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Saturday, 13 February 2021 18:00

Litwin and the Warren Report

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As an introduction to the Fred Litwin Follies, Jim DiEugenio reviews his first book, which attempts to validate the Warren Commission using the thesis that “the authors of the Warren Report were honorable men who conducted an honest investigation and reached the right answer.” Jim, of course, decimates this thesis using a wealth of facts clearly available in the historical record.


It is not possible to understand Fred Litwin’s second book on the JFK case, dealing with Jim Garrison, without addressing his first book, which tried to uphold the Warren Commission. David Mantik did an excellent job in critiquing that first work. (Click here for details) But I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak is such a shabby book that no one person could expose the scope and depth of its tawdriness.

One of the most startling remarks Litwin makes in the first book—and one which shows how politically slanted his work is—appears relatively early. (Since this review is based on the e-book version, the pages I quote may differ slightly for the reader.) On page 51, Litwin writes: “The authors of the Warren Report were honorable men who conducted an honest investigation and reached the right answer.”

In this day and age, for anyone to infer that Allen Dulles and John McCloy were honorable men indicates either:

  1. Staggering ignorance
  2. The writer lives in an alternative moral universe, one outside the bounds of a normal ethical system, or
  3. The writer does not care what he writes since he has an agenda a mile long.

In reality, there were very few prominent Americans of the 20th Century who were more utterly dishonorable than Dulles and McCloy.

While working in the War Department during World War II, John McCloy was one of the strongest advocates for the Japanese internment. This removal and detainment of mostly American citizens was so ethically indefensible that even J. Edgar Hoover opposed it. When his opponents argued that if American citizens were deprived of property and rights, they deserved due process, McCloy replied with one of the most shocking remarks an attorney could make:

If it is a question of the safety of the country or the Constitution of the United States, why the constitution is just a scrap of paper to me. (Jacob Heilbrunn, The New Republic, “The Real McCloy”, May 11, 1992)

Attorney McCloy was so determined to discard the Constitution that he used unethical means to keep the victims in detention. He deleted important evidence from the record in the appeals of the case. (Ibid) To any objective person, such behavior would be relevant to his performance on the Commission. Yet one will not read about it in Litwin’s book. And, make no mistake about this affair, the “honorable” John McCloy was also a racist. In a letter to a friend, he talked about how the internment was an opportunity to “study the Japanese in these camps.” The last part of this passage is a doozy in delineating McCloy:

I am aware that such a suggestion may provoke a charge that we have no right to treat these people as guinea pigs. But I would rather treat them as guinea pigs and learn something useful, than merely to treat them…as they have been in the past with such unsuccessful results. (Kai Bird, The Chairman, pp. 165–66)

Whatever McCloy meant by that last statement, I don’t think anyone could describe it, in Litwin’s phrase, as honorable and honest. I should add, McCloy never admitted he could have been wrong about this shameful exercise. In the seventies, with over twenty years to think about it, he objected to any monetary compensation to those who had their rights trampled, property confiscated, and lives detoured. He called even the consideration of compensation, “utterly unconscionable.” (Op. cit, Heilbrunn)

McCloy’s bizarre sense of justice is further exemplified by his involvement in the other theater of World War II, in Europe. McCloy objected to the bombing of the Nazi concentration camps. He replied to this proposal with another of his jarring leaps of logic. He said that even if it were possible—which it was—it could lead the Germans to do something even more vindictive. (Heilbrunn, p. 42) As many have commented about that reply: What could be worse than the Holocaust?

This lack of mercy for the Jews of Eastern Europe made an interesting contrast with McCloy’s sympathy for the Nazis responsible for slaughtering them. McCloy was involved with the escape of Klaus Barbie out of Germany to Bolivia after the war. There, the former Gestapo chief became a drug lord. (Bird, p. 346). Even for a Nazi, Barbie was sadistic. He liked torturing his victims before killing them. A favorite method was hanging them upside down by hooks. In the deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz, Barbie decided there should be no age barrier to an early exposure to poison gas. He emptied a French orphanage of 41 children ages three to thirteen and sent them to the gas chambers.

But aiding Barbie wasn’t enough for the man who did not want to attack and liberate Auschwitz. After the war, McCloy became High Commissioner for Germany. He decided that many of the former Nazis who had been given prison sentences deserved to be set free early. In just six weeks, McCloy reviewed 93 cases. (Bird, p. 336) In 77 of those cases, McCloy’s board recommended reductions in sentencing. In some instances, this meant commutations of death sentences. That group included 20 former SS officers who served in the Einsatzgruppen. (Heilbrunn, p. 44) The Einsatzgruppen was Hitler’s first method of Jewish extermination. In this phase of the Holocaust, the SS troops, and, at times, the regular army, would round up the victims and herd them onto a bus. They would then drive them to a rural wooded area and, in this concealed area, they would machine gun them. Somehow, some way, McCloy thought the Allies had been too hard on these killers. After viewing this record, instead of calling McCloy honest and honorable, journalist Jacob Heilbrunn had a different opinion of the man. He called him a thoroughly despicable character. (Heilbrunn, p. 41)

Again, none of the above is in Litwin’s book, which is doubly strange. Because, as we shall see, Litwin likes playing the anti-Semite card against Commission critics. But somehow, the Jewish Litwin is able to, not just stomach all of the above, he eliminates it from the record. Only in Fred Litwin’s moral universe does endorsing the Single Bullet Theory erase crimes of the magnitude of John McCloy’s.

