Saturday, 15 August 2020 23:19

Creating the Oswald Legend – Part 4

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In the fourth part of this multi-part series, Vasilios reveals how James Angleton was holding, close to his vest, the Oswald files from the very beginning and how he did it via a very unusual mail routing system to ensure absolute control.


In part 3, we discussed how Angleton controlled and manipulated Oswald’s incoming cables from Mexico in such a way to ensure that no one would understand their meaning until after the President’s assassination. We also presented the possibility that Angleton was using the mole hunt as a cover to hide his involvement in the assassination. In this section, we will show how Angleton was holding, close to his vest, the Oswald files from the very beginning. He did it via a very unusual mail routing system to ensure absolute control.

We must first return to four years earlier, when Oswald defected to the Soviet Union and tried to renounce his citizenship. On October 31, 1959, Richard Snyder sent a Confidential cable from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to the State Department. Cable 1304 described Oswald’s willingness to defect to the Soviet Union and his intention to give up military secrets to the Russians. The cable reads:

Lee Harvey Oswald, unmarried age 20 PP 1733242 issued Sept 10, 1959 appeared at Emb. today to renounce American citizenship, stated applied in Moscow for Soviet citizenship following entry USSR from Helsinki Oct. 15. Mother’s address and his last address US 4936 Collinwood St., Fort worth, Texas. Says action contemplated last two years. Main reason “I am a Marxist”. Attitude arrogant aggressive. Recently discharged Marine Corps. [That was encircled] Says has offered Soviets any information he has acquired as enlisted radar operator.[1]

On November 3, 1959, the State Department received a cable from the US naval attaché in Moscow, Captain John Jarret Munsen containing the following information: “OSWALD STATED HE WAS [A] RADAR OPERATOR IN MARCORPS AND HAS OFFERED TO FURNISH SOVIETS INFO HE POSSESSES ON US RADAR.”[2]

The CIA received both the Snyder and Munsen cables, but claimed that they had no idea about the exact date of receipt.[3]

On November 4, 1959, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) sent a cable to the Embassy in Moscow requesting to learn more about Oswald. This cable was also sent to army and air force intelligence, the FBI, and the CIA. It is known that Angleton’s CI/SIG received this CNO cable on December 6, 1959, but nobody could explain who possessed this cable from November 4 to December 6, a period of thirty-one days. It had simply disappeared somewhere inside the Agency and it turned out they had been withheld in the Office of Security (OS), which was part of the Directorate of Support. Along with these cables, there were newspaper clippings about Oswald and a cable from Tokyo regarding Oswald’s brother, John Pic.[4]

The exact date that these cables and clippings were received by the OS is not known and author John Newman believes that they were first located in Angleton’s CI/SIG and then were sent to the OS.

A November 9, 1959 document says Oswald was placed by the CIA on the Watch List, a select group of 300 people whose mail would be illegally opened by the highly secretive and illegal program HT/LINGUAL. [5] This program was used to detect Soviet Illegals, as was shown in part 2, and also for Angleton’s infamous Mole Hunt.

The HT/LINGUAL project was responsible for opening incoming and outcoming mail from the Soviet Union, China, Pakistan, and South America. The OS played an important role in this HT/LINGUAL program, since it was responsible for monitoring and opening the mail in coordination with the Post Office, while Counter Intelligence would translate and analyze the material.[6]

A CIA file, 104-10335-10014, released by NARA on April 26, 2018 contains the following information describing the Oswald files that the OS had prior to the assassination:

At the time of the assassination, the Office of Security (OS) held two files which contained information on Lee Harvey Oswald. One file, entitled “Defectors File” (#0341008), contained a reference to Lee Harvey Oswald and the second file was Office of Security subject file on Lee Harvey Oswald (#0351164). This information was reflected in the automated security database known as the Management Data Program/Personnel Security (MDP/PS)…Both the Defectors File (#0341008) and the file of Lee Harvey Oswald (#0351164) were handled by Marguerite D. Stevens of the OS/Security Research Staff during the pre-assassination time frame. Of the documents listed above, a majority of them contain a notation or the initials of Marguerite D. Stevens, leading one to believe she was the officer responsible for the collection, analysis, and filing of this information…The Security Research Staff (SRS) was the component responsible for collecting, developing, and evaluating information of a counterintelligence nature to detect and/or prevent penetration of the Agency's organization, employees, and activities by foreign or domestic organizations or individuals. SRS conducted research in connection with employee loyalty cases and maintained records identifying personalities, environments, and personal traits of individuals who had been of counterintelligence interest over the years. SRS maintained liaison with various government agencies in connection with counterintelligence activities and coordinated the counterintelligence effort throughout OS. Using organizational charts of this time period, SRS reported directly to the office of the Director of Security.

It was extremely bizarre that the cables about Oswald went to the OS and not to the Soviet Russia Division (SR), as one would have expected, particularly because it would seem that Oswald’s defection to Russia would have been a matter of interest to the latter and not to the former. But it seems that this oddity was the main reason Oswald’s 201 file was not opened in late 1959, which is when it should have happened. Instead, it was opened over a year later on December 8, 1960.[7]

It is interesting to compare the Oswald files destination with files of another defector, Robert Webster. His files went to the Soviet Russia Division (SR), as was supposed to happen, and they were copied to the Counter Intelligence (CI) and the Office of Security/Security Research Staff (OS/SRS). The men in charge of the OS/SRS were General Paul Gaynor and Bruce Solie. They cooperated very closely with Jim Angleton and his CI/SIG group, since the OS/SRS’s main function was counterintelligence. The truth is that “the SRS was a component started up in 1954 when Angleton wanted, in his words, to build a bridge to the Security Office; and it was almost co-joined with Angleton’s CI/SIG.”[8]


There are a few people who have gained national notoriety for their involvement in the JFK case. Some examples would be Mark Lane, Jim Garrison, Oliver Stone, and Josiah Thompson. To a lesser extent, there are people like Sylvia Meagher, Harold Weisberg, Gaeton Fonzi, and John Newman. There are also those who did estimable work, but due to classification restrictions were only belatedly recognized (e.g. Bob Tanenbaum, Dan Hardway, L. J. Delsa, and Eddie Lopez). Due to the film JFK and the releases of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), their contributions have now been recognized in books and within the critical community.

