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The Raleigh phone call revisited

Greg Doudna

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Here I suggest a new interpretation of the Raleigh phone call on the night of Nov 23, 1963, which departs from previous interpretations. For the facts of the story, background and discussion: "The Raleigh Call and the Fingerprints of Intelligence" by Grover Proctor, http://groverproctor.us/jfk/jfk80.html. For argument that the Raleigh call did not happen, on the Prayer Man website (excellent site for research), http://www.prayer-man.com/the-raleigh-call-did-not-happen/.  

According to Alveeta Treon, switchboard operator at the Dallas Municipal Building, she listened as Lee Harvey Oswald from the jail attempted through operator Louise Swinney to place a call to a "John Hurt" of Raleigh, North Carolina. According to Mrs. Treon, Mrs. Swinney purposely did not put through the call, then told Oswald she was unable to reach the party and disconnected Oswald, appearing as if acting on prior instruction. Two officers listened in an adjoining room as this happened. Mrs. Treon, listening, filled out normal call sheet notes with the name "John Hurt" and two phone numbers, which indeed were the phone numbers of two John Hurts in Raleigh, N.C., in 1963.

That the call was outgoing (from Oswald trying to reach someone) and not incoming (a crank call) is indicated from two, not one, phone numbers belonging to two John Hurts, not one, on Mrs. Treon's note record, in addition to Mrs. Treon saying she heard the phone call as outgoing. Additional evidence, which should remove any remaining doubt on this point if it exists, is this corroboration of the existence of an outgoing phone call corresponding to what Mrs. Treon heard from Mrs. Swinney when HSCA asked Mrs. Swinney about it:

"When HSCA investigator Harold Rose approached 59-year-old Mrs. Swinney and identified himself, he reported she became 'very nervous' and asked, 'Do I have to talk about it? Are you going to harass me? What will happen to me if I don't talk about it?' After her fears were somewhat allayed, she told Rose that 'sometime around 7 p.m., November 23, 1963, she was told by the DPD [Dallas Police Department] that if Oswald tried to make any phone calls, they would send two men to the telephone room to 'tap in on the line.' She stated that about 10 p.m., two DPD homicide detectives came to the telephone room and identified themselves to her.' She revealed that 'Oswald tried to make two calls,' one to 'Lawyer Apt.' [sic] in New York and she doesn't remember where the other call was to.' According to her statement, 'she did not put either call through for Oswald.'" (Proctor p. 9)

The "other call" Mrs. Swinney made to a party requested by Oswald whose name she did not recall, would be the call Oswald attempted to make to "John Hurt" that Alveeta Treon witnessed, which attempt on the part of Oswald was unsuccessful.

Obviously it becomes a matter of interest to identify who "John Hurt" was, and why Oswald would want to reach "John Hurt". The whole story has not made much sense to anyone so far, and this lack of sensibility has been a contributing factor to the theory that either no such call happened, or that it was a misunderstanding of a crank phone call phoned in by one of the John Hurts of Raleigh, N.C. that evening, nothing actually to do with Oswald. 

The Warren Commission never mentioned this John Hurt/Raleigh, N.C. phone call. No newspaper reported it. No FBI document is known to refer to it. No DPD document is known to refer to it. Both of the phone numbers on Mrs. Treon's call notes were verified to belong to real John Hurts in Raleigh, N.C., but neither of them had any known connection to Oswald, both unequivocally denied any connection, and both denied receiving any such phone call (this last is in agreement with both Swinney and Treon that the attempted call from Oswald was not put through).

And yet there are the two witnesses, two out of two operators that night, plus one contemporary handwritten document, Mrs. Treon's phone call notes from that evening, which say that phone call attempt on the part of Oswald did happen (in Mrs. Swinney's case, an unremembered-name, unremembered-destination phone call that she did remember Oswald had requested that did not go through, corresponding to Mrs. Treon's witness and written record that that call was to "John Hurt". And in addition to that there is a statement in a 1978 HSA interview from former Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden of Chicago that Secret Service agent Kelley from Dallas (who was present for some of the Oswald interrogations) had come to Chicago and had spoken of a "John Heard" name which puzzled him, days after Oswald's unsuccessful attempt to reach "John Hurt".

"[Bolden] said when Agent Tom Kelley arrived in Chicago from Dallas on or about 11/26/63, he mentioned a John Heard or Hurt. They searched the office card files for a similar sounding name." (https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=197033#relPageId=8)

Bolden's testimony was referred to earlier in a 1970 affidavit.

"On November 24, 1963, Acting Supervisor Martineau [Secret Service, Chicago] called one of his secret service agents and asked him if he had ever heard of a John Heard, phonetically pronounced. Martineau asked the agent to 'pull' all cards marked 'Heard'. There were approximately 100 such 'Heards'. It is believed that the Secret Service arrested a John Heard at that time; said name phonetically pronounced." (https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=62459#relPageId=186)

The testimony appears to reflect puzzlement on the part of Agent Kelley concerning the name of the Oswald phone call attempt of Nov 23, although why Agent Kelley was expressing his puzzlement in Chicago is unclear (maybe because Kelley happened to be there?). 

Yet both of the John Hurts of Raleigh, N.C., of the two phone numbers of Mrs. Treon's notes, go to two persons who had no connection to Oswald, so the whole thing has seemed to make no sense.

Much attention has focused on one of the John Hurts, John David Hurt, because he served in Army Counterintelligence during his military service in World War II. His work there involved interviewing nationals of European countries to see if they had poopoo connections before they were permitted to come to the U.S. But he reentered civilian life after the war and worked as an insurance investigator and then was unemployed living on a disability pension, and unfortunately seemed to have some history of mental or emotional disturbance issues from time to time. 

Apart from the coincidence of the fifteen-plus-year past wartime job in Army Counterintelligence of one of the two Raleigh John Hurts, there is just nothing of any known interest with respect to connecting to Oswald in either of those John Hurts. And that wartime Army Counterintelligence service of John David Hurt, which predated and could have involved no contact with Oswald at the time, is surely accident, not of any significance--pure random chance of a biographical detail found in one of two random names pulled out of a phone book. 

Faced with both evidence that the unexplained attempt on Oswald's part of this phone call did happen, and yet no way to make sense of it in terms of either of the two John Hurts of the two Raleigh, N.C. phone numbers, many researchers turned to an explanation of Victor Marchetti, a former executive assistant to the Deputy Director of the CIA, to fill in the gap of a missing explanation. Marchetti attempted to make sense of this phone call in terms of John David Hurt (who had no intelligence or Army affiliation at the time of Oswald's attempted call and denied ever having known of the existence of Oswald prior to the assassination):

"[Marchetti] told us categorically that, in making the Raleigh call, Oswald was following a standard set of intelligence and spycraft practices. An agent or NOC (non-official cover; someone doing covert work but without any ties to the government) can contact his case officer through what is known as a 'cut-out', a 'clean' intermediary who can act as a conduit between agent and officer without ever getting involved in the intelligence operation itself. All the 'cut-out' knows is that if anyone ever calls asking for a certain officer's real name, or pseudonym, he's then to contact a predetermined person or agency. The 'cut-out' can legitimately say he never heard of the agent calling." (Proctor p. 19)

By this interpretation, poor civilian John David Hurt, who had nothing to do with anything, was now considered a "cut-out", covering up something. Proctor analyzes Marchetti's interpretation: John David Hurt's "failing professional, personal, medical and mental conditions in the years leading up to the assassination seem to suggest he would have been an unreliable choice, at the very least". Since that was a bit of a stretch in plausibility, Proctor reasoned a different modified scenario from Marchetti's: that someone was having Oswald think he was doing spy work (even though it was bogus, though Oswald did not know that) and gave him John David Hurt as a "fake" cut-out, which Oswald would believe up until the point he attempted to call the cut-out, when he would find out it was a dead-end.

Of course certainty may be unobtainable in a case such as this, but let us reason through what I think is a possibly more promising approach, in which the phone call attempt on the part of Oswald was real, but the hapless John David Hurt was not who Oswald was trying to reach and had absolutely nothing to do with anything related to Oswald, and Marchetti's conjecture is not actually correct either. 

The context is Oswald is under arrest and has been arraigned for about the most serious charge one could imagine: the assassination of a popular United States president. There is also what Senator Richard Schweiker, 1970s member of the Select Senate Committee on Intelligence, said of Oswald, "we do know Oswald had intelligence connections. Everywhere you look with him, there are the fingerprints of intelligence"--even though CIA denied he worked for them, FBI denied, and no evidence can be found in nonexistent Army records which the Army destroyed, that Oswald worked for them either. The matter of possible intelligence agencies' relationships with Oswald is disputed and contested. But almost without exception, everyone of the police and the representatives of the various lettered agencies who were with Captain Fritz of the Dallas Police Department interrogating Oswald marveled at Oswald's coolness under extraordinary pressure, with many saying it looked for all the world like Oswald had been trained to withstand hostile interrogation. Oswald, the high-school dropout who had mastered the difficult language of Russian, read voraciously and loved classical music and opera, answered quickly, intelligently, without hesitation. He said what he chose to say, and refused to talk when he chose to.

