Nagell’s name is known to most people with any long time interest in the JFK assassination; the extensive details of his story were first brought to general attention by researcher/author Dick Russell in the first edition of his book The Man Who Knew Too Much.

I personally did extensive early research on Nagell related documents, and published hundreds of pages of them along with my analysis of Nagell’s correspondence and his remarks over time (which were quite situational) on CD through JFK Lancer.

I also wrote about Nagell at some length in Someone Would Have Talked, and in the 2010 edition, added new research, establishing a probable association between Nagell and CIA officer Henry Hecksher. Hecksher had served as CIA station chief in Japan when Nagell and Lee Oswald were in that country, and in 1962 had recently served under cover in Cuba, going on to be involved in a still mysterious CIA activities during the period of the Cuban missile crisis, at a time when Nagell was also in Mexico.  

Given that history, readers may wonder why Nagell does not appear in my new Tipping Point work, especially as his story does provide credible verification that Cuban exiles presenting themselves as Castro agents were in contact with Lee Oswald in New Orleans late in the summer of 1963. The answer to that is in two parts, first I have no new information about Nagell that I didn’t introduce back in 2010.  Second, I very much tried to keep Tipping Point in a tight focus, specifically looking at conspiracy specifically as it related to the attack on JFK in Dallas.

Still, I certainly don’t want to abandon Nagell and his information. In that regard, the following is a brief list of what I feel Nagell has to tell us:

….Nagell provides some very worthwhile insights into the longer Oswald backstory, about his probable visits to the Russian embassy in Tokyo (monitored by military intelligence and the CIA) and his earliest encounters with the intelligence community. That is important to Oswald’s overall personal story, but that is not the subject of Tipping Point.

….Nagell tells us a great deal about how the CIA managed to use volunteers for what might be called “vest-pocket” activities, the sorts of things never documented in the master files – at best existing in “soft” files residing officer’s personal desks.  Nagell’s visit to the American embassy in Mexico City in 1962, and his offer to defect, taking information to an American adversary nation, sounds quite familiar. Even more interestingly, although that was reported inside the system, absolutely no follow on inquiry or documents are in evidence. Given that Nagell had a career in Army Intelligence, in particular counter intelligence (including overseas service), the lack of a formal investigation following his claim to be in the process of providing security related information to a foreign power reflects a larger story, one which remains a total mystery.  

….Nagell reported observing Oswald in contact with suspicious Cuban exiles in New Orleans, being recruited for some sort of action in the area of Washington D.C. planned for September, 1963.  That claim is supported by a series of letters written by Oswald to the Socialist Workers Party and the Communist Party USA discussing such a move, volunteering his services and even requesting advice about “going underground”.  That information certainly does corroborate the fact that certain Cuban exiles were active in the late summer of 1963, pursuing action against the President. It also suggests that Oswald’s new visibility as a Castro supporter, had led to his being targeted him as a potential patsy in any such action.

The problem is that Nagell gives us word of a potential action involving the East Coast, but then relates that his own visibility to the Cubans forced him to flee New Orleans pursued by the Cubans. In order to escape their attention, he was decided to commit a fake bank robbery in El Paso, Texas. In doing so he was arrested and remained in jail beginning in September and through November 22.  That provided protection from the people who had been pursing him, but effectively gave him no further knowledge of their contacts with Oswald or of anything that occurred after his arrest.

Following the assassination he did attempt to communicate that other individuals had been involved with Lee Oswald, that Oswald might have been set up as a patsy, and that there was likely a Cuban exile element related to the JFK assassination. He took that story to the FBI, to Congressman and in an abortive approach to District Attorney Garrison.  The outreach to Garrison aborted because Nagell suspected the Garrison investigation had been penetrated by the CIA and anything he said would be compromised (that concern was later demonstrated to be quite accurate).

So – yes, Richard Case Nagell has things to offer, just nothing new for me to relate in Tipping Point, and nothing that would go beyond the point of corroborating suspicious Cuban exiles in contact with Lee Oswald in New Orleans. Exiles masquerading as Cuban agents and acting with the intent of using Oswald to a purpose in September, but not an action related to Dallas, Texas. And not necessarily the same individuals who were ultimately brought into that plot.  

