Don's Blog: Was Clay Shaw Compensated by the CIA?

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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Was Clay Shaw Compensated by the CIA?

Steve M. Galbraith wrote in with a comment back a few months ago and it was never forwarded directly to me. My apologies, Steve!

Actually, Steve had a question about whether Clay Shaw was ever compensated for his interaction with the CIA from 1948-56. I call them interactions rather than services because, based upon my own investigation, his interactions with them appeared to be very limited, essentially passing on to the CIA very sketchy and borderline unimportant fragments of information.

However, two sources, with links immediately below, show that the CIA apparently told the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), back in the late 1970s, that he was never compensated, and then, in 1992, put together an internal memo saying that he had been a highly-paid source.

https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=7302&relPageId=3,
https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html

Steve asked if I had resolved that contradiction in my biography of Clay Shaw, Man of a Million Fragments: The True Story of Clay Shaw. The short answer is NO, in the sense that I never determined why the CIA had phrased in the 1992 internal memo as it did. The writer of that memo seemed to be reviewing the material that the CIA had furnished to the HSCA in the 1970s, in preparation for the CIA's cooperation with the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). However, none of that material provided to HSCA by the CIA in the 1970s indicated in any way that the CIA had ever compensated Shaw. Quite the opposite: the CIA, in the briefest of assertions to the HSCA, said that it had never given him any compensation.

I tend to believe that he received no compensation, based upon what has been revealed to date about the nature of his interactions with the CIA. His information was very limited, almost useless, and what little of substance he gave to them peaked early on, after his 1949 trip to the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America, and his 1951 trip to southern South America.

My speculation is that a CIA staffer who put the 1992 memo together for internal historian J. Kenneth McDonald simply got that detail incorrect. I have a FOIA request to CIA on that very detail, asking them to provide any details of any compensation, but that could take years to resolve, if the CIA even cooperates. Many would consider it an open question, and I have no problem with that.

Steve Galbraith also asked if Shaw ever underwent a background investigation prior to his interactions with the CIA back in late 1948 or early 1949, and whether the CIA was aware of Shaw's homosexuality. I don't know if the CIA did an official background investigation. One memo I saw seemed to indicate that the CIA relied on a background check that had already been done by other government agencies (or perhaps one agency). That agency could very weel have been the FBI, which interviewed Shaw in late 1948 at the time that the Czech Trade Exhibit signed a lease with the International Trade Mart. The lease would began the following spring (195) and run for one year, after which it was not renewed. The FBI was very interested in this, and interviewed Shaw about it it. I have always suspected that this led to the CIA's local office, which had recently opened, deciding to use Shaw, among others, as a source of information about international goings-on in New Orleans and the places he traveled. The FBI knew much about Shaw's homosexuality by 1954, and probably much earlier, so I suspect that information was passed on the CIA in the same time period.

The end of Shaw's limited relationship with the CIA in 1956 appeared to have nothing to do with his homosexuality. Instead, he simply had ceased traveling internationally (he would only travel to Cuba, very briefly, and to Puerto Rico for a special project, after 1955, on behalf of the ITM), the ITM was beginning its downward spiral, and he was busier than ever with his real estate projects and social activities. His information had always been limited, centered around his trips on behalf of the ITM, and that activity had by this time all dried up.

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