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The Twelve Who Built the Oswald Legend

Part 3: Counterintelligence Goes Mole Hunting with Oswald's File

by Bill Simpich, Dec 7, 2010

Oswald threatened to reveal military information to the Soviets - but there's no proof he actually broke the law

Lee Harvey Oswald
Lee Harvey Oswald

In a memo written shortly after JFK's death, CIA officer John Whitten states that a list of "American defectors to the USSR list" was put together in November 1960. "From then on, we received a number of FBI and State Department reports on Oswald, detailing "his defiant threat to reveal to the Soviets all he knew about Navy radar installations in the Pacific."

In his rush to get his arms around the Oswald story in the wake of JFK's assassination, Whitten makes it sound like the CIA heard about these threats after the U-2 went down on May 1, 1960.

In fact, State Department memos and Navy reports in early November 1959 describe Oswald's threat to provide radar information to the Soviets. The CIA had copies of these reports in their files right after Oswald left the American embassy on October 31.

These 1959 documents are very revealing. They show - contrary to popular myth and my original belief - that Oswald never threatened to reveal classified material. That would clearly be illegal.

Oswald was offering to reveal information that he had learned while in the service. He had signed a security termination agreement just weeks earlier, barring him from revealing or divulging even the most mundane information if he had learned about it while in the service.

However, I am not aware of any law that imposed liability for Oswald to threaten to violate his termination agreement by disclosing the mundane things that he had learned on the job - as long as he didn't actually do it. Nor was it illegal for him to actually disclose electronic skills, if he could successfully argue that he had learned these things before he entered the Marines. His stepfather Edwin Ekdahl was an electronics engineer and a researcher in the field - that provided the young Oswald with a lot of protective cover.

First, see the State Department telegram of 10/31/59. It says merely that Oswald had recently been discharged from the Marine Corps, and that he offered the Soviets any information that he had acquired as a radar operator. Although it sounds threatening, it does not infer that he knows anything of importance.

The foreign service memo of 11/2/59 is a little more revealing. It states that Oswald had "voluntarily stated to unnamed Soviet officials that as a Soviet citizen he would make known to them such information concerning the Marine Corps and his specialty as he possessed. He intimated that he might know something of special interest." As a radar operator, Oswald's specialty was in aviation electronics.

The next day, on 11/3/59, the legal attache in Moscow wrote that Oswald "has offered to furnish Soviets info he possesses on US radar."

On 11/4/59, a message from the programs section of ONI's counterintelligence branch (Op-921E2) stated that Oswald had no record of a security clearance at Marine Corps HQ but the possibility existed that "he might have access to CONFIDENTIAL info."

All of this is curiously muted language. When you read these four statements, it doesn't sound like these agencies were terribly concerned about the security implications of Oswald's defection.

Nobody quoted Oswald as saying that he was going to provide classified information - probably because he didn't actually say those words. Such a statement could have locked the door on him - he could have been prevented from returning to the USA.

Snyder's statement after the assassination echoed what was said in 1959 - "I believe he did not claim to possess knowledge or information of highly classified nature."

The Warren Commission concluded that since neither the FBI or the Navy prosecuted Oswald, the State Department had no basis to conclude that Oswald's statement was "anything more than rash talk."

I believe LHO was coached to indicate to Snyder - as Snyder would later testify to the Warren Commission - that Oswald was going to commit a "disloyal act" involving military information to the Soviets, but not of a classified nature - more along the same lines as Robert Webster.

After Webster's defection, there is no indication in the records that the Air Force was concerned that Webster had exposed any important secrets about plastics and fiberglass, and he was able to come back home.

From the beginning, Oswald wanted to be able to come back home - and, as Legend Maker #3 Priscilla Johnson said to Legend Maker #4 Richard Snyder in November 1959, Oswald wanted to make sure there was a "crack open" in that door.

Oswald told Snyder that he was going to tell the Soviets what he knew about his specialty - aviation electronics. As a result of Oswald's actions, the US could obtain CI information literally from the questions that the Soviets were asking LHO. CI information on the Soviet Union was the kind of thing that military intelligence could never get enough of - and ONI was the most likely agency to handle LHO in this setting.

Webster was coaxed to defect by means of an attractive woman used by the Soviets as a honey trap - the Air Force dangled him in front of the Soviets because he was a plastics & fiberglass technician - he knew rocketry and Air Force technical intelligence wanted to know if the Soviets were ahead or behind them. (For more, see State Secret, Chapter 1) It turned out the Soviets were a dozen years behind. Webster was no agent - he received no paycheck, he was largely self-motivated and was manipulated into doing the things he did.

In my opinion, so was Oswald. My research indicates that like Webster, Oswald received a few favors and some coaching, but he was largely operating on his own agenda. My colleague Larry Hancock has said that Oswald was used as a "probe, basically a test to see how the Soviets would respond to him...sort of like a scientific mission in a way....an instrument package...help launch him and see what happens."

