A Conspiracy Too Big?

Intellectual Dishonesty in the JFK Assassination
By Fred Litwin © 1994-95

The critics of the Warren Commission claim there was a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy. If we assume they are correct, then exactly how big was the conspiracy to kill JFK? Are we talking about one assassin with an accomplice or are we talking about something larger? If one were to believe the current literature, we are faced with not just "something larger" but a monster conspiracy that consists of several assassins, several accomplices, and the destruction and forgery of vital evidence. The critics have constructed a conspiracy so massive that it ultimately falls of its own weight.

Where did such a monster conspiracy come from? In the sixties, the critical literature pointed out the many failings of the Warren Commission.[1] The most effective book of that decade, Accessories After the Fact by Sylvia Meagher, highlighted the many inconsistencies in the evidence and the many unanswered questions about the assassination. [2] Her book quickly went out of print and became an underground bestseller -- photocopies were widely sold within the assassination research community. Meagher went out of her way to ask more questions than to provide answers.

In the seventies, the critical literature started to look at the political undertones of a possible conspiracy (especially after Watergate and the revelations of CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro) that ultimately led to a new investigation. That investigation, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), emphasized the scientific side of the assassination and concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald had indeed fired and killed Kennedy. In addition, the HSCA concluded, largely on the basis of the acoustics evidence, that a gunman on the grassy knoll fired at Kennedy (but missed).[3] The HSCA addressed many of the issues raised by the critics in the sixties.

Since then, the literature has taken on a disturbing tone -- one that rejects any piece of evidence contrary to findings of conspiracy.[4] If the autopsy X-rays and photos show evidence of a single head-shot from the rear, well, they must be fakes. [5] If the wounds on Kennedy's body are consistent with a single-gunman, well, the body must have been altered. [6] If the neutron activation analysis shows the single-bullet theory to be correct, well, the evidence has been tampered with. [7] And, if you do not like the conclusions of a professional panel, well, they must have ties to the government. [8] One could go on and on. This is extremely dangerous.

This development is exactly opposite to the legitimate process of theory-building and testing. In the clash between evidence and theories, theories have to be discarded. It's true that evidence is often weak and open to multiple interpretations, but to argue that evidence is fraudulent is to undermine the possibility that any theory might turn out to be "true". . . To argue in such a style is to cause the collapse of the entire empirical edifice of assassinology. However weak, evidence could at least refute theories; now the evidence can't even do that.[9]

So, the critics are doing two things. They are rejecting many pieces of evidence. This rejection then forces them to paint a monstrous conspiracy and cover-up. The table below examines the conspiracy that stares us in the face. The list, while incomplete, attempts to delineate the conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Has there ever been such a conspiracy in history?[10]

Table 1: The Limits of Conspiracy

Forgery                  1. The autopsy x-rays and photos of the Kennedy     
                         autopsy have been forged. 2.  Backyard photos of    
                         Oswald holding his Mannlicher-Carcano rifle were    
                         forged.                                             
Evidence tampering       Numerous pieces of evidence have been tampered      
                         with which "points clearly to a conspiracy by       
                         elements within the government to cover up the      
                         origins of the assassination."11                    
Murder                   Witnesses are still dying of strange                
                         circumstances.                                      
Planting of evidence     1.  Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was planted   
                         in the TSBD after a Mauser was found. 2.  The       
                         palmprint of Oswald was planted. 3.  The Hidell     
                         identification was planted on Oswald. 4.  CE399     
                         was planted at Parkland Hospital.                   
Multiple Assassins       Assassins can be seen in various pictures and       
                         films of the assassination.  Some conspiracy        
                         theorists feel there are up to five assassins at    
                         work in Dealey Plaza.12                             
Police Complicity        The Dallas police, besides being sloppy, helped     
                         plant evidence and hide evidence of conspiracy.     
Evidence destruction     Several bullets that were found have been           
                         destroyed.                                          
Impersonation            A second Oswald roamed Dallas and Mexico City.      
Body Alteration          1.  JFK's corpse was altered before the autopsy.    
                         2.  Oswald's body was switched.                     

