J. Gordon Shanklin was appointed special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1963.
In March, 1963, FBI agent James Hosty was ordered to keep Lee Harvey Oswald under observation. Soon afterwards Hosty discovered that Oswald was purchasing The Worker, the newspaper of the American Communist Party. In June, Hosty heard from FBI headquarters that Oswald was in New Orleans, and requested information on him.
Hosty visited the home of Ruth Paine to discover where Oswald was living. He spoke to both Paine and Marina Oswald about Oswald. When Oswald heard about the visit he went to the FBI office in Dallas. When told that Hosty was at lunch Oswald left him a message in an envelope.
The contents of the envelope has remained a mystery. A receptionist working at the Dallas office claimed it included a threat to "blow up the FBI and the Dallas Police Department if you don't stop bothering my wife." Hosty later claimed it said: "If you have anything you want to learn about me, come talk to me directly. If you don't cease bothering my wife, I will take appropriate action and report this to the proper authorities."
Soon after Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Shanklin called James Hosty into the office. Hosty was asked about what he knew about Oswald. When Oswald was shot dead by Jack Ruby two days later, Shanklin ordered Hosty to destroy Oswald's letter.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation I discovered that Hosty's name and phone number appeared in Oswald's address book. J. Edgar Hoover was worried that this indicated that Oswald had been working closely with the FBI. That he might have been an FBI informant on the activities of left-wing groups such as the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Instead of passing Oswald's address book to the Warren Commission, the FBI provided a typewritten transcription of the document in which the Hosty entry was omitted.
In 1964, the testimony of Shanklin and Hosty was undermined when another Dallas FBI field agent, Will Hayden Griffin, claimed that Oswald was definitely an FBI informant.
The message that Oswald handed in to the FBI office in Dallas remained a secret until 1975. It became public knowledge when someone in the FBI tipped off a journalist about the existence of Oswald's letter. Oswald's relationship with James Hosty was explored by the Select Committee on Intelligence Activities and the Select Committee on Assassinations. Hosty admitted that he had misled the Warren Commission by not telling them about the existence of the letter from Oswald. Sanklin denied knowing about the letter but this evidence was contradicted by the testimony of Hosty and William Sullivan, the Assistant Director of the FBI.
Shanklin remained as special agent in charge of the Dallas Field Division until his retirement in 1975
J. Gordon Shanklin died in 1998.
As soon as I walked into Gordon Shanklin's smoke-filled office, I saw the copy of the newspaper lying on his desk. I grabbed it. Staring back at me in bold, black print was the front-page headline: "FBI KNEW OSWALD CAPABLE OF ACT, REPORTS INDICATE."
"Oh God," I groaned.
I quickly scanned the first few paragraphs while Shanklin sat quietly behind his desk puffing away. The story read, "A source close to the Warren Commission told the Dallas News Thursday that the Commission has testimony from Dallas police that an FBI agent told them moments after the arrest and identification of Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, that 'we knew he was capable of assassinating the president, but we didn't dream he would do it...' In a memorandum to supervisors on Nov. 22, Lt. Jack Revill, head of the Dallas police criminal intelligence squad, reported that FBI special agent James (Joe) Hosty had acknowledged awareness of Oswald in the basement of the City Hall at 2:05 PM, Nov. 22. His remark was made as five officers brought Oswald in from Oak Cliff, Revill reported.
The article ended with some enlightening comments from the police: "Dallas police officers watched several known extremists prior to the Kennedy visit and even sent representatives as far as 75 miles to interview others thought to be planning demonstrations. Police chief Jesse Curry privately has told friends, 'If we had known that a defector or a Communist was anywhere in this town, let alone on the parade route, we would have been sitting on his lap, you can bet on that.' But he refused public comment."
The police were blatantly trying to wriggle out from under a rock. . . . I wanted to laugh. The police had a long list of well known Communists in Dallas, and not one had a police officer sitting on his lap on November 22. In fact, Detective H. M. Hart told me that the police neither picked up nor watched anyone the day of November 22. Clearly, someone from the police department had fed this story to reporter Hugh Aynesworth...
J. Edgar Hoover came out blasting. He categorically denied the story's contentions. Revill himself partially retracted some of the article's allegations; he told the Dallas Times Herald that the comment that I never dreamed Oswald would kill the president was all someone else's fabrication. But Aynesworth and the Morning News had done the damage. It would prove to be irreversible regarding my relationships with the Dallas police and the Dallas media.
Two of my fellow agents, Bob Barrett and Ike Lee, later told me about their conversation with Revill after the story broke. Revill told Barrett and Lee that he had not wanted his November 22 memo to be released to the Warren Commission or the press, but police chief Jesse Curry threatened to charge Revill with filing a false police report if Revill wouldn't swear to the truth in his memo. The police then got a memo from Detective Jackie Bryan, who had been standing near Revill and me during this brief garage conversation. Contrary to Aynesworth's assertion, Bryan supported my version of the events. He reported that he did not hear me make any kind of comment suggesting I knew Oswald was capable of killing the president.
Oswald died at Parkland Hospital at 1:07 P.M. without regaining consciousness or speaking another word. All that remained was the burial.
