I was looking forward to Ed Souza's book on the JFK case. Souza has had a long career in the field of law enforcement. He has served as a police officer, a homicide investigator, and today he works as an instructor. It's always good to get a viewpoint on the JFK case from a man who has spent his professional life in the field of forensics. For the simple reason that, in the normal course of murder investigations, the myriad anomalies that appear all over the JFK case, don't occur. Therefore, I was eager to see how a professional in the ranks would confront them. As Donald Thomas showed in his book Hear No Evil, the previous course of some law enforcement professionals had been to avoid or discount those anomalies at all costs. To the point of revising the strictures of previous professional practice.
At the beginning of his book, Undeniable Truths: The Clear and Simple Facts Surrounding the Murder of President John F. Kennedy, I was pleased by Souza's approach. And also on the evidence he was relying upon to prove his points. For example, in his introduction he reveals that, unlike some other previous investigators, Souza had actually visited Dallas more than once. While there he took many photographs with which he illustrates his book. And from his experience there on the ground, he had concluded “one man with a rifle could not have committed this crime alone.” He then comments that the sixties turned out to be the “decade of death”, not just for three important and progressive leaders – John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy – but also for the United States as we knew it. Most people would agree, the author is off to an auspicious start.
Souza opens Chapter 1 by proclaiming that neither the Dallas Police nor the Secret Service fulfilled their first professional duty at the venue of the crime. Neither one of them secured the crime scene. The Texas School Book Depository was not immediately locked down. And the Secret Service actually took a pail and sponge to the presidential limousine at Parkland Hospital. (p. 1, all references to e book version.) He also notes that for the official version to be true, with Oswald firing from behind President Kennedy, the mass of blood and tissue from Kennedy – or a large part of it – should have gone forward, onto the rear of the front seat, and the backs of the two Secret Service agents in front of him. Yet, once one looks at the extant photos of the limousine, much of this matter seems to be behind the president and beside him. (p. 3) Souza writes that things like this strike him as odd. Because in all the years he investigated homicides for the LAPD, he never encountered the laws of physics violated as in the JFK case. (p. 5)
He continues in this vein by saying, if the official version is true – that is, all the shots coming from the rear – then why was the back of Kennedy's head blown out? (ibid) And, beyond that, why is the president's face intact? (p. 9) He brings up a point that has received scant attention. If one goes to Dealey Plaza and looks at the kill zone from, say, a block or two away from the side, the angle from the sixth floor to the first shot seems too steep for what the Warren Commission says it is. And recall, in the FBI report on the autopsy, the angle of the back wound into Kennedy is registered as 45 degrees, or more than twice the dimensions the Commission says it is. (p. 7) And like Ryan Siebenthaler, and Doug Horne, Souza brings up the possibility that there may have been more than one wound in Kennedy's back. (Click here and scroll down) He completes Chapter 1 by bringing up two more salient points. First, from his military records, Oswald had no training at all in aiming at and hitting moving targets. (p. 10) Secondly, there appears to be a time lapse between when Kennedy experiences his throat wound and the instant that John Connally is being hit for the first time. (He could have added here, that in the intact film – with the excised frames restored – it appears that JFK is hit before he disappears behind the Stemmons Freeway sign.)
Again, so far, so good. These all seem to me to be truths that are pretty much backed up by the evidentiary record. And they contravene the official story.
