‘J. Edgar Hoover thought I was directly responsible for JFK’s death:’ FBI Agent James Hosty

It's hard to believe it's been half a century since John F. Kennedy was assassinated while politicking in Dallas, Texas.

It’s hard to believe it’s been half a century since John F. Kennedy was assassinated while politicking in Dallas, Texas.

Because, today Friday, Nov. 22 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we thought it was appropriate to provide our readers something special they probably had not read before about the slain president.

Former FBI Agent James Hosty told Don Moore, senior writer for the Charlotte Sun daily newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla., during an interview about President John Kennedy’s assassination on the 40th anniversary of his death in 2003, J. Edger Hoover blamed him for the President’s murder. What follows is the interview and a question and answer session Moore had with the retired FBI agent about what he thought and what he knew about the JFK assassination.

James Hosty says the FBI had an “open-and-shut case” on who killed President John F. Kennedy nearly 40 years ago. Hosty knows the details and facts better than any man alive. He maintains eyewitnesses and recovered forensics give him “irrefutable proof.”

What gives him special knowledge?

Forty years ago, he was Special FBI Agent James P. Hosty Jr. working as a counter-intelligence officer in the Dallas, Texas, FBI office at the time JFK was murdered. Hosty now lives in Burnt Store Marina, south of Punta Gorda, Fla.

He was assigned to investigate Lee Harvey Oswald before the Communist sympathizer pulled the trigger. He found no legal reason to put Oswald away. And that was the FBI man’s downfall, according to J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, and the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination. Hosty didn’t arrest Oswald before the president was shot.

And the Warren Commission concluded Oswald was the shooter.

It was FBI agent James Hosty's job to keep tabs on Lee Harvey Oswald days before he assassinated President John F. Kennedy in Dallas 50 years ago today.

It was FBI agent James Hosty’s job to keep tabs on Lee Harvey Oswald days before he assassinated President John F. Kennedy in Dallas 50 years ago today.

To make matters worse for the retired agent, Hosty’s name and number were in Oswald’s address book when he was captured by the Dallas Police Department shortly after killing Kennedy. Hosty visited the Oswald home shortly before the president’s assassination. He talked to Oswald’s wife Marina about her husband when he wasn’t home. She passed the agent’s name and phone number on to Oswald, who put it in his address book.

Hosty says 40 years later that neither he nor anyone else in the law enforcement-intelligence business in the United States had reason to suspect that Oswald was going to assassinate JFK.

Hosty believes he became the fall guy when Hoover and the commission needed someone to blame. As a consequence for not arresting Oswald before the assassination, Hosty was banished by Hoover to the Kansas City, Kan., FBI bureau. In those days it was considered by the director as the graveyard for agents who failed in the line of duty.

But Hosty’s opinion of Kansas City was that, “Hoover had thrown me in the briar patch,” a reference to an Uncle Remus story by writer Joel Chandler Harris. The FBI agent meant Kansas City was a great place for him and his late wife, Janet, to raise their nine children, and a good place for an FBI agent to work.

“I was a special agent and the majority of my cases at the Dallas office were domestic intelligence,” he said. “Klansmen and Gen. Edwin Walker and his Minutemen. I had to keep an eye on the general and his crew.”

United Nations Ambassador Adlai Stevenson came to Dallas to make a speech a couple of weeks before Kennedy was shot. Stevenson was jeered and heckled by a group of Minutemen called the “Indignant White Citizens Council,” known in earlier days as the Ku Klux Klan.

No one wanted a similar occurrence when the president arrived. So most of the Dallas Police Department’s officers surrounded 30 or 40 of Walker’s right-wingers stationed along the parade route. They were trying to keep the Minutemen from hassling the president or worse, according to Hosty .

“The truth of the matter is that security in Dallas (for the president) that day was nonexistent,” he explained. “The Secret Service was undermanned and understaffed and they couldn’t do the job.

“The night before Kennedy was killed, the Secret Service didn’t have any manpower left to guard the president. So they brought in off-duty Fort Worth firemen to guard him after deputizing them.

“The Secret Service (in those days) had fewer than 300 men in the entire United States. To complicate things further, they had so much pride in what they did they wouldn’t let any other federal agency help them. The FBI had 85 agents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. We could have guarded Kennedy, but they wouldn’t work with us,” Hosty said.

