Oswald in Mexico City

Did the CIA Impersonate Oswald?

 

Dave Perry

09/05/2014

 

The only “photograph” of Lee Harvey Oswald as provided by the CIA Mexico City Station

Introduction

Over the decades the CIA has been reticent in providing information about their interest in Lee Harvey Oswald’s trip to Mexico City. In fact as of this writing the CIA is still withholding over 500 pages about this occurrence. This informational void has allowed some conspiracy theorists to claim [1] Oswald never went to Mexico City. [2] there was an Oswald impostor in Mexico City while Oswald was elsewhere or [3] that Oswald was there at the same time as an impostor.

Those theorists who claim that Oswald [1] never went to Mexico City or [2] there was an Oswald impostor in Mexico City while Oswald was elsewhere are wrong. Why? There are several reasons. There were a number of individuals in both the Cuban and Russian embassies that verified Oswald appeared before them. Oswald wrote a letter to the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C. dated November 9, 1963, a month after his return, complaining that Cuban counsel, Eusebio Azcue, was unsympathetic and would not help him obtain an in-transit visa to Cuba. Oswald returned to Dallas with bullfight postcards and a “silver” I.D. bracelet with Marina’s name engraved on it. As an aside, Marina was not impressed with the gift as she thought the bracelet was cheap, not silver, and not made in Mexico but Japan.

Several pages in Vincent Bugliosi’s book Reclaiming History are devoted to Oswald’s trip. Under the caption The Second Oswald, Bugliosi dismisses the notion of an Oswald imposter out of hand.

See Bugliosi, Vincent, Reclaiming History, W.W.  Norton, New York, NY, 2007, pp. 1044 - 1056

That being said, the third possibility that Oswald was there at the same time as an impostor, cannot be so readily dismissed.

This report is an overview of a complex situation involving three governments and several United States’ governmental agencies. It uses numerous sources including governmental and CIA internal memoranda, parts of a newspaper investigation, an unpublished manuscript, employee testimony and purported transcripts of Oswald’s phone conversations. Some of this material was not available to the Warren Commission in 1964 and House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1978.

To keep it simple not all corroborating documents are provided. However there are enough to support the account.

We now know the Central Intelligence Agency was extremely concerned about Oswald’s activities in Mexico City and there is the likelihood that the agency covered up the extent of that interest. Additionally, there is evidence of an episode where the CIA in Mexico City did use an employee to pretend to be a Cuban embassy operative. This leads to the prospect that the CIA did use a male and female to impersonate Oswald and Sylvia Tirado de Duran to make telephone calls to the Soviet embassy. Duran was a Mexican employed by the Cuban embassy in Mexico City.

Why did Oswald travel to Mexico City?

Oswald’s arrived in Mexico City via Flecha Roja bus #516 at approximately 10:00 AM on Friday, September 27, 1963. He left the bus station and registered at the Hotel del Comerico as Lee, Harvey Oswald a photographer and US citizen.

The purpose of the trip was an attempt to secure papers to travel to the Soviet Union via Cuba. At the time Mexican authorities didn’t care if an American traveled to Cuba as long as the person had the proper visa for long term visits or an “in-transit” visa for a limited stay. In Oswald’s case the in-transit visa was applicable because of his claim he was traveling from Cuba to Russia.

To support his forthcoming requests for travel to Cuba and the Soviet Union, Oswald took bogus paperwork to show he was a supporter of Fidel Castro and the Cuban government. For example he brought his Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) membership card. Oswald was the only member of his self-created New Orleans FPCC branch. As the sole representative, among other things, he spent time passing out pro-Castro literature on Canal Street and at the Dumaine Street wharf. He appeared at New Orleans radio station WDSU for a debate where he expressed his pro-Castro and Marxist views.

Friday, September 27, 1963 - Oswald’s visits the Cuban and Soviet embassies.

