In one of a continuing series of obstructions affecting the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the US government is preventing a visit to a research conference by a man who apparently got very close to Lee Harvey Oswald during Oswald’s USSR days.
This development comes on top of the Obama Administration’s failure to release 50,000 documents relating to the assassination, as previously reported by WhoWhatWhy.
Ernst Titovets, author of the 2010 book “Oswald: Russian Episode“, had been invited to be the keynote speaker at the yearly Dallas conference held by the Coalition on Political Assassinations (COPA), a loose-knit organization of researchers who study political assassinations.
But Titovets got a cold reception from the American Consulate in Minsk (capital of White Russia, a part of the USSR now called Belarus) when he applied for a visa to travel to America—and has been waiting to hear from them for over a month. He has asked that polite letters of support be sent to the Consulate and Embassy in his behalf by those who want to hear him speak. Contact information appears at the end of the article.
Titovets’s highly detailed book humanizes the alleged assassin–and many Americans would like to hear more about it from the author himself. But Titovets’s role itself is seen as problematical by some observers in a saga that has remained mired in controversy, bizarre twists and turns, and allegations of government cover-ups and endless distractions and disinformation.
In his book, Titovets appears to be defending Oswald—but is he really defending the C.I.A.?
According to a diary Oswald allegedly wrote, Titovets was his “oldest existing acquaintance.” Readers familiar with the facts in the case of the Kennedy assassination will understand the liberal use of the word “allegedly”—almost everything about Oswald and his doings remains in doubt—including whether he went to the USSR on his own, or was one of a number of servicemen with access to information of interest to the Soviets who many believe were part of a “false defector” program run by US intelligence. (Evidence of one such case—another American run by an agent who like Oswald married a Russian woman, can be found here.) For those who find this alternative scenario credible, everything from the true authorship and purpose of his diary to the agendas of those who befriended him require close scrutiny.
Titovets may have been Oswald’s good friend. On the other hand, he may have been a KGB agent assigned to keep an eye on
Oswald, as some say. Titovets could even have been both. Many non-spooky Russians, especially intellectuals, were pressed—against their will—into service by the KGB.
Oswald, who publicly attempted to defect to the Soviet Union in October 1959 but was viewed with skepticism by the authorities there before he returned to the United States, was of intense interest to the Russians. We know from released KGB files that Soviet spies watched Oswald and his wife in their bedroom through a peephole in the thin wall, and listened to them through a microphone in the ceiling, and who knows what else they did?
Titovets, an MD, PhD, is an interesting man himself, as you can see from his website. There, he describes his research on brain chemistry, as well as his memoir on Oswald, whom he met when Oswald moved to Minsk. According to the author, the two became fairly close after first meeting at a party. As Titovets puts it,
“. . . The book is based mainly on the author’s first-hand experience of knowing Oswald. It also includes the author’s interviews with many Russians who met Oswald, there are documents with Oswald’s longhand never published before, unique transcripts of the audio recordings of Oswald and Titovets reading stories, enacting plays, giving mock interviews to one another.”
The never-before-published documents written in Oswald’s handwriting, and the audio recordings, should be especially interesting to researchers of the Kennedy assassination.
Only Two Possibilities?
Who was Lee Harvey Oswald, Titovets asks? In his preface, he presents two possibilities:
(1) a “lone gunman, a maniac presidential killer, and a scheming villain of a conspirator”; or
(2) the “patsy he proclaimed himself to be, the greatest goof of our time, an all-round good guy and a completely innocent man. The unbiased researcher unencumbered with proving or disproving theories might point out that there is enough evidence to seriously consider Oswald as a student of sociology and self-educated philosopher looking forward to building a perfect society.”
Titovets promotes the second possibility: completely innocent, and with no connections to any intelligence organization.
A Third Possibility
Many believe in a third possibility: that Oswald was neither a lone assassin nor an unconnected innocent—but was an American intelligence agent who thought he was serving his country as part of an elaborate subterfuge.
Consider this possibly telling incident: when officials at the US Embassy tried to talk Oswald out of renouncing his citizenship, he threatened to reveal to the Russians information obtained in his role as an aviation radio electronics operator. This included what he knew about U-2 reconnaissance planes. The U-2, Titovets notes, was the “highest priority target of Soviet intelligence.”
“A defector about to supply the Soviets with classified information, and, in particular, information about U-2 flights would be very unwise to have revealed his intentions before the staff of the American Embassy. It would be suicidal to do so; accidents did happen, Moscow or no Moscow.”
Assuming this well-known and long publicized account of Oswald’s actions is true, why didn’t security at the Embassy seize Oswald then and there? Surely, if Oswald were a bona fide defector and threat to American interests, he would not have been treated so gently—nor would he have been given the assistance he was given by American authorities when he decided to come back to the States.
Titovets does not seem to even find the passivity of the American authorities in Moscow strange. This, and other aspects of his analysis should make one curious about Titovets himself.
All of which is to recommend caution in wondering why the US, fifty years later, is turning Titovets from a relatively obscure character into someone of public interest by denying him a visa. Not to suggest anything wrong with the consulate staff in Minsk. But, assuming that this matter, on such a sensitive topic, would naturally be kicked upstairs to high levels in the US intelligence firmament, one has to wonder whether they were the ones to hold back the visa, and if so, why?
