Thursday, November 22, 2007

Forty-four years and counting


What a wild year it’s been for Kennedy assassination enthusiasts. Here’s some of what you might have missed:

In February, "1963: 11 Seconds in Dallas", an article by Max Holland and Johann W. Rush appeared on the Internet website History News Network (HNN). In it, they 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.

A minor point to be sure, but in the final analysis, the Holland-Rush thesis had 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 earwitness accounts which described the spacing of the shots, then backward engineered an earlier first shot which failed to pass the litmus test in every respect. When they were called out on it, they refused to acknowledge the obvious. [See: Max Holland's 11 Seconds in Dallas]

In May, Vincent Bugliosi’s seminal 2,500 page (including endnotes) work, Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, was released and quickly ignored by conspiracy buffs. Their reason for ignoring Bugliosi’s 25-year investigation of the case? According to postings on various conspiracy newsgroups from persons admitting right up front that they hadn’t read the book and had no intention of doing so, Bugliosi’s book was full of “lies and omissions.” It’s hard to understand on anyone who admits that they hadn’t read the book could possibly know what was in it or whether it was accurate or not.

Some in the conspiracy crowd thought Bugliosi’s work couldn’t be ignored and created a website designed specifically to rebut the former L.A. prosecutor’s lengthy tome. Unfortunately, the articles featured on the website, written by various conspiracy advocates promising to box Bugliosi’s ears for one reason or another, proved to be rather sophomoric efforts – easily shown to be full of the kind of factual errors made by first year Kennedy assassination students. [ See: Twists & Turns of the Single Bullet Critics (Pt.1); Twists & Turns of the Single Bullet Critics (Pt.2); Twists & Turns of the Single Bullet Critics (Pt.3); How An Agnostic Became A Conspiracy Believer; Of Crosstalk and Bells: A Rebuttal to Don Thomas' "Debugging Bugliosi"; Fair Play for Bugliosi: John Kelin Reports] Congratulations, Vince! You’re the new Satan.

In late May, conspiracy theorist David S. Lifton came out swinging on Black Op Radio, claiming that Bugliosi’s book was actually written by a posse of unnamed and unknown co-authors – unnamed and unknown except for Patricia Lambert whom Lifton accused of writing the hundred page section on Jim Garrison. Lifton claimed that he recognized Lambert’s unmistakable writing style. Lambert vehemently denied the charge and Bugliosi’s secretary, Rosemary Newton, took the denial a step further offering Lifton a $100,000 bet that she could produce Bugliosi’s handwritten draft of the book (Bugliosi doesn’t own a computer) which Newton keyed in herself. ”Is that a deal?” Newton asked in a scathing Internet post. “If you're afraid to do this, then please shut your mouth and remove your trash from the Internet.” Ouch! [See: Lifton's Ghost] Nothing further came of the charge, Lifton apparently retreating.

In late June, Italian weapons experts announced that tests on the type of rifle used to kill Kennedy show assassin Lee Harvey Oswald could not have acted alone.” [See: Italian experts test JFK assassination gun] The Italians claimed that new tests showed it took 19-seconds (not the Warren Commissions’ reported 7 seconds) to get off three shots with Oswald’s rifle.

The story, which shamefully ran worldwide on United Press International (UPI) without a single fact check, was embraced by conspiracy theorists almost immediately. Then came access to a videotape of the actual test being conducted. The Italian rifleman was hardly in a hurry to get off three rounds. In the words of Emily Litella, "Never mind."

In July, author Dan Robertson introduced his debut book, "Definitive Proof: The Secret Service Murder of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy," which attempted to resurrect the Milton William Cooper theory that the Secret Service driver William Greer shot Kennedy from the front seat of the limousine. Get a clean copy of the Zapruder film, Dan. [See: Definitive Proof? The Secret Service Killed JFK]

On July 31st, Paul Kuntzler, President of Miller Reporting Company, Inc., a transcription and court reporting service, paid the New York Times big money to print a rambling, two-page open letter to The Washington Post Chairmen of the Board, Donald E. Graham, in which Kuntzler declared that “Lee Harvey Oswald was An American Hero.”

