Former Assistant Counsel to the Warren Commission
Author of November 22, 1963: You are the Jury
Final Disclosure: The Full Truth About the Assassination
of President Kennedy
Executive Director of the Rockefeller Commission in
in 1975, Investigating CIA Assassinations of Foreign Leaders
MR. BELIN: Thank you, Judge. I have a formal nine-page typewritten statement with a couple of exhibits attached, which I'm going to leave with you when I am finished. It has some interlineations because I was out of the office yesterday. I did not have the time to get the final changes made.
I want to summarize, highlight, a portion of what my formal statement includes. A vocal group of assassination revisionists are poised like scavengers to attach the Assassination Records Review Board. They will play to the grandstand when the Board has completed its work crying out "If you would have released everything we would have finally found the truth about the assassination." Leading this group will be individuals associated with JFK, the greatest electronic coverup fraud ever perpetrated on America's movie screens. Jack Filente, President of the Motion Picture Association of America, has denounced JFK, and these are his words, "A hoax, a smear and pure fiction that rivals the Nazi propaganda films of Lenny Reiffensthahl. In Filente's words, and I'm quoting, "In scene after scene Mr. Stone plasters together the half true and the totally false and from that he manufacturers a plausible in much the same way young German boys and girls in 1941 were mesmerized by Lenny Reiffensthahl's Triumph of the Will in which Adolph Hitler was depicted as a new born god. Both JFK and Triumph of the Will are equally both a propaganda masterpiece and equally a hoax." Unfortunately the standards of JFK are also incorporated in another widely seen electronic misrepresentation of the truth, the five hour Arts and Entertainment cable network series, The Men Who Killed Kennedy, which also covers up the truth about the assassination.
The challenge this Assassination Records Review Board faces is how to best discharge its duties in the face of a torrential downpour of disinformation that has dominated the media world and will continue after the work of this Board is completed. It is in this context that I have come to Los Angeles to share my prospectus with the Board. And so there's no misunderstanding of the dangers that you face, you've just heard Mr. Hamburg, co-producer of the film Nixon with Mr. Stone, say, Remember, if you don't release everything, remember, there's going to be a legacy of doubt, distrust, unanswered questions in which he aligned the Warren Commission as well as the House Select Committee on Assassinations. And that's the challenge that you face.
Now, in addressing the challenge you face I'm going to have two alternative recommendations, but in order to get these in perspective I want to first start with a frame of reference to understand how I approach this issue. First, as you know I served as Counsel to the Warren Commission in 1964. I was one of the two lawyers concentrating on what we called Area Two, the determination of who killed President Kennedy, which was expanded to who killed Officer Tippett.
We interviewed the witnesses at the time shortly after the event when their recollections were the freshest, and therefore the best. In undertaking our investigation we followed but one standard, a standard that was established by Chief Justice Earl Warren in our very first meeting. "Truth is our only goal." It was the standard Lee Rankin followed. It was the standard that Professor Liebeler followed. It was a standard that all of us followed.
In 1975 President Ford appointed me as the Executive Director of the Commission on CIA activities within the United States. It became known as the Rockefeller Commission because Vice President Rockefeller served as its chairman. By the way, another member of the Commission was Ronald Reagan. In my investigation I was the first outside person to uncover the fact that the CIA had been engaged in assassination plots directed against foreign leaders. Information that had been wrongfully held from the Warren Commission. So what did I do? Well, in the fall of 1975 after I returned to my law practice in Des Moine, I filed Freedom of Information Act requests from the unique perspective of having had access to all of the CIA files concerning the assassination of President Kennedy, having had access to the Warren Commission files, and so I filed these requests asking that all of the documents be released from the CIA files concerning the assassination and the remaining two or three percent of the Warren Commission files that hadn't been released. Now having interviewed the key witnesses I already knew what the facts were, I can say absolute certainty Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman that killed President Kennedy, wounded Governor Connally and killed Dallas Police Office J.D. Tippett on November 22, 1963. Neither the CIA or any other governmental agency was in any way directly or indirectly involved, nor any so called rogue elements directly involved. The evidence beyond a reasonable doubt was Oswald was the lone gunman. Jack Ruby was in no way conspiratorially involved. As a matter of fact, unbeknownst to most people he offered to take lie detector tests which confirmed that everything he told the Warren Commission was true.
