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Oswald's KGB File

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Memo to Judge Tunheim from Gunn

March 4, 1996

Subject: Lawrence Schiller

Schiller was (Norman) Mailer's assistant on the Oswald book. I spoke with him today following his return from Europe.

Although he was formally pleasant, he said that he had thought "long and hard" about whether to make a copy of the Oswald-KGB file available to us.

(David raised the issue with him several months ago.)

He decided not to.

He said he had reasons for not making them available. I asked him whether he could explain those reasons or advise us on anything that we could do to talk to others.

He said, "no, you just need to respect my reasons."

He also said that head the only copy - clearly implying that Mailer does not have a copy, although Mailer's name did not come up.


KELLY NOTES: Apparently they did not bother to subpoena the KGB files on Oswald he and Mailer had obtained from the Soviets when they visited, or that would have been mentioned in the ARRB Final Report. They say Schiller agreed to release them at a later date, but that apparently has not happened.

John Judge has a file on Schiller and considers him the scum of the earth.

D. Pursuit ofRecords from Foreign Governments

Assassinationrecords and additional records and information may be located at, or under thecontrol of...Foreign governments.2

In an effort to compile a more complete record of the assassination, the Review Board focused considerable attention on an effort to obtain copies of records contained inthe files of foreign governments. The JFK Act states that it is the "sense of Congress" that the Department of State should take steps to obtain suchrecords which have been the object of much interest since the assassination. In particular, the Board focused much of its efforts on the KGB records thought tobe maintained both in Russia and in Belarus, and on Cuban and Mexican government records. Congress anticipated, and indeed specifically provided in the JFK Act, that the Department of State "should contact" the Russian government and "seek the disclosure of all records of the former Soviet Union" relating to the assassination.3 Furthermore, the Department of State was required to "cooperate in full with the Review Board" in seeking disclosure of relevant records.4 While the Department of State occasionally helped facilitate contacts with foreign counterparts and individual State Department employees provided helpful assistance and advice, overall the Department of State was more of a hindrance than a help to the Review Board. The Board certainly expected much more help than it received from a Department that obviously did not consider pursuit of foreign records about the Kennedy assassination to be a priority. Letters of request to the Department from the Board went unanswered for long periods oftime, cables that contained communications from foreign sources or from United States Embassy personnel to the Board sat for months on the desks of State Department employees without being transmitted to the Board, and important opportunities were missed because the Department did not believe the issue was important enough to raise. The Review Board has identified significant records,but does not believe that these collections will be obtained in full until theDepartment of State determines that such an effort is an important priority.

1. Russia

The Review Board believes that the records of the former KGB exist in Moscow that (1) reflect surveillance of Lee Harvey Oswald and Marina Oswald during 1959 1962, and that (2) reflect the Soviet investigation into the circumstances of the Kennedy assassination. The United States Embassy made requests for these records and a Review Board delegation later visited Moscow and met with representatives of three different archives where it was believed that records existed. The Board received a number of individual records which have been released in the JFK Collection but was unsuccessful in obtaining permission to review or copy the larger sets of files which exist in Moscow. The Board received a significant boost to its efforts when Vice President Gore asked Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrd in March 1998 to release the files. Unfortunately, the National Security Council declined to raise the request in September 1998 during the Clinton-Yeltsin summit meeting. Additional approaches to the Russians continue, but the Review Board strongly recommends that the United States government in general, and the State Department in particular, continue to pursue the release of these important KGB records.

2. Belarus

With the assistance of the United States Embassy in Minsk, Chairman Tunheim, Board Member Hall and Executive Director Marwell in November 1996 reviewed the extensive KGB surveillance file kept in Minsk by the Belarusian KGB.The file details over two years of extensive surveillance and analysis by theKGB of Lee Harvey Oswald during the time that he resided in the Belarusian capital. Some of these records were utilized by Norman Mailer in his bookOswald's Tale. The Board was unable to obtain a copy of the file, in part dueto the deteriorating relationship between the United States and Belarus in 1997 98. Mailer's collaborator in Oswald's Tale, Lawrence Schiller, agreed, in response to the Board's request, to donate copies of documents from the Minsk files, but the records will not be released in the JFK Collection until a later date. Additional efforts are still underway to obtain the files which are unquestionably of strong historical interest. Again, the Board strongly recommends that all possible efforts be made to obtain for the American people this important record of the activities of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald during the years prior to the assassination.

Edited by William Kelly
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