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Challenging Universally Accepted Truths

Did Oswald Ask for the ACLU After His Arrest?

Fritz claimed he did. However, when he had the opportunity to request help in public, he asked for John Abt (to reporters 6:30pm 22nov63) and later asked for "someboby to come forward" (late night press conference, 22nov63).

Oswald is also alleged to have asked for Abt during his early morning arraignment of 23nov63, adding that Abt was an ACLU lawyer, and that he himself was a member of that org. His next alleged mention of the ACLU was to H Lewis Nichols of the Dallas Bar Assoc. And again he is alleged to have stated he was an ACLU member.

Oswald told his family he wanted Abt, and made no mention to them of the ACLU. Oswald phoned Ruth Paine and asked her for assistance in getting Abt. Again, no mention of the ACLU here.

Nichols visit is a interesting. He was a WWII vet, and still in the Army Reserves at the time of the assassination. He previously worked as a City Attorney, and like Ruby was extremely familar with both the building, and its occupants. The Army Reserves were a recruiting ground for Army Intel. Nichols had no problem seeing Oswald, immediately afterwards giving an "impromptu" press conference, confirming that Oswald's legal rights were being after, and that Oswald had declined his assistance, wanting either Abt or someone from the ACLU. In 1969, Nichols wrote a piece for Reader's Digest in which he stated that after Nixon's nomination, he was summoned to a strategy meeting at the Mayflower Hotel. Nixon had a "special assignment" for him. It was to head up Operation Integrity which involved heading up a volunteer army of 100,000 to ensure a fair count in the election. It seems Nichols and Nixon went waaaay back...

The Dallas Bar Association also harbored the legal eagles for every Right Wing millionaire in Dallas... uncluding those who paid for the Black Border Ad.

The Dallas ACLU did try ad visit Oswald, but accepted assurances he was being treated fairly, and rights were being maintained. The real reason they were fobbed off however, may have been to prevent them finding out Oswald was being used to smear them.

In summary, if we are to believe Oswald was seeking help from the ACLU, we have to (1) take the word of Fitz and Nichols and: (2) disregard the fact that Oswald never mentioned this to his relatives, Ruth Paine or the press.

We further have to assume Oswald, so well read, wrongly thought that Abt was a ACLU lawyer. Such a mistake however, is not hard to imagine being made by those orchastrating all this; detecting such nuances in the Left was beyond them.

Edited by Greg Parker
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Greg

Thank you for bringing this information back into the spotlight. From the number of responses you can assume that the subject of Jonathan Abt does not generate much interest. For myself it is a curiosity worth delving into. The Warren Commision seems to go out of their way to distort the truth about a subject that wood seem insignificant. Why?

Is it because Jonathan Abt was a Smith Act Attorney (Oswald repeatedly made reference to Jonathan Abt the Smith Act Attorney)? A little history will show that the Smith Act was enacted in 1940 and is titled for it's primary author, Howard Worth Smith of Virginia. It was first used against members of the Socialist Workers Party (Trotskyites) when James Cannon, the national secretary was imprisoned. The use of the Smith Act was supported by the Communist Party USA because we bacame allied with Russia against the Germans during WWII and the Soviet Communists disliked the Trotskyites.

During the 1948 Presidential Campaign the Smith Act was brought back into use by the Truman Admistration in response to the Republican attacks that Truman was soft on the Communists. It is here that we find Abt's apperance as a Smith Act attorney representing members of the American Communist Party. In October of 1949 twelve leaders of the party were arrested, led by Eugene Dennis. After a nine month trial, eleven members were convicted of violating the Smith Act. Another 46 members of the American Communists were proscecuted over the next two years.

I will bring back a previous post I had made about Abt and then if some discussion is generated I will suggest a potential connection to this area of research and why the leaders of the Warren Commission worked to conceal this information about Abt from the public.

Jim Root

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I went back and re-read this in light of my comments on the other ACLU thread and now understand what you're saying Greg. You suspect the ACLU was deliberately sullied by people like Nichols. I suspect the opposite. I suspect Oswald was not sure what he was supposed to do after being captured, and so continued on in his leftist pose, and deliberately discredited the ACLU, much as he discredited the FPCC in New Orleans.

His failure to mention the ACLU in any of his press conferences might indicate you're onto something, however. What's weird is I can hear his voice volunteering that he is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union in answer to the question if he is a member of the communist party. Maybe that's in the movie JFK.

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I went back and re-read this in light of my comments on the other ACLU thread and now understand what you're saying Greg.  You suspect the ACLU was deliberately sullied by people like Nichols.  I suspect the opposite.  I suspect Oswald was not sure what he was supposed to do after being captured, and so continued on in his leftist pose, and deliberately discredited the ACLU, much as he discredited the FPCC in New Orleans.

His failure to mention the ACLU in any of his press conferences might indicate you're onto something, however.  What's weird is I can hear his voice volunteering that he is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union in answer to the question if he is a member of the communist party.  Maybe that's in the movie JFK.

Pat,

I'd say it's from the movie. The words were allegedly said during the Saturday morning interrogation.

What I have been thinking is that maybe the visit to the ACLU meeting was meant to be the start of another campaign, much like like NO FPCC caper, but for some reason, he decided not to proceed. No problem. Those running him simply went ahead, opening the PO box, forging letters in his name etc.

Let's look at it again... no corroboration for LHO's alleged anti Bircher outburst at the ACLU meeting - likewise no corroboration for any political discussion with Krystinik. We are stuck with the word of Mike and Frank.

Then the matter of the application which was allegedly received on 4 Nov - and still had not been processed post-assassination. It is found only AFTER the ACLU goes to press denying any knowledge of Oswald.

Then comes the arrest... Glenn King tells both the ACLU and the Dallas Bar Association that Oswald has not requested any legal assistance. The only public pleas made by Oswald were for "someone' (apparently any old lawyer) to come forward, and on another occasion for Abt.

IOW -- all smoke and mirrors -- I'm sure you're far from the only one to assume that his asking for the ACLU is a "given" with solid evidence. But's that's just not the case.

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Challenging Universally Accepted Truths

Did Oswald Ask for the ACLU After His Arrest?

Fritz claimed he did. However, when he had the opportunity to request help in public, he asked for John Abt (to reporters 6:30pm 22nov63) and later asked for "someboby to come forward" (late night press conference, 22nov63).

Oswald is also alleged to have asked for Abt during his early morning arraignment of 23nov63, adding that Abt was an ACLU lawyer, and that he himself was a member of that org. His next alleged mention of the ACLU was to H Lewis Nichols of the Dallas Bar Assoc. And again he is alleged to have stated he was an ACLU member.

Oswald told his family he wanted Abt, and made no mention to them of the ACLU. Oswald phoned Ruth Paine and asked her for assistance in getting Abt. Again, no mention of the ACLU here.

Nichols visit is a interesting. He was a WWII vet, and still in the Army Reserves at the time of the assassination. He previously worked as a City Attorney, and like Ruby was extremely familar with both the building, and its occupants. The Army Reserves were a recruiting ground for Army Intel. Nichols had no problem seeing Oswald, immediately afterwards giving an "impromptu" press conference, confirming that Oswald's legal rights were being after, and that Oswald had declined his assistance, wanting either Abt or someone from the ACLU. In 1969, Nichols wrote a piece for Reader's Digest in which he stated that after Nixon's nomination, he was summoned to a strategy meeting at the Mayflower Hotel. Nixon had a "special assignment" for him. It was to head up Operation Integrity which involved heading up a volunteer army of 100,000 to ensure a fair count in the election. It seems Nichols and Nixon went waaaay back...

The Dallas Bar Association also harbored the legal eagles for every Right Wing millionaire in Dallas... including those who paid for the Black Border Ad.

The Dallas ACLU did try ad visit Oswald, but accepted assurances he was being treated fairly, and rights were being maintained. The real reason they were fobbed off however, may have been to prevent them finding out Oswald was being used to smear them.

