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.