Phil Shenon’s cruel and shocking misinterpretation

Phil Shenon
Phil Shenon,

Phil Shenon and I agree on at least a few things. In any resolution of the mysteries surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Mexico City will undoubtedly be important. The investigation into what happened there in 1963 was, for some reason, seriously curtailed by the U.S. government. The government has, since then, fought tooth and nail to keep the full story about what happened there secret.

While I have never met Shenon, I have spoken with him several times by telephone. I first heard from him when he called me around 2011. He introduced himself as a reporter for Newsweek Magazine. He said he was working well in advance on an article for that magazine for the 50th anniversary of JFK’s murder. He wondered whether I would be willing to talk about the HSCA’s investigation in Mexico City. I agreed to speak with him.

Dan Hardway
Dan Hardway

Over the course of that first conversation, and several follow-up calls from him over the next couple of years, it became apparent to me that Shenon was only interested in our work investigating what had happened in Mexico City in 1963 insofar as it might provide some kind of basis for linking Oswald to Castro or the Cubans.

I tried to discuss the details of the HSCA investigation into what happened in Mexico City in its anomalous issues, but he was uninterested in those details. While there is an acknowledgment in his book, A Cruel and Shocking Act, stating that Ed Lopez and I were “generous with their time and interviews for this book,” precious little, if any, of what we shared with him made it into the book or any of his subsequent writing on the subject of Mexico City. Not only does Shenon ignore the post-HSCA materials we tried to bring to his attention, he also ignores the primary thrust of our report written for the HSCA.

I would not take issue with Shenon if I thought what he is claiming is, merely, that the possibility of Cuban assistance to Oswald should be investigated. While I think the evidence of that is very weak at best, I will not deny that any avenue of investigation that remains open should be pursued.

What I take issue with Shenon about is his single-minded concentration on that one issue and the resultant misrepresentation of facts and questions related to, and arising from, Lee Oswald’s activities in Mexico City. It appears to me that Shenon may be carrying water for the proponents of the original conspiracy theory – that Castro did it – rather than offering any objective review of the complete evidentiary base of that underlies the Mexico City visit. Shenon deliberately ignores the indicators and evidence that suggest Oswald’s trip to Mexico was either designed in advance, or spun in the aftermath, to give the appearance of Cuban and Soviet collusion in the Kennedy assassination.

What I told Shenon

Shenon’s thesis, as most recently explicated in his March 18 article in Politico, “What Was Lee Harvey Oswald Doing in Mexico?”, is built on suspicions expressed by some government officials after the assassination and Charles Thomas’s reporting of the so-called “twist party” at Sylvia Duran’s home in Mexico which Oswald supposedly attended. This report was based on a story first told to the CIA by Elena Garro de Paz, a Mexican writer.

RFK and John McCone
“Did some of your guys do this,” RFK asked his friend CIA director John McCone after JFK was killed . (photo credit: CIA)

Many had suspicions of conspiracy after the assassination: Lyndon Johnson alleged a communist conspiracy within twenty minutes of JFK’s death; Bobby Kennedy’s first question to CIA Director John McCone that day was, “Did some of your guys do this?”

The members of the Warren Commission, meeting in Executive Session, were veryconcerned about Oswald’s intelligence connections, but Allen Dulles told them it was something that couldn’t really be proven, as a good intelligence officer would lie under oath to the Commission.

When Shenon and I talked, I tried to get him to consider evidence and facts that have come to light about Mexico City and the CIA’s handling of various investigations since, including the one I worked on in 1978, in his evaluation of the twist party story that lies at the root of his speculations. My efforts had no effect. Any possible explanation other than Cuban complicity has been ignored by Shenon who seems hell-bent on promoting the idea that Castro was behind the assassination, refusing to address any other possibility.

I tried, in vain as it turns out, to get  Shenon to consider that what we had learned about Oswald’s activities, and the U.S. government’s reaction to those activities, could support a different explanation which also pointed to an additional avenue of investigation that needed to be publicized and followed. In my view, Oswald’s activities are more consistent with his being involved in an intelligence operation being run by U.S. intelligence than with him trying to make contact with Cubans to garner support for an assassination attempt on the sitting leader of this country.

 What I saw in the HSCA investigation 

George Joannides, undercover CIA officer who thwarted the HSCA investigation
George Joannides, CIA officer

To fully appreciate why I say that, a little background from Washington in 1978, is necessary. In 1978 the CIA resisted the HSCA’s inquiry into Mexico City more than any other area of inquiry. On August 15, 1978, the chief counsel, G. Robert Blakey, told the Committee that “the deeper we have gotten into the Agency’s performance in Mexico City, the more difficult they have gotten in dealing with us, the more they have insisted on relevance, the more they have gone back in effect on their agreement to give us access to unsanitized files. For a while we had general and free access to unsanitized files. That is increasingly not true in the Mexico City area….”

And we have since learned that the CIA used career undercover officer George Joanndes to shut down the investigation into Oswald and Mexico City. In doing so, they lied to us about who he was. He ran propaganda operations in Miami in 1963-64 and was the case officer for DRE, the anti-Castro group that scored the anti-Fair Play for Cuba Committee coup using Oswald in New Orleans in August of 1963. As  Blakey has since acknowledged, “The CIA not only lied, it actively subverted the investigation.”

