JAHS Chapter 7
12-5--12-9 ss re-enactment and first warren hearing
The Warren Show
Above: the Warren Commission in its first session. From L to R: former CIA Director Allen Dulles, Congressman Hale Boggs, Senator John Sherman Cooper, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Senator Richard Russell, Businessman John McCloy, and Congressman (and future President) Gerald Ford.
Meanwhile, in the nation's capitol, the Warren Commission held its first executive session. Among the business at hand was picking a general counsel, that is, a person to oversee the actual investigation. Chief Justice Warren wanted his former assistant Warren Olney III for this role, but the other commissioners were wary of having a general counsel so subservient to Warren. So they decided to put their brains together and come up with someone more agreeable to the commission as a whole.
Among the other topics discussed was, no surprise, the FBI's leaking its conclusions to the press. As reported by Dick Russell in The Man Who Knew Too Much, notes on this session by Senator Richard Russell (no relation) found in his memorial library, reflect that Senator Russell felt "Something strange is happening. W and Katzenbach know all about F.B.I. and they are apparently through psychiatrists and others planning to show Oswald only one who even considered. This to me is untenable. I must insist on outside Counsel."
The "W" in Russell's note was Warren. Yes, as incredible as it may seem to those considering Warren a beacon of integrity, Judge Warren was adamantly against conducting an open and independent investigation of the assassination, and told his fellow commissioners: "I am of the opinion also that we should not conduct our hearings in public; that it is not necessary for us to bring witnesses before us. If it is necessary for us to get the stories of witnesses we can get it through our investigative agencies first, and then if we want to talk to them we can bring them into our conference room and discuss it with them there...Having that view, I do not believe that it is necessary for us to have the power of subpoena. I believe that the power of subpoena and holding public meetings where witnesses would be brought in would retard rather than help our investigation...we could hold our meetings and take any evidence or any statements that we want in camera, and eventually make our report without any great fanfare throughout the country. I think any report we would make would carry with it a great deal more influence done in that way than if we attempted to have any public hearings."
He also reminded those in attendance of the commission's raison d'etre: to shut down other investigations and allay public fears. He advised: "The President indicated to me that if this commission was set up that in all probability there would be no legislative committees having hearings. I think that would be very helpful, because one investigation should be enough..." and later added "I personally would be very happy if the State of Texas would decide not to hold any such hearings until this commission had an opportunity to survey the situation and make its appraisal, because if there should be some irresponsible witnesses come before that commission and give sensational testimony to the public... we would have the job of allaying the public fears that developed from that kind of testimony."
This last statement reflects that an underlying turf war had bubbled to the surface. While the Texas Court of Inquiry announced after Kennedy's funeral was more than ready to rubber-stamp the FBI's report, Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr was less willing to subordinate his state's investigation to that of the subsequently announced Warren Commission, as he was concerned that any investigation headed by Warren would have an anti-Texas bias. As a result, during the first week of December he was called back to Washington.
In his book Texas Politics in My Rearview Mirror, Carr describes this trip as follows: "The President suggested that I visit with Chief Justice Earl Warren as soon as possible to work out a cooperative effort...the White House had arranged for Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach to set up the meeting with the Chief Justice. To my complete surprise, Mr. Katzenbach reported to us that the Chief Justice refused to see us until we agreed that Texas would drop any plans for an investigation and any thought of participating in the Warren Commission investigation!...It developed into a Warren-Carr two-day standoff, with Katzenbach acting as go-between. Late in the afternoon of the second day, we sat in the Attorney General's office awaiting Katzenbach's return from another visit with Warren. When he came back, he told us that Warren remained adamant not to see us until we complied with his terms. Completely frustrated and with little patience remaining, I advised Mr. Katzenbach that we were leaving for Texas on the next plane and when we arrived there I would convene the Court of Inquiry. I added that this would be a public hearing, as opposed to Warren's closed-door investigations, and we would let the world determine which one it liked best. We immediately departed for our hotel to check out, but by the time I reached my room, Mr. Katzenbach called to say the Chief Justice had agreed to meet."
Carr and Warren then worked out the terms of their cooperation. In Carr's book, he lays out these terms. In exchange for the Court of Inquiry's being allowed to have representatives present at the Commission's closed hearings, direct questions to witnesses, and have access to depositions, Carr agreed "That when the investigation was completed, if we felt a. It had been fair to Texas, b. It had been thorough, and c. No evidence was withheld from the public, then I would report this to Governor Connally and the people of Texas and publicly agree with the Commission's conclusions." Note that Carr's concern is that the investigation "be fair to Texas" and not "be fair to Oswald," a resident of Texas whose rights he was charged with protecting. Note also that Carr agreed to publicly agree with the Commission's conclusions provided only that their investigation be thorough and that all the evidence be made public; and that they need not come to a correct conclusion in order for him to agree. From this one can only conclude that Carr had sold out his responsibility to see that justice was served in exchange for the protection of his beloved state of Texas, and that Warren had agreed to be kind to Texas in exchange for his conclusions not being publicly second-guessed. A political solution to a legal question. In other words, politics as usual.
There's also this. Carr's insistence the investigation and report be "fair to Texas" has a disturbing historical precedent. In the aftermath of the Civil War (or War Against the Rebellion, or War Between the States--whatever euphemism you prefer for mass carnage) an organization (the United Daughters of the Confederacy) arose. This organization sought to cast the South, and the reasons for the South's rebellion (the preservation of its "peculiar institution," aka the forced enslavement of their fellow human beings) in a more positive light, by pushing the false narrative the South seceded as a matter of principle, and a disagreement over State's Rights. In this false narrative, the South was willing to fight for State's Rights, when the reality was that the whole she-bang erupted over the South's fear the North would someday exercise their own rights, that is, the right to offer amnesty to runaway slaves, etc., and thereby stall the advancement of slavery as an institution, and business model.
In any event, the Daughters of the Confederacy sought to create a false history by implementing the following tactic: they denounced all books and textbooks presenting the South's addiction to slavery as the central cause of the war as "unjust to the South." And it worked. Within decades the vast majority of those writing on the war bent over backwards to excuse the South's actions--or even present them in a noble light--and rarely pointed out that it was really all about slavery--and the fervent desire of one class (the slaveowner class) that they be permitted to own people for perpetuity.
So, yes, it's hard not to see the parallels. As an educated white Southerner, Carr knew full well that the Daughters of the Confederacy had received preferable treatment for their client (the legacy of their forefathers) via their threat of denouncing historical accounts as "unfair to the South," and now he sought to receive similarly preferable treatment for his client (Dallas, aka "nut country" or the "City of Hate") via his threat to denounce Warren's investigation and report as "unfair to Texas."
(On October 5, 1964, less than 2 weeks after the Warren Commission published its 888-page report, the Texas Court of Inquiry issued a 20-page report, confirming its findings.)
Now, back to '63. On December 6, 1963, the day after its first meeting, the Warren Commission picked its General Counsel.
They picked this guy.
Above: Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, a former Solicitor General under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Now, one of the many riddles of the day remains unsolved--and that is why an investigation presumably performed for a Democratic President at a time when the Democratic Party dominated both the Senate and the House was instead dominated and run by Republicans, including the former head of the CIA, who was fired by Kennedy in part because his agency bungled a supposedly secret operation that, unbeknownst to Kennedy, relied upon Kennedy's publicly committing American forces--when Kennedy's reluctance to publicly commit American forces was the reason for the operation in the first place! I mean, this was the leader of America's clandestine forces--who'd clandestinely tried to undermine and re-write the President's policy towards Cuba...