In Chapter 2, Souza now begins to hone in on the medical evidence, an aspect of the case that has become a real thorn in the side of Warren Commission advocates. He begins by quoting some of the Parkland Hospital witnesses, those who saw Kennedy immediately after the assassination in the emergency room. Dr. Gene Coleman Akin said that the throat wound appeared to be one of entrance, and the rear of Kennedy's skull, at the right occipital area, was shattered. He further added that this head wound had all the earmarks of being an exit wound. (pp. 19-20) Nurse Diana Bowron talked about a large hole in the rear of Kennedy's skull. (p. 23) Dr. Charles Carrico also witnessed a large, gaping wound in the right occipital/parietal area that was 5-7 centimeters in diameter, and was more or less circular in shape. (pp. 24-25)
As Milicent Cranor has pointed out, Kemp Clark is an important witness. For the simple facts that he was a neurosurgeon and he officially pronounced Kennedy dead. Souza dutifully quotes Clark as describing a large, avulsive wound in the right posterior part of the skull, with cerebral and cerebellar tissue being damaged and exposed. (pp. 26-28)
Souza concludes this part of his case with Margaret Hencliffe and Ronald Jones. Nurse Hencliffe stated that the bullet hole in the neck was an entrance wound. Doctor Jones also stated the neck wound was one of entrance and the rear head wound was an exit. Or to be explicit, Jones said: “There was a large defect in the backside of the head as the president lay in the cart with what appeared to be brain tissue hanging out of his wound ....” (p. 32)
In summing this all up, the author states that twenty witnesses in Dallas said there was a hole in the back of Kennedy's head. Further, at least seven of these witnesses saw cerebellum, which means the wound in the rear of the skull extended low in the head. Not only does this indicate a shot from the front, but if Kennedy had been shot from the rear, there would have been an exit in the front of the skull. Yet, on the autopsy photos, there is no such wound. (p. 33)
From here, Souza now goes to the civilian witnesses in Dealey Plaza. He begins with two deceptive quotes from the Warren Report. The first is this one: “No credible evidence suggests that the shots were fired from the railroad bridge over the triple underpass, the nearby railroad yards, or any other place other than the Texas School Book Depository.”
The second one is as follows: “In contrast to the testimony of the witnesses who heard and observed shots from the Depository, the Commission's investigation has disclosed no credible evidence that any shots were fired from anywhere else.” (p. 42)
Souza calls both of these statements lies. He then lists several witnesses who proffered evidence of shots from the front, specifically the grassy knoll: Sam Holland, Richard Dodd, patrolman J. M Smith (who really is not a civilian), James Simmons, Austin Miller, and , of course, the capper to all of this, the railroad crane worker, Lee Bowers. Bowers, of course, goes beyond giving evidence of shots from the front. With his observations of the phased timing of three cars coming in behind the picket fence and in front of the railroad yard, Bowers may have actually seen some of the preparations for the hit team operation. (See pp. 43-50)
Souza then lists witnesses who say the second and third shots were fired almost on top of each other. And some of these men are police officers – Seymour Weitzman and Jesse Curry – and one was an unintended victim; John Connally. Others he lists as indicating shots came from the front are either spectators or part of the motorcade: Bill and Gayle Newman, Dave Powers, Ken O'Donnell, and J.C. Price. He notes that Powers and O'Donnell, worked for Kennedy, and were intimidated into changing their testimony. Price actually saw a man running from the fence to the TSBD, and was not called as a witness by the Commission. (See pp. 50 ff.)
Again, all of this is fine. Like a responsible legal investigator, Souza has collected valid physical evidence from the crime scene, linked it with the autopsy evidence, and then corroborated it with witness statements. Its been done before, but Souza performs it with skill and brio and he brings in a few witnesses others have ignored.
Unfortunately, we have now reached the high point of the book. And we are only about twenty per cent into the text. For here, in my view, Souza now makes a tactical and strategic error. He shifts gears ever so slightly. He now begins to try and go one step up the investigative ladder. That is, how did the actual operation work? For about the next fifty pages the book now becomes a decidedly mixed bag – which the first fifty pages were not. Also, mistakes now begin to creep into the book – mistakes which should have been rather easily detected if a proofreader or fact checker had been employed.
