Counsel for the JFK review board found ‘many things that were disturbing’

Jeremy Gunn

Jeremy Gunn, former ARRB general counsel

Amid the glut of 50th anniversary JFK coverage, NPR’s interview with Jeremy Gunn, former general counsel for the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) from 1994 to 1998, stands out as one of the best recent pieces of journalism on the case of the murdered president.

Gunn is a quality witness. While largely unknown to both mainstream reporters and JFK conspiracy theorists, he was among the first people to see the vast body of JFK records made public by the ARRB in the mid-1990s.

A lawyer by training, Gunn conducted the ARRB’s interviews of key witnesses, including the medical personnel involved in JFK’s autopsy. He interviewed retired CIA officer Anne Goodpasture and elicited her admission that the CIA had a tape recording of accused assassin Lee Oswald, made in Mexico City in October 1963, something that the CIA had long denied.

With a high-level security clearance, Gunn was also able to review extraordinarily sensitive CIA records, such as the agency’s internal study of disgraced counterintelligence chief James Angleton.

Gunn, who now teaches in Morocco, spoke with reporter Marcus Rosenbaum. A faithful reader of JFK Facts passed along some of his most interesting comments.

(You can listen to the interview here or read the transcript.)

What the ARRB found

“There were many things that were disturbing,” Gunn said of the ARRB’s discoveries.

Dr. James Humes

Dr. James Humes, JFK autopsy doctor

One concerned Dr. James Humes, the Navy doctor who conducted JFK’s autopsy.

“Dr. Humes admitted that the supposedly original handwritten version of the autopsy that is in the National Archives is in fact not the original version,” Gunn said.

Humes had never said that publicly before, even to the Warren Commission, he observed.

Gunn was disturbed by the FBI’s odd handling of Lee Harvey Oswald’s political activities in New Orleans in August 1963. After being arrested for an altercation with the members of the anti-Castro Cuban Student Directorate, Oswald asked to see an FBI agent. He was interviewed by agent John Quigley.

A few days later Gunn says, someone at headquarters in Washington saw that Oswald was engaged in pro-Fidel Castro activities and instructed the field office to interview him. But the FBI field office didn’t reply that it had already interviewed him. Instead, it said that it would see what it could do.

All the FBI files were in order, Gunn said. Nothing seemed to be missing. So why wouldn’t the New Orleans field office mention the previous interview?

“It doesn’t make sense,” Gunn said.

Exculpatory Oswald evidence

“There is substantial evidence that points toward Oswald and incriminates Oswald” in JFK’s assassination, he said, “and the only person we can name where there is evidence is Oswald. But there’s also rather important exculpatory evidence for Oswald, suggesting he didn’t do it, and that he was framed.”

Besides, Gunn says, the Warren Commission genuinely believed that Oswald had killed Kennedy.

“So they wanted to write the document in a way that would reassure the American public that it was a single gunman acting alone, somebody who’s a little bit unstable, and that that’s the explanation for what happened.”

Since the facts aren’t clear, though, that document can look like a whitewash.

“There are serious problems with the forensics evidence, with the ballistics evidence, with the autopsy evidence,” Gunn said. “And, in my opinion, if they had said that openly, it would have not put the issue to rest.”

Faced with that, the Warren Commission went with what it believed.

Gunn says that wasn’t enough. It’s not that he thinks all the loose ends needed to be tied up.

“It wouldn’t be unusual if Oswald had done the crime — or not done the crime — to have evidence that’s inconsistent,” he said.

It’s the big mysteries that cause him the most trouble.

“If the president had been killed as part of a conspiracy, that needed to be known,” he said.

“The institution that had the opportunity to best get to the bottom of this, as much as it was possible, was the Warren Commission, and they didn’t do it,” he said. “Now it’s too late to do what should have been done originally.”

I don’t share Gunn’s pessimism that “its too late,” but his opinion is certainly well informed.

5 comments

  1. Chris Frazier says:

    I’ve read and re-read this piece. I saw nothing new in it. Either this nation wants to solve this crime or it doesn’t. When court orders for the release of classified documents are ignored, it demonstrates that the judicial branch of our government is impotent, and that the mainstream media are utterly incurious.

  2. John Crites says:

    Hey Jeremy; Don’t you think when Dr. Boswell testified to the ARRP that the hole in the back of JFK’s head was as large (or larger) than what was seen at Parkland one would be just a little disturbed? And he had the audacity with a little fancy medical terminology to call it an entrance wound?

  3. Ronnie Wayne says:

    It’s not too late to find out all we can. When 70-80% of the American people believe the alleged assassin of the President did not act alone it’s (past) time to do something. Yet our elected officials, who WORK for US, do nothing. Not one chicken —- congressman, or woman will sponsor a bill to FREE THE FILES ???
    It takes a writer/researcher suing OUR Government just to get the issue hung up in court for years ???
    Of The people, by the people, for the people. FREE THE FILES !!!

  4. John Kirsch says:

    The sad part is that the Warren Commission failed in its effort to reassure the American people. The polls show most Americans don’t buy the “Oswald did it alone theory.” It also seems important to me that a trained attorney with access to top-secret material about 11/22 is saying that there are problems with much of the evidence. That highlights one of the many concerns I have about the case. How much faith, if any, can you place in the evidence that is apparently tainted?

  5. Quark says:

    “With a high-level security clearance, Gunn was also able to review extraordinarily sensitive CIA records, such as the agency’s internal study of disgraced counterintelligence chief James Angleton.”

    Did he see the records that you are seeking to be declassified?

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