From the July-August, 1995 issue (Vol. 2 No. 5) of Probe
We have decided to devote a special section of Probe to honor some of the current and prominent female contributors in the research community. For a long time when women in the field were mentioned, the only two names listed were Sylvia Meagher and Mary Ferrell; the former for her wonderful book "Accessories After the Fact", the latter for her personal archives. "JFK" changed that equation. But even at the symposiums held immediately afterward-except for Stone's assistant Jane Rusconi-new female faces were rarely seen on the dais. Last year's COPA conference was a slight improvement. Carol and Kathleen were on panels. But Milicent's presentation on the alteration of John Connally's hospital testimony was rushed and Anne-Marie was inexcusably shunted into a sideroom. We hope that doesn't happen again and we do what we can here to both recognize their work and reverse a neglect that cannot be called benign.
Anna Marie Kuhns Walko: What One Can Do
by Steve Jones
"Ask not what your country can do for you...." For most Americans today these words are but a distant memory or at best a part of some arcane history lesson. But for Anna Marie Kuhns-Walko the challenge that President John Kennedy gave to us 34 years ago is as real and important today as it was when it was first issued.
For the past year and a half, Anna has devoted her life to doing her best to live up to that challenge. She is helping to bring about a more open and honest government so that past crimes held secret may never be repeated again. Between August 1993 and January 1995, Anna spent almost every day, sometimes as much as 50-60 hours per week, at either the National Archives building in downtown Washington or at the newly opened Archives II in College Park, Maryland, digging through millions of documents released under the JFK Assassination Materials Disclosure Act of 1992. No professional historian, journalist, researcher or government bureaucrat is as familiar with the Kennedy assassination materials as this wife and mother of two grown children. In fact, one security guard at the National Archives became so used to seeing her there that he assumed she was an archives employee.
Anna has been an invaluable asset to countless authors and fellow researchers who have made the journey to the new College Park archives. Many have relied upon her for advice and information. An almost equal number have been warmly invited into her home. She gladly shares her research work with others out of a firm conviction that all Americans have a right to know their own history.
The only thing that upsets her is "When the media, or the government, rely upon researchers for information and then publicly refer to them as 'conspiracy buffs.' I hate that term. I don't buff anyone's shoes. I prefer to be referred to simply as a citizen who is deeply concerned that so much of our real history has been kept hidden from us. In going through the files, it's become clear to me that the government isn't going to take the initiative in telling the truth about who killed President Kennedy. We citizens have to make them accountable; to do what is right for the people."
Anna's passion for politics began as a child growing up in Pittsburgh, PA. As a little girl she attended Democratic party and steel-workers union meetings with her mother. As a seven year old, she saw John Kennedy while he was on a campaign swing through her town on October 10, 1960. Anna went on to college and earned three Associate degrees, a bachelors degree, and accumulated fifteen credits towards her Masters degree in political science. She accomplished this while enduring the many moves required of her due to her husband's career in the military.
Anna states that she has uncovered enough information in the newly released files to convince her that the assassination was the result of "a covert operation from within the United States." Among the documents she's uncovered so far:
Documents exposing "Operation TILT": an ill-fated attempt to smuggle four Soviet Military officers out of Cuba who allegedly maintained that missiles were still in place after Kruschev's promise to remove them during the Cuban missile crisis of October, 1962. One of the key players in this drama, John Martino, has been independently identified as being involved in JFK's murder.
She found an envelope with the inscription "7.65 shell found in Dealey Plaza on 12/02/63," only to find that the shell had been removed from the envelope with a note left in its place that stated, "determined of no value and destroyed." Oswald was alleged to have used 6.5 ammunition.
Another document she uncovered states, "photo of bullet allegedly removed from President Kennedy's body." This was found with accompanying photos of a nearly whole bullet. According to the Warren Commission version of events no bullet was ever removed from President Kennedy's body. The only bullet mentioned in their report are "traces" that were found as minute particles which showed up on a skull x-ray.
A document dated February, 1960, claims that then Vice President Richard Nixon was arranging for two million dollars to be turned over to a Cuban revolutionary group and used for the purpose of overthrowing Fidel Castro's government.
It was the public furor caused by the release of Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" that brought about the creation of a five person review board of eminent historians who are responsible for the release of many documents in the government's possession. This review board was given a working staff, a budget of $2 million dollars and a three year life span to carry out this task. Though the board was to have begun their work in 1993, it was not ready to begin work until well into 1994. In the meantime, researchers like Anna didn't waste precious time waiting for the government to act. She was already on the trail long before the ARRB became functional.
But the Review Board still has an important function. Just how efficiently and honestly they operate will show how serious the government is about getting to the truth of the assassination.
