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The Continuing Saga of the JFK Assassination

             
Chief Justice Earl Warren presents finished copy of the Warren Report to President Johnson along with other members of the Warren Commission
 Truth of Power

With the appointing of the Warren Commission a week after President Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson hoped to dispell "damaging rumors" with an exhaustive investigation into all aspects of the case. On-going legal investigations in Texas were terminated and all physical evidence shifted from the hands of the Dallas Police Department to the FBI. With the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald dead, there would be no legal trial, only a public one. Defendant's rights would be fair game in this environment of politics. Juriprudence would be just a word , not an issue under the public microscope.

Chief Justice Earl Warren at first declined President Johnson's offer to chair the commission, citing the impartial role of his office. It may have also have been Warren's conviction that the legal protocol should be maintained: the assassination in Texas came under the jurisdiction of the state of Texas. It was not a federal crime.

After a meeting in the White House with LBJ, however, Warren emerged with "tears in his eyes" and a different conviction. This was supposedly the result of a country-and-duty pep talk from the president. It also may have been the result of LBJ's implicit reminder to Warren of his place in the governmental web of deceit!

President Johnson would have been following the law had he allowed an autopsy to be performed on JFK's body before it left the state of Texas. Dallas County Medical Examiner Earl Rose literally had a physical and mental tug-of-war with the presidential party over this issue in the corridors of Parkland Hospital as the casket was being wheeled out. . William Manchester describes this scene in "Death of A President":

     Secret Service Agent Roy Kellerman: My friend, this is the body of the President of the United States, and we are going to take it back to Washington.

    Rose: No. That's not the way things are . . . When there's a homicide, we must have an autopsy.

    Kellerman: He is the president. He is going with us.

    Rose: The body stays.

    Kellerman: My friend, my name is Roy Kellerman. I am Special Agent in Charge of the White House Detail of the Secret Service. We are taking the President back to the capital.

    Rose: You're not taking the body anywhere. There's a law here. We're going to enforce it.

 

After this exchange, Rose continued his argument with presidential physician Admiral George Burkley . Seeing he was getting nowhere with Rose, Burkley remarked, "My friend, this, part of the law can be waived.(italics mine) You will have to show me a lot more authority than you have now."

Eventually, Rose got local Justice of the Peace Theron Ward to the hospital who backed up his position: the body must remain for an autopsy. In Manchester's account, members of the presidential party become increasingly agaitated by Rose's stand until finally a boiling point is reached and the casket literally shoved past Texas authorities in the corridor and out the door to a waiting hearse. Texas law, called-for under the circumstances, is hurtled over.

Manchester paints Rose in a not-too-complimentary light in his version of the hallway tug-of-war scene. Rose is a man doing his job, but he is being needlessly strict under the circumstances. Certainly, it was a rare situation: a murdered president's body and a chain-of-evidence confrontation. Only three other US Presidents had been assassinated under varying circumstances, so legal precedence was not traditionally solid as to who had rights to the body. There was the Texas law, however, and the presidential party violated it when they commandeered the casket, leaving with a vital piece of evidence.

Were there orders to take the body out of Texas or was it a spur-of-the-moment emotional response? Certainly, the Secret Service agents were aware of the law concerning assassination(not being under federal jurisdiction at that time). The emotions of the day made it easier for the casket to be whisked away from Texas authorities. Anti-Texas feelings were rampant on November 22, 1963 and much of what happened that day was filtered through this emotion.

Lyndon Johnson had stated that he wouldn't leave Texas without First Lady Jackie Kennedy, and conveniently, Jackie Kennedy had stated that she wouldn't leave without her husband's body. The tug-of-war scene at Parkland was fueled by this sentimental chain.

The decision to take the body, emotions or not, wouldn't be left to the Secret Service. Leaving Kennedy's body at Parkland would have posed no physical threat to LBJ, who was sitting in Air Force One waiting for the casket and for Judge Sarah Hughes to arrive and swear him in as the new President. In fact, if it was thought that there was a possible conspiracy that also threatened LBJ, the Secret Service certainly would have wanted the new President airborne for Washington as soon as possible, not a sitting duck at Love Field.

