How The History Channel is Tracking Oswald Pathetically
The second part—“The Russian Network”—of the History Channel series “JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald” brought with it a bunch of malarkey, as anticipated in the previous review. Moreover, this airing has left Bob Baer at an unavoidable crossroads in terms of his motivation: either he is deliberately trying to “De-Face-the-Nation” with fake news about a historical tragedy, or he is unable to deal with the body of evidence about the JFK assassination.
While advertising ad nauseam that his “new investigation” uncovers “new evidence”, Baer remains tethered to a pair of fallen trees: The Warren Commission Report and the Red conspiracy theory masterminded by the CIA. Both have long been knocked down by successive findings in a line of research that extends from Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment (1966) to Jeff Morley’s The Ghost (2017).
All Quiet on the Eastern Front
Baer flew to Moscow to find out whether “Oswald was working with the KGB.” That’s a fictitious research problem, since the solution is known beforehand and has conclusively emerged from multiple sources.1 Another goal was to establish a “chronology of Oswald’s movements” there, as if neither the comprehensive Mary Ferrell Chronologies nor Peter Vronky’s specific timeline of Oswald in Russia were available on line.
Baer set out to shock again with a high-tech device designed to find anomalies in walls. He did find some in Oswald’s room at Hotel Metropole and inferred they dated from more than half century ago, just to prove an axiom: Oswald’s room was wired. Journalist Priscilla Johnson was pretty aware of that without using any detector when she interviewed Oswald right there on November 12 or 13, 1959.
So as to open another window on Moscow, Baer draws upon Oswald’s diary and deems it as “never released,” despite its inclusion in “The Defector Study” published by the HSCA on March 1979 (Vol. XII, pp. 435-73). Furthermore, Baer boasts about his “unprecedented access” to retired KGB Colonel Oleg Nechiporenko, but at the outset makes a surprising statement: “I have no idea what this guy knows.” So, Baer has not had time to read Nechiporenko’s Passport to Assassination (Birch Lane, 1993), even though he advertises himself as a researcher with “over a decade” of experience on Oswald.
In front of the cameras, Nechiporenko told the same old story from his book. He, Pavel Yatskov, and Valeriy Kostikov did meet Oswald in Mexico City, but the KGB had no intention of recruiting him. Baer simply agreed with his “credible source.” Except that this seems to contradict the first part of the series, which says that Oswald had picked up something on a visit to the Russian Embassy from an alleged encounter with Valeriy Kostikov at the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. This led to an urgent talk—iron meeting—about political assassination in a bullring.
Notwithstanding, Baer uses the scene at the Soviet Consulate described by Nechiporenko—Oswald pulling a loaded pistol and weeping tears of “I can’t stand it anymore” due to FBI harassment—as a quantum of proof about Oswald’s proclivity “to political violence.” Most people who have studied Oswald look at this whole episode from the book with a jaundiced eye. First, because the whole scene does not at all resemble Oswald. For instance, in his violent encounter with Cuban exiles in New Orleans, Oswald remained cool throughout. While being paraded through the corridors of the Dallas Police Department, again, Oswald seemed calm and collected, even though he was being accused of a double homicide. And second, why would Oswald think he would have to shoot it out with the FBI in Mexico City? All he was doing was applying for an in-transit visa, through Cuba to Russia. What was criminal about this act?
Since Baer must muddle through his Red conspiracy theory without any shred of evidence, now comes the turn of the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS). Baer paves the way for an easy-to-predict gambit—“Castro sorta done it”—by shifting the focus from Kostikov the Terrible2 to Silvia Duran, a Mexican clerk at the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City. To that effect, Baer spins a yarn: This “mysterious woman [was] more than a clerk, [actually] a possible [Oswald] accomplice, [since] the U.S. asked for her arrest [the day after the assassination], the CIA Director John McCone ordered her not to answer any questions [about herself] and the Warren Commission completely ignored her.”
- Silvia Duran is a “mysterious woman” for Baer, but she was well-known to the CIA Station in Mexico City. Its photo logs from October-November 1962 referred to her “leaving” the Cuban Embassy.3 On January 9, 1963, a memo to Langley reported she had been convinced by Cuban diplomat Teresa Proenza “to resign her position as Director” of the Mexican-Cuban Institute for Cultural Relations.“4
- For the CIA, she was really “more than a clerk,” but not in the sense suggested by Baer. A memo dated on November 25, 1963, by Legat (FBI) in Mexico City reported to J. Edgar Hoover: “According to CIA, Silvia Duran is a communist and during time Carlos Lechuga (…) served here as Cuban Ambassador, Duran was not only his secretary, but also his mistress.”5
- For being a “possible accomplice” of Oswald, the CIA must have hard evidence, but its own wiretap transcripts6 prove that both Oswald and Duran were impersonated on Saturday, September 28, 1963. Around noon, the Soviet Consulate received a call from a woman who identified herself as Silvia Duran, at the Cuban Consulate, along with an American who said:
AMERICAN: I was just now at your Embassy and they took my address.
SOVIET: I know that.
AMERICAN: [Translator comment: speaks terrible, hardly recognizable Russian] I did not know it then. I went to the Cuban Embassy to ask them for my address, because they have it.
SOVIET: Why don't you come again and leave your address with us. It is not far from the Cuban Embassy.
