JFK Conference II

Saturday Morning
9 -12
November 13th, 1993

Harvard Science Center

9:00 - 12:00 " Lee Harvey Oswald: Necessary Illusion?"
Peter Dale Scott : "Oswald and US Intelligence "
John Newman: "Oswald and the CIA"
Phil Melanson : "Oswald in USSR"
Dick Russell: "Oswald and the KGB"
Jim DiEugenio: "Oswald in New Orleans"
Walter Brown: "Oswald in Dallas"

Peter Dale Scott and John Newman : The most important recent development in this area of investigation are the millions of pages of documents pertaining to the Kennedy period which have recently been released from government archives. 10,000 very crucial pages are still being withheld from public scrutiny, but there is already enough to call for a radical re-thinking of many of the aspects of the case.

Scott suggested that it would be helpful to us if, for the time being, we put aside the historical figure of a man called 'Lee Harvey Oswald' , and concentrated more on a fictional being, indeed several fictional beings, with names like 'Lee Harvey Oswald', ' Lee Henry Oswald', 'Harvey Lee Oswald' or 'Harry Lee Oswald', fictional beings created in the files of the CIA and the FBI.

There are several reasons for doing this. The first is that Oswald was unquestionably an operative working with the intelligence agencies and therefore was continually being equipped with cover stories, fictional life histories to assist him in his activities in other countries, principally Russia.

According to both Scott and Newman, the recently available records show that Oswald's activities in both Russia and the US were closely monitored by the sub-section of the CIA known as the "Special Investigation Group" ( CI/SIG). Newman has spent some time in studying the marginalia and the initialings on the CIA cover sheets of Oswald-related documents that circulated around the intelligence community. In this way he has identified the "groupuscles" ( the nice French word for this, much better that our 'groupings' or 'sub-groups') . They were SR6, SR9 and SR10. The intials 'SR' were an abbreviation of 'USSR'

SR6 was responsible for creating "authentic cover personalities", which sometimes involved training persons to be "more Russians than the Russians themselves." This must have been much harder for them than the corresponding task of the KGB. The US is a melting pot and it is obviously much easier for the KGB to fabricate an 'immigrant' in the US, than for the Americans to fabricate a 'Russian' to go to Russia.

SR9 ran agents inside the Soviet Union. SR10 was concerned with the activities of persons travelling to Russia with a legal purpose but with a hidden agenda: diplomats, salesmen, and so forth. Oswald's mission was characterized as "Vest Pocket", a classification so secret that it has no label except this informal description.

Oswald was debriefed after his return from Russia in 62 by an FBI agent named John Faine The cover sheet of Faine's report has 14 signatures on it. Every single one of these comes from a member of CI/SIG .

Another reason for looking as "Oswald the file", rather than "Oswald the person" is that it is apparent that, even before his involvement with the Kennedy assassination , the myth of 'Oswald' was being used as a kind of 'tracer element' for charting the flow of information within the labyrinths of the KGB. This comes out in the 'Staff-D' file on Oswald. Staff-D is the liason agency between the National Security Administration (NSA) and the CIA. The NSA, working out of Fort Meade, is the most secret organization in the American government . Now in the Staff-D files on Oswald released in the new mass of documents , one finds two cables. One of them speaks of a 'Lee Henry Oswald' weight 168 pounds', the other speaks of a 'Lee Henry Oswald, weight 149 pounds' . The two cables were drafted by the same people, and it is Scott' s contention that cables were sent out with contradictory information so that Staff-D could track the places where they ended up on the desks of the KGB.

Finally, it is clear that at least two mythical "Oswalds" were created in the files of the FBI and the CIA. A collection which may be called "Phase I" stories, built up the legend Oswald as a KGB agent, sometimes as a Cuban agent. The "Phase II" stories are those which support the thesis of him as the "lone assassin" of Kennedy. Lieutenant Pete Bagley was the director of a group with the initials CI/SIG "Special Investigation Group". The man was known to have a paranoid fear of the KGB. In 1960 SIG opened a file on Oswald called "Lee Henry Oswald". It was this group that invented to fable of Oswald's trip to Mexico. There are also records of many cables circulating between its members on the eve of the assassination. Scott believes that it is in the invented "Mexico City" trip, that one finds all of the elements of the Oswald myth, in which the KGB agent legend and the mad assassin legend were blended together in a convenient form for delivery to the general public.

