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The Twelve Who Built the Oswald Legend

Preface: Oswald's Life May Be The Most Contested Story In American History

by Bill Simpich, May 12, 2020 - all chapters updated in 2020

The Twelve Who Built the Oswald Legend

"The life of the accused assassin is one of the most contested stories in US history." This comes from journalist Jeff Morley, who has studied Oswald as well as CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton (The Ghost) and Mexico City CIA station chief Win Scott (Our Man in Mexico). Jeff is on it. People fight like dogs and cats about it. Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?

I don't think the life of Oswald is as mysterious as many people make it out to be. He had some secrets, sure, but he was not a sphinx. He talked and talked to law enforcement for many hours during the last two days of his life. The problem is that he was killed before he could tell us everything he knew about 11/22 - and our opponents don't want an accurate biography of Oswald to be told, much less understood.

In this series of essays, I ask you to tell me if I have it pretty much right. This preface summarizes the essays while offering some new things I have learned about Oswald's legend makers in the last few years.

I believe that Oswald was a liberal Marine who saw himself as an American patriot. There was one critical difference between Oswald and his fellow soldiers. Oswald was more intelligent than your average Marine, with an IQ of 118. Did you ever hear of Robert Jordan, barred from joining the New London police department because he had an IQ of 125? It was upheld by the court of appeals - the police were constitutionally entitled to an officer who would follow orders and not get bored.

Oswald was different in another way - he wanted to be involved in espionage. As many have pointed out, he didn't have the credentials. But many people in the espionage business were glad to use him in one way or another. If nothing else, Oswald was a valuable witting or unwitting asset to US intelligence. All the more reason to endow him with a legend.

A big piece of the legend is that Oswald was a Communist. He simply wasn't, although he wrote a lot of letters pretending to be. Oswald mocked the Communist Party USA in his private writings. Oswald made it clear in a variety of settings that he had his own ideas about economics - he didn't like US-style capitalism or Soviet-style communism - which hardly makes him unique. Even the conservative Winston Churchill agreed that "(capitalist) democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those others that have been tried."

When LHO arrived at the American Embassy in Moscow in 1959, he told consul Richard Snyder: "I am a Marxist." Four years later, he told Captain Will Fritz that he was a "Marxist, but not a Communist". This line of thought goes back to his early teens, when he learned about the Rosenberg trial in NYC and - as Oswald put it to Michael Paine - "he had become a Marxist by reading books and never having met a Communist in this country." All this leads to a question that needs to be posed squarely. Was Oswald a radical or a liberal?

Oswald's big reveal was when he wrote in his diary that he favored a best-of-both-worlds "Athenian democracy", which placed him in the center of contemporary political philosophies.

Oswald was not big on communism - and he was no right-winger, either. His August 1963 speech to his cousin's seminary in Alabama not only makes that clear, but his preparatory notes describe himself as a liberal - and a lot more. I have added some italics and corrected LHO's grammar and misspellings. This man was a clear thinker and expressed himself just fine.

"A symbol of the American way, our liberal concession is the existence in our midst of a minority group whose influence and membership is very limited and whose dangerous tendencies are sufficiently controlled by special government agents. (Note: LHO is clearly referring to organizations such as the CIA and the FBI).

"The Communist Party U.S.A. bears little resemblance to their Russian counterparts, but by allowing them to operate and even supporting their right to speak, we maintain a tremendous sign of our strength and liberalism; harassment of their party newspaper, their leaders, and advocates is treachery to our basic principles of freedom of speech and press.

"Their views no matter how misguided, no matter how much the Russians take advantage of them, must be allowed to be aired. After all, Communist U.S.A. have existed for 40 years and they are still a pitiful group of radicals...

"...I would never become a pseudo-professional anti-communist such as Herbert Philbrick or McCarthy (Note: Herbert Philbrick, the CPUSA informant immortalized in the TV show I Lived Three Lives, and Joe McCarthy, the Red-hunting senator from Wisconsin).

"I would never jump on any of the many right wing bandwagons, because our countries have too much to offer each other to be tearing at each others' throats in an endless cold war. Both our countries have major shortcomings and advantages, but only in ours is the voice of dissent allowed opportunity of expression.

"In returning to the US, I hope I have awakened a few who were sleeping, and others who were indifferent. I have done a lot of criticizing of our system. I hope you will take it in the spirit it was given.

