Anthony Summers digs deeper on Orest Pena

Orest Pena
Orest Pena, JFK witness (H/T Vasilios)

A faithful reader adds to what is known about Orest Pena, the New Orleans bar owner whose testimony to Congress in 1978 remains secret. The reader quotes from Anthony Summers’ useful reporting in his book, Not  in Your Lifetime. 

“There was the claim of Orest Pena, a New Orleans bar owner who in 1963 himself supplied occasional information to FBI agent Warren De Brueys. Pena was to say he had seen Oswald with Agent De Brueys on “numerous occasions” and that De Brueys threatened him physically before his Warren Commission appearance, warning him to keep quiet.

Summers continues:“Former agent De Brueys repeatedly denied Pena’s accusation, and the Assassinations Committee believed him. Though the author [Summers] also found De Brueys credible, interviews with Pena gave the impression that he produced his accusation about the FBI contact to hide some different but relevant truth. [Emphasis added by reader/jm]“Pena was active in anti-Castro exile politics and deeply involved with the Cuban Revolutionary Council. When Carlos Bringuier was arrested after the fracas with Oswald, it was Orest Pena who secured his release. In that sense, he was well placed to have information on the Oswald’s activity. In his interviews for this book, meanwhile, he insisted that he knew Oswald had been working “for a government agency” in the summer of 1963.

“In 1994, the author tracked down a former FBI informant—documented as such—who said he learned that Oswald was indeed used by the FBI in New Orleans.

“Joseph Burton, who—at the time of the author’s interview—was running a locksmith’s business in Plant City, Florida, said he was employed by the FBI for two years in the early 1970s to pose as a Marxist and infiltrate radical groups. He was sometimes accompanied by a woman from New Orleans, also an FBI asset. The Bureau has admitted that Burton was “a valuable and reliable source” and was paid for his services. A senior official confirmed to the New York Times that the woman, whose name was not revealed, performed missions abroad for the FBI.

“‘I did several trips with her, Burton told the author, ‘and she said she and her husband—they were both working for the Bureau—knew Oswald had been connected with the FBI in the New Orleans office. Her Bureau contact, she said, told her Oswald had been an informant… .

“‘I talked about Oswald with the agent I usually met with in New Orleans. And he said, ‘Oh, we owned him,’ or something to that effect. They always used that statement if they were paying someone to cooperate with them.”

“The totality of the information about Oswald’s activity in New Orleans justifies real suspicion that Oswald was wittingly or unwittingly manipulated by a government agency. The information fits with the FBI’s Counterintellinence Program (COINTELPRO), instituted a few years earlier specifically to discredit and disable groups that were seen as subversive.”


Summer’s conclusion is judicious and reasonable. Remember that CIA officer John Tilton, (who would go on to serve as chief of station in Bolivia) told the FBI’s Sam Papich on September 16, 1963 that the CIA planning an operation to discredit the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) in a foreign country.

–Within two weeks, Lee Oswald arrived in Mexico City and showed his fake FPCC ID card to Cuban embassy officials–who suspected he was a CIA provocateur.

–On November 22, 1963, CIA propaganda assets in the Cuban Student Directorate, guided and monitored by George Joannides, linked Oswald to the FPCC

–In December 1963, the FPCC went out existence, tainted by its connection to Oswald.

This reader questions whether Pena’s classified testimony contains anything significant, noting that it was reviewed by the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. The readers suggests that the document is being withheld only because of a possible HSCA confidentiality agreement with Pena, asserting the Assassination Records Review Board would have been released if it contained anything significant.

That’s possible. The ARRB released similar HSCA document with significant information. Presumably we will find out on October 26. 


8 thoughts on “Anthony Summers digs deeper on Orest Pena”

  1. We can be pretty sure what Oswald told FBI agent Quigley because he told policeman Martello some of the same lies: e.g., that he’d moved to New Orleans directly from Fort Worth, where he’d met his wife. Author Albert L. Newman has suggested that he omitted Dallas to hide the fact that he was there when the Walker incident happened. In other words,Oswald lied for his own purposes–one of many signs that he was nothing at all like the easily manipulated puppet seen in conspiracy books.

