By John McAdams
"He didn't even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights . . . . It's — it had to be some silly little Communist." — Jackie Kennedy, on hearing that a leftist had been arrested for her husband's murder.
It's the most controversial case in modern American history. Did Lee Harvey Oswald kill John Kennedy by himself, or did a conspiracy do it? And if a conspiracy did it, did the conspiracy include Oswald?
If you are like most Americans, you believe that a conspiracy killed Kennedy. And if you are like most Americans, you have heard a vast number of bogus factoids about the case.
This web site is dedicated to debunking the mass of misinformation and disinformation surrounding the murder of JFK. If you are believer in Oswald as a lone gunman, you are likely to enjoy this web site, since most of that misinformation and disinformation has come from conspiracists. But if you are a sophisticated conspiracist, you likely understand that the mass of silly nonsense in conspiracy books and documentaries does no service to the cause of truth in the assassination, and simply buries the "case for conspiracy" under layers of bunk.
Regardless of what you believe, several are worth checking out. And you may also want to check out my list of .
What sort of evidence is there?
What about those witnesses? Didn't everyone hear shots from the Grassy Knoll? What about the Tague wounding? Who was the "Umbrella Man?" Was the rifle recovered really a Mauser? Does "acoustic evidence" show a shot from the Grassy Knoll? Were the Three Tramps suspicious? How could Kennedy's head go "back and to the left?"
You've seen Kevin Costner give the conspiracy version of the Single Bullet theory. You know: Connally seated directly in front of Kennedy, at the same height, and facing straight ahead. Was that really what happened?
What sort of person was he? Did he really have "Top Secret" security clearance? Did he shoot at General Walker? Were there two Oswalds? If Oswald shot Kennedy, what was his motive? Was the man exhumed in 1981 really somebody besides Oswald?
Did Oswald really share an office with Guy Banister? Did Clay Shaw really use the alias "Clay Bertrand?" Why did Oliver Stone make a movie about the Shaw trial and not even mention Perry Raymond Russo? Did David Ferrie die a "mysterious death?" What about Jim Garrison and the Mafia?
Did the bullet that hit Kennedy in the back penetrate only an inch and fall out? Was Kennedy hit in the head by a bullet from in front? Are the autopsy photos and x-rays faked? Did all the doctors at Parkland Hospital believe that Kennedy was hit in the front of the neck, and if so, are their opinions decisive evidence that that is what happened? Was the back of Kennedy's head blown out? Are the autopsy photos faked?
Did you know that all the evidence in this case proven to be forged has been on the conspiracy side? One key piece originated with the KGB! Did you know that the "mysterious deaths" are virtually all not so "mysterious" when you look at them closely? Do you trust authors like Mark Lane to tell you the truth about what witnesses said?
The "lone nut" theory of the assassination is really the "two lone nuts" theory. What sort of person was Jack Ruby? A mobster? An intelligence agent? A small-time hustler? The sort of volatile character who might really have shot Oswald out of righteous anger?
We expect Hollywood movies to take some liberties with the historical record. But what do we think when Hollywood turns history on its head? Oliver Stone wants to overturn the verdict in the Clay Shaw trial. The jury found that District Attorney Jim Garrison had no case — so Stone invents a case on celluloid. Just how honest was Oliver Stone, Shaw's Hollywood prosecutor?
For some in the conspiracy crowd, John Kennedy was a liberal saint, who was going to implement policies that would bring America into a new Utopia. So, of course, a threatened Power Elite had to kill him. Was Kennedy the kind of left liberal who threatened established interests? Was he a hero of Civil Rights? Had he decided to pull out of Vietnam? Historian Eric Paddon dissects these claims in a series of essays based on his posts on the Internet.
Some notions about logic, probability and statistics necessarily underlie all discussion of "conspiracy" or "lone assassin." Does the lone assassination theory involve too many implausible "coincidences?" Are there a suspicious number of "connections" between various figures in the case? Is the Single Bullet Theory highly "improbable?"
In writings about the assassination, as in real-world criminal justice, witness testimony looms large. But just how reliable are the witnesses? How many witnesses are just flat out telling tall tales? How often are apparently sober and reliable witnesses just flat wrong?
It's plausible enough that some people accept it, although very few committed buffs do: the notion that assassination was a friendly fire incident. Supposedly, Agent George Hickey, riding in the follow-up car, accidently shot the president. This theory has been repeatedly debunked, most recently , and by Dale Myers and Gus Russo in .
What we think about the assassination is dependent on what we think about history, and about the behavior of government officials and bureaucrats. Was Kennedy a radical who threatened the status quo? Did top administration officials order a coverup of a conspiracy soon after the assassination? If the FBI and the CIA withhold documents, does this mean that they are protecting assassination conspirators?
This has long been the cry of the conspiracy theorists. Supposedly, the documents show that a conspiracy killed Kennedy. In fact, the government in the 1990s released a massive number of documents. The Assassination Records Review Board had a mandate to identify and oversee the release of documents in government hands, and in private hands.
