Konformist: Dishonest presentation
of the JFK case in The Atlantic Monthly
By Robert Sterling
Editor, The Konformist
Robalini's Note: The following is a letter by JFK researcher extraordinare, Lisa Pease, in response to The Atlantic Monthly's June 2007 raving review from Thomas Mallon of Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, by Vincent Bugliosi.
Mallon's incredibly dishonest presentation of the JFK case in The
Mallon's recent article on the JFK assassination found its way to me accompanied by a subscription offer. Why did I not subscribe? Because you let a disinformationist pose as a book reviewer in your pages.
Not that I should be surprised. There's a precedent for this. At the New York Times, for years, whenever a new book on the JFK assassination came out, the review was often farmed out to Priscilla Johnson McMillan, herself the author of an anti-conspiracy book. Of course, we know now what the public was not told then: by her own admission, Priscilla Johnson McMillan was a "witting" asset of the CIA who, according to her superior, Donald Jameson, could "be encouraged to write pretty much the articles we want." (Source - CIA contact report signed by Jameson dated 11 December 1962.)
I say this to put Mallon's comments the case and those who continue to research this case in context. Mallon is flat out wrong on several points. So why is he allowed to publish? Does no one fact check things any more? Or does he, like Priscilla, have special access because he is a favorite of the agency that still controls the media's reporting on this topic, the CIA?
Let's look at some specific examples of Mallon's dishonesty or bias, whichever you wish to call it. Mallon calls Ruth Paine "virtuous Quaker woman who became, quite innocently, enmeshed in the assassination." He does not mention that during the Iran Contra war, her Quaker activities in Nicaragua got her shunned from her group because the peace activists believed her to be a CIA spy, documenting their every move. He does not mention that she had a big "x" in her calendar the day Oswald ostensibly bought the rifle (which provably, by the documentary record, Oswald didn't buy) and that even the Warren Commission expressed disbelief at her explanation that that X, the only X in her whole calendar, marked the start of one particular menstrual cycle. He does not mention that Ruth Paine's own daughter has suspicions about her mother's involvement in the JFK case, and that this caused a falling out between them. But then, if Mallon were a CIA apologist in the media, this would be expected.
Mallon also inaccurately states that the Kennedys believed in the Warren Report. As David Talbot's new book "Brothers" makes abundantly clear, Robert Kennedy's first-day suspicion that the CIA was involved in his brother's death continued until his own death. He had planned to reopen the investigation into his brother's assassination and had been conducting his own very serious investigation. (The CIA, for their part, considered spying on Robert Kennedy equally important to spying on the Soviet Union, according to CIA documents revealed by the New York Times).
I'm particularly incensed that the Atlantic would stoop to allowing Mallon to smear a lot of really smart, good people who have spent years doing what the government failed to do: seriously investigate the Kennedy assassination on the basis of hard, documented evidence. Bugliosi has it right on that point, at least. The most serious researchers are indeed some of the most patriotic people I've ever met. When asked if they are "real scholars, professors, [and] historians," instead of giving the correct answer of yes, The Atlantic allows Mallon to make this completely untrue and ridiculously propagandistic smear:
I think it's a truly dark, morbid fascination to them. Hmm. How inflammatory do I want to be here? On some level—subconscious in some, conscious in others—they find the assassination thrilling. And their preoccupation with it is, I would say, unhealthy. There are a few supposedly respectable academics who have gone way out there in conspiracy theory, but I would say that most of them are kind of gumshoes, amateurs, and people who probably were impacted by the assassination. Their emotions were impacted by it in what was originally a genuine way, but somehow the tissue around that impact has become infected, and it's become something that they don't want to let go of. The thing that they would hate most is for anything that they would have to regard as definitive proof to come along. I think we do have definitive proof that Oswald killed Kennedy, but if definitive proof of their own theories came along somehow, I think they'd be terribly bereft. They'd have to forfeit. They'd have a terrible, massive depression—and would go on to something else.
