Coffin Used for JFK Dumped at Sea in 1965, Records Show
May 29, 1999|Associated Press
DESTRUCTION OF VITAL JFK ASSASSINATION
A bronze coffin used to transport President Kennedy's body from Dallas to Washington was dropped from a military plane into the ocean two years after he was killed, according to assassination documents.
"Apparently the casket is in 9,000 feet of water in the Atlantic Ocean," Kermit L. Hall, a member of the defunct Assassination Records Review Board, said in a telephone interview Friday night.
Hall said that documents to be released Tuesday by the National Archives show that the coffin was flown several miles off the Maryland-Delaware coast in early 1965 and dumped in an area where the military discards unstable and outdated weapons and ammunition.
The revelation, on the eve of what would have been President Kennedy's 82nd birthday, that the coffin was deep-sixed resolves a lingering mystery about its whereabouts. But it also fuels speculation among assassination researchers that it was discarded to hide foul play.
Last year a document released by the archives showed that a General Services Administration truck picked up the bronze coffin on March 19, 1964. The review panel asked the GSA where the coffin was. The agency said in the summer of 1998 that it didn't know.
"Essentially what was going on was an effort to make sure the casket didn't turn into a historic relic for the marketplace," Hall said.
JOHN F. KENNEDY
There has long been suspicion of a government cover-up of information about the assassination of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. There are also many conspiracy theories regarding the assassination that arose soon after his death and continue to be promoted today. Most put forth a criminal conspiracy involving parties as varied as the CIA, the KGB, the American Mafia, the Israeli government, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, sitting Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Cuban president Fidel Castro, anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, the Federal Reserve, or some combination of those entities.
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he traveled in an open top car in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas at 12:30 PM, November 22, 1963; Texas Governor John Connally was also injured. Within two hours, Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the murder of Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit and arraigned that evening. At 1:35 AM Saturday, Oswald was arraigned for murdering the President. At 11:21 AM, Sunday, November 24, 1963, nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald as he was being transferred to the county jail.
In 1964, the Warren Commission concluded that there was no persuasive evidence that Oswald was involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the President, and stated their belief that he acted alone. Critics, even before the publication of the official government conclusions, suggested a conspiracy was behind the assassination. Though the public initially accepted the Warren Commission's conclusions, by 1966 the tide had turned as authors such as Mark Lane with his best-selling book Rush to Judgment, and prominent publications such as the New York Review of Books and Life openly disputed the findings of the commission.
In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) agreed with the Warren Commission that Oswald assassinated Kennedy but found its report and the original FBI investigation to be seriously flawed. The HSCA also concluded that at least four shots were fired, that with "high probability" two gunmen fired at the President, and a conspiracy was probable. The HSCA also stated that "the Warren Commission failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the President."
The Ramsey Clark Panel and the Rockefeller Commission both supported the Warren Commission's conclusions, while New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison unsuccessfully prosecuted Clay Shaw of conspiring to assassinate Kennedy.
Public opinion polls taken after the assassination have indicated that a large number of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy. These same polls also show that there is no agreement on who else may have been involved. A 2003 Gallup poll reported that 75% of Americans do not believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. That same year an ABC News poll found that 70% of respondents suspected that the assassination involved more than one person. A 2004 Fox News poll found that 66% of Americans thought there had been a conspiracy while 74% thought there had been a cover-up.
Possible evidence of a cover-up
Numerous researchers, including Mark Lane, Henry Hurt, Michael L. Kurtz, Gerald D. McKnight and others have pointed out what they characterize as inconsistencies, oversights, exclusions of evidence, errors, changing stories, or changes made to witness testimony in the official Warren Commission investigation, which could suggest a cover-up, without putting forward a theory as to who actually committed the murder.
The murder weapon
One example of a changing story involves the rifle which was identified as the murder weapon by the Warren Commission. Deputy Sheriff Eugene Boone and Deputy Constable Seymour Weitzman both initially identified the rifle found in the Texas School Book Depository (see John F. Kennedy assassination rifle) as a 7.65 Mauser. Weitzman signed an affidavit the following day describing the weapon as a "7.65 Mauser bolt action equipped with a 4/18 scope, a thick leather brownish-black sling on it". Deputy Sheriff Roger Craig claimed that he saw "7.65 Mauser" stamped on the barrel of the weapon.
Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade told the press that the weapon found in the School Book Depository was a 7.65 Mauser, and this was reported by the news media. But investigators later identified the rifle as a 6.5 Italian Mannlicher Carcano. According to Mark Lane:
Witness intimidation allegations
Some witnesses to the assassination, or to events connected to the assassination, were intimidated or threatened. These include Jean Hill, Richard Carr, Roy Truly, Sandy Speaker, and A. J. Millican. Acquilla Clemmons, who claimed she saw two men at the scene of Officer J.D. Tippit's murder, also claimed she was told to keep quiet about what she saw by a man with a gun who came to her home.
Jim Marrs and Ralph Schuster have pointed out what they have characterized as a suspiciously large number of deaths of people connected with the investigation of the assassination. They also point out that there seems to be a pattern of deaths around the times of various government investigations, such as during and just after the Warren Commission investigation, as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison was launching his own investigation, while the Senate Intelligence Committee was looking into assassinations by U.S. intelligence agencies in the 1970s, and when the House Select Committee on Assassinations was gearing up its investigations. Marrs points out that "these deaths certainly would have been convenient for anyone not wishing the truth of the JFK assassination to become public."
Many government records relating to the assassination, including some from the Warren Commission investigation, the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation and the Church Committee investigation, were kept secret from the public. These secret documents included the president's autopsy records. Some were not scheduled to be released until 2029, however many of these documents were released during the mid to late 1990s by the Assassination Records Review Board due to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. Some of the material released contains redacted sections. Tax return information, which would identify employers and sources of income, has not been released. The existence of large numbers of secret documents related to the assassination, and the long period of secrecy, suggests to some the possibility of a cover-up. One historian noted, "There exists widespread suspicion about the government's disposition of the Kennedy assassination records stemming from the beliefs that Federal officials (1) have not made available all Government assassination records (even to the Warren Commission, Church Committee, House Assassination Committee) and (2) have heavily redacted the records released under FOIA in order to cover up sinister conspiracies." According to the Assassination Records Review Board, "All Warren Commission records, except those records that contain tax return information, are (now) available to the public with only minor redactions."
There is conflicting testimony about the autopsy performed on President Kennedy's body, particularly as to when the examination of the president's brain took place, who was present, and whether or not the photos submitted as evidence are the same as those taken during the examination. Douglas Horne, the Assassination Record Review Board's chief analyst for military records, said he was "90 to 95% certain" that the photographs in the National Archives are not of President Kennedy's brain. Dr. Gary Aguilar, assisted by pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht, wrote in a 1999 piece for The Consortium News, "According to Horne’s findings, the second brain—which showed an exit wound in the front—allegedly replaced Kennedy's real brain—which revealed much greater damage to the rear, consistent with an exit wound and thus evidence of a shot from the front."
James H. Fetzer has noted 16 problems with the Warren Commission's version of events, which he claims prove decisively that its narrative is impossible, and therefore is likely a cover-up. He claims that evidence released by the Assassination Records Review Board substantiates these concerns. These include problems with bullet trajectories, the murder weapon, the ammunition used, inconsistencies between the Warren Commission's account and the autopsy findings, inconsistencies between the autopsy findings and what was reported by witnesses at the scene of the murder, eye-witness accounts that conflict with x-rays taken of the President's body, indications that the diagrams and photos of the President's brain in the National Archives are not the President's, testimony by those who took and processed the autopsy photos that the photos were altered, created or destroyed, indications that the Zapruder film had been tampered with, allegations that the Warren Commission's version of events conflicts with news reports from the scene of the murder, an alleged change to the motorcade route which facilitated the assassination, what they characterize as suspiciously lax Secret Service and local law enforcement security, and statements by people who claim that they had knowledge of, or participated in, a conspiracy to kill the President.
More than one gunman
The Warren Commission findings and the single bullet theory are implausible according to some researchers. Oswald's rifle, through testing performed by the FBI, could be fired by an experienced shooter three times within five to eight seconds. The Warren Commission, through eyewitnesses, determined that three bullets were fired as well: one of the three bullets missed the vehicle entirely; one hit Kennedy and passed through Governor John Connally, and the third bullet was the fatal shot to the President. The weight of the bullet fragments taken from Connally and those remaining in his body, some claim, totaled more than could have been missing from the bullet found on Connally's stretcher, dubbed by critics of the Commission the "magic bullet". However, witness testimony seems to indicate that only tiny fragments, of less total mass than was missing from the bullet, were left in Connally. In addition, the trajectory of the bullet, which hit Kennedy above the right shoulder blade and passed through his neck (according to the autopsy), would have had to change course to pass through Connally's rib cage and wrist, say some critics. In the Zapruder film Kennedy appears to move backwards in the last, fatal shot.
Other evidence for the claim of more than three shots fired was the FBI photographs of the limousines, which some claim shows a bullet hole in the windshield of the vehicle above the rear-view mirror, evidence of a shot fired from the front. (The Warren Commission identified it as a crack caused by a fragment from a bullet fired by Oswald.)
By one count, 35 witnesses, some 32% of those who were eye-witnesses to the shooting, thought that the shots were fired from somewhere in front of the President — from the area of the Picket fence on the Grassy Knoll or Triple Underpass — while 56 eyewitnesses thought the shots came from the Depository, or at least in that direction, behind the President, and 5 witnesses thought that the shots came from two directions.
Nellie Connally was sitting in the presidential car next to her husband, Governor John Connally. In her book From Love Field: Our Final Hours, Connally believed that her husband was hit by a bullet that was separate from the two that hit Kennedy.
Roy Kellerman, a U.S. Secret Service Agent, testified that, "Now, in the seconds that I talked just now, a flurry of shells come into the car." Kellerman said that he saw a 5-inch-diameter (130 mm) hole in the back right-hand side of the President's head.
