Lessons Learned from 40 Years of Coverup

Rex Bradford
Delivered on November 20, 2004 at the
Coalition on Political Assassinations Dallas conference


Rex Bradford speaking at COPA 2004

Rex Bradford giving this talk at the COPA 2004 conference in Dallas. Courtesy John Judge and COPA. The 4-DVD series of the entire conference can be ordered from JusticeVision.

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In this talk, I’d like to make some general remarks on the state of the case as I see it.  I hope you’ll find them useful.  As a relative newcomer to the scene, and in another decade or two I’ll have to stop calling myself that, I’ve learned a great deal that’s very troubling, and haven’t lost my outrage yet.

The first JFK conference I attended was in 1998, and it was a pretty good-sized affair and really galvanized an interest that had been growing fast in me at that time.  And it was around that time that the Assassination Record Review Board’s medical releases came out.  And so I bought a set, and I was truly astounded by what I read, and then I just sat back and waited for it all to show up on page one of the New York Times……..I stopped waiting after a while, sadder but wiser.  And so I did what any proud citizen with a scanner and computer skills would do, and I made a CD-ROM of all the medical releases and put it out there.  And that’s what got me started on my project of creating electronic copies of JFK records online and on CDs.


I want to spend a few minutes talking about those medical documents, and about some of the other things that came out of the archives in the 1990s, because it’s truly amazing what’s been learned in the last decade.  Pretty much everything except who killed John F. Kennedy.

This is because, as we’ve learned time and again, the investigations did their best to avoid answering that question.  Sometimes you’ll hear people say that “eventually the government will tell the truth” about the assassination.  I think this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of how things work.  I don’t believe the government knows who killed JFK.  I doubt anybody on the Warren Commission did.  I think there was a lot of whistling in the dark.

Now, if the President was murdered by multiple gunmen, then his body would more than likely show evidence of that.  And if honorable men, for the good of their country, needed the solution to the crime to be a lone gunman, then what has to happen?  The medical evidence must be suppressed, lied about, misrepresented, in some cases destroyed and perhaps even altered.  And so lo and behold, this is what we find.

• We learned in the early 90s that the House Select Committee wrote a flat-out lie in its Medical report, something that is pretty unusual actually, since typically there are more subtle ways to mislead without the risk of telling complete falsehoods. [1]  The HSCA wrote that “all of those interviewed who attended the autopsy corroborated the location of the wounds as depicted in the photographs; none had differing accounts.” [2] But instead, suppressed witness statements, complete with drawings, show that most autopsy witnesses actually reported a gaping wound in the rear of Kennedy’s head, or a large one extending from the rear all the way around the side. [3]

• But the autopsy photographs show no such damage in the back of the head, so that’s a puzzle. [4]  Thus it was interesting to learn that the House Select Committee’s authentication of the photos had a little problem that was suppressed and misrepresented.  The Navy supplied what it said was the camera used at the autopsy, and the photographic panel found that it couldn’t have been used to take the photos now in evidence. [5]   So the authenticity of these photos has been called into question by more than just autopsy witnesses who said things like “this looks like its been doctored in some way” when shown a photo of the back of the head. [6]

• Then there’s Saundra Kay Spencer, who developed the autopsy photos, and testified to the ARRB that the photos in evidence are not the ones she developed. [7]  My belief is that this was a second set unrelated to the controversy over the authenticity of the photographs in the National Archives, a second set possibly taken by Chief Knudsen after the reconstruction of JFK’s body for reasons which are unclear.  Though it does show that pictures can be made to disappear…..

• The brain photos are also used to support the official theory of the shooting.  But we learned that there is circumstantial evidence, written about by Doug Horne of the Review Board [8], to indicate that two brain exams were conducted, one of the real JFK brain and one of a brain whose damage more closely approximated what would be expected by a shot from the rear.  FBI agent Frank O’Neill said “this looks almost like a complete brain!” when shown the photos. [9]  More importantly, John Stringer, the photographer who is supposed to have taken the brain photos, disavowed them in four specific ways at his ARRB deposition. [10]

• For what it’s worth, we finally learned that Dr. Humes destroyed both his original autopsy report draft and his original notes from the autopsy, and that the story he had been telling for years about not wanting the President’s bloodstains to go on display was just that, a story. [11] We also learned that Dr. Finck was overhead expressing great dismay that his autopsy notes went missing. [12]

• We learned more about Dr. Burkley, the President’s personal physician, the only doctor present at both Parkland and Bethesda, who signed the President’s death certificate [13], itself suppressed because it placed the back wound at the third thoracic vertebra, out of single-bullet-theory range.  Burkley is the man the Warren Commission apparently never heard of, because you will search the 26 volumes in vain for him [13a].  What we learned from the HSCA files was that Burkley had his lawyer contact the Committee in its early days, in March of 1977, with the news that he had knowledge that “others besides Oswald must have participated.” [14]  Luckily for the ongoing coverup, HSCA Chief Counsel Sprague was ousted within days of receiving this letter from Burkley’s lawyer, and replaced by Robert Blakey, and then things were back to normal.  Burkley was not called to testify by that most uncurious of bodies, the HSCA Medical Panel.  And for those who haven’t heard, there’s an oral history of Burkley from October of 1967 in which he is asked “Do you agree with the Warren Report on the number of bullets that entered the President’s body” and Burkley replies “I would not care to be quoted on that.”  To which the questioner’s follow-up reply is “I see.” [15]


And what I’ve talked about so far doesn’t begin to scratch the surface.  Ok, so if we learned so much about the medical evidence, then did we finally learn how many shots there were, and from what direction?  Of course not.  The medical evidence is an unholy mess.  I could come up with a theory of what really happened in the shooting and at the autopsy, but I seriously doubt I could get 5 out of 10 people in this room to agree to it.  This is the legacy of so much cover-up and misinformation and disinformation and I believe also in some instances evidence alteration and perjury.  The truth is buried under lies.

To illustrate this point, I want to challenge the notion, shared both by the lone nutters and by conspiracy-oriented medical experts, that the Kennedy autopsy was “bungled,” was what Harold Weisberg termed "unworthy of a “Bowery bum.” [16]

I couldn’t agree more that the reporting which came out of the autopsy is grossly inadequate.  But I think what happened at the autopsy itself remains more mysterious than the “bungled job” usually assumed.  Take for instance the idea that the autopsy doctors didn’t know that there was a wound in the neck until after they were done, when they belatedly called Dallas, and that’s supposedly when the light bulbs went on and that’s when they said “oh, that’s where the bullet in the back, or the neck—or the back of the neck, whatever—went out.” [17]  This story about Saturday calls to Dallas is received wisdom at this point, repeated by everybody on both sides of the conspiracy debate, and I just don’t think it’s true. Way back in 1964 Dr. Perry told the Warren Commission “Dr. Humes called me twice on Friday afternoon” and Arlen Specter told him didn’t he mean Saturday, and Dr. Perry was accommodating, but did slip in again “I seem to remember it being Friday, for some reason.” [18]  It turns out John Ebersole, the Acting Chief of Radiology at the autopsy, told the HSCA Medical Panel that “by 10 or 10:30 approximately a communication had been established with Dallas.”  [19] Nurse Audrey Bell of Parkland Hospital told the Review Board in 1997 that on Saturday morning after the assassination she saw Dr. Perry and “he looked like pure hell” because he didn’t get enough sleep “between the calls to Bethesda that came in during the night.” What were these calls about?  Dr. Perry had explained to Nurse Bell, “Oh, whether that was an entrance wound or an exit wound in the throat—they were wanting me to change my mind.” [20]

Why did the Friday night calls need to be changed to Saturday?  Otherwise there would be no excuse for not having dissected the back and neck wounds and traced the bullet path.  What Pierre Finck admitted under cross-examination at the Clay Shaw trial, that he was ordered not to dissect the neck [21], would not have played well at a Warren Commission hearing.  So there are reasons to believe that the autopsy was not as shoddy as it appears today, but that it may actually have been deceptive in real-time.  Along with this, it may have been more complete than we now think, but that the completeness has been buried for reasons of State.  A case in point here is the testimony and other indications that pictures were taken with probes in the body, probes which showed the paths of wounds.

White House photographer Robert Knudsen, who was involved in the processing of autopsy photographs, was greatly disturbed in his previously suppressed HSCA interview that no pictures with such probes were in the Archives.  He had a very distinct memory of at least one, and he thought multiple, such pictures. [22] Autopsy witness Dr. Karnei told the Review Board in 1996 that he was certain he recalled a photograph being taken with a probe in the President’s body.  [23] An internal CBS memorandum published by the Review Board shows that Dr. Humes himself told a CBS employee who went to the same church, that a photograph was taken of the body with a probe in it illustrating a bullet path. [24]

Interestingly, Humes said that these pictures were taken with FBI agents and others out of the room.  This leads to the possibility that the autopsy was at once somewhat more thorough that we now give it credit for, but that it also was purposefully conducted in such a way as to keep most of the observers in the dark.  Perhaps the autopsy team, or at least Humes and maybe Boswell, got a version of the big National Security Crisis treatment that we now know Earl Warren got. [25]  Maybe they were told that they should do their job, but that they didn’t want the observers to come away certain that this was a big multi-shooter Communist conspiracy that would kick us into a war which could kill 40 million Americans etc. etc.

