Friday, June 29, 2007

Italian experts test JFK assassination gun


Italian weapons experts say tests on the type of rifle used to kill U.S. President John F. Kennedy show assassin Lee Harvey Oswald could not have acted alone. The Warren Commission report concluded that Oswald fired three shots with a Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle in 7 seconds to kill Kennedy in Dallas in 1963. However, tests supervised by the Italian Army showed it would take 19 seconds to get off three shots with that type of gun, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The tests were done in a former Carcano factory in Terni.

In one test, a bullet was fired through two large pieces of meat to simulate the assumed path of a shot that the Warren Commission concluded struck Texas Gov. John Connally after passing through Kennedy's body. In the test, the bullet ended deformed, while the bullet in the Kennedy assassination remained intact.

Conspiracy theories about the assassination have been circulating for more than four decades.

* * * *

My Two Cents: Holy cow! Is it any wonder that conspiracy theories continue to swirl after more than 44 years with fodder like this spreading around the globe?

First, the Warren Commission deemed that Kennedy and Connally were struck by two bullets fired between Z210 (at the earliest) and Z313 - that's a period of 5.6 seconds for those keeping track. [WR105-110] The Commission also concluded that the "preponderance of evidence, in particular the three spent cartridges" indicated that a total of three shots were fired - two hits and one miss. Of the shot that missed, the Commission wrote that "The evidence is inconclusive as to whether it was the first, second, or third shot which missed." [WR111] Depending on which shot missed, Oswald would have had a minimum time of 7.1 to 7.9 seconds to get off three rounds. If Oswald took more than the calculated 2.3 seconds to load each round between shots, the time span for the entire shooting scenario would increase accordingly. [WR117] So, in fact, the Warren Commission's 7.1 second estimate for the entire shooting sequence was a minimum estimate. More important, FBI firearm experts concluded that the minimum firing time between shots using Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano was 2.3 seconds - that's a total minimum firing time for three shots of 4.6 seconds (don't forget, the clock starts running with the firing of the first shot)! The HSCA later determined that the minimum firing time between shots might have been closer to 1.6 seconds had Oswald used the iron sights instead of the scope (no one knows for sure whether he used the scope).

So why did it take the Italian weapon experts nineteen seconds to get off three shots with a Mannlicher-Carcano? The difference between 4.6 seconds and 19 seconds is considerable, no? What in the world took so long? Did they forget to eat their Wheaties? See for yourself. CLICK HERE to view the Italian shooting tests. [Windows Media Player Required]

No one remotely familiar with the operation of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle or who had seen the 1967 CBS-TV shooting reconstruction could possibly take this Italian "reconstruction" seriously. But many who haven't done either will.

And how about that Italian single-bullet reconstruction? How does firing a bullet into two "large pieces of meat" constitute an accurate representation of what happened in Dallas? It doesn't, period. And finally, I hate to be the one to break it to United Press International but the single-bullet (CE399) in the Kennedy assassination did not remain "intact" (i.e., pristine). This is a common myth born from hundreds of conspiracy books and articles.

Is it any wonder that so many people embrace Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories when mis-information like this is spread across the globe by a reputable news organization like UPI? Let me guess - conspiracy buffs will embrace this story as they do anything that remotely supports their position. After all, if it's on TV or in print it must be true, right? DKM


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lincoln and Kennedy: A Tale of Two Assassinations


Immediately after John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy, along with other members of the Kennedy family, decided that the slain president should be viewed, like Abraham Lincoln, as a martyr for civil rights and equal justice for all. The funeral rites for President Kennedy were organized on the model of Lincoln's, provoking continuous pronouncements by journalists and television commentators covering the funeral about the similarities between the two fallen leaders. Russell Baker, covering the mourning ceremonies for the New York Times, wrote that "the analogy to Lincoln's death must have been poignantly apparent to most of those who passed (Kennedy's) flag-draped coffin."

Few called attention to the disquieting fact that President Kennedy had been shot by a communist whose motives were probably linked more closely to the Cold War than to the civil rights struggle. Lee Harvey Oswald, the likely assassin, was no arm-chair or academic communist out to impress relatives or associates with his radical theories, but a dyed-in-the-wool communist who had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and had spent nearly three years there before returning to the United States in 1962 with his Russian wife and infant child. During the months leading up to the assassination he had been active in a front group in New Orleans that defended Castro and attacked U.S. efforts to oust his communist regime in Cuba.

The attempt to portray President Kennedy as a modern-day Lincoln was inspired by the purest of motives but it turned out to have had the most unfortunate consequences for the nation and for the liberal movement that Kennedy represented. Kennedy's assassination, as it happened, was not at all like Lincoln's. The two shattering events had political consequences that were directly opposite of one another: Lincoln's assassination tended to unite the nation around the ideals of union, freedom, and emancipation; Kennedy's assassination divided the nation against itself, sowing endless division, confusion, and controversy that continued for a generation afterwards. Much of this was caused by the false portrayal of President Kennedy as a martyr for civil rights.

The historian Merrill Peterson remarked, in his fine book on Lincoln in American Memory (Oxford University Press, 1994), that "the public remembrance of the concerned less with establishing its truth than with appropriating it for the present." The man or woman on the street does not look back on history or on historical figures with the historian's concern with evidence and objective assessment. The memory of Lincoln was refracted through the lenses of his assassination and the final victory of the Union army. These events turned the politician who eight months earlier was certain that he would lose his bid for re-election into a martyr for the Union. Lincoln was the final casualty of the war and in that sense a symbol for everything it represented.

In a parallel way, Kennedy, after his sudden death and solemn funeral, was turned into something different in public memory from how he was understood in life. Like Lincoln, Kennedy too was viewed as a martyr, but in devotion to a most ambiguous cause. Here was a source of much bewilderment about the man and the event. What exactly did John F. Kennedy stand for? What was the link between the assassination and the ideals he stood for? The great difference between Lincoln and Kennedy is that the former died at his moment of victory while the latter was killed before he was able to achieve any great success. Lincoln was assassinated at the end of a Civil War, Kennedy at the beginning of a long-running cultural war. Lincoln was mourned but also celebrated for his magnificent achievement; Kennedy was mourned in a spirit of frustrated possibility and dashed hopes. This spirit, as things turned out, infected the liberal movement in America, and cast a pall over the nation in general in the tumultuous years that followed.

Lincoln was assassinated by the itinerant actor and southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, Good Friday on the Christian calendar, while he and Mrs. Lincoln were watching a play from the presidential box at Ford's Theater. Booth was immediately recognized by veteran theater-goers as he leaped from the box down to the stage, shouting Sic Semper Tyrannis ("Thus always to tyrants."), the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia and an exclamation attributed to Brutus after the assassination of Caesar. Booth did not view his deed as the killing of a republican leader but rather as an act of revenge against a tyrant, one of the great themes of classical drama in which he was well versed. In keeping with that theme, Booth had hoped to shoot Lincoln the day before, on April 13, the monthly day of reckoning (the "Ides") in the Roman calendar, but a change of schedule on Lincoln's part aborted those plans. Booth regained his opportunity the next day when he learned, quite by accident, that Lincoln planned to attend that evening's performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater. Thus, as Michael W. Kaufman wrote in his study of the assassin (American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies, Random House, 2004), "Booth had hoped to kill Lincoln on the Ides and highlight his resemblance to Caesar; but instead he shot him on Good Friday and the world compared him to Christ."

Lincoln's assassination occurred just five days after the Civil War had ended with Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox. When news of Lincoln's death spread, victory celebrations across the North were replaced by rituals of grief and mourning. "The Songs of Victory Drowned in Sorrow," ran a headline in the New York Times.

One immediate reaction (also an enduring one) was to view Lincoln as a martyr for Union and freedom. The fact that he was killed on Good Friday magnified the image and brought forth obvious comparisons between the slain president and Jesus Christ. As one correspondent wrote, "The two events have been providentially associated and henceforth no human power can disassociate them." The Sunday following the assassination was known as "Black Easter" across the North. Ministers preached sermons in churches draped in black praising Lincoln and trying to find meaning in his death. "Lincoln as martyr" was the common theme. "Yes, it was meet that the martyrdom should occur on Good Friday," said a minister in Hartford. "It is no blasphemy against the Son of God and the Savior of men that we declare the fitness of the slaying of the Second Father of our Republic on the anniversary of the day on which He was slain. Jesus Christ died for the world. Abraham Lincoln died for his country." When Lincoln was not being compared to Jesus Christ, he was compared to Moses, who led his people through hardship to the Promised Land, but then could not enter.