Mr. Kuntzler charged that: “President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered by Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson in a widespread, incredibly complex and brilliantly planned conspiracy that involved the Federal Bureau of Investigation directed by J. Edgar Hoover, the CIA directed by David Atlee Phillips, The Secret Service, elements of the United States Air Force, including General Curtis LeMay of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United States Army, the United States Navy, Henry R. Luce's LIFE Magazine, The Ford Motor Company, the Dallas Police, including Dallas Mayor Earle Cabel, big Oil of Midland, Texas, the Texas political establishment, the mafia, the anti-Castro Cubans, Southern racists, including retired General Edwin Walker, and others. President Richard M. Nixon was also involved.”

Whew! I half-expected to see Kohler (makers of the kitchen sink) listed among the conspirators. Kuntzler’s embarrassing rant (embraced by many conspiracy advocates, believe it or not) ranks right up there with The Onion’s satirical, tongue-in-cheek headline: “Kennedy Slain by CIA, Mafia, Castro, LBJ, Teamsters, Freemasons: President Shot 129 Times from 43 Different Angles.” Only Kuntzler wasn’t joking. [See: Lee Harvey Oswald Was An American Hero? Paul Kuntzler Speaks]

In mid-August, we were treated to veteran stand-up comic, actor, talk-show host and author Richard Belzer’s (Law and Order: SVU) laughable article, “Defaming History or, Who Didn't Kill JFK” in The Huffington Post which claimed that Bugliosi's book was a fraud and Lee Harvey Oswald was provably innocent.

Belzer’s proof? Oswald was discovered on the second floor of the Book Depository building drinking a Coke shortly after the assassination! To get around this simple “fact”, Belzer claimed that the Warren Commission “rigged” the re-enactment tests to show that Oswald could get down the stairs from the sixth floor before Baker reached the second floor landing; that there were three rifles found on the sixth floor - a German Mauser, an Italian Mannlicher-Carcano, and a British Enfield; that the single-bullet theory suspends the laws of physics; that Oswald had to have wiped his fingerprints off the rifle before hiding it behind a stack of boxes; that Oswald had to zig-zag through stacks of boxes to escape the sixth floor; that Oswald had to run down eight flights of stairs (including landings) to get to the lunchroom where he was seen calm and collected; blah-blah-blah.

Belzers foolish charges couldn’t even withstand a light-dusting of cross-examination. [See: Defaming Bugliosi: The Court Jester Speaks]

In September, two Internet newsgroups wrestled with the merits of eyewitness Lee Bowers, Jr.’s alleged testimony that he saw two men standing behind the stockade fence atop the grassy knoll, the long suspect source of the fatal shot – according to conspiracy buffs. [See: Lee Bowers: The Man Behind the Grassy Knoll]

All hell broke loose when one poster pointed out the revelations made in my report “Badge Man: A Photogrammetric Analysis of Moorman Photograph No.5 of the JFK Assassination,” which demonstrated that Bowers actually said that no one was behind the fence shooting at the president.

The thread on the U.K.’s Educational Forum grew to a whopping (even by newsgroup standards) 62 pages of endless sniping, personal insults, and trash-talking. Across the pond, the JFK/Lancer Forum contained a similar thread. Among the mindless chatter on both forums was the claim that Bowers was afraid for his life and revealed only a little of the true story.

Really? If Bowers was truly afraid for his own life and that of his family, then, why on earth would Bowers tell police that he saw three suspicious vehicles circling the parking lot behind the stockade fence? Wasn’t Bowers afraid that one of these three vehicles might have been involved in the killing? And why in heaven would Bowers, if he was truly fearful for his life and that of his family, appear on camera in a documentary film that would be seen by millions around the world? Didn’t it occur to him that Kennedy’s killers could now put a face to the name of the man who could identify them? And if Bowers was no longer afraid by 1966 (which might explain to some why he agreed to appear on camera), why in the devil didn’t he tell Mark Lane all about the two men shooting Kennedy from behind the fence, instead of the vague “something” that he couldn’t quite identify?

It just doesn’t add up – except of course for the legions of gullible conspiracy advocates who, for reasons only they know, feel the need to perpetuate a lot of B-U Double-L.

The fact remains, Lee Bowers had three chances to tell what he knew about November 22, 1963, before his untimely, sudden, and tragic death in 1965.

