Playboy: Will you elaborate on this second point?
Garrison: Yes, because this incident ties together some of the strands of the spider’s web. At the time Oswald started his so–called Fair Play for Cuba Committee, two men — Hugh Ward and Guy Banister — operated a private investigative agency at 544 Camp Street in downtown New Orleans.
There are some intriguing aspects to their operation. For one thing, Guy Banister was one of the most militant right–wing anti–Communists in New Orleans. He was a former FBI official and his headquarters at 544 Camp Street was a clearinghouse for Cuban exile and paramilitary right–wing activities. Specifically, he allowed his office to be used as a mail drop for the anti–Castro Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front; police intelligence records at the time reported that this group was “legitimate in nature and presumably had the unofficial sanction of the Central Intelligence Agency.” It did.
Banister also published a newsletter for his clients that included virulent anti–Kennedy polemics. My office also has evidence that Banister had intimate ties with the Office of Naval Intelligence and the CIA. Both Banister and Ward were deeply involved in covert anti–Castro exile activities in New Orleans. Banister in particular seemed to have had an almost messianic drive to fight communism in every country in Latin America; and he was naturally of value to Cuban exiles because of his intimate connections with American intelligence agencies.
In the Ramparts article you mentioned earlier, ex–FBI agent Bill Turner revealed that both Banister and Ward were listed in secret Minutemen files as members of the Minutemen and operatives of a group called the Anti–Communism League of the Caribbean, which was allegedly used by the CIA in the overthrow of the Guatemalan government in 1954. So, in other words, these are the last guys in the world you’d expect to find tied up with left–wing or pro–Castro activities. Right? And yet, when Lee Harvey Oswald set up his fictitious branch of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans, he distributed leaflets giving the committee’s address as 544 Camp Street — Guy Banister’s office!
Somebody must have pointed out to Oswald shortly afterward that he was endangering his cover by using this address, because he subsequently changed it to 4907 Magazine Street. But it’s certainly significant that at the inception of his public role as a pro–Castro activist, Oswald was utilizing the mailbox of the most militantly conservative and anti–Communist outfit in the city. I might add that we have several witnesses who will testify in court that they saw Oswald hanging out at 544 Camp Street.
I want to stress, however, that I have no evidence that Banister and Ward were involved in the plot to kill Kennedy. Their office was a kind of way station for anti–Castro and right–wing extremists passing through New Orleans, and it’s perfectly possible that they were completely unaware of the conspiracy being hatched by men like Ferrie and Oswald.
Playboy: Were any of the other figures in the alleged conspiracy connected with Banister?
Garrison: Yes, David Ferrie was a paid investigator for Banister, and the two men knew each other very well. During 1962 and 1963, Ferrie spent a good deal of time at 544 Camp Street and he made a series of mysterious long–distance phone calls to Central America from Banister’s office. We have a record of those calls.