Thursday, 11 January 2018 20:32

JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald, Part 7

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Arnaldo Fernandez returns to wrap up his review of this miserable History Channel series with a searing look at the seventh episode, which adds insult to injury by pretending to be an update in response to the October 26, 2017 “final declassification” of JFK records.


Part 6

Part 5

Part 4

Part 3

Part 2

Part 1


The 2017 release of JFK assassination files has shown that the national security agencies are not subject to the JFK Records Act (1992) and we, the people, have no right to know their secrets, but must settle for mostly or entirely redacted and even illegible materials. An accessory to the fact is the mainstream media, whose willful deception would have us believe that “there’s nothing here” or, if there is something, it should be a Red conspiracy.

The History Channel did its bit by extending the infamous series JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald 1 with a seventh part that is an in-your-face flipped bird to the public. The ineffable Bob Baer reentered the game of deception as “one of the most intelligence minds in the world.” He boasted about having his own network of former CIA and FBI agents who “can tell me what I should be looking at and what to dismiss” within the complex milieu of the newly declassified JFK files. Poor Bob. He needs to set up his own front group to mislead the global media audience about a crucial American tragedy. The Warren Commission critics going through each and every document can’t be trusted.


Foreknowledge?

Among the stories indicating awareness of the coming JFK assassination2, Baer purposely picked the blatant lie of Cuban defector Florentino Aspillaga3 and a dubious phone call trickily turned into an explosive discovery in the light of a memo from Jim Angleton, CIA Counterintelligence Chief, to FBI Director Hoover. It was dated on November 26, 1963 (NARA 104-10079-10262) and the gist reads thus: “At 18:05 GMT [12:05 Dallas] on 22 November [1963] an anonymous telephone call was made in Cambridge, England, to the senior reporter of the Cambridge News. The caller said only that the Cambridge News reporter should call the American Embassy for some big news and then rang off.”

Baer’s discovery is a trick since both Angleton’s memo and the original CIA cable of 23 November 1963 from London (NARA 1993.07.22.14:03:15:250530) were already available to the HSCA forty years ago. Moreover, the British Security Service (MI-5) has never revealed the identity of the reporter, if any, who picked up the phone. The story itself has been neither published by the Cambridge newspaper nor even addressed as a topic of conversation by its staffers.4

Since there is no quantum of proof for discerning within the range of possibilities5—from a prank with coincidental timing to a conspiratorial move—Baer’s mix of the Cambridge uncertainty with Aspillaga’s falsehood is likely the worst approach to understand who would have been behind Kennedy’s death.


A Missing Link?

In the fourth part, “The Cuban Connection,” Baer and his partner, former police officer Adam Bercovici, dealt with Antonio Veciana’s6 account of having seen Maurice Bishop with Oswald in Dallas in the late summer of 1963. Bercovici blurted out: “There’s your co-conspirator. He [Oswald] had on-the-ground assistance in Dallas.” Nonetheless, they withheld the critical info that Bishop was David Atlee Phillips, a covert action officer running anti-Castro operations at the CIA Station in Mexico City by that time.7

In the seventh part, they avoid keeping track of Phillips and resort to a “document [that] alone could destroy any conversation about Oswald being a lone wolf.” Not all that much, Bob. Your document (NARA 180-10141-10191) reduces to a handwritten note from October 2, 1967, by Bernardo de Torres, the first CIA agent to infiltrate D.A. Jim Garrison’s office.8 The note merely states that some Rene Carballo, a Cuban refugee living in New Orleans, “thinks head of training camp at [Lake] Ponchartrain was ‘El Mexicano’ [who] accompanied LHO to Mex[ico] City.”