I think the CIA expected we would take the superficial approach of considering the “Castro did it” theory, but when we went beyond the initial appearances and began pushing our investigation into the propaganda sources, seeking interviews with the actual penetration and surveillance agents, seeking to find others in Mexico City who may have seen Oswald, then the Agency resistance to our investigation turned to a stonewall.

Shouldn’t it be enough to raise serious questions that when a congressional Committee investigating specific disinformation operations ran by the CIA, the agency brings one of those involved in the operation being investigated and uses him in an undercover capacity to forestall and subvert the investigation? But that’s not all.

What we didn’t know

Consider the scenario of U.S. intelligence involvement in Oswald’s activities in Mexico City that we were not able to fully investigate in 1978.

David Phillips
David A. Phillips, chief of CIA anti-Castro covert operations in 1963

Let’s start with some background on David Phillips, was one of, if not the, most experienced, ingenious, respected, and qualified disinformation officers in the CIA. In 1963 he was stationed in Mexico City, but, in early October, he was temporarily assigned to duty at Headquarters because he was being promoted from running anti-Castro propaganda operations to overseeing all anti-Castro operations in the Western Hemisphere.

Phillips was an experienced hand. In the late 1950’s he had been under non-diplomatic cover in Havana.. During the run-up to the ill-fated invasion at the Bay of Pigs, Phillips was stationed at CIA Headquarters where he had responsibility for the propaganda and psychological warfare aspects of the anti-Castro operations. In running those operations he was also the supervisor of the propaganda operations in the JMWAVE station in Miami run by a CIA officer William Kent (aka” Doug Gupton”). When anti-Castro students who fled Cuba for Miami, they were organized under Kent’s tutelage into the Directorio Revolucionario Estudantil (“DRE”) based in Miami. Later in 1961, Phillips was transferred to Mexico City, Kent was promoted to Headquarters, and in 1962 George Joannides took over Kent’s position in Miami, including supervision of DRE.

Phillips specialized in disinformation operations.  While still stationed at CIA headquarters he had worked with Cord Meyer to develop the first CIA  campaign aimed at discrediting and disrupting a prominent group of Castro sympathizers In the United States who had organized themselves into the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC).

In the summer of 1963 Lee Harvey Oswald formed a chapter of the FPCC in New Orleans. In August of 1963  Oswald had an encounter with DRE supporter, which led to a lot of publicity linking Oswald to communists, labeling him as pro-Castro, and discrediting the FPCC. In July and August of that year there is strong evidence that Oswald was used to identify and contact pro-Castro students at Tulane University. In early September, Antonio Veciana, an anti-Castro militant who worked with Phillips, saw his CIA friend with Oswald Dallas.

What Shenon ignores

On September 16, 1963, the CIA informed the FBI that it was considering action to counter the activities of the FPCC in foreign countries. To my knowledge, the CIA’s operational files on this new anti-FPCC operation have never been released.

CIA and FBI target the Fair Play for Cuba Commitee
FBI memo on CIA operations against the FPCC in Sept. 1963

On September 17, 1963, Oswald applied for, and received, a Mexican travel visa in New Orleans, immediately after William Gaudet, a known CIA agent, had applied for one. On September 27 Oswald arrived in Mexico City. This activity did not occur suddenly or in a vacuum. Oswald had started establishing his pro-Castro bona fides earlier that summer in New Orleans, including establishing an FPCC chapter there.

There are too many similarities between Oswald’s activities in New Orleans and Mexico City to simply dismiss, without investigation or discussion, the possibility that he was being used in an intelligence operation, either wittingly or unwittingly, in both cities. In addition to his contacts with the Soviet and Cuban diplomatic facilities in Mexico City,  there is now also evidence of Oswald’s contacts with students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and his presence at social events with Cuban Consulate employees.

David Phillips frequently lied about Oswald and Mexico City, but in a footnote in a little known book he self-published, Secret Wars Diary, he wrote: “I was an observer of Cuban and Soviet reaction when Lee Harvey Oswald contacted their embassies.”

One purpose served by an intelligence dangle is to enable the dangling agency to observe the reaction and, from that observation, identify roles of employees, procedures and processes of the enemy.

There can be little doubt that Oswald’s activities, especially the more flagrant, blatant and egregious ones such as those alleged by Shenon to have occurred at the Cuban Consulate, could only have scandalized the Cuban diplomats who heard the threats and bluster – all to the discrediting of the FPCC, just as the publicity about the New Orleans encounter between Oswald and the DRE formed one of the propaganda nails in that organization’s coffin.

Where the evidence points

It is much more likely, in my opinion, that the seasoned Cuban diplomats would be offended than it is that they would support someone exhibiting Oswald’s alleged behavior to attempt an assassination. It is much more likely that the Cuban diplomats would have, as the evidence shows they did, consider Oswald as a U.S. intelligence provocation. The Cubans knew of the surveillance on their facilities. Why would they use someone to do such a job who showed up under surveillance and announced his plans?

On the other hand, someone as provocative as Oswald should have generated a cascade of response that, when observed by the watchers, would have revealed an abundance of information. It could also serve to discredit the FPCC with the Cubans. The CIA prevented us, in 1978, from interviewing then surviving penetration and surveillance agents who would have known more about such an operation.

In 1978, we knew not only about the allegations of the twist party, but also about the stories of Oswald’s contact with students. The CIA prevented us from interviewing Oscar Contreras, a student Oswald contacted. But Anthony Summers, and others, have interviewed him since. Contreras acknowledges that Oswald, in late September, 1963, approached him and three other students who were members of a pro-Castro student organization. He asked them for help getting a visa to Cuba from the Consulate. Contreras did have contacts at the Consulate and spoke to the Consul and an intelligence officer. Both warned him to have nothing to do with Oswald as they suspected he was trying to infiltrate pro-Castro groups.

