JAHS Chapter 21
The "Dallas Project" finally comes to fruition on May 24, 1964.
History in the Crosshairs
After viewing the re-enactment from ground level, and noting that the chalk mark designating the location of Kennedy's back wound was far lower than suggested by the Rydberg drawings, we go upstairs to the sixth floor sniper's nest, and see how things look from above.
We spot FBI photography expert Lyndal Shaneyfelt viewing the re-enactment through a camera attached to a rifle.
Here he is with his contraption... (Note: this image was provided to and published by the Warren Commission as CE 887.)
In any event, Shaneyfelt lets us take a look-see through the camera.
Shockingly, when viewed from the sniper's nest, the new and more accurate location for Kennedy'sback wound aligns with the lower part of Connally's back, and not his right armpit, as anticipated. (This is demonstrated on the slide above.)
Although the Secret Service made some adjustments to the Presidential back-up car used in the re-enactment and tried to make the vertical alignment of the stand-ins correlate precisely with that of Kennedy and Connally on 11-22-63, we wonder if they screwed it up.
We go to a garage after the re-enactment, however, and watch as Specter confirms they didn't screw it up. A string is placed along the wall at the angle of a shot from the sniper's nest to Kennedy and Connally at the time Specter believes they were hit. A rod is then held up at the angle of the string, and placed in the Connally stand-in's armpit, and aligned with the Kennedy stand-in's throat wound. This rod was then compared to the location of Kennedy's back wound.
It passes inches above it. Although Specter has the Secret Service and FBI agents working as the stand-ins lean this way and that to try to make the wounds align, it just does't work.
We can hardly wait to see how Specter explains this one.
Questions are popping up everywhere. On May 24, 1964, the very day of the Warren Commission's re-enactment of the shooting in Dallas, The New York Journal-American runs an article on a photograph taken by James Altgens just after the first shot was fired on 11-22. Some have claimed a man in a doorway in the background of this photo is Oswald, proving Oswald's innocence. While the article features an interview with Billy Lovelady, who both claims and is claimed by others to be the man in this doorway, it raises more questions than it settles on other aspects of the shooting. It presents a series of "claims" and responds to these with "facts." Many of these facts are not quite accurate, however. Some, in fact, are absolute nonsense. To the claim more than one shooter must have fired upon Kennedy, as his neck wound was an entrance, while Oswald was shooting from behind, for instance, the article presents the "fact" that "films show that he had turned his body far around to the right to wave at someone in the crowd just as the first shot struck him. In that position, his throat was fully exposed to the sniper." Yikes. This was the bill of goods pushed by Life Magazine in early December, almost SIX months before. The FBI had long ago tried to replace this with its own bill of goods--that the throat wound was an exit for a fragment from the bullet creating the head wound.
This leads us to become even more cynical. If the press can't make sense of what happened, and continues pushing "facts" long since discredited, then what hope is there the public will suddenly see the "light" when all the evidence is before them?
And we soon find even more reason to be cynical. Commission historian Alfred Goldberg is beside himself. Warren has told Goldberg that, once the commission's report is published, he wants the commission's internal files shredded or incinerated. He doesn't want the public to ever know of the commission's internal battles. Goldberg is worried this will lead to even more suspicion than exists already. He talks to Senator Russell's assistant, who talks to Russell, who in turn talks to Warren, and convinces him to change his mind.
What's going on?
(Warren's decision to destroy the internal files was revealed by Philip Shenon in A Cruel and Shocking Act (2013). He relied upon interviews with Goldberg.)
On 5-27-64, General Counsel Rankin gets some interesting news of his own. Richard Helms of the CIA sends him a memo recounting a meeting between an unnamed source (columnist Drew Pearson) and Chairman Nikita Khruschev of the Soviet Union. According to Helms, when the unnamed source told Khruschev that Oswald had acted alone, Khruschev was “utterly incredulous.” The unnamed source described this attitude as “archetypical of every European I have ever talked to on this subject.” He “got the impression that Chairman Khruschev had some dark thoughts about the American Right Wing being behind this conspiracy." The unnamed source then “repeated that the reaction of Chairman Khruschev and his wife was one of flat disbelief and archetypical of the universal European belief that there was some kind of American conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Oswald.” One can only speculate that news like this would inspire the Commission to re-double its efforts to convince the world that Oswald acted alone.
Here, by the way, is a picture of Helms. God only knows what was he was thinking, but you can be pretty sure it wasn't something pleasant.
On 5-29-64, we see a memo by J. Lee Rankin accompanying first drafts of the final report. It includes the following passage:
Attached, for your comments and suggestions, are first drafts of the following sections of the Report:
3. The Assassination: President Kennedy's Agenda and Activities from Planning Dallas Trip to Autopsy. This draft, prepared by Mr. Specter, is complete except for a description of on-site tests in Dallas which are to be integrated with wound ballistics experiments.
Well, this is not surprising. The "on-site tests in Dallas" observed by Specter took place on May 24, a Sunday. And here was Rankin passing on Specter's "complete" chapter on the assassination the following Thursday. Well, this was a week before any testimony on the re-enactment could be taken. It follows, then, that Specter's conclusions (which would soon become the conclusions of the commission), including his single-bullet conclusion, were not based upon evidence gained from the re-enactment that had been presented to the commission, or discussed with the commissioners.
Specter had had a "theory" and had decided to go with it...before it could be vetted by the men supposedly running the circus.
Meanwhile, across the Potomac... Kennedy's grave receives a surprise visitor.
Also on 5-29, Dallas station KRLD broadcasts a scoop related to the 5-24 re-enactment.
The Associated Press reports the details of this scoop the next day. "DALLAS, Tex. (AP) - Television station KRLD said Friday it has learned the Warren Commission's report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy will show that the first bullet hit both the president and Texas Gov. John B. Connally, and that the third shot went wild. In a copyright story, KRLD said this information came from a highly placed source to the Warren Commission following last Sunday's re-enactment of the assassination. Previous thinking had been that the first bullet hit the president, the second hit the governor, and the third fatally wounded Kennedy. KRLD said it also had learned the commission's report, which it said was to be released in a few weeks, will show the following: The first bullet entered the president's body slightly above the right collar bone and exited just to the left of the tie knot, then entered the body of Connally just above the fifth rib. The second bullet struck the president in the back of the head. The third bullet followed a much flatter trajectory than the first two, because the motorcade was moving down a sloping street, and it struck a manhole cover, then ricocheted off the curb and never was found. Medical opinion in the commission's report will show that chances for the president's recovery from the first wound would have been excellent. Also, had the first hit been a fraction lower, the force of the bullet probably would have knocked the president to the floor of the car and removed him from the line of sight for the second— and fatal — shot. The first bullet traveled 168 feet before it hit, the second 207 feet. There was an interval of 4 1/2 seconds between the first and second shots, and about 2 1/2 seconds between the second and third shots, and experts contend a crack marksman could have fired all three in the time it took the assassin to fire the first two."
Well, this is most interesting. The information provided is all garbled. The source reportedly said the commission concluded the third shot missed but the shot distances provided, with the first shot being fired from 168 feet and the second shot being fired from 207, suggests instead that the first shot hit Kennedy (167 feet was the distance for this shot in the FBI's 1-20 report) and that the second shot hit Connally. This inexplicably leaves out the headshot. The purported distance for the second shot--207 feet--correlates to frame 242 of the Zapruder film, the earliest point at which Kennedy and Connally could have been hit by separate shots, and the point which Specter had been holding out as the last moment Connally could have been shot. The reported 4 1/2 second gap between the first and second shots, furthermore, is clearly a reference to the shot at frame 242 and the head shot at frame 313, which comes about 4 1/2 seconds afterward. This then indicates that the source believed the final shot came two and half seconds after frame 313, at approximately frame 358. The final shot in the January report of the FBI exhibits section, we should recall, came at approximately frame 358. This suggests that the source for this article was not simply mistaken about the commission's concluding the first shot was fired from 168 feet, and that the last shot missed around frame 358, but was inferring as much from the FBI's earlier report. Since that report specified that the last shot hit Kennedy, moreover, this suggests that the source for this article was futilely trying to correlate the contradictory information contained in that report, with subsequent information derived from Specter and the re-enactment. The result was nonsense. Who was this source?
Leaks, Leaks, and More Leaks
On 6-1-64, more leaks reach the public. Anthony Lewis, a writer with a close working relationship with the Supreme Court, writes an article for the New York Times with the headline “Panel to Reject Theories of Plot in Kennedy’s Death. Warren Inquiry is Expected to Dispel Doubts in Europe that Oswald Acted Alone.” Lewis would go on to claim “The commission’s report is expected, in short, to support the original belief of law enforcement agencies in this country that the President was killed by one man acting alone, Lee H. Oswald…A spokesman for the commission said that none of the critical works, foreign or domestic, had come up with any new factual information. He said that the commission had found 'just a rehash of the same material. The same questions and each man’s conclusions.'…The commission’s spokesman expressed the conviction that its report, when issued, would completely explode the theories published (abroad). He said that not even the authors would stand by them. 'We’ll knock them out of those positions,' he said.” In its 6-12-64 issue, Time Magazine jumped on board and echoed the Times’ endorsement of the commission’s conclusions months before they were even released. An article on the attitudes of Europeans to the assassination began “The most myth-filled aftermath of John F. Kennedy’s assassination is the stubborn refusal of many Europeans to accept the belief that the U.S. President could have been killed by a lunatic loner” and admitted “Last week word leaked from the Warren Commission that its report would spike each of the overseas theses and endorse with few changes the FBI’s original version that Oswald killed alone. However, this is hardly likely to end the myth-making in Europe.” From these articles, it seems likely the “spokesman” speaking to Lewis was either Warren himself or someone acting with his blessing.
If so, however, it's clear these leaks were not "authorized" by the full commission. The 6-4 executive session of the commission reflects that Congressman Ford, for one, is irritated by these leaks, as he is not at all convinced there was no foreign involvement in the assassination. He, furthermore, threatens Warren that if these leaks persist he will find it necessary to tell the press that "the Commission has not discussed these matters as a Commission" as yet, and that whoever is telling them otherwise is not to be trusted. Warren then interjects that he "personally cannot account for any of these stories", and that he has not spoken to any newspapers and that he has urged General Counsel Rankin to urge the staff not to do so as well. This, of course, leaves open the possibility that Warren nudged someone on the staff to make these calls behind Rankin's back. Perhaps sensing that Ford suspects as much, then, Warren adds "I have no knowledge of anybody talking to anybody...If I knew that anybody from the Commission or the staff has been discussing these things with the press, I would feel very badly about it. But I don't have any belief that they have." This leads Ford to refer back to the articles published around the time of the Commission's creation, and to Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach's request that they immediately release the results of the FBI's report, and the concurrent leak of this report to the press. It seems clear from this that Ford suspects Katzenbach.
In any event, after input from John McCloy, who offers "Until you complete the testimony, you cannot have a final conclusion" and voices his own suspicions of the Justice Department, it is decided that a statement should be issued announcing that the Commission is still taking testimony, and that therefore no conclusion has been reached. This, of course, is a bit disingenuous, as the commission, acting as both prosecutor and defense, has the option of taking only the testimony that will help support its already scripted conclusions.
And yet, there is something kinda noble about Ford's response to this situation. Not only did he threaten Warren about these leaks, but it seems quite clear he decided to follow through on his threats. A 6-5-64 date-lined article by Philip Warden in the Chicago Tribune reports "A suspicion that the administration wants to dictate the conclusions of the Warren commission on the Kennedy assassination is greatly disturbing commission members, it was disclosed today. The White House and state department, for diplomatic reasons, reportedly are adamant that the commission say when it issues its final report that: 1) Lee Harvey Oswald had no accomplices when the fatal shots were fired in Dallas, Tex., last Nov. 22, killing President Kennedy. 2) There was no foreign (Russia of Communist Cuban) involvement in the assassination plot. Newspapers frequently chosen by the Johnson administration for the hoisting of trial balloons began carrying stories that Oswald had no accomplices and that there was no foreign involvement before the Warren commission could even set up shop, members reported. The first of these stories which commission members said obviously had been planted, appeared last December before the commission completed the appointment of its staff. They have been appearing ever since. This week a rash of them appeared in newspapers from coast to coast. The commission met in special session and then issued this tersely worded statement: 'The commission is nearing the conclusion of the taking of testimony and is giving thought to the content and form of its report. The commission has reached no final conclusions and has not discussed final conclusions as a commission. Members said after the meeting that the commission was very disturbed over the appearance of the stories that it had reached certain definite conclusions. Some commission members suspect high officials of planting the stories as a part of the administration's present foreign policy of playing it 'cozy' with Soviet Russia."
(It would later become clear that in the Spring of '64 the writer of the New York Times' article, Anthony Lewis, was working on a book, Gideon’s Trumpet, whose main source was President Johnson’s closest adviser Abe Fortas. This, in turn, raises the possibility that Johnson and Fortas were behind the leaks. Perhaps Johnson, angered by the Commission's failure to meet its original June 1 deadline, had simply decided that enough was enough, and had decided to assure the world that neither he nor the Soviets had been involved in the assassination, and had asked Fortas to leak the story to Lewis. Or not. In his 2013 book on the Warren Commission, A Cruel and Shocking Act, Philip Shenon notes that J. Lee Rankin was another source for Gideon's Trumpet, and that he'd met with Lewis a few days before the publication of Lewis' article.)
Slips and Spills
On 6-4-64, Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley testifies about the May 24 re-enactment (5H129-134). Under Arlen Specter’s guidance, he tells the commission that the location of the chalk mark on President Kennedy’s stand-in (which was purported to represent the location of Kennedy's back wound) "was fixed from the photographs of a medical drawing that was made by the physicians and the people at Parkland and an examination of the coat which the President was wearing at the time.” Well, this is strange from the outset. The people at Parkland didn't make any medical drawings of the President and, with but one or two exceptions, never even saw his back wound. Maybe he meant Bethesda. Or maybe he meant only that the Parkland doctors helped with the description of the neck wound. And what does he mean by "medical drawing," anyhow? Does he mean the face sheet prepared by Dr. Boswell? Because, sure enough, the location of the hole on the face sheet matches up with the location of the hole on Kennedy's coat.
More telling, then, is that upon receiving Kelley's answer counsel Specter quickly inserts “Permit me to show you Commission Exhibit 386…I ask you if that is the drawing you were shown as the basis for the marking of the wound on the back of the President’s neck?” To which Kelley responds “Yes.” Later, Kelley slips up and says that “the wound in the throat was lower than the wound in the shoulder” and Specter leaps again--“By the wound in the shoulder, do you mean the wound in the back of the President’s neck, the base of his neck?” (5H175-176) Once again, Kelley agrees. The problem is that, while CE 386, one of the drawings submitted by Specter during the testimony of Dr. Humes, shows the wound to be on the base of the back of the neck and higher than the throat wound, Specter and Kelley(as they would subsequently admit) looked at a photo of this wound on the day of the re-enactment, and this photo showed the wound to be on the BACK, at the same level or lower than the throat wound.Specter was thus coaxing Kelley to mislead the commission, and hide that the wound was in fact on the President’s back, at the same level or lower than his throat wound.
That Specter and Kelley were conspiring on such a deed, unfortunately, seems clear. While trying to establish the alignment of Kennedy and Connally during the shooting--that is, while trying to establish that they were in the proper alignment to receive simultaneous wounds from the rear in Kennedy's neck and Connally's right armpit--Specter asks Kelley the distance of Connally's seat from the right door, and Kelley replies "There is 6 inches of clearance between the jump seat and the door." The problem here, once again, is that this just isn't true. (The schematic of the limousine proves this distance was 2.5 inches, not 6.) That Kelley misrepresents the facts on two key points, and that both of these misstatements (or lies, take your pick) just so happen to help Specter sell his theory that all the wounds save Kennedy's head wound were created by the same bullet, is undoubtedly suspicious.
After Kelley’s initial testimony, FBI Exhibits Section Chief Leo Gauthier testifies about the scale model he created of Dealey Plaza (5H135-138). Here Arlen Specter carefully avoids questioning Gauthier about Gauthier’s earlier conclusion, using largely the same tools used in the May 24 re-enactment, that the President was 307 feet from the sniper’s nest at the time of the head shot, 42 feet further than is now proposed.
Even so, Gauthier's testimony contains a suspicious error. While introducing a photo of the model, Gauthier claims: "Commission Exhibit No. 879 is a view of the scale model looking toward the southwest, in the direction of the Triple Underpass, from a position on the sixth floor in the southeast corner window." (Here it is...)
The problem is that this photo was not taken from the perspective of the sixth floor window, as claimed, but from the top of the Dal-Tex Building, across the street. This building lay directly behind the motorcade as it headed down Elm. As a consequence, there would have been far less left to right movement of the target to a shooter at this location than there would have been to someone firing from the sixth floor sniper's nest. We can only wonder, then, if this "mistake" was no mistake at all, but a deliberate misrepresentation.
After Gauthier testifies, the FBI’s photography expert Lyndal Shaneyfelt takes the stand (5H138-165). He testifies that the location of the President's back wound was, when viewed from the sniper's nest, obscured by an oak tree from frames 167 to 209 of the Zapruder film. When asked the last frame before Kennedy appears to be hit, Shaneyfelt testifies in accordance with this testimony. A hit on Kennedy before frame 210, after all, might suggest there'd been a shot fired from somewhere other than the sniper's nest. Shaneyfelt testifies: "Approximately--I would like to explain a little bit, that at frames in the vicinity of 200 to 210 he is obviously still waving, and there is no marked change. In the area from approximately 200 to 205 he is still, his hand is still in a waving position, he is still turned slightly toward the crowd, and there has been no change in his position that would signify anything occurring unusual. I see nothing in the frames to arouse my suspicion about his movements, up through in the areas from 200 on and as he disappears behind the signboard, there is no change. Now, 205 is the last frame, 205 and 206 are the last frames where we see any of his, where we see the cuff of his coat showing above the signboard indicating his hand is still up generally in a wave. From there on the frames are too blurry as his head disappears you can't really see any expression on his face. You can't see any change. It is all consistent as he moves in behind the signboard." (If Shaneyfelt sounds tentative, and unsure of himself, it's quite possibly because he's not used to perjuring himself in such a manner. In 1978, a panel of 20 photographic scientists studied these same Zapruder frames for the House Select Committte on Assassinations. Their report, included in volume Appendix number 6 of the HSCA's report, reflects "By a vote of 12 to 5, the Panel determined that President Kennedy first showed a reaction to some severe external stimulus by Zapruder frame 207, as he is seen going behind a sign that obstructed Zapruder's view.")
The Twilight Zone
Beyond providing the frames in the Zapruder film at which shots could have been fired (assuming, that is, that they were fired from the sixth floor sniper's nest), Shaneyfelt provides the distance of the limousine from the sniper’s nest at relevant moments of the film. He submits that Kennedy was 176.9 feet from the rifle at frame 210 of the film, and 190.8 feet from the rifle at frame 225, the frames book-ending Kennedy's disappearance behind the Stemmons Freeway sign, and representing the purported moment of the first shot. While discussing frame 313, the moment of the fatal headshot, he testifies that the “Distance to the rifle in the window is 265.3 feet. The angle to rifle in the window is 15’21’ and this is based on the horizontal.” (6-4-64 testimony of Lyndal Shaneyfelt before the Warren Commission, 5H139-164).
To support this last point--that Shaneyfelt had accurately measured the distance from the sniper's nest to Kennedy's location at Zapruder frame 313, moreover--Specter enters into evidence CE 902.
