My last post raised the issue of why we appear to have found no CIA Domestic Contact reporting on Lee Harvey Oswald. We have solid indications that Domestic Contacts was interested in him following his return from Russia and initiated activity to monitor Lee and Marina within the White Russian community. Given that Oswald had not truly defected and had even been financially assisted in his return to the United States, he certainly would have been a subject of intelligence interest as to his Russian contacts and experiences.  We do know that the FBI directly contacted him on his return and asked him to report suspicious contacts – and he agreed to do so, later going so far as to directly approach the FBI in New Orleans.

Given standard practices we should find CIA Domestic Contacts with Oswald.  We find them with other individuals returning to the United States and having had contact with communist nations – including both Russia and Cuba. There are documents related to Domestic Contacts and Robert Webster, another American ostensibly “defecting” to Russia:

They maintained contacts with Americans doing international business – including those they found to be a waste of time (such as Mitch Werbell) and those that became long time CIA assets (William Pawley)

Anyone coming back to the U.S. from Russia or Cuba was routinely contacted (identified by the Support division at headquarters and referred to domestic contact field offices):

In short, there is every reason to expect that Domestic Contact files should have existed on Oswald, in several locations including headquarters, Dallas and New Orleans. We should have Domestic Contact documents in his 201 file.  I would encourage researchers to review there Oswald related documents to review them for any sign of routing to Domestic Contacts.  That would include distributions to or from “DCD” Domestic Contacts Division, C/DC/CIA  Chief/Headquarters Domestic Contacts.

An example of those being used can be found in the following Domestic Contact documents on Gerry Hemming after his return from Cuba – copied from Chief Contacts to CIA Security:

And in this widely circulated inquiry by Domestic Contacts into Frank Fiorini aka Sturgis – Domestic Contacts was not at all bashful about circulating its information even to the highest level offices:

Good hunting, either post here or email me if you find Oswald link to Domestic Contacts

9 responses »

  1. Anthony M says:

    I suspect you are highlighting an important point here. I’ve been thinking about this over the last couple of days…

    In many ways the apparent absence of information on LHO in the Domestic Contact Division is the flip side of the concentration of communications within the Agency about LHO in CI / SIG. Newman argues, reasonably persuasively, that the handling of LHO’s file during his defection to Russia suggests his use as a dangle to the KGB around his knowledge of the altitude at which the U2 operated (if I understand it correctly this was above the limits of Soviet radar in the early period of U2 operations and therefore an important question). This, Newman argues, was to tempt the KGB to get a mole in the Agency to try to access his files (and hence the unusual handling of his files).
    What had not occurred to me before, and I don’t think anyone has highlighted before your posts, is that this pattern of concentration on most of the documentation on CI/SIG continued after his return (with some dissemination of information, sometimes misleading, sometimes not, to other elements such as the Soviet Russia Division and CI/ OPS, including widespread dissemination of misleading information towards the end, in October 1963, linked into the Mexico City scenario). I am going to speculate here that this handling of the files may indicate a continuing operational interest in LHO by CI/SIG after his return to the USA.
    If we look at the pattern of LHO’s activity in the 62-3 time period we see an unusual pattern. After an initial quiet period in which he settles in the White Russian community he gets a job at Jagger-Chiles-Stovall which includes potential access to classified information. The FBI temporarily close their file on him and he subscribes to both Marxist and Trotskyite literature (which no genuine communist would do – one or the other, yes, but not both).
    It has long been suggested that LHO was at this time being used as a counter-intelligence dangle to try to get a KGB illegal in the Dallas area to attempt to recruit him. If I understand the roles and responsibilities correctly, that side of things would have been the responsibility of FBI Counter-intelligence. The continuing careful handling of LHO’s files by CI/SIG during this time period may indicate (I would speculate) that they were again hoping to get the KGB to check LHO out in an ongoing attempt to trap Popov’s mole. I don’t think that side of things has been discussed before, but I am struggling to see a different scenario for it, given CI/SIG’s role.
    That operation does not seem to have produced any results and LHO then gets moved to New Orleans in what looks to be an operation that also has several strands to it (anti-FPCC propaganda, acting as a ‘dangle’ to try to attract an attempted recruitment as part of security operations around the anti-Castro groups etc.). All pf that seems like fairly standard CI operations to me. Somewhere in the middle of that he gets selected as the patsy of course. I am agnostic at the moment as to if New Orleans was all part of the sheep-dipping or if LHO presented at this time as someone with an almost perfect c.v. for the patsy role and it was taken from there.
    Mexico City could also be seen as a fairly extreme attempt to get a reaction out of the KGB but I suspect by then there was an ulterior motive at play in the design of that operation, particularly around the Kostikov angle.