Contreras still wonders how Oswald identified him and his friends as the students, out of the thousands attending the University, as the ones with contacts in the Consulate. Shenon, some way or another, sees this incident as supporting possible Cuban involvement in the assassination. No mention is made to the similarity to what Oswald was doing with Tulane students in New Orleans.

The parallels in Oswald’s actions

Lee Oswald leafleting for the Fair Play for Cuba Committee

While in New Orleans, Ruth Paine had asked fellow Quaker, Ruth Kloebfer, to check on the Oswalds while they were in New Orleans. Mrs. Kloebfer’s husband was a professor at Tulane University. There is information in the extensive records in this case that Oswald passed out FPCC leaflets near Tulane University and the homes of some of the professors there who were members of a local leftist group. The individuals who helped pass out pamphlets on the last occasion when Oswald passed out his FPCC literature in downtown New Orleans, were introduced by Oswald as students from Tulane.

There are, keeping things in parallel, indications in the documentation about the case that Oswald, while in Mexico City, made contact with Quakers studying at the Autonomous University. There are indications that one Quaker student at the University at that time was an active agent of the CIA, although that person has never been identified and it has not been determined that he had any contact with Oswald in Mexico City. The reason that it has not been determined is that it has not been investigated.

It has to be pointed out that June Cobb, a known CIA agent, was very involved in Agency actions aimed at the FPCC in the early 1960’s. She appears again as the first person to report Elena Garro de Paz’s story about the Duran-Oswald twist party. At the time she made that report to the Mexico City CIA station, Cobb, a CIA asset, was renting a room from Elena Garro de Paz, Sylvia Duran’s cousin.

Shenon bases most of what he writes on a supposition that, based on this twist-party story, Duran was at the center of the Cuban recruitment of Oswald. But the fact is that it is still very much in question whether Duran had been recruited as an asset by the CIA. David Phillips, as well as other CIA employees, in 1978, were of the opinion that she may have been targeted for recruitment by the CIA. The CIA, then and since, has gone out of its way to keep details about Duran buried, claiming, among other things, to have destroyed her Mexico City personality file.

The point is, the activities in Mexico City in September and October, 1963, are a capsule version of Oswald’s activities in New Orleans in June, July and August of 1963. In the context of the other information we’ve learned about the CIA’s FPCC black propaganda operation, the people involved in those operations and the role of at least one of those people, George Joannides, in subverting the HSCA investigation, how can anyone not seriously consider whether Oswald’s Mexico City activities were part of a CIA anti-FPCC operation?

The very first conspiracy theory, that Castro and the communists killed JFK – the one expressed by President Johnson 20 minutes after the assassination, and first seeing print in the DRE’s CIA funded newspaper, Trinchera, on November 23, 1963 – still has followers and proponents, the latest being Phil Shenon. None of the proponents, it seems, have ever really considered whether they may be the victims – or a part – of a very good, deliberate disinformation operation – possibly the best Phillips and Joannides ever ran.


(This article first appeared, in slightly different form, on the Web site of the Assassination Archives and Research Center, based in Washington, DC)

39 thoughts on “Phil Shenon’s cruel and shocking misinterpretation”

  1. It should be said that Joannides wasn’t the only agency official guilty of defrauding the HSCA and the American people. Helms, Phillips and Kent all knew Joannides had run the DRE in the fall of ‘63 when he was subverting the investigation. They are just as guilty of obstruction. Helms for one compounded the crime with perjury when he told the HSCA he knew nothing more that would be pertinent to the investigation.

    The case will never be resolved without the CIA answering to this subterfuge.

  2. Dan Hardway, a Facebook friend, called me on the phone after reading my review of Shenon’s book – A Cruel and Shocking Twist – in which I track down and interview the two American “beatnics” who were positively attended the Mexico City “Twist Party” where Oswald was reportedly encouraged to kill JFK. Hardway talked for about an hour and told me essentially what he puts into his article, which essentially confirms that Shenon was not interested in pursing any truth but was and is only interested in any facts that support his contention and the original cover-story that Cuban Castro Commies were behind the Dealey Plaza ambush.

    Peter Dale Scott, John Newman and Anthony Summers also contacted me and said that my review could be a major rebuttal to Shenon and those who make the patently false contention that Castro had JFK killed, and with Jeff’s permission tried to post it here, but it never appeared.

    In any case, I also wrote a followup article about a real party that did take place where Oswald was encouraged to commit political assassination, but no one seems interested. I was wondering, since if it isn’t true as Shenon contends and writes an entire book on the Twist Party where Oswald was not encouraged to kill anyone, why isn’t anyone interested in the party where Oswald was most certainly encouraged to kill Gen. Walker, and is in fact accused of trying to?

    The entire Twist Party story, and the idea that Castro was behind the Dealey Plaza hit is a psychological warfare scheme – a very specific black propaganda operation the source of which can be positively identified, a source that is very close to those who planned on JFK being killed at Dealey Plaza, a plan that succeeded in killing JFK but failed in its psych war aspect of blaming the murder on Castro.

    The psych war part of the assassination proves that the murder was not planned by Oswald, LBJ or the Mafia, but limits the real suspects to those who were specifically trained in the black ops that were used and can be traced back to their source.

