Evolution of the "Defection" Photo

A substantial amount of work by unknown persons went into developing what ultimately became the 1959 "defection" photo of "Lee Harvey Oswald" that was published in the Nov. 1, 1959 edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Poor quality image of Lee Oswald
in Japan, probably taken by
George "Hans" Wilkens

Here, a better verison of the photo has been
retouched to eliminate background from
head area
Image now has added lines
and apparent facial altering

This washed-out photo of Lee Oswald was published by the Fort
 Worth Star-Telegram when Harvey Oswald "defected." It resembles
the original "Hans" Wilkens photo above, but with the background
removed and some facial features altered.
The photo above was purchased by the author from AP/World
Wide Photos.  The typed label to the left indicates: "This is a
retransmission of FW1 of Nov. 1 to provide better copy."
  Associated Press/Wide World Photos

This evidence of photo manipulation begs the obvious questions: Who did it and for what purpose?   Who  managed to get the odd version of the original photo placed in the Fort Worth newspaper?

Few individuals in the days before computers became commonplace had the skills to make such alterations, or in this case the motivation to do so.  A newspaper or wire service would have access to people with the required photo retouching and alteration abilities, but it is difficult to imagine why such an organization would have any interest in making these odd modifications.  An intelligence agency, on the other hand, intent on creating a fog of public perception around an undercover agent being sent to the Soviet Union on assignment, would have every reason--and certainly the ability--to make these strange alterations.  In the years since the Kennedy assassination, it has also been learned that the CIA had numerous "elite media assets" placed with many U.S. print and electronic media news organizations.  Many of these assets would have had the ability to to slip the odd "defection" photograph into the public record.