But there are researchers who toil mostly alone and work in the archives. They give their work to only a few trusted people. One man who fit that description early on was Peter Vea. It was his work which greatly helped authors like Bill Davy, Joan Mellen, and Jim DiEugenio write their books on New Orleans and the Garrison inquiry. This caused a new evaluation of that aspect of the Kennedy assassination history.

Another person who fits the Peter Vea profile is Malcolm Blunt. What makes his case even more unusual is the fact that he lives in the United Kingdom. But he travels to Washington and does valuable work sorting through the Kennedy archives at NARA. It is through his work, and his work only, that we discovered a key figure who would have otherwise remained anonymous. Her name is Betsy Wolf.

Betsy Wolf was one of the researchers for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. She interacted with attorneys Michael Goldsmith and Dan Hardway on matters related to the CIA. On page 514 of the HSCA report, she is listed as a researcher under the name Elizabeth Wolf, but she signed all of her work with the first name of Betsy.

To say that Wolf was a dedicated, deliberate, and detailed researcher/investigator does not begin to describe the kind of analyst she was. That virtually no one knows anything about her work is due to the fact that, while the ARRB was in session, from 1994-98, only some of her work product was declassified. Much of her material was placed on a time-delayed release pattern when the ARRB formally disbanded. What this meant was that many of her materials were deemed so sensitive that they were given a release date after 1998. In fact, some of her notes were not declassified until 2010. And even then, a few of them have redactions. Even more maddening, the vast majority of Wolf’s output is in the form of handwritten notes. For whatever reason, the HSCA chose not to transcribe much of her output into formal memoranda. So, at times, her notes are difficult to read, and also to date.

Why was her work not transcribed? Why did it take so long to get it declassified? It appears to be because one of her major areas of inquiry was exploring the mystery surrounding the Oswald file at CIA. One of the key points she addressed was this: Why was there no opening of a 201 file on Oswald once it was known he had defected to the USSR in late October of 1959? When Oswald arrived in Moscow, he talked to former CIA employee Richard Snyder at the American Embassy. (Snyder’s formal Agency employ was discovered by Wolf and is in her notes.) What made the late opening even more perplexing was the fact that the State Department knew that Oswald had threatened to give away top secrets to the Soviets. That threat was magnified because the former Marine Oswald had been a radar operator and his military service associated him with the U-2 spy plane. (See John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, pp. 29-46) The fact that the Agency did not open a 201 file—one of its most common files—upon learning this information greatly puzzled Wolf. Oswald’s 201 file was not opened until thirteen months after his defection, in spite of the fact that the U-2 was a CIA project.

Wolf approached her assignment as if no one had ever done any research on the subject before. Considering how little the Warren Commission delved into the area, this was largely true. She investigated and asked for the charters of different directorates and divisions within the CIA (e.g. Soviet Russia, Office of Security, CI/SIG). A paradox that stymied her was the following: a rule that had been followed informally was that a 201 file should be opened whenever a subject accumulates at least five documents. (Michael Goldsmith interview with CIA officer William Larson, 6/27/78). This made an impression on Wolf because Larson was the Chief of the Information Management Staff. Larson also said that the Office of Security did not open 201 files. (ibid) Yet, this is where the early documents on Oswald went.

Why was this important information? Because prior to the 201 file on Oswald being opened, there were twelve items in the Oswald file. (Blind Memo of HSCA Team Five) Wolf found this so odd that she wrote it down three times in her notes and also listed the items. Four of the documents—from the Navy and State Department— had been sent to CIA within a week or so of the defection. Both Navy and State knew about Oswald’s threat to give secrets to the Soviets. And this information was in the cables. (ibid) According to three witnesses that Wolf interviewed, Larson, CI/SIG chief Birch O’Neil (sometimes spelled O’Neal), and CIA Director Dick Helms, that information should have caused the opening of a 201 file. (Wolf notes of 7/20/78 and 9/9/78) In other words, there were two reasons to open the 201 file on Oswald over a year prior to when it happened. Neither one triggered the opening. Further, when Wolf looked at the 201 file, it only contained copies and the two Naval dispatches were gone. (Op. cit, Blind Memo) She later discovered that the Office of Security (OS) had the originals and these were not dated as to when they arrived or who handled them. (ibid)

In addition to Larson saying that OS did not open 201 files, he said something else that was rather mystifying, that OS worked closely with the Counter-Intelligence division (CI). And CI could cause the opening of a 201 file. (Op. Cit. Larson interview) What could be a more compelling reason for the counter-intelligence office opening a file on Oswald than his threatening to give secrets of the U-2 to the Soviets? (ibid, pp. 45, 48) But again, it did not occur. Larson also said that if he had been in his position in 1959, he would have sent Oswald’s files to the Soviet Russia (SR) division. (ibid, p. 56) Larson said that for such a lacuna to happen, SR must not have been aware of the State Department memo. (ibid, p. 74) Larson also stated that project files are held separately from the 201 file. But if the subject is part of an operation, that operation number should be on the 201 file. As we shall see, there was no such number on the first document once the Oswald file was opened.