Let's see. Here are a group of people who have seriously researched this case:
- Bobby Kennedy and John Kennedy, Jr., before their untimely deaths.
- Professors: John Newman (formerly an intelligence analyst), Phil Melanson, Gerald McKnight, David Wrone, and many others.
- MDs, JDs and Ph.D.s: Cyril Wecht, Peter Dale Scott, Gary Aguilar, Michael Parenti, Mark Lane, Dawn Meredith, and many others.
- Journalists: David Talbot (founder and editor in chief of Salon.com); Jefferson Morley of the Washington Post, Anthony Summers (formerly with the BBC), Josiah Thompson (formerly with LIFE), Fred Cook (formerly with The Nation), and many others.
The reason we believe there was a conspiracy is simply because we've read the evidence. The evidence is so clear in this regard that only the terms ignoramus or liar apply to those who claim otherwise. One only needs to realize that the back wound did not penetrate all the way through Kennedy's body to realize how big the lies surrounding this case have become. Hitler was right on that point. It's easier to believe a big lie than a small one, because who among us is so bold as to make up such egregious lies?
If the back wound did not go through, no "single bullet theory" is possible, and therefore, there had to be a conspiracy, because a non-penetrating back wound would have required four shots, and the Zapruder film shows there was only time to get off three shots from a single location in the time permitted.
There was no exit wound until it became politically necessary to come up with one to validate a lone shooter scenario. And because there was no exit wound, the doctors spent a good amount of time looking for the bullet that had to be lodged in his wound. Here's a sampling of statements from Kennedy's doctors and other medical professionals at Parkland and Bethesda to make this point very clear:
[QUOTING from Warren Commission, HSCA and ARRB documents]
"According to BOSWELL, HUMES probed the neck wound with his little finger (indicating a point on the little finger which did not go past the first knuckle, less than one inch). He said HUMES also probed it with a metal probe. He said no one gave orders that they not probe that wound."
From Boyers' signed affidavit:
"Another wound was located near the right shoulder blade, more specifically just under the scapula and next to it. ... During the autopsy many X-rays and photographs were taken. The pathologists kept searching for the missile which entered the right shoulder, but could not locate it. ... I recall during the autopsy there was much use of metal probes trying to locate the passage of the bullet from the right shoulder entrance. I donot [sic] believe the actual passage was proven [emphasis as in the original] to have exited, at the site of the tracheotomy, i.e., by probing - due probably to deflection by bone structure. This was the reason for the whole body x-rays [sic] - in trying to ascertain if the missile was still present in the body."
From Boyers' handwritten notes:
"Many X-rays were taken trying to locate the bullet which entered the president's [sic] right shoulder area."
'Mr. Jenkins said he believes Dr. Humes attempted to probe the back wound. He said he didn't believe the doctor found the probe "...penetrated into the chest." Mr. Jenkins said he believed the organs had already been taken out. He said the body was "...repeatedly X-rayed because they felt there should be a bullet or something there."
"Mr. Jenkins recalls Humes trying to probe the wound with his finger which enabled him to reach the end of the wound."
Jenkins recalls Humes discussing with someone the problem of finding the bullet. He said this discussion amounted to a "disturbance." Jenkins had the impression that everything "...seemed like it was predesignated...seemed they had an answer and wanted to prove it."
Jenkins said the back wound was "...very shallow...it didn't enter the peritoneal (chest) cavity."
Kellerman recalls Dr. Finck probing the wound about 4 - 5 inches as he was trying to "...get the probe to come out..." Kellerman said the doctors didn't probe the wound with his finger first, saying it was "not that big."
Lipsey says that he recalls the doctors discussing the third bullet which he believes entered low in the neck and was deflected down into the chest cavity. [This matches the account reported in the New York Times that first day.]
Lipsey said that the doctors were using the angle from the extrance [sic] in the rear of the head to the throat to look for the other bullet that entered high in the back. He said that both entrances looked the same. Lipsey mentioned that the doctors spent more time looking for the bullet that entered high in the back than anything else. He recalls that he said that the bullet could have gone anywhere. The doctors were also frimly [sic] convinced that this bullet did not exit in the front of the neck. Lipsey said the doctors followed the path of the bullet for a short distance until they lost the track at which point they removed the organs in an attempt to locate it.
