Richard Billings' New Orleans Journal


April 21-May 8, 1967

Garrison -- April 21, 1967

He is in touch with Senator Long's office trying to check out that post office box number, and expects to hear back in a number of days. Now, meanwhile, he is planning to file the information from the notebook and the post office box number in his answer to the attempt by the defense to have the evidence taken from Shaw's apartment suppressed.

On April 24 I talked to Jack Newfield of the Village Voice because of a report we have that he had heard from Bob Kennedy that the Senator feels that Garrison should not be ridiculed to the point of disbelief. Newfield said in a phone conversation that the Senator had had information that Garrison might be on the right track, this apparently from either Ed Guthman or Dick Goodwin, who apparently is in touch with Ed Epstein. However, according to Newfield, the Senator has heard since from Sheridan, and is now more inclined to think Garrison's case is a hoax.

April 24, conversation with Jim Garrison -- He is working hard on the Cuban involvement. He learns that three Oswalds, apparently all members of Lee Harvey Oswald's family, worked for the Reily Coffee Company in the summer of 1963. He has also learned that four months before the Bay of Pigs, an organization known as Friends of Democratic Cuba bought ten, or contracted to buy, ten Ford trucks from the Bolton Ford Company. There is an FBI report on this dated Nov. 25, 1963. Essentially it says that a man named Joseph Moore talked to an assistant manager of the Ford company named Oscar Deslatte. They negotiated, and at the end of the negotiation, this man, Moore, told Deslatte to change the name on the papers to Oswald. Garrison suspects this unknown Oswald may have been one of the relatives, since the FBI report indicates that, A. the incident occurred while Lee Harvey was in the Soviet Union, and B. it is recorded in the FBI exhibits that a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald was shown to Deslatte, and he did not recognize it.

April 25 -- conversation with Jim Garrison. He is still trying to check out the records on the box through Russell Long's office. He is having no success. Now Garrison is hard on the trail of the CIA; he has taken a great deal of this from the statement by Gordon Novel, as reported in the States-Item, that he, Novel, was working for the CIA when they stole the explosives from the bunker in Houma, La.

We know on our own information, and later, my check with Holland McCombs, that Oswald is known to have had two post office boxes listed under his name, or names recognized as his affiliations while in Dallas. The first of these, Box 2915, was rented from the main Post Office from Oct. 9, 1962, until May 14, 1963. The second, Box 6225 in the Terminal Annex Post Office, was the one rented from Nov. 1, 1963, until Oswald's death. It was in this box that he received correspondence with the Russian Embassy in Washington under the name of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Discussing the boxes again with Garrison, he suggested that if there was no such box as 19106 in 1963, which there was not, then it must have been some kind of code, and he [is] now proceeding to decipher the possibility of a code. He also suggests the possibility that the box could have been a CIA front; it could have been a box used temporarily by the CIA -- but nevertheless, Garrison does suspect that involvement.

Garrison returns to the point that there were three Oswalds working for the Reily Coffee Co. that summer, yet whenever any one of them was interviewed by the FBI, they denied knowing that Lee Harvey Oswald was also employed by the company. The names of the other three Oswalds working for the Reily Coffee Co. are: William S. Oswald, Julian Oswald, and Mary Oswald. Garrison is now proceeding to make a family tree of the Oswald family based on birth certificates that he is trying to obtain. We point out to Garrison that Box 19106 came into existence in 1965, in May; that there very well could be a person named Lee Odom, whose name Shaw would list in his book since May 1965. Garrison scoffs at this, convinced that this is impossible.

Conversation with Garrison, April 27 -- He vows that he will solve the post office box riddle by using logic. He says the number is a riddle, and feels it would be even a stranger coincidence if there were such a box, a real box 19106, but that there isn't such a box makes the connection a certainty. He finds there is a uniqueness in the non-existent quality, and that a certainty will be developed, so we now have the riddle of the non-existent box. Garrison uses the analogy that two people who are not supposed to know each other, listed in their respective address books the address, 504 Park Avenue -- an existing address -- that would only mean there was a probability that they knew each other; but if they each listed 25000 Park Avenue, they would certainly know each other, due to the fact that address does not exist. In a word, he said, "most people don't write down non-existent post office numbers." Nevertheless, he is still having Long's office check the ownership of boxes that are in combinations of 19106 or any variations thereof.

