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To Transcript of John Newman's NID '99 Presentation AND documents

To Transcript of John Newman's NID '99 Presentation AND documents

Tape: Call on JFK Wasn't Oswald

.c The Associated Press


Sunday, Nov 21, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hours after President Kennedy was assassinated, FBI agents reportedly listened to a tape of a phone call that a man identifying himself as ``Lee Oswald'' had placed to the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City.

They made a startling discovery: The voice on the tape was not Oswald's, government records say.

This controversial tape has been a question mark in the assassination investigation since Kennedy was killed Nov. 22, 1963. Only now - 36 years to the day after the murder - has the government released a flurry of new details about it.

The CIA said years ago that the tapes on which it recorded the call were erased. Documents released in recent years said otherwise. The latest and newest of declassified documents offer more evidence that the tapes survived.

The discovery that the voice on the tape was someone other than Oswald was a ``disquieting discovery because the man who impersonated Oswald was still at large,'' said John Newman, an ex-military intelligence analyst, author and professor at the University of Maryland.

Oswald was in Mexico City in September and October 1963. During his one-week stay, he contacted the Soviet Embassy and the Cuban consulate, inquiring about visas needed to go to the Soviet Union via Cuba.

It is widely known that the CIA bugged telephones and took surveillance photos at both the embassy and consulate. But the agency maintained that it had routinely erased and reused tapes of the phone intercepts. A message from the CIA's Mexico City station to headquarters on Nov. 24, 1963, said: ``HQ has full transcripts all pertinent calls. Regret complete recheck shows tapes for this period already erased.''

It was also known that while he was in Mexico City, Oswald had contact with Valeriy Kostikov - a man that one CIA memo described as a ``case officer in an operation which is evidently sponsored by the KGB's 13th Department responsible for sabotage and assassination.'' It was the caller who is thought to have impersonated Oswald who links him to this Soviet spy unit known as Department 13.

Newly declassified documents - some released in the past six months - say that after the president was shot, a Navy plane carried a top-secret package from Mexico City to Dallas and landed there about 4 a.m. EST the day after the murder.

Former FBI Agent Eldon Rudd, later a Republican congressman from Arizona, was aboard the plane.

``There were no tapes to my knowledge,'' Rudd said in a telephone interview. ``I brought the pictures up (from Mexico) and it was my understanding that it was just pictures.''

Documents contradict Rudd's understanding. A newly released memo dated Nov. 27, 1963, from FBI headquarters to its office in Mexico City, stated:

``If tapes covering any contacts subject (Oswald) with Soviet or Cuban embassies available, forward to bureau for laboratory examination and analysis together with transcript. Include tapes previously reviewed Dallas if they were returned to you.''

And a transcript of a telephone call FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover made to President Johnson just six hours after the plane arrived in Dallas supports the belief that FBI agents listened to a tape that suggested an impersonation.

``We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet embassy using Oswald's name,'' Hoover told Johnson, according to a transcript of that call released in 1993. ``That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man's voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there.''

While they would not speculate about the identity of the caller, several assassination researchers privately offered some explanations: Oswald could have been impersonated by a CIA officer who called the Soviet Embassy simply to fish for details about what Oswald was doing in Mexico City. Or, maybe someone was trying to link Oswald to the KGB's assassination unit before Kennedy's murder.

Whatever the answer, there was plenty of reason for worry in Washington about any evidence pointing to Soviets or Cubans as somehow involved in the assassination. Relations with the former Soviet Union were icy. Both sides were armed with nuclear weapons. The Cuban missile crisis was still very much on America's mind.

``The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large,'' Nicholas Katzenbach, then deputy attorney general, wrote in a memo on Nov. 25, 1963.Katzenbach.html

``Speculation about Oswald's motivation ought to be cut off and we should have some basis for rebutting (the) thought that this was a communist conspiracy or ... a right-wing conspiracy to blame it on the communists.''

In a telephone interview last week, Katzenbach said he does not know anything about the FBI listening to a tape in Dallas. ``Whether I knew anything about it at the time, or what I knew about it at the time, I don't recall,'' he said.

Oswald's trip to Mexico City was only briefly addressed by the Warren Commission, which concluded in 1964 that Oswald was the lone gunman who killed Kennedy.

His activities in Mexico City were investigated vigorously by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which re-investigated the Kennedy murder in the 1970s. The committee then raised the possibility of an Oswald impersonation but said there was not sufficient evidence to ``firmly'' conclude that it happened.

Many more details about the trip, however, have surfaced in CIA and FBI documents released by the Assassination Records Review Board. The board, set up by Congress to amass all assassination-related records, opened tens of thousands of pages before it closed down in 1998.

Gus Russo, author of a book about the foreign policy implications of Kennedy's assassination, said he is skeptical that FBI agents listened to actual tapes. He cited a Nov. 25, 1963, memo from the FBI office in Mexico City to headquarters that said ``there appears to be some confusion in that no tapes were taken to Dallas, only typewritten reports were supplied.''

Newman said he has seen that memo and others that say the tapes were erased, but he said a pattern has emerged in the documents.

``For the first 24 hours after the assassination, there is no mention of erasures, only detailed discussions about listening to tapes,'' Newman said. ``Then we go from one tape being erased to all tapes being erased. This is designed to protect very sensitive U.S. intelligence sources and methods and American relations with Mexico.''

The CIA's phone intercepts in Mexico City have been an unanswered question in the assassination case for decades, says T. Jeremy Gunn, former director and general counsel of the review board.

However, he said two assistant counsels on the Warren Commission, William T. Coleman Jr. and W. David Slawson, told the review board that they had gone to Mexico City and not only read transcripts, but listened to recordings.

``We tried to find the tape,'' Gunn said of the review board's effort. ``We were unsuccessful. We tried to get everything we could and we end up with question marks.

AP-NY-11-21-99 1246EST

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.

To Transcript of John Newman's NID '99 Presentation AND documents

Excerpts From JFK Documents

.c The Associated Press

By The Associated Press

Excerpts from declassified documents that say a man impersonating Lee Harvey Oswald called the Soviet embassy in Mexico City just weeks before President Kennedy was assassinated, and that investigators listened to a tape of the call.

Memo Nov. 23, 1963 from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to Secret Service Chief James Rowley:

``The Central Intelligence Agency advised that on Oct. 1, 1963, an extremely sensitive source had reported that an individual identifed himself as Lee Oswald, who contacted the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City inquiring as to any messages.

``Special Agents of this bureau, who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas, Texas, have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the above-referred-to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald.''

Memo written Nov. 23, 1963 from Alan Belmont, third in command at FBI Headquarters, to Clyde Tolson, Hoover's right-hand man.

``The Dallas agents who listened to the tape of the conversation allegedly of Oswald from the Cuban Embassy to the Russian Embassy in Mexico and examined the photographs of the visitor to the Embassy in Mexico ... were of the opinion that neither the tape nor the photograph pertained to Oswald.''

Internal FBI memo written Nov. 24, 1963 by Hoover:

``Oswald made a phone call to the Cuban embassy in Mexico City, which we intercepted. It was only about a visa, however. He also wrote a letter to the Soviet Embassy here in Washington, which we intercepted, read and resealed. This letter referred to the fact that the FBI had questioned his activities on the Fair Play to Cuba Committee and also asked about extension of his wife's visa.

``That letter from Oswald was addressed to the man in the Soviet Embassy who is in charge of assassinations and similar activities on the part of the Soviet government. To have that drawn into a public hearing would muddy the waters internationally.

AP-NY-11-21-99 1246EST