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Jim DiEugenio's Upcoming appearances and radio Interviews:
April 13th, Barnes and Noble, Metro Pointe,
901 B South Coast Drive Ste 150, Costa Mesa,
May 4th, Barnes
and Noble, Orange Town & Country
791 South Main Street Suite 100,
NEW DATE! May 18th, Barnes
and Noble Bookstore in Manhattan Gateway Shopping Center 1800 Rosecrans
Avenue Building B, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
October 16-19th Passing the Torch Conference, at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh
November 21-24, November in Dallas, at the Adolphus Hotel in Dallas
JFK: The French Connection, by Peter Kross Review by Seamus Coogan
on Lunch with Arlen Specter on January 4, 2012
KENNEDY & ME: A Very Good Book With A Few Pages of Trouble
Jim DiEugenio analyzes and summarizes Larry Hancock's
interesting and unique new book Nexus:
The CIA and Political Assassination
Jim DiEugenio reviews the work of Chris Matthews on the life and death of President Kennedy, including his latest biography, "Jack Kennedy: Elusive hero".
IN DALLAS: LBJ, the Pearl Street Mafia, and the Murder of President
The Connally Bullet Powerful evidence that Connally was hit by a bullet from a different assassin, by Robert Harris
Joseph Green on the late Manning Marable's new full scale biography of Malcolm X.
JFK and the Majestic Papers: The History of a Hoax by Seamus Coogan
- and -
Wikipedia? by JP Mroz and Jim DiEugenio (3 part series)
is Anton Batey?
Exclusive excerpts from Mitchell Warriner's long
awaited new book on
Inside the ARRB, Vols. IV & V, by Doug Horne
Reviewed by James DiEugenio
(Jim DiEugenio's review of Volumes 4 & 5 is the fourth and final installment of CTKA's book-by-book review of Douglas Horne's five-volume set Inside the ARRB. Later contributions by Dr. David Mantik and Gary Aguilar will complete the critique of this mammoth series.)
I almost don’t want to review the last two volumes of Doug Horne’s series entitled Inside the ARRB. For more than one reason. First of all, although this series is supposed to be about the medical evidence and testimony adduced by the Assassination Records Review Board, these last two volumes don’t really come under that rubric.
Volume IV has two chapters in it. Chapter 13 is entitled “What Really Happened at the Bethesda Morgue (And in Dealey Plaza)?” This is where Horne tries to theorize as to what actually happened during the autopsy and from there, what was the real firing sequence and angles in the Dealey Plaza. Chapter 14 is entitled, “The Zapruder Film Mystery,” and this relates only tangentially to the new medical testimony and declassified files of the ARRB. Volume V deals with what Horne calls “The Political Context of the Assassination”. And this really has absolutely nothing to do with the medical inquiry conducted for the ARRB by Horne and Jeremy Gunn. So in these two volumes, I think Horne has gone astray from what his subject matter is supposed to be about, and what is of real value in the book.
As noted in my previous three reviews, the book does have real value. But its value is in what Horne and Gunn discovered in their probe of the medical evidence. Here the author is largely stepping outside that boundary. The purpose of that is questionable. And in my view, in addition to losing its raison d’être, the series loses a lot of its steam.
As I mentioned above, much of Chapter 13 is given to a reconstruction of what Horne thinks happened both in Dealey Plaza and at the morgue. I could find very little of any new importance here. But there is one exception. That was an interview that Horne did with Secret Service agent Floyd Boring.
Boring began the interview with a rather bracing general declaration: “I didn’t have anything to do with it, and I don’t know anything.” (p. 1096) Horne describes this as an “attention-getter,” which it was. It was Boring who was supposed to have turned over the fragments found in the front area of the car to the FBI. Yet oddly, he at first denied inspecting the Presidential limousine. He then said he did, but did not recall when he did it: if it happened the evening of the 22nd or the next day. But further, he had no recollection of finding any bullet fragments in the car. (p. 1097) Horne handed him SA Frazier’s testimony describing this episode, but Boring’s memory was not refreshed. Horne speculates as to why Boring said this. It may be that he thought the ARRB was conducting an investigation into whether or not the fragments had been planted, and he wanted to avoid being a target of inquiry. (p. 1098)
But Boring really got interesting when he discussed his search of the follow-up car, sometimes called the “Queen Mary”. Completely unprompted by Horne, the witness told him that “he had discovered a piece of bone skull with brain attached in the footwell just in front of the back seat bench….” (p. 1097) He estimated it about 1 x 2 inches in size. He did not write this up and did not know the final disposition of this material. When Horne tried to correct him about where he found it, Boring insisted it was in the follow-up car. Which would be just about proof positive that Kennedy was hit from the front.
And someone must have told Boring that after the interview. For as Horne further notes, something weird happened after the Boring interview. Something that Horne says never happened to him during his tenure at the ARRB. Boring called him back the next day. He now said he could not have found the skull debris in the ‘Queen Mary,’ it had to have been in the presidential limo. (p. 1099) This retraction convinced Horne that someone had debriefed Boring after the ARRB interview.
A similar reversal happened with the heir to Admiral George Burkley. But this episode I had heard about before. Jeremy Gunn wanted to get Nancy Denlea, Burkley’s daughter and the executor of his estate, to sign a waiver to let the ARRB peruse the deceased admiral’s files at his attorney’s office for evidence. She agreed to this at first. So the ARRB sent her the written waiver. But she later called back and told counsel Jeremy Gunn she had changed her mind and would not sign. Again, Horne wonders if someone got to her. (p. 1054)
As most readers of The Assassinations (by Lisa Pease and myself) know, Robert Kennedy ultimately OK’d the dispersal of the Dallas casket into the ocean, a military dump off the Delaware-Maryland coast. (DiEugenio and Pease, p. 268) Well, skipping back into his Best Evidence mode, the author now tries to insinuate that somehow this was a deliberate and willful act done by RFK to somehow conceal the true facts of his brother’s murder. (pgs. 1057-1062) Yep. that’s what he does. He actually says the casket was destroyed by RFK. Yet, in the documents Jim Lesar has collected at the AARC, this does not appear to be the case.
