Kennedy's Ghost

A review of Robert Stone's Oswald's Ghost

by Rex Bradford, 1 Feb 2008

Q. What do Santo Trafficante, Carlos Marcello, George de Mohrenschildt, John Martino, Silvia Odio, Loran Hall, Larry Howard, the House Assassinations Committee, G. Robert Blakey, John Newman, Silvia Duran, Jimmy Hoffa, and Frank Ragano have in common?

A. None of them were mentioned in "Oswald's Ghost"?

- Question posed on an email list by David Kaiser; Paul Hoch supplied the correct answer.

The film Oswald's Ghost, shown recently on PBS, takes as its subject not the JFK assassination per se, but rather the effect that the assassination and its aftermath had on the American psyche. This is indeed a subject worthy of a film; unfortunately this film is not worthy of the subject. Early on, historian Robert Dallek gives us the standard canard we have long heard: "People are comforted by the idea, I think, that human affairs are not the product of random events - there's some larger force at work here." While there is some truth in this statement, there is at least as much truth in its converse: that many people, particularly those with a stake in the system, are comforted by the idea that there are no hidden forces operating beyond what is portrayed on the 7 o'clock news - they adamantly refuse to believe in conspiracies. The film of course never ventures such a viewpoint.

Oswald's Ghost is a well-produced piece with excellent footage of Oswald and some of the events of the weekend of the assassination. But for a film about that event's aftermath, it is curiously devoid of history. The skimpy chronology literally stops with the Church Committee in the mid-1970s. In the constricted world of this film, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the second major federal investigation, apparently never occurred, and thus never issued its finding of a "probable" conspiracy in the case. Neither did the Assassination Records Review Board declassify millions of formerly-secret pages, including many shockers which never quite made the New York Times.

Of course, an 80 minute film about an event which has consumed America for more than four decades obviously must of necessity give short shrift to a great deal. Especially if it is filled with talking heads summarizing grand messages rather than dealing in the relevant facts and stories.

The choice of talking heads is itself problematic. Mark Lane's appearances are too often devoted to beaming about the success of his books and the ability of he and other authors to convince most Americans that there was a conspiracy. Josiah Thompson, the other "pro conspiracy" expert, comes off a bit better. But neither is portrayed explaining why someone should believe that the JFK assassination was bigger than just a loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. A young person with little background in the case, and this number grows with each passing day, could be forgiven for assuming that there were never any real reasons for disbelieving the Warren Commission, beyond an inability to face facts.

Spokespeople for the "other side" include Priscilla Johnson McMillan, author of Marina and Lee, and former newspaperman Hugh Aynesworth. It would be petty I suppose to mention that both of them had clandestine relationships with intelligence agencies in the past, CIA in McMillan's case [1] and FBI as well as CIA in Aynesworth's [2]. I do not mean to convey that this is sinister per se; simply that given the many documented failures of these agencies with respect to the JFK murder, it is not too much to expect an acknowledgment of these sources' potential biases. [3] Another of the talking heads, Edward Jay Epstein, has acknowledged that one of his books on the case was written in extensive consultation with James Angleton, former head of CIA CounterIntelligence and himself a "person of interest." [4] Perhaps this film is "art," not journalism, and thus exempt from such disclosures.

Except for a brief foray into government lying in the 1960s with relation particularly to Vietnam, the assumption permeating the film is that the government honestly investigated the assassination. But if all the research and the books and the forced document declassifications showed anything, it was that this assumption is meritless. Senator Richard Schweiker, giving the Warren Commission more of a pass than it deserved, said once that "the fatal mistake the Warren Commission made was not to use its own investigators, but instead to rely on the CIA and FBI personnel, which played directly into the hands of senior intelligence officials who directed the cover-up." [5]

There are occasional ventures into relevant facts of the assassination, and these are where Oswald's Ghost becomes most maddening. The film repeats Marina Oswald's allegation that her husband Lee once tried to shoot Richard Nixon, a story that the Warren Commission to its credit demolished. Due to its reliance on Marina for so much else, though, the Commission had dared not publicly call her a liar, preferring to write that the Nixon story was of "no probative value." [6]

