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Friday, 10 July 2020 18:42

Did EVEN the Warren Commission Believe Howard Brennan?

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Tim Smith takes a new look at Howard Brennan’s testimony before the Warren Commission and analyzes how the interlocutors questioned and guided Brennan to achieve their preconceived goals. This assessment causes him to ask, “Did EVEN the Warren Commission Believe Howard Brennan?”


Howard Leslie Brennan was born on March 20, 1919, in Oklahoma. One does not have to travel very far through the assassination literature to discover him. He appeared in front of the Warren Commission 3 times, all on the same day. There are also 2 affidavits connected to him as well. It is our job to sort through all of this and see if we can make any sense of his testimony. He was the poster boy, who supposedly identified Oswald in the sixth-floor window. So, in that sense, he is vitally important. His testimony, like so many others, is a metaphor on how the Warren Commission treated their witnesses: steered them a particular direction when they didn’t say what the Commission wanted to hear, ignored and moved on when they were obviously lying, ignored them when they said things that were at variance with what the Commission wanted to hear, or created hypotheticals that had nothing to do with the case and end up being red hearings diverting away from the real evidence at hand. Read through the testimonies of the medical personnel and see how many times Arlen Specter guides the witnesses down a path that leads nowhere, or better yet, creates hypotheticals in an attempt to get them to say something they really didn’t. Brennan will be no different. Again, keep in mind, he is their Golden Ticket, because his description eventually leads to the identification and arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. Let’s see how this worked itself out that weekend and beyond.

Brennan testified, on March 24, 1964, at around 9:00 a.m. in Washington, D.C. His testimony resumed twice that day in the presence of other witnesses who gave testimony on that day. This was common, as all three autopsy doctors were in the same room during each of their testimonies. It was common for the Commission, but ridiculous and should not happen in a murder investigation. Warren Commission members present for Brennan were Earl Warren, Representative Gerald Ford, John McCloy, and Allen Dulles; also present were chief counsel J. Lee Rankin, senior counsel Norman Redlich, and junior counsels David Belin and Joseph A. Ball, and finally Charles Murray, “observer.” It is interesting to note who was not there, namely Richard Russell, Hale Boggs and John Sherman Cooper. As some critics have pointed out, these three had their differences with the majority. And, in fact, Russell filed a dissenting report at the final Commission executive session meeting. Were these differences manifest in their lack of attendance?

As noted above, also present in the hearing room were Bonnie Ray Williams, Harold Norman, James Jarman, Jr., and Roy Truly. Notice has been taken of the absurdity of such a process, as Williams, Norman, and Jarman, who were friends, were not about to criticize each other. It just was not going to happen.

Brennan remarked that upon his arrival into Dealey Plaza, “there was a man having an epileptic fit, a possibility of 20 yards east—south of this corner. And they were being attended by some civilians and officers and I believe an ambulance picked him up.” (3H 141-142) We know that the person in question is Jerry Belknap, who did have an “apparent” seizure, but upon arriving at Parkland hospital decided to not stay but instead left. He did pay the medical expenses for his short trip to the hospital, but it remains somewhat of a mystery as to what was happening. So much so, that someone should have interviewed him and attempted to find out what was really going on with Belknap that day, if anything. It just seems odd.

Brennan then told David Belin, who was the main interlocutor for questioning him, that he “jumped up on the top ledge.” (3H 142) The witness was referring to the retaining wall around the reflecting pool opposite the Book Depository. But it an odd statement, because his inarticulateness makes it sound like he literally jumped on the top ledge and was standing, which he wasn’t and that there is more than one ledge, which there isn’t. He simply sat down, which I will assume is what he meant in all of his unletterdness.

The interview takes a turn and with a quick sleight of hand a moment of monumental proportion is lost. Belin shows Brennan CE-479 and notices that Brennan’s legs are not dangling on the front side, which they would be if he was sitting and facing north toward the Texas School Book Depository. Listen to the exchange:

Mr. BELIN: All right. I hand you now what the reporter has marked as Commission Exhibit 478. (The document referred to was marked Commission Exhibit No. 478 for identification.)