    As someone who has compiled a list of over two dozen examples of those case studies of individuals who attempt to blame what happened at Dealey Plaza on Cuban Castro Commies, each and every one can be traced back to the same or a similar, related source, usually someone very close to David Atlee Phillips.

    As PDS in DP3, John Newman in “Where Angeles Tread” and others have concluded, the psych war aspect of the assassination of JFK is a significant part of the plan, a complex but understandable part of the plan that gives us a crack in the door of the covert op that was designed to protect its actual sponsors.


    1. gerry campeau

      Bill i think we our getting close to the true facts on the Assassinations of Kennedy brothers and this is reason there throwing monkey wrenches to muddy the waters

  3. Regarding the agency’s obstruction of the HSCA investigation, this story appeared in the Washington Post, p.A1, on 6/18/79:
    “CIA Officer, Since Fired, Rifled Hill Panel’s Files”

    “The unauthorized entry (into the committee safe) was discovered when committee staffers arrived at work early one morning…only 3 or 4 people were supposed to have access to that safe…the only unauthorized set of prints the police found belonged to Regis T. Blahut, a CIA liaison officer who had been detailed to assist the committee. “His fingerprints were all over the place; on the photos, inside the safe and on all sorts of different packages.”
    Some of the prints were found on autopsy photos themselves rather than the plastic sleeves in which they had been encased.
    Blahut was polygraphed. According to Robert Blakey,
    “He denied he did it, and he flunked that…they also asked him whether anyone ordered him to do it. He said no one, and he flunked that.”
    “Sources said Blakey seized on an incident last year and used it as leverage to get the CIA to cough up a number of documents it had been holding back from the committee. Some of the records reportedly pertained to LHO’s visit to Mexico City in September, 1963.”

    If the agency was only interested in protecting assets, manners and means, why were they doing a black bag job in the committee safe, and why were they fingering up the original autopsy photos?

  4. Jay sutherland

    I not going to hide behind an avatar or alias however I have an opinion. Oswald did it … at best the US government was in major CYA mode on 11-22-63 and perhaps MUCH worse than than that. I really think that the various theories about what happened do not have to be a zero sum game . There are so many tentacles in this story that one cannot dismiss most of them. That said , There is no doubt that someone , Oswald , was firing a rifle from the TSBD on 11-22-63… Mexico City is the rosetta stone of what happened before that and it is not clear how deep the US /CIA was involved before then . Just look at the BS they shoved down our throats with respect to invading Iraq if you need reference to the ability to LIE to get what they want. Jeff, keep fighting and if you ever want an even keeled person to help let me know…I have time and my name is public. I just sem to notice WAY too many people attack/ ridicule/ insult anyone who has a varient view on the story , which is sad.

  5. I believe that more and more – especially as we see tensions rise with Russia, and efforts at reconciliation with Cuba move forward – we will see the “the KGB and Castro did it” (a real “conspiracy theory” in the worst sense of the word if there ever was one) will be pushed harder and harder.

    The fact is “the KGB and Castro did it” theory not only defies everything we know about the history of the times, there doesn’t seem to be any genuine evidence for it at all – except for what come from those inveterate um… truth tellers… linked to the CIA.

    Murdering Kennedy on the streets of Dallas doesn’t make sense as a Soviet project nor as a Cuban project. And you can be sure that if there was any truth to it at all, it would be a celebrated part of US victimhood along the lines of Pearl Harbor and 9/11.

    Kennedy’s murder does, though, make an enormous amount of sense as a US right-wing project.

    I was asking my Uncle the other day where he was when Kennedy was killed. He told me he was working in an auto parts store in Florida at the time. When he heard the news on the radio, he ran to his boss and told him the news. His boss simply said “good” and walked off. My uncle said that his boss later apologized to him, but that’s the reality of the feelings about Kennedy in some sectors of the US population at the time. The myths of today, the “Dallas Loves Kennedy” nonsense of the 50th anniversary, is just that. Myths. The fact is many hated Kennedy, many were pleased with his murder. And in a society where the highest stakes were involved, a country as politically violent and politically bifurcated as the United States, you can be certain that it was the project of someone – and not some “lone nut” who recently drifted into Dallas who magically happened to work in a tall building along the parade route.

  6. “I do believe that the reluctance of CIA sources to cooperate fully with the Warren Commission and the HSCA in this matter reflects more the concern for maintaining an on-going intelligence source and fears of revealing intelligence techniques than any sordid cover-up of complicity in the assassination.”

    How utterly criminal, traitorous and stupid would that be? The death of a President occurs – a national trauma that still affects people’s trust in their government and their national institutions today – and the CIA decides not to cooperate because of revealing “sources and techniques”? Ridiculous. Dangerous. Stupid. And yet still certainly doesn’t explain why the “concern” for protecting 50 year old “sources and methods” continues to this day.

    But coming from a “politically reliable” “expert witness” like Photon (meaning, I suppose, someone you can count on follow the correct political line under any circumstance – including under oath), such excuses for what would be AT BEST gross negligence and short-sighted stupidity is to be expected.

