FRIDAY - September 26, 2014 – Morning Session
This Photo loomed large over the conference screens when they weren't being used, which sparked some interest in trying to identify those in the picture. From left to right - John J. McCloy, David Belin (aka Alfred E. Newman), Richard Russell, Gerald Ford, Earl Warren, LBJ, Allen Dulles, John Sherman Cooper and Hale Boggs.
INTO THE RABBIT'S HOLE
As many people have compared trying to figure out the assassination of President Kennedy to falling into Alice’s Rabbit’s Hole, or going through the Looking Glass -
I thought it noteworthy that it was an annotated edition of Alice In Wonderland that gave me the idea of editing an Annotated Warren Report, detailing exactly what they got wrong, sentence by sentence, what we now know that they didn’t know then, which is one of the projects I am working on. [The Warren Report: Table of Contents].
Jim Lesar, the president and director of the Assassination Archives and Research Center (AARC) began the proceedings in his welcoming remarks, saying that the AARC was established in the Orwellian year of 1984 by his friend and fellow attorney Bud Fensterwald. As a long time Senate Committee counsel and attorney for a number of interesting characters – such as Watergate burglar James McCord, Fensterwald was also a part of the Committee to Investigate Assassinations (CIA), which played a major role in getting Congress to investigate the assassination of President Kennedy.
I came along in the late 1970s, shortly after the HSCA folded shop and its records sealed for fifty years, and with my college mate John Judge, formed the non-profit Committee for an Open Archives,” for the purpose of lobbying Congress to release the HSCA records to the public. Whenever I was in Washington I’d visit Jim Lesar, especially after a Dallas conference or while doing some research at the old Archives, I found many important records among the stacks at the AARC. If doing some special research with Anthony Summers or other writer on special assignment, Lesar would give us a key and we would work through the night.
The old AARC building, on 14th Street, was a classic, with an elevator operator and an ancient elevator that they said Lincoln once used. After the AARC archive was put in storage, where it was only accessed by Lesar and his board, until now, as Jerry Policoff is overseeing the inventory of what’s there and preparing to make it all available to researchers once again.
The AARC isn’t just about JFK, but focuses on assassination when it is used as a political tactic, a neglected area of study, one that must continue into the future and beyond the lives of those currently running the show. And Lesar knows that, but besides opening up the AARC archives and hosting this conference, he is going back to FOIA court with some very high profile clients, who I was due to meet. Lesar is still playing hardball but most of all he wants you to know why.
“We need to understand the past to understand current events,” Lesar said in trying to explain why this conference matters, and a recurring theme of the conference is the fact that we really can’t make a determination as to what happened to President Kennedy until all of the cards are on the table and all of the government records are released.
Lesar pointed out that this conference couldn’t have happened without the support of AARC board members and supporters, especially that of Abby Rockefeller, who was moved by James Douglas’ book – “Who Killed JFK and Why It Matters,” and that while Douglas had been invited to join the program, he had other pressing concerns and couldn’t make it.
Conference Host Jim Lesar - of the Assassinations Archives and Research Center (ARRC)
Why does it matter and why does this conference matter? Lesar’s answers were – it matters because the Warren Report marked the profound slide in public distrust in the government and the press; it matters because in 1992 Congress passed a law requiring the records be released and they are still being withheld; it matters because the JFK assassination and those of MLK and RFK wiped out a generation of liberal left political leadership, which had a devastating political impact that continues to erode democratic government today. It matters because the result has been to encourage the rampant growth of a national security state in ways that have had profound adverse effects on our world standing, our economic vitality and our personal liberties.
Most of the tens of thousands of JFK assassination records still being withheld today are sealed for reasons of “national security.”
At some point Jim Garrison was quoted as saying, “The people of this country don’t have to be protected from the truth. The Truth about the assassination of the president has been concealed long enough,” though Garrison went to his grave not knowing the full truth in his lifetime. And so did Harold Weisberg, Penn Jones, Mary Ferrell, John Judge and now Ed Sherry.
But Lesar is still alive, and so is Cyril Wecht, Paul Hoch, Peter Dale Scott, Bill Turner, Richard Schweiker, Vince Salandria and others who have strived to learn the complete truth about what really happened at Dealey Plaza, and deserve to see all of the remaining sealed files in their lifetime.