April 29, conversation in Garrison's office in New Orleans -- Garrison is hard at work on certain possible codes of the Oswald numbers. He is convinced, furthermore, that the CIA involvement is greater than ever. He has information from a New Orleans reporter that one of Novel's lawyers, a man named Plotkin, has admitted that he is being paid by the intelligence agency. Garrison refers to the fact that both Novel and Sandra Moffett, people who certainly have not shown great financial means in the past, have very high-paid lawyers. Then he starts to talk again about the number of Oswalds living in New Orleans, both now and back in 1963, and he says he has 43 drivers' licenses of people named Oswald now living in New Orleans, and he makes reference to the very interesting fact that no person -- aside from Marina and Marguerite -- no person named Oswald was called before the Warren Commission. Garrison intends to show shortly that there was another Oswald working for the Reily Coffee Company in 1963, who was a member of Friends of Free Cuba or Friends of Democratic Cuba -- at least it will be one of the anti-Castro groups -- and he intends to call public attention to the fact that the CIA was involved with these groups; and for that reason, the affiliation with Lee Harvey Oswald with these groups has never come to light. He says that further demonstration of this fact is the difficulty he has had getting extradition papers returned and approved from the states in which Sergio Arcacha, Sandra Moffett, and Gordon Novel are now residing.

Garrison says that his present Grand Jury is very aggressive, and not above issue subpoenas to Earl Warren or Ramsey Clark, or anyone else, for that matter. He takes great confidence from this, and is educating the Grand Jury by bringing before them members of the cult of critics, like Ray Marcus or Harold Weisberg or Mark Lane, and he even suggests the possibility of sending a subpoena to the US Attorney General, for the purpose of getting documentary evidence of the US Government's investigation of Clay Shaw, and to further determine what a government spokesman meant when he said, as reported in the New York Times, that the Department of Justice had information that Bertrand and Shaw were the same person.

Garrison then introduces me to a former CIA agent he has hired. This man, whose name will remain out of this [William Wood, aka Bill Boxley], is an agent who was with the CIA back in the early '50s. His apparent value to Garrison is, for this purpose, supplying him with general information as to the operation of the agency -- he has no apparent value as to what was going on in the early 1960s in New Orleans or anywhere else. Garrison apparently, though, has other CIA sources, who seem to be giving him a little more pertinent information. For example, one of them suggested that to find names that were used as aliases by these people possibly involved in a CIA plot in New Orleans, one should go to the London phone directory in the period 1959-63. This we did independently -- we found no Hidell, which was Oswald's alias. We did, however, find one C. Bertrand.

For the purpose of argument, it is possible to hypothesize that the CIA did have some number of operations going in New Orleans in the early 1960s up through 1963, operations that had to do with the Castro regime in Cuba. We checked this hypothesis with our source in the CIA, and it's altogether likely that out of the anti-Castro opposition, with the CIA green light, that there was an assassination apparatus set up. This apparatus, conceivably operated in a number of cities, certainly New Orleans, could have been a likely place for it to have been organized. This simply means that with the CIA's help and with the help of an agent, that a team could have been set up in New Orleans, trained for the purpose of assassinating Castro. It is further quite likely that in 1962, in October, the time at the end of the missile crisis, that President Kennedy agreed in his messages with Khrushchev that this country would take some of the pressure off Castro in return for a removal of the Soviet missiles. This could again conceivably mean that the assassination plan was called off, and if it were called off by the President, this would mean that the CIA would have to turn off the green light, and that would mean that their people, the CIA agents who had organized the Castro assassination would pull out, leaving in New Orleans a trained guerrilla team, which later, in 1963, could have used the CIA training, and even possibly have used one or more of the CIA agents or former agents to plan the assassination of President Kennedy. We repeat, this is pure hypothesis, but it is extremely logical.

There is certainly evidence that Novel, at least by his own admission, had worked for the CIA. There are reports that Clay Shaw, in the later 1950s in Italy and probably later, had worked for the CIA, and we specifically asked our source if a homosexual could ever have been an agent, and he said simply that if you wanted to steal an identification card from a Soviet diplomat, you would hire a pickpocket.

We might add here that Garrison's CIA consultant is in accord with Garrison's theory that the CIA had at least trained the initial apparatus, and that possibly Oswald, after the assassination, was known to have worked for such a CIA apparatus, and that this, according to the Garrison source, could have well motivated Oswald's execution. The source was asked if it could be possible that a CIA-trained group such as [sic] might have consisted of Oswald and Shaw and Ferrie [sic] would have talked about the assassination plan in front of Perry Russo, and the source feels that this is quite unlikely, only leading to the conclusion that Russo must have been more involved if he were to have been telling the truth in the first place.

Along with this possibility of a greater Russo involvement than he has admitted, Jim Alcock, the assistant DA in charge of the Shaw investigation, reports that he had heard from Harold Weisberg, it turns out, that in 1963, Fair Play for Cuba leaflets were seen in Russo's apartment. Alcock agrees it would be almost impossible to check out.

Back to Garrison. He is even more interested in Friends of Democratic Cuba, which he is to find out shortly was chartered, was incorporated by none other than W. Guy Banister. He now has this FBI exhibit on the Bolton Ford report, of which we have a copy.

