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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Was Clay Shaw part of the "intelligence apparatus" in New Orleans?

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

One of the crazier allegations comes from James DiEugenio's book, Destiny Betrayed: (page 209)

"Tommy Baumler would be interviewed by Harold Weisberg for Garrison. But later on, in 1981, he was interviewed by controversial attorney Bernard Fensterwald. At that time he told him that Banister and Shaw were quite close and that "Clay Shaw, Banister, and Guy Johnson made up the intelligence apparatus in New Orleans."

His source was an interview by Bernard Fensterwald and J. Gary Shaw with Baumler on December 30, 1981.

So, who was Tommy Baumler and why should we believe what he said?

He was known for his extreme right-wing views, and he supposedly did some work for Guy Banister in infiltrating college campuses looking for communists. In 1967, Baumler was a lawyer working for Louis Davis, another extreme right-winger, who was also helping to fund the Garrison investigation.

Some comments about this memo:

  • Baumler wanted to be an "investigator" for Jim Garrison.

  • Does any of this sound like a lead?

  • Did Baumler really work for Banister? The memo says that "Our information indicates that Tommy Baumler was among those who went in and out of Banister's office for several years in the early Sixties."

  • Not one word about Shaw or Johnson being in the intelligence apparatus of New Orleans.

Baumler once called Garrison's office with other important information:

What conclusion would you make from the above two memos? That Baumler liked to talk and that he knew very little.

So now we have a group of masochists in New Orleans. And Jim Garrison just might be a member.

Now we know where Garrison got the line that Baumler was "in and out" of Banister's office.

DiEugenio continues about Tommy Baumler: (page 274)

"In the spring of 1968, Harold Weisberg interviewed Tommy Baumler. Baumler had formerly worked for Guy Banister as part of his corps of student infiltrators in the New Orleans area. Because of that experience, Baumler knew a lot about Banister's operations. For instance, that Banister's files were coded, and that Banister had blackmail material on the subjects he kept files on. He also knew the intelligence network in New Orleans was constructed through Banister, Clay Shaw, and Guy Johnson; how close Shaw and Banister were; and that "Oswald worked for Banister." In Weisberg's interview with Tommy, he would occasionally ask to go off the record by telling him to turn the tape recorder off. Clearly, there were things going on in New Orleans that Baumler considered too hot to be attributed to him."

Ok, well, here is Weisberg's memo:

Weisberg writes that "When Tommy wanted to be off the record, he either signaled me to turn the tape off or asked me to, on the tape. Some of the times I wasn't taping, alas, because I just didn't have enough tape." Okay, but was there anything said of substance?

The answer is no, and even Weisberg admits that "there is so much chatter and rambling, I'll have to listen to the taped part to adequately report ... it was mostly free association."

Here is Weisberg's portrait or Tommy Baumler:

"He delineated a self-portrait of an unabashed fascist, congenital and conscious. He is aware of the meaning of his beliefs and considers what he describes as his beliefs as proper. He is an exponent of the rights of power. He says that whatever happens, the Shaw case will end without punishment for him because federal power will see to that. This, he says, will also be the destinies of Andrews, Thornley, if he is convicted, and any others, and he is unconcerned about the import, entirely without indignation about injustice and the failure of justice. He is quite illuminating about Guy Banister, said Dion Turner is his client and is legally insane, met Kerry Thornley, but he doesn't know where, ..."

And did Baumler meet the elusive Clay Bertrand? Just kidding. Well, he met somebody that sounds very important:

"He spent some time describing the activities of a man he said had to be CIA and engaged in what he wanted me to understand was a major propaganda campaign, designed to influence public opinion here, including that of jurors, and about you [Garrison] personally. He described him as a "nondescript" man in two ways on different occasions, as a working-class man and a "middle-class" businessman. Gray hair, skin olive to ruddy, medium height and build. Knowledge of case "tremendous", attitude "very antagonistic." It is Tommy's thought that if the CIA could put 500 men like him working throughout the country, it would kill the probe. He is, according to Tommy, "fabulous". He has seen him at Monteleone's Rooftop Terrace, at night and at Pete's Place at about 3 pm. He once also saw him in university section [sic], at a restaurant-bar. One of these is on St. Charles. He talked like a local man."

Yet again, another mysterious person who cannot be named, and who cannot be found.

At the bottom of page two of the above memo, Weisberg writes: "Tommy says he never met Oswald, that Rocco Di Nocolas is wrong, and he knew the source was di N." Here is a memo that Weisberg sent to Jim Garrison on that particular episode:

Oswald at a poetry reading? Perhaps, but what this memo shows me is that New Orleans was a cauldron of rumors, innuendo and gossip. Weisberg had tapped into a group of people that loved to tell stories - most notably Barbara Reid - who was the queen of gossip in the French Quarter. Tommy Baumler also liked to tell stories.

A 1973 Harold Weisberg memo has this paragraph about Tommy Baumler:

I don't know what is really going on, but it doesn't sound like Mr. Baumler was a tower of virtue.

Does any of this lead you to believe that Tommy Baumler has some special information about Clay Shaw and the so-called "intelligence apparatus" of New Orleans? I don't have a copy of the Baumler interview with Fensterwald but I did find this on the internet probably written by Joe Biles) :

The Bernard Fensterwald / J. Gary Shaw 1981 Interview with Tommy Baumler

[The following is from an unpublished lunch interview of Gary Shaw I wrote

for the Mineral Wells Index. Shaw resides in Cleburne, Texas, home of another newspaper published by our publisher, CNHI. This was to have run several weeks ago, but I was laid off due to the so-called "recession." Silly liberal media... I hope to have the notes from the actual interview available soon.]

One of the subjects I asked Shaw about was his 1981 interview with New

Orleans Attorney Tommy Baumler. Baumler had worked for Guy Banister, a right-winger and virulent anti-Communist private investigator, infiltrating leftist groups on college campuses. Many witnesses place Oswald in Banister's office during the summer of 1963. Shaw recalled vividly the interview:

"We spent probably a week in New Orleans looking up some of the characters

from the Garrison investigation. ... One of them was Tommy Baumler, who we finally found. We were kind of off the beaten track and we found the house, and we were led into the back of the house in a long room and he's sitting at the end of a table as long as from here to there [gesturing], probably fifteen feet long, sitting like a big frog man, you know?

"And he never moved--I don't know whether he couldn't move or just exactly what. But he had Lieutenants or somebody on each side of him, one of them who had brought us in, and one who sat behind us the whole time."

Baumler told Shaw unequivocally that "Oswald worked for Banister." He also said that Banister was very close to Clay Shaw, the New Orleans businessman who was tried and acquitted in 1969 of charges that he conspired to murder President Kennedy.

The Kennedy assassination is full of people saying things. It's very easy to tell stories. So just because Tommy Baumler supposedly said that "Clay Shaw, Banister, and Guy Johnson made up the intelligence apparatus in New Orleans," doesn't make it true.

Lastly, guess who was once Guy Johnson's law partner? None other than Jim Garrison:

New Orleans Times-Picayune, January 20, 1976

By the way, Guy Johnson was in naval intelligence during World War II. This, of course, makes him very suspicious, no? And Jim Garrison, in his book On the Trail of the Assassins, referred to Johnson "as a friend of mine." (page 26)


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