This showed that the FBI (under Specter's direction) had placed Kennedy's back-up car in a location matching up with the location of Kennedy's limo at the time of the fatal head shot, as depicted in the
and Zapruder film...
and that they had thrown in for good measure the Muchmore film...
And that they had then photographed the back-up car at this location from the sixth floor sniper's nest, and measured the distance and angle from the sniper's nest window to Kennedy's now-established location at the moment of the head shot.
Well, that wasn't so hard, was it?
(The establishment of this distance at 265 feet raises questions still not asked or answered. If Specter had looked back through the records he would have seen that on 11-27-63 Secret Service Agent Howlett, using the Zapruder film, determined this distance to be 260 feet. Close enough. He would also have seen that, on 12-5-63, just after the formation of the Warren Commission, Secret Service Agent Elmer Moore, using the Zapruder film and the same surveyor used for the previous re-enactment, determined this distance to have been 294 feet. Something’s beginning to smell. He then would have remembered that on 1-20-64 the FBI had provided him with exhibits indicating this distance was 307 feet. An even closer look would have indicated that, while the May 24 re-enactment determined the limo traveled no more than 88 feet further away from the sniper's nest between Kennedy’s receiving his two wounds, and may have traveled as little as 74 feet, the Secret Service on 11-27 indicated it had traveled 90 feet, before going back on 12-5 and deciding it had traveled 110 feet, only to have the FBI Exhibits Section, after surveying the plaza and studying the films for 5 weeks, raise it up to 140 feet. Was the inflation of this distance on purpose? Was it designed to increase the length of the shooting scenario, to make Oswald's purported shooting feat more palatable?
Specter must have considered this possibility. I mean, he and his fellow counsel must have wondered why the FBI and SS fought so hard against the May 24 re-enactment. They must have had discussions, conveniently kept off the record, of course, of whether the Secret Service and FBI were deliberately misleading the commission about the location of the limo at the time of the fatal shot...or whether they were merely incredibly incompetent. As Specter had called Dr. Malcolm Perry before the commission and forced him to explain why he had initially described Kennedy’s throat wound as an entrance wound, he should have asked Agent Moore of the Secret Service and Chief Gauthier of the FBI’s Exhibits Section how they could be so wrong about the distance of the sniper’s nest from Kennedy's position at the time of the head shot, when the location of Kennedy at this time is easily established by the Zapruder film, Nix film, and Moorman photograph.That he is willing to leave their phenomenal errors unexplained suggests the commission is scared of undermining the credibility of its prime investigators, the Secret Service and the FBI, and hopes no one will notice the contradictory conclusions contained within the Secret Service and FBI reports.)
Shaneyfelt also tells the commission what they need to hear before they can accept Specter’s theory Kennedy and Connally were hit by the same shot—that the angle from the sniper’s nest to Kennedy’s throat wound to Connally at the moment they both could have been hit “passed through a point on the back of the stand-in for the President at a point approximating that of the entrance wound.” To support this, Specter introduces Commission Exhibit 903 into evidence. Suspiciously, this re-enactment photo of Specter holding a rod at the angle from the sniper’s nest at the presumed moment Kennedy and Connally were hit against the stand-ins in the limo was taken from the front and fails to show the location of the back wound. In the FBI’s files, however, there are several photos taken from the opposite angle. These photos (shown on the History in the Crosshairs slide above) show the rod passing several inches above the location of the back wound, and suggest that Shaneyfelt committed perjury when he testified that the trajectory rod in CE 903 “passed through a point on the back of the stand-in for the President at a point approximating that of the entrance wound.”
(While one might wish to give Shaneyfelt a break, and insist his use of the word "approximating" was sufficiently vague to clear him of the charge of perjury, one should also consider the suspicious circumstance of Specter's failing to introduce a photo of the trajectory rod taken from behind the limo, which would show the location of the rod in relation to the chalk mark on the back of JFK's stand-in, when Specter himself had run this re-enactment, and a number of such photos were available. In such case, one might be tempted to not only charge Shaneyfelt with perjury, but Specter with subornation of perjury, and the two of them with conspiracy.)
After Shaneyfelt's testimony, the FBI’s ballistics expert Robert Frazier steps up to the plate. When testifying regarding the Z-film frames in which Governor Connally was best in position to receive his wounds, Frazier relates: “At frame 231 the Governor is, as I saw it from the window on that date, turned to the front to such an extent that he could not have been hit at that particular frame. In frame 235, which is Commission Exhibit no. 897, the Governor…was also facing too far, too much towards the front…In frame 240 the Governor again could not have been shot.” (6-4-64 testimony of Robert Frazier before the Warren Commission, 5H165-175).
A-ha! Frame 231 is 11 frames earlier than Specter had previously proposed Connally had received his wounds. This means that Connally must have been hit before this point, at a point too close to Kennedy’s being shot to have both shots fired by Oswald, unless...unless...they were in fact hit by the same shot.
Hmmm... This proves that Specter knew going in--prior to taking this day's testimony--that his single-bullet theory was essential to the Commission's single-assassin conclusion, and was fated to become the single-bullet conclusion.
Frazier drops another bomb as well. Under questioning by Commissioner Dulles (notably not Specter), he lets slip his recollection that the back wound location used in the re-enactment was established by the measurements taken at the autopsy. This contradicts the statement Specter drew from Kelley that the mark was established by looking at CE 386.
So which one’s telling the truth? Although Specter, as either a gross oversight or a deliberate deception, take your pick, failed to introduce a photo of this chalk mark into evidence, photos of the re-enactment, in which the chalk mark is shown, were published in some newspapers, including the 6-1-64 New York Times. These photos show the marked location of the President’s back wound to be…on the back, in line with the autopsy measurements and face sheet, as stated by Frazier, and inches away from the location at the base of the neck on CE 386, its source according to Kelley, as prodded by Specter.
Now, Specter knew the wound was marked in this location. He was, after all, the one running the re-enactment. And yet here he was, less than two weeks later, asking Thomas Kelley "Permit me to show you Commission Exhibit No. 386, which has heretofore been marked and introduced into evidence, and I ask you if that is the drawing that you were shown as the basis for the marking of the wound on the back of the President's neck."
Well, do you see it? Specter was asking Kelley if a drawing of a wound at the base of the neck was used to mark a jacket at a location several inches below the base of the neck. In the process he hid from the record that this mark was in fact several inches below the base of the neck. He also 1) failed to introduce any photos of this mark into evidence, and 2) made out as though this mark was "on the back of the President's neck?" That's suspicious as hell.
And that's not all that is suspicious. In our play-pretend role as an investigator given access to all the information, we ask Frazier if we can take a look at his notes on the May 24 re-enactment. (These notes were in fact retrieved from the archives by researcher Gary Murr, and brought to my attention via John Hunt and Stu Wexler.)
In any event, while leafing through Frazier's notes, we find that he has made a drawing of the sniper's nest, along with its view out the window, and that he has added to this drawing the location of the limo at specific frames of the Zapruder film. (This is shown below.)
Well, heck. Frazier's notes portray the limo as moving left to right at an inconsistent angle across the window, and not straight away from the sniper, as indicated by his fellow FBI-man Gauthier.
This does not come as a surprise, moreover, as the photos entered into evidence in Shaneyfelt's testimony prove the limo had changed angles on the street between when he'd concluded Kennedy may have first been struck, CE 894, corresponding to Zapruder frame 210...
and when Kennedy was struck in the head, CE 902, corresponding to Zapruder frame 313.
While reviewing this last photo, moreover, we notice something more than a bit disturbing. The JFK stand-in has moved across the back seat. WHY? The films used to establish the location of the limo show no such slide to the left by the President. So why have the re-enactors placed the stand-in several feet to JFK's left?
Unfortunately, it's obvious. A bullet fragment impacted the limo's windshield at the exact r to l location of the crosshairs presented in CE 902. It's clear, then. Two plus two kinda stuff. Specter and those running the May 24 re-enactment were concerned the crack on the windshield would become a crack in their facade. A bullet fragment's impacting the windshield out of line with a shot from the sniper's nest, after all, might be taken as an indication the bullet was fired from somewhere other than the sniper's nest, or at the very least, that the bullet did not exit on a straight line.
So they fudged their data, and moved the JFK stand-in several feet to his left... That solved it. (Not really.)
Well, what else was in Frazier's notes?
Hmmm... This is almost certainly a scribble created by Frazier to demonstrate the angle of a bullet fired from the sniper's nest into Kennedy's back at Zapruder frame 208 (which was then changed to 210 to account for the different heights of the re-enactment car as compared to the presidential limousine). Well, note the location of the back wound. It's on the...back. It's clear as day then that Frazier knew the wound was actually on Kennedy's back and not on his neck, and that the Rydberg drawings--which Specter and Kelley claimed were used to determine the location of the back wound--were grossly in error.
So why has Specter deceived the commission about 1) the angle of the shots into the limo; 2) the relative positions of Kennedy's back wound and throat wound; and 3) the relative positions of Kennedy and Connally within the limo?
Why was he insisting a square peg fit a round hole?
Well, when one considers that, by June '64, Specter knew that 1) the FBI and Secret Service had disregarded the evidence and come to questionable conclusions about the shooting scenario; 2) Dr.Humes had lied about the use of measurements in the creation of the Rydberg drawings, and 3) Chief Justice Warren had forbade the use of materials necessary to establishing the facts, perhaps he'd decided it was time he join the crowd.
For reasons beyond my grasp, the first image in each chapter sometimes fails to appear. If there's nothing up above, don't despair; you can still see the image here
The Wandering Wounds
Let us now discuss the medical evidence in the excruciating detail it requires.
While defenders of the FBI and Warren Commission, such as historian Max Holland, like to pretend there is nothing to discuss here, as all the questions have long been answered (In November 1995's American Heritage Magazine, Holland actually claimed that the "passing controversy over the President's autopsy..had been fairly easily resolved"), I suspect the reader will come to agree that the questions publicly asked and answered have been just the tip of the iceberg.
Let us begin, then, by examining the movement of the President’s back wound.
On the evening of the assassination, an autopsy was performed on the President at Bethesda Naval Hospital. During the autopsy, Dr. J. Thornton Boswell marked the location of the President’s wounds on a pre-existing outline of a body, on a piece of paper called a face sheet. This face sheet was eventually published in one of the 26 supporting volumes of the Warren Report.
On March 16, 1964, almost four months later, however, the autopsy doctors--Dr. Humes, Dr. Boswell and Dr. Finck--were called to testify before the Warren Commission. In preparation for their testimony, and at the urging of Warren Commission counsel Arlen Specter, Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell met with medical illustrator Skip Rydberg and created three drawings depicting the President’s wounds. As the doctors were not allowed access to the autopsy photos, or even the face sheet, during the creation of these drawings, they were forced to rely purely on their memories.
They were not pleased with having to do so. Dr. Humes, in fact, testified that the autopsy photos would demonstrate the wounds more clearly than the drawings, and admitted that the drawings were “schematic” and imprecise. His use of the word “schematic” was no mistake, either. A schematic depicts an “arrangement of ideas into a systematic order,” according to an old Webster’s, and is thus an admitted distortion. One of the three drawings demonstrates the presumed trajectory of the bullet creating the back wound and depicts the location of the wounds as viewed from the side. Yet another of the drawings depicts the trajectory of the fatal bullet and presumed position of the President’s head at the moment of the fatal shot's impact. And the third drawing shows how these wounds might appear from behind.
And that's just the beginning of the problems related to these drawings. As shown above, the location of the back wound on the face sheet was several inches lower than the location of the wound on Rydberg's drawings. This was problematic. Since Oswald was believed to have fired at the President from a sniper’s nest more than 60 feet above and behind the President, it follows that if he were the shooter the President’s back wound would be at a higher point on his body than the purported exit on his throat. And yet the back wound on the face sheet was below the throat wound...
It should come as no surprise then that the upwards migration of the back wound for the Warren Commission's exhibits was taken by many as an indication Warren Commission Counsel Arlen Specter had moved the wound to support his “single-bullet theory,” which held that a bullet passed through Kennedy from the sniper's nest location, and proceeded to hit Governor John Connally seated in front of Kennedy.
But it's a bit more complicated than that.
To get a clear understanding of why and how the wounds moved, we must go back to November 22nd, 1963, when the doctors performing the autopsy had a serious problem. They found a small entrance hole on the back of the President’s head, and a large exit hole by his temple, and concluded these holes were caused by the same bullet, but couldn’t figure out what became of the bullet causing a wound in the President’s back. When they learned that a bullet was found on a stretcher in Dallas, they concluded that this bullet must have fallen from the back wound during heart massage. Apparently, neither the doctors nor the FBI agents at the autopsy were aware that Dr. Perry, one of the doctors in Dallas, had already discussed a wound on the President’s throat at a press conference covered by the media.
The next day, however, after talking to Dr. Perry, and realizing he had performed a tracheotomy incision through this throat wound, and had thereby obscured its appearance, Dr. Humes concluded that the bullet penetrating the President’s back had proceeded to exit his throat. What’s important to understand, however, is that Dr. Humes made this deduction without re-inspecting the President’s body, and without even consulting the autopsy photos, which had been seized by the Secret Service. Only adding to his confusion was the unfortunate fact that Dr. Humes was a laboratory pathologist, accustomed to inspecting specimens to confirm a pre-existing diagnoses, and lacked experience as a forensic pathologist, whose job, according to Dr. Cyril Wecht, is “to establish independently the exact cause and manner of death.”
This lack of proper training, then, helps explain Dr. Humes’ inclusion of newspaper accounts in his subsequent report. His inclusion of these items as support three shots were fired from above and behind, furthermore, helps us understand that Dr. Humes was trying to match the wounds to the shots, as opposed to the other way around.
Knowledge of these accounts, moreover, would serve to discourage Humes from concluding there were more than three shots fired, or that any of the shots could have come from anyplace but above and behind. Dr. Humes simply concluded that there was an entrance on the back and an exit towards the front of the President’s skull, and an entrance high on the President’s back and an exit near that level on his throat. Thus, the President must have been hit twice. Since Governor Connally, sitting in front of the President, had also been hit, this would account for the three shots heard by the witnesses. It was apparently just that simple for Humes. He really thought he’d figured it out. Keep in mind that he had marginal experience with wound ballistics and bullet trajectories, and had acknowledged problems with angles and numbers. Humes just used his common sense and came to a common sense solution. Four holes and no bullets in the body meant two shots struck the President. Period.
Unfortunately, a deduction such as this can have side effects. The memory research of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus reveals that when people are asked to imagine a plausible event their imagined events can creep into their memories. It is not illogical, therefore, to presume that Dr. Humes’ and Dr. Boswell’s attempt to determine--when Kennedy's body was no longer in front of them--if the wound on his back could connect to a wound in the location of the tracheotomy incision led to their recalling the back wound at a point higher than its actual location, in line with a shot from where they'd been told the rifle had been fired. Thus, the memories of the doctors may have been tainted even before meeting with Warren Commission counsel, and future U.S. Senator, Arlen Specter.
But the Warren Commission undoubtedly encouraged the tainting. On January 27th 1964, in executive session, General Counsel J. Lee Rankin told the Warren Commission that the face sheet (which he called a picture) placed the back wound below the throat wound and that he would be seeking the doctors’ “help” along these lines. While it seems clear the Rydberg drawings’ depiction of the back wound above the throat wound was the very “help” Rankin was looking for, it does not mean the drawings were deliberate deceptions, however, as the doctors may have honestly come to believe the back wound was above the throat wound.
Note that I wrote "may." As noted by Dr. Cyril Wecht in Six Seconds in Dallas (1967), when one reflects that the autopsists, by their own admission, at one point suspected that the bullet creating Kennedy's non-fatal wound had been forced back out the entrance during cardiac massage, it's quite difficult to imagine how they could possibly have come to believe this entrance was on the back of Kennedy's neck (where it is depicted in the Rydberg drawings), as opposed to being on his back (where it is depicted on the face sheet). It seems likely, then, that the drawings were a deliberate deception.
Even so, events subsequent to the introduction of the Rydberg drawings suggest that the worst deceptions came later. When Dr. Humes was asked during his 3-16-64 testimony before the Warren Commission if he'd had a chance to verify the accuracy and proportion of the Rydberg drawings, he equivocated: "I must state these drawings are in part schematic. The artist had but a brief period of some 2 days to prepare these. He had no photographs from which to work, and had to work under our description, verbal description, of what we had observed." Humes then added "If it were necessary to have them absolutely true to scale. I think it would be virtually impossible for him to do this without the photographs."
And his words were not forgotten. The transcript to an April 30th executive session of the Warren Commission reflects that General Counsel J. Lee Rankin asked that Dr. Humes be allowed to examine the autopsy photos and compare them to the Rydberg drawings. Rankin's request was, tellingly, triggered by a memo of that same day from the lawyer who'd taken Humes' testimony, Arlen Specter. Specter anticipated:
“Commission Exhibits Nos. 385, 386, and 388 were made from the recollections of the autopsy surgeons as told to the artist. Some day someone may compare the films with the artist’s drawings and find a significant error which might substantially affect the essential testimony and the Commission's conclusions. In any event, the Commission should not rely on hazy recollections, especially in view of the statement in the autopsy report (Commission Exhibit #387) that:
"The complexity of those fractures and the fragments thus produced tax safisfactory verbal description and are better appreciated in the photographs and roentgenograms which are prepared."
While Rankin’s request was approved by the only commissioners in attendance--Dulles, McCloy, and Warren--and while a May 12th memo from Specter indicates that an inspection by Humes was forthcoming (see Chapter 3b), no such inspection took place, due to the admitted interference of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who decided to inspect them himself.
Above: Chief Justice Earl Warren and Warren Commission Counsel (and future Senator from Pennsylvania) Arlen Specter. They were the only two members of the Commission or its staff to admit viewing Kennedy's autopsy photos. And yet there is no public record of their discussion of this matter.
Warren's viewing the photos all by himself was one of the most questionable acts in an investigation defined by its questionable acts. As revealed in Edward Epstein's book Inquest (1966), in late May, 1964, around the time he was set to inspect the autopsy photos, Chief Justice Warren suddenly announced that the commission would not be publishing the testimony and evidence gathered at its hearings, including the drawings created by the autopsy doctors. While the reason provided by Warren for this sudden change of heart was the expense of publishing this material, this was a rash decision on his part, one not made with the blessings of his fellow commissioners. This then supports the possibility a private inspection of the photos had led Warren to realize that the doctors' drawings were deceptive, and that he was trying to find a way to keep this hidden from the public. (Warren's decision not to publish the testimony and evidence and autopsy drawings was soon overturned by his fellow commissioners, none of whom had seen the autopsy photos.)
Warren’s stated excuse for not allowing others to look at the photos, moreover--that he himself had looked at the photos and found them horrible and unnecessary to the work of the Commission--is truly hard to believe.
Still, when one considers that Warren was later to admit he found the case against Oswald a relatively simple matter, and was reported in a November 1966 Newsweek article to have boasted "If I were still a district attorney and the Oswald case came into my jurisdiction, given the same evidence, I could have gotten a conviction in two days, and never heard about the case again," it seems possible he considered his task of being fair to Oswald a pointless one, and that this justified his exclusion of what he believed to be horrifying medical evidence from the record.
(I know, I know, that this is hard to conceive but Warren really did claim--and expect others to believe--that the case was actually a simple one. On December 11, 1972, a televised interview of Warren was broadcast on PBS. His interviewer was his friend, Brandeis University Chancellor Abram Sachar. Warren told Sachar that Oswald "was a weird man, with weird weird thinking, and a loner in the truest sense of the word" and that the case against him "was really a simple case that would.have taken normally only two or three days to try in the court had he been available for trial.")
