Like porkers in the barnyard, the intelligence industry has a way of cannibalizing its own. In Our Man in Mexico, his scrupulously researched biography of CIA pioneer Winston Scott, Washington Post veteran Jefferson Morley presents a handsomely wrought case study of how the spook business quickly ages responsible people.
Along the way, this important book quietly opens the door — slammed shut so many times — to a realistic reconsideration of what and who lay behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Unlike the more patrician founders of the CIA, Win Scott started life in a house pieced together out of railroad boxcars in the piney woods of Alabama. A knack for mathematics led to a job in the Office of Strategic Services. In postwar Washington, Scott slipped easily into senior management when the fledgling CIA was authorized in 1947.
Scott was forever in love, usually with some soignee woman to whom he was emphatically not married. CIA director Allen Dulles, busy promoting his better-bred favorites, understood such longings and made Scott CIA station chief in Mexico City in 1956.
Before long, Scott was finding himself outside the loop. Lee Harvey Oswald mysteriously visited Mexico City in 1963. Morley surfaces cables and interviews that back up his contention that CIA operations chief Richard Helms had been watching Oswald for years and that the troubled ex-Marine was in all probability being run by James Angleton's counter-intelligence staff. Scott's own people seem to have concealed from him evidence that Oswald had a fling with Sylvia Duran, who worked for Fidel Castro.
A great deal in Morley's book reverberates with implication for students of the JFK assassination. He has helped resurrect enough irrefutable fact to suggest what might really have happened.
Burton Hersh is the author of "The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA."