who was lee harvey oswald?
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FRONTLINE: Program #1205
Air Date: November 20, 2003

[Note: This program was originally broadcast on November 13, 1993]

Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?



Ruth Paine: He lives in this fantasy about being a great man. Michael Paine;


Michael Paine: He wanted to be an active guerilla in the effort to bring about a new world order

Reporter: …President kennedy cut down by assasin's bullets..


Robert Blakey: Any effort to explain what happened in Dallas must explain Lee Harvey Oswald. He is not an easy man to explain.

Reporter: Did you shoot the President?

Lee Harvey Oswald: No. I'm just a patsy.I'm just a patsy




NARRATOR : At the edge of downtown Dallas, the Union Pacific Railroad crosses a triple underpass near a place called Dealey Plaza. On the north side of Dealey Plaza are the Dallas County jail, the courthouse and the Texas School Book Depository. In Dealey Plaza it is always November 22nd, 1963.

TV SHOW HOSTESS: I notice that there are a number of hidden zippers in these jackets. Now, what are these for, Betsy? They can't be for -- is it for mad money?

MODEL: Well, it depends on where they're placed. They can be wherever you want them.

1st REPORTER : Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. You'll excuse the fact that I'm out of breath, but about 10 or 15 minutes ago, a tragic thing, from all indications at this point, has happened in the city of Dallas. Let me quote to you this, and I'll -- you'll excuse me if I am out of breath. A bulletin -- this is from the United Press, from Dallas. "President Kennedy and Governor John Connally have been cut down by assassins' bullets in downtown Dallas. They were riding in an open automobile when the shots were fired."

2nd REPORTER : --the Texas School Book Depository, headed for the triple underpass. There were three loud, reverberating explosions.

3rd REPORTER : --shots were fired and he happened to look up at about the fifth or sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository. He said he saw the rifle being pulled back in.

1st REPORTER : Bert? Let's see. Let's get reorganized here. Grab that cable over there. We're on the air, Bert. And let's talk to you--

4th REPORTER : Officials were en route as fast as they could get there, to Parkland Hospital--

5th REPORTER : This is what I've been told, today. The President was shot in the head. Connally was shot in the chest. Both of them are still alive when I left the hospital.

1st REPORTER : Do you have some film?

5th REPORTER : Yeah, I have film. I left the hospital--

1st REPORTER : Will you get the film and see if you can get it developed real quick--

5th REPORTER : Yeah, I will. [crosstalk]

6th REPORTER : A priest has been ordered. Emergency supplies of blood also being rushed to the hospital.

7th REPORTER : Just a moment. Just a moment. We have a bulletin.

1st REPORTER : A gentleman just walked in our studio, that I am meeting for the first time, as well as you. This is WFAA-TV in Dallas, Texas. May I have your name, please, sir?

ABRAHAM ZAPRUDER : My name is Abraham Zapruder.

1st REPORTER :Mr. Zapuda?

Mr. ZAPRUDER : Zapruder, yes, sir.

1st REPORTER : Zapruder. And would you tell us your story, please, sir?

Mr. ZAPRUDER :I got out and -- about a half hour early to get a good spot to shoot some pictures. As the President's coming down from Houston Street, making his turn, it was about half-way down there, I heard a shot and he slumped to the side, like this. Then I heard another shot or two. I couldn't tell you whether it was one or two. And I saw his head practically open up, all blood and everything. And I kept on shooting. That's about all. I'm just sick. I can't--

1st REPORTER : I think that pretty well expresses the entire feelings of the whole world.

Mr. ZAPRUDER : Terrible.

NARRATOR : Less than one hour after the President was pronounced dead, police had arrested a suspect. Lee Harvey Oswald was a 24-year-old former Marine who had once defected to the Soviet Union. Only weeks earlier he had visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies.

JAMES P. HOSTY, FBI : The original complaint that the police department filed on Lee Oswald, around midnight on the 22nd of November, said that Lee Oswald did, "in furtherance of an international communist conspiracy, assassinate President John F. Kennedy."

NARRATOR : That night, as Air Force One brought John Kennedy's body home to Washington, the new president was afraid that Oswald's apparent communist connections could spark an international crisis. President Johnson ordered the district attorney to drop any reference to a communist conspiracy.

Pres. LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON : This is a sad time for all people.

Mr. HOSTY : Johnson was fearful that if this had gotten out, it would inflame public opinion and could possibly lead to World War III. This is exactly how World War I began, with an assassination.

ANTHONY SUMMERS, Author, "Conspiracy" : Imagine the new president's predicament. This was just a year after the Cuban missile crisis, when the world came to the brink of nuclear war. What does he do? He calls in Chief Justice Earl Warren, tells him that he must, as chief justice, chair the commission of investigation. The commission of investigation goes ahead and effectively puts the lid on the whole thing and that meant hiding things in order to keep the peace.

NARRATOR : Nine months later, the Warren Commission concluded that Oswald had acted alone. But for 40 years its findings have been under attack. In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations said there was a probable conspiracy to kill the President and thousands of books and films have accused the Mafia, right-wing oil men, anti-Castro Cubans, Fidel Castro, the Pentagon, the KGB, the FBI, the CIA and even Lyndon Johnson of murdering John Kennedy.

GERALD POSNER, Author, "Case Closed" : Increasingly, Oswald has become a footnote to the story. He is lost under a deluge of details about trajectory angles and ballistics and forensics and possible plotters. We have no understanding, in this sterile presentation of him, of his real character and what motivates him.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : I'm just a patsy.

REPORTER : Did you shoot the President?

NARRATOR : Lone gunman, conspirator or patsy? Was Oswald controlled by a private political passion or by his apparent connections to virtually every group with a strong motive to kill President Kennedy?

G. ROBERT BLAKEY, Chief Counsel, House Assassinations Committee : Any effort to explain what happened in Dallas must explain Lee Harvey Oswald, you know, and Lee Harvey Oswald is a mystery wrapped in an enigma hidden behind a riddle. He is not, I put it in simple words, an easy man to explain.

NARRATOR : Forty years later, the many mysteries of Oswald's short life are still at the heart of the enduring question: Who killed John Kennedy?

1st REPORTER : He's been shot! Lee Oswald has been shot!

2nd REPORTER : He is shot! Oswald -- it is Oswald!

Part 1

NARRATOR : He was born October 18th, 1939, in New Orleans, the son of Marguerite and Robert Oswald. But his father died suddenly of a heart attack two months before Lee's birth. Marguerite Oswald was left alone to care for Lee and his two older brothers -- his half-brother John and Robert.

ROBERT OSWALD , Brother: You go back to the death of Dad two months before he was born -- that's a tremendous impact. What Lee missed from his childhood, in comparison to me, was the whole family being together all the time, the continuity there, the stability. The lack of stability, I think, entered into that to a large degree.

NARRATOR : Marguerite sent the older boys into an orphanage and later to boarding school. Lee stayed at home with his mother.

ROBERT OSWALD : I don't know at what age Mother verbalized to Lee to the effect that she felt he was a burden to her. Certainly by age 3, he had the sense that, you know, we were a burden.

NARRATOR : When he was 3 years old, Lee, too, was sent to the orphanage. Like Lee, Marguerite herself grew up without a parent. It was their common bond.

ROBERT OSWALD : She had certain characteristics that were so much like Lee. The time and circumstances always seemed to be against her. The world owed her a living. She wanted to be somebody. I think this was passed on to Lee.

NARRATOR : Later Lee summed up his own childhood:

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "The son of an insurance salesman whose early death left a far mean streak of independence brought on by neglect."

NARRATOR : At 12, Lee and his mother moved to New York. They lived in a small apartment in the Bronx. While Marguerite worked days in a dress shop, Lee spent his time alone. He went often to the Bronx Zoo. The zoo had become a haven for Lee, who seemed to prefer the company of animals to that of people. He was enrolled in the eighth grade, but had not set foot in school for almost two months. On March 11th, he was noticed at the zoo by a truant officer and taken to court. He was sent to a youth detention center for three weeks of psychiatric evaluation. His social worker was Evelyn Siegel.

EVELYN SIEGEL : I remember him vividly. He was a skinny, unprepossessing kid. He was not a mentally disturbed kid. As a matter of fact, his I.Q. was better than average. He was just emotionally frozen. He was a kid who had never developed a really trusting relationship with anybody.

NARRATOR : Lee thought he had better ways to spend his time than in school. He spent his days at the public library and museums, and endless hours learning the New York City subway system.

Ms. SIEGEL : From what I could garner, he really interacted with no one. He made his own meals. His mother left at around 7:00 and came home at 7:00 and he shifted for himself. You got the feeling of a kid nobody gave a darn about him. He was just floating along in the world with no emotional resources at all.

ANNOUNCER : ["I Led 3 Lives" ] This is the story, the fantastically true story, of Herbert A. Philbrick, who for nine frightening years did lead three lives: average citizen, high-level member of the Communist Party and counterspy for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

1st ACTOR : What's the matter, comrade, trouble?

2nd ACTOR : Got a cigarette?

1st ACTOR : Yeah.

NARRATOR : His favorite T.V. program was a saga of political intrigue and espionage.

ROBERT OSWALD :I Lived 3 Lives -- he became really engrossed in that particular television show. I think he just liked the atmosphere that you could do anything that you wanted to do, that you could imagine you could do.

ANNOUNCER : ["I Led 3 Lives" ] Herbert A. Philbrick -- successful communist, his party's pride. He'll lie for the Party, spy for the Party, report his best friend to the Party as a "deviationist liberal."

NARRATOR : At the same time, very real events were making a lasting impression on Lee. In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death as Russian spies. Journalist Edward J. Epstein traces Lee's political awakening to this moment.

EDWARD J. EPSTEIN, Author, "Legend" : The first instance we have of Lee Harvey Oswald's politics is that he picked up a leaflet in New York City about the coming execution of the Rosenbergs. And as he reads this, it begins to show him that there's a way of finding himself by opposing the established order.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "I was looking for a key to my environment, and then I discovered socialist literature. I had to dig for my books in the back dusty shelves of libraries."

NARRATOR : When the truant officer came after Lee again, he and his mother fled New York. They moved back to New Orleans, to the edge of the French Quarter. But their home was far from the tourists on Bourbon Street.

Mr. BLAKEY : That street at that time was one den of iniquity after another -- strip joints, gambling joints. It was a place where every hustler and pimp in New Orleans plied his trade. Oswald grew up in a community and environment of crime and corruption.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "Dear Sirs: I am 16 years of age and would like more information about your youth league."

NARRATOR : His interest in socialism may have diverted Lee from the vices of his neighborhood.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "I am a Marxist and"--

NARRATOR : He tried to join the Socialist Party's youth league, but there was no chapter in New Orleans.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "I am very interested in your YPSL. Sincerely, Lee Oswald."

NARRATOR : Instead, he joined the Civil Air Patrol, a youth auxiliary of the Air Force. He tried to lie his way into the Marines, but he was rejected as too young. Just after his 17th birthday, Oswald enlisted. It was 1956, the height of the Cold War, and the young socialist had become an instrument of U.S. foreign policy.

Mr. EPSTEIN : To him, the Marine Corps was a vehicle for escaping from all the things that were holding him down in his life. Look what he got as a Marine. He learned to use a rifle. He learned to travel. And he got away from his family.

NARRATOR : Oswald received extensive training in marksmanship. Fellow Marines remember him as a poor shot, but the record indicates otherwise.

Mr. POSNER : He shoots on the rifle range 212, which means he qualifies for the second highest position in the Marine Corps, that of a sharpshooter. Near the end of his stay in the Marines, in 1959, he went back to re-qualify himself on the range, still shot 191 and still qualified as a marksman.

NARRATOR : The sergeant in charge of his training called Oswald "a slightly better than average shot for a Marine, excellent by civilian standards." Oswald requested to be a radar controller. He received training and then shipped out for what would be his first great foreign adventure, a posting at Atsugi, Japan.

Mr. EPSTEIN : What he arrived at, at Atsugi Air Base in Japan, wasn't simply an Air Force defense base. It was a CIA base and the CIA program taking place at that base involved one of America's most secret and important reconnaissance missions, the spy plane which became famous as the U-2 plane.

NARRATOR : The U-2's mission was to invade Russian air space and photograph Soviet strategic sites. Its flying altitude was a closely guarded secret, but one that radar operators like Oswald and his colleague, Dan Powers, could have learned.

DAN POWERS : On occasion, we would get aircraft calling in to the bubble at Atsugi that would ask us for the winds aloft at 70,000 and sometimes 100,000 feet. And we just didn't realize there were aircraft at that particular point in time that could fly that high.

NARRATOR : Oswald's posting at Atsugi and his later defection to Russia have fueled speculation that Oswald was recruited as a spy.

Mr. EPSTEIN : One of the things that I found out from questioning Oswald's associates in the Marine Corps was that he wasn't living the life of an ordinary Marine. He was living what you might call a secret life. He was moving to the type of bars and nightclubs which weren't for the purpose of socializing, but were for the purpose of making contacts.

NARRATOR : One day, a fellow Marine noticed Oswald heading off limits with a Eurasian woman he assumed was a prostitute.

OWEN DEJANOWCH, U.S. Marine : There was a small business section across one bridge that was called "Skivvy Bridge." We were allowed, as Americans, to go into that sector of the residential portion of Iwakuni. The other sector was considered to be communist, Japanese communists, and we were -- it was an off-limits area that we were not allowed to go in, as Americans. The first time I saw Oswald with the round-eye -- she was a beautiful White Russian -- he was walking with her. They were going across the bridge into the section that was off limits to us.

NARRATOR : Lee ventured off base often and later claimed he met with radical Japanese students. But U.S. intelligence says he never contacted the Soviets directly and there's no hard evidence he was part of an American spy mission. So what was Oswald up to?

Mr. EPSTEIN : I think, from the entire pattern of Oswald's life, he was trying to find people who could use the information he was acquiring in the Marines, which he thought was valuable, whether or not it was. He was trying to find another way of moving his life a step ahead and he saw these Japanese contacts, as he later saw contacts elsewhere, as a way of getting him to the next stage of his journey.

NARRATOR : But Oswald's Marine career kept running into roadblocks. He found himself increasingly at odds with his superiors.

Mr. POSNER : Oswald enters the Marines with such high hopes, but it quickly unravels for him. Just a year after entering, he wounds himself with a pistol that he's not supposed to have and, as a result, he's court-martialed and then he's put on K.P. duty for a very long stint. He's very dissatisfied with it. Eventually, he attacks the sergeant that he believes is responsible for his long K.P. service in a bar and challenges him to a fight. Then he's court-martialed a second time. This time he's put into the brig and this has an effect on him. The brig is very hard. And when he comes out, he's now an embittered person.

