Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The KGB and the "Dear Mr. Hunt" Letter

The Sword and the Shield – Christopher Andrew (Basic Books, 1999)

p. 228

….The KGB predictably, was anxious to lose no opportunity to promote active measures which supported the increasingly popular theory that the CIA was behind Kennedy’s assassination. Its chief target was the former CIA officer turned Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt (sometimes confused with the Texas oil millionaire H. L. Hunt), who had been wrongly accused of being in Dallas on the day of the assassination.

The centerpiece of the active measure against Howard Hunt, codenamed ARLINGTON, was a forged letter to him from Oswald, allegedly written a fortnight before the assassination. The letter used phases and expressions taken from actual letters written by Oswald during his two years in the Soviet Union, was fabricated in a clever imitation of his handwriting.

Dear Mr. Hunt,

I would like information concerning my position.
I am only asking for information. I am suggesting that we discuss the
matter fully before any steps are taken by me or anyone else.

Thank you,

Lee Harvey Oswald

The implication, clearly, was that Oswald wanted to meet Hunt before going ahead with the assassination.

Before being used, the forgery was twice checked for “authenticity” by the Third Department of the KGB’s OTU (operational technical) Directorate. In 1975 photocopies of it were sent to three of the most active conspiracy buffs, together with covering letters from an anonymous wellwisher who claimed that he had given the original to the Director of the FBI, Clarence Kelly, who appeared to be suppressing it. The Centre was doubtless disappointed that for almost two years its forgery received no publicity.

In 1977, however, the letter was published by Penn Jones, the retired owner of a small Texas newspaper and self-published author of four books about the assassination. The New York Times reported that three handwriting experts had authenticated the letter. Oswald’s widow also identified her husband’s handwriting. 35

Experts summoned by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978 concluded more prudently that they were unable to reach a “firm conclusion” because of the absence of the original document. 36

The Centre was somewhat put out, however, by the fact that initial press reaction to its forgery centered chiefly on the likelihood of the letter being addressed to the late Texas oil millionaire H.L. Hunt (the central character in its own original conspiracy theory), rather than the KGB’s current intended target, the Watergate conspirator Howard Hunt.

Service A believed there had been a CIA plot to disrupt its own plot. The KGB reported that an “orchestrated” American press campaign was seeking to divert public attention from Oswald’s connections with the American intelligence community by concentrating on H.L. Hunt instead.
In April 1977, soon after the publication of the forged letter, the KGB informed the Central Committee that it was launching additional active measures to expose the supposed role of the “American special services” in the Kennedy assassination. 37

By 1980 Howard Hunt was complaining that “It’s become an article of faith that I had some role in the Kennedy assassination.” 38

By the late 1970s, the KGB could fairly claim that far more Americans believed some version of its own conspiracy theory of the Kennedy assassination, involving a right-wing plot and the US intelligence community, than still accepted the main findings of the Warren Commission. Soviet active measures, however, had done less to influence American opinion than the Centre believed. By their initial cover-up the CIA and the FBI had unwittingly probably done more than the KGB to encourage the sometimes obsessional conspiracy theorists who swarmed around the complex and confusing evidence on the assassination. 

Allen Dulles, the recently retired DCI on the Warren Commission, had deliberately not informed the commission that the CIA had planned the assassination of Castro. On the very day of Kennedy’s assassination, the Agency had supplied an agent with a murder weapon for use against Castro. J. Edgar Hoover too had held back important information. He discovered, to his horror, that Oswald had not been included on the FBI’s security index of potentially disloyal citizens, despite having written a threatening letter to the Bureau after his return from Russia and subsequently making an appointment to see a KGB officer in Mexico City. After reading a report on “investigative deficiencies in the Oswald case,” Hoover concluded that, if it became public, the report would destroy the FBI’s reputation. 

[Footnotes refer to Norman Mailer and Gerald Posner] 

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