In an effort to help the public understand the truth about the assassination, I have written two books. Royalties of both books have been donated to charity, as well as all of my speaking engagements, writing fees of anything connected with the assassination.
Now with this background as to what my perspective is, I want to contrast this with what I call "the assassination revisionists and their coverup of the truth" because it's important that although you're not here to determine whether the Warren Commission was right or wrong, I think it's important for you to understand the nature of what takes place because it's going to better help you to discharge your responsibilities as you seek to complete the record of your work.
Let me use two examples from JFK one of which involves a murder which I call "the Rosetta Stone" to understand the truth about the assassination. Officer Tippett, J.D. Tippett, was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald 45 minutes after the assassination. The Tippett murder is such an open and shut case that one wonders how the American public could be so readily deceived by assassination revisionists. William Scoggins the cab driver who was parked in his cab, whose testimony I took in the spring of 1964 in Dallas, told how he heard shots. He looked up and saw the policeman fall, saw the gunman come as close to him as 10 or 12 feet muttering either "poor damn cop" or "poor dumb cop." Scoggins identified Oswald as the gunman. So did five other witnesses, Barbara Davis, Virginia Davis, Sam Guinyard, Ted Callaway, Helen Markham. Not only do you have sid eyewitnesses who identified Oswald as the gunman, but you found cartridge cases at the scene of the Tippett murder, which Barbara Davis, Virginia Davis, and a witness by the name of Domingo Benavides, turned over to the police. Those cartridge cases came from Oswald's revolver that he pulled out in the Texas theater as the police approached.
The bullets in Tippett's body, according to the FBI ballistic experts, were too mutilated to be ballistically identifiable. An independent expert, Mr. Joseph D. Nicol, said one of them could be identified as coming from Oswald's revolver.
Now, in the face of these facts, showing Oswald's guilt, JFK and a host of revisionist books portrays the Tippett murder as having been committed by two people, neither one of whom was Oswald. Common sense would say to anyone that the Dallas Police Department would have moved heaven and earth to try and find who killed one of their police officers if it wasn't Lee Harvey Oswald. By the way, common sense would also say that if Oswald was not the lone gunman who killed President Kennedy, nearly killed Texas Governor John Connally, Jacqueline Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Governor Connally, would have left no stone unturned to find out who the gunman was. Now that's one example of the Tippett film.
The other thing that I'm going to talk about is perhaps the most flagrant lie of JFK because it occurs at the very end of the film after the movie action is over. In essence the lie is in two parts and it is a permanent indictment of Hollywood in general, and Warner Brothers and Oliver Stone in particular. Here is what viewers see on movie screens on an video tapes on a film that has been distributed to classrooms across the country with a JFK study guide finance in part by Warner Brothers. Here's what it says in print after the movie is over, "A Congressional investigation from 1976 to 1979 found a probable conspiracy in the assassination of John F. Kennedy and recommended the Justice Department investigate further." Now here is what they say. "As of 1991 the Justice Department has done nothing." What the movie did in a single paragraph was to state two lies, one by omission and one by commission. And then put this in a cosmetic framework because the movie at the end is dedicated to the young and whose spirit the search for the truth marches on.
First the lie of omission. The movie viewers have just seen Oswald depicted as an innocent patsy and Earl Warren depicted as a coverup participant. Now, the findings of that 1976 to '79 investigation, as everyone knows who knows the findings, were that Oswald fired all of the shots that struck President Kennedy and Governor Connally. That the single-bullet theory of the Warren Commission is correct. That Oswald was the lone gunman who killed Officer Tippett. All of this is directly contrary to JFK and Jim Garrison's theory, that was just enunciated here by Mr. Hamburg, of triangulation. The fact that Oliver Stone and Warner Brothers mentions a Congressional investigation without mentioning the conclusion that Oswald was the one who killed President Kennedy and Officer Tippett, is one major lie by omission.
