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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Jim Garrison's Files and Mark Lane


New Orleans States-Item, March 29, 1974

(Original caption: Outgoing District Attorney Jim Garrison packs personal belongings into cardboard boxes as he prepares to leave the office he has occupied for 12 years.)


Jim Garrison gave Mark Lane free rein to rummage through his files. Here is a note that Sylvia Meagher wrote about a phone call from Tom Bethell:


Here are some excerpts from Bethell's diary about Mark Lane and the files:


Lane is quietly going through the files, (Mancuso, Sheridan, Sandra Moffett, recently,) occasionally xeroxing material. Naturally, I am concerned by Lane's presence as he could be trying to usurp my position. His position is beginning to become clearer to me: he is basically out for himself and would like to see his position vis-a-vis the Warren Commission vindicated by Garrison. I got the feeling today for the first time that he may have realized he might not be backing the right horse. He is definitely a calculator, and I feel may be prepared to take a calculated risk on the outcome of the case. (If I were in his position -- best seller behind me -- I would be strongly tempted to get quickly into another field.) He is clearly in a quandary: an extremely ironical position in view of Shaw's guilt depending on Oswald's.


I had been boiling up for a row with Mark Lane and his lieutenant Gary Sanders, and it burst today. I confronted Lane with his right to read and xerox our files–he was in the process of reading the Ferrie file when this occurred. I asked him how he felt that xeroxing the files contributed to the investigation. He kept quite calm and replied that Garrison set policy in the office, not me, and that therefore he could xerox them if he wanted to, which was I suppose a reasonable answer. I also told Lane that it was my belief he had lied to me about some information provided him by David Lifton. Lifton, a friend of Wesley Liebeler in Los Angeles, had managed to get some information from Liebeler about the classified pages on David Ferrie in the National Archives. Liebeler worked on this area for the Warren Commission and had copies of the classified pages, which he read out to Lifton one evening. (He would not let Lifton have copies of them.) Lifton ran home and wrote down all he could remember. He then later met Lane and told him he had this material written down. Lane told him that he had to have it because he was on his way to New Orleans and Garrison would like to see it. Lifton gave him the material, as well as some info from some columnist. Lane says he only got the columnist material, not the other. Lifton was quite surprised to hear this, and surprised to hear that we did not have the Ferrie material in the office by now. Their stories are in flat contradiction, and there is no doubt in my mind that Lane is lying. The fact is the Ferrie material is worse than useless to Garrison, because it indicates that the FBI is not hiding anything significant about Ferrie, and thus deprives Garrison of an excuse to talk about governmental secrecy, etc. Lane is smart enough to realize this, and no doubt decided that the best thing would be simply not to show the Lifton material to Garrison at all.


Thought it best to tell Garrison that I had had an argument with Lane, and he treated it with vast diplomacy. He ensured, first of all, that I was alone in his office with him, to ensure that he was not confronted by any kind of consensus from the office. Garrison advised me that it was OK for Lane to xerox the files etc., because he was writing a book about the investigation. Two people had been authorized to write books about the subject; and Mark Lane, who would be doing a more leisurely "history" book on it.

I saw Lane later in the afternoon, and we more or less agreed to stop the feud. I told him, however, what it was that concerned me more than anything: some of the files, which I was supposed to be in charge of, were something of an embarrassment to me. The Ferrie file contains no evidence that Ferrie knew Oswald, which is the relationship which the investigation was originally predicated on. The Ferrie file is, in fact, simply a report on a negative investigation. Under the circumstances then, it was somewhat embarrassing to have outsiders like Gary Sanders coming round reading the file. Lane reacted as though he appreciated my problem and then said: "Well, in future, if anyone looks at the Ferrie file, just tell them that the important material from it has been put into a confidential file somewhere." By saying this, of course, Mark Lane was acknowledging the lack of basis for the investigation.



Money quote: (from the November 4, 1967 note)

The Ferrie file contains no evidence that Ferrie knew Oswald, which is the relationship which the investigation was originally predicated on. The Ferrie file is, in fact, simply a report on a negative investigation. Under the circumstances then, it was somewhat embarrassing to have outsiders like Gary Sanders coming round reading the file. Lane reacted as though he appreciated my problem and then said: "Well, in future, if anyone looks at the Ferrie file, just tell them that the important material from it has been put into a confidential file somewhere." By saying this, of course, Mark Lane was acknowledging the lack of basis for the investigation.

Conspiracy theorist James DiEugenio likes to blame people like Bill Boxley and Harry Connick Sr. for the sorry state of Garrison's files:

Certainly, Boxley might have taken some files. But, you'll never hear DiEugenio blame Mark Lane. The biggest culprit for the disappearance of some of Garrison's files is Jim Garrison himself. They were under his control when he lost the primary to Harry Connick in 1973 and he had months to donate them to a University or store them in a safe space. Tom Bethell asked the right question - where on earth are Garrison's 26 volumes of evidence?


Here is a a 1969 note from Tom Bethell to his diary entry of February 8, 1968:

(1969: I never saw a transcript of Marina Oswald's testimony. Of course, Grand Jury testimony is technically secret, but the fact that Garrison largely conducted his investigation in the secrecy of the Grand Jury raises some questions about the validity of his criticisms of the Warren Commission. This would be analogous to the Warren Commission having heard testimony in closed session. It seems that Marina's testimony before the Warren Commission will go down to posterity -- albeit under a great deal of criticism -- but her testimony before the "Garrison Commission" will not even see the light of day. It will be analogous to one of the Commission's classified documents, which Garrison got so much mileage out of. As far as I know, nobody has ever raised this criticism of Garrison. When is he going to publish his 26 volumes?)

Most of the grand jury testimony from Garrison's JFK probe was made public when the ARRB forced Harry Connick to release the files. There is much grand jury material that is missing. Garrison could have safeguarded all of this material when he was in office, but he really didn't care about the proper disposition of his files.


I should also note that not all the testimony from the Clay Shaw trial was transcribed. Charles Spiesel's testimony, which was so damaging to Jim Garrison, is nowhere to be found.



Previous Relevant Blog Posts about Garrison's Files


A nice overview of Jim Garrison's files and their mishandling.


Garrison could have donated his files to a University. He didn't.


Garrison took a cavalier approach to how he handled evidence.

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