Friday, November 22, 2013

Who Really Killed JFK? - Part II

This is the 2nd in a two-part series about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, 1963. It contains excerpts from the book I co-authored with Richard C. Hoagland, Dark Mission - The Secret History of NASA.
Part II - The Third Rail of Conspiracy Theories

Whenever anyone brings up that fateful day in Dallas, November 22, 1963, and includes it in any dialog on any other subject, then that subject immediately comes under scorn and ridicule. Numerous documentaries and dramatizations like the recent "Killing Kennedy" will discuss some aspects of the conspiracy theories, but rarely do they present the whole picture or even the best evidence that there was a 2nd shooter that morning in Dealey Plaza. If you bring the Kennedy assassination into the conversation, you’d better be ready to have half the audience throw the rest of your ideas on to the trash heap of history. The Kennedy assassination is—to use a common political axiom—the “third rail” of conspiracy theories.

It is for this reason that we reluctantly began to look at the specific events of that  November morning in Dealey Plaza. But we also felt compelled to review the facts surrounding John F. Kennedy’s murder because so much of what we had already uncovered pointed to a conspiracy to remove him from office.

By late 1963, Kennedy’s personal popularity with the American people had grown stronger, and his chances of re-election in 1964 looked increasingly good. While he was generally unpopular in the South, he was actually more popular in Texas because of Lyndon Johnson, his showdown with Khrushchev over Cuba, and the dollars the space program was bringing to Texas. So there is the specter of a young, vigorous leader with rising popularity, who had openly declared his intention (in "The President and the Press" speech) to reveal secrets he felt the American people had a right to know, thereby ignoring the cautions embedded in the Brookings Report. And, by November 22nd, 1963, he had just issued orders to bring this nation’s greatest enemy into the fold as an ally in our most technologically sensitive arena— the space program. Add to that the possibility that he was going to share the “UFO secrets” from the “Classification Review of All UFO Intelligence Files Affecting National Security” memo with them as well.

Probably the hidden powers behind the scenes, the “secret societies” that Kennedy spoke of in “The President and the Press,” were quite willing to abide his radical ideas as long they could count on the Russians rejecting them. But, when Khrushchev abruptly changed his mind, and there was a possibility that the merged space programs might actually happen, Kennedy became far too much of a liability to tolerate. If indeed these forces of “unwarranted concealment” actually existed, they’d have had little choice but to eliminate him once he started issuing orders to begin the actual transfer of information and technology to the Soviets.

It makes little difference really whether it was a military-intelligence cabal that decided Kennedy had to go, simply because he was going to share our highly sensitive space secrets with the Russians (as the NSAM #271 makes clear) or if it was another, shadowy “secret society” that had other reasons for keeping any space discoveries (i.e. artifacts on the Moon) from leaking out. What matters is whether or not there is any credible evidence that Kennedy was killed by anything other than a single lone nut gunman. By definition, if there was a second gunman in Dealey Plaza that sunny fall morning, then there was a conspiracy.


Let us start by saying that we have little doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald was in Dallas that morning, that he was in the Texas School Book Depository sixth floor window, that he certainly fired at the President and that he may have even fired the fatal shot (note: while the head shot is generally considered the "fatal shot," it has been stated that the neck wound, almost certainly fired by Oswald from behind, would also have killed the president because it severed the nerve that send signals from the brain to the heart to continue pumping). That established, what evidence exists to support the idea of a second gunman, and therefore a true conspiracy?

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations conducted an exhaustive analysis of tape recordings made around the time of the shots fired in Dealey Plaza, and concluded that they contained evidence of two overlapping shots. They determined that four shots were fired, the first, second and fourth shots by Oswald, and a third near simultaneous shot from another location. Experiments conducted by the Committee in Dealey Plaza concluded that the third shot came from the direction of the infamous “grassy knoll.”  This acoustic evidence has been called into question over the years, but rebuttals and counter arguments have left the question open, despite the official findings of the Committee.

The whole issue of a second gunman on the grassy knoll could be settled if there was just one photograph or segment of film footage that showed him there. Over the years, most of us have been led to believe that no such evidence exists. As we found out, that’s not necessarily true.

