JAHS Chapter 4
On 11-25, the next morning, President Johnson met with Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr, who'd flown in for Kennedy's funeral. In his book, Texas Politics in my Rearview Mirror, Carr described this meeting as follows: "Before going to the cathedral for the funeral, I talked with a White House staff member and explained that Texas laws authorized a Court of Inquiry--which I could convene as the Attorney General--to establish the facts surrounding the assassination through a public hearing. After talking with the President, and getting his approval, the staff member instructed me to call a press conference, and say only that I would hold a Court of Inquiry on the assassination as soon as I returned to Texas. He emphasized that I should limit my remarks to those simple facts and not reveal, under any circumstances, that I had discussed this with the White House or had White House approval. I agreed and called to make arrangements for what I thought would be a very short speech to a small group of Texas reporters." Carr's words confirm what should already be clear--that Johnson was anxious to avoid any suspicion he was supervising the investigation of Kennedy's murder. They also reveal a related, but less obvious point--that most everyone was looking to him to take charge of the investigation, even though his doing so represented a clear conflict of interest.
After Carr left the White House, at 10:30 AM EST President Johnson spoke to J. Edgar Hoover about the mounting pressure to create a Presidential Commission. He assured Hoover: "Now we can't be checking up on every shooting scrape in the country, but they've gone to the Post now to get them an editorial, and the Post is calling up and saying they're going to run an editorial if we don't do things. Now we're going to do two things and I wanted you to know about it. One: we believe that the way to handle this as we said yesterday--your suggestion--that you put every facility at your command, making a full report to the Attorney General and then they make it available to the country in whatever form may seem desirable. Second: It's a state matter, too, and this State Attorney General is young and able and prudent and very cooperative with you--he's going to run a court of inquiry which is provided for by a state law and he's going to have associated with him the most outstanding jurists in the country..." Johnson then proposed to Hoover that "any influence you got with the Post, have them point to them that you don't want too many things...and sometimes a Commission that's not trained hurts more than it helps," to which Hoover responded "I don't have much influence with the Post because frankly I don't read it. I view it like The Daily Worker." (The newspaper of the American Communist Party.)
Immediately after talking to Hoover, Johnson talked to influential newspaper columnist Joe Alsop. Johnson tried to build support for his plan. When Alsop questioned Johnson if somebody outside of Texas was gonna look into the shooting, Johnson slapped him down, telling Alsop "this is under Texas law and they take all the involvements and we don't send in a bunch of carpet-baggers. That's the worst thing you could do right now." (Johnson, it should be noted, was not nearly as concerned about Texas law when it required that he allow Texas authorities an inspection of the President's corpse and limousine.) When Alsop began to explain that nobody was lobbying him to create a Presidential Commission, Johnson snapped "They're not lobbying you, they're lobbying me...last night. I spent the day on it...I had to leave Mrs. Kennedy's side at the White House and call and ask the Secret Service and FBI to proceed immediately...I spent most of my day on this thing, yesterday. I had the Attorney General from Texas fly in here. I spent an hour and a half with him yesterday evening. I talked to the Justice Dept. lawyers and to the FBI and the FBI is of the opinion that the wisest, quickest, ablest, most effective way to go about it is for them to thoroughly study it and bring in a written report to the Attorney General at the earliest possible date which they've been working on since 12:30 yesterday."When Alsop proceeded to point out that there were many others demanding some sort of oversight of the investigation, Johnson insisted "My lawyers, though, Joe, tell me that the White House must not ...the President...must not inject himself into local killings." Alsop responded "I'm not talking about an investigative body, I am talking about a body which will take all the evidence the FBI has amassed when they have completed their inquiry and produce a public report on the death of the President."When asked why the FBI couldn't do this itself, Alsop explained "on the left they won't believe the FBI...and the FBI doesn't write very well." Johnson then asked if he meant that Katzenbach should oversee it, and Alsop responded "I just wouldn't put it on Bobby and Nick Katzenbach...I'd have it outside...I think it's unfair to put it on Bobby...it is his own brother's death." To which Johnson agreed: "Not going to touch it on Bobby."
From this sprang the Warren Commission. Thus, the Warren Commission was born just before Kennedy's body was buried.
Now here's where I would normally make some snarky comment about the truth being buried along with his body. But let's not go there. No, let's instead honor the dead with these photos of the march to Kennedy's funeral mass...
and the moments that followed the mass...
and compare those with these photos of Oswald's funeral...
If Oswald had been hoping that by killing Kennedy, he would somehow become a "big man", as so many would later muse, he had sorely miscalculated.
The eternal flame by Kennedy's grave was lit at 3:13 PM EST. (Oswald's casket was in the ground by nightfall...)
With his break from power concluded, and his pursuit of power resumed, moreover, President Johnson used the evening to energize some of his biggest supporters, many of whom had flown in for the funeral. Unfortunately, he was still so firmly in the dark regarding just what happened in Dallas that he told a crowd of Governors that Texas Governor John Connally, who'd been sitting in front of Kennedy in the limousine and had been wounded in his chest, right wrist, and thigh, had had his left hand blown offby the impact of Oswald's rifle.
(California Governor Pat Brown is the source of that tidbit...)
And yet, even so, the situation was clear enough to Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach that he wrote a memo to press secretary Bill Moyers informing him that "The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin, that he did not have confederates who are still at large, and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial" and, stunningly, "Speculation about Oswald's motivation ought to be cut off." The investigation into whether or not the man who murdered Oswald in front of a basement full of cops and cameras, Jack Ruby, was trying to silence Oswald was only beginning, and yet Katzenbach wanted the press to tell the American people Oswald had no confederates! Elsewhere in the memo, Katzenbach mentions the possibility of the President creating a Commission to look into the killings and concludes "We need something to head off public speculation or Congressional hearings of the wrong sort." One can only conclude from this that Johnson at least initially viewed the assassination as a political situation that needed to be controlled, and not as a crime that needed to be solved, and that the Warren Commission was a vehicle to implement this desire. How else could he be certain that the Commission would not conduct hearings of the "wrong sort?"
To be fair, it should be noted that the "speculation of the wrong sort" so feared by Katzenbach had already begun. An 11-25 newspaper column in the St. Louis Democrat by former Major General Thomas Lane, an outspoken right-wing critic of the Kennedy Administration, surmises that, as "the assassination of President Kennedy would jeopardize larger communist interests", "the assassin had orders to shoot Gov. Connally and that he continued to fire until he did so." It then concludes: "In summary, the available information suggests that the communist underground directed the assassination of Gov. Connally; that Lee Harvey Oswald bungled the job and killed President Kennedy by mistake; and that Jack Ruby murdered Oswald to protect himself and the communist underground."(This column is notable not only because it undermines the oft-repeated factoid that the earliest conspiracy theorists were leftists, but because it undermines the oft-repeated argument among leftists that no one on the right would want to kill Kennedy because Kennedy was, at his core, an anti-communist and a hawk. Perhaps Noam Chomsky and others holding this view and believing that, in essence, no one on the right would want to kill Kennedy because he wasn't worth killing, should have ran their "pet theory" anti-theory past the likes of Major General Lane, who so adamantly believed Kennedy was so far to the left that no leftist would want to kill him.)
In any event, it seems clear the assassination and subsequent confusion had triggered something within the country, whereby people and institutions were now projecting onto the chaotic events not what actually had happened, but what they on some deep level wanted to believe had happened. The New York Times, the premier newspaper of its day, for example, came to a journalistically indefensible decision in the aftermath of Oswald's murder, by treating it as the end of a trail, instead of the beginning of an even darker trail. Yes, in a scene straight out of Orwell's 1984, the 11-25-63 morning edition of the "grey lady" both convicted Oswald without a trial by declaring "PRESIDENT'S ASSASSIN SHOT TO DEATH" and cut off speculation about Ruby's motivation by describing him as a "Dallas Citizen" "who admired Kennedy."
An 11-25 memo about the Katzenbach memo is also quite revealing. This memo, from the FBI's Courtney Evans to his boss Alan Belmont, notes that Katzenbach said it was prepared "after his discussions with the Director (Hoover) yesterday." The memo then goes on to say that Katzenbach felt "that this matter can best be handled by making public the results of the FBI's investigation...he was thinking in terms of the end of the week if at all possible." Belmont, in turn, wrote his own memo to William Sullivan, who was leading the investigation into Oswald's Russian contacts. After referring to the investigation as the "Oswald case" as opposed to the investigation of the murder of the President, Belmont wrote "this report should include everything which may raise a question in the mind of the public or the press...this report is to settle the dust, in so far as Oswald and his activities are concerned, both from the standpoint that he is the man who assassinated the president, and relative to Oswald himself and his activities...the Director desires that it be out as quickly as possible."
And it's not as if this rush to judgment was a secret. In 1999, Russian President Boris Yeltsin supplied President Bill Clinton with a number of previously secret KGB files on the assassination. Included among these files was an 11-25-63 report written by Russian Diplomat Anastas Mikoyan on his trip to Washington for Kennedy's funeral. Mikoyan concluded: "Judging from everything, the U.S. government does not want to involve us in this matter, but neither does it want to get into a fight with the extreme rightists; it clearly prefers to consign the whole business to oblivion as soon as possible."
And the government wasn't alone in its rush to judgment. Oswald's brother Robert would later reveal that he had difficulty even burying his brother because "One cemetery after another refused even to discuss the possibility of accepting Lee's body" and that "I was astonished by the reactions of the ministers I talked to. The first one, the second one, the third one and the fourth one flatly refused even to consider my request." One of them told him that he wouldn't perform even a simple service because "Your brother was a sinner." Ultimately, after "The Lutheran minister who had promised to be there at four had not appeared, and the Secret Service received word that he would not be coming out" the Rev. Louis Saunders, who'd come out just to see if he could be of help to the family, performed the service.
And here's another head-scratcher... While only the day before federal officials were anxious to find out everything they could about Oswald and present the evidence for his guilt to the public, by the time of Oswald's burial the thinking had become that he was dead and buried, and so was the case against him. A New York Times article by Fred Powledge (found in the next day's paper) reports:
Dallas Nov. 25 — Dallas authorities were willing today to make public all their physical evidence connecting Lee H. Oswald with the murder of President Kennedy, but the revelation was postponed at the suggestion of Federal officials here and in Washington.
Two local authorities involved in the case, Chief of Police Jesse Curry and the Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade said they would like to place the evidence before the public. Both men added, however, that they would not do so if authorities in Washington wished otherwise.
Justice Department sources in Washington said that when they discuss a subject of such grave importance as the Oswald case they must be absolutely correct.
They said no pressure had been brought on officials here. They expressed confidence that all the evidence would eventually be made public.
Hmmm. Perhaps these "Federal officials" were beginning to believe that the evidence against Oswald was not as convincing as they'd thought...only the day before. Or Perhaps they were simply trying to avoid embarrassment. The FBI, after all, had concluded there were no legible prints on Oswald's rifle. And Wade, in the press conference the night before, had claimed there was a palm print on the underside of the rifle. Placing the evidence before the public, then, might expose either that Wade had lied, or that the FBI had somehow missed the most damning evidence against Oswald. And no one wanted that.
Above: CBS Newsman Dan Rather, describing the Zapruder film on television. Rather's reporting was filled with errors, and yet his career took off like a rocket.
Meanwhile, in radio and TV land, a whole new reign of error was beginning. CBS newsman Dan Rather, after viewing the home movie of the assassination taken by Abraham Zapruder, rushed back to the studio to describe the film for CBS News' radio and television audience. His description was to have many unfortunate consequences. (This first transcript was published by Richard Trask in Pictures of the Pain.)
Dan Rather (Radio Take 1): "Well, let me tell you then, give you a word picture of the motion picture we have just seen. The President's automobile which was preceded by only one other car containing Secret Service Agents...the President's open black Lincoln automobile made a turn, a left turn off of Houston Street in Dallas onto Elm Street, this was right on the fringe area of the downtown area. This left turn was made right below the window from which the shot was fired...as the car made the turn, completed the turn--went below the window from which this shot was fired...went on past the building--keep in mind the window was on the sixth floor...it got about 35 yards from the base of the building...that is if you had dropped a plumb line from the window to the sidewalk to...the President's car was around 35 yards from that spot...President Kennedy had just put his right hand up to the side of his right eye. It appeared that he was perhaps brushing back his hair or rubbing his eyebrow. Mrs. Kennedy was not looking in his direction. In front of them in the jump seat of the Lincoln...were Governor and Mrs. Connally. The Governor, as was the President, was on the side of the car of the building in which the assassin was located. Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally were on the opposite side. Two Secret Service men on the front seat...At almost the instant the President put his hand up to his eyebrow...on the right side of his face, with Mrs. Kennedy looking away, the President lurched forward just a bit. Uh, it was obvious he had been hit in the movie but you had to be looking very closely in order to see it. Mrs. Kennedy did not appear to be aware that he was hit but Governor Connally in the seat just in front of the President, seemingly heard the shot...or sensed that something was wrong...Governor Connally, whose coat button was open, turned in such a way to extend his right hand out towards the President and the Governor seemed to have a look on his face that might say "What is it? What happened?" And as he turned he exposed his entire shirt front and chest because his coat was unbuttoned...at that moment a shot very clearly hit that part of the Governor. He was wounded once with a chest shot, this we now know...Uh, the Governor fell back in his seat...Mrs. Connally immediately fell over the Governor. Uh, I say fell, she threw herself over the Governor and at that instant the second shot the third shot total but the second shot hit President Kennedy and there was no doubt there, his head...went forward with considerable violence."
(Note: Rather's description here is quite controversial. As Kennedy's head actually goes slightly forward, and then back and to the left with considerable violence, many see his saying that Kennedy went forward with considerable violence as a deliberate lie designed to sell the American people that the fatal shot came from behind. If it is true that Rather was trying to sell the American people the single-assassin scenario, however, it back-fired, as he also claimed the film showed Connally being hit well after Kennedy had first been hit, which is in conflict with the single-bullet theory so central to the single-assassin conclusion.)
Rather then described the aftermath of the shooting: "Mrs. Kennedy stood up immediately her mouth wide open...The President slumped over against Mrs. Kennedy almost toppling her over as she was standing...Mrs. Kennedy then threw herself out of the back seat of the car onto the trunk of the car almost on all fours...stretched out over the trunk of the car...There was a Secret Service man standing on the back bumper. It would appear that Mrs. Kennedy was either trying to get herself out of what she knew instinctively was danger or perhaps was trying to grab the Secret Service man and pull him into the back seat of the car for help. At any rate Mrs. Kennedy was prone, uh face down on the back of the car on the trunk...The Secret Service man leaned over put his hands on her shoulders and shoved her back into the car. He seemed to be in danger of perhaps rolling or falling off the back. A Secret Service man in the front seat of the car uh was already on the telephone perhaps he had been on the phone all along it was not clear and the car sped away."
Rather then answered a few questions from his fellow newsmen Richard Hotelett and Hughes Rudd. When asked if the limo ever stopped, he replied "The car never stopped, it never paused." When asked the length of the film, he replied "Well, the complete scene that I just described to you covers exactly 20 seconds--that is from the time the car made the turn until the car disappeared onto an underpass."When asked if the President was hit twice, he then added: "It was very clear that the President was hit twice. He was hit, Governor Connally was hit and the Gov...uh the President was hit again." When asked the length of the shooting sequence itself, he then offered: "No more than five seconds and I...am inclined to think slightly less than that perhaps."
(Note: when all is said and done, this was perhaps Rather's biggest mistake. By assuming that the fatal head shot was the third shot, and timing the shooting sequence from the first hit to the final hit, without accepting that there could have been a miss--without studying the eyewitness testimony, moreover, to see that there very likely was a miss--Rather thoroughly misled the public.)
