Tuesday, 16 March 2010 16:05

Rodger Remington, Biting the Elephant

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An account of its author's attempts to correspond with, and perhaps understand, several prominent lone nut supporters, reviewed by Jim DiEugenio.


Rodger Remington is a retired history professor. He taught for over thirty years at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Which, ironically, happens to be the home of former Warren Commissioner Gerald Ford. I say ironically because Remington is a relentless and acute critic of the Commission and their work.

After Rodger retired from teaching, he began to copy large segments of the Warren Commission volumes at a library. He brought them home and studied them minutely. Shocked and surprised by what he studied, he then started to write a series of books on the Commission's findings. They are titled, in order: The People v. the Warren Report, The Warren Report, and Fallings Chips. All three were published between 2002 and 2005. He published his latest work, Biting the Elephant, in 2009. This last largely consists of his attempted correspondence with three Commission supporters: Gerald Posner, Ken Rahn, and Vincent Bugliosi. In each case, the author tried to convince the Commission supporters to co-write a book with him that would consist of a point-counterpoint of specific issues in the JFK case. In each instance, the official supporter ultimately declined. In an amusing Roger and Me kind of narrative, the author closely chronicles his prolific but futile attempt to engage the "Warrenati" in his literary enterprise.

Biting the Elephant also deals with a minute examination of some of the key witnesses the Commission used to place the shots from the upper floors of the Texas School Book Depository. These four are Howard Brennan, Amos Euins, Arnold Rowland, and James Worrell. His examination of the testimony of these four men is searching, nuanced, and thorough. This is important, of course, since the Commission and its supporters rely extensively on these four men – especially Brennan – to pin the murder of President Kennedy on Lee Harvey Oswald. Remington shows just how problematic their testimony is in that regard.

I

Remington begins his first chapter with the unwise words of Gerald Ford in Life magazine of 10/2/64. With a mixture of laughter and tears, the reader will recall that Ford described Howard Brennan like this: "The most important witness to appear before the Warren Commission in the 10 months we sat was a neat, Bible-reading steam fitter from Dallas. His name was H. L. Brennan, and he had seen Lee Harvey Oswald thrust a rifle from a sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository and shoot the President of the United States." (Remington, p. 22)

Immediately afterwards, the author shows just how biased Ford must have been to write this. For Brennan told assistant counsel David Belin, "Well, as it appeared to me he was standing up and resting against the left window sill, with gun shouldered to his right shoulder, holding the gun with his left hand and taking positive aim and fired his last shot." (ibid)

In his discussion of Vincent Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, Remington points out that this is very hard to believe since it would necessitate a bullet going through a glass window. (Remington, p. 352; see also Mark Lane, Rush to Judgment, p. 83) Further, the author shows that, during his visit to Dallas for reconstruction purposes, Belin almost certainly falsified the positioning of Brennan in CE 477. Belin placed him on the wrong ledge of a retaining wall and facing the wrong street. As Rodger points out, the Zapruder frames featured on the cover of Reclaiming History show that Belin was wrong in this. Yet Bugliosi fails to point this out. (ibid, Remington)

The author points out something else worth noting about this curious witness that Ford was so enamored with. Brennan admitted that he didn't see the first shot. He actually thought it was a firecracker. But he also admitted that he did not see the rifle explode for the second and third shots either. (WC Vol. III, p. 154) The author deduces that if we are to take this seriously, then Brennan must have been jerking his head back and forth between Kennedy being killed and the shooter in the TSBD – and with miraculous speed and anticipation. In reality, Brennan is not to be taken seriously. As Rodger writes, given these qualifications, "...there is absolutely no factual basis for identifying Howard Brennan as an eyewitness to the shooting..." (pgs. 35-36) Amen.

But I should add, there may be a reason that Brennan said what he did, in the way he did. As attorney Bob Tanenbaum has stated, if one goes with the Commission's version of the so-called sniper's nest, Brennan's testimony is weird. He is supposed to be the source of the original description of the assassin's height and weight. But as Tanenbaum notes: If Oswald was kneeling down behind that stack of boxes, how could Brennan have determined his clothing color, height and weight? (WC Vol. III p. 144) This may be why Brennan depicted him standing. But, if that was so, then why did he build the "sniper's nest"? (It is true that Brennan also said he saw the man before the shooting, but then he said he was sitting on the sill. He later seemed to contradict himself by saying he did not see the window until after the first shot. WC Vol. III, pgs. 144, 154)

Remington leaves out another dubious point about this strange witness. After the assassination, Brennan went home and said he watched television. During which he viewed Oswald's face twice. (WC Vol. III, p. 148) Although the Warren Report is confusing on this issue, it seems to say that he then viewed a line-up the evening of the murder and failed to pick out Oswald. (Warren Report, p. 145) David Belin realized this was a problem for boss Gerald Ford's star witness. So when Brennan testified before the Commission, an excuse was forthcoming. He failed to make the identification that night because he was afraid a communist plot would endanger his family. (ibid,) It was that fear which held him back from making the positive ID at police headquarters the night of the 22nd.