In general, the story of the Oswald files gives a fascinating glimpse into the network of inter-connections between the intelligence agencies. Now it is we who are, in effect, using Lee Harvey Oswald (Henry? Harry?) as our tracer element through the twisting top-secret corridors of the American government!

Two persons held analogous positions in the CIA andFBI during this period and were in close contact with one another: William Sullivan, head of the counter-espionage division of the FBI , and James Angleton, head of the counter-espionage division of the CIA. One can find in the files an intense interaction between their respective offices on 'LHO', the myth and the man. Indeed, one can be more specific:

*All of the people who developed the myth of Oswald as a KGB or Cuban agent, were clustered around Angleton.

*All of the people who developed the myth of Oswald as 'lone assassin' were clustered around Sullivan.

The explotation of Oswald for various purposes seems to have gone back to his alleged "defection" from the Marines. There is strong evidence that this was planned. During the early 60's, no less than 6 phony "defectors" asked for asylum in the Soviet Union, and every one of them returned after a few years. It turns out that even the Dallas police had a file on Oswald as early as the late 50's.

PD Scott asked us to study the details of the myth of 'Oswald in Mexico City', which to him is the key to understanding the connection of all of the intelligence agencies with the Kennedy assassination. The DIA, the Department of Army Intelligence, maintains a large staff in Mexico City. A file is known to exist in its possession referring to one 'James Hydell , alias Lee Harvey Oswald, alias Harvey Lee Oswald', who had contacted a man called Kostokoff in the Cuban embassy in Mexico City'. Where is this file?

There is also supposed to be a tape of their conversation which , until 1971, was sitting in the safe of Winston Scott, the CIA bureau chief in Mexico City. It is widely rumored that Win Scott was murdered before he could release a report stating that the voice on this tape was not Oswald's. The tape has disappeared: James Angleton flew to Mexico City personally to remove this tape and all other effects of Scott's after his death. The tape, if it still exists, is buried in the Langley vaults.

At 1:00 on Saturday afternoon, the person who had been advertised as the "mystery guest" at the conference, strode up to the microphone. As many of us had speculated, it was Marina Oswald-Porter. She is a short , thin middle-aged woman with stringy mop-graying hair , decidedly Russian features. She speaks English quite well with only a trace of an accent. Despite the visible signs of a life of considerable stress, she is younger in manner and behavior than one might be led to expect. She wore a bluemarine knitted sweater and tight fitting slacks. She showed experience in fielding questions, did not show embarrassment or take offense at even the more hostile ones yet, it is my belief, told one lie after another, despite a uniform show of sympathy and several strong rounds of applause. Here is a sampling of questions and answers :

Saturday, 4-6:00 Robert Groden
"The Photographic Record".

The presentation began with a long uninterrupted section of his recently released videotape, combining bits of television footage with the Zapruder film. A few words about the history of this film: Zapruder's film captures the crucial moments of the murder of President Kennedy at 12:30, November 22, 1963 from very close up, in rather grisly detail. It is more than adequate to the objective of figuring out where the bullets came from.

The evening of the assassination it was borrowed by a representative of the H.L. Hunt family. Zapruder somehow got it back, then sold it to LIFE Magazine for $150,000 . He later received another $100,000 in royalties. LIFE sat on this vital piece of evidence for twelve years, until 1975 . It was only shown twice, in secret sessions of the Warren Commission in 1963, and during Jim Garrison's trial of Clay Shaw in New Orleans in 1969.

Throughout this period of more than a decade, LIFE was printing stories filled with statements that are in direct contradiction to the evidence on the film. The fight to get the film released for the HSCA hearings in 1976 went all the way to the Supreme Court, which forced the magazine to make the film public domain. The first generally available videotape including the relevant Zapruder footage had just been released by Robert Groden before the conference. To order it write and ask for : JFK-The Case For Conspiracy (Videotape) NEW FRONTIER PUBLICATIONS P.O. Bx. 2164. Boothwyn, Pa. 19061 $29 (Information circa 1993)

Groden stopped the film at the period just before and after the firing of the shots and moved it along a single frame at a time. The first thing that we observed was that two frames had been excised from the film at the location recording the first shot, and that four frames were excised from the location of the second shot! This must have been done either by Life Magazine or H.L. Hunt, unless Zapruder had done it himself.