Shortly after he arrived Oswald headed for the Cuban embassy to apply for an “in-transit” visa. He told the secretary at the Cuban embassy, the above mentioned Sylvia Duran, he was traveling to the Soviet Union. Duran told Oswald it would take time to get a visa approved by the Cuban authorities. Oswald stated, truthfully, that he didn’t have much time as his Mexican tourist visa would expire in 15 days. Overhearing that, Cuban Counsel Eusebio Azcue told him they could quickly provide a Cuban in-transit visa if he obtained a “final destination” visa from the Soviets. Oswald left and proceeded to the Soviet embassy which was a few blocks away.

Officials at the Soviet embassy were skeptical of Oswald’s intentions. They asked if he had previously applied for a Soviet visa through their embassy in Washington, DC. He admitted that he had and was turned down. He left the embassy without obtaining a visa.

Oswald returned to the Cuban embassy and told Duran the Soviets stated his Soviet visa “would be no problem.” Duran was unconvinced and called the Soviet embassy at 4:05 PM asking for verification. The embassy returned her call at 4:26 PM - “We cannot give him a visa here without asking Washington.” Oswald was caught in a lie. When Azcue told Oswald no in-transit visa would be issued he became verbally abusive and was ordered out of the Cuban embassy.

Oswald’s returns to the Soviet embassy.

The following day Saturday morning the 28th he was back at the Soviet embassy. This time he was literally pleading with two Soviet officials, Valery Kostikov and Pavel Yatskov, to provide him with a visa. All discussion ended when one of the counsels gave him a visa application to complete and return. Oswald was told that upon receipt the paperwork would be forwarded to Soviet headquarters in Washington, DC. The officials at the embassy indicated approval might take four months.

As Oswald left the building he must have known his plans to get to Cuba or the Soviet Union had failed. There is some evidence of this mindset. He never filled out and returned the visa application and accompanying paperwork the Soviets provided.

Oswald left Mexico City for Dallas, Texas 4 days later on Wednesday morning October 2, 1963 at 8:30 AM on Transportes del Norte bus #332.

Evidence the CIA Was Scrutinizing Oswald’s Activities and Movements

·                     Proof the CIA withheld information about Oswald from the Warren Commission.

The Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for providing the Warren Commission and therefore the public with what it discovered about Oswald’s trip. Part of their investigation is summarized in The Warren Commission Report on page 777.

“In October 1963, the Passport Office of the State Department received a report from the Central Intelligence Agency that Oswald had visited the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City. The report said nothing about Oswald’s having visited the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City, a fact which was not known until after the assassination.” (Emphasis mine)

The complete truth about the CIA’s knowledge with respect to Oswald and his interaction with the Cuban embassy was not revealed until the release of parts of Winston Scott’s unpublished manuscript Foul Foe. Scott was the CIA’s Mexico City Station Chief from 1956 to 1969.

In the manuscript Scott states, "In fact, Lee Harvey Oswald became a person of great interest to us during this 27 September to 2 October, 1963 period."

 “Every piece of information concerning Lee Harvey Oswald was reported immediately after it was received to US Ambassador Thomas C. Mann, by memorandum; the FBI Chief in Mexico, by memorandum; and to my headquarters by cable; and included in each and every one of these reports was the entire conversation Oswald had, so far as it was known. These reports were made on all his contacts with both the Cuban Consulate and with the Soviets.” (Emphasis mine)

Foul Foe, Chapter XXIV, p. 268 - 269

“Because we thought at first that Lee Harvey Oswald might be a dangerous potential defector from the USA to the Soviet Union, he was of great interest to us, so we kept a special watch on him and his activities.” (Emphasis mine)

Foul Foe, Chapter XXIV, p. 269

The Mexico City station was recording not only Oswald’s but all conversations between the Cuban and Russian embassies using a wiretap system code named LIENVOY. Thanks to Scott we know that reports were made and forwarded about Oswald’s contacts within the Cuban embassy to CIA headquarters.

 

Therefore, the statement on page 777 of The Warren Report is a falsehood. It shows that the CIA withheld their knowledge that Oswald had visited the Cuban embassy “before the assassination” from the Warren Commission.

·                     Proof the CIA withheld information from Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover.

