The official story and timeline for Lee Oswald in Mexico has been found to be rife with anomalies and apparently suppressed information. Even at the time of the HSCA there were enough open questions to assign staff (Lopez and Hardaway) to investigate it. There findings cast even further doubt on the matter. HSCA staff confirmed a number of issues and exposed some significant problems with the CIA’s handling of information about Oswald as well as its suppression of what clearly was an impersonation of Oswald in at least one telephone call.

They also picked up enough information to suggest that Oswald might very well have been in company with suspicious individuals during his visit, even one person who seems to be a perfect match to the individual visiting the Cuban Embassy – which Oswald most definitely was not.

The HSCA Mexico City (the Lopez report) inquiry was withheld for a considerable time but that work is available now and is definitely worth a read:

There are a good number of reasons to believe that issues with Oswald trip to Mexico, his possible meetings with unknown individuals and his impersonation were a critical factor in triggering the suppression of leads suggesting a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination. That is reflected in suppressed and altered telephone calls between LBJ and FBI Director Hoover as well as the missing notes from a very high level national security meeting on Sunday morning following the assassination…reflected only in a meeting entry describing the subject as relating to Mexico City and the Kennedy assassination.

At this point in time while I remain convinced that Lee Oswald did go to Mexico in the fall of 1963, I’m not satisfied with any part of the official story of his visit there. What I am sure of is that something which occurred there was seminal to the suppression of a full investigation into the assassination and appears to have been more related to a potential confrontation with Russia than Cuba. I’m also not satisfied that JFK research has fully appreciated that there were different agendas in play not only between American intelligence groups but also between the Soviets and Cubans.  At that point in time Fidel Castro remained quite upset with the Soviets over their action in the missile crisis, he was conducting a communist purge within Cuba and was certainly not in lockstep with the Soviets.

Beyond that, Russia and Cuba had competing interests in both Mexico City and Central America.  As I noted in Creating Chaos, Russian political action in Mexico included actually establishing revolutionary groups and taking over the Mexican government. In contrast Cuba was primarily interested in maintaining positive relations with Mexico, both economically and as a point of access to Central and South America.

In light of that, I’ve been fascinated by some new information developed by my friend Carmine Savastano, information which might suggest a Soviet KGB officer was actually involved in the spy games going on around Lee Oswald, possibly even impersonating him. While this is strictly speculative at this point in time, if would explain a number of the anomalies that bother me.  And it would support the assertion by James Hosty that his FBI friends in Mexico City told him that they most definitely did have Oswald under observation there, and had seen him meeting with an individual presumed to be a Soviet agent.  As it turns out Carmine and I hooked up with Chuck Ochelli for a two hour discussion of Mexico City – and the possibility that there was an active Russian connection there, the sort of connection that would certainly explain Johnson’s constant focus on a military confrontation with the Soviet Union rather than with Cuba. If you are interested you can listen to our conversation at:

14 responses »

  1. AnthonyM says:

    Could I just check the first link please…seems to go to the MF cryptonyms page? Thanks.

  2. larryjoe2 says:

    Sorry, it should be the following link; I will edit it:

  3. AnthonyM says:

    It’s a very interesting discussion…I’ve still got about 15 mins of it to go so this may be a bit premature but could I bounce a few highly provisional first thoughts off you (with apologies if this is covered in the remaining minutes or total nonsense).
    One of things I’ve always found strange is what on earth LHO thought he was doing in Mexico (I was working on the assumption that it was just the phone calls that were faked) as the behaviour seems odd to say the least.

    Just running with the possibility that Leonov might have been the person at the Cuban consultate…not saying I’m totally convinced by it, but it’s worth consideration…so

    a) Nagell claimed that the KGB pointed him at both anti-Castro Cubans and LHO with a concern they might be doing something against Soviet interests re: JFK.
    b) It does seem credible that the Soviet residence in Mexico City would have been running that, or at least involved as Nagell says he was given this assignment in Mexico CIty (late 1962).
    c) By September 1963 Nagell got himself arrested and was apparently aware of a plot to kill JFK in which LHO was involved.
    d) In September there is discussion between the CIA and FBI of an anti-FPCC operation overseas.
    e) It does look like LHO went to Mexico City in late September.
    f) He may have been in contact with various pro-Cuba individuals (similar to behaviour in New Orleans).