Larson’s interview was apparently too revealing. Malcolm Blunt first discovered it in 2006. But in his visits to NARA in 2010 and 2017, he couldn’t find it.

Why was Oswald’s 201 file opened when it was? Ann Egerter, worked at Counter Intelligence Special Investigations Group (CI/SIG). According to the information Wolf dug up, CI/SIG was formed in order to locate and stop security leaks, either in the field or at HQ. It was close to OS, but it was more concerned with operational security than Agency security. (Wolf notes of 12/8/78) Egerter said she opened the 201, because of a request from the State Department saying they needed information about a list of defectors who recently went over to the USSR. (Op. Cit. Blind Memo, p. 16) She continued by saying that they got the request on 10/25/60, and she and O’Neil cooperated in replying to it. In an interview she did with Wolf, Egerter stated that she worked closely with O’Neil, who headed CI/SIG, and his deputy was Scotty Miler. (March 31, 1978 interview) She then added that both were very close to James Angleton, chief of counter-intelligence. Egerter now went about setting up a 201 file on Oswald, except the cover sheet was rather odd.

The opening document of Oswald’s 201 file

Note the middle name of Henry, not Harvey, and the slot that is labeled Source Document is filled in with the acronym CI/SIG, which is not a document. Finally, in the notes below Dottie Lynch is still waiting for the file. She works in the SR division where the file should have been placed originally.

Wolf had not yet figured out why Oswald’s files went to OS in the first place. There were two key inquiries she did in order to understand this aspect, which in CIA parlance is called dissemination of files. One was with H. C. Eisenbeiss, Director of Central Reference. He said that dissemination had been founded on written dissemination requirements from customer offices.  (Wolf notes of September 18, 1978) This would seem to indicate that someone in OS requested Oswald’s files be directed to that office.  Wolf’s interview with Robert Gambino went further.

As Malcolm Blunt explained to the author, OS Chief Robert Gambino described incoming mail dissemination. This was in an HSCA interview that cannot be found anywhere except in Betsy Wolf’s surviving notes. (Wolf interviewed Gambino on 7/26/78) Gambino revealed to her that it was CIA Mail Logistics, a component of the Office of Central Reference (OCR)—part of the Deputy Director of Intelligence (DDI)—that was responsible for disseminating all incoming documents. In the case of Oswald, his files bypassed the General Filing System and went straight into the Office of Security and its SRS component. (This is illustrated in the file routing graph below; note the detour at the second step from the top.)

If someone wanted to get a file from Mail Logistics, they would have to request it ahead of time.  So, the SR Division would have to ask Mail Logistics for Oswald’s incoming documents. But, in this case, Mail Logistics closed off the SR Division. A possible explanation for doing that was in order to surface a mole who Angleton believed was in the SR Division after the arrest of CIA spy Pyotr Popov by the KGB. Since the file was restricted, the mole would have had to sign for it, thereby exposing himself. However, this author still maintains that the search for Popov’s mole was only an excuse for Angleton to cover the shooting of the U-2 and the Paris peace talk cancellation. A third possibility would be that Oswald was a special project for Angleton, one he wanted no one else to know about. A fourth alternative would be that there was a dual filing system on Oswald. An idea that Wolf seriously entertained.

One copy of Oswald’s file would have gone to RID (Records Integrating Division). But this is a passive location, where CIA staff would trace a name of a person of interest that could come up.[9]

Let us close out this section with other compelling discoveries made by Wolf. She discovered that, in preparation for the Warren Commission looking at CIA documents on Oswald, there were 37 of them missing. A key attachment to this document was gone and there was no index as to which documents were missing. Neither was there any indication as to where they were or when they would be replaced. (Wolf notes of 4/5/78) From November of 1959 to February of 1964, Oswald’s file contained a grand total of 771 documents, 167 originated with CIA. (ibid) By 1978, the Oswald file contained 150 folders and envelopes.

The first fact exposes the lie David Belin of the Warren Commission once said on Nightline, namely that he had seen every CIA file on Oswald. The second one belies the claim that CIA Director Robert Gates once said, namely that there was little interest in Oswald by the CIA.

Somehow, some way, Wolf had access to a chronology set up by Ray Rocca. Rocca was Angleton’s right hand man at CI. In that chronology are two fascinating insights into Angleton and Mexico City. The first is that Rocca had cabled Luis Echeverria on November 23rd concerning the relationship between Oswald and Sylvia Duran, the receptionist at the Cuban consulate. This is important because, as David Josephs has revealed, Secretary of Interior Echeverria would eventually take over the investigation of Oswald in Mexico City; leaving the FBI and Warren Commission out in the cold. What makes this important is that this was before Helms had assigned Angleton his liaison duties with the Commission. Secondly, the day after the assassination, a CIA agent escorted Elena Garro de Paz to the Vermont Hotel. In other words, within 24 hours, Angleton and Rocca are controlling Duran, a prime witness to Oswald not being in Mexico City, and Elena Garro, a witness who would eventually say that Oswald was having an affair with Duran.

This neatly leads us to our next topic.


Rita Hayworth had sung “put the blame on Mame,” but there were some elements worldwide that started singing after the assassination a different version of the song, “put the blame on Cuba and Russia”.

