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Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination Hardcover – November 2, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Even those inclined to suspect a conspiracy was behind JFK's murder will likely remain unpersuaded by Pacepa's circumstantial, speculative case that the Soviet Union ordered Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate Kennedy. The author, who was head of Romania's secret security agency before defecting to the U.S. in 1978, maintains that Khrushchev plotted the assassination, only to have a change of heart, but Soviet agents were unable to deprogram Oswald. Pacepa's version of history gives the KGB months to prevent the assassination (and its potentially devastating blowback) by simply eliminating Oswald once his determination to kill Kennedy became clear. Pacepa relies heavily on the work of the Warren Commission, the House Committee on Assassinations and author Edward J. Epstein; his own experience of Romanian intelligence provides only anecdotes and what he calls an ability to recognize the Soviet fingerprint in the case. While there is reason to doubt that the former Soviet Union was fully forthcoming about Oswald's time there, this book offers no convincing Soviet motive for the assassination. (Sept. 14)
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In the Western world, Ion Mihai Pacepa is undoubtedly the person most knowledgeable about Soviet espionage. His Red Horizons is a masterful portrait of a Communist bloc country, and Programmed to Kill is a rich cornucopia of information about the KGB, the Romanian intelligence service, Soviet spycraft (the discussion of 'illegals' is exceptional) and the personalities atop the Kremlin. No previous author could have written with such authority and understanding. His analysis of Oswald must be considered one of the basic books about the Kennedy assassination. (Michael Ledeen, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of The War Against the Terror Masters)
For those who love conspiracy theories, especially those about the Kennedy assassination, this is a rich one. Fiction or non-fiction? I will let the readers judge, but Pacepa's book makes for a fantastic read. (Donald T. Critchlow, co-editor of American Conspiracies Revealed and author of The Conservative Ascendancy)
This is a fascinating and provocative book that will definitely change our understanding of one of the 20th century's most disturbing and puzzling episodes. (Vladimir Tismaneanu, University of Maryland, author of Stalinism for All Seasons: A Political History)
As in a novel of Agatha Christie, every chapter of Programmed to Kill tightens the noose around the culprit, leading to the ineluctable conclusion that the whole series of events started from the Kremlin. The story lends perfectly to a non-fictional 'whodunit' movie. (Claude Matasa, professor, University of Illinois)
General Ion Mihai Pacepa has given us a new and very different point of view of the JFK assassination, clarifying what has been the conspiracy theorists' haven in the 20th century. In the FBI we taught that 'the truth is in the details,' and the General exquisitely reveals the truth-with verifiable, consistent, meshing-together, and incontrovertible facts about the involvement of the Soviet leadership and the KGB in this tragedy from start to finish, and even afterward in covering up their malfeasance. The General's credibility—from the time of his initial debriefings and to the present—continues to ring true. He speaks the 'language of intelligence' and admirably translates it for those who lived through that time but were unaware of how to interpret what the plethora of facts really meant. A younger generation can now also profit from the General's insight to see this historic event clearly. (Wayne A. Barnes, retired Special Agent in the Federal Bureau of Investigation)
General Pacepa is a former 'voice from within' that tells us how lack of expertise made possible a profoundly incorrect reading of even such clear facts. (Dorin Tudoran, editor-in-chief Democracy at Large, Washington D.C.)
It took a quarter of a century to uncover the KGB hand behind the attempt to assassinate Pope John Paul II. And it took the highest ever intelligence defector from the Soviet bloc to unravel President Kennedy's assassination. General Pacepa is the only researcher into the JFK assassination who had direct knowledge of the KGB's ties to Lee Harvey Oswald, and who learned from Khrushchev himself about his deep hatred for Kennedy. Pacepa was also involved in Moscow's frenzied effort to throw the blame for Kennedy's death on the U.S. But that was not enough to answer all the questions about the assassination. It took Pacepa many years to sift through all the information he had gathered and analyze it with American eyes. His Programmed to Kill is meticulously detailed. It covers all the bases left open by government investigations and the hundreds of books published on the assassination. (Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor at large for UPI and The Washington Times, Director Transnational Threats, Center for Strategic and International Studies)
Programmed to Kill sends a wake-up call about the inherent evil of the KGB, whose former officers are now running Russia. (Nestor Ratesh, former director of Radio Free Europe's Romani)
Answered many lingering questions lying around the JFK assassination landscape. (Bernie Reeves Raleigh Metro Magazine)
Mr. Pacepa's book is valuable . . . confirms what many of us have long believed. (Joseph C. Goulden The Washington Times)
Any . . . collection interested in true crime and American history analysis needs this new survey . . . offering insights into questions left unanswered. (Midwest Book Review)
Fascinating and engrossing account, which should be required reading for the entire American intelligence community. (Justin P. Liuba Epoch Times)
A superb new paradigmatic work on the death of President Kennedy. (Stan Webber H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online)
Top Customer Reviews
He builds a serious case for Oswald as a KGB agent, who initially helped the USSR shoot down the U-2 plane in 1952, then defected to the USSR, was trained & prepared to assassinate the detested Kennedy, but slipped out of KGB control
when Moscow changed its mind and cancelled the planned assassination -- and who then went ahead with the murder on his own, and then had to be eliminated (by Jack Ruby) before he could incriminate the USSR.
