JAHS Chapter 8
Need Fritz 12-23 letter (mentions thumb print)
Day 1-8-64 letter (never mentions bag)
On 12-12-63, we're told of an article by Gene Roberts in the Detroit Free Press. It mentions the paper bag presumably used by Oswald to transport the rifle in the building, and gives us good reason to believe Buell Frazier and his sister Linnie Mae Randle are still not convinced the bag they saw in Oswald's possession held his rifle. Roberts reports that on the morning of the shooting, while looking out her window, Mrs. Randle noticed Lee Oswald "carrying a package. It was something long--maybe two or three feet or more--and wrapped in brown paper, maybe a paper laundry bag. 'I noticed that,' said Mrs. Randle, 'but I didn't think much about it. A lot of people carry packages.'" A bag two feet long, of course, would be much too short to have held Oswald's rifle.
The next day later, we finally hear from two of the closest witnesses. Governor John Connally (12-13-63 FBI report CD188, p. 3-5) “Governor Connally stated “First sense or realization of anything unusual I became conscious of a shot or what sounded like a gunshot. I knew it came from my right rear. I instinctively turned to my right to look back and as I did so I sensed more than I saw that President Kennedy was hit. As I turned I realized something was amiss with President Kennedy and then I turned back to my left a little and as I did so I got hit with a bullet in my right shoulder…I believe I remarked “Oh my God, they are going to kill us all!” Realizing I had been hit I crumpled over to Mrs. Connally and she pulled me over towards her…I was conscious of a third shot and heard it…we were all splattered with what I thought was brain tissue from President Kennedy.” …When Governor Connally was asked about the elapsed time between the first and last shot he remarked “Fast, my God it was fast. It seemed like a split second. Just that quick” and he snapped his fingers three times rapidly to illustrate the time and said “unbelievably quick…Governor Connally felt the shots were fired so fast the assassin had hit him by accident on the second shot.” Nellie Connally (12-13-63 FBI report, CD188, p.6-7) “she was facing the front of the car when the first shot was fired and turned to her right towards President Kennedy and saw him with his hand at his throat and then slump down. …almost immediately Governor Connally recoiled in the opposite direction from her and was heard to remark “My God, they are going to kill us all.” She had feelings that buck shot was falling all around them and then she realized it was probably brain matter from President Kennedy’s head…When asked about the lapse of time between the first and last shots she replied “About like saying “crack, crack, crack.” She sensed that Governor Connally had been hit when she heard the second shot and she turned to hold him…The direction of all shots were from somewhere to the rear of the car.” Final shot head shot.
Later that day, we become aware of an article in that day's Dallas Morning News. This article begins: "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 relates the story of Dallas police investigator Buddy Walthers, who claims 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 relates 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 advises that Gov. Connally said the first and third shots hit the President, and that he'd been hit by the second shot. It then asks: "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."
Well, this is a bit embarrassing. No one in the FBI or Secret Service has learned anything about this because no one in the FBI or Secret Service has discussed this with anyone who wants to learn about this. Fortunately, the next day, the man who'd been hit by something calls the FBI and forces them to investigate. James Tague (12-16-63 FBI report, CD205, p31) “Mr. Jim Tague...was stopped in traffic at the Triple Underpass…He stood near the curb of Main Street waiting for the motorcade…When the motorcade was approximately 100 feet from him he heard a loud noise, and at that time he looked around as he thought someone had shot a firecracker. He then heard two more loud noises in quick succession…During the time of the shooting he felt something hit him on the right cheek….He thought that possibly one of the bullets had hit the curb near his feet and possibly a piece of the curbing had hit him on the cheek. He did look around the curb and near where he was standing there was a chip missing, which he stated looked fresh…He did not see the shots take effect and stated he could not furnish any information as to where the shots actually came from.” (This report is given to the Warren Commission as part of CD 205 on 12-23.)
Perhaps as a response to the questions raised by Tague, on 12-18-63 the Secret Service delivers a bare-bones report to the Warren Commission describing the shooting only in the statements of its agents, and a vague summary of events. Despite its multiple re-enactments and its extensive study of the Zapruder film, the Secret Service report comes to no official conclusions on the number and timing of the shots.
On this same day, the FBI's Alex Rosen sends a memo to Assistant Director Belmont stating "If approved, Mr. Rankin will be advised that the Bureau is in the process at the present time of preparing three-dimensional exhibits which will accurately portray the locations covering the assassination of the President along with other material which would be of considerable benefit to the Commission...Mr. Gauthier has assured us that the exhibits will be ready by 1/2/64." We can hardly wait.
And then we get another surprise from our old friends at the FBI. On 12-18, we see a strange airtel from Dallas (FBI file 105-82555, sec 39, p7). This airtel alerts us to the fact that the FBI is replacing page 129 of its 11-30 report to the Commission (CD5) with a different page. The airtel references two other documents, a 12-6 airtel from Washington to Dallas requesting a change be made (FBI file 62-109-060 sec 17 p 213), and a 12-11 response from Dallas noting that the "Necessary actions to correct inaccuracy" are "being taken" (FBI file 105-82555, sec 27, p44). Our curiosity aroused, we get a look at the old page before it is replaced. It is a report written by the Dallas FBI's Vincent Drain on the paper bag believed to have concealed the assassin's rifle. The bag was purportedly made by Oswald from materials at his work. His palm print and fingerprint have been found on this bag. The original report refers to a comparison between a paper sample taken from the shipping department of the depository and the paper used to make this bag, and reads: "This paper was examined by the FBI Laboratory and found not to be identical with the paper gun case found at the scene of the shooting." The new page reads "This paper was examined by the FBI Laboratory and found to have the same observable characteristics as the brown paper bag shaped like a gun case which was found near the scene of the shooting on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building."
