Among the regular criticism offered by those who oppose a feasible conspiracy regarding the assassination of President Kennedy is the Central Intelligence Agency would not use Lee Harvey Oswald because of his alleged character and unstable lifestyle. Yet official documents prove that is not the case and when Oswald is compared to some cases of highly unstable operatives and unsavory former enemies the Agency used, Oswald comparatively is the most stable choice offered. Despite asserting instability would preclude official use by the CIA, the evidence reveals it certainly did not.
Unquenchable commitment to a goal is admirable when the cost of such exertions leads to beneficial results, but some goals are not too lofty but left to better circumstances and personnel to execute them. Some officials in the Central Intelligence Agency would not just bend the rules for moments of great consequence, but ignore them when they deemed a potential operative or source was too valuable to allow normal protocols. Public backlash and international blowback were not overwhelming considerations when compared to operational goals. Even madness and crimes against humanity would not dissuade the use of some monstrous individuals for Agency projects following World War II.
The Soviet Russia Division of the CIA employed forty five year old Latvian born Freds Ziedonids Launags as a contract agent from "1951 through 1959". He was a member of the Latvian underground targeting Soviet interests and operated seemingly under military cover according to public sources that attribute service to the US military during this period. Launags was recruited in Sweden and transported to Germany to participate "...in training of REDSOX agents dispatched in Latvia in 1952." REDSOX operations included illegal actions directed at Soviet targets that included but was not limited to intelligence gathering, recruitment of sources, and using agents for spot targets for sabotage. However, all other agents used in these operations were exposed and the Soviets "...either killed or captured" all of them. Launags was utilized two years for "...general support purposes" and in 1955 he indicated on an official medical history that he had been nervous since the end of WWII and "attempted suicide in 1951". After examination by official medical staff, he was "found to have had a brief psychotic episode in 1951 and always had a schizoid type of relationship with people with many obsessive-compulsive defenses." His coworkers referred to Launags as a "character" and he was assigned temporary duty in 1955.
CIA officials subsequently place him in Spain to perform propaganda broadcasts to Latvia via Radio Madrid. During his service in Madrid Launags "...had many paranoid projections and felt that he was under constant surveillance and that even his colleagues hated him." Despite Launags posing a feasible danger to CIA operations and himself the Agency continued to use him for years. In 1957, officials undertake another evaluation of Launags reaffirming prior findings of psychosis and further add depression to the list of problems. Despite these affirmations and the years of aggressive mental problems, the CIA again reassigns Launags to Germany where he performs operations in the Baltic launched by the CIA's Frankfurt Station.
One documents states, "The same pattern of paranoid projection, loss of contact with reality, and a constant delusional framework of reference occurred in his recent PCS to Germany." Launags was forced to return from his German assignment in 1959 "...when he showed evidence of mental instability."i Agency mental health experts diagnose him as "a paranoid schizophrenic" and place him in the hospital for a brief duration. A related document using Launags pseudonym Raymond S. Churgin states "The Subject apparently again experienced an acute paranoid schizophrenic reaction from which he recovered during the time that he was under examination by the Psychiatric Staff".ii
The Agency fired him once they had repeated confirmation of Launags psychological instability. A month following his dismissal Agency employees met with Launags to relieve him of a weapon he retained and to gather information about his current activities. Yet Agency employees use the false pretense of wanting to give Launags an assignment to meet with him and the CIA had multiple employees from the Medical Staff and Office of Security present for this gathering.iii These additional measures were due to Launags insanity and were largely four years too late.
After Launags arrives, repeated employment losses force him to consider repatriating back to Latvia but the Agency seeks to prevent this by persuading him to seek mental help domestically. This was likely due to the possible exposure of clandestine plots and the blowback suffered when they are revealed. During subsequent years, Launags might have received some of the medical treatment necessary because he is later referred to as a writer, poet, and member of the Latvian resistance in media publications. Yet it took the CIA over four years and three evaluations to relieve Launags of his official role. How many Agency operations might have been compromised because the person undertaking them them was deranged?
Yet while some truly disturbed individuals are used, many did not have a choice in battling internal demons because they were predisposed to psychosis. Others however were guilty of monstrous deeds that clearly revealed psychosis in their repeated actions serving the most hated dictator of the twentieth century. A particularly brutal and murderous person selected for use in the Agency's operations was Theodor Emil Saevecke. According to one Agency file, he was born in Hamburg within the nation of Germany and educated in multiple secondary schools. Subsequent to his graduation Saevecke joined the Germany Merchant Navy where he eventually became a junior officer. Following a dismissal for health reasons, Saevecke joined the Nazi group the Saalschlacht (SA) that supported Adolph Hitler's rise in 1929. He then was employed as a German law enforcement official and investigated arson, murder, and traffic cases until WWII began.iv
Saevecke then became an officer in the SA until the group is destroyed and supplanted by the Schutzstaffel better known as the Nazi SS paramilitary organization. He later aided the German war effort in Poland and Tunisia and rose to become a Captain in the SS and Commander of the regional Gestapo secret police. Nazi leaders assign Saevecke the Lombardy region of Italy and he took residence in the city of Milan. Decades later, he is charged for ordering over a dozen officially sanctioned murders, linked to the abuse of Jewish prisoners in Tunisia, and hounded by persistent accounts that he ordered several public deaths by hanging or firing squad within Poland during 1939.v Allied forces imprison Saevecke after the war but eventually they release him without charges from their custody.
