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Gaeton Fonzi Interview
26 April 1996 with Steve Bochan

[Interview focuses on the Silvia Odio incident]


The following conversation with Gaeton Fonzi took place in Fonzi's home in Miami, Florida on 4/26/96.  Present were Gaeton Fonzi, G Winslow and Steve Bochan.  Speakers are designated as follows: GF = Gaeton Fonzi; GW = G Winslow; SB = Steve Bochan, and some editing took place to clarify and/or eliminate repetition.

No questions or answers were discussed ahead of time and the interview took place as a casual conversation.


SB: Out of curiosity, and for the benefit of the people who haven't read your book, THE LAST INVESTIGATION, can you describe how you became interested, before the HSCA investigation, in the JFK assassination?

GF: Yes, I wrote about it in the book. I was working for Philadelphia Magazine at the time and Arlen Specter happened to be a Philadelphian.  Vince Salandria was a local lawyer who wrote an article in The Legal Intelligencer about the Warren Commission Report, specifically about the shots and trajectories and the head hit, which was the area in which Arlen Specter work. I remember thinking that Salandria has to be some crackpot, telling everybody that the Warren Commission Report might be wrong.  So I decided to an article for Philadelphia Magazine about this crackpot lawyer who said the Warren Commission might be wrong.  And that's how I got involved.  After I interviewed Salandria and studied the Warren Commission Report I became convinced that Salandria wasn't a crackpot and, then, after interviewing and questioning Arlen Specter, I also became convinced that the Warren Commission Report was in fact, not the truth.

SB: What was it, in particular about Arlen Specter, that you ...

GF: His inability to explain the single bullet theory.

SB: I think he admitted to you, you mention it in the book I think, that there were some problems with it, or words to that effect, didn't he?

GF: They had some problems with explaining how come there was a hole in the back of his jacket and shirt, about 6 inches down from the collar...

[On page 27 of THE LAST INVESTIGATION, Fonzi's encounter with Arlen Specter is described as follows:]

The photographs of the shirt worn by the President shows a hole in the back consistent with the one in the jacket, about five-and-three-quarter inches below the top of the collar and one-and-one-eighth inches to the right of the middle.  The discrepancy is obvious.

The locations of both these holes are inconsistent with the wound below the back of the right ear described in the Commission's autopsy report.

I'll never forget asking Specter about that as I sat in his City Hall office in Philadelphia. (It was about a year after he had returned from his Warren Commission job; he had recently been elected District Attorney.)

"Well," he said, "that difference is accounted for because the President is waving his arm."  He got up from his desk and attempted to demonstrate his explanation on me, pulling my arm up high over my head.  "Wave your arm a few times," he said, "wave at the crowd."  He was standing behind me now, jabbing a finger into the base of my neck.  "Well, see, if the bullet goes in here, the jacket gets hunched up.  If you take this point right here and then you strip the coat down, it comes out at a lower point."

A lower point?

"Well, not too much lower on your example, but the jacket rides up."

If the jacket were "hunched up," I asked, wouldn't there have been two holes as a result of the doubling over of the cloth?

"No, not necessarily.  It ... it wouldn't be doubled over.  When you sit in the car it could be doubled over at most any point, but the probabilities are that ... aaah ... that it gets ... that ... aaah ... this ... this is about the way the jacket rides up.  You sit back ... sit back now ... all right now ... if ... usually, as your jacket lies there, the doubling is right up here, but if ... but if you have a bullet hit you right about here, which is where I had it, where your jacket sits ... it's not ... it ordinarily doesn't crease that far back."

What about the shirt?

"Same thing."

Was Specter saying there was no inconsistency between the Commission's location of the wound and the holes in the clothing?

"No, not at all.  That gave us a lot of concern.  First time we lined up the shirt ... after all, we lined up the shirt ... and the hole in the shirt is right about, right about the knot of the tie, came right about here in the slit in the front ... "

But where did it go in the back?

"Well, the back hole, when the shirt is laid down, comes ... aah ... well, I forget exactly where it came, but it certainly wasn't higher, enough higher to ... aah ... understand the ... aah ... the angle of decline which ..."

Was it lower?  Was it lower than the slit in the front?

"Well, I think that ... that if you took the shirt without allowing for its being pulled up, that it would either have been in line or somewhat lower."

Somewhat LOWER?

"Perhaps.  I ... I don't want to say because I don't really remember.  I got to take a look at that shirt."

SB: Supposedly that was the so-called "hunched up" jacket and "hunched up" shirt theory ...

GF: Yeah, so that's what got me interested, really.

I did a few articles for Philadelphia Magazine on the Kennedy assassination.  The first one of course was on Arlen Specter.

And then when I moved down here, a friend of mine - a reporter -
had stopped in to see a friend of his who was Schweiker's administrative assistant.  Schweiker was on the Church Committee at the time and had convinced Church to set up a subcommittee on the Kennedy assassination, which Schweiker headed.  (Gary Hart was co-chairman but he didn't take much interest in it.)  And my friend and Schweiker's assistant started talking about Schweiker's interest in the Kennedy assassination and the fact that he was getting more interested in the relationship between the CIA and the anti-Castro Cubans, while the Church Committee investigators were concentrating on the pro-Castro angle.