Recording devices monitored the two radio channels used by the Dallas Police Department, and these recordings are a vivid "real time" account of the frenzy of activity that followed the shooting. Here are selected audio clips beginning a couple of minutes before the assassination and ending with the arrest of Oswald in the Texas Theatre.
In the more than half century since 1963, the literature on the assassination has taken several twists and turns, from early works that questioned the use of evidence by the Warren Commission, to examinations of the medical evidence, to more recent decades when theories of massive fakery of evidence have dominated. Webmaster John McAdams examines this progression, highlighting important works both defending the lone assassination theory and those (much more numerous) attacking it.Do you want to ask for more information, or discuss or debate some of the issues raised here? The moderated newsgroup:
Run by webmaster John McAdams, is the place to go — whether you are a "newbie" with questions to ask, or a researcher with some evidence you want to present to the research community.
I don't necessarily agree with all the conclusions these authors have drawn, but everything here is a solid piece of work that deserves your attention. All are copyrighted, and all posted here with permission.
- Joan Mellen's book is a book by a conspiracy author that decisively debunks one conspiracy theory: the notion that one Mac Wallace was LBJ's hit man in Texas, and later in Dealey Plaza. points out some weaknesses, but also notes some strengths.
- David Talbot's book fingers CIA director Allen Dulles as the person who plotted and directed the assassination, and protrays him as a generally evil person. Unfortunately, the book is rather deficient as history, as .
- A good, well-reasoned overview of the assassination from someone skeptical of conspiracy theories is Dave Reitzes "." It's a good "first read" for somebody who had read just conspiracy books (or seen conspiracy documentaries) and wants to see the other side of the issue.
- has gotten a fair amount of attention recently. It's an extended explication of the supposed associated with the assassination. Unfortunately, as Marilyn Elias explains in her , it's the sort of book one would write if one surfs conspiracy sites on the Internet, and believes everything one finds there.
- Jeff Morley is a journalist who has gotten some good press recently for his attempts to pry documents he thinks are related to the JFK assassination from the CIA. Most everybody applauds these efforts, but some have taken him to task for making claims that go far beyond the evidence he (or anybody else) has. Dale Myers and Gus Russo critique a variety of Morley's assertions in and
- A recent TV special from the National Geographic channel featured enhancements of assassination films and an attempt to study the missed first shot that many researchers believe Oswald fired. From Max Holland's website, giving full details of the project.
- The notion that Kennedy was killed because he intended to withdraw from Vietnam has become the conventional wisdom among conspiracists, and a recent treatment of that theory, James W. Douglass' , has drawn some attention. But unfortunately, the author not only distorts history, but unintentionally paints a very unflattering portrait of JFK. See .
- Zombie assassins? The notion that "Manchurian candidate" assassins might be "programmed" to commit murder has been a recurring one. Most often invoked in the murder of Robert Kennedy, it has also surfaced in the JFK assassination. British author Mel Ayton explores this issue in his essay
- A recent book by Abraham Bolden tells a most interesting story about the first black Secret Service agent who supposedly knew about conspiratorial goings-on in Chicago, and who was (he claims) framed, convicted and sent to jail on charges of corruption. The media have , but in fact he was . Indeed, when the House Select Committee examined his claims in the late 1970s, they . While the mainstream media is suitably skeptical when the conspiracy card is played, they suspend that skepticism when the race card is played.
- Garrisonites are a rather peculiar and paranoid cult among conspiracy believers, and Joan Mellen's book A Farewell to Justice is the latest to defend District Attorney Jim Garrison, whose ill-conceived campaign to convict Clay Shaw of the JFK assassination was the Yet, like the movie, Mellen has fallen into the trap of believing the most incredible sources and adopting the most outlandish theories in an attempt to vindicate the DA, as Patricia Lambert shows . In another essay, Dave Reitzes discusses Garrison's central, critical witness, a fellow named Perry Raymond Russo. Mellen accepts his testimony, which Reitzes shows . Finally, Lambert shows how Mellen , one Dr. Frank Silva, when it conflicted with the Garrison version of events.
- When a reputable historian publishes a JFK assassination book with a reputable academic press, it should be judicious in its use of sources and prudent in its judgments. But, alas, David Kaiser's book The Road to Dallas turns out to be just another conspiracy book, not too different from scores of others. Read a review by webmaster John McAdams .
- Nothing about the assassination is more important than the issue of when the shots in Dealey Plaza were fired. Pick your timing, and it may be consistent with or entirely debunk a single shooter in the Texas School Book Depository. A supports a new theory about the timing that puts the first shot far earlier than anybody has heretofore theorized. Of course, this theory has generated controversy, so you might want to check out a .
- Author David Talbot ought to the the sort of sober and serious person we would expect a member of the mainstream media to be on the assassination, but alas he isn't. Veteran journalist Don Bohning, who long reported on Talbot's prime suspects in the Miami Cuban community, finds Talbot's book Brothers , with credulous acceptance of suspect witnesses and a very selective use of the documentary record.
