AOH :: JACK1.TXT|
Big file on Kennedy conspiracy - re-open investigation
The John F. Kennedy assassination has always had the air of being
a riddle hidden inside an enigma, with various official government
conclusions being forwarded at different times depending on which
government body was investigating the Presidential murder.
The Warren Commission, charged with the first investigation of
the murder at the time it actually occurred, came up with the
conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald managed to do it all alone in a
crazed effort to be recognized as a man to be reckoned with.
Various researchers-some of them known charlatans but many of
them honest researchers who came up with good hard facts that poked
holes in the first official conclusion-tracked the crime back to
the probability that the murder was probably set up by either the
CIA or some other organization within the federal government, big
multinational businesses, or both.
The House Select Committee on Assassinations finally got its
turn at bat in the late 1970s, and reached the conclusion that the
Mob did it. This, incidentally, was in direct contradiction to
where some of its own investigators were being led by the facts.
Some of them, like Gaeton Fonzi, had zeroed in on the fact that
Oswald was CIA affiliated following his return to the States from
a defection to Russia and had been seen in the company of a CIA
"handler" not too many weeks prior to the assassination.
Further muddying the waters with an implication toward the Mob
did it were the recent revelations of Judith Exner, former JFK
mistress, who now says that she was a conduit between the President
and various American Mafia figures who were involved in covert
attempts on the life of Cuban Premier Fidel Castro.
Exner, the subject of an interview in "People" magazine in
which she notes she was the President to Mafia conduit and that she
lied to one investigating U.S. congressional committee when she
denied it in the mid-1970s, is not quoted as pointing the figure at
any individual or group she considers responsible for the JFK
What she does detail is what she now claims is the actual
story of her relationship with the President, which included being
a liaison between JFK and the Mob as well as the President's lover
prior to and after he became President.
Why does she claim she ought to be believed today when she
makes these types of claims? She was afraid for her life before
since all the principals in the story are dead now except for her
and Frank Sinatra, all of them murdered. That doesn't matter any
more because she knows that she is going to die from cancer, she
says, and wants to clean her conscience up before she goes on to
her final reward.
She has been quoted as saying that "For the past 25 years I
have been terrified to tell the truth about my relationship with
Jack Kennedy," then goes on to note that "In fact, I've gone to
great lengths to keep the truth from ever coming out, which is
probably the only reason why I'm alive today. With the exception of
Sinatra, all the key figures involved in my story have been
murdered." A mastectomy in 1978 was followed by a diagnosis last
year as having metastatic cancer. Her doctor reportedly gives her
about three years to live, even though she had her left lung
removed last August.
What her story boils down to is that for 18 months in 1960 and
1961 she was the President's link with mobsters, regularly carrying
envelopes back and forth between the President and Sam Giancana,
the head of the Chicago Mafia, as well as Johnny Roselli,
Giancana's lieutenant in Los Angeles. She arranged about 10
meetings between Kennedy and Giancana and believes one took place
inside the White House. Although she says she was never told what
transpired between the President and Giancana, her speculation was
in the People article that one of the meetings involved attempts to
influence the crucial West Virginia Democratic primary before the
1960 election. Others apparently involved the CIA's collaboration
with the mafia to assassinate Cuban Premier Fidel Castro.
The assassination plots, known as Operation Mongoose, featured
such esoteric devices as poison pens, pills and cigars, exploding
seashells and even a contaminated diving suit.
One of the great unexplained situations arising out of the
demise of the U.S. House of Representatives' Select Committee on
Assassinations ten years ago is the reason why its recommendation
that an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Justice Department was
never followed up on.
The Committee had recommended that further investigation be
made along with a review of the acoustics evidence that led the
committee to state that there was somebody shooting in Dealey Plaza
in addition to Lee harvey Oswald. All that the recommendations the
Committee left in its wake got was short shrift from a Federal
Bureau of Investigation review of the evidence.
The FBI rapidly and with no great loss of breath noted that
the acoustics evidence really didn't amount to anything, was
basically flawed and therefore really did not prove there was a
second shooter at all.
There the subject has sat for the period of time since the
Committee went out of business and issued its report.
End of story, end of investigation, end of any hope of ever finding
out who was involved in the obvious conspiracy to kill the
Or is it that way at all? Was the lack of a continuing
investigation after the death of the Assassinations Committee
actually the end of the road for any real answers to the
investigation, or is the abrupt killing of the investigation an
answer in itself?
Some researchers who have looked into the JFK assassination
over the years would say that it is an answer as to what direction
the murder came from as well as whether or not it was a successful
one in terms of killing the President and then covering up the fact
that it was a plot.
According to the view of those persons, the murder was
actually the successful carrying out of a coup d'etat from within
the federal government, or at least using parts of the executive
branch to help carry the assassination out.
Following the assassination, according to that outlook,
Kennedy's supposed protectors arranged for the coverup of the crime
to be put into effect. The result was that actually unraveling the
plot would be almost impossible except for a super large, well
heeled investigative agency with plenty of cash, experienced
investigators who were totally honest and some high-tech
investigative tools like computers.
In the absence of this type of scenario, the dead stop of any
continuing investigation of the JFK murder marks a turning point in
American history that has never really been tied to any of the
persons who probably carried it out on an operational level.
This is to not even mention the persons who were actually the
ones who ordered it, and went about carrying it out as far as the
planning and management levels of the operation were concerned.
The Warren Commission came up with the all-too-implausible
story that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone madman and killed Kennedy
alone. That story lasted just as long as it took people to read
some of the Commission's own evidence that pointed to an actual
conspiracy operating in the murder.
And, while the Committee to Investigate Assassinations did a
better job in that it set things straight about there being a
conspiracy, it was dumb enough leadership wise to drop promising
leads to go for an "organized crime did it" answer that didn't jell
with most of the real evidence floating around.
Plenty of that evidence was in the form of what had been dug
up over the years by private assassination researchers and also by
investigators for the earlier Warren Commission which had
originally investigated the JFK murder.
When that acoustics evidence was shot out of the water by the
FBI claiming it was flawed and not worth looking at, all the rest
of the evidence floating around that pointed to an actual
conspiracy operating in the Dallas assassination also faded into
oblivion as if it also really hadn't existed in the first place.
The nice thing about the acoustics evidence was that it
actually showed there were two shooters in Dealey Plaza when JFK
was shot. It did that through the Committee conducting a test
firing on the spot from several locations, taping the sound of
gunfire with a battery of microphones strung through Dealey Plaza,
then having a private firm analyze and compare the outcomes of the
control tape. Also analyzed was a tape inadvertently recorded
during the assassination when a radio microphone button jammed open
on a Dallas Police Department motorcycle.
When the control firing tape was compared to the tape recorded
inadvertently by the Dallas Police Department, it was discovered
that there were several shots on the tape, and at least one of them
came from the grassy knoll area in front of the President in
addition to the shots from the Book Depository.
Two shooters in Dealey Plaza automatically meant a conspiracy
at work, since the coincidence factor of two lone nuts deciding on
their own to begin shooting at the President in the same general
area at the same time but from two different locations simply
staggers the imagination.
Besides that, there was plenty of evidence from those
eyewitnesses leading to the conclusion that there were indeed two
shooters at least operating in Dealey Plaza. Some independent
assassination researchers, including some who have gained a
reputation for serious, scholarly research in the JFK shooting,
have postulated that there were probably more based on what is
known of the actual evidence.
But to date there were at least two KNOWN firing locations-the
Book Depository, which is not to say that it was necessarily Lee
Harvey Oswald who did the shooting from there, and from the Grassy
Abraham Zapruder was one of those Dealey Plaza witnesses. He
carried a second witness in his hands in the form of a home movie
camera which recorded the assassination as it occurred and provided
a graphic record of who was hit by gunfire and when.
The Zapruder film's depiction caught the result of a probable
hit to the right temple area of the President's head when it showed
his head head snapping backward in an abrupt, very violent manner
to where JFK actually bounced off of the upright seat cushions from
the force of being thrust back by the shot.
One Dallas motorcycle policeman who was in the motorcade,
Bobby Joe Hargis, was absolutely soaked by pinkish brain matter and
blood that drenched over him like a high-speed fog with enough
force that made him think at first that he also had been hit by
gunfire. Hargis rode to the left rear of Kennedy's position in the
limousine during the motorcade to the Trade Mart, which was just
one indication of a plot at work.
Other witnesses in Dealey Plaza when the shooting occurred
either reported things or took actions that indicated there was
shooting from the knoll area. One railroad worker whose job in a
nearby railway yard tower allowed him a clear view of the grassy
knoll area told investigators, both official and private, that
there had been a puff of smoke or steam from the fence area at the
top of the knoll. When he went down to the area in question
following the shooting, he noticed a lot of tracks and crushed out
cigarette butts which indicated somebody had laid in ambush there
for some time.
Other persons in the same area as Abraham Zapruder, including
one young man fresh out of Army basic training, quickly hit the
deck when it became obvious the shooting was coming from directly
behind them and they were in the line of fire.
One police officer went charging up the Grassy Knoll area to
find a man who flashed an identification card and said he was a
Secret Service man. Secret Service personnel later told the Warren
Commission that all the agents of that department in Dallas that
day had gone to Parkland Hospital with the President following the
And so it went. There were more, more than enough to nail down
the idea of two firing positions and a conspiracy.
In looking at the days leading up to the JFK assassination in
terms of the occurrences that indicated an assassination plot at
work, the time line factor is probably the best one to use to show
how things transpired.
In the month prior to the Dallas trip, for instance, President
Kennedy had been scheduled to attend the Army-Air Force football
game at Soldier's Field in Chicago on Nov. 2 as well as make a
visit to Miami where he spoke at that city's Trade Mart on Nov. 18.
The planned football game attendance was abruptly canceled,
with most political and Presidential observers figuring that the
overthrow and murder of President Diem in South Vietnam the same
day as the football game was the reason why. The common sense
explanation was that Kennedy was either so grieved by the
occurrence in South Vietnam that he didn't want to appear in
public, or it might have caused some large crisis he would have
needed to be in Washington to cope with, or the overthrow of the
South Vietnamese was actually a U.S. Government sanctioned plan and
Kennedy wanted to keep his finger on it.
In this case, as is usual, the common sense explanation for
what happened was totally off the mark and the actual reasons
indicated that the Secret Service and probably JFK also knew that
somebody was out to kill him.
Abraham Bolden, the first black Secret Service agent to serve
on the White House Detail of that organization which is charged
with Presidential protection, was a direct participant in and an
obvious victim of the goings-on relative to the Chicago trip that
That particular Secret Service man was one of the agents
called in to Chicago from his business in the Washington area due
to an investigative effort that the Service was carrying out into
the probability of a hit team being ready to try for JFK in that
Anthony Summers noted in his book CONSPIRACY that Bolden
claimed Chicago Secret Service agents were alerted to a threat
against the President involving a four-man team armed with
high-powered rifles. One of the men, according to what Summers
notes Bolden told him, had a Latin name.
The ex-Secret Service agent also said that two of the suspects
were detained on the eve of the President's arrival and that two
others eluded a surveillance operation. Although one other agent
recalls a threat at that time, he Assassinations Committee found
nothing on the record on that threat. It noted, however, that
President Kennedy's planned visit to Chicago was abruptly canceled
when crowds were already gathering to greet him.
Bolden was reportedly surveilling a Joseph Vallee, a man who
was apparently supposed to be involved in the Presidential murder
plot, when Chicago police moved in and arrested Vallee after a
brief surveillance operation.
An M-1 American Army rifle along with some three thousand
rounds of ammo for it were discovered in the trunk of the car the
suspect had under his control at the time.
Vallee was later sprung out of the Chicago jail system with a
more serious charge against him being bucked down to a misdemeanor
offense of possession of a hunting knife.
The arrested man was a former Marine with a history of mental
illness, Summers noted, and was also a member of the John Birch
Society as well as an outspoken opponent of the Kennedy
administration. He had also arranged to take time off from his job
on the day of the President's arrival.
Bolden, meanwhile, developed problems of his own when he
decided that he wanted to testify before the Warren Commission
following the assassination about shortcomings in Secret Service
protection and/or investigation of the assassination.
What finally happened was that the Secret Service man wound up
going to prison on a conviction of selling government files to a
counterfeiter, which was later shown to have been obtained through
the perjured testimony of the one man to have testified against
Just as strange in its own way was what happened when Kennedy
actually followed through with a visit to Miami just a few days
weeks prior to the Dallas trip.
The Miami Police, as well as police departments elsewhere in
the United States, have their network of informants set up in
relation to a good many things in an effort to keep abreast of
what's happening in the world of crime.
This is just one of the ways that good police officers manage
to get information that will either lead them to the successful
prosecution of a crime that's happened, or in other cases, even
prevent one before it happens.
In this case, the latter was what happened during the Miami
On November 9 Captain Charles Sapp, the head of the Miami
Police Department's Intelligence Bureau, sat listening to a fuzzy
tape recording of a conversation between one of the department's
informants and Joseph Milteer, a wealthy joiner of extremist groups
such as the White Citizens' Council of Atlanta, the Congress of
Freedom and the National States Rights Party (which had close links
with the anti-Castro movement).
Milteer noted on the tape that "You can bet your bottom dollar
he is going to have a lot to say about the Cubans. There are so
many of them here." Milteer then went on to say in a response to
the informant's observation about Kennedy having a thousand
bodyguards that "The more bodyguards he has, the easier it is to
"Well, how in the hell do you figure would be the best way to
get him?" the informant asked.
"From an office building with a high-powered rifle . . ."
Milteer said. "He knows he's a marked man . . ."
"They are really going to try to kill him?" the informant
"Oh, yeah, it is in the working . . . ." Milteer responded.
"Boy, if that Kennedy gets shot, we have got to know where we
are at. Because you know that will be a real shake if they do
that," the informant noted.
"They wouldn't leave any stone unturned there, no way. They
will pick up somebody within hours afterwards, if anything like
that would happen. Just to throw the public off," Milteer
Sapp and his team of a dozen specialized detectives had
provided security on Kennedy twice before when he had visited
Miami, working closely with the local Secret Service and the FBI,
providing backup intelligence and support on the ground.
The major security problem with Miami was its population of
well over a hundred thousand Cuban exiles, which Sapp had seven
months earlier had warned of his chief of as a growing danger.
Sapp's contention then was that "violence hitherto directed
against Castro's Cuba would now be directed toward various
governmental agencies in the United States" as a result of the
President's crackdown on exile raids against the Castro regime.
When Sapp heard the tape, he feared that there might be an
attempt on President Kennedy's life when he arrived for his
November 18 visit in Miami.
Sapp ensured that a warning about the Milteer tape went to the
FBI and the Secret Service with a special notation about Milteer's
remark that the President's assassination was "in the working."
While the Secret Service did check on Milteer's whereabouts,
he was not questioned nor arrested. The agents responsible for the
President's safety in Miami did get briefed on the matter, and a
last-minute change in plans was made in the visit.
What happened was that a planned motorcade was canceled, Sapp
recalled to Summers, for fear of trouble from the anti-Castro
On arriving at Miami Airport late in the day, the President
then went into Miami via a helicopter, spoke at the Americana
Hotel, then was flown back to the airport after the speech. Then he
got back on board Air Force One and flew back home.
As in the case of the Chicago incident, the Secret Service
failed to mention the Miami scare to the agents responsible for
advance planning for the trip to Texas. Dallas was four days away.
The morning of November 22 members of the Presidential party
noticed the black-lined full-page ad in a local newspaper which
accused the President of various un-American activities such as
selling out to Castro, operating in line with "the spirit of
Moscow" and other nefarious activities.