Being that Schweiker's anti-Castro interest effort was focused on Miami, my friend Greg said, "Well, Gaeton's in Miami," and as a result of that I got a call from Schweiker's man, Dave Newhall, a former Philadelphia reporter whom I had known.  Newhall called me said he had a few things to check out in the Miami area and would I have the time to check them out.

I said, "Sure, how long will it take?" and he said, "just a couple of weeks."  (laughter)

SB: A couple of weeks?

GF: A couple of weeks turned into three years.

SB: One of the devices you use to both open and close the book which was very powerful, I thought, and probably very powerful for those of us who have been to Dealey Plaza, was your description of your emotions when you went there.  You stood in the middle of Elm Street and became overwhelmed with what happened there and, you wrote, "Right here ... is where a man died. ... A man's life ended."

That's very dramatic and anyone who has been to Dealey Plaza knows that feeling and I thought it was both moving and effective to begin and end the book that way.

Is that also what finally made you determined to go into this, after you went there and stood in the middle of Elm Street, contemplating the gravity of that crime?

GF: Well, no.  I wrote that in the context of having worked with the Committee.  I went to Dealey Plaza back in the '60s when I first did the article for Philadelphia Magazine, and I really didn't have a full grasp of the whole Kennedy assassination at that point.  But it was still a very moving thing to see.

But what really got to me is when I got there, and after having worked with the Committee, having been in Washington, and having been involved in so much of this bureaucratic charade, as it were, and then coming to Dealey Plaza and it made me think, 'My God what are we doing?  What have they been doing in Washington playing with all these documents and everything?'

And here they were getting ready to turn out a report that was going to tell the American people that we did a thorough and complete investigation and I knew that wasn't the case.

It just made me realize that they forgot the basic point here that a man was killed.  A man was killed ...

SB: Some of your critics on the Internet and on CompuServe are very quick to point out that you came into the investigation already determined to prove a conspiracy. In other words, they'll say, 'Well you know, Gaeton Fonzi wasn't really an objective investigator - he had already made up his mind that there was a conspiracy,' etc.  A counter argument, of course, is that Blakey himself was already determined to bring the Mafia into the assassination, and of course, Earl Warren was determined to blame it all on Lee Harvey Oswald.  How would you react to that criticism that you had already made up your mind with regard to there being a conspiracy in the JFK assassination?

GF: It's true.  I had already made up my mind years ago as a result of the investigation and as a result of the work I had already done on the Kennedy assassination.  Especially as a result of the interviews with Arlen Specter; that the single bullet theory didn't hold water.  And once that conclusion is reached, there is a conspiracy.

But, as an investigator involving areas that really had nothing to do with whether or not there was a conspiracy - because we certainly wouldn't have been conducting the investigation on the basis (like the Warren Commission did) that Oswald alone did it. But as long as you don't angle your approach or deliberately attempt to manipulate your questioning or narrow your perspective, it's really is irrelevant when you are interviewing people and when you're digging up information.

The other point is that I had nothing to do with controlling the direction of the investigation: I mean that was Blakey's job.  And even at that point, I don't think the question of conspiracy or non-conspiracy is relevant here.  If we were going to accept the Warren Commission Report as the final word, there would have been no need for an investigation.

SB: Do you keep in contact with Blakey; do you talk to him ever?

GF: (laughter)  No, I haven't talked to ah, Bob Blakey ...

SB: Did you part on good terms?

GF: Yeah, basically I like the guy.  You know, we just have a difference of opinion I guess, when it comes to whether or not the investigation was a full and complete investigation as the report claims it was.

I don't have any personal animosity towards Blakey or anything.

SB: Getting into Silvia Odio, in the book, you relate how disappointed you were that they didn't ask her to testify, but, who's ultimate decision was that - was that Blakey who decided that the time was running out, the budget was running out, etc.?  It almost sounded like the Warren Commission's Rankin saying that they were supposed to be closing doors, not opening them...

GF: Yeah, it was Blakey's decision to spend the time in the public hearings on organized crime.  Now he will say, 'but, we put everything on the record,' and that's true.  But the impact that would have had on the American public, I think, would have been tremendous.  And it was his decision to limit the public hearings to those areas that he wanted to cover.

SB: How did Silvia Odio react to that?  I remember you described her gaining trust and confidence in you, the time that that took to do that, and so forth, and then when she was finally ready ...

GF: Oh, yeah, she was terribly disillusioned, and bitter.  I mean, because she really had to psyche herself up into coming forward.  Jim McDonald and I spent a long afternoon convincing her that this is what she really should do; that the American people should know her story directly from her for the first time.  And on the basis of her trusting us, she said, 'okay, I'll do it,' but she really didn't want to do it; she was a very emotional person to begin with; she had arranged to take off work and her husband arranged to take off work because she needed his support; and then all of a sudden the rug is pulled out from under her.  She was terribly disillusioned.

SB: Were you the one who had to tell her that it wasn't going to happen?

GF:  Oh yeah.

SB: That had to have been difficult, especially after working with her, ...

GW: Why didn't they let her testify?

GF: Because they were going to continue the hearings; they cut out the anti-Castro element of the public hearings.  She did testify, you know, took a deposition.  But this involved the public hearings which was the public's perception of what the Committee was doing.

SB: She made a remark to you, and you used it in the book, and she also made it back in '64, I believe, that the American people 'don't really want to know, that they don't really want to know the truth,' or words to that effect.  What do you think she meant by that?