In short, then: what the heck was Allen Dulles--a man fired by Kennedy, for crying out loud--doing on a panel supposedly investigating his death?
Above: long-time CIA Chief Allen Dulles with his pipe and pen. It's been said the pen is mightier than the sword. But one should never underestimate a man with a pipe.
On 12-6-63 Ex-CIA chief and newly-appointed Warren Commissioner Allen Dulles used his pen. He wrote a letter to CIA counter-intelligence chief James Angleton. He reported "Please see enclosed letter from (REDACTED). Over the phone he told me that he had some information, rather vague, about some plot of air force officers to "impeach" President Kennedy, including an Air force officer who had been attache in Czechoslovakia. I told him that such information should be brought to the attention of the FBI. He promised to do it but whether he will or not, I do not know. I can only judge by telephone conversation in that he talked quite sanely but very vaguely." (Note: I found this letter among Dulles' personal correspondence on the Princeton University website.)
Yep, Dulles, tasked with investigating Kennedy's death, instead passed the buck to the FBI and CIA, even though he, as one well-familiar with the craft of coups d'etats, knew full well that any coups d'etats made of "air force officers" would be likely to include members of the CIA.
Yep, for whatever reason--I mean really, no one can say for sure--Dulles told Angleton, charged with investigating the assassination on behalf the CIA, about a potential break in the case potentially involving the CIA, and failed to tell his fellow commissioners about this break. Well, from this, it seems clear that Dulles' first inclination, even in his retirement, was to protect the CIA. I mean, why, if Dulles truly felt the information brought forth by (REDACTED) should have been brought to the attention of the FBI, hadn't he done so himself?
And Dulles wasn't the only one covering up for his "team" whatever that team should be. A 12-6 article by Anthony Lewis for the New York Times reflects that "congressional Republicans" have rejected President Johnson's decision to blame "hate" for the crime, and have insisted instead that people blame left-wing hate for the crime, and leave right-wing hate alone. A statement put out by these Republicans claims: "We are told that hate was the assassin that struck down the President. If it was hatred that moved the assassin, that hatred was bred by the teachings of Communism. All the evidence presented affirms this." No shrinking violet, Republican Senator Millard Simpson of Wyoming offered his support for this sentiment, and complained, on the floor of the U. S. Senate, that persons seeking "political advantage from warping the uncontestable truth" were trying to blame "rightists and conservatives" for Kennedy's death. He then asserted "It was a single kill-crazy Communist who was acting to the dictates of his own unexplainable left-wing dementia." Keep in mind that the FBI's report on the assassination has not yet been released. And that here is a U.S. Senator, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, pronouncing Oswald a "kill-crazy Communist."
Still, this was almost a compliment in comparison to what came next. Over the next few days, an AP recap of the shootings of Kennedy and Oswald was published across the country. This was a news story, by Jules Loh, entitled "Three Paths Led to Dallas," clearly based upon the FBI's supposedly unbiased report. It was not an opinion piece. And yet Loh saw fit to describe the defenseless Oswald as a "sullen, fitful, frustrated, ne'er do well, whose demonic pursuit of Marxist nostrums led him everywhere and nowhere."
Now, one might forgive the bias against Oswald so apparent in the media, if only they got their facts straight. But, sadly, this was usually not the case. An article in the 12-9-63 issue of Newsweek provides yet another example. After reporting that a number of witnesses saw a rifle sticking out of the sixth floor sniper's nest window, the article continues: "One man saw a man as well. 'I can't identify him, but if I see a man who looks like him, I'll point him out.' Later, he looked over a police line-up of four men, and chose Oswald." Well, this was quite misleading. On first pass, it makes it sound like this witness chose Oswald as the shooter, when this witness, Howard Brennan, actually chose Oswald as the person most looking like the shooter of the four men shown to him. But it's even worse than that. When taken literally, this passage suggests Brennan said he wouldn't be able to make a positive ID of the shooter, but thought Oswald looked like the shooter, when Brennan actually said he believed he could make a positive ID of the shooter, but refused to ID Oswald, and effectively said he believed Oswald was not the shooter.
On 12-9-63, the FBI summary report on the assassination was turned over to the newly formed Warren Commission. Attached to their copies of the report, the commissioners found a letter signed by Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach, recommending they immediately release a short press statement declaring that "1) The FBI report... establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy" and "2) The FBI has made an exhaustive investigation into whether Oswald may have conspired with or been assisted by any organization, group, or person...To date this aspect of the investigation has been negative."
To their credit, the commissioners chose to disregard Katzenbach's letter. In his testimony before the HSCA in 1978 Katzenbach explained his role by saying that the state department had requested some statement be made indicating Oswald's guilt so that our allies would feel more comfortable with the new administration. He also mentioned that the FBI itself wrote the letter and that he merely added his signature.
Above: Nicholas D. Katzenbach, Lyndon Johnson, and Robert F. Kennedy. Katzenbach is on Johnson's side, Johnson is smiling, and Robert F. Kennedy appears none too pleased.
On November 22, shortly after the assassination, he took over as Acting Attorney General, so that Attorney General Kennedy could both grieve for his murdered brother and devote himself to his family.
On November 24, after Oswald was assassinated, he met with FBI Director Hoover. The next day, he issued a memorandum to Bill Moyers, then working as the Johnson Administration's Press Secretary, encouraging Moyers to use the press to convince the public Oswald had acted alone. He later defended this action by insisting he was under pressure from the State Department to silence talk of a vast conspiracy.
He then began to pressure the FBI to finish its investigation as fast as possible, and pressure President Johnson to create a Presidential Commission to confirm the FBI's findings.
By early December, he cooperated with Chief Justice Warren and began pressuring the Attorney General of Texas to forego its own investigation.
And then on December 9, he pressured the Warren Commission to simply sign-off on the FBI's findings!
It's amazing to reflect that, in the aftermath of the assassination, Katzenbach, acting as the nation's top cop, had tried to cut-off a thorough, and one might say REAL, investigation at every opportunity, and that, when questioned about this later, he refused to take responsibility, blaming his actions on the FBI and the State Department. It was not HIS job to cater to the insecurities of FBI Director Hoover. It was Hoover's job to answer to him. It was not HIS job to assuage the concerns of the international community. It was HIS job, however, to make sure the assassination was properly and thoroughly investigated, and that those responsible were exposed and brought to justice. Even if one were to acknowledge the likelihood Oswald acted alone, one can not possibly believe that Katzenbach's actions were appropriate and reflective of a high regard for his responsibilities. Robert Kennedy may not have been a giant, but his shoes were clearly too large to be filled by Katzenbach.
Robert Kennedy's approach would almost certainly have been different. On December 9, the same day that Katzenbach urged the Warren Commission to confirm the FBI's findings that Oswald had acted alone, Robert Kennedy had a private conversation with historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and made it clear that he could not agree with so simple a solution. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning epic, Robert F. Kennedy and His Times, Schlesinger wrote that Kennedy, who had deliberately removed himself from the investigation, was nevertheless keeping tabs on the developments, and was suspicious that Oswald, whose guilt he had accepted, may have been part of a larger plot, "organized by Castro or gangsters."Kennedy also told Schlesinger that CIA Director John McCone believed there was a second assassin.