Rather was then rushed onto television to describe the film to Walter Cronkite during CBS News' ongoing coverage of the assassination and aftermath. The time was approximately 4:07 PM EST. (Transcript created from the video on Youtube.)
Dan Rather (TV Take 1): "We have just returned from seeing a complete motion picture of the moments preceding, and the moments of, President Kennedy’s assassination and the shooting of Texas Governor John Connally. Here is what the motion picture shows. The automobile, the black Lincoln convertible, with the top down - carrying, in the front seat, two secret service agents; in the middle, or jump seat, the Governor and Mrs. Connally; and, in the rear seat, President and Mrs. Kennedy – made a turn off of Houston Street, on the fringe of downtown Dallas, on to Elm Street. This was a left turn and was made right in front of the building from which the assassin’s bullet was fired. After making the turn, and going about 35 yards from the corner of the building – six stories up in which the assassin had a window open – and keep in mind here that President Kennedy and Governor Connally are seated on, both on the same side of the car, on the side facing the building. Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally are on the side of the car away from the assassin. About 35 yards from the base of the building, President Kennedy, in the film, put his hand up to the right side of his face, the side facing the assassin. He seemingly wanted to brush back his hair, or perhaps rub his eyebrow. Mrs. Kennedy at this moment was looking away, or looking straight ahead. She was not looking at her husband. At that moment, when the President had his right hand up to this side of his face (gestures), he lurched just a bit forward. It was obvious that the first shot had hit him. Mrs. Kennedy was not looking at him, nor did she appear to know at that instant that her husband had been hit. Governor Connally, in the seat immediately in front of the President, apparently either heard the shot or sensed that something was wrong because, Governor Connally, with his coat open, his button was undone, turned in this manner (turns back to his right with right arm extended), his hand outstretched, back toward the President; and the Governor had a look on his face that would indicate he perhaps was saying “What’s wrong?” or “What happened?” or “Can I help?” or something. But as Governor Connally was turned this way, his white shirt front exposed well to the view of the assassin, the Governor was obviously hit by a bullet, and he fell over to the side. Governor Connally’s wife, immediately, seemingly instantaneously, placed herself over her husband in a protective position, it appeared; and as Governor Connally fell back, President Kennedy was still leaned over. At that moment another bullet obviously hit the head of the President. The President’s head went forward, violently, in this manner (gestures). Mrs. Kennedy, at that instant, seemed to be looking right-square at her husband. She stood up. The President slumped over to the side and, I believe, brushed against Mrs. Kennedy’s dress. Mrs. Kennedy immediately turned and flung herself on the trunk of the automobile, face-down on the trunk, almost on all-fours. The First Lady appeared to be either frantically trying to get the secret service man who was riding on the bumper of the car - the single secret service man riding on that bumper - to come into the car or to tell him what had happened; or perhaps, from the picture, it appeared she might have been trying to get out of the car some way. The car never stopped. The secret service man in the front seat had a telephone in his hand. The car…its acceleration increased rapidly and it disappeared under an underpass. Three shots - the first one hitting President Kennedy, the second one hitting Governor Connally, the third one hitting the President – consumed, possibly, five seconds. Not much more than that, if any. That is the scene shown in about twenty seconds of film that the FBI has in its possession. The film was taken by an amateur photographer who was in a very advantageous position, and who had his camera trained on the President’s car from the time it made the turn in front of the assassin until it disappeared on its way to the hospital. This is Dan Rather in Dallas."
A short time later, he once again described the film to Cronkite. The time was approximately 4:21 PM EST. (Transcript created from the video on Youtube).
Dan Rather (TV Take 2): "We have just returned from seeing a complete motion picture of the moments immediately preceding, and the moments of, President Kennedy’s assassination. The motion picture shows the limousine carrying: in the front seat, two secret service men; in the middle, or jump seat, Governor and Mrs. John Connally of Texas; and, in the rear seat, President and Mrs. Kennedy; a single secret service man standing on the back bumper; the top of the black Lincoln convertible down. The car made a turn, a left turn, off of Houston Street, on to Elm Street, on the fringe of Dallas’ down-town area; that turn made directly below the sixth floor window from which the assassin’s bullets came. After the left turn was completed, the automobile, with only one car in front of it - a secret service car immediately in front – the President’s car proceeded about 35 yards from the base of the building in which the assassin was. President Kennedy and Governor Connally were seated on the same side of the open car, the side facing the building: Mrs. Kennedy and Mrs. Connally on the side of the car opposite the assassin. President Kennedy is clearly shown to put his right hand up to the side of his face as if to either brush back his hair, or perhaps rub his eyebrow. Mrs. Kennedy at that instant is looking away, and is not looking at the President. At almost that instant, when the President has his hand up to this side of his face (gestures), he lurches forward something in this manner (gestures): The first shot had hit him. Mrs. Kennedy appeared not to notice. Governor Connally, in the seat right in front of the President – by the way, the Governor had his suit coat open, his suit was not buttoned – perhaps either heard the shot or somehow he knew something was wrong because the picture shows just after that first shot hit the President, the Governor turned in something this manner, with his right arm stretched back toward the President, as if to say “What’s wrong?” or “What happened?” or say something. It exposed the entire white front shirt of the Governor to the full view of the assassin’s window; and as the Governor was in this position, and President Kennedy behind him was slumped slightly over, a shot clearly hit the front of Governor Connally; and the Governor fell back over toward his wife. Mrs. Connally immediately put herself over her husband in a protective position, and as she did so, in the back seat, this time with Mrs. Kennedy’s eyes apparently right on her husband, the second shot – the third shot in all – the second shot hit the President’s head. His head went forward, in a violent motion, pushing it down like this (leans forward, lowering his head as he does so). Mrs. Kennedy was on her feet immediately. The President fell over in this direction (leans to his left). It appeared his head probably brushed or hit against Mrs. Kennedy’s legs. The First Lady almost immediately tried to crawl on – did crawl on - to the trunk of the car, face-down, her whole body almost was on that trunk, in something of an all-fours position. She appeared to be either trying to desperately get the attention of the secret service man on the back bumper, or perhaps she was stretching out toward him to grab him, to try to get him in. Or perhaps even trying to get herself out of the car. But the car was moving all the time, and the car never stopped. The secret service man on the back bumper leaned way over and put his hands on Mrs. Kennedy’s shoulders – she appeared to be in some danger of falling or rolling off that trunk lid. He pushed her back into the back seat of the car. In the front seat, a secret service man was with a phone in his hand. The car speeded up and sped away. It never stopped, the car never paused. That’s what the film of the assassination showed. The film was taken by an amateur photographer who had placed himself in an advantageous position: eight millimeter color film. This is Dan Rather in Dallas."
And that wasn't the last of it. Several hours later (one source claims at 8:26 PM EST) Rather described the film to Cronkite for a third and final time, and compounded his mistakes. (Transcript created from the video on Youtube.)
Dan Rather (TV Take 3): "The films we saw were taken by an amateur photographer, who had a particularly good vantage point, just past the building from which the fatal shot was fired. The films show President Kennedy's open, black limousine, making a left turn, off Houston Street on to Elm Street on the fringe of downtown Dallas, a left turn made just below the window in which the assassin was waiting. About 35 yards past the very base of the building, just below the window, President Kennedy could be seen to, to put his right hand, up to the side of his head to, either brush back his hair or perhaps rub his eyebrow. President Kennedy was sitting on the same side of the car, as the building from which the shot came. Mrs. Kennedy was by his side. In the jump seat in front of him, Mrs. Connally, and Governor Connally, Governor Connally on the same side of the car as the president. And in the front seat, two Secret Service men. Just as the president put that right hand up to the side of his head, he, you could see him, lurch forward. The first shot had hit him. Mrs. Kennedy was looking in another direction, and apparently didn't see, or sense the first shot, or didn't hear it. But Governor Connally, in the seat in front, appeared to have heard it, or at least sensed that something was wrong. The Governor's coat was open. He, he reached back in this fashion, exposing his white shirt front to the assassin’s window, reached back as if to, to offer aid or ask the president something. At that moment, a shot clearly hit the governor, in the front, and he fell back in his seat. Mrs. Connally immediately threw herself over him in a protective position. In the next instant, with this time Mrs. Kennedy apparently looking on, a second shot, the third total shot, hit the president's head. He, his head can be seen to move violently forward. And, Mrs. Kennedy stood up immediately, the president leaned over her way. It appeared that he might have brushed her legs. Mrs. Kennedy then, literally went on the top of the trunk, of the Lincoln car, p-put practically her whole body on the trunk. It, it appeared she might have been on all fours, there, reaching out for the Secret Service man, the lone Secret Service man who was riding on the bumper of the car, the back bumper on Mrs. Kennedy's side. Uh, the Secret Service man leaned forward and put his hands on Mrs. Kennedy's shoulder to, push her back into the car. She was in some danger, it appeared, of rolling off or falling off. And when we described this before, there was some question about what we meant by Mrs. Kennedy being on the trunk of the car. Only she knows, but it appeared that she was trying desperately to, to get the Secret Service man's attention or perhaps to help pull him into the car. The car never stopped, it never paused. In the front seat, a Secret Service man was, was on the telephone. The car picked up speed, and disappeared beneath an underpass. This is Dan Rather in Dallas."
(Note: in this, his fourth and final description of the Zapruder film, Rather repeated his inaccurate claim Kennedy's head went forward in response to the fatal head shot, but retreated from his speculation Mrs. Kennedy climbed onto the back of the limo while instinctively running from danger. In his 1977 book, The Camera Never Blinks, in which he acknowledged his mistake about the movement of Kennedy's head, but mistakenly claimed that he viewed the film on Saturday the 23rd, Rather did shed some light on something of interest: the reasons for his retreat. He admitted that "an editor" in New York told him to "leave out the part about her trying to flee." And that he did.)
Now, for those not cognizant of just how wrong Wrong-Way Rather was (now that's a bit of a tongue-twister--try saying that real fast), here's a clip from the Zapruder film showing what Rather called the "violently forward" movement of Kennedy's head upon impact.
Now, in this slowed-down clip, if one really strains, one might be able to make out that Kennedy's head moves slightly forward upon impact, before exploding backwards and to the left. But that's not what Rather was talking about, was it? Somehow, he took away from viewing this film that the bullet had impacted Kennedy's head from behind, and had knocked him forward. And that's freakin' Fruitloops.
But Rather was not the only one making false assumptions and compromises. An 11-25 AP Dispatch (found in the 11-26 Milwaukee Journal) proves that Rather was not even the only one claiming Kennedy's head jerked forward upon impact long before anyone could possibly have concluded it had indeed jerked slightly forward. It read:
"Dallas, Tex.-AP - A strip of movie film graphically depicting the assassination of President Kennedy was made by a Dallas clothing manufacturer with an 8 millimeter camera.
Several persons in Dallas who have seen the film which lasts about 15 seconds, say it clearly shows how the president was hit in the head with shattering force by the second of two bullets fired by the assassin.
Life magazine reportedly purchased still picture rights to the material for about $40,000.
This is what the film by Abe Zapruder is reported to show:
First the presidential limousine is coming toward the camera. As it comes abreast of the photographer, Mr. Kennedy is hit by the first bullet, apparently in the neck. He turns toward his wife Jacqueline, seated at his left, and she quickly begins to put her hands around his head.
At the same time, Texas Gov. John Connally, riding directly in front of the president, turns around to see what has happened.
Then Mr. Kennedy is hit on the upper right side of the back of his head with violent force. His head goes forward and then snaps back, and he slumps down on the seat.
At this time, Gov. Connolly is wounded and he drops forward on his seat.
Mrs. Kennedy then jumps up and crawls across the back deck of the limousine, apparently seeking the aid of a secret service man who has been trotting behind the slowly moving vehicle. He jumps onto the car and shoves Mrs. Kennedy back into the seat. Then he orders the driver to speed to the hospital where the president died.
The elapsed time from the moment when Mr. Kennedy is first struck until the car disappears in an underpass is about five seconds."
An 11-26 article by John Herbers, published in the 11-27 New York Times, moreover, repeats this same mistake. Herbers writes:
"The known facts about the bullets, and the position of the assassin, suggested that he started shooting as the President’s car was coming toward him, swung his rifle in an arc of almost 180 degrees and fired at least twice more.
A rifle like the one that killed President Kennedy might be able to fire three shots in two seconds, a gun expert indicated after tests. (Note: this line is found in online versions of this article, but is not in a clipping of the article found in the Weisberg Archives. Perhaps it was only added for evening editions of the paper.)
A strip of color movie film taken by a Dallas clothing manufacturer with an 8-mm camera tends to support this sequence of events.
The film covers about a 15-second period. As the President’s car come abreast of the photographer, the President was struck in the front of the neck. The President turned toward Mrs. Kennedy as she began to put her hands around his head.
Connally Turns Around
At the same time, Governor Connally, riding in front of the President, turned round to see what had happened. Then the President was struck on the head. His head went forward, then snapped back,as he slumped in his seat. At that time, Governor Connally was wounded.
The elapsed time from the moment Mr. Kennedy was first struck until the car disappeared in an underpass was five seconds.”
Now this is interesting. Note that the AP article and the New York Times article make the same mistakes and repeat the same non-fact facts (which I have highlighted). Note that they both claim Connally was wounded by the third shot, for example. This suggests that the AP writer and Herbers were either sharing information or being fed some of the same questionable facts from an outside source, most probably the FBI. Well, then, was their main mistake--that Kennedy's head went forward--something told them by the FBI, and, if so, should we then assume Dan Rather was also told to say this? I mean, really, is it just a coincidence that CBS News, the Associated Press, and The New York Times, in short order, all incorrectly reported that the Zapruder film showed Kennedy's head going forward? That's pretty hard to believe.
Which brings us to UPI's article on the film. Here it is, as found in the 11-26 Philadelphia Daily News (4 star edition).
The headline on the front page reads: “Man Who Came to See JFK Makes Tragic Movie.” Beneath this, there is the following explanation: “These dramatic pictures are from an 8mm ‘home movie’ reel, shot by Dallas dressmaker Abraham Zapruder who went to see President Kennedy ride through cheering throngs in Texas city. His camera recorded one of the most tragic moments in American history. Story page 3.“ Beneath this, are four frames from a home movie of the assassination.
On page 3, the following story is presented:
Movie Film Shows Murder of President
An amateur photographer shot an 8-MM movie film that clearly shows, step-by-step, the assassination of President Kennedy.
The film was made by Abraham Zapruder, a Dallas dress manufacturer. He is selling rights to the film privately. It has been seen by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service and representatives of the news media.
It is seven feet long, 35 seconds in colour, a bit jumpy but clear.
It opens as the Kennedy motorcade rounds the corner from Houston Street and turns into Elm Street.
Then it picks up the President’s car and follows it down toward the underpass. Suddenly, in the film, Kennedy is seen to jerk. It is the first shot.
Mrs. Kennedy turns, puts her arms around him. A second later, the second shot. The President’s head becomes a blur on the film, lunged forward and up. The second bullet has torn into the back of his head.
He rolls towards Mrs. Kennedy and disappears from sight. Mrs. Kennedy lurches onto the flat trunk deck of the Presidential car as a Secret Service man races to their aid. She is on her hands and knees. She reaches for him. He leaps up on the bumper. She pulls him up on the bumper or he pushes her back as the film ends.
Other films show the car never stopped, but raced to the Parkland Memorial Hospital with Mrs. Kennedy cradling the President.
Well, hell. This article was clearly not written by someone using the information provided the other writers. The film here is reported to be 35 seconds long, not 15. There is no mention of Connally at all, let alone a claim he was hit by the third shot. And yet the ONE mistake the three articles have in common is the same mistake the AP and Times article had in common with Dan Rather's earlier description of the film--the strange claim Kennedy's head went forward in response to the head shot...Hmmm...