A second response to the assassination was to blame the South and its sympathizers for the criminal deed. No one doubted that a rebel or a group of rebels was responsible for the crime. The assassination fit perfectly within the moral framework of the war according to which the slave owners were to blame for the violence and death that had torn apart the nation. The morning after the assassination, the New York Times ran a headline saying the murder was "The Act of a Desperate Southerner" even before the editors even knew that Booth had been identified as the assassin. Many were convinced that Booth was at the head of a broader conspiracy that had been hatched by the leaders of the Confederacy. Henry Ward Beecher, speaking from his pulpit in Brooklyn, said that Booth "was himself but the long sting with which slavery struck at liberty... Never while time lasts will it be forgotten that slavery, by its minions, slew him and in slaying him, made manifest is whole nature and tendency." Many called for vengeance and harsh measures against the rebels, thereby undermining Lincoln's hopes for reconciliation between the sections.

Edwin Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary of War, organized the funeral rites in order both to demonstrate what the nation had lost when Lincoln was killed but also what acts of perfidy the slave owners were capable of committing. Lincoln's flag-draped coffin was borne slowly westward from Washington to Springfield where he was finally buried on May 4, three weeks after he was shot in Ford's theater. Along the way Lincoln's open casket was made available for public viewing in eleven different cities, including Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York, Albany, Buffalo, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Chicago, where it was viewed by more than one and a half million Americans. Lincoln's hearse or coffin had been looked upon by at lease seven million mourners, counting those gathered in parades and city streets or alongside railroad tracks, a number representing more than a third of the population of the entire North.

Lincoln had turned out to be the "redeemer president" that the poet Walt Whitman had written about years earlier - a rough-hewn leader out of the West who had the strength to purge national politics of its petty corruptions. Whitman saw that Lincoln, by his life and death, had given the Union a strength and solidity it had previously lacked:

"The final use of the greatest men of a Nation," he wrote in 1879, "is not in reference to their deeds in themselves, or their direct bearing on their times or lands. The final use of a heroic-eminent life - especially a heroic-eminent death - is its indirect filtering into the nation and the race, and to give, often at many removes, but unerringly age after age, color and fiber to the personalism of the youth and maturity of that age and of mankind.
Then there is a cement to the whole people, subtler, more underlying than anything written in the constitution, or courts or armies - namely the cement of a death identified thoroughly with that people, at its head, and for its sake. Strange (is it not?) that battles, martyrs, agonies, blood, even assassination, should so condense a nationality?"

There was little doubt that Booth had acted to avenge the South and as a last-ditch attempt to save the Confederacy from final defeat. In the end, Booth achieved far less than he intended. Few saw him as a hero; his deed was repudiated in the South; Lincoln's death united the North; no one (after the assassination) voiced agreement with his portrait of Lincoln as a tyrant; indeed, Lincoln was immediately held up as a symbol of liberty and savior of the Union.

We can only imagine what cultural confusion would have been visited upon the supporters of Lincoln and the Union if, instead of being killed as we was by a conspiracy of Southern partisans, Lincoln had been assassinated by an abolitionist. Such an act would have been nearly impossible for northerners to assimilate within the moral framework of the Civil War era. For one thing, it would have rendered somewhat illogical the assertions of martyrdom on behalf of the slain president. The Christian ministers who portrayed Lincoln as a martyr would have had to wrestle with the discordant reality of his death. On the other hand, the rebels who had brought about the war by trying to break up the Union would have to be held blameless in Lincoln's death. In such a case, the outpouring of grief following Lincoln's assassination would have been mixed with confusion as to the moral meaning of the event. The anger across the North that was in fact directed against the South would in this case have had no rational outlet in relation to the great conflict that had just been waged.

Something bizarrely similar to this happened with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which is one reason why the aftermath of that event was so confusing to Americans - and especially to liberal Americans, who were convinced in the aftermath of McCarthy period that the gravest threats to the Republic came, not from communists, but from the radical right at home in the form of racial bigots, anti-communists, and fundamentalist preachers. That a beloved president had been killed by a communist proved a most difficult reality to absorb and assimilate for those shaped by the assumptions of post-war liberalism. It made far more sense to believe that he was a victim of bigotry and intolerance; indeed, the thought that JFK was a martyr for civil rights seemed to require that his assassin was linked to the far right or was motivated by hostility to civil rights. It was but a short step from here to the conviction that, notwithstanding the plain facts, Kennedy's assassination was really engineered by some kind of right wing conspiracy.

The idea that Kennedy was in some way a victim of the radical right surfaced on the day after the assassination in an influential article by James Reston that appeared in the New York Times

The New York Times was not alone in setting forth this interpretation of Kennedy's interpretation; or, perhaps as in other situations, it was influential in establishing a framework within which others began to interpret the event. Earl Warren, chief justice of the Supreme Court, observed in a statement on the afternoon of the assassination that, "A great and good president has suffered martyrdom as a result of the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots." In a eulogy for President Kennedy delivered at the Capitol two days later (on invitation from Mrs. Kennedy), Warren said that "such acts are commonly stimulated by forces of hatred and violence as today are eating their way into the bloodstream of American life." Warren went on to denounce "the hatred that consumes people, the false accusations that divide us, and the bitterness that begets violence." He made no mention of communism or of left wing doctrines that might have motivated the assassin.

Senator Mike Mansfield, Democrat from Montana and majority leader of the Senate, delivered another eulogy the same day making a nearly identical point: "He (President Kennedy) gave us his love that we, too, in turn, might give. He gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down." One might have wondered what connection Mansfield's words had to the facts of the assassination. Oswald, so far as anyone knew, was not a bigot at all but something quite the opposite. Like many communists, Oswald saw the unjust treatment of Negroes in the United States as a further indictment of the nation and its institutions. Mansfield, however, like Reston and Chief Justice Warren, was interested in crafting a comfortable interpretation of the event, not in wrestling with the discordant facts of Kennedy's death.

President Lyndon Johnson, in a message to Congress tow days after Kennedy's funeral, announced that "No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought so long." The next day, in a Thanksgiving Day message to the nation, Johnson advanced this theme further and perhaps finally established it as the official interpretation of the assassination. He reflected on the tragedy wile praying that profound lessons might be drawn from it: "Let us pray," he said, "for His divine wisdom in banishing from our land any injustice or intolerance or oppression to any of our fellow Americans, whatever their opinion, whatever the color of their skins, for God made all of us in His image." He continued: "It is this work that I most want to do -to banish rancor from our words and malice from our hearts, to close down the poison springs of hatred and intolerance and fanaticism.' Like other national leaders, Johnson suggested that Kennedy's death was a consequence of hatred, bigotry, and intolerance that had seeped into the nation's culture.

The cultural and political understanding of the assassination had become detached from the details of the event itself. It appeared that the liberal leadership of the country - the New York Times, James Reston, Earl Warren, Mike Mansfield, President Johnson, religious leaders, even Mrs. Kennedy - had come together to blame the assassination of the president on hatred and intolerance which (they said) had engulfed the country. It was but a short step from here to the conclusion that the nation itself had to bear the guilt for Kennedy's death.

Taylor Branch, in his history of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, described Kennedy's surprising legacy as it was crafted from the public ceremonies surrounding his death:

"In death the late president gained credit for much of the purpose that King's movement had forced upon him in life. No death had ever been like his - Niebuhr called him an elected monarch. In a mass purgative of hatred, bigotry, and violence, the martyred president became a symbol of the healing opposites. President Johnson told the nation that the most fitting eulogy would be swift passage of his civil rights bill. By this and other effects of mourning, Kennedy acquired the Lincolnesque mantle of a unifying crusader who had bled against the thorn of race."