GF: I think from her own experience, how she felt used.  She was first approached by the FBI, and then by the Warren Commission and then by the House Assassination Committee, and all they kept telling her basically that she was a liar.  And she was totally disgusted with the whole response to her testimony.  She didn't come forward, initially.  She would have never come forward. It was only as a result of Connell's telling the FBI about it...

Here, according to the transcript of my interview with her, has this been made public, by the way?

SB: The thing about Liebeler?  Yes.

GF:  (Reading from his transcript:)

She wonders why, after she was questioned by the FBI, they waited so long to call her back.  It wasn't until the middle of the summer that Liebeler came to Dallas to question her.

She asked how candid she could be with me and I said I wished she would be totally candid.  She said she could say something but she's afraid she could get in trouble because it would be only her word, although she would swear to it.  She said she hasn't told this to anyone except a Mr. Martin Phillips who came to talk to her about putting her on Dan Rather's CBS assassination special television show.  She refused to go on that show but she did talk to Phillips.  She said she told part of this story to Phillips but has never mentioned it to anyone else.

She said that after Liebeler questioned her for the second time that day (the first interrogation started at 9 a.m.; the second at 6:30 p.m.) he asked her out to dinner.  "That surprised me, but I was afraid and I went.  We didn't go out alone.  We went out with someone who was supposed to be Marina Oswald's lawyer.  I don't remember his name, but Mr. Phillips from CBS knew.  We went to the Sheraton to eat dinner. I thought perhaps there was something behind it and there was a kind of double talk at the table between the lawyer and him.  I wasn't sure they wanted me to hear the conversation or they wanted to convince me of something or wanted me to volunteer something.  He (Liebeler) kept threatening me with a lie detector test also, even though he knew I was under tremendous stress at the time.  But one thing he said, and this has always bothered me, he said this to this other gentleman, I don't remember his name, he said, 'Well, you know if we do find out that this is a conspiracy you know that we have orders from Chief Justice Warren to cover this thing up.'  (I asked: Liebeler said that?)  "Yes, sir, I could swear on that."  At the time, she said she thought that maybe it was a bait for her because she had the feeling that they thought she was hiding something more, that she was involved with other Cuban groups perhaps or that she knew more than she was saying.  "That was the feeling that I got by the time that they took me to dinner, that maybe if I had a few drinks and the conversation became very casual, I would go ahead and volunteer information that he thought I was hiding.  I wasn't hiding anything.  But what he said struck me.  I remember I had a Bloody Mary and thinking to myself, 'My God, I'm not that drunk.'  I had one Bloody Mary and that's all I was having.  If it was for my sake that he was saying that, or if it was a little game they were playing with me, I don't know.  That's when I said to myself, 'Silvia, the time has come for you to keep quiet.  They don't want to know the truth.'"

"But that made me angry.  Not only that, he invited me to his room upstairs, to see some pictures.  I did go, I went to his room.  I wanted to see how far a government investigator would go and what they were trying to do to a witness.  Of course nothing happened because I was right in my right senses.  He showed me pictures, he made advances, yes, but I told him he was crazy.  He even mentioned that they had seen my picture and that they even joked about it at the Warren Commission, saying things like what a pretty girl you are going to see, Jim, and things like that.  To me that was all so, I don't know, anti-professional.  I wasn't used to this sort of thing and I was expecting the highest respect, you know, and I wasn't expecting any jokes in the investigation of the assassination of a president.  So that's why I'm telling you why my feelings changed because I saw something I wasn't expecting to see.  I wanted to see someone who was carrying on an investigation who was serious about it but somehow I had the feeling it was a game to them and that I was being used in this game."

SB: You make that point in the book, too, that she has not profited from this experience; she has not gone out on the lecture circuit; she basically wants nothing to do with it.  And that probably increased her credibility in your mind, didn't it? I mean, what was it about her that convinced you that she was a credible person?

GF: It was nothing about her.  It was just what she said and the confirmation of what she said by other people.  I don't think anyone can really judge anybody's credibility by how they feel about them.  Lord knows I've been fooled many, many times.  My life as an investigative journalist, basically, has allowed me to meet some of the nicest con men in the world, I mean, you would never believe some of the things that they might have done...

So you don't judge people when you're doing this kind of an investigation by how you feel about them - you have to judge them by what they say and whether or not the basic elements of what they say can be corroborated in some way.

SB: You talked to Lucille Connell?

GF: It's pronounced "Kin-nell."

SB: She told a story that was basically at variance with what Silvia Odio said.  She basically mentioned a story, as did Einspruch apparently, of Odio attending several anti-Castro meetings with Oswald present and supposedly Odio had told her this.  Did she mention this to you as well?

GF: What Connell told me when I asked her about that was that she didn't remember telling the FBI that.

(Referring to his typed transcripts:)

Reading from my notes on my interview with Lucille Connell, she was telling me about how the FBI first came to her.  This is how the Silvia Odio business first came out because Silvia herself had no intention of telling anyone about it.  But of course, her sister Sarita knew about it as well as her younger sister Annie Odio.

So, Lucille Connell tells me, 'and I was talking to another Cuban, the daughter of a Mr. Insua, who is head of the Cuban Relief Committee there in Dallas,  ... ah, no, first I talked to Silvia's sister myself who said that Silvia said that she knew Oswald, she called to tell me that Silvia has been taken to a hospital when she heard that Kennedy was shot and that Oswald was responsible.  She fell unconscious at her desk and that was the first spell she had in quite a long time.'

