Senior Physics - Reference material

JFK - The Case for the Lone Nut

The Unofficial JFK Assassination FAQ #17 Copyright (c) 1996 by John Locke Comments, additions and corrections to this outline of Frequently Asked Questions are welcome. Thanks to those who have already con- tributed. Undoubtedly, there are facts and myths that have not yet made it in, and incorrect information is inevitable in a topic this broad. How- ever, I'll be the final judge of what goes into this particular FAQ. Criti- cisms which are independent of any coherent theory of the assassination are useless and won't be included. (Don't like it, write your own FAQ!) This document is not meant to be an exhaustive or documented history of the assassination. Rather, it's intended to pro- vide a quick, common sense overview of the events and theories sur- rounding the case. More detailed information, if desired, is best obtained in the sources noted. * - Asterisk in outline indicates recently added or revised sections. i. ABBREVIATIONS 1. THE MAIN ISSUES 1.1 Who killed JFK? 1.2 Was there a conspiracy? 2. GETTING MORE INFORMATION 2.1 Non-conspiracy sources 2.1.1 The Warren Commission (WC) 2.1.2 The Rockefeller Commission 2.1.3 The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) 2.1.4 Books 2.1.5 Articles 2.2 Conspiracy sources 2.2.1 Books 2.3 Periodicals 2.4 Film and video 2.4.1 "JFK," the Oliver Stone movie 2.4.2 "Executive Action" 2.4.3 Documentaries 2.5 CD-ROMs 2.6 Internet resources 2.6.1 Anonymous FTP archives 2.6.2 World-Wide Web pages (Mosaic) 2.6.3 The JFK Place 2.7 Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) 2.8 Public Interest Groups 2.9 Museums 2.10 Specialty Markets 3. BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONTROVERSY 4. BRIEF LEE HARVEY OSWALD BIOGRAPHY 5. THE SHOOTING OF JFK 5.1 The number of shots 5.2 The source of the shots 5.3 The first shot 5.4 The second shot -- Single Bullet Theory (SBT) 5.5 The third shot 5.6 Miscellaneous 6. JACK RUBY 7. THE GARRISON PROSECUTION OF CLAY SHAW 8. COMMON CONSPIRACY BOOK DECEPTIONS 9. MYTHS AND FACTS OF THE ASSASSINATION 9.1 Oswald 9.1.1 Oswald was a nice, non-violent boy. 9.1.2 Oswald was "planted" at the TSBD. 9.1.3 Oswald could not have made the shots. 9.1.4 Oswald had an alibi. 9.1.5 Oswald could not have escaped from the sixth floor in time. 9.1.6 There is no record of Oswald's interrogation. 9.1.7 Oswald was a "patsy." 9.1.8 Oswald can't be deemed guilty without a known motive. 9.1.9 Oswald had an impostor. 9.1.10 The military taught Oswald to speak Russian. 9.1.11 Oswald contracted a venereal disease "in the line of duty." 9.1.12 The photos of Oswald holding a rifle are fakes. 9.1.13 Oswald failed a paraffin test. 9.2 The shooting 9.2.1 Oswald's rifle was inadequate. 9.2.2 Oswald's rifle had a misaligned scope. 9.2.3 The rifle found on the sixth floor was a Mauser. 9.2.4 There was a second shooter seen on the GK. 9.2.5 The so-called "magic bullet" was pristine. 9.2.6 The third (head) shot had to have come from the front. 9.2.7 The three shots were made in under six seconds. 9.2.8 JFK was shot by the limousine driver. 9.2.9 JFK was accidentally shot by a Secret Service agent. 9.2.10 The limousine had a bubble-top protector that was not used. 9.3 Medical Issues 9.3.1 The Dallas doctors differed with the autopsists. 9.3.2 JFK's body was altered before the autopsy. 9.3.3 The original autopsy notes were destroyed. 9.3.4 JFK's back wound was only an inch deep. 9.3.5 JFK's back wound was below his throat wound. 9.3.6 The autopsists had no experience with gunshot wounds. 9.4 Dealey Plaza and Dallas 9.4.1 JFK's parade route was changed to go past the TSBD. 9.4.2 JFK's body was illegally taken from Texas. 9.4.3 Three tramps arrested near Dealey Plaza were CIA agents. 9.4.4 A Dealey Plaza spectator faked an epileptic seizure. 9.5 Ruby 9.5.1 Ruby was seen near the GK with a rifle. 9.5.2 Ruby and Oswald were gay lovers. 9.6 The Tippit Murder 9.6.1 Officer Tippit's killer was unidentified. 9.6.2 Oswald's pistol was not linked to the crime. 9.6.3 Two individuals participated in the Tippit murder. 9.7 The Warren Commission 9.7.1 The WC was a prosecution. 9.7.2 The WC findings have been discredited. 9.7.3 Supporters of the WC are dupes or CIA agents. 9.7.4 The WC records are sealed for 75 years. 9.8 Was there a cover-up? 9.8.1 Why has information been classified by the government? 9.8.2 The media has helped cover-up a conspiracy. 9.8.3 The FBI engaged in a cover-up. 9.8.4 JFK's brain is missing. 9.8.5 Many witnesses to the assassination have died mysteriously. 9.8.6 Dan Rather misrepresented the Zapruder film on television. 9.8.7 News of Oswald's guilt predated his arrest. 9.9 The Garrison affair 9.9.1 Clay Shaw was a CIA agent. 9.9.2 Oswald knew David Ferrie. 9.9.3 Garrison was connected to the mob. 9.10 Miscellaneous 9.10.1 The assassination was predicted. 9.10.2 JFK was killed for opposing the Vietnam war. 9.10.3 Most Americans believe there was a conspiracy. 9.10.4 The D.C. phone system shut down after the assassination. 9.10.5 The Mafia had JFK killed. 9.10.6 RFK promised to reopen the investigation. 10. WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? i. ABBREVIATIONS CIA Central Intelligence Agency. FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation. GK Grassy knoll -- the area to the front right of the president's limousine at the time of the shooting. HSCA The House Select Committee on Assassinations -- a late 1970s Congressional investigation of the JFK and MLK assassinations. JFK John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th(?) president. LHO Lee Harvey Oswald -- JFK's assassin. MC Mannlicher-Carcano -- LHO's rifle. RFK Robert Kennedy, JFK's brother and Attorney General. SS The Secret Service -- a division of the Treasury Depart- ment assigned to protect the president. TSBD Texas School Book Depository -- LHO's place of employ- ment; the source of the shots that killed JFK. WC Warren Commission -- the official assassination investiga- tion. WR Warren Report -- the WC's published findings. Z-film The Zapruder film -- an amateur movie of the assassina- tion. 1. THE MAIN ISSUES 1.1 Who killed JFK? There is no serious question that Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy and Governor Connally. Oswald took an MC rifle into work, claiming the long package contained curtain rods. There was no eye- witness to him shooting the rifle from inside the building, though a wit- ness (Howard Brennan) saw him from the street and gave a rough description to the police. The rifle was found hidden on the sixth floor. It was the same gun Oswald had ordered through the mail. It had Os- wald's prints on it. The bullets causing the wound to JFK and John Connally were matched to this gun. Boxes used to make the "sniper's lair" had Oswald's prints on them. Oswald fled the scene and later shot a patrolman (Officer Tippit) who had stopped him for routine question- ing. While in detention, he told numerous easily-discoverable lies to police interrogators. 1.2 Was there a conspiracy? There is no evidence that anyone other than Oswald was involved in the actual shooting. The only remaining question is whether anyone put him up to it. There is no evidence of conspiracy, and Oswald's general lack of associations argues against the likelihood of his working with others. However, it will always be open to conjecture. 2. GETTING MORE INFORMATION The core information consists of the government investigations--the WC Report and 26 volumes of Hearings, the HSCA Report and Hear- ings, and the Rockefeller Report. There have been an estimated thou- sand-plus books written on the assassination. In addition, other books written on JFK or the times touch on the subject. There have been countless newspaper and magazine articles written on the subject. Some of these have been in general interest publications; others are buried in smaller or specialty publications. There are also low-circula- tion publications that specialize in the assassination. A number of tele- vision documentaries have aired, some of which are on video tape. Numerous other videos, and a few CD-ROMs are available. Much of this material is redundant, so the following descriptions will not aim for completeness. There is not always a hard line between pro- and anti- conspiracy books but they are grouped by their leanings. 2.1 Non-conspiracy sources 2.1.1 The Warren Commission (WC) The WC Report and Hearings are the basic source. The Report, which summarizes the findings, is freely available in new and used bookstores and libraries. Only a few thousand copies of the Hearings were printed by the government. Some are in private hands; the rest are in the larger libraries. 2.1.2 The Rockefeller Commission The Rockefeller Commission of 1975 looked into CIA misbehavior and examined a few assassination-related issues along the way, includ- ing the identity of the three tramps arrested after the assassination. Li- braries with large collections of government studies are the best sources for this material. 2.1.3 The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) The JFK and Martin Luther King assassinations were formally investi- gated by the HSCA in the late seventies. They essentially confirmed the WC findings that Oswald fired three shots, two of which struck and killed JFK. Based solely on a police radio recording, they detected a fourth gunshot in Dealey Plaza and concluded there was another shoot- er on the GK who fired and missed. The recording, and thus the con- spiracy thesis, was later discredited by a National Academy of Science study. The tape had cross-talk from two channels and the sounds initial- ly identified as shots were recorded a minute after the assassination. 2.1.4 Books Di Maio, J.M., "Gunshot Wounds: Practical Aspects of Firearms, Bal- listics, and Forensic Techniques" Epstein, Edward J., "Counterplot": About the Garrison investigation of the assassination. Exposes the weakness of Garrison's case and the dubious methods used to develop the evidence. Published before the actual trial of Clay Shaw. (Reprinted in "The Assassination Chronicles") Kirkwood, James, "American Grotesque": A novelist's reportage of the Clay Shaw trial. The most complete account, exposes the weakness of the case against Shaw. Lattimer, John K., M.D., "Kennedy and Lincoln": Discusses the medi- cal and ballistic aspects of both assassinations. Moore, Jim, "Conspiracy of One": Moore is a converted conspiracy theorist. Short book but makes a lot of good points. However, Moore's writing is marred by his sarcasm toward the conspiracy theorists. Posner, Gerald, "Case Closed": Single best book on the assassination. Provides a solid biography of Oswald and discusses all the evi- dence that implicates Oswald, including a lengthy discussion of the physical evidence, referencing much of the scientific confirmation of the shots that has gone on behind the scenes. Also debunks the most common conspiracy myths. (See Web page `http://our-'.) 