Disclosures this summer about President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination are prompting a blistering dispute on whether new “scientific evidence” proves that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK as a lone gunman — or whether the claim against Oswald is part of an ongoing media cover-up of the truth.
During the historic JFK document dump this year ordered by Congress, forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril H. Wecht (shown at right) repeatedly challenged two media darlings, politics professor Larry J. Sabato and author Philip Shenon, for claiming that recent scientific disclosures confirm the Warren Commission’s controversial finding in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald alone killed Kennedy.
Wecht — a former county coroner for 20 years based in Pittsburgh and a forensics expert who has studied the JFK death for five decades — repeatedly requested without success last month that Sabato (shown in a file photo below at left) cite his evidence for claiming in a Politico column co-authored with Shenon that “21st century forensic science demonstrates that Oswald was almost certainly the lone gunman in Dallas.”
Several other prominent researchers, including acoustics expert Dr. Donald Byron Thomas, also have strongly criticized the Sabato-Shenon columns, which suggest in part a highly controversial theme that Cuba Communists may have supported Oswald.
The Politico article, How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK’s Murder, was published in print on Aug. 3 and followed a similar column here that Sabato and Shenon co-authored for the Washington Post on July 25. Both columns followed the National Archives release on July 24 of some 3,810 previously suppressed JFK assassination records.
In a law passed unanimously in 1992, Congress started a process that requires these and other remaining documents pertaining to the Kennedy assassination to be disclosed by Oct. 26. The National Archives staff has suggested that at least one more document release will occur by then.
Some four million pages of other documents have been released previously. These previous releases have provided the public with an increasingly complete picture of a murder that changed American history in many ways extending to the present.
Here’s more about this summer’s scientific dispute:
Kyle Kondik, a colleague of Sabato’s at the University of Virginia, instructed Wecht that if he wants proof of Sabato’s scientific proof Wecht should read the books published in 2013 by Sabato (The Kennedy Half Century) and Shenon (A Cruel and Shocking Act).
Kondik is managing editor of “Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” which is affiliated with the Sabato-run Center for Politics at the university. Television and cable news outlets frequently host Sabato to speak about current events.
That celebrity helps generate many invitations for Sabato and Kondik to share their views for print publications, including a Washington Post news story Sept. 22 that called Kondik a “respected” political observer. Media outlets focus repeatedly on just a few of the nation’s thousands of professors whose expertise is relevant to current affairs.
Wecht replied that neither the Sabato nor Shenon book documents any specific reference to new “21st century forensic science” studies that prove that Oswald was the lone gunman in the JFK assassination.
“Professor Sabato must know this, and so do you,” Wecht continued in blunt correspondence with Kondik that is reprinted in full below.
“To slough me off as if I were some unknown simpleton is highly insulting,” continued said the 86-year-old Wecht. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 books, taught medical students, and served as head of medical societies, among other accomplishments. This weekend, he is in Key West performing what he described as his 420th autopsy of the year.
Wecht then came to his main point in writing Sabato, who was being buffered by Kondik from the correspondence:
“More importantly,” Wecht wrote, “is the harsh fact that Professor Sabato and Mr. Shenon have publicly expressed a statement that is untrue. Millions of people who have read their article are now misinformed.”
More generally, this debate is important because it involves specific facts that are widely neglected elsewhere, whether in media, museums, universities or other institutions that we in the public naturally assume are studying such matters in a rigorous and unbiased manner.
Kennedy, shown in a file photo with his wife and children, remains an object of intense public interest, as indicated by a current photo exhibit at the Newseum, a Washington, DC-based museum that focuses on news coverage of American history. The exhibit is “Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe.”
But this editor’s experiences with Newseum staff, including an author lecture and a separate preview of the photo exhibit during VIP preview this summer primarily for museum donors, indicated minimal interest from the museum’s expert research staff in hard questions about JFK’s death, including why CIA, FBI and other agencies have fought so long and hard against document releases and exploring tough questions.
Instead, the museum focuses primarily on the more marketable legacy of the fondly remembered Kennedy era of glamor, idealism and “Camelot,” as indicated by the title of the photo exhibition.
Our column today primarily covers the specific dispute over scientific evidence. Contending are a camp of JFK scientific researchers typified by Wecht against Sabato, Shenon and those in the mainstream media who promote them. .
Our follow-up column, Part II, will address in greater depth the major financial reasons why so little discussion occurs in so-called prestigious media and academic circles regarding scientific evidence in the JFK case, even from ostensibly independent media outlets. As a preview, the track record of these outlets for decades has shown that they either ignore evidence challenging the Warren Commission or deride proponents of such evidence as “conspiracy theorists.”
Our two columns thus focus narrowly on scientific and related media aspects of the current controversy. But this dispute inevitably raises the background questions of why Kennedy was killed and why the mysteries surrounding his death continue to percolate in more than 2,500 books so far, plus countless movies, articles and other debates.
Our two columns thus focus narrowly on scientific and related media aspects of the current controversy. But this dispute inevitably raises the background questions of why Kennedy was killed and why the mysteries surrounding his death continue to percolate in more than 2,500 books so far, plus countless movies, articles and other debates.
These are highly relevant to a host of issues, including the current Public Broadcasting System (PBS) series The Vietnam War, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. This is a 10-part series that began on Sept. 17. It omits JFK’s growing opposition to war, according to critics familiar with advance screenings of the series or the episodes shown so far.
