before the Assassination Records Review Board
Hearing of 3/24/95 — Boston, Massachusetts
Next, the board would like to hear from Dick Russell. Mr. Russell is the author of the 1992 book The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Mr. Russell, we appreciate your joining us today.
MR. RUSSELL: Thank you, Mr. Tunheim.
I guess I would like to address my remarks primarily about the board’s power to subpoena witnesses which I understand you have and also to obtain records that might otherwise be unavailable about very important individuals under the privacy act provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, which I believe should be pursued.
As you said, I’m the author of The Man Who Knew Too Much, which is an 824-page book about the assassination. I am a long-time investigative journalist.
The book was the product of some 17 years of research and led me to the inescapable conclusion that a conspiracy existed that went beyond the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, and his own slayer, Jack Ruby.
The primary subject of this book is a man named Richard Case Nagell, a former military intelligence officer and CIA contract agent who was involved with Oswald when both were stationed in Japan in 1957 and ’58 and later during the 1962 and ’63 period in Dallas, New Orleans, Mexico City, and perhaps elsewhere.
There is ample documentation on Mr. Nagell’s intelligence career to convince me that, as far as he has been willing to reveal himself, he has told the truth and that, indeed, he may be the most important living witness to the events leading up to the tragedy of November 22, 1963.
In brief, Mr. Nagell maintains that he sought to warn both the FBI, in the form of a registered letter to Director Hoover on September 17, 1963, and the CIA, specifically Desmond Fitzgerald’s office of the special affairs staff of the CIA, of an assassination plot involving Oswald and two Cuban exile associates who used the code names of Angel and Leopoldo.
At the time, Mr. Nagell was working as a double-agent and had connections to the Soviet KGB and/or GRU intelligence services, as well as Cuban intelligence, possibly Japanese intelligence, and the CIA.
The intent of the conspirators, according to Mr. Nagell, was to pin the blame on Castro’s Cuba and spark an invasion of the island, and he has stated that Oswald was falsely convinced that he was working on Castro’s behalf.
Now, here, for example, is an FBI document that already exists concerning Mr. Nagell, dated December 20, 1963, where he states that he had met Oswald in Mexico City and in Texas.
This is a Secret Service document that was withheld for many, many years — finally, it was released, I guess, in the 1970s — which states that one of the Secret Service agents interviewed Marina Oswald for approximately two hours on January 18, 1964, concerning Richard Case Nagell.
I don’t believe that the transcript or any notes on that interview have ever been made publicly available, and I think that they should be.
I just want to read very briefly from one of the other statements which would lead you to perhaps seeking out these documents.
This is an affidavit that Richard Nagell swore in 1975 which states that, in September 1963, the exact date of which he was capable of verifying, he dispatched a letter via registered mail to J. Edgar Hoover, with a return address in Mexico, mailed within the United States.
The letter was neatly typewritten and composed in the style and format used by operational personnel of the CIA in writing their reports.
In this letter, he states that he advised Mr. Hoover of a conspiracy, although he did not use that word, to assassinate the President of the United States involving Lee Harvey Oswald, indicating the attempt would take place in the latter part of September 1963, originally.
He said I furnished a complete and accurate physical description of Mr. Oswald, listing his true name, two of his aliases, his residence address, and other pertinent facts about him.
I disclosed sufficient data about the conspiracy, citing an overt act which constituted a violation of Federal law, to warrant an immediate investigation if not the arrest of Mr. Oswald.
I signed the letter with the name Joseph Kramer, an alias of a known Communist or Soviet agent then residing in Canada and also an alias that I had used during my meetings with two FBI agents in January of 1963 in Miami.
I am willing to undergo a polygraph examination relative to any and all statements made herein.
Now, I am aware that substantial government files exist pertaining to Mr. Nagell and his activities with the CIA, the FBI, the State Department, Secret Service, U.S. Passport Office, and at the Army Records Intelligence Repository Center in Fort Holabird, Maryland.
Mr. Nagell has previously obtained his lengthy CIA and FBI files under the Freedom of Information Act, and since he has been quoted publicly in books, magazine articles, and newspapers that he was cognizant of Oswald and an assassination plot, I believe it is in the public interest to waive any privacy act restrictions and review for release the records maintained on him by these agencies.