Mr. BELIN: I ask you to state, if you know, what this is.

Mr. BRENNAN: Yes. That is the retaining wall and myself sitting on it at Houston and Elm.

Mr. BELIN: You remember that the photographer was standing on the front steps of the Texas School Book Depository when that picture was taken on the 20th of March?

Mr. BRENNAN: Yes; I do.

Mr. BELIN: And the camera is pointed in what direction?

Mr. BRENNAN: South.

Representative Ford: Are those the positions where you were sitting on November 22?

Mr. BRENNAN: Yes, sir.

Warren Commission Hearings Volume XVII p. 197 (CE-477 and CE-478)

Warren Commission Hearings Volume XVII p. 198 (CE-479)

Howard Brennan facing east looking over his left shoulder (color slide of Z-188)

As we shall see, this is not true, but Belin clearly let it slide, because Brennan was one of their stars. This preempted them from questioning Brennan about the real facts underlying his testimony. That function was left to researchers and they revealed the shenanigans of the witnesses and far worse, the Warren Commission itself. His testimony was not only believed that day, but was blessed with the imprimatur of the Warren Commission. Belin, had to know this was not accurate, because he noted that Brennan’s legs were “not dangling on the front side there, is that correct?” Brennan replied they were not. But Belin did not press the matter. He quickly moved on to ask Brennan what he was wearing on that fateful day. This is your next question after wondering why Brennan’s legs aren’t seen, as they should have been, had he been where he said he was sitting.

Belin had showed him one negative, (couldn’t the FBI provide photos or at least a decent diagram for Brennan to respond to regarding his location?) or one frame from the Zapruder film—seems to be Z-188—which absolutely shows him looking east toward the jail and not north, where he is positioned during the reenactment photo shoot. Belin handed him a magnifying glass. The negative had been enlarged. (Not by much if a magnifying glass is needed, although Brennan by this time had suffered diminished eyesight due to an accident.) Listen to how Warren Commission Counsel David Belin broaches the topic:

“This appears to be a negative from a moving picture film [Z-188, approximately—and keep in mind, the negative of which he was handed had already been published in Life magazine as a color photo]. And I will hand you a magnifying glass—the negative has been enlarged. This negative appears to be a picture of the Presidential motorcade on the afternoon of November 22nd. I ask you to state if you can find yourself in the crowd in the background in that picture.”

From his previously noted reply, Brennan also knew that exhibits CE-477 and CE-478—which were recreations shot in March—were inconsistent with what he was swearing to. The actual photo, CE-479, shows Brennan sitting on the ledge of the reflecting pool, facing east towards Houston Street, not north toward the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Yet, note what author Richard Trask writes: “Brennan had been sitting on the concrete retaining wall by the north reflecting pool and was facing the Book Depository.” (Richard Trask, Pictures of the Pain: Photography and the Assassination of President Kennedy, p. 493) That is rubbish and Trask must know it. He has a keen eye for detail and often brings out matters that the casual reader would not necessarily notice. It is clear from a collection of Zapruder frames that Brennan was, in fact, facing east and had to lean his left arm well back to look over his shoulder to see Kennedy’s car when it was in front of the Depository. Brennan would pose, on March 20 (his birthday), sitting right in the middle of the concrete wall looking into the Depository, and again, David Belin caught him lying. Yet when the Warren Commission staffers placed Brennan for purposes of understanding his visual abilities on November 22nd, they went along with this deception. They moved him a full 90 degrees and approximately 25 feet, around the concrete wall at the north end of the reflecting pond, so that Brennan, for “witness credibility” was sitting directly in front of the door of the Texas School Book Depository, facing north.

II

At least one early critic seems to have noted this departure from the record. Josiah Thompson included a photo to verify that fact on page 185 of Six Seconds in Dallas. The photos on that page show the Presidential limousine passing between the center of the concrete wall and the front door of the Book Depository—and nobody is sitting there.