    Since there was an FBI office in New Orleans, Oswald could’ve talked to an FBI agent directly before or after he got out of jail. Why ask Martello to contact an agent? Who knows, but possibly he wanted the N.O. police to think he was an FBI informant?

    Martello’s testimony, which includes his report:

    Quigley’s report and testimony:

  2. I believe there is substantial evidence to suggest Oswald was involved with the FBI as far back as August/September 62 when he was living in Fort Worth. It was around this time he was first in contact with the FPCC, the SWP, and also the CPUSA through a subscription to The Worker magazine. All these organisations were targets of the FBI. Long term I believe the plan was to build his profile as a left wing activist or supporter and infiltrate these groups particularly CPUSA.

    He then moved to Dallas and got a job at a printing firm and started offering his services to the SWP and CPUSA. In April he was in contact with the FPCC. He then went to New Orleans and within a few weeks had set up his own chapter of FPCC. Oswald’s behaviour here was straight out of the FBI COINTELPRO handbook.

    Along the way he was probably involved in other FBI operations including being dangled in front of a group of suspected communist professors at Tulane University. Ruth Paine was even kind enough to put one of the professors wives in touch with the Oswald’s. At the time the FBI were also very interested in anti-Castro Cuban groups and Oswald was most likely dangled in front of those too which quite possibly led to his downfall.

    While in New Orleans Oswald continued to be in contact with the original 3 left wing groups trying to ingratiate himself and by the end of August he was contemplating a move and seeking employment at The Worker magazine. As we know everything changed from there and he ended up in Mexico City.

    On his return to Dallas, he was in contact with CPUSA again and it appears he was now interested in another group, the Dallas ACLU of which Ruth Paine was an active member and secretary. Out of interest James Hosty had investigated the ACLU and done a number of reports on them.

    As far as Orest Pena goes, he was just one of a significant number of people who came into contact with Oswald who at one stage or another had been involved with Tony Varona or his group. It appears this lot were all over Oswald in the summer of 63.

    1. The above scenario makes so much more sense than some guy doing all this on his own without any other fellow travelers or drawing much attention from the feds (in fact, Oswald requests a meeting).

    2. It would also make sense that someone could’ve hijacked him from his appointed rounds and used him as the patsy, knowing full well that would short-circuit any real investigation by the feds.

    3. W/r/t Oswald’s involvement with various government agencies, I think you’d find Michael Paine’s WC testimony to be of interest. As I read through it, I found myself thinking that Paine was involved with spying on groups such as the ACLU and John Birch Society, and that he was probably grooming Oswald for the same kind of assignment.

  3. Excellent. Did not O ask to speak to an FBI agent after being arrested for his confrontation with Bringuier? What was the name of the FBI agent listed on the manifest of passport applicants immediately before or after O going to Mexico City from New Orleans’s in the early summer of 1963? Were Bringuer and Pena’s actions possibly influenced or financed by the money Joannidies was pouring into the DRE in New Orleans where he had a house while he lived in Miami and worked there at JMWAVE for the CIA that created it?

    1. Anthony Summers says Oswald requested to speak with the FBI after he was arrested after the incident with Bringuier, and spoke to FBI Special Agent John Quigley for an hour and a half. I think the length of time they spoke is contested, but not the meeting itself.

      Summers also says that Quigley testified to the Warren Commission that he did not know Oswald when he went to the police station, but he had apparently reviewed Oswald’s US Navy file in 1961. Therefore, Quigley either forgot about reading the file on Oswald by the summer of 1963, or there was something else going on, and he declined to disclose it.

      1. Once you really dig into all the information available in the files about the FBI’s relationship with Oswald you will come across a lot of anomalies and odd coincidences such as the Quigley example. On their own they probably don’t mean too much but when put them all together a pattern starts to form. Basically the FBI’s version of their dealings with Oswald just doesn’t stack up and it probably explains their behaviour after the assassination.

        There are not too many things I would be willing to say I’m certain of in this case but Oswald being involved with the FBI is one of them. The only other explanation could be is that he was working for another intelligence agency with the FBI’s full knowledge or perhaps even both.

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