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Sylvia Meagher's interview on KPFK, January 1967
From Pacifica Radio Archives #BB4658

Sylvia Meagher examines the activities of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Soviet Union and the United States prior to President Kennedy's assassination. She goes on to explain how this information refutes the findings of the Warren Commission. Interviewer William O'Connell.

RECORDED: 26 Jan. 1967. BROADCAST: KPFK, 18 Apr. 1967


Extract from transcript:

Quote:William O'Connell This is William O'Connell, and we're talking again about the assassination of President Kennedy and the Warren Commission Report. Our guest today is Mrs. Sylvia Meagher or New York City. Mrs. Meagher, as some of you may already know, is the author of a number of articles that have appeared recently in The Minority of One. Her principal contribution in the field of scholarly research is a subject index to The Warren Report, which is indeed an index not only of the report itself, but the 26 volumes of testimony and exhibits printed by the Government Printing Office.

Mrs. Meagher resides in New York City. She happens to be out here on a tour at the present time. We have prevailed upon her to come to Los Angeles. If my listeners will forgive me, a personal note: I want to say that this is, perhaps of all the interviews I've conducted, the one that I've been most looking forward to. I want to say, and I'm glad to be able to say, finally - welcome Mrs. Meagher to KPFK.

Sylvia Meagher Thank you. It's very good to be here.

William O'Connell Let me begin straight away by asking you what it was that brought you to a serious and scholarly study of the assassination? Also, I think part of that question that follows is how did the subject iIndex itself come about?

Sylvia Meagher Well, in common with many other people in this country, I found that the initial story out of Dallas on Friday the 22nd of November 1963 was so highly implausible and unconvincing. I began from that day to follow with very great interest all the information that was published during the succeeding year published in the press and in the magazines, seeking some kind of rational explanation of these events and of the alleged motivation and commission of this crime.

At no point during that time did I find that there was coherence, plausibility, and directness. In fact, I think it is extraordinary how many revisions continually took place unabashedly, revisions of the evidence that would flow through the papers, especially the revisions of the autopsy and medical findings, an area of evidence which should not have been subject to so many contradictions and changes.

In spite of this strong skepticism I felt from the beginning, when The Warren Report was published, I think I was quite prepared - if that was a thoroughly convincing and straightforward, well-supported document, I think I would have accepted it. I would've come to accept that all of these improbabilities, coincidences, changes in the presentation of the case by the various authorities, whether the Dallas police and district attorney, the FBI, or the commission itself during the term of its work, I would have accepted all of that as unfortunate evidences of certain confusion and non-coordination.

However, The Warren Report -- speaking out only of the 888-page document that was published in September 1964 -- seemed to me marked by internal contradictions to some degree, but more particularly marked by an evasiveness of language that troubled me deeply. There were many passages and many points on which the language of the report was so obfuscatory and lacking in a directness and candor, it seemed to me, that I wondered and was deeply concerned about the reasons for the writers of the report to have gone through these rather exquisite efforts to say certain things in a way that seemed overcautious, overcontrived, and began to await the publication of the 26 volumes of the hearings and exhibits in the hope that these volumes would throw light upon many of the areas, which left me still greatly in doubt and with many misgivings.

William O'Connell May I ask how long was the time lapse between the appearance of The Warren Report itself and the actual issuance of the 26 volumes of testimony and exhibits?

Sylvia Meagher It was two months. I remember my own personal excitement when the crate arrived. It was, I believe, the day before Thanksgiving in 1964. I plunged into these volumes with truly enormous interest and curiosity in the hope of, again, finding those answers which I had failed to find in The Warren Report itself.

Now I must say that reading these volumes, far from allaying these misgivings that's in common with many other people, I have felt greatly intensified. I found not only contradictions which indicated carelessness, predisposition of the commission to certain findings, unfair tactics in the examination of witnesses, I found, as many other people have pointed out, that there were favorable witnesses. I'm using the wrong terminology here. There were the witnesses that ... friendly witnesses, friendly witnesses and hostile witnesses, which in itself is entirely inappropriate to any fact-finding investigation. You should not have friendly or hostile witnesses.

