Hoover’s Endgame

Conspiracy theories: The FBI Theory.

By the fall of 1963, J. Edgar Hoover had anticipated that his long tenure as FBI director was coming to an end. Federal law required the 68-year-old to step down on his seventieth birthday, and he knew that Kennedy was eager to be rid of him. But rather than fading quietly into the background, Hoover orchestrated an early transfer of power to his ally LBJ, who, as president, could—and did—exempt him from mandatory retirement, allowing him to lord over the bureau until his death in 1972.

Scenario 1: Hoover knew of various plots to kill Kennedy but took no action, failing to inform the Secret Service of threats to the president’s life and taking an uncharacteristically hands-off approach to investigating possible conspirators.

Scenario 2: Oswald was an FBI informant who killed Kennedy on orders from the bureau.

Scenario 3: Oswald warned the FBI of plots to kill Kennedy, only to find himself framed and then silenced by fellow informant Jack Ruby.

Believers

Authors Mark North ( Act of Treason ) and George O’Toole ( The Assassination Tapes ).

Strange Details

• Ruby briefly worked as an FBI informant in 1959.

• The FBI’s number three man, William Sullivan, who had overseen the “internal security aspects” of the assassination investigation, was fatally shot in 1977 on a hunting expedition before testifying before the HSCA.

• When Oswald was a child, his favorite television show was I Led Three Lives, the story of an FBI counterspy.

Reasons to Believe

• The FBI had been keeping tabs on Oswald since at least 1960 but did not inform the Secret Service that he worked in a building along the motorcade route.

• Ten days before the assassination, Oswald dropped off a handwritten note at the FBI’s Dallas field office for James Hosty, a special agent who had been trailing him for several months. Hosty destroyed the note on orders from his superior the day Oswald was shot but never acknowledged its existence until 1975, when he explained that it had merely warned him to “stop harassing” Oswald’s wife, Marina. (He had questioned her twice in early November.) Some speculate that the note really contained violent threats; others think it was a warning from Oswald that someone in Dallas was going to kill the president.

• Texas attorney general Waggoner Carr told the Warren Commission he had information that Oswald was an undercover FBI agent, prompting a top-secret emergency meeting of the commission in January 1964.

• Eyewitness accounts of varying reliability placed Oswald in New Orleans fraternizing with, and even receiving envelopes from, FBI agents.

• The sole investigatory body for the Warren Commission was the FBI, which intimidated witnesses, suppressed and destroyed evidence that cast an unflattering light on the bureau, and conducted a shoddy investigation, even declining to take Abraham Zapruder’s super-8 footage when he offered it after the assassination.

• According to Hale Boggs, a Warren Commission member: “Hoover lied his eyes out to the commission—on Oswald, on Ruby, on their friends, the bullets, the gun, you name it.”

Reasons Not to Believe

• The HSCA could never establish that Oswald had worked as an FBI informant.

• Carr’s speculations were partly based on a 1964 Houston Post article whose source, Dallas County assistant district attorney Bill Alexander, later admitted to having concocted the story because he distrusted the feds.

• Why would Hoover—whose personal files on politicians’ indiscretions filled four rooms of FBI headquarters—have preferred murder to blackmail as a means of furthering his own ambitions?

Recent Developments

In his 1996 memoir , Assignment: Oswald, Hosty said he found notes he took during Oswald’s twelve-hour interrogation at Dallas police headquarters—notes that he told the Warren Commission he had destroyed. Although they shed little new light on Oswald, their sudden appearance raises questions about what else the FBI has withheld over the years.

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