The John F. Kennedy assassination has always had the air of being a riddle hidden inside a

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

The John F. Kennedy assassination has always had the air of being a riddle hidden inside an enigma, with various official government conclusions being forwarded at different times depending on which government body was investigating the Presidential murder. The Warren Commission, charged with the first investigation of the murder at the time it actually occurred, came up with the conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald managed to do it all alone in a crazed effort to be recognized as a man to be reckoned with. Various researchers-some of them known charlatans but many of them honest researchers who came up with good hard facts that poked holes in the first official conclusion-tracked the crime back to the probability that the murder was probably set up by either the CIA or some other organization within the federal government, big multinational businesses, or both. The House Select Committee on Assassinations finally got its turn at bat in the late 1970s, and reached the conclusion that the Mob did it. This, incidentally, was in direct contradiction to where some of its own investigators were being led by the facts. Some of them, like Gaeton Fonzi, had zeroed in on the fact that Oswald was CIA affiliated following his return to the States from a defection to Russia and had been seen in the company of a CIA "handler" not too many weeks prior to the assassination. Further muddying the waters with an implication toward the Mob did it were the recent revelations of Judith Exner, former JFK mistress, who now says that she was a conduit between the President and various American Mafia figures who were involved in covert attempts on the life of Cuban Premier Fidel Castro. Exner, the subject of an interview in "People" magazine in which she notes she was the President to Mafia conduit and that she lied to one investigating U.S. congressional committee when she denied it in the mid-1970s, is not quoted as pointing the figure at any individual or group she considers responsible for the JFK murder. What she does detail is what she now claims is the actual story of her relationship with the President, which included being a liaison between JFK and the Mob as well as the President's lover prior to and after he became President. Why does she claim she ought to be believed today when she makes these types of claims? She was afraid for her life before since all the principals in the story are dead now except for her and Frank Sinatra, all of them murdered. That doesn't matter any more because she knows that she is going to die from cancer, she says, and wants to clean her conscience up before she goes on to her final reward. She has been quoted as saying that "For the past 25 years I have been terrified to tell the truth about my relationship with Jack Kennedy," then goes on to note that "In fact, I've gone to great lengths to keep the truth from ever coming out, which is probably the only reason why I'm alive today. With the exception of Sinatra, all the key figures involved in my story have been murdered." A mastectomy in 1978 was followed by a diagnosis last year as having metastatic cancer. Her doctor reportedly gives her about three years to live, even though she had her left lung removed last August. What her story boils down to is that for 18 months in 1960 and 1961 she was the President's link with mobsters, regularly carrying envelopes back and forth between the President and Sam Giancana, the head of the Chicago Mafia, as well as Johnny Roselli, Giancana's lieutenant in Los Angeles. She arranged about 10 meetings between Kennedy and Giancana and believes one took place inside the White House. Although she says she was never told what transpired between the President and Giancana, her speculation was in the People article that one of the meetings involved attempts to influence the crucial West Virginia Democratic primary before the 1960 election. Others apparently involved the CIA's collaboration with the mafia to assassinate Cuban Premier Fidel Castro. The assassination plots, known as Operation Mongoose, featured such esoteric devices as poison pens, pills and cigars, exploding seashells and even a contaminated diving suit. One of the great unexplained situations arising out of the demise of the U.S. House of Representatives' Select Committee on Assassinations ten years ago is the reason why its recommendation that an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Justice Department was never followed up on. The Committee had recommended that further investigation be made along with a review of the acoustics evidence that led the committee to state that there was somebody shooting in Dealey Plaza in addition to Lee harvey Oswald. All that the recommendations the Committee left in its wake got was short shrift from a Federal Bureau of Investigation review of the evidence. The FBI rapidly and with no great loss of breath noted that the acoustics evidence really didn't amount to anything, was basically flawed and therefore really did not prove there was a second shooter at all. There the subject has sat for the period of time since the Committee went out of business and issued its report. End of story, end of investigation, end of any hope of ever finding out who was involved in the obvious conspiracy to kill the President. Or is it that way at all? Was the lack of a continuing investigation after the death of the Assassinations Committee actually the end of the road for any real answers to the investigation, or is the abrupt killing of the investigation an answer in itself? Some researchers who have looked into the JFK assassination over the years would say that it is an answer as to what direction the murder came from as well as whether or not it was a successful one in terms of killing the President and then covering up the fact that it was a plot. According to the view of those persons, the murder was actually the successful carrying out of a coup d'etat from within the federal government, or at least using parts of the executive branch to help carry the assassination out. Following the assassination, according to that outlook, Kennedy's supposed protectors arranged for the coverup of the crime to be put into effect. The result was that actually unraveling the plot would be almost impossible except for a super large, well heeled investigative agency with plenty of cash, experienced investigators who were totally honest and some high-tech investigative tools like computers. In the absence of this type of scenario, the dead stop of any continuing investigation of the JFK murder marks a turning point in American history that has never really been tied to any of the persons who probably carried it out on an operational level. This is to not even mention the persons who were actually the ones who ordered it, and went about carrying it out as far as the planning and management levels of the operation were concerned. The Warren Commission came up with the all-too-implausible story that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone madman and killed Kennedy alone. That story lasted just as long as it took people to read some of the Commission's own evidence that pointed to an actual conspiracy operating in the murder. And, while the Committee to Investigate Assassinations did a better job in that it set things straight about there being a conspiracy, it was dumb enough leadership wise to drop promising leads to go for an "organized crime did it" answer that didn't jell with most of the real evidence floating around. Plenty of that evidence was in the form of what had been dug up over the years by private assassination researchers and also by investigators for the earlier Warren Commission which had originally investigated the JFK murder. When that acoustics evidence was shot out of the water by the FBI claiming it was flawed and not worth looking at, all the rest of the evidence floating around that pointed to an actual conspiracy operating in the Dallas assassination also faded into oblivion as if it also really hadn't existed in the first place. The nice thing about the acoustics evidence was that it actually showed there were two shooters in Dealey Plaza when JFK was shot. It did that through the Committee conducting a test firing on the spot from several locations, taping the sound of gunfire with a battery of microphones strung through Dealey Plaza, then having a private firm analyze and compare the outcomes of the control tape. Also analyzed was a tape inadvertently recorded during the assassination when a radio microphone button jammed open on a Dallas Police Department motorcycle. When the control firing tape was compared to the tape recorded inadvertently by the Dallas Police Department, it was discovered that there were several shots on the tape, and at least one of them came from the grassy knoll area in front of the President in addition to the shots from the Book Depository. Two shooters in Dealey Plaza automatically meant a conspiracy at work, since the coincidence factor of two lone nuts deciding on their own to begin shooting at the President in the same general area at the same time but from two different locations simply staggers the imagination. Besides that, there was plenty of evidence from those eyewitnesses leading to the conclusion that there were indeed two shooters at least operating in Dealey Plaza. Some independent assassination researchers, including some who have gained a reputation for serious, scholarly research in the JFK shooting, have postulated that there were probably more based on what is known of the actual evidence. But to date there were at least two KNOWN firing locations-the Book Depository, which is not to say that it was necessarily Lee Harvey Oswald who did the shooting from there, and from the Grassy Knoll area. Abraham Zapruder was one of those Dealey Plaza witnesses. He carried a second witness in his hands in the form of a home movie camera which recorded the assassination as it occurred and provided a graphic record of who was hit by gunfire and when. The Zapruder film's depiction caught the result of a probable hit to the right temple area of the President's head when it showed his head head snapping backward in an abrupt, very violent manner to where JFK actually bounced off of the upright seat cushions from the force of being thrust back by the shot. One Dallas motorcycle policeman who was in the motorcade, Bobby Joe Hargis, was absolutely soaked by pinkish brain matter and blood that drenched over him like a high-speed fog with enough force that made him think at first that he also had been hit by gunfire. Hargis rode to the left rear of Kennedy's position in the limousine during the motorcade to the Trade Mart, which was just one indication of a plot at work. Other witnesses in Dealey Plaza when the shooting occurred either reported things or took actions that indicated there was shooting from the knoll area. One railroad worker whose job in a nearby railway yard tower allowed him a clear view of the grassy knoll area told investigators, both official and private, that there had been a puff of smoke or steam from the fence area at the top of the knoll. When he went down to the area in question following the shooting, he noticed a lot of tracks and crushed out cigarette butts which indicated somebody had laid in ambush there for some time. Other persons in the same area as Abraham Zapruder, including one young man fresh out of Army basic training, quickly hit the deck when it became obvious the shooting was coming from directly behind them and they were in the line of fire. One police officer went charging up the Grassy Knoll area to find a man who flashed an identification card and said he was a Secret Service man. Secret Service personnel later told the Warren Commission that all the agents of that department in Dallas that day had gone to Parkland Hospital with the President following the shooting. And so it went. There were more, more than enough to nail down the idea of two firing positions and a conspiracy. In looking at the days leading up to the JFK assassination in terms of the occurrences that indicated an assassination plot at work, the time line factor is probably the best one to use to show how things transpired. In the month prior to the Dallas trip, for instance, President Kennedy had been scheduled to attend the Army-Air Force football game at Soldier's Field in Chicago on Nov. 2 as well as make a visit to Miami where he spoke at that city's Trade Mart on Nov. 18. The planned football game attendance was abruptly canceled, with most political and Presidential observers figuring that the overthrow and murder of President Diem in South Vietnam the same day as the football game was the reason why. The common sense explanation was that Kennedy was either so grieved by the occurrence in South Vietnam that he didn't want to appear in public, or it might have caused some large crisis he would have needed to be in Washington to cope with, or the overthrow of the South Vietnamese was actually a U.S. Government sanctioned plan and Kennedy wanted to keep his finger on it. In this case, as is usual, the common sense explanation for what happened was totally off the mark and the actual reasons indicated that the Secret Service and probably JFK also knew that somebody was out to kill him. Abraham Bolden, the first black Secret Service agent to serve on the White House Detail of that organization which is charged with Presidential protection, was a direct participant in and an obvious victim of the goings-on relative to the Chicago trip that wasn't. That particular Secret Service man was one of the agents called in to Chicago from his business in the Washington area due to an investigative effort that the Service was carrying out into the probability of a hit team being ready to try for JFK in that town. Anthony Summers noted in his book CONSPIRACY that Bolden claimed Chicago Secret Service agents were alerted to a threat against the President involving a four-man team armed with high-powered rifles. One of the men, according to what Summers notes Bolden told him, had a Latin name. The ex-Secret Service agent also said that two of the suspects were detained on the eve of the President's arrival and that two others eluded a surveillance operation. Although one other agent recalls a threat at that time, he Assassinations Committee found nothing on the record on that threat. It noted, however, that President Kennedy's planned visit to Chicago was abruptly canceled when crowds were already gathering to greet him. Bolden was reportedly surveilling a Joseph Vallee, a man who was apparently supposed to be involved in the Presidential murder plot, when Chicago police moved in and arrested Vallee after a brief surveillance operation. An M-1 American Army rifle along with some three thousand rounds of ammo for it were discovered in the trunk of the car the suspect had under his control at the time. Vallee was later sprung out of the Chicago jail system with a more serious charge against him being bucked down to a misdemeanor offense of possession of a hunting knife. The arrested man was a former Marine with a history of mental illness, Summers noted, and was also a member of the John Birch Society as well as an outspoken opponent of the Kennedy administration. He had also arranged to take time off from his job on the day of the President's arrival. Bolden, meanwhile, developed problems of his own when he decided that he wanted to testify before the Warren Commission following the assassination about shortcomings in Secret Service protection and/or investigation of the assassination. What finally happened was that the Secret Service man wound up going to prison on a conviction of selling government files to a counterfeiter, which was later shown to have been obtained through the perjured testimony of the one man to have testified against him. Just as strange in its own way was what happened when Kennedy actually followed through with a visit to Miami just a few days weeks prior to the Dallas trip. The Miami Police, as well as police departments elsewhere in the United States, have their network of informants set up in relation to a good many things in an effort to keep abreast of what's happening in the world of crime. This is just one of the ways that good police officers manage to get information that will either lead them to the successful prosecution of a crime that's happened, or in other cases, even prevent one before it happens. In this case, the latter was what happened during the Miami trip. On November 9 Captain Charles Sapp, the head of the Miami Police Department's Intelligence Bureau, sat listening to a fuzzy tape recording of a conversation between one of the department's informants and Joseph Milteer, a wealthy joiner of extremist groups such as the White Citizens' Council of Atlanta, the Congress of Freedom and the National States Rights Party (which had close links with the anti-Castro movement). Milteer noted on the tape that "You can bet your bottom dollar he is going to have a lot to say about the Cubans. There are so many of them here." Milteer then went on to say in a response to the informant's observation about Kennedy having a thousand bodyguards that "The more bodyguards he has, the easier it is to get him." "Well, how in the hell do you figure would be the best way to get him?" the informant asked. "From an office building with a high-powered rifle . . ." Milteer said. "He knows he's a marked man . . ." "They are really going to try to kill him?" the informant asked. "Oh, yeah, it is in the working . . . ." Milteer responded. "Boy, if that Kennedy gets shot, we have got to know where we are at. Because you know that will be a real shake if they do that," the informant noted. "They wouldn't leave any stone unturned there, no way. They will pick up somebody within hours afterwards, if anything like that would happen. Just to throw the public off," Milteer responded. Sapp and his team of a dozen specialized detectives had provided security on Kennedy twice before when he had visited Miami, working closely with the local Secret Service and the FBI, providing backup intelligence and support on the ground. The major security problem with Miami was its population of well over a hundred thousand Cuban exiles, which Sapp had seven months earlier had warned of his chief of as a growing danger. Sapp's contention then was that "violence hitherto directed against Castro's Cuba would now be directed toward various governmental agencies in the United States" as a result of the President's crackdown on exile raids against the Castro regime. When Sapp heard the tape, he feared that there might be an attempt on President Kennedy's life when he arrived for his November 18 visit in Miami. Sapp ensured that a warning about the Milteer tape went to the FBI and the Secret Service with a special notation about Milteer's remark that the President's assassination was "in the working." While the Secret Service did check on Milteer's whereabouts, he was not questioned nor arrested. The agents responsible for the President's safety in Miami did get briefed on the matter, and a last-minute change in plans was made in the visit. What happened was that a planned motorcade was canceled, Sapp recalled to Summers, for fear of trouble from the anti-Castro movement. On arriving at Miami Airport late in the day, the President