Clay Shaw: Innocent Man or Covert Agent ? Guest post by Charles Cliff

Clay Shaw Credit:  National Archives

Clay Shaw Credit: National Archives

Anyone who has seen Oliver Stone’s JFK knows that one of the central figures in the movie was New Orleans international trade mart director Clay Shaw portrayed well by Tommy Lee Jones. Many in the mainstream media categorized Garrison’s prosecution of Shaw as a witch hunt and a baseless case being used to get Garrison further publicity. But the more you look at the actual record you find that Garrison may not have been as far out as many of the media made him out to be.

Shaw & the CIA – Clay Shaw’s involvement with the intelligence community dates all the way back to his involvement during World War II despite his insistence that he was a medic during the war documents have proven he worked for an Army Counterintelligence group called the Special Operations Section. His military record is classified, why would you need to classify the records of a medic ? Three years after the war in 1948 Shaw became a member of the Centro Mondiale Commerciale it Italian based group which was a  CIA front used for running espionage activities in Europe he remained with them until 1956. Throughout much of the 50’s Shaw would file reports with the CIA’s domestic contacts division along with sending documents to the foreign documents division.

Towards the end of the 1950s however his participation with these two groups began to subside, but as late as 1967 Shaw had CIA security clearance for a CIA project called QKENCHANT, a secret CIA project the full details of which are not known to this day. Two other interesting individuals were also given security clearance for this project one being E. Howard Hunt suspected by many of being heavily involved in the assassination plot to kill President Kennedy and a lesser known name Monroe Sullivan who was the director of the San Francisco international trade mart in 1963 and who also just happened to be Clay Shaw’s main alibi witness for the day of the assassination. Former CIA agent Victor Marchetti said that during Shaw’s trial the CIA were receiving regular updates about the ongoing situation in New Orleans and would have regular meetings headed by Richard Helms. It should be noted that in the late 1970s as CIA director, Richard Helms admitted Shaw’s connection with the agency a fact Clay Shaw always vigorously denied during his court case.

Shaw & Ferrie – Clay Shaw also vigorously denied that he had Ever known or spoken to David Ferrie but when you look closer you will find several things connecting these two men together one of the most interesting connections is a man named Layton Martens a man with the friend of Clay Shaw on November 22, 1963 Marten’s roommate was David Ferrie. Perry Raymond Russo testified under oath meeting Clay Shaw and Ferrie @ bars in the French quarter as we as at a party David ferrie’s apartment. Husband-and-wife Nicholas and Matilda Tadin testified under oath that the traveled to Lakefront airport in Louisiana together to meet with David Ferrie at an airplane hangar he worked at when Ferrie emerged from the hanger the two testified that he was in the company of Clay Shaw. 6 witnesses testified under oath at Clay Shaw’s trial that they witnessed Shaw along with David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald’s at a voter registration event in the town of Clinton Louisiana. The witnesses included John Manchester the Clinton town Marshall and Corrie Chambers the head of the voter registration event.  The House Select Committee on Assassinations investigated the claims made by the people in Clinton, Louisiana and found them to be credible and believed that the Clinton witnesses were telling the truth.

