Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C.
— Many people find it difficult to accept the idea that a man like John F. Kennedy could be assassinated by a single nut.
They feel that trivializes an admired leader and want to believe that a president like Kennedy must have been the target of powerful forces — the KGB, Fidel Castro, or the Mafia.
|Oswald is hurried into an ambulance after being shot at Dallas City Prison.
But as with most assassinations, the sad fact is that a single deranged man, Lee Harvey Oswald, killed JFK.
Now a new book, “Castro’s Secrets: The CIA and Cuba’s Intelligence Machine,” has raised questions about whether Castro was aware of Oswald’s intentions and did nothing to stop him. Written by former CIA national intelligence officer Brian Latell, the book reveals that a former Cuban intelligence officer who was in charge of monitoring broadcasts in the U.S. claimed that Cuban leadership instructed him on the morning of Kennedy’s assassination to suspend routine monitoring and listen for any news from Texas.
“Castro knew,” the defector told a CIA debriefer years later. “They knew Kennedy would be killed.”
No doubt the Cuban defector made such a claim. But while most defectors provide valuable intelligence that can be corroborated, they sometimes invent stories to enhance their own importance.
In this case, the defector’s assertion does not square with the facts. Eight weeks before he assassinated Kennedy, Oswald traveled to Mexico City and tried to offer information to the Soviet Union and Cuba in exchange for free trips to those countries.
As a Washington Post reporter back in 1976, I tracked down in Mexico the CIA translator who heard the wiretapped call and the typist who typed up a transcript of the call Oswald made to the Soviet embassy. Both the translator and the typist had the same recollection.
“He said he had some information to tell them,” the typist told me. “His main concern was getting to one of the two countries [Russia or Cuba], and he wanted them to pay for it. He said he had to meet with them.”
David A. Phillips, the CIA station chief in Mexico City who later founded the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, read the transcript and gave me the same version of Oswald’s call.
The Russians were not impressed. Indeed, according to former KGB officer Victor Cherkashin’s book “Spy Handler: The True Story of the Man Who Recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames,” Moscow was concerned that it would be blamed for the assassination, since Oswald had briefly lived in the Soviet Union.
“Moscow worried it would arouse suspicion, when in fact the KGB had assessed Lee Harvey Oswald was mentally disturbed,” Cherkashin wrote. While in the Soviet Union, he had tried to commit suicide. “Far from being a target for recruitment [as a spy], Oswald was suspected as a possible CIA agent . . .” Cherkashin averred.
Besides phoning the Soviet Embassy, Oswald visited the Cuban embassy in Mexico City during his trip there. Sylvia Duran, a Mexican citizen who worked in the Cuban embassy at the time of Oswald’s visit, told me she talked with Oswald on Sept. 27, 1963.
According to Duran, Oswald also told Cuban officials he wanted to travel to Cuba and Russia. He displayed documents to show he was a friend of the Cuban Revolution.
Duran said she informed Oswald that in order to travel to Russia, he would have to obtain permission from the Soviets. Oswald left and returned later in the day. He told Duran that he had obtained the necessary permission. But Duran said she called the Soviet embassy and was told that Oswald’s application for a visa would take three to four months to process.
Oswald “got really angry and red. He was gesticulating,” Duran told me for a Nov. 26, 1976 Washington Post article. Duran said she had to call for help from the Cuban consul, who got into a shouting match with Oswald and told him to leave.
Oswald stayed in Mexico City five days. Conceivably, he could have had other meetings that were not picked up. But at that time, the public did not know that Kennedy was going to visit Dallas on Nov. 22, a plan that the White House began developing in September.
According to the Cuban defector, he was only given the order to monitor broadcasts in Texas on the morning of the assassination. Yet it would have been nearly impossible for Oswald to have told the Cubans of his plans in the hours leading up to the assassination. Back then, a private citizen could not place a call between the U.S. and either Cuba or Russia.
Thus, the idea that Oswald informed the Cubans of his plan to assassinate Kennedy conflicts with what is known about Oswald’s activities before the assassination and the fact that neither the Cubans nor the Soviets wanted anything to do with him.
As noted in my book “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes with Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect,”
FBI criminal profilers have found that assassins generally have been unstable individuals looking for attention and notoriety. In many cases, assassins keep diaries as a way of enhancing the importance of their acts. Like most celebrity stalkers, assassins tend to be paranoid.
Despite the myriad of conspiracy theories woven since the Kennedy assassination, the Warren Commission report, based on a meticulous FBI investigation, has held up well. The 888-page report concluded that Oswald acted alone — with no involvement of any foreign power.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.
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