Well I'll be. While the new wording matches the original reports from the lab, we're forced to wonder where Drain--who flew the bag back to Washington on the day after the shooting and may very well have observed the lab at work on the bag--got the idea the paper didn't match. We're also concerned that the FBI is changing the records of the Commission without making note of these changes. (The original document claiming the paper didn't match was actually uncovered by researcher Gary Shaw in 1977. He'd found it in the Warren Commission's sub-file on Dallas crime lab chief Lt. J.C. Day. In 1984, writer Henry Hurt contacted Vincent Drain and asked him if he had any idea why his report had been changed. Drain reportedly claimed "I am certainly as perplexed as you are," and asserted that he believed the correct report to be the one stating the paper was the same. He had previously said much the same thing to journalist Earl Golz. While this may very well be--all the other early reports claim the bag and paper matched--Drain's response is still suspicious, and suggests he was not telling the whole truth. In 1984, FBI Assistant Director William Baker admitted to researcher Ed Tatro that, sure enough, Drain had written an inaccurate report and that the FBI had ordered his report corrected. If, as it appears, either Drain or the person typing up his report had made a simple mistake, and had incorrectly claimed the paper didn't match, he most certainly would have heard about it, and would almost certainly have been punished. If so, it seems hard to believe he could forget such a thing. So then why lie about it to Golz and Hurt?)
The next day, on 12-18, the FBI's Alex Rosen, who was charged with investigating the physical facts of the assassination, wrote a memo in which he insisted the FBI's delay in seeking the autopsy report was because "the family of the President had requested the report from the U.S. Naval Hospital at Bethesda be kept as confidential as possible." This assertion is suspicious at best, as FBI Director Hoover was such a sensitive guy that when he called Robert Kennedy to tell him of his brother's death, he is reported to have blurted "the President's dead" and hung up. Hoover's hatred for Robert Kennedy was so great, in fact, that when Robert Kennedy was himself assassinated the FBI deliberately minimized the news coverage of his funeral by delaying the announcement of the arrest of Martin Luther King assassination suspect James Earl Ray for two whole days, and then announcing it during Kennedy's funeral. This assertion, by the way, comes courtesy Hoover's boss at the time, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
More to the point, this "oh, the Kennedys wouldn't let us" excuse presented by Rosen, which would be repeated by Warren Commissioner John McCloy and Junior Counsel Arlen Specter in the months and years to come, was ultimately rejected by Hoover himself. In June 1966, when Edward Epstein's book Inquest brought considerable attention to the FBI's failure to read the autopsy report, and embrace its findings, Rosen at first responded by denying there was a problem. He insisted that the FBI's initial reports were based upon the statements of the doctors during the autopsy, and that the 1-13-64 Supplemental report in which these early statements were repeated, weeks after the FBI had been supplied the autopsy report, was also not in error. Yes, incredibly, although the FBI had ignored in its Supplemental Report the official autopsy report then in its possession, and had offered up its own explanation for the throat wound (that it represented the exit of a fragment from the head shot), Rosen claimed, in a June 2, 1966 memo to Hoover's leaker-in-chief Cartha DeLoach, that the inaccurate statements in the Supplemental Report had been included to "point out the apparent conflict between the information originally furnished by medical authorities on 11/22/63 and the results of our Laboratory's examination of the President's clothing, which indicated a bullet had exited his body."
Well, of course. One always points out inconsistent information by leading the reader to an inaccurate conclusion, and then failing to quote from additional reports in which this inconsistent information has been clarified...
In any event, an October 7, 1966 memo from Rosen to DeLoach in which the increasingly desperate Rosen now acknowledged there had been some confusion about the president's wounds, but blamed this on the Kennedy family, received a terse response from Hoover, who obviously knew better. On the last page of the memo, Hoover scribbled: "The confusion... would never have occurred if we had obtained the autopsy report originally. The Kennedys never asked us to withhold it and if they had we should have disregarded it." (Hoover is absolutely right on this point. Many of the conspiracy theories he so despised would not have reared up if the government as a whole had not been so strangely secretive about the autopsy in the first place.)
On 12-19, President Johnson met with his top advisers from the Pentagon and CIA in order to re-evaluate the U.S. government's position regarding Cuba. According to historians Thomas Powers and Max Holland, President Johnson told this audience that Kennedy was killed as an act of retribution "by unnamed persons seeking vengeance for the murder...of...Diem." (The recently-assassinated President of South Vietnam.)
Huh... This was ten days after Hoover gave Johnson a report saying Oswald acted alone.
It's not that Hoover's report took awhile to sink in, for that matter. It never sank in. David Wise, the Washington Bureau Chief of the New York Herald Tribune during this period, would eventually write of a long "background" discussion he had with Johnson in January, 1964. while visiting Johnson's ranch in Texas. Wise reported that Johnson discussed the deaths of Dominican dictator Trujillo and Vietnamese President Diem, declared flatly "we took care of them," and then wondered aloud if Kennedy's death wasn't "some kind of terrible retribution." Apparently, neither Wise nor any of the other journalists privy to Johnson's thoughts in this period ever violated Johnson's trust and told the Warren Commission investigating Kennedy's death that the government had been targeting the leaders of foreign nations, and that Johnson suspected this behavior may have somehow boomeranged back and hit us in the President.
And Johnson wasn't alone among those supposedly in the know who still had their doubts about Oswald, and his supposedly "lone nut" status. Nope, although he'd told Johnson weeks before that there was nothing to the story Oswald was in the employ of the Cuban government, a 12-19 FBI memo reflects that CIA Director John McCone had continued to spread the story as if it had some merit.
This met with the FBI's disapproval. Severe disapproval. The memo, from D.J. Brennan to Assistant Director William Sullivan, relates: "Information developed by Mr. DeLoach has indicated that John McCone, Director, CIA, has attacked the Bureau in a vicious and underhanded manner characterized with sheer dishonesty. If the facts are true, we can safely assume that McCone will continue such tactics to the point of seriously jeopardizing Bureau prestige and reputation." This paragraph concludes "If MCCone is involved in such nefarious activity, there is a way of putting a stop to this."
The memo then lays out the "charges" against McCone, namely, that he told Warren Commissioner and part-time FBI informant Gerald Ford that a Cuban government official had paid Oswald to kill Kennedy, and that he'd also told this story to columnist Drew Pearson. That's it.
