Greg Doudna Posted April 16, 2022 Share Posted April 16, 2022 A telephone conversation between Ruth Paine, at her home in Irving, and Michael Paine, at his work location in Fort Worth, shortly after the assassination, was reported to the FBI by informant "T-4". In this conversation was reported the words, "we both know who is responsible". Both Michael Paine and Ruth Paine denied that they had claimed to know who had assassinated Kennedy or that they knew who did it. However Ruth Paine has said there was a conversation in which their earliest thought was that the extreme right in Dallas had done it--the overwhelmingly most common first-instinct conspiracy theory that occurred to nearly everyone in Dallas before that was replaced with the lone-nut narrative focused on Oswald following Oswald's arrest. In the Max Good film, "The Assassination & Mrs. Paine", which I saw earlier this month via the Ashland Film Festival, that phone call is presented as one of a series of allegations against Ruth Paine. I am not interested here in discussing any of the other allegations, only this one, and I urge commenters here to keep the focus on this allegation. The film takes the stance of a neutral narrator (Good) presenting back and forth of "both sides" to allegations against Ruth Paine. Here are the relevant transcriptions from the film (from a larger partial transcription of the film made by me) of this allegation. Ruth Paine is in her mid-80s responding below. Narrator: Soon after the assassination, Michael calls Ruth from his job at Bell Helicopter. Declassified FBI documents reveal that their conversation was being monitored. An informant reported that Michael was overheard to comment that he felt sure Lee Harvey Oswald had killed the president, but did not feel Oswald was responsible, and further stated, "We both know who is responsible." DiEugenio: According to the records, that phone call was made about an hour after the assassination. Which means it was a few minutes before Oswald was actually arrested for the crime. Ruth Paine: Pure garbage. Pure garbage. I did describe the phone call that Michael and I had after the assassination when we were kind of commiserating with each other about Kennedy's killing. And thinking that it was a conspiracy--you know, right-wing radicals who had done it. Uh, so we both thought we knew?--but we didn't know who had done it. I hear that one every now and then. That one comes up, yeah. But (shaking head)--there's nothing to it. Now I will make my comment, and I have new information to bring to bear on this which, though published long ago, has received no attention. There are two issues here. First is what was said and an accurate interpretation of the meaning of what was said. The second is the matter of the timing--that to which DiEugenio refers, the claim that the phone call, in which Michael and Ruth allegedly referred to Oswald's guilt, occurred before, not after, Oswald's arrest. First on the content of the call. Extreme and violent right-wing hatred for JFK was the most prominent issue in Dallas in the runup to President Kennedy's visit of Nov 22, 1963, and the first thought that would and did occur to liberal Dallasites and the world as to who was responsible for the assassination, even prior to the arrest of or announcement of identity of any suspect or any other information. That quickly became obsolete in the news reporting as Oswald was arrested and overwhelmingly reported as the one who did it, and Oswald had leftist and communist associations. But before Oswald came into the picture in the news, in the absence of information, the extremist right, the segregationist right, the John Birch Society and General Edwin Walker and Minutemen right, the spitters on Adlai Stevenson of his visit to Dallas just a month earlier, the authors of the black-bordered ad with Kennedy's photo headlined "Wanted for Treason" that had been published in the newspaper that morning--that was the first that would come to mind. The phone call itself was reported to the FBI by an informant "T-4". T-4 is not a euphemism for a wiretap but is identifiable as a live human informant, Paul Barger, an Irving Police department captain at the time, according to this 1976 Dallas Times Herald article: "The declassified material said: 'On Nov. 26, 1963, confidential informant T-4 advised that he had received information that a male voice was overheard in a conversation which took place between telephone number CR5-3211, Arlington, Tex., and telephone number BL3-1628, Irving, Tex., on Nov. 23, 1963. "'Informant advised that the exact time of the conversation was not available and that it was not known from which of the phone numbers the call originated. "Paul Barger, then an Irving police captain and now director of buildings and grounds for the Irving Independent School District, said he recalled the situation and that it was he who told the FBI the essence of the conversation, as related to him. He said the reason he wouldn't divulge the name of the person who actually heard the conversation,' was because the person who overheard it would have lost his job. "'Due to some mechanical difficulties or something,' Barger said, 'he was checking out the line. He was a telephone company repairman.' Barger refused again Monday to name the person. 