Monday, April 27, 2015

Shenon - Relevant Excerpts from A Cruel and Shocking Act

Philip Shenon – “A Cruel and Shocking Act – The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination” (Henry Holt, NY, 2013)

“Mexico City’s reputation as a center of Cold War intrigue was cemented by the disclosure that Lee Harvey Oswald had visited the city only several weeks before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Friday, November 22, 1963. Details about Oswald’s Mexico City trip were revealed in news reports published within days of the president’s murder, giving birth to some of the first serious conspiracy theories about foreign involvement in the assassination.”

No it didn’t – Oswald’s visit to Mexico City, just as his defection to the Soviet Union and Fair Play for Cuba (FPCC) activities in New Orleans gave birth to some of the first serious conspiracy theories about CIA involvement in the assassination.

Before being wrongfully forced out of his job at the State Department Charles William Thomas wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rogers that Shenon quotes saying that Oswald’s Mexico City visit “’…threatened to reopen the debate about the true nature of the Kennedy assassination and damage the credibility of the Warren Report….Since I was the embassy officer who acquired this information, I feel a responsibility for seeing it through to its final evaluation…Under the circumstances, it is unlikely that any further investigation of this matter will ever take place unless it is ordered by a high official in Washington.’”

Shenon wrote: “The details of what Thomas had learned were so complex that he felt the need to number each paragraph in the memo. He enclosed several other documents that were full of references to accented Spanish-language names and obscure locations in Mexico City; they offered a complicated time line of long-ago events. His central message, however, was this: the Warren Commission had overlooked – or never had a chance to see – intelligence suggesting that a plot to kill Kennedy might have been hatched, or at least encouraged, by Cuban diplomats and spies stationed in the Mexican capital, and that Oswald was introduced to this nest of spies in September 1963 by a vivacious young Mexican women who was a fellow champion of Castro’s revolution. The women, Thomas was told, had briefly been Oswald’s mistress in Mexico City.”

“In the body of the memo, he identified, by name, the principal source of his information: Elena Garro de Paz, a popular and critically acclaimed Mexican novelist of the 1960s….She revealed – reluctantly, Thomas said – that she had encountered Oswald at a party of Castro sympathizers during his visit in the fall of 1963.”
“It had been a ‘twist party’ – Chubby Checker’s hit song was wildly popular in Mexico too – and Oswald was not the only American there, Garro said. He had been in the company of two young ‘beatnik” American men. ‘The three were evidently friends, because she saw them by chance the next day walking down the street together,’ Thomas wrote. At the party, Oswald wore a black sweater and ‘tended to be silent and stared a lot at the floor.’ Garro recalled. She did not talk to any of the Americans or learn their names. She said she learned Oswald’s  name only after seeing his photograph in Mexican newspapers and on television after the assassination.”

“The title of this book is drawn from the first line of the introduction to the commission’s final report: ‘The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963, was a cruel and shocking act of violence directed against a man, a family, a nation, and against all mankind.’”

“But while A Cruel and Shocking Act began as an attempt to write the first comprehensive inside history of the Warren Commission, it has become something much larger and, I believe, more important. In many ways, this book is an account of my discovery of how much of the truth about the Kennedy assassination has still not been told, and how much of the evidence about the president’s murder was covered up or destroyed – shredded, incinerated, or erased – before it could reach the commission.”

“Senior officials at both the CIA and FBI hid information from the panel, apparently in hopes of concealing just how much they had known about Lee Harvey Oswald and the threat that he posed. As this book will reveal for the first time, important witnesses to events surrounding the assassination were ignored or were threatened into silence. The reporting for this book has taken me to places and introduced me to people I would never have imagined would be so important to understanding President Kennedy’s death.”

“I became a victim of the dual curse faced by anyone who tries to get closer to the truth about the assassination – too little information and too much. I made the astonishing, nearly simultaneous discovery of how much vital evidence about President Kennedy’s murder has disappeared and also of how much has been preserved. There is now so much material in the public record about the assassination, including literally millions of pages of once-secret government files, that no reporter or scholar can claim to have seen it all. While collections of evidence have still not been adequately reviewed by researchers, almost exactly fifty years after the events they describe. I was the first researcher, for example, to be given full access to the papers of Charles Thomas, including the record of his struggle to get colleagues to pay attention to the astonishing story of Oswald and the ‘twist party’ in Mexico City, and I did not see the material until 2013.”

“On the subject of the assassination, history will be far kinder to the commission’s surviving staff lawyers, as well as its former in-house historian, who reveal in this book what really happened inside the Warren Commission….Many however, were outraged to discover how much evidence they were never permitted to see. It is evidence, they know, that is still rewriting the history of the Kennedy assassination.”

“On Sunday, November 24, 1963, the day of Oswald’s murder and two days after Kennedy’s assassination, Hoover told Walter Jenkins, one of Johnson’s top aides at the White House, that the FBI intended to prepare a report that would ‘convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.’”

“FBI legal attache Clark Anderson….had been the same FBI agent in charge of the local investigation of Oswald’s activities in Mexico City…”

“Elena Garro said she thought the party had taken place on Monday, September 30, 1063, or on one of the two following days; Tuesday, October 1, or Wednesday, October 2, she recalled thinking how unusual it was to have a dance party on a week day. There had been about thirty people at the party, which was held at the home of Ruben Duran, Silvia’s brother-in-law. It was about ten thirty p.m., she said, that ‘three young, white Americans arrived at the party. They were greeted by Silvia Duran and spoke only to her. They more or less isolated themselves from the rest of the party and, insofar as she observed, they had no conversation with anyone else.’ Garro said the Americans ‘appeared to be between 22 and 24 years of age….One of his two American companions was ‘about six feet tall, had blond, straight hair, a long chin, and was a bit ‘beatnik’ in appearance.”

