As I work through all available material on Dallas FBI agent James Hosty, I now realize that I will need as many as nine blog posts to cover it. Let’s start with Hosty’s own book. Thirty-three years after the JFK Assassination, James Hosty published a book, namely, Assignment Oswald (1996). The title seems to claim that the FBI had “assigned” James Hosty to the case of Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO). But that’s not quite right.
Actually; FBI headquarters had assigned Hosty to spy on the Radical Right leader, Ex-General Edwin Walker, and his Dallas Minutemen. Let’s establish this fact quickly by using the words of James Hosty himself. Here’s what he wrote on page four:
My caseload in the four-man counter-intelligence squad in the Dallas office was dominated by right-wingers. I spent much of my time tracking the movements and actions of both Klan members and members of former U.S. Army General Edwin Walker's Minutemen. (Hosty, 1996, Assignment Oswald, p. 4)
Hosty is clear that his 1963 caseload was “dominated by right-wingers.” Hosty spent much of his time in Dallas tracking members of what he called, “General Edwin Walker’s Minutemen.”
Now, many historians of the 1960’s suppose that the coast-to-coast Minutemen organization was led by its founder, Robert DePugh from Missouri. DePugh taught that Communists were already taking over the USA. His Minutemen stockpiled weapons in order to take the USA back by force. Why, then, did James Hosty call them “General Walker’s Minutemen?”
The reason is that the Minutemen were so secret and so underground, that DePugh could keep no membership list. There was almost no central control; they organized themselves into small, local cells. Collecting dues from the majority was frankly impossible. So, each local Minuteman squad basically selected its local leader. (Harry Dean, my good friend and a former member of the Minutemen in California, kindly helped me organize this information.)
According to James Hosty, the local leader of the Minutemen in Dallas was Ex-General Edwin Walker. That’s why he used the phrase: “members of former U.S. Army General Edwin Walker's Minutemen.”
By the way, Hosty wrote, “former U.S. Army General,” yet that title is typically used for retired U.S. Generals. Walker himself made a point to refer to himself as resigned rather than retired. Walker was an Ex-General – he was the only U.S. General to resign in the 20th century, and he was proud of the fact. General Walker was a major leader of the ultra-right in America in 1963, many of whom wanted him for US President.
Yet, since JFK and RFK had tossed Walker into an insane asylum because of his role in the deadly Ole Miss riots in 1962, Walker’s national career was permanently finished. Only the lunatic fringe still followed Walker, namely, the Radical Right, especially in Dallas. Now we can focus on these Minutemen more closely. Let’s stick with James Hosty and quote him again. Here is what Hosty wrote about the agenda of the Dallas Minutemen:
Convinced there was a Communist hiding under every bush, the Minutemen had been quietly and discreetly arming themselves with an impressive arsenal of weapons. In the eyes of the Minutemen, Kennedy was at best a dupe of the Communists, at worst a Communist collaborator. (Hosty, ibid.)
So! This group in Dallas considered JFK to be a Communist collaborator! Such a movement would clearly love to see a radical handbill, WANTED FOR TREASON: JFK, circulating around Dallas. In these sentences, Hosty seems to distance himself from the Radical Right in Dallas, but I will seek to demonstrate that either Hosty was hopelessly fooled by Walker and Surrey, or that Hosty switched sides and began working for General Walker.
James Hosty always portrayed himself as a loyal FBI man – and yet he claimed in his book -- and in his testimony in the BBC "Trial" of LHO, that J. Edgar Hoover and Alan Belmont had betrayed him, personally! (How does that work?) Listen to Hosty describe the Dallas FBI office atmosphere, right around two weeks before JFK arrived. Hosty wrote:
We were all painfully aware of United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson's visit to Dallas, just two weeks before, on October 31. During this visit, right-wingers had heckled and jeered him following his speech to a local group... (Hosty, ibid.)
Aside from the error in date (the actual date was October 24), Hosty deliberately understated the case according to historian Chris Cravens (1992). U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and his people had rented the Dallas Memorial Auditorium (about a mile from Dealey Plaza). Adlai called his event, “UN Day.” He evidently knew next to nothing about the John Birch Society and their influence in Dallas.
For the JBS, the United Nations was a purely Communist organization. For the JBS, Adlai Stevenson was a Communist. According to JBS rules, no Communist must be allowed to finish a speech in any town where the JBS members were able to prevent it.
Cravens documents that the day before Adlai was to appear, General Edwin Walker and his team of Dallas Rightists had rented the same auditorium. Walker called his event, “US Day.” Their task, said Walker, was to prevent Adlai from finishing his speech in Dallas by using any non-violent means. They were to bring party noisemakers, and to shout wildly and continuously in their seats or the aisles, or if they could, loudly make their own speeches among the audience.
