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Bugliosi pulls another switcheroo

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Bugliosi pulls another switcheroo

On Page 964 of Reclaiming History, as part of his list of evidence proving Lee Harvey Oswald killed President Kennedy, Vincent Bugliosi states "Dallas Police performed a paraffin test on Oswald's hands at the time of his interrogation to determine if he had recently fired a revolver, and the results were positive, indicating the presence of nitrates from gunpowder residue on his hands." This statement is incredibly deceptive. From including this statement in his list, Bugliosi is clearly suggesting that this evidence is indicative of Oswald's guilt, and this, even though he readily admits on page 164 that "the paraffin test is not conclusive...mere handling of a weapon may leave nitrates of the skin, even without firing it." Even worse, when one looks at the results of a second test performed on the paraffin casts of Oswald's hands and cheek, one can only conclude they suggest that Oswald did not fire the shots that killed Kennedy. You see, while the tests of Oswald's hands were positive, the tests for Oswald's cheek were negative. This suggests that he did not fire a rifle.

In a foot note on page 165, Bugliosi states "Predictably, the paraffin cast for Oswald's right cheek showed no reaction." He explains the "predictably" by asserting that there is no gap through which residue from a rifle could leak onto the cheek. He then cites the Warren Commission testimony of Cortlandt Cunningham to support this supposition. On page 79 of his endnotes (available on a separate cd rom) he acknowledges that former FBI agent William Turner reported that he'd spoken to Dr. Vincent Guinn about tests performed by Guinn, and that Guinn had found nitrates in abundance on casts of the cheeks of men who'd fired rifles like the one owned by Oswald. Bugliosi dismisses Turner's assertion, however, and basically calls him a xxxx, by stating "There is simply no way to square this with the testimony and experience of the Dallas Police and FBI." Bugliosi then proceeds to list all the Dallas Police and FBI to testify that they didn't think a test of the cheek would read positive for a man firing a rifle, and that Cunningham testified that an FBI agent had fired the rifle three times but that tests for his cheek had come up negative. Bugliosi begs of his readers "Why in the world would these two Dallas officers lie under oath about something like this?" and that "No one could really believe this is perjured testimony, if for no other reason that no professional would lie under oath on a matter that he knows other experts could easily refute him on."

But what Bugliosi misses, or simply chooses to ignore, is that these men were discussing the standard paraffin test performed in the 1960's and that Turner asked Guinn about a different test entirely involving neutron activation analysis of the paraffin casts. Bugliosi, who elsewhere mentions having conversations with Guinn, never mentions discussing this with Guinn himself, nor of Guinn denying that he'd conducted such tests. He never mentions that, as exposed in Professor Gerald McKnight's Breach of Trust, Guinn wrote letters to the FBI in 1964 suggesting they conduct these tests, and that, per the testimony of the FBI's John Gallagher--the last testimony taken by the Warren Commission--the FBI had indeed conducted similar tests, and had found no gunshot residue on the cast of Oswald's right cheek. He also fails to state, even to refute, Harold Weisberg's assertion that he'd received Gallagher's controls as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, and that these controls revealed that gunshot residue was always present on the cheeks of men firing a rifle like the one owned by Oswald. (This confirmed what Guinn had told the FBI in his letter, what Guinn told an August 1964 conference, what Guinn published in an October 1964 article, and what Guinn later told Turner.) Bugliosi also ignores that, to this day, Neutron Activation Analysis is still conducted to detect gunshot residues on the cheek, and is considered to be a reliable indicator of whether a suspect has fired a rifle. Larry Ragle, a retired Director of Forensic Sciences for Santa Ana, California, in his 1995 book Crime Scene, explains: “By design, revolvers can leak…Rifles, depending on their construction and wear, can also leak. There is only one way to determine the leakage capacity of any weapon and that is to collect samples from the hands or face firing the weapon under controlled conditions while using the corresponding ammunition.” Of course, this is precisely the kind of test performed by Guinn and Gallagher in 1964.

In sum, the gunshot residue tests conducted by Guinn and Gallagher create real doubt that Oswald fired the rifle that killed Kennedy. Rather than acknowledge this, Bugliosi dismisses these tests as a William Turner pipe dream. That he is outraged that anyone might think Cunningham a xxxx, while simultaneously calling Turner--a man who left the FBI after he'd had enough of J. Edgar Hoover's misuse of the agency--a xxxx, is outrageous, and suggests that Bugliosi's blind hatred of all suggestions of Oswald's innocence, has blinded his thinking. His research can not be trusted. (I go into the Paraffin Tests and their significance in much more detail in chapter 4 at patspeer.com).

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On Page 964 of Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi states ...paraffin test on Oswald's hands were positive, indicating the presence of nitrates from gunpowder residue on his hands." This statement is incredibly deceptive.

Bugliosi seems to have lost his marbles. I thought that even the most far-out Macadamites had given up on this chestnut a long time ago

As to the Guinn/Gallagher NAA issue, aren't these the documents that Gerry McKnight says he hoped to find in the Weisberg archive? I recall some time back McKnight invited interested researchers to search the archives themselves.