NARRATOR : Oswald started learning Russian and he began openly espousing the virtues of Marxism to fellow Marines.

Mr. DEJANOVICH : If you complained about, "Oh, we've got to go on a march this morning" or "We've got to do this this morning," scrub barracks or whatever we had to do, if you were complaining about it, he would -- he would say that that was the capitalist form of government making us do these things. Karl Marx and his form of government would alleviate that.

NARRATOR : Questions have been raised about why Oswald was never disciplined for such "un-American" activity.

Mr. BLAKEY : This man was a man with a security clearance. This man was a man who had access to highly sophisticated materials and he is now showing an interest in Marxism. In retrospect, I think that what this indicates -- and this was the judgment of the committee -- is that our own people aren't as efficient as we might think they ought to be, that more often than not, it's Keystone Cops you know, and not stainless-steel efficiency, and that we drew, ultimately, no sinister inference from our own people's failure to take action, or even to investigate Oswald in any way.

NARRATOR : During the end of his duty in California, Oswald carefully prepared his next move. First he applied to a college in Switzerland. Then he applied for an early discharge. The day after it was approved, he applied for a passport. He secretly planned to go to Russia.

Mr. EPSTEIN : Oswald didn't defect to the Soviet Union on a sudden impulse. We know that. This was well planned. And the question is, could Oswald have planned this alone or did he have help?

NARRATOR : Oswald's route to Moscow was complicated. He journeyed from New Orleans to Europe, where he moved quickly from France to England, then to Finland. Helsinki was one of the few cities in the world where an American could get a visa to Russia on short notice. From there, Oswald boarded a train for Moscow.

Where did he get the money for his extensive travels? He later claimed he had saved over $1,000 while in the Marines, but records show he had only $200 in his bank account. As a deluxe-class tourist Oswald received the personal attention of his own Intourist guide, Rimma Shirokova.

RIMMA SHIROKOVA : I took him for an excursion 'round the city. We went to the most important sights of Moscow, such as Tretyakov Art Gallery, the cathedrals and the treasury of the Moscow Kremlin.

NARRATOR : But Oswald seemed uninterested in the sights. On their second day, he told Rimma his real reason for coming: He wanted to defect.

Ms. SHIROKOVA : I was shocked and I asked his motives, his reasons, and he said that it was his political views. He said that he was a communist. He doesn't approve of the American way of life.

NARRATOR : With Rimma as their go-between, the KGB considered Oswald's request. The former head of the KGB, who handled Oswald's case, is Vladimir Semichastny.

VLADIMIR SEMICHASTNY, KGB : [through interpreter ] When he came to us and began to ask for asylum here so insistently, the first reaction was to refuse and not to give him permission to stay in the Soviet Union, let alone to give him political asylum.

NARRATOR : Later Oswald recorded his reaction in what he called his "historic" diary

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "I must leave country tonight at 8:00 P.M., as visa expires. I am shocked. My dreams! I retire to my room."

Ms. SHIROKOVA : That same afternoon, we were to meet downstairs, as usual. Some time passed, but he didn't appear. Certainly, I was nervous and wanted to know what had happened, so that's why I rushed upstairs. I knocked at the door, but there was no answer.

NARRATOR : Hotel security men finally broke down the door.

Ms. SHIROKOVA : We all tumbled in the room and behind the shoulders of the two men, I saw Lee in the bath. It was water there and it was reddish, so it was blood. Lee cut his wrist.

NARRATOR : Oswald was rushed unconscious to Botkin Hospital. His wounds were quickly stitched up and bandaged. He was then transferred to the psychiatric ward. Dr. Lydia Mikhailina was on duty when Lee arrived.

Dr. LYDIA MIKHAILINA : [through interpreter ] It was my impression immediately that this was a sure suicide attempt, since he was refused political asylum which he had been demanding, and he tried to obtain permission to stay in the Soviet Union by inflicting the wounds.

NARRATOR : After seven days, Oswald was ready to be discharged. That day, Dr. Mikhailina got a call from the KGB, asking her to hold him until they arrived.

Dr. MIKHAILINA : [through interpreter ] Sometime later, about 40 minutes, a large black car arrived and three young men came in. They confiscated his medical history, his discharge paper and all his documents, and then they told me they were taking him away.

NARRATOR : For decades, the KGB maintained that it never interrogated Oswald about his military service.

Mr. SEMICHASTNY : [through interpreter ] There were conversations, but this was such outdated information, the kind we say the sparrows have already chirped to the entire world, and now Oswald tells us about it. Not the kind of information that would interest such a high-level organization like ours.

NARRATOR : Still, Semichastny conceded, the KGB considered recruiting Oswald as a spy.

Mr. SEMICHASTNY : [through interpreter ] Counterintelligence and intelligence -- they both looked him over to see what he was capable of but unfortunately, neither could find any ability at all.

NARRATOR : Oswald was moved to a hotel while the KGB considered his fate. After three days, he decided he'd had enough.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "It seems like three years. I must have some sort of a showdown."

NARRATOR : On October 31st, he went to the U.S. embassy and demanded to see the consul, Richard Snyder.

RICHARD SNYDER, U.S. Consul : He put a piece of paper on my desk. It said, "I have come to revoke my American citizenship. I have applied for Soviet citizenship." He also volunteered the information that he'd been -- while in the Marines, he'd been a -- a radar technician and that, when he became a Soviet citizen, he intended to offer to the Soviet authorities everything that he had learned.

NARRATOR : Snyder reported Oswald's threat to Washington where the Marines began proceedings for an undesirable discharge and changed their radar codes.

The embassy also suggested to reporter Priscilla McMillan that she should try to interview Oswald.

PRISCILLA McMILLAN, Author, "Marina and Lee" : He spoke with a quiet manner and a little Southern accent. He spoke so quietly that it wasn't until later, when I looked at my own notes, that I realized that the content of them was very angry. He said he did not want to live like a worker under capitalism, the way that his mother did, and be exploited all his life, and therefore he wanted to come live in the Soviet Union. He seemed lonely. He seemed very, very young. He seemed lost in a situation that was beyond him.

ROBERT OSWALD : I was delivering milk on a mi

ROBERT OSWALD : I was delivering milk on a milk route in Fort Worth and a taxicab pulled up and a reporter gets out and tells -- asks me if I'm Robert Oswald, you know, and I say yes. And he --he's showing me an A.P. or a UPI wire that -- saying that Lee Harvey Oswald was defecting in Moscow, trying to turn in his citizenship. I just couldn't believe it. I mean, I was floored. It was a complete surprise.

NARRATOR : Meanwhile, word of Oswald's suicide attempt had reached the top levels of the Kremlin. Yekatrina Furtseva, seated just behind Nikita Khrushchev, was the highest-ranking woman in the Politburo. Furtseva became Oswald's champion and demanded the KGB reverse its decision and allow him to stay.

Mr. SEMICHASTNY : [through interpreter ] If he is begging, to hell with him. Let him stay here in order to avoid an international scandal on account of such a nobody. We were not convinced this would be his last act of blackmail. We expected he would try again, which would be difficult to deal with in Moscow, so we decided to send him to Minsk.

NARRATOR : His ordeal in Moscow over, Oswald now had the chance to become what he had always wanted to be, a model young Marxist. Soviet authorities set him up in style. Despite a chronic housing shortage, he was given a choice apartment, a luxury unheard of for a young bachelor.

Mr. EPSTEIN : He found himself, according to his own reporting of it in his diary, living a life that was much more luxurious and much more respectable than the life he had lived anywhere else in his young life. He had the possibility of being respected. He had a good job. He was given a very good position.

NARRATOR : Oswald built prototypes of new models at the Minsk radio and television factory. As in the Marines, he got off to a good start. Leonid Tsagoika worked with Oswald.

LEONID TSAGOIKA : [through interpreter ] When he started work after his training, he joined the team. He fit in well and worked well, too.

NARRATOR : Thinking that "Lee" sounded like a Chinese name, his co-workers dubbed him "Alek," but he remained a mystery to them.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "May Day came as my first holiday. After a spectacular military parade, all workers parade past the reviewing stand, waving flags and pictures of Mr. Khrushchev et cetera. I follow the American custom of marking a holiday by sleeping in in the morning."

NARRATOR : Vacheslav Nikonov was an aide to the first KGB chief after communism. He reviewed the entire Oswald file.

VACHESLAV NIKONOV, KGB : Oswald looked very suspicious to the KGB and to the factory authorities because he was not interested in Marxism. He didn't attend any Marxist classes. He didn't read any Marxist literature and he didn't attend even the labor union meetings. So the question was, what was he doing there?

NARRATOR : The KGB kept Oswald under constant surveillance and co-opted most of the people he met, including his best friend, Pavel Golovachev.

PAVEL GOLOVACHEV, Friend : [through interpreter ] I was met by one of their people and it was like this. He said, "Your country asks you -- your country demands. There is a foreigner here. It's in the country's interests for security," and so on. That was early on, but I told him about it a year later. I had three or four meetings with the KGB people. They gave me little assignments to provoke him, saying, "Try this out on him and see what he says."

NARRATOR : When Oswald asked some fellow workers if he could go hunting with them, the KGB became alarmed.

Mr. NIKONOV : The fear of KGB was that Oswald will take a gun, go to the forest and approach some military installations, secret military installations near Minsk. And so this company of people who went hunting was also joined by some KGB agents.

NARRATOR : Oswald's co-worker Leonid Tsagoika was also along that day.

Mr. TSAGOIKA : [through interpreter ] We set off to hunt. There were five of us. I was last. Suddenly, a shot rang out. I asked Oswald, "Why are you shooting?" He said, "Look! Look! A hare!" The others fired, too, but missed. And then we all stopped and discussed why he had shot too soon. He explained that the hare had jumped from under his feet and he was startled and so he shot. I said, "You could have killed me. Your gun was pointing right at me." We didn't take him again because the head of our group had been warned not to.

NARRATOR : Shunned by his co-workers, Oswald befriended some college students interested in learning English. He became fast friends with Ernst Titovets.

ERNST TITOVETS : I rather gave him all the credit of him being a very highly-educated and cultured man when I first met him. Well, he was an American and the United States is a country of high reputation here in this country.

NARRATOR : Titovets made tape recordings of Oswald to study his Southern accent.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : The door of Henry's lunch counter opened and two men came in. They sat down at the counter. "What's yours?" George asked them.

Mr. TITOVETS : I gave him rather chance pieces to read and those happened to be, well, Shakespeare, from Othello , Ernest Hemingway.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : The two men at the counter read the menu. From the other end of the counter--

NARRATOR : Titovets also interviewed Oswald in mock dialogues. In one interview, Lee played the part of a killer.

Mr. TITOVETS : Will you tell us about your last killing?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : Well, it was a young girl under a bridge. She came in carrying a loaf of bread and I just cut her throat from ear to ear.

Mr. TITOVETS : What for?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : Well, I wanted the loaf of bread, of course.

Mr. TITOVETS : Okay. And what do you think -- what do you take to be the most -- your most famous killing in your life?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : Well, the time I killed eight men on the Bowery sidewalk there. They were just standing there, loafing around. I didn't like their faces, so I just shot them all with a machine gun. It was very -- very famous. All the newspapers carried the story.

Mr. TITOVETS : We were just having a great time and, actually, we were laughing our heads off.

Pres. JOHN F. KENNEDY : I, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, do solemnly swear--

CHIEF JUSTICE EARL WARREN : --that you will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States--

Pres. KENNEDY : --that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States--

JUSTICE WARREN : --and will, to the best of your ability--

NARRATOR : The day after John Kennedy's inauguration in 1961, Lee's mother arrived at the White House to ask for help in locating her son. She was not the only one asking questions. No one had heard from Oswald for over a year. But documents released in the early 90s documents show that several government agencies began tracking Oswald in Russia.

W. SCOTT MALONE, FRONTLINE : These files clearly show that there's hardly an intelligence agency that did not have an interest in Lee Harvey Oswald. Navy intelligence was worried about radar secrets he may have given to the Russians. The FBI was concerned that an impostor might be using his papers to come -- to sneak into the United States. And the CIA had both a positive and a counterintelligence interest.

Dr. JOHN M. NEWMAN, Historian : The people who handled these files and read them were branch chiefs and division chiefs and senior staff people in the clandestine services. What this all adds up to is a very significant level of interest in this man.

NARRATOR : Ironically, by that winter Oswald decided he wanted to leave the Soviet Union.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "The work is drab. The money I get has nowhere to be spent. As my Russian improves, I become increasingly conscious of just what sort of a society I live in."

Mr. GOLOVACHEV : [through interpreter ] He had become disillusioned with life here. He came here after reading a lot of Marx and Lenin, thinking that it was something good. But living here, he realized it was not so good.

NARRATOR : Then one night he went to a dance at the Palace of Culture. A friend introduced him to Marina Prusakova.

YURI MEREZHINSKY, Friend : [through interpreter ] She was a very attractive lady. She dressed well. We went up to her with Lee Harvey Oswald and he said straight away that he would like to get to know her. We were standing right here, beside that column. Of course he fell in love with her straight away, at first sight, as we say in Russia.

NARRATOR : Marina Oswald declined to be interviewed for this program, but she did talk to writer Priscilla McMillan. McMillan befriended Marina after the assassination and wrote an intimate portrait of the Oswalds' life together.

Ms. McMILLAN : Marina liked Lee for several reasons. One was that he was polite. She liked his being foreign. She thought that an American would treat her better than a Russian. Marina worked as a pharmaceutical assistant and shortly after they met -- I mean, a few days after they met -- he was hospitalized for trouble with his adenoids and Marina went to visit him in the hospital. She did visit him several times and, by the time he was released from the hospital, he asked her to be his fiancee.

NARRATOR : Six weeks after they met, a hasty wedding party was arranged at the home of Marina's uncle. Because her uncle worked for Soviet domestic intelligence, questions have been raised about whether Marina herself was an agent.

Mr. SEMICHASTNY : [through interpreter ] As for Marina, about whether she had been planted by the KGB as his wife, I was often asked this question and I can say with authority that nothing of the sort happened. If we had done such a thing, we would have done it with a bit more finesse, not so crudely as they did their own wedding.

NARRATOR : The KGB continued to bug the apartment and monitor everything that went on inside.

Mr. NIKONOV : They married and they had a girl very soon. I don't think they were the happiest family in the world. They had a lot of quarrels all the time and there were also some fights.