'Now I didn't intend to report anything to the FBI.  And it came about quite accidentally.  I was speaking on the telephone with a friend of mine, who is a secretary in a law office (Pick).  We had both had the television on and I saw Ruby shoot Oswald.  And she said, "Oh my Goodness, Ruby was in our office last week and had power of attorney drawn for his sister."

I asked her what the name of the law office was and the name of her friend and she said she gave all that to the FBI.  She said, 'I'd just as soon not get involved.'

I tell her: 'I don't have that report, but I suppose I could get it.'

She said, 'I was rather surprised that they didn't seem to mention it, myself, as I thought that was rather pertinent information. Ruby had never had power of attorney drawn for his sister before.'

'Later that evening, I was talking to Mr. Insua's daughter, her name was Marcella.  But she's married now, and Mr. Insua is dead.  And I told her what my friend had said about Ruby.  That evening, she taught Spanish to some American children, and in her class was the son of one of the FBI of Dallas.  The son went home and told his father, and his father called her (Connell) and she was quite upset as she had given it as an example.  He called the teacher, rather, I'm sorry.'  (This is Connell talking.)

'She had given it as an example to translate into Spanish.  So she called me and asked me if she could tell the FBI when she got home, where she got the information.'

'I said of course.'

'So, in about a half an hour, the FBI was knocking on my door.  There were two men and I told them everything I told you.'

She had another comment on the FBI.  She said, 'Frankly, I was not impressed with these two FBI investigators.  They were rather new on the job, I think.  They were not very smart, in my opinion, and I did more interviewing of them than they did of me.  They made no notes at the time, so whatever they wrote down after they left, I'm not sure would be 100% correct.'

SB: Interesting.  So, let's see if I've got this right.  She has a friend who works in a law firm in Dallas, who said that Ruby came in about a week before killing Oswald to draw up a document, a legal document, to give power of attorney to his sister.  That about sum it up?

GF: Right.

SB: And the FBI had this?

GF: That's what she told the FBI.

SB: If what she is saying is true, that the FBI took no notes, this is what they're saying Connell said ...

GF: By the way, this is how, when she was talking to the FBI, she obviously brought up the Odio story.  The FBI, according to her, didn't approach her about Odio at all.  They approached her about Ruby.  Because this is what she had told her friend, the school teacher.  This is according to Lucille, right.

SB: And the FBI supposedly has the name of her friend?

GF: Yeah ...

SB: This is the way WC Investigator Griffin wrote to WC attorney David Slawson after interviewing C. L. Connell, on Monday, April 13, 1964.  And, apparently, according to this memo which never directly quotes Connell, Griffin claims that Connell reported to him that Odio told her that she had seen Oswald at several anti-Castro rallies.

As I say, he never directly quotes Connell as saying that, but, do you see how far apart that is from what you've just told me?

GF: Yeah.  Well, Odio denied that also to the FBI.  There's an FBI report, I have it here and I'm reading it now, where she emphatically denied ever having told Mrs. Connell that Lee Harvey Oswald ever made talks to small groups of Cuban refugees in Dallas.

SB: The point that I like to make on this, is that first of all, if that ever happened, there has been no witness that has ever come forward that saw Odio and Oswald present at ANY anti-Castro rallies - and you would think there would have been somebody that would have seen it.  There's not a shred of evidence to prove that and I almost thought at one time that that was a red herring put out there, but by whom?

Dr. Einspruch thought, at least according to WC Investigator Griffin again, that he had heard Silvia tell him that she had known Oswald and that she had seen Oswald at several anti-Castro rallies, but then of course by the time you interviewed Dr. Einspruch, that wasn't the case.  So I mean there seems to be a red herring and I'm just trying to figure out who put that red herring out there.

GF: Yeah, that's true.  There's so much conflicting evidence there and yet people who supposedly provided this information, denied that they did.  You know, so, somehow this gets into the FBI reports.  Now how does it get in there - that's a good question.

SB: This bothers me because of course, in the La Fontaine book, they have jumped on this, on this confusion, this red herring, and they're asserting that 'of course Odio is fabricating this whole thing,' 'of course Odio saw Oswald at these anti-Castro rallies,' 'that was an outburst made by Odio otherwise how could both Connell and Einspruch have relayed the same thing unless Odio had really said that?'

And it is an interesting argument to make until you say, well okay, where's the proof of these so-called anti-Castro rallies where both Odio and Oswald were present? Who saw them at these meetings?  Where's the proof?

Of course there is none.

And yet the La Fontaines use this in their book in Chapter 9, "It Takes A Woman to Know," as a concrete example of Odio telling these lies to Connell and Einspruch.  And it just tends to confuse things even more.  But they use this to support their theory that Odio had fabricated the entire Oswald episode about visiting her at her front door ... what she really meant was that she had known Oswald all along.

Any reaction to that, to they're using this confusion to bolster their theory?

GF: Well, I think it's exactly what you're saying: they're using
it to make their point.  But to me, they're building strawmen to knock down.  And I don't know why they're doing it.  The whole point, this doesn't make any sense.  And the whole implication that the Kennedy assassination came off as a result of the DRE being upset because Kennedy pulled back support for their new invasion, just a couple weeks before the assassination, and all of a sudden the assassination comes off with just a couple of weeks of planning?  I really have to re-read the book, actually,  because it's not very clearly written; it's loaded I believe, with a lot of misdirection.

