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Jim Garrison & Carlos Marcello: Hoover's Enforcers

by Mat Wilson

Garrison's New Orleans was a hotbed of illegal, covert paramilitary operations where corruption, disguise and deception had produced an intelligence cottage industry. In the 1960's, it was the city where the Mafia, anti-Castro exiles and self-styled intelligence spooks joined hands to celebrate what they called their patriotic bonds and to condemn their common enemies -Castro, Communists, Liberals...

Carlos Marcello. Entrenched interests dominated the order of the day. In particular, New Orleans was a mature organized crime haven, where political campaign contributions and outright bribery insulated Mafia bosses like Carlos Marcello. In the final analysis, the power source of the city that made its own rules and regulations as it went along, was the cozy relationship between Mob Lords like Carlos Marcello and high ranking law enforcement officials like Jim Garrison.

In retrospect, the fact that the city where evasion and denial was honed to a science, came to dominate the Kennedy assasination investigation, is not at all surprising.

Unaccountable corruption is probably the most common feature of the politics of the 1960's in New Orleans. Mobsters like Carlos Marcello relied upon "the Fix" or the working relationship between public officials and the Mafia and they were accustomed to sharing power. The sheer audacity of "the Fix" is absolutely astounding. When the Kennedy Justice Department targeted Jimmy Hoffa, the Mafia responded through the Governor of Louisiana, who set up a meeting where the mob offered the key prosecution witness one million dollars to change his testimony. It was a desperate, foolish bribe which was prompted and ultimately exposed, only because a series of dynamite explosions failed to murder targeted witness. In the face of such violent, blatant corruption, the fact that powerful Mafia Bosses like Carlos Marcello survived criminal prosecution in the 1960's, is astounding and illuminating. In 1967, Life Magazine printed the following account of the Mob Lord: "He [Marcello] operates through a complex of political Fixes which enable him to control the makers and enforcers of law at every level of state govenment." Friends in high places were clearly responsible for the lapse in American justice, which saw the power of Marcello grow despite press scrutiny and astute Louisiana newcomers like Aaron Kohn identified the peculiar flavour of New Orleans "politicking" when he said: "After about a year, I began to realize something about the system here. In Chicago, people were generally on one side of the fence or the other -honest or crooked. But in Louisiana there just isn't any fence". Jim Garrison, who was elected District Attorney in 1962, embodied the fact that "the fence" had been dismantled when he falsely claimed that the Mafia did not exist despite his association with Marcello's henchman. Mario Marino, who operated the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Garrison routinely accepted the hospitality of the Mafia and instead of cutting off his indebtedness, he said: "I may be naive -this is my first public office -but I don't see what's wrong with it". Frequent meetings between Garrison investigator Pershing Gervais and Carlos Marcello, further cemented the fact that in New Orleans, business was transacted in cooperation with the Marcello Mafia. Like J. Edgar Hoover, Jim Garrison responded to Life Magazine disclosures by using the power of his office to manufacture the impression that organized crime did not exist. His tactics were more flamboyant than Hoover's denial about the Mafia, but the end result was the same. Assuming the solemnity of a Benedictine monk and the pomposity of Al Capone, Garrison solemnly declared: "If organized crime is found [through Grand Jury] to be flourishing, I will resign as district attorney". By 1967, the fact that the power and influence of organized crime flourished cannot be credibly disputed, but Jim Garrison knew he could easily persuade a Grand Jury into believing whatever he wanted it to believe, and that is exactly what he did.

Favour and bribery were the currency of the corruption that had penetrated the State of Louisiana. After being entertained at the Sands in Las Vegas, Aubrey Young, Governor McKeithen's aide, who, like Garrison, accepted the hospitality of Marcello associate Mario Marino, was seen passing $100 bills to chorus girls when he was supposedly in debt. Young had direct, personal contact with Marcello and admitted to having set up the meeting where a one million dollar bribe was offered to silence a witness. Jim Garrison always maintained the battle to pervert the truth and instead of admitting anything, he directed a succession of Grand Jury inquiries and manipulated them to the point where they all payed homage to the contention that there was no evidence of organized crime in New Orleans. In the final analysis, Jim Garrison was essentially J. Edgar Hoover's clone in New Orleans.