In part 3, it was shown that on November 22, 1963, after Oswald’s arrest, Colonel Robert E. Jones of the 112th MIG provided information to the FBI that linked Oswald to Hidell and FPCC and by extension to the rifle that was used to assassinate the President. The 112th MIG also transmitted crucial information to the U.S. Strike Command (USSTRICOM) at McDill Air Force Base in Florida. This was given to them by Assistant Chief Don Stringfellow, Intelligence Section, Dallas Police Department: Oswald had defected to Cuba in 1959 and was a was a card-carrying member of Communist Party.[10]

USSTRICOM had been given the mission to swiftly and surprisingly attack Cuba, if necessary. FBI agent Jim Hosty later wrote that he had learned from independent sources that fully armed fighter airplanes were sent to attack Cuba, but their mission was aborted just before entering Cuban air space.[11]

On November 22, 1963, Dallas Police Lieutenant Jack Revill sent a memo to Captain W.P Gannaway of the DPD Special Service Bureau that agent Hosty had informed him that Oswald was a member of the Communist Party.[12] It seems that early on there were some forces within the U.S. trying to spread the notion that Oswald was a Communist and to blame Cuba for the crime.

The new agencies repeated the same theme and UPI dispatched cables about the assassination, as Fabian Escalante presented them in his book “JFK, The Cuba Files.”[13]

-----“Dallas, November 22. The Police today detained Lee Harvey Oswald, identified as a member of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee and the main suspect in the Kennedy assassination.”

-----“Dallas, November 22. The assassin of President Kennedy is a confessed Marxist who spent three years in Russia trying to renounce his U.S. citizenship…an ex-marine and president of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.”

Similar UPI cables referred to Oswald as a pro-Castro American and a Marxist partisan of Prime Minister Fidel Castro. Another dispatch the following day November 23, reported that Oswald had admitted to the Dallas Police that he was a Communist and member of the Communist Party.

US News & World Report joined the bandwagon and, on December 2, 1963, published an article titled “Lee Harvey Oswald, Castro defender and Marxist, who was charged with the assassination of Kennedy.” Some days later, it was reported that the assassination was carefully planned, Oswald was an active Communist, and Castro was terrorizing the Americas and creating problems.

As discussed in Part 3, Oswald had come into contact with Carlos Bringuier and the DRE in New Orleans. On November 23, 1963, the DRE published a special report of its monthly magazine, Trinchera, and linked Oswald to Fidel Castro. Under the title “The Presumed Assassins,” there was a photo of Oswald next to a photo of Fidel Castro.[14]

On November 26, the CIA and Mafia-affiliated Frank Sturgis said to the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that Oswald had connections to the Cuban Government and that he had made a call to the Cuban Intelligence. The same day John Martino, another CIA and Santo Trafficante Jr. ally, stated in an interview that he had contacted Cuban G-2 in Mexico City and had distributed FPCC leaflets in Miami.[15] Martino also revealed that Castro killed Kennedy to retaliate for a plot devised by Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev to replace Castro with Huber Matos, who was in a Cuban jail.

Robert Slusser, an expert in Soviet affairs, maintained that Kennedy was killed by the Soviet secret police.[16] There were more rightwing pressures on CIA when Senator Dodd of the American Security Council, the same Senator that we discussed in part 3, disseminated Julien Sourwine’s Senate Internal Security Subcommittee report, the false information that Oswald had been trained at a KGB assassination school in Minsk.[17]

Before Oswald was charged with murder, CBS aired Oswald’s interview from last August in New Orleans against Stuckey and Butler. Then Senator Dodd called Ed Butler to testify before his Senate Sub-Committee. According to Butler, Oswald was a Communist with a hatred of his country and not just a crackpot.[18]

Oswald’s friend Peter Gregory helped the Secret Service with translating Marina Oswald’s testimony. Earlier, another White Russian, Ilya Mamantov, who was one of Gregory’s friends, had told the false story that the alleged murder weapon was a dark and scopeless rifle that Oswald had owned since his days in the Soviet Union. Gregory had intentionally distorted Marina’s testimony to support the above claim.[19]

Back in Mexico, a young man from Nicaragua, Gilberto Alvarado Ugarte, visited the American Ambassador Thomas Mann on November 25, 1963, and claimed that he had visited the Cuban Embassy, where he had seen Oswald talking to a tall thin red- haired Negro. Alvarado said that Oswald had offered to kill Kennedy and he saw the red-haired Negro giving Oswald $6,500 to carry out his threat.[20] Alvarado also claimed that Oswald met a girl there—meaning receptionist Sylvia Duran. She gave him an embrace and invited him to her house, implying that Oswald and Duran had an affair. Elena Garro De Paz, a Mexican writer, collaborated Alvarado’s story a few years later. She also claimed that Duran was Oswald’s mistress and that both were at a dance party that Duran’s husband had organized. She also claimed that the red-haired Negro was also in the company of Oswald.[21]

Alvarado claimed that he was a leftist trying to go to Cuba. Win Scott, the CIA Station Chief in Mexico, cabled Langley to find out about him. The response was that Alvarado was a known informant for the Nicaraguan Intelligence Service. Scott asked David Phillips to interrogate him and Alvarado told him that the incident happened on September 18. Phillips said that Alvarado had knowledge of the Cuban Embassy personnel and that he was “completely cooperative” showing some signs of fearing for his safety. The FBI interviewed Oswald’s landlady in New Orleans and testified that Oswald was in New Orleans on September 18.[22] The problem was solved when Alvarado changed the date to September 28, the day that Oswald was supposed to be in the Cuban Embassy. It was Phillips who had sent the initial cable under the alias Michael C. Choaden that Alvarado “claims he [is] awaiting false Mexican documentation prior [to] receiving sabotage training in Cuba.” In a second cable, L. F. Barker, an alias for Phillip’s colleague Robert Shaw, reported that Alvarado had admitted he was a member of Nicaraguan Intelligence, but that was no reason to doubt his story. Barker described him as “a young, quiet, very serious person, who speaks with conviction.”[23]

