The CIA Was Reading Lee Harvey Oswald’s Mail

Excerpt from a declassified 1975 Senate memo listing of Americans whose mail was illegally opened by the CIA between 1959 and 1975. Note that the dates are rendered in DAY/MONTH/YEAR format, not MONTH/DAY/Year)

One of the most significant JFK disclosures in recent years is a declassified memo stating that the CIA opened, read, and copied the correspondence of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who supposedly killed President Kennedy.

This spying was conducted by a super secret office in the Counterintelligence Staff, known as the Special Investigations Group, or CI/SIG.

LHO leaves Russia 0562
Lee and Marina Oswald leave Russia in May 1962. The CIA was reading his mail at the time.

The CIA’s surveillance of the man who denied killing JFK and who called himself a “patsy” was not disclosed by the Warren Commission. The deep interest of the Counterintelligence Staff in the ex-Marine belied deputy director Richard Helms’s false testimony to the Commission that the Agency had only “minimal” information about Oswald before JFK was killed.

The memo shows that the Agency began spying on Oswald on November 9, 1959, just a week after the Washington Post reported he had defected to the Soviet Union. The mail “coverage” continued through May 3, 1960.

Did the CIA then lose interest in Oswald, an ex-Marine of leftist sympathies?

Not at all. The CI/SIG resumed spying on Oswald in July 1961, and continued until May 1962, when Oswald returned to the United States with his Russian wife Marina.

As this memo from Angleton to Hoover shows, at least five letters were intercepted. Two of them were dated “63,” indicating that the CIA continued reading Oswald’s mail after he returned to the United States, including his correspondence with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. The Warren Commission did not include this information in its report.

When it comes to CIA malfeasance in the JFK assassination story, there are few clearer examples. Malfeasance had a purpose–deception, and effect–misleading the public.

If the CI/SIG investigation of Oswald had been disclosed in 1963, the CIA’s cover story that it knew little about the accused assassin before November 22 would have been discredited. Angleton and his aides might have lost their jobs. The investigation and public understanding of the JFK’s murder would have been even more skeptical.

Today, defenders of the official theory of a lone gunman, propounded by Helms and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, say, in effect, “Of course the CIA was interested in Oswald because of his defection. But they didn’t know he was going to kill the president. So no one was to blame.”

In their efforts to exculpate, these JFK theorists attach no significance to the fact that the CIA deceived investigators about its long-standing and deep interest in the accused assassin.

Why do advocates of the Hoover-Helms theory studiously avoid paying attention to the CIA’s material falsehood in the course of a murder investigation? It’s hard to figure. If your neighbor lied about a murder down the street would you assume their knowledge was innocent? Probably not.

Willful naivete may not be the optimal response to unsettling new JFK facts but it is attractive to those who want to believe the CIA isn’t lying to them about the murder of the liberal president.

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