Our Justice Integrity Project, now in collaboration with the Wecht-chaired research group Citizens Against Political Assassination (CAPA), addresses these larger issues in a Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination. The Readers Guide started in 2013 during the 50th anniversary retrospectives of the Kennedy death and legacy. The Readers Guide consists so far of 40 columns. One column lists the major books and features all significant viewpoints, including the Warren Commission’s view that Oswald alone killed JFK because of Oswald’s supposed Communist views and disordered personality.
In related news, CAPA announced this week that registration is open for the mock trial State of Texas vs. Lee Harvey Oswald that CAPA has been organizing for civic education from Nov. 16-17 on the campus of the South Texas College of Law in Houston, which is the co-sponsor. Registration is here.
Background On Assassination-Era Players
In 1963 after Kennedy’s assassination during a presidential motorcade through downtown Dallas, incoming President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed a seven-member Warren Commission led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate the killing. The commission issued its “Warren Report” in September 1964 to universal acclaim by the media even before any of them had time to read the findings and evidence contained in 26 volumes. The material appeared to confirm the conclusions of FBI officials and other law enforcers made immediately after the shooting and pinning the blame entirely on Oswald….
The major findings included assertions that: 1) Oswald acted alone in killing the president with three shots fired from behind with a bolt-action rifle; 2) Oswald acted from pro-Communist motives and disordered personality; and 3) Jack Ruby — who killed Oswald in a Dallas police station two days after JFK’s killing — had no connections to the mob.
But the matter is worth describing briefly for two reasons:
First, virtually all serious researchers describe the whitewash of Ruby’s mob connections as one of the most demonstrably false parts of the commission’s report. Ruby (shown during killing) had been a longtime associate of top Mafia leaders in Chicago and New Orleans, including New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, whose turf encompassed Dallas.
The practical results of whitewashing Ruby’s past include removing from public discussion, at least initially, the possibility that Ruby might have been ordered to kill Oswald by others. Investigation of any such order to kill would have opened, in turn, a Pandora’s Box of what we now know as strong working relationships during that era between various anti-Communist allies.
That anti-Communist web included Kennedy-haters among Big Business (including the defense sector and in Texas, New Orleans and other parts of the South), the mob, the Cuban exile community and the CIA, which had sub rosa working relationships with each of those groups that were focused heavily on mutual desire to overthrow Cuba’s Communist leader Fidel Castro, as many declassified documents, books and whistleblowers have revealed through the decades.
Evidence now strongly suggests also that Oswald was merely pretending to be a Communist in his role as a low-level asset for military and law enforcement handlers. Oswald had been a U.S. Marine from 1956 to 1959, and he worked on the highly classified U-2 spy program in the 1950s in Japan. After his supposed defection to the Soviet Union for 2 1/2 years beginning in 1959, he returned to the United States under mysterious circumstances and in 1962 worked six months for a Texas defense contractor specializing in classified air photo spy materials,
That latter job alone during the Cuban Missile Crisis is enough to prompt suspicions that Oswald could not really have been merely the Communist sympathizer that he claimed to be.
During a super-secret meeting of the Warren Commission on Jan. 22, 1964, Dulles is quoted as advising other commissioners that they must squelch for the good of the country the rumors at the time in journalism and law enforcement circles that Oswald had worked with authorities. The official transcript was halted, but another one has surfaced.
Warren is shown in a photo collage at top left along with six other commissioners and two staff counsel (Arlen Specter and David Belin, shown in the bottom row at center and right). The staff performed much of the work under Chief Counsel Lee Rankin while the commissioners were busy with their day jobs for the most part.
The one commissioner without a full-time job then was Allen Dulles, the former CIA director whom Kennedy had forced out of office in late 1961 along with two top CIA deputy directors, Richard Bissell and Gen. Charles Cabell, brother of then-Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell. Kennedy was furious over their war-mongering and attempts to mislead him, records and witnesses now show.
The mayor had had his own relationship with the CIA as a secret asset beginning in 1956, according to a document released this summer by the National Archives.
Current Players: Sabato-Shenon v. Wecht-Thomas
Larry Sabato is the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and author of The Kennedy Half-Century, a 603-page book published in 2013 and released in tandem with an educational website intended as a major national venue for JFK historical research. Important people, some obviously controlling money, clearly wanted to position Sabato and his viewpoints as a leading if not dominant academic voice in shaping public opinion on Kennedy, his legacy, and death.
Sabato writes in his book that a variety of ballistics, medical and other scientific evidence exists regarding the assassination but that it is hard to assess, in part because too much of the most vital material has been suppressed.
Sabato writes (on page 241) that he therefore decided to focus his “advanced analysis” on a Dallas police Dictabelt, which was an audio recording made during JFK’s Dallas motorcade.
Thus narrowing his “advanced” focus to that topic, Sabato gives the Dictabelt extended treatment (pages 241 and 248), including the results of special acoustics research by a lab.
On that basis, Sabato concludes that the Dictabelt does not document four gunshots (as some have argued) compared to the three gunshots that the FBI and Warren Commission concluded that Oswald, and Oswald alone, fired from the rear. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), a successor to the Warren Commission and the most recent official investigation of the JFK killing, concluded in 1979 that there may have been four shots, partly on the basis of the Dictabelt. The HSCA thus suggested that “conspiracy” was a possibility.
Sabato treats other scientific data in a chapter “Examining the Physical Evidence” (pages 208 to 230), which concludes that the physical evidence is inconclusive. In essence, his default position in his book and columns thus uses the Dictabelt evidence to undermine Warren Report critics and rely rely for t the most part on the official story. He does keep his options open by the raising the possibility that new evidence may turn up proving critics correct.
