In 1992, following the public uproar created by Oliver Stone’s film JFK, Congress passed the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act to hastily identify and declassify records pertaining to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. To accomplish this, the Assassination Records Review Board was created.
The ARRB ended its mandate in 1998, having released nearly four million pages of previously classified documents. However, the provisions of the JFK Act, which has not yet expired, require the Archivist of the United States to continue to review and release pertinent records. Thus, documents continue to trickle from a reluctant State Department to this date.
While providing fresh insight into the assassination—including a startling admission by the Central Intelligence Agency—this avalanche of documents has also raised troubling questions regarding the complicity of government agencies in both a cover-up and the assassination itself.
The mainstream media have, for the most part, paid scant attention to the revelations in these documents, relegating them to internet esoterica, the cyber version of a bookstore’s loss-leaders. Their relative obscurity notwithstanding, when paired with the January 2004, taped deathbed confession of convicted Watergate burglar and former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt—who implicates President Lyndon Johnson, fellow CIA officers, anti-Castroites and a French drug trafficker in Kennedy’s murder—these disclosures seriously undermine the case for Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin.
Note: There is a school of thought that casts doubt on the reliability of deathbed confessions. For example, testimony from someone of an advanced age can be construed as the ramblings of a person suffering from senility or mental illness; the dying person may see this as a last opportunity to solidify his or her reputation; or the information given may simply be impossible to verify. However, when the information can be verified by independent sources, then the deathbed confession must be taken as it is presented, i.e., an opportunity to confess long-held truthful and often painful secrets.
E. Howard Hunt had always denied allegations he was involved in Kennedy’s murder. However, in a 1969 article in the magazine Spotlight, former Executive Assistant to the Deputy Director of CIA Victor Marchetti attested to Hunt’s involvement. Hunt sued Spotlight’s publisher, the right-wing group Liberty Lobby, for libel—and lost. Liberty Lobby’s attorney was Mark Lane, who in 1966 wrote Rush To Judgment, the earliest criticism of the Warren Commission’s report.
Here again, then, are a few of the key disclosures that researchers (this author included) have presented over the past two decades.
The New Orleans Cast
Oswald, Ferrie and Banister
In the declassified files of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect To Intelligence Activities (1975), there is testimony by two federal immigration agents who were following David Ferrie in 1963 because of his association with Cubans illegally in the country. Wendell Roache and Ron Smith of the then Immigration and Naturalization Service stated that they traced Ferrie to former FBI agent Guy Banister’s private detective office at 544 Camp Street in New Orleans—and that Lee Harvey Oswald was there.
Banister, Ferrie and Shaw
New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison—the only law enforcement official ever to bring persons to trial for the murder of President Kennedy—claimed there was a connection between Banister, Ferrie and local businessman Clay Shaw. Confirmation comes by way of researchers James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease. They uncovered ARRB-released files on a company named Freeport Sulphur (now renamed Freeport McMoRan) showing that Banister knew about a business venture that involved shipping nickel ore from Cuba to a Canadian front company. Ferrie flew Shaw and an official of Freeport Sulphur on an exploratory trip to help organize the venture. House Select Committee on Assassinations investigator Gaeton Fonzi looked into this and was able to connect the enterprise to the CIA’s Western Hemisphere Director, David Atlee Phillips.
Note: During Garrison’s investigation into the Kennedy assassination and the subsequent trial, Shaw repeatedly denied ever using the alias “Clay Bertrand.” Released FBI documents, however, tell a different story. One of their New Orleans informants, Lawrence Schiller, told the local FBI office that he had found five sources within the gay community there who confirmed that Shaw was known by several names, including Bertrand.
Ferrie and the Winnipeg Airport Incident
(This was first reported in the Winnipeg Free Press on May 2, 1964, and further researched by Peter R. Whitmey, Paris Flammonde and others through documents released by the ARRB and the Freedom of Information Act.)
On February 13, 1964, Richard Elvin Giesbrecht, a local businessman, was having a drink in the Horizon Room, a new lounge at the Winnipeg airport. He overheard two men discussing what appeared to be their involvement in President Kennedy’s assassination. He described one of the men as having “the oddest hair and eyebrows I’d ever seen. The eyebrows were wide and sort of streaky. The hair was very shiny and it started quite far back on his head”; he also recalled that the man wore heavy-rimmed glasses. Giesbrecht later identified this man as David W. Ferrie.
Ferrie’s companion was described as being in his mid- to late-40’s, with reddish-blond hair and a badly pockmarked neck and jaw. He wore a hearing aid and spoke with a “Latin” accent. Giesbrecht remembered that the men wore casual clothes: light tweed suits and loafers. Giesbrecht thought both men were homosexuals.
Note: It has been suggested that Ferrie’s companion may have been Major L. M. Bloomfield, a former OSS officer now living in Montreal. Bloomfield was among the members of the board of directors of the CIA-sponsored Centro Mondiale Commerciale in Rome—an organization that also had Clay Shaw on its board. This latest information prompted researcher Flammonde to contact Giesbrecht. Flammonde asked him about the certainty of his identification of Ferrie as one of the men at the airport. Giesbrecht replied that he was “100 percent certain” it was Ferrie.
Ferrie indicated he was concerned over how much Oswald had told his wife about the plot to kill Kennedy. Additionally, they discussed a man named “Isaacs,” his relationship with Lee Harvey Oswald, and how curious it was that he would have gotten himself involved with a “psycho” like Oswald.
