What Newsweek avoids: Fifty plus one: the unfinished JFK story

On the 51st anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy we can see how Americans revisit this traumatic event, a political wound with resulting cultural scars, and we find an unfiinished story, a wound unhealed.


The Voice of America said JFK’s assassination “still resonates” and conspiracy theories persist. Historian Barbara Leaming published a new biography of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, which provides unprecedented detail about her reaction to her husband’s murder. Salon thoughtfully called for a new Investigation.

The shameless REELZ channel recycled last year’s hoax, “The Secret Service Man Did It” (which was a regurgitation of bogus conspiracy theory from 1991). NewsMaxTV, the video arm of the conservative news site and newcomer to the JFK story, fell for the jailhouse confession of James Files, a convicted criminal who claims he killed JFK with a gunshot from grassy knoll. (I know of no corroborating evidence for Files’s claims.)

Against such fables, the editors of Newsweek offer a smoothly written, hermetically sealed cover story, The Truth Behind JFK’s Assassination, with the more reassuring hypothesis that the popular liberal president was killed by one man alone for no reason and that the crime was solved by prescient U.S. government officials

Cover Story

before it had even been investigated. “The public must be assured that Oswald was the assassin,” wrote deputy attorney general Nicholas Katzenbach on November 25, 1963, the day before the slain president was buried.

Independent scholar Max Holland, author of the Newsweek piece, takes up Katzenbach’s imperative with single-minded dedication. He rings some new changes on a familiar meme favored by large news organizations for a half century: don’t worry about the fact that a popular president was shot dead in broad daylight and nobody was ever brought to justice for the crime: The System Worked.

This is Holland’s theme. It has been around since Katzenbach wrote his memo. It was memorialized in the report of the Warren Commission, issued in September 1964. It has reappeared regularly in tomes with decisive sounding titles like “Final Disclosure” (1974), “Case Closed” (1992), and “History Reclaimed”(2006). Indeed, 21 years ago Newsweek published a cover story, “The JFK Cover-Up; Its Not What You Think,” which argued, quelle surprise, that the official theory of a lone gunman was indisputable.

Of course, if this alleged truth were so indisputable, if the case were so closed, if the disclosure so final, the history so reclaimed from the ignorant, this theme wouldn’t require constant repetition would it?. Newsweek and Holland revive the well-worn hypothesis that the System Worked precisely because its truth is not self-evident. Indeed, the official theory is not particularly credible, and never has been, not with Washington insiders or with the American people. This widespread belief that JFK’s assassination shows the System Did Not Work worries the editors of Newsweek, and Holland’s essay is deemed the cure.

The new facts bolster the preponderance of evidence showing that Kennedy’s wrongful death was the result of the negligence (or malfeasance) of certain senior CIA officers…

What the New Evidence Shows?

In his  Salon essay, “Why the famous murder must be reinvestigated,” Justyn Dillingham writes that “In 1966, the first national poll taken on the subject found that 46 percent of Americans believed that JFK had been struck down by a plot.”

In fact, the first poll on the subject was taken in the week after JFK’s assassination when University of Chicago pollsters asked more than 1,000 Americans whom they thought was responsible.. Sixty two percent of respondents said that they thought that more than one person was involved. The publication of the Warren Report in September 1964 temporarily drove that figure down to 46 percent.

But the Warren report’s persuasiveness was short-lived. A 2013 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 62 percent of the public rejected the idea that a single man had killed the president, exactly the same percentage as 50 years before.

What is most striking about Holland’s essay is how it ignores both the enduring public skepticism and all of the evidence that has emerged since the mid-1990s (except the new evidence provided by Holland himself) about the timing of a gunshot that missed the presidential motorcade entirely. Focusing on the missed shot is a prescription for missing the point.

Among the facts from which Holland and the Newsweek editors avert their eyes.

—A secretive office in the CIA’s Counterintelligence Staff monitored Oswald’s travels, politics and contacts for four years before JFK was killed, according to declassified records. The CIA did not tell the Warren Commission about the activities of the Special Investigations Group (SIG), which reported to CI chief James Angleton or about an October 10, 1963 cable, drafted by SIG officers, and approved by aides to Deputy Director RIchard Helms, stating that life in the Soviet Union had a “maturing effect” on Oswald.