NARRATOR : Lee was still determined to return to the U.S. with Marina and his daughter, June. He persisted for 18 months until Soviet and U.S. authorities granted permission.

Mr. SEMICHASTNY : [through interpreter ] We concluded that he was not working for American intelligence. His intellectual training experience and capabilities were such that it would not show the FBI and the CIA in a good light if they used people like him.

NARRATOR : Oswald's two-and-a-half-year Russian journey was over. On June 2nd, 1962, Lee, Marina and June left for America.

Oswald assumed the press would flock to hear his story.

ROBERT OSWALD : He had prepared answers and statements anticipating reporters either at the ship or some place down the line on the return. And I think he was surprised when he stepped off the plane in Dallas Love Field. He asked me, "What, no reporters?" And I said, "Yes, I've managed to keep it quiet," and that was it. But I think he was disappointed.

NARRATOR : Lee moved back in with his brother in Fort Worth. Soon after, the FBI interviewed him about his time in the Soviet Union.

Mr. HOSTY : Oswald appeared at the Fort Worth resident agency and was interviewed by two agents who happened to be in the office. This interview did not turn out to be too successful because Oswald was in an aggressive, surly mood and they finally broke the interview off after a little while.

NARRATOR : According to the FBI report, Oswald's answers were evasive.

ROBERT OSWALD : He said, "They even asked me," you know, "if I'd ever been an agent of the federal government, of the CIA." He says, "Well, don't you know?" And he just laughed. He was in control of the FBI then. They didn't know for sure if he was an agent or not. He was toying with them and he toyed with people like that.

NARRATOR : Officially, the FBI was the only agency that questioned Oswald. It has always been a mystery why the CIA, which had a growing file on Oswald, maintains it never talked to him.

RICHARD HELMS, Former Director, CIA : The FBI would certainly interview him for counter-espionage purposes and to try and find out whether the KGB had recruited him, whether he was going to be somebody that they had to continue to watch, what his motives were and all the rest of those things. And it was the FBI's responsibility and if they interviewed him once or twice, that would seem to me to have been adequate.

NARRATOR : One former CIA officer, however, says he read an agency debriefing of Oswald in 1962. Donald Deneselya agreed to be interviewed only in shadow.

DONALD DENESELYA : I received across my desk a debriefing report. It was a debriefing of a Marine re-defector. He was returning with his family from the Soviet Union and was back in the United States. The report was approximately four to five pages in length. It gave a lot of details about the organization of the Minsk radio plant. It was signed off by a CIA officer by the name of Anderson.

NARRATOR : FRONTLINE researchers pored through Oswald's declassified CIA file at the National Archives. They found hard evidence which supports Deneselya's story.

Mr. NEWMAN : We're very interested in the marginalia and the hand-written notes on these files. One day I picked up a piece of paper and turned it over and I could see through the back. I could read handwriting that said, "Andy Anderson 00 on Oswald." Later on, we found out that "00" really is the symbol, the office symbol, for the domestic contacts division, which would have had the debriefing mission on Oswald, had there been one.

NARRATOR : FRONTLINE showed the document to former director Helms.

Mr. HELMS : I know of no contact that was made by CIA with Oswald when he returned to the United States. There may have been one, but I'm not aware of it and I'm not able to shed any light on who it would have been.

INTERVIEWER : And this document doesn't change your mind?

Mr. HELMS : And that document doesn't change my mind in the slightest.

NARRATOR : FRONTLINE interviewed over 30 CIA officers off the record, including the former deputy chief of domestic contacts. He confirmed Deneselya's story that the CIA had debriefed Oswald. It was just a routine contact, he said.

Mr. DENESELYA : My feeling is, at this point, the report is buried somewhere. I don't know where it is, but I'm sure it's probably in the contacts division somewhere, or in one of the other filing systems at the agency.

NARRATOR : Several CIA officers remembered an Andy Anderson who worked for domestic contacts. The CIA did not respond to FRONTLINE's request to identify Anderson. What now seems certain is that the CIA was covering up its contact with Lee Harvey Oswald. Was it just a routine interview or something more? And why has it remained hidden for 40 years?

In the autumn of 1962, the Oswalds moved to Dallas. They were befriended by a group of Russian emigres who helped them settle in. One of them, George de Mohrenschildt, had originally come from Minsk. He took a special interest in Lee.

GEORGE de MOHRENSCHILDT : I actually believe that he was a very sincere person and with me he was extremely sincere because I treated him almost like a son of mine -- you know, he could have been a son, by his age -- or as a soldier in my regiment.

NARRATOR : de Mohrenschildt helped Oswald find a job at a photo lab downtown, where he worked beside David Ofstein.

DAVID OFSTEIN : I met Lee Oswald when he came to work for Jaggars-Chile-Stovall in October of 1962 and was involved in training him on the equipment we used in the photographic department. About a month or two after Lee came to work for us, he asked me what the company policy was about using the company equipment for making personal photographs, enlargements of personal pictures, family pictures, that sort of thing. I told him at the time that the company policy was pretty much that you don't do it, but that people did it anyway and as long as it didn't get out of hand, the company usually didn't say very much about it.

NARRATOR : Lee apparently put his skills to use forging a new identity, including a Selective Service card in the name of Alek J. Hidell. It was the first alias Oswald was known to use. Lee was beginning to construct a secret life. He opened a Post Office box to receive mail for himself and Hidell.

Ms. McMILLAN : Lee began to receive publications that he did not want to get at home. They were The Worker , the newspaper of the American Communist Party, The Militant , newspaper of the Socialist Workers Party. All of this he wanted to receive without his landlord's noticing.

NARRATOR : Lee was hiding things from his family, too. That Thanksgiving, the Oswald brothers gathered at Robert's house.

ROBERT OSWALD : Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd, 1962, we were all having a pleasant holiday atmosphere. Everybody's getting along fine. John and Margie and his family have not seen Lee in nine years. It's been a couple months since I've seen him. We talked about small things, hunting and fishing type of thing, you know, what the families were doing and everything. And Lee didn't seem under any particular strain, no indication of any particular problems.

NARRATOR : But behind the facade, Lee was beginning to lose control. He was picking fights at work and at home.

Ms. McMILLAN : Lee became more and more tense and he began to hit Marina, something he had never done before. And by the winter, he hit her more and more frequently, and harder.

NARRATOR : At the same time, Lee's interest in politics was growing. The left-wing papers he was reading embraced the issues that were important to him, such as civil rights and Castro's Cuba. As far back as the Marines, Lee was enamored with Fidel's romantic revolution. He now saw Cuba as the Marxist ideal and he was highly critical of the administration's policies toward Castro. Yet those who knew him claimed Oswald liked the young president.

Mr. de MOHRENSCHILDT : He definitely was not an enemy. He was an admirer of President Kennedy. And we raised that question several times.

NARRATOR : Personal accounts differ. At a party in February 1963, Oswald was introduced to oil geologist Volkmar Schmidt. The two hunkered down by a window to talk politics.

VOLKMAR SCHMIDT : Lee Harvey Oswald brought up in the conversation with me the fact that he really felt very angry about the support which the Kennedy administration gave to the Bay of Pigs invasion. It turned out that Lee Harvey Oswald really idealized socialism of Cuba, while he was critical of the socialism in the Soviet Union. And he was just obsessed with his anger towards Kennedy.

NARRATOR : Schmidt says he tried to divert Lee's political anger toward a more worthy target. General Edwin Walker was a virulent anti-communist. He had recently been fired by Kennedy for preaching right-wing extremism to his troops.

Mr. SCHMIDT : I mentioned General Walker, who deserved criticism because he was a racist retired general, ultra-right-wing, and who had just a few -- a little time before talked to students at the University of Mississippi who then got so agitated that they shot and killed some reporters.

NARRATOR : Ole Miss had erupted when James Meredith was enrolled as the first black student. General Walker drove up from Texas to lead the white student revolt. The result was a bloody, 15-hour riot and General Walker was arrested for inciting the violence. But after a week he was released. He was soon to start a cross-country tour to rally support for the overthrow of Castro.

Mr. SCHMIDT : In hindsight, I probably may have given Lee Harvey Oswald the idea to go after General Walker. I certainly didn't tell him to take the law in his own hand. Not at all. He may also have thought of General Walker independently.

NARRATOR : Using his alias, Lee had already ordered a .38 pistol through the mail. Now he ordered more firepower: a cheap Italian rifle. He apparently went on a reconnaissance mission to General Walker's house and scouted the alley in the back.

Mr. POSNER : Oswald had an entire book of operations for his Walker action, including photographs of Walker's house, photographs of an area that he intended to stash the rifle, maps that he had drawn very carefully, statements of political purpose. In the end, he wanted this to be an important historical feat and this was to be the documentation left behind. He viewed General Walker as an up-and-coming Adolph Hitler and that he would be the hero who stopped him on his rise to power.

NARRATOR : Lee's guns finally arrived in the mail. A few days later, he surprised Marina while she was hanging up the laundry in the back yard.

Ms. McMILLAN : Dressed all in black, he was carrying his rifle, had his pistol at his waist. And she burst out laughing and asked him what on earth he was doing in that costume and he told her she was to take a picture of him.

NARRATOR : The backyard photographs remain among the most incriminating and controversial evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald.

Mr. BLAKEY : Oswald himself, shown those photographs, denied that he owned a rifle and denied that this was him in it. He said his head was pasted on it. The critics of the Warren Commission seized on this.

NARRATOR : The most famous critic is film-maker Oliver Stone.

KEVIN COSTNER : ["JFK" ] [as Jim Garrison ] Oswald was no angel. That's clear. But who was he?

1st ACTOR : I'm lost, boss.

NARRATOR : Stone's movie suggests the photographs were faked in order to frame Oswald.

Mr. COSTNER : He was not a real defector, that he was an intelligence agent on some kind of mission for our government and remained one till the day he died.

1st ACTOR : The intelligence community murdered their own commander-in-chief?

2nd ACTOR : I never could figure out why this guy orders a traceable weapon to this Post Office box when he can go into any store in Texas, give a phony name and walk out with a rifle which can never be traced.

Mr. COSTNER : To frame him, obviously.

3rd ACTOR : There's a lot of smoke there, but there's some fire.

1st ACTOR : We're talking about our government here!

Mr. COSTNER : No, we're talking about a crime, Bill, pure and simple. You all better start thinking on a different level, like the CIA does. Now, we're through the looking glass, here, people. White is black and black is white. Just maybe Oswald was exactly what he said he was, a patsy.

Mr. BLAKEY : We took very seriously these charges. We had, first, the evidence examined by the Warren Commission. Marina testifies that she took it. She identifies the camera that she used. The FBI was able to, to the exclusion of all other cameras, tie that camera to these photographs. Assuming that all that's fake, we went further with a photographic panel and studied very carefully all of the testimony about the shadows being inappropriate. Our photographic panel indicated in great detail that these shadows were not inappropriate, that the critics had simply not understood optics accordingly.

NARRATOR : Oswald gave a copy of the photograph to his friend George de Mohrenschildt. On the back, someone wrote, "Hunter of fascists" in Russian, and Oswald signed it. The House Committee's experts concluded beyond a doubt the signature was his.

Mr. BLAKEY : Any notion that the photograph was faked by other people to frame Lee Harvey Oswald now has to explain the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald himself signed that photograph.

NARRATOR : On April 6th, Lee was fired from his job at the photo lab. No one knows where he spent his days. Marina says he spent a few evenings shooting target practice. On the night of April 10th, she says, he didn't come home at all.

Ms. McMILLAN : She waited until 7:00 and then she made herself a little supper. At about 10:00, he still hadn't come home. She was worried. She walked into a room, his study, which he told her never to enter, and there on his desk, she saw a sheet of paper with a key lying on top of it.

NARRATOR : Lee wrote to Marina in Russian:

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "Here is the key to the Post Office box. You can throw out my clothing, but as for my personal papers, I prefer you keep them. I left you as much money as I could."

Ms. McMILLAN : He then explained where to find the jail and she had no idea what he had gone to do and she was -- started to shake all over.

NARRATOR : That evening someone fired a single shot through the window of General Walker's study.

Gen. EDWIN WALKER : Looking the situation over, back there, 40 steps behind me is a--

NARRATOR : General Walker survived to tell what happened.

Gen. WALKER : A bullet crashed through the window and just missed me. And I felt much grit and dirt in my hair and my arm was laying on the desk and it was bleeding in three places, which turned out to be fragments from the shell casing.

NARRATOR : Walker's neighbor, Case Coleman, remembers the shot he heard as a 14-year-old youngster.

CASE COLEMAN : I was in the den, working on a school project with my godfather, and he was helping me out with the typewriter, and we heard this loud bang. I ran out this door here and right up to the fence. And at the time, the church had built a six-foot stockade fence, but my kid sister's bicycle was sitting here, so I jumped up on the bicycle, looking over the fence. That's when I noticed the black Ford that was -- had been backed in here, driving down the alley. There was a '58 Chevy sitting over here with a guy bent over the back seat, throwing something on the floorboard, and he went down towards Turtle Creek. I can see it now, looking at the '58 Chevy sitting down there. It's very vivid. Very vivid.

NARRATOR : Based on his account, the Dallas police began looking for several suspects, which would suggest a conspiracy. But Marina says Lee told her a very different story.

Ms. McMILLAN : Later that night, about 11:30, Lee came in -- white, covered with sweat and looking quite wild in the eyes. And he said, "I shot Walker." Lee explained to Marina that he had jumped on a bus, buried the rifle and then he'd taken another bus. And he said when he took the bus, "There they lose the scent." When the radio broadcast that a boy on the spot had seen one or two cars in the alleyway behind Walker's house, Lee laughed. He exploded in laughter and he said, "Americans are so spoiled. They think you always have to have a car, whereas I got away on my own two feet."

NARRATOR : The Walker case would not be resolved until after the assassination, when Marina told her story and the Walker bullet was linked to Oswald's ammunition. No co-conspirators were ever identified.

Two weeks later, Oswald abruptly left town. In seven months, he would ride into the history books, but for now he was headed home to New Orleans.

Part 2

NARRATOR : In April 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald returned to New Orleans. In a city that seethed with intrigue and paranoia, he was about to enter the most mysterious chapter of his short life and the murky trail he left behind still defies a complete explanation.

Prof. MICHAEL KURTZ : How many people know who the person depicted on the screen behind me is? Who is it?

STUDENTS : Lee Harvey Oswald.

NARRATOR : At Southeastern Louisiana University, Professor Michael Kurtz teaches a course on the Kennedy assassination.