Researcher Dale Myers once told me that if I only understood the geography of Dealey Plaza, then and only then, would I truly understand the testimony of Howard Brennan. In his book, With Malice, he says concerning Brennan’s placement in the Plaza as “perched atop a cement wall directly across from the Book Depository.” It gives the impression—and I know this because Myers clarified this for me in an email—that Brennan was directly across from the Depository as in CE-478. Dale Meyers is wedded as much as Belin to Brennan, let us call them the B&B’s.

Reading Belin and Brennan is what leaves informed people aghast when they comprehend Commission assertions, and someone who did as much research as Myers should be cautious not to repeat things which have caused a large segment of the public to lose confidence in the Warren Report. Brennan’s “directly across” from the Depository statement before the Warren Commission is undermined, because the Zapruder frames in 18H always show Brennan facing east. (see 3H 142 and 18H 1-20) And he is looking toward Houston Street, with his back to the camera, and not, as he posed for the Commission, facing north, into the front door of the Texas School Book Depository. Brennan diving behind the wall as the report rang out, would be senseless if he was where the Commission said he was. He wasn’t.

Brennan marked the inaccurate photo that he posed for to show where he “dived” “as the gunfire rang out.” It is not “behind the wall,” where Brennan portrayed himself. It’s behind the wall from where he actually was, and by diving, he could not have seen anything in the sixth-floor window, hence, another problem. If he had dived like he said he did, the distance would have been somewhere around 30 to 35 feet! When the dust settles, and it does quickly for Howard Brennan, and you make him your star witness like the Warren Commission did, all bets are off.

His falsehoods began on the afternoon of the assassination to Sheriff Decker’s office, stating the same nonsense he blathered on about before the Commission. In Decker Exhibit 5323 (19H 454-543, passim), Brennan stated the following:

I proceeded to watch the President’s car as it turned left at the corner where I was and about 50 yards from the intersection of Elm and Houston and to a point I would say the President’s back was in line with the last window I have previously described [when] I heard what I thought was a back fire.

To allude that he was tracing the path of the motorcade and saw how the President could be Oswald’s target is absurd based on CE-479, where we can see exactly which direction he is facing and he is not, I repeat, he is not following the movement of the limousine as it turned from Houston onto Elm and proceeded in a westward direction.

Howard Brennan is positioned by William Manchester “directly across from Roy Truly’s group at the warehouse entrance.” There may be some Euclidean truth to that, in that a straight line could be drawn between Truly, et al, and Brennan, but their lines of vision would most assuredly not intersect. As Brennan perjured himself in front of the Warren Commission repeatedly and was caught by Warren counsel David Belin, so Manchester accepts this falsity at face value. One rule of research: check the sources, especially original sources. A lot of embarrassment can be averted if this was done on a more regular basis. Truly, et al, were looking south. Brennan was facing east, as shown in the approximate range of Z-200—the sequence where Phil Willis is shown stepping briefly off the curb. Brennan is facing the jail and has his left arm well behind him, in order to look over his left shoulder—had he desired to see Truly and company. There is no evidence he ever did see him during the 26.55 second run of the Zapruder film.

Belin asks him what happened after he first sat down. He goes on to explain he was people and window watching, which is okay, but when the President approached and passes by him, you would expect him, or anyone for that matter to focus on the President and the rest of the motorcade. He is asked to identify the window where he claims to have seen someone and then after some odd remarks by Brennan, he finally circles the window and places the letter A next to it. He says he saw a man in the 6th floor window and then is asked to describe what he saw. Grab your socks and hold on, you can’t make this stuff up. He says, referring to the shooter in the 6th floor window:

He was standing up and resting against the left window sill, with gun shouldered to his right shoulder, holding the gun with his left hand and taking positive aim and fired his last shot. As I calculate a couple of seconds. He drew the gun back from the window as though he was drawing it back to his side and maybe paused for another second as though to assure himself that he hit his mark, and then he disappeared. (3H 144)

At this point, I can assure you there is something Brennan did not know. The window is thirteen inches from the floor at its bottom and twenty-six inches from the floor at the top of its opening. Our possibilities are somewhat finite, either the shooter was kneeling down and then stood up or he shot through the glass, which is beyond ridiculous. He saw the man in the window from the waist up, even though the window opening was below the knees of a man between 5’9” and 5’11”, Oswald’s changing heights.