I believe the record shows that Lee Bowers, Jr., did tell all he knew, and none of his testimony includes two men shooting at Kennedy from behind the stockade fence atop the grassy knoll, no matter how bad the conspiracy theorists wish it were so.

This month, conspiracy theorists were treated to Jefferson Morley’s “The Man Who Didn’t Talk: And Other Tales from the New Kennedy Assassination Files,” featured on Playboy magazine’s website (they didn’t feel the article had enough dynamite to warrant placement in their prestigious printed version).

“The Man Who Didn’t Talk” is a reference to George E. Joannides, the chief of psychological warfare operations at the CIA's Miami station in November, 1963, whose contacts with Miami members of the Cuban Student Directorate (DRE) (Oswald had a close encounter with Carlos Bringuier, a Miami DRE member, in New Orleans in the summer of 1963) and whose later post as the CIA liaison with the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) raised questions about the CIA’s knowledge of Oswald prior to the assassination and whether the CIA steered HSCA investigators away from crucial information which might have shed light on the events of November 22nd.

Morley is behind the three-and-a-half year long legal battle with the CIA to have the files on George Joannides, who died in 1990, released to the public. [See: Morley v. CIA]

No matter what side of the conspiracy issue you favor, the release of any additional information on the activities and contacts of Lee Harvey Oswald is a good thing and Mr. Morley should be applauded for his efforts to shed light on this case.

However, Morley takes the long way around the barn (7,600 words to be exact) only to tell us that as of this date the questions he raises about George Joannides’ role (What did he know about Oswald and when did he know it?) “await clarification.”

So, as spokeswoman Clara Peller once observed, “Where’s the beef?”

The vast majority of Morley’s essay focuses on what we can “safely and reliably conclude” about Kennedy’s death on this 44th anniversary of the assassination.

According to Morley, “the single bullet theory, the forensic linchpin of all arguments for Oswald's sole guilt, has lost scientific validity in the past decade via both Pat Grant and Erik Randich's ballistics analysis and via the sworn testimony of FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill.

“The JFK medical evidence is much less trustworthy than was known a decade ago. Photographs have been culled from the collection. Multiple new witnesses say independently and under oath that Kennedy's body and wounds were cleaned up before being photographed for the record. Any indictment of Oswald based on the medical evidence of Kennedy's wounds has been undermined.

“The acoustic evidence remains in dispute. In my view, it has not been disqualified until an alternative explanation for the order in the data is confirmed.

“The new JFK forensic science, in short, has narrowed the limits of plausible conjecture by eliminating the single bullet theory as an explanation of Kennedy and Connally's wounds and by not eliminating the possibility that the fatal shot was fired from the grassy knoll.”

Really? Morley’s take on the state of the Kennedy case (ca. 2007) might pass muster with the neophytes, but it hardly passes scrutiny with anyone following this case for the passed four decades. You be the judge.

The Single Bullet Theory

The Patrick Grant and Erik Randich study of ballistic evidence in the Kennedy case, published in 2006 in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, cast doubt on the FBI’s technique known as bullet-lead analysis. Grant and Randlich concluded that despite the earlier assessment that the bullet fragments recovered from the presidential limousine and the bodies of Kennedy and Connally represented only two bullets, the fragments “could be reflective of anywhere between two and five different rounds fired in Dealey Plaza.” [Journal of Forensic Sciences, July 2006, Vol.51, No.4, p.728]

Conspiracy theorists were quick to applaud the new study, citing it as evidence of a conspiracy. But is it? Looking at the results in isolation, the study might seem to the simplest minds to leave open the possibility that multiple gunman were firing at Kennedy and indeed the sensationalistic news media portrayed the Grant/Randlich study in just that way. But, of course, the question of how many shots were fired and from how many sources involves a lot more physical evidence than Grant/Randlich’s bullet-lead analysis, doesn’t it?

For instance, we know that the only physical evidence recovered at the crime scene showed that three shots were fired from Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. Two of those shots struck Kennedy and Connally, one missed. The two large bullet fragments recovered from the limousine (the base and nose of a bullet) amounted to no more than one bullet and were fired from Oswald’s rifle to the exclusion of all other weapons. The only other recovered bullet, a slightly flatten 6.5mm round discovered on a stretcher at Parkland Hospital, had also been fired from Oswald’s rifle to the exclusion of all other weapons.

