By: Robert Wilson |
The Garrison Tapes (1992) was written and produced by John Barbour, and features unique extended interview footage with New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, and other major witnesses in the case. John Barbour informs The Sleuth Journal that he is working on his autobiography, “Your Mother’s Not A Virgin”. The title stems from the punch-line to a joke concerning the Warren Commission. The public seems to enjoy the case as a sort of parlor game, but collectively does not have the will to demand official justice in the case. There are certain obvious facts that we do not want to have to deal with regarding these issues.
Jim Garrison had given up on granting interviews, as the media would edit film into what “resulted in absurdities”, or twist the written word beyond recognition. Barbour states that Garrison became aware of problems in the Warren Commission Report while on a flight with Senator Russell Long. Barbour explains that Garrison would go on to use Long to “disguise the fact that Warren Commission member Hale Boggs also expressed disdain with Commission findings to him. Boggs was a lifelong hunter, and he could not abide by the single bullet theory and some other aspects of the case”, informed Barbour. Garrison quickly ordered three sets of the Warren Commission Report, and kept one set in his home, one in his office, and one in his car. Garrison’s assistant Lou Ivon remarked in the documentary that Garrison studied the report until he knew “26 volumes verbatim.” Garrison kept his word to not reveal the involvement of Hale Boggs in his lifetime. On October 16th, 1972, the twin engine airplane Boggs was traveling in over a remote section of Alaska disappeared.
John Barbour invited Jim Garrison onto his popular AM Los Angeles show, and later Speak Up America. Barbour was fired after inviting Garrison to Los Angeles, and the initial appearance was canceled. With Barbour riding the crest of Real People in the mid-seventies, he brought cameras to New Orleans and recorded Garrison detailing his case on tape in extended fashion to air in two parts. After the success of the first segment, part 2 aired the following week. George Slaughter had edited the footage, having Garrison state that there were “32 shooters”. The editing job was unbeknownst to a horrified Barbour prior to airing. Garrison’s answer was actually refeerring to approximately how many people would have known that the plot was to transpire ahead of time. “George Slaughter called after the segment aired, and I fought horribly with him. I wanted Garrison to sue, and I would have been his witness”, states Barbour. Garrison seemingly had enough of such litigation, after being found not guilty of false charges of taking bribes as D.A. After he won that case, he was accused of not paying tax on bribes he had not taken. Garrison successfully cleared his name in both cases, but the proceedings took an emotional toll. These actions seemingly were retribution for his unsuccessful prosecution of Clay Shaw a few years before.
On the day President Kennedy was murdered, private investigator Jack Martin was pistol whipped with a .357 Magnum by his boss, former FBI agent Guy Bannister. Martin filed a police report, and reported to authorities that David Ferrie drove through a noteworthy thunderstorm in Houston and Galveston to go to an ice skating rink with friends. While there, Ferrie introduced himself repeatedly to owner Chuck Rolland, apparently to purposefully call attention to himself. Ferrie also used the rink’s payphone numerous times during the visit. Martin alleged that Ferrie’s purpose was to be a possible getaway pilot for assassins who had fired on John Kennedy in Dealey Plaza. According to Jack Martin, this plot included Lee Harvey Oswald being affiliated with Banister’s private detective offices in the Newman Building. The milieu featured anti-Castro Cubans, and about everything other than detective work going on.
Jim Garrison had David Ferrie picked up, and held for questioning by the FBI. Ferrie was released with an apology by the Bureau, which left the district attorney’s office staff shaking their heads. Later this lead would be reopened, with Garrison looking for one ‘Clay Bertrand’. Bertrand it seems contacted attorney Dean Andrews about representing Lee Harvey Oswald, which Andrews had done previously in less important matters with Bertrand guaranteeing his fees. The earlier encounters included Oswald’s Marine discharge, and his wife Marina’s citizenship. Other suspicious associations would lead the investigation into Oswald’s involvement at Banister’s office at 544 Camp Street, and Oswald’s partiipation in anti-Castro operations there. Further, the question arose as to whether Clay Bertrand really was an alias for Clay Shaw, the head of the New Orleans International Trade Mart. Shaw would allegedly perform as a handler to ‘sheep-dip’ Oswald into the role of patsy in the assassination of John Kennedy.
Three hours of interview footage with Jim Garrison was shot by John Barbour in the sitting for the Speak Up, America fiasco. Garrison had come to shy away from a hostile media for about a ten year period, so the vintage footage is unique. Before one wonders about Jim Garrison being paranoid regarding this aversion, there were no less than nine agents who had penetrated his office while his team was investigating the case. This information initially was reported in the 1970’s, by current Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly. O’Reilly has become increasingly famous and wealthy, while changing his opinion on the conspiracy completely in his book ‘Killing Kennedy’. O’Reilly would become embroiled in lies regarding the suicide of Oswald confidante George de Mohrenschildt, and his proximity to that event. Perhaps wisely, O’Reilly’s tactic is to remain silent on these matters as a current practice. This is just one of many such avenues of media malfeasance that can take up a large amount of study in this case.