- Mel Ayton has a new essay on Ayton believes that all conspiracy thinking has several common threads.
- There has been a recent spate of new books and new theories about the assassination, including from Wilfried Huismann and Gus Russo and the book by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann. Do we have any compelling new evidence or interpretations here, or is this just more unsupported conspiracy theorizing? A critically examines the evidence.
- , claims to have discovered compelling new evidence that Fidel Castro had John Kennedy killed, using Lee Oswald as hit man and patsy. It has . A accepts, for the sake of argument, the data produced by the authors of "Rendezvous With Death" and points out that it could be interpreted in a way very different from what the documentary proposes.
- The History Channel has a record of showing reasonably reliable documentaries on subjects like wars, Nazis, the history of popular culture and the like. But their record on the Kennedy assassination is abysmal. The series has a record of touting the . But they managed to reach a new low with an episode titled "The Guilty Men" which fingered Lyndon Johnson as the prime mover behind the assassination. In this article, , and especially the installment on LBJ. And veteran JFK researcher Dave Perry critiques the reliability of the supposed "evidence" in . And one of the accused conspirators, Malcolm Liggett, over the supposed "documentary" and .
- The "acoustic evidence" got a boost in 2001, when a scientist named D.B. Thomas published an article claiming to have corrected the statistical treatment in earlier studies and found . However, a recent careful study of the timing on the events on the Dallas Police tape by Michael O'Dell . Thus the "acoustic evidence" was to acoustic science what cold fusion was to physics: an example of how even reputable scientists can jump to conclusions when faced with the possibility of an "explosive" discovery.
- Of course there are all kinds of wild and woolly theories connecting Oswald to the CIA. But some responsible and sober researchers have argued that the Agency knew more about and had a more intense interest in Oswald than they have ever admitted. One such researcher is Jefferson Morley, world news editor of . His article outlines the evidence.
- Among conspiracy-oriented researchers, there is a deep gulf between the more moderate and sensible ones, and those who'll promote any bogus piece of "conspiracy evidence." Ulric Shannon is one of the former, and he why he thinks the "I'll believe anything that implies conspiracy" crowd is so harmful.
- Researcher Bill Drenas debuted his essay on this web site in 1997. The current version has some minor factual corrections and much new material. Not pushing any conspiracy theory, but not a debunking exercise either, it's a very careful attempt to nail down Tippit's whereabouts — minute by minute — on the day he died.
- A related essay from Drenas involves the . This classic Oak Cliff location was where Officer Tippit stopped shortly before he was shot. It's still in business, and you'll almost certainly want to visit when you are in Dallas.
- Long-time researcher Gus Russo, author of the recently released book Live By the Sword has an , excerpted from his book.
- Canadian Peter Whitmey is a conspiracy-oriented researcher who sometimes takes issue with conspiracy arguments and witnesses. His articles on this site deal with issues such as a possibly sinister conversation , a little-known New Orleans figure named , an interesting connection between Oswald biographer Priscilla McMillan and a rather suspect and the , accused plotter. Another essay outlines what Whitmey considers in the media in reporting the assassination. Finally, a long essay of his titled brings his research up to date as of the release of the Vincent Bugliosi book.
- Gerald Posner and his book Case Closed have come under heavy attack from the community of conspiracy-oriented "researchers." In Michael Russ compares what the conspiracy buffs say Posner said to what Posner actually said. It seems buffs are no more accurate when attacking their enemies than when discussing the assassination.
- Michael Beck was once a JFK "buff" -- a believer in a Kennedy assassination conspiracy. He now believes that Oswald did it all my himself. How did his beliefs change? This is .
- Researcher David Perry has been "doing" the assassination for several years, and has seen a continual stream of "revelations" come and go. In his essay he discusses publicity-seeking, and particularly the Loy Factor story.
- Tony Marsh's essay is now available online. Based on careful analysis of the movements of the occupants of the presidential limo, of the HSCA acoustic evidence, and of a "jiggle analysis" of the Zapruder film, it represents a bold and interesting attempt to put the evidence together in a compelling way. It was originally presented at the 1993 Third Decade Conference.
- Just how many different people have been accused of being (or have confessed to being) either a shooter or an accomplice in Dealey Plaza? Researcher David Perry has compiled the most complete known list. His is that list. Of the 68 people on this list, at least one is guilty.
- The essay, by Fred Litwin asks about the credibility of any theory that holds that a conspiracy faked all the evidence that conspiracy theorists say is faked.
- John Locke's outlines the evidence, from the perspective of a person who believes Oswald did it alone. A good briefing for someone who has only read conspiracy books, and wants the other side of the story.
- , another essay by John Locke, compares the O.J. Simpson defense to conspiracy thinking in the Kennedy assassination. Would the intellectual habits of the conspiracy buffs have let O.J. go free? Locke says "yes."
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