Testimony of Stephen Tyler

New Orleans, Louisiana -- June 28, 1995
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you. Our next witness this morning is Mr. Stephen Tyler, who is the producer and director of a 1992 documentary entitled, "He Must Have Something: The Real Story of Jim Garrison's Investigation of the Assassination of JFK" Thank you, Mr. Tyler, for joining us today.

MR. TYLER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the Board. Welcome to my home town.

As you've stated, in 1992 I produced a 90-minute television documentary on Jim Garrison's investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy, entitled, "He Must Have Something." This film was funded by a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

My goal in producing this program was to present an oral history of the case. I was interested in the impressions of people who had had some involvement in the trial or had at least observed it closely. In keeping with the humanities based theme of this project, I was particularly interested in how the Shaw case illuminated what it was and is to be a New Orleanian.

The sometimes carnival atmosphere of the trial, with its rogues gallery of witnesses and colorful attorneys for both sides, typified a view of the city that has since become as cliched as it is regrettably accurate. Furthermore the notion that New Orleans is really just an overgrown small town were everybody knows one another, more like two degrees of separation rather than the putative six, was never more dramatically apparent than in the trial of the State of Louisiana vs. Clay L. Shaw.

The Shaw case encompassed all the elements which make us natives view the city with such an intense mixture of love and hate, a place whose undeniable charm masks a political legacy and tolerance of corruption -- social, political, economic -- the likes of which are rarely seen north of, say, Guadalajara.

It was this sense I was trying to convey in "He Must Have Something." It was never meant to be an investigative journalism piece. I was never so much interested in Mr. Shaw's guilt or innocence as much as I was the reasons New Orleanians held an opinion one way or the other.

Still, I began work on that program thoroughly convinced that the jury in the Shaw trial had reached the proper verdict, a belief shared by the vast majority of New Orleanians to this day. I firmly held to this belief throughout production and post-production and well into several screenings of the program, including a featured presentation at the Fourth Annual New Orleans Film and Video Festival and, yes, even after the release of Oliver Stone's motion picture, "JFK."

Stone's disputable depiction of Jim Garrison as a Capra-esque "one man against the system epic hero" outraged me at the time with its depictions of Clay Shaw as a sinister, menacing fop taunting the noble Garrison with an air of imperious smugness, a characterization that contradicted everything even Garrison himself told me about Shaw. In fact, in my 1990 interview with him, Garrison spoke admirably of Shaw's dignity in the face of the catastrophic effects Garrison's investigation had on the defendant.

But for all its faults, the film "JFK" ultimately led to a new road on my personal assassination journey just as I had reached the end of another. This voyage had begun in 1967 when as a 12-year-old New Orleanian, Shaw's arrest and trial two years later was the first public event I followed on television and in newspapers with any level of sophistication or even understanding.

The fact that Oliver Stone with his access to all the available research on the assassination would feel so strongly about Shaw's guilt planted the first seeds of disillusionment and doubt about everything I thought I knew about this peculiarly New Orleans story. But the event that did the most to chip away at my assumptions about Jim Garrison's legacy, was my attendance in October 1992 at the Second Annual Assassination Symposium on John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

The assassination research community, a loosely defined network of citizen researchers dedicated to uncovering the truth about this hideous crime, is characterized by nothing as much as its factionalism, and certainly there are factions which accept the verdict delivered by the Shaw jury in 1969.

But this conference in Dallas in 1992, as soon as I was identified as the producer of "He Must Have Something," I found myself besieged by the alliance which vehemently proclaims Shaw's guilt to this day. I was approached time and time again as "the guy who thinks Clay Shaw is innocent" by people who hadn't even seen my program and I quickly found myself barraged by their claims of evidence inculpating Shaw.

