The JFK Files: New Light on Oswald and Mexico City - WhoWhatWhy

The JFK Files: New Light on Oswald and Mexico City

CIA, FBI, JFK, gears
Was the FBI being controlled by the CIA?
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from ralphbijker / Flickr (CC BY 2.0), CIA / Wikimedia and FBI / Wikimedia ralphbijker / Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Those with a stake in avoiding the truth about John F. Kennedy’s assassination want you to believe Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone nut. If you won’t accept that, they have a fallback position: “It’s even worse. He was working for the commies.”

That “alternative” scenario revolves around a purported Oswald trip to Mexico City in the months before Kennedy’s death, when he allegedly visited Soviet and Cuban missions, met with a handler and sought his escape path to his beloved USSR.

There’s just one problem with this narrative. It probably isn’t true.

While the full truth has not yet surfaced, hints of the real story can be gleaned from long-buried documents recently released by the National Archives.

Connecting all the dots is a challenge, even for investigators who have devoted their lives to this task. But progress continues to be made in shining light on what may be history’s most consequential unsolved murder.

Here is the latest from this investigatory front.

Twice over the past week-and-a-half, the National Archives posted new documents as mandated by the President John F. Kennedy Records Collection Act of 1992. First came 676 records and then a whopping 13,213 more. While WhoWhatWhy’s special JFK Records Team has just begun probing this trove for new revelations, preliminary results are intriguing.

Jefferson Morley, author of a just-published biography of the CIA’s longtime counterintelligence chief James Angleton, points out a telling code name on an Agency cable dated October 8, 1963. The cable was sent from the Mexico Station Chief, Winston Scott, under the subject heading LCIMPROVE. As first defined by the CIA for the House Committee on Assassinations in 1978, this cryptonym specified “counter-espionage involving Soviet intelligence services worldwide.” That was Angleton’s domain, and the Scott cable specifically described contacts between Oswald and Consul Valery Kostikov at the Soviet embassy in Mexico City.

As the CIA’s internal 23-page report on Oswald’s stay in Mexico (104-10004-10199) puts it: “it is believed that [Kostikov] works for Department 13 of the KGB, the Department charged with sabotage and assassinations.” This (continued CIA officer “GPFLOOR” in his internal report from the Mexico Station) was “a particularly sinister aspect of OSWALD’s dealings with the Soviets in Mexico City.” The report was dispatched on December 19, 1963, to C/CI [Counterintelligence] from John Whitten of the Western Hemisphere Division, who initially handled the CIA’s investigation in-house.

Surely, James Angleton saw this report, as well as Scott’s pre-assassination cable. Yet, more than curiously, the day after Scott’s October 8 cable was sent, senior FBI agents removed Oswald’s name from a list of persons of interest to the Bureau. Although the FBI had interviewed Oswald on a number of occasions after his return from the USSR in June 1962, suddenly he was no longer deemed worthy of close scrutiny. Had the FBI gotten word from Angleton’s branch of the CIA?

Mexico, phone, passport

The CIA intercepted a call to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City.
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Max Pixel, Alex Covarrubias / Wikimedia and US Department of State.

We haven’t yet seen FBI files related to that decision — which was effected only six weeks prior to the assassination — but we do know that Jane Roman of Angleton’s staff went on to receive and initial an FBI report concerning Oswald on November 15. It came from senior agent Warren DeBrueys of the FBI’s New Orleans office, stating that Oswald had returned from Mexico City and was living in Texas. Angleton’s staff had been closely monitoring Oswald since his alleged defection to the Soviet Union in 1959.

The Mexico City story has long been a jigsaw with numerous loose ends. The Warren Commission Report, for example, mentioned Kostikov in passing as “one of the KGB officers stationed at the embassy.” In the late 1970s, when author Anthony Summers interviewed two Cuban officials said to have seen Oswald at their embassy, neither remained certain he was actually the man who’d come there demanding a visa on September 27.

So what are we learning now?

