Jim Garrison Discusses Richard Case Nagell
Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Fensterwald = Bernard Fensterwald, founder of the Committee to Investigate Assassinations.
Bethell = Tom Bethell, a Garrison staffer.
Turner = William Turner, a writer for Ramparts magazine and a part-time investigator for Jim Garrison.
Boxley = Bill Boxley, a Garrison investigator.
Fensterwald: Jim, have you reached any conclusions on Nagell?
Garrison: I spent 3 hours with him in Central Park -- talking to him at some length and about 6 hours in a hotel lobby the next day and I think he is absolutely genuine.
Fensterwald: Who is he and what is he?
Garrison: He's so elliptical. I think he's a KGB man -- well I think he was initially a U.S. intelligence officer in the Army who at some point in his career probably in Asia was -- married the Soviet apparatus. I think for idealistic reasons from his point of view. And in the course of time became a CIA operator and he was ... his account is that he was sent by the Central Intelligence Agency -- he doesn't specify the mission -- but on business to see what was happening with the group around Oswald. Oswald and Sergio Arcacha and others he won't go into. One of the few things he was specific about ...
Bethell: Did he mention Sergio Arcacha?
Garrison: He did.
Fensterwald: Tied in with Oswald?
Garrison: Yes. But again in a vague way. Very elliptical; he was concerned about his life.
Fensterwald: He was sent to Mexico for this?
Garrison: He wouldn't say whether it happened in Mexico or Texas. He was concerned about his life when I talked to him and concerned about being able to get out of the country. It was obvious that he had made contact with the Russians and they were going to try to get him out of the country.
Turner: Who were the 3 guys who met him at the airport when he arrived?
Garrison: Federal agents. Federal agents told him not to talk to anybody.
Turner: CIA or FBI or what?
Garrison: He wouldn't specify. The federal government.
Turner: Where? In New York?
Fensterwald: But you say he was a double agent beginning sometime in the '50s?
Garrison: Yea. In the late '50's.
Fensterwald: Was sent to Mexico?
Garrison: He wouldn't say Mexico or Texas.
Fensterwald: But was sent to check on Oswald, Arcacha and others?
Garrison: Well, it wasn't to check on Oswald because Oswald is also an employee of the CIA. But his assignment was to see what this structure was doing and Oswald was part of the structure. The way he described it in one of his few specific moments was that initially the assassination plan was scheduled for Washington, from the way they talked. And Oswald apparently had some decoy assignment but didn't seem concerned at all about the danger to himself.
Nagell said he immediately felt that Oswald had no chance of surviving such a situation and in effect said in so many words: "I think somebody's setting you up. Why aren't you concerned?" Oswald seemed to feel that he was covered for reasons he did not explain. When I asked him if it was consistent with his reaction if Oswald felt that he was working for the Federal government and had been assigned to infiltrate such an operation and he said that would be one way of explaining his attitude because he seemed to feel that he was completely protected.
In other words, Oswald was the only one he described as completely CIA and had no worries at all about himself.
Fensterwald: Why did Nagell do what he did in Texas and El Paso?
Garrison: He explains that this way: He wrote the -- he got the impression as time went on that there was no interest in his contacts in the Federal government in stopping the affair and he wrote the head of the FBI a special delivery letter giving him some details about the plan to assassinate the President that he had come across. When he didn't get any reply, and no interest was shown, and the thing seemed to be continuing, he realized that (this is not his words but this is the ultimate impression) that the government itself was back of it.
Turner: You mean he told his own superiors in the CIA?
Garrison: He didn't indicate that. I should have asked him.
Fensterwald: Did you get the impression he was with the KGB at the time also?
Fensterwald: And did he mention something called the XYZ Company?
Garrison: That sounds familiar to me from some earlier questioning when he was ...
Turner: Was it Bravo Club?
Garrison: We just have that from earlier questioning. What I did -- I spent most of my time trying to get him to be more specific about the CIA and Oswald and he was -- I finally got him to be specific about the fact that Oswald was an employee of the CIA -- he said "As a matter of fact, I knew Oswald not only in Mexico and Texas but at Atsugi too." Where training ...
Turner: Nagell did?
Fensterwald: That could easily have been.
Garrison: He said I was at Atsugi at the same time so there's no question about him being a Central Intelligence Agent. But what he did without using these exact words -- the picture that he portrayed again and again was that he found himself in the position where nobody above him and no part of the governmental structure he had contact with was interested in stopping what was happening.
It's like the cabinet of Dr. Caligari -- where you're running from this guy and you finally get to the house -- and you open it and there's the guy you're running from. That was Nagell's situation and he said he didn't expect to get the time he got. He thought he would be -- he then fired the gun in the bank -- that this would insure that he would be in a Federal institution or some sort when it happened because it was now inevitable but just assumed it would be 6 months or something like that. Of course, the machinery got hold of him and they made it ten years.
Turner: The judge was Thornberry.
Fensterwald: Thornberry. Did he mention ...
Fensterwald: Yeah. Did he mention Greenstein? In Wilmington, Delaware?
Garrison: Bud, Greenstein is a contact of Bill's but he didn't mention him.
Fensterwald: He didn't mention him?
Fensterwald: Did he mention seeing Oswald in Mexico City in '62 or '63?
