DId the CIA destroy an Oswald tape?

Probably.  A  tape recording of man identifying himself as Oswald was probably destroyed in January 1986. This question, prompted by a comment from reader JSA, is a natural follow up to the question, “Did the CIA track Oswald before JFK was killed?”

Some thing the tape may still exist but I think the evidence suggests otherwise. What is certain is that contrary to the false claims of the CIA, the tape existed after November 22, 1963.
The revelation of the existence and subsequent destruction of the Oswald tape belongs on the short list of the most significant JFK discoveries of recent years. The CIA’s actions lend credence to a notion that someone impersonated Oswald in Mexico City seven weeks before JFK was killed. That will sound fantastic to some but, again, there is a lot of evidence to support it.

The facts are these:

In January 1964, the CIA told the Warren Commission that an Agency wiretap had captured someone named Oswald calling the Russian Embassy in Mexico City on October 1, 1963. The CIA station in Mexico City made a transcript of the tape which was then “routinely” erased after two weeks, CIA’s Richard Helms said.  Thus when JFK was killed, the CIA claimed it had a transcript of Oswald’s phone calls but no actual tapes.

The CIA’s story was false as four mutually corroborating sources demonstrate. None of this was disclosed in the Warren Commission report. Most defenders of the Warren Commission report no longer deny it. I

Source #1: On the morning after the assassination, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover told President Johnson about the Mexico City tapes.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover: “We have .. the tape”

“We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet embassy, using Oswald’s name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man’s voice, nor to his appearance.”

As Rex Bradford asked:

“Did this amazing discovery of an Oswald imposter, caught on tapped phone lines, launch the greatest manhunt in history? No, instead within 48 hours the entire story had been buried. The tape of the Johnson-Hoover call quoted from above has itself been erased; only a contemporaneous transcript remains.”

Source #2: In 1978, John Whitten, the chief of the CIA’s Mexico desk and a rare hero in the JFK story, told the House Select Committee on Assassinations about the Mexico City station’s search for the Oswald tapes after JFK was killed.

“Were they able to locate the original tapes?” asked an HSCA attorney. “I think so,” Whitten said.

Source #3: The existence of the Oswald tape remained a matter of speculation until 1993 when former Warren Commission staff attorneys David Slawson and William Coleman told author Anthony Summers that Mexico City station chief Win Scott had played the Oswald tape for them during their visit to Mexico City in April 1964.

(Summers explains how he got the story in this video from Mary Ferrell Foundation.)

Anne Goodpasture
Anne Goodpasture: ‘Win Scott squirreled the tape away….”

Source #4: Anne Goodpasture, former career CIA officer who worked closely with Scott, told me in a lengthy interview in 2005 that a duplicate tape of the Oswald conversation had been made before the master tape was erased. This duplicate tape existed after JFK was dead, she said, adding that she thought Scott had “squirreled it away in his safe.”

Goodpasture’s account is especially credible because she said the same thing in a sworn deposition for the Assassination Records Review Board in 1995.

Why does it matter?

The existence of the Oswald tape was important because a voice comparison of the tape with other recordings of Oswald would have resolved whether Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City, as Hoover suggested to LBJ and as Bill Simplich argues in his new book State Secret.

If the voice on the tape was Oswald’s, the CIA could have refuted the claim that Oswald was impersonated by simply releasing the tape. Since the CIA chose not to do this, the possibility that the voice on the tape was not Oswald’s cannot be dismissed.

And if it was ever proven that Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City, the case for a JFK assassination conspiracy would be strengthened.

What happened to the tape?

As I reported in my 2008 book, Our Man in Mexico, when Win Scott died suddenly in 1971, counterintelligence chief James Angleton seized the contents of his home office, including the contents of his safe.

Fourteen years later, in 1985, Scott’s son Michael filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for his father’s papers. When that failed, he sued the CIA. That lawsuit eventually yielded an inventory of the property seized, including the contents of his father’s safe. The inventory said that the safe contained tape recordings, lending credence to Anne Goodpasture’s testimony that Scott had “squirreled [the tape] away in his safe.”

When Michael Scott settled the lawsuit years later, the documents he obtained included a CIA “records destruction” order, which showed that the contents of the safe had been destroyed in January 1986, a few months after he had filed his original FOIA request.

As I wrote in the conclusion of Our Man in Mexico (p. 292), “The CIA found material evidence related to Kennedy’ assassination in Win Scott’s home office, hid that evidence from all official investigations over the course of twenty four years, and then, when Michael Scott, started asking for his father’s effects, destroyed it.”


Rex Bradford on “The 14 Minute Gap” and the erasure of the recording of the November 23, 1963 conversation between President Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover. Background: Mary Ferrell Foundation on the Mexico City tapes.

15 thoughts on “DId the CIA destroy an Oswald tape?”

  1. While everyone is zigging, let me zag. All of the turmoil around the CIA Mexico City tapes can be explained without a conclusion of CIA complicity or foreknowledge of the assassination. Not saying there wasn’t one, but the known facts do lend themselves to alternate conculsions.

  2. More details of this cover up are described in John Newman’s book OSWALD AND THE CIA (1995). As soon as Lee Harvey Oswald’s name hit the airwaves on that fateful day, the mechanics of cover up were in motion as the FBI, LBJ, and the CIA tried to erase any evidence that would show that the agency or its stations had any knowledge of LHO visit’s or alleged communications with the Cuban embassy in Mexico. The event/s and the tapes were the subject of a swift and all encompassing cover up. Why may we ask did those in whom a nation trusted to investigate a president’s death, refuse to carry out due process?