then went into Miami via a helicopter, spoke at the Americana Hotel, then was flown back to the airport after the speech. Then he got back on board Air Force One and flew back home. As in the case of the Chicago incident, the Secret Service failed to mention the Miami scare to the agents responsible for advance planning for the trip to Texas. Dallas was four days away. The morning of November 22 members of the Presidential party noticed the black-lined full-page ad in a local newspaper which accused the President of various un-American activities such as selling out to Castro, operating in line with "the spirit of Moscow" and other nefarious activities. By the time Air Force One reached Love Field in downtown Dallas, several key actors in the upcoming drama were already in place. Lee Harvey Oswald was at work in the Texas School book Depository after being given a ride there by Buell Wesley Frazier, who questioned him at the beginning of the drive downtown about what he had in a long, wrapped package. Oswald had replied that they were curtain rods he had picked up at the home of Ruth Paine, where his wife Marina and his daughter June were staying during one of the estrangements Oswald and his wife had over the months. On the eve of the assassination, Jack Ruby appeared to have gone about his usual night club business until the late evening. Shortly before 10 pm he went out to dinner with his old crony Ralph Paul, who ran a local drive-in restaurant. After that, Ruby's moves became more interesting. A friend of Ruby's from Chicago, Lawrence Meyers, had earlier in the evening invited the night club operator over to the hotel where he was staying, the Cabana, for a drink, which Ruby complied with. The two men talked for a few minutes, Meyers said later, then Ruby said he had to return to his club. But one of Ruby's employees later said that as late as 2:30 a.m. Ruby had called from the Cabana. While it is hard to tell who Ruby had visited if he had not been with his old friend from his Chicago days, he had to be meeting someone there. The question remains of who it was. On the morning of the assassination, there are conflicting reports of where Ruby was at. Most of the morning he dallied for hours in the offices of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. He was there for breakfast, and he made himself obvious to a number of employees during the morning. About half an hour prior to the assassination, one woman who was caught in a traffic jam near the overpass in Dealey Plaza later told private researchers and official investigators, she had noticed Ruby driving a pickup truck which had parked at the bottom of the grassy knoll area with its right wheels up on the sidewalk. A man got out of the right side of the pickup truck, plucked a long, wrapped object out of the bed of the truck, then went up the slope of the knoll area toward the fence area where the Assassinations Committee years later would show with its acoustics evidence that some of the gunfire during the assassination came from. But Ruby was also noticed at the morning newspaper also in the half hour prior to the assassination, being in the advertising department with cash in hand to pay for his club ads which was a departure from normal custom for Ruby. Usually he was erratic in payments and tardy in submitting advertising copy to the newspaper. Ruby was also noticed in the advertising department just after the shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, which is located just a few blocks away from the newspaper. Some private investigators of the assassination figure that one of the reasons that Ruby was at the newspaper was for an alibi, at least at the time period leading up to the assassination. The President, meanwhile, flew from Fort Worth where he and Jackie and the rest of his entourage had spent the night following his political appearance in that town, then the motorcade assembled and headed for the downtown area along the motorcade route. There are several explanations of the chronology of events during the actual shooting that have been advanced from available evidence over the years, depending on what interpretation of available evidence one wants to put the most belief in. The Assassinations Committee postulated two firing positions-one in the School Book Depository Building with Lee Harvey Oswald firing two shots which actually struck and killed the President with another shooter firing from the Grassy Knoll area who missed the President. Most serious students and researchers who have looked into the JFK assassination take into consideration what the Assassinations Committee did not, figuring that the backward snap of the President's head was caused by the impact of a bullet fired from the Grassy Knoll in front of the President which hit him in the right temple. Several eyewitnesses told news reporters following the assassination that the President was hit in the right temple, which is awfully hard to tie in to the Grassy Knoll shooter missing. There is also the fact that Bobby Joe Hargis, the motorcycle officer to the left rear of the President, was spattered with the President's brain matter, which also indicates a gunshot which hit the President's right temple from where it was fired from the Grassy Knoll area. The general sequence of events most heard from assassination researchers is as follows: -The Presidential limousine made the hairpin curve into Dealey Plaza into the killing zone between the Book Depository and the Grassy Knoll area at low speed, then rolled onward at approximately 10 miles per hour. -When the gunfire began, most people were reminded of the sound of firecrackers, which ties in with the type of report that a small-caliber round such as the 5.56 mm or .223 caliber round which the military M-16 round uses. -JFK was probably first hit in the back by a shot from the rear. Occupants of the Presidential limousine recalled later that Kennedy said, "My God, I'm hit" just after the firing began. -The second shot, probably fired from the front, apparently hit JFK in the throat. When the assassination sequence is viewed by watching the Zapruder film, the limousine is hid for a brief time by a "Stemmons Freeway" traffic sign. When the limousine emerges from behind the sign in the Zapruder film, JFK is clutching at his throat. Apparently his vocal cords have been shot out and he is incapable of making a sound after this. Parkland Hospital doctors reported that the tracheotomy incision they made in the President's throat was emplaced into an already-existing bullet hole. -John Connally, then the governor of Texas, is hit by another gunshot from the rear as he attempts to look around at President Kennedy. His cheeks puff out from the air being forced from his lungs and further reaction to his gunshot wound follows. -Finally, John F. Kennedy is hit by what is apparently the last bullet to reach a target during the assassination, when he is hit in the right temple and his body is thrown backward violently against the back cushion of his car seat, with his brains being sprayed out over the left rear of the open limousine. The mayhem following any violent event such as a murder started then. The limousine started accelerating, while Jackie Kennedy in shock began climbing onto the trunk of the car in a futile effort to recover some of the debris from the head of the by-then-dead President. A Secret Service agent gallops up to the rear of the car as it begins to accelerate, hops on board the rear and forces Mrs. Kennedy back inside. The vehicles of the motorcade begin rolling to Parkland Hospital at high speed as Jesse Curry, then the Dallas police chief, broadcasts orders for officers to get up on the overpass at the south end of the plaza and find out what happened up there. When the President's body reaches Parkland Hospital, various lifesaving techniques are tried in vain, including the placing of the tracheotomy and placement of air tubes into the chest area. Those measures prove futile since it's practically impossible for anybody to remain alive with almost half their head blown off by gunfire. Jack Ruby once again enters the situation by being spotted by persons who knew him at Parkland Hospital. Speculation arises later that he had planted the so-called "Magic Bullet," which the Warren Commission later insists wounded both Kennedy and Connally yet only lost a few grains of its total weight and remained in practically its original shape despite going through two men, and hitting several large, hard bones on the way. Any other bullet would have been severely flattened on its front end but the "Magic Bullet" was not. As the saga of the conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination unfolds, we find that the Secret Service was in fishy waters up to its earlobes when it was decided it was high time to get the Presidential party out of Dallas. Once again we have a discrepancy between what the official story was as to the reason for getting out of Dallas against what the real reason could have been with a conspiracy at work. The official story was a twofold one, which held that it was decided somehow that the feelings of Jacqueline Kennedy were to be spared the ordeal of staying in Dallas any longer and possibly having to come back later for an inquest, along with a very real sense of uncertainty about what was actually occurring. It was thought by some of the Presidential party that the death of President Kennedy could have been the opening salvo of a coup d'etat and others, such as vice president Lyndon Baines Johnson could well be next. Better to pull up stakes fast and get to the airport, then get airborne for Washington as fast as possible before anybody else got shot. After all, there were killers in the area. On the other hand, what the hasty departure from Parkland Hospital also did was ensure that no independent and accurate autopsy was done on the body of JFK. With the departure of the corpse from the hands of then-Dallas County Medical Examiner Earl Rose, the way was clear for a fast surgical alteration of the way the head looked, as far as the wound trajectory patterns were concerned, and also to probably get any bullet fragments dug out of the brain area so that manufactured evidence could be used against Lee Harvey Oswald. Rose, in fact, did object to any idea of the Secret Service and the Presidential party taking the corpse out of Dallas prior to an autopsy being held there, but he had one main problem with that-he was heavily outnumbered by men who were simply not about to listen to reason. Aubrey Rike, who at the time of the assassination worked for the O'Neal funeral home which supplied the bronze casket the President supposedly rode back to Washington in, noted that the argument over whether the body should stay or go was one of the scariest things he had ever seen in his life. Vernon O'Neal's funeral home had the contract for part of the ambulance service in Dallas in November of 1963. Rike, along with "Peanuts" McGuire, another O'Neal employee, had helped put President Kennedy's body into the bronze Brittanica casket after JFK was pronounced dead. The casket had been lined with what Rike described as a heavy plastic sheet that is normally used for bedwetters and other cases where body fluids leak. The body was then wrapped in sheets and put into the coffin. Vernon O'Neal then closed the casket and the three men, along with the Catholic priest present, were not allowed to leave the room at the behest of the Secret Service. Mrs. Kennedy came in twice, once to put a ring on her husband's finger and a second time after the casket was closed. About the pushing match over the coffin, Rike told Lifton that "I was scared to death. I was scared all the time I was there . . . Dallas wanted to do an autopsy. The government wanted the casket out. The government said `Take it out'; Dallas would say `Bring it back.' You know, we'd start pushing, and somebody would grab us, and push us back, and pull the casket back. You'd have to see it to believe it." Rike also added that " . . . it was the most unorganized, scary type situation that I have ever been in in my life. I'm a policeman now and I've been up against all kinds of stuff," in his interview with Lifton. Another angle of view to the brouhaha over the coffin was provided by William Manchester in his book DEATH OF A PRESIDENT. In Manchester's narrative of the incident, Earl Rose confronted the Kennedy forces led by Roy Kellerman, head of the White House detail of the Secret Service at the time of the assassination in the hallway of Parkland Hospital. "Rose . . . turned to leave the nurse's station. Kellerman blocked the way. In his most deliberate drawl, Roy said, `My friend, this is the body of the President of the united States, and we are going to take it back to Washington.' "`No, that's not the way things are.' Rose wagged his finger. `When there's a homicide, we must have an autopsy.' "`He is the President. He is going with us.' "Rose lashed back, `The body stays.' "`My friend, my name is Roy Kellerman. I am the Special Agent in charge of the White House Detail of the Secret Service. We are taking President Kennedy back to the capital.' "`You are not taking THE BODY anywhere. There's a law here. We're going to enforce it.'" Then Dr. Burkley, the White House physician, entered the fray. "`Mrs. Kennedy is going to stay exactly where she is until the body is moved. We can't have that.'" Rose wouldn't budge. "`It's the President of the United States!`" Burkley said. "`That doesn't matter,' Rose replied. `You can't lose the chain of evidence.'" But that's exactly what happened, since the body of John F. Kennedy disappeared from the coffin it was supposed to be in during the trip to Bethesda Naval Medical Center. The casket was wheeled to the hearse and put inside, Jacqueline Kennedy climbed inside and sat next to the casket, and the Secret Service commandeered the O'Neal hearse and drove to the airport. The hearse arrived at Air Force One at Love Field at 2:14 p.m., and Secret Service personnel and Air Force One staff helped carry the casket up the ramp. Secret Service reports noted that the casket was in place at 2:18 p.m. on the aircraft, and by 2:47 p.m. Air force One was airborne following the swearing-in of Lyndon Baines Johnson as President. The casket, ostensibly holding the body of President John F. Kennedy, was placed in the Boeing 707's tail compartment in the quarters normally used for Secret Service agents and White House staff, against the port side of the aircraft just forward of the rear door. From the time the casket went aboard the plane at Love Field in Dallas to the time the plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, somebody apparently got that body out of that coffin. They then somehow got it off the airplane and to some location during an approximate 20-minute travel gap between Andrews and Bethesda Naval Medical Center. The object in getting the body to that unknown location was for purposes of surgical alteration of the President's head, which made the wound trajectory patterns look different to a degree at Bethesda than they did at Parkland. These conclusions were the result of David Lifton's research into the head wound patterns and were based on actual interviews with Navy enlisted men who worked at the Bethesda morgue on the night that the autopsy was performed on the President. The Parkland doctors who worked on JFK when he was brought to that hospital, with the exception of just one, stated that a large exit hole was located in the rear of JFK's head at Parkland, which implied that he had been shot from the front. The official conclusions by the Warren Commission and the Assassinations Committee, which were based on the official autopsy report which was based on autopsy findings at Bethesda, put the exit wound at the front right of Kennedy's head which meant he got shot in the head from behind, namely by Lee Harvey Oswald. What that meant, Lifton noted in BEST EVIDENCE, was that surgical head wound trajectory alteration twisted the main piece of evidence-the body-around so that it was made to lie. Earl Rose, the Dallas County Medical Examiner, was also correct in stating during his tussle with the Secret Service that the chain of evidence had to be preserved. What he meant was that it had to be proven to a jury or a judge in a trial of anybody connected with the murder of the President that JFK had been shot at point A, pronounced dead at point B, autopsied at point C, a report prepared at D, and so on, with no break in the chain of possession of the body at any point along the way. If the chain were broken, the entire process would be flawed and the results of the autopsy would also be flawed and tossed out of court as evidence. The autopsy report just wouldn't exist as evidence, in short. In the end, that is exactly what happened since the whereabouts of the body was unknown from the time Air Force One landed at Andrews Air Force Base until the time it showed up at Bethesda-since there was no accounting for where it was exactly at all times, the autopsy report was flawed and therefore worthless as evidence. If Lee Harvey Oswald had not been killed by Jack Ruby and had gone to trial, Dallas County authorities would have had to do without an autopsy report and their case would probably have been gravely weakened. This is in addition to the spectre of conspiracy raising its head in the disappearance of the body for that small length of time along with the appearance of the head wounds being different at Bethesda than it was at Parkland. The story of the arrival of John F. Kennedy's body at Bethesda Naval Medical Center begins with personnel at that facility being informed of the arrival of the President's body and how the autopsy proceedings would be handled, as well as security arrangements surrounding the autopsy. J. S. Layton Ledbetter was Chief of the Day for the Medical Center Command, and was one of those persons who were aware of the fact that the President's body was at the hospital before it was supposed to have arrived in the motorcade from Andrews Air Force Base. Ledbetter had reported to Bethesda for work at perhaps 4:20, shortly before his shift as Chief of the Day was to start at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963. A phone call came in from "downtown" as Ledbetter called it as he walked in and he took the call, with the news the call conveyed being that the President's body would be coming to Bethesda. While he was taking the call, three Secret Service agents showed up at his office. "I answered the phone. The White House wanted to speak to the Officer of the Day, and . . . these three gentlemen walked up to me and they said: `Are you Chief Ledbetter? Do you have the Chief of the Day watch today?' And I said, `Yes, sir, I do. Can I help you?' He said, `We're Secret Service men receiving the body of President Kennedy back here, and . . . there's already twenty-six of us here on the compound.' They identified themselves." Ledbetter's contact was limited to those three Secret Service agents along with "a few more" later on but they made it perfectly clear to him that from that point forward the autopsy was a Secret Service operation. Lifton noted that the Secret Service men seen by Ledbetter at 4:20 p.m. were as unknown to the official records of the investigation as the so-called Secret Service men that some persons ran into on the Grassy Knoll. Assuming the ones at Bethesda who spoke with Ledbetter were authentic, the only conclusion Lifton could reach was that the