Wednesday, 04 December 2013 22:16

Philip Shenon, A Cruel and Shocking Act

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If one wants to read the real story behind what happened inside the Warren Commission, read Inquest or Breach of Trust, not this book, writes Jim DiEugenio.


Philip Shenon's book A Cruel and Shocking Act begins with a deception. It then gets worse.

On the frontispiece, before the actual text begins, Shenon quotes from Marina Oswald's Warren Commission testimony. In that particular quote, Marina was asked if Lee Oswald had visited Mexico City. She replied that yes, Oswald had told her that he had been at the Cuban and Russian embassies.

In itself, this is an accurate quote. But what Shenon does not tell the reader here, and in fact what he does not say until nearly 200 pages later, is this: that during her first Secret Service interview she denied Oswald had ever told her he was in Mexico. She did this more than once, and she was categorical about it. She even denied it when she was not asked about it. Just because she had seen the story about Oswald in Mexico City on television. (Secret Service Report by Charles Kunkel "Activities of the Oswald Family November 24 through November 30, 1963")

When Shenon does admit she initially denied it, he does not mention a major event that occurred after the initial denial and almost simultaneously with her February appearance before the Warren Commission. A week after her initial appearance before the Commission-where she now changed her story about Mexico City and several other matters-Marina signed a contract with a film company called Tex-Italia Films. The grand total of funds transferred to her was $132, 500. Which today would amount to about a half million dollars. (John Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, p. 977) What makes this transaction so intriguing is that when the company partners were investigated, it was discovered that they used false names. Further, the company's business offices were asked to leave the lot they were located on for failure to pay their rent. Finally, there was no film made by Tex-Italia about Marina or her dead husband. (ibid)

Now, to most people, these events and the subsequent reversals of testimony would seem relevant to the story Shenon is telling. After all, if the reader was informed of this information, one conclusion he or she could come to is that Tex-Italia was a front company, and its main purpose was to get Marina Oswald to testify to a tale that was more in line with the official story about Kennedy's assassination. After all, Mexico City was quite important to the Commission. As we shall see, it is even more important to Shenon. If there is a serious question about Oswald being there, then the Oswald story begins to wobble about in a direction the Commission, and Shenon, do not want it to go. Therefore, in addition to beginning his book with this misleading testimony, in addition to not informing the reader about the timing of the financial transaction, when one scans the index of Shenon's long book, the reader will not find an entry for Tex-Italia Films.

Let us move to another section of the book to see how Shenon again censors information to present at best, an incomplete picture, at worst a deceptive one. On page 45, Shenon is describing a phone call between President Lyndon Johnson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover on the Saturday morning after Friday's assassination. But before he does that, he prefaces what he is about to present by saying that Hoover "was never as well informed as he pretended to be; he did not always bother to learn all the facts..." (Shenon, p. 46)

Why does the author do this in advance? Probably because Hoover told Johnson that the evidence against Oswald at this time was not very strong and "The case as it stands now isn't strong enough to be able to get a conviction." (ibid) Shenon does not like this statement. So he now states that the evidence against Oswald on Saturday was "overwhelming". He then writes that witnesses could identify him at the scene of the Tippit murder and with a rifle in the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. That Oswald purchased the rifle the police found on the sixth floor. And that he also purchased a pistol used in the murder of Tippit, and his wallet had a card in the name of A. Hidell used in the mail order purchases of the weapons.

Again, by not informing the reader of the true state of this evidence today, Shenon cuts off an alternative to his characterization of Hoover's discussion. Namely that Hoover was correct about the state of the evidence. For example, the rifle the police found and attributed to Oswald is not the rifle the FBI said Oswald ordered. The rifle the Commission is going to say was ordered was a 36" Mannlicher-Carcano carbine. The rifle found by the Dallas Police was a 40" short rifle. Klein's, the sporting good store in Chicago where Oswald was supposed to have ordered the rifle from, did not put scopes on the 40" model. Yet this one had a scope on it. (James DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, pgs. 56-63) The night before, Hoover's agents were at Klein's for hours on end. They ended up confiscating the microfilm about these orders. Isn't it possible that Hoover then knew about some problems in the evidentiary record? Shenon does not have to disclose that since he never tells the reader about any of these contradictions about this transaction.

Shenon is equally nebulous about the transaction for the pistol he says was used in the murder of Dallas policeman J. D. Tippit. That handgun was supposed to have been delivered to Oswald by a private company called REA (Railway Express Agency). This was a forerunner to companies like Federal Express and UPS. REA should have sent a card to Oswald's post office box to tell him the handgun had arrived. Oswald then would have had to present an ID and a certificate of good character to have a firearm given to him via a mail transaction. And REA had to have kept these records in compliance with state and federal laws.

There is no evidence that any postcard was ever sent to Oswald's box by REA. (DiEugenio, ibid, p. 104) Neither is there any paper work in evidence about Oswald presenting the ID or the certificate of good character. In fact, there is not even any signature of a receipt for the transaction in the Warren Commission volumes. In other words there is no evidence that this transaction ever took place as the Commission said it did. Or that REA submitted payment to the company who allegedly supplied the pistol. But more to our point here: There is no proof, or even evidence in the Commission volumes that the FBI ever even visited REA in Dallas to check on this transaction. (ibid)

Now if Shenon thinks that the FBI did not visit REA about this matter then he was never qualified to write this book. The much more logical conclusion is that they did visit REA. But they could not find any of the back up materials to certify this as Oswald's transaction. If that is the case, then Hoover did know what he was talking about during the call with President Johnson.

Many authors have discussed the speciousness of the eyewitness testimony in both the Kennedy murder and the Tippit murder. The two most important witnesses in that regard, respectively Howard Brennan and Helen Markham, were so poor that several Commission lawyers did not want to include them in the Warren Report. They felt that their inclusion would create serious problems for the document. Which, as we will see, they did. (Edward Jay Epstein, The Assassination Chronicles, p. 144) There was a real battle in the Commission over these witnesses. This is a point that Shenon very much underplays. But which tends to bolster the Hoover statement about the case against Oswald being weak.

Let us now deal with the point about the wallet identification of Oswald as Hidell, which certified him as the purchaser of the weapons under an alias. As many people know, the Dallas Police said that they took Oswald's wallet from him on the way to the police station, after his arrest at the Texas Theater. It was not until many years later that a crucial discrepancy in this record was discovered. And it ends up it was co-discovered by an FBI agent, Bob Barrett. For there is a film of Barrett handling the wallet at the scene of the Tippit murder. One that is not Tippit's. Barrett later said it had the Oswald/Hidell identification inside of it. Yet, the Warren Report states that Oswald's wallet was taken from him on the way to the police station after he was arrested at the Texas Theater. But further, there was a third wallet in evidence, one that the police said Oswald left at the home of Ruth and Michael Paine that morning.

Question for Mr. Shenon: Do you know anyone who carries three wallets? If you do, please tell us about it. In fact, why did you not even mention this "three wallets" problem in the nearly 600 pages of your book? What most objective observers believe today is that the Dallas Police suppressed the evidence of the Oswald wallet at the Tippit scene to avoid the inescapable suggestion that it had been planted after the fact. Because they knew no one would buy the fact of Oswald having three wallets. If that is the case, then again, Hoover's comments about the state of the evidence were correct.