2.1.5 Articles Alvarez, Luis W., "A physicist examines the Kennedy assassination film," American Journal of Physics, September 1976: The Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks at three aspects of the Z-film: 1) the "jiggle analysis" that correlates jiggles in the hand-held camera with the gunshots, 2) why JFK's skull might have moved back to- ward the direction of the shot, and 3) why the presidential limou- sine slowed before the fatal head shot. Artwohl, Robert R., M.D., "JFK's Assassination: Conspiracy, Forensic Science, and Common Sense," Journal of the American Medical Association, March 24/31, 1993: A physician clears up a number of the misconceptions regarding the medical evidence in the case. [See related articles in the same issue of JAMA.] Ayoob, Massad, "The Ayoob Files - The JFK Assassination: A Shoot- er's Eye View," American Handgunner, March/April 1993: Gun ex- perts examine a number of issues related to Oswald's MC rifle, his shooting skill, ballistics, and the reaction of Kennedy to the shots. The single-assassin theory is found to be well within the limits of plausibility. Breo, Dennis L., "JFK's death--the plain truth from the MDs who did the autopsy," Journal of the American Medical Association, May 27, 1992: The author interviews autopsists Humes and Boswell to clear up a number of common misconceptions. [See related articles in the same issue of JAMA.] Breo, Dennis L., "JFK's death, part III--Dr Finck speaks out: `two bul- lets, from the rear,'" Journal of the American Medical Association, October 7, 1992: The author interviews autopsist Finck. [See relat- ed articles, editorials, and letters to the editor in the same issue of JAMA.] Catton, Bruce, "A Historical Afterword," afterword to the book, Pref- aces to History," Doubleday, 1970: A distinguished historian prais- es the unprecedented contribution to history made by the WC. Cohen, Jacob, "Conspiracy Fever," Commentary, October 1975: Excel- lent debunking of the conspiracy theories. Committee on Ballistic Acoustics [aka Ramsey panel], National Re- search Council, "Reexamination of Acoustic Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination," Science, October 8, 1982: Reexamines the Dictabelt tape used by the HSCA to show that four shots were fired on Dealey Plaza. Concludes that the tape contains two chan- nels recorded at different times, that the sounds purported to be gunshots were recorded a minute after the assassination at a loca- tion other than Dealey Plaza. Kaplan, John, "The Assassins," Stanford Law Review, May 1967; re- printed as "The Case of the Grassy Knoll: The Romance of Con- spiracy" in "The Historian As Detective," Winks, editor: Excellent analysis of the facts and logic that govern the case, a lesson in clear thinking. Debunks the best-selling conspiracy books of the time, most notably "Rush to Judgment." Lattimer, John K., M.D., "Experimental Duplication of the Important Physical Evidence of the Lapel Bulge of the Jacket Worn by Gover- nor Connally When Bullet 399 Went Through Him," Journal of the American College of Surgeons, May 1994: Duplicates the Single Bullet Theory. Proves the SBT is not only plausible, but inevitable. Myers, Dale K., "Secrets of a Homicide: Exploring the JFK Assassina- tion," Video Toaster User, November 1994: Presents a precise, de- tailed 3D computer model of Dealey Plaza, the TSBD, and the presidential limousine, using the Z-film and other photographs for correlation. Sheds light on some assassination mysteries, particular- ly the timing and direction of the gunshots. Confirms the WC and HSCA conclusions. (Myers' work is scheduled to be packaged as a TV documentary at some point.) (See Web page http:// 2.2 Conspiracy sources 2.2.1 Books Epstein, Edward J., "Inquest": Study of how the WC operated is mildly conspiratorial, labeling the Commission's findings as a "political truth" intended to pacify the American people. Epstein's later rejec- tion of conspiracy theories is an implicit disavowal of "Inquest." Though the book itself is very interesting, some of the Warren staff- ers have claimed Epstein misquoted them on key points. Fonzi, Gaeton, "The Last Investigation": The former HSCA investiga- tor takes a revisionist view of the hearings. Garrison, Jim, "On the Trail of the Assassins": Garrison's description of his assassination investigation and subsequent prosecution of Clay Shaw is one of the most entertaining books on the subject. However, it grossly distorts the facts of the case and Garrison's role. The film "JFK" was primarily based on the book. Groden, Robert, "The Killing Of A President": Contains many famous assassination photos. Lane, Mark, "Rush to Judgment": The best-selling conspiracy book of the sixties. Replete with numerous distortions of the record, it fails to prove any conspiracy or present any coherent counter-theory of the assassination. Lifton, David, "Best Evidence": Lifton's thesis is that JFK's body was altered to make it appear that all his wounds were made from be- hind. The defect in the theory--aside from its patent absurdity--is that JFK's body was never left alone when such a feat could have been performed. Marrs, Jim, "Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy": An entertaining overview of the major conspiracy theories, but shoddy journalism. Marrs distorts the record badly and avoids dealing with the evi- dence against conspiracy. Used as a key source for the film "JFK." Scheim, David, "Contract on America": One of the leading books pur- porting to show an organized crime link to the assassination. Scott, Peter Dale, "Deep Politics and the Death of JFK": Attempts to explain the JFK assassination through analysis of political forces. Since the forces aren't linked to the assassination, the validity of the thesis suffers accordingly. Stone, Oliver and Sklar, Zachary, "JFK: The Book of the Film": The first part is an annotated script of "JFK." The second part, which makes this one of the best books in the field, contains virtually the entire printed public debate about the film, as represented by arti- cles and editorials from the major publications. Summers, Anthony, "Conspiracy": A good compendium of conspiracy theories. Weisberg, Harold, "Whitewash I-IV": These books specialize in criti- cizing every bit of evidence that points to Oswald's guilt without ever supplying a counter-theory of the assassination that could jus- tify the effort. Worthless and hard to read. 2.3 Periodicals Fourth Decade State University College Fredonia, NY 14063 Edited by Jerry Rose. Bimonthly. $25/yr. The JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly P.O. Box 174 Hillsdale, New Jersey 07642 Edited by Walt Brown, Jan Stevens. $24/yr. Probe P.O. Box 5489 Sherman Oaks, CA 91413 Probe is a publication of the CTKA. $30/six issues. Back issues 2.4 Film and video 2.4.1 "JFK," the Oliver Stone movie "JFK" is director Oliver Stone's passionate dramatization of New Or- leans District Attorney Jim Garrison's crusade to expose a conspiracy in the JFK assassination. It achieves its power through a straight-faced confirmation of the beliefs of the cultish assassination buffs, much as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" did for the UFO community. In retelling the story of Garrison's investigation and subsequent celebrat- ed trial of NO businessman, Clay Shaw, the film artfully blends drama and news of the period, often blurring the distinction. The framework of the story closely follows the historical events, at least as they are chronicled in Garrison's memoir, "On the Trail of the Assassins"; how- ever, the details are wrong in many instances leaving the audience ill- prepared to separate fact from fiction. The film refers to numerous as- sassination myths which are addressed elsewhere in this document, but here are a number of key areas wherein the film distorts the historical record: 1. The David Ferrie confession scene. This never occurred. To his death, Ferrie denied any connection to the assassination, and no con- nection was ever proved by Garrison or anyone else. 2. The Mr. X character. Garrison had no such informant. In the film, Mr. X mouths the views of conspiracy author, L. Fletcher Prouty, a former Pentagon official who advised Stone on the script of the film. In an unintended irony, Mr. X is at the center of the mystery, but even he can't say who killed JFK, making him, perhaps, the film's most rele- vant metaphor. 3. Garrison's presence in the courtroom. In reality, Garrison aban- doned his personal crusade and only appeared during the trial to make opening and closing statements. Garrison questioned no witnesses, nor did he make any courtroom demonstrations as depicted in the film. 4. The discussion among Garrison and his staff about potential mob involvement in the assassination. This scene was a sop to conspiracy theorists who suspect Mafia complicity. In reality, Garrison was strangely circumspect about the mob even though David Ferrie, a cen- tral figure in Garrison's conspiracy theory, was employed by New Or- leans Mafia chieftain, Carlos Marcello, at the time of the assassination. 5. The Willie O'Keefe character. There was no such person. In reality, Garrison's case against Shaw collapsed because of the weakness of the witnesses against Shaw. They included an off-the-wall paranoiac and a man who under hypnosis concocted a story about Shaw, Ferrie, and Os- wald discussing the assassination at a party. Rather than undermine Garrison's credibility, the film omits these characters, replacing them and the more tantalizing aspects of their testimony with the more plau- sible Willie O'Keefe composite. 6. The Oswald/Bannister relationship. The only factor ever linking Oswald with ex-FBI agent Guy Bannister was an address on one of Os- wald's political flyers that was in the same building as Bannister's of- fice. In reality, Oswald's use of the building was brief and there's no evidence the two men were acquainted. 7. The Oswald/Ferrie relationship. There is no link of Oswald to the eccentric David Ferrie outside of Oswald's brief membership as a teen- ager in the Civil Air Patrol unit that Ferrie led. 8. The Oswald/Shaw relationship. There's no evidence that Oswald and Shaw were in any way acquainted. 9. The Ferrie/Shaw relationship. The only evidence that Ferrie and Shaw were acquainted is a 1949 photograph which purports to show the two men together at a party. 10. The implication that LBJ was behind a conspiracy. There is no evi- dence that LBJ (or any government official) had foreknowledge of the assassination. 11. Everybody was against Garrison. This is more or less true. Garrison made a lot of enemies with his assassination activities. He depicts this as being the corruption of The Establishment in defending the conspira- cy. In reality, Garrison was so blinded by his conspiracy belief he em- ployed unethical methods in pursuing a case against Clay Shaw. The innocent Shaw was financially ruined defending himself and this is the true legacy of Garrison's inquisition. [Documentation for "JFK" can be found in the book "JFK: The Book of the Film," which contains an annotated script.] 2.4.2 "Executive Action" A low budget 1973 film based on Mark Lane's theories. Not very good. 2.4.3 Documentaries "The Men Who Killed Kennedy," A&E 5-part series: A compendium of conspiracy theories, with scant critical examination. "Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?" Frontline, PBS: An engrossing three- hour biography of LHO, including recent information obtained about his stay in the USSR. "Who Shot President Kennedy?" NOVA, PBS, 11/88: An examination of scientific aspects of the case which lends no support to conspira- cy theories. Main topics: 1) How the acoustic evidence cited by the HSCA was determined to be invalid, 2) Whether the Parkland doc- tors disagreed with the Bethesda autopsy conclusions, 3) Whether a 3-D computer simulation precluded shots from the sixth floor of the TSBD. 2.5 CD-ROMs JFK Assassination Medio Multimedia Inc. Redmond, Washington 98052-5515 800/788-3866 Seems to be the consensus best choice. PowerCD - Encyclopedia of the JFK Assassination ZCI Publishing 1950 Stemmons, Suite 6048 Dallas, Texas 75207-3109 800/460-0444, 214/746-5560 (fax) Has a conspiracy slant. LMP Systems 10420 Plano Road, Suite 101 Dallas, Texas 75238 214/343-8338 One CD contains the complete text of the first fifteen WC volumes; another has complete text and most exhibits of the HSCA hearings. 2.6 Internet Resources 2.6.1 Anonymous FTP archives 1) John McAdams, a political science professor at Marquette, main- tains an archive of graphic images and text files. Most serve to debunk a variety of myths about the case, but there are some pro-conspiracy items, too. Instructions: FTP to FTP.NETCOM.COM (command: ftp Login with "anonymous" for name and email address for password. Change directory to pub/jm/jmcadams (cd pub/jm/jmcad- ams). Retrieve file filelist.txt (get filelist.txt) for a list of files and in- structions. 2) Lisa Pease maintains an archive slanted toward conspiracy theories. FTP to FTP.NETCOM.COM as above. Change directory to pub/lpease. 3) A general archive which has some conspiracy material is at FTP.ETEXT.ORG. Change directory to pub/Politics/Conspiracy/JFK. 2.6.2 World-Wide Web (Additional Web pages are listed elsewhere where relevant.) 1) A-albionic Research maintains a WWW page of general conspiracy- related material, including some JFK stuff. A-albionic has a book ser- vice for new and out of print conspiracy books. Use URL: If you don't have Web access, FTP to or email them at with "info prj" in the message. 