Six weeks later, the supposedly maturing Oswald allegedly shot and killed JFK

If that allegation is true, the October 10 cable is a glaring intelligence failure. Yet the CIA officers responsible for this favorable assessment of Oswald were never held accountable. Holland and the editors of Newsweek aren’t interested in accountability.

—The FBI had targeted the pro-Castro Fair Play for Cuba Committee for COINTELPRO treatment in 1963, noted historian David Kaiser in his 2007 book “The Road To Dallas.” Whether mounted by the FBI or the CIA COINTELPRO operations regularly used agent provocateurs to discredit leftist organizations.

One obvious question raised by Kaiser: Was Oswald used in a COINTELPRO operation against the FPCC? As Kaiser noted in his book, the question cannot be answered because of official secrecy. In their quest for reassuring certainty, Newsweek prefers to insulate its readers from the latest scholarship on their subject.

—Photographs taken at JFK’s autopsy are no longer in the National Archives collection of medical evidence, according to sworn testimony of medical technicians taken by the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. The government has never explained why. Newsweek doesn’t even try.

Of course, Holland and the editors of Newsweek can say, accurately, that  the new evidence does not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that any individual participated in a conspiracy to kill the president. That is indisputably true. But what an odd and anti-historical critieria: if new facts don’t prove a certain conclusion, they need not be discussed.

Not only is such a stance anti-intellectual and anti-journalistic. Fifty years of experience proves that it is untenable. The new facts bolster the preponderance of evidence showing that Kennedy’s wrongful death was the result of the negligence (or malfeasance) of certain senior CIA officers reporting to James Angleton and Richard Helms, possibly including deceased officers David Phillips, Bill Harvey, Howard Hunt, George Joannides and others. The historical truth about the role of these men in JFK’s wrongful death cannot be established with anymore precision because of the misconduct of these officers and “national security” secrecy perpetrated by CIA officials today.

The editors of the revived Newsweek seek a tidier and more reassuring conclusion in the vain hope that the majority of Americans will stop disagreeing with the official theory about the causes of JFK’s death. They are wrong in more ways than one.


26 thoughts on “What Newsweek avoids: Fifty plus one: the unfinished JFK story”

  1. Jeff, I think the Files interviews are corroborated in quite a few instances. Bowers and Holt do corroborate Files, especially in the most important aspect. Descriptions of what went on behind the fence on Grassy Knoll. Details on the cars and people seen. There is nothing to show that they knew each other at all.

    1. Robert Burns, “Bowers and Holt do corroborate Files..”

      That might be one way to interpret things. But another way would be to propose that Files merely used Bowers and Holt’s public information as a script that he could insinuate himself into.

  2. Hello. I have a feeling these older posts are not so often viewed…. That said, I do have to addend my previous post here, specifically my self-congratulation about my observation about LBJ’s behavior both in the motorcade and on the phone with Hoover. I’ve been listening to Judith Baker this morning on WBAI/Pacifica radio (Guns & Butter), and that specific incident regarding the phone call from LBJ to Hoover came up, and Ms. Baker commented that LBJ new he was being recorded with Hoover and that his comment might have been a facetious one. Yeah. That IS a definite possibility. LBJ might have just been in a “wink-wink” PR session with Hoover, and the fact that LBJ ducked in his limo may have had more to do with Johnson’s not wanting to be hit by stray bullets or ricochets. Or maybe he really DIDN’T know, was “hedging his bets” by ducking, and he certainly didn’t want Hoover to know he had private doubts as to his own safety…. What a theatre of the absurd…

    I do still think, however, that Johnson was not the “big cheese” regarding the assassination, and that perhaps he wasn’t completely sure of his own position amongst the plotters, even though Johnson contributed his in-house killer (Mac Wallace) to “help out” with the “operation”. Wallace’s fingerprint WAS found on the gun on the 6th floor of TSBD – though those who ran the “operation” still kept information from most who were involved – like Johnson – to keep the whole thing seemingly less connected, less traceable.

  3. An excellent post, Jeff. Max Holland and Newsweek also ignore Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s public statements in Dallas last year confirming his father’s private doubts about the conclusions in the Warren Report.

    “The evidence at this point I think is very, very convincing that it was not a lone gunman,” he said.