I suddenly felt like the child confronted with the suggestion that Santa Claus does not exist, that I was being ridiculed for believing that a fat man really could squeeze through a chimney with a bag of toys over his shoulder. I did not sleep well that first night, and as I futilely sought slumber, I tried to reassure myself that this is the pain of growth, that real knowledge comes from having one's accepted notions challenged by others. It was at this point that I decided to learn more not only about Clay Shaw, this Tangipahoa Parish boy, who by all accounts loved my hometown every bit as much as its most ardent native, but about President Kennedy's assassination in general.

I regret I never had the opportunity to meet Clay Shaw. I truly do not know if the man was anything other than the distinguished retired businessman and French Quarter preservationist most New Orleanians remember him to have been.

I do believe, however, to answer the rhetorical question suggested by the title of my film, that Jim Garrison had something. Many of his theories have since been confirmed by evidence not available to him, in many cases denied him by representatives of Federal and state governments at the time of the Shaw trial. I also have come to believe there is reason to question whether Mr. Shaw might have been less than forthright in some of his trial testimony.

Documents that have since been declassified suggest the defendant was less than truthful in his denial of any involvement with the Central Intelligence Agency. Whether this involvement was necessarily an indication of any sinister intent is a question that can only be conclusively answered by full and complete release of any relevant, still classified documents.

My interest still lies in the peculiarly New Orleans aspects of the Kennedy assassination, although my focus has shifted from the purely humanistic, the why, to the investigative, the who, what, where and how. To that end, I would like to submit to this august body that the following documents, all of which have particular relevance to the New Orleans aspect of the assassination, be located, identified, declassified and made available to the American public for its perusal via permanent storage in the National Archives:

All the research files compiled by District Attorney Jim Garrison and his staff, including those still in the possession of the current Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office; and any and all files Mr. Garrison had in his possession during his tenure as appeals court judge, including those which might have been entrusted by Judge Garrison to his appeals court staff for safekeeping; all classified documents regarding Clay L. Shaw, including, but not limited to, the Domestic Contact Reports made by Mr. Shaw to the Central Intelligence Agency in the '40s and '50s; all files regarding Mr. Shaw's involvement with a CIA project code named QKENCHANT, for which Mr. Shaw had been assigned a covert security approval in 1962; the United States Army Intelligence files and any other classified files on European trade organizations known alternately as Permandex and/or Central Mondiale Commerciality, on whose boards Mr. Shaw served; the Inspector General's report on the Bay of Pigs, completely un-redacted; the Church Committee's file on CIA media assets completely un-redacted; all files pertaining to INCA, the Information Council of the Americas, including, but not limited to those in the Alton Ochsner Collection; all research compiled by Messrs. Wegmann and Irving Dymond in preparation for the defense of Mr. Shaw, including any records pertaining to Mr. Shaw's original counsel, Guy Johnson -- and obviously Mrs. Wegmann has already referred to this earlier today; and, finally, all notes and materials compiled by Messrs. L.J. Delsea and Robert Buras during their work for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the late '70s.

For my part, I am offering to the National Archives not only a copy of my completed 90-minute film, "He Must Have Something," but outtakes from the 30-some on camera interviews from which the final program was culled, some 25 hours of materials, approximately one-third of which I have right here.

The more I learn about this case, the more I am appalled by the shameless bias of the mainstream news media against any account of the assassination other than the one promulgated by the Warren Commission. Even if one accepts the widely held notion that mainstream media is inherently liberal and would automatically question any version of the official story, it seems ironic that whenever reports are filed by "Newsweek," "Time," "Esquire," "The Washington Post," they trot out all the Warren Report apologists who heap scorn upon conspiracy theorists, regardless of their credibility.

The fact is that every mass opinion poll taken over the years on the subject indicates an overwhelming skepticism about the Warren Report. One month before publishing George Lardner's censorious essay on Oliver Stone's "JFK," the "Washington Post" conducted a survey that showed 59 percent of the American public believed in some sort of conspiracy and that only 19 percent agreed with the Warren Commission's findings.

