1-31-99 Gus Russo responds:
Some thoughts on Tracy Parnell's review of my book, Live By the Sword.
First, I thank Mr. Pamell for taking the time to review my book. I have only responded to
one other "review" the looney (and borderline libelous) diatribe published in Probe (see
Dale Myers' site for my response),
Mr. Parnell, by contrast, writes in a rational and thoughtful manner, but in doing so
illustrates some of the pitfalls awaiting even well-intentioned reviewers, i.e. if you are
going to cite what you perceive to be errors in a book of over 200,000 words, it is
incumbent upon the reviewer to proof-read his own article of 2,000 words. Mr Parnell has
not done this.
In addition, Mr. Parnell should appreciate that a meaningful review addresses a books core thesis
and refers to small errors only when they are so numerous that they overwhelm the proof of that
Take the issue arising out of my reference to Ed Butler. Mr. Parnell felt it more important
to chide me for my trivial error at calling Ed Butler "the host" than to acknowledge the exhaustive
work I did in recording JFK's Secret War against Cuba.
This deletion left me curious about the purported "In-Depth" qualify of the review.
In an effort to clarify the record, I offer the following specifics:
Mr. Parnell's central finding is that I have "a disturbing tendency to lend legitimacy to
dubious and otherwise unsupported observations." This is an important charge to be sure, but
how well is it supported?
Mr. Parnell refers to my obvious mistake in calling Ed Butler the host of the Oswald debate.
Point taken. Of course I know that Butler is the Director of INCA, as I note on pg. 210.
My first mention of Butler, mistake included (p. 88), is but an introductory reference to a man
who will be treated at length later. When I present on p. 210, Butlers biography, it is
Parnell alleges that I compounded the error on p. 450, but falls into error himself.
On the page in question, I refer to Mr. Butler as "the New Orleans radio host who debated
Oswald" - which is 100% accurate. For Butler WAS a New Orleans radio host of a show called
"The Truth Forum" which was broadcast to over 16 countries In Latin America. I know this because
I sat with Butler in his radio studio and listened to tapes of his shows. Far from compounding
the error, this explains why I had the word 'host' in my head when I mentioned Butler on
page 88. Parnell may not be aware of it, but Butler was also a TV host when he lived in
Ironically, it is Mr. Parnell who compounds his error by naming Bill Stuckey as the TRUE
host of the Oswald show. In fact, Bill SLATER was the host of the show, "Conversation
Carte Blanche." Stuckey was the host of another show, "Latin Listening Post", but he, like
Butler, was a mere guest on the Oswald show. See how easy it is to get the minor details
Admittedly, the remarks of Allen Campbell are controversial. However, I went to great
lengths to assess Campbell's veracity with co-workers in Banisters office. Also, Campbell
was extremely reluctant to divulge this story to me, but, off the record, he gave me the name
of the offending cleric, should I wish to pursue the matter. Furthermore, Campbell was able
to provide me with documentation on other controversial, but in fact true, aspects of his
life In New Orleans. Although these were off-the-record, they left me impressed with
Campbell's overall truthfulness. The reader obviously desires to see how I assessed each
witness' veracity, but it is virtually impossible to do so in every case. To turn the point
around, if anyone believes Campbell to be lying, I would like to see some proof of it. But to
repeat, this story bears no relevance to the thesis of my book. It is but one brick in the
consistent structure of Oswald's life. If his guilt rested solely on this accusation, there
would be no book. Bottom line: I believe Campbell, and a half-dozen of his associates
contacted believe him also. If I were at liberty to divulge all of the remarkable information
he gave me - and substantiated - I'm sure that there would be no debate about his credibility.
Mr. Parnell seems doubtful of the Mike Howard story (being told by Robert Oswald of Lee's
head trauma when a toddler). Again, like Campbell, this interview was reluctantly given (I
believe a rare one at the time to a joumalist) and only with the intercession of a mutual
friend. And Howard, a former Secret Service agent who guarded Marina Oswald in the
aftermath of the assassination, was not exactly a bad source to start with. When Howard gave
me this story, it was effortless and unrehearsed as credible witnesses have done for
two decades. I included it only as an endnote because I hoped someone might provide a lead
for a researcher to follow up on, e.g, Oswald's childhood medical records could be sought;
or Robert Oswald might be approached to corroborate the story. What about the LHO brain autopsy?
I stand by my decision to include this story because, if proven true, it might go a long way
towards explaining Oswald's troubled life.
Mr. Parnell takes a subtle swipe when writing that the "glue binding'' the New Orleans
principals (Arcacha, Ferrie, etc) together was, "according to Russo," Robert Kennedy. However,
it was actually according to Arcacha, Martens, Ferrie's friends, letters written, FBI statements
long-ignored, etc. In fact, it was never my thesis. It was the consistent story I kept getting
without even looking for it. To dismiss the efforts I made to procure this important
contribution as merely "according to Russo" seems unfair. I worked over a year to get
Arcacha to agree to be interviewed. I conducted over 600 other cited interviews, some
equally difficult to obtain. I therefore react viscerally to seeing all my research findings
presented as if they were unsubstantiated and merely "according to Russo".
