Thursday, October 04, 2007

Oswald: Programmed to Kill?

FrontPage magazine is a rightwing online magazine associated with David Horowitz and so is often a source of misinformation and disinformation. Yesterday they posted an interview with Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa of Romania, the highest ranking intelligence official ever to have defected from the Soviet bloc. Mr. Pacepa is the author of Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination, which I have not yet read. A 20-page summary of the book can be found here. Pacepa believes that Oswald was programmed by the KGB to kill JFK but that Khrushchev cancelled the plan. Oswald, however, went "rogue" and killed Kennedy on his own.

Pacepa has no firsthand knowledge of a KGB plot to kill Kennedy, evaluating Oswald and the assassination in terms of his knowledge of KGB operational codes and practices.

During the many years I spent researching Oswald’s ties with the KGB, I took the factual, verifiable information on his life that had been developed by the U.S. government and relevant private researchers, and I examined it in the light of PGU operational patterns—little known by outsiders because of the utter secrecy then—as now—endemic to Russia. New insights into the assassination came suddenly to life. Oswald’s experiences as a Marine serving in Japan, for instance, perfectly fit the PGU template for recruiting American servicemen outside the United States that I for many years had applied to Romanian operations.
Let’s take the handwritten note in Russian Oswald left his Soviet wife, Marina, just before he tried to kill American general Edwin Walker in a dry run before going on to assassinate President Kennedy. That very important note contains two KGB codes: friends (code for support officer) and Red Cross (code for financial help). In this note, Oswald tells Marina what to do in case he is arrested. He stresses that she should contact the (Soviet) “embassy,” that they have “friends here,” and that the “Red Cross” will help her financially. Particularly significant is Oswald’s instruction for her to “send the embassy the information about what happened to me.” At that time the code for embassy was “office,” but it seems that Oswald wanted to be sure Marina would understand that she should immediately inform the Soviet embassy. It is noteworthy that Marina did not mention this note to U.S. authorities after Oswald’s arrest. It was found at the home of Ruth Paine, an American friend with whom Marina was staying at the time of the assassination.
Also of interest Pacepa states that "I know for a fact that Nosenko was a bona fide defector." This is still a hotly disputed point among those interested in the history of intelligence.

Pacepa's description of how Oswald would have been approached and recruited by Soviet bloc intelligence in Japan is plausible. The obvious question for the KGB though would have been: was this man sent to us by American intelligence? I doubt under the circumstances there was any way for the KGB to have been sure of Oswald's loyalties. Nonetheless they would have, I believe, played the game. What I doubt is that they would have considered using an agent of doubtful loyalty for something as serious as assassinating an American President. Even if they were sure that Oswald was one of theirs, why use an agent who could so obviously be traced back to them?

Also, according to Pacepa the KGB desperately tried to deprogram Oswald to prevent the assassination. Why not simply kill him? Pacepa does believe that the KGB engineered Ruby's shooting of Oswald. But again, why not kill Oswald before he could attempt to kill the President, perhaps in a random street crime?


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