This sounds like a project for the (Bill) Kelly gang.

If the documents are in Weisberg's archive, then William Turner's credibility is moot.

I go into the Paraffin Tests and their significance in much more detail in chapter 4 at patspeer.com.

Pat, I went to chapter 4 on your site and it seemed to deal exclusively with autopsy matters, which I am simply unable to process at the moment. Can you please pinpoint the slide # for the paraffin tests?

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Pat, I went to chapter 4 on your site and it seemed to deal exclusively with autopsy matters, which I am simply unable to process at the moment. Can you please pinpoint the slide # for the paraffin tests?

Ray, you probably looked at the PowerPoint Presentation. I have actually expanded this presentation to include much about the eyewitnesses and the various investigations. This "book" if you will is on the right side of my homepage.

Anyhow, here's the section in chapter 4 on the paraffin tests:

"Should there still be any doubt about the disingenuousness of the early investigations of the Kennedy assassination, this can be cleared up by closely examining the way the results of the paraffin tests performed on Oswald’s hands and right cheek were presented to the public. A paraffin test, to explain, is a test where a suspect’s hands are coated in paraffin. This creates a cast. The cast is then tested for the presence of nitrates. The presence of nitrates can be taken as an indication the suspect handled or fired a weapon. A similar test performed on a cheek could indicate the suspect fired a rifle. .According to the standard text Scientific Evidence in Criminal Cases these tests were first performed in the 1930’s and were performed almost routinely in the 1950’s. By 1963, however, they were beginning to fall in disfavor.

At approximately 8:55 PM on 11-22-63--a little more than 7 hours after someone shot President Kennedy--Dallas crime lab detective W. E. Barnes coats Oswald's hands and cheek with paraffin. He then cuts the casts off for testing.

The next morning, on 11-23-63, Dr. M.S Mason and Louie Anderson analyze the paraffin casts of Oswald’s cheek (Exhibit #1), left hand (Exhibit #2), and right hand (Exhibit #3) created by Detective Barnes. Their results read as follows: “No nitrates are found on Exhibit #1. Nitrate patterns consistent with the suspect having discharged a firearm were present on Exhibits #2 and 3. The pattern on Exhibit #3 is typical of the patterns produced in firing a revolver.” As Oswald is reported to have handled his revolver in the movie theater, however, this does little to establish that he’d fired a rifle at the President. But does the Dallas Police admit to itself or the media that there may be suspects still at large?

At 10:49 AM on 11-23, Frank McGee of NBC News reports “Oswald still insists he did not kill the president. The paraffin tests proved positive—Oswald did fire a gun during the last twenty-four hours.” The juxtaposition of these statements would undoubtedly confuse the public into thinking that the paraffin tests suggest that Oswald killed Kennedy. At a 12:00 PM press conference, Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry is asked about the tests. He responds “I understand that it was positive…It only means that he fired a gun.” When asked by a reporter if there were powder marks on Oswald’s cheek, Curry responds “I don’t know that. I don’t know that.” He then explains: “We just say a gun.” A UPI article published shortly thereafter tells millions of readers “Pro-Communist Lee Harvey Oswald was charged today with the assassination of President Kennedy. Police said paraffin results on both of Oswald’s hands were “positive.”

Even worse, on 11-24, at least one paper, The Fort Worth Star Telegram, reports “A paraffin test showed positive results on both the hands and cheek of the 24 year-old ex-Marine. This, officers said, showed that the man had fired a gun, probably a rifle.” Later that day, after Oswald has been killed, Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade tells reporters “I would say without any doubt (Oswald) was the killer of the President…There’s no doubt in my mind we would have convicted him. I’ve sent people to the electric chair on less.” When asked about the paraffin tests, he says “Yes, I’ve got paraffin tests that showed he had recently fired a gun.” When asked by an alert reporter if this meant a rifle, he repeats “A gun.” The next day, 11-25, a New York Times article lists the evidence against Oswald. Their cited source for this information is Gordon Shanklin, Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas FBI. It reports that paraffin tests showed “particles of gunpowder from a weapon, probably a rifle, on Oswald’s cheek and hands.” That this was not an isolated misunderstanding is revealed by the FBI Summary Report of 12-9, which continues to cite the paraffin tests as evidence that Oswald killed the President. On page 19, it declares: “Following Oswald’s apprehension on November 22, 1963, Dr. W.F. Mason of Dallas concluded, after tests, that paraffin casts made of Oswald’s hands contained traces of nitrate consistent with the residue on the hands of a person who had recently handled or fired a firearm.” As the report is on the assassination of President Kennedy, and not on the shooting of Officer Tippit, the inclusion of this information without admitting that the test on Oswald’s cheek was negative, is undoubtedly misleading and indicative of the FBI’s desire to close the case without really investigating.