The post-assassination chronicle by GPFLOOR (headed “We Discover Lee OSWALD in Mexico City”) led off with a description of a phone call the CIA’s Mexico station intercepted on October 1, with Oswald using his own name and speaking broken Russian. He talked to the embassy guard, Obyedkov, “who often answers the phone.” Oswald said he’d visited the embassy a few days earlier and spoken to a consul whose name he’d forgotten but “who had promised to send a telegram for him to Washington. He wanted to know if there were ‘anything new’….

“OBYEDKOV replied: ‘KOSTIKOV; he is dark.’ OSWALD replied: ‘Yes, my name is Oswald.’ The Soviet excused himself for a minute and then said they hadn’t received anything yet….OSWALD started to say: ‘And what…,’ but the Soviet hung up.”

Although the report identifies Ivan Ivanovich Obyedkov himself as “believed to be a KGB man,” it goes on to say:

[It is] most likely that OSWALD’s dealing with OBYEDKOV and KOSTIKOV was nothing more than a grim coincidence, a coincidence due in part to the Soviet habit of placing intelligence men in the Embassies in positions where they receive a large portion of the visitors and phone calls. All of the five consular officers in the Soviet Embassy are known or suspected intelligence officers. Certainly if OSWALD had been a Soviet agent in training for an assassination assignment or even for sabotage work, the Soviets would have stopped him from making open visits and phone calls to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico after he tried it a couple times. Our experience in Mexico, studying the Soviet intelligence service at close range, indicates that they do make some mistakes and are sometimes insecure in their methods, but that they do not persist in such glaring errors.

So someone on the ground with the CIA in Mexico quickly dismissed the importance of the Oswald-Kostikov link. Shortly thereafter, Angleton took the in-house investigation away from Jack Whitten, and gave direct oversight to Birch O’Neal, who ran the Special Operations Group inside Counterintelligence that controlled Oswald’s “201” file upon his alleged defection in 1959.

This much we already knew, from a transcript released in 1993 of a phone call that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover made to President Lyndon B. Johnson shortly after the assassination. “We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet Embassy using Oswald’s name,” Hoover said. “That picture and the tape [sent by the CIA] do not correspond to this man’s voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there.”

Oswald, CIA, Mexico City

Photo credit: National Archives (PDF)

The CIA had taken photographs of a man outside the Cuban and Soviet consulates, initially identified as Oswald; these photos were sent to Dallas authorities on November 22. The agency was concerned then, and later, that these images now known as the “Mexico City mystery man” might become public.

A 124-page “Mexico Chronology” (104-10013-10004), also included in the November 9 document release, covers the period from before the assassination through the early stages of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s investigation. On May 8, 1967, a memo from “Riggs” at CIA headquarters to the Mexico City station questioned: “In view of recent reopening of the publicity regarding OSWALD and WOFACT evidence, Hqs would like to determine whether the Station still has on hand the negatives from which the prints available at Hqs were made of the unidentified ‘mystery man’ coming out of both the Sov and Cub embassies. If they are still on file, it is requested that they remain so, and that they be forwarded HQs for retention rather than destroyed if the latter action is ever contemplated.” Mexico Station chief Win Scott said he personally checked on May 27 “and negatives are in LIMITED [sic?} photo chrono…for 1 Oct 63.”

Prints were then forwarded to headquarters “of a person leaving the Soviet Embassy,” the negatives remaining in the Station files. And on June 26, headquarters wrote to Mexico again that it “also has a photo taken in front of Cub Emb of a man who appears to be identical with the ‘mystery man.’ The date written on the back of this print is  ‘15 Oct 63.’ We have no record of a transmittal dispatch number, only an indication it was forwarded here by your Station … Hqs assumes that you also have the negative.” The Station responded that it did, “filed in LIONION photo Chrono.”

On July 3 Scott sent another memo to headquarters: “The negative of ref photo is filed at Mexi station. This photo was taken in front of the Cub Emb but the photo published in the Warren Comm Report was taken in front of the Sov Emb. This Station has on file negatives of both photos.”