This possibility had to be considered by procedure alone. On the way from Parkland to Love Field a Secret Service agent had kept LBJ hidden from view, practically sitting on him! Was this real fear or just an act? The prospect of JFK's body remaining in Texas hands had to carry other-than-physical threats to LBJ!

After the body was aboard Air Force One, retrieval of it by Texas authorities would have caused a major scene and would have been another black eye for the state. The emotions of the day certainly played against the hands of Texas. The law of proper investigation was on its side, but only the law of power came into play. From the very beginning, any objective investigation into JFK's murder was subverted by this chain-of-evidence breach. Any fair legal trial would be seriously handicapped if not outright thrown out by this. Was a trial even in the planning? It couldn't have been.

Any good lawyer could have shown a jury that Kennedy's wounds didn't correspond to a shooter from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. This would have cleared Oswald, or at least he would have had to have been put somewhere else doing the shooting. He was quite alone in the lunchroom when all the shooting was taking place, so this would have been a possibility, as long as Kennedy was hit from behind. It was established that Oswald was in the TSBD.

When it became necessary for the grassy knoll shooters to "finish the job", it also became necessary for evidence(wound) alterations. Someone missed that head shot from the sixth floor perch that would have made stealing JFK's body from proper investigating authorities unnecessary. Oswald couldn't have shot Kennedy in front from behind!

With the body in the hands of the "government", a more "objective" autopsy could now be performed at Naval Academy's Bethesda Naval Hospital. The autopists were naval officers inexperienced in autopsies, let alone on the body of a murdered president. They were surrounded in the crowded autopsy room by various officers of superior rank, who interfered with and directed much of their actions. The autopsy was not an objective one in this sense, but a directed and token one. The can of worms that was opened by the Bethesda autopsy has been attested to by a deluge of critical analysis and doubt these past 35 years!

On November 22, 1963, our traditional "protectors", knowlingly or not, and riding a wave of national hysteria and emotion, were part of a massive subversion of law while the "bad guys" were somewhere deep in the heart of Texas.

 To the Laundromat

Laundering money involves running it through legitimate business fronts. In the same fashion, laundering of evidence involves running it through respectable and "legitimate" fronts or public figures. What better way to accomplish this in the JFK assassination investigation than by appointing a "blue ribbon" panel of renowned statesmen high on the reverance charts of the establishment?

President Johnson might have been better off not to have composed the Warren Commission like he did. The establishment flavor of the appointed group has only added to the suspicion of high-level conspiracy all these years. He would have been wiser to have appointed lesser-known but established experts in criminal investigation with strong and trusted ties to a cover-up. This would have dampened the argument of a puppet-string panel.

The FBI should have served this purpose after the ball was put in their court, so to speak, when FBI agents acquired the physical evidence of the case the very night of the assassination. The Warren Commission would take the heat off of the FBI. The CIA would also be an agency of cooperation in the investigation. This was a lot of investigative ammunition, so to speak, for one lone-nut killer! Even Congress wanted to get into the act, but LBJ dissuaded this movement: too many loose cannons and dangerously close to the people!

Apparently, no single agency wanted to shoulder the burden: deceit of such magnitude would be a heavy load indeed! Now the ball could be thrown back and forth and kept away from the public. Also, by concentrating the official investigation in Washington, it would be easier to control press leaks to the major media outlets. It was a control, not an investigative, setup.

With the appointing of the Warren Commission the case of JFK's murder moved from the legal realm to the public relations realm. Each member of the Commission had reached his esteemed position through years of public relations. No politician can survive without a complex base of knowledge in dealing with the public . It goes with the territory. President Johnson was a master of public relations with his long tenure as Senate Majority Leader. His main credo, learned from the legendary Senate Majority Leader Sam Rayburn, was : " To get along, you go along." In the dizzying heights of Washington power, the truths of JFK's murder would have to be more than compromised: they would have to be buried.

On the very day of Oswald's murder in the Dallas PD basement by Jack Ruby, a memo to White House Press Secretary Bill Moyers from Deputy Attorney General Nicolas Katzenbach already existed concerning the necessity of convincing the public that Oswald had acted alone!

"The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the lone assassin; that he did not have confederates that are still at large; and that the evidence is such that he would have been convicted at trial."