And yet, even so, even if Warren was so close-minded he thought Oswald's sole guilt to be obvious, one would hope the Chief Justice of the United States would have better sense than to deny such an important case its “best evidence” for personal or political purposes.
But, no. And sadly, this was but one of numerous decisions made by Warren that reflect he saw the commission’s work as political.
An August, 17, 1992 article in U.S. News & World Report, written with the cooperation of the surviving Warren Commission counsel, supports that Warren saw the commission's work in this light. Here, it was disclosed that he'd become severely agitated when he was informed that the final report of his commission would not be ready by July 1, 1964, as originally projected and as promised President Johnson. Here, it was also reported that after this failure the White House gave Warren a new deadline of August 24, the day of the Democratic convention. That this second deadline was given to Warren by McGeorge Bundy, Johnson’s National Security Adviser, is especially intriguing. Warren's denial that politics played any role in the commission's actions is also quite intriguing... Was he lying? Or was he simply in denial? When asked, in a November 3, 1971 oral history interview performed for the Johnson Library, if conducting the investigation in a campaign year "posed any problem" for the Commission, Warren at first grew confused, and tried to claim the investigation was in '63. He then realized his mistake, and answered "No, no, really it was no factor. It was no factor at all, no factor at all." Okay. When asked, in a March 26, 1974 interview by Warren Commission historian Alfred Goldberg if the Commission's report would have been better if the Commission had had more time, however, Warren said something quite different. He said "We had all the time we wanted. If we had gone any further we would have gone into the political mess of the Presidential campaign." While he then added "There were no avenues left to explore," this was clearly cover for what he'd just admitted. The Commission's report was rushed out, after all, before the fingerprints in the sniper's nest could all be identified, and before the FBI's investigation of a mysterious sighting of Oswald in the company of anti-Castro Cubans could be completed.
That the Warren Commission was infected by political considerations from its beginning, for that matter, can not reasonably be disputed. Heck, even its chief defender, former counsel David Belin, in his book on the assassination, You Be The Jury, acknowledged that the ramifications of Warren’s decision not to replace a no-show senior counsel named Francis Adams for fear how it might look, and to instead dump Adams’ responsibilities in the lap of the relatively inexperienced Arlen Specter, were “indeed chilling”.
Warren’s comments in his final years, however, should make one suspect there was something more to his decision to withhold the autopsy photos from the doctors than his simple concern for the Kennedy family’s privacy, and desire to move the Commission forward. In March 1974, a few months before his death, for example, Warren told Commission historian Alfred Goldberg, who’d asked “On reflection, do you think it would have been better to have permitted the Commission staff access to the x-rays of the President?” that “On reflection, I do not believe that access to the x-rays should have been given. The public was given the best evidence available, the personal testimony of the doctors who performed the autopsy. In a trial, the court would not have permitted the x-rays to be introduced because it would have operated against the defendant. This decision was largely mine but the Commission approved.”
Warren's answer to Goldberg is both hard to believe and historically inaccurate. Since when has a drawing of a victim’s wounds based upon a doctor’s verbal recollections been considered “better evidence” than a photo taken at the actual autopsy? Particularly when the doctor’s own testimony says the x-rays and photos taken at the autopsy would better demonstrate these wounds? And since when have x-rays been considered too prejudicial to be allowed into evidence? X-rays have been admitted into evidence since 1896. And if Warren was so hesitant to use the x-rays, then how come not one but nine x-rays of Governor Connally's broken bones were entered into evidence and printed in Volume 17 of his Commission's Report?
(In 2013, with the publication of Philip Shenon's A Cruel and Shocking Act, another curiosity about Goldberg's question and Warren's answer would become apparent. Goldberg told Shenon that he'd been shown Kennedy's autopsy photos in 1964--presumably in May. Goldberg said, furthermore, that his viewing of these photos helped him understand "more clearly than before why Warren had been determined to block the staff from seeing them." Well, heck, is it just a coincidence then that Goldberg asked Warren about the x-rays, and said nothing about the photos?)
And that's just the start of it... In 1977, in his posthumously published memoirs, Warren once again discussed the Kennedy assassination medical evidence, and finally confirmed the rumors dating back to at least November 1966 that he'd viewed the autopsy materials. (A 10-10-66 interview with Arlen Specter in U.S. News and World Report included Specter's confession he'd seen the back wound photo, but had him also claiming "To the best of my knowledge, the Commission did not see any photographs or X-rays," and that he had no "personal knowledge" as to who withheld the photos from the commission. The 11-18-66 issue of Life Magazine featured an article on Robert Kennedy by Hugh Sidey in which it was correctly claimed Warren had seen the autopsy photos, but incorrectly claimed Robert Kennedy had withheld the photos from the rest of the Commission. An article in the 12-15-66 Christian Science Monitor by Lyn Shepard similarly claimed Warren had seen the photos, but incorrectly claimed he had withheld them from others in part because "they already had been interpreted by medical experts" as the "autopsy report based on the photos" had already been provided the commission. Well, this, of course, was dog dirt. One can only wonder, then, who was feeding this stuff to Sidey and Shepard.) In any event, in his memoirs Warren repeated his nonsensical claim that his personally viewing these materials and withholding them from others was not at all unorthodox and was, in fact, in Oswald's best interest. He insisted: "the procedure adopted by the Commission was the one commonly used in criminal court to establish cause of death. In such circumstances, the court would not permit the prosecution to exhibit such a revolting picture because of the prejudice it would instill in the minds of the jury."
Even if Warren truly believed the photos and x-rays to have been too private to be placed into a public record, why should the autopsy doctors themselves, who’d already seen Kennedy’s body, and had, in fact, scooped out his brains, have been denied the opportunity to check their findings against the photos and x-rays they themselves had taken? The offered explanation that Warren wanted everything used by the Commission to be made public just doesn’t fly and is refuted by the thousands of FBI and CIA documents on Oswald he unquestioningly withheld from this very same public.
Let's think about this. Warren was a Supreme Court Justice, presumably respectful of precedent. When Charles Guiteau assassinated President James Garfield in 1881, there was a question of whether the bullet from Guiteau's revolver was responsible for the President's death, or the dirty fingers of Garfield's doctors. It was deemed necessary, then, that Dr. D.W. Bliss testify before the jury at Guiteau's trial and show them the damage to Garfield's actual spine. Garfield was a much beloved President. The law had not changed in the 80 years after his death. But here was Warren, pretending photos of the body of a murdered President were somehow too private to be studied by his own doctors, when it had previously been determined that parts of a President's body itself could be shown to a jury, should such showing have illuminated a truth.
And it's even worse than that... In 1968, Robert Kennedy was himself assassinated. IF he and his family were so concerned about people viewing his brother's autopsy photos that they would ask Warren to withhold them from the doctors who'd performed his autopsy, there is no way they would let the photos taken at Robert Kennedy's autopsy be displayed in open court, right? And yet... The 2-25-69 Los Angeles Times reveals that two autopsy photos of the entrance wound on the back of Robert Kennedy's shaved head were passed around the jury at the trial of his accused assassin, Sirhan Sirhan. And not just among the jury, mind you, but among six alternate jurors, eighteen in all. And this, even though Sirhan's lawyers asked they not be shown the jury... And this, even though Sirhan had already pleaded guilty.
Now, ask yourself... Does it make any sense that a family so obsessed with privacy that they would prevent evidence from being studied in an unsolved murder, would let this same kind of evidence be put on public display in a trial in which the defendant has already admitted his guilt?
In sum, then, Warren’s withholding the autopsy materials from the doctors makes no sense unless one accepts that Warren was either an incompetent old fool more concerned with protecting people’s memories of Kennedy than in solving his murder, or was a competent politician tasked with white-washing what he knew to be a very complicated killing.
In 2005, I decided to research Warren’s comment that the x-rays could not have been used in a court of law because they would have “operated against the defendant” and instill "prejudice" in "the minds of the jury." I concluded he was citing Rule 403 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. It holds: “Although relevant, evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading of the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.” Introduction to Criminal Evidence by Jon R. Waltz discusses this a bit further. It says that photographs are admissible provided that:
The relevance of whatever the photographic evidence depicts must be demonstrated;
The evidence must be shown to constitute a true and accurate representation of what it depicts; and
The probative worth of the photographic evidence must not be outweighed by a potential for unfair prejudice stemming from its gruesome or inflammatory nature.
On the other hand, Waltz notes that “Ever since Franklin (Franklin V. State, GA, 1882) it has been the rule that photographs and films are not ruled inadmissible simply because they depict in a graphic way the details of a shocking or revolting crime. They will be deemed inadmissible only if they are irrelevant to the issues in the case or where their probative worth is outweighed by their potential for unfair prejudice.” Furthermore, Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence holds that “'Relevant Evidence' means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence,” and Rule 402 holds that “All relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the United States…”
And this wasn't some arcane legal issue only lawyers would have known about when Warren was writing his memoirs. That gruesome photos and x-rays have long been admissible is Law Enforcement 101-type stuff. Evidence for the Law Enforcement Officer, a 1968 text book, tells us why: "The fact that a photograph of a mutilated body would inflame the jury more than one less gruesome in nature is not enough to exclude it from evidence. If the rule were otherwise, the more brutal the crime, the more the accused would be protected by the exclusion of gruesome photographs."
The rules of evidence are clear then in that the autopsy photos and x-rays would probably have been admissible for Oswald's prosecution, but would undoubtedly have been admissible for Oswald's defense.Let us be clear, then: if Oswald had lived and went to trial, his defense would have been entitled to view the photos and to hire an expert to inspect them. If this expert found anything on the photos and x-rays that suggested there was more than one shooter, or that the shots were fired from somewhere other than behind, Oswald’s defense would have been free to enter the photos into evidence, submit them before a jury, and have their expert give his opinion.
But Jack Ruby deprived Oswald of his life, and Earl Warren deprived Oswald of a fair trial (in the court of public opinion). The Warren Commission asked the President of the American Bar Association, Walter E. Craig, to advise the commission whether “the proceedings conformed to the basic principles of American justice.” There is no indication Warren ever told Craig he'd decided to keep the medical evidence away from anyone who might be able to interpret them.
And there's yet another reason to believe Warren's decision to withhold the photos was inappropriate. While Warren was the sole commissioner to view the photos, and was supposed to report back on what he saw to the other commissioners, he was not accompanied by an expert when he viewed the photos, and was by no means qualified to offer an expert opinion on what he saw. The circumstances undoubtedly called for an expert witness. Waltz defines an expert witness as someone whose “opinions, inferences, or conclusions depend on a special skill or training not within the ordinary experience of lay jurors.” He also states that “it has generally been true that an expert witness must first describe the data on which his or her opinion, inference, or conclusion is based or, in the alternative, the witness must testify in response to a hypothetical question that sets forth the underlying data.” Warren created no record detailing why he was expert enough to interpret the photos, and what methodology he used in interpreting them. It seems clear, therefore, that if Oswald had been tried in a court of law, and been convicted, after the presiding judge had behaved like Warren and prevented the autopsy evidence from even being examined, Oswald’s conviction would have been overturned.
Ironically, the court over-turning Oswald’s conviction might very well have been Warren’s own.
Confirmation that Warren should not have withheld the autopsy photos in 1964 came in 1978 when the HSCA released a tracing by artist Ida Dox of an autopsy photo of the president's back, along with a blow-up of the wound taken from the actual photo. These showed the wound depicted at the base of the neck in the Rydberg drawings to be, well...in the back, where Boswell marked it on the face sheet on 11-22-63.But that's not the only reason this tracing is important.
Since the back wound tracing is a near-exact likeness of an alleged autopsy photo first printed by writer David Lifton, the release and publication of this tracing strongly suggests that the autopsy photos made available to the research community by former Secret Service agent James Fox are indeed copies of the originals in the National Archives.
With this in mind, then, we can compare the photo to the tracing/drawing, to see if anything was left off. When one does that one finds that the chief difference between the Fox photo and the Dox drawing is that a small mark near the bullet entrance, apparently dried blood, has been left off the drawing. There is also what appears to be a fold in the back of the neck at the top of the ruler in the drawing, that is unseen in the photo. Now, these could both be innocent mistakes. It is interesting, nonetheless, that both these mistakes helped the HSCA with its argument that there was one back wound, near the neck, consistent with a shot from the Texas School Book Depository.
That the wound in the drawing is clearly wider than tall, however, is a bit more problematic. The measurements on Kennedy's face sheet for this wound were 7 by 4. This suggests, then, that it was in fact 7 mm wide by 4 mm long, and the exact opposite dimensions of the wound described in Dr. Humes’ testimony before the Warren Commission, and depicted in the Rydberg drawings. Humes had, after all, told the Commission "The size of this wound was 4 by 7 mm., with the long axis being in accordance with the long axis of the body, 4 mm. wide, in other words, 7 mm. long."
Since Humes was not allowed to consult the autopsy photos before over-seeing the creation of the Rydberg drawings, of course, it remains possible that he was merely confused, and that he'd created the drawings in accordance with his conclusion the bullet creating this wound had come from above.
The Clark Panel reinspecting the photos in 1968, however, had no such excuse. Their report claimed: "The wound with its marginal abrasion measures approximately 7 mm in width, and 10 mm in length."It then offered "The dimensions of this cutaneous wound are consistent with those of a wound produced by a bullet similar to that which constitutes exhibit CE 399." Hmmm... they were thereby suggesting that the wound as measured at autopsy--a wound 40% as long--was not consistent with CE 399.
Dr. Richard Lindenberg of the Rockefeller Commission medical panel, a close associate of Dr. Fisher of the Clark Panel, moreover, repeated the Clark Panel's lie about the length of the wound. After inspecting the photos in 1975 he wrote a report describing the back wound in the photo as “7 mm in width and 10 mm in length.” So much for his credibility.
My observation that the wound was wider than tall is shared by basically everyone to view the photo, including single-assassin theorist John Lattimer, who described the wound seen in the photo as “6 mm x 8 mm in size, with the longer axis transverse” (meaning wide).
Since the 15 by 6 entrance in the skull described on the face sheet was also transposed in Humes' testimony to be 6mm wide by 15mm long, and since the re-interpretation of these measurements was helpful in convincing the public the shots came from above, one might rightly wonder--hmmm--if the transposition of the measurements taken at autopsy in Humes' testimony was yet another part of the “help” offered Rankin.
It’s important to remember, however, that Kennedy's entrance wound measurements were determined by the Army doctor Pierre Finck, and that Finck’s precise method of wound measurement--whether he consistently listed width before length or vice-versa-- may not have been known to the Navy doctors Humes and Boswell.
So the evidence on this is unclear. It may be that Humes just screwed up.
But if he did so, he did so repeatedly. He had Rydberg place the back wound in the wrong location on the drawings. He had Rydberg draw this wound with the incorrect proportions. And he claimed he'd provided the measurements taken at autopsy to Rydberg to help him with his drawings, when he almost certainly did not...
Yep, although Humes testified that “We had made certain measurements of the wounds and of their position on the body of the late President, and we provided these and supervised directly Mr. Rydberg in making these drawings,” it seems clear he was either horribly mistaken about this, or lying through his teeth.
Just ask the man who was taking his testimony, Arlen Specter. Humes testified on March 16, 1964. And yet Specter, in his 4-30-64 memo to Rankin, wrote “Commission Exhibits Nos. 385, 386, and 388 were made from the recollections of the autopsy surgeons as told to the artist. Some day someone may compare the films with the artist’s drawings and find a significant error which might substantially affect the essential testimony and the Commission's conclusions. In any event, the Commission should not rely on hazy recollections..."
And just ask Rydberg. In 2001, Skip Rydberg emerged from the shadows to tell his story. He spoke to researcher Barry Keane, and made an appearance at the 2003 Lancer Conference in Dallas. Rydberg revealed at this time that Humes did not provide him with any measurements regarding the President's wounds.
But that's not all Rydberg revealed. A 2002 article on Rydberg by Barry Keane, updated in 2007, reproduced a 3-27-64 letter of commendation provided Rydberg for the creation of his drawings. This letter, from Humes', Boswell's and Rydberg's superior, Capt. John Stover, described the circumstances of Rydberg's creation of the drawings. It reported: “During the period 12 to 15 March 1964 you were called upon to prepare, on extremely short notice, highly technical medical illustrations, using only verbal instructions given you by officers of this Command. These illustrations were required and utilized in a presentation by this Command before a very high level agency of the United States Government. This work was performed in an outstanding fashion, in a most expedient manner, and utilized for the most part off-duty hours. The illustrations thus produced most accurately depicted the situation required.”
The "situation required," not the "reality observed"...
And should that not be telling enough, there's also this. When Rydberg asked Dr. Boswell in May, 1968, for a recommendation, Boswell wrote back that he was “somewhat circumspect about putting anything in writing or discussing this due to continuing controversy.”
Hmmm... We have good reason, then, to think Humes' "mistakes" were not only not mistakes, but deliberate misrepresentations of the evidence.
It did seem a bit of a coincidence that his "mistakes" all helped the Warren Commission sell that Oswald acted alone.
Well, then why would he specify in his testimony that the autopsy photos would better reflect the President's wounds?
Well, the thought occurs that he was having second thoughts...
Well, then, what about Arlen Specter, the man who urged the doctors to create the drawings, then took their testimony, then put the Rydberg drawings into evidence? If he knew the drawings were inaccurate, why did he later ask that they be compared to the autopsy photos?
Was he having second thoughts as...well?
What was his role in all this?
Dox Back Wound/Fox Autopsy Photo Comparison
Back Wound in Motion
As we've seen, the Rydberg drawings were made at the request of the Warren Commission. As we've seen, Chief Justice Earl Warren prevented anyone from checking their accuracy.
This should lead us to conclude, then, that, as of May 24, 1964, the day of the Warren Commission's re-enactment of the shooting, the wound locations depicted on the Rydberg drawings were presumed to have been accurate.
This raises an intriguing question...why weren’t they used in the re-enactment? I mean, news photos of the re-enactment, published in, among other places, the New York Times, make it clear as day that on May 24, 1964, more than two months after the Rydberg drawings had been placed into evidence as the official representations of the president's wounds, those running the re-enactment had relied upon other sources when placing a chalk mark on the back of the stand-in for President Kennedy, in order to designate the wound location.
Well, why was this done?
Well, the thought occurs that someone--in this case, Warren Commission Junior Counsel Arlen Specter--was trying to be accurate. An April 30, 1964 Specter memo, after all, admitted that, in opposition to Dr. Humes’ sworn testimony, and in opposition to Specter’s subsequent words in the Warren Report, the Rydberg drawings “were made from the recollections of the autopsy doctors as told to the artist.”
The measurements on the face sheet were not used in the creation of the Rydberg drawings, and Arlen Specter knew it. It seems likely, then, that he wanted to see for himself if his single-bullet theory made sense--when using the actual locations of Kennedy's wounds.
In any event, the Warren Report says that for the re-enactment “The wounds of entry and exit on the President were approximated based on information gained from the autopsy reports and photographs.”Well, this is curious. Which photographs? Certainly not the ones Chief Justice Warren withheld from the doctors?
Oh, yeah? Specter, in his 2000 autobiography, Passion for Truth, finally shed some light on this matter. He admitted that on the day of the re-enactment in Dallas he was shown an autopsy photo of the back wound by a member of the Secret Service, Thomas Kelley. (The Saturday Evening Post had mentioned Kelley’s name in regards to this incident in 1967 and Kelley had admitted his role to researcher Harold Weisberg a few years later.) While Specter didn’t say he consulted this photo before approving the chalk mark on the jacket of the stand-in, one can only assume he used it to confirm its location.
Specter and Kelley’s use of the photos wrongly denied them in their passion for truth can only be considered admirable. And yet...