Eventually, Alvarado was handed over to the Mexican government for interrogation. They reported back to Win Scott that Alvarado had recanted and signed a statement admitting that his story was “completely false.” A few days later Alvarado repeated his original story. He now said he changed when he was threatened by his questioners and told they would hang him by his testicles.[24] A technician from Washington performed a polygraph test on him. He failed.[25]

Phillips later wrote that he had the theory that Somoza, the Nicaraguan leader, had dispatched Alvarado to plant the false story in order to force the U.S. Government to move against Cuba. As Phillips said, “it was a nice try, but a transparent operation.”[26]

Nicaraguan intel had a close cooperation with the CIA and Phillips knew all along that Alvarado was a CIA informant, and the FBI believed that he was under CIA control. Three CIA reports admitted that Alvarado was a CIA informant.[27]

Hoover, according to document CD 1359, said to Earl Warren that Castro had told an FBI informant with the codename “Solo” that Oswald had threatened to kill Kennedy inside the Cuban Embassy. This was never published.[28] In 1995, the identity of “Solo” became known. He was Jack Childs, an FBI informant inside the Communist Party USA. Childs said that he had told the FBI in 1964 that Castro confided to him that Oswald was so upset when the Cubans did not issue him a visa that he yelled “I am going to kill Kennedy for this.”[29]

Years later, Castro denied that he ever uttered that statement. Clarence Kelly, who replaced Hoover as FBI Director, wrote in his autobiography that Oswald had offered to kill Kennedy inside the Cuban Consulate.[30] Kelley claimed that Oswald offered to reveal information to the Cubans and Soviets on a CIA plot to kill Castro in exchange for Cuban and Soviet visas. Kelly was certain that Oswald offered to kill Kennedy inside the Soviet Embassy and this was revealed by informants inside the Soviet Embassy.[31]

To this day, there is no tangible evidence to support the idea that Oswald made such a threat, which leaves two possibilities. Either this was manufactured after the fact to support the Alvarado story; or Oswald did say this inside the Cuban Consulate as part of his role in the SAS operation to discredit the FPCC in foreign countries.  But yet, as Arnaldo Fernandez points out, no eyewitness in either location heard Oswald say this. And there is no tape of it either. (Click here for a review)

There were more dubious efforts to incriminate Cuba as the driving force behind Oswald’s decision to kill President Kennedy. Fabian Escalante, head of Cuban Counterintelligence at that time, presented five letters whose purpose was to incriminate Cuba in the assassination. Two of them were dated before November 22, 1963, while the other three after the assassination.[32]

The first letter was signed by a Pedro Charles. Dated Havana, November 10, 1963, it read:

My friend Lee…I recommend great prudence and that you don’t do anything crazy with the money I gave you…After the business I will highly recommend you to the Chief, who will be very interested and pleased to meet you because they need men like you. I told him that you could blow out a candle at 50 meters and he does not believe me, but I made him believe me because I saw it with my own eyes. The chief was amazed. Well Lee, practice your Spanish well for when you come to Havana…after the business I will send you your money…[33]

That letter was postmarked Havana, November 23, 1963. It reached the U.S. and Marina Oswald 12 days later, which was impossible according the mail system in those days.

Another letter addressed to Oswald was signed by a “Jorge”, dated Havana, November 14, 1963. It was accidentally found in the Cuban postal system when a fire broke out on November 23, 1963. Jorge was writing about the time they had met in Mexico and Oswald had talked to him about a “perfect plan” that would weaken the politics of that braggart Kennedy.[34] Braggart would be a word used by the Cuban exiles about JFK, not a G2 agent.

Upon examining these two letters, the Cubans concluded that they were both written first in English and then translated into Spanish. But without great success. They also concluded they were written by the same person and this person was privy to the assassination plot.[35]

Another letter was dated November 27, 1963. It was received by the New York Daily on December 8, 1963, and signed by Miguel Galvan Lopez, an ex-Captain of the Rebel Army and Cuban Exile. It confirmed that:

Oswald was paid for by Mr. Pedro, an agent of Fidel Castro in Mexico. This man befriended the ex-marine and sharpshooter Lee Harvey Oswald…Mr. Pedro Charles had given Oswald $7,000 as an advance…Later he handed over $10,000 to complete the job…the crime was agreed at $17,000. Mr. Pedro Charles who uses other fictitious names…is currently at the residence of the Cuban Ambassador to Mexico…I would like you to know before anyone the truth concerning the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas.[36]

A similar letter was sent to Robert Kennedy claiming that Pedro Charles had paid Oswald $7,000 to assassinate his brother.[37]

The Cubans concluded that all five letters were written by the same person. The sole purpose being to incriminate Castro and Cuba for the assassination of President Kennedy. They were scheduled to arrive in the U.S. after the assassination, to provoke an American invasion of Cuba as revenge for the crime. The FBI examined the letters and concluded that they were faked: postmarked at the same place and two were typed on the same typewriter, yet they were supposed to be written by different people. The FBI concluded that Cuba had not sponsored the assassination and these letters were provocations. Things were about to drastically change and take a spectacular U-turn.


