Editor’s note: Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa is the highest-ranking Soviet bloc intelligence official ever to defect to the West. He exposed the massive crimes and corruption of his former boss, Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, giving the dictator a nervous breakdown and prompting him to post two different million-dollar bounties on Pacepa’s head and send assassination squads to the U.S. to find his former spy chief and kill him. He was unsuccessful. Pacepa, now in his late 80s, lives in the U.S. as a “proud American citizen.”
Gen. Pacepa teamed up with Prof. Ron Rychlak to write “Disinformation: Former Spy Chief Reveals Secret Strategies for Undermining Freedom, Attacking Religion, and Promoting Terrorism,” published in 2013 by WND Books. The book, with an introduction by former CIA director R. James Woolsey, also generated an award-winning film documentary, “Disinformation: The Secret Strategy to Destroy the West.”
Today, Nov. 22, marks the 52nd anniversary of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In the following original analysis of Russia’s little-known role in that infamous event, Gen. Pacepa starts off by disabusing readers of the notion that Russian leader Vladimir Putin is today somehow America’s friend – even if he bombs ISIS.
Having thus set the stage by noting that Russia still poses an existential threat to America, Pacepa goes on to offer insights about the Kennedy assassination and the Soviet connection that no one but a former top-level communist intelligence insider could do.
Make no mistake about it: While America is surely facing the prospect of a terrorist Armageddon and our focus is riveted to jihadist barbarians, it seems our self-inflicted ignorance regarding today’s Russia might likewise prove to be a catastrophic mistake.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, our new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agrees with his predecessor Gen. Ray Odierno, that today’s Russia an existential threat to the United States. Gen. Sir Adrian Bradshaw, NATO’s deputy supreme allied commander in Europe, fully agrees: “The threat from Russia and the risk it brings of miscalculation resulting in a strategic conflict, represents an existential threat to our whole being.”
For example, according to the U.S. Congressional Electro Magnetic Pulse Commission (EMP), just one single Russian nuclear EMP bomb detonated high above the U.S. mainland could collapse our country’s electric grid and the infrastructure necessary to sustain modern civilization and the lives of over 300 million Americans. Communications would cease, transportation would come to a halt, electrical power would disappear. All past calamities of the modern era would pale in comparison to the catastrophe caused by a high-altitude EMP strike.
In the estimation of two eminent authorities, Ambassador R. James Woolsey, former director of Central Intelligence, and Dr. Peter Pry, executive director of the Congressional Task Force on National and Homeland Security, even a terrorist organization such as ISIS could launch a small nuclear weapon – obtained from Russia – with the help of an old Soviet SCUD rocket from a fishing boat off our East or West Coast.
But wait. Russia helping Islamic radicals? Isn’t Putin angry with them, especially since they blew up a Russian passenger jet recently, killing all 224 on board, inducing the Russian leader to bomb the ISIS terror army?
Fast rewind to 2006. Six years after defecting to Great Britain, former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko learned that Ayman al-Zawahiri, whom Litvinenko secretly brought to Russia to be trained by the KGB/FSB in 1996 and 1997, had created al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which has now become ISIS. Former KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhensky, who defected to the U.S. in 2006 and is a regular speaker on the Voice of America, testified that Litvinenko “was responsible for securing the secrecy of al-Zawahiri’s presence in Russia while he was trained by FSB instructors.”
The revelation that al-Zawahiri, who initiated ISIS, was a secret KGB/FSB operative has been totally ignored by our politicians. Not by the Kremlin, which savagely killed Litvinenko with Polonium-210, a highly toxic isotope known to have been used by the former Soviet Union as a neutron trigger for nuclear weapons. In 2007, Great Britain called for the extradition to the UK of Russian citizen Andrey Lugovoy, a former KGB officer, on charges of having murdered Litvinenko. Russia declined to extradite Lugovoy, who overnight became a member of the Duma, thus receiving parliamentary immunity.