"In going to Russia, I followed the old principle: Thou shall seek the truth and the truth shall make you free. In returning to the US, I have done nothing more or less than select the lesser of two evils."

The essays in this series discuss how Oswald got close attention from the intelligence agencies when he defected to the Soviet Union and when he returned to the USA. Imagine what they were thinking in 1963, when Oswald sought permission from the Soviets to return to their country a second time?

We know that the last piece of Oswald's mail to the Soviet embassy in Washington DC throughout 1963 was intercepted, because Hoover admitted it - but the documentary record remains silent as to the reaction of intelligence as to the earlier correspondence. Oswald was truly a remarkable character. He had seen some of the world, and he liked it. He wanted to see some more.

These twelve essays offer a chronicle of how I learned about Oswald. I knew his basic story, but I wanted to go deep. The people around him were at least as intriguing as he was.

Clockwise from top-left: James Angleton, Ann Egerter, Cord Meyer, Richard Snyder
Clockwise from top-left: James Angleton,
Ann Egerter, Cord Meyer, Richard Snyder

One set of legend makers were the CIA officers. These people were CI chief James Angleton (#1), covert action chief Cord Meyer (#2), consul Richard Snyder (the ex-CIA officer at the American embassy in Moscow, who I always think of as "the Harvard spotter" of Priscilla Johnson - #4), analyst Ann Egerter at CI-SIG (#5), and Win Scott's trusted lieutenant Anne Goodpasture (#11). Goodpasture had many secrets to keep - as Mexico City deputy chief Stanley Watson told the HSCA, Win Scott was not above "phonying a photo when asked to produce one. I never believed Win Scott the first time he told me something."

John Newman has presented a great deal of evidence that Lee Oswald was a false defector when he entered the USSR in late 1959. My position is that it is possible that Oswald was unwitting that he was being used by the CIA, or at least how he was being used. But I do believe that the evidence shows that CIA counterintelligence and other intelligence agencies were using Oswald's presence in the Soviet Union to create a legend that would aid their molehunts and other work. Angleton would use Ann Egerter at CI-SIG to spearhead that effort.

Right alongside Angleton would have been his colleague and personal friend Cord Meyer. Meyer was the head of "International Organizations" - a fancy word for covert action. I think Oswald was used for at least three purposes. One purpose was to sow confusion in the Soviet ranks as part of "the hunt for Popov's mole", as described in Chapter 2. A related purpose was to fill his file with "marked cards" that could be used in a molehunt to try to figure out if the CIA's double agent Pyotr Popov had been betrayed within the CIA itself. The third purpose was to pose as someone who could give away important U-2 secrets. I doubt that Oswald knew anything of great importance, but he had the credentials to make the threat plausible.

Right alongside Angleton and Meyer was Richard Snyder, who conducted the world's strangest dialogue with Oswald at the American embassy in late October 1959 - it sounded like the entire discussion was meant for Soviet ears that had the embassy thoroughly tapped. Snyder also was the man who had "spotted" Priscilla Johnson as a possible journalistic asset at Harvard some time earlier - within days after the Snyder-Oswald meeting, Priscilla cornered LHO and got a scoop that was splashed in the media around the world.

The second set of legend makers were the FBI officers that worked closely with the CIA - Supervisor Marvin Gheesling of FBI counterintelligence (#6), FBI agent John Fain in Dallas (#7), and former FBI agent Guy Banister in New Orleans (#10).

Gheesling and Fain had much the same role as Egerter and Goodpasture - to gradually ease the tale of the Oswald legend into the documentary history on the FBI side of things. Banister, a retired FBI veteran who had joined the fight to "take back" Cuba, took on the role of providing Oswald with his phony pro-Cuban bona fides.

The third set of legend makers were the "security disapprovals" - men and women with an intriguing history of "security disapprovals" from within the world of intelligence. Priscilla Johnson McMillan, journalist and CIA source (#3), Aleksandr Ziger, Oswald's friend in the Soviet Union (#8), George de Mohrenschildt, oil consultant and CIA source (#9), and Michael Paine from the aerospace industry (#12). Michael's wife Ruth was a Russian-speaker and had a close relationship with Marina Oswald.