Yet Wecht and most other critics of the Warren and HSCA Reports focus their forensic investigations most heavily on bullet and medical evidence. Wecht is a prominent forensic pathologist and author, as noted, and also a consultant, attorney, and former coroner who continues an active practice of autopsies, public speaking and civic leadership.
Wecht has long argued that forensic evidence proves that Oswald could not possibly have fired from the rear the fatal shot killing Kennedy and wounding Texas Gov. John Connally, who was sitting in front of Kennedy during their motorcade through downtown Dallas.
Wecht is supported by other medical doctors experienced in gunshot wounds and autopsies, They argue that the official story — particularly coming from the FBI and the Warren Commission, which relied for the most part on the FBI — is physically impossible and so there must have been another shooter besides Oswald, even assuming that he was a gunman and not a total patsy.
To illustrate that these matters are not personal and simply fact-based, Wecht proudly states that he remained friendly until death with the late Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, the staff counsel on the Warren Commission most responsible for devising and arguing the “Single Bullet Theory” blaming Oswald exclusively for the multiple wounds inflicted on Kennedy and Connally.
Wecht, who frequently lectures against that theory, notes also that the Vincent Bugliosi, a former Los Angeles prosecutor who authored the 1,612-page 2007 book Reclaiming History defending the Warren Report, asked Wecht to deliver a eulogy at his funeral.
Shenon, who was Sabato’s collaborator in the columns this summer, is a former Washington correspondent for the New York Times and is the author of the 625-page, 2013 book A Cruel and Shocking Act: The Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination.
The Boston Globe this summer quoted Sabato and Shenon as the only two experts in a major news story about JFK research, What we know about the newly released JFK assassination records — and those yet to come. (The Globe reporter failed to respond to our question on why he quoted only these two, or whether he quoted other experts in any other story.)
Among other critics of Sabato and Shenon this summer have been Dr. Donald Byron Thomas, shown at left. He is a professor and author of Hear No Evil: Politics, Science and the Forensic Evidence of the Kennedy Assassination, a 767-page book in 2013 about acoustical evidence in the JFK murder.
Thomas is a board member of the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) and co-authored with researcher Malcolm Blunt and Dr. Gary Aguilar last month a column published on the organization’s website: AARC Board responds to Sabato and Shenon.
Thomas wrote that Shenon and Sabato indulged in uninformed and unsupported overstatement by claiming in a in the Washington Post that “…21st-century forensic science demonstrates that Oswald was almost certainly the lone gunman in Dallas….”
A novice reading that statement would likely conclude that there have been recent (since 2000) scientific studies that incriminate Lee Harvey Oswald in the JFK murder case. But there are none. Not one. There is not even one that claims to be.
There have been excellent (and otherwise) forensic studies on the JFK evidence in recent years, but none of them inculpate anyone.
In short it is a Trumpism – made up – fake news. Shenon and Sabato’s bald claim about the forensics is an alternative fact, the very sort of invention the Washington Post should be striving hard to avoid.
Requests For Comment
Sabato and Kondik have so far failed to respond to our requests for comment for this column, much like they reportedly ignored Wecht’s request aside from the email traffic excerpted above and displayed below at greater length in an appendix..
Shenon responded to our request for comment by stating, “In the four years since my JFK book, I have moved on to other projects and not tracked the scientific research on the subject. I do remember being impressed by PBS’s effort in 2013.”
That PBS show was NOVA: Cold Case JFK, One-hour NOVA broadcast, first broadcast on Nov. 13, 2013. NOVA describes itself as the nation’s most widely viewed science program.
We shall explore in Part II of this series the show’s funding and staffing. For now, we focus purely on its two historical consultants: Dr. John McAdams and Gerald Posner, who have each advocated that the Warren Commission was correct in concluding that Oswald acted alone to kill Kennedy.
McAdams and Posner are prominent as commentators on the JFK killing but also notorious among many fellow researchers for the relentless nature of their advocacy of the official story and their attacks on other researchers.
Also, they have each been tainted with questions about their professional approaches.
More specifically, Marquette suspended and then terminated McAdams as an associate professor because of what the university described as abusive behavior towards students with whom he disagreed politically.
Posner, an attorney and author shown at right in a file photo, resigned as chief investigative reporter for the Daily Beast in 2003 after allegations of plagiarism.
As noted above, these issues are timely because Oct. 26 looms as the deadline for final release of JFK assassination documents by the National Archives, as required by a unanimous vote of Congress in a 1992 law passed because of public outrage over the case following Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK.
The National Archives announced its first batch of 2017 disclosures on July 24 via National Archives Begins Online Release of JFK Assassination Records.
The dispute raises larger questions about the role of such media outlets as PBS, Politico, the cable channel History, and the Washington Post in slanting coverage to bolster the Warren Commission’s controversial findings, in part by relying on a few supposed experts who support the report and marginalizing those like Wecht and a number of others who have been attacking the Sabato-Shenon thesis this summer.
In May, the cable channel History launched a six-part series entitled JFK Declassified narrated by former CIA operative Robert Baer. But History pulled the show following two episodes after widespread criticism for promoting the disputed theory that Oswald killed Kennedy and that Oswald’s actions were motivated by Communist sympathies and encouragement from either Cuban or Soviet authorities.
Beginning in April, the analytic website Kennedys & King, published and edited by author James DiEugenio, published a six-part series harshly criticizing the factual basis of the History series, whose first segment was JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald.
