Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Charles W. Thomas in Mexico City

Oswald and the CIA, by John Newman (Carroll & Graff, 1995/Skyhorse, 2008) p. 283:

Charles Thomas’s first discussion with Elena Garro de Pas about Oswald occurred on December 10, 1965, more than two years after the assassination. Charles Thomas, a career Foreign Service officer, was the political officer at the American Embassy at the time. There was something odd about him which we will return to at the end of this chapter. He wrote a memorandum about his conversation with Elena that, according to the Lopez Report, had “more details” than the story as told to Cobb more than a year earlier. Elena repeated the story of the twist party, but according to Thomas’ memo, one of the new “details” was Elena’s charge that Silvia Duran “was Oswald’s mistress while he was there.” 92. According to the Lopez Report, this Thomas memo was also filed in the Oswald chronological file Wx-7241:

A note by this entry in Wx-7241 says, “How did Elena Garro know about Silvia being the mistress of Oswald? This is 1965.” The Mexico City Station did not hear about the Oswald-Duran “affair” until July 1967 when a CIA asset [redacted] reported it. 93

This almost certainly indicates that the October 5 Cobb report did not contain the story of the Oswald-Duran affair. It would also mean that Charles Thomas did not pass this information to the CIA station in Mexico City when he learned it in 1965. However, the Lopez Report also notes that Thomas circulated his memorandum in the embassy and the CIA’s Mexico City station.

Clearly, these claims cannot all be true: If the CIA “asset” did not bring the story to the station’s attention until 1967, Charles Thomas could not have circulated the story in 1965. this issue is resolved by Win Scott’s marginalia on the Thomas memo:

The COS wrote a note on the memo: “What an imagination she [Elena] has?! Should we send her to Headquarters? The Officer replied, on the memo, “Suggest sending. There have been stories around town about this and Thomas is not the only person she has talked to….If memory serves me, didn’t [redacted] refer to Oswald and the local leftists and Cubans in one of her Squibs?” 94

The name behind the redaction is probably Cobb. The CIA station cabled the information in Thomas’s memo to CIA headquarters, and Win Scott wrote on the cable, “Please as Charles Thomas if he’ll ‘follow up.’ Get questions from Ann G[oodpasture]. Please let’s discuss. Thanks.” Scott called a meeting with Thomas and asked him “to get a more detailed account of Ms. Garro’s story.”

Thomas obliged, and met again with Garro on December 25, 1965, after which he wrote a new memo about the Garro allegations. This time Elena’s story about the twist party was “much more detailed,” and she explained that she had earlier held back part of her story because “the Embassy officers did not give much credence to anything she and Elenita said.” According to Thomas’ December 25, 1965 memo,

Elena stated that it was “common knowledge” that Silvia had been Oswald’s mistress. When asked who could verify the allegation, she could only remember one person who had told her this. Elena claimed that person was Victor Rica Galan, a “pro-Castro journalist.”

Clearly, Elena wasn’t holding back any longer. Thomas gave his memo to the CIA station “to aid in its investigation” of the assassination. On the first page of the memo Scott wrote: “Shouldn’t we send to Headquarters?” Someone responded: “Of course.” The Mexico City station did send a cable to headquarters on December 12, 1965, reporting that it was “following up” the story and would send the results in another cable.

On December 27, 1965, the embassy legal attaché, Nathan Ferris, wrote a memo to the ambassador reporting the results of his interviews on November 17 and 24 with Elena and her daughter. According to Ferris, Elena told substantially the same story as she had to Thomas. The Ferris memo further stated this:

…..Inquiries conducted at that time (November 1964), however, failed to substantiate the allegations made by Mrs. Garro de Paz and her daughter. In view of the fact that Mrs. Garro de Paz’ allegations have been previously checked out without substantiation, no further action is being taken concerning her recent repetition of those allegations. 96

Ferris, obviously not interested in Elena’s allegations, sent a copy of the memorandum to the CIA station. Goodpasture summarized the interview, including Ferris’s “failure to substantiate Elena’s story,” in a cable to Headquarters on December 29.