One of the FBI agents present at the autopsy even speculated about the use of ice bullets because that would explain both the non-penetrating wound and the lack of a bullet.
I could go on and on. I've read this stuff. Clearly, the editors at The Atlantic haven't. But that's no excuse for allowing Mallon to so misrepresent not just the evidence, but the people who feel strongly that by allowing the lies about Kennedy's death to go unchallenged, tragedies like the Iraq war -- a war built on official lies -- became possible. We pursue the truth because we think the truth matters. If the truth really will set us free, it follows that lies keep us imprisoned in a false history, from which no useful lessons can be determined.
My own introduction to the case started when I found a set of Warren Commission hearings (a 26-volume set) at a local library. I pulled off a volume at random and started reading. It was a passage where Arlen Specter was questioning Dr. Perry about Kennedy's wound in the front of his neck. It was so obvious that Specter was not trying to elicit information, but to lead the witness to the desired answer, that I literally shuddered. It was so obvious. That was the first time I realized how utterly the media had failed us in this country. Anyone who seriously looks and is honest can find evidence of conspiracy rather quickly. Pinpointing the blame is a far more difficult exercise, but it doesn't take anything near rocket science to prove conspiracy.
So I have to ask again. Does Mallon have friends at the CIA? Has he worked for them? Because you can scratch the background of nearly every writer on this case who has claimed there was no conspiracy, and find a CIA link in their past or present. James Phelan, a respected Saturday Evening Post reporter who attacked Jim Garrison's prosecution of Clay Shaw in the only trial ever brought on the Kennedy assassination conspiracy, turned out to be not only an FBI informant, but a close friend of the CIA's point man on the anti-Castro plots. Hugh Aynesworth, responsible for nearly all the original Dallas coverage of the event, who later repeated his coverage for Newsweek, had applied to work for the CIA the month before the assassination. Reporter Hal Hendrix, called "the Spook" because of his intelligence agency connections, was the one who supplied Seth Kantor with background info on Oswald in record time right after the assassination. Hendrix was a close friend of David Atlee Phillips, the CIA man most often fingered as a conspirator due to the extensive documentary record, and the man about whom all the "Castro did it" stories that surfaced originally can be traced.
Gerald Posner? He came to fame by writing a book that excused the CIA for its failure to find Mengele. He also wrote a fictional book which featured a Cold War CIA hero pitted against a newfangled government bureaucracy. Max Holland? He got his start at the Voice of America, long acknowledged as a propaganda outlet for the CIA abroad. And when "liberal" Holland couldn't get his regular employer, The Nation, to run one of his lone-nut screeds, to whom did he turn? Why, the CIA, of course, which was more than happy to publish his work in their in-house publication "Studies in Intelligence."
Consider for just a moment. Why is it that everywhere you look in the media, the voices telling us that Oswald was a lone assassin (and therefore, the CIA didn't do it) all seem to have ties to the CIA?
This was brought home yet again at a conference in DC a couple of years ago. One man got up to attempt to prove that famous "dictabelt" tape, recorded by a policeman whose microphone was stuck on, did not in fact capture shots in Dealey plaza. (Because if it did, it captured four shots, and hence, at least two shooters.) At the end of his presentation, I challenged his presentation, because he relied on science provided by a Nobel prize-winning scientist who also drew a paycheck from the CIA. The man then said sure, his source was CIA, but so what? "I am too," he said. In other words, yet again, the people most actively pushing a lone nut scenario were directly connected to the CIA.
If The Atlantic wants to show journalistic credibility and independence, they need to publish a companion piece by David Talbot, Jefferson Morley, or someone equally suited to the task. Mallon's work was outrageously biased and patently dishonest by omission. The truth should be allowed at least equal space in your pages as well. But I'm not holding my breath. I know that journalistic integrity belongs to an era that died sometime before the start of the Cold War. I fear I will never again see its like in any major publication in my lifetime.