Yet, according to Brennan, he was able to describe the shooter with precise accuracy and what he was thinking as well. Not sure how Brennan could possibly know the what and the why of the shooter he described. He also did not observe a scope. I’m not sure why; he described everything else with almost divine-like accuracy. But then again, he said the colored men he saw on the 5th floor “were standing with their elbows on the window sill leaning out.” (3H 144) One other thing before we leave the B&B show is that he claimed to be able to see the shooter from the hips up. This is now getting beyond ridiculous. Howard Brennan did not identify Lee Oswald and he could only have seen the window in peripheral vision from how he was positioned. By the time of his Warren Commission testimony, his vision was quite poor, mainly because of an accident involving steam after the assassination. On January 31, 1964, he was sandblasted, causing extreme damage to his vision. He was treated for something like 6 hours by a Dr. Black, who said Brennan’s eyesight was not good. He would have had trouble seeing the Book Depository, but I’m not sure his eyes were so badly damaged that he would have forgotten, by a distance of twenty to twenty-five feet where he had been sitting. (3H 147) As a side note, speaking of the Depository, there were several questions asked of Brennan regarding “the Texas School Book Depository,” but Brennan continued to testify regarding the “Texas Book Store.” His grammar and syntax are among the worst of any witness in terms of command of the English language. Similar disregard for linguistic niceties would be present in the testimony of the limo driver, William Greer, and Mary Bledsoe. With 488 witnesses who appeared before the Warren Commission, this was probably to be expected.

III

Brennan, at times, seems to be carefully placed that day and when he isn’t, just change the direction and he will be placed where you want him. One photo is taken from the door, straight on, to Brennan. The other is taken from behind, and he hasn’t moved. In a subsequent exhibit, he will mark the spot—behind the entirety of the cinderblock wall at the corner of Houston and Elm—where he “dove” for cover while he was admittedly watching the assassin take aim for his last shot and then depart the window. Once the assassin left, according to Brennan, he dove for cover—a dive that amounted to approximately 25 feet. The reality of where Brennan was, when coupled with the other fairy tales he told about meeting and greeting all seven commissioners present (there were four), knowing “Governor Warren” well, and the invite to meet Mrs. Kennedy, disqualify him from any pretense to credibility. It is almost as if a “mystery weekend” was going to be staged, so that it could not be overlooked in the scenario that day, to make him fit into the Commission’s preconceived evidence trail. Again, taken with all his qualifications, Brennan is a metaphor, like so many others.

Let’s briefly mention some of the medical witnesses that fit into the metaphor scenario I have been mentioning, so you can see what I mean. When Specter is questioning Dr. Humes, the lead autopsy doctor, he was talking about the fragments in JFK’s skull and asks a question with a predetermined end. Specter asks, “Were these all fragments that were injected into the skull by the bullet?” (2H 353) It was Specter’s very slick and skillful way of limiting the inquiry to one bullet, hence we see the magic bullet in gestation. Even Humes, didn’t say this, but Specter sure did. Specter engaged in his “let’s assume for a moment,” just so there is something in the record that at least makes it look like the witness said something they really didn’t. At times, Humes seemed befuddled.

