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Photo Surveillance and the Mystery Man

Mystery Man photo
Photograph of an unidentified individual captured on photosurveillance cameras outside the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City in the fall of 1963.

When Lee Oswald's mother complained to the Warren Commission that she had been shown a picture of Jack Ruby prior to her son's murder, she set off a chain of events which brought out one of the many mysteries surrounding the Mexico City visit.

Marguerite had in fact been shown a photo, taken outside the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City, of an as-yet unidentified man. This photo and apparently others of the same individual had been rushed to Dallas from Mexico City on a special plane late in the evening of November 22. The story told since is that this man was mistakenly identified as Oswald in a search of surveillance photos for a North American. Indeed, a CIA Mexico City station cable on October 8 had supplied a description of this man along with information about a phone call from a man named Oswald.

But from there the story only gets murkier. The Headquarters reply cable contained false information regarding CIA's knowledge of Oswald, along with a corrected description of him, an indication that some game was being played within CIA regarding knowledge of Oswald's trip. And since Mexico City had received a true description, why then were photos of this obviously "wrong" person still rushed to Dallas on the night after the assassination? Were investigators at that point actually looking for an imposter or a possible accomplice? And why did Chief of Station Win Scott send a separate message to CIA officer J.C. King, saying he had forwarded photos of "a certain person who is known to you?"

Given the evidence that Oswald was impersonated on tapped telephone lines, the question arises whether the man captured in these photos was that impersonator. Also of relevance is why the CIA worked so hard behind the scenes to try to keep the Warren Commission from publishing a photo of this supposedly unidentified person, even after receiving assurances that the background would be cropped out (the suggestion was even made that perhaps the face could be altered).

The entire episode, unresolved as it is, raises one clear caution about the completeness of our information. If Mrs. Oswald had not raised a fuss in the first place, the entire matter might have stayed buried.



More Mexico Mysteries, by Rex Bradford.

Mexico City: A New Analysis, by John Newman.


MEXI 6453. This CIA cable of October 8 reported a man whose description fits the "mystery man" photos.

Letter from Win Scott to J.C. King of 22 Nov 1963. This letter notes an earlier conversation and King's permission for Scott to send photos of "a certain person who is known to you."

DIR 84888. This CIA cable of Nov 23 notes that the photos "were not of Lee Oswald."

Info Developed by CIA on the Activity of Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City 28 Sept - 3 Oct 1963. This 14-page report on the Mexico City trip, prepared by the CIA for the Warren Commission and delivered on 31 Jan 1964, is significant in that it omits all reference to any photographs as well as telephone taps. See DIR 90466 of 21 Dec 1963, where Headquarters had earlier notified the Mexico City station of its plan regarding the Warren Commission to "eliminate all mention of telephone taps, in order to protect your continuing ops."

Warren Commission Testimony of Marguerite Oswald. At 1WH152 Mrs. Oswald described her being shown the photo of a man she later thought to be Ruby.


Documents (continued)

Memos and Letters during the Warren Commission era:

Commission Exhibit 237 is the photo shown to Marguerite Oswald.

Section III.A.6 of the HSCA report "Oswald, the CIA, and Mexico City. This section is entitled "Possibility that the CIA Photosurveillance Obtained a Photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald." Several other sections of the "Lopez Report" are relevant.

The CIA and the Man Who Was Not Oswald. This article, copies of which were stored in CIA files, was written by George O'Toole and Bernard Fensterwald.

It Came to Little. Mexico City CIA Station Chief left a manuscript entitled "It Came to Little," one chapter of which focuses on the Oswald trip. Scott's account is at great variance with the official record. On one page he recorded: "persons watching these embassies photographed Oswald as he entered and left each one; and clocked the time he spent on each visit."

Theory Re Moskalev, Yuriy Ivanovich and Unidentified Man. This April 1977 CIA document examines an internal CIA theory that the unidentified man might be Soviet scientist Yuriy Moskalev. See also a 1970 report on Moskalev, a biography, and an elaborate comparison between Moskalev and the character "Saul" in Hugh McDonald's book Appointment in Dallas (a picture of Moskalev appears on the last page of the document).

Related Starting Points

Books of Interest

    Appointment in Dallas: the Final Solution to the Assassination of JFK
Hugh C. McDonald
Zebra, 1992
    Oswald, the CIA, and Mexico City (aka "Lopez Report")
HSCA (Edwin Lopez and Dan Hardway)
Mary Ferrell Foundation Press, 10/7/96
    The Man Who Knew Too Much
Dick Russell
Carroll and Graf Publishers, 1992
    The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X
DiEugenio, James and Pease, Lisa, editors
Feral House, 2003
    Oswald and the CIA (1995 Edition)
John Newman
Carroll and Graf Publishers, Inc., 1995
    The Night Watch
David Atlee Phillips
Atheneum, 1977

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