Monday, July 1, 2013

ROBERT K. TANENBAUM - Wecht Conference

ROBERT K. TANENBAUM - Partial transcript of talk before the Wecht Conference in Pittsburgh. From CD Into Evidence - Truth, Lies and Unresolved Mysteries in the Murder of JFK. 2003 40th Anniversary Conference Cyril Wecht Institute of Forensic Pathology.

Transcribed excerpts from a presentation entitled: Limitations of the HSCA: Reflections of a Former Counsel

“…. Actually I … did a great job. I didn’t prosecute Lenny Bruce, I interviewed Lenny Bruce! Actually I was in college, on the debating team at the University of California, Berkeley, and one of our topics was First Amendment - Free Speech and my professor, one of my professors was his lawyer, and I went to visit him and interviewed him, and for about two hours he regaled me not only with his incredible humor but with his enormous knowledge of the First Amendment.

But he (Lenny Bruce) was prosecuted by the Manhattan DA’s office. Those things changed over a period of time, from the years when I was at Berkeley; I will tell you I was there from 1961 to 1968. That was pre-Revolutionary Berkeley, Revolutionary Berkeley and Post-Revolutionary Berkeley.

While I was there I had the occasion to meet both President Kennedy, who spoke in 1962, and I met him, and then I met Dr. Martin Luther King, who spoke at Spoul (?) Hall…, never dreaming that I would one day go to Washington and be involved in the investigations of the murders of these extraordinary Americans….

But, you are right Joan, I would attest to A. J. Delsa, who I had asked to work on the committee because he had worked with me on a case of some extremists who came to New York and assassinated some police officers, and thereafter they fled back to California, and ultimately that’s when I met him in the course of prosecuting them….

This is pretty much the same group who was here this morning when Senator Specter spoke, is that fair to say?…I didn’t really come this way to debate Sen. Spector, though I would do it at any time, but when you have Mark Lane sitting here, he makes me look like a conciliatory person, and that is something - an uncommon role for me to play….But in order to give you a preview,…let me tell you a story about President Kennedy. It took place when he was campaigning in the Democratic primary in 1960 in West Virginia, and he was meeting some coal miners, and wanted to demonstrate that he was a person of the people and that he wasn’t just the rich son of a wealthy man, but was the Junior Senator from Massachusetts …And when he met these coal miners, he was shaking hands, it was a perfect photo opportunity….when one of the coal minors, at 6 o’clock in the morning, stopped in front of him and said, “Senator, is it true that you’ve never worked a day in your life?”

And JFK looked to his left and right and yes, the press was hanging on his answer, they heard the question and the Senator looked at the coal miner and said, “I guess you could say that’ true,” to which the coal miner replied: “Senator, I want to tell you something. You’re not missing a God damned thing.”

When I went to Washington it had been after years and years in my career, directly out of law school, in the Manhattan District Attorneys office. I was always somewhat suspect by many of those in the NYPD because I had spent seven years at Berkeley, and the cases that we handled were not as basically as had been alluded to by Sen. Sepector this morning, that is to say - When asked about the serious contradictions in your case, and your reply is ‘we had a strong case.’ But the evidence doesn’t hold. And the reply is ‘we had a strong case.’ It almost becomes pathological. How do you have a strong case when you don’t have any evidence?

It is the duty of the prosecutor - the District Attorney, to test, before you submit it to a jury, the trustworthy nature of what the evidence is. So that you cross examine your own witnesses, - you don’t wait for a Mark Lane to do it, or anybody else. And when cross examination takes place in the court room, you just get out more evidence and more evidence because the witnesses have been prepared. And that’s the way cases should be handled because the prosecution has a tremendous advantage. They move all the chess pieces, if you are competent and honest with honest cases, before the defense is ever called to the table. It’s all been tested. And it’s very troublesome to hear the Senator and the gentleman I mentioned this morning, now a judge from Ohio, as he said it ten years ago and it’s taken me ten years to recover, it will take me another ten years from this morning’s session, but to simply say ‘yes, we had a great case. Yes we knew that our investigators couldn’t be trusted, but we still went forward.’ ‘We weren’t preparing this case’ the Senator said, ‘we weren’t preparing this case,’ he said, ‘for trial.’  If he wasn’t preparing for a trial, what was he preparing the case for? What was the nature of this investigation of President Kennedy? This was a murder case. A homicide.

