The anniversary of John F Kennedy’s brutal murder is not best served by the continuing redaction of CIA files. Such is not the action of innocent men.
If one is going to remain objective, then for me an important starting place for this post is to look at the points made by those who aim to reject Dallas conspiracists.
Valid evidence debunking conspiracy theories
The best known of the anti-conspiracy websites is that written by John C McAdams, a respected Professor from the American Deep South. In 2011, he wrote JFK Assassination Logic: How to Think about Claims of Conspiracy, in which he pulled no punches in knocking every half-baked conspiracist around the ring. Both the book and the site have become a haven for those who insist that Lee Oswald acted alone.
I’ve studied the site at some length, and it is compelling on many aspects of the killing. He raises some doubt about the “impossibility” of a single bullet, where the bullet or bullets entered Kennedy’s head, why mistakes were understandably made at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, and rightly rubbishes umbrella man near the grassy knoll as a signaller, the Oliver Stone movie ‘JFK’, the FBI agent who shot the President by mistake, the “hijacking” of Kennedy’s body, and the “missing” brain of JFK.
But there are various problems with McAdams as a source. In no particular order, they are:
- His starting point is that the conspiracy is bunkum and Oswald did it: he dismisses the idea of Oswald’s innocence out of hand, and refers throughout to “the conspiracy crowd”. Equally, he rubbishes the validity of the KGB report discovered after the fall of the USSR (with one exclamation mark after ‘KGB’) without observing that the dossier was written for confused and frightened Politburo members – not necessarily for propaganda purposes. Mr McAdams is a no-surrender anti-Soviet thinker, and (by his own admission) “a vocal conservative” and an active proponent of capital punishment.
- His thinking is weak on the subject of Jack Ruby. For example, he displays a tedious paragraph full of Ruby’s parking fines, minor arrests and petty misdemeanors as in some way evidence that he was not Mafia connected. He goes with the theory that Ruby shot Oswald “so Jackie wouldn’t have to give evidence at a murder trial”. In fact Ruby did admire the First Lady: I admire Kate Hoey too, but if someone shot her partner I wouldn’t gun down the alleged killer in a blaze of TV and flashlights.
- He disparages the idea that JFK was a liberal Utopian, and sort of concludes from that there was no motive to kill him. In fact, the most confusing aspect of November 22nd 1963 is the sheer multiplicity of motives to get rid of Kennedy. I agree: Jack Kennedy was not a liberal Utopian; he simply rejected the ‘logic’ that coexistence with the USSR was impossible, and thus the planet should be blown apart. For those in the military, oil and geopolitical diplomacy professions, that made him a traitor.
- Since McAdams wrote his book, technological advance in video and audio enhancement – along with released Government documents – have, by any objective measure, supported rather than exploded those who doubt the Lone Nut theory. In the last month alone, we have seen – fifty-four years on – the spectacle of the CIA redacting many files ordered released by President Trump. None of this adds up to bracketing conspiracy in Dallas with the existence of the Loch Ness monster.
- In addition, Mr McAdams has not travelled without serious controversy well beyond the JFK assassination. He is passionate about complete freedom of speech, and for this he is to be applauded. But he was suspended from his professorship at Marquette University in 2014 because he blogged in favour of a student who made – allegedly – pretty unpleasant racist and “queer-bashing” remarks in a Class. In its defence, Marquette detailed ‘a pattern of bullying and reckless behavior by McAdams, including at least three previous attempts to intimidate fellow faculty members by threatening to publish their names to his blog’. Today, he runs a website that is widely viewed as a PR front for Walmart.
Spending time over the years at McAdams’ website has been, for me anyway, informative. Although he has a lot to say that is valid, I have nevertheless come to see him over time as just one more revisionist historian from the American Right keen to depict Jack Kennedy as a careerist, sexually addicted hypocrite…..and at the same time, deny the existence – even the possibility – of ultra powerful and fanatical tendencies in the military, secret, diplomatic and industrial communities.
However, one thing it has done is to concentrate my mind. So in this Slog special, I propose to restrict comments and opinions entirely to those as yet inexplicable peculiarities in relation to first, the immediate events surrounding November 22nd; and second, to how digital advances have added still more unexplained anomalies since.
There is nothing “new” in here: I have not used primary sources (most of them are dead) and I do not have a book to publicise. My aim is to rise above the detail and clarify where possible.
To do that, strict focus is required. This piece has taken me a fortnight to prepare because I have taken every element of conspiracy theory I could find (excluding disguised lizards and Presidential suicide) and then Googled every one for debunking possibilities. While this process narrows down the field dramatically, it still leaves a shockingly long list of odd behaviour on the part of guns, bullets, motorcade security staff, 8 mm film developing, politicians, and the Secret Service.