It is a fact that Oswald lied at some important points during that questioning. This has been claimed as one of the most important evidences of guilt, "consciousness of guilt" it is called, or the logic is, why would an innocent person lie? That logic is less clearcut than it seems. On the supposition that Oswald had shot the Carcano at JFK and killed JFK, a first reaction is that that explains his lying, because he is guilty and wants to deny to the police the evidence that makes him look guilty. But that explanation is questionable when looked at more closely, for his lies involved the rifle, his lies about the rifle would easily be shown false (and Oswald would have known that), so the question is: why did he lie at all about the rifle? Why, in fact, was he talking at all, and not simply remaining silent until he got a lawyer? A normal innocent person would either not talk at all or would tell the truth if he did talk. A guilty person if he killed for ideological reasons might be proud of what he did rather than state easily-refutable false statements to deny that he did it. A guilty person who had killed for non-ideological reasons (e.g. a contract killer) and who was smart would not talk at all but wait for a lawyer. And there is no issue that Oswald was not sane--he was sane.

In arguments developed elsewhere, I have argued that Oswald did not kill shoot or Tippit (https://educationforum.ipbhost.com/topic/27367-an-argument-for-actual-innocence-of-oswald-in-the-tippit-case/); that Oswald did shoot through the window of Walker but there is credible cause to consider (more than unsupported conjecture) that Walker was not in the line of fire, that there was no intent to murder, and that the very light injuries to Walker that evening were self-inflicted ("The shot fired by Oswald into Walker's house", https://educationforum.ipbhost.com/topic/27502-the-oswald-family-at-the-furniture-mart-a-rifle-scope-installation-in-november-1963-and-why-it-matters-a-sale-of-the-rifle-before-the-assassination/page/5/); and that Oswald did not bring the rifle into the TSBD, did not fire the Carcano from the sixth floor of the TSBD, and did not attempt to kill JFK, even though it was from his rifle that the shots were fired from the sixth floor ("An alternative mechanism for Oswald's rifle to have gotten inside the Texas School Book Depository", https://educationforum.ipbhost.com/topic/27502-the-oswald-family-at-the-furniture-mart-a-rifle-scope-installation-in-november-1963-and-why-it-matters-a-sale-of-the-rifle-before-the-assassination/page/6/). And the story of Marina that she stopped Oswald from going out the door to kill Nixon in April 1963 (http://www.22november1963.org.uk/did-oswald-try-to-kill-richard-nixon) was neither an intent of Oswald to assassinate nor a fabrication on the part of Marina, but a misunderstanding or misrepresentation on the part of Marina of Oswald starting to go to a political meeting in which a visit of Nixon was going to be discussed. The meeting was right-wing, with possible violent or crazies in attendance. For his own self-defense Lee was carrying a concealed weapon. It was this to which Marina reacted. Obviously Marina could not literally keep Lee in the house or in the bathroom if Lee was really intent on going. But Marina expressed objection so forcefully that Lee did not go (and according to Marina ended up sobbing). Lee was not intent on assassinating anyone, let alone Nixon who was nowhere in Dallas, and Lee could not have told Marina he was going out to kill Nixon since Nixon was not there. On Oswald and right-wing political meetings:

"We discussed we were both interested in the activities of right-wing groups in Dallas, which were common, numerous at that time. And I think he described his activity as spying on them." -- Michael Paine, describing Oswald (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lzWSLSa08k)

How would an innocent man if trained in spycraft behave under hostile interrogation without blowing his cover, if that was what was going on with Oswald after his arrest?

Let it be considered that Lee acted on training or preparation for this eventuality, of an arrest, and was keeping his "cover" until intervention would spring him free. He would lie about the rifle, even though the lies would be exposed upon investigation. In this light his lying concerning the rifle could be considered as part of the deception involved in living undercover for an agency, maintaining cover, buying time, while awaiting promised and imminent intervention to free him.

When that did not happen, at some point Lee would be tempted to go nuclear, to tell of his (hypothesized and conjectured, though unverified) true agency affiliation, in which case an entire spy operation might be blown and his usefulness over. Furthermore, if this was anything like spycraft in the movies, he might have been told he would be hung out to dry if he did blow his cover, with agencies denying he worked for them.  

In this context, at some point Oswald would realize quick intervention was not happening to get him released. I am going to suggest here that whether or not Oswald was covertly working for CIA, whatever agency affiliation he did have (if so), it actually did go to CIA, and he knew it. In this context, a desperate Oswald sought to make a phone call, tried to call not any low-level official, not an underling, but a top, senior CIA official overseeing whatever Oswald was doing--tried to reach that man by a phone call. To plead with him directly to get him out of his predicament!  

John Limond Hart.