Now I will you tell you I have in my life, I have worked for the Congress of the United States, I have worked with some people in Hollywood and I have arrested and prosecuted members of organized crime, and without question, the only people whose word you can trust, regrettably, are people who are in organized crime.

And so the question arises, what is involved with this Congress in investigating a murder case? They are, I will tell you, the last organization or institution in America that should investigate a case - because there is no political way to gather evidence, there is no Republican way, Democratic way, liberal way, conservative way, to evaluate evidence.

And when you are in Congress there are 435 bosses, and they all have their staff people - administrative aides, and they all insist to know what is going on, and then they leak various pieces of information. I will tell you we had no political constituency. The liberals were afraid that the committee was going to somehow embarrass Dr. King and President Kennedy because of various activities that they were involved in. The conservatives were afraid we would somehow embarrass the executive intelligence agencies. And so we lost our constuenctency, and they held up the funding of the committee.

And I was asked by the Committee to go around and meet with the members of the House of Representatives with precisely these kinds of things that a) I had never contemplated because I was too naive, and b) if I did contemplate it I never would have gone to Washington. And I will tell you that after meeting with the 435 representatives, I would go home to my wife and ask the following question - How did these people get elected?

You sit on the House floor, as I did when the Committee was voted on, and they wave a piece of paper that is a Picayune Journal article as if it was Moses coming down with the tablets, as evidence.

What I’d like to do very briefly is to explain some of the reasons why, from a prosecutorial point of view, from what our investigation revealed, there was in my judgment, no case to ever convict Lee Harvey Oswald of murdering the President.

But then again the LA DA’s office couldn’t convict O.J., so it’s not as though I’m saying blanketly, he’s innocent. What I am saying is that from the evidence we deduced there were substantial questions….that unfortunately Sen. Specter left and we couldn’t get to.

The first one was the following, and again, when you hear from the experts, and there are disputes between Dr. Baden and other medical people, and doctors like Dr. Gary Aguilar, who is a brilliant individual who has dedicated an incredible amount of time - they know the details about the medical evidence, ballistic evidence, etc., but it is an overview that I think one has to have to appreciate why there really is no case.

That is to say, how is it, that the police - the cornerstone of truth in every case, how is it, that the police, out of the cosmos, focused on the defendant? What led them to that? What was the trail? That’s the credibility of the truth of your case.

In our case, the Kennedy assassination, the first question was - how was it that Oswald was stopped by Tippit during the course and flow of the investigation that was happening so rapidly?

And to almost all Americans, myself included, as I was coming out of a philosophy lecture, as I alluded to earlier… and heard the word spread around campus in a cascading fashion, that the president had been shot. It was unfathomable they were talking about President Kennedy. I thought we were more civilized than that.

How is it that during the course of this investigation, that within an hour and a half…, a couple miles away, a police officer was able to stop Oswald, according to the Warren Commission, because he fit the description that was sent out on the radio to the police at 12:48 p.m. The assassination was approximately 12:30 - at 12:48 (the description was sent out at).

And the answer the Warren Commission gives is that this fellow Brennan, was standing as if at the angle of a hypothesis triangle, and looking up at the Depository window. And he allegedly see this person - the shooter - Oswald the Warren Commission maintains, and he is able to give a description, a miraculous feat as Mark Lane said this morning,… because if he stood up in the window you would only see a partial of his body because the first few feet was opaque. [the window was so close to the floor]

But we know even more than that, because of the great work done by Robert Groden, who helped me and the committee and made a major contribution to the American people because of his work and devotion, we know from the photographs that he collected and gave to the committee, the used photographs show before the assassination and after the assassination, from within fifteen to thirty seconds, nobody is in that window. So whoever that shooter was, he did not stand up and say, “Horary! I just murdered the President!”

