Gordon Novel: CIA Agent or Con Artist?
Note from the Webmaster
On August 12, 2002, I received an e-mail from Gordon Novel, stating, "I HAVE NEVER KNOWINGLY WORKED FOR THE CIA NOR AM I A CON MAN," and threatening to "promptly proceed against you personally and individually in United States Federal Court for the extensive and totally specious and patently libelous FALSE information you have put on the web about me, 'Gordon Novel - CIA Agent or Con Man,' unless it is removed immediately from your web site . . ." (Ellipsis as in original.)Gordon Novel has claimed at times to be or to have been involved with the CIA. No evidence supports this -- in fact, Novel's been caught in any number of lies -- and CIA internal memoranda from the time of the Garrison probe deny any connection with or knowledge of Novel.
After speaking with Mr. Novel on the telephone, I agreed to temporarily remove the article from my site, on the condition that he furnish me with corrections to all statements in the article he regarded as false. He agreed to this. I never heard from him again. The article is being made available again on the presumption that all information contained in it is accurate, and that all conclusions I have drawn in it are justified by the factual evidence presented.
Both during his ill-fated JFK conspiracy probe of the 1960s and in his later memoirs, Jim Garrison seized upon statements and actions of alleged CIA operative Gordon Novel as support for Garrison's claims that the CIA had been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy and was actively impeding the DA's conspiracy investigation. It is the purpose of this article to demonstrate that Garrison's claims were groundless.
November 15, 2003
Note from the Webmaster
October 2004 Addendum
On October 28, 2004, I received the following e-mail message from Gordon Novel:
Since you think I am not serious about what I told you when we last talked, I am therefore asking you for your phone number so we can talk again before I have Ramsey Clark & Associates advise you of what I am legally planning to do about your continuing libelous statements about me. Get ready to spend a lot of money.I responded to Mr. Novel that if he were to choose to supply me with the previously agreed upon corrections after all, I'd be happy to post them, just as before. "Otherwise," I informed him, "my webpage stays as is."
October 31, 2004
Here's a repost of some assorted notes on Novel, beginning with the subject that brought Novel his original notoriety -- his claim that a munitions burglary he participated in had actually been a CIA operation. (The 1961 heist consisted of explosives and possibly other arms from a Houma, La., bunker owned by Schlumberger Well Surveying Corporation. Other participants in the robbery included Sergio Arcacha Smith and David Ferrie, and the booty was sent to some of Arcacha's anti-Castro buddies for use against El Jefe.)
Contrary to later claims by participant Gordon Novel (a self-proclaimed electronics expert who was working with Garrison until Garrison decided that Novel's associations were suspicious and subpoenaed him as a witness, whereupon Novel left the state), the heist appears to have been, in fact, a simple burglary, not the CIA "weapons transfer" alleged in many conspiracy books (cf. New Orleans States-Item, May 25, 1967; Grand Jury transcript of Rancier Blaise Ehlinger, March 30, 1967). Nevertheless, even Gus Russo reports the incident as a CIA weapons transfer (Russo, Live by the Sword [Baltimore: Bancroft, 1998], pp. 150-53).
According to one account by Gordon Novel, "It was one of the most patriotic burglaries ever committed . . . the CIA virtually gave us the key to the bunker . . . my fellow burglar, Arcacha Smith, and I are still employed by the CIA" (A. J. Weberman Web site, Nodule 21).
Novel was lying. (He also claimed at times that the Agency did give him a key to the bunker, and at other times would state that bolt cutters were used to enter the bunker. Others present recall bolt cutters being used [cf. Grand Jury transcript of Rancier Blaise Ehlinger, March 30, 1967; New Orleans States-Item, May 25, 1967; Novel libel decision, see below].) Numerous CIA internal memoranda from this time period show the Agency to have had no connection with either Novel or Arcacha (cf. CIA Memorandum, June 20, 1967, "Memorandum No. 4: Garrison and the Kennedy Assassination"; Record No. 180-10143-10220, Agency File Number 29-04-01, CIA Segregated Collection; CIA Memorandum, August 14, 1967, Document No. 1232-517; "Memorandum No. 6: Garrison and the Kennedy Assassination," September 7, 1967; CSCI-3/764,414; CIA 1435-492-AD, A. J. Weberman Web site; CIA Memorandum of September 29, 1967).