By the time Air Force One reached Love Field in downtown
Dallas, several key actors in the upcoming drama were already in
Lee Harvey Oswald was at work in the Texas School book
Depository after being given a ride there by Buell Wesley Frazier,
who questioned him at the beginning of the drive downtown about
what he had in a long, wrapped package.
Oswald had replied that they were curtain rods he had picked
up at the home of Ruth Paine, where his wife Marina and his
daughter June were staying during one of the estrangements Oswald
and his wife had over the months.
On the eve of the assassination, Jack Ruby appeared to have
gone about his usual night club business until the late evening.
Shortly before 10 pm he went out to dinner with his old crony Ralph
Paul, who ran a local drive-in restaurant. After that, Ruby's moves
became more interesting.
A friend of Ruby's from Chicago, Lawrence Meyers, had earlier
in the evening invited the night club operator over to the hotel
where he was staying, the Cabana, for a drink, which Ruby complied
with. The two men talked for a few minutes, Meyers said later, then
Ruby said he had to return to his club. But one of Ruby's employees
later said that as late as 2:30 a.m. Ruby had called from the
Cabana. While it is hard to tell who Ruby had visited if he had not
been with his old friend from his Chicago days, he had to be
meeting someone there. The question remains of who it was.
On the morning of the assassination, there are conflicting
reports of where Ruby was at. Most of the morning he dallied for
hours in the offices of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. He was there for
breakfast, and he made himself obvious to a number of employees
during the morning.
About half an hour prior to the assassination, one woman who
was caught in a traffic jam near the overpass in Dealey Plaza later
told private researchers and official investigators, she had
noticed Ruby driving a pickup truck which had parked at the bottom
of the grassy knoll area with its right wheels up on the sidewalk.
A man got out of the right side of the pickup truck, plucked
a long, wrapped object out of the bed of the truck, then went up
the slope of the knoll area toward the fence area where the
Assassinations Committee years later would show with its acoustics
evidence that some of the gunfire during the assassination came
But Ruby was also noticed at the morning newspaper also in the
half hour prior to the assassination, being in the advertising
department with cash in hand to pay for his club ads which was a
departure from normal custom for Ruby. Usually he was erratic in
payments and tardy in submitting advertising copy to the newspaper.
Ruby was also noticed in the advertising department just after
the shots rang out in Dealey Plaza, which is located just a few
blocks away from the newspaper.
Some private investigators of the assassination figure that
one of the reasons that Ruby was at the newspaper was for an alibi,
at least at the time period leading up to the assassination.
The President, meanwhile, flew from Fort Worth where he and
Jackie and the rest of his entourage had spent the night following
his political appearance in that town, then the motorcade assembled
and headed for the downtown area along the motorcade route.
There are several explanations of the chronology of events
during the actual shooting that have been advanced from available
evidence over the years, depending on what interpretation of
available evidence one wants to put the most belief in.
The Assassinations Committee postulated two firing
positions-one in the School Book Depository Building with Lee
Harvey Oswald firing two shots which actually struck and killed the
President with another shooter firing from the Grassy Knoll area
who missed the President.
Most serious students and researchers who have looked into the
JFK assassination take into consideration what the Assassinations
Committee did not, figuring that the backward snap of the
President's head was caused by the impact of a bullet fired from
the Grassy Knoll in front of the President which hit him in the
right temple. Several eyewitnesses told news reporters following
the assassination that the President was hit in the right temple,
which is awfully hard to tie in to the Grassy Knoll shooter
missing. There is also the fact that Bobby Joe Hargis, the
motorcycle officer to the left rear of the President, was spattered
with the President's brain matter, which also indicates a gunshot
which hit the President's right temple from where it was fired from
the Grassy Knoll area.
The general sequence of events most heard from assassination
researchers is as follows:
-The Presidential limousine made the hairpin curve into Dealey
Plaza into the killing zone between the Book Depository and the
Grassy Knoll area at low speed, then rolled onward at approximately
10 miles per hour.
-When the gunfire began, most people were reminded of the
sound of firecrackers, which ties in with the type of report that
a small-caliber round such as the 5.56 mm or .223 caliber round
which the military M-16 round uses.
-JFK was probably first hit in the back by a shot from the
rear. Occupants of the Presidential limousine recalled later that
Kennedy said, "My God, I'm hit" just after the firing began.
-The second shot, probably fired from the front, apparently
hit JFK in the throat. When the assassination sequence is viewed by
watching the Zapruder film, the limousine is hid for a brief time
by a "Stemmons Freeway" traffic sign. When the limousine emerges
from behind the sign in the Zapruder film, JFK is clutching at his
throat. Apparently his vocal cords have been shot out and he is
incapable of making a sound after this. Parkland Hospital doctors
reported that the tracheotomy incision they made in the President's
throat was emplaced into an already-existing bullet hole.
-John Connally, then the governor of Texas, is hit by another
gunshot from the rear as he attempts to look around at President
Kennedy. His cheeks puff out from the air being forced from his
lungs and further reaction to his gunshot wound follows.
-Finally, John F. Kennedy is hit by what is apparently the
last bullet to reach a target during the assassination, when he is
hit in the right temple and his body is thrown backward violently
against the back cushion of his car seat, with his brains being
sprayed out over the left rear of the open limousine.
The mayhem following any violent event such as a murder
started then. The limousine started accelerating, while Jackie
Kennedy in shock began climbing onto the trunk of the car in a
futile effort to recover some of the debris from the head of the
by-then-dead President. A Secret Service agent gallops up to the
rear of the car as it begins to accelerate, hops on board the rear
and forces Mrs. Kennedy back inside. The vehicles of the motorcade
begin rolling to Parkland Hospital at high speed as Jesse Curry,
then the Dallas police chief, broadcasts orders for officers to get
up on the overpass at the south end of the plaza and find out what
happened up there.
When the President's body reaches Parkland Hospital, various
lifesaving techniques are tried in vain, including the placing of
the tracheotomy and placement of air tubes into the chest area.
Those measures prove futile since it's practically impossible for
anybody to remain alive with almost half their head blown off by
Jack Ruby once again enters the situation by being spotted by
persons who knew him at Parkland Hospital. Speculation arises later
that he had planted the so-called "Magic Bullet," which the Warren
Commission later insists wounded both Kennedy and Connally yet only
lost a few grains of its total weight and remained in practically
its original shape despite going through two men, and hitting
several large, hard bones on the way. Any other bullet would have
been severely flattened on its front end but the "Magic Bullet" was
As the saga of the conspiracy behind the Kennedy assassination
unfolds, we find that the Secret Service was in fishy waters up to
its earlobes when it was decided it was high time to get the
Presidential party out of Dallas.
Once again we have a discrepancy between what the official
story was as to the reason for getting out of Dallas against what
the real reason could have been with a conspiracy at work.
The official story was a twofold one, which held that it was
decided somehow that the feelings of Jacqueline Kennedy were to be
spared the ordeal of staying in Dallas any longer and possibly
having to come back later for an inquest, along with a very real
sense of uncertainty about what was actually occurring. It was
thought by some of the Presidential party that the death of
President Kennedy could have been the opening salvo of a coup
d'etat and others, such as vice president Lyndon Baines Johnson
could well be next. Better to pull up stakes fast and get to the
airport, then get airborne for Washington as fast as possible
before anybody else got shot. After all, there were killers in the
On the other hand, what the hasty departure from Parkland
Hospital also did was ensure that no independent and accurate
autopsy was done on the body of JFK. With the departure of the
corpse from the hands of then-Dallas County Medical Examiner Earl
Rose, the way was clear for a fast surgical alteration of the way
the head looked, as far as the wound trajectory patterns were
concerned, and also to probably get any bullet fragments dug out of
the brain area so that manufactured evidence could be used against
Lee Harvey Oswald.
Rose, in fact, did object to any idea of the Secret Service
and the Presidential party taking the corpse out of Dallas prior to
an autopsy being held there, but he had one main problem with
that-he was heavily outnumbered by men who were simply not about to
listen to reason.
Aubrey Rike, who at the time of the assassination worked for
the O'Neal funeral home which supplied the bronze casket the
President supposedly rode back to Washington in, noted that the
argument over whether the body should stay or go was one of the
scariest things he had ever seen in his life.
Vernon O'Neal's funeral home had the contract for part of the
ambulance service in Dallas in November of 1963. Rike, along with
"Peanuts" McGuire, another O'Neal employee, had helped put
President Kennedy's body into the bronze Brittanica casket after
JFK was pronounced dead. The casket had been lined with what Rike
described as a heavy plastic sheet that is normally used for
bedwetters and other cases where body fluids leak. The body was
then wrapped in sheets and put into the coffin.
Vernon O'Neal then closed the casket and the three men, along
with the Catholic priest present, were not allowed to leave the
room at the behest of the Secret Service. Mrs. Kennedy came in
twice, once to put a ring on her husband's finger and a second time
after the casket was closed.
About the pushing match over the coffin, Rike told Lifton that
"I was scared to death. I was scared all the time I was there . .
. Dallas wanted to do an autopsy. The government wanted the casket
out. The government said `Take it out'; Dallas would say `Bring it
back.' You know, we'd start pushing, and somebody would grab us,
and push us back, and pull the casket back. You'd have to see it to
Rike also added that " . . . it was the most unorganized,
scary type situation that I have ever been in in my life. I'm a
policeman now and I've been up against all kinds of stuff," in his
interview with Lifton.
Another angle of view to the brouhaha over the coffin was
provided by William Manchester in his book DEATH OF A PRESIDENT. In
Manchester's narrative of the incident, Earl Rose confronted the
Kennedy forces led by Roy Kellerman, head of the White House detail
of the Secret Service at the time of the assassination in the
hallway of Parkland Hospital.
"Rose . . . turned to leave the nurse's station. Kellerman
blocked the way. In his most deliberate drawl, Roy said, `My
friend, this is the body of the President of the united States, and
we are going to take it back to Washington.'
"`No, that's not the way things are.' Rose wagged his finger.
`When there's a homicide, we must have an autopsy.'
"`He is the President. He is going with us.'
"Rose lashed back, `The body stays.'
"`My friend, my name is Roy Kellerman. I am the Special Agent
in charge of the White House Detail of the Secret Service. We are
taking President Kennedy back to the capital.'
"`You are not taking THE BODY anywhere. There's a law here.
We're going to enforce it.'"
Then Dr. Burkley, the White House physician, entered the fray.
"`Mrs. Kennedy is going to stay exactly where she is until the
body is moved. We can't have that.'" Rose wouldn't budge.
"`It's the President of the United States!`" Burkley said.
"`That doesn't matter,' Rose replied. `You can't lose the
chain of evidence.'"
But that's exactly what happened, since the body of John F.
Kennedy disappeared from the coffin it was supposed to be in during
the trip to Bethesda Naval Medical Center.
The casket was wheeled to the hearse and put inside,
Jacqueline Kennedy climbed inside and sat next to the casket, and
the Secret Service commandeered the O'Neal hearse and drove to the
airport. The hearse arrived at Air Force One at Love Field at 2:14
p.m., and Secret Service personnel and Air Force One staff helped
carry the casket up the ramp. Secret Service reports noted that the
casket was in place at 2:18 p.m. on the aircraft, and by 2:47 p.m.
Air force One was airborne following the swearing-in of Lyndon
Baines Johnson as President.
The casket, ostensibly holding the body of President John F.
Kennedy, was placed in the Boeing 707's tail compartment in the
quarters normally used for Secret Service agents and White House
staff, against the port side of the aircraft just forward of the
From the time the casket went aboard the plane at Love Field
in Dallas to the time the plane landed at Andrews Air Force Base,
Maryland, somebody apparently got that body out of that coffin.
They then somehow got it off the airplane and to some location
during an approximate 20-minute travel gap between Andrews and
Bethesda Naval Medical Center. The object in getting the body to
that unknown location was for purposes of surgical alteration of
the President's head, which made the wound trajectory patterns look
different to a degree at Bethesda than they did at Parkland. These
conclusions were the result of David Lifton's research into the
head wound patterns and were based on actual interviews with Navy
enlisted men who worked at the Bethesda morgue on the night that
the autopsy was performed on the President.
The Parkland doctors who worked on JFK when he was brought to
that hospital, with the exception of just one, stated that a large
exit hole was located in the rear of JFK's head at Parkland, which
implied that he had been shot from the front.
The official conclusions by the Warren Commission and the
Assassinations Committee, which were based on the official autopsy
report which was based on autopsy findings at Bethesda, put the
exit wound at the front right of Kennedy's head which meant he got
shot in the head from behind, namely by Lee Harvey Oswald.
What that meant, Lifton noted in BEST EVIDENCE, was that
surgical head wound trajectory alteration twisted the main piece of
evidence-the body-around so that it was made to lie.
Earl Rose, the Dallas County Medical Examiner, was also
correct in stating during his tussle with the Secret Service that
the chain of evidence had to be preserved. What he meant was that
it had to be proven to a jury or a judge in a trial of anybody
connected with the murder of the President that JFK had been shot
at point A, pronounced dead at point B, autopsied at point C, a
report prepared at D, and so on, with no break in the chain of
possession of the body at any point along the way. If the chain
were broken, the entire process would be flawed and the results of
the autopsy would also be flawed and tossed out of court as
evidence. The autopsy report just wouldn't exist as evidence, in
In the end, that is exactly what happened since the
whereabouts of the body was unknown from the time Air Force One
landed at Andrews Air Force Base until the time it showed up at
Bethesda-since there was no accounting for where it was exactly at
all times, the autopsy report was flawed and therefore worthless as
evidence. If Lee Harvey Oswald had not been killed by Jack Ruby and
had gone to trial, Dallas County authorities would have had to do
without an autopsy report and their case would probably have been
gravely weakened. This is in addition to the spectre of conspiracy
raising its head in the disappearance of the body for that small
length of time along with the appearance of the head wounds being
different at Bethesda than it was at Parkland.
The story of the arrival of John F. Kennedy's body at Bethesda
Naval Medical Center begins with personnel at that facility being
informed of the arrival of the President's body and how the autopsy
proceedings would be handled, as well as security arrangements
surrounding the autopsy.
J. S. Layton Ledbetter was Chief of the Day for the Medical
Center Command, and was one of those persons who were aware of the
fact that the President's body was at the hospital before it was
supposed to have arrived in the motorcade from Andrews Air Force
Ledbetter had reported to Bethesda for work at perhaps 4:20,
shortly before his shift as Chief of the Day was to start at 4:30
p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963. A phone call came in from "downtown" as
Ledbetter called it as he walked in and he took the call, with the
news the call conveyed being that the President's body would be
coming to Bethesda.
While he was taking the call, three Secret Service agents
showed up at his office.
"I answered the phone. The White House wanted to speak to the
Officer of the Day, and . . . these three gentlemen walked up to me
and they said: `Are you Chief Ledbetter? Do you have the Chief of
the Day watch today?' And I said, `Yes, sir, I do. Can I help you?'
He said, `We're Secret Service men receiving the body of President
Kennedy back here, and . . . there's already twenty-six of us here
on the compound.' They identified themselves."
Ledbetter's contact was limited to those three Secret Service
agents along with "a few more" later on but they made it perfectly
clear to him that from that point forward the autopsy was a Secret
Lifton noted that the Secret Service men seen by Ledbetter at
4:20 p.m. were as unknown to the official records of the
investigation as the so-called Secret Service men that some persons
ran into on the Grassy Knoll. Assuming the ones at Bethesda who
spoke with Ledbetter were authentic, the only conclusion Lifton
could reach was that the Secret Service had sent a contingent of
operatives to Bethesda but never chose to reveal that to the Warren
Commission or the FBI.
