So may the outward shows be least themselves:
The world is still deceived by ornament.
In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt
But, being seasoned by a gracious voice
Obscures the show of evil?
—WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, Merchant of Venice
Now the time had come for the ceremonies, so that the changed leadership accomplished by the guns in Dallas would be authenticated and accepted.
First, there had to be the Great Funeral which, by its majestic display of splendid sorrow, would help to discharge the anger and tension of the people and divert their attention from the murdered man’s actual labors and the motivation for the murder. Then there would be the Great Investigation which would ease the rational concerns of the people by pointing to the conclusion, after an industrious display of seeking evidence, that the murder of President Kennedy had merely been the meaningless act of a young man with a joyless childhood. The next ritual would be the formal Great Inquiry in which handpicked national leaders, the gray-haired elders of the tribe, would make a solemn study of the tragedy. Then they could assure the public that every detail had been investigated and that, indeed, there was no conspiracy and the United States still had the best of all possible governments. Ultimately, major installations would be christened “Kennedy”—a space center, a monstrous airport, a guerrilla warfare center—thus demonstrating that America may murder its leaders but does not forget their images.
The funeral was as magnificent as any ever received by a fallen leader. Ironically—because no President in the twentieth century had been so deeply at odds with the military establishment—it was a military funeral. Troops of all services marched through gray streets to a slow-cadenced drum and behind the casket clopped a horse with empty stirrups at his sides, a nostalgic reminder of ancient days. Television was allowed to show the proceedings for countless hours, although it would not afterward be allowed to show the Zapruder film, which in six seconds would have revealed to the country what really happened. The nation’s leaders attended, and their faces expressed sadness—not so much sadness that later they would insist that concealed evidence be shown to the public, but enough sadness for the occasion. Great dignitaries from all over the world were there to attend the ceremonies and later to meet with the new President.
The government investigation which followed appeared to be very intensive and had the effect of convincing millions of intelligent Americans that the facts were being exhaustively explored. Upon closer examination, however, the government’s investigation was more reminiscent of Brutus scouring every inch of Rome, collecting material from the courtyards and the catacombs, in order to try to learn who had murdered Caesar. When the historic investigation finally was concluded, a great deal of evidence appeared to have been collected for the public to see. However, upon careful inspection much of the evidence collected did not appear to have too much relevance to the murder of John Kennedy.
Included in the trivial “evidence” ultimately presented were the dental charts of Jack Ruby’s mother, grammar school records of Oswald, photographs of Russian scenery, irrelevant letters, irrelevant telegrams, picture postcards showing bullfights, a copy of the proceedings in an unrelated divorce case, a study of Oswald’s pubic hairs, and a traffic citation received by Jack Ruby.
On the other hand, much evidence which appeared to be significant either had been destroyed while in the government’s control or was classified as secret and locked in the National Archives until the year 2039.
The notes of Commander James J. Humes, the Navy pathologist who conducted the autopsy on the President, were burned in his fireplace for reasons which were never made clear. The investigative notes taken by a federal agent who questioned Oswald in New Orleans were later consigned to flames by the same agent. In each of these instances important information which might have clarified the location of President Kennedy’s wounds or the relationship of Lee Oswald to the federal government were swept away forever by fire. On the other hand, there is no record of any instance in which irrelevant evidence was burned or in any other way lost to posterity.
The locking up of evidence until the year 2039 meant that anyone who was 21 when the assassination occurred would be allowed to examine the hidden material at the age of 96, assuming that he had managed to retain an active interest in the case. This generous concession to the right of the public to know the facts undoubtedly was made because, as would be explained by federal officials, there was no political motivation behind the President’s unfortunate demise. Since there are no political implications to his murder, all the evidence is going to be made available for you to examine—after seven decades.
Among the files locked away in the archives, where they could not be examined by the public, were the following: A CIA file concerning Oswald’s access to information about the U-2, a memo from the head of the CIA entitled “Lee Harvey Oswald,” a CIA file concerning dissemination of information on Oswald, a reproduction of the CIA official dossier on Oswald, a CIA file entitled “Information given to the Secret Service but not yet given to the Warren Commission,” a CIA file on the chronology of Oswald in Russia, a CIA file on the activity of Oswald in Mexico City, and a CIA file entitled “Information on Jack Ruby and associates.”