When questioning Dr. Charles Carrico, the good doctor is telling of a 5mm by 8mm wound in the front of the neck. Commissioner Dulles asked, “Where did it enter?” Carrico: It entered—at that time we didn’t know—…” Dulles (interrupting): “I see.” (3H 361-362)

There are times when questioning the medical witnesses Arlen Specter will engage in his ‘Let’s assume for a moment,” in which he asked Carrico, and not just him but successive medical witnesses, to make a variety of postulations. They were all the same: if the President had been shot from behind, in the rear neck, would the wound in the front be an entrance or an exit. Of course, only one answer applies in that case and it matched with what the Commission wanted to hear. (3H 362)

When Specter was interrogating Dr. Kemp Clark, the resident neurosurgeon at Parkland Hospital, he testified to “a large, gaping wound in the right posterior part, with cerebral and cerebellar tissue being damaged and exposed. (6H 20) Clark would later comment that he thought this was an exit wound. (6H 21) A few pages later, Specter asked, “Now, you described the massive wound at the top of the President’s head, with brain protruding…” (6H 25) This all has to be seen for exactly what it is. It isn’t just Howard Brennan committing perjury and it being ignored, because it happened all through the Warren volumes. Just see how Specter directs the choir to get just the right note from each individual, so as to get the same refrain every time: all shots came from behind and the magic bullet is the only reality that explains what happened with those seven wounds to those two men.

Before Dr. Clark is finished, Arlen Specter asks, what has to be, one of the most asinine questions out of the 109,930 that were asked to the 488 witnesses. Specter asks, “Dr. Clark, in the line of your specialty, could you comment as to the status of the President with respect to competency, had he been able to survive the head injuries which you have described and the total wound which he had?” (6H 26) Clark says the wound was massive and in the back of the head. Specter never buckles and his pressure causes Dr. Clark to realize what is happening and he actually answers this silly question, when everyone and his mother know there was no way JFK could have survived those wounds.

The testimony of another witness, Dr. Charles R. Baxter was engaging and tended to slap back at Specter. His observations were quite telling. At one point he said, “…literally the right side of his head had been blown off. With this and the observation that the cerebellum was present—a large quantity of brain was present on the cart (6H 41). Baxter continued to describe the right side of the head and what he saw. Specter then asks, “Did you notice any bullet hole below the large opening at the top of the head?” (6H 42) There it is again, Specter was constantly referring to the top of the head when talking with the doctors, yet I don’t recall Baxter ever mentioning the top of the head. A massive wound or hole in the back of the head will not work for the Commission and Specter was not about to let that happen.

I will mention one more example of Specter’s shenanigans. When he was questioning Dr. Ronald Jones, he continued with his back of the head reference by the doctor and then his mentioning the top of the head. Jones simply testified to the destruction to the back of JFK’s head, with brain matter hanging out. (6H 63-4, 56)

The point of these examples is that it doesn’t matter if it was a Parkland doctor or Howard Brennan. Brennan is simply one example—but a good example, because he was their poster boy as to what was seen in the sixth-floor window and the eventual arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald—of how the Warren Commission and their disciples guided witness after witness. It was virtually always down the same path of substituting top for back, not believing the testimony or description of a witness, not recognizing perjury or doing anything about it when they did. They attempted to drive witnesses down a particular narrative road and all in the name of sustaining their lone-nut scenario and single bullet silliness. It’s easy to locate when it is happening, whether it be led by Belin or Specter or Dulles. But its retroactively reprehensible that it was fostered on the American public to conceal the fact that the perpetrators that constructed a coup in 1963.

Lest you think it can’t get any more bizarre, let’s hearken back to Brennan and watch the metaphor continue to blossom. Brennan claimed, after Belin asked him what direction the gun was pointing, that it was 30 degrees downward and west by south. Are you serious? He doesn’t seem to be able to distinguish east from north or standing from sitting, but then we are asked to believe this man, with obvious limited intelligence, can say what direction and the degree of angularity the gun was pointed? Maybe later he would express it in terms of algebraic geometry. Yet recall, he did not observe a scope! Even though he said he saw up to 85% of the rifle. (Vol. III, p. 144)

When Belin asked him how many shots he heard, he remarked that, “positively two. I do not recall a second shot.” (3H 144) I don’t mean to nitpick, but really, I heard positively two, but then says he doesn’t recall a second shot! Apparently, the word positively needs to be redefined. Belin tried to bail out his friend, he replies to this contradiction by saying, “You mean a middle shot between when you heard the first noise and the last noise?” How can there be a middle shot between two shots? He then adds he thought the first shot was a backfire. And he then says “…subconsciously I must have heard a second shot, but I do not recall it.” (ibid) Wisely, Belin dropped the subject and asks him for a description of the shooter.

