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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, Vol. 2, by Doug Horne
Reviewed by James DiEugenio
(Jim DiEugenio's review of Volume 2 is the second installment of CTKA's book-by-book review of Douglas Horne's five-volume set Inside the ARRB. Later contributions by Dr. David Mantik, Gary Aguilar and Jim DiEugenio will complete the critique of this mammoth series.)
The second volume of Doug Horne's Inside the ARRB ostensibly deals with the following topics: a second section on autopsy photography, a very long section on the x-rays (about 200 pages), interviews with the morticians from Joseph Gawler's Sons, and Horne's report on the ARRB interviews with Parkland Hospital staff. But as we shall see, it actually deals with a lot more than that. For it is here where Horne begins to reveal his revisions to David Lifton's Best Evidence concerning the skullduggery he believes happened at Bethesda before the autopsy.
Volume II picks up with a continuance of Horne's discussion of what he perceives as Robert Knudsen's role in autopsy photography. As I noted at the end of my review of Volume I, Horne and I have a disagreement about just what that role was. Horne believes Knudsen took a second set of pictures. I believe that whatever Knudsen's role was, it is mysterious and unproven. But Horne does good work in reviewing just how many different photographic views were actually taken of Kennedy's body and what is missing from the collection today.
He also sticks with Knudsen's friend and professional colleague Joe O'Donnell as a witness for Knudsen taking a second set of autopsy photos. (See, for example, pgs. 285-86) As I noted in my previous installment, the deceased O'Donnell has some real credibility problems. But in spite of that, in this volume, Horne uses and then extends him. He is now a witness to Zapruder film alteration. This deserves some elaboration.
O'Donnell stated that he showed Jackie Kennedy the Zapruder film a few weeks after the assassination. (Horne, p. 287) The two were in the projection room alone. Jackie was unsettled by the sight of the head shot. She told him she never wanted to see it again. O'Donnell took this to mean she wanted it excised from the film. He then said he cut out about ten feet from the film. (ibid)
This tale poses further problems for O'Donnell as a witness. First, as we shall later see – according to Horne – he is altering the film a second time. Because in his discussion in Volume 4, Horne believes the film was altered shortly after the assassination at a CIA photographic center. Yet O'Donnell here is talking about a few weeks afterwards in Washington. Secondly, O'Donnell says that he showed the widow an original version, not a copy. (ibid) But he says this film was in 16 mm format. The Zapruder film was shot in regular 8 mm. So how could this be an original? Third, if O'Donnell actually cut about ten feet out of this film, then you have some real statistical problems. Thirty seconds of 16 mm film is about 18 feet long. Considering the fact that the Zapruder film is less than thirty seconds long, the man chopped off more than half the film. How could any editor, no matter how gifted, put together a film with any continuity after eliminating over half the sequence?
But when one analyzes it, this story is even more untenable. O'Donnell says that Jackie told him she did not want to see the head shot again. The actual head explosion takes only a matter of several frames. So why did O'Donnell cut out over half the film? Further, has anyone ever reported seeing a 16 mm version of the Zapruder film without the head explosion? This all seems not just untenable, but rather wild. Yet Horne actually takes the time to consider O'Donnell seriously. In fact, he composes a topic heading (not included in his Table of Contents) entitled "Analysis of the O'Donnell Interviews" (See p. 287). For all the reasons I have noted here and in Part One of my review, I would have just discarded the man as a witness. Horne does not. This may owe to Horne's desire to give Knudsen his previously mentioned secret photographic assignment. Therefore he uses O'Donnell, even with all his credibility problems.
There is another indication of Horne's strong desire to keep Knudsen's "second set of photos" secret assignment. Toward the end of Volume I Horne made his first notable mentions of Knudsen and O'Donnell. (See pgs. 252-254.) But there, he also mentions Dr. Randy Robertson. He states that it was Robertson who first brought O'Donnell to the Board's attention. Robertson, a board certified radiologist, has done some interesting work on the Kennedy autopsy. So when he heard that O'Donnell was in his vicinity, he talked to him. After listening to his unusual statements about Knudsen's photographs of the autopsy, Robertson then called Knudsen's widow, Gloria. After this, he relayed some of this information to the Board so they would follow up on it. In Volume I, Horne described his own conversations with the widowed Gloria Knudsen. Through information garnered from her, Horne wrote that 1.) Randy told her that he was the only person with access to the JFK medical materials 2.) Randy found Gloria through the ARRB 3.) Robertson challenged the woman on whether or not her husband had actually taken autopsy photographs.
I have the good fortune of knowing Randy Robertson. As do several people in the JFK research community. When I read the above, I decided to get in contact with him. Why? Because it just does not sound like him. To the people who know him, Randy is the epitome of the well-mannered southern gentleman.
In my conversation with him he said he had just one phone call with Gloria. Since he had been at the National Archives, he sent her some autopsy materials. He discussed nothing of substance with her at all. And he represented himself as no one except who he was i.e. a board certified radiologist who had seen the autopsy materials. He found out about her through O'Donnell and the ARRB declassified documents. In their brief call, he did not challenge any specific claims of her husband. In fact, at the time, he did not even know that Knudsen claimed to have taken any autopsy photographs. (Communication with Robertson, 5/31/10)
But further, Randy told me that Horne did not interview him for his book. Which is odd. To most people, what Knudsen's widow said about Robertson would be perceived as rather derogatory. After all, the first two statements are lies, and the third is a direct challenge to her dead husband's credibility. As I noted, it would also seem to be out of character to anyone who knows the man. Consequently, as a matter of fairness, one would extend Randy the courtesy of a conversation. And then one would at least state his denials in a footnote at the bottom of the page. According to Randy, Horne didn't do the former, so he couldn't do the latter.