Someone whose name hardly anyone has even heard of. I am not sure he appears in the Warren Commission Report or exhibits at all. He did testify on behalf of CIA to the HSCA where his name was misspelled at one point as John Clement Hart (https://maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=81#relPageId=491&search=John_hart). Apparently a stenographer misheard "Limond" and wrote "Clement", and no one caught the mistake in proofreading. Information on John L. Hart is sparse, but this is no insignificant figure. Here is what I have found:

"John Limond Hart joined the CIA in 1948, serving as chief of operations in Korea, Thailand, Morocco, and Vietnam, managing operations against China and Cuba, and heading CIA operations in Western Europe from 1968 to 1971. He died in 2002." (US Naval Institute website, https://www.usni.org/people/john-l-hart

"The [HSCA] Committee provided both the FBI and CIA with copies of the report ["Oswald in the Soviet Union: Investigation of Yuri Nosenko"] and asked the agencies if they wished to respond to the report at a public hearing on September 15. The FBI informed the Committee that no response would be submitted. The CIA has sent John Limond Hart as its official representative to state the Agency's position on the Committee's Nosenko report. Mr. Hart is a career agent with [sic; officer of] the CIA, having served approximately 24 years. He has held the position of Chief of Station in Korea, Thailand, Morocco and Vietnam, as well as several senior posts at CIA Headquarters. Mr. Hart had considerable experience with Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence activities while serving in various capacities in the United States and abroad. He has written two extensive studies of Soviet defectors, one of which, dated 1976, dealt with the handling of Yuri Nosenko by the CIA" (G. Robert Blakey, HSCA, 1978, https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=145110#relPageId=51&search=John_Limond Hart blakey)  

"John Limond Hart, 81, the Central Intelligence Agency's station chief in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968 who called the agency's treatment of a top KGB defector an 'abomination' in a sensational report in 1978 for which he came out of retirement, died May 27 at the Ingleside at Rock Creek assisted living community in Washington. He had Alzheimer's disease. Over the years, Mr. Hart had served as head of CIA operations in Korea during the Korean War and later as chief of a Cuban task force. He was head of the CIA's European division from 1968 to 1971, when he was asked by then-CIA chief Richard Helms to review the case of Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko. (. . .) Mr. Hart's expertise in the Nosenko case stemmed from his larger interest in the psychology of Soviet defectors. He was author of a top-secret report from the early 1970s that sought to delineate the motivations of clandestine turncoats. Mr. Hart retired from the CIA in 1973 (. . .)" (obituary, Washington Post, June 1, 2002)

"Testimony from a CIA officer in 1975 to the Church Committee mentioned that Hart took over as Chief, Task Force W, in the early spring of 1965" (Mary Ferrell Foundation site: https://maryferrell.org/php/pseudodb.php?id=SABETAY_EDWARD&search=john hart)

Task Force W, run by William Harvey in 1963 and then Desmond Fitzgerald, is what did the assassination plots against Castro and Cuba. I have been unable to find what Hart was doing, and what his relationship, if any, was to Cuba operations and/or Task Force W prior to early spring 1965 when he came to be in charge of it. What Hart was doing in 1963 appears to be a lacuna in his biography in publicly accessible sources.

I suggest Oswald was trying to reach CIA officer John L. Hart Saturday evening, Nov 23, when, on instruction from over her head, Mrs. Swinney took the request from Oswald and, according to Mrs. Treon, did not attempt to put the call through, then told Oswald the call did not go through. 

Somehow Oswald's request was set into writing with the name misspelled as John Hurt. As to why Oswald would ask to have phone numbers searched in Raleigh, N.C. to find his party, not known. 

But it looks like neither of the John Hurts of Raleigh had anything to do with the individual Lee Harvey Oswald was attempting to reach; yet the attempt on Oswald's part to reach someone was real; and the person Oswald was really after was senior CIA official John Limond Hart. But Oswald's attempt was doomed before it began, with (according to Mrs. Treon) the very attempt to place the call sabotaged with the wrong spelling of the name searched and two wrong persons' numbers found, then Oswald deceptively told the call did not go through, when it was (according to Mrs. Treon saying what she saw) not attempted to be put through. Then, nothing about this call entered into the documentary record, nor did the name John Hart appear in the known record of 1963 or the FBI and WC investigative documents of the assassination, and the "John Hurt" phone call only came to light by the accident of Mrs. Treon speaking about it several years later--fortuitously still having in her possession the written artifact from that night, the notes she wrote as she listened in on the same phone line as part of her job as switchboard operator that night. 

That attempt to reach John L. Hart of CIA was Oswald's "Hail Mary" pass. He did not stand a chance. No one intervened to spring him from the custody and the charges of the Dallas police. He was hung out to dry by an agency. Maybe. It is not proven, but I set it forth here as a scenario to be weighed and considered and vetted by others. 

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Task Force W was the CIA activity tasked with supporting Operation Mongoose during 1962.  It has been assumed that it was disbanded following the dissolution of Mongoose after the Cuban Missile crisis agreement with the Soviets.  From an operations standpoint it was replaced by the Special Affairs Staff (SAS) under Fitzgerald in 1963 - when Mongoose itself was succeeded by the Cuban Coordinating Committee with RFK as its driving force. 

If would be very interesting to find that Task Force W continued its activities ...or if it was reconstituted in 1965 under Hart.

