Letters to Oswald: hoax or evidence?

On January 17, 1964, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote to J. Lee Rankin, the general counsel of the Warren Commission, on the evidence compiled as Commission Document 295: four letters postmarked in Havana that suggested or alleged that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a contract killing undertaken by Lee Harvey Oswald under the direction of an agent for Fidel Castro named Pedro Charles.

Hoover concluded it was “some type of hoax, possibly on the part of some anti-Castro group,” since the FBI Crime Lab found that the same Remington No. 10 typewriter had been used to prepare all four letters:

Oswald letters

One of the letters that surfaced after JFK’s assassination seeking to implicate Cuba in the crime.

• Pedro Charles to “Friend Lee” — dated November 10, 1963, and postmarked on November 28 — addressed to “Lee Harvey Oswald, Mail Office, Dallas, Texas.”

• Mario del Rosario Molina to “Señor Kennedy” — dated November 27, 1963, and postmarked on November 28, 1963 — addressed to “Mr. Roberto Kennedy, Secretary of Justice, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.”

• Miguel Galban Lopez to Voice of America and Diario de Nueva York — both dated November 27, 1963, and postmarked on December 3.

The first letter advises Oswald “to close the business as soon as possible” close ASAP, and abounds both in directions (“[D]o not be foolish with the money I gave you” and “[Don’t forget to do all I told you to the very letter and leave nothing that could lead to your trail"] and promises (“After the affair I am going to recommend much to the chief” and “I will send you the money and we will see each other in Miami”).

The other three letters denounce Charles as a Castro agent who had paid Oswald for killing the sitting U.S. president.

A fifth letter

The FBI wasn’t aware that Cuba’s Department of State Security (DSE) had turned up another letter related to Oswald — this one dated November 14, 1963, and found on November 23 in the Havana foreign-mail sorting office. It was typed on a Remington 16 with the salutation “My friend Lee,” signed “Jorge,” and addressed to “L.H. Oswald, Royalton Hotel, Miami, Florida.”

The most noteworthy passage: “I would like to tell you that the thing that you talked to me last time we were in Mexico, would be a perfect plan that would weak the political fanfarron [braggart] of Kennedy, even though you need a lot of prudencia (caution) because you know how are moving the counterrevolutionary friends that work for the CIA.”

The DSE maintains that the Warren Commission must have investigated the letters instead of blindly accepting the FBI’s assertion that they amounted to a hoax perpetrated by unknown anti-Castro militants inside Cuba. To the Cuban brain trust on the issue, the letters dated before the assassination show some foreknowledge of Oswald’s links to Dallas and Mexico City. Thus, Jorge and Pedro Charles hinted at a plan for implicating Castro in the assassination by tying Oswald to pro-Castro Cubans in Mexico and Miami.

According to General Fabián Escalante, the former head of the DSE, the letters were fabricated by people aware of a plot against JFK with a clandestine base in Cuba ready to ensure the letters would arrive just in time to fuel suspicions against Castro. Only the CIA had such a capability inside Cuba, he said.

At a meeting of JFK researchers and Cuban officials in the Bahamian capital of Nassau in December 1995, Escalante’s assistant, Arturo Rodriguez, said that the typewriters should be identified by comparing the letters with CIA documents typed at its Mexico City station or with “a personal letter by Howard Hunt, for example, done at home or at a friend’s house.”

It’s a major task ahead for turning an FBI-established hoax into a conspiracy fact.

20 comments

  1. John McAdams says:

    According to General Fabián Escalante, the former head of the DSE, the letters were fabricated by people aware of a plot against JFK with a clandestine base in Cuba ready to ensure the letters would arrive just in time to fuel suspicions against Castro.

    And the evidence that any of the letters existed before November 22 is?

    • Mayra Solloa says:

      Not really. Only the 5th letter seems to be curious, since it was intercepted by DSE the day after the assassination.

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Interesting your the first one to post Asst. Prof. McAdams.
      Excellent article Jeff. It’s been a working day off or I’d comment more. Do I see the hand of Phillips and the CIA?