But there is also an evidentiary issue here. For if Randy is accurate about his version of the call, then it touches on the credibility of Knudsen's widow. Which, apparently, is an issue that Horne does not want to surface.
In the first part of this review, I noted Horne's strong allegiance to Best Evidence. That characteristic is manifest through Volume II. For me, one of the most difficult things to accept about Lifton's book is his explanation for the apparent intactness of the rear skull in the back of the head photos. In fact, I recall having an argument with another fan of Best Evidence in Dallas at the ASK Symposium in 1993. The argument consisted of whether or not Lifton said that these dubious photos were achieved through posing and altering of the skull in order to conceal the gaping hole beneath, or whether they were done by photographic alteration. The fan said that Lifton was not certain on this issue. I said that I recalled he was pretty close to being that. It turned out I was right. In a conversation Lifton had with HSCA investigator Andy Purdy, Lifton agrees that he believed that "somebody rebuilt the back of the head" before photography. (Best Evidence, p. 560) Later on, in discussing the findings of the HSCA, Lifton concurs with their verdict i.e. that the x-rays and photos of Kennedy were not altered and that they represented JFK. (ibid, p. 659)
The work of others in the interim makes this statement dubious today. By others, I mean Robert Groden, Gary Aguilar, David Mantik and Milicent Cranor. (Cranor knows more about the medical evidence – and in finer detail – than anyone I have ever encountered.) We will see why later, when Horne discusses the work of David Mantik on the skull x-rays. But to be brief, it seems to me hard to believe that neither set of images were altered. Yet Horne comes down on the Best Evidence side with the photographs. He says they were not altered. (Horne, p. 290) To be exact, he writes that "I believe the autopsy photographs showing the back-of-the-head to be intact are not photographic alterations, but instead represent fraudulent (but authentic) images showing the result of major manipulation and relocation of scalp by the pathologists after the autopsy ... ." (ibid) When one looks at these pictures, this is a difficult hypothesis to maintain. For, as Cyril Wecht has said, it would take more than one expert surgeon hours to perform such faultless reconstructive surgery. And where were they that night? Who was such a highly skilled reconstructive surgeon at Bethesda? No one that I can see. Horne's thesis seems to be that the autopsy pathologists somehow arranged what was left of Kennedy's multi-fractured – even fragmented – skull, and then seamlessly fit the torn scalp over that rebuilt mess. Then Knudsen shot the pictures. To me, and many others, the easier and more sensible process would have been to insert a matched matte over certain parts of the skull. This is what Robert Groden has argued for in such books as High Treason.
But further, in this volume, Horne now says that Knudsen was picked for this job by Robert Kennedy! What is the evidence the author lists for this? As far as I could discern it's this: Knudsen's son told the ARRB staffers that his father was close to both RFK and JFK. (Horne, p. 297) And because of that, Horne now says that somehow RFK was in on the cover-up of his own brother's murder. The author is using the hearsay testimony of both O'Donnell and Knudsen's surviving family for a lot of mileage.
One of the sub-sections in the first chapter of this volume is entitled "Vincent Madonia and Autopsy Photography" (p. 292) Madonia was involved in the transfer of photographs from the Secret Service to Evelyn Lincoln at the White House. He was also mentioned by Knudsen in his HSCA testimony as one of those he encountered in the processing of pictures at Anacostia. (ibid)
Madonia told the ARRB that there was a Secret Service/White House processing facility at Anacostia. Outside of that, I thought his testimony was rather weak and indefinite. He could not be specific about what autopsy photographs he developed, since he said he developed hundreds of pictures of all kinds that weekend. (p. 296) All he could recall was that President Kennedy looked "pretty beat up". (p. 294) In fact, he made a point about not being too curious about the pictures, because he felt that "the less I know about it, the better." (ibid) Madonia was not even positive about Knudsen being there, or if he was, when he saw him. (p. 293) All in all, I just didn't think there was a heck of a lot of value in what he said.
Imagine my surprise when, about forty pages later, Madonia now constitutes evidence "that a compartmented operation was taking place" concerning the autopsy pictures. Horne now postulates that Madonia was unwittingly part of a "culling" operation. The aim of which was to delete the pictures taken early and include the ones taken later, that is, the reconstructed ones shot by Knudsen. (p. 331)
When I read this, my eyebrows arched. For two reasons. First, as I wrote above, Madonia's statements are rather anodyne, nebulous, and non-distinctive. Second, Horne did not mention anything about such a "culling" operation when he first discussed Madonia. So, using my notes, I went back and reread this section to see how I had missed all of this rather important material.
As far as I can deduce, this is what Horne uses to say that Madonia is part of a "compartmented culling operation": Madonia told the ARRB that 'agents did come back for some photos which "may have been about the autopsy" during subsequent weeks, during a couple of subsequent visits. Other than the subsequent visits having taken place, he could not remember any specific details about the work done.' (p. 294. Italics added.) To be brief but direct: I find this testimony rather unconvincing for the uses that the author makes of it.
But it brings up an important criticism of Inside the ARRB. As John Costella has pointed out, the organizational guides to the book make it difficult to go back and locate details like the above. The entire set of books is 1,807 pages long. Yet no individual Table of Contents is over a half page in length. This particular volume is over 400 pages long. Horne lists four chapters in his Table of Contents. This averages out to one heading per hundred pages. Yet, as I noted above, Horne does divide his chapters into sub-chapters. Why did he not list these in his Table of Contents? I don' t understand why this was not done, simply as an organizational guide for the reader.
The lack of an upfront descriptive guide for a very long work would be ameliorated if there were an overall or individual volume index. There are neither. As Costella noted, this is also hard to comprehend. Maybe Horne didn't have the money to pay an indexer. But the software exists today with which you can arrange your own index. In fact, John Armstrong did just that with his important work Harvey and Lee. That book has 983 pages of text. With such skimpy Contents pages, and with no indexing of any kind, it is quite hard to locate specific points. Especially when they are strung across five volumes.