When one looks at the re-enactment photo published in the New York Times and re-printed in the Doubleday edition of the Warren Report, it is clear that a bullet passing through the chalk mark on the President's stand-in’s back and continuing on to hit Connally’s stand-in in his armpit would most likelyexit from the President’s stand-in’s chest, and not his throat. Specter had seen the Zapruder film. He knew Kennedy wasn’t leaning forward before the first shot. He knew, for that matter, that the theory he was testing left no room for deflection and he knew--from the photo Kelley showed him--that the chalk mark was accurate and that the wounds didn’t align.
It is truly troubling, then, that on June 4, 1964 Thomas Kelley testified that the location for the chalk mark used during the re-enactment was "fixed from" CE 386. As shown on the slide above, the entrance on this drawing was inches away from the entrance used during the re-enactment. While it's true, for that matter, that Kelley claimed they'd also conducted "an examination of the coat which the President was wearing at the time" this actually makes matters worse, as it suggests that the bullet hole on the coat aligned with the wound on CE 386, when the fact was their examination of the coat, if anything, proved the wound to have been inches lower than on CE 386, in alignment with the wound on the autopsy photo. (The 1977 testimony of Lyndal Shaneyfelt in a civil suit brought by Harold Weisberg confirmed that the coat was at Kelley's and Specter's disposal during the re-enactment.)
That Kelley's inaccurate testimony was no simple mistake becomes clear, moreover, once one realizes that the man taking his testimony, and leading him to make such a claim, was someone who undoubtedly knew better--you guessed it, Arlen Specter.
And it's even worse than that. Not only did Specter extract false testimony from Kelley regarding the source of the chalk mark used in the re-enactment, he asked Kelley if Exhibit 386 was the "basis for the marking of the wound on the back of the President's neck." Well, this was in striking contrast to Specter's former descriptions of the wound.
Here, then is a quick recap of Specter's earlier descriptions of this wound:
1-23-64 statement of objectives: “There would seem to be considerable amount of confusion as to the actual path of the bullets which hit President Kennedy, particularly the one which hit the right side of the back.”
3-12-64 memo Specter to Rankin on a 3-11-64 meeting with Dr.s Humes, Boswell, and Galloway: "All three described the bullet wound on President Kennedy's back as being a point of entrance." (And then later) "According to Commander Humes, the autopsy surgeons hypothesized that the bullet might have been forced out the back of the President on the application of external heart massage..."
3-16-64 testimony of the autopsy doctors: Specter asks Dr. Humes about a wound in the “upper part of the back” and “the President’s back or lower neck” and asks Dr. Finck about a “back wound.”
4-30-64 memo Specter to Rankin: "Someone from the Commission should review the films to corroborate the autopsy surgeons' testimony that the holes on the President's back and head had the characteristics of points of entry. None of the doctors at Parkland Hospital in Dallas observed the hole in the President's back or the small hole in the lower portion of his head." (And then later) “It is essential for the Commission to know precisely the location of the bullet wound on the President’s back so that the angle may be calculated.”
5-12-64 memo Specter to Rankin: (It is essential that) “The photographs and x-rays confirm the precise location of the wound of entrance in the upper back of the President as depicted in Commission Exhibits 385 and 386.” (And then later) “The characteristics of the wounds on the President’s back and on the back of his head should be examined closely in the photographs and x-rays...”
So, yeah, it seems mighty suspicious that, subsequent to 5-24-64, when he was shown a photo of a back wound, Specter would suddenly start calling this wound a neck wound.
But it's even worse than that. Not only did Specter, during Kelley's 6-4-64 testimony, start calling the back wound a neck wound, he cut off and corrected Kelley when Kelley started to call it a shoulder wound.
Mr. KELLEY. From the evidence that has been shown previously, the wound in the throat was lower on the President's body than the wound in the shoulder, and----
Mr. SPECTER. By the wound in the shoulder do you mean the wound in the back of the President's neck, the base of his neck?
Mr. KELLEY. Yes.
Specter's behavior is not just suspicious, then, it's incredibly suspicious. It smells to high heaven. It seems obvious, then, that Specter and Kelley were conspiring to keep from the record that Specter had looked at an autopsy photograph that proved the Rydberg drawings--already part of the record--inaccurate.
As FBI agent Robert Frazier, only moments later, told Commissioner Allen Dulles that the location of the chalk mark used in the re-enactment was determined by the measurements on the face sheet, Kelley’s lie may also have been designed to hide that these measurements proved the wound Specter had taken to claiming was on the back of Kennedy's neck...was really inches lower on his back.
Arlen Specter: Back to Back and Face to Face
That Arlen Specter was willing to cut corners to prop up his single-bullet theory is confirmed, moreover, by further examination of the FBI photos of the May 24, 1964 trajectory analysis. In one photo the Kennedy stand-in is seen leaning as far forward as one might possibly conceive Kennedy was leaning before he was shot. And yet the trajectory rod held by Specter aligning Connally's back wound with Kennedy's throat wound passes inches above the chalk mark designating the location of Kennedy's back wound. A second photo is taken from the opposite angle; this one, however, only shows the JFK stand-in from the front and gives little indication of where the trajectory rod passes in relation to the back wound.
That Specter opted to have this second photo submitted into evidence as Warren Commission Exhibit CE 903, as the one and only official depiction of the single-bullet theory, when this photo fails to even show the location of the back wound, speaks volumes, IMO.
(When shown the images on the slide above, single-assassin theorist John McAdams reacted in a typically dismissive manner. On 1-16-2010, on the alt.aassassination.jfk newgroup, he wrote: "Specter pretty much had it nailed. The rod he has placed is very close to the true trajectory, probably as close as it can be without getting a rapier and running through the guys in the car." McAdams sidestepped, of course, that the problem was not that the rod was at the wrong angle, but that the rod was placed at the proper angle, and connected Connally's back wound to Kennedy's throat wound, but somehow still passed inches above the chalk mark designating the location of Kennedy's back wound.)
Here's another look, courtesy the Sixth Floor Museum website:
And here's a closer look at the photo that became CE 903. Note that the trajectory rod now passes just over the Kennedy stand-in's right shoulder. This is inches below where it was held in the photo above. But look at that shoulder. The jacket along the right shoulder now seems a bit baggy, as if someone has pulled up the clothing. The stand-in is also leaning a little forward. Did Specter fiddle with the position of the stand-in, and pull on his clothing, in order to bring the chalk mark closer to the trajectory rod?
It is also suspicious that no attempt was made to measure the right to left trajectories of bullets entering the car from the sniper’s nest, while the car traveled down Elm. This allowed the commission and its experts to say the alignment of Kennedy with Connally was close enough without their having to make any actual calculations. The convenience of this arrangement was perhaps best exemplified, moreover, by the statements of Commission counsel J. Wesley Liebeler, in a defense of the commission published in the 3-9-92 issue of The Nation. There, Liebeler offered "The Warren Commission did a re-enactment of the assassination which showed that the President and Governor were located in a way that the bullet would have gone directly from the exit wound in the President's neck into Connally's back." Liebeler was, on this narrow point, telling the truth. He failed to reveal, of course, that their re-enactment also showed that the location of the wound on Kennedy's back was out of alignment with the wounds on Connally's back and Kennedy's throat, and that photos taken from the sniper's nest prove that a direct line from the sniper's nest to Kennedy's back wound location at the time the commission believed the shot striking Kennedy and Connally was fired would proceed to hit Connally low on his back, a foot or so below the location of his back wound.
Specter's discussion of the trajectory analysis in the Warren Report is also quite suspicious. At one point he acknowledges that the FBI measured the approximate trajectory needed to support the single-bullet theory during the May 24, 1964 re-enactment, and that this angle was then compared against the locations of the President’s and Connally’s wounds. Reflecting the testimony of the FBI’s Lyndal Shaneyfelt, who'd asserted that the rod representing the single-bullet trajectory in the photo passed through a position on the back of the stand-in “approximating that of the entrance wound,” Specter then concludes that “the angle was consistent with the trajectory of a bullet passing through the President’s neck and then striking Governor Connally’s back…The alinement of the points of entry was indicative and not conclusive that one bullet hit both men…Had President Kennedy been leaning forward or backward, the angle of declination of the shot…would have varied…The angle…was approximately the angle of declination reproduced in an artist’s drawing…made from data provided by the autopsy surgeons.”
Specter was thus citing CE 385, which he knew to have been created without Rydberg's having access to the autopsy measurements, and which he knew to be inaccurate after viewing the photo of Kennedy's back wound, as support for the single-bullet theory central to the commission's single-assassin conclusion.
When one considers that, should Specter have returned to Washington and informed the Commission that their operating premise of Oswald’s sole guilt was made doubtful by his failure to get a couple of wounds to align--and that he’d used evidence expressly denied him to make this determination--his career would have been in jeopardy, then one can see how easy it was for him to decide the trajectory connecting Connally's and Kennedy's wounds was “close enough,” and get Kelley and others to play along. Specter was, after all, a mere 33 year old assistant district attorney at the time. He was by no means an expert in forensic pathology or wound ballistics. And besides, the proposal for the re-enactment (contained in an April 27 memo by Norman Redlich) promised General Counsel Rankin and the Commission that the point of the re-enactment was not to establish the facts “with complete accuracy, but merely to substantiate the hypothesis which underlies the conclusions that Oswald was the sole assassin.”
It is said that behind every great man is a crime. One might grant, then, that Senator Arlen Specter’s “crime” was one of rejecting his self-identified “passion for truth” for the benefit of his career. An old story, indeed… and as American as apple pie…
It's ironic, then, that Specter’s failure to tell the Commission that the wound he saw on the autopsy photograph was on the President’s back, and not neck, was to haunt the old age of another prominent Republican and "great man," Commission member and future President Gerald Ford. In 1998, as a result of records released by the ARRB, it was discovered that Ford was the commissioner to have the words “a bullet had entered his back slightly above the shoulder” in a draft of the Commission's report changed to “a bullet had entered the back of his neck.”
This news even made the papers. When asked about the change, Ford explained to a reporter that he believed this wording was more precise. Many conspiracy theorists, by then familiar with the back wound photo published in best-selling books, however, scoffed at Ford's words, and assumed him to have been lying through his dentures.
But I'm not so sure. Perhaps Ford had been confused by the Rydberg drawings, which did indeed depict the back wound as residing at the base of the neck.
And perhaps there was more to Ford's confusion than just his looking at a drawing and assuming it was accurate. When one reads Chapters Two and Three of the Commission's report, the chapters to which Specter contributed, it seems incredibly clear that someone, almost certainly Specter himself, but perhaps his immediate superior Norman Redlich, who also worked on these chapters, went back at the last moment and changed its references to a back wound to references to a neck wound. And missed a couple... (In his 2000 memoir Passion for Truth, Specter claimed that Redlich "essentially let my work stand, especially the key points about the assassination and the Single-Bullet Conclusion.")
In any event, these changes were almost certainly made before Ford ever saw the chapter. It seems likely, then, that Ford changed the wording of that one passage to bring it back in line with the other (inaccurate) references to the wound within the report, and that he was not consciously lying when he did so.
I mean, just look at this... Here are the diverse and confusing references to the wound in Chapters Two and Three of the report. And yes, these are all references to the same wound, a wound the primary writer of these chapters, our man from Philadelphia, Arlen Specter, knew to be inches below the shoulder line after viewing the back wound photo. (Page numbers come from the version of the report on the National Archives website)
One bullet passed through the President's neck p. 48
The autopsy also disclosed a wound near the base of the back of President Kennedy's neck p.61
The nature and characteristics of this neck wound p.61
The President's Neck Wounds p.87
another bullet wound was observed near the base of the back of President Kennedy's neck p.88
in its path through the President's neck p.88
By projecting from a point of entry on the rear of the neck p.88
Concluding that a bullet passed through the President's neck p.88
the doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital rejected a theory that the bullet lodged in the large muscles in the back of his neck p.88
the surgeons were unable to find a path into any large muscle in the back of the neck p.88
This led to speculation that the bullet might have penetrated a short distance into the back of the neck p.88
Dr. Perry did not know about either the wound on the back of the President's neck or the small bullet-hole wound in the back of the head p.90
After reviewing the path of the bullet through the President's neck p.91
the experts simulated the neck p.91
The autopsy disclosed that the bullet which entered the back of the President's neck p.91
After the examining doctors expressed the thought that a bullet would have lost very little velocity in passing through the soft tissue of the neck p. 91
A photograph of the path of the bullet traveling through the simulated neck p. 91
The clothing worn by President Kennedy on November 22 had holes and tears which showed that a missile entered the back of his clothing in the vicinity of his lower neck p.91
all the defects could have been caused by a 6.5-millimeter bullet entering the back of the President's lower neck p. 92
The back of the stand-in for the President was marked with chalk at the point where the bullet entered p. 97
The position of President Kennedy's car when he was struck in the neck p.97
the point of impact on the President's back p. 98
the next point at which the rifleman had a clear view through the telescopic sight of the point where the bullet entered the President's back p.98
the President was probably shot through the neck between frames 210 and 225 p. 105
the bullet which passed through the President's neck p. 105
The bullet that hit President Kennedy in the back and exited through his throat p. 105
at the time when the President was struck in the neck p. 105
which followed the shot which hit the President's neck p. 106
A surveyor then placed his sighting equipment at the precise point of entry on the back of the President's neck p. 106
That angle was consistent with the trajectory of a bullet passing through the President's neck p. 106
the angle of that shot could have accounted for the wounds in the President's neck p. 106
of a test simulating the Governor's chest wound with the neck and wrist experiments p.107
concluded that it was probable that the same bullet passed through the President's neck and then inflicted all the wounds on the Governor p. 109
Referring to the President's neck wound p. 109
Thus, the Governor's wrist wound suggested that the bullet passed through the President's neck p. 109
the bullet which entered the Governor's chest had already lost velocity by passing through the President's neck p. 109
as to whether the same bullet did or did not pass through the President's neck p. 109
it was probable that the same bullet traversed the President's neck p. 109
After a bullet penetrated President Kennedy's neck p. 109
From the initial findings that (a) one shot passed through the President's neck p. 111
Agent Bennett stated: ... I looked at the back of the President. I heard another firecracker noise and saw that shot hit the President about four inches down from the right shoulder p. 111
It is possible, of course, that Bennett did not observe the hole in the President's back p.111
30 to 45 frames (approximately 2 seconds) later than the point at which the President was shot in the neck p. 112
from 4.8 to 5.6 seconds between the shot which struck President Kennedy's neck p. 115
That approximation was most probably based on the earlier publicized reports that the first shot struck the President in the neck p. 117
Thus, the back wound was officially moved to the back of Kennedy’s neck by a series of mistakes and/or wishful thoughts and/or deliberate fabrications, first by Humes and Boswell in the original creation of the Rydberg drawing, then by Warren in his withholding of the photographs, then by Specter in his failing to report the inaccuracy of the Rydberg drawings, and his pushing that the wound was on the neck in the report, and finally by Ford and his fellow commissioners in their changing certain passages of the report to be consistent with Specter's (and possibly Redlich's) misrepresentations.Truth by committee had become a lie.
Specter and the Strap Muscles
Now I know some out there would prefer I give long-time Senator Specter the benefit of the doubt. And I would prefer to do so myself. But I just can't. If there had been but one or two misstatements or misrepresentations in Specter's chapters in the Warren Report and subsequent statements regarding his work for the commission, one might grant he'd simply made a mistake as to the location of the back wound in the photo shown him by Kelley, and had failed to double-check Humes' measurements to see where the wound was actually located.
But, sadly, this is not the case. There is, instead, a whole slew of misstatements and misrepresentations, all contributing to Specter's "Single-Bullet Conclusion."
Consider the presentation of the back wound bullet trajectory in the Warren Report... On page 90 of the paperback, it claims "The autopsy examination further disclosed that, after entering the President, the bullet passed between two large muscles, produced a contusion on the upper part of the pleural cavity (without penetrating that cavity), bruised the top portion of the right lung and ripped the windpipe (trachea) in its path through the President's neck." On page 91, it appears to build upon this, and relates: "While the autopsy was being performed, surgeons learned that a whole bullet had been found at Parkland Hospital on a stretcher which, at that time, was thought to be the stretcher occupied by the President. This led to speculation that the bullet might have penetrated a short distance into the back of the neck and then dropped out onto the stretcher as a result of external heart massage. Further exploration during the autopsy disproved that theory. The surgeons determined that the bullet had passed between two large strap muscles and bruised them without leaving any channel, since the bullet merely passed between them."
Upon reading this, one would undoubtedly come to believe the two large strap muscles in the second quote are the two muscles mentioned in the first quote, and were on the back of Kennedy's neck.
And one would be right. While taking the testimony of Dr. McClelland on 3-21, and Dr. Baxter on 3-24, Specter made reference to the bullet's passing between the "strap muscles on the posterior aspect of the President's body," and the "strap muscles of the shoulder" respectively.
But there are no strap muscles on the posterior aspect of the body, or on the shoulder. And, what's worse, Specter knew it. On 3-25, after being asked a question regarding the bullet and its passing between two strap muscles, Dr. Gene Akin asked Specter to specify if he was talking about "the anterior strap muscles on the neck or the posterior muscles of the neck," and Specter clarified that he'd been talking about "The anterior strap muscles of the neck." Akin then explained: "It's a matter of clarification because there are no strap muscles posterior."
But we needn't take Akin's word for it. The autopsy report makes no mention of these muscles. It notes, instead, that "there is considerable ecchymosis of the strap muscles of the right side of the neck and of the fascia about the trachea adjacent to the line of the tracheotomy wound." This would be at the front of the neck.
In his 3-16-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, moreover, Dr. Humes specified that the bruised strap muscles which helped lead him to conclude the throat wound was an exit were on "the right anterior neck inferiorly" (i.e. the lower right quadrant of the front side of the neck). Dr. Humes explained that the bruising on these muscles next to what he initially believed was a simple tracheotomy incision was far more extensive than the bruising next to the incisions on Kennedy's chest, and that this led him to suspect these neck bruises preceded the emergency procedures performed in Dallas, and were in fact caused by a bullet.
Humes said NOTHING about a bullet sliding between two muscles on the back of Kennedy's neck or shoulder. And this wasn't a mistake on his part. The autopsy report signed by Humes, Boswell, and Finck also said nothing about a bullet sliding between two muscles on the back of the neck, and noted instead that "beneath the skin" of a wound on the "upper right posterior thorax...there is ecchymosis of subcutaneous tissue and musculature." There was a shallow hole atop bruised muscle tissue, with no channel through the muscle.
Humes' testimony was even more clear on this point. He testified "When the tissues beneath this wound were inspected, there was a defect corresponding with the skin defect in the fascia overlying the musculature of the low neck and upper back." He then added "We were unable, however, to take probes and have them satisfactorily fall through any definite path at this point."
(It should be noted, moreover, that the doctor doing this probing was Dr. Pierre Finck and that Finck later confirmed Humes' testimony. On January 24, 1969, when testifying during the trial of Clay Shaw, when asked about his failure to "satisfactorily" find a "definite path" from the back wound through Kennedy's neck, Finck testified: "I couldn't introduce this probe for any extended depth." He was then asked "how far in this probe went" and responded "The first fraction of an inch." Now, there was a witness to this probing, who thought it was a bit more than that, but not much. James Curtis Jenkins, Dr.s Humes and Boswell's assistant at the autopsy, was never interviewed by the Warren Commission. But the notes on his 8-29-77 interview with the HSCA reflect that he told them he recalled Dr. "Humes trying to probe the wound with his finger which enabled him to reach the end of the wound" as the back wound was "very shallow...it didn't enter the peritoneal (chest) cavity." He would subsequently explain how he knew this, and insist, to every researcher to speak with him, including yours truly on November 22, 2013 at the JFK Lancer Conference in Dallas, that he was present when the back wound was probed by Dr. Humes, using his finger, and then Dr. Finck, using an instrument called a sound. And he would insist that he was looking into Kennedy's chest cavity when Dr. Humes probed the wound, and that he could see the impression of Humes' finger on the back of the chest cavity at a point lower than the location of the wound on Kennedy's back...)