The movement to dump the casket was begun by the fact that Nicolas Katzenbach and Lawson Knott of General Services Administration were getting pressure from an associate of William Manchester and also from former Dallas mayor Earle Cabell. Cabell claimed to be outraged by the morbid curiosity attached to the object. (Letter from Cabell to Katzenbach, 9/13/65) Since he was now in congress, Cabell was probably sensitive to the fact that the casket drew attention to his city. Manchester was threatening to write about in 1968—a threat which Kennedy did not appreciate. (Call between Knott and RFK 2/3/66) No one involved believed it had any value as evidence. So upon the recommendations of Katzenbach and Knott, Kennedy agreed to have the casket disposed of. Period.
Horne equates all this to RFK somehow being the prime engineer behind the casket’s disposal. Why would RFK be a participant in this diabolical effort? Not because of the pressure described above. No. According to Horne, it is because the casket had the potential to explode the medical cover up! (p. 1057) To me, this leap—and that is what it is—is completely unwarranted, perhaps a wee bit goofy. I mean, in 1966, Lifton had not published Best Evidence. He was still in his Ramparts days, that is, doing essays that resembled the work of Josiah Thompson. Without that impetus, how RFK could then divine such a thing as the casket’s importance in Lifton’s future book is completely illogical—since no one had written about it at the time. But how Horne can somehow fathom that Kennedy understood all that anyway—despite the fact that there is no reference to such a thing in the literature at the time—well, that is a mystery for the ages.
But Horne goes even farther. He holds out the possibility that the missing autopsy materials—the brain, tissue slides, etc.—may have been deep-sixed inside the original casket. (p. 1061) He even says that if there is no record of these materials being dumped with the casket—and there is not—then perhaps RFK relayed a message to the Chief of Naval Operations not to include it in the inventory. (ibid)
This is what I mean about Horne needing an editor. First of all, although there is circumstantial evidence, there is no proof that it was indeed RFK who seized these materials. We simply do not know that with any real certainty. But second of all, if he did, it may not be that his intent was to cover anything up. It may have been just the opposite. One of the most interesting parts of David Talbot’s book Brothers, is that he reveals that RFK never believed the Krazy Kid Oswald story. Not for one instant. And from the beginning, he was sending out feelers to try and comprehend what really happened in Dallas. One of the things he was interested in was the physical evidence that “he thought might be vital in a credible investigation in the future—that is, one under his control.” (Talbot, p. 16)
Roger Feinman also believes this may be the case. Let me quote him at length in this regard:
This leads to another issue. One that I was quite curious about. As previously mentioned, this was not the first time that Horne had floated this idea that Bobby Kennedy had a role in the cover up. Which is an idea that has been surfaced by the likes of Gus Russo before, but has never been able to attain any credibility, since there has never been any evidence for it. I mean, try and find any way that Bobby Kennedy had a hand in the Warren Commission proceedings. Well, I kept reading and reading in order to find some kind of key to why Horne had joined in the “RFK as part of the cover-up” ranks. I finally found it in Volume 5. Not surprisingly, it’s David Lifton.
Horne has gotten a look at one of the working drafts of Lifton’s long awaited biography of Oswald. He praises the book as presenting a persuasive case that the plot not only took out Kennedy, but the cover story about Oswald built in a fail-safe point against RFK. Namely that by making Oswald into a Castro sympathizer, Kennedy’s murder could be perceived as retaliation for the CIA plots to kill Castro. In which Horne thinks RFK was involved; in spite of the CIA Inspector General Report on this matter which exonerates both brothers. (pgs. 1666-67) From other sources, I understand that Lifton was influenced by Joan Mellen’s thesis about RFK in A Farewell to Justice. How and why he should be so influenced is a mystery to me. (Click here for my review.) But apparently Horne then accepts this hoary, specious idea.
As I alluded to above, I take reconstructions of what happened in Dealey Plaza with a grain of salt. I feel that one researcher’s version is as good—or bad—as the next. I only even blink when something wild is written. Well, with Horne I blinked. More than once. First, he postulates five shots to the head, three from the front. (pgs. 1150, 1153-54) This, to me, is incredible. In fact, I have never read of such a thing. And in keeping with his Murder from Within thesis, he writes that “The very unpleasant and tentative possibility exists that limousine driver William Greer fired a fourth head shot into the President’s left temple with his revolver.”
I don’ t understand this. There is no evidence for this in the Zapruder film. There is no evidence for this in any picture I have ever seen. The single bit of testimony used most often to bolster it is the 11/22/63 affidavit of Hugh Betzner. In this affidavit, Betzner states he was shooting pictures when he “heard a loud noise” he thought was a firecracker. He then heard another loud noise. He then saw a “flash of pink” standing up and then sitting back down. (This is obviously Jackie Kennedy reaching out to the trunk of the car, after frame 313 and the head explosion.) He then writes that he saw, in either the limousine or the following car, someone with a rifle and someone in the limousine, or around the limo, with a handgun. He then said that the car disappeared beneath the underpass. And this is the best Horne can do in this regard. (He tries Jean Hill, but her affidavit is even less definite as to location than Betzner’s.)
To me, and to most, it’s not nearly enough. Besides the fact that the time frame by Betzner is ambiguous as to when he saw this happen, to have any credibility at all, it would seem to have to occur within the firing sequence of around Z frames 190-325. Not only does the affidavit seem to say it took place after that, but if it did take place at those frames, why on earth did no one else see it? Especially when the car was so close to so many witnesses on the grassy knoll? To me, to say they did not see it is sort of like all those witnesses in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel who did not see Sirhan get his handgun to the back of Robert Kennedy’s skull. But in this case they missed a guy with a rifle also.