This is unfortunate. Because whatever one thinks of Inside the ARRB, Horne uses a lot of valuable and interesting primary source material of many types. Therefore, the book could have been quite useful as a reference work. But how can one use it as such if it is so hard to locate the data inside? But secondly, Horne sometimes refers to matters he previously noted. But in so doing he often fails to use page references – which was the case in this Madonia instance. I found the questionable Madonia reference because I take copious and paginated notes. I do that for these reviews. But who else does? No one that I know. Again, Horne was not served well by whoever was advising him in this very long travail.
Saundra Spencer is a more interesting witness than Madonia. She also worked at Anacostia. She recalled seeing a photo of a hole in the rear of Kennedy's skull. Which, of course, is not there today. (p. 302) She also said she saw a full-length picture of the body, which is also absent. (p. 314)And, as we saw in Volume I, was standard practice. But Spencer also presents some problems as a witness. Her description of the anterior neck wound is unlike what anyone recalls, a clean pristine wound like a thumb puncture. (p. 316) Horne is honest enough to note that the famous paper discrepancy that she noted may not be as clear-cut as some have stated. (Horne, p. 330) Spencer brought some paper with her that she had used on the job to compare with the autopsy photos in existence. She said the paper used in the extant photos was different. When Horne took both samples to Kodak, they said the Kodak logos and watermark on the Spencer paper, though a bit darker, were actually the same size. And the experts there had no reason to believe that these autopsy photos were not developed at Anacostia. (ibid)
In this volume, Horne reviews the testimony of the pathologists and tries to get specific about what autopsy photographs are not in existence today: the photo of the bruise of the chest cavity, a photo of the inside of the skull, and one of the interior of the thorax. (pgs 335-340, 373-74) These are all crucial photos because they depict places where one can see bullet impacts. And as the ARRB was told, Stringer taught his students to do three exposures of these areas. Today we have none.
From here, Horne goes into a discussion of what the panel appointed by Attorney General Ramsey Clark did in its review of the medical evidence in February of 1968. This panel met for only a short period of time, less than a week. (p. 344) Yet, its findings were held back from the public until January 16th, 1969! Yep, for about ten months. Ramsey Clark and the Justice Department decided to announce the findings right on the eve of the Clay Shaw trial. This was part of the huge effort waged by Washington and aimed at 1.) Burying the Garrison investigation in a tidal wave of propaganda, and 2.) Capsizing his inquiry by subversion.
As most observers know, the Clark Panel was headed by pathologist Russell Fisher, and is sometimes called the Fisher Panel. Fisher moved the entrance wound in the rear skull up four inches into the cowlick area from its original location at the external occipital protuberance (EOP). Horne tells of a related problem encountered by the ARRB. That body hired three experts to look at the x-rays. None of them could find an entrance wound at that point. (p. 346)
Horne also notes that Humes slightly altered his own location for the EOP entrance for the HSCA. For the HSCA he moved his entrance wound from the right and slightly above the EOP to below it. (p.347) But, of course, this was only a prelude to what the HSCA did to Humes. They eventually made him move the wound from the EOP to where the HSCA Panel wanted it, up into Fisher's cowlick area. Horne notes that Dr. Charles Petty of the HSCA Panel later revealed that Humes was coerced into doing this. (p. 355) This kind of dancing around of wound locations over decades does not happen in real life. And it is all very interesting material to go over, for it poses what is today one of the weakest parts of the official story. Namely, how and why did this shift occur? But again, in my view, Horne overplays his cards. Under the influence of Best Evidence, this is how far he pushes the issue in posing a hypothetical question for pathologist Jim Humes: "Dr. Humes, did you participate in a cover up of the medical evidence by manipulating loose scalp to cover an exit defect in the posterior skull, and by simulating a higher entry wound (more consistent with being shot from the Book Depository) by puncturing the scalp in the cowlick area." (p. 364) To which I am sure Humes would have readily broken down, started weeping, and admitted to such culpability.
Horne closes his section on the autopsy photographs with something which, for me, is even wilder. So much so that I actually find it hard to write about it. So I will deal with it briefly just to get it out of the way. By using the mention of the word incision by a pathologist, the questionable testimony of Dennis David about the late Bruce Pitzer, and the equally questionable testimony of Joe O'Donnell about Robert Knudsen, Horne stitches together something about an "incised wound" being present on the autopsy photos. This is how much he wants to revive Best Evidence. (pgs. 382-84) He then says that Robert Kennedy ordered Knudsen to take these shots and that somehow those photos got to Pitzer. He couches this all with Lamar Waldron type qualifiers like "it is just possible" and "then it would be theoretically have been possible" etc. Why he included it at all mystifies me.
Did Horne have an editor? Someone who knew him well and who he trusted would get tough with him when necessary? Unfortunately, it does not appear that he did.
From here, Volume II proceeds to a long discussion of the autopsy x-rays. Horne begins by saying that there were officially 14 x-rays taken of President Kennedy. (p. 389) He then brings up an interesting point. The official story maintains that the x-rays were taken the evening of the 22nd at Bethesda. Yet the Harper fragment – a rather large piece of what most observers believe to be occipital bone – did not arrive in Washington for a couple of days after that. (pgs. 393-94) So can these x-rays be genuine as they appear to show an intact back of the skull? (According to a man Horne holds in high esteem, this may be possible since David Mantik says the depictions are not fully intact. See Murder in Dealey Plaza, edited by James Fetzer, pgs. 227, 281) The absence of the Harper fragment also touches on the question of the photographs, which show a perfectly intact posterior skull also. (Horne, p. 394)
From here, Horne proceeds to discuss at extreme length the ARRB depositions of Ed Reed, Jerrol Custer, and the HSCA testimony of John Ebersole. Custer was the assistant to Ebersole, who maintained he was Acting Chief of radiology at Bethesda. Reed was a student of Custer at the time.