The memo then suggests that McCone be confronted with the fact that his own agency had discredited the Oswald-was-a-paid-agent-of-Cuba story, and then be told "that we can only characterize his actions as a vicious and unwarranted attack against the Bureau."
It then concludes: "If McCone did make the referred statements, we can expect him to make a denial. However, it is believed that we will have made our point and he certainly will know where he stands, will undoubtedly have a profound respect for our capabilities to be informed, and he certainly will bear all of this in mind in the event he gets any ideas of making similar statements in the future."
This recommendation received Hoover's "O.K."
I'll let that sink in. While many envision the CIA as a big evil institution, and the FBI as a bunch of nerds in suits, this memo reflects the true balance of power. By 1963, Hoover's hold on Washington, and monumental ego, had reached the point where an underling like Brennan had no problem asking if he could confront the Director of the CIA, and tell him the FBI was, for all intents and purposes, SPYING ON HIM. This was to be done, what's worse, as a response to a COMPLETELY IMAGINARY attack on the FBI stemming from McCone's repeating a story which his own agency had discredited.
That this was viewed as an attack of any type, let alone a vicious one, is beyond bizarre. It's possible, after all, that McCone had his own reasons for continuing to suspect there was something to the story. It's possible, after all, that McCone had simply repeated the story as worrisome gossip, as an example of the kind of thing his agency had uncovered. But no, the FBI had issued its report to the President, in which no such plot was outlined. It had then become gospel. Anyone expressing any doubt in its conclusions--including the director of the Central Intelligence Agency--was thereby a heretic, attacking the Bureau much as Galileo had once "attacked" the Catholic Church.
What balderdash! One can only wonder, then, how many of these late-night-knock-on-the-door, "excuse me, we know what you've been saying" type conversations took place in the months after the assassination. I mean, let's face it, if Hoover and his men were willing to threaten the head of the CIA, who wouldn't they threaten?
While we're still puzzling over that, we get a look at the 12-20-63 FBI lab report on Zapruder's camera. (This report is officially provided the Warren Commission on 1-07-64 as part of CD206.) This report is a simplified summary of the 12-10 memo written by Frederick Webb. It relates: “Under date of December 20, 1963, the FBI Laboratory furnished the following information concerning a photographic examination requested by the Dallas Office, December 5, 1963: Specimens received 12-6-63…K51: One Bell and Howell Zoomatic 8mm motion picture camera SN AS 13486, obtained from Abraham Zapruder. Result of Examination: The K51 8mm motion picture camera has been tested to determine the running speed of this camera, and it has been determined that this camera when operated at normal “RUN” speed operates at 18 1/3 frames per second. While it is not possible to establish accurately from the film the moment of impact of the first two shots, applying the above camera speed to the film that was previously submitted which was exposed by Abraham Zapruder and which recorded the assassination, it has been determined that the best estimate of the elapsed time between the first and third shots lies between approximately five and six seconds. It is noted that the President's car moves behind a signboard at about the time of the first shot, and the President's movements during this period are not observable. However, he begins to fall forward immediately upon emerging from behind the sign."
Well, hell. Look what they've done. Webb's memo included a discussion of the presumed timing of a second shot hit on Connally. It made clear, without saying as much, that this was incompatible with a single assassin. To be clear, Webb had Connally turning back to the front but 1.25 seconds before Kennedy was struck in the head! And now look at what's been sent on the commission, in a memo written TEN days later. They've left all this out, and cover this not-so-little problem up by claiming one can't establish accurately the moment of the first two shots.
And yet...by indicating that one can establish accurately the moment of the third shot, the report indicates that the easily recognizable head shot was the third shot. This fact is further confirmed by the report's suggestion that this shot came but five to six seconds after the first shot (or, using the report's conclusion that the camera ran at 18.3 frames per second, 92-110 frames after the first shot). 92-110 frames prior to the head shot at frame 313, of course, places the first shot between 203 and 221, around the time Kennedy disappeared behind the sign, when the report claims the first shot was fired.
Yep, there can be no mistake: while covering up the problem observed by Webb--that Connally's claim he'd turned back to the front before he was shot...was incompatible with the lone nut conclusion, the FBI has nevertheless concluded that the first shot struck Kennedy and that the final shot was the head shot.
But does the Secret Service concur? Has it confirmed the study performed by the National Photo Interpretation Center, and the apparent findings of the FBI? Or has it come to conclude our earlier interpretation of the eyewitness evidence was correct, and that a shot was fired after the head shot?
On 12-20-63 Hoover aide Cartha DeLoach wrote a second memo regarding the 12-16 executive session of the Warren Commission. Even though Congressman Ford had hid the commission's discussion of Hoover's leaks from DeLoach, this discussion was leaked right back to Hoover anyhow. Deloach wrote: "Pursuant to the Director's instructions, I met with Senator Richard B. Russell at 3:45 p.m. Inspector Jim Malley accompanied me. I told the Senator that the Director probably had the greatest respect for him than any other man on the Presidential Commission; consequently, the Director was most anxious that any misimpression which the Senator might have gotten, regarding leaks concerning the captioned matter, be straightened out immediately. I mentioned that the Director had maintained throughout that there should be no press release unless it emanated from either the President or either the Presidential Commission...I told him that there had been others who thought that a press release, based upon the FBI report, should be issued immediately. I reiterated that under no circumstances had we "leaked" any information...The Senator inquired as to the identity of the sources who had been "leaking" information. I told him it appeared quite obvious that considerable of the information came from the Dallas Police...I told him also that the (Justice) Department undoubtedly had "leaked" considerable information...Senator Russell told Mr. Malley and me that he was glad to hear an FBI denial in the matter...He (Russell) stated that Attorney General Katzenbach had directly implied that the "leaks" had come from the FBI. He quoted Katzenbach as telling the members of the Presidential Commission, "J. Edgar Hoover has chewed his men out for leaking information and they won't be doing any more of this." (Note: to this, Hoover added in his own handwriting, "This certainly shows Katzenbach's true colors.") DeLoach's memo, continued: "I told the Senator that Katzenbach was obviously lying in implying such action on the part of FBI representatives. The point was made that sometimes a person tries to cover up his own guilt by blaming others."
