knew it or not, and I certainly am not saying that he FBI knew something that we should have known, didn't tell us. They are under no obligation to us, but they have always cooperated with us. (WFAA television, "The Kennedy Tapes," tape 4.)
Regardless of whether Revill was Curry's source or not, Curry wholly disavowed any knowledge whatsoever regarding Oswald and the FBI.
So when Jim Ewell says that his source for the claim about Oswald's alleged FBI interview was "DPD chief Jesse E. Curry and his police intelligence unit," he really means the Dallas police intelligence unit," i.e., Jack Revill.
It is perfectly possible, of course, that Jim Ewell or his source simply made an innocent mistake. This is the opinion of one of Ewell's fellow Dallas Morning News reporters, who recently told this author via e-mail:
I am aware of that line in his [Ewell's] Nov. 24 story [concerning Oswald's alleged interview with the FBI], but do not believe it is factual. I feel sure he was told that by one of the homicide cops who were in and out of the Fritz interrogation Nov. 22 and 23. Several were talking about Oswald blowing up at FBI agent James Hosty in the erarly [sic] moments of the questioning. I'm sure that brought many questions to Hosty from those close by -- if not then, shortly afterward. It was common knowledge (early on) that Hosty had been to the Irving home of Ruth Paine a couple times. Some cop could have gotten the date wrong. This is, of course, only my supposition. Ewell was close, very close, to many Dallas cops, particularly the homicide guys (which generated most of the big news for The Dallas News from the police station).
You might have noriced [sic] that there are many errors in those early days of reporting the story. I wish you could have seen the chaos and madness. We (The News) had two flaming errors in the first few paragraphs of our lead story on Nov. 23.
Not a vast conspiracy; not even ineptitude -- just mistakes made during a stressful time (when, unlike today's famed 'researchers,' we didn't have everybody else's work to criticize).
Back to the top
Back to JFK Reports and Documents
Back to JFK menu
Dave Reitzes home page
Back to JFK Reports and Documents
Back to JFK menu
Dave Reitzes home page