I have to admit that when I was asked to review the book in question, I did not recognize its author. The name Charles E. Hurlburt did not ring a bell, as it was a name that I have never encountered in the JFK assassination research community. I do not consider it to be a bad thing (I am not one either) since all citizens should study and try to join the quest for the truth. So I was curious to find out what he had to say.
Charles E. Hurlburt is a senior citizen who, at the time of the assassination, was employed by ITEK Corporation as a software programmer (Yes the same ITEK that analyzed the Zapruder film for the House Select Committee on Assassinations). He first became interested in the case after reading Mark Lane's book Rush to Judgment back in 1966. By that time he had left ITEK and he was working for MIT University, where he discovered in the library, Ed Epstein's book Inquest and later the Warren Commission (WC) Report. After reading the two books and the Warren Report itself, he became convinced that the Commission's work was inadequate. Further, that it contained serious omissions, misrepresentations and fallacies. Later it was Oliver Stone's movie JFK that re-awakened his interest in the case, and he became a serious student of the assassination ever since.
The book consists of twelve chapters that examine both the micro and the macro aspects of the assassination, but not in a detailed manner. In my view, he tried to juggle too many different aspects of the assassination in a small book. Therefore, it was not possible to examine each one detail. So it is very difficult to write a critique based on brief and basic explanations of very complex matters. So, this reviewer decided to concentrate on some aspects since it will be very difficult to examine every single aspect.
II. Autopsy and Investigations
Chapter Two examines the autopsy of the dead president. Hurlburt summarizes the evidence which proves that the doctors tried to cover up the truth and comply with the official version: namely that only two shots hit JFK. He correctly points out that the bullet that caused the back wound entered below the shoulder at an angle of 45 to 60 degrees, did not exit and that it was never located inside the body. It would have been impossible to have penetrated the neck to exit the throat, an invention that Arlen Specter created well after the autopsy with his now infamous "Magic Bullet Theory." However this is where Hurlburt makes a serious mistake when he states that the Bethesda doctors did not know anything about the wound in the front of the throat during the autopsy procedure. He further states that "it was not until the following morning after the body was no longer available for examination that Dr. Humes spoke on the phone with Dr. Perry, and learned of this small 'puncture' wound in the throat."
Hurlburt may not be aware of the late Dr. Robert. B. Livingston's testimony in a 1993 lawsuit against the Journal of the American Medical Association (Breach of Trust, Gerald McKnight, p. 411). Livingston, who had lectured at Harvard and Yale Universities and had experienced all kinds of wounds during WW II while treating Japanese prisoners of war. Following the first media reports, he recognized the wound in the throat was one of entry that had originated from the front. So Livingston called Humes to advice him about the nature of the wound but Humes left the phone and when he returned told Livingston, "I can't continue this conversation, and in fact, the FBI won't let me."
He then touches on the controversial subject that JFK's body was surgically doctored according to David Lifton's theory as described in his book Best Evidence. Another noted author who has expressed a similar view is Douglas Horne, a former staff member of the ARRB who had examined the medical evidence in detail. Horne presented his conclusions in his five volume book, Inside the Assassination Review Board.
This subject is quite controversial so I would suggest that anyone can read the above mentioned books and make up his (or her) own mind regarding the subject of a pre-autopsy doctoring of the body. Hurlburt concludes that the autopsy was surrounded by controversy over a number of contradictory statements, for example "the body was enclosed in sheets/a body bag," or "the brain was/was not severed from the brain stem..." etc. This author believes that contradictory statements followed the doppelganger pattern that so often pops up in the JFK assassination and their purpose is to create cognitive dissonance to confuse and frustrate researchers, to inveigle the truth and preserve doubt.
In chapter three he does a fair job to show that all the investigating bodies, the police, the FBI, the Warren Commission and the HSCA did not perform as they should, and they all contributed to the cover up and to the mess that the JFK investigation is today. Again this is done very briefly and does not analyze any of it them in depth. In doing so he makes a few mistakes; like his assurance that convicted felon Charles Harrelson was a "dead ringer" for one of the three tramps photographed after the assassination (p. 53). It is an assumption based on the controversial work of Lois Gibson, a forensic artist who's work and findings many dispute, and there are not many researchers who agree with her on the identification of the tramps. In 1979, Harrelson was arrested and charged for the murder of Judge John H. Wood. He was eventually found guilty and convicted of the murder of Wood and sentenced to two life sentences. When he was arrested he confessed that he was one of the shooters that killed Kennedy. But he later withdrew his confession. He was accused of being the tall tramp photographed in Dealey Plaza, but after examining the photos he stated that the there is no resemblance between him and the tall tramp. He stated to Nigel Turner that at the time of the assassination he was in Houston with a friend and that even if he was offered the job he would have never accepted because he knew that he would end up dead as well. In 1992 the Dallas Police revealed the identities of the tramps and claimed that they were Gus Abrams, John F. Gedney and Harold Doyle. Ray and Mary LaFontaine did their own research and agreed with the police's view regarding the tramps. This author is not convinced that the above mentioned individuals were the three tamps and believes that their identities will remain forever obscure. The late Fletcher Prouty believed that their identity was not important since they were "actors" whose job was to help with the cover up.