As far as film and television, my field of endeavor, the overwhelming majority of programs produced by the commercial networks and PBS over the years have, for the most part, ultimately embraced the findings of the Warren Commission. Perhaps the traditional media's attitude towards the assassination for the past three decades can best be epitomized by a recent program entitled, "Who Killed JFK: The Final Chapter."

This 1993 program, produced by CBS News and aired by them that November on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the assassination, was co-written by Dan Rather and staffers from "Newsweek" and the "The Washington Post" and hosted by Rather and concluded with the host averring on camera, and I quote, "Despite all the attacks, the Warren Commission's main conclusions have so far passed the test of time. There is no proof and very little, if any, credible evidence of any conspiracy. The facts, including much hard physical evidence, do indicate one man was the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. Any contrary conclusions are speculation based less on fact than imagination, often by people who divine things the ear cannot hear and the eye cannot see," end quote.

So with one fell swoop, the heir to Walter Cronkite's throne, the senior spokesman for the network that gave us Edward R. Murrow, on the occasion of that network's definitive investigative conclusion on the 30th anniversary of President Kennedy's death, dismisses 30 years of dogged, relentless research by serious scholars as the ravings of a collective schizophrenic.

Dan Rather's claim is simply, profoundly untrue. We, the people, deserve more, and if those 59 percent of us who believe in some form of a conspiracy and 81 percent of us who just disagree with the Warren Commission's findings in spite of what the nation's leading media want us to believe, don't constitute an underserved constituency, then I don't know what does.


MR. TYLER: The President of the United States was assassinated over 30 years ago and, notwithstanding the Warren Commission's conviction of Lee Harvey Oswald, we still don't know all of those who were responsible. There can be no greater goal than uncovering the truth. I sincerely believe "that serious inquiry into the assassination mystery illuminates and enlivens something in us all." to quote James DiEugenio, author of a compelling 1992 study of the Garrison investigation, entitled "Destiny Betrayed."

The American public believes the truth has been hidden from them for over three decades. If there is truly nothing to hide, then there is no better reason for any and all classified documents to be herewith declassified. Only then can the people's trust be restored. Only then can the healing begin. Thank you.


CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you, Mr. Tyler. We may have a few questions for you, if you don't mind.

MR. TYLER: Certainly.

MS. NELSON: I think the most valuable thing that you probably have are the oral interviews that are the outtakes. It's very difficult to find things like that 30 years after the fact, 20 years after the fact. Who were some of the people that you did interview? Just New Orleanians or people who were associates of --

MR. TYLER: No. I mean people outside of New Orleans would have been people who had some connection with the case, for example, Mark Lane, the author; James Phelan, a journalist who covered the trial for the "The Saturday Evening Post," at the time; people like that, former Governor John McKeithen.

MS. NELSON: Were they people who knew Shaw? Anyone who knew Oswald?

MR. TYLER: Certainly, certainly. I mean again that's the thing about New Orleans, that everybody knows everyone else. You know New Orleans is always sort of held it as a badge of honor that Oswald was born here. They don't like what he did necessarily or allegedly did, but they're proud of the fact that he's from here.

I think unfortunately though the mystery becomes so labyrinthian because you never know -- people's memory is selective. You never know, in today's lexicon, what different people's agendas are. You know, the fact of the matter is just because I have all these outtakes, it begs the question that everybody that talked to me was being completely forthright. I would like to think that my faith in humanity is such that they are, but I've grown a little more disillusioned over the years.


MR. JOYCE: Mr. Tyler, you said that there were theories that Jim Garrison had about the activity of Clay Shaw and that there was information that could not have been available to him that now was available. I was wondering if any of that information that you referred to may still be in private hands and is not accessible for researchers or the public more generally to be aware of and, if so, if you can direct us to where some of that might be.

MR. TYLER: From what I understand, you're already on the right track. Judge Garrison's files over the years had evidently become spread out in a variety of different areas. Some of them were even still at Judge Garrison's home. Some were also, as District Attorney Connick was saying, in the current District Attorney's Office.