Lee Bowers was operating a railroad interlocking tower, overlooking the parking lot just north of the grassy knoll and west of the Texas School Book Depository. He reported that he saw two men behind the picket fence at the top of the grassy knoll before the shooting. When interviewed by Mark Lane, Bowers noted that he saw something that attracted his attention, either a flash of light, or maybe smoke, from the knoll, leading him to believe "something out of the ordinary" had occurred there. Bowers told Lane he heard three shots, the last two in quick succession. Bowers was of the opinion that they could not have come from the same rifle.
Clint Hill, the Secret Service Agent who was sheltering the President with his body on the way to the hospital, described "The right rear portion of his head was missing. It was lying in the rear seat of the car." Later, to a National Geographic documentary film crew, he described the large defect in the skull as "gaping hole above his right ear, about the size of my palm."
McClelland testified that the back right part of the head was blown out with posterior cerebral tissue and some of the cerebellar tissue missing. The size of the back head wound, according to his description, indicated it was an exit wound, and that a second shooter from the front delivered the fatal head shot, or the president had his head turned.
Rose Cherami (sometimes spelled "Cheramie") was depicted in Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK as a "witness." Rose Cherami was a 41-year-old drug addict and prostitute who was picked up on Highway 190 near Eunice, Louisiana, on November 20, 1963—two days before the Kennedy assassination—by Lt. Francis Frugé of the Louisiana State Police. Cherami told Frugé that John F. Kennedy would shortly be killed. Fruge did not believe her at first, but after some time of adamant speaking by Cherami, he came around. During her confinement, and prior to the time JFK was shot in Dallas, Cherami supposedly spoke of the impending assassination. After Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, Cherami reportedly claimed that she had worked for Ruby as a stripper, that she knew both Ruby and Oswald, and that the two men were "bed partners" who "had been shacking up for years." According to Lt. Frugé, Cherami declined to repeat her story to the FBI. She was killed when struck by a car on September 4, 1965, apparently while hitchhiking, near Gladewater, Texas. Among conspiracy theorists, the story has been considered quite credible since 1979, when an account by investigator Patricia Orr was published by the House Select Committee reviewing the JFK assassination (HSCA). This account was based primarily on the HSCA depositions of Francis Frugé and Victor Weiss, a doctor at the Jackson hospital.
Suspects in Dealey Plaza other than Oswald
Numerous witnesses reported hearing gunfire coming from the Dal-Tex Building, which is located across the street from the Texas School Book Depository and in alignment with Elm Street in Dealey Plaza. Several conspiracy theories posit that at least one shooter was located in the Dal-Tex Building due to witness accounts and other coincidences including the apprehension of suspicious individuals like the "man who was made of shadows" and ex-con Jim Braden inside the building, as well as the trajectory of the bullet which hit the curb on the south end of Dealey Plaza injuring bystander James Tague. Also of note is the scientific acoustic evidence presented to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978 which pinpointed the Dal-Tex building as a possible source of gunfire.
Fifteen years after the Warren Commission issued its report, a congressional committee named the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) reviewed the Warren Commission report and the underlying FBI report on which the Commission heavily relied. The Committee criticized the performance of both the Warren Commission and the FBI for failing to investigate whether other people conspired with Oswald to murder President Kennedy.
A key component of the committee's investigation was the examination of a recently discovered Dictabelt recording of Dallas Police dispatch radio transmissions that purported to be from a police motorcycle in the Kennedy motorcade. The acoustical analysis firm hired by the committee recommended tha the committee conduct an acoustical reconstruction of the assassination in Dealey Plaza to determine if any of the six impulse patterns on the dispatch tape were fired from the Texas School Book Depository or the grassy knoll. The reconstruction would entail firing from two locations in Dealey Plaza - the depository and the knoll - at particular targe locations and recording the sounds through numerous microphones. The purpose was to determine if the sequences of impulses recorded during the reconstruction would match any of those on the dispatch tape. If so, it would be possible to determine if the impulse patterns on the dispatch tape were caused by shots fired during the assassination from shooter locations in the depository and on the knoll.
On August 20, 1978, members of the Dallas Police Department Police Pistol Team, including Officer Jerry Compton, Officer Tom Knighten, and Officer Rick Stone participated in the acoustical reconstruction by firing both rifles and pistols from the locations selected by the researchers. During the acoustical reconstruction performed for the committee in August, the Dallas Police Department marksmen in fact used iron sights and had no difficulty hitting the targets.
Former U.S. Marine sniper Craig Roberts and Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock, who was the senior instructor for the U.S. Marine Corps Sniper Instructor School at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Virginia, both said it could not be done as described by the FBI investigators. "Let me tell you what we did at Quantico," Hathcock said. "We reconstructed the whole thing: the angle, the range, the moving target, the time limit, the obstacles, everything. I don’t know how many times we tried it, but we couldn’t duplicate what the Warren Commission said Oswald did. Now if I can’t do it, how in the world could a guy who was a non-qual on the rifle range and later only qualified 'marksman' do it?"
