Three days after President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, U.S. intelligence officials told President Lyndon Johnson that they had confirmed that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had recently traveled to Mexico City to visit both the Cuban and Soviet embassies, according to a half-century-old briefing memo declassified Wednesday.
Oswald’s travel plans were revealed in an unprecedented declassification and release by the CIA of thousands of presidential daily briefings from the 1960s. Though the memos are decades old, about one-fifth of their contents was still redacted to protect sources and methods.
According to the Nov. 25, 1963, briefing, Oswald — a former U.S. Marine who defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 — visited both the Cuban and Soviet embassies on Sept. 28, 1963.
“He was trying, we are told, to arrange for visas so that he could travel to the USSR via Havana,” the briefing reads.
Oswald returned to the U.S. on October 3, according to the briefing.
On Nov. 22, 1963, Oswald shot Kennedy with a sniper rifle as the president was traveling in an open-air motorcade through Dealey Plaza in Dallas.
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He was initially arrested in the death of police officer J.D. Tippit, who was killed on a Dallas street about 45 minutes after Kennedy was shot.
Oswald was later charged with the Kennedy assassination as well, but denied shooting anyone, claiming he was a scapegoat.
Two days later Oswald was shot and killed by a Dallas nightclub owner, Jack Ruby.
Fifty-two years after the events, the intelligence briefing of Nov. 22, 1963 — the day of the assassination and the first presidential intelligence briefing for Johnson as he assumed the presidency — remained a mystery.
“For this day, the Checklist Staff can find no words more fitting than a verse quoted by the President to a group of newspapermen the day he learned of the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba,” the checklist reads. “Bullfight critics ranked in rows Crowd the enormous plaza full; But only one is there who knows And he’s the man who fights the bull.”
The lines Kennedy cited are from a poem by bullfighter Domingo Ortega.
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The remainder of the checklist for Nov. 22 is empty. It is unclear whether the intelligence document was intentionally left empty that day or has been redacted.