I've not seen anything documenting Task Force W after Mongoose so I would be very interested if someone finds evidence or details on it?



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Interesting thesis. Hart either worked for or with David Phillips at one time. Hart is listed in this address book. Notice that Phillips is penciled in just under Hart's name. The left page is a who's who of McLean. https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=154765

This address book belonged to Emilio Rodriguez. Emilio's brother, Arnesto/Ernesto was a very close friend of Carlos Bringuier. Arnesto was also an acquaintance of Oswald. Oswald had approached Arnesto about learning Spanish at his Berlitz Language school in New Orleans.

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I was just waiting for you to show up D😇avid.    Indeed in this instance having Hart in some fashion connect to Oswald might have a lot more to do with Phillips, Phillips own New Orleans contacts and a propaganda program being built around Oswald than anything else.   Of course it would be very surprising to see Oswald having knowledge of a "true name" rather than an alias or even pseudo - on the other hand it would not be a surprise to have seen Oswald being given a last ditch telephone number for emergency use only.  And normally such numbers would be totally confabulated, using cut outs with no operational connection at all, just people to hang up the phone and pass on a message. I suspect there were vetted and deniable phone cut outs just as there were vetted lawyers, physicians, purchasing agents etc.

The real challenge would be to find out what Hart was doing in 1963 and whether or not he was still operating at a case officer level where he might be used as a type of contact or cut out himself.



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2 hours ago, Jon Pickering said:

Got it - we should disregard Oswald's thwarted attempt to contact military intelligence on the night of the assassination. 

Anything else we should remain blind to? 

John Hurt hadn’t been in the military for 15 years. How do you equate that with Oswald attempting “to contact military intelligence” ?

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9 hours ago, David Boylan said:


Interesting thesis. Hart either worked for or with David Phillips at one time. Hart is listed in this address book. Notice that Phillips is penciled in just under Hart's name. The left page is a who's who of McLean. https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=154765

This address book belonged to Emilio Rodriguez. Emilio's brother, Arnesto/Ernesto was a very close friend of Carlos Bringuier. Arnesto was also an acquaintance of Oswald. Oswald had approached Arnesto about learning Spanish at his Berlitz Language school in New Orleans.

David, what a valuable document find. It directly appears to associate John Hart with David Phillips in some sense, though it is not easy to interpret the exact meaning of the association. Below "John Hart" but above John Hart's office and home numbers there is some lettered title/acronym whose first part is missing but which ends with "/Ops" and then a redacted phone number and an extension number, above which there is handwritten in tiny letters "David Phillips" and a different extension number, almost as if David Phillips was an alternative to ask for if John Hart could not be reached?

I would be interested in the documentation that this address or phone book page is from Emilio Rodriguez.

I notice two details that date this address/phone page later than 1963. It has "DDP - Desmond FITZGERAL[D]". Desmond Fitzgerald became Deputy Director of Plans of the CIA in June 1965. Also, the page has "[DI]RECTOR - Dick HELMS", and Richard Helms became Director of CIA in June 1966. Each of these establish a terminus a quo/earliest possible date for the document which is therefore not earlier than June 1966. 

There is a different image of the same page, no change in original content on the page but differences in whiteouting and redactions at https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=26680#relPageId=2&search=104-10161-10321.  

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4 hours ago, Jon Pickering said:

Got it - we should disregard Oswald's thwarted attempt to contact military intelligence on the night of the assassination. 

Anything else we should remain blind to? 

Your objection to considering any alternative to John David Hurt of Raleigh, N.C. is useful only if there is certainty that that is who Oswald was trying to reach that night. If that certainty is misplaced, you then are recommending remaining blind to ever discovering who Oswald was attempting to call that night. 

In the absence of certainty that John David Hurt was Oswald's intended callee, there is no knowledge that Oswald was trying to reach military intelligence. Saying accurately that something is not certain is not recommending being "blind" to anything. One could flip your comment around and (misleadingly) say with equal logic that you are recommending blindness to Oswald attempting to contact CIA. I don't think you mean that. But the logic is the same as your comment.

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11 hours ago, Larry Hancock said:

Task Force W was the CIA activity tasked with supporting Operation Mongoose during 1962.  It has been assumed that it was disbanded following the dissolution of Mongoose after the Cuban Missile crisis agreement with the Soviets.  From an operations standpoint it was replaced by the Special Affairs Staff (SAS) under Fitzgerald in 1963 - when Mongoose itself was succeeded by the Cuban Coordinating Committee with RFK as its driving force. 

If would be very interesting to find that Task Force W continued its activities ...or if it was reconstituted in 1965 under Hart.

I've not seen anything documenting Task Force W after Mongoose so I would be very interested if someone finds evidence or details on it?

Larry, see this on Task Force W active in 1965 and John L. Hart becoming head of it in that year: https://maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=148755&relPageId=14. A 1975 Senate hearing transcript released in April 2018. William E. Weatherby is an alias for William E. Wainwright according to the MFF website's cryptonym/pseudonym database. 

