Distrust enters pop culture: The JFK Assassination and Lee Harvey Oswald

Listen to my podcast episode where we uncover the reasons why the JFK Assassination spawned many conspiracy theories. The Paul Kristoffer Show also takes a deeper look at the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, the actions for the FBI, CIA and KGB.

Full Transcript:

Episode 5: Government Distrust in the US Part 3 – Lee Harvey Oswald & the Assassination of JFK

The JFK Assassination:

At 12:30 pm Central Time,  Friday, November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm, President John F. Kennedy was shot twice, once through the back exiting his neck, and another shot though his head, while riding in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza, in Dallas Texas. The President was declared dead at Parkland Memorial Hospital thirty minutes later.

The JFK Assassination has spawned many conspiracy theories. Multiple official investigations into the incident, including the Warren Commission in 1964 and the House Select Committee on Assassinations of 1978-1979, have been greeted by public distrust and skepticism due to the investigations being conducted in secrecy, and that many records were sealed. Without being able to judge for themselves, the American people did not believe the findings of the Warren Commission, which completed its investigation in September 1964, 10 months after the President was assassinated. It concluded that Oswald acted alone. However, The House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978-79,  concluded that Oswald acted in conspiracy.

The public never trusted either investigation, culminating in the Oliver Stone movie, “JFK” which alleged disturbing conclusions, not the least of which was that the public could not trust investigations conducted in secrecy.

Other commissions followed that further increased public distrust of government agencies that conducted business in secret, uncovering illegal activities of the FBI, CIA, IRS and U.S. Post Office. It was revealed that these governmental organizations had deliberately ignored direct orders of the President, and carried on illegal activities even after being ordered to not to.

These commissions demonstrated that the FBI and CIA hid files from each other, and deliberately misled the Warren Commission. This brought to light the fact that many governmental organizations were working illegally through mail intercepts, wire taps, the infiltration of political groups without probable cause and in violation of constitutional rights.

The illegal actions of some of these groups has continued to current times, often violating the constitution of the United States by stepping on the inalienable rights of US Citizens, acting in violation of the Congress and the President.

In order to address public distrust over the sealed files and multiple investigations, Congress passed the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 to gather and re-open all records related to the assassination of the President.

Here are the facts of the JFK assassination case which we believe we know to be true:

On Friday, November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm, at Dealey Plaza, in Dallas Texas, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the sixth story, southeastern corner window of the Texas School Book Depository, killing John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the USA, firing from a distance of approximately 265 feet. The President’s limousine was travelling at an estimated 11.2 mph at the time of the shots, away from the shooter’s position.

Oswald’s first shot missed, and is believed to have bounced off the arm of a traffic signal. 

The second bullet fired struck Kennedy in the upper back,exiting the front of his neck and continuing on to hit Governor Connally, who was sitting in front of Kennedy, entering the Governor’s back, just below right armpit and exiting below the right nipple of his chest. It then shattered the radius bone of the Governor’s right wrist and caused a superficial wound to the left thigh. 

The third bullet entered the rear right side of the President’s head, by the right ear, and exited the right side of his head, causing a large wound. It is believed that this was the fatal shot.

Three spent bullet casings were found in the School Book Depository, on the sixth floor by a corner window, along with the rifle. A nearly whole matching bullet was found on Governor Connally’s stretcher, and mqatching bullet fragments sfound in JFK’s limousine. Ballistics experts later confirmed that the bullets and bullet fragments were fired from the bullet casings and rifle recovered at the scene.

Several witnesses attested to the Warren commission that they heard shots emanating from the Texas School Book Depository, and saw the visible barrel of a rifle projecting from the sixth story, corner window. Others in the building itself heard Oswald’s bolt action rifle re-loading, and the sound of the spent casings falling to the ground.

Ballistics experts demonstrated that the exact angle of the shots from the sixth story window of the School Book Depository matched the paths of the bullets as they passed through the President and Governor Connally. Experts also tested whether the sound of spent casings could be heard from where Oswald and the witnesses were located. It was established that, in fact, the sounds could be heard confirming the plausibilty of the witness’s testimony.

Oswald himself could not be interrogated further as he was shot by Jack Ruby at 11:21 am on November 24, 1963, as Oswald was being transported from Police Headquarters to the County Jail. Jack Ruby was a nightclub owner, and suspected of being involved in prostitution, narcotics and illegal gambling. This has lead to suspicions that Oswald was involved with the mafia, and executed before he could reneal any evidence linking the assassination to organized crime members, the teamsters union and Jimmy Hoffa.

Despite the evidence of the Warren Commission and that the official FBI investigation found that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, on his own initiative, more than half of Americans today believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted in a conspiracy and was: an agent of the Soviet Union, part of a pro-Fidel Cuba group, working with organized crime members connected to Jimmy Hoffa, the head of the Teamster’s union, or even that the assassination was ordered by the CIA.