'I'm just not going to mention his name. I don't think that it makes any difference now.' Barger further said he did not know that it would affect him in any way with the telephone company, but said, 'I know where he is, but what good would it be to name him now.' "Barger said he didn't recall exactly what the phone conversation allegedly said. 'I do know that the conversation was between her and her husband and it went to the effect that 'we all know who did it,' Barger added. "He said he did not believe the FBI had any wiretap on the Paine house. 'If they did,' he said, 'they wouldn't have been asking me for what happened.' "Theodore L. 'Ted' Gunderson, special-agent-in-charge of the FBI Dallas office, said, 'I can only tell you that we had no wiretap on the Paines at any time, none.' "A former FBI agent, now retired, said, 'If we had had a wiretap, there wouldn't have been any question about what time the call came, from which point it originated or exactly what it said. This [wiretap idea] sounds like a figment of somebody's imagination.' This agent worked on the case for many months." https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=62517#relPageId=71 ) Barger becomes T-4, and Barger/T-4 is not the primary source but relays information from a human source (not a wiretap) that had come to him. As should become clear from the further information brought out below, the reason for the reticence or sensitivity over naming the source is that it was actually from one of two operators inside the telephone company who had listened in on and overheard that conversation which was against company policy, an offense for which an employee could be fired, and something the phone company itself would fervently wish not to become public for image reasons--and may have been illegal (to eavesdrop without lawful authority or permission). (Barger's information came from a human source inside the telephone company, but it was not a lineman up on a pole.) On the other hand what these operators had overheard was considered so important that, as one put it, she did not care if she was fired, she wanted to report what she had heard because it was so important. The article goes on to tell of Warren Commission testimony and then Ruth Paine's response to the newspaper reporting in 1976: "Warren Commission probers questioned Michael Paine briefly about the allegation on March 18, 1964. Wesley Leibeler, a staff counsel, asked Paine: 'Did you talk to your wife on the telephone at any time during Saturday, Nov. 23?'" (Note the date of the question is wrong. The phone call--the one intended as the subject of the inquiry--occurred Fri Nov 22. Michael Paine answers what is asked of Sat Nov 23. It is unclear whether this mistake in the date in Liebeler's question was an actual typo or mistake, intentional on the part of the Warren Commission, or intentional on the part of a source which submitted the question to WC/Liebeler to be asked.) "Paine: 'I was in the police station again [he had been there the previous night, Fri night], and I think I called her from there.' "Leibeler: 'Did you make any remark to the effect that you knew who was responsible?' "Paine: 'And I don't know who the assassin is or was; no I did not.' "Leibeler: 'You are positive in your recollection that you made no such remark?' "Paine: 'Yes.' "Mrs. Ruth Paine, reached in Philadelphia by the Times Herald, said she recalled no such conversation. 'I have heard this allegation before,' Mrs. Paine went on, 'but there was no conversation like that. Yes, Michael called and we talked about the situation, but there was nothing like that mentioned. "'Where is this transcript? I believe they're quoting from rumors that surfaced a long, long time ago, I believe in some of the more less-than-factual publications ... that's a lot different than an FBI transcript, isn't it?' "Mrs. Paine said she recalled talking about Oswald and the likelihood he killed the President, but had no way of knowing, then or now, 'who was responsible'--if anyone else was. "'I know where our heads were at that time though,' she said. 