Like J. Edgar Hoover's public relations schemes, Garrison cultivated an image of law and order through highly publicized, honky-tonk and strip-joint raids, to create the impression that he was fulfilling his law enforcement responsibilities. But while Garrison targeted independent strip-joints and honky-tonks and put them out of business to demonstrate what he termed his "war on vice", the assets of Carlos Marcello were selectively spared.

From 1965 through 1969, Garrison obtained just two convictions and five guilty pleas in police cases brought against Marcello's gangsters. He elected not to prosecute 84 such cases, including 22 gambling charges, one for attempted murder, three for kidnapping and one for manslaughter. Garrison even managed to hush up the fact that last June a Marcello bagman, Vic Carona, died after suffering a heart attack during a political meeting held in Garrison's own home.

Perhaps, the most peculiar and quixotic character who was invariably well acquainted with Jim Garrison was fellow pilot David Ferrie. Ferrie was a Cold War legend who was allegedly responsible for everything from secret bombing raids over Cuba to secretly whisking Marcello back to the United States after his unceremonious deportation by Robert Kennedy. Ferrie's violent, anti-Communist ideology established the predictable dimension of his enigmatic life. Clearly, in the absence of his consistent, conspiratorial zeal to fight Communism, it is difficult if not impossible to "get a handle" on David Ferrie: He was a gifted pilot, a cancer researcher who kept hundreds of mice in his room, a self-professed psychologist, a self-trained hypnotist, a self-ordained priest, a soldier of fortune, a contract worker for both the CIA and the Mafia -there was indeed no end to the David Ferrie dabble. In 1950, he joined the Army Reserve and the "predictable" David Ferrie described his anti-Communist obsession in a letter to the commander of the U.S. 1st Air Force. In the words of David Ferrie:

There is nothing I would enjoy better than blowing the hell out of every damn Russian, Communist, Red, or what have-you.. We can cook up a crew that will really bomb them to hell... I want to train killers, however bad that sounds.

Obsessive hatred motivated David Ferrie to the point where he enthusiastically embraced every conspiracy that satisfied his rabidly anti-Communist temperament. In particular, his determination to "train killers" was satisfied when David Ferrie trained and armed anti-Castro exiles who engaged failed, military skirmishes in Cuba. Heavily involved in covert, anti-Castro exile activities, in 1961, Ferrie reportedly planned airborne missions against Castro's military installations. It is certainly difficult to believe that the CIA would turn down a daring pilot like David Ferrie and the overlap between CIA-supported anti-Castro operations and Ferrie's anti-Castro involvement, strongly suggests that Ferrie was indeed, as is often reported, a CIA operative. When interests overlap, it is sometimes difficult to separate the effort of one from the other, and that certainly seems to be the case with regard to anti-Castro plots, David Ferrie, the Mafia, the CIA and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.

David Ferrie was one of many "intelligence spooks" who helped set Oswald up. At the time of his arrest, Lee Harvey Oswald had David Ferrie's library card on him, and that certainly exposed the secret relationship that was never supposed to be disclosed. Initiated in 1955, when the nearly sixteen year old Lee Harvey Oswald had joined the Civic Air Patrol unit in New Orleans and was a cadet under the command of David Ferrie, the genuine nature of the secret relationship between Ferrie and Oswald is practically impossible to uncover -suffice it to say, it definitely existed and David Ferrie, who claimed he had a Ph.D. in psychology and who had listed himself as "doctor" in the telephone directory, was certainly anxious to put his skills to use in the advancment of his predictable obsessions.

When Oswald's library card was found in the possession of Oswald, David Ferrie was terrified to the point of panic. Ironically, on November 22nd, 1963 David Ferrie was with Carlos Marcello celebrating the fact that the Mafia Boss had just been cleared of the long-standing deportation charges that Robert Kennedy had initiated and the assassination of John F. Kennedy was the icing on the cake. But despite the momentous occasion which was ostensibly one of if not the happiest days in Ferrie's life, the opportunity to relax and enjoy anti-Kennedy triumphs was instantly disrupted by a dramatic revelation which caused David Ferrie to terminate the celebration and to drive non-stop into the night some 350 miles to Texas. While in Texas, Ferrie hung around pay phones where he frantically placed urgent calls. The report that Ferrie's library card had been found in the possession of Lee Harvey Oswald had evidently awakened Ferrie to the realization that his secret relationship with Oswald threatened to be exposed, and that proved to be the beginning of the end of David Ferrie.

