The JFK Assassination, pt. 11: Things that don’t add up about Lee Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald* is the central character in the official version of the John F. Kennedy assassination, but many things about him—in that story—don’t quite fit together.

1. To start with, the fact that he defected to the USSR and came back so easily. This has naturally led many to suspect he had some kind of intelligence connection. He is said to have announced to the US Embassy in Moscow that he wanted to renounce his US citizenship and that he would give the Soviets information he learned as a Marine. Despite this, he kept his citizenship and the US embassy later assisted his travel back to the US.

His wife Marina later said in an interview that he was a proud American and would talk about politics with her family, including speaking positively about the newly-elected Kennedy. Jim Garrison suspected that he was being trained by Naval Intelligence based on the fact that he was given a Russian language exam, a rare occurrence for a private in the Marines. Jim Garrison has been criticized on a number of points, but this particular question is worth pondering.

It’s clear that the worldwide Communist movement was the “security” establishment’s main concern during this period, and that considerable resources were spent on espionage, counterespionage, infiltration, monitoring, etc. Not all of this was done in-house, either. The CIA had a lot of employees on the beat, but beyond that was a huge network of allied organizations, informants, infiltrators, and enthusiasts. Specific movements, e.g. the anti-Castro movement, were full of people allied with but not technically in the employ of the CIA. John le Carré’s book The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is a great, if fictionalized account of somebody on the margins of government employ during this period.

Given these facts and this background, it’s hard to believe that Lee Oswald was not working for the US government when he went to the Soviet Union.

2. Next is the stumping for Castro period in New Orleans. Oswald was reported by many sources to be an “associate” of Guy Banister, who appears to have been one of the CIA’s point men for anti-Castro organization in the area. He is known to have been the founder and only member of a local pro-Castro group and to have distributed pro-Castro literature. He even went on the radio for this purpose. However, and this is very subjective, his manner when questioned does not suggest a man passionately devoted to the ideas he spouts. Given point #1 above, and his known association with Banister, and the information in Buddy Walther’s report about having files on “Cuban sympathizers” in his house, it seems that in this case too he was playing a role assigned to him by somebody else.

I’m fascinated by many of the specific stories about what Oswald did in New Orleans at this time, although I know that many of them are probably false. However the overall framework given here does not rely on any one witness being credible or any one story being faithfully reported.

3. Credible stories abound of Lee Oswald being observed in this or that place where he may not have been, perhaps most importantly Mexico City. Somebody went to a lot of trouble to create one or more narratives about Oswald before the assassination, and it had to be somebody with the resources, organization, and motive to do so and keep it quiet later. That sounds like the activities of an intelligence agency, or at least activities directed by an intelligence agency.

As further evidence, Marina Oswald said in an interview many years later that both she and Lee Oswald were observed in places around Dallas before the assassination that she never in fact went to. (This is one case where I am relying on one witness, because she seemed to me to be telling the truth. It doesn’t make sense why she would lie in that context, and I’ve never heard it disputed although I imagine it is somewhere.) Even if this is not true, the main point still stands.

[For the scope and thoroughness of reported incidents, however credible, see here.]

4. Now we come to the most notorious “fact” about Oswald: shooting Kennedy. As is written in numerous other places, even if he did shoot Kennedy it’s not physically possible that he was the only shooter. This is an important point but it is dealt with elsewhere so I will keep this point brief here.

5. Long recognized is another weak spot in the official story, the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit. Oswald’s guilt here was considered very important to the overall narrative, except that the eyewitness testimony pretty clearly did not clearly implicate Oswald at all. Witnesses variously described two shooters, or a short man with bushy hair, or another man who was not Oswald. The recreation of Oswald’s alleged journey down the street was inconclusive as well; it’s possible that there was enough time, but it’s not certain. Moreover, this episode might put Oswald heading in the wrong direction if it is to fit with the rest of the story. All told, somebody shot Officer Tippit but there’s no reason to believe that Oswald was that man, and various reasons to believe that he wasn’t. Oswald was eventually identified in police line-ups, though these police line-ups were manipulated in every way possible to produce that result, and lack any credibility.