Kennedy's death certificate located the bullet at the third thoracic vertebra—which some claim is too low to have exited his throat. Moreover, the bullet was traveling downward, since the shooter was by a sixth floor window. The autopsy cover sheet had a diagram of a body showing this same low placement at the third thoracic vertebra. The hole in back of Kennedy's shirt and jacket are also claimed to support a wound too low to be consistent with the Single Bullet Theory.
New Orleans conspiracy
Immediately following the assassination, allegations began to surface of a conspiracy between Oswald and persons with whom he was or may have been acquainted while he lived in New Orleans, Louisiana.
On November 25, 1963 (the day after Oswald's murder by Jack Ruby) Dean Andrews, Jr., a New Orleans attorney who had occasionally provided legal advice to Oswald, informed the FBI that two days earlier he had, while in a local hospital under sedation, received a telephone call from a man named Clay Bertrand who inquired if he would be willing to defend Oswald in the murder and assassination case. Andrews later repeated these claims in testimony to the Warren Commission.
Also in late November 1963 an employee of New Orleans private investigator Guy Banister named Jack Martin began making accusations of possible involvement in the assassination by fellow Banister employee David Ferrie. According to witnesses, in 1963 Ferrie and Banister were working for lawyer G. Wray Gill, on behalf of Gill's client, New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello. Ferrie had also attended Civil Air Patrol meetings in New Orleans in the 1950s that were also attended by a teenage Lee Harvey Oswald.
In 1966, New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison began an investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. Garrison's investigation led him to conclude that Kennedy had been assassinated as the result of a conspiracy involving Oswald, David Ferrie and "Clay Bertrand." Garrison further came to believe "Clay Bertrand" was a pseudonym for New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw. On March 1, 1967, Garrison arrested and charged Shaw with conspiring to assassinate President Kennedy, with the help of Lee Harvey Oswald, David Ferrie, and others. On January 29, 1969, Clay Shaw was brought to trial on these charges, and the jury found him not guilty.
In 2003, Judyth Vary Baker, a former employee of the Reily Coffee Company in New Orleans who had been employed there at the same time as Lee Harvey Oswald, appeared in an episode of Nigel Turner's ongoing documentary television series, The Men Who Killed Kennedy. According to Baker, she and Oswald had been hired by Reily in the spring of 1963 as a "cover" for a clandestine CIA project designed to develop biological weapons that could be used to assassinate Fidel Castro. Baker further claimed that she and Oswald began an affair, and that they had planned to run away to Mexico together after the assassination. In the years since Baker first made her allegations public, she has failed to produce any evidence that she was acquainted with Oswald, and the research community has widely concluded that her claims are a hoax.
Federal Reserve conspiracy
Jim Marrs, in his book Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy, speculated that the assassination of Kennedy might have been motivated by the issuance of Executive Order 11110. The executive order, which was not officially repealed until the Ronald Reagan Administration, delegated to the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to authorize printing of additional silver certificates, up to a maximum limit previously set by Congress. Since the President himself already possessed the same authority, the order did not endanger the careers of anyone working at the Federal Reserve.
This theory was further explored by U.S. Marine sniper and veteran police officer Craig Roberts in the 1994 book, Kill Zone. Roberts theorized that the executive order was the beginning of a plan by Kennedy, whose ultimate goal was to permanently do away with the Federal Reserve, and that Kennedy was murdered by a cabal of international bankers determined to foil this plan.
Actor and author Richard Belzer has also discussed this theory. According to Belzer, the plot to kill Kennedy was a response to a postulated attempt by the President to shift power from the Federal Reserve to the U.S Treasury Department.
Nearly a dozen people were taken into custody in and around Dealey Plaza in the minutes following the assassination. In most of these instances, no records of the identities of those detained were kept. The most famous of those taken into custody have come to be known as the "tramps": three men discovered in a boxcar in the rail yard west of the grassy knoll. Speculation regarding the identities of the three and their possible involvement in the assassination became widespread in the ensuing years. Photographs of the three at their time of arrest fueled this speculation, as the three "tramps" appeared to be well-dressed and clean-shaven, seemingly unlikely for hobos riding the rails. Some researchers also thought it suspicious that the Dallas police had quickly released the tramps from custody apparently without investigating whether they might have witnessed anything significant related to the assassination, and that Dallas police claimed to have lost the records of their arrests as well as their mugshots and fingerprints.
In 1989, the Dallas police department released a large collection of files that contained the arrest records of the three men, whose names were Harold Doyle of Red Jacket, West Virginia; John F. Gedney, with no listed home address; and Gus W. Abrams, also with no listed home address. The brief report described the men as "all passing through [Dallas]. They have no jobs, etc." and were known to be rail-riders in the area. The previous evening they had slept in a homeless shelter where they showered and shaved, explaining their clean appearance on the day of the assassination. The three were released from custody four days after the assassination on the morning of November 26.
When asked in a 1992 interview, Doyle said that he had deliberately avoided revealing himself to the public limelight, saying, "I am a plain guy, a simple country boy, and that's the way I want to stay. I wouldn't be a celebrity for $10 million." Gedney independently affirmed Doyle's sentiment. Abrams had since died (in Ohio in 1987), but his sister also corroborated the events of that day and noted that Abrams "was always on the go, hopping trains and drinking wine." The three were evidently not involved in the assassination in any way.
A list of the better known "identifications" of the three tramps alleged by conspiracy theorists includes:
Charles Harrelson, the father of actor Woody Harrelson, has been alleged to be the tallest of the three tramps in the photographs. Harrelson at various times before his death boasted about his role as one of the tramps, however, in a 1988 interview, he denied being in Dallas on the day of the assassination.
E. Howard Hunt, the CIA station chief who was instrumental in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and who later worked as one of President Richard Nixon's White House Plumbers, was alleged by some to be the oldest of the tramps. At the time of his death, Hunt's son released tapes of Hunt implicating LBJ in Kennedy's assassination. In 1975, Hunt testified to the United States President's Commission on CIA activities within the United States that he was in Washington, D.C. on the day of the assassination. This testimony was confirmed by Hunt's family and a home employee of the Hunts. In 1985 however, in Hunt's libel suit against Liberty Lobby, defense attorney Mark Lane introduced doubt as to Hunt's location on the day of the Kennedy assassination through depositions from David Atlee Phillips, Richard Helms, G. Gordon Liddy, Stansfield Turner, and Marita Lorenz, plus a cross-examination of Hunt.
Frank Sturgis is thought by some to be the tall tramp in the photographs. Like Hunt, Sturgis was involved both in the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Watergate burglary. In 1959, Sturgis became involved with Marita Lorenz, who later identified Sturgis as a gunman in the assassination. Hunt's confessions before his death similarly implicates Sturgis.
Chauncey Holt, also alleged by some to be the oldest of the tramps, claims to have been a double agent for the CIA and the Mafia, and has claimed that his assignment in Dallas was to provide fake Secret Service credentials to people in the vicinity. Witness reports state that there were one or more unidentified men in the area claiming to be Secret Service agents.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations had forensic anthropologists study the photographic evidence. They were able to rule out E. Howard Hunt, Frank Sturgis, Dan Carswell, Fred Lee Chapman, and other suspects in 1978. The Rockefeller Commission concluded that neither Hunt nor Frank Sturgis was in Dallas on the day of the assassination.
Despite these positive identifications of the tramps and the lack of any connection between them and the assassination, some have maintained their identifications of the three as persons other than Doyle, Gedney and Abrams and have continued to theorize that they may have been connected to the crime.
Some researchers have claimed that CIA officer David Atlee Phillips used the alias "Maurice Bishop." He used the pseudonym while working with Alpha 66, an organization of anti-Castro Cubans. Alpha 66's founder, Antonio Veciana, claimed that during one of his meetings with "Bishop", Lee Harvey Oswald was also in attendance. HSCA investigator Gaeton Fonzi believed Phillips was Bishop.
In 1995, former U.S. Army Intelligence officer and National Security Agency executive assistance John M. Newman published evidence that both the CIA and FBI had deliberately tampered with their files on Lee Harvey Oswald both before and after the assassination. Furthermore, he found that both had withheld information that might have alerted authorities in Dallas that Oswald posed a potential threat to the President. Subsequently, Newman has expressed a belief that James Angleton was probably the key figure in the assassination. According to Newman, only Angleton, "had the access, the authority, and the diabolically ingenious mind to manage this sophisticated plot." However the control of the cover operation was not under James Angleton, but under Allen Dulles, and among senior government officials, only James Angleton continued expressing his belief that Kennedy assassination was not carried out by a lone gunman.
According to author James Douglass, Kennedy was assassinated because he was turning away from the Cold War and seeking a negotiated peace with the Soviet Union. Douglass argues that this "was not the kind of leadership the CIA, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the military-industrial complex wanted in the White House."
In his farewell speech, President Dwight D. Eisenhower had warned, "In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted."
Oliver Stone's 1991 movie JFK explored the possibility that Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy involving the military-industrial complex. L. Fletcher Prouty, Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Kennedy, and the person who inspired the character "Mr. X" in Stone's movie, has written that he believes Kennedy's assassination was actually a coup d'etat.
Secret Service conspiracy
The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that although Oswald assassinated Kennedy, a conspiracy was probable. Among its findings, the HSCA noted that President Kennedy had not received adequate protection in Dallas, that the Secret Service possessed information that was not properly analyzed, investigated or used by the Secret Service in connection with the President's trip to Dallas, and finally that the Secret Service agents in the motorcade were inadequately prepared to protect the President from a sniper. Although widely disputed but possible, this lack of protection may have occurred because Kennedy himself had specifically asked that the Secret Service make itself discreet during the Dallas visit. Vince Palamara claims that Secret Service driver Sam Kinney told him these requests, such as removing the bubble top from the limousine in Dallas, removing agents from the limousine, or reducing the Secret Service motorcycles in the motorcade, were not made by Kennedy.
