Our Man in Mexico. Win Scott and the Hidden History of the CIA
(University Press of Kansas, 2008), with a Foreword by Michael Scott.
Jefferson Morley’s Our Man in Mexico sets the scene and the tone of the times for one of the puzzling and mysterious jaunts south of the border by any American.
The book is a biography of CIA officer Winston Scott, Mexico City is the scene and the American is Lee Harvey Oswald (LHO), the accused assassin of President Kennedy.
It was Oswald’s September 24 to October 2 1963 sojourn to Mexico City, six weeks before Kennedy was killed that cuts right to the heart of the question of whether the President was killed by a deranged lone nut or a covert pawn in a much more serious and complex scenario.
Morley really wants to address the issue of who was manipulating the accused assassin of the president as well as the group of anti-Castro Cuban students (Student Revolutionary Directorate DRE) Oswald associated with in New Orleans before going to Mexico.
Morley approaches this issue by way of the biography and career of Win Scott, Our CIA Man in Mexico at the time, and through the perspective of Win Scott’s son Michael, who wants to come to understand the secret side of his father’s life.
Michael Scott, whose name is listed on the credits of the popular TV series Unsolved Mysteries, has been seeking the historic truth about his father, much like the sons and daughters of other peripheral figures in the assassination – E. Howard Hunt’s son, Oswald’s daughters and Frank Olson’s son, who were children at the time and have now grown up wondering what really happened.
As much as they can, Morley and Scott have been piecing together their respective stories from what’s in the official files. Michael Scott has been privately seeking the CIA records of his father, especially an autobiographical novel “Foul Foe,” while Morley has been seeking the CIA records of George Joannides, the CIA case officer responsible for the DRE students who associated with Oswald in New Orleans in the summer of 1963.
While both Michael Scott and Jeff Morley have been thwarted by CIA lawyers in their pursuit of these records, both have won small victories, Scott obtaining a much redacted version of his father’s autobio novel, and Morley in court, obtaining a judgment to which the CIA must respond (by late April).
The publication of Our Man in Mexico is well timed and precedes this legal action that anticipates the release of additional records soon, which aren’t expected to answer all the outstanding questions, but should fill in some of the missing pieces of the puzzles. In anticipation of reading these additional records sometime soon, we can read Morley’s book as a sort of deep background that will give meaning and additional interest to the little pieces to come.
While there are still many redacted pages and chapters in the life of Winston Scott, Michael’s collaboration with Morley, the seasoned journalist on his own hunt, gives us a much more colorful picture of not only the man, and the Mexico City scene, but most importantly, what parts of the puzzle are still blank.
The story doesn’t start in Mexico City, or New Orleans, but early in World War II at the bar of the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington DC where Win Scott meets Jimmy Murphy. Scott had been in the FBI and sent to Havana in February 1943 with Raymond Leddy, before he enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to radar research. Then he met Murphy, who recruited Scott into the OSS as a code breaker.
In short order Scott went from Wardman Park to Bletchley Park, London where the British cryptographers were set up and where Scott meets a number of important people, including Tommy Robertson, Murphy’s deputy Norman Holmes Pearson, James Jesus Angelton and Kim Philby, all of whom play major roles in Win Scott’s life.
Morley tells us, “Professor Pearson thought the potential of counterintelligence was underestimated. ‘It is my opinion that counter-intelligence unfortunately has been viewed with respect to its objective as having what I shall describe as a negative or passive character, and as a result activities carried on within this field are inclined to be defensive rather than offensive in purpose,” he declared, the words underlined in his lecture notes. That was a mistake, Pearson said. As a tactic, counterintelligence was no more inherently defensive than, say, the counterattack in military action. It could have an offensive character if assigned that goal. The key was the double agent.”
” ‘It is the use of the double agent that gives to counter-intelligence activity this ultimately offensive character,” he said. The job was not deception as much as perception. “The suborning of an agent in the employ of another country, for example, requires imagination, a thorough knowledge of the racial and individual psychology of such a person, and the ability to plan a strategic battle of individual personalities,’ Pearson said.”
Pearson explained that the control of an agent or double agent was psychological, and that, ” The predominant motivation becomes more complex and abstract…may change…,” and “once the counterintelligence officer properly manipulated the ‘controlling point of vulnerability,’ Pearson insisted, he (or she) could control the future actions of an individually ‘as effectively as a marionette handler controls his puppies.’ Norman Pearson knew how to pull strings. He was the brainy professor who doubled as a puppet master of espionage. Win Scott and Jim Angleton would prove to be his most able apprentices.”
