Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Soothsayer of Dealey Plaza


It’s hard to believe that Robert Groden could top the bright and shining ignorance so elegantly displayed during the O.J. Simpson civil trial in 1996, [1] but he’s done one better in his new article, “The Assassinations Committee and Me,” published in the May, 2008, issue of Hustler magazine.

It’s right and proper to find Mr. Groden’s latest dissertation on the Kennedy assassination in a skin magazine, however, it would be a mistake to think his words will end up on the trash heap of history. In fact, Mr. Groden promises that the Hustler article is just a small excerpt from his forthcoming book, Absolute Proof, due in the unspecified future from his own self-publishing concern, New Frontier Publications.

In this day and age, the Internet will ensure that this latest bit of trash will surface again and again for years to come. So in light of that, here’s a counterpunch to balance the record.

Mr. Groden is of course the self-proclaimed photo expert who rose to JFK fame in 1975 when his bootlegged version of the Zapruder film was broadcast on ABC Television’s Good Night America, hosted by Geraldo Rivera.

Groden explains in Hustler, “Because of my unique work on the assassination films, together with my possession of, and experience with, the photographic evidence in the Kennedy case, Congressman [Thomas N.] Downing personally named me staff photographic consultant to the [HSCA].”

Of course we now know, thanks to Mr. Groden’s appearance as an expert witness at the O.J. Simpson civil trial and the declassification of files from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Activities (SSCIA), that Groden was a high school drop out (he later received his diploma through the U.S. Army), who took one year of college classes but had no formal training in photographic techniques. [2]

In October, 1977, Groden met with Michael Goldsmith of the HSCA and advised him on areas he thought would be worth researching photographically. [3] Three months later, Groden was told that he was not being asked to be on the HSCA’s Photographic Panel. Goldsmith explained that the reason they decided to deny him actual membership on the panel was that unlike the other members on the panel he (Groden) already had drawn conclusions about the photographic evidence and thus his inclusion on the panel would taint the panel’s credibility. Groden was extremely disappointed and immediately criticized the decision to cut him out of the committee’s photographic investigation. [4]

The decision proved to be prophetic since Groden, even as a consultant to the photographic panel, turned out to be an opinionated loose cannon.

For example, while the panel was investigating the Oswald backyard photographs, Groden argued that the photos could not have been taken on March 31, 1963, (the day Marina Oswald said she took the photos) because it was a cloudy day. One photographic panel member complained, “We know that Groden has been wrong on many, many of the statements he makes.” [5]

On another occasion, when the photographic panel was investigating the Charles Bronson film which purportedly showed movement in the sixth floor window ten minutes before the shooting, Groden took the story to Earl Golz at The Dallas Morning News (which upset the photographic panel considerably), prompting one photographic panel member to write, “The experts disagree unanimously with Mr. Groden that ‘you can actually see one figure walking back and forth hurriedly’ as he was quoted by The Dallas Morning News on 26 November 1978.” [6]

The way Groden tells it in his Hustler article he was at the center of the HSCA action, including panels that he wasn’t even a member of (“We had first discovered these additional shots on a Dictabelt recording…”).

When the HSCA decided to fire test shots in Dealey Plaza to compare with acoustic impulses on a Dallas police recording, Groden reportedly wrote a memo to Professor Blakey “strongly suggesting the firing of test shots from nearly two dozen suspected firing points so that all legitimate hypothetical firing points could be either confirmed or eliminated from the matrix. Professor Blakey either ignored or rejected my suggestion.”

Mr. Groden tells readers of Hustler that this memo “exists for posterity” having been filed at the National Archives and published as part of the HSCA’s hearings and exhibits. A letter, dated January 3, 1979, expressing “for the record and for history” Groden’s dissenting views of the HSCA’s medical and photographic panels does contain an undated attachment detailing “nearly two dozen suspected firing points in Dealey Plaza that have been raised by Warren Report critics through the years. Of these, several are worthy of close inspection for they may be candidates as possible sources of shots within the Plaza.” [7]

Groden opined that the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD)’s sixth floor sniper’s nest, TSBD sixth floor west end, TSBD roof, TSBD seventh floor, TSBD fourth floor (third pair of windows from the west end), Dal-Tex Building roof, any of the upper three floors of the Dal-Tex Building, County Records Building roof, grassy knoll stockade fence, cement retaining wall adjacent to the grassy knoll, and south grassy knoll were the “most likely candidates for firing points,” although, Groden wrote, “It is also my opinion that only four of the above or at the most five are truly candidates for firing points.” [emphasis added] [8]

In the end, two of the four (or five) candidates suggested by Groden were used during the HSCA test firings because other evidence (physical and/or eyewitness testimony) indicated shots may have been fired from those locations. The two (or three) candidates with no supporting evidence were ignored.

In any case, Groden’s claim that Blakey ignored or rejected his suggestion to fire test shots from “nearly two dozen suspected firing points” is false.

In late 1978, the HSCA arranged to have Groden present the photographic case for conspiracy during the televised public hearings, however, Groden petitioned Michael Goldsmith and Jane Downey for even more television face time, writing, “Since it was I who made these vital discoveries [i.e., the ‘doorway man’, the ‘Connally turn’, etc.], I wish to be allowed to present publicly these findings even though they disprove issues that were raised in the minds of most people by myself in the first place… Since I am considered to be one of the (if not the) top experts in the country on the photographic evidence in the Kennedy case, I feel that it would be appropriate to allow me to present the evidence correctly since it was those questions which led to the creation of the Committee in the first place.” [9]

Mr. Groden didn’t get his wish.

Reading his Hustler dissertation, I can’t help but wonder whether Mr. Groden doesn’t still harbor some seething resentment over being restricted to the role of “consultant” to the photographic panel by the HSCA.

That might go a long way toward explaining Groden’s version of the formation of the HSCA, which includes the replacement of Robert Tannenbaum, who reportedly vowed to “blow the lid” off a JFK conspiracy and cover-up that allegedly reached into the highest levels of government, with G. Robert Blakey, a Cornell University criminal law professor, who supposedly squelched the assassination investigation on orders of the CIA and others.

If you listen to Groden, the former chief counsel is guilty of a whole laundry-list of actions designed to cover-up the truth in Kennedy’s murder; According to Groden, Mr. Blakey worked to ensure that the HSCA’s conclusions were as close as possible to the Warren Commission’s original conclusions, insisted that Kennedy was shot in the head from behind despite the objections of all other committee members, relied on a forged autopsy photograph showing the back of the President’s head intact, failed to give adequate attention to the testimony of the Parkland hospital doctors as well as the autopsy photographers and X-ray technicians, worked to disprove evidence of multiple gunshots discovered by acoustic experts, refused to allow test shots to be fired from suggested firing locations, arranged to prevent the acoustic scientists from examining evidence of three additional shots (beyond the four reported), dumped the testing of those three additional shots on the Justice Department, and would not allow any peer review of the acoustics evidence.

Of course, anyone remotely familiar with the work of the HSCA knows that Groden hasn’t got a lick of evidence to support these ridiculous allegations.

For starters, the HSCA under Blakey’s guidance concluded that Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy (a far cry from the Warren Commission’s lone-gunman scenario); Blakey himself later co-authored a book that claimed the mob was behind the Kennedy murder (again, hardly the actions of someone working to reinvent the lone-gunman scenario); and it was the HSCA who instructed the Justice Department to review the acoustics evidence (which is not exactly the way you keep evidence from being peer reviewed).

Apparently, Groden is angry at Mr. Blakey because the HSCA ultimately didn’t agree with Groden’s version of the truth about the Kennedy assassination. But then, that’s hardly an indictment of Mr. Blakey, especially considering that Groden’s truth includes fake autopsy photographs that defy detection; eyewitnesses that trump scientific, medical and forensic evidence; and a film of two men on the sixth floor of the Depository that only he can see.

But, Mr. Groden doesn’t limit himself to things he knows nothing about. His recent article also includes things he knows absolutely nothing about.

For example, Groden charges that the CIA controlled the HSCA by withholding crucial documents on Lee Harvey Oswald. What documents, you ask? Groden tells us:

“In 1963, a CIA operations officer named George E. Joannides was a main player in the CIA’s control of Lee Harvey Oswald while Oswald was in New Orleans. The CIA’s records show that Joannides had several dealings with Oswald three months before the President was murdered.”

Quick, someone call attorney James Lesar and journalist Jefferson Morley and tell them they’ve been wasting their time dragging the CIA into court for the better part of five years to get at CIA documents that Groden apparently already has his hands on. But wait, there’s more in Groden’s crystal ball:

“Joannides was certainly aware that Oswald had surreptitiously worked for both the CIA and FBI, just as the Warren Commission had known, as early as January 1964! It was that information that was being withheld from Blakey.”

Who needs congressional investigations, when you can get all you need from the soothsayer of Dealey Plaza?

Mr. Groden really shows the depths of his knowledge about the Kennedy case when he talks about the acoustics evidence developed by the HSCA, the only scientific evidence ever offered in support of a conspiracy.

According to Groden, there was an audio recording of the assassination gunshots which revealed between seven and 15 shot impulses buried beneath the sound of a motorcycle engine proving a conspiracy “beyond any question.” Later in his article, Groden claims the police tape “contained 15 sets of potential shot impulses.” Neither claim is true.

First, the Dallas police radio recordings referred to by Groden contain no audible gunshot sounds. You can’t hear any gunshots, only the noise of what sounds like a motorcycle engine. Acoustic experts compared the noisy recording with newly recorded test shots fired in Dealey Plaza and found that 15 of their test shots matched five of seven different impulse patterns on the Dallas recording – patterns which they believed might potentially be gunshots.

Whether or not those five impulse patterns actually were gunshots and not something else is the heart of the ongoing acoustic debate. So, obviously, the Dallas recording does not prove a conspiracy beyond any question, as Groden declares.

There are a lot more impudent and silly claims made by Mr. Groden, including charges that acoustic scientists raised the testing criteria and thresholds to eliminate potential gunshots (the coefficient thresholds were in place from the beginning); and that the acoustic evidence proved there were more than three shooters (the evidence indicated two) firing seven shots (four shots passed the criteria established). There’s more, but why bother? It is obvious that Groden doesn’t know jack about the methodology employed by the acoustic experts.

It was also rather blatant of Mr. Groden to ignore the 1981 Committee on Ballistic Acoustics in his Hustler article, not only because they were charged with reviewing the HSCA’s acoustic evidence (something Groden claimed was not allowed by Mr. Blakey), but also because they concluded that the acoustic evidence of conspiracy was invalid. That would seem to be something rather important, don’t you think?

My favorite Grodenism, however, is the claim that entomologist Donald Thomas, who reportedly performed the first independent peer review of the HSCA’s work, is “an expert on acoustic testing.” Apparently, Mr. Groden has never read Thomas’ own report on his work with the acoustic evidence in which he acknowledges that he is not an acoustic expert. [10]

The real gem in all of this buffoonery is this Groden claim:

“…Blakely led me to believe that if I voiced my opinion about the head shot, I would be fired and might even face prosecution for violating the non-disclosure agreement I had been forced to sign when I had been hired by the HSCA. Blakey had me by the “magic bullets” and he knew it. If I wanted to keep my job, I had to keep my mouth shut…”

So what happened? Well, as we all know, Mr. Groden kept his mouth shut and kept his part-time consulting position. But wait a minute. Isn’t Mr. Groden telling us that he traded the truth about the Kennedy assassination for a buck?

According to Groden’s own version of events, the truth about Mr. Blakey’s alleged dirty dealings to suppress the truth in the crime of the century (i.e., to act as an accessory after-the-fact in the cover-up of the murder of the President of the United States) would have been made public if Groden had simply blown the whistle. Yet, Mr. Groden didn’t blow the whistle. Instead, by his own account, he helped to suppress the truth in exchange for what amounted to a part-time consultancy. Doesn’t that make him an accessory to the alleged cover-up?

Needless to say, Groden’s tale is unbelievable. And for what it’s worth, this business about being forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement is a lot of hooey. First, no one is forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Second, a non-disclosure agreement is not signed after-the-fact, but up front as a term of employment, with your eyes wide open. Thus, if Groden signed such an agreement, he signed it of his own free will, just as he exercised his own free will when he decided, according to his own story, to continue to draw a paycheck instead of blowing the whistle on the alleged cover-up of the president’s murder.

There are nearly one-half million tourists who tramp through Dealey Plaza every year, and no doubt a good portion of them encounter Robert Groden at his “office” atop the grassy knoll. There, Mr. Groden continues to sell his version of the truth and the Kennedy assassination for a few bucks.

However, no one with any intelligent grasp of the facts surrounding the JFK murder pays any attention to the ravings of the expert consultant from Dealey Plaza. [END]

* * * * *

[1] Appearing as an expert witness, Groden testified that a photograph of Simpson wearing Bruno Magli shoes at a 1993 football game was a fake. After thirty other photos by a different photographer of Simpson on the same day wearing the same clothes — including the shoes — surfaced, Groden maintained that the photograph was a forgery. [“Crucial Simpson Photo is Probably Forgery, an Expert testifies,” New York Times, December 19, 1996; “Judge allows new show photo in Simpson trial,” CNN, January 6, 1997]

[2] SSCIA RIF 157-10005-10299, Box 298-10, Interview of Robert Groden, February 4, 1974, pp.51-65; O.J. Simpson Civil Trial Transcript, December 18, 1996, p.91; December 20, 1996, pp.15, 20-24; “Lawyer pummels Simpson’s photo expert,” USA Today, December 20, 1996

[3] HSCA RIF 180-10108-10429

[4] Michael Goldsmith to Robert J. Groden, Outside Contact Reports HSCA RIF 180-10073-10039, January 19, 1978; HSCA RIF 180-10070-10220, January 23, 1978; HSCA RIF 180-10080-10367, February 13, 1978

[5] Letter, David B. Eisendrath to Michael Goldsmith, July 24, 1978, HSCA RIF 180-10072-10173

[6] Letter, Charles J. Leontis to Michael Goldsmith, December 11, 1978, FBI RIF 124-10191-10032, p.3

[7] Dissenting Letter, Robert Groden to Louis Stokes, January 3, 1979, HSCA RIF 180-10120-10156, Attachment regarding potential firing locations, p.1

[8] Ibid, p.4

[9] Letter, Groden to Michael Goldsmith and Jane Downey, September 20, 1978, HSCA RIF 180-10105-10460, pp. 1, 3

[10] Thomas, Dr. Donald B., “Hear No Evil: The Acoustical Evidence in the Kennedy Assassination,” November 17, 2001, p.1