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The JFK Case; the Office that Spied on its Own Spies

By       Message Bill Simpich     Permalink
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Given the low ebb of REDCAP in the USSR at this time, REDCAP would be the perfect spot to tuck in someone like Oswald whose apparent goal was to become a Russian citizen and yet might want to keep his option to re-defect to the West. It's not impossible that Oswald may not have even known that he was being used by the CIA. Future articles will show how the path was paved for his convenience by his handlers.

REDCAP was originally designed in 1952 to deal with the results of uprisings in the Soviet satellites, with a special focus on defectors and refugees. This may have been another reason that REDCAP was slow to get off the ground in the Soviet Union itself.

According to Angleton biographer Michael Holzman, "It is said that clandestine services chief Frank Wisner and James Angleton had dual responsibility for Red Cap." If this is accurate, this may indicate that Angleton and Wisner's successor Cord Meyer worked together with Murphy and the Western European chief to effortlessly guide Oswald into Moscow.

The October 9 REDCAP memo provided immediate assurances that Golub had confirmed with Costille that Americans would receive Soviet visas as soon as they made Intourist advance reservations. How did this gem get by CIA deputy chief Richard Helms? Helms was in charge of investigating all issues related to the CIA for the Warren Commission. Helms had access to these REDCAP documents, but closed his eyes and touted that a 5-7 days was the absolute minimum to obtain any visa longer than a 24 hour transit visa. Helsinki was the exception during 1959. It took weeks or months to obtain a Soviet visa anywhere else, because the general rule was that the Soviet consul had to send the visa applications to Moscow.

It appears that Oswald immediately made good use of Costille's tip about coming through Helsinki. Oswald arrived in Helsinki late Saturday night on October 10, requested his visa on the 12th, obtained a visa from Golub by the 14th, and was in the USSR by the 15th.

On the 13th, right while Oswald's visa was hanging in the balance, Golub called up Costille and they had a quick lunch and get-together. This was the first time Costille had heard from Golub in more than a month. Golub thanked Costille "profusely" for buying him two tickets to see Leonard Bernstein on the 4th, and confided to him that he had given one of tickets to PAWNEE/5. Golub was surprised that PAWNEE/5 was not nervous about being seen with a Soviet, and "made a definite effort to impress Costille...that his relationship was strictly above board and he had nothing to hide." The next day, the 14th, Oswald got his visa. Was it thanks to Leonard Bernstein?

When the CIA questioned Soviet defector Yuri Nosenko claim that Oswald was a KGB agent, the first question on one of the interrogation lists was about Oswald getting a visa within two to four days. After traveling to Europe by freighter, the normally tight-fisted Marine stayed in an extremely expensive Helsinki hotel and booked a private guided tour of Moscow.

Eric Timm from the CIA's Western Europe division had already cautioned that any hope of the "jilted husband" Golub defecting to the West was becoming more remote, and thought that Golub might be on to Costille's game. Three weeks after Oswald entered Moscow, Golub's wife "returned to Helsinki on 7 November and surprised him after an absence of four months. (Redacted) states that the relationship appears to be the same as it was before Mrs. G left, and Golub was glad to have her back." This final LCIMPROVE memo of November 27, 1959 ends with Golub walking out on the "trusted Finnish" woman when she takes all her clothes off instead of wearing his wife's nightgown, making it clear that the days of wine and roses were over.
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All of the above is part of a long-term pattern of LCIMPROVE in espionage affairs involving visas and travel involving the Soviets. Keep in mind that Lee Oswald was a US Marine that had not been formally discharged. There was little chance that Moscow was going to grant him a visa, unless a friendly consul gave him an instant visa. The days of wine and roses with Golub and Costille sheds new light on the vigorous steps that were taken several CIA officers to get the Red Marine inside the Soviet Union.

Oswald's Soviet soujourn could have been part of the aforementioned REDSKIN program, which often used students and strictly legal methods such as travel itineraries to gather intelligence about facilities in main metropolitan areas and along main transportation lines. However, given the general lack of knowledge among CIA officials about Oswald's activities in the Soviet Union, it appears that he may have been part of a vest-pocket operation run by a very high CIA official who did not answer in the ordinary channels. Someone like counterintelligence chief Jim Angleton could arrange the operation with the aid of the CIA chiefs that guided Oswald into Moscow.

The USSR was not well understood in the postwar era, and US intelligence agencies were fired up to learn more about their new enemy. This was a time when the American people were extremely naïve about the role of intelligence agencies. Fear of the unknown was twisted into the drive to build and expand American supremacy.

Mexico City is different. We see Dillinger describing the phone call of Oswald speaking "broken Russian" while trying to persuade the Soviet embassy to give him an instant visa. This time, Oswald's attempt was unsuccessful. Whoever was Oswald at the Soviet embassy on the 28th apparently dissolved in tears. This may have been part of a plan to test the vulnerability of the consulate staff of Kostikov, Yatskov, and Nechiporenko to see if there was any REDCAP potential.

Later that month, Gestetner asked the Navy for a photo of "Lee Henry Oswald", continuing to work the counter-intelligence and Soviet sides of Oswald's new legend. The collection of FPCC evidence was continuing in New York. - Before events had run their course, they were interrupted by the events of November 22, 1963.
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Whenever new documents in the JFK assassination are released, the information obtained aids progressive social movements in their struggles. When we know what the intelligence agencies have done in the past, we are more effective in our work to fight for democracy here at home.

When we fully understand what intelligence operations were going on in Mexico City, it will aid us in understanding what happened on November 22 and in subsequent events. We can learn, as a people, to resist manipulation by the specialists in public management.

The next time that clever political forces create provocations in the Gulf of Tonkin or around weapons of mass destruction, we can refuse to blindly react and march into war as in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

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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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