“…So, let us not be blind to our differences — but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
— JFK’s commencement speech at American University, June 10, 1963.
The large-scale declassification of JFK documents in the 1990s brought an estimated 4 million of pages of new assassination-related records into public view and generated a new era in JFK scholarship. But it also illuminated what is still missing or withheld from the public record. Among these are the vast bulk of the records of the Church Committee (named after Idaho Senator Frank Church), which in the mid-70s exposed the CIA plots to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro among many other abuses.
“STATION WOULD APPRECIATE EFFORT TO DELETE PHOTO FROM PUBLICATION.”
— Mexico City CIA Station, Sept. 25, 1964, asking that CIA HQ attempt to convince the Warren Commission not to publish the photograph of the Mexico City “mystery man.”
“Mr. Marcus, sometimes we get caught up in things that are bigger than we are.”
“The panel itself was unable to examine the brain because it is among certain autopsy materials which are unaccounted for.”
— House Select Committee on Assassination, Volume VII, p. 177.
“Don’t close them. If they’re going to shoot, they’ll shoot.”
From Jules Witcover’s “85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy“ (p.147), regarding an incident on April 11, 1968:
Bill Barry came up and told Dutton … that local police had spotted a man with a rifle on a nearby rooftop. Dutton, not wanting to upset Kennedy, walked casually into the bedroom, went over to the window and drew the curtains. Kennedy, slipping on a clean shirt, looked up at once and said, “Don’t close them. If they’re going to shoot, they’ll shoot.”
“So he was contacting one or two embassies trying to get financial aid in order to Mexico City [sic] where he was at the time … he did say he was broke.” Read more
“We have an explanation there in the autopsy that probably a fragment came out the front of the neck.”
— Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin, in an executive session of Jan. 27, 1964. The official autopsy report contains no such statement, though there are some indications in the record that an early conclusion was that JFK’s throat wound was caused by the exit of a bullet fragment from the head shot. Autopsy witness Richard Lipsey, for instance, told the HSCA that the autopsy doctors discussed this.
There are reasons to believe that the original autopsy report was rewritten, and may have disappeared with the president’s brain and other materials while in Robert Kennedy’s hands. See this discussion by Assassination Records Review Board senior staffer Douglas Horne (part 1 and part 2). Later in the same session, Commissioner Richard Russell aptly observed of the medical evidence: “This isn’t going to be something that would run you stark mad?”
“I now no longer believe anything the Agency [CIA] told the committee any further than I can obtain substantial corroboration for it from outside the Agency for its veracity…. We also now know that the Agency set up a process that could only have been designed to frustrate the ability of the committee in 1976-79 to obtain any information that might adversely affect the Agency. Many have told me that the culture of the Agency is one of prevarication and dissimulation and that you cannot trust it or its people. Period. End of story. I am now in that camp.” Read more
“After those interviews with Arlen Specter, my belief in that Government would never be the same.”
— Investigative journalist Gaeton Fonzi, writing about his 1966 interviews with former Warren Commission staff lawyer Arlen Specter. At the urging of Philadelphia lawyer Vincent Salandria, and at a time when the Commission’s medical conclusions were being questioned, Fonzi conducted a series of interviews with Specter and found his responses wanting. Fonzi later worked for the Church Committee and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and wrote The Last Investigation, where this quote appears (p.27).
Recordings of the interviews were provided to the Mary Ferrell Foundation by the deceased Fonzi’s wife and are available for listening.
“… his client, Dr. Burkley … had never been interviewed and … he has information in the Kennedy assassination indicating that others besides Oswald must have participated.”
— From a conversation with the lawyer for Dr. George Burkley, JFK’s personal White House physician who signed the death certificate and was the only doctor present both at Parkland Hospital in Dallas and at the Bethesda autopsy. Richard Sprague, the House Select Committee on Assassinations’ Chief Counsel, wrote this memo to file after being contacted by Burkley’s lawyer about his client’s desire for an interview. Sprague, whose refusal to sign secrecy oaths with the CIA was causing unhappiness in Washington, was forced to resign days later. Five months afterward, Burkley received one brief HSCA telephone contact, but was never asked why “others besides Oswald must have participated.”
“I think this record ought to be destroyed.”
— Warren Commissioner Allen Dulles, during a January 22, 1964, executive session at which the allegation that Lee Harvey Oswald was a paid informant for the FBI was discussed. The transcript was indeed destroyed, but an original court reporter’s tape was later recovered and the transcript re-made from it after a long legal battle brought by Harold Weisberg.
“None of the dozens of conspiracy theories about his assassination provided any solid evidence to change the sad conclusion that we simply do not know …. Some authors have speculated that Kennedy’s assassination was the work of powerful financial, military and intelligence community interests who feared that Kennedy might reverse not only racial discrimination but also anti-Communist belligerence. If history ever proves that horrific thesis correct, and those conspirators hoped by killing Kennedy to block the civil rights and peace movements in this country, one thing is clear — they failed.”
— Former JFK speechwriter Theodore Sorsensen, in the preface to the 2009 edition of his book Kennedy, p. xiii. (see in Google Books).
“We know the CIA was involved, and the Mafia. We all know that.”
— Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Richard Goodwin, quoted in David Talbot’s Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, p. 303.
“I asked him [RFK], perhaps tactlessly, about Oswald. He said that there could be no serious doubt that he was guilty, but there was still argument whether he did it by himself or as part of a larger plot, whether organized by Castro or by gangsters. He said that the FBI thought he had done it by himself, but that McCone thought there were two people involved in the shooting.”
— Arthur Schlesinger writing about a conversation with Robert Kennedy on Dec 5 1963, quoted in Schlesinger’s Journals: 1952-2000, p. 214.