Preface: This article is an extract from my manuscript More Than A Reasonable Doubt. The full text, along with all references, can be found therein.
Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved
Gerald Posner goes to the extreme of claiming there were no Oswald impersonations whatsoever (6:174-196, 211 n, 213-214). However, not only does Posner offer weak reasons for rejecting the impersonation accounts, but he does not even deal with all of them. For example, Posner says nothing about the incident in which a phony Oswald trespassed onto private property, engaged in target practice, and then left behind a 6.5 mm shell (5:545).
Posner also ignores the account of Leonard Hutchinson. After the assassination, Hutchinson, who owned a grocery store in Irving, Texas, said he had been asked to cash a two-party check in the amount of $189 for a "Harvey Oswald" on November 8. A nearby barber said he saw a man resembling Oswald enter Hutchinson's store that day (15:258- 259). But the real Oswald was elsewhere on November 8 (15:259). Hutchinson said he saw the man in his store several other times, and that on one occasion the man was accompanied by a young woman who conversed with the phony Oswald in a foreign language (5:541). Hutchinson recognized the couple from photographs of Lee and Marina Oswald that were broadcast over TV after the assassination. It is doubtful the real Lee and Marina Oswald were ever in Hutchinson's store. Incidentally, this is not the only reported case of someone impersonating Marina either (5:544).
Other Oswald impersonations ignored by Posner include the following:
* On October 11, 1963, when the real Oswald was in Dallas, someone in New Orleans filed a change- of-address card in Oswald's name to forward his mail to a house in Dallas. The card is signed in Oswald's name but the signature is not in his handwriting (14:375).
* Two weeks before the assassination, a phony Oswald asked about a job as a parking attendant at the Southland Hotel in downtown Dallas. When the parking lot manager wrote the applicant's name down as "Lee Harvey Osborn," the man corrected it to "Oswald." The real Oswald, observes Summers, "did not usually spell out his full name but called himself simply 'Lee Oswald'" (14:378). The imposter then asked a strange question that would later have sinister significance: He wanted to know how high the hotel was and whether it provided a good view of Dallas (14:378).
* On November 1, 1963, a Cuban man entered a gift shop in Dade County, Florida, and told an employee there that he had a friend named Lee who could speak Russian and German. The man added that his friend Lee lived in Texas or Mexico and "was also a sharpshooter" (11:538).
* On July 26, 1963, when the real Oswald was in New Orleans, someone visited the Atomic Energy Museum in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and signed the register "Lee H. Oswald, USSR, Dallas Road, Dallas, Texas" (11:361). The imposter's intention, of course, was to make it seem as though Oswald thought of himself as a Soviet citizen.
Now let us examine the impersonation accounts which Posner rejects. Posner dismisses the story of Albert Bogard, the car salesman who said a man named "Oswald" test drove a car shortly before the assassination. Bogard testified to the WC that a man who introduced himself as "Lee Oswald" expressed an interest in buying a car and even went for a test drive during which he drove 60 to 70 miles an hour on the Stemmons Freeway. The real Oswald did not drive.
According to Bogard, when they returned to the dealership, "Oswald" said he didn't have enough money for a down payment but that he'd be coming into a lot of money very soon. Another salesman at the dealership, Eugene Wilson, said the phony Oswald remarked that he could get a better deal by going back to Russia "where they treat workers like men" (2:132). Posner says none of Bogard's fellow workers supported his story (6:211 n). This is not true. Bogard's account was supported by two other salesmen, Wilson and Frank Pizzo (5:542; 14:377). Posner notes that the dealership's manager denied Bogard's story and later fired him for telling it. Posner prefers to believe the manager rather than Bogard and the two other car salesmen. Even after he was fired, Bogard did not deny his account. Furthermore, Bogard submitted to an FBI lie detector test. The FBI grudgingly acknowledged that the polygraph results "were those normally expected of a person telling the truth" (15:260).
Although he claims that no one at the dealership supported Bogard's story, Posner does admit that one salesman (Wilson) remembered a five-foot-tall Oswald. Actually, both Rizzo and Wilson said the imposter was only about five feet tall (2:190).
Posner dismisses the accounts of a phony Oswald firing at two rifle ranges in Dallas and Irving in early November (6:213-214). For the most part, Posner nit-picks at minor inconsistencies, seeing great significance in the fact that the witnesses disagreed about the exact model and color of the car the man drove and the kind of rifle and scope he used. Dr. Homer Wood and his son, Sterling Wood, remembered the man and were shocked when they saw photos of Oswald on TV after the assassination. So closely did the imposter resemble the alleged assassin that both Dr. Wood and his son are still convinced the man they saw was Lee Harvey Oswald (5:545). However, the real Oswald never visited the two rifle ranges.
Posner notes that one of the witnesses, Malcolm Price, said the last time he saw "Oswald" at the Dallas range was during a turkey shoot on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, which was after Oswald had been arrested. But what if the man Price saw was an imposter? What would have prevented him from returning to the range after the assassination? There is also the possibility that Price was simply mistaken about the date and merged the phony Oswald's last appearance with the turkey shoot.
