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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Was Kerry Thornley a Spook?

James DiEugenio wrote a review of Patricia Lambert's excellent book, False Witness, in the May-June 1999 issue of Probe Magazine. A large part of his review covers Kerry Thornley, the ex-Marine buddy of Oswald who Garrison believed was the second Oswald.

DiEugenio intimated that Thornley had intelligence connections:

" ... there is the apparent element of protection of Thornley when he became a hot item in New Orleans in 1968. For instance, according to Mort Sahl, Thornley insisted on meeting Sciambra at a curious location for one of their interviews: NASA. Sciambra recalled thinking as he entered the place that if someone like Thornley could command access to such a place then Garrison really didn't have a snowball's chance in Hades."

James DiEugenio repeated the story in Destiny Betrayed (page 190). His source was a conversation with Mike Willman "who was friends with Sahl at the time." Although in this article, DiEugenio claims the source was a letter.

So, the story doesn't even come directly from Sahl, who was a thorn in Thornley's side:

In addition to the Reid/Weisberg tag team, other members of Garrison's unofficial staff - or the "Irregulars" as they became known -- included assassination researcher Mark Lane (author of one of the first books to challenge the Warren Commission Report, Rush to Judgment) and political satirist Mort Sahl. As Robert Wilson Anton recalled: "Mort Sahl got off on this Kennedy assassination conspiracy train ... and his comedy got less and less funny, and Kerry Thornley frequently appeared in Mort Sahl's monologues. And he's just throw charges around ... Mort Sahl was more of a hassle to Kerry than Garrison was." (page 80 in Adam Gorightly's Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation)

I have gone through all of my Thornley documents, and I can only find one reference to a Thornley=Sciambra interview and that was in the District Attorney's office:

Thornley lived in Tampa, Florida at the time. I don't believe there was a NASA facility in Tampa - after all, most of NASA's operations were in Cape Canaveral (two and half hours away) or in Houston.

There was another connection to NASA. Oswald worked for Reily Coffee in New Orleans for a couple of months in the summer of 1963. He was fired from that job. A number of his co-workers left for jobs with NASA, Boeing and Chrysler. Garrison was suspicious and he wrote a memo:

Similarly, the fact that a number of potential witnesses subsequently found their way to jobs with defense industries does not necessarily mean that those particular industries were involved. It does indicate a degree of probability that the jobs were obtained for them by individuals or agencies having a strong influence upon the industries concerned.

Like his hero, Jim Garrison, James DiEugenio also wrote about employees leaving Reily Coffee: (page 157 of Destiny Betrayed)

But also consider this: There were a number of Reily's employees who left after Oswald's departure for a peculiar destination. Oswald's superiors, Alfred Claude and Emmett Barbee, both left in July to work for NASA in eastern New Orleans. Two of Oswald's co-workers, John Branyon and Dante Marachini, were also later hired by NASA. Oswald himself told Alba he expected to be picked up by NASA. Garrison suspected that they were moved out so as not to talk about Oswald's offbeat work habits. If this is so then it would suggest that, like Ochsner, Reily's company had intelligence connections. This was certified by a declassified document confirming that the company was of interest to CIA dating back from 1949. Further, it appears to have been assigned a contact number.

It doesn't sound like much to me. The #EE-334 is probably a security check of some sort, rather than a "contact number."

But there was a better explanation for why so many people at Reily Coffee were moving to work at NASA, Chrysler and Boeing:

Lots of good paying jobs. Better paying jobs than Reily Coffee.


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