A day or so before Kennedy arrived in town, one of the local papers published a map of his proposed parade route. Thus knowledge of where the president was going and how he was going to get there became common knowledge. JFK and his entourage would drive right by the FBI’s headquarters and the Texas Book Depository, where Oswald had just gotten a job.

Moments before President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, he and his wife, Jackie, were all smiles as they waved at the adoring crowd that mobbed the curbside during their trip to Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

Moments before President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, he and his wife, Jackie, were all smiles as they gazed at the adoring crowd during their trip to Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Hosty hoped he could catch a glimpse of the president as he drove by in the open Lincoln convertible. A Democrat and an Irishman just like John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Hosty thought the president was his man.

At 12:38 p.m., the FBI agent was eating a cheese sandwich in a restaurant near the department’s headquarters in downtown Dallas when a waitress said, “Oh, my God, they’ve shot the president!” Hosty didn’t know it at the time but her words would change his life.

It wasn’t long before Oswald’s name was mentioned as a potential suspect. Immediately, Hosty realized Oswald was  his case.

In an official censure letter to Hosty after Oswald was arrested, Hoover wrote on Dec. 13, 1963:

“It has been determined that your recent handling of a security-type case was grossly inadequate.

“In view of the slipshod manner in which you handled this (Oswald) investigation, you are being placed on probation. It will be incumbent upon you to handle your future duties at a higher level of competence so that future administrative action of this nature will not be necessary.

“Very truly yours,

“John Edgar Hoover, Director.”

The result of the Warren Commission’s 10-month investigation into the president’s assassination was that the FBI hadn’t sufficiently helped the Secret Service protect JFK. To take this logic one step further, Hosty reasoned “…I was directly responsible for the president’s death,” according to J. Edger Hoover and the Warren Commission.

Two days later, Hosty found out from his boss in the Dallas office that he was being transferred to the FBI’s Kansas City office by direct order of Hoover.

To clear the air and set the record straight, Hosty wrote a book with his son, Tom, in 1995 about his experiences involving the Oswald case and the Kennedy assassination called, “Assignment: Oswald.”

The 79-year-old former FBI agent finished his tale of intrigue and assassination by observing:

“I’ve raised nine fine kids with Janet, my wife, held the highest rank a street agent could hold in the FBI by the time I retired in 1979 and explained what really happened with the Oswald case in the book my son and I wrote. What else could a man ask for?”

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Sunday, Nov. 16, 2003 and is republished with permission.

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Please click here for another interview related to JFK and Dallas, Texas.

What part did Castro, Russia or the Mafia play in JFK’s assassination?

When Lee Oswald was gunned down by Jack Ruby while being moved from the Dallas Police Department jail to a more secure location, the likelihood of the public ever finding out for sure why he shot President John Kennedy evaporated. However, special Agent James Hosty, the FBI man in charge of the Oswald investigation, believes JFK’s assassination, provides some revealing answers to a number of vexing questions surrounding the case.

Q:  Why did Oswald assassinate John Kennedy?
    A:  “I’ll tell you what I think, but it’s not very popular. He was a Castro sympathizer. He was a member of the ‘Fair Play for Cuba Commission’ (a Communist back organization in the U.S.).  Oswald went to the Russian and Cuban embassies in Mexico City. He must have discussed America’s attempt to overthrow Castro. Oswald said, according to Castro himself, he would kill Kennedy. He was upset about Kennedy trying to get rid of Castro. That’s why he did it.”

FBI agent James Hosty said Jack Ruby shot Lee Oswald because Ruby was a Kennedy supporter. Oswald walked by him while being transferred from the Dallas jail with a smirk on his face - that was too much for Ruby.

FBI agent James Hosty said Jack Ruby shot Lee Oswald because Ruby was a Kennedy supporter. Oswald walked by him while being transferred from the Dallas jail with a smirk on his face – that was too much for Ruby.

Q:  Do you think there is a possibility Oswald assigned Kennedy at the direction of the Cuban Embassy?
    A:  “There is no evidence Castro ordered Kennedy’s assassination. You can’t prove it. It’s entirely possible Oswald did it thinking this would make him a hero in the eyes of the Cubans. The Cubans said when Oswald made the remark about assassinating Kennedy, they asked him to leave the embassy because they thought he was a provocateur. He came walking in from off the street, and they thought he could have been sent by the CIA. In fact, that’s what the Cubans still say–Oswald was working for the CIA.”

