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Simpich writes: "My new book, State Secret: Wiretapping in Mexico City, Double Agents, and the Framing of Lee Oswald, tells the story of a Soviet defector who returned to the United States and how he was closely watched over the final four years of his life."

The Oswalds left Minsk for the United States in June 1962. Just over a year later, Oswald was accused of assassinating John F. Kennedy. (photo: National Archives)
The Oswalds left Minsk for the United States in June 1962. Just over a year later, Oswald was accused of assassinating John F. Kennedy. (photo: National Archives)

State Secret: The Framing of Lee Oswald

By Bill Simpich, Reader Supported News

04 June 14


y new book, State Secret: Wiretapping in Mexico City, Double Agents, and the Framing of Lee Oswald, tells the story of a Soviet defector who returned to the United States and how he was closely watched over the final four years of his life. I examine the plans to kill Castro during this era; the operations surrounding the Cuban consulate in Mexico City in 1963; and how things went haywire when Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City two months before the Kennedy assassination.

I hope to tell the State Secret story on a recurring basis in these pages over the coming months. The 50th anniversary of the Warren Report in September 2014 will set the stage for the battle to convince the National Archives to fully release the JFK files by 2017. New documents released – after years of enormous political struggle – indicate that Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City just weeks prior to the assassination. If the reason for the Oswald impersonation can be resolved, we will be much closer to a solution to the assassination mystery.

Oswald was monitored by three counterintelligence teams in the last four years of his life

The Oswald story is dominated by wiretaps and spies. When Lee Oswald went to visit the Soviet Union in 1959, he visited the American embassy and told the consul about his intention to defect. Oswald announced his intentions in an exaggerated manner, accurately assuming that the American embassy was being wiretapped by Soviets and that no private conversation was possible. Although the USSR refused to grant him citizenship, they allowed him to stay on an open-ended basis.

From the time of Oswald’s arrival in the USSR in 1959 to the end of his life in 1963, three different counterintelligence teams were watching him.

One team was the molehunters from the offices of legendary counterintelligence (CI) chief James Angleton. State Secret reveals how Angleton’s team looked for ways to use the Oswald file to hunt "moles" trying to infiltrate the CIA.

The second team came from the CIA’s Soviet Russia division, which spent much of its time analyzing defectors from the USSR. A tip from one team member convinced J. Edgar Hoover that Oswald might have been impersonated during 1960 – something Hoover certainly did not want publicly known after JFK’s death in 1963.

Three CI teams continued to watch Oswald after his return to the USA in 1962. (Click for full image.)

The third team was a husband-and-wife team known as the Potockis. Anita and Will Potocki were personally loyal to the CIA's wiretap chief Bill Harvey, going back to their days together in Berlin when they tapped the Soviet embassy. Anita was Harvey’s chief aide at the wiretap division known as Staff D. Bill’s title was “CI/OPS,” indicating that he worked in the operations group in Angleton’s division. The Potockis had access to the two most sensitive divisions of the CIA – the ones that ran the wiretaps and molehunts.

What it means to be a defector

The mystery surrounding Lee Harvey Oswald can be dispelled by a meditation on what it means to be a defector. For a spy, a defector is a potential treasure who is worthy of the closest scrutiny. Many things can be learned from the secrets that a defector provides about his former country, as well as his reaction to his new home. Most people do not simply renounce their original country, even if they move away.

When Oswald defected to the Soviet Union in 1959, it was a closed society behind an Iron Curtain. One estimate was that there were maybe twenty Americans available as sources in the entire USSR. American intelligence wanted to know everything there was to know about the Soviet Union.

A re-defector is an extremely rare bird. To defect is an enormous upheaval. Many personal bonds are strained or broken. Most people think long and hard before defecting to another country. Very few people go back on their decision.

James Angleton, Chief of Counterintelligence Staff at CIA from 1954 to 1974

In the words of CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton, whose office followed Oswald throughout the Soviet Union and the last four years of his life, the re-defection of Oswald should have been “the highest priority for the intelligence community.” Although Angleton tried to deny that he had any serious interest in Oswald, his office tracked a lot of paper regarding the man before the assassination.