During the Cold War, the KGB was a state within a state. Now the KGB – rechristened FSB – is the state. According to a study published in the well-known Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta and republished by the Center for the Future of Russia, some 6,000 former KGB officers were running Russia’s federal and local governments a couple of years after Vladimir Putin was crowned as Russia’s KGB tsar. Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s current minister of foreign affairs, a graduate of the KGB-sponsored Institute of International Relations, was just one of them.
The Cold War is indeed over, but, unlike other wars, that one did not end with having the defeated enemy throw down its weapons. The Kremlin’s political police, which instrumented the Cold War, has remained in place with new nameplates on their doors. Over the years this political police changed its name many times, from Okhrana to Cheka, to GPU, to OGPU, to NKVD, to NKGB, to MGB, to MVD, to KGB, to MSB, to MB, to FSK, to today’s FSB.
This does not mean Russia cannot change, but for that to happen, we will have to help. And in order to help, we should get familiar with the KGB “science” of disinformation, which has its own super-secret rules and follows its own super-secret pattern. To understand its mysteries it will not help to indulge in spy movies or spy novels, as entertaining as they might be. You must have lived in that world of secrecy and deceit, and even then you may not fathom all its darker moments, unless you are one of the few at the very top of the pyramid.
“I looked the man [Putin] in the eye” and “I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy,” declared President George W. Bush at the end of the 2001 summit meeting held in Slovenia. However, Bob Gates, who became familiar with KGB disinformation as director of the CIA, looked into Putin’s eyes and saw “a stone-cold killer.”
We need to understand that the KGB’s “science” of disinformation can transform night into day. This is one of the most important things I have learned in the 64 years I have been involved in the intelligence business – 27 in the Soviet bloc and 37 in the U.S.
New evidence shows Kennedy conspiracy as product of KGB disinformation
Nov. 22, 1963 remains a seminal date in the history of the United States. On that day, President John F. Kennedy, who wiped the floor with Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis, was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a Marxist American who defected to the Soviet Union, temporarily returned to the U.S., and had intended to disappear again into the inscrutable Soviet Union.
On Oct. 14, 1964, less than a year after Kennedy was assassinated, Khrushchev became the only Russian/Soviet ruler to be dethroned and publicly accused of “harebrained schemes, hasty decisions, actions divorced from reality, braggadocio and rule by fiat,” as Pravda reported on its front page. Khrushchev had known Oswald would try to assassinate Kennedy on the fateful day of Nov. 22, 1963. Reliable, but unfortunately ignored, information shows Khrushchev’s dear friend, Fidel Castro (whose spies masterminded the killing of Oswald after the assassination), even ordered his intelligence services to monitor all American radio transmissions during that tragic day, as revealed in Brian Latell’s highly regarded book, “Castro’s Secrets: Cuban Intelligence, The CIA, and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy.”
Fifty-one years later, most of America is still influenced by a KGB disinformation operation, codenamed Dragon, according to which Oswald killed JFK on behalf of the CIA, the FBI, and/or rightwing American businessmen. In fact, during my years at the top of the KGB community, my Romanian foreign intelligence service, the DIE, was peripherally involved in operation Dragon. In my book “Programmed to Kill: Moscow’s Responsibility for Lee Harvey Oswald’s Assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy,” I described that worldwide operation, which proved to be one of the most successful disinformation endeavors in KGB history
Original KGB documents I became aware of after I wrote the book provide new and irrefutable evidence proving the KGB involvement in the JFK assassination. Here is a short synthesis of old information completed by new revelations:
The Kennedy assassination conspiracy was born in the KGB
In “Programmed to Kill,” I described operation Dragon based on what I learned from the head of the Soviet Union’s espionage service (PGU), Gen. Alexander Sakharovsky, who had been Romania’s chief intelligence adviser and my de facto boss. Now we have the birth certificate of operation Dragon, revealed to the world by Boris Yeltsin, the first freely elected Russian president, 32 years after JFK’s assassination. No wonder he was forced to resign at the end of a KGB palace coup.