He describes the man he saw in the window as 5 foot 10 inches, 160-170 pounds and white. After the shots were fired, Belin asked him what he did next. Brennan said he asked a police officer, within just a few minutes of the assassination, to get him someone in charge, “a Secret Service man or an FBI.” (3H 145) The policeman took him to a Mr. Sorrels, who was sitting in an automobile in front of the TSBD. This is likely another Brennan shenanigan. Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels went to Parkland hospital with the motorcade and didn’t return to the corner of Houston and Elm for about 25 minutes. Sorrels would subsequently testify that he did not return to Dealey Plaza until 12:55. This means that Brennan’s quite brief interval could have been no less than twenty-five minutes. Brennan would tell Sorrels, “I could see the man taking deliberate aim and saw him fire the third shot,” and said “then he just pulled the rifle back in and moved back from the window, just as unconcerned as you could be.” (Deposition of Forrest V. Sorrels, 7H 348-349)

This raises a couple of issues. First, on the 12/3/63 Dallas police log of radio transmission, at 12:44 PM, there is a description of the suspect as being 5’ 10”, white, male about 30, weighing 165, carrying what looked like a 30-30 or some type of Winchester. As we have seen from the time factor involved, it is highly unlikely that Brennan was the source of the “description of the alleged assassin.” But then who was? The sinister quality of this is what is really unsettling. The Dallas police were also horrifying in the area of records keeping that afternoon.

Yet Inspector Harold Sawyer got a description broadcast at 12:44, and it is usually credited to Howard Brennan’s keen observations, although we know he couldn’t have been the origin of such a description, because he was looking in a different direction and diving at the same time. And Sawyer said he did not recall who his witness was. (Michael Benson, Who’s Who in the JFK Assassination, p. 408)

By Brennan’s account, he stated clearly that he had seen an individual with a rifle aim for a shot. Yet Sawyer’s broadcast, as it appears on the Dallas police radio logs, stated to the dispatcher, “It’s unknown whether he is still in the building or not known if he was there in the first place.” (CE-1974) How could this be Brennan?

So, it can be stated that Brennan spoke to Sorrels, but clearly not at the time implied by the Warren Commission. And not before 12:55—after the “description of the suspect” was broadcast—if, in fact, there had been a suspect in the Texas School Book Depository Building.

Brennan was not the source. And, in fact, after a thorough inquiry, J. Edgar Hoover declined Brennan as the source for Sawyer. (FBI memo from Rogge to Rankin 11/12/64)

Somebody had to be given credit, so the Warren Report placed Brennan “on Elm Street directly opposite and facing the building.” (p. 5) And now the Warren Report stated that the broadcast description was “based primarily on Brennan’s observations” and that Brennan’s visual accuracy most probably led to the radio alert at 12:45 p.m. (Warren Report, pp. 5, 144, 649)

Primarily? But if it wasn’t Brennan, then who was it? And why don’t we know “who was it”? As I have argued, Howard Brennan’s credibility has to be questioned. He would state that he only saw the assassin from the chest and upward, but that is clearly an invention by Brennan, predicated on the fact that he assumed the windows in the Texas School Book Depository were at the normal height where windows would be installed. However, to repeat, the sixth floor Depository windows were thirteen inches above the ground, which means that when “Brennan’s assassin” fired and then stood up, Brennan would have had to strain to identify the man’s knees. considering that the window he allegedly fired from began at a height of only thirteen inches above the floor, how could anyone reasonably approximate his height at slightly below six feet? You simply couldn’t.

There is simply too much falsity in his subsequent testimony to the Warren Commission—and they caught him at it, but since his “seeing the assassin” was critical, this was overlooked. Again, Brennan, like so many others is a metaphor on how to invent, ignore and guide all of us through the labyrinth of deceit that is the Warren Report.