Let us begin with the better material. In order to show that something was going on inside the TSBD, the author uses witnesses like Arnold Rowland, Carolyn Walther and Toney Henderson to reveal the possibility that there may have been more than one gunman in the building Oswald worked in, and that they may have been elsewhere in the Texas School Book Depository. Most readers are familiar with Rowland and Walther, who both say they saw suspicious persons elsewhere than the sixth floor. Henderson said she saw two men on the sixth floor about five minutes before the shooting, and one had a rifle. We know it was five minutes before the shooting because she said an ambulance had just left the front of the building. This had to have been the transport for the man who had the epileptic seizure. And that occurred at 12:24 PM (p. 59)
Souza then moves to the presence of Secret Service officers in Dealey Plaza post-assassination, when in fact none were actually there at that time. He uses law enforcement witnesses like DPD patrolman Joe Smith and Sgt. D. V. Harkness to demonstrate this point. And he culminates his case against the Warren Commission by using Chief of Police Jesse Curry to criticize the incredibly bad autopsy given to President Kennedy. (p. 117)
But in this section of the book, the author now begins to do two things that will mar the rest of the work. He begins to rely on some rather dubious witnesses – who he apparently does not know are dubious. And he also begins to make some errors. Concerning the former, it is one thing to use a dubious witness, but if one is going to do so, one must be willing to shoulder the load of rehabilitating him or her. Souza does not do that. Therefore, when he used the rather controversial Gordon Arnold, and coupled that with the even more controversial Badgeman photo, I began to frown. (Click here for a brief expose of this controversy. Click here for a discussion of the Gordon Arnold debate.)
He then mentioned the testimony of a man whose evidence he did not footnote. He calls him Detective De De Hawkins. Souza says this officer met two men in suits outside the TSBD who said they were from the Secret Service. (see p. 69) I had never seen this name anywhere. So I went searching for it. I could not find it in the Warren Report. I could not find it in Walt Brown's The Warren Omission, which lists every single witness interviewed by the Commission. I began to panic when I could not find him in Michael Benson's quite useful encyclopedia Who's Who in the JFK Assassination. After looking in Ian Griggs' book No Case to Answer and Jim Marrs' Crossfire I was about to give up, since those books are strong on the Dallas Police aspect. I then decided to look at the late Vince Bugliosi's behemoth Reclaiming History, which, although not a good book, has a very good index to its over two thousand pages of text. I came up empty again. Either Souza made a serious error, or he found someone who no one else has found. If the latter, he should have noted the interview.
But if this was a mistake, it's not the only one in the book. Not by a long shot. On page 89, Souza begins a brief discussion of the controversy between FBI agent Vince Drain and DPD officer J. C. Day about a print being found on the alleged rifle used in the assassination – except, it's not, as Souza writes, a fingerprint, but a palm print. On page 95 of his book, he puts quotation marks around words attributed to Pierre Finck discrediting the magic bullet. When I looked up his source, the words were not in quotes; they were a paraphrase. (Benson, p. 137)
In Chapter 6, properly entitled “The Autopsy Cover Up”, Souza makes three errors in the space of about one page. He says the autopsy doctors wrote that the president had a small hole in the upper right rear of his skull, which was an entrance wound. The hole was in the lower part of the right rear. He then says that there was a large hole in the right front part of the president's head. According to the autopsy, it's on the right side of the head, forward and above the ear. He also says that Dr. Charles Crenshaw was the first attending physician at Parkland Hospital to work on the president. (p. 100) But in looking at Crenshaw's book, Trauma Room One, one will read that, before Crenshaw ever got inside the emergency room, Malcolm Perry and Chuck Carrico had already placed an endotracheal tube down the president's throat. (Crenshaw, p. 62) Once Crenshaw got there, Perry made an incision for a tracheotomy.
It was in this chapter that I felt that Souza began to lose control of his subject. Since the release of Oliver Stone's film JFK, there has been a deluge of books and essays published on the medical aspects of the Kennedy case. In fact, Harrison Livingstone quickly published a sequel to High Treason called High Treason 2. David Lifton's Best Evidence, the book and DVD, was back on the shelves.
Why? Because, Stone, for the first time, exposed a large public audience to the utter failure of the Kennedy pathologists. Largely relying on the devastating testimony of Dr. Pierre Finck at the trial of Clay Shaw in New Orleans, hundreds of thousands of viewers now began to see that President Kennedy's autopsy was not meant to find the cause of death. Because the pathologists were controlled by the military, neither Kennedy's head wound nor his back wound was tracked for transience or directionality. For many people, including the autopsy doctors, it was a shocking thing to witness.