Prof. KURTZ : --depicted here, Lee Harvey Oswald.

NARRATOR : His students explore the maze of confusing and sinister political connections that Oswald entered in New Orleans.

Prof. KURTZ : There are still unresolved questions about this man Oswald. Was he a lone assassin, as the Warren Commission claimed? Was he a person who was part of a broader conspiracy, as many people claimed? Or was he simply a patsy, set up to take the blame while the real people got away with it, as he himself claimed?

NARRATOR : If there was a plot to kill President Kennedy, then it was probably hatched in New Orleans. It was here that Lee Oswald may have crossed paths with men that hated Kennedy and wanted him eliminated.

Mr. BLAKEY : The crucial question is, was there a conspiracy? Anybody who's going to make a conspiratorial interpretation of the assassination must connect Lee Harvey Oswald to that group that they posit as his co-conspirators. If you want to posit conspiracy, you must show associations. And unfortunately for a simple explanation, the associations cut in two directions. This is ambivalence, ambivalence, ambivalence.

Prof. KURTZ : If we knew more about this case, particularly the background of Lee Harvey Oswald, focusing on the five months he spent in New Orleans during the spring and summer of 1963, I think that perhaps we could unravel the key to the mystery of the Kennedy assassination, that remains as much a mystery today as it did at the time.

NARRATOR : Oswald arrived in New Orleans alone. He had left his family behind in Texas with a friend. He soon found work as a maintenance man by hiding much about his past from his new employers at the Reily Coffee Company.

RUTH PAINE, Family Friend : He said that he would call when he got a job and he did, in fact, call in early May and talked to Marina, said he'd gotten a job, that he had a place for them to stay. Marina was elated, very happy as she hung up the phone and picked up Junie and said, " Papa nash lyubet " -- "Father loves us." And then we loaded up the car the next day and drove to New Orleans.

NARRATOR : By now, Oswald had found an apartment on Magazine Street.

Mrs. PAINE : It looked all right. It had some old, antique kind of furniture in it, and that part was kind of nice, but by evening it was very clear that it was also terribly infested with cockroaches. When they first went into the apartment, he really wanted her to be pleased and she wasn't that pleased and I felt his hurt in that.

NARRATOR : At the coffee company, Oswald soon grew bored with his menial job.

Mr. POSNER : Oswald hated his job as a machine greaser at the Reily Coffee Company and every opportunity he had, he would go next door to Adrian Alba's garage. Alba had an interest that Oswald had and that was in guns. Alba had National Rifle Association, Argosy ,Nature and Hunting -- different magazines that Oswald would sit and read. And, in addition, Oswald tried to buy a 30-06 rifle from him. Another time, he tried to buy a Japanese rifle. This was the bond they had.

NARRATOR : Oswald had always liked guns, but Marxist politics were still his ruling passion.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : No, sir, I am not a communist and I think that the--the--

NARRATOR : In New Orleans, Oswald became a very visible spokesman for his ideals.

REPORTER : And are you a Marxist?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : Well, I have studied Marxist philosophy, yes, sir, and also other philosophers.

REPORTER : But are you a Marxist? I think you did admit that you consider yourself a Marxist.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : Well, I would very definitely say that I-- I am a Marxist. That is correct. But that does not mean, however, that I am a communist.

NARRATOR : Oswald's political hero was still Fidel Castro.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "Well, of course, Americans in general have only begun to notice Cuba since the Cuban revolution. I always felt that Castro's Cuba was being pushed into this -- to the Soviet bloc by American policy. I still feel that way."

NARRATOR : Oswald had no sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of exiles who had fled Castro's Cuba.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): "They are peasants who do not like the collectivization in Cuban agriculture. They flee. They flee Cuba in boats. They flee any way they can go. And I think that the opinion and the attitude of the Cuban government to this is, 'Good riddance.'"

NARRATOR : Oswald's unyielding support of Castro was unlikely to win him friends among the Cuban exiles then pouring into New Orleans. Many joined violent paramilitary groups and waged a covert war on Cuba with the support of the CIA and the White House.

Pres. KENNEDY : I can assure you that this flag will be returned to this brigade in a free Havana!

NARRATOR : But after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban missile crisis, the exiles felt betrayed when Kennedy's support for their war began to wane. By 1963, the Cuban enclaves in New Orleans burned with hatred for the President.

L.J. DELSA, New Orleans Police : It was an intriguing city at the time, and there was all these things going on with anti-Cuba, pro-Castro elements, at the time.

NARRATOR : New Orleans homicide detective L.J. Delsa was also an investigator for the House Assassinations Committee.

Det. DELSA : It was like watching a Humphrey Bogart movie, at the time, sort of like a Casablanca , you know?

NARRATOR : In the spring of 1963, Lee Oswald entered this world of plot and counter-plot. That May he wrote to America's leading pro-Castro group, the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, offering to start a chapter in New Orleans. The committee discouraged him, but he ignored their advice. He began printing his own pro-Castro leaflets and phony membership cards. He asked Marina to help him disguise the fact that he was the only member of his organization.

Ms. McMILLAN : One day, he asked her to sign a card for an organization and she said, "You mean that organization with only one member?'' And he said it didn't matter how many members it was. It needed two signatures. It would seem as though there were more members. And he told her she was to sign under the name "A.J. Hidell." And then she asked him, "What's that name, an altered Fidel?" And he told her to shut up.

NARRATOR : Oswald began handing out leaflets on the streets of New Orleans. He continued to exaggerate the size of his one-man chapter.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD (as read by actor): We have had members in this area for several months now. We have decided to feel out the public what they think of our organization, our aims. And for that purpose, we have been distributing literature on the street.

NARRATOR : Oswald's pro-Castro activities seemed genuine enough, but what happened next is a puzzle. In August he approached the leader of an anti-Castro group named Carlos Bringuier.

CARLOS BRINGUIER : When Oswald came to my store for the first time, he was explaining how he was against Castro and he was asking in what way he could help us to fight against Castro. He was telling me that he had been in the Marine Corps, that he had experience in guerrilla warfare and that he can help us in the guerrilla fight against Castro. The second time that Oswald came to my store was when he brought this guidebook for Marines. He said that this was a present for me, to see if this could help me out to fight Castro.

NARRATOR : The manual showed how to make bombs, booby-traps and how to conduct sabotage operations. Shortly before he sought out Bringuier, Oswald had written to the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, claiming that one of his street demonstrations had been attacked by some Cuban exile gusanos. In fact, no such incident had occurred. But it did a few days later when Carlos Bringuier found someone handing out pro-Castro leaflets on Canal Street.

Mr. BRINGUIER : It was the same Oswald that has been in my store a few days before, offering his service to fight against Castro. And now he was with a sign, "Viva Fidel" and "Hands off Cuba." When he recognized me, he smile at me and he even try to shake hands with me. I refused to shake hands with him and I started insulting him and cursing him in English.

NARRATOR : Police were called to the scene, where an amateur movie-maker filmed the angry Cubans as they surrounded Oswald.

Mr. BRINGUIER : At that time, I get angry and I was approaching Oswald, trying to punch him in the face. When he saw that I was approaching and he sensed my intention, he put his arm down and he said to me, "Okay, Carlos. If you want to hit me, hit me." Immediately, I realized that he wanted to appear as a victim, as a martyr.

NARRATOR : When one of the Cubans took the pro-Castro leaflets and threw them on the ground, the police arrested Oswald and eight Cubans for disturbing the peace. At the police station, Oswald's conduct became even more mysterious.

FRANK D. WILSON, Sr., New Orleans Police : We advised him that the booking procedure, which was a municipal misdemeanor, that he was eligible for posting a bond of $25 in cash or getting a politician to parole him. He said he didn't -- did not want either. He wanted to go to jail. We also told him that part of the booking procedure would be that he would have to be photographed and fingerprinted, which he agreed to. He insisted, almost, that we fingerprint and photograph him. He seemed to want to let everyone know who he was and what he was doing. He could have avoided it very, very simply by saying, "Hey, here's my $25. Let me go home."

NARRATOR : What kind of double game was Oswald playing? One piece of evidence has continued to raise important questions about Oswald's true attitude toward Cuba and whose side he was really on.

Mr. DELSA : The leaflets that Oswald hands out on Canal Street is pro-Castro leaflets, "Hands off Cuba," telling the government to leave it alone, let it stay communist, let Castro alone. And the return addresses that are stamped on it is 544 Camp Street.

Mr. BLAKEY : In that same building there is a private detective agency by a man named Guy Banister and Guy Banister is certainly not pro-Castro. He's an ex-FBI agent from New York who is violently anti-Castro and working to overthrow Castro.

NARRATOR : But according to one of Banister's secretaries, Delphine Roberts, Lee Oswald worked with Guy Banister in 1963 and was given an office in the Camp Street building to mount his pro-Castro campaign.

MARY BRENGEL, Banister's Secretary : It's when the news accounts from Dallas were showing Oswald that Delphine said to me, "Well, you know, he was in this office. You saw him." And I told her that not to my knowledge. I didn't know that I had seen him. To me, he would have been just another face in the crowd. And she was just calling my attention to the news in Dallas, that this man had been in our office.

NARRATOR : Joe Newbrough is a private detective who worked with Guy Banister.

JOE NEWBROUGH : The new building over here is where 544 Camp Street was. This was Banister's office. This was Mancuso's Restaurant. This is 544 Camp Street and this window here is where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly had an office.

NARRATOR : Newbrough thinks the Camp Street address on Oswald's leaflet proves nothing because Banister's office was on Lafayette Street, around the corner.

Mr. NEWBROUGH : Absolutely, you could not find yourself in Banister's office if you went through the entrance at 544 Camp. It went strictly to the second floor of the building. There was no stairwell down. You had to exit the second floor to the sidewalk, walk around the corner and go into Banister's office.

INTERVIEWER : So that's separate entrances?

Mr. NEWBROUGH : Totally separate entrances, and probably 60 steps apart.

NARRATOR : But new witnesses to an Oswald-Banister connection continue to come forward, including Professor Michael Kurtz.

Prof. KURTZ : Yes, I saw them once in the Mancuso's Restaurant on the ground floor of the infamous 544 Camp Street building. This was some time during the summer of 1963. I went across the street to get a cup of coffee and -- which I did, and there were Banister and Oswald sitting together at a table, chatting with each other. It was strange company for the Lee Harvey Oswald portrayed by the Warren Commission as a Marxist, a Leninist, a pro-Castro individual to be seen in the company of an extreme right-wing individual like Guy Banister.

NARRATOR : Guy Banister was actively involved in the secret training of Cuban exiles. One of Banister's comrades in the fight against Castro was a former airline pilot named David Ferrie.

Mr. SUMMERS : He was a brilliant flyer. He'd flown in and out of Cuba before and after the Bay of Pigs, taking guerrillas in, extracting them after operations. He was heard to say some time after the Bay of Pigs that President Kennedy had betrayed the nation in his conduct of that operation and he said on one occasion that the President ought to be shot. And later some people would come to think that he meant it.

NARRATOR : In the 1950s, David Ferrie commanded a squadron in the Civil Air Patrol, but was suspended for indoctrinating the young cadets with his anti-communist views. In the '50s, Lee Oswald was in the CAP and several fellow cadets said David Ferrie was one of Oswald's instructors.

Mr. SUMMERS : There are some clues to suggest that Oswald and Ferrie's paths crossed again in the summer of 1963. Most persuasive of all, perhaps, were the group of people, completely independent witnesses, who said that a car arrived one day in the little town of Clinton, outside New Orleans, and that three white men were in it. One of them was Oswald who, most oddly, got out of the car, the only white face to line up in a long line of blacks waiting to register to vote, waited -- stood in the line and then eventually departed. And they said that one of the other two white men, one of Oswald's companions, was, in fact, a man who looked exactly like David Ferrie and they had no doubt later about their recognition of Ferrie because Ferrie, by that time, looked pretty odd. He suffered from alopecia and he wore a wig and, indeed, false eyebrows. Not the sort of guy you forget in a hurry.

NARRATOR : If David Ferrie was with Oswald in 1963, it could be significant because Ferrie, as well as Guy Banister, was connected to one of the major figures in organized crime.

Mr. BLAKEY : We took very seriously the possibility that organized crime had a hand in the President's death. The FBI had an illegal electronic surveillance on the major figures of organized crime. We did a survey of that surveillance. What we did find, and shockingly, is repeated conversations by these people that indicated the depth of their hatred for Kennedy and actual discussions of, "He ought to be killed," "He ought to be whacked."

NARRATOR : No mobster hated the Kennedys more than Carlos Marcello, the Mafia chieftain of New Orleans, a prime target of the administration's war on organized crime. In 1961, Robert Kennedy had personally ordered Marcello's arrest and deportation. The boss of New Orleans was humiliated.

Mr. BLAKEY : Carlos Marcello talks about getting -- speaks in Sicilian -- getting the "stone out of my shoe" and talking about getting a "nut" to kill not Bobby Kennedy, who was his nemesis, but John Kennedy, who was the man behind the nemesis.

NARRATOR : Marcello returned to New Orleans to fight the deportation order. His attorneys hired both Guy Banister and David Ferrie as investigators in the case. For Robert Blakey, who believes the Mafia was involved in the Kennedy assassination, this is the critical link.

Mr. BLAKEY : When you find David Ferrie, who is an investigator for Carlos Marcello, being a boyhood friend to Lee Harvey Oswald and with him that summer and with Carlos Marcello at that very point in time, you have an immediate connection between a man who had the motive, opportunity and means to kill Kennedy and the man who killed Kennedy.

Mr. POSNER :I think what many conspiracy critics do, they try to take the chain, the connections, too far back. They say "Oswald knew Ferrie and Ferrie did some investigative work for Marcello and Banister did some investigative work for Marcello. Marcello hated Kennedy and therefore it must have been Marcello deciding to kill Kennedy, down to Ferrie and Banister, who then gave the order to Oswald, who went off and did it." It's wonderful speculation. There's just no evidence to back it up.

NARRATOR : Gerald Posner disputes all the sightings of Oswald and Ferrie -- in the Civil Air Patrol and in 1963. He points out there has never been any hard documentary evidence linking the two men.

Mr. POSNER : I discovered documents that were from the Civil Air Patrol which show that David Ferrie was suspended from the CAP in 1954 and not reinstated until 1958. He wasn't even in the Patrol in 1955, when Oswald was a member.

NARRATOR : FRONTLINE has uncovered the first hard evidence that places Oswald and Ferrie together: this photograph, taken in 1955 at a CAP barbecue. John Ciravolo and Tony Atzenhoffer were in the CAP with Lee Oswald.