Q:  How about the Russians? Could they have had a hand in the killing of President Kennedy, using Oswald as the hit man?
    A:  “Again, no evidence. He did meet with Valerie Vladimirovich Kostikov, Soviet vice consul in Mexico City in charge of assassinations. That didn’t look too good. If the information about Oswald offering to kill Kennedy and meeting with a Russian assassin had come out in 1963, boom! It could have started World War III.”

Q:  Weren’t there a lot of people who wanted Kennedy dead?
    A:  “Yes. But you can have a lot of people with a motive for killing Kennedy, but motive is not evidence. You don’t have to prove motive in court. You could have 110 different people with motive. So what? You could say the oil men were mad at him because Kennedy was going to do away with the oil depletion allowance. Certainly, the racists were against him. I don’t think the Masons were too happy with him either. You could go on and on.”

Q:  How could Oswald fire three bullets in about 10 seconds with a bolt-action rifle?
    A:  “You start counting when the first shot is fired. The first shot missed, then approximately four seconds later, the second shot was fired. It went through Kennedy’s back and came out through his throat and started tumbling and went  into John Connally’s back sideways. It kept turning and came out through Connally’s chest. The butt end of the bullet hit Connally in his wrist. Lead from the butt end of the bullet was found in Connally’s wrist. The third bullet was fired six second later. It entered Kennedy’s skull at the crown and blew out the front right section of his skull, causing a jet effect, which caused Kennedy’s head to fly backwards. None of the first bullet was ever recovered. The second bullet was recovered nearly intact on a stretcher at the hospital. Two large fragments of the third bullet were recovered from the presidential limousine. Most of the third bullet was not recovered, but some of the fragments probably flew toward the grassy knoll, causing tuffs of dust to fly up. This  dust caused confusion, and some thought it was from a second gunman. A bystander on the far side of Main Street was slightly wounded by ricochet, which was probably from the first bullet that missed. This is the official version of the shooting, which I believe.”

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy kneels beside the coffin of her slain husband in the Rotonda of the capitol.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy kneels beside the coffin of her slain husband in the Rotonda of the capitol.

Q:  Is there any chance Jack Ruby’s Mafia connection might have had some ties to JFK’s assassination?
    A:  “Because of the business Ruby was in (he owned a strip joint in Dallas), he had connections with a lot of people. At the time of the assassination, Ruby was getting calls from Mafia muscle men in Las Vegas. On the other side, the Dallas Police Department and the FBI used Ruby as an informant. That’s how he got into the police station the day he shot Oswald. Everybody in the station knew him. Right before Ruby rushed out and shot Oswald, he was standing between two police detectives.”

Q:  Why did Ruby shoot Oswald?
    A:  “Ruby was a big Kennedy fan. What happened was that Oswald had a smart-alecky grin on his face for the cameras (when he walked by Ruby). He was enjoying his moment of fame. Ruby couldn’t stand it. On the spur of the moment, he shot him.”

Q: What about the anonymous call the FBI received the night before Oswald was killed that there would be an attempt on Oswald’s life if he was moved out of the Dallas Police Department jail?
    A:  On the day of Oswald’s murder, the Dallas police chief had been told by the FBI there would be an attempt on Oswald’s life if he was moved. But the chief didn’t want to disappoint the press because it was going to be a big media event. So, they moved him just at the time they said they would: 10 a.m. One could argue that the reason Oswald got himself murdered is because of the press.”

Q:  Tell me about the Warren Commission and its report?
    A:  “I’m not too happy with the Warren Commission. In the original draft of the commission’s report, the FBI was totally exonerated of the Kennedy assassination. President Gerald Ford told us later: He was a member of the commission. Earl Warren (chairman of the commission) had a beef with J. Edger Hoover. Hoover tried to block Warren’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court by furnishing an unfavorable background check. I guess Warren had a long-time girlfriend. For Warren, this report was get-even time with J. Edger Hoover. In order to get to Hoover, Warren had to step on me on the way.”

 Q:  If I said to you, who do you think killed President Kennedy, what would you tell me after all these years?
A:  “It was Oswald who did it. We have evidence, fingerprints, eyewitnesses and the murder weapon.”

James Hosty died of prostate cancer June 10, 2011. He was 86.

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