What I have done with McCloy, I could also do with Dulles and Commissioner Jerry Ford. And, in fact, I have done so. (James DiEugenio, The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, pp. 325–41). But further, by necessity, Litwin’s term “honest and honorable” extends to the man who provided the overwhelming majority of investigative materials to the Commission. Or else how could they have come up with the “right answer”? That would be the Director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover. (DiEugenio, pp. 237–40) But wisely, Litwin does not directly describe Hoover as honest and honorable. Probably because, with all that is now known today about the man, if he did, the reader would start laughing and throw the book into the trash can. But the key point to understand here is that Litwin is willing to censor or curtail important information, in order to disguise who the perpetrators of the cover up actually were—some of the worst Americans of that era. If you conceal that record, then you can hide from the reader the things they would be willing to do.

II

In any study of the Commission, the above information is crucial, because along with Dulles and Ford, McCloy dominated that body’s inner workings—from the beginning to the end. It is also important to know that McCloy and Dulles had a personal relationship that went back over thirty years. (Bird, pp. 76–77) As opposed to Commissioners Richard Russell, John Sherman Cooper, and Hale Boggs, the Dulles/Ford/McCloy trio attended the most meetings and asked, by far, the most questions. (Walt Brown, The Warren Omission, pp. 83–87)

This might not have mattered if, as he was presumed to be, Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren had been the real chairman and arbiter of the Commission. But that was not the case. Warren never wanted the position. He only accepted it when President Lyndon Johnson told him that if he did not accept, thermonuclear annihilation threatened the world. Warren left the White house in tears after that meeting. (James Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, p. 83; Mark Lane, Plausible Denial, pp. 41–42) The atomic war threat was effective. When Commission attorney Wesley Liebeler interviewed witness Sylvia Odio in Dallas, he told her that Warren had given the lawyers instructions to avoid evidence indicating a conspiracy. (Church Committee interview, 1/16/76)

In this regard, McCloy made two comments that recall his past cover up duties with the Nazis and the Japanese internment. He once said that the Commission had been “set up to lay the dust…not only in the United States but all over the world.” He then said he thought it was important to “show the world that America is not a banana republic, where a government can be changed by conspiracy.” (Bird, p. 549) Make no mistake, as with the internment, McCloy was firm in this belief for years afterward. In 1967, he secretly intervened in the production of the CBS four-night special on the Warren Report. His daughter was the secretary to network president Dick Salant. When it looked like producer Les Midgley might explore some sensitive areas of the case, and do so in a fair manner, McCloy stepped in to stop it. He wrote a long memorandum disputing Midgley’s approach. His view prevailed. Ellen McCloy became the back-channel through which her father was a secret consultant to the program. Like the veteran prevaricator and cover up artist he was, the “honorable and honest” McCloy lied about this clandestine and unethical journalistic role for the rest of his life. (Click here for details)

As noted above, Earl Warren had been effectively neutered when Johnson conjured up images of millions of charred bodies amid a tableau of atomic annihilation. But that was not enough for Hoover and the three managing Commissioners. Once Ford and Hoover heard of Warren’s first choice for Chief Counsel, Warren Olney, they made it clear he was not acceptable. (Gerald McKnight, Breach of Trust, pp. 41–43) After a rump meeting including Dulles, McCloy, and Ford, McCloy came up with a list and their first choice was J. Lee Rankin. One of the initial things Rankin did was to deprive the accused, but deceased, Lee Oswald of any representation before the Commission. This was in January of 1964. (See Commission Exhibit 2033)

Richard Russell wrote a letter of resignation in February, which he did not mail to Lyndon Johnson. (Gerald McKnight, Breach of Trust, p. 291) Why did he want to resign? As the reader can see from the above, Commissioners Russell, Cooper, and Boggs—who I have called elsewhere the Southern Wing—had been more or less marginalized. Very soon, Russell had lost faith in what the controlling faction was doing. He even accused the Commission of scheduling meetings behind his back. Like every other Commission zealot, Litwin conceals this split in the Commission ranks, which allows him to write about that body as if it were a monolith. This was not the case. And one only has to read the transcript of the September 6, 1964, examination of Marina Oswald to understand that.