In his book, No Case to Answer, Ian Griggs has made a detailed and valuable analysis of the Oswald line-ups (pgs. 81-91). In this regard, it is important to note some of the comments made by Brennan on the issue of the line-ups to the Commission. When asked by Belin if he recalled how many people were in the line-up, Brennan answered that he was not sure, possibly "seven more or less one." (WC Vol. III, p. 147) Which would mean anywhere from 6-8. According to Griggs, there were never more than four men in any line-up. And in fact, there could not have been either 7 or 8. Why? Because the placement allotment allowed for only six people. (Griggs, p. 91) Belin then asked the "star witness" about the ethnic makeup of the line-up, "were they all white, or were there some Negroes in there, or what?" Brennan replied with, "I do not remember." (ibid) Which is a startling answer. Why? This is 1963, at the height of King's civil rights movement. The March on Washington occurred several months previous. The Klan was blowing up buildings and buses. Yet Brennan does not recall if there were any black men in the only line-up he ever saw in the most important murder ever in Dallas?

In this regard, Mark Lane and Harold Weisberg made two brief but telling comments about Brennan's alleged presence at an Oswald line-up. Harold Weisberg wrote in Whitewash, "It is true that Brennan 'viewed' the line-up, although he appears to be the one person of whose presence the police have no written record." (p. 90) Mark Lane echoed this in Rush to Judgment: "The Dallas police submitted to the Commission a document which they said incorporated the name of every person who attended any of the four line-ups at which Oswald was shown to witnesses. Brennan's name, however, does not appear therein." (Lane, p. 91) Odd that the Commission's star witness should be notable by his absence.

Griggs thought all the above more than just odd. So the former British detective followed up on it. Griggs found out that although he could find particular times assigned to the four line-ups the police listed, there was no time that the Commission assigned to the one Brennan was allegedly at. (Griggs, p. 90) Griggs found a book – Judy Bonner's Investigation of a Homicide – in which the author said that Brennan was at the same line-up as Barbara and Virginia Davis, who were witnesses to the Tippit murder. This line up took place on the 22nd at 7:55 PM. (Griggs, p. 88) Yet, when Griggs checked this out with Barbara Davis, she said she did not recall Brennan being there. (ibid, p. 92) Griggs also discovered that no other line-up witness mentioned seeing Brennan. (Griggs, p. 94)

The detective also found the police notes used to make up the official reports on the four line-ups. Brennan's name is not listed there either. (ibid, p. 93) Neither is his name in any of the affidavits or testimony of the police officers who supervised the line-ups. (ibid)

I've saved the best for last. John McCloy asked Capt. Will Fritz if he was at the line-up attended by Brennan. Fritz said the following: "I don't think I was present but I will tell you what, I helped Mr. Sorrels find the time that that man – we didn't show that he was shown at all on our records, but Mr. Sorrels called me and said he did show him and wanted me to give him the time of the showup. I asked him to find out from his officers who were with Mr. Brennan the names of the people that we had there, and he gave me those two Davis sisters, and he said, when the told me that, of course, I could tell what showup it was and then I gave him the time." (ibid, p. 94, italics added) This is the man directly supervising the police investigation. Yet he doesn't know that 1.) Barbara Davis didn't see Brennan, and 2.) He doesn't care if Brennan is not listed by his own men as being at that line-up. If someone can find a piece of Commission testimony more openly indicating the cops cooperating with Washington in aid of a cover-up, I would like to see it.

Like Mary Bledsoe, Wesley Frazier, and others, the weight of the evidence indicates that Brennan was one of the Commission's manufactured witnesses. If Oswald had participated in a real trial – which the Warren Commission did not even resemble – a skilled and knowledgeable defense attorney would have dismantled Brennan piece by piece. Which is probably why Oswald was killed.

One of the most interesting parts of Biting the Elephant is that Remington actually proffers a method as to how this happened. He writes of a little noted debate within the Commission over "preparation" of witnesses. This occurred in January of 1964. According to Remington the lawyers who were in favor of witness preparation were Arlen Specter, Joe Ball, and David Belin. They were opposed by assistant General Counsel Norman Redlich. Ultimately, Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin stepped in and decided the dispute in favor of the three assistant counsels. (Remington, p. 53) The understanding arrived at was that "preparations would be summarized in memoranda to be submitted to Redlich. Apparently, somewhere along the way, the requirement for memoranda gave way to the demands of limited time and they were not always provided." (ibid) I can attest that Remington is right on this. I have seen some of the memoranda at the Dallas Public Library. Before a witness testified the Commission had notes arranged like bullet points as to what the witness would say on specific evidentiary points. It would seem that this is why witnesses were pre-interviewed – sometimes repeatedly – by the FBI, the Secret Service, and sometimes both. One can argue that this preparation occurs at trials today all the time. But at an actual trial, the witness is also cross-examined by the opposing lawyer. No rigorous cross-examination on Oswald's behalf ever happened during the Commission hearings.

