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Castro Believed JFK Slain in Conspiracy, FBI Files Show

March 31, 1995|ROBERT L. JACKSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Cuban leader Fidel Castro, while denying complicity by his nation in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, believed the 1963 murder resulted from a conspiracy of perhaps three persons, according to previously secret FBI documents.

Castro was also quoted as saying that accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald became angry and threatened to kill Kennedy when he was denied a visa by the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City earlier in 1963.

Many of more than 10,000 new FBI reports and memos, which the National Archives made public Thursday, added some footnotes to history by recounting the reactions to Kennedy's assassination in Cuba and in the former Soviet Union. But they did not alter the FBI's conclusion--and that of the Warren Commission--that Oswald acted alone and that foreign powers were not involved.

Release of the newest files brought to more than 900,000 the number of once-classified CIA and FBI records that have been made public in response to the congressional JFK Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The action by Congress followed a rekindling of public controversy by Oliver Stone's 1992 film, "JFK," which was based on the theory that Kennedy was the victim of a government conspiracy involving the CIA and the Defense Department, among others.

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The new documents came from the FBI's previously secret file known as Operation SOLO, which involved the bureau's focus on links between the U.S. Communist Party and the Soviet Union, and from investigative files on Chicago crime figures Sam Giancana and Gus Alex that were examined in 1978 by a special House panel that reviewed the Warren Commission's investigation.

The House panel questioned whether a single gunman such as Oswald could have fired all the shots. It also concluded that organized crime elements might have participated in the assassination.

Among the newly released documents was a June 17, 1964, report from the late J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, which imparted information gleaned from an unnamed FBI source whom Hoover deemed "reliable."

The document said that Castro ordered his own tests made on a similar rifle and concluded "that Oswald could not have fired three times in succession and hit the target with the telescopic sight in the available time" and that therefore "it took about three people."

FBI experts, however--using the same rifle as Oswald--determined that three shots could have been fired by one person within the five to six seconds that Kennedy's assassin took.

Suggesting a motive for the slaying, Hoover quoted Castro as saying that Oswald "stormed into the embassy, demanded the visa and when it was refused to him, headed out saying, 'I'm going to kill Kennedy for this.' " Cuban officials had denied Oswald entry to their country on grounds that the United States was openly hostile to them, Hoover's letter said.

Previous evidence has shown that Oswald wanted to enter Cuba because he was sympathetic to Castro. The Warren Commission had photos of him in New Orleans carrying placards on behalf of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

Another formerly secret FBI memo, dated Dec. 1, 1966, reported a largely compassionate Russian reaction to the assassination.

"The news of the assassination of President Kennedy was flashed to the Soviet people almost immediately after its occurrence," the memo said. "It was greeted by great shock and consternation and church bells were tolled in the memory of President Kennedy."

The memo went on to report that "officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union believed there was some well-organized conspiracy on the part of the 'ultraright' in the United States to effect a coup" and that Soviet officials considered Oswald, who had lived there for a period, to be mentally unstable.

"Our source further stated that Soviet officials were fearful that without leadership, some irresponsible general in the United States might launch a missile at the Soviet Union," the memo said.

Times staff writer Ronald J. Ostrow contributed to this story.

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