In a number of ways, this was an extraordinary session. It was held at a Naval Station in Dallas. (See WC Vol. V, p. 588) Very telling is this fact: Dulles, McCloy, and Ford were not there. But beyond that, Warren was not there. It was presided over by Russell, with Boggs, Cooper, and Rankin in attendance. It is important to note that Marina Oswald was a key witness for the Commission. She had been groomed and prepared by the FBI and Secret Service before she appeared as the first witness. She then appeared twice more, once in June and once in July. Many would call Marina—along with Ruth Paine, Kerry Thornley, Carlos Bringuier, and George DeMohrenschildt—a keystone witness for the prosecution. What is remarkable about this particular session is that it is pretty clear from the start that these three Commissioners do not buy Marina. Marina’s past statements figured strongly in the dialogue and the question of perjury hung in the air. Incredibly, Marina was even asked if she knew Clay Bertrand or Sylvia Odio. As Walt Brown notes, this hearing had all the earmarks of a hostile interrogation. (Brown, p. 238) In this reviewer’s opinion, this is where a real investigation should have begun, not ended. When one reads this record, one can understand why the others were not in attendance. As Warren told the staff, it would make little sense to impugn the testimony of their chief witness to the character of Oswald, which is what Russell was doing. (Edward Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles, p. 315)

In practical terms, this might not have been the wisest step for Russell to take. Rankin clearly told the others—the people he was really working for—about what had happened. The final executive session of the Commission was held less than two weeks later. Rankin and Company had laid a trap for Russell. By this point, Russell simply did not buy the Single Bullet Theory, which was the ballistic underpinning of the Commission’s case against Oswald. This is the idea that one bullet hit both Kennedy and Governor Connally, created seven wounds in the two men and had emerged in almost pristine condition on someone’s stretcher at Parkland Hospital. (It was, in all probability, not Connally’s gurney: see Donald Byron Thomas’, Hear No Evil, pp. 392–99) But it became the working thesis of the Commission for a simple reason: if the two men were hit by separate bullets, it would be synonymous with saying there were two assassins. (Edward Epstein, Inquest, p. 46)

The serious split in the Commission ranks is not a new revelation. It was first described by Edward Epstein back in 1966. It is quite clear from his rather skimpy rendition of what happened at the final meeting that Russell, Boggs, and Cooper were aligned against the four other Commissioners. But there is a key issue involved that Epstein did not write about. Russell thought that his objections, and the ensuing debate, were being recorded by a stenographer. He recalled there was a woman there and he thought she was taking notes. (McKnight, p. 295) But there is no stenographic record of this meeting on hand today. A six-page summary is what constitutes the record of this hours long meeting. (Click here for details)

It is obvious to anyone what really happened. Rankin and his allies did not wish to record this debate over the Magic Bullet. They wanted to create the illusion that the Warren Report was a unanimous document which no one had any objections to. Therefore, the public should accept it without qualifications. To do this, they deceived three members of their own committee. Since, from their World War II experience, Dulles and McCloy were familiar with how an intelligence deception worked, they probably thought up the masquerade. Rankin and Warren went along with it.

It later turned out that Russell, Cooper, and Boggs were the first Commissioners to openly denounce the Warren Report. (DiEugenio, p. 319) We also know today that Jerry Ford secretly agreed with their verdict. (Click here for details) In reality, the Warren Report was a minority report. And who knows what would have happened if LBJ had not scared the living daylights out of Warren?

Is any of the above honorable and honest? Outside of Litwin’s world, it would appear to be purely Machiavellian. If you don’t tell the reader about it, then you can present it as otherwise. But that is just conducting a charade. As the Commission did at their final meeting.

III

The very title of Litwin’s book, I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak, strikes this reviewer as being deliberately provocative, but at least a bit ersatz. The implication of that title would be that, at one time, the author really believed that a conspiracy killed President Kennedy. Litwin says this was so, yet somehow, he does not produce any evidence to demonstrate it was in his entire book. He notes articles and talks he gave which support the Warren Commission and ridicule the critics. (Litwin, p. 143)

For instance, Litwin attended a talk given by Commission critic Rusty Rhodes in Montreal in 1975. He then wrote a piece for the student newspaper at Concordia University criticizing Rhodes as a sensationalist. (Litwin, p. 107) In 1976, he actually argued in a piece he did for People and the Pursuit of Truth that the bullet channel from Kennedy’s back out of his neck was genuine. (Litwin, p. 143) Another example in the nineties, he met with the Dallas ’63 group in UK. He again argued against conspiracy. (Litwin, p. 148) In August of 1994, he gave a talk for this group. He again argued for the Oswald did it side. (Litwin, p. 154) He then turned that talk into a paper called, “A Conspiracy too Big? Intellectual Dishonesty in the JFK Assassination.” This paper was not about anything the Warren Commission did that was dishonest—which I have outlined in detail above. It was about the critics of the Commission, who he says “have constructed a conspiracy so massive that it ultimately falls of its own weight.” Here, Litwin sounds indistinguishable to me from say, Dan Rather on a bad day. On this evidence, if there is anything freakish about Litwin, it is his refusal to accept any evidence that the Commission was wrong—at any time in his life.