In the section describing the last official investigation by the House Select Committee of Assassinations (HSCA), there are a few inaccuracies regarding Chief Counsels Richard Sprague and Robert Blakey. Regarding Sprague, the author asserts that it was his disagreements with Congressman Gonzalez that eventually led to his downfall. He writes that "A clash of egos erupted between Gonzalez and Sprague." This clash along with media attacks led Gonzalez to try to fire Sprague. He did not succeed, and as a result Gonzalez resigned. Sprague tried to keep his position but he was fired. Yes, partially. But it was also his unwillingness to play the Washington political game and his call for an unrestricted investigation that that led to the above confrontation. Hurlburt somehow, in his above narration of the events, forgot to mention the real cause that forced Sprague to resign (p. 68). Sprague later said "But when I looked back at what happened, it suddenly became clear that the problems began after I ran up against the CIA." It all started when Sprague asked for complete information about the CIA's operation in Mexico City regarding Oswald's visit there and total access to its employees who may have had anything to do with the photographs, tape recordings and transcripts. The CIA finally agreed only if he would sign a CIA Secrecy Agreement. Sprague refused and said "How can I possibly sign an agreement with an agency I am supposed to be investigating?" (Gaeton Fonzi, The Last Investigation, p. 197).
Hurlburt then discusses Sprague's replacement as Chief Counsel, Robert Blakey, and he correctly states that he held the firm opinion that the Warren Commission had been right all along. He writes that Blakey, "as an experienced Washington insider, he was much more concerned with producing an acceptable report within the allotted time than with uncovering new leads" (p. 68). Blakey believed that Oswald had fired the shots and that the Mafia had planned the assassination. He continues that "In fairness, it must [be] pointed out that Blakey's Committee was severely restricted...by the continued 'stone walling' of the CIA, who refused to release many of the relevant files on the grounds of National Security" (p. 69).
This is again only partially true. The real problem with Blakey was that he was unwilling to confront the CIA, and instead he did exactly what they were asking him to do. If one wants to find out more about Blakey's days in the HSCA, should read Gaeton Fonzi's The Last Investigation and The Assassinations by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease. In the latter book there is a whole chapter devoted to the chief counsel, titled "The Sins of Robert Blakey" (pp. 51-89). At the end of the chapter one can read an incident that perfectly summarizes Sprague's obsequious attitude towards the CIA. There were some objections to the interrogation of Richard Helms, the CIA officer that Sprague wanted to "go at". Blakey assured the CIA that they will be given in essence, the opportunity to review and rearrange the evidence on the eve of the trial. Similarly in Fonzi's book there is a similar incident, where Tanenbaum and Fonzi wanted Sprague to prosecute David Phillips for perjury. Fonzi tried to convince Blakey and said to him "Do you realize that David Phillips lied in his testimony?" Blakey raised his eye brows. "oh really," he said. "What about?" "I gave him the details. He listened carefully, thought silently for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and walked away" (The Last Investigation, p. 277). However, if you read Hurlburt's book, none of the above is mentioned and you don't have a clear picture of the HSCA investigation and Robert Blakey's actions.
Hurlburt, while discussing the Warren Commission, reports the incident where Senator Russell asked for a footnote to be added to the report stating that he disagreed with the single bullet theory. But Warren insisted on unanimity and his footnote was never included. This is not really accurate since it was Lee Rankin; not Warren; who orchestrated the deception and led Russell to believe that it would be included on the Warren report (Gerald McNight, Breach of Trust, pp. 282-297, and DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, pp. 257-260).
III. Shots in Dealey Plaza
In chapter 9, titled "The Enigma of Dealey Plaza" he examines the micro-aspects of the assassination regarding bullets and trajectories. He does a good job explaining the absurdity of the single bullet theory. But the then took on the improbable task of constructing the shooting sequence. There are many theories trying to recreate what exactly happened in Dealey Plaza but due to the lack of evidence and the subsequent cover up, it is virtually impossible to find out the truth. Any theory is as good as the next and in this author's opinion; unless there is a major breakthrough; we will never find out the exact location of the shooters and the exact firing sequence. To come to his conclusions Hurlburt has taken three factors into consideration: Eye witness testimony, the Zapruder film and the Dallas Police audiotape.
The eye witnesses are not very reliable when it comes to identifying shots because sound suppressors were very likely used and the landscape of the Plaza combined with reverberation might have played tricks on the ears pointing to false locations. Our eyes, and subsequently the Zapruder film, are the most reliable indicators, although there are researchers who believe that the film is altered. This author is an agnostic when it comes to that issue but I cannot exclude the alteration theory, especially if we consider that the film was in the hands of C.D. Jackson of Life Magazine, a cold warrior and psy-ops expert. It would make sense that such a person would have used the film as a weapon to obfuscate the truth and confuse researchers, creating cognitive dissonance and making certain that the researchers will be fighting among themselves, arguing the film's authenticity, in the years to come.
The Dallas Police tape was taken into account by the HSCA to reach its conclusions that there was probably a conspiracy and that a shot was fired from behind the grassy knoll that missed. Many believe that it is authentic and have the backing of scientific experts, while others dispute the acoustic evidence and claim that these are not shots and that sounds were recorded further down and not in Dealey Plaza.
Before the HSCA investigation there were two theories regarding the origin of the shots, the official theory that supported the three shots from the sniper's nest and the researchers' theory that the headshot came from the grassy knoll. Upon reflection one cannot fail to notice that the HSCA's acoustics evidence marries the two conflicting theories to satisfy everyone, but with a Catch 22. The grassy knoll shooter missed which meant that researchers were half right and in essence the WC was correct; a limited hangout. If we then consider that the acoustics evidence was disputed then it would make sense for the perpetrators to have it designed similarly to the WC report, to fail. Thus, they could not only create more endless arguments and cognitive dissonance, but also cast a cloud above the HSCA's cornerstone that it was "probably a conspiracy" based on the acoustics evidence. Because if the Dallas Police tape was not recorded in Dealey Plaza, then by definition we are no longer certain that there was a conspiracy and the HSCA conclusion is in doubt.
Closing the parenthesis, we go back to Hurlburt's shooting scenario where he proposes seven shots. Shot 1, at Z 168, probably from the County Records Building that struck JFK in the upper back and only penetrated a couple of inches; Shot 2, at Z 177, from the Dal-Tex Building that missed; Shot 3, at Z 207 from the sniper's nest that also missed; Shot 4, at Z 229, from the western end of the TSBD that wounded Connally; Shot 5, at Z 313, from the grassy knoll that struck JFK in the right temple and blew out a large hole in the upper rear of the head; Shot 6, at Z 324 that struck JFK's head just above the large exit wound, and Shot 7, at Z335, from the western end of the TSBD that missed.
First, his scenario is based on the acoustics evidence that many dispute, and second, I disagree with his two headshots theory and the absence of a throat wound. Most researchers agree that a shot from the grassy knoll would have exited the left side of his head, which did not happen and the second headshot near the external occipital protuberance (EOP) is based on the autopsy doctors' report, and the erroneous belief that there was a shot from the rear at Z 312 just before the Z 313 frontal shot. Sherry Fiester, in her book Enemy of the Truth makes a good case that this did not happen. This forced researchers who supported a shot in the EOP to change the timing and claim that it occurred around Z327-Z329 after the frontal shot in the temple.
Hurlburt also believes that the throat wound was not a wound of entrance and it was caused by a bone fragment from the head shot that struck from the rear. Jerol Custer, the X-ray technician testified to the ARRB that he took a C3/C4 X-ray showing bullet fragments in and around the circular throat wound that has gone missing. If we add to that the testimonies of the Parkland doctors and the fact that the throat trajectory was 0 degrees, i.e. horizontal then it is most likely that a shot from the front caused that wound.
In this author's view, and taking into account the ARRB testimonies this is what most likely happened during the autopsy. The doctors were aware that there were only three bullets found in the sniper's nest, and that one had struck Connally, and two bullets had struck Kennedy, all from behind. Upon examining JFK's body, they discovered three entrance wounds, one in the lower back that did not penetrate all the way, an entry wound in the throat and an entry wound in the right temple that exited in the rear causing the big gaping wound at the occipital. So they were faced with serious problems. Not only was JFK hit by three instead of two bullets, but only one had come from behind (the back wound). To conform to the FBI theory they decided to reduce the three shots to two by eliminating the throat shot and reversed the direction of the head shot to the rear instead of the front. Now they had two shots that hit JFK, both from the rear. This is what I believe started the EOP entrance wound (one low in the skull) and the second headshot. Thanks to the ARRB revelations we learn that the EOP entry identification was based on assumptions rather than evidence. The entry wound was only partial wound that was later completed to a circular defect by a fragment that arrived later. The Doctors have positioned the fragment without an anatomical landmark so we are not even sure if the fragment was from that part of the skull. Dr. Pierre Finck said that bevelling in the wound indicated wound of entrance but according to new research bevelling is not considered as reliable as it used to be (Fiester, Enemy of the Truth, chapter 6).
