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DiEugenio's review of Horne


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Thanks Jack,

Maybe Jimmy D will give G-Man Horne's IARR a fair shake, and the critical and serious evaluation that it needs. - BK

Jim DiEugenio's review of Volume I is the first installment of CTKA's book-by-book review of Douglas Horne's five-volume set Inside the ARRB. Later contributions by Dr. David Mantik, Gary Aguilar and Jim DiEugenio will complete the critique of this mammoth series.)

I

Douglas Horne's five volume set is formally titled Inside the Assassination Records Review Board: The U.S. Government's Final Attempt to Reconcile the Conflicting Medical Evidence in the Assassination of JFK. In almost record time it has become an object of heated and almost embattled controversy. There was at first a barrage of advance, and pretty much unqualified, praise from certain quarters of the research community. The book was then attacked by both Krazy Kid Oswald advocates and certain Warren Commission critics. In reading Horne's series two things strike me about the book's reception. First, the reaction seems to me to be predictable since Horne is postulating a rather radical interpretation of the medical evidence and the Zapruder film. Second, although Volume Four was released first, and has generated the most controversy, it seems rather shortsighted to concentrate on that particular book in explaining this work. To understand Horne, and where his book is coming from, one has to read Volume I first. I read it twice and consider it crucial in any evaluation of this rather large outpouring of writing and research....

[see: Link Text re: Horne and Lifton;....]

.... For me, the most interesting chapter in Volume I is also a disappointing one. And it has little, if anything, to do with Horne's attempt to revive and revise Best Evidence. Horne entitles it "Prologue: The Culture of the ARRB". Here he offers his insights into the personalities and stances of the people he worked with and for at the Board. Specifically the other staffers, the Executive Director, and the ARRB members. I thought this chapter was both valuable and unique for the simple reason it had not been done before from anyone who was actually there at the time. One of the most startling revelations is that Executive Director David Marwell regularly talked to and lunched with the likes of Max Holland, Gus Russo, and the anti-Christ himself Gerald Posner. (p. 13) In fact, when Marwell was hired he told a newspaper interviewer that he found much of value in Case Closed. Although this was startling, it only set the stage for what the book reveals about that body as a whole: information the research community did not know at the time and which now sets off retroactive light.

For beginners, not one Board member – historians Anna Nelson and Henry Graff, Dean Kermit Hall, archivist William Joyce, or Judge Jack Tunheim – believed Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. (p. 10) Further, Horne estimates that well over half of the staff members believed Oswald did it. To the point that many exhibited a prejudice bordering on condescension toward those who did not believe the Warren Commission fairy tale. (p. 11) Chief Counsel Jeremy Gunn actually told Horne not to talk to the Board members about conspiracy angles, no matter how well founded they were. (p. 12) Why? Because the Board members were so mainstream oriented they would probably doubt his suitability for the ARRB.

Horne believes this was done by design. It originated with the Board members in their choice of Marwell. It was then transmitted from Marwell to his hiring of staffers. Horne observes that Marwell's orientation resulted in the following: 1.) Few staffers were concerned with the conflicts in the evidence 2.) Most were not well versed in the nuances of the case, and 3.) Most did not even have a natural interest in the Kennedy assassination. This fulfilled Marwell's mandate of having an ARRB staff that was "neutral". But it also resulted in a staff that was way behind the curve when it came to fulfilling their mandate of looking for records, interviewing witnesses who knew where the records were and/or could resolve conflicts in the evidence. I can certify this as true. When the ARRB started up, Anne Buttimer, their first chief investigator, called me and discussed the New Orleans aspect of the case for about an hour. From her questions I could tell she did not know a lot about that famous milieu. Anne eventually quit. (Horne does not mention Buttimer or why she left.)

The Board members never got any briefing in any controversial evidentiary aspect of the case. When Marwell gave Jeremy Gunn permission to interview some medical witnesses, Gunn's first chosen assistant dragged his feet in preparation for the depositions. He then secretly lobbied Marwell to halt the medical deposition process completely. (p. 15) While this interview process was ongoing, not one Board member read a single deposition Gunn had done. (p. 17) It wasn't until the end of the ARRB, when the medical investigation gained some publicity, that three of the Board members asked to read these now "hot" items. (ibid)

How obsessed was Marwell and the Board with the image of "neutrality"? There were no wall photos or portraits of President Kennedy in the waiting room or foyer of the ARRB offices.