The most unique one was Aleksandr Ziger, who took Oswald under his wing in the Soviet Union. I believe Ziger was a "premature anti-Stalinist" - an emigre who had left Poland and moved to Argentina in 1938, only to move his entire family back to the Soviet Union right after Stalin died. I don't think Ziger was happy in the Soviet Union. I think he was inclined to do little favors for the USSR - for the USA - for anyone who could help his family escape the Soviet Union and return to Argentina, which they finally did after 11/22/63. After reviewing the card files that the CIA kept on Ziger, I don't think anyone trusted him, and he didn't trust anyone else. But Ziger kept a close eye on Oswald, staying in contact with him long after he left the Soviet Union. And Ziger had a unique identity.

1958 CIA dispatch referring to Fidel Castro as
1958 CIA dispatch referring to Fidel Castro as "Alex"

He was part Russian - part Latin American. The USSR and Cuba were the two great enemies of the USA during the Cold War. Ziger could present as Aleksandr - or as Don Alejandro. When Fidel Castro worked with the United States in the days before his successful revolution - it's not an accident that he used the code name "Alex". Alejandro was his middle name. Similarly, Oswald honored Ziger by taking on the nickname "Alik", which is easier for Russians to pronounce than the sibilant "Lee".

During mid-1963, a year after Oswald returned home, he associated a fictitious man named "Alek Hidell" with his equally fictitious New Orleans branch of the notorious left-wing Fair Play for Cuba Committee. A postal box application shows that A. J. Hidell was also permitted to pick up mail from Oswald's post office box in New Orleans.

But, curiously, all this happened after "A. Hidell" mail-ordered a 36 inch Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from Klein's Sporting Goods to be sent to Dallas during March 1963. A look at this application makes it clear that the Dallas postal box - unlike the New Orleans postal box - was set up to accept mail only for Oswald. Not Hidell.

Not a single piece of paper shows the rifle arriving in Dallas. That is probably because the package had Hidell's name on it. Not Oswald's.

No one should assume the rifle in the National Archives was ever in Oswald's hands.

First, a federal regulation directed postal workers to "return to sender" all items mis-addressed to a postal box. It is only fair to assume that this rule was followed.

Side-mounted sling of Mannlicher-Carcano in National Archives.
Side-mounted sling of Mannlicher-Carcano in
National Archives
Bottom-mounted sling swivels of Mannlicher-Carcano mail-ordered by A. Hidell. Photo credit: Brian Edwards.
Bottom-mounted sling swivels of Mannlicher-Carcano
mail-ordered by A. Hidell. Photo credit: Brian Edwards.

Secondly, if we bend over backwards and assume that the rule was broken, it is still fair to assume that the rifle was not received by Oswald, because the shipment was simply not in his name. Why would a postal worker allow Oswald to pick up a rifle being sent to A. Hidell?

A third problem: There's no proof that the rifle was ever picked up by anyone. No one has ever seen the receipt that the Post Office was obligated to retain for four years in exchange for any pick-up of firearms, nor a second form that had to be retained for two years in exchange for receipt of any mailed item. If you bend over backwards yet again and assume that someone picked up the rifle, it's also fair to assume that both of these receipts were improperly destroyed.

Finally, the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the Sixth Floor is a 40 inch rifle, seen with a side mounted sling (see photo, left, at top). However, the rifle ordered by A. Hidell was a 36 inch rifle, and the mail-order ad depicts a rifle equipped with swivels for a bottom mounted sling.

It's fair to assume that the rifle ordered by A. Hidell is not the rifle found on the sixth floor.

Portion of list of books Oswald checked out from the New Orleans Public Library  in 1963(CD75)
Portion of list of books Oswald checked out from
the New Orleans Public Library in 1963 (CD75)

When JFK was shot, a bizarre draft card with Oswald's photo on it was allegedly found in his wallet. The draft card was in the name of Alek James Hidell on it - while it was well-known that draft cards did not have photos at all. Alek James Hidell's name on this fake draft card was the key evidence that convinced the American public that Oswald owned the rifle found on the Sixth Floor.

The name "Alek James Hidell" was an elaborate construction. I've often thought about where "James" came from. Maybe Mr. Angleton knew the answer? If Oswald had a CIA handler, whether it was in person or from afar, it was probably very closely held. In all seriousness, the library records of 1963 show that LHO was reading Thunderball, From Russia With Love, Moonraker, and Goldfinger - the most likely prospect is that the name Oswald was thinking about was "Bond - James Bond"!

Falsified draft card in the name of Alek James Hidell
Falsified draft card in the name of
Alek James Hidell

Oswald had an important job at the photographic firm Jaggars Stovall from September 1962 to April 1963. I believe that he made the Hidell card himself and used it as a calling card to introduce his skills to others as a photographer. He identified himself as a photographer on more than one occasion. He owned several cameras, including the spy camera made by the Minox company.