So in fact, there is only evidence of two bullets striking Kennedy and Connally, which is consistent with Connally’s medical records and the autopsy performed on President Kennedy.

How do these facts conflict with the Grant/Randlich study? They don’t. The Grant/Randlich analysis found that, based on bullet-lead analysis alone, the bullet and bullet fragments recovered in the Kennedy case could represent two to five bullets. When all of the physical evidence is considered, the answer to how many bullets were fired into the limousine and recovered is – two. The Grant/Randlich study offered a range based one narrow aspect of the physical evidence. But when all of the physical and evidentiary evidence is considered, that range is reduced to two and only two.

The Grant/Randlich assertion (and Morley’s citation of it) that their findings “considerably weaken support for the single bullet theory” overstates what their study actually says and fails to address how their work fits into the whole of the physical case. It’s much sexier with a conspiracy spin, to be sure, but hardly an accurate accounting of how the Grant/Randlich study fits into the Kennedy case.

The Autopsy Photographs

According to Morley, the 1997 Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) testimony of Saundra Kay Spencer, and FBI agents Francis O’Neill and James Sibert, demonstrates that massive cosmetic things were done to Kennedy’s body, damning photographs exposing the truth were culled from the record, photographs left in the official record were doctored and lots of general flim-flammery was done to cover-up the fact that the back of Kennedy’s head was blown out by a shot from the grassy knoll.

After all, according to Morley, “we already have the photographic evidence from the Zapruder film showing Kennedy hit by a bullet that snapped his head backwards and drove him sideways into the arms of his wife. To say that a bullet fired from the knoll would have pushed Kennedy backward is well within the limits of plausible conjecture…” Uh?

Plausible conjecture? Is Morley kidding? The only people who believe this sort of stuff are sixth graders at the Saturday kiddie matinee. Obviously Mr. Morley hasn’t talked to any physicists on the subject of wound ballistics. There isn’t a single respected physicist on the planet who would argue that a bullet weighing only a few ounces and moving at the velocities involved in this case could push a human head weighing ten to fifteen pounds any appreciable distance let alone at the speed and distance we see in the Zapruder film. It simply cannot happen – except in a Hollywood movie, which has conditioned millions of people to accept the impossible.

Couple that simple fact of physical law with the complete lack of evidence of a bullet traversing the left hemisphere of Kennedy’s skull and brain, which of necessity must happen given the location of the limousine, the position of Kennedy’s head, and the relative location of the grassy knoll area; and you have no other choice but to conclude, as every single forensic pathologist who has reviewed the Kennedy autopsy materials has, that Kennedy was not struck by a bullet fired from the grassy knoll. Apparently, the same facts that have escaped the investigative powers of the conspiracy community have eluded the journalist Morley.

Instead, he focused his attention on three people whose testimony, according to Morley’s conclusions, demonstrated that the medical record undermined “any indictment of Oswald.”

One was Saundra Kay Spencer, an E-6 photographer’s mate first class who was in charge of the White House photo lab, a small room located inside the three-story facilities of the Naval Photographic Center (NPC) at Anacostia, Maryland, across the river from Washington, D.C. In 1996-97, thirty-four years after the fact, Spencer told the ARRB that on the weekend of the assassination she developed and printed photographs taken at the autopsy of President Kennedy. After reviewing the official autopsy photographs, Spencer, according to Morley, told the board, “The views [of JFK's body] we produced at the [Naval] Photographic Center are not included [in the current autopsy collection]. Between those photographs and the ones we did, there had to be some massive cosmetic things done to the President's body.”

I would think that readers could only conclude from Morley’s carefully chosen excerpt that Miss Spencer was a witness to the tampering of the president’s body. But was she?

The testimony of Saundra Spencer was covered in depth in a seven-page endnote included in Vincent Bugliosi’s book, “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy.”