And Kennedy wasn't just talking to Schlesinger. In 1997, with the release of One Hell of a Gamble, a book on the Cuban Missile Crisis co-written by Canadian-American historian Timothy Naftali and Russian historian Aleksandr Fursenko, and built upon previously unexamined documents discovered in the Russian archives, it was revealed that on 12-9-63 American artist and ardent Kennedy supporter William Walton delivered a personal message from Robert Kennedy to Russian Premier Nikita Khruschev. This message, according to the memo of Russian GRU officer Georgi Bolshakov, a former contact of Robert Kennedy's to whom Walton actually spoke, was not remotely an endorsement of the FBI's report on the assassination, which Robert Kennedy undoubtedly knew was bound to be the "official" solution to the crime. No, not at all. Instead, Kennedy wanted Khruschev to know that "Perhaps there was only one assassin, but he did not act alone," and that "there was a large political conspiracy behind Oswald's rifle." And that's not all; Kennedy also had some thoughts on the nature of this conspiracy. According to Bolshakov, Kennedy also wanted Khruschev to know that "despite Oswald's connections to the communist world" the Kennedys believed "the President was felled by domestic opponents" and had been "the victim of a right-wing conspiracy."
Above: FBI ringleader J. Edgar Hoover (R) clowns with polka band leader Lawrence Welk (L).
The Mark of Hoover
And yet, even with doubts in high places, including the minds of President Johnson, Attorney General Kennedy and CIA Director McCone, FBI Director Hoover continued pushing his own version of events--that Oswald had acted alone. A 12-11-63 article in the Los Angeles Times entitled "FBI Certain Oswald Was Assassin, Report Shows," discussed the Warren Commission's reluctance to release the FBI's report, whilst simultaneously revealing some of the key findings of the report. The source for the article is clearly the FBI. The problem with this kind of journalism becomes apparent when one reflects that of the three pieces of evidence presented in support of Oswald's guilt, none of them are provided in context. It is reported that threads of Oswald's clothing were found on the assassination rifle. It is not revealed, however, that Oswald claimed he'd changed shirts when he got home from work and had not been wearing that shirt at work, and that no one who'd seen him at work, including a Dallas Police Officer, could identify that shirt as the one he'd been wearing at work. It is also not revealed that none of the eyewitnesses claiming to have seen a man in the sniper's nest thought the sniper was wearing a shirt of the color of the shirt whose fibers were reportedly found on the weapon. The article then reports that Oswald's hand print was found on the assassination rifle. It does not reveal, however, that this print was reportedly lifted on the evening of 11-22 by the Dallas Police, and that they then supposedly forgot to tell anyone about it until 11-26, after the FBI inspected the weapon and found no such print. The article then reports that Oswald's fingerprints "were lifted from the wrapping paper that hid the weapon when the assassin carried it to work." It does not reveal that the only two individuals to see Oswald with a package on the morning of the assassination refused to I.D. the "wrapping paper" found in the building as the package in Oswald's possession, and claimed the "wrapping paper" was in fact a much much larger package than the one carried by Oswald. In sum, the article allows the FBI to present three pieces of evidence to the public, all of which were extremely damaging to Oswald, and all of which, should a full discussion of their significance been permitted, or pursued, might very well have convinced the public that a frame-up was in progress.
Of course no such discussion was permitted, or pursued. Historian Gerald McKnight, in his book Breach of Trust, discusses Hoover's efforts to close the case in detail. He describes a 12-12-63 teletype from FBI headquarters (JFK record 105-406-39) informing all FBI field offices that "Oswald conclusively established as assassin of President Kennedy" and to limit future communications "to information pertaining to him and to allegations that a person or group had a specific connection with him in the assassination." By limiting the investigation to Oswald, and working outwards from Oswald, of course, the FBI had severely reduced the chances they'd find a conspiracy that only marginally or tangentially involved Oswald. Hoover had his man, and wasn't willing to humor the possibility Oswald was just what he said he was--a "patsy."
Further evidence that Hoover was prematurely closing the case is contained within a 12-12-1963 memo from Hoover to his top assistants. Hoover wrote that he spoke to the General Counsel of the Warren Commission, J. Lee Rankin, and explained that even though the Justice Department had wanted the release of a statement saying Oswald had acted alone, that he and the President agreed that the FBI report should reach no conclusions. He stated further that he believed Oswald was the assassin but that he still had concerns that Oswald was working for Castro. (Yes, this was the same man who two weeks earlier was urging an immediate wrap-up of the case.) Hoover's memo asserted as well that the Justice Department had been leaking the contents of the FBI Report, that he had pressed them to get the report immediately to the Commission, and that he did not want any conclusions made in the letter of transmission of the report to the Commission.
What's wrong with this memo is that it's contradicted by most everything else in the record. According to both the Acting Attorney General Katzenbach (in his testimony before the HSCA) and one of the recipients of this memo, Assistant FBI Director William Sullivan, Hoover both wanted to close the case with the issue of the FBI's report and was the one who'd been making the leaks.
Sullivan actually went further than that. A memo on a 4-21-75 interview of Sullivan by the staff of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations reports "Sullivan offered that Hoover didn't like the Warren Commission because Hoover didn't want any organization going over the grounds that the FBI had already investigated in fear that the Warren Commission would discover something else that the FBI might have forgotten or ignored. In this connection, Sullivan said that Hoover had leaked the results of the FBI investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy to the press in December 1963, in order to preempt the Warren Commission's findings. Sullivan said that the leak to the press was done via Deloach, who gave the story to a cooperative news source at the Chicago Tribune and also the Washington Evening Star. Sullivan said that the allegation was then leaked that it was Acting Attorney General Katzenbach who had leaked the FBI's findings. Sullivan said that the Bureau personnel who would have been aware of the leak were Mohr, Tolson, Edward Clayton, and Belmont. Sullivan added that this was not an unusual practice of Hoover's." If Sullivan was telling the truth, as most believe, then Hoover's memo of 12-12 reflects his trying to cover his tracks whilst simultaneously alerting his assistants to his cover story.
In any event, no matter who was responsible, much of the FBI's secret report was leaked to the press over the next few weeks, and the press returned the favor by convicting Oswald in the public eye. Typical articles in this time period include the 12-14-64 Saturday Evening Post's account of Oswald, entitled "The Assassin" (not the accused assassin) and the Newsweek article of 12-16-64, not too subtly entitled "Portrait of a Psychopath." These articles overlooked that Oswald was not particularly violent and had not officially been declared the President's assassin.
Another 12-12 FBI memo only adds to the intrigue. In this one DeLoach informed Hoover and others he'd had a secret meeting with Warren Commissioner Gerald Ford and that "Ford indicated he would keep me thoroughly advised as to the activities of the commission." Ford also told DeLoach that the other commissioners wanted to go along with Katzenbach's recommendation to release the FBI's findings but that he was "a minority of one" who would fight the issuance of a release "until the Commission had had a thorough opportunity to review and discuss the FBI report."
A 12-12-63 article found in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, courtesy the Scripps-Howard News Service, revealed, moreover, why Hoover and his FBI may have felt their leaks were necessary. Here it is: "Confusion about the wounds which caused the death of President Kennedy will be cleared up in the autopsy report submitted to President Johnson's board of inquiry. It has been reported one bullet struck Kennedy in the throat and the other in the head. But inasmuch as the President was facing away from the accused assassin, Lee Oswald, many have wondered how the bullets could strike from the front and side. The FBI and naval hospital reports are expected to explain it this way: the first bullet struck the President in the throat because he had turned in his seat and was looking in the direction the shot came from. The second bullet struck Governor Connally of Texas. The third caught the President in the side of his head when he toppled toward his wife. The bullet from the throat wound was removed during autopsy. The bullet which struck the head was found on the stretcher at the hospital. The bullet which wounded Connally was found on the floor of the Presidential limousine."
