Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vinnie and the Doubles

I decided to do something I hadn't in a long time. Crack open Vince Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, his massive 1600-page tome and see what he had to say on record about the Lee Oswald impersonations. Of course, I knew it was going to be a debunking of the whole thing but I wanted to see at what lengths he would go to quash it. As usual, that chapter is filled with his usual doses of invective, sarcasm, unfair dismissals, omissions and specious arguments.

Bugliosi Rips On Armstrong
Bugliosi starts out defining researcher John Armstrong as the leading proponent of the Oswald doppelganger theory. In Armstrong’s book, Harvey and Lee, he proposes that Oswald was being impersonated as young as the age of 13 and the CIA found a boy resembling him of Eastern European decent that spoke Russian well and blended the two personalities or boys into one identity. I know, a farfetched idea. Not only that, but if Oswald is being impersonated as a teenager then he has to have a mother impersonated as well. With Bugliosi’s keen legal mind and sharp wit, this appears to be easy pickings for him to debunk.

Bugliosi from his End Notes (CD-ROM), page 565:

"John Armstrong actually went on to publish a 983-page book in 2003 called Harvey and Lee: How the CIA Framed Oswald, in which he carries his fantasy about a double Oswald to such absurd lengths that not only doesn’t it deserve to be dignified in the main text of my book, but I resent even having to waste a word on it in this endnote."

Ironically, while Bugliosi states that Armstrong's book and theory doesn't "deserve" to get mentioned in his book, while in fact, he does mention John Armstrong's name and work numerous on pages 1021-1022 at the start of his
“The Second Oswald” chapter.

Hey Vinnie, next time check with your ghost writers so you know what is being written down and where!

Bugliosi does bring up a lot of good points showing gaping holes in Armstrong's doppelganger theory. Indeed, there are lots of loose ends with it. But just as Bug constantly vamps on conspiracy researchers for omitting facts to make their plots work out, Bug does exactly the same thing when dealing with just about every controversial issue and the Oswald doubles is no exception. (It's also funny how he harps on researchers for making dumb, embarrassing mistakes. Bugliosi has his fair amount as well. On page 239, he mentions Chet Huntley broadcasting JFK info on ABC–not! It's NBC. And this is just one of dozens of goofy errors he makes. Apparently, he has no shame.)

A case in point is Palmer McBride, who claimed to be fiends with Lee Oswald when they worked at Pfisterer Dental Laboratory in 1957-1958. From the official Warren Report account, during this time, Oswald is supposed to be in the Marines in Japan and later in Taiwan. Bugliosi pulls every trick out of his bag to make McBride look like an unreliable witness. And, most importantly, define him as the only witness. Actually, he is not and Armstrong documents other people that knew a Lee Oswald in New Orleans in this 1957-58 time period. These include numerous employees, members of the local amateur astronomy club and the president of Pfisterer (Armstrong, pg. 172-174, 184-186 and 188-189).

North Dakota Incident
Part of the Oswald dopplegagner legend is the mysterious account of him appearing as a teenager in a Stanley, ND trailer park (Armstrong, pg. 69-72) in the summer of 1953. Grungy looking, riding a beat-up bike, going by the name of Harvey and talking up Marxist ideology, this character tells a young William Timmer who befriends him, that he going to kill the President one day. It's a strange tale to say the least. If you don't believe it, I can understand. I don't know what to think about this story with its strange undercurrents. Under the official account, Oswald is living with his mother in New York as she works retail.

However, after Lee defects in 1959 he gives an interview with Aline Mosby for the UPI where in her article, he mentions living briefly in North Dakota. Bugliosi dismisses John Armstrong's account of this in Harvey and Lee (the definitive book on Oswald impersonations–see my review HERE) accusing him of not seeing that it's a typo in the published article and claiming Mosby has New Orleans, "N O" in her original notes.

Here is where Bugliosi launches into a full deception on this issue. What he omits, and what John Armstrong documents, is there are two sets of notes. One set is handwritten and one set is typewritten. The handwritten notes of which the article derives from has "N D" for North Dakota in them. The typewritten notes were made five years later upon request for the Warren Commission. They contain "N O" is in them. See how Bugliosi confuses the issue? The actual typo is in the newer, typed version, not in the published article or the handwritten notes.

I could say this is an example of Bugliosi at his worse, but he is far from done.

We are still left with the strange account of a teenaged Oswald peddling his bike around in a dusty, oil boom town trailer park. What would be the point of his impersonation at this point? To build a legend of Ozzie the Commie? Who knows...

The Hoover Memo
Here is the famous quote from FBI Director Hoover's June 3, 1960 memorandum:

"Since there is a possibility that an impostor is using Oswald's birth certificate, any current information the Department of State may have concerning subject will be appreciated."

