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A Certain Arrogance
The Sacrifice of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Cold War Manipulation of Religious Groups by US Intelligence
By George Michael Evica
Trine Day LLCCopyright © 2011 Trine Day, LLC
All rights reserved.
Essay One: A Friendly Interview with Mr. "Fannan"
It was February 1960. The FBI agent stared at the woman sitting before him. Just a moment before, her hands were crossed, their palms upward. Now they were flying. Finally they alighted on her lap, palms facing upward again. She examined them, as if she were reading some arcane communication in their lines and grooves.
She thought he had said his name was "Fannan."
The translucent skin of her round and almost unlined face flushed briefly. Stacked on the small table next to her were three returned letters from the Soviet Union: a $20 money order with her son's scribbled note rejecting it as useless; another returned unopened, its $20 bill still inside; and a third, also unopened, with a $25 Foreign Money Transfer inside.
The agent carefully surveyed her corseted, rectangular body for some sign of stress. Her graying hair, almost white, had somehow begun to lift slightly, as if disturbed by a breeze blowing through her Fort Worth home.
For such a stout lady, Lee Oswald's mother seemed formed of very small bones.
"You understand, don't you?" she asked him.
He was passive. The Bureau had already intercepted her mail to the Soviet Union. Her foreign money transfer to Lee had been taken seriously by the Bureau's New York field office.
"Lee ending up in Russia, my letter unopened and returned. And you know, he took his birth certificate with him."
The agent stiffened. He was about to blurt out a question; then he caught himself, relaxed, and remained silent.
"My son has ... completely disappeared. His brother Robert hasn't heard from him since the middle of December. I haven't heard from him since early January." He's just ... gone."
The agent knew she was Lee's only living parent. He spoke carefully.
"It doesn't look good, ma'am. It looks like your son doesn't want to be found."
"Please help me," she implored.
"Of course. I'd say you ought to write directly to the Secretary of State, you know, at the State Department in Washington; and to Sam Rayburn and Jim Wright, your representatives? Ask all of them to assist you in any way possible. "Her hands fluttered again, then dropped to her lap. "I will, I will," she promised.
He was pleased with his improvisation. While seeming to be helpful, he hoped it would be a major deflection that kept Lee's mother and the Washington bureaucracy busy for a while.
Long after the agent left, as the light faded in a clear Texas sky, Marguerite Oswald sat and brooded over the rejected funds she'd sent to her son at his Metropole Hotel address in Moscow. Now he was somewhere else in that vast and distant Soviet Union, refusing to make contact.
She loved her strange and wonderful Lee, though she often did not understand him. And she had begun to entertain a disturbing possibility: that her young son was some sort of secret agent for the American government.
College Daze: The Missing Lee
Mrs. Oswald waited until April. She thought Lee had signed up for that oddly named college in Switzerland's fall session of 1959. But two months after her FBI visitor had been so helpful, after weeks of frustrating correspondence, Marguerite Oswald received some very bad news. Lee, who according to the letter was expected at Albert Schweitzer College for the spring session of 1960, had neither made an appearance nor informed the college he would not be attending.
According to one knowledgeable CIA source, "Mail from Soviet agents in the United States would not have been sent directly to Moscow ..." but through "neutral countries such as Switzerland. ..." The same procedure would have been followed for clandestine mail from Moscow that was ultimately destined for the States. During the Cold War, Switzerland was a postal transfer for major espionage message exchanges, but its use by American intelligence dated back to the First World War.
Switzerland, as the most strategic neutral country, fulfilled its valuable function through World War II, when Allen Dulles, then director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Bern, controlled an intelligence network of Swiss civilians, military personnel, and American, British, and German agents, including doubled operatives out of Nazi intelligence. From his Swiss base, Allen Dulles operated a Europe-wide spy network in Switzerland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Yugoslavia.
Switzerland, covert operations, and mail intercepts were all significant elements of Lee Harvey Oswald's paper trail, made up almost entirely of his carefully monitored postal correspondence, including Oswald's letters to the American Embassy in Moscow and his family in the United States. Soviet intelligence also monitored that paper trail when Oswald was in the Soviet Union and, later, when he communicated with individuals in the Soviet Union after he returned to the U.S.
Oswald's Marine Documents: Whose I.D. Was This?
Oswald's Swiss connection became of intense interest to the FBI, specifically embodied in the suspicions of both Alan Belmont, the Bureau's number three officer, and the big cheese, J. Edgar Hoover himself.