'Right wing. My first impressions, first feelings were that it came from the right wing.' " Note that there is no transcript from an electronic recording or wiretap of what was spoken between Michael and Ruth. Also note that the exact time of the Nov 22 phone call is not known but is established on the basis of estimates or memory from human sources. An expression "we both know who was responsible"--as the human sources alleged they heard and which it is very reasonable could have been the exact words--the same wording spoken in probably ten thousand households in the Dallas area as a first response to the news of the death of President Kennedy from people who had no direct or personal knowledge--can have been truly literally spoken and it also be truthful on the part of Michael and Ruth Paine that they did not know and never said they knew who killed President Kennedy. If readers here follow. It is a sentence which can be taken two ways. Ruth Paine says the sense that she and Michael meant (if those words were spoken exactly) is the sense that was ordinary and routine across Dallas in the first ninety minutes following the assassination. Those who see the worst in Ruth Paine, like the prosecutor in the cartoon above, will simply blow off and disregard and reject out of hand Ruth Paine's protestations of what was meant and assume the worst--that Michael and Ruth had covert actionable knowledge of the plot to assassinate President Kennedy, and in an unguarded moment over that open phone line had let the truth slip out--and then l i e d in denying it, so evil were they. So, two ways of interpreting the same data. On the issue of the timing, it is not correct that the phone call occurred before Oswald's arrest was known or reported on the news. Rather, the phone call appears to have occurred between Ruth and Michael in the moments immediately following the news of Oswald's arrest and in reaction to that news, as the horror of not only the assassination but Ruth's and Michael's imminent being thrust into the glare of national spotlight and law enforcement scrutiny became clear within seconds--within seconds of learning the news that Oswald had been arrested for killing a police officer and his workplace already was known to be at the site of the assassination, q.e.d. The reason that was the time of the phone call, and not the incriminating reporting of time cited in the Max Good film of before Oswald's arrest, comes from the following little-known primary information, a document produced by the son of the telephone company operator who placed that phone call and overheard part of it. Because of the importance of this source and story, first published in the spring of 1992 in the first and what I think was also the last print issue of a short-lived publication (one issue) called "Dateline: Dallas, Vol. 1 No. 1", I am going to give the full and complete text of this story here. When reading this, realize that what the operator thinks she heard as Michael or Ruth Paine saying, "Will Lee get the bonus loot?" appears to be a mishearing of "Will Lee get a pro bono lawyer?" And where the operator says she heard, "Kennedy has to be dead for to get the bonus", that appears to be a mishearing of "Kennedy has to be dead for Lee to get pro bono." And the timing of the phone call is established by the operator's statement that the phone call occurred "about or near 2 p.m." Bear in mind that this is not a transcript of an electronic recording but an operator saying what she believed she overheard. The phone call, in which Ruth called Michael, has Michael responding to Ruth in light of what is about to be an avalanche of law enforcement and media crawling all over the Ruth Paine home. Michael telling Ruth he will get to her in Irving as soon as possible. That police will be arriving to her home imminently. That he will get there and be with her and support her as the avalanche is about to hit. As for the importance of this text as primary information--in solving the question of how the FBI learned of this phone call--and an independent version of overhearing at least a part of that phone call from a firsthand witness--and the time of the call--from examination this text and this witness is authentic. The witness is truthful which does not mean she heard or interpreted what she heard correctly, but is truthful in that she was there and that is what she believed she heard. This is a primary witness, the operator who originally placed that call from Ruth to Michael and heard two pieces of it, who from her account did not hear all of the call but heard two fragments of it--an operator who reported what she knew to her superiors, and then upon the advice of a lawyer wrote and preserved her statement and stored it while keeping silence, as the years followed with nothing done to follow up on what she had reported. Because in her account she did not hear the entire phone call, because she alludes to a colleague or supervisor besides herself who also listened, and because the reporting of that phone call from "T-4" (Irving police captain Barger) tells of different content than this operator's, this operator does not appear to be the source of T-4's information to the FBI. The source of T-4's information would go back to the other one, the colleague. This then is a different witness's version of that same phone call told by T-4 to the FBI. She was there. And she, the operator who placed that call, gives the time of the call, not otherwise documented or known apart from witness memories or estimates: "about or