After more than fifty years and zero quantum of proof since the JFK assassination, Philip Shenon and Larry J. Sabato insist on the out-worn hypothesis “Castro sorta done it” while reporting how the CIA came to doubt the official story.
From a batch of documents recently released on line by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), they have cherry-picked an unauthored 1975-CIA memo that specifically:
• “Noted the failure of the CIA, FBI and the Warren Commission to interview a key witness in Mexico City—Silvia Duran, the Mexican woman who worked in the Cuban consulate and was reported to have had the affair with Oswald.”
• “Offered a detailed theory [about] how Oswald (…) may have been inspired to assassinate the president if, as seemed probable, he read an article on Monday, September 9, in the local newspaper, that suggested Castro was targeted for murder by the United States.”
Shenon and Sabato missed that the Mexican Federal Security Directorate (DFS) immediately and exhaustively interrogated Silvia Duran at the request of the CIA. The very night of the assassination, Chief of Station Win Scott asked CIA asset Gustavo Díaz-Ordaz (LITEMPO-2), outgoing Interior Secretary and incoming President of Mexico, to hold Duran “incommunicado until she gives all details of Oswald” (NARA 104-10422-10090). Langley allowed the Station to “provide questions to the Mexican interrogators” (NARA 104-10102-10145).
On the other hand, the affair with Oswald was a slander by a cousin of Duran´s husband, the well-known anti-Communist Mexican writer Elena Garro. It was reported by CIA contract agent June Cobb (AMUPAS-1), who was renting a room from Garro, but the Legal Attaché (FBI) Nathan Ferris rightly dismissed it after having interviewed Garro and her daughter twice in November 1964. They simply “failed to substantiate the allegations” (NARA 104-10007-10043).
On a related 1965-CIA memo (NARA 104-10404-10320), the Deputy Chief of Station, Alan White, wrote down: “I don’t know what FBI did in November 64, but the Garros have been talking about this for a long time and she is said to be extremely bright.” Scott ruled out White’s concern with a lapidary remark: “She is also nuts.” Apart from Cobb, Garro drove other nuts as well. Charles W. Thomas, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy, raised the fake story with the Secretary of State William Rogers in 1969. Philip Shenon resorted to it in A Cruel and Shocking Act (Henry Holt and Co., 2013). Anyway, a slander never becomes a fact by mere repetition.
Garro refused to appear before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), while Duran accepted and was thoroughly interviewed by an HSCA panel in 1978. She was adamant that her one and only encounter with Oswald took place at the Cuban consulate on September 27, 1963. As consular clerk, she provided nothing but the standard service related to his application for an in-transit visa to go on to the Soviet Union.
Duran had made the same statement to her Mexican interrogators, and Scott even reported to Langley “she was perfectly willing travel to the United States to confront Oswald.” Notwithstanding, Duran couldn´t get through to the Warren Commission because Scott remarked on the same report: “Present plan in passing info to Warren Commission is to eliminate mention on telephone taps, in order to protect continuing ops.” (NARA 104-10020-10018). The CIA phone-tapping operation LIENVOY involved three calls linked to Duran (NARA 104-10413-10074):
1) Friday, September 27, 16:00 hours. The Soviet Consulate received a call from the Cuban Consulate. Duran said she had there a U.S. citizen who had requested a transit visa to Cuba because he is going to the USSR.
2) Friday, September 27, 16:26 hours. The Cuban Consulate received a call from the Soviet Embassy. The caller asked Duran if the American has been there and she replied: “Yes, he is still here.”
3) Saturday, September 28, ca. 12:00 hours. The Soviet Consulate received a call from a woman who identified herself as Silvia Duran at the Cuban Consulate. She handed the phone over to an American who said in Russian: “I was in your Embassy and spoke to your consul (…) I went to the Cuban Embassy to ask them for my address, because they have it.” From the first two calls, the CIA immediately learned what Duran would later declare to the Mexican authorities and the HSCA; from the third call, a burning issue cropped up: Duran and the American had been impersonated. The Cuban Consulate was closed on Saturdays and Duran didn’t work overtime on September 28, 1963. The CIA transcriber, Boris Tarasoff, firstly noted the American was speaking in “hardly recognizable Russian” and then identified him as the same person in two further calls:
4) Tuesday, October 1, 10:31 hours. A man outside (MO) called the Soviet Military Attaché Office speaking in broken Russian: “Hello, I was at your place last Saturday and talked to your Consul (…) I wanted to ask you if there is anything new.” He was given the phone number 15-60-55.
5) Tuesday, October 1, 10:35 hours. MO said in broken Russian: “Hello, this LEE OSWALD speaking. I was at your place last Saturday and spoke to a Consul (…) but I don’t remember the name… A Soviet replied: Kostikov. He is dark? MO: Yes. My name is OSWALD. SOVIET: Just a minute. I’ll find out (…) Nothing has been received as yet. MO: And what… (SOVIET hangs up). Oswald was fluent in Russian. His own wife Marina said, “he had a pretty good Russian tongue, and she thought at first he was a Baltic Russian.” (NARA 157-10014.10003). After giving on Saturday a curious statement about the Cuban Embassy having his address, which suggests a safe house of the Cuban Intelligence Service (CuIS), the imposter eventually placed on record both the name Oswald and a meeting with Valeriy Kostikov, a KGB officer reported by the CIA to the Warren Commission as “believed to work” for Department XIII, responsible of executive action, including assassination, although neither the CIA nor the FBI could find “any information to fully support [it].” (NARA 124-10369-10063).
Oswald’s impersonation in Mexico City is a key pre-assassination fact. It reinforces the hypothesis of CIA insiders forging Oswald’s linkages to the CuIS and the KGB. Thereupon, framing him up in Dallas and covering the deed up would be part of the natural course of events.
Shenon and Sabato also missed that the 1975-CIA memo falsely portrayed Oswald as pathologically driven by “his identification with Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution.” He was so Castroite that drew inspiration to assassinate Kennedy from an article in the Times-Picayune (New Orleans) quoting Castro thus: “U.S. leaders would be in danger if they helped in any attempt to do away with leaders of Cuba.” In fact, the Warren Commission Report itself indicates Oswald was stabbing Castro in the back.
In the Spring 1963, he formed the one-man New Orleans chapter of the pro-Castro organization Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). Although the FPCC leadership warned him about “unnecessary incidents,” on August 5 he walked into a lair of the anti-Castro Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE) to offer his help. On August 9, he was handing out pro-Castro leaflets in downtown New Orleans. The DRE´s local head, Carlos Bringuier, was tipped off and a brawl eventually ensued. It was staged, since Oswald had described the incident in a letter to FPCC postmarked five days before.
Less than two weeks after their scuffle on the street, Oswald and Bringuier met again on a debate at WDSU radio. After being exposed as a former defector to the Soviet Union, Oswald turned the tables and boasted about his stay there as “excellent qualification to repudiate charges that the FPCC is Communist controlled.” He stressed: “It is inconsistent with my ideals to support Communism (…) We do not feel that we are supporting international Communism in supporting Fidel Castro.”
Within a week, Oswald was writing to the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) for leaving a paper trail of the very linkages he had denied on the air: “I am the secretary of the local brach (sic) of the FPCC, a position which, frankly, I have used to foster communist ideals.” No wonder he would produce his alleged membership credentials in FPCC and CPUSA before Duran at the Cuban consulate in Mexico City.
Unlike the Castroite Oswald portrayed by the 1975-CIA memo, his very CIA Personality File (201-289248) depicted him as a counterintelligence jewel: A former U.S. Marine re-defector from the Soviet Union under watch since Halloween 1959 in Moscow by three CIA teams: The Counterintelligence Special Investigation Group (CI-SIG), the Counterintelligence Operation Desk (CI-OPS), and the Counter-Espionage Unit at the Soviet Russia Division (CE-SR/6).