It should probably be mentioned here that "the musculature of the low neck and upper back" through which Humes and Finck could not find a path was the trapezius muscle, a flat sheet of muscular fiberscovering the back of the neck and shoulder. A bullet could not slide between two muscles in this area because the area was covered by but one. (Should one not believe me on this, one should look here.) The trapezius muscle covers so much area, in fact, that anatomists break it up into four parts when describing it in anatomy books. Kennedy's back wound, moreover, was in part three, the thickest and strongest of the four parts of the trapezius muscle.
It follows then that Humes had strong reasons to conclude, as he did on the night of the autopsy, that the bullet creating the back wound had failed to enter the body. Perhaps the cartridge for this bullet had been undercharged. Perhaps there had been a misfire.
When one digs further, moreover, and reads the Warren Commission testimony of Dr. Malcolm Perry, one finds that Dr. Humes continued to doubt that a bullet had entered Kennedy's body at the back wound location even after Dr. Perry had told him of the throat wound, which could serve as an exit for the bullet. According to Perry:
"He inquired about, initially, about the reasons for my doing a tracheotomy, and I replied, as I have to you, during this procedure, that there was a wound in the lower anterior third of the neck, which was exuding blood and was indicative of a possible tracheal injury underlying, and I did the tracheotomy through a transverse incision made through that wound, and I described to him the right lateral injury to the trachea and the completion of the operation. He subsequently called back--at that time he told me, of course, that he could not talk to me about any of it and asked that I keep it in confidence, which I did, and he subsequently called back and inquired about the chest tubes, and why they were placed and I replied in part as I have here. It was somewhat more detailed. After having talked to Drs. Baxter and Peters and I identified them as having placed it in the second interspace, anteriorly, in the midclavicular line, in the right hemithorax, he asked me at that time if we had made any wounds in the back. I told him that I had not examined the back nor had I knowledge of any wounds of the back."
So where did Specter get that "further exploration during the autopsy" led Humes to conclude a bullet slipped between two back muscles? Simple. He either misunderstood Humes' reports and testimony (which would be problem enough), or he completely made it up.
I currently suspect the former. On March 11, 1964, a few days before Humes testified, Specter stopped by Bethesda Naval Hospital, and discussed the basic facts of the autopsy with Humes and Boswell. Intriguingly, Specter's memo on this meeting portends his inaccurate representation of the strap muscles in the Warren Report. He relates: "Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell were shown the Parkland report which describes the wound of the trachea as 'ragged,' which, they said was characteristic of an exit rather than an entrance wound. Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell further said that it was their current opinion that the bullet passed in between two major muscle strands in the President's back and continued on a downward flight and exited through his throat. They noted, at the time of the autopsy, some bruising of the internal parts of the President's body in that area but tended to attribute that to the tracheotomy at the time. Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell stated that after the bullet passed between the two strands of muscle, these muscle strands would resist any probing effort and would not disclose the path of the bullet to probing fingers, as the effort was made to probe at the time of the autopsy."
Now, some might read Specter's memo and see this as evidence Dr.s Humes and Boswell lied to him, but then retreated from their lies in their testimony. But I suspect instead that Specter was confused by his notes on the meeting, and had mistakenly come to believe the bruised strap muscles were on Kennedy's back, not throat.
Let's re-read the key section: "Dr. Humes and Dr. Boswell further said that it was their current opinion that the bullet passed in between two major muscle strands in the President's back and continued on a downward flight and exited through his throat. They noted, at the time of the autopsy, some bruising of the internal parts of the President's body in that area but tended to attribute that to the tracheotomy at the time."
If one read the words "in that area" as a reference to the "President's back," instead of as a reference to "his throat," then Specter's memo is consistent with Specter's later claims the strap muscles were bruised and on Kennedy's back.
Now let's re-read the last line: "They noted, at the time of the autopsy, some bruising of the internal parts of the President's body in that area but tended to attribute that to the tracheotomy at the time."
Well, why would the doctors have attributed bruised back muscles to a tracheotomy?
It seems clear, then, from Specter's own memo, that the doctors said the bruised strap muscles were on Kennedy's throat, and that Specter came away from their meeting thinking the "two major muscle strands" they'd said were bruised were on Kennedy's back. To wit, on November 22, 2003, Specter told the audience at a conference put on by Dr. Cyril Wecht that, upon meeting Dr. Humes at Bethesda, "He (Humes) said that the bullet had passed between two large strap muscles, and hit nothing solid as it went through the pleural cavity and slashed the President’s trachea."
Perhaps Specter couldn't accept that a high-velocity bullet had passed through the President's back and throat without leaving a discernible path through his back muscles... Perhaps he'd found it easier to believe it had slipped between two back muscles... Perhaps he'd failed to grasp there was but one muscle in the area...
Or perhaps his confusion was just a smoke screen...
Specter Fails The Lie Detector
When one reads Specter's post-Warren Commission comments on its investigation, unfortunately, his slipperiness becomes readily apparent.
Let's start with an article on Specter by Gaeton Fonzi published in the August 1966 edition of Greater Philadelphia Magazine. Here, Specter aggressively defended his work for the Warren Commission. Fonzi maintained throughout the article, however, that many of the questions regarding Kennedy's autopsy could have been cleared up if Specter had viewed the autopsy photographs. When asked about this, and why he hadn't been more aggressive about viewing the photographs, for that matter, Specter is reported to have "appeared visibly disturbed" and to have stammered for awhile before responding "The commission decided not to press for the x-rays and photographs." According to Fonzi, Specter then became apologetic, and said "Have I dodged your question?...Yes' Ive dodged your question." He then gave a more detailed response: "The Commission considered whether the x-rays and photographs should be put into the record and should be examined by the Commission's staff and the Commission reached the conclusion that it was not necessary..."
Specter had thereby concealed that he had in fact been shown a photo of Kennedy's back wound by a member of the Secret Service, and that he'd opted not to report this to the commission.
His silence served another purpose as well. At another point in the article, after discussing Warren Commission Exhibit 385, a Rydberg drawing depicting the path of the bullet through Kennedy's neck, in which the bullet enters at the base of Kennedy's neck, Fonzi asked Specter to explain why so many witnesses, including the FBI agents present at the autopsy, claimed this wound was in the shoulder. He then wrote "Specter says it's possible that the whole thing is just a matter of semantics. 'It's a question of whether you call this point shoulder, base of neck, or back. I would say it sure isn't the shoulder, though I can see how somebody might call it the shoulder.'"
Now, admittedly, it's not crystal clear that when Specter said "this point" he was pointing to the entrance location depicted in CE 385, but the implication seems clear. If this is so, moreover, it seems equally clear that Specter was blowing smoke, trying to convince Fonzi that the confusion over the wound's location could be purely semantics, when he knew for certain--from sneaking a peek at an autopsy photo--that the wound depicted at the base of the neck on CE 385 was really inches below on the shoulder.
In late 2012, after the passing of both Fonzi and Specter, Fonzi's wife, Marie, made the tapes of their interviews available to the public via the Mary Ferrell Foundation website. These tapes confirm Specter's dishonesty. In three separate interviews--in over two hours of discussion--Specter never once admits that he'd been shown a photo of Kennedy's back wound, or even that the wound was on Kennedy's back. When interviewed on 6-28-66, he told Fonzi "The bullet entered the back of the neck between two strap muscles." This, as we've seen, was baloney. But he goes further, embarking on the discussion of semantics Fonzi mentioned in his article, and then proceeding to describe it as a neck wound whenever possible, at least five times by my count.
Specter's deceptiveness, in fact, becomes even more apparent in the second of these interviews. On 6-29-66, when discussing the single-bullet theory, the holes on the President's clothes, and the strange fact that Governor Connally's clothes were cleaned and pressed before being made available to the Commission, Specter asserted "The real question on the holes are the direction." He then injected "We didn't see the President; we didn't see the pictures." Fonzi hadn't asked the question, but Specter was volunteering that "we" didn't see the autopsy photos of the President, perhaps to conceal that "he" had, in fact, seen the one picture needed to determine the location of the President's back wound.
And that's not the most revealing of Specter's deceptions. Fonzi's tapes offer real insight into Specter's mindset--not only that he was lying, but why he was lying. In his 6-29-66 interview with Fonzi, when discussing Edward Epstein's book Inquest, in which Epstein suggested the Warren Commission investigation had been a whitewash performed in the name of the national interest, the politician in Specter came out, and he played to the grandstands. He told Fonzi: "It was not my function to decide the national interest. It was not Lyndon Johnson's function to decide the national interest. The national interest is decided in a democratic society by the free flow of facts into the truth. And any time any individual sets himself up to decide what is justice or what is the national interest, he's kidding himself. I'm not about to follow anybody's orders on that. They want to run their Commission. tell a bunch of lies, let them go ahead and run their Commission. They can't ask me to work for them." Specter, to his mind, was independent, and beyond the corrupting influence of Washington.
Now compare that to what Specter told Fonzi in their final interview on 7-8-66. When discussing the Commission's decision not to inspect the autopsy photographs, Specter at first said "As assistant counsel for the Commission, I do not think that it is appropriate for me to make a public statement disagreeing with the conclusion of the Commission on this question." Then, when asked if he'd thought of resigning when the autopsy photos and x-rays were withheld, he responded: "The decision of the Commission that the photographs and x-rays were not necessary in order for the Commission to arrive at a conclusion was not an egregious abuse of their discretion in light of the fact that they had substantial evidence on this question from eyewitness reports, from the highly qualified autopsy surgeons who had personally observed the President's body, a detailed report of the characteristics of the wounds, and there were important countervailing considerations which led the Commission to its conclusion that the films were not necessary in the light of the question of taste and the stature of the young American president whose memory will be regarded in the light of a smiling, handsome, erect, president, as opposed to a mutilated corpse with half his head shot off." Specter was pretending, of course, that everything the Commission looked at would automatically become available to the public, which he knew to be untrue.
But he continued from there, and ultimately revealed more of himself than he possibly could have intended. He insisted "The President of the United States didn't want Arlen Specter to conduct the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy, the President of the United States appointed the Commission to do that job..." So there it was--what in retrospect reads like a confession that he'd chickened out--that he'd had the opportunity to make a difference but was overwhelmed by the feeling he'd be out of line in doing so. He then continued "...and if the Commission had done anything improper or made any effort to suppress material evidence or to mislead the American public in any way, that is the area where any honest public servant would be called upon to search his conscience for his resignation, not on discretionary questions as to whether the Commission ought to have additional evidence on the same point."
Well, my God. Feel free to read that again. Specter suggested that it would have been wrong for him to help the Commission if he felt it was making a deliberate effort to mislead the public, but that it wasn't his place to raise a ruckus if the Commission was simply ignoring important evidence, as long as it was ADDITIONAL evidence, that they were free to ignore at their discretion. In other words, he was thinking like a junior partner, unwilling to argue with a senior partner. He knew the autopsy photo showed a bullet wound on Kennedy's back, not neck, but thought this photo but one piece of evidence, which the Commission would feel free to ignore. Fate looked him in the face and he blinked. He'd lawyered his way out of doing the right thing.
That Specter was worried about Fonzi's article and had chosen to deceive him is further supported, moreover, by a far-friendlier article about the Warren Commission and the medical evidence published a few weeks later, by Joseph Daughen in the 8-28-66 Philadelphia Bulletin. Here, almost as an aside, Daughen asserted "in Dallas, a staff member who had expressed concern over the absence of the evidence was shown by a Secret Service agent a photograph purportedly representing the upper back of the President." Hmmm... Specter was interviewed for this article. Clearly, then, he had told Daughen of his viewing the photo in Dallas. Well, why hadn't he told this to Fonzi, when the commission's failure to view the photos was central to Fonzi's article?
Well, the thought occurs that that's it, right there. The viewing of the photos was central to Fonzi's article. If then-District Attorney Specter had told Fonzi he'd seen the photo then Fonzi would have insisted he describe what he saw. And Specter, presumably, was hoping to avoid that. (Notice how the compliant Daughen not only fails to name Specter as the staff member who'd viewed the photo of Kennedy's upper back, but fails to describe where the wound was in this photo.)
In any event, in the 10-10-66 edition of U.S. News & World Report, Specter finally admitted he'd been shown one of Kennedy's autopsy photos. He didn't exactly come clean, however. Nope, true to form, he side-stepped the fact the photo shown him by Kelley didn’t match the Rydberg drawings by claiming “It showed a hole in the position identified in the autopsy report” but that it had not been "technically authenticated." Well, of course it showed a hole in the position identified in the autopsy report. The autopsy report described a wound on Kennedy's back, and not at the base of his neck, where Specter had taken to pretending it had been. In the article, Specter then moaned that, should this wound have been on Kennedy's back below the level of his throat wound, as proposed by conspiracy theorist Edward J. Epstein, it would mean "the autopsy surgeons were perjurers, because the autopsy surgeons placed their hands on the Bible and swore to the truth of an official report where they had measured to a minute extent the precise location of the hole on the back of the President's neck, as measured from other specific points on the body of the President."
Well, once again, the Specter shift was in place. He defended the integrity of the doctors by claiming they'd be perjurers if the autopsy report was in error, when he almost certainly knew the problem was not with the autopsy report, but with the schematic drawings of Kennedy he--Arlen Specter--had asked them to create. To reiterate, the measurements taken by the "autopsy surgeons" suggested the wound to have been on Kennedy's back, at or below the level of the throat wound, and not on the "back of the President's neck," where both Specter and the "surgeons" had taken to saying it had been. The autopsy report, moreover, said nothing about the relative locations of the back wound and throat wound.
So why was Specter suggesting otherwise? Was he playing a sneaky lawyer trick, and leading his readers to assume something he knew to be untrue?
I'd bet the farm on it. He then insisted that "The photographs would, however, corroborate that which the autopsy surgeons testified to." Well, notice the language... If he meant to say that the autopsy photo he'd been shown depicted a wound at the base of Kennedy's neck, in the location suggested by the Rydberg drawings, then why didn't he just say so? And why, instead, did he claim that the autopsy surgeons testified to the accuracy of their measurements, and that the photographs corroborated these measurements? Was he trying to avoid saying that the Rydberg drawings were accurate--because he knew full well they were not?
Specter also discussed the strap muscles in this interview. He claimed that at the beginning of the autopsy the doctors found that "a finger could probe between two large strap muscles and penetrate to a very slight extent" a "hole at the base of the back of the neck." He then pushed what clearly wasn't true--that he got this information from somewhere other than his own fertile imagination. He related that the Warren Commission testimony of the "autopsy surgeons" had established "the path of the bullet through the President's neck, showing that it entered between two large strap muscles..."
His statements in the 11-25-66 issue of Life Magazine were equally curious. He said "Given the trajectory from the Book Depository window, the autopsy, about which I have no doubts, and the FBI report on the limousine; where, if it didn't hit Connally, did that bullet go?" Yes, you read that right. Specter claimed he had no doubts about the autopsy. Well, maybe he didn't. But his version of the autopsy--the one where the doctors found a path between two muscles on the back of Kennedy's neck--was not the real autopsy.
I'm being facetious, of course, which sounds a lot like the substance Specter was spreading. The autopsy photo he'd been shown--the one on the slide above--depicted a wound in Kennedy's upper back, at or below the level of his throat wound. The "trajectory from the Book Depository window," therefore, necessitated that either 1) Kennedy was leaning sharply forward when hit, or 2) the bullet creating this wound had curled upwards upon entry. The "autopsy" about which Specter had no doubts, however, had ruled out that the bullet had struck anything upon entry. The films of the assassination studied by Specter, furthermore, proved Kennedy wasn't leaning sharply forward when hit. So what was there to have doubts about? What, Specter, worry?
Let's recall here that in his 4-30-64 memo to J. Lee Rankin, Specter urged that the Rydberg drawings be compared to the autopsy photos, and specified:
"2. THE COMMISSION SHOULD DETERMINE WITH CERTAINTY WHETHER THE SHOTS CAME FROM ABOVE. It is essential for the Commission to know precisely the location of the bullet wound on the President's back so that the angle may be calculated. The artist's drawing prepared at Bethesda (Commission Exhibit #385) shows a slight angle of declination. It is hard, if not impossible, to explain such a slight angle of decline unless the President was farther down Elm Street than we have heretofore believed. Before coming to any conclusion on this, the angles will have to be calculated at the scene; and for this, the exact point of entry should be known."
Now let's do a quick replay. On 4-30-64, Specter admitted that he'd thought the trajectory in Rydberg drawing CE 385 too shallow to support the shooting scenario he'd proposed. Well, this is the same as his saying he thought the neck wound too low to support Kennedy and Connally being hit by the same bullet at the time he'd assumed they'd been hit. On 5-24-64, however, he was shown a photo of Kennedy's back, in which the wound was revealed to have been approximately two inches lower on Kennedy's back than in Rydberg drawing CE 385. This meant it was far too low to support the shooting scenario he'd proposed. So how did Specter respond to this challenge? Did he change his scenario? Nope. On 6-4-64 he took testimony from FBI agent Lyndal Shaneyfelt in which Shaneyfelt purported that the trajectory from the sniper's nest approximated the trajectory through Kennedy's neck in CE 385--the drawing which Specter now knew to be inaccurate. Specter then pushed this nonsense in the Warren Report. He then defended his work by telling Life Magazine he had no doubts about the autopsy, and that the trajectory from the sniper's nest--the trajectory he'd thought incompatible with CE 385, and would have to have thought thoroughly incompatible with the photo he'd been shown--contributed to his faith in his scenario.
Well, hello! Do I have to spell it out? Specter was L-Y-I-N-G!
An 11-26-66 UPI article (found in the Milwaukee Journal) was also given the Specter touch. Taking note of Dr. Boswell's recent claim the photos could dispel the controversy over the President's wounds, the article reported that "Specter said he had not seen the autopsy pictures" but that he had nevertheless conceded "If it keeps up, you may get a look at them." Note that Specter said he had not seen the "pictures" (plural), and that this allowed him to avoid admitting that he'd seen one "picture" (singular).
Specter did discuss his viewing the photo of Kennedy's back soon thereafter, however. In the January 14, 1967 issue of the Saturday Evening Post, he is quoted as claiming “It showed the back of a body with a bullet hole, apparently of entry, where the autopsy report said it was.” Well, there it is again. Notice the language... Notice how Specter once again steers clear of saying that he'd looked at a photo of the President's back, and that this photo showed a wound on the back of the president's neck, and confirmed the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings.
On 2-3-67, just a few weeks after this confession, moreover, Specter received a letter from Chief Justice Earl Warren, in which Warren similarly confessed, of the photos, "I saw them myself and they were horrible. The other members of the Commission had no desire to see them."
On 12-4-68, while debating author Josiah Thompson at the University of Pennsylvania, moreover, he repeated his tall-tale about the strap muscles. According to a transcript of this conference found in the Weisberg Archives, he told the students in attendance that the autopsy surgeons "testified that there was a path through the President's neck where the bullet passed between two large strap muscles, bruised the top of the pleural cavity, bruised the top of the right lung, sliced his trachea, and exited from the front of the throat." After describing the wounds, he then detailed that "We then sought to determine what would have been the velocity of a bullet entering the President's neck and exiting the President's neck." Well, my God. It entered the president's "neck," not back. This, clearly, was Specter's story, and he was sticking to it.