According to the record, Spencer described the photos she saw in 1963 as “pristine for an autopsy.” There was “no blood or [open] cavities” or “matted hair” on the president’s head in these photos. In fact, his head seemed to have been washed and cleaned. “It was quite reverent,” she said, “how they handled it.” There also were no people or any measuring devices visible in any of the photographs she saw (the official photographs contain both). She remembers seeing a wound at the base of the front of the neck that was “circular,” about the size of the round end of a person’s thumb (the official photographs show a horizontal incision, the remnants of a tracheotomy) that did not look like the “large, gaping gash type” of wound in the official autopsy photos, and a “ragged hole” in the center of the back of the head, described as a “blown-out chunk” about 2 to 21/2 inches wide, located 3 or 4 inches above the hairline (the official photographs show only a small entrance wound).

Other details were unlike the official autopsy photographs. According to Spencer, the top of the head was not visible in any of the photos, and no damage was seen on the right side of the head. One photo, she said, showed a full length of the president’s body from a 45-degree high angle. Spencer said that none of the photos showed the scalp peeled back on the skull. Also, unlike the photographs in the National Archives inventory today, Spencer said that the president’s eyes and mouth were closed and that he appeared to be in “a rest position.” Spencer said that other than the wound to the back of the president’s head, she saw no other wound to the head. “The prints that we printed did not have the massive head damages” shown in the official autopsy photos.

The conspiracy community (and apparently Morley too) have been quick to suggest that a second set of photographs were taken of Kennedy’s body at the time of the autopsy (a set conspiracy theorists presume showed the “true” nature of the president’s wounds) and that this second set was squirreled away as part of the cover-up.

Of course that would depend on Spencer’s recollection being accurate. But we know that Spencer’s recollection of events was thirty-four years after the fact. And more importantly, her recollection is at odds with almost the entire official record. While the official autopsy photographs were processed, as Spencer remembered, at the NPC, the rest of the documentary record details a completely different and rather divergent series of events which is quite unlike Spencer’s account.

For instance, Spencer can’t be right when she says the photographs she saw show a “blownout chunk” in the center of the back of the president’s head. Why? Because apart from the observations of all three autopsy surgeons, the official autopsy photographs and X-rays conclusively, and without question, depict the body of President Kennedy at the time of the autopsy and show none of what Spencer described.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and in this case, Saundra Spencer doesn’t have the goods.

One possibility that might explain Saundra Spencer’s recollections of the photos she saw depicting the president’s head in a “pristine” condition is the proposition that a series of photographs were taken of the president’s body lying in repose after the embalmers had done their restorative work following the autopsy.

But even if this were true, so what? How does this change what we know about the condition of the president’s body at the time of the autopsy or what the official autopsy photographs depict? It doesn’t.

Bugliosi concludes, “When one recognizes this reality about Spencer’s testimony, one can only conclude that her recollections after thirty-four years were either very faulty, or correct but of absolutely no significance.”

Not exactly the explosive version of events that Morley presents, is it?

The other two witnesses that Morley focuses on in an effort to undermine the validity of the medical record are FBI agents Francis O’Neill and James Sibert, who were both present at the president’s autopsy.

According to Morley, Sibert and O’Neill both had adverse reactions to the official autopsy photographs displayed to them in 1997 by the ARRB.

Morley quotes O'Neill as saying, “This looks like it's been doctored in some way. I specifically do not recall those -- I mean, being that clean or that fixed up. To me, it looks like these pictures have been...It would appear to me that there was a -- more of a massive wound...” And Morley quotes Sibert as saying, “I don't recall anything like this at all during the autopsy. There was much -- well, the wound was more pronounced. And it looks like it could have been reconstructed or something, as compared with what my recollection was.”

Morley is quick to point out that “O'Neill emphasized he was not saying the autopsy photographs themselves had been doctored but that the wounds themselves had been cleaned up before the photograph was taken.” So what? What is the point? Mr. Morley doesn’t seem to have one (aside from noting in his conclusions that “Kennedy's body and wounds were cleaned up before being photographed for the record” and that somehow – the exact reason never being explained – this undermines the case against Oswald), but the inference seems clear – something is not right with the official Kennedy autopsy photographs; a point that is almost considered carved in stone by conspiracy buffs.