That interest began when Oswald, still an active Marine, applied for his passport on September 4, 1959 and received it on September 10, out of Los Angeles. Though Oswald reportedly had possession of his birth certificate while in the Soviet Union, which was the usual identification when applying for a passport, he submitted a Department of Defense (DOD) I.D. Card.
But except for several crucial and undeniable reasons, Lee Harvey Oswald should never have had a DOD I.D. card on September 4, 1959: possibly on September 11th, but not on September 4th.
The Department of Defense card was allegedly found in a wallet belonging to Oswald just after his arrest at the Texas Theatre on November 22, 1963. The card clearly signaled to those who understood it that the bearer had some official connection to U.S. Intelligence, and the Marine Corps confirmed it had issued the card to Oswald before he was released from active duty. But the practice of issuing that type of card to Marine reservists ended officially as of July 1959. According to a Marine Corps public affairs officer, Oswald was probably issued the military I.D. card because he was about to fill a civilian position overseas which required it.
Was Oswald scheduled to begin a new job that would take him to Europe as an asset or agent of the CIA, or as a civilian employee of the Office of Naval Intelligence?
A helpful Marine Corps public affairs officer could not explain how on September 4, 1959, in Santa Ana, California, Oswald apparently submitted to the Clerk of the Superior Court, L.B. Wallace, an "MCR/INACTIVE I.D. CARD #N4, 271, 617," in his passport application. Officially, Oswald would not have been issued that card until September 11th, the day he was "released from Active Duty and transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve...."
Did someone other than Oswald have possession of that card before he did?
And whose photo was on the DOD card? Its image was the same as the one on the "fake" Selective Service card clumsily made out to "Hidell" and reportedly found in Oswald's wallet after his arrest. The card blatantly called attention to itself: its erasures were clearly visible, and Selective Service cards did not have photos.
But the problem did not end there. The photograph in question was a Warren Commission document, buried in the pile, without either its Defense Dept. I.D. card or "Hidell" Selective Service card contexts. According to the FBI, the picture was taken in Minsk and issued before Oswald went to the Soviet Union. It is identical to a fake Selective Service card photo "taken in Minsk" after Oswald defected to the Soviet Union.
The actual card is not available at the National Archives: Sue McDonough, of the Archives' Civil Reference Branch, said the FBI had effectively destroyed the card through "extensive chemical forensic testing." Oops ...
The Oswald postal problem again presents itself. On the copy of Oswald's DOD card in the Dallas Police evidence files, one postmark, and possibly another, can be seen. The clearest is stamped October 23, 1963, but the card had officially expired over 10 months earlier on December 7, 1962. On the reverse side of the card were the instructions: "If found, drop in any mail box," and "Return to Department of Defense, Washington 25, D.C."
Is there any way to extract some sense from this postal noise?
The DOD card existed in someone's possession in Santa Ana, California, when it was used to obtain Oswald's passport in September 1959. But no official record of the card existed until it was supposedly found in Lee Oswald's wallet.
But someone also possessed the card after September 1959, and either "lost" it before October 23, 1963, or kept it until that day. The card entered U.S. Post Office records when it was delivered to the Department of Defense in Washington, D.C. Between October 23rd and November 22, 1963 the card must then have matriculated down to Dallas and into Oswald's wallet.
The card might have made one other appearance prior to November 22nd. Between August 21st and September 17, 1963, during a C.O.R.E voter registration drive in Clinton, Louisiana, a Navy I.D. card was used by a man who said he was Oswald. This may have been identical to Lee's Department of Defense card.
Even if we assume that Oswald retained possession of the DOD card until October 23, 1963, when he either lost the card or dropped it in a mail-box himself, how did it wind up in his confiscated wallet?
Did someone at the Department of Defense have possession of the card and assist in its migration back to Oswald's wallet when he was arrested?
In fact, after its use in obtaining Oswald's 1959 passport, the DOD identification card had no other verified function except to link Oswald to 'Hidell' and the rifle supposedly discovered at the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD).
The original DD Form 1173, "Uniformed Services and Identification and Privilege Card," had a very strained reality. Oswald submitted his passport application on September 4, 1959. His I.D. card established it had been issued on September 11, 1959, eight days after it had already been used as identification in Oswald's passport application. On the same day Oswald was placed on inactive status in the Corps, and signed a statement pledging not to "in any manner" give information that would negatively affect the national security of the United States, "which I gained during my employment ..." by the US Marine Corps.
Could the DOD card have been issued to inactive Marine Oswald by American intelligence at the United States Embassy in Moscow? Though it is an attractive alternative theory, it is not really viable.
