Oct. 10, 1963: Six top CIA officers discuss Lee Harvey Oswald

On October 10, 1963, 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 Oswald and his actions and signed off on a cable about him. They are identified on the declassified CIA cable whose authenticity is not disputed.

CIA Oswald Cable
They were: assistant deputy director (ADDP) Tom Karamessines; Soviet Russia division counterintelligence officer Stephan Roll; liaison officer Jane Roman, Special Projects Group (SPG) officer Ann Egerter; chief of the WH/3 desk (Mexico )”John Scelso” aka John Whitten; and chief of operations for Western Hemisphere, William J. Hood.

Why were they so interested in Oswald?

On October 8, 1963, Win Scott, the chief of the CIA station in Mexico City, sent a cable to CIA headquarters, seeking more information about this curious visitor: Who is Oswald? Scott asked.

On the afternoon of October 10, the question was referred to group of senior CIA officers in the Counterintelligence Staff and in the Western Hemisphere directorate. The people, were thinking about the obscure Oswald were not clerks, bureaucrats, or paper pushers. They were senior operations officers. That is to say their primary responsibility was running covert operations.

One possible explanation for their interest in Oswald is that he was part of a covert operation.The CIA denies it


The October 10 cable

What did these  intelligence officers say about Oswald — that lowly, pathetic, apparently harmless yet allegedly sociopathic ex-Marine?

The men and women of the CIA reviewed his CIA file, which included a recent report from the FBI that Oswald had been arrested in August 1963 for fighting with CIA-funded anti-Castro and anti-JFK Cuban exiles in New Orleans.

The FBI report documented that he was a supporter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a pro-Castro group that was listed on the U.S. government’s official list of organizations official described as “subversive.”

For reasons that have never been unexplained, these CIA officers decided not to share information about Oswald’s recent arrest or his public activism in support of a subversive  pro-Castro organization with their colleagues in Mexico City.

Rather, as I reported for the Washington Post in April 1995they chose to cite a 17-month-old memo from the State Department. In that memo, a U.S.  official in Moscow said that the reality of Oswald’s two and half year residence in the Soviet Union had had a “maturing effect” on him. In effect, headquarters was telling Mexico City not to worry about Oswald’s communist background.. He was growing up.

The CIA’s assessment of Oswald seven weeks before JFK was killed

Forty two days later, Oswald allegedly shot and killed Kennedy.

The October 10 cable destroys the cover story, fed to the Warren Commission, that the CIA only had a “routine” interest in Oswald before the assassination. To the contrary, a half dozen high-ranking officers were familiar with his biography, leftist politics, foreign travels and foreign contacts six weeks before JFK was killed.

COME BACK TOMORROW FOR JFK STORY #7: A retired counterintelligence officer gave me a candid assessment of the agency’s pre-assassination interest in Oswald.




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