In summary, if we are to believe Oswald was seeking help from the ACLU, we have to (1) take the word of Fitz and Nichols and: (2) disregard the fact that Oswald never mentioned this to his relatives, Ruth Paine or the press.

We further have to assume Oswald, so well read, wrongly thought that Abt was a ACLU lawyer. Such a mistake however, is not hard to imagine being made by those orchestrating all this; detecting such nuances in the Left was beyond them.

"In 1969, Nichols wrote a piece for Reader's Digest in which he stated that after Nixon's nomination, he was summoned to a strategy meeting at the Mayflower Hotel. Nixon had a "special assignment" for him. It was to head up Operation Integrity which involved heading up a volunteer army of 100,000 to ensure a fair count in the election. It seems Nichols and Nixon went waaaay back..."

This part of post I now know is incorrect, and highlights the dangers of relying on a single uncited article (Occupied America)

The person in question was actually Louis B Nichols who had been a top FBI agent.

The other reason for bringing this thread back was that I found a Third Decade article which puts forward a convincing argument that Oswald never asked for Abt John J Abt: Did Oswald Ask for Him?

There is also a related thread here: http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=3502

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Challenging Universally Accepted Truths

Did Oswald Ask for the ACLU After His Arrest?

Fritz claimed he did. However, when he had the opportunity to request help in public, he asked for John Abt (to reporters 6:30pm 22nov63) and later asked for "someboby to come forward" (late night press conference, 22nov63).

Oswald is also alleged to have asked for Abt during his early morning arraignment of 23nov63, adding that Abt was an ACLU lawyer, and that he himself was a member of that org. His next alleged mention of the ACLU was to H Lewis Nichols of the Dallas Bar Assoc. And again he is alleged to have stated he was an ACLU member.

Oswald told his family he wanted Abt, and made no mention to them of the ACLU. Oswald phoned Ruth Paine and asked her for assistance in getting Abt. Again, no mention of the ACLU here.

Nichols visit is a interesting. He was a WWII vet, and still in the Army Reserves at the time of the assassination. He previously worked as a City Attorney, and like Ruby was extremely familar with both the building, and its occupants. The Army Reserves were a recruiting ground for Army Intel. Nichols had no problem seeing Oswald, immediately afterwards giving an "impromptu" press conference, confirming that Oswald's legal rights were being after, and that Oswald had declined his assistance, wanting either Abt or someone from the ACLU. In 1969, Nichols wrote a piece for Reader's Digest in which he stated that after Nixon's nomination, he was summoned to a strategy meeting at the Mayflower Hotel. Nixon had a "special assignment" for him. It was to head up Operation Integrity which involved heading up a volunteer army of 100,000 to ensure a fair count in the election. It seems Nichols and Nixon went waaaay back...

The Dallas Bar Association also harbored the legal eagles for every Right Wing millionaire in Dallas... including those who paid for the Black Border Ad.

The Dallas ACLU did try ad visit Oswald, but accepted assurances he was being treated fairly, and rights were being maintained. The real reason they were fobbed off however, may have been to prevent them finding out Oswald was being used to smear them.

In summary, if we are to believe Oswald was seeking help from the ACLU, we have to (1) take the word of Fitz and Nichols and: (2) disregard the fact that Oswald never mentioned this to his relatives, Ruth Paine or the press.

We further have to assume Oswald, so well read, wrongly thought that Abt was a ACLU lawyer. Such a mistake however, is not hard to imagine being made by those orchestrating all this; detecting such nuances in the Left was beyond them.

"In 1969, Nichols wrote a piece for Reader's Digest in which he stated that after Nixon's nomination, he was summoned to a strategy meeting at the Mayflower Hotel. Nixon had a "special assignment" for him. It was to head up Operation Integrity which involved heading up a volunteer army of 100,000 to ensure a fair count in the election. It seems Nichols and Nixon went waaaay back..."

This part of post I now know is incorrect, and highlights the dangers of relying on a single uncited article (Occupied America)

The person in question was actually Louis B Nichols who had been a top FBI agent.

The other reason for bringing this thread back was that I found a Third Decade article which puts forward a convincing argument that Oswald never asked for Abt John J Abt: Did Oswald Ask for Him?

There is also a related thread here: http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=3502

Greg, How timely. This is an area I'm woking on presently. I think the reason Os did not mention the ACLU to Paine , was that his primary goal was to contact Abt, somehow, someway! He probably felt that getting an ACLU attny was not something he needed outside help doing. As you say, we don't have much except the word of Fritz and Nichols on the ACLU thing, but it is consistant with his previous political aim (If you know what I mean). At some point someone decided to invove the ACLU in all of this, it's just a matter of when. Was it Os, at the time of the PO box opening, or someone later taking advantage of that fact?

:up In all likelyhood, probably both.

-Bill

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Greg,

Challenging Universally Accepted Truths

Did Oswald Ask for the ACLU After His Arrest?

Fritz claimed he did. However, when he had the opportunity to request help in public, he asked for John Abt (to reporters 6:30pm 22nov63) and later asked for "someboby to come forward" (late night press conference, 22nov63).

Oswald is also alleged to have asked for Abt during his early morning arraignment of 23nov63, adding that Abt was an ACLU lawyer, and that he himself was a member of that org. His next alleged mention of the ACLU was to H Lewis Nichols of the Dallas Bar Assoc. And again he is alleged to have stated he was an ACLU member.

According to Michael Paine, Oswald not only knew what the ACLU stood for, he joined the organization about two weeks after the October ACLU meeting:

Mr. PAINE - So I was describing to him the purpose of the ACLU, and he said specifically, I can remember this, after I had described it and said that I was a member, that he couldn't join an organization like that, it wasn't political and he said something or responded in some manner, which indicated surprise that I could be concerned about joining an organization simply to defend, whose purpose it is, shall we say, to defend, free speech, free speech, per se, your freedom as well as mine.

He was aware of enjoying his freedom to speak but he didn't seem to be aware of the more general principle of freedom to speak for everyone which has value in itself. And I think it took him by surprise that a person could be concerned about a value like that rather than political objective of some sort, and this was, struck me as a new idea and it struck me that he must never have met people who paid more than lip service, he wasn't familiar with the ways of expressing this value.

Mr. DULLES - Did you say anything to him about the activities of the Civil Liberties Union in connection with the defense of people accused of crimes under certain conditions?

Mr. PAINE - Yes; I am sure I told him that it came to the defense of all people who didn't seem to be receiving adequate help when it seemed to be an issue involving the Bill of Rights. I was then--that was a pang of sorrow that occurred after the assassination when I realized that he had then subsequently, a fortnight later, joined the ACLU, and still didn't quite seem to perceive its purpose, and then I realized--I had also perceived earlier that he was still a young fellow and I had been expecting rather a lot of him, when I first approached meeting him; this man had been to Russia and had been back and I had been--met some others who had been around the world like that and they are powerful people.

Steve Thomas

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Greg

I wrote this piece several years ago. Perhaps it will help in this thread. Needless to say I am intrigued by Oswald's isnsistance on having Abt act as his attorney.

ATTORNEY FOR THE DEFENSE, JONATHAN ABT

Can anything be logical about the actions of the man who was charged with shooting the President of the United States? The Warren Commission suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald was a “lone nut” assassin, not a rational person. If Oswald had a motive its content was lost to history at the exact moment that Jack Ruby recklessly ended Oswald’s life on the morning of November 25th 1963. But like so many anomalies in this case, Oswald, the irrational nut, knew whom he wanted as his attorney, Jonathan Abt. And, while Lee Harvey Oswald let everyone know why he wanted Jonathan Abt, the Warren Commission was hesitant to share that information in their conclusion!

The name John Abt was mentioned repeatedly by Oswald while he was in the custody of the Dallas Police. There exists about forty pages of written documentation, filed by the men who interrogated Oswald, that appear in Appendix XI of the Warren Report that attests to this interesting, yet under investigated, subplot within the assassination drama.

Each person present tells a similar story.