Groden believes that there is evidence for 7 shots. The frames around the fatal head shot that killed Kennedy in 1/18th of a second, allows no other interpretation than that of a direct hit from the front. ( The watermelons of Luis Alvarez notwithstanding. Read his biography, "Alvarez" )

By using the number of frames to measure the time elapsed between the two shots, one finds it to be 1.8 seconds. The rifle used by the assassin, whether Oswald's ramshackle 'Mannlicher-Carcano' device (or the Mauser he was later said to have used) , require, for mechanical reasons and with no time to aim , a minimum of 2.3 seconds for firing. Groden's re-construction entails from 6 to 10 bullets.

  1. Shot #1: Missed. Frame 161 on the Zapruder film.

  2. Shot #2: A small throat wound, from the front.This was excised by a 'false tracheotomy' .Frame 188.

  3. Shot #3: This hit Connally in the back, went through the chest cracked a rib and exited through the right nipple.

  4. Shot #4 : From behind. Hit Kennedy low in the back. This is the Warren Commission's, "Magic Bullet".

  5. Shot #5: The head shot. This came from the front, probably from the Badge Man behind the stone culvert on the grassy knoll. (See Gary Mack's presentation)
    ( The evidence of tampering on the Zapruder film shows that before it was presented to the Warren commission, some of the frames around the head shot were reversed to give the impression of a forward motion of the body.)

  6. Shot #6. From the Book Depository. This shattered Conolly's right wrist and entered his thigh. When John Conolly died, medical investigators tried to get permission from the family to autopsy the wrist, to examine the fragments of metal still lodged within it. Their efforts were stonewalled.

In addition there were from 2 to 4 more shots. One of these bounced off a manhole cover and struck a bystander, James Tague. Taken all in all, it was a classic military -style triangulated ambush. Groden's book correlates all the evidence: The films of Abraham Zapruder, Charles Bronson and Orville Nix, the photographs of Mary Ann Moorman and those of media photographers , the acoustic evidence on the Dictabelts( See Gary Mack ) . The correlations are coherent and convincing.

Saturday Evening Session, Langdell Hall
7:00 - 8:30 Gary Mack : "Acoustics and Badge Man "

Gary Mack:
(1) The Dictabelt Tapes:

The idea of checking the tapes of the dictaphones of the police in the motorcade was his. it came out of conversations about ways of finding independent evidence for a conspiracy in the assassination. His first analysis of the tapes was made in August of 1977. It was incorrectly done and its findings were of no value. The project was then taken up a a Jim Barger, an expert in the field of acoustic evidence at the engineering think tank of Bolt, Beranek and Newman in Cambridge, Ma. It was because of his efforts that the government agreed to underwrite the firing of test shots in Dealey Plaza to match the echoes with the evidence. The work of Barger, Mark Weiss and Ernie Ashkenazi uncovered acoustic evidence for 4 shots, 3 of them from the windows of the Texas Book Depository, 1 from the grassy knoll, ( the hill to the right of the motorcade in Dealey Plaza where there is a wooded area where persons might be concealed. It is here that advocates of a conspiracy in the JFK assassination place one or more gunmen.)

During the House Select Commitee's hearings in 1979, Barger's group reported that there was a 95% or better chance that at least one of the bullet came from the grassy knoll. In fact the analysis done to show this is better than that made on the other bullet sounds, which have not all been proven to have come from the Texas Book Depository. Mack suspects that the tape which was handed over to Barger by the Dallas police are copies and not originals, and that some of the data has been erased from them.

(2) The Bronson Film:

In addition to the famous Zapruder film, another home movie including footage of the assassination was made by someone named Charles Bronson ( no connection to the actor). A series of odd coincidences led to the discovery , in 1978 , that the film contained images of the 6th Floor of the Texas Book Depository just before the shooting. Because of an ambulance which appears in this picture, its time can be fixed precisely as 12:24. Oswald was known to be sitting in the lunchroom of the Depository at 12:25.

The amount of footage in which the 6th floor windows appear amounts to 392 frames. It was completely enhanced by the producers of the program Frontline, which did a 3 hour feature on the JFK assassination on Tuesday, November 23rd.

There is evidence of something moving about the 6th floor in this film, but it cannot be conclusively stated that the forms are those of people. It was claimed at the conference however, that when the Bronson film was shown at the House Select Committee hearings, that all but one of the 70 lawyers present stated that they now believed that a conspiracy had been involved in the assassination.