Some were evidently also transferred to the Court of Appeals Office. I would hope that you might talk to some of the people on the Appellate Court staff during Judge Garrison's tenure regarding any of those documents, some of which I'm relatively certain had been entrusted to that staff for their safekeeping and since Judge Garrison's death I don't know what the status of those documents is.

MR. MARWELL: Do you base your claim that some of the records were given to staff for safekeeping on some evidence that you have or is it --

MR. TYLER: Yes. I mean what's been told by somebody. I've not been able to corroborate that necessarily, but I would suggest that it bears further investigation. Any of the people who worked in Judge Garrison's office at the time might be able to clear that up one way or the other.

MR. HALL: Are there any key persons, Mr. Tyler -- and I ask you this question in the context as someone who comes to us as an authority on the character and state of the culture of this city. Are there any individuals connected with the Garrison investigation that we ought to inquire about specifically with regard to records?

MR. TYLER: Well see, being an alleged or putative expert on the culture of New Orleans is a blessing as well as a curse. We're very parochial here, and I don't necessarily mean that as a pejorative term. Much of the information that I have acquired in the succeeding years since this assassination film that I produced has come from people outside of New Orleans who look at this case, who look at this city, with a more objective eye.

Everyone I've ever spoken to, for example, who knew Mr. Shaw echoes the same impressions that Ms. Wegmann did and I have no doubt whatsoever that those are accurate impressions. The question that needs to be answered is, are there other aspects of Mr. Shaw's political or professional life that may have led Mr. Garrison on his path, perhaps not as accurately or as directly as it needed to be, but to bear further scrutiny?

None of that would necessarily have to impugn Mr. Shaw's reputation. But there are questions that remain unanswered about affiliations with government agencies, intelligence agencies and so forth.

MR. HALL: A fair amount of what you've written elsewhere or presented elsewhere that I've seen suggests that Clay Shaw's homosexuality figured to some significant degree in the working out of Garrison's relationship in going after him. Am I correct in that judgment?

MR. TYLER: Well, I'm very hesitant to make anything resembling a definitive conclusion about that. I mean I have my own opinions about a sort of psychoanalytic cultural approach to that, if you will. But for what it's worth, my personal belief is, to illustrate by example, is that I believe that notwithstanding his testimony that Mr. Shaw knew David Ferrie and I've always assumed over the years that Mr. Shaw testified under oath that he did not know Mr. Ferrie because of the fear of potential embarrassment that that might bring him, considering the fact that evidently Mr. Ferrie was a rather notorious homosexual in certain circles in New Orleans at the time.

I have since come to suspect that Mr. Shaw's reticence about being forthright about his relationship with Mr. Ferrie also might have had political connections, namely a mutual involvement with the Central Intelligence Agency. Now whether that involvement was purely benign, whether it was benign in the sense that it was motivated by a sense of patriotism, however misguided, I don't know.

But whether that connection had any sort of sinister intent or sinister result, I don't know that either. But I think that there are documents that sort of chart Mr. Shaw's involvement with that agency, which will help us clear up this question once and for all.

As I indicated, you know, for example, this program called QKENCHANT, one of the cryptonyms that the CIA is fond of, there are documents that have thankfully been released which clearly indicate in black and white that Mr. Shaw had a covert security approval number with that program. Now that's smoke. Whether there is fire there as well, we need to conclusively determine. So Mr. Shaw's legacy can, you know, be accurately portrayed and considered.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Mr. Tyler, to the extent that David Ferrie, just referred to, was investigated by Mr. Garrison, are there records we should be pursuing relative to David Ferrie in your point of view?

MR. TYLER: The short answer is yes, absolutely. I personally believe that David Ferrie is the key to unlocking once and for all the mystery of the assassination and questions about whether there was a conspiracy of any sort.

Mr. Ferrie has left quite an interesting trail behind him. As far as being able to point you in specific directions, I don't know. I would be interested in knowing more about any kind of work Mr. Ferrie might have been doing in terms of medical research, particularly as it might have been endorsed or sanctioned in some way by the Ochsner Medical Institutions. That's just a personal question that I have. I don't mean to suggest, not making any kind of accusation, but I would like to know more about that.

