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WASHINGTON – Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Marina Oswald, the wife of the alleged sole assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, is making a claim different from what she told the Warren Commission.
Marina Oswald now insists that her husband was innocent of killing the president, a fundamental change of mind from her testimony to the Warren Commission in 1964 in which she said she believed her husband was guilty of both the JFK assassination and an attempt on the life of right-wing firebrand Gen. Edwin Walker.
Now a 72-year-old reclusive grandmother, Marina has lived with her second husband, Ken Porter, in Rockwell, Texas, since the mid-1970s.
Her reversal on the question of Oswald’s guilt came as a result of reading books and other material about the JFK assassination, according to a recent report by the London Daily Mail.
Marina told the London newspaper she still believes her telephone is being tapped by the Secret Service, and she lives in fear of being targeted and killed by the CIA.
But sorting out the truth about Marina Oswald has never been easy.
There is evidence she was a KGB agent who was of sufficient threat to the CIA to warrant the CIA paying her a substantial bribe keep quiet about her status.
Then, there is Oswald’s mother, who despite Marina’s testimony at the time of the JFK assassination, maintained until she died that her son was an intelligence-double agent who was framed as the “patsy” in the JFK assassination. It’s exactly the claim Lee Harvey Oswald himself made before he was murdered by Jack Ruby.
Marina a KGB agent?
Ioan Mihai Pacepa, the highest ranking Soviet bloc intelligence officer ever to defect to the United States, has provided highly credible evidence and arguments that Oswald was a KGB operative sent back into the United States with a mission to assassinate JFK. Pacepa’s evidence indicates Marina was also a KGB agent, paired as an accomplice with Oswald in a KGB-arranged marriage.
On Nov. 22, 1963, when JFK was assassinated, Pacepa was living in his native Bucharest, one of three deputy chiefs of the Romanian espionage service, the Department of Foreign Intelligence, or DIE.
At that time, the DIE was a subsidiary of the Russian Soviet espionage service, the Pervoye Glavnoye Upravleniye, or PGU, the First Chief Directorate of the KGB.
In his 2007 book “Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination,” Pacepa traced a wealth of Soviet operational patterns visible throughout the material on Oswald that had been turned up by U.S. investigators. Pacepa said the American investigators lacked the experience and insider’s familiarity with Soviet intelligence operations to recognize the telltale signs that Oswald was a KGB agent.
“Eventually I developed an approach that has never before been used in any of the many studies of the Kennedy assassination,” Pacepa wrote in his book, describing his investigative methodology.
“Taking the factual material on Oswald developed by official and private U.S. investigators, I stacked it up against the operational patterns used in Soviet espionage – patterns little known to outsiders because of the utter secrecy endemic to that community.”
After many years of studying evidence accumulated regarding the JFK assassination, Pacepa found a wealth of information that dovetailed with Soviet operational patterns. He became convinced Oswald was recruited by the Soviets when he was a Marine stationed in Atsugi, Japan, outside Tokyo.
One of the more enigmatic characters in the JFK assassination saga is George DeMohrenschildt, who together with his wife, Jeanne, befriended Lee Harvey Oswald and Marina, when the couple returned to the Untied States and settled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Pacepa concluded DeMohrenschildt was Oswald’s KGB handler. Pacepa described DeMohrenschildt as “a long-time Soviet illegal officer whose biography had frequently changed in order to accommodate his Soviet intelligence tasks.”
In testimony to the Warren Commission, DeMohrenschildt was remarkably vague about how he and his wife met the Oswalds.
“I tried, both my wife and I, hundreds of times to recall how exactly we met the Oswalds,” he testified under oath. “But they were out of our mind completely, because so many things happened in the meantime. So please do not take it for sure how I first met them.”
Jeanne DeMohrenschildt was equally vague in her testimony.
“All of a sudden they arrived on the horizon,” she told the Warren Commission. “And actually, who discovered them for the first time, I don’t even know that.”
Her vagueness on recalling how she and her husband first met the Oswald strains credulity.
“I cannot even tell,” she said finally. “I would like to know, myself, now, how it came about.”
George DeMohrenschildt had a tendency to show up just where the CIA might have needed him. He was in Haiti just before a CIA-engineered effort by Cuban exiles to topple Duvalier and later in CIA training camps set up in Guatemala for Cuban exiles just before the Bay of Pigs invasion.