Captain Will Fritz:

“Oswald asked if he was allowed an attorney and I told him he could have any attorney he liked, and that the telephone would be available to him up in the jail and he could call anyone he wished. I believe it was during this interview that he first expressed a desire to talk to Mr. Abt, an attorney in New York.”

Lee Harvey Oswald turned 24 years old in October of 1963, just a month before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For myself I found it surprising to see that Oswald knew the name of the attorney that he wanted to represent him in the earliest of interviews with detectives. He also knew where attorney Jonathan Abt lived. My mind began to contemplate, “How many 24 year olds, living in Texas, would know the name of an attorney in New York?” It is true that Oswald had lived in New York at one time but how did he know about this particular attorney, Jonathan Abt?

During a subsequent interrogation, Captain Will Fritz would reveal that Oswald knew even more about Jonathan Abt than just his name:

“He (Oswald) reminded me that he did not have to answer any questions at all until he talked to his attorney, and I told him again that he could have an attorney any time he wished. He said he didn’t have money to pay for a phone call to Mr. Abt. I told him to call ‘collect.’ If he liked, to use the jail phone or that he could have another attorney if he wished. He said he didn’t want another attorney; he wanted to talk to this attorney first. I believe he made this call later as he thanked me later during one of our interviews for allowing him the use of the telephone. I explained to him that all prisoners were allowed to use the telephone. I asked him why he wanted Mr. Abt, instead of some available attorney. He told me he didn’t know Mr. Abt personally but that he was familiar with a case where Mr. Abt defended some people for a violation of the Smith Act….”

The Smith Act, actually the Alien Registration Act, was adopted by congress at 54 Statutes at Large 670-671 (1940) on June 29, 1940. Authored by Representative Howard W. Smith of Virginia, it was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt. Smith, a fifth term congressman at the time, would continue to serve in congress untill1967.

The intent of the Alien Registration Act was to make it illegal for any person to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government of the United States. The law also required all foreign residents of the United States that were over the age of 14 to register as aliens.

Within five months of passage (November of 1940) over 4,741,971 persons had complied with the obligations of the Act. Each registered alien was required to make a statement that included their occupational status and information about their political beliefs. It was the first statute since the Alien and Sedition act of 1798 to make the mere advocacy of ideas a federal crime. (Michael Steven Smith, About the Smith Act Trials) The government’s ability to register and process so many individuals in such a short span of time was a reflection of the crisis that was, at that time, destroying the world order. John J. McCloy, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of War at this time, advocated the collection of information on potential saboteurs within the United States. The Smith Act provided the vehicle to accomplish his goal.

John J. McCloy had made his reputation as the attorney that broke the Black Tom case (dealing with German sabotage during World War I at the Black Tom pier in New York). His decades spent unraveling the covert operations of German espionage during World War I made him an ideal candidate to help Secretary of War Stimson upgrade the military intelligence apparatus.

In 1941 the Smith Act was used to prosecute leaders of the Socialist Workers Party. At the time the United States was being driven toward an alliance with the Soviet Union against Germany which had invaded Russia. The Communist Party in America fully supported its use by the government of the United States against their “Trotskyist” political opponents. The later use of the Smith Act would involve Jonathan Abt.

Historians who disagree with the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report have criticized the officers that questioned Oswald. An argument is made that since the various Dallas Police detectives and the FBI and Secrete Service agents present did not tape record or keep their detailed notes of all the Oswald interrogations, the written reports must be incomplete. The truth is that at the time of Oswald’s arrest, the Dallas Police Department did not own a tape recorder. For better or worse the majority of information that survives, survives within the numerous volumes of the Warren Commission Report. It is these written reports, made by the people who witnessed the interrogations and heard the words of Lee Harvey Oswald while he was in custody, that I find so interesting. Rather than speculating on what might have been lost, I am intrigued by what is contained in the supporting records of the Warren Commission that were not included in the final summary report.

The accumulated reports were transcribed from notes kept by the interrogators as well as their own personal recollections, all within hours of the interviews with Oswald. I have chosen to look more closely at what is in the written reports and interviews but did not survive into the final draft of the Warren Commission Report than to speculate on what might or might not be missing. Their statements demonstrate that Lee Harvey Oswald repeatedly referred to Abt as a Smith Act Attorney and that his desire to have Abt for this reason was made abundantly clear to all present. What reasons can be ascribed to this coincidence?

The record shows that between 4:45 and 6:30 P.M. on the day of the assassination, Captain Will Fritz of the Dallas Police conducted his second interview with Lee Oswald. The interview took place in Captain Fritz’s office:

Oswald.

“…I want that attorney in New York, Mr. Abt. I don’t know him personally but I know about a case that he handled some years ago, where he represented the people who had violated the Smith Act…I don’t know him personally, but that is the attorney I want….If I can’t get him, then I may get the American Civil Liberties Union to send me an attorney.”

During the same interview Oswald repeated his request with these words:

“…I want to talk with Mr. Abt, a New York attorney…”

During the 1948 presidential election race, Harry Truman’s Republican rivals were accusing the Democrats of being “soft” on Communism. (Michael Steven Smith, About the Smith Act Trials) At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the delegates added a plank to their platform that stated;

“We pledge a vigorous enforcement of existing laws against Communists and enactment of such new legislation as may be necessary to expose the treasonable activities of Communists and defeat their objective of establishing here a godless dictatorship controlled from abroad.“

To counter this threat Truman turned to J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

J. Edgar Hoover had first developed his reputation as a tough investigator and prosecutor by deporting radicals and immigrants during the 1919 Palmer Raids. For Hoover the harassment of the radical fringe would become a professional trait. It was J. Edgar Hoover that suggested to Truman that the Smith Act could be used against members of the Communist Party. On July 20th, 1948 eleven members of the American Communist party were arrested and charged under the Alien Registration Act.

The Smith Act defendants were not charged with the actual commission of a crime. As strange as it may seem today the charges were designed to prove that “they conspired to organize as the Communist Party and willfully to advocate and teach principles of Marxism-Leninism.” It was then construed to show that by the mere fact that they had organized as a Communist Party that they therefore advocated, “overthrowing and destroying the government of the United States by force and violence” sometime in the future.

For Truman, behind in the polls, the Presidency itself was at stake. Truman needed these prosecutions to deflect the criticism of his Republican rivals. The federal government successfully prosecuted the defendants and Harry Truman defeated his challenger Thomas Dewey and his running mate, Vice Presidential candidate Earl Warren (later chairman of the Warren Commission) in one of the closest elections in United States History.

Chief Justice Earl Warren would later overturn these same Smith Act convictions.

Between 10:30 A.M. and 1:10 P.M. on November 23rd Oswald was again interrogated in Captain Fritz’s office when he stated:

“I said I wanted to contact Attorney Abt, New York. He defended the Smith Act cases in 1949, 1950, but I don’t know his address, except that it is in New York….”

On Saturday afternoon, November 23, 1963, around 3:30 PM Oswald made a telephone call to Ruth Paine

Ruth Paine:

I said, “Well, hi.” And he said he wanted to ask me to call Mr. John Abt in New York for him after 6:00 PM. He gave me a telephone number of an office in New York and a residence in New York…He said he was an (the) attorney he wanted to have…

Oswald’s mother confirmed Ruth Paine’s story when the Warren Commission questioned her. Marguerite Oswald recalled the call she received from Ruth Paine.

Marguerite Oswald:

…the telephone rang, and it was Mrs. Paine. She said, “Mrs Oswald, Lee called and he was very upset because Marina was not with me, and he asked me to get a lawyer for him, a Mr. Abt.”

At 6:30 P.M. on November 22nd Oswald was a part of a police lineup for three witnesses to the Jefferson Davis Tippit murder. The three witnesses were Cecil J. McWatters, Sam Guiyard, and Ted Callaway. Once again Oswald is quoted as saying:

“I want to get in touch with a lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City…”

Early the next morning, at 1:35 A.M., November 24, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was arraigned for the Murder with Malice of John F. Kennedy when he said:

“Well, sir, I guess this is the trial…I want to contact my lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City. I would like to have this gentleman. He is with the American Civil Liberties Union.”