There was a telephone conversation between President Lyndon Johnson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at 10:01 a.m. EST on Saturday, November 23, 1963. This was less than 24 hours after the assassination. It shows their interest in Oswald’s trip and a lack of knowledge of what information the CIA had.

Johnson asks Hoover,

“Have you established any more about the visit to the Soviet embassy in Mexico in September?”

Hoover's answers in the negative, “No. That's one angle that's very confusing. 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 there was a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there.”

Shortly after that, Hoover wrote a memo to the head of the Secret Service, James Rowley.

“The Central Intelligence Agency advised that on 1 October, 1963 an extremely sensitive source [LIENVOY] reported that an individual identified himself as Lee Oswald contacted the Soviet embassy in Mexico City.”

Hoover continues - “Special Agents of this Bureau who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. Special Agents are of the opinion that it was not Oswald.”

 

ü  Hoover, his Special Agents, and the president believe the CIA has one tape of someone claiming to be Oswald. They have no idea the CIA has more tape recordings.

ü  The CIA did not reveal they had information concerning Oswald’s appearance at the Cuban embassy.

·                     Proof the CIA had more than one tape of Oswald or an impostor.

A tale of conflicting memos:

Directive #84886 was transmitted on November 23rd to the Mexico City CIA station from Birch O’Neal. O’Neal was Chief of the CIA’s Special Investigations Group. It states:

#1 “review all LIENVOY tapes and transcripts since 27 September to locate all material possibly pertinent to [Oswald].” # 2 “Dispatch soonest by special courier, staffer if necessary, full transcripts and original tapes if available all pertinent material.” #3 “Are original tapes available?”

Anne Goodpasture (code name R.B. Riggs) replies on November 23rd with cable MEXI 7023. The prefix MEXI on a cable means it originated from the Mexico City CIA station. Anne Goodpasture worked for David Atlee Phillips in the Cuban section. MEXI 7023 contained information from LIENVOY and indicates a couple of things about this particular “Oswald.”

-1- “North American spoke terrible hardly recognizable Russian.”

-2- The “station was unable to compare voice as first tape erased prior receipt of second call.” (emphasis mine)

There is a third document labeled MEXI 7054 which discusses the arrest of Sylvia Duran the Mexican secretary employed by the Cuban Embassy. Duran was the one who helped Oswald in attempting to obtain his Cuban “in- transit” visa. Page 1 is not as important as page 2. When first released page 2 had a significant redaction at item number 3.

Later copies have the redaction removed and line 3 now reads:

“With MEXI 7933 HQ has full transcripts all pertinent calls. Regret complete recheck shows tapes for this period already erased.

ü  This leads to a host of questions. If all tapes were erased how did anyone know the North American spoke poor Russian? If all tapes were erased what were the Dallas FBI agents listening to?

ü  While J. Edgar Hoover believed there is one tape, the CIA had multiple tapes. This is confirmed by the statement “full transcripts (plural) of all pertinent calls (plural). Additionally, the Mexico City station claimed they had transcripts of all the calls.

ü  We now have at least two tapes but because of erasures the voices could not be compared. If it can be shown, as it will, that comparisons were made then only two occurrences make sense. Either Goodpasture was circumspect about the tapes being erased or there were copies.

·                     Is it possible the original tapes were erased?

Yes. The CIA’s tape erasure procedure called for a waiting period of two weeks before reuse. The assassination occurred well over a month and a half after Oswald left. However, the tape reuse procedure called for copies to be made before the master tapes were reused.

As a point of information, there is evidence copies of tapes were stored in Mexico City Station Chief Win Scott’s office safe. After Scott’s death on April 26, 1971 the CIA’s Chief of Counterintelligence, James Angleton, flew to Mexico City, opened the safe and took possession of Scott's personal papers including Scott’s unpublished manuscript Foul Foe. Angleton also removed at least one audio tape recording of Oswald.

·                     The Washington Post discovers conflicts in Goodpasture’s tape erasure scenario.

