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Richard Case Nagel

Triple Agent

Oswald and the CIA, by Dick Russell.

Passages: Richard Case Nagell, in Kennedy Assassination Chronicles, Volume 1, Issue 4.

In addition, the trial files for Richard Nagell also contain an identification card, the card being a military ID with Nagell's photo and the name and signature of Lee H. Oswald.

-Larry Hancock, Someone would have talked

Richard Case Nagell - The Man Who Knew Too Much

Richard Case Nagell, whom Dick Russell labeled "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

On September 20, 1963, Richard Case Nagell walked into a bank in El Paso, Texas. He fired two shots into the wall near the ceiling, walked back out to his car, and waited to be arrested. Subsequently, Nagell would claim he was a double (or triple) agent of U.S. and the KGB, that he knew Lee Harvey Oswald and was monitoring the JFK assassination plot which involved Cuban exiles, and that he had been ordered to kill Oswald to prevent the plot from being carried out. He also maintained that he had sent a registered letter to FBI Director Hoover, warning him of the plot.

Author Dick Russell interviewed Nagell and corresponded with him, and eventually wrote a book, largely about Nagell, entitled The Man Who Knew Too Much. Nagell was very guarded about what he knew, and some of his correspondence uses humorous pseudonyms for the various persons and organizations.

Who was Richard Case Nagell? A decorated Korean War veteran, Nagell was in a plane crash in 1954 which left him in a coma for weeks. Despite this, he was subsequently granted a Top Secret clearance and served for several years in CounterIntelligence in the Army. Was Nagell's later strange behavior a sign of brain damage or psychological difficulties, or was he "sheep dipped" for a role in undercover work?

The Nagell story is truly one of the weirdest in the JFK assassination literature, and critics of it point to Nagell's many inconsistencies, his failure to ever come up with the hidden-away evidence he claimed he had, and his tendency to "let out" information just at a time where he might have acquired it through public channels. But some of his knowledge remains unexplained. The FBI inquired of the CIA about seven names found in a notebook in Nagell's possession at the time of his arrest. A review determined that all of them were involved in intelligence, and the CIA wrote back to the FBI asking "how the above names came into the possession of Nagell." The question was never answered.

A perhaps fitting if tragic denouement to the story occurred when the Assassination Records Review Board decided to contact Nagell. The ARRB sent a registered letter on October 31, 1995. One day after the letter was mailed, Nagell was found dead in his apartment, victim of an apparent heart attack.

Dick Russell about Richard Case Nagell. An interview with Dick Russell performed by Dark Journalist.

The following information about Richard Case Nagell comes from Spartacus International.

Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked On September 20, Richard Nagell walked into the State National Bank in El Paso, approximately half an hour before closing time. He approached a teller window and politely asked for one hundred dollars in American Express travelers checks. When the clerk placed them on the counter Nagell, saying nothing, reached into his jacket, drew a Colt .45, deliberately aimed it towards the ceiling and fired two shots. He then returned the pistol to his belt, turned and walked out the front door. He made no demand for money at any point.

Upon exiting the bank, he stopped briefly at a street comer then walked to his car and briefly waited there. Eventually, he pulled into the street and was motioned to pass by another motorist but then Nagell noticed a young policeman, backed his car up on the sidewalk and waited for the officer to approach. When the officer came up to his window, Nagell calmly told him "I guess you've got me, I surrender" and raised his hands.

The ramifications of this incident in an El Paso bank are extensive. They are covered in detail in an extensive investigation by Dick Russell in The Man Who Knew Too Much Nagell's activities in 1963, his legal manipulation (including frequent prosecution recourse to psychiatric examinations to keep him off the record in 1964), the refusal to provide him with his own possessions confiscated upon his arrest for use in his trial, his long quest to regain custody of his children and his efforts to communicate what he knew to Congress and various investigations are far beyond the scope of this manuscript...

When his car trunk was examined (at his suggestion), authorities found a number of most interesting items. Unfortunately, the majority of these were never formally entered into the record and most were not returned to Nagell after his conviction for bank robbery was eventually overturned.

The items that are available are amazingly similar to items also in the possession of Lee Oswald. They include:

(1) One miniature Minolta camera and developing kit.

(2) Fair Play for Cuba leaflets.

(3) The P.O. Box for the Fair Play for Cuba committee in New Orleans, Louisiana. The committee which had only one member. Lee Oswald.