I think it would also be important, as has been pointed out by Ms. McMillan, to request of representatives of the KGB and/or the GRU any files they have retained on Mr. Nagell, as he also says that he wrote and signed a confession while incarcerated by Soviet authorities during the summer of 1968.
Files on him may also exist with Cuban intelligence and Japanese intelligence, which was known at the time as the Cabinet Research Office.
He stated that Oswald, while a Marine in Japan, met with a Colonel Nikolai Eroshkin, whom it has been verified was, indeed, at the Soviet Embassy in Tokyo as an intelligence agent at the time, and with Professor Chikao Fujisawa.
These people, too, I believe, should be sought information about through the files.
I listed, and I won’t read them here, but that any file search into him should also involve researching his various aliases, and I think that’s something that should be done with other witnesses, as well, who have used pseudonyms, because files may exist under those names.
It should be noted that he himself has said that he used the aliases of Alek Hiddell, which was the alias that Oswald used, indicating that that was an alias used by more than one person as part of some kind of intelligence operation.
I have listed other files in my testimony that I’ve submitted to you that I won’t read here but indicating where he has said they would be available, and I would say about him, too, that although a concerted effort was made by various government agencies to portray him in a light that would cast doubt upon his veracity, a thorough search of these records would indicate otherwise and that any release of material pertinent to the assassination would not be complete, in my opinion, without the Nagell material.
He is still alive. He lives in the Los Angeles area. He has indicated to me in the past that, if he was ever subpoenaed by a government agency, he would be willing to testify.
Even though the Warren Commission knew about him, as well as the House Committee on Assassinations, for reasons best known to those members, he was never called.
I would urge the review board to use its powers of subpoena to call Mr. Nagell for testimony.
It would also be pertinent to examine records for information on Oswald’s alleged associates, Angel and Leopoldo, both of whom were also identified by Sylvia Odio as visitors to her apartment in September of 1963.
These two individuals were reportedly associated with the Cuban exile group ALPHA-66 in Mexico City and elsewhere, as well as JURE and the MRP, or Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo.
Mr. Nagell referred on several occasions to the late Antonio or Tony Cuesta, a Cuban exile leader, as an individual who may have had association with these conspirators.
I believe I have mentioned to you before, and I hope this came up at the Kennedy Library yesterday, that there is a file there on Cuban exiles which has never been released to the public, and I feel it would be very pertinent to your investigation.
Since the first assassination plot against the President originated in Mexico City at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, CIA files originating there might contain information about this.
Pertinent here would be CIA material on the Hotel Luna, its proprietor, and in particular, a head waiter named Franz Waehauf.
I would urge the review board to obtain the complete autobiographical manuscript of former CIA station chief Winston Scott, which was taken out of Mexico City shortly after his death in 1969 by the CIA’s counterintelligence chief, James Angleton.
I think pertinent here, too, and something that should be looked at is the possibility that there was an intelligence operation surrounding Oswald that may have had nothing to do with the assassination itself but may have concerned CIA interests in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and also CIA interest in the possibility that they had been penetrated by an agent of the other side and that they were observing Oswald, monitoring his contacts to see if this so-called mole search would turn up anything. It’s a vast area. Obviously, James Angleton’s files would contain a great deal about it.
I named other individuals here that are rather obscure that I won’t go into again, but Mr. Nagell has stated that a young Trotskyite from the San Antonio area named Harry L. Power left behind a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, much like Oswald’s, in an Indiana hotel room immediately after the assassination.
This has been verified from other sources. There have even been newspaper articles about this fellow, and files on Harry Power should be scrutinized.
I also think that records pertaining to far-right extremists should be examined closely, and I will mention specifically the H.L. Hunt oil family in Texas. Mr. Hunt, of course, is no longer alive, but his sons are.
I was told by two different employees of the Hunt oil family — one of them told me that the first copy of the Zapruder film was, in fact, purchased not by Life magazine but by the Hunt oil family, and I think they should be questioned about what happened to it, because it may have contained different footage than we have ever seen.