Mr. Abt was never a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was general counsel for the Senate Sub-Committee on Civil Liberties from 1935-1937, and was later a legal advisor for the Progressive Party from 1948-1951. He worked with and knew Alger Hiss and has been, many times, labeled as a communist.

But Lee Harvey Oswald was absolutely correct on his other statement; a study of John Abt’s biography demonstrates that he had indeed represented people accused of violating the Smith Act. Oswald, it seems, was familiar enough with the Smith Act cases that had begun fifteen years earlier, when Oswald was eight years old. He had knowledge of Mr. Abt that he knew where Jonathon Abt could be located (New York). Oswald knew that these particular cases had actually occurred more than a decade earlier.

On November 23, 1963, H. Louis Nichols, President of the Dallas Bar Association, contacted Oswald for a brief discussion at 5:30 P.M.:

Oswald

“….Do you know a lawyer in New York named John Abt? I believe in New York City. I would like to have him represent me. That is the man I would like.”

Assistant counsel for the President’s Commission, Mr. Samuel A. Stern, interviewed James W. Bookhout on April 8, 1964. Bookhout was a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation stationed in Dallas at the time of the assassination. He was present at several of the interrogations of Oswald at the invitation of Captain Will Fritz. On the morning of November 24, 1963, James Bookhout participated in an interrogation of Lee Harvey Oswald conducted by Captain Fritz and was later questioned about his knowledge of this event. Also present at the Oswald interrogation were T.J Kelly and David B. Grant, of the U.S. Secret Service, Robert I. Nash, a U.S. Marshall and Detectives Billy L. Senkel and Fay M. Turner of the Homicide and Robbery Bureau of the Dallas Police Department.

Mr. Bookhout:

Yes. It was in this interview that he (Oswald) mentioned he wanted to contact Attorney Abt (spelling) A-b-t, New York City. I recall Captain Fritz asked him if he knew Abt personally and he said he did not, but he explained that he knew that Abt had defended the Smith Act cases in 1949, or 1950, and Captain Fritz asked him if he knew how to get ahold of Mr. Abt, and he stated that he did not know what his address was, but he was in New York.

On April 17, 1964, just nine days after James Bookhout was interviewed by Warren Commission attorneys, J. Lee Rankin, general counsel for the Warren Commission, and Wesley J. Liebeler, assistant counsel of the Presidents’ Commission interviewed John Abt. (Warren Commision Report) Wesley J. Liebeler was also the Warren Commission Attorney that interviewed General Walker.

Unfortunately for history, the interview was amazingly short. J. Lee Rankin neglected to probe into Abt’s involvement in the Smith Act cases, even when the opportunity afforded itself. The total transcript of Jonathan Abt’s interview contains less than two pages of questions and responses. The longest statement made by Abt dwelt with how, because he and his wife were at their mountain retreat, he had missed the calls that Lee Harvey Oswald had made to him from the Dallas Police Department jail. Were the Warren Commissioners and the American public denied an opportunity to understand that a possible Oswald defense was to center around Jonathan Abt’s knowledge of the Smith Act?

Reading the transcript of Abt’s testimony, I was surprised, not by what was there but once again, by what was missing. Lee Harvey Oswald repeatedly stated that he desired Jonathan Abt as his attorney because Abt had represented clients in Smith Act cases. But the questioning by the General Council for the Warren Commission went in a different direction:

Mr. Rankin.

“Mr. Abt, did you learn that Lee Harvey Oswald was interested in having you represent him apparently because of some prior connection of yours with the American Civil Liberties Union?”

Mr. Abt.

“No. My assumption was, and it is pure assumption, that he read about some of my representation in the press, and, therefore, it occurred to him that I might be a god man to represent him, but that is pure assumption on my part. I have no direct knowledge of the whole matter.”

(Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. X, p. 116)

Mr. Rankin then asked:

“You have told us all that you know about it?

Mr. Abt.

“Yes. I may say that I had no prior contact with Oswald, knew nothing about him, did not know the name, and this request came as something entirely new and surprising to me when it came.”

Mr. Rankin.

“None of your clients had ever communicated to you about him prior to that time you heard about it over the radio?”

Mr. Abt.

“No; I had no recollection of even having heard the name, his name, before that time.”

Mr. Rankin.

“Thank you.”

At this point the interview was ended. The Warren Commission gathered no further information about Johathan Abt nor was there any speculation about why Lee Harvey Oswald would be so insistent upon having an attorney that was familiar with the Smith Act. An act designed to prosecute for advocating the over-through of the Government of the United States.

What can we speculate about any possible Oswald defense?

The mother of Lee Harvey Oswald Marguerite Oswald, and his wife, Marina Oswald visited Lee at 1:10 P.M. November 24, 1963 for about 20 minutes. At this meeting Oswald again reiterated his desire to have Abt as his attorney.

“Everything is fine. I know my rights, and I will have an attorney. I already requested to get in touch with Attorney Abt,…”

In 1993 we learned more about the thoughts of Marina Oswald when her friend and biographer, Priscilla McMillan appeared on the television show Frontline.

Historian Priscilla Johnson McMillan was a reporter in Moscow in the 1950’s and interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald shortly after his defection to the Soviet Union. Later, after the Kennedy assassination, McMillan befriended Oswald’s widow, Marina, and the two spent considerable time together. In 1977, McMillan wrote “Marina and Lee,” an intimate portrait of the Oswalds’ life together. In an interview conducted in conjunction with the first broadcast of Frontline’s “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?” in 1993, Priscilla Johnson McMillan made this statement:

“Lee, in jail, told Marina that she had friends, that they would help her. He told her that there was someone in New York who would help him. He was counting on John Abt, lawyer for the American Communist party, to be his lawyer. He telephoned Ruth Paine and asked her to call Abt. Marina thought, when she saw Lee in jail, she could see that he was frightened. But then she thought that he would use the trial to proclaim his ideas, and to say that what he had done was justified by History.”

Frontline also interviewed Robert Oswald, Lee’s older brother, about Abt:

“I asked him about this lawyer in New York…and I told him I would get him one down here, meaning in Texas. He said no, he wanted that one up there. I didn’t press it any further. He was seeming to be pretty adamant about it. …”

Was the assassination of John F. Kennedy an attempt to overthrow the government of the United States? If so, it failed. It did succeed in showing the world that our Constitutional government was not only resilient but that it could, again, survive another cataclysmic event just as it had done numerous times before.

I believe Lee Harvey Oswald knew his history well enough to know that a single event would not change our government. But we can question why Oswald would be so intent on having Abt act as his attorney. Since the record shows that he repeatedly stated the reason he wanted Abt was his connection to the Smith Act Trials, I began to wonder, was Oswald going to use his trial to accuse someone, or group, of violating the Smith Act? I remembered that Oswald had left information behind that would have been found if he had been apprehended for assassinating Edwin Walker. Did he have a motive? Did he believe he need a trial?

Did Oswald have a reason to believe that someone or some group was attempting to over-through the government?

Remember:

“She (Marina) testified that Oswald said that General Walker ‘was a very bad man, that he was a fascist, that he was the leader of a fascist organization, and when I said that even though all of that might be true, just the same he had no right to take his life, he said if someone had killed Hitler in time it would have saved many lives.”

If a trial had taken place would anybody believe that Kennedy had violated the Smith Act in some way that could justify taking the life of the President?

The strange thing is, Major General Edwin Anderson Walker would seem to be the more obvious choice if Oswald’s intent was going to be to accuse someone of attempting to overthrow the government. But it would also seem to be irrational to believe that Oswald would be siding with Walker and his “right wing” accusations that were being leveled against the Kennedy Administration. Is there any connection? The question began to haunt me.

In 1951 twenty-three Communists were indicted using the Smith Act. By 1957 the number had grown to over 140. It would take a number of Supreme Court decisions in 1957 to finally halt the parade of prosecutions. The two most important were Yates v. United States and Watkins v. United States. In Watkins the Court ruled that a defendant who had opted not to use the Fifth Amendment could still use the First Amendment against “abuses of the legislative process.” The vote was six to one, with Chief Justice Earl Warren writing the majority opinion.