Early in 1994, Fred Litwin indirectly met his American soul brother, Paul Hoch. Someone brought Fred past issues of Hoch’s newsletter, Echoes of Conspiracy. Litwin describes Hoch as a man who wanted to follow the facts, no matter where they led. (Litwin, p. 147) Litwin then quotes Hoch as saying that pieces of physical evidence for a conspiracy in Dealey Plaza have gotten weaker over the years. That is not a misprint. Hoch then says that the House Select Committee did tests for the Magic Bullet which critics expected to negate the Single Bullet Theory—the NAA, trajectory analysis—but they did not. He then quotes Hoch as writing that, after the HSCA, the Magic Bullet was really not a joke anymore. It had to be taken seriously.

As I was reading this, I had a hard time figuring out what was the worst part of this passage, that Hoch would write this stuff originally; or that Litwin would quote it; or that anyone could take it seriously. First of all, the very idea that Litwin would use Paul Hoch as a kind of model for the critical community is absurd in and of itself. If anyone can show me something that Hoch has written in the last thirty years that is a valuable contribution to any kind of criticism of the Commission, I would like to see it. Hoch finding evidence that a document about Jack Ruby’s alleged employment for the HUAC being a forgery is now rendered dubious. For the basis of his judgment, the premature use of zip codes, has turned out to be erroneous. (Click here for details) Frankly, I consider his journal Echoes of Conspiracy not worth reading today; but it was pretty much not worth reading when it was written. Hoch is a commentator who took Tony Summers’ book Goddess pretty much at face value. Hoch actually accepted Tim Leary’s nuttiness about Kennedy taking LSD tabs in the White House. Like the Ruby zip codes, these have both been discredited beyond repair today. (Click here and here for details) So how does any of this portray Hoch as a man possessed? As someone who was so incontinent in his search for truth that he would follow the facts wherever they led?

Then, there is the following. In the early nineties at a Coalition on Political Assassinations conference, Lisa Pease met up with Hoch. He tried to recommend that she read Carlos Bringuier’s book, Red Friday. (Phone communication with Pease, 12/2/2020) With this, Hoch was vouching for a man who, within 24 hours of the assassination, helped put together a broadsheet, saying Oswald killed Kennedy for Castro. Bringuier’s group, the DRE, was being paid tens of thousands per month by the CIA. (Jeff Morley, Ghost, p. 145)

This reviewer attended a JFK conference in Chicago in 1993, at which Hoch spoke. Also in attendance at this meeting were former Warren Commission counsel Burt Griffin and former Deputy Chief Counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), Robert Tanenbaum. Griffin, of course, defended the Commission and its conclusions. Tanenbaum attacked the Commission. After both men spoke, Hoch approached me and said he thought that Griffin’s speech was better, which would mean, by deduction, that he bought the Single Bullet Theory.

Back in 1979, Harvey Yazijian and the late Carl Oglesby published a journal for the Assassination Information Bureau. Clandestine America was interested in chronicling the work of the HSCA. At the close of that committee in 1979, they surveyed a number of interested parties to get their opinion of what the HSCA had accomplished. Hoch was one of the very few, perhaps the only one, who preferred the work of the HSCA under Chief Counsel Robert Blakey than under Blakey’s predecessor Richard Sprague, which again would place Hoch in the Magic Bullet camp. This was in 1979.

Just like he does not produce evidence of himself being a Commission critic, Litwin does not reveal any of this about Hoch. With that in mind, as referred above, just what HSCA tests are Hoch and Litwin referring to that actually endorsed the Single Bullet Theory and saved it from ridicule? The two tests were Vincent Guinn’s Neutron Activation Analysis, today called Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis (CBLA), and Tom Canning’s work on the trajectory of Commission Exhibit 399, the Magic Bullet. CBLA was used by the HSCA to say that only two bullets hit the limousine; that the fragments’ trace elements all showed that these specimens came from Western Cartridge Company—which made the ammo for the Mannlicher Carcano rifle allegedly used by Oswald—and fragments from Connally’s wrist matched the magic Bullet, CE 399, thereby showing the Single Bullet Theory was valid.

The problem with what Hoch said then, and with Litwin quoting him today, is rather simple: Both “tests” have been demolished. A statistician/ metallurgist team, Pat Grant and Eric Randich, took Guinn’s claims apart and rendered them into rubbish in a milestone article for a peer reviewed publication. (Journal of Forensic Sciences, July 2006, pp. 717–28) For a less complicated explanation of how this test was destructed by Grant and Randich, read Gary Aguilar’s discussion of it (Click here for details) The demolition was so complete that the FBI will never use CBLA in court again. At a conference held by Aguilar in San Francisco, Randich said the judge in a case he testified in told the Bureau if they tried to do so, he would entertain charges of perjury from the defense. Does it get any worse than that? So just what is Litwin talking about?