I was told by another employee of the Hunt oil family that Mr. Hunt asked him directly to check out the security around Oswald in the Dallas jail on the Saturday after the assassination, that he did so, reported back to Mr. Hunt that there was very little security, in fact one could get close to Oswald, and of course, the next day, Jack Ruby, who had visited the Hunt oil offices on the 17th of November, shot Lee Harvey Oswald.
I would be willing to turn over to the Committee a collection of private papers from the H.L. Hunt family, which I obviously could not say how I obtained but which reveal that they conducted an ongoing investigation into what Jim Garrison was doing in 1967.
In other words, they were doing a private investigation at the time, trying to see if the Garrison investigation would point to them.
There are other individuals whose files should be looked at and who should be called.
John Thomas Masen, I believe, is still alive in the Dallas area. I did an article in the Village Voice a number of years ago which recounted the story of an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent named Frank Ellsworth, who told me of arresting Masen shortly before the assassination.
He was an arms dealer, a member of the Minute Men close to the Hunt oil family and Cuban exiles and, in fact, looked so much like Oswald that, when Frank Ellsworth was called into the police station on the afternoon of the assassination, he thought that he had arrested and then he released Masen before the assassination, the man who had shot the President.
Larry Schmidt is another individual who should be looked at. He was very close to General Walker, his brother worked for Walker, and I was told on very good authority –in fact, General Walker himself told me before he died that he suspected that the Schmidt brothers, who were very right-wing, may have been involved with Oswald in the shooting attempt against him.
I also think, finally, that — and I don’t know how you go about this exactly, because it’s a vast field, and many of the files have been destroyed — but there is a possibility that Oswald could have been under some kind of hypnotic control, as far out as that may seem.
We know of the existence of a CIA program called MK-Ultra and of military intelligence programs along the same line, where efforts were made to control and manipulate human behavior.
When I took passages from Ms. McMillan’s book about Oswald’s behavior patterns in, particularly, February before he shot Walker or attempted to shoot Walker, apparently, and in July of ’63, one of the leading experts on hypnosis in this country told me that the description in that book is a classic example of what is called a hypnotic abreaction.
Oswald was stationed then at Atsugi, of course, in Japan, where LSD work was known to be going on.
There have been all kinds of rumors about this over the years, and I’ve researched this rather extensively and feel there is, indeed, a possibility that something like this could have been employed with Oswald.
Bill Alexander, who was the Assistant DA in Dallas at the time, told me that he believed that “the Manchurian Candidate” theory was a viable one almost immediately after the assassination.
I would, finally, just like to thank you for your consideration of these requests in order that the American people might finally come to know the truth about what happened in Dallas, because I believe that, until this happens, we will remain unable to reclaim the heritage that made this Nation what it was.
This great trauma of modern American history has affected all aspects of our political and social life. Our democracy has never really recovered from the assassination and the terrible events that followed in the ’60s, including the assassinations of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy.
John F. Kennedy once foresaw, prophetically, that “We shall have to test anew whether a nation organized and governed such as ours can endure. The outcome is by no means certain.”
And today, I am afraid we live in a nation far removed from the new frontier that President Kennedy envisioned. We see racism, poverty, homelessness, drugs, and violence permeating our republic and the seeds of a government completely removed from the real concerns of the people, with control concentrated in the hands of a powerful few, I believe, were planted on the day of the Kennedy assassination.
The assassination remains a gaping wound in our national psyche. Tens of thousands of documents are still being withheld by various Federal agencies, and I would simply call, finally, for full disclosure.
Thank you very much.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Russell.
DR. HALL: Mr. Russell, would you know the scope and character of the records that Mr. Nagell has in his personal possession?
MR. RUSSELL: I have never seen most of the records that he has in his personal possession. I know that, in the 1980s, he fought for a long time to get his CIA files and finally did, and then his FBI files.
He did tell me, in 1984, which was the last time I saw him in person, that these files of the FBI contained what he called false information linking him to Sam Giancana and John Roselli, two of the mobsters who were involved in the anti-Castro plots with the CIA.
I don’t know exactly why he told me that, whether it’s true or false. He said he did know Roselli, and he had met Giancana once.
And I know that — Army intelligence, I believe, has — I have a lawyer in Washington who has been seeking some of those files, and that apparently some 900 pages of Army intelligence files about him have been found and could be, certainly, releasable.
