For the fifth episode of the series “JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald,” former CIA case officer Bob Baer and his team moved from New Orleans to Dallas seeking to prove Oswald “had help in accomplishing his mission.” Aren't they putting the cart before the horse by widening the net in search of accomplices before having determined whether Oswald was the perpetrator? They are indeed doing so, because Baer does have a mission: Keeping the CIA out of the picture.
After mixing Oswald with the anti-Castro and CIA-backed paramilitaries of Alpha 66 in a weird pot made of “special intent to kill President Kennedy soup”, Baer keeps on blighting a big-budget TV show by ignoring the body of the evidence. The latter supports the same assessment given by J. Edgar Hoover to Lyndon B. Johnson the morning after the assassination: “The case as it stands now isn't strong enough to be able to get a conviction. ”1
The Warren Commission (WC) has manufactured the case against Oswald with at least a wrong murder weapon (CE 139), a wrong bullet (CE 399), and a wrong shell (CE 543). Instead of weighing the evidence, Baer and his team commit a kind of Only Game in Town Fallacy: If a second shooter is not at hand, then that leaves Oswald as the lone gunman.
To throw out the prima facie evidence —in the Zapruder film2— of gunfire from the right front, Baer simply replaces Luis Alvarez’s melon with what they call an encased gel ordinance head. Which goes backwards after being struck by a bullet fired from behind.
A Nobel Prize winner in Physics (1968), Alvarez got involved in a test with a taped-up melon to verify that the backward snap of Kennedy’s head was consistent with a shot from behind due to a jet-propulsion-like recoil.3 But, as Gary Aguilar showed in his reply to Luke and Mike Haag, another test conducted by research physical scientist Larry Sturdivan at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in 1964 proved otherwise. Ten skulls were shot with a Mannlicher-Carcano and all of them moved away from the rifle in the same direction of the bullet. The Commission suppressed these findings and plainly reported that President Kennedy was struck in the head and “fell to the left into Mrs. Kennedy's lap.” (Click here for that article)
Alvarez’s test was misleading because a taped-up melon has neither the sheer strength nor the thickness close to that of a human skull. By the same token, Baer’s ballistic test is just another rigged attempt to support the discredited WC lone-gunman theory with a childish jet effect. We cannot do better than let Milicent Cranor comment at length on this ludicrous so-called “experiment”.
History Channel – or Saturday Night Live?
By Milicent Cranor
This segment of the History Channel’s special on the Kennedy Assassination seems like a low-budget skit from Saturday Night Live!
An “expert sniper” goes through the motions of recreating the shot to Kennedy’s head. The idea is to prove that one shot from the presumed Oswald location can cause the reaction we see on the Zapruder film: the head moving to the back and to the left.
It’s not clear what they’ve dug up to use for the head. The sniper describes it vaguely as a human head filled with ordinance gel, and throughout his little talk, he refers to that gel. As in “shooting from behind the ballistics gel” and “I’ve got the ballistics gel on target.” Maybe he hopes to convey the impression of a gelatinous brain causing the head to spring backwards.
The demonstration is just amazing. it is far more revealing than the show’s creators realize:
We only get a side view of the action – and are not allowed to see the back or front of the head, not even after the shooting.
The limited view of the head shows no damage whatsoever.
The head moves back, but not to the left. Then it pops right back up to its original position!
Something, possibly vaporized gel, seems to come out of the head (or from a smoke machine behind the head) – but only from the mouth area.
So he looks like a man leaning back with pleasure as he smokes a fine cigar, oblivious to the characters behind him.
The sniper’s explanation for what happened is even more amazing:
“…the bullet enters the back of the head and the terminal ballistics will come here -- [indicates area of right eye and forehead] – causing the head to go back and to the left.”
“The terminal ballistics will come here”? Terminal ballistics is defined as “the study of the behavior and effects of a projectile when it hits its target and transfers its energy to the target.”