Now, some of this subsequently published material on the autopsy material has been good and valuable. But there has been so much of it that it is easy to lose track of where the weight of the evidence lies. For example, Souza uses Paul O'Connor to say there was no brain in Kennedy's skull to remove. (Souza p. 102) Yet many witnesses at Parkland Hospital said that, although Kennedy's brain was damaged, a sizable portion of it was still present. And James Jenkins, among several others, who was at Bethesda that night, says about two thirds of it was intact. Here, Souza is relying on an outlier, not the weight of the evidence. (For a catalog of these witnesses see James DiEugenio, Reclaiming Parkland, p. 137) Further, Souza seems overly reliant on the work of Lifton. This was understandable decades ago, but today, there are several other authors who have done very good work on the medical side of the JFK case e.g. Milicent Cranor, David Mantik, Gary Aguilar. I could find none of these very respectable names in Souza's book. I don't understand why they aren't there.
And to me, from here on in, the bad begins to outweigh the good in Undeniable Truths. Thus rendering the book's title ironic.
In Chapter 7, in a discussion of the attempted shooting of General Edwin Walker, Souza calls him a “former right-wing radical.” In 1963, Walker was anything but a “former” extremist. He then says the Walker shooting happened “just prior to the assassination ....” (Souza, p. 113) I think most people would say that a time-span of nearly eight months is not “just prior” to the assassination. According to the work of Secret Service authority Vince Palamara, the presidential motorcade route was not finally decided upon by the Secret Service and Dallas Mayor Earl Cabell's office. (Souza, p. 115) It was decided upon by the Secret Service, and a small delegation from the White House, including advance man Jerry Bruno and presidential assistant Ken O'Donnell.
From approximately this point on, Souza now begins to try and dig into the how, why, and who behind the assassination. And for me, the more he tried to do this, the more his book dissipated. This kind of exploration has to be handled quite gingerly, for the simple fact that the Kennedy assassination literature is not formally peer reviewed. Further, there is no declassified library for the likes of Sam Giancana or H. L. Hunt. One therefore has to be very discerning, scholarly and careful in picking over this evidence. It constitutes a giant swamp with large areas of quicksand beneath. To put it mildly, I was disappointed that Souza exhibited very little discernment in this part of his book.
One startling example: he actually takes the book Double Cross by Chuck Giancana seriously as a source. This 1992 confection was clearly a commercially designed project; one that was meant to capitalize on the giant national controversy created by Oliver Stone's film. And the idea that Sam Giancana was behind the JFK murder is simply a non-starter today. That book is currently considered a fairy tale. Yet Souza uses it as a source, and even recommends it to the reader. (See pp. 183, 295)
Souza also considers the long series made by British film-maker Nigel Turner, The Men Who Killed Kennedy, as “one of the best documentaries on this subject.” (See pp. 300-02) I could hardly disagree more. Moreover, Souza heartily recommends Turner's segment in the series called “The Guilty Men”, which featured none other than Barr McClellan. Apparently Souza missed the fact that in McClellan's book, Blood. Money and Power, the author had Oswald on the sixth floor of the depository firing a shot at Kennedy, which elsewhere Souza says Oswald could not have done, because Oswald was not on the sixth floor. (p. 165)
Souza is so enamored with the untrustworthy and irresponsible Nigel Turner that he can write, “It is a clear and solid fact that Malcolm Wallace's fingerprint was found in the so-called sniper's nest on the sixth floor ....” (p. 223) No, it is not such a fact. And, with state of the art computer scanning, Joan Mellen will show that in her upcoming book. But further, Souza is so uncritical about the Kennedy literature that he does not even take Turner to task for buying into the discredited Steve Rivele's French Corsican mob concept in his first installment, and then switching horses and buying into Barr McClellan's Texas/LBJ concept in his 2003 series. To me, Nigel Turner wasted one of the best opportunities anyone ever had in the Kennedy field to get a large segment of the truth in this case out to the public. Instead, Turner settled for the likes of Tom Wilson, Judy Baker, Rivele, Barr McClellan, et al. But Souza stands by this dilettante and poseur. And I shouldn't even have to add the following: by this part of the book, Souza is also vouching for the likes of Madeleine Brown.
