Edward Scannell Butler was born in New Orleans in 1934. He went into the Army Management School from 1957-59 at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. After completing the course he was employed as an account executive with Brown, Friedman and Company, an advertising firm.
Butler became friendly with Clay Shaw and Lloyd Cobb of the International Trade Mart and persuaded these men to help fund his anti-communist campaigns. This included the establishment of two organizations: Free Voice of Latin America (FVLA) and the American Institute for Freedom Project (AIFP). Butler employed former FBI agent Guy Banister to work for the AIFP.
In 1961 Alton Ochsner, with the financial help of Clint Murchison, established the Information Council of the Americas (INCA). Ed Butler was appointed as Executive Director of INCA. The main objective of the organization was to prevent communist revolutions in Latin America. Ochsner told the New Orleans States Item: "We must spread the warning of the creeping sickness of communism faster to Latin Americas, and to our own people, or Central and South America will be exposed to the same sickness as Cuba." (16th April, 1963)
Edgar and Edith Stern, owners of WDSU radio and television, were members of INCA. Eustis Reily of the Reily Coffee Company personally donated thousands of dollars to INCA. However, it was Patrick J. Frawley, a Californian industrialist and close friend of Richard Nixon, who was INCA's largest financial contributor. The organization used some of this money to make a film about Fidel Castro entitled, Hitler in Havana. The New York Times reviewed the film calling it a "tasteless affront to minimum journalistic standards."
In April, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald moved to New Orleans. On 26th May, 1963, Oswald wrote to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and proposed "renting a small office at my own expense for the purpose of forming a FPCC branch here in New Orleans". Three days later, without waiting for a reply, Oswald ordered 1,000 copies of a handbill from a local printers. It read: "Hands Off Cuba! Join the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, New Orleans Charter Member Branch, Free Literature, Lectures, Everyone Welcome!"
Oswald also rented an office for the FPCC at 544 Camp Street. No one joined the FPCC in New Orleans but Oswald did send out two honourary membership cards to Gus Hall and Benjamin Davis, two senior members of the American Communist Party.
On 9th August, 1963, he was giving out his Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets when he became involved in a fight with Carlos Bringuier. Oswald was arrested and on 12th August, he was found guilty and fined $10. While in prison he was visited by FBI agent, John L. Quigley. Five days later Oswald debated the issue of Fidel Castro and Cuba with Bringuier and Ed Butler on the Bill Stuckey Radio Show. Later that month Oswald was seen in the company of David Ferrie and Clay Shaw.
John M. Newman (Oswald and the CIA) discovered that in 1963 the CIA had an anti-Fair Play for Cuba Committee in operation. It was being run by David Atlee Phillips and James W. McCord. As James DiEugenio has pointed out a CIA document describes Ed Butler as "a very cooperative contact and has always welcomed an opportunity to assist the CIA."
In 1967 Jim Garrison began investigating the activities of Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans. Alton Ochsner told a friend that he feared Garrison would order his arrest and the seizure of INCA's corporate records. Ed Butler took these records to California where Patrick J. Frawley arranged for them to be hidden. Ronald Reagan, the governor of California refused all of Garrison's extradition requests. Frawley had previously helped fund Reagan's political campaigns in California.
Alton Ochsner attacked the Garrison investigation as being unpatriotic because it eroded public confidence and threatened the stability of the American government. In his article, Social Origins of Anticommunism: The Information Council of the Americas (Louisiana History, Spring 1989) Arthur Carpenter claimed that Ochsner launched a propaganda campaign against Garrison. This included sending information to a friend who was the publisher of the Nashville Banner.
According to Carpenter, Butler and Ochsner also attempted to discredit Mark Lane, who was assisting the Garrison investigation. Ochsner told Felix Edward Hebert that Lane was "a professional propagandist of the lunatic left". Ochsner also instructed Herbert to tell Edwin E. Willis (Chairman of the House Committee) to dig up "whatever information you can" on Lane.
Felix Edward Hebert later sent Alton Ochsner a report on Mark Lane extracted from confidential government files. This included "the files of the New York City Police, the FBI, and other security agencies." These files claimed that Lane was "a sadist and masochist, charged on numerous occasions with sodomy". Hebert also supplied Ochsner with a photograph that was supposed to be Lane engaged in a sadomasochistic act with a prostitute.