II

The three other witnesses that Remington minutely examines are Amos Euins, Arnold Rowland, and James Worrell.

Euins was a fifteen-year-old high school student in 1963. (p. 36) There are three serious problems his testimony contains for those who use him as a prosecution witness against Oswald. First, when one follows the course of his testimony from the day of the assassination, it is confusing as to whether or not he believes the man he saw in the Texas School Book Depository was white or black. (ibid, p. 39, p. 118) Second, Euins heard four shots. (p. 115) Third, the man he saw in the window had a bald spot in the back of his head – something hard to pin on Oswald. (pgs. 116, 118)

On the first point, Remington digs deeper into the record and finds out why Arlen Specter treated Euins rather gently. It turns out that on the day of the assassination, Euins told news director James Underwood that the man he saw in the TSBD with a rifle was black. Underwood pressed him on this point by asking him if he was certain. Euins replied that he was. (p. 126) Later on that day, he told the Dallas County Sheriff's office that them man he saw was a white man. (ibid) Still later, when he was informally questioned by Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels, he said he was not sure if he was white or black. When he was asked if he could identify the man he saw if he viewed him again, Euins said, "No I couldn't." (ibid, p. 127)

Euins was apparently "prepared" in advance for his Commission appearance. In addition to being handled rather gingerly by Specter, he had a rationale for his jumping back and forth. He now said that the sheriffs' office had not transcribed what he said accurately. He said he did not tell them the man was white. Only that he had a white spot on his head. (p. 118) He now told Specter that he could not really tell if the man was black or white. (ibid) The problem with this is that, right after the assassination, he told Sgt. Harkness that the man was black. (p. 125) This, of course, would pose serious problems for the Commission since it would eliminate Oswald as the man Euins saw.

But Remington goes further with Euins. He questions how Euins could have seen a "white spot" on top of the gunman's head from his vantage point on the ground? (p. 127) The author thinks that Euins picked up this detail from another witness, perhaps James Worrell. For Remington, the capper in all this is an FBI report filed about a week after the shooting. The boy's stepfather told the agent that the boy had told him what he saw but that "he was not sure whether Euins had seen the shooting or whether he had just imagined it." (pgs. 126-27)

Although a bit older than Euins, Arnold Rowland was also a high school student. But as Remington points out, Specter did not treat him nearly as gently as he did Euins. Why? Because Rowland's testimony posed serious problems for the Commission, in more ways than one. First, he said he saw a person with a rifle in a window other than the designated Sniper's Nest window. Second, he said he saw a person other than Oswald in the Sniper's Nest window prior to the assassination.

Star witness Brennan said he saw a man with a rifle in the southeast corner of the TSBD. Since this was the window on the sixth floor which also contained the peculiar box arrangement and in which the expended three shells were found, the Commission insisted that the assassin fired from there. But Rowland said that he saw a man with a rifle in the opposite window, the southwest one. Further, he said he saw a black man in the southeast corner window, the one the Commission and Brennan said Oswald was firing from. (pgs. 54-55) Consequently, the Commission decided to start an FBI inquiry into Rowland's background in order to discredit him. To poke holes in his credibility, they first said that although Rowland pointed out the man in the opposite window to his wife, she said she did not see him. The actual reason for this was that she was near-sighted and did not have her glasses on (p. 63) Another way the Commission went after him was to say that he did not tell the police about the African-American man in the "Oswald" window. Yet, as Remington points out, Rowland did tell the FBI about him the next day. The FBI told him this detail was not important. (p. 74) In all, the FBI visited him seven times and he signed four different hand-written notes. (ibid) This included visiting him at work and at his mother-in-law's house. (pgs. 75, 79) Specter even questioned Rowland about his grades and his IQ, obviously in hope of tripping him up.

The point Remington is making in all this is the one made many years ago by Sylvia Meagher: the Commission had a clear double standard in their investigation. If a witness told them something helpful with their preconceived verdict, he was treated gently. If what he said was not helpful to them, he was treated roughly. And if that witness did not get the message from the constant visits of the FBI and Secret Service, then Arlen Specter gave him a prolonged third degree grilling. As he did with Rowland.