Is it a coincidence that Earl Warren was associated with the use of the Smith Act to prosecute communists, first as a candidate for the vice-presidency in 1948 and then as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1957? In 1963 many conservatives in the United States considered Warren, the former Republican Governor of California for eight years, a left wing radical. Did Justice Earl Warren influence the commission to eliminate any mention of the Smith Act cases from the final report of his commission?

When Jack Ruby fired his fatal shots the American public lost the opportunity to witness the trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. The jury of public opinion lost our opportunity to hear more about the possible defense strategy that would be used to defend Lee Harvey Oswald when the telephone calls to Jonathan Abt went unanswered.

On Sunday morning November 25th 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was himself assassinated while being transferred to a more permanent jail site to await prosecution. At the time of his death, Lee Harvey Oswald had very few items in his possession. One item of significance was a sheet of paper with two phone numbers written on it. Those phone numbers were the telephone numbers for Jonathan Abt.

Jim Root

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Does anyone know when Abt died? (I am assuming he has). In 1983 I tried to find him. I made several calls to New York, to the ACLU and via directory service. (Sadly this was before the 'net). I was never able to locate him.

Dawn

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Greg

I wrote this piece several years ago. Perhaps it will help in this thread. Needless to say I am intrigued by Oswald's isnsistance on having Abt act as his attorney.

ATTORNEY FOR THE DEFENSE, JONATHAN ABT

Can anything be logical about the actions of the man who was charged with shooting the President of the United States? The Warren Commission suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald was a “lone nut” assassin, not a rational person. If Oswald had a motive its content was lost to history at the exact moment that Jack Ruby recklessly ended Oswald’s life on the morning of November 25th 1963. But like so many anomalies in this case, Oswald, the irrational nut, knew whom he wanted as his attorney, Jonathan Abt. And, while Lee Harvey Oswald let everyone know why he wanted Jonathan Abt, the Warren Commission was hesitant to share that information in their conclusion!

The name John Abt was mentioned repeatedly by Oswald while he was in the custody of the Dallas Police. There exists about forty pages of written documentation, filed by the men who interrogated Oswald, that appear in Appendix XI of the Warren Report that attests to this interesting, yet under investigated, subplot within the assassination drama.

Each person present tells a similar story.

Captain Will Fritz:

“Oswald asked if he was allowed an attorney and I told him he could have any attorney he liked, and that the telephone would be available to him up in the jail and he could call anyone he wished. I believe it was during this interview that he first expressed a desire to talk to Mr. Abt, an attorney in New York.”

Lee Harvey Oswald turned 24 years old in October of 1963, just a month before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For myself I found it surprising to see that Oswald knew the name of the attorney that he wanted to represent him in the earliest of interviews with detectives. He also knew where attorney Jonathan Abt lived. My mind began to contemplate, “How many 24 year olds, living in Texas, would know the name of an attorney in New York?” It is true that Oswald had lived in New York at one time but how did he know about this particular attorney, Jonathan Abt?

During a subsequent interrogation, Captain Will Fritz would reveal that Oswald knew even more about Jonathan Abt than just his name:

“He (Oswald) reminded me that he did not have to answer any questions at all until he talked to his attorney, and I told him again that he could have an attorney any time he wished. He said he didn’t have money to pay for a phone call to Mr. Abt. I told him to call ‘collect.’ If he liked, to use the jail phone or that he could have another attorney if he wished. He said he didn’t want another attorney; he wanted to talk to this attorney first. I believe he made this call later as he thanked me later during one of our interviews for allowing him the use of the telephone. I explained to him that all prisoners were allowed to use the telephone. I asked him why he wanted Mr. Abt, instead of some available attorney. He told me he didn’t know Mr. Abt personally but that he was familiar with a case where Mr. Abt defended some people for a violation of the Smith Act….”

The Smith Act, actually the Alien Registration Act, was adopted by congress at 54 Statutes at Large 670-671 (1940) on June 29, 1940. Authored by Representative Howard W. Smith of Virginia, it was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt. Smith, a fifth term congressman at the time, would continue to serve in congress untill1967.

The intent of the Alien Registration Act was to make it illegal for any person to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government of the United States. The law also required all foreign residents of the United States that were over the age of 14 to register as aliens.

Within five months of passage (November of 1940) over 4,741,971 persons had complied with the obligations of the Act. Each registered alien was required to make a statement that included their occupational status and information about their political beliefs. It was the first statute since the Alien and Sedition act of 1798 to make the mere advocacy of ideas a federal crime. (Michael Steven Smith, About the Smith Act Trials) The government’s ability to register and process so many individuals in such a short span of time was a reflection of the crisis that was, at that time, destroying the world order. John J. McCloy, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of War at this time, advocated the collection of information on potential saboteurs within the United States. The Smith Act provided the vehicle to accomplish his goal.

John J. McCloy had made his reputation as the attorney that broke the Black Tom case (dealing with German sabotage during World War I at the Black Tom pier in New York). His decades spent unraveling the covert operations of German espionage during World War I made him an ideal candidate to help Secretary of War Stimson upgrade the military intelligence apparatus.

In 1941 the Smith Act was used to prosecute leaders of the Socialist Workers Party. At the time the United States was being driven toward an alliance with the Soviet Union against Germany which had invaded Russia. The Communist Party in America fully supported its use by the government of the United States against their “Trotskyist” political opponents. The later use of the Smith Act would involve Jonathan Abt.

Historians who disagree with the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report have criticized the officers that questioned Oswald. An argument is made that since the various Dallas Police detectives and the FBI and Secrete Service agents present did not tape record or keep their detailed notes of all the Oswald interrogations, the written reports must be incomplete. The truth is that at the time of Oswald’s arrest, the Dallas Police Department did not own a tape recorder. For better or worse the majority of information that survives, survives within the numerous volumes of the Warren Commission Report. It is these written reports, made by the people who witnessed the interrogations and heard the words of Lee Harvey Oswald while he was in custody, that I find so interesting. Rather than speculating on what might have been lost, I am intrigued by what is contained in the supporting records of the Warren Commission that were not included in the final summary report.

The accumulated reports were transcribed from notes kept by the interrogators as well as their own personal recollections, all within hours of the interviews with Oswald. I have chosen to look more closely at what is in the written reports and interviews but did not survive into the final draft of the Warren Commission Report than to speculate on what might or might not be missing. Their statements demonstrate that Lee Harvey Oswald repeatedly referred to Abt as a Smith Act Attorney and that his desire to have Abt for this reason was made abundantly clear to all present. What reasons can be ascribed to this coincidence?

The record shows that between 4:45 and 6:30 P.M. on the day of the assassination, Captain Will Fritz of the Dallas Police conducted his second interview with Lee Oswald. The interview took place in Captain Fritz’s office:

Oswald.

“…I want that attorney in New York, Mr. Abt. I don’t know him personally but I know about a case that he handled some years ago, where he represented the people who had violated the Smith Act…I don’t know him personally, but that is the attorney I want….If I can’t get him, then I may get the American Civil Liberties Union to send me an attorney.”

During the same interview Oswald repeated his request with these words:

“…I want to talk with Mr. Abt, a New York attorney…”

During the 1948 presidential election race, Harry Truman’s Republican rivals were accusing the Democrats of being “soft” on Communism. (Michael Steven Smith, About the Smith Act Trials) At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the delegates added a plank to their platform that stated;

“We pledge a vigorous enforcement of existing laws against Communists and enactment of such new legislation as may be necessary to expose the treasonable activities of Communists and defeat their objective of establishing here a godless dictatorship controlled from abroad.“

To counter this threat Truman turned to J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

J. Edgar Hoover had first developed his reputation as a tough investigator and prosecutor by deporting radicals and immigrants during the 1919 Palmer Raids. For Hoover the harassment of the radical fringe would become a professional trait. It was J. Edgar Hoover that suggested to Truman that the Smith Act could be used against members of the Communist Party. On July 20th, 1948 eleven members of the American Communist party were arrested and charged under the Alien Registration Act.