Mr. Baron. And Bruce Cheever was the Deputy Chief of Task Force W during the entire period that you served on Task Force W?

Mr. Weatherby. That is correct. I believe he had a short tenure as Chief until Mr. Hart took over, John Hart.

Mr. Baron. When did John Hart take over as Chief of Task Force W?

Mr. Weatherby. It was quite near the end of my time on it, so I would say approximately in early spring 1965.


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Greg, about all I can say is that some members of the Task Force W team most likely carried on their duties under the new SAS group under Fitzgerald and in doing so perhaps continued to use the same terminology as they had previously.  Fitzgerald was most definitely in charge of SAS and of Cuban operations during 1963 and onward.....perhaps David B. can find some sign of Hart or Cheever in the SAS / Fitzgerald documents.  These organizational structured are described in the Tipping Point which trys to capture the transition at the higher level between Mongoose and the Cuban Coordinating Committee as well as between Task Force W under Harvey and SAS under Fitzgerald.

There is no doubt about that, extensive documents support it.   Now at some internal level did something continued to be talked about as Task Force W during 1963 - perhaps, but if so we need to locate it and verify it......right now Weatherby's statement stands strictly by itself as far as I know.  Definitely a point that deserves some research - some MFF searches on those two names as well as Task Force W would be a good start. 


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A quick scan of documents shows that Cheever was on staff in the initial Cuba project and was Harvey's Deputy on Task Force W - he speaks of working under Harvey.


It appears he stayed in the same "shop" after the missile crisis and thought of it as a continuation of Task Force W even after Harvey left.  The documents confirm that as he continued to attend Special Group meetings through 1963, however his new position was the Acting Chief of Special Affairs Staff - which was headed by Fitzgerald.


We get some detail on John Hart here:


and he objects to being described as a "career agent" even though he served with the CIA for 24 years and was called back apparently to do an internal investigation of the Nosenko affair.  

Finding what he was doing earlier in his career seems beyond the quick scan so I hope someone takes this further.


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The obituary certainly gives the impression of a career staff person, that matches his statement about not being a career "agent", his involvement with the Cuba project would suggest he might even have taken over from Harvey during the transition from Harvey to Fitzgerald....would seem that he would have been at HQ and not in Miami circa 63.  

On the other hand it appears that he was running CI personnel in Vietnam and going out in the field to do so - although that could also have included Vietnamese security personnel.

For terminology purposes its always good to note that the FBI has agents while the CIA has "officers".....and the CIA uses lots people not on the personnel roles in pursuit of deniability.    They also rigorously deny employment of many who actually are on the personnel roles. 



Edited by Larry Hancock
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Comments on framing of the question and method

I titled this with a question mark, and ended with the suggestion of John Hart as "maybe...not proven...a scenario to be weighed and considered and vetted". I would like to frame the important points as (1) Lee Harvey Oswald tried to call someone on Saturday night which has never been satisfactorily explained. (2) The outgoing Raleigh phone call attempt on the part of Oswald looks intelligence related (difficult to interpret any other way). (3) while others may differ on this, John David Hurt, one of the two names out of the Raleigh phone book written on Mrs. Treon's call notes that evening, does not appear to be who Oswald was trying to reach. (4) Who Oswald was trying to reach is of much interest to identify, if possible, but it was not John David Hurt. 

I would like to frame the present argument as resting on those four points as foundational, and to distinguish those from (5) the suggestion that the identity of who Oswald was trying to reach was John Hart of CIA.

#5, the John Hart proposal, is either correct or not correct, but either way that is distinct from the first four points which stand, whether or not John Hart of CIA is or is not the correct identity. I want to get this set forth clearly as method as I see it. A lot about John Hart of CIA makes John Hart an appealing solution to the identity of who Oswald was trying to reach. And yet sometimes appealing solutions, based on points of similarity, can look right but still be wrong. The point: the first four, #1-4, stand independent of whether or not #5, John Hart of CIA, is or is not the correct solution. If John Hart of CIA is, that is a significant item of progress capable of causing a better understanding, perhaps even breakthrough understanding, of Oswald and the JFK assassination. But if John Hart of CIA is a false alarm, a "false positive" so to speak, that only means that particular identification proposal was incorrect. It does not remove the first four points #1-4. It only means the identification question remains open for a different solution.

This preamble is not simply theoretical. For there is a second intriguing possibility for the Oswald-callee identification, which I will outline immediately, which also has certain appealing points of similarity. I am going to be devil's advocate against my own John Hart CIA proposal by setting forth the best case I can make for this alternative possibility, even though I think John Hart of CIA is the most interesting and strongest candidate. In the best case, some sharp mind reading this will look at both of these, then be capable of knocking one or the other of these two out of consideration, leaving only one standing. Thinking is so much easier when there is only one leading best candidate for solution, and not two which are mutually contradictory, cannot both be correct, but also are both credible and have roughly "equal" weight of appeal!   