There is no official record of the claim that Oswald's library card was found in the possession of Lee Harvey Oswald. The unofficial record is less evasive. Within hours after the assasination, Ferrie went to Oswald's former landlady to ask her whether she had come across Ferrie's library card. The claim that Oswald had Ferrie's library card in his possession was evidently true enough to cause Ferrie to frantically search for his missing library card, to frantically trail through Texas in a mysterious bid to tie up "loose ends", and to provoke the Jim Garrison-style hoax that Oliver Stone inadvertently misrepresented.

On November 25, 1963, Jim Garrison turned David Ferrie over to Hoover's FBI to create the false impression that David Ferrie's link to the Kennedy assassination had been thoroughly investigated. Ferrie was not turned over prior to the 25th because when he bee-lined to Texas following the Kennedy assassination, he stayed until Sunday evening. Earlier that very same day, Jack Ruby had murdered Oswald and had conveniently simplified Ferrie's concerns -a dead Oswald could neither confirm nor deny reports that he had borrowed David Ferrie's library card.

As long as the Warren Report dominated the so-called truth about the Kennedy assasination, David Ferrie had nothing to worry about. Obsessed by the need to cover up the truth, the Warren Report was doing just fine until it was critically analyzed and discredited. And then, it all fell apart and Jim Garrison resumed his "damage control" responsibilities. In the process, David Ferrie died, or committed suicide or he was murdered, depending upon what Jim Garrison was prepared to tell the world. Garrison explained Ferrie's strange death in the following terms. "I suppose it could just be a weird coincidence that the night Ferrie penned two suicide notes, he died of natural causes." Jim Garrison, who was evidently a "traceless death" enthusiast, was not too concerned about exposing the genuine cause of Ferrie's death. His book of "fiction" The Star Spangled Contract, graphically illustrates the act of murder and the process of erasing every hint of foul play to make death appear natural. In Mafia Kingfish, John Davis describes the same process in an an ugly, factual account exposed by British journalist Christopher Robbins, whereby Carlos Evertze, an executioner for Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo, murdered a suspected student activist. The student was knocked out with chloroform, a 4-inch extra-fine needle was driven into his brain from underneath the earlobe, pulled out rapidly, and the pinpoint of blood was brushed away with alchohol. "In the autopsy it seems as if the victim had a cerebral hemorrhage. The needle prick just looks like a pore."

Likewise, the mysterious death of David Ferrie had all the earmarks of the "traceless" operations that Jim Garrison, Carlos Marcello and J. Edgar Hoover routinely relied upon to cover up the truth about the Kennedy assassination. The sequence of events that led to the murder of David Ferrie are very clear: In November of 1963, Jim Garrison turned David Ferrie over to the "custody" of Hoover, and when Hoover's cover-up was exposed, Ferrie was placed in the custody of Jim Garrison/Marcello's New Orleans. Marcello's very own lawyer had warned Ferrie about his library card being in the possession of Oswald, it was only a matter of time before the lingering panic to cover up the truth caught up with David Ferrie. Moreover, it was while David Ferrie was in the custody and under the constant surveillance theat Jim Garrison imposed, that he died, a "worthy patriot".

Guy Banister, the self-proclaimed, violent anti-Castro crusader who also occupied the strange world of David Ferrie and Carlos Marcello, was J. Edgar Hoover's direct links into the world of violent, unaccountable fanatics who routinely perverted justice. Banister was Hoover's former FBI Special-Agent-In-Charge in Chicago, a highly regarded position reserved for loyal Hooverites. In New Orleans, Banister's private detective agency operated on the level of the covert operations headquarters of right wing extremists. Well connected to intelligence agencies since his alleged association with Naval Intelligence during World War II, reports that Banister had cultivated FBI and CIA contacts are entirely consistent with all the evidence that surrounded his bizarre world. Shortly before the Bay of Pigs, Banister's office was a storehouse for boxes of grenades, mines and other munitions, and the clandestine, illegal paramilitary operations Banister engaged were actually the unofficial territory of the FBI, the CIA and the Mafia.