Branch seemed to understand that the anomalous facts surrounding Kennedy's death had been redirected by the culture along more familiar and established paths. There was an irony in this for Kennedy had come slowly to the support of the movement King led. It was not even the case that the slain president "had bled against the thorn of race." Yet this is what was believed, and this surprising response to the assassination had profound consequences. Branch went on to observe that "The reaction to Kennedy's assassination pushed deep enough and wide enough in the high ground of political emotion to allow the civil rights movement to institutionalize its major gains before receding." Kennedy had indeed come to be seen as a martyr for civil rights and the heir to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln.

A week after President Kennedy was assassinated, Reston wrote in the New York Times (in an article titled, "A Time to Heal") that, "The death of President Kennedy and the shock of brutality that caused his death have changed the direction of American politics from extreme conflict toward moderation." It would be hard to find a well-intentioned political prediction that turned out to be more profoundly mistaken. Kennedy's death led almost immediately to a period intensifying political conflict that originated in attacks from the far left against liberals and moderates. Some of these attacks originated in differences in policy, as in protests against the war in Vietnam; others were cultural in character, as in attacks on American capitalism, on greed and selfishness, on the boredom of suburban life, on racism and sexism, and so on. In the wake of Kennedy's assassination, liberal leaders pointed the finger of blame against the far right. Within a few short years, they were themselves under attack from the far left with a level of vitriol and violence that far overshadowed anything the far right had ever been able to muster.

Lincoln had said that the Civil War was divine punishment for the sin of slavery; now, in the late 1960s, liberals and leftists began to say that violence and civil disorder were deserved punishments for the sins of racism, militarism, imperialism, and anti-communism. The idea of national guilt, which first surfaced in more innocent form following Kennedy's assassination, quickly spread through the institutions of politics, academe, and journalism that shaped liberal culture. The reformist emphasis of American liberalism which up to that time had been pragmatic, optimistic, and forward looking was overtaken by a spirit of national self-condemnation. Thus, in a few years from 1963 to 1968, the liberal movement in the United States absorbed a disposition that was increasingly pessimistic about the future and skeptical about American institutions and the nation's role in the world.

There is little doubt that the animus that pushed many Americans on the left onto this path had its origins in the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination. Once having accepted the claim that Kennedy was a victim of the national culture, many found it all to easy to extend the metaphor into other areas of life, from race and poverty to the treatment of women to the struggle against communism. These were no longer seen as challenges to be overcome but as indictments of the nation. Unlike Lincoln's assassination, which united the nation, Kennedy's assassination turned the nation against itself.

The intense radicalism of the 1960s, mixed as it was with anti-American ism and romantic conceptions of socialism and third-world dictators like Castro, might never have developed as it did if blame for Kennedy's assassination had been properly assigned to a communist acting out of ideological motives. The conspiracy theories about Kennedy's death that developed later arose out of precisely this kind of confusion about the meaning of Kennedy's death. It was as plain then as it is now that Oswald shot President Kennedy and that in doing so he probably acted alone. He acted on the basis of motives that were linked closely to the Cold War: he shot President Kennedy in order to disrupt his administration's efforts to assassinate Castro and to oust his communist government in Cuba. He was prepared to be captured or killed in this venture - as indeed he was. It was wrong for national leaders at the time to blame the far right or the nation at large for Kennedy's death. In twisting the truth, they laid the groundwork for decades of mistrust and division that followed from Kennedy's untimely and unfortunate death.
under the title, "Why America Weeps: Kennedy Victim of a Violent Streak He Sought to Curb in Nation." Reston wrote that, "America wept tonight, not alone for its dead young president, but for itself. The grief was general, for somehow the worst in the nation had prevailed over the best. The indictment extended beyond the assassin, for something in the nation itself, some strain of madness and violence, had destroyed the highest symbol of law and order." Reston, among the nation's most distinguished political reporters, was searching for an explanation that went beyond the identity of the actual assassin. "The irony of the president's death," he continued, "is that his short administration was devoted almost entirely to various attempts to curb this very streak of violence in the American character. When historians get around to assessing his three years in office, it is very likely that they will be impressed with just this: his efforts to restrain those who wanted to be more violent in the cold war overseas and those who wanted to be more violent in the racial war at home." Reston went on to observe that "from the beginning to the end of his administration, he was trying to tamp down the violence of the extremists from the right." The fact that the assassin was actually a communist did not influence Reston's judgments as to who was ultimately responsible for the crime, even though an extensive report on Oswald and his communist activities appeared that very day in Reston's own newspaper adjacent to his article.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The CIA “Family Jewels” Released (Almost)


For those of us who might be called “intel wonks,” one of the most sought after CIA files was finally released today, after thirty-four years of insider speculation and waiting. (See and follow the “Family Jewels” links).

The 702-page “Family Jewels” document, commissioned in 1973 by then-CIA director James R. Schlesinger, details the most sordid aspects of the CIA’s history, with special emphasis on operations that were in seeming violation of the National Security Act of 1947, the legislation that established the Agency.

As expected, there is little new here -- most of the critical details (assassination plots against foreign leaders, domestic spying on journalists and dissidents, the Yuri Nosenko affair, etc.) have leaked out piecemeal over the years.

What actually jumped out at this writer was the cover letter by Howard Osborne, the CIA’s former Director of Security and author of the compilation. Osborne’s memo serves as an introduction and brief description of the episodes he catalogued in the remaining 701 pages. Osborne’s bullet-point list, which notes the aforementioned topics, is almost all-inclusive, but what struck me is the fact that, of the eight topics listed in numerical order, seven are described, but one is completely redacted. And not just any one, but the very first one! The pages that refer to this topic are also completely white.

It is a typical CIA release blunder, and one that is certain to invite conspiracy theorists to fill in the blank. Here is my list of what the various conspirati might nominate for the missing top spot:

• The JFK Assassination Plan – detailing how the agency coordinated the faking of the Zapruder Film, JFK’s body alterations and switching, the planting of Oswald’s rifle, the forging of the “backyard photos,” the identities of the Umbrella Man, the Black Dog Man, Badge Man, and the Tramps; the planting of the Magic Bullet, the payoffs to the Parkland and Bethesda doctors, the true location of JFK’s brain, the retirement package arranged for Arlen Spector, the designing of a protective vest for LBJ so he wouldn’t be killed accidentally, etc.

• The CIA’s employment file on Lee Harvey Oswald (feel free to substitute Clay Shaw, Sirhan Sirhan, Timothy McVeigh, or the 9/11 hijackers).

• The full autopsy reports for the aliens who crashed at Roswell in 1947.

• Map to the location of the Ark of the Covenant, with a listing of its contents.

• List of over two-dozen secret airfields used by the CIA to import cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy, and crystal meth.

• Various Photos: “Bubbles,” the first chimp to be successfully infected with the CIA’s newest weapon, HIV; an actual “smoking gun;” LBJ, Oswald, and E. Howard Hunt sharing a table at Jack Ruby’s Carousel Club; National Intelligence Medal presented posthumously to “Lee H. Oswald, Agent.”

• Infiltration of Hollywood Operation; reports filed by agents Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and Mary Hart (who is actually a cutting edge robot).

I intend on filing a Freedom of Information request immediately for the missing bullet-point. However, I doubt these spooks will ever respond. And even if they did, it would just be another cover story.


Monday, June 25, 2007

RADIO: Bugliosi on WOR/710 AM, New York City


Here are the links to an excellent and extensive two-part interview with legendary prosecutor and best selling author Vincent Bugliosi in which he discusses his new book, "Reclaiming History: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy," broadcast on Friday, June 22, 2007.

BUGLIOSI on WOR Radio - PT.1
BUGLIOSI on WOR Radio - PT.2


Max Holland's 11 Seconds in Dallas


In a February, 2007, Internet article entitled "1963: 11 Seconds in Dallas", author Max Holland ("The Kennedy Assassination Tapes") and Johann W. Rush detailed their theory that Oswald fired his first shot several seconds before Abraham Zapruder began filming the Kennedy limousine, and consequently, Zapruder's infamous film did not capture the entire shooting sequence as previously accepted. Their theory subsequently received considerable attention around the world.