Aside from these evidences of carelessness and bias, I found absolutely unambiguous instances of misrepresentation of fact, misrepresentation of the facts in the 26 volumes as they were reflected in The Warren Report itself. These, in a number of instances, were on crucial points of the evidence.

In the study of the 26 volumes, which, as you know, Bill, I'm sure that you've encountered the same difficulty, it is very difficult to locate material. I found that what was happening was something that I had seen somewhere in the volumes, in which I wanted to find again, caused me to spend four and five hours at times looking for this. There was no way to locate it. In many instances, there was absolutely no way to locate it either by the footnotes in the report or any other method.

And so I began to draw up something of an index for my own personal use to save the time that I was losing in scouring the hearings and exhibits. This was just done on just pieces of paper with notations in pencil. I intended it only for my private use in checking out the evidence on any particular point as far as it could be checked out.

As I was engaged on this work, and I think one or two people with whom I was in contact at that time knew that I was working on this index for myself, they impressed upon me the fact that all of the researches would have equal need for such an index that would all be able to save time. It was suggested to me by Vince Salandria of Philadelphia that it would be of such great help to all the researchers to have such an index. He urged me to drop all my other studies in the report and hearings and exhibits as of that time and concentrate on the subject index and to have it published and distributed, an idea which I must admit had not occurred to me.

Full transcript here:
"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche
Very rare, in fact I never heard her voice before.

Near the end, she implies Marina was lying to cover up Oswald and his FBI informant status.
Garrison's Evidence

Sylvia Meagher, reply by Richard H. Popkin


In response to:

Garrison's Case from the September 14, 1967 issue

Quote:To the Editors:

…A critic of the Warret. Report, it seems to me, is obliged to apply to Garrison's evidence the same strict and objective tests which he applied to the Commission's evidence. By that yardstick, I find little merit in the testimony of Mssrs. Russo and Bundy, although for reasons other than those against which Professor Popkin [NYR, September 14] argues. Russo's story, quite apart from the questions raised about resort to hypnosis and sodium pentothal to elicit his story, seems to me inherently bereft of credibility. I can scarcely believe that three conspirators discussed the logistics of a plan to assassinate President Kennedy in the presence of a fourth person, whom they left at liberty to inform on them whenever the spirit moved himbefore or after the assassination was accomplished. (Other objections to Russo's testimony may or may not be warranted; for example, Professor Popkin concedes that the notes of the first interview with Russo written by Garrison's aide Andrew Sciambra do not include this episode, but he does not explain why it was omitted if, as Sciambra insists, it was discussed. I have heard a number of different explanations from Garrison's supporters among the critics, none of which provided plausible reasons for the omission of what was undeniably the central part of Russo's story.)

As for Bundy's allegations, I am skeptical not because of his drug addiction in the past but because I reject an identification by any witness, however upright, of a person or persons viewed on one occasion, from a distance, almost four years earlier.

Mr. Garrison has not yet revealed the basis for his allegation that Clay Shaw met with and passed money to Oswald and Jack Ruby at Baton Rouge on September 3, 1963. Perhaps his evidence for the Baton Rouge rendezvous will be more substantial than his evidence for the meeting in Ferrie's apartment. But I must remind Professor Popkin that long before the Baton Rouge meeting was mentioned, Mr. Garrison claimed that he had established a link between Shaw, Oswald, and Ruby by decoding identical cryptograms ("P.O. Box 19106") in Oswald's and Shaw's address books which, when decoded, proved to be Ruby's unpublished 1963 telephone number. Professor Popkin's article does not mention this claim by Garrison. Perhaps he shares my view that Mr. Garrison's cryptographic "evidence" is an embarrassment, predicated on a misreading of the Oswald entry and a false assumption about the Shaw entry. If Professor Popkin does accept the "code," it is far more solid than some of the other evidence he has mentioned as indicating that Garrison is on the right track. But even if he does not accept the "code," Professor Popkin should still have mentioned it in his inventory of Garrison's evidence, since it is highly relevant to an evaluation of the district attorney's forensic skill and scruples….

