It’s ironic, since conspiracy buffs are always claiming that the evidence against Oswald is all faked or forged. But in fact it is the conspiracy evidence in the case that is laced with faked documents, unreliable witnesses, and misrepresented facts.
For example: a note (right) supposedly written by Oswald and
addressed to a "Mr. Hunt" surfaced during the HSCA investigation. It
supposedly ties Oswald to either CIA agent E. Howard Hunt or to Texas oilman H.L. Hunt. The
HSCA gave the document to its panel of handwriting experts, and
this is their very skeptical report. In 1999, the note was
revealed to be a Soviet forgery in a book by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin. Here is the section of the book that describes the KGB’s involvement with Kennedy assassination disinformation.
Citizens for Truth in the Kennedy Assassination (CTKA) in 1994
published a document (a police report), supposedly detailing an
altercation between Jack Ruby and Lee Oswald at Mrs. Bledsoe’s
boarding house. (Why were they fighting? Weren’t they
coconspirators?). "A CTKA Story?" is researcher David Perry’s analysis of the document, showing it to be an obvious fake. Since Perry’s article was written, the hoaxers who wrote it have come forward and admitted the forgery. Yet CTKA, Jim Marrs, and Jack White all accepted the document as authentic.
Blame Your Own Father for Killing Kennedy?
That’s what Rickey White did. He claimed his father Roscoe White was tasked by shadowy Federal authorities to kill Kennedy as a "threat to national security." But the documents he had that supposedly proved this turned out to be forged. You can read about this sordid affair in the article
"I Was Mandarin" which appeared in the Texas Monthly in December, 1990.
Also see David Perry’s article "Who Speaks for Roscoe White?" first published in The Third Decade and now available in expanded form on Perry’s website.
It has been around since circa 1990, but in the early 2000s a document, supposedly written by CIA chief John McCone to Secret Service chief James J. Rowley contained some explosive revelations about Lee Oswald being an agent in the service of U.S. security agencies. However, the document turned out to be a forgery, and even the vast majority of conspiracy theorists now reject it.
Of course, most conspiracy theorists are honest, and would not forge documents to make their case. However, several have been fooled by these hoaxes, and it is ironic that all the proven forgeries connected with the case have come, not from the government, but from conspiracists.
Mark Lane Honest Advocate?
No one has been more assiduous in promoting conspiracy theories than lawyer Mark Lane (right). And his lectures and books (especially Rush to Judgment and Plausible Denial) have been extremely influential. But can you trust Mark Lane to tell you the truth and the whole truth about any subject he might be writing about? Check out some evidence.
- Lane told the Warren Commission that Tippit shooting witness Helen Markham said
that the shooter was short, heavy, and with bushy hair. Here is
a transcript of Lane’s telephone interview with Markham. Judge for yourself whether Markham was an easily manipulated
witness, and whether Lane was an honest advocate.
- In his book Plausible Denial, Mark Lane presents himself as having convinced a jury, in a Federal court in Miami, that E. Howard Hunt was part of a JFK assassination conspiracy. If you believe Lane, it was a landmark case, vindicating what conspiracists have always claimed. But should you believe him?
When author Jean Davison first became interested in the assassination, she read Lane’s account of Jack Ruby’s Warren Commission testimony, and then went on to examine what Ruby actually said. This short autobiographical account compares Lane’s version of what Ruby said with the unfiltered testimony.
- Julia Ann Mercer was a witness who claimed to have seen
Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald together in Dealey Plaza shortly
before the assassination. How Lane dealt with her testimony is the subject of this short essay. Want to see the primary sources on Mercer, and compare them to what Lane said? Click here.
- Journalist Hugh Aynesworth met Mark Lane in December of 1963 and supplied him with some then-secret witness statements. Seeing what Lane did with them, he was rather put off.
- If Lane cannot be trusted to fairly present the evidence about the assassination, how does he perform when he ventures into another area? In 1970 Lane published Conversations With Americans in which American soldiers described a number of atrocities committed by Americans in the Vietnam War. Anti-war journalist Neil Sheehan investigated the accounts in Lane’s book, and found most of them to be bogus.
- Although Mark Lane is on the political left, and blames the assassination on the CIA (which the left dislikes), that does not mean that everybody on the left (or even most leftists) have a favorable opinion of Lane. The magazine Mother Jones, for example, did an exposé of Lane, calling him "The Left's Leading Hearse-Chaser."