Despite the publicity by the less-than-knowledgeable media, the "facts" used by Holland and Rush to support their thesis were shown to be false and misleading the instant their article was announce on the Internet. Since then, Holland and Rush have dug in, defending the indefensible, and ignoring the obvious in what surely must be the most blatant example of poor journalism and appalling distortion in the Kennedy assassination in recent memory. You be the judge.

The day after the Holland-Rush article was published, Gary Mack, curator of The Sixth Floor Museum, assailed their effort in an email message, writing,

"Good heavens! Did anyone review this before publication? I'm afraid you guys are going to get hammered over your Zapruder film theory.

"Your selective exclusion of contrary witnesses and photo evidence has led to major errors with regard to a first shot possibly coming several seconds before Z133.

"One of the best witnesses is photographer Tina Towner. Tina has always been specific that the first shot came just a second or two AFTER she stopped filming; she actually stopped only a second or two before Z133. Your hypotheses, that the first shot came while the limo was in the middle of the first pair of road stripes (or earlier), requires the first shot to have been fired one or two seconds BEFORE Towner stopped filming. That just can't be true. Take a look at the full frame Towner film we used in the Discovery Channel show "Death In Dealey Plaza" and watch for the road stripes. Towner could not possibly have been confused about when the first shot was fired in relation to when her film ended.

"Other evidence is even more powerful. A recorded interview with DPD Sgt. Jim Chaney the afternoon of the assassination places the first shot at around Z160. Chaney, riding only a few feet to the right rear of the limo, explained that the first shot came as Jackie was "looking to her left." She does that, very briefly, around Z160 (see the Croft #3 photo for reference). That frame happens to fall some two or three seconds after Towner stopped filming.

"So it would seem that your suggestion of the first shot being fired "well before Z133" is ill-founded at best.

"Perhaps you were led astray by "Position A"? Do you not realize that the limo location in Position A bears little resemblance to the route of the limo that day? As is very well established from the full frame (including sprocket hole area) Dorman and Towner films, the limo turned from straddling the yellow line in the middle of Houston Street into the very center of the middle lane on Elm. There was no wide swing into the north lane of Elm..."

Mack's critique is spot on. My analysis of films of the Kennedy motorcade, detailed in the graphic report "Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination" demonstrates that Tina Towner stopped filming just seven-tenths of a second before Zapruder began filming the president's limousine. And Mack is also correct about the presidential limousine never being in the position described as "Position A," [17H880] upon which Holland-Rush seemed to place so much emphasis.

Yet, Holland bristled at the suggestion that "Position A" wasn't important, writing:

"Whether or not the Cadillac is correctly positioned in the photo, the real issue is the description of Position A as defined by Shaneyfelt and Frazier in their testimonies. Moving the Cadillac doesn't change the accuracy of this definition."

Is Max Holland kidding when he writes: "...Moving the Cadillac doesn't change the accuracy of this definition..."??? Of course it matters. If the limousine is positioned incorrectly, then any information gathered from that incorrect positioning is not valid. The 1958 Cadillac used in the FBI re-enactment and photographed in "Position A" does not represent any position that the president's 1961 Lincoln limousine occupied on November 22nd, and therefore cannot be used as a reference for when Oswald first had a clear shot at Kennedy's back. What is so hard to understand?

As you might suspect, Gary Mack’s critique of the Holland-Rush article is only the tip of the iceberg.

Holland and Rush wrote in their article that “...the Zapruder film has always been pored over, as if it were a Rosetta stone, by students of the assassination looking for equally persuasive visual evidence that would reveal the timing of the pesky first shot...”

Too bad Holland and Rush didn’t do the same.

Holland-Rush wrote that those who postulate that the first shot was fired around Z160 were either seduced by Gerald Posner who “...posited that the errant first shot was fired at Z 160...” (actually it was the HSCA’s discredited acoustic evidence that pointed to that frame) or have rested that rationale on “...a common and unexamined premise: that since the second and third shots were captured by the Zapruder film, the first one must have been, too.”

That’s not true at all. Those who have studied the Zapruder film know that the film itself contains the best evidence of a shot fired immediately prior to Z160 as seen in the actions of Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Connally, and Governor Connally. All three react exactly as they testified that they did immediately after the first shot. Their actions, contemporary to the first shot, occur no where else in the film. Assuming a quarter of a second reaction time (a typical human startle response time) puts the first shot about 5 frames before Governor Connally’s reaction beginning at Z162, hence (Z155-157). And yes, we can argue all day long about whether JBC reacted immediately (one-quarter second) or leisurely (2.6 to 3 seconds according to Holland-Rush’s theory). Given JBC’s testimony and experience as a hunter, I’m going with almost immediately.

Instead of examining the Zapruder film, Holland-Rush presented the following as the “...most important and salient facts...” which support their thesis that the first shot was fired before Zapruder began filming (i.e., before Z133):

The ear witnesses were right. “...There was a longer pause between the first and second shots than there was between the second and third shots...” consequently, “...A shot that occurred before Zapruder was filming...would neatly correspond with what so many ear witnesses heard.”

The eyewitnesses were right too. Here, Holland-Rush listed three eyewitnesses (Brennan, Jarman, and Frazier) who testified that the first shot occurred: “...just after the president’s limousine turned left from Houston...”; “...after the president had passed my position...I really couldn’t say how many feet or how far, a short distance I would say...”; “...just right after [the president] went by — he hadn’t hardly got by...”

None of these cherry-picked statements are definitive, are they? If we’re going to be selective about who we cite, how about Bonnie Ray Williams (whom Holland-Rush doesn’t mention) who testified “...After the President’s car had passed my window, the last thing I remember seeing him do was, you know – it seemed to me he had a habit of pushing his hair back. The last thing I saw him do was he pushed his hand up like this. I assumed he was brushing his hair back. And then the thing that happened then was a loud shot...” [3H175] Kennedy does brush his hair back repeatedly (no less than four times in Dealey Plaza as depicted in multiple amateur films) the last time just as Zapruder begins filming at Z133. At that frame, Kennedy’s hand is up brushing his hair back. The limousine’s position at that moment is just passed the window from which Bonnie Ray Williams is viewing the motorcade. If a first shot is fired around Z160, Williams heard the first round go off about 1.5 seconds after JFK brushed back his hair. Coincidence?

Holland-Rush backed up the vague eyewitness accounts by citing the additionally vague testimony of three Secret Service agents (Kinney, Hickey, and Landis): “...As we completed the left turn and on a short distance, there was a shot...”; “...After a very short distance I heard a loud report...”; “...president’s car and the follow-up car had just completed their turns and both were straightening out...At this moment I heard what sounded like the report of a high-powered rifle...”

Holland-Rush’s key eyewitness? T.E. Moore, an eyewitness who told author Larry Sneed 24-years-after-the-fact that “...There was a highway marker sign right in front of the Book Depository, and as the president got around to that, the first shot was fired...” Around to that? What does that mean, exactly?

From this record, Holland-Rush claimed to have solved “two bewildering puzzles that have always defied explanation."

The first one is, why didn’t Oswald shoot before Z150, when the president was a closer target?” Holland-Rush believe Oswald did fire the first shot well before Z133.

That leads to the answer to the second puzzle, “which has been even more exasperating to resolve, is how did Oswald, who would promptly hit President Kennedy in the back at a distance of around 190 feet, and then in the head at a distance of 265 feet, manage to be so inaccurate on the first and closest of his shots?”

Holland-Rush’s answer? Oswald’s first shot hit a traffic light pole which extended out over Elm Street and came between Oswald and the limousine 1.4 seconds before Z133. (I offered the 1.4 second timing during an earlier email exchange with Holland in which Holland insisted that Z133 depicted the limousine next to the first road stripe. It is actually next to the second road stripe. I knew then that whatever Holland was cooking up was in trouble. The 1.4 second timing is based on my synchronization of eight amateur films taken in Dealey Plaza and detailed in my 179 page graphic report, "Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination.")

Holland-Rush uses the fabulously ludicrous “Position A” image (which Gary Mack has already effectively dismissed) to bolster his position. Finally, Holland-Rush wrote that the traffic pole (which is still there) was never checked for a “ding” which could have proven their theory to be true. Case Closed (pardon the pun).

Hold your horses.