As per Canning, his work was a non-starter from the beginning. The HSCA had secured the autopsy photos and they had an artist do illustrations of them for the volumes. It is clear from these drawings that the posterior bullet wound that first hit Kennedy struck in his back. In Tom Canning’s drawings, that wound is moved upward where the Warren Commission had placed it—in the neck. (HSCA Volume 2, p. 170) In other words, the Commission had lied about this and Canning had repeated it for trajectory purposes. Secondly, the forensic panel of the HSCA said that the magic bullet went through Kennedy at a slight upward angle. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, p. 79) Again, if one looks at Canning’s work, he flattened that angle to pure horizontal. (HSCA, op. cit.) This is important, because Canning admitted that if his calculations were off by just one inch, he would miss the firing point by 30–40 feet, which would mean that Canning missed the alleged sniper’s nest window by anywhere from three to four floors in the Texas School Book Depository. (HSCA Vol. 2, p. 196)

But it’s worse than that, because in his calibrations for the fatal head shot, Canning used the revised position for that rear skull entry wound. (HSCA Vol. 2, p. 167) In other words, he raised it from the original autopsy, where it was in the lower skull, up into the cowlick area, a distance of about four inches. But here is the issue: if the doctors who actually saw and handled the body at the Bethesda morgue on the evening of 11/22/63 are correct, then Canning’s calculations are off by as much as 160 feet, which would likely place the assassin who killed Kennedy across the street in the Dal-Tex Building. And this is just the beginning of the problems with Canning. In his book, Hear No Evil, Don Thomas spends over 20 pages undoing Canning and his tests. (pp. 422–448). After reading that, if anyone needs any more proof that the HSCA trajectory analysis was pure bunk, please read what Pat Speer wrote about it. (Click here for details) The reader will see that Canning’s measurements, and his positioning of entrance and exit wounds, all changed over time. But what makes it all the worse is this: his illustrations—from side to front—do not match up with each other! Therefore, if one is thinking logically, with all the declassified information on the table, Hoch’s conclusion is ass backwards. The HSCA tried every piece of junk science available and they still could not make the Single Bullet Theory work.

IV

Let me add a rather important point to the above relationship between Hoch and Litwin. Although Randich and Grant applied the final kibosh to Vincent Guinn’s charade, Wallace Milam actually began to protest Guinn’s technique about a decade prior to that. The late Jerry Policoff pointed out the basic problem with Canning—that his underlying information was dubious—right after the HSCA closed shop. Milam was a high school teacher. Policoff was a journalist and TV/Radio advertising salesman. Paul Hoch has a PhD in physics. Neither Speer nor Thomas has such a degree. Further, Hoch had been studying this case since the sixties, much longer than either one of them. Yet, to my knowledge, physicist Hoch never raised a complaint about the scientific methods used in the above fraudulent tests, which, in light of what Litwin is up to, makes it natural for Fred to use him as some kind of authority. When, in fact—if one does not censor the material at hand—the question Litwin should have asked him is this: Paul, what has a physicist like you been doing for four decades?

The answer to that question, as posed by the anecdotal evidence I listed above, would suggest some kind of innate bias, a bias that overrides the scientific skills and training Hoch acquired at university. The last thing in the world Litwin wants to do is to pose—or have the reader pose—this question: How could these unskilled and untrained people figure out the forensic hoaxes that physicist Hoch could not? To avoid that obvious question, Litwin does not go within a country mile of the area, because that, in turn, would pose this question: Why would Litwin use him as an expert?

But, as David Mantik pointed out in his 44 questions for Litwin, this is all irrelevant anyway. The phony debate over CE 399, its trajectories, and chemical composition were always an example of a dog chasing its tail. We know today that CE 399 was worse than a joke: it was a smoke and mirrors illusion. The work of the ARRB—which Litwin avoids like CV-19—has made it superfluous. It was through that work that Gary Agular and Josiah Thompson proved that the FBI lied in its alleged identification process of CE 399. Bardwell Odum—the FBI agent who the Bureau said showed the bullet to witnesses for purposes of confirmation—admitted to both men that he never did any such thing. Yet, the fraudulent document saying he did—CE 2011—is in the Commission volumes. (DiEugenio and Pease, p. 284) The chain of custody for the Magic Bullet was therefore not confirmed by the witnesses who handled it. In other words, J. Edgar Hoover—implied by Litwin to be an honest and honorable man—played the Commission, also honest and honorable men, for suckers, which considering who McCloy and Dulles really were, was probably kind of easy.

How bad is bad? The late John Hunt proved the worst about CE 399. To further certify the (phony) chain of custody, the FBI wrote that agent Elmer Lee Todd’s initials are on that bullet. As Hunt discovered at the National Archives, this is another lie. They are not. (Click here for details) But beyond that, there is another equally serious problem with the chain of custody. Todd was supposed to have delivered CE 399 to technician Robert Frazier at the FBI lab that night. Frazier’s notes say he was in receipt of the bullet at 7:30 PM. This presents a huge problem for the evidentiary record, because Todd did not obtain the bullet until 8:50 PM. How could he have given Frazier a bullet he did not have? (Click here for details)

The fact that Todd’s initials are not on the bullet poses the gravest questions, but by avoiding all the evidence above, Litwin can say that it’s kind of ridiculous to insinuate that there was another bullet. (Litwin, p. 216) But if one analyzes the record above, that is what the evidence trail clearly suggests. Frazier already had a bullet at 7:30 PM. Todd was in receipt of another bullet at 8:50 PM. Therefore, one could likely have been switched out for the other. Recall, CE 399 is the only whole bullet in evidence. The bullet that missed the street entirely was not officially recovered. The bullet that struck Kennedy in the head was in fragments. Since there were only three shells discovered on the sixth floor, another bullet would indicate a second shooter.

