who was lee harvey oswald?
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introduction: november 20, 2003
photo of oswald's mug shot

To mark the 40th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination, FRONTLINE offers an encore presentation of its three-hour documentary, "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?"

Originally produced in 1993 to mark the 30th anniversary of the event, this investigative biography examines the Kennedy assassination by exploring the enigma that was Lee Harvey Oswald. Was Oswald the emotionally disturbed lone gunman of the 1964 Warren Commission Report? Was he, as the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1979, only one of two gunmen that day in Dallas? Or was he an unwitting scapegoat for the real assassins, as Oswald himself claimed when he was arrested?

FRONTLINE's investigation examines the life and enduring mysteries of Oswald. "What makes Oswald so puzzling is that by Nov. 22, 1963, he had apparent links with virtually every group that had a strong motive to eliminate President Kennedy," says William Cran, the documentary's senior producer. "The big question is: Were any of those groups controlling Oswald on the day of the assassination or was he simply in the grip of his own personal confusion -- the eccentric mix of political passions and emotional instability that characterized his entire life?"

The result of a year-long investigation by more than a dozen reporters and expert consultants, "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" draws upon hundreds of witnesses, in particular those who closely studied and observed him, as well as documents, photos, and video and audio recordings -- many of which had never before been made public -- to chronicle Oswald's life story: from his troubled childhood to his mysterious service in the U.S. Marines that raised questions about his possible connections to U.S. military intelligence. The program also investigates Oswald's activities in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including his dramatic defection to the Soviet Union in 1959 and his return to the United States in 1962.

In New Orleans during the summer of 1963 -- just months before the assassination -- Oswald reportedly associated with men who had connections to the CIA and to the Mafia. He publicly supported Fidel Castro while, at the same time, associating with men passionately committed to Castro's overthrow. Which side of the Cuban question was Lee Harvey Oswald really on? In the course of the decades that followed, these perplexing connections fueled dark suspicions, many of them leading to wild conspiracy theories -- as in, for example, Oliver Stone's 1991 movie, JFK.

The mystery only deepened in September 1963 when Oswald appeared at the Cuban Consulate and Soviet Embassy in Mexico City, where his contacts included a KGB agent believed to be in charge of a Soviet assassinations program. Only now, 40 years later, is information surfacing about a U.S. intelligence cover-up of what happened in Mexico City.

Finally, "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?" traces Oswald's movements in the weeks leading up to the assassination and probes whether Oswald was still in contact with any of these forces on Nov. 22, 1963. The program contains several investigative exclusives, including the final interviews with several KGB agents who handled Oswald, the final photographic evidence linking Oswald to the notorious CIA pilot David Ferrie, and the definitive proof that Oswald's fingerprints were on the rifle that killed John F. Kennedy.


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posted november 20, 2003

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