Also, reports Cravens, Walker instructed his followers to attach to the ceiling an enormous banner, rolled up with string. When the string was pulled on cue, the banner would unfurl and on one side it would reveal a JBS slogan, “US out of the UN!” and on the other side, another JBS slogan, “UN out of the US!” Walker’s plan was unleashed during the speech of Adlai Stevenson on October 24, 1963. Walker was not present, but his people obeyed his orders thoroughly. Adlai was indeed prevented from completing his speech.
Fast forward to November 22, 1963, when the big news that morning was that JFK would drive in his limousine through downtown Dallas to the Trade Mart to give a speech there. Encouraged by their victory the previous month, one might imagine that the Dallas Radical Right might feel bold enough to strike again. Hosty wrote about his experience at the Dallas FBI office that morning with his fellow FBI agents:
Among the agents this morning, everyone was discussing this Right-wing element in Dallas and the fact that in all likelihood a threat to the President would come from that direction. (Hosty, ibid.)
This is a clear indication that James Hosty knew the activities of the Dallas Radical Right very well. He especially knew the “members of former U.S. Army General Edwin Walker's Minutemen.” Hosty knew Walker's business manager, Robert Alan Surrey, socially (said Penn Jones, Jr., 1965). Hosty knew very well what was happening in Dallas that day. He was strangely frank in the opening pages of his book --- yet he would not be as frank in his following pages.
Here is a mystery. FBI agent James Hosty's main job was to track the Radical Right in Dallas, yet he decided "on his own" early in 1963 to devote valuable time tracking an enemy of General Walker -- a young Ex-Marine who had defected to the USSR and returned to Texas, right there in Fort Worth and Dallas; with a Russian wife!
JAMES HOSTY TRACKED LHO FROM MARCH TO NOVEMBER 1963
Although FBI agent John Fain had closed the FBI case file on LHO in August, 1962, Hosty asked to open it again in March 1963, based on the fact that LHO had subscribed to a newspaper, The Worker, known to be published by the Communist Party out of New York. This quotation from J. Edgar Hoover’s WC testimony is relevant to Hosty’s suspicion of LHO based on his subscription to The Worker newspaper:
Mr. HOOVER: There are many people who read…The Worker, and you certainly can't brand them as hazards to the security of the country or as potential assassins. It is in that area that I am particularly concerned that we don't become hysterical and go too far in restricting the citizens of our country from exercising their civil and constitutional rights.
No, said FBI headquarters. The FBI lacked resources to track everybody who subscribed to The Worker. More was needed. Do not re-open the LHO case file.
Then, as I surmise, Hosty asked to re-open the FBI case file on LHO, because his trusty informant, Dallas Postal Inspector Harry Holmes, showed him evidence that LHO had purchased weapons over the US mail. Yet this was legal – the FBI could not open case files on the thousands of folks who purchased weapons over the US mail. More was needed. Do not re-open the LHO case file.
Then, Hosty asked to re-open the FBI case file on LHO, on rumors that LHO was distributing FPCC (Fair Play for Cuba Committee) pro-Castro handbills right there in Dallas! FBI headquarters was shocked. The FPCC in Dallas? They investigated immediately. No. It was a false alarm. There was no FPCC in Dallas. Do not re-open the LHO case file.
Finally, however, FBI headquarters allowed Hosty re-open the FBI case file on LHO, based on his intense suspicion. FBI Assistant Director, Alan Belmont testified to the WC that Hosty’s interest in LHO started in March 1963. He also says that Hosty actually revived the FBI case-file on LHO, but was unclear about the date. Was it in Dallas in March? It surely was not in June, because LHO was in the jurisdiction of the New Orleans FBI office in June. Here is Belmont:
Mr. DULLES: ...After the case was marked closed in Dallas, there was this incident in New Orleans…of the FPCC pamphlets, and then...an open case was started...
Mr. BELMONT: The agent, Fain…who handled the case, closed the case [in August 1962] after two interviews with Oswald …He closed the case, as he felt there was no further action to be taken. The purpose had been satisfied. Headquarters agreed. …In March 1963, Agent Hosty received information in Dallas to the effect that Oswald had been in communication with The Worker, the east coast Communist newspaper. He therefore re-instituted the case…He also received information, as I recall it, that Oswald had been in communication with the FPCC, so there were two incidents that aroused his interest. In June 1963 our New Orleans office likewise received information that Oswald had communicated with The Worker or was on a subscription list for The Worker. So that the case was revived in Dallas by Hosty.
I emphasize here that FBI Assistant Director Alan Belmont says, twice, that during March 1963, Agent Hosty was the person who “re-instituted” or “revived” the case file on LHO. I surmise that Hosty had long been spying on LHO. He learned from the Dallas Post Office that LHO had subscribed to The Worker newspaper and had purchased weapons over the US mail. He also heard rumors that LHO was passing out FPCC flyers in Dallas, of all places.