This quote has really made the rounds over the years. It places the source of Oswald being impersonated in the bowels of the government itself, by Hoover's acknowledgment of the possibility. Bugliosi counters the conspiracy advocates by pointing out that they are ignoring the preceding paragraph were Hoover quotes some of Marguerite Oswald's concerns about her son's whereabouts. Bugliosi implies that Hoover gets the idea of Oswald being impersonated from his mother's worries (pg. 1025).

However, at no point in that paragraph does Marguerite state or imply that her son is being impersonated. Indeed, she is worried for his safety, saying he took his birth certificate with him, enrolled at a college in Switzerland and expresses concern about her letters to him being returned.

Bugliosi could dislocate his shoulder with this wacky stretch! I do not see how Hoover could have assumed impersonation from Oswald's mother's anxiety. Bugliosi backtracks a bit when he admits, " would appear that Hoover used rather loose language in speculating about the possibility of an impostor."

Whatever. I think it's quite possible that Hoover had learned of the impersonation of Oswald from other sources. In fact, I think that is what is implied in Hoover's statement. He is also asking for more information from the DOS–but does he ever get it? However, it's absurd that he could have gotten the idea from Oswald's mother not getting her letters to her son, or Lee's enrollment at Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland where he never appears.

Her main concern is a mother’s concern–where is my son at?

The Furniture Store Incident
In another notorious event in the Oswald impersonator saga is when Lee, wife and daughters, show up for a visit to the Furniture Mart in Irving, Texas. According to store owner Mrs. Edith Whitworth, they entered because of a gun repair sign still in the window left there from the previous owner. Lee with rifle in hand is looking to have a part replaced. He is told about the misleading sign and eventually they leave (pg. 1029-1030).

The issue here is that this event occurs during a day in early November when Lee is at work. Once he starts on October 16 at the Texas School Book Depository, he never takes a day off. The clock is ticking down. This serves as the benchmark for the numerous Oswald sightings (outside of work) that will occur from then on till the day of the assassination.

This will give cause for Bugliosi to write off not only Mrs. Whitworth's account but also that of her friend Mrs. Gertrude Hunter, also a witness to Oswald and family appearing in the store that day. He will confidently state, "The likelihood of these women's story being true is practically nil."

Well, not if Oswald is being impersonated! And if it's happening, these two women are witnesses to the fact.

Marina says she never visited the store with Lee and kids. Bugliosi, as usual, treats Marina as a reliable source, above reproach, as he does all witnesses that follow the lone nut scenario. Only those that are at odds with the official story are put under the Bugliosi anal exam. He won't question her character or truthfulness as she lies her way through her Commission testimony. Actually, Marina contradicted herself so many times one of the staff lawyers wanted to put her under cross-examination. Too bad it wasn't done. And Marina today, has totally flipped and believes her late husband to be innocent.

Another important point here in this episode is that these two women are both witnesses to Oswald driving a car. That's a big no-no among the Defenders of the Faith. This gives another tidbit for Bugliosi to dismiss in their account because the Warren Report states that Oswald can't drive. There are however, numerous sightings of Oswald driving (Armstrong, pg. 752 ).

However, both women give their testimony to the Warren Commission and get a chance to meet Marina and the girls in person. They both easily identified. Marina stood out to them anyway, because she never spoke a word when they allege she was in the store. They apparently felt this odd.

Bugliosi, when he finds a witness he doesn't like tries to discredit them with any little thing. The best he could do here was dig up a sister-in-law of Mrs. Hunter that accused her of being prone to telling “tale tales.” Lame. Vinnie, I'm sure we can find somebody in your family that would say the same thing about you.

Mexico City
Nothing quite like "Oswald's Magical Mystery Tour" to Mexico City in the fall of 1963 to muddy the waters of the JFK assassination. Needless to say, it remains one of the more enigmatic events of Lee Oswald's short life. Too involved to go into here, Jeff Morley does a good job in his book, Our Man in Mexico. Check out John Newman’s Oswald and the CIA as well. If you want an even higher level of detail that ramps up the high strangeness, then check out John Armstrong's Harvey and Lee. There is also the Lopez Report, HERE.

In short, Oswald gets the bug to go back to Russia (unexplained) and for some odd reason needs to travel via Cuba to get there. (Interesting that he didn't have to do this the first time.) Many have speculated that his real mission was to be sent on an assassination attempt on Castro, but we'll never know for sure. Bugliosi never defines Oswald's purpose in Mexico either. At any rate, his attempts to get travel visas to either country fail and he soon returns to Texas.