Further complicating this issue is the fact that when author Josiah Thompson first interviewed the head of security at Parkland, O. P. Wright, Wright denied that CE 399 was the bullet he turned over to the Secret Service on 11/22/63. He said the bullet he turned over was a sharp pointed bullet, not a round one like the Commission said it was. (DiEugenio and Pease, p. 283) Is that the bullet that was made to disappear? This is what the declassified records suggest, but J. Edgar Hoover was not going to confront such skullduggery, which is why he lied about this issue. He understood early that something was seriously wrong with the evidence. When asked if Oswald was the actual killer, he replied with, “If I told you what I really know, it would be very dangerous to this country. Our whole political system could be disrupted.” (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, p. 246) Therefore, Hoover did what Jerry Ford did, he covered up the facts and then lied to the public, which was natural for Jerry, since he was Hoover’s stoolie on the Commission. (DiEugenio, p. 336)

In Litwin’s world, none of the above matters. (p. 216) In fact, he quotes John McAdams saying that even if CE 399 would not be admitted at trial, it would still be “absolutely dispositive where historical judgments are concerned.” Litwin is so monomaniacal, so freight train locomotive obsessed, that he does not understand how he has just undermined his own argument by having McAdams admit it would not be admitted at trial. That is the equivalent of saying there was no chain of custody.

The chain of custody legal standard is designed to prevent the prosecution from either altering or exchanging an exhibit. Each step in the chain, from the crime scene, to the police HQ, to the lab, back to the evidence room, and into court must be accounted for. And the identification of the exhibit cannot change. With CE 399, any chain of custody pre-trial hearing would turn into a comedy show. (Click here for details) In fact, a defense lawyer would probably not call for a hearing. He would want to have it admitted at trial and watch the jury giggle as the evidence is presented. Can one imagine showing Todd the document saying he initialed the bullet and then asking him to find his initials on it? And that would just be for starters.

In his attempt to revive the rather downtrodden HSCA, there is another story which Litwin has to bury. That is the sea change that overtook that committee once Richard Sprague was removed. That element of the story is integral to any honest evaluation of that committee. The first chief counsel, Sprague, was a career prosecutor in Philadelphia with an impeccable legal reputation and an excellent record in court. He had every intention of treating the Kennedy assassination as a homicide case and he hired attorneys and investigators who had this kind of criminal experience. For instance, Sprague’s choice for Deputy Counsel over the Kennedy case was Bob Tanenbaum. Tanenbaum was chief of homicide in New York. He had never lost a felony case. Sprague did not last long, because it became clear he was not going to accept any of the Warren Commission’s conclusions without testing them first. He was going to do a complete reinvestigation of the JFK case, from the bottom up. (DiEugenio and Pease, pp. 56–57) He was not going to use the FBI or Secret Service as his agents. He was going to hire a whole new independent team to do a fresh inquiry. With that kind of approach, it would be inevitable that, sooner or later, he would have uncovered what Hunt, Agular, and Thompson did years later. All one needs to know about what happened to the HSCA is that it took the ARRB to show us the depth of the fraud the Magic Bullet was mired in.

With his homicide approach, I think Sprague also would have questioned the weapon in evidence. David Mantik did a fine job posing all the questions in the record that arise by the Commission’s acceptance of the Mannlicher Carcano, serial number C2766, as the rifle used in the assassination, but I would like to add one more evidentiary problem with the acceptance of that rifle. The Commission says that Oswald mailed a coupon and money order to Klein’s Sporting Goods in Chicago from a post office in Dallas. It was supposed to have been mailed on March 12, 1963. The Commission says it arrived in Chicago a day later. But not just that. It was also sorted at Klein’s and then walked over to their bank and deposited. All in about 24 hours. (Warren Report, p. 119)

Needless to say, Litwin does not bat an eyelash at this transaction. But I think it’s important to add, this was in the days before zip codes. It is also in the days before computers and sensors. From Dallas to Chicago is nearly 1000 miles. This reviewer mails letters inside the city of Los Angeles that take more than one day to arrive at their destination. For his upcoming documentary, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, Oliver Stone decided to conduct an experiment. He had Debra Conway of JFK Lancer mail a letter from the same post office that Oswald allegedly mailed his payment for the rifle. She mailed it to Michael LeFlem, an author for this web site, who lives a mile from where Klein’s used to be located. The letter took five days to arrive. 

V

Towards the end of his book, Litwin mentions this reviewer specifically. (Litwin, p. 216) He writes that in my book The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today, that I believe I have found “discrepancies” in the chain of possession of CE 399. Discrepancies? Can the man be real? Bardwell Odum denying he ever showed the bullet to O. P. Wright, or anyone else, is not a “discrepancy.” Frazier getting the bullet before Todd gave it to him is not a “discrepancy.” The FBI lying about Todd’s initials being on the bullet is not a “discrepancy.” His initials are not there. All of this constitutes fraud and evidence alteration.