And stick to it he did. On 12-8-77, when testifying before the HSCA in executive session, Specter made at least seven separate references to a wound on the back of Kennedy's neck. Here they are:
"That conclusion was reached because of the evidence which showed that the bullet entered the back of the President's neck" HSCA vol.7 p.89
(When asked if he remains convinced CE 399 went through President Kennedy and Governor Connally) "Yes, I am, the President's neck and the Governor." HSCA vol.7 p.90
"I don't think the single bullet theory, that is to say I do not think that they were struck by separate bullets with respect to the President's neck wounds and the wounds on Governor Connally, but I think they could have been struck by separate bullets, all fired by Oswald." HSCA vol.7 p.91
(On the autopsy doctors) "Their early speculation was that the bullet penetrated the back of President Kennedy's neck." HSCA vol.7 p.95 (This was, of course, not true.)
"They proceeded with the autopsy examination and found the path through the President's neck." HSCA vol.7 p. 96 (Yikes!)
"I was satisfied that the bullet which entered the back of the President's neck went all the way through and exited in front of his neck." HSCA vol.7 p.96
"I do know that the FBI report said that the first bullet hit the President's neck..." HSCA vol.7 p.99 (This, of course, was also nonsense. The FBI report said the wound was in the shoulder.)
In any event, Specter never once described this wound as being on Kennedy's back. This was remarkable, moreover, seeing as the HSCA had added two of Specter's old Warren Commission memos into his testimony...which made five separate references to this wound...as a wound on Kennedy's back.
Yes, it's true. Specter had routinely described this wound as a back wound prior to his being shown a photo confirming it to have been a back wound, and then claimed forevermore it was a neck wound, even to people who knew full well it was a back wound.
Well, that's about as red as a red flag can get.
That Specter wasn't exactly telling the truth, the whole truth, as he'd solemnly sworn to do, moreover, is confirmed by something left out of his testimony. When asked about one of the Warren Commission memos introduced during his testimony, in which he'd asserted "The Commission should determine with certainty" that "there are no major variations between the films and the artist's drawings", he explained that he'd believed "it was highly desirable for the X-rays and photographs to be viewed" at that time, in order "to corroborate the testimony of the autopsy surgeons." He then added "I was overruled on the request..."
He also asserted "while I did not see the photographs and X-rays, others did. I was concerned about the question after the Commission concluded and once wrote to the Chief Justice about that subject...I think he responded to me...I think he may have seen the X-rays. I did not."
Incredibly, he concealed that the recently-deceased Warren had told him he'd viewed the photos, and that he himself had been shown a photo of Kennedy's back.
Of course, he wasn't exactly pressed on this... Apparently, Kenneth Klein, who'd conducted Specter's testimony, had failed to do his homework.
Or maybe there was more to it. Klein, born in Specter's home town of Philadelphia, had been hired to work for the HSCA by its original Chief Counsel, Richard Sprague, who'd worked for Specter in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office. Many years later, for that matter, Klein went to work for Jenner and Block, the Chicago law firm of Specter's colleague on the Warren Commission, Albert Jenner.
And that's not the only curious tie between Specter and the committee. Specter's son, Shanin, just so happened to be Pennsylvania Congressman Robert Edgar's assistant on the committee. Edgar, while a liberal Democrat, was the Congressman from Pennsylvania's Seventh District, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, where the moderate Republican Specter had recently served as District Attorney, and was preparing a run for Governor.
It seems probable, then, that Specter and Edgar knew each other. Edgar had served as the United Protestant Chaplain for Drexel University in Philadelphia from 1971-1974. Specter had served as Philadelphia's District Attorney from 65-73. Had their paths crossed in this period? Did Edgar owe Specter a favor?
I mean, is it just a coincidence that Edgar would proceed to author a dissent from the committee's report, in which he claimed its conclusion of a probable conspiracy was unjustified, and credited Specter's son Shanin and Warren Commission counsel David Belin for their assistance?
Maybe. On November 8, 2013, Shanin Specter published an article on The Daily Beast website. While discussing his own relationship to his father's infamous single-bullet theory he admitted that Congressman Edgar had asked his father for help with the House Select Committee, and that Specter had volunteered his son--Shanin, the writer of the article--instead.
But does this pass a simple smell test? Would a congressman investigating the Warren Commission reach out to two controversial members of the commission's staff for "help" without first receiving some "encouragement"?
It's just hard to see Edgar as Specter's buddy. In 1986, Edgar left congress to run for Senator against the incumbent Republican Senator, and lost. This incumbent Republican Senator's name was Arlen Specter.
In any event, if Klein and Edgar had been on a mission to protect Specter's reputation, they were not entirely successful...because something seriously shocking happened the next year-- something that should have marked the end of Specter's political career... On 9-7-78, Dr. Michael Baden, the spokesman for the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, testified that from studying the autopsy photos the panel had concluded Kennedy's torso wound to have been--cut to the sound of Specter saying "oh crap"--not only not on Kennedy's neck, where Specter had long claimed it to have been, but on his back below the level of his throat wound.
Congressman Edgar was present for this testimony. His assistant, Specter's son, Shanin, may also have been present. The questions asked Baden by--you guessed it, Kenneth Klein--had been prepared in advance. This suggests, then, that Klein knew well in advance that Baden was gonna undercut the foundation for Specter's single-bullet theory, and that Edgar--and almost certainly his assistant, Specter's son, Shanin--knew this as well.
Let's recall here that Specter had once suggested that if this wound were below Kennedy's throat wound, well, then the autopsy surgeons were guilty of perjury.
So...does Specter call a press conference after Baden's testimony, and demand Humes, Boswell, and Finck be indicted for perjury?
No, of course not.
And does Klein call Specter to the stand and ask him to explain why, for nearly 15 years, he'd been claiming the wound on Kennedy's back was a wound on the back of his neck?
No, of course not.
And that's not even the worst of it. If Specter had at this time come forward and said "Wow, that wound really was on Kennedy's back; I apologize for any confusion caused by my earlier descriptions of the wound," he might have escaped with a smidgen of credibility.
But instead he doubled down.
Yep, in an unbelievably suspicious move, not only did Specter fail to specify in his subsequent statements and articles that the doctors had been mistaken about the back wound location depicted on the Rydberg drawings--or apologize for his own misleading statements about this wound's location--but he continued--up till his death--to make claims about its location that are demonstrably false... He continued to claim even that the bullet creating this wound entered between two strap muscles on the back of Kennedy's neck.
It's sad but true... After becoming a U.S. Senator in 1980, Specter made very few public statements regarding the assassination. With the success of Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK, however, he was no longer afforded this luxury. This led him to publish a response to the film in the 1-5-92 Philadelphia Inquirer. As one might expect, his response was filled with errors and misleading claims. To rebut the film's accurate depiction of Dr. Finck's testimony in the trial of Clay Shaw, in which Finck claimed the autopsists were ordered not to inspect Kennedy's neck, for example, Specter claimed: "Finck testified under oath before the Warren Commission that an initial bullet hit Kennedy in the back of the neck, hit nothing solid, and exited from his throat - supporting the single bullet theory." Well, there it was again--"back of the neck." Finck, of course, had said no such thing, and had responded without correction to Specter's questions regarding a "back" wound.
Perhaps the worst of Specter's deceptions, moreover, was this one: "The movie mangles the facts on the single-bullet theory. The House assassinations committee, very critical of the Warren Commission on other matters, confirmed the single-bullet theory."
Well, this, of course, was smoke, and toxic smoke at that. Specter had previously claimed the back wound was above the throat wound, and that, if it was not, the autopsy surgeons were perjurers. The HSCA pathology panel had then determined that the back wound was in fact below the throat wound. With one exception, they'd concluded as well that the single-bullet theory was viable, should Kennedy have been leaning sharply forward when struck. Specter then seized upon this second conclusion, which in fact dismantles his single-bullet theory, as "confirmation" of the theory he'd proposed, and pushed upon the commission--entailing that the back wound was well above the throat wound.
And that was just the beginning of Specter's '92 campaign. On 5-12-92, Specter appeared before the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, urging that it pass a bill he'd co-authored, requiring federal agencies release as many JFK assassination-related documents as possible, and the creation of the ARRB. (His appearance can be found online in the C-Span Video Library.) He urged "Let the facts be disclosed" and said, of his famous single-bullet theory, that he believed it had been "upheld" by subsequent investigations, and would withstand further scrutiny. He then added "If it isn't, so be it; let someone come along and disprove it." He failed to acknowledge that the central beam around which his theory had been constructed had long since been disproved.
Should one think this was Specter turning over a new leaf, however, one would be wrong. It was, to the discerning eye, yet another of his smoke screens, designed to hide his own failure to properly investigate the case. During this testimony he repeatedly complained that the Warren Commission did not have access to the autopsy photos and x-rays. He said this was because "The wishes of the Kennedy family prevailed in not having those available even to the commissioners or to the staff" and that "They were not permitted to see them because there was a sense that they might come into the public domain." This, of course, was not true. And Specter knew this to be untrue. He had, of course, received a letter from Chief Justice Warren in which Warren had admitted both to viewing the photos, and that the other Commissioners had failed to view them not because they were worried about their publication, but because they had no desire to do so.
In any event, Specter's bold-faced lie about Warren was caught by someone on the Committee's staff. As a result, a number of follow-up questions were asked on this issue. Under subsequent questioning by Sen. Carl Levin, Specter admitted that Warren himself "may have been shown the photographs. I have reason to believe he did see them privately." He then injected "but that was my area of responsibility." He never mentioned that he, too, had been shown a photograph.
Well, I'll be. Specter was once again blowing smoke. His 4-30-64 memo to J. Lee Rankin, published by the HSCA in 1978, had revealed "When Inspector Kelly talked to Attorney General Kennedy, he most probably did not fully understand all the reasons for viewing the films. According to Inspector Kelly, the Attorney General did not categorically decline to make them available, but only wanted to be satisfied that they were really necessary. I suggest that the Commission transmit to the Attorney General its reasons for wanting the films and the assurances that they will be viewed only by the absolute minimum number of people from the Commission for the sole purpose of corroborating (or correcting) the artist's drawings, with the film not to become a part of the Commission's records."
And not only that. Earl Warren's memoirs, in which he'd admitted viewing the photos, had been available to the public since 1977. So why was Specter, fifteen years later, telling congress Warren "may have been shown the photographs" and acting as though this was inside information?
And where in the world did Specter get off blaming the commission's failure to view the photos on the Kennedys and their "wishes," when he knew full well that both Earl Warren and himself had viewed the back wound photo, and had known that the commission's exhibits were inaccurate, and had done nothing about it? What a piece of...work...
And I'm not the only one to have been troubled by his testimony. Approximately an hour after Sen. Specter's initial statements, Sen. John Glenn, the former astronaut, reading from a note presumably handed him by a member of his staff, confronted Specter regarding his blaming of the Kennedy family, and clarified for the record that the Kennedy family did not have possession of the autopsy photos and x-rays during the Warren Commission's investigation. This led Specter to back-pedal, at first claiming "I did not say anything about the Kennedy family." Of course, he had said something about the Kennedy family. Glenn failed to correct him on this, however, and asked Specter again whose decision it was not to inspect the autopsy photos and x-rays. Specter then admitted the truth. He testified "I think the Kennedy family had a feeling on the subject. I can not testify to that from my own personal knowledge." He then conceded: "It was a Commission decision. The Kennedy family did not decide the issue. I believe the Commission did." This concession, in turn, caught the attention of Sen. Levin, who sought further clarification, whereby Specter referred to his 4-30-64 and 5-12-64 memos to Rankin as proof he personally had tried to view the photos and x-rays. He then claimed "I know I did not get to see them" and "I know that I did not have access to them." Upon further prodding by Levin, moreover, he once again conceded that the commission's failure to view the autopsy photos and x-rays "may well have" come as a result of a decision reached by the commissioners.
He never once mentioned that he had, in fact, been shown the main photo he'd been seeking to see, the one establishing the location of the President's back wound, and that he had been shown this by the member of the Secret Service leading its investigation.
I repeat. What a piece of...work...
I mean, here was Specter testifying on this issue for a second time. And here, for a second time, he was failing to reveal that "Oh yeah, by the way, I did view a photo of the back wound which was subsequently determined to have proved the exhibits I'd placed into evidence inaccurate." Here he was, for a second time, failing to explain both why he'd failed to discuss his viewing this photo with his superiors on the commission, and why he'd proceeded to describe the back wound in the photo as a neck wound after doing so...
Apparently, his dodging yet another karma bullet emboldened Specter. The September 27, 1992 edition of Inquirer Magazine featured an extensive profile of Specter which briefly discussed his time working for the Warren Commission. While describing the single-bullet theory, he claimed the bullet "entered between two large strap muscles." Yes, he once again claimed the bullet "entered" the back of Kennedy's neck between two muscles which Kennedy's "autopsy surgeon" made clear were at the front of Kennedy's throat. On May 30, 1995, Specter was interviewed on CBS radio by Tom Snyder, even worse, and once again revealed himself to be a serial spreader of nonsense. He told Snyder "The bullet that hit the President in the back of the neck passed between two large strap muscles." Yeah, sure it did. Shouldn't Snyder have told him that a tracing of the autopsy photo Specter looked at in 1964 was published by the government in 1979, and made 100% crystal clear that the wound was on the back, and NOT on the back of the neck, where Specter had long claimed it to have been? And shouldn't Snyder have thrown in that "And, oh yeah, the strap muscles were adjacent to the President's throat wound, and you should really stop pretending that the bruising of these muscles indicates the bullet creating the back wound traversed the body?"
But alas, no such luck. Specter's nonsense was not only swallowed by Snyder, but applauded.
And so the trail of lies continued. When Specter discussed his being shown the autopsy photo before the 1964 re-enactment in his 2000 memoir Passion for Truth, for example, he described it as “a small picture of the back of a man’s body, with a bullet hole in the base of the neck, just where the autopsy surgeons said Kennedy had been shot.” Oh, my! Base of the neck? This once again steered clear of the fact that a tracing of this photo had been released by the government in 1979. This steered clear, moreover, of the incredibly inconvenient fact that this tracing PROVED the bullet hole to have been inches below the base of the neck. And what did he mean when he said "just where the autopsy surgeons said Kennedy had been shot?" Was he once again referring to the autopsy report, to hide that the exhibits he'd presented to the Warren Commission had been misleading?
In any event, Specter not only admitted in his memoirs that he'd failed to tell anyone on the commission he'd taken a look at the back wound photo, but he tried to excuse his cowardice by adding“an unauthenticated photo was no way to establish facts for the record.” Well, this was too much. By Specter's own admission, he was shown the photo by Thomas Kelley, the Secret Service inspector responsible for conducting its investigation of the assassination. Specter knew, moreover, that the Secret Service had possession of the photos. It would have been a simple matter then of his stopping by Bethesda for ten minutes and talking to Dr. Humes, to verify the wounds, and John Stringer, the photographer, to verify it was one of the photos he took on the night of the autopsy. He would then have had an authenticated photo.
That Specter's claiming the wound was at the base of the neck was not a one-time slip, whereby he accidentally repeated inaccurate information he'd grown used to telling, was made clear, for that matter, by his book's other references to the wound.
He first mentioned the wound in relation to his work for the commission.
"To nail down both the direction and the location of the bullet that struck the president's back, we wanted all possible indicators." p.68
Notice how he calls it a back wound. He then discussed his meeting with the autopsy doctors in preparation for their testimony.
"At Bethesda, Ball and I tried to clear up some confusion over how far the bullet that struck Kennedy's neck had traveled through his body." p.79
"they surmised that the bullet on the stretcher might have been pushed out the back of Kennedy's neck by the massage." p.79
"As the autopsy progressed, the surgeons realized that the bullet had passed farther through the president's neck." p.79
Now this last bit was just strange. The official story, of which Specter was presumably aware, was that the doctors didn't realize a bullet passed through Kennedy's neck until the morning after the autopsy, after Dr. Humes spoke to Dr. Perry and discovered that the tracheotomy incision had been cut through a bullet wound. So what does Specter cite as evidence for them learning of this the night before?
Read on and be amazed:
"They saw that the muscles in the front of the neck had been damaged at about the same time the wound was inflicted on the top of the chest cavity."
Yes, truth is truly stranger than fiction. Here, in Specter's own book, was an accurate representation of Dr. Humes' testimony--that is, that the bruises on the strap muscles at the front of the neck had led him to suspect the neck wound pre-dated the tracheostomy. This, then, was as much as an admission he'd misled the public in his chapter in the Warren Report, and numerous interviews and articles, when he'd claimed the bullet slipped between these muscles upon entrance on the back of Kennedy's neck.
Or was it? Specter had a co-writer on his memoirs, Charles Robbins. Perhaps Robbins had caught Specter's mistake, and had added this bit into the book for the sake of accuracy.
This mystery only gets more curious, however, as we progress through Specter's book.
"When all the facts came in, it became clear that the neck shot had exited Kennedy's throat." p.80
Notice how what was formerly a back wound has now become a neck wound. Specter then discussed his being shown the back wound photo by Agent Kelley in 1964. As discussed, he presents this photo as:
"a small picture of the back of a man’s body, with a bullet hole in the base of the neck, just where the autopsy surgeons said Kennedy had been shot.” p.88
He then describes a second viewing of the photo by him in 1999 in the company of Dr. Boswell.
"The entrance wound on the neck was about an inch below the shoulder line in the president's back . The exit wound at the site of the tracheotomy in his throat, was lower." p.88
Well, how can a wound be "on the neck below...the shoulder line in the...back? Does that make any sense? Was he trying to have it both ways? And have the wound be on the back where everyone who's seen the back wound photo knows it to be? Whilst simultaneously being on the neck, where his single-bullet theory needs it to be?
Not surprisingly, Specter then insisted that he and Boswell had convinced themselves the President’s back and neck wounds were “consistent with the Single Bullet Conclusion.” As if at this point we should take their word on anything...
Unfortunately, it seems the closest thing to an acknowledgment of error we’ll ever get from Specter is his related acknowledgement that the Rydberg drawings were “rough” and that he would never have had them created if he knew that people would credit them “with more precision than was intended.”
Specter then discusses the Parkland witnesses, and repeats much of his nonsense.
"They never saw the bullet entrance wounds in the back of his head and the back of his neck." p.100
"The Parkland doctors saw the clean, round, quarter-inch hole in the front of the president's neck but didn't know about the wound in the back of his neck." p.101
"Once the Parkland doctors were informed of the wound on the back of the president's head and neck..." p.101
Specter then slips up again (at least presumably).
"...before the doctors there knew about the entrance wounds on Kennedy's back and head..." p.103
The strangeness of Specter's book reaches a climax, however, when he discusses a conversation he had with Chief Justice Earl Warren, in which he convinced Warren of the soundness of the single-bullet theory. He claims he explained to Warren that:
"The autopsy showed that a bullet had struck Kennedy near the base of his neck on the right side and passed between two large strap muscles in his neck, striking only soft tissue as it continued in a slightly right-to-left, downward, and forward path..." p.109
"The president's garment had holes and tears showing that a missile entered the back in the vicinity of his lower neck..." p.110
"The wounds on the president and governor supported the Single-Bullet Conclusion. The first bullet would retain most of its high velocity after passing through the two large strap muscles in the back of the president's neck, slicing the pleural cavity, striking nothing solid, and then exiting from the front of his neck, nicking the left side of his tie." p.111
Yes, you read that right. While on page 79 of his book Specter acknowledged that the bruised strap muscles described by Dr. Humes in his testimony were at the front of Kennedy's neck, 30 pages later he asserted that while selling the single-bullet theory to Warren he'd told him they'd been on the back of Kennedy's neck. He failed to explain that what he'd told Warren was inaccurate. Now, was this "gaffe" an accidental slip-up by Specter, and an indication that he'd long known or at least now knew that the strap muscles were on the throat, and not the back of the neck? Or was his presenting the same muscles in two different locations within one book the responsibility of his co-writer?