On 1-11 1964, Chairman Warren has General Counsel J. Lee Rankin send a memo to the other commissioners with a “Tentative Outline of the Work of the Commission” attached. Under the heading “Evidence Identifying Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy” it includes the subheading “other physical evidence” and the item “paraffin tests”.

A 2-21-64 memo from J. Lee Rankin spells out that Norman Redlich and Melvin Eisenberg have been tasked with “Developing expert knowledge in certain areas of criminal investigation.” He lists “These areas, in the following order of priority, are: weapon identification; ballistics; paraffin tests; fingerprint and palm print evidence; handwriting identifications.”

Professor Gerald McKnight, in his book Breach of Trust, refers back to an FBI document and relates what happened next: “At the end of February, 1964, Dr.Vincent P. Guinn, head of the NAA Section of the General Atomic Division of the General Dynamics Corporation calls (the FBI’s spectrographic specialist) John F. Gallagher about the research his division was undertaking for the Atomic Energy Commission. For the past few years, Guinn reported, he and his colleagues had been using NAA (Neutron Activation Analysis) to test the powder residues from discharged firearms. He sought out Gallagher to report the results of their tests on a “rifle similar to the one reportedly owned by Lee Harvey Oswald.” The triple firing of the rifle, Guinn advised, “leaves unambiguous positive results every time on the paraffin casts.” Because of the inferior construction of the Mannlicher-Carcano, the Italian army’s World War II assault rifle, Guinn noted that the blowback from one or three shots deposited powder residue “on both cheeks” of the shooter.”

A 3-10-1964 letter from J. Edgar Hoover to Warren Commission General Counsel J. Lee Rankin reflects that the tests recommended by Guinn have been performed, and under Gallagher’s supervision. Hoover writes: “The paraffin casts from Lee Harvey Oswald were examined by neutron activation analyses at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories Research Reactor Site, Oak Ridge, Tennessee. These analyses were made to determine if the paraffin casts from Oswald which were made, chemically treated and washed by the Dallas law enforcement authorities, bear any primer deposits from the rifle cartridge cases found in the Texas School Book Depository following the President’s assassination. As a result of these examinations, the deposits on the paraffin casts from the hands and cheek of Oswald could not be specifically associated with the rifle cartridges. Elements (barium and antimony) were found on the casts; however, these same elements were found in residues both from the above rifle cartridge cases and from the revolver cartridge cases which were fired from Oswald’s revolver reportedly between the time of the assassination and the time of apprehension. No characteristic elements were found by neutron activation analyses which could be used to distinguish the rifle from the revolver cartridges. In view of the fact that the paraffin casts were not made until after the reported firing and handling of that revolver, no significance could be attached to the residues found on the casts other than the conclusion that barium and antimony in these residues are present in amounts greater than would be expected to be found on the hands of an individual who has not recently fired a weapon or handled a fired weapon.” On 3-16-64, Melvin Eisenberg from the Commission meets with the FBI’s Gallagher, in order to learn more about neutron activation analysis. On 3-18-64 Hoover sends the Commission a memo answering some of Eisenberg’s questions.

On 4-1-64, FBI ballistics expert Cortlandt Cunningham testifies before the Warren Commission. Taking his testimony is Melvin A. Eisenberg. Even though the Commission initially intended to use the paraffin tests to demonstrate Oswald’s guilt, they have now decided to trash the evidentiary value of the tests. Cunningham states: “We were interested in running a control to find out just what the possibility was of getting a positive reaction after a person has thoroughly washed their hands. Mr. Killion used green soap and washed his hands, and we ran a control, both of the right cheek and of both hands. We got many reactions on both the right hand and the left hand, and he had not fired a gun that day….That was before firing the rifle. We got no reaction on the cheek…We fired the rifle. Mr. Killion fired it three times rapidly, using similar ammunition to that used in the assassination. We reran the tests both on the cheek and both hands. This time we got a negative reaction on all casts…there were none on the hands. We cleaned off the rifle again with dilute HCl. I loaded it for him. He held it in one of the cleaned areas and I pushed the clip in so he would not have to get his hands near the chamber--in other words, so he wouldn't pick up residues, from it, or from the action, or from the receiver. When we ran the casts, we got no reaction on either hand or on his cheek. On the controls, when he hadn't fired a gun all day, we got numerous reactions.”

When asked if residues would normally be found on a man’s cheek after firing a rifle, Cunningham offers his personal analysis: “No, sir; I personally wouldn't expect to find any residues on a person's right cheek after firing a rifle due to the fact that by the very principles and the manufacture and the action, the cartridge itself is sealed into the chamber by the bolt being closed behind it, and upon firing the case, the cartridge case expands into the chamber filling it up and sealing it off from the gases, so none will come back in your face, and so by its very nature, I would not expect to find residue on the right cheek of a shooter…You can see when you close the cylinder, and each chamber lines up, there is a few thousandths space between. When the bullet is fired, the bullet jumps across this space and enters the ramp and then into the rifling. The gases always escape through this small space. The loss is negligible, but the gases are escaping on every shot. After you fire this revolver, you can see residues, smoke deposits and other residues around the entrance to the rear portion of the barrel which is next to the cylinder, as well as on the cylinder itself. .So you would expect to find gunpowder residues on a person's hands after he fired a revolver.”