And there's something even stranger about this article. The next day's San Francisco Chronicle re-printed three of the frames found on the front page of the Philadelphia paper, and similarly specified, in a caption beneath the second frame, "In this photo from the 8mm movie strip taken by the amateur photographer, Abe Zapruder, motorcycle police are seen rushing to the car after the shots." Well, this was actually misleading on two counts. For one, neither of the two motorcycle police in the frame are rushing to the car; one of them, in fact, is slamming on his brakes. For two, all the frames presented in the article were taken from the south side of Elm Street, with the grassy knoll in the background. Zapruder's film, of course, was taken from the north side. Yes, incredibly, the film frames featured in both the 11-26 Philadelphia Daily News and 11-27 San Francisco Chronicle articles on the Zapruder film were not actually taken from Zapruder's film, but from the film of another eyewitness, Marie Muchmore. Her film had been purchased by UPI on the 25th, and shown on WNEW-TV on the 26th. The sale and broadcast of her film had even been the subject of a UPI article found in some papers, such as The Valley Independent, on the 26th, and others, such as The Eugene Register-Guardian, on the 27th.
And yet no one in the government seemed to notice. Incredibly, neither Mrs. Muchmore nor UPI thought it their duty to share her film with the Secret Service or FBI. This was especially ironic, or disturbing, take your pick, given that UPI's article specified that Zapruder had made his film available to the authorities. In any event, Mrs. Muchmore's and UPI's deceptiveness regarding her film enabled it to pass under the government's apparently defective radar for a lot longer than one might think possible. It would be, amazingly, nearly three months before those investigating the assassination of President Kennedy even learned of its existence.
Something odd was in the air. Even the noted leftist Walter Lippman over-stepped the bounds of responsible journalism and assumed not only that Oswald had acted alone, but that he knew why Oswald had acted. While Lippman's column entitled Murder Most Foul angered right-wingers across the country by blaming Oswald's left-wing extremism on the climate created by Dallas' right-wing extremists, the column is just as notable for its bold closure of the case. Lippman asserted that Oswald was "addicted to the fascination of violence in his futile and lonely and brooding existence" and that "No human feeling stayed his hand...For him the government in Washington is a hated foreign power and the President in Washington is an invading conqueror." Lippman concluded, not surprisingly, by telling his readers "I do have much hope in the healing art of Lyndon Johnson" and assured them that "We can turn to him with confidence."
And Johnson had decided to justify this confidence, or at least create the appearance of doing so. After Dan Rather described the Zapruder film on his nightly newscast, Walter Cronkite told the nation: "The White House announced a full investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy under orders from President Johnson. All Federal agencies have been advised to cooperate with the FBI." An 11-26 article found in the San Francisco Chronicle similarly reported: "The case of the murder of the President did not end after all with the slaying of his suspected assassin, it became clear here yesterday. President Johnson himself said: "The people of the nation may be sure that all of the facts will be made public." He directed a 'prompt and thorough' investigation by the Justice Department and its investigative arm, the FBI." The murder of president Kennedy had led to Johnson's becoming President, and now the murder of Kennedy's presumed assassin had led to his assuming total control of the investigation.
Meanwhile, over in Europe, the international media had done such a good job of selling that Oswald was a lone-assassin that the Nazi war criminal Albert Speer (no relation) wrote about it in his prison diary. He noted the irony that "here only one confused loner was at work, so it seems; he conceived the plan and the assassination was successful. But the attempts on Hitler's life...planned with the precision of a General Staff operation by circumspect, cool-headed people...never did they succeed...."
Meanwhile, down in Mexico, a man named Gilberto Alvarado, an intelligence asset for Nicaraguan right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza, contacted the American Embassy and told them he had been in the Cuban consulate in Mexico on the day Oswald visited the consulate, and had witnessed Oswald discussing Kennedy's assassination with a representative of the Cuban government.
Above: What a difference a day makes! A comparison of the mug shots taken of Jack Ruby on the day he shot Oswald (L) and the next day after being transferred to the County Jail (R) proves most revealing. Ruby appeared calm in the immediate aftermath of the murder, but suffered some sort of breakdown by the very next day. Perhaps, then, it was as he said, that he killed Oswald on an impulse, and that it took some time for the magnitude of what he'd done to sink in. Or perhaps he killed Oswald under the belief someone or some entity would make sure he didn't get charged with first degree murder, and then broke down when he realized he'd been duped.
Let's catch our breath. On 11-25, at 3:00 P.M., Charles Bronson (not the actor) provided the Dallas FBI access to both the slides he took of Kennedy on the day of the shooting (including one taken just after the first shot) and a film he made which captured the fatal headshot from the opposite angle as Zapruder. And the FBI didn't refuse this access. Two agents, Milton Newsom and Emory E. Horton, moreover, came out to an Eastman Kodak Processing Plant in Dallas to take a look at Bronson's film. Newsom reported: "The films failed to show the building from which the shots were fired. Film did depict the President's car at the precise time the shots were fired; however, the pictures were not sufficiently clear for identification purposes." And that was it. The FBI failed to make copies of Bronson's images, or even send a copy of Newsom's memo to FBI headquarters. (The memo was discovered years later via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Harold Weinberg through which he received copies of the Dallas FBI's memos on the assassination that had never been sent to headquarters.)
However, in this alternate universe, in which the FBI is both competent and gives a rat's ass, we manage to get a look at Bronson's images.
Here, then, is a hybrid of his photo showing Kennedy just after the first shot, and his film frame showing the fatal impact on Kennedy's skull.
Well, looky here. Kennedy traveled but 3 1/2 times the length of his limo between the two shots. His limo is 21 feet long. Well, right, here, by the briefest of looks, it is obvious that Kennedy traveled but 75 feet or so along Elm between when he was first shot, and when he was fatally wounded.
There were additional questions regarding Oswald's recent trip to Mexico. On 11-26, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and CIA Director John McCone discussed the fact it was not Oswald in the CIA' s photos purportedly showing Oswald visiting the Soviet Embassy. Hoover indicated he wasn't worried about this, however, because "We do find from our informant down there that Oswald did call at the Embassy that day and the informant has given us the conversation that he had." Hoover and McCone mostly discussed the FBI's upcoming report. Hoover told McCone "We are trying to do it as fast as we can so we can dispel various wild rumors that have been circulating as to whether this man was the right man etc. that fired the gun. But there is no question that he is the right man." He later offered "Mr. Katzenbach, who is handling it for the Department...he will of course go over it very carefully because it will be a report that will be released to the public, probably through the White House...It is his intention to check with the agencies, Secret Service, etc., to be sure that whatever is said in the report is conferred in and it is agreed to by the various agencies mentioned." He then concluded "So you will have the opportunity to go over it and see exactly what is said and I know he will welcome any suggestion that you care to make."
Well, how about that... The agencies whose actions and failures to act were indirectly being investigated by the FBI were given approval rights to the FBI's report--and with the full knowledge of Acting Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach!
And that's not the only sign a whitewash was afoot, run by Katzenbach. On 11-26, another memo from Evans to Belmont quoted Acting Attorney General Katzenbach as saying "a tremendous responsibility had been placed on the FBI in this instance by President Johnson because this report, which is to be publicized, is for the purpose of assuring the American public and the world as to what the facts are in Kennedy's assassination and setting to rest the many, many rumors that have been circulating." It continued: "Katzenbach noted that it is, of course, more difficult to prove that something did not occur than to prove what actually happened. As a consequence, it is his belief there might have to be some so-called editorial interpretation." Evans concluded with the observation that "a matter of this magnitude cannot be fully investigated in a week's time," to which his boss, J. Edgar Hoover, responded "just how long do you estimate it will take...it seems to me we have the basic facts now."
Not surprisingly, given Hoover's reputation for pettiness, Evans' involvement in the case was thereafter kept to a minimum. His organized crime division should have been the division tasked with investigating Jack Ruby and his contacts with organized crime. Instead, the FBI treated Ruby's murder of Oswald as a civil rights violation, and gave much of the investigation over to men who expressed little interest in Ruby's long-time connections to Mafia enforcers Dave Yarras and Lenny Patrick, his frequent phone calls to Teamster enforcer Barney Baker, and his frequent visits with Lewis McWillie, a man described as a "gambler and murderer" in the FBI's files, whom Ruby would freely admit, in his subsequent testimony before the Warren Commission, he "sort of idolized."
Apparently, none of this was of interest to Katzenbach and Hoover. An 11-26 memo from Hoover to his assistants, including Belmont, De Loach, Evans, Rosen and Sullivan, complained:
"Dept. Attorney General Nicholas deB. Katzenbach called and advised that he had just talked with Assistant Attorney General Herbert J. Miller, Jr., who had advised that the local police in Dallas are anxious to get rid of all the evidence they have, want to make a complete inventory of it, and then want to turn it over to the Bureau. Mr. Katzenbach asked if I wanted to accept that. I said I would see no objection to accepting it.
Mr. Katzenbach suggested they may be doing it because of the Texas State Commission and, if so, he thought the Bureau should take it on the basis that it will be available to any state authorities. I said I thought that action ought to be cleared with Wade, the District Attorney. Mr. Katzenbach said Wade is all for it, wants it done.
I pointed out that this case is moot, so to speak, from the prosecutive standpoint; that people will be wanting souvenirs and the evidence will disappear.
Mr. Katzenbach then asked if he could tell Mr. Miller my people will accept it. I told him that I would talk to our office down there right away.
Very truly yours,
John Edgar Hoover
And this wasn't just talk. The 11-27 edition of the Dallas Morning News reported that after a series of meetings, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry and Dallas County District Attorney Henry Wade had agreed to turn over every piece of evidence in its possession to the FBI, and that they had done so by 4:00 P.M. on Tuesday, the 26th.
And wait, it gets worse. Another 11-27 article in the Morning News revealed: "The Justice Department hopes to have ready by early next week a full report of its investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of his alleged assassin, it was learned Tuesday."
Tuesday. The 26th. A full report. That means what they hope will be a final report. The FBI took over the investigation of Kennedy's assassination on the afternoon of November 24th...and within two days the Justice Department had let it be known they were hoping to put out a final report on his assassination (and Oswald's assassination) by December 3. That's nine days. Take away two (at least) for the organization and typing up of this report. That's seven. So the Justice Department was hoping to conclude an investigation into Kennedy's and Oswald's murders within a week of taking over these investigations... Hmmm...
Let this sink in. The FBI took over the investigation into Kennedy's and Oswald's murders on Sunday. Kennedy’s and Oswald’s funerals were on Monday. And by Tuesday every piece of evidence was under the control of the FBI, which is to say Hoover, which is to say Johnson. And within minutes of taking possession of all this evidence, the Justice Department/FBI was announcing they'd have a FULL report ready within a week. That's a bit shocking...
Elsewhere, as Hoover was boasting about already having the "basic facts" about the assassination, and that the case was "moot...from the prosecutive standpoint," and as all the Dallas Police evidence was being handed over to the FBI, a memo was sent from Alex Rosen, who was to oversee the FBI examination of the physical evidence, to his superior Alan Belmont. Rosen stated "The Secret Service has advised our Baltimore Office that the photographs of the autopsy and x-rays of the President's body would be available to us..."
And this was not a one-day offer. A memo written by agents Sibert and O'Neill of the Baltimore Office reflects that they spoke to Gerald Behn, the Special-Agent in Charge of the White House detail, the very next day, and that he repeated this offer. The memo affirmed: "Mr. Behn advised that the undeveloped photographs and x-rays made during the course of the autopsy at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland, are in the custody of Bob Bouck, Protective Research Section, United States Secret Service, and could be made available to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on request."
And yet Rosen told Belmont: "It is not recommended that we request these photographs and x-rays through the Secret Service Headquarters at this time as it does not appear we shall have need for this material." When one takes into account that on 11-26 Hoover and his FBI had already assumed jurisdiction over the President's murder from the Dallas Police and were lobbying LBJ not to create the Warren Commission, their refusal to look at the autopsy photos can't help but make one doubt their desire to perform a thorough investigation, or concern for the truth.
Other investigative bodies were even less concerned. While the morning's papers touted "Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr announced in Washington last night that his top aids, prominent jurists and enforcement organizations would conduct a court of inquiry to examine in detail the assassination of the President and the killing of the accused murderer" this court of inquiry was in fact little more than a charade designed to convince Texans that their state laws were being observed whilst their state officials were merely rubber-stamping the FBI's investigation. A memo from Carr to Johnson aid Walter Jenkins found in the Texas Court of Inquiry's files (and printed in Barr McClellan's Blood, Money, and Power) implores "I want to conduct myself strictly in accordance with your organization. Am I to restrict my calls to Mr. Fortas (i.e., Abe Fortas, Johnson's most trusted adviser) even when I need an opinion from the White House itself, such as now? I will be happy to abide by your desires once I understand them. Although we are working diligently to reach decisions on such matters as this, we are publicly only cooperating with the FBI whenever needed in the making of the Presidential Report and after the report is made we will then proceed to announce details of the Court of Inquiry. Walter, I do hope that the FBI Report can be sent to us directly from either the White House or the Department of Justice so that we may continue to demonstrate to the public that the State of Texas and the Federal Government are working as partners..."
But the FBI and the Attorney General of Texas were not the only ones refusing to do their jobs and actually investigate the assassination of the President. Members of the media, perhaps desperate to communicate an authority on the assassination that they, in fact, were lacking, began making more and more assertions of fact without any factual basis. On 11-26, for example, an article in the New York Times on Governor Connally's improving condition threw in that "The Texas Governor was wounded by the same sniper who assassinated President Kennedy." There was, of course, no way for them to know this. The few small bullet fragments recovered from the governor's wrist could not be linked to the rifle found in the depository.
Other articles were even more deceptive. An 11-26 article by Jim G. Lucas of the Scripps-Howard News Service found in the Washington Star detailed "The Federal Bureau of Investigation has uncovered additional evidence linking Lee Harvey Oswald with the assassination of President Kennedy and the wounding of Texas Gov. John B. Connally...The FBI's additional evidence included: Minute particles of the clothing that Oswald was wearing when arrested 35 minutes after the shooting were found on an Italian-made rifle abandoned on the sixth floor of the Texas school book depository where Oswald was employed. Ballistic tests confirm President Kennedy was killed and Gov. Connally wounded by bullets from that rifle. Oswald's fingerprints--smudged but still identifiable--were on that rifle."
These claims, of course, were not exactly true. While the FBI had determined that the nearly-pristine bullet found on a hospital stretcher and the bullet fragments found in the front section of the limo had been fired from the rifle, these specimens were at this time linked to Kennedy's wounds, not Connally's, and there was nothing to link Connally's wounds to the rifle. The specificity of the fiber evidence was also exaggerated; while the fibers of Oswald's shirt reportedly matched the fibers found on the rifle, the FBI refused to make a positive determination that it was Oswald's clothing on the rifle. And last, but not least, not only had the FBI not identified the smudged fingerprints on the rifle as Oswald's, neither had the DPD. The palm print purportedly removed from the rifle by the DPD and later identified as Oswald's by the FBI, furthermore, was at this point unidentified by the DPD and entirely unknown to the FBI. This suggests 1 of 2 scenarios: either Lucas was getting his info secondhand from someone in Dallas not completely in the know, or he was being used as a dupe to spread deliberate falsehoods.
If he was being used as a dupe to spread falsehoods, for that matter, we can be fairly certain the Dallas County Sheriff's Department was not involved. You see, they just weren't very good at it. Yep, while most articles citing "official" sources on this date were bending over backwards to paint Oswald as a lone-nut, an article in the Denver Post, quoting long-time Dallas Sheriff Bill Decker, bent so far over it broke--and gave its readers significant reason to doubt. It read: "Sheriff Bill Decker, commenting on reports that no sniper could have fired three bullets as Lee Harvey Oswald was reported to have done with a bolt action rifle, said Tuesday it could have been done in less than 20 seconds. 'If a person was skilled,' Decker said, 'he could reload a rifle within two seconds. He could operate a bolt and reload it within two seconds. In this case, it took slightly longer because you have to include re-sighting. The whole operation could take less than 20 seconds for three shots."
