Did Lee Harvey Oswald make every appearance at the Communist aligned Cuban and Soviet Embassy in Mexico City? This long debated question has both inspired new evidentiary findings and generated untenable speculations. However, the speculation appears on both sides of this debate. Some have overlooked all the evidence and others have created unlikely constructs to explain the events. Considering some of the arguments in comparison to the primary evidence may narrow the field.
Critical Argument 1:
"A Conspiracy too big? Intellectual dishonesty in the JFK assassination", Mexico City and the Oswald Impostor by Fred Litwin. "When the CIA erroneously released photos taken at the Soviet embassy in Mexico City that was obviously not Oswald, it was seized upon as evidence of an Oswald impostor. Yet, now there is direct evidence from three Soviet embassy employees (including the infamous Kostikov) that Oswald was indeed at the embassy. Peter Dale Scott, one of the more respected critics, spent time with Nechiporenko (one of the employees) and came away impressed with his story. Paul Hoch feels that "the impostor hypothesis gets more attention than other aspects of the Mexico puzzle for non-evidentiary reasons -- that is, as historical baggage which we picked up when we had much less information." As time passed, it became very unlikely that this man was an Oswald impostor -- for one thing, he was photographed again when Oswald was supposed to be in the U.S. -- and he does not fit the description given by Sylvia Duran, now the leading impostor witness. In other words, if we first came to the Mexican evidence now, we might not find an impostor such an appealing explanation of the confusion."i (Fred Litwin)
Fred Litwin's first statement is correct, the photo release was a Central Intelligence Agency error, the photograph is not Lee Harvey Oswald, and many did seize upon it as singular proof of a conspiracy.ii Yet this photographic claim is not conclusive, for the picture to be relevant clear instances of primary evidence must support or dispel it. Litwin does not consider all the evidence in doing so and he states a few Soviet witnesses to support that Oswald was present in Mexico City. Is he relying upon Central Intelligence Agency photographic evidence or the tape recordings of the Oswald phone calls when he cites Oswald did visit the Soviet and Cuban Embassy compounds? No.
After the Central Intelligence Agency rechecked their files, the repeated photographs of a person supposedly identifying himself as "Oswald" were not Lee Harvey Oswald and the Agency had no photographs of Lee Harvey Oswald.iii iv "Complete Recheck Photos all visitors to Cuban EMB August thru first half NOV against good press photos shows no evidence Oswald visit. Similar blank against all SOVEMB photos from 1 Sept. Note only visit we know he made was Cuban Embassy 28 Sept, Saturday on which Emb closed and we have not had coverage..." So no photographs existed beyond those of others possibly claiming to be Oswald and the taped calls from Oswald were allegedly erased. They only now exist as classified transcripts complied before outside officials had verified the tapes. Despite these facts, the Agency goes on to claim that erased phone calls and hidden transcripts prove Oswald's appearances and the official story assumes these claims are facts.v
The Agency also did not report the information in a timely manner and CIA officers gave conflicting and misleading statements regarding this period. They often made mistakes and offered explanations that later investigations disproved, a further problem is the House Select Committee found that "testimony from knowledgeable people that it would have been unlikely the photo surveillance would have missed someone (Lee Harvey Oswald) it had at least five chances of recording, and reports that such a photo did, in fact exist..."vi vii However, the photograph offered was not Lee Harvey Oswald.
Litwin then references Paul Hoch who "feels" the Impostor hypothesis is based on reasons that do not relate to evidence and he states that it is not due to evidence but historical baggage. Mr. Hoch's speculations are unsupported by anything more than instinct and feelings and they do not support the claim made by Litwin with primary evidence. Litwin then goes on to list the conflicting details within some witness testimony and the recorded Agency documents. I would agree many repeated discrepancies exist yet if sufficient evidence supports a contending theory it should be considered. I would not state Lee Harvey Oswald was never in Mexico City, yet little available primary evidence supports it.viii Other examples of primary evidence and official findings support unknown men possibly attempted to assume Oswald's identity. Some have made claims of Oswald twins, doppelgangers, and even more unlikely scenarios but not every idea associated with a possible Mexico City impostor is unfeasible and most of the evidence must be considered.
The Senate Church Committee states “There is no indication that any of the FBI agents assigned to the Oswald case were ever warned that an impostor might attempt to assume Oswald’s identity.” Commenting on the Central Intelligence Agency, the Committee said, “…the CIA inquiry was deficient on the specific question of the significance of Oswald’s contacts”. “This evidence indicates that the investigation of the assassination was deficient, and that the facts which might have substantially affected the course of the investigation were not provided to the Warren Commission" and these included Mafia and Intelligence community plots.ix Whether the Imposter hypothesis is "appealing" or not, we should follow the evidence and it will determine the feasibility of any claim. To dismiss primary evidence without overwhelming proof to contend the hypothesis is not inquiry but a commitment to deny evidence that contends your ideas. We need unbiased inquiry to resolve this matter and separate facts from opinions.