    1. It wouldn’t be stupid at all but standard security procedures used by every intelligence service in the world.
      It wouldn’t be stupid at all to protect sources from exposure when compromising them would add little or nothing to the investigation at hand ( virtually nothing released so far has had any real effect on the investigation nor brought forth more information except the knowledge that FBI and CIA monitoring of Oswald was more intensive than originally believed- in other words, consistent with would be expected of a defector to the Soviet Union.)
      It wouldn’t be stupid not to volunteer information that was not asked-you can’t blame the CIA for the WC ignorance of the Castro assassination plots, particularly with several high ranking members of Congress on the Committee.Those plots were tight-lipped secrets kept within the Kennedy White House, even withheld from Lyndon Johnson.At any time RFK could have informed the WC of their existance-so he was part of the cover-up, too? For years?
      There is no “there” there-and that is why these CIA theories of complicity have gone nowhere in the MSM, or even in a peripheral site like Politico.

      1. Desperate to make another gotcha point, Photon writes:
        “At any time RFK could have informed the WC of their existance-so he was part of the cover-up, too? For years?”

        Yes, RFK was ‘central’ to the cover-up. RFK knew that the CIA (MIC) had murdered his brother in a Northwoods-type operation for which the CIA wanted to blame Castro and KGB. [CIA and MIC are interchangeable.] For obvious reasons RFK could not go public with his knowledge of (and participation in) CIA/Mafia/Executive Branch plots to murder Castro. He could not go public with Operation Mongoose. He could not go public with the Joint Chiefs’ war-game proposal for a preemptive nuclear attack on the USSR scheduled for late 1963.

        Plus, Oswald was being run by the FBI, specifically in New Orleans, under the guidance of ex FBI officer Guy Banister. FBI was part of RFK’s Justice Department. [I think it is plausible, if not certain, that RFK had foreknowledge of Oswald because of Oswald’s FPCC mischief and fake defection to the USSR.]

        The CIA’s clever plot intended to freeze government insiders like RFK while the MIC and civilian hawks commandeered the assassination narrative and incited gullible citizens to retaliate against the Commies. [Notice how easily the government convinced 80% of the ever-credulous public that Iraq was part of 9/11 and possessed WMD.] RFK knew that he had been outmaneuvered. The only thing he and others could do was to initiate an improvised cover-up (beginning with the bizarre autopsy) . . . or allow the CIA to propagate its storyline that linked Oswald, Castro and KGB in an assassination plot.

        For RFK, LBJ, Hoover and others, the cover-up was a pragmatic, desperate effort to gain and control the narrative in order to show the MIC that the civilian government was still in charge and to forestall the possibility of WWIII (and perhaps a broader coup). Eventually the cover-up took on a life of its own, mostly to protect America’s image.

        RFK consistently waffled about the Warren Report. If elected president, he NEVER would have reopened the case.

      2. You mean the 517th most visited site in the U.S.? THAT Politico?

        I can understand someone taking the LN POV. I can’t understand someone misdirecting, obfuscating and disassembling for god-knows-who for god-knows-why.

        Politico is a direct hit in the Beltway and a very well reported story. I think it’s made you nervous, Photon. Will you not get your bonus this year?

  7. Ramon F Herrera

    Here’s some questions that no journalist has asked Mr. Shenon:

    (a) What is the nature of your relationships (professional, political, etc.) with the founder of Politico, Robert Allbritton?

    (b) Are you aware that Robert Allbritton is a Trustee of the Lyndon Johnson Library Board of Directors?

    (c) How come you seem to be the only journalist who is given space in Politico, when it comes to the subject of the Kennedy murder?

    1. Are you aware that Joe Califano and Tom Daschle are trustees of the LBJ library? Are they part of the cover-up?

      1. I don’t know about Tom Daschle, but Joe Califano, former Assistant to the Secretary of the Army during the Kennedy administration, was in on all of the important meetings between the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff to coordinate the US military assistance to the CIA’s covert Cuban operations – as detailed in the Higgins Memo of September 24, 1963 when the CIA’s Des Fitz briefed the Joint Chiefs and informed them about the attempt to adapt the Valkyrie plan to kill Hitler to Castro and Cuba. That memo was released as part of the Califano papers and is available at and here:

  8. The “Cubans encouraged Oswald to do it” theory has never made much sense to me. Castro and the Cuban government had no conceivable reason to want President Kennedy dead. Not only was Kennedy showing interest in détente, but there was no reason to suppose that an exposed plot would not have had deadly consequences for the Castro government. If the U.S. had nearly gone to war because the Soviets had installed missiles in Cuba, any rational person could only assume that Castro would effectively be dooming himself by approving a plot against Kennedy.

    The notion that Oswald shot Kennedy because he believed that Kennedy was anti-Castro is not supported by any substantiated quotes from Oswald. On Nov. 24, 1963, Oswald told police that President Johnson’s “views about Cuba would probably be largely the same as those of President Kennedy.” According to Marina Oswald, Lee told her in the summer of 1963 not only that he “liked and approved of the President,” but that Kennedy “would like to pursue a better, more gentle policy toward Cuba but was not free to do as he wished.” (Source: Douglass’s “JFK and the Unspeakable,” pp. 329, quoting McMillan’s “Marina and Lee.”) This suggests that even if Oswald had learned that there were plots against Castro, he would not necessarily have believed that Kennedy was responsible for them.

  9. Very well-written and well-reasoned. A voice of rationality and objectivity is a sea of tunnel vision.

  10. The testimony of Oscar Contreras supports the possibility of an Oswald imposter in Mexico City. Like Consul Azcue and Sylvia Duran, he recalled this ‘Oswald’ looked older than thirty and was short – he, too, thought at most 5’6″. Contreras who was himself 5’9″ recalled having looked down at the man while speaking.