After Winston Scott died suddenly in 1969, James Angleton flew immediately to Mexico City to retrieve the contents of his safe.

Two years earlier, soon after Garrison embarked on his investigation, there had been this on March 6: “MEMO from LICOMET-2 to José (Piccolo) — Attached is a clipping from the publication LUMINERE page 8, of Sol de Mexico, 4 Mar 67: Surveilled OSWALD in Mexico, but Not in Dallas. CIA agents take note, in Mexi airport, of travelers to and from Cuba. The counter-espionage service of the CIA photographed OSWALD when he arrived in Mexico and sent the info to the FBI, emphasizing the fact that OSWALD was in contact with the Sov and Cub Embassies in Mexi.”

David Atlee Phillips, Winston Scott

David Atlee Phillips with Winston Scott ID card inset.
Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Shane McBryde / YouTube and La Noria Times News / EL UNIVERSAL.

What are we to make of it all? We don’t know who LICOMET-2 was, though we do know Joseph Piccolo had been a case officer in the Cuban branch of the CIA’s Western Hemisphere Division. But was Angleton’s corner of the CIA in cahoots at the time with Hoover’s FBI? And what of David Atlee Phillips, who was running the CIA’s Cuban operations in Mexico City at the time of the assassination — the man in charge of photo and audio surveillance of Cuban diplomatic offices there.

We haven’t learned much from the 358-page “OP” file about Phillips, which was released on November 3. Indeed, there isn’t a single record dated between 1961 and 1965. Not redacted, simply not there. We do learn from later “Fitness Reports” that Phillips was promoted to Operations Officer undercover in Mexico City on September 29, 1963 — coinciding with all the strangeness surrounding Oswald’s visit. Before that, according to a 1961 memo about Phillips, “His next assignment would be a normal field tour in Mexico City, after which he would be assigned to the CA Staff to develop what might best be termed ‘ideological warfare.’”

In a file dated August 5, 1965, a notification of personnel “Reassignment,” Phillips’s previous title is listed as “Chief of Station” in “Mexico City, Mexico.” Yet, as far as was previously known, that post had been held between 1955 and 1969 by Winston Scott.

Clearly something very strange was going on in Mexico City in the months leading up to JFK’s assassination. A man claiming to be Lee Oswald, who apparently looked nothing like him and could barely speak Russian, was making what can only be described as attention-grabbing trips to the Soviet and Cuban consuls. Both the CIA and the FBI were well aware of this during the immediate aftermath of the assassination.

So ask yourself this question: Why would someone who wasn’t Oswald pretend to be Oswald and run around visiting Soviet and Cuban embassies? Could it be that someone was trying to set up Oswald to make it look like he was working with the “commies” to kill Kennedy? If anyone wanted an excuse to start a war with Cuba and the Soviets, this was an opportunity served on a silver platter.

Here’s a follow up question: Why aren’t we hearing more about this in the mainstream media? Instead, we’re hearing the same game-plan story that was trotted out in November 1963 — if Oswald wasn’t a lone-nut, then the Cubans and the Soviets were behind it. Anything but the possibility that powerful Americans conspired to violently remove a sitting president.

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Dick Russell (George Peper / Dick Russell) and The National Palace of Mexico (Reinhard Jahn, Mannheim / Wikimedia – CC BY-SA 2.0 DE).

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30 responses to “The JFK Files: New Light on Oswald and Mexico City”

  1. Avatar D.Plorable says:

    The “coup de grace” of the whole WC cover-up was published in 2008 “JFK and the Unspeakable” excerpts of which can be viewed online where the particulars of the “2 Oswalds” on the day of the assassination are explained. Another book well worth reading is “Brothers” by David Talbot, probably the best thing about the Kennedys with a wider perspective than just the assassination. Talbot followed up with “Devil’s Chessboard” about the Dulles brothers which should be forcing a re-write of what is in the history textbooks about the whole Cold War era but probably won’t.