Advocate Argument 1:
"JFK researcher John Armstrong has shown the Warren Commission combined the biographies of two different people to arrive at the classic legend of Lee Harvey Oswald. A Russian speaking youth, possibly of Hungarian parents, was brought to the U.S. following World War II and given the name HARVEY Oswald. HARVEY was of small stature, quiet, slightly malnourished, and lived with a short, heavy-set Marguerite Oswald impostor who never smiled. New Orleans born LEE Oswald was tall, husky, and athletic. As a youth LEE lived with half-brother John Pic, brother Robert Oswald, and his tall, nice-looking mother, Marguerite Claverie Oswald. A program created by US intelligence merged the identities of Russian-speaking HARVEY and American-born LEE Oswald. The result, ten years later, was that young Russian-speaking HARVEY had an American background and birth certificate. HARVEY was an ideal candidate to “defect” to the Soviet Union and work as an undercover agent who secretly understood Russian. HARVEY “defected” and two years later returned to America with a Russian wife and child. A year later this former “defector” was handing out literature in support of Castro and Cuba. Unknown to HARVEY, he had become the ideal candidate to frame for the assassination of President Kennedy. And also unknown to HARVEY were the activities of LEE Oswald in the summer and fall of 1963, when LEE was impersonating HARVEY and helping to set up HARVEY as the accused assassin of President Kennedy." (John Armstrong - Harvey and Lee Homepage)
Armstrong has implied, not shown, that two men were using the same identity and he claims "A Russian speaking youth, possibly of Hungarian parents, was brought to the U.S. following World War II and given the name HARVEY Oswald. HARVEY was of small stature, quiet, slightly malnourished, and lived with a short, heavy-set Marguerite Oswald impostor who never smiled." The first portion is purely speculation, Armstrong suggests a Russian speaking youth "possibly of Hungarian parents was brought to the U.S. and given the name Harvey Oswald." Yet this claim is insufficient without primary evidence of these actions in detail or the actual people involved. Much of Armstrong's accurate primary evidence is lost to the overriding unverified contention of two actual men named Oswald. Armstrong's idea requires further two unproven long-term impostors (Harvey and Marguerite) necessary to secure the hypothesis. I have no doubt Intelligence programs still use impostors and decoy agents but there is no substantial amount of primary evidence supporting two different doppelganger Oswalds with two different mothers. This improbable elaborate plan allegedly spans over a decade and evidence to prove this extraordinary claim is not sufficiently offered.x
Armstrong's main contention remains merely supported by speculation and leaps of faith, he attempt justification by using examples of Central Intelligence Agency operations that relocated Soviet exiles. He then offers covert operations included anti-Communist refugees and this as well is possible butArmstrong then states some were taught English, and then he diverges from the seemingly factual into speculation. "A young boy, later given the name 'HARVEY Oswald' may have been among these Eastern European refugees and, along with his caretaker (a woman who was given the name "Marguerite Oswald"), may have been subjects of a CIA related file." May have and possibly do not substantiate this idea, they attempt to explain a huge portion of time with speculation. Much is also made of photographic claims despite no independent testing by an independent review panel using modern technology.
Armstrong states that a Lee Oswald was living in one city and a Harvey Oswald was living in another and this merely demonstrates two men with the same last name are concurrently living in different cities. A brief search of current phone records state over twenty instances of L. Oswald in various locations worldwide and reveals four men named Harvey Oswald in the United States.xi Yet these facts are not conclusive proof but they offer that multiple people have and will share the same last name or even the same name. Both instances could occur without nefarious context.
Armstrong's unfeasible plot includes a complicit Marguerite Oswald and her doppelganger being in contact and it requires too many components and opportunities for discovery. Armstrong then refers to an adjournment called by Allen Dulles during the testimony of Robert Oswald to the Warren Commission; Armstrong cites the adjournment as proof that Dulles "had intimate detailed knowledge of Harvey and Lee's backgrounds." I agree that Allen Dulles had possible connections to the suppression of evidence based on official investigations but no single adjournment is a sign of his knowledge, nor complicity in the Harvey and Lee hypothesis.xii
Armstrong's contention relies on much later supporting recollections and photographic claims but portions of the official record are contradictory and likely faced alteration in some instances. Yet the seizure and alteration of Oswald's school records, does not support these extraordinary claims, altered records do not prove two nearly identical men, lived two different intersecting lives. It proves that records were allegedly changed; the purpose of such changes is the question that remains.
The hypothesis states just before the assassination of President Kennedy, Harvey was on the Sixth floor of the Schoolbook Depository and simultaneously Lee was four floors down in the lunchroom. This in my view is nearly impossible, with over seventy people in the Depository; no one observed Oswald and doppelganger near each other? Armstrong then asserts the combined actions of both support additionally unproven claims made by Roger Craig while the true Oswald allegedly supports the official version of the lunchroom encounter. It further concludes while Harvey was in jail, a witness views Lee driving in Fort Worth.