Well, heck. The three shots fired in Dealey Plaza were fired in far less than 20 seconds. So said the witnesses. So said the Secret Service. And here's the weird part. Decker was himself a witness to the assassination. Within hours of the shooting, he told the Dallas Times-Herald 'It all happened so fast, I'm just not sure what happened.' He said, furthermore, that he'd heard but two shots. Now, ask yourself, if there were three well-spaced shots fired over a 20 second interval, as suggested by Decker in this article, wouldn't he have described the shooting on the 22nd with words other than "so fast"? And wouldn't he have noticed all three shots?
In any event, it seems clear from this that Decker was trying to calm down the public, and failing.
Meanwhile, on Wall Street, in what was considered to be a vote of confidence for Johnson, the stock market rallied for its biggest day ever.
That night, in his private home, President Johnson had a few close aides and confidants over for dinner. Among the guests were his future choice for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Abe Fortas, and his future choice for Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey's memoirs recount an unusual incident. As Johnson walked past a photograph of Vietnam's recently-assassinated President, Ngo Dinh Diem, he reportedly offered "We had a hand in killing him. Now it's happening here." Humphrey did not know what Johnson meant by this. White House special assistant Ralph Dungan, however, would be more specific. He told writer Richard Mahoney that within a day or two of Johnson's statements to Humphrey, Johnson told him "I want to tell you why Kennedy died. Divine retribution... divine retribution. He murdered Diem and then he got it himself."
It seems likely, moreover, that Johnson was saying this kind of thing to most anyone who would listen. A 7-23-64 entry in historian Arthur Schlesinger's Journal notes that he'd had dinner with Robert Kennedy, and that, after discussing Johnson's behavior on the day of the assassination, Kennedy had told him "You know the worst thing Johnson has said? ... Once he told (Press Secretary) Pierre Salinger, 'When I was young in Texas, I used to know a cross-eyed boy. His eyes were crossed, and so was his character. Sometimes I think that, when you remember the assassination of Trujillo and the assassination of Diem, what happened to Kennedy may have been divine retribution.'"
Other mouths were more controlled than Johnson's, perhaps because they were more controllable. On 11-26, while Johnson was musing about Kennedy getting what was coming to him, Admiral Kenney, the Surgeon General of the Navy, figured out a way to keep whatever it was that, according to Johnson, Kennedy "got" from being told to the public. He had Capt. John Stover, the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Naval Medical School, where Kennedy's autopsy had been performed, draw up "Letters of Silence" for his subordinates, including Dr.s Humes and Boswell, and made them promise not to talk to the media, or anyone, under penalty of Court Martial. The letters read: "You are reminded that you are under verbal orders of the Surgeon General, United States Navy, to discuss with no one events connected with your official duties on the evening of 22 November-23 November, 1963. This letter constitutes official notification and reiteration of these verbal orders. You are warned that infraction of these orders makes you liable to Court Martial proceedings under appropriate articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice." (These orders were not rescinded until 1978.)
Perhaps one or more of the recipients of this letter took umbrage, and called someone at the Associated Press to report on this "order of silence." It does seem a coincidence that the very next day, 11-27, the Associated Press reported that the White House was declining to say whether President Kennedy had even received an autopsy. It went on to state "One Washington source said, "There is some doubt whether the fatal bullet was the second shot or third shot. The first shot is believed to have hit the President, but we're not sure about the second and third."
(Intriguingly, a more extensive AP article found in the London Free Press added "Several persons here (Dallas) who have seen a strip of color movie taken by a Dallas clothing manufacturer during the assassination say the 15 seconds of film shows how the president was hit in the head by the second of three bullets fired by the assassin.")
While there may have been professional reasons not to release the autopsy report at this time, particularly since the brain had not yet been examined, it makes no sense that an administration anxious to head off public speculation would fail to acknowledge that an autopsy had even been performed. By way of comparison, the New York Times mentioned that an autopsy had been performed in its first article on Lincoln's death in 1865 (the actual results of this autopsy were discussed in an article by one of the doctors a week later); and discussed President Garfield's upcoming autopsy in its first article after his death in 1881, and the performance of this autopsy the next day. Even more telling, the preliminary results of President McKinley's autopsy were mentioned in articles on the very day of his death in 1901. In none of these prior assassinations was the president's autopsy considered strictly a military matter. In none of these prior assassinations was the president's autopsy--the fact that it occurred and the names of the autopsy surgeons--kept from the public. Perhaps just as telling, in none of these prior assassinations did the media sit around and wait for "official word" that an autopsy had been performed. They checked with their sources and reported what they found.
Apparently, someone in the White House saw how bad this all looked, and decided to end the speculation. The evening papers from 11-27 reported that "the White House disclosed today that a post-mortem examination had been performed on the President's body in Bethesda Naval Hospital."This news came in an AP article written with the help of Dr. James Beyer. Beyer stated that the large head wound reported by the doctors at the Parkland press conference could not have been inflicted by the standard ammunition for Oswald's rifle, and that Dum Dum bullets or hunting ammunition would appear to have been used.
And this wasn't the only article planting seeds of doubt about what would later be portrayed as the official story. An 11-27 New York Times article by John Herbers claimed: "Three shots are known to have been fired. Two hit the President. One did not emerge. Dr. Kemp Clark, who pronounced Mr. Kennedy dead, said one struck him at about the necktie knot. 'It ranged downward in his chest and did not exit,' the surgeon said. The second he called a 'tangential wound' caused by a bullet that struck the 'right back of his head.' 'This was the fatal wound, we feel, although it is possible that either one could have been fatal,' Dr. Clark said. Since one bullet did not exit, it is presumed that the bullet that struck the President's head was the one recovered from the stretcher that bore the President into the hospital. A third bullet was found in fragments in the car and is presumed by official sources to be the one that coursed through the body of Governor John B. Connally Jr. Connally is recovering. The bullet that did not exit from the President's body may have been recovered in an autopsy, but the Parkland Hospital said no autopsy was performed in Dallas. " Statements such as these, when magnified by Herbers' recounting, on this very same day, that the Zapruder film shows Kennedy "struck in the front of the neck," undoubtedly made an impression.
Another Times article expressed doubts about the weapon. Building upon the previous day's comments of Sheriff Bill Decker and others (the European press had pumped out a number of articles sharing Decker’s skepticism about the rifle), this article headlined "Tests Show Rifle like Assassin's Might Be Able." It then explained that a firearms expert from the National Rifle Assassination took 11 seconds to fire three shots with a rifle like Oswald's on his first try, and 8 seconds on his second try, and was only able to get his time down below 6 seconds--the time span attributed for the shots that killed the President--when he "operated the bolt and pulled the trigger without using live ammunition.” (We're thereby left to wonder if he even aimed.)
According to the article, the expert nevertheless "concluded that with some practice a person would be able to get off three accurate shots in about five seconds."
Hmmm... While the subheading to this article reads "Accurate Firing Might Be Possible" it's clear that it also might not.
The Associated Press had a more balanced take on these tests.
WASHINGTON (AP)--A GUN EXPERT SAID TODAY IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE TO FIRE THREE SHOTS IN ABOUT FIVE SECONDS WITH THE TYPE OF RIFLE ALLEGEDLY USED TO KILL PRESIDENT KENNEDY.
BUT HE SAID SUCH RAPID AND ACCURATE FIRE AS WAS DISPLAYED WOULD SEEM TO REQUIRE "A TRUE EXPERT, WHICH OSWALD DIDN'T SEEM TO BE" ON THE BASIS OF HIS RECORD IN THE MARINE CORPS.
LEONARD DAVIS, AN OFFICIAL OF THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, GAVE THESE TECHNICAL OPINIONS IN RESPONSE TO A NEWSMAN'S QUESTIONS ABOUT DETAILS OF THE SHOOTING WITH WHICH LEE HARVEY OSWALD WAS CHARGED. OSWALD WAS KILLED IN DALLAS SUNDAY, TWO DAYS AFTER THE PRESIDENT'S ASSASSINATION.
AS A MARINE, OSWALD WAS BARELY QUALIFIED IN THE SHARPSHOOTER CLASS, THE MIDDLE OF THE THREE CLASSIFICATIONS IN MARKSMANSHIP.
DAVIS AND SOME MARINE OFFICERS IN THE PENTAGON SAID OSWALD WOULD HAVE TO HAVE PRACTICED CONSIDERABLY SINCE HIS RELEASE FROM THE MARINE CORPS FOUR YEARS AGO TO HAVE MAINTAINED AND INCREASED A PROFICIENCY WITH SMALL ARMS.
THE WEAPON POLICE SAID WAS USED WAS A 6.5 MM BOLT ACTION RIFLE, APPARENTLY OF ITALIAN MAKE BUT WITHOUT ANY IDENTIFYING MARKS. IT WAS ADVERTISED FOR SALE AS A CARCANO, WHICH IS A MODIFICATION OF THE GERMAN MAUSER DESIGN.
DAVIS, A FORMER MARINE, EXPLAINED THAT FOUR MOTIONS ARE REQUIRED FOR EACH SHOT WITH A BOLT ACTION RIFLE--RAISE THE BOLT LEVER, DRAW IT BACK, MOVE IT FORWARD AND MOVE THE BOLT LEVER DOWN TO LOCK THE CARTRIDGE IN THE BREACH.
THE RANGE BETWEEN THE PRESIDENTIAL CAR AND THE SIXTH FLOOR WINDOW IN WHICH POLICE SAID OSWALD STOOD TO FIRE THREE SHOTS MIGHT HAVE BEEN ABOUT 100 YARDS OR LESS.
DAVIS SAID THE CARCANO RIFLE HAS A MAXIMUM ACCURACY OF ABOUT 600 YARDS. HE SAID THE RIFLE'S TELESCOPIC SIGHT MAGNIFIES THE IMAGE OF THE TARGET FOUR TIMES.
THE CARS IN THE PROCESSION WERE MOVING SLOWLY, AT A FEW MILES AN HOUR, MAKING EASIER ONE ELEMENT OF THE SHOOTER'S PROBLEM.
BUT IT WAS POINTED OUT HE NEEDED TO SHOOT AT A DOWNWARD ANGLE, WHICH IS MORE DIFFICULT THAN AIMING HORIZONTALLY.
So, yeah. Unbelievably, a spokesman for the NRA, along with some unnamed "Marine officers in the Pentagon" had provided the public with some serious food for thought… Had Oswald “practiced considerably” with his rifle since he’d left the Marines? Was Oswald even capable of the shooting?
Perhaps it isn't a coincidence then, that on this same day, William Parker, the Chief of Police for Los Angeles, called a press conference to discuss his own impressions of the speed at which the rifle could be fired. An article on this press conference in the next day's L.A. Times reflects: "Lee Harvey Oswald would have required no more than 3 1/2 seconds to murder President John F. Kennedy and wound Texas Governor John Connally, Police Chief William H. Parker said Wednesday. He based his estimate on tests conducted here by police firearms experts with the same kind of cheap Italian-made rifle used in the presidential assassination. The experts simulated what happened in Dallas on Friday, said Parker, by aiming the weapon from an upper story window into a courtyard at police headquarters. An officer found, said the chief, that he could aim the 6.5 mm rifle, accurately, pull the trigger three times and slam the bolt into place twice within the space of 3 1/2 seconds. Three shots were fired by the president's slayer, two at the chief executive and one at the Texas governor. 'But it was only necessary to use the bolt twice,' Parker pointed out. 'It was already set for action before the first shot was fired.'"From there the article drifts into a sea of smoke, with Parker inaccurately offering that that the sniper's vantage point behind the motorcade made any lateral movement of the limousine during the shooting "imperceptible", and then admitting that the rifle in his test was not actually fired (which would mean the shooter did not have to react to any re-coil), and then finally hitting bottom with the nonsensical claim that "Experienced big game hunters tell us that this kind of bolt action rifle can be fired faster than automatics."
Even less coincidental, one might guess, is that the FBI also tested Oswald's rifle on this day, and concluded that a minimum of 4.6 seconds was needed to fire three shots at a stationary target. It concluded further that an extra second or so would likely have been necessary for Oswald to have fired three times because, unlike the target in the LAPD's test, and the FBI's test, Oswald's target was moving. This discrepancy--the LAPD says Oswald could have done it in 3.5 seconds when the FBI says it would be more like 5.6 seconds--suggests that Parker's claim and press conference was a deliberate minimization of the problem, put out for public consumption. At whose bidding, one can only guess. But it is known that Hoover hated Parker, and considered him a competitor for America's top cop, and that he also resented the CIA, and that the CIA had a special relationship with the LAPD. From this, one might wonder if Parker's claims were put out on behalf of the CIA. Or not. It's certainly possible Parker was simply jealous of all the attention provided the FBI by the assassination, and was anxious to get some for himself.
If so, his efforts failed. Instead of reporting on Parker's press conference, many newspapers the next day carried an article by Washington insider Les Whitten, on the FBI's tests. Clearly, Hoover wanted this story out. The article reads: "The FBI has run field tests proving conclusively that a rifle such as the one that killed President Kennedy can be fired accurately three times in five seconds. It could not be learned whether these tests were run on the murder weapon itself, now in FBI hands, or on an exact duplicate. The FBI refused comment pending Director J. Edgar Hoover's report to President Johnson on the case, expected Friday. European newspapers have ballooned speculation that no single man could have done the shooting - that the 6.5mm Carcano bolt-action rifle cannot accurately be fired that fast. A Milan paper said, "There must have been more than one attacker." A French journal said a nonautomatic weapon could not have been used alone and an Olympics rifle champion in Vienna said it was "unlikely" one man with one Carcano could have fired the shots that cut down both Kennedy and Texas Gov. Connally. But the FBI tests showed clearly that a rifle equipped with a four-power scope such as that found at the murder scene could readily have hit the President and Connally. The mail order Carcano reportedly was equipped with a "pre-sighted" Japanese scope, thus assuring good shot control. As to comment in one report that only a "true expert" could have done the killing, the Justice Department has received from the U.S. Marines - in which presumed killer Lee Harvey Oswald served - material showing him well-trained as a rifleman. During Oswald's 1956 boot training at San Diego, the material showed, he scored 212 out of a possible 259 in marksman's tests at 200 yards, 300 yards and 500 yards. The President was killed at some 75 yards in a slowly moving car. Oswald's rifle training took up most of 14 full days. A score of 250 would require every shot in a bullseye, or in the "critical area" of a man's silhouette (part of a rapid fire test). The 212 score meant Oswald consistently hit in or close to the bullseye. In 1958, Oswald took a refresher course, scoring 191 out of a possible 250. He was classed as a sharpshooter - a high marine rating - in the first test, and as a marksman, the lowest of three qualifying rankings in the second test. Oswald shot with an M-1 rifle which did not require him to work the bolt as was necessary with the Carcano. But with the Carcano Oswald bought a "pre-sighted" four-power scope that brings the target "so close only an idiot could miss" as one military spokesman commented. Additionally, Oswald's vantage point above the President allowed him to brace the rifle on the window sill. The Marine Corps tests required him to fire standing, kneeling, sitting and lying on the ground - and without any artificial brace such as the sill. The FBI probe is expected to show Oswald the sole killer "beyond reasonable doubt." It is understood that it will not accuse any subversive group - Oswald admitted he was a "Marxist" - of directing the killing, but will point to the indirect role played by Oswald's acceptance of the violent aspect of communism."
(The claim by the "military spokesman" that the scope brought the target so close "only an idiot could miss" was, of course, highly deceptive. The use of a scope while firing at a moving target creates its own set of problems...the seriousness of which led ballistics expert Monty Lutz, charged with investigating the shooting for the House Select Committee on Assassinations in the 1970's, to conclude the assassin firing Oswald's rifle did not use the scope.)