Donald Moneir told the ARRB about a fake military defector program run by ONI
Donald Moneir told the ARRB about a fake
military defector program run by ONI

There are various stories about possible military fake defector programs. During the nineties, military intelligence officer Donald Moneir told the ARRB about Navy Code 30, a fake military defector program run by ONI. This was corroborated by Victor Marchetti's statements in the 70s during the HSCA proceedings. Marchettti said that ONI had an operation in Nag's Head, North Carolina that was placing false defectors into the Soviet Union that could create a "funnel" for disinformation to the Soviets. Marchetti was in a good place to hear this kind of talk - over a period of two years, he served at one time as the assistant to Vice Admiral Rufus Taylor, the deputy director of the CIA and at various times for the CIA executive director himself.

James Wilcott, a CIA finance officer in Tokyo, heard a similar story second-hand from various CIA officers that Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union was phony and that he was working with the CIA in an "Oswald Project". As shown in Jim Douglass' interviews with Wilcott (see Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable), Wilcott was a credible witness; however, he was relying on "shop talk" and his colleagues refused to back him up in subequent interviews.

Again, Oswald was an aviation electronics operator - he was a radar operator and a lot more. My current belief - while still mulling all this over - is that ONI took the lead in dangling Oswald in front of the Soviets because he knew electronics and might have U-2 information - which would entice the Soviets to question him. Like in the Webster case, the CI forces within ONI and CIA would learn a lot once they knew what intrigued their Soviet counterparts.

The Reason Why the American Embassy Officials Protected Oswald

In Part 2, the discussion focused on how Richard Snyder and the other State Department officials at the American embassy protected Oswald, and asked why. The following are my tentative thoughts on why the State Department provided this protection to him.

Oswald was teetering on a tightrope when he threatened to renounce his US citizenship. He went right up to the edge of losing his citizenship. But Oswald didn't lose it, like Robert Webster did.

Although the results were different, I believe that both men were coached by intelligence operatives prior to their defection. I also believe that the coaching was relatively subtle, egging them on to do what they already wanted to do. Webster wanted romance. Oswald wanted adventure.

Webster got burned by his military handlers. He lost his citizenship, and it took years to get it back. Oswald got burned, too. But in a different way.

Snyder and the State Department went to elaborate lengths not to accept Oswald's attempt to renounce his citizenship. On the other hand, the military went to great lengths to characterize his actions as a renunciation of his citizenship.

The ensuing paper war between these two agencies engulfed still more agencies and prodded everyone to throw up their hands in trying to understand this battle. The answer can be found in the initial documents that we have just looked at.

I am still looking over this landscape, but Peter Dale Scott told me that he believes that ultra-right elements of the military were continuing their long battle with what I would describe as the effete liberals at the State Department - a fight that had been going at least since the "who lost China" debate of the late 1940s, if not earlier.

As I recall, Peter had an amusing analysis likening the ultra-right elements of the military with the National Association of Manufacturers on the "Cowboy" side of American culture, with the State Department as analogous to the Trilateral Commission on the "Yankee" side.

To be fair, it's not impossible that this fight between the State Department and the military about whether Oswald should lose his citizenship was totally contrived by intelligence operatives of both agencies. But I think I line up with Professor Scott on this one.

In the middle of 1960 - and in the middle of that paper war - Hoover wrote a memo to the Office of Security of the State Department - State's tiny security and intelligence division, known as SY. Hoover was concerned that an imposter was using Oswald's birth certificate - an important finding that may have blinded the research community to the other aspects of this memo.

Only recently did I realize that the only agency copied on this critical FBI-SY memo was ONI. Not Air Force intelligence, an entity that certainly would have an interest about a defector with an aviation electronics background. Not Marine intelligence - Oswald was a Marine, and Scott has found many Marine G-2 intelligence documents pertaining to Oswald. Not CIA, although this agency already had a sizable history with Oswald at this point. Not any other entity.

Why is Hoover only communicating with ONI and the State Dept. spooks at SY about Oswald? Did Hoover know something about who had an interest in Oswald that we don't?

When ONI reported the defection of Oswald - note that the copy that hit the file has the predominant scrawl of "SY" - that's the State Department's Office of Security again. I always assumed that the State Department was deeply troubled by Oswald's defection. Now I wonder if ONI and SY - despite all the carping back and forth - were in harmony. Were they in on dangling Oswald, together?

When the smoke between the military and the State Dept. cleared, Oswald maintained his citizenship and was not charged with a crime. However, on 8/17/60, his discharge was downgraded by the military from an honorable discharge to an undesirable discharge. This devastating decision meant no G. I. Bill benefits for Lee Oswald and his new family.

This happened right smack dab in the middle of Oswald's time in the Soviet Union, the very place where he couldn't explain his circumstances to US military officers and couldn't readily receive any mail. For whatever reason, Oswald was not in communication with his family or anyone else in the United States from late 1959 to early 1961. Oswald's mother Marguerite said she wrote three letters to him during 1960 - all returned undelivered.