    • Anonymous says:

      And the world according to J. McAdams…. we must believe

      the Cuban “General Fabian Escalante, the former head of the

      DSE (Department of State Security),” because he McAdams, says

      so… and the evidence that every statement that General

      Escalante has spoken about his security department concerning

      the Kennedy assassination before and after November 22 is?

    • Mark Barsotti says:

      Professor McAdams,

      Only two of the letters are dated before Nov 22nd, so the other three don’t preport to have been written pre-assassination. And what, really, is the different? They were mailed for Cuba, so its a safe bet Cuban agents weren’t trying to frame their own government. They were obviously written by an anti-Castro faction, whether or not at the behest of American sponsors (i.e. the Company) or on their own spur-of-the-moment initiative to try framing a dead man is an unanswerable question. Is it proof of conspiracy? Nope. Suggestive of same?

      Yes.

  2. Gerry Simone says:

    Didn’t a former KGB agent or Soviet military officer subsequently state that the ‘Hunt’ letter was disinformation to implicate right wing oil?

    So isn’t the corollary possible (CIA implicate the Commies)?

    • John McAdams says:

      The problem with that is that a lot of evidence shows the CIA was very wary of blaming any communist government.

      Jeff admits that the CIA declined to give the DRE the go-ahead to blame Castro. (The DRE did it anyway.)

      Jeff’s book on Mexico City shows that Win Scott and David Atlee Phillips were not keen to blame the communists (although the ambassador, who was not CIA, was).

      In this, the Agency doubtless reflected the view of Washington officialdom generally: blaming a communist government had very dangerous implications.

      • anonymous says:

        “The problem with that is that a lot of evidence shows the CIA was very wary of blaming any communist government.”

        You might try producing the evidence that the CIA was very wary. Was the CIA wary of invading Cuba? There is some evidence that the CIA wanted to invade – It’s filed under “Bay of Pigs”…

        “CIA declined to give the DRE the go-ahead to blame Castro. ”

        What evidence do you have for the CIA declining to give the DRE the go-ahead to blame Castro?

        “Phillips not keen to blame the communists (although the ambassador, who was not CIA, was).”

        Factoid alert! Please post your evidence here, that the ambassador was not CIA.

        “In this, the Agency doubtless reflected the view of Washington officialdom generally: blaming a communist government had very dangerous implications.”

        Yes blaming a communist government had dangerous implications ( just as invading Cuba would be dangerous) – but where is your evidence that the CIA was wary of blaming a communist government? After all, the CIA not wary of invading Cuba.

        • Neil says:

          I’m sure there were factions in the CIA that favored war against Cuba and factions that opposed a direct US war against Cuba. That’s why it’s so confusing to identify and understand the CIA’s role in the coverup.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Unwitting vs. witting elements of the CIA.

            Rogue vs. honest agent.

            Compliant vs. out-of-control agents.

            (However, ‘aboveboard’ agents or officials may have known about nefarious factions).

        • Stanley says:

          It is clear the CIA was not wary of upsetting the communist apple as demonstrated by the Bay of Pigs invasion. Apparently they were wary of blaming something on the communists that they knew the communists did not do. Compounding the matter was the complication from a deeper investigation that would entail exposing the where’s and what for’s of Oswald’s history beyond what had already bubbled up. Perhaps best to just bury the whole thing. They would very likely have been thrilled to blame the communists, the apparent problem was, they couldn’t.

        • John McAdams says:

          I cited Morley on both counts.

          You think Mann was CIA? What evidence do you have of that?

          Morley’s Our Man In Mexico City clearly recounts that Scott and Phillips were not keen to blame the assassination on Castro.

          As for “permission:”

          One of the Directorate’s former leaders, Tony Lanusa, now a Miami businessman, says he called “Howard” within minutes of the news of Oswald’s arrest on November 22, 1963. He recalls telling the CIA man that the group wanted to go public with what they knew about the accused assassin. “Howard” told them to hold off until he could contact Washington for guidance. They went ahead anyway.

          http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/morley6.htm

          • John McAdams says:

            I cited Morley on both counts.