The card was purportedly signed on September 11, 1959, by Marine 1st Lt. A.G. Ayers Jr., in Santa Ana, California. According to available Marine records, Oswald then became an inactive Reservist "by reason of hardship," and the I.D. card was issued according to standard Marine Corps procedures.
But how did Marine Lt. Ayers sign both Oswald's I.D. card and "Separation Section" document without perceiving the contradictions between his "hardship" status and his simultaneous travel intentions?
The fact is, according to Warren Commission's records, Lt. Ayers did not actually sign the Separation papers. A Marine 1st Sergeant Stout signed for the apparently absent lieutenant. But this "Sergeant Stout" was a paper fiction. He did not actually exist. Oswald did have a close Marine buddy named Zack Stout: they had served together in Japan and the Philippines in 1957 and 1958. But the real Stout was not stationed at El Toro in 1959.
The overlaying of Oswald's Marine buddy with the fictional "Sgt. Stout" adds another whiff of covert ops to the paper trail.
These major contradictions between Oswald's separation date and his passport application date, along with his hardship status/world travel plans, were blissfully (or willfully) ignored by American intelligence in 1959-60 and the Warren Commission in 1964.
Passport to ...?
If the way in which Oswald obtained his passport were not suspicious enough, his stated travel plans were also provocative. Oswald listed Cuba, the Dominican Republic, England, "Turku," Finland, France, Germany, "Russia" and Switzerland. Turku refers to the University of Turku, which for some time had not been in the city of Turku, but in Helsinki. The incorrect location of the university is another in a series of "errors" concerning names, dates and places in the Oswald paper record.
An itinerary so ambitious for a man with few financial resources should have raised at least some eyebrows in American intelligence. How could Oswald pay for such a tour? Was he being underwritten, and if so, by whom? Was his trip an intelligence action? If so, it would not matter to the State Department, the FBI, the CIA, or the National Security Agency (NSA), unless they weren't in the loop. The excluded agencies would then take an immediate and fiercely territorial interest.
The travel list is provocative. It includes two nations in the troubled Caribbean, where reactionary repression and progressive revolution were vying for power, especially Cuba, the usual cultural stops in Europe (but, oddly, not Italy), Finland, the 'gateway' to the Soviet Union, and Russia. The omission of Italy may have been a variation on the Sherlock Holmes story of the dog that didn't bark, which would have alerted the CIA'S James Jesus Angleton, a veteran of the OSS Italian escapades in World War II: unless Angleton, as several researchers have suggested, sent Oswald to Europe himself as an espionage "dangle," hoping Soviet Intelligence would take the bait.
Finland and the Soviet Union were possibly the most provocative lures; the latter listed as "Russia," a word almost always preceded by "Communist."
Oswald named Albert Schweitzer College in Switzerland, hand-printed on Oswald's passport application as "thE CollEGE of A. SchwETZER, CHUR SwiTZerlAnd." CHUR represents either Chur, or Churwalden, or both.
At the same time, Oswald also listed his intention to study at the University of Turku in Finland.
According to his application to the college, reportedly sent March 19, 1959, he intended to study in Switzerland from April 12 to June 27, 1960, the college's third term in its trimester schedule. His passport, however, listed "4 months" as his total length of stay outside the United States; enough time, but just enough, to attend the college's fall trimester. Attending the college's third trimester meant he would be in Europe for nine months, not four. But what about all those other stops on his itinerary?
Was any evidence found that clearly indicated Oswald would be attending the fall rather than the spring trimester? In 1995, the Assassination Records Review Board was able to force the release of a set of documents sent by the FBI Legat at the American Embassy in Paris to Bureau Director J. Edgar Hoover. Among those papers was a Swiss Federal Police memorandum from October 12, 1960, stating that Oswald indicated from Moscow he would be attending the fall trimester, 1959, not the third and last trimester.
But this police report, summarized in the first of four communications from the Legat to Director J. Edgar Hoover, was subsequently contradicted, without explanation, by the fourth and last Legat communication to Hoover, suspiciously anticipating the Warren Commission's conclusions about Oswald's intentions.
The Warren Report, based on Oswald's official college application sent from Santa Ana, California, had indeed stated Oswald expected to attend the college's third trimester. But Oswald's preparations for exiting the Marines and obtaining a passport all support the Swiss Federal Police's first conclusion: that Oswald was targeting the fall trimester at Albert Schweitzer College.
Excerpted from A Certain Arrogance by George Michael Evica. Copyright © 2011 Trine Day, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Trine Day LLC.
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