As Lesar put it, “Political assassinations and the JFK-MLK-RFK trifecta of assassinations will continue to affect us immensely until we come to grips with it and deal with it effectively.”
Lesar pointed out that the JFK Act of 1992 was unanimously passed by Congress because of the largest public outcry to date, probably ever, it was an outrage for people to learn from Oliver Stone’s movie JFK and while many millions of records have been released as a result, there are still secret government records on the assassination that have yet to be released and are kept from the American people today, so many so they can’t tell us how many.
The fact that the government is still keeping assassination records secret after Congress ordered them released decades ago makes this a relevant issue today.
Thomas Jefferson was quoted: “The people must arm themselves with the power of knowledge and truth,” and a democracy depends on an educated electorate, not one that is kept ignorant by the false cloak of national security.
According Lesar, “The National Archives’ role is particularly disturbing. The Archives isn’t supposed to be a burial ground for records.”
One of the clichés used was “History Exhumed,” and like Pat Speer (Ed Forum), I wondered why this conference was being held in Bethesda, Maryland and no one bothered to visit the nearby Bethesda Naval Medical Center, where JFK’s botched autopsy was performed, or Walter Reed,, which is mentioned prominently on the Air Force One radio tapes, or the residential Bethesda homes of such prominent suspects as David Atlee Phillips and Col. Jose Rivera.
Or why no one was calling for a new autopsy of the President today?
Andrew Kreig of the AARC did his talk on – “Current Implications of the JFK Assassination Cover-Up.”
Alan Dale spoke eloquently on “What we now know that the Warren Commission Didn’t Know.”
Prof. G. Robert Blakey was to sit with his former law students and HSCA investigators Dan Hardway and Ed Lopez and have a discussion on the “Culture of Secrecy and Democratic Accountability,” but Blakey was delayed so his talk was pushed back to Saturday and Hardway and Lopez carried the day on their subject of “The HSCA and the CIA – the View from the Trenches and the View from the Top,” which I will be writing a separate sidebar on.
[Skeptics gather 50 years after Warren Commission report about JFK assassination - Nation - The Boston Globe / Research the JFK assassination, Reddit style - Opinion - The Boston Globe]
At the Hotel’s Daily Grill bar Will Paris and I sat down next to Paul Kunsler, who practically singlehandedly picketed the NARA to protest their policies regarding the JFK Act. Paul will be giving a lecture on the assassination at the Georgetown University Library, where HSCA investigator Bob Tannenbaum claims to have seen a film of an anti-Castro Cuban training camp that includes Oswald and David Atlee Phillips among the Cubans. It is also where the papers of Edward J. Epstein are supposed to be but when Malcolm Blunt got there, found the box he was looking for empty.
FRIDAY – Afternoon
Dr. John Newman (“Oswald and the CIA” and “JFK and Vietnam”) did his talk on “The Darkest Cover-up: The CIA and Cuba,” in which he described how the existing CIA records that have been released so far indicate that not only was there a keen operational interest in Oswald months before the assassination, but there was also a deception operation going on, and that there appears to have been two separate operations going on at the same time – one with-in the other.
Newman explained that before you can even begin to understand the details behind what happened at Dealey Plaza you have to connect it to other, more well known and exposed operations in Cuba and elsewhere (Mexico, Vietnam, Haiti), and you have to decode the crypts that are used in CIA memos and cables that attempt to conceal the identities and locations of those involved.
The crypto codes can be broken using the same basic research methodology used to uncover David Atlee Phillips (DAP) as the mysterious “Maurice Bishop,” – chronicling the known background, places of residence, where they are stationed and movements of subjects to fit a common pattern. In some cases just sloppy tradecraft and simple mistakes make it possible to determine the real identities of who the crypts refer to.
While other researchers disagreed on some of the identities that Newman said he has uncovered, if there is a stronger case for someone else other than the person Newman refers to, then let’s have it so we can at least all agree on who these people are.
Jefferson Morley (“Our Man in Mexico”) did his presentation on “The CIA and the Culture of Secrecy” by recounting how he obtained a phone number for former CIA officer Jane Roman and got her to agree to be interviewed. With John Newman, they visited Roman and showed her some recently released CIA cables, one of which she signed off on, knowing that it was incorrect and got her to admit it.
