HOSTY’S PROBLEM: LIEUTENANT JACK REVILL
The main issue about James Hosty that FBI chiefs had to answer before the Warren Commission (WC) was about why James Hosty had failed to tell the Washington DC Secret Service about Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO). Each FBI officer responded to that question several times during the WC hearings, always testifying that the FBI had no information at all which suggested that LHO was violent.
Yet this question came to a glaring spotlight on April 24, 1964, with a Dallas Morning News (DMN) article by reporter Hugh Aynesworth. Aynesworth reported that FBI agent James Hosty had told Dallas Police Lieutenant Jack Revill soon after JFK was assassinated, that: (1) the FBI had been tracking LHO; (2) the FBI knew that LHO was in Dallas, working at the TSBD; (3) that LHO was a Communist; and (4) that LHO was capable of assassinating JFK!
Aynesworth cited a document which is now known as Commission Exhibit (CE) 709.
The FBI rushed to James Hosty to demand an affidavit defending the testimony of the FBI. That same day, Hosty wrote an affidavit denying the truth of the DMN story, and had his affidavit notarized. On April 27, 1964, J. Edgar Hoover sent WC counsel Lee Rankin a letter which attached the DMN article, denied its truth, and attached Hosty’s affidavit. Hoover’s letter, the DMN article, along with Hosty’s affidavit, comprise CE 831.
THE DOCUMENTS IN QUESTION
Let’s begin at the beginning, starting with Lt. Revill’s letter to his boss, Captain William Pat Gannaway, less than four hours after the JFK assassination. This is CE 709.
November 22, 1963
Captain W.P. Gannaway
Special Service Bureau
Subject: Lee Harvey Oswald
605 Elsbeth Street
On November 22, 1963, at approximately 2:50 PM, the undersigned officer met Special Agent James Hosty of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the basement of the City Hall.
At that time Special Agent Hosty related to this officer that the Subject was a member of the Communist Party, and that he was residing in Dallas.
The Subject was arrested for the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit and is a prime suspect in the assassination of President Kennedy.
The information regarding the Subject’s affiliation with the Communist Party is the first information this officer has received from the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding same.
Agent Hosty further stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of the Subject and that they had information that this Subject was capable of committing the assassination of President Kennedy.
Jack Revill, Lieutenant
Criminal Intelligence Section
Moving chronologically, the next document to review is this CE 711. This is a memo by Detective V.J. Brian, a close associate of Jack Revill, to their boss, Captain Gannaway. This document seems to come out of nowhere, since it should have appeared within a week of Jack Revill’s memo; instead, it appears five months later, only four days before the story broke in the DMN. In any case, let’s review the meat of this memo.
April 20, 1964
Captain W.P. Gannaway
Special Service Bureau
Dallas Police Department
On November 22, 1963 I was present and accompanying Lieutenant Jack Revill in the basement of City Hall...
Lieutenant Revill and myself along with several other Officers had just completed searching the Texas School Book Depository...
Upon entering the basement of City Hall, Lieutenant Revill and myself met FBI Agent Hosty who had already parked his car and was walking very fast...
At this time Agent Hosty made the statement that Lee Oswald had killed the President...Hosty also said that he knew that Oswald was a Communist and that he was working at the School Book Depository.
While we were in the basement Hosty also said several things to Lieutenant Revill that I could not hear as there was a lot of excitement and commotion there.
Lieutenant Revill and myself then accompanied Hosty to Captain Fritz's office and Lieutenant Revill introduced Hosty to Lieutenant Ted Wells. We...made a Report of the incident and turned the report into Captain W.P. Gannaway who is in charge.
V.J. Brian, Detective
NOTARIZED, April 20, 1964
The next document to review is the article itself from the Dallas Morning News on the morning of April 24, 1964. I will type in only the first two paragraphs, since the reader can use the following URL to read the entire document:
FBI KNEW OSWALD CAPABLE OF ACT, REPORTS INDICATE
A source close to the Warren Commission told the Dallas News Thursday that the Commission has testimony from Dallas police that an FBI agent told them moments after the arrest and identification of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, that “we knew he was capable of assassinating the president, but we didn’t dream he would do it.”
In a memorandum to supervisors on Nov. 22, Lt. Jack Revill, head of the Dallas police criminal intelligence squad, reported that FBI special agent James Hosty had acknowledged awareness of Oswald in the basement of the City Hall at 2:05 PM, Nov. 22. His remark was made as five officers brought Oswald in from Oak Cliff, Revill reported…
The article goes on with many details, but mainly to support those opening paragraphs.
The next document to review is the sworn affidavit by James Hosty on the afternoon of the same date of this DMN article, April 24, 1964. Hosty here denies the truth of this newspaper article. The full document appears in further pages of the URL that I cited above, because it is part of CE 831. For readability of this blog post, I will type in most of the document here:
I, JAMES P. HOSTY, JR., being duly sworn, depose as follows:
I am a Special Agent o£ the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice and have been so employed since January 21, 1952. My attention has been called to an article appearing on the front page of the “Dallas Morning News,” of April 24, 1964, captioned, “FBI KNEW OSWALD CAPABLE OF ACT, REPORTS INDICATE,” written by HUGH AYNESWORTH.
...On November 22, 1963, at approximately 3:00 PM, I arrived at the Dallas Police Department for the purpose of sitting in on an Interview of LEE HARVEY OSWALD. When I arrived at the basement of the Dallas Police Department, I met Lieutenant JACK REVILL, whom I know to be the head of the Intelligence unit of the Dallas Police Department.
Lieutenant REVILL advised me that he “had a hot lead” on the assassination of President KENNEDY and that a man whose first name was LEE was the only employee of the Texas School Book Depository who had not been accounted for. I then told Lieutenant REVILL that LEE HARVEY OSWALD had already been arrested about one hour previously by the Dallas Police Department and was at that time in the office of Captain WILL FRITZ, Homicide Bureau, Dallas Police Department, being interrogated.
To my knowledge, this was the first time that Lieutenant REVILL knew of OSWALD’s arrest.
I further advised Lieutenant REVILL that OSWALD had defected to Russia and had returned to this area in 1962, and that OSWALD was employed at the Texas School Book Depository. I also advised Lieutenant REVILL that OSWALD was at that time the main suspect in the assassination of President KENNEDY.
The above constitutes the entire contents of my conversation with Lieutenant REVILL which took place on the stairway from the basement to the third floor at the Dallas Police Department, during which time both Lieutenant REVILL and myself were running up the stairs and not facing each other.
…I unequivocally deny ever having made a statement to Lieutenant REVILL or anyone else that the FBI knew OSWALD was capable of assassinating the President or that OSWALD possessed any potential for violence.
I specifically deny ever having made the statement as quoted in this article, “We knew he was capable of assassinating the President, but we didn’t dream he would do it.”
In fact, prior to the assassination of President JOHN FITZGERALD KENNEDY, I never had any information indicating potential violence on the part of LEE HARVEY OSWALD.
FBI Special Agent
Before moving on to the next document, notice that I emphasized a phrase, “both Lieutenant REVILL and myself were running up the stairs.” Let’s bear this phrase in mind as we later read Revill’s own WC testimony.
Next, however, let’s read from the letter by J. Edgar Hoover to Lee Rankin on April 27, 1964, which basically underscored the claims of FBI agent James Hosty. It is available at the URL cited above. Here is the part to emphasize:
Dear Mr. Rankin,
… Special Agent Hosty unequivocally denies ever having made a statement to Lieutenant Revill or anyone else that the FBI knew Oswald was capable of assassinating the President or that Oswald possessed any potential for violence.
Special Agent Hosty specifically denies ever having made the statement as quoted in this article “We knew he was capable of assassinating the president, but we didn’t dream he would do it.”
Special Agent Hosty points out that prior to the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, he never had any information indicating potential violence on the part of Lee Harvey Oswald.
J. Edgar Hoover
I note with some interest that this memo appears several months after J. Edgar Hoover and Alan Belmont testified to the WC, in which both executives of the FBI insisted repeatedly that, prior to the assassination of the JFK, the FBI “never had any information indicating potential violence on the part of Lee Harvey Oswald.”
This position – from which Hoover and the FBI never wavered – was the only explanation they had for the failure of FBI agent James Hosty to tell the Washington DC Secret Service about LHO before the visit of JFK to Dallas. (Yet, when asked about why the FBI tracked LHO all year, Hoover, Belmont and Hosty all admitted that was because LHO had repeatedly appeared dangerous to them.)
Now, with these documents well in view, let's proceed to the May 13, 1964 testimony of Jack Revill to the WC.
THE TESTIMONY OF LIEUTENANT JACK REVILL
Earl Warren and Allen Dulles called DPD Lieutenant Jack Revill to hear his side of the story. They brought copies of Revill’s memo (CE 709) as well as V.J. Brian’s memo (CE 711). Here is my brief summary of Revill’s WC testimony:
Lieutenant Revill was in charge of the DPD Criminal Intelligence Section since 1958, investigating organized crime in Dallas. Revill had known James Hosty since 1959.
