One reason the Alvarado story could be endorsed vigorously by CIA Station Chief Scott was that it was corroborated in small details by other Phase-One stories, also from intelligence sources, and later similarly retracted.76 One of these corroborative stories was directly attributed to "a CIA man in Dallas," who allegedly told reporter Jerry O'Leary that Oswald returned from Mexico "with $5,000 which he did not have when he went into Mexico." O'Leary telephoned this information to FBI Headquarters.77 The FBI account of this event commented, "In other words, the CIA man in Dallas leaked information to O'Leary."78 However a CIA cable the next day reported from Mexico the rumor that Oswald had deposited $5000 in the United States after he got back from Mexico, and attributed the story to "an ODENVY [FBI] man named Clark."79
No Phase-One allegation corroborated Alvarado more closely than that of the well-known right-wing Mexican writer Elena Garro de Paz. She claimed she had been present at a party where she had heard a Communist discussion of Kennedy, in which "they came to the conclusion that the only solution was to kill him."80 She had also seen Oswald with the same people at a party given by Rubén Durán, the brother-in-law of Silvia Durán, "who she later learned was Oswald's mistress while he was here." In accounts given to the American Embassy in 1965, she linked Oswald to the same striking companions as did Alvarado: "a Latin American Negro man with red hair" and someone with "long blond hair."81
When I wrote about the Garro allegations in 1993, I discounted them, on the grounds that Alvarado's story of a "Negro with reddish hair" had already been published in September 1964 in the Warren Report.82 I now think it much more likely that some version of the Garro story had reached the DFS, or been planted by them, in the days following the assassination. No one disputes Garro's story that the DFS took her into protective custody between November 23 and November 30. Her story would explain why on the same day the DFS arrested, not only Silvia, but her husband Horacio, sister-in-law Lydia Durán, and brother-in-law Rubén Durán and his wife Betty (all placed by Garro in Oswald's presence at the incriminating party).83 It would also explain why, on November 23, the DFS was grilling Silvia so aggressively about her sexual affair and Communist plotting with Oswald.84 Finally it would explain why Silvia on November 23 attributed her arrest to her cousin [i.e. Garro] whom she "does not like."85
The management of the Garro story was different from those of Silvia Durán and Alvarado. It was a Phase-One story from start to finish; as it never reached Washington through the usual CIA channels, so there was no need to reshape or retract it. The management consisted of keeping her in DFS custody, at a time when FBI personnel should have been interviewing her.86
4. The Management of the False Oswald Intercepts -- October 1:
It has been customary to contrast the fluid, changing stories about Oswald from human sources with the allegedly "hard," objective reports of Oswald himself talking, or being discussed, in intercepts obtained from a tap on Mexican phone lines into the Soviet Embassy.87 However this intercept record is deeply flawed, and in part almost certainly falsified. In addition to containing false information, the intercepts share two other features with the managed stories discussed above. They supplied the changing need for first Phase-One and then Phase-Two stories. And they too reached the CIA via the Mexican DFS, the most likely candidate to have falsified them. (Although it is customary to talk of "CIA intercepts," the initial tapping and taping were handled by the DFS.)
It is helpful to consider the intercepts in the chronological order in which they reached CIA Headquarters. We see then that the intercepts can be divided into two categories: two early Phase-One intercepts, hinting that Oswald was part of an international Communist conspiracy, and a host of later Phase-Two intercepts, clarifying that Oswald's sole purpose for visiting the Soviet and Cuban Consulates was in connection with obtaining a Cuban visa.
We have already referred to the suggestive Phase-One character of the first intercept, the only one forwarded to Washington before the assassination. This linked the name of Lee Oswald to a Soviet Consul, Kostikov, whom the CIA later identified (at least for a time) as a KGB Agent from Department Thirteen, specializing in assassinations. The cable deserves to be quoted verbatim:
Acc[ording] LIENVOY [the CIA's phone intercept program] 1 Oct 63, American male who spoke broken Russian said his name Lee Oswald (phonetic), stated he at Sovemb on 28 Sept when spoke with Consul whom he believed be Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov. Subj asked Sov guard Ivan Obyedkov who answered if there anything new re telegram to Washington. Obyedkov upon checking said nothing received yet, but request had been sent.88
Almost certainly this speaker was not the Lee Harvey Oswald who visited the Soviet Union, and spoke relatively fluent Russian. No less an authority than J. Edgar Hoover advised Lyndon Johnson of this by telephone on the morning of November 23: "We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet embassy, using Oswald's name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man's voice, nor to his appearance."89 Audio tapes for these LBJ phone calls have been preserved at the LBJ Library. However nothing of this conversation can be heard on the relevant tape; it would appear to have been erased.90
Hoover's reasons for saying this were laid out in a Letterhead Memorandum sent out on the same day to the President and to the Secret Service:
The Central Intelligence Agency advised that on October 1, 1963, an extremely sensitive source had reported that an individual identified himself as Lee Oswald, who contacted the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City inquiring as to any messages. Special Agents of this Bureau, who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas, Texas, have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the above-referred-to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald."91
Other FBI cables and memoranda confirm that the tape was indeed flown up on a US Navy plane from Mexico City to Dallas, where FBI agents confirmed the voice was not Oswald's.