*Equally unnerving was Parnell's statement that I gave "no direct evidence" for Oswald's
knowledge of the anti-Castro plots. In fact, I took pains to provide a variety of
direct and indirect proofs:
-INDIRECT. The scores of New Orleaneans I interviewed were unanimous in saying that
anyone in proximity to Lafayette Square had to be aware of the re-invasion plans - the exiles
were openly soliciting contributions. We know that Oswald frequented the square since he knew
of 544 Camp Street and was witnessed eating at Mancuso's - a fact corroborated by Adrian Alba.
-DIRECT. In my photo spread I reproduced a page from Oswald's handwritten notes, one line of
which noted "the bonds for invasion they [The exiles] were selling in the New Orleans area."
Oswald noted that this angered him so much that he alerted the New Orleans City Attorney.
-DIRECT. On page 129, I quote from a FPCC pamphlet found among Oswald's possessions, in which
Oswald was informed, "evidence is piling up for another invasion of Cuba,"- and noted, in
particular, RFK confidante Roberto San Roman as one of the ringleaders.
To conclude that Oswald was unaware of the plots is to conclude that he walked around
Lafayette Square wearing blinders and earplugs, and that he felt it necessary to save mail
that wasn't important enough to read in the first place.
In dealing with my Book IV, Parnell seems to miss the point entirely, thus he does not
even address the possibility of my having proved the point. While appearing to critique
my usability to decide which of the six cited Mexico City episodes to believe, Parnell ignores
the fact that for the purposes of the coverup, it didn't matter which had taken place. All that
mattered was the atmosphere was so charged with sinister possiblities to the point that key
officials backed off, fearing what they might learn. My larger point is that this was not the
atmosphere described by the Warren Report.
Next, Parnell writes "Russo believes Castro became aware of the plots against his life and
subsequently issued an ultimatum..." This is like saying Russo believes the earth is
round. Both "beliefs" happen to be plain fact. Castro's threat was quoted by Daniel Harker,
whom I interviewed extensively; Castro stated on numerous occasions that he was
aware of the plots; so did his military officers, some of whom I interviewed for the book.
Parnell next writes that one of the problems with my conclusion that Frazier drove Oswald
to the rifle range is that the Dallas news noted that the driver was Michael Paine. Parnell
makes it seem that I ignored this fact when I did not. Instead, I interviewed Paine and
checked his testimony. He was most definitely not the dnver. So we are back to square
one: who was the driver, if he was not Mike Paine? Parnell also wonders why I can't answer
for Garland Slack's omitting this in his FBI interview. An important question but not a point
breaker. Anyone who has taken the time to interview agents, witnesses, etc. know that PBI
summary reports are often not all-inclusive. I need only cite Frank O'Neil's Missile memo
(about fragments removed from JFK's body at autopsy), which Frank explained away years ago.
Most agents urge caution in the strict use of summary reports. Parnell may wish to consider that
Slack's reticence may be similar to Howard Price's (p. 261), who also failed to tell the Bureau
all he knew of his Oswald sighting.
I agree that Wes Frazier's nervousness doesn't prove anything, and a close reading of my book
illustrates that. However, having talked with Frazier at length on numerous occasions, I feel
that I have the right to characterize him as someone who is still hiding something. In fact,
the impression he leaves is practically inescapable. I have yet to meet someone who knows
Frazier who received a different impression.
In describing my version of Todd Vaughn's reenactment of the shooting, Parnell writes, "I
certainly don't blame him [Vaughn] for Russo's misstatements." Interestingly, in the quote
Parnell cites from my book, there are no misstatements ( Todd Vaughn had never
received any fonnal fireanns training, had never been in the military, had never worked a
bolt action rifle, and had never even fired a high-powered rifle before.). Parnell gets to
the heart of the problem when he says he "assumed" certain facts about Todd's reenactment.
His assumptions were wrong, his - not my - fault.
Not once did I say that Todd shot at a moving target from a 60 ft. height. Likewise, Todd
didn't rope off Dealey Plaza for his experiment. But does that make his shooting
unimpressive? I guess it does to Parnell. But for me, I find Vaughn's target success much
more impressive that that of a trained, highly-experienced marksman such as Howard
Donahue, even though Donahue's setup was obviously more analogous to the actual
event. Parnell is certainly entitled to state which test he finds more impressive-and so
am I. In my presentation of Todd's reenactment, I have been nowhere misleading.
Parnell also believes I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. In fact, my home is
overflowing with boxes of interviews and reports which I have obtained through great effort
(and at great cost) but are apparently deemed by the reviewer to be without merit. Jim Marrs,
for instance, could have written a book on my Thomas Beckham file alone, likewise my file box on Colonel
Burris etc. I would estimate that 90% of the investigations I undertook over twenty years
were a waste of time and money. If I had thrown in the "kitchen sink" this book would rival a
famous 26 volume set.
In support of my thesis (government officials told us one thing about JFK's death, but
actually believed something far different), my key witness observations are deeply
supported. While lesser side issues/ witnesses may be proved wrong in the future - they may
also be proved as more evidence comes in.
Lastly, using Mr. Parnell's own standards, I would have been crucified for writing, as Mr.
Parnell did, that the last day of JFK's administration was January 22, 1963. (Note from W. Tracy Parnell-I have since repaired this mistake that did appear in my original piece)
We all make small mistakes.
I hope mine are more than offset by the key insights which professional reviewers have noted
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