JOHN CIRAVOLO : This is several cadets, including Oswald on the end in the white T-shirt, myself standing in front of him. And over here in the white T-shirt and the helmet is Dave Ferrie.

TONY ATZENHOFFER : Because of all of the publicity, you can recognize Ferrie, you can recognize Oswald. They were both in the CAP at the same time. They were both wearing CAP uniforms.

NARRATOR : After the Kennedy assassination, David Ferrie denied that he ever knew Lee Oswald.

LAYTON MARTENS : I never heard David Ferrie mention Lee Harvey Oswald. I never met him. I would certainly remember if I ever did.

NARRATOR : Layton Martens was also a CAP cadet. He stayed friendly with Ferrie until his death in 1967.

Mr. MARTENS : And it does appear as though David Ferrie is in the picture and on the other end of the picture there is a person who looks like Lee Harvey Oswald. It would indicate that there could be a possibility of an association, but if and to what extent -- that's another question. Of course, we've all been photographed with people and we could be presented with photographs later and --and asked, "Well, do you know this person? Obviously, you must because you were photographed with them," to which we'd have to answer, "Well, no. It's just a photograph and I don't know that person. It's just someone who happened to be in the picture," so -- but it's interesting.

Mr. SUMMERS : The shame of this thing is that the whole question of Oswald's activity in New Orleans was never properly investigated by officialdom at the beginning. Guy Banister, the former FBI agent at 544 Camp Street, was never, ever asked by anybody about Lee Harvey Oswald. David Ferrie was questioned, but the investigation was dropped very quickly and the names of neither Banister nor Ferrie are in the Warren report. It simply doesn't mention either of them.

NARRATOR If Oswald did have a secret connection to Ferrie and Banister in 1963, the nature of that relationship remains unclear. And that evidence must be weighed against the rest of what is known of his time in New Orleans, where Oswald continued to demonstrate for Castro.

Mr. EPSTEIN : Well, I think if we take Oswald at the simplest level, what we see he's trying to do is enhance his credentials as a supporter of Castro. One of the ways he's trying to do this is actually work for Castro. Another way, he's trying to find out information that would be of use to Castro. And the normal way you find out information is you join the enemy.

NARRATOR : That summer Oswald wrote an account of his political activity in New Orleans, stressing his credentials as a Marxist, street agitator and an organizer. In this resume, he wrote that he had infiltrated Carlos Bringuier's organization. When Oswald and the Cubans appeared in court for disturbing the peace over the leafleting incident, Bringuier was determined to find out more about the young American.

Mr. BRINGUIER : A friend of mine went to Oswald's house and he was telling Oswald that he was for Castro. Then they start talking over there and in the meantime, Oswald's child came out and Marina came after that and they start talking in Russian. That is when we learn that Oswald was speaking Russian. My friend asked Oswald if that was Russian, where he had learned Russian. Oswald's answer was that he was attending Tulane University, taking Russian studies.


Mr. BRINGUIER : And that is a lie. He was a liar. He lie a lot in his life.

NARRATOR : [television documentary ] These are officials of INCA, the Information Council of the Americas--

NARRATOR : Oswald, who had concealed his defection to Russia, was earning the attention of professional anti-communists.

NARRATOR : --Ed Butler, who conceived and initiated the organization. As executive vice president, he is in charge of the INCA program and engages in direct personal conflict with communism.

NARRATOR : When Ed Butler and Carlos Bringuier were invited to debate Oswald on a local radio show, Butler did some background research.

ED BUTLER : We found out, after I had accepted the interview, about Oswald's defection to Russia. The information came from the House Un-American Activities Committee files. They sent me the material. I requested it and they sent it.

INTERVIEWER : Where did they get it from?

Mr. BUTLER : They got it from the newspapers, the open press. That's basically what they sent me, clippings that Oswald had defected to Russia, and so forth.

NARRATOR : Butler and Bringuier met Oswald at the studios of WDSU radio.

Mr. BRINGUIER : Before the debate, we were talking over there for about 15 minutes and he saw my guidebook, the guidebook for Marines that he had left for me. He said to me, "Carlos, please don't use that guidebook because it's obsolete. You are going to get killed."

ANNOUNCER And now, back to "Conversation Carte Blanche." Here again--

MODERATOR : Mr. Oswald, as you might imagine, is on the hot seat tonight and I believe--

NARRATOR : After the assassination, the debate was re-enacted on film, using the original sound recording of Oswald's voice.

MODERATOR : Are you or have you been a communist?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : Well, I had answered that--

NARRATOR : Oswald seemed unaware that his opponents knew all about his defection to Russia. He was about to be ambushed.

MODERATOR : Mr. Butler brought some newspaper clippings to my attention. You did live in Russia for three years?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : That is correct and I think those -- the fact that I did live for a time in the Soviet Union gives me excellent qualifications to repudiate charges that Cuba and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee is communist-controlled.

Mr. BUTLER : I think he was surprised, but again, he handled it, if you listen to the debate, very coolly. And it impeached his credibility and yet he managed to turn it to his advantage, which is, I think -- shows some aplomb, certainly a lot more than most people give him credit for.

Mr. BRINGUIER : I would like to know if it is the Fair Play for Cuba Committee or Fair Play for Russia Committee?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : Well, that is, of course, a very provocative question and I don't think it requires an answer.

Mr. BUTLER : Oh, I see. Well, would you say, then, that the Fair Play for Cuba Committee is not a communist front organization?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : We have been investigated from several points of view, that is, points of view of taxes, allegiance, subversion and so forth. The findings have been, as I say, absolutely zero.

Mr. BRINGUIER : He was angry that it has been discovered that he had tried to defect to the Soviet Union and he had been exposed in the debate. And that -- I could still see his face becoming red and redder and redder.

MODERATOR : Gentlemen, I'm going to have to interrupt. Our time is almost up. Thank you very much and good evening.

Mr. BUTLER : The last thing that I remember was Oswald taking out a notebook, glancing up at me and fixing me with a gaze of hatred and asking for my name and address and phone number and writing it down in the notebook, snapping it shut, looking up and giving me that Oswald sneer. I went one way and he went the other.

NARRATOR : The debate ended Oswald's campaign for Castro on the streets of New Orleans and he withdrew from the public stage. By now, he had been fired from the Reily Coffee Company, the third job he'd lost in a year, and he began spending even more time at his local library. That summer, he checked out books about the assassination of Huey Long, Mao Tse-tung's revolution and John F. Kennedy. Oswald still disagreed with Kennedy on Cuba, but he seemed to like the President.

Ms. McMILLAN : But insofar as he spoke about Kennedy, it was to praise him and he suffered, as she did, in the summer of 1963 over the death of the Kennedys' baby. Both he and Marina took this very personally and they thought that if the best doctors couldn't save the Kennedys' baby, then they baby they were expecting might not be born alive, either.

One evening Marina came home about dusk and she saw Lee on the screened-in porch and he was perched on his knee with his rifle at his shoulder and he was aiming it. She was extremely surprised at this. She hated to see him with the rifle again. But he continued to dry-fire the rifle for the last part of August and the first part of September.

NARRATOR : Marina says Lee told her he wanted to go fight for Castro and he began hatching a scheme to hijack a plane to Havana.

Ms. McMILLAN : He said that he would sit in the front row of the airplane cabin, she would sit in the back row with June, and at a certain point he would put a gun in the back of the pilot of the aircraft, she would stand up and keep the entire passenger contingent at bay with a pistol and speak to them -- and she would speak to the crowd and tell them to be quiet. Marina laughed at him and said, "Well, but I don't speak English. How am I going to explain to them?" Eventually, she laughed him out of the sky-jacking plan and he came home one day and said, "Mama, I've found a legal way. I'll go to Mexico."

NARRATOR : On September 25th, Oswald disappeared from New Orleans. Where he was that night is still one of the intriguing mysteries of his life. There is testimony that some time between 7:00 and 10:00 P.M. he made a call to a leader of the Socialist Labor Party in Houston. The Warren Commission believed Oswald took a bus from New Orleans to Houston, but there are no records to confirm that conclusion.

Meanwhile, more than 200 miles away in Dallas, three men -- two Latins and an American -- showed up unexpectedly at the doorstep of three young Cuban exiles whose father headed an anti-Castro organization. Silvia and Annie Odio granted FRONTLINE this rare interview.

ANNIE ODIO : One night I opened the door for three men that came to see one of my sisters. I opened the door. They were in a small hallway with bright lights overhead.

SILVIA ODIO : The taller man introduced the other two men. Leopoldo -- he said that was his name. He introduced the American, who was in the middle, as Leon Oswald and he introduced the one that seemed Mexican and spoke with a Mexican accent as Angelo.

INTERVIEW : And are you quite clear about it, that when those men visited your apartment, the American was introduced as Oswald?

SILVIA ODIO : The American was introduced as Leon Oswald. That will always be in my mind very clearly.

NARRATOR : According to the Odio sisters, Leon Oswald said nothing, as Leopoldo and Angelo asked for help raising money for the anti-Castro cause. Suspicious, the Odio sisters declined and a half hour later the three men drove away.

SILVIA ODIO : I think it was two days after that, Leopoldo, who had clearly a Cuban accent, called me on the phone and he tried to be very friendly on the phone with me and was trying to sell me the idea of the American. The first thing that he asked was, "What did you think of the American?" And actually, I had not formed any opinion of the American, at the time. He said, "Well, you know he is -- we don't know what to make of him. He's kind of loco. He's been telling us the Cubans should have murdered -- or should have assassinated President Kennedy right after the Bay of Pigs and they didn't have any guts to do it. They should do it and it was a very easy thing to do, at the time."

NARRATOR : But author Gerald Posner believes Silvia Odio is mistaken about the date on which the three men appeared at her door.

Mr. POSNER : It's physically impossible for Lee Harvey Oswald to have been at the Odio residence on the days that she describes. She says that he was either there on the 26th or 27th of September, a Thursday or Friday, maybe, at the very earliest, Wednesday, the 25th.

SILVIA ODIO : The reason that I remember so clearly was because that same night or I think either that night or the night afterwards, I wrote my father and I also told a friend of mine, who was my father confessor, about the visit.

NARRATOR : Odio talked to Father Walter McCann after the phone call from Leopoldo.

Father WALTER McCANN : I think I can pin a date to this conversation with Silvia. It was the day in which I spoke to her about her attending a charity event at which Janet Leigh was going to appear in Dallas.

NARRATOR : If Father McCann is correct about Janet Leigh, then the three men must have visited the Odios two days earlier, on September 25th, the only night Oswald could possibly have been in Dallas.

SILVIA ODIO : They were trying to sell me the American because they spoke that he was a marksman, that he had been an ex-Marine, and that he was someone who could be used and who could be an asset to any organization.

NARRATOR : Leopoldo and Angelo have never been identified and the meaning of this incident remains elusive. If Oswald was there, was he infiltrating another anti-Castro group or was someone setting him up to take the blame for the Kennedy assassination?

Lee Oswald is next seen the following day, alone on a bus, heading south from Houston to Mexico City. On the bus were two young Australian women.

PATRICIA WINSTON : It was on the bus to Mexico City that we encountered Lee Oswald. He heard us speaking English and wanted to talk to us and so we talked about our travels and he told us that he'd been to Russia. He went, then, and got his passport and showed us the Russian stamp on his passport.

NARRATOR : In Mexico City, as he had in Helsinki four years earlier, Oswald would try to engineer another defection. Not far from the bus station, he checked into the Hotel Comercio. He took a cheap room on the fourth floor. He had brought with him a file on his pro-Castro activity in New Orleans. It contained letters from the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, newspaper articles, his hand-written biography and the pamphlets and phony membership cards he had printed. The day he arrived in Mexico City, Oswald left the hotel and made his way to the Cuban consulate, where he was met by a Mexican employee named Sylvia Duran.

SYLVIA DURAN, Cuban Consulate : Well, it was near lunch hour and he came and he asked for an application for going to Cuba, but I remember that he was traveling with all his papers that demonstrate that he was a friend of the Cuban revolution. And he showed me his card belonging to the Fair Play for Cuba.

NARRATOR : Duran told Oswald he could get into Cuba only on a temporary visa and only if he were in transit to Russia, so Oswald walked two blocks to the Soviet diplomatic compound. That summer the Oswalds had been trying to be readmitted to the Soviet Union. Lee planned to travel through Cuba and then meet Marina in Russia.

At the Soviet embassy he met with three consular officials. They were, in fact, all KGB officers. In their first interview, they claimed it was just happenstance that they were present when Oswald showed up.

OLEG NECHIPORENKO, KGB : [through interpreter ] We all thought the man had an unstable nervous system. He was extremely agitated.

VALERY KOSTIKOV, KGB : [through interpreter ] During our talk, Oswald kept feeling in his pockets, taking out all sorts of papers. Then he took out a gun and put it in front of him. I sat opposite him. I took the gun away and put it on Pavel's desk. Pavel Antonovich asked him, "Why did you come here with a gun? What do you need a gun for?" He said, "I am afraid of the FBI. I'm being persecuted. I need a gun to protect myself, for my personal safety." That's what he said.

NARRATOR : Oswald was told it would take several months to get a Soviet visa, but without one he would be unable to go to Cuba. Oswald took the news badly.

Ms. DURAN : Well, then I explain and then he got, in that moment -- he couldn't believe what I was saying and he said, "But that's impossible. I have to go to Cuba right now because I don't -- I only have a permission of three or four days in Mexico City, so I have to go." I thought that in a moment he will be crying because his eyes -- he was very excited. He was very red and his eyes is like with -- well, with bright, shining, like he was in tears or --and he didn't want to understand and so I called the consul, Azque.

NARRATOR : Duran says Oswald lost his temper with Consul Azque.

Ms. DURAN : Then Azque says, "Listen, get out. Get out." And he went to the door, that it was locked. He open and said, "Get out. And if I see you again, if you come again, I want to kick you out."

NARRATOR : As Oswald left the Cuban and Soviet embassies, he was being watched. These photographs taken by Cuban intelligence show the CIA operatives at work. From a house across the road from the Cuban consulate, the CIA maintained a continuous photographic surveillance. Here a telephoto lens can be seen poking through the blinds.

Mr. HELMS : It's my recollection that, at the time of Oswald's presence in Mexico City, there was something wrong with some of the cameras we were using and we were trying to fix it. But the fact remains that there are no photographs of Lee Harvey Oswald taken while he was in Mexico City at that time and I can't explain 100 percent why not.

