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On the evening of the Kennedy assassination, she received a call from one of the members of the group, who told her that Oswald had tried to penetrate his organization and had offered his services as a potential Castro assassin. However, when Schweiker checked the FBI files, he found no report of any such incident. Later, with broader access to information as an investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, I discovered why I could not find the right Julio Fernandez: The name, as Luce told then-CIA Director William Colby, with whom she was in touch at the time, was a concoction she had made up for Schweiker.
Later, I interviewed Luce at her penthouse apartment at the Watergate and told her that her story reminded me of an Oswald incident in New Orleans in which he showed up at the store of an anti-Castro leader and volunteered his services. The last time I saw Luce was shortly after my interview with her. I attended a luncheon meeting of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.
Luce was the guest speaker. Her speech was a vigorous defense of the intelligence establishment and a review of its successes. Clare Boothe Luce, besides being a guest speaker at that meeting, is on the board of directors of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers. That organization was founded in by David Atlee Phillips. They were with a group of young people, he said, going to Cuba to cut sugarcane for Castro. Yes, he said, he had reported the information to the FBI after Kennedy was killed. Again, Schweiker could find no record of it. But the man was a respected member of the community, a successful businessman and, when I talked with him, very credible.
A few people remembered that a group did go through Key West to Cuba to help Castro cut sugarcane. A Cuban plane did regularly fly into Key West at one time, but not during the period the man said he recalled Oswald, Ruby, and the group waiting for it in the airport terminal. Yet the man insisted his recollection was accurate. He took me to the exact spots where he said he had seen Oswald and Ruby in the airport terminal. In checking out his story, I spent dozens of hours with this fellow.
We got friendly. I met his family and was invited to dinner. One day he happened to show me the photo lab he had at the rear of his business. I was amazed at the collection of photographic and electronic gear stocked there. I was doubly amazed when I noticed sitting on the floor in a corner what appeared to be the housing of an aerial reconnaissance camera.
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I began probing him about his use of such equipment. Well, he said, he had made a number of trips into Cuba after Castro took over, in order to find out a few things.
When I asked him about the reconnaissance camera, he said he had flown a number of aerial photographic missions and proudly explained that he had designed a special device to permit him to trigger the camera, installed in the belly of his plane, from the cockpit. He said he had taken shots of the Russian missiles in Cuba long before Kennedy announced they existed. For whom, I asked, was he working?
I asked who had paid for all his sophisticated photo and electronic equipment. Could there be a pattern of misinformation to the tips that Schweiker was being fed? The long ride from Key West to Miami along the Overseas Highway is one of scenic splendor, the sky blue and endless, the ocean a vista of whitecaps, the bay a glistening expanse of crystal serenity.
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The beauty escaped me as I drove home that evening. I kept thinking of Vince Salandria telling me how busy I would be kept. Take the reports linked to Mexico City. She remembered that she had been watching television with her husband in her New York apartment when the call came through.
The caller told her, she said, about Oswald and how he had left New Orleans to go to Mexico City before returning to Dallas. Alvarado claimed that he had gone to the Cuban embassy in September and while waiting to conduct business had seen three persons talking on a patio a few feet away: Lee Harvey Oswald, a tall, thin Negro with reddish hair, and a Cuban from the consulate.
Alvarado, it was later discovered, was an agent of the Nicaraguan intelligence service. Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza was a strong anti-Castroite and a cooperative ally of the CIA, having permitted the Agency to use his country as a training camp and assembly area for the Bay of Pigs invasion. The Alvarado fabrication strikes some researchers as having the hallmarks of a counterintelligence scenario, another stone thrown in to muddy the already murky waters. The names of both E. Taken to police headquarters, the tramps were escorted across Dealey Plaza, where news photographers took photos of them.
The tramps were questioned and released, without a record of their identities being kept. About the time Schweiker began his investigation, a new book again raised the Sturgis-Hunt story. Weberman, with a foreword by Texas Congressman Henry B. The book incorporated a novel device: It came with film-positive photos of Sturgis and Hunt designed to be overlayed on photographs of the tramps. Superimposed, the images did bear striking similarities.
I would later discover that photo comparison and analysis is an exceptionally nonconclusive technique. Among the photographs we submitted to a panel of experts for analysis and comparison were not only those of Sturgis and Hunt but also those of other individuals who resembled the tramps. The panel concluded that Sturgis and Hunt were not the tramps in the photographs.
It did conclude that one of the tramps—the one who resembled Hunt—was most likely a man named Fred Lee Chrisman, a right-wing activist. When those results came in, Committee investigators were sent out to find out where Chrisman was on November 22, Chrisman had since died. They came back with official records and eyewitness affidavits that Chrisman was teaching school in the state of Washington the day Kennedy was assassinated. So much for the conclusiveness of photo analysis. It used two comparative techniques. One day she came to me and asked me to help gather some of the photographs that would be sent to the panel members for analysis.
I recall asking her at the time to find out whether or not the experts would take into consideration the possibility that the tramps might be wearing sophisticated disguises. That had to be the case if they were not just real drifters in the wrong place at the wrong time. Downey promised she would ask the photo analysts about the use of disguises.
Several days later Jane Downey told me she had checked with the photo analysts. Downey shrugged her shoulders. It can be determined where Frank Sturgis was on the day after the Kennedy assassination. The FBI found him at home in Miami. Now in his fifties and putting on weight, Sturgis has led a thousand lives, maybe more. He was taught how to kill with his bare hands, infiltrated into enemy encampments, airdropped on commando raids. After World War II, Sturgis was a plainclothes cop in Norfolk, went to school part-time at William and Mary College, managed a few bars, trained as a radio gunner in the Naval Reserves, crewed as a merchant seaman, did a two-year stint with the US Army in Germany where he served with the Armed Forces Security Agency, was married, widowed, remarried, divorced, and married again.
Prio would later be convicted of arms smuggling with a Texan, Robert McKeown. In , a week before he was scheduled to interview Prio, he went to the side of his Miami Beach home, sat on a chaise outside the garage, and shot himself in the heart. He reportedly had financial problems. It was through Prio, Sturgis says, that he infiltrated Cuba to join Castro in the mountains. Soon he was a trusted Castro aide, an emissary on arms deals all over the United States and Latin America, a daring pilot who flew loads of weapons into mountain airstrips.
A month later, they were dropping propaganda leaflets over Havana. Frank Sturgis says he was never an official, paid agent of the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA has confirmed this. In October , writer Andrew St. George interviewed Frank Sturgis in his home in Miami while Sturgis was awaiting his Watergate sentence.
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It was before the tramp photos were publicized, before cries for another Kennedy assassination investigation began to peak, before the Rockefeller Commission was formed. George was an old friend of Sturgis from their days with Castro in the mountains. Sturgis was glad to see the gregarious St. George and, stung by his arrest at Watergate and the headlines that made him appear a bungling burglar. Sturgis—according to St.
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George—blurted out the real story behind Watergate. A few months later, St. George visited Sturgis in the Washington, DC, jail. In August , St. George published his interview with Sturgis in True magazine. I met Howard Hunt that year; he was the political officer of the exile brigade. Today, Sturgis is not hesitant to admit his disgust with Kennedy after the President made the Cuban-missile arrangement with the Russians. Sturgis was one of the six pilots specially warned by the Federal Aviation Administration for making raids over Cuba at the time Kennedy was negotiating the delicate deal.
Sturgis was also the co-founder of the International Anti-Communist Brigade, some of whom were arrested at their training site on No Name Key after the missile crisis. My first interview with Frank Sturgis came not long after he was released from his Watergate sentence.