Lee Harvey Oswald worked for the CIA (and FBI and Army and most likely Naval Intelligence) from the late fifties when the CIA recruited him from the Marine Corps until his murder on November 24, 1963 by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby. A clear appreciation of Lee Harvey Oswald’s role as an intelligence operative is key to understanding the JFK assassination conspiracy and cover-up. Although more than 20 years old, in my opinion Matthew Smith’s JFK: The Second Plot offers the most comprehensive account of Oswald’s CIA career.
JFK: The Second Plot
Matthew Smith (1992)
The first account of Lee Harvey Oswald’s CIA connections appeared in a 1968 book originally published by French intelligence entitled Farewell America. French president Charles DeGaulle had a keen interest in identifying the conspirators behind Kennedy’s assassination, as the same group had also made three assassination attempts against DeGaulle. Farewell America reveals how the CIA recruited Oswald when he was stationed at Atsugi Marine Air Base in Japan and sent him to the Soviet Union. These historical details were corroborated by testimony a former CIA officer provided the House Committee on Assassinations in 1978.
The Soviets, recognizing Oswald as a likely double agent, never fully trusted him, and in 1961 the CIA returned him to the US. According to government archives, his handlers went on to give him assignments intended to create a kooky leftist alter ego, which would later be used to frame him for Kennedy’s murder. Given that Oswald had foreknowledge of Kennedy’s assassination, the obvious question is why he allowed himself to be set up. The answer Smith offers seems totally plausible: Oswald believed the CIA was returning him to the Soviet Union (via Cuba) to become a double agent. His handlers, in turn, intended to use his flight to Cuba to blame the President’s assassination on Fidel Castro.
Oswald’s Visit to Red Bird Airport
Smith first got the idea for his book after obtaining FBI documents under the Freedom of Information Act revealing that Oswald, together with two other federal agents, paid a visit to the American Aviation Company (AAC) at Red Bird Airport trying to charter an aircraft for November 22, 1963. Smith subsequently interviewed Wayne January, the AAC employee they dealt with, and discovered the FBI had falsified the date. The FBI gives the date of their encounter as July, 1963, while it was actually November 20, only two days before the assassination.
Smith also answers puzzling questions about Officer J.D. Tippitt’s role in the assassination conspiracy. Smith believes that an ex-CIA friend named Roscoe White asked Tippitt to transport Oswald to the Red Bird Airport to catch a charter flight to Cuba. When they rendezvoused, Tippitt became suspicious after hearing Oswald’s description broadcast over the police radio. When he got out to question him, a man matching White’s description rushed out of the bushes and shot Tippitt. Following Tippitt’s murder, the plan to spirit Oswald off to Cuba had to be abandoned.
The Main-Tier Plot
Smith organizes his book into two halves. Book One is called “The Main-Tier Plot,” involving the assemblage of a group of snipers to ambush President Kennedy as his motorcade traveled through Dallas. Book Two is devoted to “The Second Plot,” a scheme to enable the true shooters and co-conspirators to escape prosecution by shifting the blame to a kooky leftist Castro-sympathizer.
Smith’s expose of the main-tier plot begins with official Warren Commission (WC) version of the assassination. He devotes an chapter to irregularities in gathering and recording WC testimony that would never be allowed in a court of law. Many of the witnesses reported seeing more than one gunmen and complained bitterly about their evidence being omitted or misreported. Smith is particularly critical of the WC for failing to investigate Officer Tippit’s background or obtain ballistic evidence linking Oswald’s handgun to his murder.
Smith also summarizes the detailed physical evidence pointing to the presence of three or four shooters in Dealey Plaza. He goes on to discuss the intelligence connections of a handful of suspects arrested in the Dal Tex building and elsewhere in Dealey Plaza. All were released after President Lyndon Johnson ordered the Dallas police to discontinue their investigation. Smith devotes an entire chapter to the photographic evidence, including the amateur film made by businessman Abraham Zapruder, which was altered to make the fatal shot appear to come came from the Book Depository behind the motorcade. Finally he discusses the acoustic recordings which led the House Assassinations Committee to make the determination that more than one shooter was involved in Kennedy’s murder.
The Second Plot
The second half of the book offers an in-depth portrait of Oswald’s early history and personality. It details his posting to the Atsugi Marine Air Base in Japan, where he held a “secret” level security clearance, and assisted in monitoring overflights of the Top Secret U2 Spy plane. Smith goes on to describe Oswald’s activities in the Soviet Union in exhaustive detail, as well as the assignments he was given on his return to the US. In one of his first jobs, he processed photos of a Soviet military facility, which again required a security clearance. Other assignments involved infiltrating leftist and pro-Castro groups as an informant. The fabrication of Oswald’s unstable loner persona was facilitated by an Oswald double, a second agent who created major public disturbances while posing as Oswald.
Smith believes that at the time of his arrest, Oswald had been given a new assignment – to attempt to return to the Soviet Union via Cuba. Strong evidence suggests there were plans to airlift him to Cuba the afternoon of November 22, 1963. The plans were suddenly disrupted when Officer J.D. Tippitt was shot and killed. Tippitt’s murder forced the plan to spirit Oswald away to Cuba to be abandoned. His subsequent arrest necessitated his murder by Jack Ruby, another minor co-conspirator. Allowing Oswald’s intelligence connections to come out at trial would have seriously endangered high level officials in the Kennedy administration who participated in the conspiracy.
The Conspirators Had Names
The book’s final chapter “The Conspirators Had Names” is disappointing because it offers no firm conclusions about the real culprits in the JFK assassination. Although Smith refers to New Orleans District Attorney’s Jim Garrison’s unsuccessful prosecution of one of the co-conspirators, he makes no mention whatsoever of the Swiss corporation Pemindex that financed the assassination. It was Clay Shaw’s membership in Permindex that formed the basis of Garrison’s case against him. Nor does it mention the shadowy Defense Industrial Security Command and the 50 or so intelligence and defense contractors with clearly established links to both the DISC and the assassination. The evidence linking Permindex and DISC to the JFK assassination is outlined most clearly in a 1970 book by William Torbitt called Nomenclature of an Assassination Cabal or Torbitt Document
Posted in honor of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F Kennedy.