The question is, can Garrison prove the theory correct and sustain his charges that the persons he has accused were indeed parties to the assassination? I am not so impressed as Professor Popkin with Garrison's procedural successes to date, nor do I regard the conviction of Dean Andrews as a triumph, since it leaves unresolved the exact nature of the perjury. Was it that Andrews, knowing that Shaw was Bertrand, failed to make a positive identification? Or was it that, knowing that Shaw was not Bertrand, Andrews failed to make an explicit denial? And what of Andrews's allegation that the District Attorney asked him over dinner not to make an explicit denial that Shaw was Bertrand? I do not find this necessarily inconceivable; nor do I forget that Dean Andrews insisted, loud and clear, in July 1964, that Oswald did not commit the assassinationalmost three years before Mr. Garrison's public statement that there was no evidence that Oswald had shot anyone on November 22, 1963….

I am willing to wait with Professor Popkin for the trial, but since the known evidence on Mr. Garrison's side (the Russo/Bundy testimony, the "code," and the Baton Rouge rendezvous) is, at best, vulnerable, I find no basis for assuming that the still-submerged evidence will be convincing or conclusive. On the contrary, there is more reason to fear that it will be as contrived and insubstantial as the so-called code of Ruby's phone number….

Sylvia Meagher

New York City

Richard H Popkin replies:

Quote:Mrs. Meagher finds Russo's story "inherently bereft of credibility.' Those who heard it examined in court and before the Grand Jury obviously did not find it so. That the conspirators discussed their plans in Russo's presencethe point that bothers Mrs. Meagheris I think possible. In Russo's account in court, he stated that Oswald objected to Russo's presence, and was reassured by Ferrie, who vouched for Russo. Some of Russo's other accounts claim that Ferrie, in the summer of 1963, was openly discussing assassination plans with Russo. Their friendship was presumably such that Ferrie felt he could confide in Russo without fear of betrayal (and Russo told the authorities about Ferrie's interest in assassinating Kennedy only after Ferrie was dead.) Some have suggested that Russo might himself have been involved, but this he strongly denies. I find it conceivable that once Ferrie vouched for him, the others present would have gone on with their planning, especially if they knew that Ferrie was talking about the matter with others, and if they trusted Ferrie.

Since I wrote my article, I have been able to read the Sciambra memorandum purporting to give an account of the first interview with Russo by Garrison's office on Feb. 25, 1967. (Mr. James Phelan sent me a copy of the document.) This, as Phelan has said, raises serious questions, since no mention appears of the famous conspiratorial meeting. Russo told me he definitely discussed the meeting when he talked to Sciambra. If so, I think some more complete explanation is required to reconcile Sciambra's report with Russo's testimony. It is to be hoped that this will be clarified when Russo testifies at the trial (now postponed at the defense's request until February 1968), so that we will be in a better position to judge the credibility of Russo's story. It seems to me that Russo, at the time of the Sciambra memo (if it accurately reports their conversation), was almost exclusively concerned with Ferrie, who had just died, and was only anxious to describe Ferrie's views, his plans to kill Kennedy, etc. Russo may have been so overwhelmed by Ferrie, that at first he could only recall the events of the summer of 1963 according to what Ferrie was saying and doing. This memo may be of significance in assessing Ferrie's activities at the time.

The code matter bothers me in several ways. It seemed extremely suggestive that the same number, 19106, appeared on the "o" page of Oswald's address book, and in Shaw's address book as the P. O. Box of a Lee Odom of Dallas, Texas. The fact that there was no P. O. 19106 in Dallas in November 1963 obviously made Garrison suspicious, as probably did the entry above it in Oswald's book, which looks like "18206." So he worked out his code, which he has claimed fits other entries as well. As far as I can see, since Mr. Odom exists, and only rented the P. O. Box long after Oswald's death, there can't be any connection between the two numbers, and it must be accounted just an amazing coincidence. If Garrison has found a code that interprets various entries in Oswald's book in a meaningful pattern, this may be important. But, at the moment, like Mrs. Meagher, I'm unconvinced by this item. Clues that look very important, and then peter out, occur in most investigations, and there are no doubt many in Garrison's effort. The code theory is not central to his case as it has been presented so far. What will be important is whether the final showing of evidence does or does not make a convincing legal case and a satisfactory explanation of the events that culminated in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.