Oswald didn't reappear until Marguerite personally left home to visit the State Department in Washington DC on January 21, 1961 - the day after JFK's inauguration. When she got there, she said she got the red-carpet treatment, one of several reasons that led her to believe that Oswald had some kind of relationship with the US government. A few days later, Oswald wrote in his diary that he had turned to the State Department and asked them to help him return to the USA. Shortly afterwards, the State Department provided Marguerite with Oswald's address.

I will pick up on this story after I describe the dirty trick that was used to downgrade Oswald's discharge while he was incommunicado during 1960.

How the Marine Brass Back-doored Oswald

Look at how the Marine brass at the Glenview Naval Air Station damaged Oswald's future while he was incommunicado during 1960. Stay with me as we leaf through some dates and documents. What we can see here is the plumage of a truly rare bird - an exposed intelligence operation.

Peter Dale Scott figured out much of this years ago - see chapter 4 of his book Dallas '63, which I helped edit. I forgot most of these details due to their granular quality, and had to labor to reach my own what-I-thought-were-totally-independent conclusions - and then I remembered again that Scott had covered much of this ground! My conclusions are slightly different from his - all of it is fascinating to me.

On 3/22/60, the Albert Schweitzer College was trying to reach Oswald to confirm that he would be beginning his classes in Switzerland during the following month. It is addressed to Oswald's address at the Marine Corps Air Facility in Santa Ana, California - but, again, he had been discharged from the service since September 1959. Marguerite received Oswald's notice from the college, thanks to the string of forwarding addresses for Marguerite that were on file at the Fort Worth Post Office.

The envelope from the college listed forwarding addresses for Marguerite - 3124 W. 5th Street, 1013 W. 5th, 3613 Harley, and 1605 8th Avenue - she had been moving continuously during this period of a few months since Oswald left her West 5th Street home in September 1959. We will see the Harley address again.

On 4/26/60, the Commander of Marine Air Service Training at Glenview Naval Air Station sent Oswald a notice that a board of officers was going to be convened to determine his fitness for retention in the Marine Reserve due to his "recent activities", and if a recommendation should be made to separate him by an undesirable discharge.

The notice said that he had the right to present evidence and to appear by person or be represented by counsel, "if you decide to appear personally, and you desire military counsel appointed". Oswald was given a deadline of June 14.

The 4/26/60 notice was addressed to Lee H. Oswald, 3613 Harley, Fort Worth marked as "CERTIFIED MAIL" #2180642. A form for Oswald to fill out and return was enclosed - it displayed his address as 3613 Harley - a real former address for Marguerite Oswald.

The Warren Commission reported that the envelope was too faint to photocopy, but it was postmarked 4/29/60 to Lee H. Oswald, 3613 Hurley, Fort Worth - a nonexistent address.

To this day, there is a 3613 Harley in Fort Worth. According to p.John Armstrong's research (Harvey and Lee, p. 291) and Google Maps, there is no 3613 Hurley in Fort Worth. When I entered 3613 Hurley into my map search function, it defaulted to 3613 Harley!

It seems reasonable to assume that the 4/26/60 notice to 3613 Harley, Fort Worth somehow got into Marguerite's hands, as she testified to the Warren Commission - for example, maybe the faint lettering on the envelope really said "3613 Harley", which would have enabled a successful delivery. Although I haven't yet found the receipt in the records, Marguerite knew about this notice and wrote a response to it.

Compare the 4/26/60 notice by the Marine brass addressed to 3613 Harley (left) with the Warren Commission's observation that the envelope was addressed to 3613 Hurley (right).
Compare the 4/26/60 notice by the Marine brass addressed to 3613 Harley (left) with the Warren Commission's observation that the envelope was addressed to 3613 Hurley (right).

As the deadline approached, Marguerite responded to the 4/26/60 notice on June 10. She asked to be informed of the basis for the proceedings, as well as a stay of the hearing because "I have no contact with him". She added that "after hearing from you I will be willing to act in his behalf."

Marguerite's Marine contact, Lt. M. G. Letscher, decided to have his cake and eat it too. He refused to stay the proceedings, and they failed to let her act on his behalf. She needed counsel - and she didn't get one.

Instead, on 6/17/60, she received a second response from Lieutenant Letscher, stating that the need to take action "was prompted by his request for Soviet citizenship...in view of the fact that he has not informed this Headquarters of his current address and that he has left the United States without permission, it is considered that a letter sent to the last address on file at this Headquarters is sufficient notification. A letter will be sent by certified mail informing your son of the convening date of the board."

The formal hearing notice, providing the date, time, and place, was also sent by certified mail. Even though Marguerite had said she was "willing to act on his behalf", the notice was not sent to Marguerite's address at 1410 Hurley in Fort Worth, which she had provided them with in her letter.