2) Fair Play Magazine is a conspiracy-related site. Use URL: 3) The JFK Assassination Fascination is a conspiracy-related site, real- ly just an advertizement for some taped lectures. It has links to other sites of interest. Use URL: 4) The JFK Assassination Home Page is a conspiracy-related site main- tained by Robert Harris. It has links to other sites of interest. Use URL: 5) John McAdams' home page has information regarding the single-as- sassin (LHO) theory. Use URL: file:// 5) The 50 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time includes some nicely-pre- sented information on the JFK case. Use URL: 6) JFK-Lancer Productions Publications. They publish a quarterly on on the JFK assassination. They have a mail-order service for assassina- tion books, videos, etc. They also a nice set of links to other JFK sites. Use URL: 2.6.3 The JFK Place Deanie Richards ( maintains The JFK Place on the Akron Regional Free-Net, a nice menu-driven system that covers all aspects of the assassination. Features include conferences and other news, book reviews, alt.conspiracy.jfk access, and other fo- rums for exchanging information. Also available is general info about JFK's presidency, other Kennedys, other assassinations, and other fea- tures under construction. Use Gopher to access or: telnet Enter "visitor" for login name and follow the instructions. When the first menu comes up, select #16, Special Interest Groups, then go to The JFK Place. 2.7 Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) Conspiracy BBS - Milford, MA 508/473-0503 (14,400 baud) 508/473-1958 (2400 baud) 508/473-0767 (voicemail support) Contact: Paul Brady Offers SpyNet for conspiracy news. 2.8 Public Interest Groups Assassination Record Review Board 600 E Street NW 2nd Floor, Suite 208 Washington, D.C. 20530 202/724-0088 (voice) 202/724-0457 (fax) This is the group set up to review and declassify, where possible, the remaining classified government files on the assassination. CTKA - Citizens for Truth about the Kennedy Assassinations 2139 N. Vine St. Hollywood, CA 90068 213/463-6792 2.9 Museums The Conspiracy Museum Dallas, TX Located near Dealey Plaza. Covers a variety of conspiracies. The Sixth Floor 411 Elm Street Dallas, TX 75202-3301 214/653-6666 The sixth floor of the former TSBD has been converted to a museum devoted to the assassination. The sniper's lair has been reconstructed and enclosed in plexiglass (Dealey Plaza can be viewed from the ad- jacent window). The museum includes exhibits and a book store and is well worth visiting. Spooky. 2.10 Specialty Markets Tom Davis Books PO Box 1107 Aptos, CA 95001-1107 408/475-8341 Specializes in a wide variety of conspiracy and political materials. The Last Hurrah Bookshop 937 Memorial Avenue Williamsport, PA 17701 717/327-9338 JFK Resource Group 332 NE 5th St. Grand Prairie, TX 75050 214/264-2007 University Microfilms International 300 North Zeeb Road Ann Arbor, MI 48106 313/973-9821, ext. 708 313/973-1540 (fax) Sells the 26-volume set of WC documents on microfilm. 3. BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONTROVERSY A murder of the chief executive is ample cause for people to conclude that conspiracies are afoot. Political leaders, particularly national lead- ers, possess the power to change many lives with the stroke of a pen, thus there is no difficulty imagining any number of aggrieved parties who might seek vengeance for past wrongs or forestall anticipated ones. Speculations regarding conspiracy were here to stay after Jack Ruby shot Oswald. Oswald had been permanently silenced, perhaps by de- sign. The WC was formed to investigate the assassination and, if peo- ple were convinced a conspiracy would be uncovered, they were sorely disappointed by the Commission's findings that Oswald, acting alone, perpetrated the crime; and that Jack Ruby had acted on his own as well. The Report did little to dampen speculation, as far as most people were concerned. Conspiracy books hit the newsstands before the WC re- leased its findings; new theories are published frequently as the assassi- nation has spawned a cottage industry of media products. In trying to spare the Kennedy family's dignity, the Commission did not enter some of the autopsy materials into evidence, relying instead on witness testimony and artist recreations. This led critics of the find- ings to charge that the autopsy materials were being kept secret to con- ceal the evidence of gunshots from more than one location. In 1969, the Clark Panel was convened to address the charges. The autopsy materi- als were confirmed as demonstrating two shots from the rear, as stated in the WR. Undeterred, the critics shifted their charge, arguing instead that the X-rays and photographs were fakes designed to conceal evi- dence of multiple shots. These issues were officially revisited by the HSCA in the late seventies and the WC's findings were again affirmed. Taking the tit-for-tat a step farther, author David Lifton concocted the theory that the X-rays and photographs were indeed authentic, but that JFK's body itself had been altered to conceal shots from multiple direc- tions. In 1975, the Rockefeller Commission investigating domestic CIA ac- tivities confronted a few JFK assassination issues, but found no con- spiracy. The HSCA investigated the case thoroughly, calling many experts, but found no conspiracy. Their conclusion suggested the prob- ability of a second gunman on the GK whose only shot missed. The po- lice channel recording that led to this conclusion was discredited in 1982 in a National Academy of Science study. The next big boost to the controversy was spurred by Oliver Stone's big-budget film "JFK" (1991), largely based on Jim Garrison's prose- cution of New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw. Numerous articles were published in a contentious public debate. Congress attempted to assuage public anxieties by legislating to declassify as much of the WC, HSCA, and other assassination files as possible, a laborious effort which is underway. In a separate move, the CIA began to declassify some of their own files on the assassination. Books based on the newly- released material have appeared. The most recent burst of activity in the field came in late 1993, as doz- ens of new books were published for the thirtieth anniversary of the as- sassination. The best-seller of the bunch was Gerald Posner's exhaustive "Case Closed," which presented the first comprehensive case that Oswald had indeed been the sole assassin. 4. BRIEF LEE HARVEY OSWALD BIOGRAPHY LHO, by any measure, is one of the strangest figures to step onto histo- ry's stage. He grew up in a broken home, raised by his mother. He was from New Orleans, but they moved to New York and then back. He dropped out of high school to join the Marines. He was trained as a radar operator and eventually stationed at a base in Atsugi, Japan, where secret U2 planes embarked for flights over the Soviet Union. In his spare time, he read about and idealized communism, even teaching himself rudimentary Russian. After his discharge, he paid his own way to Moscow in 1959, traveling through Finland. At the US consulate in Moscow, he threatened to give away military secrets (codes, frequencies, etc.), which by then was out- dated. He demanded to renounce his US citizenship but failed to return for an appointment. The Soviet authorities distrusted him and rejected his request to settle in the country. When he slashed his wrists in his ho- tel room, they relented, presumably fearing the bad publicity his death might bring. He was given superior quarters in Minsk, a job at a radio factory, and was kept under surveillance. He was happy for a time and married a Russian woman, Marina. He eventually became disgruntled when Soviet life failed his ideals and asked to leave the country with his wife and child. Still a US citizen, the State Department fronted him the money to return in 1962, which he eventually repaid. At various times, he lived in Dallas and New Orleans working in a se- ries of low-paying jobs. In New Orleans, he started his own chapter of the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee, without explicit authori- zation from the actual organization. The only member, he handed out leaflets and appeared in media debates. He planned to hi-jack a plane to Cuba, but Marina dissuaded him. At one point he took a bus to Mexico City and visited the Cuban and Soviet embassies, attempting unsuc- cessfully to get entrance to Cuba and perhaps return to the Soviet Union. In Dallas in early 1963, Oswald shot at General Edwin Walker, an out- spoken right-winger, through Walker's home window. Later that year, the abusive Oswald separated from Marina, living under an assumed name in a rooming house while Marina stayed with a Russian-speaking friend, Ruth Paine. Oswald got a job at the TSBD through a reference from Paine's neighbor. Though he had previously only stayed with Marina at the Paine's on weekends, Oswald spent the Thursday night before the President's visit there. He left most of his money and his wedding band on Marina's dresser. He wrapped his disassembled rifle in paper and rode to the TSBD with a co-worker, claiming the long package contained curtain rods. Late in the morning, Oswald constructed a barricade with boxes on the sixth floor of the TSBD. He assembled the rifle and shot three times as the President passed by. The first shot missed, the second--the so-called "magic bullet"--hit JFK and Connally, causing seven wounds, and the third hit JFK in the back of the head. After the shooting, Oswald hid the rifle on the sixth floor and descend- ed to the second floor lunchroom, where he was soon confronted by a cop who ignored him on the advice of the TSBD supervisor. He left the TSBD, walked two blocks away and caught a bus that was coming back towards to the TSBD and from there on to the neighborhood where he lived. When the bus became snarled in traffic, he got off, walked several blocks and caught a cab. He had the driver drop him off a few blocks past the rooming house and walked back. He retrieved his pistol and walked toward a commercial district. On a side street he was stopped by a cop, Officer Tippit, for questioning, since Oswald matched a description broadcast by the police. Oswald fatally shot him as he stepped out of his patrol car and then ran off. In the commercial district, he ducked into the entrance of a shoe store after hearing sirens. Suspicious, the shoe store clerk followed Oswald and saw him sneak into a movie theater. The clerk informed the ticket taker and the police were called. Oswald was arrested in the theatre after pulling his pistol. He was held on suspicion of murdering the cop and later on shooting the President. On Sunday, he was shot to death in the police department basement by Jack Ruby as he was being transferred to the County jail. 5. THE SHOOTING OF JFK The core of the case must be a determination of what happened on Dea- ley Plaza at 12:30pm, November 22, 1963. The President was shot and killed. How many shots were fired, by who, and from where? Where did they go? What damage did they do? The government's conclusion is that one man, LHO, shot three times from the sixth floor of TSBD, his place of employment, killing the President and wounding Governor Connally. The conspiracy theories, generally, flow from the idea that the narrow timing of the shots, the misalignment of the wounds, and other medical and ballistic factors prove that one man could not have done the deed, thus a conspiracy. 5.1 The number of shots Of the approximately 200 witnesses whose statements were taken by the WC, 88%said they heard three shots, 5% said they heard more than three. Only 2% reported hearing shots coming from more than one lo- cation, but the issue is complicated somewhat by the echoes created by the buildings surrounding the Plaza. Three shells were discovered on the sixth floor "sniper's lair" to bolster the theory that three shots were fired. 5.2 The source of the shots Of the earwitnesses who stated an opinion as to the source of the shots, most thought the shots came from their end of the plaza; people on the uphill end of Dealey Plaza tended to think the shots came from the di- rection of the TSBD; people at the other end, tended to think the shots came from the GK area. However, the consensus was the shots all orig- inated from a single source. 5.3 The first shot The current consensus is that the first shot was a miss, perhaps because Oswald shot through the canopy of the tree in front of the TSBD. He may have done this out of anxiety, or because he was aiming through an opening in the canopy, or because the tree suddenly loomed before his scope as he tracked the limousine. The bullet may have been deflected by a branch. 