According to President Yeltsin’s testimony, operation Dragon was born on the day after Kennedy was killed: Nov. 23, 1963. On that day, KGB Chairman Vladimir Semichastny requested Khrushchev’s approval to launch a worldwide disinformation operation aimed at “exposing the attempt by reactionary circles in the USA to remove the responsibility for the murder of Kennedy from the real criminals, [i.e.,] the racists and ultra-right elements guilty of the spread and growth of violence and terror in the United States.” Khrushchev promptly approved Semichastny’s request.
A few years after Yeltsin’s revelation, the British MI6 smuggled retired KGB colonel Vasily Mitrokhin out of the Soviet Union together with some 25,000 pages of top secret documents he had purloined out of the KGB archives over the years. The FBI described the Mitrokhin Archive as “the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source.” Documents found in this archive prove the KGB went to great lengths to hide its involvement with Oswald and to persuade the world that JFK was killed by America, with the CIA, FBI, mafia, and rightwing businessmen arrayed as the main villains.
Original KGB documents smuggled out by Mitrokin, prove the first book on Kennedy’s assassination published in the U.S., “Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy?,” was born in the KGB, which went to great lengths to publish it before the Warren Commission Report came out, in order to generate disbelief about the Commission’s conclusions.
“Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy?” was attributed to Joachim Joesten, a German-American journalist who joined the German Communist Party in 1932, and was published by a KGB agent in the U.S., Carlo Aldo Marzani (codename Nord), who received $80,000 from the KGB to produce pro-Soviet books, plus an annual $10,000 to advertise them aggressively. All this was documented in Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin’s book, “The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB.”
The so-called Joesten book, which had seen the light a couple of days before the Warren Commission Report did, proclaimed – without providing any evidence – that Oswald had been a CIA/FBI agent used to shield the real assassins, an unnamed group of American rightwing conspirators. The first review of this book, which praised it to the skies, was signed by another American who worked for the KGB, Victor Perlo (identified as a Soviet agent by Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers, both former Soviet spies who defected to the U.S., as well as in the Venona intercepts). Perlo’s review was published in The New Times (a KGB front, at one time printed in Romania). The New Times published nine more articles on the assassination, all accusing elements in the U.S. of the crime.
The KGB dedicated Joesten’s book to Mark Lane, an American leftist who in 1966 produced the bestseller “Rush to Judgment,” alleging that Kennedy was assassinated by a rightwing American group. Documents in the Mitrokhin Archive show that the KGB sent Lane money ($2,000) indirectly, and that KGB agent Genrikh Borovik was in regular contact with him. Another KGB defector, Col. Oleg Gordievsky (former KGB station chief in London), identified Borovik as the brother-in-law of Gen. Vladimir Kryuchkov, who in 1974 became the Soviet Union’s spy chief, in 1988 chairman of the KGB, and in August 1991 led the anti-Gorbachev KGB coup in Moscow.
In 1967, the KGB authored two other books attributed to Joesten, “The Case Against Lyndon Johnson in the Assassination of President Kennedy” and “Oswald: The Truth.” They were soon followed by Mark Lane’s “A Citizen’s Dissent” in 1968. Lane helped New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison arrest a local man, Clay Shaw, whom Garrison accused of conspiring with elements of U.S. intelligence to murder Kennedy in order to stop his efforts to end the Cold War. Garrison’s “On the Trail of the Assassin” inspired Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK.”
Thus was the Kennedy assassination conspiracy born, and it has never stopped.
Oswald’s dry run for the JFK assassination
On the evening of April 10, 1963, a rifle shot narrowly missed hitting Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker as he was seated at his desk in his Dallas home. The bullet was recovered, but no evidence turned up at the time that could help identify the perpetrator. After Oswald’s arrest, the bullet taken from the Walker house was examined by ballistics experts, who indicated it had been fired by Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.