This rumor about a Dallas FPCC turned out to be false, yet let’s ask – who would spread false information about LHO? Who else, except the Radical Right in Dallas – who just hated the idea that an Ex-Marine defector to the USSR returned to the USA with a Russian wife and settled in Dallas/Fort Worth?
DETOUR TO DICK RUSSELL'S RESEARCH:
According to famed JFK researcher Dick Russell (The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1992) the next time that James Hosty would get a chance to hear about LHO would be early morning Easter Sunday, April 14, 1963. A Russian émigré in Dallas named Natasha Voshinin called the FBI to say that Russian émigré George DeMohrenschildt had just left her house after telling her husband and her about evidence that LHO had been the shooter at General Walker only four days previous.
The Walker shooting was still big news in Dallas. George had told the Voshinins, but he refused to tell the police or FBI. So, Natasha did. The Dallas FBI (and most likely James Hosty who had “revived” LHO’s case file) finally had some big news about LHO! Did they call the Dallas Police to arrest LHO for questioning? No, they did not. Did they report this to FBI headquarters? No evidence suggests that they did.
(This twist about the April 1963 Voshinin report to the FBI about George De Mohrenschildt’s suspicions of LHO would be a bitter pill for the FBI to swallow, if we could confirm it, because it challenges the FBI’s repeated claim that they never suspected LHO of shooting at Walker until Marina confessed it to the Secret Service on 3 December 1963.)
In any case, on April 24, 1963, only ten days after Easter Sunday, LHO moved to New Orleans – out of the jurisdiction of the Dallas FBI.
BACK TO JAMES HOSTY'S TRACKING OF LHO:
The next time that history hears about LHO is August 10, 1963, when LHO himself called the New Orleans FBI to come to interview him in a New Orleans jail cell. LHO had been arrested for street fighting with a Cuban anti-Communist while handing out FPCC flyers. Why would LHO call the FBI on himself? Alan Belmont himself admitted, “I simply do not know why.” In any case, the New Orleans FBI had no choice but to re-open LHO case file, during August 1963. They also sent the Dallas FBI copies of their records, since Dallas was the previous city to track LHO.
Then, in late September 1963, LHO visited Mexico City’s Cuban Consulate and Soviet Embassy, seeking a quick visa into Cuba, based on his alleged official role in the FPCC. The consuls there basically laughed in LHO’s face. They refused to give him anything at all. But the visit of LHO to the Soviet Embassy was carefully tracked by the CIA and FBI in Mexico City.
In early October, LHO returned to Dallas, back into the jurisdiction of FBI agent James Hosty. LHO moved into a cheap rooming house, while his wife, more than eight months pregnant, now lived in Irving, Texas, with her friend, Ruth Paine, who had helped Marina arrange for free natal care at Parkland Hospital. LHO would visit Marina on the weekends.
On October 25, 1963, says Hosty, he heard from INS agent Jeff Woolsey that LHO had met with a deadly KGB agent in Mexico City. Hosty quickly checked this out with the New Orleans FBI, who produced the supporting documents (and we have those documents today). So, Hosty now wanted a closer look at LHO. He would start with Marina and Ruth Paine. He began to visit their neighborhood in Irving, Texas, and spoke with their neighbors. He learned that Marina had recently given birth to her second child.
On November 1, 1963, Hosty introduced himself to Ruth Paine and Marina. On November 5, Hosty visited Ruth Paine alone, and asked her several questions about LHO. Where did he work? Where did he live? What were his political beliefs?
On November 9th, starting the Veteran’s Day weekend and Ruth Paine’s house, LHO spent hours typing a one-page letter on Ruth’s typewriter. The letter was addressed to the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC. LHO casually left a copy on Ruth’s desk overnight, and she read it. LHO had written that “the FBI is no longer interested in me.” But Ruth exclaimed, that was a lie! The FBI was just at her house four days ago! She made a copy of that letter to give to James Hosty on his next visit.
On November 12, LHO mailed this letter to Washington DC. The FBI always intercepted letters addressed to the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC. So, the FBI intercepted it and they made a Xerox copy (which is now CE 15). Also, on that date, LHO walked to the Dallas FBI office in a huff, and demanded to see James Hosty – the FBI agent who had dared to speak with his wife without LHO being present! Hosty, however, wasn’t in. So, LHO gave the receptionist a note of warning to Hosty to never do that again!
In mid-November, preparing for JFK’s trip to Dallas, the Secret Service PRS asked James Hosty about any dangerous people in Dallas. Hosty told them that there were none. The Secret Service PRS then asked the Dallas FBI who had published the hostile handbill, WANTED FOR TREASON: JFK. The Dallas FBI told them that nobody in Dallas knew. At 12:30 PM on November 22, 1963, JFK was assassinated in Dallas, and 90 minutes later, LHO was arrested and taken to the Dallas Police Station. All other suspects were now released.