II

Just how bad is Shenon on the physical evidence in the case? He can write that the alleged rifle and handgun used in the murders came from the same gunshop! (p. 46) Yet, by just browsing through the Warren Report one can see that the rifle came from Klein's Sporting Goods in Chicago, Illinois. The handgun came from Seaport Traders in Los Angeles, California. The odd thing about this is that although the Commission says they were ordered months apart, they both were shipped on the same day. This is an intriguing fact, which Shenon does not note. (See Warren Report, pgs. 121, 174) What makes it more intriguing is that, as with the missing paperwork at REA, the corresponding paperwork is also missing at the post office to certify receipt of the rifle. (ibid, DiEugenio, pgs. 61-62) In fact, as with REA, there is no evidence of any person at the post office saying that they handed the rifle package to Oswald. Which is hard to believe. Because when transferring firearms from out of state shippers, postal regulations stated that one had to present an ID card to certify that you were the person who rented that post office box. As Shenon states, the rifle was allegedly ordered in Hidell's name. Since Oswald rented the box office in his own name, the rifle package should have been sent back unopened. (ibid) But if Oswald did show he was really Hidell, would not someone at the post office have recalled that fact? Especially by, say, November 23, 1963? No one did. And that interesting piece of evidence is not noted by Mr. Shenon.

In order to explain how someone could create all these embarrassing lacunae in this day and age, let us drop in some background about how this book originated. Shenon worked for the New York Times for over two decades. He specialized in reporting on the Pentagon, the Justice Department and the State Department. In other words he dealt in national security issues. In 2008 he published a book about the 9/11 investigation and report called The Commission. Many researchers on that case felt the book was a damage control operation about that inquiry. Therefore, quite naturally, a surviving member of the Warren Commission – Shenon will not reveal who it is – called him and asked him to do a reprise about the Warren Commission. Incredibly, Shenon agreed to do it.

Why is this so objectionable? Because Shenon admits that it was initiated by a junior counsel who then allowed him access to the other surviving counsels. That would mean that Shenon was in contact with, among others, Howard Willens, David Slawson, Richard Mosk, Sam Stern, Burt Griffin, Melvin Eisenberg, the late Arlen Specter, William T. Coleman, and the late Norman Redlich. Now, these men had been harshly criticized for decades on end. The criticism of them turned vitriolic when Oliver Stone's film JFK appeared in 1991. One of the main criticisms about they dying mainstream media, especially the NY Times, is that in return for access and information, reporters tend to give the reader a one-sided version of the facts. Mainly because their sources have an agenda which usually amounts to something called "covering your ass". No quasi-legal body in history ever had more of a reason for CYA than the Warren Commission. Yet, Shenon agreed to this arrangement. Not only did he agree to it, but as we will see, he accepted everything his sources told him-with gusto and relish. Because of that unprofessional closeness to his sources and subject, the book becomes so biased as to be, at best, almost useless. At worst it is a propaganda tract for the Commission survivors. It becomes that because, as we will see, Shenon values his sources over the declassified evidence of the Assassination Records Review Board. This might be good and profitable for him. It is not good for the reader, or for the writing of good history.

A good example of the compromising that Shenon has to do to accommodate his sources appears on page 168 of his book. Because he has chosen to side with these men, Shenon has to bow before the absurd premises of Single Bullet Theory. In fact, Shenon writes that "Later scientific analysis backed the commission's theory." Apparently, no one told Shenon that if "scientific analysis" did back it then he would not have to refer to it as a theory. But even worse, he deliberately presents his diagram from an angle both from the front and slightly above the limousine. This does much to eliminate the vertical and horizontal problems with the trajectory of CE 399, the Magic Bullet. For instance, by framing his drawing in that way, Shenon does not reveal the entry point on Kennedy's back. In fact, in the wording that accompanies the drawing, the author says the bullet enters "Kennedy's body from behind" at a "slightly downward angle". Shenon cannot bring himself to say that the bullet hit Kennedy in the back from sixty feet up. Which would make it very hard to believe that it could then deflect upward to exit his throat, especially since, as he notes, it did not hit any bony body structures.But further, by disguising this unknown angle, Shenon now arranges everything from Kennedy's throat outward in a straight line. Even though the magic bullet smashed two bones in Connally!

In further obeisance to his sources Shenon ignores two key pieces of physical evidence to revive something that never happened. First, when author Josiah Thompson questioned both of John Connally's doctors, Robert Shaw and Charles Gregory, he asked them if they thought the bullet that went through Kennedy also went through Connally. They said no, because there were no fibers from clothes in the bullet path of Connally's back wound. (ibid, DiEugenio, p. 110) Secondly, when the ARRB interviewed several medical witnesses who participated in the autopsy at Bethesda, they testified that the malleable probes inserted into Kennedy's back were all too low to exit the throat. And further, the slope of the angle was much too steep to connect the two points. (ibid, pgs. 116-17) This is the kind of trouble one invites when one enters a complex case from years of experience at the New York Times.

But Shenon features another specious schematic on page 245 of the book. He calls this one "Lee Harvey Oswald's Escape". It traces Oswald from his exit from the Texas School Book Depository after the murder of Kennedy, to his arrest at the Texas Theater. Shenon first says that Oswald boarded a bus. He was walking the wrong way to board the bus, and the bus would have dropped him off seven blocks from his house. He could have caught a bus nearby which carried him across the street from his house. (WR, p. 160) Shenon then says that Oswald got off the bus and hailed a taxi cab. What he doesn't say is that Oswald walked back toward the scene of the crime and then offered to give up the cab to an elderly lady. (Sylvia Meagher, Accessories After the Fact, p. 83) Mr. Shenon, do these acts sound like a man trying to "escape"?

Shenon's map then has Oswald arriving at his rooming house on Beckley Street at 1:00. But it does not say that he then left at 1:04. Shenon now shows us just how in bed he is with his Commission sources. He says that Tippit was shot at 1:15 PM. As writers on the Tippit case have demonstrated, most recently Joseph McBride and John Armstrong, there is simply no credible evidence that places the murder of Tippit that late.

For instance, T. F. Bowley places the shooting at 1:10. And Bowley looked at his watch. (Meagher, p. 254) Since Shenon does not note Bowley, he cannot tell the reader that the Commission never interviewed Bowley. (ibid) As McBride notes, Helen Markham caught her bus regularly for work walking from the intersection of 10th and Patton, the scene of the murder, toward Jefferson. She would start her walk at about 1:04. The FBI timed the walk at about 2 and a half minutes. Which would place the shooting at about 1:07. (McBride, Into the Nightmare, p. 245) The problem for Shenon is that the distance from the rooming house to the scene of the Tippit shooting is nearly one mile. How on earth could Oswald, in street clothes, traverse that distance in six minutes or less? But further, no one saw him traveling in that direction. (Meagher, p. 255) Shenon then has Oswald entering the Texas Theater at 1:40 PM. The reader should then ask: Why did it then take Oswald almost twice as long to travel a distance that was almost the same length?

These two drawings in A Cruel and Shocking Act tell us all we need to know about the book. As well as does the excision of the following witness testimony. One will not find the name of Roger Craig in Shenon's index. Probably because Craig's affidavit, and the corroborating one of Marvin Robinson, vitiate the Commission's version of "Oswald's Escape". Right after the shooting of Kennedy, Craig described a man running down the incline opposite the Depository and jumping into a Rambler auto pulling out of Dealey Plaza on Elm Street. Robinson said the same. When officer Craig got to City Hall, he recognized the man he saw jumping into the Rambler as Oswald. (Josiah Thompson, Six Seconds in Dallas, pgs 242-43)

But, for obvious reasons, even though he had a corroborating witness, the Commission decided they had to disregard Craig. So does Shenon.

III

In other places where Shenon tries to deal with the evidence, he shows himself to be so amateurish that he himself undermines his own case. For instance, he writes that the head shot, "blew away much of the right hemisphere of his brain, an image captured in awful photographs." (Shenon, p. 22) What the heck is Shenon talking about here? There is no such image in autopsy photos at the National Archives. And, in fact, this shows just how unfamiliar the author is with the actual declassified records of the ARRB. For the images of Kennedy's brain show a nearly intact brain. And for Shenon to write that much of the right side is gone reveals him to be, inadvertently, in the camp of the conspiracy theorists he is frequently assailing. For many of the critics of the medical evidence believe, based on the medical witnesses, that much of the brain had to be dissipated. (DiEugenio, ibid, p. 137) The problem is that-in spite of what Shenon says – no picture depicts such a damaged brain. Nor does the drawing made by Ida Dox for the HSCA.