It's really hard to tell. Towards the end of his life, it became fairly clear that Specter's memory had faded.
Breaking Video: Lamb Encounters Lyin'
But I'm not buying that Specter's latter-day mistakes were innocent in nature. On 1-28-01, while promoting Passion for Truth, Specter was interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-Span. (This interview can be watched, here.) After a long discussion of Jack Ruby, Lamb suddenly shifted gears. He asked Specter: "When did you first see the autopsy photos of John Kennedy?" And Specter smiled and responded: "I first saw them in 1999, when I made a special trip to the archives. I was not permitted to see them, nor was anybody on the staff or the commission with the possible exception of the chief justice. And I was very unhappy about that and wrote a very strong memorandum to Lee Rankin who was the General Counsel complaining about it--that, although we had the autopsy surgeons' testimony, that the photos and the x-rays were corroborative evidence and we should have had them, and I thought the commission would be subject to a lot of justifiable criticism. As you know, there's been enormous controversy about what the commission's done, and I could sense at the time that when we had closed hearings and the people did not know what we were doing that we had to be as meticulous as we could be, and one of the reasons that I wrote this book--I'd been urged to do so for a long time--(was) to recount what we did on the Warren Commission." Specter then began to ramble on about Ruby Ridge and the Bonus Marchers. When brought back to the Warren Commission, he added "Coming back to the photos and x-rays for just a minute, Brian, I thought we should look at them. There has grown up tremendous distrust of the commission. And, in writing this book--and I go into great detail as to how I developed the single-bullet theory, and how the lawyers came from all over the country, Des Moines, and Chicago and Cleveland, and Philadelphia, so they didn't go to bureaucrats in Washington, so that we avoided the possible charge of a cover-up." He then discussed the country's current cynicism over recent events, including the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v Gore. Ironically, and amazingly, Specter hoped his book would help restore public confidence.
Lamb then returned to the autopsy photos and x-rays, and asked if anyone had seen them besides Specter. Specter responded: "They were examined in 1971 by a group of forensic pathologists, and eight forensic pathologists as I recall looked at them and they all confirmed what the Warren Commission had found, and what the autopsy surgeons had testified to with the possible exception of Dr. Cyril Wecht of Pittsburgh. But I had to ask special permission to see them--and, uh, if you have a good reason, you can see them, but they're not available generally. And, uh, they're gory, to be very blunt about them." When then asked what he saw: "Well, I saw pictures of President Kennedy. I saw the small bullet hole in the back of his head which was fatal, blew out the top of his head. And I saw the top of his head--thick head of hair, handsome young man. And I saw the bullet hole in the back of his neck, the bullet which hit him first then went through Connally. As I say in the book, I think that Chief Justice Warren did not want the pictures shown because they might get into the public domain--so much does as you know. And people would not have the picture of Kennedy as a handsome vibrant young man, but instead with significant wounds and part of his head shot off. It was rumored that Warren did look at the photos and x-rays, but that was no substitute for having the staff look at them and having them examined, and having testimony, and having the other commissioners see them." Lamb and Specter then discussed Dr. Humes' burning of his notes.
Now, Specter said much of this with a smirk. Perhaps this was because he was initially asked about photos--plural--and that he knew he could thereby skip over that he had been shown a photo--singular-- of a back wound, not neck wound, in 1964.
That Specter was being deceptive about the back wound is supported, moreover, by his actions while he was talking. The image below is a screen capture of Specter as he told Lamb that when he'd inspected the autopsy photos in 1999, he'd seen a "bullet hole in the back of his (Kennedy's) neck." Note that he was pointing to a location inches higher than the location of the wound in the photos he'd observed--scarcely a year before.
And not only that...he was also pointing to a location inches above the location for the back wound pushed in his (already deceptive) 1964 re-enactment. (This is shown below, in a rarely seen color photo of the re-enactment.)
And this was far from Specter's only latter-day mistake of epic proportions and incredible convenience. When interviewed for a Fox News program in November 2003, for example, Specter related that the early reports of the FBI and Secret Service had said the first shot hit Kennedy on “the back of the neck,” when, in fact, they said the first shot hit Kennedy “below the shoulders.”
Still, one never knows. By 2003, Specter's many battles with brain tumors, etc, may have taken their toll. When discussing the assassination at the November, 2003 Wecht conference, for example, he claimed the driver of Kennedy's limousine was "James Greer" (as opposed to William Greer), and that Secret Service Agent Elmer Moore showed him an autopsy photo of Kennedy's back before the May, 1964 re-enactment. (In his book, published just three years earlier, he'd said it was Thomas Kelley who'd shown him this photo.)
So perhaps we should cut Specter some slack. Nah. Not going for it. Most of the questionable statements made by Specter in his later years were actually nothing new, and repetitions of the same old malarkey.
One could write a book, in fact, on the nonsense spewed by Specter at the 11-22-2003 Wecht Conference. He claimed, once again, that the wound on Kennedy's back was "at the base of the neck"and "on the back of the President's neck." And he pointed to the back of his neck--at a location inches above where Kennedy's wound was actually located--as he did so. He then repeated what he'd finally admitted in his book--that the Rydberg drawings were "rough" and "inexact" and that while he'd thought in 1964 that they were "better than nothing," he had since come to believe he'd been "wrong about that."
He then offered up more self-serving nonsense. He failed to admit that he'd used these "rough" and "inexact" drawings as evidence supporting his single-bullet theory, or even that the photo he'd been shown by "Moore" had proved to him they were "inexact," and, instead made out that he'd somehow stood by his principles when he failed to tell the Commission the autopsy photo he'd been shown had proved the Rydberg drawings--what he had to have known would come to be considered the Commission's interpretation of Kennedy's wounds--were "inexact." Yep, Specter, standing before a large crowd of serious researchers, most of whom knew full well he was blowing smoke, claimed that when he was shown the photo by "Moore" before the reenactment he reacted not by using the wound location in the photo as the basis for the chalk mark on the JFK stand-in's jacket (as seems obvious from the photos of the reenactment), but by standing on principle. According to Specter, "I told him I didn't want to see an unauthenticated photo. I wanted to see the Real McCoy."
Well, my God! What horse-pucky!
In any event, Specter's statements at the Wecht conference cleared up one thing: he was still of the belief the strap muscles were on the back of Kennedy's neck, or at least in the business of pretending as much. Here is how he described his initial meeting with Dr. Humes: "He said that the bullet had passed between the two large strap muscles, that it hit nothing solid as it went through the pleural cavity and sliced the President's trachea. When they conducted the autopsy, they did not know what had happened in the front until Dr. Humes called Dr. Perry--Malcolm Perry who had attended President Kennedy at Parkland. But, at any rate, the bullet according to Dr. Humes, passed between two large strap muscles (Here, he pointed to the back of his neck), as I say, but hit nothing solid..."
In an interview broadcast on CNN's Newsnight program later that night, moreover, he repeated this nonsense: "The bullet entered between two large strap muscles at the back of the president's neck, hit nothing solid, went through the pleural cavity, nicked his tie coming out."
So there it is. While someone may have caught Specter's error regarding the strap muscles while working on his 2000 memoir, it apparently wasn't Specter, as by 2003 he had returned to form. This, then, suggests that it was Specter's co-writer Charles Robbins who'd corrected his error for his memoirs, and that Specter has in fact never wavered from his grossly inaccurate claim the strap muscles mentioned by Humes in his Warren Commission testimony were on the back of Kennedy's neck, and probed at autopsy.
Specter's dishonesty and/or deluded image of himself was put on display yet again during his failed Senate campaign of 2010. A May 2 article found in the Lehigh Valley Morning Call reflects that Specter opened a debate with his primary opponent Joe Sestak by claiming: "I've been in public service for 43 years…and nobody has ever called me a liar. When he calls me a liar, that's out of bounds." This, of course, was nonsense. Writer Harold Weisberg called Specter a liar, in print and in public, for 40 years or so, defying Specter to sue him, so he could PROVE, in court, that Specter was a liar. Of course, Specter failed to respond. Even more telling, Oliver Stone, in his film JFK, called the single-bullet theory a lie, and Specter a liar, in a scene applauded by millions.
So how could Specter maintain no one had ever called him a liar? "Specter" and "liar" were as synonymous in many quarters as "Mama Cass" and "fat." He was either lying or had lost his grip.
Even after his departure from the Senate in 2011, moreover, Specter maintained the inexcusable. On February 21, 2011, an oral history interview of Specter conducted for PCN television was broadcast on C-Span. When discussing his first meeting with Humes, and the creation of the Rydberg drawings, Specter related "He asked if it would be helpful to have some artist's drawings of where the bullet entered, in the head, the shots. And we said 'Yeah, that would be helpful.' Later they came to be a cause celebre. We never did see the x-rays and the photos while the committee was conducting its investigation. I saw them years later when I was Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee."
Well, my, how convenient! His viewing the photo with Kelley had slipped his mind completely!
And that's not the worst of it. A few minutes later he once again discussed the make-believe strap muscles on the back of Kennedy's neck, and revealed that he'd not only learned little in the intervening years, but had actually grown ever more confused. When discussing his meeting with Dr. Humes on March 12, 1964, he claimed that Humes had told him "he'd looked at the bullet hole on the back of the President's neck, and put his finger in the hole, and (discovered) that the bullet had hit nothing solid, (and) had passed between two strap muscles, and he didn't know what happened."
It's shocking and sad, for that matter, how Specter, who'd once acknowledged that Humes had told him that the President's back muscles "would resist any probing effort and would not disclose the path of the bullet to probing fingers," and who took Humes' testimony, in which Humes claimed he was "unable...to take probes and have them satisfactorily fall through any definite path at this point," and who later admitted that the back wound could only be probed to "a very slight extent," ultimately came to claim that Humes' probing of the back wound revealed "that the bullet had hit nothing solid, (and) had passed between two strap muscles."
That this gross misrepresentation of the facts was quite possibly inadvertent was revealed, however, by some of the other whoppers told by Specter in the PCN interview. At one point, for example, Specter claimed that in their initial meeting Dr. Humes told him that 1) after the autopsy he'd "speculated that the (bullet creating the) hole in the President's throat...might have came in from the front and struck a vertebra and glanced up and caused the tremendous damage to the top of the President's head" and 2) that he'd abandoned this theory only after talking to Dr. Perry the next morning, and being told that the throat round observed by Perry (which Perry had cut through while making a tracheotomy incision) was"ragged," and appeared to be "a wound of exit."
Dr. Humes, of course, insisted to his dying day that he didn't know about the throat wound until he talked to Perry, and Perry, of course, insisted to his dying day that the throat wound appeared to be an entrance, whether or not it actually was an entrance.
Specter had clearly lost touch with what he had never fully grasped, and was presumably willing to lie about.
Legacy of a Lie
The 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination added another chapter to our ongoing discussion of Kennedy's back wound, and the probability Warren Commission counsel (and future Senator) Arlen Specter deliberately lied about its location to help prop up the single-assassin conclusion.
In his 2013 book, A Cruel and Shocking Act, New York Times reporter Philip Shenon revealed that he talked to Specter shortly before his death in October 2012 and asked him about his viewing the back wound photo before the May 1964 re-enactment. Specter's answer to Shenon was most illuminating, but the substance that was illuminated was strangely missed by Shenon. Specter reportedly told Shenon that he'd assumed Chief Justice Warren had asked Secret Service Inspector Thomas Kelley to show him the photo in order to "placate" him. Well, heck, that rules out Specter's not saying anything about the photo to the rest of the commission because he didn't want Warren to know he saw the photo.
And that's just the beginning. Reportedly, Specter also told Shenon that the photo he wanted to see in order to confirm the relative accuracy of the face sheet (which showed a wound on the back) and the Rydberg drawings (which showed a wound at the base of the neck) "resolved nothing" as the photo failed to show Kennedy's face. Reportedly, Specter then proceeded to complain that "I know what evidence is" and that his being shown the photo (which shows a wound on the back) in that manner was a "bunch of horseshit."
Sounds like Specter knew what his seeing the photo and doing nothing about it would mean for his legacy...
Still, his influence over Shenon seems apparent. When discussing Specter's 3-11-64 meeting with the autopsy doctors (which Shenon mistakenly places on 3-13-64), Shenon reports: "As the autopsy continued, the pathologists could see that the muscles in the front of the president's neck had been badly bruised--proof, they thought, that the bullet had passed through his neck and then exited out the front." But this, as we've seen, is gobbledygook. Dr. Humes made this clear in his testimony. The bruising of the strap muscles had led Humes to suspect the neck wound could be a missile wound, and this had led him to call Dr. Perry the next morning. Period. The bruising was not seen as "proof" the bullet exited out the front by Dr.s Humes and Boswell on the night of the autopsy. Period. And an experienced journalist like Shenon should have known as much... Specter's original memo on this meeting, we should recall, presented a different scenario. Of Dr.s Humes and Boswell, he wrote: "They noted, at the time of the autopsy, some bruising of the internal parts of the President's body in the area but tended to attribute that to the tracheotomy at that time." So yeah, it's quite clear. The doctors did not see the bruising of the strap muscles as "proof" the bullet came from behind on the night of the autopsy, Specter should not have told Shenon as much, and Shenon should not have repeated something which a mere modicum of research--such as reading Specter's memo on the meeting--would have proved to be inaccurate.
And that's not the last time Shenon, presumably unwittingly, buys into Specter's re-writing of history. A few pages later, while discussing Humes' testimony, Shenon discusses Specter's attempts at gaining access to the autopsy photos. He relates: "Humes had tried to be helpful by bringing along diagrams of the president's wounds prepared by a Navy sketch artist at Bethesda, but both he and Specter knew the drawings were based on Humes' imperfect memory." Well, this hides that 1) these drawings were created at the request of Joseph Ball, as well as Specter; 2) Ball had previously noted that the back wound appeared to be lower than the throat wound, and that this was a problem for the Oswald-did-it scenario; 3) the back wound in these drawings was now much higher than the throat wound; and 4) Specter induced testimony from Humes which suggested the measurements obtained at autopsy were used in the creation of these drawings, and that the drawings were therefore reasonably accurate.
It seems likely, then, that Shenon was too enamored with Specter to find what needed to be found, and see what needed to be seen. Specter had provided him access, and was thus granted a free pass. His questionable behavior was never even questioned.
It seems likely, for that matter, that Shenon wasn't the only one determined to defend Specter and the commission.
2013 also saw the release of History Will Prove Us Right, former Warren Commission attorney (and Specter college chum) Howard Willens' spirited defense of the commission. I took an interest in this book in October of that year, and was put in contact with Willens through an intermediate. Within our first exchanges, Willens was friendly enough; he readily acknowledged that the wound in the photo shown Specter was a back wound, and not a wound on the back of the neck. And yet, he expressed no interest in second-guessing Specter's actions while working for the commission. Not unlike Shenon with Specter, I suppose, I gave him a pass.
In November, however, I saw him on CNN, in its Bugliosi-fueled program The Assassination of President Kennedy. There, he described the back wound of our discussions as a wound "in the back of the neck." This surprised me. I wrote Willens pointing out his mistake, and received a response in which he acknowledged it as a mistake and once again admitted it was a back wound, and not a wound in or on the back of the neck. I once again gave him a pass.
I was probably being too generous. A 12-11-13 article in the Hudson Hub Times reported on a recent appearance by Willens at the Hudson Library in which he discussed the assassination. When asked about the commission's mistakes, he acknowledged: "Some of the diagrams were inaccurate." He then added: "Someone testified Kennedy was shot in the back of the neck but it was the back of the upper shoulder." Well, this came as another surprise. Was Willens really trying to push that the Rydberg drawings were inaccurate because the commission had been deceived by "someone's" inaccurate testimony? Now, one, this was but weeks after Willens himself had made an appearance on CNN in which he himself claimed Kennedy was shot in the back of the neck. So that's strange right there. I mean, was he also trying to blame "someone" for his more recent mistake? And, two, well, by blaming this mistake on "someone", Willens was concealing that this someone was Dr. James Humes, Kennedy's autopsist, and that Humes had been asked by the commission to explain how a bullet striking Kennedy's back could have exited his throat, and that he then, and only then, started claiming the wound was really in the back of the neck, and that, furthermore, oh yeah, Earl Warren and Arlen Specter at the very minimum looked at the autopsy photo, and knew for a fact this wound was really in the shoulder, and not the neck, well before the commission's report, in which this wound was repeatedly called a wound on the back of the neck, was published.
And Willens knew all this, moreover, because I had discussed this with him in a series of emails written but weeks before his appearance at the Hudson Library.
When I finally got around to reading Willens' book, for that matter, I found much much more that was suspicious.
On page 53, while discussing the Warren Commission's review of the FBI's report on the assassination, Willens relates: "One major issue that came up right away was the bureau's preliminary finding regarding the bullets that struck President Kennedy and wounded Governor Connally. The FBI concluded that two bullets had struck the president and a third had wounded Connally. To support this assessment, the FBI relied in part on the initial, but inaccurate, information from Parkland Hospital that the first bullet that hit Kennedy had not exited from his body."
Well, geez, as pointed out by writer Martin Hay in his devastating review of Willens' book, this is one of the most disturbingly inaccurate passages ever written about the medical evidence by a supposedly credible source. The Parkland doctors thought the throat wound was an entrance, and wondered if this bullet lodged in Kennedy's body. The FBI, in its report, made no reference whatsoever to this wound, and discussed instead a shallow back entry wound, which the autopsy doctors told them represented a wound made by a bullet that DID NOT enter the body.
Willens' "error", then, concealed that the autopsy doctors, upon whom the commission relied, could not find a passage into Kennedy's body for the bullet the commission would later claim passed through both Kennedy and Connally.
And this was no isolated incident, mind you, but the beginning of a disturbing pattern in which Willens concealed problems with the commission's work, and Specter's work in particular, from his readers.
Throughout his chapters on April and May, 1964, Willens describes Specter's attempts at gaining access to the autopsy materials. When one reads these chapters, however, one can't help but get the feeling he's hiding something. Here are a few of the things Willens avoids:
On page 170, Willens quotes liberally from Norman Redlich's April 27 memo describing the need for a re-enactment of the shooting. He skips over the following passage, however, in which Redlich's higher purpose is highlighted: "We have not yet examined the assassination scene to determine whether the assassin in fact could have shot the President prior to frame 190. We could locate the position on the ground which corresponds to this frame and it would then be our intent to establish by photography that the assassin could have fired the first shot at the President prior to this point. Our intention is not to establish the point with complete accuracy, but merely to substantiate the hypothesis which underlies the conclusions that Oswald was the sole assassin."
On page 150, Willens briefly discusses the April 30 Executive Session of the commission, and relates "Warren also seemed receptive to Rankin's proposal that a doctor and a commission member examine the autopsy photographs and X-rays so as to ensure the accuracy of the testimony of the autopsy doctors who did not have those materials available when they testified, but that the materials would not be included in the public record of the commission's proceedings." Note that he writes "seemed." Well, this avoids that Warren did not "seem" to agree, but did agree that such an inspection could occur. That this inspection was forthcoming is also avoided by Willens' failure to cite that "Rankin's" proposal was brought about by a memo from Specter, in which Specter stressed the necessity of viewing the photo of Kennedy's back wound so that the precise location of the wound and the precise trajectories of the shots could be calculated during the re-enactment. Willens makes no mention, moreover, of the May 12 memo from Specter which starts off "When the autopsy photographs and x-rays are examined, we should be certain to determine the following..." and thereby suggests that Specter had been told such an inspection was about to take place.