With this attitude present in the upper echelons of American justice, the case against Lee Harvey Oswald was closed before it was opened! His public trial, the Warren Commission, had only prosecuting attorneys: the defense "lawyers" and jury have been officially gagged and bound to this day. Thirty-four years after the JFK murder, the case has never really officially been opened, just taken to the laundromat.

 Money & Principle

Who are the "defense lawyers" for Oswald? Ironically, the alleged assassin and perpetrator of what many consider the crime of the century never had legal representation before being gunned down by Ruby on national television. Walter E Craig, President of the American Bar Association, was requested to "advise the Commission whether in his opinion the proceedings conformed to the basic principles of American justice." It must be noted that Craig was not a choice of the Oswalds. The WC Report only states that Marina Oswald "agreed" to this arrangement.

Marguerite Oswald, Lee's mother, reached an arrangement with New York attorney Mark Lane whereby he would represent her interests before the Warren Commission. Unfortunately, anyone like Lane who took an objective, inquiring position into the proceedings themselves became the victims of harassment and investigation. The Commission was looking for case closers, not door openers.

Publically, however, critics of the Warren Commision and any other pro-lone-nut theorist have been his defenders all these years. Varying degerees of guilt and innocence have been attached to his alleged actions by these defenders.

Cases like the JFK assassination are not really history, but on-going history. As long as there remain stones to be overturned, it remains such. It is not the critics who have opened up the "can of worms" mentioned above, but the due process of democracy. Warren Commission and official-line skeptics have had to go against a constant wave of mass media derision and condemnation all these years.

The truth of the JFK murder is too expensive an issue for the major media networks to handle. To obscure this fact they hide behind their official espousal of the lone-nut theory and throw the democracratic process of free research back into the face of the people. Media neutrality in this case would be equivalent to victory for the critics after all these years of official guardianship. It would be a sign of giving in, and this would be the same at this point as recognizing that, yes, the critics have been right all these years and the major mass media has knowingly aided in the subversion of truth. Once they give in to some of the truth, what's to stop a progression to the whole truth? Anything short of lone-nut is surrender.

What keeps the fires burning in the search for truth and why is this still an important issue? There are several views surrounding this controversy that I would like to comment on .

It has been said that money motive is a major driving force behind most if not all of the material critical of the official line. Money motive is a driving behind just about everything in a capitalistic society. I am sure critical literature has reaped nice rewards for many of the researchers.

Regardless of what happened after JFK's murder, however, the act was so historically cataclysmic that many books would have followed. If the conspiring individuals had been exposed and somehow prosecuted, for example, I am quite sure that even more literature would have surfaced all these years. What is more important here, anyway, the amount of money being made on assassination books or the content in them? If a book(or movie, newsletter,etc.) adds to the knowledge base of our past in a factual manner, then it is providing a very valuable service.

Look at the tremendous amount of material that has been written about Hitler and WWII. This historical event, like the JFK assassination, still fascinates many people. In a democracy, it is the people's right(and duty) to know the truth about their national history. As time goes on, our history sometimes changes as knew facts emergeabout the past. These are growing pains in any democratic society. It is like an individual who must face up to truths in his past in order to move on with a clean slate, so to speak. It is confession and absolution, as well as trial and error.

The Viet Nam "war" is a good example of this. Read Fletcher Prouty's book "JFK: The CIA, Viet Nam And The Plot To Assassinate John F. Kennedy." In it, Prouty, a member of important standing in US military circles since WW II, outlines the CIA's use of psi-war and non-conventional war tactics to foment civil strife and war. One can look at the Viet Nam conflict as a battle against Communism(simplified American history), a civil war amongst the Viet Namese population that we got involved in(a little more compromise with reality here), or a struggle that was instigated at the behest of certain CIA operatives.

This latter historical view falls into the same non-conformist group as the view among most researchers that Kennedy's murder was orchestrated by members of the CIA: the so-called "conspiracy" angle. Prouty's strategic position in the on-going history of the past 50 years makes him a potentially very valuable pawn indeed for any powerful group who might need a "witness" to their historical revisions. Prouty has remained steadfast in his stance, however, not as much anti-official as pro-facts.

