Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Six Decades of Truth and Consequences

The Murders of JFK and J.D. Tippit - Sixty Years On

JFK assassination evidence at the National Archives in 1988. [Terry Ashe / Life / Getty Images]

Conspiracy theorists have been having a good ole time for the past six decades re-writing what took place the weekend of November 22, 1963.
Internet forums, annual gatherings in Dallas, and forgettable Facebook group debates are plagued with pseudo-historians eager to shout down anyone who disagrees with their illogical (and often ridiculous) arguments for Oswald’s exoneration in two murders for which he has been rightly and justifiably accused.
Don’t bother to try to convince them of their folly. Six decades are proof enough that they’ll never change their minds no matter how solid the rebuttal.
The truth of the matter is that these self-appointed “historians” have taken it upon themselves to imprint their ideological views onto an event that needs no imposition. Stripped to its core, the events of November 22 are simple and self-explanatory.
The consequence of bastardizing history is that it robs future generations of the truth and dooms them to passing judgments and making decisions based on lies.
Perhaps it’s time to revisit the unvarnished reality of what happened sixty-years ago today when a Marxist ideologue took two lives in the wink-of-an-eye and plunged America into a darkness from which she has yet to recover.
In summarizing the case against Oswald for both murders, former Los Angeles prosecutor and author of “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” Vincent T. Bugliosi, laid out a chronological accounting of Oswald’s activities leading up to, during, and after the killings. It’s as good a summary of Oswald’s guilt as has ever been assembled anywhere. Here are Bugliosi’s main points in abbreviated form:
Prelude - November 21, 1963
Co-worker Buell Wesley Frazier drove Oswald out to Irving, Texas, the night before the assassination to visit his wife Marina and two daughters at the residence of Ruth Paine. Oswald broke routine going out on Thursday night instead of Friday night. Asked why, Oswald said it was to get curtain rods for his rented room in Oak Cliff. (Not only would Oswald not be responsible for curtain rods in a rented room, but the room already had both curtain rods and curtains.)
November 22, 1963
Before leaving Ruth Paine’s, Oswald left behind his wedding ring and $170 ($1,709.94 today) in cash. Oswald kept a little over $13.87 dollars ($139.51 today) for himself.
As Oswald approached Buell Frazier’s house for the ride back into Dallas, Frazier’s sister, Linnie Mae Randle, saw Oswald carrying a long package.
Before climbing into Buell Frazier’s car, Oswald placed the long package on the back seat. Frazier later said Oswald told him it was the curtain rods he mentioned the day before. (When questioned by police, Oswald denied telling Frazier the curtain rod story and even denied having put a long package in the back seat.)
When Frazier and Oswald arrived in the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) parking lot, Oswald gathered up the long package and carried it to the TSBD staying fifty-feet ahead of Frazier. (Prior to this day, they had always walked the three hundred yards together.)
Between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m., Oswald asked co-worker James Jarman why people were gathering outside at the corner of Elm and Houston. Jarman said the president’s motorcade was to pass by the building. Oswald asked which way he was coming. Jarman told him. (The motorcade route had received enormous and inescapable publicity in the newspapers, television and on radio. Oswald usually read both daily newspapers and was known to have seen the motorcade route on television on Wednesday night, Nov. 20.)
The assassination
After the first two shots rang out, eyewitness Howard Brennan, sitting across from the TSBD, looked up and saw Oswald fire his last shot. An hour after the shooting, Brennan signed an affidavit saying, “I believe I could identify this man if I ever saw him again.” At a lineup on Friday night, Brennan picked out Oswald but said, “He looks like him, but I cannot positively say.” (Brennan later testified that in fact he could have positively identified Oswald Friday night but that he was afraid he would jeopardize his family’s lives if he told the truth.)
Other witnesses saw a rifle barrel sticking out of the same sixth-floor window that Brennan identified.
During his interrogation on Friday night, Nov. 22, Oswald said he was having lunch on the first floor of the TSBD at the time of the shots; however, on Sunday, Nov.24, Oswald said that at lunchtime, one of the “Negro” employees invited him to eat lunch with him but he declined, saying, “You go down and send the elevator back up and I will join you in a few minutes.” Oswald said that before he could finish whatever he was doing, the commotion surrounding the assassination took place and he “went downstairs,” where a policeman questioned him as to his identification. His boss stated he was one of his employees. (This was a reference to Oswald’s encounter with Dallas Patrolman M.L. Baker who crossed paths with Oswald approximately 90-seconds after the shots in a second-floor lunchroom. Therefore, by Oswald’s own belated admission, he was on the sixth-floor at the time of the assassination.)
 Three empty shell casings were later found underneath the sixth-floor window where Brennan saw Oswald shoot and a rifle was later found on the sixth-floor in the opposite corner of the room. (The rifle was proven to have been purchased by Oswald in March 1963 using the alias ‘A. Hidell’. Oswald had authorized ‘A.J. Hidell’ to receive mail in his post office box in New Orleans; filling in the Hidell name in his own handwriting. When Oswald was arrested, he had a false selective service identification card in the name of ‘Alek James Hidell’ which contained Oswald’s photograph. The empty shells found on the sixth-floor of the TSBD were proven to have been fired in Oswald’s rifle to the exclusion of all other weapons.)
Frantic escape
Oswald left the Depository within minutes of his encounter with Patrolman Baker, walked seven blocks east and boarded the first bus that came along – the Marsalis Avenue bus which would only take him to within a half-mile of his rented room. If he waited for the next bus – the Beckley Avenue bus – he could have ridden it to his front door.
Within a few blocks, the Marsalis bus got snarled in traffic backing up from the chaos caused by the assassination. Oswald asked for a bus transfer and departed.
Walking several blocks south, Oswald hailed a cab in front of the Greyhound Bus Station and asked the cab driver to take him to the 500 block of North Beckley – five blocks south of his rented room. When the cab driver asked Oswald what all the sirens and noise were about, Oswald said nothing, despite the fact that he had just come from Dealey Plaza, scene of the assassination.
The cab took Oswald right past his room. Five blocks further, Oswald asked the cab driver to pull over. Exiting the cab near Neely and Beckley, Oswald walked back to his rented room. He ran in past the housekeeper, Mrs. Earlene Roberts, who asked, “You sure are in a hurry!” Oswald said nothing, went to his room and left a few moments later zipping up “a short gray coat.” Mrs. Roberts glanced out the front window a moment later and saw Oswald standing at the curb near a bus stop. It was about 1:00 p.m. (Oswald later told police that he stopped at his room to change his trousers and get his .38-caliber Smith and Wesson pistol. When police sent the shirt Oswald was arrested in to be processed at the FBI lab, Oswald claimed that he also changed his shirt.)
Tippit murdered
Fifteen minutes after leaving his rented room, Oswald murdered Dallas Patrolman J.D. Tippit on a residential side street nine-tenths of a mile from his rented room. Tippit had stopped Oswald, who was walking down Tenth Street. When Tippit got out of his squad car and approached Oswald, he pulled the .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver he had just gotten from his room and shot Tippit four times. (Eleven witnesses identified Oswald as the person who shot the officer and/or who was seen fleeing the immediate vicinity.)
Twenty-three minutes later, shoe store manager Johnny C. Brewer spotted Oswald acting suspiciously in front of his shoe store, located seven blocks west of the Tippit shooting scene. Oswald was in shirt-sleeves; no longer wearing the “short gray coat” his housekeeper saw him zipping up as he left his rented room thirty-eight minutes earlier. Brewer followed Oswald up the street and saw him duck into the Texas Theater behind the ticket-taker’s back. Brewer approached the ticket-taker, Julia Postal, and together they called police.
Thirteen minutes later, police stormed into the Texas Theater. When the house lights came up, Oswald stood up as if to leave, but as police rushed into the lobby, Oswald sat back down and waited. Dallas Patrolman M.N. McDonald approached Oswald and ordered him to his feet. Oswald stood up, voluntarily raising his hands shoulder high. As Officer McDonald reached down to frisk him, Oswald said, “It’s all over now,” punched McDonald in the face and pulled his revolver. Aiming the gun at McDonald, the officer grabbed the cylinder, to keep it from turning, and began wrestling with Oswald. Other officers quickly joined in and subdued Oswald who began yelling, “I am not resisting arrest!”
On the drive back to police headquarters following his arrest, Oswald refused to give officers his name. Pulling a wallet from Oswald’s left-rear trouser pocket, police discovered that Oswald was carrying two sets of identification – one in the name of Lee Harvey Oswald, the other in the name of Alek J. Hidell. Oswald refused to say which was his true identity. (The ‘Hidell’ name was the name he used to purchase both the rifle found on the sixth-floor of the TSBD and the pistol taken from him in the theater.)
On Friday night, Oswald appeared in three line-ups in which eyewitnesses to the Tippit shooting and its aftermath positively identified Oswald as the man they saw shoot the officer or flee the scene. Oswald was charged with Tippit’s murder and held without bond.
The FBI lab later determined that the four shells Oswald discarded at the Tippit murder scene as he fled had been fired in the revolver he had in his possession at the time of his arrest to the exclusion of all other weapons. They also determined that the four bullets that hit Tippit could not be linked positively to Oswald’s revolver to the exclusion of all other weapons (due to the erratic markings on the sides of the bullets); but that Oswald’s revolver was among those that could have produced the erratic bullet markings and therefore Oswald’s revolver could not be eliminated as the murder weapon.
A light-gray zipper jacket discovered behind a Texaco service station in Oak Cliff was also examined by the FBI lab. The jacket was found along the escape route used by Tippit’s killer. Oswald’s housekeeper, Mrs. Earlene Roberts saw Oswald leave the rooming house zipping up “a short gray coat” about 1:00 p.m. When Oswald was spotted outside Hardy’s shoe store by Johnny C. Brewer at about 1:38 p.m., Oswald was in shirt sleeves. The FBI found dark-blue, gray-black, and orange-yellow cotton fibers inside the sleeves of the jacket. The microscopic characteristics of those fibers matched fibers composing the shirt Oswald was wearing at the time of his arrest. (According to Marina Oswald, her husband owned only two jackets – the light gray jacket found behind the Texaco service station and a dark blue jacket which was discovered in a first-floor lunchroom at the TSBD two weeks after the assassination.)
A large homemade paper bag found in the sniper’s nest, presumably used to carry the rifle into the Depository, contained Oswald’s left index fingerprint and a right palm print.
Oswald’s left palm print and right index fingerprint were found on top of a book carton used as a gun rest in the sniper’s nest. Oswald’s right palmprint was also found on a book carton that was presumably used as a seat by the gunman as he waited.
Two weeks after the assassination, the clipboard Oswald had been using on Nov.22 was found on the sixth-floor behind some cartons near the northwest corner stairwell, near where the rifle was discovered. Three orders for books, which were located on the sixth-floor, were still attached to the clipboard.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 23, FBI agents found the mail-order for the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle discovered by police on the sixth-floor of the TSBD. It was ordered by Oswald in March 1963 from a Chicago mail-order house using the alias ‘A. Hidell’ and sent to a Dallas post-office box that Oswald had rented. The empty shells found on the sixth-floor of the TSBD were proven to have been fired in Oswald’s rifle to the exclusion of all other weapons. The FBI lab also determined that bullet fragments recovered from the presidential limousine late on the night of the assassination were also fired from Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle to the exclusion of all other weapons.)
On Saturday, Nov. 23, Dallas police recovered negatives and photographic prints of Oswald holding the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle and two left-wing newspapers – The Militant and The Worker. A revolver in a holster can be seen strapped to his right hip in the photographs. Marina Oswald later testified that Oswald had her take the photographs in April 1963.
Consciousness of guilt
Oswald lied repeatedly during his interrogation which betrayed his consciousness of guilt.
Oswald denied purchasing or even owning the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle found on the sixth-floor. (Documents in Oswald’s own handwriting prove he ordered the rifle and had it mailed to his Dallas post-office box.)
Oswald denied that the backyard photograph of him holding the rifle was in fact him. He claimed it was his face superimposed on another person’s body. (Scientific examination later proved that the photographs were genuine and unaltered.)
Oswald claimed he had never seen the rifle photograph before. (A copy of one of the photographs was later found among the effects of George DeMohrenschildt with Oswald’s signature on the back.)
Asked by police to reveal all of the addresses he lived at in the past, Oswald provided all of the addresses, except his residence on Neely Street (where the backyard photographs were taken).
Oswald denied telling Buell Wesley Frazier that he went to Irving the night of Nov.21 to get curtain rods, denied putting a long package in the back of Frazier’s car, and denied carrying a long package into the Depository. (No curtain rods were found in the Depository.)
Oswald claimed that the only bag he brought to work on Friday, Nov.22 was a bag with his lunch in it. (Frazier stated that he noticed that Nov.22 was the only day that Oswald didn’t bring his lunch and that he thought Oswald planned to buy lunch from the catering truck.)
Oswald claimed he was having lunch with James “Junior” Jarman at the time the president was shot. (Jarman testified that he ate alone.)
Oswald claimed that he bought the revolver he owned in Fort Worth. (Oswald actually bought the revolver from a Los Angeles mail-order house.)
Finally, Oswald denied having any knowledge of the name ‘A. Hidell,’ the name used to order the weapons used to murder President Kennedy and Dallas Patrolman J.D. Tippit, despite the fact that when he was arrested, his wallet contained a false selective service identification card in the name of ‘Alek James Hidell’ which featured Oswald’s photograph. (U.S. Postal records showed that Oswald had authorized ‘A.J. Hidell’ to receive mail in his post office box in New Orleans; filling in the Hidell name in his own handwriting. When confronted with the form on Sunday, Nov. 24, Oswald denied any knowledge of the contents of the form or any explanation of why he would put the name ‘A.J. Hidell’, which he claimed to have no knowledge about, on the post-office form.)
Even this abbreviated outline [1] shows Oswald’s consciousness of guilt regarding the assassination and the murder of Officer J.D. Tippit. His lies to police were easily unmasked that weekend. Oswald’s defenders insist that no one could be that stupid. There must have been more to it, they reckon.
Inadmissible in court
One tenant of those convinced that Oswald was an innocent framed for the two murders is the belief that much of the evidence against him would have been considered inadmissible at trial.
Often cited as proof are claims made by Mark Lane about a 1965 American Bar Association Journal article by Alfredda Scobey, a law assistant to the Court of Appeals of Georgia who served on the staff of J. Lee Rankin, general counsel to the commission. [2]
During an interview for Playboy magazine, published in 1967, Lane stated, “Let me add that there is no doubt in my mind that had Oswald lived to face trial, he would have been acquitted of the assassination of President Kennedy. A Commission attorney, Alfredda Scobey, conceded that in the January 1965 issue of The American Bar Association Journal.” [3]
But, of course, Lane’s claim was nonsense. In a televised debate, [4] recorded on January 31, 1967, Ms. Scobey responded to Lane’s false charge: “Mr. Lane said in an interview in the current Playboy magazine that no one can charge him with ‘a single inaccuracy, distortion, or out of context statement.’ [5] I can and I do. I have time for only a couple, but anyone who is interested can do it for himself. You have only to take a sentence at random from Mr. Lane, and then read the testimony he cites as his authority.
“Let me begin with a personal reference. I wrote a bar journal article the thesis of which was that the evidence before the Warren Commission was like the brief of evidence on the trial of the case, but that, had Oswald been on trial, much of this testimony (for example, that of his wife) could have been excluded by defense counsel, but that nevertheless Oswald could not have been acquitted because his guilt was so overwhelmingly proved by physical, documentary and circumstantial evidence. After stating what defense counsel might delete, I wrote – here is the language – ‘This is NOT to say that what would be left would leave room for a reasonable doubt of Oswald’s guilt.’
“Mr. Lane as a lawyer knows that if there is no room for a reasonable doubt, the defendant in a criminal case must be convicted. If the jury believes there is a reasonable doubt he must be acquitted. I emphasized I was NOT saying there was room for a reasonable doubt.” [6]
Ms. Scobey then quotes Lane’s remark in Playboy magazine followed by this:
“I said the admissible evidence on a trial would not leave room for a reasonable doubt of guilt. Mr. Lane quotes me as saying I concede his acquittal. Does Mr. Lane find his position so precarious that it’s necessary for him to do this to gain the appearance of support in his public interviews?” (underlined in original) [7]
The bigger point
A bigger point, hammered by Ms. Scobey in her original ABA article and missed by Lane and his ilk and the media, [8] is that the Warren Commission created a documentary record that serves history better than it does as a legal brief. And historic truth is something that the public never would have gained had Oswald gone on trial.
In short, the contradictions inherent is such a deep and wide-ranging investigation provided a clearer picture than would otherwise have been gleaned by trial.
As Scobey points out, even if Oswald’s defense counsel had been very, very lucky to exclude or impeach the testimony of a large number of witnesses, whose accounts add so much strength to the case against Oswald, it does not necessarily follow that what remained would leave room for reasonable doubt of Oswald’s guilt. The real question left for potential jurors to decide would be whether the circumstantial evidence that remained was still more believable and more logical than all the evidence that had been excluded.
And here, Ms. Scobey reminds us, the deep investigation conducted as a result of the Warren Commission’s formation provides us a wealth of detail about the people, the environment and the circumstances surrounding Oswald and his actions that wouldn’t otherwise have been gathered and without which it would be impossible for us to access in context historically.
Mistaken identification?
One example is found in the Tippit case. Some argue that Helen Markham wasn’t a reliable witness – that she was wrong about the time that Tippit was shot, that her description of the shooter didn’t match Oswald exactly, or that her identification of Oswald at the line-up was made after she had been administered smelling salts.
But can one believably and logically dismissed other witnesses who didn’t see the shooting, as Markham did, but identified Oswald as the man they saw fleeing the scene? Especially given the fact that we know for certain that the man that others saw fleeing the scene was the same person that Markham saw shoot Officer Tippit?
After all, Markham saw the gunman running toward the corner of Tenth and Patton immediately after the shooting. Cab driver William W. Scoggins saw the same man coming toward him, cross the lawn of the corner house (where Barbara J. and Virginia R. Davis stood watching the same man), jump through the bushes and flee south on Patton. Used car manager Ted Callaway saw the same man as he leapt through the bushes, run past Scoggins, and cross Patton Street. As the gunman passed Callaway, and used car porter Sam Guinyard, four men – Warren Reynolds, B.M. Patterson, L.J. Lewis and Harold Russell – saw the same man trotting toward them. The gunman hesitated briefly at the corner of Patton and Jefferson Boulevard, then turned west toward Crawford. Two of the men – Reynolds and Patterson – followed the same man until he slipped behind two used furniture stores next to a convenience store adjacent to the Texaco service station at Crawford and Jefferson.
Obviously, these overlapping accounts refer to one man, not a sequence of different men appearing and disappearing as each witness encountered them. And each of these witnesses identified Oswald as the fleeing man – five of them (Markham, Callaway, Guinyard and the two Davis girls) identifying Oswald within seven hours of the shooting.
Yes, eyewitnesses can be mistaken, but all of them?
Add the forensic evidence to the eyewitness accounts and can there really be any doubt whatsoever that Oswald, and Oswald alone, murdered J.D. Tippit? And yet, dabblers in the assassination saga continue to make that ill-conceived and untenable argument six decades on.
The CIA did it
Another favorite tenant of those convinced that Oswald was framed is the oft repeated charge that the CIA was behind Kennedy’s murder.
Originally suggested by Soviet Radio TASS within hours of the murder, and pushed by Mark Lane and a cadre of Marxist-backed groups, this is one theory that never seems to go away. And it has reared its ugly head again on this sixtieth anniversary.
In a recent Washington Post opinion piece (“Thanks to the CIA, we might never know the full truth behind JFK’s assassination”), [9] Jefferson Morley claims “the CIA has gained control of the historical record” and as a result we may never see “the most important Kennedy files” which could answer “the exact nature of the agency’s interest in Lee Harvey Oswald.”
Mr. Morley wrote that a CIA-authored “Transparency Plan,” approved by President Joe Biden in June, effectively guts the 1992 JFK Records Act by eliminating presidential oversight.
It was the JFK Records Act that led to the release of almost 320,000 documents beginning in the 1990s. What did all of those documents show?
Here is what Mr. Morley wrote: “Although these documents did not yield proof of an assassination conspiracy, they detailed the CIA’s monitoring of Oswald between 1959 and 1963.” (emphasis added)
Wait a minute – what? You read right – none of 320,000 documents released over the last 30-plus years prove that Oswald was involved in a conspiracy in the assassination.
Still, Mr. Morley suggested something was afoot, explaining that the CIA opened a file on Oswald in 1959 when he traveled to Moscow, renounced his American citizenship and declared his allegiance to communism; that counterintelligence agents intercepted and read Oswald’s mail; that the CIA collected reports on Oswald’s movements within the USSR from the FBI, the State Department and the Office of Naval Intelligence; that Oswald’s arrest for disturbing the peace in New Orleans in 1963 was added to his file; and that the CIA had surveillance teams in Mexico City when Oswald visited there in late-September.
But none of this is new; all of it has been known for decades. And none of it adds up to a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, as Mr. Morley rightly points out.
Still, in an effort to support for his claim that something is fishy at the CIA’s Langley Headquarters regarding the Oswald case, Morley asserts that the CIA “has acknowledged that it engaged in a Kennedy coverup,” pointing to a partially declassified 2013 journal article [10] in which the CIA’s in-house historian David Robarge “conceded that the CIA had concealed relevant information from the Warren Commission.”
The Robarge report
The suggestion is clear - the CIA may have covered-up its own complicity in Kennedy's death. But what Mr. Morley suggests and what David Robarge wrote are two different things.
The Robarge report states that the “immediate reaction at Langley, as elsewhere in the US government, was to suspect that a foreign, probably communist-directed, effort to destabilize the United States might be underway.” [11]
When Oswald’s meeting in Mexico City with a KGB officer in charge of the Soviet Thirteenth Directorate – responsible for assassination and sabotage – became known on Nov. 23, the CIA speculated that Oswald might have been arranging a visa for “a quick escape after assassinating Kennedy.” [12]
Even after Oswald’s murder, the CIA refused to rule out the possibility of a domestic or foreign conspiracy or that Oswald had confederates still at large. [13]
The CIA investigation that followed focused on Castro’s Cuba and the Soviet KGB as the likely puppet masters if a conspiracy was involved. [14]
Privately, both the CIA’s John McCone and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy wondered if the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Fidel Castro, which they had orchestrated, had boomeranged resulting in the JFK’s death?
While the CIA’s response to Warren Commission requests was “narrow,” their investigation of Cuban involvement and the agency’s own Cuban operations “might well be described as reluctant.” [15]
In the 1970s, the CIA-Mafia plots to assassinate Castro came to light and McCone and the CIA were criticized for failing to reveal the plots to the Warren Commission. In McCone’s mind, “the evidence showed Oswald was guilty, and the national interest would not be served by fascinating but fruitless examinations of unrelated covert activities.” [16]
However defensible McCone’s rationale might have seemed in 1964, it came under harsh criticism later. The 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that the Warren Commission “failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the President,” in part because of the limited way the CIA cooperated with it.
The decision not to disclose the CIA-Mafia plots has perhaps done more to undermine the credibility of the Warren Commission than anything else, Robarge wrote. [17]
Despite all of the criticism heaped on the Commission and the CIA, and all the theories that proliferated during the 1960s, 1970s and beyond, John McCone never changed his mind about Oswald’s guilt. He told the HSCA in 1978 that “he knew of no evidence that would tie Oswald to the KGB, Cuba, or the CIA.” [18]
McCone did, however, express regret for not being more candid about the CIA-Mafia plots in 1964; believing that damage to the CIA’s reputation might have been avoided if he had revealed all. [19]
In that sense, Robarge wrote, McCone did have a place in a “benign cover-up” and was complicit in keeping “incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission’s agenda and focusing it on what the Agency believed at the time was the ‘best truth’: that Lee Harvey Oswald, for as yet undetermined motives, had acted alone in killing John Kennedy.” [20]
Deterioration and distrust
Mr. Morley has been beating the CIA-did-it drum for the better part of fifteen-years. The age-old argument that the truth is hidden in the locked vault hasn’t fared well. And now that the safe door has been thrown wide open with the 1992 JFK Records Act, and we can see that, like Al Capone’s vault, [21] the safe is empty, we get the completely predictable argument that the truth is still being hidden.
The CIA has dodged accountability and fortified its position, Morley proclaims, “We don’t know whether the agency is maneuvering simply to prevent revelations of its own incompetence,” Morley wrote, “or whether it’s concealing an undisclosed psychological warfare program to manipulate Oswald and discredit pro-Castro forces, or whether it’s merely acting out of some bureaucratic instinct for secrecy that is its own justification.”
We don’t know? We don’t know? Fifteen-plus years of claims that Oswald was manipulated by the CIA as part of the agency’s anti-Castro Cuban crusade, and the release of hundreds of thousands of documents that would, according to Morley’s earliest assertions, backup those charges, and all we get now is: We don’t know.
As history teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”) might have said, “I’m going to leave your words on this blog for all my readers to enjoy, giving you full credit of course!”
It didn’t take long for Morley’s comments to circle the globe. The UK’s Daily Mail carried the headline: “JFK expert says CIA’s refusal to release full assassination files will stoke claims they used ‘psychological warfare to manipulate’ Lee Harvey Oswald before he shot president dead.” Of course, the Daily Mail didn’t tell their readers that Mr. Morley was the one stoking his own unsubstantiated claim!
The Daily Mail reiterated Morley’s statement that the National Archives now says that all Kennedy assassination files have been released “with the exception of no fewer than 3,648 documents that still contain redactions.”
This, of course, suggests that important information about Oswald is being withheld. But the National Archives specifically stated that they had jointly reviewed the redactions in the remaining 3,648 documents with the affected agencies to ensure that they were being redacted in compliance with the JFK Records Act of 1992.
That Act permits “the continued postponement of disclosure of information in records concerning President Kennedy’s assassination only when postponement remains necessary to protect against an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.” (emphasis added)
Keep in mind, the National Archives has indicated that “additional work remains to be done with respect to a limited number of other reviewed records,” and that over time, the Archives will work to “ensure that information from these records is disclosed to the maximum extent possible, consistent with the standards of the Act.” [22]
And Mr. Morley knows, as well as anyone, that the vast majority of the redactions in the nearly 71,000 documents released by the Archives between 2017 and 2023 relate to the identities of informants or the processes still being used by government agencies to gather information, which were redacted in documents that had been released decades ago. And the vast majority of those redactions are so deep in the weeds as to be immaterial to the question of Oswald’s guilt or innocence. In short, there are no smoking guns.
Mr. Morley’s obsession with “proving” the CIA was mixed up with Oswald and his actions in Dallas was detailed in a recent New York Magazine article (“The Secrets of the JFK Assassination Archive”), which itself contains the usual factual errors about the early assassination investigations that the general public has come to embrace as true.
There’s lots of suspicions, suppositions and innuendos linking Oswald’s 1959-1963 activities with the CIA but nothing of substance to overturn all of the evidence (both circumstantial and scientific) that puts Oswald in the sniper’s nest window alone.
Asked, for the sake of argument, if the CIA did generate a record of Agency activity around Oswald, and that if this record was faithful, would it be reasonable to assume that one could find it today? Mr. Morley, who has spent most of his adult life in precisely that pursuit, replied that he didn’t think it would, explaining that he “suspects [CIA Director Richard M.] Helms destroyed them in 1973, when he left the Agency.” [23] Ah, yes; more suspicions.
The CIA-did-crowd may suspect that Oswald was setup by the CIA (or some other nebulous, rogue element), but after six decades and five-million pages at our disposal there is not one scintilla of evidence that anyone other than Lee Harvey Oswald was behind the assassination. And it's likely that there never will be.
Parkland versus Bethesda
Another tenant of the conspiracy crowd that never seems to go away is the argument that the medical evidence can’t be believed because it was tampered with to frame Oswald for Kennedy’s murder.
Central to their thesis is the claim that the Parkland hospital doctors saw the wounds differently than described, photographed and X-rayed by pathologists at the president’s autopsy.
This is where the conspirati insert how it all could have happened – the body was snatched, a secret autopsy was performed to hide the evidence, and other nonsensical, unsupported claims.
On November 14, a new documentary was streamed on Paramount+ (“JFK: What the Doctors Saw”) that purported to support the conspiracy claim that we’ve been lied to about the medical evidence.
On hand to discuss what they saw at Parkland Hospital were seven of the surviving doctors who attended the president in Trauma Room One. Three of the seven were medical students at the time and had minor roles. (The gathering was videotaped in 2013 and shown only now, for the first time.)
According to the documentary, the president’s body arrived in Trauma Room One at 12:38 p.m. and the doctors ceased attempts to resuscitate the president at 12:50 p.m. (The president wasn’t officially declared dead until 1:00 p.m., after Father Oscar Huber has performed the Last Rites of the Catholic Church.)
This, of course, means that the Parkland doctors had just twelve frantic minutes with the President’s body, most of it spent inserting a metal tube down into the President’s throat and hooking it up to a respirator machine; performing a tracheotomy to improve breathing; hooking up the tracheotomy tube to an anesthesia machine; inserting a tube to drain blood and air accumulating in the right chest cavity; inserting a similar tube into the left chest cavity; performing cutdowns on the President’s right and left arms and legs in order to quickly infuse blood and fluids into the circulatory system; and administering steroids to the President’s body so it could cope with the stress and trauma.
Twenty-plus doctors, interns, and nurses were crowded into the small trauma room during those twelve-minutes. A thorough examination of the body was never performed at Parkland, all efforts being focused on resuscitation. In fact, none of those present even knew that the president had a bullet wound in his back!
At 2:16 p.m., November 22, 1963, an impromptu press conference was held at Parkland Hospital with doctors Malcolm Perry, Marion Thomas “Pepper” Jenkins and W. Kemp Clark. Doctor Perry opined that they didn’t really know how many times the President was struck nor from which direction, but said that he thought the wound in the throat that they had enlarged for the tracheotomy appeared to be an entrance wound. As to the bullet wound to the President’s head, Perry didn’t know if the head and throat wound were “directly related” (i.e., caused by one bullet) or if the two wounds were caused by “two bullets.” [24]
The four-hour autopsy performed that night determined that the President had been hit from behind by two bullets – one struck him in the upper right back / base of the neck and exited the throat; a second bullet struck him in the back of the head and exited on the right front, blowing out a large portion of the skull in between those two points.
Photographs and X-rays taken during the autopsy to support those conclusions were authenticated by the House Select Committee on Assassinations Photographic Evidence Panel in 1978.
Of course, nothing is ever settled in the JFK assassination case and so debates continue about why some of the Parkland doctors reported seeing the wounds differently than what the photographs and X-rays show. The Paramount+ documentary kicked off yet another round of debate.
I don’t propose to settle it all here, but suffice it to say that I’ve looked at the medical record in detail and it’s clear that the Parkland doctors are as sure of their recollections as many other eyewitnesses I’ve personally encountered who are, despite their memory, provably wrong about what they recall.
It's a strange phenomenon and something not easily explained, although, I would point this out – the same phenomenon occurs quite regularly when assassination aficionados debate the case.
Case in point: Both sides of the medical debate make errors when recalling evidence to support their positions, many of them rarely backing down when those errors are pointed out. It’s as if they are emotionally invested in their recollections – right or wrong – and feel the need to defend those memories at all costs, as if it’s personal.
Why should it be any different for the Parkland doctors who had just twelve-minutes to grasp what they were seeing?
Most poor souls interested in the Kennedy and Tippit murders today are stuck with superficial television documentaries, produced by people who haven't gone much further than what's available on Wikipedia, or worse, the Internet as their go-to source of information.
Unfortunately, the web is populated with individuals more interested in promoting themselves, their home-made videos or their long-winded diatribes.
For more than half a century we’ve had to endure endless arguments from Joe Schmoe about how police switched the shells recovered at the Tippit scene to frame Oswald (never offering a stitch of evidence as to who actually made the switch or when it was done); how Tippit was shot before Oswald could even get to the scene (based solely on the easily disproven claim that Tippit was shot at 1:06 p.m.); or how a laundry tag pinned to the lining of the jacket ditched by Tippit’s killer couldn’t be traced to Oswald (ignoring fiber evidence that clearly does just that).
If you are really interested in what happened in Oak Cliff, you shouldn’t be looking for answers in the vast swamp of the Internet. No one is ever going to be able to present anything close to the truth in an on-line video, a stream-of-consciousness laden forum response, or even in this blog.
That’s why I’m not going to bother documenting, for the umpteenth time, all the provable reasons why the conspiracy theorists are wrong about Oswald’s guilt in the Tippit shooting. There's plenty of proof elsewhere on this blog site.
Instead, for starters, try spending just a little time with authoritative sources and educate yourself about what actually happened – how the JFK and Tippit shootings was initially reported, the results of the early police investigation, the forensic evidence, the eyewitness accounts, and more.
The spin put on the Kennedy and Tippit shootings by those seeking to exonerate Oswald for the last six-decades is a whole other chapter of the story that can’t be appreciated until one understands what’s being spun and why.
There’s a lot to digest, especially when it comes to the Tippit shooting. I know. I’ve spent nearly a lifetime researching that aspect of November 22 and putting the pieces together in “With Malice: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Murder of Officer J.D. Tippit,” the first book ever written about Tippit's murder, published in 1998. In 2013, I published an expanded fiftieth-anniversary edition with input from the Tippit family. Since then, I’ve added to the story with several exhaustively-researched and documented articles posted on this blog.
For twenty-five years, the vocal detractors of my work have pounded their chest arguing that I got this wrong or that wrong, never really offering anything new to derail the original damning evidence against Lee Oswald or my arguments about that evidence.
Instead, these bloviators simply spew more of the same old nonsensical arguments dressed up in shiny new shoes. Someone even wrote a book that borrowed so heavily from my own original work (much of it without credit), that I thought I was reading With Malice, until I started encountering every crazy falsehood and distortion ever written about the Tippit case. A few new idiotic “revelations” were tossed in for good measure.
Naturally, conspiracy theorists anxious for a counter-argument to the devastating truth presented in With Malice, embraced this sorry collection of supposition and inuendo. Apparently, this is what passes for journalism in the world of the conspirati who will applaud anything, no matter how kooky, as long as it embraces their ideological world view.
Avoid the forums
For those newbies just beginning to dip their toe in the waters of the JFK assassination, and the Tippit case in particular, here’s my best advice – avoid the Internet forums at all costs. They are a colossal waste of time.
Those forums are entertainment websites, not serious vessels of education. They are largely populated by one of two groups – newbies who know nothing about the case, or Internet trolls feeding on the newbies.
As soon as a new, private Facebook group pops up, with real experts intending to provide a rich learning experience for serious researchers, all of the newbies and trolls move over to “where the action is” and ruin what started out as a good thing.
It’s a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.
Educate yourself
If you’re really interested in the truth, start with these two websites:
Use to find out how the news was originally reported in 1963. It’s a subscription service (there are others), so you’ll have to pay for access, but it’s well worth it.
Then explore the ‘documents’ area of the Mary Ferrell Foundation website. In particular, start by reading the Warren Commission Documents (CDs) Nos.4-7. These CDs contain the earliest FBI reports about the assassination investigation. Once you get hooked on a particular subject or individual, you can run a search across the rest of the documents available on-line.
Mind you, the Mary Ferrell Foundation does not have all of the documents available at the National Archives, but they do have a majority of the most important ones.
Finally, take your time. There’s a lot to digest. I’ve been doing this for forty-eight years. You’re not going to catch up with me anytime soon. But if you keep at it, perhaps one day, we can have an intelligent conversation.
Hard to believe
It’s hard to believe that sixty-years has passed since the events in Dallas played out. Most of those with first hand knowledge have passed on.
It was my great privilege to get to know the Tippit family and many of their friends over the last twenty-four years. Some claim that my connection with the Tippit family makes me biased. On the contrary, it gives me perspective; something the bloviators will never have or understand.
If anything, my Tippit family connection has made my conclusions about the case more resolute, especially when it comes to anything concerning J.D. Tippit being involved in any kind of a conspiracy. When I see anything that hints at such a thing, I move on. I know it didn’t happen that way. It’s that simple.
No, the tragedy of November 22, 1963, as I see it six-decades later, lies at the feet of one man – Lee Harvey Oswald – a disgruntled malcontent who thoughtlessly and selfishly snatched the lives of two human beings and turned the future of America and the world of innumerable friends and family upside down.
Today, I think of J.D. Tippit, his sisters Christine and Joyce, his brother-in-law and boyhood chum Jack Christopher and the two nieces who set my relationship with J.D.'s family and friends into motion. For their faith and trust in me, I will be forever grateful.
For those friends and family still living, I say a prayer. For those who have passed on, rest in peace. [END]
[1] Bugliosi, Vincent T., “Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” W.W. Norton & Co., New York, 2007, pp.955-966 
[2] Scobey, Alfredda, “A Lawyer’s Notes on the Warren Commission Report,” American Bar Association Journal, January 1965, Vol. 51, No.1, pp.39-43
[3] Playboy, February 1967, Vol.14, No.2, p.59, column 1
[4] On November 5, 1966, a pre-recorded 3-hour special program, videotaped at WNEW studios in New York and entitled, “A Re-Examination of the Warren Commission Findings: A Minority Report,” was broadcast across the country (dates and times varied). The program was hosted by columnist/author Jim Bishop and moderated by news correspondent David Schoenbrun. It featuring five leading critics of the Warren Report: attorney Mark Lane (author of Rush to Judgment); French correspondent Leo Sauvage (for Le Figaro and author of The Oswald Affair); Midlothian Texas newspaper editor Penn Jones, Jr. (author of Forgive My Grief); Harold Weisberg (author of Whitewash!); and educator Jacob Cohen (author of a Nation magazine article, “The Missing Documents”). On February 12, 1967, a 2-hour rebuttal (videotaped at WNEW studios in New York on January 31, 1967) was broadcast (dates and times varied across the country), entitled, “A Re-Examination of the Warren Commission Findings: A Majority Rebuttal.” The program, moderated by news correspondent David Schoenbrun, featured attorney Louis Nizer, attorney Mark Lane, assistant counsel to the Warren Commission Albert E. Jenner, and commission staff member Alfredda Scobey.
[5] Playboy, February 1967, Vol.14, No.2, p.44, column 1
[6] Appendix H, Scobey Televised Appearance of January 31, 1967, Transcript, Kennedy Assassination Series, Assassination Commission (correspondence) 1967, Richard B. Russell Collection, Richard B. Russell Memorial Library, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, pp.2-3
[7] Ibid, p.3
[8] Nationwide newspaper coverage of Ms Scobey’s ABA article largely focused on Ms. Scobey’s belief that Marina Oswald’s testimony would have been excluded had Oswald gone to trial.
[9] Morley, Jefferson, (“Thanks to the CIA, we might never know the full truth behind JFK’s assassination,” The Washington Post, October 31, 2023 |
[10] Robarge, David, “(U) DCI John McCone and the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 57, No.3, (September 2013), pp.1-20 |
[11] Ibid, p.1
[12] Ibid, p.2
[13] Ibid, p.3
[14] Ibid, p.4
[15] Ibid, pp.7-8
[16] Ibid, p.12
[17] Ibid, p.13
[18] Ibid, p.19
[19] Ibid, p.20
[20] Ibid, p.20
[21] “The Mystery of Al Capone's Vaults” was a two-hour live American television special that was broadcast in syndication on April 21, 1986, and hosted by Geraldo Rivera. It centered on the live opening of a walled-off underground room in the Lexington Hotel in Chicago once owned by noted crime lord Al Capone, which turned out to be empty except for debris. Thirty million viewers watched, making it the "highest rated syndicated special" in history.
[22] Memorandum on Certifications Regarding Disclosure of Information in Certain Records Related to the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, December 15, 2022 |
[23] Sayare, Scott, “The Secrets of the JFK Assassination Archive,” New York Magazine, Intelligencer, November 9, 2023 | 
[24] 22H832 CE1415; ARRB Exhibit MD41 (News Conference No. 1327-C, “At the White House with Wayne Hawks, November 22, 1963, 3:16 p.m. CST, Friday, Dallas, Texas,” pp.1-9) (Note: The document states the press conference began at 3:16 p.m. CST, however, the actual time was 2:16 p.m. CST. CBS-TV anchor Walter Cronkite read a report regarding the conference on-air at 3:40 p.m. EST / 2:40 p.m. CST)