That the scope was more hindrance than help, moreover, did not escape everyone's attention. Cuban President Fidel Castro (pictured above), who had equipped numerous rifles with scopes while leading his troops to victory less than 5 years before the assassination, saw the scope as a red flag suggesting Kennedy was killed by a sophisticated conspiracy. In a speech delivered on 11-27-63, he claimed there were "a number of strange things which every day become more strange..an Olympic shooting champion...declared in Vienna that it is unlikely that a marksman equipped with a repeating carbine with a telescopic sight can hit the target three consecutive times in the space of five seconds, when he is firing at a target that is moving at a distance of 80 meters at a speed of 15 kilometers per hour...When we read this cable we recalled some experiences on these matters, particularly on matters of rifles with telescopic sights. When we landed in Cuba we had half a hundred rifles with telescopic sights and we prepared these rifles very well. We had practiced very much with those rifles. We know perfectly all the characteristics of that type of rifle...One of the difficulties of the rifle with telescopic sights is that once one fires on a target, the target is lost. It is necessary to find it again quickly, as a result of the shot, only from the effects of the shot, particularly when the rifle has to be levered...That type of weapon--it is really very difficult to fire three consecutive shots with a weapon of that type--but above all, difficult to hit the target, almost impossible."
Castro then discussed a shooting contest in which snipers fire three shots upon a running sheep from a distance of 200m. He then noted "It is very extraordinary when they can hit it three times while taking a lot of time and being calm and quiet...In general, this was not done with rifles with telescopic sights but with rifles with what they call Lyman sights...To fire with speed one fires much better with that type of rifle than with a telescopic sight because one does not lose sight of the target. And according to the cables they were talking about a rifle with a 4 by 18 power (sight). That is a rifle that brings a target very close. The more powerful the sight the more sensitive it is to any movement and the target gets lost....All this seems to indicate that the rifle may have appeared there as part of the plot, that they may have placed the rifle, which is not precisely the weapon for shooting 80 meters nor for firing three shots...A telescopic sight is a weapon used for firing 300, 400, 500, and even 600 meters and even more...It is the rifle of a marksman for distance firing. It is really strange that one who is going to make an 80 meter shot from a window would purchase a rifle with telescopic sight, when any other type of weapon without a telescopic sight would have been more appropriate for a shot at that distance...It is supposed that a man has a rifle with telescopic sight in order to fire with safety from a distance and assure accuracy against a fixed target, not against a moving target. When you fire against a moving target the telescopic sight becomes a hindrance. In other words, the individual who would try to use a telescopic sight would do so in an attempt to get accuracy and safety. In this case, against a moving target 80 meters away, accuracy was not sought and the curious thing is that safety was also not sought..." (Note: the translation and transcript for this part of the speech comes from CD 984, an FBI document provided the Warren Commission. The translation and transcript for the rest of the speech cited below comes from a post on the JFKfacts website by researcher Arnaldo M. Fernandez. As I do not speak Spanish and have not listened to a tape of Castro's speech, I do not know whose transcription is more reliable, and have thereby split the difference.)
Castro continued "Nobody who intends to escape...is willing to kill from his very workplace, where he is going to be identified and fiercely pursued within five minutes. He would have sought a roof on another building, or rented an apartment along the route, for positioning himself with his telescopic sight rifle at a distance which would have allowed him to escape...All these contradictory, illogical and inexplicable things lead to the alternative that either this individual is not guilty and was turned into guilty by the police, or this individual was actually the one who fired...The latter would make sense only if the individual was perfectly trained to perpetrate the crime, under promise of escape from prosecution, in order to put the blame on others...It’s quite clear the thread here. Why did Oswald go to the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City? What pretext did he use? Asking for an in-transit visa to go on to the Soviet Union, although it would have been quicker and easier to go via England or France. If this man is the real assassin, it’s clear the masterminds were carefully planning the alibi...The sitting President of the United States murdered by an individual just after he went to the Soviet Union via Cuba and returned. It was the ideal gambit for making up the mind of the American public with a suspect who was a Commie, a Cuban and Soviet agent...Why did he have to come to Cuba, except for the only and exclusive purpose of leaving a trail, of spinning a web? Why did he get angry when he was told that it was impossible to get an in-transit Cuba visa if he didn’t have the Soviet visa? Why did he slam the door? Why did he leave? No friend of Cuba, no Communist does this while visiting our consulates. Nobody behaves in such a rude manner...He did not confess. He denied everything. [But] the surprising, the incredible, what increases the suspicion that the entire world has, is that barely 36 or 48 hours later, in the basement of a jail surrounded by police agents, he was murdered. This shows that the ones responsible for Kennedy’s death needed — they were compelled at all costs — to eliminate the accused...They murdered a man for whom the electric chair was waiting. In effect they murdered a dead man. How (can) anyone believe that (Oswald's killer, Jack Ruby) did it for emotional reasons?”
(Now I know some are wondering why I gave Castro's comments so much attention. The point is not that the world should have believed Castro, but that officials like Henry Wade and newsmen like Dan Rather had mucked things up so badly in the days after the assassination that a blustering bushy-bearded Communist like Castro seems credible in comparison.)
This brings us back to President Johnson... On 11-27, President Johnson began doing what all Presidents do in a time of crisis: he wrapped himself in the flag. In a speech before Congress, he made it clear he would continue in Kennedy's steps and use the public sympathy arising from Kennedy's murder to push for the approval of stalled civil rights legislation. He told them, "it is our duty, yours and mine, as the Government of the United States, to do away with uncertainty and doubt and delays and to show that we are capable of decisive action...This is our challenge: Not to hesitate, not to pause, not to turn about and linger over this evil moment, but to continue on our course so we may fulfill the destiny that history has set for us...John Kennedy's death commands what his life conveyed--that America must move forward."
While it's probably unfair to assume that one of the doubts Johnson considered everyone's duty to do away with was any lingering doubt they had about him, and his possible role in a coup d'etat, if one harbors such doubts, his words are undoubtedly disturbing. Here was a political figure on the verge of scandal and ruin whose career had been saved by Kennedy's death. (On the day of the shooting, not only were the pages of the most popular magazines in the country, including Life Magazine and the Saturday Evening Post, filled with articles about an investigation into the criminal activities of Johnson's close protege, Bobby Baker, but an insurance salesman, Don Reynolds, had just begun testifying before a congressional subcommittee on Johnson's own corruption...) And here was this political figure telling Congress and the country that we should not linger over Kennedy's death or, by extension, question the circumstances of his death.
A few days later we receive a report about a third witness from the fifth floor. Harold Norman (11-26-63 FBI report, CD5 p.26) “He stated that about the time the car in which the president was riding turned on to Elm Street, he heard a shot. He said he thought the shot had been fired from the floor directly above him. He further stated at that time he stuck his head from the window and looked upward toward the roof but could see nothing because small particles of dirt were falling from above him. He stated two additional shots were fired after he had pulled his head back in from the window.” (12-4-63 affidavit to the Secret Service, 17H208) “Just after the President passed by I heard a shot and several seconds later, two more shots. I knew that the shots had come from directly above me, and I could hear the expended cartridges fall to the floor. I could also hear the bolt action of the rifle…I saw all of the people down on the street run toward the west end of the building, so I went to that side with Williams and Jarman.” While we’re pleased by Norman’s and Jarman’s claims that three shots came from up above them, we’re disheartened by the way they describe the last shot. It seems awfully close to the second shot to have been fired by a bolt action rifle. Norman fails to describe a pause before this shot, or his anticipation of this shot. When he does mention it, it’s by saying he heard two additional shots. This concerns us very much. We really don’t want to tell Mr. Hoover there’s a conspirator on the loose. (
MAYBE have some of this PHONY Reconstruction now on 11-25 and then again along with 11-30 report and 12-3-63 Airtel proving the FBI had been suckered by the DPD
Where Was Box A on 11-23-63?
Unbeknownst to the Dallas PD, FBI agents Robert Barrett and Ivan Lee gained access to the sixth floor sniper's nest on the morning of 11-23-63. They then took some pictures of their own.
These pictures were published by the FBI as part of the 11-30-63 FBI summary report of Robert Gemberling (aka CD 5). Two of the FBI's photos are shown above. The top box of the stack of three boxes captured in a series of DPD and press photos on 11-22-63 was now missing.
Two more of the FBI's photos are shown below.
And so I ask again...
No, Seriously, Where Was Box A on 11-23-63?
The FBI's 11-23-63 photos show but TWO boxes stacked up by the sniper's nest window, when the pictures from the day before showed THREE boxes stacked up by the sniper's nest window. Box A--the only box from the stack that could ever be linked to Oswald (via a subsequently discovered fingerprint and palm print)--was missing!
Now, I know what some are thinking. They're thinking that the box was sitting on the floor somewhere out of sight. But no, the box was missing. Really.
And we know this because... Texas School Book Depository warehouse manager William Shelley told us so...
Mr. BALL. Now, you recall going up to the sixth floor after the shooting, do you?
Mr. SHELLEY. Yes.
Mr. BALL. Did you go over to the southeast corner of the building where there was a window open?
Mr. SHELLEY. Not all the way; they had it blocked off.
Mr. BALL. Did you at a later time go over there?
Mr. SHELLEY. No, sir; not for several days afterwards.
Mr. BALL. Did you several days afterward go over there?
Mr. SHELLEY. After they released us to go back to work in the corner. We kept out for several days.
Mr. BALL. When you went back there, were there two Rolling Readers on top of a larger box?
Mr. SHELLEY. No, sir; those were carried in by the local authorities. The boxes---the Rolling Readers were there.
Mr. BALL. They were?
Mr. SHELLEY. But the boxes that they were originally packed in were gone--- they had been carried up to the police station.
Shelley claimed the boxes containing the Rolling Readers--boxes A and B--had already been carried off when he first saw the sniper's nest after the shooting. This was presumably the 25th--the day the DPD re-constructed the sniper's nest for a new set of photos.
But he also said the Rolling Readers themselves, which came 10 to the box, were there in the sniper's nest when he first got a look at it after the shooting.
So...let's look again at the FBI's 11-23-63 photos. If the Rolling Readers can be found in the FBI's photos, we know Box A (and B?) were carried off on the evening of 11-22-63, and not minutes before Shelley saw the sniper's nest on 11-25.
The Disappearance of Box A
As shown above, these Rolling Readers are not apparent in the DPD Photo taken on 11-22 (across top), but are readily apparent in the FBI Photo taken on 11-23 (across bottom).
So let's not be coy. Shelley's testimony about Box A, when coupled with Photo 19 from CD 5, more than suggests Box A was missing on the 23rd, it suggests Box A was missing on the 23rd because it was removed from the building by the Dallas Police on the night of the 22nd.
This did not go unnoticed, moreover. On 11-29-63, FBI agents Robert Barrett and Ivan Lee (who'd taken the 11-23 photographs) wrote a 4-page memo on the photographic evidence (the aforementioned memo found in the Weisberg Archives). It reveals: "A comparison of photographs taken by the PD, 11/22/63, of the sixth floor as they found it, and photographs taken by the FBI, 11/23/63, definitely shows that some items have been moved or removed, during the interim."
And that was it. The FBI failed to follow-up and conduct detailed interviews regarding the removal of a key piece of the crime scene prior to their photographing the scene the next day.
Perhaps they assumed the missing box had been taken to the crime lab on the 22nd.
But that's not all the memo reveals...
Oh, Yeah... Come to Think of It...
The memo reveals as well that Barrett and Lee had forwarded Dallas Police crime scene photos to the FBI on the 27th, and that "All PD photographs of the pertinent crime scene area on the sixth floor were taken on 11/22/63, between the hours of 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM."
Well, wait a second. The most revealing of the sniper's nest photos provided the FBI by the DPD was photo 14 (in Warren Commission Document 5, aka CD 5), and this depicted the sniper's nest as re-constructed on 11-25. Had the DPD "failed" to tell the FBI this photo was a re-construction? Apparently so.
This failure was not without its ramifications, moreover. Beyond the misrepresentation of the photo taken on 11-25 as a photo taken on 11-22 in CD 5, it was also misrepresented in Warren Commission Document 1 (the 12-9-63 summary report provided President Johnson on 12-5). Now, let's be clear. This was a photograph taken of a re-constructed sniper's nest on 11-25 incorrectly presented as a photo of the sniper's nest as found on 11-22...in a report provided the President.
This deception didn't last long, however. The earliest reference to photo 14 as a re-construction, and acknowledgement that most of the sniper's nest photos were of a re-constructed sniper's nest, for that matter, came in a 12-4-63 Dallas to FBI HQ Airtel built upon a 12-2-63 phone call with Dallas Chief of Police Jesse Curry, which then led to a 12-3-63 handover of negative copies of the crime scene, and descriptions of these images provided by Lt. Day. (FBI file 62-109060 sec 25, p 78-83)
Had Day simply forgot to tell Agents Barrett and Lee that he'd taken a box or two to the lab on the 22nd, and returned them on the 25th, and that some of the photos he gave them on the 26th were re-creations?
Fables of the Reconstruction
No. It's worse than that. To begin with, the stack of four large boxes directly to the right of the presumed sniper's position were removed entirely. This is demonstrated by comparing this photo taken on 11-23 by the FBI...
with the following photos taken by the Dallas Police on 11-25...
Note here that the four boxes directly behind the window boxes have gone missing.
Now note the box eclipsing part of the seat box in this second photo. It seems probable that this box was atop the second stack from the seat box in the photos taken on 11-22-63 and 11-23-63. No, scratch that. As the stack with the box turned on its side was shorter than the stack closest to the camera in the photos of a re-constructed sniper's nest, but taller than this stack in the photos taken on 11-22 and 11-23, it seems fairly certain the top box from this stack was removed, for one reason or another...
So that's five missing boxes. No explanation has ever been offered for their disappearance, mind you. Were they taken to the crime lab and exposed to chemicals? Were they just shoved aside? No one was ever asked about this, and no one ever explained.
Now these boxes could have been moved for photographic reasons...so the window boxes and the seat box could get captured in the same shot.
But there's just something fishy about the movement of these boxes. The drawing below can be found in the Dallas Police archives, and on the University of North Texas website. It is the sniper's nest window area (with the south west corner of the building in the upper left corner) on a diagram listed as "Map of Texas School Book Depository #1." The University of North Texas website claims this was created by Officers B.G. Brown and Robert Studebaker. on 11-25-63. The rectangles represent stacks of boxes, and the numbers reflect the number off boxes in these stacks.
Note that in this drawing Box D, with its missing corner, is labeled A, and that the stack to the west of Box D...has been crossed-out. Hmmm...
Now let us look at the sniper's nest window area on "Map of Texas School Book Depository #2." This is the finished product. In the lower right corner of this map it reports "Sketch made 11-25-63 10:00 A.M. by Det.s B.G. Brown + R.L. Studebaker."
Well, why make this "map," if not to deceive? Sure, it may have been accurate--as of 10 A.M. on 11-25--but the officers creating this map knew full well it was inaccurate as of 11-22-63, when there were three stacks in the wall of boxes in back of the window, and not two.
Heck, if the UNT website is correct about the handwritten drawing being created on 11-25, they knew it was inaccurate as of earlier that morning...
Why remove this stack, and then create a "map" with an inaccurate presentation of the sniper's nest?
And why... yes, it took me a long time to realize this but, yes, it's true...turn around and change the measurements?
Look back at the original drawing. The distance from the wall provided for the two stacks behind the window is 1'11." Now look at the "map" created later. Has someone changed the 1 to a 2, to try and make out that this wall of boxes was really 2'11' from the south wall? I mean, I must admit this never occurred to me--it's so clear from looking at both the original photos and the re-enactment photos that this wall of books was 1'11" from the south wall. It's hard to believe someone would lie about it.