In this same passage, he then makes a leap—actually more like a Sergey Bubka pole vault. He says that I have written that all the evidence in the case is planted. (p. 216) In his references, he does not supply a footnote as a basis for that imputation to me. (See p. 270) I do not recall ever saying such a thing. For instance, I do not believe the David Lifton/Doug Horne body alteration concept. I am an agnostic on the Zapruder film being faked. I disagreed with just about everything in each of Nigel Turner’s The Men Who Killed Kennedy installments after the initial series was broadcast in America in 1991, e. g. the theories of the late Tom Wilson. I even disagreed with some of the original broadcast. I also have severe problems with writers like Robert Morningstar and Jim Fetzer and I consider most of their ideas to be outlandish. I have written about many of these disagreements and Litwin could have found them if he wanted to.

What I do in The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today is simply review the core evidence in the case in light of the revelations of the ARRB and the revisions in the record made after the Warren Report. The revelations and revisions in that record were both plentiful and disturbing. After distorting what I wrote, Litwin then applies another smear: he says I have no paperwork, witnesses, not anything to back up such a sensational claim. As noted above, I don’t recall making the claim he says I made. But each claim I do make is backed up with credible evidence. In that book, concerning the subject of evidence manipulation, I only go as far as the record establishes. And that record is not something I created or embellished. It’s there in the record for all to see. The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today has over 1800 footnotes in it, many more than the book under review. Litwin does not want the reader to know that, so he air-brushes it out.

But let me use one example to show just how untrustworthy Litwin is. On the subterfuges around CE 399, here is the evidence I outline.

Witnesses:

  • O. P. Wright, security chief at Parkland Hospital who gave the bullet to the Secret Service
  • Bardwell Odum, FBI agent who allegedly showed the bullet in question to witnesses at Parkland Hospital
  • Josiah Thompson, who interviewed witnesses at the hospital in November of 1966
  • Gary Aguilar, who interviewed Odum in November, 2001
  • John Hunt, who examined Robert Frazier’s 11/22/63 work product

Paperwork:

  • Interview of Wright in Six Seconds in Dallas
  • Interview of Odum in The Assassinations
  • Complete absence of FBI 302 reports on Odum’s alleged interviews about the bullet
  • Frazier’s work product as shown in Hunt’s essays
  • Receipt for transfer of Magic Bullet from Secret Service to FBI on 11/22/63
  • Blow up pictures of the Magic Bullet at the National Archives

This is having no witnesses or paperwork? Most people would say it is a surfeit of witnesses and paperwork. I could do the same with other examples from my book. But an important point to understand is this: Litwin does make reference to my book, which means he had it in some form. I am not an attorney, but I do know the laws of libel in California. I will be making consultations about the issue. After that, I will do a cost-benefit analysis and then decide whether or not to file an action.

VI

Throughout his book, Litwin makes recurring references to the sanctity and the probative value of the medical evidence in the JFK case. (See p. 177) How does he do this? As David Mantik mentioned, Litwin does not specifically describe what the 1968 Ramsey Clark Panel did to the original autopsy. Yet, anyone can read that report. (Click here for details) Before we get to the radical revisions of that panel, we must mention two points. First, that panel did not exhume Kennedy’s body. Second, they did not call in the original autopsy team—the three pathologists, the official photographer, or the radiologist—to testify. Their review was largely based on the autopsy report in the Warren Report and the photographs and x rays. The following is what the Clark Panel concluded:

  1. They raised the entrance wound in the rear of Kennedy’s skull four inches upward, i.e. almost the entire height of the skull, into the cowlick area.
  2. The above conclusion was largely based on something that none of the original autopsy doctors saw on the x rays: a large 6.5 mm object in the rear of Kennedy’s skull.
  3. They denied any particle trail rising from low in the skull and connecting to a higher trail above.
  4. They saw particles in the neck area.

Each one of these differed with the original autopsy report from 1963, although point 4 ended up being incorrect. (As Gary Aguilar and Milicent Cranor have pointed out, later inquiries concluded these were artifacts.) The Clark Panel smudged another point of difference with the Warren Report, but the HSCA did make this clear: the wound on the president’s body was definitively lowered from the neck to the back.

Let us refer to my book for one of the original pathologist’s reaction to one of the differences in the record, specifically point 3. The following dialogue is between ARRB chief counsel Jeremy Gunn and James Humes. It was done with an x ray in front of the witness:

Q: Do you recall having seen an X-ray previously that had fragments corresponding to a small occipital wound?