That last line may be one of the most ironic ever written, for it has been the verdict of almost everyone to study the matter that Hoover and Deloach were in fact the ones behind the leaks. When asked in 1978 by the HSCA who leaked the FBI report, Katzenbach responded: "I think that the Bureau leaked it. The Bureau constantly leaked things of this kind and constantly denied it and constantly blamed it on other people. There is not a reporter in town who does not know that...I wanted a formal statement."As discussed previously, in his 1976 interview with the staff of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Operations (The Church Committee), the former Chief of the FBI's Domestic Intelligence Division, William Sullivan, confirmed that it was indeed Hoover who had ordered the report "leaked."
In any event, whether it be the FBI or the Justice Department, it seems clear someone was leaking information in order to plug the dam holding back the rumors of conspiracy.
These efforts were doomed to fail. The 12-21-63 issue of New Republic featured an article by Richard Dudman, which opened: "I witnessed President Kennedy’s assassination and the slaying of the accused assassin two days later. Three circumstances—the entry wound in the throat, the small, round hole in the windshield of the Presidential limousine, and the number of bullets found afterward—suggested that there had been a second sniper firing from a point in front of the automobile. The throat wound puzzled the surgeons who attended Mr. Kennedy at Parkland Memorial Hospital when they learned how the Dallas police had reconstructed the shooting. Dr. Robert McClelland, one of the three doctors who worked on the throat wound, told me afterward that they still believed it to be an entry wound, even though the shots were said to have been fired almost directly behind the President. He explained that he and his colleagues at Parkland saw bullet wounds every day, sometimes several a day, and recognized easily the characteristically tiny hole of an entering bullet, in contrast to the larger, tearing hole that an exiting bullet would have left."
New Republic then doubled-down with a second article spreading seeds of doubt and asking serious questions about the assassination. Strangely enough, it was entitled "Seeds of Doubt: Some Questions About the Assassination." It was by Jack Minnis and Staughton Lynd. It concludes:
"Since the bulk of this analysis was written, the news magazines—Time, Life, Newsweek, and US News and World Report—have made public their versions of the assassination...The central problem—the fact that the President was wounded in the front of the throat, “the midsection of the front part of his neck,” according to “staff doctors” at Parkland Hospital on November 23 (New York Times, November 24)—remains. Life and Newsweek place the President’s car 170 feet and 150 feet past the turn at the time of the first shot: a shorter distance than our estimate, but much too distant from the window for a shot through the front of the neck. Life (December 6) recognizes the problem, but solves it by saying that the President was turning far to the right at the moment of impact. This explanation appears to fail for two reasons. First, Life’s own pictures of the event in the issue of November 29 show the President looking straight ahead. Second, Elm Street curves left as it passes the warehouse building (see the picture on page 32H of Life, November 29), in such a way that when the first bullet struck, the President’s back was to the window. In order for a bullet to have entered “the mid-section of the front part of his neck” the President would have had to turn completely around just before the shot was fired."
Now, one might think these articles would arouse the interest of the government, or the mainstream press, and entice someone to clarify these matters. But one would be wrong.
On 12-24-63, more than a month after the President of the United States was murdered on the streets of Dallas, the FBI agents investigating his murder finally relented and took a look at the official report on his autopsy. The letter by Alex Rosen accompanying the FBI's own copy of this report notes that "In view of the interest displayed by Mr. Rankin (the Warren Commission's General Counsel) arrangements were made to obtain a copy of the autopsy report from the Secret Service for the Bureau's use and a request was also made that Secret Service furnish a copy of the report to Mr. Rankin." Incredibly, Rosen was thereby admitting that the conflicts between the FBI's report and the autopsy report as outlined by Dallas Special Agent in Charge Shanklin on 12-12 did not in and of themselves cause the FBI to take a look at the autopsy report. They were only investigating the death of a President, after all.
For what's worse, even after receiving the autopsy report, the FBI ignored its findings, and as late as January 13th continued to champion that the bullet creating the back wound fell out and that a fragment of the bullet striking the skull had been the probable cause of the throat wound. You can't make this stuff up.
But if the FBI had moved on, and was no longer interested in the murder of the president, they were just playing follow the leader. On Christmas Eve, 1963, President Johnson met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss his future plans, including his plans regarding Vietnam. He told them: "Just let me get elected, and then you can have your war." (While this sounds crazy, and reads like something out of a conspiracy movie, it apparently actually happened, as it was first reported by respected historian Stanley Karnow in his 1983 book Vietnam, after hearing it from Army Chief of Staff Harold K. Johnson.)
Yes, as hard as it may be to believe, it appears that Johnson, barely a month into his presidency, cut a deal with the generals that Kennedy would never have even considered, and promised them a war if they would help him domestically. If such things actually happen, Kennedy must have been rolling over in his grave.
Above: the Warren Commission's staff (minus most of its senior counsel). From L to R. Stuart Pollak, Alfred Goldberg, Arlen Specter, Norman Redlich, Wesley Liebeler, J. Lee Rankin, David Slawson, Samuel Stern, Howard Willens, Albert Jenner, David Belin, John Hart Ely, Burt Griffin.
It is now late-January. The Warren Commission's staff has trickled in from throughout the country and quietly begun their work, which at this point entails reading through the many reports on the assassination previously written by the FBI, Secret Service, and CIA. Howard Willens--an employee of the Justice Department--is serving as General Counsel Rankin's administrative assistant and link to other government agencies. While Chief Justice Warren has had input into the selection of Rankin, and the senior staff, Willens is largely responsible for the selection of the commission's junior staff, and the assignment of their duties. He has divided the staff into pairs of senior and junior counsel, and assigned these pairs specific areas of investigation.