    1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

      Beyond any reasonable doubt, he was impersonated by phone on September 29 and October 1, 1963, but the Oswald at the Cuban Consulate was the one killed in Dallas.
      Consul Azcue didn’t recognize him, and Sylvia Duran recalled him badly, although she recognized him from the first moment on TV. The other Cuban Consul, Mirabal, as well as Antonio Garcia-Lara and Guillermo Ruiz (two Cuban officials of the Commercial Office, located upstairs in the Consulate) did identify the Oswald there as the one in the news. Ruiz was even Mirabal’s interpreter during the discussion with Oswald. It’s clear there were other Oswald and perhaps Oswalds elsewhere, but the one at the Cuban Consulate was the one killed by Jack Ruby.

  11. It is a fascinating experience to discover that your thoughts, opinions and even actions on important issues have been manipulated. True, we understand that television ads and jingles manipulate us to buy lots of carbonated sugar water (Coca-Cola) and God-awful slabs of meat between buns (McDonalds). We accept this without too much protest.

    But, is it possible that HOW we are to think about something much more important (the JFK murder) has also been manipulated on many different fronts?

    The WC was an easy manipulation. It guided us to believe that a lonely, isolated little Communist, LHO, had killed our President, had been caught, had been killed, and that, therefore, we had nothing more to fear. We could simply grieve for his widow and saluting 3-year old son, and make up stories about how noble and charming JFK had been in real life.

    Digging a bit deeper, looking at the context of what the CIA perceived as a near-death struggle between it and the Soviet Union, we see a slightly different picture. In 1959, did 20-year old LHO simply wake-up one morning and decide to defect to the Soviet Union or was he manipulated to do so? Is it a mere coincidence that he worked on the U-2 spy plane in Japan, the prime CIA intelligence victory of the Cold War?

    In Summer of 1963, did LHO wake up one morning and decide to form a 1-man chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans (a group against which he CIA was in mortal combat at th time) or was he manipulated to do so?

    In September of 1963, did LHO wake up one morning and decide to travel to Mexico City to try to defect to Cuba or was he manipulated to do so?

    As a 24-year old high school drop-out, LHO’s movements and actions do not seem to rise to the level of a super -spy, but they don’t seem natural either. In his young life, he has several prominent intersections with the CIA activity and actions. Is this purely, a coincidence?

    My gut tells me that LHO was being manipulated by an external agent for a general purpose – to wit, as a disposable pawn or a dangle to determine how certain elements in the Communist apparatus (the bad guys) would react to him. I use the term “pawn” exactly as how you would use a pawn in a chess match – as a probe to test the enemy’s first line of defense. Indeed, on LHO’s return from the Soviet Union in 1962, would not the CIA want to obtain an extensive debriefing on what life was like in the USSR, and, more precisely, what questions, if any, did the KGB ask him as he settled into an odd, temporary life in Minsk?

    Whatever LHO was doing in Mexico City in September of 1963 lead directly to the muder of JFK in Dallas 2 months later. Was he pushed, prodded and cajoled to do the act by Cuban Intelligence – a sort of gang initiation to prove his Pro-Communist bona fides? (The Shenton view)

    Or was it more of a mutual cat-and-mouse game – whereby LHO, the dispensable pawn, was SENT to Mexico City to engage the bad guys as a probe?

    The pattern of LHO’s actions between 1959 -1963 (ages 20-24) do not seem ordinary. They seem extraordinary. For a miserable high-school drop-out, from a broken family, without any money, they seem extraordinary beyond belief – as if he is being directed/guided by the hand of an external force.

    1. “The pattern of LHO’s actions between 1959 -1963 (ages 20-24) do not seem ordinary. They seem extraordinary. For a miserable high-school drop-out, from a broken family, without any money, they seem extraordinary beyond belief – as if he is being directed/guided by the hand of an external force.”

      I’ve often made the point that far from being a hopeless loser, Oswald’s brief adult life was nothing short of remarkable. A high school dropout, he becomes a Marine Corps radar operator at a base in Japan from which ultra-secret U2 spy planes operate. Somehow, he acquires the ability to speak and read Russian, a very difficult language to learn, and becomes so good at it that according to George de Mohrenschildt, he could read the classics of Russian literature in the original. Also while stationed in Japan he spends many evenings at an expensive nightclub/brothel where he would have spent much more money that an ordinary Marine enlisted man would possess. Then after returning to the US, he applies for a passport which is granted to him in what can only be described as an expedited timeframe, applies for a hardship discharge which is granted PDQ with little if any investigation being done. He then travels to Europe, a trip that costs a lot more than his known funds at the time, moves from Le Havre to the UK to Finland with extraordinary speed, stays at what were then Helsinki’s two most expensive hotels, applies for and receives a visa from the Soviet consulate in an astonishingly short period of time, travels to Moscow, and after claiming he wants to renounce his citizenship and threatening to commit treason at the US embassy, manages to convince the notoriously suspicious Soviets to let him stay in the USSR more or less indefinitely. After living there almost 3 years, he manages to return to the US, somehow avoids jail time for leaving the Marines under fraudulent circumstances (that dishonorable discharge he was stuck with was a slap on the wrist compared to what they might have done to him). In almost no time at all, he’s living in New Orleans, proclaiming himself a member of pro-Castro organization being targeted by the FBI and CIA while simultaneously trying to pass himself off as eager to help Cuban refugees belonging to a CIA-connected anti-Castro organization, then debating the ins and outs of US policy towards Cuba on a New Orleans radio program run by a man with his own spook agency connections. Then comes the trip to Mexico City — all this, and the man had yet to reach his 24th birthday.