This note was also available to the HSCA, so Baer should have used it earlier, but he even missed the primary source: the main FBI Headquarters file [62-109060] on the JFK assassination. It contains a teletype from May 11, 1967 (Section 131, pp. 19-20) about Carlos Bringuier9 advising the FBI in New Orleans that Carballo “was conducting his own investigation into the death of President Kennedy and had determined that Richard Davis was not actually in charge of the anti-Castro training camp near Lake Ponchartrain, but it was actually run by a man known as ‘El Mexicano.’ Carballo opined it was this man, ‘El Mexicano,’ who accompanied Lee Harvey Oswald to the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City.”

The Cuban refugee Francisco Rodriguez-Tamayo, a.k.a. “El Mexicano” [The Mexican],10 is a delusional choice for both an Oswald companion11 in Mexico City and a head of a training camp elsewhere. No “fellow traveler” has been identified in the alleged Oswald’s route from New Orleans to Mexico City or during his stay there. Likewise, Richard Davis comes across the story because of the training camp at Lacombe, set up in 1962 for the Intercontinental Penetration Force (INTERPEN) and operated in the summer of 1963 by an amorphous anti-Castro group.12

Baer had already plunged into confusion during the third part, “Oswald Goes Dark,”13 trying to shed light on him as an ex-Marine engaged in paramilitary exercises with Cuban exiles. Baer and his team went to the training camp at Belle Chasse, headquarter of the CIA operation JM/MOVE, run by Higinio “Nino” Diaz (AM/NORM-1) in 1961. In those days, Oswald was living in Minsk (Belarus).

As leaders of the training camp at Lacombe, the Garrison probe identified Davis, Laureano Batista (AM/PALM-2) and Victor Paneque (AM/RUG-5), but in no way “El Mexicano.”14 Although any sensible citizen would prefer Garrison over Carballo, Baer recklessly keeps on forging his missing link to Oswald by attributing to “El Mexicano” a dual nature of professional assassin and Castro agent.

For the former, Baer musters an FBI report from June 28, 1968 (NARA 124-90158-10027) about an informant saying that “El Mexicano” had been arrested in Caracas, Venezuela, “on a charge of an alleged assassination attempt against an unknown individual.” Baer doesn’t give a damn about the additional info. There was “no sufficient evidence to prosecute the case (…) except that [“El Mexicano”] had apparently entered the country illegally.”

For the latter, Baer applies the same clumsy rule of evidence. He deems as “smoking gun” a CIA internal memo from March 19, 1963 (NARA 104-10180-10247) about the following intel furnished by “an untested source.” In El Principe prison (Havana), the source spoke briefly with death row inmate Roberto Perez-Cruzata, who asked him to tell the U.S. authorities that “El Mexicano” was “a paid agent of the Cuban government in Miami.” Perez-Cruzata added he had learned it from Major Efigenio Ameijeiras during an interrogation. Ameijeiras also told him that his anti-Cuban government activities had been reported by “El Mexicano.”

Baer does not seem at all to be intrigued by the curious case of Major Ameijeiras, chief of Castro’s National Revolutionary Police (PNR), burning a Castro agent before a Brigade 2506 prisoner under interrogation.15 Nor did he pay attention to the follow-up by CIA, FBI, and Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Instead of remaining under a cloud of suspicion as Castro agent, “El Mexicano” was reported talking about bombing a ship bound for Cuba, delivering silencers along with Luis Posada-Carriles (AM/CLAVE-15) and even trafficking drugs with Ricardo “The Monkey” Morales (AM/DESK-1).


A Russian-Cuban Probe?

With the preconceived idea that the KGB and the Cuban Intelligence Services (CuIS) worked in tandem to kill Kennedy, and that the FBI Director Hoover covered it up to avoid a nuclear WW III, Baer continues his far-fetched story about KGB officer Valery Vladimirovich Kostikov—who served at the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City under the official cover of vice-consul—in order to pass off an ill-founded allegation as the greatest worry: “The fact that Oswald is essentially being handled by Kostikov.”