Misleading the House Select Committee
Mark Lane has been a purveyor or Martin Luther King conspiracy theories too, and he represented King’s killer, James Earl Ray, before the House Select Committee on Assassinations. After investigating Lane’s claims, the Committee chastised him:
Many of the allegations of conspiracy the committee investigated were first raised by Mark Lane, the attorney who represented James Earl Ray at the committee’s public hearings. As has been noted, the facts were often at variance with Lane’s assertions. . . . In many instances, the committee found that Lane was willing to advocate conspiracy theories publicly without having checked the factual basis for them. In other instances, Lane proclaimed conspiracy based on little more than inference and innuendo. Lane’s conduct resulted in public misperception about the assassination of Dr. King and must be condemned. (House Select Committee Report, Page 424, footnote 16)
In real world criminal cases, scientific ballistic evidence is among the strongest evidence. In conspiracy books, this hard scientific evidence is cited to prove that Oswald could not have killed John Kennedy. Unfortunately, conspiracy authors have to cite a variety of pseudoscientific principles that real world forensics experts know to be nonsense. There are, for example:
A much longer list of firearms factoids is a veritable cornucopia of bogus forensics principles.
|An All-Purpose Conspiracy Expert? L. Fletcher Prouty, a retired Air Force Colonel, was the model for Oliver Stone’s Mr. X. You can see Prouty in conspiracy documentaries posing as a expert on presidential protection, the origins of the Vietnam War, and journalism in New Zealand. Just who is this fellow? Does he actually know what he is talking about? Is he some kind of crackpot or something? Click here for the "scoop." |
Prouty has quite a lot of fans in conspiracy circles, and one of them has produced a web site devoted entirely to Prouty, his writing, and his opinions.
Was Ruby Going to Expose The Conspiracy in Washington?
Jack Ruby’s famous "I want to go to Washington" testimony before
the Warren Commission. Did he really want to blow the whistle on The
Conspiracy in D.C.?
Conspiracy authors specialize in finding "connections" between supposedly "assassination related" people, and "connections" with government agencies. Just how spooky do these "connections" appear when closely scrutinized?
- Some of the employees at Oswald’s place of work in New Orleans, the Reily Coffee Company, left to take jobs at a nearby NASA facility.
- Lee and Maria Oswald, when they returned from the USSR to the Dallas/Fort Worth area, supposedly lost some of their luggage.
- A phone call is supposed to link David Ferrie to Jack Ruby. Does it?
- In the Marines, Lee Oswald got gonorrhea in a manner the Marines ruled "in the line of duty . . . not due to own misconduct." Does this imply that Oswald was, for example, sleeping with prostitutes on orders from some intelligence agency? Mark Zaid, a JFK assassination researcher and a lawyer, looked into this legal determination.
- Oswald, in custody of the Dallas police tried, according to several conspiracy books, to call a sinister fellow named John David Hurt in North Carolina. Hurt was supposedly connected with military intelligence, and so might have been Oswald's "contact." But is any of this actually true?
Should Oswald’s Interrogation Have Been Recorded?
To anybody who watches TV crime dramas, it might seem obvious that Lee Harvey Oswald's interrogation should have been
taped. Isn't that what the cops always do? Given the massive stakes in this case, isn't it suspicious that no audio recording was made? Unfortunately, what seems "obvious" today
doesn't necessarily apply in 1963. As late as 2004, the Center on Wrongful Convictions was urging police departments to record interrogations. Indeed, their survey of police practices in that year showed that virtually no departments recorded suspect interrrogations as far back as 1963. As researcher Sandy McCroskey (who discovered this report) pointed out:
All departments in Alaska record [interrogations] and had been
doing so for nineteen years in 2004. That means they weren't in 1963, as they started only in 1985. Los Angeles had been recording for 23 years in 2004. That means they
started only in 1981. What about New York City? Well, all we have for that state is Broome County, and it didn't start until 2002!
Chicago? No department in Illinois started before 1994.
Washington, DC started in 2003. No police department in Texas was recording interrogations until 1992.And of course, in 2004 a large number of departments still didn't record interrogations, a reality the Center on Wrongful Convictions was trying to reform.
Goings On in Fort Worth
"The Cowtown Connection" an article by Duke Lane examines the Fort Worth
connection in the assassination and tests the veracity of a claim by
Robert Morrow about the arrest of a "Maurice Bishop" in Fort Worth.
Also: the Tom Tilson auto chase. Uploaded by permission.
Invented Death Notice?
Among the "Mystery Deaths" surrounding the assassination, one that has attracted particular interest is that of Karen Carlin. Interestingly, although she appears on the "Mystery Deaths" lists, there is no evidence that she is in fact dead! This essay, by researcher David Perry, deals with a claim that author Penn Jones, Jr. placed a fake death notice in one of his books at the request of a federal agent. Supposedly, Carlin was going into a witness protection program. See what Perry concludes about this claim.
Changed Motorcade Route?
It’s supposed to indicate a conspiracy, and especially the involvement of Dallas City officials like Mayor Earle Cabell. The motorcade was, the story goes, originally supposed to go down Main Street in order to get on the Stemmons Freeway, rather than turn right on Houston, and then left on Elm. That’s what a map in the Nov. 22nd issue of the Dallas Morning News showed.
But as is often the case, conspiracy books withhold important information from their readers. Click on the map at left/above to get the full story.
This issue not only shows the unreliability of conspiracy books, it’s one about which Jim Garrison lied in On the Trail of the Assassins, and one that has trapped at least two suspect "witnesses" to sinister goings-on.
Bobby Kennedy’s View of the Assassination
You’ve probably seen the much cited claim that Robert Kennedy said that "only the
powers of the Presidency" would get to the bottom of his brother’s
death. One person who vividly remembers the speech in which RFK supposedly said this was author David Lifton. This is his own account from
Compuserve, uploaded by permission.
Clark Merrill tried to track this same claim about Bobby Kennedy in
news reports from the 1968 Presidential Primary campaign. This article
details what Bobby actually said. Compare it to what some conspiracy
authors said he said.
Did Nixon Think the Warren Commission Was a Hoax?
Of course, what Robert Kennedy (above) or any other political figure thought about the assassination is irrelevant unless we assume that person had some sort of "inside information" that has never become part of the public record. Otherwise, their opinion is no better than anybody else’s, and less good than that of anybody who has studied the case. But that doesn’t stop conspiracists from quoting a BBC story that said that Nixon called the Warren Commission a "hoax." The quote is all over the Internet, but the people who are using it apparently have not bothered to check the primary source and see what Nixon actually said.
A Thought From a Serious Conspiracy Researcher
My research has shown over 75% of all alleged
facts in this case are false. Just take any book and compare the author’s conclusions to another
author’s conclusions. Check each alleged fact in each book and see how many cancel or
contradict each other. If all the alleged facts in all the conspiracy books were true, we could
expect to have the following conclusions:
These "facts" seem absurd and ridiculous but this is exactly what we end up with if we believe
all of the conspiracy books which have been published. (Source: Bill Adams, "The Enemy Within")
- The Grassy Knoll was a very busy place with many gunmen who never saw each other.
- There were at least 10 individuals depicted in the photos of the three tramps.
- There were at least 30 gunmen firing from 4 different buildings, the overpass, the Grassy
Knoll, the South Knoll, the Presidential limo, the Secret Service follow-up car, the curb on Elm
Street and the sewer.
- There were at least 100 conspirators in Dealey Plaza.
Do you think Adams is exaggerating? Check out David Perry’s "Rashomon to the Extreme" for a list off all the persons who have been "identified" as shooters or coconspirators in Dealey Plaza on the day of the assassination. Then check out Mike Griffith’s essay "Extra Bullets and Missed Shots in Dealey Plaza" for more of the kind of "evidence" that Adams is talking about.
Winnowing the Wheat and the Chaff
In an area so awash in bogus, fabricated, and unreliable information, how does one sort through the evidence? Veteran researcher Paul Hoch provides some guidance in a talk he gave at the Second Annual Midwest Symposium on Assassination Politics in Chicago in 1993.
People With "Foreknowledge" of the Assassination?
Richard Case Nagell claimed to have been working for the KGB and the CIA, and to have been tasked with breaking up an assassination plot against Kennedy that both agencies knew about, and which involved Lee Oswald. Dave Reitzes discusses his frequently changing, often contradictory stories in "Truth or Dare: The Lives and Lies of Richard Case Nagell."
Joseph Milteer supposedly had "foreknowledge" of the assassination. A far-right extremist, he made several statements to an FBI informant two weeks before the assassination about how Kennedy was going to be killed. Did he actually know something about an impending assassination? Or was he merely a blowhard? Click here to see how conspiracy books conceal certain of his statements. Just how much does he seem to know when you look at more of what he said?
Rose Cherami (often wrongly spelled "Cheramie") is another of the people with supposed "foreknowledge" of the assassination. Her story is in all the assassination books, but British author Chris Mills has collected new primary sources. His Rambling Rose is an essay that takes us beyond the usual treatment. Mills believes she may have had actual foreknowledge of the assassination (although I think he’s wrong about that).
More recent research into Cherami’s death by Dave Reitzes shows that the claims of "foreknowledge" are apparently bogus, and that the very earliest sources show no such thing. Reitzes has a very comprehensive collection of primary source documents on this woman.
Cherami: A Mysterious Death?
Conspiracy books, following Gary Shaw, often claim that Cherami's death was a murder, presumably committed by people who wanted to shut her up. Unfortunately, the evidence shows otherwise.
Let’s Just Think for a Minute About "Foreknowledge"
The House Select Committee on Assassinations examined Secret Service files, and found that from March through December 1963 the agency received information on over 400 possible threats to the President. (See the HSCA Report, p. 230.) Of course, many instances of loose and violent talk about the President being killed never were reported. For example, the rantings of Joseph Milteer (see above) attracted Secret Service attention, but the statements of Rose Cherami did not.
Each of these threats could be interpreted as "foreknowledge" of the assassination. Somebody talked about the president going to be killed, and the president was killed. Foreknowledge.
We might expect that anybody who took part in the assassination would keep quiet about it. But interestingly, several people have some forward to "confess" a role.
- Judyth Baker claims to have been Lee Oswald’s girlfriend in New Orleans in the summer of 1963, and to have participated with him in a top secret bioweapons program to kill Castro. The story is perhaps the most elaborate and multifaceted to come from any "conspiracy witness," but is it true?
- James Files, whose story is promoted in a video produced by one Bob Vernon, claims to have been the Grassy Knoll shooter. There are serious questions about his credibility, however.
- Another person who has recently "confessed" a connection with the assassination is one Tex Brown, who claims to have taught Lee Oswald and Jack Ruby how to shoot a rifle. In his review of the book Broken Silence, researcher David Perry evaluates this tale.
- One Robert Morrow has claimed a role in the shooting as a supplier of rifles and of electronic devices. Ulric Shannon, in this thorough review of Morrow’s book First Hand Knowledge, questions whether Morrow’s "knowledge" was really first-hand, as opposed to picked up from various conspiracy books.
- It might seem odd that the Dallas police would put Oswald into a cell with any other suspect, but one John Elrod has claimed that he was Oswald’s cellmate, and that Oswald "spilled the beans" about a connection with Jack Ruby and a role in a gun running plot.
"What About All Those Strange and Convenient Deaths?"
It’s one of the staples of the conspiracy literature the idea that a very large number of people "connected with the assassination" have died under "mysterious" circumstances. Supposedly, a conspiracy "cleanup squad" is running around killing people. See what the actual facts look like.
Washington, DC Phone Outage
It sure sounds like something sinister: the fact that the phone system in Washington, DC, went down in the minutes following the shooting of Kennedy. Was this evidence of a coup d’etat in progress, or the normal results of thousands of people seeking to tell friends and neighbors the news? As is usual with conspiracy books claims, the more you know the less sinister it seems.
Mangling What the Warren Commission Said
In an attempt to determine whether it would have been possible for Oswald to have shot Kennedy in the time he had available, the Warren Commission requested a number of shooting trials from government agencies. What did the trials show? How do conspiracy books present the trials? Click here to find out.
Gaeton Fonzi: A Story Too Good to Be True
One of the more colorful claims in Gaeton Fonzi’s The Last Investigation
concerns Miami-based reporter Hal Hendrix. Fonzi wants to label Hendrix a
spook, and provides some interesting "evidence" of this.
The Fonzi Version
The next year Hendrix got himself promoted to a more prestigious job,
covering Latin America for the Script-Howard News Service. Still based in
Miami, Hendrix’ sources remained quite extraordinary. In a piece for
Scripps-Howard dated September 23rd, 1963, Hendrix wrote a colorful and
detailed description of the coup that toppled Juan Bosch, the leftist
president of the Dominican Republic. If Hendrix’ report didn’t come from
inside sources, it was an amazing display of clairvoyance the coup
didn’t take place until the following day.
The Last Investigation, p. 325.
In the days before the coup, Hendrix wrote a three-part series, with each
article in the series dealing with a different nation. First there was
Cuba, then the Dominican Republic, and then Haiti. My student Mark Rausch managed to locate three Scripts-Howard papers that ran Hendrix’s
series: the Albuquerque Tribune, the Rocky Mountain News, and the El Paso Herald Post.
All ran Hendrix’ story on the Dominican Republic one or two days before
the coup. So what did Hendrix’ story say? Here is the lead paragraph:
The newly won democracy in the Dominican Republic is in danger of
disintegrating. The government of President Juan Bosch, inaugrated only
eight months ago, may not survive the year.