John Martin said...

I agree with the article.

On the subject of newbies, I’d caution them that it is unlikely that you are going to find anything new.

But if such newbies wish to persist my advice would be to start with the official record (in particular the Warren Report) and then evaluate the criticism of the report.

In evaluating the evidence, the maxim of the English philosopher Francis Bacon should apply:

"… read not to contradict and confuse, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk for discourse but to weigh and consider"

In particular, witness evidence is not always 100 percent reliable.

For example, in the case of Buell Frazier he stated that Lee Harvey Oswald brought a long package with him into work on the fateful day. This was confirmed by his sister. However, Frazier didn’t think it was quite long enough to fit the Mannlicher Carcano rifle. Perhaps he was reluctant to believe that he had driven the President’s assassin into work that day? However, he asked Oswald what was in the package and Oswald replied: “curtain rods”.

So, what are we to conclude from this? It hardly seems likely that Oswald did not bring in any long package into work that day. To believe that you would have to believe that both Frazier and his sister were mistaken on this basic point and that the conversation about the curtain rods didn’t take place. We know that no curtain rods were found in the Texas School Depository Building (TSBD). We also know from Marina Oswald that the rifle had been in the Paine’s garage and was no longer there after the assassination, but had turned up in the TSBD.

I think it is reasonable to conclude that Oswald brought the rifle with him to work and that Frazier was mistaken about the length of the package.

There are numerous examples of contradictory evidence which are seized on by conspiracy theorists. It is necessary to sift through the evidence. Where there is a contradiction, one has to consider which piece of evidence is false and can be safely discarded.

jaswartz said...

Another solid and detailed column. Thanks very much for all your good work over the years.

I was wondering if you will be commenting on Rob Reiner’s new series of podcasts, whereby he purports to reveal the “real killers” in the conspiracy. He has been all over the press recently promoting these podcasts as “definitive” and that he has done decades of research. I was sorry to learn of this as I like his work in other contexts.

Judging from what he has revealed during the interviews, he is of the opinion that there were multiple shooters one of which was in the grassy knoll and the other at or near the triple overpass. Sounds somewhat like the nutty triangulation of fire theory that had something like 6 shooters and which was put forward in the JFK movie. Reiner said he is going to “name names” of the shooters, which should be interesting.

Hoping for a forthcoming column on Reiner’s podcasts.

Dale K. Myers said...

There's only one word to describe Mr. Reiner's "definitive" study: Rubbish.

RashBold said...

Brilliant column as expected.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who don't know what they're talking about when they would give their say about the assassination. Social media is rife with their nonsense. But worse are those who are knowledgeable enough but seek to deceive with their BS. They just would not accept that a loser with a $20 rifle acted alone in murdering the President of the United States and killed a police officer in the line of duty. They delude themselves into thinking that there is a grand conspiracy behind it all when there is little or no evidence of such a conspiracy. It's like waiting for Godot.

Mark Wellhausen said...

Excellent article, Dale. Will you be reviewing "Thinking Critically About The Kennedy Assassination" by Michel Gagne?

Dale K. Myers said...

No plans to review Gagne.

marika said...

There is one problem with your theory, that kennedy got ALSO IN THE BACK,and there is NO time to squeeze another shot from oswald in timeline. Sorry, it had to be at least another shooter.

JK said...

Dear Mr Myers:

Thank you for your writing here, and for the computer work published in the Peter Jennings report program. Though there were questionable characters in that film, I know it is important in history. Definitive work, I'd say. I am curious about something. In the argument for multiple shooters, you used the word triangulation. This brought to mind the question of measurement and distances involved in the crime. I was wondering why someone would not ask what was the distance from the ground to the sniper's nest? I've never seen the question asked. Someone must have used it to calculate the final shot. 88 yards. I'm asking.

Thanks again. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Dale K. Myers said...

Regarding "In the argument for multiple shooters, you used the word triangulation..."; I never used the word triangulation in the Peter Jennings special since I never argued for multiple shooters in that program given my position that only one gunman - Oswald - was involved in the shooting. Regarding the distance between the ground and the sniper's nest, if you are asking how high the sniper's nest window was above the ground below the answer is 61 feet from the ground to the window sill. That fact appears in multiple places and has been available since the release of the 1964 Warren Report, as are the distances from the sniper's nest to Kennedy at the time he was struck by the two bullets - approximately 190 feet (63 yards)[WR103] at the equivalent of Z225 and approximately 265 feet (88.4 yards)[WR108] at the equivalent of Z313.

JK said...

Right! I've watched that special many times, and I know your work in this presentation. Many books I have here don't have that number you gave. Thank you for that. Looking at this number I see something I did not see before. I never measured it. Taping a protractor to a scale, and using the 77 degree angle of the rifle. Seems to me, that is a perfect angle to use. Plus the timing and accuracy of Oswald. I discount what Oswald's brother said about 'happenstance.' I think its a lie, a smokescreen.

That angle, in isolation, is very interesting to me. So are the separatists, the elites in power,who make most things happen in America for their own ends.

Thanks again for your work and help for history!