Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Comrade Oswald: Agent or Defector?

There is no shortage of material on Lee Harvey Oswald's journey to the Soviet Union at the peak of the Cold War. As I wrote before, John Newman's Oswald and the CIA is on my to-do list, though I probably won't get to it anytime soon. Jim Marrs does discuss Oswald's trek into the heart of communism and the strange details about his entry, life, and return home.

For the years leading up to his defection, Oswald was a low-level Marine who, despite openly professing a support of the United States' greatest enemy, worked on a base in Japan where top secret U2 spy plane operations were underway. Oswald returned home in September of 1959, and by 1960 he was beginning his new life in Moscow. To this day, what Oswald was doing remains a mystery. Marrs points out that US intelligence, which by this point may have already recruited Oswald in some capacity, was running a "false defector" program. This program, as the name surely gives away, would plant US agents posing as communist sympathizers in an effort to gain valuable information on the inside. Was Oswald a part of this program? While we may never know for sure, let's examine the actions of the young defector.

Oswald was, by most accounts, a loner from a poor family. Surely he acquired no wealth during his brief stint in the Marines (he was making $85 a week and was fined a number of times for his altercations in Japan). For a man who seems to have nothing, he encounters little or no obstacles traveling across the globe and obtaining all the necessary documents with unprecedented ease. Remember - Oswald received his US passport less than a week after applying! Another example of Oswald's potential connection to the intelligence community took place when he went to the US embassy on a Saturday to officially defect. He was informed by senior consulate officials Richard Snyder and John McVickar that he would have to return on a weekday to make the defection official. Oswald left and never returned. While this may appear a simple mistake to some, others view it as a calculated move that would allow Oswald to retain his US citizenship and eventually return home.

During his time in Russia, Oswald does not live like the average Soviet. Nearly everything the does while abroad raises red flags. He managed to acquire a substantial monthly stipend from the Red Cross. He is introduced to and, a month later, marries a Russian woman. Then, apparently after finding out that communist life was not what he had expected, Oswald manages to get a loan from the State Department for this trip home. We must not forget that before leaving for Russia, Oswald did everything he could to convince those around him that his sympathy for the communist cause was legitimate. So when all is said and done, an open supporter of communism who defected received money from the US government for he and his Russian wife to return to the US, no questions asked (not by the CIA or FBI, as far as we know). This is even stranger when you consider that Oswald, if he truly was a defector, possessed classified information about the U2 spy planes and posed a security risk for the whole operation when he took up residence in Moscow. Why would the US government not be concerned with what this man had done while in the USSR?

Meanwhile, his new bride is able to easily and quickly obtain the proper documents to leave the country with a defector, despite, as Marrs points out, some problems with her background check (wrong birthplace listed, gave the name of her father though she claimed to have never know who he was). 

There are two major questions about Lee and Marina's return home. First, if they traveled back together, as all account claim they did, then one would expect that their passports have stamps from the same checkpoints. But of course, as is everything else about the JFK assassination, it is not the case. Marina's passport was stamped in Helmstedt, a checkpoint on the East German border. Oswald's passport has no such stamp. Was it during this time in the couple's travel that Lee was debriefed by the CIA? The second is the couple's baggage count. When the Oswald's landed in New York, they had seven suitcases. When they left NY, they had only five. When they arrived in Fort Worth, they had only two. I would be remiss if I did not consider that at times, luggage is lost during travel. But five of seven bags disappear at different points throughout the journey? And only while traveling within the US? I can only wonder what was in those bags...

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