If you can believe it, Souza says that Howard Hunt operated out of 544 Camp Street in 1963. (Souza, p. 175) This is a ridiculous overstatement. There is some evidence that Hunt was in New Orleans to set up the Cuban Revolutionary Council with Sergio Arcacha Smith, but that was not in 1963. (William Davy, Let Justice be Done, p. 24) And the idea that he “operated” Guy Banister's office in 1963 is completely divergent from the adduced record. Yet Souza is so feverish in his conspiratorial invention that he doesn't realize he is also writing that Sam Giancana enlisted Guy Banister in setting up Oswald. (See p. 182) That is due to his reliance on Chuck Giancana and Double Cross. How “all in” is Souza with this facetious book? He also quotes Giancana as saying that he knew George DeMohrenschildt, and the Chicago mobster enlisted George in helping to set up Lee Harvey Oswald. If someone can show me any evidence of this outside of the Chuck Giancana fantasy, I would like to see it.
Now, right on this same page, and in this same section, Souza – in a book on the JFK case – groups Howard Hunt with Richard Nixon as potential players in the JFK case. Like the work of John Hankey, who Souza is now beginning to resemble, the author bases this simply on the fact that Hunt was one of the burglars caught at the Watergate complex in 1972. Souza then quickly shows that he is as circumspect on Watergate as he is on the overview of the JFK case. For he now says that Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in. Like many of his weighty disclosures, he does not footnote this. Probably because there is simply no credible evidence ever found by either the court system or the Senate Watergate Committee that Nixon did any such thing. Souza then compounds this by writing that Charles Colson was one of the planners of the break-in who Nixon hung out to dry. Again, there has never been any credible evidence adduced to substantiate this claim.
I don't have to go any further do I? As the reader can see, a book that started out promising, obeying the laws of criminal forensics, has now all but sunk in the lake of specious Kennedy assassination folklore. Souza's book now began to remind me of nothing more than that monumental, nonsensical and misleading tract commonly called the Torbitt Document, more precisely entitled Nomenclature of an Assassination Cabal. As I argued in the second edition of Destiny Betrayed, that pamphlet looks today like a deliberate attempt at misdirection. It was designed to confuse and to stultify by amassing a large number of names and agencies in front of the reader and stirring them up in a blender. The problem being that there was very little, if any, connective tissue to the presentation, and even less genuine underlying evidence. (See Destiny Betrayed, second edition, pp. 323-24)
I can assure the reader that I am not exaggerating by drawing that comparison. Just how unsuspecting is Souza? Because Chuck Giancana used Dallas police officer Roscoe White in his fable Double Cross, Souza uses White as one of the assassins in Dealey Plaza! (See page 187) The whole Roscoe White matter was exposed as another financially motivated fraud back in the nineties in an article entitled “I Was Mandarin” in Texas Monthly (December 1990). And that was not the only place it was exposed. Apparently, Souza was not aware of these exposures. Or if he was, he wanted to keep the mythology alive. Either way, it does not reflect very well on his professional scholarship or the quality of his book.
As I have often said, what we need today is more books based upon the declassified files of the Assassination Records Review Board. And any book that does not utilize those records to a significant degree should be looked upon with an arched eyebrow. I have also said that, if everyone killed Kennedy – the Mob, LBJ, Nixon, the Dallas Police, the CIA – then no one killed Kennedy. Giving us a smorgasbord plot is as bad, maybe worse, than saying that Oswald killed Kennedy. It leads to a false conclusion that, in its own way, is just as pernicious as the Warren Commission's.
About the first fifty pages of Undeniable Truths is pretty much undeniable. The next fifty pages are a decided mixture of truth and question marks. Most of the last 200 pages do not at all merit the title. In fact, that part is, in large measure, nothing more than conjecture. And much of that conjecture is ill-founded.