Novel attorney Jerry Weiner said the CIA allegations were "utterly ridiculous" -- "Novel is not now and never has been a CIA agent" (New Orleans States-Item, April 25, 1967). Until getting mixed up in the Garrison investigation, Novel was running a New Orleans bar, the Jamaican Inn.
William Turner writes:
Novel is wanted by the DA as a material witness in the 1961 burglary of the Schlumberger Well Co. munitions dump near New Orleans. Subpoenaed by the grand jury last March, Novel fled to McLean, Virginia, next door to the CIA complex at Langley, and took a lie detector test administered by a former Army intelligence officer which, he boasted to the press, proved Garrison's probe was a fraud. He then skipped first to Montreal and then to Columbus, Ohio, from where Governor James Rhodes, in one of the most absurd stipulations ever attached to a normally routine procedure, refuses to extradite him unless Garrison agrees not to question him on the assassination.
From his Ohio sanctuary the fugitive cryptically asserted that the munitions caper was one of "the most patriotic burglaries in history." When an enterprising reporter took him to a marathon party, Novel's indiscreet tongue loosened further. According to the States-Item article, Novel's oft-repeated account was that the munitions bunker was a CIA staging point for war materiel destined for use in the impending Bay of Pigs invasion. He is quoted as saying that on the day the munitions were picked up, he "was called by his CIA contact and told to join a group which was ordered to transport munitions from the bunker to New Orleans." The key to the bunker was provided by his CIA contact. Novel reportedly said the others in the CIA group at the bunker were David Ferrie, Sergio Arcacha Smith -- New Orleans delegate to the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front -- and several Cubans. The munitions, according to his account, were dropped in Novel's office, Ferrie's home and Banister's office-storeroom (William W. Turner, "The Garrison Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy," Ramparts, January 1968).
Novel's image as a CIA operative is entirely self-cultivated. A CIA internal memorandum reads, "Garrison has falsely stated that Gordon D. Novel was a CIA agent and that one of his lawyers, Stephen Plotkin, was paid by CIA. Garrison says he can prove that Novel, along with Arcacha Smith and others, robbed a munitions bunker at Houma, Louisiana at the instigation of CIA. Garrison may claim that this robbery was one of the overt acts of the conspiracy. Actually, Novel has never at any time had any association with the Agency nor has his lawyer, Stephen Plotkin" (CIA Memorandum of September 29, 1967, "Clay L. Shaw's Trial and the Central Intelligence Agency").
Some claim that arms stolen in the Houma raid were used at the Bay of Pigs, but more reliable reports date the incident to August or September. The NODA fixed the date as August 19-21 (Bill of Indictment for Gordon Novel and Sergio Arcacha Smith, March 31, 1967; New Orleans States-Item, April 25, 1967; Milton E. Brener, The Garrison Case: A Study in the Abuse of Power [New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1969], p. 180).
Much of the credence given to Novel's claims rests upon a letter in his handwriting left behind in Novel's apartment when he fled New Orleans. Seemingly addressed to a supposed CIA contact, a "Mr. Weiss," it reads in part, "This letter is to inform you that . . . Jim Garrison has subpoenaed myself and an associate to testify before this Grand Jury on matters which may be classified Top Secret. Actions of individuals connected with Double Chek Corporation in Miami in first quarter of 1961. Our connection and activity of that period involves individuals presently about to be indicted as conspirators in Mr. Garrison's investigation. We have temporarily avoided one subpoena . . . we want out of this thing before Thursday, March 1967 . . . I have been questioned extensively by local FBI recently as to whether or not I was involved with Double Chek's parent holding corporation at the time. My reply on five queries was negative . . . Our attorneys and others are in possession of complete sealed files containing all information concerning matter. In the event of our sudden departure, either accidental or otherwise, they are instructed to simultaneously release same for public scrutiny . . ." (New Orleans States-Item, May 26, 1967)
Novel was making the whole thing up: Double-Check had been used to launder funds for a group of widows of Bay of Pigs pilots, but was cut loose after being exposed in David Wise and Thomas Ross's 1964 book, The Invisible Government (FBI 61-109060-5361, 5315; A. J. Weberman Web site). Novel would later claim that the boxes were stamped with the name of a well known former CIA proprietary, InterArmco (William Davy, Let Justice Be Done [Reston, Va.: Jordan, 1999], p. 25), while Vernon Gerdes saw several dozen boxes from the burglary and says they were marked "Schlumberger" (House Select Committee on Assassinations, Outside Contact Report, Vernon Gerdes, January 10, 1978; New Orleans States-Item, April 25, 1967).