As a further preview to our Part II, we note that the Justice Integrity Project has documented a pattern whereby major outlets repeatedly confirm the Warren Commission’s claim that Oswald killed Kennedy. Among many examples we have documented in previous columns are Major Media Stick With Oswald ‘Lone Gunman’ JFK Theory (Nov. 27, 2013), Nearly Too Late, Public Learns of Bill Moyers’ Conflicts Over PBS, LBJ (Jan. 2, 2014), Why Bill O’Reilly’s Lie About JFK’s Murder Might Matter To You (March 17, 2015) and Time Magazine, History Channel Ramp Up Oswald-JFK Fake News (April 26, 2017). These are collected in our our so-far 40-part “Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination surveying nearly all major books, films, archives, events, and points of view.
Our next installment in the series will examine media coverage in more depth, as noted. That includes the 2013 PBS NOVA episode Cold Case JFK that Shenon has cited as compelling.
“Fake news” and “conspiracy theory” sound like terrible things no matter what the topic. But they are all the worse if unexamined, especially in the context of such a notorious crime as JFK’s murder.
The major columns referenced in this report are excerpted in an appendix to this column, which was first published by the Justice Integrity Project. That appendix includes links to the Readers Guide.
Disclosure: This editor was a founding volunteer director of the research group CAPA while continuing to pursue a long career as an independent journalist, lawyer, and strategist, including through the Justice Integrity Project. That work has led to professional correspondence or meetings with most of those cited in this column.
As noted above, scientific issues will be explored also in a mock trial, “State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald,” from Nov. 16-17 on the campus of the South Texas College of Law in Houston, which is the co-sponsor with Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA). Dr. Cyril Wecht is among the experts being called in the case to testify. Registration is here.
Appendix: Wecht/Sabato/Kondik Email Correspondence (Excerpted from JFK Countercoup column by Bill Kelly):
JFK Countercoup2, Dear Professor Sabato – Continuing Correspondence w/ Dr. Wecht Updated, Bill Kelly, Aug. 9, 2017. [These materials republish in chronological order correspondence begun by Dr. Cyril H. Wecht in August 2017 to Professor Larry Sabato and later his colleague Kyle Kondik, both based at the University of Virginia. Kondik is managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.]
Dear Professor Sabato:
In the article you wrote with Philip Shenon (“How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK Murder” – Politico, August 3), there is the following statement –“21st century forensic science demonstrates that Oswald was almost certainly the lone gunman in Dallas.”
Would you be so kind as to send me your information regarding this reference.
Very truly yours,
Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.
Thank you for the note. Prof. Sabato discusses this subject at some length in his book, “The Kennedy Half-Century.”
I have not read Mr. Shenon’s book but I would imagine he addresses the issue in his book (“A Cruel and Shocking Act” ) as well.
Managing Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball
University of Virginia Center for Politics
Thank you for your prompt response to my recent inquiry.
I have checked the reference you gave me to Professor Sabato’s book.
The only “scientific” discussion I note therin deals with the acoustics analysis that the HSCA relied upon.
I would like to receive a more specific response to my question re: “21st century forensic science demonstrates that Oswald was almost certainly the lone gunman in Dallas.”
I am certain you can appreciate the fact that as a forensic scientist deeply involved and interested in the JFK assassination for more than 50 years, such an important reference has great significance to me.
I have had no hesitation or problem in relating to major WCR defender – proponents over the years. Indeed, I developed good relationships with Specter, Bugliosi, and Posner.
I am not seeking to engage in a personal dispute with Professor Sabato. However, I cannot ignore the statement made by him and Mr. Shenon in a widely disseminated article that will be given much weight by thousands of readers.
Their comment is quite specific. Accordingly, the basis for that comment must be quite specific, also.Just exactly what are the 21st century forensic scientific studies that buttress and validate the WCR’s conclusion re: Oswald as a lone gunman?
I believe this is a fair and logical question to be addressed to a high level academic entity.
I look forward to your response.
Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.
Dear Dr. Wecht –
I would direct you to Prof. Sabato’s and Mr. Shenon’s books.
Managing Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball
University of Virginia Center for Politics
I would appreciate a definitive response to the inquiry I set forth in an e-mail I sent to you on August 10.
I am certain that Professor Sabato agrees with me that forensic scientific analyses of the physical medical evidence is extremely important in studying the JFK assassination.
Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.
Dear Mr. Kondik:
I am extremely disappointed by your response to my inquiry, directing me once again to “Prof. Sabato’s and Mr. Shenon’s books”.
The hard fact of the matter is that neither book documents any specific reference to any new “21st century forensic science” studies, techniques, or tests that prove that Oswald was the lone gunman in the JFK assassination.
Professor Sabato must know this, and so do you.
To slough me off as if I were some unknown simpleton is highly insulting, especially since Professor Sabato was an invited speaker at the JFK Conference in 2013, sponsored by the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law.
More importantly is the harsh fact that Professor Sabato and Mr. Shenon have publicly expressed a statement that is untrue. Millions of people who have read their article are now misinformed.
If Professor Sabato disagrees with my comments and does in fact have specific references to “21st century forensic science” tests that confirm the WCR’s conclusion re LHO as the sole gunman, I assume he will so inform me. (And please don’t tell me he is too busy). I did six autopsies yesterday along with numerous other professional endeavors, a typical day for me.
I am bringing this matter to the attention of numerous individuals who have been deeply involved in the study of the JFK assassination. I am certain that they will be anxious to learn what Professor Sabato’s response is to this letter.