In the early 1990s, the A&E cable network showed a nine-part series called "The Men Who Killed Kennedy." It mostly focused on a wide range of conspiracy theories and theorists, eventually concluding that Kennedy had been taken down by a French hit squad hired by Fidel Castro and endorsed by Nikita Khrushchev. Later episodes placed the focus on Vice President Johnson.
Gordon Arnold from the A&E series "The Man who killed Kennedy"
None of this was too impressive to the authors, except for the story of one (then) new witness, Gordon Arnold. Arnold gave the A&E show his first on-camera interview since coming forward as a witness in the late 1980s. He claimed to have just arrived in Dallas from basic training in the army, and while on leave in Dallas (on his way to his station in Alaska) had decided to go down to Dealey Plaza to film what he thought was a parade. He had no idea until he arrived that President Kennedy was in town. When he tried to get a vantage point on a freeway overpass, a man in a business suit flashed a CIA ID and ordered him out of the area. He then made his way down to the picket fence area of the so-called grassy knoll, where he stood and waited for the President’s limo to come by.

Arnold claimed he was in full uniform, including his pointed overseas army cap with a medallion or pin on the front, and was filming using his mother’s camera, which he had borrowed for the day. As the Presidential motorcade drove by, he suddenly felt a bullet zip past his ear very close and heard a shot ring out. He hit the ground as quickly as he could. Arnold's account and presence on the grassy knoll was confirmed by Senator Clayton Yarborough, who was in the motorcade in a car behind Kennedy's. Yarborough stated that he looked to his right (toward the grassy knoll) and saw a man "jump about 10 feet... and land against a wall..." Some critics of Arnold's story have claimed that Yarborough was actually referring to Bill and Gayle Newman, a couple with 2 small children who hit the ground to protect their children when they heard shots coming from behind them, but they were standing on the grass at the edge of the sidewalk and were nowhere near the wall Yarborough describes.

The next scene Arnold described is completely bizarre.
According to Arnold, as he rolled back over amid the chaos, a man in a Dallas police officer’s uniform confronted him, kicked him and ordered him to surrender his film. Since the officer was carrying a rifle and pointing it at him, Arnold complied. Arnold also noticed three other strange things about the man: even though he was wearing a uniform, he wore no policeman’s hat, which would have been standard issue for a Dallas police officer. Arnold also testified that the man’s hands were dirty, and that he was crying. According to Arnold, he walked away with the film behind the fence and off in the direction of the railroad yard behind Dealey Plaza. He evidently shortly met up with another man Arnold described as a “railroad worker.” Arnold was so shaken by this experience that he never discussed it until the late 1980s. He figured no one would believe him anyway, since he had no proof of any of it.

Mary Moorman

But the A&E program was interested in testing Arnold’s story against known photographs of the grassy knoll area. They decided to interview two researchers (Jack White and Gary Mack) who had done some work on one of the few known photographs taken of the grassy knoll area at the time of the assassination. The photograph they studied is known as the Mary Moormon photograph because it was taken by a witness named Mary Moormon, who was standing on the lawn just opposite the grassy knoll.
Video capture from the so-called “Marie Muchmore” film of the assassination, just a microsecond after the fatal head shot. Note the spray of blood emanating from the president’s forehead. The “babushka lady” is at far right with the headscarf. Mary Moormon is standing at the far left in the black coat. (A&E)
Earlier in the same episode, A&E had interviewed a witness who claimed to be the “babushka lady,” so named because she wore a distinctive headscarf on that fateful day. In 1970, Beverly Oliver came forward to say she was the babushka lady, and that she had been filming the President when he was shot. She went on to claim that she gave her film to FBI agent Regis Kennedy, and that it was never returned. On the A&E show, she gave an interview in which she claimed to have heard a shot come from the grassy knoll, and when she looked up from her camera she saw a puff of smoke in the area of the fence. 7 witnesses in the overpass area also told the Warren Commission that they saw a puff of smoke on the grassy knoll in the area of the picket fence, where Arnold said he was that day.There are supposedly films which show what may be a puff of smoke coming from the picket fence area of the grassy knoll. I have searched but only found a small animated GIF image showing the puff of smoke.