GW: "Gordo" Salvat?

GF: Yeah, that's the point of the book.

GW: That the DRE killed Kennedy?

SB: That, and the gun-running operation that they and Silvia Odio were allegedly involved with, yeah, and Odio knows more about the plot than she's telling us ...

GF: And Odio's real affiliation is with the DRE, they say, and not with JURE.

GW: (laughs)  I haven't bought the book yet.  I'll probably wait until it goes on discount, now... (laughter)

The DRE, ha!  The only one on the payroll there was Gordo Salvat.

GF: Funny, how they used all these big fat guys like Hemming, El Gordo, all involved with the assassination ... if they were all on the grassy knoll ...

GW: They were on the grassy knoll. (laughter)

SB: We're getting a little off track, here. (more laughter)

I'm going to read you page 28 of Dr. Einspruch's sworn deposition where you and, I believe it's Jim McDonald, am I right?

GF: Yes.

SB: Okay, where you two deposed Dr. Einspruch and this tends to blow the whole theory of Oswald and Odio attending several anti-Castro meetings right out of the water.


Q. Did you think that Angelo who came to her door was Oswald?
Or was it your feeling or thinking then that perhaps this was something that Silvia ...

A. No.  I don't think it was something that she had just casually fabricated.  But I retained just my own, you know, personal doubt, like I would even at this moment, that a mistake could have been made with a one time kind of experience that she had with him under those circumstances.

Now if she had said that she had seen him a couple of times, then I would feel stronger about it.


SB: That tends to blow that whole thing right out of the water.

GF: Exactly.

SB: He had doubts who Silvia really saw was Oswald because that was the only time she ever saw him - so how could she have seen him at several anti-Castro meetings?

GF: Yeah.  Einspruch was an important confirmation of Silvia's validity.  Because Einspruch confirmed that she had told him about the visit of three men to her apartment before the assassination.  And to me, that's tremendously valid evidence from an exceptionally credible source.

And of course, Annie Odio confirmed the visit.

So we have the visit.  Now what the La Fontaines are trying to say is that the visit never took place, is that right?

SB: Yes, that she's confusing it with a previous visit ...

GF: With Cisneros?  But Cisneros' visit was back in June.

SB: Right.

GF: So, Silvia is making a six month leap here?

SB: Exactly.

GF: To me, it's a disservice to the research community.  It really is, to raise these kind of strawmen issues.  And why? For the sake of publishing a book?

SB: What was your impression of Dr. Einspruch, basically, when you interviewed him in '78?

GF: Well basically, as I said, from what he was saying, he was credible.  He hadn't seen Odio in years.  In fact, we had a telephone conversation between them, a three-way conversation actually, with Odio and Einspruch, before we took the deposition, and they had not spoken with each other in 13 years.  Both Jim McDonald and I listened to the conversation, with the consent and knowledge of both parties I might mention, (laughter) and questioned Einspruch briefly during the course of the conversation.

SB: Initially of course, he was very supportive of her truthfulness and credibility, and then toward the end of the deposition, he started talking of "fish stories," and "perhaps the story has grown in time," etc.  There almost seems that on the one hand, he's vouching for her credibility and supporting her truthfulness all along, and then on the other hand, he seems to be saying, "well ... maybe things didn't exactly happen that way, maybe the story has grown in time," -- what was your reaction to that?

GF: Well, I think you've just got to go to the basic, the basic point of whether or not three men visited her before the assassination, and whether or not that was confirmed by him.  The elements of her story, I think, are something else again, you know, was it or was it not Oswald?  You know, to me, it's irrelevant whether it was Oswald or not.

If just three men had visited her and none of them resembled Oswald, and none of them was introduced to her as Oswald, and that fact was confirmed by her sister Annie who was there, well then it would be a different story.  But, she said one of them looked like Oswald; Annie Odio testified that when she first saw Oswald - before she talked to Silvia that day - on television, she said, "I've seen that guy before, I've seen that guy before."

It was bothering her until she walked into Silvia's hospital room and told Silvia: "Silvia, I've seen that guy before," and Silvia said, "Well don't you remember, he came to our house?"

And that's when Annie Odio said, "Yes, that was him."

So, you know, in order to dismiss Silvia Odio, we have to talk about a massive conspiracy between Silvia and her sister, her other sister Sarita, about Connell and Einspruch, all working together to manufacture this story of Oswald being there.

SB: One of the objections, too, that people who support Posner and the official version use against Odio is, that there is no corroboration for the phone call, that allegedly took place the next day or two after the visit to Silvia's apartment.  We only have Silvia's word on that.  How do you react to that; is that a legitimate criticism to raise?  I mean, I don't know how you corroborate a phone call unless you're listening-in or recording it ...

GF: Yeah.  I don't know whether it's relevant, either.  Whether or not she received the telephone call, whether that is relevant.  If in fact, someone who was identified to her as Leon Oswald was confirmed by her sister, did visit her, to me it's not an important piece of information.

SB: Did the La Fontaines contact you when they were writing their book?

GF: Yeah, Mary La Fontaine had called me up a number of times, but it was over the last couple of years I guess, about a number of different things.

SB: Yes, they write flattering things about you in earlier parts of the book ... talking about your wittiness

GF: I think they're good investigators, I did, I think they're good reporters, as far as newspaper work goes.  And they did uncover, I think, a lot of really interesting information ...