James Worrell was more of a mixed bag for the Commission. Like Euins, Worrell said he heard four shots. (pgs. 101, 115) Like Euins, he said he heard them from the upper floors of the TSBD, either the fifth or sixth. (p. 111)

But here begins the serious official problems with Worrell as a Commission witness. As Remington points out, in the Doubleday version of the Warren Report, there is a photo of Worrell in Washington walking to the Commission HQ to be questioned. He is with three other eyewitnesses: Robert Jackson, Euins, and Rowland. In the picture, Worrell is holding a pair of glasses in a position that suggests he took them off at the photographer's request. (p. 112) What makes this incident even more fascinating is a fact the author notes next. During the hearings that day, when Worrell's companions were questioned, each one was asked about the quality of their eyesight. Jackson replied his vision was a perfect 20/20. Rowland said his was better than 20/20. Euins said "I can see real good at a distance, but I can't see at real close range." (p. 112. This, of course, would be fine for the Commission's purposes.) As the author notes, Worrell was not asked about the quality of his eyesight.

The final problem with Worrell was contained in his affidavit executed on November 23rd. There he said that during the shooting, he "got scared and ran from the location. I ran from Elm Street to Pacific Street on Houston." There, he stopped to catch his breath and looked back at the building: "I saw a w/m, 5'8" to 5' 10", dark hair, average weight for height, dark shirt or jacket open down front, no hat, didn't have anything in hands come out of the building and run in the opposite direction from me." (p. 111) In other words, it appears that Worrell saw someone running out of the back of the Depository right after the shooting. Which would seem to suggest a conspiracy. As does his testimony about hearing four shots.

So what is the net sum of these four witnesses? The answer is: very little, if anything. Only an inveterate Commission zealot could still believe in Howard Brennan today. As I said, he is a manufactured witness. Euins said he could not identify the man he saw if he saw him again, and did not even know if he was white or black. And his own stepfather doubted his word. Rowland's testimony actually exonerates Oswald. Worrell's testimony indicates a marksman in the fifth or sixth floor firing four shots. And then suggests either he, or an accomplice, escaped out the back of the building. Needless to say, at a real trial, in a true adversary proceeding, the defense would look forward to cross-examining these four witnesses.

III

The second part of the book is about the author's interactions with three Magic Bullet fantasists: Gerald Posner, Ken Rahn, and Vincent Bugliosi. Remington outlines his attempts to get any of the three to co-write a book with him debating the merits of the evidence in the JFK case. In the case of Posner, the Case Closed author never wrote him back. He and Rahn had a rather interesting correspondence before the former college professor decided to back out.

The most interesting communications Remington had with the Magic Bullet crowd was with Bugliosi. Remington notes that in his bloated tome Reclaiming History, the former prosecutor complains that Warren Commission assistant counsel Arlen Specter never answered a letter he wrote to him. Remington then asks us to consider the following in light of that complaint. In February of 2008, after digesting Bugliosi's giant volume, he penned a letter to the Single Bullet backer. He asked him to cooperate in his book venture. He also listed six pertinent questions they could debate. A couple of these were: 1.) Why was Dr. George Burkley never examined as a witness by the Warren Commission? And 2.) Why were the media records of the 11/22/63 Parkland Hospital press conference never entered into evidence by the Commission? Bugliosi never responded in writing. But he did call Remington on February 20th. (pgs. 304-05) He said he had no time to answer in writing. And during his twenty minutes on the phone, the former prosecutor never directly answered any of his queries. He tried to discount them with a classic lawyer's brush off: He said they "didn't go anywhere".

After this rather dismissive call, Remington wrote the attorney again on March 3rd. He got no reply. He then wrote him five more times in April and May. There was no reply to any of these. (ibid, p. 309) So, on the evidence of this record, the Single Bullet Fantasy crowd has severe reservations about confronting its critics on a level field.

In relation to this, I must bring up a point that Remington uncovered about the ersatz London trial that Bugliosi unwisely chose to participate in. Unwise in two senses. First, because it did not in any way resemble a real trial. And secondly, because in spite of that fact, the author took it seriously. And that misjudgment started him down the path to Reclaiming History. Jerry Rose commented after seeing the program that the roster of witnesses was heavily loaded in favor of the prosecution. (The Third Decade, Vol. 3 No. 1 pgs. 16-24) The producers found room for people like Tom Tilson and Paul O'Connor, yet they could not find room for crucial people like Sylvia Odio and James Humes. Further, as Rose notes, the prosecution presented 14 witnesses, twice as many as the defense's seven. But in spite of all that, Remington reveals that the jury's first verdict was 7-5 for acquittal. And he got this right from the source, producer Mark Redhead. (p. 303)