  3. Read the intro to Lane’s Last Word, which was written by Robert K. Tanenbaum and his personal experience with David Atlee Phillips who appeared before the HSCA when Tanenbaum was Deputy Chief Counsel. (He later resigned that position when the Committee would not compel DAP to testify further or provide additional information about that Oswald tape).

  4. Arnaldo M. Fernandez

    Professor Mcadams has dismissed as factoid the tape of a call allegedly made by Oswald to the Soviet Embassy. It was provided by the CIA station in Mexico City and listened by FBI agents in Dallas, who realized the voice on tape wasn’t Oswald´s.
    The quantum of proof on the contrary would have been a memo sent by Eldon Rudd, the very agent who had flown from Mexico City with the CIA materials for the FBI. He memoed: “CIA has advised that these tapes have been erased and are not available for review.” The HSCA added: “A review of relevant FBI cable traffic established that at 7:23 p.m. (CST) on November 23, 1963, Dallas Special Agent-in-Charge Shanklin advised Director Hoover that only a report of this conversation was available, not an actual tape recording.”
    By dismissing the “tapes of not Oswald” with “no tapes of Oswald,” Professor Mcadams has actually paved the way to the hypothesis of conspiracy, since no recording of Oswald’s voice or any “erasing of Oswald’s tapes” adds up to no Oswald´s photo provided by the CIA despite his three visits to the Cubans and two visits to the Soviets in Mexico City. The lack of both a tape and a photo is in fact a conspiracy fact, since the CIA station must have preserved the taped phone conversations involving an American citizen who had visited both the Cuban and the Soviet diplomatic compounds in Mexico City. If the hypothesis of the lone gunman were true, it’s not to be expected that the CIA concealed and even falsified Oswald’s data before the assassination.

  5. The CIA surely knew whether the person known to history as Lee Harvey Oswald visited Mexico City in late September 1963 as the Warren Commission determined.

    It’s not a slam-dunk he did. But it’s pretty much a slam-dunk he was impersonated: in Mexico City or in Dallas (Odio) or in both places. I lean toward impersonation in both places. Oswald was impersonated a lot, beginning as early as 1960; and a whole lot in the fall of 1963.

    If I had to guess, I’d guess Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City; the CIA had proof of the impersonation; the proof placed a big question mark over the CIA; the CIA destroyed the proof rather than dealing with the question mark.

    1. The events in Mexico City before the assassination appear to be critically important in relation to the assassination of President Kennedy. There can be very little doubt now that Oswald was impersonated there. We still do not know why and by whom, the photograph purporting to be of Oswald is clearly of somehow older, and his identity has never been revealed. However, the very fact that Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City, with even Hoover and President Johnson accepting this (in private at least), completely torpedoes the picture of Oswald as an insignificant loner that the Warren Commission portrayed him as being. To be impersonated at this location, during the height of the Cold War, and only months before the assassination of JFK, surely shows that Oswald had been wrongly portrayed after the assassination, and in the decades that followed.

      Jeff: I made a contribution to the MFF, hopefully it has come through by now.

    2. The whole Sylvia Odio incident needs to be studied more. It;s been written that in effect the story of that clinches the fact that Oswald didn’t act alone in the asassination.

    3. Footnote: I don’t believe Win Scott or D.A. Phillips had anything to do with JFK’s assassination. Scott is a non-starter, and Phillips is no more than an intriguing dead-end.

      My working hypothesis is this: The hit on JFK began at the highest level of American power. The CIA and FBI were forced into defensive positions by the assassination. The Secret Service was recruited to participate in the assassination and the cover-up.

      There was a confluence of interests in the assassination. But the confluence is the ongoing distraction.

      If the files are opened, we’ll find for example was an informant for an intelligence service. We’ll find for example he worked for various handlers who had non-synchronous goals.

      But we won’t find (1) who set him up; (2) who pulled the trigger; (3) who orchestrated the hit. Those facts are buried.

      Those facts could be uncovered IMO if there was a real investigation into JFK’s death.

        1. Isn’t there a pic floating around of a guy who had a walkie talkie in his back pocket in D.P. on Nov 22/63? Doesn’t he bear a resemblance to the Oswald impostor in Mexico City?

  6. Since Mexican nationals ran LIENVOY,their government might once have had a copy of the tape.There is a CIA cable from Mexico City which reports that the Mexican president wanted to meet with Win Scott after the assassination,not to express his condolences,but to point out the existence of phone tap material related to Oswald.

  7. Thank you for this follow-up to my original question!

    It’s almost tragically comical that James Angleton swooped in to seize Win Scott’s safe contents, just as he appeared suddenly in 1964 after Mary Meyer’s death to search her studio for her diary. Angleton’s job seems to have been to “mop up” JFK assassination and other dirty laundry from CIA domestic crimes.

    So I would guess that there are NO Oswald impostor tapes from Mexico City in existence today? Although we have the photo of the man who is not Oswald, regarding the audio record, all we seem to have left is a “he said-she said” scenario, but the fact that CIA sits on evidence even today (re: Joannides material) seems to point to their covering up something.

    I look forward to reading your next post on this topic.

    1. In any event, the existence of that tape at the time is undeniable and the destruction of that evidence is clearly obstruction of justice.

      1. If the cia was recording conversations at the Russian and Cuban embassy, would it also make sense that the Russians and the Cubans may also have recorded those same conversations especially if they were not convinced Oswald was a true wanna be defector or more probably a cia spy?

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