  4. Agreed. That said, I still struggle to understand the motivation and who funds these efforts to write lengthy books and articles simply to defend the lone gunman story. If they’re so sure Oswald did it why feel the need to defend it? Conspiracy proponents are generally seeking truth and justice. Who and what is behind the time, energy, and money required to protect the status quo? Has it come down to just making book sale money and increasing magazine revenues off this popular assassination mystery irrespective of which side you’re on or is this a case of “me thinks thou dost protest too much?”

    Separately, a man normally protests his innocence when wrongly accused. If he says he’s patsy as Oswald maintained, then he knew something about a larger scheme and that he was set up. That should have raised red flags — if the authorities cared enough to pursue it. Ruby’s actions made it a moot point.

    Lastly, Robert Kennedy’s actions, given his attorney general status and post assassination suspicions are troubling as are the actions of Kenny O’Donnell and Dave Powers who were coerced by the FBI to change their stories making the case to both that the family wanted to put the matter behind them. It suggests that RFK was boxed in or hamstrung by his prior actions as AG and that he may have felt in some way responsible for his brother’s death. Thus “the family” wanted to put it behind them. Net net, there’s more here than meets the eye.

  5. Warren Commission member and future president Gerald Ford described their report by claiming: “The Monumental Record of the President’s Commission will stand like a Gibraltar of factual literature through the ages to come.”

    Thirty years later, after an ocean of dissent and criticism of the official findings, Norman Mailer compared the Commission’s work to: “A dead whale decomposing on a beach.” The late Harold Weisberg quoted Warren Commission member Senator Richard Russell as saying very simply: “We have not been told the truth about Oswald.”

    In 1998, in a chapter titled ‘The Problem of Secrecy and the Solution of the JFK Act’, the Assassination Records Review Board, which was created to collect and review the documents relating to the assassination, pointed out in its final report doubts about the Warren Commission’s findings were not restricted to ordinary Americans. Well before 1978 President Johnson, Robert Kennedy and four of the seven members of the Warren Commission all articulated, if sometimes off the record, some level of skepticism about the Commission’s basic findings.

    And today, in the year 2014, we look back across 51 years upon a heritage of skepticism, of cynicism, of doubt; a profound loss of innocence, the erosion of faith in our institutions, our representatives, and, perhaps, ourselves. And we reflect upon the loss of a brilliant young president who pursued peaceful resolution to an unprecedented threat of global conflict, sustained and instilled hope during a time of anxiety and fear, and whose vision and voice will continue to inspire future generations by whom his message of peace, not in our time, but for all time, may yet be achieved.

  6. My comment above refers to the article in Salon that Morley cites: “Why the famous murder best be reinvestigated. In that article the author links to a transcript of the testimony of Detective Billy Combest, who apparently was the last person talking to Oswald as he died. As Oswald is dying, Combest asks him if there is anything more he wants to say. Oswald shakes his head. That;s it.

  7. The 51st anniversary of JFK’s death still brings sadness. For more reasons than his death alone. Our loss of trust in the government since. The lack of interest this year a opposed to last. It’s been History since 63′. It’s still unsolved. It still affects us all today.

  8. I find these “Case Closed” type articles and books very intriguing. There is always a certain sense of arrogance to them (think Gerald Posner or Bill O’Reilly) and a sense of “move on, there is nothing to see.” My opinion is that the trail is too cold by now, and was deliberately made cold by a combination of media compliance and government agency intervention. It remains one of the most massive f**k-ups in secret government history, and the lids that blew off because of it were probably the most important exposures in post World War II America. The bottom line was JFK was too popular for the good of his enemies, and the signal for that sin was sent loud and clear. Great website, btw.

  9. Warren defenders ignore new findings and trot out old and discredited findings. Discredited findings such as the jet effect, the neuro-muscular reaction, the plausibility of the SBT, the findings of the HSCA FPP. That’s perhaps the main reason Warren defenders fail to sway Americans, much less non-Americans.

    Warren defenders are allowed here to participate freely. For the most part, rather than display flexibility in response to new findings they display rigidity and hostility. All one needs to do is review the thread discussions on Doug Horne’s discussion of Dino Brugioni. The attacks on Doug have been unimaginative and savage. That’s what he gets for revealing facts about the Zapruder Film. A brute response.