Instead, it was sent to "the last address on file" - which was allegedly 3613 Hurley - a place where the Board knew that no one lived. In fact, Oswald wrote them in September 1959 and told them that all mail was to go to 3124 West 5th Street - Marguerite's address at the time - which they ignored.

The certified mail envelope was directed to Lee H. Oswald - with stamped instructions to "Deliver to addressee only". Marked as certified mail #2154584, the envelope is addressed to the nonexistent address "Lee H. Oswald - 3613 Hurley - Fort Worth". It also contains a second stamped notation: "Return to sender: Unclaimed."

Here is the fraud. Contrast the envelope above with the arrival notice for certified mail #2154584 - supposedly informing the addressee that a certified letter is waiting for pick-up at the post office, is addressed to Marguerite's then-current address: "Lee Oswald - 1410 Hurley - Fort Worth".

Such a mail arrival notice is typically prepared by the sender - the sender can write any address desired and simply stick the arrival notice in the file.

Compare the envelope addressed to the nonexistent 3613 Hurley address (left) - with the arrival notice alleging that an attempt was made to deliver the envelope to Marguerite Oswald's then-current 1410 Hurley address (right) - both containing the same certified mailing number.
Compare the envelope addressed to the nonexistent 3613 Hurley address (left) - with the arrival notice alleging that an attempt was made to deliver the envelope to Marguerite Oswald's then-current 1410 Hurley address (right) - both containing the same certified mailing number.

You can ignore the arrival notice - some Marine spook prepared the arrival notice just the way he wanted it. And the envelope was sent certified mail to the nonexistent 3613 Hurley address, where nobody got it and it was returned to the Marines marked "unclaimed".

In the recommendation to discharge on 8/17/60, it states that Mr. Oswald provided "no statement. Refused to answer correspondence."

The case was based on "reliable information which indicated that Petitioner had renounced his US citizenship...Petitioner's case was heard (in absentia)...Petitioner was notified by certified mail that a board would convene to determine his fitness, and afforded him his rights. The correspondence was returned unclaimed."

An outrageous statement - and an outrageous violation of fundamental fairness. A kangaroo-type hearing that would have been unfair to kangaroos.

As Marguerite told the Warren Commission, "after corresponding with me, as Mrs. Marguerite Oswald, they sent the dishonorable discharge in Lee's name, addressee only, when they knew he was out of the country."

In 1960, it is probably fair to say that no one was prepping Oswald as a patsy in a future Presidential murder. Peter Dale Scott's analysis in Dallas '63, (pp. 119-120) is useful here:

"What we know of the sociology of ONI and Marine G-2 corroborates their sympathy to the hunt for subversives in government. Glenview Naval Air Station, the site of the Marine G-2 regional detachment to which we found documents addressed, had been for years a center for right-wing political activity.

"In the 1930s the Ninth Naval District had organized reserve intelligence teams to ferret out intelligence on radicals and pacifists. (Athan Theoharis and John Stuart Cox, The Boss, pp. 181-182)

"In 1960, while Marine G-2 and ONI shuffled their Oswald records, Glenview Naval Air Statio played host to a five-day school of the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade (CACC), led by Dr. Fred Schwarz.

"It should be understood that the CACC was not a local ad hoc group, but an international organization that had for decades worked in many countries, notably the Philippines, in conjunction with the World Anti-Communist League and later the National Endowment for Democracy...(Sara Diamond, Spiritual Warfare, pp. 189-191).

"Indeed the Glenview Naval Air Station, by supporting Schwarz and his Crusade, was lending respectability to the Crusade's sustained onslaught against another part of the government: the accommodators in the U.S. State Department."

What all this means is this - when Oswald came home in 1962, he had to lie on all of his employment forms to get any kind of job, he couldn't get a clearance to work in a security facility, he could not work in aviation electronics on the military side, and he couldn't get decent benefits under the GI Bill.

On top of all that, he was compromised. If someone in government wanted a little help from him, he would probably be forced to do their bidding with the hopes of getting his discharge upgraded down the line.

When Oswald protested this hearing and asked for a discharge review, the decision went all the way to the desk of Secretary of the Navy Fred Korth. Oswald got no relief. Later in this chapter, we will do our own review of the shady events that happened with the discharge review.`

Oswald was not a free agent - he was not a free man - and after August 1960, he was a patsy, all right. LHO had trusted these people to have his back, and he got nothing out of it but a Soviet wife and a baby.

The Counterintelligence Forces Go Molehunting, Using Oswald's Data as Bait

Ann (Betty) Egerter
Ann (Betty) Egerter

The October 31 and November 2 memos prepared by Snyder and his colleague Ed Freers about Oswald's defection are used by Ann Egerter, Legend Maker #5, to fill Oswald's file with items of false information known as "marked cards". "Marked cards" are designed to capture a mole who spreads the information to unauthorized individuals.

