Up to this point in the series, I’ve been tracing the evolution of Lee Oswald’s image – both in the paper trail that was building up showing his active involvement with a number of organizations deemed subversive by the intelligence community, in particular to the FBI. That paper trail essentially culminated in a burst of letters to CPUSA and the SWP at the end of August, 1963. In one particular letter Oswald, after having received no response at all to his earlier CPUSA letters, asks advice on whether he should be going “underground” to continue the struggle. Oswald’s motives in his letter campaigns can be debated, but there is not doubt the paper trail existed and that portions of it were obtained by the FBI. In contrast to Hoover’s normal fixation on the communist threat, it was not a paper trail that would be offered to the media nor promoted as an explanation of motive following the President’s assignation.
In parallel, Oswald had acquired a very public media image as a Marxist, a revolutionary and a supporter of the Castro revolution. That image would expand during September with his visits to Cuban diplomatic facilities in Mexico City and an effort to gain a visa for entry to Cuba, ostensibly a transit visa for travel on to Russia. Again, not a story that would be promoted to the media following the assassination nor offered in a dialog on possible motive.
But enough of Oswald for a bit, we will leave him for a time, with Oswald having become highly visible both from an intelligence standpoint and to those interested in things Cuban, in particular to the active Cuban exile community in New Orleans.
One of the points not often discussed is that there are a number of indicators that during this same period, and going forward into the Fall, that a series of known threats to President Kennedy were emerging. Having studied the King assassination and the FBI’s work in that it is interesting to Stu and I that the construction of a centralized “threat” file that we find in the King investigation seems not to have occurred following the murder of President Kennedy. The simple explanation is likely that the King investigation was far more open ended, at least for a period of some weeks, than the Kennedy murder inquiry which remained open ended for less than a day, being tightened up to a focus on Oswald by noon on Saturday. Still, over the following decades researchers have pieced together what amounts to a threat file, although it normally shows up in bits and pieces.
We do know that there were right wing rifle teams training to attack the president, Stu and I cover that in AGOG. We even know a threat from the key group in that effort surfaced during the Texas trip and that there is evidence it promoted a general FBI warning that was later suppressed. There is also strong evidence – via the Chicago Presidential trip cancellation and an FBI warning reported by Secret Service Agent Bolden – that the FBI was monitoring some number of Cuban exiles which were considered a threat. That particular threat is covered in many places (David Talbot writes about it at length), including the likely possibility that the President and Robert Kennedy were aware of it. Which is more than likely if a presidential visit to Chicago was indeed canceled during to a pending threat – you can imagine the President would ask questions. There are supporting elements for that view, including the fact that a number of Secret Service records pertaining to the Presidents fall trips have been intentionally destroyed even as late as the ARRB records collection. Still we do have evidence of extensive security preparations anticipating a Cuban exile threat during his fall visit to Miami.
One of the even more interesting things is the evidence that has surfaced by researcher Vince Palamara that the additional agents had been assigned to the Secret Service details traveling with the President on his last few trips, headquarters personnel not routinely assigned to the security details. That becomes even more interesting with Vince’s findings showing the technical services had been added, apparently to do electronics sweeps during select trips such as New York City (we can probably assume that the fear there was not of Cuban exile or National States Right Party electronic surveillance).
All in all, there are considerable suggestions, completely independent of Lee Oswald’s activities, that the President was felt to be at an elevated level of risk by the fall of 1963. And certainly that was not something ever admitted in the murder investigation. Actually when you read some of the quotes from FBI and Secret Service agents about the cancelled Chicago trip you find a total sense of panic about even being asked to talk about it – even the Secret Service office secretary refused to admit to seeing or having typed documents with her typist endorsement at the bottom of the letter.
In the next posts I’ll begin to discuss “convergence”, connecting Lee Oswald to the active threat that had indeed emerged to JFK. Certainly it was not a threat from a “lone nut” shooter.