Had Holland and Rush bothered to examine the sniper’s nest photographs they would have seen that the answer to the question as to why Oswald didn’t shoot before Z150 (or while the limo was on Houston Street for that matter) is a simple matter of the physical arrangement of the boxes. The distance between the window sill and the first row of boxes is only 20-21 inches wide – too narrow for anyone to position themselves in that row and fire down on Houston Street or on the earliest portion of Elm Street (never mind the fact that Oswald would be exposed in the window to do so) – unless of course, Oswald were standing, not kneeling. To fire the next two shots, Oswald would have to drop into a kneeling position in order to see through the half-open window, re-align the target, and fire – all within a few seconds. Plausible? You be the judge.

More to the point, Holland-Rush’s argument – and many others over the last four decades – seems to assume a key fact in explaining the first missed shot; the first shot must have missed because it deflected off of something (i.e., the traffic light pole, a tree branch, etc.). Why? Why does everyone assume that Oswald’s first shot missed because it hit an intervening object? Isn’t it possible that the first shot missed because Oswald’s aim was poor?

There are a million-and-one reasons why a first shot can be way off target, as any avid hunter will tell you. It may be that Oswald simply fired prematurely (buck fever anyone?) Or perhaps, Oswald intended to wait until the limousine was further down Elm Street to fire the first shot, but when the moment arrived, the target was so deliciously close that Oswald couldn’t resist and changed strategy at the last moment? We know from the physical arrangement of the sniper’s nest that a shot as earlier as Z160 (and certainly earlier) couldn’t be accomplished from the same shooting position as the last two shots. We also know that the first shot was the only left-to-right tracking shot in the entire shooting scenario. This is a key point. A tracking shot is one of the hardest to accomplish and even more difficult considering the cramped, closed quarters that were dictated by the arrangement of the sniper’s nest. Did the butt of the rifle strike the row of boxes behind Oswald as he attempted to track the limousine? Who knows?

Personally, I don’t see a problem with the first shot missing simply because of the difficulty of the shot. No half-baked theories needed.

I’m afraid Holland-Rush’s article added nothing of value to the case and only muddied the waters even further – if that’s possible.

I posted my thoughts, as detailed above, to a private email chain of which Max Holland was a member. Holland immediately responded by questioning whether I was trying to avoid a public debate about the merits of his article by posting my response privately. Uh? The only thing I was trying to avoid was Holland's own public humiliation for writing something under the guise of journalism that was so transparently and pathetically irresponsible.

Do you think Max Holland reviewed his theory of an earlier shot after the thumping he received from two informed quarters? Of course not. Instead he circled the wagons and fired back, writing:

"This current debate is not about which theory fits best with all the facts in evidence, including eyewitness and ear witness testimonies, and extant photographs and home movies, and the possible deflection of the bullet. This is about a deeply vested position, and the fact that Dale Myers did not think outside the box, and consider, evidently, the possibility that the first shot occurred before Zapruder re-started filming."

What nonsense. Of course, I considered the possibility that the first shot was fired before Zapruder began filming the limousine's journey down Elm Street (i.e., pre-Z133). So have a lot of people. Over the course of thirty-plus-years of research, you can't help but consider all of the possibilities. But at the end of the day, there is no credible evidence that such a thing occurred - no eyewitness or ear witness testimony, extant photographs, or home movies. It's one thing to think outside of the box, but when you stray from reality as far as Max Holland and Johann Rush have, one can only conclude that either Holland and Rush aren't familiar with the record or they are deliberately misleading their readers. It's our belief that the latter is true - they aren't familiar with the record. And while that's forgivable (hey, anyone can make a mistake), when someone who claims to be a historian of record denies the truth, well, that's just dangerous.

For instance, Holland-Rush uses an ambiguous statement of T.E. Moore, as told to author Larry Sneed in "No More Silence" more than two decades after the fact, to support his contention that the first shot was fired well before Zapruder began filming. When researcher Todd Vaughan pointed out that Moore could easily have meant the R.L Thornton freeway sign located further down Elm Street when referring to "a highway marker sign right in front of the Book Depository," rather than the cluster of highway markers located at the corner of Elm Street, as assumed by Holland (both signs being on the south side, or in front of the Depository), Holland wrote:

"Yes, it would have been nice if Larry Sneed had asked T.E. Moore which highway sign he meant. Unfortunately, he didn't. Because there were others doesn't negate our point regarding a possible connection between the U.S. highway markers and the traffic light. Also, T.E. Moore was standing on the southeast corner of Elm and Houston. It's a lot easier to see the U.S. Highway markers than the Thornton freeway sign from that point. Finally, it seemed to make sense to us to interpret 'right in front of the Book Depository' to mean 'right in front of the [entrance to] the Book Depository.' By contrast, it would be somewhat inaccurate to describe Thornton sign as being 'right in front' of the TSBD."

But, why all the speculation and interpretation? Holland apparently didn't know that T.E. Moore gave a statement to the FBI 47 days after the assassination, in which he spelled out exactly what sign he was talking about:

"...By the time President Kennedy had reached the [R.L.] Thornton freeway sign, a shot was fired..." [24H534]

No ambiguity there; the sign referred to by Moore was the R.L. Thornton sign, not the cluster of highway signs guessed at by Holland.

A quick review of the record finds additional support for Moore's FBI statement (and I'm sure we could find more if we did a more diligent search) in the report of Secret Service Special Agent (SA) William T. McIntyre who was riding on the right-rear running board of the Secret Service follow-up car, right behind SA Clint Hill. In his November 22, 1963 statement McIntyre wrote:

"After [the turn onto Elm], there was essentially no crowd, and green expanses of lawn stretched to the right and left of the motorcade. Directly in front of us was an underpass with a green sign with white lettering, stating "Entering Thornton Freeway." The Presidential vehicle was approximately 200 feet from the underpass when the first shot was fired..." [McIntyre Statement]

Again, the area of the R.L. Thornton freeway sign marks the limousine's location at the time of the first shot (i.e., Z160). So much for all of Holland's interpretations in an effort to mold Moore's ambiguous, latter day remarks to author Larry Sneed into something supportive of the Holland-Rush theory.

When Moore's 1964 FBI statement was shown to Holland, he ignored the citation, writing:

"I think our explanation is not more speculative than the previous rational paradigm, which I accepted until recently. Actually, I think it is less speculative because it conforms better to certain facts as we know them. A first shot around or after Z 150: must, by definition, contradict earwitness testimony; relies on subjective interpretations of movements and why people moved when they did, or unproven jiggle analysis; testimony of traumatized people (namely, the occupants in the limo) and doesn't do much to explain the deflection of the 1st missile. (I've always been troubled that Larry Sturdivan dismissed this possibility in his book).

"By contrast, a first shot around Z107: conforms with ear witness testimony, as the 1.4 second difference is appreciable; is supported to varying degrees by a number of extra-car eyewitnesses (Brennan, Euins, TE Moore, Vicki Adams, SS men in the followup car conforms), and holds out the possibility of rationally explaining why the first shot was errant . . . namely, it glanced off the signal mast."

The idea that a first shot around Z107 is "supported to varying degrees" by "...Brennan, Euins, TE Moore, Vickie Adams, [and] SS men in the followup car" is simply not the case.

First, in addition the Moore's FBI statement, researcher Todd Vaughan points out that eyewitness Howard Brennan described hearing only 2 shots. After hearing the "first" shot, Brennan testified that he looked up at the Book Depository. When did this "first" shot occur? Certainly not at Z107, as Holland claims. We know this because Zapruder frame 207, the last frame in which Brennan is visible, shows that Brennan has not yet looked up at the Depository as he testified (a fact first noticed back in the late 1960's). It seems pretty unlikely that it took Brennan better than 5.5 seconds to react to the "first" shot. What seems much more likely and reasonable is that the two shots that Brennan heard were actually the second and third shots fired at about Z223 and Z313. Consequently, Brennan's testimony is not supportive of a Holland-Rush shot as early as Z107.

Second, Holland-Rush quote eyewitness Amos Euins as saying, "I saw the president turn the corner in front of me and I waved at him and he waved back. I watched the car [go] on down the street and about the time the car got near the black and white sign I heard a shot." Holland-Rush then wrote: "We believe the only "black and white sign" in the vicinity was the U.S. highway marker sign per T.E. Moore; the Stemmons and R.L. Thornton signs were/are green and white."

