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THE JFK CASE: THE TWELVE WHO BUILT THE OSWALD LEGEND (Part 7: The hand-off from De Mohrenschildt to the Paines)

Message Bill Simpich

Oswald returned from the Soviet Union speaking Russian with a Polish accent

When Oswald and his family returned to the Dallas-Fort Worth area from the Soviet Union, they knew that they had make contacts if they were going to put food on the table.  Oswald sought out Peter Gregory shortly after his arrival.   Peter Gregory described himself as an "oil consultant" who came from Russia in 1923.     He was also a translator who had his son Paul take Russian lessons from Oswald's wife Marina.  Gregory provided Oswald with a letter certifying Oswald's ability to serve as a translator Gregory commented on Oswald's pronounced Polish accent, which was a result of Oswald's extended time with Legend Maker #8 Alexander Ziger and the entire Ziger family. 

Dallas oilman/spy George de Mohrenschildt became a benefactor to the Oswald family, providing them with money and contacts after their return to the US from the Soviet Union.  As discussed earlier, de Mohrenschildt's lawyer Max Clark was also General Dynamics' industrial security consultant and a leader within the White Russian community.   Oswald contacted Max Clark's wife shortly after his return, explaining that the Texas Employment Commission had referred her to him as a Russian-speaker and that his wife would like to spend time with another Russian-speaker. 

Both Peter Gregory and Max Clark displayed furtiveness and unclean hands after JFK was killed.  On 11/28/63, Gregory assisted the Secret Service in translating a lengthy interrogation of Marina Oswald.  On 11/29/63, both Gregory and Clark told FBI agent Earle Haley that Oswald had obtained their names from the Fort Worth Public Library, where Gregory worked.  When Clark testified before the Warren panel, he changed his story to say that Oswald was referred to his wife by the Texas Employment Commission (TEC). Clearly, both men had initially tried to keep their TEC contacts away from public view.  The TEC - better known as the state unemployment agency - kept extensive records on Oswald that are now available and open up all sorts of questions.  After a complaint by the Warren Commission staff that these earlier reports contradicted the Warren Commission testimony, Hoover ordered Legend Maker #6 FBI supervisor Marvin Gheesling to confront them on these contradictions.

When Gheesling re-assigned the case to the Dallas FBI office, agent Earle Haley went back and re-interviewed Clark and Gregory.  Haley was a personal acquaintance of Max Clark, who used to work with "Earle".  Gregory wouldn't change his story and blamed it on Oswald, while Clark said he heard about the whole issue second-hand from his wife, who always knew Oswald got her name from the Texas Employment Commission.  Max's wife Gali Clark was treated with kid gloves.  There's no indication that Haley or anyone else ever followed up with her.

Oswald had legend makers precisely because he and his wife presented a perceived threat to national security

De Mohrenschildt visited and exchanged cards and letters with CIA official J. Walton Moore on a regular basis during the fifties and sixties.  Moore wrote a memo in 1977 claiming that he only met de Mohrenschildt twice, in 1958 and in 1961.  Moore's hazy memory on the number of visits was exposed by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. In 1964, a similar memo by Moore admitted that he met de Mohrenschildt in 1957, "several times" in 1958 and 1959, and the last time in 1961.   There was more than just that.  De Mohrenschildt sent Moore a stack of contact reports in 1957 and 1958.  In 1958, Moore used de Mohrenschildt as a "contact" with a Polish official.  In 1960, Moore referred to de Mohrenschildt as a "cleared contact" for a copy of a memo on the USSR's use of petroleum. 

Moore visited the De Mohrenschildts' home in late 1961 to see a movie of their "walking tour" from Mexico to Panama.  HSCA Report, Volume 12, p. 54.  Although the de Mohrenschildts said that they were tracking the mining trails of the old Spanish conquistadors, they found themselves with hundreds of Cuban exiles in Guatemala City, a staging area for the Bay of Pigs invasion that was about to begin.   De Mohrenschildt revealed a few hours before his death that Moore took him to lunch in late 1961, and described to him an ex-Marine in Minsk in whom the CIA had "interest".  In the summer of 1962, an associate of Moore suggested that de Mohrenschildt might want to meet Oswald.  De Mohrenschildt then called Moore, suggesting that suitable payback would be a little help by the State Department with an oil exploration deal in Haiti.  