NARRATOR : But the declassified report on Oswald's Mexico City trip written by the House Assassinations Committee tells a different story.

Mr. SUMMERS : And we now find that there were several former CIA officers who said that there had been such a photograph. One of them said that he'd seen it and described it in detail, a profile shot of Oswald at the gate, another one taken from behind as he went in.

NARRATOR : And the CIA station chief in Mexico City, the late Win Scott, in his memoirs also said the CIA took pictures of Oswald.

READER for Scott : "Persons watching these embassies photographed Oswald as he entered and left and clocked the time spent on each visit."

Mr. HELMS : That's fine for Win Scott to say, but he has no evidence to demonstrate it and he couldn't produce the photograph, so what is he talking about?

NARRATOR : CIA wiretaps and bugs also recorded several of Oswald's conversations inside the embassies. The CIA has always maintained those tapes were routinely erased before the Kennedy assassination.

Mr. HELMS : Just in the normal course of business, that after the tapes had been transcribed and the material was put on paper, then the tapes were routinely erased and used again.

NARRATOR : But again, this claim is contradicted. A high-ranking CIA officer in the Mexico City embassy told FRONTLINE the Oswald tapes existed months after the assassination, when they were played for two Warren Commission lawyers.

W. DAVID SLAWSON, Warren Commission Counsel : My best recollection is they offered to us to listen. They said to us -- it was Win Scott that -- "Would you like to listen to the tapes" of this particular one. I can't remember now whether it was a wiretap or a bug. And Bill and I thought about it a minute and said, "Well, what are they like?" And so they played a little bit of it for us.

NARRATOR : Slawson says the tape was of poor quality and difficult to understand. He could not identify Oswald's voice.

Mr. SLAWSON : Now, there were many bugs and many wiretaps, so it could be that the one that we were offered to -- the opportunity to listen to was the only one that hadn't been destroyed. Now, even that just one not having been destroyed, would show that Mr. Helms's statement was incorrect.

Mr. SUMMERS : Where, then, are the tapes? And the question that arises here is why is the CIA reluctant for us to see the photographs and reluctant for us to see the tapes -- to hear the tapes of Oswald's voice? While they refuse to come clean, clearly, there's going to be a suspicion that the tapes or the photographs don't show what one would expect them to.

NARRATOR : The CIA did release a photograph to the FBI on the day Kennedy was shot. They said it was Oswald entering the Soviet embassy. The agency soon realized its mistake, but the absence of photos of Oswald has fueled speculation.

Mr. BLAKEY : The suspicion was that Oswald didn't make it at all, that there was an impostor attempting to frame him in Mexico City. Had that been established, it would indicate a sophisticated effort to frame Oswald, which would immediately draw attention to American intelligence.

NARRATOR : But there is much evidence that the real Oswald was in Mexico City. At the Soviet embassy, all three KGB officers told FRONTLINE the man they met was the real Lee Harvey Oswald, not the man in the photograph the CIA released.

Mr. KOSTIKOV : [through interpreter ] No, this is a completely different person. The Oswald who had visited our embassy and whose photographs I saw in many newspapers and on T.V. was completely different.

Ms. DURAN : The day after the assassination, in the Mexican newspapers were a photo of Oswald and I said to my husband, "I'm sure that this is the man who went to us for a visa." So I went to the embassy and I look up the applications and I saw his application and it was the same one.

Mr. BLAKEY : We obtained from the Cuban officials the visa application, with his photograph on it and his signature. We verified that it was Oswald's signature. Oswald, therefore, was in Mexico City.

NARRATOR : And records at the Hotel Comercio show the real Oswald was here, too. The handwriting on the register is his. Oswald stayed in Mexico City four days, but in the end, both the Russians and the Cubans rejected him. All his plans to fight for Castro and return to Russia had come to nothing. He had nowhere to go but back to America.

In the early hours of an October morning, Oswald boarded a bus heading north. A fellow passenger remembers him sitting alone.

WITNESS : [through interpreter ] Mostly he just leaned against the window -- quiet, thoughtful. He didn't speak to anyone. To me, he seemed obsessed, fixated on one idea.

NARRATOR : On October 2nd, Oswald crossed the U.S. border, bound for Dallas.

Part 3

NARRATOR : On October 3rd, 1963, just seven weeks before President Kennedy's planned visit to Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald returned to Dallas. With no place to call his own, he took a room at the YMCA. He had no job and no means to support his family. His wife, Marina, and his daughter, June, were living with their friend, Ruth Paine, in Irving, a Dallas suburb. Marina was expecting their second child.

Mrs. PAINE : Soon after Lee came back to Texas -- it was perhaps a week later -- I was having coffee with Marina at a neighbor's house and we were talking about the fact that Lee hadn't been able to get a job and he was looking for work and needed work. And another neighbor there said that her brother worked at the Texas School Book Depository and she thought that they were still hiring people. So I called the School Book Depository to see whether there might be an opening there.

NARRATOR : There was an opening and Oswald was hired as a warehouse clerk to fill orders for textbooks. The job paid only $1.25 an hour, but Lee liked the idea he would be working with books.

Mrs. PAINE : He came out each weekend. He and Marina did argue a good bit and I was somewhat impatient with him. She was saying, "You see? He doesn't love me." All the time I knew her, she was worried about whether he loved her or not.

MICHAEL PAINE : Well, he came out on weekends. I remember stepping over him one time as he was watching T.V., watching a football game with his chin in his hands there, and thinking, "What a fine little revolutionary we have here, being snookered into the new opiate of the people, football."

NARRATOR : Michael Paine and Lee also talked politics on the weekends.

Mr. PAINE : He thought capitalism was rotten, it was a fraud and it needed to be overthrown. Lee wanted to be an active guerrilla in the effort to bring about a new world order. We discovered we were both interested in the activities of right-wing groups in Dallas, which were common, numerous at that time. And I think he described his activities as spying on them and thought of himself as doing that. In that conversation, the name of General Walker was raised.

NARRATOR : Oswald told Paine he had gone to a right-wing rally to hear General Edwin Walker, the same man he had tried to assassinate a few months earlier.

Mr. PAINE : There's no doubt in my mind that he believed violence was the -- was the only effective tool. He didn't want to mess around with trying to change the system.

NARRATOR : Oswald's return had not gone unnoticed at the FBI field office in Dallas. The CIA had told the FBI of Oswald's trip to Mexico and his visit to the Soviet embassy.

Mr. HOSTY : I wanted to find out where Lee Oswald was. I had determined from previous investigation that he was not living at the Paine residence, but he had been seen visiting there. I wanted to find out if he was in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and if so, where and what he was doing.

NARRATOR : Oswald was staying at this rooming house in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. Apparently worried about the FBI, he registered under a new alias, O.H. Lee. And in these final days, many possible Oswald sightings have a sinister cast. At a Lincoln-Mercury car dealer's, a man who called himself Oswald and said he'd been to Russia test drove a car at crazy speeds. He bragged about coming into money in three weeks. It was three weeks before the assassination.

The manager of a parking garage says a man calling himself Oswald came looking for a job. He then asked if the roof had a good view of downtown Dallas. President Kennedy's motorcade would pass within a block of the garage.

Just days before the assassination, there was another sighting. A man resembling Oswald was seen target practicing. He almost started a fight when he began shooting at other people's targets.

RIFLE RANGE EMPLOYEE : Now, this number eight target is the target that Oswald would supposedly have shot at. One witness has said he helped him sight his scope in and said he was real good, but I don't know.

Mr. BLAKEY : All of this testimony has to be taken very seriously. All of it has to be taken with an enormous grain of salt. These are people who did not know Oswald and who are subsequently remembering, "Oh, the guy involved in the assassination is the guy I saw weeks and months ago" -- this is the least credible testimony unless it can be specifically corroborated.

NARRATOR : In fact, most of Oswald's time in Dallas can be accounted for. At the end of his working day, he rode the bus to the rooming house. He spent weekends with his family. There is no hard evidence that he was meeting with any possible co-conspirators, including his mysterious right-wing associates from New Orleans.

Mr. POSNER : When Lee Harvey Oswald returns to Dallas, he certainly has no contact with either Ferrie or Banister, in terms of letters, telephone records or anything else. So if he did know them, it had been in New Orleans and he had no contact with them when Kennedy was coming to Dallas.

NARRATOR : But two uncorroborated reports do hint at a continued connection to Cuban exiles. One witness thought she saw Oswald at an anti-Castro gathering shortly before the assassination. Another claims Oswald was in touch with an anti-Castro activist named Pedro Gonzalez. Gonzalez strongly denies the allegation. The story was uncovered by Earl Golz, then a Dallas reporter. His source was Gonzalez's neighbor.

EARL GOLZ : He saw a note that had been left in Mr. Gonzalez's mailbox by a person who signed his name as "Lee Oswald" and in an urgent tone left two Dallas telephone numbers for Mr. Gonzalez to call.

INTERVIEWER : What date was this?

Mr. GOLZ : This would have been about the 17th of November, a Sunday, the one day that no one had seemed to know where Oswald was, neither his wife, nor the rooming house in Dallas.

NARRATOR : That day, Ruth Paine and Marina tried to call Oswald.

Mrs. PAINE : And I dialed the number, asked for Lee Oswald and was told, "No Lee Oswald lives here," and so I checked, "Is this the number?" Yes, it was. And I really hung up in confusion and told Marina what had happened. Then the next day, when Lee called, as he normally did in the evening after work, Marina said we had tried to reach him and that there was no one of that name there and he bawled her out for trying to reach him. When she hung up, she was very distressed, said that he was using an assumed name and he's done this before and he lives in this fantasy and he has this idea about being a great man. And she was very worried about him, worried about his mental state, as I understood it from her.

NARRATOR : On Wednesday evening, two days before the assassination, one of the boarders at the rooming house recalls Oswald intently watching a T.V. news story about President Kennedy's visit to Dallas. That week Dallas newspapers published more details, including maps of the motorcade route.

The White House party would fly into Dallas and drive through the city. The planned route would take the motorcade into Dealey Plaza and right by the Texas School Book Depository.

After work on Thursday, Oswald asked a co-worker to give him a lift to Irving.

Mrs. PAINE : Thursday, which was the night before the assassination, I came home from grocery shopping and Lee was outside in the yard. I was surprised because it was the only time he came without asking.

Ms. McMILLAN : And Marina thought he'd come to make up with her after a fight they'd had. He tried to kiss her. She didn't let him. And he said to her that she was getting spoiled living with Americans. And early that evening, he asked her on three separate occasions to join him in Dallas and, if she would, he would get an apartment the next day.

NARRATOR : Marina was still angry and she said no. Some time that evening, Oswald entered the garage, where he kept his rifle.

Mrs. PAINE : I went into the garage and the light was on, which surprised me because I knew Marina was pretty careful turning the light out when she went in the garage for anything. And I hadn't been in the garage, so I assumed that Lee had been in there and forgotten to turn the light out.

NARRATOR : Lee woke up early the next morning. Marina was still sleeping. He made his own coffee. Then he kissed his children and told Marina good-bye.

Ms. McMILLAN : Later, she found what he'd left on the bureau. It was $170 and she thought to herself that must be everything Lee had. And she found something else. It was Lee's wedding ring and he left it in a little cup that her grandmother had given her.

NARRATOR : When Oswald left the house, he was carrying an oblong package wrapped in brown paper. He told the neighbor who gave him a ride to work that the package contained curtain rods for his room in Oak Cliff. Later that day, a long, empty brown bag would be found on the sixth floor of the Book Depository.

President Kennedy was up early that morning, as well. In Fort Worth, the crowds were friendly.

Pres. KENNEDY : A few years ago, I said that-- introduced myself in Paris by saying that I was the man who had accompanied Mrs. Kennedy to Paris. I'm getting somewhat that same sensation as I travel around Texas.

NARRATOR : In Dallas, Oswald's co-workers were eagerly awaiting the motorcade.

HAROLD D. NORMAN, Co-Worker : We were looking out towards Elm Street, so he walked up and asked us, said, "What is everybody looking for? What's everybody waiting on?" So we told him we was waiting on the President to come by. He put his hands in his pocket and laughed and walked away, so I don't know where he went, or if he went upstairs or downstairs or where.

NARRATOR : Oswald rode the elevator up to the sixth floor, where he spent the morning filling book orders. In Fort Worth the President was headed to the airport for the short flight to Dallas. About 12:00 o'clock, Oswald's co-workers went down to lunch. Oswald shouted for them to send the elevator back up. By now President Kennedy and his wife had landed at Love Field. The welcome was warm.

On the sixth floor of the depository, someone had screened off a corner window with boxes. Oswald's prints would later be found on some of them, including the boxes arranged to support the sniper's rifle. Two witnesses spotted a man with a rifle at the sixth floor window. They assumed he was there to protect the President. Oswald later claimed that at this time he was eating lunch with two fellow workers and had then gone to buy a Coke, but his co-workers denied having lunch with Oswald.

Some witnesses thought they saw two men on the sixth floor, evidence, if true, that there was a conspiracy. At 12:23, amateur cameraman Charles Bronson panned across the depository. FRONTLINE had this footage scientifically enhanced to see if a second man could be seen on the sixth floor.

ROBERT A. GONSALVES, Image Processing Analyst : Well, the left window, when you look at a single frame, appears to have a person standing there. You can see the shoulders and perhaps the arms. And some people said that in successive frames somebody's walking back and forth. But when we processed the image to reduce the grain noise, we found that all of the images throughout the frame look approximately the same and so in that sixth floor window, that is not anybody walking around. That's grain noise walking around.

NARRATOR : And this film, shot by Robert Hughes, shows the motorcade approaching Dealey Plaza. Hughes stops filming for a few seconds and then starts again just as the limousine passes in front of the depository.

FRANCIS CORBETT, Image Processing Analyst : On the Hughes film, there are a lot of things to see and on the fifth floor in particular, we see an employee of the Book Depository raise his right arm, right there, as he waves to the motorcade passing just under the building. Now we move to the sixth floor and we observe in the arched window that is adjacent to the sniper's nest a form that some people have said is human-like in appearance. And when we ran the enhanced film in motion, that human form disappears and we conclude there is no human form in that window. We do also conclude that there is movement in the sixth floor corner window, indicating the presence of a person.

NARRATOR : Just seven seconds before the first shot is fired something moves in the corner window. In the window below, Harold Norman raises his arm and waves to the President.

Mr. NORMAN : We was sitting on the fifth floor, directly under the sixth floor windows. The shots came from above and there was a gun and the shots were sounding, "Boom! Click, click. Boom! Click, click. Boom! Click, click." So there was three shots fired right up over us when we were sitting on the fifth floor.