Garrison: Yes, I think he mentioned seeing Oswald in Mexico City and he said something about a woman being with him. [Note that when Oswald was in Mexico City, Nagell was in jail in El Paso]
Fensterwald: That figures.
Garrison: But you could not get him to be more specific than that. Then he'd go ice-skating away.
The conversation meanders and then, a few minutes later, they return to Nagell:
Turner: How safe is Nagell now in Switzerland?
Fensterwald: Who says he's in Switzerland?
Garrison: I think he is in Russia.
Fensterwald: I think he's behind the curtain.
Garrison: I think he's behind the curtain which is certainly safer than here.
Fensterwald: I think there's nothing more we are going to find out from or about him.
Garrison: I'm afraid we've burned ourselves with him with Martin [Assistant D. A. William Martin who visited Nagell in prison]
Turner: Now that's incredible. Bill, in other words, Nagell told you about William Martin. How did Martin come into it with Nagell?
Fensterwald: He went to visit him in prison and at one juncture Nagell saw him being buddy-buddy with the warden or the doctor or somebody and he clammed up just like that. But Greenstein is still around and he was in Mexico.
Boxley: Either that or Nagell is just filling everybody full of Smirech. [?]
Garrison: No. No. Nagell is not in his personality. He has no tendency to exaggerate. His words are very carefully considered. He cased something about Martin or overheard him saying the wrong thing or Martin asked the wrong question.
Fensterwald: He saw him talking to the wrong people.
Garrison: That was it but Martin came back and gave us the explanation saying all he was doing was inquiring about his health or something.
Later on, Garrison and others would conclude that William Martin was a CIA operative (he actually once had been a CIA domestic contact) and that that was why Nagell stopped cooperating. As you can see, Nagell was upset that Martin was talking to the doctor at the prison. I will cover this more fully in a future blog post.
I had no idea who they were referring to above when they mentioned XYZ Company and the Bravo Club. Then I found this excerpt from letters that Nagell had sent from prison which explains all:
Sometimes Nagell mixed up XYZ and Bravo. Nagell believed that Bravo was a CIA front (possibly Alpha 66, an anti-Castro paramilitary organization formed by Cuban exiles in the early 1960s). and XYZ was a reference, I believe, to the KGB.
Do conspiracy theorists really believe this stuff?
Here is what Nagell told to psychiatrist George Babineau of the U.S,. Army hospital in Berlin in October 1968: [Nagell was arrested in East Germany in June 1968 and was held for four months]
Kind of fitting, no? Two paranoid conspiracy theorists talking to one another.
Richard Case Nagell Blog Posts
The Importance of Richard Case Nagell to Some Conspiracy Theorists
Jim Garrison and a few conspiracy theorists think Nagell is a very important witness. But is he really?
Genesis of the Richard Case Nagell story
David Kroman met Richard Case Nagell at the Springfield Medical Center for Federal Prisoners. Stephen Jaffe, a Garrison volunteer, wrote a memo, relating Nagell's story through the eyes and ears of David Kroman.
Nagell was convicted of armed robbery and was sentenced to ten years, but his conviction was overturned because of startling new evidence.
Richard Case Nagell and the JFK Assassination
There is no credible evidence that Nagell had any foreknowledge of either Lee Harvey Oswald or the JFK assassination.
Nagell claims he met Oswald in Japan, Texas, Mexico City, and New Orleans. There is no credible evidence that he ever met Oswald.
Nagell went to Cuba and met with Fidel Castro and even played ping-pong with the man.
Insane Conspiracy Theories about Richard Case Nagell
Richard Case Nagell said that he knew the two Oswalds - Lee Harvey and Leon. Some conspiracy theorists believe this madness.
Combine one part crazy and one part ridiculous and what do you come up with? An early attempt at a unified conspiracy theory of the JFK assassination.
Two Smoking Guns of the Richard Case Nagell Story
Nagell sent conspiracy theorist Dick Russell one page of a military intelligence file which seemed to indicate that he was monitoring Oswald and his wife on behalf of the CIA. But does the whole document really show that?
Did Richard Case Nagell had an Oswald Military ID in his possession when he was arrested in September 1963?
Richard Case Nagell and Jim Garrison
Richard Case Nagell believes that he wasn't called to testify at Clay Shaw's trial because his testimony would have blown up Jim Garrison's case.
At a conference in September 1968, Garrison and his investigators discuss his face-to-face meeting with Nagell in New York City.
William Martin, an Assistant District Attorney working for Jim Garrison, tried to retrieve a tape that Nagell said contained the voices of three JFK assassination conspirators.
Richard Popkin, author of "The Second Oswald," writes Jim Garrison about Richard Case Nagell. Garrison staffer Tom Bethell thought the Nagell lead was useless.
Richard Case Nagell's Mental Health
Nagell won a full disability pension in 1982 and the 60+ page court case provides complete details on his mental problems.
Richard Case Nagell told a psychiatrist why he shot up the bank in El Paso in 1963.
The FBI spoke to Nagell's ex-wife, his mother, his sister, and one of his friends. They all agreed that Nagell had significant mental health problems.
Nagell visited the American consulates in Zurich and Barcelona in 1969. He was a deeply disturbed man.
Richard Case Nagell's Evidence
None of the so-called evidence that Nagell promised would materialize on his death has shown up. Did this evidence ever exist?