AMERICAN: Well, I'll be there right away
Surprisingly, the American didn´t show up at the Russian Embassy. And before the HSCA panel that interviewed her on June 6, 1978,7 Duran was adamant that she did not make such a call nor did Oswald visit the Cuban Consulate again after being attended to three times on September 27.
On Tuesday, October 1, two phone calls were placed to the Soviet consulate by a man trying to follow up on his call from September 28. In the second call, the man specifically identified himself as Lee Oswald. He asked about his visa request, even though the Soviets had given him a loud and clear message about waiting several months. The caller coaxed his conversation partner into providing Kostikov's name by claiming a previous encounter with that consul. The CIA transcriber Boris Tarasoff remarked that Lee Oswald was “the same person who had called a day or so ago and spoken in broken Russian.” After giving a hint about a CuIS safe house on Saturday, on Monday Lee Oswald ended up giving his name and establishing a link to Kostikov.
- “U.S. asked for her arrest,” because the Chief of Station (COS) in Mexico City had to ensure that Duran—linked to Oswald in three tapped phone calls—would “be arrested immediately and held incommunicado”8 until she provided everything she knew about Oswald. After Chief of Station Win Scott saw Oswald’s photos on TV the night of the assassination, he informed Langley about his suggestion to Gustavo Ortiz (LITEMPO-2) that Duran must be arrested and grilled by the Mexican Federal Security Directorate (Spanish acronym FDS).9
- “McCone ordered her not to answer” any question about herself since the CIA did not want it to get out that she never met with Oswald on September 28. McCone did not want “any American to confront Silvia Duran or be in contact with her”10. He succeeded. A key witness about Oswald in Mexico City was never questioned by any American until Ron Kessler interviewed Silvia Duran thirteen years after the JFK assassination.11
- “The Warren Commission completely ignored her,” although the CIA Station in Mexico City informed Langley “she was perfectly willing to travel to U.S. to confront Oswald if necessary.”12 A comment on the same memo explains why: “Present plan in passing info to Warren Commission is to eliminate mention of telephone taps, in order to protect continuing ops.” Former CIA agent Bob Baer didn’t get what CIA Counterintelligence Chief Jim Angleton meant when he said the point was “to wait out the Commission.”13
After being interviewed by Kessler in 1976 and giving her testimony before a HSCA panel in 1978, the only secret relevant to Silvia Duran has already been revealed: after the assassination, it became clear that CIA officers knew Oswald had been impersonated in Mexico City during his visit. Thus, he had been set up for the assassination and the CIA didn’t prevent the killing.
The Upcoming Twist
Baer sticks to the pattern of the Red conspiracy theories by blurring the facts. He misrepresents a call made by Silvia Duran from the Cuban Consulate on September 27 as if it were the fake call attributed to her on September 28. He also places the dramatic scene by Oswald in his third visit to the Cuban Consulate—after Consul Eusebio Azcue made crystal clear no in-transit visa to Cuba would be given to him soon—as if it occurred during his first visit, when Duran asked him to get the mandatory photos for the visa application. However, these are just peanuts compared with the pathetic Shenonist move Baer has planned for the third part of the series: having Duran as a Cuban intel agent who invited Oswald to a twist party.
1 On January 5, 1977, the KGB Chief of Station in Havana, Major General Piotr Voronin, furnished intel on Oswald at the request of the Cuban State Security Department (DSE). He stated the KGB “had no operative interest in Oswald and his wife”. In May 1989, DSE’s former head and current historian, Major General Fabian Escalante, met in Moscow with a KGB Colonel (retired) from the First Directorate [Foreign Intelligence], Pavel Yatskov. He told Escalante having fortuitously met Oswald in Mexico City. A consulate guard notified that an American was insisting on seeing a Soviet official, although it was Saturday and the consulate was closed. Yatskov assisted Oswald, who narrated “a strange story [about being] a member of the CPUSA and a Cuba support committee [Fair Play for Cuba Committee].” Oswald wanted to visit Havana and asked for a Soviet visa because the USSR would be his final destination. He was told to make an application and to wait 4-6 months, since any Soviet visa to U.S. citizens must be granted by Moscow. He reacted by leaving without even filling in the official form.
After the assassination, Yatskov discussed the Oswald case with KGB officers of the Second Directorate [Counterintelligence]. They confirmed having nothing to do with him. As the Church Committee brought the case into the spotlight, it was discussed again at the KGB First Directorate. It was said that “Oswald had been a U.S. intelligence agent.” Yatskov added that when Oswald revealed his intention to return to the U.S., the GRU [Military Intelligence] “was in charge of the matter. It was a GRU First Directorate practice to at least attempt an initial working agreement in all cases of citizens wishing to return to their countries of origin, and Oswald would not have been any exception.”
2 Nechiporenko nodded when Baer asked about Kostikov as head in North America of the 13th Department, devoted to wet affairs (Mokriye Dela in KGB jargon) meaning ops that involve bloodshed.
3 NARA Record Number: 104-10189-10453
4 NARA Record Number: 104-10073-10391
5 NARA Record Number: 104-10428-10082.
6 NARA Record Number: 104-10413-10074.
7 JFK Exhibit F-440 A.
8 NARA Record Number: 104-10102-10145.
9 NARA Record Number: 104-10422-10090.
10 DIR 85318, 11-27-63, in [Duran’s] Information - NARA Record Number: 104-10102-10145, p. 14.
11 Washington Post, November 26, 1976, A7.
12 NARA Record Number: 104-10020-10018.
13 NARA Record Number: 1993.06.24.14:59:13:840170.