Secret Service had sent a contingent of operatives to Bethesda but never chose to reveal that to the Warren Commission or the FBI. Ledbetter referred the group of agents to the Administrative Duty Officer, and arrangements were made for the handling of the autopsy. The Chief's account made it clear that by 4:30, some two and a half hours prior to the time the body got to the hospital, agents were at the hospital and had made detailed arrangements as to who would conduct the Presidential autopsy, Lifton noted. Dennis David, for instance, was Chief of the Day for the Medical School which was located at Bethesda Naval Hospital the day of JFK's murder. David also told Lifton when interviewed by that author that the coffin that arrived in the ambulance at the front of Bethesda with Jackie Kennedy was empty. This was the big bronze Brittanica job that was offloaded from Air Force One at Andrews while the one military helicopter was flying away from the right side of the aircraft. David, who retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander in the Medical Service Corps, was a Petty Officer First Class (E-6) on Nov. 22, 1963, and was an editor of training manuals for Hospital Corpsmen affiliated with the U.S. Navy Medical School at Bethesda. He was Chief of the Day for the Medical School on Nov. 22 and when he heard about the assassination went to the office of the Master at Arms and sat there listening to the radio with Dr. Boswell, one of the doctors who later were involved in the autopsy. At about 5 or 5:30 p.m., David noted to Lifton, the radio announcer reported that Kennedy's body was being flown in from Texas and would be taken to the Medical School. The Chief of the Day for the Medical Center Command was in touch with him within fifteen minutes, David added, and Secret Service agents were also at the hospital. "They called us together . . . I was asked to get a certain number of people to help guard the doors, to stand at the elevators, to act as roving patrols to keep sightseers and other morbid people out," Dennis David told Lifton. David also had to make telephone calls to various members of the morgue crew so that they would come in to the morgue for the upcoming autopsy. When David got to the point where he described the arrival of the coffin with JFK's body for Lifton the surprises really started. What the ex-Navy man recounted was the arrival of the body via the back door of the hospital rather than the front, some thirty minutes prior to the arrival of the bronze casket that it was supposed to be in, and in a plain, gray shipping casket instead of the bronze casket it was supposed to have arrived in at the front of the Bethesda facility later. David said that the plain shipping casket arrived with JFK's body at approximately 6:40 p.m. at the rear loading dock of the Medical Center, in a black Cadillac hearse with no markings on it, with two attendants in the front and six or seven men in back with the casket whom David assumed were Secret Service men. The men in the rear of the hearse opened the vehicle up and they, along with some of the sailors at the medical facility, unloaded the casket from the hearse and took it into the morgue, David said. The black Cadillac hearse had come down a street at the rear of the Naval medical facility and pulled up at a loading dock at the rear of the building, David noted, and while he personally did not see Kennedy's body being taken from the shipping casket after it went into the morgue Dr. Boswell told him later that JFK's corpse had been in the shipping casket. David also noted that it was obvious that there was something in the shipping casket because if it was empty six to eight men would have bounced it around as they were carrying it. This shipping casket did not bounce and you could see the men carrying it strain as they did, he noted. Dennis David also noted that he had been on the balcony on the interior of the front of the Medical Center building approximately half an hour later when the official motorcade with the bronze "official" casket arrived from Andrews Air Force Base. The ex-Navy man noted that it was obvious that the bronze casket was empty when it was brought in because of being told by one of the autopsy doctors earlier that it had come in by way of the shipping casket. The men Dennis David worked with also discussed the matter, and he recalled that one conversation that he and some of the other Bethesda personnel had with one of the federal agents as to why there had been so much rigmarole with more than one ambulance being involved in getting the body to Bethesda. The answer that the federal agent gave was that it was necessary to keep a bit more control that would be necessary on the process because it was feared that somebody might attempt to hijack the corpse, or there might be delays due to people perhaps gathering around and slowing up traffic. While Dennis David had lost sight of the shipping casket with JFK's body in it when it went into the morgue, persons inside the morgue automatically got their first glimpse of the conveyance that the deceased President's body arrived in as it entered. One of those persons was Paul Kelly O'Connor, who along with James Jenkins had the duty of preparing the body of the dead President for the autopsy. O'Connor had been assigned to pathology at the medical school, and that was his duty station the day John Kennedy was shot. When the news hit Bethesda that the President had been shot, all classes were canceled and everybody was told to report to their duty station, according to O'Connor's recollection. That meant he had to report to the morgue, where he and Jenkins were told that they were confined to the morgue and they were going to have an "important visitor" that night. That was the first they knew the President was on his way to Bethesda, O'Connor said. The body came into the morgue in a shipping casket, O'Connor noted, which is nothing but a cheap casket used to move dead persons from one location where they died at to whatever their destination might be. O'Connor described the shipping casket as a sort of slate gray color that was kind of pinkish on the edges. The surprise that O'Connor provided was that when the lid of the coffin was undone by unscrewing the screws that held it down the President's body was not wrapped in sheets as Aubrey Rike said he had been in Dallas, but was instead discovered in a body bag. O'Connor, who had worked in a funeral home in his Indiana hometown as a teenager, described a body bag as nothing but a rubber bag that bodies are put into after a disaster or other violent incident which is zipped up, the same sort of bag that dead soldiers were brought back from Vietnam in. The President's body was naked from head to toe, O'Connor recollected, with only a sheet being wrapped around the head. Normally the brain is removed from a corpse for examination during an autopsy, O'Connor told Lifton, but that just couldn't be done in the case of JFK due to the fact that there was literally no brain left in his head. O'Connor, who at the time Lifton interviewed him believed the Warren Report, said that the wound to his head was "terrific," and measured some eight by four inches. It also stretched from the right rear of the head to the right temple area of the head when O'Connor first saw Kennedy's body, in comparison to a much smaller wound in the right rear of the head seen by the doctors at Parkland Hospital. The ex-funeral home worker told Lifton that he believed the bullet must have literally blown all the brains out of Kennedy's head, due to the fact that the head was literally totally empty. There were some small bits of brain left in the head, but for the greatest part there was no brain left in the head. There was no need to remove the skullcap and open the skull as is usually done in an autopsy, O'Connor noted. These guys in the Bethesda morgue did not have to do that. They just looked right down into the head through that huge hole and noticed there was nothing left in the brain case. The autopsy doctors noticed it also and O'Connor noted that they were "aghast" when that detail of the President's condition at the start of the autopsy was noted, probably due to the fact there was no brain left in the head and the severity of the wound. The morgue technicians didn't have to tell Commander Humes,the chief autopsy surgeon, that there was no brain, O'Connor said. The appearance of the dead President really must have shaken Commander Humes up, from the way O'Connor described his reaction. "He was scared to death," O'Connor told Lifton. O'Connor had also noted that he was afraid also, because that sort of situation on first looking at a corpse was not normal. He was also just a junior enlisted guy with a bunch of big Admirals and whatnot about. " . . . I just decided to keep my mouth shut," O'Connor said. James Curtis Jenkins, also in charge of prepping the body for autopsy along with O'Connor, noted that when he first saw the body it had a hole in the head that had taken off at least one third of the skull which was gone. The hole extended toward the rear, with fragments that seemed to be hanging on, and which seemed to have been exploded toward the rear. Jenkins, who had previous exposure to the effects of gunshot wounds, expressed the belief that Kennedy had been shot in the head from the front. He had not noticed a frontal entry wound and assumed it had been blown away when the bullet struck, and concluded that the bullet must have struck from the right front. The next day, Jenkins noted, "I found out that supposedly he had been shot from the back. I just, you know, I just couldn't believe it, and have never been able to believe it. "I was very surprised by the conclusion . . . it was really kind of shocking to me. I guess I accepted it because of the circumstances I was in . . . But, I mean, I didn't accept it as being fact." Lifton noted in his book that it was clear from speaking with Jenkins that he was very frightened by the experience. He had left the autopsy room convinced of the fact that Kennedy had been shot from front to back, only to find out from the next day's newspapers that the opposite had been reached as an autopsy conclusion. "It frightened me," he said. "I did not discuss it with anybody for many, many years, but I followed it very closely . . . I eventually discussed it with my wife." The official story surrounding the autopsy held that conclusions about how Kennedy was shot and from what direction were reached the night of the autopsy, but Jenkins recalled that this was not the case. "There were no conclusions that night," Jenkins told Lifton. What Jenkins heard at the autopsy table he described as "discussions." "There were some speculations-discussions-between the three physicians, with a couple of other people-I don't know who they were. They seemed to be in charge, or seemed to be some type of authority," Jenkins said. Jenkins didn't know who those civilians were who had the discussions with the doctors, but what they were talking about with the doctors was an obvious source of friction. When the conversations came around to the fatal shot, Jenkins noted, "There were some discussions, questions asked, and things of that nature. but it was all kind of in a manner of-you know, searching for a conclusion, as opposed to drawing a conclusion." As to the role of the civilians, Jenkins said that "The people running around in civilian clothes . . . had a preconcluded idea, and . . . because it was not panning out, you know, they were VERY-there were a lot of animosities, to be quite frank with you . . . there were very short tempers. Things of that nature." "You mean-`tensions'?" Lifton asked him. "Yes," Jenkins replied, "that you kind of feel." Jenkins also told Lifton that it was his impression that "animosity" was directed toward the people doing the autopsy-Doctors Humes, Boswell and Finck. " . . . you know, this would be found, and somebody would say, `No, that's not right; can't be . . .' that type of thing," Jenkins noted. Jenkins also noted that at the time he felt like Dr. Humes and Commander Boswell were getting irritated during the autopsy, and got the idea on his own that the two doctors were somehow being chastised. Jenkins also noted that the source of the overall irritation in the morgue was the two or three civilians who were there during the autopsy, but he really didn't know who they were. "I don't know what they were, or who they were, or what their functions were, or anything of that nature," Jenkins noted in the Lifton interview. Jenkins had been preoccupied with the medical details of the examination and didn't remember much about the civilians. He was tied down with handing doctors instruments, making sure the specimens were available, taking down weights of various things and handling other chores connected with the autopsy. Jenkins also noted that there were more than five men in civilian clothes at the morgue during the autopsy, pointing out that he could not give Lifton an exact number. He noted that many more were present and they were sitting in the "gallery" section of the morgue that was a bit removed from the morgue proper but afforded a clear view of the proceedings. While Jenkins was a bit vague during the interview on some aspects of the autopsy proceedings, his recall on the controversy over the neck trajectory was vivid. The wound at the front of the throat was assumed throughout the autopsy to be a tracheotomy, he said. But the civilians who seemed to be in charge seemed to be trying to get Humes to conclude that a bullet passed from back to front through the body. Jenkins had a clear recollection that this sort of thing was not possible, and remembered very clearly Humes probing the back wound with his little finger. "What sticks out in my mind is the fact that Commander Humes put his little finger in it, and, you know said that . . . he could probe the bottom of it with his finger, which would mean to me [it was] very narrow," Jenkins noted. After the body was opened and the organs removed, Jenkins watched the doctors probe it again and remembered looking inside the chest cavity and seeing the probe through the bottom of the lining of the chest cavity, which also indicated that the wound was not very deep. Jenkins also noted that he had assumed the autopsy report would have concluded that the President had been shot once in the back from behind and the bullet could not be found during the autopsy, and that the second shot to the head had come from the front. In explaining how the autopsy report had come to be written the way it was, going along with the standing Warren Commission and Assassination Committee reports that the shots that hit Kennedy both came from behind, Jenkins straightforwardly said that Humes was a "super-military type of person," not in that he was authoritarian in nature but that he was concerned with his next promotion and his military career in general. "He was the type of individual that would do anything anybody above him told him to do . . . my personal feeling is that he was probably directed to write the autopsy report." Jenkins also told Lifton that he has always assumed that those types of directions came from someone outside the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Lifton noted that the chain of command was pretty short at the level the autopsy was performed at-Humes's senior officers were the commanding officer of the medical school, the Commanding Officer of the Medical Center, and the U.S. Surgeon General. "And then you're either at the Joint Chiefs of Staff or orders from the White House," Lifton observed. Jenkins replied that "I didn't say that, you did." Lifton noted in the book he wrote based on his findings that it was obvious Jenkins had given the matter some thought and was not comfortable discussing it. What Jenkins had to say also cast some doubt on the fact that despite that fact that Kennedy's body was altered, it was not altered sufficiently to create the unambiguous appearance of a shot from the rear. The former morgue attendant noted that when the body arrived in the autopsy room, at least a third of the skullbone was not attached. Fragments were in the coffin while some were attached to the scalp. He noted that the right rear and right side of the head was a large gaping area, but that most of the bones were still there and were put back together during the autopsy. "It had just been crushed, and kind of blown apart, toward the rear," Jenkins said. In short, despite the wound pattern being different then, it did not give the unambiguous appearance of a back-to-front shot. It did later after the head area was filled in with plaster of paris, though. The main thing Jenkins derived from the autopsy was that the President was shot in the head from the front, and that fact was covered up from the start. Lifton noted that during the conversation he had with Jenkins the man was still frightened. The former corpsman was also very incredulous about the veracity and credibility of the federal government in the wake of the mangled autopsy report. "Every time there seems to be something of importance that affects the nation, and I'm told one way by the government, I'm skeptical about it. Because this (the JFK assassination) was probably the most significant thing that had happened in this country in God knows how long, and my feelings are that the people themselves were just-well, to be quite frank-lied to about it, and for what reason I have no idea. I don't want to speculate on that-those types of things. If it's happened in something this important, this dramatic-I had almost wished I had not been there. . . ." There was a postscript to Lifton's interview with Jenkins that the author included in his book about the head wound trajectory alteration. Andrew Purdy, lawyer with the Assassinations Committee, got hold of Jenkins in 1978 while that probe was still going on, and Jenkins told him he would be happy to talk to him, if he had proper identification. He also requested that the interview be conducted in his Congressman's office. Purdy went to Jackson, Mississippi, where Jenkins was a student at the time, and Purdy was accompanied by staff investigator James P. Kelley. The interview the two men held with Jenkins lasted some three and a half hours. No tape recording was made and no stenographic record was made. Jenkins thought that Kelley might have made a few handwritten notes. Jenkins told Lifton later that it quickly became apparent that Purdy and Kelley were not really interested in what he had to say nor his opinion, but merely wanted him to answer their questions. "I did feel a little intimidated," Jenkins told Lifton. But while the body did enter the medical facility by way of a plain shipping casket and a body bag as the technicians who worked at the morgue the night of JFK's murder have noted, the arrival of the bronze casket and the necessity to get that casket back together with the corpse had to be done somehow to keep anybody from getting wise to the fact that they had been separated. It brings to mind the old American military saying among clerks that "It's all done with smoke and mirrors" in reference to some standard ploys that sometimes have to be engaged in due to the necessity for getting the job done. Proof that the body and the Dallas casket were reunited came from James E. Metzler, who was an eyewitness to and probably a participant in the arrival of the body inside the Dallas casket. He was a hospital corpsman third class at the time of the