The 1963 history of LHO reveals that James Hosty struggled to track LHO starting in March 1963 and continued throughout the year. Yet, when the Secret Service PRS asked for names of dangerous people in Dallas, Hosty neglected to tell them about LHO! This became a repeating theme for WC attorneys. “Why didn’t the FBI tell the Secret Service about LHO in Dallas?” WC attorneys repeatedly asked James Hosty. They even asked J. Edgar Hoover as well as FBI Assistant Director Alan Belmont.
Belmont gave the longest answer, but basically, he said that LHO appeared to be harmless. So, the WC attorneys asked him, “Why did the FBI track LHO all during 1963 if he was harmless?” Belmont’s answer was that LHO appeared to be dangerous. J. Edgar Hoover was asked the same questions and he also said – the FBI didn’t tell the Secret Service about LHO because he was harmless – and the FBI tracked LHO all year long because he was dangerous. Hosty said the same. This was the official FBI position. It didn’t matter – under the circumstances – that this position was self-contradictory!
I can quote chapter and verse of the WC testimony of J. Edgar Hoover, Alan Belmont and James Hosty to show all this in stark relief. I will save all that for later blog posts. I will post only some highlights today.
Was the FBI in Washington DC covering for James Hosty? I say no, because the FBI in Washington DC knew that if they failed to defend Hosty, then the entire FBI would be blamed for failing to report LHO to the Secret Service. The FBI had to say that James Hosty was right – as self-contradictory as it was. Let’s read from Hosty himself as he testified to the WC that LHO was harmless:
Mr. STERN: I now show you a document marked for identification, Commission 831, a letter dated April 27, 1964, from Director Hoover to…the General Counsel of this Commission…Do you recognize this letter?
Mr. HOSTY: Yes, sir; I do…
Mr. STERN: Now tell us what the reason for your making this affidavit was.
Mr. HOSTY: It was to refute the story that appeared in the Dallas Morning News on April 24, 1964…as to what actually did take place in my conversation with Lieutenant Revill.
Mr. STERN: What did that story state?
Mr. HOSTY: It stated in substance, alleged that I was aware that Lee Harvey Oswald was capable of assassinating the President of the United States, but did not dream he would do it.
Mr. STERN: Did you say that?
Mr. HOSTY: No, sir…Prior to the assassination of the President of the United States, I had no information indicating violence on the part of Lee Harvey Oswald. I wish the record to so read.
At the same time, James Hosty made it clear that he was very interested in LHO one month before the JFK Assassination. This is what Hosty himself testified to the WC:
Mr. HOSTY: I then received a communication on the 25th of October from the New Orleans office advising me that another agency had determined that Lee Oswald was in contact with the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City in the early part of October 1963…
Mr. STERN: Did this increase your effort to find him?
Mr. HOSTY: Very much so, yes…
Should James Hosty have warned the Secret Service about LHO? I say, don’t get distracted from the real blunder of Dallas FBI agent James Hosty – and the FBI in general! The real blunder was that Hosty did not step up to tell the PRS the answer to their direct question: “who published the handbill with the mug shots of JFK that said, WANTED FOR TREASON: JFK?” He claims that he personally walked those handbills over to the PRS! Hosty should have warned the PRS about General Edwin Walker and his Minutemen in Dallas!
In his own book (1996) Hosty admitted that his caseload in Dallas was dominated by right-wingers, and in particular “General Edwin Walker and his Minutemen.” Further, as many already know, the WC revealed through several eyewitnesses that Robert Alan Surrey, the manager of General Walker’s, American Eagle Publishing Company, was the actual publisher of that handbill.
Robert Alan Surrey was also a Dallas Minuteman. Are we to believe that James Hosty, assigned to spy on General Walker and his Minutemen, somehow failed to learn that General Walker’s business manager had published that handbill? James Hosty was not incompetent. I can’t bring myself to believe that he missed this fact.
Was the WC somehow fooled by the FBI? Not in my opinion. Dallas ATF agent Frank Ellsworth had sent this clear message directly to them on March 16, 1964
“An organization known as the Minutemen is the right-wing group in Dallas most likely to have been associated with any effort to assassinate the President…The Minutemen in Dallas are closely tied to General Walker…” (Ellsworth, FBI HQ File 62-107261)
The real blunder of James Hosty was failing to identify the publisher of the handbill with the mug shots of JFK that said, WANTED FOR TREASON: JFK!” He knew very well it was Robert Alan Surrey. In future blog posts, I’ll delve deeper into the WC testimony of Robert Alan Surrey. For now, I’ll continue to concentrate on James Hosty.