From personal experience, and as bizarre as it may seem to the uninitiated, Paine the “Quaker” exactly fits the profile of the “person you’d never suspect” as a powerful and clever agent. Her suppressed facial expressions in The Men Who Killed Kennedy illustrate her self control, but even then there were leaks of expression – micro expressions indicating duper’s delight and of course various other signs of dishonesty.
And once CIA always CIA:
The Paine Panel
by John Kelin
On Saturday afternoon I left the COPA conferfence and took a cab up to the Dallas Grand Hotel, where the Lancer conference was underway. Its Paine Panel was scheduled for 1pm; it was one I was especially looking forward to.
I should perhaps note that a virtually identical panel was scheduled for the COPA conferfence on the following day. Identical but for one personnel change, with William Kelly replacing Nancy Wertz. For scheduling reasons not important enough to go into here, I opted to attend Lancer’s Paine panel.
* * *Lancer’s Paine panel consisted of Steve Jones, Carol Hewett, and Nancy Wertz, who also served as moderator. In introducing Steve Jones, Wertz called the Paines “the couple we all love to hate.” She said that studying the Paines helps to understand “how Michael and Ruth, unwittingly or knowingly, and to what degree, were utilized by intelligence operatives in the assassination planning.”
Jones said he wanted to share with the audience “some private thoughts and confessions that Ruth Paine shared with a close personal friend of hers, that this friend shared with me.” He had promised to never reveal the friend’s name, Jones said, because of her fears of reprisal from the national security state. And so her identity was not revealed.
Jones said he first heard of the friend from Jim Douglass, a peace activist who had heard of a woman who had worked in NIcaragua with Ruth Paine, who knew Ruth Paine very well, and might be able to tell him something about her.
After making contact, Jones said he went to her home to talk, but the woman would only speak out-of-doors for fear her house was bugged. “This may, at first, seem like a paranoid reaction by someone,” Jones said, “but as we talked, I believe that there was very good reason for her to say this.”
After going to what Jones described as a “neutral place” to talk, the woman described how, after returning from Nicaragua some six months earlier, the FBI had openly tailed her, “in a very open, brazen attempt to intimidate her.” Similarly, she said that while in Nicaragua, CIA infiltrators would play mind games with peace workers there.
Eventually the discussion came to the Kennedy case, and the woman told Jones she had gotten to know Ruth Paine in 1990 while working for an organization called Pro-Nica. Ruth Paine was another volunteer for Pro-Nica, but everyone was suspicious of her. “Ruth was taking photographs of people all the time, for purposes that turned out to be untrue. She was always taking notes, and asking people a lot of personal questions.” After being bombarded with agent-provacateurs and spies, the peace workers were getting good at picking out who was phony, “and Ruth Paine was someone they very quickly determined was not legit.”
After learning of her connection to the Kennedy assassination, Ruth was ostracized by everyone, Jones said — except for the woman Jones had met, and was telling the Lancer audience about. This woman “took a liking to Ruth, kind of pitied her.” While she, too, was suspicious of Ruth, she also felt she was a nice person, and decided to befriend her.
For her part, Ruth Paine insisted she was innocent, and had nothing to do with the CIA, or any other government agency. But she spent the rest of her time in Nicaragua friendless, except for this particular woman.
The women remained friends and kept in touch after returning to the United States. According to Jones, the woman said they could discuss anything — except the Kennedy assassination and the CIA. “Ruth said, ‘I don’t want to talk about this,'” and offered to send the woman some back issues of Life magazine. “‘That will tell you everything you need to know.'” That got a few chuckles from the audience.
The friend sensed Ruth had something to tell, apparently, because she appealed to her at various levels to come clean. She never did; however, Jones said, “Ruth did share with her a few things that are, I think, very significant.” Some of these things corroborate some suspicions about the Paines, Jones said, while others dismiss some.
For example, Jones cited a mysterious road trip Ruth Paine made in the summer of 1963, which was the subject of a COPA presentation several years before (see Fair Play, Issue #7). “I thought that perhaps she was doing something of an intelligence nature, maybe was involved with an Oswald impersonator, or with Oswald, or whatever. And, this friend told me that Ruth makes those trips every summer … she always visits the same friends, she always visits her ex-husband Michael — they were divorced in 1971 but they still maintain an amicable relationship. So I think there was probably nothing suspicious about that summer trip, based on what this woman told me.”