Vincent Bugliosi addresses this issue head-on in his monumental work “Reclaiming History,” pointing out that Francis O’Neill and James Sibert aren’t talking about fake photographs as the conspiracy community claims, or cleaned up photographs as Morley suggests. Bugliosi writes in a lengthy endnote:

“...when asked if autopsy photograph number 42 (the photo depicting the entrance wound to the back of Kennedy’s head with the ruler [JFK Exhibit F-48, 1 HSCA 234]) depicted the head wound the way he remembered seeing it the night of the autopsy, and as depicted in the drawings he made in 1978 (ARRB MD 86, Interview Report of Francis X. O’Neill, January 10, 1978), O’Neill said, “No, I don’t see the wounds...To me, the other photographs [shown to him by Gunn, but not of the back of the president’s head] were a better depiction of the way the back of the head looked when I saw it.” Still later, O’Neill said he didn’t remember the head wound being as “clean” or “fixed up” as shown in photograph number 42, adding that there was “more of a massive wound, such as the other photographs depicted.” And if O’Neill wasn’t being clear enough, in the very next sentence he flat-out says, “I’m not saying that these [photographs] have been doctored or phonied up in any particular way at all...I [just] don’t recall anybody going ahead and cleaning up that section, just for the sake of having the photographs taken.” (ARRB Transcript of Proceedings, Deposition of Francis X. O’Neill, September 12, 1997, pp.160, 162)

“ARRB general counsel Jeremy Gunn managed to elicit similar comments from former FBI agent James Sibert, who provided the critics with even more ammunition, suggesting that the head wound might have been reconstructed for the autopsy photographs. Shown autopsy photograph number 42, Sibert said, “Well, I don’t have any recollection of it [the back of the head] being that intact, as compared with these other pictures. I don’t remember seeing anything that was like this photo.” Later, Sibert added, “The hair looks like it’s been straightened out and cleaned up more than what it was when we left the autopsy...From what I can recall, I didn’t really see anything that was this ‘neat’—I guess, is the best word to use—as compared with what I observed that night...It looks like it could have been reconstructed or something, as compared with what my recollection was, and [what is in] those other photographs.” (ARRB Transcript of Proceedings, Deposition of James W. Sibert, September 11, 1997, pp.126–128)

“So what are Sibert and O’Neill talking about? What do these supposedly cleaned and fixed-up photographs show?

“Autopsy photograph number 42, as all assassination researchers should know, was taken, according to the autopsy surgeons, approximately midway through the autopsy procedure. They intended to show the entrance wound to the upper right rear of Kennedy’s head. But in order to photograph the entrance wound properly, the surgeons were looking for a way to get an unobstructed view of the entrance hole. This was a challenge, because the president was lying on his back on the autopsy table, and in this position several long, tattered, shreds of scalp (which had been blown loose from the right front top of the head by the explosive power of the exiting bullet, yet were still attached to the back portion of the skull) were hanging back, draped over and partly obscuring the entrance wound. (Several autopsy photographs clearly depict these strips of scalp hanging from the back of the president’s head.)

“In order for the entrance wound photograph to be taken, the autopsy surgeons lifted the president’s right shoulder from the autopsy table, and rolled him onto his left shoulder. Then, per his own testimony, Dr. Boswell gathered together these loose strands of scalp between his thumb and index finger and drew them forward across the gaping hole in the right front of the skull, thereby making the entrance wound on the back of the president’s head clearly visible to the photographer’s camera (ARRB Transcript of Proceedings, Deposition of Dr. J. Thornton Boswell, February 26, 1996, pp.97, 149–150, 164). Though the act of pulling the loose scalp forward across the top right of the head made the entrance wound visible, it also briefly covered the large exit defect on the right front side of the president’s head. Consequently, the right front of the president’s head appears intact (except for a piece of loose skull attached to the right front of the skull) and less bloody than almost all the other views of the head wound. There is no evidence at all that anything has been doctored, phonied, or fixed up as conspiracy theorists want so desperately to believe.” [Reclaiming History, Endnote CD, pp.258-259]

Mr. Morley’s claim that the photographic medical record has been compromised or that it is less trustworthy than it was a decade ago is more indicative of his own ignorance of the record than anything else. After all, the argument that what might be hidden in the closet somehow trumps what we actually have in our hand cannot possibly be true.

The official autopsy photographs and X-rays were validated in 1979 by the HSCA (i.e., they do in fact depict the body of John F. Kennedy and – this is very important – have not been tampered with or doctored in anyway), and as such, any photograph record that may have existed at one time or does currently exist but is hidden (slice it anyway you want) per the conspiracy crowd, cannot – I repeat, and emphasize – CANNOT depict something that contradicts the available photographic record. It can only support or clarify it. And all the footstomping, chest pounding, and manipulation of testimony by conspiracy advocates will not change that simple fact. Period.

The Acoustic Evidence

This is easily the least understood aspect of the Kennedy case and unfortunately Mr. Morley offers nothing to clarify the issues. In fact, if anything, Morley further muddies the waters, proving only that he himself doesn’t have a clear understanding of the issues. That is forgiveable, in my estimation. It’s pretty heady stuff and not for the faint of heart.

Rather than focus on the goofy mistakes and poorly written language (hey, it’s hard enough to wrap your head around all this acoustic science without getting bogged down in poor articulation and disjointed concepts), let’s cut to the chase.

Mr. Morley seems most impressed by entomologist turned acoustic “expert” Don Thomas’ order-of-the-data argument – in short, the chronological order of the impulse sounds suspected of being gunshots matches, according to Thomas, the topological order of the microphones that produced matches to test shots recorded during acoustic tests in Dealey Plaza in 1978.

“To a scientist this sort of orderliness is very significant,” says Thomas. “There are 125 ways to sequence five events, only one of which is 1-2-3-4-5.” Thomas believes there were five shots – not four as the HSCA acoustic experts claims, but that’s another matter.

It apparently doesn’t matter so much to Mr. Morley that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) rejected the HSCA acoustic evidence after they determined the voice of Sheriff Bill Decker (discovered by Ohio percussionist Steve Barber) making a statement known to have been uttered at least one minute after the actual shooting which appeared on the recording simultaneous with the impulse sounds thought to be gunshots, and thus, the “gunshot” evidence was invalid.

Nor does it seem to matter so much to Mr. Morley that the additional work performed by Richard Garwin, Michael O’Dell, and Steve Barber in the ensuing years supports the NAS conclusion.

No, according to Morley, “the acoustic evidence remains in dispute. In my view, it has not been disqualified until an alternative explanation for the order in the data is confirmed.”

This is high hogwash, of course. Anyone familiar with the acoustic record knows that the test recordings made in 1978 by Bolt, Berenak, and Newman, Inc. (BBN), which they used to find matches in the police recording (said to contain the inaudible sound of gunshots), did not contain a “control” recording – essential to any scientific experiment. In other words, BBN failed to record the sound of the test shots from a microphone position known to have not been along the motorcade route (i.e., a microphone located in the middle of a grassy area, or high on a building top, etc.). BBN’s entire test recording session was designed to test the hypothesis that a motorcycle with an open microphone was traveling along the motorcade route and transmitted the sounds of gunshots over the police radio.

The fact that the sound “matches” which BBN obtained seemed to follow the motorcade route is hardly significant given the fact that test microphones were not set up in any other locations other than along the motorcade route, and, most importantly, that BBN rejected a number of test shot matches for the very reason that Don Thomas cites as being scientifically significant – that is, matches were rejected because they did not follow the “order of the data” one would expect to get from a microphone moving along with the motorcade.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Morley never mentions the study I conducted of the photographic record as it pertains to the validity of the acoustic evidence - one of the most important and certainly the most recent work done on the subject.

Few seem to recognize that the conclusions of the HSCA acoustic experts hinge on a very basic assumption – a police motorcycle, with an open microphone, was transmitting the sound of the shots from four very specific locations at the time of the assassination. In order for the HSCA’s acoustic evidence of conspiracy to have validity, a police motorcycle must be present at the four specific locations and times predicted by the acoustic analysis. If there is no motorcycle at the location and times predicted by their analysis, their conclusions are, by default, invalid – plain and simple.