As you go down the rows in the table above, the conspiracy becomes bigger and bigger. But there is no need. The House Select Committee on Assassinations conducted many tests that answered or debunked many of the above allegations. Not surprisingly, it is indeed extremely difficult to find references to these important studies in the critical literature.[13] The time has come for the critics to jettison some of their sacred cows.

1. The Backyard Photographs

The photographs of Oswald holding the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle in his backyard have been analyzed for forgery ever since Oswald claimed the photos were composites.[14] As more photos have emerged over the years [15] , the critics have been forced to find more examples of forgery. This has clearly made their task more difficult.

The HSCA took these allegations very seriously and had the photographic panel spend a considerable amount of its time examining the backyard photographs. The panel conducted many tests -- all of which showed the photos to be authentic (see Table 2). The panel went to great lengths to answer all of the supposed "inconsistencies".

Table 2: HSCA Analysis of Backyard Photos

Analysis/Inconsistency                           Comments                      
Stereoscopic Analysis         Two of the photos were taken a short distance    
                              apart of a single scene.  This allows the        
                              pictures to be inspected with stereoscopic       
                              techniques.  It is virtually impossible to       
                              retouch one or both images of a stereo pair      
                              without escaping detection.  No evidence of      
                              retouching was found.                            
Photogrammetric Analysis      Photometry is the science of ascertaining the    
                              positions and dimensions of objects from         
                              measurements of photographs of these objects.    
                              No evidence of fakery was found.                 
Unnatural lines in Oswald's   Microscopic analysis showed no evidence of       
Chin                          fakery.                                          
Unnatural and inconsistent    Varying exposures indicate that the shadows      
shadows                       are indeed normal.  The shadows were also        
                              determined to be directionally consistent.       
Identical backgrounds         Photos contained such different shadow           
                              patterns that the time sequence in which these   
                              photos were taken could be determined.           
Camera Identification         Most cameras leave particular frame edge         
                              markings on negatives  and pictures--            
                              typically in a pattern unique to a particular    
                              camera.  Oswald's camera was positively          
                              identified as the camera that made the one       
                              existing negative and one of the photos (only    
                              one photo showed the frame edge markings).       
Source: Photographic Authentication, HSCA, Volume VI, pp. 138-225.

Yet, the critics have continued with the exactly the same criticisms as before the panel. Groden spends three pages in the Killing of A President analyzing the backyard photos, but just mentions that the photographic panel found the photos to be genuine -- with no explanation. What's worse, the photographic panel actually addressed particular concerns raised by Groden in one of his earlier books.[16]

Marrs, in his book Crossfire, spends four and a half pages on the photos. While he mentions the HSCA conclusions, his text makes it clear that their analysis was on very narrow grounds:

This conclusion rested primarily on studies that showed markings on the edges of the negative of one of the original photographs were identical to markings on other photographs made by the Imperial Reflex camera. This ballistics-type evidence convinced the panel that the photos must be genuine.[17]

Marrs neglects to tell the reader that the edge markings analysis was only one of many tests done by the panel (see Table 2). Marrs then brings up many of the same concerns that had already been addressed by the panel (sameness of backgrounds, conflicting shadows, etc.) -- without telling the reader that they had been addressed. Marrs quotes Maj. John Pickard, commander of the photographic department at the Canadian Defense Department, as saying the photos "have the earmarks of being faked." Yet the Photographic Panel noted that "he (Pickard) had performed no scientific tests on the photos and that he had spent less than an hour examining the "very poor copies" that were submitted to him."[18] Marrs chose to leave that detail out. Perhaps there is a conspiracy after all.

2. The Autopsy X-Rays and Photographs

Back in 1966-67, there was widespread demand for the examination of the autopsy X-rays and photographs.[19] The testimony of the Parkland hospital doctors and the botched autopsy necessitated urgent examination. Since 1972, they have been examined by the original autopsists, the Clark Panel, the Rockefeller Panel, the HSCA Panel, and many independent forensic pathologists and radiologists.

The conclusions of all of these panels and individuals are remarkably similar:

· One shot, fired from the rear, traversed Kennedy's neck exiting through the throat.
· One shot, fired from the rear, hit Kennedy in the head.