This is just one instance where the principle of truth far outweighs any monetary considerations. The JFK murder topic is a hot one and money has been made on both sides of the fence. If the critic's detractors want to look at a real money motive scenario, they should take a serious look at how much money the Viet Nam "war" poured into the pockets of the military-industrial complex!

"Waking Up On Christmas Morning . . ."

Another anti-critics line is the "subversive" one: critics are nothing more than malcontents who want to stir up trouble for the government. There is an element of truth in this, ironically. The foundations of our nation are based on our past experiences. I remember Robert Groden saying in the documentary "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" that "You can't build on lies" in reference to the official history of the JFK assassination.

He was probably thinking of the future generations who might read in their history books about a malcontented young man named Lee Harvey Oswald who, on one Friday in the year 1963, took a rifle to work, smuggled it inside the building, and by fortune alone had a great 6th floor view of a presidential motorcade passing by from which to shoot President John F Kennedy. Two days later Oswald was shot by a Jack Ruby, who was extracting vengeance: simplified history and easy to remember. Does anyone want to trade places with Oswald in the history books, however? I hope not!

A lot of people just don't like the thought of their children being lied to and the perpetuation of the lone-nut myth is just that! Do we know what our children are being taught in the classrooms today with regards to this important event? Or will our kids have to grow to a more discriminating age before they can sift through the information themselves? The protectors of the lone-nut line can live with this, as long as the critical, search-for-truth element in the population remains a sort of subculture in the eyes of the mass media.

    The whole truth may not be necessary for future generations, just the knowledge that the "whole truth" is not always the whole truth.

There is subversion in seeking the truth when a society is based on lies and distortions. No history is perfect, but there is nothing wrong attempting perfection. The fragments of non-truth and distortion in our history must be replaced by verified information. Our history must be "defragmented", to use a computer term, so it will be more wholesome and supportive our country's direction. "Subversion" doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing act in any society. A society doesn't have to be completely torn down to be improved. The better the foundations, however, the better on which to build.

Idealogical and monetary factors aside, Kennedy assassination research also stems from the lure of making history and personal accountability. As mentioned above, the assassination episode is on-going as long as stones remain to be turned. Any new lead or piece of information carries with it history-making possibilities. Making history and becoming famous is an allurement to most people. By the same token, the prospect of infamy is an inducement to covering up truths.

A lot of people just want justice done. Despite what has come out in a deragatory manner about JFK since his death, the special memories of Kennedy's administration and those times is deeply implanted in many people's minds. Regardless of your political leanings, one must admit that John F. Kennedy was a sensational political figure, albeit a controversial one, who captured the admiration and atention of people at home and abroad. His place in history, coming as it did in the crucial period when the world had almost gained full rcovery from the devastation of WW II, is very remarkable.

By smearing Kennedy post-humously, some JFK detractors probably hope to dampen this feeling of due process in identifying and prosecuting any remaining conspirators, or at least getting the real truth out. The more despised a figure they can cut for JFK, the more people will come to the "he had it coming" or "he deserved it" attitude.

Sadly, this misses an important issue in all of this: in our supposedly democratic nation we have peaceful tools to remove a public official from office. If we cherish and appreciate our freedoms in this respect, how can we espouse and subscribe to assassination(both character and physical) as a tool for change? This is the main issue, not JFK's personality. People have a right to challenge Kennedy's actions, but they also have a moral obligation to keep the record straight.

The influence of the media is such today that anything it espouses can make or breaka person in the public's eye. One only has to remember the firestorms it has fanned in recent years- the Rodney King riots, the Anita Hill questioning, the OJ Simpson trial, to name a few- to realize the powerful position of anyone who can control the content of our mass media! The very direction of our nation can be in the hands of a powerful few.

This power has been utilized for 35 years to keep the wraps on the JFK assassination, but as Bob Dylan says in one of his early songs, "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." The more obvious the truths, the more power of suppression needed to quell them.

The events in Dallas on November 22, 1963 were so implanted on a generation's experience as to be of mythic proportions. Anything that adds to or challenges the official history of this day carries magical qualities. Remember the feeling we had when we were very young and anticipating Christmas morning, waking up and discovering where Santa had left the gifts? It has taken a long time for this country to wake up. We seem to be locked in the bedroom while the gifts are somewhere else in the house