This is not something I invented. Numerous internal HSCA documents refer to the need to validate the acoustic evidence photographically. In fact, in 2001, James E. Barger, chief scientist at BBN wrote, “...if it can be shown that there was no vehicle or person with a police radio near the trajectory where I found it to be, then, that is impeaching evidence.” [emphasis added] And, in 2003, HSCA chief counsel G. Robert Blakey reiterated the same point, “"If you could prove to me that there was no police officer in the place where he had to be, you would falsify [the acoustics evidence].” [emphasis added]

The 179-page final report on my work, “Epipolar Geometric Analysis of Amateur Films Related to Acoustics Evidence in the John F. Kennedy Assassination,” which is available as a free download, documents the use of computer technology, epipolar geometry, and nine amateur 8mm films of the assassination to construct a synchronized photographic record of the shooting and determine the validity – photographically – of the HSCA’s acoustic evidence of conspiracy.

The result is a definitive photographic record of the last 40-seconds of President Kennedy’s life that demonstrates that no police motorcycles – including, Officer H.B. McLain’s – were near the area designated by the HSCA’s acoustic experts, and consequently, the committee’s acoustic evidence of a conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination is invalid. The conclusion supports the work of the NAS and others (like Garwin, O’Dell, and Barber) who have found the acoustic evidence invalid on acoustic grounds.

The report I produced detailing the history of the acoustic issue and the methodology I employed to definitively resolve the issue was released on June 1, 2007 – over six months ago. Proponents of the acoustic evidence as evidence of conspiracy have roundly ignored it. Ignoring it, of course, doesn’t make it go away.

Seven months before the release of the report, Mr. Morley was invited to my studio and was given a personal tour of my work on the acoustic issue during the course of doing research for his recent Playboy article.

In an email group exchange, Morley explained, “One drawback to this article is that I did not have space to include my analysis of why Dale Myers’ analysis is not dispositive. I spent a day with Dale last year as part of my reporting and I have a lot respect for his work. The short answer is that there is no direct photographic evidence to confirm or refute the position of McLain's motorcycle. Dale's inference is logical but I don't think that it is the only one. Rather than deal with dueling inferences, I chose to deal with the dueling analyses of the acoustic evidence itself.”

No direct photographic evidence to confirm or refute the position of McLain's motorcycle? This is absolute rubbish. The position of McLain’s motorcycle one-half second before the first HSCA gunshot (i.e. Z160) is irrefutably shown via direct photographic evidence to have been 174 feet from the location predicted by the HSCA acoustic experts – too great a distance for McLain to cover in the allotted time.

The evidence for McLain’s position is frame number 648 from the Robert Hughes film of the assassination which is shown to synchronize with Zapruder frame 150 (exposed one-half second before the HSCA’s acoustic shot at Z160).

It couldn’t be simpler. The actual images contained in the frames of both films – direct photographic evidence as it were – show the two films to be running in synchronization during the crucial time period. In addition, the validity of the synchronization of Hughes frame 648 and Zapruder frame 150, is supported by five additional, independent visual reference points common to both films.

The explanatory information that invalidates the acoustic evidence consumes less than 4 pages of the report. The rest of the material is supportive in nature and highly educational. Read it and judge for yourself.

Apparently none of my work constitutes “direct photographic evidence” for Mr. Morley. I suppose the only thing that would satisfy him and the cabal of acoustic proof devotees is a time stamped image of McLain and Kennedy at the exact moment of the first shot. But then, of course, there would be heated arguments about the method of time stamping, the paper it was printed on, whether that was really McLain in the background or some other motorcycle officer who sped forward and replaced him for no rhyme or reason; blah, blah, blah.

I don’t pretend to know why an entire community of so-called “researchers” would ignore a comprehensive report that purports to resolve the validity – one way or the other – of the only scientific evidence of conspiracy ever offered in the forty-four year history of the assassination debate. I would think one would have to investigate it – either to show its flaws or to champion its conclusions. But to ignore it?

There is one thing that’s certain, anyone embracing anything that knocks down the conspiracy argument is going to get booted but good from Club Conspiracy. For some, that’s too much to give up.

And so another year of endless conspiracy-debate comes to an end.

Perhaps for a moment, we can set aside the hostility, the arguing, and the prolonged rangling to remember the surviving families and relatives who lost loved ones on that sad and tragic weekend forty-four years ago today.

Lest we forget.


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