Dallas District Attorney, Henry Wade, stated on November 23, 1963, that “Preliminary reports indicated more than one person was involved in the shooting…the electric chair is too good for the killers.” Little did he know that a day earlier, November 22, 1963, someone from the White House situation room had announced to everyone aboard Air Force One on their way back to Washington that Oswald was the lone assassin and there was no conspiracy.[38]

Something would later be apparent to those who wanted to blame the crime on Cuba. It was simply that there were opposing forces within the country that promoted the story that Oswald was the lone assassin acting alone. There was no foreign or domestic conspiracy.

On November 23, 1963, James Reston of the NY Times, wrote an article entitled “Why America Weeps” followed by the sub-heading “Kennedy Victim of Violent Streak He Sought to Curb in the Nation.” Reston concluded that “an assassin” had shot the President due to “some strain of madness and violence.”[39] Associated Press reporter Jack Bell, who was in Dallas, wrote a story in The Times that “the assassin took his stand” and that “His three well aimed shots plunged America and the world into grief.”[40] Not only had Bell come to similar conclusions as Reston, but he had asserted a day after the assassination that only three shots were fired, when the investigation was still in progress.

On November 25, 1963, The Times published a story by reporter Foster Hailey, entitled “Lone Assassin the Rule in the U.S.; Plotting more Prevalent Abroad.” Hailey stated that in other countries like Russia and Japan assassinations were politically or nationalistically motivated and the result of organized plan by Government figures. But in the U.S. the assassinations were done by a single person without advance planning. Hailey then concluded that “seems to have been the case of Lee H. Oswald, the killer of President Kennedy who was himself slain yesterday.”[41]

There were rumors in Dallas about a conspiracy. The investigation was still ongoing. The alleged assassin was killed while literally in the arms of the Dallas Police. But instead of raising questions, Hailey had decided to close the book on Kennedy’s assassination, at a time when much of the public was wondering if Jack Ruby had been on a mission to silence Oswald. And on a historical note, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was clearly a broad-based conspiracy, which had three targets: Lincoln, Vice-President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State William Seward. Eight people were put on trial and one of them, Lewis Powell who had almost stabbed Seward to death, famously said that they only apprehended half of the plotters.

In spite of that fact, the NY Times was not alone. Similar conclusions were presented by the New York Herald Tribune in an article entitled, “Shame of a Nation—History of Assassinations.” The article stated that assassination was used around the world for power struggle, but not in the U.S.  It also included an excerpt from a book The Assassins by Robert J. Donovan, which was about American presidential assassinations:

They involved neither organized attempts to shift political power from one group to another, nor to perpetuate a particular man or party in office, nor to alter the policy of the Government, nor to resolve ideological conflicts. With one exception (Truman), no terroristic or secret society planned these assaults on our Presidents or was in any way involved.”[42]

Coincidentally, it was the Donovan book that Allen Dulles passed around at the first executive session meeting of the Warren Commission. Mayor Earle Cabell, the brother of former CIA Deputy Director Charles Cabell, stated on November 23, 1963, in the Dallas Morning News that Oswald was a maniac and the assassination was “the irrational act of a single man” and that it “could only be the act of a deranged mind.” It was only recently revealed that Mayor Earle Cabell had been a CIA asset since 1956. (Click here for details)

Newsweek, Time, and The Wall Street Journal, all followed with similar articles blaming the assassination on one single assassin, Lee H. Oswald. U.S. News and World Report was a vocal proponent of the “Cuba did it” story, but on December 16, 1963, took a U-turn and argued that:

President Kennedy was assassinated by a lone gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald; Oswald had no accomplices at any level. He alone planned the attack and fired the fatal bullets; No conspiracy, on the part of groups in the United States or abroad, aided the death of the President or his assassin.[43]

In other words, these reports paved the way for the Warren Commission to come to its lone nut conclusion. That theory was actively promoted by Alan Belmont, the number three man in the FBI chain of command. Hoover would later fall in line to participate in the official cover-up. But it was Belmont who was certainly a prime force behind the cover-up, since he was running the day-to-day operations of the FBI inquiry. Hoover had discussed with the Chief of Secret Service, James J. Rowley, on November 22, 1963, possible conspirators like Cubans or the Ku Klux Klan. Later that day, Hoover informed Robert Kennedy about Oswald’s FPCC membership, his defection to the Soviet Union, and that he had visited Cuba several times “but would not tell us what he went to Cuba for.”[44]

Hoover called LBJ on November 23, 1963, at 10.01 a.m. and told him that the evidence against Oswald “at the present time is not very, very strong” and that “the case as it stands now isn’t strong enough to be able to get a conviction.”[45]

Belmont had a different agenda. On November 24, 1963, a few hours after Oswald’s death, he sent a memo to Clyde Tolson promoting Oswald as the lone assassin. Although he informed Tolson about Oswald being a Marxist, the FPCC, and his Soviet Union defection, he concluded that “we will set forth the items which make it clear that Oswald is the man who killed the President.”[46] As Donald Gibson noted, Oswald’s leftist connection and the fact that the FBI had been warned that Oswald would be murdered were of no interest to Belmont.

