Who Shot JFK?

35 Years And Counting

| Wed Nov. 18, 1998 1:00 AM PST

I had no idea what to write this week.

Then tonight I'm onstage for two hours doing my odd little comedy/research JFK assassination piece for about 300 people in Indiana, ranting and joking about the CIA the whole time, when this weird old guy in a turquoise bolo tie and false teeth too large for his head stands up and announces that he has the Truth about the whole thing.

Cool. I guess I can just go home then.

Poligrip Man then hands out a xerox of his homemade flier identifying the 21 shots fired in Dealey Plaza -- apparently it was both a murder and a military salute -- all by a lone gunman: not Oswald, but George DeMohrenschildt, a CIA informant and spooky dude for sure, but plainly not the assassin, although he was a personal friend of George Bush. But I digress.

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And since "my" version (which is simply a recounting of cool declassified documents, not a claimed solution for the shooting itself) doesn't match his, Poligrip Man angrily concludes that I must be working for the CIA as part of the plot.

My God, how I love being denounced as a spy. You should try it. It is so cool.

So now, here's this week's column, since the 35th anniversary is Sunday. Enjoy.

Assuming I'm not a government disinformation agent.


Will history record Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin of JFK? One word: Scoreboard.

A new Roper survey done in cooperation with the History Channel cable TV network says that 73 percent of Americans think JFK was definitely or probably killed by a conspiracy.

Which is the same thing as saying three-quarters of the U.S. believes that for 35 years, the FBI, our Congress, and the Justice Departments of six presidential administrations have failed to do their jobs. And it means that we agree 3-to-1 that the mainstream media, which has clung to a Lone Nut longer than Eva Braun, is completely full of it.

In Washington, the Assassination Records Review Board is disbanding as this goes to press. Convened to expedite the release of government documents in the wake of Oliver Stone's film on the murder, the ARRB has pried loose over 60,000 classified documents, comprising hundreds of thousands of pages, from the CIA, the FBI, and other agencies.

The ARRB's final report scolds all of the above for "needlessly and wastefully" withholding records for decades. Even so, some remaining blacked-out passages in some pages will not be released until as late as 2017.

If you believe the national press, there's nothing significant in any of those documents.

If you believe the national press, then you also think the release of the Tripp/Lewinsky audio tapes, the transcripts of which have been available for weeks, is major news.

BEGIN DIGRESSION

Monica's writing her memoirs.

My suggested titles for the Human Cigar Band's new book:

Gargling With History
The Humming Down Of America
A Bright Shining Fly
Profiles in Curvage
Bury My Heart At Wounded Kneepad
What I Saw Under A Table In The Hallway At The Revolution
Spit Takes

And is it just me, or is there something awfully Pleasantville about the censoring of even mildly rude vernacular from these audio tapes, in order to save the ears of people listening precisely [for] discussions of oral sex? That's like bleeping the ohgods out of a porno movie so you don't offend your religious audience. Whatever.

END DIGRESSION

So is there anything new in the JFK assassination?

Yup.

Thanks to declassified documents new and old, here's just a smidge of the real and jumbled history that honest researchers are trying to understand:

OSWALD'S "DEFECTION" TO THE SOVIET UNION

Oswald received training in the Russian language while in the military. Oswald's superior officer in the Marines clearly knew that Oswald was going to the Soviet Union immediately after his discharge. Instead of the usual ID card, Oswald was given a DD 1173, issued to U.S. employees about to work overseas.

While in the Soviet Union, Oswald told a writer named Priscilla Johnson that someone had prepared him for two years before his defection. He wouldn't say whom, although he later slipped in a radio debate and said he was under the protection of the U.S. government, a slip he quickly caught and recanted.

(For her part, Priscilla Johnson, a reporter whose role in constructing the Oswald story has led many researchers to speculate she was somehow a CIA asset -- which she denies strongly -- worked for the OSS during World War II, applied to work for the CIA in 1952, and was described by the CIA in 1956 as of "operational interest.")

Throughout, CIA counterintelligence officers intentionally created false and conflicting reports about Oswald, in all likelihood as part of a "barium meal," the planting of phony records to trace a leak, whether to the KGB, the press, or another intelligence agency. Meanwhile, Oswald was placed on the CIA Security Office's "Watch List" of people whose mail the CIA opened illegally in a highly classified program code-named HT/LINGUAL. The mail-opening is very likely related to the barium meal, but the exact operational relationship isn't fully clear.

IN NEW ORLEANS, SUMMER 1963

Oswald claimed (falsely) to be a member of the pro-Castro activist group the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC) precisely as both the CIA and FBI undertook counterintelligence operations against the group, in an effort to smear the FPCC as being under KGB or Cuban control.