5.4 The second shot -- Single Bullet Theory (SBT) The second shot hit JFK in the back of the neck and emerged from the bottom of the throat (a lower point). Since a bullet loses some 15% of its speed when it passes through skin, it is slowed by about 30% when it emerges. It also tumbles, its travel having been disrupted by the neck. It hits Connally's back mid-tumble, causing an elongated wound, and "slap fractures" Connally's rib. It emerges below Connally's right nip- ple, considerably slowed now. It passes through the right wrist at about half its muzzle velocity, too slow for the bullet to be damaged by con- tact with the wrist bone. The wrist deflects the bullet which ends its path shallowly embedded in Connally's right thigh. This determination of the bullet's path was not obvious to the WC in- vestigators. They had a minimum of information and were limited by time and the analytical technology of the day. Certain aspects of the shot, as revealed by the amateur Z-film, were ambiguous, especially the question of whether JFK and Connally were hit at the same time. Ulti- mately, the confidence of the investigators in the SBT arose from pro- cess of elimination or, as Sherlock Holmes said, "When one has eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improba- ble, is the truth." Today, though, the SBT has been more thoroughly studied and tested, using modern technology, and has been affirmed as not only plausible, but the only likely solution to the puzzle. Conversely, the critics of the SBT have failed to quantify their criticism by showing how far from possible they consider the SBT to be. Nor have they supplied a counter-explanation that accounts for the physical and medical evidence. 5.5 The third shot Oswald's third shot hit JFK in the cowlick area of the back of the head. JFK's head moved forward for a brief fraction of a second and then his body fell back and slumped to the left side. The explanation for the non-intuitive backwards reaction relies on many possible factors which would be almost impossible to duplicate in a single experiment. Some of the factors are: 1) JFK's nervous system had already been damaged by his first wound, which grazed his spinal cord, 2) the head shot creat- ed instant, massive damage to the nervous system, 3) the bullet made a small hole on entry, then created a forward-moving wave of pressure in the soft tissue, causing a large exit wound and the escape of pressure to the front (referred to as the "jet effect"), 4) JFK was wearing a back brace which stiffened his upper body, 5) the vehicle was moving. 5.6 Miscellaneous A bystander on the other side of Dealey Plaza, James Tague, was hit on the cheek by shrapnel. There's no consensus on whether it came from the first shot hitting the pavement or from the head shot. 6. JACK RUBY Jack Ruby was a lightweight hustler with a history of failed business ventures, tax problems, explosions of temper, and arrests for petty vio- lations by the Dallas police. In 1963, he operated a Dallas strip joint, the Carousel Club. People who knew Ruby report that he spent the weekend following the assassination in a state of anguish over the trag- edy. A newsman, Seth Kantor, saw him in Parkland Hospital, where the President was taken, in the minutes following the assassination. He was also a spectator at the Friday night Police press conference. On the Sun- day morning following the assassination, he entered the basement of the Dallas Police Department when Oswald was being transferred to the County Jail. He pulled a pistol and shot Oswald to death. Ruby's motives are confused since he stated different reasons to ex- plain his act, some on the advice of his attorney. Variously, he said he wanted to spare Mrs. Kennedy the pain of Oswald's trial, and that he wanted to show the world that a Jew, which he was, could be tough and patriotic, and that Jews abhorred the assassination as much as other Americans. There is no evidence that he was part of any conspiracy or otherwise put up to the murder. He was not in the Mafia but may have had peripheral connections resulting from his running a strip club and dealing with labor organizations. 7. THE GARRISON PROSECUTION OF CLAY SHAW Jim Garrison was the District Attorney of New Orleans. On the Sunday following the assassination, he interrogated a local figure, David Ferrie, whom he heard had made a car trip to Texas on the afternoon (Friday) of the assassination. Nothing came of the questioning. In the ensuing years, Garrison became fascinated with the assassination and believed there had been a conspiracy. Oswald was from New Orleans and had lived there at various times in the year preceding the assassination. In 1967, Garrison began to investigate the assassination out of the DA's office, looking for a local angle. When a reporter exposed Garrison for spending public funds on the investigation, the DA reacted by charging Ferrie with conspiracy to assassinate the president. Several days later, the anxiety-ridden Ferrie died of a brain aneurism. Garrison then shift- ed his charge to a prominent local businessman, Clay Shaw. Shaw was eventually tried in 1969, the evidence against him laughably weak. It included a witness, Perry Russo, who testified to overhearing Shaw, Ferrie, and Oswald at a party discuss a plan to kill JFK. Howev- er, Russo's memory of the alleged party was only obtained by leading questions asked of Russo while he was under hypnosis and/or sodium pentothal. Another witness, a heroin addict, testified to seeing Shaw hand Oswald money on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. Another wit- ness, Charles Spiesel, made a farce of the trial when he admitted finger- printing his own daughter to verify her identity. Much of the trial was devoted to demonstrating suspicious aspects of the assassination, but no evidence connected Shaw. Garrison, himself, scarcely attended the trial, only appearing to make opening and closing arguments. The jury acquitted Shaw after a thirty minute deliberation. However, he was fi- nancially ruined. 8. COMMON CONSPIRACY BOOK DECEPTIONS The circumstances surrounding the JFK assassination have always seemed suspicious--a former defector to the Soviet Union is charged with the crime before he, himself, is quickly murdered. However suspi- cious a crime seems, though, however many rumors are swirling about, a sober accounting of the event can only follow a thorough understand- ing of the evidence. Unfortunately, this caution has rarely been ob- served by the public in regards to the assassination. Before virtually anything was known about the assassination, many people became con- vinced that a conspiracy of some sort was behind it. Thus, disappoint- ment greeted the WC's conclusion--ten months following the assassination--that LHO, acting alone, was guilty. Before the WR was released, authors were already exploiting the cli- mate of suspicion with books arguing that a conspiracy had existed. Whatever effect the report had on dampening those suspicions was soon overwhelmed by a new wave of books denouncing the report. The myth of conspiracy became firmly planted in the public mind. Over three decades later, and after the publication of hundreds of conspiracy books, a number of them bestsellers, the JFK assassination remains a topic of intense curiosity. The only catch is that the central conclusion of the WC--that LHO alone committed the crime--remains unchallenged by responsible, competent scholarship. The countless conspiracy books which strenu- ously argue to the contrary constitute one of the largest bodies of fraud- ulent work ever created. That is not to say that they don't make for compelling reading. They often do. They have much more to offer in the way of intrigue and excitement than the mundane conclusion that a loser stuck a gun out the window and shot the president. Since the WC had irrefutable physical evidence on its side, and since their theory is the only conceivable one that fits that evidence, the ap- proach of the conspiracy authors has been to pretend the WC perpetrat- ed a lie of monstrous proportions. They have attacked the WC on virtually every front to promote wholesale disbelief that a single indi- vidual could have committed the crime. They present no clear affirma- tive proof of conspiracy, relying instead on an inverse conclusion: if one individual could not have done it, then more than one must have. They leave the who, what, when, where, and why to the reader's will- ing imagination and exhort others--the government--to get the com- plete "truth" out. Rather than rebutting specific charges, which is done elsewhere throughout the FAQ, this section lists a number of the dizzying array of deceptive techniques used in conspiracy books to make the case. These techniques are unacceptable because they violate the fundamental methodologies of responsible research which all competent scholars and journalists follow. That approach, in short, requires examining all relevant evidence, weighing it carefully, forming conclusions where possible, and only then speculating on what can't be determined from the facts. The reader is not discouraged from examining conspiracy books for whatever interest they may yield, but is instead encouraged to be aware of the techniques used and to hold all authors to the highest standards of research before putting any faith in their work. The accompanying examples have been chosen not because they are the only, best, or most significant applications, but rather because they are typical, brief, somewhat self-contained, and easily characterized. The typical conspiracy book is an artful blend of fact and distortion which contains numerous examples of bad research and argument. To be convinced of this point, the reader is encouraged to independently check the claims made in the conspiracy books against the documenta- ry record. 1. Sell emotion first. If a conspiracy had killed JFK, and if the government had covered it up, it would certainly be an outrage. It would defile the memory of JFK, a much-admired man, that his killers went free. If the conspiracy had been a government plot, it would throw the very legitimacy of the gov- ernment into question and create the uneasy sensation that the news re- ported from Washington is a mere cover for the real operation. At any rate, powerful emotions flow from the belief in a conspiracy. When these feelings can be established upfront by the conspiracy author, typ- ically by enjoining the reader in the author's own passion, the reader may be persuaded to drop his natural skepticism regarding fantastic plots. Example. Garrison, "On the Trail of the Assassins," introduction: "This book is really about [my] process of change--of growing disillusion- ment, anger and knowledge." Example. Marrs, "Crossfire," preface: "I seek not only the killers of President Kennedy, I seek the persons who killed Camelot--who killed the confidence and faith of the American people in their government and institutions." 2. Scare the reader away from primary documents. The central debate of the controversy is between the WR and the conpi- racy argument, which usually consists in large measure of a ferocious attack on the report. A careful reader would examine the report to check whether it is being accurately represented in the conspiracy books. (It's frequently not.) To forestall this examination, which risks exposing the author's deceit, the report is described as unreadable or ut- terly worthless. In point of fact, the report is well-written, interesting, and objective in its analysis of the evidence. Example: DiEugenio, "Destiny Betrayed," Chapter 14: "The American people had been lied to before, but the Warren Report moved this phe- nomenon to a higher plane. The lie was so big, the attendant praise so lavish, the holes in the story so gaping..." 3. Distort the evidence. Since most people will trust a book, and not double-check its claims against the source material, it is a simple matter to alter the import of the evidence by eliminating key details. Example. Bullet CE399 of the SBT is often described as "pristine," which doesn't accord with the WC's contention that it struck John Con- nally's rib and wrist bone. DiEugenio, "Destiny Betrayed," Chapter 7: "No bullet fired through any obstacle--not even through cotton and gel- atin--could emerge as intact as the pristine CE 399." Lifton, "Best Evi- dence," Chapter 9: "I still thought that bullet 399, because of its undamaged...condition, must have been planted." Groden and Living- stone, "High Treason," Chapter 3: "[Connally] was still holding on to his Stetson hat long after the `pristine' or `magic' bullet supposedly shattered his wrist..." What the authors omit is that CE399 is damaged. It's bowed along its longitudinal axis and compressed on its base, both effects requiring a significant force. The SBT postulates the bullet tum- bled (as a result of the passage through JFK's neck), hit Connally's rib sideways and at reduced speed, and hit the wrist at an even slower speed, all of which is consistent with the deformation to CE399. Example. It is frequently charged that the WC insisted that three shots had to have been fired within six seconds, a difficult feat with the mur- der weapon. DiEugenio, "Destiny Betrayed," Chapter 7: "[The WC] concluded that the time span for Oswald's alleged series of shots could be no more than 5.6 seconds." Marrs, "Crossfire," preface: "Do you be- lieve government experts who state that a man...hit a man...with three shots in less than six seconds?" In actuality, the WC predicated their time estimate on which of the three shots missed, a factor they were not certain of: "The Commission concluded...that the three shots were fired in a time period ranging from approximately 4.8 to in excess of 7 sec- onds." (Chapter III) What the conspiracy authors have done is to select a figure from the least charitable end of the Commission's time range and mischaracterize it as their sole estimate. 