I mean, think of it. It would have to have been maddening for the FBI and others somewhat in the know (such as Gerald Ford) to read such nonsense. Almost every "fact" in the story, purported to represent what was in the FBI's reports, was at odds with the FBI's reports. (These non-fact facts are presented in bold above.)
A 12-13 article in the Dallas Morning News, while not an article built on Hoover's leaks, nevertheless revealed their influence. The article started by asking: "Did a bullet from Lee Harvey Oswald's rifle chip the curb of Main Street overpass? That question remained unanswered yesterday. And it raised other questions: If one of the three shots from Oswald's mail order rifle struck the curb, is it possible that another bullet ranged through President Kennedy's body and then hit Gov. Connally? If the chip did not result from another bullet, how did it get there?" The article then related the story of Dallas police investigator Buddy Walthers, who asserted that a man came up to him in Dealey Plaza on the 22nd and claimed he'd been hit by something as he watched the motorcade. Walthers then admitted that he'd found what appeared to be a freshly-made chip in the curb by where the man had been standing. The article then advised that Gov. Connally said the first and third shots hit the President, and that he'd been hit by the second shot. It then asked: "Was Governor Connally mistaken about what happened during the 10 second period in which the sniper shot him and the President? Did the rifleman fire two bullets into the car, with one striking both President Kennedy and Gov. Connally, and then hurriedly fire a third which passed over their auto? Or did the chipped shot have nothing to do with the shooting? Couldn't the motorist have been struck by a speck of gravel thrown up by a car? Couldn't the chip have been caused by other gravel? FBI and Secret Service agents may have the answer. But they haven't revealed what they have learned during their intensive investigation of the murder of President Kennedy."
The key problem with this article, of course, was that it framed the questions raised by the wounding of this witness, James Tague, within the parameters of Oswald having fired all the shots. Under normal circumstances, in a case where the FBI hadn't secretly told the press it had concluded that one man had fired all the shots, the existence of an otherwise unexplained chip on a curb, and a witness nearby who believed he was wounded by a piece of flying concrete, might raise questions about a possible fourth shot unheard by the witnesses. Instead, the writers of this article were only willing to state that the wounding of Tague suggested that one of the shots hitting Kennedy had hit Connally as well.
The conclusion of this article is also intriguing. A number of journalists had witnessed the Secret Service's 11-27 and 12-5 re-enactments. Those writing this article would almost certainly have known that no measurements had been made linking the sniper's nest to the curb near the overpass. Perhaps, then, the writers of this article knew full well that no FBI investigation of Tague had been conducted, but were afraid to say so publicly, for fear of incurring the wrath of the notoriously protective and vindictive Hoover.
In any case, with all this leaking and political posturing, the FBI displayed little appetite for performing an actual investigation. Shockingly, a 12-13 teletype message from Gordon Shanklin of the Dallas FBI office to Hoover revealed that the FBI still hadn't even read the autopsy report. The message reads "An article appearing in the evening Dallas Texas newspaper prepared by staff writer Bill Burrus dateline Bethesda Maryland reflects a still unannounced autopsy report from the US Naval Hospital reflecting President Kennedy was shot in the back and the bullet, which had a hard metal jacket, exited through his throat. This does not agree with the autopsy findings at the Bethesda Hospital as reported on page two eight four of the report of SA Robert P. Gemberling at Dallas on December 10, last, which reflects an opening was found in the back, that appeared to be a bullet hole, and probing of this hole determined the distance traveled by this missile was short as the end of the opening could be felt by the examining doctor's finger. The Bureau may want to have Baltimore obtain the unannounced autopsy report from Bethesda, Maryland, and disseminate to the Bureau and Dallas."
The Burrus article referenced by Shanklin ran in the 12-12 Dallas-Times Herald. It read, in part: "President Kennedy was shot in the back and the bullet. . .exited through his throat, a still unannounced autopsy report from the U.S. Naval Hospital revealed Thursday...It was a surprising disclosure that President Kennedy had been shot in the back...the wound had not bled externally and doctors at Parkland Memorial Hospital missed it in their 22 minutes of futility--trying to save the President's life." Burrus then noted that this bullet entered "above President Kennedy's right scapula--commonly called the shoulder blade" and was believed to have exited Kennedy's throat. He related:"Most worldwide press and medical reports have described the neck wound as one which entered there..."
Well, this is indeed the conclusions of the autopsy report. So, who was Burrus' source? Presumably one of the Parkland Hospital emergency room doctors... The records of Secret Service Agent Elmer Moore reflect that he spoke to the Parkland doctors on 12-11, and showed them a copy of the autopsy report. On 12-18, one of the few members of the media to smell conspiracy, Richard Dudman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote an article about this friendly visit by the Secret Service to the doctors. It reads: "Secret Service Gets Revision of Kennedy Wound. After visit by agents, doctors say shot was from rear...(the Secret Service) obtained a reversal of their original view that the bullet in his (Kennedy's) neck entered from the front. The investigators did so by showing the surgeons a document described as an autopsy report from the United States Naval Hospital at Bethesda. The surgeons changed their original view to conform with the report they were shown." Months later, after speaking to one of the Dallas doctors, Dr. Robert McClelland, Mark Lane would relate "the agents had a copy of the autopsy report on their laps but refused to allow the physicians to see it" and that "after a three hour session with the physicians the Secret Service Agents were able to leave the room and to state that the physicians in the Parkland Memorial Hospital all announced and agreed that they were in error when they said that the bullet wound in the throat was an entrance wound."
The Secret Service's efforts to bring the doctors in line and get the story of the Bethesda autopsy report to the public was doomed from the start, however. For weeks afterward, publications were still describing the President's wounds as described in the November 22nd Press Conference. The 12-14 Saturday Evening Post reprinted a Jimmy Breslin article from 11-24 and cited Dr. Perry as believing that the throat wound was "small and neat" and connected to a "mediastinal wound" (which would by extension make it an entrance wound), and that "The occipitoparietal, which is a part of the back of the head, had a huge flap." (Perhaps it was this article that inspired Moore to visit Perry and show him the autopsy report.) The Texas State Journal of Medicine, moreover, ran an article entitled Three Patients at Parkland in its January, 1964 issue. This article, based on the initial reports of the doctors at Parkland Hospital, described the wounds as witnessed by those doctors, and not as described in the autopsy report.