Banister was a clandestine operative in the war against Communism. Technically a civillian, Banister offered intelligence interests the opportunity to disguise illegal, covert operations. For example, Lee Harvey Oswald handed out pro-Castro leaflets that were stamped in Banister's office, and given Banister's proclivity, it is safe to suggest that Oswald was probably used to advance a covert scheme to feret out Communists. Clearly, a young, idealistic, former marine who was a wanabe, James Bond was certainly fair game, in that regard.

David Ferrie had certainly cultivated Oswald's trust -he had even lent him his library card to reinforce the impression. A library card in the possession of another party implies some sort of ongoing relationship and Marcello's lawyer certainly didn't miss the significance when he warned Ferrie about his library card being in the possession of Oswald. In typical American Grotesque fashion, Banister's office, through private detective Jack Martin, diverted attention away from the library card reports and towards sensational propaganda like the claim that Ferrie was Oswald's "getaway pilot". The secret service interviewed Martin and Banister's loyal lieutenant provided "evidence" to confirm Ferrie's claim that he was simply the victim of false leads. The aggressive campaign to discredit the fact that Oswald and Ferrie knew each other ultimately triumphed when Jack Martin told the secret service that he suffered from "telephonitis while drinking and that it was during one of his drinking sprees that he telephoned Assistant District Attorney Kohlman and told him this fantastic story about David William Ferrie being involved with Lee Harvey Oswald". The simple story about Ferrie's library card was buried in the process. When Marcello's lawyer, G. Wray Gill, was questioned by the FBI about how he learned that Ferrie's library card had been found on Oswald, Gill could not recall, though he supposed it might have originated with Jack Martin. In retrospect, the frantic, exhaustive disinformation campaign to deny a simple truth, is merely a reflection of the campaign to cover up the truth about the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

In the last analysis, it is not possible to dispute the fact that Marcello, Ferrie, Banister and Hoover were all absorbed by a cooperative, well coordinated effort to cover up the truth and that betrays all the secrecy, all the deception and all the deliberate disinformation which can and was conveniently manufactured. The power that this corrupt triumvirate commanded was broad enough to penetrate the very heart of Dallas Texas. In Bob Davis' Mafia Kingfish, a chapter appropriately titled Marcello's Dallas, details the fact that the Texas rackets were actually a satellite of the Marcello organization. John Halfen, Marcello's bagman funelled money to cultivate political influence and the system was honed to the point where "thanks partly to the influence of Vice president Lyndon Johnson, Carlos Marcello was able to operate freely in Dallas in 1963." With allies like Jack Ruby, who also operated on the level of a Mafia bagman in the sense that he cultivated corruptible police, all the mysterious pieces of the Kennedy assasination puzzle fall into place. Clearly, if the Dallas Texas "circle of corruption" was capable of papering over concrete evidence like Ferrie's library card and of eliminating Kennedy assassination suspect Lee Harvey Oswald, relatively simple tasks like getting Jack Ruby to plant the "magic bullet" at Parkland where he was spotted and possibly even dropping off assassins at the grassy knoll [the scene of other Jack Ruby citings], were relatively painless. At the very least, every single unanswered question which surrounds the "magic bullet" dissolves, when the motivation behind all the purposeful controversy, is carefully acknowledged.

To fully understand what Jim Garrison actually did to cover up the truth about the assassination of John F. Kennedy, you need to have a historical perspective.

Needless to say, with Robert F. Kennedy's Justice Department hot on his heels, Marcello, Jack Ruby, Hoover and the like, imported experts to do the actual dirty work. Clearly, having failed to assassinate Fidel Castro, nobody trusted them to deliver the biggest contract in world history.

Jack Ruby and Carlos Marcello merely accommodated corsican mafia assassin Lucien Sarti.
Sauveur Pironti November 22, 1963: After being struck in the back of the neck from an almost horizontal position, the Zapruder film shows Kennedy clutching at his throat, just before Sarti fired the single fatal shot... President Kennedy was murdered because Johnson and Nixon opposed his plans.
Roger Bocognani


 

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