Since the first two parts, “The Iron Meeting” and “The Russian Network,” Baer had been trying to present the Kostikov-Oswald connection as emerging from hitherto little known evidence. Yet in 1964, the Warren Report identified Kostikov as KGB officer (page 309) and established that Oswald “had dealt with [him]” (page 734). Moreover, the CIA informed the Warren Commission that “Kostikov is believed to work for Department Thirteen (…) responsible for executive action, including sabotage and assassination (Commission Document 347, p. 10).

As a somehow sparklingly brand-new item, Baer shows a CIA memo of 23 Nov 1963 (NARA 104-10015-10056) that was partially, but well enough declassified in 1995. It was prepared by the acting chief of the CIA Soviet Russia Division, Tennent “Pete” Bagley, who linked Kostikov as officer of “the KGB’s 13th Department” with Oswald as “a KGB agent on a sensitive mission [who] can (sic) be met in official installations [as the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City] using as cover (…) some sort of open business [like requesting an entry visa in the Soviet Union].” Baer again has simply left the audience in the dark.  Both of these assumptions led straight to a Red conspiracy theory which has long been discredited and may be deemed defunct.

For the sake of argument, let’s accept Kostikov was “head of Department Thirteen”, as Baer affirms and stresses with a flashback scene from Oleg Nechiporenko’s interview in part two. Baer conveniently forgets that his interviewee—who met Oswald as well in his capacity of KGB counterintelligence officer under official cover of vice consul—rebutted Bagley’s assumption about Oswald, which presupposes he would have been recruited before meeting Kostikov. Nechiporenko not only emphatically denied this,16 but also demonstrated that the two very brief Oswald contacts with Kostikov did not add up to agent handling. They were nothing more than the coincidental meeting of an American visa applicant with a competent Soviet consular official.17

Both the FBI and CIA were tracking Kostikov before Oswald showed up in Mexico City, but by June 25, 1963, Angleton assured Hoover that the CIA “could locate no information” indicating he was an officer of Department Thirteen.18

If there had been any serious concern about Oswald meeting Kostikov, Langley would have advised strengthening surveillance on both after receiving this piece of intel from the CIA station in Mexico City: “American male who spoke broken Russian said his name LEE OSWALD (phonetic), stated he at SOVEMB on 28 Sept when spoke with consul whom he believed be Valery Vladimirovich Kostikov” (MEXI 6453, 8 Oct 1963). Quite the contrary, Langley abstained from giving such an instruction and even omitted any reference to Kostikov while providing ODACID (State Department), ODENVY (FBI) and ODOATH (Navy) with the intel (DIR 74673, 10 Oct 1963).

The following month, Oswald broke the news as prime suspect of the JFK assassination without having been grilled by the FBI, the CIA or the Secret Service about his travel to Mexico. In tune with Bagley’s allegation, Angleton changed his mind about Kostikov to deflect the attention from a CIA failure to a KGB plot. On February 6, 1976, however, Angleton recanted before the Church Committee: “There’s never been any confirmation [that Kostikov] was 13th Department.”19

The connection between Kostikov and Oswald surfaced in a phone call to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City on October 1, 1963. The call was taped by the CIA operation LIENVOY and made—according to its transcriber Boris Tarasoff—by “the same person who had called a day or so ago [namely Saturday 28th of September] and spoken in broken Russian:”20

  • Caller: Hello, this LEE OSWALD speaking. I was at your place last Saturday and spoke to a Consul, and they say that they'd send a telegram to Washington, so I wanted to find out if you have anything new? But I don't remember the name of that Consul.
  • Soviet guard: KOSTIKOV. He is dark?
  • Caller: Yes. My name is OSWALD.

Baer ignores the proven facts that since Oswald spoke fluent Russian and the FBI deduced it was not his voice on the tapes, Oswald was impersonated during both phone calls, and that CIA officer Anne Goodpasture, dubbed “the station’s troubleshooter” by Phillips, made up a fake story—which has passed into history as “The Mystery Man”—about Oswald at the Soviet Embassy, as well as hid from Langley Oswald’s visit to the Cuban Embassy. This series of facts lead immediately to the debunking of Baer’s and all other Red conspiracies. Based on the newly declassified November 24, 1963 FBI report about Oswald’s murder by Ruby (NARA 180-10110-10104), Baer emphasizes that Hoover covered up after the assassination; but the whole series deliberately overlooks that—before the assassination—the CIA had already engaged in a cover-up that had nothing to do with fear of nuclear war.