In fact, the R.L. Thornton sign was black and white, as contemporary color photographs show. But more important, Euins was standing across the street from the Depository's main entrance and the six black and white highway signs in front of it. If the first shot occurred at Z-107, as Holland and Rush claim, then the limousine was essentially still making its turn onto Elm Street, and it certainly had not gone down Elm by any appreciable amount, as Euins described. If the first shot occurred at this point, how in the world could Euins claim that he "...watched the car [go] on down the street..." before he heard the first shot?

On the other hand, it's not too hard to envision Euins, given his position on Elm Street, recollecting that the limousine was along his line-of-sight with the Thornton freeway sign at the time of the first shot (i.e., about Z-160).

Third, Holland asserts that the testimony of Miss Victoria Elizabeth Adams is also supportive of a shot in the Z107 range, though Holland doesn't specify how. In fact, Adams, who viewed the limousine with Elsie Dorman (who was filming the motorcade) and two other women from a fourth floor window of the Book Depository, testified: "I watched the motorcade...proceed around the corner on Elm, and apparently somebody in the crowd called to the late President, because he and his wife both turned abruptly and faced the building, so we had a very good view of them." [6H388] Asked whether the limousine had gotten directly opposite her window by then, Adams responded, "I believe it was prior, just a second or so prior to that...Then we heard - then we were obstructed from the view." By what? ""A tree. And we heard a shot, and it was a pause, and then a second shot, and then a third shot." [6H388]

Just a week earlier, Adams told the FBI the same thing, "...just after the car carrying President Kennedy had passed on the street below, I heard three loud reports..." [22H632][Emphasis added]

My three-dimensional computer reconstruction of the shooting, based on the Zapruder film and other films and photographs of the shooting (including the film taken by Elsie Dorman who was standing next to Victoria Adams) demonstrates that by the time the limousine disappeared from the women's field-of-view, Zapruder had already begun filming the limousine. In other words, according to Adams, the first shot was fired after Z133, not before, as the Holland insists.

Dorothy Ann Garner, who was standing with Adams, agrees, telling the FBI: "I recall that moments following the passing of the Presidential car I heard three loud reports..." and " the time of the shots, the Presidential car was out of view behind a tree." [22H648] [Emphasis added]

I don't know how Holland-Rush can read testimony like that of Victoria Adams and Dorothy Garner and claim that their statements support a shot fired before the limousine disappeared from their vantage point. To make such a claim and cite Victoria Adams as supportive by any amount is nothing short of blatant deception.

Fourth, Holland also claims that Secret Service agents riding in the follow-up car support the idea of first shot fired before Zapruder began filming (i.e., Z133). Yet, if the first shot occurred at Z107, as Holland-Rush claim, then the presidential limousine was still completing its turn onto Elm Street. Where does that leave the Secret Service follow-up car? Even further back in the turn at a point where they hadn't even begun the descent down Elm Street.

But the agents Holland cites as being supportive of a Z107 shot clearly state that the follow-up car made the turn, straightened out, and went down Elm:

Samuel A. Kinney - "As we completed the left turn and [went] on a short distance, there was a shot." [18H731]

George W. Hickey, Jr. - "Just prior to the shooting the presidential car turned left at the intersection and started down an incline...After a very short distance I heard a loud report which sounded like a firecracker." [18H762]

Paul E. Landis, Jr. - "...the president’s car and the follow-up car had just completed their turns and both were straightening out." [18H754]

When you break it all down, the Holland-Rush premise is based on the idea that a great many of the ear witnesses heard a longer pause between shots one and two than between two and three. Since the shooting scenario of Z160, 223, and 313 is more evenly spaced, Holland-Rush have pushed the first shot back to an earlier moment in order to achieve a sequence that they believe is more in keeping with the ear witnesses.

Yet the Holland-Rush scenario fails on a very basic level - what it sounds like. Here are two audio recordings, one contains the shot sounds spaced at Z160, Z223, and Z313. The second contains the shots spaced as Holland-Rush propose - Z107, Z223, Z313. Click on each one, close your eyes, and imagine you are an ear witness to the shooting. Can you honestly say that one version is spaced more evenly than the other?

SHOTS_v1.MP3 (Z160, Z223, Z313)

SHOTS_v2.MP3 (Holland-Rush / Z107, Z223, Z313)

Yet Holland-Rush's reasoning fails on even a simpler level, for what they fail to acknowledge is that the vast majority of ear witnesses who claim the last two shots were bunched closer together describe those two shots as being practically on top of each other. So, you see, the Holland-Rush scenario doesn't fit the earwitness accounts after all.

How reliable are ear witness accounts? It's already been pointed out by many experts over the decades that there are a variety of variables that have be to considered when weighing ear witness accounts. Those variables include where those ear witnesses were standing in relation to the source and the target, whether they heard the muzzle blast and the super-sonic crack of the bullet passing their position (or just one or the other), whether they heard echoes, whether they heard the sound of the impact (several, including Secret Service agents described the head shot impact as a loud thud), and whether they heard all of the shots or just a few and which shots they heard.

Considering the number of variables involved, it's difficult to imagine that anything of value can be gleaned from a study of the ear witness accounts.

In the final analysis, the Holland-Rush thesis has no support whatsoever in the historic record. They might just as well have pulled their thesis out of thin air. They started with a false premise, based on a generalization of the ear witness accounts which describe the spacing of the shots, then backward engineered an earlier first shot which fails to pass the litmus test in every respect. When they were called out on it, they refused to acknowledge the obvious. What a disappointment. Let's hope that any future writings from Max Holland and Johann Rush have more bite than sizzle to them.


Friday, June 22, 2007

The Kennedy Assassination: Was There a Conspiracy?


Yes. by David Talbot On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, Robert F. Kennedy—J.F.K.'s younger brother, Attorney General and devoted watchman—was eating lunch at Hickory Hill, his Virginia home, when he got the news from Dallas. It was his archenemy, FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, of all people, who phoned to tell him. "The President's been shot," Hoover curtly said. Bobby later recalled, "I think he told me with pleasure."

For the rest of the day and night, Bobby Kennedy would wrestle with his howling grief while using whatever power was still left him to figure out what really happened in Dallas—before the new Administration settled firmly into place under the command of another political enemy, Lyndon Johnson. While the Attorney General's aides summoned federal Marshals to surround R.F.K.'s estate (they no longer trusted the Secret Service or the FBI)—uncertain of whether the President's brother would be the next target—Bobby feverishly gathered information. He worked the phones at Hickory Hill, talking to people who had been in the presidential motorcade; he conferred with a succession of government officials and aides while waiting for Air Force One to return with the body of his brother; he accompanied his brother's remains to the autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he took steps to take control of medical evidence, including the President's brain; and he stayed coiled and awake in the White House until early the next morning. Lit up with the clarity of shock, the electricity of adrenaline, he constructed the outlines of the crime. Bobby Kennedy would become America's first J.F.K. assassination-conspiracy theorist.

The President's brother quickly concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin, had not acted alone. And Bobby immediately suspected the CIA's secret war on Fidel Castro as the source of the plot. At his home that Friday afternoon, Bobby confronted CIA Director John McCone, asking him point-blank whether the agency had killed J.F.K. (McCone denied it.) Later, R.F.K. ordered aides to explore a possible Mafia connection to the crime. And in a revealing phone conversation with Harry Ruiz-Williams, a trusted friend in the anti-Castro movement, Kennedy said bluntly, "One of your guys did it." Though the CIA and the FBI were already working strenuously to portray Oswald as a communist agent, Bobby Kennedy rejected this view. Instead, he concluded Oswald was a member of the shadowy operation that was seeking to overthrow Castro.

Bobby knew that a dark alliance—the CIA, the Mafia and militant Cuban exiles—had formed to assassinate Castro and force a regime change in Havana. That's because President Kennedy had given his brother the Cuban portfolio after the CIA's Bay of Pigs fiasco. But Bobby, who would begin some days by dropping by the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Va., on his way to the Justice Department, never managed to get fully in control of the agency's sprawling, covert war on Castro. Now, he suspected, this underground world—where J.F.K. was despised for betraying the anti-Castro cause—had spawned his brother's assassination.

