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This is a major publishing event in the JFK assassination world. Parts of Armstrong's work has been on the Net and he's spoken at some of the big JFK conferences. His work-in-progress became spoken of as 'the John Armstrong research'; and finally we have the book, a self-published 1000 pages; plus a CD-Rom containing documents he cites. (I haven't even looked at the CD-Rom yet.) Since one reading of this (and some sections I merely skimmed), is all I have managed so far, and that is barely scratching the surface of 1000 pages, this is a provisional report; first reactions. This is a staggering piece of research, twelve years of it, and a lot of money spent in the process. Armstrong has interviewed people who haven't been interviewed since the Warren Commission - and many who have never been interviewed before. He has read official files no non-official had seen before him. Lots of new ground is broken here in all kinds of little subsections of the story. But it is far too long. If the text was copy-edited, he or she deserves a slap: the text is full of stupid little errors. The typesetting is eccentric: the text is covered in italicisation, bold and underlining. A potentially great 400 or 500 page book is buried in this behemoth. Or perhaps it shouldn't be thought of as a book, but more as research assembled in book form. Armstrong does three things. First, he is offering a theory of the assassination. His minute - microscopic - analysis of key episodes in the case is punctuated by chunks of the ClA's coven activities in the 1950s and 60s: Armstrong wants us to see what the Agency is known to have been doing while the Oswald story unfolded. But his thesis that the CIA killed JFK and framed Oswald fails for the same reason that previous versions of this have failed: no matter how plausible the idea, no matter how much detail we are given of other, analogous things the CIA was doing in the post-war years, Armstrong cannot show who was doing the shooting; and he cannot identify the CIA conspirators. The only plausible conspirators he offers are Jack Ruby and Lee, one of the two 'Oswalds' in the story. Both have connections to the ClA-funded anti-Castro operations; but that is all. The second thing Armstrong does is show in great detail how the FBI 'edited' the evidence about the shooting. The FBI had all the evidence collected by the Dallas police sent to Washington and a lot of it didn't return. Armstrong thinks the editing was done to conceal evidence of the two 'Oswalds'; and while this looks very plausible, it is not conclusively demonstrated. Thirdly, and centrally, Armstrong takes on the 'two Oswalds' question, which has been around since 1967. It arose first because there seemed to be someone pretending to be Oswald, apparently framing the other, genuine 'Oswald'. Professor Richard Popkin detailed this first in his The Second Oswald (London: Andre Deutscn/ Sphere, 1967). Then 'Oswalds' with different heights and slightly different faces were noticed. A decade after Popkin, Michael Eddowes published The Oswald File (New York: Clarkson Potter, 1977), which concluded that one 'Oswald', the American Marine 'Oswald', went to the Soviet Union but another 'Oswald' came back in his place, a ringer being run by the Soviets, who shot the President. In Alias Oswald (Manchester, Maine; GKG partners, 1985) Robert Cutler and W. R. Morris argued that the second 'Oswald', was not a Soviet spy but a US spy. In their analysis the switch from one 'Oswald' to the other took place in 1958 while Oswald was serving in the Marine Corps in Japan. By dint of minute examination of the paper record and a lot of phone-bashing and travelling, Armstrong validates the Cutler-Morris thesis - there was a switch - and has tried to trace the life of the 'hidden' Oswald. He appears to have established the existence of an intelligence operation which began with two boys, of different heights, but who looked similar and who lived parallel lives. One, Harvey, was Russian-speaking, probably a refugee from Eastern Europe; the other, Lee, was an American. It begins in the early WOs, some of the cooler years of the Cold War. US intelligence had no reliable information on the Soviet Union. (This was before U-2 over-flights and satellites.) Soviet nuclear arms, even the Soviet economy, were a mystery. All the agents sent in by CIA and MI6 had been turned or captured. How could they get agents in? One way was to send them in as defectors. There seems to have been a CIA programme of defectors - Armstrong discusses some of the others - in which, he hypothesises, there was an attempt at a better class of defection. Armstrong believes the CIA ran two real identities in parallel, merged them - Lee and Harvey became Lee Harvey - and switched them just before the apparent defection of the American 'Oswald', Lee. Thus the CIA would insert into the Soviet Union a defector, Harvey, with two outstanding characteristics: one, unknown to the Soviet authorities, he could speak Russian; two, if Soviet intelligence checked his biography, they would find the American 'Lee Oswald', not a 'legend' but a real life. If this seems elaborate, Armstrong reminds the reader of the Soviet use of 'illegals', and quotes the example of Molody, 'Gordon Lonsdale', who operated in the UK. This hypothesised CIA plan entailed both boys being in the Marines at the same time. Armstrong shows reports and presents recollections of 'Oswald' in two places at the same time through secondary school and in the Marines. The two 'Oswalds' explains the mass of contradictory material about Oswald in the Marines: one who couldn't shoot; one who could: one who was an apparent Marxist and read Russian, the other who didn't: one who was outgoing and a brawler; the other a bookworm. The plan also meant two 'mothers of Oswald', two 'Marguerite Oswalds'. Here the programme didn't extend to two women who looked similar: one was tall and elegant and the other short and plain. If Armstrong is correct, and the evidence looks convincing on one reading, a woman spent nearly ten years, pretending to be 'Marguerite Oswald', following the real Marguerite round the country, taking a series' of xxxx-jobs to do so. It should be noted that there is no evidence, either paper record or firsthand, that this scheme took place. Armstrong infers it from the evidence of the two 'Oswalds'. If this is true, Armstrong has uncovered the most elaborate intelligence operation (and done the greatest piece of espionage detective work) I have ever read about. Passage from Lobster Magazine (Summer, 2004)