Ironically, Baer’s suspect Fidel Castro posed the most immediate and critical challenge to Hoover’s decision to close the case after Ruby killed Oswald:

As if it were a matter not of the President of the United States, but of a dog killed in the street, they declared the case closed with 48 hours. The case was closed when the case was becoming less closeable, when the case was becoming more mysterious, when the case was becoming more suspicious, when the case was becoming worthier of investigation from the judicial and criminal point of view.21

Baer tries to muddle through somehow by doing a pathetic pirouette. The Soviets “hand off Oswald to the Cubans” after he showed up in Mexico City as “an opportunity” that the KGB couldn’t seize, “because there was no plausible deniability.” Sure Bob, sure. The KBG offloaded Oswald on Cuban G-2 knowing the latter had no plausible deniability either, since Oswald had visited the Cuban Embassy, which was under CIA surveillance as heavy as at the Soviet Embassy.

So, far removed from common sense, Baer repeats the same old and silly song from Part Three22 about Mexican consular clerk Silvia Duran being a CuIS agent who met American visa applicant Lee Harvey Oswald outside the Cuban Consulate at a twist party … to put him up to killing Kennedy! Baer simply replaced the original mouthpiece for this story, the late Mexican writer Elena Garro, with her nephew Francisco Garro, as if a false allegation might come true by repetition.


A Self-Destructive Production?

Unwilling to delve into the body of evidence, Baer misses the chance to prevent extremely botched scenes like the discussion around Kostikov. After the voice-over narrator notes that his CIA Personality File [201-305052] “had never been released,” the telephone rings.  A 167-page portion (1965-1975) of the Kostikov 201 file (NARA 104-10218-10032) has been finally declassified, although the camera focuses on a different file number [201-820393]. Baer brought former FBI analyst Farris Rookstool III to dig deeper into the lack of coordination between the FBI and the CIA, but Kostikov was in fact under well-coordinated surveillance by both agencies. Kostikov was handling a German national living in Oklahoma, Guenter Schulz, who was a double agent codenamed TUMBLEWEED by the FBI and AEBURBLE by the CIA. Bagley’s allegation that Kostikov worked for Department Thirteen was indeed based on the intel that—together with Oleg Brykin, “a known officer” of said department—he had been “pinpointing objectives for sabotage” to Schulz. Instead of the travels to Oklahoma City listed in the index of the referred volume, Rookstool points out the travels to San Diego and Baer makes up from who knows what information that Kostikov had been there planning “some sort of assassination or sabotage.”

In order to suggest that the KGB and the CuIS may have engaged in “massive coordination”23 to kill Kennedy, Baer brought in another media puppet, The Guardian (U.K.) foreign correspondent Luke Harding, who broached a false analogy with a joint operation by the KGB and Bulgarian State Security.  On September 7, 1978, the Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was mortally wounded in London by a ricin-filled pellet shot from a silenced gun concealed inside an umbrella. The problem is that this so-called “Umbrella Murder” was a far cry from the highly unlikely assassination of a Western official by the KBG and its allied services,24 and even less similar to Castro’s strategy against the U.S. dirty war. Thanks to his system-centered thinking style, Castro prevailed by carving out an ironclad personal security against the CIA assassination plots and infiltrating to the core both the CIA and the Cuban exile community.

In this seventh part, Baer utters: “I’m not doing this for the camera.” He’s damn right. Not so much due to poor TV production, but essentially because it is self-evident that he is just muddying the waters, even at the humiliating cost of lingering over the soft-headed folly that Castro wasn’t aware of an obvious fact:  that killing a sitting U.S. President wouldn´t solve anything25—for by 1963, Operation Mongoose had been terminated—while it would surely risk everything.