It seems that Shenon wants to have something new to hang his hat on. So he begins the book with three facets of the evidence he thinks will do the trick. The problem is they do no such thing, since they have all been thoroughly discussed for decades.

The first "new event" Shenon depicts is the fact that Dr. James Humes did not just burn his notes of the autopsy, he incinerated his first draft. This was made obvious about 15 years ago, when ARRB Chief Counsel Jeremy Gunn examined Humes. But Shenon wants to be able to hang onto the story that Humes did this so that the autopsy would not drop into the hands of illicit ghoulish souvenir hunters who would then display the bloodied documents. (Shenon, p. 23) As Gary Aguilar has pointed out, the problem with maintaining that fairy tale is that Gunn found out that Humes burned it at his house, which is where the draft in question had been penned. (Gerald McKnight, Breach of Trust, p. 165) When Gunn pressed him on this, Humes tried a different excuse instead of the bloodied souvenir stuff pretext: "it might have been errors in the spelling, or I don't know what was the matter with it..." (ibid) Its revealing of Shenon that he sticks with the now exposed cover story, and by doing so he tries to cover up for Humes; and also to vilify those "ghouls" who would actually like to see that lost draft.

The author does another thing of note in his brief discussion of the autopsy. He maintains another specious story, namely that Humes never called Dallas from Bethesda until the next day, Saturday. But to name one important witness, radiologist John Ebersole told the HSCA that this call took place on Friday night. (ibid, p. 168-69) But further, that afternoon, in a televised press conference, Dr. Malcolm Perry, who cut the tracheotomy over the throat wound, said three times that this wound was an entrance wound. Dr. George Burkley, who was at Parkland Hospital when Kennedy died, was also in the autopsy room that night. He would have had to have known about the entrance wound in the throat. Finally, nurse Audrey Bell told the ARRB that Perry told her he had been getting calls from Washington during that Friday night. (DiEugenio, pgs. 143-44) What many people believe happened is that this myth about the next day call was created in order to give time to alter the entrance wound in the throat into an exit wound. And sure enough, Secret Service agent Elmer Moore was shortly after stationed in Dallas and was talking Perry out of his first day story. (Ibid)

It's hard to believe in 2013, but Elmer Moore's name is mentioned just once by Shenon. Why is it hard to believe? Because after Moore accomplished his mission at Parkland in preparation for Arlen Specter's questioning of the emergency room staff, he then became the bodyguard/valet for Earl Warren on the Warren Commission. (ibid, p. 144) In his one mention of his name, Shenon muddies this transition by Moore. He implies that Moore accompanied Warren to Dallas for Jack Ruby's polygraph test solely for protection purposes. This is not accurate. As writers like Pat Speer and Aguilar have shown, after working over Perry, Moore became almost a personal assistant to Warren throughout much of the Commission proceedings. And this was done at Warren's request. As Speer notes, Warren wanted Moore to help "the Commission for an indefinite period to assist in its work." (ibid, p. 144) It is not possible to give an accurate and candid presentation about the Warren Commission without fully describing what Moore did in the alteration of testimony, plus the fact that Warren requested his assistance afterwards.

The second piece of old evidence that Shenon reports as being long hidden is the destruction of a photograph of Oswald by Marina and Oswald's mother Marguerite. To use just one example, this incident was thoroughly described by writers like the late Jack White and Greg Parker many years ago. It is also described at length by Vincent Bugliosi in his colossal book, Reclaiming History. Like Bugliosi, who Shenon greatly admires, the author wants us to think that somehow this is another of the infamous "backyard photographs" which the Commission, and Life Magazine, used to incriminate Oswald. But like Bugliosi, Shenon does not quote Marina's testimony before the HSCA about this point. (Shenon, p. 25) Her memory of this was very hazy and unreliable. But further, Marguerite described this particular photo as being different than the others. She said, in this one, Oswald was holding the rifle above his head with both hands. Further, that this one was addressed to his daughter June. June was two years old at the time. These points are rather indecipherable. Especially in light of the fact that Marina originally said she took just one backyard photo. (ibid, DiEugenio, p. 86) Which is probably why the Commission, when they had the opportunity, did not press far at all in this field.

The last piece of "hidden" evidence that Shenon uses is also mildewed. It's the note Oswald left for James Hosty at FBI headquarters before the assassination. (Shenon, p. 25) But again, in this case, its not like the Commission did not know about this incident. During the questioning of Ruth Paine, the subject surfaced since it was mentioned in a letter Oswald allegedly wrote to the Russian Embassy in Washington and Ruth had copied. (McKnight, p. 260) It was also mentioned in her March 1964 testimony. If there was no follow up on this, it appears its because that is the way the Commission wanted it. But further, unlike what Shenon tries to convey, Hosty was asked about the surveillance of Oswald by the FBI prior to Kennedy's arrival in Dallas. And the questioner was one of Shenon's presumed sources, Sam Stern. (ibid, p. 261)

I believe the point of this section of the book is to show that somehow, certain evidence was not revealed to the Commission. But as the reader can see, this is not really accurate. The only piece of evidence that one can really make that argument for is the first draft of the autopsy report burned by Humes. But in terms of relevancy to any Commission work or conclusions, this has no real retroactive impact. To anyone familiar with the evidence and the Commissions' work, it is this medical evidence that the Commission made almost no inquiry into. As other authors have shown, the Warren Commission was so uninterested in this key issue that they accepted falsified drawings as illustrations for the head and neck wound to President Kennedy. (DiEugenio, pgs. 120-22) These were Commission Exhibits 385 and 388. They are illustrations made by 22 year old, first year medical artist Harold Rydberg. These two drawings – which show a flat direction to the neck wound, and an upward direction to the head wound – were meant to demonstrate, not what was seen in the autopsy room, but what the Commission had already decided upon as their conclusions. But further, the drawing of the back wound places the wound in the neck, when the declassified autopsy photos show it to be in Kennedy's back. And the drawing of the head wound puts Kennedy's head in a position it is not in at Zapruder film frame 313, the instant of the head shot.

Incredibly, Shenon does not mention the Rydberg drawings or their misrepresentations. Which, considering what he did with his drawing of the Single Bullet Theory and "Oswald's Escape", perhaps is not so incredible. Its par for the course. But the point about these three above issues-the burnt autopsy report, the missing Oswald photo, the Hosty note – making any difference for the Commission, for reasons stated above, this is simply not convincing.

Before leaving the subject of the medical evidence, we should note one more point. Throughout the book, Shenon tries to say that somehow, Bobby Kennedy influenced the Commission, and he therefore limited its use of the autopsy materials. As noted by many other authors, this is simply not the case. The autopsy photos were in the hands of the Secret Service at this time. Which is why Secret Service agent Elmer Moore showed one of them to Arlen Specter. (DiEugenio, p. 145) Whatever limitations were placed on the Commission in its use of these materials, they had little or nothing to do with Robert Kennedy. Because the deed of gift for these materials to the Kennedy family would not be signed until 1965, the year after the Commission expired. Somehow, in writing a book about the Warren Commission, Shennon couldn't find the space to include a sentence with that bit of information in it.

IV

Shenon does uncover some interesting information about the work habits of the Commission. For instance, he says that Coleman worked about one day a week. (p. 109) Also that Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin split his workweek between the Commission and his practice. But presumable he did some work for the Commission while in his office. Another interesting point is the paucity of criminal lawyers that Howard Willens picked to man the staff. The clear majority of lawyers were business or corporate lawyers. Which makes very little sense in a criminal procedure, where experience counts a lot. One of the Commission lawyers who did have such experience, Burt Griffin, admitted this was a problem. (Shenon, p. 125) Many of Willens' recruits were recent Ivy League graduates on their way up the corporate law ladder.