The Washington Post published an article in October, 1964 eleven months after the assassination alleging the CIA withheld intelligence from the Warren Commission. The CIA obtained a copy of the critique and in the lower right hand corner Anne Goodpasture wrote: “The caller from the Cuban embassy was unidentified until headquarters sent traces on Oswald and voices compared by Feinglass."

There is now proof that multiple tapes or copies existed and the voices were compared by Fienglass.

·                     Who or what was Fienglass?

Feinglass was the agency cover name for Boris Tarasoff. Civilian employees Boris and his wife Anna were transcribers hired by the CIA station in Mexico City. They were the individuals who listened to and transcribed from the master tape reels. Goodpasture’s information about Tarasoff’s voice comparison contradicts her November 23rd statement found in MEXI 7023.

On November 23, 1963, the same date as Goodpasture’s “unable to compare” memo, the CIA’s Deputy Director, Plans, writes the FBI’s S.J. Papich “Voice comparisons indicated that the “North American” who participated in several of these conversations is probably the person who identified himself as Lee Oswald on 1 October 1963.”

ü  Anne Goodpasture appeared before the HSCA on November 20, 1978. During testimony she was asked to comment on her note attached to the Washington Post newspaper article. Under oath she backtracked on her original claim of November 23, 1963 and maintained the voices were compared on October 18th.

·                  Is it possible conflicting stories about tape erasure could be used for plausible denial by CIA employees called to testify before the Warren Commission?

ü  CIA staff could testify truthfully under oath (as they did) before Warren Commission lawyers that tapes were erased or destroyed while withholding knowledge that copies existed. There are several examples in Warren Commission testimony where commission lawyers were not sharp enough to completely interrogate some individuals while under oath. In reality they failed to “ask the next question.”

·                     Proof the CIA was intercepting Oswald’s mail.

On November 23, 1963 Alan Belmont, third in line at the FBI, wrote Clyde Tolson - Hoover’s second in command. Belmont reiterates the story that the Dallas agents listened to the tape of Oswald’s voice but did not believe it was him. Belmont then adds:

“I pointed out that [about 9 words redacted] he said he was unable to remain over fifteen days in Mexico due to Mexican restrictions and would have to use his real name if he went back.”

 

None of the phone transcripts of “Oswald” released in the early 1990s through the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) has Oswald mentioning that his visa was good for only fifteen days or anything about using his real name. This cutoff date appeared on Oswald’s Mexican transit visa.

How did Belmont know Oswald’s visa was limited to 15 days?

The CIA had an illegal covert mail intercept program called HTLINGUAL. It was used to intercept, copy and read mail sent to or received by individuals from the Soviet Embassy or the Soviet Union.  HTLINGUAL operated out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Oswald was on the HTLINGUAL watch list as of August 7, 1961.

Oswald’s November 9, 1963 letter to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. mentions the use of his real name. “I am unable to remain in Mexico indefinily [sic] because of my mexican [sic] visa restrictions which was for 15 days only. I could not take a chance on requesting a new visa unless I used my real name.”

ü  Because of Belmont’s wording, the most logical source for knowledge of Oswald’s Mexican visa expiration came from the CIA’s HTLINGUAL program.

Conclusion

There is clear evidence that some CIA employees distorted, fabricated, lied and failed to reveal to other governmental agencies information surrounding their surveillance of Oswald while he was in Mexico City. The question remains why all the confusion as to whether it was Oswald’s voice on a tape or tapes? The FBI Special Agents who listened to one tape recording didn’t believe it was Oswald. This would generate thoughts particularly within the FBI of an Oswald impersonator. But why would someone need to impersonate Oswald, who would it be, and what would be the reason?

Did Mexico City CIA staff ever impersonate Cuban embassy staff?

The short answer is yes. There is one verifiable case where Mexico City station staff impersonated Cuban embassy staff to determine an American citizen’s plans with respect to giving aid to Cuba.

The details are found in the 201 CIA Personality File of Eldon Hensen.

Around July 19, 1963 Hensen of Athens, Texas called the Cuban embassy. Hensen was 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighed over 200 pounds. He told the staff member that he did not want to divulge his business or go to the embassy because an “American spy might see him.” He said he was in Mexico City at the Alameda Hotel in room 1402 and was leaving the following morning on American Airlines.