    Speculative I know, and alternative hypotheses that could account for the pattern of handling LHO’s files are always of interest.



  2. larryjoe2 says:

    This definitely take us into the longer picture of Oswald in respect to the intelligence community – a picture I believe is much broader than the CIA and CI/SIG. I should probably do a specific post on that but I basically I would compartmentalize it into a first phase very likely involving Navy intel and the use of Oswald as a minor dangle against communist efforts to gain info from Navy personnel in Japan.

    The second phase – his trip to Russia – may have involved the CIA but it most definitely not about the U-2. Unfortunately that whole scenario is misinformation and comes from a lack of understanding what Russia knew about the U-2 – which was basically everything including its operational altitude – from its very first flight. And we knew that from some excellent signals intel on their tracking it. Shadow Flights by Curtis Peeples details all that but I’m afraid that despite many posts on it I’ve not managed to get the JFK community to go outside its box on those types of sources.

    Upon Oswald’s return both the FBI and CIA contacted him and I suspect Domestic Contacts really carried the ball on that, managing to fund his manuscript which is a fantastic debriefing document – excellent work on their part. But I think that contact, and his willingness to totally reject Russia as hypocritical and not to be trusted brought him to the attention of another area within the CIA and he was “retargeted”.

    As of 1963 Cuban affairs were a primary concern of both FBI and CIA and I suspect Oswald was being used by both FBI Division counter intelligence and in the propaganda effort against the FPCC. He may also have been a potential recruit for the AMSANTA project which involved both FBI and CIA and was highly successful in penetrating Cuba – only to be inexplicably discontinued and totally “wiped” immediately following the assassination.

    One of the points I’m trying to make is that with what we know know about all these groups, Oswald’s actions are nowhere nearly as mysterious as they once were – and it is not at all surprising that pieces of his records had to disappear. The official cover up of the attack turned into a lone nut assassin and he had to be made into a lone nut, with no connections and someone totally off the rails for that to stick. My suspicion is that what may have been a relatively minor effort to patsy him as part of a much larger “blame Castro” was picked up as an opportunity to abort the investigation of a real and much more serious conspiracy.

    Too long a reply already but hopefully it sketches out my current thinking on Oswald – and what was very much an evolutionary series of associations with various intelligence groups over several years.

    • Anthony M says:

      Thanks for your very interesting reply.
      One of the challenges with this sort of format is compressing such complex and wide ranging information into small snippets, and indeed I find that my original comment was in places badly worded.
      It has, of course, been widely discussed that there appears to be a continuing Agency interest in LHO after his return from the Soviet Union (and likely other agencies, including FBI, ATF etc. led on various elements of this) The bit that I was attempting to suggest was a knew perspective was the absence of documentation in Domestic Contacts which, yes, we knew about, but looking at it from that perspective reinforces and brings more into focus the probable reasons for why the paper trail was were it was and not where it would ‘normally’ have been. I phrased that bit very unclearly.

      I agree with much of what you say. Yes, the Agency knew from Popov by early 1958 (if memory serves) that the U2 was compromised. I don’t think that invalidates the possibility of LHO presenting to the KGB with some elements of information about that to test the reaction. It’s hard to see what else might have tempted the KGB to try to access information about him if he was being used to try to trap a mole in the Agency. Until recently I had been rather sceptical about all that and felt he may well have been a genuine defector who became disillusioned, but the handling of his files does rather argue against that, so my current ‘working opinion’ on that is more in line with Newman’s view, but as always open to alternative scenarios and evidence.

      I do agree with you that LHO’s activities seem much less bizarre in the light of what we now understand than they originally seemed to be and your general overview of that seems on the right lines to me.