SB: Did they want to talk to you about Odio when they spoke to you?

GF: I don't remember specifically having any lengthy conversations about Silvia Odio, but, I might have, I don't recall.

SB: In retrospect now, after all this time, have you kept in contact at all with Silvia Odio?  Do you ever talk to her?

GF: Yes for specific reasons I've contacted her.

SB: How is she doing?

GF: She's been ill recently, but she's fine now, I believe.

SB: I wonder if she'd have a reaction to the La Fontaine's book, the way they portrayed her?

GF: I haven't asked her about it.  But I probably will.

SB: Apparently Mary La Fontaine called her and talked to her while she was in the Washington Area, but they basically just include that in a footnote at the back of the book as a reference to part of the chapter.

Any comment at all on what was going on between Father MacChann and the rivalry between Connell and Odio, and a lot of that of course in '63, people didn't talk about such things, but, did you, in your investigation deal with any of that, the rivalry between Connell and Odio?  And what was your take on that?

GF: Well my take was that there was a close relationship between Odio and MacChann and between Connell and MacChann, and that was the basis of Connell's bitterness toward Silvia.

MacChann had a lot of problems, so ...

MacChann was quite a ladies man, from what I gather.

SB: Yeah, they describe him in the book as, back in those days, as movie star handsome, a 29 year old very desirable man, that the ladies were just throwing themselves at his feet.  And, a, Connell at that time was in her fifties, Odio was only 26 and very beautiful woman, and Silvia had told Mary La Fontaine that THAT was the reason for the falling-out between the two former friends, as they were both very interested in MacChann's attention.

GF: I don't remember what Connell told me, she talks about Father MacChann, she said he had personal problems himself that 'I tried to get him psychiatric treatment.'

SB: He eventually left the priesthood, didn't he?

GF: I believe so.  Yes, she says, 'after a few months of that, Father MacChann disappeared.  Ironically, I ran into him in a supermarket in New Orleans.  He had left the church.  I heard he was working for a mental health association.  Last I heard, he had moved to Switzerland.'

SB: This is Connell?

GF: Connell told me that in '77-'78.

SB: Wow, I wonder what Connell was doing in New Orleans...

GF: Yeah. (laughing)

SB: In your opinion then, you haven't changed one iota on Silvia Odio.  You still believe she's credible, you still believe her story.

GF: It's not a matter of my believing it, I think it's a matter of the facts being corroborated.

The fact that there were three men who showed up at her door before the assassination, and that one of them was introduced to her as Oswald.  And that's the most important thing: BEFORE THE ASSASSINATION.

SB: Yes, I believe in your book, you state that based on Silvia Odio alone you're convinced that there was a conspiracy.

GF: Sure.  Because the opposite of that is the Warren Commission portrait of Oswald as a lone nut.  Without any associations, without being involved in any kind of strategic, pre-assassination misinformation ploys ...


SB: Let's talk about Maurice Bishop.  We have our doubters on CompuServe, as you know ...

GF: I really don't keep up with it, you know.  Every once in awhile I go in there and check my mail.  After spending time working on a piece in front of a computer most of the day, the last place I want to be ...

SB:  I understand.  A lot of people want to know if there is anything that you've found since the investigation, that convinces you even more now of the identity of Maurice Bishop?

GF: Yes, as a matter of fact, I was just down in Cuba in January working on a piece for Esquire, on Castro assassination attempts, and spent some time with General Escalante, the former Chief of Counter-Intelligence and former head of State Security.  I was given a guided tour, as it were, of some of the places that were involved in Castro assassination attempts, including Veciana's - the one that Veciana organized in October of '61.

From his files, it took place in a building from across the North Plaza of the old palace.  That apartment was used as a CIA safe house, it appeared, before Veciana's mother-in-law leased it.  And, Phillips was seen going in and out of it.  He provided a number of other confirmations of Bishop as David Atlee Phillips, and Phillips as Bishop.

SB: Really?

GF: There's no doubt in the Cuban Intelligence records that Bishop is David Atlee Phillips.

SB: Interesting, even in interviewing someone you named "Ron Cross," at JM/Wave, he corroborated that, didn't he?  Am I mis-phrasing it?

GF: Yeah, he said basically that he remembered Phillips using the name Bishop.

Interesting point about that because, after my article came out and I was using "Ron Cross" to cover-up Crosier's name, Phillips went on television and I think he gave a press interview to someone.  And he said that you couldn't believe what this fellow Crosier had said because he had been a drunk, an alcoholic, which he admitted to us and I include that in the book.

But I found it interesting that Phillips revealed his real name.

In violation, I would think, of CIA protocol at least.

SB: Wasn't McCone's initial reaction was that he was also familiar ... and then he quickly changed his story?

GF: Yeah, a couple of the investigators had interviewed McCone and he thought he remembered "Bishop" being used by one of the CIA people, and then the Committee got a letter from the CIA liaison saying that they had reviewed McCone's statement, and that he said that he was mistaken.

SB: Do you think it's possible that Veciana was wrong about the date, when he relayed the story to you about meeting Bishop in Dallas and seeing Bishop talking to Oswald?  Could he have actually seen them in October?

GF: Rather than September?

SB: Yes.