Even Cyril Wecht, a long-time critic of the Warren Commission, agrees with the above two statements. In 1973, Dr. Wecht wrote in Forensic Science that "The available evidence assuming it to be valid, gives no support to theories which postulate gunmen to the front or right-front of the presidential car. The wound in the President's head, as evidenced in the autopsy photographs and X-rays, can only have been fired from somewhere to the rear of the President.. . If any other bullet struck the President's head, whether before, after, or simultaneously with the known shot, there is no evidence for it in the available autopsy materials."[20] In 1975, Wecht testified before the Rockefeller Commission that Kennedy was shot in the head from the rear with "reasonable medical certainty." In 1979, Wecht testified before the HSCA that "with reasonable medical certainty" there was not a shot fired from the side which struck Kennedy.[21] He has never wavered from that position. [22]

The critics have now been forced to argue that the autopsy X-rays and photographs are forgeries. It is the only way they can sustain their belief in a head-shot fired from the front of Kennedy. Leading the charge is Harrison Livingstone who, in his book High Treason II, claims that there is a discrepancy between the autopsy x-rays and the autopsy photographs. [23] However, not one forensic pathologist who has examined the original materials agrees with his assessment. [24] And, the authentication panel of the HSCA was quite clear in their conclusions that all the material was authentic (see Table 3). Interestingly enough, Livingstone dismisses their conclusions with little analysis.

Table 3: Authentication Panel of the HSCA

Analysis              Comments                                                   
Anthropological       Premortem x-rays of Kennedy were compared to the autopsy   
Analysis              x-rays.  A number of unique anatomic characteristics       
                      confirmed that the x-rays were of the same individual.25   
Dental Comparison     Dr. Lowell Levine examined three skull autopsy x-rays      
                      and compared them with premortem dental x-rays.  He        
                      concluded that the x-rays were of the same person.26       
Stereoscopic          Several stereo pairs of photographs were analyzed.         
Analysis              There was no evidence of alteration in the stereo pairs    
                      of the back of the head, the top of the head, the large    
                      skull defect, and the back of the head from the front      
                      right.27                                                   
Radiological          Dr. Gerald McDonnel examined the premortem and             
Analysis              postmortem x-rays for alteration.  He particularly         
                      looked for any differences in density, any                 
                      discontinuities of bone structure, and any abnormal        
                      patterns.  He found no evidence of alteration.28           
Metric &              The person in the autopsy photographs are indeed John      
Morphological         Kennedy.  [29]                                                  
Analysis                                                                         

In addition, four of the Parkland Hospital doctors (Jenkins, Delaney, Peters, and McClelland), the original autopsy doctors and John Stringer (the autopsy photographer) and John Ebersole (the autopsy radiologist) have all said the materials in the National Archives are authentic. But, if you don't believe that the autopsy X-rays and photographs are forged, then how about body alteration (see section 9). I hesitate to think what next.

3. The Head Shot & The Zapruder Film

One of the biggest sacred cows of the research community is Kennedy's backward head-snap starting in frame 313 of the Zapruder film. How could Kennedy's head go backwards if he was shot from behind? Well, analysis by Luis Alvarez, a Nobel-prize winning physicist, shows that the mass excreted from a head shot can propel the head backward -- "the jet [of brain matter] can carry forward more momentum than was brought in by the bullet and the head recoils backwards, just as a rocket recoils when its jet fuel is ejected."[30] Alvarez concludes that "the law of physics are more in accordance with the conclusions of the Warren Commission than they are with the ones of the critics." [31]

Yet, the critics still argue the case for a shot from the front. Groden publishes frame 313 of the Zapruder film with the following caption, "The fatal head shot, coming from in front of the President's car, rapidly pushes his head and body rearward and to the left." [32] Nowhere in his book does he discuss Alvarez's conclusions. Of course, the backwards head-snap did not bother any of the forensic pathologists on the House Assassinations Committee. The forensic pathology panel said that

the majority of the panel believes that there is a possibility that this movement may have been caused by neurologic response to the massive brain damage caused by the bullet, or by a propulsive effect resulting from the matter that exited through the large defect under great pressure, or a combination of both. Whatever the cause of the President's movement, the majority of the panel concludes that only one bullet struck the President's head and that entered at the rear and exited from the right front. [33]