Butler wrote a book in 1968 entitled Revolution is My Profession in which he attacked as communist infiltrators those whose tactics have "been to try to link the CIA with all sorts of crime, especially President Kennedy's assassination."
Butler continued to work with Patrick J. Frawley. Together they put out a magazine called The Westwood Village Square which tried to blame the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King on the communists.
On August 5, 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald visited a store managed by Carlos Bringuier, a Cuban refugee and avid opponent of Castro, and the New Orleans delegate of the Cuban student directorate. Oswald indicated an interest in joining the struggle against Castro. He told Bringuier that he had been a marine and was trained in guerrilla warfare, and that he was willing not only to train Cubans to fight Castro but also to join the fight himself. The next day Oswald returned to the store and left his Guidebook for Marines for Bringuier.
A few days later, a friend of Bringuier's saw Oswald passing out Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets on Canal Street, not far from the store Bringuier managed. He, Bringuier and another exile proceeded to the site of Oswald's mini-demonstration, and Bringuier was enraged when he recognized the pro-Castro demonstrator as the anti-Castro activist wannabe of a few days before. Though no physical violence resulted, some heated words were uttered, a crowd gathered, and Oswald was arrested along with the three Cubans for disturbing the peace.
Lee Harvey Oswald: The principals of thought of the Fair Play for Cuba consist of restoration of diplomatic trade and tourist relations with Cuba. That is one of our main points. We are for that. I disagree that this situation regarding American-Cuban relations is very unpopular. We are in the minority surely. We are not particularly interested in what Cuban exiles or rightists members of rightist organizations have to say. We are primarily interested in the attitude of the US government toward Cuba. And in that way we are striving to get the United States to adopt measures which would be more friendly toward the Cuban people and the new Cuban regime in that country. We are not all communist controlled regardless of the fact that I have the experience of living in Russia, regardless of the fact that we have been investigated, regardless of those facts, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee is an independent organization not affiliated with any other organization. Our aims and our ideals are very clear and in the best keeping with American traditions of democracy.
Carlos Bringuier: Do you agree with Fidel Castro when in his last speech of July 26th of this year he qualified President John F. Kennedy of the United States as a ruffian and a thief? Do you agree with Mr. Castro?
Lee Harvey Oswald: I would not agree with that particular wording. However, I and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee do think that the United States Government through certain agencies, mainly the State Department and the C.I.A., has made monumental mistakes in its relations with Cuba. Mistakes which are pushing Cuba into the sphere of activity of let's say a very dogmatic communist country such as China.
Bill Slatter: Mr. Oswald would you agree that when Castro first took power - would you agree that the United States was very friendly with Castro, that the people of this country had nothing but admiration for him, that they were very glad to see Batista thrown out?
Lee Harvey Oswald: I would say that the activities of the United States government in regards to Batista were a manifestation of not so much support for Fidel Castro but rather a withdrawal of support from Batista. In other words we stopped armaments to Batista. What we should have been done was to take those armaments and drop them into the Sierra Maestra where Fidel Castro could have used them. As for public sentiment at that time, I think even before the revolution, there were rumblings of official comment and so forth from government officials er, against Fidel Castro.
Ed Butler: You've never been to Cuba, of course, but why are the people of Cuba starving today?
Lee Harvey Oswald: Well any country emerging from a semi-colonial state and embarking upon reforms which require a diversification of agriculture you are going to have shortages. After all 80% of imports into the United States from Cuba were two products, tobacco and sugar. Nowadays, while Cuba is reducing its production as far as sugar cane goes it is striving to grow unlimited, and unheard of for Cuba, quantities of certain vegetables such as sweet potatoes, lima beans, cotton, and so forth, so that they can become agriculturally independent ...
Ed Butler: Gentlemen I'm going to have to interrupt you. Our time is almost up. We've had three guests tonight on Conversation Carte Blanche, Bill Stuckey and I have been talking to Lee Harvey Oswald, Secretary of the New Orleans Chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Ed Butler, Executive Vice-president of the Information Council of the Americas (INCA) and Carlos Bringuier, Cuban refugee. Thank you very much.
