In Chapter 2 of “State Secret”, now available for viewing on the Mary Ferrell web site, Bill Simpich details how visible Lee Oswald was to various elements of the CIA as 1963 began.
We also know he was visible to the FBI, although our knowledge of exactly how visible is probably lacking. To understand why that would be true you really have to dig into the procedures for FBI record keeping on sources and informants. To do that I would recommend “Understanding the Files of the FBI” by Gerald Haines and David Langbart, 1993. That gives you an introduction to not only the process but what files would and would not have ended up with the Warren Commission or eventually in the National Archives.
From our AGOG work on the King assassination I can assure readers that the truly important files are the field office files and its clear that what we would really want would be there, particularly in the special files which were kept both in the field offices and at headquarters pertaining to wire taps and mail sources, to informants and undercover sources. The summary reports sent by office SAIC’s (special agents in charge) are often missing lots of details from agent reports and also focus on what HQ wanted to see (and the Director’s worldview for that matter).
What we would really need to research Oswald in New Orleans would be the “bulky files”, and in particular the #134 and #137 series files which included counter intelligence assets and security informants. Without going too deeply into all that I should point out that legally and administratively the field offices had full authority to destroy their office informant index and individual informant files when no longer needed, the guidelines for destruction of potential informant and informant files were rather strict. If an informant was not producing information they would be removed – that was one way to stimulate agents to produce more assets. One of the measurements of agents was their ability to identify and generate productive informants so the Bureau did not want them to keep their numbers up with unproductive sources.
Its also important to know that the standard rule for classifying someone as a full informant was that they would be a potential witness in a pending federal prosecution, they they became paid informants and were held in a special class. Other source were potential informants or assets, which allowed the Bureau and the Director great leeway – saying that Oswald was not officially an informant would sound good to the press or the WC, but tells us little about his possible status or what types of files were kept on him. As described in SWHT and elsewhere there is every reason to believe he was treated as a potential counterintelligence informant in regard to subversive matters. In fact, given his documented approach to the FBI in New Orleans in regard to FPCC and Cuban exile activities, he would have to have been assigned that designation – although his earlier FBI interview and his correspondence with CPUSA and FPCC certainly should have to have put him in that category before he left Dallas. Such a classification would have moved his files out of the general office system into a secure and separate set of files – which of course is exactly the testimony we have from an FBI office worker in the New Orleans office.
So – when Oswald arrived in New Orleans in May of 1963, he was a known quantity and a monitored intelligence person of interest to both the CIA and the FBI. Their files on him should have grown substantially with his ongoing correspondence, in particular to the FPCC. Oswald was presenting himself to the FPCC as a earnest supporter of Cuba and asking for advice on tactics, propaganda material and even discussing renting a small office. Given the extent to which the FPCC had been under federal investigation and pressure, Oswald would have been highly visible. As discussed elsewhere and in SWHT, the FBI had an agent inside the FPCC headquarters, copying correspondence and mailing lists. By mid August Oswald would even be spending his own money to hire two young men from the State Employment Office for an hour at lunchtime – for leafleting. That leafleting incident would put Oswald on Television, in court on Radio and would become of such propaganda value that a local group (INCA) would even star Oswald on a record denouncing the threat of Cuban subversion in America and across Latin America.
Oswald’s public visibility would become key to his eventual use as a patsy, not only in Dallas but months before that, in an attack planned for Washington D.C. We will explore how he became visible to people who had become dedicated to killing President Kennedy during the summer of 1963 as this series proceeds. But equally important to the larger story, Oswald had become visible to a series of FBI and CIA personnel involved in going forward with the AMSANTA project mentioned in the last post.
The people plotting to kill President Kennedy would begin by pointing Oswald towards the Washington area in September. People involved with activities against the FPCC, in Cuban counter intelligence work and in AMSANTA would nudge Oswald in a different direction after that, towards Mexico City. In the next post I’ll turn towards Oswald’s visibility to the conspiracy and to the people who had determined that JFK had to be eliminated. I’ll focus on the mutual sources that independently corroborate that he was in contact with individuals who were plotting against JFK by the end of August, 1963.