near 2 p.m." The date of writing of her statement below, the text which appears below, appears given within the statement as at or about July 1965, the time of a consultation with an attorney in July 1965, from this: "My attorney (...) me to write it all down in longhand to be opened upon my death. Maybe my debt to society will be paid someday." Here it is (pp. 6-7 of http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/Weisberg Subject Index Files/F Disk/Fensterwald Bernard 1990/Item 004.pdf). "Open...Upon My Death. "Larry Howard was given this testament by the son of the author after her death. Their names remain anonymous in this article. The original manuscript is on file at the Center's [JFK Assassination Information Center's] Archives. "Friday, November 22, 1963 (8:34 p.m.) "I was awakened this morning with only one thought in mind: could I afford to get excused from work to go to the parade to see the greatest man of our times, the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. "Thinking that everyone loved him as much as I did (with the exception of a neighbor who worked in the Republican Party whom I had words with in the front yard--more on that later, and Mr. Edwin C. Clark, President of AT&T--who made a speech in Texas which was put into a pamphlet orm and distributed among telephone people during the campaign trying to sway people, of which I did not appreciate). Anyway, I decided there would be such a crowd that I could never get a glimpse of my favorite couple, much less get to shake his hand and let him know how I had fought for him in my small way. "Here are the events that happened to me, events that have caused me to count the days and hours until I become 55 years old and could retire, so I could pay a moral debt to society (as my lips have been sealed by the Federal Communications Law). "I was on my lunch hour (12-1 p.m.) and Mr. Allen, Traffic Chief, District 1, 4100 Bryan Street, Dallas, Texas, was also on his lunch hour. The telephone in the cafeteria rang about 12:35-:40 p.m., an emergency for Mr. Clark. 'The president has been shot.' (silence) You could hear your heart beat. Mr. Allen stumbled around the cash register, hitting the rail the food trays slide on--he's a large man, about like Lyndon Johnson and sorta favors him, too. (You notice these things without moving.) "District 1 had all the connections for Kennedy's speech at the Trade Mart (going to the White House, UP, API, and the FBI). "Now then mad frustrations of switching all of these connections to District II, and Mr. J.A. Potts and Mr. Paul Cheatum (over both districts) were there. Parkland Hospital's Cental Office on Melrose appeared Unit II, District II. I am on District II, a service assistant. My job is training people and moving traffic. "Someone at our lunch table said we'd better go back to work, they probably need us. I did not want to go back for fear that I would hear that President Kennedy was dead. "I got up to go back to work about 12:50-:55. The switchboard was lit up like a Christmas tree. Everyone went to the board to help the operators, including myself. The Assistant Chief Operators and Chief Operators took our posts. Every signal I answered, there was a radio or television in the background blaring out about the shooting. Over and over customers (all but one) would put us in the know by saying, 'Did you know the president was shot? Have you heard the president was shot in Dallas? I can't believe it, must be a joke about the president...'--as always when a disaster strikes. "Then I picked up an Irving signal (Blackburn exchange) about or near 2 p.m. The radio or TV was very loud. A woman placed a call to North Richland Hills (Butler Exchange) which is a fringe office of Fort Worth. I gave her the area code (817), dialed the number on a direct Fort Worth circuit and asked for her number. She evidently did not hear me for the radio was announcing the news. The number in Fort Worth answered. Again, I asked for the number. "The Irving customer said, 'Just a minute.' I thought she was talking to me, so I waited. "When she returned to the phone (approximately 5-10 seconds later) she blurted out, 'Will Lee get the bonus loot?' "A man at the Fort Worth number said, 'What are you calling me, and don't mention my name on the phone. Kennedy has to be dead for to get the bonus.' "'He is dead,' the Irving customer said, ''They've just announced it on the radio.' "I closed the key, stunned. I do have a witness to this, whom I did not report because I will not involve an innocent person. "I then made a call back check on the Irving number (for the correct number charge). I monitored the connection again, not believing my ears. "'Don't you call here again. You will be contacted. They are not suspicious of him, no.' "I closed the key and reported the call to the Assistant Chief Operator. Later, I was relieved of the position and told that Mr. Anderson wanted to see me. He was behind me and walked to the District office. He