The film spends an inordinate amount of time on the Garrison investigation, particularly two episodes: Garrison's idiotic foray into "coded numbers" tying Oswald to Ruby, and the more murky story of star witness Perry Russo's sodium pentathol session. These are fair game and might be expected in a longer documentary, but so much time is spent on them here that they are used merely to convey a larger message: the conspiracy people are crazy and have only zany theories and tainted witnesses. One would never know that Garrison was the one to make the connection between Oswald and the right-wing zealots like Guy Banister at 544 Camp Street, [7] or that Garrison had so many CIA assets on his radar that Agency officers began holding regular meetings to assess their risks and to discuss ways in which they could help Clay Shaw's defense team. [8]

The film only briefly mentions the single bullet theory, that implausible nigh impossible scenario required by the lone gunman solution, and that is probably for the best. But amidst such pronouncements as Edward Jay Epstein's that the "evidence was persuasive" there is nary a mention that the critics had within a few years demonstrated what the Commission's own experts had told it - that the "magic bullet" in evidence could not have done what the Commission said it did: causing seven wounds in two men, emerging with not even a nick and landing mysteriously on a hospital stretcher. [9]

This and other cogent analyses are what convinced so many Americans that the Warren Report was a fraud, not vague pronouncements that a little guy like Oswald couldn't have shot such a great man as Kennedy. Brilliant deconstruction and demolition of the Warren Report is what is in the best of the books which Stone shows in one graphic scene swirling down, down, down into a vortex - perhaps wishing that they could all just be flushed down the toilet, and we could then get off the can and get on with American optimism.

But instead of inconvenient facts and problems with the lone gunman scenario, of which there are too many to fit into a documentary ten times the length of Stone's, the film delivers homilies many of us have heard before. In the last thirty minutes, the gears shift into a decidedly anti-conspiracy diatribe. Aynesworth repeats the "Lassie defense," whereby Ruby, a man who even the Warren Commission acknowledged "frequently resorted to violence," [10] wouldn't have left his dog in the car if he had been planning to shoot Oswald. Priscilla Johnson McMillan reminds us that Oswald the loner "didn't do anything with anybody" and repeats the story of his leaving his wedding ring in a teacup for Marina the morning of the assassination. Epstein adds that "not a shred has come out that would indicate what this conspiracy was. After forty years, none of the theories pan out." Norman Mailer summarizes that "the internal evidence (of conspiracy) just wasn't there."

Given the other Stone's (Oliver) contention that plans to withdraw from Vietnam became a motive for JFK's murder, Robert Dallek's statement that "he (Lyndon Johnson) needs to show the Soviets, the Chinese Communists, the Cuban Communists, that he's tough - and one place where he sees he can do Vietnam" caught my eye. But little more was said on Vietnam, definitely no acknowledgment that the declassifications following the first Stone's movie finally proved that Kennedy was indeed planning a full withdrawal from Vietnam, and added weight to the thesis that Kennedy was pursuing this objective despite being aware that the war was not going as rosy as military projections pretended it was. [11]

For once, I find myself in agreement with Max Holland, who writes: "Stone’s premise [that the truth of the assassination is distinct from its effect on American society] is not a premise at all, but a contemporary conceit. The impact of the assassination cannot be discerned, much less presented, if one cannot tell the difference between the truth-seekers and the poseurs.....The story of the aftermath depends wholeheartedly on a correct reading of the assassination, which happened only one way, after all, regardless of the number of possible scenarios." [12]

Of course, Stone's film does have a point of view on the assassination, plainly obvious in the last third of the film. Stone was even less reticent in an interview where he made note of the "conspiratorialists" and then stated that the reason "I made this film is that I wanted to understand why so many people whom I love and respect, whom I have great admiration for, who are brilliant people, have come to a conclusion about the assassination that I find completely illogical and wrong." [13]

Fittingly, a film which pretends that conspiracy theories are just that - theories, devoid of substance - ends with Norman Mailer extensively theorizing about Oswald's motivation for killing Kennedy. Excerpts: "Oswald came to the conclusion that he could bring this off...if he assassinated Kennedy and got away with it, then he could have an inner power that no one could ever come near...he was quite articulate, he would have one of the greatest trials in American history...he would explain his political ideas, and he would become world famous...One could only imagine the terror, the excitement, and the inspiration...That there were conspiracies being contemplated, attempted, even attempted on that day, I'm perfectly willing to accept. But the conclusions I came to were for me rational ones, because he had a motive for doing it, because he was capable of doing it, because he wanted to do it."