But what Shenon reveals later is even more startling in this regard. And that is this: some of the lawyers that administrator Howard Willens brought in had no real legal experience at all! The problem was, too many people were leaving. Obviously, what happened-which Shenon does not want to make explicit – is that the private practice billing paid much more than what these men were getting on the Warren Commission. And since, whatever Shenon says, none of these men were great fans of Kennedy, very few of them were going to spend ten months of their lives working on this case while they were losing money. Of the junior counsels, David Belin left in May. Leon Hubert quit right after that. Specter left in June. Only David Slawson, Burt Griffin and Wesley Liebeler were there regularly after that (p. 404) Almost all the senior counsels had left by June also. The case of Leon Hubert quitting is interesting. (Shenon, p. 284) Its so interesting that Shenon papers it over. He says that Hubert essentially quit, but he is not explicit as to why.

Hubert quit because he was a senior counsel who actually wanted to do a real investigation. He wanted to find out who Jack Ruby really was and where his associations were. In fact, he and Griffin wrote two interesting memos in this regard. Both of which, because of his agenda, Shenon does not print. The first was written in March of 1964. It reads in part, "The most promising links between Jack Ruby and the assassination of President Kennedy are established through underworld figures and anti-Castro Cubans and extreme rightwing Americans." This, of course, turned out to be quite insightful considering the time it was written, plus the fact that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin, Chief Justice Earl Warren and Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach were all trying to shut down and limit the inquiry. (A fact which Shenon greatly underplays.) Two months later, the two wrote another prophetic memo. This one said, "We believe that a reasonable possibility exists that Ruby has maintained a close interest in Cuban affairs to the extent necessary to participate in gun sales and smuggling..." This turned out to be accurate, as authors like Henry Hurt and John Armstrong later discovered. Two examples of Ruby doing so were with Thomas Davis and Eddie Browder. Shenon fails to point this out, since the former leads to the CIA and the latter to the Mafia.

But in that same memo, the two then topped themselves. They wrote that, "Neither Oswald's Cuban interests in Dallas nor Ruby's Cuban activities have been adequately explored..." That sentence is pregnant with intrigue in two ways. First, it clearly implies that Oswald and Ruby may have known each other through this anti-Castro underground network, one that began in Florida and spread to Texas after the fall of Batista. But second, it says that after six months, they have gotten little cooperation in exploring that venue.

If the reader turns to the Volume XI of the HSCA, one will get a much more frank and honest discussion of Hubert's departure than Shenon gives. There, Burt Griffin was asked about Hubert's leaving. After replying with the standards about his job and family, Griffin got to the point. He said that Hubert became disenchanted and demoralized because he was not getting the kind of support he wanted, especially from Rankin. (HSCA, Vol. XI, p. 268) Griffin went on to say that he and Hubert got the feeling that Rankin, Willens and Norman Redlich, the mid-level administrators, did not have much interest in what he and Hubert were doing. (ibid, p. 271) In this fascinating interview, Griffin revealed that he himself had no contact with either field agents or FBI HQ agents in Washington. Even though that is where the Commission office was. Everything he requested went by memo to the office of the Chief Counsel. (ibid, p. 276) The problem was that in requests to the CIA for info on Jack Ruby and his associations, the CIA did not respond for months. (ibid, p. 283) In fact, it took 16 days for the initial request by Hubert and Griffin to get past Willens and to the CIA. But that is not the worst part. The worst part is this: the reply from the CIA came on September 15th! Which was about two weeks before the report was printed. Griffin could not explain either delay: the 16-day one or the six-month one. But clearly, this is what he was referring to in discussing why Hubert left. In his interview Griffin says that between the time pressures to finish and the internal resistance, they were very limited in what they could do. (ibid, pgs 295-96) In fact, in this HSCA interview, Griffin was confronted with the second memo, the one that mentioned the possible crossover of anti-Castro elements which could be a connecting point between Oswald and Ruby. When asked if the Warren Commission investigation ever focused on that nexus, Griffin replied simply, "No."

None of this crucial information is in Shenon's book. Just as the reporter describes none of Ruby's ties to organized crime figures or the Dallas Police. (Shenon, p. 197) In fact, Shenon is slavish that he actually repeats the infamous "Sheba defense" for Ruby. That is, Ruby would not have left his dog in the car if he was going to kill Oswald. To clinch the cover up about Ruby, Shenon uses none of the HSCA review of Ruby's polygraph in his book. Which is astonishing at the same time that it is predictable. Shenon describes Arlen Specter as being in the room for the polygraph, along with FBI technician Bell Herndon. (Shenon, p. 421) He then describes one Ruby lawyer being there. He then says that there was a long list of questions, and Ruby's answers were disjointed, therefore it took many hours to complete. The next day, Shenon relates to us, Herndon told Specter that Ruby passed the test "with flying colors and clearly was not involved in the assassination." (ibid) And that is that as far as the author is concerned.

To say that this is not the whole story is being much too kind to Mr. Shenon. First of all, unlike what Shenon implies, there were a total of eight people in the room for Ruby's polygraph, and ten during the pretest. (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 244) One of them was Bill Alexander, the assistant DA trying the case against Ruby. Contrary to what Shenon writes, Alexander, who interrupted and then actually held off the record conversations with Ruby, caused many of the delays. The HSCA panel concluded that because of the many people present and their interference, Herndon lost control of the proceedings. Something that a polygraph operator should never do. (ibid) Because all the interference and distraction can lead to false readings.

But that is just the beginning of the problems the HSCA expert panel had about this test. Altogether, the panel listed over ten violations of proper protocol by Bell Herndon. One of which was the actual number and selection of questions. Like almost everything else in this valuable report, Shenon ignores this point. Which strikes at the very heart of Herndon's "passed with flying colors" comment. There are three types of questions one should ask during a polygraph: control questions, relevant questions, and irrelevant questions. Standard polygraph practice states that there should be perhaps three relevant questions in an exam i.e. questions which touch on actual material matters dealing with the subject's participation in a crime. The most relevant questions one of the panelists had ever heard of in 30 years of practice was seventeen. Bell's test for Ruby contained an unheard of 55 relevant questions. The panel said that this violation "showed total disregard of basic polygraph principles." (ibid) Because, as the panel wrote, ". . . the more a person is tested the less he tends to react when lying. That is...liars become so test-tired they no longer produce significant physiological reactions when lying." In other words, with that many relevant questions, one could lie and get away with it. This is why the panel said, Bell should have demanded a second test with a second battery of questions in order to crosscheck the first test. He did not.

There was also a problem with the control questions. These are questions that the operator asks to which he feels the subject will lie. He does this to get a readable reaction against which he can measure the answers to the relevant questions. (ibid, p. 245) The panel criticized Bell's selection of questions in this regard also, one of which was, "Have you ever been arrested?" This was common knowledge and Ruby affirmed it so how could this be a control question? He was also asked, "Are you married?" as a control question. The panel thought this was much better suited to being an irrelevant question, one asked in order to register a normal response. In other words with this mishmash of questions, it would be difficult to chart definite landmarks in Ruby's replies.

But this test, which Shenon accepts at face value, is even worse than that. For Bell also did something that is simply unexplainable in any benign manner. He started the Galvanic Skin Response detector at only 25% capacity. He then lowered it from there. The panel noted this is the opposite of what proper procedure was. (ibid) This is one of the three prime indicators of deception on the test. And it is especially useful in regard to rising emotions in some subjects. The panel thought this reading was almost a complete waste. But they did note that in the first series of questions, when Ruby was relatively fresh, the answer which gave the largest GSR reaction was Ruby's reply to the question, "Did you assist Oswald in the assassination?" (ibid, p. 245) Ruby replied in the negative. The GSR, even set that low, would indicate he was lying. Somehow, we are to believe that, in five years of research, Shenon did not read this report. The other alternative is worse. He did read it and did not think it was important. Whatever the answer, Shenon's work on Ruby is even worse than the Warren Commission's. Which means it's abysmal.

