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  • Fred Litwin

The Surveillance of David Ferrie

Updated: Apr 19

Theodore Link, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, talked to David Ferrie before he died. Ferrie complained about surveillance by Garrison's men and that it "aggravated" his health. Of course, Ferrie was right - he was under surveillance, and to make things worse, Garrison had an undercover agent embed himself into Ferrie's life. Did all of this stress play a part in Ferrie's death via a berry aneurysm?


Here is his report from the February 23, 1967 edition:



The section on Ferrie starts at the bottom of the third column on the second page. For those of you who cannot read it, here is the text:


"In the Sunday interview with this reporter, Ferrie expressed bitterness over the investigation. He said a rival private investigator [Jack Martin] had started a rumor about an innocent hunting trip to Texas that Ferrie had made with two friends at the time of the assassination.


Garrison's investigators had accepted the story, he said, although the rival private detective had twice been in a mental institution and was known to police as a lunatic-fringe character.


"After Garrison and his detectives searched my place and took a lot of memos and stuff out of it, I arrived back from Texas via Alexandria, La. They didn't arrest me at all," Ferrie said, "I went to them the next day and told all about my trip.


"They took me to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and I think also the Secret Service and I gave them minute accounts of my movements. From what I could gather of the Garrison questioning, someone thought they had information that while on the trip I had taken a plane and flown to Dallas, the Bahamas or Cuba.


"I was working for a New Orleans lawyer in a case involving Carlos Marcello, the supposed Mafia leader of Louisiana on an income tax evasion charge and when it was over about 3 p.m. we decided on the spur of the moment to go hunting. The assassination was all over then.


"The Garrison investigation is a "big joke" but it is killing me. It was dead until last January when I received a summons to appear before the Orleans parish grand jury. I never got before them because I was intercepted by Garrison's men who again questioned me. This time they went into questions about a supposed plot hatched in New Orleans involving me and Lee Harvey Oswald, who killed the president, and a group of Cubans, both pro-Castro and anti-Castro, who had united in their hatred of Kennedy.


"Oswald was publicly known as a pro-Castro man and had held rallies in the Cuban district here. The anti-Castro Cubans were bitter because of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. There was a lot of hate among them just as I understand there was a lot of hate in Texas and the President was warned not to come there.


"I never knew Oswald personally. I read that he had lived here during the summer before the assassination. All I have asked is that they prove something on me or let me get back to my flying," he said.


Ferrie was highly nervous during the interview, but explained that he had been ill with emphysema and the surveillance of the Garrison forces aggravated it."


The last sentence quoted above is interesting. David Ferrie was indeed under surveillance by Garrison:




I haven't included all the surveillance memos - just a few to give a taste of what was going on. In addition to the surveillance, Garrison also had an undercover agent (Jimmy Johnson) insert himself into Ferrie's life. Here are three memos regarding him:






Jimmy Johnson did not like David Ferrie. I'm not sure if it was good for Ferrie's health to have Johnson threaten to "kick the shit" out of him.


Johnson was interviewed for NBC's special on Jim Garrison, which was televised on June 19, 1967. He didn't make the final cut, but here is his interview:

A couple of points from this interview:

  • Garrison's office called Johnson in January to ask him to inform on Ferrie, and they used his probation violation to make sure he would.

  • Ferrie was physically sick.

  • Johnson went through Ferrie's briefcase.

  • Ferrie never said he had anything to do with the assassination.

  • Johnson claimed that Ferrie liked Fidel Castro.

  • Johnson said he flew with Ferrie to Mexico, Kentucky, South Carolina and Texas, to haul chickens.

I don't think Johnson knew Ferrie that well - we do know that Ferrie hated Castro, and the one thing he did like about Kennedy was his support for civil rights.


Here's the question I wonder about. Given Ferrie's precarious health - did the added pressure of surveillance, an informant who is purposely aggravating him, and the fact that investigators were asking about Ferrie around town - did all of that contribute to his death via a berry aneurysm?


UPDATE

Here is another memo from Jimmy Johnson:





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