Related to this lie of omission is another key related fact. The last minute switch of a majority of the Congressional Committee believing in probable conspiracy that was based on reported acoustical evidence, which in 1982 was scientifically disproved by the Committee on Ballistic Acoustics. Professor Liebeler has just talked about that. It was not the whole Committee who fell victim to this. It was a Committee majority. There were dissenting reports filed as you know.
But as bad as these lies of omission were, the big lie of commission is even worse, and that's what you people face as consider what you're going to do toward the end of your review. The allegation that as of 1991 the Justice Department has done nothing, is not some actor making a statement as part of a movie plot, it is Warner Brothers and Mr. Stone telling the American public, indeed the entire world, that there was a recommendation for the Justice Department to investigate further, and that as of 1991 the Justice Department has said nothing. How could Hollywood, how could Warner Brothers, how could Oliver Stone dare to make such a false statement when the truth was so readily ascertainable. Here are the facts: A majority of the House Select Committee on Assassinations on the basis of acoustical evidence, concluded there was a fourth shot fired from the grassy knoll that missed everything. One hundred twenty five feet fired down hill did not only miss the limousine -- the occupants in the limousine. But because the minority disagreed there was a recommendation that the Justice Department investigate further. What happened next was that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is part of the Department of Justice, undertook further investigation and prepared a report on November 19, 1980, concluding the acoustical evidence findings were not valid. However, there was substantial question whether or not that FBI investigation was scientifically sound. Therefore, the Justice Department requested in the fall of 1980 that the National Research Council establish the Committee on Ballistic Acoustics. It was comprised of outstanding scientists from across the country, was chaired by Doctor Norman Ramsey a Nobel Professor of Physics from Harvard. As of May 17, 1982, the Committee on Ballistic Acoustics published a 96 page report. The introduction on page three completely disproved the lies of the JFK script that said as of 1991 the Justice Department had done nothing because here's what it said, "The Committee on Ballistic Acoustics was established by the National Research Council in the fall of 1980 in response to the requests from the Department of Justice for a review of the methodology employed in the evaluations of the recorded acoustic data out of the conclusions about the existence of a shot from the grassy knoll." Now in my written statement I include highlights from the conclusions of that Committee. They found out, number one, there was no scientific basis for the purported acoustical evidence conclusions. Number two, they found there was independent evidence that showed that the so-called electronic impulses took place a minute after the assassination. And, number three, they pointed out, as Professor Liebeler has said, that the dictabelt was not evidently in the motorcade -- or not on a motorcycle -- or not recorded from a stuck microphone in a motorcycle in the motorcade because it didn't pick up the sounds of sirens as the motorcade sped from the assassination scene. There was no sound of revving up of motorcycle engines. There were sounds of chimes but there were no chimes in Dealey Plaza.
Officer McClane, by the way, who was the driver of the motorcycle that the House Committee experts said had the stuck microphone said, "My microphone wasn't stuck."
Now we've heard a lot about the dangers of Hollywood and violence, but as bad as all of Hollywood's violence is, the deliberate dissemination of lies attacking our government and governmental institutions is even worse. Trust is the mortar that holds the structure of our government together, and when a Hollywood film dedicated to the young and whose spirit the search for truth marches on lies to the young as everyone else that the assassination of a president was a coup d'etat undertaken by agencies of the United States Government and covered up by the Chief Justice of the United States, it's a terrible attack on citizen trust. When the truth is submerged in survival of a free society and civilization is threatened and from a long range standpoint nothing could be worse than this electronic downpour of lies.