On Dec. 2, 1963, ten days after Kennedy’s assassination, Ruth Paine turned over to the police an undated note handwritten by Oswald, which must have been written just before he took the shot at Walker on April 10, 1963, because it contained instructions in Russian to Marina on what she should do in case he should be arrested, or worse. Here, right from the Warren Commission Report (Exhibits of Documents, Vol. 1), is its English translation (emphasis as in the original):
1. This is the KEY to the mailbox of the main post office, found in the city, on ERVAY street the same street where the drugstore is where you always stood. 4 blocks from the drugstore on the same street to the post office there you will find our box. I paid for the box last month so don’t worry about it.
2. Send the embassy the information about what happened to me and also clip from the newspaper, (if anything is written about me in the paper) I think the embassy will quickly help you when it knows everything.
3. I paid for the house on the 2nd so don’t worry about that.
4. I also paid for the water and gas not long ago.
5. It is possible there will be money from work, they will send to our box at the post office. Go to the bank and change the check into cash.
6. My clothes etc. you can throw out or give away. Do not keep them. But my PERSONAL papers (military, factory, etc. I prefer that you keep.
7. A few of my documents are in the blue small valise.
8. The address book is on my table in the study, if you need it.
9. We have friends here and the Red Cross will also help you. (Red Cross [sic] in English)
10. I left you money as much as I could, 60$ on the 2nd, and you and June can live on 10$ a week. 2 months more.
11. If I am alive and they have taken me prisoner, the city jail is located at the end of that bridge that we always rode over when we went into town. (the very beginning of the city after the bridge.)
As it turned out, Oswald succeeded in firing a shot at Walker and getting away without attracting any attention to himself, just as he must have hoped. The fact that he fired only once (and narrowly missed) tends to support the theory that this was primarily a test for Oswald, to prove he would escape clean from a future assassination. Marina testified that Oswald put together a package, complete with photographs, showing how he had planned this operation, and how he was able to get away without raising any suspicion. He would now have to look for a way of holding a meeting with the KGB to pass this package, and to get approval for killing JFK.
Oswald secretly met his KGB case officer before killing JFK
On Sept. 27, 1963, Oswald arrived by bus in Mexico City, under a false identity, and checked in at the Hotel del Comercio, where he would stay throughout his visit. In Mexico City, Oswald secretly met Valery Kostikov, identified by the CIA as an officer of the KGB’s Thirteenth Department for assassinations abroad. Kostikov was assigned under diplomatic cover at the Soviet Embassy in Mexico soon after Oswald returned to the U.S.
Among the many corpus delicti found on Oswald or at his home, which are included in the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission Report, are three pieces which had never been connected together by investigators: (1) a Mexico City guidebook, Esta Semana (“This Week”) for Sept. 28-Oct. 4, 1963; (2) a Spanish-English dictionary; and (3) a handwritten letter for the Soviet Embassy in Washington, in which Oswald described the meeting he had just had with “comrade Kostin” in Mexico City, whom he also names elsewhere as Comrade Kostikov.
To an intelligence eye familiar with the KGB pattern, these three pieces are typical components of a zheleznaya yavka – iron meeting – for dealing with emergency or other unforeseen situations.
The guidebook has the Soviet embassy’s telephone number underlined in pencil, the names Kosten and Osvald noted in Cyrillic on the page listing “Diplomats in Mexico,” and checkmarks next to the movie theaters on the previous page. In the back of his Spanish-English dictionary, Oswald wrote: “buy tickets [plural] for bull fight,” and the Plaza México bullring is encircled on his Mexico City map. Also marked on Oswald’s map is the Palace of Fine Arts, a favorite place for tourists to assemble on Sunday mornings to watch the Ballet Folklórico. The handwritten letter for the Soviet Embassy in Washington, which described a meeting Oswald just had with “comrade Kostin” in Mexico City, was found in the garage of Ruth Paine, an American at whose house Oswald had spent that weekend.
Ruth testified under oath that Oswald re-wrote that letter several times before typing it on her typewriter. It was important to him. A photocopy of the final letter Oswald sent to the Soviet embassy was recovered by the Warren Commission, but received no attention from our investigators. Let me quote from that letter, in which I have also inserted Oswald’s earlier draft version in italics within brackets:
“This is to inform you of recent events since my meetings with comrade Kostin [of new events since my interviews with comrade Kostine] in the Embassy of the Soviet Union, Mexico City, Mexico. I was unable to remain in Mexico [crossed out in draft: because I considered useless] indefinitely because of my Mexican visa restrictions which was for 15 days only. I could not take a chance on requesting a new visa [applying for an extension] unless I used my real name, so I returned to the United States.”