Since 1963, the CIA has been trying to blame the Kennedy assassination on Cuba.  Each time the claim has been exposed to scrutiny, it has collapsed.  It is disheartening to see that, on the occasion of the final declassification of the JFK files, 54 years on, Baer is still beating that dead horse.


NOTES

1 See the six-part review on this website.

2 Some of these stories are plausible, as the tape-recorded prediction by right-wing extremist Joseph Milteer in Miami, or the incidents related to Silvia Odio in Dallas and Rose Cherami in Louisiana.

3 See “An Apocryphal Story as Baer’s Cornerstone” in JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald, Part 6.

4 Cf. “Did Cambridge News reporter really take a call before the JFK assassination?,” Cambridge News, 27 Oct 2017.

5 See Mark Bridger’s analysis, “Foreknowledge in England,” Dealey Plaza Echo, Vol. 9, Issue 2, pp. 1-16.

6 For a biographical sketch, see Antonio Veciana: Trained to Kill Kennedy Too?

7 On November 3, 2017, four of Phillips’ files were released. His 358-page Office of Personnel file has neither the fitness reports from 1956 to 1965 nor a single record from 1961 to 1965. The other three may be operational files, but they are so heavily redacted that no relevant data is to be found.

8 De Torres was a private detective who worked under David “El Indio” Sanchez Morales for the CIA Station in Miami (JM/WAVE). He served as Chief of Intelligence for the Brigade 2506 and was captured during the Bay of Pigs invasion. After being released, he resumed work in the private sector. Early in the Garrison probe, he offered help dropping the name of Garrison’s friend and Miami D.A. Richard Gerstein. Shortly after Garrison asked him to find Eladio del Valle, the latter was found murdered inside his car in Miami. Garrison eventually realized De Torres was undermining the JFK investigation and working for JM/WAVE.

9 Bringuier was a Cuban exile affiliated with the CIA-backed Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE – AM/SPELL for the CIA). On August 9, 1963, he confronted Oswald handing out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans. Shortly after, he debated with Oswald on radio WDSU about the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). He was instrumental in the first printed JFK conspiracy theory. On November 23, 1963, a special edition of DRE’s monthly magazine Trinchera [Trenches] linked Oswald to Castro under the headline “The Presumed Assassins.”

10 On December 14, 1959, Castro lashed out against “El Mexicano” during the trial of Major Hubert Matos (AM/LIGHT-1): “Who was the first to accuse us of Communists? That captain of the Rebel Army who was arrested for abusing and getting drunk, known as ‘El Mexicano’ (…) He came to Havana, entered a military barrack, conferred on himself the rank of captain again, and as soon as he realized that his situation was untenable, he left for the United States and made the first statement of resignation from the army because the revolution was communist.” On June 25, 1959, “El Mexicano” told Stanley Ross, editor of the Spanish-language newspaper El Diario de Nueva York, that Castro had embezzled 4.5 million Cuban pesos raised for the revolution.

11 Baer is not the first to entertain this canard. In autumn 1964, a certain Gladys Davis advised the FBI that a “El Mexicano” had brought Oswald to her former marital residence in Coral Gables, Florida, “about August or September of 1959 or possibly 1960.” “El Mexicano” replied he never had contact with Oswald. The case was put to rest because Mrs. Davis was lying in an attempt to get FBI help in a custody dispute against her former husband. Cf. FBI 105-82555 Oswald HQ File, Section 220, pp. 95 ff.

12 “Playboy Interview: Jim Garrison,” Playboy Magazine, October 1967, p. 159 (NARA 104-10522-10109).