But some other things this woman said do point to suspicious activity, Jones said. “The friend mentioned to me that Ruth had admitted to her that her father had worked for the CIA,” Jones stated. Ruth told her friend that in his capacity as a businessman, and later a government employee with AID, “he routinely collected intelligence information and reported it to the CIA. So, in other words, he was an asset — a businessman who was an asset of the CIA, not a direct employee.”
Ruth added that her father never would have done it if he had understood the CIA’s true objective of destabilizing a third world country so that American corporations could control its economy.
Perhaps the most compelling statement Jones made during his presentation followed this. “The friend told me that the only time Ruth ever even cracked the least bit about the Kennedy assassination was once when she said, she kind of, with tears in her eyes, she said, ‘My daughter isn’t speaking to me any more, and the reason why she isn’t is because she says I really need to come to grips with the evil that I’ve been associated with in my life.’ And this was said during the context of a discussion of the Kennedy assassination.
“And when the friend tried to probe further, and said ‘What evil? What do you mean?’ then Ruth clammed up, didn’t say another word. But the indication was clear to the friend that it had to do with some kind of evil that Ruth didn’t want to talk about, what Ruth perceived as an evil that had to do with the Kennedy assassination. And the friend got the clear impression that it wasn’t Lee Harvey Oswald that she was talking about.”
In the summer of 1997, Jones and several other researchers decided to try using this friend as a go-between in an effort to confront Ruth Paine with certain data. Ruth was expected to visit the friend during her annual summer trip, so the data was given to the friend. But about a week before she was due, Ruth called and said she wouldn’t have time to visit the friend. Not long after this, the friend cut off communication with Steve Jones, and he is no longer in contact with her.
Jones then briefly discussed some new information linking Ruth Paine to Allen Dulles. He said an FBI document surfaced dated December 3, 1963, in which a man named Frederick Osborne Jr. vouched for Ruth Paine’s lack of knowledge about the Kennedy assassination.
But it turns out, Jones said, that Osborne’s father, Frederick Sr., is “a friend and associate of Allen Dulles. Osborne Sr. graduated from Princeton in 1910. His resumé looks like something right out of Who’s Who in America, which he was in for many many years.” He sat on the Boards for numerous organizations, including the Carnegie Corporation and Princeton University, and served as a U.S. representative for the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission.
Osborne Sr. and Allen Dulles also co-founded an organization called Crusade for Freedom, “which very little is known about,” Jones said. “It was some type of a propaganda organization, kind of patterned after Radio Free Europe,” with which it eventually merged in 1962. Osborne Sr., Jones went on, served as its first president.
This example, coupled with other indirect connections between the Paines and the world of Intelligence, Jones said, must give one pause. “There’s a little bit too much coincidence going on here — that the woman who fed and housed Oswald’s wife and children happened to have these connections to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”
* * *Next on the Paine Panel was Carol Hewett, a Florida-based attorney who has worked closely with Steve Jones and others in researching the Paines.
“The Paines were important for two reasons,” Hewett began. “Like the DeMohrenschildts, the Paines, as a couple, were the closest to the Oswalds. And they were close to the Oswalds during two critical periods in 1963 — the first being April of ’63, the spring of ’63, which happened to coincide with the Walker assassination attempt. And the second critical period was the fall of 1963, which happened to coincide with the successful assassination of President Kennedy.”
She said that one reason the ARRB wasn’t interested in questioning the Paines was that they felt they had been questioned enough. It’s true they spent a long time on the witness stand, Hewett said — days, in fact — but many of the questions they were asked were irrelevant.
Another reason the Paines are important is that their home was one of two major sources of evidence seized against Oswald, the other being, of course, the Texas School Book Depository. Evidence implicating Oswald “simply oozed out of the Paine household, like a seeping wound,” Hewett said, and included the Walker photos, the blanket that allegedly held the assassination weapon, the fake Hidell documents, the negative used to fake Hidell identification, and some, but not all, of the infamous “backyard” photos.
Two other important pieces of evidence seized from the Paine house on the assassination weekend were the Minox camera and the November 9 embassy letter, although their existence was not learned of until later.
