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ExcerptDemohrenschildt

ExcerptDemohrenschildt

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Published by edepstein
The Man Who Knew Too Much
The Man Who Knew Too Much

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Published by: edepstein on Nov 19, 2011
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01/30/2012

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[An excerpt fromThe JFK Assassination Theoriesby Edward Jay Epstein]
The Man Who Knew Too Much
By Edward Jay EpsteinAt 5 p.m on March 29,1977, a police car, siren wailing, arrived at the Breakers Hotel. Thenthere was a loud knock at my door. A Sheriff's deputy explained George De Mohrenschildt, whowas a key witness in the Kennedy assassination, had died an hour before from a gunshot woundto his head. The State Attorney now wanted to see me because I was apparently the last personto have seen George De Mohrenschildt alive.That morning I had been debriefing De Mohrenschildt as part of a four- day interview withhim, for which I had agreed to pay him a $4,000 honorarium. I was paying him because DeMohrenschildt had had an extraordinary relationship Lee Harvey Oswald, and I believed that hemight have been in a position to cast light on Oswald's prior entanglement in the web of intelligence services. He had been a man of considerable mystery. Even his date of birth —"1911," on one passport, "1914" on another— was in doubt. He had emigrated from Russia viavarious European countries to the United States in May 1938, and claimed such diverseoccupations as insurance salesman, film producer, journalist and textile salesman. In addition,British intelligence suggested that he may have been working for German intelligence.In any case, when he tried to join the OSS in 1941, he had been "security disapproved" because of his associations with German espionage agents. He then got involved in the oil business after the war, became a social figure in Dallas and traveled extensively around theworld. In 1962, he befriended Oswald, who had just returned from Russia to Dallas, andintroduced him to many people. Then, in the spring of 1963, just after Oswald attempted toassassinate General Edwin A. Walker, he abruptly broke off all contact with Oswald, and movedto Haiti, where he remained for over ten years.What had brought De Mohrenschildt to the attention of the Warren Commission was MarinaOswald's testimony that De Mohrenschildt had rushed up the stairs of Oswald's house after hemissed Walker and shouted, "Lee, how did you miss General Walker?" So he had to return fromHaiti to testify. When questioned about this remark by the Commission, De Mohrenschildtshrugged it off as nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence: a "joke." He then returned tothe obscurity of Haiti and gave no more interviews.He returned to the U.S. in the mid-1960s. I first interviewed him on April 22, 1976, but he wasnot forthcoming. Then, he mysteriously vanished in Europe. When he returned in 1977, heinformed me that he needed money. At that point, I offered him a $1,000 a day for a 4-dayinterview. The first day had gone well. With the help of my research assistant, Nancy Lanoue, Imanaged to fill in many of the gaps in his career prior to his meeting Oswald.Then, this morning, I asked him about why he, a socialite in Dallas, sought out Oswald, adefector. His explanation, if believed, put the assassination in a new and unnerving context. Hesaid that although he had never been a paid employee of the CIA, he had "on occasion donefavors" for CIA connected officials. In turn, they had helped in his business contacts overseas.By way of example, he pointed to the contract for a survey of the Yugoslavian coast awarded to
 