John B. Hurt of NSA

This identification has been suggested and urged by Jim Root at earlier times on this forum in the archives. My formulation of the positive argument for this identity will differ from that of Jim Root but I want to acknowledge where the proposal originated, and quite a bit of research he did on John B. Hurt. (One link of many going to Jim Root on John B. Hurt: https://educationforum.ipbhost.com/topic/3391-new-john-b-hurt-info/.)

John B. Hurt was a career cryptographer with the National Security Agency (NSA). According to Jim Root both the name and the work of John B. Hurt were classified until 1968. John B. Hurt retired from NSA in August 1963. There is no known connection of Oswald either with John B. Hurt or with NSA to my knowledge. However, the case for John B. Hurt is interesting.

First, the name is the same as that which the Dallas Municipal Building operators had for the name of the person Oswald was trying to reach on the night of Nov 23, 1963. Although there were quite a few John Hurts in the US in 1963 this particular John Hurt was career intelligence agency.

Second, although there is no known connection of John B. Hurt with Raleigh, North Carolina, I did some checking (Jim Root may have mentioned this, I don't remember, but I checked it myself) and found that John B. Hurt's family roots, where many of his relatives continued to live, centered in Raleigh County, West Virginia

Third, John B. Hurt was married to a famous cellist in her own right, one Ana Drittel or Dratelle, whose last name evokes an unusual name used as an alias by Lee Harvey Oswald on his revolver order form: "D.F. Drittal". Oswald wrote a signature of that name represented as that individual's signature, identified by handwriting experts as written by Oswald, as vouching for Oswald's good character on his revolver mail-order form. There is no other known appearance of that alias in any of Oswald's other papers or belongings. 

Fourth, there is a decided oddity in the way Ana Drittel's name was misspelled in a New York Times obituary of Aug. 9, 1966 reporting the death of her husband, John B. Hurt.

"Mr. Hurt is survived by his widow, Mrs. Ana Dritfell Burt, a Russian-born cellist; his mother, Mrs. Anna Hurt of Wytheville, Va.; two sisters and ..." (https://www.nytimes.com/1966/08/09/archives/john-b-hurt-retired-aide-of-national-security-unit.html)

"Mrs. Ana Dritfell Burt" (sic--!) for Ana Drittel (and Hurt misspelled Burt!). Note that these are multiple errors in two successive words.

Think about this. This is the New York Times. What is the explanation for butchering the spelling of Ana Drittel's name, the name of the widow, in this obituary? My comment: It is not reasonable that the New York Times would err in this manner in publishing a submitted obituary. Therefore the error was not on the part of NYT but in the submission (the NYT printed what was submitted), whether that submission came from Ana Drittel herself or someone preparing it on her or the family's behalf. The only question is whether it was a mistake from someone's sloppiness by accident, or intentional, and as odd as this sounds, it looks like it very well could be intentional and not accidental. That raises the question of why would a widow--a well-known concert musician under her own name for whom neither her name nor her marriage to John B. Hurt was any secret--or representatives on her behalf, have her name intentionally misspelled in a New York Times obituary of her husband? What is up with that? Hold that thought. Separately: if Oswald's intended callee "John Hurt" was an intelligence agency contact and not the disabled insurance adjustor John David Hurt of Raleigh, N.C.--in light of the major intelligence agencies and the Warren Commission being dead set on a finding that Oswald had no intelligence agency connection, there would be motive to have the true identity of the contact Oswald attempted to reach, not accidentally come to light. Putting these two phenomena together, as bizarre as this sounds, an intentional misspelling of Ana Drittell's name in the New York Times obituary of her husband may be considered, simply to reduce the accidental chance that that obituary in the widely-read New York Times would trigger some alert JFK assassination researcher versed in arcane JFK assassination trivia to notice the resemblance or similarity between Drittel/Drittal, Ana's name/the Oswald alias, and John Hurt/John Hurt, the career intelligence agency deceased husband/ Oswald's failed phone call attempt on Saturday night of the weekend of his arrest.

All it would take would be for a single person to recognize that coincidence, and, if this was the true identity of who Oswald was trying to reach, the cover would probably be blown, due to focus on the string of coincidences. On the other hand, if career NSA John B. Hurt was unrelated to the John Hurt Oswald was trying to reach, that leaves wholly inexplicable why Ana Drittel's name was so blatantly misspelled in the one time when her name "Drittel" would prominently appear closely juxtaposed to "John Hurt", two very specific Oswald-connection detail-correspondences that no JFK assassination researcher had ever previously put together. All it would take would be one alert reader to notice "Drittel" was married to "John Hurt" the same name as someone whom Oswald was trying to reach after his arrest, put two and two together, and decide maybe that was not coincidence. The misspelling of Ana Drittel's name in her husband's NYT obituary prevented that from happening (and successfully if that was the reason; there is no record that anyone did notice prior to the Jim Root discussions four decades later).  