In Mexico City, the CIA clearly revealed a keen interest in Oswald on the need-to-know basis. The Chief of Station had written down on the transcript of the second call from September 27, 1963: “Is it possible to identify?” Once the American citizen trying —by that time illegally— to travel to Cuba in transit to the Soviet Union was identified as “Lee Oswald,” the Station (MEXI) and Langley (DIR/HDQS) hid from each other their knowledge of his contacts with Cuban officials and Cuban exiles, respectively.
• October 8. MEXI 6453 reported to HDQS that “an American male who spoke broken Russian” had said his name was “Lee Oswald.” He was at the Soviet Embassy on September 28 and spoke with Consul Valeriy Kostikov.
• October 10. DIR 74830 replied Lee Oswald “probably” was “Lee Henry (sic) Oswald.” The cable specified: “Latest HDQS info was ODACID [State Department] report dated May 1962 [on a] US citizen [returning] with his Soviet wife [and] their infant child to USA (…) Twenty months of realities of life in Soviet Union had clearly had maturing effect on Oswald.”
While DIR/HDQS omitted two available 1963 FBI reports from Dallas (September 24) and New Orleans (October 4) about Oswald’s pro-Castro activism, MEXI concealed that Oswald had been at the Cuban consulate (September 27). Moreover, the LIENVOY report for September 1963, drafted on October 10, barely referred “two leads of operational interest:” a Czech woman calling her own embassy and a professor from New Orleans calling the Soviet Embassy. The other American calling and visiting it was taken out of the picture. To cap it all, the CIA has never produced neither an Oswald´s photo nor a tape of his calls in Mexico City, although both the Cuban and Soviet diplomatic compounds were under heavy photographic surveillance and three calls made by “Lee Oswald” were tapped.
Thus, the CIA was double dealing with Oswald before the assassination. Taking Castro as vantage point of Oswald´s motivation drives the historical truth away. But the crux of the matter is that Shennon and Sabato enter into criminal motivation taken for granted “the Warren Commission’s finding that Oswald killed Kennedy with shots fired from his perch on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository [TSBD] in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza—a conclusion supported by 21st century forensic analysis—and that there was no credible evidence of a second gunman.”
No forensic analysis at all has supported such a finding, as Gary Aguilar and Cyril Wecht proved in “The Science Behind the Persistence of Skepticism in the JFK Case” (The Association of Firearm and Toolmark Examiners Journal, Volume 48, Number 2, Spring 2016, 69-85). And a second gunman is an inescapable fact since the Warren Commission got the wrong man by getting as Commission Exhibits (CE) at least a wrong murder weapon (CE 139), a wrong bullet (CE 399), and a wrong shell (CE 543). Let´s put aside this body of evidence to focus on the Exhibits 59 and 60 attached to the January 13, 1964 FBI Supplemental Report (pages 69 and 70), which show the bullet entrance holes in the back of Kennedy’s jacket and shirt, respectively. They weren´t included in any of the 26 volumes of Commission Exhibits.
The bullet holes are positioned 5 3/8” down from the collar line on the back of the jacket. They are consistent with the death certificate, signed by JFK´s personal physician Dr. George Burkley, who examined a back wound at the level of the third thoracic vertebra, about 4-6 inches below the point where the shoulders meet the neck. At this level, a bullet coming downward from the TSBD would have not exited the throat, as the Warren Commission reported to give free rein to the magic bullet.
The magic bullet defenders like Shenon and Sabato are invited to undergo —dressed as Kennedy in tailored suit and buttoned shirt with tie— a crucial experiment designed to prove that these bullet entrance holes couldn´t be aligned with the exit wound at the throat, even if the suit jacket and the shirt bunch up in a way not seen in the Zapruder film and never seen in the history of clothing and fashion. The attendees will surely face a dilemma. If the Warren Commission accurately placed the back wound, then JFK’s jacket and shirt were replaced, hence conspiracy; if the jacket and shirt are authentic, then the Warren Commission gave a false representation of JFK’s back wound, hence cover-up.
Shenon and Sabato argue that “the newly released documents suggest that at least some of those conspiracy theories might be true.” The real point is that every wave of declassified documents brings conspiracy facts to light that puts the CIA, not Castro, in a delicate spot.