Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aubrey Lee "Al" Rike: Ambulance driver helped Jackie after JFK assassination is dead

by JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News

On Nov. 22, 1963, Aubrey Lee "Al" Rike had hoped to get a glimpse of President John F. Kennedy's motorcade.

Instead, the 25-year-old Dallas ambulance driver became an eyewitness to the turmoil at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he would befriend Jacqueline Kennedy, help her transfer her wedding band to her husband's finger, and place the president's body into a bronze casket.

Mr. Rike, 72, died Thursday (04/22) of a heart attack at LifeCare Hospitals of Plano.

The emotion of that day would forever overcome Mr. Rike when he would tell his story for interviews, speeches or seminars, said his wife, Glenda Rike of Plano.

Few knew of Mr. Rike's amazing story until a researcher located him in 1980, said Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. In September 2001, Mr. Rike told his story for the museum's oral history collection, choking up when he recalled helping Mrs. Kennedy place her wedding band on her husband's finger.

When the ring stopped at the first joint of the president's ring finger, Mr. Rike reached for some lubricant, which helped somewhat but not much.

"And she said, 'Thank you,' and then she reached out and kissed that ring," Mr. Rike said.

Born in Dallas, Mr. Rike was a graduate of Crozier Tech High School.

He served in the Marines before becoming an ambulance driver.

The day of the assassination, Mr. Rike and his partner were called to transport a man to Parkland. He had fainted across from the Texas School Book Depository about 10 minutes before the motorcade was to pass.

While filling out forms at Parkland, Mr. Rike noticed something big was happening. He saw Lyndon B. Johnson and thought the vice president might have had another heart attack.

Next, Texas Gov. John Connally was brought into the emergency area, followed moments later by the president, his head covered with a coat.

Mr. Rike said he spotted Mrs. Kennedy seated on a straight-back metal chair outside the trauma room.

The first lady asked Mr. Rike if he was from Dallas.

"And I said, 'Yes, ma'am,' " he recalled in his oral history. "And you know, it's kind of hard to make a conversation with, you know, the first lady."

Mr. Rike said he wetted a towel in a nearby scrub room and gave it to Mrs. Kennedy. She cleaned blood from her hands and placed the towel under her chair.

Mr. Rike said the area was chaotic, loud and crowded with officials. Out of cigarettes, Mr. Rike got permission to go to a vending machine.

When Mr. Rike returned, Mrs. Kennedy asked if she could have a cigarette, he said.

As Mr. Rike reached into his breast pocket, a Secret Service agent knocked the cigarettes down, scattering them across the floor.

The agent retrieved one of cigarettes and handed it to Mrs. Kennedy and asked Mr. Rike if he had a light.

"So I gave him my Zippo very carefully because I didn't know what he was going to do with that," Mr. Rike said.

Mr. Rike said he waited with Mrs. Kennedy for the casket to arrive.

After the president was given last rites, Mr. Rike and his partner transferred the body to the casket.

Mrs. Kennedy wanted to ride in the back of the hearse with her husband. Mr. Rike folded down the jump seat for Mrs. Kennedy, holding her arm so that she could climb inside the hearse.

"A Secret Service agent grabbed me and threw me against the door," Mr. Rike recalled.

Mrs. Kennedy then said, "Leave the young man alone. This is the only gentleman I've met since I've been here," Mr. Rike recalled.

"And so I said, 'Thank you, ma'am.' "

He then he helped Mrs. Kennedy into the hearse.

"And she said, 'Thank you very much.' "

Mr. Rike went on to a 26-year career with the Highland Park Police Department.

"Aubrey never embellished his story or changed it in any way – ever," Mr. Mack said. "He didn't make a big deal about what he did."

Services will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at Turrentine Jackson Morrow Funeral Home in Allen. Visitation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. today at the funeral home.

Mr. Rike is survived by his wife, Glenda Rike of Plano; a son, Larry Rike of Plano; and a sister, Carolyn Hawkins of McKinney.

Source: Dallas Morning News

H. Louis Nichols: Dallas lawyer visited Oswald in jail is dead

by SCOTT PARKS / The Dallas Morning News

H. Louis Nichols, a Dallas lawyer who died Sunday at 94, sat knee to knee with Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 23, 1963, the day after President John F. Kennedy died in Dallas.

The story of how he came to share a few one-on-one moments with Oswald centers on the sense of professional responsibility Mr. Nichols felt as president of the Dallas County Bar Association in 1963.

Dallas police arrested Oswald several hours after the assassination on a Friday afternoon. Once Oswald was in jail, it was unclear to the world whether he wanted or had requested an attorney. It also was unclear whether the FBI or police might be keeping him from an attorney while interrogating him.

By 2 p.m. Saturday, Mr. Nichols began receiving calls from Dallas attorneys concerned that Oswald did not have an attorney. Esteemed law school deans from "back East" were calling to express concern that only a legal backwater would deny an attorney to a murder suspect, Mr. Nichols' friends told him.