On November 25, 1963, Belmont sent a memo to William Sullivan stating that: “In other words, this report is to settle the dust in so far as Oswald and his activities are concerned, both from the standpoint that he is the man who assassinated the President, and relative to Oswald himself and his activities and background et cetera.”[47] Later, John J. McCloy used the same expression when there were concerns regarding conflicting evidence about the assassination: “This Commission is set up to lay the dust, dust not only in the United States but all over the World.”[48]

Belmont had done everything he could in directing the FBI investigation to the desired conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin. At the same time, more powerful individuals were trying to convince LBJ that he should create a Presidential Commission to investigate the assassination. This commission would later become the Warren Commission and would cement the conclusion that Oswald was a lone nut who, alone and without assistance, killed JFK.

Most people are under the impression that it was LBJ or Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach who came up with the idea of a Presidential Commission. However, as Donald Gibson revealed in his book The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Katzenbach was not the originator of the Warren Commission.

The source of this misunderstanding was Katzenbach’s memo to Bill Moyers, Assistant to LBJ on November 24, 1963 that warned:

The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.

Speculation about Oswald’s motivation ought to be cut off and we should have some basis for rebutting thought that this was a Communist conspiracy or (as the Iron Curtain press is saying) a right-wing conspiracy to blame it on the Communists. Unfortunately, the facts on Oswald seem about too pat—too obvious (Marxist, Cuba, Russian wife, etc.). The Dallas police have put out statements on the Communist conspiracy theory and it was they who were in charge when he was shot and thus silenced.[49]

There were two investigations going on, so there was a question as to why a Presidential Commission was necessary. One was being conducted by the FBI and the results would have been presented to President Johnson. The second was being done by the Attorney General Waggoner Carr of Texas.

Eugene Rostow, Dean of the Yale Law School, called Bill Moyers at the White House on November 24, 1963, to suggest the possibility of a Presidential Commission which would include distinguished citizens. It should be noted that Rostow told Moyers there was someone else in the room when he called, but he did not say who it was. Rostow told Moyers that he had already spoken to Katzenbach about three times, but he was speaking directly to Moyers because Katzenbach “sounded too groggy so I thought I’d pass this thought along to you.”[50] According to Gibson, Katzenbach wrote his memo as a result of his conversations with Rostow.

On November 25, 1963, LBJ received a call from esteemed and influential journalist Joseph Alsop of the New York Herald Tribune. Alsop was considered a VIP member of the Ivy League and Eastern Establishment with connections to intelligence services. Interestingly, during this call, Alsop said he too had talked to Moyers. Alsop suggested to LBJ the need for a presidential commission, but the President argued that it would ruin the Texas and FBI investigations. Alsop tried to convince Johnson otherwise and offered the information that Dean Acheson, the former Secretary of State, was also in favor. Alsop was indirectly admitting that he was acting in collusion with Acheson.

The other early supporters of a Presidential Commission were Secretary of State Dean Rusk and, from the Washington Post, Katherine Graham, Alfred Friendly, and Russell Wiggins.[51]

Even though LBJ was the legal creator of the Warren Commission, the real instigators behind its creation were elite and important members of the Eastern Establishment. On December 4, 1963, Dean Acheson praised LBJ for appointing the Warren Commission and LBJ replied that “we did the best we could and I think we’ve got Hoover pretty well in line.”[52]

By creating the Warren Commission and having it appear to be of Johnson’s origination, the most important and crucial aspect of the cover up had succeeded. However, there were still loose ends to tighten up and tuck in. The first was Ambassador Thomas C. Mann in Mexico. He was aggressively promoting the Cuba did it story based on Alvarado’s testimony. Hoover was not very impressed with Mann and mocked him for “trying to play Sherlock Holmes.”[53] So Hoover sent Agent Larry Keenan down to Mexico, where he met with Win Scott, Ambassador Mann, David Phillips, and the FBI Legat Clark Anderson. Mann predicted that “the missiles are going to fly,” but Anderson and Scott disagreed, believing that the Soviets were too professional to be involved in this charade. Keenan intervened and informed Mann that Hoover had concluded that Oswald was a Communist who had acted alone. To back up his claim, he told Mann that LBJ and Robert Kennedy shared the same opinion. Later, Mann said that this “was the strangest experience of his life” and added “I don’t think the U.S. was very forthcoming about Oswald.”[54]

A second loose end were the recorded tapes of Oswald’s talks with the receptionist Duran and Russian diplomat Valery Kostikov in Mexico. On November 23, 1963, at 10.01 a.m. Hoover called LBJ and informed him: “That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man’s voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there.”[55]

The same day a memo from Belmont to Hoover and a memo from Hoover to Secret Service Chief Rowley confirmed that FBI agents from Dallas who knew Oswald had seen the photos and listened to his voice and they were of the opinion that the individual in question was not Lee Harvey Oswald.[56] In order for LBJ to play his WWIII trump card and intimidate Senator Richard Russell and Chief Justice Earl Warren into accepting their Warren Commission appointments, the tapes had to disappear. The tapes had left Mexico on a plane and arrived in Dallas on November 23, 1963, where the FBI agents listened to the tapes. Later the CIA advised that all tapes had been routinely erased.

Back at CIAHQ, John Whitten, responsible for the investigation, had learned about the FBI agents listening to the tapes and that even some tapes were erased. There was one tape discovered after the assassination. The lone gunman theory had no place for Whitten’s involvement, therefore Richard Helms—who was running the CIA’s interactions with the Commission—replaced him with Angleton. A cable from Win Scott to CIAHQ linking Kostikov to Rolando Cubela was the pretext that Angleton needed to hijack the investigation. Cubela was AM/LASH, a CIA agent, and Cuban national designated to assassinate Castro. This cable would create a triangulation between Kostikov, Oswald, and Cubela and the implication would have been severe for the CIA, even if there was no proof that this ever happened.