Morley also stressed the need to take new approaches to the subject – “We need a new narrative that resonates with those not alive in 1963 – the president of the United States is murdered in broad daylight and nobody is brought to justice.”
Morley said there was a culture in the mainstream media newsroom that uses different criteria in determining what is newsworthy. “Most stories,” Morley said, “need the preponderance of evidence to support it, but with JFK the bar is raised to beyond a reasonable doubt.” Jeff also explained how having the JFK records on the internet will change the way such historical research is done – and his view of the assassination 1.0 – Warren Report – 2.0 – JFK the movie and the JFK Act – 3.0 – where we are now – takes things to a new level.
Anthony Summers (“Not in Your Lifetime”) sobered everyone up with his interesting talk entitled “After Not in Your Lifetime,” during which he recounted how he was drawn to the case of the murdered American president and was shocked to discover that the details had not yet been subjected to standard journalist purview, with only few notable exceptions.
Applying such objective reporting techniques to the questions being posed, Summers said that there still remain unanswered questions, but that he tried, over the course of many years, to answer them, and in some cases did. He was convinced that David Atlee Phillips was “Maurice Bishop,” and recounted how he identified some new witnesses to Phillips-Bishop. Although he has been working on other subjects – 9/11 and x, he maintains a keen interest in the JFK assassination and will continue to follow up any new leads as they present themselves – as even after the third edition of his book was published, he joined former HSCA Chief Counsel G. Robert Blakey to interview a key anti-Castro Cuban who identified another Cuban as one who confessed to being involved in the Dealey Plaza operation and assisting in the assassination of President Kennedy. (The Cuban assassin with a deadly secret: 'I shot JFK’ - Telegraph / Video: JFK anniversary: second gunman named - Telegraph )
Prof. Ernst Titovets, (“Oswald: Russian Episode”), who comes across convincingly and with style, expounded on his experiences with Oswald in Russia, “Oswald Was my Best Friend,” and like Frazer, concluded that Oswald was not a sociopathological killer, but a deeply philosophical human being with a big heart and decisive mind.
As a first day witness Wesley Fraser’s story is important, and I think it significant that in his Sixth Floor Oral History Fraser says that he last saw Oswald walking down Houston Street, having apparently left the TSBD from the rear door, and not the front door as the Warren Report attests.
While I would have preferred to have the Hollywood biographer and a professional journalist Joe McBride talk about the Tippit murder, which he wrote a book about (“Into the Nightmare”), Dr. Donald Thomas, includes a chapter in his book (“Hear No Evil”) on the Tippit murder so he did two presentations, one on the acoustical analysis of the DPD recording and the other on the Tippit murder. His presentation was called “The Tippit Murder: Rosetta Stone to the Warren Commission Cover-Up” because Warren Commission attorney David Belin called the Tippit murder the Rosetta Stone of the assassination because he believed it to be the clincher – Oswald killed JFK and then killed a cop in the getaway. But Thomas flips that coin over and shows how the Tippit murder evidence and witness testimony doesn’t hold up any more than the Dealey Plaza evidence and witness testimony.
I talked privately with Dr. Thomas after his presentation and mentioned the fact that the reports of Carl Mather’s car – a 57’ Plymouth at the scene of his good friend’s murder, being driven around by someone resembling Oswald, while Mather was at work at Collins Radio, is certainly intriguing evidence that must be further investigated. Thomas, as do others, make the mistake of looking first at the FBI report that mentions a red Ford, when in fact, the mechanic who gave the original information said at first it was a Plymouth, and wrote the Texas license plate number down, and traced to Mather, and it was unlikely that the mechanic would not know the difference between a Ford and a Plymouth. The red Ford is clearly a red hearing that first appears in the FBI report and is intentionally wrong in order to deflect attention from Mather, who the FBI refused to interview.
I’ve also heard reports from Dallas that when J.D. Tippit’s widow Marie recently made an appearance at the Sixth Floor Museum, Joe McBride wanted was going to ask her about Carl Mather and the recent allegation that Mather met Tippit on the morning before his murder, but he was prevented from doing so by Gary Mack, the Sixth Floor traffic cop. Marie Tippit should be properly questioned about Carl Mather without any interference by anybody, but that apparently is not going to happen.