Why is this, and why is does the JFK Assassination loom so large in the world of conspiracy theories, and what impact has it had on our perception of Government?

Let’s start off with highlights of the very interesting life of Lee Harvey Oswald:

Lee Harvey Oswald was born on October 18, 1939, to Marguerite and Robert Edward Lee Oswald. Lee’s father died two months before he was born, due to a  massive heart attack.

Lee’s childhood was marked by instability and financial troubles. Marguerite moved residences frequently, and Lee often changed schools. Between Lee’s birth in 1939 and 1948, Lee had moved 11 times, and attended 7 different schools. His mother made it known to the boys that they were a burden.

The closest thing he had to a father figure was Edwin Ekdahl, whom Oswald’s mother had married in May 1945.  But the marriage quickly broke down and the couple divorced in 1948.

Marguerite Oswald moved to New York City in 1952, after  Lee’s older brother Robert had joined the marines. Lee’s half brother, John Pic was stationed in New York with the Coast Guard. Lee would have been 12 years old when he arrived in New York and was most likely first exposed to the ideas of Socialism, Communism and Marxism during his stay there. His time in New York was marked by truancy and turbulence. Due his unbridled truancy, Lee underwent a psychological evaluation in April / May 1953 and was found to be emotionally disturbed, with aggressive tendencies, deprived of attention and rejected by his self-involved mother.

The Oswald’s left New York before Oswald’s truancy case could be resolved by the court system and they returned back to New Orleans in January 1954. Lee was 15 years old.

The Warren Report points out the lack of relationships in Lee’s life: the fact that he had no close friends, a remote mother who demonstrated little affection and left Lee with the feeling that he was a burden.

Roughly two years later, on October 8, 1956, Lee wrote to the Socialist Party of America to join as a youth leader. Then on October 24, 1956, sixteen days later, Lee enlisted in the Marine Corps. It a few days after his 17th birthday. Lee was following the example of his older brother, Robert. Lee was unpopular in the Corps, and most of the men avoided his company.

During rifle training as a Marine, Lee scored as a sharpshooter in a marksmanship test, but then scored at a lower rating on the subsequent test.

Oswald was court martialed twice (once for firing a .22 handgun he was prohibited from possessing on base, and again for punching a sergeant who Lee thought was responsible for the Court Martial, in a drunken incident).

Upon his discharge in 1959, for an alleged hardship, he promptly defected to Russia via Helsinki, Finland. He had studied Russian in the Corps, but he was a poor student and his Russian was unimpressive.

Oswald arrived at the Berlin Hotel in Moscow on October 15, 1959, three days before his 21st birthday, and applied for citizenship in the USSR the next day. His request was denied, and Oswald was ordered to leave by October 21st. On the 21st, Oswald opened his veins, in a dramatic suicide attempt, and was brought to a hospital for treatment.

On October 31st, he publicly renounced his US Citizenship at the US Embassy in Moscow, allegedly throwing his passport onto the ambassador’s desk. It turns out that Lee, in fact, held on to his US Passport during his entire stay in the Soviet Union, and never became a Soviet Citizen.

Oswald was viewed by the KGB as mentally unstable, and possibly a US Agent. Since the Russians did not want any negative publicity associated with Oswald and any actions he might take if refused residency in Russia, he was granted temporary permission to remain in the Soviet Union in November 1959. Oswald was ordered to live in Minsk – a city loaded with Soviets where Oswald’s actions could be more easily tracked. He would be kept out of the view of the US Embassy. Since the KGB assumed that Lee could be a US agent, his home was bugged and all his moves were monitored so that he could reveal himself. Interestingly, Lee was never interrogated by the KGB, who did not find him interesting enough. However, every bar, party or social event that Oswald attended was monitored and staffed by KGB agents.

According to testimony of Yuri Nosenko in front of the House Select Committe on Assassination, the KGB refused to meet with him. According to Nosenko, a KGB agent who defected to the US in 1964, only three Americans defected to the Soviet Union in the period between 1955 and 1960.

Although defections from the US to Russia were rare at the time, Nosenko stated that Oswald was not of interest due to his low rank, Private, and due to his interest in Marxism. Ironically, the KGB was ordered to not recruit members of a foreign country’s communist party during the 1950’s. In all likelihood, this was due to the fact that the Communist Party of the United States of America was infiltrated by plants working for the U.S.

Lee was assigned a job at the Gorizant Radio Plant, to work as a metal worker at the lowest skill level.

Almost two years later, on March 17, 1961, Lee met a 19 year old Pharmacy worker named Marina Prusakova. It is hard to believe that Marina was not a KGB agent, but no evidence has surfaced to support this.