According to statements from numerous witnesses, Oswald was paid to pose as a member of the FPCC by Guy Banister, a former FBI field office chief currently surviving as an anti-communist private detective and gunrunner. Many of Oswald's leaflets had Banister's office address stamped right on them. In addition, the handouts were not the current FPCC leaflets, but an earlier edition, much of the print run of which had been purchased in bulk by the CIA.

Oswald made contact with members of the DRE, an extreme anti-Castro group supervised by David Atlee Phillips of the CIA. The DRE members suspected Oswald of being an FBI infiltrator. A confrontation with DRE members led to Oswald's arrest, generating publicity and a paper trail for Oswald as a pro-Castro activist. The arresting officer believed that the incident was staged.

Oswald also tried to infiltrate a peace group at Tulane University.

The DRE member with whom Oswald scuffled, Tulane's President, and the owners of the radio and TV stations that publicized Oswald were all involved in an anti-Castro propaganda operation called the Information Council of the Americas, or INCA, which received funds and support from the CIA.

BEFORE THE SHOOTING

Six weeks before the murder, CIA Counterintelligence officials in Mexico City doctored and falsified documents concerning Oswald, linking him to an alleged KGB assassination specialist -- but in a fashion that would not alert the FBI's security.

Congressional investigators concluded over 20 years ago that Oswald was impersonated at the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico City before the assassination.

AFTER THE SHOOTING

Numerous false but well-informed stories linking Oswald (and later, entire assassination teams) to Castro were circulated by individuals who worked for the CIA in trying to overthrow Castro. A researcher for the House Select Committee on Assassinations examined the stories originating in Mexico City and Miami, and virtually every single source had worked for the CIA's David Atlee Phillips, a propaganda specialist and advisor to the DRE, who was, coincidentally, cross-posted to both Mexico City and Miami.

After the shooting, the CIA's E. Howard Hunt (a close friend of Phillips) helped circulate the tapes of Oswald put together by INCA and the DRE, working to create a public image of Oswald as a Castro agent, and thereby justifying a renewed invasion of Cuba.

The CIA officers responsible for falsifying the Oswald record prior to the assassination were not disciplined; instead, they were assigned by CIA Deputy Director of Plans Richard Helms to key roles in the CIA's "investigation" of the murder.

THE DALLAS INVESTIGATION

The "magic bullet" now in the National Archives is not the one found in Parkland Hospital. The testimony of the first three men to handle the actual bullet agrees: The real one was long and pointed, instead of the rounded Mannlicher-Carcano bullet known as Commission Exhibit 399.

The rifle found in the Book Depository was clearly and immediately identified by several on the scene as a 7.65 mm Mauser rifle, a very different gun from the Mannlicher-Carcano that could be linked to Oswald and which became the official weapon. We now know that the FBI received a 7.65 mm shell found in Dealey Plaza, the existence of which was suppressed for 32 years.

Oswald was seen entering the Book Depository on the morning of the assassination carrying a package. Officially, it contained a rifle, although it wasn't large enough for any such thing, and Oswald insisted it merely contained curtain rods, although officially no such item was ever discovered. In recently released Dallas police files is an unreleased photograph of...curtain rods, dusted for fingerprints.

THE AUTOPSY

No explanation yet exists for the fact that the official version of JFK's wounds is at utter variance with the near-unanimous version of JFK's wounds witnessed by no less than 46 individuals in Dallas, many of them trained medical personnel.

However, the technicians who took JFK's X-rays and autopsy photographs have denied to investigators that the official photos are the ones they took.

Several witnesses to the Bethesda autopsy indicate that another whole bullet was found.

THE WARREN COMMISSION

In a phone call one day after the assassination, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover told Lyndon Johnson: "The case against Oswald, as it now stands, isn't strong enough to be able to get a conviction." However, the next day, the FBI memoed the White House: "The thing I'm most concerned about is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin." And the White House responded: "A high-level committee is the only way to silence debate."

Transcripts of Warren Commission interviews with witnesses were submitted to the FBI for "editing and corrections." Often, the resulting changes distorted or even contradicted the original testimony.

Robert Kennedy had sufficient doubts about the Mexico City episode that he investigated it personally (if secretly), even visiting Mexico City himself following the release of the Warren Report.

SINCE THE FOUNDING OF THE ARRB

The Secret Service has admitted to shredding two boxes of records on their protective operations during the JFK administration.


Make of all this what you will. There's plenty more, but you get the idea. The comforting idea that Oswald acted alone, that the FBI and CIA did their jobs, and that the media reported the truth, is now only slightly more plausible than Poligrip Man's 21-gun salute.

But what do I know? I'm just a CIA disinformation agent.

You just gotta get publicly denounced sometime. Really. It's cool.


Bob Harris is a political humorist who has spoken at almost 300 colleges nationwide. He's also the co-author of the CD/ROM "Encyclopedia Of The JFK Assassination." His weekly column "The Scoop" is archived at The Good Thinking Company and available online in RealAudio at WebActive.

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