“George Ellins, our cameraman on the Garrison Tapes called me up one day”, related Barbour. “He asked to come by and speak to me, and I said ‘sure’. He said he had a mostly absentee dad growing up, who had been in military intelligence. His dad called the week before, and complimented him on the Garrison Tapes. He said that his dad wanted to meet me, and talk to me about something important related to Kennedy. So we met at Patty’s Coffee House, and Ellin’s dad opened up by apologizing to me”, said Barbour. “He explained that he couldn’t risk his pension by telling me too much after he considered the possible consequences to our conversation. He related he had been no less than second in command in intelligence in Vietnam during the war. He went on to explain that weeks prior to the Bay of Pigs, every intelligence agency was in Miami with blueprints for all of the buildings in Havana. They were drawing up office space where all of the agents would reside after the invasion. Then Kennedy withdrew air support.”
Ellins continued, that on November 22nd, 1963, at Soldier Field in Chicago, a large gathering of officers all cheered when news of JFK’s assassination spread through the crowd. Such alienation towards a leader could likely only have happened after the Bay Of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis.” Barbour said that Ellins then congratulated him on a good job with the documentary, shook his hand and left. The implications of what he had recounted resounded back to events in Dealey Plaza.
The Jim Garrison investigation entered the public arena in the on February 1st, 1967 in a story in the New Orleans States Item. “The Church Committee found in the 1970’s that there were 1,000 assets placed in the media”, stated Barbour. “I could not live having kept Jim’s story in my closet”, after seeing the way the media had attacked him for so many years.” Barbour’s point is driven home with some additional facts mixed in to ponder. David Ferrie told Garrison’s aide Lou Ivon that he was afraid for his life when the media had focused on him as a suspect. Ferrie would be dead of natural causes on February 22nd, 1967. Ferrie left 2 typewritten notes that discuss death seeming to be a sweet prospect to him, with neither note being signed. Ferrie flew numerous missions over Cuba for Eldaio del Valle, a militant Cuban exile. With Garrison avidly searching to interview him, Eladio del Valle was found hacked to death in his car. Eladio del Valle’s head was split open ear to ear, and he was shot above his heart after having already expired. This transpired on the same date that Ferrie died in New Orleans. del Valle’s death left no doubt about the cause being murder, and has never been solved to date. The witnesses that Jim Garrison was seeking expired at an alarming rate. Due to this unexpected set of events, Clay Shaw was arrested on March 1st, 1967 for conspiracy in the death of President John F. Kennedy.
When asked about the sudden deaths in the case, John Barbour brought up another untimely demise to consider. “Also take a look at what they did to Dorothy Kilgallen. She was the only reporter to get to speak with Jack Ruby. She said that she was going to break the case wide open and she overdoses, then her best friend turns up dead two days later. And they never found any of the notes that she had keeping on the case., said Barbour.” Kilgallen had obtained and released the then classified testimony of Jack Ruby before the Warren Commission, reportedly raising great ire from J. Edgar Hoover. Kilgallen had also interviewed Acquilla Clemmons, who was a dissenting witness regarding the shooting of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippitt, also blamed on Lee Harvey Oswald. Clemmons told Kilgallen, “I’m not supposed to be talking to anybody, I might get killed on the way to work.”
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. finally answered those who have asked why the family never has spoken up regarding the conspiracies in the murders of John and Robert Kennedy. In the November 20, 2013 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, he wrote an article entitled, “John F. Kennedy’s Vision of Peace”. In it he discusses a “coup atmosphere” in Washington circles prior to JFK’s murder. RFK, Jr. goes on to state that his father told Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin that if anti-Kennedy sentiment grew, he was “not sure that the military will not overthrow him (JFK) and seize power.” RFK, Jr. also sent a letter to then Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr., in 2012, asking for a new investigation in to the murder of his own father. If you haven’t heard these facts mentioned before, the major media has been far from broadcasting them from the rooftops.
Robert Kennedy, Jr. was slated to speak at UNLV after viewing a copy of the Garrison Tapes, and bowed out at the last moment. “The school donated the facilities, and they followed through even after RFK, Jr. cancelled. He never watched the DVD in three months. Fortunately, we had journalists Jim Marrs, Joan Mellen and Dick Russel on hand on January 31st, 2014 to help tell Jim Garrison’s story. The presentation is available as The Last Word on the Garrison Tapes”, recounted Barbour. The trio of researchers spoke with no admission fee for those in attendance, with simulcast on the web. The archive of the evening can be seen at Amazon.com in a stream for a modest fee, along with the original documentary, or for free on YouTube. This is an essential companion piece to the Garrison Tapes, and is an excellent opportunity for those interested in hearing Garrison’s viewpoint in concise presentations.
“RFK, Jr. was slated to be paid $25,000 and he left us hanging one day before the event. It occurred to me to do the new documentary after that”, explains Barbour. “With the remaining footage I have unused from the original interviews, I could not have lived keeping the rest of Jim’s story locked away in my closet.” At the end of April, John Barbour plans on completing his autobiography. The 5 time Emmy Award winning Barbour will then focus all of his efforts on the completion of the Garrison Tapes Part 2: The American Media and the Second Assassination of John Kennedy.
Bob Wilson is a researcher who has studied the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King, and written numerous articles on all of the cases.