As Kennedy slowly emerged from his torment over Dallas and resumed an active role in public life—running for U.S. Senator from New York in 1964 and then President in 1968—he secretly investigated his brother's assassination. He traveled to Mexico City, where he gathered information about Oswald's mysterious trip there before Dallas. He met with conspiracy researcher Penn Jones Jr., a crusading Texas newspaperman, in his Senate office. He returned to the Justice Department with his ace investigator Walter Sheridan to paw through old files. He dispatched trusted associates to New Orleans to report to him on prosecutor Jim Garrison's controversial reopening of the case. Kennedy told confidants that he himself would reopen the investigation into the assassination if he won the presidency, believing it would take the full powers of the office to do so. As Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger Jr. once observed, no one of his era knew more than Bobby about "the underground streams through which so much of the actuality of American power darkly coursed: the FBI, CIA, the racketeering unions and the Mob." But when it came to his brother's murder, Bobby never got a chance to prove his case.

No. by Vincent Bugliosi I have found there are 32 separate reasons for concluding there was no conspiracy. Here are just a few of them:

After 44 years of investigation by thousands of researchers, not one speck of credible evidence has ever surfaced that groups such as the CIA, organized crime or the military-industrial complex were behind the assassination, only that they each had a motive. And when there is no evidence of guilt, that fact, by itself, is very strong evidence of innocence. Moreover, the very thought of members of the military-industrial complex (Joint Chiefs of Staff, captains of industry) or the CIA or organized crime actually plotting to murder the President of the U.S. is surreal, the type of thing that only belongs, if at all, in a Robert Ludlum novel.

I have found 53 pieces of evidence that point irresistibly to Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt. For example, the murder weapon was Oswald's; he was the only employee who fled the Texas School Book Depository after the shooting in Dealey Plaza; 45 min. later, he killed Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit; 30 min. after that, he resisted arrest and pulled his gun on the arresting officer. What's more, during his interrogation, Oswald's efforts to construct a defense—which included denying that he owned the rifle in question (or any rifle at all)—turned out to be a string of provable lies, all of which show an unmistakable consciousness of guilt. Only in a fantasy world can you have 53 pieces of evidence against you and still be innocent. Conspiracy theorists are stuck with this reality.

Even assuming that the CIA or Mob or military-industrial complex decided "Let's murder President Kennedy," Oswald would be among the last people in the world those organizations would choose for the job. Oswald was not an expert shot and owned only a $12 mail-order rifle—both of which automatically disqualify him as a hit man. He was also a notoriously unreliable and emotionally unstable misfit who tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists when the Soviets denied him the citizenship he sought. If the Mafia leaders, for instance, decided to kill the President of the U.S.—an act that would result in a retaliation against them of unprecedented proportions if they were discovered to be behind it—wouldn't they use a very professional, tight-lipped assassin who had a successful track record with them, someone in whom they had the highest confidence? Would they rely on someone like Oswald to commit the biggest murder in American history?

But let's assume, just for the sake of argument, that the cia or Mob decided to kill Kennedy and also decided that Oswald should do the job. It still doesn't make any sense. After Oswald shot Kennedy and left the book depository, one of two things would have happened, the less likely of which is that a car would have been waiting for him to help him escape down to Mexico or wherever. The conspirators certainly wouldn't want their killer to be apprehended and interrogated by the authorities. But the more likely thing by far is that the car would have driven Oswald to his death. Instead, we know that Oswald was out on the street with $13 in his pockets, attempting to flag down buses and cabs. What does that fact, alone, tell you?

Three people can keep a secret but only if two are dead. Yet we are asked to believe that in 44 years, not one word of the vast alleged conspiracy, not one syllable, has ever leaked out. Additionally, the motorcade route in Dallas, which took the President right beneath Oswald's window, wasn't even selected until Nov. 18, just four days before the assassination. Surely no rational person can believe a group like the CIA or the Mob would hatch its conspiracy with Oswald to kill Kennedy within only four days of the President's trip to Dallas.

To this day, the overwhelming majority of the American people (75%) have bought into the conspiracy idea. Their reasons vary widely: general mistrust of government; the desire to imbue Kennedy's death with deeper meaning than a random act of violence or a simple relish for intrigue. Despite the total lack of evidence, the story of a J.F.K. assassination conspiracy has captivated the nation for the past half-century and is likely to do so for many years to come.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

How An Agnostic Became A Conspiracy Believer


Author Gaeton Fonzi (
The Last Investigation) tells readers in his article "Reply From a Conspiracy Believer," featured on the Vincent Bugliosi-bashing website “Reclaiming History? Or Re-Framing Oswald?”, that he was once an agnostic when it came to the Kennedy case, but became a conspiracy believer in 1966 after interviewing Arlen Specter, father of the single-bullet theory.

According to Fonzi, Specter had convinced him during the course of a two-session, four hour 1966 interview, that Specter had "no actual explanation" for the Commission’s claim that a single bullet went through Kennedy and Connally before emerging in what Fonzi decribed as "pristine condition" - other than to say, "It's possible." It was only then, Fonzi says, that he became a conspiracy believer.

And what exactly were the key points of Fonzi's single-bullet discussion that convinced him that something was amiss with the Warren Commission's evidence? Two old conspiracy arguments that have long since been disproven.

First, Specter's principal reason for favoring the theory was that there was no other way to explain what happened to the bullet which emerged from the President’s neck – unless it also hit Connally. Fonzi countered Specter's reasoning by writing: "Connally later testified that he disagreed because he heard the first shot but wasn’t hit until later."

Yet, Fonzi certainly must know by now that Connally's disagreement with the theory rested on his belief that Kennedy was hit by the first shot, an assumption based solely on his wife Nellie Connally's recollection. But we now know, and have known for some time, that Nellie Connally's recollection was wrong. She recalled that she turned and saw the President with his hands at his throat after the first shot and before her husband was hit by the second. However, the Zapruder film shows that Nellie Connally did not turn to look back at the President until after the second shot - the single-bullet that struck both Kennedy and Connally.

Second, Fonzi pointed out to Specter that there seemed to be a discrepancy between the location of the bullet hole in Kennedy's back and the bullet hole in the President's clothing. Fonzi noted that the bullet holes in the clothing were lower on the back than the bullet wound in the body itself as well as the wound in the throat. Specter explained that the clothing had ridden up during the course of the parade due to the President waving to the crowds. But Fonzi wasn't buying. Asked to explain in detail how this occurred and where precisely the backwound was located, Specter was left fumbling for words, until finally he conceded, "I don’t want to say because I don't really remember." That was enough for Fonzi, who writes: "I felt the implications of that were enormous. If the Single Bullet theory wasn’t built on unassailable evidence – and Specter himself dramatically illustrated that it wasn’t – the Warren Commission’s final conclusions were more than suspect."

But Fonzi should know by now, that an avalanche of photographs and films (including the most recent discovery - the George Jefferies' film - featured on the home page of The Sixth Floor Museum's website) taken during the course of the motorcade show exactly what Arlen Specter was having such a hard time explaining in 1966 - that the President's suit jacket had ridden up, and as such, the bullet hole in the clothing simply appears to be lower (when laid flat against the body) than the bullet wound in the back.

And we also know that the single-bullet theory was built on a mountain of "unassailable evidence" - an entrance wound in the President's back, tissue damage along a path between the back wound and a wound in the lower throat, the lack of a bullet in the body of the President that could account for the back wound, an angle of declination between the back wound and the throat wound at the time of the shooting conducive to striking the interior of the automobile or a second person seated in it, Governor Connally (who was seated directly in front of the President) was the only other person wounded in the car, the Zapruder film proves they were in alignment to be wounded by a single shot and seem to react at approximately the same time, and the condition of the bullet recovered (which was not "pristine") was consistent with the muzzle velocity of Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano and the physical forces it encountered along its trajectory. All of these points have been dealt with ad nauseum over the last four decades.