At that time, Butler began to organize its successor organization, the Information Council of the Americas, or INCA. This was to be, in essence, a propaganda mill that had as its targets Central and South America, and the Caribbean. It would create broadcasts, called Truth Tapes, which would be recycled through those areas and, domestically, stage rallies and fund raisers to both energize its base and collect funds to redouble its efforts. By this time, as Carpenter and others point out, Butler was now in communication with people like Charles Cabell, Deputy Director of the CIA, and Ed Lansdale, the legendary psy-ops master within the Agency who was shifting his focus from Vietnam to Cuba. These contacts helped him get access to Cuban refugees who he featured on these tapes. Declassified documents reveal the Agency helped distribute the tapes to about 50 stations in South America by 1963. There is some evidence that the CIA furnished Butler with films of Cuban exile training camps and that he was in contact with E. Howard Hunt --- under one of his aliases --- who supervised these exiles in New Orleans. Some of the local elite who joined or helped INCA would later figure in the Oswald story e.g. Eustis Reily of Reily Coffee Company, where Oswald worked; Edgar Stern who owned the local NBC station WDSU where Oswald was to appear; and Alberto Fowler, a friend of Shaw's; plus future Warren Commissioner Hale Boggs who helped INCA get tax-exempt status. Butler also began to befriend ground level operators in the CIA's anti-Castro effort like David Ferrie, Oswald's friend in New Orleans; Sergio Arcacha Smith, one of Hunt's prime agents in New Orleans; and Gordon Novel, who worked with Banister, Smith and apparently, David Phillips, on an aborted telethon for the exiles.
Two other acquaintances of Butler's were Bill Stuckey, a broadcast and print reporter, and Carlos Bringuier, a CIA operative in the Cuban exile community and leader of the DRE, one of its most important groups in New Orleans. These three figure in one of the most fascinating and intriguing episodes in the Kennedy assassination tale. In August of 1963 --- three months before the assassination --- Bringuier was involved in a scuffle with Oswald as he distributed literature for the FPCC, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. As many commentators have noted, Oswald was the only member of that "committee" in New Orleans, and some of the literature he distributed gave as the FPCC headquarters address, the office of rabid anti-communist Guy Banister --- further exposing who Oswald really was. WDSU filmed some of these leafleting events. When Bringuier found out about this, he confronted Oswald on the city streets and verbally and physically assaulted him. The police came. Bringuier got off; Oswald was busted for disturbing the peace --- even though Bringuier was the aggressor. This event brought Oswald to the attention of Stuckey who had him on his WDSU show, Latin Listening Post, on August 17th. After the show, Stuckey and his friend Ed Butler asked Oswald to return four days later. Oswald continued his leafleting, this time in front of the International Trade Mart. In the interim, through contacts in Washington, they found out about Oswald's voyage to Russia, his stay there, and his attempted defection. The morning of the program, the 21st, Stuckey informed the FBI that Oswald would appear on the program. Butler and Stuckey used the Washington information to "unmask" Oswald on the show, and thereby discredit the supposedly liberal and sympathetic FPCC as harboring Soviet Communists in its midst. Right afterwards, Butler went over to a neighboring TV station, WVUE, where he was put on the air to announce Oswald's exposure on the 10 PM news.
Interestingly, John Newman later revealed in Oswald and the CIA that the CIA had an anti-FPCC program ongoing at the time. It was run by Phillips and Hunt's friend, James McCord. It may be relevant to note here that a CIA contact sheet with Butler contains the comment that he was "a very cooperative contact and has always welcomed an opportunity to assist the CIA." Even more revealing as to the true nature of these events, Oswald wrote a letter about the confrontation five days before it happened.