  2. Avatar LoudRambler says:

    The way I understood the reports around Mexico station is that their camera was faulty at the time of the visit, and rather than sending their own photos they ended buying certain photos off someone, which were sold as genuine – but which, as it looks from the docs, were suspected to be the photos of the wrong person.

    It also looks like Mexico station put considerable effort into investigating the visit, and went as far as comparing the fonts and signatures on docs they could obtain. In general, it matched Oswald visiting Mexico.

  3. Avatar Gaynor Kaiser says:

    Exactly right, Mr. Russell. Thanks! Since the original myth of a lone nut gunman has been thoroughly disproven, the fallback disinformation campaign of the Deep State and not-so-deep Media has been: “Well, then, maybe it was the Mafia, or the Commies, or just too complicated for us to know.” BS. The book, “Killing JFK: 50 Years, 50 Lies” opens with clear proof that there was an Oswald impostor in Mexico… and that Hoover and LBJ knew it but then hid that truth, and they and the CIA covered it up. Conspiracy in our government, not Commies or mobsters.

    • Avatar D.Plorable says:

      It looks like the premise that the Soviets/Castro/both were behind Oswald was used as the internally-agreed-upon ruse by the Warren Commission to justify the cover-ups it executed. There is a tape of LBJ and Hoover on the day after the assassination where they begin discussing Mexico City and then there is a 12-minute gap. Earl Warren is supposed to have told people later he helped prevent WW3, the idea being he was told Oswald did it for the Soviets/Castro and thus the WC had to pretend he was a lone operator and keep this a secret. There is a recording of LBJ in the process of pressuring Sen. Russell to be on the WC and he tells how he got Warren to head it by “telling a little something that happpened down in Mexico City and he broke down and cried and said I’ll do anything you want”. (detailed in “Family of Secrets” about the Bushes. Another aspect of this is how we now know that Castro had penetrated the US “black ops” program against him so bad that he pretty much knew everything they were doing–this was explored by John Batchelor on his radio program interviewing one of the double agents who had written his bio, sorry don’t have the title.

  4. Avatar Hugh O'Neill says:

    I have just read Mark Lane’s “Rush to Judgement” and am amazed that he lived to the ripe old age of 89. He fully understood the corruption of the Warren Commission, the Dallas Police, the FBI and the CIA. On p.302, the WC wrote to CIA a memo requesting info on Ruby, which the CIA just ignored. The memo shows that the WC knew that Ruby had corrupted the entire Dallas Police force and various attorneys, had links with US military re running guns to anti-Castro Cubans, that Chicago informants reported that the anti-Castro Cubans were behind the hit.
    Lane also quotes from Gerald Ford’s book, that the WC were shocked by the revelation that Oswald was a paid FBI informant (pp.366-373) and had to work very hard to hide this fact. The whole Warren Commission was indeed a “shoddy piece of work” as RFK said. And anyone who dares defend it are likewise shoddy, corrupt and indeed part of the Unspeakable.
    The supposed trip to Mexico was impossible because it coincided with the supposed visit to Sylvia Odio of 2 Latinos and the anti-JFK, Leon Oswald. Odio’s testimony was irrefutable, and thus a window on the many ways the sheep-dipping of Oswald as pro-Castroite so as to blame Castro – just as in Operation Northwoods (vetoed by JFK).

  5. Avatar Mik says:

    Dr. Charles Crenshaw (the MD who operated on JFK at Dallas/Parkland Hospital) wrote 2 books that make it clear that Kennedy had 3 wounds, all from the front – which rules out Oswald. When those books came out, there should have been massive headlines, and a renewed investigation into the case. The fact that the Democrats didn’t push relentlessly for that is one of the reasons why the GOP and allied members of American Intelligence don’t fear reprisal for their ongoing criminal acts. If Mueller’s team finds criminal activity in the Trump admin, this is America’s last chance at reversing its slide into a Dictatorship; which is really what the GOP is all about.

  6. Avatar D Starks says:

    Lone assassin trolls on the attack in the comments. How do they ignore everything to the contrary? It’s about the old CIA propaganda memo talking points. Dick Russell”s research and evaluations are rock solid.