And yet someone did. Here's Lt. Day in his 4-22-64 testimony before the Warren Commission. They are discussing the location of a box visible in the Dillard photo taken just after the shooting, and whether or not this box--not the one on the window sill but the one on the west end of the "sniper's nest"--was also on the window sill.
Mr. BELIN. Let me give you another question. On Exhibit 715 there is only one box shown in the window actually resting on the ledge, which is the box that you identified the corner out of in the eastern part of the window shown on 482. Now, what is the fact as to whether or not this other box on 482 would have been resting on the ledge, or is it a pictorial view of something that actually was in back of the window?
Mr. DAY. I think this is one of the boxes 2 feet 11 inches back from the wall. There were two stacks of them, one behind the window sill that you see here.
WOW. That's three whopping lies in two sentences. More than one per sentence. (That's math. Pretty smurt, huh?) The boxes were not 2 feet 11 inches back from the wall. Obviously. And there were three stacks of boxes. Obviously. And two of these were behind the window sill, until someone (most assuredly Mr. Day and his team of crime scene specialists) removed one of the stacks for the "reconstruction" photos taken on 11-25-63. Obviously.
One struggles to come up with a legitimate excuse for this. If the DPD wasn't trying to fool anyone with the re-constructed photos, why oh why would they have gone back and altered their original drawing--which showed a stack in the sniper's nest that had been removed for the re-construction. I mean, why cross out the stack?
And why lie about the measurements? And number of stacks? In sworn testimony before the Chief Justice of the United States, even?
And why, come to think of it, create more than one false "map" of the evidence?
The Photo 3 Mystery
No, I'm not kidding. The evidence suggests the DPD faked another "map" as well...
Let's look at the "map" created by Studebaker to record the locations and directions of the crime scene photos taken on 11-22-63.
Here is a blow-up showing Studebaker's signature in the bottom left corner of the map.
And here is a blow-up of the southeast corner of the building.
Note the location and direction of photo #3 on the map. Here it is.
Now look at the blow-up below. The Rolling Readers apparent in the 11-23-63 FBI photos are apparent in this photo as well. Now look at the box I've marked with an "x".
As shown below, this box is in a different orientation than it is in DPD Photo #!, taken on the 22nd, and FBI photo #19, taken on the 23rd.
So why was this box flipped around or switched out for Photo #3?
Well, it seems obvious, doesn't it? Photo #3 was taken after the FBI took its photos on the 23rd. As the highest box in the front row of boxes by the window is missing in Photo #3, and is also missing in the re-enactment photos, moreover, it seems probable Photo #3 was actually taken on the 25th. But why?
And why did the DPD pretend Photo #3 was taken on the 22nd, to the extent Studebaker (R.L.S.) stamped it and signed it as being taken on the 22nd?
Hmmm... Was the "map" created by Studebaker to show the locations of the photos taken on 11-22 a fake, and not an honest record of the photos taken on 11-22? Or was this "map" legit, and Photo #3 a fake--inserted into the record as a replacement for a photo showing something that wasn't supposed to be shown?
Now, I know some are thinking, "Well, wait a second! Maybe the original Photo #3 was too blurry, so Studebaker re-took it on the 25th, and then told a white lie when he dated it as being taken on the 22nd."
Well, that's quite a stretch, but possible, I suppose. But, alas, that's not the last of the problems with the re-construction...
Two Bricks Down
As it turns out, boxes A, B, and C were also misrepresented in the reconstruction. This is shown on the slide above, and is confirmed by all the photos taken of the sixth floor window in the immediate aftermath of the shooting. These show Box B in the window, with its southeast corner on the ledge about half-way across the easternmost pane of the window. The photos of the re-constructed sniper's nest, however, place Box B 6 inches or so to the west.
So, yeah, the DPD misrepresented the location of the boxes. And this wasn't the last time this happened, mind you.
Here is a frame from some newsreel footage shot on 5-9-64. It is believed to a Secret Service Agent reenacting the shooting from the sniper's nest window, while Warren Commissioners Dulles, Cooper, and McCloy look on.
And here is a photo of a similar re-enactment performed on 9-6-64, when Warren Commissioners Russell and Boggs followed suit and performed their own Grand Tour of Dallas, along with repeat customer Commissioner Cooper. (And yes, you're seeing correctly. In this re-enactment the shooter was none other than Senator Richard Russell himself.)
Note that in both instances, the corner of the window box aligns with the center of the window. Well, this is the wrong location. It is, instead, the location the box was placed in the DPD's 11-25-63 re-enactment, 6 inches or more to the west of where it was at the time of the assassination.
Now, one might argue that the commission had no way of knowing the actual location of the window box at the time of the assassination, and that they had simply deferred to the DPD's photos of the re-constructed sniper's nest.
But that should not have been the case. They knew the DPD's photos were re-constructions, and they knew there were photos showing the actual location of the box. And they had them in their files. Photographer Tom Dillard, who took a photo of the sniper's nest window mere seconds after the shooting, testified before Commission Counsel Joseph Ball in Dallas on 4-1-64.
Here's a crop from one of the exhibits entered into evidence by Ball.
Now, let's not forget that Joe Ball had a junior partner, David Belin, with whom he worked so closely that they came to be known as a single-entity, Ball-Belin. Now let's add further that it was David Belin who hosted Dulles, McCloy and Cooper on their "Grand Tour" of Dallas in May 1964, including their viewing of the sniper's nest window, as Warner re-enacted the shooting.
So, yeah, it's crystal freaking clear that Belin, at the very least, should have known that the window box was in the wrong location during the 5-9-64 re-enactment.
Well, this raises some questions. Is it just a coincidence that the DPD's failure to accurately present the stack to the west of Box D, and its simultaneous failure to accurately present the location of Boxes A, B, and C, have the identical effect of giving a sniper sitting on Box D more room to maneuver, and fire?
And, similarly, is it just a coincidence that Belin and whoever set up the sniper's nest for the commissioners on 5-9-64 and 9-6-64 did so in accordance with the DPD's inaccurate re-enactment photos, even though photos depicting the boxes in their (presumably) original locations were available?
Was the actual sniper's nest just too crowded for anyone to comfortably fire three shots at a moving target, and re-write history?
Let me show you what I mean.
The Crowded Nest
The sepia overlays on the slide above provide an idea of just how crowded the nest really was.
Was this considered "too crowded" by the DPD? Did they seek to conceal this by constructing a more comfortable sniper's nest for their "re-construction"?
Now, this might seem a "so-what." The DPD placed Box B 6 inches too far to the west in their re-construction. So what? The DPD moved five boxes out of the way so they could take better pictures of the sniper's nest on 11-25. So what? And they took Box A to the crime lab on the 22nd. So what? Much as they brought the piece of cardboard torn from Box D back to the sniper's nest for the 11-25 re-construction of the sniper's nest, they brought Box A back to the sniper's nest for the re-construction. Right?
Let me explain. For photo 40 in Drain's 12-5 memo--this is the photo designated as photo 14 in CD 5, that had already been misrepresented as a photo of the crime scene as first observed in two FBI reports--it was claimed that the photo was taken while "Standing on top of boxes looking down towards boxes that were used in shooting."
But this just wasn't true--at least one of the boxes featured in the photos of a reconstructed sniper's nest was not a box that had been "used in shooting."
You see, not only did Day not tell the FBI most of his sniper's nest photos were of a re-constructed sniper's nest when first providing them with copies, he also failed to admit--ever--that the Box A used in these photos was not the original Box A.
I kid you not.
First, let's read the 4-6-64 testimony of Robert Studebaker (in which he discusses a photo that would become Studebaker Exhibit J, a photo of his and Lt. Day's 11-25-63 re-construction of the sniper's nest)...
Mr. BALL. The picture of the boxes; this is after they were moved?
Mr. STUDEBAKER. Yes, sir; they were moved there. This is exactly the position they were in.
Mr. BALL. It is?
Mr. STUDEBAKER. Yes - not - this was after they were moved, but I put them in the same exact position.
Mr. BALL. Were they that close - that was about the position?
Mr. STUDEBAKER. Yes.
Mr. BALL. Let's take one of these pictures and mark it the next number, which will be "Exhibit J."
(Instrument marked by the reporter as "Studebaker Exhibit J," for identification)
Mr. BALL. After the boxes of Rolling Readers had been moved, you put them in the same position?
Mr. STUDEBAKER. Yes.
Mr. BALL. And took a picture?
Mr. STUDEBAKER. Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL. And this is Exhibit J, is it, is that right?
Mr. STUDEBAKER. Exhibit J, yes, sir.
Mr. BALL. Now, the box that had the print on it is shown?
Mr. STUDEBAKER. Yes, sir.
Mr. BALL. Was there any other indentation on that box besides that which is shown in the circle on 3?
Mr. STUDEBAKER. No.
And now let's read the 4-22-64 testimony of Lt. Day (in which he discusses CE 733, a different print of this same photo)...
Mr. BELIN. When you came back on the 25th where did you find this box, 641?
Mr. DAY. They were still in the area of the window but had been moved from their original position.
Mr. BELIN. Does that scar appear on the box in 733?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. I see there was one box in the window which you have reconstructed as being box 653, am I correct on that?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. And then there is a box which is stacked on top of another box, the upper box of that two-box stack is 641, is that correct?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. And there is a scar on top of that. Is this the same one that you referred to at the top of 641?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. Do you have any independent recollection of this being the same box that you saw in the window, if you don't remember when you initialed it?
Mr. DAY. No, sir; except that it was still there in that area and had been dusted on the 25th. We did dust it on the 22d.
Mr. BELIN. Let me ask you this: When you were dusting it were there remains of the dust on there?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. When you put your initials on on the 25th were the dust remains still there?
Mr. DAY. The dust was still there; yes, sir.
Mr. BELIN. On all of these boxes, 641 and 653, and now handing you 654, was there dust on 654 also?
Mr. DAY. All boxes had dust on them when I collected them.
Mr. BELIN. Were boxes Nos. 641, 653, and 654 open or closed?
Mr. DAY. They were closed and had books in them.
Mr. BELIN. Did they have tape around them?
Mr. DAY. They were sealed with tape.
Well, the sum of Studebaker and Day's testimony is that the boxes used in the sniper's nest re-construction were the boxes found (and dusted) on 11-22-63, and that they remained unopened. (This, as we've seen, was incorrect). Now, to make matters worse, they also claimed the indentation or scar on Box A (CE 641) is apparent in photos Studebaker Exhibit J and CE 733 (which are actually two prints of the same photo.)
Were they lying?
The Tell-Tale "Scar"
As demonstrated above, the "scar" on Box A in the re-constructed photo (at M) is not the "scar" on Box A in the original crime scene photo (at L), nor the "scar" on Box A currently in the archives (at R).
Well, it follows from this that the "Box A' used in the sniper's nest re-construction was not the real Box A, and that the re-construction was essentially a sham.
I mean, think about it. That the "scar" on Box A was simulated for the re-construction seems obvious, and suggests the use of the "wrong" box in the re-construction was not only not an accident, but a deliberate deception. That Box A was missing in the FBI photos taken but two days before, moreover, further feeds the probability something smelly was afoot.
And, yes, I know. Some of you are thinking the "scar" on the box in CE 733 could be the "scar" in the other photos, only filmed from a different angle, etc.
But the "scar" is not the only problem with the box in CE 733.
Here, see for yourself. Here is Box A as photographed in the sniper's nest on 11-22-63.
And here is "Box A" as photographed during Day and Studebaker's re-construction of the sniper's nest, on 11-25-63..
There are a number of differences between these two boxes. These include:
1. The "scar" is different on the two boxes, with the "scar" on the first box having a deeper gouge..
2. There is a dark mark on the top of the box photographed on the 22nd, that is not visible on the box photographed on the 25th.
3. The rectangular stamp on the side of the box facing the camera is aligned differently with the circular shape above it on the first box, than on the second box. To be clear, the left side of this stamp lines up below the right side of the circle on the first box, and the left side of the circle on the second box.
4. The ink on the left side of this stamp is much thicker on the box photographed on the 22nd than it is on the box photographed on the 25th.
5. There is a line within this stamp that is visible on the box photographed on the 22nd (the real Box A, if you will) that is not apparent on the box photographed on the 25th.
6. There is a dark line to the right of this stamp on the second box that is only sporadically apparent on the first box.
7. The upside-down words "Second Rolling Readers" near the middle of the top of the side of the box run parallel to the top edge of the box photographed on the 22nd, but run at an angle to the top edge of the box photographed on the 25th.
And that's not all. Look at the two pieces of tape along the shadowy side of the box in the re-constructed photo above. The piece of tape on the left is slightly higher than the piece of tape on the right side. Now look at what is supposedly the same two pieces of tape in Archives photo 33-3374a, the National Archives' most recent photo of this box. (Note that the arrow in this photo is purported to point to where a print of Oswald's right index finger was found on this box, and that this was thereby the west-facing side of the box.)
The tape on the right is higher. And not only that, the printed letters above the tape on the right in the re-constructed photo are nowhere to be seen.
Now I know some of you are skeptical. So here's the other side of Box A, in Archives photo 33-3375a.
The bottom of the tape on the right is well below the bottom of the tape on the left. This stands in opposition to the box in the re-constructed photo, in which the bottoms of the right side and left side are at the same level.
It's clear then. It's not the same box!
So what was up? Why would the Dallas Police use a replacement box for the photos of a re-constructed sniper's nest, and then send the original box on to Washington?
Well, the thought occurs that the original Box A was unavailable on the 25th. As this box was subsequently found to bear Oswald's prints, of course, the additional thought occurs that it was unavailable on the 25th due to its being in the possession of some person (or organization) involved in planting these prints on the box.
Now, this could have been a huge problem for the Warren Commission. Day and Studebaker's probable complicity in the faking of the "scar" on the box A used in the 11-25 re-construction undermined its entire case against Oswald.
I mean, think about it. If Day and Studebaker would so brazenly lie about the boxes why wouldn't they also lie about the bag? Or any and all of the evidence compiled by their department against Oswald?
It should come as no surprise, then, that Warren Commission counsel Ball and Belin either failed to catch their deceptions or failed to confront them about these deceptions on the record, and the problems with Exhibits 729 (which proves Day lied about Box D) and 733 (which proves Day and Studebaker lied about Box A) slipped under everybody's radar until I noticed them decades later.
Now, to be clear, I tend to suspect the latter--that the Warren Commission's staff was aware of some or all of the DPD's deceptions, and that they either opted to do nothing about it, or actively encouraged these deceptions.
And here's why...
mention palm print and boxes
The Vanishing Thumb Print
Should one wish to comb through the Dallas Police records on the assassination available on the University of North Texas website, one will discover a number of surprises. One such surprise can be found in the DPD's evidence book for the assassination...on a list of the physical evidence...
A thumb print! What thumb print?
Now, this document was provided the Warren Commission, and published on page 753 of CD 81. As a result, one can assume this has been noticed before... One might assume, for that matter, that this was just a simple mistake and that it was supposed to read "palm print" not "thumb print" and "cardboard" not "cardboard box.
Only not so fast... When one turns the page in the evidence book, one finds that there is a separate listing for the palm print on the cardboard--the cardboard from Box D. Here it is on page 754 of CD 81.
Now, that's a mystery. And it's just beginning...
Here's another image from the UNT website. This is the DPD inventory for the items sent the FBI on 11-26-63. It is signed by Lt. Day and Capt. Doughty. (This was published by the commission on 24H332.)
Well, there it is again--a thumb print--only this time in quotes. Now, just what is being quoted? Lt. Day's notes? His writing on the box?
If so, these notes have never been published and this writing has never been found.
And, should that not be enough, there's this...
