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THE JFK CASE: THE TWELVE WHO BUILT THE OSWALD LEGEND (Part One: Mother, Meyer, and the Spotters)

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The CIA's consideration of Johnson as a possible spotter marks an opening gambit in REDSKIN, a program designed to look at Russian-speaking students and recruit them into the legal travelers program to the USSR.

It's been a matter of record for some time who actually was a spotter of Russian-speaking students at Harvard during 1956-57 --Richard Snyder, the consul at the American Embassy who met with Oswald at the time of his defection in 1959. Snyder was to become Legend Maker #4.

Although Snyder was a CIA officer between 1949-1950, he went so far as to deny on the record that he had any relationship with the CIA after 1950. This hurt Snyder's credibility with the House Select Committee of Assassinations (HSCA), the body that reviewed the JFK case in the late seventies. The HSCA unsuccessfully tried to repair the damage done by the Warren Commission's irresponsible investigation immediately after the assassination.

The HSCA was displeased by Snyder's denial of any CIA relationship after 1950, as it was documented that he was a spotter at Harvard while studying Russian, and had access to students that might be going to the Soviet Union. Snyder was working for Nelson Brickham of the Soviet Russia division within the Directorate of Plans. Brickham was responsible for running black propaganda, false flag recruitments and the gathering of information on Soviet missile silos.

"Black propaganda" consists of statements that blame one side for the actions actually committed by the other side. Similarly, a "false flag" recruitment means that a recruiter is not telling the truth about the purpose for the recruitment. It seems apparent that Brickham and Snyder were recruiting Harvard students into what was known as Project REDSKIN.

Three Priscillas?

Johnson was identified with a different number in this 1956 CIA application (52373) than in her 1952 application (71589). The response from Security in 1956 is odd, stating "she was apparently born 23 September 1922 in Stockholm, Sweden, rather than 19 July 1928 at Glen Cove, New York." Did someone try to slip Johnson by CIA management by another number? This puzzle only deepens.

This 1956 application was withdrawn a few months later, but emerged again in 1958. On April 10, Cord Meyer sent a cable to Western Europe expressing interest in Johnson, right after Johnson applied for a Soviet visa in Paris. A couple weeks later, a request went out seeking approval for Johnson to become a "REDSKIN traveler and informant", and that "SR/2 (Soviet Russia Division #2) will have primary responsibility of handling agent."

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Other memos, one sent by "SR/RED/O'Connell", illustrate that three Priscillas have now emerged: Besides the original Priscilla Mary Post Johnson, we now also see the names "Priscilla McClure Johnson, Priscilla McCoy." It's still uncertain what this means, other than two months of apparent confusion and very poorly redacted forms between April-June 1958.

Johnson was supposedly rejected in June 1958 because her "past activity in USSR, insistence return and indefinite plans inside likely draw Sov suspicions". Nonetheless, she decided to return to Moscow and study Soviet law under a fellowship grant from either Columbia or Harvard universities.

JFK recommended Priscilla Johnson as a member of a travel group to the Soviet Union

Three months later, the chairman of the "Inter-University Travel Group", David C. Munford, sought and obtained a recommendation from Senator John F. Kennedy for Johnson to be accepted as a member of his group traveling to the Soviet Union. It's unclear to me why such a recommendation was necessary, but it is fascinating that JFK tried to get Johnson into a group that was the focus of REDSKIN.

As fate would have it, Munford had been too successful in his recruitment efforts. Munford had to tell JFK that there wasn't room for Johnson in the group, but assured him that she could still join if someone dropped out. Munford wrote Johnson and remarked, "I gather I will go on hearing echoes of your serious intent in this matter."

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Three weeks later, Munford wrote her another letter of congratulations for landing work as a journalist in the Soviet Union: "Some people make their own luck and you are one of them." In both letters between Munford and Johnson, both before and after one of the couples dropped out of the program, any participation by Johnson in the program seemed to be irrelevant and went unmentioned.

Johnson denies having any relationship with the CIA during this time, and denies ever being a CIA employee. Ironically, these letters are in the files because they were intercepted by the CIA pursuant to a mail intercept program set up by Legend Maker #1 Angleton to read the mail of Americans in the Soviet Union. These letters surfaced when Johnson filed a Freedom of Information Act request years later asking for all records "indicating my employment in your agency".

Johnson worked for NANA, an intelligence-linked news agency

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Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney and an antiwar activist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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