Of course Kim Philby, with whom Murphy, Pearson, Angleton and Scott shared drinks in London pubs with on a frequent basis, taught them all more about double agents than Pearson could ever imagine.
And of course, Oswald, who fits the operational profile, comes to mind, especially as to determining who his real controller was, but Morley doesn’t return to Pearson’s lectures or the idea they could be applied to Oswald, and he just lets the question hang there, almost unasked. But the question is always there and remains unanswered.
Win Scott’s personal life got complicated when his wife and young son arrived in London from America after he had fallen for the vivacious model, Paula Murray, daughter of an Irish judge, who would become Scott’s second wife, Michael’s mother.
After the war, Scott, Angleton and other OSS veterans were brought into the CIA, and with Allen Dulles director, Win Scott was given the plum post of Mexico CIA Chief of Station in Mexico City. The Mexico City station, which was originally set up by E. Howard Hunt, was a center of spy activity for the Americans, Cubans, Russians, Mexicans and all of the countries of Latin America who maintained embassies in Mexico City.
Unlike most Chiefs of Station, who rotate to different posts every three or four years, or rise up the bureaucratic ladder, Win Scott stayed on as CIA COS in Mexico City for over a decade (1956 to 1968).
While many things happened during Scott’s tenure there, including President Kennedy’s visit in 1962, the 1968 Olympics and the Tlatelolco massacre, everything is overshadowed by Lee Harvey Oswald’s visit six weeks before the assassination of Kennedy.
From an examination of the released records and interviews with living witnesses, Morley has established quite firmly that the accused assassin, when he visited Mexico City, was more than just a “blip on the radar,” as he has been previously portrayed by CIA officials and the Warren Report.
Oswald’s visit is reviewed primarily through the official reports, testimony and memory of witnesses, and it remains unclear as to what actually happened.
Most of the important allegations are reviewed, but the main repetitive points seems to be the details of a planned and pre-programmed attempt to blame the actions of Oswald and the assassination of Kennedy on Cuba.
Although other stories (ie. Alverado, Garro de Paz) are given more attention, there doesn’t seem to be much concern over the fact that CIA records indicate that the accused assassin had a sexual affair with Sylvia Duran. Duran is a Mexican women who worked at the Cuban embassy in Mexico City who also, as CIA records reflect, had a similar affair with Carlos Lechuga, the Cuban Ambassador to the UN and point man in the backchannel negotiations between Kennedy and Castro.
As Morley addresses the issue, “…One pressing question for Win was, what did Sylvia Duran know about Oswald? The station already had a ‘substantial interest’ in her before the assassination, [David A.] Phillips later admitted, not the least because surveillance had revealed that she had had an affair with Carlos Lechuga, the former Cuban ambassador in Mexico City, who was now serving as Castro’s ambassador to the United Nations. At least one Mexican source on the CIA payroll had told his case officer that ‘all that would have to be done to recruit Ms. Duran was to get a blonde, blue-eyed American in bed with her.’”
According to Morley, “Win received a new revelation about Sylvia Duran. A trusted Mexican source for the CIA – code-named LIRING-3 – had become close to Sylvia and her husband over the years. Sylvia had admitted to LIRING-3 that she did date Oswald when he was in Mexico City. ‘She had first met Oswald when he applied for a visa and had gone out with him several times since she like him from the start,’ the source reported.’ She admitted that she had sexual relations with him but insisted she had no idea of his plans.’ After Kennedy was killed, Duran said she was ‘interrogated thoroughly [by Mexican authorities] and beaten until she admitted that she had had an affair with Oswald.” (p. 242).
While Morley implies that the CIA officials believed this to be true, though Lechuga has denied it on his part [See COPA/Cuban meetings transcripts http://cuban-exile.com/doc_026-050/doc0027-4.html%5D, the fact that CIA records reflect Oswald is associated with Duran and she is suspected of having an association with the key point man in the backchannel negotiations with Castro, is dynamite, and an explosive story had it come out on November 25, 1963.
And if the official investigation was to blame the assassination on Castro and Cuba, rather than have the President killed by a deranged lone nut, then this story would have undoubtedly been brought out at the time, and the other false, black propaganda operations designed to frame the alleged assassin as a Castro agent would have also been officially adopted.
Instead, only those in the CIA with access to the records knew there was a direct association between the accused assassin, the expendable agent, and the backchannel negotiations, which ended with the assassination.
Oswald wasn’t the only one betrayed. As Michael Scott discovered, some secrets were hard to accept, especially how his father treated his mother, and took up with the wife of his former good friend from Havana days, Raymond Leddy.
As with the Oswald, Duran and Lachuga ménage a troi, and Scott’s multible wives, it doesn’t just come down to who is screwing who, but a matter of mind and manipulation, or as Professor Pearson would say, “a strategic battle of individual personalities.”