I'll leave you with these excerpts from a CIA memo that instructed its media assets how to discuss the CIA assassination. Perhaps some of you have seen it before?
This document caused quite a stir when it was discovered in 1977. Dated 4/1/67, and marked "DESTROY WHEN NO LONGER NEEDED," this document is a stunning testimony to how concerned the CIA was over investigations into the Kennedy assassination. Emphasis has been added to facilitate scanning.
CIA Document #1035-960, marked "PSYCH" for presumably Psychological Warfare Operations, in the division "CS," the Clandestine Services, sometimes known as the "dirty tricks" department.
RE: Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report
1. Our Concern. From the day of President Kennedy's assassination on, there has been speculation about the responsibility for his murder. Although this was stemmed for a time by the Warren Commission report, (which appeared at the end of September 1964), various writers have now had time to scan the Commission's published report and documents for new pretexts for questioning, and there has been a new wave of books and articles criticizing the Commission's findings. In most cases the critics have speculated as to the existence of some kind of conspiracy, and often they have implied that the Commission itself was involved. Presumably as a result of the increasing challenge to the Warren Commission's report, a public opinion poll recently indicated that 46 per cent of the American public did not think that Oswald acted alone, while more than half of those polled thought that the Commission had left some questions unresolved. Doubtless polls abroad would show similar, or possibly more adverse results.
2. This trend of opinion is a matter of concern to the U.S. government, including our organization. The members of the Warren Commission were naturally chosen for their integrity, experience, and prominence. They represented both major parties, and they and their staff were deliberately drawn from all sections of the country. Just because of the standing of the Commissioners, efforts to impugn their rectitude and wisdom tend to cast doubt on the whole leadership of American society. Moreover, there seems to be an increasing tendency to hint that President Johnson himself, as the one person who might be said to have benefited, was in some way responsible for the assassination. Innuendo of such seriousness affects not only the individual concerned, but also the whole reputation of the American government. Our organization itself is directly involved: among other facts, we contributed information to the investigation. Conspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization, for example by falsely alleging that Lee Harvey Oswald worked for us. The aim of this dispatch is to provide material countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists, so as to inhibit the circulation of such claims in other countries. Background information is supplied in a classified section and in a number of unclassified attachments.
3. Action. We do not recommend that discussion of the assassination question be initiated where it is not already taking place. Where discussion is active [business] addresses are requested:
a. To discuss the publicity problem with [?] and friendly elite contacts (especially politicians and editors), pointing out that the Warren Commission made as thorough an investigation as humanly possible, that the charges of the critics are without serious foundation, and that further speculative discussion only plays into the hands of the opposition. Point out also that parts of the conspiracy talk appear to be deliberately generated by Communist propagandists. Urge them to use their influence to discourage unfounded and irresponsible speculation.
b. To employ propaganda assets to [negate] and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. The unclassified attachments to this guidance should provide useful background material for passing to assets. Our ploy should point out, as applicable, that the critics are (I) wedded to theories adopted before the evidence was in, (II) politically interested, (III) financially interested, (IV) hasty and inaccurate in their research, or (V) infatuated with their own theories. In the course of discussions of the whole phenomenon of criticism, a useful strategy may be to single out Epstein's theory for attack, using the attached Fletcher [?] article and Spectator piece for background. (Although Mark Lane's book is much less convincing than Epstein's and comes off badly where confronted by knowledgeable critics, it is also much more difficult to answer as a whole, as one becomes lost in a morass of unrelated details.)
