Oswald had done everything needed to properly renounce his citizenship. For a renunciation to be official, all that was required was for the renunciation to be made in person, in front of a consular officer, reduced to writing, and four copies made. Given Oswald's threat to turn classified information over to the Soviets, one would think that Snyder would detain him and strip him of his citizenship.
In what some of a skeptical bent have called a "Saturday defection strategy" designed to make it impossible for anyone to renounce their citizenship if they came to the embassy on Saturday, Snyder rescued Oswald that day. Webster had defected two Saturdays earlier, and Nicholas Petrulli had defected on the first Saturday of September.
In the Petrulli case, Petrulli was allowed to renounce his citizenship, and then he immediately turned around and said that he wanted to return to the US. Petrulli was permitted re-entry, as he was supposedly "mentally ill". This may have been an intelligence gambit by an intelligence agency - Americans or Soviets - to see how the State Department would respond. Curiously, Petrulli is cited in the body of the Warren Report, but not Webster.
After the prolonged drama involving Petrulli, Snyder cited the Petrulli incident as why he would no longer accept a renunciation without a cooling-off period to allow for further investigation and consultation. Webster got a cooling-off period. Snyder, a former CIA officer, was filled with excuses as to why he wouldn't take Oswald's citizenship away that day, a man who threatened in his office to turn military secrets over to the Soviet Union.
Instead, Snyder made sure that he got Oswald to hand over his passport to him. I believe that Snyder insisted on obtaining possession so that no other government official could get their hands on it. As we will see, Snyder was also responsible for Oswald ultimately getting his passport back and making sure that he could return to the United States.
Who forewarned Oswald that Snyder would lean on him?
Snyder asked Oswald, "why do you want to defect to the Soviet Union?" Oswald told him that it was because he was a Marxist. Snyder knew that Karl Marx's philosophies did not play a major role in the bureaucratic USSR, mocking Oswald that "life will be lonely as a Marxist." Snyder admitted in a three page telegram he sent right after the assassination that Oswald told him that he "had been forewarned I would try (to) talk him out of decision".
Who, indeed, forewarned Oswald? Was it the Soviets, or the Americans? Consider the Warren Commission hearing where former CIA chief Allen Dulles tried to get Snyder to read this 3-page telegram into the record. Dulles insisted that the telegram was "very short and quite significant", while Snyder repeatedly claimed there was a "problem of classification" until he convinced the Commission to go off the record.
What was going on was that Snyder was waving his arms and begging his interrogators for a time out so that he could get Dulles to change the subject. Dulles wanted to argue that the Soviets forewarned Oswald. Snyder knew all too well that it was probably the Americans.
At the embassy with Snyder during Oswald's visit inside the Embassy was a graduate student named Ned Keenan. Keenan was a Harvard student at the time Snyder was a spotter for REDSKIN. Keenan was among the first students to study in the Soviet Union between 1959-1961 as part of the new Student Exchange Program coordinated by the State Department. Like Popov's contact Russ Langelle, Keenan was eventually declared persona non grata and expelled from the Soviet Union. Keenan is now a historian of Russian history, and a past director of Harvard's Dumbarton Oaks museum and research center in Washington D.C.. He should contribute what he knows under oath.
After Oswald left, Snyder and his colleague Ed Freers prepared the short October 31 report on Oswald's visit to the State Department, with copies to the Navy and many other agencies, they included a reference to Oswald's U-2 experience without using the dreaded word "U-2". They wrote:
"(Oswald) says has offered Soviets any information he has acquired as enlisted radar operator. In view Petrulli case we propose delay executing renunciation until Soviet action known or dept. advises."
After receiving this note, the naval attache at the Embassy wrote a note about the defections of Oswald and Webster The reference to Webster was whited out for many years until the recent releases. Webster's name was hidden from the American public to hide Webster from public scrutiny.
Consul John McVickar recruits Johnson to help Oswald
On November 15, consul John McVickar had a chat with Johnson in the mail room at the American embassy. He told her about Oswald, commenting that he wouldn't talk to "any of us", but might talk to Johnson because she was a woman. At Johnson was leaving, McVickar added, "Remember that you're an American."
On November 16, Priscilla Johnson interviewed Oswald for about five hours. Oswald told her that the Soviets were "investigating possibilities of my continuing my education at a Soviet institute."
Johnson also admitted to the Warren Commission that Oswald told her "he felt he had something he could give them, something that would hurt his country in a way, or could, and that was the one thing that was quite negative, that he was holding out some kind of bait."
The next day, Johnson went out to a cafeteria-style lamb dinner with John McVickar. Johnson said that "we talked about Oswald's personality and how the Embassy had handled him. John and I, out of sympathy for Oswald, were talking about how Snyder had goaded Oswald."
McVickar wrote a memo after dinner: "I said that if someone could persuade Oswald at least to delay before taking the final plunge on his American citizenship, or for that matter on Soviet citizenship, they would be doing him a favor and doubtless the USA as well. She seemed to understand this point. I believe that she is going to try and write a story on what prompts a man to do such a thing."
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Oswald arrived at the American Embassy in Moscow at 11 am on a Saturday, about an hour before its weekend closing time at 12 am. As Saturday was barely a working day, very few people were in the embassy besides Snyder that morning. We last saw Snyder at Harvard in 1957, working as a spotter for Russian students to recruit into the REDSKIN program.
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