With the FBI’s report on Kennedy’s assassination, the Commission undertook to select staffers and figure out how to approach its work.
Chief Justice Warren complained about the leaks of the FBI report: “I have read that report two or three times and I have not seen anything in there that has not been in the press.”
The Commissioners then held a wide-ranging discussion of JFK’s assasination, including:
“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…. “
— G. Robert Blakey, former Chief Counsel to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in an addendum to the web page for the Frontline episode “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?”.
“Perhaps there was only one assassin, but he did not act alone …. Dallas was the ideal location for such a crime.”
— William Walton, a friend of the Kennedys’, speaking on behalf of Robert and Jacqueline Kennedy. Walton delivered his message in Moscow to Georgi Bolshakov, who had been a backchannel to the Soviet leadership and was asked to repeat it to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. This incident occurred a week after the assassination.
“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.
“If the CIA did find out what we were doing [talks toward normalizing relations with Cuba], this would have trickled down to the lower echelon of activists, and Cuban exiles, and the more gung-ho CIA people who had been involved since the Bay of Pigs…. Read more
The national media, much less diverse and fragmented in 1963 than today, joined the campaign to assuage doubts and dispel “rumors” about JFK’s assassination. Pollsters were already finding that a majority of Americans suspected conspiracy. Life Magazine’s Dec. 6 issue was devoted primarily to photo coverage of the Kennedy funeral, but also included a piece by Paul Mandel entitled “End to Nagging Rumors: The Six Critical Seconds.”
The article began with a quote from Dallas DA Henry Wade: “I would say without any doubt that he is the killer”, and referred to Oswald as “the assassin.”
Life Magazine had earlier purchased rights to Abraham Zapruder’s famous home movie of the murder in Dealey Plaza, and in a November 29 issue had shown frames from that film in black-and-white. Now the Mandel article tried to reconcile the film with Oswald’s guilt.
“Should have phoney 201 in RI [Records Integration] to backstop this, all documents therein forged & backdated. Should look like a CE file …. Cover: planning should include provision for blaming Sovs or Czechs in case of blow.”
— Excerpt from “Project ZRRIFLE” notes, created in December 1960, by Bill Harvey, the CIA officer in charge of this assassinations project.
“Now, in the seconds that I talked just now, a flurry of shells come into the car”.
– Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman, who rode in the front of the Presidential limousine during JFK’s assassination, describing what the Warren Commission would later describe as a single shot. (Read Kellermans’ testimony here.)
“I think that the report, to those who have studied it closely, has collapsed like a house of cards, and I think the people who read it in the long-run future will see that. I frankly believe that we have shown that the [investigation of the] John F. Kennedy assassination was snuffed out before it even began, and that the fatal mistake the Warren Commission made was not to use its own investigators, but instead to rely on the CIA and FBI personnel, which played directly into the hands of senior intelligence officials who directed the cover-up.”
— Senator Richard Schweiker on “Face the Nation” in 1976 Read more
“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.
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.
“This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich.”
— Air Force General Curtis LeMay to JFK upon being told that the U.S. would respond to Soviet missiles in Cuba with a blockade, not an invasion. Read more
Warren Commission Exhibit 903.
Arlen Specter demonstrates the
single-bullet theory in May 1964.
When young journalist Gaeton Fonzi interviewed former Warren Commission staff lawyer Arlen Specter in 1966, he expected the talented Specter to have ready answers to the questions which were then swirling around the medical aspects of the JFK case. Specter’s “single bullet theory” was under attack in such books as Edward Epstein’s Inquest, and in scholarly articles by Vincent Salandria in a legal journal (see here and here).
Fonzi would later write in his memoir The Last Investigation: “After those interviews with Arlen Specter, my belief in that Government would never be the same.”