Animated Gif showing the puff of smoke emanating from the Grassy Knoll.
In one film of the assassination, known as the “Marie Muchmore” film, you can certainly see both the babushka lady and Mary Mormon using their cameras at the instant the President is struck with the fatal shot. In frame by frame analysis, you can even see the first spray of blood from the president’s fatal head wound. It is also clear from this frame capture that Kennedy's hair has been blown back at the forehead, from the front. This would seem to be inconsistent with the medical evidence that dictates the head shot came from behind. If that were true, then this frame would show the back of Kennedy's head -- not the front -- distended and distorted. It does not. 

Close up from the Marie Muchmore film showing President Kennedy being hit by a shot from the front, coming from the direction of the grassy knoll.

The reason would seem to be obvious; the fatal head shot came from the front, from the direction of the grassy knoll, just as so many witnesses have claimed over the years.

The Mary Moorman Photograph

The Mary Moorman photograph showing the grassy knoll. This is the same area where Beverly Oliver claims she saw a puff of smoke and some films seem to show it as well. Gordon Arnold would have been standing within this frame behind the concrete wall if he was actually in Dealey Plaza where he claimed to be.

In any event, when White and Mack began to enlarge and enhance sections of the Mary Moormon photo, looking for any sign of Gordon Arnold, they got quite a surprise. An odd figure quickly stood out, right near the area Arnold said he was standing.

Close-up of “Badgeman” from enhancement of the Mary Moorman photo. Note position of arms, prominent eyebrows, badge reflection, lack of a policeman’s hat and possible muzzle flash.
The figure appears to be a man in uniform, with a policeman’s badge and shoulder emblem visible. His arms appear to be in a sniper’s position, elbows out, as he would be if he was standing behind the fence and holding a rifle. Where the rifle should be is a bright flash of light, reminiscent of a muzzle flash, caught in an instant on film. In the enhancements, you can also clearly make out a receding hairline, prominent eyebrows and the fact that while the “badgeman” appears to be wearing a Dallas policeman’s uniform; he is not wearing a hat.

Just like the man Gordon Arnold had described, four years before this A&E program aired or the photographic enhancement had been done.

Enhancement of figure next to the badgeman from the Mary Moorman photo. The figure appears to be wearing an army summer uniform and holding something in front of his face, most likely the movie camera Gordon Arnold said he was using at the time. Note the summer uniform pointed cap and a bright spot where the medallion would be.

Later enhancements revealed another figure in the photo, just to Badgeman’s right. The figure is wearing an army summertime uniform, complete with the pointed overseas cap that Arnold said he was wearing. There is a bright spot where the unit pin on the hat would have been placed, and the figure seems to be holding something in front of his face—perhaps the movie camera Arnold had said he was using?
Gordon Arnold, the Badgeman, and the "railroad worker" from the Mary Moorman photograph.
Oddly, the figure is also leaning to his right, as if he is just beginning to react to the muzzle blast behind and to his left. This is also consistent with what Arnold said he did that day. Later, yet more work revealed a third figure in the image, behind and to the right of the Badgeman, wearing a hard hat and looking off to the frame right, as if scanning for anyone who may have been looking in their direction.

So here, finally, was visual evidence confirming not only the presence of a second gunman on the infamous grassy knoll—as so many witnesses testified to—but also of a witness who gave very specific details about both the gunman, his accomplice and his own disposition that day. There is flatly nothing in the Moorman enhancements which contradict Arnold’s story, and assuming the techniques are valid, every reason to conclude it is a credible eyewitness account of a true event. To this day, while many have nitpicked Arnold’s story (one debunker claimed it lacked credibility because on one occasion he mentioned the policeman’s “dirty fingernails” as opposed to “dirty hands”), no one has yet repeated and challenged the photographic enhancements.
The Mary Moorman photo compared with the Google Earth street view of the picket fence area.
There have been "analysis" by critics which have claimed that the Badgeman can't possibly have been there because he'd have to have been 40 feet tall to be seen in the photo, or that the picket fence is too tall for anyone to have stood behind it and gotten off a clear shot. A quick perusal of Google Earth puts those absurd notions to rest. The street view shows a woman, probably well under 6 feet tall, standing in the exact location of the Badgeman figure. Obviously, an average sized man could have easily stood behind the fence and fired the fatal shot from that location.
There are other details, too numerous to mention here, which support Arnold’s story. But most compellingly, when he was shown the “Badgeman” photo for the first time (on camera) he became very upset, teared up and said he wished he’d never brought the whole thing up. Not exactly the reaction of a publicity seeker, in the authors’ opinion.