Very truly yours,
Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.
Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, CAPA’s chairman, reprimanded his hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper for besmirching the late comedian Dick Gregory as a “sucker for conspiracy theories” in an otherwise generally favorable editorial published on Aug. 25 assessing Gregory’s life and legacy.
Wecht, shown at right in a photo taken in his Pittsburgh lab, used the letter to remind the newspaper’s editors and readers that mainstream media use the term “conspiracy” theory to obscure how their outlets rarely cover the solid evidence in several of the nation’s major 1960s assassinations.
Yet public opinion polls show, he continued, that Americans are wary of official reports on the assassinations, particularly the Warren Commission’s findings placing all blame for the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy on accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
Thus, Wecht argued, the newspaper’s language trivializing further study and alternative conclusions in effect insults the American public, not just Gregory.
The letter is part of CAPA’s ongoing outreach to encourage both American thought leaders and the general public to learn more about the facts of political assassinations that helped shape current affairs. That campaign includes also planning for a mock trial in Houston Nov. 16 and 17 using modern forensic analysis to reassess Oswald’s alleged culpability in the Kennedy murder.
Wecht’s letter to the editor is reprinted below, as is the P-G editorial:
I was delighted to read the editorial (His pointed humor: Dick Gregory’s biting comedy was serious at core) regarding Dick Gregory. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gregory and participating with him on some programs dealing with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, he was a very serious advocate and outspoken supporter of matters pertaining to civil rights and social justice. His great talent as a comedian enabled him to educate his audiences and stimulate their active interest in various important sociopolitical issues.
Regrettably, your statement “On the darker side Mr. Gregory was a sucker for conspiracy theories from the Kennedy assassination to…..” was quite insulting, dismissive, and invalid as a matter of accurate historical reflection.
Every national poll conducted since the JFK assassination on November 23, 1963, has indicated that a significant majority of Americans (ranging from 65 to as high as 82%) do not accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report (“WCR,” Fall, 1964), namely, that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman and nobody else had any involvement with JFK’s brutal murder. Despite all the efforts of the major news media establishment to support the WCR, and rebuff or simply ignore, all the forensic scientific and other physical investigative evidence to the contrary, two thirds to three fourths of US citizens have continued to reject that absurd, forensic scientifically invalid conclusion.
Pray tell, do all these people live “on the darker side”? Is the rejection of the WCR some kind of personal “idiosyncrasy” shared by millions of people?
Some day, the P-G may deign to write an obituary about me. Obviously, you will state whatever you wish. I have only one small request. Please refer to me as having been a long time, loud-mouthed leader of the idiosyncratic dark-sided population that believes the WCR is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated by our government.
Very truly yours,
Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, His pointed humor: Dick Gregory’s biting comedy was serious at core, Editorial Board, Aug. 25, 2017. In the parlance of the 1960s, it would be safe to say that the comedian and activist Dick Gregory was “out there.” Known for his biting comedy, activism and penchant for conspiracy theories in recent decades, Mr. Gregory died Saturday at age 84.
Mr. Gregory (shown in a file photo) rose to fame as a comedian whose stage act owed more to astute observations about being black in America than it did to expounding on the foibles of the human condition, the territory of most successful comics. That’s not to say Mr. Gregory wasn’t funny. He was a very funny man whose humor bit down hard on whatever subject caught his fancy, but race in America fascinated him more than anything else.
Mr. Gregory’s humor was rooted in a political sensibility that boldly questioned the Establishment. He was part of the comedy revolution that emerged in the late 1950s and included such rebels as Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce. He came of age at a time when being a comedian included the possibility of being arrested.
For his part, Mr. Gregory was arrested dozens of times over the years, usually supporting civil rights and equal rights for women and denouncing the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons.
Though he was later eclipsed by younger comedians such as Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, Mr. Gregory held on to a devoted following. He was especially revered by comedy aficionados on both coasts and his fellow comedians who appreciated the way he told stories. The civil rights movement had given Mr. Gregory the kind of exposure and goodwill that paid dividends for decades.
At the height of his fame and notoriety, Mr. Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago and for president of the United States on top of the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He got a lot of write-in votes in both cases and was one of the first entertainers to demonstrate the power of celebrity in the political realm. While his runs for political office were obvious stunts, Mr. Gregory was serious about the issues.
Mr. Gregory was also obsessed with health. He incorporated regular fasting into his regimen along with running and other exercises. He wanted America to face the fact that it had a problem with obesity and deal with it. In fact, he stopped performing in nightclubs in the 1970s because smoking and drinking were allowed — putting his values above earning potential.
On the darker side, Mr. Gregory was a sucker for conspiracy theories from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11. It was an idiosyncrasy that often colored his humor, but didn’t dominate it. Mr. Gregory was an American original who never lost his love of comedy or politics. He was always striving to be the kind of comedian all Americans could laugh with, regardless of their background. He succeeded masterfully.
CAPA is seeking volunteers to implement ambitious growth in the organization’s size, impact and membership benefits. All such functions will be under a new membership committee to be formed shortly by a decision last week by the CAPA board of directors, meeting by conference call.
Among membership benefits will be reduced rates at CAPA’s next major event, a two-day mock trial State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald to held on November 16th and 17th at the South Texas College of Law-Houston, the co-sponsor of the event.
Alec Baldwin (shown in a photo from a Cannes Film Festival) will be the keynote speaker for the Nov. 16th dinner following the first day of the mock trial. He will also participate in a book signing for registrants prior to dinner for his new book Nevertheless: A Memoir.