Two hours later Agent Hosty was summoned to FBI headquarters in Dallas. According to Hosty's sworn testimony, his superior, Gorden Shanklin, thereupon ordered him to destroy both the note Oswald had delivered to the FBI shortly before the assassination and the memorandum that Hosty had prepared about the incident." After returning to his office, he followed his orders and destroyed this evidence, flushing the remains down the toilet.
About a week after the assassination, Aynesworth, along with Bill Alexander, an assistant district attorney in Dallas, decided to find out if Lee Oswald had been an informant of the Dallas FBI, and of mine in particular. To this end, they concocted a totally false story about how Lee Oswald was a regularly paid informant of the Dallas FBI. At the time, I had no idea what information the Houston Post was relying on; it wasn't until February 1976, in Esquire magazine, that Aynesworth finally admitted he and Alexander had lied and made up the entire story in an effort to draw the FBI out on this issue. They said Oswald was paid $200 a month and even made up an imaginary informant number for Oswald, S172 - which was not in any way how the FBI classified their informants. Aynesworth then fed this story to Lonnie Hudkins of the Post, who ran it on January 1, 1964. Hudkins cited confidential but reliable sources for his story's allegations. The FBI issued a flat denial of the Post story. I was once again prohibited by Bureau procedure from commenting. It was clear that they were pointing a finger at me, since I was known to be the agent in charge of the Oswald file.
As I reported in the News five months later, under the two-column headline "FBI Knew Oswald Capable of Act, Reports Indicate," Hosty arrived at City Hall about 2:05 and rode up in an elevator with Lt. Jack Revill, head of the DPD Criminal Intelligence Squad, and Officer V. J. "Jackie" Bryan. According to Revill's written account of the episode, typed up 45 minutes later and delivered to Chief Curry that afternoon, in the basement Hosty "stated that the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of the Subject (Oswald) and that they had information that this Subject was capable of committing the assassination of President Kennedy."
Hosty denied making the statement to Revill. Over the years he has refused my interview requests.
A few months after the assassination, I asked Gordon Shanklin why the bureau didn't at least tell the Dallas police about Oswald, and where he worked. I observed that the cops surely would have wanted to babysit such a character.
"We didn't want him to lose his job," Shanklin explained.
"Well, Mr. Kennedy lost his," I said quickly, appalled at what I'd just heard.
Though Shanklin never deliberately-to my knowledge anyway-caused me any difficulty, I was told by some of his agents that I was not his favorite person.
Agent Hosty testified that he was fully aware of the pending Presidential visit to Dallas. He recalled that the special agent in charge of the Dallas office of the FBI, J. Gordon Shanklin, had discussed the President's visit on several occasions, including the regular biweekly conference on the morning of November 22.
In fact, Hosty participated in transmitting to the Secret Service two pieces of information pertaining to the visit. Hosty testified that he did not know until me evening of Thursday November 21, that there was to be a motorcade, however, and never realized that the motorcade would pass the Texas School Book Depository Building. He testified that he did not read the newspaper story describing the motorcade route in detail since he was interested only in the fact that the motorcade was coming up Main Street, "where maybe I could watch it if
I had a chance."
Even if he had recalled that Oswald's place of employment was on the President's route, Hosty testified that he would not have cited him to the Secret Service as a potential threat to the President. Hosty interpreted his instructions as
requiring "some indication that the person planned to take some action against the safety of the President of the United States or the Vice President." In his opinion, none of the information in the FBI files - Oswald's defection, his Fair Play for Cuba activities in New Orleans, his lies to Agent Quigley, his recent visit to Mexico City - indicated that Oswald was capable of violence. Hosty's initial reaction on hearing that Oswald was a suspect in the assassination, was "shock, complete surprise," because he had no reason to believe that Oswald "was capable or potentially an assassin of the President of the United States."
Shortly after Oswald was apprehended and identified, Hosty's superior sent him to observe the interrogation of Oswald. Hosty parked his car in the basement of police headquarters and there met an acquaintance, Lt. Jack Revill of the Dallas police force. The two men disagree about the conversation which took place between them. They agree that Hosty told Revill that the FBI had known about, Oswald and, in particular, of his presence in Dallas and his employment at the Texas School Book Depository Building. Revill testified that Hosty said also that the FBI had information that Oswald was "capable of committing this assassination." According to Revill, Hosty indicated that he was going to tell this to Lieutenant Wells of the homicide and robbery bureau. Revill promptly made a memorandum of this conversation in which the quoted statement appears. His secretary testified that she prepared such a report for him that afternoon and Chief of Police - Jesse E. Curry and District Attorney Henry M. Wade both testified that they saw it later that day.
Hosty has unequivocally denied, first by affidavit and then in his testimony before the Commission, that he ever said that Oswald was capable of violence, or that he had any information suggesting this. The only witness to the conversation was Dallas Police Detective V. J. Brian, who was accompanying Revill. Brian did not hear Hosty make any statement concerning Oswald's capacity to be an assassin but he did not hear the entire conversation because of the commotion at police headquarters and because he was not within hearing distance at all times.
Mr. Shanklin advised us, among other things, that in view of the President's visit to Dallas, that if anyone had any indication of any possibility of any acts of violence or any demonstrations against the President, or Vice President, immediately notify the Secret Service and confirm it in writing. He had made the same statement about a week prior at another special conference which we had held. I don't recall the exact date. It was about a week prior.