The Mexico City Tapes

President Lyndon Johnson on the telephone.
President Lyndon Johnson on the telephone.

At 10 AM on the morning following the Kennedy assassination, President Lyndon Johnson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover discussed the state of the case over the telephone. In response to LBJ's question about "the visit to the Soviet Embassy in September," Hoover replied:

"No, that’s one angle that’s very confusing, for this reason—we have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet embassy, using Oswald’s name. 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."

This message was conveyed later the same day in writing, in a memo from Hoover to the White House and the Secret Service Chief. Did this amazing discovery of an Oswald imposter, caught on tapped phone lines, launch the greatest manhunt in history? No, instead within 48 hours the entire story had been buried. The tape of the Johnson-Hoover call quoted from above has itself been erased; only a contemporaneous transcript remains.

The CIA and FBI have both since denied that such a tape existed post-assassination, having reportedly been "routinely erased." But beyond the early reports, no less than two Warren Commission staffers told investigators that they had listened to such a tape in April of 1964. It is doubtful they knew of even the possibility that Oswald might have been impersonated in the call.

What was on the tape? In the 1990s transcripts of "Oswald" phone calls were declassified. There were indeed a couple of points which drew the interest of investigators - the mention of a meeting with a man named Kostikov, and Oswald's curious statement that the Cubans had his address. But generally they appear to be fairly innocuous calls about obtaining a visa. However, also declassified in the 1990s was an HSCA interview with the CIA employees who transcribed the tapes, who described a much lengthier call between "Oswald" and the Soviet Embassy, one which does not appear in the purportedly complete record of transcripts.



The Fourteen Minute Gap, by Rex Bradford.

The Fourteen Minute Gap: An Update, by Rex Bradford.

Mexico City: A New Analysis, by John Newman.

Listening for Lee, by Joseph Riley.

Oswald, the CIA, and Mexico City, by John Newman.

A Model of Mexico City, by Joseph Riley.

More Mexico Mysteries, by Rex Bradford.

Other Links

Tape: Call on JFK Wasn't Oswald - AP story by Deb Reichmann of 21 Nov 1999, on JFK Lancer.



Transcript of 28 Sep 1963 Oswald call.

Transcript of 1 Oct 1963 Oswald call.

Transcript of Phone Call of 23 Nov 1963 between LBJ and Hoover

The taped conversation between LBJ and Hoover, now erased, which contains a brief discussion of the Oswald imposter. See The Fourteen Minute Gap essays.  (listen to erased audio)

11-23 memo from FBI to Secret Service reporting the Oswald imposter. This memo also went to the White House. See also Lopez Report, addendum to footnote 614.

Memo: Trip to Mexico City, written by David Slawson on 22 Apr 1964 after returning from Mexico City.

Memo: Meeting with Mr. Slawson of the Presidential Commission. CIA's Thomas Hall recorded this on 5 May 1964, "According to Mr. Slawson, only Messrs. Rankin, Willens, Coleman, and he know of the telephone taps in Mexico City."

References to FBI Review of Tapes of Oswald's Oct. 1, 1963 Mexico City Conversation, written by Church Committee staffers, who expressed disbelief in the story that the Oswald tapes had been erased pre-assassination.

HSCA Interview with Boris and Anna Tarasoff, 28 Nov 1976, the CIA translators of the "Oswald" tapes. See also David Phillip's testimony the day earlier, and the later 12 Apr 1978 testimony of Boris Tarasoff and Anna Tarasoff.

Replies to Questions and Comments During Session with Mr. Richard A. Sprague, Chief Counsel, HSCA, 1 Dec 1976. The HSCA's original chief counsel was asking hard questions about Mexico City before his ouster in March of 1977.

Related Starting Points


Peter Dale Scott, author of Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, discusses the tape from Mexico City of a man who called himself Lee Oswald, but whose voice the FBI determined was not that of Oswald (running time: 2:36).
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John Newman, author of JFK and Vietnam and Oswald and the CIA, discusses the evidence that there was a third "Oswald" phone call which has been suppressed from the record (running time: 4:05).
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(Video clip source: Into Evidence DVD)

Peter Dale Scott, a former Canadian diplomat, notes that surveillance of embassies was assumed by everyone in the business, and was not as sensitive a secret as often described (running time: 2:30).
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Books of Interest

Anthony Summers
Paragon House, 1980
    Oswald. Mexico, and Deep Politics: Revelations from CIA Records on the Assassination of JFK
Peter Dale Scott
Skyhorse Publishing, 2013
    The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X
DiEugenio, James and Pease, Lisa, editors
Feral House, 2003
    Harvey and Lee
John Armstrong
Quasar, Ltd., 2003
    Oswald and the CIA (1995 Edition)
John Newman
Carroll and Graf Publishers, Inc., 1995

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