GF: No, Veciana wasn't specific, wasn't definite, in his recollection, from what I recall now.  I just don't recall him being very specific ...

But again, when you're dealing with FBI records and reports, you're dealing with potential conflicting evidence at times.  I know in the records with the Agency's contacts with Veciana himself, there were conflicts in chronology.

SB: Another bone of contention between the conspiracy set and the non-conspiracy set is that you believe Veciana, a convicted drug trafficker.  The typical fall-back position of those who believe in the "official version" of the assassination on places like CompuServe is, that, why should we believe anything Veciana says?  Is that fair?

GF: When you say Veciana was in jail for drug trafficking, you immediately have an image of Veciana as a sinister drug dealer.

I've reviewed the case - that particular case.  Veciana had never had any other association with drugs.  No drugs were found in his car.  He was convicted on the testimony of a former business partner in Puerto Rico.  And an associate of his business partner - strictly - that's it.

And, the details of the case, it wasn't even Veciana's car - it was a rented car.  The details of the case, seemed to confirm Veciana's contention that he was set-up.  But Veciana, it's difficult to believe Veciana being involved in any kind of drug trafficking, given his own background.

SB: How did you reconcile, in your own mind, when you had the confrontation in Reston at that luncheon, with Veciana meeting face to face with David Atlee Phillips?  That Veciana basically could not identify Phillips as Maurice Bishop?

GF: WOULD NOT identify him.

SB: Okay, pardon me, that he would not identify Phillips as Bishop?

GF: At the time I was terribly confused, because I sat there for quite a long period of time watching him and watching Phillips shaking, literally shaking, avoiding Veciana's eyes while Veciana was staring at him from across the table.  Phillips was re-lighting cigarettes, and then the encounter in the hallway, where he was a terribly shaken man, so much so to the point that when we asked him didn't he remember Veciana's name, he said 'no.'

In fact, he asked Veciana again, 'what did you say your name was?'

'Veciana.  You don't know me?'

And he said, 'no.'

Now the fact that Phillips himself, obviously had to explain that later in his testimony before the committee: how could the head of the CIA's Cuban operations not know the head of the largest anti-Castro organization?

How could he not know the name of the head of that organization?

Phillips testified, before the Committee, under sworn testimony, that he was not introduced to Veciana by name.  When in fact, Veciana himself was there and, later, when I checked with him after Phillips testified and asked him,  Do you remember when I introduced you to Phillips by name?' and he said, 'oh sure, you remember I asked him don't you know me, my name?'

And I was there and another Schweiker assistant was there.  So we had corroboration that Phillips was lying.

But Phillips had to cover up his gut reaction to Veciana being there and why he denied knowing his name - he was so shaken by the sudden encounter.

It was an interesting experience, and at the end of it, walking out of it, I was confused, and I asked Veciana, "Isn't he Bishop?"

And Veciana didn't answer right away, didn't say "no," instead, he first said, "He knows."

I remember walking back to the car, during this discussion, repeating, "He knows?  What do you mean, 'he knows'?"

"He knows."

And I said, "He knows WHAT?"

I asked, "You mean he knows who Bishop is?"

And he said, "yeah."

So it was a very interesting experience, and at the time I was confused, until I figured it out.

SB: And naturally, that's what some people who don't believe you, jump on, that Veciana didn't identify Phillips as Bishop outright.

GF: Yeah, and another interesting thing, before the Reston incident, we dug up a photo of Phillips that had appeared in a magazine somewhere, and we took Veciana down to the library to look at this photograph of Phillips.  I remember him just staring at it, for a long, long time, and turning the page and turning back, and I was involved with someone else looking up something else with another Veciana associate who had told us about Oswald being seen in a photograph in some magazine standing along the parade route or something, which we could never find, but while I was doing this I kept looking back at the table where Veciana was and saw Veciana just staring at this photograph of Phillips, although all he kept telling me was "It's close."

You know you would think that if it wasn't in fact Bishop, Veciana would've said, 'no this isn't him,' and he would've moved right on.  But he stared at that picture for a long, long time.

SB: You know, that whole Mexico City thing, another interesting episode, what is your take on them never officially being able to come up with a photograph of Oswald down there going in and out of the Cuban Consulate and Soviet Embassy, explaining that the cameras weren't working, and so forth?

GF: The whole Mexico City thing, to me, still remains a puzzle.  One of the major issues is, well, if the CIA had a photograph of Oswald going into the Cuban or Soviet embassies while he was down there, wouldn't you think they'd want to produce them, quickly, right away for the Warren Commission?

SB: Exactly.

GF: And yet, it's hard to believe that no photos were taken, I mean we're talking about what, how many instances and possibilities where he walked into and out of an embassy, 10?  5?

How many entrances were there, and how many times combined, did he walk in and out of there, the Cuban and Russian embassies? 10?

And yet not one photograph turns up.

The whole Mexico City area is an area that needs a lot more work.

SB: Did you read John Newman's book, OSWALD AND THE CIA ?

GF: Yes.

SB: What did you think about the way he handled the Mexico City thing?  He came up with a couple of new things in the Mexico City episode.

GF: Yeah.  But I just don't have enough personal investigative experience in that area to draw any kind of permanent conclusion about it, and I haven't really delved into Mexico City, as much as much I would like.

SB: Did Ed Lopez work for you?