Whoever the shooter was that was in that window in that Sniper’s Nest was crouched down in the Sniper’s nest, looking out that window which was raised about 12 inches.
At best, if anybody saw anybody in that window they would have seen a partial of their face, at best.

Brennan claims that he gave his description up, but the question is who did he give it up to?

One naturally thinks he gave it to the Dallas Police, because they’re the ones who sent the wire out at 12:48 that justifies the Tippit stop.

And in fact what happened was, he gave it to the Secret Service, to Forrest Sorrells, who came back after 1 o’clock, he came back from Parkland Hospital, because all of the Secret Service people that were in Dallas were in the motorcade, and they went to Parkland. Now again, as I said this morning with respect to the gaping hole in the back of the President’s head. Is this the kind of story that someone would forget?

“I don’t know, I may have given it to a police officer or the Secret Service.”

How many people here have met a Secret Service agent the day the President was assassinated and you gave a description of someone who might have been the killer? Is
that an individual you would forget?

But Sorrells corroborates what he - (Brennan) says.

So we know, in some fashion, a description went out, that wasn’t given from the person that the Warren Commission alleges, and we are confronted with the problem of who gave this description? That is, who gave the description who allegedly was at the crime scene - as opposed to someone who gave the description sometime prior to that?

Now when you start breaking this case down, without having to go into the weight of exhibit 399 the pristine bullet, and without getting into much more sophisticated information …we heard today that the rifle that was found by officer Craig - I discuss officer Craig, not the other officer he was with, because Craig was voted Cop of the Year in Dallas. In order to be Cop of the Year doesn’t qualify you to be a member of the ACLU or to be honored by them, not in Dallas. He wrote down in his memo book that he found a German Mauser.

Now it’s very simple for a Senator to say, ‘We have a strong case, it was a Manlicher Carcano.’ But you have to explain to the public, to the jury, to the American people, how it was that a police officer found a German Mauser when it must be a Manlicher Carcano because that’s what that bullet matches in the hospital, even though it can’t be identified as the same bullet by the person who found it. But giving them their due, they’re claiming that the bullet that was found at the hospital matches - is consistent with being fired by the Manlicher Carcano, - the linkage evidence needed to tie Oswald down because of him allegedly purchasing the rifle from the mail order house in Chicago.

The other area of interest for us was specifically when the shots were fired, one of the tests of credibility is what people spontaneously do - they have no time to fabricate, they respond, and that’s why we have that spontaneous utter instinct, that is admissible as hearsay because, by its very nature, is believable and trustworthy.

When the shots were fired, from everything that we learned in the course of the investigation very quickly, was that a group of people ran to the Grassy Knoll and some people ran to the Texas School Book Depository. And the people who ran to the Grassy Knoll, including one police officer, who drew his service revolver, pointed it at somebody beyond the fence who was wearing a suit, and that person stopped and flashed a Secret Service identification.

Simultaneously officers running into the Texas School Book Depository had a couple people running out, and they flashed Secret Service identification.

The problem is, as I just mentioned, all of the Secret Service people were in the motorcade. And the question arises - who were these people? What, if anything was done by the Warren Commission to suggest that there may have been some other people involved?

The major area of concern occurred while we were going through the various issues - Parkland Hospital was a very significant issue of those doctors who had signed off on the gaping hole in the back of the President’s head. I’m not a scientist, I asked Dr. Michael Baden, a good friend and a trusted colleague, someone who I have the utmost respect for, who organized the medical examining team, the forensic pathologist who I said this morning, asked Dr. Wect to be in that group.

But there is a common sense rule that applies, isn’t there? If someone is shot, if I am hit right now, if you were to walk up here and strike me in the head it is more than likely if you struck me in the front of my head, I would move backwards. This was sort of like Physics 101 in high school, the cue ball hitting the eight ball hitting the other ball and they all sort of move in that direction. I now have a better understanding and appreciation of my physics teacher as I watched this simplistic example being explained to us.

Then how is it, if the people at Parkland were telling the truth, and half of the president’s head flaps down over the ear as we see in the Zapruder film, and we have the gapping hole in the back of the head, - that if he was shot in the back (of the head), and that injury occurred, why is there no injury in the front of the face?

Now I have never gotten an explanation from anyone about that.