For what it is worth, in this author's opinion, this is the most likely scenario, a headshot to the right temple that originated from the South Knoll, a shot in the throat from somewhere in the front and a shot that struck the back, probably from the Dal-Tex building, not counting the shots that hit Connally or the missed shots.
IV. Who done it?
Hurlburt informs us that the real motive of the plotters was not so much Vietnam but Cuba, which he names as the Rosetta Stone to the assassination. He states that the evidence to support the Vietnam motivation is "rather sketchy compared to the weight of the evidence for the other motive: his policies towards Cuba, combined with his brother Robert's crusade against the kingpins of organized crime" (p. 97).
Many would not agree with him. On the contrary, JFK's Vietnam policy was reversed and the country was later invaded; while Castro is still alive and Cuba was never attacked by the U.S. Likely however, Vietnam was not the only motive but Kennedy's entire foreign policy, as researcher and historian James DiEugenio has argued in his latest presentations both in the Wecht and JFK Lancer conferences.
Hurlburt begins the identification of the conspirators at level 1, the shooters, who among them are Charles Harrelson, Charles Rogers, the Frenchmen Lucien Sarti, Jean Souetre, Sauver Pironti and Bocognoni, Roscoe White, Jack Lawrence, Eugene Brading, even John Thomas Masen the well-known Oswald look alike. It is a cosmopolitan blend of villains, more likely the world and his wife were shooting at Kennedy that day.
At level 2 is the support team that includes among others E.H. Hunt, Frank Sturgis, Pedro Diaz Lanz and Antonio Venciana. At level 3 the team framed Oswald as a patsy. Among them were Guy Banister, David Ferrie, Sergio Arcacha Smith, David Phillips and Clay Shaw. At level 4 is Jack Ruby who was responsible for eliminating the patsy, and also a few policemen who helped him. At level 5 the most likely Mob organizers, Johnny Roselli, Robert Maheu, Santos Trafficante, Carlos Marcello and Sam Giancana. At level 6 the probable CIA planners, William Harvey, Edward Lansdale, Sheffield Edwards, the Cabell brothers, Richard Bissell and David Morales. Finally at level 7, are the accessories before and/or after the fact, like Allen Dulles, LBJ, J. Edgar Hoover, H.L. Hunt, Clint Murchison, James Angleton, Richard Helms, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon. In Hurlburt's words "level 7, in my opinion, played no part in the plot either, but each person mentioned had strong reasons to cover up the truth" (p. 234).
You could argue that some members from level 2 to 6 were somehow involved in the plot, although there no real evidence to prove that the Mafia dons planned the assassination. However, when it comes to his above mentioned assessment about level 7, in all probability, he could not be more wrong, especially about Allen Dulles and James Angleton. It is widely believed that Allen Dulles was one of the highest conspirators and you only need to peruse Jim DiEugenio's second edition of Destiny Betrayed, George M. Evica's A Certain Arrogance and or David Talbot's talk at last year's "Passing the Torch" conference in Pittsburgh to learn more about Dulles. Historian and former intelligence analyst John Newman believes that Angleton orchestrated the Mexico incident to frame Oswald and similarly John Armstrong believes that it was Angleton back in Washington and David Phillips doing the field work in Mexico.
Hurlburt concludes that "A group of extreme right-wing cold warriors killed JFK. High ranking elements of the U.S. military and intelligence community planned, organized and approved the assassination. It was then carried out by a team of CIA operatives, Mafia hit-men and anti-Castro Cuban exiles" (p. 226).
I don't entirely agree with his conclusions because it is not put in the right context. Right wing military and intelligence officers were certainly part of the plot but they did not approve and instigate the assassination. In this author's opinion, to properly identify the culprits and to assign them their role in the assassination, one has to use what is known as the Evica-Drago model, although some would disagree with me and they are entitled to do so. This particular model separates the participants into various categories, beginning at the top with the Sponsors, i.e. those who instigated the assassination, the Facilitators who carried out their will by organizing and planning the assassination, the Mechanics who were the actual shooters and finally the False Sponsors who were set up to take the blame.