    Now…I just wonder, if the KGB were worried about LHO and had just lost their asset (Nagell) it might have been tempting to stage something to get the US authorities to have a very close look at him, potentially disrupting whatever he might have been up to.
    If the various human and electronic sources the US had were known or suspected, someone turning up in person at the Cuban Consulate in the role of Oswald or in various odd phone calls could be expected to produce an appropriate reaction. As a side benefit it might also have revealed the precise nature of such sources, depending on what information showed up in American communications (if the KGB had assets in place to feed back on that).

    LHO turning up in such scenarios at the same time as he was being run on an anti-FPCC op in Mexico City would have been the cause of some consternation I would suspect and may account for whatever was being planned re FPCC not being completed. It would also have been an indication of a Soviet source with information on LHO and potentially mean the various wiretaps were compromised which would then fit into the apparent ‘poison pill’ memos coming out of Langley with CI/SIG involved in that.

    Now that is, of course, ultra-speculative, and any thoughts on anything that would falsify that scenario would be highly appreciated.

    In practice the exact opposite happened…LHO was not investigated and his profile to various agencies was reduced…

  4. larryjoe2 says:

    That is a line of thinking that I’ve also brought up with Carmine. The interesting thing is that regardless of any agenda Oswald may have had, or the extent to which he might have been being manipulated, he had been in touch with the Russian Embassy in New York about Marina returning to Russia. To that extent he should have been under some sort of watch list – the KGB was meticulous with dossiers and watch lists on Americans, especially ones who could be either useful, or suspected of being intel sources. They had actually done a good job busting the various CIA programs based on using both students and professionals as sources.

    Beyond that, we know they had always been suspicious of Oswald and his motives, rightfully so, and had even tested him in his factory job, first putting him in a secure area and watching for evidence of spying and then moving him into the consumer section of the factory. I have little doubt they would not have been excited to see him show up in Russia again, directly or even via Cuba.

    If you factor in Nagell’s comments that they had been concerned about Oswald somehow embarrassing them by doing something he would relate back to Russia, it only becomes a larger concern.

    But given even the basic Russian concerns over having him show up or generate bad public relations for them, it would make absolute sense to interdict him in Mexico City…contact him before the visited the Russian or Cuban embassy and attempt to discourage him and if that failed, visit the Cubans and make such a scene that it would be certain no Visa would be issued. As we mentioned on the show, in 1963 relations between Cuba and Russia were strained and the Cubans might not have taken kindly to an order to prevent a purported FPCC member from getting a visa. A scene at the Cuban embassy would take care of that and be educational as to how the Cubans were handling that process as well.

    As you say, its totally speculative but if the FBI had monitored Oswald meeting privately with a Russian operative in Mexico City and if the CIA had anything to suggest that he had been impersonated in any fashion by the Russians it would certainly explain why Hoover, Johnson and key people in Washington were so paranoid about confronting the Russians…and appear to have given little thought to the Cuban angle.

  5. AnthonyM says:

    Good morning.

    A thought occurred that may be a problem with the idea that Leonov impersonated Oswald. It seems a bit surprising that members of the Cuban consulate and Soviet Embassy staff wouldn’t have known each other, at least by sight. I was under the impression that Embassies tend to hold a lot of social functions in addition to work related meetings between colleagues from what were, in general terms, allied countries that would have involved visits to each other’s premises even if Leonov and Azcue did not directly work together.
    I could of course, be completely wrong on that in terms of these specific people and their roles, but would that not tend to argue against the person being someone employed at the Soviet embassy?

  6. larryjoe2 says:

    I have the same issue Anthony, however as third secretary Leonov’s social role may have been rather minimal….for example we know that one of his duties was to maintain contacts with Mexican communist groups and actually encourage revolutionary activities. That might suggest a low profile. And of course Duran as a secretary would not be attending social functions; would have to consider Ascue’s role and duties as well as how long he had been on station in Mexico.