autopsy but was only in the room for five or ten minutes, and was then asked to leave the morgue. Metzler was in the lab school at Bethesda at the time, and had chosen the morgue watch for the type work he did at Bethesda when he was not attending classes because he thought it was more interesting than watching for fires in the barracks at night, which was the alternative. "I was just there for maybe about five or ten minutes when they brought in President Kennedy [to the morgue] . . . we got a call from upstairs-they said they were bringing him in by decoy around the back. So I went out back and sure enough, there was the honor guard (supplied by the Military District of Washington which usually provides funeral honor guards)." Metzler told Lifton that he had heard there was a helicopter somewhere that was apparently part of the decoy scheme, and some sort of measure was used to keep people away from the area when the body was brought in, according to information Metzler had heard during the few days following the autopsy. He did tell Lifton that it was common knowledge in the hospital that the Kennedys had arrived after the body did. That honor guard had escorted the bronze casket into the hospital. Metzler also noted to Lifton that he went to the door to the loading dock and they brought the casket in, after which the honor guard had to leave. Then Metzler helped put Kennedy on the table with about four other people. Kennedy was all in a sheet and his head was wrapped in a sheet also, according to Metzler, when he was taken out of the viewing casket that the honor guard had brought into the rear of Bethesda. One of the sheets was wrapped completely around the entire body while the other one was wrapped around the head, Metzler told Lifton. It was then that Metzler was requested to leave the morgue. "The pathologist told me I could go-they had everything they needed," Metzler noted. "They hadn't started the autopsy yet. They were just about to begin." What Metzler encountered on his way out of the morgue through the area where the various refrigerated chillboxes were located where bodies were temporarily kept prior to autopsies being performed was also interesting. Metzler walked out of the morgue into the anteroom with the chillboxes in it along with a desk and a telephone. Big double doors open from the anteroom into the morgue itself, with its amphitheater and the two autopsy tables. What he encountered was a group of men in plainclothes, about ten of them, whom he had always assumed were FBI men. He really did not know which government agency they represented, though. The men did have what Metzler referred to as a "roster," which was a list of names of persons who were supposed to be in the morgue during the autopsy. Metzler's immediate problem after walking into the anteroom was that his name was not on the list. " . . . when I left, they asked me for my identification, and I gave it to them, and they saw that my name was not on the list to be in the room, because I had been in the room before they came. "I guess they were guarding who comes in and who goes out-security, part of it . . . Because when I came out into the refrigerated room, this one guy says, `What's your name?' and I told him and he looked down at his list and he said `Let me see your ID card' and they looked it that-there's a picture on it, of course-[and] they said, `His name isn't on the list.' And the other guy steps across the door, so you can't open the door, you know, it [was] really kind of spooky. . . ." The strange men in the anteroom wrote down his name, and he was cut loose, then went upstairs to let one of the officers in charge know that his name wasn't on the list because Metzler didn't want him to get into any trouble. Interestingly enough, it was also Metzler's idea that from the way the wound was located toward the back of the head that President Kennedy must have been shot in the head from the front. Metzler was not adamant about it, Lifton noted, and when he later read that the official autopsy concluded otherwise, he simply assumed that he was wrong. Metzler also thought that when the sheet was taken off, you could see a brain, or part of a brain, within the cranial vault of Kennedy's head. All the preceding persons whom Lifton interviewed about their experiences who said that when JFK's body arrived at the Bethesda morgue the wound pattern was indicative of a shot from the front were not the only ones who said that. The two X-ray technicians who were called in to contribute their expertise to the autopsy of the dead President also said that the wound trajectory looked like it was mainly a front-to-back wound pattern to the head. Edward Reed was twenty years old when he was an X-ray technician at Bethesda in 1963, and the front to back trajectory appearance was what he remembered also. He told Lifton that he relied on the location of the large head wound that was "more posterior than anterior" in forming the opinion that the President was shot in the head from the front. It was about six months before he realized that the official version of the autopsy conflicted with the opinions he had drawn from the actual appearance of the body on the night of the autopsy, and it was hard form him to accept the official version when he discovered what it was. Jerrol Custer, the other X-ray technician, said that the President's head wound was enormous, so enormous that "I could put both of my hands in the wound . . . ." Custer also believed that Kennedy had been shot from the front, and pointed out that when a person goes hunting the bullet goes into the body small and comes out large. That is exactly how the skull looked in relation to the front-to-back appearance of the wound trajectory, he told Lifton. While Custer held that view in November of 1963, he shrugged it off when the official version was publicized due to the fact that he was a "lowly X-ray technologist . . . and all of these so-called experts were saying this didn't happen. I just figured-well, maybe I could be wrong." Custer also told Lifton that he exposed, and returned to the morgue, X-rays showing that the rear of the President's head was blown off. By the end of the conversation Lifton had with Custer, the X-ray tech supplied one piece of information that tied in with other pieces of information pertaining to what coffin the President's body first arrived in. According to Custer, Jackie Kennedy came walking in the front entrance to the Bethesda medical facility while he was making his second or third trip from the morgue to an area upstairs where the X-ray film was developed at. When Custer saw Jackie Kennedy she was walking into the Bethesda front entrance on her way to the Towers section of Bethesda, where she stayed while the autopsy was going on. Custer said that he passed her, " . . . and I had my arms full of film, and in fact what struck me is she still had that dress on." Custer explained that developing the X-rays required a trip from the morgue to one of the upper floors in the Bethesda medical center, and that trip passed through the lobby area. A Secret Service man served as an escort on the trips that Custer had to make to the area where the film was developed. "I remember her coming in and being surrounded by reporters, and then there were Secret Service men, and they were pushing the reporters out of the way. As they pushed them out of the way, I remember seeing her come through . . . . I can't remember what color dress, but I remember I saw the bloodstains on it . . . and the Secret Service guy behind us said: `Come on, let's go.' For some reason, he didn't want people to know-you know-what we were doing." Jackie Kennedy was spotted by Custer from a distance of about ten or fifteen yards. "I saw her, because she stuck out like a sore thumb," he told Lifton. He continued down the hallway and then took an elevator upstairs to get his X-ray film processed, Lifton added. Floyd Albert Reibe,the photographer's assistant at the autopsy, noted that he was inside the morgue when he first saw the coffin, which was brought in by men "in civilian clothes, with a military guard." Reibe also noted that the casket was pretty much like a shipping casket and had turnbuckles on it. The coffin was definitely not a viewing casket, he noted. He also recalled that the body was in a body bag when the coffin was opened. One interesting thing Reibe contributed was that he had taken some pictures of Kennedy lying on his stomach. What is interesting about that recollection is that there are no such shots in the official collection of photographs surrounding the autopsy report. The picture of the back wound shows Kennedy lying on his back with his right shoulder tilted up away from the table. He added that he also thought he took about six pictures composed of about three film packs of internal portions of the body. Those pictures are not with the official collection either. Those official photos also contain one detail Reibe said clash with the normal way autopsies are done-the corpse had a towel clearly labeled "Bethesda Naval Hospital" underneath it. The reason no towel or anything else is put under a corpse at autopsy, according to Reibe, is due to the way an autopsy table is constructed with two levels to facilitate the draining of fluids. "You got the upper part and it's got hundreds of holes in it for any fluid to go ahead and drain down and almost out of sight; but if you put a sheet or a cover, something like that [under the body], it would all stay up at the top." Reibe's talk with Lifton also brought out the information that security measures which in effect gagged the men who helped perform the autopsy until the Assassinations Committee put the heat on to have the gag order rescinded years later came right from the top of the federal government when it was issued. The assistant photographer at the autopsy told Lifton that the persons who participated in the autopsy were called into the office of Dr. Stover, head of the medical facility. Captain Stover explained the Secrecy Act to the personnel involved and told them that the White House wanted to keep details of the autopsy secret and not to talk about it. Those personnel called in had to sign a standard military letter indicating that they had been informed that they were not to talk about what had transpired during the autopsy and that the penalty for talking in contravention of the warning letter could well include their being court martialed among other penalties. The warning letter had been extremely effective. When Lifton tracked down the men who had been involved in the autopsy, in the late 1970s when all of them were out of the service even, they would not talk with him or even with Assassinations Committee personnel until the order was rescinded. The general thought on the part of the men at the time was that the gag order was part of the normal security procedures which surrounded the autopsy and the rest of the incidents surrounding the assassination of the President. Lifton's outlook was that it was probably part of the conspiracy in effect to help shield the fact that there had been wound trajectory modification carried out in an attempt to frame Oswald. Given the fact that what Lifton had fallen upon and dug out was evidence that the body of JFK had gotten to Bethesda well before the bronze Brittanica coffin it had been placed in at Dallas, what we are faced with is, as Lifton notes, a probable operation to cover up the fact that we actually witnessed a crossfire in Dealey Plaza that killed the President. The alteration of the head wound pattern was central to the coverup and all the strange things reported by the morgue technicians when they were finally interviewed years after the fact supported the fact that head alteration did occur-the body arriving prior to the bronze casket in a body bag and a shipping casket, the head appearing as if it had a front-to-back wound trajectory despite the alteration being done [which implies the job not being totally completed at whatever point it was done] and the clamping down of a gag order so that none of the Navy morgue technicians could leak any information of what had happened to the outs ide world. The question of where the body had gotten altered, and how it had gotten to that point, was one big gap in the head wound alteration angle of the story. Lifton, after checking out various leads on that part of the Kennedy assassination, came to the conclusion that the head wound trajectory pattern had been altered at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is only a few miles away from Bethesda. Going on such evidence as what radio transmissions were made to and from Air Force One enroute from Washington to Dallas, sound and videotapes lifted from live broadcast news coverage of the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base near both medical facilities, Lifton postulated the following chain of events in the head wound alteration: -The body could have been stored in either the baggage hold or in the Boeing's galley by persons unknown as baggage during some brief intermission when nobody was with the coffin, such as the time period when all of the persons on the aircraft went to the area where Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as President for that ceremony. -The body was taken off the aircraft upon its arrival at Andrews via a ramp on the right front of the plane, which was the side away from all the radio and television reporters with their sound gear and cameras. A military helicopter moves in close to the right side of Air Force One just after it taxis to a stop, and is again airborne and flying away within 90 seconds of the plane stopping. While the helicopter is flying off, the bronze casket is taken off the rear of the Presidential aircraft, loaded into a Navy ambulance, and a motorcade including the ambulance heads for Bethesda for the autopsy. -Once that Presidential plane had landed there was something like a 20-minute time gap available for whomever did the head alterations to actually do them, including air transportation to the location it was done at and from that location to Bethesda. Walter Reed, according to a look at a map Lifton carried out, was the closest point to Bethesda where such an alteration could be carried out. It had all the right equipment and plenty of appropriate areas, one would suspect, where it could be done, not to mention the trained personnel who could do it. -Once the alteration was made to the extent it was made, the body was loaded into that Cadillac hearse or another helicopter and taken over to Bethesda Naval Medical Center. While some of the personnel at Bethesda definitely reported the shipping casket being taken from a Cadillac hearse by Navy personnel and six big, strong men in civilian clothes, other reports of helicopters being used as either decoy transportation or actual means of transportation were also heard from personnel that Lifton interviewed. Lifton noted that altering the body did two things for whoever was behind the plot to kill John Kennedy-1. The bullet trajectories changed and the true locations of the shooters were concealed. Bullet retrieval from the President's head insured that bullets and bullet fragments from the weapons that actually murdered the President would not reach the FBI Laboratory. 2. Introduction of a false assassin could be arranged through changing the wounds, throwing off the major investigations which would be sure to follow and making sure that the very vulnerable position of the actual plotters over discovery was solved by letting the actual shooters get away scot free. The protection of the plotters would be significantly increased if they could deflect all investigations by providing a false solution and a false perpetrator. Lifton also noted that while the assassination of an American President is a political event since people would want to know not only who killed the president but why, those who altered the body were in a position to provide a sort of answer to that question. By creating the appearance that President Kennedy was killed by a lone and embittered man, JFK's death was denuded of political meaning and made to look like a historical accident. The reason the plan to alter the head wound worked, at least on the official level, is due to what Lifton discovered about the legal profession in general-the lawyers in this country don't think like everybody else does, nor do they use the English language like everybody else does. When they say they need the best evidence to prosecute or defend a legal case, they don't talk about things like what an eyewitness saw or the testimony that witness can offer. In fact, eyewitness facts and testimony in the eyes of a lawyer in America is actually among the worst types of evidence due to the fact that witnesses are seen as not accurate recorders of what actually happened. On the other hand, things like autopsy reports which are the issue of an official autopsy done by professional forensic pathologists with training and experience, and physical evidence dug up by detectives such as spent shell casings and an old Italian army rifle in the Book Depository are among the best types of evidence as far as lawyers are concerned. The corpse is also among the best evidence, due to the fact that the pathologists have the corpse to work on to come up with an autopsy report from. So, if one makes the body lie in the JFK assassination by altering the head wound trajectory pattern, you've automatically gulled the pathologists (especially when they are military men under orders) and thrown the basics of the case right out the window. A very simple thing when one thinks about it, but a brilliant move nonetheless in its simplicity. Apparently the JFK assassination was not engineered by fools. What tipped it, as Lifton noted, were those little things that came up as slips in the overall situation, the occurrence of the assassination and its aftermath. If Zapruder had not been standing there with his camera, if those technicians in the Bethesda morgue would not have noticed what they did about the head wounds and spoke up finally after the gag order was rescinded, and all the other little things that went astray in the plan just enough to let the cover story slip so the truth underneath could be glimpsed, nobody would have been the wiser. After so many years the trail would logically have gone cold in the Kennedy assassination, but that may not necessarily be so. As late as the late 1970s and the early 1980s, when the Assassinations Committee was concluding its work and Lifton was bringing his book out respectively, there were areas and paths that could be looked at and followed in any sort of investigation that the Justice Department could go after if it chose to . . . or was forced to, considering that the evidence to warrant a new official investigation has been there all along. The probe into who was behind orders from the White House pertaining to the autopsy and the way it was handled are just one area, as are details of how the Secret Service handled the evidence, the trip planning for the President and other aspects of getting the corpse back to Washington from Dallas. Why did they really feel constrained to almost running the Dallas County Coronor, Earl Rose, over with the coffin on their way out of Parkland Hospital? In the light of all evidence pointing toward foul play in the form of a conspiracy and subsequent coverup in the JFK assassination, one suspects that simple consideration for the feelings