Furthermore, there is the matter of how this murderous scenario could have been presented to Greer. He had to have known that he was going to be driving a motorcade in the midst of crowds on both sides of him. Consequently, there would be at least scores of witnesses to him turning around and shooting Kennedy. In addition, he had to understand that many of these people would have Kodaks and also movie cameras to capture the moment. So therefore, it would not just be eyewitness testimony—there could be photos and films to prove his treachery. Further, he also knew there would be some law enforcement agents along the path that probably were not involved in the plot. If one of them saw him, and arrested him, and later a photo or film was adduced, Greer would be lost. And for what? Dealey Plaza provided an ideal ambush location for what snipers call an L shaped trap. So how could either the plotters or Greer possibly be convinced to go along with a scenario that was so high-risk for both of them? When it was so unnecessary. This is what I mean about Horne needing an editor. He apparently never thought of any of this.
There is one other thing that I wish to note about Chapter 13. And I think this will provide some insight into where Horne is coming from. The author devotes several pages to a statement by Josiah Thompson from 1988 and a speech Thompson made in 1993. (pgs. 1132-1138) I was aware of both of these. And unlike Horne, I saw the speech in person in 1993, rather than watching it on DVD. In 1988, for a PBS Nova program, Thompson made the following comments: “In a homicide case, you get a convergence of the evidence after a while. There may be discrepancies in detail; but on the whole, things come together. With this case—its now 25 years—things haven’t gotten any simpler. They haven’t come together. If anything, they’ve become more problematical, more and more mysterious. That just isn’t the way a homicide case develops.” (Horne, p. 1133)
In 1993 at a conference in Chicago, Thompson repeated and amplified on these remarks. He said that it is easy to wreck the Magic Bullet fantasy. But it is much harder to say what actually happened in those six seconds in Dealey Plaza. Further, he said that in most cases—Thompson is now a private investigator—the actual circumstances of the crime are never in doubt. Not like this one. Horne then writes that this speech “really lit a fire under my ass.” (p. 1135) He then writes that this was one of the major reasons he joined up with the ARRB. In order to clear up some of the ambiguities in the record so these uncertainties would be removed. He also says that the reason he felt much of this murkiness existed was because of tainted evidence, and fraud in the record. (ibid)
As I said, I was actually in the audience when Thompson made this speech in Chicago. I had a quite different reaction than Horne’s. It did not light any fire underneath my behind. Quite the contrary. I was disappointed in both the content and tenor of Thompson’s remarks. And so were many others. Thompson was essentially saying that we were no closer to resolving this case than we were in 1967, when his book came out. In fact, we might be further away. (Horne, p. 1134) I strongly disagreed with this evaluation. And I don’ t understand why Thompson said it. It is something that might have been scripted by the likes of Paul Hoch or Robert Blakey. And I don’t associate Thompson with either of those men. If you compare the state of the knowledge database in 1993 with 1967, to say there was not a ton of progress made is just plain wrong. It is to deny the contributions of writers like Henry Hurt, George Michael Evica, Howard Roffman, and Tony Summers (among others). It is to say that the investigation of Jim Garrison produced nothing of any evidentiary value. Which is ridiculous. To name just two things of the utmost importance: that inquest revealed the Clinton-Jackson incident, and it uncovered why Oswald was at 544 Camp Street. Even though, at the time, the roles and characters of people like the Paines, David Phillips, and J. Edgar Hoover had not been completely filled in, we clearly had enough information to understand approximately who they were. And through the 1969 testimony of Pierre Finck in New Orleans, we had gained valuable insight into why the autopsy on JFK was so poor. I could go on and on, but I did not accept Thompson’s thesis to any real degree.
I also did not agree with Horne’s major reason why he agreed with this flawed thesis: i.e., fraud in the evidence. Let me say first, there is no doubt that this occurred. And elsewhere, I have noted it. And Horne has pointed some of it out. But to me, this was not the real reason why the case was so unresolved (if one really believed that). To me, the real reason was the cover-up that took place almost immediately by those in charge of the inquiry. This would be, in order: the Dallas Police, the FBI, and the Warren Commission. If this would not have happened, the case would not be so murky. Just to take one example, if Oswald had lived to stand trial, who knows what would have happened? If someone other than Hoover had been in charge at the FBI, he may have cracked open the case. If Earl Warren had been allowed to chose Warren Olney as his Chief Counsel, again, things may have been different.
One thing that has become obvious since the releases of the ARRB, is that no real investigation was going to happen. (And the Powers That Be were not going to let Jim Garrison proceed unimpeded either.) One reason being that the cover up was built into the conspiracy. And unlike Horne, Lifton, and Joan Mellen—who somehow blame RFK for this—I believe the three telltale signs of this plan were all exhibited on that very day: 1.) The murder of Tippit; 2.) The Mexico City charade about Oswald, the Cubans, and Russians; and 3.) The unbelievable control exhibited by the military at the autopsy
The first made sure the DPD would do all they could to railroad that “cop-killer” Oswald. The second ensured that the national security state would go into CYA mode about Oswald’s alleged dealings with the Russians and Cubans on the eve of the assassination. The third took away any possibility that the true circumstances of how Kennedy was actually killed would ever be revealed.
So to say we were no closer to what happened in 1993 than in 1967, I believe was just wrong. Although I like Tink Thompson and think his book is still a good one, I didn’t agree with what he said at all. To his credit, I think he has changed his tune today.
Chapter 14 is Horne’s very long essay on the Zapruder film. How long is it? Try almost 300 pages—292 to be exact.
Before I get started, let me indicate where I am on this bitterly contested issue. I am an agnostic on this point. For three reasons. First, although there is some interesting stuff out there, I have not seen any overwhelming evidence that convinces me the film has been altered. Second, to me this dispute has the elements of an unnecessary sideshow. Because the film itself contains a variety of evidence revealing a conspiracy. To deny this is to deny reality. The two times the film was shown to a mass audience (i.e., in 1975 on ABC television network, and in 1991 via Oliver Stone’s film JFK), its effect was overpowering. Third, to argue that the film has been altered necessitates a whole other level of proof. Because now you have to, in turn, prove that other films and photos have also been altered. It’s something that I am not interested in spending years doing.