4. In private to media discussions not directed at any particular writer, or in attacking publications which may be yet forthcoming, the following arguments should be useful:
a. No significant new evidence has emerged which the Commission did not consider. The assassination is sometimes compared (e.g., by Joachim Joesten and Bertrand Russell) with the Dreyfus case; however, unlike that case, the attack on the Warren Commission has produced no new evidence; no new culprits have been convincingly identified, and there is no agreement among the critics. (A better parallel, though an imperfect one, might be with the Reichstag fire of 1933, which some competent historians (Fritz Tobias, A.J.P. Taylor, D.C. Watt) now believe was set by Vander Lubbe on his own initiative, without acting for either Nazis or Communists; the Nazis tried to pin the blame on the Communists, but the latter have been more successful in convincing the world that the Nazis were to blame.)
b. Critics usually overvalue particular items and ignore others. They tend to place more emphasis on the recollections of individual witnesses (which are less reliable and more divergent--and hence offer more hand-holds for criticism) and less on ballistics, autopsy, and photographic evidence. A close examination of the Commission's records will usually show that the conflicting eyewitness accounts are quoted out of context, or were discarded by the Commission for good and sufficient reason.
c. Conspiracy on the large scale often suggested would be impossible to conceal in the United States, especially since informants could expect to receive large royalties, etc. Note that Robert Kennedy, Attorney General at the time and John F. Kennedy's brother, would be the last man to overlook or conceal any conspiracy. And as one reviewer pointed out, Congressman Gerald R. Ford would hardly have held his tongue for the sake of the Democratic administration, and Senator Russell would have had every political interest in exposing any misdeeds on the part of Chief Justice Warren. A conspirator moreover would hardly choose a location for a shooting where so much depended on conditions beyond his control: the route, the speed of the cars, the moving target, the risk that the assassin would be discovered. A group of wealthy conspirators could have arranged much more secure conditions.
d. Critics have often been enticed by a form of intellectual pride: they light on some theory and fall in love with it; they also scoff at the Commission because it did not always answer every question with a flat decision one way or the other. Actually, the make-up of the Commission and its staff was an excellent safeguard against over-commitment to any one theory, or against the illicit transformation of probabilities into certainties.
e. Oswald would not have been any sensible person's choice for a co-conspirator. He was a "loner," mixed up, of questionable reliability and an unknown quantity to any professional intelligence service.
[Archivist's note: This claim is demonstrably untrue with the latest file releases. The CIA had an operational interest in Oswald less than a month before the assassination. Source: Oswald and the CIA, John Newman and newly released files from the National Archives.]
f. As to charges that the Commission's report was a rush job, it emerged three months after the deadline originally set. But to the degree that the Commission tried to speed up its reporting, this was largely due to the pressure of irresponsible speculation already appearing, in some cases coming from the same critics who, refusing to admit their errors, are now putting out new criticisms.
g. Such vague accusations as that "more than ten people have died mysteriously" can always be explained in some natural way e.g.: the individuals concerned have for the most part died of natural causes; the Commission staff questioned 418 witnesses (the FBI interviewed far more people, conducting 25,000 interviews and re interviews), and in such a large group, a certain number of deaths are to be expected. (When Penn Jones, one of the originators of the "ten mysterious deaths" line, appeared on television, it emerged that two of the deaths on his list were from heart attacks, one from cancer, one was from a head-on collision on a bridge, and one occurred when a driver drifted into a bridge abutment.)
5. Where possible, counter speculation by encouraging reference to the Commission's Report itself. Open-minded foreign readers should still be impressed by the care, thoroughness, objectivity, and speed with which the Commission worked. Reviewers of other books might be encouraged to add to their account the idea that, checking back with the report itself, they found it far superior to the work of its critics.
What's sad is that, even when the CIA admits publicly (they never denied this was their document when it first surfaced) that they've used book reviews to attempt to shape the debate in their favor, editors at a place like The Atlantic Monthly can still be played for suckers.
15+ year researcher on the Kennedy Assassination Contributing author and co-editor of the book The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X (Los Angeles: Feral House, 2003) Featured authority on the Discovery Channel show "Conspiracy Files" in the "CIA Mind Control" segment.
A patriotic American and a normal human being who does not have any "morbid fascination" with this case, does not find the thought of assassination "thrilling" in any regard, and has a solid reputation for honesty in this field.
Bcc'd to about a hundred serious researchers in this case, none of whom find this case morbidly thrilling either.
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