It has been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and most of the world still wrongly believes that the culprit was the CIA, or the FBI, or the mafia, or right-wing American businessmen. It has been also 50 years since the Kremlin started an intense, worldwide disinformation operation, codenamed “Dragon,” aimed at diverting attention away from the KGB’s connection with Lee Harvey Oswald. Not unrelated are the facts that Oswald was an American Marine who defected to Moscow, returned to the United States three years later with a Russian wife, killed President Kennedy, and was arrested before being able to carry out his plan to escape back to Moscow. In a letter dated July 1, 1963, Oswald asked the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., to grant his wife an immediate entrance visa to the Soviet Union, and to grant another one to him, separtably (misspelling and emphasis as in the original).
The Kremlin’s “Dragon” operation is described in my book Programmed to Kill: Moscow’s Responsibility for Lee Harvey Oswald’s Assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In 2010, this book was presented at a conference of the Organization of American Historians together with a review by Prof. Stan Weber (McNeese State University). He described the book as “a superb new paradigmatic work on the death of President Kennedy” and a “must read for everyone interested in the assassination.”[i]
Programmed to Kill is a factual analysis of that KGB crime of the century committed during the Khrushchev era. In those days, the former chief KGB adviser in Romania had become the head of the almighty Soviet foreign espionage service and pushed me up to the top levels of the Soviet bloc intelligence clique. My book also contains a factual presentation of Khrushchev’s frantic efforts to cover his backside. Recalling that the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbian terrorist Gavrilo Princip had set off the First World War, Khrushchev was afraid that, if America should learn about the KGB’s involvement with Oswald, it might ignite the first nuclear war. Khrushchev’s interests happened to coincide with those of Lyndon Johnson, the new U.S. president, who was facing elections in less than a year, and any conclusion implicating the Soviet Union in the assassination would have forced Johnson to take undesired political or even military action, adding to his already widely unpopular stance on the war in Vietnam.
According to new KGB documents, which became available after Programmed to Kill was published, the Soviet effort to deflect attention away from the KGB regarding the Kennedy assassination began on November 23, 1963—the very day after Kennedy was killed—and it was introduced by a memo to the Kremlin signed by KGB chairman Vladimir Semichastny. He asked the Kremlin immediately to publish an article in a “progressive paper in one of the Western countries …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.”
The Kremlin complied. Two months later, R. Palme Dutt, the editor of a communist-controlled British journal called Labour Monthly, signed an article that raised the specter of CIA involvement without offering a scintilla of evidence. “[M]ost commentators,” Dutt wrote, “have surmised a coup of the Ultra-Right or racialists of Dallas . . . [that], with the manifest complicity necessary of a very wide range of authorities, bears all the hallmarks of a CIA job.” Semichastny’s super secret letter and Dutt’s subsequent article were revealed by former Russian president Boris Yeltsin in his book The Struggle for Russia, published 32 years after the Kennedy assassination.
No wonder Yeltsin was ousted by a KGB palace coup that transferred the Kremlin’s throne into the hands of the KGB—which still has a firm grip on it. On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin stunned Russia and the rest of the world by announcing his resignation. “I understand that I must do it,”[ii] he explained, speaking in front of a gaily-decorated New Year’s tree along with a blue, red and white Russian flag and a golden Russian eagle. Yeltsin then signed a decree “On the execution of the powers of the Russian president,” which states that under Article 92 Section 3 of the Russian Constitution, the power of the Russian president shall be temporarily performed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, starting from noon on December 31, 1999.[iii] For his part, the newly appointed president signed a decree pardoning Yeltsin, who was allegedly connected to massive bribery scandals, “for any possible misdeeds” and granted him “total immunity” from being prosecuted (or even searched and questioned) for “any and all” actions committed while in office. Putin also gave Yeltsin a lifetime pension and a state dacha.[iv]
Soon after that, the little window into the KGB archive that had been cracked opened by Yeltsin was quietly closed. Fortunately, he had first been able to reveal Semichastny’s memo, which generated the Kennedy conspiracy that has never stopped.