Mailer was apparently willing to believe that conspiracies were being "attempted on that day," during which time Oswald the lone nut killed JFK. Perhaps the snipers on the Grassy Knoll, armed with Secret Service badges but having no knowledge of Oswald, missed due to insufficient "inspiration?"

For those who missed the first four decades of debate, it's worth pointing out:

  • "he had a motive for doing it" - Mailer's motive (i.e., a great trial to explain his political views) is singularly devoid of evidence. When actually put in front of the world's cameras, Oswald protested: "I'm a patsy." The Warren Commission, for what it's worth, was unable to "ascribe to him any one motive or group of motives." [14]
  • "he was capable of doing it" - Oswald was at best a mediocre marksman and badly out of practice; the rifle was lousy and had a mis-aligned scope. Top Army marksmen didn't duplicate his feat during tests. [15]
  • "he wanted to do it" - By all accounts Oswald liked Kennedy. [16]

Mailer was a gifted novelist, and perhaps far better than I at seeing into the hearts of men and determining their motives. But it remains true that the entire Mailer scenario is speculation devoid of evidence; i.e., a theory. As is so often true in this case, the pot calls the kettle black.

Which is why the evidence matters, and despite the hard work of the Warren Commissioners and staff, their efforts mainly succeeded in proving that Oswald could not have done it alone. And given that, the whole scenario of Oswald the malcontent unattached nobody falls to pieces. If Oswald was truly a loner, and two or more people fired at Kennedy that day, then logic indicates he didn't even participate in the crime at all.

The truth, of course, is far more complex and strange than the film or this essay can begin to convey. A fuller, more honest approach to the assassination would have to deal with the inconvenient facts and questions not even hinted at here. How did Oswald the loner so quickly teach himself Russian, one of the most difficult languages to learn? [17] Why did the Warren Commission treat the allegation that Oswald was an FBI informant as a "dirty rumor" which must be "wiped out insofar as it is possible to do so by this Commission"? [18] Why did the Commission fail to interview Jack Ruby until the Report was already being written, and then leave its own Ruby experts out of the interview? [19] Why did the woman who developed JFK's autopsy photographs disavow the official set in sworn testimony? [20] Why did those same photos fail a key authenticity test, which was then buried? [21] Why did Kennedy's brain disappear, along with tissue slides and apparently the original autopsy report? [22] Why was a Presidential phone recording from the morning after the assassination, in which Hoover and Johnson discussed an Oswald imposter in Mexico City who tied Oswald to a Soviet assassinations expert, purposefully erased? [23] Why do so many of those around Oswald - journalist Priscilla Johnson-McMillan, Oswald's "best friend" George DeMohrenschildt, Marina's host Ruth Paine - turn out to have personal or family relationships with the CIA? [24] Why does the former Chief Counsel of the HSCA now believe the CIA obstructed that investigation? [25] These questions and dozens more like them cannot be papered over by pronouncements that the "evidence was persuasive."

The answers to these and countless other questions are not in Stone's film. Some of the answers can be found in the books swirling down into the vortex of history. But many of them will remain unanswered forever. The JFK assassination has become too complex and storied for all but those who have been following it for years. It is all too likely to pass into history in just the manner Stone portrays - a big murder mystery that consumed America, but in reality had a simple explanation that the public didn't want to hear. And yet that easy-to-understand story has never rested easily, and perhaps it never will.

It is not Oswald's ghost that haunts us. It is Kennedy's. In the film, Priscilla Johnson-McMillan muses on what JFK would think about his own assassination: "Jack Kennedy would be curious who did it." I think he would be equally fascinated, and probably deeply saddened despite his great optimism, by the process by which America failed to solve the riddle of his death. For those who have looked, and there are many, the sorry story of the assassination's mis-investigation tells us more about our nation than the murder itself.

