New JFK audio tape: what forensic science reveals

For Sunshine Week 2014, audio expert Ed Primeau explained his forensic analysis of a recently discovered audio recording from November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy died.

His comments point to a revelatory audio recording that the U.S. government has never made public in the 50 years since JFK’s assassination.

The recording captures communications to and from Air Force One, the presidential jet as it carried President Kennedy’s body back from Dallas to Washington on that fateful day.

Forensic science

Primeau’s detective work shows that the tape, discovered in 2011 in the estate of Gen. Chester Clifton, military aide to JFK, was heavily edited, “At least 15 times,” Primeau says.

Primeau says he has “no doubt” the Clifton tape was extracted from a longer recording that has never been heard publicly. The existence of an original unedited Air Force One tape from November 22, 1963, has has never been acknowledged by the White House or the Defense Department.

The original tape, if it still exists and becomes public, would be a revelatory and possibly game-changing document about the still controversial question of who killed JFK. The original tape would constitute a real-time record of the reaction of the U.S. armed forces to the assassination of a sitting president. (Emphasis added.)

An even more heavily edited version of the Air Force One tape was released by the Lyndon B. Johnson presidential library in 1979.

The analyst

Primeau, nationally known for his analysis of sound recordings in the George Zimmerman murder trial, serves as an expert witness in litigation involving audio and video evidence.



41 thoughts on “New JFK audio tape: what forensic science reveals”

  1. What we have of the Air Force One Tapes reveals what LBJ & the Military were thinking in the immediate aftermath of the Assasination.

    It surely should be heard in its entirety after 50 years if the Tape still exists.

    It is very important historically so hopefully the entire tape has not been destroyed
    It makes one hopeful that the truth can one day be told. We didnt even know it existed until fairly recently.

    Is it possible it (and others things) cannot be heard or revealed until after the death of the children & all siblings of JFK. This would definitely I think be a consideration.

  2. The audio evidence of whatever kind, old and new, has always been the strongest forensic data to establish the conspiracy position among parties who would otherwise not be inclined to accept it. It was the acoustics findings that compelled the HSCA to conclude multiple gunmen, even in the midst of ferocious effort to shut the committee down before it verified still more forensics evidence in that direction.

  3. John W. Larson

    If the body was “choppered to Bethesda” as was said on the recording that would prove a conspiracy; i.e., serious claims by researchers that JFK’s body was off-loaded out the back of AF1 on the opposite side away from cameras, while an empty casket was taken by hearse. This also corroborates Paul O’Connor’s claim (he was a technician at Bethesda) that the body arrived thru a rear entrance in a body bag, separately from the casket that Jackie and Bobby came in with.

  4. I hope Ed will join me in DC in September at the AARC when a new version of the AF1 tapes will be introduced – a high fidelity broadcast quality audio only recording that Ed has refined even further, eliminating noise, static and dead air and edited down to just under 2 hours and broken into 15 minute segments suitable for FM radio broadcast.

    We will also have an updated forensic analysis of both the tape and its contents.

    More to come on this topic


  5. Every statement here is hearsay.

    Here’s the hearsay rule: A statement out of court offered in court for the truth of what it avers is not to be admitted. Unless it satisfies certain exceptions.

  6. As is evident in the comments, the more attention focused on & questions generated about this topic emphasize just what a spectacular evidentiary find Bill Kelly & his friend Ed Primeau have made in the edited AF-1 tapes. It also emphasizes the need to locate & interview people that heard the radio transmissions in real time, in private analysis afterward & were involved in any part of transporting the deceased & new Presidential parties from Dallas to Andrews AFB. Many need to be re-interviewed (such as journalists, former Secret Service agents, former Dallas & Texas law enforcement officials among others). The phantom C-130 crew, their commanders & all family & friends of both can help shed light on what transpired if some of the actors have passed on. Relatives & associates of Gen. Clifton might be able to help determine if he edited the tapes himself for some reason (perhaps transmissions concerning him were edited out for fear of legal repercussions?). There was a fear present on AF-1 that Texas authorities would storm the plane, arrests would be made & JFK’s body would be taken off the aircraft for a Dallas autopsy. In death, as in life, JFK was surrounded by government people. It’s not unreasonable to assume some of them may have felt their military careers in jeopardy by participating in the illegal ‘getaway’ some call the ‘body snatching episode’. Any & all attempts to direct the public’s focus away from any & all of this topic I consider not only disinformation but more like historical treason. The more concerned people dig away at this topic the closer we get to opening the lid of the treasure chest.