GF: No.  Ed was a researcher on team three, and I worked, being one of the investigators stationed outside headquarters, as it were.  Most of the investigators were assigned to specific teams.  Because my area down here in Miami involved anti-Castro Cubans, pro-Castro Cubans, and the CIA - all were all very active down here - so I worked with the CIA team and the anti-Castro team. Eddie was a researcher on the anti-Castro team and I worked with him, as well as researchers on other teams based in Washington.

SB: If I remember right, one of his basic contentions was that Oswald was being impersonated in Mexico City.  I wonder if it ever occurred to him that Oswald may have been impersonated *WHILE* he was in Mexico City?  Did he ever have any conversations with you about that?

GF: He might have, I don't recall the specifics of it though.

SB: That's the issue that John Newman raises.  Another interesting thing that came out was that Win Scott apparently played a tape of Oswald to WC attorney Slawson in April or May of 1964 - yet - the CIA has always maintained that those tapes are routinely destroyed after 6-12 days.  How could this be if Scott played this taped intercept of Oswald *MONTHS* after they allegedly were made?  What in the world are they hiding about Mexico City - I mean, if Oswald is this lone nut, why all the games and various versions of what happened in Mexico City?

GF:  Yeah one of the questions also, the fact that the tape - pretty much confirmed by not only Slawson but also by Coleman, I believe --

SB: Yes, you're right.

GF: ... and I think Tony Summers also talked to a CIA man who also confirmed that these tapes do exist, and also photos, for Slawson and Coleman.  And yet, as late as the mid '70s, when the Assassination Committee was just getting going,  when Dick Sprague was still the Chief Counsel and David Phillips testified under oath, that the tapes had been destroyed within weeks ...

I can't figure out why Phillips, who had to have known that the tapes were not destroyed, why he testified under oath that the tapes had in fact been destroyed, as late as the mid '70s.  Unless, it's the fact that lying to Congressional Committees means absolutely nothing to the CIA.

SB: Well, it didn't seem to mean anything to Helms, right?

GW: He wasn't convicted of that! (laughter)

SB: You're right, I keep forgetting that.

Some final few questions for you from some of the people on CompuServe.  One of the posters who just finished reading your book wanted to know if, in the intervening years, you had discovered or learned anything more on that strange person, David Morales.

GF: Yeah, what intrigues me most about him is how he's buried almost anonymously out there in Arizona under a tombstone that says, "Sgt. David Morales."  And yet he was obviously a very, very important and eventually high ranking officer in the Agency.
I think Morales needs a lot more looking into, his background and his associates and his involvement with David Phillips.  We discovered, for instance, that he was involved with Phillips in the Chilean operation - the overthrow of Allende.

He came away with a lot of money.

GW: Do you have that address he lived at in Coral Gables?

GF: Yeah, it's right here ... (laughter)

SB: Isn't that how you got into his book Gordon, by asking Shackley when he was visiting down here in Miami, about Morales?

GW: It wasn't a leading question, either.  I didn't ask him if he knew who David Morales was or anything - I asked him who was your 2nd in charge at JM/WAVE?  And he said, "David Morales."

SB: Any final thoughts?

GF: What bothers me about this whole area is the layer upon layer of irrelevancies piled on top of each other.  Part of the Committee's basic failure was to not conduct a real investigation.  But at this point, I think the only way to conduct a real investigation of the Kennedy assassination is by taking an arbitrary approach.  What Blakey wanted to do was cover as many bases as possible, so that if someone were to say, 'well, didn't you look into this?' he could say, "yes, we looked into that, and we looked into that," when instead he should have said, "Nah, we didn't look into that, that's bullshit, it would have been a waste of our time, effort, money and manpower."

I think you have to make arbitrary decisions to do an effective investigation today.  You really have to make arbitrary decisions and in making those decisions you have to err on the side of what could likely be bullshit, but you'll never be sure about - but you have to go after those areas.  But if you eliminate the bullshit areas, I think it's still possible to conduct an authentic investigation.

Or else you're going to end up with an investigation, as Sprague wanted, that's unending in terms of funding, and in time.

And at the time that Sprague was there - we're talking 20 years ago - that would have still been possible.  But now, 20 years has gone by, with two decades of crap being piled on what all the previous crap.

GW: Could this be done in the private sector?  Does the government have to be involved?

GF: Ahhh, that's a good question.  Can the government conduct an authentic investigation of the government?

GW: No, I mean can a group of private citizens do this without the power of subpoena?  Can they do that?  Is it possible?

GF: Maybe you could do it - how would you do it?  "You VILL TELL US ZE TRUTH!"  How would you do it?  (laughter)

GW: Well, yes, you could say, "We have some questions and - accidents do happen, you know." (laughter)

How important was the Garrison investigation?

GF: Well, something was happening in New Orleans.

SB: Didn't it scare you or shock you when you went to talk to de Mohrenschildt and he ended up blowing his own head off before you could question him?  I mean didn't you think to yourself, 'oh....shit.'

GF: Yeah, especially the way I heard about it - I heard about it by way of Dallas.

GW: Why is it everybody you go to see, winds up dead? (laughter) It seems like that was happening ....

GF: It was!  Yes, let's see there's Artime, Prio, Pawley, de Mohrenschildt .....

SB: Do you think we're ever going to know the answers?

GF: I think we already know the answers.  We just don't know the details.

SB: Thank you for your time and kindness by putting up with us today.

GF: You're welcome.  Anytime.

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