FBI monitored bank

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI kept systematic track of private bank transactions flowing between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War, enabling officials to stumble upon an attempt by Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother to send him $25 after he defected, according to newly declassified files.
The new FBI documents, first gathered in the 1970s by a special House committee that re-investigated President John F. Kennedy’s murder, were made public Wednesday at the National Archives. Altogether, 17,000 pages of previously withheld FBI records about the assassination were released.
Oswald, the suspected Kennedy assassin, was himself killed in a Dallas jail after the president was shot on Nov. 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade through downtown Dallas. Ever since, historians have sought the earliest information the FBI had on Oswald to counter conspiracy theories saying he did not act alone.
Marguerite Oswald’s attempt to send money to her son had previously been revealed, but the FBI kept concealed how it knew. The bureau apparently was eager to suppress the existence of a sensitive and possibly illegal program that monitored private banking transactions between individuals in the two countries.
Several memos about the monitoring program ended with this cautionary note: “It is to be noted that the above information was furnished on a strictly confidential basis, and cannot be made public, except upon the issuance of a subpoena.”
In a 1995 book, “Oswald and the CIA,” by John Newman, a former intelligence officer who now teaches history at the University of Maryland, first speculated on the existence of the bank account monitoring program. He also suspected that the FBI’s desire to keep its existence secret led the bureau to withhold disclosure of its earliest contacts with Oswald’s mother.
“The reason why they go to Marguerite is because she is sending him this money,” Newman said in an interview. “It looks like the FBI was involved in monitoring bank transfers and by chance, the Oswalds fell into this.”
Without a word to his widowed mother, Oswald, after being honorably discharged by the Marines, defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959.
In December, worried about his well-being, Mrs. Oswald sent him a check at the Metropole Hotel in Moscow. But he returned it in January 1960 with a note, scratched on a piece of paper in pencil, the FBI files showed. It said, “Could not use the check, of course.”
So she sent him $20 in cash. But it was returned to her with a notation that he could not be found. On Jan 22, 1960, she went to the First National Bank in Fort Worth, Texas and got a $25 foreign money transfer which was sent to the Moscow hotel. It was this transaction that was picked up by the FBI bank monitoring program.
The monitoring program listed banks in London and Paris as well as New York’s Chase Manhattan, Morgan Guaranty Trust, Manufacturers Hanover Trust, First National City, Irving Trust and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
Included were the names of senders and recipients of funds transmitted to residents of the Soviet Union — in many instances Russian relatives of Americans — as well as the amount involved.
By 1962, Hoover had issued a directive saying people who received money from the Soviet Union or East Germany should be interviewed “only when our files contain derogatory security information concerning the transmitter and following specific bureau approval.”
Disenchanted with life in the communist world, Oswald returned to America on June 13, 1962, with his new Russian wife and baby daughter. Seventeen months later Kennedy was killed.