V

Towards the end, Howard Willens was bringing in lawyers to man the Commission who had had nothing to do with the actual inquiry. In fact, if you can comprehend it, Willens hired a student who had not even graduated from law school yet. Murray Laulicht was 24 years old and just taken his last law school exam – in trusts and estates. Laulicht pleaded with Willens to wait until he got his degree. He did on June 4th. That night he went to Washington and started work solving the assassination of President Kennedy. (Shenon, p. 404) This is how seriously Willens took this case. He hired someone who, not only had no experience in practicing law, but had never even worked in a law office before. Shenon does not make one indication of disapproval of Willens' choice. Even when Rankin assigns Laulicht to complete the biography of Ruby. Quite naturally, Laulicht tells Shenon he had absolutely no problem with the Commission's version of Ruby shooting Oswald.

The problem with that, is-again – the HSCA did. To the point that they concluded the Commission was wrong. Ruby did not just walk down the ramp, past the police sentry Roy Vaughn. They concluded that Ruby had help coming in a back door off an alley. (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 204) So again, the HSCA overturned another important element dealing with the Warren Commission case against Ruby. Yet, Shenon's readers, don't know about it.

But now the book gets even worse. And I don't even think Shenon realizes how bad he is getting here. He doesn't understand that, in his slavish support of the Commission, his book is now attaining entry into the realm of high camp. He actually allows Laulicht, this law student with no experience in doing criminal inquiry, to say that, in his hot headedness and desire to avenge Kennedy's death, Ruby was acting as a Holocaust survivor would if he saw a Nazi. (Shenon, p. 405) This is so absurd, I have no comment on it. Except to say that, by this point, I was beginning to develop serious problems about both Shenon's credibility and his gullibility.

As bad as Shenon is on Ruby, he may be even worse on Oswald. Again, the author tells us that a new Willens recruit came in late in the day. This time to help on the biography of Oswald. Unlike Laulicht, Lloyd Weinreb actually graduated from law school and clerked a year on the Supreme Court. Evidently, that was enough for Willens to think that, he too could help solve the murder of President Kennedy. When Weinreb arrived he was surprised at all the vacant desks in the office. (ibid,p. 405) Most everyone had fled. Apparently, Willens had no problem giving perhaps the most important job on the Commission to this 24-year-old law clerk who had just transferred over to the Justice Department. Albert Jenner had given up trying to complete the biography of Oswald. But Willens was determined it be done, even if it was done by someone who just walked in the door. As Weinreb hints, with so many desertions, with so much work incomplete, it was Willens who was now riding herd to get the report finished. And if he had to hire people who did not know what they were doing, that was fine with him. Even if it meant a team of amateurs was at work solving the most complex and important American murder in the second half of the 20th century.

But further, it didn't matter to Willens that these amateurs did not have anywhere near a complete database to work from. For, as Weinreb reveals, when he started going through the FBI and CIA files on Oswald, he noted much material was missing. Shenon and Weinreb try to say this was because staffers took some of it home with them. And they didn't return it? Highly improbable. With what we saw happening between the CIA and Willens – 16 days to send a memo to Langley, six months to reply – it is much more likely that Willens was satisfied to get any files at all, even if they were incomplete. And he knew that unlike former senior counsel Leon Hubert, someone as green as Weinreb was not going to raise a stink. This is why the biography written of Oswald in the Warren Commission is unsatisfactory today. There are many things the CIA and the FBI had which are not referred to in that report. And that later, writers like John Newman and John Armstrong discovered and included.

Then there is Richard Mosk. Mosk reviewed the testimony about Oswald's marksmanship. He was told by both the FBI and the military that the shots were not all that difficult since the motorcade was moving slowly and the rifle had a telescopic sight. Shenon writes this with no comment attached. I have one. If this was so easy, why did no professional marksman for the Commission duplicate what Oswald did? That is, get two of three direct hits in the head and shoulder area within six seconds on their first try. (See for example, Meagher, pgs. 108-09) In fact, as author George O'toole noted, the rifle experts could not even try the experiment with Oswald's rifle since the firing pin was defective and the telescopic sight was misaligned. Shenon is so eager to validate the procedures of the Commission that he does not even question the obvious: If the scope was used, it would have taken longer for Oswald to fire the three shots for the simple reason that he would have had to wait for the scope to stop vibrating after each explosion in the chamber. And as I have stated elsewhere, in a deposition for the HSCA, the gunsmith at Klein's sporting goods said that particular rifle was not equipped with a scope by Klein's. So, how did it get one? Shenon never notes the problem. Therefore, the reader can't ask the question.

One of the most startling things about this book is that Shenon appears determined to outdo the Warren Commission's case against Oswald. Therefore, the author sidesteps the issue of Oswald not having a defense team before the Commission. Even though Earl Warren was one of the most vociferous voices on the bench in pushing the concept that defendants should be furnished with lawyers no matter what their financial situation. Apparently, the fact that Oswald was dead now mitigated Warren's beliefs in fairness before the law. What really eroded Warren's ideas about equal justice in this case was the fear of God put in him by President Johnson. As everyone knows today, when LBJ recruited a reluctant Warren to run the Commission, he told him that if he did not take the job, the danger existed that thermonuclear war would incinerate forty million people in an hour. (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkand, p. 253) At the first meeting of the staff, Warren reiterated this warning to those present. (Shenon, p. 127) Young attorney Melvin Eisenberg wrote a memo about this meeting. In quoting from it Shenon, like Vincent Bugliosi, leaves out the key part of the memo. After telling the staff about Johnson giving him that nuclear warning, Eisenberg's memo reads, "The President convinced him that this was an occasion on which actual conditions had to override general principles."(emphasis added) He then went on to say that they would still seek out the truth. Now, any objective person would have to admit that the italicized clause is the crucial part-perhaps the crucial part – of the memo. By leaving it out, Shenon can later negate what Wesley Liebeler told Sylvia Odio. Liebeler actually told her about Warren's instruction to them to cover up any evidence of conspiracy. Shenon spins this as being an "outrageous statement". It is no such thing. It's a direct echo of that Warren told the staff. (Shenon, p. 417)

As for outdoing the Commission in regards to Oswald, apparently, Shenon actually buys Marina Oswald's story about Oswald wanting to kill Nixon. (Shenon, p. 394) Clearly, this was a story planted on Marina, perhaps by her business manager James Martin or by journalistic provocateur Hugh Aynseworth. (See CE 1357; James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, p. 250) She never brought this story up until after her first appearance, Nixon was not in Dallas at the time she said the event occurred, and there was no announcement he was going to be. Finally, as more than one writer has pointed out, the episode could not have ended as Marina describes it with her locking Lee in the bathroom, since the bathroom door locked from the inside. But Shenon treats this whole fantastic episode with kid gloves.

Shenon also uses the now discredited story about the Depository workers on the fifth floor who heard bullet casings drop on the floor above them. (Shenon, p. 246) Way back in 1977, this story was brought into doubt with an article by Patricia Lambert in Penn Jones' The Continuing Inquiry. Maybe Shenon didn't know about that journal. But he can surely surf the Internet. If he did he would have found it there.

In his embarrassing march In Praise of Folly, Shenon also uses Marrion Baker's story about encountering Oswald on the second floor lunchroom. (Shenon, p. 247) Today, this story has also come under close scrutiny. First, by this author in his book Reclaiming Parkland. (See pages, 192-96) But also by researchers Greg Parker and Sean Murphy. Murphy has made the most thorough and detailed examination of this story yet. And he has shown that it collapses along multiple fracture lines. In a very long thread at Spartacus Educational, Murphy makes a compelling argument that Oswald was not on the second floor after the assassination. Completely independent of the Altgens photo and the Lovelady/Oswald debate, Murphy makes a fascinating case that Oswald was outside on the top step of the Depository, where he appears to be drinking a Coke.