Ledbetter referred the group of agents to the Administrative
Duty Officer, and arrangements were made for the handling of the
The Chief's account made it clear that by 4:30, some two and
a half hours prior to the time the body got to the hospital, agents
were at the hospital and had made detailed arrangements as to who
would conduct the Presidential autopsy, Lifton noted.
Dennis David, for instance, was Chief of the Day for the
Medical School which was located at Bethesda Naval Hospital the day
of JFK's murder.
David also told Lifton when interviewed by that author that
the coffin that arrived in the ambulance at the front of Bethesda
with Jackie Kennedy was empty. This was the big bronze Brittanica
job that was offloaded from Air Force One at Andrews while the one
military helicopter was flying away from the right side of the
David, who retired from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander in
the Medical Service Corps, was a Petty Officer First Class (E-6) on
Nov. 22, 1963, and was an editor of training manuals for Hospital
Corpsmen affiliated with the U.S. Navy Medical School at Bethesda.
He was Chief of the Day for the Medical School on Nov. 22 and
when he heard about the assassination went to the office of the
Master at Arms and sat there listening to the radio with Dr.
Boswell, one of the doctors who later were involved in the autopsy.
At about 5 or 5:30 p.m., David noted to Lifton, the radio
announcer reported that Kennedy's body was being flown in from
Texas and would be taken to the Medical School. The Chief of the
Day for the Medical Center Command was in touch with him within
fifteen minutes, David added, and Secret Service agents were also
at the hospital. "They called us together . . . I was asked to get
a certain number of people to help guard the doors, to stand at the
elevators, to act as roving patrols to keep sightseers and other
morbid people out," Dennis David told Lifton. David also had to
make telephone calls to various members of the morgue crew so that
they would come in to the morgue for the upcoming autopsy.
When David got to the point where he described the arrival of
the coffin with JFK's body for Lifton the surprises really started.
What the ex-Navy man recounted was the arrival of the body via the
back door of the hospital rather than the front, some thirty
minutes prior to the arrival of the bronze casket that it was
supposed to be in, and in a plain, gray shipping casket instead of
the bronze casket it was supposed to have arrived in at the front
of the Bethesda facility later.
David said that the plain shipping casket arrived with JFK's
body at approximately 6:40 p.m. at the rear loading dock of the
Medical Center, in a black Cadillac hearse with no markings on it,
with two attendants in the front and six or seven men in back with
the casket whom David assumed were Secret Service men. The men in
the rear of the hearse opened the vehicle up and they, along with
some of the sailors at the medical facility, unloaded the casket
from the hearse and took it into the morgue, David said.
The black Cadillac hearse had come down a street at the rear
of the Naval medical facility and pulled up at a loading dock at
the rear of the building, David noted, and while he personally did
not see Kennedy's body being taken from the shipping casket after
it went into the morgue Dr. Boswell told him later that JFK's
corpse had been in the shipping casket. David also noted that it
was obvious that there was something in the shipping casket because
if it was empty six to eight men would have bounced it around as
they were carrying it. This shipping casket did not bounce and you
could see the men carrying it strain as they did, he noted.
Dennis David also noted that he had been on the balcony on the
interior of the front of the Medical Center building approximately
half an hour later when the official motorcade with the bronze
"official" casket arrived from Andrews Air Force Base. The ex-Navy
man noted that it was obvious that the bronze casket was empty when
it was brought in because of being told by one of the autopsy
doctors earlier that it had come in by way of the shipping casket.
The men Dennis David worked with also discussed the matter,
and he recalled that one conversation that he and some of the other
Bethesda personnel had with one of the federal agents as to why
there had been so much rigmarole with more than one ambulance being
involved in getting the body to Bethesda. The answer that the
federal agent gave was that it was necessary to keep a bit more
control that would be necessary on the process because it was
feared that somebody might attempt to hijack the corpse, or there
might be delays due to people perhaps gathering around and slowing
While Dennis David had lost sight of the shipping casket with
JFK's body in it when it went into the morgue, persons inside the
morgue automatically got their first glimpse of the conveyance that
the deceased President's body arrived in as it entered.
One of those persons was Paul Kelly O'Connor, who along with
James Jenkins had the duty of preparing the body of the dead
President for the autopsy.
O'Connor had been assigned to pathology at the medical school,
and that was his duty station the day John Kennedy was shot. When
the news hit Bethesda that the President had been shot, all classes
were canceled and everybody was told to report to their duty
station, according to O'Connor's recollection. That meant he had to
report to the morgue, where he and Jenkins were told that they were
confined to the morgue and they were going to have an "important
visitor" that night. That was the first they knew the President was
on his way to Bethesda, O'Connor said.
The body came into the morgue in a shipping casket, O'Connor
noted, which is nothing but a cheap casket used to move dead
persons from one location where they died at to whatever their
destination might be. O'Connor described the shipping casket as a
sort of slate gray color that was kind of pinkish on the edges.
The surprise that O'Connor provided was that when the lid of
the coffin was undone by unscrewing the screws that held it down
the President's body was not wrapped in sheets as Aubrey Rike said
he had been in Dallas, but was instead discovered in a body bag.
O'Connor, who had worked in a funeral home in his Indiana hometown
as a teenager, described a body bag as nothing but a rubber bag
that bodies are put into after a disaster or other violent incident
which is zipped up, the same sort of bag that dead soldiers were
brought back from Vietnam in.
The President's body was naked from head to toe, O'Connor
recollected, with only a sheet being wrapped around the head.
Normally the brain is removed from a corpse for examination during
an autopsy, O'Connor told Lifton, but that just couldn't be done in
the case of JFK due to the fact that there was literally no brain
left in his head.
O'Connor, who at the time Lifton interviewed him believed the
Warren Report, said that the wound to his head was "terrific," and
measured some eight by four inches. It also stretched from the
right rear of the head to the right temple area of the head when
O'Connor first saw Kennedy's body, in comparison to a much smaller
wound in the right rear of the head seen by the doctors at Parkland
The ex-funeral home worker told Lifton that he believed the
bullet must have literally blown all the brains out of Kennedy's
head, due to the fact that the head was literally totally empty.
There were some small bits of brain left in the head, but for the
greatest part there was no brain left in the head. There was no
need to remove the skullcap and open the skull as is usually done
in an autopsy, O'Connor noted. These guys in the Bethesda morgue
did not have to do that. They just looked right down into the head
through that huge hole and noticed there was nothing left in the
The autopsy doctors noticed it also and O'Connor noted that
they were "aghast" when that detail of the President's condition at
the start of the autopsy was noted, probably due to the fact there
was no brain left in the head and the severity of the wound. The
morgue technicians didn't have to tell Commander Humes,the chief
autopsy surgeon, that there was no brain, O'Connor said.
The appearance of the dead President really must have shaken
Commander Humes up, from the way O'Connor described his reaction.
"He was scared to death," O'Connor told Lifton.
O'Connor had also noted that he was afraid also, because that
sort of situation on first looking at a corpse was not normal. He
was also just a junior enlisted guy with a bunch of big Admirals
and whatnot about. " . . . I just decided to keep my mouth shut,"
James Curtis Jenkins, also in charge of prepping the body for
autopsy along with O'Connor, noted that when he first saw the body
it had a hole in the head that had taken off at least one third of
the skull which was gone. The hole extended toward the rear, with
fragments that seemed to be hanging on, and which seemed to have
been exploded toward the rear. Jenkins, who had previous exposure
to the effects of gunshot wounds, expressed the belief that Kennedy
had been shot in the head from the front. He had not noticed a
frontal entry wound and assumed it had been blown away when the
bullet struck, and concluded that the bullet must have struck from
the right front.
The next day, Jenkins noted, "I found out that supposedly he
had been shot from the back. I just, you know, I just couldn't
believe it, and have never been able to believe it.
"I was very surprised by the conclusion . . . it was really
kind of shocking to me. I guess I accepted it because of the
circumstances I was in . . . But, I mean, I didn't accept it as
Lifton noted in his book that it was clear from speaking with
Jenkins that he was very frightened by the experience. He had left
the autopsy room convinced of the fact that Kennedy had been shot
from front to back, only to find out from the next day's newspapers
that the opposite had been reached as an autopsy conclusion. "It
frightened me," he said. "I did not discuss it with anybody for
many, many years, but I followed it very closely . . . I eventually
discussed it with my wife."
The official story surrounding the autopsy held that
conclusions about how Kennedy was shot and from what direction were
reached the night of the autopsy, but Jenkins recalled that this
was not the case.
"There were no conclusions that night," Jenkins told Lifton.
What Jenkins heard at the autopsy table he described as
"There were some speculations-discussions-between the three
physicians, with a couple of other people-I don't know who they
were. They seemed to be in charge, or seemed to be some type of
authority," Jenkins said.
Jenkins didn't know who those civilians were who had the
discussions with the doctors, but what they were talking about with
the doctors was an obvious source of friction.
When the conversations came around to the fatal shot, Jenkins
noted, "There were some discussions, questions asked, and things of
that nature. but it was all kind of in a manner of-you know,
searching for a conclusion, as opposed to drawing a conclusion."
As to the role of the civilians, Jenkins said that "The people
running around in civilian clothes . . . had a preconcluded idea,
and . . . because it was not panning out, you know, they were
VERY-there were a lot of animosities, to be quite frank with you .
. . there were very short tempers. Things of that nature."
"You mean-`tensions'?" Lifton asked him.
"Yes," Jenkins replied, "that you kind of feel."
Jenkins also told Lifton that it was his impression that
"animosity" was directed toward the people doing the
autopsy-Doctors Humes, Boswell and Finck. " . . . you know, this
would be found, and somebody would say, `No, that's not right;
can't be . . .' that type of thing," Jenkins noted.
Jenkins also noted that at the time he felt like Dr. Humes and
Commander Boswell were getting irritated during the autopsy, and
got the idea on his own that the two doctors were somehow being
Jenkins also noted that the source of the overall irritation
in the morgue was the two or three civilians who were there during
the autopsy, but he really didn't know who they were. "I don't know
what they were, or who they were, or what their functions were, or
anything of that nature," Jenkins noted in the Lifton interview.
Jenkins had been preoccupied with the medical details of the
examination and didn't remember much about the civilians. He was
tied down with handing doctors instruments, making sure the
specimens were available, taking down weights of various things and
handling other chores connected with the autopsy.
Jenkins also noted that there were more than five men in
civilian clothes at the morgue during the autopsy, pointing out
that he could not give Lifton an exact number. He noted that many
more were present and they were sitting in the "gallery" section of
the morgue that was a bit removed from the morgue proper but
afforded a clear view of the proceedings.
While Jenkins was a bit vague during the interview on some
aspects of the autopsy proceedings, his recall on the controversy
over the neck trajectory was vivid. The wound at the front of the
throat was assumed throughout the autopsy to be a tracheotomy, he
said. But the civilians who seemed to be in charge seemed to be
trying to get Humes to conclude that a bullet passed from back to
front through the body. Jenkins had a clear recollection that this
sort of thing was not possible, and remembered very clearly Humes
probing the back wound with his little finger.
"What sticks out in my mind is the fact that Commander Humes
put his little finger in it, and, you know said that . . . he could
probe the bottom of it with his finger, which would mean to me [it
was] very narrow," Jenkins noted. After the body was opened and the
organs removed, Jenkins watched the doctors probe it again and
remembered looking inside the chest cavity and seeing the probe
through the bottom of the lining of the chest cavity, which also
indicated that the wound was not very deep.
Jenkins also noted that he had assumed the autopsy report
would have concluded that the President had been shot once in the
back from behind and the bullet could not be found during the
autopsy, and that the second shot to the head had come from the
In explaining how the autopsy report had come to be written
the way it was, going along with the standing Warren Commission and
Assassination Committee reports that the shots that hit Kennedy
both came from behind, Jenkins straightforwardly said that Humes
was a "super-military type of person," not in that he was
authoritarian in nature but that he was concerned with his next
promotion and his military career in general.
"He was the type of individual that would do anything anybody
above him told him to do . . . my personal feeling is that he was
probably directed to write the autopsy report." Jenkins also told
Lifton that he has always assumed that those types of directions
came from someone outside the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Lifton noted
that the chain of command was pretty short at the level the autopsy
was performed at-Humes's senior officers were the commanding
officer of the medical school, the Commanding Officer of the
Medical Center, and the U.S. Surgeon General. "And then you're
either at the Joint Chiefs of Staff or orders from the White
House," Lifton observed. Jenkins replied that "I didn't say that,
you did." Lifton noted in the book he wrote based on his findings
that it was obvious Jenkins had given the matter some thought and
was not comfortable discussing it.
What Jenkins had to say also cast some doubt on the fact that
despite that fact that Kennedy's body was altered, it was not
altered sufficiently to create the unambiguous appearance of a shot
from the rear. The former morgue attendant noted that when the body
arrived in the autopsy room, at least a third of the skullbone was
not attached. Fragments were in the coffin while some were attached
to the scalp. He noted that the right rear and right side of the
head was a large gaping area, but that most of the bones were still
there and were put back together during the autopsy. "It had just
been crushed, and kind of blown apart, toward the rear," Jenkins
said. In short, despite the wound pattern being different then, it
did not give the unambiguous appearance of a back-to-front shot. It
did later after the head area was filled in with plaster of paris,
The main thing Jenkins derived from the autopsy was that the
President was shot in the head from the front, and that fact was
covered up from the start. Lifton noted that during the
conversation he had with Jenkins the man was still frightened. The
former corpsman was also very incredulous about the veracity and
credibility of the federal government in the wake of the mangled
"Every time there seems to be something of importance that
affects the nation, and I'm told one way by the government, I'm
skeptical about it. Because this (the JFK assassination) was
probably the most significant thing that had happened in this
country in God knows how long, and my feelings are that the people
themselves were just-well, to be quite frank-lied to about it, and
for what reason I have no idea. I don't want to speculate on
that-those types of things. If it's happened in something this
important, this dramatic-I had almost wished I had not been there.
. . ."
There was a postscript to Lifton's interview with Jenkins that
the author included in his book about the head wound trajectory
alteration. Andrew Purdy, lawyer with the Assassinations Committee,
got hold of Jenkins in 1978 while that probe was still going on,
and Jenkins told him he would be happy to talk to him, if he had
proper identification. He also requested that the interview be
conducted in his Congressman's office.
Purdy went to Jackson, Mississippi, where Jenkins was a
student at the time, and Purdy was accompanied by staff
investigator James P. Kelley. The interview the two men held with
Jenkins lasted some three and a half hours.
No tape recording was made and no stenographic record was
made. Jenkins thought that Kelley might have made a few handwritten
notes. Jenkins told Lifton later that it quickly became apparent
that Purdy and Kelley were not really interested in what he had to
say nor his opinion, but merely wanted him to answer their
questions. "I did feel a little intimidated," Jenkins told Lifton.
But while the body did enter the medical facility by way of a
plain shipping casket and a body bag as the technicians who worked
at the morgue the night of JFK's murder have noted, the arrival of
the bronze casket and the necessity to get that casket back
together with the corpse had to be done somehow to keep anybody
from getting wise to the fact that they had been separated. It
brings to mind the old American military saying among clerks that
"It's all done with smoke and mirrors" in reference to some
standard ploys that sometimes have to be engaged in due to the
necessity for getting the job done.
Proof that the body and the Dallas casket were reunited came
from James E. Metzler, who was an eyewitness to and probably a
participant in the arrival of the body inside the Dallas casket. He
was a hospital corpsman third class at the time of the autopsy but
was only in the room for five or ten minutes, and was then asked to
leave the morgue.