Horne begins by quoting Ebersole saying that someone from Dallas had called and said that there had been an exit wound of the neck that had been stitched up. Further, that he had seen such a sutured wound when Kennedy's body was placed on the table. (p. 399) This is obviously faulty information that Ebersole gave the HSCA. As far as I know, no one else is on record as saying this, and I can recall no author ever using this information to prove any point. But not only does Horne use it, he goes on for two pages about it. Since it is clearly an outlier, I would not have used this particular testimony for anything. Yet Horne uses it to say that Dallas did communicate with Bethesda. Yet that can be established by other testimony – and Horne admits this. (p. 400)
His second purpose in using it is to say that this was part of the cover up in process at the time to conceal an anterior throat wound. To which I reply: If so, it wasn't very smart or effective was it? Because no one has ever used this singular information to conceal that since. And, of course, Horne then uses this orphaned story to further the thesis of his friend David Lifton. He writes the following in that regard: "I conclude that David Lifton was correct when he speculated in Best Evidence that conspirators had retrieved the bullet from a frontal shot that impacted the anterior neck just below the larynx to the right of the midline, by probing deep inside the tracheostomy incision ... with forceps, and that in doing so they had greatly enlarged the wound ... Suturing the enlarged tracheostomy may have been an attempt to disguise the amount of damage inflicted by the clandestine probing." (Ibid)
How "clandestine" can clandestine be? No one saw or did the suturing in Dallas, and no one saw it except Ebersole in Bethesda. In further undermining this Liftonesque "clandestine" thesis, the wide throat wound is quite obvious in the extant photos. So the clandestine operation hid nothing. Somehow, like with O'Donnell, Horne just can't admit that Ebersole was either wrong, or he relayed some misinformation. Anything that supports Best Evidence, no matter how weakly substantiated, is somehow in bounds.
From here, in his next few pages, Horne now proposes something that I think is even wilder than the above (pgs. 401-08). What he seems to be saying there is this: What most everyone thought were late arriving bone chips from Dallas that night ... well ... they weren't really from Dallas. Horne clearly implies that what was happening was that the Secret Service was stage-managing an illusion worthy of the likes of Genet and Balanchine. In reality, these pieces of skull matter were actually part of the pre-autopsy surgery done somewhere nearby, and the Secret Service was somehow concealing all this and saying the chips came in from Texas.
What is the evidence that such a rather complex, bizarre scenario was occurring? From what I can see it is this: In referring to a rear skull wound before the Warren Commission, Secret Service agent Roy Kellerman used the phrase that this "skull part was removed". (p. 403) To Horne, Kellerman gave the pre-autopsy plot away with the use of the word "removed" instead of using the word "missing". The author then combines that one-word confession with the "surgery to the head area" hearsay that is in the Sibert-O'Neill report. And from what I can discern, that is the foundation for a fantastic plot that eluded so many for so long. (Horne goes into this aspect more a bit later in the volume. But it is not at all clear that what he is discussing at that point is the same pre-autopsy surgery instance discussed here.)
At this point, the author goes into his long, detailed summary and analysis of the ARRB depositions of both Reed and Custer. Reed says that he recalled taking two skull x-rays (p. 429). When in fact there are three in existence today. Further, Reed told Lifton that the skull exit was posterior parietal in location. But to the ARRB, he said this wound was anterior parietal. (p. 424) This is a quite significant divergence. But further, Reed went on to say that he did not see any wounds in the back of Kennedy's head and the scalp was intact. (ibid) He further added that he precisely recalled the time distance between the lateral and anterior-posterior skull x-rays since he had them developed on his own. (p. 432) Custer contested this later.(p. 432) Reed also said there were eight x-rays taken of Kennedy's extremities. Yet there are four in existence today. (p. 433) At one point, when speaking about a technical matter concerning x-ray film exposures, Horne says that Reed went "on and on here, making no sense whatsoever." (p. 428) Reed also said that, unlike anyone else, he saw the famous and mysterious 6.5 mm fragment on the skull x-ray that night! (p. 446) This is the disk shaped bright object at the rear of the skull table that, today, anyone can notice. Yet, the doctors, FBI agents, and other radiologists did not note that evening. Yet somehow Reed did. And somehow he did not alert anyone to this enormously important observation.
But beyond the above, there are things in Reed's deposition that Horne does not mention. Reed told Jeremy Gunn that he recalled being ordered to set up a catheter room for President Johnson since he had had a heart attack. (ARRB deposition, p. 17) He was not sure about when the autopsy ended. It may have been at 1:00 AM, or it may have been at 10:00 PM. (ibid p. 39) And Reed was even worse at when the body was first placed on the table. He says it was between 4-4:30 PM. This is way too early for even the earliest estimates. (ibid p. 76) And what makes all the above a bit worse is the fact that when Gunn asked Reed to characterize his memory of the autopsy events, he rated it at "about 95% correct." (Horne, p. 423)
Now, even leaving some of the above items out, Horne still states in several ways that Reed left something to be desired as a witness. For instance, Reed said he had briefly read Ebersole's deposition when it was first written. Horne writes that when he heard this he "began to get a sinking feeling." (Horne, p. 423) Why? It was highly improbable since Ebersole's HSCA deposition was classified and not declassified until 1993. (ibid) Horne further adds that Reed was "not the kind of witness you want to have before you at a neutral, fact-finding deposition ..." (ibid)
In the face of the above, the reader may be surprised to learn that the author then uses Reed as his prime witness to Jim Humes eliminating the evidence of a frontal shot to Kennedy's head. (p. 437) During his ARRB testimony, Reed described Humes as taking out a mechanical saw and applying it to Kennedy's forehead. He mentioned it only in passing and Jeremy Gunn made nothing of it. But Horne combines this with the testimony of mortician Tom Robinson and Dr. Boswell's ARRB drawing to postulate this other part of his Best Evidence revision. Let me describe how he uses Robinson and Boswell.
