Politico’s report on Oswald’s alleged JFK threat overlooked one thing

David Slawson
David Slawson

A faithful reader calls attention to this passage in Phil Shenon’s POLITICO Magazine article on the former Warren Commission staff David Slawson and his change of heart about the Commission’s conclusions:

“He [Slawson] was outraged, in particular, when I showed him an eye-popping June 1964 letter from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to the commission that described how Oswald, in an outburst at a Cuban diplomatic compound in Mexico City during his trip there, had reportedly been overheard threatening, ‘I’m going to kill Kennedy.’

“According to the letter, a secret FBI informant had heard about the outburst directly from Fidel Castro during a meeting with the Cuban dictator in Havana several months after the JFK assassination. (The informant would later be revealed to be a leader of the American Communist Party.)”

Shenon went on: “Slawson was certain he had never before seen the Hoover letter, even though it was written in the middle of the Warren Commission’s work.”

The reader notes that the letter was known to the Commission. It was called Commission Document 1359 and it was apparently circulated to Slawson.

The readers notes: “In my copy of the official list of Commission Documents  (“Inventory Entry 2”), p. 154, a handwritten marginal note for CD 1359 indicates “Orig – Files; cc: Slawson,”

This was typical, the reader writes: “Every other CD on that page went to the files and to one junior counsel (occasionally two).”

“Slawson may not remember seeing it but he almost certainly did,” the reader concludes.

I have asked Slawson for comment.

Until he responds I would make one point. One inherent problem in secret intelligence collection is the self-interest of the source in telling the the intelligence service what it wants to hear. This problem seems especially relevant to this story.

The leader of the American Communist party who reported Oswald’s alleged threat to the FBI was a man named Jack Childs, code named SOLO. It took impressive level of cynicism for Childs to present himself as a hardline communist for his whole adult life while whispering the party’s secrets into the ear of J. Edgar Hoover, one of the party’s most vitriolic and powerful enemies.

Might Childs have embellished the story of his conversation with Castro in order to stay in good graces with the Bureau?

The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded in 1978 that the information from Childs/SOLO was not credible.  “On balance, the committee did not believe that Oswald voiced a threat to Cuban officials. However reliable the confidential source may be, the committee found it to be in error in this instance.” (Emphasis added.)

The HSCA’s conclusion was based on the fact that none of the employees of the Cuban consulate who were interviewed by the HSCA (and by Anthony Summers) confirmed that Oswald said, “I’m going to kill Kennedy.” Of course, as employees of the Cuban government, these witnesses had their own self-interest.

Absent additional information, I think the weight of the evidence indicates that Oswald did not make any such threat. Caveat Emptor.


13 thoughts on “Politico’s report on Oswald’s alleged JFK threat overlooked one thing”

  1. Duran didn’t conduct the visa process by herself, she called in Azcue. The visa was conditionally granted weeks later – the condition was that the Soviets had to approve Oswald’s visa as well.

    As the man who supposedly uttered the threat went to the embassy – and as everyone who worked at the consulate said they knew nothing about the threat – and as the HSCA quizzed Castro at length about Azcues credibility about Oswald being sn impersonator but never asked about the threat – I would suggest that Fidel remains the guy to ask this question too. I would suggest the research community writs a joint letter to Fidel and send Fabian Escalante a copy.

    1. My understanding is that Azcue became involved only after Oswald began to raise a fuss. I would think that a US citizen and former resident of USSR should have been immediately be passed to professional staff. A letter to General Escalante sounds fine to me. Always with proviso that “facts” from a hostile spy service are, at very least _also_to be treated skeptically. Probably, he has genuine personal reasons, as well professional/ideological to personally disparage his US opposite numbers.

      My suggestions for queries:

      The “complete file” of which Castro spoke.

      Contemporary consulate account of Oswald visit for embassy &

      Clarification as to whether Oswald visited embassy proper. (My
      guess is not.)

      His opinion of the malfunctioning CIA cameras–and what about
      cameras of Cubans and Soviets?

      _A la_ Hosty, did Cubans drive Oswald to Soviet consulate?

      Why did unspecified Communist ID go absent from visa appli-

      1. According to the HSCA testimony of Azcue, he had encountered this Oswald on three occasions. He later refused to identify this person as being the man he later saw arrested in Dallas on television.

        Testimony of Consul Azcue – Cuban Consulate in Mexico City: http://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/hsca/reportvols/vol3/pdf/HSCA_Vol3_0918_2_Azcue.pdf

        The testimony of Oscar Contreras also lends proof to that a man using the name Oswald was in Mexico City.

        Testimony of Oscar Contreras – Mexican Student met Oswald: http://aarclibrary.org/publib/jfk/hsca/lopezrpt_2003/pdf/LopezRpt_2003_7_Analysis.pdf

        1. Here, Oswald first speaks to Azcue. Then Duran does the actual work. Remarkably, he offers that neither could authenticate any of the documents produced by Oswald. Soviet embassy calls back to confirm his residence & etc, but offers nothing about CPUSA membership. This is where Soviet visa is so important: given entry there would prove his Communist credentials–but that would take months and consideration by Moscow.