The Smith Act defendants were not charged with the actual commission of a crime. As strange as it may seem today the charges were designed to prove that “they conspired to organize as the Communist Party and willfully to advocate and teach principles of Marxism-Leninism.” It was then construed to show that by the mere fact that they had organized as a Communist Party that they therefore advocated, “overthrowing and destroying the government of the United States by force and violence” sometime in the future.

For Truman, behind in the polls, the Presidency itself was at stake. Truman needed these prosecutions to deflect the criticism of his Republican rivals. The federal government successfully prosecuted the defendants and Harry Truman defeated his challenger Thomas Dewey and his running mate, Vice Presidential candidate Earl Warren (later chairman of the Warren Commission) in one of the closest elections in United States History.

Chief Justice Earl Warren would later overturn these same Smith Act convictions.

Between 10:30 A.M. and 1:10 P.M. on November 23rd Oswald was again interrogated in Captain Fritz’s office when he stated:

“I said I wanted to contact Attorney Abt, New York. He defended the Smith Act cases in 1949, 1950, but I don’t know his address, except that it is in New York….”

On Saturday afternoon, November 23, 1963, around 3:30 PM Oswald made a telephone call to Ruth Paine

Ruth Paine:

I said, “Well, hi.” And he said he wanted to ask me to call Mr. John Abt in New York for him after 6:00 PM. He gave me a telephone number of an office in New York and a residence in New York…He said he was an (the) attorney he wanted to have…

Oswald’s mother confirmed Ruth Paine’s story when the Warren Commission questioned her. Marguerite Oswald recalled the call she received from Ruth Paine.

Marguerite Oswald:

…the telephone rang, and it was Mrs. Paine. She said, “Mrs Oswald, Lee called and he was very upset because Marina was not with me, and he asked me to get a lawyer for him, a Mr. Abt.”

At 6:30 P.M. on November 22nd Oswald was a part of a police lineup for three witnesses to the Jefferson Davis Tippit murder. The three witnesses were Cecil J. McWatters, Sam Guiyard, and Ted Callaway. Once again Oswald is quoted as saying:

“I want to get in touch with a lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City…”

Early the next morning, at 1:35 A.M., November 24, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was arraigned for the Murder with Malice of John F. Kennedy when he said:

“Well, sir, I guess this is the trial…I want to contact my lawyer, Mr. Abt, in New York City. I would like to have this gentleman. He is with the American Civil Liberties Union.”

Mr. Abt was never a member of the American Civil Liberties Union. He was general counsel for the Senate Sub-Committee on Civil Liberties from 1935-1937, and was later a legal advisor for the Progressive Party from 1948-1951. He worked with and knew Alger Hiss and has been, many times, labeled as a communist.

But Lee Harvey Oswald was absolutely correct on his other statement; a study of John Abt’s biography demonstrates that he had indeed represented people accused of violating the Smith Act. Oswald, it seems, was familiar enough with the Smith Act cases that had begun fifteen years earlier, when Oswald was eight years old. He had knowledge of Mr. Abt that he knew where Jonathon Abt could be located (New York). Oswald knew that these particular cases had actually occurred more than a decade earlier.

On November 23, 1963, H. Louis Nichols, President of the Dallas Bar Association, contacted Oswald for a brief discussion at 5:30 P.M.:

Oswald

“….Do you know a lawyer in New York named John Abt? I believe in New York City. I would like to have him represent me. That is the man I would like.”

Assistant counsel for the President’s Commission, Mr. Samuel A. Stern, interviewed James W. Bookhout on April 8, 1964. Bookhout was a Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation stationed in Dallas at the time of the assassination. He was present at several of the interrogations of Oswald at the invitation of Captain Will Fritz. On the morning of November 24, 1963, James Bookhout participated in an interrogation of Lee Harvey Oswald conducted by Captain Fritz and was later questioned about his knowledge of this event. Also present at the Oswald interrogation were T.J Kelly and David B. Grant, of the U.S. Secret Service, Robert I. Nash, a U.S. Marshall and Detectives Billy L. Senkel and Fay M. Turner of the Homicide and Robbery Bureau of the Dallas Police Department.

Mr. Bookhout:

Yes. It was in this interview that he (Oswald) mentioned he wanted to contact Attorney Abt (spelling) A-b-t, New York City. I recall Captain Fritz asked him if he knew Abt personally and he said he did not, but he explained that he knew that Abt had defended the Smith Act cases in 1949, or 1950, and Captain Fritz asked him if he knew how to get ahold of Mr. Abt, and he stated that he did not know what his address was, but he was in New York.

On April 17, 1964, just nine days after James Bookhout was interviewed by Warren Commission attorneys, J. Lee Rankin, general counsel for the Warren Commission, and Wesley J. Liebeler, assistant counsel of the Presidents’ Commission interviewed John Abt. (Warren Commision Report) Wesley J. Liebeler was also the Warren Commission Attorney that interviewed General Walker.

Unfortunately for history, the interview was amazingly short. J. Lee Rankin neglected to probe into Abt’s involvement in the Smith Act cases, even when the opportunity afforded itself. The total transcript of Jonathan Abt’s interview contains less than two pages of questions and responses. The longest statement made by Abt dwelt with how, because he and his wife were at their mountain retreat, he had missed the calls that Lee Harvey Oswald had made to him from the Dallas Police Department jail. Were the Warren Commissioners and the American public denied an opportunity to understand that a possible Oswald defense was to center around Jonathan Abt’s knowledge of the Smith Act?

Reading the transcript of Abt’s testimony, I was surprised, not by what was there but once again, by what was missing. Lee Harvey Oswald repeatedly stated that he desired Jonathan Abt as his attorney because Abt had represented clients in Smith Act cases. But the questioning by the General Council for the Warren Commission went in a different direction:

Mr. Rankin.

“Mr. Abt, did you learn that Lee Harvey Oswald was interested in having you represent him apparently because of some prior connection of yours with the American Civil Liberties Union?”

Mr. Abt.

“No. My assumption was, and it is pure assumption, that he read about some of my representation in the press, and, therefore, it occurred to him that I might be a god man to represent him, but that is pure assumption on my part. I have no direct knowledge of the whole matter.”

(Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. X, p. 116)

Mr. Rankin then asked:

“You have told us all that you know about it?

Mr. Abt.

“Yes. I may say that I had no prior contact with Oswald, knew nothing about him, did not know the name, and this request came as something entirely new and surprising to me when it came.”

Mr. Rankin.

“None of your clients had ever communicated to you about him prior to that time you heard about it over the radio?”

Mr. Abt.

“No; I had no recollection of even having heard the name, his name, before that time.”

Mr. Rankin.

“Thank you.”

At this point the interview was ended. The Warren Commission gathered no further information about Johathan Abt nor was there any speculation about why Lee Harvey Oswald would be so insistent upon having an attorney that was familiar with the Smith Act. An act designed to prosecute for advocating the over-through of the Government of the United States.

What can we speculate about any possible Oswald defense?

The mother of Lee Harvey Oswald Marguerite Oswald, and his wife, Marina Oswald visited Lee at 1:10 P.M. November 24, 1963 for about 20 minutes. At this meeting Oswald again reiterated his desire to have Abt as his attorney.

“Everything is fine. I know my rights, and I will have an attorney. I already requested to get in touch with Attorney Abt,…”

In 1993 we learned more about the thoughts of Marina Oswald when her friend and biographer, Priscilla McMillan appeared on the television show Frontline.

Historian Priscilla Johnson McMillan was a reporter in Moscow in the 1950’s and interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald shortly after his defection to the Soviet Union. Later, after the Kennedy assassination, McMillan befriended Oswald’s widow, Marina, and the two spent considerable time together. In 1977, McMillan wrote “Marina and Lee,” an intimate portrait of the Oswalds’ life together. In an interview conducted in conjunction with the first broadcast of Frontline’s “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?” in 1993, Priscilla Johnson McMillan made this statement:

“Lee, in jail, told Marina that she had friends, that they would help her. He told her that there was someone in New York who would help him. He was counting on John Abt, lawyer for the American Communist party, to be his lawyer. He telephoned Ruth Paine and asked her to call Abt. Marina thought, when she saw Lee in jail, she could see that he was frightened. But then she thought that he would use the trial to proclaim his ideas, and to say that what he had done was justified by History.”

