Dec. 17, 1963: Mark Lane for the defense

Mark Lane

Mark Lane

On December 17, 1963, a lawyer from New York named Mark Lane wrote to Chief Justice Warren to “respectfully request that your Commission give consideration to the appointment of defense counsel” for the accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. He enclosed an article he had written.

The article was published two days later in the National Guardian, a weekly publication of leftist politics.

The headline proclaimed


A report to the Warren Commission by Mark Lane. (Read it here.)

New York Times reporter Peter Kihss wrote about Lane two days later. Under the headline, “Lawyer Urges Defense for Oswald at Inquiry,” the story began:

“A former New York Assemblyman has urged Chief Justice Earl Warren’s investigating commission to appoint a defense counsel for Lee H. Oswald in its inquiry into the assassination of President Kennedy.”

J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was paying attention. Their report on Lane is here.

Lane’s article proved enormously influential in crystallizing public disbelief over the official account of President Kennedy’s assassination. The article launched Lane into a lifetime career of talking about who killed JFK. He pointed an insistent finger at the CIA. I saw him at Wecht Institute’s JFK conference in Pittsburgh in October. Fifty years later he was still talking about JFK. He pointed out, accurately, that Bobby Kennedy immediately suspected the CIA was involved in his brother’s murder.

Lane tells how he came to write the National Guardian article in the first chapter of his 1968 book, A Citizen’s Dissent.”




  1. Jonathan says:

    Newcomers to the JFK assassination may not know that by the late 1960s, there was widespread disbelief in the Warren Commission’s conclusions here in the U.S., especially on college campuses.

    The disbelief was largely due to the works of Mark Lane (“Rush to Judgment”), Harold Weisberg (“Whitewash”), and Sylvia Meagher (“Accessories After the Fact”) — the three of whom wrote powerful, fact-based critiques of the Commission.

    Mark Lane has always gotten it mostly right, I believe.

    • Stanley says:

      I watched a video of Lane on William F. Buckley’s Crossfire show from back in the sixty’s I think it was. They debated the Warren Report at length. Lane was sharper than sharp tacks sparring with Buckley at every level. One of the best guests I ever saw on that show in terms of never letting Buckley get ahead of him. They were both pretty much on fire.

  2. Clarence Carlson says:

    Whatever one thinks about Mark Lane, his earliest observations still apply to the case. If there is a single succinct observation about the pronouncements of the Warren Commission it would be this: they accepted “evidence” that, in an adversarial proceeding, would have not have been admitted. Such things has eyewitness identification, proof of ownership of the rifle, etc, would have been central to a court proceeding. Yet a review of the commission’s own published data shows that, to the reasonable person, there remain unanswered questions and the data is incomplete.

  3. Tom says:

    Coincidentally I was able to download ‘Last Word’ this morning free of charge to me as an introductory offer from Amazon’s “Audible” service. I’ve been riveted. It’s like seeing a glitch in the matrix.

  4. Photon says:

    Yes, he sure got it right about Jim Jones.

    • TLR says:

      Didn’t stop Gerald Posner from hiring him, did it?
      But yes, I have a lot of questions about Jonestown and Lane’s involvement in it.

    • Paulf says:

      Photon, let us apply your standards across the board. Anybody who has ever lied or gotten anything wrong absolutely cannot be trusted on anything they claim about JFK’s murder, is that right?

      By those standards, you must be willing to argue that Allen Dulles and Arlen Specter and Gerald Ford, heck, every member of the Warren Commission, every author that has ever written a pro-LNT sentiment, every member of the Dallas police, every witness that provided any information connecting Oswald to the crime — not a single one of those people ever told a lie OR got anything wrong about anything else in life.

      Because that is exactly the same standard you use on everybody else.

      Clearly, you are not making serious arguments, and just trying to get people to focus on extraneous topics.

    • PBR says:

      Don’t try to muddy the waters. Stick to the facts. Lambasting Lane about the the Jones fiasco looks like a Custers last stand à la Murdoch. A sour grapes free for all. Stick to the evidence. Ad hominen attacks notwithstanding.

  5. PBR says:

    Fascinating to read Lane’s original critique. Subsequent documentation and investigations have strengthened his various hypotheses regarding the original claims by Wade and the FBI. It has to stand as one of the quickest homicide investigations of all time. Played out almost instantaneously on US media. Given the fact that Wade and the White House had established beyond doubt that a lone assassin had murdered Officer Tippit and JFK within the space of three hours no wonder Europe and the world balked. Lane was right. It was trial by media essentially. That’s an indisputable fact.

    • Dave says:

      It was CSI: DALLAS on 11/22/63 – a shocking political assassination in broad daylight, solved by crack police and FBI investigators in record time, and all wrapped up in a neat WC boxed set for the world to marvel at for the ages.

      Except for Mark Lane. And Harold Weisberg. And Sylvia Meagher. And on and on, and so forth, to the present day.

      • PBR says:

        It’s an aberration. A good friend who is an Assistant Attorney told me they laugh when it is mentioned. According to his colleagues it’s the scam of the 20th century. Hearsay. Just like Oswald’s conviction. Hearsay.

  6. Neil says:

    Mark Lane’s debate with William Buckley is awesome.

    • Tom says:

      Recently finished Lane’s ‘Last Word.’ Had no idea WF Buckley was at some point employed with the CIA. Very creepy story Lane tells about this.

    • Stanley says:

      I see I got the name of the show wrong. “Firing Line”, not “Crossfire”. The staccato flow from factual to philosophical to political to personal was indeed awesome. All the issues discussed were presented just as they remain open today, except that so much more information is now available that does indeed show how important it is the remaining information is made public. You can’t trust people. You can only trust facts.

    • Tom says:

      Yep, Lane is brilliant there with Buckley. Much thanks for the link.

      • Photon says:

        How many of Lanes’s 32 sources for his atrocity book of lies even served in Vietnam?
        How much did he get paid by the Peoples Temple to be Jones’ apologist while that maniac was running a hard-labour camp in the jungle and plotting murders?
        Why did he let a Congressman eat what he thought were poisoned sandwiches and yet said nothing?
        You conspiracy believers are never so blind as when you give this guy a pass.

        • Fearfaxer says:

          How many American citizens of Japanese descent did Earl Warren force into internment camps during WWII when he was Attorney General of California?

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