How did Horne and the ARRB get onto the Zapruder alteration business? It appears to be at Horne’s instigation. (p. 1186) Horne suggested an authenticity report be done through Kodak. According to Horne, he did not read the report until after the ARRB dissolved. (ibid) We will get to the results of that report later.
First, like many others in his camp, Horne tries to discount the impact of the film and its indications of conspiracy. (p. 1190) As noted above, I disagree with this. But I do agree that it is not possible to get a precise shot sequence from Zapruder. But I believe the main reason for that is the lack of a soundtrack. Horne then goes to a chronicling of the handling of the film and its first copies in the days right after the shooting. (pgs. 1197ff) And here I must note something counter-productive to his argument. If you count up the times Horne describes screenings of the film in the first 24 hours, you will note something puzzling. Abraham Zapruder saw his film four times in 24 hours. His partner Erwin Schwartz saw it three times. Harry McCormack of the Dallas Morning News saw it twice. So did staff members at Kodak.
Which outlines a problem. If all these people saw the film more than once that soon, they had to have seen the original film. To me, that would have been a memorable experience. If the film was altered in any significant way, why did no one ever say it was altered from what they saw on the first day? I sure would have. And the wait was not until 1975. Because during the legal proceedings against Clay Shaw, Jim Garrison ran off many copies of the film for researchers like Penn Jones living in the Dallas area. Further, at the trial of Shaw, Zapruder was a witness. He was asked more than once if the film shown in court was the original. He replied in the affirmative each time. (Trial transcript of 2/13/69)
Horne realizes this is a problem for him. So he does something that I personally had not seen before. He says that when Life went ahead and raised its offer to Zapruder by an additional hundred thousand dollars, this was not just to purchase motion picture rights in addition to still picture rights. This was really to pay out hush money to Zapruder for him to shut up about the movie being altered. (p. 1242) I don’t quite understand this. First, did Dick Stolley—the Time-Life rep with Zapruder—know the film was going to be altered? And did he transmit these oral instructions to Zapruder? If so, what is the evidence for that? Second, once the agreement was signed, Zapruder was going to get his money as long as he did not sell any picture or movie rights on his own. Which he did not. Was there a clause in the contract that forbade him from even speaking about the film? If there was, Horne does not print it. Third, the true monetary value of Zapruder’s film was in the motion picture rights, which the family made tons of money off of, not the still picture rights. So the large increase in the offer seems quite logical—since Zapruder could have made real money by leasing out those rights.
Now, what Time-Life did with the film is reprehensible. Once they had the motion picture rights, they kept the film almost completely hidden for 11 years. (The exception being Garrison’s subpoena for the Shaw trial.) But that does not necessarily denote Horne’s alteration thesis. Most people know that men like Henry Luce and C.D. Jackson of Time-Life were staunch Cold Warrior types who dreamed of an American Century. And like John McCloy, they did not want to give away evidence that turned the USA into a version of a Banana Republic, and the Warren Commission into a kangaroo court. Especially after Life had been used to incriminate Oswald by putting one of the specious backyard photos on its cover, thereby greasing the skids for the Commission. So any dramatic evidence of conspiracy, which the Z film was and is, was going to stay under wraps with these guys.
Let’s get to what Horne considers his best evidence for Zapruder film alteration. I see this as three main issues:
This first is an issue that Horne has written about previously. (See Murder in Dealey Plaza, (pgs. 311-324) What Horne is saying is that what he thinks was the original was first sent to a CIA photographic plant in Rochester called Hawkeye Works, and then forwarded to the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) in the Washington area. (Horne, p. 1220) The basis for this are 1997 interviews done by the ARRB with two men named Homer McMahon and Ben Hunter—and later interviews with Dino Brugioni. All three men worked at NPIC in 1963. Hunter worked for and with McMahon. McMahon said that a mysterious man named Bill Smith (not his real name) brought the Zapruder film to NPIC. Smith was supposed to be a Secret Service agent and they wanted the CIA to do an analysis of the film. Smith told McMahon that the original film had been flown from Dallas to a Kodak facility in Rochester, New York. It was developed there and he was delivering copies for analysis. (Horne, p. 1223-24) Briefing boards were made of certain enlarged frames.
Again, let us note that the two men were recalling something that happened 34 years previous—which is always tricky business in measuring credibility. Horne buys it all and says he believes that Bill Smith told the truth about the film he carried to NPIC and it being developed in Rochester. Yet, no one knows who Smith really is, and the ARRB never talked to him. But based on this decades-old testimony, Horne now says that “the extant film in the Archives is not a camera original film, but a simulated “original” created with an optical printer at the CIA’s secret film lab in Rochester.” (p. 1226)
Horne now goes to Brugioni and tries to get some tie-in between what Hunter and McMahon described and what Brugioni recalls. (p. 1231) Now recall, the above testimony is well over 30 years past the event. But Brugioni’s case is even worse. He was not interviewed until 2009! Which is almost half a century after the event. Yet Horne shows no trepidation about using the nearly five-decade-old memories of a man who was 87 years old at the time of the recall.
Brugioni first thought his work on Zapruder began on the night of the assassination. He then changed this to the next day. But he had previously told author David Wrone that he began his work on Sunday, the 24th. (p. 1231) He eventually decided that the start date was Saturday. The actual date of his briefing of Director John McCone would help here, but I could not find any written evidence for this exact date.
What is Horne getting at here? He is saying that these are two distinct events and the end product was two different films. Horne says that the Brugioni film was unaltered and the other McMahon-Hunter film was altered. Altered to what, he doesn’t say. But again, this scenario seems to present a problem. To go through everything the analysts did with the film would mean you would have had to study it. If the Brugioni film was unaltered, then why does no one recall any differences between what they saw at NPIC and what was later revealed in the film we have today? I don’t recall this question being addressed by Horne. Secondly, why on earth would the conspirators on this Zapruder film assignment bring both an altered and unaltered version of the film to the same place at the same time where both versions could be plainly seen and analyzed? Again, I did not see this question addressed by the author.