Metzler was in the lab school at Bethesda at the time, and had
chosen the morgue watch for the type work he did at Bethesda when
he was not attending classes because he thought it was more
interesting than watching for fires in the barracks at night, which
was the alternative.
"I was just there for maybe about five or ten minutes when
they brought in President Kennedy [to the morgue] . . . we got a
call from upstairs-they said they were bringing him in by decoy
around the back. So I went out back and sure enough, there was the
honor guard (supplied by the Military District of Washington which
usually provides funeral honor guards)." Metzler told Lifton that
he had heard there was a helicopter somewhere that was apparently
part of the decoy scheme, and some sort of measure was used to keep
people away from the area when the body was brought in, according
to information Metzler had heard during the few days following the
autopsy. He did tell Lifton that it was common knowledge in the
hospital that the Kennedys had arrived after the body did. That
honor guard had escorted the bronze casket into the hospital.
Metzler also noted to Lifton that he went to the door to the
loading dock and they brought the casket in, after which the honor
guard had to leave. Then Metzler helped put Kennedy on the table
with about four other people.
Kennedy was all in a sheet and his head was wrapped in a sheet
also, according to Metzler, when he was taken out of the viewing
casket that the honor guard had brought into the rear of Bethesda.
One of the sheets was wrapped completely around the entire
body while the other one was wrapped around the head, Metzler told
It was then that Metzler was requested to leave the morgue.
"The pathologist told me I could go-they had everything they
needed," Metzler noted. "They hadn't started the autopsy yet. They
were just about to begin."
What Metzler encountered on his way out of the morgue through
the area where the various refrigerated chillboxes were located
where bodies were temporarily kept prior to autopsies being
performed was also interesting.
Metzler walked out of the morgue into the anteroom with the
chillboxes in it along with a desk and a telephone. Big double
doors open from the anteroom into the morgue itself, with its
amphitheater and the two autopsy tables.
What he encountered was a group of men in plainclothes, about
ten of them, whom he had always assumed were FBI men. He really did
not know which government agency they represented, though.
The men did have what Metzler referred to as a "roster," which
was a list of names of persons who were supposed to be in the
morgue during the autopsy. Metzler's immediate problem after
walking into the anteroom was that his name was not on the list.
" . . . when I left, they asked me for my identification, and
I gave it to them, and they saw that my name was not on the list to
be in the room, because I had been in the room before they came.
"I guess they were guarding who comes in and who goes
out-security, part of it . . . Because when I came out into the
refrigerated room, this one guy says, `What's your name?' and I
told him and he looked down at his list and he said `Let me see
your ID card' and they looked it that-there's a picture on it, of
course-[and] they said, `His name isn't on the list.' And the other
guy steps across the door, so you can't open the door, you know, it
[was] really kind of spooky. . . ."
The strange men in the anteroom wrote down his name, and he
was cut loose, then went upstairs to let one of the officers in
charge know that his name wasn't on the list because Metzler didn't
want him to get into any trouble.
Interestingly enough, it was also Metzler's idea that from the
way the wound was located toward the back of the head that
President Kennedy must have been shot in the head from the front.
Metzler was not adamant about it, Lifton noted, and when he later
read that the official autopsy concluded otherwise, he simply
assumed that he was wrong.
Metzler also thought that when the sheet was taken off, you
could see a brain, or part of a brain, within the cranial vault of
All the preceding persons whom Lifton interviewed about their
experiences who said that when JFK's body arrived at the Bethesda
morgue the wound pattern was indicative of a shot from the front
were not the only ones who said that. The two X-ray technicians who
were called in to contribute their expertise to the autopsy of the
dead President also said that the wound trajectory looked like it
was mainly a front-to-back wound pattern to the head.
Edward Reed was twenty years old when he was an X-ray
technician at Bethesda in 1963, and the front to back trajectory
appearance was what he remembered also. He told Lifton that he
relied on the location of the large head wound that was "more
posterior than anterior" in forming the opinion that the President
was shot in the head from the front.
It was about six months before he realized that the official
version of the autopsy conflicted with the opinions he had drawn
from the actual appearance of the body on the night of the autopsy,
and it was hard form him to accept the official version when he
discovered what it was.
Jerrol Custer, the other X-ray technician, said that the
President's head wound was enormous, so enormous that "I could put
both of my hands in the wound . . . ." Custer also believed that
Kennedy had been shot from the front, and pointed out that when a
person goes hunting the bullet goes into the body small and comes
out large. That is exactly how the skull looked in relation to the
front-to-back appearance of the wound trajectory, he told Lifton.
While Custer held that view in November of 1963, he shrugged
it off when the official version was publicized due to the fact
that he was a "lowly X-ray technologist . . . and all of these
so-called experts were saying this didn't happen. I just
figured-well, maybe I could be wrong."
Custer also told Lifton that he exposed, and returned to the
morgue, X-rays showing that the rear of the President's head was
By the end of the conversation Lifton had with Custer, the
X-ray tech supplied one piece of information that tied in with
other pieces of information pertaining to what coffin the
President's body first arrived in.
According to Custer, Jackie Kennedy came walking in the front
entrance to the Bethesda medical facility while he was making his
second or third trip from the morgue to an area upstairs where the
X-ray film was developed at.
When Custer saw Jackie Kennedy she was walking into the
Bethesda front entrance on her way to the Towers section of
Bethesda, where she stayed while the autopsy was going on. Custer
said that he passed her, " . . . and I had my arms full of film,
and in fact what struck me is she still had that dress on."
Custer explained that developing the X-rays required a trip
from the morgue to one of the upper floors in the Bethesda medical
center, and that trip passed through the lobby area. A Secret
Service man served as an escort on the trips that Custer had to
make to the area where the film was developed.
"I remember her coming in and being surrounded by reporters,
and then there were Secret Service men, and they were pushing the
reporters out of the way. As they pushed them out of the way, I
remember seeing her come through . . . . I can't remember what
color dress, but I remember I saw the bloodstains on it . . . and
the Secret Service guy behind us said: `Come on, let's go.' For
some reason, he didn't want people to know-you know-what we were
Jackie Kennedy was spotted by Custer from a distance of about
ten or fifteen yards. "I saw her, because she stuck out like a sore
thumb," he told Lifton. He continued down the hallway and then took
an elevator upstairs to get his X-ray film processed, Lifton added.
Floyd Albert Reibe,the photographer's assistant at the
autopsy, noted that he was inside the morgue when he first saw the
coffin, which was brought in by men "in civilian clothes, with a
Reibe also noted that the casket was pretty much like a
shipping casket and had turnbuckles on it. The coffin was
definitely not a viewing casket, he noted. He also recalled that
the body was in a body bag when the coffin was opened.
One interesting thing Reibe contributed was that he had taken
some pictures of Kennedy lying on his stomach. What is interesting
about that recollection is that there are no such shots in the
official collection of photographs surrounding the autopsy report.
The picture of the back wound shows Kennedy lying on his back with
his right shoulder tilted up away from the table. He added that he
also thought he took about six pictures composed of about three
film packs of internal portions of the body. Those pictures are not
with the official collection either.
Those official photos also contain one detail Reibe said clash
with the normal way autopsies are done-the corpse had a towel
clearly labeled "Bethesda Naval Hospital" underneath it. The reason
no towel or anything else is put under a corpse at autopsy,
according to Reibe, is due to the way an autopsy table is
constructed with two levels to facilitate the draining of fluids.
"You got the upper part and it's got hundreds of holes in it
for any fluid to go ahead and drain down and almost out of sight;
but if you put a sheet or a cover, something like that [under the
body], it would all stay up at the top."
Reibe's talk with Lifton also brought out the information that
security measures which in effect gagged the men who helped perform
the autopsy until the Assassinations Committee put the heat on to
have the gag order rescinded years later came right from the top of
the federal government when it was issued.
The assistant photographer at the autopsy told Lifton that the
persons who participated in the autopsy were called into the office
of Dr. Stover, head of the medical facility. Captain Stover
explained the Secrecy Act to the personnel involved and told them
that the White House wanted to keep details of the autopsy secret
and not to talk about it. Those personnel called in had to sign a
standard military letter indicating that they had been informed
that they were not to talk about what had transpired during the
autopsy and that the penalty for talking in contravention of the
warning letter could well include their being court martialed among
The warning letter had been extremely effective. When Lifton
tracked down the men who had been involved in the autopsy, in the
late 1970s when all of them were out of the service even, they
would not talk with him or even with Assassinations Committee
personnel until the order was rescinded.
The general thought on the part of the men at the time was
that the gag order was part of the normal security procedures which
surrounded the autopsy and the rest of the incidents surrounding
the assassination of the President. Lifton's outlook was that it
was probably part of the conspiracy in effect to help shield the
fact that there had been wound trajectory modification carried out
in an attempt to frame Oswald.
Given the fact that what Lifton had fallen upon and dug out
was evidence that the body of JFK had gotten to Bethesda well
before the bronze Brittanica coffin it had been placed in at
Dallas, what we are faced with is, as Lifton notes, a probable
operation to cover up the fact that we actually witnessed a
crossfire in Dealey Plaza that killed the President. The alteration
of the head wound pattern was central to the coverup and all the
strange things reported by the morgue technicians when they were
finally interviewed years after the fact supported the fact that
head alteration did occur-the body arriving prior to the bronze
casket in a body bag and a shipping casket, the head appearing as
if it had a front-to-back wound trajectory despite the alteration
being done [which implies the job not being totally completed at
whatever point it was done] and the clamping down of a gag order so
that none of the Navy morgue technicians could leak any information
of what had happened to the outside world.
The question of where the body had gotten altered, and how it
had gotten to that point, was one big gap in the head wound
alteration angle of the story. Lifton, after checking out various
leads on that part of the Kennedy assassination, came to the
conclusion that the head wound trajectory pattern had been altered
at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which is only a few miles away
Going on such evidence as what radio transmissions were made
to and from Air Force One enroute from Washington to Dallas, sound
and videotapes lifted from live broadcast news coverage of the
arrival of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base near both
medical facilities, Lifton postulated the following chain of events
in the head wound alteration:
-The body could have been stored in either the baggage hold or
in the Boeing's galley by persons unknown as baggage during some
brief intermission when nobody was with the coffin, such as the
time period when all of the persons on the aircraft went to the
area where Lyndon Baines Johnson was sworn in as President for that
-The body was taken off the aircraft upon its arrival at
Andrews via a ramp on the right front of the plane, which was the
side away from all the radio and television reporters with their
sound gear and cameras. A military helicopter moves in close to the
right side of Air Force One just after it taxis to a stop, and is
again airborne and flying away within 90 seconds of the plane
stopping. While the helicopter is flying off, the bronze casket is
taken off the rear of the Presidential aircraft, loaded into a Navy
ambulance, and a motorcade including the ambulance heads for
Bethesda for the autopsy.
-Once that Presidential plane had landed there was something
like a 20-minute time gap available for whomever did the head
alterations to actually do them, including air transportation to
the location it was done at and from that location to Bethesda.
Walter Reed, according to a look at a map Lifton carried out, was
the closest point to Bethesda where such an alteration could be
carried out. It had all the right equipment and plenty of
appropriate areas, one would suspect, where it could be done, not
to mention the trained personnel who could do it.
-Once the alteration was made to the extent it was made, the
body was loaded into that Cadillac hearse or another helicopter and
taken over to Bethesda Naval Medical Center. While some of the
personnel at Bethesda definitely reported the shipping casket being
taken from a Cadillac hearse by Navy personnel and six big, strong
men in civilian clothes, other reports of helicopters being used as
either decoy transportation or actual means of transportation were
also heard from personnel that Lifton interviewed.
Lifton noted that altering the body did two things for whoever
was behind the plot to kill John Kennedy-1. The bullet trajectories
changed and the true locations of the shooters were concealed.
Bullet retrieval from the President's head insured that bullets and
bullet fragments from the weapons that actually murdered the
President would not reach the FBI Laboratory. 2. Introduction of a
false assassin could be arranged through changing the wounds,
throwing off the major investigations which would be sure to follow
and making sure that the very vulnerable position of the actual
plotters over discovery was solved by letting the actual shooters
get away scot free. The protection of the plotters would be
significantly increased if they could deflect all investigations by
providing a false solution and a false perpetrator.
Lifton also noted that while the assassination of an American
President is a political event since people would want to know not
only who killed the president but why, those who altered the body
were in a position to provide a sort of answer to that question. By
creating the appearance that President Kennedy was killed by a lone
and embittered man, JFK's death was denuded of political meaning
and made to look like a historical accident.
The reason the plan to alter the head wound worked, at least
on the official level, is due to what Lifton discovered about the
legal profession in general-the lawyers in this country don't think
like everybody else does, nor do they use the English language like
everybody else does.
When they say they need the best evidence to prosecute or
defend a legal case, they don't talk about things like what an
eyewitness saw or the testimony that witness can offer. In fact,
eyewitness facts and testimony in the eyes of a lawyer in America
is actually among the worst types of evidence due to the fact that
witnesses are seen as not accurate recorders of what actually
On the other hand, things like autopsy reports which are the
issue of an official autopsy done by professional forensic
pathologists with training and experience, and physical evidence
dug up by detectives such as spent shell casings and an old Italian
army rifle in the Book Depository are among the best types of
evidence as far as lawyers are concerned.
The corpse is also among the best evidence, due to the fact
that the pathologists have the corpse to work on to come up with an
autopsy report from.
So, if one makes the body lie in the JFK assassination by
altering the head wound trajectory pattern, you've automatically
gulled the pathologists (especially when they are military men
under orders) and thrown the basics of the case right out the
A very simple thing when one thinks about it, but a brilliant
move nonetheless in its simplicity. Apparently the JFK
assassination was not engineered by fools.
What tipped it, as Lifton noted, were those little things that
came up as slips in the overall situation, the occurrence of the
assassination and its aftermath. If Zapruder had not been standing
there with his camera, if those technicians in the Bethesda morgue
would not have noticed what they did about the head wounds and
spoke up finally after the gag order was rescinded, and all the
other little things that went astray in the plan just enough to let
the cover story slip so the truth underneath could be glimpsed,
nobody would have been the wiser.
After so many years the trail would logically have gone cold
in the Kennedy assassination, but that may not necessarily be so.
As late as the late 1970s and the early 1980s, when the
Assassinations Committee was concluding its work and Lifton was
bringing his book out respectively, there were areas and paths that
could be looked at and followed in any sort of investigation that
the Justice Department could go after if it chose to . . . or was
forced to, considering that the evidence to warrant a new official
investigation has been there all along.
The probe into who was behind orders from the White House
pertaining to the autopsy and the way it was handled are just one
area, as are details of how the Secret Service handled the
evidence, the trip planning for the President and other aspects of
getting the corpse back to Washington from Dallas. Why did they
really feel constrained to almost running the Dallas County
Coronor, Earl Rose, over with the coffin on their way out of
Parkland Hospital? In the light of all evidence pointing toward
foul play in the form of a conspiracy and subsequent coverup in the
JFK assassination, one suspects that simple consideration for the
feelings of Mrs. Kennedy was certainly not the primary reason for
that isolated incident.
One other area of investigation is one that was unlocked by
freelance writer and former Assassinations Committee investigator
Gaeton Fonzi while he was working for that committee, where he was
literally breathing down the back of a mysterious CIA agent in
pursuit of the "Who Did It?" question of the JFK assassination.