As a result of the federal investigation, a total of 51 such CIA files were locked away in the vaults in Washington. Many of the files were classified secret on the grounds that national security was involved. Was it not a curious circumstance that the assassination which had no politically-motivated meaning had connected with it so many files that could affect the security of the nation if made public?
If an assassination accomplished by an itinerant warehouse employee produced such precaution in protecting state secrets, would it not be interesting to speculate whether there could have been much greater secrecy if the President had been killed as the result of a conspiracy? More than six years after what we were told was a lonely act devoid of political significance, a great volume of evidence was still classified as secret and locked away in the National Archives.
Not merely the great quantity of evidence hidden afterward but the conduct of the government during the investigation indicated that something was binding it, that it was not free to inquire into all relevant areas. The moment President Kennedy’s heart stopped beating the investigative agencies of the United States government seemed to suffer a substantial decline in their accustomed investigative alacrity. The sudden absence of their traditional proficiency in dealing with ordinary criminals, car thieves or counterfeiters was indicative of an investigative body’s encountering uniquely powerful obstacles. In the FBI, for example, agents accustomed to following leads to their conclusion were required to check out portions of leads and send the results in to Washington, after which they were given parts of new leads to pursue.
There are some indications that this strange disability of the federal investigative apparatus occurred even before President Kennedy’s heart stopped beating.
In retrospect, the federal investigation was much less a search for facts than a purposeful ignoring of them. When neglect of initial information appeared impracticable, the evidence was systematically destroyed. It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that the investigation was inexpertly performed or poorly organized. The investigative agencies seem to have known exactly where not to look and what not to find. A close study of the post-assassination investigation requires that the investigation be regarded as nothing less than a continuation of pre-assassination planning.
Despite the shocking impact of the murder of the President of the United States, the government took over control of the investigation firmly, quickly and smoothly. It had no jurisdiction whatsoever, because the killing of the President was not a federal crime, but the federal government took over from those who did have jurisdiction. Thus, shortly after the assassination, those local law enforcement authorities having genuine legal jurisdiction were, in effect, eliminated from the investigation. This meant that no officials with legal jurisdiction were seriously investigating the murder of the President of the United States, and it also virtually ended any risk that curious local government officials, uncontrolled by Washington, would actually seek any evidence.
Moreover, even before the investigation began, the federal government announced that there had been no conspiracy and all the shooting had been done by a lone assassin. Ordinarily serious investigations—the kind which actually seek to determine what happened—occur prior to the announcement of the conclusion. In the case of John Kennedy’s murder, however, first the conclusion was announced by the federal government and then the investigation proceeded, thus reducing the options of the investigative technicians to the single one of confirming their employer’s pronouncements. Similarly, the murder of Lee Oswald at the outset of the investigation considerably diminished the public interest in requiring evidence that he was not, after all, the lone assassin.
It is interesting that the first announcement that the assassination was a meaningless, one-man project came not from Dallas, where one would expect such knowledge to have been acquired, but from Washington. Even more interesting is the fact that at the time the announcement was made the evidence back in Dallas still indicated that the President had been killed in an ambush. As late as the morning following the day of the assassination the Dallas Morning News quoted District Attorney Henry Wade as saying that there appeared to have been a number of men in the operation. As for Lee Oswald, at the time of the initial Washington announcement that he alone was guilty, there was not the slightest evidence back in Dallas to give any reasonable support for such a conclusive announcement.
It made no difference. The name of the game that was now going on was not truth. It was power. Dallas officials sensed what was happening and moved back a little farther.
The first official statement that John Kennedy had been killed by the lone assassin, Lee Oswald, came in a radio message to the new President in Air Force One as he flew back to Washington. The good news that there was no conspiracy at all—and that it was, therefore, not a military coup d’état or anything sinister like that—was radioed to the new Chief Executive’s plane from the Situation Room in the White House. Actually, this radio message from Washington came in a little ahead of time, since there was not yet evidence nor even rumor to support it, so that the transmitters of the message deserve credit for this foresight in knowing so soon what the conclusion of the federal investigation was going to be.
Back in Dallas, Oswald had been given a paraffin test to see if he had on his cheeks the nitrate deposits caused by firing a rifle. The test showed that he had no nitrate deposits on either cheek, a fact which supported the proposition that he had not fired any rifle that day. If Oswald had been allowed to live long enough to go to trail, the absence of nitrate on both cheeks would have been powerful evidence for his exoneration.