of Mrs. Kennedy was certainly not the primary reason for that isolated incident. One other area of investigation is one that was unlocked by freelance writer and former Assassinations Committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi while he was working for that committee, where he was literally breathing down the back of a mysterious CIA agent in pursuit of the "Who Did It?" question of the JFK assassination. The Assassinations Committee, when it released its report in the summer of 1979, was overdue with the report since it had officially gone out of business in December of 1978. The lag between the actual death of the committee and the issuance of its report was caused by Chief Counsel Robert Blakey figuring the report had to be rewritten with a lot more weight being given to a conspiracy since the acoustics evidence showed there was one. The problem was who to blame for it. Since Blakey was an old hand at being an organized crime expert with experience in Federal organized crime strike forces, as well as being head of Cornell University's Organized Crime Institute when he was asked to take over the Assassinations Committee, the fact he blamed organized crime for it was not surprising. Problem was, there was plenty of evidence that Fonzi dug up alone to show that the footprints of an intelligence agency were all around and through the Kennedy assassination, and that investigator had also been tracking that one American intelligence agent who had been seen in the company of Lee Harvey Oswald not too long before the Dealey Plaza assassination. When Blakey took over and starting hiring staff personnel, it soon became obvious that his personal background was heavily influencing the way the investigation would probably go, according to Fonzi's article "Who Killed JFK?" in the Washingtonian Magazine of November 1980. All the new hires were from Blakey's contacts in the organized-crime-fighting old boy network, such as Gary Cornwell who was picked to head the Kennedy investigation task force. Cornwell, when he was chief of the Federal strike Force in Kansas City, had achieved notable trial victories against key Mafia figures in the Midwest. The hiring pattern apparently wasn't so bad in itself. However, the outlook behind the investigation was really what kicked the applecart over as far as the failure to track down leads as they were instead of trying to make the facts fit a preconceived idea. Fonzi noted that in his first address to the staff that the first priority was to get a report produced. The second priority was to produce a report that looked good, one that appeared to be definitive and substantial. The report actually doesn't say organized crime did it, though, as Fonzi pointed out in his article. The report said that "The Committee believes, on the basis of evidence available to it, that the national syndicate of Organized Crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved." Blakey, in a press conference attached to the issuing of the report, noted that HE and not the committee said that organized crime was involved, and he was correct in saying that. The persons the committee were talking about being involved, as Fonzi noted, were Carlos Marcello of New Orleans and Santos Trafficante of Florida, who could have been involved in the assassination on their own hooks. But at the same time, the report said in its body that "It is unlikely that either Marcello or Trafficante was involved in the assassination of the President." With contradictions like that, it was hard to believe how the committee managed to spend the time and money it did on investigating the situation until one read Fonzi's article. What he detailed was the shooting down of the first Chief Counsel of the committee after he began locking horns with the CIA, then a relatively dead investigative period where the very existence of the committee was in doubt, followed by the Blakey takeover and the roll into getting a report out instead of conducting a no-holds-barred homicide investigation like the first counsel wanted to. That first Chief Counsel of the committee was Richard Sprague, who had gotten a national name for himself with his successful prosecution of United Mine Workers president Tony Boyle for the murder of UMW reformer Joseph Yablonski. Sprague also had a record of 69 homicide convictions out of 70 prosecutions while he was first assistant district attorney of Philadelphia. One of Sprague's stipulations on accepting the job was that he have complete authority to hire his own staff and run the investigation as he saw fit. Two separate investigations were what he had in mind, one for John F. Kennedy and another for Martin Luther King, Jr. He also insisted on handling both cases as if they were homicide investigations. Out of a longtime prosecutor, this was not a surprising move, and made sense when one remembered that the files don't ever close on a homicide case until it is either solved or until the perpetrator is deemed to have died from natural causes. He also noted that he would need a staff of at least 220 and an initial annual budget of $6.5 million, and there was no guarantee that amount of money would be enough to finish the job. When it became obvious that Sprague meant to conduct and honest-to-God investigation, it didn't take long for the fire to begin. While he had not pulled either the staff or budget figures out of the air but based it on resources the Warren commission had available from all the investigative agencies which kicked in information, the budget became the focal point of the the attacks on Sprague. While the new Chief Counsel probably thought he was going to Washington to conduct an investigation, he found himself very quickly having to do a bunch of tap dancing, procrastinating on getting the actual investigating going, and trying to just get enough money coming in from irate Congressmen who didn't like his approach for the committee to literally just stay alive. The committee was also hampered by the fact that Congressman Henry Gonzalez of Texas was ticked off at not being named chairman of it when it was originally set up. When the congressman who had been named the original chairman had retired prior to the time the vote came up on whether or not to keep the committee going by funding its operations, Gonzalez was in the chairman's seat and kicking his heels up at Sprague, whom he saw as too independent for his own or the committee's good. The entire upshot was that Sprague won the peeing contest with Gonzalez, but wound up having to resign because a large amount of Congressmen didn't like the idea of a Chief Counsel being directly responsible for a congressman being booted out of the chairmanship even if it was directly voted on by the rest of the committee. What happened was that Sprague finally had no choice but to resign after it became obvious to everybody that the committee simply would not get funded and would effectively die if he did not resign. As far as it went, it was apparently obvious that this was what drove Sprague to resign. Fonzi noted it was apparent that Sprague's insistence on lie detectors and voice stress analyzers, his demand for an expensive, unrestricted investigation and his refusal to play politics with Chairman Gonzalez all brought on the criticism that resulted in the committee almost dying and Sprague resigning. After Sprague had a chance to think it over following his resignation, he took what Fonzi described as a wider view of what the cause really was. Robert Sam Anson of NEW TIMES magazine interviewed Sprague after he returned from Acapulco following his resignation, and the prosecutor admitted that he and the staff had little time to investigate when fire was being directed at him from all directions. He told Anson that if he could do it over again, he would begin his investigation of the Kennedy assassination by probing "Oswald's ties to the Central Intelligence Agency." When Fonzi asked Sprague why he had come to that conclusion, Sprague noted he first thought that the leadership of the House of Representatives really hadn't intended for there to be an investigation, with the Committee being set up to appease the Black Caucus which had wanted it to get the Martin Luther King assassination investigated also. "I still believe that was a factor," Fonzi noted that Sprague told him. "But when I looked back at what happened, it suddenly became very clear that the problems began only after I ran up against the CIA. That's when my troubles really started." What Sprague meant by the time he ran up against the CIA was the incident he started looking into when the Committee was trying to get reconstituted, when Congressional critics were screaming for something substantial in the way of results so that it would look like the Committee was really producing something. What this mean that Sprague was looking for some obvious things to go after, Fonzi said. One of them was the situation where the CIA had given the Warren Commission a photo of what it said was Lee Harvey Oswald leaving the Cuban and Russian embassies while in Mexico City, in an effort to get an in-transit visa to Russia via Cuba. When Oswald visited the Russian Embassy he spoke with a Soviet consul who was really a KGB intelligence officer, the CIA also said. The CIA station in Mexico City told headquarters that it had also obtained a photo of Oswald visiting the embassy and described the man in the photo as approximately 35 years old, six feet tall, with an athletic build and receding hairline, Fonzi noted. When the Warren Commission got the photos of the man at the embassy, it turned out not to be Oswald. The CIA said it had simply goofed when informed of that discrepancy, and there were no photos of Oswald taken in Mexico City. The man in the photos was never identified. CIA also could provide very little information of Oswald's activities in Mexico City, could provide no record of Oswald's daily movements there, nor could they confirm the date of his departure or his method of travel. A CIA man by the name of David Atlee Phillips was the person in charge of reporting such information from Mexico at the time of Oswald's visit, Fonzi noted that Sprague learned when he approached that area of enquiry. Phillips was called to testify in front of the assassination s committee in November of 1976. Sprague had noted that Phillips said the CIA had monitored and taped Oswald's conversation with the Soviet Embassy, with the tape being transcribed by a CIA employee who mistakenly coupled it with a photo of a person who was not Oswald. Phillips also noted that the actual tape recording was routinely destroyed or recycled a week after it was received. Sprague, however, discovered later that an FBI memorandum to the Secret Service dated November, 1963, referred to the CIA identification of the man who had visited the Russian Embassy, and noted that "Special Agents of this Bureau who have conversed with Oswald in Dallas, Texas, have observed photographs of the individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the above-referred-to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald." What got Sprague's interest up was how the FBI agents could have listened to a tape recording in November that Phillips said had been destroyed in October. He decided to push the CiA for an answer, Fonzi said, which meant that he wanted information about the CIA's operation in Mexico City, access to all its employees who may have had anything to do with the photographs, tape recordings, and transcripts. The result was that the CIA balked and Sprague pushed harder, Fonzi noted. The Agency finally agreed that Sprague could have access to the things he wanted provided he signed a CIA secrecy agreement. He declined. Sprague figured that would be a direct conflict with House Resolution 222, which established the Assassinations Committee and authorized it to investigate the agencies of the United States government. Sprague's main question was how could he possibly sign an agreement with an agency he was supposed to be investigating. The Chief Counsel's comeback was that he would subpoena the CIA's records. It was not too long after that occurred that the first attempt to get the assassinations committee reconstituted was blocked, Fonzi said. One of the critics was Representative Robert Michel of Illinois who objected to the scope of the Committee's mandate, Fonzi noted. "With the proposed mandate," Michel said, "that Committee could begin a whole new investigation of the Central Intelligence Agency!" Sprague said that is exactly what he intended to do, and he contended at the time of Fonzi's story that it was the beginning of the end. During the time the infighting was going on between Committee members, Fonzi had not been sitting on his hands in Miami, where he was doing his investigative work for that body, mainly in the area of anti-Castro Cuban activities surrounding the assassination. Such investigative leads as there were surrounding the expatriate Cubans would lead him down a path where he would close in a CIA spymaster during the Committee investigation, but there were also other interesting characters and leads Fonzi was working on. One such person who was a lead all in himself was George de Mohrenschildt, the White Russian emigre who had befriended Oswald and Marina Oswald on their arrival in American from Russia when Oswald returned from a supposed defection and later change of heart. George de Mohrenschildt had long been one of the shadowy figures of the JFK assassination, with a background in intelligence work and a large amount of suspicion surrounding him regarding what role he may have played in it. Putting his out-of-context friendship with the Oswalds and his intelligence background caused a lot of raised eyebrows among private assassination researchers over the years, but nobody ever came up with anything that would definitely point to him being directly involved in any capacity. Fonzi's look at de Mohrenschildt came as the result of a phone call he got from committee member Bob Tannenbaum in May of 1977, where Tannenbaum told him he had just gotten a call from Dutch journalist Wilhelm Oltmans. Oltmans had gotten national television coverage when he told the Committee he had interviewed de Mohrenschildt and claimed the White Russian had confessed he had been part of the "Dallas conspiracy" of oilmen and Cuban exiles with a "blood debt to settle." According to Oltmans, de Mohrenschildt had also said that Oswald had "acted at his guidance and instructions." de Mohrenschildt was reportedly the victim of a nervous breakdown during the time he was talking to Oltmans, but had left a hospital in Dallas to travel with the journalist on a book and magazine rights negotiating trip in Europe. While in Brussels, Oltmans said, de Mohrenschildt had disappeared. Tannenbaum told Fonzi during their May telephone conversation that Oltmans had called the Committee from California, and said that in tracking down de Mohrenschildt had discovered that the White Russian could be reached at a telephone number in Florida. Tannenbaum gave Fonzi the phone number and that same afternoon Fonzi checked it out. The number belonged to Mrs. C. E. Tilton III of Manalapan, a Palm Beach area strip of high-value land on the ocean. Fonzi would later learn that Mrs. Tilton was the sister of one of de Mohrenschildt's former wives. At that time he decided to contact de Mohrenschildt in person rather than by telephone. Fonzi went out looking for his man the morning of March 29, 1977, in Manalapan. The Tilton home was located on the edge of the ocean highway behind a barrier of high hedges, and was a large, two-story structure with dark cedar shingles and green trim. Fonzi though it looked like it belonged in New England more than it did in Florida. Fonzi drove into the wide yard beside the house and ran into de Mohrenschildt's daughter, Alexandra, as she appeared from behind a garage. She told him that her father was in Palm Beach and that she did not know how to reach him. She was certain that he would be in the same evening and that Fonzi could reach him if he phoned about 8 o'clock. She also said that she would tell her father to expect Fonzi's call. About 6:30 that evening Fonzi got a call from a friend who was a television reporter in Dallas. The reporter told him that "We just aired a story that came over the wire about a Dutch journalist saying the Assassinations Committee has finally located de Mohrenschildt in south Florida. Now de Mohrenschildt's attorney, a guy named Pat Russel-he calls and says de Mohrenschildt committed suicide this afternoon. Is that true?" The train of events Fonzi recounted in the death of de Mohrenschildt was that the man he was looking for had returned to the Tilton home in Manalapan about four hours after Fonzi left it the same morning. Alexandra told him of Fonzi's visit and gave him a card Fonzi had left. He put the card in his pocket and, according to Alexandra, did not seem upset. Shortly afterwards he said he was going upstairs to rest. He apparently took a 20-gauge shotgun Mrs. Tilton kept beside her bed for protection, sat down on a soft chair, put the stock of the shotgun on the floor and the end of the barrel in his mouth, leaned forward, and pulled the trigger. Fonzi called Sprague in Washington as soon as he had confirmed de Mohrenschildt's death, and Sprague suggested he get to the scene immediately while he attempted to get staff members together and contacted Committee members to prepare subpoenas. Fonzi took off and rushed around Palm Beach County to learn the details of de Mohrenschildt's death, trying to coordinate the Committee's handling of the case with Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Bludworth, who was cooperative but increasingly confused about the lack of coordination the Committee had. Sprague, Fonzi later learned, was unable to do anything and never did get back in touch with him. No subpoenas were ever issued, no witnesses were ever called to testify, and no independent investigation was ever made of de Mohrenschildt's death, Fonzi noted in his article. He also noted that it was a sign of how well the Committee's opponents had been in keeping it distracted and off balance that six months after its formation the Committee could not react to the death of a key witness. Fonzi found out from the next morning's headlines that while he was trying to get the goods on the de Mohrenschildt death, Sprague had quit. By 8 that morning, as Fonzi was still trying to get hold of somebody on the Committee in Washington, Sprague was on his way to Acapulco. The same day, the House voted to continue the Committee at a stripped-down budget of $2.5 million for the year. Fonzi pegged the resignation of Richard Sprague and the death of George de Mohrenschildt as the key factors in the House vote to let the Committee live. It was probably too bad that Fonzi had not gotten to talk to de Mohrenschildt and that his death was not investigated as well as it might have been. He was born in Russia in 1911, the son of a czarist official who later became a wealthy landowner in Poland. He was a longtime petroleum engineer and was a consultant for various Texas oil companies. He also self-admittedly worked for French intelligence and in 1961 showed up at a Guatemalan camp being used by Cuban exiles as a training center for the Bay of Pigs invasion. At the time, he and his fourth wife, Jean LeGon, were reputedly on a walking tour of South America. He also moved in high society, which made his befriending the