            You think Mann was CIA? What evidence do you have of that?

            Morley’s Our Man In Mexico City clearly recounts that Scott and Phillips were not keen to blame the assassination on Castro.

            As for “permission:”

            One of the Directorate’s former leaders, Tony Lanusa, now a Miami businessman, says he called “Howard” within minutes of the news of Oswald’s arrest on November 22, 1963. He recalls telling the CIA man that the group wanted to go public with what they knew about the accused assassin. “Howard” told them to hold off until he could contact Washington for guidance. They went ahead anyway.

            http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/morley6.htm

      • Gerry Simone says:

        ‘George Bush of the CIA’ didn’t want Hoover to blame the anti-Castro Cubans or Cuban community in Miami either.

        Officially, the CIA may not have wanted to blame Castro or the Soviets, but that doesn’t mean they wanted to stop any clandestine anti-Castro activity to stop.

        They probably wanted to preserve those efforts or options but minimize attention in the aftermath of the assassination.

      • Arnaldo M Fernandez says:

        There is also a CIA problem BEFORE the assassination: both the MC station and Langley were lying to each other regarding Oswald’s link to Cuba: an ex marine, re-defector from the URSS, openly engaged in pro Castro agitprop, was missed as a security risk even after having visited 3 times de Cubans and 2 times the Soviets in MC. Both were under heavy photo surveillance, and the CIA has never produced an Oswald’s photo; at least five phone calls related to him were intercepted by the CIA and it has never produced a tape of Oswald’s voice. As in the case of the letters, as Escalante said, only the CIA personnel had the capability…

  3. Neil says:

    More framing of a dead man.

    It does seem that an effort was made to link the Communists to Oswald.

    Oswald’s November 1963 letter to the Soviet embassy also seems forged

    • Gerry Simone says:

      The CIA didn’t have to blame any foreign government.

      The patsy’s Communist inclinations and membership of the FPFCC was enough to incriminate the enemy in the minds of the people.

      Maybe it was good enough to garner support for Viet Nam, etc.

  4. Hoover wrote another letter to LBJ on 12/1/1966 in which he says the KGB thinks you murdered John Kennedy! The FBI had a spy in the KGB residency in New York. It should be stressed that this is what the KGB had *internally* concluded on the JFK assassination. Btw, publicly from the beginning the KGB was blaming reactionary Texas oil executives – LBJ’s core supporters for decades – for the JFK assassination. And LBJ himself blamed Dallas, TX oil executives and “intelligence bastards” for the JFK assassination (when he wasn’t telling folks Castro did it).

    Hoover also copied the top leadership of the FBI with this memo.

    Web site: http://www.indiana.edu/~oah/nl/98feb/jfk.html#d1

    QUOTE:

    On September 16, 1965, this same source reported that the KGB Residency in New York City received instructions approximately September 16, 1965, from KGB headquarters in Moscow to develop all possible information concerning President Lyndon B. Johnson’s character, background, personal friends, family, and from which quarters he derives his support in his position as President of the United States. Our source added that in the instructions from Moscow, it was indicated that “now” the KGB was in possession of data purporting to indicate President Johnson was responsible for the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy. KGB headquarters indicated that in view of this information, it was necessary for the Soviet Government to know the existing personal relationship between President Johnson and the Kennedy family, particularly between President Johnson and Robert and “Ted” Kennedy.

    UNQUOTE

    • Gerry Simone says:

      That link you provided is interesting reading.

      The parts that relate to subversive plans against Cuba leads me to suspect the possibility (certainly not the first time raised) that LHO was used ostensibly & solely for an attempt on JFK’s life, but was later made the scapegoat for the real deal.

      I doubt it would be sanctioned by upper echelons, but the tone of such plans represents a mindset that existed at the time for such false flag activities, and exploited by rogue agents/factions perhaps.

      • Gerry Simone says:

        Perhaps the latter is what the CIA does not want the public to know about if it indeed happened that way or if they suspected it to possibly happen, but didn’t do anything about it except cover it up.

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