That’s a prediction that the government will fall, but it’s miles from a
"colorful description" of a coup. Hendrix goes on to explain the problems facing the nation, mentioning:
Where in this article did Fonzi see a "colorful and detailed description of
the coup?" The assumption must be that Fonzi was simply passing along
hearsay, and never bothered to check out this particular story.
- A preoccupation "among Western diplomats and responsible Dominicans" with increasing Communist activity.
- Incompetence that has "riddled the Bosch administration."
- Bosch’s own stubbornness, vanity, and "lack of administrative talent."
- The fact that "nearly every Dominican male" carries a concealed weapon.
- Dimming economic prospects.
- Foreign investors wary of political instability.
Another "Official Story"
Conspiracy buffs are ever suspicious of the "official story" and "government propaganda." In at least one case,
however, many have been crudulous toward a piece of propaganda from a very different source. Farewell America
is a book whose origins are explored in this essay by John Locke. Further analyses of this book, as well as the complete text, can be found on Dave Reitzes’ web site.
Those Conspiracy "Photo Experts"
They will assure you that all the evidence implicating Oswald is faked. They will assure you they see evidence of a conspiracy in films, still photos, movie footage, and x-rays. Do the conspiracy "photographic experts" know what they are talking about? Let’s take a look:
A Photo of Two Men in the Sniper's Nest?
Since the Warren Commission believed that Oswald alone shot Kennedy from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository, a photo of two men in that window at the time of the shooting would be virtually incontestable proof of a conspiracy. A photogapher named Norman Similas claimed to have taken just such a photo. Unfortunately, he could never produce it, and his credibility was highly questionable.
Was the Chain of Evidence Broken?
Conspiracy authors are always claiming that the physical evidence against Lee Oswald would have been "inadmissible" in court because the "chain of evidence" was broken. Unfortunately, the same conspiracist authors who invent forensics principles unknown to the law enforcement community also seem to invent rules of criminal procedure unknown to the courts. An authoritative summary in a standard textbook on police procedure shows that essentially all the evidence against Oswald would have been admissible.
Dallas Police Evidence Tampering?
The evidence against Oswald was so massive, and so apparently damning, that conspiracists pretty much have to insist that much of it was faked, forged, or altered. And indeed, they have produced "evidence" of Dallas police tampering.
- One piece of evidence discovered by the police was a photo that shows the back yard of General Walker (whom Oswald tried to kill), and the version that now exists has the license plate of a car parked behind Walkers house torn out. Supposedly, photographic evidence shows that the plate was intact when the Dallas cops recovered the photo. But a closer look at the evidence shows the conspiracy books jumping to conclusions.
- The Dallas police claimed to have found three spend cartridges in the Sniper’s Nest, corresponding perfectly to the three shots that the vast majority of Dealey Plaza witnesses heard. But author Noel Twyman found what he thought was evidence that only two spent rounds were recovered.
- Photos of Dealey Plaza in the minutes following the assassination supposedly show a Dallas Police officer, a Sheriff’s Deputy, and a mysterious government agent finding and picking up a slug. Was this an example of authorities suppressing evidence?
A Crank Phone Call is Evidence?
Karen Carlin (stage name: "Little Lynn") was one of Jack Ruby’s stip-tease dancers. She phoned Ruby on the morning of November 24th, 1963, and asked him to wire her $25 that she needed for rent and groceries. Had she not phoned, Ruby would not have been in downtown Dallas that Sunday morning and almost certainly would not have shot Oswald.
After the assassination, Carlin turned up on the lists of "mysterious deaths" although in fact there was no evidence she was dead. Author John Davis takes the story from there:
. . . in October 1992, Karen Carlin came back from the dead. She contacted Gary Shaw, director of the JFK Assassination Information Center in Dallas, after almost thirty years living under an assumed identity, and told him she knew of a conspiracy to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, that Ruby told her to phone him Sunday morning and that an hour later he would telegraph her $25, just before shooting Oswald, to establish an alibi to justify his shooting of Oswald as an impulsive act of revenge.
Needless to say, "Carlin" has not come forward to confirm her identity, testify or answer questions, or otherwise make herself available. The whole affair is just one phone call to Shaw who has been involved in a variety of other dubious "revelations" in the case.
And who was ultimately behind the conspiracy to kill Oswald? Karin [sic] Carlin mentioned two names to Gary Shaw, Carlos Marcello and Santos Trafficante, Jr. (John Davis, The Kennedy Contract, p. 107.)
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