JFK and the Unspeakable by James W. Douglass
Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books
As his situation grew more desperate, on late Saturday night Oswald tried to make a mysterious long-distance phone call to Raleigh, North Carolina.
That night in the Dallas City Hall, Mrs. Alveeta A. Treon and Mrs. Louise Sweeney were working as switchboard operators when two law enforcement officials came into the room. The men said they wanted to listen to a call Oswald was about to make. They were shown to an adjoining room where they could monitor the prisoner's conversation. [ 841 ]
At 10:45 p.m. Mrs. Sweeney took a call from the jail. Notifying the men in the next room that it was Oswald, she wrote down the information he gave her on the number he wanted to reach. What transpired then, apparently in obedience to the men's orders, has been described by Sweeney's co-worker, Alveeta Treon:
"I was dumbfounded at what happened next. Mrs. Sweeney opened the key to Oswald and told him, 'I'm sorry, the number doesn't answer.' She then unplugged and disconnected Oswald without ever really trying to put the call through. A few moments later, Mrs. Sweeney tore the page off her notation pad and threw it into the wastepaper basket." [ 842 ]
After Mrs. Sweeney left work at 11:00 p.m., Mrs. Treon retrieved the slip of paper. She copied the information onto a message slip as her souvenir of the event. In 1970, a copy of the slip came into the possession of Chicago researcher Sherman H. Skolnick during a Freedom of Information Act suit. [ 843 ]
According to the phone message, Oswald was trying to call a "John Hurt" in Raleigh, North Carolina, at "834-7430 or 833-1253." In November 1963, John David Hurt was listed as having the first number in Raleigh, and John William Hurt as having the second. Of the two Hurts, the first, John David Hurt, had a military intelligence background. During World War II, John David Hurt served as a U.S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agent. [ 844 ] House Select Committee on Assassinations lawyer Surrell Brady, who was in charge of investigating the Raleigh call, described the fact that John David Hurt had served in U.S. Army Counterintelligence as "provocative." [ 845 ] In a brief 1980 interview, John David Hurt denied knowing why Oswald was trying to phone him on the night of November 23, 1963. [ 846 ]
Although Oswald's purpose in making the Raleigh call has never been disclosed, former CIA officer Victor Marchetti thought he knew why. After fourteen years with the CIA, during which he became executive assistant to the Deputy Director, Victor Marchetti resigned in disillusionment in 1969. [ 847 ] He then co-authored The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, a Book-of-the-Month Club Alternate that the CIA censored, leaving 339 black spaces in the text. [ 848 ]
Marchetti said he thought Oswald was following the standard intelligence practice of trying to contact his case officer through a "cut-out," a "clean" intermediary with no direct involvement in an operation. As to why Oswald's call was made to North Carolina, Marchetti pointed out that the Office of Naval Intelligence had an operations center in Nags Head, North Carolina, for agents who had been sent as fake expatriates to the Soviet Union -- corresponding to Oswald's background. [ 849 ]
In an interview, Marchetti said, "[Oswald] was probably calling his cut-out. He was calling somebody who could put him in touch with his case officer. He couldn't go beyond that person. There's no way he could. He just had to depend on this person to say, 'Okay, I'll deliver the message.' Now, if the cut-out has already been alerted to cut him off and ignore him, then..." [ 850 ]
The interviewer asked Marchetti about the plight of an undercover agent in trouble who was desperately seeking help, as Oswald seemed to be doing:
Interviewer: "Okay, if someone were an agent, and they were involved in something, and nobody believes they are an agent. He is arrested, and trying to communicate, let's say, and he is one of you guys. What is the procedure?"
Marchetti: "I'd kill him."
Interviewer: "If I were an agent for the Agency, and I was involved in something involving the law domestically and the FBI, would I have a contact to call?"
Interviewer: "A verification contact?"
Marchetti: "Yes, you would."
Interviewer: "Would I be dead?"
