Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK (2 page)

BOOK: Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK
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The mistakes in this book are mine alone.







1. Dc fection in Moscow

2. Paper Trail in Washington

3. Top Secret Eider Chess

4. "1 Am Aniazed "

5. The American Girls in Moscow

6. The Thin Line of Duty

7. Early Cuban Connections

8. Nixon, Dulles, and American Policy in Cuba in 1960

9. Lost in Minsk

l0. Journey into the Labyrinth

11. The Riddle of Oswalds 201 File

12. Turning Point

13 "Operational lntellis,'ence Interest"

14. Oswald Returns

15. The Unworthy Oswald

/6. Undercover in New Orleans

/7. Oswald and AMSPELL

/8. Mexican Maze

/9. The Smoking File

20. Conclusion: Beginning








The controversy sparked by the release of Oliver Stone's film JFK led to the bipartisan congressional passage of the JFK Assassination Records Act in 1993. That act created the JFK Assassination Records Review Board and led to the release of nearly six million JFK assassination records. The Board also met and held public hearings with researchers and previous government investigation participants. I was fortunate to be invited to the very first such meeting along with two other researchers and Robert Blakey, who headed up the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970s, and David Slawson, one of the lawyers who had worked on the Warren Commission in 1964.

Something I saw happen at that meeting has been on my mind ever since. My book, Oswald and the CIA, was already at the printing press and I had given an advance copy to the Review Board. I had heard, as many who had worked on the case had, the rumor about Slawson's colleague, William Coleman, another Warren Commission attorney. The rumor was that Coleman had, at his poolside, told a British researcher that the two attorneys, Coleman and Slawson, had traveled to Mexico City in the spring of 1964 and listened to the tape-recorded intercept of a phone call allegedly made by Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City in the fall of 1963.

In view of the CIA's claim that the tapes had all been erased several weeks before the assassination, this second-hand hearsay was interesting. The rumor about Coleman's remark was nevertheless useless in terms of its credibility. That first Review Board "Experts Conference" changed the landscape around that rumor, however. Slawson was sitting across the table from me when one of the Board members asked him directly if he had listened to the Mexico City tapes. With cool composure he sat back in his chair and said, "I'm sorry, but I'm not at liberty to discuss that." Suddenly, the room was full of energy.

Another Board member explained the facts to Slawson: the Review Board was now, by statute, the governing authority on the withholding of any information concerning the JFK case. Slawson was asked a second time: "Did you listen to the Mexico City tapes?" Again, he replied with the exact same words, "I'm sorry, but I'm not at liberty to discuss that." It was not my place to say anything to him but I wanted to, for I knew what was at stake. On the table was an advance copy of Oswald and the CIA, and in that book I had made the argument that Oswald's voice was not on the Mexico City tapes.

I had advanced that argument solely on the content of the tapes. It was evident to me that whoever was speaking into the phone had not understood all of the details of Oswald's experiences inside the Cuban Consulate and the Soviet Embassy-the diplomatic posts from which the CIA had intercepted the phone calls. I knew that a case could be made that one or more of the tapes of the alleged Oswald calls had survived because Hoover had said so to President Johnson on Saturday morning, just twenty-two hours after the assassination.

What Hoover told Johnson, moreover, is that the voice on the tape was not Oswald's. I was both disappointed and annoyed by Slawson's casual rebuff of the Review Board. If he and his Warren Commission partner on that trip had listened to the tape and it was not Oswald's voice, then the very underpinning of the national security cover-up of the president's murder would be exposed as a fabrication. This is what was at stake when Hoover gave LBJ the news.

When I wrote Oswald and the CIA, the "Lopez Report"-the investigation of Oswald, the CIA, and Mexico City by Eddie Lopez and Dan Hardaway of the House Select Committee on Assassinations-had not been declassified. So I was unaware of the extent to which the story about the voice on the tapes had travelled on Saturday morning. As the months gave way to years, I made presentations at conferences and wrote several articles for PBS's Frontline and other venues. As my research on the case progressed during the thirteen years after my book, the story in the Mexico City tapes and the story about the voice on them were always the fulcrum of my work.

In November of 1999, Deborah Reichman of the Associated Press was able, based upon all of the new evidence I had collected, to break the story of the tapes nationally. The fact that this evidence contradicted the CIA's official story on the tapes was carried on all the main network evening news broadcasts and again at 110) t).ni. The story received a solid 8011 coverage rate the following day in the print media. Most of us in the research community-used to being marginalized by the mainstream media-were surprised at this positive media coverage. I suppose, in retrospect, that one reason we did so well is that the news story did not utter a word about a conspiracy in the president's murder. To me, that did not matter. I knew that the story about the voice on the tapes would one day expose the lone nut theory propagated by Johnson and his commission of inquiry for what it was.

Mum was the word at the CIA, and it still is today. I am resigned to this now. We all are. President Kennedy did not die as the result of the acts of a single individual. There is a lot that we now know about the nature of the plot and the cover-up that followed the murder. I have left the original Oswald and the CIA intact, not because it was perfect, but because it is as good a snapshot as any of where, in my view, matters stood in 1995. For now, I have condensed my views as they have evolved in the last thirteen years into a new ending chapter for the 2008 edition.