4. Emphasize eyewitness testimony. Evidence is often contradictory and confusing and must therefore be evaluated piece-by-piece for its relative worth. The best evidence tends to be physical evidence--murder weapons, bullets, fingerprints, and so forth. This evidence, once collected, doesn't change over time. Photo- graphic evidence is useful but is subject to interpretation since it reduc- es the four-dimensional world to two-dimensional snapshots. The weakest major class of evidence is eyewitness testimony. This is because of the inherent unreliability of human memory. Not only does memory change over time, even surprisingly short periods, but it is sel- dom accurate in the first place. Numerous studies have shown that memory can be altered by many forms of suggestion, including police line-ups and mug books, television and media reports, and even leading questions. Contrary to popular opinion, stress makes accurate memory less likely, not more. Memory is very poor at recalling details that wer- en't significant at the time of observation. Memory is problematic in accurately recalling duration of time, or sequence of events. This is what modern science tells us about memory. (See, especially, the work of Elizabeth Loftus.) Nevertheless, we tend to place misguided faith in our own memories and the memories of others. This isn't to say that eyewitness testimony should be ignored altogether, rather that it has to be accepted for its relative worth. It can never be regarded as incontro- vertible truth, regardless of the confidence of the witness. As a predominant technique, conspiracy books emphasize discrepan- cies in eyewitness testimony to establish doubt about the state of the evidence. Example. Weisberg, "Whitewash," Chapter 6, The Tippit Murder: "The witnesses on the shell-dropping episode were not consistent on details. Some had him tapping them out on one hand, some the other; some had him shaking them out. One even saw him rolling a fresh cartridge un- der his thumb from a half-block away." Following a collection of such discrepancies, Weisberg adds sarcastically, "This is a sample of the ac- curate observers from whom the Commission drew its witnesses." Another technique is to emphasize recollections that come to light many years after the event. Example. Summers, "Conspiracy," Chapter 5: Carolyn Arnold, a secre- tary at the TSBD, told Summers in 1978 that she recalled seeing LHO in the lunchroom at "about 12:15" or later, a time which cuts into his window of opportunity to set up the sniper's lair and assemble his gun. But her recollection is at odds with her signed statement to the FBI in 1963, when she said she wasn't sure whether she had sighted him be- fore the assassination. There's no reason to doubt her honesty, but there's also no reason to believe her memory has improved fifteen years after the fact. 5. Emphasize unsworn witnesses. Legal procedures, such as the calling of witnesses before the Warren Commission, follow strict guidelines to ensure their integrity, not the least of which is swearing the witnesses to an oath of honesty. This has the two-fold benefit of impressing upon the witness the gravity of testi- fying as well as activating laws against perjury. Additionally, such tes- timony is typically recorded in full. This must be contrasted with interviews given to authors. These are usually conducted in an informal atmosphere, where freewheeling speculation and factual recollection may become mingled. The subject is under no obligation to be truthful, and the author has the freedom to follow suggestive lines of inquiry. The author can also quote out of context since his notes are a private document. Given this context, it's fair to ask why a witness would give one story under oath and a more sensational story to an author. Or why a witness would give evidence of a crime to an author without ever having come forward to give the same evidence to the legal authorities. Example: Lane, "Rush to Judgment," Chapter 15: "Mrs [Acquilla] Clemons told several independent investigators that she saw two men standing near the police car just moments before one of them shot Tip- pit. The killer then waved to the other man, she said, and they ran away in different directions...Mrs Clemons told one independent investigator that she had been advised by the Dallas police not to relate what she knew to the Commission, for if she did she might be killed." There are a number of problems with this witness. 1) Her story of seeing two kill- ers is inconsistent with the testimony of twelve other witnesses who saw a single individual either shooting Tippit or fleeing the scene. 2) She revealed this story to Lane a year after the assassination rather than reporting it to the police at the time. 3) The WC employed no "indepen- dent investigators," so this expression, supplied by Lane, covers for the fact she didn't talk to the police. 4) The death threat, which none of the other witnesses reported receiving, is probably Clemons' rationaliza- tion for not talking to the police when it would have mattered. Example. Crenshaw, "Conspiracy of Silence": Crenshaw, both witness and author, was a resident physician at Parkland Hospital in 1963. In his book he claims the emergency room physicians knew Kennedy had been shot from the front but kept quiet. One of those physicians, Mal- colm Perry, said, "Crenshaw says that the rest of us are part of a con- spiracy of silence and that he withheld his information for 29 years because of a fear his career would be ruined. Well, if he really felt he had valuable information and kept it secret for all those years, I find that despicable." 6. Raise non-essential issues. Since the WC had substantial evidence against LHO, overturning their conclusion requires an across-the-board attack to convince the reader that the Commission was thoroughly unreliable, not just sporadically inaccurate. Every peice of evidence has to be challenged. Raising doubts about the Commission, even when it is of no import, contributes to that goal. Example. Weisberg, "Whitewash," Chapter 6: William Whaley was the cab driver who drove LHO from downtown Dallas to his rooming- house. Weisberg criticizes Whaley's testimony on a broad front, for misidentifying LHO's garments, for misstating LHO's position in the police lineup, for being unclear about the address where he dropped off LHO, and so forth, as if his entire story is suspect. Then Weisberg moves on to the next witness, the housekeeper who was present when LHO showed up at the roominghouse. Since he takes no issue with the housekeeper on this point, agreeing that LHO showed up near where Whaley said he dropped him off, his attack on Whaley's credibility has amounted to nothing. 7. Omit the complete context of the evidence. To be as objective as possible, a scholar must acknowledge contradicto- ry views, if only to rebut them. It is not enough to state why one is cor- rect. One must also state why competing views are incorrect, else the reader may be led into believing the author's views are not in dispute. Conspiracy authors omit much of the context of their evidence, only it is usually for worse motives than concealing controversy. It is more of- ten to make the evidence sound more sinister than it is. Example. Lifton, "Best Evidence," Chapter 4: "The Governor's wrist was a major problem. And the Commission, in conducting tests, simply developed more evidence which went against its own thesis...Bullets were fired at the wrists of cadavers--and a picture of such a bullet, bad- ly smashed up, with its nose considerably flattened, was published as [CE856]. It made a striking contrast with [CE399, of the SBT]." Lifton is suggesting that because CE399 was not "smashed up," it couldn't have struck Connally's wrist, as the SBT requires. Lifton leaves out two very crucial details, though. The test bullet hits the wrist both at full speed and nose first. CE399, on the other hand, is moving at about half its muzzle velocity, having passed through JFK's neck and Connal- ly's torso, and is tumbling, so very likely did not strike the wrist head on. Rather than disproving the SBT, the test actually bolsters it by dem- onstrating that CE399, in lacking a smashed nose, could not have hit the wrist directly. 8. Promote yourself to expert. The vast majority of conspiracy books are written by laymen, persons with no relevant expertise to the technical issues in the case. This is not necessarily a bar to writing a well-researched book. Many generalists make excellent journalists. However, such writers know their limita- tions and rely on unbiased experts in the various fields. Too many con- spiracy authors, on the other hand, pass judgment on technical issues without consulting the real experts. The books of these self-appointed experts are often riddled with inaccurate interpretations of the evi- dence. In the absence of objective guidance, these authors, whose aim is to discover as large a number of unusual circumstances as possible, simply supply whatever interpretation sounds most sinister. Example. DiEugenio, "Destiny Betrayed," Chapter 7: "How could a ri- fle shot from the sixth floor of the depository enter the President's up- per back and then exit out the base of his throat? How could it be an exit wound? The trajectory would be wrong. The only way this would make sense is if the bullet had hit some thick bone and been seriously deflected upward." Later, in mocking the SBT, he continues, "Consid- er: A bullet is fired at a downward angle; it hits Kennedy's body; with- out striking a bone it reverses course upward and exits the throat." A simple example, but if DiEugenio had consulted a medical professional who possessed the discipline to examine the issue cautiously before forming an opinion, he would have discovered what in retrospect seems fairly obvious, that the location of the entrance wound, the upper back- -described in the autopsy report as the base of the neck--is several inch- es above the exit wound at the bottom of the throat, and therefore con- sistent with a shot from above and behind. 9. Don't solicit the other side of the story. Often in conspiracy books, the author cites a quote or two, or a memo or handwritten notation, from some person involved with case, and tells us that the person is inconsistent and must therefore be incompetent ot have something sinister to hide. This fails a fundamental standard of journalism. Fairness to the person, and fairness to the story, requires that the subject be given a chance to respond before accusations are leveled. In many cases, the author would find out that such-and-such a statement was an error, or that what seemed to be an error was actually a subtlety of the case requiring more knowledge on the author's part. Any professional resercher will make the phone call, or write the letter. Naturally, if the subject refuses to cooperate, or is otherwise unavail- able, that might allow some license for speculation but, even then, the author must document attempts to reach the subject and be cautious to avoid false accusations. Example. Weisberg, "Whitewash II," Chapter 2: "The Dallas Secret Service Investigation says [Tippit] was hit by two bullets; [Secret Ser- vice] Inspector Kelley, by three. The [Warren] Report says four bullets were taken from Tippit's body and suggests five were fired. All these statements and those similarly varying and contradictory by the police can be regarded as nothing less than deliberate lies." For Kelley's views, Weisberg relies on a report he has recovered from the WC's files. Is Weisberg right? Was Kelley deliberately lying? Or simply mis- taken? Or has Weisberg misunderstood the document? We don't know because there's no indication that Kelley or the Secret Service were ever asked to clarify the issue. Indeed, a complete reading of the text seems to indicate that the Weisberg's research consists of nothing more than searching documents for discrepancies. On this alone, Inspector Kelley is branded a liar in print but given no chance to defend himself to the reader. This fails both journalistic integrity and common consid- eration. 