Oswald stayed in touch with the Ziger family until his death. It was a deep and personal bond that he had with the entire family. I believe that Oswald's use of the names "Alik" and "Alek" in homage of Ziger's identity as "Aleksandr" and "Don Alejandro" - when seen in the light of Fidel's middle name "Alejandro" and his code name "Alex" - illustrates what Gary Hill refers to in his book The Other Oswald as "spare parts". This pattern of names is part of the operation to frame Oswald that was never used.

After the death of the President, the "Alek Hidell" identity was suddenly converted into "Alex Hidell". The first place I have seen it is in Hoover's 11/23/63 letter to Secret Service chief James Rowley. It took off like wildfire from there. No "Alex Hidell" had ever existed prior to 11/22 - but "Alex Hidell" became embedded in the media accounts immediately afterwards. This anomaly takes us back to Fidel Castro - and just who was the CIA handler for the man with the code name "Alex"?

Other legend makers had a similar history of "security disapprovals":

The journalist Priscilla Johnson was rejected when she applied to join the CIA - but Cord Meyer always had his eye on her - Priscilla, in turn, had her eye on the defectors Robert Webster and Lee Oswald during 1959.

Oil man George de Mohrenschildt was distrusted by the CIA but became "the Oswalds' babysitter" when they came to Dallas in mid-1962.

Clockwise from top-left: Priscilla Johnson, George de Mohrenschildt, Ruth Paine, Michael Paine
Clockwise from top-left:
Priscilla Johnson, George de Mohrenschildt,
Ruth Paine, Michael Paine

The aerospace-connected couple of Ruth Paine and Michael Paine had quite a history. Ruth's father had worked for AID, but CIA voiced its disapproval of him when he was a prospect to work with them in Vietnam. Michael's father was on the FBI's Security Index, and had been designated as a "Key Figure" to the FBI until he stepped down around 1960 as co-chair of a left-wing group with a political revolution agenda. Ruth would have never been allowed to have Marina live under her roof if Michael had not moved out shortly before Marina moved in - his security clearance would have made such an arrangement impossible.

Within these "security disapproved" legend makers, two were bona fide babysitters of the Oswald family - de Mohrenschildt and the Paines. De Mohrenschildt and the Paines had one big thing in common - Allen Dulles, the CIA chief for many years until the Bay of Pigs.

If you believe that de Mohrenschildt was "Philip Harbin" (see Chapter 6) - then there's no getting around it, Allen Dulles was his original case officer. If you believe that the Paines were somehow persuaded to keep an eye on the Oswalds by their friends, including Paine family friend Mary Bancroft (see Chapter 12) - then there's no getting around it, Mary Bancroft was Allen Dulles' mistress.

Bancroft was old pals with Michael's parents Ruth Forbes and Lyman Paine. Bancroft discusses them at length in her Autobiography of a Spy. Dulles provided a 12/2/63 memo "from a friend" that described the inner workings of the Paine family - although I've been unable to find the friend's memo, I am reasonably confident that Mary Bancroft wrote the memo.

The bigger question for me is this - when Allen Dulles died, James Angleton carried his ashes. When Win Scott died, Angleton and friends were at his doorstep and carried away his diary. Angleton, Scott and Dulles were all on the same team - I would loosely describe them as power brokers who enjoyed rubbing shoulders with the ruling elites.

As I wrote in my book State Secret, I believe there was a second team of men who were delighted to see the Kennedys fall, represented within the CIA by people like Bill Harvey, David Morales, Rip Robertson and their friends - the "bad boys" of the CIA that had no problem getting their hands dirty. Miami was the ideal place for the talent pool needed for an operation of this scale. Dallas was in deep second place. When JFK was killed, there was no strong "paper trail" between these Miami-centered men and the Louisiana/Texas-based Lee Harvey Oswald.

A strong paper trail ties both Angleton and Scott to Oswald. Similarly, history and family links tie Dulles to the oil-based de Mohrenschildts and the aerospace-based Paines. I am not yet convinced that Dulles, Angleton and Scott were involved in the planning of the JFK assassination - but I am convinced that they were integral to its coverup. The CIA spent decades hiding the evidence that linked these men to the Oswald story.