Further, the autopsy x-rays and photographs show that the back of Kennedy's head was intact with a large gaping exit wound in the right parietal area of the head. This is consistent with a shot from the rear. And, if you watch the Zapruder film, you will notice that the back of Kennedy's head does remain intact and that there is a rather noticeable exit wound exactly where the autopsy materials show it to be. [34] The Moorman photograph, taken seconds after Kennedy was hit in the head, also shows the back of his head to be totally intact. [35] Thus, the photographic evidence is consistent with the autopsy materials -- all of which support a shot fired from behind Kennedy. This has led some critics to claim that the Zapruder film was doctored by the CIA at the NPIC right after the assassination (see Section 4). Of course, if the film was doctored, why not also change the head-snap?

4. The Single-Bullet Theory

The single-bullet theory remains one of the more controversial elements of the JFK assassination. The Warren Commission concluded that one bullet (found at Parkland Hospital and labeled as Commission Exhibit 399) went through Kennedy's neck, hit Connally in the back, broke a rib, exited his chest, went through his right wrist, and caused a small wound in Connally's left thigh.[36] Over the years, critics have dismissed the single-bullet theory as being impossible for three main reasons:

1. Kennedy and Connally were not properly aligned.
2. The Zapruder film shows Kennedy and Connally reacting to their wounds at different times.
3. CE399, because of its relatively pristine condition, could not have caused all the wounds in Kennedy and Connally.

Let's examine each one of these objections. First, the HSCA proved that Kennedy and Connally were indeed properly aligned.[37] Their trajectory analysis, conducted by Thomas Canning of the NASA Ames Research center, used a survey map prepared specially to locate all the important structures in Dealey Plaza, wound information from the forensic pathology panel, and the photographic record supplied by the photographic panel. [38] Canning's analysis supported the single-bullet theory and found that

The bullet would have had to have been substantially deflected by passing through the President in order to miss the Governor. It seems almost inevitable that the Governor would be hit with the alignments that we have found. [39]

Of course, it is not hard to believe that a bullet exiting Kennedy's throat could travel on and hit Connally.[40] In addition, Calvin McCamy of the Photographic Panel testified that

The positions of the two men were examined on these films just prior to the time that the limousine went behind the sign, and it was agreed 15 to 1 that the men were in positions that were consistent with the single-bullet theory. [41]

The HSCA trajectory analysis and the testimony of Canning and McCamy have been largely ignored by the critics. Groden, in his book The Killing of a President, says that "the single bullet theory, when depicted in pictures or diagrams, can seem plausible, the effect of angle or trajectory can be easily manipulated or obscured." [42] Yet Groden goes on to show not one, but three separate mutually-exclusive diagrams of the single-bullet theory (see Table 4). What Groden doesn't show is the HSCA diagram of the single-bullet theory -- and it clearly shows that Kennedy and Connally were in alignment.[43]

Table 4: The Many Trajectories of Robert Groden

Diagram/Allegation                     Comment                        
Diagram shows a bullet totally         Improper angles and improper   
missing Connally (pp. 126).            positioning of Kennedy's       
                                       wounds.                        
Diagram shows a bullet zigzagging      Once again, improper           
into Connally (although in this        positioning of the bodies      
diagram, the bullet would not have     and wounds make it appear      
missed Connally). (pp. 129)            the bullet had to change       
                                       flight paths.                  
A connect-the-dots diagram that        Totally incorrect              
shows CE399 changing direction         positioning of Kennedy's       
several times (pp. 139).               neck wound                     

Marrs, in his book Crossfire, and Cyril Wecht, in his book Cause of Death, also show the same third "connect-the-dots" diagram that Groden uses.[44] Cyril Wecht should know better -- the diagram positions the Kennedy's entry wound as being 5 3/4" below his collar which is not where the forensic pathology panel positioned the wound (and with which he agreed). There is absolutely no mention of the HSCA trajectory analysis in either books. Groden is certainly correct in his assertion that diagrams can be misleading.

Secondly, while the Zapruder film appears to show Kennedy and Connally reacting at different times, we must remember that the speed of the film can render misleading judgments. Each frame of the Zapruder films represents only 1/18th of a second -- so a delayed reaction of just one second (well within the realm of possibility) translates into 18 frames of the Zapruder film. This begs the question of [how] far apart was their reactions. Even Groden admits that "the Zapruder films shows both men reacting to being shot three-quarters of a second apart."[45] That translates into 13 frames of the Zapruder film. Is it impossibile for two men to react to different wounds within three-quarters of a second (and possibly even less). [46] The forensic pathology panel of the HSCA certainly didn't think so, saying that "the majority of the panel believes that the interval is consistent with the single-bullet theory." [47] Human reaction to bullet wounds are incredibly varied -- it is not a "hard physical science". [48] Why do critics refuse to explore such a simple explanation?

Lastly, Cyril Wecht has continually challenged his fellow forensic pathologists to come up with just one bullet that has done as much damage as CE399 without being damaged. Well, Michael Kurtz, in his book Crime of the Century has come up with one. [49] It is indeed possible for a bullet to remain relatively unscathed. However, according to Dr. Michael Baden, Chairman of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel, it is not surprising that there are few other examples:

The problem is that although in New York City we see more than 1,000 gunshot wound deaths a year, in a civilian population it is most unusual to encounter military ammunition; and in military practice where people are killed by rifle bullets, autopsies and follow-up correlations are not performed as in the civilian death situation. Very few people, if any, have any autopsy experience with the Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 millimeter ammunition in a civilian population.[50]

The final clincher to the argument came through neutron activation analysis which proved that the fragments removed from Connally's wrist came from CE399.51 The critics must realize that there is quite a bit of difference between the impossible and the possible.[52]

5. Evidence Tampering & Planted Evidence

As we have seen, critics have charged that the autopsy X-rays and photographs and the backyard photographs have all been forged. In addition, the critics also charge that many of the assassination films have been tampered with (see Table 5). Such widespread tampering implies a conspiracy that is massive -- after all, one imagines that it must have been difficult in 1963 to forge X-rays and be able to fool experts 30 years later looking for forgery. Is it even possible?

Table 5: Tampered Evidence

Evidence           Allegation                           Comments                          
Zapruder Film (1)  Documents show that the film was     It is unclear exactly when the    
                   at the CIA's National Photo          Zapruder was at NPIC.  Even so,   
                   Interpretation Center (NPIC) after   there is no objective evidence    
                   the assassination.  Lifton claims    of any tampering.                 
                   this compromises the film's value                                      
                   as evidence.[53]                                                         
Zapruder Film (2)  Groden writes that "the film has     Life magazine accidentally        
                   again been tampered with at frame    damaged six frames (207-212).     
                   207 and it is spliced, with four     Before that happened, Zapruder    
                   frames removed to frame 212 where    had ordered three prints.  The    
                   the Warren Commission placed the     so-called missing frames were     
                   first shot.  Why?  We now know       printed in Josiah Thompson's      
                   that frames 208-211 have all been    book, Six Second in Dallas,       
                   removed."[54]                          which was published years         
                                                        before Groden's book.[55]           
Autopsy X-rays     Autopsy material has been forged     See section 2.                    
and photos         to hide a gunshot to the head from                                     
                   the front.                                                             
Backyard photos    Photos are composites with           See section 1.                    
                   Oswald's face and somebody else's                                      
                   body.                                                                  
Nix Film           Livingstone quotes a critic who      There is no evidence that a       
                   claims a frame is missing after      frame is missing from the Nix     
                   the head-shot which would show a     film.                             
                   "large piece of skull fragment in                                      
                   the air coming fro the back of the                                     
                   head."[56]  Jack White also thinks                                       
                   the film was altered.[57]                                                
Oswald Signatures  Groden writes that "The Oswald       The HSCA handwriting panel        
                   signatures on so many documents      gathered 50 documents and         
                   could have been easily forged and    concluded that "the signatures    
                   in fact, to any amateur, do not      and handwriting purported to be   
                   appear to be by the same man."[58]     by Oswald are consistently that   
                                                    of one person."[59]                 

Besides directing an "incredible" cover-up, the conspirator also planted lots of evidence to incriminate Oswald (see Table 6). Instead of concluding that Oswald was guilty (a simple explanation), the critics have spun a tale of sinister conspirators successfully planting evidence to fool the police and FBI. If you don't like the evidence, just question its legitimacy!

Table 6: Planted Evidence

Evidence          Allegation                     Comments                        
Oswald's          After Oswald's death, a        The HSCA confirmed that         
Palmprint         palmprint arrived at the FBI   Oswald's palm print was on      
                  lab, supposedly taken from     the rifle and that Oswald's     
                  the assassination rifle.[60]     fingerprints were found on      
                                                 the paper bag used to bring     
                                                 the gun into the Texas School   
                                                 Book Depository.[61] Not one      
                                                 witness has every come          
                                                 forward to say that the         
                                                 palmprint (or the               
                                                 fingerprints) were planted.     
Hidell            Identification card with the   Oswald admitted having the      
Identification    name Alek Hidell was planted   card.  The signature on the     
                  on Oswald by the police.[62]     card was proved to be Marina    
                                                 Oswald's (and she admitted      
                                                 signing the card).[63]            
Assassination     There are reports of more      The photographic evidence       
Rifle             than one rifle found on the    panel compared the relative     
                  day of the assassination.[64]    lengths of parts of the         
                                                 alleged assassination rifle     
                                                 with that in many photos and    
                                                 films.  The panel found the     
                                                 dimensions to be entirely       
                                                 consistent.  Further, the       
                                                 panel compared identifying      
                                                 marks  which indicate that      
                                                 "both the rifle in the          
                                                 Archives is the same weapon     
                                                 that Oswald is shown holding    
                                                 in the backyard picture and     
                                                 the same weapon, found by       
                                                 Dallas police, that appears     
                                                 in various post assassination   
                                                 photographs."[65]                 
Single-Bullet     The bullet found at Parkland   An absurd theory. How could     
(CE399)           hospital was planted.  Some    the conspirators have known     
                  have even suggested it was     the nature of the wounds to     
                  planted by Jack Ruby.[66]        take such a chance to plant     
                                                 "another" bullet?               

To date, not one witness has come forward who can provide any evidence of forgery or planting of evidence.[67]

6. Strange Deaths?

As if multiple assassins and wide-spread evidence tampering and forgery weren't enough, how about murdering inconvenient witnesses? Over the years, various assassination researchers have catalogued every suspicious death involving people associated with the assassination.[68] Two recent books continue the myth -- The Killing of a President and Crossfire.

Crossfire has a complete chapter called Convenient Deaths.[69] Marrs lists all the mysterious deaths in chronological order, saying that "the possibility of convenient deaths leads one into a well of paranoia, yet this long list cannot be summarily dismissed."[70] Marrs even implies that the CIA induced Jack Ruby's cancer. [71] Another person on his list (and Penn Jones' list) is Earlene Roberts who died in January, 1966. Roberts was Oswald's landlady and died of a heart attack. Jacqueline Hess, a researcher for the HSCA testified that:

He [Penn Jones} then states that she had important evidence to contribute. The implication is that Mrs. Roberts death is mysterious. While it is clear that Mrs. Roberts did indeed have important evidence to contribute, there is no indication in the records relating to her death, or in Mr. Jones' book, as to what exactly was mysterious about a 61-year-old woman with large calcium deposits and a case of pneumonia, dying of acute heart failure. [72]

Hess's conclusion was that the "available evidence does not establish anything about the nature of these deaths which would indicate that the deaths were in some manner, either direct or peripheral, caused by the assassination of President Kennedy or by any aspect of the subsequent investigation."[73]

Marrs does quote the above conclusion but rejects it saying that "these deaths certainly would have been convenient for anyone not wishing the truth of the JFK assassination to become public." [74] Perhaps Marrs' theory would carry more weight if he himself was on the list.

In The Killing of a President, Groden presents sidebars on many pages on the "HSCA Mysterious Death Project". Many of the deaths (like Earlene Roberts above) seem decidedly non-suspicious:

David Goldstein, who has assisted the FBI in tracing the revolver used in the Tippit killing, died in 1965 of seemingly natural causes. [75]

What exactly is one to make of such "assertions"? Why add the adjective "seemingly" without any clarification? Groden also includes a side-bar on Earlene Roberts. Like Marrs, Groden quotes the conclusions of Jacqueline Hess -- yet by including 43 such sidebars, Groden tilts the weight of his book against Hess' conclusions. One would think both authors could find better material.

7. Mexico City and an Oswald Impostor

When the CIA erroneously released photos taken at the Soviet embassy in Mexico City that was obviously not Oswald, it was seized upon as evidence of an Oswald impostor. Yet, now there is direct evidence from three Soviet embassy employees (including the infamous Kostikov) that Oswald was indeed at the embassy.[76] Peter Dale Scott, one of the more respected critics, spent time with Nechiporenko (one of the employees) and came away impressed with his story. [77] Paul Hoch feels that "the impostor hypothesis gets more attention than other aspects of the Mexico puzzle for non-evidentiary reasons -- that is, as historical baggage which we picked up when we had much less information." [78]

As time passed, it became very unlikely that this man was an Oswald impostor -- for one thing, he was photographed again when Oswald was supposed to be in the U.S. -- and he does not fit the description given by Sylvia Duran, now the leading impostor witness. In other words, if we first came to the Mexican evidence now, we might not find an impostor such an appealing explanation of the confusion. [79]

Of course, the critics still publish and refer to the photos originally supplied by the CIA. Groden prints the pictures and writes that "The CIA was aware of at least one impostor using the name Lee Harvey Oswald. The photographs of the same man (right), posing as Oswald, were taken by the CIA on two separate occasions at the Cuban and Soviet embassies." [80] A CIA mistake is thus transformed into a CIA "conclusion" that Lee Harvey Oswald was being impersonated.

8. Photographic Evidence of Multiple Assassins

After the assassination, there were several witnesses who saw shots being fired from the Texas School Book Depository.[81] There were no eyewitnesses to any other assassins in Dealey Plaza. There were ear-witnesses to shots from other locations, but no eyewitnesses. Many critics allege that many of the films and photos of the assassination do indeed show other assassins and that certain films show evidence of a second person on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository (see Table 7).

Table 7: Photographic Evidence?

Film or      Allegation                       Comments                           
Photograph                                                                       
Altgens      Man on fire escape appears       Impossible to investigate.  Lots   
Photograph   startled after shots.  "Was it   of people in Dealey Plaza were     
             close proximity of gunshots      startled by gunshots.              
             that startled the man on the                                        
             fire escape?"[82]                                                     
Willis       Groden writes that the figures   The photographic panel concluded   
Photograph   shown in the Willis photo was    that there was indeed a human      
             "crouching behind the            standing behind the wall.          
             retaining wall, perhaps to       However, the panel was unable to   
             fire upon the President."[83]      conclude that there was any        
                                              rifle or any other weapon          
                                              associated with the person.[84]      
Moorman      A photo taken by Mary Ann        The photographic panel sent a      
Photograph   Moorman shows Kennedy within     high-quality negative copy to      
             half a second of being shot in   the Rochester Institute of         
             the head.  Numerous              Technology.  A series of photo     
             researchers have claimed there   enlargements were made.  No        
             is an image of a policeman       evidence of a person on the        
             firing a gun (known as the       retaining wall could be found.     
             Badgeman). [85]                     No enhancement work was carried    
                                              out in the area of the stockade    
                                              fence because the photo was so     
                                              underexposed. [86]                    
Nix Film     Groden writes that "the          Object in the Nix film was not     
             important things about this      identified as a human being.  No   
             film is that you can see what    evidence of a puff of smoke was    
             appears to be one of the         found.  So-called classic gunman   
             gunmen aiming a rifle at         was not a gunman since there was   
             Kennedy."[87]                      no evidence of human flesh         
                                              tones. [88]                           
Zapruder     Groden includes a drawing of     Analysis shows the head is         
Film         Frame 413 that shows a           indeed human but not in the        
             helmeted man with a rifle. [89]     bushes.  The so-called rifle was   
                                              only one of a number of twigs in   
                                              the bush. [90]                        
Hughes Film  Robert Hughes filmed the         88 frames were processed for       
             motorcade as it turned onto      computer enhancement and motion    
             Elm Street.  Groden claims his   analysis.  Motion in the films     
             film reveals movement in         is random and is not consistent    
             several windows on the sixth     with human motion, but is          
             floor. [91]                         attributable to photographic       
                                              artifact. [92]                        
Bronson      Charles Bronson filmed the       Apparent motion seems to be        
Film         Texas School Book Depository     random. [94]  Tests run for the       
             about six minutes before the     special Frontline show on PBS      
             shooting.  According to          also show the movement to be       
             Groden, "his film caught the     random,[95]                          
             movements of figures in the                                         
             alleged sniper's window and                                         
             two adjacent windows on the                                         
             sixth floor." [93]                                                     

As such, the HSCA concluded that "There is no definitive visible evidence of any gunmen in the streets, sidewalks, or areas adjacent to Dealey Plaza. Nor was any evidence discerned of a flash of light or a puff of smoke."[96] The panel also concluded that motion in the windows adjacent to the open sixth-floor windows of the TSBD can be "attributed to photographic artifact."[97] However, these conclusions have not stopped the allegations -- allegations that are made without telling readers of the HSCA conclusions. [98] Never before have "dots" or "checks" been entered as evidence of conspiracy. One of the best stories is told by Bill Gurvich who worked for Jim Garrison before quitting:

He (Raymond Marcus) came in the office and he had some large blowups of what he said was the picket fence area in Dallas, in Dealey Plaza. And these photographs would support what Garrison was saying about multiple assassins. Behind the fence. Behind the wall. So these photographs had been enlarged so many times that they looked like a checkerboard - they were black and white squares. Which was a printer's screen, enlarged. You couldn't distinguish anything. I joked with them when they showed it to me, and I said it looked like a Purina checkerboard sign. [99]

To get people to see these "multiple" assassins, critics have resorted to painting in assassins to aid the eye. On page 200 of Groden's book, there is a colour picture of the "Badegeman". The caption reads "An extreme enlargement of a portion of Mary Ann Moorman's photograph shows a distinct image of a man in a uniform, especially when the shadowy images are colored in as in the illustration above" (emphasis added). Because if you don't add that assistance, well, you can't see nothing.

9. Body Alteration

Another bizarre claim was put forth by David Lifton in his book Best Evidence.[100] Lifton believes the autopsy x-rays and photos are authentic. But, in order the bridge the gap between the observations of the doctors at Parkland Hospital [101] and the autopsy report, Lifton claims that Kennedy's wounds were altered before the autopsy. Why was the body altered?

Altering the body provided a means of hiding basic facts about the shooting. Surgery on the wounds changed the bullet trajectories and concealed the true locations of the shooters. Bullet retrieval insured that bullets and bullet fragments from the weapons that actually murdered the President would not reach the FBI Laboratory. If the navy autopsy is viewed as the first in a sequence of federal investigations, then it could be said that the results of that investigation -- results on which all others relied -- were manipulated through the alteration of the body. [102]

Another way of reading the above paragraph is that the existing evidence is consistent with a lone-gunman. And, not to belabor the point -- it is impossible to forge wounds. Even Cyril Wecht would admit that. [103]

Is the Case Closed?

The critics are practising intellectual dishonesty on a massive scale. The conspiracy they paint is too big. One must remember that the Watergate cover-up failed despite being run by a sitting President. Iran-Contra also failed despite a sitting (albeit sleeping) President that gave free rein to his administration. Yet, we are to believe that a conspiracy of multiple gunmen, massive forgery and tampering of evidence, impersonation, planting of evidence, etc. could survive without a single crack. It belies belief.

This doesn't mean that there aren't legitimate areas of inquiry. The major problem is that the critics have not yet developed a talent to filter out the unwarranted charges and focus on the more important issues. This need to throw out some sacred cows and begin to focus on the real issues cannot be overstated.

Posner's biggest mistake was in claiming that the case was closed. It's not. Dr. Gary Aguilar sums up some of the outstanding medical issues in a cogent article in the Fourth Decade.[104] There are still questions on the acoustics evidence. [105] Oswald's possible relationships with various intelligence agencies are in question. [106] So, the case is still very much open. [107] However, just as the "lone-nutters" must admit there are areas that remain to be investigated, the "conspiracy freaks" must start discarding some of their many sacred cows.

* * *
Fred Litwin
151 Cavenagh Road
#03-155, Tower A
Singapore, 0922

Litwin@singnet.com.sg