The sniper can’t explain what happened, but he seems to think that by naming the field of study concerned with such phenomena, the audience will be fooled.
It is especially funny that he points to the area of the right eye: (1) In real life, the bullet is supposed to have exited from the top of the head on the right; (2) the gel-filled head in the demonstration seems to have no damage to that area, and it would show in a right profile view; and (3) all the exiting stuff representing brain matter comes out of the mouth. Neither JFK nor the head in this demo is supposed to have had an exit wound in the mouth.
Conclusion: The creators of this segment must have gel for brains. Or they think their audience does.
As the reader can see, this is not a studious, scientific attempt to duplicate the circumstances that befell Kennedy at 12:30 PM in Dealey Plaza, in Dallas. And for Baer to try and pass it off as such speaks very poorly of both him and his show.
But Bob Baer is not done. Not by a long shot. For now he goes on and conducts what he calls an acoustics test. According to him, dozens of ear witnesses4 who heard shots coming from the Grassy Knoll were actually confused due to “the amphitheater effect.” The real sound coming from the Texas School Book Depository (TSBD) would have echoed at the so-called triple underpass and other hard structures in Dealey Plaza.
To construct this “explosive theory,” Baer went to the crime scene with sound engineers and equipment that “nobody used before”. He just forgot to adjust the experiment setting to the standards of historical reconstruction.5 Not a single person was placed where a certain witness had been watching the presidential motorcade, and the sounds of the shooting weren’t generated by firing the rifle at the sniper nest. They were recorded elsewhere and played thereafter from near the TSBD. No kidding.
What is kind of shocking about this so-called acoustics test is that Baer completely ignores its far superior predecessor. During the proceedings of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, (HSCA) that body did an acoustics test in Dealey Plaza. Except their testing was live and they brought riflemen into the plaza. And from that and their work with and analysis of the 11/22/63 dictabelt recording from Dealey Plaza by a Dallas policeman on a motorcycle, they concluded the following: 1.) Someone fired from the grassy knoll, and 2.) There were five shots fired that day. (Which, as Don Thomas reveals in his book Hear No Evil, for political reasons, Chief Counsel Robert Blakey reduced to four.)
But, if one can comprehend it, Baer completely ignored the HSCA precedent, which included two teams of the finest audio scientists in the country. Among their members was Dr. James Barger of the firm Bolt, Beranek, and Newman. Barger had done acoustical research for the Navy in the field of submarine sonar detection, and had been involved in testing tapes of the 1970 Kent State shooting in Ohio. Barger did scientific testing of the actual sound wave patterns produced in Dealey Plaza at that time. Barger’s findings were passed on to Professor Mark Weiss and his associate Ernest Aschkenasy. They did the final presentation for the committee. To imply, as Baer does, that those three men spent as much time and testing as they did and could not separate an echo from a live shot is ridiculous. But Baer and his program are so agenda driven that it is as if these previous tests never happened. He brings in some audio recordings, some computer programmers, pays them a few bucks and with these stage props he has somehow eliminated the second gunman in the JFK case. Pure and utter poppycock. Baer’s level of science here would not pass muster at a good high school’s Science Fair.
An Inescapable Second Shooter
On December 12, 1963, the Secret Service (SS) did a crude recreation. Its black and white footage plotted three shots on the JFK limousine. The bystander James Tague —wounded by a bullet ricocheting off the curb about 260 feet away from the limousine— destroyed the prior three-shots-three-hits scenario. Then, the magic bullet emerged not from evidence, but as an out-of-the-blue solution engineered to sustain the lone gunman theory.
The FBI-SS reenactment on 23-24 May 1964 was a re-adjustment to preserve the willful closing of the case against Oswald. It also provided the notorious photo (CE 309) of Commission junior counsel Arlen Specter indicating with a metal rod the trajectory of the lie. However, an apparently insignificant detail provides a quantum of proof for demolishing any attempt—including Baer’s—to realign the shoots with the WC Report.