6. Lee Oswald declared to reporters “I’m just a patsy.” Could that be true? Points 1 and 2 at least imply the possibility that he could have been a government operative of some kind. Point 3 indicates that somebody was setting him up for something. Point 4 demonstrates that the plot, whatever it was, was larger than just him. Point 5 indicates that somebody really wanted the crime pinned on him even to the possible extent of framing him for yet another crime and using that to relate him to the first.

Why wouldn’t he say more about it to reporters? This I can only speculate on, but it’s important to remember that he had a wife and small children. His mother was still alive. His relationship with his wife was not perfect, and I don’t know much about his relationship with his mother, but all of his neighbors in Dallas said that he loved his children and took great joy in being with them. Threats against them, even if they were only in his mind, would have been very effective in keeping him quiet. As he couldn’t have known he was going to be murdered only two days later, he may have hoped for a way to exonerate himself later without exposing his family to danger.

I could be wrong about any or all of this, but at each point I have taken the position that seems to me to make the most sense among the competing explanations. Taking a cue from public choice economics, I don’t make unrealistic assumptions about the behavior of government agencies; on the contrary, based on known evidence, these assumptions seem more realistic than the official version.

It goes without saying that there are many other things about Lee Oswald in the official story that don’t add up either. These are just an important few.


* I think the responsible thing for Kennedy assassination researchers and enthusiasts to do is to refer to him as Lee Oswald, not as Lee Harvey Oswald. It seems the full-name treatment is supposed to make him stand out in some weird way, which is already granting half of the case to the party line inventors. He did not go by Lee Harvey Oswald during his life, and whenever I can I write simply Lee Oswald.

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2 thoughts on “The JFK Assassination, pt. 11: Things that don’t add up about Lee Oswald

  1. Perry

    On JD Tippit’s murder, I’d highly recommend Dale K. Myer’s book, “With Malice.” So far as I know it’s the only book about Officer Tippit’s murder.

    Myers, as you probably know, is the man who created what’s probably still the definitive computerized animation of the assassination. He’s also one of those who has shown, beyond question, that JFK and Connally were hit by the same bullet, and that that bullet was fired from the sixth floor of the TSBD. I would also recommend checking out Myer’s blog about the assassination, over at jfkfiles.blogspot.com

    As far as who fired that “Magic Bullet,” or any of the others, you present your arguments for a conspiracy quite well; but hopefully without getting too long-winded, let’s look at the other side of the coin for a moment.

    For one thing, it’s quite a leap to go from saying that the CIA is known to conduct covert operations and kill people, to saying that they, or other similar organizations, must therefore be behind Kennedy’s murder. One thing does not necessarily follow from the other. I’ve been known to drive pretty fast on the interstate, but that doesn’t prove I’ve won a NASCAR race. 🙂

    To believe some mysterious and evil “they” was behind the assassination, we really have to suspend belief to the point that we ignore all of the solid evidence, which points to one person, either by outright ignoring it or explaining it away. All of the conspiracy theories by definition are forced to do this. It’s said that the lone nut explanation is full of holes, but what about the reverse?

    The conspiracy folks ask us to believe, among other things, that all of the evidence has either been altered or planted. Why? Well, because *it only points in one direction.* Oswald as the lone assassin. So we either have to believe the evidence, or we’re forced to believe it’s been forged or planted. All of it. We have no other choice. And again, it’s one thing to say such things are possible, and quite another to say it happened here.

    Plus, despite their expertise and careful planning, it appears the folks behind the conspiracy did forget a few things. For instance, they forgot to arrange to have all of the assassins fire *from behind the president* so that all of the wounds would match the official story. Sure beats, among other things, frantically altering his head after the fact, don’t you think? They also forgot to make sure all of the shooters *had the same kind of weapon and ammunition* so that it matched the guy they were setting up to take the blame.