At the beginning of Volume I, Horne goes through what he considers are his personal highlights of the Gunn/Horne medical review for the ARRB. One of these is a diagram by Dr. Boswell of how he remembered Kennedy's head wound. This was a very large wound that extended from the back of the skull far forward to near the forehead. As per Tom Robinson of Gawler's mortuary, Horne quotes him as saying he saw some sawing also. (p. 613) Robinson also told the ARRB that he thought the damage to the top of the skull was caused by the pathologists. (p. 630) From this, Horne stitches together his revival and revision of Lifton's original "pre-autopsy surgery to the head" theory.
He then goes on to explain why this was necessary. He gives three reasons, all of them reminiscent of Best Evidence. First, to remove bullet fragments from the brain that would reveal the existence of a crossfire in Dealey Plaza. Second, to change the appearance of an exit wound in the rear of the skull to more of a blowout wound toward the front of the head indicating a shot from the rear. Third, to remove brain tissue containing a track from front to back. (p. 630)
In my review of Volume I, I mentioned that one of my problems with Best Evidence was the fact that Lifton would take a piece of rather inconclusive evidence and use it to launch into a rather hyper-dramatic conspiratorial scenario that eliminated other alternatives. In my view, Horne does the same thing. For instance, as Custer and others have stated, the condition of Kennedy's skull when it arrived at Bethesda was that parts of it were so multi-fractured that it was fragmented. Custer once used the word "egg-shells" to describe how fragile and brittle the condition was. (Horne, pgs. 456, 602-13) If this were so, then as the body arrived and as the pathologists handled the skull, would it not then fall apart as they progressed? And therefore, is it not possible that what Boswell drew-which is another outlier that Horne likes to use – was his memory of this wound later on?
Second, if this sawing was part of a covert operation that the military honchos told Humes to perform, why on earth would they let people like Reed and Robinson see it? And why would they then let Humes talk about it to the Warren Commission, which he did? Third, if the objective was to eliminate the wound to the temple, then why did Robinson still see this wound later? (p. 599)
Further, like Lifton, Horne gets so involved building these Seven Days in May type plots, that he doesn't seem to notice when they don't jibe with the results of what actually happened. For instance, why would it be necessary to remove the evidence of a crossfire from Kennedy's brain when Horne writes as fact that the brain in evidence is not Kennedy's?
As per altering the existence of an exit wound to the rear, the problem here is that too many witnesses saw such a wound in Dallas. The drawing in Josiah Thompson's Six Seconds In Dallas by Dr. Robert McClelland was something that would forever haunt the official story. (See Thompson, p. 107) Thompson describes McClelland's memory of this wound as such: "McClelland is quite clearly describing an impact on the right side of the head that blasted backward, springing open the parietal and occipital bones and driving out a mass of brain tissue." (ibid) Thompson then linked McClelland's testimony to that of others in Dallas to show that this was clearly what most of the Parkland Hospital witnesses recalled: an avulsive, exit wound to the rear of the skull. Also, if the objective of the military brass in attendance was to alter this exit appearance, why did so many of those witnesses say they saw something pretty much the same as was seen in Dallas? As I noted in my review of Volume I, Gary Aguilar has proven this was the case. Is it not then more logical and deductive to postulate that the picture of the rear skull is in fact an alteration done by photography?
Clearly, what Horne is describing in this whole pre-autopsy wound alteration scenario is similar, but not the same, as what Lifton described in Best Evidence. But as I noted in Part One of this review, Lifton seemed to say that the pre-autopsy cutting took place at a different location, not at Bethesda. Horne says that it took place at Bethesda. But to show just how wedded to Best Evidence Horne is, please note the following ( I actually had to read this part over twice). If the pre-autopsy surgery was done at Bethesda, then this would seem to bring into serious doubt another very controversial aspect of Lifton's theory. Namely, the body-snatching from one casket to another. As Roger Feinman has noted in Between the Signal and the Noise, Lifton tried to minimize alternative ways that people could have seen a different casket both upon arrival and inside the morgue. (See here.) For instance, there was a decoy ambulance, the first casket Kennedy was in was damaged, and there was another body ready for burial in the building. But in spite of all this, Horne still wants to insist on this casket-snatching plot. Even though his revision renders it unnecessary! So how does he preserve Lifton in that regard? Let me quote the author: "...the alterations were attempted elsewhere, in a very hurried and inexpert manner – probably in the forward luggage compartment of Air Force One on the ground at Love Field, prior to takeoff..." (Horne, p. 636) This idea – of alterations on Air Force One – has been so discredited by so many different authors that it actually unsettled me when I read it. In his allegiance to Best Evidence, Horne just disregards the serious problems with this concept.