I believe - and, of course, there's plenty of room for argument - that the tables got turned on the puppetmasters and their underlings. When a group of Cold Warriors decided that JFK was a threat to national security and had to die, the use of Oswald as a patsy was the perfect way to ensure that US intelligence forces would go along with the story of the Red Marine as a lone gunman. The legend of Oswald was a poison pill that threatened the careers of Angleton, Scott and other officers that had their names entangled in the paper trail of the Oswald file.

There's another way to analyze the probable planners of the JFK assassination besides who had "paper trails" and who were "bad boys": Who got fired? If you look it at that way, it's an interesting short list, bringing together disparate personalities such as General Edwin Walker, Allen Dulles and Bill Harvey. Don't forget to add the champion of Operation Northwoods - the plan to kill American citizens to start a war with Cuba - General Lyman Lemnitzer. These analyses go beyond the scope of these essays - but that's where these essays are leading me at this point.

The Domestic Contacts Division, Its Guides, and Its Sources

One new thing I am learning about the JFK case is that the "security disapproved" civilians who "built the Oswald legend" were directly linked with the Domestic Contacts Division, whether they knew it or not.

The best way to make this point is to discuss the "guides" of the CIA's Domestic Contacts Division during the late fifties and early sixties. These guides correspond with the key players linked with "security disapprovals" in these essays.

I originally assumed that these guides were sources - not agents or informants. I now believe that the guides generally refer to "guidelines" or "categories" of information, and the sources fit within this guide. In at least one instance - Robert Webster - he is repeatedly referred to as "Guide 223" - which indicates that at least sometimes a guideline could be used as a pseudonym for an individual.

A description of Clay Shaw that was written in 1949 led me to this rather complicated conclusion. It states that "Mr. Shaw has been interviewed concerning subject case requirements for Peru, and reports thereon are in process of preparation. Mr. Shaw has also been partially interviewed along the general lines of the revised OO/C Guide No. 10, and will be further interviewed along these lines."

A focus on the Domestic Contacts Division is long overdue. This division is slippery. It is variously called the Contact Division, the Contacts Division, the Collections Division, the Contacts Service, and OO - Office of Origin. George Michael Evica wrote that "everything about (Ruth's father William) Hyde and de Mohrenschildt (and, indeed, Lee Harvey Oswald) suggested their foreign travels would have been valuable to the CIA's Domestic Contacts Division both in Washington and Dallas." (A Certain Arrogance, p. 233).

"Guide" is a term frequently used by the Domestic Contacts Division. I will offer my interpretation of what "guide" means as a term of art within the CIA.

Here's a quick list of the guides and sources I have found, and then I will take the time to get into more background. Until I have greater certainty, I will describe these sources as related to a particular guide.

George de Mohrenschildt was a source for Guide-164. He worked with the International Cooperation Administration - which went on to become AID.

Priscilla Johnson, who wrote about both Webster and Oswald back in 1959, was a source for Guide-302. The previous hyperlink refers to Guide 302, with marginalia stating "Source: Priscilla Johnson".

Robert Webster is personally described as Guide-223 on several occasions. I did not name Webster as a legend maker. The best way to describe Webster's role is that he was used as a piece of cheese offered to the Soviets, while Oswald tagged along behind Webster to confuse the Soviets.

George de Mohrenschildt - A Source for Guide-164

For JFK researchers, the most well-known of the personalities is probably George de Mohrenschildt. He provided a number of reports for the Contacts Division, where Jim Moore in Dallas had his field office. De Mohrenschildt's information was frequently described as "responsive to" Guide-164. In one particular memo, his information was described as responsive to "Guide-164, Guide-43, and State."

It is documented that DeMohrenschildt was a "source" relied on by the Dallas office of the CIA. In a 1964 memo to the Domestic Contacts Division of the CIA, Moore stated that he had known George de Mohrenschildt and his wife since 1957, at which time Moore got biographical data on de Mohrenschildt after a trip to Yugoslavia for the International Cooperation Administration (note: a group not identical, but linked with Ruth Paine's father's International Cooperative Alliance. Many researchers believe that de Mohrenschildt monitored Oswald for several months at Moore's request, and then passed on that job to Ruth and Michael Paine in early 1963)."

Moore says in that 1964 memorandum that he had seen de Mohrenschildt several times in 1958 and 1959. De Mohrenschildt's CIA file contains several reports submitted by de Mohrenschildt to the CIA on topics concerning Yugoslavia, including, 'Lack of Interest in Communist Ideology', 'National Pride/Feeling of Superiority over Soviet Satellites', and 'Effect of Decentralization in the Oil Industry'...