Having been in the jury room for more than one trial, I understand that when you have that kind of vote, it is very hard to overcome each and every juror and get a unanimous verdict. Which was reportedly done here. Clearly, someone in the jury room had to have been riding herd, or there may have been outside interference. (It is clear from all the above, plus what Bugliosi revealed in his book, that the show was slanted for the prosecution.) Remington reveals that the man riding herd may have been the foreman. Because when he interviewed him, he disagreed with the producer Redhead. He said the first vote was 10-2 in favor of conviction. (ibid)

In fact, the highlight of this second part of the book is the careful but major surgery the author performs on Reclaiming History. Rodger's approach is different from mine in my multi-part series on the same subject. Remington goes little further than the established record of the Warren Commission. He incorporates little or nothing that was discovered in later years. But even on that ground, he scores some heavy blows against Reclaiming History. One case in point is Bugliosi's taking to task Mark Lane's depiction of the famous Katzenbach memorandum. This was the document issued by the acting Attorney General on 11/25 which essentially said that Oswald was the sole killer and the official story must enunciate that clearly. This was before any official Washington inquiry was in process.

Bugliosi scores Lane for not quoting the first part of the document. The prosecutor then says that this part of the memo states that: "It is important that all of the facts surrounding President Kennedy's assassination be made public." The implication being that the memo is not as one sided against Oswald as Lane makes it out to be. Remington notes that the italics are Bugliosi's, not Katzenbach's. (Remington p. 324) Bugliosi does not specifically note this, and therefore uses it to hammer home his point against Lane. But even worse, although it is true that the above words are the first in the memo, they are not the only words in the sentence. The full sentence reads as follows: "It is important that all of the facts surrounding President Kennedy's assassination be made public in a way which will satisfy people in the United States and abroad that all the facts have been told and that a statement to this effect be made now." The very next sentence is: "The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin: that he did not have confederates who are still at large: and that the evidence was such hat he would have been convicted at trial." The rest of the five paragraphs in the memo are in the same vein as statement two. (See page 326) Remington thus shows that Bugliosi has quoted selectively in order to make a manufactured point against the man he calls the "dean of distortion". (p. 324) In any full reading of the memo, it can be fairly said that it was Bugliosi, not Lane, who was doing the distorting. And the tendency to selectively quote, as I have stated and shown elsewhere, is a very serious problem with Reclaiming History.

Remington also brings out another absolutely puzzling point about Bugliosi's rather weird attitude toward central evidence in the JFK case. Ever since Cyril Wecht revealed it, the fact that President Kennedy's brain is missing from the National Archives has posed a real mystery as to this case. And on two levels. First, there is no real explanation as to how and why it is absent. Several authors have made educated guesses as to how this disappearance occurred. But no one has come close to proving their case. The other point that makes this so tantalizing is that, as Wecht has noted, the missing brain is absolutely central to solving the mystery as to what precisely happened to President Kennedy. In a real autopsy, the brain would have been properly sectioned and the path of any bullets through it could have been discerned. In other words, a skilled and experienced pathologist – like say Wecht or Milton Halpern of New York – could have done much to show us how many bullets hit Kennedy's skull and from which direction(s). Because the brain is absent and because the autopsy was so deficient in this regard, this fundamental point is in hot dispute.

But it's even worse than that. As authors like David Mantik and Doug Horne have pointed out, it is hard to believe that the brain depicted by artist Ida Dox in the House Select Committee volumes is actually Kennedy's brain. Why? Because her renditions depict a brain that is almost fully intact. Yet, many witnesses at the Bethesda autopsy testified to seeing a brain that was blasted away, and therefore did not in any way present an intact brain. Further, on the evening of the 22nd, the brain withdrawn from Kennedy's skull was not weighed. Which is startling, since it is standard autopsy procedure to weigh the major organs after they are withdrawn. Yet, days later, when a weight was assigned to Kennedy's brain, it weighed in at 1500 grams. This is also startling. Because the top end weight is about 1400 grams. Autopsy fantasists like Michael Baden try to explain this discrepancy by saying the fixing mixture the brain was soaked in could have added the weight. What he does not allow for is the fact that what was being soaked, by most accounts, was a partial brain. (For a good short treatment of this subject see David Mantik's essay in Murder in Dealey Plaza, pgs. 261-64).

Now in any serious, intelligent, and honest discussion of this matter, all these points would have to be enumerated to the reader. And, considering the nature of the evidence, one would have to seriously lament the absence of the brain and the serious failings of the pathologists in this regard. Finally, putting the best face on it, one would conclude that the evidentiary record is hard to decipher.

How does Bugliosi handle this crucial matter? Like this: "One of the very biggest mysteries concerning missing evidence in the Kennedy assassination, one that continues to fascinate, and one that may never be solved, but fortunately, one that doesn't' need to be – since it has mostly academic value – is what happened to President Kennedy's brain?" (p. 335, Bugliosi's italics.)