Isaacs seemed to have allowed himself to be caught on film or television near the president when Kennedy arrived in Dallas. At the time the conversation took place, Isaacs was under surveillance by a man named “Hoffman” or “Hauchman” (possibly Troy Houghton of the militant, right-wing group the Minutemen) who was to “relieve” him and destroy a 1958 model automobile that was in Isaacs’ possession.
Note: On December 21, 1963, almost two months before Giesbrecht’s allegations surfaced, the Dallas office of the FBI had sent a teletype to the San Francisco office (44-1639-3139) with the following instructions:
“Notepad obtained from [Jack] Ruby when arrested contained name Chuck Isaacs. Investigation reveals wife of Charles R. Isaacs, ticket agent, American Airlines, formerly assigned Dallas, now assigned San Francisco, made costumes for Ruby’s dancers. San Francisco locate Isaacs and obtain all info. re: associates and activities of Ruby & relationship if any between Ruby and Oswald.”
The Third Man
Giesbrecht decided to leave the Horizon Room and contact the police. As he left the booth, he became aware he was being watched by a third man who was about six feet tall and 200-plus pounds. The man had apparently been watching Giesbrecht for some time from another table. When Giesbrecht left the lounge, the man followed him.
On the way to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police office, Giesbrecht found the big man standing between him and the stairs leading up to the RCMP’s airport office. Quickly getting to a telephone, Giesbrecht began relating the situation to an RCMP corporal at their downtown Winnipeg headquarters. He saw the man rapidly approaching him, so he hung up and raced off. Finally, after having eluded the man or been abandoned by him, Giesbrecht telephoned his lawyer, Harry Backlin, who contacted the United States Consulate who in then brought in the FBI.
And then… Nothing
“This looks like the break we’ve been waiting for,” Giesbrecht said FBI Special Agent Merle Nelson told him. A few months later, Giesbrecht was told to forget the entire episode because it was “too big,” and “we can’t protect you in Canada.”
On February 23, 1967, while visiting a friend in a hospital, Giesbrecht saw a photograph of David Ferrie in a newspaper; he remembered it as being one of the men he had overheard in Winnepeg’s airport.
Frustrated at not being contacted by the Warren Commission after being interviewed by the FBI, Giesbrecht spoke to a radio station announcer in Winnipeg, who encouraged him to speak to Winnipeg Free Press reporter Don Newman who broke the story.
Giesbrecht’s story later appeared in an article by William Turner in Ramparts magazine in 1967 and in the January 28, 1968, issue of the National Enquirer, which also included an interview with Garrison’s chief investigator, Louis Ivon. Giesbrecht had originally agreed to testify at Garrison’s trial of Clay Shaw, but refused to come to New Orleans after threats were made against his family’s welfare. When interviewed for a Canadian television program called “OpenSeasons,” Giesbrecht stated that he felt his days were “probably numbered” and that he had “mixed feelings” about having come forward in the first place.
Oswald and Bishop
In one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s declassified files on the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, it was discovered that the CIA was running a counterintelligence effort against the FPCC, and that this effort was led by David Atlee Phillips and James McCord. Phillips is of particular interest in that he was reported to have met with Lee Harvey Oswald in August 1963 at the Southland Center in Dallas. This information came from Antonio Veciana—a militant Cuban exile who headed Alpha 66, a virulent anti-Castro group funded by the CIA. Testifying before the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978, Veciana said he had seen his CIA contact, Maurice Bishop, meet with Oswald. HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi established that “Maurice Bishop” was a cover name used by Phillips.
Further verification of the Bishop-Phillips connection comes from CIA Case Officer Ron Crozier via the HSCA. From September 1960 to November 1962, Crozier worked at the CIA’s JM/WAVE station, located on the campus of the University of Miami in Florida. Crozier handled “Cuban exile labor units” and helped organize them into paramilitary groups similar to Alpha 66.
When interviewed by Fonzi, Crozier stated that Phillips, who worked out of Washington, D.C., frequently flew to the Miami station to coordinate propaganda operations the CIA was running through the Cuban exiles. Fonzi asked Crozier about three names, two of which were “Bishop” and “Knight.” Crozier confirmed that Phillips used the cover name Bishop while at JM/WAVE, and that Knight was a name used by E. Howard Hunt. As for the third name, Crozier stated that Fonzi must have been mistaken about it being an alias or cover name because it was the actual name of a case officer working in Havana.
Note: After 25 years in the CIA, Phillips retired and founded the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers; he was also the Washington, D.C. editor of the scholarly International Journal for Intelligence and Counterintelligence. Once a month, Phillips and a few colleagues would meet at various, undisclosed Beltway restaurants to discuss the latest intelligence-related events.
Phillips died on July 7, 1988, leaving behind an unpublished manuscript, a novel about a CIA officer who lived in Mexico City (where Phillips had once worked). In the novel the character states: “I was one of those officers who handled Lee Harvey Oswald… We gave him the mission of killing Fidel Castro in Cuba… I don’t know why he killed Kennedy. But I do know he used precisely the plan we had devised against Castro. Thus the CIA did not anticipate the president’s assassination, but it was responsible for it. I share that guilt.”
Doppelgängers in Mexico City
The Matter of John Thomas Masen
In the summer of 1963, the CIA had cameras trained on both the Soviet Embassy and the Cuban Embassy in Mexico City. When asked by the Warren Commission to verify Lee Harvey Oswald’s presence at the embassies, the CIA initially claimed that the cameras weren’t working at that time. But their Station Chief Win Scott later wrote that Oswald was filmed as he entered and left both embassies. The CIA then released two photographs of men whom they claimed were Oswald. The first was of a tall (over 6 feet), husky, jowly man whom even the most casual of observers would deny was Oswald. (He was later identified as Jim Hicks, who can also be seen in home movies and photographs taken in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963.)