John Newman has shown in detail how this initial candor was obfuscated by subsequent clumsy attempts by the Mexico City CIA to assert, falsely, that the tape, and others like it, had been erased.92 By noon EST November 23, the Mexico City CIA Station had cabled headquarters to say that "Station unable compare voice as first tape erased prior receipt second call" (on October 1).93 This false claim was soon abandoned. A headquarters memo reports that by 7 AM EST November 24, headquarters knew that the first tape had been reviewed, and the voice found to be identical with that in the other intercepts.94 Ann Goodpasture, who handled the intercepts in the Mexico City CIA station, has confirmed that she herself commented on an internal document that the voices on the first and other intercepts had been compared (by “Feinglass,” [Tarasoff] the responsible translator) before the assassination.95
Later on the same critical day of November 23, the CIA reverted to a second false cover story: that all the Oswald intercept tapes had been erased by that time, not just the first. The FBI notified its Dallas office that evening that “With regard to the tapes [deletion] referred to herein, CIA has advised that these tapes have been erased and are not available for review."96 This crucial lie (concealing the existence of evidence which could have led to a conspirator in the assassination) was repeated the next day in a cable from CIA Mexico City to headquarters: “HQ has full transcripts all pertinent calls. Regret complete recheck shows tapes for this period already erased.”97
However contemporary CIA documents suggest that comparisons of the voices on the tapes hadbeen made, including tapes only listened to after November 22.98 I do not accept this as conclusive evidence of the survival of the pre-assassination tapes, because (as I shall argue shortly), nothing said by the CIA about these alleged Oswald intercepts can be accepted as certain. What is certain is that in April 1964 two members of the Warren Commission staff, William Coleman and David Slawson, visited the Mexico City CIA Station and listened to the pre-assassination tape of the man identifying himself as “Lee Oswald.”99 So the tape certainly existed on November 23, when FBI agents are supposed to have listened to it. And the rebuttal that the tapes had been destroyed is certainly false.
In 1976 the staff of the Church Committee discovered the evidence that the October 1 tape had been listened to, revealing the role of an Oswald impersonator; and they reported also the ensuing cover-up. Their staff report, only recently released, noted cogently as follows:
On November 25, 1963 – some two days after Dallas cabled the Bureau that the tapes had been erased – Bureau supervisor Burt Turner cabled legat stating: “If tapes covering any contact subject [Oswald] with Soviet or Cuban embassies available forward to Bureau for laboratory examination. Include tapes previous reviewed Dallas if they were returned to you.”100
But this explosive staff report was ignored in Book V of the Church Committee’s Final Report, which purported to review the performance of the intelligence agencies in the investigation of the assassination of President John. F. Kennedy In a misleadingly detailed chronology of CIA and FBI behavior on November 23 and 24, 1963, the central problem of the October 1 tape in Dallas is ignored altogether.101
The cover-up was perpetuated, in a more sophisticated manner, by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Its report stated, no less than three times, that no "recording of Oswald's voice" was ever "received" or "listened to" in the United States.102 This language is a lawyer's subterfuge: what was received and listened to was precisely not a recording of Oswald's voice.103
In contrast to other "benign" "Phase-Two" cover-ups of a false Oswald-Soviet link, this cover-up in November 1963 can only be called sinister. The October 8 intercept cable was the strongest single piece of evidence for an illusory Oswald-Soviet assassination conspiracy. By concealing its falsity, the CIA and FBI did not just keep alive the illusion. More importantly, they obstructed the pursuit of the most important available clue at that time of a high-level assassination conspiracy.