The situation was puzzling. Mr. Nichols was a civil lawyer unfamiliar with criminal law. Oswald, who was indigent, couldn't pay a lawyer. In 1963, criminal suspects in Texas had no right to a court-appointed lawyer before they were indicted.

Still, Mr. Nichols concluded that even a pariah like Oswald deserved representation. And it was up to him as bar association president to see if the accused killer wanted a lawyer. So, Mr. Nichols cleaned up, got dressed on a Saturday afternoon and drove to the city jail.

After navigating his way through a horde of reporters and television cameramen, he went to Police Department offices and announced that he was there to speak to Oswald. Accompanied by Police Chief Jesse Curry, Mr. Nichols took the elevator to the sixth floor of the Police and Courts Building, where he found the prisoner by himself in a small cell between two empty cells. A police guard sat just outside the cell door.

"So, he sat on one bunk and I sat on the other. Maybe three or four feet apart," Nichols told a lawyer for the Warren Commission, a prestigious group of government officials who investigated the assassination.

Nichols described Oswald, who was dressed in white T-shirt and slacks, as calm and rested. He had a bruise over one eye but appeared to be in good health. He said that police were holding him "incommunicado" and that he did not know what had happened to the president, Mr. Nichols told the Warren Commission.

Oswald said he wanted a New York lawyer named John Abt or a lawyer associated with the American Civil Liberties Union to represent him. Oswald also wanted a lawyer "who believes as I believe, and believes in my innocence."

"What I am interested in is knowing right now, do you want me or the Dallas Bar Association to try to get you a lawyer?" Mr. Nichols asked Oswald.

"No, not right now," he replied.

Mr. Nichols, who was 47 at the time, left the jail cell confident that he had done his duty as bar association president. The next morning, Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald on live national television.

Mr. Nichols' family describes him as a humble man and a hard-working attorney who didn't formally retire until age 91.

"As someone who sat knee to knee with Lee Harvey Oswald, he believed he was a part of history," said Martha M. Nichols, his daughter.

Jennie Nichols, a granddaughter, recalled the day she brought her grandfather to her fifth-grade class for show and tell.

The kids were studying the Kennedy assassination, and Mr. Nichols was happy to tell them his story.

"That day, he was show and tell," Ms. Nichols said.

Services for Mr. Nichols will be at 11 a.m. today at Park Cities Presbyterian Church.

In addition to his daughter and granddaughter, survivors include his wife, Elaine Nichols; a son, David Nichols; and another granddaughter.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shot Down: Morley vs. CIA


Last week’s ruling by United States District Judge Richard J. Leon didn’t come as a big surprise to anyone watching from the sidelines.

Judge Leon ruled in favor of the CIA in a long running dispute between the intelligence agency and journalist Jefferson Morley who’s been seeking access to agency records that might shed some light on whether there was a relationship between deceased agent George E. Joannides and accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

In July 2003, Morley submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the CIA seeking all records pertaining to CIA operations officer George E. Joannides including but not limited to seventeen specific categories of records. Morley believed that Joannides was “uniquely well-positioned to observe and report” on the assassination of President Kennedy and that the documents he requested promised “to shed light on the confused investigatory aftermath of the assassination.”

The CIA initially responded to Morley’s request by telling him that records relating to the assassination had been transferred to the National Archives and that he should direct his FOIPA request there. After further review, however, the CIA reconsidered its position and in 2004 sent Morley three complete documents, two documents in segregable form, and 113 redacted documents. Some material was withheld in its entirety and the CIA declined to confirm or deny the existence of other records requested by Morley.

Because the CIA had conducted an adequate search, sufficiently explained any withheld information, and properly invoked the FOIPA exemptions it claimed, the Court granted summary judgment in the agency’s favor.

On review, however, the Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision in part and reversed in part. Specifically, the Court of Appeals ordered the CIA to (1) search its operational files (which it had not done previously), (2) search records it transferred to the National Archives, (3) supplement its explanation regarding missing monthly reports Morley believed should have been filed by Joannides, (4) provide details as to the scope of its previous searches, (5) explain to the Court’s satisfaction why entirely withheld information was not segregable, (6) substantiate its refusal to confirm or deny the existence of certain records requested by Morley, and (7) provide additional justification for withholding some documents under FOIPA exemptions.

In response to this ruling, the CIA conducted additional searches resulting in the release of 113 responsive records in April 2008 and another 293 records in August 2008.

Subsequent to the new releases, the CIA renewed its motion for summary judgment on the basis that it fully complied with the Court of Appeal’s remand. Morley opposed the motion and filed a cross-motion for summary judgment.

Last week, Judge Leon granted the CIA’s motion for summary judgment, thus closing the door on Morley’s challenge.