      1. Fearfaxer,

        We are definitely on the same page, thanks for your note.

        Something happened to LHO during his Marine service in Atsugi. There has been reasonable speculation that he was approached by Soviet Honeypots, trying to glean info about his work on the U-2 program. I can envision him reporting these contacts to Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) who guided and subsidized him to “play along.” I can envision the ONI expanding his role, teaching him to speak Russian to serve as a “dangle” to KGB agents. I can envision the CIA absorbing this interesting assignment from its junior spy agency, likely without LHO even knowing, and expanding it even farther, into a “false defector” program. Ultimately, I can envision the CIA, through the ONI, sending him to the Soviet Union for no other purpose than to vex and confuse the Soviets about the U-2 program, as it became obsolete, and replaced by Satellite technology.

        Perhaps, the CIA never envisioned LHO ever resurfacing again from Russia. Undeniably, the Soviet authorities would have viewed him with great suspicion, as a plant, or provacateur. Once drained of any knowledge LHO had of the U-2, he would have been absolutely worthless to the Soviets. So, they sent him back to the US – and the ship of history has been adrift ever since.

    1. If the source reporting that Castro said Oswald threatened to shot JFK was a good one, as you have admitted, why conclude that the statement didn’t happen? If one reviews your evidence, it seems to be based on John Newman claiming that the report was a forgery. What makes him an expert on forged documents, particularly concerning issues he knew nothing about?
      It is the standard CT response to facts that get in the way of the narrative-the reports are forged, the films are forged, the pictures are forged, the x-rays are forged, the witness statements are forged,the bullets are forged,Marina Oswald lied,Oswald had a double in Mexico City,Oswald had a double who was actually murdered,etc.etc.
      Did Castro say it?Perhaps we will find out in 2017 when reports are released.But here is a little something to consider. Even after fighting a war causing 50,000 American deaths the US normalized relations with Vietnam. Even after having a bitter relationship with China the US normalized relations. After the Soviet Union collapsed Cuba ceased to be a strategic threat to the US-and basically disappeared from US interests. And yet the US never moved toward normalization of relations, despite being a major source of capital to Cuba. That policy was in existance under Presidents from both parties. Even Obama didn’t touch it when he had a filibuster-proof Senate.
      Only after Fidel had been publically seen to be incapacitated were the moves to normalization finalized.
      There has to be a reason-perhaps not complicity, but suspicion of encouragement?

      1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

        I only confirm Hardway’s take against Shenon. For me, Oswald’s threat did happen at the Cuban Embassy, as Castro said, not at the Consulate, as many are saying, but the threat himself was rather an outburst than a statement of purpose.
        The problem in Mexico City is that LHO was impersonated by phone, and the CIA engaged in a conspiracy of silence around him. Neither an Oswald’s photo nor a tape with his voice were ever produced, and both the CIA Station there and Langley mudded the waters on Oswald in the notorious “cables of October”.

    2. Roy W Kornbluth

      Arnaldo, excellent article about what we do NOT know, and what little we DO know, about LHO in Mexico City. Let me get this straight:
      –no photos of the real Oswald in this high-security area bristling with cameras.
      –no audio tapes of LHO, who supposedly called all these Cold War era consulates and embassies.

      But then, there were all these guys SAYING they are LHO, calling attention to themselves most obstreperously, making scenes, and acting like no one else has ever acted in these national holy places.
      The more I know about it, the more likely it seems that LHO was not there at all (or very little) those 6 or 7 days late Sept-early Oct. I think one of those impostors (who could look like Oswald when he wanted to) was Charles Phillip Rogers, an exceptionally gruesome parenticide, ex-Air Force CIA from Louisiana. I also think CPR was the shorter young man at the head of the Three Tramps marched by TBSD around 2:30. Do you concur with any of this?

      1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

        Roy, there is no counter proof against the photo and the signature on Oswald’s visa application, given by the Cubans to the U.S. authorities and verified by the FBI. All the eyewitnesses at the Cuban Consulate, except one, identified the Oswald there as the one in the news. Thus, he was actually there, although he was impersonated by phone twice and another Oswald appeared, for instance, before Sylvia Odio in the States. No doubt there were more than one Oswald, but the one at the Cuban Consulate was the one killed by Jack Ruby.

        1. Roy W Kornbluth

          Arnaldo, thanks so much for that. It clears up the big picture of LHO in Mexico City, for me at least. Sooooo—it’s an amalgam of some mean between the extremes. Do you think John Newman is most accurate about Oswald in Mexico City? Or who is? Muchos gracias.

        2. Were Consul Azcue and Sylvia Duran unable to identify the Oswald arrested in Dallas as the man they encountered in MC? Also, the story of Oscar Contreras who offered a similar description of meeting an Oswald by chance gave similar, contradicting physical descriptions.