A. J. Weberman writes, "In his youth, Gordon Novel belonged to a neo-Nazi group and was arrested and charged with bombing a Metairie, Louisiana, theater that admitted blacks. Later, he sold spy devices in New Orleans. Gordon Novel claimed he worked with the Cuban Revolutionary Front during the Bay of Pigs, as a Director of the CIA proprietary, the Evergreen Advertising Agency, and had created cryptographic messages for the CIA" (A. J. Weberman Web site, Nodule 21). This was untrue. The CIA reported: 'There is no record of any utilization of Gordon Novel, Sergio Arcacha Smith [of the Cuban Revolutionary Front] or Evergreen Advertising Agency" (Ibid.).
Nevertheless, Gus Russo describes the Houma heist as one of a series of CIA weapons transfers, and even Sergio Arcacha Smith's onetime attorney, Frank Hernandez, indicates it to be so. (Arcacha, for his part, denies it.) Since Schlumberger does seem to have aided the CIA in some manner as yet unknown (Russo, pp. 150-51), the possibility for such a thing seems to remain.
Garrison frequently named Gordon Novel as a crucial material witness whose extradition was denied him, contributing to the acquittal of Clay Shaw (cf. Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins [New York: Warner Books, 1992], pp. 208-11, 266). Yet by Garrison's own admission, he wanted to question Novel "about the munitions he, along with David Ferrie and the anti-Castro Cubans, had taken from the Schlumberger bunker at the Houma blimp base" (Garrison, p. 193 fn.) -- not relating to the assassination itself or Clay Shaw in particular.
Garrison advocates have strained their imaginations for over three decades trying to figure out precisely what Novel's role in the assassination was -- since he had to be involved, right? -- even going so far as to note his alleged resemblance to the infamous "Umbrella Man" in Dealey Plaza.
Novel's status as a "material witness" was nothing but another Garrison ruse. He even could have extradited Novel had he actually wished to do so. He had sixty days in which to complete the necessary paperwork, and he specifically instructed Assistant DA James Alcock not to do so. Garrison also admitted to Bernard Fensterwald that he would "wait," rather than use legal means to bring Novel to Louisiana ("Novel Will Be Returned -- Ohio," New Orleans Time-Picayune, May 10, 1967, "Ohio Frees 'Witness' Sought by Garrison," New York Times, July 4, 1967; Epstein, Counterplot, anthologized in The Assassination Chronicles [New York: Carroll and Graf, 1992], p. 248; Bernard Fensterwald, "Notes on interview with Jim Garrison," August 26, 1967).
Garrison investigator Tom Bethell noted in a journal entry of December 4, 1967:
Last Thursday, a lawyer from Playboy was here, and I happened to be in Garrison's office when he asked Garrison some blunt questions about Gordon Novel and his involvement in the case. He pointed out to Garrison that he had read the Novel files, but was unable to make any headway in understanding how Novel became involved. I had found the same thing myself; the 2 Novel files are in a state of chaos, and there are no interviews with Novel in them, or really any material directly relating to Novel's connection with the office or with the probe or with the assassination. Merely contains previous offenses-e.g. attempt to derail railroad train, throwing rocks at cars, etc. (as a minor), and many telegrams to Marlene Mancuso which date back to the '50s. Therefore I awaited Garrison's reply with interest.
Garrison said he only saw Novel three times, the first being when he was approached by Novel with the offer to be some kind of de-bugging officer for the office. He was introduced to Garrison by Willard Robertson. Subsequently Garrison discovered, he said, that Novel had sold a photograph to NBC (of a truck or something) and then had no further dealings with him. Novel also volunteered information about the Houma burglary, and his knowledge of Ferrie and Arcacha. Novel was due to appear before the grand jury, but fled to Ohio before he did so.
Garrison admitted to the lawyer -- in response to questioning -- that Novel had no connection, as far as he knew, with the assassination. That the office never was too concerned about him or interested in him, thus accounting for the paucity of information about him in the files.