    On the other hand, I do see it as an objection to issue for the actual visit to the Cuban embassy; it would not be for a telephone impersonation or for that matter for personel contact outside either Embassy. I still put a lot of weight in Hosty’s remark that Oswald had been under FBI observation and had been seen meeting outside the embassy with a Russian. It would also explain other remarks like the “person known to you” which would certainly apply to a Soviet diplomat with known intelligence activities.

    It certainly is a good point though, and could only be addressed by a much deeper study of his duties and Ascue’s….Duran is probably not relevant to his being a known figure.

  7. AnthonyM says:


    Yes, on that particular point it is indeed a tricky question to confirm or falsify and it does boil down to the chances of Ascue and Leonov having met at some point before. The only way into that I can think of is to ask the opinions of people who have had similar roles…

    There may however be two other points that I’m initially thinking may pose a significant problem for the idea that Leonov impersonated Oswald at the Cuban consultate. Again any thoughts that might falsify any of this would be appreciated.

    In Ascue’s HSCA testimony there are copies of the original visa application including a photograph that is clearly of Oswald and definitely not of Leonov. As you all discuss on the show, it is a bit odd as LHO has a crew cut in the photo which might indicate its an old photo rather than one taken in September 1963 (based on the photos of Oswald leafleting in New Orleans and then the ones from Novermber). He really does look young in it too. It is hard to see how Leonov could have passed such a photograph off as himself, however.

    The next issue is that, after his return to the USA, Oswald wrote to the Soviet embassy referring to his meeting with ‘comrade Kostin’, which is close enough to Kostikov to make me think he had been at the Russian embassy or at least was witting in carrying on that impression.

    It’s a shame – I do quite like the idea of Leonov being the person at the Cuban consulate and the rationale for him doing it seems to fit together quite nicely, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to quite work ‘end to end’ across all the data as it would need to.

    Going back to my previous thinking on Mexico City I had formed the view that LHO was attempting to behave in a way very similar to how he defected to Russia in 1959 – he was able to quickly obtain a visa from the Soviets in Helsinki and might have believed he could do much the same again (or was told he could). He had made reference to finding his ‘pot of gold’ earlier in the summer which implies he was expecting to be doing something rather different to the low level ‘dangle’ type activities he had been doing. Heading into Cuba would certainly class as ‘different’.

    Given the fairly definite impersonation of LHO on the phone calls that does seem to rather imply he was being set up at that point. What is not at all clear is if the ‘little incident down in Mexico City’ was overkill which spooked Johnson into closing down the whole thing or if that was always the plan.

  8. larryjoe2 says:

    Good point’s Anthony, and certainly the photo is a major issue. The problem is that we really don’t know how the photo got on the application that is now in evidence, as ususal there are issues with its chain of possession. And of course as far as I know nobody ever asked Duran about that happened or the handling of the paperwork or even if the photo matched the applicant. The best I can tell is that photo was not made that day and comes from an earlier time – out of a dossier? – and if Oswald had it in hand personally on a visit (which he quite well knew was part of a visa application based on his travel experience) why not just hand it over with the rest of the paperwork?

    As to the Kostin letter, aside from a host of issues on its provenance, I think its possible Oswald did visit the Russian embassy in person – just not in the manner the official timeline presents him doing so. Or, since he gets the name wrong, Kostikov may have come up in a separate conversation outside the embassy.

    I think all of us in the conversation with Chuck made the point that Carmine was simply providing new information and that we were speculating, wrestling with problems of the Mexico City issue that all of us see as unanswered.

    On your last point, I think I would disagree that evidence – a photo of Oswald with a Russian embassy employee, a photo of Leonov visiting the Cuban embassy while Oswald was in MC, even a tape suggesting “Oswald” made a phone call and his Spanish was better than his Russian – of Russians doing something suspicious with or around Oswald in Mexico City (and connecting that to the Cubans as the bogus phone call does) would raise huge alarms. This is a year after Khrushchev was and the Soviets were hugely embarrassed by JFK, Castro has publicly spoken about retaliation for American efforts to kill him and the meeting record shows an NSC level meeting (no other documentation now exists) on the subject of Mexico City and the Kennedy Assassination. We also know that one phone call between Johnson and Hoover went missing, some 14 min were edited out of another which specifically mentions impersonation in Mexico City.