There are some that have pointed out a striking resemblance between the visible facial features of the badgeman and slain Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit. Tippit had a very unique receding hairline pattern, and the Badgeman figure has that exact same pattern. He also shares the Badgeman's long, heavy eyebrows, and the size, position and proportion of the ears also appears to be exactly the same.
Tippit, according to the official cannon, was killed in the line of duty by Lee Harvey Oswald a short time after the assassination, and it is for that crime that Oswald was originally arrested in a nearby movie theater. What I do find interesting is if somehow Tippet, by all accounts a loyal police officer and an admirer of Kennedy, was convinced to participate in the assassination out of some sense of higher duty to his country. It might also explain why the Badgeman was crying when he confronted Gordon Arnold. 
What I have to say is that in my opinion, J.D. Tippit is a dead ringer for the Badgeman figure in the Moorman photo, and the figure's lack of a policeman's hat is very consistent with Gordon Arnold's account of his experience. So what we now have is 2 shooters, 4 shots, and a dead president. Oswald was in the 6th floor window of the Texas school book depository, and Tippit on the grassy knoll. Very conveniently, both “shooters,” Oswald and Tippet, were dead within twenty-four hours of the assassination, Tippit at the hands of Oswald and Oswald at the hands of Jack Ruby.
Despite what the Warren Commission concluded, there is evidence that Ruby knew both men, and that he was in Dealey Plaza within 5 minutes of the assassination.

A photograph, shown on the Merv Griffin show in 1966, shows Ruby standing in front of the depository less than 5 minutes after Kennedy was killed. According to official timelines, Oswald was still in the building at this point, slipping out a few minutes later.
If anyone doubts that this was Ruby, researcher Mark Lane later showed the official Warren Commission version of the photograph in which Ruby was cropped out, as if he was not there.
If Ruby knew Oswald and Tippit, what was he doing there? Perhaps it was his job to make sure Oswald killed Tippit before he himself killed Oswald. There certainly are still so many unanswered questions that no one can be sure of exactly what happened, except that something doesn't add up, and something was very, very wrong in Dallas that day, and in the days that followed.
Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas Police headquarters. No one knows to this day how Ruby got into the basement with a loaded gun.

The Wink of an Eye

So, satisfied that we now had evidence of a conspiracy in Dallas, the next question became: who was behind it? The plans for Kennedy to go to Texas had been made the previous spring, when Vice President Lyndon Johnson stated that Kennedy might visit Dallas in the summertime. It wasn’t until September that a letter from Johnson aide Jack Valenti announced the Texas campaign swing. The trip centered around a special testimonial dinner for none other than Congressman Albert Thomas, the man who held the NASA purse strings and who Kennedy, by all accounts, adored. Thomas was dying from terminal cancer, and Kennedy was greatly relieved that he had decided to run for re-election and had avoided having an open seat in Congress to contest. Originally proposed as a one-day trip for November 21, by October Lyndon Johnson had become involved in the planning and a second day was added, November 22.

President Kennedy and congressman Albert Thomas at Thomas' testimonial dinner, November 21st, 1963.
Kennedy was in a festive mood the evening of the 21st, pointing out Thomas’ many contributions to the space program (which he was now about to hand over to the Russians!) and declaring him to be a good friend.
“Next month, when the U.S. fires the world's biggest booster, lifting the heaviest payroll into... that is, payload..." Here the President paused a second and grinned.

"It will be the heaviest payroll, too," he quipped. The crowd roared.

"The firing of that shot will give us the lead in space," the President resumed in a serious vein. "And our leadership in space could not have been achieved without Congressman Albert Thomas. Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men will see visions, the Bible tells us. Where there is no vision, the people perish. Albert Thomas is old enough to dream dreams and young enough to see visions..."