had the toll ticket in his hand and told me I might be questioned by the FBI. I told him I didn't care if I lost my job, because I loved President Kennedy. "Reaching the district office, Mr. Potts was at his desk, his head lowered like he was writing. Mr. Cheatum interviewed me and all I told him were the exact words of the conversation. I also told him that the Irving caller said, 'Just a minute,' and that was why I was on the line. Mr. Cheatum told me the information would be given to the telephone company's investigators for the FBI. "I left the district office, escorted by Mr. Anderson. He told me to take the position with open communication from Parkland Hospital to FBI Headquarters at the White House and stay on the line and not release them--not once was there a conversation between two people. After I went on my break I did not take the same position. "After work I stopped at Wyatts grocery store for some kidney for our two cats. My neighbor Mrs. Norris, whom I've mentioned earlier, walked up to me and said, 'Well, waht do you think of your President Kennedy, now?' "Saturday--November 24 [sic], 1963 "I did nothing, but prepare meals and watch T.V. "Sunday--November 25 [sic], 1963 "I asked my husband to drive me down where President Kennedy was shot and let me take some pictures so the grandchildren would have some authentic pictures of his story. He did not want to, but he did. He took his movie camera and I took an old Kodak--the film is still in the camera and not developed--I don't want to see it right now. We had to drive down Commerce Street past City Hall (there was a large crowd there). We did not stop, but one block past the crowd we heard a commotion. Looking back, people were running every way and before we reached the end of Commerce Street, we knew that Oswald had been shot. There were large trucks with T.V. cameras, spotlights, crews and all the necessary equipment for news and reporters. Everyone had a camera of some kind. "There were many floral offerings in Dealy Plaza. My eyes were wet with tears. It was all so sad, gloomy and frightening. We were there for about an hour, then went home. We watched all of this tragedy on T.V. and read the newspapers. I sent Mrs. Kennedy a note of sympathy. "The record of the call I took and heard part of was recorded and sealed and addressed to the FBI and placed in another envelope addressed to my attorney in case of my death. I locked the envelopes in my locker at the telephone company--I kept them there in case I was questioned again so I could easily reach it. "I talked with the Priest, Father Huber, who administered the Rite of Absolution to President Kennedy. I told him that I had information, but did not say that I had a moral obligation to society when I could talk. My attorney was told the same thing. "[Neither] [t]he telephone company, the FBI nor the Warren Commission have contacted me. I have kept this information inside of me. "The first week of July, 1965, I was on vacation. Returning to work, I had no occasion to go to my locker for several days. Then I needed some training material and opened the locker (on the 5th floor) and it was empty. I asked Mrs. Smith (on the 4th floor) where my things were. She referred me that Mr. Thorn, a JET (janitor), had ordered the lockers of those on vacation to be emptied--all of the materials were to be put in a box--so the lockers could be painted. The box was supposed to be at the end of the locker room. I searched but found no box. He told me it was probably put in one of the store rooms and he would find it the next day. I told him I had material in the locker for the FBI. (He was not in our office when the president was assassinated.) "Mr. Anderson had been transferred to Arkansas. Mr. Cheatum to St. Louis. A Mr. Smith was our Traffic manager now. The next day, they told me everything in the box was burned. I filed a grievance and had Mr. Smith give me a letter and one to the Union stating that I was not responsible for lost company material--dated July 12, 1965. They paid me by check for my personal belongings. I had Mr. Smith call and get Mr. Anderson in Little Rock, Ark., on the line. I talked with him and asked how to get duplicates of the material for the FBI. He said that the information was given to the telephone company's attorneys or special agents, but the FBI had never asked for any information concerning President Kennedy's death and was not volunteered. WHY? "Mr. Thon was reprimanded and sent to St. Louis. Mr. Potts retired. "My attorney advised me that my position with the company was hardly enough to try to force the company to give me a copy of the information--the clock time on the toll ticket, the length of the conversation, the number called and the calling number. "He advised me to write it all down in longhand to be opened upon my death. Maybe my debt to society will be paid someday." Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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