What concerns Anna most is that the recent lurch to the right in Congress may spell trouble for the board and the fate of even more documents that are due for release under this legislation. Right wing politicians generally favor authoritarianism and secrecy. "We have to be vigilant and make sure they don't chop it, cut it or stop it. We have to watch and see that Congress doesn't close down the Review Board."
Despite her concerns, Anna is optimistic that, "in time, truth and justice will prevail. People have more to say than they believe they do; more power in what can be done than they realize. We have to keep trying or we're never going to succeed."
Coming Full Circle
by Carol Hewett
I became mildly interested in the assassination as a result of the Oliver Stone movie and casually pursued this interest by reading general books about the assassination by Garrison, Lane, Summers, etc. I was far from being a serious researcher and simply viewed the case as a yet unsolved murder mystery - a much better read than Dash Hammett novels. However, I became hooked by Michael Beschloss's book, Mayday, on the Gary Powers U-2 spy affair wherein Lee Harvey Oswald's name suddenly appears on page 236. Beschloss suggests that Oswald, as a former U-2 radar operator, may have been infiltrated into Russia and utilized to sabotage Powers's flight and the upcoming summit between the superpowers. The timing of these events and the fact that Oswald was released shortly after the Powers exchange for Rudolf Abel put Oswald into an entirely different perspective for me and I embarked upon research into cold war politics and Oswald's military background - still without much interest in the events of Dallas.
I mentally traveled the Far East, Russia and Cuba from post WWII to the Bay of Pigs. Eventually I found myself physically present in Texas in September of 1992 looking for an obscure book in the Dallas library entitled Oswald, by Kerry Thornley, only because there were no copies available in Florida's libraries and I had an airline ticket that needed to be used up by the year's end. It was in Dallas that I discovered that there were others like me who researched and who actually came together at conferences to study the assassination! From my first attendance at ASK 1992 until the present, I have worked vigorously on JFK research and find myself pursuing a wide variety of topics which thus far have covered the Dallas "sleaze scene" including night club operators and gunrunners; Kerry Thornley and E. Howard Hunt as possible propaganda assets; the history of Mannlicher-Carcanos; and an overview of the circumstantial evidence that might have been admitted into a trial had there been one. And so I arrived full circle - from deep politics to the nitpicking details of a Dallas police investigation.
I regard the most significant research development of the 1990's (aside from the historical release of previously classified documents) to be the shift in attitude in a growing number of pro-conspiracy researchers that Oswald may have been involved in the assassination after all. Oswald's innocence up until now has been a sacred cow, which if challenged in the slightest, causes Oswald's defenders to accuse other researchers of being traitors to the cause. I feel this thwarts progress by preventing evidence from being tested against a variety of hypotheses which in turn I feel is essential to unraveling what happened on November 22, 1963. I confess to being part of the small minority of researchers who seriously doubt Oswald's innocence yet who fervently believe in a conspiracy. While I may be in a minority amongst conspiracy theorists, I nevertheless keep company with the majority of Americans - who have maintained that Oswald did not act alone.
My particular approach to research comes from my own tendency as a trial lawyer to analyze facts in such a way so as to reconcile apparent discrepancies. Only in this way can a lawyer make his or her version of the case acceptable to judges and jurors who are receiving conflicting data. In other words, what case scenario would allow both sets of seemingly conflicting facts to exist? This "reconciliation" process can be applied to JFK research as well. For example: if there is both reliable evidence of only 3 shots and reliable evidence of more than 3 shots, then what additional unknown factor might explain both phenomena? One possible answer could be the use of silencers. Thus I began researching both Mannlicher-Carcanos as well as sniper weapons. The results are rather interesting because in 1963 there existed CIA sniper weapons equipped with silencers (that did not muffle the sound as well as they should depending upon where the listener is standing) which happened to have rifling patterns very similar to the Mannlicher-Caracanos. I will elaborate more on my findings in the next issue of Probe.
What has also intrigued me about the JFK assassination was the manner in which the evidence simultaneously implicated and exonerated Oswald - it undisputedly rose to the level of "probable cause" yet neatly fell short of proof "beyond a reasonable doubt. Even if Oswald had not been arrested in the Texas Theater that afternoon, the evidence which came to light during that day was abundantly sufficient to require the issuance of an arrest warrant and the filing of charges against him. Yet this very same evidence falls apart upon closer scrutiny and would not have held up at trial. Examples abound but I will mention just a few: 1) Oswald's fingerprints on the rifle which supported ownership, yet none on the clip or handloaded cartridges which would have shown possession by him that day; 2) the mail order purchase of a Mannlicher from Klein's in the name of an alias of Oswald's and in the handwriting of Oswald, yet a 42" rifle arrives instead of the 36" which he ordered; 3) a paper bag on the sixth floor containing Oswald's blanket fibers yet a similar bag addressed to Oswald languishes in the "dead mail" bin of an Irving post office; 4) backyard photos hidden amongst his personal possessions showing him to be a left-wing militant armed to his teeth yet bearing the markings of being faked; 5) ownership of a handgun of the same 38 caliber that killed Tippet yet the Tippet bullets come from an automatic and Oswald's hand gun is a revolver. Oswald cannot only proclaim that he is a patsy, he can prove it! He even says as much during his interrogations.