Nevertheless, the announcement was made that the test showed that Oswald, indeed, had fired a rifle, and this incriminating news circled the world, satisfying hundreds of millions that the President’s assassin had been caught.
Similarly, it was announced that Oswald was identified as having been the man who killed Officer J. D. Tippit. This news also flew around the globe, lending further substance to the picture of Lee Oswald as a deranged, ruthless killer. Actually, two eyewitnesses at the scene of the Tippit murder indicated that Oswald was not the officer's murderer. Acquilla Clemons, observed the incident, was firm in saying that Oswald was not the man who killed Tippit. Domingo Benavides, the closest witness to the shooting, gave a description of the killer which so completely eliminated Oswald as a suspect that he was never called to the lineup to look at Oswald. This news, however, did not go around the world. For these reasons, also, had Oswald Lived in all likelihood he would have been exonerated.
It was announced to the press that a map belonging to Oswald had been found with marks made at possible assassination points along the parade route. This news also rapidly became widespread. Later, it turned out that the map belonged to Mrs. Paine, with whom Oswald’s wife stayed, and the marks were made to help him locate addresses while he was job-hunting and had no connection with the assassination. Understandably, there was not too much press propaganda value in the development that the map had no connection with the assassination. By the time this fact was clarified, Oswald had been murdered.
To the people in the United States and the rest of the world the mass media reported that the chicken bones and cigarette butts in the assassin’s lair showed that Oswald had eaten lunch and smoked while waiting for the President’s car. It was later learned that the lunch had been eaten by Bonnie Ray Williams, a Texas School Book Depository employee, who afterward watched the parade from the floor below. As for the cigarette butts, no evidence was ever adduced that Oswald did smoke. These facts did not receive the attention of the newswires and public presses.
Here are other facts which were barely afforded exposure by the mass media:
The official cause of death description of President Kennedy was made at Parkland Hospital at 4:45 that afternoon. It stated that he was killed by a gunshot wound of the temple. The temple is located on the side of the head, slightly above an imaginary line drawn from eye to ear. Assuming that it has not been moved by government authorities in the meantime, the book depository, where Oswald was employed, is located to the rear of the point where the President was killed.
It is conceivable that Dr. John McClelland, who diagnosed the cause of death as a wound received in the left temple, had had a busy day and had some other patient in mind, but even in Dallas it is unusual to see a President of the United States who has just been shot to death, so it is reasonable to expect that a doctor would remember the President’s wounds for a little while. Other doctors at Parkland confirmed that the President appeared to them to have received wounds from the front—not merely in the head but in the neck as well.
Here are more facts which were not sent around the world.
There was eyewitness evidence concerning the strange movement of three cars behind the grassy knoll shortly before the assassination, despite the fact that cars were supposed to be kept out of this area by the police during this period. The driver of one of the cars appeared to be operating a radio transmitter as he drove. Similarly, there was eyewitness evidence concerning the rapid departure, after the shooting, of three men from the rear area of the book depository. Two of them left in a station wagon so fast that the door was flapping open as it took off.
Richard Randolph Carr, who observed the departure of the station wagon with two men in it, earlier heard the shooting from the grassy knoll. Carr had served in combat in the Army in North Africa and Anzio and he knew gunfire when he heard it. The shots were too close together, Carr said, to be fired by a single man. He saw one of the shots from the knoll miss the President’s car completely and cut a furrow in the grass—the bullet’s path going in a direction from the area in front of the President’s car toward the rear of the car. The response of federal investigators to this information, as he later testified under oath, was to tell him to keep his mouth shut.
About one hour before the assassination, Julia Ann Mercer, a 23-year-old resident of Dallas, driving a rented white Valiant automobile, was held up in traffic and observed a man dismount from a truck at the foot of the grassy knoll with what was obviously a rifle wrapped in brown paper. The driver of the truck, as she subsequently informed uninterested federal investigators, was Jack Ruby. Her statement to the federal agents was later revised without her knowledge, in virtually every material respect.
And here are more facts which did not receive world-wide dissemination.
The overwhelming majority of witnesses in Dealey Plaza distinctly heard gunfire from the vicinity of the grassy knoll in front of the President’s car. Because of this, the great majority of the people who were able to act, after they recovered from their shock, ran toward the grassy knoll to search the hidden area behind the picket fence. Seven witnesses saw smoke drifting up above the trees on the knoll at the moment of the firing.