    1. Jonathan,

      You say, and I quote:
      “Warren defenders are allowed here to participate freely. For the most part, rather than display flexibility in response to new findings they display rigidity and hostility. All one needs to do is review the thread discussions on Doug Horne’s discussion of Dino Brugioni. The attacks on Doug have been unimaginative and savage. That’s what he gets for revealing facts about the Zapruder Film. A brute response.”

      This assertion is predicated on the view that only “Warren defenders” are in disagreement with Horne. This is a gross generalization and utterly false. In my case personally, I have been convinced for decades that the JFK Assassination was in fact a coup d’ etat.

      The fact is that Horne and his cohorts are wrong about the faking of the Z-film. Not only wrong, but their case is built on rhetorical gamesmanship and denial of actual technical expertise in special effects cinematography.

      Let us begin first of all with cui bono? Who would have the most to gain from disputing the authenticity of the Zapruder Film?

      The answer is obvious, the perpetrators of the assassination, because the film shows the timing of the shots that hit Kennedy and Connolly, and modern ballistics can prove the trajectory of the shots. Therefore it is in the perpetrator’s self-interests to cast as much doubt as possible on the most critical visual evidence of the assassination.

      Essentially my critique is based on Horne’s acceptance of CIA agent Brugioni’s claims – that is the crux of my counterargument. And I suspect, the CIA’s continuing cover-up is this trashing of the Zapruder film as a fake is the coup de grâce in erasing the most vital visual evidence in the case of the Kennedy assassination.

      This case is put forth on my blog at the following URL:

      ~Willy Whitten, Special Effects Artist (Retired)

  10. The fact that Newsweek doesnt even mention the Blakey/Lopez lawsuit against the CIA proves this isnt journalism, it’s propaganda.

  11. Meanwhile Bill Simpich, Randolph Benson and Justyn Dillingham posted much better articles, all very very interesting.




  12. Jeff Morley
    I support what you are doing.
    I just want the truth, regardless of what the truth is, so we can move on.
    Thank you

  13. Its by now well established that Bobby Kennedy didn’t buy the WRpt–“a shoddy piece of work” RFK Jr quotes sr– so why do the Max Hollands expect the rest of us to accept it?

    There’s an excellent rejoinder to the “no conspiracy” theorists in the current issue of “The Baffler,” written by the novelist whose name unfortunately escapes me.

  14. 4 DAYS IN NOVEMBER shows 50+1 American military planes flying in formation over Arlington at the November 25, 1963 burial ceremony. 16 sets of 3 fighter jets, 1 set of 2 fighter jets, then finally a solo Air Force One.

    The poetic asymmetry of that sequence has always left my imagination wondering. Was this over-seeing theater the personal orchestration of Air Force Chief of Staff, Curtis LeMay? Could he actually have been aboard AF#1 for that funeral day flight? And didn’t he become George Wallace’s running mate in 1968?

    Either here is a paranoid prima facie example of how far-fetched conspiracy theories actually come into being or one can reasonably believe that deadly byzantine intrigue in high places was as alive and well in 1963 as it has been for most of human political history.

    In the mean interim between now and 2017, it looks like some variation on the shadowy long game of American presidential ambition and all its ancillary ramifications will be dramatically explored in Season 3 of Netflix’s “House Of Cards”.

    I can wait.

  15. One of the most absurd, untenable arguments, specially for anybody with training in numerical sciences, is the sudden snap “back and to the left”.

    If we read the HSCA report, the following is in essence what it contains in the matter:

    American People to HSCA Investigators: “Gentlemen, in order to determine the origin of the final shot, you are tasked with making a decision between these THREE alternatives:

    (1) Kinematic Action and Reaction

    (2) Jet Effect

    (3) Random Neuromuscular Impulses

    HSCA: “We are not sure, but it was (3) or maybe (2)”.

    People: “How come?”

    HSCA: “Because we know that the lethal shot was fired from the 6th. floor, and bullets are not able to make U-turns”.

    People: “But you were ordered to consider THREE alternatives, weren’t you?”.

    HSCA: “True, but the first one cannot be possible, since we know that all shots came from behind”.

    This is the cornerstone of the most straightforward of all possible solutions, in my view. What we have instead is an affront, an insult to the best American universities and scientists.