When Warren Commission attorney Wesley Liebeler asked Ruth Paine if Marina Oswald ever mentioned George DeMohrenschildt to her, she answered, “Well, that’s how I met her.”
Marina Oswald subsequently moved into Paine’s home as a roomer and was living there at the time of the assassination. The meeting occurred at a February 1963 party in Dallas that Paine attended especially to meet Marina, supposedly because she was looking for someone with whom to practice her Russian.
Later, Paine’s testimony would be particularly damaging to Oswald, describing him as a deeply disturbed individual, extremely unhappy with his life in the United States and potentially violent to his wife.
The evidence that DeMohrenschildt’s CIA connections were the magnet that drew him to Oswald is a strong and important counterweight to Pacepa’s suggestion DeMohrenschildt was a KGB agent assigned to be Oswald’s “handler” in Dallas.
Did the CIA influence Marina’s testimony?
In the aftermath of the JFK assassination, the CIA brokered a substantial financial pay-off to Marina Oswald. The broker in the deal was C.D. Jackson, who was the publisher of Life magazine.
The anti-communist journalist and author Isaac Don Levine befriended Marina Oswald shortly after the JFK assassination. In response to a request from former CIA director Allen Dulles, Jackson helped broker a $25,000 book deal with New York publisher Meredith Press to publish Marina’s life story, with Levine agreeing to be the ghostwriter.
The book was never written, and Marina Oswald reportedly ended up receiving over $200,000 in what has been described as a “payoff” that Levine arranged.
Both Jackson and Levine had extensive CIA ties. Frank Wisner, who had worked during World War II with Jackson in the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA, had transitioned to become the director of counter-intelligence for the CIA.
In 1948, Wisner recruited Jackson to participate in Operation Mockingbird, a CIA project in which respected journalists were secretly paid by the CIA to publish stories favorable to the CIA. Jackson had had become managing director of Time-Life International in 1948.
Jackson subsequently became the publisher of Fortune magazine, another Henry Luce creation. In February 1953, Jackson was appointed as a special assistant to President Eisenhower in a role that included coordinating with the CIA and advising Eisenhower on Cold War planning and the tactics of psychological warfare.
As publisher of Life magazine, Jackson purchased the Zapruder film of the JFK assassination, from which he published only selected frames shown as still photographs. Jackson resisted making the Zapruder film available for the public to view, arguing it was too graphically violent for widespread distribution. None less than Carl Bernstein, the former Washington Post reporter of Watergate fame, dubbed C.D. Jackson as “Henry Luce’s personal emissary to the CIA.”
Levine was born in Russia and spoke Russian fluently. He spent an intensive week coaching Marina Oswald just prior to her first session before the Warren Commission on Feb. 3, 1964.
Since the end of World War II, Levine had become involved with what was then known as the China Lobby, a group of supporters for Nationalist China opposing Mao and the spread of communism into China.
Editing a magazine on behalf of the China Lobby called Plain Talk, Levine published a stream of articles analyzing the dangers to the United States from China after its fall to the communist Chinese following Mao’s revolution, which began in 1949.
Levine’s history as an anti-communist also included credits for encouraging Whittaker Chambers to speak out against Alger Hiss. James Herbert Martin, who was then acting as Marina Oswald’s literary agent and manager, believed that Levine’s motivation at the time was to tie Oswald in with the Communist Party by coaching Marina on what to say when she testified to the Warren Commission.
The second possible interpretation of Levine’s role was that he was “on the scene primarily for the purpose of gaining intelligence.”
This was the impression of some of the FBI agents who questioned Levine about his relationship with Marina Oswald, including FBI counter-intelligence head William Sullivan.
Oswald’s mother: ‘My son was a double-agent’
“Lee Harvey Oswald, my son, even after his death, has done more for his country than any other living human being,” Marguerite Oswald insisted, speaking to reporters at the gravesite of her son at Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas, in late 1963.
Testifying to the Warren Commission, Marguerite told them she asked her son why he came back to the United States. She knew he had a good job in Russia because he sent her expensive gifts, and he was married to a Russian girl.
“He said, ‘Mother, not even Marina knows why I have returned to the United States.’ And that is all the information I ever got out of my son.”
Until the day she died, Marguerite Oswald insisted her son was innocent. She believed he died in the service of his country – the United States of America – and that he laid down his life playing out his assigned counter-intelligence role as a loyal secret agent, whatever precisely that role may have been.
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