him in 1957. He assumed his "CIA connections" had arranged it for him and he provided themwith reports on the Yugoslav officials in whom they had expressed interest.In late 1961— De Mohrenschildt could not pinpoint the date— he said had a lunchtimemeeting in downtown Dallas with one of these CIA connections; J. Walter Moore, who workedfor the CIA's domestic contact service in Dallas. Moore steered their conversation to the city of Minsk, where, as Moore seemed to know even before he told him, De Mohrenschildt had spenthis childhood. He told De Mohrenschildt about an ex-American Marine who had worked in anelectronics factory in Minsk for the past year, Lee Harvey Oswald, and who was returning to theDallas area. Although no specific requests were made by Moore, De Mohrenschildt gathered thatMoore would be appreciative to learn more about Oswald's activities in Minsk. He had a quid pro quo in mind. He needed Papa Doc Duvalier, the Haitian dictator, to approve his oilexploration deal in that country. So he suggested to Moore help from the U.S. Embassy in Haitiwould be greatly appreciated by him."I would never have contacted Oswald in a million years, if Moore had not sanctioned it," he explained to me "Too much was at stake."When Oswald arrived in Dallas, De Mohrenschildt paid a visit to his house because, he toldme, he "assumed that was what Moore wanted." He then conducted an unwitting debriefing of Oswald — a subtle questioning in which the subject, Oswald, in this case, did not realize he was being debriefed.As he won Oswald's confidence, he not only drew him out about his experiences in Minsk but,with flattery, he encouraged him to write a detailed memoir for publication in a magazine. Healso offered to help edit and select photographs for it -- an offer that provided him with a plausible reason for continuing to probe Oswald's past. When he found out Oswald had writtenhis memoir that described, among other things, his work in the electronics factory, he borrowedit from him and told Moore.During that fall De Mohrenschildt also had introduced Oswald to potential employers in theelectronics business. He said he wanted to stimulate Oswald to discuss his work in the Minsk factory, which he assumed would be of interest to Moore.In mid March 1963, De Mohrenschildt got the lucrative Haitian government contract for which he had been waiting. He had assumed that it had been helped along by the work he wasdoing for Moore.But it then became apparent to him that he had become a much closer confidant of Oswaldthan he realized. In early April, Marina gave him a curious memento from Oswald. It was aninscribed photograph showing Oswald dressed in black, holding, in one hand, the radicalnewspaper The Militant and, in the other, the sniper's rifle with the telescopic sight-- that he hadshown De Mohrenschildt the week before. The photograph was signed "For George, Lee HarveyOswald" and dated April 5th, 1963. Marina had derisively scribbled in Russian "Hunter of Fascists. Ha. Ha." That "Ha Ha" became less a joke to De Mohrenschildt on April 10th when DeMohrenschildt heard on the radio that a sniper had fired a shot at General Walker. Only a fewweeks before, in the company of three young geologists, he recalled that he had heard Oswaldsingle out Walker as a "fascist" that should be dealt with, and, when one the geologists eggedhim by talking of an assassination plot against Hitler, Oswald answered that Hitler should have been shot before he ever achieved power. He thus had a "pretty good suspicion who had taken
 
the potshot" at Walker.He said he immediately rushed over to Oswald's house to find out what had happened and if Oswald had disposed of the rifle. He recalled being very frightened, as was his wife, Jean. Hefeared that he could be implicated, and the CIA might cut off support for his Haitian contract. atrisk, that night was the last time he ever saw Oswald.I then asked him whether he had reported the assassination attempt -- and the telltale photograph --to Moore. He said "I spoke to the CIA both before and afterwards. It was whatruined me." If so, the CIA had in its possession information and a photograph identifying Oswaldas a potential assassin some six months before Kennedy came to Dallas. But it was a big "if"--and serious problems with the story he was now telling. Why had De Mohrenschildt not turnedover this evidence to the FBI when he was questioned or to the Warren Commission when hetestified? Concealing such evidence could be a crime-- especially since it could have shown thatDe Mohrenschildt and others had prior knowledge about Oswald's assassination potential. His prior failure to tell the FBI about the photograph even could be construed as a possibleobstruction of justice. To be sure, part of his new story fit the established facts. J. Walter Moorewas indeed in the CIA's Domestic Contact Service in Dallas which had responsibility for debriefing returning visitors from the Soviet Union that had potential intelligence of value. AndMoore had been in contact with De Mohrenschildt. He had debriefed him in 1958 on his work inYugoslavia which, according to CIA records, he had disseminated the resulting reports to tengovernment agencies.There was also some indication the Domestic Contact Service in Dallas might have been askedto debrief Oswald. According to a memorandum given to the Warren Commission by the CIA,the CIA had placed a look-out card in his file after learning in 1961 he was returning to theDallas, and a CIA officer recalled suggesting that Oswald and his wife be debriefed through theDomestic Contact Service. So it could have happened, but there was no documentation showingthat Moore had received this heads-up, or had been in touch with De Mohrenschildt after Oswaldhad returned to Dallas in 1962. Was De Mohrenschildt now dragging the CIA into his relationwith Oswald as a red herring— or had the Warren Commission missed a critical link between theCIA and Oswald?I asked whether he had any proof the inscribed photograph existed. He offered to make the photograph available to men through his lawyer, Pat Russell, and I could verify the handwritingof Oswald's and Marina's. He then opened up his thick black address book and wrote outRussell's phone number.It was now 1:30 p.m. and we decided to break for lunch. We agreed to meet again at 3 p.m. Justafter De Mohrenschildt left the room I noticed that he had left his address book on the couch andmentioned it to Nancy. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. I realized he hadreturned for his address book which I handed back to him. It was the last time I saw him.David Bludworth, The State Attorney, was a folksy, charming and savvy interrogator. He began by telling me that De Mohrenschildt had put a shotgun in his mouth and killed himself at 3:45 p.m. There were no witnesses— and no one home at the time of the shooting. The precise time of his death was established by a tape-recorder, left running that afternoon to record the soap operasfor the absent Mrs. Tilton, and which recorded a single set of footfalls in the room and the blast

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