Nagell’s story is a fascinating one nonetheless, if you are interested in the details either Dick Russell’s books or my exposition in Someone Would Have Talked 2010 will take you further into the world of a very complex individual – whose life was convoluted in the extreme.  

4 responses »

  1. Peter Johnsen says:

    Russell said that in all likelihood Oswald was ‘dealing with’ or had ‘contacts with’ the Russian GDR (Military Intelligence) rather than either arms of the KGB. What do you think?

  2. Anonymous says:

    In fact that is probably whom Nagell had associations.

  3. larryjoe2 says:

    I think Nagell gives us a credible case that Oswald approached the Russian embassy in Tokyo, but I see no sign that he had any contact with the Russian intelligence community until he reached Moscow. I’m sure the intel on him inside Russia would have been circulated to the GDR but as far as contact, my impression is that he was regarded (rightly enough) as a dangle and initially placed inside the secure section of the Minsk plant as a test.

    The question then would have had responsibility for internal security and surveillance and the electronics plant, GDR or KGB. We do know the KGB monitored American students, and even commercial travelers so its hard to think they would not have been monitoring Oswald to some extent even of GDR was playing lead in Minsk at the factory.

    What I am unfamiliar with is anything that would represent “dealings with” where Oswald would have been directly engaging in a dialog with either group after he was allowed to stay in country – either offering or seeming to offer information. That would be new to me but its not my real area of concentration so I may have missed that. Would have to reread Dick’s discussion of it, don’t know what his source might have been.

  4. larryjoe2 says:

    One thing we do know is that there were Russian agents on the ground in Mexico well outside the Russian embassy and KGB staff officers there. The Soviets were very engaged in contacting Mexican Communist groups, including supplying them with weapons and actually inciting attacks against the Mexican government. I cover some details of that in Creating Chaos. That means there were deep Russian agents in Mexico operating under a variety of covers and maintaining a distances from the embassy staff.

    Its remotely possible that might even have involved agents who had previously worked with communist groups in Japan (where the Soviet’s pursued similar agendas with Japanese communist groups). The question is why would such field agents care about image problems related to the actions of Lee Oswald?

    Such concerns tend to be a political action concern of Soviet foreign intelligence i.e. KGB. Given its immense attention to detail and dedication to maintaining huge files, the KGB would certainly have had Oswald on a watch list, as with any American who had been in the Soviet Union. But such lists would also have included known American intelligence agents of any sort – and Nagell may well have appeared on such a list.

    We know Nagell told the American embassy in Mexico Cith that he planned to approach foreign governments with information – what we don’t know is what happened after that. Perhaps he did approach Soviet agents (or the information of his approached leaked – it may have been a security test in the first place) and they approached him, in turn seeing if he was serious by offering him a task – monitoring of an American, Lee Oswald. If Nagell (as he claimed) had been monitoring Oswald at the Russian Embassy in Tokyo, the Soviet files might even have had their names linked…wild speculation but possible.

    One possible scenario is that their may have been a vest pocket CIA seurity test in Mexico City in the fall of 1962, using Nagell and run by Hecksher on special assignment. Such a test could that prompted a Soviet response, one intended to test Nagell by offering him a task related to Oswald. That would have been especially interesting if his files suggested he shared some of Oswald’s political attitudes – which appears to have been the case (Nagell remarks on that and talked about being sympathetic towards Oswald).

    I wish I did have an answer but that’s one scenario that would give at least a little detail for what began as Nagell serving in a minor task related to a CIA vest pocket security operation – only to be recruited by the Soviets in turn. What we do know is that shortly after Nagell’s embassy visits occurred, Hecksher was out of Mexico and back in DC. Given that he might well have been Nagell’s handler, Nagell would indeed have been essentially abandoned (as he claimed) and left with the Soviet task related to monitoring Oswald and his potential use to embarrass the Soviets.

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