After Oswald returned, he was surrounded by spooky people with intelligence backgrounds for the rest of his life. He had a lot to offer. Even his casual conversation provided new insights to sift through and ponder.

His time in the Soviet Union could also be used to provide protective coloration if he wanted to impress left-wingers with his knowledge, or impress right-wingers by realizing the error of his ways.

Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City just weeks before the assassination

A year after Oswald's return to the United States, he and his Soviet-born wife applied for visas to return to the Soviet Union to be with his wife's family during the birth of their second child, due to arrive in October 1963. After failing to obtain visas from the Soviet embassy in Washington DC, Oswald tried his luck by going to Mexico City and seeing if he could obtain visas there.

During his visit to Mexico City, wiretap tapes were created of a man calling himself Oswald and a woman identified as Cuban consulate secretary Sylvia Duran calling the Soviet consulate. After the JFK assassination, the CIA insisted that these tapes had been destroyed prior to the assassination.

However, during the 1990s, two Warren Commission staffers admitted that these tapes were played for them during their Mexico City visit in April 1964. After this admission, Mexico City case officer Anne Goodpasture changed her story and admitted her role in disseminating the tapes after the assassination.

State Secret examines the evidence that both Oswald and Duran were impersonated on these tapes. I believe that Goodpasture realized during September 1963 that someone had found out about the CIA’s Mexico City wiretap operation. The impersonation of Oswald and Duran meant that the Agency had to take action to ensure its internal security. The story discusses how Goodpasture got together with the offices of covert action chief Dick Helms and CI chief Jim Angleton and launched an operation to try to figure out who had done it and why.

It all blew up in their faces on 11/22/63, when the man who had been impersonated was named as JFK’s assassin. When President Kennedy was shot down in Dallas, the CIA and their colleagues at the FBI were effectively blackmailed.

If their Oswald memos written prior to the assassination had been made public in the wake of JFK’s death, public reaction would have been furious.

If word had gotten out that CIA officers knew that Oswald had been impersonated prior to the assassination, this would imply both that Oswald had been set up for the assassination (which was presumably carried out by others), and that the CIA could have prevented JFK's death if it had reacted differently. The response would have been tectonic.

Prior to the assassination, the CIA Mexico City station concealed from its own headquarters that Oswald had visited the Cuban consulate, while reporting that Oswald had contacted the Soviet consulate. HQ responded in a similar manner by concealing from Mexico City Oswald’s history as a pro-Castro activist. The reason why has been a state secret. Similarly, the tapes had to be buried to hide the fact that the man introduced himself to the Soviets as “Lee Oswald,” but it was not Oswald’s voice. This has also been a state secret.

The cover-up of the president’s death is a state secret. The tale of the Mexico City tapes is a state secret. Much of the history of the United States is hidden from us, behind a wall of overclassifications and redactions. By comparison, we know more about the JFK case than I ever thought was possible. Much more of it sits in the National Archives and on the websites of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, the Poage Legislative Library at Baylor, the Harold Weisberg Archive at Hood College, the National Security Archive, the presidential libraries, and many more locations, waiting for us to read it, sift through it, and analyze it. The hyperlinks in this story enable the reader to view the original documents and engage in the hunt. Are we interested in serious work, or would we rather argue about it as a form of entertainment?

The JFK case is not an insoluble mystery, but more of a steeplechase. What we need is access to our history and a passion for tough-minded analysis. It’s not a lot different than a clear-eyed examination of the roots of war, or what it will take to end world hunger or global warming. Errico Malatesta was a well-known Spanish agitator who spoke throughout Europe about his vision for a better world. Malatesta would often suggest that “everything depends on what the people are capable of wanting.”

  • Bill Simpich

The entirety of State Secret can be read online at the Mary Ferrell Foundation. your social media marketing partner
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