Given how the American people have been treated to one distraction after another from the vast body of evidence pointing at intelligence connections in Kennedy’s death, is it so crazy to wonder if the purpose of denying Titovets a visit is actually not to prevent him from being heard, but instead to make his bland “revelations” seem somehow more noteworthy? Any public relations professional would understand such a subterfuge.
Whether or not that is what is going on here, it is indisputable that Titovets is very helpful in casting Oswald as nothing more than the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Notably, Titovets often focuses on Oswald’s “naiveté.” For example: regarding Oswald’s “surprise”—as recorded in his diary–at being questioned by Soviet officials wary of this would-be defector and his motives, Titovets says:
“Had Oswald obtained special training he would not have failed to see through that unsophisticated game. He wouldn’t have been surprised that they made him go over his story again and again…”
What Titovets does not seem to recognize, or will not acknowledge, is that an intelligence officer playing a role would almost certainly act naïve, and claim to be surprised by things an agent would know to be commonplace.
Cutting the Wires
Some see Oswald as a broken marionette. Though discarded, the wires are still attached, however translucent, and could lead right back to those who were pulling them.
Was Oswald one of the recruits in the CIA false defector program? Is this why so many documents about him remain classified? Is this why the US government, even under Obama, continues to hold back those 50,000 documents?
If he were indeed proven to have been working for US intelligence at the time of the Kennedy assassination, then his alleged role in a presidential murder could further shake the confidence of Americans in the trustworthiness of our vast secret intelligence apparatus—and even lead to a reappraisal of the reliability of our governance system itself.
It would hardly be surprising that someone like Titovets and his “revelations” of an Oswald who was an innocent naïf, completely unconnected with the US government, are welcomed by the establishment. The New York Times, which for the last half-century has notoriously dismissed or ignored thousands of revelations pointing to Oswald’s involvement in covert operations, has written approvingly of Titovets.
A Closer Look at Titovets Himself
Titovets considers the idea that Oswald was connected to either American or Russian intelligence the “wildest speculation.” “A James Bond fantasy.” He ignores the evidence of Oswald’s connections to American intelligence as revealed in many books, and seems to hope his readers will ignore it as well, thereby effectively cutting the marionette’s wires.
This, of course, raises questions of why the US government would not welcome his visit. Skeptics might note that the government’s refusal in itself creates media interest in Titovets–and makes his contribution to the discussion more credible: if the US government is against him, he must be doing something right. Whether or not the US ends up allowing his visit or not, he gains new visibility.
Titovets seems anxious to prove that he was not only a friend of Oswald’s but a close one—a person qualified to say he had no connection to any intelligence agency. From the preface of his book:
“There is at least one fact that has never been in dispute. The author of this book has consistently been viewed in the literature as a close friend of Lee Harvey Oswald, indeed one of his closest companions in Minsk…. [Refers to books by Patricia McMillan, Edward Jay Epstein, and Norman Mailer.] And to have it straight from Oswald himself: ‘Erich [Ernst Titovets] is my oldest acquaintance…a friend of mine who speaks English very well.’ I have but to bow my head in this collective opinion. To be Oswald’s close friend became my unsolicited role in the JFK drama.”
Oswald wrote detailed descriptions of many people in his diary–even those with whom he met only briefly–yet, he had little to say about Titovets. His diary contains only four brief entries, reproduced below, complete with spelling errors. (Note: Titovets also called himself “Erich.”)
 “Nov 15 in Nov I make the acquaintance of 4 girls rooming at the for. Lan. domatory . . . I usually go to the institute domatory with a friend of mine who speaks English very well. Eraich Titov is in the forth year at the medical institute. Very bright fellow. At the domatory we 6 sit and talk for hours in Russian.”
 “Mar 17 . . . I and Erich went to trade union dance.” [There, he met Marina.]
 “Sept-Oct 18. During this time I am lonely but I and Erich go to the dances and public places for enitanment.”
 “March. The last communiques are exchanged between myself and Embassy. . . . I have still not told Erich who is my oldest existing acquaitance,that we are going to the State, he’s o.k., but I’m afraid he is too good a young communist leage member so I’ll wait till last min.
There is no question that the two men spent a great deal of time together but if Oswald had a secret life it’s not at all clear that Titovets would have been aware of it. In fact, Oswald’s March 1962 diary entry shows that, even though he had known Titovets for two years already, Oswald felt he could not confide in his oldest “acquaintance.”
In the meantime, Ernst Titovets is still waiting for his travel visa.
Dr. Titovets has asked that polite letters of support be sent to
United States Embassy in Belarus
46 Starovilenskaya St.
Minsk 220002, Belarus
Telephones: +375 17 210-12-83
+375 17 217-7347
+375 17 217-7348
Fax: +375 17 234-78-53
After hours or in emergency call +375 17 226-16-01
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim (Chief of Mission) – Ethan A. Goldrich
Address: 46 Starovilenskaya St.
Minsk 220002, Belarus
Telephone: +375 17 210-12-83 or +375 17 334-77-61
Fax: +375 17 217-71-60
Working hours: Monday-Friday from 8.30 to 17.30 except Belarusian and American holidays.
Perhaps if Titovets gets his permit, and does visit the United States, he’ll have an opportunity to explain why he never considered the possibility, so widely accepted now—that Oswald was indeed a deep covert operative all along.
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Correction: This article has been revised to reflect a correction. Contrary to what was written earlier, Ernst Titovets did not work in a radio factory, and he met Oswald at a party.