Kennedy's ghost hangs over us because his unsolved murder is a testament to the limits of democracy in our nation. An American leader is gunned down at the height of the Cold War in broad daylight, and men of "unimpeachable reputation" bless the answer handed to them by a few pieces of suspect evidence and by the almost immediate pronouncements of the feared FBI Director-for-life. A left-wing loner did the deed all by himself, in probably the most right-wing city in the nation. The Johnson presidency is legitimized. The Right is absolved of guilt. The Left is protected from recrimination via the "nut" part of "lone nut." Those who need to believe that this act tells them nothing about the darker aspects of their society can relax. Everybody wins.

Except those who desire truth. The process by which our society's finest arrived at this politically convenient solution to the Crime of the (Previous) Century is complex and not neatly summarized by the overused word "coverup." But the failure of the federal government to honestly investigate the assassination, and the failure of the media and historians to come to grips with it, leaves us with contradictory facts, unanswered questions, unproven theories, and films that pretend to be more intelligent than they are.


[1] Soviet expert and former journalist Priscilla Johnson McMillan has admitted she applied to work for the CIA in 1952, though she later withdrew her application and was never hired. In her HSCA testimony, declassified in 1993 (see part 1 and part 2), she said that she had only two witting contacts with CIA officers, the latest in 1962. However, either her witting contacts were more extensive than admitted, or she was unwitting of the CIA status of some of those with whom she dealt (or perhaps "don't ask, don't tell" was the modus operandi). An 11 Dec 1962 CIA report of a meeting with Priscilla Johnson stated that she "had been an OO source" (OO: Office of Operations) and had been "selected as a likely candidate to write an article on Yevtushenko in a major U.S. magazine for our campaign." Another CIA document states that she was approved for debriefing under Project [**]DINOSAUR on 3 May 1963. Another contact report from among the many CIA files relating to Ms. Johnson dates from early 1964. See Peter Whitmey's Priscilla Johnson McMillan and the CIA for more information, though that was written in 1994 before many of the documents were available. Ms. Johnson was also involved with Marina Oswald in the unlikely finding of a bus ticket, months after Marina's possessions had been searched by the Dallas Police and the FBI, finally providing "proof" that Oswald had indeed traveled to Mexico City. Commissioner Russell found the story of the bus ticket discovery difficult to believe - see 5WH601-603.

[2] Declassified documents show that Dallas reporter Hugh Aynesworth was in contact with the Dallas CIA office and had on at least one occasion "offered his services to us." The files are chock full of Aynesworth informing to the FBI, particularly in regard to the Garrison investigation. See for example an account of lengthy FBI meeting with Aynesworth on 26 Apr 1967 re: Garrison and 5 May 1967 Domestic Intelligence Division note. See also a CIA 27 Dec 1967 account of a phone call in which Aynesworth is said to have offered to secure documents "extracted" from Garrison's files (by William Gurvich). Also of note is a message Aynesworth sent to George Christian at LBJ's White House, in which Aynesworth wrote that "My interest in informing government officials of each step along the way is because of my intimate knowledge of what Jim Garrison is planning." See Jim DiEugenio's Hugh Aynesworth: Refusing a Conspiracy is his Life's Work.

[3] Examples include CIA and FBI withholding of the anti-Castro murder plots, the FBI's destruction of a note from Oswald, leaving agent Hosty's name out of a retyped Oswald address book, misnaming Oswald's Minox "spy camera" in an inventory, CIA's determination to "wait out the Commission" on important matters, and much more, with some much more serious allegations left neither proven nor discredited. Both agencies were involved in burying knowledge of an Oswald imposter in Mexico City who tied Oswald in tapped calls to a Soviet assassinations expert. More generally, the FBI was quickly committed to the lone gunman scenario, as was the rest of government. A memo from Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach sent to the White House on 25 Nov 1963 (largely drafted the day earlier, shortly after Oswald's murder) stated that "the public must be satisified that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not hhave confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial." Regardless of the ultimate truth of Dallas, the government could not have known these things to be true so early. See the Schweiker-Hart Report of the Church Committee, which "developed evidence which impeaches the process by which the intelligence agencies arrived at their own conclusions about the assassination, and by which they provided information to the Warren Commission."