The confusion caused by the divergent accounts offered by the Parkland and Bethesda doctors was only exacerbated by the actions of the FBI. In mid-late December, before Dallas Special Agent in Charge Gordon Shanklin alerted Hoover that the FBI's report on the wounds could be in conflict with the official autopsy report, the FBI began leaking its own version of the President's wounds, one based not on the statements of the emergency room doctors, nor on the official report of the autopsy doctors, but on what Hoover's loyal FBI agents recalled hearing discussed at the autopsy. This effort peaked with the publication of The Torch is Passed, a widely-circulated book rushed out by the Associated Press and rehashing much of the FBI's report on Oswald. On the shooting itself, The Torch is Passed reported: "The President never heard the shot or knew what hit him. It was a piece of metal a little thinner than an ordinary pencil. It struck him in the back, penetrating two to three inches. He was struck as he turned to his right to wave. His hands snapped up reflexively to this throat. Wordlessly, he fell to his wife, who was sitting on his left in the back seat. In the jump seat ahead, Gov. John Connally turned and a second bullet caught him in the back, passed through, struck his right wrist, and lodged in his thigh. The third and last shot hit the back of the President's head about ear-level, as he was bowed forward. 'His head exploded in blood,' said James Chaney, a motorcycle patrolman who was six feet away." There was a huge problem with this passage, of course, one mirroring the problem with the FBI's own description of the shooting--it fails to account for the President's throat wound.
Rather than read the autopsy report, and leak its explanation of the throat wound to the press, however, the FBI thereby commenced pushing its own explanation for the throat wound. Even though the Zapruder film in its possession showed Kennedy reaching for his throat a full five seconds before his skull exploded, the FBI Supplemental Report of January 13, 1964 (CD 107) suggests that a fragment of the bullet striking Kennedy in the head created the throat wound. In a section on Kennedy's clothing, the report contains the following passage: "Medical examination of the President's body had revealed that the bullet which entered his back had penetrated to a distance of less than a finger length. There is a slit...in the overlap of the shirt the President was wearing...The slit has the characteristics of an exit hole...There is also a nick on the left side of the tie knot, which possibly was caused by the same projectile...The coat and shirt were x-rayed for metal fragments...but none were found...The Chief Pathologist at Bethesda Naval Hospital had advised that the projectile which had entered the President's skull region had disintegrated into at least 40 particles..."
This unique assertion, not found in the 12-9 FBI report possessed by the Justice Department and Warren Commission, nor in the autopsy report in the possession of the Navy and Secret Service, was, upon repetition in the news media, as good as a confession that Hoover (almost undoubtedly through DeLoach), or someone quoting Hoover or DeLoach, had been the original source for the story.
In any event, Hoover's leaking of the report to get its conclusions to the public was almost casually mentioned in the December 14 column of Washington insider Drew Pearson.
This did not go unnoticed. A 12-14-63 memo from Hoover to the FBI's assistant directors reveals that he'd had a talk with Attorney General Robert Kennedy--presumably still his boss--and had told him he didn't want the FBI's report to become public and that--look over here--Pearson had received "a good portion" of his information regarding Hoover's leaking from none other than Chief Justice Earl Warren.
A 264-page 6-5-64 FBI brief written in preparation for Director Hoover's 5-14-64 testimony before the Warren Commission, and revised afterwards, provides some more context to this memo. It specifies, for example, that Hoover's meeting with Kennedy came as a direct response to Drew Pearson's 12-14-63 column entitled "FBI Uneasy About Dallas Report." It relates further that Hoover told Kennedy the column was full of lies, including the lie (which was actually true) that the FBI was feuding with the Secret Service. According to this brief (which can be found in HSCA Administration folder W6), Hoover assured Kennedy "there was no closer relationship than that between the Secret Service and the FBI"and said further that he (Hoover) was actually opposed to making public statements about the FBI's report. The brief then relates that Hoover told Kennedy the source for "a portion" of Pearson's lies was none other than Chief Justice Earl Warren. It then relates that the FBI's source for this was none other than...Jack Anderson, Pearson's trusted assistant, who had told this in the strictest confidence to DeLoach.
But enough with the gossip.
A 12-18 article by Nate Haseltine in the Washington Post was the first to bear the mark of Hoover. Here it was reported that the autopsy pathologists had found that Kennedy could readily have survived the first bullet to strike him, and that this bullet was "found deep in his shoulder." Even worse, it was reported that a fragment of the second bullet, which "tore off the right rear portion of his head...was deflected and passed out the front of the throat." The article went on to note that the first bullet "hit the President in the back shoulder, 5 to 7 inches below the collar line" and that this was news to the doctors seeing Kennedy in Dallas, who had been "in disagreement. Some believed the President had been shot twice, the neck wound being from a glancing hit" while others believed "he was shot only once, and that a fragment from the bullet that hit his head coursed downward and emerged through the front of the throat."
Now watch as Hoover's poison spreads. On 12-18, an article for the Associated Press (found in, among other places, the Nashua Telegraph) repeats some, but not all, of the FBI's findings. Citing "a source fully acquainted with results of a post-mortem examination," it reported "The first shot struck Kennedy in the back, made what was described as a small neat hole, and penetrated two or three inches without damaging vital organs. The bullet may even have entered Kennedy's back after first glancing off some part of the presidential limousine, since its penetration was not deep when compared to the damage done by the other shots fired by the assassin...The second bullet to strike Mr. Kennedy --the third bullet fired--left a large hole in the back of the President's head, destroyed considerable brain tissue and severely damaged the forehead." Note that there is no mention of the throat wound here. This suggests that the writer of this article had not yet been briefed by the FBI.
Tellingly, on 12-19, the next day, a follow-up article by the AP reported that Dr. James Beyer, who previously had argued that Kennedy's large head wound was not consistent with a military jacketed-bullet, repeated his assertions and built upon the previous day's conjecture that the first bullet to hit Kennedy hit the limousine first by guessing that the second one did as well. Beyer stated that "the slight instability imparted to the missile by the ricochet could have resulted in the large wound described." (Beyer's second- guessing of "official" autopsy results would boomerang back at him many years later when he would conduct an equally contested autopsy--that of Clinton lawyer Vince Foster.) Note that there is still no mention of the throat wound. These articles confirm then that the AP had not yet been informed of Hoover's "unofficial" explanation for the wound.
But you can't keep a good leaker down... A column in the Washington Daily News by Richard Starnes on this day repeated the wound description given the Post the day before. No mention of a ricochet. More than a mention of a fragment exiting the throat. Starnes reported as fact that the first shot "struck the president high in the shoulder from behind, causing considerable damage to the massive muscles of the neck and shoulder. The second shot fired by the assassin struck Gov. John Connally. The third shot inflicted the wound that killed Mr. Kennedy by smashing away the back of his head. The confusion over the wounds was caused by a fragment of the third bullet that coursed down thru the President's head and exited thru his throat approximately at the collar line."
The red flag indicating the FBI as the source of these leaks gets even redder, however, as we look at articles from the rest of the month. In the December 23 edition of Newsweek, an article quoted the supposedly secret FBI report extensively and said the bullet entering the right shoulder fell out, which left no explanation for the wound in the throat. The next week's Newsweek, however, cited the 12-18 article in the Washington Post, and reported that the throat wound was created by a fragment of the bullet creating the head wound. Similarly, the December 27 edition of Time stated that the "unofficial" word of the autopsy report had been released for a week and that it says a bullet struck Kennedy 6 inches below the collar line and fell out, and that the throat wound had been created by an exiting bullet fragment. A 12-30 U.S. News article followed suit, and claimed the autopsy "showed that the wound in his neck was caused by the exit of a splinter from the shot that struck the back of his head."
But with the coming of a new year, the leaks of the old one persisted. A January 4, 1964 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, for example, repeated the FBI's assertion about the fragment exiting Kennedy's throat. As late as January 26, 1964, incredibly, even the great New York Times was still reporting that the first bullet fired lodged in Kennedy's shoulder, that the second bullet hit Connally, and that "The third bullet, according to an autopsy in Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, ripped away a portion of the back of the President's head on the right side. Fragments from the bullets cut a wound in the president's throat and damaged the windshield of the limousine."