It is difficult for researchers to categorize the Paines, Hewett said. While there are plenty of suspicious circumstances surrounding them, what does it mean? Some plainly suggest a CIA connection, as with the evidence presented by Steve Jones. But, Hewett continued, “the facts surrounding the circumstances of these two items of evidence have led me to believe Ruth Paine may have had some FBI affiliation.”
The question of the Minox camera is rather problematic. It was discovered among Oswald’s possessions by the Dallas police. But according to research by John Armstrong, this camera and hundreds of other items were seized by the FBI on the evening November 22, 1963. By manipulating police records, it appears, knowledge of the camera’s existence was suppressed.
By early 1964, word of the camera’s existence began to leak out. “An article appeared in The Nation magazine, in January of 1964, highly critical of the FBI, and accusing the FBI of suppressing evidence,” Hewett said. FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover ordered Dallas agents to find the camera. But, she said, “This was a camera they had all along in their possession.”
FBI Agent Bardwell Odum contacted Ruth Paine, Hewett said, and asked her to “check into this matter. And Ruth calls Bardwell back, and says, ‘Oh, yes, we have a Minox camera. I just called my husband at work and he reminded me that we have one, rusting away, in an old coffee can in the garage. We’ll be happy to get it for you.'” Agent Odum soon showed up at the Paine’s house and picked up a Minox camera.
According to Odum’s report, Michael Paine said he offered the camera to the Dallas police, but they weren’t interested in it. “This is a blatant lie,” Hewett said. “This conversation — this alleged conversation between Michael Paine and Bardwell Odum — was recorded on a January 30, 1964 memo. We now have an internal memo dated January 25, 1964, generated by the highest officers and officials of the FBI, in which they acknowledge they had been in possession of the Minox camera all along. And in fact, they were comparing the film in that camera with some film in a New York City counter-espionage file.”
It now appears, Hewett said, that there were two Minox cameras. Michael Paine said the camera he gave to Bardwell Odum was returned to him after the Warren Commission finished its work. It was later stolen, he said. But in 1978, a camera said to be the same one was presented to Marina Oswald for identification — along with a second Minox camera. Mrs. Oswald could not identify either one.
One of those cameras is still in the National Archives, Hewett said, but the other one is missing. But she said it isn’t known which camera it is because the serial number, printed on the inside of the camera, is not accessible. Hewett wrote the Archives asking about this, but “they wrote back claiming the camera was stuck shut.” Informed of this, the ARRB expressed no interest in pursuing the matter. (See Reactions to the Board, in this issue, for more on the ARRB’s lack of interest in the Paines.)
“The other thing that made me consider that perhaps Ruth and Michael were FBI informants was the November 9 embassy letter that Oswald wrote,” Hewett said. There are actually three versions — Oswald’s handwritten version, a more polished typed version, and a third in Ruth Paine’s hand, which she told the Warren Commission she copied from Oswald’s typed version. This last version is missing from the National Archives collection, Hewett said.
The typewritten version has the initials of FBI agent James Hosty on it — dated November 22, although the FBI did not officially assume jurisdiction in the case until November 26. Although Dallas police investigators were searching the Paine home for evidence against Oswald on November 22 and 23, and although Ruth was fully aware of this, Hewett said, “she is providing the FBI with critical documentation behind the backs of the Dallas police.”
Ruth Paine may also have alerted the FBI that a postal notice to Oswald arrived at her home, directing them to the post office to pick up a package. “What we have here,” Hewett summarized, “is Ruth furnishing the FBI with leads, while simultaneously vacating [her] house to let the Dallas police have access to whatever it is they can find.”
As she neared the conclusion of her talk, Carol Hewett went over some facts which she felt demonstrated incongruitites in Ruth Paine’s personality. “Ruth Paine is described by almost all of her friends in the northeast as a charitble individual. And yet, not once did anyone ever describe a single act of charity. There are no indications that she donated money, took in stray dogs, or that she’d ever taken in any other forlorn women and children. We have no specific acts — the only act is her act of her taking in Marina Oswald.
“Repeatedly, throughout her own testimony and the testimony of all her friends, they said that her motive were so that she could learn the Russian language. Now, Ruth Paine studied the Russian language non-stop, from the mid-1950s. And in Dallas, she was studying it not only through the Berlitz school, but she had a personal tutor who was a native-speaking Russian, Dorothy Gravitis. And so what did she need Marina Oswald for?”