[4] Epstein admitted in his book Deception that CounterIntelligence chief James Angleton and his associates were primary sources for his book Legend. Angleton's CI division had opened the 201 file on Oswald and kept it closely held in the Agency. For more on Angleton and the JFK assassination, see Lisa Pease's James Jesus Angleton and the Kennedy Assassination (Part 1 and Part 2).

[5] Transcript of Face the Nation, 27 Jun 1976, in CIA record 104-10322-10007.

[6] Marina first claimed that she had locked Oswald in the bathroom to keep him from going out to shoot Nixon, but the Warren Commission discovered that the bathroom door locked from the inside. A later variation had a pregnant Marina holding the door closed while Lee fought to get out, and in yet another version Marina and Lee struggled together in the bathroom. As if this wasn't enough, it turns out that Nixon wasn't even in Dallas on the day in question. The Warren Commission, which relied on Marina's accounts of other incidents, decided in this case that her story was of "no probative value." See WR189.

[7] Chapter 4 of Bill Davy's Let Justice Be Done.

[8] In the April 1975 issue of True magazine, former CIA Executive Officer Victor Marchetti told of the CIA's intense interest in the Clay Shaw trial: "Marchetti was attending high-level staff conferences in early 1969 when Clay Shaw was being brought to trial by Jim Garrison. At these conferences, he said, it was determined to 'give help' in the trial. 'I sure as hell knew they didn't mean Garrison,' Marchetti said." A memo entitled Garrison Group Meeting No.1-20 of Sep 1967 states that "Rocca [head of Research and Analysis in CounterIntelligence] felt that Garrison would indeed obtain a conviction of Shaw for conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy." Various memos (see 104-10435-10034, 104-10435-10033, 104-10435-10030, 104-10412-10379, 104-10429-10069, and 104-10435-10001, among others) show a high level of interest and concern at the top levels of CIA in the Garrison investigation and the Shaw trial. The Justice Department took the extraordinary step of flying JFK autopsy doctor J. Thorton Boswell to New Orleans and having him read the day's testimony of Dr. Pierre Finck, who was "really lousing everything up," admitting among other things that he had been ordered not to dissect Kennedy's neck wound and trace the bullet path.

[9] The single bullet theory has been written about ad nauseum. Among many other problems with the single bullet theory, it remains true that CE 399, the "magic bullet", could not inflict the damage attributed to it and remain as unscathed as it is.

[10] WR796.

[11] With declassifications proving that Kennedy was implementing the first phase of a complete withdrawal from Vietnam at the time of his death, the historical debate has subtly shifted to a different question: Was Kennedy's withdrawal plan serious; i.e., would he have continued it in the face of deteriorating conditions in Vietnam, or changed course and done what Johnson did? The best short answer to this question is contained in James Galbraith's essay Exit Strategy. See the pages 1963 Vietnam Withdrawal Plans and Kennedy-Johnson Transition in Vietnam Policy for more information.

[12] Oswald's Ghost: Lament of a Generation, by Max Holland, on Washington Decoded.

[13] Robert Stone interview by D.W. Hudson on 15 Jan 2008, at Green Cine website.

[14] WR423.

[15] Chapter 9 of Howard Roffman's Presumed Guilty.

[16] PBS Frontline interview with Priscilla Johnson McMillan: "Lee liked Kennedy. He liked him in civil rights. He disliked him for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba. He told Marina that Kennedy's father had bought him everything, had paved the way for Kennedy and helped him to become president. At the same time, he made it very clear that he wanted his own son, whom he did not yet have, to be president. But insofar as he spoke about Kennedy, it was to praise him."