Mr. Ferrie was an interesting man indeed and any and all documents or records pertaining to Mr. Ferrie -- for example, his autopsy reports are still in the hands of the current New Orleans Parish coroner. And some have suggested, Mr. Garrison included, that those reports indicate Mr. Ferrie's demise as being something that might have had a sinister connection.

MS. NELSON: If I could just ask briefly, we've concentrated on the record trail of all the people involved in the Garrison trial. I think we are assuming that Lee Harvey Oswald came and went without much of a trail, except what is known, handing out leaflets.

Do you have any impressions of the climate in New Orleans at the time that he was a young man handing out flyers on the streets of New Orleans?

MR. TYLER: Well, for example, what I can tell you about that is --

MS. NELSON: And where we might go for people who had some sort of records of that?

MR. TYLER: I think people need to remember, and certainly Professor Kurtz is much more better qualified to comment on this than I am, but in the late '50s and early '60s around the time of Castro's rise to power, New Orleans was obviously a hotbed of anti-Castro activity. Personally, anecdotally, I have had people tell me that there are many occasions that they would be at social functions where anti-Castro Cuban exiles would be vociferously complaining about, you know,that S.O.B. Castro. What can we do to get rid of him? Why isn't Kennedy doing more? And Clay Shaw was at these parties at time to time.

Again, you take a case like that, maybe it's just completely innocent. We don't know. We don't know.

MS. NELSON: There is no indication --

MR. TYLER: I was attempting to answer your question about the atmosphere at the time. What you have to remember about the atmosphere at the time was that there was fervent anti-Castro sentiment in this city and Oswald's trail in and out of that has been documented --

MS. NELSON: Oh, yes.

MR. TYLER: With varying degrees of accuracy and I think conclusiveness.

MS. NELSON: What about the attitude toward President Kennedy?

MR. TYLER: Well, I mean I think New Orleans being one of the most Catholic cities in the world, certainly they felt a particular affinity for President Kennedy for that reason alone. Beyond that, I think those people who might have had a political agenda or leaning of any kind, whether it's anti-Castro Cuban activity or whatever, you know I think their feelings about Kennedy would flow in that direction.

MS. NELSON: But, in fact, you don't know of any other sources of records or documents that have not been revealed about Oswald and the anti-Castro groups?

MR. TYLER: As I mentioned in my earlier statement, there very well might be some information in the files of the organization INCA, Information Council of the Americas. Also, I think the personal files that were in the office of the late Guy Banister, which evidently have never been accounted for, very well might have information regarding what you're talking about. Best of my knowledge, those files have never been located nor has their location, wherever it is, been confirmed. I presume they might have been destroyed, but we don't know.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Mr. Tyler, one of the issues facing the Board as we go through this process is what to devote primary amount of our resources to. Given the fact that the assassination of President Kennedy occurred during an age when television had come into American living rooms, there is a great amount of material, we believe, that is in the possession of television networks and local television stations, the kind of outtakes of the sort that you are donating to our collection, the public's collection today.

How great a priority would you advise us to set on seeking outtakes, copies of videotapes, that might be held by the media?

MR. TYLER: I frankly would be a little dubious about any probative value that that might have. I think that certainly the State Archives in Baton Rouge already have much footage from WWL, the CBS affiliate from the time. The New Orleans Public Library -- Mr. Everard could talk more conclusively about that -- has a little bit of footage from the ABC affiliate.

I think most of what you're going to find there is the sort of images that we've seen, you know, many, many times that are sort of like rocks at the bottom of a stream where the waters float over them for so long that all the rough edges are gone.

I would recommend that more of your efforts be devoted towards trying to find those actual files and documents that I, you know, enumerated earlier.

CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you very much, Mr. Tyler. I know we appreciate your donation and the public will, your sharing of your work. Thank you very much.

MR. TYLER: My pleasure.

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