Mexican President Aided CIA in Oswald Surveillance, UVA Researchers Find
The Agency used "extraordinary measures" to conceal wiretap operation
Researchers at University of Virginia’s Center for Politics say the latest JFK assassination files released last month disclose an important story: the previously unknown relationship between the CIA and then-President of Mexico to run a “telephone tap center” that intercepted a phone call from Lee Harvey Oswald a month before JFK’s assassination.
“We’re finding important details that have been hidden from the public for nearly sixty years now, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” wrote Professor Larry Sabato in Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “These records have been withheld for so long, in part, to ensure that when released, people will ignore or dismiss the information as irrelevant artifacts of history. The fact that the government counts on the public to ignore the information in these files is our primary motivation for involving as many students as possible in uncovering as many details as possible.”
The UVA researchers focused on a key aspect of the JFK assassination story that the government does indeed count on the public to forget: the CIA’s intense surveillance of the accused assassin in the weeks before Kennedy’s murder.
The U.S. government went to great lengths to obscure how the CIA learned that Oswald, a 24-year-old ex-Marine, contacted the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City six weeks before JFK was killed. When a wiretap operation picked up a caller named Oswald, the Agency’s Mexico City station notified Washington. Top aides to deputy director Richard Helms, and counterintelligence chief James Angleton drafted and approved a cable to Mexico City providing information about Oswald’s background.
Six weeks later, on November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas. Oswald was arrested for the crime but denied shooting the president saying he was “a patsy.” He was then killed in police custody.
The wiretapping of Oswald has been shrouded in official secrecy—and historical controversy—ever since.
The Crystal Ball report noted, “the clandestine phone tap operation was so deeply classified that the CIA resorted to extraordinary measures to conceal it even from the Justice Department as the department prepared a major report on the Kennedy assassination.”
“One newly released document from November 27, 1963, shows the CIA requesting permission from President Adolfo Lopez Mateos and Mexico’s then Secretary of Interior Gustavo Diaz Ordaz (later President of Mexico from 1964 to 1970) to use statements obtained by Mexican citizen Silvia Duran, an employee at the Cuban consulate who interacted with Oswald about his request for a visa. The record notes that the CIA had the information via their secret wiretapping operation with the Mexican President’s office but could not use it without revealing the source. “Obviously the [secret operation] cannot be used…therefore request you cable in a translated version of her statements [along] with [President Mateos’] permission to use these statements in the official report.”
The UVA finding is relevant to the enduring question of JFK investigators: What happened to the CIA’s tapes of Oswald’s call?
Anne Goodpasture, retired operations officer, told me in person what she told the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) under oath: that station chief Win Scott kept a tape of Oswald’s phone call in his home office safe. That tape was never shared with investigators. (See, “The CIA Woman With an Oswald Tape.”)
Why would the CIA conceal evidence about the accused assassin? The simplest explanation is the probably the best: to protect its “sources and methods” related to Lee Harvey Oswald. That is the justification for withholding 44 documents related to CIA operations and Oswald from the files of deceased undercover officer George Joannides.
The Crystal Ball’s reporting shows how national security considerations compromised the JFK investigation. It also shows there is significant new information relevant to the causes of Kennedy’s assassination in the still-secret JFK files.
Read the Crystal Ball report: “JFK Records Reveal Intense Level of Secrecy by CIA During Investigation of Assassination.”
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