The “Manchurian Candidate”: Lee Harvey Oswald?

 By Jerry Leonard

Is MKULTRA the key to understanding not only what is going on in Iraqi torture prisons, but what happened 41 years ago in Dallas?
The CIA's comprehensive mind control research program -- covertly conducted under the umbrella project known as MKULTRA -- was conceived during the anti-communist hysteria of the 1950s and ‘60s. But while the Soviet bogeyman has largely disappeared from the international landscape, the program continues to be used in the U.S. arsenal, surfacing again in the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal.

To even the casual observer, the application of mind control techniques at Abu Ghraib should be an eye-opener. But to the serious student of CIA misadventure following the details of this case, it validates the suspicion that the technology developed in the MKULTRA research, after being quietly used in decades of American covert wars throughout the Third World, is now official policy.

In addition to its application at Abu Ghraib, the fallout from the initial MKULTRA experiments continues to make international headlines today. But did this program also make headlines on November 22, 1963, before the public even knew what MKULTRA was? And did it result in the death of an American president who was perceived as a threat to the covert operations infrastructure which made these events possible? I believe this to be the case. And after reading my summary article below proposing that JFK was murdered along lines foreshadowed in a CIA memo using the MKULTRA technology, you may agree.

If so, please help expose the CIA's ongoing use of mind control and defend the most fundamental human right: freedom of thought. Feel free to forward this article as part of that process. 


"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."

– Albert Einstein



The “Manchurian Candidate”: Lee Harvey Oswald?

By Jerry Leonard

An American soldier is taken behind enemy lines and brainwashed as an unwitting assassin by communists in league with American political figures. This soldier then returns to the States to kill a presidential candidate as part of a political scheme to escalate and exploit Cold War tensions.

Sound familiar? It does if you’ve seen the classic movie “The Manchurian Candidate.”

Now consider this modified scenario: An American soldier is first brainwashed to behave as a communist by agents of his own government, then sent behind enemy lines as a defector, only to return to the States and assassinate an American president while still under the influence of mind control.

But this is no movie plot. Years of research have convinced me this is exactly what happened in the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963.

Before you dismiss this as yet another JFK conspiracy theory, look at how much it explains in light of what we’ve learned about the CIA’s skillful use of mind control and fake defectors over years of anti-communist operations.

·         In a program known as MKULTRA, the CIA spent billions of dollars secretly perfecting mind control technology. Brutal methods of eliciting confessions from captured enemy agents (electric shock, sensory deprivation, hypnosis and truth drugs such as LSD) were developed on hundreds of unwitting victims. Used operationally for many years, this counterintelligence technology is now coming to light in the Abu Ghraib prison-torture scandal.

·         In addition to “defensive” techniques, CIA researchers sought to develop countermeasures against human weaknesses identified by the MKULTRA tests to create "torture-proof" American agents who could be sent into enemy territory on intelligence missions or be used to infiltrate enemy organizations as convincing double-agents and provocateurs.

·         But the CIA didn’t stop here. They also developed methods to brainwash so-called "involuntary assassins" who would not question orders to kill on command in Cold War operations. According to declassified government documents published by the New York Times, such agents would carry out actions “even against such fundamental laws of nature as self-preservation.”

Indeed, a CIA memo (NYT, 1978) describing an experiment using "involuntary assassins" written before the JFK assassination predicted the details surrounding the crime with eerie precision. According to the declassified memo from the 1950s, as a “trigger mechanism” for a “bigger project” a defector would be manipulated to kill an American official under the influence of CIA mind control and then be “disposed of” after being taken into custody for the crime. Flash forward a few years to 1963. A defector (Oswald) kills an American official (Kennedy) and is then “disposed of” in police custody (by Jack Ruby). The “trigger mechanism” (death of a president) clears the way to a “bigger project”: escalation of the Cold War on an unprecedented scale.

The parallels are striking. But is there supporting evidence for the scenario of Oswald being unwittingly manipulated as an intelligence pawn in a similar operation?

Declassified memos and investigative reporting by various sources have taught us a great deal over the past 40 years of how involuntary operatives could be cleverly “programmed” by the CIA as apparent communist sympathizers to infiltrate and disrupt communist organizations. (We now know that during the 1960s scores of phony leftists were used by the CIA and FBI to infiltrate and discredit organizations through violent behavior in infamous programs such as COINTELPRO.) We have also learned how supposed “lone-nut” Lee Harvey Oswald’s seemingly irrational behavior actually complemented such espionage programs:

·         His defection to the Soviet Union was secretly handled by the CIA as a counterintelligence mission and mirrored an elaborately staged defection involving another low-level American soldier (with a similar background) that began the very same year Oswald's did.

·         Following his return to the U.S., Oswald leveraged his defector credentials to play the role of pro-Castro activist while constantly surrounded by anti-communists with links to the intelligence world.

Ø      His best friend in Dallas was a wealthy White Russian with ties to the CIA and the address of future CIA Director George Bush in his telephone register.