Please keep in mind that Brennan later wrote a book that was posthumously published. The title of the book was Eyewitness to History, which, as seen above, is almost risible. As I mentioned earlier, he stated that he was good friends with “Governor Warren,” personally gave testimony to all seven members of the Warren Commission, which he did not. Only four were present during his testimony. And he claimed he was guarded by an FBI agent who was a JFK look-alike and doubled for JFK often. And he was asked by Chief Justice Warren if he would like to meet Mrs. Kennedy. This is a widow who was so full of grief that she wouldn’t give her only testimony to the Commission for another four months, but, of course, she would just love to have tea and crumpets with Howard.

Nothing should surprise us about Brennan’s book or testimony. But just keep in mind: this was the Commission’s star witness. When I interviewed Professor Robert Blakey in 1998, who was the Chief Counsel for the HSCA, I asked him why they never called Brennan. He commented that he would have done more harm than good. Yet in Volume 2 of the HSCA volumes on page 3, even they, however, cannot get away from Brennan, when the same Blakey says that Howard Brennan saw a man fire one shot from the depository.

IV

The police lineups rear their head eventually. Oswald, as everyone should recall, protested these assemblies vociferously, because—due to his dress and age—he stuck out like a sore thumb. Brennan admitted to seeing Oswald on TV multiple times when he got home, at somewhere between 2:45 – 3:00 p.m., CST. Yet then told the police at the lineup (Brennan was escorted to the Dallas Police Station c. 6:00 p.m.) that he couldn’t positively identify anyone. (3H 148) He then revised his story and said he didn’t identify Oswald, because he thought the assassination might have been part of a Communist plot and so he feared for the safety of his family. Brennan would later state that he feared he would be a target of an international conspiracy if he identified Oswald (Deposition of Forrest V. Sorrels, 7H 354-355). Yet, if he was the courageous patriot the Warren Commission made him out to be, then we would expect him to stand his ground and take his chances. He didn’t. Accordingly, the FBI had to supply him with the “communist plot” excuse, which he then adapted. (Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment, p. 91). Yet, there is further evidence of just how suspect these line ups were. Consider the following:

BELIN: “Do you remember how many people were in the lineup?”

BRENNAN: “No; I don’t. A possibility seven more or less one.”

BELIN: “All right.”

No, it’s not even close to being all right. Brennan has just indicated the lineup was somewhere between six and eight individuals. There never was any such thing. We know there were four people in the lineup. It was only four people for each of the lineups in which Lee Harvey Oswald was a participant.

BELIN: “Did you see anyone in the lineup you recognized?”

BRENNAN: “Yes.”

BELIN: “And what did you say?”

BRENNAN: “I told Mr. Sorrels and Captain Fritz at that time that Oswald—or the man in the lineup that I identified looking more like a closest resemblance to the man in the window than anyone else in the lineup…”

BELIN: “Were the other people in the lineup, do you remember—were they all white, or were there some Negroes in there, or what?”

BRENNAN: “I do not remember.”

This is Texas in 1963, three months after the March on Washington. Brennan gave a description of a man as 5’10”, 160-170 pounds, fair complexion, and slender build. Nobody reminded him that the identification was based on an individual kneeling down, allegedly firing out of a window that was thirteen inches above the level of the floor. Brennan then viewed a skewed lineup, with three better-dressed individuals and did not provide a positive identification of Oswald.

Belin, and this is only my suspicion, actually was fed up with Brennan, with his comments about and his inaccuracy as to his own placement, which Belin challenged without calling him out on it. Belin had to be disappointed, in addition, to Brennan’s “7 person,” plus or minus, lineup, which is an illusion. So, he asked, if by chance it had been a bi-racial lineup, which is about as unlikely of an occurrence as Howard Brennan telling the truth.