But let us give Shenon the benefit of the doubt. Let us assume that he was unaware of the work of both Murphy and Parker. If he had read the Warren Commission volumes he would have understood the following: in his first day affidavit, Baker never mentioned any such second floor incident with Oswald or anyone else. What makes that affidavit so compelling is this: when Baker made it out that afternoon, Oswald was sitting right across from him in the witness room! That room was so small that Baker had to almost fall over Oswald to leave. We are to believe that Baker made out his affidavit with the guy he allegedly just threatened with a gun by sticking it into this stomach. Yet, he never recognized Oswald and Oswald never recognized him. Not even to the point that Baker leaned over to ask him what his name was. (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 194) Shenon may not be aware that Baker changed his story. But Allen Dulles and David Belin certainly were aware of it. Because they took his questioning off the record no less than five times. (ibid) A fact that, along with many others, Shenon somehow missed.

Shenon quite naturally goes all the way in with the incredibly controversial eyewitness Howard Brennan. Brennan is the Dealey Plaza witness who the Commission relied upon for their identification of Oswald in the sixth floor window.(Shenon, pgs. 248-49) Shenon picks up Brennan from about 46 years of discreditation, dusts him off, and presents him to the reader like he is brand new and there is no problem with him. In reality, very few witnesses presented as many problems for the Commission as Brennan did. There was even a vocal contingent on the Commission itself who actually did not want to use him because they foresaw the numerous problems he would eventually create. (Epstein, pgs. 143-44) Among these were his questionable eyesight, his description as to height and weight of a man who had to have been kneeling down, the question of how his description got to the authorities, and the fact that Brennan had failed to identify Oswald at a subsequent lineup. Shenon has a novel excuse for the last. Quoting David Belin, he says well, Kitty Genovese died that month with over 30 witnesses hearing her scream, so, via Belin, this is how we are supposed to excuse Brennan's failure since he feared a communist conspiracy. (I'm not kidding, you can read that on p. 249 of Shenon's book.)

Although Shenon has no problem conveying that piece of silliness, what he does not say is that, today, due to the fine work of British police inspector Ian Griggs, there is a real question as to whether or not Brennan was ever at any lineup. In his book, No Case to Answer, Griggs performed what is probably the most complete and thorough inquiry into the Dallas Police lineups in the literature. (Griggs, pgs. 77-106) He details each and every lineup, the people who were there, and when each one took place. None of the police records include Brennan's name. (ibid, pgs. 85-90) None of the Warren Commission records on the subject include his name. (ibid, p. 93) Griggs then tracked down the listed witnesses who were supposed to be at each lineup. No one recalled Brennan being there. (ibid, p. 94) Captain Will Fritz was at each lineup and described them for the Commission. In his testimony he volunteered nothing about Brennan being at any of them. (ibid, p. 93)

When asked how many people were in each lineup, Brennan said seven, more or less one in each. (WC Vol. 3, p. 147) As Griggs notes, there were only six spots in the lineup platform, and there appear to have never been any more than four people in any lineup. (See CD 1083, and Griggs, pgs. 85-90) When asked if all the other men in the lineup were caucasians, or if there were any blacks in the lineups, Brennan replied with a startling answer. He said he did not remember. (WC, op. cit.) The reader should recall, this was Texas in 1963 when all public facilities are still segregated.

Because of all these problems, and more, Griggs concludes one of two things happened. Either Brennan was so unreliable that the police dared not show him a lineup. Or, Brennan performed so poorly at a lineup that the record of it was expunged. Whatever the case, for Shenon to trot out Brennan without chronicling any of the above indicates one of two things. Either the man is an incompetent researcher, or if he did know this he is not being honest with the reader.

Which is similar to what Shenon does with the work of the late Arlen Specter. Clearly, Shenon spent a lot of time with Specter before he died. Apparently, he never once asked anything like the challenging questions Gaeton Fonzi did, which reduced the Philadelphia lawyer to a stuttering state of confusion back in 1966. To show just how slanted his approach is, consider the following. Shenon admires Specter for wanting to be in on the questioning of Jackie Kennedy, and criticizes Earl Warren for not having Specter there. But yet, Shenon then gives Specter a pass on not having him present FBI agents Jim Sibert and Frank O'Neill or Dr. George Burkley before the Commission. Since all three men were in the autopsy room that night, and Burkley was the one doctor who was both inside the Parkland emergency room and at Bethesda, most objective observers would have to say that the latter three witnesses would have more forensic value to the case than Mrs. Kennedy. Especially in light of the fact that the Commission ignored the value of both her testimony and Secret Service agent Clint Hill's. Namely that she was stretching out on the back of the limousine to capture a piece of skull that had ejected from President Kennedy's head. And Clint Hill said he saw a hole in the rear of Kennedy's skull as he ran up to the limousine. Therefore, if the skull debris went backwards, and the hole was in the rear of Kennedy's skull, Kennedy was likely hit from the front. The veteran reporter somehow misses that clear implication. (Shenon, p. 259)

It is interesting to observe how Shenon introduces the autopsy. He says the autopsy report was "full of gaps". This is how he describes what many forensic experts, even Dr. Michael Baden of the HSCA, call probably the worst autopsy in recorded history. In his rush to provide another pass to the Commission, he then writes, "The doctors did not have time to trace the path of the bullets through the president's body." (emphasis added)

This is nonsense of two counts. First, according to the official story there was only one bullet that went through Kennedy's body. The other went through his skull. Second, anyone who has read the testimony of Dr. Pierre Finck at the Clay Shaw trial knows why the doctors did not dissect the back wound: Because they were told not to by the military brass in the room. (DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 116) He then says that Sibert and O'Neill were wrong when they said that back wound did not penetrate through the body. (Shenon, p. 260) He doesn't acknowledge that with the refusal of the military to allow the back wound to be tracked, there is plenty of evidence today that says the agents were correct about the non-transiting back wound. Including the fact that Kennedy's personal physician, Burkley, certified the back wound as too low to exit the throat. (DiEugenio, p. 121) Further, Shenon provides no reason at all as to why the president's brain was not sectioned. And Shenon somehow missed the Commission record which states that Specter lied to Rankin by saying that Sibert made no contemporaneous noted of the autopsy. (ibid)

But Shenon is not done carrying water for Specter. Later on he says that when Specter did his reconstruction of the Single Bullet Theory he wound up with a clear image of the trajectory going through Kennedy's neck before entering Connally. (Shenon, p. 352) First of all, the bullet did not go through Kennedy's neck. This is a misrepresentation that Shenon makes throughout the book. And he does it with a rigor that cannot be accidental. The bullet entered his back. And since Specter saw at least one autopsy photo of this, he had to know that. Which is why his so-called reconstruction was a mess. And the reconstruction photo printed in the New York Times, showing a chalk mark in an FBI agent's back, where Specter marked it, gives the lie to Shenon's "clear image". Pat Speer has done a fine analysis of Specter's faulty reconstruction, showing Specter's increasing desperation to make it work somehow. Unfortunately for the Commission counsel, he could not. But you would never know that from reading Shenon's book.

VI

But as bad as Shenon is in the handling of the physical evidence, he is even worse in his discussions of both Oswald in New Orleans and Mexico City. Clearly, when Jim Garrison's investigation was disclosed to the public in 1967, the Commission was left with egg on its face. How could the 1964 inquiry have missed so much evidence of Oswald being involved with anti-Castro Cubans and CIA agents? Wouldn't that be very suspicious behavior which should have raised some serious questions about who Oswald was, and what he was doing in the summer and fall of 1963? Was it withheld from the Commission by the FBI, or the CIA? As it turns out, both John Newman and Anthony Summers found out the FBI did withhold information about Banister and 544 Camp Street from the Commission. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, p.102)

The way Shenon finesses this point is consistent with his overall design. He goes the 1964 time capsule route of freezing everything at that time. He never mentions Guy Banister. And if you do that, then you don't have to delve into the whole issue of how Oswald ended up with Banister's address on at least one of his pro-Castro flyers that summer in New Orleans. Which, of course, would lead to this question: Why would a seemingly pro-Castro advocate like Oswald stamp a rightwing CIA agent's address on his literature? As we shall see, Shenon did not want to go in that direction. It would have ruined the whole insidious plan of his book.