Despite referencing Specter's 2000 memoir Passion for Truth a whopping 19 times, including one reference to the page in which Specter discusses his viewing the photo of Kennedy's back wound on May 24, 1964, the day of the re-enactment, Willens never admits that Specter saw such a photo, and that the chalk mark used in the re-enactment to designate Kennedy's back wound location was quite clearly marked in accordance with the photo shown Specter. (Willens subsequently told me that he attached no importance to Specter's viewing of the photo.)
On page 173, when discussing the re-enactment, moreover, Willens writes "it wasn't simply the alignment of the two victims that strongly suggested it. (The single-bullet theory.) The angle of the bullet trajectory was also consistent with the bullet exiting Kennedy's neck and striking Connally's back." Uhhh, wait a second. The purpose of the re-enactment was NOT to determine if the angle of trajectory from the sniper's nest was consistent with a bullet exiting Kennedy's neck and then striking Connally's back, it was to determine if the angle was consistent with a bullet hitting Kennedy in the back where he was actually hit, then exiting from his neck where a tracheotomy wound was noted at autopsy, and THEN hitting Connally in the back where he was wounded. By removing Kennedy's back wound location from this series of wounds, Willens had taken a short-cut, a short-cut that wouldn't have been necessary, of course, if the back wound had actually aligned with the other wounds...
Now let's look at what Willens does tell us...
On page 199, Willens writes: "Securing testimony from Mrs. Kennedy had been difficult, but getting our hands on the autopsy photographs and X-rays proved even more so. Although the public might accept our delicate handling of Mrs. Kennedy, we doubted they would be sympathetic to our failure to get the hard evidence that the autopsy materials represented. The Kennedy family had deep, long-term, emotional interests at stake but, for us, it was much more difficult to take a pass on this issue. We all believed we could not back down. Most of the staff was convinced that the commission's failure to consider these materials carefully in its report would be used to attack our competence and integrity. Specter had taken the testimony of the three autopsy doctors three months earlier, at a time when neither he nor the doctors had access to the autopsy photos and X-rays. He and others were satisfied that the testimony of the doctors did accurately reflect the trajectory of the bullets and the nature of the wounds suffered by both Kennedy and Connally. However, the corpsman's sketch introduced during this testimony was inaccurate as to the location of the wounds and to that extent inconsistent with that testimony." WAIT. WHAT? While trying to defend the integrity of commission's staff, Willens lets on that they knew the "corpsman's" sketch--an obvious reference to CE 385--was inaccurate and inconsistent with the testimony of the doctors. Well, geez, this is interesting, seeing as NONE of these bastions of competence and integrity EVER said ANYTHING to indicate they'd thought the "corpsman's" drawings were inaccurate in the years after the assassination. And worse, far worse, this suggests that when Dr. Boswell in 1966 and Dr. Humes in 1967 went public, at the urging of the Johnson Administration Justice Department, to claim their review of the autopsy photos proved the drawings were accurate, "most" of the Warren Commission's staff knew they were blowing smoke.
Willens then proceeds to describe the memos written by Specter when he was preparing for the re-enactment. Willens then admits "At the commission meeting of April 30, Rankin obtained Warren's approval to try and obtain access to the X-rays and photos."
On page 200, he continues: "Unknown to Specter, the question of the commission's access to these materials was still unresolved when I met with Katzenbach on June 17." Well, this avoids that Specter was shown the back wound photo on May 24. In our personal correspondence, Willens told me Specter never told him he saw such a photo during the life of the commission, nor at any other time. And he also claimed that as of 1966 he didn't even know Specter had been shown the photo. But Willens had clearly read Specter's book. And he'd clearly taken notes. This leads me to suspect, then, that when writing his own book Willens knew full-well that Specter had viewed the back wound photo, and that he knew how this would appear to his readers, and that he thereby opted to leave this out of his narrative.
Willens continues: "I understood at this time that the attorney general had agreed to let Warren and Rankin see the autopsy materials. I urged Katzenbach to get Kennedy's approval for Specter rather than Rankin to examine them. I told him it was very important to have the most knowledgeable lawyer on the staff assume this responsibility and that Specter was known to the attorney general as the prosecutor who had successfully won the Roy Cohn Teamster case in Philadelphia." Well, this is also kinda suspicious. Specter's memos and the transcript of the April 30 executive session of the Warren Commission reflect that Specter's--and Rankin's--interest was in getting Dr. Humes access to the autopsy materials in order to confirm the accuracy of his testimony and the exhibits he'd had created. Willens mentions this on page 150. So why is Willens on page 200 telling his readers that the issue was getting Specter access to these materials? Was Willens trying to avoid that Warren had prohibited Dr. Humes--the man who'd pulled Kennedy's brain from his skull--from taking a quick peek at a photo of Kennedy's back?
"Katzenbach raised the question a few days later with Kennedy, who decided that Warren could view these materials on behalf the commission, but that no one else could be present and the X-rays and photographs would remain in the possession of the custodian who brought them. Kennedy was understandably wary of an opportunity to copy them." Now, this is strange. Katzenbach was deposed by the HSCA's Gary Cornwell on 8-4-78. He told Cornwell that Robert Kennedy's attitude towards the Warren Commission's investigation was as follows: "He found parts of it distasteful, maybe what Jackie did, I do not know, the whole autopsy business, revealing all that medical information he just found extremely distasteful. I would say I would have also under the circumstances. With respect to that kind of matter, he would ask 'Is it necessary?' and I would say 'Yes, it is. You know, we do not have to circulate those pictures around to everybody. Competent people have to examine them,' and so forth, and he would accept that." (HSCA 3 p 738). 14 years after discussing the autopsy photos with Robert Kennedy, Katzenbach testified that Robert Kennedy accepted that competent people needed to examine them! Now here, Willens, 35 years later, comes along to tell us that Katzenbach was not telling us the truth, and that Robert Kennedy had actually limited the number of people who could look at the photos to one--Earl Warren--who quite obviously lacked the competence to interpret them. Yikes. Either Willens was offering up a much-delayed correction to Katzenbach's testimony--when he was no longer around to argue--or he was defending Warren (and the Warren Commission), at the expense of Katzenbach and Robert Kennedy. In any event, this concern led me to ask Willens if he could publish any memos he'd written on Katzenbach's meeting with Robert Kennedy. He responded: "I did not prepare any report other than what might be in my personal journal on the subject, which would reflect only what I reported in the book about my conversation with Katzenbach and the concerns of the staff."
But this was misleading. There is no such report in Willens' journal. On 4-03-14, Willens published his personal journal on his website. His entry for 6-14-64 reads, in part: "(2) I spoke to the Deputy regarding the need for an appropriate member of the staff to gain access to the photographs made at the autopsy which the Attorney General was reluctant to have anyone see. At this time the Attorney General had agreed that the pictures could be seen by the Chief Justice, Mr. Rankin and one of the autopsy doctors." Now, wait a second. This is interesting already. RFK had said it was okay for Dr. Humes to look at the photos? So why did Willens leave this out of his book? Was he preparing his readers for when he subsequently claimed RFK told Katzenbach that Warren and Warren alone could look at the photos? In his journal, Willens continues: "I told Mr. Katzenbach that Mr. Rankin had no need or interest to see these pictures, but that it was important that one of the members of the staff, Mr. Specter, who had been working in this area, be given access to these pictures. I mentioned the fact that Mr. Specter was known to the Attorney General as the prosecutor who tried the Ray Cohn case in Philadelphia and indicated to Mr. Katzenbach that he was a reliable person. Mr. Katzenbach said he would discuss it with the Attorney General on Friday, June 19, when the Attorney General returned to town." And that's it. There is no follow-up entry reporting on the results of Katzenbach's discussion with Kennedy. Nothing. Nada. Bupkus. It follows, then, that Willens' claim Katzenbach told him RFK said Warren had to look at the photos alone has no basis other than Willens' faint recollections of a discussion almost half-a-century before, written for a book designed to defend Warren and his commission.
It's actually worse than that. In 1967, Edward J. Epstein, the author of Inquest, a 1966 book on the Warren Commission, for which Willens was interviewed, was himself interviewed for The Scavengers and Critics of the Warren Report, a stinging rebuke to his book written by Richard Lewis and Lawrence Schiller. On page 101, Epstein is quoted as follows: "The most interesting thing is that the Commission never saw the autopsy pictures and X rays, which are the basic evidence...When I was interviewing the lawyers, they all said they didn't see these, because Bobby Kennedy had refused to show them. But one of the lawyers, Howard Willens, checked his files and found Senator Kennedy never refused. It was Warren who didn't want to see them." So, hmmm, which are we to believe? Howard Willens' 50 years-on memories of something he never mentioned previously? For which he has no memos? And has no notes? Or Edward Epstein's 1 year-on memory of a discussion with Willens, for which Willens purportedly consulted his files? I would go with the latter.
And it's even worse than that. On August 17, 1992, U.S. News and World Report published an account of the Warren Commission's investigation, written with the input of the commission's staff, including Willens. The article reported: "the Kennedy family resisted releasing images of JFK's mutilated corpse, in part to avoid further pain. Indeed, Robert Kennedy refused invitations to testify. 'I don't care what they do,' he told an aide. 'It's not going to bring him back.' With no photos to show the paths of the bullets, Warren decided to use drawings, based on the autopsy surgeons' recollections. Staffers complained that he was being too deferential to the Kennedys. Unknown to the young lawyers, Willens, who worked for RFK at Justice, kept pushing for access to the photos and X-rays. RFK has often been portrayed as blocking their release. But in mid-June he agreed to let Warren, Rankin and the autopsy doctors review them." Now, Willens was the obvious source for this passage. And it is in keeping with his journal--that Kennedy initially agreed Warren, Rankin, and a doctor could view the images. But it says nothing of what Willens later pushed in his book--the part not in his journal--that RFK subsequently told Katzenbach Warren would have to view the photos all by his lonesome. Well, it follows then that Willens had pulled this part out of a dark place...and that he probably should have washed his hands afterwards.
In any event, in History Will Prove Us Correct, Willens continues: "Warren promptly arranged to have the materials brought to his chambers at the Supreme Court. He looked at them reluctantly and only briefly. He reported back to Rankin, and presumably the other commission members, that the photographs were so gruesome that he did not believe that they should be included among the commission's records." Well, wait a second. This is late June '64. On April 30, Warren and the commissioners had agreed that one of them should view the photos in the company of Dr. Humes. On May 24, Specter was shown the back wound photo. Specter told Shenon, moreover, that he suspected Warren had arranged for him to see the photo. Well, then, isn't if far more likely that Warren viewed the photos before allowing Specter to see the photo of the back wound, and at least a month before Willens presents him as viewing the photos? I mean, what's going on here? Why would Specter be pushing to see the autopsy materials in mid-June, weeks after he'd decided not to put his viewing of the back wound photo on the record, and weeks after he'd actually drawn testimony from Secret Service agent Thomas Kelley and FBI agent Lyndal Shaneyfelt suggesting both that the "inaccurate" "corpsman's" drawing was used during the re-enactment, and that the re-enactment supported its accuracy? Is Willens simply wrong, or is he blowing smoke? (There is, of course, no mention of Warren's viewing the photos in Willens' personal journal.)
"Due to Warren's extreme distaste for these materials and his previous commitment to publishing everything relied on by the commission, Rankin concluded that there was no possibility of Specter being permitted to view these materials to confirm the accuracy of Humes' earlier testimony." Well, this is another head-scratcher. It totally avoids that 1) the transcript of the April 30 executive session of the commission reveals that Warren and Rankin AGREED that they could view the autopsy materials without publishing them, as long as they were using them to confirm previous testimony, and 2) the issue was not whether Specter would be allowed to view the materials, but whether Dr. Humes--the man for whom the materials had been created in the first place--could view the materials.
On page 201, Willens further claims: "Specter did not learn that Warren had examined the autopsy materials until long after the commission report was filed." Now, this is interesting. If true, it suggests that Specter was afraid to say anything when shown the back wound photo in Dallas, and only later came to suspect Warren was behind his being shown the photo. If true, this suggests a surprising scenario, one so ironic it just might be true--that Specter was afraid to correct the record after seeing the back wound photo because he assumed Warren would not approve of this correction, while Warren took Specter's silence as an indication no correction was necessary.
Willens' fuzziness on this issue was demonstrated yet again in what will almost certainly be his final word on the subject. The Summer 2016 issue of American Scholar featured an article by Willens and his recently-departed commission colleague, Richard Mosk. Here is their passage on the withholding of the autopsy photos: "Despite the lack of any contrary evidence, the single-bullet theory became one of the most challenged aspects of our findings, in part because the commission did not publish the x-rays and photographs underlying the report of the autopsy doctors. These doctors testified before the commission about their examination and the conclusions set forth in their report, but they did not have the images with them when they testified. Warren had earlier decided that the “horrible” photos should not be used by the autopsy doctors because of his earlier commitment to make public any material relied upon by commission witnesses. He believed that the publication of these images was unnecessary and would deeply offend the Kennedy family. Most of us regarded that decision, understandable at the time, as a mistake. The absence of detailed images prompted widespread criticism and debate about the nature of the wounds, the source of the shots, and the validity of the single-bullet theory." Well, notice first that Willens and Mosk conceal that Warren prohibited the doctors from reviewing the autopsy x-rays and photographs at any time during the Warren Commission's investigation, before and after their testimony, and instead make it sound like the doctors were simply not permitted to use them during their testimony. And notice second that Willens and Mosk completely avoid Warren and Specter's acknowledgments they personally viewed the back wound photo they'd prevented the doctors from viewing.
There's also this to consider. In his posthumously-published memoirs, Earl Warren writes: "In the last few years, although conspiratorial theories have borne no fruit, an attack has been made on the fact that pictures of the badly mutilated head of the President taken for the doctors do not appear in the records of the Commission now on file in the National Archives. It has been contended that the reason these pictures were not filed was because they would show that the shots which struck the President did not come from behind and above him. While I have never before entered into that discussion, I feel that it is appropriate to do so because I am solely responsible for the action taken, and still am certain that it was the appropriate thing to do. The President was hardly buried before people with ghoulish minds began putting together artifacts of the assassination for the purpose of establishing a museum on the subject. They offered as much as ten thousand dollars for the rifle alone...They also, of course, wanted the pictures of his head...I saw the pictures when they came from Bethesda Naval Hospital, and they were so horrible that I could not sleep well for nights. Accordingly, in order to prevent them from getting into the hands of these sensationmongers, I suggested that they not be used by the Commission..."
First, note the self-righteousness. Second, note that Warren focuses our attention on the photos of the head wound, and how horrible they are. Well, this totally avoids that he also prevented the public from seeing a photo of the back wound, or even a tracing of a photo of the back wound, or even a drawing made by someone who'd recently looked at a photo of the back wound. Third, note that he fails to admit that others had argued and that he'd agreed that the photos could be viewed by Dr. Humes and a commissioner without being published by the commission. Fourth, note how he says he "suggested" the photos not be used by the commission, when he in fact made the decision all by his lonesome, against the previously-stated wishes of his fellow commissioners.
Well, when someone self-righteously tells us something that fails to acknowledge or align with the known facts I call that lying.
Chief Justice Earl Warren lied about his reasons for not letting Humes view the photos. Arlen Specter lied about his reasons for not telling people what was shown in the photo he saw. And now we have Howard Willens risking his own reputation to cover for them...
Which brings us back to Warren... Fifth, note that Warren says nothing of Robert Kennedy's requesting he view the photos alone.
Well, this suggests the possibility that Warren and Specter weren't the only liars working for the commission...
And yet... I suspect Howard Willens is not lying, at least in the way most would assume he is lying, where he knows he's lying.
Let me explain. While Willens' many "errors" smell like lies, they seem, to me, too brazen, and more probably a reflection of Willens' innate inability to come to grips with the many problems with the single-bullet theory, the theory upon which the Warren Commission's conclusions--and thus, Willens' reputation--rests. In our private correspondence, he insisted that he attached no importance to Specter's viewing of the autopsy photo, as he believed the location of the back wound in the photo to be fully compatible with the single-bullet theory. He had no interest in discussing this any further, of course. To his mind, the single-bullet theory works. Period. End of debate. Well, to my mind, this qualified him as a man in denial, terrible, terrible, denial, who is constitutionally unable to process and honestly present the medical evidence.
So...at least for now, I'm giving the old man a pass...sort of. I mean, I know a lot of old geezers, myself included, who would much rather be called a liar than someone whose brain is unable to understand their own history.
I am being generous on this. When one reflects on the comments of the Warren Commission's staff over the years, one is struck by an astounding fact. None of them have ever publicly acknowledged that Warren and Specter admitted they'd looked at a photo showing the wound to be in the back, and then said nothing when the commission subsequently published drawings in which it was presented at the base of the neck. In fact, as Willens, they have twisted themselves into knots to avoid doing so. As but one example, in his final book on the subject, Final Disclosure, David Belin admitted that Warren had made a mistake in not "submitting the physical evidence" (which in this context means the autopsy photos and x-rays) "to us" (which in this context means the staff). He then suggests this was because Warren had yielded to "the desires of the Kennedy family", and that the family had thereby "denied"the commission the opportunity to study the "best evidence". He then claims "Warren directed that the physicians furnish us their own drawings, which depicted what the photographs and x-rays showed" and concludes "this shortsighted decision helped breed the various false theories of assassination sensationalists."
Well, heck. Let's fill in what he leaves out. Final Disclosure was written in 1988. By 1988, it had already been established that 1) Warren and Specter had both seen the back wound photo before the publication of the commission's exhibits misrepresenting the location of the wound, and had had plenty of opportunity to correct this "mistake"; 2) it was not the Kennedy family but Warren himself who made the decision to withhold the photos and x-rays from both the staff outside Specter, and the doctors who'd created the photos and x-rays, for their own use; and 3) the problem was not that drawings that "depicted what the photographs and x-rays showed" were submitted instead of the photos, but that the drawings were created after Rankin said the commission would be seeking "help" from the doctors in explaining how the shots came from above, and that the back wound in these drawings was, hmmm, at the base of the neck, inches higher on the back than depicted in the photos, and that this "mistake" just so happened to "help" explain how the shots came from above.
It seems clear, then, that Belin, in 1988, the 25th anniversary of the assassination, and then, Willens, in 2013, the 50th anniversary of the assassination, were running cover for Warren and Specter, and the commission as a whole. Belin, I suspect, knew exactly what he was doing. Willens, I'm not so sure.
Specter, well, he's in even worse shape than Belin.
Yes...to be clear, while it seems possible the octogenarian Willens was only deeply confused about the medical evidence, it seems near certain that a thirty-something Specter LIED about the back wound location. The back wound photo Specter begged to see and was finally shown shows a wound on the back, inches below the "base of the back of the neck," where Specter long claimed it resided--even after viewing the photo. When taken in conjunction with Specter's related behavior--his failure to tell the Warren Commission the back wound was not where it is shown in the Rydberg drawings, his taking testimony (which he knew to be untrue) suggesting that the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings had been confirmed by the May 1964 re-enactment, and his deferring to the accuracy of the autopsy measurements when speaking to U.S. News in 1966 (when the question was on the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings)--his repeatedly claiming the wound was at the base of the neck when it was really inches lower on the back makes it abundantly clear that he lied, with the intention to deceive, in order to support the accuracy of the Rydberg drawings and convince the public the back wound was in a location consistent with his "Single-Bullet Conclusion."