FLASH CANCELLED: What one of the last JFK files will tell us about Oswald

FBI memo
A less redacted FBI on Oswald

In response to my post, “FBI wide shut”, a faithful reader points out there is a “minimally redacted” version of a key FBI memo about accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. I’m hoping President Trump will order release this December 1963 memo without redactions before the April 28 deadline for release of all JFK files. But I’m not holding my breath.

Why does it matter?

The partially declassified memo addresses a key question raised by CIA and FBI surveillance of Oswald in 1963, specifically, why did the FBI send the following message on October 9, 1963, 44 days before JFK was killed?



Background: In 1963, an “security flash” served notice on all Bureau offices that FBI Headquarters wanted to be notified if a  certain individual had returned to the United States or had been arrested.

The effect of the October 9, 1963 FLASH CANCELLED  was to reduce law enforcement scrutiny of Oswald at the very moment that some people believe he was conceiving of killing the president of the United States.

There are two theories about why the FBI took this action. The fully redacted version of the memo will go a long way to telling whether the surveillance of Oswald in late 1963 is a story of incompetence or intelligence intrigue.

Oswald in Custody
Lee Harvey Oswald

The Oops Theory. This scenario, accepted by the Warren Commission, holds that three FBI agents with responsibility for watching domestic subversives simply underestimated a cunning leftist named Oswald. They ignored standard FBI procedures out of sheer inadvertence, it is argued. The cancellation was just an inadvertent mistake–“oops”–that only looks significant in retrospect. Besides, Oswald was not arrested between October 9 and November 1963, so the cancellation (it is argued) did not actually protect Oswald as he made his way to Dealey Plaza.

Jean Davison, author of Oswald’s Game, has cogently defended the Oops Theory in the comments section of this blog

State SecretThe Ops Theory: This theory, advocated by attorney Bill Simpich and historian John Newman, holds that the flash cancellation was related to Oswald’s role in U.S. intelligence operations. In this view, the cancellation indicated that certain U.S. officials wanted to shield Oswald from attention because he was of some use to the FBI and/or the CIA in the fall of 1963.

Simpich offers the most granular version of the Ops theory in his ebook State Secret (available free from the Mary Ferrell Foundation).

In coming days, I will compare and contrast the Oops Theory and the Ops Theory, as propounded by Jean and Bill. I lean toward Bill’s view but I’ll present both arguments so you can decide for yourself which is more plausible.

In any case, this FBI memo is one of the key documents to look for in the final JFK file releases due, by President Trump’s order, by April 28.





9 thoughts on “FLASH CANCELLED: What one of the last JFK files will tell us about Oswald”

  1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

    If you had Oswald under security flash because he was an ex Marine re-defector from the Soviet Union, who subscribed to red-wing newspapers and openly campaigned for Castro, his visits to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City (the CIA Station omitted to inform his visits to the Cuban Consulate) adds up to maintain the flash, not to cancel it. If the hypothesis Oops were true, the cancellation is surprising. Thus, the hypothesis Ops is stronger, since the fact of the cancellation wouldn’t be surprising at all. Between Oops and Ops, the latter offers a better explanation.

  2. Did MSM ever cover the Oswald security flash cancellation?

    I can understand them staying away from conspiracy mongering, but they don’t seem to cover even the most straightforward new wrinkle in the historical record.

    If there was some new record that came to light showing someone missed an inspection of a key component in one of the Space Shuttle tragedies, I think they’d cover it. JFK – no.

    WTH are they afraid of?

  3. Jeff,
    I see the flash in Oswald’s fingerprint file at the Ferrell site, but I can’t find a memo sent to all FBI offices.

    The level of FBI scrutiny of Oswald doesn’t seem to follow the critics’ view of what a flash means. Oswald’s “Flash by Bureau” was in effect from the time he left Russia until Oct. 9, 1963, yet after Fain interviewed him twice the FBI closed his case in August 1962. It remained closed until Hosty reopened it in March 1963 and stayed open after Gheesling canceled the flash. The flash notice seems to have had no effect on FBI scrutiny of Oswald.

    So what difference did Gheesling’s action really make? Could it be that the timing of the cancellation simply “looks funny”?

  4. Jeff,

    My theory isn’t “Oops.” As much as I would wish it, I don’t think the FBI could have prevented the assassination. They weren’t mind readers. I disagree that the Flash by Bureau “reduced law enforcement scrutiny of Oswald.” What actual evidence (document or testimony) supports that? I may be wrong, but I’d like to see why.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve found Flash notices in the fingerprint files of Frank Sturgis and mafioso Russell Bufalino:


    https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=127595&relPageId=6&search=“flash_by bureau”

    This mob guy had his flash canceled:


    1. Well, let’s start at the beginning. What is a “security flash”? It was a tool to locating and identifying “bad guys,” people whom the FBI wanted to keep track of, specifically people (like Oswald) who were known to have gone overseas. If they returned and were arrested, FBI headquarters wanted to know. In the case of the Oswald, the Espionage section wanted to know because Oswald, as someone who lived in the Soviet Union, was someone who might be involved in espionage. So the “security flash” was sent to all FBI offices. The “security flash,” in other words, called the Bureau’s attention to the person maned in the flash. It added a layer of law enforcement scrutiny to that person, be it Oswald, Sturgis or Buffalino. With a “security flash” in effect the target’s actions would be scrutinized if he was arrested. Without a “security flash,” the target’s actions would not be scrutinized. So the removal of the “security flash” is, ipso facto, the removal of scrutiny. The cancellation of the flash is a statement, we don’t need to know about this guy, even if he is arrested. The cancellation of the flash is the actual evidence.

  5. I recently reread Mr. Scott’s revelatory “State Secrets.” Ms.Goodpasture and Ms.Ergeter were deeply involved in helping to turn down the security alerts on Oswald, after the Mexico City intrigue involving an imposter using the name ‘Lee Oswald’. Sufficient is the evidence that the whole sordid Mexico City affair was a counterintelligence operation involving Desmond Fitzgerald, James Angelton, Win Scott, the two women mentioned above, and others at CIA. It is easy to posit that the FBI also worked closely with CIA to discredit the FPCC, and other leftist groups, simply by having Oswald sassociated with them shortly prior to the JFK murder, including the ACLU. The Oops v the Ops comparison portends to be useful, if only to dispel the notion that the FBI and CIA were at odds and working relationships were strained. Oops, was that fallacy supposed to be focused upon?

  6. Please reference DALLAS63 by Peter Dale Scott that discloses the truth about Oswald: The FBI admitted that Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City, proving conspiracy. Readers should give no credence to Jean Davison’s insistence that Oswald was the lone gunman. All medical evidence given by David Mantik, Doug Horne and Charles Crenshaw proves that the President was killed by two shots from the front. I, too, have been a loyal reader of your site for years and in years past my comments have been posted, but no longer.

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