Why is it not posed? Probably because Horne needs this to be another “compartmentalized” operation. If the film Brugioni worked on for McCone is the same one that McMahon and Hunter got from Smith, then his thesis is pretty much gone. The problem is this: Because of the decades-old recall and the indefiniteness of the start and end dates for all three men, that possibility is a distinct one.
Let us now go to the Horne-Lifton “full flush left” (ffl) argument. What this means is that images on the Zapruder film bleed over into the sprocket area and even over it. Lifton believed this to be proof that the film we have is not the original but a copy, which was printed on an optical printer. Since, as he insisted, the Zapruder camera should not be able to produce this effect. Lifton also said that Kodak expert Roland Zavada had not been able to duplicate this effect in his authentication experiments for the ARRB. In fact, in a talk on You Tube for a conference by Jim Fetzer, Lifton actually said that he would take this ffl evidence “to the bank.”
Well, I hope not too many people took that advice. The check would have been returned for “insufficient funds”. First of all, according to Robert Groden, with an optical printer working one frame at a time with a shuttle mechanism, the image would not be allowed to stray outside the sprocket area. (Communication with Groden, 7/21/10) Further, as Tink Thompson pointed out in a post at the Spartacus Educational site in December of 2009, Zavada did produce frames where this effect was exhibited. But Horne and Lifton only consulted a low resolution B & W version of Zavada’s work, which made it difficult to discern. Thompson added in another post on 1/12/10 that the effect is seen clearly in high-resolution color versions.
Horne and Lifton then said that the experiment would have to produce continuous ffl to have accuracy. The problem here is that, for a second time, the pair seem to have ignored evidence to keep their thesis alive. Horne writes that three or four years ago he received a DVD of a film shot by Rick Janowitz. It was shot in Dealey Plaza on a same type camera as Zapruder’s Bell and Howell. (p. 1290) Horne admits that the film does “appear” to show consistent ffl. Yet he then writes that he has no way of authenticating this film. This is an odd argument to make. Janowitz is a research associate of Dave Healey and Scott Myers, whom Horne and Lifton know of. It would have been easy to call one of them, and in turn to be put in contact with Rick. He would have then testified to the terms of the experiment.
Craig Lamson also got hold of the Janowitz test film. He posted the results on the Spartacus site on January 22, 2010. The experiment shows that you can attain consistent ffl with a camera just like Zapruder’s. And the effect is in agreement with what is on the film.
Horne’s third major argument is that a “black patch” was inserted in the back of Kennedy’s head to conceal an exit wound there, and the front head wound is “painted in”. (ppg. 1358-61) The evidence for this is a group of Hollywood editors and restoration professionals who have made very high resolution scans of the film. Horne includes their comments on these scans: “Oh, that’s horrible, that’s just terrible! That’s such a bad fake.” Another is, “”We’re not looking at opticals; we are looking at artwork.”
Again, there are some problems with this. First, as Robert Groden has stated, you can see a hole in the back of Kennedy’s head in the Zapruder film. So whoever put the “black patch” on, did not do a very good job. Second, Kodachrome II, the film used by Zapruder is, for that time, and that gauge, very high quality film. So when one makes enlarged slides or still pictures from it, much of the information is preserved. If this painted on effect is not visible in 35 mm enlargements or 4 x 5 Ektachrome enlargements, then how could it be so obvious on a digitalized scan? With apprehension and curiosity, I await to see the results. It should be interesting.
Much of the rest of this chapter is Horne’s unrestrained and bitter attack on Roland Zavada. Zavada was the Kodak chemist who the company brought out of retirement to conduct the authenticity study of the film. His report concluded the film was genuine. Horne, the man who instigated the test, didn’t like that. So he wades into Zavada, fists flying. I won’t enumerate all the technical points, since to me they are arcane and somewhat boring. And as I say, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But I was put off by the personal insults Horne hurled at Zavada. On page 1283, he is referred to as “pathological.” On page 1292 he is termed an “intentional saboteur.” On page 1293 Horne scores a two-fer, Zavada is said to be “acting as a CIA agent” and also “to ignore or rewrite history.” He then says the man has destroyed his own credibility and should retire from any further involvement in the debate over the film. (p. 1281) This, from a guy who pushed the full flush left argument when, for years, he had evidence that undermined it.
Maybe the film has been altered. Maybe it hasn’t. As I said, I don’t have a dog in this fight. But the highly inflammatory language Horne uses here does not seem to do justice to this debate. (Click here for Zavada’s reply to Horne.)
The last volume of the series has two chapters to it. Chapter 15 is entitled “The Setup-Planning the Texas Trip and the Dallas Motorcade;” chapter 16 is called simply “Inconvenient Truths.” The first deals with the origination and planning of the trip to Texas by the White House; the second with what Horne perceives to be the motivating factors behind the murder of President Kennedy.
This volume is 425 pages long. I took by far the least amount of notes on it than I did for any volume. If you know this material and have studied Kennedy’s presidency, there is very little that is new or enlightening in it. I feel safe in predicting that no one in the near future is going to do better than Jim Douglass at explaining the political circumstances of President Kennedy’s death. And, to his credit, Horne praises JFK and the Unspeakable. But I found very little original in this volume. And I didn’t think Horne brought any new insights into the material that he profusely borrowed. Further, as we shall see, he made two or three questionable choices in the sources he did use.
The first chapter in the last volume is again partly owed to David Lifton. Lifton believes Lyndon Johnson was an integral part of the plot, and that Jerry Bruno’s advance man work on the motorcade route is important to the workings of the conspiracy.
