Thanks to the JFK Act of 1992 passed in the wake of Oliver Stone's well-known movie, many of the assassination documents were released in the last few years - but the rest are being held back to 2017 or even later. These documents are filled with blacked-out portions that hide the names of the informants and sources of the spy agencies. Some of these names we can figure out. I'll name a couple of them here. Others have gone public. All these names need to be public, before more of these sources pass away from old age.
Here's why it's important. Whether or not Oswald was a spy, he was in the middle of some intriguing operations centered in New York City a and Mexico City during the months before Kennedy was shot.
The purpose of these operations was not merely to spy on the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which was the main antiwar network of the era and similar to United for Peace and Justice or ANSWER.
Rather, the goal was to isolate Castro's government in the eyes of the world and to pave the way for a second invasion of Cuba, much like George Bush's second invasion of Iraq.
These operations appear to have been used by someone - whether it was Oswald or someone else - as "protective cover" behind which they could engineer the assassination of JFK, causing the intelligence bureaucracies to instinctively cover up and protect their jobs and pensions, even at the cost of concealing known evidence about Oswald. Who was using who?
Individual claims for privacy are important. But in this case, justice demands that all available information be brought forward now. Embedded in this history are the strategies that push the American people into war - over and over again. It's Time for Fair Play for the FPCC
In November, 1962, one month after the Cuban missile crisis, the New York papers were filled with headlines about a Cuban plot to bomb Bloomingdale's, other midtown shopping establishments, and military installations throughout the metropolitan area.
Arrested were one of the members of the UN Cuban mission and two members of the Casa Cuba Club, a club of pro-Castro Cuban exiles allied with the politically active Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) headquartered in New York.
In a remarkable turn of events many years later, the author of the pamphlets turned out to be holding a receipt for 45 of these pamphlets from the CIA Acquisitions Division. These pamphlets were mailed to Oswald by FPCC worker Victor Thomas Vicente. Earlier this year, I was able to identify Vicente as a key informant for both the CIA and the FBI's New York branch.After mailing the pamphlets, Vicente provided Oswald's letter to the FBI New York office as part of a "black bag job", where he let FBI agents into the FPCC office so they could photograph the documents. During the summer of 1963, the CIA sent Victor Vicente to Mexico City, then known as the "spy capital of the world", and then to Havana to meet directly with Castro and Che Guevara and to film his travels for review upon his return to New York.
On September 16, 1963, John Tilton of the CIA's maritime operations branch sent a memo to the FBI asking for help in an operation designed to make the Fair Play for Cuba Committee look bad. He asked the FBI to provide FPCC stationery and an FPCC mailing list. Again, Victor Vicente took care of that request during the next month, and included in his package correspondence from Oswald. Another request made by Tilton was to plant "deceptive information" to embarrass the FPCC in areas where it had support. This may have been the reason for Oswald's trip to Mexico, whether he knew it or not. Oswald got in line to get a Mexican visa the day after Tilton's letter. Standing right in front of Oswald in line was William Gaudet, an editor of Latin American Reports, who worked with both the CIA and the FBI. It's time to look at the impersonation of Oswald In late September, Oswald visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City for the purpose of getting visas to visit both countries. As Oswald was a former defector to the Soviet Union and was planning on traveling with his Russian-born wife, CIA officials such as Cuba chief David Phillips admitted "we covered this man all the time."
After Oswald's capture on November 22, the HQ Mexico desk chief John Whitten wrote that among his fellow employees at Langley, "the effect was electric". Two well-informed staffers had a footrace down the corridor for Oswald's file. Many very strange events occurred during Oswald's visit. One is that although there was constant CIA photographic surveillance of those two embassies, the public has never seen a picture of Oswald in Mexico. Although the CIA's Mexico City chief of station Win Scott had been asking since October for a good photo of Oswald to compare against the photos they believed they had taken of Oswald, headquarters had never supplied one. Even though Scott was supposedly warned by his assistant Anne Goodpasture that she "felt that it should not be sent out" as he might have the wrong picture of Oswald, he sent to DC immediately after the assassination a picture of a man that he wrongly claimed was "a certain person who is known to you" at the Soviet embassy.