Shaw, Oswald & the Assassination -New Orleans lawyer Dean Andrews testified to the Warren Commission that he was called right after the assassination and asked to fly to Dallas to be Oswald’s lawyer. Andrews would also testify that the call came from a man named Clay Bertrand. The Warren Commission never established or to my knowledge even tried to find out who Bertrand was but New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison after talking with Andrews ( a former law school classmate) decided to look in the French quarter to try and figure out who the mysterious Bertrand could be. Many in the media and many authors have reported that Garrison combed the French Quarter and could not find anybody who was able to name Clay Bertrand.  This however is not the case. Garrison’s men found several people who identified Clay Bertrand as being Clay Shaw.  The problem was there were very few people in the French Quarter who wanted to cooperate with Garrison’s investigation due to Garrisons crackdown on French Quarter businesses in the early 1960s. As noted earlier, Perry Russo admitted to meeting Clay Shaw along with David Ferrie at French Quarter bars as well as at a party at David Ferrie’s apartment. Russo also would testify under oath that when introduced to him Clay Shaw was using the name Clay Bertrand. Russo further testified there was another person of note at the party: Lee Harvey Oswald.  Russo stated in his testimony that at the end of the night he was one of the last ones there with Bertrend (Shaw) Ferrie and Oswald.  Ferrie Oswald and Shaw began discussing president Kennedy and potential plans to kill him triangulation crossfire. After Clay Shaw was arrested he was booked at the police station the booking officer was long time decorated police officer Alyious Habighorst as a matter of routine during Shaw’s booking procedure the officer asked Shaw if he had ever used an alias Shaw said yes Clay Bertrand but in a move unmatched in American law, presiding trial judge Edward Haggerty stated on the record that he did not believe officer Habighorst and based on that he ruled his testimony as inadmissible.  The jury would never hear this damning piece of evidence. When Shaw was arrested during a routine search of his house the police collected Shaw’s telephone book.  There was an entry on an otherwise unused page where Shaw had written down PO 19106. Why is this significant?  PO 19106 was also written down in an address book collected from Lee Harvey Oswald. Vernon Bundy a witness who testified at the Clay Shaw trial stated that he saw Clay Shaw along with Lee Harvey Oswald near Lake Ponchartrain,  Bundy was a drug user and was looking to inject himself with his latest fix this fact was widely reported in the media but an interesting tidbit not reported in the media happened during his testimony. Bundy asked Shaw to go to the back of the room and then walk towards him.  Shaw complied. Bundy then pointed out something that not even Jim Garrison had noticed, that Shaw walked with a very slight but noticeable limp.  Bundy testified that this is how he was able to identify Shaw as the man he saw with Oswald that day. Lizabeth McCarthy was a well-known handwriting expert in New Orleans who testified under oath that she was shown a login book from the Eastern Airlines VIP room at the airport in New Orleans.  She compared the signature Clay Bertrand which was in the login book from the VIP room with several handwriting samples provided by Clay Shaw.  In her expert opinion Clay Shaw was the person who signed the ledger Clay Bertrand. One last interesting note about Clay Shaw, Dallas deputy sheriff Roger Craig told a well-known story about witnessing a Nash Rambler station wagon in front of the Texas school book depository picking up people in a car including someone who looked very much like Lee Harvey Oswald and there has never been any definitive proof who if anyone was in the Rambler station wagon that Craig saw but in an interesting twist at the time of the assassination Clay Shaw owned a 1962 Nash Rambler station wagon. A letter dated March 24, 1964 addressed to Clay Shaw from TG Womack a Hammond Louisiana insurance agent states :

” Dear Clay: Your dad was in my office this morning and returned the above policy covering liability on the 1962 Rambler Station Wagon. I agreed to hold up cancellation of this policy until I had word from you that you had arranged for coverage with your New Orleans agent. Just for your records the automobile is described as being a 1962 Rambler Ambassador M#H171787 (4-Dr. Sta. Wagon).”

Clay Shaw was a single man who never married and had no children. He was part of the New Orleans elite who liked to take in the finer things of life; not exactly the target audience to be driving around in a station wagon.

Summary – it is only fair to point out that Clay Shaw was tried before a Jury of his peers and found not guilty, much of the info we know about Shaw was not known to Jim Garrison at the time of the Trial. Would any of the new Info known about Shaw have made a difference in the verdict? it is impossible to know. But what it does tell us is 2 things #1 – despite what has be told to us by mainstream media reports and Warren Commission apologists Jim Garrison’s case was not just a baseless case of smoke and mirrors & # 2 – we don’t really know who & what Clay Shaw really was and we don’t know if we ever will.

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