How CIA surveillance tracked Oswald on his way to Dallas

WaPo Oswald

CIA paid close attention

The most important revelations in the new JFK files concern the CIA (and possibly NSA) surveillance of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.

A Senate investigator’s memo, released in December 2017, gives the exact date that the surveillance of Oswald began: November 11, 1959.

This is one of the most important JFK records released in the Trump era, so its details are worth understanding.

Watching Oswald

The mail surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald was ordered by counterintelligence chief James Angleton in November 1959, not long after the Washington Post reported the news that a 20-year-old Marine had defected to Moscow.


Oswald Under SurveillanceOswld under surveillance


The 1975 Senate memo documents when a number of Americans were put on Angleton’s “watch list.” The list consisted of persons whose overseas mail was to be intercepted, copied, and filed by the CIA. This mass mail surveillance program was known by the code name of HT/LINGUAL.

(Note that this document is not dated with the American-style month/day/year format but with the European-style day/month/year format.)

Betty Egerter

Betty Egerter, aide to James Angleton. She controlled the CIA’s Oswald file from 1959 to 1963.

Angleton ran LINGUAL. In the late 1950s, the brillant, Yale-educated Angleton was one of the most powerful and feared men in the CIA. With responsibility for disrupting KGB operations in America, he naturally had a deep interest in the two dozen U.S. servicemen who defected to the Soviet Union or other communist countries in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Oswald was one of them. His  name was put on the LINGUAL list on November 11, 1959. It was removed four months later on March 5, 1960.

Angleton’s staff continued to receive State Department reports on Oswald, and on August 7, 1961, Oswald’s name was put back on the LINGUAL watch list. Angleton’s aide, Betty Egerter, kept track of the nameson the list.

Oswald’s name was removed from the LINGUAL watch list for a second time on May 28, 1962. That’s when Angleton’s staff learned from the State Department  that the former Marine had returned to the United States with his Russian wife, Marina.

Surveillance Continues

Angleton did not lose track of Oswald after his return, nor lose interest, according to declassified records. On June 22, 1962, the LINGUAL intercept team sent a newspaper clipping about Oswald’s return to Texas to Angleton’s office. The CIA was interested in Oswald.

“This item will be of interest to Mrs. Egerter, CI/SIG,” the memo states.

The surveillance of Oswald continued. When FBI agent John Fain interviewed Oswald in Fort Worth in August 1962, director J. Edgar Hoover forwarded his report to Angleton’s staff.

This declassified CIA routing slip shows the agency passed the August 1962 FBI interview of Oswald to two offices in Angleton’s domain: the Special Investigations Group (CI/SIG) where Egerter worked, and the Operations office (CI/OPS).

The fact that a detailed FBI report on Oswald was sent to Angleton’s operations office, CI/OPS, constitutes strong evidence that the ex-Marine was considered, if not used, for operational purposes. Why else would an operations office be notified, if information about Oswald was not related to operational activity?

Next: Surveillance in Dallas: The George De Mohrenschildt Story

One comment

  1. Harry Morgan says:

    An obvious question I have is the reality that Oswald in 1959 was only 19. In his short life he’s appeared in too many accounts for? To say he was being groomed for a patsy role or Assassin’s role in 59 or was this simply his trip to Russia coupled with the ease of his return to the States. Something is finally adding up but it may remain conjecture since virtually every one associated with 112263, Is dead.

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