    These two things all by themselves are pretty blatant oversights for such a sophisticated operation, and they’re far from being the only ones. The list is long and gets to be pretty bizarre. But perhaps the biggest and most blatantly obvious head-scratching thing they did if they really wanted to cover their tracks? They didn’t destroy the photographic evidence.

    They saw fit to confiscate all of those cameras and photos, and instead of destroying it all they just changed this and that, and sent it back out into the world. Because they know we’re stupid enough to believe it, and them. But we’re onto them, by golly. Sure it all reinforces the official story. But that’s because it’s been altered! Just like everything else. We can prove it with Badge Man, Umbrella Man, Greer’s handgun, and of course the guy who fired from the sewer drain.

    Those are the biggest problems I have with the conspiracy folks, of which I used to be one. They consistently refuse to believe *anything* that points to Oswald as the lone assassin or “conspirator,” no matter how compelling it may be; they concoct fantastic theories based on, among other things, black-and-white dots in a fuzzy photograph blown up hundreds of times its original size; and if you don’t go along with them and at at least believe in *some* kind of conspiracy idea, then you are either a brainless idiot allowing yourself to be duped, or part of the cover-up yourself. There are no other options.

    Truth be told, I don’t think most conspiracy believers *want* the “mystery” to be solved. If it were…..what then? No more books to read, conventions to attend, movies and documentaries to watch, or Youtube videos to scrutinize. They’d have to go back to real life.

    Well, sorry for the incredibly long post, Randall. It’s simply that I don’t buy into the conspiracy line anymore, and haven’t for a number of years. The evidence says Oswald was the killer both of Kennedy and Tippit, and that there was no conspiracy. And no one has ever successfully proven otherwise, despite almost 50 years of trying. But try they will no doubt continue to do. 🙂

  2. Cassy Chay

    I agree that noone has proven that Lee Oswald was not the lone gunman, and I agree that it will probably not be proven for many many years to come, but I do not agree that this was not a cover up and that the CIA did not have some part in it. I always have and always will. Its amazing, that LBJ went to war the day after the assassination even though JFK was comepletely against it. Its amazing that papers over seas had told the story of the President’s death before the story actually unfolded. Its amazing how they have Oswald pinned in all these locations, yet everyone who disagrees or has different versions all died very soon after they gave the statement in the Warren report, and it is also amazing that those who did not die after the Warren repor,t argued that the story that is in the Warren report is not what they witnessed that day. Yes, its probably possible he could have fired off 3 consecutive shots but it is not possible they would be anywhere as accurate as what they want us to believe although it would be impressive. It’s amazing that Jack Ruby shoots and kills Oswald before he has the chance to defend his name, just as it MUST be a concidence that Jack Ruby died a very short time later.And are we really going to call it shotty cop work with the Oswald interrogation tapes that didn’t take place? The man was interviewed and interrogated for the assassination of the PRESIDENT and NO ONE records anything during the entire 16 hours? Doctors that were trusted by the President pushed out of the autopsy room? Evidence disappearing and reappearing? NUMEROUS deaths within a few short years of people who disagreed with the Warren Report and what everyone was trying to shove down the throats of the American People?
    As for your far off, and delusional sterotype of all “conspirators”, yes I do want the truth, but will never receive it because it will undermine the goverment and put them in a bad light. I do not consider you an idiot or behind the cover up. I do not know you, just as you do not know me. I just happent to disagree with MANY points that you tried to make as well as the story that has been fed to me for this long. So, if it helps you sleep at night to believe Lee Oswald was the lone gunman and that the bullet went left, right, back, forth, up, down, double looped back, 30 degree angle to zig back up 46 degrees into the banana peel with caused Sinatra to double back to the drug store, causing a rift in the enviroment, making the air 30 percent lighter that day and finally abling Lee Oswald to fire off three shots that made perfect target into the FRONT not back of the Presidents head from a building located behind the President, then you do so, and please tell Biggie he shouldn’t have killed Tupac because now Elvis has to walk with Bigfoot alone. Gimme a break.

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