He then discusses a test he performed confirming this analysis, and supports the possible relevance of the test on Oswald’s hands: “The tests were run on me. I was the one who washed my hands thoroughly. I did not use a brush, I just washed them with green soap and rinsed them in distilled water…To remove possible dirt from my hands. I washed my hands. The gun was then wiped off with dilute HCl to get rid of any deposits already on the gun, and I fired it in our bullet- recovery room, four times--and then after firing I opened it up and ejected the cartridge cases into my hand, as I showed you earlier today. The amount of residue that you pick up on your hands from ejection of the cartridge cases was in my hand at the time. I then, under ideal conditions naturally, went back and had paraffin casts made of my hands and these were treated with a solution of diphenylbenzidine. The results of this examination were that we got a positive result on both casts, front and back. Many reactions in this area where I had ejected the cartridge cases in my hand were noted.”

Eisenberg then steers Cunningham back on course—the goal is to trash the test, not hold up revolver tests while trashing rifle tests. Eisenberg reminds Cunningham “By the way, you testified this morning that many common substances will produce a positive reaction to the nitrate test, so-called paraffin test. Will the handling of an unclean weapon also produce a positive reaction?” Cunningham responds: “Just as much as firing it will. That is what makes this test so unreliable. Handling a recently-fired weapon that is covered with residues--you would get just as many oxidizing agents in the form of nitrates and nitrites on your hands as you would from firing it and in some cases more especially up here and around here you would.” When asked if the FBI tests revealed any false negatives after someone had fired a revolver, Cunningham admits: “None of those were negative results, but they were not run under the same conditions…The only negative results were on the 20 people who were run as a control and who had never fired a gun, and even for those people they all got positive reactions at least on one hand.” When asked why the FBI continues to perform paraffin tests if they have so many false positives, Cunningham confides: “Many local law-enforcement agencies do conduct these tests, and at their request the FBI will process them. They take the cast and we will process them. However, in reporting, we give them qualified results, since we frequently will get some reaction. Numerous reactions or a few reactions will be found on the casts. However, in no way does this indicate that a person has recently fired a weapon. Then we list a few of the oxidizing agents, the common ones, such as in urine and tobacco and cosmetics and a few other things that one may come in contact with. Even Clorox would give you a positive reaction….There may be some law-enforcement agencies which use the test for psychological reasons Yes, sir; what they do is they ask, say, "We are going to run a paraffin test on you, you might as well confess now," and they will.”

The irony of this last statement is apparently lost on Cunningham. While he claims the tests are used to pressure suspects, and have little scientific value, he has apparently forgotten that both the Dallas Police Department and the FBI, in the hours and days after Oswald’s death, presented the nitrate tests on Oswald’s hands as compelling evidence he’d fired a rifle and killed the President. A dead man can't be pressured to confess.

On 4-7-64, detective W.E. Barnes, the man who administered the paraffin tests on Oswald for the Dallas Police Department, testifies before the commission. When asked by Counsel David Belin "If I were firing a pistol, would this pistol leave a nitrate on my hands that would be detectable by the paraffin test?" he responds "It should, unless it (the chamber) is awfully tight." This, of course, contradicts what Cunningham has just told the commission. Barnes then explains that the residue could show up on both hands if the non-shooting hand was near the pistol, and that washing one's hands can throw off the test. When asked if one would expect residue to show up on one's cheek after firing a rifle, however, Barnes responds "Chances are smaller on a rifle than it would be for a revolver...Because your chamber is closed." When asked if finding nitrates on a suspect's hands would be more indicative of the suspect firing a revolver or a rifle, he confirms "The revolver would be more likely." He then acknowledges that he'd been asked to take the cast of Oswald's cheek by Captain Fritz and had never even tested a cheek before, and that the actual results of his tests are determined by doctors at Parkland Hospital.. Nevertheless, Belin continues to prod him on the merits of the cheek test. Barnes asserts "Firing a rifle, you get your chamber enclosed with steel metal all around it, and the chances of powder residue would be very remote" and that "In my own mind, I didn't expect any positive report from the cheek to start with." He then explains that in his opinion they only conducted the test "to cut down criticism and to satisfy the public and to show the world that we tried to cover it..." When asked again if he'd expected any results from the cheek test, Barnes reiterates "I didn't personally, and I'm the one who made it. From my experience with paraffin casts and from my experience in shooting rifles, common sense will tell you that a man firing a rifle has got very little chance of getting residue on his cheek." He then readily admits that he's never read a periodical on paraffin casts, and that his ideas on the relative merits of the tests are strictly his opinion.