As one of the key pieces of evidence that indicates the CIA had more than just a passing interest in Oswald before the assassination, Morley refers to an October 10, 1963 CIA cable from CIA HQ to the Mexico City CIA station that fails to inform Scott and his Mexico City crew that Oswald was arrested with anti-Castro DRE Cubans in New Orleans, which the CIA most certainly knew about but just didn’t bother informing its Mexico City station about.
Among those at CIA HQ who signed off on the cable were Jane Roman, Angleton’s assistant who helped co-author the cable, John Whitten, the chief of covert operations in Mexico and Central America, Joannides fellow Greek CIA mentor Tom Karamessines, and Richard Helm’s deputy William I. Hood.
Not in the loop, J.C. King, chief of the Western Hemisphere Division, was not involved in most of the CIA covert operations conducted in his theater of operations, and it appears that by not telling him about Oswald’s tangle with the DRE Cubans in New Orleans, Win Scott was also being left out of something he didn’t have a need to know about.
When Morley and John Newman showed Jane Roman the October 10 Cable, she said, “…I wasn’t in on any particular goings on or hanky panky as far as the Cuban situation,” but that, “…I mean I’m signing off on something that I know isn’t true.” She also noted that this probably meant, “…To me it’s indicative of a keen interest in Oswald held very closely on a need to know basis.”
When Morley showed the October 10 cable to William Hood, who also signed off on it, he tried to make administrative sense of it and said, “…It comes to me and I sign for King, and it goes to Karamessines, which is unusual, but the reason for that is obviously that….Jesus Christ, it goes all over the place. That’s a lot of coordination.”
Morley doesn’t tell you that William Hood was a competent career CIA officer who had previously served in Vienna and Berlin, where he was involved in the case of Pyotr Semyonovich Popov, a Soviet military intelligence officer and CIA double agent.
Years later, after Popov was caught and executed, Hood wrote a book about the experience, Mole (Ballantine, 1982), in which he wrote, “…..Whatever his motives may be, the role of the spy is to betray trust. A man who has volunteered, or been tapped, to commit treason cannot logically ever be trusted again. Every aspect of a spy’s relationship with his case officer, or intelligence service, stems from this basic premise….With a new agent, the case officer’s first task is to maneuver him into a position where there is nothing that he can hold back – not the slightest scrap of information nor the most intimate detail of his personal life. Until this level of control has been achieved, the spy cannot be said to have been fully recruited…the creature of his case officer and the intelligence service he represents.”
While Hood denied that the cable indicates to him that there was any operational interest in Oswald, he also conceded that, “…the information left out is pretty significant…an anomaly….It should have been sent in the cable. I would like to think that 80 percent [of CIA cables] would be more competent.” It being Oswald’s association with the DRE students in New Orleans. But, Hood concluded, “I don’t find anything smelly in it.”
As Morley notes, what Hood can’t smell is that, “This significant information about a man who would go on to kill the president of the United States six weeks later was deliberately denied to the CIA’s top man in Mexico….Thanks to the selective reporting on the October 10, 1963 cable, Win did not learn about Oswald’s FPCC activism or his encounters with the DRE when President Kennedy was alive.”
Morley concludes that, “the totality of the historical records decisively refuted the CIA’s long standing claim that Oswald was an obscure figure of little interest before Kennedy was killed….The preassassination paper trail on Oswald was just too thick. The story of Oswald’s encounters with [David A.] Phillips’s AMSPELL network; the missing LIERODE photos of his visit to the Cuban consulate; the misleading October 10 cable from headquarters; the illegal HTLIKNGUAL monitoring Oswald’s correspondence, not to mention Karamessines’ panicky efforts the day after Kennedy was killed to ‘preserve U.S. freedom of action on the whole question of Cuban responsibility’ and Phillips’s promotion of Alvarado’s provocative story, all tended to confirm what Fidel Castro alleged, what Win knew, and what supporters of the Warren Commission would heatedly deny: that ‘a person of great interest’ to the CIA had killed the commander in chief.”
Morley seems to indicate that even if Oswald was not part of an operational conspiracy, as some of the official records reflect, the CIA was certainly negligent in its monitoring the accused assassin and the reporting on his activities to others, including the Mexico City CIA station, the Warren Commission, the House Select Committee on Assassinations and the Assassination Records Review Board.
Now we may not have to wait another decade, until 2019 to read the still classified CIA records that can fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle, as Morley’s court case could develop additional records as soon as April and Congressional Oversight Hearings on the JFK Act should obtain new testimony and answer additional questions.