These areas were not decided upon by Willens, moreover, but by General Counsel Rankin. As outlined in a 1-2-64 memo to the commissioners, the six areas of investigation selected by Rankin are: "(1) Assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963; (2) Lee Harvey Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy; (3) Lee Harvey Oswald: Background and Possible Motive; (4) Oswald Foreign Activity (Military Excluded); (5) Murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack L. Ruby; and (6) Security Precautions to Protect the President."
Wow. It seems clear from this that Rankin, without performing a second of independent investigation, has already decided the outcome of the commission's supposedly independent investigation. I mean, why else would he propose ahead of time that the commission devote half its resources to researching Oswald's life and death? If the investigation were truly independent, and not a rubber stamp, wouldn't the commission devote all its resources trying to establish the identity of Kennedy's assassin, and only research Oswald's background once the commission was convinced, by the evidence, not the FBI, or its leaks to the media, of Oswald's guilt?
In any event, here are the areas of investigation along with the lawyers assigned to these areas.
Area 1: Francis Adams and Arlen Specter are charged with establishing the "basic facts of the assassination." (It's notable that Specter is an old college chum of Willens', whose loyalty to the commission would later be called into question by commissioner John McCloy.)
Area 2: Joseph Ball and David Belin are charged with establishing the "identity of the assassin." (Assassin...singular...well, guess who that is...)
Area 3: Albert Jenner and J. Wesley Liebeler are charged with establishing "Oswald's background." (Researcher Tom Scully would later research Jenner's own background, and come to conclude he'd had significant ties to organized crime.)
Area 4: William Coleman and W. David Slawson are charged with investigating "possible conspiratorial relationships." They are thus tasked with investigating Oswald's actions in Russia and Mexico.
Area 5: Leon Hubert and Burt Griffin are charged with investigating "Oswald's death," and establishing both whether Ruby knew Oswald, and if Ruby had help in killing Oswald.
Area 6: Samuel Stern is charged with researching the history of Presidential protection, so that the commission could make appropriate recommendations.
Norman Redlich is charged with supervising the investigations of all these areas, and with the subsequent writing of their report. His assistant--the man directly overseeing much of the investigation--is Melvin Eisenberg.
(It is rarely, if ever, noted, that this alignment gave Warren additional control over the direction of the commission's investigation. The over-all investigation, the "identity of the assassin," and "Oswald's background," were all controlled by men (Rankin, Ball, and Jenner) with a prior working relationshipwith Warren, who had been hand-picked by Warren in 1958 to serve on the Judicial Conference of the United States, an advisory panel created to give suggestions to Warren and the Supreme Court regarding changes of Federal Rules of Procedure.)
And from there the new administration's lack of interest in investigating Kennedy's death becomes even more obvious. A 12-30-63 U.S. News and World Report article presented yet another shooting scenario to the public. This scenario was similar to the FBI's scenario, but with a twist. It detailed "The first struck President Kennedy in the back, just below the collar bone, and lodged in his body. The second shot struck Governor Connally and fragmented. Bullets hitting bone can splinter. A splinter from this bullet apparently hit the windshield of the car. Another splinter could have penetrated the floor pan. The third bullet struck President Kennedy in the back of the head, causing death. This bullet also fragmented somewhat." Well, where did they get this bit about the hole in the floor pan? Did someone tell the writer there was such a hole? One might think the FBI would want to know.
Or not. Sadly, a 1-6-64 memo from the FBI's Alex Rosen on the article declared "There appears to be little significance to the alleged location of this hole in the President's limousine at this time; however, since this item appears in a magazine with a nationwide distribution it is possible questions may be raised by the President's Commission concerning this. Therefore, it is felt we should be in a position to promptly answer any such inquiry." Rosen was clearly not one easily stirred.
But President Johnson was one easily shaken... That night, Rufus Youngblood, the Secret Service agent who'd protected Lyndon Johnson on the day of the shooting, received a most unusual phone call. It was from Johnson, who was extremely angry about a memo he'd received, written by a former Kennedy staffer. This memo made reference to an article in Sports Illustrated describing one of Johnson's frequent disagreements with his bodyguards. (The name of this staffer is unknown, as the memo from which Johnson was reading has never been located.) Johnson told Youngblood: "I've received a memorandum that disturbs me, Rufus. I'll read you some of it. 'I'm alarmed at the situation that has developed between the President and the Secret Service. Morale in the Secret Service is at an all-time low. A number of the members of the White House detail are asking for transfers. This is a great body of men. These men feel they are being prevented from doing their job properly. These men do not want favors; they just want to be accepted. We need them badly, especially in campaign years. They must feel the President appreciates their efforts. If they do something wrong, they do not want to be reprimanded in public over a radio system which lots of people listen to. The attachment this week from Sports Illustrated is an example. I'll do anything you think proper.' Johnson then continued "I just told Rowley (i.e., Secret Service Director James Rowley) to call all of them in and to take any of 'em's resignations that wanted to. And I'd be glad to have his, if he wants it, or yours or anybody else's. And if they don't want to handle it, well, we'll get the FBI to do it." Johnson then complained about Secret Service agents following his car too closely when he went for rides on his ranch. He then urged: "So you get ahold of Rowley and you all call a meeting of your group and (decide) whatever you decide you want to do; and if you want to resign, I'll be glad to accept it forthwith. And if the Secret Service wants to go back to counterfeiting, they can go back to counterfeiting, then I'll get the FBI to just assign me a couple of men to stay by my side without all this God damn big push! I don't know who it is bellyaching. First I heard of it. I'm sorry it didn't come to me. It had to come through some of Kennedy's staffers." Youngblood then asked who wrote the memo. Johnson responded "I don't think I ought to do that, but one of Kennedy's top people and somebody has been bellyaching to him. And there's enough truth in it (to see) that somebody talked. And I can't have disloyalty, and I can't talk in front of your people and have them repeat it." Youngblood then responded: "You're absolutely right. You cannot have disloyalty and I don't want any transfer, reassignment, or any other damned thing, sir." Johnson then returned to complaining about agents driving too close to his car. He then repeated his threat: "So you find out whose morale is low and get rid of the son of a bitch. And if the whole Secret Service is low, I'll tell Dillon (i.e., Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon--Rowley's boss) the first thing in the morning that we'll just change the damned law in about five minutes and turn it over to the FBI because Hoover thinks that I could be handled a lot better anyway. I don't want any of it. I think now's a good time, after Dallas, to make the change, if they want to do it. Now I thought I did pretty well after Dallas and I thought I reflected credit on the Secret Service. I did my damnedest to compliment you and everybody else. But if the appreciation I get is going to be articles like this--Kennedy people coming in and telling me that the morale is the lowest in the history--I'm not going to be run by them, you know that." He then repeated: "You get ahold of Rowley and y'all see who the hell has been bellyaching and get it straightened out. Take their resignations, get them out of here, and get Lem Johns back and you and Lem Johns handle me. You handle me safer than the forty can, 'cause they're liabilities instead of assets. And if y'all don't want to do it, just honestly say so and I'll get you a good reassignment and I'll get Hoover to send me over a couple of 21-year-old accountants over here and they'll probably do as good a job." Youngblood then said "We'll stick with you, sir." Johnson then finished "Okay, but I want something done about it, you understand? Good night, Rufus."