The second photograph was of a man who was slightly built—like Oswald—and bore a remarkable resemblance to the accused assassin. This man was John Thomas Masen.
Researcher Mark Bridger revealed that after the assassination, the FBI searched the Dallas area looking for gun stores stocking the 6.5mm cartridges used by Oswald’s Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. Masen’s store was one of two who stocked the ammunition. The FBI interviewed Masen, who claimed to be fluent in Spanish. He said he was in Mexico in the summer of 1963, visiting “the Mendoza Brothers in Guadalajara, Mexico, who owned an arms manufacturing plant” [CE 2694 (pp. 13-14)]. The FBI record of Masen having visited the Mendoza Brothers in Guadalajara, however, is in error; the Mendoza Company was actually located in Mexico City.
The FBI showed Masen a photograph of Oswald and asked if he had ever sold ammunition to the accused assassin. Masen denied ever seeing Oswald. In what can only be described as a pattern of disinterest in leads that did not implicate Oswald, the FBI never asked to see any of Masen’s sales records. The Warren Commission’s report makes no mention of Masen’s close resemblance to Oswald.
Note: On Sunday, October 6th, 1963, Mrs. Lovell Penn heard gunshots on her land near Cedar Hill, about a dozen miles southwest of downtown Dallas. In her field she saw two men standing by a 1957 black and white Chevrolet (similar to the car photographed in General Walker’s drive in April and since linked to Cuban exile Felipe Vidal Santiago); a third man with a rifle was a distance away. When Mrs. Penn asked them to leave or she would call the police, the man with the rifle became belligerent, making several nasty comments. Mrs. Penn thought this man “might have been Oswald” and that one of the others was either a Latin or a Cuban.
Mrs. Penn retrieved a cartridge casing from her field which she gave to the FBI. Later examination showed this to be a 6.5mm Mannlicher-Carcano ammunition casing that could not be traced to Oswald’s rifle. In fact, no such ammunition was ever found in Oswald’s possession, nor was he ever linked to any. Unlike the gunman in Mrs. Penn’s field, Oswald’s demeanour was not antagonistic. ATF Agent Frank Ellsworth, who knew Masen, described him as being boorish rather than introverted. Was Mrs. Penn’s “Oswald” more likely John Thomas Masen, demonstrating firearms to prospective buyers?
A Dubious Past, Murky Dealings
Masen claimed to have attended the University of Houston and Rice University in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Yet a University of Houston archivist has stated, after consulting University yearbooks and student directories from 1957 to 1966, that they had no record of a John Thomas Masen—in fact, no record of a “Masen” at all. A request to Rice University produced a similar result.
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Frank Ellsworth told author Dick Russell¹ that Masen had said to him that he had been “smuggling guns” in and out of Mexico prior to Ellsworth’s dealings with him in late 1963. (Masen had been approached by Cuban exiles looking for weapons and explosives, bringing him to Ellsworth’s attention.)
On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, Ellsworth was at Dallas City Hall when he was confronted with Oswald who was under arrest. Ellsworth was astounded; he immediately assumed he was looking at Masen. Ellsworth had recently released Masen from custody (he had been charged with illegal possession of explosives, a misdemeanor) and now believed that Masen had gone to Dallas and shot the president. Unknown to Ellsworth at the time is that Masen actually was in Dallas that day and had been arrested by the Dallas police for “investigative purposes.” He was later released.
Masen’s role as a purveyor of firearms and explosives to anti-Castro Cubans, his uncanny resemblance to Oswald and his arrest in Dallas on the day Kennedy was assassinated raise more questions than they answer. What is indisputable though is that no film of Lee Harvey Oswald visiting either the Soviet or Cuban Embassies has ever been produced. Couple this with the fact that Masen was identified as one of the men whom the CIA falsely alleged was Oswald, and the question that must now seriously be raised is: Given the likelihood that Lee Harvey Oswald was being impersonated during the summer and fall of 1963, was he in Mexico City at all that summer?
ATF agent Frank Ellsworth participated in searches of the Texas School Book Depository on November 22nd, 1963. In a 1993 interview with authors Ray and Mary LaFontaine, Ellsworth claims that the Italian Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was found on the fourth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, not the sixth—the implication being that another shooter was on the sixth floor.
It is worth recalling here the initial reports that a German-made Mauser was found by Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone in the northwest corner of the sixth floor of TSBD, and was identified as such by him, Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman, and Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig. Captain Will Fritz would later show up to take possession of the rifle and confirm that it was indeed a Mauser. Boone later wrote two reports identifying the rifle as a Mauser. In an affidavit signed and sworn on November 23rd, 1963, Weitzman reports the discovery of a 7.65mm, bolt-action Mauser rifle at approximately 1:22 p.m. on the day of the assassination. Fritz and Weitzman later gave testimony to the Warren Commission identifying the rifle found by Boone as a Mauser.
Witness to the Deceased
According to the documents, the autopsy doctors described four wounds to the president: a small wound at the back of the skull; a massive defect to the right side or right rear of the skull; a small hole near the rear base of the neck, slightly to the right of the spine; and a hole in the throat. [There are actually five wounds to the president, if one adjudges the following statement made by Assistant Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff to the media assembled at Parkland Hospital as an unarguable fact: “Dr. George Burkley (President Kennedy’s physician) told me that it is a simple matter of a bullet right through the head. It is my understanding that it entered in the temple, the right temple.”]