In May, 1962, Oswald planned to return to the US with his wife, Marina Prusakova and their daughter, June. They lived very poorly in the Soviet Union, and hoped for a better life. They arrived back in the US in June, 1962.

Although Oswald was originally honorably discharged from the marines, Oswald’s status was later changed to undesirably discharged after his defection to the Soviet Union. Lee wrote then Navy Secretary, John Connally, in January 1962 about his perceived injustice and requested that the discharge papers be corrected. John Connally, was then leaving the Navy Department, to run for Governor of Texas. He informed Oswald that his letter would be forwarded to Connally’s successor.

Oswald took the matter up with the Navy Discharge Review Board, which refused to modify the discharge status. John Connally was later seriously wounded by Oswald in the JFK assasination. This connection created the theory that Connally was Oswald’s real target, not Kennedy.

Despite financial troubles, lack of proper clothes and food for himself and his family, Lee began to acquire firearms. He ordered a .38 revolver from Los Angeles in January, 1963. On March 12, Oswald ordered a rifle from Klein’s Sporting Goods of Chicago, IL using a coupon clipped from a Rifle magazine. The rifle was a surplus Italian Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5-millimeter ridle. The rifle was shipped to an “A Hidell” to a PO Box opened up by Oswald. The alias was one that Oswald had used previously.

In April 1963, Oswald attempted to assassinate General Edwin Walker at the General’s home.  Walker survived when a bullet struck a window frame and fragmented. Walker was known for his conservative political views, and was a staunch anti-communist. Walker had been previously criticized by President Eisenhower for sharing political opinions while in uniform.

Interestingly, Walker resigned from the Army in 1961, after being accused of links to the John Birch Society, claims that Walker denied. An Army investigation exonerated him of the claims.

By resigning, Walker gave up $12,000 a year in retirement benefits, which he claimed was due to a matter of principle. Later in life, General Walker was arrested for public lewdness in a Dallas city park on July 8th, 1976.

Lee moved back to New Orleans on April 24, 1963 when he was fired from his job at the time. Oswald believed that he could find work in his hometown. Lee had trouble holding down any job as he quickly lost interest, and typically spent time loafing around, reading magazines and discussing guns. It was reported by eyewitnesses at the time that Lee abused his wife, Marina. He became violent at times and hit his wife, leaving her with visible bruises.

By June 1963, in New Orleans, Lee planned to begin a chapter of “Fair Play for Cuba Commitee”, a pro-Castro marxist organization founded by journalist Robert Taber. Oswald ordered leaflets to be printed to support the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro. 

On August 9,1963, Oswald attracted the attention of local police and the FBI when an altercation erupted with anti-Castro Cuban refugees and Oswald, who was dispersing “Hands Off Cuba” pamphlets. The FBI sent information over to the CIA, since Oswald was a former resident of the Soviet Union.

The place that Oswald was distributing pamphlets was near 544 Camp Street, New Orleans – formerly an address of a CIA front organization called the, “Cuban Revolutionary Council.” He engaged in an altercation with Carlos Bringuier, a Cuban exile, who was a former member of the CIA backed Council which was dedicated to overthrowing Fidel Castro.

Lee wanted to go to Cuba, and explored options to obtain a visa. He thought about hijacking a plane and flying directly.

Interestingly, after the CIA left the 544 Camp Street address, a person named Guy Bannister, a former FBI agent, occupied the office. This led the FBI to believe that Oswald was not a pro-Castro activist, but was in fact working for Banister or some other agency.

Aware of this link, the FBI hid the association of the address from the Warren Commision by giving the address of the building as “531 Lafayette St.” which was the same corner building as 544 Camp St.

  • On September 25th 1963, Oswald left New Orleans for Mexico City via bus, where he planned to visit the Cuban embassy and obtain permission to travel to Cuba. He had sent his wife Marina and daughter June to Irving Texas to stay with a family friend a couple of days prior.
  • Two days later, Oswald arrived at the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City on September 27th to request permission to travel to Cuba, ostensibly to continue on to Russia. He also visited the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City, but the agents there wanted nothing to do with him. Oswald got into a verbal argument with the Cuban Ambassador, who felt that people like Oswald were harming the Cuban revolution, and as far as he was concerned. The Soviets would not be issuing a Visa for Oswald. The Cuban embassy would not issue a visa, without Oswald first acquiring a Russian Visa. Therefore, Oswald was left dead in the water and left Mexico City on October 2nd, arriving in Dallas,Texas on October 3rd and began job hunting, as he and Marina had a second child on the way.

Due to Oswald’s poor job record and references, he had difficulty in finding work. A neighbor of family friend Ruth Paine, knew of an open position at the Texas School Book Depository and referred Oswald there.

After an in person interview, Oswald was hired and began work on October 16. His job was to fulfill book orders.