The "marked card" technique has been around for a long time. Peter Wright in Spycatcher refers to this method as a "barium meal". Tom Clancy in Patriot Games calls this trick a "canary trap". Author Peter Dale Scott mentions that the "marked card" was one of the methods used to try to catch the infamous CIA mole Aldrich Ames during the 1990s. The marked card didn't work because Ames himself was the chief of the CIA's Soviet Russia counterintelligence staff.

Freers and Snyder mentioned in their initial October 31 note about Oswald's visit that Oswald's mother's last address was at 4936 "Collinwood St.". Not only had Mrs. Oswald not lived on Collinwood since May 1957 (misspelled here as Collingwood), but her address on September 4, 1959 was 3124 West Fifth Street, the very address Oswald had used on his passport application.

Keep in mind that when Snyder prepared his reports, he was a trained observer and reporter of minutiae that the average person would not notice. This "Collinwood St." entry could be excused as a simple mistake - except that it was one of several misspellings and errors appear to be purposeful and not accidental.

Snyder probably obtained the "Collinwood" spelling from Oswald's 1956 Marine Corps enlistment papers, where he provided Marguerite's address as "4936 Collinwood". Since Snyder was a State department official, he had far easier access to the contemporaneous passport records with the right address than to dated military records with the wrong address.

This "Collinwood" error looks like a "marked card", used by intelligence officials to see if a mole leaked this information elsewhere.

Two days later, the November 2 dispatch prepared by Freers and Snyder added three more marked cards to the deck. One was that Oswald was "discharged" from the service. Another was that Oswald's highest grade was corporal. The third was that Oswald applied for his passport in San Francisco.

Lee Harvey Oswald's 1959 passport
Lee Harvey Oswald's 1959 passport

Peter Dale Scott, the author of the highly revealing essay "Oswald and the Search for Popov's Mole", carefully examined each of these marked cards. Scott makes a number of observations: Oswald was not discharged, but received a dependency release and had been placed in the reserves with duties to perform until 1962. Also, Oswald's highest grade was not corporal, but private first class. Furthermore, Oswald's passport states that it was issued in Los Angeles, not in San Francisco.

Scott focuses on the importance of these anomalies that fill Oswald's CIA file, stating that they are evidence of "a significant, sophisticated multi-agency counterintelligence operation...Oswald himself was a low-level part of a CI search for a leak or mole". He observes that Oswald's unexplained talk of espionage right in front of the KGB microphones - at a time when the KGB had the US embassy thoroughly bugged - was a very poor way to convince the KGB of his bona fides but "makes perfect sense as a test for leaks in response to Popov's arrest fifteen days earlier".

The American and Soviet embassies have long and famous histories for placing bugs in each other's embassies, tapping each other's phones, and reading each other's mail. The KGB confirmed in 1959 that Freers was not CIA, and that the KGB maintained a microphone in Freers' office.

In "Popov's Mole", Scott points out that the errors detailed above, and others that we will soon discuss, was repeatedly circulated in the documentary history of Oswald's files by Jim Angleton's colleague Ann Egerter and other CI/SIG officials. By embedding these false statements within Oswald's file, and tracking who had access to the file information, Egerter could determine if this information had surfaced elsewhere. Once such a finding was made, that would provide evidence of unauthorized access.

Angleton told the Church Committee that the role of CI/SIG was to prevent the penetration of spies into the CIA and the government, and that the "historical penetration cases are recruitment of U.S. officials in positions (of) code clerks." Angleton's search for a mole turned the CIA upside down by the time he was fired in 1974. Dozens of CIA officers were fired. By 1980, Congress was forced to pass a "Mole Relief Act" to compensate the unfairly accused victims.

Egerter used Oswald himself in what is called a "dangle". Angleton's biographer Tom Mangold wrote that the execution of Popov accelerated Angleton's belief that "Popov could only have been betrayed by a mole buried deep within Soviet Division.". Mangold found Angleton misguided, stating that "Popov was actually lost to the Soviets because of a slipshod CIA operation; there was no treachery." David Robarge, Chief Historian of the CIA from 2005 to the present, wrote a thoughtful article suggesting that Popov's capture marked the time when Angleton became "fixed on the mole". Oswald's arrival was on the same date as Popov's arrest.

Nonetheless, if Angleton was convinced that there was a mole in the Soviet Division, it's a good bet that he believed that radar operator Oswald's sudden entry into the Soviet Union on the same day was no accident.

201 opening request for Lee Henry Oswald
201 opening request for
Lee Henry Oswald

What is curious is that Egerter opened no 201 file for Oswald at this point. A 201 file is a CIA file that is created to profile any person "of active operational interest". For whatever reason, she did not want to admit that the CIA had any operational interest in Oswald.

At a minimum, Ann Egerter's use of the Lee Oswald's file enabled CI to engage in some very clever molehunting, particularly when she decided to name his 201 file "Lee Henry Oswald". She claimed years later that "Henry" wasn't in her handwriting. Take a look for yourself (at right). The name of the file itself was a "marked card". If anyone else referred to Lee Henry Oswald, a bright trail would be left behind.