And as I have said, my only disagreement with my dear friend Dr. Baden is the provenance of the exhibits that he had shown, their legitimacy.

During the course of the investigation a fascinating issue occurred. I had sent Gaeton Fonzi and detective Al Gonzales, from New York, who had trained me when I was a young assistant DA, and he was a homicide detective handling what we called Manhattan North, which is north of 59th street. And they went down to Miami, and in Miami they were working with Antonio Veciana, Alpha 66 people and we were trying to find out who Maurice Bishop was. And as time went on it became apparent that Maurice Bishop was David Phillips.

And so we brought David Phillips up, and right at that time, this extraordinary historical character came into my office. I had never met him, but of course I had known about him. I had read his book, which I had enjoyed thoroughly. I enjoy books, and I am one to encourage people to read a lot. He came and introduced himself, and he was very cautious about his introduction. He was fearful that I was this hard-nosed prosecutor from Manhattan and I was probably going to whitewash the whole God damned thing anyway.

But he wanted to hand me this document and he did, and I read the document he obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), all verified, and it was extraordinary, and it ultimately lead to a complete stalemate between the staff and the committee.

And here’s what happened. And this will tell you more about why Congress should never investigate a case like this. Never. Because there can be no compromise on truth. That’s not what goes on in this business. And again, I’ll repeat this - You don’t take evidence as a prosecutor and slap it in front of a jury. You don’t get somebody indicted, wreck their life, have them defend themselves, spend every cent they have, destroy their family and reputation, and say okay jury, if you acquit, that’s your business.

You carefully and thoroughly examine the evidence. That’s your responsibility as the representative of the people. You don’t put on every eye witness, … you don’t just put on every witness, you put on witnesses of value, and if there are witnesses you don’t put on, you give them to the defense and you have reasons why you haven’t put them on.

And what happened here was - in come Phillips, the executive committee questions (him), and he says with respect to the Oswald appearance, I should say the Lee Henry Oswald appearance because that’s what the government said: on October 1st or on or about October 1st 1963, the Lee Henry Oswald appearance in Mexico City at the Russian Embassy called the Cuban Embassy wanted to get transportation and clearance from Havana to Moscow, or whatever. And he insisted on having a Russian interpreter, this Lee Henry Oswald, even though the historical Oswald spoke fluent Russian, and he kept insisting on the phone that he was Lee Henry Oswald, knowing that this bugging was going on between the US and Communist embassies. They bugged us; we bugged them, sort of a James Bond thing.

Phillips said that the tape of that conversation, after we demonstrated of course, that the photo on the telex is not the historical Lee Harvey Oswald, he said the photographic equipment broke down and the wrong person was put on, and the identification of that person was that of the person who appeared on the photograph and not the historical Lee Harvey Oswald. So there was a lot more than having the photographic equipment break down, if you had the right description you would have the wrong photo. Nevertheless when asked where the tape was, he indicated that the tape had been recycled.

Because I asked him if this was economical, if they wanted to save money on tapes? (And he said) yes.

So if on October 30th, this happened on October 1st, if you asked for the tape on October 30th, the answer was I don’t have that tape, it was recycled.

Mark Lane gave me this document. Cliff Fenton, with whom I had worked on many cases, I asked him to hand out this memo; he gave it to Phillips, Phillips read it.

The memo was from J. Edgar Hoover dated November 23rd, 1963. It was from J. Edgar Hoover to supervisor personal FBI, and it said, “Our agents who questioned Lee Harvey Oswald in the last 17 hours, have listened to the tape of October 1, 1963 made in Mexico City from an individual identified as Lee Henry Oswald and the voice on the tape our agents say, is not that of Lee Harvey Oswald.”

Phillips took that, put it in his pocket, and walked out.

The committee, I informed, was just visited with contempt and perjury, and in order to deal with that effectively, my recommendation was to invite him back with his counsel, and to have him perjure himself. Because we were not a grand jury, we weren’t going to indict anybody, we just wanted to get information and he had vital information. The committee refused to get involved.