Nevertheless, this does mean I’ve left two-thirds or so of all the theories available…..and anoraks in the field may well disagree with my debunking decisions. I accept that: but again, I am making the case here for a narrative that says, “The CIA and partner sections of the élite unelected class are now out of control, and we will never get democratic liberty back in the West until their power of information retrieval and censorship is subject to elected Executive veto”. To do this, all the evidence presented must be as close as humanly possible to conclusive.
Here’s the shortlist:
- Why did the bullet that killed Kennedy behave in a totally different way to the other two/three? Where is it?
- Why did the Secret Service flagrantly break State Law about autopsies in taking the President’s body by force away from Dallas authorities, and why did they ask an autopsy rookie at Bethesda military hospital to perform the examination of it?
- Was the Abe Zapruder film tampered with – and if so, in what way?
The bullet audit
In 2007, the best regarded ballistics expert in the US at the time, former FBI lab metallurgist William A. Tobin, categorically concluded that the FBI conclusion (using lead content analysis) tying the recovered bullets to the batch Oswald bought was flawed. So precise and cogent was his research, the FBI immediately abandoned this form of forensic method. As a result, Tobin and two other researchers concluded, ‘This means that the bullet fragments from the assassination that match could have come from three or more separate bullets. If the assassination fragments are derived from three or more separate bullets, then a second assassin is likely.”
Now, flawed doesn’t mean ‘proof’ of something – merel, unreliability. But in fact, over time they went further to assert ‘the scientific and statistical assumptions the government accepted to conclude that the fragments came from just two bullets fired from Oswald’s gun were wrong.’
Wrong is wrong. Three bullets came from the direction of Oswald’s alleged lair, the Texas School Book Depository. Nobody disputes the fact that one such bullet arrived just above the limo, hit the kerb, ricocheted back to the car windshield and then hit bystander James Tague on the chin. So now we must accept two bullets only doing human damage, or the Lone Gunman theory is blown sky high.
One bullet hit JFK in the back and from the back, bounced off the 3rd vertebrae and exited through his throat. This is clearly stated on the Dallas Parkland hospital death certificate. Endless computer enhancement and ballistics tests have since shown that, based on that trajectory, there was no way it could have ended up in Governor Connally. Ex cathedra and with no physical autopsy evidential backup whatsoever, the Warren Commission concluded that in fact, the bullet hit the President at the base of his neck….thus theoretically aligning its future direction of travel with the Governor seated up front. (Until his death, Connally flatly refuted the “magic bullet” theory)
We are now left with one final bullet. Lone assassin theorists cannot, from here on, have it both ways: either the bullet came from the left and behind, in which case their theory (while not proven) remains intact. If it came from the front, then clearly there was a second shooter.
Even here, however, there are three glaring issues: did the third bullet kill Kennedy? Did it behave in the same way as the other bullets? And where is it?
The killer bullet
The biggest anomaly by far in the Kennedy assassination files is that between what the digitally enhanced Zapruder film clearly shows, and what the élite version of events insists actually happened. I’ll touch in due course on the question of tampering with the original film: here, it will suffice to point out that, on pretty much every criterion, the Lone Assassin theory now goes from full of holes to unsustainable. Returning to my “glaring issues”, an eclectic range of visual, ballistic and medical evidence consistently points to these conclusions:
- The third bullet came from closer range, and/or
- it was a different calibre to the other two, but above all
- it came from a completely different direction.
The two wounds to Kennedy beyond the injury to his head present very little damage; whichever trajectory theory you follow, the bullet(s) leave neat holes – be they entry or exit. The “miss” bullet in turn produced little damage to the windscreen and almost none to James Tague. All of that suggests a weapon of limited power fired from some distance away.
The mortal wound to the President is of an entirely different nature. The physicians at Parkland hospital are almost unanimous in describing an entry point wound to the throat, and completely unanimous in their view that, as it exited, the bullet blew the back of his head off.
The direction of blood and brain fragments in the enhanced Zapruder footage shows irrefutable supporting evidence for this: the head tissue flies upwards and backwards over the back of the limousine.
Police outrider Bobby Hargis (again, back left of the Presidential vehicle) was struck so violenty by brain matter, he thought that he had been hit by a bullet .
Nearly all the pieces of the President’s skull were found in the left rear of the car.
Kennedy’s head jerks back, up and left violently on impact as seen in the Zapruder footage.
You cannot accurately fire a small missile at someone from a high-rear-left coordinate and produce bodily reactions that point in the same direction. It is not not common sense, and it is not possible on a planet in a 3-D universe where gravity, energy, an atmosphere and equal-opposite-reaction physics are in play.
The shot producing head trauma that led to the death of President John F Kennedy came from front-right somewhere, not back left. And the damage it caused suggests it was at closer range and/or from a more powerful weapon than that which caused minor damage. As Governor Connally made a rapid recovery from his wounds, so too it is likely that JFK would’ve survived had there been no second hit.
But here’s the rub: the mortal bullet is missing.