These pages come from the evidence list accompanying Capt. Fritz's 12-23-63 report on the assassination. The tan page is from the UNT website and the white page is from the Warren Commission's volumes (24260-261). This report was written weeks after the FBI inspected Box D and failed to ID any prints belonging to Oswald on the box. And yet...somehow...for some reason...Fritz is still under the impression Oswald's thumb print was found on Box D. He's not mistaking the palm print found on the cardboard for a thumb print, moreover, as he lists both prints on his report.
This mystery has never been explained. Although the documents we've discussed were available to the Warren Commission, moreover, none of its members or staff is known to have noticed that, oh yeah, the DPD originally claimed there was a thumb print on Box D.
It seems possible, moreover, that this wasn't just a coincidence, and that the Warren Commission was trying to conceal an awkward fact--that the DPD ID'ed a thumb print on Box D as Oswald's but the FBI disagreed...and that it was then determined that this print should be "disappeared." The first report by Lt. Day to ever see the light of, well, day, we should recall, wasn't written till 1-08-64. This was weeks after Fritz wrote his report mentioning the thumb print. Was the thumb print "disowned" by the Dallas Police sometime between 12-23-63 and 1-08-64? And, if so, why?
Was it someone else's thumb print? Who knows?
Let's refresh. We have identified significant problems (forensically speaking) with the fibers found on the rifle butt, the paper bag supposedly used as a gun case, and Box D, the box upon which Oswald was purported to have been sitting while firing his rifle. This leaves us with Box A, the top box of the two boxes stacked by the window, and the rifle itself, as the only remaining pieces of evidence tying Oswald to the sniper's nest."
Well, guess what?
There are a ton of questions about these items as well.
We'll get to them in a minute.
But first let's put on our debunking hats. When discussing the boxes in the sniper's nest window, most conspiracy theorists leap to "Yeah, someone moved them between the Tom Dillard photo taken mere seconds after the last shot, and the James Powell photo taken seconds later." And they are within their rights to do so. The HSCA, after all, concluded that the boxes had, inexplicably, been moved between the two photographs.
But on this point, conspiracy theorists should concede defeat. Photographer Craig Lamson and I had a moderately heated discussion about this somewhere around 2010, and he helped convince me that there is a vast disparity in the perspectives of the two photos, and that this led to a box in back and to the west of the box on the window sill (Box B) to change its apparent location. I even tested this out at home, placing items a foot or so behind a railing on the side of our dining room, and then viewing these items from different perspectives in the living room on the other side of the railing. Sure enough, as I moved from a sharp angle to the right of the object (as in the Powell photo, in color, below) to a more direct view of the object (as in the Dillard photo, in black and white), the object a foot behind the railing jumped to its left (in comparison to the railing).
Some years later, moreover, I noticed that someone (aka John Mytton) had made a gif of the Powell and Dillard photos demonstrating this very point, and had posted this gif on the JFK Assassination Forum. I present this gif below. Note that the box in question slides to the left (in comparison to the box on the window sill) with the shifting of the angle of the camera to the front of the building. This does not appear unnatural in a manner suggesting the box had been moved between the photos.
Okay now, let's continue on our journey through Questionland.
The Prints That Got Away
Well, there it was--the smudge first observed in the Alyea film made more apparent through the application of powder and tape.
And no, it wasn't just a smudge. A close-up view of a rifle parade photo taken for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reveals three dark shapes inside the taped-off dark area. These would appear to be isolated prints, as opposed to smudges. (This is shown below).
And no, this dark shape with the apparent prints on the right trigger guard wasn't something one could only find in the Alyea film, and press photos of the rifle parade.
As shown below, this shape was also apparent in Lt. Day's photos of the rifle.
Well, on the one hand this makes sense. Lt. day claimed he'd found prints on the trigger guard, and here are photos showing prints on the trigger guard.
Only...something's wrong? Right? Right?
The prints are supposed to have been left. On the left trigger guard, that is...
So what happened?
As the photos of Lt. Day in the rifle parade reveal a taped-off black smear on the right trigger guard, but no such smear on the left trigger guard, it seems probable the prints Day discovered on the sixth floor, and resumed working on when he returned to the crime lab around 6:00, were the prints on the right trigger guard, not left.
If so, this is a huge bombshell. Not only does this raise questions about these prints--why were they never mentioned by Lt. Day or Sebastian Latona, etc--but about the prints on the left trigger guard. Were those prints allowed to continue in the record because Lt. Day et al thought the prints on the left trigger guard were Oswald's, but knew the prints on the right trigger guard were not Oswald's?
Let's look, then, at the record and try to figure out...
Which Print Was Which?
Let's start with an FBI memo written on the afternoon of the assassination.
The FBI's 11-22-63 Memo on Its 11-22-63 Discussion With Lt. J.C. Day
Now, this is clearly a reference to one of the trigger guard prints, which Day first noticed at the school book depository. It was the discovery of this print, moreover, that led Day to bring the rifle to the crime lab. As Day did not return to the depository after his purported discovery of a palm print on the barrel of the rifle, moreover, it's crystal clear this memo was not written in reference to the palm print. (Note: this version of the memo was never provided the Warren Commission, but was discovered in the archives and made available by Malcolm Blunt.)
The FBI's 11-23-63 Memo on Its 11-22-63 Discussion With Lt. J.C. Day.
Now, this is essentially a re-wording of the Pinkston memo from the day before. Since it fails to specify where Day was when he spoke to Pinkston, however, this re-wording made the memo less clear, and left open (for those desperate to believe Day found a palm print on the rifle on 11-22-63) that the print discussed within this memo was the palm print.
The FBI's 11-24-63 Report on its 11-22-63 Discussion with Lt. J.C. Day
Well, we're off and running. While these three FBI memos, written by Nat Pinkston, don't tell us much about the location of the partial print discovered by Lt. Day, they do tell us that Lt. Day was at the depository when he told Pinkston about the print, and that he planned on returning to his lab and photographing this print. Well, this reveals the print to be one of the trigger guard prints. There is certainly nothing about this memo and report to suggest this was a reference to a palm print Day later claimed to lift from the rifle hours--hours--after beginning his work on the trigger guard.
Now, here is an 11-22-63 memo from FBI agent James Bookhout, found in the Weisberg Archives. Apparently, this report was never forwarded to FBI headquarters. In any event, this report details the evidence against Oswald as of late in the evening on the day of the shooting.
The FBI's 11-22-63 Memo Detailing the Evidence Uncovered up to this Point by the Dallas Police.
For completeness' sake, here is the other page of Bookhout's memo.
Now this is pretty interesting. First, let's note that Day has already identified the print on the cardboard ripped from Box D as Oswald's print. Now note as well that Bookhout thinks the Dallas Police have photographed the box from which this cardboard has been torn (which, of course, they have not), and that this print came from the top box in the stack by the window, Box A.
And now note that beyond working on the print on the cardboard, Day has been studying a print from the middle of the rifle, and that he has found 4 points on this print which he will try to match up to Oswald's prints.
Was this print on the right trigger guard? Or left? If this print was on the right trigger guard, one should wonder, what happened to it? Did Day prove to himself this wasn't a print made by Oswald, and then make it disappear?
In any event, the only trigger guard prints mentioned in the Warren Report are the prints Day claimed he found on the left trigger guard.
Photos of these prints can be found in the Dallas Police Archives. Photos of these prints were purportedly sent the FBI. And photos of these prints were published by the Warren Commission.
The Dallas photos appear to match the commission photos, moreover.
So all is well and good, right?
Nope, there's a whole heap of questions about these prints as well.
The Secret Photos
Here is what FBI fingerprint examiner Sebastian Latona had to say about the prints found on the trigger guard:
Mr. LATONA. There had, in addition to this rifle and that paper bag, which I received on the 23rd--there had also been submitted to me some photographs which had been taken by the Dallas Police Department, at least alleged to have been taken by them, of these prints on this trigger guard which they developed. I examined the photographs very closely and I still could not determine any latent value in the photograph. So then I took the rifle personally over to our photo laboratory. In the meantime, I had made arrangements to bring a photographer in especially for the purpose of photographing these latent prints for me, an experienced photographer--I called him in. I received this material in the Justice Building. My office of operations is in the Identification Division Building, which is at 2nd and D Streets SW. So I made arrangements to immediately have a photographer come in and see if he could improve on the photographs that were taken by the Dallas Police Department. Well, we spent, between the two of us, setting up the camera, looking at prints, highlighting, sidelighting, every type of lighting that we could conceivably think of, checking back and forth in the darkroom--we could not improve the condition of these latent prints. So, accordingly, the final conclusion was simply that the latent print on this gun was of no value, the fragments that were there. After that had been determined, I then proceeded to completely process the entire rifle, to see if there were any other prints of any significance or value any prints of value--I would not know what the significance would be, but to see if there were any other prints. I completely covered the rifle.
Mr. LATONA. I was not successful in developing any prints at all on the weapon.
Well, this is quite clear, isn't it? The DPD sent the FBI some photographs of the trigger guard prints. The quality of the prints on these photos was lacking. The FBI then spent a considerable amount of time trying to improve upon these photos, by taking their own photos of the prints apparent on the rifle. But they were, reportedly, unable to improve upon them. So Latona gave up and re-processed the rifle. And found no prints anywhere.
Well, this is quite a problem, wouldn't you say? Lt. Day taped-off some prints on the right trigger guard. These disappeared from the record. He also found some prints on the left trigger guard. Copies of these photos were published by the Warren Commission. But the FBI said these were a no-go...
Now, I must admit I have a problem with this. The photos published by the Warren Commission were horrible. This led many to claim, over time, that the prints on these photos were smudged. But better versions of these photos were later put on line by the City of Dallas. These showed at least one of the prints to have been faint, but un-smudged.
Well, it only follows, then, that the FBI should have been able to create an image of similar quality, and to have created some photos in which this print, at the very least, could have been identified as Oswald's print, or not Oswald's print. This very thought, moreover, haunted researcher James Olmstead. For years, he begged the FBI to release the photos created by Latona, that Latona said were of no use. But the FBI refused to co-operate.
Now, should we take from this that the FBI knows full well that these prints weren't Oswald's? I don't know.
But it's important, nonetheless, that we realize there were no prints linking Oswald to the rifle before his death. None. And that, much as Howard Brennan popped up after Oswald's death so the assassination story could be changed to reflect there'd been an eyewitness who'd ID'ed Oswald as the shooter, the DPD popped up a print after Oswald's death so the story could be changed to reflect Oswald's prints had been found on the rifle.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves.... We're still discussing the prints on the left trigger guard...
And the strange fluctuations in their supposed value...
Let's reveal then that these prints were written off as smudged and/or of no value by everyone to take a look at them or even write about them prior to the release of First Day Evidence in 1993. There, author Gary Savage, working with a fingerprint examiner named Jerry Powdrill, claimed that the most prominent print apparent on the DPD's photos of the trigger guard matched Oswald's right middle finger on three points, and shared "very similar characteristics" on three more. Powdrill said, moreover, that this gave him a "gut feeling" the prints were a match.
So how seriously should we take this?
Not too seriously. As we've seen, First Day Evidence was a book written by the nephew of Rusty Livingston, one of Lt. Day's employees. It had an obvious bias. This bias was revealed, moreover, in the following passage: "Latona could not make a positive identification since the fingerprints were extremely faint following the removal of the protective tape." (First Day Evidence, 1993, p.109)
Now, should the bias in this passage not be clear, let me explain. Lt. Day said he covered the trigger guard prints with cellophane to protect them. He did not say he covered them with cellophane tape. The removal of cellophone tape from a print, for that matter, would create a "lift" of the print which could then be applied to a card. No cards were created in this manner. Latona, furthermore, claimed he received the rifle with "cellophane material" over the area on which latent prints had been detected. He never called this material tape or mentioned any problems created by the cellophane.
In fact, he said just the opposite...
Mr. DULLES. Is is likely or possible that those fingerprints could have been damaged or eroded in the passage from Texas to your hands?
Mr. LATONA. No, sir; I don't think so. In fact, I think we got the prints just like they were.
So, yeah, Savage was blowing smoke to hide that the wafer-thin ID of the print as Oswald's he'd received from Powdrill contradicted the sworn testimony of Latona, a top FBI fingerprint examiner.
But wait, it gets worse. Spurred on by Savage's book, the producers of the 1993 PBS program "Who was Lee Harvey Oswald?" hired HSCA fingerprint examiner Vincent Scalice to take a look at the photos published by Savage. Scalice said the prints in the photos were "barely distinguishable" and "partially distorted," but nevertheless concluded they were Oswald's.
Here is an excerpt from the transcript to this program.
"When Livingston began working with his nephew, Gary Savage, on a book about the assassination called JFK: First Day Evidence, they decided to have the fingerprints reexamined. They turned to Captain Jerry Powdrill of the West Monroe, Louisiana, Police Department, a qualified fingerprint examiner. Powdrill found three points of identity between the trigger guard prints and Oswald’s known prints and three possible points of identity. Six to ten points of identity are normally required in the U.S. to make a positive identification. Powdrill told FRONTLINE, “I cannot say that sufficient evidence exists to conclude that the latent print [in the photograph] is in fact that of Lee Harvey Oswald; however, there are enough similarities to suggest that it is possible they are one in the same.”FRONTLINE asked George Bonebrake, a former supervisor of the FBI latent fingerprint division to examine copies of the fingerprint photographs. Bonebrake told FRONTLINE the prints were not clear enough to make an identification of anyone. “They lack enough characteristic ridge detail to be of value for identification purposes,” said Bonebrake. FRONTLINE also asked Vincent Scalice, former head of the New York City Police latent fingerprint unit to examine the trigger guard prints. In 1978, Scalice had examined all the prints in the Kennedy case for the House Select Committee on Assassinations. At that time, he concluded that the trigger guard prints were “of no value for identification purposes.” But after examining Rusty Livingston’s original fingerprint photographs in Louisiana, Scalice reversed his 1978 assessment. Scalice told FRONTLINE: “I took the photographs. There were a total of four photographs in all. I began to examine them. I saw two faint prints, and as I examined them, I realized that the prints had been taken at different exposures, and it was necessary for me to utilize all of the photographs to compare against the inked prints. As I examined them, I found that by maneuvering the photographs in different positions, I was able to pick up some details on one photograph and some details on another photograph. Using all the photographs at different contrasts...! was able to find in the neighborhood of about eighteen points of identity in the two prints. I feel that this is a major breakthrough in this investigation, because we are able for the first time to actually say that these are definitely the fingerprints of Lee Harvey Oswald and that they are on the rifle. There is no doubt about it.”
The transcript continues:
"How could Scalice have missed an identification in 1978 that he was able to make in 1993? The answer appears to lie in the number of photographs of the prints that were available for experts like Scalice to examine. Sebastian Latona, the head of the FBI fingerprint division in 1963, told FRONTLINE that the FBI examined only the rifle itself in making its determination that the trigger guard prints were of no value. Latona said the FBI never looked at the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard fingerprints. Although the record is not precise on this point, it appears that only one or two of the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard prints were forwarded to the Warren Commission, where they were examined by Arthur Mandella, a consultant to the commission. Mandella came to the same conclusion as the FBI, that the trigger guard prints were of no value. When Vincent Scalice examined photographs of the trigger guard prints in 1978 for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, he apparently only had the one or two Dallas police photographs that were part of the Warren Commission files. “I have to assume,” says Scalice, “that my original examination and comparison was carried out in all probability on one photograph. And that photograph was apparently a poor quality photograph, and the latent prints did not contain a sufficient amount of detail in order to effect an identification. I know for a fact that I did not see all these four photographs in 1978, because if I had, I would have been able to make an identification at that point in time. So where these photographs were, I don’t know. But after this reexamination, I definitely conclude these are Oswald’s prints.” After consultations with Scalice, Captain Jerry Powdrill told FRONTLINE that he also now agrees with Scalice’s judgement-that the trigger guard prints are those of Lee Harvey Oswald. 'Vincent Scalice’s identification of the trigger guard fingerprints is a significant development in our understanding of the Kennedy assassination,' says FRONTLINE senior producer Sullivan. 'But clearly the experts do disagree on this matter. We hope that this story will spark a proper professional debate among the nation’s leading fingerprint experts that will lead to a more definitive conclusion to the question.”