Mexico City, I think, is the most easily proven of all of the Oswald impersonation accounts. Not for Vincent Bugliosi of course because if Oswald is being impersonated that means other people are aware of his movements and actions. He’s supposed to be a nobody. The lone nut supporters have to maintain Oswald's loner status at all costs. Never mind that the likes of J. Edgar Hoover and the Mexico City CIA station chief, Win Scott, both believed that Oswald was being impersonated.

There is a lot going on here, but basically, somebody calls the Russian embassy claiming to be Lee Oswald and speaks broken Russian asking questions about things that Oswald should already know the answers to. Oswald is known to be a very good Russian speaker so this is probably somebody else. A Lee Oswald calls the Cuban embassy asking questions speaking in good Spanish. Oswald is not known to speak Spanish at all. Both embassies are bugged and later, FBI agents will listen to the tapes and determine that it is not Oswald's voice they hear. Hoover is so convinced he tells Lyndon Johnson and he uses it as an argument to convince Chief Justice Earl Warren to chair the Commission. (Bugliosi wants us believe the tapes were destroyed in October of 1963. But Morley in his book says that Station Chief Scott kept a copy in his safe. Basically, for insurance. Mr. B is incorrect. The tapes were around long after the assassination, long enough for FBI agents to give them a listen.)

The Silvia Odio Incident
Yet another legendary story in the JFK assassination. In brief, a Cuban immigrant was staying with her sister when one day in September 26, three men came to the door–two Hispanic men (probably Cubans) and one caucasian, who was introduced as Leon Oswald. They were seeking financial help to fund a take-down of Castro as they knew her father was once a (former) wealthy Cuban businessman. Suspicious, she turned them away and a few months later recognized Lee Oswald on TV as the accused assassin, the same man who had appeared at her door as “Leon.” Her story was fluffed off by the Warren Commission but later accepted by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the late 1970s.

Her account of meeting Oswald is widely accepted among researchers and even Bugliosi begrudgingly accepts her story. Though he is clearly uncomfortable delving into it. His troubled mind rambles on for scads of pages. He issues numerous speculations, looks at moving dates around and all kinds of malarkey to ease his torment. The last straw, trying to find way to trash Odio’s character fails him so the esteemed prosecutor ultimately concludes she most likely was visited by Oswald and his Cuban friends.

And like most investigators, he totally ignores the fact that there is more than one witness here–Silvia’s sister Annie. It was her apartment, she opened the door to these men, saw them closely, and overheard the conversation. Bugliosi pretends she doesn’t exist, a serious omission of fact. Of course, a second witness gives more legitimacy to the story. (It should be pointed out that Annie Odio was never interviewed by the FBI, the Warren Commission, or the HSCA.)

The issue here is, that the same time that Oswald is at the Odio’s door the day of September 26, he is supposed to be on the bus in Mexico heading towards Mexico City. Of course Bugliosi is having nothing of this doppelganger business, fluffing that off as a wad of conspiracy theorist gaga.

The Warren Commission when dealing with issues like this usually resorts to ignorance. They state in the Report that Oswald’s bearings that day can, “...not strictly accounted for.” How’s that for an easy way out?

But no matter what, Lee Oswald visiting Silvia Odio with Cubans is not evidence of a conspiracy! Or so says Mr. B.

In Summary
Vincent Bugliosi, in Reclaiming History is an example of a bull in the China shop style of investigation. Most of the book is ghost written. Other researchers have pointed out it flaws. It’s funny and a tad embarrassing to see what Bugliosi puts himself through in order to prove the Government’s lone gunman theory. I guess when one is paid a million dollar cash advance, a guy’s gotta do what guy’s gotta do. The more he goes on, kicking over the straw men he props up to seemingly win his arguments, slicing and dicing conspiracy aligned researchers for nasty fun, the more he shows how shallow the Warren Commission’s case on Lee Oswald is.

Whether there was a double of Lee Oswald running about lose in the American landscape is a separate issue open to endless speculation and debate. I think Bugliosi is wrong to place the genesis of such theories in the minds of kooks and amateur investigators. As written previously, the impersonation issue is very familiar to powerful people in the FBI and the CIA who believe it possible, at least with the Mexico City episode.

A final point. The Warren Commission’s 26 volumes of collected evidence has two separate sets of educational records on Lee Oswald from the fall of 1953 with Oswald attending both schools at the same time–one set in New York and one set in New Orleans. He can’t be in two places simultaneously so he’s either being impersonated or else somebody is creating phony documents, the latter being a felony. These records not only contradict the Warren Report but the documents contradict themselves. The main point being, these records are coming from the government’s own investigation. Something is not right here and we can’t count on Vincent Bugliosi's closed mind to objectively find out what is going on.

Bugliosi, Vincent, Reclaiming History; Armstrong, John, Harvey and Lee; Morley, Jeff, Our Man In Mexico; Newman, John, Oswald and the CIA

The Lopez Report