So it seems, Hewett said, like a phony excuse. “And the phoniness carries over towards Ruth’s care of Marina, in both the spring of ’63 and the fall of ’63. Ruth is very indignant when she testifies that Oswald would not permit Marina to speak English. Yet at no time did Ruth and Marina speak English. Ruth had ample opportunity to teach Marina English, and yet, just like Oswald, Ruth insisted on talking to Marina in the Russian language in the privacy of their home — where Oswald wasn’t there to interfere. And so this doesn’t seem right.”
Both Paines were active in the Dallas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “And yet, when it came to obtaining counsel for Lee Harvey Oswald, Ruth didn’t try very hard. And she was very annoyed that Oswald even had the audacity to ask her to call John Abt.” There are no indications she actually tried to contact Abt on Oswald’s behalf, Hewett said. “This doesn’t seem to ring true to the civil libertarian that Ruth claims to be.”
The most disturbing incongruity, in Hewett’s view, had to do with Ruth’s reaction to Oswald’s murder. “We have this pious Quaker who, when interviewed by a journalist for Redbook magazine in the summer of 1964, told this journalist that she was glad that Ruby shot Oswald. She was glad that Oswald was dead — these are exact quotes. And this journalist was just appalled that this very religious woman would say such a thing. Because even if Oswald had done the murder, this was a man who was deprived of his civil liberties, was not given the opportunity to have a trial or be defended by counsel. And there was this widow, and two little girls that Ruth was supposed to be attached to, and there was no offer of condolence. Ruth did not go to Oswald’s funeral. Even Jackie Kennedy had the good graces to offer condolences to Marina Oswald.”
Ruth told the Redbook journalist that she was glad Oswald was dead because it spared Marina the trauma of a trial. Noting the obvious parallel to Ruby’s alleged statements about sparing Jackie Kennedy, Hewett wondered, “Do we have the same scriptwriter here?”
None of the preceding, Hewett said, means that either of the Paines participated in a conspiracy to murder JFK. “Our general feeling is that the Paines were babysitters for the Oswalds, especially Marina Oswald. And we feel it’s very unfortunate that we have had three government bodies — two of which were investigative in nature, and the third body that was supposed to collect records and have the power to subpoena witnesses, if need be — these three government entitites have had ample opportunity to question the Paines about their real involvement with the Oswalds. And the shame of it is, they have passed up some very good opportunities, and passed up the chance to perhaps not figure out who the Paines are, but figure out who Lee Harvey Oswald is.
“After all, he is in the epicenter of this earthquake, the reverberations of which continue as we approach the ending of a fourth decade without adequate answers.”
* * *The final panelist, Nancy Wertz, focused on Michael Paine. She said that it is generally easier to find out about Ruth, and it’s almost as if Michael were her appendage. “I really feel the Warren Commissioners in essence kind of elected Ruth their queen during the questioning — the enormous amount of it is evidence of that — but kind of in contrast, they kind of treated Michael Paine as the court jester.”
On his mother’s side of the family, there were anscestors from two very diverse cultures, Wertz said. There was an artistic faction that dated back to Ralph Waldo Emerson, while on the other was the financial empire-building family of the Forbes’.
On Michael’s father’s side, his lineage could be traced all the way back to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Robert Treat Paine. Michael’s father Lyman was an architect who, after the birth of two sons, became a Marxist Socialist, which eventually estranged him from his family. He divorced his wife, moved to Los Angeles, and remarried.
There was an attempt to bridge the differences between the two sides of the family, Wertz said. “The Forbes family sought legitimacy and validation by becoming patrons of the arts, and supporters of limited social programs. And it was their effort at developing a social conscience. And this maneuver started an overlapping which resulted in the various families moving in the same business and social circles.”
Wertz said there was a lot of intermixing between the families, which was not necessarily a negative thing. “But it is the type of thing that someone can pick up the phone and call and say, you know, ‘I know your mother’ — ‘I know this person and that person.'” And who knows what that might have meant in terms of intelligence circles? Wertz said. She speculated that perhaps “someone like Ruth Paine would be very suggestive to working out in some type of a plan in which she might not know the full objective.”
Michael went to Harvard starting in 1947, but was kicked out after struggling academically for two years. He worked in construction for a time, then returned to college at Swathmore for one year before leaving, still without graduating. In spite of having no degree he was able to get work in a nuclear research lab. He left in under a year, joined the Army, and served in Korea for two years.