Egerter's form includes the terms "defected to the USSR" and "radar operator", but says nothing about Oswald's threat to pass "classified things" to the Soviets.The FBI had operational interest in Oswald, and let everybody know it.

Headquarters supervisor Marvin Gheesling is described as having "considerable experience in espionage, intelligence and counterintelligence operations." Gheesling, Legend Maker #6, promptly opened a "watch list" file on Oswald within a week of his visit to the Embassy in late 1959 by creating what is called a FLASH card. As John Newman muses, "This combination of being on the Watch List without a 201 file makes Oswald special. Perhaps not unique, but certainly peculiar. It was as if someone wanted Oswald watched quietly."

FBI agent Marvin Gheesling
FBI agent Marvin Gheesling

During the time Oswald was added to the HTLINGUAL list, Angleton was effectively in charge of this joint project of the CIA, FBI and US Postal Service. Oswald was now one of the 300 Americans whose letters would be secretly opened in mail traveling between the USA and the USSR.

A quick glance at what happened three years later: Gheesling's role turned ominous when he took Oswald off the watch list in the month before the assassination. Gheesling's action took place just hours before Egerter helped write two separate messages that provided two different descriptions of Oswald. One message sent to third party agencies referred to him specifically as "Lee Henry Oswald", with an inaccurate physical description, apparently designed to mislead the national leadership of these agencies. The in-house message provided a more accurate description of Oswald - as we'll see later, still containing subtle mistakes - going only to the local agencies. These are further indications of the molehunt.

Gheesling's decision to take Oswald off the watch list effectively dimmed the lights around Oswald. It meant that Oswald would not be watched in Dallas with close scrutiny in situations involving national security, such as when JFK came to town in a motorcade. If Gheesling had waited another day, Oswald would have been in the spotlight. Dallas agents would have been on him like white on rice.

After Egerter passes Oswald's marked cards to FBI's John Fain, Fain joins the molehunt

Going back to 1960...the marked cards begin to multiply a few months later. In February 1960, Oswald's mother is worrying about him. Marguerite told the Secret Service that SA John Fain recommended that she write Secretary of State Christian Herter and Congressmen Sam Rayburn and Jim Wright. Curiously, the FBI has no public paper trail of meeting with Fain at this early date. FBI files in 1959-60 and Oswald's Marine records remain classified and should be released.

Mrs. Oswald then sends one letter to Congressman Wright telling him that "according to the UPI Moscow press, he appeared at the US embassy renouncing his citizenship". The next day, she wrote Secretary Herter a letter saying that Oswald had not renounced his citizenship and "is still a U.S. citizen".

Why Mrs. Oswald would say two different things in two different letters one day apart is a longer discussion. Nonetheless, these two totally contradictory documents are a central part of this case. The inaccurate statement that Oswald had "renounced his citizenship" was central to SA Fain's report of May 12, 1960. This report also had the marked card of "Edward Lee Oswald" for the name of Oswald's deceased father, rather than his correct name of Robert Edward Lee Oswald.

John Fain is Legend Maker #7 - Fain's investigation in the early months of 1960 undoubtedly helped motivate the Marine brass at Glenview Naval Air Station to issue the false charge in April 1960 that Oswald had renounced his citizenship, which was the direct cause of Oswald's undesirable discharge by the Marines on August 17, 1960.

During January 1962, Oswald wrote the Secretary of the Navy trying to get this dishonorable discharge changed, not realizing that John Connally had resigned as navy secretary to run for Governor of Texas.

On 2/23/62, Connally wrote back and said that he had forwarded Oswald's letter to the new Navy secretary - Fred Korth - Korth took office on 1/4/62 - Korth was a well-connected attorney who had represented Oswald's stepfather in a jury trial when he divorced Oswald's mother some years earlier! Marguerite got no alimony. The jury found - rightly or wrongly - that Marguerite had committed "excesses, cruel treatment or outrages" (defined as violence or other cruel conduct) during the marriage, and that Mr. Ekdahl was not at fault.

Now, at this point, compare Connally's original letter with the Warren Commission version. The original, found in Oswald's possessions, shows that Korth was never copied on Connally's letter.

In contrast, the Warren Commission version removed Connally's campaign letterhead and added a notation that Fred Korth had been sent a copy. If Korth actually received a carbon copy, it should have been marked as a blind carbon copy (bcc), because there was no cc notation to anyone on the letter sent to Oswald.

Left: Warren Commission version of Connally letter. Right: Original version, not cc'ed to Fred Korth.
Left: Warren Commission version of Connally letter.      Right: Original version, not cc'ed to Fred Korth.

I conclude that someone chose to introduce the alleged carbon copy into the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission report, rather than the original Connally letter to Oswald. Oswald's copy, a crucially important document, was buried in the National Archives as a classified document for many years.

Here's another copy of the version supposedly cc'd to Korth, which shows that Secret Service agent Charles W. Baker received a copy of it on 11/23/63. For this version, see p. 41 of 81. Custody of this document is an issue.