Would a bonafide sophoisticated frame-up of an innocent person be so flawed naturally? Or, as researcher William Weston argues, was Oswald actually a "sham" patsy who allowed himself to be implicated provided he could be assured of escape and/or acquittal at trial? If Oswald was truly innocent, how does on explain his departure from the book depository, only to arm himself with a weapon and hide out in a dark theater. No other "innocent" book depository employee felt the need to spend Friday afternoon in the manner selected by Oswald. Oswald was apparently "in the know" about something - but what?
Was Oswald "in the know" of the pending plans to invade Cuba at the end of November 1963, a covert operation which is slowly coming to light for the first time in 30 years? Did this operation have official sanction by the White House or were the Kennedy brothers oblivious to these covert activities? Was the assassination to be a fake one (to justify the invasion) which a few fanatics within the CIA and military transformed into a real one - one covert operation hidden inside of another? How do all of these notions square with the circumstantial and physical evidence that is at hand? The deep politics once again becomes as fascinating as the minute details - how could anyone not be sucked up into what some perceive to be the black hole of assassination research? We at least begin to understand our body politic and thus our own roles as citizens of a democracy, do we not? No matter the individual theories, no matter the outcome, we are all as citizens obligated to probe for the truth and to support one another's efforts - without rancor and back-biting criticism of one another's work, I might add.
I feel that we are arriving closer to the truth with each passing day and with each new document - otherwise I could not continue with my own research if I sensed it was a bottomless pit. Even without a definitive answer, I now understand my government better than I did before. I have also made many wonderful friends from within a group of the most dedicated and intellectually stimulating folks that I have encountered since my college days. What a welcome respite from the grind of the work-a-day world. History has never been so alive!
Carol Hewett is a practicing attorney in Pinellas County, Florida, the same county where Ruth Paine now lives. Following her graduation from the University of Texas School of Law in 1975, she worked for various federally funded legal services programs which engaged in advocacy on behalf of institution- alized persons, including mental patients, prisoners, foster children and juvenile delinquents. Her efforts were directed at safeguarding their constitutional rights with regard to their conditions of confinement. She later served as litigation director of the National Juvenile Law Center, a now defunct program under the U.S. Department of Justice. While there she had occasion to represent Cuban youths in a landmark case which successfully challenged their indefinite detention in adult jails following their arrival into the U.S. in the 1980 Mariel boatlift. In 1982 she formed her own law firm where she focused primarily on criminal defense and family law. Since 1992 she has limited her practice to federal administrative appeals on behalf of social security disability claimants which is far less demanding than her previous trial work and which allows her to pursue assassination research on almost a full-time basis.
by Milicent Cranor
All kinds of expertise and semi-expertise can be applied to the study of the Kennedy assassination. In my case, an amateur's passion for archeology and what it reveals about ancient crimes carried over to the crime of this centruy.
In archeology, you get the conqueror's version of the truth filtered through layers of dead languages, and a lot is left in the filter. Sometimes the truth can be found, not on a great stone monument, but beneath it, in layers of debris, trampled on for centuries. You find fragements of ancient texts, and fragments of individual letters, which may or may not belong together. You combine certain pieces, and take special care to keep others separate.
The testimonies of witnesses to the Kennedy assassination all seems to be jagged fragments of the same picture. Some of the stories don't seem to fit at all, until you ask the right questions; then you find that someone has shifted the context, and you have to reframe the answers.
The best archeologists try to fill in a lot of blanks with imagination and logic, and keep track of every speck of dust that suggests a diffferent picture.
In contrast, spokesmen for the official version of the Kennedy assassination identify no important blanks, and sweep mounds of contradiction beneath a grey rug. I try to identify the blanks - as well as the shape of the lumps under the rug. Less difficult is identifying the lumps standing on the rug, doing business as usual.
Milicent Cranor is the co-author of over a dozen articles for peer-reviewed medical journals, amateur paleographer, former staff writer for Applause Magazine, and former editor at E. P. Dutton.
Cindy McNeill of Houston, Texas passed away on March 21, 1995 after a long battle with breast cancer. Cindy, who was a wife, mother, lawyer and regent with a local university, was a relative newcomer to the assassination research community. Yet she had spent years studying Richard Nixon and E. Howard Hunt and their possible roles in the Kennedy assassination. At the time of her death, Cindy left behind a lengthy unfinished manuscript about these two men. Those who had the opportunity to collaborate with Cindy will remember her impressive command of the subject, her no-nonsense approach to research politics and her generosity and willingness to share her research with others.