  7. Avatar KC Jacobs says:

    Larry Sabato and Philip Shenon seem to be the new Gerald Posners. But they DO get attention from TV networks, and what they say is not challenged. Shenon’s rolling out the old Mexico sham is insulting to anyone with a memory, let alone intelligence. Is it our responsibility to keep going out and challenging these fellows, to keep facts being facts, not their limited take on history? Yes, it is. Don’t be shy!

  8. Avatar joe kozul says:

    Quiz: Why would the CIA recruit Oswald, a second rate shooter based on his Marine days, living hand to mouth in the US, have him purchase a cheap $29 Italian cheap rifle IN March 63, and then tell him, hang on all this time until Kennedy goes to Dallas, then task him with 2 out of 3 shots in less than 8 seconds at 100 yards at a moving target from the 6th floor ? Preposterous.

    • Avatar Mel says:

      I was a rated marksman. I’ve seen a replica of the weapon on display. Impossible. But why would conspirators framing Oswald not supervise his acquisition and allow him to buy such a palpably absurd piece of fake evidence?

    • Avatar disqus_iNSHgOse0O says:

      Mel, this cover-up has been in place for 53 years and you’re asking why the conspirators didn’t do a better job, get a better rifle etc. Why ask that question, just accept that no one is perfect; they did a good job despite the rifle. If you must have an answer the conspirators may have ordered the Mannlicher-Carcano because it could be secretly ordered through the mail without Oswald being aware he was being set up.

    • Avatar Gaynor Kaiser says:

      Yeah, when you have the massive power that the Deep State and their puppet media possess, you don’t have to be very smart to make the nefarious plans work.

    • Avatar Richard Turnbull says:

      You could begin by trying to assemble concrete, credible evidence that “Oswald” can even be tied to the alleged assassination weapon, then examine how he got the Texas School Book Depository job, then try to find any witnesses placing him on the sixth floor when shots were fired, then examine the multiple flaws in the Tippit killing depositions and witness reports, (as well as in the JFK shooting reports, of course) and then resort to reading Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane and Accessories After the Fact by Sylvia Meagher. At that point you will be up to speed on the JFK-Tippit-Oswald murders in a very loose sense, as of about 1969.

  9. Avatar Mike Rinella says:

    The logic holes in this article render it the consistency of swiss cheese. Nothing to see here.

  10. Avatar H Beazley says:

    Thank you, Russ Baker, for you dedication to the truth. I think we can now say unequivocally that Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City to make him look like a Communist agent as part a setup to frame him in JFK’s death.

    • Avatar Richard Turnbull says:

      Congratulations, you are current with the basic thinking on this of about 1969, among anyone who read Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment and Sylvia Meagher’s Accessories After the Fact — those two early critques of the Warren Commission hoax are still well worth reading.

    • Avatar disqus_iNSHgOse0O says:

      Actually no. Mark Lane did a great job in writing his book, but much of RTJ is more or less irrelevant or unimportant. Better to find more recent books with more pertinent information. I would recommend Anthony Summers’ book first.

    • Avatar Richard Turnbull says:

      Actually yes, almost NONE of RTJ is “irrelevant or unimiportant,” and I read Summers books years ago.