While Barnes' testimony about the meaninglessness of the cheek tests support Cunningham's testimony, his comments on the paraffin tests of the hands indicate he considers them worthwhile and of far more scientific value than suggested by Cunningham. It seems clear from his testimony that, should Oswald have been tried in Texas, the Dallas Police planned on dismissing the value of the paraffin tests of the cheek whilst simultaneously using the paraffin tests of Oswald's hands as evidence of his guilt.

On 4-22-64, Barnes' boss, Lt. J.C. Day of the Dallas PD testifies before the Commission. His testimony is supportive of Barnes' testimony and is also taken by David Belin. Day states: “Under my direction they made paraffin casts of the hand of Lee Harvey Oswald in Captain Fritz' office…I directed them to make it, and also paraffin casts or just of a piece of paraffin on the left side of the face to see if there were any nitrates there…(correcting himself) Right side…The test on the face was negative…It was just something that was done to actually keep from someone saying later on, "Why didn't you do it?" Actually, in my experience there, shooting a rifle with a telescopic sight there would be no chance for nitrates to get way back or on the side of the face from a rifle...A rifle such as that one we are talking about here from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, in my opinion, would not throw nitrates back to where a man's face was when he is looking through a telescopic sight…I would expect more with a revolver with an open cylinder than I would from a rifle. Actually, for most practical purposes, I would not be surprised if there would be no nitrates from a man firing a rifle.” Here, once again, the Commission relies upon the personal feeling of a witness in place of actual tests. How hard would it have been to have twenty men fire the rifle three times, wait a few hours, and then see how many tested positive for nitrates on their cheek?

By 7-1-64, one of the Warren Commission counsel tasked with becoming an expert on the paraffin tests, Norman Redlich, is in a quandary. He is not sure how the Commission should approach the neutron activation analysis performed on the paraffin casts. Redlich writes Commissioner Allen Dulles and complains “At best the analysis shows that Oswald may have fired a pistol, although this is by no means certain.” He also admits “there is no basis for concluding that he also fired a rifle.”

On 7-29-64 proto-conspiracy theorist Mark Lane makes an appearance on radio station WMCA and tells its listeners: “perhaps the most shocking piece of evidence is the statement by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s chief in Dallas Gordon Shanklin, quoted in the New York Times and he said “I have seen the paraffin test” It showed that Oswald had nitrates, gun powder on his hand and on his face, it is proof that he fired the rifle.” The Chief of Dallas Police, Mr. Curry, was not so factual. He merely said “We have the paraffin test, boys” this is on November 23rd,”it’s just come in. It proves that Oswald was the assassin.” A series of FBI memorandums quoted in McKnight’s Breach of Trust indicates that over the next three weeks Shanklin is pressured into issuing a statement saying that Lane’s “allegation is completely unfounded.” If the New York Times was asked to print a retraction, however, it was news they found not fit to print.

An 8-21-64 letter by Hoover to J. Lee Rankin accompanying a transcript of Lane’s radio interview makes sure the Commission knows that the FBI is completely innocent in this matter. Hoover assures Rankin: “The alleged announcements made by representatives of the Bureau, which are discussed on pages three and four of the enclosed transcription, are completely without foundation as no such announcements were made.”

On 8-28, however, a wheel comes off the Warren Express. A UPI article in the New York World Sun & Telegram with an August 27 dateline of Glasgow, Scotland, reports “The use of radioactivity in criminology may determine once and for all whether Lee Harvey Oswald killed the late President John F. Kennedy, a San Diego, Calif. chemist said today. Dr. Vincent P. Guinn, 46, head of the activation analysis (A.A.) program of the General Atomic division of General Dynamics Corporation, has been working on the problem with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “I cannot say what we found out about Oswald because it is secret until the publication of the Warren Commission Report. But I can tell you about activation analysis and crime,” the scientist said here…”In the case of murder of any crime involving a gun,” Dr. Guinn said, “there is a paraffin test where a wax impression is taken of the hand and cheeks. There is a need for a better procedure and about three years ago we began working on activation analysis. We bought a similar rifle from the same shop as Oswald and conducted two parallel tests. One person fired the rifle on eight occasions...it was positive in all eight cases and showed a primer on both hands and both cheeks. Then we took the casts of Oswald's cheek and put them in a nuclear reactor.” This blasts a hole in the Commission’s plans to ignore the tests they’d known about since early March. Time for Redlich and Eisenberg to get to work.

A 9-5-64 memo from Melvin A. Eisenberg to Norman Redlich reveals that, with the Warren report ready to be printed, they still have not become the experts on the paraffin casts they were expected to become. Eisenberg lists questions Redlich should ask the FBI regarding the neutron activation analysis performed on the paraffin casts at least seven months before. Included on this list are “When the test was performed on the paraffin casts”; “Were barium and antimony found on both sides of the paraffin cast of the cheek?”; “If so, doesn’t that indicate that the casts were contaminated so that the whole test was worthless?”; “What is the meaning of statement in the letter from the FBI that there were more barium and antimony on the casts than might normally be expected to be found on a person who had not fired a weapon?”