Kennedy departed after his speech, followed soon by Thomas and Vice President Johnson. They both accompanied him to Dallas the next morning on Air Force One.

After the shooting, Kennedy was rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, but was obviously already dead. Doctors tried in vain to revive him, and the Houston Chronicle noted that Congressman Thomas waited outside the emergency ward until word came that Kennedy was dead. Vice President Johnson was then whisked away to an undisclosed location. Later that evening, once Kennedy’s body was aboard Air Force One, Johnson took the oath of office.

Johnson takes the oath of office. Note Jacqueline Kennedy, right, Ladybird Johnson (to Johnson’s left) and Vice Presidential Aide Jack Valenti, kneeling, next to flowers. Between Valenti and Ladybird is Congressman Albert Thomas of Texas (wearing bow tie).
We’ve all seen the iconic photo, with a somber Johnson, his hand on the Bible, standing next to a dazed Jacqueline Kennedy as various aides looked on. One of the most prominent men in the background is a distinguished, bow-tied gentleman who is watching the proceedings very closely. Of course, it is Congressman Albert Thomas. What most of us have never seen is the next photo (below), taken immediately after the oath was completed. In it, LBJ has turned immediately to his right. His facial muscles appear to be contorted into a broad smile as he makes eye contact with Congressman Thomas. Thomas, also smiling, returns the gesture with—of all things—a wink. While everyone else remains somber, Thomas and Johnson are the only two people in the picture who are smiling. The unspoken message between the two men could not be more clear: “We got him!”


The infamous "wink" from congressman Albert Thomas

Over the next few weeks, Johnson made a show of arguing to continue Kennedy’s plans for Soviet cooperation in space. But in December, Congress, led by Representative Thomas, passed a new NASA funding bill expressly forbidding the use of NASA funds for cooperation with Russia, or any other nation:

“No part of any appropriation made available to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by this act shall be used for expenses of participating in a manned lunar landing to be carried out jointly by the United States and any other country without consent of the Congress.”  The same provision was repeated in subsequent NASA appropriations, continuing until the death of Congressman Thomas in 1966.

Keep in mind that Johnson had enormous political capital to continue any initiative of the martyred Kennedy that he so chose in those days and weeks following the assassination. Obviously, continuing the space cooperation initiative wasn’t much of a priority, or he could have easily had it passed.

There are a couple of curious postscripts to this story.

By most accounts, Johnson should have still been President by 1969 when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first walked on the Moon. He was constitutionally able to stand for re-election in 1968, but his great unpopularity because of his mishandling of Vietnam convinced him to forsake a second elected term and retire from public life. You would have thought, after being the head of the space program for so many years as Vice President and then continuing Kennedy’s vision after his death, that Johnson would have been keenly interested in the events of July 20, 1969. But, as reported by presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Johnson not only didn’t watch the Lunar Landing himself, he refused to let anyone at his Texas ranch watch it either, and ordered all the TVs to be turned off.

Perhaps, in the twilight of his life, with ample time to reflect on his own actions, the space program was no longer a source of pride for him, but of shame.
The "3 tramps."
Recently, Saint John Hunt, the surviving eldest son of E. Howard Hunt – an infamous CIA operative actively involved with Watergate and long-rumored to have also been a key player in the Kennedy assassination – released a “deathbed confession tape” from his father. In a story published in Rolling Stone magazine, Saint John Hunt stated his father admitted to being one of the famous “three tramps” in photos of Dealy Plaza taken after the assassination and detailed specific players involved in the Kennedy assassination.  The tape contains a remarkable “confirmation” in light of the completely independent evidence presented here that, above the CIA operatives (and contractors) who actually planned and carried out the plot to kill Kennedy, including E. Howard Hunt himself, they were all directed by one “top man.”

Lyndon Baynes Johnson.  

We are left to contemplate our own accusations here. If men like Johnson and Thomas were willing to go so far as to orchestrate in the murder of the President in order to protect the United States’ own, singular (and singularly expensive) space program, then they must have expected to find wonders beyond imagining over the course of their voyages.

The only question for us was what, in fact, did they find, and was it worth the price that that the country (and history) ultimately paid?

Notes: Gordon Arnold tells his story:

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