And since I am describing Horne's reliance on Best Evidence, I should note another parallel: Horne also insists that Kennedy's corpse arrived at Bethesda in a bodybag. As Feinman has pointed out, no one ever really made a point of this until the testimony of Paul O'Connor for the HSCA. (See Best Evidence p. 595) Lifton then used this to say that the corpse was "intercepted". Now, as other witnesses noted – and Horne notes elsewhere-the body was wrapped in sheets. But there was a clear plastic liner that the corpse was lying on. (Lifton, ibid) Now what Horne does not note, and neither did Lifton as I recall, was that between the time Kennedy was shot in 1963 and the beginning of the HSCA in 1976, a rather significant historical event happened. Namely the Vietnam War. For a period of about ten years, the American public was inundated, saturated, overwhelmed, by pictures, video, and reports of the so-called Living Room War. One of the most memorable phrases and images was of soldiers being brought home in "bodybags". The phrase was repeated so many thousands of times that it became epitomic of that war-almost a part of America's collective unconscious of the time period. But somehow Lifton and Horne leave all this psychological conditioning and how it can influence memory out of their works. Yet to me, it seems of the greatest importance as to how this angle first surfaced when it did.
Horne goes on at almost stultifying length detailing the testimony of Jerrol Custer. How long does he spend on this? I counted: its 84 pages.
There are some things of value here. For instance, Custer said that Ebersole tore a page out of the Duty Log book (Horne, pgs. 490-91) Custer said he saw a large fragment fall out of Kennedy's back. (p. 475) According to Custer, Finck relayed an order from the gallery telling Humes and Boswell to stop a certain procedure. (p. 477) Unlike Reed, Custer says he did 5 skull x-rays and he feels some are missing today. (p. 525) Custer also felt that Ebersole was not honest about his actual position at Bethesda, or the number of people in the morgue that night. According to Custer, Ebersole was not an administrator but an on call resident radiologist. (p. 537) Ebersole never carried any cassettes to be x-rayed, since he never left the morgue. As per the number of people in the morgue, Custer says Ebersole greatly underestimated this number to the HSCA. In response to looking at Ebersole's HSCA testimony on this point, Custer commented: "Oh, come on. It was pure mayhem. The gallery was completely full ... there was definitely more than 15 people in the morgue at that time. The commotion was astronomical ... .he was questioned by the HSCA panel to the fact , were there any controlling factors in the gallery that controlled the morgue-the morgue procedure at the time? "No, there were not." Come on. There were two men that constantly stood up, directed which way things would go." (p. 537-38)
As Horne notes, Custer is not a trained radiologist. But Horne has him commenting on the anterior-posterior skull x-rays at length – for 6 pages. He then has Custer go on about the lateral x-rays for 12 pages. And the other body x-rays for another 6 pages. To me, there is no way that the testimony of Custer merited this almost embarrassing length. Horne could have dealt with all the important matters in his interviews and depositions in at least half the length. That way his book would have been shorter and easier to read. Someone needed to tell the author: at times, less is more.
It is an oddity of this volume that its most valuable contribution is not by either Horne or by the ARRB. It is by another researcher who discovered his evidence pretty much independently of the ARRB. Horne presents a comprehensive review of the work of David Mantik on the skull x-rays. Mantik, a radiation oncologist, has been doing fine work on the Kennedy x-rays for a number of years, actually, for well over a decade. Perhaps no other writer or researcher has made a more compelling case that these x-rays have been altered. And because Mantik's work is not nearly so reliant on testimony, statements, and depositions done over a period of 40 some years, his work has more intrinsic value than the other things Horne presents here. I was fortunate enough to see Mantik's first public presentation at the Dallas ASK conference back in 1993. So, of the six sources that Horne lists for his review on the subject, I have firsthand knowledge of five of them. This includes three public presentations in Dallas and Washington, and Mantik's two long essays in the anthologies edited by James Fetzer, Assassination Science and Murder in Dealey Plaza. (The sixth source appears to be notes Mantik prepared for a co-authored article he did with Cyril Wecht for the anthology edited by Lisa Pease and myself, The Assassinations.)
As the reader can see, Mantik's work on the Kennedy autopsy x-rays has been out there now for about 17 years. It has become famous in the community because of its originality and its direct challenge to the authenticity of the x-rays. Horne's contribution is that he collects it all in one place, and he then presents it clearly and understandably. In the early days, Mantik had a slight problem in making his insights and discoveries accessible to the layman. He has improved in that regard. But by going back and collecting his early work, Horne provides a service to the reader that is singular in the literature.
Mantik's first presentation in Dallas in 1993 dramatically and unforgettably contrasted the x-rays of Kennedy's skull in vivo, with those done post-mortem. In referring to the former, he said they look like other x-rays. In referring to the latter, Mantik said at the time, "I have never seen x-rays that look like this." It was easy to see why. The post-mortem x-rays have a jarring chiaroscuro effect – especially in the rear of the skull – that makes it look like someone deliberately whitened that part of the x-ray. Some commentators have tried to account for this high contrast effect by blaming the portable machines in use at the time, and saying that they were over-exposed by Custer. The problem is that even allowing for that, the pattern produced is not the same as is exhibited on these x-rays. That is, the high contrast is evenly distributed throughout the film, not concentrated in a particular area. The fact remains: no one has ever produced x-rays that look like this.
Except David Mantik. At his office in Rancho Mirage, Mantik showed me how this can be achieved very simply. It only took him a few minutes in his darkroom to achieve this effect. Mantik believes that if this was done with the Kennedy x-rays, then it most likely was done in order to conceal a blow-out exit wound in the rear of the skull.
Another discovery by Mantik makes the above conclusion hard to deflect. Mantik was granted permission by the Kennedy family to look at the autopsy materials at the National Archives. And he has done so on several occasions. On one visit he took an instrument which measures optical densitometry. That is, it measures the amount of light that passes through a surface, in this case a developed x-ray film. As Horne notes on a chart, if the film had an OD reading of zero, this would mean that a hundred percent of light could pass through the film. If the OD reading was '1', only ten percent as much light could pass through compared to zero. And that ratio is the same up to a reading of 4. As Horne notes, "the differences between each whole number on the OD scale is one whole order of magnitude, i.e. a factor of ten." (Horne, p. 543) The instrument that Mantik brought allowed him to take OD readings at intervals of 0.1 mm apart on the film. Mantik's previous research revealed that on usual x-rays, the normal range of OD measurement is 0.5 for the lightest areas, and 2.0 for the darkest. (ibid) In other words, the lightest areas transmitted about three times more light than the darkest ones. Well, on the JFK x-rays, the lightest areas transmit about 1100 times more light than the dark areas. Mantik concludes that this is almost surely a physical impossibility. (ibid, p. 547) Clearly, these numbers support the idea that the white patch is artificial, i.e. it was superimposed.