Is Bugliosi saying what I think he is saying here? That the opportunity to actually dissect bullet tracks through the brain, to photograph those tracks, to preserve tissue slides containing both tissue and lead etc. – that this was all an academic matter? Is he really saying that it had no forensic value in a murder case at all? Even though the murder was accomplished by gunfire and the fatal wound was in the head? How does one explain such a stance? Except that if this is what he is saying, no wonder he would not answer Rodger's questions in writing.

In the midst of his discussion of these two important matters – the Katzenbach memo, and the missing brain – Rodger digresses into an enlightening discussion of different modes of finding truth in a complex matter. (Which, if you can believe it, Bugliosi believes the Kennedy case is not. He says the case is simple. If you can reduce the importance of the missing brain to an academic matter, then one can say the case is simple.) Quoting modern philosopher Richard Rorty, the author delineates two ways of pursuing the truth. If we believe that such a thing is attainable, one must grant that the truth is something that must be found. Yet, what men do with this truth is then made by the words one assigns to it. As we have seen in these two instances with Reclaiming History, Bugliosi does a lot more in making the truth than in finding it.

IV

For me the high point of the section on Bugliosi, perhaps the peak of the entire book, was the author's analysis and takedown of Bugliosi's 53 evidentiary points with which he convicts Oswald. In my series on Reclaiming History, I ignored these since I thought many of them to be – as we will see – rather silly. But academic historian that he is, Remington actually had the discipline and patience to analyze them all.

One of the things he immediately comes up with is rather startling. Bugliosi's first nine evidentiary points rely upon the testimony of either Wesley Frazier, Marina Oswald, or Charles Givens. For instance, for his first point, Bugliosi says that prior to 11/21, Oswald had hitched a ride with Wesley Frazier to see his wife only on Fridays. Yet, on the 21st, he did it on Thursday. The prosecutor's inevitable conclusion is that Oswald went to the Paines on Thursday to pick up the Mannlicher-Carcano rifle. As Rodger points out, the car-sharing idea did not originate with Oswald, but with Frazier inviting Oswald to join him. If that invitation had not been extended, the car rides may not have happened. (p. 341) And the total number of rides previous to the 21st was only four. Not a great sample to establish a defining pattern with. Third, Oswald had missed the previous weekend visit and then quarreled with his wife over the phone on Monday night. Therefore he may have been trying a surprise visit to patch things up with his wife. (ibid).

Now, if you read Part 6 (especially sections 2 and 3) of my Reclaiming History review, you will see that Wesley Frazier and his brown paper package story has become highly questionable today. And its questionable just about every step of the way. And because of other information about how the Dallas Police searched his house, detained him, and then gave him a midnight polygraph that had him on the brink of hysteria, Frazier has now been exposed as a compromised witness. Which explains why he is guarded today by the likes of Hugh Aynseworth and his colleague in cover up Dave Perry. None of the myriad points I enumerated in that review matters a whit to Bugliosi. He uses Frazier's coerced testimony and the dubious brown package story for six of his first nine points of indictment. When, in reality, any intelligent , objective observer would tell the prosecutor that if he presented Frazier, Marina, and Givens as his first three witnesses at a real trial, with a defense lawyer like Carol Hewett waiting for them, there would be three extremely long faces exiting the witness chair after she got done with them. Four if you counted Bugliosi's.

At point number ten, Bugliosi says that Oswald was play acting when he asked Junior Jarman on 11/22 why there was a crowd gathering below them. Here, the prosecutor is indulging himself in mind reading powers in order to transform something exculpatory into something culpable. Then it gets worse. For point number eleven is none other than Howard Brennan! Point thirteen is this: that Oswald was purchasing a Coke on the second floor when Officer Baker encountered him shows he descended from the sixth floor because he usually drank Dr. Pepper there! (Bugliosi, p.958. I looked this one up in Reclaiming History, since I had a hard time believing the prosecutor took it seriously. He actually does.)