A complicated report, slow going, but persuasive. Pacepa clearly indicates what information is hard fact and what is specul;ation built on his decadesof experience in & with the KGB. Given his credentials and previously reliable writings, it is the most persuasive account I have seen in the 50 years since Kennedy was murdered.
Everyone can be recommended who is interested in the political essence of the XX. century.
General Pacepa's position with Romania's DIE placed him in close contact with the Soviet Union's KGB during the period of John F. Kennedy's election as President of the United States and during his assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. Pacepa met the mercurial Premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Sergeyvich Khrushchev, and worked with General Aleksandr Mikhaylovich Sakharovsky of the KGB and other Soviet bloc services, including Communist Cuba's new DGI. And, General Pacepa organized "operations" like the KGB's and understood the procedures and complexities involved.
He also understood how unlikely it would be for an ex-Marine like Lee Harvey Oswald to be allowed entry into the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War unless the KGB wanted him there. He also explains why the KGB would want Oswald and why they'd previously recruited him while he was assigned as a radar operator to Atsugi Air Base in Japan. Atsugi was one of two bases from which the new U-2 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated. The other was Wiesbaden, West Germany.
The Soviets realized that the U-2s were flying over Soviet territory but the altitudes at which they operated were too high for them to be shot down with the equipment then available to Soviet air defense formations. They desperately needed information about the altitude and speed which the U-2s could achieve and Lee Harvey Oswald was able to provide much of that. He probably was feted as a hero in the Soviet Union and possibly even met Khrushchev himself. Oswald later mentioned to his brother seeing Francis Gary Powers, the captive U-2 pilot, during his show trial in Moscow. This is significant because Oswald's "Historic Diary" places him in Minsk at that time, not Moscow. It was, however, common practice for the KGB to reward operatives by letting them see the fruits of their work when it could be arranged. Pacepa adds that the term "historic diary" is itself significant. General Sakharovsky himself used it and insisted that KGB assets assigned to the PGU, the foreign intelligence wing of the KGB, write such diaries in their own hands to help them keep their "cover" straight. It was safer and more effective than code or microdots and it could provide a template for later communications.
Pacepa goes on to explain that the PGU often didn't communicate with the domestic intelligence wing of the KGB, the VGU. This would explain how KGB defectors like Yury Nosenko could truthfully tell the West that Oswald had only been passively monitored by the KGB while he was in the Soviet Union because they considered him an possible CIA plant. Nosenko was a VGU officer and consequently would not have known that the PGU had, indeed, recruited Oswald.
Nosenko would likewise not be familiar with Department 13 of the PGU which conducted "wet operations", or liquidation of political enemies. Pacepa explains that Department 13 had been organized after sloppy political murders by Department 9 of the KGB had embarrassed Khrushchev, who'd murdered Beria and other political opponents to consolidate his own power within the Soviet Union. Khrushchev publically disbanded Department 9 and quietly established Department 13 to replace it. One of the changes was paperwork. Where Department 9 had relied on the conventional, bureaucratic paperwork leaving trails of political murders, Department 13 did not. Department 13 relied on the spoken word, especially the spoken work of Premier Khrushchev. There would be no paper trail left by the super secret new department.
And that helps explain how Lee Harvey Oswald was able to enter the Soviet Union. Stay there a couple of years and then leave with a Soviet wife (Marina, also a PGU agent according to Pacepa) and end up back in the USA where he assassinated Khrushchev's enemy, John F. Kennedy. Pacepa identifies Ruby as a DGI asset and also identifies Oswald's other PGU and DGI assets.
Then, General Pacepa pulls back. In the concluding chapters of the book he depicts Oswald as an agent operating beyond the control of his PGU handlers. That could be, but it doesn't explain the many opportunities the PGU had to either repatriate him to the Soviet Union or liquidate him if he was "out of control."
Perhaps General Pacepa fears retribution? His narrative carefully guides the reader to the conclusion that, despite all of Oswald's training in the Soviet Union and his obvious links to the PGU, the Warren Commission's conclusion that Oswald assassinated JFK on his own initiative was essentially correct. Pacepa's impressive array of evidence, however, also supports a more obvious conclusion. Khrushchev wanted JFK dead and Oswald undertook the "historic" mission and accomplished it.
Although I don't agree with all of Pacepa's speculation, his book provides a wealth of information about the assassination that other writers have glossed over. I liked it and gave it five stars.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Nutshell: the books thesis is that Oswald was trained by the Russians to murder JFK, but then...Read more