Less than two months after the assassination of President Kennedy, FBI officials were planning to anonymously distribute posters meant to disrupt the Communist Party by depicting Lee Harvey Oswald as a Marxist.
The bureau was still in the early stages of investigating the murder for the Warren Commission when the proposal was made on Jan. 10, 1964, and apparently given at least preliminary approval.
"Because the poster is a factual graphic illustration on public information and because its distribution under the Counterintelligence Program will not be traceble to the government, it should in no manner affect the deliberations of the Warren Commission presently considering the facts surrounding the assassination," an aide to high-ranking FBI official William C. Sullivan urged in a two page memo.
The proposal, which was for an anonymous mailing of the privately printed poster to selected Communist Party members at "Communist-sponsored meetings," was intialed by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover with what appeared to be an "OK" in his hand-writing. But the document also contains an "addendum" on a third page indicating that Hoover aide Alan H. Belmont had canceled the plan at the last minute.
"I have not approved because I believe it is undesirable to use the Oswald case for counterintelligence purposes while it is under consideration by the Presidential Commission," said the postscript, which has attributed to "AHB" and which seemingly over ruled Hoover.
The short memo was buried among more than 58,000 pages of FBI head-quarters documents on the JFK assassination that the bureau made public yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act. An initial 40,000 pages were released last month.
The hundreds of volumes still fall short of all the FBI files generated by the Assassination. For instance, the documents retained by FBI field offices such as Dallas and New Orleans, those stemming from an inquiry Hoover ordered into the bureau's dealings with Oswald before the assassination, and evidently many of the records concerning the House Assassination Committee's current investigation have not been released.
But the records that were made public, like those the FBI published last month, reflect once again a dogged pursuit of off-beat, if not off-the-wall, tips; a lofty contempt for any critics of the bureau's work, and companion disdain for the Warren Commission itself.
When Warren Commission staffers got the FBI to send them the Oswald rifle on Feb. 17, 1964, for a second inspection, for example, an FBI official decreed in a handwritten notation: "Hereafter let them come to bureau we haven't time to play games.
On another report to Hoover that month, quoting speculation about Oswald in the Italian press that apparently stemmed from Chief Justice Earl Warren's public references to "national security" aspects of Mrs. Oswlad's testimony, Hoover jotted down the observation: "If Warren had kept his big mouth shut, all of these conjectures would not have arisen."
The FBI Director bestow harsher epithets on others such as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison whom Hoover characterized as an egomaniac" and a "shyster" and Dick Gregory as a "rabble-rousing Negro commedian."
As for wild leads that the bureau stolidy tracked down, witness a note purportedly signed by one "Sandra Ruby," which an undentified source discovered in 1972 when it fell out of a roll of fabric at a Fort Worth, Tex, fabric company.
"Would the one who fines this note please git a holt of the fbi as I am bein held in white slavery by a band of Jipsies," the note said. "They are planin to kill the President as thet are also communists. My unkle is one of them."
The note was ostensibly date Nov. 1 1963, three weeks before the assassination. The man who found it, whose name was deleted from FBI documents, turned it over in May 1976, because of recent publicity about the Kennedy killing. A memo from the Dallas field office to the director requested the bureau to "examine the enclosed note in an effort to determine if the paper can be determined to have been of more recent manufacture than November, 1963, and for any other information that would discredit the authenticity of this note."
After investigating the paper, the fingerprints on the note and the type-writer, the FBI concluded that "no investigation concerning this letter is deemed advisable."
Another 1976 tip that seemed more serious apparently got short shrifts. It came from James E. Deaird of Apache Junction, Ariz., who told an FBI agent in a Jine 7, 1976 interview that he knew Jack Ruby was running guns to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
The only response in the files reviewed yesterday, however, was to note that, according to Dallas FBI files, Ruby had made only one trip to Cuba, in August, 1959, at the invitation of L. C. McWillie, a gambler and friend.
One of the unexplained mysteries, insofar as the FBI files 80, is a report of a message signed "L. H. Oswald" dated Sept. 20 1963. The message, typed on Western Union forms used by the public to compose telegrams before they are sent, was said to have been found while a 14-volume set of medical books was being unloaded in Tulsa, Okla, in 1973.
The message, addressed to Jack Nellville in Tulsa, says:
"Meet me at Sheratan (sic) Hotel in Dallas at 4:00 p.m. on Sept. 21, room 567. Expecting something big. Be on time. L. H. Oswald."
The FBI said Oswald could have been in Dallas on the day in question, and Western Union officials said the telegram form was in use in 1963 and discontinued in early 1964.
However, the FBI could not find a Jack Nellville in the Tuisa area, and the bureau dropped its investigation of the matter.
There was no indication that the bureau bothered to check with the hotel. Its chief telephone operator told The Washington Post yesterday that it has no' Room 567. The highest-numbered room on the fifth floor of the Sheraton-Dallas then and now, she said, is Room 523.