(4) Cuban and Communist literature including the Case against Cuba by Corless Lament, one of the documents also being used in New Orleans by Lee Oswald.

(5) A notebook containing the unlisted telephone number of the Cuban embassy, the same number as found in Oswald's notebook.

(6) The notebook also contained names of individuals who would much later be identified as CIA personnel from its Los Angles office. (The names were submitted by the FBI to the CIA in October '63 and eventually verified by the CIA as being names of actual employees)

In addition, the trial files for Richard Nagell also contain an identification card, the card being a military ID with Nagell's photo and the name and signature of Lee H. Oswald.

James DiEugenio, review of Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked

I said that by 1975 Martino's information was pretty well known to serious investigators. But really, as Hancock relates it, it was known earlier than that. For by the end of 1968, all of the points -- except as noted -- were working axioms of the New Orleans investigation by DA Jim Garrison. To use just one investigator's testimony, researcher Gary Schoener has said that Garrison was "obsessed" with the Cuban exile group Alpha 66. At one time, he thought they were the main sponsoring group manipulating Oswald, and that they had pulled off the actual assassination.

One avenue by which Garrison was led to believe this was through Nagell. And one thing I liked about the book was that it summarized a lot of Nagell's testimony in more complete, concise and digestible terms than previously presented (see pgs. 39-58). In the first edition of Dick Russell's book, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Nagell's story wandered and got lost in a 900-page mountain consisting of much extraneous and tangential elements. Although Hancock leaves out some rather important details -- which I will mention later -- he does a nice job in distilling and relating its basic outlines. Between the two, because of who he was, his first person testimony, and some evidence he had, I believe Nagell's story easily has more evidentiary value.

Consider: Nagell actually tried to inform the authorities in advance. When they did not respond, he got himself arrested. He was then railroaded -- along with Secret Service agent Abraham Bolden -- because of his attempt to talk. He then wrote letters describing his knowledge to friends while incarcerated (see Probe Vol. 3 No. 1). He then revealed to Garrison assistant William Martin his specific knowledge of two of the Cuban exiles who were manipulating Oswald. One he named as Sergio Arcacha Smith. The other who he only hinted at had a last name beginning with "Q". This could be Carlos Quiroga, or Rafael 'Chi Chi' Quintero. Since Smith and Quiroga were known associates in New Orleans, I lean toward Quiroga. Nagell actually revealed that he had recorded their incriminating talks with Oswald on tape. Since he -- as well as Garrison -- did not know that Martin was a double agent, it is not surprising that the FBI later broke into his belongings and absconded with the tape, among other things. (Strangely, or as we shall see later, perhaps not, Hancock leaves this intriguing episode out of his book.)

Now since Garrison was the first law enforcement authority Nagell confided in directly, and the first person to take him seriously, the DA was clearly interested in the Cuban exile aspect. Especially since Nagell's information was being reinforced to him from multiple angles. For instance, David Ferrie's close friend Raymond Broshears was also quite specific with Garrison as to the importance of Sergio Arcacha Smith. And when Garrison tried to get Smith extradited from Texas, the local authorities, under the influence of Bill Alexander and Hugh Aynesworth, refused to cooperate. (It is puzzling to me that Hancock, who is so interested in the Cuban groups, seems to try to minimize the importance of Smith.)

One thing Hancock makes clear is how Nagell originally got involved in the JFK case. Like many foreign intelligence operatives, one of Nagell's ports of call was Mexico City. As certified by his friend Arthur Greenstein and an FBI memorandum, Nagell was there in the fall of 1962. And at this time, he began acting as a triple agent: "He represented himself to a Soviet contact as a pro-Soviet double agent, while secretly retaining his loyalty to the United States." (p. 54) It was in this pose that he became known to the KGB. When they approached Nagell they asked him to monitor a Soviet defector and his wife. The second mission they had was to infiltrate a group of Cuban exiles. The Russians had discovered a group of them in Mexico City making threats against President Kennedy for his actions at the Bay of Pigs. The Russians had garnered that part of the scheme was to blame the plot on the Cubans and Russians. This is something that, in the wake of the Missile Crisis, the Russians were desperate to avoid. From here, Hancock summarizes the stories of both Vaughn Snipes and Garret Trapnell, people Nagell suspected as being considered as pro-Castro patsies by the Cuban group (pgs 56-58). And it was this trail that eventually led Nagell to New Orleans and Oswald.


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