Now with the foregoing as a frame of reference, I make these two alternative recommendations to this Board. First alternative, this is the one that I prefer, I would urge that the Assassination Reviews Board release every single document in CIA files concerning the assassination of President Kennedy and also all the remaining Warren Commission files, about two percent of those files, that have not previously been released. Having had access to all of this information, I know that it will not in any way diminish the validity of the determination by the Warren Commission and the determination of the House Select Committee on Assassinations that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman that killed President Kennedy, wounded Governor Connally and killed Officer Tippett on November 22, 1963. And it would not in any way diminish the findings of the Warren Commission at the House Select Committee on Assassinations, that all of the shots that struck President Kennedy and Governor Connally were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald from the southeast corner sixth floor window of the Texas School Depository Building. Although I am well aware of the arguments that the CIA and the National Archives may make concerning personal privacy and protection of sources and methods. I believe that the CIA is precluded from raising these kinds of issues because it does not have what in the law is called "clean hands." The reason is that the CIA improperly withheld from the Warren Commission evidence of CIA assassination plots against Fidel Castro. Evidence that was very important for the Warren Commission to have in light of its investigation into the possibilities of foreign conspiracy and counter-conspiracy. The public in the long run will be far better served to have this information released, not just because it will reconfirm the findings of the Warren Commission, but because it will also destroy whatever remaining arguments there are by assassination revisionists like the JFK crowd who falsely assert that the withholding of these files is part of a continuing coverup when in fact it is they who are the ones who cover up the truth about the assassination. That alternate number one basically conforms to what I did personally in 1975 when I called in the National Archives and the CIA to release everything.
Now if you choose not to do this, and I know thus far you are not released everything, but you always have the opportunity to change your minds before your charter is over. If you choose not to do this then at the second best alternative, I would suggest the following: I believe this Assassination Records Review Board should affirmatively state in its final report the following: A) There is no document that has not been released that in any way whatsoever diminishes the determination of both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations that all of the shots that struck President Kennedy and John Connally on November 22, 1963, were fired by Lee Harvey Oswald from the southeast corner sixth floor window of the School Book Depository Building.
B) There's no document that has not been released that in any way whatsoever that diminishes the determination of both the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Officer J. D. Tippett.
C) There's no document that has not been released that in any way whatsoever diminishes the determination of the findings of the Committee on Ballistic Acoustics, which concluded there was no scientific validity to the erroneous acoustical evidence which persuaded a majority of the House Select Committee on Assassinations to conclude there was a fourth shot fired from the grassy knoll by an unseen gunman who missed not only hitting the occupants of the presidential limousine but the limousine itself.
D) There is no document that has not been released that in any way whatsoever shows that Jack Ruby, who volunteered to take the lie detector test, a test which confirmed that everything he told the Warren Commission was true, was in any way conspiratorially involved in the assassination.
E) If the Board is unwilling to make the foregoing statements, which having had access to all of these documents I know to be true, then the Board at the very least should release to the public any document which the Board feels precludes it from making the foregoing affirmative statements. Otherwise assassination revisionists will falsely accuse the Board of a coverup just as they have falsely accused Earl Warren. And I wrote these words before I heard what Mr. Hamburg said because that was a threat that he's made to you. Anyone who has had access to the Warren Commission files and the CIA assassination files as I have had, knows that these are the facts. Moreover I not only have the knowledge of the files, but I also have the knowledge of having interviewed the key witnesses to the assassination of President Kennedy and the murder of Officer Tippett in 1964 shortly after the events occurred when the memory of these witnesses were the freshest and best.
I am attaching to my formal statement and incorporated by referenced copies of March 17, 1992 and June 25, 1993, pieces that I wrote for the New York Times. The fee for these pieces, like the royalties for my books about the Kennedy assassination, I have previously said have been turned over to charity. I have no financial interest in the outcome of what this Assassination Records Review Board does. However, what I do have is a deep concern about the electronic dissemination of lies about the assassination and movies like JFK and cable television programs like the five hour A and E entertainment series The Men Who Killed Kennedy. And it is for this reason that I have flown to California to make this presentation before this Assassination Review Board and because I care for the truth and I care for my country.