[17] Epstein describes Oswald's performance on a Russian language test on 25 Feb 1959 while in the Marines, and writes that "except under extraordinary circumstances, Oswald would have had to have begun his training while he was still in Japan. None of his barracks-mates in Japan, however, remember Oswald's using a linguaphone or records to learn Russian, which suggests that he had some more private means." Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald, by Edward Jay Epstein, Ballantine Books, 1978, p.87-88.

[18] Warren Commission Executive Session of 27 Jan 1964, p.139. For much more on the fascinating secret sessions of the Commission, see Document Walkthrough - Warren Commission Executive Sessions.

[19] Jack Ruby's testimony to the Warren Commission is a chilling public record which has been available since late 1964, in volume 5 of the Warren Commission Hearings and Exhibits (5WH181). Ruby, arguably the most important witness the Commission had, was not interviewed until June 7, 1964, more than 6 months after the formation of the Commission and after it had already begun writing its Report. While the Commission delayed interviewing Ruby ostensibly to avoid interfering with his Texas murder trial, that trial ended on March 14. Warren himself told Ruby: "And I wish we had gotten here a little sooner after your trial was over, but I know you had other things on your mind, and we had other work, and it got to this late date." The Commission staff members who investigated Ruby, Leon Hubert and Burt Griffin, were incredibly not among those who interviewed Ruby in the Dallas County Jail: Earl Warren, Gerald Ford, J. Lee Rankin, Joseph Ball, and Arlen Specter (accompanied by Texas officials, Ruby's lawyer Joe Tonahill, and Elmer Moore of the Secret Service). Ruby begged to be taken back to Washington several times, but was rebuffed. Warren at one point replied to one of these requests: "No; it could not be done. It could not be done. There are a good many things involved in that, Mr. Ruby." Ruby told the Commission that "my life is in danger here," and expressed some reluctance to go on speaking, to which Warren responded: "I think I might have some reluctance if I was in your position, yes; I think I would. I think I would figure it out very carefully as to whether it would endanger me or not." Ruby exhibited some erratic behavior during the interview, particularly his belief that Jews were in the process of being exterminated due to his actions (though there was a campaign to assign blame for the assassination to the Jews going on in right-wing circles). But most of his rambling testimony can be attributed to the position he found himself in: being interviewed in a place where he didn't feel safe ("Gentlemen, my life is in danger here."), unable to speak freely due to the large group which included people he didn't trust (including his lawyer as Ruby himself stated), and trying to provide hints to the deaf Commission while avoiding saying things that would incriminate himself regarding premeditated murder of Oswald (Ruby did subsequently win an appeal of his case). "Boys, I am in a tough spot, I tell you that," he said. Ruby's testimony is tragic and extremely telling regarding the Commission's determination not to find a conspiracy. Near the end of his three-hour interview, Ruby remarked that "...a whole new form of government is going to take over our country, and I know I won't live to see you another time." The latter half of this statement is fact - Ruby died of lung cancer in January of 1967 before his retrial, during a time when the Warren Commission's findings were being questioned in many quarters. As to whether a "whole new form of government" took over the country, the reader will have to be the judge. Perhaps Ruby had it backwards, and it was a new form of government which was lost when Kennedy was murdered. (the text of this footnote is lifted from my 2004 COPA talk entitled Lessons Learned from 40 Years of Coverup).

[20] ARRB Testimony of Saundra Kay Spencer of 5 Jun 1997. See the page entitled Autopsy Photos and X-Rays for more discussion of the problems related to these materials.

[21] The HSCA Photograph Panel's report in volume 6 contains a footnote which says the following: "Because the Department of Defense was unable to locate the camera and lens that were used to take these photographs, the panel was unable to engage in an analysis similar to the one undertaken with the backyard Oswald pictures that was designed to determine whether a particular camera in issue had been used to take the photographs that were the subject of inquiry." (p.226). But the Navy had indeed located the camera and supplied it to the HSCA (after some stonewalling). The problem was, as Chief Counsel Blakey wrote back to the Defense Dept., "After examining the camera and comparing its features with characteristics noted on the autopsy photographs, our photographic experts have determined that this camera, or at least the particular lens and shutter attached to it, could not have been used to take the autopsy pictures." No further research on this issue appears possible, unfortunately, because the camera is now missing and no records of the photographic panels' tests have been found. For the full story, with supporting documents, see an ARRB staff memo by Douglas Horne, entitled Unanswered Questions Raised by the HSCA's Analysis and Conclusions Regarding the Camera Identified by the Navy and the Department of Defense as the Camera Used at President Kennedy's Autopsy.