          As for ID, he says that he noticed difference with Oswald and visitor two months later. His report on this was oral, nothing written. Blakey reported Havana had found no written reports. Uh… At least as remarkable, Azcue offers Cubans had no photo security system to record visitors. His term is “trusting.”

          While his own opinion of someone other than Oswald was firm, he allowed that hand writing analysis would be convincing. Blakey offered that such had been done and matched to Oswald.

          Shenon would appear convincing that Oswald was able to contact Contreras with info from Duran. Imagine visiting a university and locating a particular student without very specific instructions! Reception of Oswald seems quite warm for Yankee visitor dropping in “cold.”

          Note that any spy service would have little trouble finding a “look alike” for Oswald. Finding someone who could pass muster with Soviet consulate is far different.’ Sending an impostor not resembling Oswald does not square with a spy service.

      1. Arnaldo M Fernandez

        The one who, after voicing the threat at the embassy, went to the consulate (in another building of the Cuban diplomatic complex in Mexico City) and filled out a visa application, with photo and signature proven by forensics later of being his (the Oswald who broke the news on November 22, 1963). However, it is also true that his Oswald was impersonated in MC by phone, according to the CIA transcripts of phone calls to the Soviet Consulate on September 28 and October 1, 1963.

        1. As the CIA in Mexico City has been well noted–save why Lee would be impersonated by a man bearing no resemblance–but not the Cubans or Russians. Why would Duran continue the visa process herself, rather than calling a diplomat or DGI officer for what might be a matter of, uh, discretion? Is it credible that Soviet consulate would be unable to make positive ID of former resident? Why was transit visa approved by Cuba despite the fuss? No hint of this on application subsequently supplied by Havana. Nor is there any mention of Lee’s supposed Communist affiliation by Soviets, only from newbie secretary unable to claim diplomatic immunity. My guess is that she was tricked by Oswald.

  2. The Childs brothers were the subject of a book, OPERATION SOLO by John Barron, which I read decades past. Both(?) of the brothers went to the USSR in the early 1930’s to study tradecraft. This was shortly before The Great Purge. The nominal reason for their disaffection was a lack of CPUSA assistance during serious illness of one after WW II. For whatever reason, their response to FBI recruitment was enthusiastic.

    To call this “cynical” is quite harsh. Their youthful commitment was very real. I imagine their considered conversion was also sincere and with better reason. If you are skeptical of conventional anti-Communism, try LET HISTORY JUDGE by Roy Medvedev, a genuine “liberal Communist.” Stalin’s crimes were very real and so grotesque that many contemporary observers believed that the confessions of the “wreckers” had to be true. A VERY PRINCIPLED BOY by Mark Bradley (former CIA) offers a glimpse of Soviet agents in the OSS (forerunner of CIA). Bradley is very critical of Hoover and offers that the escape of most of the spies was a major factor in the rise of Joe McCarthy and a residual Know Nothingism that is with us yet.

    As for SOLO letter, skepticism should be clearly aimed at Castro, not Childs. Clearly stated is that Castro also recounted a murderous Oswald in a November 27 speech. There is also reference to a “full port” which has not emerged from Cuban files. I would suggest that no head of state has time for a _full_ report on much of anything and Castro’s sense of drama overwhelmed his recollection. Note that Cuban diplomats did not recall such an outburst to the HSCA–even though they were interviewed _after_ Fidel, who again recalled the ranting Oswald.

    As regards the Hoover to Rankin letter, the Mary Ferrell site offers a total of 4 copies, 1 redacted. I would be interested in what would NOT have been redacted in 1964 and for whom that copy was intended. A hint of why Slawson did not recall the document may well be the “furious” Warren of June 1 recounted by Shenon when told the news that the finished report would be delayed. (The Chief Justice does not generally come across well in this book.)

    It should finally be noted John Newman found another copy of CD 1359 and it is on the last page of documents in the original edition of OSWALD AND THE CIA. On the chance your document expert hasn’t seen this, he might gain some insight lost on the rest of us.

    1. “As for SOLO letter, skepticism should be clearly aimed at Castro, not Childs. Clearly stated is that Castro also recounted a murderous Oswald in a November 27 speech.”~Skeptic

      I have the speech by Castro known as ‘The Castro Allegations’ before me as I write this. Nowhere in that speech is there any mention whatsoever of “a murderous Oswald”.

      You are referring to an internal FBI document of June 17, 1964 addressed to Lee Rankin, which refers to a “confidential source”.

      Now these sorts of memos and documents flowed steady into the commission from the FBI. The truthfulness of this information is under deep suspicion due to revelations later made as to the covert mandate of the Warren Commission to simply go along to get along with the agenda to frame Oswald.

      This is summed up by Rankin in the January 22, 1963 meeting:

      “They found their man. There is nothing more to do. The Commission supports their conclusions, and we can all go home and that’s the end of it.”~Rankin

      This meeting being as candid as it was, was determined too frank an admission to this agenda, and it was determined to classify it top secret by the end of the meeting.

      The minutes to this meeting were discovered by an act of providence, as the court recorder had kept a copy while the rest were destroyed.
      It is available in full on the web, at Mary Ferrell’s site:

  3. Was Oswald working for Castro? NO. More likely CIA’s David Atlee Phillips and ultra-right former FBI Guy Banister in New Orleans.

    Lee Harvey Oswald was U.S. intelligence and he shot NO ONE on 11/22/63. Just read this:

    1) “Oswald and the CIA” book by John Newman
    2) “The Last Investigtion: What Insiders Know about the Assassination of JFK” by Gaeton Fonzi
    3) “Spy Saga: Lee Harvey Oswald and US Intelligence” book by Philip Melanson
    4) “History Will Not Absolve Us” by Martin Schotz (Chapter 5 “Oswald and U.S. Intelligence” by Christopher Sharrett)
    5) “Me and Lee” book by Judyth Vary Baker (Oswald’s mistress in New Orleans, summer 1963)
    6) “Crossfire” by Jim Marrs “Was Oswald a Spy” – p. 189. “Did Oswald Work for the FBI” – p. 226
    7) “Destiny Betrayed” by Jim DiEugenio, Chapter 7 “On Instructions from His Government” (2012 edition)
    8) “A Certain Arrogance: U.S. Intelligence’s Manipulation of Religious Groups and Individuals in Two World Wars and the Cold War – and the Sacrificing of Lee Harvey Oswald” book by George Michael Evica
    9) “Accessories After the Fact” by Sylvia Meagher, Chapter 19 “Oswald and the State Department’”
    10) “Coup D’Etat in America: The CIA and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy” by Alan Weberman & Michael Canfield, Chapter 3 “Was Oswald a CIA Agent?”
    11) “Oswald in New Orleans: Case for Conspiracy with the CIA” by Harold Weisberg
    12) “Oswald: The Truth” by Joachim Joesten (1967)
    13) Chapter 9 “Fingerprints of Intelligence” in “Reasonable Doubt” by Henry Hurt
    14) Chapter 14 “Oswald and the CIA” in “Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy” by Joachim Joesten
    15) Chapter 12 ” Was Oswald a Government Agent” in “Breach of Trust: How the Warren Commission Failed the Nation and Why” by Gerald McKnight
    16) Chapter 13 “Spies” in “Farewell America” by James Hepburn
    17) Google “Lee Harvey Oswald’s reading habits summer 1963” by Judyth Vary Baker
    18) Google ” Lee Harvey Oswald—a U.S. Intelligence Agent: The Evidence by Hal Verb”
    19) Google “The Death of a President by Eric Norden in The Minority of One, Jan, 1964”
    20) “The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald” by Robert Groden
    21) “I am a Patsy! I am a Patsy!” by George De Mohrenschildt
    22) Google “Oswald and the FBI” by Harold Feldman, The Nation January, 1964, pp 86-89
    23) “Missing Links: Oswald: Footprints of Intelligence” in Missing Links in the JFK Assassination Conspiracy by Ralph D. Thomas, pp. 80-98.

  4. The deception that “Castro Did It” was pushed from the earliest days of the JFK assassination by both Lyndon Johnson and the CIA. 52 years it is still the “fall back” cover story for those promoting the big fantasy that the JFK assassination was not a high level domestic conspiracy.

    Robert Albritton, of Allbritton Communications, owns Politico. That is why someone like Phil Shenon who pushes the “Maybe Castro told Oswald to do it” scenario is given a platform there. Because any fool knows JFK was shot in the head from the front and that the Magic Bullet theory is a laugher, so the “other side” when confronted with multiple shooter conspiracy FACT, tries to blame it on Castro or even the Russians.

    Robert Allbritton – LBJ Foundation Board of TrusteesL http://www.lbjlibrary.org/page/foundation/board-of-trustees

  5. I think it’s possible Oswald made that threat. The key isn’t whether he made the threat or not, it’s what did the authorities knew about him before Nov 22. They knew plenty.

    Oswald is a murderer and a victim. He was identified as a possible killer of JFK and a useful patsy as well i.e., the man who could realistically be blamed. The conspiracy is he was identified as such by behind the scenes manipulators and provided an opportunity to do it, an opening, by people with power. He also had “assistance” from people he didn’t even know about: an expert marksman shooting from the grassy knoll to make sure the job got done.

    Based on everything I’ve seen over the years this is the conclusion I’ve come to. I believe the same model was used with RFK that differs only in the details.

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