On 9-15-64, John F Gallagher, the FBI’s Spectrographic Specialist, testifies in private before Warren Commission Counsel Norman Redlich about the neutron activation analysis tests performed on the paraffin casts many months before. With only a few interruptions, he states:. “Neutron activation analyses were conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tenn., on the paraffin casts from the right hand, the left hand, and the right cheek of Lee Harvey Oswald…The paraffin casts were analyzed by neutron activation analyses to determine if these casts from Oswald, which were made, chemically treated, and subsequently washed by investigators in the Dallas area, bear any deposits which could be associated with the rifle cartridges found in the Texas School Book Depository Building…The deposits found on the paraffin casts from the hands and cheek of Oswald could not be specifically associated with the rifle cartridges. The casts from Oswald bore elements--namely, barium and antimony--which were present in the powder residues from both the rifle, and revolver cartridges. No characteristic elements were found by neutron activation analysis of the residues which could be used to distinguish the rifle from the revolver cartridges. In view of the fact that the paraffin casts were not made until after the reported firing and handling of the fired revolver, no significance could be attached to the residues found on the casts other than the conclusion that the barium and antimony in these residues are present in amounts greater than found on the hands of an individual who has not recently fired or handled a recently fired weapon”

If Gallagher’s words sound familiar, it’s no wonder—the italicized words above are all words used by Hoover in his March 10 letter to Rankin. While it’s possible Gallagher was allowed to refer to Hoover’s letter as he testified, it's also possible that Hoover's letter was a paraphrase of a report written by Gallagher, and read aloud to Redlich. Gallagher goes a bit further than Hoover, however. He tells the Commission “It is my opinion that the person from whom these casts were removed may have either handled a fired weapon, or fired a weapon”, and that his tests are more definitive than the traditional paraffin tests because “The determination of barium and antimony by neutron activation analysis is specific. Although there are commercial products which contain the elements barium and antimony, these components in many of these commercial products are not as available for contaminating purposes as are nitrates and oxidizing agents detected by the diphenylamine or diphenylbenzi-dine tests.”

Gallagher discounts the value of one of his tests, however. Not surprisingly, it is the neutron-activation analysis of the paraffin cast of Oswald’s cheek. He asserts: “Barium and antimony were found on the cheek casts. However, when the cheek cast was analyzed, both surfaces of the cheek cast were studied. That is, the surface adjacent to the skin of the subject and the surface away from the skin of the subject, or the outside surface of the cast…The outside surface of this cast was found to contain-barium and antimony--actually more barium was found on the outside surface of the cast than on the inside surface…There was slightly less antimony on the outside of the cast than on the inside of the cast…I have no explanation for this difference...I found that there was more barium and antimony on the inside surface of the cast than you would find on the cheek of an individual who had recently washed his cheek. However, the significance of this antimony and barium on the inside of the cheek is not known…The outside surface of the cheek was run as a control for this particular specimen.” Redlich then asks: “And therefore the presence of a lesser amount of barium and a slightly larger amount of antimony on the inside surface was one of the reasons why you could not make a determination as to the significance of the barium and antimony on the inside surface, is that correct?” To which Gallagher replies, “Yes, sir.” Gallagher eventually states it was possible the higher levels of antimony were related to Oswald’s firing a pistol.

While at first it might seem generous for Redlich and Gallagher to refuse to use the heightened levels of barium and antimony on Oswald’s cheek to demonstrate that Oswald fired the shots that killed Kennedy, there is another level to Gallagher’s testimony that should not be overlooked. Implicit in Gallagher’s statements is that the levels of barium and antimony found on Oswald’s cheek were lower than would be expected of a man who’d recently fired a rifle, but higher than would be expected of a man who’d just washed his cheek. Well, no one had testified that Oswald had just washed his cheek. Gallagher should have been comparing the amounts of barium and antimony on the paraffin cast of Oswald’s cheek to the levels on the face of a man who had worked with books that day. (On 3-18 Hoover had sent the Commission a list of items containing barium and antimony; at the top of the list of items containing barium and antimony was…printed paper.) Something is just wrong here. Could Gallagher really be contending we should disregard the implications of the LOW levels of barium and antimony found on the inside of the cheek cast simply because the outside of the cheek cast had been contaminated, and had overly HIGH levels of barium? Does that make sense? And isn’t it suspicious that the test results, which the Commission has known about since March, and which they were clearly hoping to leave out of their report, just so happened to suggest Oswald’s innocence? And that when Gallagher testifies, he says the test results indicating Oswald’s possible innocence were inexplicably contaminated and couldn’t be trusted? At what point does your smoke and mirrors detector go off? Because mine’s chirping like crazy…

Gallagher is the last witness to testify for the Commission. With his testimony, Eisenberg and Redlich complete their mission of turning the problematic results of the paraffin tests into a possible indication of Oswald’s guilt. They had performed magic. Almost in plain sight. Not surprisingly, Gallagher’s test results are not supplied to the Warren Commission and are not included in the hundreds of thousands of pages of assassination-related documents fed into the archives.