The Assassinations Committee, when it released its report in
the summer of 1979, was overdue with the report since it had
officially gone out of business in December of 1978. The lag
between the actual death of the committee and the issuance of its
report was caused by Chief Counsel Robert Blakey figuring the
report had to be rewritten with a lot more weight being given to a
conspiracy since the acoustics evidence showed there was one. The
problem was who to blame for it. Since Blakey was an old hand at
being an organized crime expert with experience in Federal
organized crime strike forces, as well as being head of Cornell
University's Organized Crime Institute when he was asked to take
over the Assassinations Committee, the fact he blamed organized
crime for it was not surprising.
Problem was, there was plenty of evidence that Fonzi dug up
alone to show that the footprints of an intelligence agency were
all around and through the Kennedy assassination, and that
investigator had also been tracking that one American intelligence
agent who had been seen in the company of Lee Harvey Oswald not too
long before the Dealey Plaza assassination.
When Blakey took over and starting hiring staff personnel, it
soon became obvious that his personal background was heavily
influencing the way the investigation would probably go, according
to Fonzi's article "Who Killed JFK?" in the Washingtonian Magazine
of November 1980. All the new hires were from Blakey's contacts in
the organized-crime-fighting old boy network, such as Gary Cornwell
who was picked to head the Kennedy investigation task force.
Cornwell, when he was chief of the Federal strike Force in Kansas
City, had achieved notable trial victories against key Mafia
figures in the Midwest.
The hiring pattern apparently wasn't so bad in itself.
However, the outlook behind the investigation was really what
kicked the applecart over as far as the failure to track down leads
as they were instead of trying to make the facts fit a preconceived
Fonzi noted that in his first address to the staff that the
first priority was to get a report produced. The second priority
was to produce a report that looked good, one that appeared to be
definitive and substantial.
The report actually doesn't say organized crime did it,
though, as Fonzi pointed out in his article. The report said that
"The Committee believes, on the basis of evidence available to it,
that the national syndicate of Organized Crime, as a group, was not
involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the
available evidence does not preclude the possibility that
individual members may have been involved."
Blakey, in a press conference attached to the issuing of the
report, noted that HE and not the committee said that organized
crime was involved, and he was correct in saying that.
The persons the committee were talking about being involved,
as Fonzi noted, were Carlos Marcello of New Orleans and Santos
Trafficante of Florida, who could have been involved in the
assassination on their own hooks. But at the same time, the report
said in its body that "It is unlikely that either Marcello or
Trafficante was involved in the assassination of the President."
With contradictions like that, it was hard to believe how the
committee managed to spend the time and money it did on
investigating the situation until one read Fonzi's article.
What he detailed was the shooting down of the first Chief
Counsel of the committee after he began locking horns with the CIA,
then a relatively dead investigative period where the very
existence of the committee was in doubt, followed by the Blakey
takeover and the roll into getting a report out instead of
conducting a no-holds-barred homicide investigation like the first
counsel wanted to.
That first Chief Counsel of the committee was Richard Sprague,
who had gotten a national name for himself with his successful
prosecution of United Mine Workers president Tony Boyle for the
murder of UMW reformer Joseph Yablonski. Sprague also had a record
of 69 homicide convictions out of 70 prosecutions while he was
first assistant district attorney of Philadelphia.
One of Sprague's stipulations on accepting the job was that he
have complete authority to hire his own staff and run the
investigation as he saw fit. Two separate investigations were what
he had in mind, one for John F. Kennedy and another for Martin
Luther King, Jr. He also insisted on handling both cases as if they
were homicide investigations.
Out of a longtime prosecutor, this was not a surprising move,
and made sense when one remembered that the files don't ever close
on a homicide case until it is either solved or until the
perpetrator is deemed to have died from natural causes.
He also noted that he would need a staff of at least 220 and
an initial annual budget of $6.5 million, and there was no
guarantee that amount of money would be enough to finish the job.
When it became obvious that Sprague meant to conduct and
honest-to-God investigation, it didn't take long for the fire to
begin. While he had not pulled either the staff or budget figures
out of the air but based it on resources the Warren commission had
available from all the investigative agencies which kicked in
information, the budget became the focal point of the the attacks
While the new Chief Counsel probably thought he was going to
Washington to conduct an investigation, he found himself very
quickly having to do a bunch of tap dancing, procrastinating on
getting the actual investigating going, and trying to just get
enough money coming in from irate Congressmen who didn't like his
approach for the committee to literally just stay alive.
The committee was also hampered by the fact that Congressman
Henry Gonzalez of Texas was ticked off at not being named chairman
of it when it was originally set up. When the congressman who had
been named the original chairman had retired prior to the time the
vote came up on whether or not to keep the committee going by
funding its operations, Gonzalez was in the chairman's seat and
kicking his heels up at Sprague, whom he saw as too independent for
his own or the committee's good.
The entire upshot was that Sprague won the peeing contest with
Gonzalez, but wound up having to resign because a large amount of
Congressmen didn't like the idea of a Chief Counsel being directly
responsible for a congressman being booted out of the chairmanship
even if it was directly voted on by the rest of the committee.
What happened was that Sprague finally had no choice but to
resign after it became obvious to everybody that the committee
simply would not get funded and would effectively die if he did not
As far as it went, it was apparently obvious that this was
what drove Sprague to resign. Fonzi noted it was apparent that
Sprague's insistence on lie detectors and voice stress analyzers,
his demand for an expensive, unrestricted investigation and his
refusal to play politics with Chairman Gonzalez all brought on the
criticism that resulted in the committee almost dying and Sprague
After Sprague had a chance to think it over following his
resignation, he took what Fonzi described as a wider view of what
the cause really was.
Robert Sam Anson of NEW TIMES magazine interviewed Sprague
after he returned from Acapulco following his resignation, and the
prosecutor admitted that he and the staff had little time to
investigate when fire was being directed at him from all
He told Anson that if he could do it over again, he would
begin his investigation of the Kennedy assassination by probing
"Oswald's ties to the Central Intelligence Agency."
When Fonzi asked Sprague why he had come to that conclusion,
Sprague noted he first thought that the leadership of the House of
Representatives really hadn't intended for there to be an
investigation, with the Committee being set up to appease the Black
Caucus which had wanted it to get the Martin Luther King
assassination investigated also.
"I still believe that was a factor," Fonzi noted that Sprague
told him. "But when I looked back at what happened, it suddenly
became very clear that the problems began only after I ran up
against the CIA. That's when my troubles really started."
What Sprague meant by the time he ran up against the CIA was
the incident he started looking into when the Committee was trying
to get reconstituted, when Congressional critics were screaming for
something substantial in the way of results so that it would look
like the Committee was really producing something.
What this mean that Sprague was looking for some obvious
things to go after, Fonzi said. One of them was the situation where
the CIA had given the Warren Commission a photo of what it said was
Lee Harvey Oswald leaving the Cuban and Russian embassies while in
Mexico City, in an effort to get an in-transit visa to Russia via
Cuba. When Oswald visited the Russian Embassy he spoke with a
Soviet consul who was really a KGB intelligence officer, the CIA
also said. The CIA station in Mexico City told headquarters that it
had also obtained a photo of Oswald visiting the embassy and
described the man in the photo as approximately 35 years old, six
feet tall, with an athletic build and receding hairline, Fonzi
When the Warren Commission got the photos of the man at the
embassy, it turned out not to be Oswald. The CIA said it had simply
goofed when informed of that discrepancy, and there were no photos
of Oswald taken in Mexico City. The man in the photos was never
identified. CIA also could provide very little information of
Oswald's activities in Mexico City, could provide no record of
Oswald's daily movements there, nor could they confirm the date of
his departure or his method of travel.
A CIA man by the name of David Atlee Phillips was the person
in charge of reporting such information from Mexico at the time of
Oswald's visit, Fonzi noted that Sprague learned when he approached
that area of enquiry.
Phillips was called to testify in front of the assassination
s committee in November of 1976. Sprague had noted that Phillips
said the CIA had monitored and taped Oswald's conversation with the
Soviet Embassy, with the tape being transcribed by a CIA employee
who mistakenly coupled it with a photo of a person who was not
Oswald. Phillips also noted that the actual tape recording was
routinely destroyed or recycled a week after it was received.
Sprague, however, discovered later that an FBI memorandum to
the Secret Service dated November, 1963, referred to the CIA
identification of the man who had visited the Russian Embassy, and
noted that "Special Agents of this Bureau who have conversed with
Oswald in Dallas, Texas, have observed photographs of the
individual referred to above and have listened to a recording of
his voice. These Special Agents are of the opinion that the
above-referred-to individual was not Lee Harvey Oswald."
What got Sprague's interest up was how the FBI agents could
have listened to a tape recording in November that Phillips said
had been destroyed in October. He decided to push the CiA for an
answer, Fonzi said, which meant that he wanted information about
the CIA's operation in Mexico City, access to all its employees who
may have had anything to do with the photographs, tape recordings,
and transcripts. The result was that the CIA balked and Sprague
pushed harder, Fonzi noted. The Agency finally agreed that Sprague
could have access to the things he wanted provided he signed a CIA
He declined. Sprague figured that would be a direct conflict
with House Resolution 222, which established the Assassinations
Committee and authorized it to investigate the agencies of the
United States government. Sprague's main question was how could he
possibly sign an agreement with an agency he was supposed to be
investigating. The Chief Counsel's comeback was that he would
subpoena the CIA's records.
It was not too long after that occurred that the first attempt
to get the assassinations committee reconstituted was blocked,
Fonzi said. One of the critics was Representative Robert Michel of
Illinois who objected to the scope of the Committee's mandate,
Fonzi noted. "With the proposed mandate," Michel said, "that
Committee could begin a whole new investigation of the Central
Sprague said that is exactly what he intended to do, and he
contended at the time of Fonzi's story that it was the beginning of
During the time the infighting was going on between Committee
members, Fonzi had not been sitting on his hands in Miami, where he
was doing his investigative work for that body, mainly in the area
of anti-Castro Cuban activities surrounding the assassination. Such
investigative leads as there were surrounding the expatriate Cubans
would lead him down a path where he would close in a CIA spymaster
during the Committee investigation, but there were also other
interesting characters and leads Fonzi was working on.
One such person who was a lead all in himself was George de
Mohrenschildt, the White Russian emigre who had befriended Oswald
and Marina Oswald on their arrival in American from Russia when
Oswald returned from a supposed defection and later change of
George de Mohrenschildt had long been one of the shadowy
figures of the JFK assassination, with a background in intelligence
work and a large amount of suspicion surrounding him regarding what
role he may have played in it. Putting his out-of-context
friendship with the Oswalds and his intelligence background caused
a lot of raised eyebrows among private assassination researchers
over the years, but nobody ever came up with anything that would
definitely point to him being directly involved in any capacity.
Fonzi's look at de Mohrenschildt came as the result of a phone
call he got from committee member Bob Tannenbaum in May of 1977,
where Tannenbaum told him he had just gotten a call from Dutch
journalist Wilhelm Oltmans.
Oltmans had gotten national television coverage when he told
the Committee he had interviewed de Mohrenschildt and claimed the
White Russian had confessed he had been part of the "Dallas
conspiracy" of oilmen and Cuban exiles with a "blood debt to
settle." According to Oltmans, de Mohrenschildt had also said that
Oswald had "acted at his guidance and instructions."
de Mohrenschildt was reportedly the victim of a nervous
breakdown during the time he was talking to Oltmans, but had left
a hospital in Dallas to travel with the journalist on a book and
magazine rights negotiating trip in Europe. While in Brussels,
Oltmans said, de Mohrenschildt had disappeared.
Tannenbaum told Fonzi during their May telephone conversation
that Oltmans had called the Committee from California, and said
that in tracking down de Mohrenschildt had discovered that the
White Russian could be reached at a telephone number in Florida.
Tannenbaum gave Fonzi the phone number and that same afternoon
Fonzi checked it out.
The number belonged to Mrs. C. E. Tilton III of Manalapan, a
Palm Beach area strip of high-value land on the ocean. Fonzi would
later learn that Mrs. Tilton was the sister of one of de
Mohrenschildt's former wives. At that time he decided to contact de
Mohrenschildt in person rather than by telephone.
Fonzi went out looking for his man the morning of March 29,
1977, in Manalapan. The Tilton home was located on the edge of the
ocean highway behind a barrier of high hedges, and was a large,
two-story structure with dark cedar shingles and green trim. Fonzi
though it looked like it belonged in New England more than it did
Fonzi drove into the wide yard beside the house and ran into
de Mohrenschildt's daughter, Alexandra, as she appeared from behind
a garage. She told him that her father was in Palm Beach and that
she did not know how to reach him. She was certain that he would be
in the same evening and that Fonzi could reach him if he phoned
about 8 o'clock. She also said that she would tell her father to
expect Fonzi's call.
About 6:30 that evening Fonzi got a call from a friend who was
a television reporter in Dallas. The reporter told him that "We
just aired a story that came over the wire about a Dutch journalist
saying the Assassinations Committee has finally located de
Mohrenschildt in south Florida. Now de Mohrenschildt's attorney, a
guy named Pat Russel-he calls and says de Mohrenschildt committed
suicide this afternoon. Is that true?"
The train of events Fonzi recounted in the death of de
Mohrenschildt was that the man he was looking for had returned to
the Tilton home in Manalapan about four hours after Fonzi left it
the same morning. Alexandra told him of Fonzi's visit and gave him
a card Fonzi had left. He put the card in his pocket and, according
to Alexandra, did not seem upset. Shortly afterwards he said he was
going upstairs to rest. He apparently took a 20-gauge shotgun Mrs.
Tilton kept beside her bed for protection, sat down on a soft
chair, put the stock of the shotgun on the floor and the end of the
barrel in his mouth, leaned forward, and pulled the trigger.
Fonzi called Sprague in Washington as soon as he had confirmed
de Mohrenschildt's death, and Sprague suggested he get to the scene
immediately while he attempted to get staff members together and
contacted Committee members to prepare subpoenas.
Fonzi took off and rushed around Palm Beach County to learn
the details of de Mohrenschildt's death, trying to coordinate the
Committee's handling of the case with Palm Beach State Attorney
Dave Bludworth, who was cooperative but increasingly confused about
the lack of coordination the Committee had. Sprague, Fonzi later
learned, was unable to do anything and never did get back in touch
with him. No subpoenas were ever issued, no witnesses were ever
called to testify, and no independent investigation was ever made
of de Mohrenschildt's death, Fonzi noted in his article. He also
noted that it was a sign of how well the Committee's opponents had
been in keeping it distracted and off balance that six months after
its formation the Committee could not react to the death of a key
Fonzi found out from the next morning's headlines that while
he was trying to get the goods on the de Mohrenschildt death,
Sprague had quit. By 8 that morning, as Fonzi was still trying to
get hold of somebody on the Committee in Washington, Sprague was on
his way to Acapulco.
The same day, the House voted to continue the Committee at a
stripped-down budget of $2.5 million for the year. Fonzi pegged the
resignation of Richard Sprague and the death of George de
Mohrenschildt as the key factors in the House vote to let the
It was probably too bad that Fonzi had not gotten to talk to
de Mohrenschildt and that his death was not investigated as well as
it might have been. He was born in Russia in 1911, the son of a
czarist official who later became a wealthy landowner in Poland. He
was a longtime petroleum engineer and was a consultant for various
Texas oil companies.
He also self-admittedly worked for French intelligence and in
1961 showed up at a Guatemalan camp being used by Cuban exiles as
a training center for the Bay of Pigs invasion. At the time, he
and his fourth wife, Jean LeGon, were reputedly on a walking tour
of South America.
He also moved in high society, which made his befriending the
Oswalds a dubious proposition. His first wife was Palm Beach
resident Dorothy Pierson. His second wife was the daughter of a
high State Department official, while his third was Philadelphia
Main Line socialite Wynne Sharples. He took Jeanne LeGon as his
fourth wife in 1959 in Dallas. Her father had been the director of
the Far Eastern Railroad in Manchuria.
Gary Taylor, who had been married to de Mohrenschildt's
daughter Alexandra, had been asked by one Warren Commission counsel
if he thought the White Russian had any influence over Oswald.
Taylor replied in the affirmative, also noting that there had
apparently been what he termed a great deal of influence there.
Taylor, when asked if he had any further comments that might
help the Commission, noted that in his opinion noted that " . . .
the only thing that occurred to me was that-uh-and I guess it was
from the beginning-that if there was any assistance or plotters in
the assassination that it was, in my opinion, most probably the de
Mohrenschildts." Lifton noted that the Warren Commission did little
to explore that contention.
Once the Committee settled down after Bob Blakey came in as
Chief Counsel, Fonzi was able to concentrate on one lead he had dug
up while he had been an investigator for Senator Schweiker during
an earlier Congressional investigation that touched on the Kennedy
assassination. That lead had led him to a Cuban exile who had been
one of the leading anti-Castro activists in the Miami exile
community, who had in turn led Fonzi to a CIA spymaster who had
been in touch with Lee Harvey Oswald not too long before the
That investigation was the one carried out by the Senate's
Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to
intelligence Activities, headed by Idaho Senator Frank Church,
which became known as the Church Committee and was in operation in
Richard S. Schweiker, Senator from Pennsylvania, was a member
of that committee and was intrigued enough by details of the
Kennedy assassination and the Warren Commission to spend one of his
summers poring through the evidence, and the available agency
documents relating to the murder of JFK. When the committee
reopened after the Congressional recess, Schweiker issued a call
for the JFK assassination to be reopened. The congressman also
noted that Oswald had intelligence connections and that the
fingerprints of intelligence work were all around the man blamed
for Kennedy's death.
The Church Committee had been formed in January 1975 and its
report was due for release by that next coming September, so when
Schweiker had this move called for there just wasn't that much time
left. The deadline was extended to March of 1976, though, and
Schweiker then came up with his idea of throwing the Kennedy
assassination into the pot also. The upshot was that Church, not
wanting to really get into it too broadly with everything else the
committee was looking at but not wanting to go against the idea
publicly, came up with a compromise. Schweiker and a Democratic
counterpart, Colorado Senator Gary Hart, were allowed to set up a
two-man Kennedy assassination subcommittee provided that it also
would finished in March along with the rest of the committee.
Schweiker, hoping for enough hard facts or a new revelation to
push the entire committee into going after the Kennedy
assassination, went along with it. That Senator was looking into
the JFK deal for about a month before he called Fonzi.
While Fonzi noted that Schweiker never told him all the
reasons he wanted an independent investigator, there were several
reasons the senator felt he needed an outside staff investigator
who would report directly to him and not the committee. He wanted
someone who knew something about the Kennedy case, and he wanted to
do some original investigative work instead of relying on the FBI
and CIA. He also wasn't ready to rule out other possibilities,
Fonzi said. And, although Kennedy was shot in Dallas, a lot of
information about that case related to Miami, with a rash of leads
and tips related to that city cropping up in the months following
If there was a relationship between Kennedy's murder and Cuban
elements whether pro- or anti-Castro, Schweiker figured that if one
of the intelligence agencies was involved Miami was the place to
look. What he needed was a man on the bricks in Little Havana and
Fonzi was that man.
Anti-Castro Cubans had literally swarmed into Havana after
Castro took power, and the CIA was well represented in that city
also. As the numbers of exiles from Cuba grew along with the desire
on their part to get back into their homeland with a new
government, more and more exile groups were set up with the direct
help of the CIA.
The Bay of Pigs operation along with plans to assassinate
Castro as well as various and sundry acts of sabatoge, raids
against their old homeland by boat and airplane, and other forms of
lashing back at the bearded dictator were all hatched and worked
out between the anti-Castro exiles and the CIA men.
The situation was not all sweetness and light between the
federal government, or at least parts of it, and the Cuban exiles
either. Kennedy himself found that out when he was having it out
with the Russians during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the exiles
persisted in pulling raids when there were not supposed to be any,
thus jeopardizing smoothing the entire mess out when the chance
The failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion had not helped
exile-Kennedy relations either. Both CIA personnel and exiles
blamed Kennedy for the failure there, supposedly due to the
President withholding air support for the men on the beaches and/or
the freighters ferrying supplies in. Easily overlooked were some
aspects of the situation that were misplanned, but that didn't
matter much since those people just weren't interested in thinking
about that angle of the failure.
Things finally got to the point where Kennedy had to promise
Khruschev that he would not invade Cuba and the Russian leader
agreed to pull the missiles out. Later, this turned into a
situation where the exiles found themselves on the short end of a
Kennedy crackdown on their raids in efforts to keep the problems
down in relation to that deal. The exile camps were raided and
closed down, the Coast Guard actually started stopping outgoing
raids, and the exiles felt more stabbed in the back than ever.
What it all did was set up the groundwork for the CIA and the
Cuban exiles to perhaps be ticked off enough at John kennedy to be
ready to retaliate.
Against that background Fonzi learned of the man who was to
lead him into the chase after an elusive, mysterious CIA spymaster
who could have been involved in some fashion with the JFK
assassination. The facts as Fonzi presented them in his
Washingtonian magazine story didn't exactly detail how the CIA man
was involved, since Fonzi himself apparently was not able to pin
down for sure whether or not the CIA man had any direct hand in
arranging the President's murder.
When viewed against information that has emerged that details
inside coverup ploys, Secret Service personnel helping to foment a
faked head wound trajectory pattern and almost forcing their way
out of the Parkland Hospital complex at gunpoint, one could
probably say that anything's open to speculation.
One assassination researcher had found out that a man called
Antonio Veciana had been the ringleader of a group of Cuban
dissidents who had planned to murder Castro with a bazooka. The
plan failed, Veciana fled to Miami and there he founded Alpha 66,
one of the most militant and vociferous exile groups.
That researcher had tried to make a connection against Veciana
and three men who visited another exile, this one a female, in a
plea for her to help them raise some money to help the cause along.
In an effort to clear up that situation, Fonzi tracked down
Veciana's residence in Miami only to discover that Veciana at that
time was in the Atlanta federal penitentiary.
As things transpired, Veciana found out he was getting out on
an early parole not too long after Fonzi tried contacting him and
consented to an interview when he got out of prison and back home.
When Fonzi did visit Veciana, all the investigator had to do
was look at him to know that he was not any of the three visitors
that Sylvia Odio had the one night in question.
Fonzi stayed to ask some questions about the role of U.S.
intelligence agencies with anti-Castro groups after the two men got
the initial area of enquiry cleared up, and it was then that the
name of the CIA contact who helped Veciana's efforts against Castro
The talk also included the information that Veciana had also
once been a witness to a meeting between his contact and Lee harvey
Oswald in Dallas at the beginning of September 1963.
Veciana's contact man and "handler," as CIA personnel in
charge of certain operatives are known, had the name of Maurice
Bishop. At least that's the one name that Veciana knew the man by
for the several years they knew each other in their joint effort
against Castro and Communism in the Western Hemisphere together.
The original contact had been made by Bishop while Veciana was
still in Cuba, as well as training of Veciana in his new trades of
some forms of espionage and also of propaganda.
Veciana also soon became chief of sabatoge for one of the
largest underground groups in Cuba, the Movimenta Revolucionario
The attempt on Castro with the bazooka was one of the plans
that came up, but Veciana learned that he had come under suspicion
prior to the plot being tried and left Cuba. The plot fell through,
with the trigger men fearing they had been discovered and also
disappearing. It was later found out that they had not been
discovered after all.
In America, Veciana and Bishop were back in touch with each
other soon and Veciana quickly became one of the founders and
leading lights of Alpha 66-which Veciana noted was actually
Bishop's idea of forming.
This was the group that pulled off a raid or two while the
Cuban Missile Crisis was still on, and Veciana told Fonzi at one
point that it was Bishop's idea to do that also so that the
President would be forced to take strong action.
After many years of association with each other and having
Veciana's fight against Castro also branch out into a fight against
Communism in this hemisphere in conjunction with Bishop, the two
men came to a parting of the ways.
An abortive attempt against Castro's life in Venezuela, in
Veciana's opinion, was what broke the two men up. A secondary
scheme had been put into effect to put phoney documents in places
so that the trail of the two men who were going to assassinate
Castro would lead to Russian agents in Caracas if the killers were
caught and killed.
Bishop learned of that subplot more than two years after the
plot failed and was furious, Veciana told Fonzi. He accused Veciana
of taking part in the planning of it or at leas knowing about it
and not telling him of it, Veciana said. Veciana insisted then,
Fonzi said, as he does now, that he had been unaware of the
Bishop later told Veciana he believed him, Veciana told fonzi,
but suggested that they sever their relationship since any
lingering suspicions could goof up any future operations the two
men conducted together.
Veciana at the time was insisting on further terrorist action
and may have already been starting some himself, and calling for
more dangerous assassination attempts. The possibility was there
that Bishop thought Veciana was getting out of control, Fonzi noted
in his article. In December of 1973 Veciana was sent to prison, and
at that time Veciana believed that Bishop had something to do with
Fonzi's first interview with Veciana came right after the
Cuban exile had spent 27 months in a federal prison on a charge of
conspiracy to import narcotics, and he had been convicted in a New
York federal court largely on the testimony of a former partner
with whom head been in the sporting goods business with in Puerto
Rico. That former partner had been arrested with ten kilos of
cocaine and had implicated Veciana and avoided a long jail term
himself. he was the only witness against Veciana, who continued to
maintain his innocence.
Fonzi also noted that there was no indication, form any source
including confidential files of several law enforcement agencies
that Veciana had any association with narcotics prior to his
Bishop had told Veciana that he thought the exile deserved
some compensation for the work he had done the two men had done
together over thirteen years and in fact insisted on it.
It was July 26, 1973, that the two men met in the parking lot
of the Flagler Dog Track, not far from Veciana's residence. Veciana
spotted Bishop waiting in a car at the agreed upon spot, Fonzi
noted, and Bishop got out of the car with a briefcase and two
clean-cut young men in dark suits.
Bishop told Veciana that he regretted the end of their
relationship but that it would be best for both of them in the long
run. He shook Veciana's hand and wished him luck, then handed over
the briefcase. Bishop noted that the compensation was inside it.
When Veciana opened it after returning home, he found exactly
$253,000 in cash. That, Veciana told Fonzi, was the last time he
saw or spoke with Maurice Bishop.
One of the earlier times that Veciana had met with Bishop,
whom he had always thought was with either the CIA or Army
Intelligence, possibly bore on a time period when what Lee Harvey
Oswald did was by and large undocumented.
Between August 25 and September 17, that period of time
directly after which Oswald was obviously attempting to make a name
for himself as a Castro sympathizer in New Orleans, there is no
validated indication of his whereabouts.
Marina Oswald noted that aside from a visit to the home of his
aunt and uncle on Labor Day, Oswald spent his time reading books
and practicing with his rifle. The House Assassinations Committee
found several witnesses, though, who spotted Oswald at a black
voter registration rally in Clinton, La., during that time period.
Clinton was approximately 130 miles away from New Orleans. With
Oswald were David Ferrie, who had been active in anti-Castro
operations, and New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw, who was
connected with intelligence agencies.
While the Committee could not determine what it was exactly
Oswald was up to in Clinton with the other two men, there was
absolutely no doubt that he and they were there.
Veciana bore on that time period when he told Fonzi that it
was late in August or early September of 1963 when Bishop asked to
meet him in Dallas. After thinking about it, Veciana later noted
that it was probably in early September, perhaps toward the end of
the first week in the month.
Veciana had met Bishop a number of times in Dallas and had
come to suspect that was where Bishop was from originally, or at
least partially suspect it. When Bishop had sent Veciana to Col.
Sam Kail of the U.S. Army in the American Embassy in Havana before
it closed, Kail had been heading home for Christmas in Dallas in
1960. When Veciana reported back to Bishop, he got the idea that
Bishop knew Kail or at least his background, and that they had
something in common.
The September meeting Veciana remembers having with Bishop
occurred in the lobby of a large downtown office building in
Dallas, which Fonzi figured was probably the Southland Center from
Veciana's description of it.
Veciana noted that when he arrived he saw Bishop in a corner
of the lobby talking with a young man whom Veciana remembered as
pale, slight and soft-featured. He could not recall if Bishop
introduced him by name but does recall that Bishop continued his
talk with the young man only briefly after Veciana walked up.
Bishop and the young man walked out of the lobby together and
stopped outside, behind Veciana, for a moment, Fonzi said. The two
men then had a few words in that location, with the young man
gesturing a farewell and walking away. Bishop then turned to
Veciana and they discussed the current activities of Alpha 66 as
they walked to a nearby coffee shop. Bishop never spoke to Veciana
about the young man nor did Veciana ask.
Veciana later recognized the news photographs and television
shots of Lee Harvey Oswald as that of the young man he had seen
with Maurice Bishop, with no doubt about it in his mind. Fonzi
asked Veciana if the man could have been someone who resembled
Oswald, and Veciana noted that "Well, you know, Bishop himself
taught me how to remember faces, how to remember characteristics.
I am sure it was Oswald. if it wasn't Oswald, it was someone who
looked EXACTLY like him. EXACTO, EXACTO."
While the normal everyday type of situation would probably
call for somebody who encountered Lee Harvey Oswald in the presence
of a working acquaintance or friend prior to the assassination to
enquire about it afterward, it would not be that way in
intelligence, government security or some areas of law enforcement.
In fact, it would be highly peculiar, if not downright dangerous,
if Veciana had made enquiry of Bishop about Oswald following the
Veciana just didn't ask Bishop about Oswald, noting that "I
was not going to make the mistake of getting myself involved in
something that did not concern me." He added also, "That was a very
difficult situation because I was afraid."
Increasing Veciana's fear of his possibly becoming involved in
the Kennedy assassination was a visit to his home by Cesar Diosdato
within a few days of the murder. That man had ostensibly worked for
the US Customs Service in Key West and was a well known figure
among anti-Castro activists in Miami because it was technically in
Customs jurisdiction to prevent violations of the Neutrality Act.
Violation of that act occurred every time an anti-Castro raiding
party left from Miami or the Keys.
Diosdato roamed the Keys like a traffic cop, monitoring the
launching sites of the exile raiding groups, stopping some but not
others. The word among anti-Castro raiders was that you couldn't
send out a raid against Castro without Diosdato's permission.
Many of the Cubans thought Diosdato was a CIA man. Veciana
did, Fonzi noted, and that's why Veciana was apprehensive when
Diosdato asked him if he knew anything about the Kennedy
assassination or Lee Harvey Oswald. Veciana had many times gone to
Key West to get clearance for raid departures, and this time
Veciana clammed up on Diosdato.
Diosdato said that it was not an official visit. "He said he
had been instructed to ask a few of the exiles if they knew
anything, that's all," Veciana said. It crossed Veciana's mind,
Fonzi said, that he was being tested. He decided he was not going
to tell Diosdato anything.
Bishop called Veciana a few weeks later to arrange a Miami
meeting, and Bishop never mentioned Oswald or the encounter in
Dallas at that meeting. The Kennedy assassination was spoken of,
but the discussion was confined to that event's impact on the world
and on their anti-Castro activities. Bishop even appeared saddened
by the murder.
At the same time, Veciana told Fonzi, Bishop did say something
that suggested a strange type of involvement.