I would like to thank Jefferson Morley, Rex Bradford, and Malcolm Blunt for their suggestions and observations on this new chapter.

John Newman, March 2008



A Crisis of Confidence

We no longer question whether there have been government excesses, lies, and cover-ups. Rather, the issue is what to do about them. The key question is this: Can citizens work within the system to root out corruption and, when necessary, reform the government? The answer to that is yes, with a big "if." Yes, if those in power are courageous enough to let the people have all the facts. Upon that "if' hangs the essence of our democracy.

The steady decline of faith in government has intensified political conflict. What has caused this decline? The controversy surrounding the Kennedy assassination has played its part. Along with the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and the ascension of the politics of hate, the JFK case has fed the public's disaffection with their government. The purpose of the JFK Assassination Records Act was to take a step in the direction of restoring faith. The premise underlying this step is simple: Opening up all the government's files will demonstrate that our institutions work today.

The bureaucratic urge to protect sources and methods still moves intelligence agencies to ask that not everything be released. Here the government is its own worst enemy. The failure to open all the files will undermine the promise of Congress. It is inevitable that there will be debate about this. The Assassination Records Review Board has the power to fulfill the spirit and the letter of the Records Act. These five American citizens have been invested with a sacred mission: Open up the government's secrets. Only the president may overrule their decisions. If he has to face such a decision, the purpose of the Records Act will already be in jeopardy. The stakes are high not only because of the crisis of confidence but also because the mandate of the Records Act is so clear. Rarely has a government had to pass a law to force itself to tell the truth and appoint private citizens as guardians of that process.

Such full-scale disclosure will inevitably threaten the well-being of some people and the reputations of others. For these people we feel sympathetic, but they are far from alone. Their sacrifice will be added to the suffering of the hundreds of others who have been drawn into the vortex of this case. What the country gains from full disclosure, however, is incomparably greater. In order for the Act to work, there can be no compromise on the fundamental requirement: the whole truth.

In opening all the files related to the Kennedy assassination Americans should seek not to destroy the government or the intelligence agencies but to reform them. In the course of researching this work, I have learned about the people who work in CIA operations. Most of the men and women who have served the Agency in the past and do so today are decent, honorable Americans. When laying out the Agency's mistakes, we should not lose sight of the integrity with which most served. If I have been critical in the pages that follow, it was not with malice.

The CIA has had its bad apples, and has made mistakes-sometimes terrible ones. All large bureaucracies have such problems, but the secrecy that protects intelligence organizations from external threats is itself the main obstacle to healthy change and reform. I know a former Agency employee whose conscience so troubled him about something secret he had learned that he resigned. Today he is a respected officer in another large intelligence organization, where he does superb intelligence work. I also know a man-who became famous for his analytic skills and accomplishments-who left the Defense Intelligence Agency because of principled dissent. He took a lower-paying position with the CIA. Today he teaches ethics in intelligence work.

The thread that ties these two Americans together is that neither was willing to live a lie. That one joined the CIA and one left the CIA to escape that fate seems noteworthy. Both felt compelled to leave their organizations, but neither opted out of the system. They continued to work for their country. We have the same responsibility, and opportunity.

April 19, 1995



The thesis of this work holds that the CIA had a keen operational interest in Lee Harvey Oswald from the day he defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 until the day he was murdered in the basement of the Dallas city jail. From this thesis flow two conclusions: first, that the Agency used sensitive sources and methods to acquire intelligence on Oswald. Secondly, whether witting or not, Oswald became involved in CIA operations.

The scope of this project is as follows: We will follow the trails in Oswald's CIA, FBI, DOD, Navy, Army, and American Embassy files from the time of his defection up to the assassination; and we will follow segments of his files from the State Department, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and selected Navy and FBI field offices. This work also seeks to address that part of American Cuban policy and covert operations that are either fundamentally or reasonably relevant to the Oswald who emerges in these files. We will not address the assassination of President Kennedy. We will not discuss Dealey Plaza. This book is content to explore the subject of Oswald and the CIA without regard to who is right and who is wrong in the larger debate about the Kennedy assassination.'

We will employ a two-track methodology. On one line we will tell the story through a chronological arrangement of evidence and findings. There are self-imposed limitations on this track: First, we will not attempt to describe Lee Harvey Oswald "the man," but concern ourselves instead with Oswald "the file"-the subject of records maintained by intelligence agencies. On the other line we will develop continuity in several historical areas. These areas emerge and clarify through the disclosure of what the government knew about Oswald.

Oswald's was a ponderous case from the beginning. This book is about the people and organizations who had access to and contributed to Oswald's intelligence files before the Kennedy assassination. What was the nature of their interest in Oswald? Who in the CIA had access to Oswald's files? What were their operations?

The official CIA position on its relationship with Oswald has always been that there was no relationship of "any kind." That is what the Agency told the Warren Commission in 1964, and it is what they told the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1978. CIA director John A. McCone stated this in his 1964 testimony to the Warren Commission:

BOOK: Oswald and the CIA: The Documented Truth About the Unknown Relationship Between the U.S. Government and the Alleged Killer of JFK
3.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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