Dutt’s article was followed by the first book on the JFK assassination published in the U.S., Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy? It was authored by a former member of the German Communist Party, Joachim Joesten, and it was published in New York in 1964 by Carlo Aldo Marzani, a former member of the American Communist Party and a KGB agent. Joesten’s book alleges, without providing any proof, that Oswald was “an FBI agent provocateur with a CIA background”. Highly classified KGB documents smuggled out of Russia with British MI-6 help by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin in 1993—long after the two U.S. government investigations into the assassination had been completed—show that in the early 1960s, Marzani received subsidies totaling $672,000 from the Central Committee of the Communist Party. That raises the question of why Marzani was paid by the party and not by the KGB, whose agent he was. The newly released Semichastny letter gives us the answer: on the next day after the assassination, the Kremlin took over management of the disinformation operation aimed at blaming America for the JFK assassination. That is why Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy? was promoted by a joint party/KGB operation.
The book’s first review, which praised it to the skies, was signed by Victor Perlo, a member of the American Communist Party, and was published on September 23, 1964, in New Times, which I knew as a KGB front at one time printed in Romania. On December 9, 1963, the “progressive” American journalist I. F. Stone published a long article in which he tried to justify why America had killed its own president. He called Oswald a rightist crackpot, but put the real blame on the “warlike Administration” of the United States, which was trying to sell Europe a “nuclear monstrosity.” Stone has been identified as a paid KGB agent, codenamed “Blin.”
Joesten dedicated his book to Mark Lane, an American leftist who in 1966 produced the bestseller Rush to Judgment, alleging Kennedy was assassinated by a right-wing American group. Documents in the Mitrokhin Archive show that the KGB indirectly sent Mark Lane money ($2,000), and that KGB operative Genrikh Borovik was in regular contact with him. Another KGB defector, Colonel Oleg Gordievsky (former KGB station chief in London), has identified Borovik as the brother-in-law of Col. General Vladimir Kryuchkov, who in 1988 became chairman of the KGB and in August 1991 led the coup in Moscow aimed at restoring the Soviet Union.
The year 1967 saw the publication of two more books attributed to Joesten: The Case Against Lyndon Johnson in the Assassination of President Kennedy and Oswald: The Truth. Both books suggested that President Johnson and his CIA had killed Kennedy. They were soon followed by Mark Lane’s A Citizen’s Dissent (1968). Lane has also intensively traveled abroad to preach that America is an “FBI police state” that killed its own president.
With such books, the Kennedy conspiracy was born, and it never stopped. The growing popularity of books on the JFK assassination has encouraged all kinds of people with any sort of remotely related background expertise to join the party, each viewing events from his own narrow perspective. Several thousand books have been written on the JFK assassination, and the hemorrhage continues. In spite of this growing mountain of paper, a satisfactory explanation of Oswald’s motivation has yet to be offered, primarily because the whole important dimension of Soviet foreign policy concerns and Soviet intelligence practice in the late 1950s and early 1960s has not been addressed in connection with Oswald by any competent authority. Why not? Because none of their authors had ever been a KGB insider, familiar with its modus operandi.
By its very nature espionage is an arcane and duplicitous undertaking, and in the hands of the Soviets it developed into a whole philosophy, every aspect of which had its own set of tried and true rules and followed a prescribed pattern. To really understand the mysteries of Soviet espionage, it will not help to see a spy movie or read a spy novel, as entertaining as that might be. You must have lived in that world of secrecy and deceit for a whole career, as I did, and even then you may not fathom its darker moments, unless you are one of the few at the very top of the pyramid.
Therefore, I have put together a short PowerPoint presentation of such darker moments that are crucial for understanding how the Kremlin has been able to fool the rest of the world into believing that America killed one of its most beloved presidents. Click here to read “11 Facts That Destroy JFK Conspiracy Theories.” Let’s step back together into that world of Soviet espionage and deceit. At the end of our tour d’horizon, I hope you’ll agree with me that the Soviets had a hand in the assassination of President Kennedy. I also hope that afterwards you will look with different eyes upon other documents relating to the JFK assassination that may turn up in the future. Perhaps you may spot additional Soviet/Russian maneuverings hidden behind them.
[i] Stan Weber, “A New Paradigmatic Work on the JFK Assassination,” H-Net Online, October 2009, http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=25348
[ii] Barry Renfrew, “Boris Yeltsin Resigns,” The Washington Post, December 31, 1999, 6:48 a.m.
[iii] Matt Drudge Report, December 31, 1999, 11:00 AM UTC.
[iv] Ariel Cohen, “End of the Yeltsin Era,” The Washington Times, January 3, 2000, Internet Edition, cohen-20000103.