Did the ARRB do a good job? That is open to question today, especially with the new discoveries about the documents they missed. The most famous example being the George Johannides documents which were originally kept from the HSCA. But consider this about the HSCA's Lopez Report on Mexico City: the Board never found out what happened to the annex of that report entitled "Was Oswald an Agent of the CIA". It is not attached to the report today. Further, the Board never surfaced the working notes Ed Lopez and Dan Hardway made while assembling that report. Even though Lopez strongly recommend they do so since he filed the notes every day in the safe the CIA had built at HSCA headquarters. Finally, the Board never even seriously contemplated interviewing Ruth and Michael Paine. Even though much interesting material had been declassified about them, which authors like Carol Hewitt and Steve Jones utilized to the couple's detriment.

Up to now, these failings were generally written off due to lack of time and money. But with what Horne reveals here, there may have been more to it than that. The ARRB's effort to appear "neutral" may have meant sacrificing some important opportunities and not following up on others. While in operation, this failing was generally kept from the public because the Board had two good front people who managed to shield the inner dynamic. They were Tunheim and public relations director Tom Samoluk. But this new information sheds light on the Board members' desire to proclaim that they declassified no "smoking guns". But since the Board members were already convinced the Warren Commission was correct, those proclamations are hollow since they were predictable. With what Horne writes about here, it appears the Board members saw their mission as declassifying as much as possible, looking as neutral as possible in the process, and then proclaiming that the two million new pages didn't make any difference anyway. The Warren Commission got it right back in 1964.

I wish Horne had spent more time and length on this chapter. It only fills 14 pages. If I had been advising him, it would have easily been two or three times as long. And his contribution would have been comparable to Edward Epstein's Inquest or Gaeton Fonzi's The Last Investigation. In other words an explanation of not just what happened, but why and how it went down that way.

III

After this, and throughout the rest of this volume, Horne concentrates on the investigation of the medical evidence by the ARRB, as headed by Jeremy Gunn. Before approaching that inquiry and evaluating it, let me add some qualifications to this ARRB endeavor. As others, like medical investigator Pat Speer, have written, one has to qualify some of this testimony simply because it came so late in the game. From the chart Horne produces on pages 59-64, the ARRB medical interviews started in early 1996 and extended to October of 1997. So the witnesses were addressing the issue anywhere from 33-34 years after the fact. Further, many of the witnesses were quite old at the time. And although I am not that old, I can attest to the fact that memories do not get better as one gets older, they usually get worse. Third, because of all the controversy on this issue, plus the fact that it is politically charged, testimony tends to get altered or fudged. And Horne describes two witnesses who changed their stories on an important issue: John Stringer and Floyd Riebe. In 1972, autopsy photographer Stringer – who, incredibly, was not contacted by the Warren Commission – said that the damage to Kennedy's skull was in the rear. He then changed his story for the HSCA and ARRB. He now said it was on the right side above the right ear – which coincides with the autopsy report. (p. 183) Riebe, Stringer's assistant, earlier told researchers about this gaping hole in the back of Kennedy's head. When Gunn showed him the alleged autopsy photos which show an intact rear skull, he now agreed that this is what he saw that night. (p. 229) Further, Stringer says that Riebe took no photographs. (p. 166) Riebe has always said he did. Although the number and type have slightly varied through the years. (See chart on page 226) Further, Robert Knudsen, a White House photographer who insisted that he, at the very least, developed photographs from the autopsy is not even known by Stringer! (p. 177) I found this remarkable. Gunn asks Stringer about Knudsen in more than one way. Yet Knudsen's name is so foreign to Stringer that he actually asks Gunn if Knudsen was a doctor. (The Knudsen mystery is an interesting episode which I will return to later.)

Having established these serious qualifications, let me state why I think they exist. It is not the fault of Doug Horne, or Jeremy Gunn, or the ARRB. In my view, and disagreeing with David Lifton, this much varied and at times, unfathomable and irreconcilable medical record is owed to one man above all: Arlen Specter......So he did what his masters on the Commission wanted: He deliberately concealed the truth. And this robbed us all of a true cross-examination of the medical witnesses at the time when they were not old and infirm and when their memories were fresh.