So Shenon goes the New York Times route. He smears Garrison by calling his prosecution a blatant miscarriage of justice. He then mentions very select witnesses like Carlos Bringuier, Dean Andrews and Evaristo Rodriguez. He treats that trio in a very deliberate and limited way. For instance, he says that the FBI could not find the mysterious caller, Clay Bertrand, who wanted Andrews to go to Dallas to defend Oswald. (Shenon, p. 412) Shenon is, once again, avoiding the declassified record created by the ARRB. For when a Justice Department source revealed in 1967 that Bertrand and Clay Shaw were the same person, FBI officer Cartha DeLoach wrote to fellow officer Clyde Tolson that Shaw's name had surfaced in December of 1963 as part of the original FBI inquiry into the Kennedy case. (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, p. 388) Later on, it turned out that the FBI did have several sources who revealed to them that Shaw was Bertrand. And Jim Garrison had several more. Further, Andrews admitted to Harold Weisberg that Shaw was Bertrand. (ibid, pgs. 387-88) In typical MSM spin mode, Shenon uses Andrews' altered description of Bertrand to demean his value as a witness. He can do this since he does not reveal that Andrews' office was rifled and his life was threatened. (ibid)

Oswald in New Orleans is a good place to bring up Shenon's portrait of Allen Dulles. Shenon tries to portray the fired spymaster as a doddering old blunderbuss throughout. Thereby ignoring the key fact that no Commissioner was as active in the proceedings as much as Dulles was. (Reclaiming Parkland, p. 274) Although Shenon tries to hold Bobby Kennedy responsible for the Commission not knowing about the CIA plots to kill Castro, isn't the much more logical culprit Allen Dulles? The plots began under his watch, and continued under his supervision for over two years. Dulles attended each executive session meeting of the Commission, and more full and partial hearings than anyone else. He had more than ample opportunity to inform the fellow Commissioners about the plots. He chose not to.

In his discussion of Oswald and the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, Shenon quotes Dulles as saying that no one would hire someone as shiftless as Oswald as an undercover agent. (p. 145) He then quotes him as saying, "What was the ostensible mission? Was it to penetrate the Fair Play for Cuba Committee?" Shenon can't bring himself to answer Dulles with, yes, that is what many people researching the JFK case now believe. If not, then why would Oswald stamp his FPCC literature with the address of 544 Camp Street, which was Guy Banister's office? And why would the FBI block information about this from going to the Commission? Why would so many witnesses see Oswald inside Banister's offices? Why, according to some of them, would Banister give Oswald his own room to work out of? Why would Banister exclaim about Oswald using his address on his FPCC flyers, "How is it going to look for him to have the same address as me?" (DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, pgs. 111-13) And then, is it just a coincidence that both the FBI and CIA had counter-intelligence programs in operation against the FPCC at the time Oswald was creating such a ruckus in New Orleans? And is it just another coincidence that one of the men running the CIA program in this regard was David Phillips, who was then seen with Oswald before he allegedly went to Mexico? And is it just a coincidence that on September 16th, the day Oswald stood in line at the New Orleans Mexican consulate with CIA agent William Gaudet, the CIA sent the FBI a cable saying that they were going to plant "deceptive information which might embarrass" the FPCC in a foreign country. (ibid, p. 356)

Shenon's readers cannot ask if this is all just a coincidence. For the simple reason that he gives them almost none of this information. Therefore, he can leave the Dulles' supposition hanging out there as the mental meanderings of a tired old man.

But there is another reason that the author does all this. Shenon is about to end his book with a very much planned for coup de grace. And in doing so, he is about to unleash another Shenonism. That is, he will present something that is old as new, and convey it to the reader as something important which the Commission should have known about.

Because of his sources, Shenon is intent on keeping Oswald as the sole killer of Kennedy. But he wants to solve a problem the Commission had trouble with. Namely, supplying Oswald with a credible motive. Shenon's solution is one of the biggest CIA backstops in the history of this case. Shenon says that Castro was behind Oswald. In fact, as HSCA investigators Dan Hardway and Ed Lopez discovered, many of the false stories that surfaced in the days after the assassination linking Oswald to Castro originated with assets of none other than David Phillips. Who was very likely the overall supervisor for Oswald's activities in New Orleans with the FPCC. (Destiny Betrayed, p. 362) But by not exposing what Oswald was really up to in New Orleans, he greases the rails for what he is about to do in Mexico City.

And what he does there is pure sorcery. It is evident from his rather sparse footnotes that the he has read the HSCA's Mexico City Report, commonly known as the Lopez Report. What is amazing is: 1.) How little he uses it, and 2.) How he bypasses its meaning. Anyone who reads the Lopez Report cannot escape the clear suggestion that Oswald did not go to Mexico City. And if that is so, then someone impersonated him at the Cuban and Russian embassies. Because the Lopez Report does not deal with Oswald's alleged bus trip to Mexico City or his return to Texas, the longest and most detailed study of those two bus voyages is in John Armstrong's Harvey and Lee. (See pages 614-706) This author wrote a shorter treatment of the subject in which he agreed with Armstrong's thesis. (Follow the link and scroll down.) As we shall see, Shenon cannot agree with this imposter concept. And he dares not list the following evidence which indicates that is the case:

  • The voice on the tapes sent from the CIA's Mexico City station to the FBI turned out not to be Oswald's.
  • In over 50 years the CIA has not been able to produce a photo showing Oswald going either into or out of one of the two embassies. Even though they had extensive multi-camera coverage of each building and Oswald visited both embassies a total of five times.
  • Numerous witnesses who saw "Oswald" said he was a short man with blonde hair.
  • In 1978, photos showing this man were released by the Cuban government. They matched the short, blonde witness testimony stated above.
  • The man the CIA says went to the embassies spoke broken Russian and fluent Spanish. This is the opposite of what we know about Oswald. He spoke fluent Russian and poor Spanish.
  • Before she signed her deal with the phony Tex-Italia films, Marina Oswald insisted that Oswald had never mentioned going to Mexico City to her before she left New Orleans.
  • The FBI canvassed every photo shop within a five-mile radius of the Cuban and Russian embassies. None of them recalled Oswald coming in to get a photo, which is what had to have occurred.

The list could go on and on, e.g. Oswald's name is not on the bus manifest going down and the FBI could never find the attendant who sold him a ticket. The point is this: Shenon does not deal with any of the above matters. Why? Because of his upcoming Shenonism. Which we will now elucidate.

Based on an FBI report of an informant codenamed SOLO, Shenon is going to write that Oswald walked into the Cuban consulate and said that he was going to kill Kennedy. Now, when Shenon appeared on Face the Nation with his old friend Bob Schieffer, Schieffer was shocked about this "new" document and Shenon said, well it had been sitting there in the National Archives all this time. That implication is simply false. I saw this document 19 years ago in San Francisco at Dr. Gary Aguilar's house. John Newman and myself were visiting Gary and I was looking through some documents the former intelligence analyst had in his briefcase. When I picked this one up and showed it to John he said quite simply and directly, "That's a forgery."

