The Red Scare

Conspiracy theories: The KGB Theory.

Humiliated by Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev decided to punish him.

Scenario 1: Oswald, who lived in the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1962, was trained in espionage there and then ordered to make the hit.

Scenario 2: Oswald was the patsy in Khrushchev’s game, set up by an Oswald double and KGB operatives who fired the fatal shots at Dealey Plaza.

Scenario 3: Oswald returned home from the Soviet Union an unwitting assassin, programmed à la The Manchurian Candidate to carry out the orders of those behind the Iron Curtain.

Believers

CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton and author Michael Eddowes ( Khrushchev Killed Kennedy ).

Strange Details

• Russian baron and suspected spy George de Mohrenschildt— who helped introduce Oswald to the Russian émigré community in Dallas and was his closest friend before the assassination—fatally shot himself in 1977, before he was set to testify before the HSCA.

• The uncle of Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova, Oswald’s Russian-born wife, was a ranking officer in the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Reasons to Believe

• In January 1960 Oswald was given a rent-free apartment in Minsk, where an espionage training academy was located. Recently declassified files show that up to twenty KGB agents shadowed him and may have manipulated his behavior. (“Maybe they did drop a few tablets in his glass,” a high-ranking KGB official told the Russian newspaper Izvestia, “but only to make him let down his guard and be a little more talkative.”)

• The Russians, who had never before captured a U2 spy plane, suddenly managed to do so a scant six and a half months after the defection of Oswald, who had worked as a Marine radar operator in Atsugi, Japan, where the U2 was based.

• On a trip to Mexico City on September 27, 1963, Oswald visited the Soviet embassy and spoke to KGB agent Oleg Maximovich Nechiporenko—who was expelled from Mexico in 1970 for conspiring to overthrow the government—and Valeriy Vladimirovich Kostikov, an agent in “wet affairs”: sabotage and assassination.

Reasons Not to Believe

• Secret agents usually keep a lower profile than did Oswald, whose pinko leanings—such as addressing his fellow Marines as “comrades” in the midst of the cold war or reading Das Kapital in the barracks—earned him the nickname Oswaldskovich.

• It seems unlikely that the KGB would have recruited someone as unstable as Oswald—who attempted suicide five days after arriving in Moscow—for such a covert operation, since a Soviet-backed plot to kill Kennedy would have resulted in certain nuclear retaliation if uncovered.

• At Atsugi, Oswald was a low-level soldier with little exposure to the U2.

• A 1981 exhumation of Oswald’s body revealed that it was indeed he who was buried, not his Soviet-trained double, as some conspiracy theorists suspected.

• Marina later recanted her testimony and professed her husband’s innocence, saying that she had been threatened with deportation if she did not cooperate.

• Why would Khrushchev want to get rid of Kennedy in favor of Johnson, a more zealous anti-communist with closer ties to the military?

Recent Developments

In 1992 the KGB released dossier #31451: the Oswald file. It contained few revelations other than the KGB’s own suspicions that the American defector was a CIA operative. There was, however, one tantalizing detail: After spying on several of Oswald’s hunting trips, KGB operatives concluded that he was a poor shot.

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