      I am tempted by the idea of LHO initially being a general minor patsy within an attempt to set off a war with Cuba (supporting evidence almost, given his FPCC and Soviet connections etc.). The design of the assassination does not appear at first sight to be one that obviously was set up from the start to pin it all on one person. I suspect you may well be right that the subsequent cover up took the opportunity presented and ran with it, but there are aspects of this which makes it look like some elements of the plan was always to double cross the anti-Castro Cubans and close the whole thing down (e.g. Mexico City), but there we are getting into much bigger issues.

      AMSANTA – yes, certainly raises thoughts about what the ‘official’ purpose of Mexico City may have been. That really is a bizarre episode though as there was no chance of him actually getting a visa like that and the quite persuasive evidence of impersonation (at least in terms of some elements of that episode) does support the idea that this was part of preparing the ground for a subsequent closing down of the risk of war (or, alternatively, overkill by plotters which led to the opposite reaction from Johnson to that intended).

      Anyway – food for thought, thanks…

      • Anthony M says:

        Forgot to say thanks about the info about SIGINT information on Soviet knowledge of the U2…I hadn’t come across that before. I shall have a look at that.
        Did the Soviets have full technical information immediately or did that come later (as that seems to be what Popov was saying they had by 1958 at the latest)?

  3. larryjoe2 says:

    I should probably do a second post regarding Oswald – in a chronological context. I’m afraid one of our problems is that we tend to focus on him in the fashion of the Warren Commission construct – as being the key element of the assassination. That served the purpose of diversion from investigating any conspiracy of any form but it also emphasizes his role and tends to exclude other evidence that did not make it into the official record.

    On the U-2 though, at least we do have the full story and Peeples tells it in his excellent book. It had been hoped that the U-2 would present a relatively small radar profile and since it was to operate at extreme altitude (some 70,000 feet) it was thought it might well escape Soviet radar detection. The assumption was that Soviet radar was no more capable than WW II era performance, with a ceiling of some 40,000 feet – as with many assumptions of Soviet technology that proved to be very unrealistic. The Soviets developed new radar systems much as they did rockets – very big and very powerful (the radars on their interceptors were capable of literally cooking maintenance personnel if turned on during servicing)

    In reality, on its very first flight NSA was able to monitor Soviet air defense communications (U.S. SIGNET) and determine that the U-2 was not only detected but tracked at points throughout its flight. Both its path and height were being monitored on its first two overflights. The signet analysis determined that the tracking was intermittent but that there had been attempts at interception even then.

    Efforts were made to “stealth” the U-2 with different techniques but none proved satisfactory and the Soviets tracked and continued interceptions of U-2 flights; their only problem was that the ceilings of their interceptors were not sufficient to successfully attack the U-2. The answer was improved anti-aircraft rockets and by the time of its final few flights the US. was very much aware that each flight was a gamble. Either new interceptors or new rockets would take out a U-2 at some point, it was just a matter of when they happened to be in place when a particular mission was flown.

    There was literally nothing that Oswald could offer the Soviets that they did not already have – for that matter his Marine duties in air traffic control would never have provided any details on U-2 ceilings or mission profiles. It took the U-2 hours to climb to altitude and that would have been well away from Atsuki. The Soviets were more than bright enough to realize any information from an air traffic controller would be meaningless in respect to U-2 operations.

    It’s true that in the earliest years of JFK research most of the above was not public knowledge – it illustrates that much of what has become “embedded” in JFK lore has been overtaken by new information, but you have to go well outside the JFK literature to become aware of that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks so much for your detailed reply – you have certainly given me something to think about / dig into around what was going on around LHOs defection.

      Just a thought about LHO’s ‘patsy’ role…Not sure on reflection if the idea of LHO as a minor ‘supporting evidence’ pasty would stand up. This is based on the assumption that the motivation behind the assassination was either to provoke a ware with Cuba or, alternatively, to create the impression of a risk of that (and therefore also WWIII) as part of a more strategic regime change type operation.

      In either case I think I’m right in saying that all the evidence indicating a possible link to Cuba (real or fabricated) ties back to LHO and his personal history and actions. Whilst it’s pretty clear there was a team of people involved, no-one else was sacrificed and without LHO it’s hard to see how you could immediately start linking it to Cuba.

