The Big Fish that got away

New ARRB documents reveal how the CIA made sure a key player in Mexico City photographic surveillance project was never properly interviewed by the HSCA

Does the name Raymond Gerende ring a bell in JFK assassination circles? Probably not. Gerende’s real name was Ramón Joseph Alvarez, and the newly released documents tell quite a story about this dual citizen (American/Mexican) Mexico City CIA asset.  His CIA cryptonym was “LIEMPTY1”. Before I continue, it is important to understand what project LIEMPTY was  about. It was an operation whereby the Soviet Embassy was photographed from different angles and perspectives as people went in and out on a daily basis. The code name for the Soviet Embassy was LIMERICK (USSR). This operation went hand-in-hand with the telephone wiretapping project known as “LIENVOY”, which covered both Soviet and Cuban installations in Mexico City. As a result of this surveillance, the Mexico City Station of the CIA should have been able to produce photographic and/or audio evidence of Lee Oswald  visiting these installations when he allegedly went there in late September/early October 1963 for a transit visa to return to the Soviet  Union.

The name “Gerende” first makes its appearance in the newly christened “ASCHAM” cable, which opens up a whole new can of worms in the Mexico City part of the JFK investigation. The following passage from this cable dated 25 September 1964 tells us that: “Only remaining hope would be to have ASCHAM prevail on the Commission not only retouch photos but also retouch face to degree obviously not identifiable with Ruby but also not with actual subject of photo” , and it suggests the importance of keeping a lid on the supposed photographic proof of Lee Oswald supposedly being at the Soviet Embassy in late September 1963.  New documents also reveal that this “ASCHAM”, who was on the “Commission” (i.e. Warren), was none other than Allen Dulles, and I will cover those documents in a future post. Note: The term “RYBAT” means “extreme sensitivity” and the term “GPFLOOR” means “Oswald related”.

Really – this cable is the epitome of being “caught with your pants down” in public!  How can you explain or hide this? The second page is even more revealing, where the urgency of the situation is clearly defined:

Scantling and Gerende were mayor players in the photographic surveillance operation known as LIEMPTY.  But what was this all about??? The CYA cable has to do with the famous photographs taken of a “Lee Oswald” supposedly coming out of the Soviet Embassy:

Even J. Edgar Hoover rejected this as early as 26 November, 1963, in conversation with John McCone.

Raymond Gerende AKA Ramón Joseph Alvarez AKA LIEMPTY1 appears to have been “The big fish that got away”.  I will explain.  The LIEMPTY project recruited Mexican nationals to execute photographic surveillance of the Soviet Embassy under the auspices of the Mexico City CIA station run by Win Scott, AKA Willard Curtis. In 1978 Anne Goodpasture (AKA Robert Riggs) drew this diagram to illustrate the LIEMPTY operation, whereby three strategically placed photo base houses were equipped with photographic equipment to facilitate this surveillance. These were code named “LIMITED”, “LILYRIC”, and “LICALLA” and all fell under the LIEMPTY umbrella:

In 1977, Goodpasture described his  LIEMPTY activities this way:

Gerende’s  full background is contained in his 201 file, detailed  in these documents pertaining to a raise he received in 1965:

Furthermore, the importance of Gerende in this scheme cannot be understated,  and is clearly illustrated by this organizational chart found in his 201 file released 26 April 2018:

And here is a document which reiterates how important Alvarez really was:

This is a LIEMPTY payroll sheet for 1964 showing Gerende at the very top of the list:

This is the only known photograph of Raymond Gerende AKA Ramón Alvarez AKA LIEMPTY:

These are the HSCA request cover pages of volumes two and three of his 201 file.  At first glance they appear innocuous enough to lead the reader to conclude that the HSCA had no interest in Gerende.  There is nothing further from the truth. Note under the column “SIGNATURE OF REVIEWING OFFICIAL” “Not reviewed by the HSCA”:

HSCA tries to locate Raymond Gerende

When Dan Hardway began reviewing the LIEMPTY project file at Langley, he stumbled upon Gerende’s name and the importance of his position in the project.  Hardway spent six months studying LIEMPTY, which by the  time the HSCA got underway, had been renamed KDFACTOR!

The obvious reaction was to try to find him and interview Gerende in Mexico City, where he still lived at the time.  The following documents are presented in chronological order:

Note how his name has been mangled in this communication to “Remond Joseph Durant Alverez” – a coincidence?

Matching wiretaps of the LIENVOY project with photographs of the LIEMPTY project clearly were of utmost importance to the Committee:

This communication shows how Robert Blakey and his staff tried time and again to gain unvarnished access to Gerende.

Finally, I ran across this passage contained in a letter to the HSCA’s Scott Breckinridge, from the CIA’s Robert Gambino, stating the following about Ramon Joseph Alvarez:

“There is no indication in his security file that he has previously been of interest to the HSCA”

What secrets did Raymond Gerende harbor?  Clearly, Gerende knew that Lee Oswald was never photographed near the Soviet Embassy and it was imperative to keep this under wraps.

LIEMPTY19 AKA Hester Roos de Alvarez

But there is more.  It turns out that Alvarez’s wife was also involved in the LIEMPTY project, and went by the cryptonym LIEMPTY19.  The payroll report shown above says she was paid $1000 per year for her services. Her true name was Hester Roos and she was a Dutch national who married Alvarez in Mexico and they had four children together.  As stated previously, Alvarez in turn had dual citizenship, American and Mexican.  In the late 1960’s the Alvarez couple had a serious falling out and were involved in a very nasty divorce which culminated in both of them being removed from the agency.  Before this could be consummated, however, Hester decided to blackmail the agency for money, ostensibly over secrets that she knew and which they were deathly afraid she would reveal:

This action culminated in a secret agreement which was signed on 26 June 1970:

This KDFACTOR excerpt illustrates how the CIA extricated itself from all connections to its agents under the LIEMPTY/KDFACTOR project.  By 1970, Gerende had been assigned the cryptonym KDFACTOR2. By the way, as shown above, LIEMPTY did not become KDFACTOR until 1970.  Could that have been as a result of the Alvarez’ couple debacle?

These documents suggest the Alvarez couple, LIEMPTY1 and LIEMPTY19, were very important cogs in the photographic surveillance operation in Mexico City which determined that Lee Oswald had been there.  The HSCA’s inability to fully interview Raymond Gerende AKA Ramon Joseph Alvarez AKA LIEMPTY1 leads me to conclude that he truly was “The big fish that got away”.