For the 1964 recreation, Specter used the same jacket worn by Governor Connally on November 22, 1963, but he did not use President Kennedy’s. Otherwise he couldn’t have aligned the bullet entrance hole in the back of both Kennedy’s jacket and shirt with the exit wound at his throat.6
The bullet holes are positioned 5 3/8” down from the collar line on the back of the jacket. They are consistent with the JFK death certificate, signed by his personal physician, Dr. George Burkley, who examined a back wound at the level of the third thoracic vertebra, about 4-6 inches below the point where the shoulders meet the neck.
At this level, a bullet coming downward from the TSBD would not be able to exit the throat. But the Commission acolytes do not care about the death certificate7 and dismiss the jacket and the shirt as material evidence with the claim that both bunched up. Let’s connect the dots in a simple test.
- Baer is invited to come dressed in suit and tie, along with John McAdams, Max Holland, Gerald Posner, Phillip Shenon et. al.;
- They will remove their jackets and shirts to mark the position of the bullet hole in Kennedy’s, and will also mark on their bodies the back wound given by the WC;
- They will put on their jackets and shirts, and will take a back seat in a car8;
- They will get their jackets and shirts to ride up until the mark on each one matches the mark of the back wound. This crucial moment will be photographically captured;
- They will compare the photos with the Zapruder film to find not even the faintest resemblance of JFK’s tailored suit jacket and buttoned shirt bunching up as theirs.
They will surely face a dilemma. If the Warren Commission accurately placed the back wound, then JFK’s jacket and shirt were replaced, hence conspiracy; if the jacket and shirt are authentic, then the WC gave a false representation of JFK’s back wound, hence conspiracy or cover-up. There is not one whiff of any of these factors in the entire “Tracking Oswald” series, for if they did present it, the show would have to be called, “Trying to Find who Killed Kennedy.” The Warren Commission did not want to do that. Neither does Baer.
Oswald’s Escape and Another Crime Scene
After surreptitiously taking for granted that Oswald was the lone gunman, Baer applies his on-the-ground field officer expertise to assemble Oswald’s plan of escape with a concealed route, an Alpha 66 safe house, and some anti-Castro Cuban exiles as accomplices. No clue is given about how Oswald could have learned in advance the presidential motorcade’s schedule in order for him to have planned the assassination by firing a rifle with telescopic sight from his very place of employment.9 In that regard, Baer also ignores the following. That morning, Oswald asked fellow worker James Jarman why all the people were assembled in the plaza below. When Jarman replied that President Kennedy was going to pass through in a motorcade, Oswald asked him which way it was proceeding. Kind of wrecks Baer’s idea of Oswald’s planning. Which is probably why he ignores it. (See Syliva Meagher, Accessores After the Fact, Vintage Books, 1992, pp. 37-38)
For all of what follows, Baer relies on the bus ticket found in Oswald´s shirt pocket. The former CIA officer somehow never discerns the difference between getting to and from work, and around the Dallas area, on the one hand, and escaping from the scene of a high profile murder case amid hundred of witnesses on the other. But Baer uses the ticket to infer a getaway route from the TSBD to an Alpha 66 safe house. On the way, Baer loses the evidentiary trail that—since Sylvia Meagher´s research in 1967—has put the ticket and other circumstances of Oswald’s escape under a cloud of suspicion (Accessories After the Fact, pp. 70-93).
Baer deduces that, from his years of experience in the CIA, in a situation like this, the assassin(s) needed to have an escape route planned in advance. Our host does not want to admit that what the Commission says Oswald did after the shooting would suggest that he had no such plan in mind. Or that the latest research on this matter clearly indicates he was not on the sixth floor at all. (See Barry Ernest’s book, The Girl on the Stairs. Click here for a review) For the idea that a man who just killed the president would now search out public transportation to flee the scene of the crime amid hundreds of spectators and scores of policemen is simply not credible. But that is what the official story says. And that is what Baer is supporting.
