The first document in the new batch of John F. Kennedy assassination materials released on Friday contains transcripts of intercepted conversations between Lee Harvey Oswald and the Russian embassy in Mexico City.
“I need some visas to go to Odessa,” Oswald tells the Russians less than two months before the assassination of the president of the United States. But the ex-Marine, who had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 only to return home in 1962 with a wife, runs into Russian red tape.
Had Oswald endured a less frustrating experience dealing with bureaucrats, the course of history might have been entirely different.
“According to the letter that he showed from the Consulate in Washington, he wants to go to Russia and stay for a long time with his wife who is Russian,” the Russians in Mexico City note. “But we have received no answer from Washington, and it will probably take four or five months. We cannot give a visa here without asking Washington. He says he belongs to a pro-Cuban organization and the Cubans cannot give him a visa without his first getting a Russian visa. I do not know what to do with him.”
Oswald discusses visiting the Soviet embassy in Mexico City and enlists the aide of the Cuban embassy there to facilitate his planned departure from the United States to the USSR. Despite their help, he appears stymied by the Russians, who blame the Americans for not responding to their requests.
The document released through the National Archives notes that Oswald speaks in “terrible, hardly recognizable Russian” and “broken Russian.” The introductory material notes an April 24, 1964, transcription of the intercepted conversations. “This document is not a CIA document,” the introductory section points out. “It belongs to the National Archives as part of the Warren Commission records.”
Nevertheless, the introduction notes that the document possibly contains information obtained by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The existence of the transcribed conversations has been public knowledge for decades. Silvia Duran, the Cuban woman who attempted to assist Oswald despite harboring doubts about him, testified before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978. Though her remarks there remained sealed, she spoke to interviewers over the years, so the basic gist of Oswald’s activities regarding the two Communist embassies became a part of the public conversation despite the secrecy surrounding so many of the U.S. government documents.
The September 27, 1963, and October 1, 1963, calls appear to end with a Russian hanging up on Oswald in mid conversation.