(Note: the transcript presented above was constructed from two sources: Rufus Youngblood's 1973 book 20 Years in the Secret Service, and Michael Beschloss' 1997 book on the Johnson Tapes, Taking Charge. I then compared this transcript against the actual tape available on the Miller Center's website, in anticipation that major corrections were in order. This proved most surprising. The direct quotes in Youngblood's account of the conversation that were not in Beschloss' transcript were nevertheless a near-perfect match for the words on the tape of the conversation. Clearly, Youngblood--or his ghost writer, Richard Hardwick--had been granted access to the tapes...years before the public had been told of their existence. And that wasn't all. The words in bold were in Youngblood's book but not on Beschloss' transcript or the Miller Center's tape. This suggests either that Youngblood and Hardwick made these lines up or that the tapes on the Miller Center's website have been edited since 1973--when Youngblood was writing his book.)
In any event, after chewing out Youngblood, Johnson called up Youngblood's boss, Secret Service Director James Rowley, and repeated his threat of shutting down the service's Presidential Protection Division if they didn't fall in line.
Not surprisingly, in light of this threat, when on the next day the FBI called Robert Bouck, the head of the Protective Research Section of the Presidential Protection Division, and asked him if a hole was discovered in the floor of the limousine, they were told there was no such hole. This marked the beginning and end of the FBI's investigation. While it could very well be that there really was no bullet hole in the floor of the limousine, Johnson's calling the Director of the Secret Service James Rowley the night before this call--and his threatening the jobs of every member of the Presidential Protection Division if they didn't get wise and help protect him from the criticisms of Kennedy loyalists--undoubtedly muddied the waters.
And it wasn't just the Secret Service that Johnson was out to control. The 2007 book Breaking News, a history of the Associated Press, reflects that 6 weeks after the assassination Johnson told members of the White House Press Corps that he wanted a close relationship with them, and that "I'll tell you everything...There won't be any secrets except where the national security is involved. You'll be able to write everything. Of course, I may go into a strange bedroom every now and then that I won't want you to write about..." As one can only assume, based on his comments to Warren, that Johnson considered the Warren Commission's investigation a national security matter, Johnson was thereby trying to swap out increased access to the White House on political news in exchange for his having greater control of stories regarding his sex life and national security, including the Warren Commission's investigation. One can only wonder how many newsmen took him up on it.
And it wasn't just Johnson who was playing with the papers.
On 1-7-64, an intriguing newspaper article appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press. This article was built around an interview of Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin--an interview that would not have taken place should Warren have not given his permission. And yet this article, penned by Harold Morrison, made clear the commission was dissatisfied with the FBI's efforts. Here's the article:
WASHINGTON (CP) — Did Lee Harvey Oswald kill John Fitzgerald Kennedy?
The chief counsel for the Warren commission says the signs point that way but that the commission still has not enough evidence to remove all doubt. So the investigation into the crime likely will continue for months.
For example, while Dallas police once reported a finger-print on the alleged assassination weapon—an Italian-made, bolt-action rifle—J. Lee Rankin,commission general counsel, said Monday there was no fingerprint, only a palm print.
The palm print—identified as that of Oswald who bought the rifle from a mail-order firm was found in the underpart of the weapon.
A palm print was supposed to have been found on the brown wrapping paper in which Oswald was believed to have brought the rifle into the Dallas schoolbook warehouse, where he worked. Again there isn't one.
OTHER POINTS PUZZLE
There are other points which bother and puzzle the former U.S. solicitor-general who directs the legal staff of the seven-man commission headed by U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren.
Paraffin tests showed there was evidence of gunpowder on Oswald's hands, indicating the accused assassin had fired a hand weapon, but there were no similar gunpowder traces on his face, Rankin said in an interview.
Some authorities maintain the paraffin tests on Oswald's face would have been positive if he had fired a rifle, as police said he did, Rankin added.
Eyewitnesses have testified that Oswald fired a pistol to kill Police Constable J. D. Tippit shortly after Kennedy was assassinated and a police alarm sounded in Dallas last Nov; 22.
On that day Kennedy was hit by two bullets fired into his limousine as his motorcade entered a road turn-in downtown Dallas. A third bullet hit Texas Governor John Connally, who was sitting in the limousine's jump seat. Connally has recovered from his wounds.
Rankin said that because of the conditions of the bullets, they could not be positively identified as coming from the rifle found in the warehouse. However, spent shells were found near the sixth-floor window where the assassin was believed to have been perched.
The three bullets were estimated to have been fired within 6 1/2 seconds, said Rankin. While rifle experts maintain the firing of three shots in such a short period is possible, the evidence indicates that the last two shots came almost "on top of each other."
"Can a man operating a bolt action rifle fire two shots so quickly?"' asked Rankin. 'That is an example of the kind of thing that bothers us."