Oswalds a dubious proposition. His first wife was Palm Beach resident Dorothy Pierson. His second wife was the daughter of a high State Department official, while his third was Philadelphia Main Line socialite Wynne Sharples. He took Jeanne LeGon as his fourth wife in 1959 in Dallas. Her father had been the director of the Far Eastern Railroad in Manchuria. Gary Taylor, who had been married to de Mohrenschildt's daughter Alexandra, had been asked by one Warren Commission counsel if he thought the White Russian had any influence over Oswald. Taylor replied in the affirmative, also noting that there had apparently been what he termed a great deal of influence there. Taylor, when asked if he had any further comments that might help the Commission, noted that in his opinion noted that " . . . the only thing that occurred to me was that-uh-and I guess it was from the beginning-that if there was any assistance or plotters in the assassination that it was, in my opinion, most probably the de Mohrenschildts." Lifton noted that the Warren Commission did little to explore that contention. Once the Committee settled down after Bob Blakey came in as Chief Counsel, Fonzi was able to concentrate on one lead he had dug up while he had been an investigator for Senator Schweiker during an earlier Congressional investigation that touched on the Kennedy assassination. That lead had led him to a Cuban exile who had been one of the leading anti-Castro activists in the Miami exile community, who had in turn led Fonzi to a CIA spymaster who had been in touch with Lee Harvey Oswald not too long before the assassination. That investigation was the one carried out by the Senate's Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to intelligence Activities, headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church, which became known as the Church Committee and was in operation in 1975-76. Richard S. Schweiker, Senator from Pennsylvania, was a member of that committee and was intrigued enough by details of the Kennedy assassination and the Warren Commission to spend one of his summers poring through the evidence, and the available agency documents relating to the murder of JFK. When the committee reopened after the Congressional recess, Schweiker issued a call for the JFK assassination to be reopened. The congressman also noted that Oswald had intelligence connections and that the fingerprints of intelligence work were all around the man blamed for Kennedy's death. The Church Committee had been formed in January 1975 and its report was due for release by that next coming September, so when Schweiker had this move called for there just wasn't that much time left. The deadline was extended to March of 1976, though, and Schweiker then came up with his idea of throwing the Kennedy assassination into the pot also. The upshot was that Church, not wanting to really get into it too broadly with everything else the committee was looking at but not wanting to go against the idea publicly, came up with a compromise. Schweiker and a Democratic counterpart, Colorado Senator Gary Hart, were allowed to set up a two-man Kennedy assassination subcommittee provided that it also would finished in March along with the rest of the committee. Schweiker, hoping for enough hard facts or a new revelation to push the entire committee into going after the Kennedy assassination, went along with it. That Senator was looking into the JFK deal for about a month before he called Fonzi. While Fonzi noted that Schweiker never told him all the reasons he wanted an independent investigator, there were several reasons the senator felt he needed an outside staff investigator who would report directly to him and not the committee. He wanted someone who knew something about the Kennedy case, and he wanted to do some original investigative work instead of relying on the FBI and CIA. He also wasn't ready to rule out other possibilities, Fonzi said. And, although Kennedy was shot in Dallas, a lot of information about that case related to Miami, with a rash of leads and tips related to that city cropping up in the months following the assassination. If there was a relationship between Kennedy's murder and Cuban elements whether pro- or anti-Castro, Schweiker figured that if one of the intelligence agencies was involved Miami was the place to look. What he needed was a man on the bricks in Little Havana and Fonzi was that man. Anti-Castro Cubans had literally swarmed into Havana after Castro took power, and the CIA was well represented in that city also. As the numbers of exiles from Cuba grew along with the desire on their part to get back into their homeland with a new government, more and more exile groups were set up with the direct help of the CIA. The Bay of Pigs operation along with plans to assassinate Castro as well as various and sundry acts of sabatoge, raids against their old homeland by boat and airplane, and other forms of lashing back at the bearded dictator were all hatched and worked out between the anti-Castro exiles and the CIA men. The situation was not all sweetness and light between the federal government, or at least parts of it, and the Cuban exiles either. Kennedy himself found that out when he was having it out with the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the exiles persisted in pulling raids when there were not supposed to be any, thus jeopardizing smoothing the entire mess out when the chance presented itself. The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion had not helped exile-Kennedy relations either. Both CIA personnel and exiles blamed Kennedy for the failure there, supposedly due to the President withholding air support for the men on the beaches and/or the freighters ferrying supplies in. Easily overlooked were some aspects of the situation that were misplanned, but that didn't matter much since those people just weren't interested in thinking about that angle of the failure. Things finally got to the point where Kennedy had to promise Khruschev that he would not invade Cuba and the Russian leader agreed to pull the missiles out. Later, this turned into a situation where the exiles found themselves on the short end of a Kennedy crackdown on their raids in efforts to keep the problems down in relation to that deal. The exile camps were raided and closed down, the Coast Guard actually started stopping outgoing raids, and the exiles felt more stabbed in the back than ever. What it all did was set up the groundwork for the CIA and the Cuban exiles to perhaps be ticked off enough at John kennedy to be ready to retaliate. Against that background Fonzi learned of the man who was to lead him into the chase after an elusive, mysterious CIA spymaster who could have been involved in some fashion with the JFK assassination. The facts as Fonzi presented them in his Washingtonian magazine story didn't exactly detail how the CIA man was involved, since Fonzi himself apparently was not able to pin down for sure whether or not the CIA man had any direct hand in arranging the President's murder. When viewed against information that has emerged that details inside coverup ploys, Secret Service personnel helping to foment a faked head wound trajectory pattern and almost forcing their way out of the Parkland Hospital complex at gunpoint, one could probably say that anything's open to speculation. One assassination researcher had found out that a man called Antonio Veciana had been the ringleader of a group of Cuban dissidents who had planned to murder Castro with a bazooka. The plan failed, Veciana fled to Miami and there he founded Alpha 66, one of the most militant and vociferous exile groups. That researcher had tried to make a connection against Veciana and three men who visited another exile, this one a female, in a plea for her to help them raise some money to help the cause along. In an effort to clear up that situation, Fonzi tracked down Veciana's residence in Miami only to discover that Veciana at that time was in the Atlanta federal penitentiary. As things transpired, Veciana found out he was getting out on an early parole not too long after Fonzi tried contacting him and consented to an interview when he got out of prison and back home. When Fonzi did visit Veciana, all the investigator had to do was look at him to know that he was not any of the three visitors that Sylvia Odio had the one night in question. Fonzi stayed to ask some questions about the role of U.S. intelligence agencies with anti-Castro groups after the two men got the initial area of enquiry cleared up, and it was then that the name of the CIA contact who helped Veciana's efforts against Castro came up. The talk also included the information that Veciana had also once been a witness to a meeting between his contact and Lee harvey Oswald in Dallas at the beginning of September 1963. Veciana's contact man and "handler," as CIA personnel in charge of certain operatives are known, had the name of Maurice Bishop. At least that's the one name that Veciana knew the man by for the several years they knew each other in their joint effort against Castro and Communism in the Western Hemisphere together. The original contact had been made by Bishop while Veciana was still in Cuba, as well as training of Veciana in his new trades of some forms of espionage and also of propaganda. Veciana also soon became chief of sabatoge for one of the largest underground groups in Cuba, the Movimenta Revolucionario del Pueblo. The attempt on Castro with the bazooka was one of the plans that came up, but Veciana learned that he had come under suspicion prior to the plot being tried and left Cuba. The plot fell through, with the trigger men fearing they had been discovered and also disappearing. It was later found out that they had not been discovered after all. In America, Veciana and Bishop were back in touch with each other soon and Veciana quickly became one of the founders and leading lights of Alpha 66-which Veciana noted was actually Bishop's idea of forming. This was the group that pulled off a raid or two while the Cuban Missile Crisis was still on, and Veciana told Fonzi at one point that it was Bishop's idea to do that also so that the President would be forced to take strong action. After many years of association with each other and having Veciana's fight against Castro also branch out into a fight against Communism in this hemisphere in conjunction with Bishop, the two men came to a parting of the ways. An abortive attempt against Castro's life in Venezuela, in Veciana's opinion, was what broke the two men up. A secondary scheme had been put into effect to put phoney documents in places so that the trail of the two men who were going to assassinate Castro would lead to Russian agents in Caracas if the killers were caught and killed. Bishop learned of that subplot more than two years after the plot failed and was furious, Veciana told Fonzi. He accused Veciana of taking part in the planning of it or at leas knowing about it and not telling him of it, Veciana said. Veciana insisted then, Fonzi said, as he does now, that he had been unaware of the secondary scheme. Bishop later told Veciana he believed him, Veciana told fonzi, but suggested that they sever their relationship since any lingering suspicions could goof up any future operations the two men conducted together. Veciana at the time was insisting on further terrorist action and may have already been starting some himself, and calling for more dangerous assassination attempts. The possibility was there that Bishop thought Veciana was getting out of control, Fonzi noted in his article. In December of 1973 Veciana was sent to prison, and at that time Veciana believed that Bishop had something to do with it. Fonzi's first interview with Veciana came right after the Cuban exile had spent 27 months in a federal prison on a charge of conspiracy to import narcotics, and he had been convicted in a New York federal court largely on the testimony of a former partner with whom head been in the sporting goods business with in Puerto Rico. That former partner had been arrested with ten kilos of cocaine and had implicated Veciana and avoided a long jail term himself. he was the only witness against Veciana, who continued to maintain his innocence. Fonzi also noted that there was no indication, form any source including confidential files of several law enforcement agencies that Veciana had any association with narcotics prior to his arrest. Bishop had told Veciana that he thought the exile deserved some compensation for the work he had done the two men had done together over thirteen years and in fact insisted on it. It was July 26, 1973, that the two men met in the parking lot of the Flagler Dog Track, not far from Veciana's residence. Veciana spotted Bishop waiting in a car at the agreed upon spot, Fonzi noted, and Bishop got out of the car with a briefcase and two clean-cut young men in dark suits. Bishop told Veciana that he regretted the end of their relationship but that it would be best for both of them in the long run. He shook Veciana's hand and wished him luck, then handed over the briefcase. Bishop noted that the compensation was inside it. When Veciana opened it after returning home, he found exactly $253,000 in cash. That, Veciana told Fonzi, was the last time he saw or spoke with Maurice Bishop. One of the earlier times that Veciana had met with Bishop, whom he had always thought was with either the CIA or Army Intelligence, possibly bore on a time period when what Lee Harvey Oswald did was by and large undocumented. Between August 25 and September 17, that period of time directly after which Oswald was obviously attempting to make a name for himself as a Castro sympathizer in New Orleans, there is no validated indication of his whereabouts. Marina Oswald noted that aside from a visit to the home of his aunt and uncle on Labor Day, Oswald spent his time reading books and practicing with his rifle. The House Assassinations Committee found several witnesses, though, who spotted Oswald at a black voter registration rally in Clinton, La., during that time period. Clinton was approximately 130 miles away from New Orleans. With Oswald were David Ferrie, who had been active in anti-Castro operations, and New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw, who was connected with intelligence agencies. While the Committee could not determine what it was exactly Oswald was up to in Clinton with the other two men, there was absolutely no doubt that he and they were there. Veciana bore on that time period when he told Fonzi that it was late in August or early September of 1963 when Bishop asked to meet him in Dallas. After thinking about it, Veciana later noted that it was probably in early September, perhaps toward the end of the first week in the month. Veciana had met Bishop a number of times in Dallas and had come to suspect that was where Bishop was from originally, or at least partially suspect it. When Bishop had sent Veciana to Col. Sam Kail of the U.S. Army in the American Embassy in Havana before it closed, Kail had been heading home for Christmas in Dallas in 1960. When Veciana reported back to Bishop, he got the idea that Bishop knew Kail or at least his background, and that they had something in common. The September meeting Veciana remembers having with Bishop occurred in the lobby of a large downtown office building in Dallas, which Fonzi figured was probably the Southland Center from Veciana's description of it. Veciana noted that when he arrived he saw Bishop in a corner of the lobby talking with a young man whom Veciana remembered as pale, slight and soft-featured. He could not recall if Bishop introduced him by name but does recall that Bishop continued his talk with the young man only briefly after Veciana walked up. Bishop and the young man walked out of the lobby together and stopped outside, behind Veciana, for a moment, Fonzi said. The two men then had a few words in that location, with the young man gesturing a farewell and walking away. Bishop then turned to Veciana and they discussed the current activities of Alpha 66 as they walked to a nearby coffee shop. Bishop never spoke to Veciana about the young man nor did Veciana ask. Veciana later recognized the news photographs and television shots of Lee Harvey Oswald as that of the young man he had seen with Maurice Bishop, with no doubt about it in his mind. Fonzi asked Veciana if the man could have been someone who resembled Oswald, and Veciana noted that "Well, you know, Bishop himself taught me how to remember faces, how to remember characteristics. I am sure it was Oswald. if it wasn't Oswald, it was someone who looked EXACTLY like him. EXACTO, EXACTO." While the normal everyday type of situation would probably call for somebody who encountered Lee Harvey Oswald in the presence of a working acquaintance or friend prior to the assassination to enquire about it afterward, it would not be that way in intelligence, government security or some areas of law enforcement. In fact, it would be highly peculiar, if not downright dangerous, if Veciana had made enquiry of Bishop about Oswald following the JFK assassination. Veciana just didn't ask Bishop about Oswald, noting that "I was not going to make the mistake of getting myself involved in something that did not concern me." He added also, "That was a very difficult situation because I was afraid." Increasing Veciana's fear of his possibly becoming involved in the Kennedy assassination was a visit to his home by Cesar Diosdato within a few days of the murder. That man had ostensibly worked for the US Customs Service in Key West and was a well known figure among anti-Castro activists in Miami because it was technically in Customs jurisdiction to prevent violations of the Neutrality Act. Violation of that act occurred every time an anti-Castro raiding party left from Miami or the Keys. Diosdato roamed the Keys like a traffic cop, monitoring the launching sites of the exile raiding groups, stopping some but not others. The word among anti-Castro raiders was that you couldn't send out a raid against Castro without Diosdato's permission. Many of the Cubans thought Diosdato was a CIA man. Veciana did, Fonzi noted, and that's why Veciana was apprehensive when Diosdato asked him if he knew anything about the Kennedy assassination or Lee Harvey Oswald. Veciana had many times gone to Key West to get clearance for raid departures, and this time Veciana clammed up on Diosdato. Diosdato said that it was not an official visit. "He said he had been instructed to ask a few of the exiles if they knew anything, that's all," Veciana said. It crossed Veciana's mind, Fonzi said, that he was being tested. He decided he was not going to tell Diosdato anything. Bishop called Veciana a few weeks later to arrange a Miami meeting, and Bishop never mentioned Oswald or the encounter in Dallas at that meeting. The Kennedy assassination was spoken of, but the discussion was confined to that event's impact on the world and on their anti-Castro activities. Bishop even appeared saddened by the murder. At the same time, Veciana told Fonzi, Bishop did say something that suggested a strange type of involvement. The newspapers at the time were running stories about Oswald having met with a Cuban couple in Mexico City. The stories reported that the wife spoke excellent English, Veciana recalled to Fonzi. Bishop said he knew Veciana had a cousin, Guillermo Ruiz, who was stationed in Mexico City as a member of Castro's intelligence service. Bishop asked