Someone didn't want anyone to look at the Korth-Oswald relationship very closely - which might happen if there was any question about whether Oswald's letter was actually forwarded to Korth by Connally.

After all, I have always assumed that Fred Korth denied Oswald's request to upgrade his undesirable discharge during July of 1963 - which became part of the alleged motivation for Oswald to shoot at the President. James Reston, Jr., the son of New York Times journalist Scotty Reston, went as far as to write his book The Accidental Victim based on the theory that Oswald was really trying to kill Connally and hit JFK by accident.

But now I think the question should be asked - did Korth ever actually realize that the decision on whether to upgrade Oswald's discharge was before him? After seeing that the Connally letter was faked to make it look like the letter was cc'd to Fred Korth, I can't be sure.

Yes, a form letter provides the form language that "the Secretary of the Navy has reviewed the proceedings of the Board and taken action as indicated" - followed by filling out three boxes that show "no change" in the initial decision made to downgrade Oswald's discharge.

However, the final decision to discharge Oswald was not signed by Korth. It was signed by Undersecretary of the Navy Paul Fay, ironically a close friend of JFK. Did Korth ever see it?

The undersecretary signed the document on behalf of the Secretary of the Navy on July 19, the date the final decision was rendered. It is customary for an undersecretary to take routine actions on behalf of his superior. I cannot find Korth's name or signature anywhere on the discharge documents.

Again, I keep asking myself the question that has to be asked - did Korth know about this proceeding at any time before it was final? I have heard that Korth joked afterwards whether Oswald was trying to take a shot at him rather than Connally - but that's not the same thing as knowing about Oswald's plight before July 19. Anyone who knew the history between Korth and the Oswald family would want to keep Korth away from the Oswald case. I have often thought that Korth was trying to do Oswald in. But there's another possibility, too - Korth might have granted Oswald some justice - or even some mercy.

- Bill Simpich

Bill Simpich is an Oakland civil rights attorney who knows that it doesn't have to be like this. He was part of the legal team chosen by Public Justice as Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2003 for winning a jury verdict of 4.4 million in Earth Firster Judi Bari's lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland police. He works with the Mary Ferrell Foundation to decipher the cryptonyms and pseudonyms used by intelligence operatives in the JFK documents, and suggests that we will achieve historical resolution in this case more quickly than most people believe.


Next => Part 4: When the U-2 Goes Down, Oswald is Ready to Return



ENDNOTES

In a memo written shortly after JFK's death, CIA officer John Whitten states that a list of "American defectors to the USSR list" was put together in November 1960...: memo by CIA officer John Whitten, "CIA Work on Lee Oswald and the Assassination of President Kennedy", p. 3, 12/20/63, Oswald 201 File, Vol 10B, NARA Record Number: 1993.06.14.15:56:02:000000.

The October 31 and November 2 memos of Snyder and Freers about Oswald's defection are used by Ann Egerter, Legend Maker #5, to fill Oswald's file with items of false information known as "marked cards": Ed Freers memo to State Dept., 10/31/59; Warren Commission Exhibit 908, Snyder's report to State Department of 11/2/59, p. 2 (see fourth paragraph).

Author Peter Dale Scott mentions that the "marked card" was one of the methods used to catch the infamous CIA mole Aldrich Ames during the 1990s. The marked card trick didn't work because Ames himself was the chief of the Soviet Russia counterintelligence staff: Peter Dale Scott, "The Hunt for Popov's Mole", Fourth Decade, March 1996, p. 4.

Not only had Mrs. Oswald not lived on Collinwood since May 1957 (misspelled here as Collingwood), but her address on September 4, 1959 was 3124 West Fifth Street, the very address Oswald had used on his passport application: See Warren Commission Exhibit 822, SA John Fain's report of 7/3/61, p. 2. Also see Peter Dale Scott, The Hunt for Popov's Mole, p. 6.

passport application: See Warren Commission Hearings, Volume 22, p. 77.

(Freers' dispatch states) that Oswald was "discharged" from the service. Another was that Oswald's highest grade was corporal. The third was that Oswald applied for his passport in San Francisco.: Warren Commission Exhibit 908, Vol. 18, p. 97, Foreign Service dispatch from the American Embassy in Moscow to the Department of State, 11/2/59.

Oswald's highest grade was not corporal, but private first class: Warren Report 687, 688; Warren Commission Exhibit 3099, Certificate of True Copies of Original Pay Records from 10/24/96 to 9/11/59 for PFC Oswald, dated 9/15/64, prepared by Major E.J. Rowe.

Also see: Warren Commission Document 1114, Navy message 22257, From: CNO To: ALUSNA, Moscow, 11/4/59.

Furthermore, Oswald's passport states that it was issued in Los Angeles, not San Francisco: Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. 18, p. 162, Warren Commission Exhibit 946, passport of Lee Harvey Oswald, issued September 10, 1959.