      In other words, on reflection, I’m more inclined to the view that having LHO linked to the rifle and to have been in the TSBD was critical to the plan. The intention was probably that he should die resisting arrest rather than actually be arrested. I do agree that they probably never intended him to be portrayed as a single shooter but the others were to stay anonymous. Agnostic on the extent LHO was wittingly involved but rather doubt he was actually one of the shooters…but I digress (again).



  4. larryjoe2 says:

    In setting up possible scenarios its critical to remember that we only know what happened – but not what was planned. In fact Martino tells us the overall plan aborted with Oswald’s arrest. As you say, the finding of a rifle linked to Oswald would implicate Oswald personally and might suggest conspiracy even if he had been reported by witnesses elsewhere at the time of the shooting – or was home sick. But the most that could do would be to link back to some general radical motive, like his support for Castro and the Cuban revolution. Good propaganda but certainly nothing to trigger an invasion.

    There are several leads that suggest materials had been prepared which would have linked Oswald to a Castro plot, but that his arrest preempted that – one example is the box of material turned over to the DPD by a young woman who had been dating a Latino for a few weeks.

    Beyond that, numerous pieces of evidence suggest the plotters were not at all interested in obscuring multiple shooters and that the lone shooter theme was simply and officially if secretly) produced by the cover up as damage control.

    I tried to review a goodly amount of material in SWHT/2010 that suggests the efforts to link Oswald to a Castro plot which occurred post-assassination, within the exile and anti-Castor community, show no sign of prior planning and were clearly not prepared in advance. So either the plan had contained something much better – something which would have solidly implicated Castro or his agents or Oswald was simply a handy piece of propaganda for the conspiracy, to at least flame hostility towards Cuba if nothing more.

    What we have been repeatedly told over the years by sources I find credible is that the attack in Dallas was meant to kill Kennedy – anything else, anything that might trigger action against Castro, was secondary. If that is correct, Oswald was useful but in reality there could have been things in play that were much more convincing in terms of an overall Cuban plot – and were either outrun by events or suppressed by the cover up, which was devoted to covering up any and all signs of conspiracy, regardless of where they pointed.

    • Anthony M says:

      Thanks for what has been a very interesting and thought provoking discussion.

      I do agree with you that the whole ‘lone nut’ scenario was an after the event creation of the Warren Commission. I do think a very strong case can be made that LHO was set up as a patsy by the original conspiracy but I agree it seems doubtful, with three shooters deployed and probably other personnel assisting, they ever imagined anyone thinking this was a single gunman.
      The use of the Mannlicher-Carcano with a paper trail leading to LHO via his Hiddel alias is a key indicator in that. I don’t want to get into the morass that is the Tippett case but a dead Oswald with a nice neat paper trail back to one of the weapons used would have been a very neat scenario.
      If he was selected as a Patsy there had to be a motive for setting that up – something about it being him that would produce a reaction the plotters desired. I am actually agnostic as to if the main motivation was to start a war with Cuba, pure revenge or regime change. It is quite possible that the tactical team in Dallas thought they were doing it for quite different reasons than whoever was the overall leader(s). I accept that could have been a case of simple distraction towards a left wing plot (the seemingly rushed and improvised nature of the Phase 1 stories could well fit with that). Other elements, such as the whole Mexico City thing would seem to argue something much more subtle and sophisticated however.

      Anyway, I’ll leave it at that for now…you’ve given me much to consider and dig into a bit more.

  5. larryjoe2 says:

    In regard to the selection of Oswald, its pretty obvious that he became a visible candidate as a Castro oriented patsy in New Orleans. Given his public appearances there any incident involving him would provoke references to Cuba and Castro – even if he had never gone to Mexico City.

    Given the solid evidence we have of his planned move to the DC area, and some sort of action in September, its pretty clear that some individuals were already maneuvering him at that point. The DC thing aborted and those involved might not even have been involved in Dallas but my guess is that if not their Cuban friends were very much aware of Oswald and began circulation information on his movements. Once back in Dallas he certainly would have been monitored.

    The ability to dig further is really restricted by what we don’t know of the full plan, but fundamentally once he left New Orleans Oswald would have been useful to throw into the mix and I suspect even if he had been working somewhere else that day – or home sick – there were tools in place to bring his name into the shooting. If nothing else simply planting a rifle traceable to him in the TSBD would have done that.

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