10. Accuse the defenseless. In the great conspiracy hunt, many innuendos get tossed around, sug- gestive of lying, cover-up, of acquiesence and complicity in extremely serious crimes. However, there is a risk for the conspiracy author of li- bel sanctions. The careful reader will therefore discern a measure of caution in the way things are worded. Outright accusations are seldom made unless the victim is unable to defend themselves, either because they are public figures who can't legally retaliate, or they are dead. Example. Stone and Sklar, "JFK: The Book of the Film," screenplay of "JFK": Jim Garrison says to his staff, "[The assassination] was a mili- tary-style ambush from start to finish...a coup d'etat with Lyndon Johnson waiting in the wings." Johnson, of course, was long dead be- fore the film came out. 11. Emphasize preliminary information. Unlike eyewitness recollection, which degenerates with age, reasoned judgments tend to improve with time and reflection. Conversely, hasty judgments are often poor judgments. If such judgments are made to the press, whether right or not, they become immortalized in print or on film. Today, public figures or other people who deal with the media, seem to be aware of the danger of extemporaneous speculation. The modern, and judicious, approach is to wait until the facts have been carefully examined before speaking out in detail. In 1963, though, peo- ple weren't quite so savvy, and many people made uninformed state- ments to the press regarding their own observations. They didn't know it at the time, but they were creating grist for the conspiracy book mills. Conspiracy authors spend most of their research looking for the inevi- table discrepancies which they use, not as evidence of human fallibility, but instead as "proof" of deceit, incompetence, or treachery. When a person can be discovered as having made contradictory statements--be- fore and after studying a problem, say--then the conspiracy author can argue with great outrage that the person has become part of the "cover- up." Or the author can simply quote the first opinion and ignore the lat- ter. Example. Lane, "Rush to Judgment," Chapter 3: "Dr Charles Carrico, the first to attend the wounded President in [Parkland Hospital] Trauma Room 1, drafted and signed a hospital report during the afternoon of November 22 also describing the throat wound as one of entrance." If the throat wound was an entrance, it would contradict the WC's theory of the case that the shots came from behind. But Carrico's opinion of the 22nd was based only on a superficial observation. The President hadn't been autopsied in Dallas. Nor had Carrico discovered the wound in the base of Kennedy's neck. Lane neglects to inform the reader that Carrico later testified to the WC that the wound could have been either an entrance or an exit. As he told the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992, "Nothing we observed contradicts the autopsy finding that the bullets were fired from above and behind by a high-ve- locity rifle." 12. Recycle discredited evidence. Issues have been raised regarding virtually every aspect of the case. Anything that doesn't look quite right has been questioned in an appar- ent fishing expedition for anything that will unambiguously establish a conspiracy. In many cases, these issues have been resolved and no longer constitute open questions to scholars of the case. In one of the most seriously deceptive techniques employed by conspiracy books, old issues are raised to provoke the readers' anxiety, but the reader is not informed of the resolution to the issue. It's one thing to dispute the resolution, it's another to conceal it from the unwitting reader. Example. In 1979, the HSCA, using a recording of a police communi- cations channel, concluded that there had been a second shooter on Dealey Plaza (who missed). They also recommended further study of the recording which, indeed, was undertaken by a blue ribbon panel of scientists under the auspices of the National Academy of Science, their report published in 1982. (See Committee on Ballistic Acoustics in the bibliography.) As a result, the original finding was completely discred- ited, in no small part because the recording was found to contain two channels recorded at different times. But see how Jim Garrison de- scribed the issue in his 1988 book, "On the Trail of the Assassins," Chapter 20: "The House Committee was left with no other alternative [than to conclude there had been a conspiracy] after its acoustics ex- perts discovered that, in addition to the shooting from behind President Kennedy, a rifle had been fired from the grassy knoll in front of him." True enough, but Garrison never writes a word about the subsequent study; instead he leaves the reader with obsolete knowledge. Similarly, from Stone and Sklar, "JFK: The Book of the Film," screenplay of "JFK": "A Congresional Investigation from 1976-1979 found a `proba- ble conspiracy' in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and recom- mended the Justice Department investigate further. As of 1991, the Justice Department has done nothing." Also true, but also grossly mis- leading. There was no reason for the Justice Department to act when the NAS had done a definitive study. * * * Further analysis along this line can be found in the Kaplan and Cohen essays cited in the bibliography. 9. MYTHS AND FACTS OF THE ASSASSINATION 9.1 Oswald 9.1.1 Oswald was a nice, non-violent boy. False. Oswald had a history of violent acts preceding his shooting of JFK. They include brandishing a kitchen knife against his mother, shooting his arm while in the Marines to avoid a transfer, striking his wife, and the attempted murder of Dallas notable, General Edwin Walker. 9.1.2 Oswald was "planted" at the TSBD. False. Oswald had been working at the TSBD for about six weeks at the time of the assassination. When he began working there, the specif- ics of JFK's trip through Dallas had not yet been planned. 9.1.3 Oswald could not have made the shots. False. Two points enter in: Oswald's skill and the difficulty of the shots. Oswald's marksmanship twice passed the Marine Corps requirements. By their standards, he was an average shot, but he was more than quali- fied to use a gun and hit a target. The difficulty of the shots has been overstated. Dealey Plaza is smaller than it appears in photographs or film. Oswald's longest shot was eighty-eight yards to the target. The limousine was moving slowly past Oswald when the first shot was fired. The car turned slightly to go down the inclined portion of the street, moving slowly up and to the right across Oswald's field of view when the second and third shots were fired. Despite the relative ease of the shots, Oswald hit the presumed target (JFK's head) only once out of three attempts. 9.1.4 Oswald had an alibi. False. Oswald has no alibi for the time of the shooting. He was seen by fellow employees approximately thirty minutes before the shooting; and in the second floor lunchroom by the TSBD supervisor and a cop approximately ninety seconds after the shooting. In the late seventies, a former TSBD employee (Carolyn Arnold) told author Anthony Sum- mers that she had seen Oswald fifteen minutes before the shooting, but her fellow employees dispute her account. 9.1.5 Oswald could not have escaped from the sixth floor in time. False. The TSBD is 30x30 yards square. A cop approximated he saw Oswald in the second floor lunchroom ninety seconds after the shoot- ing. Considering that a reasonably fit young man like Oswald can run at least 400 yards in ninety seconds, there is no reason to believe he couldn't have gone from the sixth to the second floor in that time and still had time to conceal the gun behind boxes. At any rate, the route was timed and verified as possible. 9.1.6 There is no record of Oswald's interrogation. False. It was not the policy of the Dallas Police Department to tape record interrogations. And since Oswald wasn't saying much, it was not deemed necessary at the time to take verbatim notes. However, a half dozen persons who sat in on different portions of the interrogations wrote affidavits (reprinted in the WR) describing their observations. 9.1.7 Oswald was a "patsy." Probably false. After capture, Oswald claimed to be a "patsy," though he never explained what he meant. He also lied about a number of easi- ly verifiable details. For instance, he denied living at the rooming house he was known to reside in. Given his general deceptiveness, his claim of being a "patsy" can't be given much weight. 9.1.8 Oswald can't be deemed guilty without a known motive. False. For the forensics expert, who determines what physically hap- pened in a crime, motive is irrelevant; in a criminal prosecution, de- monstrable motive is an important but not necessarily essential factor. No precise motive is known for Oswald's actions, but given the young man's history of unusual, ideologically-motivated acts--idealizing com- munism, teaching himself Russian, defecting to the Soviet Union, try- ing to defect to Cuba, attempting to assassinate right-wing figurehead General Edwin Walker--some political component can be assumed. 9.1.9 Oswald had an impostor. False. After the assassination, there were various pre-assassination sightings of Oswald reported. For instance, a car salesman reported let- ting Oswald take a test drive, though, as we know, Oswald couldn't drive. Such reports are commonplace after a high-profile crime and can usually be attributed to mistaken identity. However, an author postulat- ed a second Oswald from an analysis of these reports. Another theory is that the real Oswald didn't return from the Soviet Union, but that a "Manchurian candidate" impostor came back in his place. Oswald's body was exhumed in the early 1980s and determined to be the real Os- wald from scars, teeth, etc. The exhumation was not actually necessary for the determination, though, since ear matches show every photo- graph of Oswald to be of the same person. (Ear shapes are as distinctive as fingerprints.) 9.1.10 The military taught Oswald to speak Russian. False. Oswald taught himself rudimentary speaking Russian while he was in the Marines. The WC did receive a tip that Oswald had attended the Monterey School of the Army (now called the Defense Language Institute), one of the country's top Russian language schools. This proved to be false and there is no "missing" period in Oswald's biogra- phy wherein he could have attended the intensive, months-long course. 9.1.11 Oswald contracted a venereal disease "in the line of duty." False. However, a military medical report on Oswald's VD (reprinted in Marrs, "Crossfire") has a notation that the disease was contracted in the line of duty, which has been taken as evidence that Oswald was some sort of espionage agent. In reality, contracting VD was a punish- able offense at that time under military law and it was commonplace for commanders to use the bogus "line of duty" argument to avoid the nuisance of a legal procedure. 9.1.12 The photos of Oswald holding a rifle are fakes. False. It was originally charged that the famous "backyard" photos of Oswald holding his MC rifle and a communist newspaper were fakes, that Oswald's face had been pasted over someone else's body. Howev- er, these charges were based on third generation copies of the photos which appear to show an unnatural line below Oswald's chin. Sharp, first generation copies show no such defect. Additionally, scratches and marks on the rifle in the photograph match those on the rifle used in the assassination; and the photographs were matched to Oswald's camera. 9.1.13 Oswald failed a paraffin test. The paraffin test is used for detecting traces of nitrate on a suspect's skin, indicating that the suspect had recently shot a gun. Oswald tested positive on his hands and negative on his cheeks, suggesting that he had not fired a rifle from the shoulder. However, the test is considered d unreliable (and was considered so in 1963). It was mostly used to in- timidate a suspect into a confession. False positives and false negatives are possible from substances other than gunpowder. Thus the test of Oswald is scientifically inconclusive. 