Note: To accept the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, assassinated President John F. Kennedy, one must first presume that the five wounds to the president, the four wounds to Texas Governor John Connally [an entry wound in the back near the right shoulder resulting in a broken rib, an exit wound in the chest, a shattered wrist caused by a bullet entering from the dorsal (back) side, and a bullet fragment lodged in his right thigh], and a superficial wound to the cheek of bystander James Tague from a shot that nicked a concrete abutment—ten wounds in all—were caused by three rounds fired by Oswald from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building using a surplus World War II Mannlicher-Carcano rifle with a misaligned telescopic sight, and that one of the rounds—the Tague wound—completely missed its intended target.
The Throat Wound
Consider the deposition of Saundra Kay Spencer to the ARRB on June 5th, 1997. She worked at the Navy’s Photographic Center in a special unit for the Naval Aide to the President. She received a roll of film from an FBI agent who identified himself as “Mr. Fox.” After developing the film, Spencer saw that it contained autopsy photographs of President Kennedy. When asked by ARRB counsel T. Jeremy Gunn if there were any pictures of Kennedy’s throat wound, she replied in the affirmative, adding that the wound—located just below the Adam’s Apple—was “Just about like that, just like a finger, a half-inch.”
Spencer’s description of a small, neat wound is at odds with the gaping, jagged throat wound depicted in the Warren Commission’s report and subsequently shown to the general public. An avulsed throat wound is central to the Commission’s contention that President Kennedy was shot from behind. The autopsy photograph Spencer developed had to have been taken prior to the tracheostomy performed on the president by trauma room surgeon Dr. Malcolm Perry. It confirms what Dr. Perry and others have said for decades, i.e., that they saw a small, neat wound of entry in the president’s throat.
Note: Dr. Perry described the throat wound over the phone to Naval Commander Dr. James Humes and determined its size to be between 3 and 5 millimeters. Humes was one of three pathologists—Dr. J. Thornton Boswell from the Navy and Dr. Pierre Finck from the Army, being the others—who performed the autopsy on President Kennedy at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
The Large Head Wound
The published report from the HSCA states that there was a gaping hole on “the right side of the president’s head.” Yet the ARRB found that the medical personnel involved at the time had unanimously agreed that the hole was located at the right rear of the president’s head.
The Autopsy Photographs and X-Rays
Dr. Randolph Robertson, the only radiologist to have examined Kennedy’s X-rays who was not attached to a government inquiry, believes, on the basis of a pattern of intersecting fracture lines, that the president was hit in the head from behind and in front. Dr. Robert McClelland, one of the trauma room physicians at Parkland Hospital, states that there are inconsistencies in the X-rays of the back of the president’s skull: “Some show only the back part of the head missing, others show the entire right side of the skull gone.” Physicist and radiation therapist Dr. David Mantik submitted the X-rays to a technique called optical densitometry. According to Dr. Mantik, “This data provides powerful and quantitative evidence of alteration to some of the skull X-rays. They appear to me to be composites.” Dr. Mantik further states that he is confident President Kennedy was hit in the head by two gunmen, one firing from behind and one from in front. He believes the X-ray fakery was designed to cover up evidence for a frontal shot.
Missing Autopsy Photographs
Chief autopsy photographer John Stringer signed an affidavit dated November 22, 1963, that stated, “To my personal knowledge, this is the total amount of film exposed on this occasion” (ARRB Exhibit MD 78). In his ARRB testimony, however, Stringer stated that some views that were taken are now missing (ARRB deposition of John Stringer, July 16, 1996, p. 133).
William Bruce Pitzer
Though widely covered by the assassination research community, the case of Navy Lieutenant Commander William Bruce Pitzer is worth revisiting here due to explicative information found in FBI documents.
Pitzer was Chief of the Educational Television Division of the Naval Medical School at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. The hospital was equipped with closed-circuit television, and over the years it had been Pitzer’s responsibility to use these facilities to make instructional movies.
A few days after the assassination a close colleague, Petty Officer Dennis D. David, found Pitzer working on a 16mm movie film, slides, and black and white photos of the Kennedy autopsy. David noted that the materials showed what appeared to be an entry wound in the right frontal area—the right temple—with a corresponding exit wound in the lower rear of the skull.
After 28 years in the Navy Pitzer decided to retire. He had told friends he had been offered a good job working for a network television station, and that he had intended to make a program about the Kennedy assassination. On October 29, 1966, Pitzer was found dead under a step-ladder in a TV studio at the Naval Medical School. Investigations by both the Naval Investigative Service and the FBI concluded that a gunshot wound to Pitzer’s right temple had been self-inflicted. Testimony later offered by Petty Officer David cast doubt on this, however, as David indicated that Pitzer was left-handed.
Pitzer’s autopsy showed an entry wound to his right temple and a corresponding exit wound on the left side of the head. It also revealed a third wound, unrelated to the gunshot to the head, that was found after the brain was removed. This wound, according to Naval Medical Officer Lt. Cmdr. Robert Steyn, was located near the left temple.
The revolver found near Pitzer’s body was a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson that had been signed out—along with 6 blank cartridges of ammunition—by an enlisted man, L.R. Andre, on behalf of his superior officer, Lt. Cmdr. W.B. Pitzer. The revolver and ammunition were issued to Andre on October 12, 1966, by Russell L. Bray, Supervisory Guard, who provided this information to the FBI in the form of a hand-written note.
An FBI document includes the following notation as their proof of origin of the weapon found beside Pitzer’s body: “The Firearms Logbook contained in the Security Office, National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, was examined and in the front of the book was located an undated notation that a .38 caliber revolver, serial number 311546 had been checked out for Lieutenant Commander WILLIAM B. PITZER. The signature under this notation was illegible.”