"...REDACTED of Americans annually provide information to the CIA's Domestic Contacts Division on a nonclandestine basis. Such acts of cooperation should not be confused with an actual Agency relationship."

The same document says that Moore's role included: "...exploitation of source's complete intelligence potential by debriefing..."

Take a look at a page of George de Mohrenschildt's actual report on "National Pride/Feeling of Superiority over Soviet Satellites", as well as the second page. Here's George on "Position of the Church/Anti-Regime Feeling". You can see that he was not merely reporting on oil reserves.

De Mohrenschildt was responding to "OO/C". OO/C was Collections, another term for the Domestic Contacts Division - where Jim Moore held sway in Dallas from at least 1948 to 1963.

George de Mohrenschildt wrote reports directly to the CIA. He was obviously a witting participant within the guide program.

Priscilla Johnson - a Source to CD/OO Guide 302

Priscilla Johnson was aligned with CD/OO Guide 302. We see a October 1962 report referring to Guide 302, with Johnson defined as the source. Priscilla corresponded with her relatives in the Coit family for many years before and after 1962, and her contact was CIA officer Gary Coit. Johnson interviewed Lee Oswald in Moscow in 1959, and went on to write a book with Marina Oswald in the 1970s.

It looks like Guide 302 and Guide 303 played a joint role on this interview with a "counter-revolutionary" Cuban released by Castro in April 1963 with the last group of 21 intelligence-related US and Cuban prisoners. This reference to Guide 302 is probably not related to Priscilla.

I should add that a Cuban newsman in the US was aligned with Guide 303-BR - which should be differentiated from Guide 303.

A useful comparison may be the two descriptions we have for CD/OO Guide 325, which appears to be a guideline for a "surprise meeting". One document refers to Guide 325 as responsive to a pastor who ran into Joseph Dutkanych (Dutkanicz) "allegedly a defected US citizen" in lvov, USSR. A second document refers to Guide 325 as responsive to a businesswoman who saw the famous NSA defectors Bernon Mitchell and William Martin when she was in the USSR.

I believe that Robert Webster was Guide-223

Robert Webster, a Navy man who defected to the Soviet Union during the same month as Lee Oswald, worked at the US Exhibition in Moscow while also serving as a "Guide" for the Domestic Contacts Division. Webster's physical description ("5 foot 10", 165 pounds) was transferred to the more slender Oswald by May 1960 as part of what I believe was a CIA molehunt conducted by CI-SIG analyst Ann Egerter with an assist by FBI agent John Fain.

Note regarding Robert Webster's promixity to Marina Oswald which includes this:
Note regarding Robert Webster's promixity
to Marina Oswald which includes this:
"you may wish to pull this document
from the file lest it open up an
unnecessary can of worms"

Webster was referred to as Guide-223, and was explicitly named as such in this memo to the Chief of the Domestic Contacts Division during the week of Oswald's defection to the Soviet Union and the week after. It looks like Webster was monitored in the Cleveland-Pittsburgh area, along with Ted Korycki who was not known by a number but by the pseudonym "Lincoln Leeds". Gary Hill has much more on Webster in his afore-mentioned 2020 book "The Other Oswald". (Full disclosure: I have written the preface to Hill's book and provided him with some of my research. Gary Hill is the sole author.)

Webster was part of Project LONGSTRIDE, an Air Force operation. LONGSTRIDE is found almost nowhere in the universe of JFK documents. If you ever come to the conclusion that the CIA never destroys any of its documents - look at this memo from CIA officer John Stein during the Rockefeller Commission in 1975 showing that Webster lived "in the same building as one cited in Mrs. Oswald's address book. Nevertheless, you may wish to pull this document from the file lest it open up an unnecessary can of worms."

In fact, the document shows that back in 1964 the CIA had figured out that Marina frequently visited her friend Lev Grizentsev at Apartment 7, while Webster lived in Apartment 18 of the same building. Doug Horne of the ARRB spent some time trying to determine if this was part of an intelligence operation.

The Paines also got close scrutiny from the DCD

I have seen no file referring to any "Guides" for either of the Paines. However, Ruth Paine intimately worked with both Frederick Merrill of the State Department and the Soviets. At the time of Robert Webster's defection, Merrill worked at East West Contacts - State Department. Merrill was also in close communication with the "chief of East West Contacts OO" (OO - Office of Origin, also known as the Domestic Contacts Division).