[22] The brain and other "#9" autopsy materials were handed over to Robert Kennedy under a probably illegal "transfer" on 26 Apr 1965. On 29 Oct 1966, all but the #9 materials, which went missing, were returned to the government under a "deed of gift." The #9 materials included the brain, tissue slides, the original plus copies of the autopsy report, and several other items including a broken casket handle. The National Archives oddly contains a second "original" autopsy report - see ARRB staffer Doug Horne's memo entitled Chain-of-Custody Discrepancy Re: Original Copy of President John F. Kennedy's Autopsy Protocol as well as an update. While many believe the brain was buried during JFK's reinterment in 1967, another possibility exists. In 1999 the National Archives released a set of documents relating to an event in early 1966, when the autopsy materials were under Robert Kennedy's control. The documents describe how, under RFK's direction, the casket used to transport JFK's body from Dallas was drilled with holes, weighted down with sand bags, banded with metal, flown out over the Atlantic, and dropped into 9000 feet of water. Was this really done to dispose of an empty casket? See Documents Relating to the Disposition of the Kennedy Cermonial Casket.

[23] See The Fourteen Minute Gap for my essays on this matter, the erased audio and a transcript which survived the erasure, a letter and memo from the LBJ Library confirming the erasure, and a short documentary by Tyler Weaver.

[24] Priscilla Johnson-McMillan: see note 1 above.
George DeMohrenschildt: HSCA Volume XII, p.209. In the manuscript found in DeMohrenschildt's possession upon his death, entitled "I am a Patsy! I am a Patsy!", DeMohrenschildt wrote: "...I went to see Mr. J. Walton Moore [CIA officer in the Domestic Contacts Division] to his office, in the same building I used to have my own office, Reserve Loan Life Building on Ervay Street, and asked him point blank. 'I met this young ex-marine, Lee Harvey Oswald, is it safe to associate with him?'. And Mr. Moore's answer was: 'He is OK. He is just a harmless lunatic.'".
Ruth Paine: Sylvia Hyde Hoke, Ruth Paine's sister, apparently began work at the CIA in 1954 under Air Force cover, and had a CIA Security File. In 1971 the Falls Church Virginia phone directory contained the listing: "Hoke Sylvia, Mrs. emp CIA r h523 Monticello Drive, (Fax Co)." See A.J. Weberman's web site at for more on Sylvia Hoke. In 1968, Marina Oswald was asked by a grand jury why she cut off contact with Ruth Paine. Her answer: "I was advised by Secret Service not to be connected with her.....she was sympathizing with the CIA. She wrote letters over there and they told me for my own protection to stay away." See Marina Oswald Porter's New Orleans grand jury testimony, p.69.

[25] Near the end of the Assassination Record Review Board's term in the late 1990s, it came to light that a man named George Joannides had been case officer for the Cuban exile group DRE in 1962 and 1963. The DRE's members included New Orleans delegate Carlos Bringuier, who was involved in a fracas with Oswald in August 1963. In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, the DRE quickly began supplying news sources with information about Oswald. Joannides' name was familiar to HSCA Chief Counsel Blakey, since Joannides had been brought out of retirement to serve as CIA liason to that investigation. His prior role was not disclosed. When HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey learned of this, he wrote in 2003: "...the Agency set up a process that could only have been designed to frustrate the ability of the committee in 1976-79 to obtain any information that might adversely affect the Agency. Many have told me that the culture of the Agency is one of prevarication and dissimulation and that you cannot trust it or its people. Period. End of story. I am now in that camp." Journalist Jefferson Morley has pursued the Joannides story and is currently in court trying to obtain Joannides' CIA records, which the Agency refuses to supply. For more on Joannides, see Jefferson Morley's Revelation 19.63.

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