Veciana if he would attempt to get in touch with Ruiz and offer him a large amount of money if Ruiz would say it was he and his wife who had met with Oswald. It was a ploy that might have worked, Veciana thought, because "Ruiz was someone who always liked money." There was no specification on how much money should have been offered to Ruiz, only that it should be "a huge amount." Ruiz, however, had been transferred back to Havana and Veciana could not get in touch with him to make the offer, at least not safely. Veciana told Bishop of his difficulties a couple months later and Bishop merely told him to forget it. "He told me it was no longer necessary," Veciana recalled to Fonzi. That was the only reference he and Bishop ever made to Kennedy assassination. The big significance of that story was that it disproved what Richard Helms, then deputy director for plans (DDP) of the Central Intelligence Agency told Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin. The minutes of the meeting between those two men show that Helms told Rankin that "the Commission would have to take his word for the fact that Oswald had not been an agent" of the CIA. Earlier, then director of CIA John A. McCone provided an affidavit to the Warren Commission in which he swore that, based on his personal knowledge and on "detailed inquiries he caused to be made" within the CIA, Lee Harvey Oswald was not an agent, employee or informant of the CIA. He also swore that "Lee Harvey Oswald was never associated or connected, directly or indirectly, in any way whatsoever with the CIA." What Veciana's story meant was that Maurice Bishop, apparently associated with the CIA, was in contact with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination of President Kennedy. This CIA operative was involved in Castro assassination attempts also, in which the Agency for some reason was not admitting participation, Fonzi noted. He might also have noted that it was highly strange that another man whom Veciana believed to be a CIA man came snooping around asking questions following the assassination. The possibilities of what was behind that were pretty widespread, including (as is probable if Veciana's reaction was correct) making sure that there were no "leaks" of a possible plot going on-and to possibly sanitize or close them if they were. One of the things that pertains to the story of Fonzi tracking the CIA agent while an investigator for two Congressional committees was the attitude of Veciana himself about what was probably behind the Kennedy assassination in Dallas. His outlook, as Fonzi explained it, was a bit different than other anti-Castro Cubans Fonzi had known. Almost to a man those exile leaders Fonzi knew touted the same theory about the Kennedy assassination-Castro did it. They knew little of the evidence of the facts, Fonzi noted, but they knew that Castro did it. Except for Veciana, Fonzi noted. "I don't think Castro did it," Veciana says. "I know Castro. He is crazy. Once, when he was down to his last twelve men in the mountains, he said, `Now there is no way we can lose!' He is crazy, but he did not kill Kennedy. That would have been much too crazy. I think it was a plan, sure." Fonzi noted that by "a plan," Veciana meant a conspiracy. All this was part of what Fonzi learned of and from Veciana while an investigator for Senator Schweiker, both during and after the time the Senator was on the Church Committee. Schweiker figured that revelation about Veciana seeing Lee Harvey Oswald in the presence of a CIA man not too long prior to the assassination would be the nudge needed to push a new investigation into starting, but it didn't work that way. Fonzi stayed on, looking into leads pertaining to the JFK assassination. Schweiker finally figured there was no point in pursuing it any further on his own hook since the Assassinations Committee was being started. Fonzi went to work as a staff investigator for the new House Assassinations Committee, and the hunt for the CIA man known to Veciana as Maurice Bishop was on. At one point Fonzi had spoken with a longtime Kennedy assassination researcher in Philadelphia, Pa., by the name of Vincent Salandria. During their conversation on a Sunday afternoon, Salandria told Fonzi that he had dropped studying the assassination because it was an exercise in futility. He noted to Fonzi that it was obvious from the start that the Presidential murder had been a conspiracy and the researchers who were critics of the Warren Commission had gone about looking at things wrongly by looking at the trees instead of the forest, which really didn't lead anywhere. As far as Salandria was concerned when Fonzi visited him just prior to tackling the assassination in an official vein, what would happen to him as an official investigator for the Assassinations Committee would be what happened to the private researchers-he would be sent traipsing around to one little insignificant lead after another and in the long run would be worn down, with no real results to show for it. Anybody investigating the assassination, in Salandria's viewpoint, would be coping with international forces whose interests had long ago transcended national boundaries and didn't have anything to do with what the interests of the United States were. Fonzi had spoken to Salandria one other time several years before that meeting, and at that time had not enough experience at the JFK investigation to realize what Salandria had been talking about. At that meeting Fonzi had come away with the feeling that Salandria was crazy because he had been taking the exact opposite viewpoint from that of persons who were established authorities. Although his viewpoint had changed over the years to where he had agreed with most of what Salandria had said at the first meeting, Fonzi noted that following the second meeting that he thought then that Salandria had to be crazy for sure. But, as it turned out, Salandria was right again. What happened to the Select Committee on Assassinations was that its investigative efforts did get tied up in the trees of the JFK assassination forest, with a lot of what were promising leads getting lost by the wayside. When Sprague resigned on March 30, 1977, Fonzi noted, most of the reorganization period that followed featured the actual investigative work of the committee being a slipshod, going-around-in-circles approach. He noted that when investigators did go out to places like Dallas and actually investigate they would come back with information that indicated that despite the intervening years the JFK assassination was still ripe for a street-level investigation. But there was no plan to the investigation during that reorganization period, and Fonzi therefore decided to go out on his own. He kept investigating areas he could check out in the Miami area and kept feeding his memos back to Washington on what he dug up, in addition to what the committee had picked up regarding Veciana from Schweiker's office. He also got back in touch with Veciana and told him he had joined the new Committee and that it would be more effective than other investigations. Veciana told him that if he could help him to just get hold of him. Any trust Veciana had in Fonzi or investigating committees almost went out the window when Jack Anderson got hold of the notes on the anti-Castro exile from the Schweiker investigation and wrote up a column on him being involved with CIA operations, along with a "Morris" Bishop. Veciana acknowledged it could be extremely bad for him, since his friends in the anti-Castro movement might well get the idea he couldn't be trusted any more. He didn't hold it against Fonzi, though, and continued to cooperate with him. It wasn't easy to get things investigated the way Blakey and his cronies wanted them investigated, though. When Blakey took over he went for what was known as a "foraging" period in which investigators dug out what they could, then a second period where they had to get it all arranged with the emphasis on getting a report out that looked good. That was the real emphasis after Blakey came on, Fonzi noted-a report that LOOKED good as opposed to actually using what time and resources there were to actually solving the crime as Sprague had wanted to do. Add to that things like Blakey agreeing to maintain the secrecy of the CIA files investigators looked at, which Sprague had adamantly refused to do, and it was almost assured that the investigation under Blakey would not turn out to be a shadow of what it would have been with Sprague. Fonzi noted in his article that the bad problem was that in the end the Committee really didn't honor its mandate to conduct a "full and complete" investigation into the area of possible intelligence connections to the JFK murder, including the information that was in hand relating to Veciana's allegations. The main thing about what Veciana had told him, that Oswald had been spotted in the presence of a known intelligence man not that long before the assassination during a time period that his comings and goings were unknown, literally screamed for attention, Fonzi noted. Problem was, Blakey was obviously hell bent on being able to make the link that organized crime was somehow involved in plotting the Kennedy assassination in some way. This is what the Committee finally wound up concluding, despite the outlook of persons on the organized crime team feeling that no such link had been made. Jim McDonald, member of that team, told Fonzi that "I remember that as being a constant battle at our meetings. Most of us on the team felt we never made the link. But at our meetings it was obvious that Blakey wanted that. He wanted to make that link more than anything else." And, though the hearings held near the end of the life of the Committee on television purported to cover the area of possible links between Oswald and the CIA, Fonzi noted that it never did. Blakey acknowledged a reason for that, which had to do with the arrangement he had made with the CIA in order to be able to look at its files, Fonzi noted. One stipulation of that arrangement was that all information the Committee obtained from the CIA and wanted to release in its final report would be reviewed by the CIA prior to its release. It was Blakey's contention that at that time the Committee could argue its case on a point by point basis. Until then, Blakey didn't want to present any information in the public hearings that might lead to what he thought would be a "premature" skirmish with the CIA. This meant that some parts of what Fonzi had dug up from Veciana about the CIA man he had worked with got cut out of the final narrative in the hearings, despite it not having been dug up when Fonzi worked for the Committee but having been brought out when he worked for Senator Schweiker. But the bias that Blakey suffered from, for whatever reason, didn't stop Fonzi from digging up more in relation to the mysterious CIA man Veciana had spoken of when he had been working for Senator Schweiker. A lot of the work in trying to track down Maurice Bishop and his true identity had occurred when Fonzi had worked for Senator Schweiker as an independent investigator when the Church Committee was still operating. The search for the true identity of the intelligence man was necessary due to the fact that most intelligence men really don't use their actual names when they are conducting an operation. This helps what's known as "plausible deniability," among other things. Plausible deniability means that some operations which the government sends its intelligence agents out to do would be better denied by that government if the operation were discovered. If the agent running the operation used his real name, it would be much easier at a point for the cover to be discovered as the handiwork of that government and its intelligence arm. Also, agents tend to retire at some point, sooner or later. One would suspect that a quiet retirement would be helped by one's true name not being connected to some operations that the agent had engaged in during his active career. Steps Fonzi had taken while with Schweiker's office included having a composite sketch made of Maurice Bishop by a police artist he knew, with Veciana supplying the details of the man's facial features as he remembered them. Those composite sketches are not supposed to be an exact representation of a person's face. But usually they are close enough so that persons who might have known the person in the sketch would probably remember who it was. Senator Schweiker himself was a typical example of how a composite sketch works. When Fonzi and one of Schweiker's staff showed the sketch to the Senator in the Capitol building after it was made up, he stared long and hard at it and noted that it reminded him of somebody but he couldn't immediately remember who. The name later surfaced in the Senator's memory as being David Atlee Phillips, a CIA man who had appeared before committees Schweiker had been a member of. While Schweiker noted the sketch was very close likeness of Phillips, there were other things about the careers of both Phillips and the man who went by the name of Maurice Bishop that dovetailed, Fonzi noted. The more he learned about David Atlee Phillips, Fonzi noted, the more the pieces between the puzzles of the two men seemed to fit. Aside from the physical similarity, certain career assignments with the CIA were the same as well as interests. Phillips, for instance, was a covert operative in Havana and was also involved with anti-Castro Cuban groups before and after the Bay of Pigs. He was also assigned to propaganda and counterintelligence activities in Mexico City when Lee Harvey Oswald visited that city. In 1968 Veciana got a U.S. government salary job with the Agency for International Development at the suggestion of and with the help of Bishop as a banking consultant for Bolivia. It was at this time that Veciana's activities with Bishop broadened to include strategies aimed at countering Communism throughout South America as well as plots against the Castro regime. Phillips noted in his autobiography that in 1967 he had taken on a new assignment as chief of the Cuban Operations Group of CIA's Western Hemisphere Division. Phillips also noted that his responsibilities included keeping tabs on Cuban preoccupations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East and in more than twenty countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as managing CIA espionage operations in Cuba. Veciana had also told Fonzi prior to Phillips's name surfacing in the search for Maurice Bishop that while all of Bishop's plans against Castro failed, there were other plans against other people that did not fail. Veciana also told Fonzi that there was no doubt that Bishop was involved in the plan to dispose of Allende in Chile, and he knows that by the contacts in Chile that Bishop had. Part of the plot to dispose of Castro in Chile in 1971 called for Chilean military bodyguards to capture the assassins before Castro's people could kill them, Veciana also noted, and Bishop had made the arrangements for that part of the plan. The careers of the two men were more parallel than what Fonzi could put at the feet of mere coincidence, in short. More direct evidence of the two men actually being the same man came from one old CIA man who was identified by Fonzi and the Committee as Ron Cross. Cross had worked as a case officer out of the CIA's JM/WAVE station that had worldwide control of the Cuban problem in the early 1960s and at one time had been the biggest CIA station worldwide. Cross's duties had included handling Cuban exile labor units and helping in organizing a militant group that was very active in anti-Castro operations. At one point Cross had posed as an American businessman with financial connections and infiltrated Castro's mountain stronghold before Castro had seized power. Fonzi described Cross as being very good in the candor department. He reportedly told Fonzi right up front that he had been a drunk at one time in case it surfaced during the investigation, and that the problem had cropped up due to job pressures at the CIA. Cross also knew David Atlee Phillips, who Cross said coordinated the propaganda operations of all the Cuban exile groups the Agency was running at that time. Phillips worked mostly out of Washington at that time but flew in and out of Miami frequently, Cross added (this was another thing that dovetailed with Maurice Bishop's career). Cross also told Fonzi and another Assassinations committee staffer that he was practically certain that "Maurice Bishop" was a cover name that David Atlee Phillips used during his days with the CIA. The reason Cross felt that way was that he had thought about the time period when he worked with Phillips's young assistant at the JM/WAVE station, Doug Gupton. Cross recalled often discussing special field and agent problems with Gupton and Gupton would at times say, "Well, I guess Mr. Bishop will have to talk to him." Cross noted that Gupton of course knew he was referring to his boss, Dave Phillips. Near the end of his testimony before the Assassinations Committee in April of 1978 in which Fonzi caught him lying about a couple of points, David Phillips had been shown the composite sketch of Maurice Bishop. Phillips reportedly put his glasses on, studied the sketch for a moment, then slowly nodded his head. "It does look like me," he said. He paused for a moment, then with a smile added that "Actually, it looks more like my brother." He added when asked that his brother was a lawyer in Texas. Fonzi was later in Dallas helping to get some last-minute depositions taken from witnesses with Jim McDonald, another Committee staffer. He also took the opportunity of visiting David Phillips's brother in the hope of picking up some records he had promised the Committee in his role as head of the local Crime Commission. Edwin Phillips greeted Fonzi in an unpretentious office in the old Electric Service Building in downtown Fort Worth, and reminded Fonzi of a down-home Texas politician-fast-talking, drawling, back-slapping, friendly and sharp as an old hoot owl, in Fonzi's words. Edwin, David Phillips's older brother, did not have the files ready to go at the time Fonzi was there, but was literally astounded when Fonzi showed him the composite sketch that had been drawn up to Veciana's specifications. Edwin Phillips noted that it looked exactly like his brother David, more than it did him. Fonzi noted in his story that it was obvious the sketch looked more like David than Edwin Phillips. Edwin Phillips's secretary looked at the sketch and she also said that it looked like David Phillips. Edwin Phillips's daughter, who at the time was also a secretary at the business Edwin Phillips operated, looked at the sketch also and said, "Why that's Uncle David. That IS Uncle David." By that time all three were shaking their heads and laughing at the coincidence that the sketch would look so much like David Phillips. Fonzi's trip to Dallas came in the time period between the public hearings that the committee held and the issuing of its final report, which Fonzi helped draw up. He did keep in touch with Antonio Veciana though, and several weeks after the Committee report was released in July of 1979 Fonzi got a copy of its concluding volume. He had meanwhile gotten a copy of staff reports he had written including ones pertaining to the Veciana investigation. He gave Veciana copies of his staff report since he felt an obligation to let them see what his conclusions were