(3) The Badge Man photograph:

On the day of the assassination, the FBI and the Secret Service went around collecting every film and photograph they could find. Many people anxious to assisst the police voluntarily turned in their rolls of film. Mary Ann Moorman, a friend of one of the policemen guarding the motorcade, happened to be capturing a Polaroid snapshot of him at the moment of the headshot. This rough-grained and blurry positive image, ( the Polaroids do not produce negatives), was taken by the FBI , then returned to her because they found nothing of interest on it.

Through a series of improbable encounters and coincidences, it came into the hands of Gary Mack and his group , including the team at Bolt, Beranek and Newman. They noticed something interesting in the upper right hand corner of the picture. By the skillful application of blow-up and photo enhancement techniques, they uncovered the vague outlines of what appear to be three persons. One of them appears to be wearing the uniform of a Dallas policement and firing a gun, with a wisp of smoke coming out in front of his face.

To go beyond this, much more sophisticated equipment and funding were needed. Most of the news media refused to touch it. However the National Enquirrer learned about it and begged Mack's group for permission to let them write up a sensationalist article about their research, including the enhancements of the "Badge Man" Polaroid at the point where they had carried them . They refused to comply at first; however when the Enquirrer offered to pay all the expenses of image processing by specialists in the technology , they agreed to go along.

Through BB&N, the Enquirrer was put in touch with the director of the Image Processing Department at M.I.T., Dr. Jay Lim. Lim agreed to look at the photograph and get back to them. At the end of the day, Lim called back to announce that he had was very excited by what evidence he had already uncovered. He intended to work through the night and get back to them again the next morning.

Mack's team and the National Enquirrer waited all through the next day and heard nothing from him. On the day after that they received a call from an administrator at M.I.T., who would not identify himself, stating that M.I.T. would not assist them in any way with this project. The photograph was later returned. Lim refused to return any phone calls, and that was the end of it.

Despite this, further work has been done on this photograph: the most recent enchanced version appears on page 204 of Groden's "Killing of a President." It no longer looks like a Rohrschach blot for paranoid conspiracy buffs ; it is convincing, chilling evidence of a gunman, caught in the act of firing .

November 14, Sunday

Considerations of space obliged me to conclude this report with a description of the third panel on Sunday afternoon and none of the others.

3:00-4:00PM Sunday,Nov. 14th:
Context of the Crime: JFK & Vietnam:
John Newman, Peter Dale Scott, Peter Jourdain, Daniel Ellsberg

We were grateful to have Daniel Ellsberg, who had not been listed on the program. The focus of this panel was on an area where many people have recently shown a great deal of interest: the decisions made by John F. Kennedy in his final year that reflect his attitudes and intentions with respect to commiting American combat troops to a landwar in Vietnam. Even Noam Chomsky has come out with a book about this subject: Return to Camelot ,Southend Press ( This book was reviewed in Ferment. See The Cambridge Crank Tournament

John Newman: John FitzGerald Kennedy's intentions behind his decision to phase out the presence of the American military in VietNam have now become better known through the recent release of thousands of official documents from the early 60's. As everyone knows, Kennedy was neither a radical nor even a liberal in his views about the "Communist menace". He was in fact a right-wing hawk.

Despite this it was a basic tenet of his administration that American ground troops would never be committed to VietNam. LBJ's decision to do so in the contrived Tonkin Bay resolution would reverse a policy of 6 years standing.

John Newman categorically rejected the "escalation" model which has been accepted by most of the American public since the early 60's. He called it "just nonsense". There was in fact no steady escalation from Kennedy to Johnson. Instead the record shows that the decision to not deploy American armed forces was a "line of demarcation" ( Newman called it the "Rubicon") that Kennedy would not cross, but that Johnson sought to reverse from his first day in office as President.

On May 10th, 1961, the Army Chiefs of Staff went on the record, calling for an immediate commitment of American ground troops in VietNam.

On November 2, 1961, General Maxwell Taylor shocked JFK by advising him to send 6,000 American ground troops to VietNam at once. The National Security Council met on November 4th. At that meeting JFK was strongly urged to commit troups by U Alexis Johnson; Robert McNamara; McGeorge Bundy; Walter Rostow; Robert Johnson; and Komer.

Dean Rusk was undecided. John Kenneth Galbraith ( who'd just returned from a fact-finding mission in VietNam), and Chester Bowles were against it.

A second NSC meeting took place on November 15th. Virtually everyone present, including Rusk, McNamara and General Lemnitzer, pushed hard for direct intervention.