"What the commission wants to be able to do," he said, "is to publish a report that would eliminate doubt." Last month the Federal Bureau of Investigation gave the commission its report, concluding Oswald committed the crime unaided.
But the commission apparently was not completely satisfied with the FBI summary. It called for all documents on which the FBI report was based. The commission intends to re-examine every aspect of the case; to account if possible for every development on the day of the assassination.
"We cannot even get witnesses to agree on what Oswald wore that day," Rankin said, as another indication of his difficulties.
He could confirm, he added, that Oswald left his Russian born wife a set of instructions the day before a sniper shot-at former Maj.-Gen.Edwin Walker last April in Dallas.
A published report said the written instructions advised Mrs. Oswald that something was developing that might cause her husband to be absent for some time or to be arrested. She was given directions as to the location of the jail and given a key to Lee's post office box.
Rankin said that identifying Oswald with the attempted Walker assassination did not, by itself, add much judicial evidence to the Kennedy assassination.
"We intend to gather evidence from all key witnesses, including Oswald's wife and Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy and others."
"Mrs. Kennedy has also indicated she intends to co-operate fully in providing detailed testimony for the sake of historical accuracy."
Now--let's make no bones about it--this was pure politics. Warren--via Rankin--was sending a message to the FBI: cooperate, or I'll squeal. He had done so, moreover, in a Canadian paper. Well, this showed his willingness keep this kind of stuff away from Main Street, USA.
But it wasn't just the political nature of the article that, in the long run, proved intriguing. Two of the problems pointed out by Rankin in the article--that there was no palm print on the paper bag, and that the bullet fragments couldn't be matched to the rifle--would be contradicted by the commission's report upon its release in September. One might assume then that their inclusion in this article reflected a misunderstanding on Rankin's part, or even on Morrison's part.
Far more telling, then, is that three of the other problems discussed by Rankin--the lack of gunshot residue on Oswald's cheek, the mass of eyewitnesses claiming the last two shots were fired on top of one another, and the fact that no credible witness saw Oswald wear the shirt he was wearing when arrested while at work on the 22nd--would never be resolved by the Warren Commission, and would be dealt with dishonestly in the commission's report.
But what the hey, it's all for show. Those behind the cameras know it...
and those in front of the cameras know it...
Above: the Warren Commission and its General Counsel. Note that the background has changed, and that LBJ's face now dominates.
That the Commission was seen as the enemy by the investigating agencies is also apparent. On 1-7-64 Texas Attorney General Waggoner Carr provides the Commission with Commission Document 81, comprising the bulk of the investigation performed by the Dallas Police.
One page of this document is particularly revealing, in light of subsequent events. It is shown below on the right. It is a list of evidence obtained by the Dallas Police during their brief investigation. When one compares this list, moreover, to a nearly identical list subsequently discovered in the files of the Texas Dept. of Public Safety, one is in for three surprises. (This list is on the left.)
As pointed out by the arrows on the images above, the first surprise is that the number of shells was changed from 2 to 3. Hmmm.... the early reports of those finding the shells was that three shells were discovered. But only two shells were sent the FBI that evening... Now, the story goes that Capt. Will Fritz held onto one shell for comparison purposes. Perhaps, then, he briefly decided to hide the existence of this third shell from the record, by making up a list saying there were but two shells. Or perhaps whoever wrote up this list had previously written up the evidence list for the FBI on 11-26, when but two shells were sent to Washington, and had forgot about the shell in Fritz's possession. In any event, the changing of this report seems a bit suspicious.
Especially when one considers the other two surprises... The second surprise comes in a box, so to speak. The list claims the DPD has a box in its possession "from which thumb print of suspect was found." No such box was ever entered into evidence. While at first blush, one might wish to believe the DPD has confused the palm print ripped off Box D with a thumb print, this is more than a bit loopy seeing as this palm print is mentioned two lines earlier. It seems possible, then, that there was a thumb print on Box D, that could not be identified as Oswald's, that was then made to disappear.
This brings us to the third surprise. At the bottom of the list sent the Dept. of Public Safety is an acknowledgment that Oswald was given a paraffin test, but that it had been negative for his cheek. This info had not been provided the public in the days and weeks after the assassination. This info, moreover, suggested Oswald was innocent of shooting Kennedy. It seems clear, then, that someone (most probably Fritz) then went back and had this acknowledgement removed from the list sent the Warren Commission, and retained in the DPD's files.
So what's up with that? Were the Dallas Police trying to hide that Oswald had had a negative result for his cheek? Well, if so, they were a little late, as the FBI had forwarded a report to the commission on 11-30-63 in which the negative result for the cheek cast had been discussed.
Another indication that the commission was headed nowhere came just four days later. On 1-11-64, despite Rankin's speaking to the Canadian press, and assuring them the commission was still undecided on the question of conspiracy, and would thoroughly review the FBI's investigation, Chief Justice Warren presented an outline of the Warren Commission's upcoming report to the other members of the commission. Shockingly, it mirrors the FBI's report. Oswald was a lone assassin. There was no conspiracy.
The President had been dead for 7 weeks. The commission had been in existence for 6 weeks. They had not spoken to a single witness.
The bias of the commission was evident in other ways as well. Of the 14 lawyers hired as assistant counsel to lead the investigation, there were two (Ball and Belin) assigned the task of establishing Oswald's guilt, two (Jenner and Liebeler) assigned the task of investigating Oswald's background and possible motivation, two (Coleman and Lawson) assigned the task of investigating Oswald's possible involvement in a foreign-based conspiracy, two (Hubert and Griffin) assigned the task of investigating Oswald's murder and his possible ties to Jack Ruby, and one (Stern) assigned the task of investigating the history of Presidential protection. Three others (Redlich, Willens, and Eisenberg) were given jobs as assistants to General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, and go-betweens to the Justice Department. This meant that the task of investigating what actually happened in Dealey Plaza was left to but two men. One of these men (Francis Adams) dropped out of the investigation shortly after it began. This left a 33 year-old Assistant District Attorney for the City of Philadelphia (Arlen Specter) as the sole investigator tasked with solving the riddles of Dealey Plaza, determining how many shots were fired, from where they were fired, which shots struck the President and Governor Connally, the damage done by these shots, and whether or not Lee Harvey Oswald could have fired all these shots. Perhaps it was the thinking of the Commission and General Counsel Rankin that this aspect of the case was relatively unimportant, in light of Oswald's obvious guilt. Chief Justice Warren would, in fact, later claim that "The facts of the assassination itself are simple...If the sole responsibility of the Commission had been to determine who shot and killed President Kennedy, it would have taken very little work."
