Richard Case Nagell, The Man Who Knew Too Much

In April of 1994, which was about a year and a half after my book came out, I came down the stairs one day and heard my answering machine going – and recognized this voice. Picked it up, and sure enough, it was Richard Nagell. He had received some documents I’d sent him, including the Hensen document, and some CIA files about his notebook names. And was calling me, and talking as if no time had passed. Just commenting on these documents, talking about the description of Elrod Henson and the CIA document, the Laredo codename that fit somebody that he’d run into at the time…

“And then, as the conversation went on, it began to seem very strange to me, because he hadn’t even mentioned the fact that I’d written this book, this massive book about him. And finally – I’d also written him a number of letters when I was putting the book together, hoping that he would get back in touch with me at that time. So I said, ‘Dick, I’m really glad to hear from you. But,’ I said, ‘I wrote you a number of letters over the last few years.’ And he said, ‘Oh, really? I think maybe I’ve gotten one or two of them.’ And I said, ‘You are aware that I’ve written a huge, unauthorized biography of you…?’ And he said he had no idea.

“I had sent him the book. And obviously he had never received it – I think he was telling me the truth. He began going on about how the Post Office was still checking on his mail, and somebody was running off with stuff, and he had no idea…

“So I said, ‘I can’t believe none of your friends wouldn’t have told you that this book was out.’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t have that many friends, and the ones I do don’t speak – a lot of them don’t even speak English.

(1) Dick Russell, speech at a conference in Washington (October, 1995)

According to Nagell, Desmond FitzGerald definitely figures into the Oswald saga – to what degree we may never know, except perhaps through a no-holds-barred official inquiry. A Time magazine file would later describe FitzGerald as “one of the most powerful, but least known top officials in Washington.” This was shortly after his death at age fifty-seven, when FitzGerald suddenly collapsed of an apparent heart attack on a country-home Virginia tennis court on July 23, 1967, and died en route to the hospital. At the time he was in charge of all CIA clandestine operations. “Now there is a corpse,” Nagell would write, “that should be exhumed and examined by a qualified pathologist.”

FitzGerald was a charming, well-connected, redheaded Irishman whose roots derived from the same Boston-Irish background as the Kennedys’. He stood about six-foot-two, with strong, rugged features and, like his mentor Alien Dulles, there was often a ready pipe in his mouth. In 1951 FitzGerald joined the CIA. Almost from the beginning he was the agency’s leading spokesman for agents in the field, a staunch advocate of the “can-do” philosophy During the Korean War FitzGerald made his name, smoothly organizing dozens of covert operations from a CIA base in Taiwan. After Korea, FitzGerald moved on to become CIA station chief in the Philippines and then Japan before being appointed the Agency’s Far Eastern Division head. He was known as a scholarly sort with a rapt interest in art – as well as an avid enthusiast of CIA covert operations.

“He grew up in a world where the models were the British,” his daughter Frances was saying as we sat in her book-lined apartment over-looking New York’s East River in the spring of 1992. “You know, the attitude that a whiff of grapeshot would do. He viewed politics in the Third World as a matter of elites, very small elites, so he simply believed you could change things quite a bit by changing the ruler.”

(2) Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1992)

“What were you doing in New Orleans that summer?” I asked. Bishop paused and took a deep breath, pushing his glasses back above his nose. He turned to give a hard look at Gary Shaw. “How far can I really trust him?” Bishop asked, casting a finger in my direction. “Tell him anything you’d tell me,” Shaw replied.

Bishop nodded and continued: “I was to obtain additional funding, say this and no more, from the crime Syndicate out of New Orleans, for Alpha 66. At that point in time, Rolando Masferrer was the key bagman, for lack of a better term, for Alpha 66. Primarily the funding came through the Syndicate, because of Masferrer’s connections with those people back in Cuba. He had ties with Santos Trafficante, Jr., and other criminal elements. Organized crime, pure and simple. He also had different ties with Jimmy Hoffa. As far back as 1962,1 think.

“But Rolando, from time to time when it came to large sums of money, had sticky fingers. I think that’s why he was killed, eventually. Either that, or the Kennedy assassination. Because he knew about it.”

The colonel stopped talking again, sat in silence for a time, then resumed in low tones. “By 1963, the Cuban element – see, Kennedy had gone to Miami, to the Orange Bowl down there, and made this statement that the brigade’s flag would fly over Cuba and all this crap. That was a stopgap. The exiles for a time believed him. Then shortly after that, a presidential executive order came out that no military-style incursions into Cuba based from the United States would be tolerated. The end result was complete distrust and dislike for Kennedy and his administration by the Cuban exiles. You take Tony Varona and Rolando Masferrer to name but two – and there were many, many more – when serious talk began to happen about the possibility of assassinating Kennedy.”

(3) Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1992)

The most intriguing news to come out of the Nassau conference, however, was Escalante’s revelation about what another leader of the Alpha 66 group allegedly told him. As we have seen, Nagell would never reveal the true identities of “Angel” and “Leopoldo” – the two Cuban exiles who he said had deceived Oswald into believing they were Castro operatives. Instead, on several occasions when I prodded him, Nagell had cleverly steered the conversation toward a man named Tony Cuesta – indicating that this individual possessed the knowledge that he himself chose not to express. Cuesta, as noted earlier, had been taken prisoner in Cuba during a raid in 1966.

“Cuesta was blinded (in an explosion) and spent most of his time in the hospital,” Escalante recalled. In 1978, he was among a group of imprisoned exiles released through an initiative of the Carter Administration. “A few days before he was to leave,” according to Escalante, “I had several conversations with Cuesta. He volunteered, ‘I want to tell you something very important, but I do not want this made public because I am returning to my family in Miami – and this could be very dangerous.’ I think this was a little bit of thanks on his part for the medical care he received.”

Escalante said he was only revealing Cuesta’s story because the man had died in Miami in 1994. In a declaration he is said to have written for the Cubans, Cuesta named two other exiles as having been involved in plotting the Kennedy assassination. Their names were Eladio del Valle and Herminio Diaz Garcia.

(4) Dick Russell, The Man Who Knew Too Much (1992)

In late October of last year, author Dick Russell said of Richard Case Nagell, “I would hope, someday… we will finally know everything he knows” about the assassination of President Kennedy. No one knew it at the time, but when Russell spoke those words, Nagell only had about one week to live. The former intelligence agent died on November 1, at the age of 65…

Nagell, who claimed to have had foreknowledge of the JFK assassination and the activities of Lee Oswald, was considered by many to be one of the last people alive with information that could crack the Kennedy case. Indeed, his death has led to speculation that such information may be forthcoming. Dick Russell wrote that Nagell had stashed certain pieces of evidence as “life insurance” that would surface in the event of his death. These were said to include an audio tape recording of a conversation Nagell secretly made of himself, Lee Oswald, and several alleged assassination conspirators, and a photograph of Nagell and Oswald in New Orleans.

Staff members of Probe, the newsletter of the Citizens for Truth about the Kennedy Assassination, report going to Nagell’s apartment as soon as they learned of his death. They write that “the inside door to the apartment was open and one could look inside. By November 4th, the place appeared to be barren. If Nagell left anything of importance behind, it doesn’t seem to have been there.”

(5) John Kelin, Fair Play Magazine (February, 1996)