Well, this sounds pretty definitive, right? Scalice says he sees 18 points and everyone, sans Bonebrake, falls in line.
But whatever happened to research? Here are the "4 photographs" published in First Day Evidence.
The Five Photos of Mr. Savage
Well, by golly, there weren't four photographs, were there? There were five. And by five I mean Savage thought the five photos on the slide above represented five different photos from five different negatives.
Here is an excerpt from his book that proves this:
"Rusty has copies of five photographs taken by Lieutenant Day made directly from the original Dallas police negatives which show latent fingerprints found on the trigger housing of the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from the sixth floor of the Depository. The fingerprints are visible to the naked eye even before enhancement. Each of the fingerprint photographs was taken with a light shining on the trigger housing from different directions in order to produce various contrasts of the fingerprints. This was an attempt by Lieutenant Day to bring out as much of the ridge detail as possible in order to do a comparison for identification of whoever had previously handled the rifle (the shooter)."
Now, even at first glance, some of these photos look similar, as if they are not different photos from different negatives, but prints from the same negative.
So let's crop 'em down and line 'em up.
Here they are, in order from photo 33 to 37.
Well, hell, it's clear from this that photos 33 and 35 came from the same negative, as did 34 and 36. This means there were actually but 3 photos taken of the left trigger guard--at least that were developed, and of quality enough that Livingston would make himself a copy.
Now look again at 37, the bottom photo. It appears that this photo was not only taken from further back than photos 33 and 34, but over-exposed in the area of the trigger guard on which prints can be seen. If so, well then this tells us Scalice was full of beans when he implied he used four different photos to come to his conclusions, and that he, at most, used two different photos.
And that's not even the biggest eyebrow-raiser among the statements made by Scalice. He claimed as well that he'd never viewed the trigger guard photos before, beyond perhaps one "poor quality photograph." And this excuse almost makes sense. When one combs through the Mary Ferrell Archives, however, one can find a "2 pg listing of material made available to HSCA" with the following paragraph at the bottom of the second page. (HSCA Admin Folder M-3, p5-6)
Well, if this doesn't suggest Scalice saw more than one photo of the trigger guard prints, I don't know what does. It says "Photos of Latents on rifle" not "photo." And it says there were "8 small negs w/10 small prints." While some might assume these "negs" were actually of the rifle, and not "latents on rifle," moreover, the rest of the items on the 2 pg list are items bearing prints, fingerprint cards, and photos and negatives of photos depicting prints. The 8 "negs" are thereby almost certainly "negs" of the Dallas Police photos of the trigger guard prints, or the FBI's photos of the trigger guard prints, or both. Well, wait. If the date for this folder is to be believed, it would suggest these photos are the FBI's own photos of the trigger guard prints, with the possible exception of the photos sent the FBI from Dallas. Such a circumstance, moreover, would explain why there were 10 prints, but only 8 negatives.
Now, Frontline was, and is, a respected news source. It's bad enough that they failed to take a close look at the photos Scalice claimed he'd studied, and to check with the research community or archives to see if he was correct in stating he'd never seen these photos before. But this wasn't the only questionable part of the segment.
Here is Sebastian Latona in his 4-2-64 testimony before the Warren Commission...
"...in addition to this rifle and that paper bag, which I received on the 23d--there had also been submitted to me some photographs which had been taken by the Dallas Police Department, at least alleged to have been taken by them, of these prints on this trigger guard which they developed. I examined the photographs very closely and I still could not determine any latent value in the photograph(s)."
and here is Frontline, almost 30 years later...
"Sebastian Latona, the head of the FBI fingerprint division in 1963, told FRONTLINE that the FBI examined only the rifle itself in making its determination that the trigger guard prints were of no value. Latona said the FBI never looked at the Dallas Police photographs of the trigger guard fingerprints."
Are we really to believe no one at Frontline studied Latona's testimony before interviewing him, and that no one at Frontline knew he was incorrect or lying when he claimed the FBI never studied the photographs?
And it's not as if Latona's testimony was the only time the FBI admitted they'd studied the photographs. Here's an excerpt from the FBI's 11-23-63 report on the evidence sent them on the night of the shooting (24H263)...
Now, aha!, one might say. That report reveals that the FBI was sent but one of the DPD's photographs!
Only not so fast... Let's take a look at this 11-26-63 FBI report provided the Warren Commission (CD5 p167).
And then this 11-29-63 FBI report (FBI HQ, sec 17, p176).
It's clear, then, that the FBI not only studied the Dallas Police Department's photographs of the trigger guard, they sought out and studied the original negatives...all 3 of them.
So, Latona's excuse was Bullshit with a capital B.
Of course, he was an old man in 1993. So, of course, he could have been mistaken. And, of course, there's always the possibility the trigger guard photos mentioned in the 11-26 memo were photos taken of the right trigger guard, and that Latona is guilty of covering that up but not guilty of lying to Frontline about studying photos of the left trigger guard. But that's beside the point.
The excuse Latona fed Frontline is not credible. Period.
Well, this is disturbing. The Warren Commission's fingerprint expert, and the HSCA's fingerprint expert, appeared on the same TV program, and they both blew smoke. They both made out that they'd never studied photographs of the trigger guard, when the record suggests they had.
Still, this does little to disprove Scalice's latter day identification of the trigger guard prints as Oswald's.
Was he mistaken, or worse?
The Missing Charts
I suspect worse... There are reasons to believe Scalice was biased. He worked for the New York City Police Dept. from 1956-1977. He spent much of that time as the Coordinator of the NYPD's Latent Fingerprint Unit. He was almost certainly trained by Arthur Mandella. Mandella, as we've seen, testified in a suspicious manner before the Warren Commission, with his conclusions and testimony being pretty much a rubber-stamp of the FBI's conclusions and testimony.
Was Scalice determined to support his mentor, and/or his colleagues in the FBI, by adding another piece to the evidence pile supporting Oswald's guilt? Scalice's latter-day C.V. boasted that he'd "worked closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning deaths of President John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King." Well, this is a bit of a shock seeing as he was supposed to be coming to an independent conclusion regarding the fingerprint evidence for these cases.
Or was Scalice merely out for attention? It seems a bit of a coincidence that, but 18 months after his appearance on Frontline, in which he presented himself as a fingerprint expert, Scalise appeared at a press conference funded by right-wingers opposed to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and presented himself as a handwriting expert, and not just any handwriting expert, mind you, but as a handwriting expert claiming Vince Foster's suicide note had been forged.
And that wasn't the last we heard of Scaiice. On March 22, 1996, Scalice appeared once again on national TV, this time on the program Unsolved Mysteries. Well, did he add any details regarding his matching the trigger guard prints to Oswald's prints? Nope, no such luck. His appearance was devoted to his latest project--he doubled-down on his claim the Foster note was forged.
Scalice died on Nov. 25, 1997.
Now, think about this. Scalice died four years after announcing a major breakthrough in the Kennedy assassination. He claimed he'd ID'ed 18 points of similarity between Oswald's prints and the trigger guard prints. And this even though Lt. Day, working with the actual trigger guard prints and not just photos of the trigger guard prints, told FBI agent Bookhout there were but 4 points on these prints that he was going to try to match to Oswald's prints.
Well, what is one to take from this? It sure seems as though Scalice was trying to make a name for himself, and that he grossly oversold the similarity between the trigger guard prints and Oswald's prints. But that doesn't mean he was wrong.
No, what we have here is not a case of a dog that shouldn't have barked, but a case where the dog didn't bark...when he should have.
Scalice was a veteran fingerprint examiner. He knew, better than most anyone else, that juries expect fingerprint examiners to show them charts in which the points of similarity between a known print and a latent print are matched up and numbered. He knew, better than most anyone else, that juries, or even better, the American people, would withhold judgement on any fingerprint identification for which no charts of this nature had been supplied. And yet he supplied no charts.
He said he found 18 points of similarity. Oh wait, did I write "18 points?" In 1998, Gus Russo, the chief researcher for Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?, published his first book on the assassination, Live By the Sword. There, he related: "In 1992, I met with Rusty Livingston, a former Dallas policeman assigned to the crime lab at the time of the assassination. Livingston had saved high contrast photo prints of the rifle, taken before it was shipped to FBI headquarters in Washington. The photos contained evidence that had gone unnoticed, and when Frontline had them analyzed, Oswald's guilt seemed even more certain. Vincent Scalice, a renowned fingerprint expert and HSCA consultant, was engaged by Frontline and expressed astonishment at what he saw -- three fingers from Oswald's right hand had left their mark just inches from the trigger. Scalice, in fact, had located a whopping 18 points of identification. After the production aired, he continued his work and increased the total to 24 points. 'If I had seen these four photographs in 1978,' says Scalice, 'I would have been able to make an identification at that point in time. After this reexamination, I definitely conclude these are Oswald's prints. There is no doubt about it.'
In any event, 18 points or 24 points--take your pick--it would have been relatively easy for Scalice to match up a copy of a Dallas PD photo with a copy of Oswald's prints, and draw arrows between the two showing these numerous points of similarity. If he had to do this with more than one of the police photos, well, then so be it. This would have taken Scalice perhaps a day or two, and it would have earned him a cover story in the Journal of Forensic Identification, or whatever publication on fingerprinting he admired. And he could have used this as a calling card to drum up more business, a la the Foster business.
But his charts never appeared. And have still never appeared, more than 20 years after his death.
The "proper professional debate" about these prints which Frontline hoped to "spark" never came to pass.
And I think we know why.
Right on Left?
Let us turn our focus to the second print.. The central print purported to be Oswald's right middle finger print is accompanied by a print to its right, at the upper edge of the trigger guard on the image above. This is clearly the second print described by Scalice, which accounts for an unspecified number of the 18 points of similarity he identified.
So what print was this? While Latona never told, Lt. Day was a bit more forthcoming...
Mr. BELIN. Do you have those photographs, sir? I will mark the two photographs which you have just produced Commission Exhibits 720 and 721. I will ask you to state what these are.
Mr. DAY. These are prints or pictures, I should say, of the latent--of the traces of prints on the side of the magazine housing of the gun No. C-2766.
Mr. BELIN. Were those prints in such condition as to be identifiable, if you know?
Mr. DAY. No, sir; I could not make positive identification of these prints.
Mr. BELIN. Did you have enough opportunity to work and get these pictures or not?
Mr. DAY. I worked with them, yes. I could not exclude all possibility as to identification. I thought I knew which they were, but I could not positively identify them.
Mr. BELIN. What was your opinion so far as it went as to whose they were?
Mr. DAY. They appeared to be the right middle and right ring finger of Harvey Lee Oswald, Lee Harvey Oswald.
Mr. BELIN. At the time you had this did you have any comparison fingerprints to make with the actual prints of Lee Harvey Oswald?
Mr. DAY. Yes, sir; we had sets in Captain Fritz' office. Oswald was in his custody, we had made palmprints and fingerprints of him.
The second print was, purportedly, the print of Oswald's right ring finger. Well, think about it. How likely is it that a right ring fingerprint would be found just to the right of a right middle fingerprint if the prints hadn't been created at the same time? Not very likely, right? And then add in that these right fingerprints were found on the left trigger guard in a manner suggesting someone had held the rifle with the trigger guard in the palm of his right hand, with his fingers stretching up across the left trigger guard. And then add in that the print for this right ring finger is higher on the trigger guard than the right middle finger. Well, this suggests the ring finger was stretched forward of the middle finger.
Now how does one do that while holding a rifle? I've tried to contort my hands into this position but it's incredibly awkward. It makes no sense. Non-smudged fingerprints are left on objects when fingertips are pressed straight down onto the object, and not when they briefly slide across the object. As a result, it's hard to see how the right middle finger and right ring finger of Oswald's hand could have left the prints in question.
Let us now remember that a faked print can sometimes be detected by its reflecting "an orientation inconsistent with normal handling."
When the fingerprint evidence presented against Oswald is re-examined by a forensic body--and it will be re-examined by a forensic body--an analysis of the orientation of these prints should be made.
That is, of course, if these examiners can get beyond arguing about the other print supposedly found on the rifle--the barrel print.
The Rifle Barrel Polka
Let us begin our discussion of the barrel print by reminding ourselves what should have happened.
"If a fingerprint is visible, an effort should be made to photograph it before any attempt is made to develop it. In every case a print developed with powder should be photographed before lifting. It sometimes happens that the print does not lift properly although it may be quite clear after development."
The Science of Fingerprints (the FBI's manual on fingerprinting), Chapter 15, p.187
Mr. LATONA. The purpose of the lift is simply to insure the probability of getting a good record of the print, because a lot of times when you photograph a print, you have to go through the process of having it developed and then printed and at the same time by lifting it you may, that would be an additional security that you are getting the best results. Then you take your choice as to which result turns out the best.
Mr. EISENBERG. So these are alternative routes?
Mr. LATONA. That is right.
Mr. EISENBERG. Lifting and photographing?
Mr. LATONA. That is right. Well, primarily our recommendation in the FBI is simply in every procedure to photograph and then lift. Then you choose the one which you feel gives you the best results in your final photograph.
(The 4-2-64 testimony of FBI fingerprint expert Sebastian Latona)
Mr. DAY. In the matter of fingerprints, I have been assigned to the identification bureau 15 years. During that time I have attended schools, the Texas Department of Public Safety, on fingerprinting; also an advanced latent-print school conducted in Dallas by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have also had other schooling with the Texas Department of Public Safety and in the local department on crime-scene search and general investigative work.
(The 4-22-64 testimony of Dallas Crime Scene Search Section Chief Lt. J. C. Day)
So now let's go through the various accounts of what did happen, and see if we can spot changes in the story. .
Newsman Robert MacNeil on NBC around 11:00 PM CST on 11-22-63
“Dallas Police Chief Jess Curry has recently reported that his men have found a partial fingerprint on the rifle believed used in the assassination. The weapon will be sent to Washington to assure proper handling of the print.”
Well, okay. This appears to be a reference to the main print on the trigger guard, which Lt. Day first developed in the school book depository.
Newsman David Brinkley on NBC around 12:30 AM CST on 11-23-63
"The Dallas Police reported a moment ago that the foreign-made rifle believed to have been used in the shooting of the President had no fingerprints on it but has been sent here to the FBI laboratory in Washington for an analysis".
So why the change? As Lt. Day would later admit, he just couldn't bring himself to conclude the trigger guard print was Oswald's. Well, this is interesting, no? Rather than admit there is a print that they can't match to Oswald's prints, someone in the DPD has decided to claim there are NO prints. Period...
But as for the honchos leading the investigation, they've decided that mum's the word...
NBC Transcript of Post-Midnight 11-23-63 Interviews of Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry and Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade (CE 2142, 24H750)
Q. Any particular thing that he said that caused you to file the charges regarding the President's death against him?
Curry. No, sir. Physical evidence is the main thing that we are relying upon.
Q. Can you name the physical evidence?
Q. Mr. Wade, could you elaborate on the physical evidence?
Wade. Well, we've gone on into some other things that were gathered; the gun is one of them.
Q. Are there any fingerprints on the gun?
That there really were no prints found on the gun, moreover, was repeated in the mainstream press the next day.
11-23-63 UPI Report on the Evidence Against Oswald (found in, among many newspapers, the New Castle News)
"Police also found the imported rifle with the telescopic sight which fired the fatal bullet into Kennedy's brain, but they said there were no fingerprints on it."