So where does that leave Mr. Fonzi, who based his turn from agnostic to conspiracy believer so long ago on two false premises? Does he still believe in conspiracy? It appears so, but for other reasons. It would be nice, however, if Mr. Fonzi and others who beat the drum of conspiracy wouldn't use old disproven notions to prop up their current beliefs.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Twists & Turns of the Single Bullet Critics (Pt.2)


The fact that the defects in President Kennedy's shirt collar are of the nature that they are (i.e., slits rather than defined circular holes) is indicative that if they were caused by a projectile they are more likely exit holes rather than entry holes. But if they
are exit holes, then no bullet could have entered from the front, passing through the collar, to cause what many erroneously believe was an entry wound in the throat.

Raising the throat wound above the collar by misrepresenting what Dr. Carrico testified to, and then claiming that the defects in the shirt collar were caused by a doctor or nurse's scalpel, gets around that pesky little problem.

I strongly suspect that first generation conspiracy author Harold Weisberg realized this way back when and that's why in his book Post Mortem he grand-fathered all of the "Dr. Carrico testified that the wound was above the collar" crap. And no, if anyone is wondering, I don't believe for a minute Weisberg's claim in Post Mortem that Dr. Carrico "confirmed" that the wound was above the collar when Weisberg supposedly asked him about it - Weisberg offers no support for that claim, no citation, no quote, no transcript of an interview, nothing.

When I mentioned this in an email exchange, Jim Lesar, an attorney and friend of the late Weisberg, wrote:

"You attack Harold Weisberg's statement in Post Mortem that when he interviewed Dr.Carrico, Carrico confirmed that the throat wound was above the collar. Since you have been very critical of others for not being familiar with every scintilla of the enormous amount of material concerning the JFK case and for not having checked sources to see if there is some support for a particular statement, I would would be interested to know whether you made any attempt to find out whether there was any documentation of Weisberg's statement before you in effect charged him with lying about Carrico's statement. If you didn't make any effort to find this out, then on what is you statement that you don't believe Weisberg's claim for a minute other than sheer bias?"

Good questions. Here's the story:

The only documentation for Weisberg's statement that I'm aware exists, the only thing that I have ever seen, is what he wrote in Post Mortem. Since he provides no citation there for his claim, there's really not a lot to go on, is there?

I checked the HSCA records several years ago and found nothing to indicate that Weisberg told them anything about what Dr. Carrico may have told him. I also have some of Paul Rothermel's files, and have seen even more, and while there's material in them from and regarding Weisberg, there’s nothing about Dr. Carrico.

Unfortunately I’ve not had the opportunity to go through Weisberg's own files to see if perhaps he wrote a memorandum or to see if he tape recorded the interview (though he makes no mention of doing so) and perhaps has a transcript.

Regarding the basis of my statement that I don't believe Weisberg's claim, and is based on "sheer bias," as Lesar states?

The basis for my belief is the written record of the case, of course, and Weisberg's less than honest handling of that record as it relates to the entire Dr. Carrico throat wound location matter.

Once again, here's the actual passage of Dr. Carrico's testimony where the location of the throat wound is discussed:

Dr. CARRICO - There was a small wound, 5- to 8-mm. in size, located in the lower third of the neck, below the thyroid cartilage, the Adams apple.

Mr. DULLES - Will you show us about where it was?

Dr. CARRICO - Just about where your tie would be.

Mr. DULLES - Where did it enter?

Dr. CARRICO - It entered?

Mr. DULLES - Yes.

Dr. CARRICO - At the time we did not know

Mr. DULLES - I see.

Dr. CARRICO - The entrance. All we knew this was a small wound here.

Mr. DULLES - I see. And you put your hand right above where your tie is?

Dr. CARRICO - Yes, sir; just where the tie --

Mr. DULLES - A little bit to the left.

Dr. CARRICO - To the right.

Mr. DULLES - Yes; to the right. [3H361-362]

As I pointed out previously, the first time he was asked to locate the wound Dr. Carrico placed the wound “Just about where your tie would be.” Dr. Carrico was likely referring to the knot of Kennedy’s tie, which was certainly not “above the collar line” but rather exactly where the holes in the shirt collar and the nick in the tie knot were. Certainly no part of a man's properly fitted tie is ever located “above the collar line”.

So, how does Weisberg handle the above segment of testimony where Dr. Carrico clearly states that the wound was located "Just about where your tie would be"?

By completely omitting it.

Weisberg begins his quotation of the testimony with Dulles' "Will you show us about where it was?” question. But then, rather than informing his reader that Dr. Carrico clearly answered that question with "Just about where your tie would be.” Weisberg jumps 6 and a half lines down to “..this was a small wound here". [Post Mortem, p. 357]

Weisberg then goes on to quote Dr. Carrico's answer the second time he was asked, to which Dulles asked “And you put your hand right above where your tie is?”, and to which Dr. Carrico in turn replied “Yes, sir; just where the tie —“, but was cut off in mid-sentence. Like I pointed out before, that was a question on Mr. Dulles’s part, not a statement by Dr. Carrico. And what was Dr. Carrico going to say? “Just where the tie isn’t.”? Of course not. It’s more than obvious that he was going to repeat the answer that he had already given – that the wound was located “Just about where your tie would be.”

After all this, and despite Dr. Carrico clearly stating that the wound was "Just about where your tie would be", Weisberg writes that Dr. Carrico "placed the front-neck wound above the knot of the tie." [Post Mortem, p. 357, Emphasis Weisberg's]

So I think it's very clear that Weisberg misrepresented what Dr. Carrico told Alan Dulles about the location of the wound.

But that's not all.

Dr. Carrico's other testimony in the record also makes it clear that the wound was below the top of the collar.

Dr. Carrico told the Warren Commission the wound was in the "lower third of the neck" [3H361], but Weisberg doesn’t see fit to tell his readers that. Is that because, as anyone can see, when a grown man is wearing a standard dress shirt with a buttoned collar and necktie, the area of the lower third of the neck is below the top of the collar? I suspect so.

Further, a simple comparison of films and photographs taken of President Kennedy on the day of the assassination (in Fort Worth, at Love Field, and in the motorcade) with the autopsy photographs clearly show that the tracheotomy incision was located at a point on the President’s throat that corresponds exactly with the holes in the shirt collar and the nick in the tie knot. Of course the throat wound had to exist somewhere within the borders of that tracheotomy incision.

So, by the time he wrote and published Post Mortem in 1975, Weisberg certainly should have known that Dr. Carrico described the wound as being in the "lower third of the neck" and should have also been aware of the implications of that description as they relate to the collar.

And after the autopsy photos became public in 1988, Weisberg certainly could have compared the location of the tracheotomy incision with photographs taken of President Kennedy on the day of the assassination. Yet he repeated his Post Mortem claim in his 1995 book Never Again.

And what is one to make of this from Weisberg...

"I asked Carrico what Specter did not dare ask, the simple question whether, in his opinion, and based on his experience in emergencies, the nick on the knot and the slits in the collar were made by the nurses, not by a bullet. Carrico considers it unlikely. He saw neither the nick in the tie nor the cuts in the shirt before the nurses started cutting." [Post Mortem, p.376, Emphasis mine] light of the fact that Wesiberg later writes that Dr. Carrico "confirmed...that the damage to the shirt was done when the necktie was cut off by nurses under his supervision..." [Post Mortem, p.598]

As for the line, “He saw neither the nick in the tie nor the cuts in the shirt before the nurses started cutting.” Dr. Carrico told the Warren Commission that he never even examined the clothing. [3H362]

It seems pretty clear to me that Weisberg misrepresented Dr. Carrico's Warren Commission testimony by intentionally omitting and misrepresenting key portions of it. The fact that he would so blatantly do such a reckless thing doesn't leave room for putting much faith in anything else Weisberg has to say on the matter. In fact, as a juror in a court case, wouldn't it be my duty to question the entire testimony offered by any witness who was caught lying on the witness stand?

Sure, I’d like to know if there’s anything more to this in Weisberg’s files. Perhaps Jim Lesar, Gerald McKnight or David Wrone, can find the time to come up with whatever Weisberg might have had in his files that might explain his writings regarding Dr. Carrico. Considering the record as it currently stands, however, I'm not holding my breath.