Most likely this phone call was intercepted by LIENVOY because later that day Hensen received a telephone call from someone identifying himself as a Cuban embassy official.

The caller was a CIA employee code name AMSAIL-1. AMSAIL-1 warned Hensen “never again phone CUBEMB (code for the Cuban embassy), too dangerous.” This prevented Hensen from calling the Cuban embassy phone number again. AMSAIL-1 agreed to meet with him. They would use the pass phrase “Laredo” for identification.  AMSAIL-1 and Hensen met at the restaurant in the Alameda Hotel where AMSAIL- 1 “played it cagey [and] made no commitments.” Hensen claimed he was under financial pressure, needed money, and was willing to help the Castro government with contacts in the United States.

Mexico City station turned the information and Hensen’s description over to an entity whose code name was ODENVY (most likely the cryptonym for the FBI) for “stateside investigation.”

With all the confusion and lack of cooperation between the CIA and governmental agencies the photograph at the beginning of this report, originally claimed to be of Oswald, may well be that of Eldon Henson.

Is there a case for the CIA using an Oswald impersonator?

To recap:

After his arrival Oswald was shuttling back and forth between the Cuban and Russian embassies. He was required to obtain a Soviet transit visa before the Cuban consulate would issue him an in-transit visa to Cuba. The Russians told him the waiting period for the Soviet visa would be about 4 months. When he returned to the Cuban embassy he told Sylvia Duran the Soviet visa had been approved. This lie would backfire when Duran called the Soviet embassy..

On Saturday morning, September 28th he was back at the Soviet embassy. This time he was begging Kostikov and Yatskov to provide him with a visa. All discussion ended when they gave him paperwork to complete and return to them for submission the the embassy in Washington, DC.

In 1991 a retired Soviet official, Colonel Oleg Nechiporenko, published Passport to Assassination. Nechiporenko was assigned to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City when Oswald was there. Nechiporenko added a timeline to Oswald’s last trip to the embassy. On page 75 Nechiporenko states Oswald arrived before 9:30 AM on Saturday, September 28th and left a little after 10 AM after being told he would not receive a visa.

There are several calls made to the Soviet embassy that don’t appear to make sense, seem spurious, and by timelines are made within hours of Oswald’s visa rejection at the Soviet embassy. The first call takes place approximately 2 hours after Oswald left the Soviet embassy.

The Feinglass (Tarasoff) Transcriptions

Saturday, September 28th at 11:51 AM

Woman and Man call the Soviet Consulate

Woman: “There is an American here who says he is been to the Russian Consulate.”

Russian: “Wait a minute.”

Woman: “He said wait. Do you speak Russian?”

Man” “Yes”

Woman: “Why don't you speak to him then?”

Man: “I don't know.”

Man: “I was in your Embassy and spoke to your counsel.”

Russian: “What else do you want?”

Man: “I was just now at your embassy and they took my address.”

Russian: “I know that.”

Man: “I did not know it then. I went to the Cuban Embassy to ask for my address, because they have it.”

Russian: “Why don't you come by and leave it then, we’re not far.”

Man: Well I'll be there right away.”

_____________________________________________________

This call could be considered peculiar for several reasons. 1] Just two hours before; Oswald has been told by the Russians he will not get a visa. 2] Oswald was given Soviet visa paperwork to complete and return to the embassy. 3] The man, presumably Oswald, does not know his own address. 4] Although “Oswald” doesn’t know his own address he believes the Cubans do. 5] Oswald did not return to the Soviet embassy when the caller said he would be there “right away.”

This appears to be a woman pretending to be Sylvia Duran and a man impersonating Oswald to determine Oswald’s status with the Soviets.

Tuesday, October 1 at 10:31 AM

A man speaking poor Russian calls Soviet Consulate

Caller: “Hello. I was at your place last Saturday and talked to your Consul. They said they'd send a telegram to Washington, and I wanted to ask you, is there anything new?”