after dealing with him for more than three years. Fonzi had pointed out in one of his investigative reports on Veciana that the one place where he really doubted the Cuban exile's credibility was when Veciana had not identified David Phillips as the man known as Maurice Bishop. This feeling on Fonzi's part was apparently based on a knowledge of Veciana picked up through fairly long association with him, plus an encounter arranged between the two men in Reston, Va. That encounter came during a retired intelligence officers' dinner where Phillips denied any knowledge of Veciana, indeed looked at him pokerfaced and enquired what his name was. During the dinner Veciana had hardly touched his food, just sat there and stared at Phillips until it practically embarrassed Fonzi. Phillips at times was visibly shaken by the news that Veciana was helping Schweiker's subcommittee look into the Kennedy assassination. Phillips declined to talk to Fonzi at all about anything pertaining to it, noting that he'd be happy to talk to any Congressman or Congressman's employee in Congress. With several people who had reason to know what David Phillips looked like, including family members, identifying the composite sketch as looking practically the same as David Phillips, Fonzi also had another reason for doubting Veciana in relation to his stand on whether or not Bishop was really Phillips. A friend of Fonzi's in Little Havana called him not too long after the release of the report and told him that Veciana had been shot in the head while driving home from work. Someone had ambushed him and fired four shots but had failed to kill him, the friend noted. Veciana made a quick batch of calls and discovered that Veciana was in the hospital but was okay. A piece of one ricocheting bullet had caught Veciana in the side of the head. One of his daughters told Fonzi later the same evening that she had returned from the hospital and that the wound was not serious. About a week after Veciana was shot Fonzi got a call from him. He was out of the hospital and walking around by that time, Fonzi noted, and joking about the bullet wound. He also noted that he had read the staff report and wanted to talk with Fonzi, as well as show him some papers. When Fonzi drove down to see Veciana the next night, Veciana was pale but appeared in good spirits despite his experience. Veciana said he was coming home late, made a left hand turn into a street and saw a brown station wagon parked on the corner facing him. There was a figure sitting in the station wagon. Then Veciana heard a loud noise and felt a sharp blow on the side of his head. The front vent window exploded when the second shot was fired. It was then that Veciana knew that it was an attempt on his life, he told Fonzi. The third shot ripped through the door at the level of Veciana's ribs, but was deflected by the door's interior parts, passed in front of his stomach, ripped across his right arm and went out the other side of the truck and on into an open field. A spiderweb of cracks was created by the fourth shot as it grazed across the truck's windshield. The jagged holes in the truck were .45 caliber in size. Veciana said he thought that it was Castro's agents who probably set it up, even when Fonzi enquired if he thought it might have been at the behest of somebody else. After a while the talk turned to the staff report that Fonzi had written on his investigation of Veciana. At one point after the composite sketch of the man known as Maurice Bishop had been completed, Veciana had looked at a photograph of David Atlee Phillips in a magazine in a public library to see if that was the same man as Bishop. Veciana had looked at the photo for a long time, so long that Fonzi couldn't contain himself any longer and quietly asked if it was him or not. "It is close," Veciana had said, nearly causing Fonzi to have a shit hemmorhage. With a little more questioning from Fonzi, quiet questioning despite wanting to scream something like "What do you mean, it is close? Is it him or not?" Veciana said that it wasn't him. The exile leader also noted that he would really like to talk to the man. It was after that look at the photo that the face to face confrontation between the two men at the Reston dinner party of retired intelligence officers was arranged by Senator Schweiker. After that meeting, Veciana again noted that the two men were not the same. "But he knows," Veciana had said of Phillips's knowledge of Veciana and aspects of the exile and CIA fight against Castro. Now, with the Committee's investigation for all practical purposes dead and over, the two men talked of the staff report. There were things in it that questioned his credibility, which was very important to Veciana because at the time he was gathering evidence that would overturn his narcotics conviction that he spent time in the penitentiary for. What bothered him was the denial in Caracas by two men who were involved with him in the Castro assassination attempt in Chile in 1971. Veciana said that they were with him and they were not telling the truth. Veciana noted he had asked a friend who had just come back from Caracas to bring papers that would prove it, and would also give Fonzi the name of a person in Miami who would corroborate it. The two men talked for a few hours in detail about other points in the staff report, Fonzi said. He noted that he slowly realized that Veciana was not going to bring up the one key doubt he had expressed about Veciana's credibility when he told Fonzi that David Phillips was not Maurice Bishop. Now, in their conversation, Veciana was just letting that one slide past. Fonzi felt constrained to take advantage of the relationship that had sprung up between the two men to push it a little bit for a question into that area. Fonzi noted that he told Veciana he didn't want to put him on the spot, but " . . . I would like to ask you just one question, and I would like you to be totally honest with me because the answer that you give me is very important to me." At that, Veciana's face got serious and his dark eyes stared at Fonzi without expression, Fonzi noted. "You know that I believe what you have told me," Fonzi noted. "I believe you about everything. Except when you told me that David Phillips is not Maurice Bishop." Fonzi noted that Veciana's eyes never moved and his expression never changed. "Now," Fonzi said, "I would like you to tell me this one time very truthfully: Would you have told me if I had found Maurice Bishop?" A slow smile crossed Veciana's face as he let out his breath, Fonzi said. He put his head down and scratched his forehead, taking time to think carefully. Then he looked up with a half-smile still on his face, Fonzi added. "Well, you know," he said, "I would like to talk to him first." Fonzi said he looked at Veciana for a moment, then laughed. Veciana laughed with him. So there it sat after the Assassinations Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives closed its doors, issued its report and went out of business for good. It was a hell of an end to what Chief Counsel Robert Blakey had characterized early on as the last investigation into the JFK assassination. That comment of Blakey's provided what might be interpreted as extremely good forecasting of what the Justice Department would do with the recommendation pertaining to continuing the investigation. While Fonzi's probe into the Maurice Bishop lead would on the surface appear to be a dead end in light of Veciana's last word on whether or not Phillips was Bishop, that last word also was one of those tantalizing statements that news reporters recognize generally as a double-barreled statement. What Veciana was apparently doing was leading Fonzi to understand that the investigator had been right after all in a friendly fashion, one in keeping with the friendship that had apparently grown up between the two men while compromising nothing. If so, it would appear that David Phillips really was Maurice Bishop. Try proving it in a court of law and getting a conviction with it, though. Also left up in the air was Blakey's role in the investigation. The man did manage to produce a report that looked good in a way, as he said at one staff meeting he intended to do. Only when one gets past the surface appearance with a knowledge of factual background information does one realize that the conclusions and the investigation itself were skewed away from what the conclusions probably should have been. The least one could say for the Committee, as well as the most one could say, is that it at least did say that there was a conspiracy at work in the JFK assassination, based on the acoustics evidence. When coupled with the other evidence available, that acoustics evidence helps to throw together a starting point for a real, honest-to-God investigation of the JFK murder that should have taken place years ago. There is also the area that David Lifton covered by interviewing the medical technicians from Bethesda Naval Medical Center, who all noted happenings in the hospital and its morgue the night of the autopsy which would indicate that something was completely amiss with the body. As Lifton indicated in his book "Best Evidence," what had happened to JFK's body somewhere between Parkland Hospital and Bethesda was surgery to the top of the head, which that author figured could only have been to remove bullets or bullet fragments from the head. Accessory end results from that surgery to the head included changing the trajectory of the head wounds so that they appeared as a result of the upcoming autopsy to be wounds that had been fired from back to front, thus implicating Oswald. The majority of the men who saw the corpse come in the first time, in the plain shipping casket and the body bag, all said that at that time the head looked like Kennedy had been shot from front to back. This tied in with what the Parkland doctors said they saw while they tried vainly to resuscitate the President, but the hole the Bethesda guys saw was much larger. Instead of just being in the right rear of the head as noted at Parkland, the Bethesda wound projected forward into the area of the right temple also. What this implies is that the persons who performed that surgery to the head apparently did not have the time to do the entire job they may have wanted to in the limited time period between Air Force One landing at Andrews Air Force Base and the official motorcade from there arriving at Bethesda. Lifton had postulated as a result of his research that the body had probably been hidden somewhere on board Air Force One during the flight back to Washington, perhaps in the galley area, possibly disguised as baggage. After the Boeing 707 landed at Andrews, one military helicopter moved in to the right side of the aircraft where arrangements had been made to place a ramp at the right front exit of the plane. It was then that the corpse had been offloaded from Air Force One, Lifton's research led him to believe. From there it was a short air hop to a place like Walter Reed Army Medical Center where the pre-autopsy surgery could have been done. Then it would have required just a quick ambulance ride or helicopter flight to Bethesda in plenty of time to beat the motorcade as the corpse actually did. Crazy as that situation sounds, it makes sense. The one thing it had going for it was that it did sound so crazy to those among us who believe that everything occurs in a straightforward, step by step fashion in this life. First somebody dies violently, then they are taken by an ambulance to a hospital, then to a morgue where an autopsy is performed, then the report is issued while the funeral is going on or shortly thereafter. Problem is, there ain't no law that says it has to happen that way. What we expect is a psychological conditioning thing because it usually happens that way. But not always. As was once noted by Sherlock Holmes, once you have eliminated every possible solution but one, then that solution, however unlikely appearing, has to be the correct answer. Interestingly enough, Lifton was tipped off to the existence of such surgery by the autopsy surgeons noting the fact to FBI men who watched the autopsy, who in turn noted it in their report that it had been said. Just one of the little things in the record that slipped past everybody until Lifton recognized its true significance and started following up on it. While the two FBI agents deserve some form of congratulations for noting that occurrence when they were informed of it by autopsy doctors, Lifton feels that other branches of the federal bureaucracy really fell flat and possibly were worse than negligent for the part they played in the JFK assassination. The Secret Service, as far as Lifton was concerned, could well have been implicated in the assassination somehow, perhaps on the basis of some individual members rather than as a total investigative and protective agency. The Secret Service, Lifton noted in his book, had the responsibility for guarding the President, and agents of the Service also had responsibility for planning the motorcade route in Dallas. After Kennedy was dead, the Secret Service had custody of the body, which was the main piece of evidence in the case and was obviously tampered with, thereby destroying whatever credibility that piece of evidence had in a court of law. They also custody of bullet fragments, the limousine (which was altered and repaired prior to being investigated as criminal evidence), and would still have to answer for hustling the corpse out of Dallas so that an independent coronor would have the autopsy done instead of the screwed-up affair at Bethesda. But to put things in proper perspective, we have to remember what Edward Luttwak says in the book "Coup d'Etat." He notes that for a coup to be successful at least some important members of the target's protective agency have to be "turned" so that the security will relax enough for the plot to be successfully carried out. Hopefully the security will be relaxed enough for the assassins to make a clean getaway. Apparently this is what happened in the JFK murder, along with members of either Kennedy's staff or the White House Secret Service detail also helping to arrange things for the coverup of the crime to be successful. It isn't too pretty a picture to contemplate, but these things bore looking into by the Assassinations Committee along with the narratives the medical technicians could have provided if Committee researchers would have let them just tell about it. They didn't. Nor did they even delve into things like whether anybody in the Secret Service or anybody else could have been involved in what so apparently was a plot. Other areas of course involve a better followup of what Fonzi was doing, which the Committee should have done, and what the Justice Department should have had a try at as per the Committee's recommendation. What we are left with as a result of all this is the possibility that since no action has been taken as the result of the Committee's recommendation is that whoever was behind the JFK assassination literally took over the U.S. Government behind the scenes as a result of it. There they probably remain until this day, pulling the puppet strings while everything appears to go on as it always did. But it doesn't. All these deductions from real life occurrences constitute fairly serious charges and allegations. It should be remembered that under a relatively open minded interpretation of factual evidence that has been known for years they are the only type of deductions that fit the real life known occurrences and facts as outlined here. And this is only a short summary. Very thick books have been written in very serious, scholarly fashion about the JFK assassination. But so far there have not been any of them written along the lines of merging all the factual material currently known to the public and drawing interpretations of what the only logical outcome could have been. As noted above, the most probable conclusion a reasonable person could reach is that there was a plot and it succeeded in taking over the government. It's just too bad that the only investigative agencies with enough clout to investigate a Presidential assassination are run by the federal government. Maybe we ought to form another one that's independent and sic it on some of these big, unsolved murders of recent history, starting with the JFK assassination. It won't bring JFK back, but it would wipe the slate clean and give us the answers that are still hidden. When Jack Ruby was still in jail awaiting trial, he was visited by Gerald Ford, a member of the Warren commission, along with Earl Warren himself and some staff members of the Commission in the interests of having an interview down on record from the killer of Lee Harvey Oswald. Ruby begged Warren repeatedly to have him taken out of the Dallas County Jail where his life was in danger (Ruby's own words) and take him to Washington where he could testify freely since he really didn't want to hold anything back about his part in the Kennedy assassination. Not only did Ruby believe that his life was in danger, but he also felt that his family was in a certain amount of danger from any disclosure that he might make officially about the murder. Interestingly enough, considering Bob Blakey's theory, he also denied that organized crime had approached him about taking a part in the murder of the President. It was obvious just from reading the transcript that Jack Ruby was utterly terrified. It was also apparent that he still had enough of a grip on the realities of the situation that he knew Earl Warren could get him back to Washington to testify if he wanted to, since the Commission had a mandate to go out and collect evidence in any way it wanted to. Earl Warren denied at one point to a direct question from Ruby that he could get him back to Washington, though, and that was the apparent beginning of understanding on Ruby's part that Earl Warren was not really interested in getting him out of Dallas so that whatever he had to say could come out. After that point and repeated failures to convince Warren that it would be worth it, Ruby gave up the effort and lapsed back into his tired story that he had used during his murder trial. By the time the trial was on, one reporter managed to gain access to Ruby for a private interview. Summers, who wrote the book CONSPIRACY, was searching through old videotapes in Texas in 1978 and found a fragment of that interview, which was in the form of a rare television interview with Ruby which had never been shown on national television. Ruby was slumped in a chair during a recess in one of his many long-drawn-out court appearances, and noted that "The only thing I can says is everything pertaining to what's happened never came to the surface. the world will never know the true facts of what occurred-my motive, in other words. I am the only person in the background to know the truth pertaining to everything relating to my circumstances." And, in response to the interviewer's question about whether Ruby thought the truth would ever come out, Ruby provided a possible epitaph if somebody doesn't really do an honest investigation. "No. Because unfortunately these people, who have so much to gain and have such an ulterior motive to put me in the position I'm in, will never let the true facts come aboveboard to the world." What do you think? Does the death of a U.S. President deserve more than that, or not?

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank