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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Jefferson Morley's Podcast on New Orleans Lays an Egg

Headline of Peter Voskamp's article on Morley's Substack.



Indeed, in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s murder, the CIA destroyed any and all records of its New Orleans office and assets’ interactions with the man charged with the assassination.
Hunter Leake, deputy chief of the agency’s New Orleans office in 1963, told historian Michael Kurtz in the 1980s “in a quite definitive manner, that Oswald indeed performed chores for the CIA during his five months in New Orleans” in 1963. Leake was ordered by Langley to destroy the New Orleans records.
(JFK Facts recently produced a podcast discussing these events.)

Michael Kurtz's claims must be taken with a grain of salt. In this case, all of the material in the podcast comes from a Dan Storper interview with Kurtz. There is no documentary evidence to back up any of the allegations.



Their podcast is also pretty ridiculous. Here are some of the sillier statements:


  1. Michael Kurtz and Guy Banister


The podcast includes the story that Kurtz ran into Banister at Louisiana State University in New Orleans. (2:25). Pat Speer debunked this allegation on his website:


Kurtz re-appeared in 1980 with an article entitled Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans: a Reappraisal. It was published in Louisiana History, The Journal of the Louisiana History Association. It detailed Oswald's known activities in New Orleans...but with several new additions. On page 14 it related that "Two people remember Oswald as one of the participants in a discussion of the racial issue. The discussion, which took place on the campus of Louisiana State University in New Orleans, involved Oswald and (Guy) Banister debating federal immigration policies with a number of students." Banister, we should recall, was one of New Orleans DA Jim Garrison's top suspects in the assassination of President Kennedy. Kurtz cited "Confidential Interviews" as his source for this statement.


And this wasn't the only revelation. On page 16 Kurtz presented new claims of Oswald being seen in the company of David Ferrie, another one of Garrison's prime suspects. He offered "Twice they were seen conversing in Mancuso's restaurant. They were seen at a segregationist meeting in the late Spring of that year." His source for these bombshells was, once again, "Confidential Interviews."


And the pattern continued: on page 17, Kurtz related that "According to witnesses, Oswald accompanied a prominent leader of the White Citizens' Council and of other segregationist organizations to Baton Rouge six or eight times in July and August. These witnesses met Oswald, who was introduced to them as "Leon" Oswald. Oswald's companion, who was a personal friend of two of these witnesses, stated that he was employing "Leon" to do construction work for him. Oswald, however, was not dressed in work clothes; he was wearing what appeared to be "dressy clothes." Furthermore, Oswald and his companion engaged in discussions which included criticisms of American foreign policy as being "soft on Communism" and of United States civil-rights programs. On their last visit to Baton Rouge, the two men were accompanied by two "Latins,"neither of whom said anything to them." His source for this was, you guessed it, "Confidential Interviews."


So here, Kurtz has dropped some bombshells. He's claimed that the supposedly leftist Oswald was seen in the company of segregationists and racists numerous times in his brief stay in Louisiana, and that his sources for this are all "confidential."

So how did Kurtz deal with this in his subsequent writings?


Well, to start off, Kurtz's 1982 manifesto Crime of the Century: The Kennedy Assassination From a Historian's Perspective, repeated his claims about Banister. On page 203 of the 1993 edition of the book, Kurtz once again claimed Oswald accompanied Banister to Louisiana State University in New Orleans. He stressed, moreover, that "During these discussions, Oswald vehemently attacked the civil rights policies of the Kennedy administration." For this, Kurtz cited his previous article Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans.


And what about Ferrie? While there are a few additional sightings of Oswald in the company of Ferrie mentioned in Crime of the Century, including one by a witness named George Wilcox, the sighting of the two at Mancuso's, so prominently featured in Kurtz's 1980 article, is never mentioned.


Well, then, what about Oswald in Baton Rouge? Strangely, in Crime of the Century, there is no mention of Oswald visiting Baton Rouge in the company of a prominent leader of the White Citizens' Council. There is this, however. On page 203 of the 1993 edition, Kurtz reported: "Accompanied by two 'Latins,' Ferrie and Oswald were observed in Baton Rouge, where they openly denounced Kennedy's foreign and domestic policies." Kurtz's source? His 1980 article, Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans, which said nothing about Oswald and Ferrie being spotted in Baton Rouge. So, yikes, it looks like Kurtz somehow switched Ferrie into the role formerly played by the prominent leader of the White Citizens' Council.


But wait, it gets worse. On page xxxiv of the introduction to the 1993 edition of Crime of the Century, Kurtz offered "I saw Oswald and Bannister together twice. The first time, in May 1963, Bannister and Oswald arrived on the campus of Louisiana State University in New Orleans and entered a classroom. A fellow student of mine, George Higginbotham, introduced Bannister, who, in turn, introduced Oswald to the small group of students in the room. Bannister debated students about the racial policies of the Kennedy administration and about Kennedy's Cuban policies. In both instances, Bannister took what could only be called an extremist right-wing position, vehemently advocating a return to racial segregation, criticizing the students for attending an integrated university, and insisting that the United States launch a full-scale military invasion of Cuba. As far as I can recall, Oswald said nothing throughout the forty-five minute discussion. On the second occasion, sometime during July or August of 1963, I took a coffee break from my summer job at the office of the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper, the side of which was located directly across Camp Street from the 544 Camp Street building. I walked into Mancuso's, a small coffee shop on the first floor and drank a cup of coffee. Sitting together at a table some twenty feet away were Guy Bannister and Lee Harvey Oswald. Bannister waved to me, and I waved back."


Well, I'll be! Apparently, the "confidential interview" Kurtz had previously cited as his source for his claims about Oswald and Banister...had been with himself!


And that's not the only change in Kurtz's story between 1980 and 1993. While Oswald had previously been an active participant in Banister's debate with the students, he was now a quiet observer. And there's more. Kurtz had previously claimed that Oswald had been observed with Ferrie on two occasions at Mancuso's. He now claimed he'd personally observed Oswald with Banister on one occasion at Mancuso's.


Well, what about Ferrie, then? Is he mentioned in the 1993 Introduction? Yes. On page xxxix, Kurtz claimed a colleague of his named Van Burns had been introduced to Oswald and Ferrie at Pontchartrain Beach in New Orleans.


He then offered: "At the time these incidents occurred, the late spring and summer of 1963, neither Burns nor I thought anything about them, but the evening of the Kennedy assassination, both of us recognized the president's accused assassin as the same man we had observed in New Orleans. Assured by the press and news media and by government officials that a thorough investigation 'leaving no stone unturned' would be conducted, we waited for official investigators to contact us. We're still waiting."


Now this is interesting. Oswald in New Orleans, an online article by researcher Dave Reitzes, described a 10-5-98 interview with Kurtz, in which Kurtz repeated his 1993 claim Oswald said nothing during Banister's debate with the students. More telling, perhaps, is this. Kurtz purportedly told Reitzes that, subsequent to Kennedy's assassination, and Oswald's arrest, he'd "contacted the FBI" to tell them of Oswald's relationship with Banister, but "was brushed off."


So, which is it? Did Kurtz wait to be contacted about Oswald and Banister, as claimed in the 1993 introduction to Crime of the Century? Or did he reach out to the FBI, only to be brushed off, as claimed in his 1998 interview with Dave Reitzes?


Now let's jump ahead to 2006, and see how Kurtz handles Banister, Ferrie and Baton Rouge in The JFK Assassination Debates, apparently his last word on the subject. Well, on page 159 he stuck to his most recent story, and claimed he'd observed Banister and Oswald together both at LSU in New Orleans, and Mancuso's. Then what about Ferrie? While Kurtz mentions a number of ties between Oswald and Ferrie, including a new witness to their being together named Santos Miguel Gonzalez, his 1980 story of their being seen at Mancuso's, and his 1982 story of their being seen together in Baton Rouge, are both no-shows in The JFK Assassination Debates. And forget about George Wilcox's and Van Burns' purported sightings of Oswald with Ferrie. George Wilcox and Van Burns are never even mentioned in The JFK Assassination Debates.


This is truly disturbing. A disciplined writer of history--an historian--should be forever building on the established facts, not presenting one set of facts in one book, and another set in his next book. The changing of all these stories--significantly, the stories in which Kurtz has inserted himself as either a witness or protector of a confidential source-- suggests that Kurtz is unreliable at best.


But that doesn't mean he lied. Perhaps he's merely lazy--in that he rarely double-checks his current impressions of an incident against what he'd previously written on the incident...and has a terrible memory...


If only it were as simple as that...


2. Helms and Leake incinerate CIA files from New Orleans


The podcast claims that Hunter Leake got a phone call from Richard Helms (5:41) with instructions to find all the New Orleans CIA files on the assassination and pack them up and take them to Langley. Leake then rented a U-Haul and met Helms at CIA headquarters and the two of them incinerated the documents.


Does anybody really believe this Michael Kurtz story? Interestingly, Nagle and Storper admit in the podcast that they did not check Michael Kurtz's voluntary testimony before the ARRB in 1995.



He didn't say one word about Hunter Leake or the supposed destruction of the New Orleans files. Kurtz suggest to the ARRB certain questions they should ask of Richard Helms - all about a supposed 1964 investigation into the assassination -- but not about the claim that he incinerated any New Orleans files.


The podcast also makes the claim that Lee Harvey Oswald was doing some work for Hunter Leake. (11:24)


Here is what Speer wrote about Hunter Leake and Michael Kurtz:


Leake was purportedly interviewed over the telephone on 3-15-81. No other interview is listed. And yet, on page 158 of the JFK Assassination Debates Kurtz relates that "In several interviews...Leake stated that Oswald came to New Orleans in April 1963 because the CIA office there intended to use him for certain operations. His job at the Reilly Coffee Company merely served as a front for his actual role." And that is just the beginning. On page 162, Kurtz relates that "Leake stated that on the day of the assassination, he was ordered to collect all of the CIA's files on Oswald from the New Orleans office and transport them to the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia...They proved so voluminous that Leake had to rent a trailer to transport them to Langley...Leake later learned that many of these files were, in the term made infamous by John Ehrlichman during the Watergate crisis, 'deep-sixed.'" And that's not all. On page 178, Kurtz further reveals that "Leake told me that on one of his several visits to that city (New Orleans), Robert Kennedy ordered them (the CIA) to focus on 'getting rid of Castro' and specifically declared that he did not care how that objective was accomplished." It goes on. On pages 184-185, Kurtz reveals that Hunter Leake told him that Guy Banister worked for the CIA, and that he sometimes reported to...Hunter Leake.  


And that is just a sample of the things Leake purportedly told Kurtz, but no one else. On page 189, to continue, Kurtz claims "In reality, Lee Oswald had made several trips to Mexico City in 1963 to carry out missions for Guy Banister and Hunter Leake." His source? Hunter Leake, of course. But wait, there's more. On page 213, Kurtz puts the usual suspects in Kennedy's killing in the same room...in New Orleans, naturally. He relates that "Hunter Leake recalled (mafia-fixer-heavily-involved-in-the-CIA's-assassination-plots-on-Castro Johnny) Roselli meeting with Guy Banister and David Ferrie in Banister's office on Camp Street."


It's perfect. A little too perfect. From what can be gathered, Hunter Leake was unknown to JFK assassination researchers until the late 1990's, when documents and testimony from the 1960's and 1970's were released that indicated he'd been a member of the CIA's Domestic Contact Service in New Orleans, and had frequent contacts with the man Jim Garrison ultimately brought charges against, Clay Shaw. With the release of The JFK Assassination Debates in 2006, Kurtz stepped up and said he'd interviewed Leake in 1981, and that Leake had told him just about everything. Wherever there is confusion in the record--Did Oswald work for the CIA? Did Robert Kennedy order Castro's assassination? Was there any connection between the CIA's assassination attempts on Castro and the activities of Banister and Ferrie in New Orleans?--Leake pops up in Kurtz's book to show us the way. It's incredible. Nearly as incredible as Kurtz's supposedly sitting on this stuff for 25 years.


3. David Ferrie Comes into Money

The podcast notes that Michael Kurtz's brother was a bank teller at David Ferrie's bank. After the assassination, Ferrie deposits five to seven thousand dollars (10:03) Is this nefarious? Well, no. Ferrie had finished working for G. Wray Gill in helping him with the trial of Carlos Marcello. Ferrie got paid. The podcast makes it sound like the payment was associated with the assassination.


4. Hunter Leake was the Liaison for the CIA with Guy Banister.


The podcast makes the claim what Leake was the CIA's liaison with Guy Banister (13:19). But this claim comes from Dale Oriol who gave the information to Kurtz:

This allegation is third hand and there is no corroboration for this anywhere.



5. Oswald was getting paid $200/month from the FBI


This is a very old allegation which has been repeatedly debunked. It all stemmed from a made-up story by Lonnie Hudkins.


6. Richard Helms Called Michael Kurtz


Dan Storper said in the podcast that Kurtz told him that Richard Helms called him on the phone to tell him that he appreciated that Kurtz's book took a neutral position on whether there was a conspiracy. Kurtz asked him about Leake driving the files to Langley and the two of them destroying them, and Helms told Kurtz, "It's kind of a natural thing to do." (23:58)


I don't believe this story for a minute. On the podcast, they say that it's hard to imagine Leake making things up like that (24:55). But what about Kurtz making it up?


7. Dean Andrews Put Clay Bertrand and Clay Shaw Together.


At 35:49, the podcast claims that Dean Andrews was the person who put Clay Bertrand and Clay Shaw together. This is just not true. At no point did Dean Andrews ever intimate or say that Clay Shaw was Clay Bertrand. In fact, Andrews testified at Clay Shaw's trial in his defense.


Kurtz told Dan Storper many stories, and it appears that he believes all of them. In the next edition of Webster's dictionary, you'll find his name under the word, gullible.



Previous Relevant Blog Posts on Jefferson Morley


Believing Michael Kurtz is problematic.


Only one word is redacted in Harvey's deposition.


There are no redactions in the Operation Northwoods document.


Kilgallen had nothing to tell.


An underwhelming interview of Marina Oswald.


Morley often repeats stories and changes their meanings.


Chad Nagle claims there was an assassination plot against JFK in Chicago in November 1963. One problem: There is no evidence of such a plot.


A response to Morley's Substack post alleging that I am a CIA apologist.


Morley thinks there are two redacted memos on CIA reorganization, but there is only one.


A rebuttal to Morley's response to my post Was Bill Harvey in Dallas in November of 1963?


There is no credible evidence Harvey was in Dallas in November of 1963.


Morley repeats the claim that Dulles was at a CIA training center during the weekend of the JFK assassination. He wasn't.


Morley's claims about Efron are all wrong.


Morley responded to my article "The Truth about Operation Northwoods." Here is my reply.


W. Tracy Parnell is one of the best JFK assassination researchers out there. Here is his look at Jefferson Morley with several important articles.


Operation Northwoods can only understood as being part of the Kennedys' war against Cuba and Operation Mongoose.


And a response from me.


There is no evidence that Dr. West petitioned the court to examine Jack Ruby before his trial.


There is absolutely no evidence that Dr. Louis Jolyon West interfered with Jack Ruby's case.


The phrase 'who shot John' does not refer to the JFK assassination.


Jefferson Morley used a fake Oswald handbill in his press conference for the Mary Ferrell Foundation.


An examination of redactions in the JFK collection of documents.






















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