9.2 The shooting 9.2.1 Oswald's rifle was inadequate. False. Oswald used an Italian WWII surplus MC carbine which he bought cheaply through mail order. It's a powerful rifle with an approx- imate muzzle velocity of 2100 ft./sec. Its age is not a detriment--old guns work as well as new as long as they haven't rusted or otherwise deteriorated. 9.2.2 Oswald's rifle had a misaligned scope. True. But it is not known whether the scope was out of alignment be- fore the assassination, or after, either from Oswald jamming the gun be- tween boxes, or by police mishandling. The scope was slightly misaligned down and left which, if it had been misaligned before the assassination, may have aided Oswald in hitting JFK, who was moving up and right across Oswald's field of view for the last two shots. It's possible Oswald did not use the side-mounted scope, relying in- stead on the iron sights on top of the weapon. He may also have used the scope for the first shot, missed, and then switched to the sights. 9.2.3 The rifle found on the sixth floor was a Mauser. False. A news film of the rifle's discovery shows it to be the MC. How- ever, a policeman who didn't handle the gun initially described it as a Mauser, a rifle which resembles Oswald's MC and is more common- place. 9.2.4 There was a second shooter seen on the GK. False. From the sound, some people thought the GK was the source of the shots. A policeman drove his motorcycle up the embankment and some bystanders followed. However, there was no contemporaneous report of a gun or gunman being seen there. There are enhanced photos that purport to show figures in the shadows and foliage behind the wall at the top of the GK. However they're too grainy and ambiguous to prove anything. 9.2.5 The so-called "magic bullet" was pristine. False. The bullet was slightly bowed, flattened on its base, and some of the core material was extruded from the base. The lack of greater dam- age results from the fact that the bullet went through the flesh of JFK's neck, tumbled, hit Connally's rib sideways, then finally struck Connal- ly's wrist at a speed too low to further damage the bullet. Most photo- graphs of the bullet shown in books are taken from an angle that conceals the bowing; the flattening of the base is best seen from an end view. 9.2.6 The third (head) shot had to have come from the front. False. From a forensics point of view, the direction of the head shot is unambiguous. 1) A bullet causes the skull to "dish," i.e. a beveled por- tion of bone will be knocked out away from the direction of the bullet, like the dishing caused by a bullet going through a pane of glass. Both the dishing at the back of JFK's skull and at the right-front reveal a shot from behind. 2) All the bullet fragments in JFK's skull were right of the centerline, precluding a shot from the right front (GK). 3) There was no exit wound on the left of JFK's skull. Considering physical forces alone, a bullet lacks the force to violently push a human body, such as we see in movies. Such force would also have to recoil against the gunman when firing. 9.2.7 The three shots were made in under six seconds. Since Connally reacted to the Magic Bullet eight-tenths of a second af- ter JFK (so far as they could see in the Z-film), the WC determined two possible times for the shot. They said the unambiguous head shot there- fore occurred from 4.8 to 5.6 seconds later. This is where the six-sec- ond figure comes from. They also said another shot missed, but they weren't sure whether it came first, second, or third in the sequence. They argued the merits of all three scenarios. If the second shot was the miss, the 4.8 to 5.6 seconds would be the overall time for all three shots. If the first or third shot was the miss, the minimum time to reload the rifle (2.3 seconds) had to be added to the overall time, giving a min- imum time for all three shots of from 7.1 to 7.9 seconds. Much study has now determined the first shot to be the miss. Furthermore, the am- biguity about the time of the Magic Bullet has been resolved. At about the time JFK reacts to the shot, the lapel of Connally's suit coat flips forward. Dr. Lattimer has proven experimentally that this could only have been caused by a tumbling bullet. Thus, 5.6 seconds becomes the differential between the Magic Bullet and the head shot, with the over- all minimum for the three shots established at about eight seconds. 9.2.8 JFK was shot by the limousine driver. False. In an exhibition frequently given at New Age fairs and other events, a black and white version of the Z-film is shown which appears to show the limousine driver pointing a gun at JFK. This effect is a fig- ment of the poor black and white reproduction. What appears to be a handgun is actually sunlight reflected off the hair of the front seat pas- senger. The effect is easily seen to be false in the color original. 9.2.9 JFK was accidentally shot by a Secret Service agent. The book "Mortal Error" presents the theory that the fatal head shot ac- cidentally came from the weapon of an SS agent in the car following the limousine. There is no substantial evidence for this theory--no wit- nesses, no ballistics match of bullet fragments, etc., and the SS rifle, the AR-15, is too loud to have gone unnoticed by bystanders. 9.2.10 The limousine had a bubble-top protector that was not used. True, however the bubble top was only for weather protection. It was not bullet-proof and, if used, may not have saved the President's life. The purpose of the trip was political--for JFK to be seen by the people- -so the bubble top was not used. 9.3 Medical Issues 9.3.1 The Dallas doctors differed with the autopsists. True at the time. The Dallas doctors spent twenty minutes laboring in vain to save the President's life. The President's wounds were covered with blood. They never turned JFK over. Consequently, some of their initial descriptions of the wounds differed from the official determina- tion of the autopsy. However, upon review most of the Dallas doctors agree with the findings of the autopsy. 9.3.2 JFK's body was altered before the autopsy. False. There was no period of time when the body was left alone to al- low such alteration to occur, even if we made the leap in believing such a thing was possible. 9.3.3 The original autopsy notes were destroyed. True. After the autopsist, Navy Commander Humes, transcribed his notes, he burned the originals. He testified this was because he had once seen an exhibit of the apparently blood-stained chair Lincoln was sitting in when shot. Not wanting to leave a similarly gruesome souve- nir, he burned his blood-stained notes. 9.3.4 JFK's back wound was only an inch deep. Yes and no. The wound could only be probed a small distance with the finger. However, this is not evidence of a shallow shot. A bullet through flesh doesn't leave a clear path like a bullet through firmer material would. When the body is moved, muscle mass shifts to obscure the bul- let track. Furthermore, a round from a high-powered rifle would not penetrate an inch through flesh and stop, and it would make little sense for assassins to shoot at the president with a non-lethal weapon. JFK's chest could have been sectioned to reveal the complete path of the bullet, however the Kennedy family opposed it. Not only were they rushing the autopsy, but JFK was the victim of Addison's disease, a malfunction of the adrenal gland. Prior to an experimental treatment developed in the fifties, it was a life-threatening condition. JFK had been saved by the treatment, but he denied any health problems during the 1960 election to prevent voter apprehension. The Kennedy family had wanted to conceal this deceit. 9.3.5 JFK's back wound was below his throat wound. False. At first thought, it would seem that a wound at the top back/low- er neck would be below a wound at the bottom of the throat, indicating that a downward shot from the front made both wounds. However, this is easily disproved by placing fingers in each location--the bottom of the throat will be clearly seen to be the lower point. The effect is even more pronounced for JFK, who had unusually well-developed shoul- ders. 9.3.6 The autopsists had no experience with gunshot wounds. False. Though not forensic pathologists, autopsists Humes and Boswell both had prior experience with gunshot wounds. At the time, the impor- tance of employing a forensic rather than a general pathologist was not properly understood, hence overlooked. The autopsy did achieve its primary purpose--to determine the cause of death--but at the expense of unneeded controversy. 9.4 Dealey Plaza and Dallas 9.4.1 JFK's parade route was changed to go past the TSBD. False. However, in one edition one of the Dallas papers printed an in- correct map that showed the route going straight through Dealey Plaza rather than going around the side. The straight-through route does not allow access to the freeway. 9.4.2 JFK's body was illegally taken from Texas. True, strictly speaking. In 1963, killing the President was not a Federal offense. Thus the proper jurisdiction for the autopsy, crime investiga- tion and prosecution was the State of Texas. Though there's no real pre- cedent for the crisis, JFK's representatives violated the law by taking the body back to Washington. However, this particular legality would have been an insignificant consideration to people perhaps in fear that some cataclysmic political event was underway. Additionally, a sinister interpretation of the act would implicate many of JFK's key aides in the alleged conspiracy. 9.4.3 Three tramps arrested near Dealey Plaza were CIA agents. False. There were three tramps arrested in a box car near the plaza about an hour after the assassination. Their arrests raised eventual sus- picions on three fronts: 1) They were clean-shaven with fresh haircuts and new shoes. This was because they had spent the previous night in a charity home and had received the grooming and shoes. 2) There were no arrest records for the tramps. This is false. The Dallas Police Depart- ment turned over the records in response to press queries in 1992. Two of the three tramps were located in other parts of the country. The third is presumed dead. 3) Two of the tramps bore striking resemblances to Watergate burglars and former CIA employees, E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis. This is false. The Rockefeller Commission studied the photographs of the tramp's arrest. The two alleged to resemble the Wa- tergate figures are the wrong height (which can be determined accurate- ly from photos). 9.4.4 A Dealey Plaza spectator faked an epileptic seizure. False. There was a man who had an epileptic seizure on Dealey Plaza about fifteen minutes before the President's motorcade came through. Conspiracy theorists have speculated that he created a diversion while assassins took their place. The man was taken to Parkland Hospital and treated. In the commotion that attended the arrival of the wounded JFK, the man left the hospital. He was later identified and he was in fact an epileptic. 9.5 Ruby 9.5.1 Ruby was seen near the GK with a rifle. A witness (Julie Ann Mercer) reported having seen on the morning of the assassination a truck parked on the curb in front of the GK, with a driver resembling Jack Ruby. The hood on the truck was up and work- men took toolboxes from the rear, suggesting the vehicle was disabled. Three policemen stood nearby. Mercer said one of the boxes "appeared to be a gun case." This was one of a large number of ominous sightings reported to the authorities after the assassination. 9.5.2 Ruby and Oswald were gay lovers. False. There is no evidence that Oswald was gay. Ruby has been ru- mored to have been gay simply because he was middle-aged and never married. More to the point, there is no credible evidence of acquain- tance between the two men. 9.6 The Tippit Murder 9.6.1 Officer Tippit's killer was unidentified. False. Twelve witnesses positively identified Oswald as the man they saw either shooting Tippit or fleeing the scene. 9.6.2 Oswald's pistol was not linked to the crime. False. However, a ballistic match of the bullets in Tippit's body to Os- wald's pistol was difficult because the bullets were under-sized for the barrel leaving them with few of the microscopic markings that are used for identification. One bullet was matched, though. Additionally, the four shell casings found at the crime scene were matched to Oswald's pistol by firing pin impressions. 9.6.3 Two individuals participated in the Tippit murder. False. All of the contemporaneous witnesses saw only one man, Os- wald, shooting Tippit or fleeing the scene. However, a year after the as- sassination, a woman told author Mark Lane she had seen two men kill Tippit. 