The newspapers at the time were running stories about Oswald
having met with a Cuban couple in Mexico City. The stories reported
that the wife spoke excellent English, Veciana recalled to Fonzi.
Bishop said he knew Veciana had a cousin, Guillermo Ruiz, who was
stationed in Mexico City as a member of Castro's intelligence
service. Bishop asked Veciana if he would attempt to get in touch
with Ruiz and offer him a large amount of money if Ruiz would say
it was he and his wife who had met with Oswald.
It was a ploy that might have worked, Veciana thought, because
"Ruiz was someone who always liked money." There was no
specification on how much money should have been offered to Ruiz,
only that it should be "a huge amount." Ruiz, however, had been
transferred back to Havana and Veciana could not get in touch with
him to make the offer, at least not safely.
Veciana told Bishop of his difficulties a couple months later
and Bishop merely told him to forget it. "He told me it was no
longer necessary," Veciana recalled to Fonzi.
That was the only reference he and Bishop ever made to Kennedy
The big significance of that story was that it disproved what
Richard Helms, then deputy director for plans (DDP) of the Central
Intelligence Agency told Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee
Rankin. The minutes of the meeting between those two men show that
Helms told Rankin that "the Commission would have to take his word
for the fact that Oswald had not been an agent" of the CIA.
Earlier, then director of CIA John A. McCone provided an affidavit
to the Warren Commission in which he swore that, based on his
personal knowledge and on "detailed inquiries he caused to be made"
within the CIA, Lee Harvey Oswald was not an agent, employee or
informant of the CIA. He also swore that "Lee Harvey Oswald was
never associated or connected, directly or indirectly, in any way
whatsoever with the CIA."
What Veciana's story meant was that Maurice Bishop, apparently
associated with the CIA, was in contact with Lee Harvey Oswald
prior to the assassination of President Kennedy. This CIA operative
was involved in Castro assassination attempts also, in which the
Agency for some reason was not admitting participation, Fonzi
He might also have noted that it was highly strange that
another man whom Veciana believed to be a CIA man came snooping
around asking questions following the assassination. The
possibilities of what was behind that were pretty widespread,
including (as is probable if Veciana's reaction was correct) making
sure that there were no "leaks" of a possible plot going on-and to
possibly sanitize or close them if they were.
One of the things that pertains to the story of Fonzi tracking
the CIA agent while an investigator for two Congressional
committees was the attitude of Veciana himself about what was
probably behind the Kennedy assassination in Dallas. His outlook,
as Fonzi explained it, was a bit different than other anti-Castro
Cubans Fonzi had known.
Almost to a man those exile leaders Fonzi knew touted the same
theory about the Kennedy assassination-Castro did it. They knew
little of the evidence of the facts, Fonzi noted, but they knew
that Castro did it.
Except for Veciana, Fonzi noted. "I don't think Castro did
it," Veciana says. "I know Castro. He is crazy. Once, when he was
down to his last twelve men in the mountains, he said, `Now there
is no way we can lose!' He is crazy, but he did not kill Kennedy.
That would have been much too crazy. I think it was a plan, sure."
Fonzi noted that by "a plan," Veciana meant a conspiracy.
All this was part of what Fonzi learned of and from Veciana
while an investigator for Senator Schweiker, both during and after
the time the Senator was on the Church Committee. Schweiker figured
that revelation about Veciana seeing Lee Harvey Oswald in the
presence of a CIA man not too long prior to the assassination would
be the nudge needed to push a new investigation into starting, but
it didn't work that way. Fonzi stayed on, looking into leads
pertaining to the JFK assassination. Schweiker finally figured
there was no point in pursuing it any further on his own hook since
the Assassinations Committee was being started.
Fonzi went to work as a staff investigator for the new House
Assassinations Committee, and the hunt for the CIA man known to
Veciana as Maurice Bishop was on.
At one point Fonzi had spoken with a longtime Kennedy
assassination researcher in Philadelphia, Pa., by the name of
Vincent Salandria. During their conversation on a Sunday afternoon,
Salandria told Fonzi that he had dropped studying the assassination
because it was an exercise in futility. He noted to Fonzi that it
was obvious from the start that the Presidential murder had been a
conspiracy and the researchers who were critics of the Warren
Commission had gone about looking at things wrongly by looking at
the trees instead of the forest, which really didn't lead anywhere.
As far as Salandria was concerned when Fonzi visited him just
prior to tackling the assassination in an official vein, what would
happen to him as an official investigator for the Assassinations
Committee would be what happened to the private researchers-he
would be sent traipsing around to one little insignificant lead
after another and in the long run would be worn down, with no real
results to show for it.
Anybody investigating the assassination, in Salandria's
viewpoint, would be coping with international forces whose
interests had long ago transcended national boundaries and didn't
have anything to do with what the interests of the United States
Fonzi had spoken to Salandria one other time several years
before that meeting, and at that time had not enough experience at
the JFK investigation to realize what Salandria had been talking
about. At that meeting Fonzi had come away with the feeling that
Salandria was crazy because he had been taking the exact opposite
viewpoint from that of persons who were established authorities.
Although his viewpoint had changed over the years to where he
had agreed with most of what Salandria had said at the first
meeting, Fonzi noted that following the second meeting that he
thought then that Salandria had to be crazy for sure.
But, as it turned out, Salandria was right again. What
happened to the Select Committee on Assassinations was that its
investigative efforts did get tied up in the trees of the JFK
assassination forest, with a lot of what were promising leads
getting lost by the wayside.
When Sprague resigned on March 30, 1977, Fonzi noted, most of
the reorganization period that followed featured the actual
investigative work of the committee being a slipshod,
going-around-in-circles approach. He noted that when investigators
did go out to places like Dallas and actually investigate they
would come back with information that indicated that despite the
intervening years the JFK assassination was still ripe for a
But there was no plan to the investigation during that
reorganization period, and Fonzi therefore decided to go out on his
own. He kept investigating areas he could check out in the Miami
area and kept feeding his memos back to Washington on what he dug
up, in addition to what the committee had picked up regarding
Veciana from Schweiker's office.
He also got back in touch with Veciana and told him he had
joined the new Committee and that it would be more effective than
other investigations. Veciana told him that if he could help him to
just get hold of him.
Any trust Veciana had in Fonzi or investigating committees
almost went out the window when Jack Anderson got hold of the notes
on the anti-Castro exile from the Schweiker investigation and wrote
up a column on him being involved with CIA operations, along with
a "Morris" Bishop. Veciana acknowledged it could be extremely bad
for him, since his friends in the anti-Castro movement might well
get the idea he couldn't be trusted any more. He didn't hold it
against Fonzi, though, and continued to cooperate with him.
It wasn't easy to get things investigated the way Blakey and
his cronies wanted them investigated, though. When Blakey took over
he went for what was known as a "foraging" period in which
investigators dug out what they could, then a second period where
they had to get it all arranged with the emphasis on getting a
report out that looked good. That was the real emphasis after
Blakey came on, Fonzi noted-a report that LOOKED good as opposed to
actually using what time and resources there were to actually
solving the crime as Sprague had wanted to do.
Add to that things like Blakey agreeing to maintain the
secrecy of the CIA files investigators looked at, which Sprague had
adamantly refused to do, and it was almost assured that the
investigation under Blakey would not turn out to be a shadow of
what it would have been with Sprague.
Fonzi noted in his article that the bad problem was that in
the end the Committee really didn't honor its mandate to conduct a
"full and complete" investigation into the area of possible
intelligence connections to the JFK murder, including the
information that was in hand relating to Veciana's allegations.
The main thing about what Veciana had told him, that Oswald
had been spotted in the presence of a known intelligence man not
that long before the assassination during a time period that his
comings and goings were unknown, literally screamed for attention,
Problem was, Blakey was obviously hell bent on being able to
make the link that organized crime was somehow involved in plotting
the Kennedy assassination in some way. This is what the Committee
finally wound up concluding, despite the outlook of persons on the
organized crime team feeling that no such link had been made.
Jim McDonald, member of that team, told Fonzi that "I remember
that as being a constant battle at our meetings. Most of us on the
team felt we never made the link. But at our meetings it was
obvious that Blakey wanted that. He wanted to make that link more
than anything else."
And, though the hearings held near the end of the life of the
Committee on television purported to cover the area of possible
links between Oswald and the CIA, Fonzi noted that it never did.
Blakey acknowledged a reason for that, which had to do with
the arrangement he had made with the CIA in order to be able to
look at its files, Fonzi noted. One stipulation of that arrangement
was that all information the Committee obtained from the CIA and
wanted to release in its final report would be reviewed by the CIA
prior to its release. It was Blakey's contention that at that time
the Committee could argue its case on a point by point basis. Until
then, Blakey didn't want to present any information in the public
hearings that might lead to what he thought would be a "premature"
skirmish with the CIA.
This meant that some parts of what Fonzi had dug up from
Veciana about the CIA man he had worked with got cut out of the
final narrative in the hearings, despite it not having been dug up
when Fonzi worked for the Committee but having been brought out
when he worked for Senator Schweiker.
But the bias that Blakey suffered from, for whatever reason,
didn't stop Fonzi from digging up more in relation to the
mysterious CIA man Veciana had spoken of when he had been working
for Senator Schweiker.
A lot of the work in trying to track down Maurice Bishop and
his true identity had occurred when Fonzi had worked for Senator
Schweiker as an independent investigator when the Church Committee
was still operating.
The search for the true identity of the intelligence man was
necessary due to the fact that most intelligence men really don't
use their actual names when they are conducting an operation. This
helps what's known as "plausible deniability," among other things.
Plausible deniability means that some operations which the
government sends its intelligence agents out to do would be better
denied by that government if the operation were discovered. If the
agent running the operation used his real name, it would be much
easier at a point for the cover to be discovered as the handiwork
of that government and its intelligence arm. Also, agents tend to
retire at some point, sooner or later. One would suspect that a
quiet retirement would be helped by one's true name not being
connected to some operations that the agent had engaged in during
his active career.
Steps Fonzi had taken while with Schweiker's office included
having a composite sketch made of Maurice Bishop by a police artist
he knew, with Veciana supplying the details of the man's facial
features as he remembered them. Those composite sketches are not
supposed to be an exact representation of a person's face. But
usually they are close enough so that persons who might have known
the person in the sketch would probably remember who it was.
Senator Schweiker himself was a typical example of how a
composite sketch works. When Fonzi and one of Schweiker's staff
showed the sketch to the Senator in the Capitol building after it
was made up, he stared long and hard at it and noted that it
reminded him of somebody but he couldn't immediately remember who.
The name later surfaced in the Senator's memory as being David
Atlee Phillips, a CIA man who had appeared before committees
Schweiker had been a member of.
While Schweiker noted the sketch was very close likeness of
Phillips, there were other things about the careers of both
Phillips and the man who went by the name of Maurice Bishop that
dovetailed, Fonzi noted.
The more he learned about David Atlee Phillips, Fonzi noted,
the more the pieces between the puzzles of the two men seemed to
Aside from the physical similarity, certain career assignments
with the CIA were the same as well as interests. Phillips, for
instance, was a covert operative in Havana and was also involved
with anti-Castro Cuban groups before and after the Bay of Pigs. He
was also assigned to propaganda and counterintelligence activities
in Mexico City when Lee Harvey Oswald visited that city.
In 1968 Veciana got a U.S. government salary job with the
Agency for International Development at the suggestion of and with
the help of Bishop as a banking consultant for Bolivia. It was at
this time that Veciana's activities with Bishop broadened to
include strategies aimed at countering Communism throughout South
America as well as plots against the Castro regime.
Phillips noted in his autobiography that in 1967 he had taken
on a new assignment as chief of the Cuban Operations Group of CIA's
Western Hemisphere Division. Phillips also noted that his
responsibilities included keeping tabs on Cuban preoccupations in
Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East and in more than twenty
countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as managing
CIA espionage operations in Cuba.
Veciana had also told Fonzi prior to Phillips's name surfacing
in the search for Maurice Bishop that while all of Bishop's plans
against Castro failed, there were other plans against other people
that did not fail. Veciana also told Fonzi that there was no doubt
that Bishop was involved in the plan to dispose of Allende in
Chile, and he knows that by the contacts in Chile that Bishop had.
Part of the plot to dispose of Castro in Chile in 1971 called for
Chilean military bodyguards to capture the assassins before
Castro's people could kill them, Veciana also noted, and Bishop had
made the arrangements for that part of the plan.
The careers of the two men were more parallel than what Fonzi
could put at the feet of mere coincidence, in short.
More direct evidence of the two men actually being the same
man came from one old CIA man who was identified by Fonzi and the
Committee as Ron Cross.
Cross had worked as a case officer out of the CIA's JM/WAVE
station that had worldwide control of the Cuban problem in the
early 1960s and at one time had been the biggest CIA station
worldwide. Cross's duties had included handling Cuban exile labor
units and helping in organizing a militant group that was very
active in anti-Castro operations. At one point Cross had posed as
an American businessman with financial connections and infiltrated
Castro's mountain stronghold before Castro had seized power. Fonzi
described Cross as being very good in the candor department. He
reportedly told Fonzi right up front that he had been a drunk at
one time in case it surfaced during the investigation, and that the
problem had cropped up due to job pressures at the CIA.
Cross also knew David Atlee Phillips, who Cross said
coordinated the propaganda operations of all the Cuban exile groups
the Agency was running at that time. Phillips worked mostly out of
Washington at that time but flew in and out of Miami frequently,
Cross added (this was another thing that dovetailed with Maurice
Cross also told Fonzi and another Assassinations committee
staffer that he was practically certain that "Maurice Bishop" was
a cover name that David Atlee Phillips used during his days with
The reason Cross felt that way was that he had thought about
the time period when he worked with Phillips's young assistant at
the JM/WAVE station, Doug Gupton. Cross recalled often discussing
special field and agent problems with Gupton and Gupton would at
times say, "Well, I guess Mr. Bishop will have to talk to him."
Cross noted that Gupton of course knew he was referring to his
boss, Dave Phillips.
Near the end of his testimony before the Assassinations
Committee in April of 1978 in which Fonzi caught him lying about a
couple of points, David Phillips had been shown the composite
sketch of Maurice Bishop. Phillips reportedly put his glasses on,
studied the sketch for a moment, then slowly nodded his head. "It
does look like me," he said. He paused for a moment, then with a
smile added that "Actually, it looks more like my brother." He
added when asked that his brother was a lawyer in Texas.
Fonzi was later in Dallas helping to get some last-minute
depositions taken from witnesses with Jim McDonald, another
Committee staffer. He also took the opportunity of visiting David
Phillips's brother in the hope of picking up some records he had
promised the Committee in his role as head of the local Crime
Edwin Phillips greeted Fonzi in an unpretentious office in the
old Electric Service Building in downtown Fort Worth, and reminded
Fonzi of a down-home Texas politician-fast-talking, drawling,
back-slapping, friendly and sharp as an old hoot owl, in Fonzi's
Edwin, David Phillips's older brother, did not have the files
ready to go at the time Fonzi was there, but was literally
astounded when Fonzi showed him the composite sketch that had been
drawn up to Veciana's specifications. Edwin Phillips noted that it
looked exactly like his brother David, more than it did him. Fonzi
noted in his story that it was obvious the sketch looked more like
David than Edwin Phillips. Edwin Phillips's secretary looked at the
sketch and she also said that it looked like David Phillips. Edwin
Phillips's daughter, who at the time was also a secretary at the
business Edwin Phillips operated, looked at the sketch also and
said, "Why that's Uncle David. That IS Uncle David." By that time
all three were shaking their heads and laughing at the coincidence
that the sketch would look so much like David Phillips.
Fonzi's trip to Dallas came in the time period between the
public hearings that the committee held and the issuing of its
final report, which Fonzi helped draw up.
He did keep in touch with Antonio Veciana though, and several
weeks after the Committee report was released in July of 1979 Fonzi
got a copy of its concluding volume. He had meanwhile gotten a copy
of staff reports he had written including ones pertaining to the
Veciana investigation. He gave Veciana copies of his staff report
since he felt an obligation to let them see what his conclusions
were after dealing with him for more than three years.
Fonzi had pointed out in one of his investigative reports on
Veciana that the one place where he really doubted the Cuban
exile's credibility was when Veciana had not identified David
Phillips as the man known as Maurice Bishop. This feeling on
Fonzi's part was apparently based on a knowledge of Veciana picked
up through fairly long association with him, plus an encounter
arranged between the two men in Reston, Va. That encounter came
during a retired intelligence officers' dinner where Phillips
denied any knowledge of Veciana, indeed looked at him pokerfaced
and enquired what his name was.
During the dinner Veciana had hardly touched his food, just
sat there and stared at Phillips until it practically embarrassed
Fonzi. Phillips at times was visibly shaken by the news that
Veciana was helping Schweiker's subcommittee look into the Kennedy
assassination. Phillips declined to talk to Fonzi at all about
anything pertaining to it, noting that he'd be happy to talk to any
Congressman or Congressman's employee in Congress.
With several people who had reason to know what David Phillips
looked like, including family members, identifying the composite
sketch as looking practically the same as David Phillips, Fonzi
also had another reason for doubting Veciana in relation to his
stand on whether or not Bishop was really Phillips.
A friend of Fonzi's in Little Havana called him not too long
after the release of the report and told him that Veciana had been
shot in the head while driving home from work. Someone had ambushed
him and fired four shots but had failed to kill him, the friend
Veciana made a quick batch of calls and discovered that
Veciana was in the hospital but was okay. A piece of one
ricocheting bullet had caught Veciana in the side of the head. One
of his daughters told Fonzi later the same evening that she had
returned from the hospital and that the wound was not serious.
About a week after Veciana was shot Fonzi got a call from him.
He was out of the hospital and walking around by that time, Fonzi
noted, and joking about the bullet wound. He also noted that he had
read the staff report and wanted to talk with Fonzi, as well as
show him some papers.
When Fonzi drove down to see Veciana the next night, Veciana
was pale but appeared in good spirits despite his experience.
Veciana said he was coming home late, made a left hand turn into a
street and saw a brown station wagon parked on the corner facing
him. There was a figure sitting in the station wagon. Then Veciana
heard a loud noise and felt a sharp blow on the side of his head.
The front vent window exploded when the second shot was fired. It
was then that Veciana knew that it was an attempt on his life, he
The third shot ripped through the door at the level of
Veciana's ribs, but was deflected by the door's interior parts,
passed in front of his stomach, ripped across his right arm and
went out the other side of the truck and on into an open field.
A spiderweb of cracks was created by the fourth shot as it
grazed across the truck's windshield.
The jagged holes in the truck were .45 caliber in size.
Veciana said he thought that it was Castro's agents who probably
set it up, even when Fonzi enquired if he thought it might have
been at the behest of somebody else.
After a while the talk turned to the staff report that Fonzi
had written on his investigation of Veciana. At one point after the
composite sketch of the man known as Maurice Bishop had been
completed, Veciana had looked at a photograph of David Atlee
Phillips in a magazine in a public library to see if that was the
same man as Bishop.
Veciana had looked at the photo for a long time, so long that
Fonzi couldn't contain himself any longer and quietly asked if it
was him or not. "It is close," Veciana had said, nearly causing
Fonzi to have a shit hemmorhage. With a little more questioning
from Fonzi, quiet questioning despite wanting to scream something
like "What do you mean, it is close? Is it him or not?" Veciana
said that it wasn't him.
The exile leader also noted that he would really like to talk
to the man. It was after that look at the photo that the face to
face confrontation between the two men at the Reston dinner party
of retired intelligence officers was arranged by Senator Schweiker.
After that meeting, Veciana again noted that the two men were not
the same. "But he knows," Veciana had said of Phillips's knowledge
of Veciana and aspects of the exile and CIA fight against Castro.
Now, with the Committee's investigation for all practical
purposes dead and over, the two men talked of the staff report.
There were things in it that questioned his credibility, which was
very important to Veciana because at the time he was gathering
evidence that would overturn his narcotics conviction that he spent
time in the penitentiary for.
What bothered him was the denial in Caracas by two men who
were involved with him in the Castro assassination attempt in Chile
in 1971. Veciana said that they were with him and they were not
telling the truth. Veciana noted he had asked a friend who had just
come back from Caracas to bring papers that would prove it, and
would also give Fonzi the name of a person in Miami who would
The two men talked for a few hours in detail about other
points in the staff report, Fonzi said. He noted that he slowly
realized that Veciana was not going to bring up the one key doubt
he had expressed about Veciana's credibility when he told Fonzi
that David Phillips was not Maurice Bishop.
Now, in their conversation, Veciana was just letting that one
slide past. Fonzi felt constrained to take advantage of the
relationship that had sprung up between the two men to push it a
little bit for a question into that area.
Fonzi noted that he told Veciana he didn't want to put him on
the spot, but " . . . I would like to ask you just one question,
and I would like you to be totally honest with me because the
answer that you give me is very important to me."
At that, Veciana's face got serious and his dark eyes stared
at Fonzi without expression, Fonzi noted.
"You know that I believe what you have told me," Fonzi noted.
"I believe you about everything. Except when you told me that David
Phillips is not Maurice Bishop."
Fonzi noted that Veciana's eyes never moved and his expression
"Now," Fonzi said, "I would like you to tell me this one time
very truthfully: Would you have told me if I had found Maurice
A slow smile crossed Veciana's face as he let out his breath,
Fonzi said. He put his head down and scratched his forehead, taking
time to think carefully. Then he looked up with a half-smile still
on his face, Fonzi added. "Well, you know," he said, "I would like
to talk to him first."
Fonzi said he looked at Veciana for a moment, then laughed.
Veciana laughed with him.
So there it sat after the Assassinations Committee of the U.S.
House of Representatives closed its doors, issued its report and
went out of business for good. It was a hell of an end to what
Chief Counsel Robert Blakey had characterized early on as the last
investigation into the JFK assassination. That comment of Blakey's
provided what might be interpreted as extremely good forecasting of
what the Justice Department would do with the recommendation
pertaining to continuing the investigation.
While Fonzi's probe into the Maurice Bishop lead would on the
surface appear to be a dead end in light of Veciana's last word on
whether or not Phillips was Bishop, that last word also was one of
those tantalizing statements that news reporters recognize
generally as a double-barreled statement.
What Veciana was apparently doing was leading Fonzi to
understand that the investigator had been right after all in a
friendly fashion, one in keeping with the friendship that had
apparently grown up between the two men while compromising nothing.
If so, it would appear that David Phillips really was Maurice
Bishop. Try proving it in a court of law and getting a conviction
with it, though.
Also left up in the air was Blakey's role in the
investigation. The man did manage to produce a report that looked
good in a way, as he said at one staff meeting he intended to do.
Only when one gets past the surface appearance with a knowledge of
factual background information does one realize that the
conclusions and the investigation itself were skewed away from what
the conclusions probably should have been.
The least one could say for the Committee, as well as the most
one could say, is that it at least did say that there was a
conspiracy at work in the JFK assassination, based on the acoustics
evidence. When coupled with the other evidence available, that
acoustics evidence helps to throw together a starting point for a
real, honest-to-God investigation of the JFK murder that should
have taken place years ago.
There is also the area that David Lifton covered by
interviewing the medical technicians from Bethesda Naval Medical
Center, who all noted happenings in the hospital and its morgue the
night of the autopsy which would indicate that something was
completely amiss with the body.
As Lifton indicated in his book "Best Evidence," what had
happened to JFK's body somewhere between Parkland Hospital and
Bethesda was surgery to the top of the head, which that author
figured could only have been to remove bullets or bullet fragments
from the head.
Accessory end results from that surgery to the head included
changing the trajectory of the head wounds so that they appeared as
a result of the upcoming autopsy to be wounds that had been fired
from back to front, thus implicating Oswald.
The majority of the men who saw the corpse come in the first
time, in the plain shipping casket and the body bag, all said that
at that time the head looked like Kennedy had been shot from front
This tied in with what the Parkland doctors said they saw
while they tried vainly to resuscitate the President, but the hole
the Bethesda guys saw was much larger. Instead of just being in the
right rear of the head as noted at Parkland, the Bethesda wound
projected forward into the area of the right temple also.
What this implies is that the persons who performed that
surgery to the head apparently did not have the time to do the
entire job they may have wanted to in the limited time period
between Air Force One landing at Andrews Air Force Base and the
official motorcade from there arriving at Bethesda.
Lifton had postulated as a result of his research that the
body had probably been hidden somewhere on board Air Force One
during the flight back to Washington, perhaps in the galley area,
possibly disguised as baggage. After the Boeing 707 landed at
Andrews, one military helicopter moved in to the right side of the
aircraft where arrangements had been made to place a ramp at the
right front exit of the plane. It was then that the corpse had been
offloaded from Air Force One, Lifton's research led him to believe.
From there it was a short air hop to a place like Walter Reed Army
Medical Center where the pre-autopsy surgery could have been done.
Then it would have required just a quick ambulance ride or
helicopter flight to Bethesda in plenty of time to beat the
motorcade as the corpse actually did.
Crazy as that situation sounds, it makes sense. The one thing
it had going for it was that it did sound so crazy to those among
us who believe that everything occurs in a straightforward, step by
step fashion in this life. First somebody dies violently, then they
are taken by an ambulance to a hospital, then to a morgue where an
autopsy is performed, then the report is issued while the funeral
is going on or shortly thereafter.
Problem is, there ain't no law that says it has to happen that
way. What we expect is a psychological conditioning thing because
it usually happens that way. But not always.
As was once noted by Sherlock Holmes, once you have eliminated
every possible solution but one, then that solution, however
unlikely appearing, has to be the correct answer.
Interestingly enough, Lifton was tipped off to the existence
of such surgery by the autopsy surgeons noting the fact to FBI men
who watched the autopsy, who in turn noted it in their report that
it had been said. Just one of the little things in the record that
slipped past everybody until Lifton recognized its true
significance and started following up on it.
While the two FBI agents deserve some form of congratulations
for noting that occurrence when they were informed of it by autopsy
doctors, Lifton feels that other branches of the federal
bureaucracy really fell flat and possibly were worse than negligent
for the part they played in the JFK assassination.
The Secret Service, as far as Lifton was concerned, could well
have been implicated in the assassination somehow, perhaps on the
basis of some individual members rather than as a total
investigative and protective agency.
The Secret Service, Lifton noted in his book, had the
responsibility for guarding the President, and agents of the
Service also had responsibility for planning the motorcade route in
After Kennedy was dead, the Secret Service had custody of the
body, which was the main piece of evidence in the case and was
obviously tampered with, thereby destroying whatever credibility
that piece of evidence had in a court of law. They also custody of
bullet fragments, the limousine (which was altered and repaired
prior to being investigated as criminal evidence), and would still
have to answer for hustling the corpse out of Dallas so that an
independent coronor would have the autopsy done instead of the
screwed-up affair at Bethesda.
But to put things in proper perspective, we have to remember
what Edward Luttwak says in the book "Coup d'Etat." He notes that
for a coup to be successful at least some important members of the
target's protective agency have to be "turned" so that the security
will relax enough for the plot to be successfully carried out.
Hopefully the security will be relaxed enough for the assassins to
make a clean getaway.
Apparently this is what happened in the JFK murder, along with
members of either Kennedy's staff or the White House Secret Service
detail also helping to arrange things for the coverup of the crime
to be successful.
It isn't too pretty a picture to contemplate, but these things
bore looking into by the Assassinations Committee along with the
narratives the medical technicians could have provided if Committee
researchers would have let them just tell about it. They didn't.
Nor did they even delve into things like whether anybody in the
Secret Service or anybody else could have been involved in what so
apparently was a plot.
Other areas of course involve a better followup of what Fonzi
was doing, which the Committee should have done, and what the
Justice Department should have had a try at as per the Committee's
What we are left with as a result of all this is the
possibility that since no action has been taken as the result of
the Committee's recommendation is that whoever was behind the JFK
assassination literally took over the U.S. Government behind the
scenes as a result of it. There they probably remain until this
day, pulling the puppet strings while everything appears to go on
as it always did. But it doesn't.
All these deductions from real life occurrences constitute
fairly serious charges and allegations. It should be remembered
that under a relatively open minded interpretation of factual
evidence that has been known for years they are the only type of
deductions that fit the real life known occurrences and facts as
outlined here. And this is only a short summary. Very thick books
have been written in very serious, scholarly fashion about the JFK
But so far there have not been any of them written along the
lines of merging all the factual material currently known to the
public and drawing interpretations of what the only logical outcome
could have been. As noted above, the most probable conclusion a
reasonable person could reach is that there was a plot and it
succeeded in taking over the government.
It's just too bad that the only investigative agencies with
enough clout to investigate a Presidential assassination are run by
the federal government. Maybe we ought to form another one that's
independent and sic it on some of these big, unsolved murders of
recent history, starting with the JFK assassination. It won't bring
JFK back, but it would wipe the slate clean and give us the answers
that are still hidden.
When Jack Ruby was still in jail awaiting trial, he was
visited by Gerald Ford, a member of the Warren commission, along
with Earl Warren himself and some staff members of the Commission
in the interests of having an interview down on record from the
killer of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Ruby begged Warren repeatedly to have him taken out of the
Dallas County Jail where his life was in danger (Ruby's own words)
and take him to Washington where he could testify freely since he
really didn't want to hold anything back about his part in the
Not only did Ruby believe that his life was in danger, but he
also felt that his family was in a certain amount of danger from
any disclosure that he might make officially about the murder.
Interestingly enough, considering Bob Blakey's theory, he also
denied that organized crime had approached him about taking a part
in the murder of the President.
It was obvious just from reading the transcript that Jack Ruby
was utterly terrified. It was also apparent that he still had
enough of a grip on the realities of the situation that he knew
Earl Warren could get him back to Washington to testify if he
wanted to, since the Commission had a mandate to go out and collect
evidence in any way it wanted to.
Earl Warren denied at one point to a direct question from Ruby
that he could get him back to Washington, though, and that was the
apparent beginning of understanding on Ruby's part that Earl Warren
was not really interested in getting him out of Dallas so that
whatever he had to say could come out. After that point and
repeated failures to convince Warren that it would be worth it,
Ruby gave up the effort and lapsed back into his tired story that
he had used during his murder trial.
By the time the trial was on, one reporter managed to gain
access to Ruby for a private interview. Summers, who wrote the book
CONSPIRACY, was searching through old videotapes in Texas in 1978
and found a fragment of that interview, which was in the form of a
rare television interview with Ruby which had never been shown on
Ruby was slumped in a chair during a recess in one of his many
long-drawn-out court appearances, and noted that "The only thing I
can say is everything pertaining to what's happened never came to
the surface. the world will never know the true facts of what
occurred-my motive, in other words. I am the only person in the
background to know the truth pertaining to everything relating to
And, in response to the interviewer's question about whether
Ruby thought the truth would ever come out, Ruby provided a
possible epitaph if somebody doesn't really do an honest
"No. Because unfortunately these people, who have so much to
gain and have such an ulterior motive to put me in the position I'm
in, will never let the true facts come aboveboard to the world."
What do you think? Does the death of a U.S. President deserve
more than that, or not?
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