But the New York Times was not the only news organization routinely regurgitating the FBI's unique interpretation of the President's wounds. U.S. News and World Report, in its June 1, 1964 issue speculating on the Warren Commission's conclusions, asserted: "The official autopsy of the President's body the night of November 22 shows Mr. Kennedy was first hit in the right shoulder. A second bullet struck Texas Governor John Connally. A third hit the President's head and killed him. There was no fourth bullet." It then added "A wound in Mr. Kennedy's throat was caused by a fragment of the bullet which entered his head from behind."
It took so long for the actual autopsy results to reach the public, in fact, that an entire motion picture, The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald, was written and completed before the autopsy report's release. Clearly basing their description of the wounds on the leaked FBI report, the film-makers depicted a Navy doctor reading from an autopsy report. He states: "Our examination reveals that the President was struck by two bullets. The first bullet struck the President in the back, just below the collarbone, and lodged in his body. The second bullet struck the President in the back of the head and fragmented. A splintered piece of the second bullet went through the President's neck and exited from the lower part of the neck." When asked about the bullets, the doctor in the film testified "We recovered one, the one bullet that had lodged in the upper shoulder." Officially, of course, the only intact bullet recovered was found in Dallas and the "missile" recovered at the autopsy was just a fragment recovered from the President's brain.
To repeat, as no explanation for the neck wound was contained in the December 9 FBI report given to the Justice Department and Warren Commission, and as the published explanation for this wound was only offered in the FBI's January report, it seems doubtful that the Justice Department and/or Warren Commission were the sources for all these leaks about the neck wound, which started in December. It seems obvious from the nature of these mistakes then that the source of all this misinformation was in fact the FBI. It follows then that the FBI's refusal to look at the autopsy report in a timely manner, its continuing to champion outdated information in its December 9th and January 13th reports, and its decision to invent its own explanation for the throat wound ultimately backfired and fueled many of the conspiracy-oriented books which exploded on the market in 1966 and 1967. Not to be facetious, but perhaps the ever-suspicious Hoover should have had himself investigated as a possible communist.
Above: the Warren Commission and its General Counsel, J. Lee Rankin. Around the table from L to R: Congressman Gerald Ford, Congressman Hale Boggs, Senator Richard Russell, Chief Justice Earl Warren, Senator John Sherman Cooper, former Chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank John J. McCloy, former CIA Director Allen Dulles, and former Solicitor General, J. Lee Rankin. Note the sparseness of the background, and its singular focus on President John F. Kennedy.
The Decided Non-response
If Hoover honestly thought he was fooling anyone as to who was behind the leaks of his report, however, he was both over-estimating the regard in which others held him, and under-estimating their basic intelligence.
From the transcript of the 12-16-63 Executive Session of the Warren Commission:
Chief Justice Earl Warren: Well, gentleman, to be very frank about it, I have read that report two or three times and I have not seen anything in there yet that has not been in the press.
Senator Richard Russell: I couldn’t agree with that more. I have read it through once very carefully, and I went through it again at places I had marked, and practically everything in there has come out in the press at one time or another, a bit here and a bit there.
A short while later, Congressman Gerald Ford asked if the Commission should heed Acting Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach’s written request they release the FBI’s findings to the public. After they decided to hold off, Ford explained why he asked.
Congressman Gerald Ford: I was called by one of the top AP or UP people here, and he didn’t know that you had received the letter (from Katzenbach) and we had copies, but he was one of the top AP or UP people at Dallas at the time. He said “Jerry, I’m surprised that we got, and the other press services got, stories out the very same day.” In effect, he was saying what they have asked us to do. The minute he said that it led me to the belief that he was inferring that there had been a deliberate leak from some agency of the Federal Government, and now they wanted us to confirm by Commission action what had been leaked previously. Now, somebody had to give this information to both AP and UP in order for that to happen...
Chief Justice Earl Warren: I read those dispatches.
Congressman Gerald Ford: Didn’t that come to your mind?
Chief Justice Earl Warren: Surely did. I spoke to Katzenbach about it.
Senator Richard Russell: I mentioned that the first day we sat here.
Chief Justice Earl Warren: Yes, you did. Senator Russell asked Katzenbach where it could have come from and he said there was only one source. (Note: He means Hoover.)
Senator Richard Russell: Do you recall the first day I asked him that?
John McCloy: There were leaks long before we got the documents.
Congressman Hale Boggs: And after that, at the second meeting, there was the Evening Star with that whole thing.
Senator Richard Russell: Every day there was something.
Chief Justice Earl Warren: Yep, until it was all out and I tell you frankly I just didn’t find anything in that report that has not been leaked to the press.
Earlier in the 12-16 executive session of the Warren Commission, an odd incident took place, which might lead one to conclude it was not only Hoover who was anxious to convict Oswald as the lone assassin. Commissioner and former CIA Director Allen Dulles showed up with copies of Robert J. Donovan’s book The Assassins, a history of the many assassination attempts upon U.S. Presidents, and handed them out to both counsel and his fellow commissioners. He told them “It’s a fascinating book, but you’ll find a pattern running through here that I think we’ll find in this present case.” He was referring, of course, to Donovan’s assertion that American assassins are predominantly disgruntled loners… lone-nuts. Was Dulles pushing for this conclusion from the outset? And was it just a coincidence that Dulles’ former boss, former President Dwight Eisenhower, had written an article for the 12-14 Saturday Evening Post, also claiming that assassinations in the United States “do not follow a pattern of political conspiracy and coup d’etat…the facts are that four of thirty-six Presidents have been assassinated, and a President in office and a President-elect have been targets of assassination attempts. These acts all had one thing in common: they were the work of crackpots, of people with delusions arising from imagined wrongs or festering hatreds”? In closing, Eisenhower assured the public “We must and shall rally behind our new President, Lyndon B. Johnson…”
Huh? Were Eisenhower and Dulles reading from the same script? And, if so, who was writing this script?
Ironically, Donovan’s book, originally written in 1952, was re-issued in January 1964 with a new chapter on the Kennedy assassination that, due to the FBI’s leaking their out-dated impression of the wounds, stated the first shot lodged in Kennedy’s back and the second shot struck Connally. It is a sublime twist of fate then that the book Dulles touted as a valid resource would be re-written within weeks of the assassination to include information Dulles would soon conclude was false. If Dulles ever noted the irony, however, that moment is lost to time.
Also ironic is that, after raising the possibility in the 12-16 executive session that Hoover was behind all the leaks, Congressman Ford met the next day with the FBI's most wanted leaker, Cartha DeLoach. Despite his earlier promise to keep the FBI "thoroughly advised" on the workings of the commission, however, Ford decided to keep the confidence of his fellow commissioners and instead told DeLoach that, in DeLoach's words, "There was no criticism of the FBI at yesterday's meeting. There was no allegations by anyone, including the Chief Justice, that the FBI had leaked portions of this report."Apparently, DeLoach figured out that Ford was onto him. His 12-17 memo on this conversation reflects that "I went over very carefully with Congressman Ford that the FBI had not had any "leaks" whatsoever. I told him we were well aware that the department had done considerable talking; furthermore, it now appeared somewhat obvious that members of the Commission were beginning to leak the report. I referred to this week's issue of "Newsweek" magazine which contains a rather clear analysis of the report. I told Congressman Ford that "Newsweek" was owned by the "Washington Post" and that apparently someone was trying to curry favor. I told him we, of course, did not get along very well with either the 'Washington Post" or "Newsweek."