Russian Embassy: “Call another telephone number, if you will.

Caller: “Please”

Russian Embassy: 15-60-55, and ask for Consul.

Caller: “Thank you”

Russian Embassy: “Please”

_____________________________________________________

As far as the Soviets are concerned, the real Oswald speaks satisfactory Russian but this caller is described as speaking POOR Russian. This “Oswald” mentions the Soviets are sending a telegram to Washington and he wants to know the status. BUT Oswald has been given forms to complete and return. He was told the process could take up to four months.

Since the CIA used LEINVOY to listen in on Russian and Cuban embassy phone calls they might believe the officials were working on the visa but not know Oswald had been turned away.

Tuesday, October 1 at 11:31 AM

An hour later a man speaking poor Russian called the Soviet Consulate and spoke to Soviet Embassy guard Ivan Obyedkov. The caller uses the name Oswald.

Oswald: “Hello, this is Lee Oswald. I was at your place last Saturday and talked to your Consul. They said they'd send a telegram to Washington, and I wanted to ask you whether there is anything new, but I cannot remember the name of the Consul.”

Obyedkov: “Kostikov. He is dark?”

Oswald: “Yes. My name is Oswald.”

Obyedkov: “Just a minute. I'll find out. They say they have not received anything yet.”

Oswald: “Have they done anything?”

Obyedkov: “Yes, they say a request has been sent out, but nothing has been received yet.”

Oswald: “And what . . . “

Obyedkov: Hangs up

Once again we have a caller who speaks POOR Russian. The caller doesn’t know who he spoke to although he spent at least a half hour begging Kostikov and Yatskov for a visa. Those names are something Oswald would certainly remember. He wants information about the telegram sent to the Soviet embassy in Washington. The record shows Oswald had given up after officials told him it would take four months.

_____________________________________________________

A Possible Reason for Oswald impersonation

By Saturday, September 28th 1963 it became clear to Oswald that his trip to Mexico City to acquire transit visas to either Cuba or the Soviet Union were fruitless. He decided to leave. On Tuesday, October 1st he paid his hotel bill in advance and left.

At about 7 AM the next morning (October 2nd) the hotel’s night manager got him a cab to the Transportes del Norte bus station.

At that point the CIA’s Mexico City station lost track of Oswald. It appears the CIA used “impostors” but not for the same purpose as they did in the Hensen case. They were merely attempting to determine where Oswald had gone.

The CIA’s “person of great interest” and “dangerous potential defector” had disappeared. In essence the CIA lost track of Oswald and failed to follow up with or notify any other agencies (e.g. FBI, Secret Service, presidential staff) that Oswald was on the loose somewhere in the United States.

When Oswald assassinated John Kennedy some of the CIA staff might have felt it best to bury their ineptitude by hiding, destroying, redacting or labeling TOP SECRET what they had. Hence Goodpasture’s conflicting stories about the tapes, their destruction and claims of inability to compare voices and the trip to Mexico City by James Angleton to retrieve the contents of Win Scott’s safe.

A possible motive for the assassination

When Oswald, a man with a temper and a man who attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker, returned from Mexico City he:

-       was denied an in-transit visa from the Cubans - Duran and Azcue.

-       was denied a visa by the Soviets - Kostikov and Yatskov.

-       told Kostikov and Yatskov he didn’t want to return to the United States because he was being hounded by the FBI.

What better way to get revenge against all those individuals representing countries that ignored, spurned or harassed him. Killing Kennedy would result in a pox on all their houses.

And it certainly has - over the years conspiracy theorists have blamed Castro, unnamed Cubans, the Soviets, the Dallas police, the CIA, FBI, and Secret Service to name but a few.

 

How has the CIA avoided release of some documents?

The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, or the JFK Records Act, is a public law passed by the United States Congress, effective October 26, 1992.  The Act requires that each assassination record be publicly disclosed in full, and be available in the collection no later than the date that is 25 years after the date of enactment of the Act.

October 26, 2017

There are a number of researchers, including myself, that are waiting.