Those volunteering for CAPA’s membership committee can invite or otherwise generate and implement ideas for member benefits as well as assisting in outreach to new audiences. Among the timely issues are those involving recent revelations regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, as well as the huge public interest expected next year during the 50th anniversaries of the Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinations.
No experience is required for CAPA membership committee volunteers although experience in the membership sector of a non-profit is helpful for obvious reasons. Kindly write via the “Contact us” form on the CAPA site (attention Andrew Kreig) to indicate your interest in assisting this vital function central to all of our efforts.
Regarding other membership news, the board voted also to keep dues at the $50 annual level and to provide extension through the 2018 calendar year to any new member who signs up during the remainder of the 2017 calendar year. That benefit will be especially valuable in view of the Houston event.
As previously reported about it:
Building on what has been learned from the Innocence Project and the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report on forensic evidence, the mock trial will apply 21st Century techniques to examine the physical evidence used by the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) to identify Lee Harvey Oswald as the alleged sole assassin of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963.
The mock trial will offer 7.5 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits including 1.5 of CLE Ethics credits. Seating capacity will be limited. So early registration is recommended. The event will also be streamed live for registrants who are unable to travel to Houston.
CAPA urges members and other truth-seekers to redistribute this announcement by email, social media and other means
Long-suppressed documents released last week about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas show that the city’s mayor at the time had a covert relationship with the CIA.
Documents showing the CIA status of the late Dallas Mayor Earle Cabell (shown at left) were among the 3,810 released by the National Archives on July 24 as it approaches its deadline of Oct. 26 to release the final batch of government documents pertaining to Kennedy’s assassination.
As mayor, Cabell and his team would have helped plan, among other things, the bizarre parade route (marked in red on the adjoining chart) that brought the president’s limousine to a crawl at a sharp and seemingly unnecessary turn as it entered the kill zone at Dealey Plaza (marked in green).
Cabell, who went on to election as the region’s congressman during the rest of the 1960s, was already known to be a younger brother of former CIA Deputy Director Charles Cabell, a general whom Kennedy had forced out in a purge of the top three CIA leaders late in 1961 after the disastrous, CIA-orchestrated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba earlier in the year.
The July 24 document release — with overviews here from the National Archives, National Archives Begins Online Release of JFK Assassination Records and here Released JFK Documents) — is prompting a flare-up of serious disputes within JFK research circles.
As usual, the dispute is between critics of official accounts and those establishment media and academics who endorse the government’s view that ex-Marine Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (as determined the FBI and Warren Committee), or nearly alone (as later found by congressional investigators in 1979), to kill JFK because of Oswald’s allegedly troubled past and Marxist sympathies.
In this view, Oswald served as a fall-guy or patsy for a high-level conspiracy by rogue officials within the CIA and elsewhere to murder the president and use their allies in law enforcement, courts, Congress, academia and the media to cover-up how the crime unfolded.
Oswald was murdered by mob figure Jack Ruby in a Dallas police station (as shown in an iconic photo at right) two days after the assassination. Oswald had desperately proclaimed his innocence, including a shouted comment to reporters “I’m just a patsy!”
University of Virginia historian Larry J. Sabato (shown at left) and former New York Times reporter Philip Shenon, both authors of prominent books on the assassination, rekindled this passionate debate by co-authoring columns in the Washington Post on July 25, President Trump, give us the full story on the JFK assassination, and in the Capitol Hill insider tabloid Politico on Aug. 2, How the CIA Came to Doubt the Official Story of JFK’s Murder.
These columns revived establishment views that critics are unfairly tarnishing the CIA. Part of this argument is the claim long floated by CIA loyalists and others that Oswald killed JFK out of deranged loyalty to Communists, including to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, whom some American officials sought to kill or otherwise remove during the Kennedy administration.
Historian John M. Newman has authored four major books so far on Oswald, the assassination and Kennedy’s daring effort to end the Vietnam War at the risk of further antagonizing Cold War hawks already furious with him for his Cuban and Soviet policies and for forcing from office top officials from the CIA and Pentagon he did not trust to advance his policies. Newman, a longtime military intelligence officer and university professor, is among those challenging Sabato, Shenon and others who advocate conventional wisdom that JFK remained a hawk and that Oswald was a Communist loyalist.
Newman presented his views at a March 16 forum at the National Press Club organized by Citizens Against Political Assassinations (CAPA) focused on this year’s forthcoming release of documents. Documents and film of the four-hour forum are here: At CAPA Forum, JFK Experts See Need, Momentum For Assassination Records Release. Newman is shown in a photo by Noel St. John
News Coverage of Current Releases
Today’s column excerpts document releases and major commentaries since the National Archives released on July 24 the latest batch of declassified documents. The materials are arranged in reverse chronological order below, with hot links to the original coverage. Some four million pages of declassified documents had been released previously, including via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation, experts have calculated.
Our coverage of the latest release is part of a so-far 40-part “Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination” excerpted below and published on a joint project by the Justice Integrity Project (JIP) and CAPA.
The Washington bureau of the Cox Media Group and Connecticut radio host Phil Mikan interviewed this editor this week about the document release and their continuing importance. The Cox interview has a broadcast soon on a date TBA as part of a survey of the JFK research community. The two hour-long interviews for “The Phil Mikan” show were broadcast Aug. 3 and 4 on WLIB-AM and WMRD-AM in Connecticut.