By 1951, the CIA recruited Saevecke for use in an undertaking that sought to gather intelligence leads, sources, and spot potential Soviet defectors for recruitment. Officials dubbed the assignment Project CAUTERY and during this period the Agency confirms Saevecke would "literally stop at nothing to suppress the Communist movement, against which he has felt an elementary hatred since the 1920's"vi Saevecke is assigned the cryptonym CAUTERY-2 and serves as the right hand of Hanz Lobbes, another former Nazi officer in the same project.vii Officials briefly summarize the hideous crimes Saevecke had committed and state, "CAUTERY-2) poses somewhat of an operational and security problem inasmuch as, at least on paper, his Third Reich record is thoroughly bad. He was a ranking SD functionary and a Nazi with heart and soul...despite serious misgivings we decided to enlist his services after all..." The Agency confirms using Saevecke because "he was never indicted for War Crimes" and CIA officials believed "that the specific assignment to which CATUERY has devoted itself even an enlistment of the devil as sub-source should not necessarily be frowned upon."viii
In 1954 Saevecke was one of several former Nazi agents that later gained employment with the SD West German police organization established less than a decade prior. The Security Group of the West German Criminal Police Office in Bonn employed Saevecke and he was also simultaneously a liaison contact with an unnamed US government agent and sought help regarding his public denunciation by an Italian religious official and his supporters. Eventually he was suspended and investigated but the Agency was "unhappy" about the latest charges targeting Saevecke and "...would like to help should we be in a position to do so". Officials cite the charges potentially would damage not just Agency interests but the command structure and morale of the West German Police.ix Additionally, if Saevecke was found guilty he would likely also be prosecuted for wartime crimes by a German court as well. Should that have occurred it was further possible Saevecke would compromise all the CIA operations in which he was involved.
Saevecke's part in police searches targeting German press outlet Der Spiegel for treason and the resulting scandal brought renewed attention to him. As his past was again facing scrutiny in the press, he transferred from the SD to the BKA Weisbaden aka the German Federal Criminal Police Office in 1963. The Agency learns additional information on Saevecke's time in Tunisia would also likely face investigation, a month following his transfer the Die Welt newspaper carried a story revealing more about Saevecke's past military assignments.x The same document also reveals the Agency provided files to the German Ministry of the Interior in 1955 and"...were able to provide...a body of info which helped serve to exonerate him from the charges".xi Thus, the CIA continued to aid Saevecke despite the worst portions of his past that should have precluded him from service.
June 9, 1999, Theodor Saevecke was convicted in absentia of war crimes at the Turin War Tribunal presiding within Italy. The tribunal sentenced him to life imprisonment for ordering the murder of fifteen Italians held at San Vittore prison via troops under his command. Saevecke had ordered his men to publicly execute the prisoners and leave the bodies in the square for a day to send a message to local citizens. The legal panel found his crimes while in Milan deserved life imprisonment but the nation of Germany would not extradite him and he died years later without facing justice for his crimes.xii
Launags was a demented person the Agency found value in and was given responsibilities he never should have been. What other mistakes over the years occurred because his fragile mind could not handle the pressures upon it? Saevecke committed abhorrent misdeeds and deserved to face justice but the Agency disagreed while assisting his escape from legal prosecution. Lee Harvey Oswald seems like an even-tempered and reliable soul in comparison to some who verifiably served the Central Intelligence Agency. If official groups will offer deception and ignore the guidelines upon which they claim to operate with ease, it is not unreasonable to doubt their other pronouncements as well.
i. Central Intelligence Agency file, Launags, Freds Vol. 4, Fred Z. Launags Possible Repatriation to Latvia, January 29, 1965, CIA Library Reading Room, cia.gov
ii. CIA file, Launags Vol. 3, Churgin, Raymond S., October 9, 1959, CIA Library Reading Room, cia.gov
iii. CIA file, Launags, Freds Vol. 3, Meeting with Raymond S. Churgin (P), November 31, 1959, CIA Library Reading Room, cia.gov
iv. CIA file, Saevecke, Theo 004, First Detailed Interrogation Report on Five PW from Sipo UND SD Aussenkommando Milan, Source: Theo Saevecke, (n.d.)
v. CIA file, Saevecke, Theo 0065, LCIMPROVE, Theo Saevecke, January 14, 1964, p. 2, 3
vi. Ralf Beste, Georg Bonisch..., (March 6, 2012), The Role Ex Nazi's Played in Early West Germany, Der Spiegel, spiegel.com.de
vii. Research Aid: Cryptonyms and Terms in Declassified CIA Files Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act, National Archives and Records Administration, (n.d.), archives.gov
viii. CIA file, Lobbes, Hans Friedrich, Operational REDBIRD, Project CAUTERY - Progress Report, January 16, 1951, p. 4
ix. CIA file, Saevecke, Theo, 0038, Theodor Saevecke, CIA Library Reading Room, July 19, 1954
x. CIA file, Saevecke, Theo, 0059, Theo Saevecke Operational Cart, December 28, 1962
xi. CIA file, Saevecke, Theo, 0055, Cable from Frankfurt to the Director, February 28, 1963
xii. The Oxford Companion to International Criminal Justice, Saevecke, Oxford University Press, January 22, 2009, p. 902