Fifty years ago, the nation stood in stunned silence as they learned that the President had been killed in Dallas, Texas. The shooter, Lee Harvey Oswald, was a Communist. Over the years hundreds-of-thousands of stories have been thrown against the wall to see if anything that would distract from that fact would stick. Not everyone was taken in by these antics.
Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa–the highest ranking intelligence official ever to have defected from the Soviet bloc–in his books Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination and Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism suggests that all roads in the plot to kill President John F. Kennedy lead back to Moscow.
According to his own account (as told by those who knew or spoke with him), Lee Harvey Oswald became interested in Marxism in 1952 or 1953, when an “old lady” handed him “a pamphlet about saving the Rosenbergs.” (In addition to the Rosenbergs’ crimes, the “save the Rosenbergs” propaganda campaign was one of the most successful in KGB history–having the effect of creating and enflaming massive anti-Americanism. It just goes to show that you never know who is listening, or in this case, reading what you write.)
Then, a few years later, Oswald was in the Marines stationed abroad, where, as he later said “I met some Communists in Japan and they got me excited and interested, and that was one of my inducements in going to Soviet Russia, to see what goes on there.” To be more precise, he met some pretty girls in the local bars frequented by American servicemen (a favorite recruiting ground for the KGB) and began spending more money than he made. He had access to information regarding the classified U-2 spy planes, and the Soviets very much wanted this information. When he returned to America, he was stationed in Texas, and continued his strange behavior, like having bags full of classified information deposited in an empty locker at a bus station in Los Angeles, California and at times going off on his own to meet “friends” in Tijuana, Mexico. Around that time, the Soviets started receiving classified information on the U-2 from their sources.
While Oswald was in the Soviet Union, momentous events continued to shape the globe:
- Fidel Castro, who had seized power in Cuba thanks in part to gun runners smuggling weapons to him in the Sierra Maestra mountains (one of those involved in this smuggling was Jack Ruby), had begun to consolidate power in the hands of himself and the Communist Party and started cutting deals with shady underworld figures in the United States (including Jack Ruby);
- A U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers was downed by the Soviets inside the Soviet Union, thanks to classified information the KGB obtained on the plane’s functions (Oswald was taken to see Powers’s “trial”);
- Kennedy was elected President;
- Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev learned through his espionage sources in January 1961 that Kennedy had authorized a CIA-backed invasion of Cuba (one of the Soviet Union’s longtime agents, most commonly known by the name George de Mohrenschildt, was known to be staying in the area where the CIA was making preparations for the invasion), and were ready for it when it came in April 1961;
- Khrushchev escalated the Berlin crisis in August 1961, resulting in the building of the Berlin Wall. (His dislike of Kennedy grew greater and greater as time passed)
Not only was “his Soviet connection in good working condition”, but he even moved in with the previously mentioned Soviet agent known as George de Mohrenschildt in Dallas.
As to the events in the months leading up to November 22, 1963, no description can be better than the one Gen. Pacepa gave to FrontPageMag in 2007. It is a bit long, but well worth the required attention span:
FP: So give us some concrete KGB fingerprints.
Pacepa: Let’s take the handwritten note in Russian Oswald left his Soviet wife, Marina, just before he tried to kill American general Edwin Walker in a dry run before going on to assassinate President Kennedy. That very important note contains two KGB codes: friends (code for support officer) and Red Cross (code for financial help). In this note, Oswald tells Marina what to do in case he is arrested. He stresses that she should contact the (Soviet) “embassy,” that they have “friends here,” and that the “Red Cross” will help her financially. Particularly significant is Oswald’s instruction for her to “send the embassy the information about what happened to me.” At that time the code for embassy was “office,” but it seems that Oswald wanted to be sure Marina would understand that she should immediately inform the Soviet embassy. It is noteworthy that Marina did not mention this note to U.S. authorities after Oswald’s arrest. It was found at the home of Ruth Paine, an American friend with whom Marina was staying at the time of the assassination.
FP: The Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that Oswald had no connection whatsoever with the KGB. But according to your book, Oswald secretly met an officer of the KGB’s assassination department in Mexico City just a few weeks before shooting President Kennedy. What’s the evidence?