Richard Helms, a director of the CIA's Office of Special Operations, had reason to be hostile to Kennedy since when first elected, Kennedy supported invading Cuba and then only later changed his mind about how to approach the matter. After the disastrous Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba sponsored by the CIA, Kennedy changed his mind about an invasion, earning the hatred of the Cuban exile community. Thus, Helms was immediately put under pressure from President Kennedy and his brother Robert (the Attorney General) to increase American efforts to get rid of the Castro regime. Operation Mongoose had nearly 4,000 operators involved in attacks on Cuban economic targets.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations believed evidence existed implicating certain violent Cuban exiles may have participated in Kennedy's murder. These exiles worked closely with CIA operatives in violent activities against Castro's Cuba. In 1979, the committee reported this:
Holding a copy of the September 26 edition of The Dallas Morning News, featuring a front-page account of the President's planned trip to Texas in November, the Cuban exile vented his hostility:
Author Joan Didion explored the Miami anti-Castro Cuban theory in her 1987 non-fiction book "Miami." In "Miami," she emphasizes the questions that investigators raised to Marita Lorenz regarding Guillermo Novo, a Cuban exile who was involved in shooting a bazooka at the U.N. building from the East River during a speech by Che Guevara. Allegedly, Novo was affiliated with Lee Harvey Oswald and Frank Sturgis and carried weapons with them to a hotel in Dallas just prior to the assassination. These claims, though put forth to the House Assassinations Committee by Lorenz, were never substantiated by a conclusive investigation.
E. Howard Hunt
Former CIA agent and Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt has been named as a possible participant in several Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. Separately, he denied complicity in the murder of JFK while accusing others of being involved.
Some researchers have identified Hunt as a figure crossing Dealey Plaza in a raincoat and fedora immediately after the assassination. Others have suggested that Hunt was one of the men known as the three tramps who were arrested and then quickly released shortly after the assassination.
In 1976, a magazine called The Spotlight ran an article accusing Hunt of being in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and of having a role in the assassination. Hunt won a libel judgment against the magazine in 1981, but this was thrown out on appeal, and the magazine was found not guilty when the case was retried in 1985.
Shortly before his death in 2007, Hunt authored an autobiography which implicated Lyndon B. Johnson in the assassination. Hunt suggested that Johnson had orchestrated the killing with the help of CIA agents who had been angered by Kennedy's actions as President. A 2007 article published in Rolling Stone magazine revealed deathbed confessions by Hunt to his son which suggested a conspiracy to kill JFK orchestrated by Lyndon Johnson, CIA agents Cord Meyer, Bill Harvey and David Sánchez Morales, as well as a "French gunman" who purportedly shot at Kennedy from the grassy knoll.
Organized crime conspiracy
Mafia criminals may have wished to retaliate for increasing pressure put upon them by Robert Kennedy (who had increased by 12 times the number of prosecutions under President Dwight Eisenhower). Documents never seen by the Warren Commission have revealed that some Mafiosi were working very closely with the CIA on several assassination attempts of Fidel Castro.
Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa, and mobsters Carlos Marcello, Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli, Charles Nicoletti and Santo Trafficante Jr. (all of whom say Hoffa worked with the CIA on the Castro assassination plots) top the list of House Select Committee on Assassinations Mafia suspects. Giancana, Marcello, and Trafficante were the leading figures of the organized crime families in Chicago, New Orleans, and Tampa, respectively.
Carlos Marcello apparently threatened to assassinate the President to short-circuit his younger brother Bobby, who was serving as attorney general and leading the administration's anti-Mafia crusade.
In his memoir, Bound by Honor: A Mafioso's Story, Bill Bonanno, son of New York Mafia boss Joseph Bonanno explains that several Mafia families had long-standing ties with the anti-Castro Cubans through the Havana casinos operated by the Mafia before the Cuban Revolution. The Cubans hated Kennedy because he failed to fully support them in the Bay of Pigs Invasion; the Mafia hated the Kennedys because, as Attorney General, the young and idealistic Robert Kennedy conducted an unprecedented legal assault on organized crime. This was especially provocative because several of the Mafia "families" had worked with JFK's father, Joseph Kennedy, to get JFK elected, and there was speculation about voting irregularities during the 1960 election. Both the Mafia and the anti-Castro Cubans were expert in assassination, the Cubans having been trained by the CIA. Bonanno reports that he realized the degree of the involvement of other Mafia families when he witnessed Jack Ruby killing Oswald on television: the Bonannos recognized Jack Ruby as an associate of Chicago mobster Sam Giancana.
Information released only around 2006 by the FBI indicates that Carlos Marcello confessed in detail to having organized Kennedy's assassination. The FBI then covered up this information which it had in its possession. This version of events is also supported by the findings of a 1979 Congressional Committee investigation that Marcello was likely part of a Mafia conspiracy behind the assassination, and had the means and the opportunity required. The assassination came less than a fortnight prior to a coup against Castro in Cuba by the Kennedy brothers, related to the Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Invasion.
James Files claims to be a former assassin working for both the Mafia and the CIA who participated in the assassination along with Johnny Roselli and Charles Nicoletti at the behest of Sam Giancana. He is currently serving a 30-year jail sentence for the attempted murder of a policeman.