But this is speculation, of course.  That’s my point, that the goal of “clarifying the medical evidence” undertaken by the Review Board [26] only served to underscore what a deep hole it is.  Richard Russell saw it coming all the way back in January of 1964, when at the end of a brief medical discussion he said “This isn’t going to be something that would run you stark mad.” [27]


Ok, enough about autopsies and bullets.  We’ve learned a little more about the web of intelligence that surrounded Oswald.  Over the years one by one of the “friends and acquaintances” of Oswald turn out to be intelligence agents or friends of agents or “witting assets.”  Oswald’s friend George DeMohrenschildt admitted before his death that his friend the local CIA officer was aware of Oswald and had ok'ed DeMohrenschildt's contact with him. [28]  About 6 months before DeMohrenschildt’s death, he wrote a letter to CIA Director George Herbert Walker Bush, almost literally pleading for his life.  Bush noted in a memo to his subordinates that “yes, I know this man” – Bush roomed at Andover with DeMohrenschildt’s nephew and had first met DeMohrenschildt in the 1940s – and then Bush personally drafted a letter back, saying “have a nice life”, or not, as it turned out. [29]   So we have two degrees of separation between Oswald and the current President’s father.

We learned from the files awhile back that when another friend, Ruth Paine, couldn’t remember before the Warren Commission which agency of government her sister worked for, the department whose name she couldn’t remember turned out to be the Central Intelligence Agency. [30]  Easy thing to forget.  And in the New Orleans Grand Jury transcripts that were supposed to be burned but were saved in a garage and made it to the ARRB, Marina Oswald Porter was asked why she cut off contact with Ruth Paine.  Her answer?

“I was advised by Secret Service not to be connected with her, seems like she was…..not connected…..she was sympathizing with the CIA.  She wrote letters over there and they told me for my own reputation, to stay away.” [31]

Speaking of the Garrison investigation, we learned more about the CIA’s monitoring and intense fear of that effort.  In a 1967 meeting of high-level CIA officials, CounterIntelligence’s head of Research & Analysis, Ray Rocca, predicted that Garrison would obtain a conviction. [32]

Declassifications of the 1990s show that Priscilla Johnson, one of the two journalists to interview Oswald during his alleged defection to the Soviet Union and author of Marina and Lee, applied to work for the CIA and was considered by some in the agency to be a witting asset of theirs. [33]  Priscilla Johnson, you may remember, was the person who happened to be present in August of 1964 when Marina Oswald “found” a bus ticket in a magazine.  This precious bus ticket was found just in time to help the Commission prove that Lee Oswald had indeed been to Mexico City, and had also not traveled out by car as the original reports had said.  The bus ticket had somehow been overlooked earlier by the police and FBI, something Senator Russell had a hard time swallowing when he grilled Marina in the last witness interview the Commission would conduct. [34]

Also during the 1990s a photograph surfaced which finally proved that David Ferrie and Lee Oswald were together in the Civil Air Patrol. [35]  And so on.

We also learned, courtesy of Jeff Morley, that the CIA officer brought out of retirement to serve as liaison to the House Committee turns out to have been the man in charge of running the DRE, the Cuban exile group that included Carlos Bringuier, who had the scuffle with Oswald in New Orleans. [36]  Robert Blakey has since said that if he knew at the time who Joannides was, he would have had him on the witness stand and not serving document requests. [37]

There are no documents which prove that Lee Harvey Oswald was an agent of U.S. intelligence.  But it you look at his friends, he was either an agent or was being surrounded and watched by those who were.


We learned a lot more about Oswald’s purported trip to Mexico City, which in my view is the Rosetta Stone of the case.  Only I’m afraid that this is another one of those areas where the more you stare, the more you go blind.

• We learned that Earl Warren was reluctantly brought on board the President’s Commission by Lyndon Johnson telling him “something that Hoover told me about Mexico City.” [38] Whatever the something was caused Warren to begin crying.  That first week Johnson was bandying about the figure of 40 million Americans dead in a nuclear exchange with the Soviets. [39]

• We learned that, despite denials by the CIA and FBI, a tape recording of someone phoning the Soviet Embassy and calling himself Lee Oswald was listened to by FBI agents in Dallas while Oswald was still alive, and those agents reported that the voice on the tape did not match Oswald’s. [40]

• We learned that FBI Director Hoover informed the new President Johnson of all this on the morning after the assassination, and that the tape of this phone call has itself been erased. [41]

• We also learned that the first tapped call involving “Oswald” between the Cuban Embassy and the Soviet Embassy was probably a fabricated tape or transcript, as neither embassy was open that day. [42]

• We learned that the CIA’s translators, as well as David Phillips, remembered a “third call”, a lengthy call, with Oswald speaking in English and asking the Soviets for money. [43] Such a call, if it existed, has disappeared from the record.  Perhaps it was what scared the federal government into a National Security coverup, not the more innocuous “visa calls” in the record.

• John Newman and Peter Dale Scott have both written about the “cables of October.” [44] When Mexico City sent a cable on Oswald’s visit in early October of 1963, Headquarters sent back a cable to Mexico City which included false information about Oswald, for example noting that the last info on Oswald was from 1962.  At the same time, the same officers sent a cable to other agencies including FBI and State, passing along an incorrect description of Oswald.  [45] When officer Jane Roman was confronted in 1995 with the cables in an interview by Jeff Morley and John Newman, she admitted “I’m signing off on something I know isn’t true” and said that this indicated information held very tightly on a “need to know” basis. [46]

• We learned that the CIA, besides its telephone tapping and photo surveillance operations, had at least two human informants in the Cuban Embassy, bugged it with microphones, picked its trash, followed Embassy-related people around in vans, monitored all flights to and from Havana and obtained the passenger lists, and on and on. [47]  If anybody plotted to murder President Kennedy inside the Cuban Embassy, the CIA would certainly have been the first to know.

• The HSCA did a much better job pursuing Mexico City, in my opinion, than it did the medical evidence – there are a few pretty searing letters from the head of the Committee to CIA head Stansfield Turner.  [48] Though in the end the Committee buried most of what it learned.  And it also chased the same “Castro did it” boogeyman that the CIA trotted out for the Church Committee earlier. [49]

I could go on with tidbits of things we’ve learned, but the problem is that it’s hard to fit them together into a coherent whole.  When CIA employees interviewed by the HSCA weren’t busy not being able to remember anything, what they said usually conflicted with the written record.  Even Anne Goodpasture, who in the early 70s wrote the CIA’s 133-page Mexico City Chronology [50], presumably for the purpose of keeping its falsehoods straight, started out her 1978 HSCA testimony by saying that she might say things that conflicted with the written record, because of faulty memory. [51]  When Ray Rocca, head of the Research and Analysis section of CounterIntelligence in CIA was shown the October cable traffic, he had a great deal of trouble answering questions and finally asked “where are the earlier cables?” [52] Win Scott, the famed Mexico City CIA Chief of Station, wrote in his memoirs the following, which was quoted by Chairman Louis Stokes of the HSCA in a strongly worded letter to CIA Director Stansfield Turner.  Scott wrote:

“Persons watching these embassies photographed Oswald as he entered and left each one; and clocked the time he spent on each visit.” [53]

The CIA has never adequately explained why it could never produce a photo of Oswald [in Mexico], nor has it ever offered a believable story about the tapes.

So from all that is now available, can we piece the story together?  I think the attempt is important, because it’s my belief that what happened in Mexico City, if known, has great explanatory power for the rest of the assassination story.  But this is precisely why it’s been subjected to the same level of obfuscation as the medical evidence.

Smarter people than I have studied the Mexico City evidence, and so far we still have more questions than answers.  Peter Dale Scott’s Deep Politics II asks most of the good questions – new releases since then have added a few more questions but precious little in the way of answers.  [54] The central issues, I think are:

• Was Lee Oswald impersonated in Mexico City, either telephonically, or in person, or both?  Related to this, who was the “mystery man” in the photos?

• Was the record of activities more sinister than visa-shopping on the part of “Oswald” in Mexico City covered up in the wake of the assassination?  By this I don’t mean the Alvarado story of taking $6500 to kill Kennedy.  I mean the question of whether Oswald, or someone pretending to be him, threatened the life of Kennedy in the Cuban Embassy; also whether there is a missing tape transcript with more sinister content than is now in the record?

• Were the “Oswald” activities part of a “legitimate” intelligence operation, part of an assassination frame-up plan, or both?

The only answer to these questions that I feel confident of is that Oswald was impersonated telephonically at least.  Beyond that, questions beget more questions.  Just as in the medical evidence, you find that the expert witness accounts vary widely from what is in the written record.

One example of how deep the rabbit hole goes.  It’s tucked away in a lengthy 3-part Mexico City Station history written by Anne Goodpasture in 1970, after Win Scott had died. [55] Only three HSCA staff members were allowed to see even a heavily redacted version of this document.  If it is ever fully declassified, it will tell the details of the massive surveillance the Cuban Embassy was under.  As of now, all we have is what Blakey, Cornwell, and Goldsmith were allowed to see.  As I read through this mostly-blacked out document, I kept waiting for the Oswald visit to show up.  Finally, this:

“A man with a US accent, speaking broken Russian, telephoned both the Soviet Embassy and the Cuban Embassies on 26 September and 6 October 1963.”

This is better than Hoover’s famous mistakes. [56] In one sentence, we have two wrong dates and the notion of a call to the Cuban Embassy, something not “in the record” and of great importance.  But the next sentence is even better:

“He identified himself as Lee Oswald and Harvey Oswald.” [57]

Enough said.  Ms. Goodpasture later wrote the 133-page CIA chronology.  I wonder if she was picked to write the chronology because she was an expert, or if instead the point was to get Ms. Goodpasture to read the “record,” and learn just what it was she was supposed to be remembering as the truth of what happened.


The document releases of the 90s had some very interesting foreign policy revelations.  We learned that the prime organizers of the Bay of Pigs invasion thought that the date had been “blown” and told their superiors, but nobody apparently told Kennedy and the event went ahead as planned. [58]

We got confirmation of the spring 1963 Vietnam withdrawal plans in the form of the May SecDef Conference on Vietnam.  This included a printed timetable for withdrawal and an admonition from McNamara that it was not fast enough. [59]

The big surprise probably was Operation Northwoods, the Joint Chiefs’ plan to simulate or create actual terrorist attacks on the US that could be blamed on Castro, and which could then be responded to by an invasion of Cuba. [60]

Red Fay, a friend of Kennedy’s appointed to be Undersecretary of the Navy, wrote a book called The Pleasure of His Company.  Fay describes being on a yacht with JFK after Kennedy had read Seven Days in May, and JFK described the conditions under which the U.S. military might overthrow an American President.  He said it would have to be a young president (Kennedy was elected at age 43), and he would have to have a Bay of Pigs-type failure.  This would make the military nervous and engage in a little criticizing behind his back.  Then if there was a second Bay of Pigs, they might get really antsy and “stand ready” to do their patriotic duty to protect the nation.  And then if there was a third one, they would act.  Kennedy concluded this unusual musing by saying “But it won’t happen on my watch.” [61]

Well, Kennedy had the Bay of Pigs of course.  And later there was the Cuban Missile Crisis, with the Joint Chiefs, not to mention Dean Acheson, Richard Russell, and other people, thumping on the table to invade Cuba. [62] For the third “failure”, take your pick – the opening of a “second track” channel of rapprochement with Castro, done behind the back of the rest of the government but certainly not unknown to them [63], or the Vietnam withdrawal plans we now know were on the books in the spring of 1963.  The possibility of 13 more years of Kennedys in the White House would not have been attractive to some very powerful people.


Speaking of who killed Kennedy.  If anybody was hoping that the Archives would open and then “they” would finally have to tell us what happened, I’m sorry to report that you need to move to another country or perhaps another planet.  Perhaps there’s a Star Chamber Vault somewhere that keeps the real history – my feeling is that it’s almost worse than that, that there isn’t even anybody around to tell you what happened.  The government, if by that you mean the people you see on the TV and all, doesn’t know who killed Kennedy.  Some of them would be very curious to know.

Speaking of speculating, I’ve noted in some recent conferences that there is a distinct trend away from talking about who killed President Kennedy.  The debate is mired in forensics.  I don’t want to pooh-pooh this, and I don’t take the position that “oh, all the evidence is faked so don’t pay attention to it”, but I still think that with all we’ve learned about the bigger picture, it’s a little sad that 40 years later for instance we’re still debating where the fatal bullet entered Kennedy’s skull.  I’ve been fascinated actually to watch the “lone nut community” now reverting back to the low entrance location of Warren Commission days, the most recent example being a three-part article in NeuroSurgery. [64] This one even cites the HSCA Medical Panel, which must be rolling in its grave to hear the head wound being moved 4 inches back down the skull after they worked so hard to move it up.

I am not a doctor.  I don’t even play one at conferences.  I will only say that the most revealing aspect of the entire matter is that the location where the fatal bullet entered is not known with absolute certainty, down to the centimeter.  I do not believe the record on the medical evidence, or on Mexico City, or on any of the other tangled matters, is a mess because of sloppiness on the part of autopsy doctors, or FBI agents, or Warren Commission staffers.  And it’s not “assassination buffs” who moved the wound 4 inches from where the autopsy report put it, either. [65] The “record” is a mess, and it’s a mess for good reason, because if it wasn’t a mess we would know who killed President Kennedy.

The answer to who killed John Kennedy is not provable by the record, which can only serve to prove that the government worked assiduously and intensely to avoid finding out.  But it can rule out certain suspects.  I don’t believe that it’s any longer credible to say that Carlos Marcello got a stone in his shoe, and thought to himself, hey there’s this CIA false defector named Oswald back from the Soviet Union in my city, why don’t I send him to Mexico City to be caught speaking on telephone lines which are being tapped by US intelligence, and maybe then I can set him up to take the fall for killing Kennedy.  Oh, and I must remember to figure out a way to get the FBI to take Oswald off the watch list right before he goes down there.

Besides the Mob, Fidel Castro is of course the favorite fallback.  Read the 3-volume history of the CIA Mexico City station, or at least the parts that aren’t blacked out, and tell me that Cuban agents could have planned what to have for breakfast without the CIA knowing about it.  One of the transcripts of tapped phone calls provided to the Warren Commission was between Cuban President Dorticos and Ambassador to Mexico Armas, and the most striking thing about the call is how much trouble the two men have making each other heard. [66]  Maybe it has too many taps on it, I don’t know, but if these guys had plotted murder over that line they might have whacked the President of Venezuela by mistake.  And how Castro’s people impersonated Secret Service agents behind the grassy knoll has never been adequately explained to me.

It’s my belief that at this juncture, the range of credible explanations for the assassination have narrowed considerably, thanks to the tenacious and intelligent work of the citizen researchers including people in this room.  In my view, the “low end” range of plots has people at the level of David Phillips and David Morales and Johnny Roselli pulling it off [67], with local Texas help too.  And on the other end, you can take it on up to the Joint Chiefs and the people inside and outside the government that they call friends.  The assassination itself was a class operation on the ground, and it was run by people in the government who knew a great deal about intelligence and with enough clout to have their fingers on the system in the lead-up to the assassination.

But to untangle this with any specificity and certainty, well, I don’t want to stop anybody……..But I think it’s instructive to look at the Church Committee’s efforts to figure out exactly what was going on with the plots to kill Fidel Castro.  It’s a credit to their tenacity that they got as far as they did, but they still ended in uncertainty about whether Presidents knew and whether CIA Directors were even told or not. [68] They ran into a system of plausible deniability and compartmentalization and need-to-know and insulated layers, not to mention the phrase “I don’t recall” when all else fails.  William Harvey, in charge of these plots, left behind a memo which referred to “backstopping” the record with a forged and backdated 201 file, something we may keep in mind as we inspect the records of one Lee Harvey Oswald. [69]


At this stage 40 years later, I’m not sure that “who killed JFK” is even the most important question anymore.  Certainly it matters that in 1963 the democratic process was subverted by gunplay.  But I think what happened afterwards was probably worse.  The society’s finest, men of “unimpeachable reputation,” put the most impressive face on utter nonsense.  The media and the rest of “responsible society” lined up behind them and has ever since.  The damage done is untold.

The most positive aspect of all this has been the ordinary people who never bought the story, despite the most intense and sustained public relations campaign in modern history.  Pundits often lament the modern loss of faith in government, which is of course traceable to the time of the Kennedy assassination and the Vietnam War which happened to follow it.  The unfortunate truth is that the loss of faith in government is a sign of mental health.

Another positive aspect of all the digging that the Kennedy assassination inspired in so many people, is that this has helped to open up a whole world, unfortunately the real world, for a lot of people.  Think of the names that are household words now to so many of us:  Richard Helms, William Harvey, James Angleton, Johnny Roselli, Allen Dulles.  I’m always amazed at how the names keep coming up; how recent this event still is in some ways.  Porter Goss, the new CIA head who’s now conducting a purge of those in the agency not considered loyal to the White House, was a covert operator in Miami in the 1960s.  He also served for a time in Mexico City.  Maybe he has a photo of Oswald! [70]

But the society’s failure to come to grips with this assassination is troublesome, and it would be so nice to get it corrected.  And there’s a ways to go yet.

Open up a history textbook or an encyclopedia right now in 2004 and you find the same nonsense from 40 years ago.  Microsoft Encarta, the most popular electronic encyclopedia in the world, used by millions upon millions of students, is improving, I guess.  A few years ago it used to say “Two shots were fired and the President fell forward.”  In the new edition, they’re now up to three shots, but he’s still falling the wrong way. [71]

The problem is that to confront the Kennedy assassination honestly is to confront American society honestly.  And this is not easy.

Last month PBS had on a documentary about Robert Kennedy.  [72] It was ok, pretty much what you’d expect, covering the transformation of RFK from McCarthy aide to President’s right-hand man to his grief in the aftermath of his brother’s murder.  But, you know, you reach that part where JFK is killed tragically, and it’s like, it might as well have been a freak elevator accident or something the way they present it.  And at the end of the documentary Robert runs for President, and boom, another elevator accident.

The real story of Robert Kennedy is the most poignant Greek tragedy in American politics, and it can’t be told on American television.  The real story is of a man who grows up in his brother’s shadow, and Bobby is the bulldog side of cool brother Jack, pushing the fight against organized crime and the covert action in Cuba and so on.  And one day boom, all that’s gone.  Robert Kennedy’s no idiot – he knows that his brother’s political enemies have killed him.  And they haven’t gone away – they’re out there, unseen but very real.  Bobby stays in politics—it’s what he knows, but he’s bored in the Senate so he goes to South Africa, and he hangs with Cesar Chavez, and he turns against the Vietnam war, and along the way something happens to him.  He finds his own vision, and it’s frankly a better and more compassionate vision than his brother’s.  But here’s the Greek tragedy.  In 1968 the path to the Presidency opens up for him, and after a lot of agonizing he picks up that mantle and he starts walking up a hill that he has to know has the strongest likelihood of his own death at the end of it.  There are guns waiting at the end of that road. But he takes it anyway.

In the book 85 Days, Jules Witcover tells the story of when RFK was on the campaign trail, in April of 1968, one week after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr.  And the word comes to campaign aide Fred Dutton that a rifleman has been seen on a rooftop.  So Dutton enters Kennedy’s hotel room and quietly closes the window curtains.  And Bobby Kennedy turns to him and says “Don’t close them.  If they’re going to shoot, they’ll shoot.” [73]

There are a lot of stories that RFK intended to re-open the investigation into his brother’s murder upon achieving the Presidency, despite his studious avoidance of comment on the matter.  If this is true, to me it shows the folly of the idea of denying the truth now, in favor of achieving power in order to tell the truth later.


So what’s the goal here for us in 2004?  One goal many people share is obviously to learn the truth about the Kennedy assassination.  I have in this talk expressed some pessimism about reaching a full understanding of that event that even most of us in this room could agree on, let alone the people who will simply refuse to believe anything they don’t want to believe.  But I’m more than happy to be proved wrong here. A lot of the declassified files have barely been looked at.  I know John Hunt has been finding some amazing stuff related to the medical and ballistics evidence. [74] The voluminous HSCA files are hopefully going to be fodder for an incredible postmortem book or two on that investigation.  The CIA segregated collection has volumes of information on Cuban exiles and various other participants in our larger story.  Jeff Morley is dragging out the story of CIA obstruction of the House Select Committee. [75] And I think Don Thomas has shown with his acoustics work that even the basic core evidence hasn’t been fully utilized. [76] So I hardly want to be here discouraging the people who have done the heavy lifting to move this case forward year after year.

For me, the goal is less about figuring out who killed Kennedy, and more about communicating what’s already been learned about the societal dysfunction in truth-telling which surrounds the affair.  In this respect the JFK case is hardly unique of course.  But the case has great value because so much digging has been done and so much is known.  The record on this case is a window onto a world that we seldom get such good glimpses of.

I have some optimism about the “final verdict of history” in this case.  That’s not to say that I expect that “the truth will come out” suddenly or that the media and the historians will all of a sudden notice that they’ve been peddling nonsense all these years.  Respect for truth is not exactly at its high water-mark these days, if you’ve noticed.  Any honest analysis of the JFK assassination runs smack into the incredible dishonesty of  the “investigations.” And that is the fundamental showstopper now—it’s not like 1967 when responsible media could say “Well, maybe the Warren Commission overlooked something or made a mistake counting the number of shots.”  I think Earl Warren captured the problem very well in his memoirs.  He noted how FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Secret Service Chief Rowley, cabinet members, and others all testified that there was no sign of any conspiracy.  Thus, Warren wrote:

“To say now that these people, as well as the Commission, suppressed, neglected to unearth, or overlooked evidence of a conspiracy would be an indictment of the entire government of the United States.  It would mean the whole structure was absolutely corrupt from top to bottom, with not one person of high or low rank willing to come forward to expose the villany.” [77]

Well, who am I to dispute the words of a man of “unimpeachable” reputation?  Though I do think Warren could have given a little credit to some people of “low rank” who tried to make themselves heard to a deaf Commission: Lee Bowers [78], Arnold Rowland [79], Sylvia Odio [80], Roy Kellerman [81], various Parkland Hospital doctors [82].  Even Jack Ruby tried. [83]

But I think the longer term verdict of history is still up for grabs.  Perhaps some major breakthrough may occur, or the books being now written will slowly win the day, or perhaps it may simply have to wait until the JFK assassination is old and safe like the Lincoln assassination is today, and when every major figure alive at the time is dead, and the Cold War is some curious historical antiquity.  When it is finally safe to do so, I think the historical profession will be the first institution to pick up the threads we are laying down, and it will lead the mainstream reassessment, slowly and incrementally.  And we can help that process, by providing an easily accessible record, analyzed by the best experts the country has, i.e., us.  And more immediately, there are always new students and citizens who can learn a great deal of relevance to the present as well as the ancient 1960s.

So that’s where I put my energies.  My particular passion is to use my skills to make as much of the declassified record available as possible via the Internet and CD-ROMs.  There are many other useful things people can do if they think this cause is worthwhile.  As an example, one thing I never realized till studying this case was how many “oral histories” there are of various people of importance.  I think the experts on this assassination deserve their own detailed oral histories, telling what they know for the rest of us and posterity.  The goal as I see it is to lay down the most compelling analyses of this material as possible, for history if nothing else.

The Kennedy assassination may be 40 years old and thus seemingly irrelevant to many people.  But I think every important political event where lies become the accepted wisdom needs to be challenged.  The Kennedy assassination is special, because we’ve broken through the crap and exposed the naked emperor in incredible detail for anyone who cares to look.  For that reason alone, the story is too important to let slip down the memory hole.



[1] Peter Dale Scott notes for instance that the HSCA declared three times in its Final Report that the FBI never received a "recording of Oswald's voice" from the tapped phone lines in Mexico City which captured a conversation with Soviet officials. But the HSCA received a great deal of evidence to suggest that Oswald was impersonated in these phone calls - hence any recording listened to by the FBI would not have been of "Oswald's" voice. Scott reports being "reliably informed that the Report used this evasive and misleading phrase after careful deliberation." See Deep Politics II, Peter Dale Scott, JFK Lancer Productions & Publications, 1996 edition, p.11. The HSCA declarations are all on p.250 of its Report. A similar deception appears to be at work in the HSCA Photographic Panel's report (Volume VI), in its discussion of the authenticity of the JFK autopsy photographs. The report declares in a footnote on p.226 that "Because the Department of Defense was unable to locate the camera and lens that were used to take these photographs, the panel was unable to engage in an analysis...." We know now that the HSCA was indeed given a camera which the DoD represented as the autopsy camera, and that the HSCA conducted tests which failed to match the camera to the photos. But note how the HSCA's wording above is misleading but true in a strict sense. See footnote 5 below for more on the HSCA autopsy camera issue.

[2] HSCA Volume VII (Report of the Forensic Pathology Panel), p.37.

[3] Examples abound. HSCA interviews of autopsy witnesses who made drawings contradicting the HSCA's flat statement that "none had differing accounts" include those of FBI Agent James Sibert (ARRB MD 85, p.9), FBI Agent Francis O'Neill Jr. (ARRB MD 86, p.11), Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman, (ARRB MD 56, p.10), military aide Richard Lipsey (ARRB MD 87, p.11), and mortician Tom Robinson (ARRB MD 63, p.13). These drawings and accompanying statements only scratch the surface. For more examples and discussion, see How Five Investigations Into JFK's Medical/Autopsy Evidence Got It Wrong, by Dr. Gary Aguilar and Kathy Cunningham.

[4] The autopsy photos remain out of public view, though "bootleg" copies of some of them are in circulation. The HSCA produced a detailed drawing made from an autopsy photo depicting the back of JFK's head, and reproduced it in HSCA Volume VII, p.104.

[5] Documents and discussion of the HSCA's "autopsy camera problem may be found in a detailed memo written in 1998 by Assassination Records Review Board senior staff analyst Douglas Horne, entitled Unanswered Questions Raised by the HSCA's Analysis and Conclusions Regarding the Camera Identified by the Navy and the Department of Defense as the Camera Used at President Kennedy's Autopsy.

[6] ARRB Testimony of FBI Agent Francis O'Neill Jr., Sept. 12, 1997, p.158.

[7] ARRB Testimony of Saundra Kay Spencer, June 5, 1997, p. 57. Ms. Spencer flatly stated that "The views that we produced at the Photographic Center are not included" in the complete set of official National Archives autopsy photographs shown to her during this deposition.

[8] See ARRB senior analyst Douglas Horne's 1996 memo entitled Questions Regarding Supplementary Brain Examination(s) Following the Autopsy on President John F. Kennedy.

[9] ARRB Testimony of FBI Agent Francis O'Neill Jr., Sept 12, 1997, p.165.

[10] ARRB Testimony of John Stringer, July 16, 1996. Stringer said he took no basilar views of the brain though basilar views are present in the Archives' set (p.153, p.217), he said he thought that identification tags were used when none are seen in the present photos (p.150, p.217), he said he not used a "press pack" when the current photos according to Stringer were from a press pack (p.152, p.219), and he said that he had taken photos of a sectioned brain, when all existing official photos show an unsectioned brain (p.150, p.225). Asked if he could identify with certainty whether these were indeed photographs of the brain of President Kennedy, Stringer responded "No, I couldn't say that they were President Kennedy's (p.218). Asked to explain why he didn't object to being so hurried that he apparently didn't put rulers into the brain photos, he said "You don't object to things." When his questioner responded "Some people do," Stringer replied "Yeah they do. But they don't last long." (p.155).

[11] ARRB Testimony of Dr. James Humes, p.125-138. Humes had told this story to the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992, among other times. See ARRB MD 22, p.2799.

[12] Affidavit of Leonard D. Saslaw, Ph.D., May 15, 1996, reproduced as ARRB MD 74.

[13] The White House Certificate of Death, not published anywhere in the Warren Commission's 26 volumes of evidence or apparently even held by them, is reproduced as ARRB MD 6. See Harold Weisberg's PostMortem, p.302-309, for more on the suppression of the most basic medical document of the case, and his eventual retrieval of it from the files of the Secret Service.

[13a] This statement is not completely correct, I have since learned - there is a single affidavit from Burkley in Volume 22 of the Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits, CE1126. But note that this was signed by Burkley on November 26, 1963, before the Commission was even formed. The Commission, by publishing this affidavit, acknowledged Burkley's existence. Nevertheless, there is no record that the Warren Commission contacted him.

[14] HSCA Memo to File by Richard Sprague, March 18, 1977, Record Number 180-10086-10295. Sprague resigned from his job as Chief Counsel under intense pressure 11 days later. That pressure appears to have derived mostly from the strange public fight former Committee Chair Henry Gonzales had engaged Sprague in, and perhaps indirectly from Sprague's investigation of the CIA and Oswald's Mexico City trip. For more on the story of Sprague's short tenure on the Committee, see The Last Investigation by Gaeton Fonzi, Thunder's Mouth Press, 1993.

[15] JFK Library Oral History with Admiral George Burkley, USN, dated october 17, 1967. Reproduced as ARRB MD 67. For Burkley's comments cited in this essay, see p.18 of the Oral History.

[16] Whitewash II, Harold Weisberg, self-published, 1966, p.110.

[17] Dr. Humes told the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992 that he didn't speak to Dr. Perry of Parkland Hospital in Dallas until 7:30 the morning following the autopsy. "The lights came on when I talked to Dr. Perry.....Of course, the bullet had exited through the neck." See ARRB MD 22, p.2799.

[18] Testimony of Dr. Malcolm Perry before the Warren Commission, 6WH16.

[19] HSCA Testimony of Dr. John Ebersole before the HSCA Medical Panel, March 11, 1978, p.4. This testimony was not published by the HSCA, and was only made public in the 1990s.

[20] Audiotape of ARRB interview with Nurse Audrey Bell, March 20, 1997. There is no transcript of this taped interview, but a brief contact report summary is available as ARRB MD 184. Nurse Bell also told the ARRB that she received "3 to 5 fragments, perhaps 4" from the body of Governor Connally, more than appear in the official evidence and more than could have been left behind by CE399, the bullet found on the stretcher.

[21] Testimony of Dr. Pierre Finck at the Clay Shaw Trial, February 24, 1969. On page 115 of the transcript Finck was asked the question "Did you have occasion to dissect the track of that particular bullet in the victim as it lay on the autopsy table?" Finck replied, "I did not dissect the track in the neck." The next question was "Why?" Two pages of evasive answers later, Finck finally admitted "As I recall I was told not to, but I don't remember by whom." Finck also described the presence of an Army General in charge of the autopsy [Finck Testimony at Clay Shaw Trial, Feb. 24, 1969, p.48], something Cmdr. Humes tried unconvincingly to rebut in his ARRB testimony. Humes described a scene prior to the autopsy on the loading dock where he saw a person with a camera he thought shouldn't be there, and so he asked "Who's in charge here?" and a general replied "I am." [ARRB Testimony of Cmdr. James Humes, Feb. 13., 1996, p.51] One problem with this story is that Pierre Finck, who arrived after the autopsy was already underway, could not have witnessed this scene to later comment on it. Interestingly, Humes in telling this story notes that the Army General was the Military District Commander of Washington. This person, General Wehle, was indeed present at the autopsy. He was also the boss of military aide Richard Lipsey, who told the HSCA that he had met the body at Andrews Air Force base and arranged a deception whereby an ambulance containing Kennedy's body was driven to the back of the hospital, while the limo containing the Kennedy family held an empty casket. The HSCA never followed up on this explosive story. See audio recording of HSCA Lipsey interview of Jan. 18, 1978.

[22] HSCA Testimony of Robert Knudsen, August 11, 1978, p. 22, p.31. The ARRB interview with the late Chief Knudsen's family is highly revealing for those who insist that "someone would have talked." See audio recording of that interview dated May 10, 1996, and also the contact report in ARRB MD 230.

[23] ARRB Meeting Report of meeting with Dr. Robert Karnei on May 21, 1996, p.2 (ARRB MD 178).

[24] ARRB MD 16, a CBS Memorandum of Jan. 10, 1967, from Bob Richter to Les Midgley.

[25] For a contemporaneous account of how President Lyndon Johnson got Warren to serve on the Commission, told later the same day, see the audio recording of the call between LBJ and Senator Richard Russell, Nov. 29, 1963, 8:55 PM. Johnson was bandying about the figure of 40 million Americans dead (in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union) all week, and told Russell in this same call that "we've got to take this out of the arena where they're testifying that Khruschev and Castro did this and did that and kick us into a war that can kill 40 million Americans in an hour..."

[26] Chapter 6 Part II of the ARRB Final Report is entitled "Clarifying the Federal Record on the Zapruder Film and the Medical and Ballistics Evidence."

[27] Warren Commission Executive Session of Jan. 27, 1964, p.196. Earlier in this session on p.193, Counsel J. Lee Rankin remarked that "We have an explanation there in the autopsy that probably a fragment came out the front of the neck," something which definitely does not appear anywhere in the autopsy report of record [CE 387, reproduced in Warren Report, p.538].

[28] HSCA Volume XII, p.209. In the manuscript found in DeMohrenschildt's possession upon his death, entitled "I am a Patsy! I am a Patsy!", DeMohrenschildt wrote: "...I went to see Mr. J. Walton Moore [CIA officer in the Domestic Contacts Division] to his office, in the same building I used to have my own office, Reserve Loan Life Building on Ervay Street, and asked him point blank. 'I met this young ex-marine, Lee Harvey Oswald, is it safe to associate with him?'. And Mr. Moore's answer was: 'He is OK. He is just a harmless lunatic.'"

[29] CIA record number 104-10414-10143 is a handwritten letter, postmarked Sept. 7 1976, from DeMohrenschildt to then-CIA Director George Herbert Walker Bush, future President of the U.S. In the letter, DeMohrenschildt wrote: "I have been acting like a damn fool.....I tried to write, stupidly and unsuccessfully about Lee H. Oswald and must have angered a lot of people. But to punish an elderly man like myself and my highly nervous and sick wife is really too much. Could you do something to remove this net [of surveillance] around us?" The letter is accompanied by a CIA routing slip in which one of Bush's subordinates asks him "Do you know this individual?" - a check mark appears next to the word "yes." CIA record number 104-10414-10142 is an undated note from Bush, saying "I do know this man DeMohrenschildt. I first met him in the early 40's. He was an uncle to my Andover roommate." CIA record number 104-10414-10133 is a 3-page memo from CIA Inspector General John H. Waller to Bush, dated Sept. 22 1976, minus 6 missing attachments including a report from J. Walton Moore, reporting some background on DeMohrenschildt, including noting the recent interest in DeMohdrehschildt by the Rockefeller Commission as well as the media. CIA record 104-10414-10134 is a letter from Bush replying to DeMohrenschildt, dated Sept. 28 1976. Bush wrote that "I was extremely sorry to hear of these circumstances" [daughter's death and wife's poor health] but notes "However, my staff has been unable to find any indication of interest in your activities on the part of Federal authorities in recent years.....Thank you for your good wishes on my new job."

[30] Sylvia Hyde Hoke, Ruth Paine's sister, apparently began work at the CIA in 1954 under Air Force cover, and had a CIA Security File. In 1971 the Falls Church Virginia phone directory contained the listing: "Hoke Sylvia, Mrs. emp CIA r h523 Monticello Drive, (Fax Co)." See A.J. Weberman's web site at http://www.ajweberman.com/nodules/nodule9.htm for more on Sylvia Hoke. Regarding the Warren Commission's inquiry, I am unable to locate this query and response. If in fact I am mistaken, the lack of Commission interest doesn't change the underlying fact of Sylvia Hoke's employment.

[31] Orleans Parish Grand Jury testimony of Marina Oswald Porter, Feb. 8, 1968, p. 69.

[32] Memo For: Garrison Group Meeting No.1 - 20 September 1967, CIA record number 104-10428-10023. Item 3 states that "Rocca felt that Garrison would indeed obtain a conviction of Shaw for conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy." This and other memos (see 104-10435-10034, 104-10435-10033, 104-10435-10030, 104-10412-10379, 104-10429-10069, and 104-10435-10001, among others) show a high level of interest and convern at the top levels of CIA in the Garrison investigation and the Shaw trial.

[33] Oswald and the CIA, John Newman, Carroll & Graf, 1995, pp.60-67. Also see "Priscilla Johnson McMillan and the CIA", by Peter Whitmey, at: http://www.jfk-info.com/pjm-cia.htm.

[34] 5WH61-603. Senator Russell grilled Marina Oswald on a number of issues in this interview, which took place on September 6, just a few weeks before the Commission's Report was issued. The found bus ticket superseded a forged bus manifest (for a different bus) provided earlier by Mexican officials - see Scott's Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, p.95-96.

[35] The photo was first shown on the Frontline documentary "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?", and can be seen online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/oswald/glimpse/ferrie.html.

[36] See Part 6 of the essay "What Jane Roman Said" on this website. Morley is currently attempting to force the CIA to divulge further records on Joannides.

[37] In 2003, the Chief Counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations went public with a scathing denunciation of the CIA, including the statement that "Had I known who he was, he would have been a witness who would have been interrogated under oath by the staff or by the committee. He would never have been acceptable as a point of contact with us to retrieve documents." Blakey went on to write "I now no longer believe anything the Agency told the committee any further than I can obtain substantial corroboration for it from outside the Agency for its veracity." For Blakey's full statement, posted as an addendum to the accompanying material for PBS' Frontline documentary "Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?", see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/oswald/interviews/blakey.html#addendum.

[38] Phone call between President Johnson and Senator Richard Russell, 11-29-63, 8:55 PM, p.6 of transcript. This conversation may be listened to at http://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/lbjlib/phone_calls/Nov_1963/audio/LBJ-Russell_11-29-63_2nd.htm.

[39] In the conversation with Russell on November 29, Johnson said "this has a good many more ramifications than on the surface and we've got to take this out of the arena where they're testifying that Khruschchev and Castro did this and did that and kick us into a war that can kill 40 million Americans in an hour..." This conversation may be listened to at http://www.history-matters.com/archive/jfk/lbjlib/phone_calls/Nov_1963/audio/LBJ-Russell_11-29-63_2nd.htm.

[40] On the morning after the assassination, FBI Director Hoover told President Johnson"We have up here the tape and the photograph of the man who was at the Soviet Embassy, using Oswald's name. That picture and the tape do not correspond to this man's voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet Embassy down there." [LBJ-Hoover phone call of 11-23-63, 10:01 AM] This was followed up the same day with a memo from Hoover to the White House and the Secret Service, which added that "Special Agents of this Bureau, who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas, Texas, have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the above-referred-to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald." [Lopez Report, Addendum to Footnote #614] Within a few days, the CIA's story became that these tapes had been recycled prior to the assassination, and what was sent was not tapes but only transcripts. The FBI (grumblingly) went along with this story. See "The Fourteen Minute Gap" for more information.

[41] The erased conversation is the one quoted in the previous footnote. The transcript of this call was created contemporaneously and survived the erasure. The (erased) audio of that call may be listened to at this website. See also the audio engineering report from Cutting Corporation, confirming erasure. For more on the discovery and the LBJ Library's delayed admission of the erasure, see "The Fourteen Minute Gap: An Update."

[42] Deep Politics II, p. 14, citing a 1993 interview with Oleg Nechiporenko, one of three Soviet officers claiming to have met with Oswald the same day. Scott discusses the many problems with Nechiporenko's seemingly-definitive account of Oswald at the Soviet Embassy brandishing a revolver. As far as the Saturday phone call, Scott also notes that Sylvia Duran, who worked at the Cuban Embassy, told the HSCA that this embassy was closed on Saturday and thus could not have been the source of an Oswald call - see HSCA Volume III, p.50.

[43] The Lopez Report notes the 1978 testimony of CIA translator Anna Tarasoff, who told the Committee she remembered a lengthy call, in English, providing corroboration for Phillips' 1976 account (see Phillip's now-declassified HSCA testimony; also the Russ Holmes Work File contains an internal CIA memo discussing in detail Phillips' account, which he told to newspapers). Pages 82-90 of the Lopez Report discuss evidence that a tape of such a call might have existed and been transcribed. But the report also notes that Anna's husband Boris had no recollection of such a call. However, released HSCA files show that there was a 1976 HSCA interview with the Tarasoff couple in which both husband and wife were unequivocal in their recollection of such a lengthy call, in English, in which Oswald asked for money from the Soviets (see pp. 20-32). In 1978, after Robert Blakey replaced Richard Sprague as HSCA Chief Counsel, Boris apparently had a memory lapse.

[44] See chapter 3 of Peter Dale Scott's Deep Politics II, JFK Lancer Productions & Publications, 1996 edition, and chapter 19 of John Newman's Oswald and the CIA, Carroll & Graf, 1995. Online is the transcript of a talk Newman gave in 1999 at the JFK lancer conference, entitled Mexico City: A New Analysis.

[45] MEXI 6453 is the Oct 8 cable from Mexico City CIA station to Headquarters, reporting the Oswald visit. DIR 74830 is the reply of Oct 10 to Mexico City. But DIR 74673, drafted by the same officers on the same day, sent misleading information to the FBI, Navy, and State Department. While the reply to MEXI corrected the description of Oswald, for instance, supplying his actual age, height, weight, and hair and eye color, the cable sent to other agencies transmitted the original (false) description of Oswald supplied by the October 8 cable (35 years old, balding, 6 feet tall). This cable also failed to mention the most important information from Mexico, that Oswald had apparently spoken with KGB agent Valeriy Kostikov. Both cables used the name Lee Henry Oswald, which is the name under which the Oswald 201 file was opened by CIA in 1960; the incorrect middle name is unlikely to be a clerical error, and is more likely to be one more mechanism related to "need to know" information protection. Searches for a "Lee Harvey Oswald" would not succeed in pulling up the 201 file.

[46] See Jefferson Morley's essay What Jane Roman Said: A Retired CIA Officer Speaks Candidly about Lee Havey Oswald, part 3.

[47] In 1969 and 1970, following the death of Chief of Station Win Scott, Anne Goodpasture was directed to compile a multi-volume history of the Mexico City CIA Station. Three HSCA officers (Blakey, Cornwell, and Goldsmith) were permitted to see a heavily-redacted version of one of these volumes, which contains voluminous information on the surveillance operations run on foreign embassies, particularly the Soviet and Cuban ones. Even with the redactions, it is clear that this surveillance was intense. See document 104-10414-10124 in the CIA's Russ Holmes Work File for a copy of the redacted volume which the HSCA was permitted to examine.

[48] In particular, see a 6/13/78 letter from Chairman Stokes to DCI Turner, which begins "I was deeply troubled by the report I received from our Chief Counsel...", and a 10/13/78 letter from Stokes to Turner about a "matter of grave concern to the House Select Committee on Assassinations." Both letters concern the HSCA's lack of faith in CIA's answers regarding Oswald and Mexico City.

[49] Volume XI of the HSCA Report devotes 6 pages to an investigation of the supposed "foreknowledge" of Luisa Calderon, a Cuban Embassy employee who was caught on a tapped line on the afternoon of November 22 saying "I knew almost before Kennedy." The HSCA probably never saw transcripts of calls taped earlier that day, which exonerate Calderon of what seems in any case a mountain built out of a molehill (she expresses shock and surprise in an earlier call). See the essay More Mexico Mysteries (part III). For Church Committee pursuit of false allegations of Cuban involvement in the assassination, see Book V of the Committee's Reports, p.60. This push continues to this day, with newer books like Gus Russo's Live by the Sword putting fresh twists on the "Castro did it" angle.

[50] Several copies of the 133-page Mexico City Chronology were released by the ARRB.

[51] In the videotaped talk, I mistakenly attributed this quote to her 1995 Review Board testimony. Ms. Goodpasture actually made this statement near the beginning of her 1978 HSCA testimony, see p.6.

[52] "Where are the earlier cables?" is not a direct quote, but it summarizes Rocca's confusion over a few pages of testimony. Referring to the initial October 8 cable reporting Oswald's Mexico activities to headquarters, Rocca stated "It is my impression that there were earlier cables, that there was an earlier cable," the substance of which was that "there was someone down there who wanted to go to Cuba." Rocca later summatized "It seems to me too late, that communication began earlier from Mexico City." Faced with the discrepancy between his memory and the Committee's purportedly complete record of cable traffic, Rocca backed off his memory a bit, stating "I can't conceive that there would be any question of fuzzing up the record on cables," a confidence which this author lacks. See Rocca HSCA testimony, p.81-87.

[53] See Comments on Chapter XXI of Winfield Scott's Manuscript (Draft) "It Came to Little," p.11. This document contains excerpts from the manuscript along with lenghy CIA rebuttals of them.

[54] See More Mexico Mysteries for discussion of some of the post-1995 Mexico City releases.

[55] 104-10414-10124, entitled Mexico City Station History, Excerpts. This heavily-redacted volume contains a great deal of material on the surveillance of the Cuban Embassy.

[56] The Hoover-LBJ phone calls show many errors of fact on Hoover's part. Some of these are clear errors; others are arguably correct statements of fact which have since been covered up. One such example is Hoover's attributing the finding of the rifle on the fifth floor of the TSBD, not the sixth (LBJ-Hoover call of Nov 29, 1963, p.5). Students of the assassination know that well into the day following the assassination, Dallas authorities were still referring to the rifle as a Mauser, not a Mannlicher-Carcano. Were there perhaps two rifles found, one on each floor? It is also interesting that the LBJ-Hoover conversation of the 23rd, which has been erased (see The Fourteen Minute Gap and an Update of that essay), contains discussion of Oswald's handgun, and in two places where the gun is described, there is a white gap in the transcript where a brand or model name would fit.

[57] 104-10414-10124, entitled Mexico City Station History, Excerpts, p.44.

[58] Soviets Knew Date of Cuba Attack, by Vernon Loeb. Washington Post Staff, April 29, 2000, online at http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/bay-of-pigs/soviets.htm.

[59] Proceedings of Eighth SecDef Conference on Vietnam, held 6 May 196, online at http://www.maryferrell.org/mffweb/archive/viewer/showDoc.do?docId=122. The document prints a complete timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces. The document notes actions to be taken after the conference, including: "As a matter of urgency a plan for the withdrawal of about 1,000 US troops before the end of the year should be developed based upon the assumption that the progress of the counterinsurgency campaign would warrant such a move." On October 11, 5 months later, JFK signed NSAM 263, putting such a plan into effect. The document continues: "SECDEF advised that the phase-out program presented during 6 May conference appeared too slow. In consonance with Part III request you develop a revised plan to accomplish more rapid phase-out of US forces." See James Galbraith's excellent essay Exit Strategy at http://bostonreview.net/BR28.5/galbraith.html for more discussion of the Vietnam withdrawal issue. See also the page http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/1963_Vietnam_Withdrawal_Plans on the Mary Ferrell Foundation website.

[60] Body of Secrets, by James Bamford, Anchor Books, 2001. The Northwoods documents are available online, with discussion and accompanying materials, at http://www.maryferrell.org/wiki/index.php/Operation_Northwoods.

[61] The Pleasure of His Company, by Paul Fay Jr., Harper and Row, 1966, p.190.

[62] The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow, Harvard University Press, 1997. Air Force Chief Curtis LeMay told Kennedy "This blockade and political action, I see leading into war. I don't see any other solution [than invasion]. It will lead right into war. This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich." (p.178). This last comment was a personal dig, given father Joe Kennedy's opposition to U.S. entry into World War II. Senator Russell told Kennedy "But it's {war] coming someday, Mr. President. Will it ever be under more auspicious circumstances?" (p.265) Unfortunately, even this compiled set of transcripts is not authoritative - JFK Library analyst Sheldon Stern wrote a scathing indictment of the transcriptions in the Atlantic Monthly in May 2000. See http://www.slate.com/id/2085761/ for more information on this controversy. Stern accused Zelikow and May of mis-translating in such a manner as to consistently underplay the conflict between Kennedy and his more hawkish advisors. Not disputing the corrections, Zelikow and May have issued revised translations as part of a Miller Center project, in a three-volume set entitled The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy: Volume 1-3, The Great Crises, W.W Norton and Co., 2001. See also Sheldon Stern's own book Averting 'The Final Failure': John F. Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings, Stanford University Press, 2003.

[63] The Kennedy-CIA Divergence Over Cuba, by Peter Dale Scott. Kennedy used journalists Lisa Howard and Jean Daniel, and trusted aide and UN delegate William Atwood to explore "peace talks" with Castro. He excluded not only the CIA and military, but also the State Department. Interestingly, Castro himself appears to have kept his end of the initiative secret from his own government, too.

[64] A Neuroforensic Analysis of the Wounds of President John F. Kennedy, by Michael Levy, Daniel Sullivan, Rodrick Faccio, and Robert Grossman. This 3-part online article is on the internet at Neurosurgery Online, but requires a paid subscription. A rebuttal to the article, written by Gary Aguilar, Cyril Wecht, and Rex Bradford, is also available at Neurosurgery Online. David Lifton has written an essay about Dr. Grossman's "late entry" into the case at http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/grossman.htm.

[65] The autopsy report places the fatal entry wound "approximately 2.5 cm, laterally to the right and slightly above the external occipital protuberance." (Autopsy Protocol, p.4) The 1968 Clark Panel Report put the skull wound "approximately 100 mm. above the external occiptal protuberance." (Clark Panel, Report, p.11) This, depending on the meaning of the wording "slightly above" in the autopsy protocol, is a distance approaching 4 inches, a staggering "error" in the location of the entry point of the fatal shot which killed President Kennedy. The HSCA's Medical Panel, composed of nine distinguished forensic experts, concurred with the Clark Panel in this higher location. It is thus interesting that recent writings in support of the lone gunman theory, of which the Neurosurgery article is perhaps the most prominent, have tossed out the findings of these experts in favor of the original autopsy doctor's findings. Time heals all wounds, apparently, or at least allows them to be moved around.

[66] 104-10015-10007: EDITED TEXT OF DORTICOS-ARMAS CONVERSATION. Cuban President Dorticos repeatedly tried to ask Cuban Ambassador to Mexico Armas about whether Sylvia Duran (who dealt with Oswald in his attempts to get a visa) had been asked anything about "money" by the Mexican police during their interrogations. The call took place on the morning of November 26, too early for this to be a reaction to the Alvarado allegations of seeing Oswald take money in the Cuban Embassy to kill Kennedy. How Dorticos came to ask about money is one of many remaining mysteries relating to the Oswald Mexico City trip. The CIA sent a summary of this conversation (104-10015-10161) on Nov. 26 to the FBI, White House, and State Department, and this may have contriibuted to the concerns about a possible Communist conspiracy which were circling at high U.S. government levels. But this summary did not show the almost comical communications problems which the transcript reveals.

[67] For a good book with this general orientation, see Someone Would have Talked, by Larry Hancock, JFK Lancer Productions and Publications, 2003.

[68] The Church Committtee's concluded: "The Committee finds that the system of executive command and control was so ambiguous that it is difficult to be certain at what levels assassination activity was known and authorized. This creates the disturbing prospect that assassination activity might have been undertaken by officials of the United States Government without its having been incontrovertibly clear that there was explicit authorization from the President of the United States. At the same time, this ambiguity and imprecision leaves open the possibility that there was a successful "plausible denial" and that a Presidential authorization was issued but is now obscured." (Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, p.261).

[69] HSCA Appendix Volume IV, p.190. HSCA questioner Michael Goldsmith questions CIA ex-Director Richard Helms about a memowritten by William Harvey, who ran assassination plots as head of Task Force W. Goldsmith quotes from the memo: "...should have a phony 201 in RI to backstop this. All documents therein forged and backdated." It should be emphasized that this is referring to a forgery of documents held within CIA files. The targets of this deception would not thus be foreign adversaries, but CIA officers themselves, and future U.S. investigators who might come upon such documents. Harvey also wrote the words "never mention the word assassination" on this memo, violating the very maxim he was expressing.

[70] The CIA's website has a short biography of Goss which notes: "He served as a clandestine service officer with the Central Intelligence Agency from 1962 until 1972.....While in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, he completed assignments in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Europe." Spartacus Educational has more information, including a photo of Goss with "Operation 40" participants taken in Mexico City in early 1963.

[71] The online edition of MSN Encarta in 2005 still states: "As the motorcade approached an underpass, three shots were fired in rapid succession. One bullet passed through the president’s neck and struck Governor Connally in the back. A second bullet struck the president in the head; a third one missed the motorcade. Kennedy fell forward, and his car sped to Parkland Hospital." An earlier version said that only two shots were fired - this has been corrected but the erroneous statement "Kennedy fell forward" remains. The best rebuttal to this statement is a viewing of the Zapruder film.

[72] The American Experience - RFK, now available on DVD (see amazon.com).

[73] 85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy, by Jules Witcover, Quill, 1969, 1988, p.147.

[74] A portion of Hunt's work is described in the essay Frazier Speaks. See also his presentation at the 2003 Wecht Institute conference held at Duquesne University (Into Evidence, availble on DVD at http://www.intoevidence.net).

[75] Morley discovered that George Joannides, the man the CIA brought out of retirement to serve as liaison to the HSCA for document requests, was what might be termed "the fox guarding the henhouse." Joannides, who was represented to the HSCA as having no "operational" background, turns out to have been in charge of the DRE in 1963. The DRE was the Cuban exile group whose New Orleans members had dealings with Oswald in the summer of 1963 (Carlos Bringuiere among them), and whose Miami members vigorously promoted Oswald's purported Communist connections immediately after the Kennedy assassination. See part 6 of What Jane Roman Said for additional information. When former HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey learned of this, he was outraged. Blakey wrote a scathing indictment of the CIA, which can be found on the PBS website devoted to the Frontline documentary Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald? (see bottom of this PBS website page for Blakey's letter)

[76] Echo correlation analysis and the acoustic evidence in the Kennedy assassination revisited, by DB Thomas, published in the journal Science and Justice, 2001. Available online at http://www.forensic-science-society.org.uk/Thomas.pdf. Thomas' work has yet to be seriously challenged.

[77] The Memoirs of Earl Warren, by Chief Justice Earl Warren, Doubleday and Co., 1977, p. 367.

[78] Lee Bowers worked in a railroad tower in the back of the parking lot behind the grassy knoll fence. He told the Warren Commission about cars which toured the parking lot within a half-hour prior to the assassination; in one case the driver appeared to be talking on a "mike or telephone." He also described in detail two men who stood behind the grassy knoll fence, and described seeing there some "commotion" which attracted his eye but which he could not identify. Bowers died in a car accident in 1966, and is considered by some to be among the "dead witnesses" of the JFK case. See Bowers' location and various statements and testimony at http://www.history-matters.com/analysis/Witness/WitnessMap/Bowers.htm.

[79] Arnold Rowland spotted a man with a rifle in the southwest corner of the Texas School Book Depository, the opposite end from the "Oswald sniper's nest," about 15 minutes before the shooting. He saw a second rifleman, older and black, at the eastern end of the building. See Rowland's location and various stsatements and testimony at http://www.history-matters.com/analysis/Witness/witnessMap/RowlandA.htm.

[80] Sylvia Odio was visited by three men in late September of 1963, one of whom was introduced as "Leon Oswald," and who Odio recognized after the JFK assassination as Lee Harvey Oswald. One of Oswald's companions called her the morning after the visit, and told her than Leon was an expert marksman and said “we Cubans, we did not have the guts because we should have assassinated Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs.” At the very end of the Warren Commission's tenure, literally within days of the release of the report, the FBI produced the identities of three men whom it said were the visitors, none of which were Oswald. These identifications fell apart within days of the Warren Report's release - the event remains unresolved and is one of the more important incidents indicating conspiracy to tie Oswald to the Kennedy murder before it occurred. Sylvia Odio's testimony to the Warren Commission is at 11WH367. She told an HSCA staffer that in her presence Warren Commission counselor Wesley Liebeler said "Well, you know if we do find out that this is a conspiracy you know that we have orders from Chief Justice Warren to cover this thing up." (see Jim DiEugenio's article Sylvia Odio vs. Liebeler & the La Fontaines at http://www.webcom.com/ctka/pr996-odio.html.

[81] Roy Kellerman was the Secret Service agent riding beside the driver of the Presidential limousine (William Greer). Kellerman described hearing something that sounded "like a firecracker, pop." Then, "I heard a voice from the back seat and I firmly believe it was the President's, 'My God I am hit.'" This statement caused the Warren Commission some consternation, since physicians told them that Kennedy would not likely have been able to speak after a shot through his throat, and the Commission's case completely relies upon the first successful shot passing through the President's throat and then wounding Connally as well (the single bullet theory). Kellerman then described grabbing the microphone and telling Agent Lawson that "we are hit; get us to the hospital immediately." Kellerman then made the following amazing statement about what happened next: "Now, in the seconds that I talked just now, a flurry of shells come into the car." According to the Warren Commission, this was a single shot to Kennedy's head. See 2WH73-74.

[82] Several Parkland hospital doctors and nurses described 1) an entrance wound in the throat, 2) a large wound in the back of JFK's head, and 3) cerebellar tissue extruding from the wound. None of these observations jibe with the official medical reporting from the autopsy and later investigations. 1) The throat wound was a wound of exit, not entrance, according to the autopsy and the later Clark Panel and HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. 2) The head wound was on the right side, not in the back, according to these same bodies, though it should be noted that suppressed HSCA interviews of many autopsy witnesses contain descriptions and drawings of a large rear head wound, something not seen in autopsy photos. 3) The cerebellum is too low in the head to have extruded tissue through a right-side wound, and the supplemental autopsy brain photos don't show significant damage to the cerebellum. See Gary Aguilar's How Five Investigations Into JFK's Medical/Autopsy Evidence Got It Wrong for a detailed analysis of these issues and others.

[83] Jack Ruby's testimony to the Warren Commission is a chilling public record which has been available since late 1964, in volume 5 of the Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits (5H181). Ruby, arguably the most important witness the Commission had, was not interviewed until June 7, 1964, more than 6 months after the formation of the Commission and after it had already begun writing its Report. While the Commission delayed interviewing Ruby ostensibly to avoid interfering with his Texas murder trial, that trial ended on March 14. Warren himself told Ruby: "And I wish we had gotten here a little sooner after your trial was over, but I know you had other things on your mind, and we had other work, and it got to this late date." The Commission staff members who investigated Ruby, Leon Hubert and Burt Griffin, were incredibly not among those who interviewed Ruby in the Dallas County Jail: Earl Warren, Gerald Ford, J. Lee Rankin, Joseph Ball, and Arlen Specter (accompanied by Texas officials, Ruby's lawyer Joe Tonahill, and Elmer Moore of the Secret Service). Ruby begged to be taken back to Washington several times, but was rebuffed. Warren at one point replied to one of these requests: "No; it could not be done. It could not be done. There are a good many things involved in that, Mr. Ruby." Ruby told the Commission that "my life is in danger here," and expressed some reluctance to go on speaking, to which Warren responded: "I think I might have some reluctance if I was in your position, yes; I think I would. I think I would figure it out very carefully as to whether it would endanger me or not." Ruby exhibited some erratic behavior during the interview, particularly his belief that Jews were in the process of being exterminated due to his actions (though there was a campaign to assign blame for the assassination to the Jews going on in right-wing circles). But most of his rambling testimony can be attributed to the position he found himself in: being interviewed in a place where he didn't feel safe ("Gentlemen, my life is in danger here."), unable to speak freely due to the large group which included people he didn't trust (including his lawyer as Ruby himself stated), and trying to provide hints to the deaf Commission while avoiding saying things that would incriminate himself regarding premeditated murder of Oswald (Ruby did subsequently win an appeal of his case). "Boys, I am in a tough spot, I tell you that," he said. Ruby's testimony is tragic and extremely telling regarding the Commission's determination not to find a conspiracy. Near the end of his 3-hour interview, Ruby remarked that "...a whole new form of government is going to take over our country, and I know I won't live to see you another time." The latter half of this statement is fact - Ruby died of lung cancer in January of 1967 before his retrial, during a time when the Warren Commission's findings were being questioned in many quarters. As to whether a "whole new form of government" took over the country, the reader will have to be the judge. Perhaps Ruby had it backwards, and it was a new form of government which was lost when Kennedy was murdered.