(Researcher Herbert Blenner has an alternate take on Gallagher's testimony. He contends that the amount of barium and antimony on the cheek cast was sufficient to rule that Oswald had fired a rifle but that the excess barium and antimony on the outside of the cast suggests that the Dallas Police Department had planted this evidence. Either way, these tests are damaging to the Oswald did-it scenario.)

On 9-18-64, Gallagher contacts Dr. Spofford English of the Atomic Energy Commission and alerts him to the 8-28-64 article on Guinn and the aspects of the article which are in opposition to the now official story. Spofford, in turn, contacts Guinn.

On 9-24-64, the Warren report is released with references to Cunningham’s and Gallagher’s testimony. The overall pattern is to attach no significance to the paraffin tests, some significance to the neutron activation analysis of the paraffin casts, and none whatsoever to the analysis of the paraffin cast of the cheek. The report states: “The paraffin casts of Oswald's hands and right cheek were also examined by neutron-activation analyses at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Barium and antimony were found to be present on both surfaces of all the casts and also in residues from the rifle cartridge cases and the revolver cartridge cases. Since barium and antimony were present in both the rifle and the revolver cartridge cases, their presence on the casts were not evidence that Oswald had fired the rifle. Moreover, the presence on the inside surface of the cheek cast of a lesser amount of barium, and only a slightly greater amount of antimony, than was found on the outside surface of the cast rendered it impossible to attach significance to the presence of these elements on the inside surface. Since the outside surface had not been in contact with Oswald's cheek, the barium and antimony found there had come from a source other than Oswald. Furthermore, while there was more barium and antimony present on the casts than would normally be found on the hands of a person who had not fired a weapon or handled a fired weapon, it is also true that barium and antimony may be present in many common items; for example, barium may be present in grease, ceramics, glass, paint, printing ink, paper, rubber, plastics, leather, cloth, pyrotechnics, oilcloth and linoleum, storage batteries, matches and cosmetics; antimony is present in matches, type metal, lead alloys, paints and lacquers, pigments for oil and water colors, flameproof textiles, storage batteries, pyrotechnics, rubber, pharmaceutical preparations and calico; and both barium and antimony are present in printed paper and cloth, paint, storage batteries, rubber, matches, pyrotechnics, and possibly other items. However, the barium and antimony present in these items are usually not present in a form which would lead to their adhering to the skin of a person who had handled such items.” There is no reference to Guinn and his tests in the report.

Now painfully aware that his test results were ignored and that his contacts with the FBI officially never occurred, on 9-25-64 Guinn writes a letter to the New York World Telegram & Sun, complaining “In my opinion, the person who is responsible for the version that you published should be thoroughly bawled out--it is the worst job of reporting I have ever seen…Your version was shot full of atrocious misstatements. Worse yet, the writer had the gall to make up his own statements, then put them into alleged direct quotations attributed to me. ..All in all, I think your newspaper should hang its face in shame for publication of such garbled and erroneous nonsense.”

Guinn, however, can’t help himself. He publishes an article in the October, 1964 Journal of the Forensic Science Society which discusses the use of neutron activation analysis in detecting gunshot residue on men suspected of firing a handgun. He states “Similar studies with rifles and shotguns are now being initiated, but to date the only such studies carried out have been with one particular type of rifle. These measurements, however, produced very interesting results, namely, that firing of this type of rifle deposited quite measurable amounts of Ba (Barium) and Sb (Antimony) on both hands and both cheeks of the firers.” As reported in William Turner’s 1968 book on forensic evidence, Invisible Witness, Guinn would eventually admit that he and a Los Angeles Police Department criminalist named Raymond Pinker had indeed tested a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle like Oswald’s and found abundant gunshot residue on the cheeks of those firing the rifle.