Horne does a nice job summarizing Mantik's OD readings on the mysterious 6.5 mm fragment also. (pgs. 549-551) Mantik compared OD readings on the 6.5 mm fragment with those of the 7 x 2 fragment, the one that was removed the night of the autopsy. He also compared his 6.5 mm readings with those of Kennedy's amalgams. These readings revealed that on the anterior-posterior x-ray, the 6.5 mm fragment is "more dense than all of the dental amalgams combined." (p. 551) It was also denser than the 7 x 2 fragment. Yet the 7 x 2 fragment was less dense on the anterior-posterior x-ray than the amalgams.
But paradoxically, on the right lateral x-ray, the 6.5 mm object is much less dense than the dental amalgams. (ibid) This would seem to indicate that the 6.5 mm fragment was superimposed on the A-P x-ray only. And that it was imposed over a much smaller fragment. Finally, the OD readings reveal no entrance hole where the HSCA says there is one, that is near the 6.5 mm fragment. (p. 553)
At Cyril Wecht's superb Duquesne Conference of 2003, Mantik supplied one more compelling piece of evidence that strongly indicates that the x-rays in evidence today are not originals, but copies. On the left lateral view, there is a hand drawn symbol shaped like a capital letter 'T" on its side. As Horne describes it, this appears to be scratched out on the "skull x-ray in front of the cervical spine and directly underneath the jaw." (p. 562) It was made by scraping off some emulsion on one side. Let me quote Horne on what this likely means and why: "However when Mantik closely examined the surfaces of the emulsion on either side of the lucent 'T", he found no disruption or damage whatsoever to the emulsion on both sides of the x-ray film. Mantik said ... that the emulsion on both sides of the film in this area was as smooth as new ice in a hockey rink." (Horne, p. 562, italics in original) As Mantik himself commented, this certainly is evidence that this film is a copy, or else the emulsion would not be so smooth.
At the 2003 conference, Mantik stated that this is probably the most important discovery he made in his nine visits to the archives. It is consistent with his OD findings, and his x-ray duplicating experiments with both the white patch and the 6.5 mm fragment. Yet it is independent of them in means of proof.
Horne also discusses Dr. Humes' observations about the 6.5 mm fragment when confronted with it by Jeremy Gunn. At first, on two occasions, Humes admitted that he himself did not recall seeing the 6.5 mm. fragment at autopsy. (pgs. 564, 569). Later on, realizing that this would create a serious problem that he had acknowledged for the first time in over 35 years, he tried to bail himself out by grasping at straws. (As noted in Pt. 1 of this review, Humes has a history of creating improbable cover stories when caught in corners like this.) He now actually tried to say that the 7 x 2 fragment might have been the 6.5 fragment! (p. 570) As Horne properly notes, this is hard to swallow. The first fragment is narrowly oblong in shape and was taken from the front of the skull; the latter is circular in shape and is located at the rear of the skull. Unless all three pathologists were visually impaired and had lost their powers of depth perception for this one instance, this makes for a high improbability. Further, the idea that neither the pathologists nor the FBI agents would have had this recovered as evidence, that doubles the improbability. (p. 570) Horne rightly notes that neither Thornton Boswell nor Pierre Finck recalled the 6.5 mm fragment either. (pgs. 573, 580)
Horne also comments on Gunn's questioning of Humes about the non-existent trail of particles going from the low back of the skull to the top front of the skull, a trail which he wrote about in his autopsy report. Humes was forced to admit an odd thing during his deposition: the trail does not exist on the extant x-rays today. When pressed on this rather baffling issue, Humes replied in his own defense: "I didn't write it down out of whole cloth. I wrote down what I saw." (p. 571) He then added that the fact that it is not there today leads him to think that, "Well, there's aspects of it I don't understand." (ibid) When the lead pathologist from the original autopsy feels that way about his own work, I then have to concur.
As stated above, Horne's summary and review of Mantik's milestone work on the x-rays is the highlight of this volume. Mantik's discoveries about the x-rays are largely made up of observable data that is difficult to discount. On the basis of that data – plus the primary source evidence about the disappearing trail of particles, and a 6.5 mm fragment that the pathologists did not see that night-it is difficult not to conclude that someone fiddled with the x-rays. The reasons being to: 1.) Cover a back of the skull blow out exit, and 2.) To raise the trajectory of the entrance wound while making it align with the ammunition from the rifle in evidence. Mantik also adds that a third reason may have been to erase evidence of two bullet trails through the skull. (p. 554)
The last two chapters of Volume II deal with the ARRB interviews of the morticians from Joseph Gawler's Sons, and a review of interviews done in Dallas with certain 1963 staffers from Parkland.