After the dust settled, Scott came up with good pictures of Oswald standing outside the Cuban embassy, and two CIA men backed this story. These photos were removed from Scott's safe after his 1971 death by counterintelligence chief James Angleton, and have never seen the light of day. Meanwhile, Scott sent a tape of Oswald calling the Cuban consulate on October 1 along with the picture. The FBI reported in writing that not only was the photo the wrong one, but the tape was not Oswald's voice! This tape is the strongest evidence that Oswald was actually impersonated in Mexico City. That tape, like Scott's photos of Oswald, was also in the safe and has also been buried in the dark recesses of the government's archives. We still don't even know who at the FBI listened to the tape. The CIA said nothing about Oswald's visits to the Cuban embassy in their lengthy memos about Oswald's activities in Mexico City. Richard Helms explained later that it was to "protect sources". These sources may exist to this day, and may even shed light on the impersonation of Oswald. J. Edgar Hoover called LBJ and reported the impersonation of Oswald to him. LBJ was aware that the CIA was trying to preserve "freedom of movement" to make the argument that Oswald's ties to Cuba were the basis to declare war. Once Oswald was assassinated by Ruby on November 24, LBJ and the FBI both seized the opportunity to proclaim that Oswald acted alone, and proceeded to conduct a cursory investigation - rather than open up a discussion of Oswald's possible sponsors that led to danger no matter where the evidence might go. When the House Committee on Assassinations tried to interview the photographer (known variously as LIONION-1, LIFEUD-22, and LILILLY-1) of the Cuban embassy in the late 70s, the CIA interviewer initially assured them "no problem", set up an elaborate process to protect his identity, and then waited them out until the committee was about to disband at the end of 1978. In effect, the CIA told the committee - "oh, we told you months ago, he's in Madrid, and it would be a lot of work to make it happen.
In fact, Alberto Rodriguez Gallego had been in Madrid since 1972, with the CIA complaining that he might be a "double agent" To my knowledge, nobody's ever conducted a full-on interview of Alberto Rodriguez Gallego. Why did the CIA distrust their own operatives immediately after Oswald's visit to Mexico?
In studying the recently released records, I found previously unreported lie detector tests conducted not just on Gallego, but on the two CIA agents that ran the much bigger intelligence operation on the Soviet embassy; technical support on the embassy watch (LIMUST) the mobile surveillance team that followed Oswald (LIEMBRACE); most of the members of the airport surveillance operation of Cuban travelers (LIFIRE) and the intelligence operation at the university (LIMOTOR). They even polygraphed the political operative that supported people stuck in the city for weeks trying to get a Cuban visa (AMSUPER-1) and the political operatives in the city of Monterrey where Oswald's bus stopped overnight (LIVALVE-1 and others). All of these lie detector tests were conducted in the two weeks immediately after Oswald's departure. Except for possibly the Mexican students - a story that is a story in itself - I see no indication that polygraphs were scheduled for any of these operatives, nor that they had been polygraphed for years before Oswald's visit. What happened during Oswald's visit to trigger all this distrust among the CIA's most trusted operatives?
There is one final new story I need to tell about the Mexican CIA station - this one goes back to the first months of 1963 and illustrates the nasty nature of CIA business.
The Guatemalan Coup of March 1963 During 1963, on orders from headquarters, station chief Win Scott conducted a self-described harassment campaign against the former President of Guatelmala, Juan Jose Arevalo. This harassment included mailing "poisoned" candy to Arevalo's family (which included five children) as he campaigned for a second chance to serve as president while in exile in Mexico City.
These documents also reveal that the CIA staged a scenario designed to make Arevalo believe that the Cubans at the embassy were planning to bomb him. The Cuban government was allied with the Guatemalan dissidents, and this was an effort to split Arevalo from other dissidents.
This military coup plunged Guatemala deeper into more than thirty years of terrible civil war that claimed 200,000 lives. After the Guatemalan coup, Arevalo finally left Mexico for good the day after the Kennedy assassination, with the CIA monitoring his movements very closely during those final two months.
Juan Jose Arevalo was known as the FDR of Guatemala. His supporters, known throughout the Americas as "Arevalistas", praised him for bringing democracy, free speech, and social services to his part of the world between 1944 and 1951 as Guatemala's first President. In exile in Mexico City, Arevalo was returning to the national stage by running for President a second time until a military coup ended his chances in March 1963.
Why was his family receiving death threats over the telephone and "poisoned" candy in the mail? Why were Cubans supposedly planning to bomb him? Why were the newspapers trying to ruin his campaign by running phony pictures with him alongside a Soviet general?
David Phillips, the CIA's chief of covert actions during this era, had won a Distinguished Service Medal, one of his agency's highest awards, for his work in overthrowing the Guatemala government. Throughout the early sixties, he was active in operations designed to undermine the FPCC. In early October, 1963, Phillips was transferred to become chief of Cuban operations and doubtlessly played a role in the decision to engage in mass polygraphs.
The montage photo is eerily reminiscent of a famous March 1963 photo of an armed Lee Harvey Oswald holding together in his fist the newspapers of the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party. One of the only projects that those two parties were ever able to work together was in the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, which Oswald joined the next month. In one way, whether this photo is real or faked is immaterial. The photo was created to ensure that Oswald was seen as a person who could bring Communist forces together around Cuba with the power of the gun. That remains Oswald's image to this very day.
If those of us in the United States are serious about understanding our history in places like Guatemala and in Cuba, we will take action in the next few years to ensure that all of the documents about this era are fully released, including the names of the sources and informants. If that happens, we will learn a lot more about how "dirty tricks" affected US history as well as those in other lands. Write Congress and call on them to enforce the JFK Act by releasing all the documents and all the government's sources of information. When the American people are willing to take an unblinking look at ourselves and our institutions, the Kennedy assassination will no longer be a mystery.
- Bill Simpich is a civil rights attorney and an antiwar activist in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached at email@example.com