Oswald’s letter confirms that he met “comrade Kostin” during his secrets trip to Mexico City. The fact that Oswald used an operational codename for Kostikov indicates that his meeting with him was conducted in a KGB operational context. Oswald’s trip to Mexico City under a false identity confirms this conclusion. Contrary to what Oswald claimed, he was not observed at the Soviet Embassy at any time during his stay in Mexico City, although the CIA had surveillance cameras trained on the entrance to the embassy at that time. Therefore, his meeting with “comrade Kostin” took place outside of the Soviet Embassy.
The above facts taken together suggest to us that Oswald resorted to an unscheduled zheleznaya yavka (iron meeting) for an urgent talk with Kostikov in Mexico City. The “iron meeting” was a KGB extraordinary procedure for emergency situations, iron meaning ironclad or invariable. I am familiar with the KGB-style “iron meetings,” and in my other life I approved quite a few such emergency meetings in Mexico City, a favorite place for the Soviet bloc intelligence community to contact its most important agents living in the United States.
To me, Oswald’s “iron meeting” looks like a typical one. That means: a brief encounter at a movie house to arrange a meeting for the following day at the bullfights (in Mexico City they were held at 4:30 every Sunday afternoon); a brief encounter in front of the Palace of Fine Arts to pass Kostikov one of the bullfight tickets Oswald had bought; and a long meeting for discussions at the Sunday bullfight.
Of course, I cannot be sure that everything happened exactly that way. Every case officer has his own quirks. But however they may have connected, it is clear that Kostikov and Oswald did secretly meet over that weekend of Sept. 28-29, 1963. The letter to the Soviet embassy that Oswald worked so hard on irrefutably proves that.
Castro joined the ‘Dragon’ disinformation operation
According to revelations made in 2012 in “Castro’s Secrets” by Brian Latell, a former head of the CIA Cuban department, Fidel Castro knew in advance that Oswald would try to kill JFK on Nov. 22, 1963. Latell got this evidence from Florentino Aspillaga, a radio intercept officer with Cuban intelligence who defected in Vienna in 1987. Latell interviewed him in 2007 and described him as the most valuable defector ever to come from Cuba. Aspillaga’s intelligence task in Cuba was to monitor CIA transmissions from U.S. and offshore ships.
On Nov. 22, 1963, Aspillaga was ordered to stop all CIA tracking and to listen only for communications from Texas and to immediately report anything of importance to headquarters. Soon after noon that day, Aspillaga began picking up messages on amateur radio bands about the shooting of JFK in Dallas, which he reported to his headquarters on the secure telephone. (Kennedy was shot at about 12:30 p.m. Dallas time, which would have been 1:30 p.m. Havana time.) Aspillaga told Latell: “Castro knew. They knew Kennedy would be killed.”
Latell included this information in the Spanish-language memoirs he wrote for his original debriefers in 1990. It did not become publicly available until the appearance of Latell’s book in 2012.
KGB fabricated a letter to blame the CIA for the assassination
Another significant piece of information provided by the Mitrokhin Archive revolves around photocopies of a short, handwritten and apparently naïve letter that starts “Dear Mr. Hunt,” signed by Oswald, in which he politely asks for some “information … before any steps are taken by me or anyone else.”
In 1975, photocopies of this letter were anonymously mailed in the United States to three of the most active conspiracy advocates, along with a note alleging that the head of the FBI had the original. The letter is nicely ambiguous in its use of “Mr. Hunt.” During the same 1975, the name of CIA officer Howard Hunt became known in the U.S. from the Watergate affair, while a rightwing Dallas oilman Nelson Bunker Hunt was also in the news because he had earlier been falsely implicated in the Kennedy assassination by Joesten’s and Mark Lane’s books.