In any real planning situation one would rely on one of two factors for escape amid a multitude of spectators. The first alternative would be disguise—of which there is no evidence in this case. The other would be speed. That is, the longer one stays at or near the scene, the longer one risks the possibility of exposure and/or capture. Concerning this subject, one could do as Josiah Thompson did at the end of Six Seconds in Dallas. That is, present the testimony of policeman Roger Craig. Craig says he saw Oswald running down the embankment after the shooting. He then jumped into a Rambler driven by a dark skinned man. That would sound like an escape plan utilizing speed. But probably because of that, Baer ignores it. So in his scenario, Oswald boards a bus, gets off the bus, then walks a few blocks, and hails a taxi. But before he enters, he offers it to a little old lady standing next to him. (Meagher, p. 83) With a straight face Baer pronounces this an “escape plan”.
Furthermore, Baer explains that Oswald ended up in the Texas Theater because of the run-in with Police Officer J.D. Tippit on East 10th Street, about 100 feet eastward from Patton Avenue. At that point, the escape plan was supposedly disrupted and Oswald failed to think clearly and rationally. However, as in the case of his alleged shooting of the President, the evidence against Oswald in Tippit’s murder is shoddy.10 And Baer ignores that shoddiness.
The crime scene is almost a mile away from Oswald’s rooming house at 1026 N. Beckley. His landlady Earlene Roberts saw him waiting for a bus at 1:04 PM after he left his room. Temple Ford Bowley arrived at the crime scene when Officer Tippit was already on the ground and some bystanders were milling around the police car. Bowley looked at his watch and the time was 1:10 PM. The Commission ignored Bowley. Why? Because clearly Oswald couldn´t have walked almost a mile in less than 6 minutes. They then reported that Tippit was killed circa 1:15 PM, despite the fact that is the time he was pronounced dead at Methodist Hospital. To keep up appearances, a typed FBI memo stretched out Tippit’s agony at the hospital until 1:25 PM.
This case against Oswald for the Tippit shooting further weakens due to the three-wallets enigma.11 At the crime scene, Channel 8 staffer Ron Reiland filmed a policeman showing an open wallet to an FBI agent. According to FBI agent James Hosty, his fellow Bob Barrett revealed that this wallet contained IDs for both Oswald and Alek Hidell. But Dallas Police Officer Paul Bentley confiscated a second wallet from Oswald after he was arrested at the Texas Theater. And another one was found among Oswald´s belongings at Ruth Paine´s house in Irving. These are all facts. They strongly suggest some evidence against Oswald was planted. They are ignored by Baer.
Let us add another point about the two constant refrains by Baer during the program. First, the continuing assumption that Oswald is the guilty party. This, as we have seen, he achieves only by ignoring the evidence, especially the new evidence declassified by the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). And that relates to the second refrain: that Baer has read through the two million pages of declassified documents by the ARRB. Yet this program offers no evidence from that declassification process. For instance, Baer presents a four-decades-old police report that Oswald was seen at an Alpha 66 safehouse in the Dallas area. The other document used in this episode is the famous testimony of Antonio Veciana of him seeing Oswald with Maurice Bishop at the Southland Building in Dallas. Again, that information extends back to the seventies. And it does not at all connect Oswald with Alpha 66. Veciana was arriving to meet with his case officer Bishop at the time. He was early, and he saw Bishop with Oswald. Oswald left shortly after he arrived. In other words, Oswald was there with Bishop, not with Alpha 66 leader Veciana. And as Veciana later admitted—just three years ago—Bishop was David Phillips.
Now if Bob Baer was really interested in furnishing the public with new information, he could have done at least a couple of things with that crucial admission. First, he could have said that the ARRB discovered that Phillips (along with James McCord) was running the CIA’s counter-intelligence programs against the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, of which Oswald was the only member in New Orleans. When one combines that with the fact that Oswald worked out of the same building that former FBI agent Guy Banister did, 544 Camp Street; and he printed that Camp Street address on more than one of his flyers, then that meeting with Phillips gets interesting. Why would an alleged communist like Oswald be meeting with a CIA officer and working with a former FBI agent?