This needs a context. As Mark Lane noted in Rush to Judgment, although the Warren Report states that Brennan picked Oswald out of a line up, and as noted above, Brennan told Belin the same, this is not backed up in the actual record, that is in the exhibits in the 26 volumes. (Lane, pgs. 11, 91) It would seem to me that if someone thought he had seen the assassin of the President of the United States—before seeing him on TV and in the newspapers prior to the lineup—wouldn’t he be so charged up that he would recall every imaginable detail. Maybe not of everything, but certainly of the lineup. Well, Brennan got the number of stand ins in the lineup wrong and he could not recall if there were people of color in it. (Ian Griggs, No Case to Answer, p. 91) There is no mention in the official police record of the line ups that Brennan was present at any of them. (Commission Exhibit 2003, p. 293) Captain Will Fritz, who said he supervised all the line ups, could not recall Brennan being at one. (Volume 4, p. 237) One has to wonder, how long would Brennan have lasted under a real cross examination before the prosecution decided to withdraw him?

In fact, prominent California attorney and junior counsel for the Warren Commission, Joseph Ball, did not believe Brennan. According to Edward Epstein, Ball based his doubt on the failure of Brennan to identify Oswald at a lineup and his similar failure to do so during an FBI interview. He then reversed himself before the Commission. (Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles, p. 143) Ball also was dubious about Brennan’s failure to describe the alleged assassin’s clothing and the fact that Brennan seemed to say the shooter was standing, when the Commission concluded he was kneeling at the window.

V

Notwithstanding, Joseph Ball, Howard Brennan got his “fifteen minutes.” Norman Redlich, a very important fixture on the Commission, overrode Ball’s reservations at the insistence of the Commission. (ibid, p. 144)

Brennan said that, after Oswald had been killed, he felt at peace to come forward and identify him as the killer he saw in the 6th floor window. We have already dealt with the ridiculousness of him being able to identify the person he claimed to see, based on the height of the window, how the person would have had to position himself to fire a rifle and being able to see anything clearly on that day. I’ve sat where Brennan actually was on November 22, 1983, and I couldn’t see a damn thing in that window. Sure, it was open to a height of 13 inches, but as we have demonstrated, that would not have helped him see what he claims he saw. Apparently, Brennan was told by a Mr. Lish that film footage of him talking with the Secret Service were cut, seemingly at Brennan’s request, so the Commies wouldn’t track him down and rub out he and his family. Again, I’m speechless.

Belin asked Brennan a series of directional and geography questions and trust me, Brennan is no Rand McNally. Near the end, McCloy asked him if he were a Bible reader and Brennan humbly says that he didn’t read it as much as he should, but that he had to wear glasses when he did. I would certainly agree that Brennan does not suffer from an overdose of Holy Writ.

The curious case of Brennan is a little like Benjamin Button: he gets more childish and infantile as time goes by. It is often like reading the words of a child. He simply makes things up including where he was sitting, to jumping off the ledge about 30 feet, to what he actually saw in the window, to his circus antics when he went to DC to meet with the Commission. If this is their star witness bolstering their case, then they didn’t have a case my friend.

At the end of the day, he had to be a disappointment, even to the Commission. Brennan has now become a symbol, like so many others that were interviewed by the Commission, a symbol for everything that was wrong with the Warren Report. A report based on knowing liars, suborned perjury, bizarre flights of fantasy, all incorporated into a shabby and shoddy investigation. Both Brennan and the Commission are tarred by the same brush. They simply are not kosher. Howard Brennan passed away on December 22, 1983. Like Joseph Ball, I don’t take Brennan seriously. Unlike Ball, I don’t take the Warren Report seriously either.

Last modified on Sunday, 12 July 2020 23:33
Tim Smith

Tim Smith has been a college professor for 33 years. He currently teaches philosophy, logic, world religion and intro to Biblical Hebrew. He has an interest in all aspects of the Kennedy assassination, especially the physical evidence in the case. Tim also has spent enormous amounts of time reading the testimony of the 488 witnesses that appeared before the Warren Commission and the 52 witnesses that gave public testimony before the HSCA, which he used for my Masters thesis.

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