Immediately after the shooting, men were seen running from the picket fence which stands on the knoll to the front of where the President was shot. One of them appeared to be carrying a headpiece.
Within minutes after the assassination, some men were arrested in back of the grassy knoll by the Dallas police. Photographs of them being marched to jail in the custody of police officers were taken, but in spite of this the official position continues to be that no one was arrested on that day except Lee Harvey Oswald. In fact, at least nine men were arrested in the vicinity after the assassination. All except one were quietly turned loose after Oswald was arrested, and there is no record of their names. The ninth man was kept in jail for days, even after Oswald’s assassination, for possible investigation by Dallas authorities with regard to the President’s murder. His name is not available.
The Zapruder film, which clearly shows the effect of the shooting—coming from different directions—on the President, leaves no doubt that the fatal shot slammed him backward and to his left. Unless the laws of physics have been revised, the Zapruder film clearly indicates that the fatal shot came at the President from in front and to the right of him. After more than six years following the assassination, the Zapruder film is still being withheld from the American people. In the short portion of it which was published in the Warren Commission exhibits, frames 314 and 315 were reversed. This reversal confused the question of the effect of that bullet which impacted at frame 313 in terms of the direction in which it had propelled the President. This reversal of the frames was admitted later by the director of the FBI.
Numerous witnesses in the vicinity of the President’s car observed that the shot which tore open his head slammed him backward and to his left. When the fatal shot struck him, the motorcycle officers to the left rear of the Presidential limousine were splattered with blood and brain matter.
In view of these facts, most reasonable men, those who were not in fear of the power of the federal government and who were free to use their common sense, would conclude that President Kennedy was killed by a shot from in front and to the right of him. However, these facts were not made available to the public. What was made available—and hurtled around the world—was the fiction of a lone young warehouse employee crouched savagely behind the President with the fastest gun since Wyatt Earp.
A coup d'état needs a scapegoat to be thrown to the people so that public hostility can be discharged and the new order accepted. The impression that there was a case against Lee Oswald was created by false statements and leaks to the press which swept around the globe in minutes. After the image was created, it was quick-frozen by his murder. All that remained was for government officials to explain that everything that happened was meaningless and all was well.
There was never a real case, in terms of evidence, against Oswald. There was never even the beginning of a case. There was no case against him because he had not killed anyone. He too was a victim, as were the President and the American people, of a new force in America. Oswald was murdered less than 48 hours after the President’s assassination. Within that short span, however, the official legend had been created and the modern technology of the media took it from there. Lone assassin ... No conspiracy ... Lee Harvey Oswald ... No Conspiracy ... Book depository ... Lone assassin ... No Conspiracy.
Even the accused himself was abandoned by his police guardians, killed and flung to the crowd. As the dead “assassin" he became another bauble drawing attention away from the professionally handled ambush at Dealey Plaza, rather than a live and protesting patsy entitled to a full and public trial.
The glitter of the official lies, the tinseled news stories of things which never occurred and the epic splendor and thought-numbing grief of the President’s funeral confused the eye and confounded understanding. Anyone seeking to inquire into the meaning of the assassination found himself in an enchanted maze which steadily led him away from reality.
Americans were not yet aware that deception had become a craft in their country, that an intricate contrivance of men for the clandestine production of illusion had become not only a part of but also manipulator of America, its policies and its people. In the past, according to the American tradition, evil was something which could be seen and recognized. In our folklore, evil wore a low-slung gun, confronted you in the open and was defeated by a virtuous heart and a quicker draw.
If, indeed, it were ever that simple, it was no longer. Now it was possible in America not merely to accomplish the foulest murder but afterward to remove all stain and make it appear to have been something less: to make it seem the meaningless act of a loner, a capricious quirk of fate undeserving of too deep an inquiry. In time, the hidden machinery would casually kill other national leaders whose commitment to peace made them dangerous to men committed to war and secret manipulation of the populace.
Behind the stage magic and mocking deception, behind all the ornaments arranged to lure away the eye, massive power was drawn up in silent array to prevent any effective inquiry from disclosing the fact that America had become a warfare state where human sacrifice was practiced not only abroad but now also at home.