A: Well, I reported that I did, so I must have. But I don’t see them. (DiEugenio, p. 152)

In other words, the present X-ray differs from his autopsy report. Let us now go to point 2, the appearance of the 6.5 mm object in the rear of the skull. When Gunn asked Humes about it, he said, “The ones we retrieved I didn’t think were the same size as this….” He then added that they were:

Smaller, considerably smaller…I don’t remember retrieving anything of this size.  Truthfully, I don’t remember anything that size when I looked at these films. (DiEugenio, p. 153)

When Gunn asked another pathologist, Thornton Boswell about this issue, he replied “No. We did not find one that large. I’m sure of that.” (DiEugenio, p. 153) Why is this so important? Anyone can figure that out. In addition to its size in relation to the other fragments, the 6.5 mm dimensions of the object precisely fit the caliber ammunition that Oswald allegedly fired at Kennedy. Under those circumstances, are we really to believe that three pathologists, two FBI agents, the photographer, and the radiologist did not see it the night of the autopsy? When, in fact, this is what they were looking for: evidence of bullet remnants in the body.

One might ask: Why does Litwin not precisely deal with the Clark Panel’s modifications of the autopsy? Specifically, their raising of the rear skull wound and the appearance of the 6.5 mm object? Perhaps because, as the leader of that panel, Maryland Medical Examiner Russell Fisher, later said: the panel was formed to counter what the critics had pointed out about the Commission’s version of the autopsy. (Maryland State Medical Journal, March 1977) One way the 1968 panel did this was to raise the rear skull wound, so it would not misalign so much with both Kennedy’s positioning in the Zapruder film at frame 313 and also with where the exit wound on JFK was supposed to be: above and to the right of his right ear. Josiah Thompson had shown that the Commission had misrepresented these matters in illustrations in the volumes. (Six Seconds in Dallas, p. 111)

What the Clark Panel did was help solve the problem of how the bullet came in: at a low point on the rear skull, on a downward angle; but exited at a higher point and, by necessity, at a rising angle. But, as David Mantik later pointed out, the Clark Panel’s “solution” left another huge problem. The base and nose of the skull bullet were found in the front of the car. (See Clark Panel Report p. 6; WR, pp. 557–58) This meant the 6.5 mm object, still in the rear of the skull, had to come from somewhere in the middle of the bullet. How could such a thing happen? Should we call it the Second Magic Bullet? Litwin does not tell the reader about this problem, so he does not have to explain it.

In spite of all the problems in the official record, which he sidesteps, there is still another HSCA shibboleth that—in his apparent allegiance to Paul Hoch—Litwin trots out to uphold the findings of that committee, namely that the autopsy photographs were authenticated. As with so many aspects of the HSCA, the ARRB declassification process has made this issue problematic. The HSCA wrote that, even though they had not found either the camera or lens used during the autopsy, the pictures were authenticated due to features on the photos that showed internal consistency. (HSCA Vol. 6, p. 226, reference 1) In itself, this seems questionable, since there was no comparison with the original apparatus utilized at Bethesda Medical Center on 11/22/63. But, as the ARRB found out, it’s worse than that. The Pentagon had found the only camera in use at Bethesda in 1963. But when the HSCA tested it, they found that the test results disagreed with its analysis. As Gary Aguilar notes, perhaps there was a different lens and shutter attached to the camera afterwards. But when the ARRB tried to search for the actual tests performed by the HSCA on the camera, the Board could not find them. Whatever the case, the statement made by the HSCA on this matter does not align with the declassified record. (The Assassinations, edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, pp. 279–80)

Let us go to another huge problem with the medical record, one I wrote about in The JFK Assassination. ARRB Chief Counsel Jeremy Gunn examined the official autopsy photographer, John Stringer. When he showed him photos of Kennedy’s brain, the witness was visibly puzzled. The pictures Gunn showed him were shot with a different film than what Stringer used and were performed with a different technique. The latter was betrayed by a series of numbers on the film. Stringer also said that, on the brain photos he originally saw, the cerebellum was both damaged and cut. Here it was presented as intact. When asked directly by Gunn if he would say these were the photos he took of Kennedy’s brain, Stringer replied “No, I couldn’t say that they were President Kennedy’s.” (Doug Horne, Inside the ARRB, Vol. 3, pp. 806–10) Again, can one imagine the impact of such testimony during a legal proceeding? How could the HSCA not discover this very important revelation? This new ARRB evidence leads to these questions:

  1. Who really took those photos?
  2. Why was a second set needed?

As I demonstrated above, every single modification of the evidence I have mentioned in this review, or in my book, exists in the official records of this case. They are all there for the interested party to see. There is nothing fanciful about it. Litwin’s postulation that I had no witnesses or paperwork to support what I wrote in that regard has been shown above to be utterly false. It can only exist in his cherry-picked world. The problem with his doing that is that he leaves out proof which alters the contours of the evidence and changes the forensic conclusions in the JFK case.

Post Script: In looking through my notes, I see that I left one point out which I think Litwin is correct about. The author dedicates the book to John McAdams and Paul Hoch. Today, for reasons stated above and throughout, I would have to agree that such a pairing is appropriate. I will deal more with this later in the series.

Click here for Fred Litwin, On the Trail of Delusion – Part One.

Last modified on Sunday, 21 February 2021 06:31
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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