But on November 22, exactly two years before being assassinated, JFK issued the National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM)#111 . This states that the United States had no commitment to save VietNam from communism, and that it would not therefore send in ground troops. Few of his advisers had expected Kennedy to be so tough. It had been assumed that his youth and lack of experience in politics at the executive level and the Pentagon would render him compliant.

In May of 1962 , Army Intelligence reported to Kennedy that the National Liberation Front (NLF or Viet Cong) was small, fractious and with no base of support among the population of South VietNam. They painted a picture for his benefit of many military defeats of the NLF by the South Vietnamese army (ARVN) , which was then under the tutelage of 16,000 American advisors. It argued that the deployment of a small number of American batallions could completely eliminate the communist threat.

As recently available documents showed, these were deliberate lies designed to get JFK to make a small initial investment of American combat troops , that could later be arbitrarily enlarged once it became clear that we were losing. Although Army Intelligence (DIA) knew that there were over 40,000 Viet Cong soldiers in the field, they told JFK that there were at most 16,000. By not reporting everything it knew about Viet Cong operations prior to April 26th, 1962, it was made to appear that the NLF was being defeated.

In actual fact the NLF was chalking up one major victory after another, and were about to launch the most sucessful military action against the Diem government since 1955, the year that the US became involved in that country.

By early 1963, JFK was able to put together a reasonably accurate picture of the true situation. According to Newman, and contrary to Chomsky's thesis in Return to Camelot , Kennedy was not optomistic about our chances of winning a war in VietNam.

By mid 1963 Kennedy had begun to talk about a "phased withdrawal" from VietNam, including even the advisory force. On October 2, 1963 he issued NSAM#263, calling for the withdrawal of 1,000 advisors by the end of the year. On November 21,1963, the day before his death, he drafted NSAM#273 authorizing covert operations and economic and military assistance to the South Vietnamese government, with no commitment of ground troops. It was this memorandum which was rewritten by LBJ soon after taking office, so as to allow for that possibility.

Daniel Ellsberg: As an inside participant until the late 60's, Ellsberg knew and had frequent dealings with all the persons being discussed by this panel. It was his view that Robert McNamara actually sided with Kennedy in believing that it was foolish to get further involved in VietNam, that in fact McNamara would even have accepted the NLF flag flying over Saigon rather than commit ground troops.

Ellsberg claimed that this secret was the real reason why the world has been waiting so long for the publication of McNamara's memoirs. McNamara's cooperation with Johnson in the escalation of the war went against his own judgment and convictions.

The relevance of Ellsberg's comments to this conference had to do with the possibility that Kennedy's opposition to escalating the war in VietNam may have been a contributing factor in his assassination. As stated by Ellsberg, the principal disagreement of Kennedy and Johnson on this issue was:

In September of 1961, Daniel Ellsberg was himself in VietNam. He learned that, universally, American military personnel there believed it was time for them to pack up and go home.

Several years later, in 1967, Ellsberg happened to be in Robert Kennedy's office. When Ellsberg broached the subject of the 1962 debates over VietNam, RFK stated that he knew for a fact that his brother would never have committed ground troops there. Apparently RFK banged his fist on his desk and shouted : "Because he knew we would lose! My brother had been in the Senate from 1952; he saw what had happened to the French in 1954! The United States couldn't afford to be maneuvered into a situation in which the communists might beat them! Sending white faces into those rice paddies would only stir up nationalist feelings against us."

As his final comment to us Daniel Ellsberg, who had joined the Pentagon around the time of the Tonkin Bay Resolution, stated that Robert McNamara had told McNaughton, (who had told him), that there had been an understanding between him and JFk that we would be out of VietNam by 1965.

Summary of Sunday Afternoon's Discussion :

JFK's refusal to escalate the war in VietNam was only one of the possible reasons why the intelligence community may have wanted to eliminate him. The Bay of Pigs fiasco had been seen as a way of twisting his arm to commit the army to a fighting war in Southeast Asia against the communists.

JFK's decision to close down the CIA bases from which exile groups were harassing Cuba, as part of the compromise in the Cuban missile crisis, aroused further hatred. To many right-wing extremists, cutting any sort of deal with Nikita Khrushchev amounted to treason.

Finally the Mafia were more than eager to settle accounts with a President who wasn't doing enough in their eyes to recover their Caribbean empire for them, and whose brother, as Attorney General, was putting so many of them behind bars.

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