Once we made that connection, and I kept demanding that we bring him back, the following occurred in the search for the truth. Keep in mind that these are the people we elect. These are the people we send to Washington and this is what they did - they turned off our telephones so we couldn’t make long distance telephone calls, they took away our franking privileges so we couldn’t send out letters, well we could if we put our own stamps on them, they prevented us from traveling, and that was the nature of the investigation at that point.

I then continued, during the course of that investigation, I kept pressing the CIA and FBI for documents, and they insisted that the only documents that we would get would be redacted. And I did not respond favorably to that notion.

Now I didn’t go to Andover, or … If you go to Ellis Island you can see where my grandparents came from. But I learned that there are two promissory notes early on in my life, that guide every American, and they are the Constitution of the United States and the Declaration of Independence. I was calling in those promises.

I wondered who in fact, who reads unredacted documents? I never saw one document that in any way not only should have been redacted, but should have been preserved or withheld until 2027 or whenever.

What kind of show is that? What are they afraid of? There are no sources and methods. This is a murder case. The only source and method we would have found out is who in fact killed the President, and that’s what we were supposed to do.

I reported back…. to the committee of the House, I reported back to Richard Sprague, who was then the Chief Counsel that we couldn’t very well continue. And I thought and I told him that what is galling about this is that people who read un-redacted documents are people who would probably (lie)…. People like Mr. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense, and those like him, but particularly McNamara. When he testified before the US Senate in 1964, he raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth before Almighty God, he lied, and the magnitude of his lie - that there was a North Vietnamese ship that attacked American ships on or about August 2nd - August 9th, 1964, from which the Gulf of Tonkin resolution gave the President the ability to assume the authority to conduct the war in Vietnam, was a monstrous lie. Years later, we went back to (North Vietnamese) General Giap and asked him what happened on that night, and he said “nothing.”….

I was waiting for a basketball game on TV and was changing the channels and I switched to CSAPN….I saw on TV Charles Lamb interview an author, and I was stopped by the questions and the answers. It was a very close up shot of the bust of the person being interviewed, one only saw the stomach area and up, and the person said that I was an alcoholic, I became a drug addict, I begged my wife to leave me. I didn’t want my son to do what I did. And he had written a book that was a Pulitzer Prize book called Favorite Son. He was the son of Chester Puller, who was the most decorated Marine of the 20th century, World War I, he became a general. And every night at Paris Island young marines say “Goodnight Chester.” And his son was being interviewed. I had never seen him but I had heard of his book. And the camera then withdrew and I saw he had no legs, and I noticed that when he picked up his water his hand was webbed. He had stepped on land mine in Vietnam, lost his legs, and because the medivac units could get the wounded off the battlefield, there were….500,000 men like him who gave their body parts for a lie. McNamara should be in jail. But he gets to read unredacted documents.

If I say to you 59,000 men died in Vietnam and 500,000 were injured, and that was the equalivant of you saying 50,000 men died at Gettysburg in July 1863 - Where’s the connection? Where is that connection between the horror and the nightmare of the injustices that occur when a war is a fake and based on a lie?

And that’s when I told Richard Sprague that I could not continue in this investigation, because I did not want to be part of an historical record that in any way was less than truthful. That I would never do what I had seen done. It wasn’t worth it to me and I wasn’t about to start that, and certainly did not want my compartment in life and my children to live with a fake.  I told Dick (Sprague) we had to leave.

They begged me to stay, and….he (Sprague) left and I stayed for the transition…. And I was there on the floor when they voted for the committee. Frankly, I didn’t want it to become an issue, I didn’t want the historical investigation to stop. That is to say, I don’t have a monopoly on right and wrong, I’m telling you my perceptions and my reality was. And if the Congress decided it didn’t want to go forward with a full investigation then shame on that Congress and shame on those people, because the truth will out.

I just wondered whether or not these people have any soul? The soul is non-negotiable. And the soul of our country is embodied in those two promissory notes. And I wasn’t going to be part of anything in anyway that besmirches that soul. 

And so we left.