DR. HALL: Can you better inform us on those, those materials? Is this something with which we are familiar, the 900 pages?
MR. RUSSELL: I haven’t seen them yet. I have simply been told that they have responded to this attorney to the effect that these records exist and that one would be charged X amount per page for them.
They did do another release earlier this year of some records about him, and there have been a few items coming out in the new releases from the CIA and the FBI.
I will certainly be glad to inform you of anything further when I find out about it.
DR. HALL: That would be very helpful.
Mr. Chairman, I just have one other question.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Go ahead.
DR. HALL: I must say the State of Massachusetts clearly either has short legislators or it has a very powerful chiropractic lobby here. These chairs, I think, were designed for others, other than human beings.
The thrust of my question to you about Nagell and the materials he has is not so much the materials that were created on him which he has now gained possession of but whether he has any governmental materials in his possession that relate to matters other than — and especially anything that would relate to MK-Ultra or to the operations of the CIA outside the United States.
MR. RUSSELL: I doubt that he would have anything on MK-Ultra, but I would think that he would information relating to activities outside the United States of the intelligence agencies.
I know — he has told me that there is a photograph — this isn’t pertaining to the assassination directly, but in a bank vault in another country, there is a faded Polaroid photograph of himself with Oswald in Jackson Square in New Orleans, that perhaps somewhere a tape recording of a discussion between Oswald, Nagell, and two conspirators exists.
I know that the Garrison investigation tried to get it, but the man that they sent happened to be a CIA agent himself. He was an infiltrator on the Garrison staff, apparently.
Nagell claimed that this tape recording didn’t exist, but he has also hinted that it may still exist, so, and certainly, he would have ample records on activities in Japan, Mexico City, and elsewhere where he operated.
DR. HALL: Do you think he would testify without a grant of immunity?
MR. RUSSELL: I think he should be granted immunity. If he were offered immunity, I believe he would probably do it.
DR. HALL: Thank you very much.
DR. JOYCE: Mr. Russell, I am wondering — you have mentioned a variety of names and aliases this morning, and I’m wondering if you have any certain knowledge of records in government agencies or even in private hands pertaining to any of them that have not been released.
MR. RUSSELL: Concerning aliases in general of the various individuals?
DR. JOYCE: Well, concerning any of the people whom you have mentioned either by their name, their alias, or even a cryptonym or something of that nature.
MR. RUSSELL: Well, nothing comes immediately to mind, but certainly, a number of people who have come up over the years as having possible knowledge of the assassination have used aliases.
One example that I can think of is this fellow that I interviewed who is now dead, Colonel William Bishop, who maintained that he had some knowledge of the assassination ahead of time and used the name John Adrian O’Hare, and the there was this whole thing — well, did O’Hare die in 1975 and Bishop live on or — I mean it’s a very murky world, as you know, and certainly, cryptonyms are very important.
AM/LASH comes to mind, which was the cryptonym for Rolando Cubela, who was involved in the assassination plots against Castro.
I think there must be — in fact, there’s been released now a long list of CIA cryptonomic programs, and of course, it’s a lengthy process to go into that and find out who was involved in all these operations, but if I do think of anything further directly about people’s aliases, I will let you know.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Mr. Russell, did you ever attempt to gain information from any Japanese sources, Japanese government sources, in particular?
I never went to Japan myself. I know that, during the course of the FRONTLINE investigation, a researcher whom I know did spend some time tracking down people in Japan and wasn’t really able to come up with much. I don’t know if he looked in the right places. I mean Japan is very secretive about all this.
You know, they sent an investigator of their own to this country, named Atsuyuki Sassa, I believe, immediately after the assassination, to try to find out what the American government was looking at, and I personally think that there may be some very interesting material in Japan.
Exactly where you would look — as I said, I know that the intelligence agency there, the CIA’s counterpart, was called the Cabinet Research Office, and I think they should be requested to see what they have on Oswald.
He was stationed there, of course, for a long time. The Japanese police, I’m told, surveilled him, took pictures of him outside the Soviet Embassy in Tokyo on occasion when he walked in, and I definitely think it would be a fertile area for pursuit.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Russell. We very much appreciate your expertise and sharing information with us.