The other aspect that could have been made up of new information would have been Phillips running the Cuban desk in Mexico City while Oswald was allegedly there. Baer could have told the public:
The man Oswald was meeting with, David Phillips, told the HSCA that there were no tapes or pictures of Oswald in Mexico City. Yet there was such a tape that FBI agents listened to in Dallas while Oswald was under arrest for murder. Those agents told FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that this tape was not the voice of the man in detention. We are going to explore that apparent quandary tonight.
But, of course, Baer could not do that since he began the show by using a lot of questionable material about the Russians controlling Oswald in Mexico City, when the declassified Lopez Report strongly suggests that Oswald was impersonated in Mexico City. So the true identity of Oswald is kept under wraps, and some mythical association with Alpha 66 is now manufactured out of next to nothing.
More than fifty years and zero evidence after the JFK assassination, Baer is oddly not interested in or ignorant of what has been proven and debunked. He simply pushes back to square one—the lone gunman who shot a magic bullet—by concocting a light version (Castro knew it) of the oldest CIA backstop (Castro did it) through the fact-free hypothesis of Oswald linked somehow to Alpha 66 in the killing.
1 White House Telephone Transcripts, 23 November 1963, LBJ Library.
2 In his remark to Attorney General Robert Kennedy about two people involved in the shooting, CIA Director John McCone wasn’t speculating. He had been briefed by Art Lundahl, head of the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC), where leading photo analyst Dino Brugioni and his team examined the Zapruder film, made still enlargements of select frames, and mounted them on briefing boards. See Dan Hardway’s “Thank you, Phil Shenon” (AARC, 2015).
3 Thus, Alvarez joined the crew of dueling experts devoted to defending the WC at any cost, after the Zapruder film was available for the first time to a mass audience on March 6, 1975, thanks to HSCA consultant Robert Groden and JFK activist Dick Gregory, who brought it to Geraldo Rivera’s ABC show “Good Night America.”
4 Baer uses his own statistics, but the most reliable study, 216 Witnesses, by Stewart Galanor, found that 52 heard a shot from Grassy Knoll, 48 from TSBD, 5 from both places and 4 elsewhere. Other 37 witnesses could not tell and 70 more were not asked.
5 The WC acolytes always incur this failure. For instance, it’s well-known since Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgement (The Bodley Head, 1966) that WC’s firearms experts were unable to duplicate what Oswald did, but Vincent Bugliosi replied in Reclaiming History (W. W. Norton & Company, 2007) that CEs 582 to 584 “shows two hits were scored on the head” (p. 1005) – only that both were scored using iron sights instead of scope.
6 The FBI Supplemental Report from January 13, 1964, contains Exhibits 59 and 60 showing the bullet entrance holes in the back of Kennedy’s jacket and shirt, respectively. They weren’t included in any of the 26 volumes of Commission Exhibits. The initial draft of the WC report stated: “A bullet had entered his back at a point slightly above the shoulder to the right of the spine.” WC member Gerald Ford wanted it to read: “A bullet had entered the back of his neck slightly to the right of the spine.” After the ARRB declassification, the discrepancy emerged. Ford told reporters: “My changes were only an attempt to be more precise.” (AP, July 3, 1997).
7 Specter neither produced it nor interviewed Admiral Burkley, who as JFK’s personal physician was the only doctor present both at the Parkland Hospital (Dallas) in the emergency room and at Bethesda Medical Center (Maryland) during the autopsy.
8 It could be the Cadillac used by Specter instead of the presidential limousine (Lincoln Continental 1961).
10 Joseph McBride, Into the Nightmare, Hightower Press, 2013, pp. 244 ff.
11 James DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, Skyhorse Publishing, 2013, pp. 101 ff.