Sunday, April 30 -- I talked to Leon Hubert. Mr. Hubert, a professor of law at Tulane University, former district attorney, was a professor of Garrison's at the University, also was a district attorney when Garrison was an assistant in Orleans Parish. Professor Hubert has nothing but praise for Garrison. He seems quite afraid to speak out on the matter; he can only suggest that Garrison might have something. He leaves open the door for our return if we want to pursue him further, but for the moment, he is of little help.

Now back to Garrison. April 30 -- he is re-interested in the testimony of Charles Noto, the levee policeman who reports having seen Oswald with another man, parked in another truck on the levee in October of 1962. Garrison plans to pursue the Noto statement further.

We discussed the possible greater involvement of Russo, and Garrison plans to have Sciambra pursue that further.

Sciambra has gone this day, this Sunday, to visit Mrs. Banister, who is the widow of Guy Banister, to see if she can produce any of Banister's records. He returns late in the day, empty-handed, but says that Mrs. Banister claims that these records, perhaps interesting records, were taken by Banister's secretary to the office of G. Wray Gill, the lawyer for whom David Ferrie worked just prior to the assassination. Mrs. Banister, reports Sciambra, said that she also gave some files to Aaron Kohn, who is the head of the Crime Commission, and that an index of all Banister's papers was turned over to the State Police.

Phone conversation with Garrison on May 1st -- he is going forward on this pursuit of the CIA. He has called in Oscar Deslatte, the assistant manager of Bolton Ford, who now says that he was not contacted by the FBI, and he doesn't know what Garrison is talking about when he, Garrison, refers to the FBI exhibit quoting the interview by the Bureau and Deslatte. Garrison says he intends to take Deslatte before the Grand Jury, and if he doesn't tell the truth, he will be indicted or charged as an accessory.

Garrison says he thinks it's time people knew about the Reily Coffee Co., and he intends to make known the fact that other Oswalds worked there.

Garrison points out now that he has been working with these two States-Item reporters named Hoke May and Ross Yockey. These reporters, Garrison says, plan to explode the CIA involvement in the States-Item; a first report has already appeared, one which dealt mainly with Gordon Novel's alleged involvement, stated involvement. Garrison reports that these young reporters have the Pulitzer Prize on their horizon, and that they have done their homework. It was to Hoke May that the lawyer, Plotkin, said he was being paid by the CIA.

Other tidbits from Garrison: 1) Oswald, he says, had a high security clearance, and that Weisberg has learned that Oswald had something called a crypto security clearance. 2) It was from the reporter, Hoke May, that the information about Plotkin having been paid by the CIA came. 3) Clay Shaw was arrested in New York in 1939 and 1940 under the name of Claude Bertrand or Claude Claycut.

Conversation with Garrison on May 2 -- He now plans to subpoena the Oswalds who worked for the Reily Coffee Co. in '63 before the Grand Jury. He has talked to the younger W. S. Oswald, who says he doesn't know any of the other Oswalds, and he intends to call in Julian Oswald the following day. He described W. S the younger as very effeminate, and has been tentatively identified as the one who was at Bolton Ford, although this turns out to be erroneous later. Garrison has been in touch with the manager of Bolton Ford, a man named Sewall, who contradicts the assistant manager, Deslatte. He said indeed there were two men who came to the company in 1961 to order 10 trucks; he describes the man referred to as Oswald as one who would fit the description of either W. S. or Lee Harvey, although it is not possible it is either of those two men. Garrison realizes it may not even have been a man named Oswald, but was using the name. More significantly [sic] to Garrison is the manager's description of Joseph Moore, whom he describes as "olive complexion, very dark, very powerful, very muscular, Latin, with a scar over his left eye." This, of course, describes the so-called Cuban who was seen often with Oswald in 1963.

A little more on W. S. Oswald who [sic], though he doesn't seem to be important; he is a school teacher during the school session and works for the Reily Coffee Co. as a salesman during the summers.

Another bit of incidental information from one of these States-Item reporters, who says that a man named Clement Bertrand -- Clem Bertrand to us -- appears in French history as the man who got the Marquis de Sade out of the Bastille. We are making an independent check of that.

