Saturday, November 28, 2009

Veteran CBS News Producer Bernard Birnbaum Dead at 89


There's been a death in the CBS News family: Former producer Bernard Birnbaum died on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 89.

Birnbaum had been at CBS News since 1951, and was a producer for "Sunday Morning" since 1990.

Throughout his distinguished career at the network, during which he received seven Emmy Awards, Bernie Birnbaum covered many of the most remarkable events of the past several decades, from political campaigns and the assassination of President Kennedy, to Watergate and the Vietnam War.

As a producer, Birnbaum worked with many legendary CBS News correspondents (including Howard K. Smith, Charles Collingwood, Mike Wallace, Eric Sevareid and Morton Dean), using his talents as a photographer, director and storyteller to create innovative television journalism.

He was a producer for such CBS programs as "Adventure," "Eyewitness to History," and "The American Parade."

In September 1963 he was named an associate producer for the "CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite," the first half-hour daily news broadcast.

Birnbaum was dispatched by Cronkite to Dallas in November 1963 to produce CBS News' coverage of the immediate aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Reporting on the Kennedy assassination became a lifelong interest, resulting in many primetime broadcasts, including the 1993 "48 Hours" special "Who Killed Kennedy?"

"CBS News Inquiry: The Warren Report" (1967) were four one-hour specials examining the facts and allegations surrounding President Kennedy's assassination and the work of the commission appointed to investigate it.

Birnbaum also played a major role in coverage of the Vietnam War, making seven trips to that country. With the evacuation of American troops from Saigon in April 1975, he was part of the team of CBS News producers responsible for a special two-and-a-half hour retrospective, "Vietnam: A War That is Finished."

Birnbaum was also the senior producer for "On the Road with Charles Kuralt." In 1964, the two produced "Christmas in Appalachia," an award-winning half-hour documentary on the plight of unemployed miners in eastern Kentucky. On the basis of that broadcast, an unsolicited $70,000 from viewers poured into CBS, which some observers have suggested helped shape President Lyndon Johnson's war on poverty program.

Birnbaum married the former Ronnie Gutman in 1950; she passed away in 2005. He is survived by two daughters, Deborah and Amy Birnbaum (who is also a producer at CBS News), and four grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday in Larchmont, N.Y.

Source: CBS

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The JFK Assassination in History


Want to know how the JFK assassination will be remembered by history?

Here’s what a concerned citizen wrote ten days ago:

“The controversy surrounding JFK`s assassination will go on forever as long as the government stonewalls on its release of every bit of information still sealed and as long as they continue to employ individuals to counter any new conspiracy information and label those of us who continue to believe in a conspiracy as ‘nuts.’

“There are too many loose ends, hundreds of them. Oswald`s time frame from the book depository to his apartment, the police car outside of his apartment, possible shots being fired from the storm drain in Dealey Plaza, the single bullet theory, and on and on.

“I will not live to see the truth revealed in my lifetime, but I hope a new generation of researchers continue to carry the torch in the name of truth.”

Very inspiring. If only it were true.

The idea that the government is sitting on information that will completely change what we know about what happened in Dallas 46 years ago today may be very popular with the general public, but it has nothing to do with reality as anyone who has spent any significant time with the millions of pages of documents which have long been available.

James Sibert, the 91-year-old retired FBI agent who sat in on the Kennedy autopsy, recently told the news that he doubts that there are anymore secrets to be unearthed.

“After 46 years,” Sibert said, “there couldn’t be.”

The notion that the government “employs individuals to counter any new conspiracy information” may also be popular among the fringe conspiracy crowd but is laughably implausible. Most of the men and women working for today’s CIA, FBI and other assorted intelligence agencies weren’t even born when Kennedy was killed in Dallas. What stake do they have in the big cover-up and conspiracy?

Most of them grew up on the same conspiracy theories you did and no doubt would jump at the chance to reveal the “truth” about the big dark secret supposedly kept hidden by their predecessors – men who have been, for the most part, long dead in their graves.

Instead of common sense, we’re bombarded yearly with the many loose ends, strange coincidences, and titillating factoids that make up the great “unsolved mystery” of our time.

Oddly enough, the loose ends often cited aren’t loose or mysterious at all. Take the few mentioned above:

“…Oswald’s time frame from the book depository to his apartment…” There’s no mystery here and never has been that I’m aware of. There has been a lot of discussion about whether Oswald had time to get to the shooting scene of Officer J.D. Tippit after he left his apartment, but the evidence (both physical and eyewitnesses) is overwhelming that he murdered Tippit, making the debate rather moot.

“…the police car outside his apartment…” This is a reference to the testimony of Earlene Roberts, the housekeeper at Oswald’s rented room, who told investigators that a police car honked its horn outside the house during the brief period Oswald was in his room arming himself with the pistol he would use to murder Tippit less than a quarter hour later. Mrs. Roberts testimony about her claim was contradictory and unsupported. I know a lot of conspiracy folks like to believe it was Tippit’s squad car out in front of Oswald’s room or another police vehicle driven by Oswald’s confederates, or worse, his potential murderers, but there’s nothing in the record to suggest or support such beliefs.

“…possible shots being fired from the storm drain in Dealey Plaza…” This loose end survives only in the far-out conspiracy publications having been debunked years ago when it was determined that anyone foolish enough to try to assassinate Kennedy from the storm drain when he drove by wouldn’t have the necessary angle on his intended target.

“…the single bullet theory…” Ah, yes; the magic bullet. The only thing magical about the single bullet debate is that otherwise intelligent people can believe that a high powered rifle bullet, traveling at over 2000 feet per second, could penetrate the soft flesh of Kennedy’s right-upper back and throat and vanish! That’s what conspiracy theorists are forced to believe by rejecting the Warren Commission’s idea that a single bullet passed through Kennedy and struck Governor Connally seated in front of him. How magical is that?

The majority expert opinion (the one presented by the 1964 Warren Commission and endorsed by the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations) found that a bullet passing through Kennedy’s upper-right back and throat would continue on and strike something or someone in the car. When it was determined by investigation that no damaged to the car could be attributed to a bullet traveling at nearly 2000 feet per second and that the only other person struck by a bullet (Connally) was seated directly in front of Kennedy, the experts came to the crazy conclusion that the wounds to Kennedy’s back and throat and the wounds to Connally were caused by a single bullet. What’s so hard to believe?

The only people still on the fence about the single bullet debate are those ignorant of the facts or those willing to believe that a high-powered rifle bullet can vanish into thin air.

Accepting fiction for facts has become far too commonplace in the Kennedy assassination debate; hence the perpetuation of the myth of the big conspiracy.

Earlier this month, Dartmouth College’s Hany Farid, a pioneer in the field of digital forensics and the director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth, revealed the results of his digital analysis of the infamous backyard photograph showing Oswald holding a rifle in one hand and Marxist newspapers in the other. After analyzing the photo with modern-day forensic tools, Farid said the photo almost certainly was not altered.

The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) came to the same conclusion 31 years ago.

Conspiracy advocates James Fetzer and Jim Marrs fired back in a one-sided, 8-page dissertation published on the Internet’s OpEdNews, a left wing website with a left wing perspective.

According to Fetzer and Marrs, Farid is all wet because his analysis failed to take into account the many opinions of the conspiracy crowd who too have analyzed the backyard photos and found them to be fakes.

Fetzer and Marrs never bother to even mention that the HSCA looked into the conspiracy crowds’ complaints in 1978 and found them wantonly lacking until the end of their rant; instead relying on long dead allegations that on close examination have been found to be empty of substance.

It’s no surprise to this writer that the Fetzer and Marrs op ed piece fails to deliver the goods given the fact that they can’t even get the basic facts of the assassination right, writing that “according to the official version of the assassination, Oswald was firing at a target moving laterally and downhill away from him with tree branches obscuring the line of sight.” [emphasis added]

Huh? The Kennedy limo was moving directly away from Oswald’s perch (not laterally) at the time of the shots and while tree branches obscured Oswald’s vision for the briefest of moments all of the shots were fired either before or after the limo passed under the tree. I guess these facts are a little too inconvenient for print.

Tonight and tomorrow, assassination buffs will be treated to three new television specials: Did the Mob Kill JFK? [8 p.m. EST Sunday on Discovery Channel], JFK: The Ruby Connection [9 p.m. EST Sunday on Discovery Channel] and The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination [9 p.m. EST Monday on National Geographic Channel].

Television long ago discovered that the Kennedy assassination is a goldmine for viewers and advertising so don’t expect them to “solve the big mystery” and kill the golden goose.

At the end of the day, we’re reminded of the many lives that were changed suddenly and forever by the shots that rang out in Dallas over four and half decades ago.

Now if only history and the American people could come to terms with the real truth about Oswald’s terrible deed.

James W. Sibert, A Witness to History

Former FBI agent Jim Sibert, 91, holds a photo of President John F. Kennedy in his limousine just before he was killed in Dallas. ANDREW WEST/NEWS-PRESS.COM


South Fort Myers resident Jim Sibert has answered the questions for 46 years, ever since the night the FBI special agent observed the autopsy of President John F. Kennedy.

Over the years, Sibert, 91, has been interviewed for books. When the other FBI agent who witnessed the autopsy, Francis X. O'Neill, died earlier this year in Cape Cod, Mass., Sibert was quoted in a Boston Globe obituary of O'Neill.

The calls and questions keep coming from teachers, authors and historians.

"He told me a couple of years ago that he was never going to be interviewed again," said Paul Mitchell, one of Sibert's neighbors at the Cypress Cove retirement community on the grounds of HealthPark Medical Center.

Sibert can't always say no. He has a story to share. Theories and debates on conspiracies and motives and alleged cover-ups fill bookshelves and bop around the Internet. Sibert doubts any secrets remain to be unearthed.

"After 46 years," Sibert said, "there couldn't be."

Now, as Sunday's anniversary of the assassination approaches, Sibert is being asked again about that historic day, Nov. 22, 1963.

"It started out like a normal day," Sibert said.

At the time, Sibert was a 45-year-old FBI special agent stationed in Maryland and only a year younger than Kennedy. Late in the day, the president of the United States was dead in front of him with a hole in his head.

"It was a piece blown out of the skull," Sibert said.

Sibert and O'Neill met the casket at Andrews Air Force Base and accompanied it to Bethesda Naval Hospital. They were assigned to watch the autopsy, stay with the body and, as Sibert and O'Neill noted in a report dictated four days after the examination, "to obtain bullets reportedly in the President's body."

When Kennedy's body was removed from its casket and white sheets were unwrapped from him, Sibert recalls how the sheet around his head was blood-soaked.

"His eyes were fixed open," Sibert recalled.

No clothing came with the slain president. The suit Kennedy wore in the open-topped limousine had been cut off in Dallas, where he was gunned down.

What happened in Dallas that day remains contested with factions still debating whether Lee Harvey Oswald was the only shooter or if he was part of a wide-ranging conspiracy.

"I don't buy the single-bullet theory," Sibert said, "I won't go as far as to say there was no conspiracy."

Sibert and O'Neill's report, titled "Autopsy of Body of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy," stated that Commander James J. Humes, who conducted the autopsy, noted another wound.

"During the latter stages of this autopsy, Dr. Humes located an opening which appeared to be a bullet hole which was below the shoulders and two inches to the right of the middle line of the spinal column," Sibert and O'Neill reported.

Sibert won't guess on possible conspirators, on who else may have shot Kennedy other than Oswald.

"I wouldn't have any way of knowing," Sibert said. "See, that's another thing. All my work was in Bethesda, Maryland."

The FBI, Sibert said, had no jurisdiction in the investigation. The FBI Web site notes that "when President Kennedy was assassinated, the crime was a local homicide; no federal law addressed the murder of a President."

During the autopsy, Sibert couldn't let the magnitude of the event overwhelm his duty.

"You just kind of think, 'This happened to the president of the United States,'" Sibert said.

Until the president's murder, Sibert had observed only two other autopsies in his career.

One was of a little kidnapped boy. The other was on the wife of an FBI clerk who had died unexpectedly. That autopsy was held to make sure there had been no foul play.

Sibert recalls the somber atmosphere during the president's autopsy.

"There wasn't any joking," Sibert said. "No comic remarks made."

The experience, Sibert said, didn't change him profoundly.

But every now and then he gets calls from people who are still curious. There are also the memories of the history he witnessed.

"The other thing was the ferocity of the wounds," Sibert said. "That's tough. I never had nightmares, but it's something that flashes through my mind a lot of times."

Still, he's not obsessed with what he saw or what may have been behind the assassination.

"I don't think about it every day," Sibert said. "Generally, when something comes up, an article in the paper, something about the assassination, somebody wants to know about it. It's just another incident in your bureau career that you handled the best you could."

Sibert continued with the FBI until 1972, handling criminal cases.

Now, the former World War II bomber pilot and FBI agent is a widower who plays cards Friday evenings with Cypress Cove neighbors.

"Jim is a wonderful man," said neighbor and card player Elsie Thomas. "He's very interesting. Very knowledgeable. And he likes to talk about his time as an FBI man."


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Replica 1963 Dallas police squad car to honor officer slain by Lee Harvey Oswald

This restored replica of a 1963 Ford Galaxie police car will serve as a memorial to J.D. Tippit, the Dallas officer slain by Lee Harvey Oswald, and other officers killed in the line of duty. JEFFREY PORTER/DMN

by STEVE BLOW / Dallas Morning News

As another Nov. 22 approaches, a fresh round of attention is sure to focus on Kennedy, Oswald and Ruby.

And once again, scant attention will be paid to another name – Tippit.

While fallen Dallas police Officer J.D. Tippit hasn't exactly been overlooked in assassination history, he has certainly been overshadowed.

But from this year forward, a shiny black memorial will see to it that Officer Tippit is more widely remembered.

It's a memorial in the form of a '63 Ford Galaxie police squad car.

On Friday, the gleaming exact replica of Tippit's car will be escorted to the spot on Patton Avenue in Oak Cliff where the officer confronted Oswald and was killed 46 years ago.

The car and honor escorts will stop there for a time of photos and remembrance. Then the car will be taken on to the grounds of the Dallas Police Association headquarters, where it will become the centerpiece of a permanent memorial to Tippit and all other Dallas officers killed in the line of duty.

The story of this unusual memorial begins in an unusual place – in a junkyard in Arlington.

About five years ago, Dallas police were notified that one of their old patrol cars – possibly Tippit's – was rusting away in the salvage yard.

Well, it wasn't Tippit's car. Amazingly, city records revealed that his car was put back in routine service the very day of his death. It was eventually wrecked and scrapped.

In those first few years after President Kennedy's assassination, Dallas was trying to erase history, not preserve it.

No, the car in the Arlington salvage yard was actually an old movie prop – the vehicle used as Tippit's in the 1977 television movie The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald.

It was, however, a real '63 Galaxie 500 just like Tippit drove. And those cars are increasingly rare. So the idea of a replica memorial began to take shape.

The Dallas Police Association took possession of the car, but restoration proved to be a very slow and expensive project. And that's when the Texas Fire Museum stepped in.

The museum on the western edge of Dallas is primarily dedicated to restoring old fire trucks, but its members had the expertise to easily handle a police car. So the project was undertaken.

"There she is," Dallas police Senior Cpl. Rick Janich said, showing me the nearly completed car last week at the Texas Fire Museum. "We've still got to get a whip antenna installed on it."

Compared to the technological marvels that today's squad cars are, "the Tippit car" looks so simple and innocent. Its emergency lights consist of two small round blinkers on the roof.

"The retirees call 'em Mickey Mouse lights," Janich said. "They look like ears."

Scott Simpson, president of the Texas Fire Museum, said, "This has really been a meaningful project for all of us. I think there will be a lot of tears shed the day it rolls out of here."

Assassination researcher Farris Rookstool has served as technical adviser to the car's restoration. "It's 100 percent accurate," he assured.

Rookstool loves this project because artifacts – even replicas – have a power that history books do not. "It transports you back in time. It brings history alive," he said.

Indeed, as I stood beside squad car No. 10, images of 39-year-old Officer Tippit came to mind more vividly than ever before. I can only imagine what it will mean to the officer's widow, Marie Tippit, who will be on hand for Friday's ceremonies.

The car may be a replica, but the emotions are genuine.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

JFK Investigation Photos Now Online

by ERIC KREINDLER / NBC Dallas-Fort Worth News

Photographs taken by Dallas police and used as evidence in the criminal investigation following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are now available for public viewing.

The University of North Texas Libraries' Digital Projects unit placed the photographs in its Portal to Texas History.

UNT recently received a grant from the Summerlee Foundation to digitize 404 images taken by the Dallas Police Department during the week following Kennedy’s assassination. The Dallas Municipal Archives, a division of the City of Dallas City Secretary’s Office, possesses all of the original investigation files except for those that have been transferred permanently to the federal investigation collection held at the National Archives.

“We are delighted to be working with the Portal to Texas History to make the collections of the Dallas Municipal Archives more accessible, and look forward to a long relationship,” said City of Dallas City Secretary Deborah Watkins.

Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert said, “it’s critical that these important photographs not only be preserved, but be available to all for study and scholarship.”

The black-and-white photographs include the “sniper’s nest” in downtown Dallas’ Texas School Book Depository Building, where Oswald allegedly fired on Kennedy’s motorcade; the back and front yards of the boarding house at 214 Neely where Oswald lived; Dealey Plaza; the intersection at Tenth Street and Patton Avenue where Oswald allegedly fatally shot Dallas patrolman J.D. Tippit; interiors of the Texas Theater, where Oswald was arrested by Dallas police; and the basement of Dallas City Hall, where Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963.

Source: NBC Dallas-Fort Worth News

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Jack Ruby's hat commands $53,775 at Kennedy assassination item auction

by WENDY HUNDLEY / The Dallas Morning News

Jack Ruby’s signature fedora commanded $53,775 Saturday at an auction of items linked to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

The gray felt hat, worn by Ruby when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald, prompted spirited bidding during the auction, said Doug Norwine of Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas.

Several collectors were vying for the item, which was expected to sell for at least $21,000.

“It’s a piece of history,” Norwine said of the hat. “It’s truly one of a kind. That weekend of destiny in Dallas changed the social climate in America. For any baby boomer, it made an indelible impression.”

The shackles that Ruby wore when he lay dying at Parkland Memorial Hospital sold for $11,054. The chain, believed to have been used to prevent his body from being stolen, was expected to sell for at least $3,000.

An X-ray of Ruby’s head by a nervous radiological technologist garnered $776 — about the price that was expected.

Another hot commodity at the auction was the front page of The Dallas Morning News signed by Kennedy. The paper — worth a nickel when it came off the presses in 1963 — sold for $38,837.

The president signed the paper for a maid at a Fort Worth hotel on the morning of his death.

Another item from the same era, a rocking chair used by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., sold for $8,365.

The Lincoln rocker was given to the civil rights leader by his editor, Hermine Isaacs Popper, to use while he worked on his writing at her White Plains, N.Y., cabin, according to the auction house.

Source: Dallas Morning News

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Items tied to Kennedy assassination to be auctioned in Dallas

by AVI SELK / The Dallas Morning News

Calling all Kennedy connoisseurs.If you've got John F. Kennedy assassination fascination (and money to burn), Heritage Auction Galleries wants you to come down today and get yourself some souvenirs from Dallas' "weekend of destiny," as they call it.

The gallery's got a decade's worth of Jack Ruby remnants – from the hat he lived in to the chains he died in.

They've got the autograph Kennedy signed just a few hours before he was shot. "Chillingly historic," as the gallery's entertainment director put it.

Opening bids for the 1 p.m. auction are already sky-high – and expected to go higher.

Fashionistas can bid on the full Ruby ensemble – fedora, shackles and an X-ray of his skull – for an opening price of less than $25,000.

Literati who'd like to curl up with an original police report of Ruby's arrest might get it for as little as $6,000 – though the gallery doubts that price will last.

And for the cost of a Camry (or two), you might even walk away with a special edition of The Dallas Morning News – signed by Kennedy on his way to that fateful motorcade.

So if morbid memorabilia's your thing, get out your titanium credit card and get ready for some mid-holiday shopping: costly like Christmas – and kind of creepy like Halloween.

1 hat: $21,000+

Before Ruby became infamous for gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald, the nightclub owner was already famous for his trademark gray fedora.

"That was his thing," said Joyce Gordon, a former stripper who would see her boss with the hat over his head whenever a roof wasn't.

The fedora was so distinct that when Gordon heard it described in a breaking news report, she realized immediately that Ruby had gone rogue.

"They said over the radio a man in a gray felt hat had just shot Oswald," she said.
"I said, 'Oh my God, he did it.' "

The hat has been around the block. Today's anonymous seller got it in Las Vegas last year for a high bid of $61,000.

At least one collector in Beverly Hills says he will be sizing up the hat today, though he didn't want his name used – lest a rival spoil his chances.

It would complement his private collection, he said, which already includes Oswald's bloody toe tag. ($83,000, if you're wondering.)

1 X-ray: $657+

If 20 grand seems steep for Ruby's hat, a few hundred bucks might get you a peek inside his head.

January 1964 – Radiological technologist Shirley Davis suspected it wouldn't be a normal day at her Dallas clinic when the doctor told her she needed to be at work before dawn. And don't tell a soul, he said.

An hour after she arrived, in walked the sheriff and three armed deputies, towing a handcuffed Jack Ruby in need of an X-ray.

Davis was a little nervous but mustered her courage and ordered the police out of the room during the procedure – for their own safety, she told them.

The killer turned out to be a lousy patient.

Even though he was ordered to lie still during the scans, Ruby couldn't resist raising his head, ruining an X-ray. The doctor gave it to Davis as a souvenir.

Four decades later, Davis, now Shirley Harter, had nearly forgotten about the skull shot when her husband read about the auction in the newspaper – and saw how much the fedora was worth.

"Do you still have that X-ray?" he asked.

1 chain: $3,000+

Harter doesn't know why Ruby needed X-rays that day. It might be related to his lawyers' attempts to argue that a rare form of epilepsy made him shoot Oswald.

If he'd come in a few months later, there's a chance the scan might have caught the cancer growing inside him.

Three years later he lay dying in Parkland Memorial Hospital, his leg chained to the bed. But even before his death, the killer was already a commodity.

The shackles weren't to stop Ruby from escaping, according to the guard who first put them on the market.

They were in case someone tried to steal his body.

1 front page: $24,000+

At a hotel in Fort Worth, Kennedy spared a minute from his last morning on earth to autograph the front page of the day's newspaper for a maid.

"I think she caught him off guard," said Doug Norwine, the gallery's entertainment director.

She might not have caught him at all if the president had opened the paper before he signed it.

When Kennedy finally did so on his way to Dallas, he was dismayed to read a full-page ad accusing him of selling corn to Communists, among other evils.

According to the historian William Manchester, the president looked up and asked his aide: "What kind of journalism do you call The Dallas Morning News?"

The pricey kind, it turns out. Norwine said the maid's newspaper, worth a nickel before it was autographed, shot up by $10,000 in the first three days of advance bidding.

7 digits: priceless?

Not everything Ruby nets riches, alas.

Gordon still carries around a business card her boss gave her when they met, with his number scribbled on the back.

She called Heritage a couple weeks before the auction, hoping to cash in on the card, but the gallery didn't want it.

With an autograph, "it would be worth thousands," she said.

"But because Jack didn't sign the back of it, they said it was probably worth little or nothing."

Lucky for Gordon, this isn't the 1960s.

"They told me I'd probably get more by putting it on eBay."


About 700 pop-culture items, including the JFK memorabilia, are up for bid today at Heritage Auction Galleries.

Location: 3500 Maple Ave., 17th Floor, Dallas
Time: 1 p.m., today
Online information and bidding:

Source: Dallas Morning News

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dartmouth Professor finds that iconic Oswald photo was not faked


Dartmouth Computer Scientist Hany Farid has new evidence regarding a photograph of accused John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. Farid, a pioneer in the field of digital forensics, digitally analyzed an iconic image of Oswald pictured in a backyard setting holding a rifle in one hand and Marxist newspapers in the other. Oswald and others claimed that the incriminating photo was a fake, noting the seemingly inconsistent lighting and shadows. After analyzing the photo with modern-day forensic tools, Farid says the photo almost certainly was not altered.

“If we had found evidence of photo tampering, then it would have suggested a broader plot to kill JFK,” said Farid, who is also the director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth. “Those who believe that there was a broader conspiracy can no longer point to this photo as possible evidence.” Farid added that federal officials long ago said that this image had not been tampered with, but a surprising number of skeptics still assert that there was a conspiracy.

The study will appear in a forthcoming issue of the journal Perception.

Farid and his team have developed a number of digital forensic tools used to determine whether digital photos have been manipulated, and his research is often used by law enforcement officials and in legal proceedings. The tools can measure statistical inconsistencies in the underlying image pixels, improbable lighting and shadow, physically impossible perspective distortion, and other artifacts introduced by photo manipulators. The play of light and shadow was fundamental in the Oswald photo analysis.

“The human brain, while remarkable in many aspects, also has its weaknesses,” says Farid. “The visual system can be quite inept at making judgments regarding 3-D geometry, lighting, and shadows.”

At a casual glance, the lighting and shadows in the Oswald photo appear to many to be incongruous with the outdoor lighting. To determine if this was the case, Farid constructed a 3-D model of Oswald’s head and portions of the backyard scene, from which he was able to determine that a single light source, the sun, could explain all of the shadows in the photo.

“It is highly improbable that anyone could have created such a perfect forgery with the technology available in 1963,” said Farid. With no evidence of tampering, he concluded that the incriminating photo was authentic.

”As our digital forensic tools become more sophisticated, we increasingly have the ability to apply them to historic photos in an attempt to resolve some long-standing mysteries,” said Farid.

Source: Dartmouth College