And fifth, what about Ana Drittel herself, with the similarity of name to Oswald's "D.F. Drittal"--Ana Drittel the cellist married to a husband who was career NSA named John Hurt? Ana Drittell was a Russian emigre, fluent in Russian.

Oswald was fluent in Russian as an acquired second language, had lived in the Soviet Union, and returned to the U.S. And so it seems to pile up: "John Hurt". "Drittel". Russian language-speaking Ana. Married not just to any random John Hurt, but a figure prominent in the history of one of the major spy agencies, a then-classified, now-famous cryptologist for the NSA. No one among the JFK assassination researchers noticed for all those decades. And an obituary in which the names "John Hurt" and a name almost identical to the unusual Oswald alias "Drittal" would have appeared in juxtaposition, appears for all the world to have been intentionally put into print misspelled beyond ability to recognize that similarity, for no known reason. 

(Had Oswald met Ana Drittel? Is it possible Oswald was trying to reach Ana Drittel via her husband, more than trying to reach John Hurt?)

And sixth, the two persons tasked by NSA at CIA's request, responsive to the Warren Commission's request, to investigate the question of possible Oswald intelligence agency contacts, Frank Rowlett and Meredith Gardner of NSA, had early close working associations with John B. Hurt of NSA. (Shades of CIA assigning Joannides to assist HSCA in accessing CIA records shedding light on Oswald and DRE in 1963?) Jim Root:

"John B. Hurt was an original member of William Friedman's team of cryptographers that broke the Japanese codes during WWII. Known as the magic intercepts, knowledge of this information was known to very few people. According to a Pentagon historian, John J. McCloy was the keeper of the keys to this program and was the man who decided who received the magic information. Although there is a question of if McCloy ever met Hurt on a personal basis but there is no doubt that McCloy received translated intercepts with hand written notes from Hurt which provided context information about the meanings and expressions used to translate the true Japanese intent and emphisis of the messages. In discussion with the President about the droping of the first Atomic Bomb (another project that McCloy was in charge of) McCloy's documented statements mirror information provided by Hurt in his 1947 review of the "Japanese Problem."

"All of this information was in my possession prior to the 2004 release of the the results of the NSA investigation done for the CIA/Warren Commission dealing with potential connections of Oswald to the intelligence community. The two men tasked with this research in 1964 were Frank Rowlett (another original member of William Friedman's team of cryptologist) and Meredith Gardner (who together with Rowlett are considered the fathers of the Venona Project, breaking of Soviet Codes). Information from Hurt's 1947 paper suggests that Gardner and Hurt were also closely involved with each other in signals intelligence." (https://educationforum.ipbhost.com/topic/3762-john-j-mccloy/page/8/)

So that summarizes what I see as the case for Lee Harvey Oswald's "John Hurt" being John B. Hurt of NSA.

And yet John L. Hart of CIA, whose activities in 1963 are unknown but who when he does emerge into known records in 1965 is running Cuba destabilization operations and Task Force W succeeding earlier predecessors Harvey and Fitzgerald, is appealing because of the Mexico City/Oswald Cuban embassy saga shortly prior to the assassination, and apparent CIA-instigated efforts to link Oswald and the assassination to Castro circulated immediately upon news of the assassination.

Yet the John B. Hurt of NSA has in its favor (a) the spelling of the name is identical, whereas John L. Hart of CIA differs in spelling in one letter; (b) there is a conceivable explanation for the "Raleigh" component of Oswald's request (possibly Oswald remembered something of a "Raleigh" County, W.V., connection or location of family members of John B. Hurt), whereas with Hart of CIA that is unexplained; and (c) the rather striking coincidence of Drittel/Drittal. 

Against John B. Hurt of NSA is there is no known positive evidence of connection of Oswald to either John B. Hurt, Ana Dittrel, or NSA, whereas there are the heavy-duty apparent associations of Oswald to the very Cuba operations of which John L. Hart of CIA turns up running (when he comes to light in 1965 after the assassination). (As in the document find of David Boylan above.)

This is the dilemma: both of these figures, Hart of CIA and Hurt of NSA, cannot simultaneously be correct. At least one is a "false positive", in which all points of coincidence in fact are coincidences pure and simple: static and not signal. But which? Or both?

I do not think both are false positives. I think there is high likelihood that Oswald's "John Hurt" is one of these two. But there it ends. I suppose at this point all I can say is both seem appealing, with CIA's Hart slightly ahead in my gut feeling--but that is all that is. I could truly go either way on this. What do others think?

Edited by Greg Doudna
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  • Kathy Beckett changed the title to The Raleigh phone call revisited

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