These ideas are based on rampant speculation, The Bureau, Agency, and some other official groups did commit grievous errors, intentionally suppressed evidence, and wantonly deceived investigators. Yet these actions do not prove Armstrong's main contention of two men living the same life and we should not attribute nefarious action to what in most instances were incompetence and inaction. Armstrong further asserts the Warren Commission combined two different biographies to attribute guilt to a single man.
In January 1960, five months after Harvey Oswald “defected” to the Soviet Union, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote a memo stating that someone was using Lee Harvey Oswald's birth certificate... On March 31, 1961, a memo was sent from the passport office to John White, an official at the consular section of the State Department, reiterating the concern about two Oswalds originally expressed by Hoover nine months earlier. In the fall of 1961, while Harvey Oswald was still in Russia, Police Officer Charles Noto arrested LEE Oswald and Celso Hernandez on Breakwater Road on the Lakefront in New Orleans. In April, 1962, while Harvey Oswald was still in Russia, LEE Oswald visited the Texas Employment Commission in Ft. Worth and filled out form E-40a, Aptitude Profile Test (APT) B-1002 and the Occupational Aptitude Pattern test [WC XIX, p 491] (John Armstrong -Harvey and Lee Homepage)
Despite Armstrong's Harvey and Lee hypothesis, many of these things do not support his later speculation. The Hoover document only proved suspicion of a possible impostor; it does not prove the complex Lee and Harvey contention. Oswald is abroad while another person named Lee Oswald is recorded in the United States. This is also not conclusive proof of Armstrong's contentions, if someone named Lee Oswald was arrested or taking a test, it only supports a possible impostor or a man with the same name. It does not verify a more vastly complex hypothesis.
"There is no doubt that Hoover knew about a LEE Harvey Oswald in the United States while Lee HARVEY Oswald was in the Soviet Union. Hoover's knowledge of two Oswalds became clear the day after the assassination of President Kennedy. Hoover sent agents to Stripling Junior High in Ft. Worth to confiscate HARVEY Oswald's school records. FBI agents were sent to the Pfisterer Dental Laboratory, Gerard Tujague Company, J.R. Michaels, and Dolly Shoe in New Orleans to confiscate all of HARVEY Oswald's employment records. These documents, and others like them, comprised much of the evidence that two young men shared the identity of Lee Harvey Oswald. Most of these documents were never given to the WC and disappeared. And documents that were given to the WC by the FBI were photographs (not originals) and many had been altered or fabricated. In May 1999, Mr. Armstrong found a document at the National Archives indicating the FBI had a procedure in place which routinely allowed the alteration of testimony of its own agents before the Warren Commission, sometimes over the objections of staff attorneys. The document indicated that a procedure was set up to handle these objections and to persuade the staff to go along with the alterations." (John Armstrong - Harvey and Lee Homepage)
Unless primary official evidence offers supported specific details of the Harvey and Lee hypothesis, there is every doubt that Hoover knew of such a plan. Hoover repeatedly ignored the law when he wished, that is true. Subsequent official investigations determined the Bureau conducted a flawed, adversarial, and incompetent investigation. However, these claims do not prove the primary contention of two men sharing the same identity in a long-term intelligence program.
I support a feasible conspiracy possibly occurred, yet it was not a vast conspiracy that relied on too many connected personalities of no importance. A successful conspiracy would converge on the target and then vanish with as little attention and direct evidentiary traces as possible. Hundreds of pieces of primary evidence support a feasible conspiracy but the vast majority does not prove a large network utilized the elaborate plot Armstrong contends. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
C. A. A. Savastano
i. Fred Litwin, "A Conspiracy Too Big? Intellectual Dishonesty in the JFK Assassination" , 1994-1995, mcadams.posc.mu.edu
ii. Hearings of the President's Commission Vol. XVI, Ex. 237, Photograph of unidentified man, p. 638
iv. Central Intelligence Agency File, Memorandum: Complete recheck photos all visitors to Cuban EMB Aug thru first half Nov against good press photos shows no evidence Oswald visit, November 23, NARA ID: 104-10015-10336
v. CIA File, Memorandum: Contact of Lee Oswald with a member of Soviet KGB Assassination Department, November 23, 1963, National Archives and Records Administration Identification Number: 104-10436-10025
vi. House Select Committee Staff Report, Report on Lee Harvey Oswald's Trip to Mexico City, pp. 160-170, NARA ID: 108-101110-10484. (aka the Lopez Report)
vii. Ibid, p. 91
viii. Hearings of the President's Commission, Volume XXV, Commission Exhibit 2564- State Department letter to the Commission forwarding letter from Cuban Embassy..." pp. 812-814.
ix. Senate Select Comm. on Intelligence Activities Report, Bk.5, Part I, Performance of the Intelligence Agencies, Summary and Findings, p. 6
x. John Armstrong, "Harvey and Lee: John Armstrong's Documented History of the CIA's "Oswald Project", December 12, 2013, harveyandlee.net
xi. White Pages phone number search for L. Oswald and Harvey Oswald, whitepages.com
xii. John Armstrong, "The Early Lives of Harvey and Lee", n.d., harveyandlee.net