That this aspect of the case was, at least initially, not taken as seriously as it deserved is supported, furthermore, by a 1-12 article in the New York Times on the structure of the commission, and the make-up of its staff. After noting that General Counsel Rankin had outlined the Commission's plans in an interview, the article claimed that the Commission's staff was to investigate six areas of inquiry, with Rankin handling one, and five other teams of lawyers handling the others. It then lists the six areas of inquiry: 1) "Oswald's activities on the day of the assassination;" 2) "Ruby's activities and background;" 3) "Oswald's life and back ground, with the exception of;" 4) "Oswald's career in the Marine Corps and his stay in the Soviet Union;" 5) "Oswald's murder;" and 6) "The procedures used to protect President Kennedy." Well, what's missing? Only the elephant in the room. Rankin failed to mention that ANYONE was going to pursue the basic facts of the shooting--the line of inquiry later pushed onto the relative novice Specter.
If Warren and Rankin sincerely believed this aspect of their investigation was a snap, of course, they were sorely mistaken, as many if not most of the ongoing controversies of the case can be traced back to Specter and the Commission's inadequate and deceptive investigation of the basic facts...
Meanwhile, back in our alternative history 1964, our feeling that something is suspicious about the FBI and Secret Service's ever-changing interpretation of the shot locations is growing by the hour. A 1-9-64 newspaper column by Robert Allen and Paul Scott only feeds this feeling. It reports: "The FBI has been asked to conduct further tests on the time required to fire three shots. Reason for this is new evidence that the second and third shots came in exceptionally rapid succession. It was the third shot that shattered the back of the President's head and fragmented. This has made very difficult determining whether that round was fired by the same rifle." Since it appears that someone either on the Commission or within the FBI has told Allen and Scott about this problem, we take heart that someone else has noticed what we thought only we had noticed--that the third shot in the re-enactment photos is much farther down the street than the actual location where Kennedy was struck in the head, and that using the actual location puts the second and third shots far too close together to have both been fired by Oswald. We hope things get straightened out before the FBI submits their impression of the shot locations.
A few more witnesses are located, one of whose statements further support the "new evidence" discussed by Scott and Allen, that is, that the last two shots came in rapid succession.
Cecil Ault (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H534) “After the presidential car had turned the corner onto Elm Street, Mr. Ault heard three loud reports…the first and second shots sounded to him to be close together and the third shot was spaced more after the second shot, the first two shots sounding close enough to be from an automatic rifle…Following the first shot Mr. Ault noted that President Kennedy appeared to raise up in his seat in the Presidential automobile and after the second shot the president slumped into his seat.” Shot after the head shot. Lillian Mooneyham (1-10-64 FBI report, 24H531) “Mrs. Mooneyham heard a gunshot and observed President Kennedy slump to the left of the seat of his car. At the time of the initial shot, Mrs. Mooneyham believed that a firecracker had gone off. Following the first shot, there was a slight pause and then two more shots were discharged, the second and third shots sounding closer together. Mrs. Mooneyham observed Mrs. Kennedy climb up on the back of the car…Mrs. Mooneyham estimated that it was a bout 4 ½ to 5 minutes following the shots fired by the assassin that she looked up towards the sixth floor of the TSBD and observed the figure of a man standing in the sixth floor window behind some cardboard boxes.” Double head shot.
On 1-11, Chairman Warren and General Counsel Rankin present their outline for the Warren Commission’s investigation and report. The pre-planned conclusion is that Oswald killed Kennedy and that he acted alone.
On 1-11, we learn that the FBI's exhibits are ready, and that the Director himself has inspected them and approved them. We wonder if they will satisfy the Commission, however. Apparently, someone on the Commission has read the eyewitness statements, and has realized that the last two shots were fired quite close together, and is openly talking about it. Today's syndicated newspaper column by Robert S. Allen and Paul Scott reports that "The commission also wants more information about the alleged murder rifle. The FBI has been asked to conduct further tests on the time required to fire three shots. Reason for this is new evidence that the second and third shots came in exceptionally rapid succession. It was the third shot that shattered the back of the President's head, and fragmented. This has made very difficult determining whether that round was fired by the same rifle."
On 1-13 exhibits section chief Gauthier visits with the Warren Commission's General Counsel Lee Rankin, and Rankin requests 28 copies of a brochure of photos taken of these exhibits. A 1-14 memo on this meeting by Gauthier tells us further that "The Director firmly believes that the FBI should turn over full custody of these visual aids to the Commission as soon as possible in order that inquiries concerning these exhibits can be referred directly to Chairman Warren, particularly requests from news media to publicize the "new development."
We're also shown the FBI's Supplemental Report of 1-13-64, reporting back on tests conducted since the 12-9 report. On page 3 it states “A motion picture of the assassination taken by an amateur photographer, Abraham Zapruder…was examined by the FBI Laboratory. The best estimate of the time interval of the shots fired is that approximately six seconds elapsed from the first to the final shot, with the second shot occurring approximately in the middle of the six second period. The firing period begins with the first shot, so that it is necessary to operate the rifle bolt only twice to fire three shots within a given period of time.”
This reinforces what we already know--that, for Oswald to have fired all the shots, the shot impacting Connally would almost certainly have been fired 50 frames or so after and before the shots hitting Kennedy in the Zapruder film. Kennedy is undoubtedly hit at frame 313. Should the Secret Service have honestly believed Connally was hit circa frame 283, then they should have concluded there had been more than one shooter. We hold out hope that the FBI's exhibits will prove more convincing.