There were three men interviewed by the ARRB from Gawler's: Joseph Hagan, Tom Robinson and John Van Hoesen. Generally speaking, after the discussion of Mantik's fine and provocative work, Horne slips back into his Best Evidence revision and revival mode here. He even tries to revive the idea that a helicopter may have been used to transport the casket elsewhere. (p. 591)
I must note here a trait that jarred me and I thought similar to Lifton's: the tendency to run the length of the football field with one questionable piece of evidence. Hagan was being interviewed by the ARRB over 35 years after the fact. He said that when he arrived the autopsy was nearly finished and he added that photos were being taken. But he qualified this by saying that he could remember no details about this, that is, what views were shot, how many cameramen there were, or what the equipment being used was. (p. 593)
Now, any lawyer or private investigator will tell you that its details that give a witness credibility. Usually, the more details that one recalls the better the memory of the event. And also the more realistic the memory. Hagan recalled next to nothing about the matter. But yet Horne strongly implies that Hagan was "witnessing photography by Robert Knudsen of a charade that both Knudsen and he both thought was "the end of the autopsy." (ibid) Not only does Hagan's hazy memory not justify this conclusion, but sometimes Horne gets so involved in what is now post-autopsy intrigue, that it is hard to understand precisely what he is talking about. What does he mean when he says that Knudsen thought he was involved with the "end of the autopsy"? Recall, Knudsen died and therefore was never cross-examined under oath by the ARRB. In his sworn testimony to the HSCA he was never questioned on this point i.e. on whether or not he took autopsy photos. But not only does Horne think he did, he actually imagines that he was unwittingly being duped by higher-ups in the chain of command.
Like Lifton with Humes, Horne imputes cover up motives to those who disagree with the main tenets of Best Evidence. For instance, Hagan made a notation that Kennedy's body was removed from a metal shipping casket at Bethesda. But he told the ARRB that he never actually saw any casket that night and that someone else delivered this information to him. He also confirmed that the casket Kennedy arrived in was damaged, a handle had broken off and that it was then picked up months later at his place of work. Horne now asks about this testimony: "these remarks by him made me wonder whether he was really being forthcoming about whether or not he had seen a shipping casket at the Bethesda morgue the night of the autopsy." (p. 597) It wouldn't be possible for Hagan to look at the casket later on at work?
Robinson was an interesting witness. He recalled seeing a wound about the size of an orange in the back of the skull between the ears. (p. 599) Robinson was also one of the several witnesses who Horne names who saw a wound in the temple near the hairline that was small enough to be hidden by hair. This latter description also guarantees this was an entry wound. Robinson said this wound "did not have to be hidden by make-up, and was simply plugged by him with some wax during the reconstruction." Finally, he recalled it being about a quarter inch in diameter. (p. 600) Unlike with Hagan and the post-autopsy pictures, Robinson's memory of this wound in the temple is vivid enough so that it cannot be easily dismissed.
Finally, there is a point of confirmation and corroboration made by Robinson. He told the ARRB that the gallery was pretty much filled, that there were way too many people there. He then added that the atmosphere was like a "cocktail party". He later added that it was even like a "circus". (p. 611) He felt that there were people in attendance "who clearly had no business being there, and that there was continuous and loud discussion from the gallery which he thought was both improper and distracting". (p. 611) It is one of the continuing mysteries of this case that no one has been able to explain precisely why all these people were there and who invited them and why they were not asked to leave.
The volume concludes with a chapter entitled "A Short trip to Texas". Gunn and Horne went to Texas in 1997 to interview three Parkland staffers who had not been formally interviewed by the Warren Commission: Dr. Charles Crenshaw, Dr. Robert Grossman, and Nurse Audrey Bell.
Much of what Crenshaw observed has been published in two books of his and discussed by others as a result of his lawsuit against JAMA. But I must note that Horne gets a couple of details of the latter wrong. First, Crenshaw did not win a large settlement against JAMA. In this day and age, a bit over $200,000 cannot be considered large. Second, editor George Lundberg was not fired because of this incident. He was fired because of a later controversy over the Clinton impeachment scandal.
For me, the two most important bits of information to come out of this visit were the following. First, when Bell saw Perry on November 23rd, Saturday morning, she said that he looked like hell. He replied to her that he "had not gotten much sleep because people from Bethesda Naval hospital had been harassing him all night on the telephone, trying to get him to change his mind" about Kennedy being hit by an entrance wound in the neck. (p. 645) Appropriately, Horne now goes into the whole controversy surrounding Secret Service Agent Elmer Moore. This was the man sent to Washington within 24 hours of the murder. He was then detailed to Dallas to ascertain what happened and then to cover up its true circumstances. (pgs. 651-654) Horne adds one important piece of evidence to the Secret Service cover up.
Arlen Specter had requested of the Secret Service that they obtain for him videotapes and transcripts of the Perry press conference from Parkland on the 22nd. James Rowley of the Secret Service wrote to Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin that, "The video tape and transcript ... mentioned in your letter has not been located. After a review ... no video tape or transcript could be found of a television interview with Dr. Malcolm Perry." (p. 647)
In light of the above it is rather odd that the ARRB found a transcript of the Perry conference that was time stamped "Received US Secret Service, 1963 Nov 26 AM 11 40, Office of the Chief". In other words, Chief Rowley was deliberately lying about this transcript. It did exist, and he had it in his possession for months when he lied to Rankin. The problem was that what Perry said contradicted the notion of Oswald as the lone killer. Therefore, he understood that early. This was probably why he was complicit with Elmer Moore's mission to Dallas to talk Perry out of his story.
Let me conclude with a memorable interview that Gunn and Horne did with Grossman, who is a neurosurgeon. He said he saw a hole near the external occipital protuberance in the back of the skull. And through it he observed what he thought was cerebellum. (P. 655)
He was then shown the famous Ida Dox drawing prepared for the HSCA which depicts an intact rear of the skull. He replied quite simply with "That's completely incorrect." Grossman insisted without qualification that "there had been a hole devoid of bone and scalp about 2 centimeters in diameter near the center of the occipital bone." Unfortunately, this was not tape-recorded. But as Horne notes, "it will always be one of the most vivid memories that I have from all of our interviews and depositions." (p. 656)
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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