Posner strongly questions the credibility of Sylvia Odio, who reported a very specific and disturbing Oswald impersonation involving anti-Castro Cubans (6:175-180). Posner paints her as an emotionally unstable woman who either imagined her story or made it up to get attention. Posner's attack, however, is both slanted and incomplete. The available evidence supports Mrs. Odio's story. A senior WC staffer wrote, "Mrs. Odio has checked out thoroughly," and he called her "the most significant witness linking Oswald to the anti-Castro Cubans" (14:389-390). The House Select Committee examined Mrs. Odio's story and also concluded it was credible (11:480). Similarly, British scholar Matthew Smith studied the relevant evidence and came away convinced that Mrs. Odio was reliable (15:257-259).
Posner seeks to exploit the fact that Mrs. Odio did not tell her story to the authorities right away. Yet, as Posner surely ought to know, Mrs. Odio was afraid to go to the authorities. In fact, she did not discuss her experience with official investigators until the FBI approached her after a series of private conversations about it came to the attention of an FBI agent. Only after the FBI contacted her did she discuss her story with government representatives.
Incredibly, as part of his attack on Mrs. Odio, Posner quotes Carlos Bringuier. This is the same Carlos Bringuier who, in 1963, was a CIA contact in New Orleans, a fanatical right-wing Cuban exile, and the propaganda secretary for the CIA-sponsored Cuban Revolutionary Council (11:389-390). (Posner describes Bringuier merely as an "anti- Castro leader.") It was Bringuier who picked that suspicious "fight" with Oswald in New Orleans. Bringuier's original anti- Castro headquarters was located in Guy Banister's building on 544 Camp Street. Oddly enough, as mentioned, this address appeared on one of Oswald's Fair Play for Cuba leaflets. Many assassination researchers suspect Bringuier and Banister of having participated in the framing of Oswald as the patsy for the assassination.
Since so much has already been written about Mrs. Odio's testimony, I will not respond to all of Posner's criticisms of it. However, I would invite the reader to compare Posner's case against Mrs. Odio's testimony with the defenses of it written by Anthony Summers, Jim Marrs, Dick Russell, and Gaeton Fonzi (14:383-393; 5:150-152; 11:478-483; 61:108-116, 405-409).
Posner says all of the reported contacts with Oswald in Mexico City were with the real Lee Harvey Oswald (6:170-173, 181-196). This is not a credible position in light of the evidence. There are gaping holes in Posner's reconstruction of Oswald's alleged activities in Mexico City. Here are a few of the irregularities about the visit that Posner does not mention at all:
* Oswald's alleged bus tickets were found only a few days before the Warren Report was to be published. The tickets were supposedly found in some Spanish- language magazines that Oswald had allegedly brought back from Mexico City. As the story goes, Marina Oswald supposedly took these magazines with her to the hotel where the government detained her after the assassination. There, at the last minute, Marina found the tickets in one of the magazines. No one has yet explained why Marina would have taken Spanish magazines with her when she did not even speak the language. Nor has anyone explained why it took so long to "find" the tickets. FBI had agents had already carefully searched the motel rooms where Marina and her children were being kept. The agents said they had examined every scrap of paper in the rooms and found nothing of interest (43:66). The rooms were searched again by a different team of agents. They didn't find the tickets either. It was only after the WC finally seemed to get suspicious about the lack of hard evidence of Oswald's Mexico City trip that the tickets miraculously turned up.
* Every name in the September 27 register of the hotel where Oswald allegedly stayed is in the same handwriting except Oswald's (9:264). The WC tried to explain this by claiming that on the first night a guest would write his or her own name but that on succeeding nights the hotel clerk wrote them in. "Yet," observes James DiEugenio, "eight other guests checked in on September 27, and, on the register for September 28, Oswald's name is again in a unique handwriting. To make it more curious, the handwriting is not the same as that of the signature [from] the previous day" (9:264).
* Posner, following the WC, says Oswald returned to Dallas by bus on October 3 (6:196). But the Mexican border records for October 3 do not show Oswald heading for Dallas by bus, but for New Orleans by car (9:264).
* Oswald allegedly traveled on the Flecha Roja bus line. This bus line normally kept a passenger manifest for each of its runs. The original was sent to Mexico City and a duplicate copy was retained at Nuevo Laredo. However, four months after the assassination, when the FBI went to Mexico City to examine the original passenger list, they were told that Mexican government investigators had taken the list and had not returned it (9:264). These unnamed "investigators," the FBI was told, had also taken the duplicate. Neither the original nor the duplicate was ever located.
For years lone-gunman theorists have avoided dealing with two troubling facts concerning the impersonation issue: One, the CIA told the WC it had a tape of Oswald calling the Soviet and Cuban embassies in Mexico City, but FBI agents listened to the tape and concluded the voice on it was not Oswald's. Two, the CIA claimed it had pictures which showed Oswald outside the Soviet Embassy, but when the pictures subsequently came to light it was clear the man in them bore no resemblance to Oswald. Posner tackles these difficulties head- on. In essence, he says they were the results of innocent mistakes on the part of the CIA (6:185-188). The CIA, says Posner, accidentally identified the wrong photos and inadvertently gave the FBI the wrong tape. In addition, Posner, quoting an anonymous CIA officer, suggests the CIA might have routinely destroyed its recording of Oswald's alleged call to the Soviet embassy.