Revill’s role on the day of the JFK Assassination, along with Detective Brian, was to record names, addresses and phone numbers of everybody in the TSBD before evacuating them from the building.
Upon driving back to City Hall around 2:45 PM, he and Detective Brian saw James Hosty also parking nearby. He said that Hosty “ran” to him and Brian.
Hosty exclaimed, “Jack, a Communist killed President Kennedy!” Revill asked, “What are you talking about?” Hosty said, “Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy.” Revill asked, “Who is Lee Harvey Oswald?” Hosty replied, “He is in our Communist file. We knew he was here in Dallas.”
Hosty and Revill proceeded to the elevator alone, and Hosty added, “We had information that LHO was capable of committing this assassination!”
Revill was very upset by this, because Revill had taken part in the security measures for JFK. Why didn’t the FBI report that LHO was capable of this, demanded Revill! Hosty replied, “We couldn’t.” This surprised Revill, who had worked very closely with the FBI in the past.
Detective Brian caught up with them as they entered the elevator with several other people, and a calmer Hosty told Revill and Brian that he was going up to homicide to make his report to the Captain.
Revill offered to introduce Hosty to Captain Fritz. So, the three went to the 3rd floor of City Hall, but Captain Fritz’s office door was closed. So, they introduced Hosty to Lieutenant Ted Wells and returned to their own department, leaving it to James Hosty to tell Ted Wells this information.
Revill did not at that time know that LHO had been arrested, and he had never heard of “Lee Harvey Oswald,” before. While at the TSBD, Revill heard a rumor that somebody named “Lee” had been up on the 6th floor that morning. But Revill didn’t remember a last name.
WC attorney Rankin interrupted here to ask Revill if he was sure that they took the elevator together, instead of the stairs. Revill affirmed that they took the elevator. When Rankin asked Revill that if James Hosty claimed it was the stairs, whether that would be untrue, Revill said that it would surely be untrue.
In any case, Revill had been so upset by Hosty’s remarks that day, that he immediately went to his boss, Captain Gannaway, and told him.
Gannaway told Revill to put this on paper right away, so that Gannaway could take it to Chief Curry. So Revill quickly wrote a memo to give to his secretary to type before her scheduled quitting time at 4pm that day.
While writing his memo, Revill heard from FBI agent Bob Barrett that Oswald was now in custody for shooting J.D. Tippit. Other detectives gave Revill the street address of Oswald that they had. So, Revill included this information. This memo is now CE 709.
Captain Gannaway failed to submit this letter to the WC or FBI in early 1964. So, it was a great surprise to the FBI when the Dallas Morning News published the story in late April, 1964.
Leaking this story to the press occurred during a Police Conference in Fort Worth. On Friday, April 22, 1964, Revill had told the story to Lieutenant H.F. Hopkins of Fort Worth. Within hours, local news media descended upon Revill in Fort Worth that night, so that he had to return home right away.
Revill said he had never shared this story with anybody else. Certainly, never the newspapers. Only V.J. Brian, Captain Gannaway, and Lieutenant Hopkins knew it.
Revill doubted that Hopkins leaked the story, because the papers knew the exact number of paragraphs in his memo to Gannaway, and even quoted from it verbatim. Hopkins could not have known this. It was disturbing to Revill that the press seemed to have the memo in their hands.
So, there is the documentary evidence we have to work with. Here’s my interpretation.
WHAT THESE DOCUMENTS MEAN
First, I’ll take sides. We have a classic legal case here, with Hosty and the FBI saying one thing and Lieutenant Revill saying the opposite. I’ll side with Lieutenant Revill. (I’ve often said that many Dallas Police were innocent of the JFK plot.) Revill’s story is believable to me, and further, he doesn’t contradict himself the way that Hosty does.
As for the April 24, 1964, Dallas Morning News story by Hugh Aynesworth, I'm struck by its date, which was only four days after Detective V.J. Brian sent his five-months-late memo to Captain Gannaway. Apparently, Brian and Gannaway had discussed exposing the Revill memo earlier in April 1964. Yet, since this was several months late, they did not come forward in the open, but behind the cover of the Press. I’m proposing that Brian and Gannaway leaked it and that Lieutenant Revill never guessed that (as far as I can tell).