Frontline also interviewed Robert Oswald, Lee’s older brother, about Abt:

“I asked him about this lawyer in New York…and I told him I would get him one down here, meaning in Texas. He said no, he wanted that one up there. I didn’t press it any further. He was seeming to be pretty adamant about it. …”

Was the assassination of John F. Kennedy an attempt to overthrow the government of the United States? If so, it failed. It did succeed in showing the world that our Constitutional government was not only resilient but that it could, again, survive another cataclysmic event just as it had done numerous times before.

I believe Lee Harvey Oswald knew his history well enough to know that a single event would not change our government. But we can question why Oswald would be so intent on having Abt act as his attorney. Since the record shows that he repeatedly stated the reason he wanted Abt was his connection to the Smith Act Trials, I began to wonder, was Oswald going to use his trial to accuse someone, or group, of violating the Smith Act? I remembered that Oswald had left information behind that would have been found if he had been apprehended for assassinating Edwin Walker. Did he have a motive? Did he believe he need a trial?

Did Oswald have a reason to believe that someone or some group was attempting to over-through the government?

Remember:

“She (Marina) testified that Oswald said that General Walker ‘was a very bad man, that he was a fascist, that he was the leader of a fascist organization, and when I said that even though all of that might be true, just the same he had no right to take his life, he said if someone had killed Hitler in time it would have saved many lives.”

If a trial had taken place would anybody believe that Kennedy had violated the Smith Act in some way that could justify taking the life of the President?

The strange thing is, Major General Edwin Anderson Walker would seem to be the more obvious choice if Oswald’s intent was going to be to accuse someone of attempting to overthrow the government. But it would also seem to be irrational to believe that Oswald would be siding with Walker and his “right wing” accusations that were being leveled against the Kennedy Administration. Is there any connection? The question began to haunt me.

In 1951 twenty-three Communists were indicted using the Smith Act. By 1957 the number had grown to over 140. It would take a number of Supreme Court decisions in 1957 to finally halt the parade of prosecutions. The two most important were Yates v. United States and Watkins v. United States. In Watkins the Court ruled that a defendant who had opted not to use the Fifth Amendment could still use the First Amendment against “abuses of the legislative process.” The vote was six to one, with Chief Justice Earl Warren writing the majority opinion.

Is it a coincidence that Earl Warren was associated with the use of the Smith Act to prosecute communists, first as a candidate for the vice-presidency in 1948 and then as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1957? In 1963 many conservatives in the United States considered Warren, the former Republican Governor of California for eight years, a left wing radical. Did Justice Earl Warren influence the commission to eliminate any mention of the Smith Act cases from the final report of his commission?

When Jack Ruby fired his fatal shots the American public lost the opportunity to witness the trial of Lee Harvey Oswald. The jury of public opinion lost our opportunity to hear more about the possible defense strategy that would be used to defend Lee Harvey Oswald when the telephone calls to Jonathan Abt went unanswered.

On Sunday morning November 25th 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was himself assassinated while being transferred to a more permanent jail site to await prosecution. At the time of his death, Lee Harvey Oswald had very few items in his possession. One item of significance was a sheet of paper with two phone numbers written on it. Those phone numbers were the telephone numbers for Jonathan Abt.

Jim Root

[/quo

Very nice Jim! Let us not forget that Adele Edison said that Rivera told her that Oswald would, " Ask for a lawyer named Abt"!

This was told to her by Rivera, weeks befored the assassination. I interviewed Ms. Edison on this point years ago. Sometimes she fails to emphasise this point in her story , which I think is paramount to conspiracy, If you believe her.....which I do, this is another point of evidence, of a pre- planned intent to frame the communists via Oswald.

Hey, Bill Kelly, I'm sure you can verify this point.

-Bill

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Greg,
Challenging Universally Accepted Truths

Did Oswald Ask for the ACLU After His Arrest?

Fritz claimed he did. However, when he had the opportunity to request help in public, he asked for John Abt (to reporters 6:30pm 22nov63) and later asked for "someboby to come forward" (late night press conference, 22nov63).

Oswald is also alleged to have asked for Abt during his early morning arraignment of 23nov63, adding that Abt was an ACLU lawyer, and that he himself was a member of that org. His next alleged mention of the ACLU was to H Lewis Nichols of the Dallas Bar Assoc. And again he is alleged to have stated he was an ACLU member.

According to Michael Paine, Oswald not only knew what the ACLU stood for, he joined the organization about two weeks after the October ACLU meeting:

Mr. PAINE - So I was describing to him the purpose of the ACLU, and he said specifically, I can remember this, after I had described it and said that I was a member, that he couldn't join an organization like that, it wasn't political and he said something or responded in some manner, which indicated surprise that I could be concerned about joining an organization simply to defend, whose purpose it is, shall we say, to defend, free speech, free speech, per se, your freedom as well as mine.

He was aware of enjoying his freedom to speak but he didn't seem to be aware of the more general principle of freedom to speak for everyone which has value in itself. And I think it took him by surprise that a person could be concerned about a value like that rather than political objective of some sort, and this was, struck me as a new idea and it struck me that he must never have met people who paid more than lip service, he wasn't familiar with the ways of expressing this value.

Mr. DULLES - Did you say anything to him about the activities of the Civil Liberties Union in connection with the defense of people accused of crimes under certain conditions?

Mr. PAINE - Yes; I am sure I told him that it came to the defense of all people who didn't seem to be receiving adequate help when it seemed to be an issue involving the Bill of Rights. I was then--that was a pang of sorrow that occurred after the assassination when I realized that he had then subsequently, a fortnight later, joined the ACLU, and still didn't quite seem to perceive its purpose, and then I realized--I had also perceived earlier that he was still a young fellow and I had been expecting rather a lot of him, when I first approached meeting him; this man had been to Russia and had been back and I had been--met some others who had been around the world like that and they are powerful people.

Steve Thomas

Steve, I have doubts that he joined. How much is the word of Michael "I thought it was camping equipment" Paine worth? He and his pal Krystinik were the only ones to recall Oswald speaking about the JBS, and the head of his church was the only other person to recall Oswald being there at all.

And I am always a tad suspicious when evidence magically materializes at the most propitious time for the prosecution - as it did in this case. The ACLU, having learned that Oswald supposedly joined, conducted a search of the NYC office which came up with nada. The organization then went to the press to let the public know Oswald had no affiliation with it. It was only after this story was published that the unprocessed application was found, causing maximum embarrassment after that very public denial.

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Jim, I consider this to be an outstanding piece of research, even if I don't agree with your conclusions.

Comments as to why in red.

ATTORNEY FOR THE DEFENSE, JONATHAN ABT

Can anything be logical about the actions of the man who was charged with shooting the President of the United States? The Warren Commission suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald was a “lone nut” assassin, not a rational person. If Oswald had a motive its content was lost to history at the exact moment that Jack Ruby recklessly ended Oswald’s life on the morning of November 25th 1963. But like so many anomalies in this case, Oswald, the irrational nut, knew whom he wanted as his attorney, Jonathan Abt. And, while Lee Harvey Oswald let everyone know why he wanted Jonathan Abt, the Warren Commission was hesitant to share that information in their conclusion!

That's one of the flaws, as I see it: Oswald did not let everyone know who he wanted. The only thing he said publicly was "I am waiting for someone to come forward to give me legal assistance."

The name John Abt was mentioned repeatedly by Oswald while he was in the custody of the Dallas Police. There exists about forty pages of written documentation, filed by the men who interrogated Oswald, that appear in Appendix XI of the Warren Report that attests to this interesting, yet under investigated, subplot within the assassination drama.