The Mechanics will remain forever obscure, but we have some very good suspects for the facilitators, among them Dulles, LBJ, Curtis LeMay, Phillips, Angleton, C.D. Jackson, to name just a few. The difficult task is to identify the sponsors of the crime but they are so powerful and untouchable that it is unlikely that we will ever know their names. They are more likely to be found among Winston Churchill's Cabal, George Michael Evica's Supranational Elite above Cold War differences, James Douglass' Unspeakable and Donald Gibson's Eastern Establishment. The military as a whole, the CIA as an organization, the Mafia, the Cuban exiles, Castro, USSR, George Bush, Hoover, LBJ and the right wing extremists were the false sponsors designated that way to protect the true identity of the Sponsors.
In Chapter 11, he identifies first the villains who through choice, ignorance and patriotism played a role in the plot and/or the cover up, and then the heroes who have been battling on for decades. Surprisingly enough, there is one person, who he does not think deserves a place among the heroes, and that is Jim Garrison. Yes you have heard well, of all people, Jim Garrison. In his own words he states "this is because there are reasons for including him on both lists, and it is debatable which label he deserves the most. In one sense, Garrison was a 'hero' for using the Shaw trial as a vehicle for bringing many things about the case to the light of day...On the other hand his repeated, self-serving boasts, during the trial...that he would solve the assassination for the American people, followed by his pitifully weak case against the man he was prosecuting, made him a laughing stock...talk of conspiracy in Kennedy's murder, for years, became the stuff of tabloids, held in the same esteem as stories of UFO abductions" (p. 270). He even blames Garrison's failure to convict Shaw that was "one of the principal reasons for the continued reluctance of the news media to admit that there might be some truth to the critics' allegations of a plot behind the death of JFK." (p. 64). He continues by saying that "Those few pillars of the news media that might have been starting to exhibit some doubt about the official verdict felt that Garrison had duped them and they became even more determined not to be led astray again. This determination remains intact for most of the media today" (p. 67).
There you have it, we finally learned the truth that eluded the researchers all these years; the true reason as to why the mainstream media continue to avoid the JFK case like a leper and insist on the ongoing cover up. It's all Jim Garrison's fault. Which ignores the fact that the cover up about Kennedy's murder held steadfast in the MSM from late 1963 through 1967, when Garrison's inquiry was first proposed. So how could Garrison be responsible for that? In fact, one could cogently argue that it was that willful ignorance which predisposed the MSM against Garrison. And it was the willingness of the MSM to ally itself with the intelligence community that then allowed media assets like Hugh Aynesworth, James Phelan, and Walter Sheridan to do their hatchet jobs on Garrison.
Hurlburt would do well to read The Assassinations and especially the second edition of Destiny Betrayed by DiEugenio to understand who Garrison was and what made his a Quixotic struggle against the CIA and the tragic failings of the media. Hurlburt concludes his remarks about Garrison by saying that he is not one of those who thinks that "he was a government plant...for the express purpose of discrediting all conspiracy buffs. He was steadfast over the years in his support of the critics...and continued until he died to promote the theory that JFK was killed by a plot...To this author (Hurburt) anyone who was that close to the truth can't be all that bad" (pp. 270-271). To which one can reply: who exactly did think Garrison was a government plant?
One last point to discuss is the role of Jack Ruby in the assassination. Hurlburt correctly identifies Ruby's connections to the world of organized crime, but if he had read the latest research he would have also added that Ruby was involved with CIA operatives and CIA gun running activities.
John Armstrong's article "A New Look at Jack Ruby" at CTKA, shows that Ruby had connections to former Cuban President Carlos Prios Soccaras, and to gun runners like Robert McKeown and Thomas Eli Davis. It is clear now that Ruby did not only have connections to the Mob, but also to CIA operatives that establishes his involvement with the US intelligence community. After his arrest, Ruby warned, "They're going to find out about Cuba. They're going to find out about the guns, find out about New Orleans, find out about everything." And he believed that he was blackmailed into killing Oswald by people who threatened to reveal his gun running activities to Cuba. To quote Armstrong "Ruby warned Howard (his Lawyer) about this CIA connection and feared that, if this information were revealed by an investigative reporter or a witness, it would blow open the CIA's role in JFK's assassination."
This book is really an entry level book for the novice, an overview of the assassination that tries to touch all of its aspects. In doing so, each subject is only examined superficially and not presented in detail. Its major themes, like the shooting sequence and the identification of the conspirators are not well constructed and some of his conclusions are not supported by the latest findings. And his criticism of Jim Garrison was unfortunate and unjustifiable. After finishing the book you are left with the impression that it was probably written in the 90s and not in 2013.