For all three interviews, I described the JFK document releases as a “Rosetta Stone” that, like the one found in 1799 deciphering ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, now helps us interpret current events that are inherently secret, such as the ramped-up FBI investigation of President Trump (Special Counsel Robert Mueller Impanels Washington Grand Jury in Russia Probe) or reputed end of covert CIA operations Syria (Behind the Sudden Death of a $1 Billion Secret C.I.A. War In Syria).
Secret operations are always difficult for the public to assess, particularly as the Trump administration’s Justice Department announces on Aug. 4 a major crackdown on leakers.
For such reasons, current government operations and that of such watchdog institutions as the media and academia can be better understood by assessing their performance (compared to documentary evidence) regarding such an important and well-documented historical event as the JFK assassination. Even before last week’s document release, so much had been released regarding the JFK murder that most reasonable persons could understand the main outlines of the killing and what appears to have been a cover up, as indicated by such factors as the long-suppressed documents.
As an example of current relevance of JFK studies, conventional wisdom regarding the ongoing FBI investigation of President Trump and his administration suggests that the FBI proceeds non-politically and never makes prosecution decisions because of its deference to leaders at the Justice Department.
Yet much of the evidence arising from declassified documents and other sources regarding the JFK murder shows that the FBI focused almost exclusively on evidence purporting to show Oswald’s guilt. The FBI almost entirely ignored serious pursuit of other evidence, and never wavered from its original premise in a quickly assembled 800-page finding in December 1963 that Oswald — and only Oswald — killed Kennedy.
Your Readers Guide To The JFK Assassination
The Readers Guide series began in 2013, the year of massive book, broadcast and other media coverage of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death. The series started as largely a viewpoint-neutral catalog of events, books, broadcasts, and other developments with a goal of providing in one place both documentary evidence and opinion commentary, including books by the authors Sabato, Shenon and Newman cited above. Thus, one widely-read column lists about 500 major books (out of more than 2,500 total) on the killing: JFK Readers Guide: Assassination Books, Reports.
Over time, the series developed a more analytical focus, such as our column, The JFK Murder Cover-Up: Your Rosetta Stone To Today’s News. The continuing importance is in part because virtually all of the major media and most prominent academics continued to support the FBI’s original conclusion issued in December 1963 that Oswald acted alone, as concluded by the Warren Commission in 1964 with some expansion of possibilities in a report nearly two decades later by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the last official investigation of the murders of Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Those official conclusions has stood even though extensive independent commentary raised so many questions that between 60 and nearly 80 percent of the American public have asserted to pollsters for decades that they believed a conspiracy killed the president. Thus, the most recent column in the series, published June, reported the themes of conference on national security this way, Experts: Deep State Killed JFK For His Cuba Policy, Peace Advocacy.
Part of the larger issue is that the CIA was ostensibly forbidden by its charter in 1947 from engaging in domestic U.S. operations. But a vast array of evidence has emerged, including the new documents regarding the late Dallas Mayor Cabell, that the spy agency maintained a vast array of hidden relationships with officials and those in the media and academia influencing U.S. public opinion.
Cabell, for example, went on from serving as Dallas mayor to representing the region in Congress for the reset of the 1960s. Cabell’s brother, the late CIA Deputy Director Gen. Charles Cabell (shown at right), had been forced from office by Kennedy in a purge of the top three CIA officials, including CIA Director Allen Dulles.
Kennedy’s action followed the disastrous CIA-orchestrated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, a few months after Kennedy took office. Dulles later served as one of the seven-members of the Warren Commission that in 1964 endorsed the FBI’s conclusions in essence finding that Oswald acted alone and that Dallas nightclub owner and Oswald-killer Jack Ruby had no mob connections.
Some aspects remain in dispute, such as whether Oswald really was at the sixth floor vantage point of the Texas School Depository Building, a privately owned company where he had recently become employed. Many critics believe the place of the fatal shot occurred between numbers 3 and 4 on the map, near the picket fence on the grassy knoll and that significant evidence exists that Oswald was not at the sixth floor. A policeman saw Oswald in the building’s second floor cafeteria sipping a soft drink shortly after the shooting.
“What a cozy setup the CIA had in Dallas in 1963,” commented Kennedy and Dulles biographer David Talbot, the best-selling author of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and more recently The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. Talbot is now a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Mayor Earle Cabell was not only the brother of Charles Cabell, the former CIA deputy chief who, along with his boss Allen Dulles, was fired by JFK,” Talbot wrote on Facebook this week. “Now we learn that the Dallas mayor was also a CIA asset!”
“This is part of a pattern,” Talbot continued, writing, “the Texas School Book Depository where Oswald supposedly fired from his sniper’s nest was owned by right-wing oilman D. H. Byrd, who also had deep national security connections; the press corps covering the Kennedy motorcade was riddled with CIA assets…it just goes on and on. Thanks to author and former Army intelligence officer John Newman for helping to decipher the latest JFK document dump by the National Archives. We need to ensure that this document release continues, as mandated by law.”
These studies tend to show, furthermore, that the CIA and other such agencies are not necessarily acting to coerce other players but have been instead instruments of an essentially hidden government, or “Deep State,” that is suspected by many in the population of diverse right, left and center viewpoints.
The ongoing disclosures by the National Archives (more formally the National Archives and Record Administration) arise as witnesses and purported witnesses continue to tell their stories.
Former Cuban exile anti-Castro Alpha 66 assassination squad leader Antonio Veciana, for example, published a memoir Trained To Kill this spring alleging that his CIA handler, David Atlee Phillips introduced him to Oswald in Dallas in September 1963.