Why would Brian and Gannaway leak the story to the press? In my opinion, General Walker could be among their motives. The Radical Right in Dallas was miserable about Washington DC stealing the JFK Assassination case out of their hands. They wanted to blame the Communist LHO for the JFK Assassination, and J. Edgar Hoover would not allow it, insisting upon his Lone Nut LHO. So, the Dallas Radical Right would undermine J. Edgar Hoover however they could.
Remember January 22, 1964, when Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr, his assistant Bill Alexander and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told Earl Warren and J. Lee Rankin about their documented proof that LHO had been FBI informant "S172" or "S179" since September 1962, paid $200 monthly. They lost that battle with a simple affidavit by J. Edgar Hoover!
Now this April 24, 1964 blockbuster article in the DMN by Hugh Aynesworth presented documented proof of FBI knowledge that LHO was dangerous to JFK, and yet the FBI withheld this crucial information from the Secret Service! This article slapped the FBI in the face. Yet once again, Hoover’s denial – this time with Hosty’s affidavit – preserved FBI honor.
Since Lieutenant Jack Revill’s WC testimony clashes directly with James Hosty’s WC testimony – even to the stairway vs. elevator controversy – and since I’ve sided with Revill, then I face a problem. Either Hosty committed perjury, or Revill committed perjury. The reader must decide which side to take – because they both can’t be right.
Every part of Lieutenant Revill’s story is believable to me. His obtaining further news about LHO from other Dallas officers around his department, including an outdated address for LHO, and that LHO was already arrested for the murder of J.D. Tippit -- all this makes sense given the fast pace and chaos of that afternoon. Revill’s error – that Hosty said LHO was a “member of the Communist Party,” when Hosty only said that LHO was a “Communist” – was an honest mistake that many non-experts would make.
In any case, the main point was that James Hosty told Revill that the FBI knew that LHO was “capable of committing the assassination of President Kennedy.” That was the truth that J. Edgar Hoover and Alan Belmont had really scrambled to dismiss.
By the way, DMN reporter Hugh Aynesworth made fun of the Dallas Radical Right for presenting an armchair Marxist like LHO as a trusted member of an International Communist plot to kill JFK. According to Aynesworth, LHO was a 24-year-old ex-Marine who had authority issues, and who couldn’t spell "wrist.” Aynesworth wrote:
“No self-respecting Communist would have wanted himself or his movement associated with the likes of Oswald! ...It was this brand of extremism that was discredited in Dallas by the events of November 22nd. …General Walker grabbed a plane for Shreveport, La., where he hunkered down for several days.”
I agree with Hugh Aynesworth on that point. James Hosty’s 1996 Commies-did-it conspiracy is a variety of that “brand of extremism.” Hosty elevated LHO to the level of a super-spy in Mexico City, alongside the slippery KGB super-assassin, V.V. Kostikov. This was an echo of the JFK story as told by the Dallas Radical Right.
In his sworn affidavit of April 24, 1964 which denied Aynesworth’s DMN story, Hosty contradicted Revill sharply on several points. It was Revill who had started the conversation, said Hosty, and not Hosty running up to Revill. Revill began by boasting that he “had a lead” on the JFK murder, claimed Hosty. It was Hosty himself who had told Revill that LHO was then in custody at City Hall, and not “other Dallas police” as Revill had claimed.
Hosty admitted telling Revill that LHO was a defector who returned to Fort Worth in 1962, and that LHO worked at the TSBD, and was suspect number one in the JFK Assassination. But according to James Hosty, our Lieutenant Jack Revill incorrectly made it sound like Hosty had boasted that he knew how dangerous LHO really was.
Hosty claimed that he and Revill had walked up three flights of stairs, instead of taking the elevator with Detective Brian and several others. Yet Revill explicitly told the WC – twice – that they took the elevator and not the stairs.
Hosty repeated that the FBI never had information that LHO was potentially violent. Then why did Hosty and the FBI track LHO for most of 1963? Neither Hoover nor Belmont could escape that contradiction.
In my opinion, Hosty told the truth when he specifically denied saying the exact words: “We knew he was capable of assassinating the President, but we didn’t dream he would do it.” Lieutenant Revill never testified that Hosty said exactly those words.
J. Edgar Hoover didn’t change a syllable of his WC testimony. For the WC, Hosty always stuck to the FBI headquarters version of the story. But 32 years later, Hosty published his book, Assignment Oswald (1996) which claimed that the FBI, starting with J. Edgar Hoover, lied to the world. The FBI had particularly lied to James Hosty himself, he claimed, in order to conceal the real story -- a Communist plot to assassinate JFK.