But further, Bugliosi here says that Oswald placed himself on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting. I didn't recall anyone saying this before, although perhaps they did. So, like Rodger, I looked up Bugliosi's source note. I then understood why no one else had used it. The prosecutor was using a summary of one of Oswald's interrogations while in custody. So for Bugliosi to say that Oswald himself said this is s real stretch. For the simple reason that there is no stenographic record or tape in evidence for these sessions. What we have is Dallas Police, FBI or Secret Service agents' renditions. But in this case, it's worse. Harry Holmes was a postal inspector who doubled as an FBI informant. Which is why he was the only non-law enforcement officer there with Oswald. Holmes is the guy who did a lot of cover for the Commission as to how Oswald could have picked up his rifle without the proper papers being signed in order to receive a firearm under an alias. (See John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, p. 452) Armstrong actually thinks it was Holmes who helped put together the phony money order for the rifle, a money order that is severely out of numerical order for the date it was allegedly purchased. (ibid, pgs. 463-64)

Holmes' Oswald interrogation summary was not submitted until December 17th, almost a month after the murder. Then, under oath, he said he heard Oswald say things that others did not hear him say. For when he was examined by the Commission, Holmes said Oswald had admitted he had gone to Mexico before returning to Dallas. (ibid, p. 480) Even David Belin was taken aback by this. He asked Holmes if this was something he picked up from reading the papers, or did Oswald say it himself. Holmes said Oswald stated it. The obvious question, which was not asked by Belin, then becomes: Why is that rather salient fact not in your report, especially since it was finalized on December 17th? And why did no one else hear Oswald say it when you said he did? Holmes also lied about Oswald discussing his postal money order that day. For neither Will Fritz nor two Secret Service agents in his presence on 11/24 recalled Oswald saying anything about a postal money order. (ibid) Yet, Holmes is the man that Bugliosi relies upon for Oswald's allegedly self-incriminating statements. Without telling us that Holmes appears to have made up other self-incriminating statements.

But it's even worse than that. For one when turns to Holmes' summary as printed in the Warren Report, it does not say Oswald was on the sixth floor. It specifically says he did not indicate the floor he was on at the time of the shooting. (WR, p. 636) And then comes the clincher. When one reads this section of the Holmes report, it becomes clear that the FBI informant is embroidering his story to jibe with the evolving tale of the infamous Charles Givens. For the whole thing about "You go on down and send the elevator back up..." is there in Holmes' summary. This whole Givens flip-flopping charade was exposed by Sylvia Meagher back in 1971 in the Texas Observer. (8/13/71) On the day of the assassination, the TSBD worker said he had seen Oswald around 11:50 in the so-called domino room on the first floor. Ten days later, on December 2nd, he changed his story for the Secret Service. He now said he saw Oswald upstairs with a clipboard on the sixth floor at around 11:45. As Givens left, Oswald told him to send an elevator back up for him. After that, he never saw Oswald again. Both stories cannot be true. But clearly, Holmes heard about the second story through his FBI grapevine. And he is now trying to create posthumous corroboration by Oswald, which again, no one else heard. Yet Bugliosi uses this obvious concoction as evidence against Oswald.

Remington summarizes the entire list as follows: of the 53, seven of them are of the "we know" variety. (Remington , p. 438) That is, things that Bugliosi assumes to be a fact, which actually are not e.g. like Oswald owning the rifle in evidence. Another 27 instances consist of the "he said she said" variety (including expert testimony that would have been challenged in court.) With the above general and specific sampling of the 53 points, so much for Bugliosi's claim of Oswald's guilt beyond all doubt. (Reclaiming History, p. 953)

V

Remington's critiques of Rahn and Posner are not quite up to his discussion of Bugliosi, but they are still worthwhile. Posner's pile of junk Case Closed, has been so riddled full of holes that it's almost not worth the effort to attack anymore: it's like making the rubble bounce. But still, Rodger makes some interesting and telling points. He notes that, in his defense of the single bullet theory, Posner spent much more time explaining away the timing problem i.e. getting off the three shots in the space of a few seconds, than he did on the ballistics and trajectory problems involved. In fact he spent more time on the former than the latter two combined. (Remington, p. 135) Rodger is also good with the alchemy Posner pulls off with the Willis sisters. If one will recall, Posner built part of his ridiculous theory about an early shot – one before the limousine disappeared behind the sign – around Rosemary Willis turning at the sound of a first shot. A shot that missed. Posner sourced this to an interview Rosemary Willis did in 1979 with one Marcia Smith-Durk. Yet no particular venue is given for this interview. (ibid p. 163) Another source given is from a newspaper that had gone out of business by the time Case Closed was published. But that interview was also from 1979. (ibid) Why nothing in 1963 or 1964? What Posner does not tell you is that Phil Willis had two daughters who were with him in Dealey Plaza that day. And it was Linda Kay Willis who testified in 1964 before the Commission. When she did so testify, she told Wesley Liebeler that it was the second shot that missed. Which effectively kills Posner's theory, since Oswald could not have hit Kennedy before he went behind the sign since the branches of an oak tree interfered with his sight. Which is probably why Posner didn't mention the 1964 Willis testimony.