Marchetti: "It would all depend on the situation. If you get into bad trouble, we're not going to verify you. No how, no way."
Interviewer: "But there is a call mechanism set up."
Interviewer: "So it is conceivable that Lee Harvey Oswald was..."
Marchetti: "That's what he was doing. He was trying to call in and say, 'Tell them I'm all right.'"
Interviewer: "Was that his death warrant?"
Marchetti: "You betcha. Because this time he went over the dam, whether he knew it or not, or whether they set him up or not. It doesn't matter. He was over the dam. At this point it was executive action." [ 851 ]
"Executive Action" was a CIA code phrase for assassination.
| 841 ||Grover B. Proctor, Jr., "The Phone Call That Never Was," Raleigh Spectator (July 17, 1980), p. 6. Pat Stith, "Oswald May Have Tried to Call Raleigh Man from Dallas Jail," Raleigh news and Observer (July 17, 1980), p. 11.|
| 842 ||Alveeta A. Treon cited by Proctor, "Phone Call That Never Was," p. 6.|
| 843 ||Proctor, "The Phone Call That Never Was," p. 6. Sherman H. Skolnick vs. National Archives and Records Service, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division, No. 701, April 6, 1970. I am grateful to Sherman Skolnick for sharing with me the complaint he filed and his documents.|
Dallas City Hall switchboard operator Alveeta Treon moved to Springfield, Missouri, where she told her story about Oswald's attempted Raleigh call to Arnold Mickey Owen, the sheriff of Greene County, Missouri, in 1966. In a 1980 interview, Sheriff Owen said: "She gave me the impression she was scared to death. Absolutely afraid, period. In my opinion, she thought she was telling the truth." Stith, "Oswald May Have Tried," p. 11.
"The sheriff said Mrs. Treon told him that she and her daughter and another telephone operator were in the Dallas City Hall switchboard room on the evening of Nov. 23 when two lawmen came in [and said they wanted to listen to Oswald's call]." Ibid.
Raleigh News and Observer reporter Pat Stith wrote: "Mrs. Treon's daughter, who was working in November 1963 as a stenographer in the Dallas Police Department, corroborated her mother's story. The daughter asked not to be identified."
| 844 ||Proctor, "Phone Call That Never Was," p. 6.|
| 845 ||Grover B. Proctor, Jr., "Oswald's Raleigh Call," Raleigh Spectator (July 24, 1980), p. 5.|
| 846 ||Proctor, "Phone Call That Never Was," P. 6. After John David Hurt died in 1981, his widow told author Henry Hurt the following year that her husband "had admitted the truth before he died. Terribly upset on the day of the assassination, he got extremely drunk -- a habitual problem with him -- and telephoned the Dallas jail and asked to speak to Oswald. When denied access, he left his name and number." Henry Hurt interview with Mrs. John Hurt, March 1982. Cited in Hurt, Reasonable Doubt, pp. 244-45.|
Besides conflicting with the description of the incident given by Alveeta Treon and her daughter, Mrs. Hurt's explanation leaves unresolved why there would have been phone numbers for both of the Raleigh John Hurtson the message slip, as if Oswald was trying to reach one of them but was uncertain of the correct number. If John David Hurt had initiated the call in the manner Mrs. Hurt claimed, why would he have left the phone numbers of both himself and John William Hurt? On the face of it, her story is implausible. Was Mrs. Hurt coerced into telling that story by government forces in a way similar to the pressured described by Joyce Pitzer, Lt. Cdr. William Bruce Pitzer's widow, after his death?
| 847 ||Summers, Conspiracy, p. 143.|
| 848 ||Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (New York: Dell, 1973).|
| 849 ||Proctor, "Oswald's Raleigh Call," p. 9.|
| 850 ||850Interview with Victor Marchetti, "Marchetti: Call to Contact," Raleigh Spectator (July 24, 1980), p. 8.|
| 851 ||Ibid.