The photograph in question was of a laundry truck owned by Luis Rabel, which had been used during the Houma heist. There is no evidence that Novel sold the photo to NBC, though he himself was probably the source of Garrison's belief that he did. (Milton Brener states flatly that Novel was not paid, and Brener's source is most likely NBC's Walter Sheridan [Brener, The Garrison Case (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1969), p. 179].) The importance of the truck lay in a theory advanced by Mark Lane - that the truck resembled one seen in photographs taken in Dealey Plaza that fateful day. Assistant DA William Gurvich would remark, "The truck used for the Houma trip was apparently similar to the one identified by Lane to this extent: They both had four wheels" (Brener, p. 82).
When Garrison discussed Novel in his Playboy interview, Novel sued the DA and the publisher for libel and lost. Here are some relevant portions of the decision, courtesy of Jerry Shinley:
Some time in February, 1967 Mr. Novel, knowing that one David Ferrie figured prominently in defendant Garrison's investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy, voluntarily disclosed to Mr. Garrison that he (Novel), David Ferrie and one Sergio Arcacha Smith, the head of an anti-Castro Cuban refugee organization, had been associated in 1961 in the removal of military munitions from a bunker in Houma, Louisiana. Mr. Novel told Mr. Garrison that he had been asked to participate in the removal of munitions by Arcacha Smith who had requested him to wear dark clothes and come armed; that entrance to the bunker was accomplished with the aid of bolt cutters; that the removal was carried out under cover of darkness; and that plaintiff and his companions had posted a look-out with a walkie-talkie radio set in order to avoid being apprehended. . . .
[I]n his complaint Novel alleges that he was libeled by Garrison's reference to him as a burglar, referring to the so called raid on the munitions bunker in Houma, Louisiana. Yet in the stipulation of uncontested facts it is agreed that Novel voluntarily disclosed to Garrison that he along with others participated in the removal of military munitions from a bunker in Houma, Louisiana. He also offered the fact that he had entered the bunker with the aid of bolt cutters. He was formally charged in the Criminal Court of Orleans Parish, Louisiana with conspiracy to commit simple burglary in connection with the removal of munitions and also in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana with committing simple burglary of the munitions bunker. . . .
As to his involvement in the assassination investigation, Novel voluntarily disclosed his association with David Ferrie whom he knew figured prominently in that investigation. When he received a subpoena requiring him to appear and testify before the Orleans Parish grand jury in connection with the investigation of the assassination, he left New Orleans. It is stipulated that the Criminal District Court for Orleans Parish ordered the arrest of Novel as a material witness in connection with the assassination investigation. . . .
As to his alleged libelous role as a material witness in the Kennedy assassination, again it was Novel himself who, knowing that David Ferrie figured prominently in Garrison's investigation of the assassination, voluntarily disclosed to Garrison that he had associated with Ferrie and others in the munitions raid. He was also subpoenaed to appear before the Orleans Parish grand jury in connection with the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy. His so-called connections with the CIA also originated with his own voluntarily offered stories. The facts as stipulated also establish that, Novel enthusiastically jumped into the fray with Garrison, offering news media statements about the Garrison investigation. His telegram to Garrison also states that he could testify on various matters including the probable murder of David Ferrie, seditious treason, and other matters that appeared to him to be grist for the Garrison mill (Gordon Novel, Plaintiff, v. Jim Garrison and HMH Publishing Co., Inc., Defendants, No. 67 C 1895, US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, 338 F. Supp. 977; 1971 US Dist. LEXIS 10638, Opinion: Memorandum, Order and Judgment, November 24, 1971; Jerry Shinley, E-mail to author, August 14, 1999).
April 2008 Addendum
In a videotaped interview of December 2006, Gordon Novel covered all sorts of fascinating topics. For example, Novel reports:
* The extraterrestrials (ETs) are here. * The super-secret MAJESTIC-12 govermment group are covering it up * Novel has tried to get the Bilderberg Group involved. * JFK's interest in extraterrestrials was a factor in his death. * Ex-Gehlen organization Nazis and MAJESTIC-12 were involved in JFK's death. * Novel personally assisted MAJESTIC-12 in reverse-engineering extraterrestrial technology. * Some of the ET vehicles are capable of time travel (just as in the movie Back to the Future. * The ability to see into the future via ET technology will completely revolutionize government. * MAJESTIC-12 tried to kill Novel recently, but the CIA saved his life. * "Most people answer to the Illuminati . . ." * Novel is working on bringing free energy to mankind. * "I have never worked for the CIA," he reaffirms. * The CIA "didn't kill John Kennedy." * Novel was working for the White House on a counterintelligence project prior to his association with Jim Garrison. * Oswald was a patsy.
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