Now Garrison goes into his deciphering of the number 19106. He says that if you take the number, you have to arrange it in a certain pattern, which he has figured to be -- you take the first number of a series, the first digit, then you take the last digit, and then the next one after the first, and then the next-to-the-last, and you keep that pattern. In other words, if you take a normal ABCDE, the digits would then fall in the order AEBDC, and if you apply AEBDC to 19106, you get 16901. This, Garrison says, is a key number to which Oswald would have applied another number, so Garrison began playing with numbers common to Shaw or to Oswald, and he comes up with the number 1300, which is the block in which Shaw's New Orleans address is located; and if you subtract 1300 from 16901, you get 15601, which Garrison points out is, or was, Jack Ruby's unlisted phone number in Dallas at the time of the assassination -- Whitehall 1-5601. He is not certain what the apparent PO -- letters PO -- mean, although he later figures out that P and O on the phone dial, if you look at P and O, you see the numbers corresponding to them are 7 and 6. 7 and 6, he feels significantly, add up to 13, as do the numbers corresponding to the letters W and H, so that PO, adding to 13, equaling WH, adding to 13, could be Oswald's code for the exchange, Whitehall, appearing before Ruby's unlisted phone number.

Conversation with Garrison, May 4th: The manager of the Bolton Ford Co., Mr. Sewall, has said that the man, W. S. Oswald, is not the one who came to the Ford company.

Garrison makes note of the fact that G. Wray Gill, the lawyer, has also seen a heavy-set Latin in his office with David Ferrie, so Garrison now is aiming all his guns on locating the heavy-set Latin.

Conversation with Garrison -- May 7th -- The story has now appeared in the States-Item linking Oswald to the CIA -- the story that Garrison will, this evening in a statement, corroborate. He says the two young reporters for the States-Item are beginning to see the picture, and that the paper is now interested, and has taken a turn in the direction of supporting the investigation. The Garrison statement will show all the indications that the people surrounding Oswald were involved with some operation against Castro, an operation that had the CIA backing. He says that, in answer to the story in the States-Item, the CIA has replied with the same old sanctimonious hogwash, and would make no comment, except to refer to statements in the -- before the Warren Commission. He says the States-Item ran the picture of the Odum Exhibit -- that's the one of the unidentified man outside the Cuban Embassy in Mexico -- and that Garrison is now calling for the CIA to turn over the real picture to his investigation; he is certain they will not answer. Garrison is convinced these stories (one also appeared in the Times-Picayune this morning) -- that these stories will help people accept the investigation, and put his points in perspective. He intends to press on this FBI exhibit of the attempt to purchase trucks from Bolton Ford, and he will bring that out in his statement to the papers tonight; and he will further put emphasis on the constant Cuban relationships of Lee Harvey Oswald. He is also getting all the driver's licenses of Oswalds in New Orleans in 1961, further trying to build up this family tree and relationships to Lee Harvey Oswald.

Instead of our earlier hypothetical theory that the Cuban organizations had the CIA green light turned off in October of 1962, Garrison is convinced it was still a CIA operation until August of 1963, when a large supply of explosives was taken in a raid at Mike McLaney's place, north of the lake, and he is further convinced that in that summer, the CIA was operating with the FBI, that the FBI was fronting for the CIA, because they were operating within the US. Garrison has therefore issued subpoenas to two men who were FBI agents at the time in New Orleans -- one, now apparently retired, Warren de Brueys, and Regis Kennedy, still an FBI agent, and in 1963, a member of Friends of Democratic Cuba.

Garrison now has more of his code deciphering for us. He refers to a number in Oswald's notebook, on page 35 of the notebook, which appears on page 50 of Volume 16 of the Warren exhibits. He says you find there the number 6.3.91-92, and if you apply the letter arrangement ADBC, you then get 6139. He says then Oswald subtracted 4900 from that, 4900 being the block on Magazine Street which Oswald lived, and you get the number 1239, which Garrison says is the last four digits of Clay Shaw's phone number, Clay Shaw's number being 522-1239. Asked how 522 might have been part of that code, Garrison says the first letter after the dash is 9, and if you add 5, 2 and 2 -- it equals 9. He has no explanation for the 2 that follows the 9 that follows the dash.

Garrison now has an unconfirmed lead that Shaw was involved with the shipment of arms to Cuba, and this he will pursue.

Garrison says that the defense has filed its expected motions; he says he isn't bothering to even read it, that they've asked for the evidence to be suppressed, and for the names of his financial backers.

He says he has filed a complaint with the Louisiana Bar Association against the lawyer who has sold a copy of the alleged bribe to Alvin Beauboeuf. He says of all this, the reason bombs are being thrown is because "they are afraid we have something" -- and that it has become much more of a whitewash than he ever realized it would.

This Wednesday or Thursday coming up, he plans to answer the defense motions, and at this time he will put into evidence a memorandum about the numbers in the notebooks and his own deciphering of the code.

Finally, May 8 conversation with Garrison -- He says he is going to head in engaging the opposition before it picks the time and the place. He admits to moving ahead with a certain amount of audacity, but that is the way he is going to win the case.


Richard Billings's NODA Journal

December 1966-January 25, 1967
February 11-March 22, 1967
March 25-April 20, 1967
May 9-18, 1967
May 22-23, 1967
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