And upon analysis, that is pretty much an inescapable conclusion. The document consists of a letter by an informant to Gus Hall, head of the communist party in America. Much of the material in the report is accurate, since SOLO was an informant within the CPUSA. But as Newman told me in a phone conversation, one of the problems with the document is this: He would not include that kind of information in a letter to Hall. (Interview with Newman, 11/29/13) He was much too experienced and much too aware of proper channels to do that. Secondly, on the surface this story is specious. We are to think that because Oswald was having difficulty getting his in-transit visa to Russia via Cuba that he would now explode in front of the workers there and say, "I'm going to kill Kennedy!" When, in fact, it was his own fault that he was having problems getting the visa since he was not prepared with the correct documentation. For instance, he didn't even have the proper passport photo.

Related to this, as Arnaldo M. Fernandez wrote in his CTKA review of Castro's Secrets, how could Oswald or an imposter say such a thing without either the incoming or outgoing consul hearing it i.e. Eusebio Azcue or Alfredo Mirabal? Because both men testified to the HSCA they heard no such thing. Neither did the person who dealt with Oswald the most, receptionist Silvia Duran.

Further, if one looks at the table of Oswald's alleged activities in Mexico City in Oswald and the CIA, one will see that Oswald or his impersonator called the Russian Embassy before visiting the Cuban embassy. (Newman, p. 356) He then visited the Cuban Embassy in person. Why on earth would he say something like this knowing that he needed clearance from both embassies to get his in-transit visa to Russia? Once he had the difficulties at the Cuban embassy, they would just call the Russians and tell them, "Hey, this guy said he's going to kill Kennedy." (ibid, interview with Newman.)

As Newman also stated, Castro did not make any mention of this in either speech he made concerning the JFK assassination afterwards. That is the nationally televised radio/TV appearance of November 23rd, or his speech at the University of Havana on November 27th. And since no one heard Oswald say this in the embassy, Castro would have had to manufacture the quote. Why would he do such a thing?

Newman also said that the informant would not manufacture it either. His thesis is that someone in the FBI manufactured the quote and then stuck it in the report. He compared it to a man stealing someone else's check and forging the signature. Newman also said that this is not the last of these documents that the ARRB found pinning the crime on Castro. The rest are classified Top Secret and may be declassified in 2017. The purpose of keeping them classified is so they could not be exposed, yet their contents could be divulged to select people in the higher circles. Who could then parcel them out to journalists who were predisposed to run with them.

The other way that Shenon propagates his Castro did it story is through a woman named Elena Garro de Paz. Elena was distantly related to Silvia Duran, and, for political reasons-Duran was a leftist, Elena a conservative – they did not like each other. Elena told a story about seeing Oswald at a "twist party" with Duran. Her story at times also included a red-haired Cuban, which recalled one of the Phillips' originated stories about Oswald via his asset Gilberto Alvarado. A story that fell apart under scrutiny. Elena was a fairly popular conservative writer in Mexico at the time. Many considered her eccentric and, as Shenon admits, CIA station chief Winston Scott thought she was "nuts". Duran never denied the "twist party" or the possibility that Elena was there. But she always denied that the man she met as Oswald was there.

When I asked Eddie Lopez about the Elena allegations back in 1994, he said that he probably spent too much time tracking them down. When I recently talked to Dan Hardway about them, he went further in his remarks: he wished at that time he had the document saying the CIA was about to try and discredit the FPCC in a foreign country. (E-mail communication with Hardway, 11/19/13) Meaning he felt it was part of a deliberate disinformation campaign. The fact that CIA FPCC informant June Cobb, appears to be the first to disseminate the allegations would appear to support that view.

Whatever one thinks of Elena Garro de Paz and her stories, what Shenon does with them is diabolical. By coupling this questionable witness with the specious SOLO report, he postulates a conspiracy by Cuba to kill Kennedy through Oswald. And he tops it off by using Elena to implicate Silvia Duran in the plot! The way Shenon does this is clever, and in keeping with his method of keeping the reader in the dark. The reader will note, I previously wrote that Duran always denied "that the man she met as Oswald" was at the twist party. The reason I stated it that way was because Duran always denied that Oswald was the man who she talked to in the embassy. She has always been one of the strongest witnesses bolstering the concept of an imposter in Mexico City: the short, blonde Oswald. As noted above, Shenon does not tell the reader about any of this, even though it echoes throughout the Lopez Report. So when he confronts Duran late in the book and she tells him she was not attracted to the short guy, Shenon interjects that Oswald was 5' 9" inches tall. Therefore implying that Duran was not being honest. (Shenon, p. 552) He can get away with this because he does not tell the reader that Duran never saw the Oswald he is describing. He does the same with witness Oscar Contreras. He says that in 2013, Contreras said that he saw Oswald talking to people from the Cuban embassy at a banquet. It is bad enough that this story just came out decades later. But what makes it worse is that when interviewed by other writers like Tony Summers, Contreras also said the man who identified himself as Oswald to him was a short blonde guy. (Summers, Conspiracy, p. 352)

So what Shenon does here is turn the Lopez Report on its head. Instead of the intricate delineation of a CIA deception in advance of the assassination to implicate Oswald by use of an imposter, Shenon tells us Duran was part of a Cuban plot to recruit the real Oswald. But further, Shenon does not tell the reader that when Duran was arrested the day after the assassination, her description of a short blonde Oswald was edited out of transcripts given to the Warren Commission. (Armstrong, Harvey and Lee, p. 646) In fact, Phillips actually prepared the list of questions for the Mexican security forces (DFS) to ask Duran. And they were clearly implicative of ensnaring her in a phony Castro plot against Kennedy. (ibid, p. 647) Years later, Duran told Ed Lopez that she had been tortured in order to get her to admit that she, Oswald and the Cuban government were part of a plot to murder President Kennedy. In fact, they actually tried to stuff words to that effect into her mouth under painful duress.(ibid, pgs. 676-67) According to a Flash Cable sent to CIA headquarters, the idea for her second arrest was to try and get her to corroborate the Gilberto Alvarado story about Oswald being paid in advance by a "negro with red hair in the Cuban embassy" to kill Kennedy. Alvarado was also told to say that he saw Duran hugging Oswald in the embassy. Elements of Alvarado's story will later get mixed in with Elena Garro's. In fact, like Elena's story, Phillips' questions tried to establish a relationship between Duran and Oswald outside the embassy compound. (ibid, p. 675) As the reader can see, Shenon is continuing in Phillips' footsteps. Except he covers his trail by cutting out the information that will reveal those steps.

Towards the very end, Shenon does something even worse than that. He tries to aggrandize the Garro de Paz twist party with Oswald into something like the Murchison ranch party in Dallas the night before JFK's assassination. (Shenon, p. 556)According to Shenon, the whole purpose of the occasion was to put Oswald up to killing Kennedy! Recall, according to Duran and Contreras, its not even Oswald at the party. With Elena Garro there! This I what I mean about the book scaling the walls of high camp.

This review could go on and on. For perhaps twice as many pages. That is how many dubious facts and comments it contains. As Victor Marchetti told me, the joke about David Phillips and the CIA was that he never really retired. As he told me, "Dave was retired, but not really retired." This was when Phillips met Marchetti to try and get him to join his CIA alumni association of former officers. Well, from this horrendous book, the joke is that it looks like Shenon never really retired from the New York Times. He is still hard at work on their national security agenda. Recall what Judy Miller did in the run up to the Iraq War? Shenon just did the same for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. He put out a cover story; one that is patently false.

The cruel and shocking act the Warren Commission performed is that it helped frame an innocent man for killing President Kennedy. The surviving members of that infamous panel have been trying to wash themselves clean of what they did for over 40 years. Shenon was their latest volunteer. If one wants to read the real story behind what happened inside the Warren Commission, please read Inquest or Breach of Trust. One will find more truth in one chapter of either book than you will find in all of A Cruel and Shocking Act.


Read the analysis by Arnaldo M. Fernandez for more on Shenon's use of this improbable "threat" by Oswald.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 22:56
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 Reclaiming Parkland (2013/2016), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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