    1. HSCA report,
      THREE alternatives:

      (1) Kinematic Action and Reaction

      (2) Jet Effect

      (3) Random Neuromuscular Impulses
      . . . .

      These three hypotheses are overtaken by modern forensic & ballistic science:

      German researcher Bernd Karger published Forensic Ballistics in 2008, which states targets move into the force and against the line of fire prior to moving with the force of the bullet. In Wound Ballistic: Basics and Applications (2011) Robert Coupland used ultra-high-speed photography to document the same findings. In fact, the Harold E. Edgerton’s Death of a Light Bulb photograph, taken in 1936, shows the bulb distortion with bulging into the line of fire (http://www.artsconnected.org/resource/10447/death-of-a-lightbulb-30-caliber-bullet).

      See: CSI Sherry Fiester – ‘Enemy of the Truth’

      1. Ramon F Herrera

        [Willy Whitten:]
        “These three hypotheses are overtaken by modern forensic & ballistic science:”



        Sir Isaac Newton would get a kick out of your claim. You just wrote that the L-A-W-S of Physics, the ones that have stood the test of time since Physics exists, the ones that have allowed us to go to Mars and design from cars to dams, the ones upon which modern civilization rests, is just an hypothesis.

        I am referring to your rejection above of Action and Reaction.

        Since Newtonian Physics was found, there have been only 2 paradigms which conflict with it:

        (a) Einsteinian Relativity.

        (b) Quantum Mechanics.

        The problem is that (a) applies to huge objects such as galaxies and (b) to subatomic particles.

        Neither one applies to the Kennedy back-left snap.

        To conclude, regardless of how modern your “ballistic” is, it cannot violate the principles of Physics.

        Oh, BTW: Neither forensics nor ballistics are sciences.

      1. Ramon F Herrera

        “Random neuromuscular impulses. Just out of nowhere.”


        This is what they did.

        Early on, after the Z-film was stolen and Geraldo Rivera publicly dared TIME-LIFE: “I will show it to America in prime time… Sue me!” (they did not have the cojones), the LNs were big supporters of the Jet Effect. The only problem being that the head of JFK was not a melon.


        While that stuff above works great in Vegas (not in the U of NV, mind you, I am referring to the strip), it is not quite scientific rigor.

        Next, they imported the annual production of goats from New Zealand and Greece (I am exaggerating a little) and proceeded to shoot one at a time, while filming.

        Eventually, there was a case in which all the random nerves semi harmonized (like the theoretical million monkey each striking random typewriter keys for an infinite period of time: one will write The Great American Novel) and the poor Caprinae kicked a leg a little. Guess which video was broadcasted worldwide.

        It is also known as the “Edison Method”, how the incandescent bulb was invented. Ole’ Thomas tried every material (horse hair, woods, etc., etc.), until he eventually found one which did burn, but not too fast: tungsten.


        1. Ramon F Herrera

          Allow me to add this, to further make the point.

          One of THE most fundamental universal laws is Entropy. If you drop a cigarette the chances of it falling on its butt, vertically, are extremely low, close to nil (I have seen it once, back in my smoking days). Left alone, things tend to chaos.

          [The math is very hard but the law is intuitively easy]

          Let’s say that I am sick of my computer, look for a revolver and shoot it. What are the chances that the correct cables and chips will be severed (some even soldered, mind you) and the screen will show a smiling face or whatever? Maybe a differential equation will be solved as a result? A game of tic-tac-toe? The speakers will say “Ouch!”?

          Expert tell us that the impulses of ruptured nerves are RANDOM. That means that they will CANCEL each other. Even if some bullet (talk about beyond Specterian magic, forget that! We are in miracle territory now!) manages to cut and push the correct and precise neuronal mesh, in the microsecond sequence, the subject would need the gluteuses of Superman in order to make that kind of jump.


          • The subject was already moving forward.

          • The subject had a defective back, wearing some corset contraption.

          • Additionally, that jump would be AGAINST and would required to DEFEAT the kinetic energy of a blast coming from the 6th. floor.

    2. Sorry for the oversight Ramone,

      The ballistics findings I refer to do fall under your category, (1) Kinematic Action and Reaction.

      Ballistics is a branch of Forensic Science, and it is certainly based in Newtonian physics.

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