Lee Harvey Oswald's Call Did Not Go Through
The 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination has shaken the conspiracy tree and sent the media into a retrospective feeding frenzy. In this cacophony the truth fades even further. Any new opinion about the events in Dallas November 22, 1963 is bestowed with instant credibility, perhaps fueled by the reality that 68% of Americans believe Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone as the Warren Commission concluded in 1964. Conspiracy theories abound, yet consensus on what actually happened remains elusive.
But there is one intriguing morsel mostly ignored by conspiracy theorists and Warren Commission defenders alike: the Raleigh Call.
Go back to the Friday Lee Oswald was taken into custody. It is generally agreed that he left the Texas School Book Depository after the shooting that murdered JFK (although some assassination buffs say Oswald was not in the building) and returned to his room at a nearby boarding house, donned a windbreaker and retrieved a pistol. He walked down the street and was approached by a police cruiser driven by Dallas officer J.D. Tippit.
Witnesses saw Tippit talk to Oswald through the open passenger side front window, then open the driver's door and step out. Oswald shot Tippit three times as he rounded to the front of the cruiser, followed by a coup de grace shot while Tippit lay on the pavement. Oswald hurried down the street into the Texas Theatre. A few minutes later, Dallas police officers entered the building and turned on the house lights. Oswald stood up and pulled the trigger of his pistol but it either misfired or police officers struggling with Oswald prevented the shot. Subdued after the fight with "four or five officers", according to witnesses, Oswald said: "Well, it's all over now." Later, Oswald said, "I'm a patsy."
Oswald was arrested and charged for the murder of Officer Tippit at 7:10 PM, and later for the assassination of JFK. He never admitted involvement in the shootings from the Book Depository, highly unusual for political assassins who uniformly denounce their victim's policies or actions. Alas, according to the Warren Commission report:
"he (Captain Fritz of the Dallas police) kept no notes and there were no stenographic or tape recordings. Representatives of other law enforcement agencies were also present, including the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service."
The next day, Oswald was visited by his mother and made phone calls to the Ruth Paine residence in Fort Worth where his wife and children were staying. Later that evening, two switchboard operators at the Dallas jail (one on duty, the other her replacement) were approached by "a government man", as they described him, who informed them that Oswald would be placing a long-distance telephone call. They were instructed to let him know when the call was requested while he waited in the adjoining equipment room.
At approximately 10 PM, Dallas time, the switchboard lit up and both operators dove to plug in and be part of history. The operator who plugged in first wrote down the number Oswald was attempting to call on a pre-printed pad.
She did as instructed by walking over to the equipment room and informing the "government man" Oswald was making a call by showing him the slip of paper. She did as he asked and told Oswald his call did not go through. Luckily, the operator kept the slip of paper.
The Raleigh Call, or Non-Raleigh Call, as the case may be, remained obscured except for a Freedom of Information request in 1970 that was never pursued. Then, in 1979, the House Assassinations Committee subcommittee on JFK came across the incident. The Committee was established in the wake of the 1976 Senate Intelligence Committee probing CIA operatives involved in the Watergate burglary. In a startling revelation, Senators heard from CIA Director William Colby that the Agency employed Mafia members in an attempt to kill Fidel Castro This information was withheld from the Warren Commission (although former director Allen Dulles served on the panel). The Congress was concerned the Commission did not consider that Fidel Castro had a motive to orchestrate revenge against JFK. In response, the House Assassinations Committee was established with three subcommittees to probe the JFK, RFK and MLK shootings.
So what does the Raleigh Call add to the JFK assassination puzzle? Contacting John D. Hurt in 1980, who resided at the address of the call, elicited denials that he knew Oswald or anyone in the intelligence community However, he did serve in counterintelligence during World War 2. After several other calls to assassination experts and theorists, I called Robert Blakey, chief counsel for the JFK House Assassinations Subcommittee, who said, "The call apparently is real and it goes out; it does not come in. That's the sum and substance of it. It was an outgoing call, and therefore I consider it very troublesome material. The direction in which it went was deeply disturbing."
Now that it was established the attempted call was real, and not an incoming crank call, I contacted former CIA officer Victor Marchetti, author of the 1974 CIA and the Cult of Intelligence. Marchetti was embroiled in a titanic battle against the CIA for censoring his book before publication, with the ACLU representing his rights and interests. The CIA redacted 339 passages of varying length, reduced to 200 items by ACLU legal pleadings when the book finally came out.
Marchetti cites in his author's Introduction why talking to him about the Raleigh Call adds a frisson to the story:
"They (CIA) have secured an unwarranted and outrageous permanent injunction against me, requiring anything I write or say, 'factual, fictional or otherwise', on the subject of intelligence must first be censored by the CIA....Under risk of criminal contempt of court."
Whether or not Marchetti is an early model Edward Snowden who deserves to be muzzled does not take away from the impact of his comments, just his morality.
Marchetti said Oswald's attempt to contact John D. Hurt in Raleigh NC was a set-up, that Hurt was a "fake cut-out." He said Oswald, a Marine, was probably trained for intelligence work by the Office of Naval Intelligence, and was a participant in a "black op" to kill JFK that he thought was legitimate and official. Oswald would know through tradecraft that he would be assigned a "cut-out," spy jargon for a middle man to call if you are caught in an operation. The idea is that you don't call home (the CIA for example) if you are in trouble and implicate the agency. The Raleigh Call could have been pre-arranged to establish a "cut-out" Oswald would believe credible, created by the conspirators organized to assassinate JFK to make Oswald the "patsy" and take the fall.
During the interviews for the Raleigh Call, the office phones were tapped. The private detective I called in to investigate trouble on the line -- and a mysterious call every morning at exactly the same time, followed by a clicking noise and a hang up -- discovered we were being taped by Bell South Central Office that required a federal warrant. The clicking noise was causes by a tape recorder turning on.
A lawyer friend approached me in 2006 and told me he was the attorney for Mrs. John Hurt, the wife of the John D. Hurt Oswald allegedly attempted to call -- perhaps thinking he was his cut-out. The attorney said Mrs. Hurt told him she spoke with Oswald in 1963, but he refuses to break client confidentiality and go on record. This information is potentially historically important. But, if Oswald's call did not go through, how did Mrs. Hurt talk to him on the phone? The answer could be Oswald called John Hurt before the assassination to verify his identity and contact information as a normal precaution.
The morning after Oswald attempted the Raleigh Call, he was shot in front dozens of people and a national television audience while being transferred from the Dallas police headquarters to the Dallas County Jail.