Like John Hankey, Horne feels that somehow John Connally was an agent of the plot. And that he and LBJ somehow lured Kennedy to Texas in the fall of 1963. How President Kennedy could be lured into doing something he did not want to do as major as this, escapes me. But this seems to be the premise of this chapter. Arthur Schlesinger, for one, did not see it that way. He wrote that, as the election approached, Kennedy looked to Johnson for help in Texas. He specifically wanted him to use his influence to help stop the warring factions of the Texas Democratic party. This meant the liberal and conservative wings as represented respectively by Sen. Ralph Yarborough and Governor Connally. (A Thousand Days, p. 1019) Ted Sorenson says much the same thing about the genesis of the Texas excursion: “His trip to Texas…was a journey of reconciliation—to harmonize the warring factions of Texas Democrats, to dispel the myths of the right-wing in one of its strongest citadels, and to broaden the base for his own re-election in 1964.” (Kennedy, p. 843) From these two men, who were both quite close to Kennedy, and worked with him at the White House, JFK wanted to go to Texas for quite practical political reasons.
But Horne sees it as otherwise. And he uses John Connally’s article in Life magazine of 11/24/67 to indict the governor. He goes after Connally for saying that he was not all that eager for Kennedy to go to Texas. (p. 1386) Which considering the fact he was much more moderate than Kennedy, and the ugly incident that had just occurred with Adlai Stevenson being spat upon, is kind of understandable. Horne counters this with a quote from Evelyn Lincoln’s book, Kennedy and Johnson, in which she writes that Kennedy told her that Connally seemed anxious for JFK to go. (ibid) But Horne does not supply the timeline for this quote. The reality as pointed out in our Hanks expose' is that Connally (who had become the point man with the White House on the excursion). (ibid, p. 1387) was reluctant at first, but once persuaded, was eager to get it over and done with as quickly as possible (Jim Reston, The Lone Star: The Life of John Connally pgs. 240-260)
Connally and LBJ are not enough for Horne. He entitles one sub-chapter, “The Crucial role of Congressman Al Thomas in Luring JFK to Texas and Why It Matters.” Let’s be upfront about this: In Best Evidence, Lifton shows pictures of Thomas looking at Johnson after he was sworn in on Air Force One. Thomas appears to wink at LBJ after he has taken the oath. Consequently, this means he is part of the plot. Question: What if he had just shook hands with Johnson? What would that have meant to Horne and Lifton? More or less?In talks with Jim Marrs, he has told me that it is not necessarily true that the choice of the Trade Mart necessitated the dogleg turns in Dealey Plaza. He has told me that all that was necessary was to place a relatively short wood platform on the road and the motorcade could have accessed the freeway from Main Street. (Horne, p. 1397) Connally opposed a parade route. The parade route was specifically organised by Secret Service men Winston Lawson and Forrest Sorrels, who overrode the Dallas authorities they were supposed to plan it with. Horne also makes much of the insistence by Connally of having the luncheon at the Trade Mart instead of the Women’s Center. Yes, the latter could accommodate more people, but Connally’s image as a business-oriented Democrat could be said it was more in keeping with the Trade Mart, Connally loudly voiced security concerns about the final venue's size, referring to the Trade Mart's balcony and 53 entrances. He was also uninformed of the actual parade route (WCR pgs 27-30; Vince Palamara: Survivors Guilt pgs 2-9)
To his credit, Horne uses much of Vince Palamara’s good work on the Secret Service and their incredible negligence in making the assassination possible. For instance, the number of motorcycles was reduced and, weirdly, they were placed to the rear. (p. 1401) And that this decision was later falsely placed on the president. He also mentions the quite curious behavior of Secret Service agent Emory Roberts in ordering Henry Rybka off the fender of the presidential limousine at Love Field. (p. 1410)
But after relaying this good information, Horne does something puzzling. He feels he has to justify why the Secret Service did what it did. So he then includes a weird section in which he uses the work of Sy Hersh and his thoroughly discredited hatchet job of a book, The Dark Side of Camelot. He tries to say that the agents resented covering up for Kennedy’s affairs and this caused “deep-seated feelings of disapproval and disloyalty” among the White House detail. (p. 1421) But not only does Horne use the Hersh book, he also uses the pitiful ABC documentary derived from it, Dangerous World. But even worse, he actually takes both of these seriously. All the way down the line.
Yet, right around when this show was broadcast, Probe did a two part series on this general subject. (Probe, Vol. 4 No. 6, Vol. 5 No. 1) It was entitled “The Posthumous Assassination of John F. Kennedy”. It was one of the most popular and influential essays we ever published. It went directly after both ABC and Hersh. And we exposed Hersh as being the long-term CIA asset he has always been. And we showed the serious flaws in Hersh’s book. But after all that, Horne wades into this dangerous morass and uses the most ridiculous parts of Hersh, e.g., that Kennedy had nude skinny-dipping swim parties at the White House when Jackie was away. It should be noted that some of the show’s charges were so outrageous, that the ARRB investigated them. They found out two interesting things: that one of Hersh’s sources would not testify under oath, and secondly, that he seemed to have been recruited for Hersh by another CIA friendly writer, namely Gus Russo.
Horne’s indiscriminate use of material is capped by his acceptance of one of the most dubious tales in the literature: the assassination eve gathering at the Murchison ranch. Not only does Horne buy it, but he uses the most updated version of it, that is with J. Edgar Hoover and John McCloy in attendance. (p. 1429) As Seamus Coogan noted in his essay on Alex Jones, this is hard to believe since both men were in Washington the next morning. Horne borrows heavily for this from what I think is Harry Livingstone’s worst book, Killing the Truth. For many of the ‘revelations’ in that book, Livingstone used a nameless man whom he simply called ‘the source.’ Uh,huh.