NARRATOR : Frame by frame, the tragedy unfolds in the 21 seconds of eight-millimeter film shot by Abraham Zapruder. As the motorcade rounds the corner, it slows. In the background, a little girl runs beside the limousine. Suddenly there's a gunshot. Governor Connally hears it and turns. The little girl stops dead and looks around.

Three seconds later, a second shot. A bullet has passed through the President's throat. It hits Connally in the back and he starts falling. Mrs. Kennedy turns to her husband. Something's wrong. She looks into his face. The fatal head shot.

The exact number and timing of the shots have been argued over endlessly, but there is a growing consensus that the Zapruder film shows three shots were fired in about eight seconds. Many believe a second gunman fired a fourth shot from the grassy knoll. Immediately after the shooting, many people followed a policeman up the embankment. But when police searched the area, they found no gunman, no gun, no cartridges. But years later it was discovered that a motorcycle policeman's radio button had been jammed open and that the gunshots in Dealey Plaza may have been accidentally recorded.

Mr. POSNER : The House Select Committee on Assassinations used sound experts to listen to a Dallas Police dictabelt and they concluded with a 95 percent certainty that there was a fourth shot fired at Dealey Plaza and it came from the grassy knoll. The National Academy of Sciences reviewed their work and found a multitude of errors and omissions, the most serious of which was that the time that the Select Committee experts thought the shots were being fired was the wrong time. It was actually one minute after the assassination had actually taken place.

REPORTER : And just now we've received reports here at Parkland that--

NARRATOR : In the chaos and confusion of that day, many mistakes were made in the autopsy on Kennedy's body. But the medical photographs and X-rays have confirmed that if there was a shot from the grassy knoll, it missed.

Mr. POSNER : There were only two shots that struck President Kennedy. Both came from the rear. Four government investigations all came to the same conclusion -- the Warren Commission in the '60s, in 1968 the Clark panel set by Attorney General Ramsey Clark, in the '70s the Rockefeller Commission and finally, in the late '70s, the House Select Committee, with the largest forensics panel reexamining the evidence.

NARRATOR : Modern computer modeling is a technique that was not available to earlier investigators. These three-dimensional graphics of Dealey Plaza were produced by a specialist company called Failure Analysis Associates on behalf of the American Bar Association. By feeding data into the computer, it is possible to model the trajectory of the so-called "magic bullet," the second shot fires from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Critics say that unless it pursued a bizarre zigzag trajectory, it was impossible for one bullet to pass through both men.

Mr. POSNER : Four government commissions all concluded it was a straight line right through the two men. There's no question that a single bullet could inflict all seven wounds on both the President and the Governor and emerge in very good condition. As it slowed as it moved through the two men, it moved fast enough to break bone, but not fast enough to deform the bullet.

The computer technicians used reverse projection to go from the wounds on Kennedy and Connally and determine where the assassin had to be located to inflict those wounds and a cone is splayed out from the wound and shows that the only area almost centers on the southeast corner, sixth floor, Texas School Book Depository.

NARRATOR : And if the three shots were fired in eight seconds, this is the computer model of the sniper's view. After the third shot, someone saw the sniper slowly withdraw his rifle. Leaving three cartridges on the floor, he made his way to the stairs. The rifle, with one shell still in the breech, was later found behind some boxes.

Oswald was first seen 90 seconds later, standing by the door of the lunchroom looking calm. A policeman stopped him momentarily, but let him go. Within three minutes of the shooting, Oswald walked out the front door. He boarded a bus, but jumped out and hailed a taxi when the bus got stuck in traffic. He asked the taxi to drop him a couple of blocks away from his rooming house in Oak Cliff.

Oswald hurried to his room. This is the room for which Oswald said he needed curtain rods. Oswald put a .38 revolver in his waistband, took a light, zippered jacket from his closet and left. His landlady last saw him standing by the bus stop outside the rooming house.

By now, the Texas School Book Depository had been sealed off and police had issued a description of a suspect in the assassination.

GERALD HILL, Dallas Police : A white male, brown hair, approximately five-six to five-eight, weighing 160 pounds had been seen in the window of the depository and was believed to be the shooter.

NARRATOR : Gerald Hill helped search the Book Depository.

Mr. HILL : It was dirty. It was dusty. It had an old wooden floor. It was an ancient building. It had boxes of books stacked here and there. There was a shield of boxes that were stacked in such a way that anybody coming off of the elevator or coming out of the stairwell would not see anyone who was down in a firing position between the barricade and the window.

NARRATOR : They were still searching when the call came that there had been another shooting.

Mr. HILL : All we knew at that time was it was an officer had been shot and they gave us a car number and we knew it was Tippit, based on the car number.

NARRATOR : Officer J.D. Tippit had been patrolling in Oak Cliff when he was gunned down, killed instantly next to his car. Of the seven eyewitnesses to the shooting, the one with probably the clearest view was Jack Tatum.

JACK TATUM, Eyewitness : I was preparing to turn left on 10th Street from Denver. I noticed an individual walking in my direction with a light, zippered jacket on, darker pants, and a squad car pulling over to the curb next to him. As we -- as I approached the squad car, I noticed that that individual was leaning over, talking to the officer. He had both hands in the pockets of his jacket. I continued through the intersection and about in the middle of the intersection, I heard three, maybe four shots.

NARRATOR : If the man in the jacket was Lee Harvey Oswald, no one knows how he got here. Researcher Dale Myers investigated the Tippit shooting.

DALE MYERS : He certainly couldn't have gotten here unless he got a ride. Some people have conjectured that it was possibly a conspiratorial pickup.

NARRATOR : Whether the driver was a co-conspirator or a casual passer-by is still a mystery.

Mr. MYERS : A lot of the witnesses first said that he was coming west and then he was seen walking east as Tippit pulled to the curb. I think what may have happened is Oswald truly was walking west, saw the police car approaching, did a quick about-face, now is walking east. This would be something that Tippit would spot and possibly cause enough suspicion to pull over.

The killer gets to about this position on the sidewalk and Tippit's patrol car pulls to the curb and either calls him over to the curb or the man comes over by himself and leans through the window and talks to Tippit through the vent window for 10 or 20 seconds -- very short. And Tippit gets out of the patrol car and as he does, the man steps over to the front of the hood here, and as Tippit gets opposite him, he pulls a gun from under the jacket, fires three shots across the hood, knocking Tippit to the pavement. Then the man starts to leave, hesitates at the back of the car, walks around behind the car, comes up to the front of the car, stands over to Tippit and shoots him in the head.

Mr., TATUM : He then looked around, surveyed the situation and started a slow run toward my direction. I put my car in gear and drove forward and watched him through the rearview mirror. I saw him very clearly and realized that there was one thing that made him stand out and that was his mouth that curled up. I couldn't mistake that.

INTERVIEWER : Kind of a -- kind of a smile?

Mr. TATUM : Yes. Uh-huh. Kind of a smile. And I was within 10, 15 feet of that individual and it was Lee Harvey Oswald.

Mr. MYERS : After the shooting, police found shells at the scene. They went on the radio and said they were .38 automatics. Later Oswald's arrested with a revolver that fires .38 specials, a shell that's clearly about a quarter inch longer. Besides, they're clearly stamped on the bottom. One says, ".38 special," one says, ".38 automatic."

NARRATOR : Automatic shells would mean Oswald was not there and that the evidence could have been planted.

INTERVIEWER : Did you actually pick up the shells yourself?

Mr. HILL : Yeah, I got a mark in them. I put a mark in them.

INTERVIEWER : But you still mistook the kind of shell it was?

Mr. HILL : Yes, I did. In all the excitement that was going on then, you just looked to see if it was a .38. And if he'd been using an automatic, they could have been ejected. Nobody at this point had told the first officer to arrive that Oswald had stopped, deliberately kicked out shells from a .38 revolver before he left that scene.

NARRATOR : Later, the FBI crime lab found that Tippit was killed by bullets fired from a gun with a bored-out barrel, a barrel just like Oswald's .38. Ballistics tests on bored-out guns can never be completely conclusive. However, marks on the cartridges allegedly recovered at the scene did match the hammer on Oswald's .38 revolver.

Mr. MYERS : Shortly after the shooting, several employees of a used car lot saw the killer come down this street. Ultimately, he came and he ducked behind this building, which used to be a Texaco service station. And in 1963, this was a parking lot. And they found a jacket under this car and it was a light gray, Eisenhower-type jacket, much like the one that Oswald was seen zipping up as he left his rooming house.

He's next seen without the jacket, kind of slinking down Jefferson, ducking in and out of stores as police cars are roaring up and down with their sirens blaring.

NARRATOR : As the police cars sped by the Texas Movie Theater, the cashier stepped out of her ticket booth to see what was happening. As she did, a man slipped past her without buying a ticket, but someone saw him and called the police.

Mr. HILL : And so we converged on that location, hit the balcony first -- I did. Because there was only one light on in the theater, we opened the side door to get some more light. We determined he wasn't in the balcony and I came downstairs. As I got back to the lobby, I heard the sounds of a scuffle. I immediately went into the theater. I saw an officer scuffling with a suspect on the third row from the back of the theater. It took seven of us to put him on the floor and restrain him until we could put cuffs on him. Once we had the cuffs on him, he started hollering police brutality, "Is this America?" this kind of thing.

NARRATOR : Outside the movie house, an angry crowd jeered as Oswald was bundled into a police car.

Mr. HILL : Immediately, as we pulled away from the curb, we got on the radio and said we were coming back to the jail with our suspect. And the next thing that was asked was, "What's your name?" and he wouldn't tell us. And ask him did he know why we had arrested him and he said, "I haven't done anything I should be ashamed of." We continued to the City Hall, pulled to the back side of the basement. We formed up our wedge, walked him through the basement into the elevator, up to the third floor and into the interrogation room in the homicide and robbery office.

NARRATOR : As Oswald was brought in for questioning in the Tippit shooting, he was also becoming a suspect in the Kennedy assassination. Police had discovered he was the only employee missing from the School Book Depository.

1st REPORTER : Let's keep it quiet and we'll all get it!

2nd REPORTER : Hold it down!

1st REPORTER : Has -- has the gentleman been identified?

POLICE SPOKESMAN : Yes, sir. He's been identified for killing the officer.

1st REPORTER : Right. Has any identification been attempted for the killing of the President?


1st REPORTER : Not yet.

LONNIE HUDKINS, Reporter : I was in the hallway with all the other reporters when Fritz came out and asked me if I'd come in and sort of be the token reporter inside for a few minutes. And I went in to see Oswald and I asked him about his eye and he said that was when he was punched out and knocked down -- you know, wrestled down. The next question, "Why did you kill Officer Tippit?" And he threw the question right back at me. He said, "Someone got killed? A policeman got killed?" And at that time, he had this little smirk on him and I wanted to hit him, but I didn't. Then all of a sudden, it dawned on me he wasn't sweating. Not a drop of sweat on him. He was calmer than all the people around him -- Secret Service, police, FBI, district attorney. There was -- everybody was in that office.

JAMES LEAVELLE, Dallas Police : While he didn't admit anything and he didn't confess to anything, he was the type of individual that you had to prove to him that we could make a case on him and this is not unusual. This is very common among people that commits a crime.

Mr. HOSTY : I don't think he would have broken and confessed, because I think he was playing a game. He had the impression that he was smarter than everybody else and was going to sit back there and play this for all it was worth.

NARRATOR : The case against Oswald was building. Police had recovered the rifle and the FBI had traced its purchase to an A. Hidell.

FBI SPOKESMAN : The return address on this order letter was to the Post Office box in Dallas, Texas, of our suspect, Oswald, but it has definitely been established by the FBI that the handwriting is the handwriting of Oswald.

Mr. LEAVELLE : He was asked if he had ever used the name of A. Hidell. He said no. And he was asked if he knew anybody by the name of A. Hidell and he said no. And then he was asked, "Isn't it true that when you was arrested, you had a picture I.D. on there with A. Hidell on it?" He said, "I believe that's correct." And he was asked, "Well, how do you explain that?" and he says, "I don't." He just cut it off like that.

1st REPORTER : Here comes Oswald down the hall again.

2nd REPORTER : Did you buy that rifle?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : I don't know what dispatches you people have been getting, but I emphatically deny these charges.

Mr. EPSTEIN : What Oswald's interrogation shows is a very consistent pattern to hide a single fact through lies. That single fact was his ownership of the rifle. When he lied about the backyard photograph, it was to hide the fact he had a rifle. When he lied that he'd ever used the alias, "Hidell," it was to hide the fact that he had ordered the rifle. You could go through the interrogation point by point and see that Oswald would be truthful up until it comes to the rifle At the point of the rifle, he hides his ownership of it. Now, we're talking about the assassination weapon and lying consistently to hide that shows, in my opinion, a consciousness of guilt on Oswald's part.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : I don't know what this is all about.

1st REPORTER : Did you kill the President?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : No, sir, I didn't. People keep -- [crosstalk ] Sir?

1st REPORTER : Did you shoot the President?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : I work in that building.

1st REPORTER : Were you in the building at the time?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : Naturally, if I work in that building, yes, sir

2nd REPORTER : Back up, man!

3rd REPORTER : Come on, man!

4th REPORTER : Did you shoot the President?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : No. They've taken me in because of the fact that I lived in the Soviet Union. I'm just a patsy.

5th REPORTER : Did you shoot the President?

NARRATOR : Oswald was interrogated for two days, but he never confessed.

ROBERT OSWALD : I was allowed to visit with him approximately eight to ten minutes. And I asked him, I said, "Lee, what the Sam Hill's going on?" He said, "I don't know what they're talking about." I said, "Lee, they have got you charged with the death of the President, shooting a police officer. They've got your rifle. They've got your pistol. And you don't know what the Sam Hill's going on?" And I became kind of intense, at that point, and looking into his eyes. And he never did answer, but he finally said, "Brother, you won't find anything there." And before we could get back to discussing anything of substance and everything, he gets tapped on his shoulder and told, "That's the end of it."

ANNIE ODIO : It was a horrible day. I started crying and then, after a while, the picture of the guy that shot the President came on T.V. and I knew right away that I had seen that guy before, but I couldn't remember from where.

SILVIA ODIO : Annie came into the room and she was quite excited. About 10 minutes after she had arrived, we saw the picture of Oswald on the television. She screamed. We looked at each other. We were terrified. I said, "I also know him, Annie, and please don't say anything. I also recognize him as the man who was standing at my door."