“Anderson sent his report to Washington on December 11 and, his files suggest, did nothing more…Anderson drew no final conclusion in the report but suggested that the Garros were simply mistaken about seeing Oswald. It was a judgement based largely on the fact that Oswald would not have been in Mexico City on two of the three possible dates offered by Elena Garro for the party, assuming that he was also seen on the street the next day.”

Anderson: “It is noted that investigation has established that Lee Harvey Oswald departed Mexico City by bus at 8:30 A.M. ON Oct. 2, 1963, and could not have been identical with the American allegedly observed by Mrs. Paz at the party if this party were held on the evening of Oct. 1 or Oct. 2.”

“In 1992, Congress established the Assassinations Records Review Board to speed up the declassification of virtually all records related to the Kennedy assassination. The board forced the CIA to make public some of the records of the informants network maintained by (Win) Scott and his colleagues in Mexico City. On the list of Scott’s informants was a former Mexican Interior Ministry official, Manuel Calvillo,….who, immediately after the assassination, contacted the Garros to urge them to go into hiding. If their account to Charles Thomas was true, it meant that the Mexican official who told Elena Garro and her daughter to say nothing to anyone about Oswald – about Silvia Duran, about the party , about Oswald’s to ‘beatnik’ traveling companions – was also working for the CIA.*”

- Note “CIA records identified Calvillo as an ‘unwitting’ agent of the CIA, suggesting that he did not know that his handler worked for the agency…..”

“I tracked down Elena Garro’s daughter, Helena Paz, now seventy-four years old and living in a medical care facility an hour’s drive outside Mexico City….to ask if she stood by her account – and her mother’s – that they had both encountered Oswald and the two American ‘beatniks,’ as well as Silvia Duran, at the ‘twist party.’ She did. ‘What she said in the 1960s is the truth,’ the cousin reported back to us. ‘It is still true.’”

“She (Duran) said she remembered the dance party described by Elena Garro and that Oswald was not there. She recalled that there were Americans at the party, including an American ‘movie star’ she would not identify, saying that she thought the actor was still alive and she did not want to create trouble for him….”
“But Lidia did have a clear memory of something Siliva had told her in confidence decades ago – that, despite all of Silvia’s claims to the contrary, she had gone out on at least one date in Mexico City with Oswald. According to Lidia, a smitten Oswald invited Silvia to a lunch date at a Sanborns restaurant close to the Cuban consulate. (She distinctly remembers it was a Sanborns…)

“In June 2013…..I located two men – both prominent Mexican newspapermen, both friendly with Silva Duran in the 1960s – who would blow much larger holes in her story. The first, Oscar Contreras, a columnist for the Mexican newspaper El Manana, was the same journalist who came forward in 1967 to report that, while he was a law student and prominent Castro sympathizer at a Mexican City university four years earlier, he had spent time with Oswald, who had wanted his help to obtain a Cuban visa. That much of the story Contreras had told many years before. But what he said in 2013 went much further and suggested far more extensive contacts between Oswald and Cuban agents in Mexico – Contacts that Duran said never occurred. Contreras said that he not only encountered Oswald at the university; he also saw him again at a reception a few days later at the Cuban embassy. ‘I saw him at a distance, talking to people,’ said Contreras, who said he did not approach Oswald at the reception because of warnings from Cuban friends that he might be some sort of CIA plant. Whey had Contreras not old American officials?...they never asked.”

“And then we found arguably the most important, most credible witness of all – Ellena Garro’s nephew Francisco Guerrero Garro, a prominent Mexican newspaperman who had been a twenty-three year old university student at the time of the Kennedy assassination and who has kept his silence for a half a century about what he knew about Lee Harvey Oswald. Guerrero, now seventy-three,…said he had been at the party where his aunt had encountered Oswald and Silvia Duran. In fact,  he had driven his aunt and his mother – Deva Guerrero, Elena’ sister – to the party. And he said he is certain that he saw Oswald, too. ‘He was standing there next to the chimney,’ Guerrero said. ‘His face was unmistakable….he was very gloomy. He was just standing there looking at the people, like scrutinizing people….I can swear he was there.’”
“There is no absolute proof in the archives of the CIA or the Mexican government that Silvia Duran was anyone’s spy, although there was clearly plenty of suspicion about it in 1963 and 1964. Duran insists today, as she has in the past, that she spent no time with Oswald outside of the four walls of the Cuban consulate. But if Duran has been telling the truth all these years, many, many people must have lied, including people who were her relatives and once close friends, some of whom are still alive today. And half a century later, why would they still be lying?”

“The credibility of the people I have tracked down in Mexico for this book is enhanced by the fact that they have not tried, like so many in the United States and elsewhere, to profit from what they knew about the president’s assassin. They have not written tell-all books or attempted to sell interviews. The same is true for the survivors of Charles Williams Thomas. His widow, Cynthia, and other members of his family have refused for decades to talk to journalists about what happened to a fine man whose cherished career, and then whose life, ended so cruelly for reasons that have never been fully understood. I am honored that all of these people would take the risk of talking to me, with no promise of anything but my commitment to try to determine if what Elena Garro told Charles Thomas all those years ago was true – that Lee Harvey Oswald was invited by Siliva Duran to a dance party in Mexico City attended by Cuban diplomats and spies, as well as Mexican supporters of Castro’s government, and that some of the guests had spoken openly of their hope that someone would assassinate President John F. Kennedy, if only to ensure the survival of the revolution in Cuba that Kennedy had been so desperate to crush. ‘The fact is we saw Oswald at the party,’ Francisco Guerrero Garro insists today. ‘We me and saw and spoke with someone who then went and killed the president of the United States.”

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