Kennedy’s planned route on November 22nd was printed in at least two new papers in advance. It is reasonable to assume that Lee would have realized that the President was going to be passing by the Book Depository.

We can imagine that Lee’s fellow employees would also be excited by the opportunity to see the President and the Governor, along with the President’s wife, Jackie Kennedy. One can imagine that Kennedy’s campaign against Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and hardline stance against Marxism would have angered Lee. I am sure that he had no love for Governor Connally either, who had not taken action on Lee’s discharge papers as Secretary of the Navy. It must have been a tempting target. Lee had already tried to assassinate General Walker, wouldn’t a President and Governor be an even greater triumph? Lee was an emotionally unstable 24 year old, who had already defected to Russia, and attempted to travel to Cuba.

How did Lee Harvey Oswald transport his guns to the School Book Depository?

On Novermber 21st, 1963, one night before the President’s planned visit to Dallas, Lee asked a friend, Buell Frazier, for a ride back to Lee’s home in Irving Texas, to ostensibly pick up some “curtain rods”. This was an unusual request because Lee usually stayed at a rooming house in Dallas during the week. 

After spending the night with his family, Lee was seen the next morning carrying a heavy brown bag towards Buell’s car. The two drove to work that morning. Lee’s rifle, normally kept in the Irving house’sx garage, was missing. The FBI later demonstrated that the rifle could be broken down and reassembled quickly, using a 10 cent coin. The best theory that we have is that Lee was not carrying curtain rods in the large paper bag, but the rifle used in the assassination.

His landlady in Dallas affirmed that Lee would not need curtain rods for his room, as the room he rented was decorated with a curtain and curtain rod, making Lee’s story less plausible.x x

As I summarized earlier, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at the President. The first missed, the second and third struck the President, with the third one being the fatal shot.

Not everyone agrees that Lee was the sole shooter. Based upon a fim made by dressmaker Abraham Zapruder, on a 35mm Smith & Howell movie camera, JFK’s head appeared to snap back, possibly indicating that the bullet entered from another angle and giving rise to the theory of a second shooter, who fired a fourth shot from the grassy knoll in Dealey Plaza.  Based on analysis conducted by Mark Weiss and Ernest Aschkenasy, Computer Scientists from Queens College of the City University of New York, on a Dictabelt recording of a Dallas police radio channel, Weiss and Aschkenasy determined that there was a 95% chance of a second shooter who fired from the grassy knoll on Dealey Plaza. 

A Dictabelt was a recording media formed of a length of vinyl that was engraved by a blunt stylus when recording. The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1979 that a second shooter must have been involved, and that Oswald had acted in a conspiracy. This was in contrast to the Warren Commission, which concluded that Oswald had acted alone in 1964.

The theory of a second shooter was later discredited by the FBI, which criticized  the analysis conducted by Weiss and Aschkenasy.

  • Oswald was shot two days after the assassination, on Sunday November 24th,  by Jack Ruby. Ruby was a shady, violent and unpredictable nightclub owner, who shot Oswald when Oswald was being transported from Dallas Police Headquarters to the county jail. The shooting was captured by photographer Bob Jackson. Ruby said that he killed Oswald to save the first lady from having to sit through a trial.

    Ruby was found guilty of murdering Oswald and sentenced to death, however he died died of a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot blocking the pulmonary artery) while appealing his conviction.

    Ruby was known by the police to run prostitution, narcotics and illegal gambling out of his nightclubs, with ties to organized crime.

In 2018, the CIA released a file writing in 1975 stating that the CIA misled the FBI and the Warren Commission regarding the CIA files. The CIA claimed that an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro may have backfired against President Kennedy.

Among other revelations in the CIA file:

The FBI misled the Warren Commission about intelligence gathered on Oswald through letter intercepts to left wing political groups.

The FBI misled the Commission about Jack Ruby being a Potential Criminal Informant.

The acts alone in this case are sufficient to spawn a multitude conspiracy theories, let alone conflicting conclusions by the HSCA and FBI about the number of shooters and number of shots fired. The fact that the FBI did not conduct their analysis on the tape to determine whether a second shooter had fired leaves enough doubt for skeptical minds to speculate that the FBI is part of a cover up.


The lack of transparency and information regarding investigations into the JFK Assassination revealed the extent of lawlessness at the FBI and CIA. The fact that these organizations often operated in secrecy, withheld information from each other and deliberately attempted to mislead senate and house investigations has created deep and long lasting distrust of the governmental organizations involved.

Movies such as Oliver Stone’s, “JFK” and 1998’s “Enemy of the State”, exemplify how distrust of governmental organizations has seeped into the psyche’s of everyday Americans and American pop culture.

The fact that the CIA and FBI have engaged in illegal activities that have deprived Americans of their inalienable rights justifies a lack of trust in these organizations, and in fact, increases the need for transparency and accountability that is still lacking today.

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