|Glasgow Herald, 23rd November, 1963|
This front page was printed only 12 hours after the assassination.
Read the full newspaper here.
As we await the latest release of files relating to the assassination of President John F Kennedy I thought I would reflect on how my own thinking on this has changed over the years. At one time I would have been in favour of a grassy knoll shooter, but looking at the physical evidence and having read Gerald Posner's book Case Closed, this seemed to tie up all the loose ends and show Oswald as the sole killer of President Kennedy.
However, since then a number of troubling issues have refused to go away and I think there are a number of questions that are not answered by Posner's account or the official story. These are things that might be hinted at in the documents about to be released.
Conflicting evidence about the number of bullets fired and the location of the shooterThree bullets were fired from the Texas School Book Depository because there were three shell casings found there. One bullet missed, so all of the wounds had to have been made by the remaining two bullets. There are a number of problems with this IF the autopsy information is correct. See this article for a reasonable discussion of this issue.
Connelly believed he and Kennedy were shot with separate bullets, possibly because he heard the missed shot. If that were the case then there had to be four bullets. Tantalisingly for those who believe in a second shooter, the Zapbruder film may show too big a gap between the two bullets for it to be the same one going through two people (the "magic bullet" theiry), although ballistics trajectory evidence shows that a single bullet could have done it.
Was there a bullet hole in the windscreen of the president's car? If there was then this is pretty much proof of more than three bullets. Various people claim they saw a bullet hole in the windshield (see this article for this claim) , but photographic evidence could equally suggest a straightforward crack in the glass.
The dictabelt recording gives conflicting information on the number of bullets fired. Some people claim that it records four or more shots, but it may not even be from the same part of the day. In other words, it is not very helpful.
Accoustic issues in Dealey Plaza meant that it was very hard for people standing by the road to tell where the shots were coming from. People generally run away from where they think shooting is coming from so people running up the grassy knoll suggests shots coming from the opposite side of the plaza. Extensive interviews of people on the bridge, on the grassy knoll and behind the picket fence have identified many of the people who were standing in these positions. Very few have claimed to have seen anything suspicious.
Questions about the shots themselvesWhy didn't Oswald shoot sooner when he had a better view of the president? It would have been easier to get a shot off as the car was passing under the front of the school book depository, but he waited until he had to get a shot through, or near, the trees. It could be he was frightened and stalled, or fumbled with the gun, but it could be evidence that the shots came from a neighbouring building that did not have as good a view.
Why did the final bullet explode when the first one did not, and the "magic bullet" certainly didn't? Based on post mortem evidence the last bullet fragmented. It may not have come from the same gun and doesn't seem to have been properly identified. Why was the x-ray technician, Custer, asked to photograph some of the skull bones with bullet fragments artificially attached (long after the post mortem)? On the face of it, photographs of a less fragmented bullet would reduce the evidence of a fragmented or exploding bullet, as found at the original autopsy.
Were there Secret Service agents in Dealey Plaza following the shooting? Officially there weren't but witnesses say men identified themselves as such. If that is true then who were they? Gordon Arnold is one of the people who has claimed this, but he might be wrong:
The similarity of the assassination with previously planned assassinations by US forces. It could be just coincidence due to necessity and opportunity, but it is another indication that something might not be quite right.
How did Malcolm Wallaces fingerprint get on a cardboard box in the snipers nest?
It is intriguing, but inconclusive as the identification of the print is not as clear cut as sometimes suggested.
Questions about OswaldWas Oswald pro or anti Castro? He seems to have posed as pro or anti Castro at different times. For example, he was apparently one of three men who visited Sylvia Odio looking for money for anti Castro activities, but he handed out pro Castro leaflets in New Orleans and was interviewed on TV about it. He visited the Cuban embassy in Mexico and may have been trying to get a visa to go there.
Was Oswald an intelligence asset? Oswald was working with Guy Bannister in New Orleans. This puts him on the edges of the counter intelligence world. The counter argument to this is he was just hired to do it through an ad.
Why did Oswald try to call John Hurt after his arrest? Maybe he didn't, but why would Hurt's name come up at all in this context? If you were going to make up a name you would pick someone more current in intelligence circles. This is one of the nagging questions about Oswald because nobody would make that up.
It could be that Oswald was involved as a low level scout who got over keen and took a gun into work or they decided to set him up for the shooting when the opportunity for disinformation arose.
The lack of gunpowder residue on Oswald’s face or his fingerprints on the gun point away from him being the shooter. There is an allegation that his fingerprints were added to the gun at the funeral home, probably untrue. His prints are likely on the gun legitimately, but the lack of powder residue is an issue.
Where did the description of the gunman come from when nobody had seen Oswald do the shooting and he was not immediately suspected by those around him? Why was he identified so quickly at this point, and why under the name Hidell rather than Oswald? This might suggest a military intelligence source for the identification as they knew him also under the Hidell name.
Was Edward G Lansdale in Dallas on day of assassination? (As claimed by Fletcher Prouty). Lansdale was involved in anti Castro activities and was an expert on guerrilla warfare. I suspect the answer on balance of probabilities is that he wasn't.
Why did Ruby shoot Oswald?Possibly Oswald knew something about gun running that Ruby had been involved with and Ruby thought he would get away with shooting Oswald as a “hero”, especially in Texas where laws were laxer than today. This seems the most likely reason. It was nothing to do with the assassination, but Ruby though Oswald would incriminate him on other issues when he was interrogated.
The Russians had a motive to kill Oswald. Regardless of whether they knew him or not, they were likely to be blamed so they had a reason to kill him and tidy things up, but that does not explain Ruby. It certainly was helpful that Oswald was out of the picture so quickly as it prevented a normal investigation.
ConclusionThis is the biggest question:
If Oswald was a lone nut then why are the files on him secret on the grounds of ‘national security’?
There must be some reason why his files have not been released. My guess is there is something in his past that points to low level involvement in the intelligence community. I think his involvement in anti castro activities in New Orleans and later in Dallas whilst proclaiming to be a Marxist is indicative of some sort of shenanigans. It could just be an unstable personality, but perhaps having been to Russia, the intelligence services did use him as some sort of low level informant or scout.
Here is another question:
If it was a conspiracy how come nobody ever "talked"?
The main claim against the assassination being a conspiracy is that if it that ‘someone would have talked’ - well several people HAVE talked and have claimed to have been involved. There is also the autopsy staff evidence of changed x-rays etc. These accounts may be untrue, but there are so many of them that there must be some kernel of truth in there which does not sit well with the official story.
Does it matter?What if there was more than one gunman, would that matter? It wouldn't unless that second gunman's identity linked the shooting back to people who would be embarrassed by it. The only reason to cover up a conspiracy is if the conspirators were linked to people in high places. Anti Castro Cubans or the mafia would not meet that criteria so if there was an embarrassing conspiracy it had to be government related in some way. That is just plain logic really.
However, there is another scenario. Oswald WAS a lone nut who shot the president, but in the aftermath people "made hay while the sun shined" and pushed for greater involvement in Vietnam and laid off the mafia investigations. It could be simple opportunism following the tragic events in Dallas.