But that’s not the end of the story. Over the next decade, researcher Harold Weisberg and his lawyer Jim Lesar use the Freedom of Information Act to repeatedly sue the FBI and the Atomic Energy Commission into coughing up Gallagher’s test results, not only for his tests on the paraffin casts, but also for his almost secret tests on the bullet fragments. (The FBI determined the tests of the bullet fragments were inconclusive.) The Federal Government fights hard against their release. In late, 1970, the Justice Department moves to dismiss Weisberg’s case on the grounds that the release of the FBI’s analyses “would seriously interfere with the efficient operation of the FBI” and that this would “create a highly dangerous precedent.” On November 16, 1970, the Justice Department goes even further, arguing that “the Attorney General of the United States (the subsequently disgraced Watergate conspirator John Mitchell) has determined that it is not in the national interest” to divulge these test results. This tactic proved successful. Weisberg started over. These battles are described in Weisberg’s 1975 book Post Mortem. On page 414 he discusses how on June 30, 1975, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Ryan sought to settle one of his lawsuits by delivering 400 pages of random notes and calculations. On page 437, Weisberg mentions that “Most of those hundreds of pages are the raw material of the testing of the paraffin casts…These paraffin tests were subjected to neutron activation analysis. They show deposits on the hands, which need mean no more than that Oswald handled any of the many ordinary materials that can leave the invisible traces that NAAs pick up. This means that he could have fired a pistol, not that he had. There is no similar evidence on his cheek. The tests given me show that in seven “control” cases where others fired a rifle this evidence was left on the cheeks.” If Weisberg interpreted these pages correctly, and Gallagher did indeed run “control” cases showing clear deposits on the cheek, then Gallagher knew that his tests provided compelling evidence that Oswald did not fire a rifle on November 22, 1963, and that he would have to tell this to Hoover and the White House, unless he could find a reason to distrust his own test. This should make us wonder if the excess barium on the back side of the cast was really as significant as Gallagher later testified, or was even on the cast when first tested.

But there’s another troubling aspect to the “controls” discovered by Weisberg. On 4-1-64 Cortlandt Cunningham of the FBI testified “No, sir; I personally wouldn't expect to find any residues on a person's right cheek after firing a rifle.” This was weeks, possibly months, after his fellow FBI man Gallagher had tested this very fact, and found that firing a rifle similar to the one purportedly owned by Oswald did indeed produce such residues. From this it seems likely that Cunningham was well aware of Gallagher’s test results, and sought to get around them by stating his personal expectation. Oddly enough, the man taking Cunningham’s testimony was Melvin A. Eisenberg, who’d discussed these very same residue tests with Gallagher on March 16. From this it seems likely they’d conspired on the deception.

As for Guinn, in time he would be hired by the HSCA to conduct tests on the intact bullet and bullet fragments recovered from the hospital stretcher, the limousine, and the President’s brain. True to form, he would once again announce his results to the scientific community before the government was ready to make an announcement. On June 25, 1978, the San Diego Union trumpeted “Lee Oswald Confirmed as the Killer,” citing Guinn’s speech before the American Nuclear Society as its source. Guinn’s test results on the fragments, of course, could in no way determine who’d fired his rifle. Guinn’s earlier tests, which could determine if Oswald had fired a rifle, and showed he quite possibly did not, were not mentioned.

It should also be noted that, as the use of the paraffin test declined, the use of neutron activation analysis to detect gunpowder residue only grew in acceptance--so much so that by 1986 the standard text Scientific Evidence in Criminal Cases would state “neutron activation analysis and atomic absorption spectrophotometry for the detection of gunshot residues on the hands have received widespread judicial approval.” Larry Ragle, a retired Director of Forensic Sciences for Santa Ana, California, confirms the current acceptance of gunshot residue analysis in his 1995 book Crime Scene, and expands “By design, revolvers can leak…Rifles, depending on their construction and wear, can also leak. There is only one way to determine the leakage capacity of any weapon and that is to collect samples from the hands or face firing the weapon under controlled conditions while using the corresponding ammunition.” Of course, this is precisely the kind of test performed by Guinn and Gallagher in 1964.

One final note. While the paraffin test for nitrates performed in Dallas had already fallen in disfavor by 1963, its use remained widespread for years afterward. In January 1967, a detailed study of paraffin test results was published in The Journal of Forensic Sciences. This study concluded that the test was simply not reliable. Even so, this study revealed some interesting probabilities, some of which have a bearing on the Oswald case. For one, the study showed that “Contrary to the general belief, it was the rifle rather than the revolver that demonstrated the broadest dispersion” of gunshot residue. Accordingly, 75% of those firing rifles were found to have gunshot residue on the fingers of their left hand. Bear in mind, this was after one shot. Oswald had no residue on the fingers of his left hand, after purportedly firing three shots. An October 1974 article in The Journal of Forensic Sciences reported on a similar, albeit much smaller, study using neutron activation analysis to detect gunshot residue. This study found that one could predict whether or not someone fired a weapon with 80% accuracy by comparing the relative barium, antimony, and lead levels found on the test subject’s hands. It also found that the closer the levels, the more likely it was the test subject had merely handled a weapon. Intriguingly, if the paraffin tests are any reflection of the relative levels arrived at by the neutron activation analysis, they may very well suggest that Oswald failed to fire a weapon of any kind on November 22nd 1963. A contraindication, however, comes from a November 1995 article published in the same journal. For this article the hands of 43 police officers—none of whom had recently fired a weapon-- were studied to see if they had picked up gunshot residue from merely handling their weapons. The tests were positive for only 3 of them. This suggests—it is by no means conclusive--that Oswald fired his revolver on November 22, 1963. If this is so, then he is undoubtedly the leading candidate for the murder of Officer Tippit. If one is to use this test to suggest that Oswald shot Tippit, however, one must simultaneously acknowledge the likelihood he did not shoot Kennedy.

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