  11. Avatar Josh Stern says:

    The bulk of evidence suggests a) Lee/Harvey Oswald was a US intel created identity, filled at different times by different people, b) in the late 1950s, the mission of the identity became centered on posing it as a Commie sympathizer in order to carry out various types of false flag operations, c) the first false flag involved getting special training on the top secret U2 spy plane project and then being allowed a fake defection to the USSR to try and pass false evidence – this mission collapsed after the U2 shootdown/Powers incident, where USSR had a clear picture of U2, so “Oswald comes back”, accompanied by a fake wife with Intel connections, c) next mission was to pose as a Castro sympathizer with other CIA/FBI operatives in New Orleans, organizing the Fair Play for Cuba chapter there, d) next mission was to be part of the CIA planned hit on JFK in Dallas, in the event it came off there. I believe that the “Oswald” who got shot part of a large team there, but he did not personally shoot a rifle at JFK – that collection of “evidence” and “forensics” has been shown to be completely fake. It’s unclear how much he would have known about actual plans for a hit. The guy in Dallas was a low level guy following orders, not an organizer or trigger man. A spy patsy to be set up as either “lone shooter nut” or part of “Communist plot”. Antonia Veciana’s story about what David Phillips asked him to do and the reason is a kind of window into 1 mainline of that false flag – blame it on Castro to justify an invasion. JE Hoover called off the “blame the Commies” scenario at the start of executing his coverup because the hit was too messy and he couldn’t support a coverup as well in the event of a larger national emergency investigation in Dallas.

    • Avatar Jason BMW says:

      Your alpha sections are a bit off….

    • Avatar Josh Stern says:

      Not sure what you mean….This article discusses the anti-Castro CIA backed group Alpha-66 operating in Dallas: Philip H. Melanson. “Dallas Mosaic: The Cops, The Cubans, and the Company.” The Third Decade 1, no. 3 (1985): 8–16. (search MaryFerrell for link.) In 1963, Phillips was CIA head of operations in large region including Cuba and Mexico. Jim Garrison and Robert Tanenbaum both found lots of evidence directly connecting Oswald to the anti-Castro Spooks in New Orleans.

    • Avatar Jason BMW says:

      You have 2 section “C”….that’s all. haha

    • Avatar Josh Stern says:

      Many recommend “JFK and the Unspeakable” as the best modern introduction to JFK conspiracy research (though it is now a few years old, and misses Veciana’s updates and some other things). Douglass draws on a lot of other research. The most extensive research into multiple Oswald personas was done by John Armstrong and most of it is available on line. Armstrong also traces down the FBI fraud of the “mail order rifle”. Other people worked on the evidence that prior hits were set up in Chicago and Tampa. Bolden was personally involved in Chicago and talked about that plot. Ultimate Sacrifice by Waldron and Hartmann is one good source for some of those details. The Alpha-66 link above mentions another plot involving aircraft that didn’t come off in Miami.

    • Avatar Richard Turnbull says:

      Don’t forget the other two assassination plots against in JFK in Florida and Chicago in November, 1963, and the role of “nightclub owner” Jack Ruby in silencing Oswald. It’s no wonder the mass media doesn’t want to cover this accurately and fairly: not only is the idea of a conspiracy to kill a sitting president scary as hell, the interlocked cases and evidence are incredibly complex.

    • Avatar Josh Stern says:

      The mass media works for the CIA. The owners and exec editors are witting CIA accomplices/allies. All other promiment members are made compliant in some way or killed and secretly implaced with impostors – both after they became professionals and before they were hired or even went to J-school.

    • Avatar Frogman says:

      Operation Mockingbird, yup.

    • Avatar Richard Turnbull says:

      Posted my comment before reading yours, there’s so much to connect.
      Edit: But Bush connections to “9-11 conspiracy theories” seem very dubious, more like total failure to take his briefing on August 6, 2001 seriously and then subsequent blunders leading to the ill-conceived Iraq invasion based on phony and/or drastically misinterpreted intelligence about WMD.

    • Avatar vincent danagher says:

      In Michael Collins Piper’s book “Final Judgement” he suggests that Oswald was a CIA ‘Asset’ or groupie , the reason he wasn’t “rounded up” with other undesireables along JFK’s route was because he was told by his handlers that there was to be a phony attempt on JFK’s life so they could blame Castro. His role was to bring his piece of crap rifle to the TSBD and leave it at the sixth floor , then open a rear door for the phony assassin to enter. This would explain his appearance in the ground floor lunchroom when the cops burst in. Oswald ,not being a complete moron realised hed been set up as a patsy and took off when he realised that JFK had indeed been shot. This scenario is just as likely as the hundreds of other theories out there.

    • Avatar Frogman says:

      Operation Northwoods, yup.