The fact that Specter did what he did guaranteed that pieces of the story would dribble out piecemeal over the years. And this made the purveyors of the official deception alter the official story, e.g. as did the Fisher Panel. So today, the JFK medical record is scattered all over the place. So much so that one can marshall evidence for both versions of the official story: the Warren Commission's with low skull wound entry and a neck-throat wound; or the HSCA's with high skull wound entry and upper back wound. Third, one can argue that the evidence is authentic and still argue conspiracy e.g. Pat Speer, Dr. Randy Robertson and Roger Feinman. Fourth, one can make a case for what can be termed moderate alterations, that is the x-rays and photos have been tampered with e.g. Robert Groden, Harrison Livingstone, Gary Aguilar, Cyril Wecht, Doug DeSalles and many others. Fifth, one can argue for a radical alterationist view. That is the body was hijacked, wounds were physically altered, and the x-rays were also e.g. Lifton and Horne. But the very fact that one can make all five arguments should tell almost everyone that something is wrong someplace. Because this does not happen in real life.

As I pointed out, Horne is in the last school. He therefore – and somewhat understandably – picks and chooses things to bolster his view. This mars the book, and I will explain why later. But I want to make the point that when Horne does not adhere to this practice he reveals a lot of valuable and interesting information. And although one can say that much of it is in other books, I know of no other volume that has as much of it between two covers. (Or in this case, ten covers.)

Some of the remarkable testimony includes autopsy photographer John Stringer saying that he shot no basilar views of Kennedy's brain. (p. 41) Yet there are basilar – that is, shot from below – views in the autopsy collection. If Stringer says only he shot all the autopsy photos, then who took these shots? Stringer also says that he recalled the cerebellum being damaged. (p. 43) This is the part of the brain almost at the stem, low in the rear of the skull. This damage is not depicted in the extant photography. As Horne appropriately notes, both of these observations by Stringer lead one to question the condition of the brain as depicted in the present pictures. Stringer was the official photographer and he's raising questions about the authenticity of his photos. These two particular questions lead one to doubt the rendering of what the HSCA artist Ida Dox depicted as an almost intact brain. Especially when one factors in how many witnesses said that Kennedy's brain was not just blasted, but that much of it was gone. (For example FBI agent Frank O'Neill said half of it was gone. See p. 45) One does not have to agree with Horne – that there were actually two viewings of the brain and that Pierre Finck was snookered by the dastardly duo of Humes and Boswell – to understand that something is wrong here. Especially when there is no official weight given to the brain at the autopsy, but later it weighed in at 1500 grams – which is actually at the top end for an intact brain. This is very hard to believe. Especially considering the fact that so many witnesses saw a brain that was nowhere near intact.

IV

Jeremy Gunn's questioning of the pathologists was interesting in multiple aspects. ........Robert Karnei was the fourth pathologist on hand that night, although he did not participate in the autopsy. Karnei saw the actual probe that Finck inserted in Kennedy's back. He also says it did not go through the body. But beyond that, he insisted that there were photographs taken of this. He was clearly agitated when he was told those photographs do not exist today. (p. 127) According to Karnei, no exit for the wound in the back was ever found. He recalled the pathologists searching for one until almost midnight. (p. 128) So clearly, in opposition to Humes, the failure to dissect the back wound created a real problem. Finally, Karnei said that he did hear from someone that Humes had called Dallas that night to learn about Perry's tracheotomy. (p. 128) I should add here, John Stringer also stated that Humes called Dallas that night. (p. 165) By the end of the night, did Humes know about the throat wound? If he did, could he not admit that because the many probe attempts could not connect the back wound with the throat wound?

From here, Horne goes into a thorough chronicling of the photographs taken the night of the autopsy. Near the beginning of this section, Horne adduces more evidence that Arlen Specter and the Warren Commission lied about their access to the autopsy photographs. One of the excuses the Commission always gave for doing such a poor job was that they did not have access to the autopsy photographs and x-rays. People like Specter and John McCloy usually blamed this on the Kennedy family. But as time has gone on, more and more evidence has accrued that reveals this to be a deception. For the Commission did view the autopsy photographic record. And Horne adds to that growing accumulation here. Secret Service officer Robert Bouck told the HSCA that he recalled that a representative of the Warren Commission looked at the autopsy photographs. Horne feels this had to be either J. Lee Rankin or Specter. Further, there is a Treasury Department memorandum noting that the Warren Commission was briefed on the autopsy procedures by using the actual x-rays to do so. (p. 135)