In closing I want you to know that for me as I speak today, the ultimate issue is not who killed President Kennedy, wounded Governor Connally and killed Officer Tippett. I already know the answer to that, it was Lee Harvey Oswald. For me the ultimate issue is whether there will be any change in the present course and direction of the electronic media as profit seeking corporations and individuals if priority to misrepresentations and deceit over truth going so far as to infiltrate our school system with the virus of lies, the present course of the electronic media poses a clear and present danger for the future of democracy in America. If I leave any legacy on this earth, beyond my five wonderful children, it will not be that historians will ever remember the name of David Belin, but what I have done for more than 25 years in standing up for the truth, and defending Earl Warren might in some small way be a tiny beacon of light that will point the way to people of vision and idealism who will recognize that truth is the foundation of civilization. They will understand how important it is for Americans to understand the truth about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. They will understand how important it is to expose the misrepresentations of assassination revisionists and the electronic downpour of deceit in movies like JFK and television programs like The Men Who Killed Kennedy. They will help resurrect the reputation of Earl Warren, who has been the victim of libel and slander of which perhaps the worst was the false testimony by Oliver Stone before a Congressional Committee in April, 1962 that Earl Warren was partially senile. And above all, they will help restore trust and confidence in government, the mortar which binds a free society.
Thank you very much. I'd be happy to answer any question you want. There isn't any question that anyone can ask about who was the government that killed President Kennedy and Officer Tippett that I can't answer if you give me a chance. Of course 30 second television bites doesn't do that, but I am at your will.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Questions members?
DR. JOYCE: Mr. Belin, your work both with the Warren Commission and the Rockefeller Commission, exposed you to a great many records. I'm wondering if either in your own case or in those of your colleagues if you're aware of any records still in private hands as an outcome of that work that we might be interested in pursuing?
MR. BELIN: These are documents that I think are the most important documents in private hands, and I'll tell you a story about it. It's the original copy of the Zapruder film. It's the best copy. It's the easiest one to see as Professor Liebeler said, that from frame 312 to 313 there was movement of the President's head forward. By the way, it was not just his head that moved backward after frame 313, it's his head and his body. And experts from both the Rockefeller Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations, showed that it was a mass of neurological damage which caused this extremity body movement backwards. In 1975 Time Magazine was deciding what to do with this original film. I wrote to the chief executive officer, or one of the officers of Time and I said, you know, this is a national treasure. If you're going to sell it I have a private foundation that would like to get a copy of it, pay for it and turn it over to the National Archives because that's where it belongs. Instead what they did, is they either sold it for a nominal sum or gave it back to the Zapruder family. I really think the Zapruder family has a moral obligation to turn that Zapruder film, and whatever original copies of slides was made from that -- we sent a set of the slides over to the National Archives. And I would really urge this Assassination Records Review Board to ask the Zapruder family to do that. Mr. Zapruder got a lot of money for that film. Newspapers reports purported to say that he turned over $25,000 to Officer Tippett's widow replying that that's all he got. From Life I think the family got about $150,000. Today that's worth like close to a million dollars. But I really think that's the one thing that could be turned over.
The only other thing that I think -- I think you've seen everything in the -- or are getting access to see everything in the CIA files, and I just don't -- I would urge that you not let them stonewall you with this protection of sources and methods. The CIA really has unclean hands and they will learn something by not being able to protect this. So learn this so that the next time there's any kind of a presidential commission which says that agencies will cooperate and do everything possible, they will do it. They will say, remember what happened to us when we didn't do it with the Warren Commission. We eventually, because of the Assassination Records Review Board, had to disclose everything. So that would be my advice to you people. But you're the final judges.