Ø      After moving to New Orleans, Oswald formed an unauthorized chapter of a Castro-friendly group targeted by the CIA and handed out pro-Castro leaflets printed with the office address of an FBI anti-communist expert.

Ø      Future “lone-nut assassin” and pro-Castro activist Oswald even met with one of the CIA’s anti-Castro assassins in New Orleans, while under both CIA and FBI surveillance (NYT, 1993).

·        Oswald's supposed pro-communist behavior fit the profile of a hypnotized anti-Communist infiltrator as detailed in declassified documents from his era. Military hypnotist George Estabrooks even bragged of carrying out an operation employing a brainwashed Marine who was hypno-programmed with a pro-communist personality so he could be prematurely discharged from the service as a fake defector and then used in an anti-communist intelligence operation. Further, he claimed his hypnosis technique had been used to create assassins.

The more I study Oswald’s infamous career, the more I am struck by how his otherwise puzzling bipolar antics make perfect sense within a now well-established CIA pattern of using counterfeit pro-communists in its anti-Communist operations. Indeed, there was an overarching theme to Oswald’s career—from his defection, to the assassination of JFK—he was being used in efforts to identify and eliminate perceived threats to the CIA’s anti-Communist operations, while posing as a leftist activist.

But I am also struck by the parallels between the “Manchurian Candidate” hypothesis and Oswald’s use within these espionage operations.

As I reveal in The Perfect Assassin, mind control had many fascinating benefits for creating convincing double agents with unquestioning obedience who could be used in dangerous espionage cases where plausible deniability was critical. Estabrooks described the advantages mind control would provide in creating credible double agents to infiltrate communist organizations. “Convinced of their own innocence they would play the ‘fifth column’ role with utmost sincerity.” And even if such an agent was captured, “He could not tell the truth about his life as a spy, because he would not know of it.”

Declassified documents from the early ‘60s detail real-life CIA experiments with this mind control technology that had amazing parallels to incidents in Oswald’s life and the events leading up to the Kennedy assassination. And documents show that the CIA was seriously investigating the use mind control for the anti-Castro assassination operations in which Oswald was involved.

But the theory of Oswald’s being used as a pawn in ongoing anti-communist operations not only explains his activities leading up to the assassination. It explains the reasons behind the assassination itself and therefore helps solve the riddle of who was ultimately behind the crime.

Put yourself in the mindset of the early ‘60s, when those entrusted with the nation’s security saw communist infiltration in every dissident group, danger lurking in every shadow. To them, we needed to escalate the Cold War, not step back from it. In their eyes, JFK failed them in the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Castro’s Cuba. And then he actively resisted aggressive plans and ongoing preparations for a second invasion. Kennedy was even considered a pro-communist traitor by extremists within the intelligence community.

If this scenario sounds outlandish in the post-Cold War world, consider the latest declassified documents that have surfaced from the Kennedy-era. These documents detail a major Cold War operation called Operation Northwoods secretly initiated by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Memos from this operation, which was rejected by Kennedy, reveal a bold plan to justify a second invasion of Cuba. In one aspect of this plan, the CIA's anti-Castro agents, disguised as pro-Castro militants, would engage in a series of violent actions, including staged assassinations on American soil. Such covert actions by apparent pro-communists were designed to provoke "a helpful wave of indignation" in the American public that could be channeled to support a more overt and militaristic Cold War crusade.

Now consider the convenience of Oswald’s actions to the covert warriors who not only had plans in place to kill heads of state (like Castro) but also had even discussed using mind control in these ongoing Cold War-era assassination attempts:

By killing JFK in the guise of a pro-Castro agent, Oswald eliminated a roadblock to the CIA's more militant anti-communist policies (Kennedy had fired the CIA director who oversaw these policies and then served on the Warren Commission), and indeed provided a justification for them!

As the prophetic CIA memo on mind control foreshadowed, JFK’s murder served as the “trigger mechanism” for the “bigger project.” With Kennedy out of the way, thanks to the actions of a “Manchurian Candidate,” the Cold Warriors were free to escalate their mission with unspeakable brutality in Vietnam and elsewhere.

Far-fetched? Not when you sit down and look at the declassified documents.

Jerry Leonard is author of
The Perfect Assassin

(A longer version of this article is available here.)

Postscript: "The Perfect Assassin" reveals fascinating declassified documents and historical precedents supporting the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was programmed through the CIA’s MKULTRA program to behave as a militant pro-communist for anti-communist intelligence operations culminating in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The psychological warfare technology developed under MKULTRA was designed to create torture-proof double-agents who would carry out such missions unwittingly, thereby providing the ultimate in plausible deniability for operations such as the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO program, ZR Rifle and Operation Northwoods. The “Manchurian Candidate” theory of the JFK assassination not only explains the bipolar nature of Oswald's activities (pro- and anti-Communist) leading up to and including the assassination, but also can be used to harmonize the two main schools of thought in the ongoing investigation: “Oswald as lone-assassin” and “Oswald as CIA patsy.” Since an “involuntary assassin” is the ultimate patsy, this artificial division in the ongoing investigation can be eliminated and the best evidence from both camps synthesized to finally solve the case.