Another curious point that Horne develops is that at least some of the photos were not developed at either Bethesda or the Secret Service lab. Some of them were developed at the Navy Processing Center at Anacostia where color prints were made from positive transparencies. (p. 135) Why some of the films were taken there is not clearly known. When Gunn asked Stringer about this, the photographer said that the Anacostia lab was larger and more secret. (p. 208)

But as early as 1966, for a Justice Department review, Humes, Boswell and Stringer all stated that some pictures were missing. Stringer specified three of them to be gone, including a full body shot taken from overhead. (p. 146) But this fact could not be admitted to the public at the time. Especially since the first books critical of the Commission were now entering the market. So Justice Department official Carl Belcher arranged for another lie to be formalized. Belcher requested that some of the Bethesda witnesses sign a false inventory saying that at this 1966 review all the autopsy photos taken in 1963 were accounted for. Yet to get himself off the hook, Belcher had his name removed from the final draft of the false document. Horne discovered this by uncovering the fact that the preliminary draft did contain his name. (pgs. 146-47) Stringer admitted to Gunn that he knew the inventory list was false before he signed it. He said he was told to sign it anyway. (p. 206) As to why Stringer knowingly signed a false document, I wish to relate one of the most memorable exchanges in all the ARRB depositions. After Gunn noted to Stringer that certain protocol was not followed in the taking of photographs, he asked him why he did not object. Stringer replied, "You don't object to things." Gunn replied with, "Some people do." Stringer shot back with the following rather pithy remark, " Yeah, they do. But they don't last long." (p. 213) Those eight words tell us all we need to know about how the lid was kept on the autopsy cover up for so long.

After his ARRB testimony, Gunn and Horne came to believe that by the time of the HSCA, a total of five views taken by Stringer had disappeared. (pgs 182-83) Reinforcing this was one of the real finds of the ARRB: an interview done with photographer Karl McDonald. After taking the formal picture of the Board members, Marwell found out that McDonald had been the medical photographer at Bethesda for eight years. Further, that he had been tutored by, and worked with, Stringer. (p. 152) And he had ended up by being that institute's senior instructor in medical photography. In his ARRB interview he shed a lot of light on just how bad the extant pictorial record of Kennedy's autopsy is.

He first said that he always developed his own pictures. He never sent anything to Anacostia. He also said that he was always sure to take a battery of full body shots – of which none exist in the Kennedy case. He testified that there was always an autopsy card included with each and every photo. The card included an autopsy number and the year. Again, none exist in the Kennedy case. He said for trauma shots – places on the body where bullets impacted – he always took three views: wide-angle, medium shot, close-up. In light of the above strictures, Gunn asked him to give an overall grade to what purports to be Stringer's work today. McDonald replied that he would grade the collection with very low marks. This was the guy who was taught photography procedure by Stringer. Did Stringer forget the very lessons he once gave? Not likely.

V

I will conclude this review of Volume I by discussing what can only be called the enigma of Robert Knudsen. Knudsen has been discussed before by other writers, like David Mantik. But in light of the fact that Horne spends seven pages on him (pgs 247-254), and he implies that he may have actually taken at least some of the autopsy photographs in existence today, I think its necessary to write a bit about the unplumbed mystery of the man. Because, to me, he has been ignored for too long.

One way to begin to point out the strangeness of Robert Knudsen is with this fact: Although Stringer denied knowing who Knudsen was, Knudsen had Stringer's name and phone number in his appointments book. (p. 252) Which strongly implies that Knudsen did know Stringer. The question obviously becomes: How could Knudsen know Stringer if Stringer didn't know Knudsen? And in fact, if Stringer did know him, is he feigning that he did not? If so, why? Because as we will see, under the circumstances we will describe, it is hard to believe that Stringer completely forgot about the man.