DR. NELSON: Well as you know, Mr. Belin, we've made great effort to do what you're asking us. We are opening very many documents that have been opened and we are not very protective as far as the agency is concerned.
One of the things I wanted to ask you though, I was reminded as you were talking, it has been suggested that it wasn't so much that the Warren Commission was subject to disbelief but that after the Warren Commission the documents were withheld and that it was the withholding of documents for almost 30 years that actually stimulated the suspicions surrounding the Warren Commission. Do you think that was possible? Do you think -- we will hopefully not have to face that. But has it ever entered into your thinking about this?
MR. BELIN: Well, Doctor Nelson, I have been very candid in saying that the Warren Commission made a major mistake in one particular area of documents. And by the way, this is probably initial response to Doctor Joyce. The Warren Commission at the request of the Kennedy family, Robert Kennedy, determined not to release the Kennedy autopsy photographs and x-rays. And Professor Liebeler is absolutely right, we should have had access to the original autopsy photographs and x-rays. The rationale was that whatever exhibits we had would be turned over to the public. Earl Warren basically was persuaded by Robert Kennedy not to have these released. I think the Kennedy family felt as a matter of privacy -- perhaps they didn't want magazines to publish as the last pictures of President Kennedy these horrible photographs and x-rays. I never saw them myself until the Rockefeller investigation when we had a panel of experts because charges were made that the CIA was involved in the assassination and the shots came from the front. So we had an independent panel of experts to review this.
Now I believe that you are absolutely correct that one of the reasons that there was misbelief in the Warren Commission findings was that these autopsy photographs and x-rays were not released. And as soon as you have anything not released, people say what else haven't you released. The fact is that 19 of 20 doctors on four different medical panels, including the House Select Committee, Rockefeller Commission, the Ramsey Collect Panel and the original autopsy panel, say that all the shots came from the rear. But more important than that, ballistically you have the bullets. The nearly whole bullet taken off Governor Connally, and the ballistically identifiable portions of the bullet that struck President Kennedy's head. Those were shown to have come from the rifle found in the School Book Depository Building. The cartridge cases found in the window, Howard Brennan saw the gunman fire, came from that rifle. Now what can you do about the people that say, well what about the rest of the exhibits? The problem you'll face is that you have some issues involving sources and methods on privacy. And the other part of the problem is what I was trying to illustrate in giving the two key examples, and there are hundreds of others, of lies, when people basically -- every document involved in the Tippett murder has been released. And this is something you ought to consider in your final report. Every document involving the Tippett murder has been released. You have six eye witnesses identifying Oswald. You've got the identifying evidence. And yet these people say that Oswald didn't kill Tippett, what can you do about that? What can you do when the end of the film JFK after all the plot is over, they say something in words and black and white that says the Justice Department has done nothing, when the Justice Department basically specifically asked the National Research Council to do something which they did when they formed the Committee on Ballistic Acoustics.
And therefore I'm going to say that it's up to you to consider including in your report examples of this, and that's what I say is the alternative, if you don't want to release everything I think you five good people, who have no connection with the Warren Commission, no connection with the House Select Committee, no connection with the Rockefeller Committee, can honestly say, well, if we've chosen not to release anything or redact anything it's not because it in anyway suggests that Oswald is not the lone gunman who killed Kennedy and wounded Connally. It does not suggest that Oswald was the gunman who killed Tippett. It does not suggest that the ballistic -- that the Commission on Ballistic Acoustics was inaccurate. It does not suggest that Jack Ruby didn't tell the truth when he testified for the Warren Commission. It's because we really think that this is the particular source and method, or this is a particular matter of privacy that we could not disclose. And that's why I'm here today.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you very much, Mr. Belin, for your testimony today.
MR. BELIN: I have copies of my written statement, which I will give to each one of you.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Very well.
MR. BELIN: And I'll give typed copies which will take care of the final drafts which will take care of the interlineations.
CHAIRMAN TUNHEIM: Thank you very much, we appreciate it.