Michael and Ruth met in 1955 and were married two years later, Wertz said. Michael soon accepted a position “of some responsibility” at Bell Helicopter in Texas. By early 1961 the Paines had two children but their marriage was foundering. In September of 1962, Wertz continued, Michael established a second residence in order to fulfill Texas divorce requirements. This was the Paine situation when Lee Oswald entered their lives in the spring of 1963.
Wertz said that Oswald and Michael Paine had at least a dozen “earnest conversations” between the time they met and November of 1963. Michael told the Warren Commission that he and Oswald had never really had any serious political discussions. “But from other documents, and his own revelations to various researchers over the years, a different pattern starts to emerge.”
Michael Paine enjoyed political discussion, Wertz said, and found Oswald “a perfect candidate for such discussions.” He soon decided that Oswald had a limited ability for in-depth political analysis, however, and their discussions were not fruitful for him.
Interestingly, an FBI report from June of 1964 stated that Michael Paine, in the spring of 1963, spent several Sunday afternoons at a cafe near a college campus, engaging people in political discussion. “He would actively approach people and start talk of a political nature, like ‘What about Castro?’ etc.” According to FBI witnesses, Paine spoke unfavorably of the U.S. hard line against Castro, easing tensions with Cuba, and increasing trade with Eastern Europe.
After the assassination, Michael Paine “went back and forth” in statements about the accused assassin. He told authorities he once told Oswald that he, Paine, was completely against violence in any form, and said he distinctly recalled that Oswald had no comment. “That statement that he made to the police on Saturday was very, very self-serving,” Wertz noted. “He was like, kind of reminding them, ‘I don’t like violence. This man didn’t even comment on that fact.'”
On the other hand, Paine expressed empathy for Oswald’s apparent inability to hold a job.
Wertz related the incredible fact that, according to his own WC testimony, Michael Paine was discussing, abstractly, presidential assassination during lunch at a restaurant on November 22. Before the meal was over, word of the actual assassiantion reached him, and he raced back to work and called Ruth, who had already heard the news. Before long the identity of the arrested suspect was also learned. Michael testified that he was so upset he decided to leave work.
He went to Ruth’s house and stood helplessly by as police searched the premises. Then he, Ruth, and Marina were all taken to police headquarters, and Ruth was questioned closely. “But what did they do to Michael?” Wertz asked rhetorically. “Other than asking him if he wanted to talk to Lee — an offer that he declined — they didn’t even take an affidavit from him that night.”
Another story about that same night was related by Lee Oswald’s mother Marguerite, Wertz said. She told the FBI in 1965 that after the questioning was done, she was invited to stay the night at the Paine house. But she couldn’t sleep because she kept hearing Marina’s muffled crying in one room, and the continued whispering coming from the bedroom of Ruth and Michael.
“She claimed that at around 2am on Saturday morning, she observed Michael Paine go through a doorway into a room, which she thought was another bedroom, at the time, but later found it to be the inside door to the garage.” Marguerite said she believed Paine may have been planting evidence against her son.
“In my opinion,” Wertz said as she wrapped up her presentation, “Michael’s versions of his actions and reactions on 11-22 are the best evidence we have that he was suddenly confronted with the results of his knowing participation in a plan with an unknown objective.”
She said examining Michael Paine’s background — his family and political leanings — might shed light on what led to his involvement. “These are questions that the Review Board could have helped us with, but unfortunately, that’s lost again with the closing of their doors in September.”
* * *The ARRB’s John Tunheim appeared at the COPA conference that same night, and the question of why neither of the Paines were ever deposed was put to him.
“We had limited time for doing depositions and interviews,” the Judge replied. “There was such an intense focus on the records, and getting the records processed. The Board had to make significant calls on exactly how many people were interviewed.
“I think in an ideal world, and had we had enough staff and enough time, the Paines certainly would have been interviewed and deposed. We chose, with our deposition process, to focus on the medical evidence issue to try to bring some clarification, or more clarification, to that. I think that’s an important addition to the body of knowledge about that very mysterious aspect of the assassination.
“And in an ideal world,” he continued, repeating himself, “the Paines should have been deposed. We just, we ran out of time, and staff, and money to be able to do all that.”