Even if he was telling the truth about the leaks to Newsweek, DeLoach knew full well the leaks began in the beginning of the month, before either the Justice Department or the Commission had come into possession of the FBI's report. As DeLoach and Hoover were too clever by half, it also makes sense that they would attempt to cut off speculation they were the source of the leaks by leaking it through sources outside their usual pattern. It seems probable, then, that DeLoach, as Hoover, was trying to blame the Commission for leaks that he himself had orchestrated.
In any event, if the 12-16 executive session showed that some tasked with investigating Kennedy’s death were displeased with the performance of the FBI, there was no such indication from Hoover’s ultimate boss that he shared their displeasure. A 12-17-63 letter from Hoover to Johnson uncovered at the LBJ Library and published by Mark North indicates that these two couldn’t be happier in their new mutually accommodating relationship.
"My dear Mr. President: I cannot tell you how much our time together yesterday means to me. Your very real appreciation of the matters I was privileged to discuss with you and your complete understanding of our problems smooth the way to our mutual desire to serve our country in fullest capacity. I shall treasure your photograph and your autographed message as I do your friendship and trust.
Sincerely yours, Edgar"
On 12-9, we see a memo from Gauthier himself, describing his efforts in Dallas. He is preparing floor plans of the depository and of the police station where Oswald was killed, as well as a mock-up of Dealey Plaza. He lists the advantages of having these exhibits and then declares "The marks on the freeway indicating where shots one, two, and three were believed to have struck the Presidential car, have been noted and this information can be indicated on the model. From this information, it appears that shot one struck the President momentarily after he came within gun range when his car moved passed the tree top as viewed by the assassin. Shot number two which is believed to have struck Governor Connally occurred after the car had traveled a distance of 95 feet at approximately 15 m.p.h. The markings on the Freeway indicated that shot number three which is believed to have struck the President occurred after the car had traveled another 45 feet. At 15 m.p.h a car moves forward at a speed of about 22 feet per second or one car length. The President's car length is 21 feet long. Based upon this information the second shot occurred about 4.36 second after the first shot was fired and the third shot occurred about 2.0 seconds after the second shot was fired. The total elapse time to fire shots two and three was approximately 6.4 seconds during which time the President's car traveling at 15 m.p.h. covered approximately 141 feet."
This is disturbing, and raises lots of questions. Hasn't anyone told Gauthier that the FBI's Robert Frazier has already tested the rifle and found that a shooter would need at least 2.8 seconds between shots? And what does he mean by "marks on the freeway"? Has someone placed marks on Elm Street at the limo's locations when the shots were fired? If so, how did they establish these locations and why do these marks differ so greatly from the locations determined by agent Howlett?
The Conclusion That Shouldn't Have Been
On 12-9-63 the FBI gives their summary report to each member of the newly convened Warren Commission. On page 1 it reads: “As the motorcade was traveling through downtown Dallas on Elm Street about fifty yards west of the intersection with Houston Street (Exhibit 1), three shots rang out. Two bullets struck President Kennedy, and one wounded Governor Connally. The President, who slumped forward in the car, was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m. Eyewitnesses at the scene of the shooting saw an individual holding a rifle in a sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository Building located on the corner of Houston and Elm Streets. One individual stated that after he heard what he believed to be a second shot, he looked up, and saw this man take deliberate aim with a rifle and fire in the direction of the Presidential motorcade as it passed. “ On page 18, the report clarifies: “Medical examination of the President’s body revealed that one of the bullets had entered just below his shoulder to the right of the spinal column at an angle of 45 to 60 degrees downward, that there was no exit, and that the bullet was not in the body.” As the bullet creating this wound could not have continued on into Governor Connally, it certainly implies the bullet striking Connally was a separate shot. This would undoubtedly suggest the scenarios described by Secret Service Agent Howlett and FBI exhibits chief Gauthier...that the first shot hit Kennedy, the second hit Connally, and the third hit Kennedy in the head.
Outside of the statements of Howard Brennan, whose statements were misrepresented in order to support this shooting scenario (he'd actually said he'd looked up as a response to the first shot, and only heard two shots), the statements of the closest witnesses, normally the backbone of a criminal investigation, have apparently been ignored.
We're also appalled by the report's treatment of the fingerprint evidence. Not only does the report fail to mention that "Oh yeah, while we were able to identify 3 prints on the boxes as Oswald's, there were 25 more that we haven't yet identified," it actually goes out of its way to hide this fact, describing photos showing numerous prints as photos of "a latent fingerprint identifed as the right index finger impression of Lee Harvey Oswald" and "a latent palm print identified as the left palm print of Lee Harvey Oswald." (CD1 evidence photos 27 and 28, respectively.)
And we're also disgusted with the report's treatment of the paper bag. As could have been gathered from Agent Bardwell Odum's 12-2 reports, the FBI pretends that Frazier and Randle's statements support that the bag or sack carried by Oswald was the bag or sack found in the sniper's nest. On page 5, the FBI Summary Report declares: "When Oswald left Irving, Texas, on the morning of November 22, 1963, he carried a long package wrapped in brown paper." It later claims "After the assassination, brown wrapping paper in the shape of a long bag was found near the window from which the shots were fired on the sixth floor of the depository building." (CD1, p5). There is no acknowledgment that the only two witnesses to see Oswald with this "brown wrapping paper" refused to ID the paper bag found in the sniper's nest as this bag, and, in fact insisted the sniper's nest bag was far larger than the bag they saw. Apparently such things were just not to be acknowledged.
(The FBI, moreover, was not alone in its pretending all was on the up and up with the bag. It was, if anything, more honest about this situation than the DPD. In his 12-23-63 letter to Chief of Police Jesse Curry listing the evidence against Oswald, homicide chief Capt. Will Fritz blew some serious smoke. Here he is on the bag: "5. One large piece of brown wrapping paper fitting the description of one used by Oswald in bringing a large package to work on the morning of the murder. We later found that Buell Wesley Frazier...had given Oswald a ride to work on the morning of the killing, and both he and his sister, Linnie Mae Randle, saw Oswald put a long package wrapped in a heavy brown paper in the back seat of the car. After arriving at work, Wesley Frazier saw Oswald take this package and take it with him into the building. This paper was shaped like a crude bag, large enough to carry this rifle. This was also found on the sixth floor." Wow, that's something. In this brief passage, Fritz conceals: 1) that the bag purportedly found in the building did not match the description of the bag observed by Frazier; 2) that Frazier and his sister were the only ones claiming to have seen this bag; 3) that Frazier specified that the bag he saw was not made of heavy brown paper; 4) that Frazier was shown the bag found in the building and swore it was not the bag he saw wrapped around the package he'd observed in Oswald's possession; 5) that the bag was NOT large enough to carry the rifle, unless the rifle had been broken down, which was extremely unlikely given that Oswald was not known to have the ability to put together a rifle without tools and fire accurately with the first shot; and 6) that he, Fritz, had stood in the sniper's nest within inches of where this bag was supposedly discovered, and failed to notice this bag or be told of its existence while he was in the building. In other words, Fritz was flat-out freaking lying, and in a an official letter to his boss, no less.)