  7. Gerry take time to read Noel Twymans interview in his book Bloody Treason with Paul Kelly O’Conner who was present when Kennedy’s body arrived at Bethesda his story has been corroborated by the people that were present for the autopsy AND when his body arrived and how long before the ambulance with RFK and Mrs Kennedy arrived it is a fascinating peice of evidence.

  8. it would also be interesting to know where in the tape the edits are located so we can see if there was a topic that they started talking about and then deleted it. Maybe he could make the notation on the transcript?

    It is also possible they deleted the entire sensitive conversation so we wont even have a hint at the topic. Nevertheless, would be interesting to see where they occured and how early in the day….

  9. Let’s just go to the videotape. Your “expert” on audio interpretation clearly stated on MSNBC that Zimmerman stated ” f—ing c–ns” on the 911 tape.
    That comment was proven to be false as admitted by networks that had reported it as fact.
    If this ” expert” can’t even identify what somebody is saying on a tape, what gives you the confidence that anything that he claims to be able to do can possibly be accurate?

    1. If thats your standard for dismissing expert testtmony, then what keeps you holding on to many proven holes in the WC’s case? You can start with their misrepresentation of the head shot in the Zapruder film and go from there.

      1. I would say that the standard for an acoustic expert to actually be able to identify a word spoken on a tape would be pretty low.
        And he couldn’t even meet that standard. And he was foolish enough to broadcast his mistake over national television.

  10. Very interesting.

    I don’t want to go off topic but the pilot or radio man emphasized repeatedly that JFK’s body would be transported by helicopter to Bethesda from Andrew’s AFB (‘choppered’).

    I thought JFK’s corpse was transported via an ambulance to Bethesda with Jackie and Bobby Kennedy in it?

    I don’t have to explain what this leads to.

    The first hit in my Google search about this question was this which is supported by sources:

    1. Gerry,

      See the last section of Lifton’s “Best Evidence.” The original plan was to use a helicopter but the plan was changed. Dr. Burkley can be heard on the tape saying “The body is in a casket, you know, and it will have to be taken by ambulance and not by chopper.”

      1. I just read Custer’s ARRB testimony. He speaks of the body first having been brought in from Walter Reed. He also talks about a black Cadillac hearse. He sees the entourage afterwards.

        Is this just a coincidence?

        The link I provided speaks of a ‘tug of war’ as to where the body should go (Walter Reed or Bethesda).

        If the body was surreptitiously removed, as is suggested by Custer’s testimony and by the points/observations made in my link above, maybe Burkley THOUGHT the plan had changed, but actually didn’t.

        Finally, it seems odd that Lifton would negate the main premise of his book by suggesting that no helicopter was used, as this would eliminate the means to secretly remove the body (& destroy his body alteration theory).

        Perhaps Burkley’s taped remarks have been taken out of context.

        1. Gerry,

          Custer also said he saw a bullet fragment fall out of Kennedy’s back. No one else reported seeing this, and I see no reason to believe it. I also doubt that he overheard anyone say that the body had first gone to Walter Reed — and even if he did, how would I determine that this was true and not just idle speculation?

          I’m not claiming that Custer lied. Jeremy Gunn, who interviewed Custer and others for the AARB, later said:

          The last thing I wanted to mention, just in terms of how we understand the evidence and how we deal with what we have is what I will call the profound –underscore profound– unreliability of eyewitness testimony. You just cannot believe it. And I can tell you something else that is even worse than eyewitness testimony and that is 35-year-old eyewitness testimony.

          I have taken the depositions of several people who were involved in phases of the Kennedy assassination, all the doctors who performed the autopsy of President Kennedy and people who witnessed various things and they are profoundly unreliable.

          That’s not just Gunn’s opinion, it’s what psychology researchers say about memories as old as the ARRB testimony in the 1990s.

          1. Jean, would you consider that your memory of the facts outlined in your book is reliable? Otherwise, you must constantly be referring to your research papers and that of others.

            Similarly, can someone that experienced a spectacular event be relied upon decades later to accurately report the event. Would you please cite the “psychology researchers” who make the claim that witnesses cannot?

          2. Leslie,

            I very, very seldom refer to anything I wrote 30+ years ago, and if I do I don’t trust my memory, I look it up.

            If you Google the phrase, “Is memory reliable,” you’ll pull up a long list of articles saying that memory is NOT reliable:


            Here’s an article on a famous study of people who saw the Challenger disaster live on TV. The study found that even vivid memories aren’t necessarily reliable — in fact, memories can change without a witness realizing it:


            There are plenty of research papers online showing that memories fade or change over time. People *assume* that because a memory is vivid to them it must be accurate. That turns out to be untrue.

          3. Jean, Bodies of professionals persistently contend that long term memories are not reliable; this is nothing new. However, I can also locate reports of experiments controlled by enlightened professionals that prove humans are quite capable of full and accurate recall. The intelligence apparatus most likely has a few files for reference as well.

            Among the articles you cite: one of our states now admonishes juries to assume a high margin of error when considering eyewitness testimony (paraphrasing). Pretty soon we may be able to completely engineer out the human element from our legal system. Then what? A science fiction nightmare.

            You have also argued that short term memories should not be trusted, particularly that of physicians and medically trained people who were present in the ER at Parkland on 11.22, unless of course said testimony supports a specific ballistics theory.

            Would not then the testimony of ALL witnesses who came forward in the earliest days after the assassination of Kennedy and murder of Officer Tippit to connect Oswald to both be rendered highly questionable, and must be considered with a high margin of error?

            A jury is then left with the material evidence which in itself requires an equally high level of confidence: it can be tampered with, planted, manipulated, switched, mislabeled, misfiled, and misrepresented because the same species whose memories cannot be trusted handles material evidence. Case in point: the re-staging of the discovery of evidence on the 6th Floor.

            The trial of Lee Harvey Oswald cannot have it both ways; you cannot cherry pic eyewitness testimony. The first witness to be discounted should be Howard Brennan.

          4. I didn’t make anything out of that bullet/ fragment observation* mentioned by Custer, but if you read Noel Twyman’s Blood Treason chapter on the autopsy, the various accounts by different people at the time more or less mesh.

            Therefore, I accept Custer’s general observations about the arrival of the body and entourage as separate events.

            *(I thought I read elsewhere about a ‘missile’ discovered at the autopsy but that’s a separate thread)

            As for eyewitness testimony, it’s still considered evidence in the courts. Original accounts have more validity than ones much years later.

          5. Leslie,

            The topic was Custer’s AARB testimony given some 30 years after the event, not shortly after the crimes on 11/22.

            As I’ve told you before, I wouldn’t rely on Brennan’s ID of Oswald if that were the only evidence against him. I think Brennan was sincere and reliable, but he could’ve been mistaken — the other evidence shows that he wasn’t. Witness IDs of strangers are often mistaken, as shown by the Innocence Project.

            Eyewitness testimony can be reliable and valuable, but it should be compared with the other evidence (physical and circumstantial), not accepted as fact automatically.

            Please do me a favor. Instead of putting words in my mouth by saying “you’ve argued [such-and-such],” in the future please quote what I said that you’re referring to. I’d appreciate it.

          6. Jean, Yes, I understand that Custer’s testimony was 30 years later, and I acknowledged your argument that large bodies of professionals assert that long-term memories are seldom accurate. For years, large bodies of professionals insisted that thalidomide was safe. Professionals, particularly when they function in tandem, can be wrong.

            If I have misunderstood your remarks relating to eyewitness testimony in the past, I apologize; my recollection is that you argue that some witnesses present in the Emergency Room did not have accurate recall, or they didn’t see what they thought they saw, or witnesses claiming there were shots from the grassy knoll were mistaken or only expressing an opinion. (Navigating this site is challenging; If you still believe that I have misrepresented your general opinion, please let me know and I will go in search of direct quotes.)

            Howard Brennan’s sincerity has no bearing and his reliability is contradicted by his inconsistency. Compared to other witnesses, his testimony is quite messy. Re: “the other evidence (physical and circumstantial);” as noted, the physical evidence on the 6th Floor was tampered with from the outset and all indications are that the search of the Paine garage was highly flawed as well; the circumstantial evidence is precisely that, and there is equal if not more circumstantial evidence to indicate a conspiracy.

  11. i wonder what Ed Primeau thinks about the infamous motorcyclist tape that the HSCA relied on to conclude an conspiracy was probable.

    1. People who want to learn more about the JFK assassination from a fact-based, objective viewpoint, including a VERY detailed study of the Dallas police tape (which indicates five shots were fired, one from behind the fence on the knoll) should read Don Thomas’ excellent book, “Hear No Evil.” He shows with facts how the critics of the acoustical evidence got it wrong and just WHY the tapes are authentic and valid in showing more than one gunshot position.

      I don’t think that anyone who has seriously READ THIS BOOK can refute the findings. It’s that good! I am surprised that JFKfacts hasn’t interviewed Thomas or featured his book on this blog.

      To read more about this book, go here:

      1. I thought Thomas’ presentation at Lancer last November was brilliant and in his rebuttal to Dale Myers’ analysis.

        I got his book and his autograph but haven’t read it.

      2. Perhaps the comment “five shots were fired” has something to do with why nobody with any real knowledge of the assassination takes Thomas seriously.

        1. And that “real knowledge” came from where? The official story? The “facts” the government presented to you as truth?

        2. Mr Photon or should we call you “smarty pants”: you obviously have not read his
          Book nor seen his presentation. Your method of “kill the messenger” is another obvious sign of your real agenda. Interesting how you always have comments on
          Some of the most sensitive areas. Sometimes it is better to be silent.

  12. I think the Signal Corps would be a good place to start. Also, the military was highly placed and present before, during, and after the coup d’etat on 22nd November, 1963. After all, the US was in the midst of a “created” Cold War with the former USSR. It was the Generals who thought Kennedy weak and vacillating on confrontation and communism. In fact, they loathed his personal activities and found unwarranted fault with his style of leadership in the face of “created” boogeymen such as “communism”, “civil rights”, “kennedy’s womanizing”, and his “back channel communications” to diffuse CIA “sponsored” crisis, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and fall out from the Bay of Pigs, the Berlin Wall, and fomented rebellions and staged coups in South America, Africa, and Asia (the War monger’s preferred arenas for “war by proxy”).
    At times, the CIA dons Military uniforms and covers, so it is with tacit approval the Military condones the CIA’s activities. Kennedy even attempted to force the Military to reclaim the covert military operations usurped by the CIA (an intelligence gathering asset). Since some key brass of the Military overwhelmingly disapproved of President Kennedy, how much effort would it have taken to move forward with an assassination plan between CIA and the Military?

    1. It wouldnt be difficult at all with Hoover, LBJ, the media and even Kennedys aides looking the other way and making sure no one pursued any lead that didnt point to Oswald as the lone assassin.

  13. It was Ed’s analysis of the Travon Martin case that led me to ask him if he could combine the two existing AF1 tapes and he did so over a five month period pro bono with the help of his staff. Using his computer program he also eliminated static and noise so we can hear the conversations more clear. He did a tremendous job as a public service, something the government itself should have done. And I believe the acoustic experts were in agreement as to the identity of the voices on the Trevor Martin phone recording, and the HSCA acoustic experts Barter, Weiss, Ackensasy stand by their work and 95 percent probability of a fourth frontal shot as well.

    Thanks to Ed Primeau we have a very clear and clean combined AF1 recording that we can hear with our own ears what they are saying – the reactions of the government in the hours after the murder, and we can hear for ourselves where the tapes are edited. The longer Clifton tape includes patches edited out of the LBJ Library version so we can use that as a judge of the type of text that’s edited out – the LeMay message for example. And I believe we can find the original, and I know a few places where it might be and intend to look. Stay tuned.

  14. David A Bishop

    This could very easily just be someone copying what they thought were the important parts of the transmission. ANY tape edit looks exactly the the edit that you expert showed. That’s just what happens when a tape cuts off an starts up again.

  15. What makes Ed Primeau an expert in forensic analysis aside from his own claims? As I recall he claimed that there was a 95 % certainty that the screams on the Martin 911 tape were Travon, yet the real experts from the FBI said that no identification was possible because of the quality of the tape. In addition, he never had any sample of Travon’s emotionally charged voice to compare to. Where is the documentation that his ability is really valid? The last time I heard about an audio expert’s 95% confidence level was in regards to the HSCA fiasco.
    The level of expertise of audio “experts” is vastly overblown.

    1. Clarence Carlson

      Your basic question is cogent. Mr Primeau has been accepted in a number of different courts as an expert in analysis of audio evidence. That would qualify him as an “expert”. In the Trayvon Martin case he offered his opinion that it was not Zimmerman’s voice on the 911 recording. It should be noted that another qualified expert offered the same opinion using a different form of analysis. Of course in an adversarial proceeding, there will be opposing opinions.
      If you disagree with his analysis of the Clifton tape, then it will have to be on the scientific merits of his claim.

    2. “The body will be choppered, will be choppered to the Naval Medical Center at Bethesda….”
      You don’t need to be an “expert” anything to understand what transpired here on tape as part of an official US govt cover-up of the JFK autopsy.
      Under the JFK Records Act, all JFK assassination-related records of any kind were to be handed over to NARA and certified to ARRB by all government depts. and agencies, including the CIA and military. The original full version of this tape appears to have been deliberately concealed and only two different, heavily-edited versions exist. Why doesn’t this disturb you?

      1. This sounds like someone trying to figure out how to coordinate an autopsy, get the body to a military autopsy site, deplane members of the President’s entourage, without the benefit of a protocol for what to do when a President is assassinated. At first hearing, it all sounds very ominous, but nobody really had any experience in coordinating the aftermath of an assassination, so whether the tape surfaces intact or not, it is not indicative of a conspiracy. Remember, if there was a high level conspiracy, most loose ends that would suggest a government conspiracy would just simply disappear – that some weird stuff is floating around in the National Archives is a direct contradiction to the idea of a high level government conspiracy.


      Has someone added “attack the messenger” to this list?

      When time and occasion permits, a story involving Dick Stolley (the newsman that negotiated the Zapruder deal for Life Magazine) might be worth consideration. It relates directly to the topic of the intelligence community’s influence over the investigation, and will add to mounting concerns that even the best intentioned Americans contributed to and continue to contribute to the cover up of the assassination.

  16. Clarence Carlson

    One has to wonder: if General Clifton with his high security clearance, was given an edited version of the original, what information from the original is missing and why? Given the historical importance of the original it’s difficult to accept that someone simply “misplaced” it. I’m not holding my breath for it’s discovery but agree that it is of tremendous importance.

  17. “The original tape would constitute a real-time record of the reaction of the U.S. armed forces to the assassination of a sitting president. (Emphasis added.)”

    Primeau says the Clifton tape he has examined contains 12 < edits < 40. Not knowing who produced the Clifton tape, I'm loath to scream "cover-up!". Knowing the Clifton tape is a pared-down version of the original causes me to wonder how and why Chester Clifton acquired this bogus item. It surely did him no good; unless possibly he was responsible for the editing.

    Two things jump out at me here. First, an indication of military tampering with the factual record, which is consistent with military tampering at the autopsy (according to Dr. Finck.). Second, an indication of tampering that is consistent with indications of tampering in the photographic record.

    All of these indications are markers of pre-planning of a cover-up. At least they would be to an unbiased investigator.

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