Everything was now constructed: the media was indoctrinating the public, a blue-ribbon panel was established, the threat of atomic annihilation was in the air, Belmont was helming the inquiry, and Angleton was running the cover up about Oswald. With all these in place, the path had now been cleared and was about to be paved, or as Belmont said, the dust would now be settled. The lone nut and lone gunman would become the official version, the one that would perpetuate the cover up to this day.

NOTE: Section II written largely by James DiEugenio using documents supplied by Malcolm Blunt.

[1] Joe Backes, ARRB Summaries: Page 16.

[2] Newman John, Oswald and the CIA, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 1995, pp. 22-23.

[3] Newman John, Oswald and the CIA, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 1995, p. 23.

[4] Newman John, Oswald and the CIA, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 1995, p. 27.

[5] Newman John, Oswald and the CIA, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 1995, p. 54.

[6] Newman John, Oswald and the CIA, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 1995, p. 56.

[7] Newman John, Oswald and the CIA, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 1995, p. 48.

[8] Blunt Malcolm in private correspondence with this author.

[9] Blunt Malcolm in private correspondence with this author.

[10] Scott, Peter Dale, Deep Politics, University of California Press 1993, p. 275.

[11] Hosty James, Assignment Oswald, New York, Arcade publishing, 1996, p. 219.

[12] Scott, Peter Dale, Deep Politics II, Mary Ferrell Foundation Press 2003, p. 78.

[13] Escalante, Fabian, JFK: The Cuba Files, Ocean Press, 2006, pp. 152–153.

[14] https://jfkfacts.org/nov-23-1963-the-first-jfk-conspiracy-theory-paid-for-by-the-cia/#more-9594

[15] Escalante, Fabian, JFK: The Cuba Files, Ocean Press, 2006, p. 154.

[16] Scott, Peter Dale, Deep Politics II, Mary Ferrell Foundation Press 2003, p. 33.

[17] Scott, Peter Dale, Deep Politics, University of California Press 1993, p. 215.

[18] Ed Butler: Expert in propaganda and psychological warfare.

[19] Scott, Peter Dale, Deep Politics, University of California Press 1993, pp. 267-269.

[20] Fonzi Gaeton, The Last Investigation, Marry Ferrell Press, 1993, 2008, p. 279.

[21] Scott, Peter Dale, Dallas ‘63, Open Road Media, 2015, kindle version.

[22] Morley Jefferson, Our Man in Mexico, University Press of Kansas, 2008, pp. 222–223.

[23] Scott, Peter Dale, Dallas ‘63, Open Road Media, 2015, kindle version

[24] Morley Jefferson, Our Man in Mexico, University Press of Kansas, 2008, pp. 229–230.

[25] Scott, Peter Dale, Dallas ‘63, Open Road Media, 2015, kindle version.

[26] Morley Jefferson, Our Man in Mexico, University Press of Kansas, 2008, p. 230.

[27] Morley Jefferson, Our Man in Mexico, University Press of Kansas, 2008, p. 230.

[28] Newman John, Oswald and the CIA, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 1995, p. 428.

[29] Scott, Peter Dale, Deep Politics II, Mary Ferrell Foundation Press 2003, p. 90.

[30] Newman John, Oswald and the CIA, Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 1995, p. 429.

[31] Scott, Peter Dale, Deep Politics II, Mary Ferrell Foundation Press 2003, p. 101.

[32] Russell Dick, The Man Who Knew too Much, Carroll & Graf 1992, p. 461.

[33] Escalante, Fabian, JFK: The Cuba Files, Ocean Press, 2006, p. 135.

[34] Escalante, Fabian, JFK: The Cuba Files, Ocean Press, 2006, p. 138.

[35] Escalante, Fabian, JFK: The Cuba Files, Ocean Press, 2006, p. 143.

[36] Escalante, Fabian, JFK: The Cuba Files, Ocean Press, 2006, p. 136.

[37] Escalante, Fabian, JFK: The Cuba Files, Ocean Press, 2006, p. 137.

[38] Tale of the Tapes - By Vincent Salandria.

[39] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, pp. 27–28.

[40] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, p. 28.

[41] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, pp. 29–30.

[42] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, p. 30.

[43] Escalante, Fabian, JFK: The Cuba Files, Ocean Press, 2006, p. 157.

[44] FBI Memo from Hoover to his staff, November 22, 1963, 4.01 pm.

[45] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, p. 40.

[46] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, p. 42.

[47] HSCA Report, Vol. III, p. 668.

[48] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, p. 98.

[49] Katzenbach: Memo to Moyers.

[50] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, pp. 54–55.

[51] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, p. 85.

[52] Gibson Donald, The Kennedy Assassination Cover-Up, Krosha Books, NY, 2000, p. 85.

[53] Morley Jefferson, Our Man in Mexico, University Press of Kansas, 2008, p. 224.

[54] Morley Jefferson, Our Man in Mexico, University Press of Kansas, 2008, pp. 225–226.

[55] The Fourteen Minute Gap.

[56] The Fourteen Minute Gap.

Last modified on Tuesday, 18 August 2020 18:45
Vasilios Vazakas

Vasilios Vazakas was born in Athens, Greece, and studied in Edinburgh, Scotland; he holds a BEng in energy engineering and an MSc in building services engineering. He has had a long-running interest in the JFK assassination, its relation to US foreign policy, and its relevance today.  Vasilios has contributed a number of book reviews to this site.

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