But Horne also uses two other questionable source books in the Texas aspect of his overall conspiracy. They are at about the level of the Livingstone book, maybe worse: Craig Zirbel’s The Texas Connection and Barr McClellan’s Blood, Money, and Power. (The latter is part of Alex Jones’ scripture on the JFK case.) To go through all the problems in using these two books would take an essay about half as long as this one. But to be brief, Horne wants to use Zirbel, because he describes an argument between Kennedy and Johnson about who is going to ride where in the motorcade. Allegedly, Johnson wanted to move Ralph Yarborough into the presidential limousine and have Connally ride with him. This would make no sense according to Schlesinger’s view of the whole enterprise, since the objective was to mend over the moderate vs. liberal split. According to Zirbel this happened on Thursday evening when LBJ entered Kennedy’s suite and has a knock-down, drag-out argument with him. One that was so loud that “the First Lady heard the shouting in the next room.” (Zirbel, pgs. 190-91)
There are three problems with this as I see it. First, it must have been really late at night since the entourage did not arrive at the Fort Worth hotel from Houston until after 11: 15 PM. (See William Manchester, Death of a President, pgs. 88-89) How would this allow for Johnson to get to the Murchison gathering at any kind of decent hour? And if it was that kind of scene, would not people notice him going out the front or back door afterwards? Or did he really go back upstairs to his room, and then sneak out even later?
Second, if this was the reason for the meeting, why would LBJ confront JFK with it directly? Wouldn’t it be more clever and less risky to just pull a last minute switch the next day? After all, according to Horne, the Secret Service is part of the plot. If Kennedy would object the next morning, at least it could be chalked up to a Secret Service error and not to LBJ.
Third, this whole nasty argument takes about a page in Zirbel’s book. Not one sentence is footnoted. But what Zirbel seems to have done is switched a meeting Manchester wrote about on the night before, that is on the 20th, to the 21st. (Manchester, p. 82) I think he failed to footnote it so you would not notice that he had lifted it and switched it from Manchester. Obviously if you switch it to Thursday night, you make it more sinister and it helps explain a conspiratorial problem for the Texas angle. Namely, if Connally and LBJ were part of the plot, why on earth would they allow Connally to be in the direct line of fire, from both the front and back? So by moving it to the night before, Zirbel makes it look like LBJ was trying to prevent that dilemma for his partner, Connally.
Horne hints at what Zirbel did, but he does not spell it out. (Horne, p. 1428) He also says that Manchester was not forthcoming about the details of this confrontation from the night before. But if you compare the two renditions of the two episodes, it is clear that Zirbel has borrowed much of what he writes from Manchester. Manchester wrote that the discussion was about Kennedy’s concern for Yarborough not being slighted. Zirbel expanded this into the seating arrangement argument. But since he does not footnote his version, we don’t know what his basis was for doing that. But most of the other details seem derived from Manchester.
Why Horne would source Barr McClellan’s book Blood, Money and Power is a complete puzzle to me. Seamus Coogan was criticized by George Bailey who runs the “Oswald’s Mother” site about his reference to the McClellan book as the worst in the last 15 years. Bailey said that no, Case Closed was the worst. Since the Posner book was published more than 15 years ago, Bailey was off base. Perhaps Reclaiming History could then qualify. But then, how many people have read that whole book? The McClellan book did get some publicity. This is unfortunate since it really is a very bad book. (One must differentiate between the book and the annex by the late Nathan Darby on the fingerprint evidence.)
One of the problems with it is that there is very little annotation to all of the most sensational charges. For instance, the author states that LBJ went into psychotherapy toward the end of his life and confessed to his doctor that he was behind the murder of President Kennedy. (McClellan, p. 3) What is his source for this? Not the doctor himself, nor any written report. It’s a conversation he said he had with a partner in Johnson’s law firm, Don Thomas. The obvious questions are twofold 1.) Why would the partner reveal this to McClellan? And 2.) Why would LBJ tell the partner? If you can believe it, the author says that Johnson wanted to somehow elevate his reputation out of the Vietnam gutter, and this is why he claimed credit for Kennedy’s murder. (ibid, pgs. 283-84)
The entire text of the book is like this. One gets these sensational disclosures, and then one searches in vain for the backing in the End Notes. We are to believe that LBJ learned about the art of assassination from the attempt on FDR. (ibid p. 39) Thomas told McClellan that he was involved in the famous stealing of the 1948 senatorial election by LBJ from Coke Stevenson. Then you go to the sourcing. This is what it says: “The information came in many ways. Over drinks after work, during the firm parties, at early Saturday morning coffee, and just the daily office talk.” (ibid ,p. 350) Sorry, not good enough.
McClellan later says that his boss, attorney Ed Clark, brokered a deal with Joe Kennedy to put LBJ on the 1960 ticket. When one looks for the sourcing on this, you will find: “The deal was advertised to clients on several occasions…” (ibid, p. 356)
But this is nothing compared to how McClellan deals with the actual facts of the assassination. He says that Clark started the plot going in 1962 by looking for a second sniper—the first of course being Mac Wallace. And he called Leon Jaworksi for help. When one goes to the footnote for this, you will find: “”Despite several solid leads and close ties to Clark, the better course for the present is to withhold judgment pending further research and strong corroborating evidence. At this time our leads are through Jaworksi and Cofield, and our key suspects fit into the Clark modus operandi. The accomplices may never be identified with certainty.” (ibid, p. 358) In other words, he has nothing to back up this assumption.
Later on McClellan writes that he doesn’t know how Wallace met Oswald, but they did meet, “and that they were together on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository when Kennedy was shot.” (ibid, p. 179) There is next to no evidence that Oswald was on the sixth floor that day. But further, the author then makes up a scenario for Wallace meeting Oswald. The problem is that it takes place at a print shop in Dallas in late 1962. Yet, Oswald did not print any flyers at that time! So how could it happen? (ibid, p. 267)
Further, in defiance of the ballistics evidence, the author has Oswald firing at Edwin Walker and killing Tippit. (ibid, pgs. 211, 267) And in further defiance of the puzzling postal records, the author says Oswald ordered the murder weapons. (ibid, p. 267)
Backing up the whole Penn Jones/Madeleine Brown scenario, McClellan goes with the Murchison murder gathering on the eve of the assassination. (ibid, p. 271) During which the infamous ads that ran in the papers were on poster on the walls. And Mr. Clark predicted that very soon LBJ would be the new president. Cheers broke out among the partygoers. So now, even more details have been added to this ever-evolving story about the gathering.
McClellan says he has found out how Clark was paid for the operation. (p. 234) To say his evidence is unconvincing is to give it too much credit. He then says that although Mac Wallace died in a car accident, he was actually killed by people associated with Clark. (p. 242) This is his evidence: “The medical report shows extensive physical injuries that are not consistent with the damages to the auto.” (ibid, p. 362) This is weird because McClellan says that Wallace was in a weakened state by attempted carbon monoxide poisoning, and this is what caused the accident. How could that attempted poisoning cause “extensive physical injuries”.
Maybe someday someone will write a convincing and scholarly book on Johnson’s involvement in the JFK murder. But these two fall far short of that mark. And Horne should not have used them, since by doing so he implicitly recommends them. They are not worth recommending. Not by a longshot. In fact, once analyzed, they are the kinds of books that can be used to caricature researchers.
The last chapter in the book is titled “Inconvenient Truths.” In it, Horne tries to…well…it is hard to say what he is trying to do. I think he is trying to explain why the parts of the government turned on Kennedy. Specifically, the Pentagon, J. Edgar Hoover, and parts of the CIA—he specifically names James Angleton, David Phillip, Dave Morales, and Ed Lansdale as being in on the plot. (pgs. 1628-47) And he tries to make it clear that his version is not just a Texas based one. For him, LBJ and Hoover are enablers. (p. 1800)
In this last chapter, I think Horne was trying to pull off what Jim Douglass did so memorably in his fine book, JFK and The Unspeakable. That is, he tries to define what made Kennedy a marked man in the eyes of some. Considering this section is almost 300 pages long and JFK and the Unspeakable is 393 pages of text, Horne sure had the space to do it in. In my opinion, he doesn’t even come close. As compared to Douglass’ original, smooth, and pungent approach, I thought much of Horne’s analysis was rather trite, dull, and in some places, coarse. For example, apparently still under the influence of Hersh’s trashy book, he writes that Hoover was a closeted homosexual who prosecuted gays yet engaged in “bizarre sex with other men in private that would have destroyed his career immediately if it had become publicly known. He despised John F. Kennedy first of all simply because Jack Kennedy was somewhat of a satyr, and loved being with women.” (p. 1496) Like many things in the book, this is not footnoted. Having read most of the important bios of Hoover, I don’t recall reading this in any of the four standards (by Powers, Theoharis, Gentry and Summers). I don’t even recall it in Tony Summers’ book, which actually concentrates on Hoover’s sex life. Now Horne inserts this questionable data in his text, yet I could not find any place where he mentions Oswald’s likely status as an FBI informant as a real reason for Hoover’s willingness to cooperate in the cover-up.
In this long last inchoate section, Horne relies almost completely on John Newman for his Vietnam material, even though we now have a small shelf of books on this issue, including books by David Kaiser and Howard Jones. He spends an inordinate amount of space on the Missile Crisis, and in my view, he slights the Bay of Pigs episode. At one point he actually says that JFK seemed “indecisive and unresponsive” during the Bay of Pigs. (p. 1534) I believe this is wrong in and of itself, but beyond that, it does not incorporate the fact that Kennedy did not fully understand what the CIA was doing to him until after the fact. Further, I actually believe that he never really understood that, in fact, if the invasion had succeeded, the Agency was not going to let the Kennedy Cubans take power in a new Cuba. In his discussion of the famous Harry Truman anti-CIA editorial of December 1963, Horne was unaware of the new bombshell revelations about Allen Dulles’ visit to Truman while he was on the Warren Commission. The CIA Director actually tried to get him to retract the essay.
Some of the elements that Horne throws in here as motivations for the conspiracy are just, well, kind of weird. I mean the Edward Teller-Robert Oppenheimer dispute over atomic energy? Never heard of that one in any JFK book. But somehow, Horne puts it in here. (p. 1680) Kennedy’s directive to seek out cooperation with the Russians on a voyage to the moon? Horne throws that in the mixer also. (p. 1681) And some of the political commentators he uses on the case are just as unusual. Whoever thought that we would see Noam Chomsky quoted in a pro-conspiracy book? Does Gary Hart strike one as being a profound thinker on the gestalt of the JFK case? Well, Horne seems to think so. (pgs. 1672-74)
Then there are the rather jarring and simplistic errors, which betray the author’s need for both a proofreader and an editor. He calls Gaeton Fonzi’s wonderful and invaluable book about the HSCA, The Final Investigation. The author of the quasi-official history of the Bay of Pigs operation is called Dryden, when his last name is Wyden. The legendary CBS journalist—who George Clooney made a whole movie about—becomes William Morrow. And he ends, rather predictably, with an unwarranted slam at the Kennedy family. (p. 1767) The evidence of this last hodge-podge chapter shows that Horne’s reach exceeded his grasp.
I have been at pains to show what was valuable in this book. And there is much of value, if you are willing to spend a lot of time sifting through five volumes. How many people are willing to do so? After reading this and Reclaiming History, I think there is a message in the nearly 4,500 total pages. No one should ever write another book on this case as long as these. The length of the Bugliosi book was meant to be intimidating. I mean how could a book that long not be valuable? With Horne, I think he desired to spill out almost everything he felt and knew about the JFK case into one book. Unfortunately, that resulted in a rather unorganized and undisciplined approach—an approach that left out the most important person: the reader.
At the Actor’s Studio in New York there is a famous adage: “Bring it down,” meaning that, the less work expended conveying a thought or emotion, the better. Because, many times, more is not better. It’s just more.
If Inside the ARRB had been half as long, it might have been twice as good.
The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcolm X
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Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and
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Enemy of the Truth: Myths, Forensics
and the Kennedy Assassination
Forensics can be a complicated subject, yet Fiester provides the reader with easily understood, accurate, information. Enemy of the Truth: Myths, Forensics and the Kennedy Assassination is so comprehensive in its approach, this work should be used in the instruction of all new crime scene investigators nationwide. William LeBlanc, CFCSI