Each person present tells a similar story.

Captain Will Fritz:

“Oswald asked if he was allowed an attorney and I told him he could have any attorney he liked, and that the telephone would be available to him up in the jail and he could call anyone he wished. I believe it was during this interview that he first expressed a desire to talk to Mr. Abt, an attorney in New York.”

Lee Harvey Oswald turned 24 years old in October of 1963, just a month before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For myself I found it surprising to see that Oswald knew the name of the attorney that he wanted to represent him in the earliest of interviews with detectives. He also knew where attorney Jonathan Abt lived. My mind began to contemplate, “How many 24 year olds, living in Texas, would know the name of an attorney in New York?” It is true that Oswald had lived in New York at one time but how did he know about this particular attorney, Jonathan Abt?

If he in fact did know, I would surmise it was through Ruth Paine, since Abt's wife was (or had been) on the AFSC board. Recall that Oswald allegedly rang Ruth for help in getting Abt - and that an internal Dallas ACLU investigation had concluded Oswald had attended that one meeting with Ruth - not Michael.

During a subsequent interrogation, Captain Will Fritz would reveal that Oswald knew even more about Jonathan Abt than just his name:

“He (Oswald) reminded me that he did not have to answer any questions at all until he talked to his attorney, and I told him again that he could have an attorney any time he wished. He said he didn’t have money to pay for a phone call to Mr. Abt. I told him to call ‘collect.’ If he liked, to use the jail phone or that he could have another attorney if he wished. He said he didn’t want another attorney; he wanted to talk to this attorney first. I believe he made this call later as he thanked me later during one of our interviews for allowing him the use of the telephone. I explained to him that all prisoners were allowed to use the telephone. I asked him why he wanted Mr. Abt, instead of some available attorney. He told me he didn’t know Mr. Abt personally but that he was familiar with a case where Mr. Abt defended some people for a violation of the Smith Act….”

The Smith Act, actually the Alien Registration Act, was adopted by congress at 54 Statutes at Large 670-671 (1940) on June 29, 1940. Authored by Representative Howard W. Smith of Virginia, it was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt. Smith, a fifth term congressman at the time, would continue to serve in congress untill1967.

The intent of the Alien Registration Act was to make it illegal for any person to advocate, abet, or teach the desirability of overthrowing the government of the United States. The law also required all foreign residents of the United States that were over the age of 14 to register as aliens.

Within five months of passage (November of 1940) over 4,741,971 persons had complied with the obligations of the Act. Each registered alien was required to make a statement that included their occupational status and information about their political beliefs. It was the first statute since the Alien and Sedition act of 1798 to make the mere advocacy of ideas a federal crime. (Michael Steven Smith, About the Smith Act Trials) The government’s ability to register and process so many individuals in such a short span of time was a reflection of the crisis that was, at that time, destroying the world order. John J. McCloy, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of War at this time, advocated the collection of information on potential saboteurs within the United States. The Smith Act provided the vehicle to accomplish his goal.

John J. McCloy had made his reputation as the attorney that broke the Black Tom case (dealing with German sabotage during World War I at the Black Tom pier in New York). His decades spent unraveling the covert operations of German espionage during World War I made him an ideal candidate to help Secretary of War Stimson upgrade the military intelligence apparatus.

In 1941 the Smith Act was used to prosecute leaders of the Socialist Workers Party. At the time the United States was being driven toward an alliance with the Soviet Union against Germany which had invaded Russia. The Communist Party in America fully supported its use by the government of the United States against their “Trotskyist” political opponents. The later use of the Smith Act would involve Jonathan Abt.

Historians who disagree with the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report have criticized the officers that questioned Oswald. An argument is made that since the various Dallas Police detectives and the FBI and Secrete Service agents present did not tape record or keep their detailed notes of all the Oswald interrogations, the written reports must be incomplete. The truth is that at the time of Oswald’s arrest, the Dallas Police Department did not own a tape recorder. For better or worse the majority of information that survives, survives within the numerous volumes of the Warren Commission Report. It is these written reports, made by the people who witnessed the interrogations and heard the words of Lee Harvey Oswald while he was in custody, that I find so interesting. Rather than speculating on what might have been lost, I am intrigued by what is contained in the supporting records of the Warren Commission that were not included in the final summary report.

The accumulated reports were transcribed from notes kept by the interrogators as well as their own personal recollections, all within hours of the interviews with Oswald. I have chosen to look more closely at what is in the written reports and interviews but did not survive into the final draft of the Warren Commission Report than to speculate on what might or might not be missing. Their statements demonstrate that Lee Harvey Oswald repeatedly referred to Abt as a Smith Act Attorney and that his desire to have Abt for this reason was made abundantly clear to all present. What reasons can be ascribed to this coincidence?

The record shows that between 4:45 and 6:30 P.M. on the day of the assassination, Captain Will Fritz of the Dallas Police conducted his second interview with Lee Oswald. The interview took place in Captain Fritz’s office:

Oswald.

“…I want that attorney in New York, Mr. Abt. I don’t know him personally but I know about a case that he handled some years ago, where he represented the people who had violated the Smith Act…I don’t know him personally, but that is the attorney I want….If I can’t get him, then I may get the American Civil Liberties Union to send me an attorney.”

During the same interview Oswald repeated his request with these words:

“…I want to talk with Mr. Abt, a New York attorney…”

Yet that very night, Henry Wade, who presumably had been briefed for the interview, was asked by the press if Oswald had yet engaged a lawyer, to which Wade replied, "His people have been here, but we don't know of any particular individual."

During the 1948 presidential election race, Harry Truman’s Republican rivals were accusing the Democrats of being “soft” on Communism. (Michael Steven Smith, About the Smith Act Trials) At the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the delegates added a plank to their platform that stated;

“We pledge a vigorous enforcement of existing laws against Communists and enactment of such new legislation as may be necessary to expose the treasonable activities of Communists and defeat their objective of establishing here a godless dictatorship controlled from abroad.“

To counter this threat Truman turned to J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

J. Edgar Hoover had first developed his reputation as a tough investigator and prosecutor by deporting radicals and immigrants during the 1919 Palmer Raids. For Hoover the harassment of the radical fringe would become a professional trait. It was J. Edgar Hoover that suggested to Truman that the Smith Act could be used against members of the Communist Party. On July 20th, 1948 eleven members of the American Communist party were arrested and charged under the Alien Registration Act.

The Smith Act defendants were not charged with the actual commission of a crime. As strange as it may seem today the charges were designed to prove that “they conspired to organize as the Communist Party and willfully to advocate and teach principles of Marxism-Leninism.” It was then construed to show that by the mere fact that they had organized as a Communist Party that they therefore advocated, “overthrowing and destroying the government of the United States by force and violence” sometime in the future.

For Truman, behind in the polls, the Presidency itself was at stake. Truman needed these prosecutions to deflect the criticism of his Republican rivals. The federal government successfully prosecuted the defendants and Harry Truman defeated his challenger Thomas Dewey and his running mate, Vice Presidential candidate Earl Warren (later chairman of the Warren Commission) in one of the closest elections in United States History.

Chief Justice Earl Warren would later overturn these same Smith Act convictions.

Between 10:30 A.M. and 1:10 P.M. on November 23rd Oswald was again interrogated in Captain Fritz’s office when he stated:

Later that day, Curry faced the media. At one point, he was told by an unknown reporter from NBC that Oswald had been yelling and complaining about no attorney, before being asked if he had one yet. Curry's curt reply: "Not that I know of." Meanwhile Bob Clark of WFAA was claiming to Curry that Oswald had told him that he wanted Abt. Clark then asked Curry if he knew who Oswald had been referring to. Curry replied, "No, I don't" despite having been present during Oswald's appearance before David Johnson in which again, Oswald had allegedly asked for Abt.

Does it really make any sense that Oswald would be keen as mustard to tell every official he could that he wanted Abt, whisper to a reporter that he wanted Abt… but specifically refrain from saying so with the worlds microphones pointed at him?

More later...

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