One of the records that I came across that stunned me, and to this day still does, tells us a great deal about the nature of certain people in the government and what their reactions are, and about their lack of soul, and the corrupt nature of what they do. Because they misinform the public, and the public has a misunderstanding of what their job nature is and what they’re suppose to do and deliver. This record that I found was an executive committee transcript before the Chief Justice, for whom I have the utmost respect, he was DA of Alameda County, Attorney General of California, Governor, ran on the Vice Presidential ticket in ‘48, and of course became Chief Justice when appointed by President Eisenhower.

But he revolutionized a lot of things….he made real… he overturned in my judgment, the worst Supreme Court opinion ever, (Brown v. Board of Education)….. he made real the notion that separate schools wouldn’t be tolerated… And he gave a lot …. Criminal justice .… Could there be anything more un-American than to try an indigent who has no lawyer and send him to prison? Can you imagine going home to your mother on Friday night and she says what did you do today as a prosecutor? And say well I convicted five individuals for burglary and assault for felonies and so on. And how did their lawyer? Oh, they had no lawyer. That’s not the nature, the fundamental nature of America as I understand it. There is a notion of fairness.  And that is a pivotal role, and I don’t know that Sen. Spector understood that. A pivotal role for people in the government …. Particularly ….3523 manner in which we….

The transcript, from the best of my recollection, is from the third week of January, 1964.

Three people went to see the Chief Justice - Wagner Carr, the Attorney General of Texas, Leon Jaworski, his chief assistant, who would became chief counsel ten years later to the Watergate Committee, as we know him, and most people know him, and Henry Wade, the DA of Dallas.

They said, using their language, “from unimpeachable sources we have information that Lee Harvey Oswald in fact was a contract employee for the CIA and for the FBI.”

And the Chief Justice said, “well, we’ll investigate that.”

“Not so fast,” said Allen Dulles - the former head of the CIA who was fired by JFK for the Bay of Pigs and was on the Warren Commission.

“What do you mean not so fast?” said the Chief Justice. 

“Well, if you ask J. Edgar Hoover whether or not Oswald was a contract employee, he’ll say no. You know he’s very upset with us because he’s already decided as of December 9th, that Oswald did it, he did it alone without foreign intervention, and there’s memos to that effect.”

“You mean to tell me,” the Chief Justice said, this is all on the transcript, “that if I were to call an agent in here, he would lie?”

To which Dulles replies, “If he was a good agent.”

This is the Chief Justice of the United States, the head Rabbi.

“You mean to tell me he would lie to me? Well, who would he tell the truth to?”

“Maybe, maybe,” said Allen Dulles, “he will tell the President.”

And that sums up what one is up against. But I don’t say this with the notion that we leave here today with our tails between our legs and say it too overwhelming, let’s just give up. What I urge is that we speak to our Congress people, and we urge people in our communities who are independent and fair minded and who have worked for a living at some time in their life and understand what it means to support other people, to run for public office.

President Kennedy, ironically, said it best. He said, “Throughout the long history of the world, only a few generations of Americans, and only a few generations ever, have been called upon and afforded the opportunity to defend freedom in its hour of maximum danger.”

We are embattled today. We have the reality of what President Kennedy’s vision was of the dangers that we faced in 1961, when he gave his inaugural address. And the very first step in the battle that we face today, it seems to me, is not only that we speak the truth and search for it, but that we demand from our government in this battle that the government tell the truth. And if we can do that then we will have taken the very first step in defeating the terror that befalls us.

[Transcript by Bill Kelly. For any corrections, questions or comments - 609-425-6297]


robert said...

Bill, Thank you for the transcript of Robert Tanenbaum from the 2003 40th anniversary of JFK's murder a/k/a Wecht Conference. I was there, Bob Tanenbaum's speech was the most exciting and powerful speech of the Conference. Anyone who wants to see a professional conference with world class speakers should attend the 50th anniversary of JFK murder or Wecht Conference October 17-19 2013 in Pittsburgh. Veterans, students & other groups can get a discount to attend. Thank you again Bill K.

Mark A. O'Blazney said...

Great piece. Lots to ponder.

robert said...

I reread this transcript again of Robert Tanenbaum from 2003. It's as powerful today as the day it was delivered. It shows no case on Lee Oswald was ever made. Thanks