The disappearing bullet, the body-hijack, and the Zapruder film
When what was left of JFK arrived at Dallas Parkland Hospital within minutes of the shooting. the two physicians at first treating him (unbelievably, he was still alive) were Malcolm Perry and Charles Crenshaw. Without collusion, they both noted the hole in Kennedy’s throat as an entry wound. They and others in the trauma room also concluded that the gaping hole in the back of his head must be the exit wound: the bullet had gone straight through his head and out the other side.
The Secret Service first saw the film shot by garment manufacturer Abe Zapruder on the evening of 22nd November 1963. The amateur home movie lasts 26.6 seconds, exposing 486 frames of 8 mm film running at 18.3 frames per second. That makes exactly 486 frames in total. Although few people realise this, it was Zapruder himself who did not want the frames of “head explosion” made public: he was a sensitive man and a huge fan of the President who did not want the man’s destruction to become a freak-show for the lowest common denominator. As a result, frame 313 wasn’t shown in public until twelve years later.
But the original footage clearly shows Kennedy’s head exploding back, left and upwards.
With agents at both the hospital and the screening, the seasoned Secret Service top brass therefore knew beyond much shadow of doubt by 8 pm the same day that (a) the bullet was somewhere beyond JFK’s head in Dealey Plaza and (b) that he had been shot at least once from the front.
Yet no emergency sealing off of the Plaza area was ordered, and no search priority issued. To this day, no bullet has come to light.
But what the Secret Service did do was take the initiative on one subject: they forcibly removed the body from the rightful jurisdiction of the Dallas Mortuary. Given the history of States’ Rights in the US, this was no minor midemeanour: it was a criminal offence.
Their excuse was that the First Lady “has been through enough trauma as it is today, and she wants to take her husband’s remains away for decent burial”. The First Lady had not in fact been asked her opinion at all: her name was taken in vain. The Jack Ruby shooting of Oswald was excused in the exact same manner: “Jack shot Oswald to save Jackie the trauma of a trial for her husband’s murder”.
When the man you’re employed to protect gets shot, it is to say the least an odd hierarchy of priorities that puts illegally grabbing the victim’s body way out in front of a forensic search for the killer bullet.
I’m not going to go into the detail of alleged tampering with the Zapruder film once the Secret Service had their hands on it. The best interview by far on this subject is that shot with eminent researcher Doug Horne in 2014.
[Douglas P. Horne worked on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) in Washington, DC for the final 3 years of the Review Board’s 4-year lifespan, from August 1995 through September 1998. He was hired as a Senior Analyst on the Military Records Team, and was later promoted to the position of Chief Analyst for Military Records]
But this is the tabloid headline: based on the scrutiny of contemporary digital cine film enhancement, Horne and several other experts maintain that “a clumsy attempt” was made to disguise both the trajectory, amount and even existence of brain tissue emanating back-up-left from President Kennedy’s head. Further, the hole in JFK’s rear skull “was blacked out using a crude instrument on the key frames”.
What we have here is a twofold mismatch: between the clearly established job function of the US Secret Service, and what they did during the 72 hours following the assassination; and between what physics plus our primary senses tell us about the assassination itself…..and what the American Defence of the Realm élites continue to insist really happened fifty-four years ago today.
The base-level comparison to make, I submit, is this: had Jack Kennedy been a John Doe driving through Dallas city centre on November 22nd 1963, would the same actions have been taken by law enforcement agencies? I think not. And obviously, I don’t include celebrity as part of that conclusion: what I mean is that both the nuclear geopolitics of fear and powerful State interests changed the behaviours involved.
As I promised at the outset of this post, the evidence presented has been pared to the bare minimum for the sake of jury clarity on the physicality involved. Not included here, for example, are odd phone call requests by Oswald blocked by Secret Service agents inside the Dallas police station; the extraordinary speed with which Oswald was apprehended and then immediately tied to the assassination; the 17 witnesses (including police officers) close to the motorcade testifying without collusion that there was a strong smell of cordite in the air; the enhanced audio evidence pinpointing a pavement manhole cover in front of the Grassy Knoll as the fatal shot starting point; the motorcade route change at the last moment; the Presidential limousine slow down to a stop; the many office windows left open for viewing, in direct contravention of Presidential security requirements at the time; and the presence of E Howard Hunt, George Bush Sr and Richard Nixon in Dallas on November 22nd.
All of these are suspicious realities or damning indictments of the Warren Commission, but none of them gets near to proving a conspiracy without the full release of hundreds of still redacted JFK assassination files.
By contrast, I contend that bullet forensics, missile trajectory physics, gun calibre differences, filmed tissue travel, illegal body-snatching and utterly inexplicable, recorded Secret Service behaviours point to two conclusions that are difficult to dislodge from the open mind: first, that there was a second assassin; and second, that the State was woefully negligent in investigating that probability with a view to establishing conspiracy to murder the Head of State.