In his ruling, Judge Leon explained that the additional searches conducted by the CIA of its operational files in 2008 satisfied the Court of Appeal’s 2004 remand and that the CIA had also now explained in sufficient detail how it crafted its search of the three locations which comprise the statutory definition of the agency’s operational files.

“Not surprisingly,” Judge Leon wrote, “Morley is unhappy with the scope of the CIA’s search. But to the extent Morley takes issue with the CIA’s decision not to apply these search terms to any other agency directorates, his argument must fail because it neglects the explicit statutory definition of ‘operational files,’ which is limited to the three directorates searched by the CIA.”

Because the CIA had described the search of its operational files with more than relative detail, in good faith, and in a nonconclusory way, summary judgment in its favor was deemed appropriate on that point.

Additionally, the 2004 Court of Appeals was not satisfied with the CIA’s explanation concerning the whereabouts of 17 monthly reports which Morley believes Joannides filed between 1962 and 1964.

“Regrettably,” Judge Leon wrote in his ruling, “Morley has read the Court of Appeals’ opinion as a broad invitation to once again mount his argument as to why these reports must have been filed in the first place, why they should now be considered ‘missing,’ and why their absence indicates an inadequate search on the part of the CIA. He is mistaken. It was not an accident that the Court of Appeals began its discussion of the monthly reports by stating, ‘Morley is less persuasive in contending that the search was inadequate because there are certain documents that he suspects the CIA has in its possession but withheld.’ “

The actual reason the Court of Appeals remanded on this point was that the CIA failed to explain to the Court, or Morley, its search for these reports and its resulting belief that they never existed. Instead, the CIA had merely pointed to a memorandum it previously wrote to the National Archives which the agency claimed ‘may’ explain why the reports did not exist. While the CIA continues to point to the National Archives memorandum, it now details on the record its new search efforts to uncover the monthly reports.

“Morley’s continued disbelief in the agency’s explanation,” Judge Leon wrote, “is not enough to create a material issue of fact on this point. He offers ‘nothing more than mere speculation that as yet uncovered documents might exist,’ which is not enough to ‘undermine the determination that the agency conducted an adequate search for the requested records.’ “

According to Judge Leon, Morley’s primary objection to the general scope of the CIA’s search appears to be that it neglected to use two search terms which Morley feels are particularly significant. Specifically, Morley contends that Joannides was involved in two covert operations identified by the cryptonyms AMBARB and AHMINT, and he argues that the CIA’s search is inadequate to the extent it did not explicitly search for these files.

However, Judge Leon ruled that Morley’s objection was unavailing because the CIA had explained how it searched for all records relating to Joannides and that the presence or absence of the search terms AMBARB and AHMINT does not impact the Court’s finding that the CIA conducted an adequate search.

In additional to ruling that the CIA had provided adequate explanations for exempting information under the law, Judge Leon also ruled that the CIA has offered a sufficiently detailed explanation, as required by the 2004 Court of Appeals, as to why disclosing the existence of some records relating to Joannides might endanger intelligence sources and methods.

According to Delores M. Nelson, Chief of the Public Information Programs Division at the CIA, intelligence activities lie at the core of the CIA’s functions. If the CIA admits it possesses records regarding the CIA’s participation in a covert action, they believe this disclosure could reasonably be expected to result in damage to the United States’ foreign relations with those countries in which the covert actions occurred. They also believe that even the denial of the existence of records with respect to Joannides’s covert operations could have similarly deleterious effects.

Thus, the CIA continues to neither confirm nor deny the existence of all records relating to Joannides’s covert operations, except for those relating to two covert projects which the CIA has already publicly acknowledged: one, referred to by the cryptonym JMWAVE, and the second, service as a CIA representative to the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations from 1978 to 1979.

Judge Leon wrote, “Morley, nonetheless, objects to the scope of the CIA’s Glomar response because he believes the agency has already declassified records which document Joannides’s involvement in the covert AMBARB and AHMINT operations. Based on this belief, he contends that the CIA cannot continue to confirm or deny their existence. I disagree. The CIA denies it ever officially declassified or acknowledged Joannides’s participation in these operations. And notwithstanding Morley’s allegations to the contrary, he fails to point to relevant portions of any document officially recognizing Joannides’s participation in these operations.”

Thus, Judge Leon ruled in favor of the CIA granting them summary judgment.

Needless to say, Morley and attorney James Lesar disagree with Judge Leon’s ruling claiming that Judge Leon is factually wrong about Joannides and the AMBARB and AMHINT operations and that his summary ruling was improper. They hint at yet more appeals.

From where I sit, the whole six-and-one-half-year affair looks like a big fishing expedition gone bad.

While it’s easy to imagine that there might have been a connection between one of the covert operations run by George Joannides and Oswald given their focus on all things Castro, we have yet to see one shred of believable evidence offered by Morley or anyone else that there actually was a connection, let alone a connection that significantly alters what we know of Oswald’s deed in Dealey Plaza.