At the height of the Cold War in the early 1960s, when the U.S. government was doing everything to defeat communism and destroy communists, one of the most remarkable series of events in the history of the U.S. national-security state took place. An American claiming to love communists, communism, and Marxism — a man who ostensibly did everything he could to join America’s official enemy the Soviet Union — a man who supposedly delivered top-secret information relating to national security to the Soviets — a man who campaigned openly here in the United States in favor of Cuba and communism — a man who may have visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies in Mexico with the ostensible aim of returning to the Soviet Union — sauntered across the Cold War stage with virtual immunity from adverse action at the hands of the national-security state. This phenomenal matter could well be described as a Cold War miracle. That man was a former U.S. Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald.
The official story: Oswald joined the Marines and became an avowed communist. Somehow during his time in the Marines, he taught himself Russian, a foreign language that many would agree is very difficult to learn, especially without the benefit of a language school or a tutor.
Shortly before his term in the Marines was up, Oswald secured permission to leave his military service early on the ground that his mother had been injured and needed assistance. It was a lie. Soon after being discharged, he made his way to the Soviet Union, although it is still not clear where he got the money to pay for the trip.
Once in the Soviet Union, Oswald went to the U.S. embassy, where he attempted to renounce his American citizenship. He also told U.S. officials at the embassy that he intended to disclose everything he knew to Soviet officials, a threat that had teeth to it, given that Oswald had been stationed at a U.S. Air Force base in Japan where the U.S. government’s top-secret U-2 spy plane was based.
After living in the Soviet Union for a few years, during which he married a Russian woman, he obtained permission from U.S. officials to return to the United States, even securing financial assistance from the U.S. government to make the trip home.
Moving to Dallas, Oswald found employment at a photographic center that just happened to perform classified work for the U.S. government.
Later, he moved to New Orleans, where he found employment at a company located in the heart of offices and agencies that had links to U.S. intelligence. While there, he established a local chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, a pro-Cuba organization that the U.S. government had infiltrated and was attempting to destroy. At the same time, he was making written contact with the U.S. Communist Party.
During his time in New Orleans, Oswald pamphleteered in favor of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, even going so far as to distribute pamphlets on the street to U.S. troops disembarking from a U.S. Navy vessel. For some unknown reason, he stamped a return address on some of the pamphlets that led to the offices of a retired FBI official who had ties to U.S. intelligence.
Oswald also established contact with an anti-Castro group that was being secretly funded by the CIA and was closely supervised by a CIA agent named George Joannides, which for some reason the CIA kept secret for nearly three decades from — among others — both the Warren Commission in 1963 and the House Assassination Committee in the late 1970s. At first Oswald offered to help the group and then later shifted to his pro-Castro persona by involving himself in a public altercation with the group while distributing his Fair Play for Cuba Committee pamphlets. Jailed for disorderly conduct for that altercation, Oswald successfully sought a visit in jail from an active FBI agent.
Later, Oswald secured a visa to visit Mexico. Researchers have discovered that as he waited in line to secure his visa, a CIA agent stood in front of him in line, something the CIA also successfully kept secret for decades.
Then Oswald seems to have visited both the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City, seeking permission to return to the Soviet Union via Cuba. During those visits, he is said to have met with a chief assassin for the KGB.
Upon returning to Dallas, Oswald secured employment with the Texas School Book Depository, from where he is alleged to have shot John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. On November 25, Oswald was gunned down by a man named Jack Ruby. The Warren Commission later determined that Oswald was a lone nut who assassinated Kennedy all on his own.
How others were treated
Why does Oswald’s case qualify as a Cold War miracle? Because despite the fact that he was an avowed communist who had ostensibly betrayed his country, shamed the U.S. Marine Corps, divulged secret information to America’s avowed enemy the Soviet Union, openly promoted communism on the public streets of America, and visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies with the supposed intent of returning to the Soviet Union, the national-security state didn’t lay a finger on the guy.
No grand-jury subpoena. No grand-jury indictment. No illegal wiretapping of his telephone. No surreptitious delving into his sex life. No enemy-combatant incarceration. No torture. No harassment of employers. Nothing significant against a man who was supposedly one of the greatest betrayers of his country in U.S. history.
Is that the way we would expect the U.S. government to behave toward such a person? We all know that it’s the exact opposite. We would expect the government to go after such a person with extreme vengeance.
Consider, for example, what it did to Daniel Ellsberg. He simply divulged the Pentagon’s lies and deceptions to the New York Times and, indirectly, to the American people. The government went after him with the ruthlessness that we would expect of it. It indicted him and sought to put him away in jail for many years.