The KGB confirmed in 1959 that Freers was not CIA, and that the KGB maintained a microphone in his office: Diplomatic List, Moscow, 1 January 1959 (information obtained from defector Yuri Nosenko), HSCA Segregated CIA Collection, Box 14/NARA Record Number: 104-10070-10150.

Historical penetration cases are recruitment of U.S. officials in positions (of) code clerks: Deposition of James Angleton, 9/17/75, Church Committee, p. 17.

Angleton's search for a mole turned the CIA upside down by the time he was fired in 1974. Dozens of CIA officers were fired. By 1980, Congress was forced to pass a "Mole Relief Act" to compensate the unfairly accused victims.: David Wise, Molehunt, Chapter 18.

Mangold found Angleton misguided, stating that "Popov was actually lost to the Soviets because of a slipshod CIA operation; there was no treachery.": Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior: James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's Master Spy Hunter (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992), p. 250.

David Robarge, Chief Historian of the CIA from 2005 to the present, wrote a thoughtful article suggesting that Popov's capture marked the time when Angleton became "fixed on the mole". Oswald's arrival was on the same date as Popov's arrest: David Robarge: "Moles, Defectors and Deceptions: James Angleton and CIA Counterintelligence", p. 36.

For Robarge's term as CIA Chief Historian, see https://gufaculty360.georgetown.edu/s/contact/00336000014RlekAAC/david-robarge.

A 201 file is a CIA file that is created to profile any person "of active operational interest": Clandestine Services Handbook, 43-1-1, February 15, 1960, Chapter III, Annex B, "Personalities - 201 and IDN Numbers", RIF# 104-10213-10202. Cited by John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1995) at p. 47 and 537, note 2.

Headquarters supervisor Marvin Gheesling is described as having "considerable experience in espionage, intelligence and counterintelligence operations": HSCA Report, Volume XII, p. 566.

"This combination of being on the Watch List without a 201 file makes Oswald special. Perhaps not unique, but certainly peculiar. It was as if someone wanted Oswald watched quietly." John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, p. 422.

During the time Oswald was added to the HTLINGUAL list: John Newman, Oswald and the CIA, p. 56.

Egerter helped write two separate messages that provided two different descriptions of Oswald. One message sent to third party agencies referred to him specifically as "Lee Henry Oswald", with an inaccurate physical description, apparently designed to mislead the national leadership of these agencies: CIA teletype 74673 to FBI, State Department, and Navy, October 10, 1963; NARA, JFK files, CIA 201 file on Oswald.

SA John Fain recommended that she write Secretary of State Christian Herter and Congressmen Sam Rayburn and Jim Wright: "Popov's Mole", p. 8: Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. XVI, p. 729.

Mrs. Oswald then sends one letter to Congressman Rayburn telling him that "according to the UPI Moscow press, he appeared at the US embassy renouncing his citizenship": Marguerite Oswald letter to Congressman Jim Wright, 3/6/60, Warren Commission Document 1115, p. 51.

The next day, she wrote Secretary Herter a letter saying that Oswald had not renounced his citizenship: "All I know is what I read in the newspapers. He went to the U.S. Ambassy (sic) there and wanted to turn in his U.S. citizenship and had applied for Soviet citizenship. However the Russians refused his request but said he could remain in their country as a Resident Alien. As far as I know he is still a U.S. citizen." Warren Commission Hearings, Vol. XVI, pp. 594-595; Commission Exhibit 206.

forwarded Oswald's letter to the new Navy secretary - Fred Korth]] - Korth took office on 1/4/62 - Korth was a well-connected attorney who had represented Oswald's stepfather in a jury trial when he divorced Oswald's mother some years earlier!

Connally wrote back and said that he had forwarded Oswald's letter to the new Navy secretary - Fred Korth - Korth took office on 1/4/62 - Korth was a well-connected attorney who had represented Oswald's stepfather in a jury trial when he divorced Oswald's mother some years earlier!: For further background: Warren Commission Hearings, Testimony of Marguerite Oswald, Volume 1, p. 252; Testimony of Marina Oswald, Volume 1, p. 72; 2/23/62 Warren Commission copy of letter from Connally to Oswald, Volume 19, p. 711.

"Edward Lee Oswald": John Fain's report, 6/12/60, p. 3, Warren Commission Hearings, Volume XVII, p. 702, Exhibit 821.

"Robert Edward Lee Oswald": FBI report of Donald C. Steinmeyer, 4/1/64, re marriage records for Robert Edward Lee Oswald; 11/27/63 report by SA Joseph G. Engelhardt re sister of Robert Edward Lee Oswald.

Egerter's form includes the terms "defected to the USSR" and "radar operator", but says nothing about Oswald's threat to pass "classified things" to the Soviets: 201 file request by Ann Egerter, 12/9/60, HSCA Segregated CIA Collection, Box 7 / NARA Record Number: 104-10054-10204.

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