Butler's role in the assassination tale now gets even more interesting. For as Time magazine noted in its 11/29/63 issue, "Even before Lee Oswald was formally charged with the murder, CBS put on the air an Oswald interview taped by a New Orleans station last August." That night, according to New Orleans Magazine, Butler and the INCA staff churned out news releases about Oswald in order to offset the "rightist" and "John Bircher" charges flying about. Then, Senator Thomas Dodd, who ran the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, was called up by Butler. Conservative Democrat Dodd was very friendly with the CIA and was a personal and professional enemy of Kennedy, opposing him on his African anti-colonialism policy in the Congo. Dodd was out of Washington on November 22nd but booked a special flight back and announced to his staff, "I am a friend of the new administration!" Dodd then began to mimic and deride those who were bereaved over Kennedy's death. He topped it all off with this: "I'll say of John Kennedy what I said of Pope John the day he died. It will take us fifty years to undo the damage he did to us in three years."
Dodd then invited his acquaintance Ed Butler to testify before his Senate Sub-Committee, a kind of parallel to Richard Nixon's red-baiting House on Un-American Activities Committee. Dodd later wrote of this episode that he was in contact with Butler just a few hours after Kennedy was shot --- when Oswald was still alive! Further, Dodd added that Butler's testimony convinced him and his colleagues that "Oswald's commitment to communism, and the pathological hatred of his own country fostered by this commitment, had played an important part in making him into an assassin. This important and historical record completely demolishes the widespread notion that Oswald was a simple crackpot who acted without any understandable motivation." In other words, Oswald really was a communist, and he alone killed Kennedy for that cause. (Hale Boggs was so enamored of Butler that he invited him to serve on the Warren Commission.) Finally, apparently completing Butler's public relations tour, the tape of the WDSU interview was forwarded by the CIA to Ted Shackley at the Miami station and used in the CIA's broadcasts into Latin America, furthering the legend about Oswald the communist killing President Kennedy. Declassified files reveal that the label on the box with the tape says, "From DRE to Howard". This means that Bringuier's group (DRE) probably gave a copy to Howard Hunt who forwarded it to Shackley who, in spite of later denials, was still funding the DRE at the time of the assassination.
On the second day, we went to see a man named Ed Butler, who had debated Oswald on the radio in August 1963. It was Butler who re-exposed Oswald's "defection" to the American public. Butler's job, both in 1963 and in 1993, was Executive Director of INCA.
We met him in the elevator of his office building and rode to the top floor. The entrance to INCA was a grandiose facade at the end of the hall, reminiscent of large law offices with their thick walnut doors. Upon closer inspection, it became obvious that this was not thick walnut. The facade was made of thin plywood panels nailed to a wooden frame erected in front of the old door. Screw-mounted brass letters from the local hardware store spelled out INCA. But we did not enter through this august entrance. Butler took us to a side door on the north side of the hall. There we entered a small functional office. A Frank Sinatra-era microphone sat on his desk like a paper weight. Audio and video tapes were neatly organized on the shelves. We sat down and exchanged business cards. He looked at Gus Russo's Frontline card, then at mine.
"Haslam" he mused. "Where do I know that name from?"
I offered some mumbo-jumbo to distract him. I did not want him to remember who I was at that moment, He might clam up. He furrowed his brow in concentration and stared at my card.
No, that's not it. The word 'Egyptologist' keeps coming to mind:' he mulled. I shrugged aimlessly, while Gus started questioning him about Oswald.
This brought Butler to life. He started banging on the desk with his fist, calling Oswald one of the "world's great revolutionaries," the "first New Leftist," the "first hippie," the "spearhead of world revolution" who set in motion a chain of events that led to the collapse of the Iron Curtain, He even called Oswald an "avatar," a Hindu word for a deity who becomes a human to accomplish some divine purpose, In the middle of his Oswald theories, he took time to criticize the Warren Commission critics for grasping at straws, and ridiculed all the reports connecting Oswald to Banister as meaningless speculation. Gus and I listened.
Then Butler proudly told us how, immediately after the assassination, he carried a reel-to-reel tape player over to Congressman Hale Boggs's office and played the tape of his radio debate with Oswald, so that Boggs could hear Oswald say, "I am a Marxist:' As Butler told it, upon hearing the recording, Boggs called Lyndon Johnson to tell him he had just heard evidence that Oswald was a Communist. If this story is true, it means that President Johnson knew Boggs' position on Oswald before appointing him to the Warren Commission.