But that wasn’t all. Men in its service also committed a felony by breaking into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. For what purpose? Simply to steal information on his personal life, including personal sexual matters, designed to shame him, humiliate him, and destroy his credibility.
That’s what we would expect of the government.
Recall what the government did to John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. It tortured him, it disrobed him, it posed him naked, it indicted him, it convicted him, and it sentenced him to a long jail term. What had Lindh done? He had involved himself in Afghanistan’s civil war by joining the wrong side — that is, the side that would become America’s enemy after the 9/11 attacks. For that, he paid a very high price at the hands of the U.S. national-security state.
The way the government treated Lindh is how we would expect it to behave.
Recall Martin Luther King Jr., who won the Nobel Peace Prize. He was a target of another principal agency within the national-security state — the FBI — and specifically of its longtime director, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s war against communism predated even World War II.
Absolutely convinced that America was in danger of falling to the communists, Hoover and his FBI pulled out all the stops to prevent that from happening, from illegal wiretaps on American citizens, to surreptitious monitoring of people, to delving into the personal lives of Americans, especially their sexual activities and proclivities, to maintaining secret files on people, to infiltrating what were considered to be subversive organizations.
Among his major convictions was that the U.S. Civil Rights movement was actually a front for the international communist movement. That’s how he came to focus his FBI on Martin Luther King Jr., including secretly monitoring King’s personal life and placing illegal wiretaps on his telephone conversations. Worst of all was that Hoover and his FBI attempted to provoke King into committing suicide, with the threat of disclosing embarrassing matters that had been discovered with the illegal wiretaps.
None of that should surprise anyone. That’s how we would expect federal officials to behave when confronted with an American whose loyalties supposedly lay with the communists.
Consider Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who is accused of having released embarrassing information about the U.S. government to WikiLeaks. He has been locked away and brutally tortured with an extended period of solitary confinement, notwithstanding the fact that under our system of justice, he is presumed to be innocent. Indeed, we all know that U.S. officials are licking their chops at the prospect of getting their hands on the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, and punishing him as a spy under the Espionage Act of 1917.
That’s how we would expect U.S. official to behave in such a situation.
Yet here we have a former U.S. Marine who had lied to secure early release from the military, supposedly become an avowed communist, supposedly defected to America’s Cold War enemy the Soviet Union, presumably delivered secret information to the Soviets that he had acquired during his military service, supposedly promoted communism on the streets of America, and supposedly visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies in Mexico and — not even a subpoena to testify before a federal grand jury, much less a grand-jury indictment.
What are we to make of that? It seems to me — and it has seemed to many Kennedy assassination researchers over the years — that there is only one likely explanation for the government’s strange conduct toward Lee Harvey Oswald — that he was actually a secret, highly trained operative for U.S. intelligence, most likely the CIA.
The thing is that once we overlay Oswald’s life with that hypothesis, the strange and unusual aspects of the government’s treatment of him disappear.
What better place for the CIA to recruit people than from the U.S. military, especially the Marine Corps? Don’t we ordinarily expect that people who join the Marines are extremely loyal to the government? If a poll were taken, most Americans would probably choose the Marines as the branch of service where you would be most likely to find loyal and patriotic military personnel.
How likely is it that a U.S. Marine is going to become an avowed communist? And if it were to happen, especially at the height of the Cold War, when the U.S. national-security state was doing its best to ferret out communists within the U.S. government and destroy them, how likely is it that the Marine Corps wouldn’t be concerned about a self-avowed communist in its midst?
But if he was a CIA recruit who was being trained to be a self-avowed communist, then obviously the Marine Corps would be fully supportive. Indeed, the Marines would have cooperated fully in Oswald’s learning of the Russian language during the time he was in the military.
Would it have been unusual for the CIA to be training people to appear to be genuine communists? Of course not. After all, both the FBI and the CIA were infiltrating pro-communist organizations, such as the U.S. Communist Party and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and planting moles in them. Those moles had to put on a good act, one in which they successfully kept secret the fact that they were actually working for the national-security state.
In fact, consider the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, an organization that included many prominent Americans, some of whom sympathized with the socialist principles of the Cuban revolution and some of whom simply opposed U.S. interference in Cuban affairs, including the U.S. embargo on Cuba. The U.S. national-security state, convinced that the organization was a communist beachhead within the United States, set out to do everything it could to destroy it, including planting a mole within the organization.
At the same time, the U.S. national-security state was doing much the same against the U.S. Communist Party.