Judith Campbell Exner, an alleged girlfriend of President Kennedy was also Sam Giancana's mistress; she was interviewed (apparently live) by Maria Shriver (daughter of Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver) on ABC's Good Morning America. The woman was asked if she ever carried messages between JFK and Giancana because she knew them both. The woman confirmed that and said no to the question by saying, "Sam would never write anything down."
David Kaiser has also suggested mob involvement in his book, The Road to Dallas.
Famed investigative reporter Jack Anderson, who knew Kennedy well and had many sources within Organized Crime, concluded that Cuba and Fidel Castro worked with Organized Crime figures to arrange the assassination. In his book "Peace War and Politics," Anderson said Johnny Roselli gave him extensive details on the plot. Anderson said he was never able to independently confirm Roselli's entire story, but he wrote that many of Roselli's details checked out and he never found one detail that he could refute. Anderson said that whatever role Oswald played in the assassination, he was convinced that there was more than one gunman.
The History Channel program, The Men Who Killed Kennedy presents additional information for organized crime involvement. Christian David was a Corsican mafia member interviewed in prison. He was offered the assassination contract on the president and did not accept it but knew the men who did accept the contract. According to David, there were three shooters. He provided the name of one—Lucien Sarti—but the other two shooters were still living and that would lead him to break their code of conduct. When asked what they were wearing David noted their modus operandi was to dress in costumes such as official uniforms. The majority of Christian David's testimony was confirmed by a former Corsican member named Michelle Nicole who was part of the DEA witness protection program.
Lyndon Johnson conspiracy
In 2003, researcher Barr McClellan published the book, Blood, Money & Power: How L.B.J. Killed J.F.K.. McClellan claims that Lyndon Johnson, motivated by the fear of being dropped from the Kennedy ticket in 1964 and the need to cover up various scandals, masterminded Kennedy's assassination with the help of his friend attorney Edwardo Clark. The book suggests that a smudged partial fingerprint from the sniper's nest likely belonged to Johnson's associate Malcolm "Mac" Wallace, and that Mac Wallace was therefore the assassin. The book further claims that the killing of Kennedy was paid for by oil magnates including Clint Murchison and H. L. Hunt. McClellan's book subsequently became the subject of an episode of Nigel Turner's ongoing documentary television series, The Men Who Killed Kennedy. The episode, entitled "The Guilty Men", drew widespread condemnation from both the Johnson family and President Johnson's former aides following its airing on The History Channel, which subsequently agreed not to air the episode in the future.
Madeleine D. Brown, who was an alleged mistress of Johnson, has also implicated him in a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. In 1997, Brown alleged that Johnson, along with H. L. Hunt, had begun planning Kennedy's demise as early as 1960. Brown claimed that by its fruition in 1963 the conspiracy involved dozens of persons including the leadership of the FBI and the Mafia as well as well-known politicians and journalists. In the documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Brown and a former employee of Clint Murchison both placed J. Edgar Hoover and Johnson at a dinner at Murchison's mansion shortly before the assassination. Brown claimed in the documentary that Johnson told her after the party that the Kennedys "will never embarrass me again".
American Fact-Finding Committee
Many researchers and conspiracy theorists talk about the full page, black-bordered advertisement published in the November 22, 1963, Dallas Morning News that accused Kennedy of ignoring the United States Constitution and implying that he was a communist. The ad was signed by the "American Fact-Finding Committee", Bernard Weissman, chairman. The FBI later investigated the source of funds for the ad, and interviewed many people involved, as described in the Warren Commission Hearings Volume XXIII. These people are many of the same discussed in the Lyndon Johnson theories and the allegations of Madeleine Brown (see above). Weissman was a supporter of the John Birch Society.
Soviet Bloc conspiracy
According to a 1966 FBI document, a source considered reliable by the Bureau related to the FBI in late 1963 that Colonel Boris Ivanov, Chief of the Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB), who resided in New York City at the time of the assassination, stated that it was his personal feeling that the assassination of President Kennedy had been planned by an organized group rather than being the act of one individual assassin.
Much later, the highest-ranking Soviet Bloc intelligence defector, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa described his conversation with Nicolae Ceauşescu who told him about "ten international leaders the Kremlin killed or tried to kill": "László Rajk and Imre Nagy of Hungary; Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu and Gheorghiu-Dej in Romania; Rudolf Slánský, the head of Czechoslovakia, and Jan Masaryk, that country's chief diplomat; the shah of Iran; Palmiro Togliatti of Italy; American President John F. Kennedy; and Mao Zedong." Pacepa provided some additional details, such as a plot to kill Mao Zedong with the help of Lin Biao organized by KGB and noted that "among the leaders of Moscow's satellite intelligence services there was unanimous agreement that the KGB had been involved in the assassination of President Kennedy."
New information regarding the murder of John F. Kennedy confidante Mary Pinchot Meyer has led to a reinterpretation of a statement by retired senior CIA official Cord Meyer shortly before his death in 2001. Meyer's statement seems to suggest that CIA learned many years ago, possibly from a defector, that the KGB organized the assassination of Kennedy, most likely as revenge for the humiliation of the Cuban missile crisis. However, Cord Meyer himself has been mentioned as a possible conspirator in the LBJ assassination theory.