As for Andrews: in going over the evidence, I am forced to conclude that Andrews's original story was true: that Oswald was his client, that Oswald was involved with homosexuals and Latins, that Oswald had a powerful patron, Clay Bertrand, who wanted to help him after the assassination, and that Andrews knows something about who the mysterious Bertrand is. This, in addition to items mentioned in the new book, Plot or Politics by Rosemary James and Jack Wardlaw, seems to indicate that Oswald's New Orleans period was much different from the Warren Commission's Version, and that this alone should lead to a new public investigation. If Oswald was linked to Ferrie and to Bertrand, up to the time of Oswald's death, then Oswald was certainly not the Warren Commission's loner, and was involved with at least one person who was conspiring and plotting to kill the PresidentFerrie.

I, for one, am waiting anxiously for the public presentation of Garrison's case. From what I have heard, he seems to have gotten much further than the Warren Commission in unraveling the events that led to Kennedy's assasination. Whether he has a convincing case that Mr. Shaw was actually involved, we will have to wait and see. Only then will we know if Mrs. Meagher's fears are confirmed, or whether Garrison has found important and reliable new data.

Finally, Mr. Phelan has asked me to say that he has not refused to repeat his allegations before the New Orleans Grand Jury. He states he has not received any official invitation, and hence has not refused. He was in New Orleans after his article appeared, and he says he notified two of Garrison's close friends that he was there. He talked to Russo then, who he says told him that he had informed Garrison's office of his presence and his whereabouts. Phelan also tells me that later on he saw Garrison in Monticello, New York, and talked to him for two hours, and nothing about his testifying before the grand jury was mentioned. So, according to Mr. Phelan, he has not been avoiding appearing before the grand jury. I apologize if I gave such an impression. He was challenged by Mr. Sciambra to appear, but according to Mr. Phelan's letter he has never officially been asked by the grand jury to appear.
"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche
I think most people know today that Silvia Meagher was unfair and imbalanced when it came to Jim Garrison.

And the worst part of it was that she never actually looked through his files to see what was there before she issued these attacks. ( The same comparison applies to Tink Thompson and Peter Scott. I won't include Paul Hoch, since I don't consider him a critic anymore after his exposure in the Alvarez affair.)

She essentially swallowed whole the MSM edict on Garrison, and the worst part was that she never found fault with the people or the campaign that was being orchestrated against him. For example, we know now today that the CIA interfered with the legal process to stymie Garrison's extradition requests. Well, Meagher never noted that this was being done at all. And I never saw any piece in which she recognized the evidentiary discoveries that Garrison had made, e.g. Banister and 544 Camp Street, Oswald in the CAP with Ferrie, the Clinton witnesses, Rose Cheramie etc.

In fact, I have it from one personal source that she actually contributed money to Shaw's defense!! So it was alright to be a perjurer as long as it was the JFK case and Garrison. This contributed to a serious falling out between her and Ray Marcus and her and Mark Lane and also her and Margie Field. I have seen the angry letters to her from those first two gentlemen.

It was a serious blemish on an otherwise admirable record. Its one thing to have reservations and sit it out. Its quite another to help the other side. Which, BTW, is what Lifton did also. And I should also mention Summers in this regard. He actually quoted CIA memos that said Roselli met with Garrison in Las Vegas. Without interviewing or unearthing their comments on it. Roselli was questioned by the Church Committee on this and denied it, as did Garrison. So here is another example of a so called critic trusting the CIA as long as its against Garrison. But alas, who knows what Summers thinks today. He actually says its entirely possible the JFK case was a conspiracy.

Oh really Tony. How acute of you.

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