9.7 The Warren Commission 9.7.1 The WC was a prosecution. False. The WC was a fact-finding body, pure and simple. They found ample evidence to support Oswald's guilt and no evidence of any con- spiracy. Their findings reflect this. 9.7.2 The WC findings have been discredited. The WC has been criticized on a number of grounds, not always fairly. There is no evidence they did less than an honest job. They were rushed, however, since LBJ wanted no lingering doubts hanging over the 1964 election. Perhaps Chief Justice Warren should have insisted on taking more time. Perhaps he should have released a preliminary re- port and continued to work through the investigation. Because of the time and the daunting task, the WC elected to employ the FBI's investi- gative resources rather than establish their own, giving doubters the op- portunity to claim the WC's work was controlled from without. But despite these and other problems, the essence of the WC's findings-- that Oswald acting alone killed JFK--though frequently questioned, have suffered no serious challenges. Indeed, further examination has strengthened the findings. 9.7.3 Supporters of the WC are dupes or CIA agents. Very few people have objectively examined both sides of the assassina- tion debate. Most aficionados have garnered their evidence and beliefs from the conspiracy books which, in the main, employ shoddy journal- istic techniques and faulty logic to make their case. But these books do generate powerful emotional responses in their readers to the idea of conspiracy. They encourage readers to abandon the responsible disci- pline of examining all sides of an issue before taking a stand. Thus con- spiracy belief quickly leaves the realm of historical analysis and enters a netherworld of bizarre ideology in which left and right wings join to- gether in fear of invisible forces that control society through secret murders. On the other hand, people who withhold judgment before see- ing the full story find that there is more than enough evidence to con- vict Oswald and no genuine evidence of conspirators. Dissenters are invited to present a coherent theory of the conspiracy using all the evi- dence they accept. It has never been done. 9.7.4 The WC records are sealed for 75 years. This was initially true, but it is not unusual for historical materials to be classified until such time as most of the principals will be presumed dead. Even then, the government may dawdle in releasing documents since the process tends to be labor-intensive and of low priority. For in- stance, many papers pertaining to WWI have still not been made avail- able to historians. Despite the policy, now all but a very few WC records have been released. 9.8 Was there a cover-up? 9.8.1 Why has information been classified by the government? It depends on the information. Investigative records are often kept se- cret for fairly mundane reasons. Witnesses may be promised secrecy in return for their cooperation; false leads must be kept secret to protect falsely accused persons; and sometimes secrecy must be employed to conceal informants or other methods of gathering information. Os- wald's tax returns were kept secret simply because there was no law that authorized the IRS to release them. The CIA and FBI are often pre- sumed to be secretive for its own sake. 9.8.2 The media has helped cover-up a conspiracy. The media should not be considered as a single entity. It's a vast indus- try made up of many organizations with a variety of aims. While its true that major national news organizations do tend to base a lot of their government reporting on government sources, it's not realistic to be- lieve that a sensational story like the killing of the president by conspir- acy would be ignored, deliberately or otherwise. There are too many reporters who would jump at the chance for the fame and fortune re- porting such a story would bring. 9.8.3 The FBI engaged in a cover-up. True. Because of his past, Oswald was under surveillance by the FBI. When Oswald moved to Dallas in 1963, James Hosty of the FBI tried unsuccessfully to contact him. Feeling harassed, Oswald left a threaten- ing note with Hosty's secretary. Oswald, as a suspected subversive, should have been under close scrutiny by the FBI when the President visited Dallas. At the time, Hosty and his boss destroyed Oswald's note and agreed to remain silent. 9.8.4 JFK's brain is missing. True. The brain (what remained of it), slides, X-rays, photographs, and other medical materials were in the possession of the Kennedy family after the autopsy. In 1968, congressional legislation mandated that these materials be turned over to the National Archives; but the brain and a few other items were not among the returned materials. It is pre- sumed that Bobby Kennedy disposed of the brain to avoid it becoming an object of public curiosity. 9.8.5 Many witnesses to the assassination have died mysteriously. Not really true. Over 25,000 persons were interviewed by the FBI in the course of their investigation. Some of these people died from vari- ous causes--illness, suicide, auto accidents, etc.--in the few years fol- lowing the assassination. However, the number of deaths have not been shown to exhibit any statistically significant difference from the num- ber of deaths that would occur in a randomly chosen group of 25,000. Furthermore, few of the deaths are actually mysterious, there is no pat- tern of foul play, and the people who have died are much less signifi- cant as witnesses than many who have lived. 9.8.6 Dan Rather misrepresented the Zapruder film on television. True. At that time, Rather was CBS's field correspondent in Dallas. He viewed the Z-film once in a lawyer's office where the sale of the film was being negotiated. Rather rushed back to the television studio and described the film as showing that JFK fell forward from the fatal head shot when actually he fell backwards. 9.8.7 News of Oswald's guilt predated his arrest. False. This rumor was started by conspiracy author, L. Fletcher Prouty, who claims to have seen a paper in New Zealand with an Oswald photo and story that couldn't have been available so soon after the assassina- tion. In reality, archival background information on Oswald was avail- able from the times he defected and returned to the US. There was no technical prohibition in transmitting this information quickly in 1963. Furthermore, there are no accounts from other countries that could es- tablish some pattern of premature dissemination of the story. 9.9 The Garrison Affair 9.9.1 Clay Shaw was a CIA agent False. Shaw was never an agent of the CIA. However, he reported to the CIA's Domestic Contacts Division on numerous occasions. Appar- ently, this is not unusual for businessmen who work abroad. 9.9.2 Oswald knew David Ferrie. As a teenager in 1955, Oswald briefly joined the Civil Air Patrol youth group while Ferrie was its leader. There is a photograph showing the two at the same picnic, but no other evidence of association. 9.9.3 Garrison was connected to the mob. As District Attorney of New Orleans, Garrison referred to well-known Mafia chieftain Carlos Marcello as a "tomato salesman" and steadfastly denied the existence of organized crime in New Orleans. This demon- strates, at a minimum, tolerance on Garrison's part for the mob, though there's no evidence he conducted his JFK probe at their behest. 9.10 Miscellaneous 9.10.1 The assassination was predicted. Rose Cheramie, a heroin addict and prostitute, was in the hospital at the time of the assassination. She claimed that she had been pushed out of a car by two men who had confided that they were going to Dallas to as- sassinate JFK. However, these claims were made after the assassina- tion. Joseph Milteer was a right-wing figure in Miami who was heard on a wiretap predicting that JFK would be shot in Miami. He also made oth- er crackpot remarks about there being fifteen JFK doubles traveling with JFK, and that the right wing had manipulated Oswald into killing JFK to discredit communists. 9.10.2 JFK was killed for opposing the Vietnam war. False. There is no chain of connections that link U.S. foreign policy with the lone assassin, LHO. During JFK's presidency, American military advisors to the South Viet- namese government mushroomed from a few hundred to sixteen thou- sand. A month before JFK's death, optimistic (and unrealistic) reports regarding the South Vietnamese political situation caused JFK to order a thousand advisors withdrawn. After the assassination, President Johnson cancelled the order. These facts have led some to conclude that JFK had begun a complete withdrawal from Vietnam and that, concom- itantly, his death allowed the Vietnam war to occur with Johnson's blessing. We can never know for sure, but since Johnson kept many of JFK's advisors and continued many of his policies, it's entirely possible the war would have occurred had JFK lived. It has been further suggested that political forces actually wanted the war to occur, to be a boon to defense industries. This conclusion is ob- tained by working backwards from the fact that large amounts of mate- rial were lost during the lengthy conflict. In reality, the tactical defect in American policy was the failure to recognize that political tensions with the Soviet Union would inhibit fighting an all-out war. Policymak- ers actually thought American might would resolve the war in short or- der. No one expected it to become the longest war in U.S. history. 9.10.3 Most Americans believe there was a conspiracy. True. Public opinion polls taken since the assassination consistently show that a majority believe JFK was killed as a result of a conspiracy, with results as high as 85%. This makes it clear the WC failed in its mission to resolve questions about the assassination to the satisfaction of the public. However, relatively few people have studied all sides of the controversy in depth, and the polls have no mechanism for dis- counting the effect of the vast quantity of erroneous information dis- seminated by the publishing and broadcast media. 9.10.4 The D.C. phone system shut down after the assassination. True. The system was so flooded with calls after the assassination that it was disabled for a couple of hours. Since the phone system is a finite resource, this phenomenon still occurs, typically after natural disasters. 9.10.5 The Mafia had JFK killed. The only known potential connection between Oswald and organized crime was Oswald's New Orleans uncle, Dutz Murret. However, Os- wald wasn't close to his uncle and there's no evidence of Oswald work- ing for the mob. There have been numerous theories suggesting a Mafia connection, but they all hinge on plausible motive, not direct evidence. JFK's Attorney General, RFK, angered the mob with a vigorous campaign of investiga- tion and prosecution. It has been suggested that JFK was therefore killed to eliminate RFK's harassment. We can surmise that the mob ap- preciates these rumors since it makes them appear dangerous and pow- erful. 9.10.6 RFK promised to reopen the investigation. False. At a speech at a California college, during his presidential cam- paign, Robert Kennedy was asked whether he would reopen the WC ar- chives. Kennedy said, "I stand by the Warren Commission." 10. WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT? The assassination controversy is huge and rages on into its fourth de- cade. Most people find the assassination suspicious--which indeed it was, by any measure. Most people are introduced to the topic through conspiracy books and become convinced of the certainty of conspiracy without considering both sides of the issue. The quest to discover a conspiracy can be interesting, though, leading one into the study of bal- listics, forensics, law, Cold War history, American government, orga- nized crime, and a host of other areas. But the quest is ultimately frustrating for, in fact, no substantial evidence of conspiracy has sur- faced, only a collection of tantalizingly suspicious circumstances with no obvious theory to organize them into a plausible story. When all is said and done, when all the anecdotes that have no provable connection to the assassination are stripped away, all that is left is a very simple event. A malcontent--for reasons that died with him--took a gun into work and shot the President of the United States out the window. Once the veils of distraction are lifted from the case, that simple crime is all there now is and probably all there ever will be. --- THE END ---