NARRATOR : Around midnight on November 22nd, Oswald was paraded in front of the press. He had just been charged with the murder of Officer Tippit and he was about to be charged with the assassination of President Kennedy.

1st REPORTER : Did you kill the President?

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : No, I have not been charged with that. In fact, nobody has said that to me yet. The first thing I heard about was when the newspaper reporters in the hall asked me that question. [crosstalk ]

2nd REPORTER : Nobody's said what?


2nd REPORTER : Nobody's said what?

NARRATOR : At the back of the room that night was one man who was not a policeman or a reporter, a man who carried a gun and had underworld connections. His name was Jacob Rubenstein, known as Jack Ruby. In less than 36 hours, he would murder Lee Harvey Oswald.

Mr. BLAKEY : If the Mob had a hand in the President's death, and I think they did, and they induced Oswald to kill the President, it was terribly important that he be silenced because eventually Oswald, if alive, would testify as to who his associates were, or they ran the risk that he would. And therefore there's every indication that Ruby stalked and killed Oswald in an effort to silence him.

NARRATOR : Jack Ruby was a police informer who owned a striptease club. He made sure that policemen who came to his club were shown a good time.

WALLY WESTON, Ruby Friend : What kind of a guy was Jack Ruby? Impulsive. He had a quick temper. That's why they called him "Sparky." Loved to fight. And if anybody was really out of line, he'd throw `em out.

AL MADDOX, Dallas County Sheriff : If Jack Ruby knew that you were a law enforcement officer, they always had plenty of liquor, dancing girls, food or anything else because he always felt that we may be able to help him.

JOE CODY, Dallas Police : Yeah, he did give some free drinks around and when folks from the police went down there, you know, he discounted the drinks for them. And he was a fighter. There was no question about that. And we'd get a disturbance call there down there, we'd just wait at the bottom of the stairs because in just a few minutes that guy, or whoever was creating the disturbance, was going to come falling down the stairs.

Mr. POSNER : Jack Ruby knew people who were members of the Mafia. He had acquaintances from his Chicago days, people that had long prison records. And there's no question that he knew as many people in organized crime or who had criminal records as he knew police on the other side.

NARRATOR : In 1963, Sam and Joe Campisi were leading figures in the Dallas underworld.

Mr. CODY : Yes, Jack knew the Campisis and I'd seen them together on numerous occasions. Jack ate out there at the Egyptian Lounge and he'd come in, they'd shake his hand and sit down. Sometimes Joe Campisi would sit with him. If I came in, you know, I'd sit with Jack Ruby and Joe Campisi. I knew -- we all knew each other well.

NARRATOR : The Campisis were lieutenants of Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss who had reportedly talked of killing the President.

Mr. MADDOX : The Campisis did know Carlos Marcello because one day I was in Joe Campisi's office and he called Carlos on the phone and I talked to Carlos on the phone.

Mr. POSNER : There's the odor of a Mafia hit all around Ruby's murder of Lee Harvey Oswald until you examine both Ruby and his actions over that weekend. There is no credible evidence to show that Jack Ruby acted at the behest of anyone in organized crime. It was personally motivated from day one.

NARRATOR : If Ruby was a hit man working for the Mafia, he had already missed one perfect opportunity to silence Oswald.

Mr. HUDKINS : And I asked him if he was packing a pistol at that midnight press conference and he said yes. And I said, "Then why didn't you plug him then?" And he says, "I was afraid of hitting one of you guys."

NARRATOR : After the assassination, Ruby closed the Carousel Club. He spent much of Saturday hanging around Dallas police headquarters. That day Oswald was taken from his cell several times to be interrogated and made to stand in police line-ups. Ruby had no opportunity to shoot Oswald that day, but he was asking lots of questions about when the police would transfer him to the county jail.

LEE HARVEY OSWALD : I've been photographed [unintelligible ] fingerprints. Now they're taking me for a line-up [unintelligible ] picked out, right?

POLICE OFFICIAL : That's right.

NARRATOR : As he hung around the corridors of the police station that weekend, Ruby seemed distraught over Kennedy's death.

Mr. POSNER : I view Ruby as very agitated. He gets very worked up into this very anti-Oswald feeling. There are a number of events that take place that sort of seem to propel him at even a faster rate into what I view as this emotional deterioration. One of them is the belief that the Jewish community in Dallas is going to be blamed for the assassination, based upon an ad that had run the day the President arrived, signed by a Jewish name.

NARRATOR : Signed by a Bernard Weissman, the right-wing ad in the Dallas Morning News had attacked Kennedy for being soft on communism. If Ruby was stalking Oswald, Sunday morning would be his last chance. The police had announced Oswald would be transferred to the county jail at 10:00 A.M. But at 10:00 Jack Ruby was still at home.

Mr. POSNER : Jack Ruby takes over an hour and a half to leave his apartment. He very leisurely goes to the Western Union office -- he doesn't appear to be rushed, says the clerk behind the counter -- and he sends his $25 moneygram. He takes his change and it's time stamped at 11:17. Oswald is shot by Ruby four minutes later, at 11:21.

Mr. LEAVELLE : I did a re-check on that myself. From the date stamp time of 11:17 on that telegram and then it took roughly 83 seconds -- because I walked at three different speeds, slow, fast and medium, and the average was 83 seconds -- from the front door of the Western Union to the basement.

NARRATOR : It is still unclear whether Ruby slipped into the basement through an unlocked door or just walked down the ramp. Upstairs, Jim Leavelle was about to bring Oswald down in the elevator, more than an hour late.

Mr. LEAVELLE : Well, I had no idea when I was coming down in the elevator and he certainly could not have and there ain't no way you could time that where he would be in the basement right at the exact moment that I came out of there. And he couldn't have been there more than a minute, 45 seconds to a minute, before I arrived with Oswald.

NARRATOR : Wearing a light-colored suit and a Stetson, Leavelle was Oswald's escort.

Mr. LEAVELLE : I put the handcuffs on him, and in the process of doing that, I more in jest kind of said, "Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they're as good a shot as you are," meaning, of course, that they'd hit him and not me. And he kind of laughed and he said, "Oh, you're being melodramatic," or something to that effect. "Nobody's going to shoot at me." And so we walked out and I was momentarily blinded by those lights. I couldn't see anything.

REPORTER : He's been shot!

Mr. LEAVELLE : Oswald just groaned when he was shot -- just "Uhhh!" and went down and that's the only sound he made.

Mr. POSNER : Ruby yells as he's shooting, "You killed my president, you rat!" He's then tackled by the police around him and in the few seconds after the shooting through the time he's taken into the jail, he says a series of things. "You guys," meaning the police, "couldn't do it. I did it for you. I had to show that a Jew has guts. I'm happy that I got him." There's a whole series of where Ruby believes they're going to clap him on the back and say, "Nice going, Jack."

NARRATOR : Was the shooting in the basement garage a carefully planned Mafia hit or did Sparky Ruby shoot Oswald in a flash of violent rage?

Mr. LEAVELLE :I transferred Jack Ruby to the county jail and when I asked him why he'd done the shooting, he said he'd thought about it from the Friday night on. But a lot of people thought about it. I've had people tell me, "Oh, if I could have got to him on Friday afternoon, my anger was such that I would have killed him without looking back."

Mr. WESTON :I visited Jack in prison. The first thing he said, he was smiling at the time, you know, and he looked at me and he said, "I got balls, ain't I, baby?" And I said, "Yeah, Jack, and they're going to hang you by them, too."

NARRATOR : But Ruby had other more sinister visitors.

Mr. MADDOX : Sam and Jo-Jo Campisi would visit with Jack Ruby and they always had privacy.

NARRATOR : Those private meetings with the Campisis reawakened suspicions of a Mob hit. Yet even men who believe the Mafia killed Kennedy and Oswald concede the evidence is not conclusive.

Mr. BLAKEY : If I posit the fact of a conspiracy, the one that is most plausible is that the Mob had a hand in it. It is a probability judgment based on all the evidence. It's not the kind of thing that you'd take into court and try to prove beyond a reasonable doubt as a prosecutor.

NARRATOR : When he spoke to the press after his trial, Ruby himself hinted at conspiracy. But by now his mental condition was deteriorating.

JACK RUBY : Everything pertaining to what's happening has never come to the surface. The world will never know the true facts of what occurred, my motives.

Mr. POSNER : In Ruby's televised statement, and in other statements, he did believe there was more to the case than just his simple shooting of Oswald. He thought there was a massive conspiracy, one by the district attorney and by right-wing elements to frame him and to further embarrass the Jewish community in Dallas. That is what Jack Ruby is talking about in this case.

NARRATOR : Oswald never regained consciousness after Jack Ruby shot him.

TOM PETIT NBC NEWS : Captain, where will he be taken?

POLICE OFFICER : I'm assuming Parkland Hospital.

Mr. PETTIT : Parkland Hospital, the irony of ironies, the place where President John F. Kennedy died. The armored car now has been cleared out of the entranceway. The ambulance is leaving Dallas police headquarters.

Mr. LEAVELLE : I was riding in the back with him, holding his hand, arm, trying to reach a pulse. The doctor was massaging his chest, trying to get him to breathe. And he -- he groaned and stretched a little bit and then just went completely limp and I actually -- that's when I think he expired, was then, because I never saw him make another move at all.

NARRATOR : Oswald was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital. His death meant the evidence against him would never be tested in court. But over the years the strength of that case has continued to grow. Significant evidence may have been overlooked by all the official investigations.

Soon after the shots were fired, Dallas police dusted the murder weapon and found partial fingerprints near the trigger guard and a clear palm print on the barrel. At police headquarters, the palm print was lifted from the rifle for examination. But when the FBI rushed the rifle to Washington, the palm print stayed in Dallas and a clear chain of evidence was broken.

Amid decades of accusations that the police had planted the palm print on the rifle, the latent fingerprints on the trigger guard were largely ignored. Vincent Scalice, a leading fingerprint expert, examined all the fingerprint evidence for the House Assassinations Committee.

VINCENT SCALICE : The FBI examined these latent prints and they determined that they were worthless for identification purposes. I re-examined the photograph of these latent prints again in 1978 for the Select Committee on Assassinations and came to the same conclusion. Due to the faintness of the prints, I determined that they were of no value for identification purposes.

NARRATOR : But in 1963 the Dallas police had evidence that might have changed that judgment. Rusty Livingston was on duty in the Dallas crime lab on November 22nd. He developed pictures taken at the crime scene. He also processed photographs of the rifle and of the latent fingerprints on its trigger guard. Livingston made several sets of photographs, including one for himself, but he didn't realize the significance of the fingerprint photographs until he began working with his nephew, Gary Savage, on a book about the assassination.

GARY SAVAGE : The wonderful thing about this is this is first-day evidence. This is original evidence collected by the Dallas police. This stuff didn't go through the Warren Commission. It didn't go through the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

NARRATOR : The FBI says it never looked at the Dallas police photographs of the fingerprints and experts for the Warren Commission and the House Assassinations Committee never examined all of the fingerprint photographs. But in 1993, a local police captain, Jerry Powdrill, reexamined all the evidence. He compared the inked fingerprints taken from Oswald in New Orleans with the pictures of the fingerprints found on the trigger guard.

JERRY POWDRILL : It appears that the fingerprints depicted in the photographs came from the right hand. I found three points of identity and three possible points of identity during this comparison. The law enforcement community uses six to ten points of identity for a positive identification.

NARRATOR : Powdrill's analysis was not conclusive, but he found nothing to indicate the prints were not Oswald's. A former high-ranking FBI fingerprint expert who examined the prints for FRONTLINE said they were simply not clear enough to make any identification. But Vincent Scalice, the House Assassinations Committee expert, came to a very different conclusion.

Mr. SCALICE : There were a total of four photographs in all. And I began to examine them and I saw two faint prints and as I examined them, I realized that these prints had been taken at different exposures and it was necessary for me to utilize all of the photographs to compare against the ink prints. As I examined them, I found that by maneuvering the photographs in different positions, I was able to pick up some details on one photograph and some details on another photograph. Using all of the photographs at different contrasts, I was able to find in the neighborhood of about 18 points of identity between the two prints. Well, I feel that this is a major breakthrough in this investigation because we're able for the first time to actually say that these are definitely the fingerprints of Lee Harvey Oswald and that they are on the rifle. There is no doubt about it

Mr. BLAKEY : The prosecution case against Oswald is open and shut. If he'd shot his brother-in-law in the back seat of a convertible and not the President of the United States, he would have been tried, convicted and forgotten in three days. But for the fact that it's the President, this is an easy case.

NARRATOR : Three days after the assassination, Washington and the world mourned President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In Dallas, the police honored Officer J.D. Tippit. And on that same day, in Fort Worth, the remains of Lee Harvey Oswald were laid to rest. But the questions about his role in the assassination have lived on for 40 years.

ROBERT OSWALD : True, no one saw him actually pull the trigger on the President, but his rifle's there. His presence in the building was there. What he did after he left the building is known -- bus ride, taxi ride, boarding house, pick up the pistol, shoot the police officer. Eyewitnesses there, five or six. You can't set that aside just because he is saying, "I am a patsy." I'd love to do that, but you cannot, in my mind, set that aside.

Mr. BLAKEY : The question is not, "Did Lee Harvey Oswald shoot the President?" The question is, "Did he have help?" Within 30 hours of the assassination, that was the question.

NARRATOR : John Kennedy had many enemies. The Mafia and many Cuban exiles celebrated his death and Lee Harvey Oswald's life may have intersected with those forces. But there is no evidence that they changed the trajectory of his life and they cannot be found in Dallas influencing him to act.

In the end, there is only Oswald, a man who chose his own politics, invented his own secret life and made himself into an assassin, a man whose real life never measured up to the scale of his dreams until the day the President of the United States passed right in front of him.

ROBERT OSWALD : This is a struggle that has gone on with me. This is mind over heart. The mind tells me one thing, the heart tells me something else. But the facts are there. And I say to people who want to distort the facts and pick them out, I say, "What do you do with his rifle? What do you do with his pistol? What do you do with his general opportunity? What do you do with his actions?" To me, you can't reach but one conclusion. There's hard physical evidence there. It's good that people raise questions and say, "Wait a minute. Let's take a second look at this." I think that's great, you know? But when you take the second look and the third and the fortieth and the fiftieth -- hey, enough's enough. It's there. Put it to rest.

NARRATOR : There will always be one final mystery: Why did Oswald choose Kennedy? But the solution cannot be found in the dark corridors of crime, espionage and power. That question can only be answered by one young man and his answer will always be silence.


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posted november 20, 2003

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