‘JFK Declassified:’ What the History Channel overlooks

Declassified documents reveal that Oswald met with the Cold War enemies of the United States, both Russia and Cuba, only eight weeks before JFK’s assassination.

This claim, made by the producers of new History Channel docu-series JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald, is not new. The claim may just be promotional hype for the series which begins tonight and runs through May 30. But, from long experience with JFK documentaries, my fact checking antennae are tingling.

It is not too soon to say the History Channel’s claim is potentially misleading.

What is Misleading?

JFK authors and researchers have long called attention to the importance of understanding the trip of accused assassin Lee Oswald to Mexico City six weeks before the assassination of JFK  in Dallas on November 22, 1963.

Oswald, a leftist, wanted to travel to Cuba and then to the Soviet Union. Seeking a visa, Oswald spoke with various Cuban and Russian officials–some of whom were actually intelligence officers.

This is all well known. Investigators Dan Hardway and Ed Lopez, journalist Anthony Summers, and historian John Newman, among many others have written in detail about these events.

I wrote about Oswald’s encounters in Mexico City in my 2008 book, Our Man in Mexico. And I will write about them in my forthcoming biography of CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton.

If presented as a revelation in 2017, the claim that Oswald met with “enemies” of the United States is a species of archaic Cold War propaganda.

What Is New?

NIkolai Leonov,
NIkolai Leonov, retired KGB officer

The History Channel promises the first on-camera  interview with a KGB officer who met with Oswald. This will be new and welcome to JFK historians.

Personally, I hope the interviewee is Nikolai Leonov, the Soviet counterpart of CIA station chief Win Scott, the charismatic spy depicted in Our Man in Mexico. 

Leonov was the chief of the KGB rezidentura in Mexico City in 1963. He later became a Lt. General in the Soviet intelligence service.

As I reported here last March, Leonov has told of meeting Oswald six weeks before JFK was killed. He says Kennedy’s death was

a murder camouflaged as a random assassination, and it became clear to me that [Oswald] was an obvious scapegoat.

His story is fascinating. I’m not saying that Leonov’s interpretation is historical truth. I am saying you can’t understand the story of Oswald and intelligence agencies without reference to his account.

Context Needed

The claim that Oswald was consorting with “enemies” also needs the CIA’s perspective.

I’m afraid that the History Channel is going to omit is a highly relevant and now indisputable fact: Oswald met with those Cuban and Russian intelligence officers under the watchful eyes of the CIA.

Our Man in MexicoAs station chief Win Scott wrote in his unpublished memoir, “every piece of information about Lee Harvey Oswald was reported immediately after it was received.”

In Washington, a group of senior undercover officers, led by counterintelligence chief James Angleton, received Scott’s reports on Oswald’s contacts with the Cubans and the Russian officials within days.

Here’s a declassified CIA cable about Oswald, drafted by Angleton’s staff, six weeks before JFK was killed.

This isn’t a theory. It is a fact that the History Channel may not know or care to emphasize: Oswald met with Cuban and Russian intelligence officers under the watchful eyes of the CIA.

Fact Checking

I will watch”JFK Declassified” with an open mind. So should anybody interested in the truth about who killed the liberal president–and about who tried to hide it. The History Channel series will, I predict, require additional context and facts.

Stay tuned. To be continued.







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