In the early 1960s Clare Booth Luce, wife of publisher Henry Luce was one of a number of prominent Americans who sponsored the anti-Castro movement in the United States. This support included the funding of a motorboat used by exile commandos in their raids against Cuba. In a 1975 interview, Clare Luce revealed that on the night of the assassination, she received a phone call from one of the boat's crew members. According to Luce, the caller's name was "something like" Julio Fernandez, and he said he was calling her from New Orleans.
Julio Fernandez told her that Lee Harvey Oswald had approached his group and offered his services as a potential Castro assassin. Fernandez further claimed that he and his associates had eventually found out that Oswald was actually a committed Communist and supporter of Castro, and that they kept a close watch on his activities until he suddenly came into money and went to Mexico City and then Dallas. Finally, Fernandez told Luce, "There is a Cuban Communist assassination team at large and Oswald was their hired gun."
Luce told the caller to give his information to the FBI. Subsequently, she would reveal the details of the incident to both the Church Committee and the HSCA. Both committees attempted to investigate the incident, but were unsuccessful in uncovering any evidence to corroborate the allegations in question.
President Lyndon Johnson informed several journalistic sources of his personal belief that the assassination had been organized by Fidel Castro from Cuba. Johnson had received in 1967 information from both the FBI and CIA that in the early 1960s, the CIA had tried to have Castro assassinated, had employed members of the Mafia in this effort, and that Attorney General Robert Kennedy had known about both the plots and the Mafia's involvement.
It was Johnson's belief that JFK's assassination had been organized by Castro as a retaliation for the CIA's efforts to kill Castro. In October, 1968, Johnson told veteran newsman Howard K. Smith, that "Kennedy was trying to get to Castro, but Castro got to him first." In September, 1969, in an interview with Walter Cronkite of CBS, Johnson said that in regard to the assassination he could not, "honestly say that I've ever been completely relieved of the fact that there might have been international connections." Finally, in 1971, Johnson told Leo Janos of Time Magazine that he, "never believed that Oswald acted alone."
This theory alleges that the Israeli government was displeased with Kennedy for his pressure against their pursuit of a top-secret nuclear program at the Negev Nuclear Research Center (commonly called "Dimona") and/or the Israelis were angry over Kennedy's sympathies with Arabs. Gangster Meyer Lansky and Lyndon B. Johnson often play pivotal roles in this conspiracy theory as organizing and preparing the hit, thus bleeding into and possibly catalyzing many of the other conspiracies as well.
In July 2004 Israel's nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu claimed in the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that the state of Israel was complicit in the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Vanunu, a former technician at the Dimona plant who was jailed for 18 years for revealing its inner workings to Britain's Sunday Times in 1986, made the statement after his 2004 release. He claimed there were "near-certain indications" Kennedy was assassinated in response to "pressure he exerted on Israel's then head of government, David Ben-Gurion, to shed light on Dimona's nuclear reactor."
Decoy hearse and wound alteration
David S. Lifton and others have theorized that the coffin removed from Air Force One and placed in a waiting ambulance at Andrews Air Force Base on the evening of November 22, 1963 was empty. The president's body was taken off the jet out of the television camera's view. This portion of Lifton's theory comes from a House Select Committee on Assassinations report of an interview of Lt. Richard A. Lipsey on January 18, 1978 by committee staff members Donald Andrew Purdy Jr. and T. Mark Flanagan Jr. in which Lipsey said that in his capacity as aide to General Wehle, he had met President Kennedy's body at Andrews Air Force Base. The report stated that Lipsey "placed [the casket] in a hearse to be transported to Bethesda Naval Hospital. Lipsey mentioned that he and Whele then flew by helicopter to Bethesda and took the President's body into the back of Bethesda. A decoy hearse had been driven to the front." A decoy hearse carrying an empty casket.
Laboratory Technologist Paul Kelly O'Connor was one of the major witnesses supporting David Lifton's theory that somewhere between Parkland and Bethesda the President's body was made to appear as if it had been shot only from the rear. O'Connor says that President Kennedy's body arrived at Bethesda in a body bag, which differed from the sheet it was wrapped in at Parkland Hospital. He stated the brain had already been removed by the time it got to Bethesda, and that there was only "half of a handful" of brain matter left inside the skull.
According to Nigel Turner, in the 1988 documentary The Men Who Killed Kennedy, "There were mysterious men in civilian clothes at the autopsy. They seemed to command a lot of respect and look over my shoulder or over Dr. J. Thornton Boswell's shoulder, then they'd go back and have a conference in the corner. Then one of them would say 'Stop what you're doing and go on to another procedure.' We jumped back and forth, back and forth. There was no smooth flow of procedure at all."
As done with all cargo on airplanes for safety, the coffin and lid were held by steel wrapping cables to prevent shifting during takeoff and landing and in case of air disturbances in flight. The casket was under armed guard and the plane was watched by numerous people that bathed the far side of the plane in lights and provided a public stage for any body snatchers.
Other published theories