13 See “Rocking the Refugee Boat” in JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald, Part 3.

14 Cf. Garrison Investigation – Volume I, pp. 43 ff. (NARA 1994.05.06.08:43:35:150005).

15 Perez-Cruzata was a former PNR sergeant sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for killing Dr. Rafael Escalona Almeida on January 10, 1959, while the latter was under arrest. Perez-Cruzata escaped from La Cabana prison on July 1, 1959, and took refuge in the U.S. His extradition was denied (Ramos v. Diaz, 179 F. Supp. 459 / S.D. Fla. 1959). He ventured to return to Cuba with the Brigade 2506 and after a summary trial in Santa Clara (central Cuba), he ended up being one of the only five prisoners executed by a firing squad on September 9, 1961.

16 The CIA should have known it since the defection of KGB officer Yuri Nosenko on April 1964. He claimed having seen the KGB files compiled on Oswald during his stay in the Soviet Union and found Oswald was neither recruited nor used as agent. However, Nosenko’s chief handler, Pete Bagley, suspected he was a plant to convey false intel. The newly released file (NARA 104-10534-10205) about the case study on Nosenko shows he was “a bona fide defector [who was not] properly handled, [since] the variety of techniques used (…) did not conform to any generally accepted sense of the term methodology.”

17 Cf. Nechiporenko’s book Passport to Assassination (Birch Lane/Carol Publishing, 1993, pp. 28-29, 66-81). On September 27, Kostikov promptly handed off Oswald to counterintelligence officer Nechiporenko, right after checking his documents and learning he was a re-defector from the Soviet Union. On September 28, Oswald was attended by consul Pavel Yatskov. Kostikov just walked in and briefed Yatskov about Oswald’s previous visit. Then Nechiporenko arrived, but did not take part in the meeting. The scene dramatized with Oswald at a table before three Soviet officials is simply a botch job.

18 Admin Folder-X6: HSCA Administrative Folder, CIA reports LHO, p. 51 (NARA 124-10369-10063).

19 Testimony of James Angleton, pp. 62 f. (NARA 157-10014-10003).

20 Since the Mexican security police known as DFS was the CIA’s partner in the wiretapping operation, the transcripts of this and four more CIA taped calls related to Oswald are available in Spanish and some in English (NARA 104-10413-1007).

21 Cf. live speech by Castro at the University of Havana on November 27, 1963 (Commission Exhibit 2954).

22 See “The Twist Party” in JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald, Part 3.

23 Both agencies did engage in massive coordination precisely in Harding’s homeland, after around 100 KGB officers under diplomatic cover were expelled from London in September 1971. The CuIS took over some KGB operations in the UK, but none related to assassination of foreign leaders. Cf. Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, “KGB: The Inside Story of its Foreign Operation from Lenin to Gorbachev”, Sceptre, 1991, p. 514.

24 Cf. “Soviet Use of Assassination and Kidnapping” (NARA 104-10423-10278). Rather than killing statemen, the KGB did its best to encourage the idea that the CIA had been involved in the JFK assassination and even that its methods to kill Castro had been taken into consideration against other foreign leaders. Indira Gandhi, for instance, became obsessed with it.  Cf. Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The World Was Going Our Way, Basic Books, 2005, p. 18.

25 In 1984, Castro ordered that President Reagan be advised about an extreme right-wing conspiracy to kill him. CuIS furnished all the intel to U.S. Security Chief at United Nations. The FBI quietly proceeded to dismantle the plot in North Carolina. Cf. Nestor Garcia-Iturbe’s account in “Cuba-US: Cuban Government Save Reagan’s Life.”

Last modified on Thursday, 11 January 2018 21:26
Arnaldo M. Fernandez

Arnaldo M. Fernandez is a former lecturer (1997-2003) of Philosophy and History of Law at the University of Havana. He earned a Masters Degree in Journalism and taught Interpretative Journalism (2005-2010) at the Koubek Center, U. Miami. He has published a book (in Spanish) about the death of Cuban patriot José Marti (Miami, Cuban New Press, 2005). Regarding JFK research, he focuses on the Cuban connection in order to debunk the "Castro did it" and "Castro knew it" theses.

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