Let's consider the scenario Posner would have us accept: The President of the United States had been assassinated. Shortly thereafter, the CIA was asked to assist the WC in its investigation. The CIA then claimed it had photographic and audio evidence that Oswald, the alleged assassin, phoned and visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies. A short while later, the Agency said that while at the Soviet embassy Oswald spoke with a KGB expert in sabotage and assassination. However, the CIA, in the most important investigation of the century, somehow had the wrong photos and the wrong tape. To make matters worse, the Agency might have sent the wrong tape because it had mistakenly erased the real one. This is what Posner would have us believe.
It should be pointed out that the CIA never actually showed the pictures to the WC; they surfaced years later. On January 24, 1964, the CIA told the WC that Oswald had contacted Valery Kostikov at the Soviet Embassy. The Agency said Kostikov was a KGB agent involved in assassination and sabotage. The Commission was so frightened by this information that it decided to simply take the CIA's word about Oswald's Mexico City activities. Thus, the CIA was never forced to turn over the photos and the tape. FBI agents examined listened to the tape and it was not of Oswald, but the public was not informed of this fact. Posner does not discuss this CIA and FBI deception.
Posner claims that two employees at the Cuban Embassy, Sylvia Duran and Alfredo Mirabel Diaz, positively identified Oswald as the man they had seen (6:188- 191). Diaz, however, admitted he only saw the man briefly (14:349). And Sylvia Duran said in 1978 that she was no longer certain that Oswald was the person who visited the embassy (14:350-351; 5:193-195). Also, Duran's initial identification of the visitor as Oswald was made under extreme duress (5:193-195; 43:58-60). Furthermore, the embassy consul at that time, Eusebio Azcue, continues to assert that the visitor was not Lee Harvey Oswald (14:346-351). Posner points out that Azcue wavered somewhat when the Select Committee informed him that the signatures on the visa application had been verified as Oswald's (6:188 n). Yet, even then Azcue did not actually fully reverse himself. He said he would assume he had been dreaming if it turned out that the signatures on the visa application were confirmed to be Oswald's. But did Azcue really believe this, or was he simply trying to avoid a confrontation with the Committee over this issue? Even if he did, is it just a coincidence that both he and Sylvia Duran indicated the man in question did not look like Oswald?
What about the Oswald photos and the signatures on the visa application? Consul Azcue pointed out that the clerk could have allowed the visitor to take the visa application out of the embassy, thus providing an opportunity to obtain the real Oswald's signature. Or, the signatures could have been expertly faked. After the assassination, researchers found a photocopy of Oswald's Social Security card on which someone appeared to have been practicing how to forge Oswald's signature (11:392). As for the Oswald pictures on the application, intensive research after the shooting revealed that they were not made at any of the local photo shops in Mexico City (14:349). If the imposter was allowed to take the application out of the embassy, he could have simply attached Oswald's pictures to it.
Posner argues that the visitor must have been Oswald or else the clerk would have noticed that the photos did not match the applicant. But Consul Azcue said the clerk might not have checked the pictures against the individual who was applying, explaining that "occupied as she was, she most probably proceeded to place the photograph on the application without this check" (14:349). Fonzi raises the possibility that the pictures and the signed application were planted by the CIA agents who worked at the embassy (61:293- 294).
It seems obvious that the CIA never had any proof that Oswald visited the Soviet and Cuban embassies. If the Agency had possessed photographic and/or audio evidence that Oswald made these alleged visits, it would have been more than willing to display this material to the WC--and to the world, for that matter. I believe the CIA's deception was part of a larger plan to link the assassination to the Soviets and the Cubans in order to provoke a U.S. invasion of Cuba.
The Oswald imposter issue becomes even more troubling in light of the fact that questions about Oswald's identity surfaced well before the assassination. In June 1960, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover asked the State Department for any current information it might receive on Oswald "since there is a possibility that an imposter is using Oswald's birth certificate" (5:539). In March 1961, the Passport Office informed the State Department, ". . . it has been stated that there is an imposter using Oswald's identification data and that no doubt the Soviets would love to get hold of his valid passport. . . ." (5:539). Notes Livingstone, "There are conflicts about the height and description of the Oswald who returned to the United States" (10:178).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michael T. Griffith is a two-time graduate of the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and of the U.S. Air Force Technical Training School. He is also the author of four books on Mormonism and ancient texts. His articles on the assassination have appeared in such publications as The Assassination Chronicles and Dallas '63. And he is the author of the book Compelling Evidence: A New Look at the Assassination of President Kennedy (Grand Prairie, TX: JFK-Lancer Productions and Publications, 1996).
Back to Michael T. Griffith