The “Dear Mr. Hunt” letter was picked up by the New York Times, which reported that it had been authenticated by three handwriting experts and by Oswald’s widow.
Highly classified KGB documents in the Mitrokhin Archive provide irrefutable proof that the “Dear Mr. Hunt” letter had been fabricated by the KGB using words and expressions taken from actual letters handwritten by Oswald during his stay in the Soviet Union. That letter had been twice authenticated by the KGB’s Technical Operations Directorate before being launched in the U.S.
The ‘Dragon’ is still alive
On Christmas Day 1991, the world watched in amazement how Russia’s people, armed with only a fierce desire for freedom, brought down one of the most repressive police states known in history. That evening, the flag of the Soviet Union was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time. On Dec. 26, 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved, and Russia’s old tricolor flag was raised again over the Kremlin.
Post -Soviet Russia has been transformed in unprecedented positive ways. Unfortunately, the KGB has remained in place with a new name, and operation Dragon has been kept alive. Hangmen do not incriminate themselves.
In 1993, when the U.S. commemorated 30 years since JFK was killed, the KGB, now re-baptized FSK (Federalnaya Sluzhba Kontrrazvedki) to appear as a new organization, tried to wash once more its hands of the case. “Passport to Assassination: The Never-Before-Told Story of Lee Harvey Oswald by the KGB Colonel Who Knew Him,” a Russian book written by a retired KGB officer for an American, not Russian, audience, claimed that a thorough investigation into Oswald had found that Oswald had no value at the KGB, and that there was no KGB involvement with him. The proof? Statements from retired KGB generals Semichastny, who created the Dragon operation, and Sakharovsky, who was charged with implementing that worldwide disinformation operation.
I spent 15 years of my other life spreading that same lie. In reality, Oswald had helped the KGB to shoot down a CIA U2 spy plane on May 1, 1960, and to capture its pilot, Francis Gary Power. Oswald, a Marine officer, had spent years as a radar operator at the Atsugi Base in Japan and at El Toro Air Base in California, where there was also a super-secret U-2 spy plane unit, and he provided the KGB the super-super secret fly altitude of these spy planes.
On Aug. 17, 1960, Powers was put on well-publicized public trial in Moscow’s ornate Hall of Columns. As Powers would relate, “this was no courtroom but an immense theater. … The audience numbered close to a thousand. … This was like being tried in Carnegie Hall!” Hundreds of foreign journalists were in attendance, and the entire proceedings were photographed for later showing on television and in movie theaters.
Oswald was one of the people in the audience attending Powers’ trial. On Feb. 15, 1962, Oswald would write his brother Robert in the U.S: “I heard over the voice of America that they released Powers, the U2 spy plane fellow. That’s big news where you are, I suppose. He seemed to be a nice, bright American-type fellow, when I saw him in Moscow.” It would have been normal procedure for the KGB to take Oswald to observe the Powers trial as one of the rewards given him for having helped the Soviet Union to shoot down the U-2.
Back in the U.S., Powers stated he was sure Oswald provided the Soviets with the technical information needed to bring down the U-2. According to Powers (in his book, “Operation Overflight: The U-2 Spy Pilot Tells His Story for the First Time”), at El Toro Oswald had access “not only to radar and radio codes, but also to the new MPS-16 height-finding radar gear,” and the height at which the U-2 flew was the most highly classified secret about it.
Kennedy conspiracy continues
To date, thousands of books have been written on the JFK assassination, many of them blaming various elements of the U.S. government for this terrible crime. People with any sort of remotely related background expertise joined the party, each viewing events from his/her own narrow perspective. Some books claimed witnesses to the assassination have heard more shots, other books alleged there were more assassins. Richard H. Popkin even wrote a book titled “The Second Oswald” and Marina actually agreed to have her former husband’s grave reopened to see who was buried there.
The body was Oswald’s.
Mao Zedong used to say a lie repeated a hundred times becomes the truth. For once, he was right.