  12. Jeff, wouldn’t it be apparent that if Fidel Castro told a trusted witness that Oswald yelled out upon leaving the Cuban Embassy ” I am goung to kill Kennedy” that the jig is up? What intelligence operative,be they KGB, CIA or whatever would publically make that statement-loud enough that it got back to Fidel? Loud enough that non-Cuban employees would get wind of it? Loud enough so that potential American agents at the Embassy would be aware of it ( and frankly if he didn’t even consider the possibility of American surveillance how could he have possibly been a intelligence agent- for anybody?)
    To me the key to this entire Mexico City episode is what Fidel stated ( if he actually said it). If so it confirms that Oswald had a motive and was prepared to do what all of the real evidence has supported for 50 years-shoot JFK. I find it highly probable that he could have heard negative opinions about JFK at the Embassy and probably comments about how they could trust someone who had abandoned the U.S.S.R. Who knows?
    I do believe that the reluctance of CIA sources to cooperate fully with the Warren Commision and the HSCA in this matter reflects more the concern for maintaining an on-going intelligence source and fears of revealing intelligence techniques than any sordid cover-up of complicity in the assassination. Of course, the Agency was not about to admit how they completely blew the monitoring of Oswald and were caught unawares by his actions of Nov. 22. That would be even more embarrassing if the Agency’s monitoring techniques picked up Oswald’s threat.

    1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

      The key to this entire Mexico City episode is actually the conspiracy of silence concocted by the CIA around Oswald before the assassination, to the extreme that it has never produced a tape with Oswald’s voice or a photo of Oswald entering or exiting the Soviet and Cuban compounds, although both were under heavy phone and photo surveillance.
      Regarding Castro’s statement about the threat that Oswald voiced at the Cuban embassy, not at the Cuban consulate, where he tried to get an in transit visa, the HSCA solved the issue in its Final Report: “Nothing in the evidence indicated that the threat should have been taken seriously, if it had occurred, since Oswald had behaved in an argumentative and obnoxious fashion during his visit to the consulate” (page 122).
      Even the “trusted witnees” Jack Childs gave a logic explanation when he reported to the FBI: “The Cuban Embassy people must have told Oswald something to the effect that they were sorry that they did not let Americans into Cuba because the U.S. government stopped Cubans from letting them in, and that is when Oswald shouted out the statement about killing President Kennedy.”
      Whoever thinks, like Dr. Brian Latell, that Castro’s intelligence officers took advantage of Oswald’s outburst, has not a clue about what Castroism means.

    2. If national security power truly was in the hands of the civilian authorities, we would not even be having this conversation. Dulles, Helms, Angleton, Phillips first should’ve gone to jail for withholding the CIA/mob assassination program from the WC, which have forced the honest members on the panel to push the investigation in an entirely different direction.

      If not in 64, they then should’ve all gone to jail for the operation ran against the HSCA to obstruct the investigation in the 70s.

      This whole idea of elected officials begging for the facts from the CIA for 50 years tells me all I need to know about who’s in power and who came out ahead after the assassination.

    3. “To me the key to this entire Mexico City episode is what Fidel stated ( if he actually said it).”~Photon

      So the key to the whole episode is based on a supposition. Isn’t that correct Photon? So any conclusion that you came to, is no more than a taco; conjecture based on supposition wrapped in bias.

    4. Hilarious. So let me get this straight. Oswald was a bitter loner who wanted to kill Kennedy because his life was miserable and he wanted to be famous. No wait, he was a committed Marxist who wanted to kill right-wingers like Walker. No wait, he was an intelligence asset who wanted to kill liberals like Kennedy for Castro, even though there is no evidence Castro wanted Kennedy killed.

      And yet the only people we can trust with any certainty are the people who run the CIA disinformation campaigns. Thank goodness somebody is telling the truth.

    5. That’s not credible. Makes more sense someone was trying to frame Oswald, pretending to be Oswald, and hoping Castro would hear it and try to kill Kennedy. He didn’t need to succeed – if Castro had even started down that path CIA would have used that to twist it into an actual plot. But the full record on Castro simply doesn’t support that at all.

      And there’s still no proof that it was the “real” Oswald at either embassy in Mexico City. John Newman destroyed the visit to the Soviet Embassy and Azcue said the man Jack Ruby shot in Dallas was not the man he saw at the embassy. (After which Angleton’s crew proposed getting Azcue drunk on a trip through DC in 1965 and THEN getting him to talk about Oswald, presumably to get him to change his story.)

    6. There are several problems with your presumed “positive” identification of Oswald as the lone nut who ranted about killing JFK in front of the Cuban embassy’s staff. They described a different person.

      1. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

        Not at all. The visa application shows a photo and a signature that are Oswald’s, according to FBI lab, and there is no an alternative claim. And from five eyewitnesses, only one did not identify the Oswald in the news as the Oswald in the Consulate. What else do we need to place him there on September 27, 1963? The conspiracy facts were that he was impersonated by phone on September 28 and on October 1, while another Oswald was visiting Sylvia Odio in the States, and the CIA has ever produced neither a tape nor a photo of Oswald in Mexico City, although both the Soviet and Cuban diplomatic compounds visited by him were under heavy surveillance through tapped phones and photographic coverage of the entances.

    7. “Jeff, wouldn’t it be apparent that if Fidel Castro told a trusted witness that Oswald yelled out upon leaving the Cuban Embassy ” I am goung to kill Kennedy” that the jig is up? What intelligence operative, be they KGB, CIA or whatever would publically make that statement-loud enough that it got back to Fidel?”

      Who would do that? An agent provocateur. Which the author, though he doesn’t use that term, clearly thinks may have been Oswald’s role in these peculiar events. Oswald’s activities in New Orleans are certainly consistent with such a role.
      BTW, Jeff Morley is not the author of this post. Dan Hardway is.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top