Undated? Bray gave the date and time of the weapon’s release in his hand-written note. So why would he omit this from the official logbook? Why wasn’t this portion of the logbook photocopied and placed in the FBI’s records? It would be reasonable to conclude that the “illegible” signature was that of Mr. Bray, except that his signature on his hand-written note is of exemplary clarity. Also, there is no record of Pitzer acquiring live ammunition at the NNMC, or anywhere else for that matter.
The revolver, the spent cartridge, a live round found in the next firing position, and a live round in the second position of the chamber were checked for fingerprints. But neither the FBI nor the Navy’s investigative unit could find Pitzer’s prints on any of the items.
An Inveterate Propensity
According to his wife, Pitzer was an inveterate note-maker; this was evident when his body was found. Sheets of paper were scattered around, bearing the names of colleagues (whose names are redacted from FOIA-released photocopies) to whom messages were to be conveyed. The following note was found on an assistant’s desk: “Remind me to return gun to the sec. [sic: security] office.” Therefore, if Pitzer did take his own life, one must deduce that in his final moments he jotted down work-related items—and some improbable instructions—lest he forget them, but did not take the time to pen a suicide note to explain his final act.
FBI files on the investigation, released in 1997, reveal a strong possibility that Pitzer had been murdered. One of the notes found on the floor near Pitzer’s body bore a partial heel print that was not from the shoes Pitzer was wearing. Paraffin tests of Pitzer’s right palm and back of hand were negative, indicating the absence of nitrate—meaning no exposure to gunpowder. Further FBI tests indicated “that the revolver must have been held at a distance of more than 3 ft when discharged.”
1. Some researchers posit that Pitzer was killed after he had climbed the ladder to retrieve X-rays, movie film and photographs of Kennedy’s autopsy from a false ceiling.
2. Dr. Hume denied Pitzer had been present in the autopsy room, but Jerrol F. Custer, an X-ray technician at the hospital, later stated that Pitzer had photographed the proceedings, including the military men who attended the Kennedy autopsy.
3. In May 1995, former Army Special Forces Colonel Daniel Marvin claimed to have been solicited by a CIA officer to “terminate” a William Bruce Pitzer in the fall of 1966. An interview with Marvin later appeared in the sixth episode of the television series The Men Who Killed Kennedy (November 1995).
The Mannlicher-Carcano Rifle Revisited
Rebutting the Warren Commission and Its Apologists
On July 1, 2007, Tim Shipman, Washington, D.C. correspondent for London’s Sunday Telegraph, reported on a study by Italian weapons experts of the type of rifle Lee Harvey Oswald is alleged to have used to shoot President John F. Kennedy. “In fresh tests of the Mannlicher-Carcano bolt-action weapon, supervised by the Italian army, it was found to be impossible for even an accomplished marksman to fire the shots quickly enough.”
The Warren Commission concluded that it took Oswald 8.3 seconds to get off all three shots on his Mannlicher-Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle. But when the Italian team test-fired an identical model of the gun, they were unable to load and fire three shots in less than 19 seconds—suggesting that a second gunman had been present in Dealey Plaza that day.
Attempts to Recreate Magic
In a further challenge to the Warren Commission’s conclusions, the Italian team conducted two other tests at the former Carcano factory in Terni, north of Rome, where the murder weapon was made in 1940.
They fired bullets through two large pieces of meat, in an attempt to simulate the assumed path of the so-called “magic bullet.” In their test, the bullet was deformed, unlike the first bullet in the Kennedy assassination, which remained largely intact.
According to the Warren Commission, the second bullet is thought to have missed its target, and the third disintegrated when it hit Kennedy’s head. The new research, however, suggests that this is incompatible with the fact that Oswald was only 80 yards away in the Texas School Book Depository when he fired. The Italian tests suggest that a bullet fired from that distance would have emerged intact from Kennedy’s head, implying that the third shot must have come from a more distant location. [Emphasis mine.]
Doubts of Two People in the Motorcade
The Secret Service agents who guarded President Kennedy never offered an opinion on record regarding a possible conspiracy to murder the president. But we now know what one agent who sat in the limousine with the president thought: Roy Kellerman’s widow, June, says he “accepted that there was a conspiracy.” Kennedy’s close aide Kenneth O’Donnell, who rode in the car immediately behind the president’s, told former Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill that he was pressured by the FBI not to say what he firmly believed, that gunfire had come from in front of the motorcade.
Note: Much was made of the fact that the president’s limousine did not have the plastic or “bubble” top attached during the fatal motorcade in Dallas. Speculation arose that the bubble top had been purposely removed to allow Kennedy to be assassinated. Among other things, this assumes that the bubble top was bulletproof—it was not. When asked by Warren Commission counsel Arlen Spector if the bubble top was bulletproof, Roy Kellerman replied, “It is not bulletproof.” Spector then asked if the bubble top was bullet resistant in any way. Kellerman replied, “It’s not bullet resistant.”
Among The Warren Commission Members
The doctors did not dissect any of the wounds; they merely probed them. The documents indicate that photographs and X-rays were taken during these probing attempts, but that their current location remains unknown.
Why is this important? Tracking the trajectory of the wounds to their destination against the timeline of shots seen in Abraham Zapruder’s home movie would show that no single gunman could have been responsible for all the wounds. Even members of the Warren Commission expressed their doubts: John McCloy, president of the World Bank, had difficulty accepting it (“Why did the FBI report come out with something which isn’t consistent with the autopsy?”); Congressman Hale Boggs had “strong doubts”; and Senator John Sherman Cooper remained ardently “unconvinced.” On one of President Lyndon Johnson’s White House tapes, Senator Richard Russell is heard telling Johnson, “I don’t believe it [the Commission’s conclusion that Oswald was a lone assassin].” The president responds, “I don’t either.”
The Facts—As They Pertain to the Conclusion
In July 1997, pages from the original draft of the Warren Commision’s report were released. Among them was a page describing the path of the so-called “magic” bullet. The memo states, “A bullet had entered his [Kennedy’s] back at a point slightly above the shoulder to the right of the spine.” In pen, Commission member (and future president) Gerald Ford changed the report to read, “A bullet had entered the back of his neck at a point slightly to the right of the spine,” thus making the single-bullet theory plausible. [Emphasis mine.]
The Acoustics Evidence
In a March 2001, peer-reviewed article in Science and Justice, a quarterly publication of Britain’s Forensic Science Society, forensic scientist D.B. Thomas declared that acoustics evidence of a second gunman was indeed indicated—to a more than 96% certainty. In the article, Thomas cites several mistakes made in the initial acoustics testing, and says that “five separate gunshot sounds can be heard on one of the tapes at exactly the time the president was killed.”
The ITEK Corporation, who performed the original acoustics analysis, focused on only two locations: the east corner of the Texas School Book Depository—the so-called “sniper’s nest”—and the stockade fence atop the grassy knoll. One wonders what their findings, and those of D.B. Thomas’s, would have revealed about the origin of the shots had their focus also included the west corner of TSBD (where witnesses reported movement in the far west window on the sixth floor); the third floor of the Dal-Tex Building; the roofs of the Dallas County Records Building and the Criminal Courts Building; the bushes between the pergola—where Abraham Zapruder filmed the motorcade—and the Stemmons Freeway sign; and the storm drain at the curb on the right side of Elm Street, below the pergola steps.
1. Bystander Phillip Willis stood on the opposite side of Elm Street, across from Abraham Zapruder. He took a photograph of the the bushes between the pergola where Zapruder stood and the Stemmons Freeway sign that corresponds accoustically to Z200 (frame 200 of the Zapruder film). A flash of light is visible in the bushes; this is the muzzle flash of a gunshot. The bullet will hit the Stemmons Freeway sign at a sharp angle, around ten degrees. Z200 shows the first hint of a line that appears on the left edge of the sign, well below Kennedy’s head. Z204 shows the back of the Stemmons Freeway sign where a stress mark appears, extending from the left edge of the sign to a supporting post—indicating a bullet has nicked the sign.
2. Eugene Hale Brading, aka Jim Braden, convicted felon, was arrested in Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. Brading admitted to being on the third floor of the Dal Tex Building.
Fingerprints in the Sniper’s Nest
Three of Oswald’s fingerprints were found on cardboard boxes near the window where he is alleged to have fired at the president. Given that Oswald’s job had involved him working on the sixth floor stacking cartons of books, one would expect to find his fingerprints there. But fingerprints belonging to others—employees and law enforcement officials—were also found on the boxes. One fingerprint, however, was never linked to any Book Depository employee, nor to any law-enforcement official known to have handled the boxes.
Note: In 1998, Texas fingerprint expert Nathan Darby executed an affidavit in which he confirmed a match between a latent fingerprint found on one of the cardboard boxes that comprised the Texas School Book Depository “sniper’s nest” and the inked print of Malcolm Wallace, convicted murderer and associate of President Johnson. Darby originally identified 14 matching points between the inked and latent prints that were given to him. While there is some debate on the number of matching points necessary to make a definitive identification (the FBI suggests 8, most courts accept 10-12), a 14-point match by an experienced Certified Latent Print Examiner—like Darby—will generally clinch a case.
A Second Gun and Another Assassination Attempt
An FBI report surfaced revealing that, at 7.30 on the morning after the assassination: “A SNUB NOSE THIRTY EIGHT CALIBER SMITH AND WESSON, SERIAL NUMBER EIGHT NINE THREE TWO SIX FIVE, WITH THE WORD QUOTE ENGLAND UNQUOTE ON THE CYLINDER WAS FOUND … IN A BROWN PAPER SACK IN THE GENERAL AREA OF WHERE THE ASSASSINATION TOOK PLACE.”
Other Bureau reports note that a revolver was found “IN THE IMMEDIATE VICINITY” of the Book Depository. Consider this in light of a previously unreleased attempt on President Kennedy’s life in Nashville, Tennessee:
“The son of the late Governor Frank Clement, the president’s host during a May 1963 visit, said the incident at Overton High School was kept quiet in order to keep from encouraging similar scares. At Overton High School there was a man who approached [the president] with a gun underneath a sack. He was grabbed by the Secret Service.”
The potential Nashville assassin has never been identified. Did an individual plan to approach JFK in Dealey Plaza with the revolver in the paper bag, just as had happened six months earlier in Nashville?
The Assassination as Revisionist History
The Zapruder Film
Over half a century has passed since the murder of President Kennedy. As the memories and lives of the witnesses fade, the media devote less and less coverage. Television programs using Abraham Zapruder’s infamous 8mm home movie employ the latest in digital technology to reconstruct the The Big Event² in ways that few who witnessed it can recall.
Zapruder initially handed over his unprocessed film to Time-Life. Lost on all but the most ardent researchers is the fact that, upon the film’s return, Zapruder remarked that several frames appeared to be either damaged or missing. This means that photographic expert Robert Groden’s motion-corrected version of the Zapruder film—the only version this current generation has ever seen—was produced from the altered film returned to Mr. Zapruder.
The Early Focus on Oswald
Was Lee Harvey Oswald a lone assassin, as the Warren Commission proclaimed? One reason offered by Warren Commission apologists supporting this conclusion is that only Oswald had left the Texas School Book Depository immediately after the shooting.
In the fall of 1963, the floors at TSBD were being renovated, yet as many as forty people were at work that day. In the ensuing minutes following the assassination, the Dallas police did little to seal off the building. According to researcher Mark Bridger, over a dozen employees had walked out, including Oswald. Later, at the same time Oswald was being arrested inside the Texas Theater in Oak Cliff, the police had an All Points Bulletin out for Charles Givens, a Black employee at TSBD, who was also missing and presumed to be a suspect in the assassination.
Remember, this was 1963. Being a Black man in the South wanted by the police for questioning in a capital murder was tantamount to an admission of guilt. Yet the police give up their pursuit of Givens after Oswald’s arrest. Why?
When Roy Truly, Oswald’s supervisor, and Officer Marion Baker encountered Oswald in the second-floor lunchroom of TSBD, Truly vouched for him, stating that Oswald was an employee. He did not indicate to Officer Baker any need to detain Oswald. Asked by the Warren Commission if he was suspicious of Oswald, Truly replied, “No, sir, I wasn’t.” Truly had asked two of his employees, Bonnie Ray Williams and Harold Norman, the whereabouts of Oswald, saying he had “one or two other boys out.” Truly admitted this to the Warren Commission, yet he concentrated solely on Oswald’s absence. Why?
Truly claims he made a “roll call” of his employees and only Oswald was missing. Yet when questioned by Commission counsel Joseph A. Ball, Truly admitted that Givens was also missing. Truly later tried to explain this away, saying he saw Givens “walking up the street, just before the firing of the gun.” Ball then asked Truly if he had made a check of all his employees, to which Truly replied, “No, no; not complete.” So Truly had been less than forthcoming to the Commission when he stated that he had done a roll call and that Oswald was the only person missing. Apparently, Truly did not notice a few others who had left the building…
- Danny Arce, 18, left at 1:00 pm, accompanied by the police, to go to City Hall.
- Carolyn Arnold, 20, left at 12:25 pm and did not return.
- Virgie Rachley, 18, left at 11:45 am and returned at 12:40 pm but was denied entry.
- Jack Carson, 56, president of TSBD, left at 12:10 pm and did not return.
- Betty Drago, 27, left at 12:20 pm but found the door locked when she returned. She stayed outside TSBD until 2:30 pm before going home.
- Buell Wesley Frazier, 19, famously gave Oswald a lift to work that day. He left TSBD between 1:00 and 2:00 pm, about the same time Truly claims he made his roll call.
- Charles Givens, 38, returned to TSBD after the shooting but was refused entry by a Dallas policeman. An APB was put out for him, and he was later interviewed at City Hall by Captain Will Fritz. As stated earlier, Truly was aware of Given’s absence, having seen him prior to the assassination. Truly also saw Oswald prior to his encounter with him in the second-floor lunchroom. Using that logic, Oswald should have been exonerated as well.
- Gloria Holt, 18, left at 12:10 pm and did not return.
- Stella Jacob, 20, left at noon and did not return.
- Judy Johnson, 20, was standing outside TSBD when the shooting began. She remained in the area until 2:00 pm then went home.
- Dolores Kounas, 32, left at 12:15 pm and stayed outside until 3:00 pm.
- Sharon Nelson, 19, left at 12:20 pm and never returned. She lived at 409 East 9th Street, near the site where Officer J.D. Tippit was gunned down.
- Roberta Parker, 55, left at a time unknown, and said she wasn’t allowed back in until 3:30 pm.
- Bonnie Richey, 20, left the building at 12:20 pm and never returned.
- Lloyd Viles, 41, left at 12:15 pm and returned at 2:55 pm.
- Vida Whatley, 45, left at 12:15 pm to go shopping. She tried to re-enter TSBD at 1:00 pm but was denied entry by the police. She went home.
- Bonnie Ray Williams, 20, accompanied Arce to the police station at 1:00 pm.
Testimony and documents of evidentiary value indicating a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy and effect an ongoing cover-up were either withheld from government committees assigned to investigate his murder, or suppressed by the committees themselves. In some instances there is evidence of tampering and malfeasance; in others, evidence unwittingly presented as first-hand accounts are themselves second-generation, produced from sources altered to sustain a preordained conclusion. Further, evidence that would not only have exculpated Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin but also prove he had not even fired a weapon that day was either ignored or suppressed.
Oswald and U.S. Intelligence
So, what are we to make of Lee Harvey Oswald? Was he an intelligence operative, sheep-dipped first as a defector, then as a pro-Castroite to carry on clandestine activities?
Finally, a Smoking Gun
During the early years of the Cold War, the Office of Naval Intelligence conducted its own clandestine operations against the Soviet Union. One operation in particular was run in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency; this was the false defector program. In a one-month period, ONI sent nine “defectors” to the Soviet Union, one of them being Lee Harvey Oswald.
Confirmation of Oswald’s participation in this program comes from a Confidential U.S. Government Memorandum dated March 3, 1964, referencing Secret Service/Treasury Department file number CO-2-34,030. John McCone, Director, Central Intelligence Agency, responds to a request from James J. Rowley, Chief of the Secret Service, regarding Oswald’s activities on behalf of the CIA and the FBI. McCone writes, in part:
“Oswald subject was trained by this agency, under cover of the Office of Naval Intelligence, for Soviet assignment. During preliminary training in 1957, subject was active in aerial reconnaissance of mainland China and maintained a security clearance up to the “confidential” level. His military records during this period are open to your agency and I have directed they by forwarded to the Commission.
“Subject received additional indoctrination at our Camp Peary from September 8 to October 17, 1958, and participated in a few relatively minor assignments until arrangements were made for his entry into the Soviet Union in September 1959. While in the Soviet Union, he was on special assignment in the area of Minsk. It would not be advantageous at this time to divulge the specifics of that assignment…”
The Risks to Power
Had this information appeared on the front page of the New York Times or Washington Post, is there any doubt that, in addition to shattering the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Oswald had no connections to U.S. intelligence, it would also have provoked considerable debate on what roles individuals in these agencies may have played in the assassination? The fact that this revelation was not reported exposes the pervasive reach of the Power Elite to suppress any meaningful critique of Kennedy’s murder, and lays bare their continuing attempts to misinform and confuse the public.
Unfortunately, the tactics employed to keep explosive revelations out of the headlines—attacks on the credibility and methodologies of the researchers; impugning the validity of source materials; the use of implicit or overt threat, including the murders of key witnesses and individuals with knowledge of The Big Event—have achieved their desired effect. To date, no charges have ever been brought against anyone suspected of planning or participating in the murder of President Kennedy, and its subsequent cover-up, by any congressional or senatorial investigative body, despite recommendations by one, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, for the Justice Department to do just that.
A Case for Conspiracy, But…
There’s the Allure of the Lone Assassin Theory
For some, there is a certain attractiveness to the theory that a lone, disgruntled man murdered the 35th President of the United States; it is, after all, the simplest explanation. No need to traverse the murky paths of conspiracy and its labyrinthine suggestions of political, economic and military agendas. No need to contradict what for many people beggars belief, i.e., that one man did the shooting.
Note: A March 2016 Gallup poll showed that 81% of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.
No One Is Listening
The argument leveled against conspiracy theorists is that one of this magnitude eventually would have unraveled because someone would have talked. This assumes that someone is listening. Some individuals have talked:
- David Ferrie and his assosciate in Winnipeg.
- Gerry Patrick Hemming, A CIA contract agent who admitted his involvement to author Alan J. Weberman.
- Richard Case Nagell, who, as reported by author Dick Russell, claimed to have been recruited in September 1963 to kill Oswald and thus derail the Kennedy assassination plot.
Note: On September 20, 1963, Nagell walked into an El Paso, Texas bank on September 20, 1963, and fired a shot into the ceiling, forcing authorities to arrest him, rather than get deeper into the plot.
- Thomas H. Killam, a man who worked for Jack Ruby, claimed that there was a link between his former employer, Oswald and the Mafia. According to researcher Matthew Smith, Killam told his brother, “I am a dead man, but I have run as far as I am running.” Killam was found dead in an alley with his throat cut in March 1964.
There is much new evidence, for example, revealing connections between Lee Harvey Oswald and principals long-suspected of involvement in President Kennedy’s murder: individuals in the CIA and the FBI; militant Cuban exiles; right-wing, anti-communist racists—a confluence of some of the president’s more pronounced enemies. Yet, the mainstream media have all but ignored anything countermanding the lone assassin conclusion. Thus the role of contrarian has been left to producers outside the United States, such as Britain’s Nigel Turner whose controversial 1988 documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy (updated in 1991 and again in 2003) has sparked much debate.
Note: For a plot to succeed, it is not necessary that all those involved be witting participants. All that is required is for the leadership of the conspiracy to know how a given party will react to a proscribed situation. When that party is regimented, like law enforcement agencies or the military, these specific rules of procedure work to the advantage of the conspirators, allowing for unwitting accomplices to the crime.
As for Oswald’s involvement in a conspiracy to murder President Kennedy, the evidence remains inferential. Former Oswald paramour Judith Vary Baker claims he was keenly aware of his role in the plot, but had second thoughts and tried to prevent it. Mercenary and CIA contract agent Gerry Patrick Hemming claims Oswald was a low-level operative, a dupe set up to be the patsy. In the end, this is a question that cannot be satisfactorily answered.
Wide-Eyed No Longer
For emerging nations and oppressed peoples around the world, the United States has long been the fugleman, leading them toward a pluralist future. The notion that, on November 22nd, 1963, a cabal seized control of the government of the United States is not just an affront to a free society, it smacks of George Orwell’s “Oligarchical Collectivism”—except here our panoply of democracy hides this dystopian truth: Power lies in the hands of those who can punish the unruly and the rebellious.
Will further declassification prove without doubt the case for conspiracy? Perhaps not, for we are caught in the loop of what intelligence professionals call a “limited hangout,” wherein the cover story has fallen apart, and now a few participants will be implicated while the truth remains obfuscated forever.
1. Dick Russell is the author of Richard Case Nagell—The Man Who Knew Too Much. Nagell, a former Army Counter Intelligence Corps officer, claims foreknowledge of The Big Event and says he was originally hired to kill Oswald.
2. “The Big Event” is a codename for the Kennedy assassination—used by E. Howard Hunt, CIA contract agent Gerry Patrick Hemming and others. Hemming, who admitted his participation in the Kennedy assassination to author Alan J. Weberman, was also involved in Operation Northwoods.³
3. Operation Northwoods. On March 13, 1962, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Lyman Lemnitzer submitted a secret plan to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Its purpose: to justify an invasion of Cuba by means of terrorist actions against the United States—to be carried out by U.S. military and intelligence. Proposed actions include a “Remember the Maine” incident, “exploding a few plastic bombs” on U.S. soil and “create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner en route from the United States.” President Kennedy blocked the operation and, in September 1962, replaced Lemnitzer as chairman of the JCS.