It's very hard for me to believe that the CIA's Domestic Contacts Division was not aware of Ruth Paine and her East West Contact Committee, during this "period of extreme tension" in 1955-60, and we should keep looking for more early files about her in this vein. The FBI knew about Ruth's contacts with the Russians in 1958, thanks to informant PH-27. The memo lists the names of Ruth and her friends.

The East West Contacts Committee aka the East West Contact Committee went on for at least five years between 1955 to 1960. It was a subcommittee of the Young Friends Committee of North America chaired by Wilmer Stratton, one of Ruth's closest friends who attended her wedding to Michael in 1957.

The group jointly traveled with three Soviets during 1958 approximately 2500 miles throughout the eastern and south central United States. Wilmer Stratton and his wife as well as Paul Lacey, Robert Osborn and Richard Taylor went on the trip with Vladimir Nikolaev, Anatoli Glinkin aka Tolya, and Vladimir Yarovoi aka Volodya. Ruth Paine made plans for the travel itinerary, visitation and other arrangements for this group.

Robert Osborn, one of the translators, may have been a relative of the powerful eugenicist Frederick Osborn who joined Allen Dulles in forming the National Committee for a Free Europe - which founded Radio Free Europe (see Evica, p. 255). We do know that Frederick Osborn, Jr. and his wife Nancy (who both sang in a madrigal group with Ruth and Michael) came to the Warren Commission to offer themselves as character witnesses for Ruth (see Evica, p. 250).

The Director of East-West Contacts within the State Department, Frederick Merrill, stated his approval of this 1958 exchange. Merrill worked with the Free Europe Committee, which funded Radio Free Europe and other projects to ensure the flow of funds to Soviet exile groups. Michael Paine allowed that Ruth may have written the State Department to set up this exchange, but neither of the Paines could remember Merrill's name when asked. (Evica, A Certain Arrogance, pp. 244-245).

The next year, Merrill informed the chief of CIA East-West Contacts that the Rand Corporation was asking the State Department about Robert Webster's whereabouts when he defected to the Soviet Union. Oswald was to follow in Webster's footsteps just days later.

Close-up of bleed-through of handwritten note on 12/6/63 document regarding allegation about Oswald
Close-up of bleed-through of handwritten
note on 12/6/63 document regarding
allegation about Oswald

A final anecdote illustrates the importance of DCD. Who was the head of the Domestic Contacts Division in 1963? E. M. Ashcraft. There is a cryptic note that states "Ask Ashcraft - OO on Oswald" (see the bleed-through on upper right corner of this 12/3/63 document). Here is a better copy. There has been much analysis about what this note means. To me, it means that DCD chief Ashcraft was the logical person to ask if you wanted to learn more about Oswald.

When you take a long look at the legend makers, Oswald is no longer a cipher on a three-dimensional chessboard. We can see who is using him during his sojourn in the Soviet Union: CIA officers, with the assistance of FBI. We can see who is using him upon his return to the USA: FBI officers, with the assistance of CIA. To these operatives, Oswald is initially only a pawn in the game, not even a knight or a bishop.

But when Oswald returns to the United States in 1962, he is now a re-defector. This unique status endows him with value within the intelligence community. He can be used for bigger things. Whether he knows it or not. He can be a legend.

In the four years before his death. the "security disapproved" civilians play an intimate role. "Don Alejandro" Ziger, George de Mohrenschildt, and the Paine family provide physical and emotional support for him and his family. Priscilla Johnson tells his story to the world in 1959, and will do this repeatedly over the next twenty years. These individuals offer the biggest clues into the drama surrounding this young man. How he is being manipulated. And...who is doing the manipulation.

- Bill Simpich

Bill Simpich is an Oakland civil rights attorney who knows that it doesn't have to be like this. He was part of the legal team chosen by Public Justice as Trial Lawyer of the Year in 2003 for winning a jury verdict of 4.4 million in Earth Firster Judi Bari's lawsuit against the FBI and the Oakland police. He works with the Mary Ferrell Foundation to decipher the cryptonyms and pseudonyms used by intelligence operatives in the JFK documents, and suggests that we will achieve historical resolution in this case more quickly than most people believe.

See all chaptersNext => Part 1: Mother, Meyer, and the Spotters

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