Finally, Remington points out a rather artful use of ellipsis by Posner. In his discussion of Howard Brennan, Posner consulted the posthumously published memoir by the Commission's star witness. This was done with a co-author and was entitled Eyewitness to History. In describing a man Brennan saw by looking up at the sixth floor of the TSBD, Posner quotes the following: "His face was almost expressionless...He seemed preoccupied." Ellipsis can be used and defended if there are only a few words left out of a quote, or even a couple of sentences. But Remington notes that, in this instance, Posner eliminated five paragraphs! But further, what he eliminated mildly suggests a conspiracy. For in what is left out, Brennan is describing a sealed off area of Dealey Plaza toward a side entrance of the TSBD. This side entrance is described as being off Houston Street, toward the rear of the building. The police had sealed the area off with saw horses and forced all cars to move out. Yet Brennan observed a car in that vicinity with a white male driver behind the wheel. As he looked, he wondered why that car was allowed to stay there. What made Brennan even more curious was that the front wheel of the car was pulled sharply away from the curb and the driver had his door partly open. Brennan wondered if this was so the car could make a quick U turn while departing. Brennan closes the five paragraphs cut by Posner with this: "As I was watching the man in the car, I saw a policeman who was on foot walk over towards the car and began talking to the man in a friendly, laughing manner. So far as I could see, there was no attempt to get the man to move his car, and after chatting for a minute or so, the policeman walked back to his post." (ibid p. 173)

Brennan closed out this segment by saying that he never saw any accounting of this "mystery car" anyplace. And thanks to Posner's editing, the reader of Case Closed would not know about it either. Thanks to Rodger, we do.

The discussion of Rahn is wryly funny. Rahn had by far the longest correspondence with Rodger about co-writing the book on the Warren Commission. They actually exchanged a number of written communications. But ultimately, Rahn backed out. (Remington, p. 211) Rahn, of course, is the man who has always advocated Oswald's guilt through the now discredited Neutron Activation Analysis test. Rodger wants him to answer one simple question: "How can it be determined that the famous CE 399 was fired that day?" (ibid, p. 201) In all their communications, Rahn never directly answered this question. He tried to build a negative argument that it would have been difficult to plant another bullet. But he never directly answered Rodger's question. So Rodger asked the question a different way: "How can NAA establish that the bullet in the Single Bullet Theory was actually fired at the time of the assassination?" (ibid, p. 209) This question was never directly answered either.

From here, the author details the rather weird attempt by Rahn and his partner Larry Sturdivan to get an article about NAA published in an academic journal. They could not get one published in an American journal. Probably because the controversy over the issue was now heating up with the work of men like Pat Grant and Cliff Spiegelman. So they got their work published in a journal based in Budapest, Hungary. And they did it in 2004, the year before the FBI announced they were discontinuing the NAA test. (ibid p. 252)

The main part of Remington's discussion of Rahn, deals with his attempt to get a counter-article published in the same journal. Which he ultimately failed to do. He was only allowed to write a brief letter to the editor. And Rahn was allowed to answer it. Then, in 2006, Eric Randich and Pat Grant got their milestone essay published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences. This was followed in 2007 by the work of Cliff Spiegelman and Bill Tobin, for which Spiegelman won an award. (See here.) So in retrospect, the desperate attempt by Rahn and Sturdivan to get their paper published in Budapest, seems like a Hail Mary pass with time expired in the game. And as Rodger points out, the issue in which Sturdivan and Rahn were published in was a tribute to Vincent Guinn! The man who first used (actually misused) the test to convict Oswald for the House Select Committee on Assassinations.

As to the quality of the scholarship within, Rodger gives us a taste of it through some quotes attributed to Sturdivan. These are some of his points:

  1. NAA eliminates all conspiracy theories that involved additional shooters.
  2. NAA proved the rifle was not planted
  3. NAA proved that the precise locations of JFK's head wounds and back wounds were not needed to solve the case
  4. It supported the Single Bullet Theory
  5. It knit together the physical evidence into an airtight case against Oswald, thereby putting the matter to rest.

Quite a series of claims in light of the fact that the alleged science of NAA was soon be negated by the two teams of researchers named above. To the point that the FBI and courts will not use it again. It is further rendered ridiculous by the work of John Hunt, Gary Aguilar, and Josiah Thompson, which proves that CE 399 was not fired that day, and the bullet found at Parkland Hospital was later switched. (See my review of Reclaiming History, part 7, Section 3) All this shows just how out of touch with the facts Rahn and Sturdivan really are.

Rodger Remington's work is not for everyone. He is a classic type of researcher in that he stays within the boundaries of the Warren Commission materials. There is no discussion of Kennedy and Vietnam, of Oswald and the CIA, of Ruby and the Mafia etc. There is no development of the revelations of the ARRB. But if you can allow for that, it's a rewarding book. As for me, there is no amount of dirt that can cover the withering corpse of the Warren Commission. So any further burial is always welcome.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 22:35
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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