So ordinarily you would expect the national-security state to go ballistic over Oswald, but that’s not what happened. Instead, at the height of the Cold War this former Marine who supposedly betrayed his country by becoming a communist and, even worse, went over to the side of America’s Cold War enemy the Soviet Union, sauntered across the national-security stage without incurring any of the ruthlessness and vengeance that we would expect from the U.S. government.
If, however, Oswald was actually a U.S. intelligence operative, it would explain why U.S. national-security officials didn’t lay a finger on him in New Orleans when this supposed betrayer of America, supposed lover of communists and communism, supposed pro-Cuba advocate tweaked the noses of U.S. national-security officials by publicly distributing Fair Play for Cuba pamphlets on the streets of New Orleans and, at about the same time, made contact with the U.S. Communist Party. In fact, it would seem that Oswald’s activities could easily be construed as part of the overall operation to destroy those two organizations.
Oswald’s role as an intelligence agent would also explain why a CIA agent was standing in front of him in line as he waited to get his visa to visit Mexico. It would also explain why the CIA, which closely monitored and photographed activities at the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City would do nothing to him after he supposedly visited those two places.
It would explain why the return address that was printed on some of Oswald’s Fair Play for Cuba Committee pamphlets led to the office of former FBI agent Guy Bannister and why Oswald was sometimes seen visiting that office.
It would also explain why Oswald, a supposed loser, had enough influence to request and receive a visit by an FBI agent to his New Orleans jail cell when he was arrested for disorderly conduct.
It would also explain why Oswald initially offered to help the DRE, the anti-Castro organization of Cuban exiles that was secretly being funded by the CIA and supervised by CIA agent George Joannides.
It would also explain why Kennedy’s brother Robert F. Kennedy said to an anti-Castro exile after Oswald had been taken into custody, “One of your guys did it.” Why would Kennedy place Oswald, a supposed pro-communist, into the camp of the anti-communists? It would seem that the only likely explanation is that he had information indicating that Oswald was in fact a U.S. intelligence agent.
The Warren Commission
On January 22, 1964, the Warren Commission held a meeting that would be kept secret from the American people. The session was called to address the rumor that Oswald was a paid undercover agent for the FBI. After the session was over, former CIA Director Allen Dulles, who was serving on the Warren Commission, stated that the transcript of the session should be destroyed. The Commission went along with Dulles’s suggestion. Years later, it turned out that a court reporter’s tape had survived the destruction. Its release was secured by longtime Kennedy assassination researcher Harold Weisburg.
How did the Warren Commission resolve the issue? They asked FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and CIA Director Richard Helms whether Oswald was, in fact, a U.S. intelligence operative. Both of them told the Commission that he was not, and that was the end of the matter.
The Commission obviously believed it had no choice but to accept the statements of both men at face value. After all, imagine the following headlines in the mainstream press: “Warren Commission Suggests CIA and FBI Lying about Oswald.”
That’s what the Commission would have been doing if it decided to delve more deeply into the matter — it would have been accusing Hoover and Helms of lying about Oswald. And how would the Commission have gone about investigating the matter? Obviously, both the FBI and the CIA would never have voluntarily turned over any documents indicating Oswald’s position.
So even investigating the rumor would have required an extremely aggressive action against both the FBI and the CIA. The chance that that would happen was nil. After all, this was the height of the Cold War. A fierce battle between the Warren Commission and the U.S. national-security state would obviously have posed a grave threat to national security, especially by suggesting that the CIA and the FBI were liars and that the supposed assassin of John F. Kennedy was an operative of U.S. intelligence.
The Warren Commission looked into that abyss and quickly turned away by accepting the representations of the CIA and the FBI that Oswald wasn’t a U.S. intelligence agent. After all, think about the potential ramifications if that was, in fact, what Oswald was. That would have converted Oswald from supposed lone-nut assassin to a supposed lone-nut CIA assassin. The Warren Commission would obviously have had a difficult time quickly reaching that conclusion without a serious investigation into Oswald’s CIA activities.
Actually though, there was another likely reason — a much bigger reason — that the Warren Commission refused to seriously investigate whether Oswald was, in fact, a U.S. intelligence agent. That reason would also explain why U.S. officials were so adamant about preventing Kennedy’s autopsy from being conducted in Dallas, as required by Texas law, and instead placing it into the hands of the U.S. military.
What was that much bigger reason? It revolved around the two most important words in the lifetimes of the American people since the end of World War II: “national security.”
This article was originally published in the September 2012 edition of Future of Freedom.