In our frustration, we make some phone calls, searching for an explanation for the FBI's failure to properly present the evidence. We find that the Summary Report was sent over to President Johnson and Acting Attorney General Katzenbach on 12-5-63, before the FBI had even determined the speed of Abraham Zapruder's camera, and thus, if it was even possible for Oswald to have fired all the shots depicted in the film. If Zapruder is correct, and his camera was filming at 24 frames per second, so we've been told, then Oswald could not have fired all the shots. While complaining about this, we hear a rumor that the National Photo Interpretation Center has studied the film for the Secret Service.
We call a close friend working at the National Photo Interpretation Center. He tells us that on the evening of November 23rd, the Secret Service had given a copy of the Zapruder film to two of the Center's photo experts, Homer McMahon and Ben Hunter, and had asked them to make enlargements on 28 frames of the film. It was believed that the creation of these enlargements would help them identify the moments the bullets struck both the President and the Governor. (While evidence for this incident had been discussed for years, it was not fully investigated until Doug Horne of the ARRB did so in 1997.) Our friend gets access to the worksheets created as part of this study. These worksheets indicate that the initial conclusion was that Kennedy was struck at frame 224, Connally was struck at frame 256, and that Kennedy was struck again at frame 312. This was based on the supposition that the Zapruder film was recording 16 frames per second, and that there was a 2 second gap between the first two shots, and a 3.5 second gap between the second and third. (This apparent conclusion is written in bold on the front side of a worksheet discovered in the CIA files in 1981. McMahon and Hunter recognized their writing on this worksheet.) There are numerous calculations on this worksheet.Most revolve around the number 242, an obvious reference to frame 242, by which time Connally has obviously been struck. On the front side of the worksheet, there is 312 - 242 (to measure the time between the headshot at 312 and the apparent impact on Connally). There is also 242 - 213 (to measure the time between when Kennedy would seem to be hit, 213, and when Connally appears to be hit). Next to this is 242 - 32 (As 242 - 213 was only 29 frames, too short a time span for two shots to have been fired from a bolt-action rifle, it appears they were measuring what frame would then be acceptable, given that the dead bolt would take at least two seconds to operate). Next to this is 256 – 224 (which was 32 frames and was thus deemed acceptable). On the back side of the sheet there were even more calculations, many of them repeated from the first side. These calculations, however, are made with the assumption that the Zapruder film was recording 18 frames per second. Thus, the magic number here is 36 frames, e.g. 213 + 36 = 249. There are also 242 – 190 = 52 and 52 / 18 = 2.8. These last two indicate that if the Zapruder film was shown to record at 18 frames per second, the Secret Service was prepared to say the first shot hit Kennedy at 190, the second hit Connally at 242, and the final shot hit Kennedy at 312.
On the whole, then, these numbers indicate that, rather than trying to isolate the actual moments of impact, the Secret Service was, from the very beginning, assuming that the third shot was the head shot, and trying to make the moments of impact fit neatly within the time constraints of Oswald’s bolt-action rifle. This suggests they were always operating under the belief Oswald acted alone. We wonder if this same kind of thinking has not infected the FBI, and negatively influenced the Summary Report.
We look closer at the worksheets, to see if anything they've proposed makes sense. On one sheet they suggest that the shots occurred at frames 213, 263, and 312. This is strange, as it seems obvious that Connally was hit long before 263. Another scenario of 217, 242, and 312 is equally curious, as Robert Frazier’s tests back on 11-27 tell us that Oswald would have needed approximately 2.8 seconds or 51 frames between shots. Certainly, they weren't considering that someone other than Oswald fired one of the shots. This makes us suspect that the FBI has failed to tell the NPIC or Secret Service about their tests. As the NPIC is closely associated with the CIA, and as FBI Director Hoover has a problem with the CIA, this is not a big surprise.
When we look further through the worksheets, however, there is a surprise. The Secret Service has seriously considered the scenario offered in the 12-6 edition of Life magazine, holding that Kennedy was hit at 190, Connally at 264, and Kennedy at 312. We just can’t accept that Connally was hit so late however. Other scenarios considered at NPIC and by the Secret Service are 206, 242, 312, and 213, 242 and 312, but both of these have the first two shots too close together to have been fired by Oswald. The only single-assassin scenario that works, then, based upon even a cursory study of the Zapruder film, is the Kennedy 190, Connally 242, and Kennedy 312 scenario. Even this scenario is less than convincing, however. Not only does Connally appear to have been hit before frame 242 of the film, but the witnesses, as we well know, clearly suggested that the last two shots were bunched together, with the final shot after the headshot. (A more elaborate analysis of the Zapruder film by Robert Frazier for the Warren Commission concluded that, assuming a rifle was fired from the sixth floor sniper’s nest, Connally was turned too far to his right after frame 231 to receive his wounds.)
With our re-inspection of the Zapruder film, however, we make another discovery. A number of the frames are blurry. Two blurs in particular stand out, one between frames 190 and 200 and one shortly after frame 313. The thought occurs that these blurs are related to the shots and are perhaps a reflection that Zapruder flinched after hearing the shots. One of us decides to hold the camera, which had been obtained by the FBI crime lab on 12-06, and asks the rest of us to make random loud noises all around while he films someone walking down the hall. This test confirms that the blurred images on the Zapruder film are quite possibly related to Zapruder’s jumping at the sound of the gunshots. When we closely analyze the original film, however, we find that his largest startle reaction occurs shortly after the startle reaction seemingly related to the head shot. This supports the many eyewitness statements claiming there were two closely bunched shots, shots fired so close together that many of the witnesses, including the two secret service agents directly behind Kennedy, couldn’t remember which one hit the President. We now have real reason to suspect the eyewitnesses were correct and that the last two shots were fired too close together to have been fired by Oswald alone. Do we tell Hoover? Neither the eyewitness statements nor our analysis of the rifle and Zapruder film suggest three shots were fired by a shooter in the sniper's nest. We have real reason to suspect that a second shooter was involved. Do we make the call? Do we ask Hoover if we can expand the investigation and look for this second shooter?
Well, no matter how you answered that last question, the fact is that this has been an imaginary investigation. As far as we know, there was no one in the FBI tasked with making sense of the eyewitness testimony, and seeing if it agreed with the physical and photographic evidence. No effort was made, and consequently no agreement was reached. The FBI search for witnesses and the truth was so half-hearted, in fact, that they failed to establish the photographer of Marie Muchmore's film of the assassination until February, 1964. On 11-26-63, Muchmore's film was shown on television; over the following days it was much discussed in newspapers. And yet the FBI never sought a copy of this film and only acknowledged its existence after its color frames were published in a widely distributed photo book of the assassination. Perhaps no one in the FBI read the paper or had a TV.
(Note: the significance of the blurred frames of the Zapruder film was not discovered until several years after the assassination. I include it here because I have every confidence that these blurs could have and should have been analyzed in 1963 by the FBI, should they have honestly been interested in analyzing the film. Professor William Hartmann studied these blurs for the HSCA in 1978. A chart in his final report, Figure II-5, measures the blurs in the Zapruder film and demonstrates that the largest startle prior to Zapruder’s losing control took place around frames 330-332. As most everyone by 1978 had come to believe the last shot was the head shot, however, Hartmann arbitrarily dismissed this substantial startle reaction as a second reaction to the head shot, and to Zapruder’s crying out. The consistent movement and blurring one would expect from Zapruder’s crying out does not in fact occur until approximately one second after the startle reaction recorded between frames 330-332.)