The cable promised to keep Headquarters advised if any further information was to [be] developed….A note stapled to this cable by [redacted] stated, “I don’t know what the FBI did in November 1964, but the Garros have been talking about this for along time and she is said to be extremely bright.” Anne Goodpasture wrote that the FBI had found Elena’s allegations unsubstantiated but that “we will try to confirm or refute Ms. Garro de Paz’ information and follow up.” Win Scott wrote, “She is also nuts.”

In the Duran interview with Summers for this work she again adamantly denied having had a sexual relationship with Oswald: “No, no, no. Of course not. I had a relationship with someone in the embassy, but not with Oswald. He was somebody you couldn’t pay attention to.” 98. As we saw in Chapter 14, Duran admitted having had the affair with Lechuga, and was willing to discuss these important, if embarrassing contacts. While her candor about Lechuga and “somebody at the embassy’ does not make her denial about Oswald true, it does add to her credibility.....

...The anomalies in the story about Oswald’s activities in Mexico City that proliferated in CIA channels do seem to fall into a pattern suggesting an extraordinary possibility: The story was invented after the Warren Commission investigation to falsely implicate the Cuban government in the Kennedy assassination. In this regard, the ease with which Lopez convinced Phillips about the sex story now stands out like a beacon. But who was the spider and who was the fly?

And what about Charles Thomas? His previous assignment had been to Haiti, from January 8, 1961 until the “summer” of 1963 DeMohrenschildt arrived there on June 2, 1963, and it seems likely that both men were there at the same time. In another interesting coincidence, in the fall of 1969, Thomas became involved in deMohrenschilt’s business deals with the Haitian government. This involvement continued after Thomas’ retirement. “I would….be interested in knowing,” Thomas’s lawyer wrote in 1970, “whether you have found a solution to the problem of helping Mr. deMohrenschildt.” 117

In Mexico City in 1965 however, Charles Thomas was a CIA covert action operative, and a key player in the development of the Oswald-Duran sex story. That story gained credibility in the CIA channels in a way that leaves open an unsavory possibility: the story may have been invented after the Warren Commission investigation to falsely implicate the Cuban government in the Kennedy assassination.

Any further information about Charles W. Thomas would be appreciated.


CAL60Jack said...

Charles Thomas was my mother's brother. My mother raised Charles and his older brother Robert. He went to Northside High School in Fort Wayne IN. While at Northwestern University he joined the Navy during WW2 and flew carrier planes during and after the War. He had a doctorate in International Law from the Sorbonne University in France. He was in the Consulate in French Morocco, Liberia, Haiti and Mexico. My family never knew about his being associated with the CIA. He married Cynthia and retired from the Foreign Service because he was denied further promotions because of the actions of another Charles Thomas. He tried to clear his name but he could not get the records reviewed because the foreign service refused to release the records of the two Charles Thomas's (they subsequently changed that policy). He was forced to accept a position as a domestic servant in an affluent family. He was so humiliated that he subsequently committed suicide.

Jeanne-Marie Thomas Byron said...

This comment is for my cousin Jack (CAL60Jack ). I am Charles's oldest daughter Jeanne-Marie.
I would like to establish contact with you if possible and I would also like to let you know that a new book on the JFK assassination by Philip Shenon talks about my father and his role in disclosing information about Oswald's stay in Mexico.

All the best, Jeanne-Marie

H.P. Albarelli Jr. said...

Shenon's book is good, but is wrong in stating that Mr. Thomas was not a long-time CIA asset. The documentation that he was is ample, and it does not help when mainstream books put forth erroneous information that poorly reflects on Mr. Thomas. Perhaps his family should explore his proper receipt of CIA back-pay and benefits, as well as recognition. He was most obviously done wrong by the CIA.