Pacepa: There are many bits of evidence proving Oswald’s connection with the KGB. A tangible one is the letter he sent to the Soviet embassy in Washington a few days after meeting “Comrade Kostin” in Mexico City. Elsewhere Oswald identified the person he had met there as “Comrade Kostikov.” The CIA has identified Valery Kostikov as an officer of the PGU’s Thirteenth Department for “wet affairs” (wet being a euphemism for bloody). A handwritten draft of that letter was found among Oswald’s effects after the assassination. The previously mentioned Ruth Paine testified that Oswald re-wrote that letter several times before typing it on her typewriter. Marina stated he “retyped the envelope ten times.” It was important to him. A photocopy of the final letter Oswald sent to the Soviet embassy was recovered by the Warren Commission. Let me quote from that letter, in which I have also inserted Oswald’s earlier draft version in brackets:
“This is to inform you of recent events since my meetings with comrade Kostin [in draft: “of new events since my interviews with comrade Kostine“] in the Embassy of the Soviet Union, Mexico City, Mexico. I was unable to remain in Mexico [crossed out in draft: “because I considered useless“] indefinily because of my mexican visa restrictions which was for 15 days only. I could not take a chance on requesting a new visa [in draft: “applying for an extension“] unless I used my real name, so I returned to the United States.”
The fact that Oswald used an operational codename for Kostikov confirms to me that both his meeting with Kostikov in Mexico City and his correspondence with the Soviet Embassy in Washington were conducted in a PGU operational context. The fact that Oswald did not use his real name to obtain his Mexican visa confirms this conclusion.
Now let’s juxtapose this combined letter against the free guide book Esta Semana-This Week, September 28 – October 4, 1963, and a Spanish-English dictionary, both found among Oswald’s effects. The guide book has the Soviet embassy’s telephone number underlined, the names Kosten and Osvald noted in Cyrillic on the page listing “Diplomats in Mexico,” and check marks next to five movie theaters on the previous page. In the back of his Spanish-English dictionary Oswald wrote: “buy tickets [plural] for bull fight,” and the Plaza México bullring is encircled on his Mexico City map. Also marked on Oswald’s map is the Palace of Fine Arts, a favorite place for tourists to assemble on Sunday mornings to watch the Ballet Folklórico.
Contrary to what Oswald claimed, he was not observed at the Soviet embassy at any time during his stay in Mexico City, although the CIA had surveillance cameras trained on the entrance to the embassy at that time. In short, all of the above facts taken together suggest to me that Oswald resorted to an unscheduled or “iron meeting”–zheleznaya yavka in Russian–for an urgent talk with Kostikov in Mexico City. The “iron meeting” was a standard KGB procedure for emergency situations, iron meaning ironclad or invariable.
In my day I approved quite a few “iron meetings” in Mexico City (a favorite place for contacting our important agents living in the U.S.), and Oswald’s “iron meeting” looks to me like a typical one. That means: a brief encounter at a movie house to arrange a meeting for the following day at the bullfights (in Mexico City they were held at 4:30 on Sunday afternoon); a brief encounter in front of the Palace of Fine Arts to pass Kostikov one of the bullfight tickets Oswald had bought; and a long meeting for discussions at the Sunday bullfight.
Of course, I cannot be sure that everything happened exactly that way–every case officer had his own quirks. But however they may have connected, it is clear that Kostikov and Oswald did secretly meet over that weekend of September 28-29, 1963. On the following Tuesday, still in Mexico City, he telephoned the Soviet embassy from the Cuban embassy and asked the guard on duty to connect him with “Comrade Kostikov” with whom he had “talked on September 28.” That phone call was intercepted by the CIA.
On November 22, 1963, Florentino Aspillaga, a radio intercept officer with Cuban intelligence, went to work to do what he did every day–sit at a monitoring station outside Havana and listen for CIA transmissions from Virginia, Miami, and offshore ships. But on that day, the only time in a dozen years his routine was altered, he was ordered to stop monitoring CIA transmissions and instead listen to for communications coming out of Texas. A few hours later, he listened as news broke of the shooting of the President and reported it to headquarters. At the same time, the leaders of both the Soviet Union and Cuba just happened to be having meetings with westerners at the moment of the assassination who could credibly record their “shocked” reaction. As Pacepa writes: “From our KGB advisors, I had learned that the best way to put over a deception was to let the target see something for himself, with his own eyes.”
Immediately, the intelligence services of the Communist world initiated one of their largest disinformation campaigns of all time: putting the blame of the Kennedy assassination on the United States government. Pacepa writes: “As that very clever master of deception Yuri Andropov once told me, if a good piece of disinformation is repeated over and over, after a while it will take on a life of its own and will, all by itself, generate a horde of unwitting but passionate advocates.”