In 1963

What a senior KGB insider said about Lee Harvey Oswald

Nikolai Leonov

Insider: Fidel Castro, Nikolai Leonov, and Nikita Khrushchev

Nikolai S. Leonov has an interesting perspective on the story of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Leonov joined the KGB in 1958 and retired in 1991 with the rank of Lieutenant General. In the spring of 1963, his fluency in Spanish gained him the job as the Russian interpreter for Cuba president Fidel Castro during his first visit to the USSR in the spring of 1963, In the photo above he is the man standing between and behind Castro and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.

Later that year Leonov was assigned to the KGB Station in the Soviet Embassy in  Mexico City. In October 1963, he was immediately informed when a man named Lee Harvey Oswald called the Embassy seeking a visa to travel to Cuba.

Leonov recalled this encounter in his memoirs (Likholetye [The Troubled Years], 2005). The relevant passage was translated by Mark Hackard for his digital page Espionage History Archive. Here is an extract.

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After JFK was killed, former president Truman called for the abolition of CIA covert operations

Truman's complaint

Truman’s complaint

“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment,” wrote former president Harry Truman in the Washington Post on December 22, 1963. It was exactly one month after the assassination of President Kennedy.

“It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas,” Truman wrote.

The former president never explicitly linked JFK’s death to the clandestine service, but the timing and venue of his piece was suggestive.

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Move over, Adele—JFK is actually the fastest-selling artist ever

“This week, 52 years ago, John Fitzgerald Kennedy: A Memorial Album sold an astonishing 4 million copies in its first six days of availability, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. …It cost 99 cents a copy.”

Move Over, Adele—JFK’s Actually the Fastest-Selling Artist Ever – The Daily Beast

Dec 6 1963: Life magazine addresses JFK “rumors” with bad reporting

The national media, much less diverse and fragmented in 1963 than today, joined the campaign to assuage doubts and dispel “rumors” about JFK’s assassination. Pollsters were already finding that a majority of Americans suspected conspiracy. Life Magazine’s Dec. 6 issue was devoted primarily to photo coverage of the Kennedy funeral, but also included a piece by Paul Mandel entitled “End to Nagging Rumors: The Six Critical Seconds.”

Life Magazine

The article began with a quote from Dallas DA Henry Wade: “I would say without any doubt that he is the killer”, and referred to Oswald as “the assassin.”

Life Magazine had earlier purchased rights to Abraham Zapruder’s famous home movie of the murder in Dealey Plaza, and in a November 29 issue had shown frames from that film in black-and-white. Now the Mandel article tried to reconcile the film with Oswald’s guilt.
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‘Concerning the Facts and Consequences of the Tragic Death of President John F. Kennedy’

What Cuba leader Fidel Castro said about JFK’s  assassination on November 23, 1963. He was judicious. Read more

Silence like a cancer grows

Did you know that Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” was a response to JFK’s assassination? I didn’t.

Another gambit on ‘The Devil’s Chessboard’

Devil's ChessboardThe headline of the Washington Decoded review,  Who Needs Soviet Propaganda? gives fair warning to the faint-hearted reader that a polemical bog lies ahead. Beyond this billboard, you will find a review enshrouded with disdain, intent on score-settling, and (per the headline) determined to wage Cold War. This is ancient turf haunted by huffy men, Proceed with caution.

[But first, buy “The Devil’s Chessboard,” by David Talbot.]

Reviewer David Barrett is perturbed that David Talbot’s new book, “The Devil’s Chessboard,” portrays CIA director Allen Dulles as a freewheeling power broker, devil-may-care administrator, ruthless philanderer, occasional liar, and amoral covert operator whose actions destroyed lives and democracies.
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Oct. 10, 1963: Six top CIA officers discuss Lee Harvey Oswald among themselves

Fifty two years ago today, a man named Lee Harvey Oswald came to the attention of a group of senior CIA officers in Langley, Virginia. Oswald had recently visited the Cuban consulate and Soviet Embassy  in Mexico City. A CIA wiretap captured a man identifying himself as “Oswald.” The CIA officers conferred about his actions.

The story is well documented in CIA archives.

CIA Oswald Cable

Six CIA officers who knew about Oswald before JFK was killed

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About those Kennedy Kards

The now poignant Kennedy Kards deck was published in early 1963 when the public infatuation with JFK had been revitalized by his statesmanship in the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962.

JFK was the Jack of Hearts, First Lady Jackie the Queen of Hearts, and Bobby Kennedy, the King of Diamonds.

“Long live the King, Queen and Jack,” proclaimed an informational card that came with the deck.

Within the year, the Jack of Clubs, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, would be president. Read more

Fidel Castro: ‘Concerning the Facts and Consequences of the Tragic Death of President John F. Kennedy’

What Cuban leader Fidel Castro said  on November 23, 1963 about JFK’s assassination: Read more

‘Concerning the Facts and Consequences of the Tragic Death of President John F. Kennedy’

What Fidel Castro said about JFK’s  assassination on November 23, 1963. He was judicious. Read more

‘Jim [Angleton] would prefer to wait out the Commission …’

“Jim would prefer to wait out the Commission on the matter covered by paragraph 2 …”

CIA’s Raymond Rocca, writing to Richard Helms regarding counterintelligence chief James Angleton’s desire to stonewall the Warren Commission on certain CIA materials passed to the Secret Service.
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‘Concerning the Facts and Consequences of the Tragic Death of President John F. Kennedy’

What Fidel Castro said on November 23, 1963: Read more

Roger Hilsman on JFK’s Vietnam plans

“At the end, Ngu Dinh Diem was talking to nobody but his brother Nu. Read more

June 11, 1963: Kennedy emerges on civil rights

President Kennedy’s growth as a leader in June 1963 is a key to understanding his life and death.

As Arms Control Today documented last year, JFK’s June 10 speech at American University would influence the arms control vision all of the U.S. presidents who followed him. And as this New York Times column notes, his often-overlooked nationally televised address on June 11, 1963, signaled his evolution as a civil rights leader.

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