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Oswald and the CIA Hardcover – 1 Jul 1995
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About the Author
John Newman is an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland.
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I believe that the fact that the book is written by John Newman who was an intelligence analyst for twenty years has resulted in it being a difficult book to get into as the view of Oswald is from the intelligence community and as a result a number of Oswald's JFK assassination contacts are not developed.
However for those who believe that Lee Oswald was set up by the CIA the book is a fascinating glimpse into the secretive and murky world of America and its intelligence agencies in the late fifties and early sixties.
Newman is well qualified to conduct the necessary `forensic audit' of the paper maze that was generated as a result of Oswald's defection. His career in military intelligence engenders great confidence in his ability to find materials and follow their trails. For this reader, however, the only issue is; just how good are Newman's analytical skills in interpreting his discoveries?
The overall feeling that I was left with was that the author's conclusions seem largely based on what isn't in the record, as opposed to what actually is. Newman is suspicious of `black holes' which, he feels, ought not be there.
An example of this is Newman's description of some of Oswald's FBI files as being `missing' (pp. 158-9, 210, 212 and 213). He correctly notes that the `missing' material relates to `Funds Transmitted to Residents of Russia'. As he was writing in 1995, he may be forgiven for being unnecessarily suspicious of the unavailability of these files. However, the ARRB had barely been at its task for a year when `Oswald And The CIA' went to print. Had Newman been able to wait for the board to finish its work in 1998, he would have had an explanation.
The FBI was reluctant to disclose the material that it had because, had it done so, it would have exposed a very sensitive operation that had been on-going since the 1940's. The FBI was getting its information about dollar transfers to `hostile powers' from banks! This was highly improper and potentially hugely detrimental to confidence in the system, of course. However, Oswald's name appeared in the files because his mother had sent $25 to him in the USSR. This is hardly sinister.
Newman includes copies of many of the key documents that he discusses and his notes and citations are set-out clearly, but, for those of us who don't work within the world of intelligence analysis, following the author's path and understanding his conclusions is difficult and frustrating.
Newman is far too quick to attribute sinister meaning to mundane events and issues. For this reader, chapter sixteen entitled `Undercover in New Orleans' is a particular example of this. Within Newman's discussion he presents a sub-heading, `The Great Handbill Caper'. I read this carefully and repeatedly yet failed to understand the significance of the author's observations and conclusions. I found it impossible to agree or accept that, "Something is fishy about the handbills from the wharf." (p. 313)
For the most part, this is an interesting read and by the end, most readers will accept Newman's initial contention; "..that the CIA had a keen operational interest in Lee Harvey Oswald from the day he defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 until the day he was murdered..". This reader has never really doubted this premise and this book offers good support for the notion.
However, `Oswald And The CIA' does not convince in its claim that, " whether witting or not, Oswald became involved in CIA operations." (p.xv)
For the entirety of the book, Oswald is seen to be `passive' with regard to the CIA. Nowhere is there the remotest proof that Oswald wittingly interacted with the agency or any of its operatives. There is no demonstration that a two-way-street existed between Oswald and the CIA. Oswald is only seen as being `the object' of CIA interest and Newman fails to show any kind of reciprocation.
The author allows for the possibility that Oswald may have unwittingly become involved in CIA operations, but what does that mean? To this reader it has very little meaning. If Oswald were the subject/object of a surveillance programme he cannot be said to have been `involved' with it or anything else. Involvement suggests pro-activity of some kind - at least, to this reader, it does. No such activity is shown in `Oswald And The CIA'.
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