    I’m not suggesting any of that as part of a plan – nor do I think it was. What I think is that a host of things went on in the months before the assassination that suddenly spooked people because they instantly became suspicious and mysterious. As I demonstrated in Surprise Attack, whenever a national crisis occurs, the response is always damage control in order to prevent things escalation. And after the fact, damage control breeds its own coverups.

  9. AnthonyM says:

    Yes, I should emphasize how much I would recommend the show, it really was very interesting.

    In addition, despite my various comments, there remains something really odd about this meeting in the Cuban consulate. In addition to the descriptions of Azcue and Duran I think I’m right in saying Fonzi interviewed two CIA assets who were in the building and they also said the view in the building was that the visitor wasn’t LHO. Duran later said the person wasn’t LHO based on viewing a film of Oswald.
    That old photo with the crew cut does bother me…looks like something from his time in or just out of the Marines in terms of the haircut.

    This is a topic that will remain ‘open’ for the time being I suspect. Not convinced it actually was Leonov but on balance it might well have been someone other than Oswald. We would then have to understand why the Cubans added a false picture to be more consistent with the standard story, which would be a puzzle at first sight…

    There’s a missing piece to this jigsaw puzzle somewhere by the look of it as it just doesn’t work neatly across the full warp and weft of the data from any angle at the moment.

    Anyway – thanks so much to all three of you for the thoughtful programme and to you for your additional comments here.

  10. larryjoe2 says:

    Agreed, it remains open, without out a doubt we have not solved it – my best take at the moment is that it was not Oswald and that Oswald was impersonated in various ways in Mexico City. Whether he did go to Mexico, or specifically to Mexico City, remains open as well.

    The photo is totally inexplicable, as is the definitive story of how it entered into evidence – something neither Duran or Ascue have commented on. My best guess is that if CE399 could be show up in mid-stream within the Secret Service, a photo could show up on the application.

    Perhaps the worst of it all is that everything about Mexico City might have been absolutely standard practice in both US and Russian spy games….only to become mysterious at a later date with the name Oswald created panic among everyone who had been associated with it in any way before the assassination.

  11. AnthonyM says:

    Can I just check if there’s a character limit on a comment?
    I’ve been digging into photographs of Oswald to try and find a good match for the visa application photograph… the result is a bit long and doesn’t seem to have uploaded.

    If there is a limit I’ll split it up accordingly.

  12. larryjoe2 says:

    As far as I can tell the character limit is use, several meg. Problem is you might use up all the memory WordPress allocates to me period. I would suggest you pursue this on the Ed Forum which is designed to deal with graphics and images. There is a thread already there where this would definitely fit.

  13. larryjoe2 says:

    Sorry, meant to say the character limit is huge…but I suspect the Ed Forum would be a far better venu if you are going to be posting images; also Bill Simpich and others are participating in a Mexico City thread there and would likely give some very good input.

  14. AnthonyM says:

    Thanks – I’ve just posted it there. Just for completeness the very short form is that the hairstyle in the photograph is very similar to a mid-1962 set of photos of the Oswald family. From a range of photos it could have been anytime from March 1962 to around the start of 1963, but clearly significantly earlier than June 1963 when his receding hairline is evident in his passport photograph.
    The dress style is actually very similar to what he wore in a group photograph taken in Minsk, but of course, clothes can travel too.
    He is wearing a sweater, which suggests it wasn’t all that hot at the time and place of its taking (so probably not Texas in mid summer!).

    I’ll look to see if I can find more material to narrow that date range down a bit (e.g. late 1962 photographs) and also look at what documentation he may have needed to leave Russia as the general style of it (plain background, passport size etc.) looks like something taken for identification purposes. That will take me a while, in between work and other commitments, but we’ll how we go.

    All a bit odd…

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