After the assassination, R.S. Travis at the Domestic Contact Division identified ten separate domestic contact reports prepared by de Mohrenschildt, and tipped off the staff of Legend Maker #1 Jim Angleton at the counterintelligence office. Travis referred to De Mohrenschildt as Moore's "source," and asked Moore to provide his personal evaluation of George for the CI Staff.  Moore wrote an intriguing evaluation that admitted that he had sought out de Mohrenschildt as "the result of a source lead from Headquarters" in 1957, but scrambled to avoid any direct admissions of the role he played in bringing de Mohrenschildt and Oswald together.  Moore's evaluation was so carefully prepared that the file includes what appears to be a far-different rough draft.

Moore's poor memory triggered internal scrutiny by the CIA's Reinvestigation Program.   Moore went so far as to tell the CI staffer for  Angleton "there is no White Russian 'community' in Dallas.  He knows of only a couple of Russian linguists who are used by the Socony labs for translation.  Jim feels the word 'community' is inapplicable.  In any event he has had no contact with any such group".  This memo is one of several indications that the task for Angleton's staff was to sanitize de Mohrenschildt's checkered history.  Moore was a former FBI agent and college roommate of Wallace Heitman, a Soviet language specialist who played the lead role for the FBI in controlling the first-day evidence.

Although US intelligence records on de Mohrenschildt go back to at least World War II, CIA Director Richard Helms said that the agency's "initial interest" in George de Mohrenschildt was because he had been a petrochemical consultant with the International Cooperation Administration (ICA). De Mohrenschildt was appointed by the State Department as the "petroleum adviser" for the independent communist Yugoslavian government in 1957, and testified to the Warren Commission that ICA was the only US government agency that ever paid him.  The ICA became part of the Agency for International Development (AID) in 1961.  The AID has been cited by its former director John Gilligan as being filled with CIA agents "from top to bottom...the idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas, government, volunteer, religious, every kind". 

In early 1963, de Mohrenschildt passed on his "babysitting duties" for the Oswald family to Ruth and Legend Maker #12 Michael Paine.  Ruth's father Bill Hyde was regional director of the Nationwide Insurance Company, part of the International Cooperative Alliance founded in 1922 and still active today.  This similiarity between these two ICAs is not accidental - the contracts for both groups were coordinated through AID and the State Department. Both de Mohrenschildt and Hyde were business consultants that traveled abroad working on cooperative ventures and provided reports used by the CIA.  

The covert action division of Legend Maker #2 Cord Meyer sought to use Hyde as a security consultant in Vietnam back in 1957, but CI-SIG's information on Hyde resulted in the denial of any security clearance.  Hyde's problem, like Legend Maker #3 Priscilla Johnson, was that he was active with progressive causes and had family members involved with the United World Federalists.  Meyer, the CIA covert action chief in 1963, had got into trouble with the FBI during the 1950s for his former role as president of the United World Federalists. 

Keep in mind that the CIA was not supposed to have officers handling domestic agents tracking US citizens inside the country.  That job was the FBI's turf.  Routing slips show that interactions between Oswald and the FBI after his return were carefully scrutinized.  The rivalry between the CIA and the FBI led to CIA officers trying to work around the system.  In this setting Ideal babysitters for the Oswald family were trusted people that were denied security clearances - such as de Mohrenschildt or Ruth's father.   Whether or not the babysitter knew that they were being monitored by intelligence, the operation could be kept in an officer's vest pocket and never reduced to writing.

Ruth Paine and Marina Oswald became housemates after the Magnolia party

Ruth Paine met the Oswalds and George de Mohrenschildt at the party of Everett Glover on February 22, 1963.  This is known as the "Magnolia party".  Glover was a chemist with Magnolia Labs, a geology lab for Socony Mobil Oil -- the same "Socony labs" that Moore referred to when he argued that there was no White Russian community in Dallas.  Glover and four other Magnolia employees approached Oswald and got him to talk for several hours about life in the Soviet Union.   One of these employees, Norman Fredericksen, was the son of the former director of Radio Free Europe.  As discussed in the previous chapter, de Mohrenschildt had many close ties with Radio Free Europe. 

The Paines have been described by researcher Greg Parker as pragmatic pacifists.  In an amazing coincidence, they moved from Pennsylvania to Oswald's mother's community of Irving, Texas during the second week of September 1959, the very week that Oswald abruptly left his mother and went off to defect to the USSR.   They had made the move so that Michael could take a job with the military contractor Bell Helicopter.  Michael said that Bell manufactured 40% of all of the helicopters used in the Vietnam War. Bell Helicopter was begun and run by Michael's stepfather, Arthur Young, the most recent husband of Michael's mother Ruth Forbes Paine.

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Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney and an antiwar activist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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