In 1975, Phillips founded the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIOS) that worked to thwart official investigations and disclosures.
Dr. Newman, the historian and a former top aide to a late National Security Agency director, reports that he has identified scores of secret identities used by Phillips in his work, which at times involved efforts to overthrow Cuban, Guatemalan and other leftist governments. Newman has argued that the identities served to disguise CIA involvement to outsiders and also to keep Phillips’s activities hidden even from his CIA colleagues except on a need-to-know basis.
Phillips denied wrongdoing during the occasions whereby outsiders pressed him for details about his work, including during a major 1970s congressional inquiry.
Filling In the Jigsaw Puzzle’
During the aforementioned broadcast interviews with Cox Media and radio host Phil Mikan, this editor emulated other research colleagues in stating last week’s revelations failed to show “smoking gun” evidence overturning conventional wisdom but instead provided extremely helpful details in filling in missing parts of an already revealing “jigsaw puzzle” regarding what happened at the assassination and what many consider a cover-up since.
As we have previously reported, for example, we know by now from declassified documents that the CIA undertook a massive secret campaign to smear critics of the Warren Commission with the label “conspiracy theorist.”
The commission, led by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (shown at left), consisted of seven members who whose regular duties left them too busy to question witnesses or otherwise investigate evidence for the most part, historians now know.
The commission’s report was thus written in major part by staff, nearly all of whom were compartmentalized so that they knew only narrowly defined tasks as part of their stepping stone to future success.
Previous revelations show that Warren Commission member Gerald Ford, who later won the U.S. presidency via two appointments (not elections), served as a source on the commission for transmitting its information secretly to the FBI and argued strongly for a long-disputed theory about the location of Kennedy’s wounds. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer served as a relatively junior staffer on the commission. But future U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter played a key role in developing the “single bullet” theory to explain what some ballistics experts describe as the seemingly impossible situation of how Oswald could have fired all relevant shots.
A smear campaign used members of mainstream media friendly to the CIA to attack New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, shown right below. Garrison was prosecuting New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw in what Garrison alleged was a conspiracy to murder Kennedy. Shaw, an OSS liaison to high-ranking British officials during World War II, founded a major regional trade mart in New Orleans shortly after the war. Garrison alleged that Shaw met with rightist opponents of JFK to plan the death.
A now-declassified 50-page CIA memo, known as “CIA Dispatch 1035-960,” instructed CIA agents to contact their media contacts and disparage as “conspiracy theorists” those, like Garrison, criticizing the Warren Commission findings that Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and acted alone. That 1967 CIA document is here in the original and here in reformatted text of its summary.
Minutes of CIA meeting that same year indicated fear that Garrison would win a conviction. But a jury promptly acquitted Shaw following more than a dozen deaths (including suicide) of potential witnesses and an intense smear campaign against Garrison by the national media. NBC News hired former high-ranking Justice Department and FBI official Walter Sheridan, who had been an early recruit to the super-secret NSA in the 1950s. Publicly an investigative reporter, Sheridan was involved also in operational efforts to undermine Garrison.
Shaw denied that he had any CIA connections, helping him win acquittal, but document releases since then have undermined his claim.
Garrison’s investigation led, however, the popular 1991 film JFK by Oliver Stone, which created popular pressure persuading Congress to enact a law in 1992 requiring release of JFK records by Oct. 26 of this year. The law enabled the possibility of redactions if agencies are able to persuade President Trump to implement them.
In the meantime, the 1992 law’s requirements led to last week’s partial document dump and the commentaries described above.
Who Do You Trust?
As for the above-mentioned Shenon, his 625-page $32 opus A Cruel and Shocking Act published in 2013 failed to mention either of the Cabell brothers. Sabato’s $30 602-page The Kennedy Half Century published the same year mentioned only Earle Cabell, the Dallas mayor who went on to serve in Congress until 1971.
Sabato mentioned Cabell just once and in passing as being among the Dallas dignitaries welcoming President Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy to Love Field in the city just before the start of the presidential motorcade.
When the motorcade started, Secret Service shift supervisor Emory Roberts ordered agent Donald Lawton not to assume his normal position riding on the presidential limo’s rear platform to shield and otherwise protect the president.
That scene, whereby Lawton expresses his befuddlement by waving his hands in the air three times, was captured in an iconic video by WFAA-TV here, with a labelled screenshot at right showing also agents Paul Landis and John Ready on the running boards of a Secret Service car.
Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect President Kennedy by Vincent Michael Palamara provided in 2013 an authoritative account of the actions, excuses and occasional bravery of those involved.
Palamara concluded that Lawton and most likely agent Henry Rybka were inexplicably removed as body shields from their normal posts riding the limo’s rear bumper, which Palamara characterized as the two most important bodyguard positions in any presidential motorcade.
Yet such mainstream outlets as the Washington Post do not quote Newman, Palamara or other critics of the Warren Report when new documents are released.
Instead, that newspaper, which like its peers almost never wavers from presenting essentially the official version of the assassination that protects the CIA, Secret Service and mayor’s office from close scrutiny, publishes Shenon and Sabato as go-to experts who insist that the evidence, old and new, still leads to Oswald and the long-debunked cover story that Kennedy was killed via Communist vengeance against the president.
An extensive appendix to the column above is contained on the Justice Integrity Project website here, with much of the material also on the CAPA website in its July-August 2017 news section. Coverage will continue as more documents are released, generating more commentary highly relevant to the rest of American government operations.