Knudsen was one of two White House photographers in 1963. The other was Cecil Stoughton. (p. 249) As he revealed in his HSCA interview, Knudsen began his career as a Navy photographer who was then detailed to the White House in 1958. (8/11/78 HSCA transcript, p. 4) Generally speaking, Knudsen covered President Kennedy on state trips, and Stoughton covered the First Lady. (p. 250) In fact, Knudsen was scheduled to cover the Dallas trip. But he injured himself the week before. Therefore he did not accompany President Kennedy to Texas, Stoughton did. (ibid) At around 3:00 PM on the afternoon of the murder, Knudsen received a phone call. He was ordered to go to Andrews Air Force Base to meet Air Force One and to accompany the body of President Kennedy to Bethesda. And thus begins a fascinating puzzle. For, as Horne writes, there is no documented evidence that Knudsen was ever interviewed by the Warren Commission. (If this is true, the fact that the Commission never talked to either Knudsen or Stringer tells us plenty about Specter's investigation of the autopsy.) The first, and only, on the record interview with Knudsen about this subject came with Andy Purdy of the HSCA. And that transcript was classified by Robert Blakey and Michael Baden. The ARRB declassified it in 1993. And on the version of the audiotape at the History Matters site, Knudsen's voice is not audible on the actual recording. It sounds like a woman who is phrasing the transcript for copying purposes is repeating his words. (See for yourself.)

How did the HSCA find out about Knudsen and the autopsy? In 1977, Knudsen gave an interview to a trade magazine in which he said that he was the only photographer to record Kennedy's autopsy. (Horne, p. 250) What makes this odd is not just that Knudsen was not on the Bethesda staff, but that Stringer and his assistant Floyd Riebe have always maintained that they were the only photographers in the morgue that night. There were no civilian photographers taking pictures. Obviously, Knudsen did not have to say what he did to a magazine. But since the HSCA had been convened in 1976, after the electrifying viewing of the Zapruder film on ABC in 1975, Knudsen may have felt compelled to reveal what he knew.

Unfortunately for Gunn and Horne, Knudsen had passed away before the ARRB was formed. But the Board got in contact with the survivors of his family, his widow and two children. What they told the ARRB about the aftermath of Knudsen at Bethesda makes the story even more tantalizing. They told the Board that Knudsen disappeared for three days after he was called to report the day of the murder. (ibid) He didn't return home until after Kennedy's funeral on the 25th. Knudsen told his son Robert that he had been present at the beginning of the autopsy. (ibid) Further, he told his family that he had photographed probes going into he back of President Kennedy. Which, as noted before, do not exist today. In a statement that is hard to reconcile with the record, Knudsen told them that he was the only one with a camera in the morgue. (Horne, p. 251) He also told his son that he did not recognize 4 or 5 of the photos shown to him by the HSCA. And at least one had been altered. Hair had been drawn in on it to conceal the missing portion of the top-back of Kennedy's head. (ibid) In keeping with many other witnesses, Knudsen told his wife that much of Kennedy's brain was blown away. (ibid) When Knudsen tried to get a copy of his HSCA transcript, he was told that "there was no record of him or his testimony." (ibid)

I have saved for last what is probably the most fascinating piece of information that the ARRB garnered from Knudsen's survivors. All three of them said "Knudsen appeared before an official government body again some time in 1988, about six months before he died in January of 1989." They all agreed "Knudsen came away from this experience very disturbed, saying that four photographs were missing, and that one was badly altered." Gloria Knudsen continued by saying that Knudsen felt "that the wounds he saw in the photos shown to him in 1988 did not represent what he saw or took." (p. 252) One reason he was disturbed by the experience was that "as soon as he would answer a question consistent with what he remembered, he would immediately be challenged and contradicted by people whom he felt already had their minds made up." (ibid) Knudsen told his wife that he knew who had possession of the autopsy photographs he took. That based on that, he could then find out who had made some of them disappear and who had altered the back of the head picture. But he was not going to stick his neck out on something this huge because he had a family to protect. (p. 253)

Andy Purdy's HSCA interview with Knudsen is a disappointment. As Horne notes, Purdy concentrates almost completely on the photo negatives that were sent to the Navy Photographic Center at Anacostia. Knudsen notes that this was done because of the color facilities there. And Navy officer Sandra Spencer handled the color operation there. (HSCA transcript, p. 47) Secret Service photographer Jim Fox accompanied Knudsen there. According to Knudsen they were ordered to do this by George Burkley on the morning after the autopsy. (ibid, p. 5) Knudsen told Purdy that afterwards, Burkley ordered seven prints made. (ibid, p. 8) Which, as Purdy later noted, was an unusually high number that no one else recalled. Knudsen noted that after he turned in the work product to the White House, he never saw the photos again until Purdy showed them to him that day. (ibid, p. 16) When asked, he distinctly recalled photos of a large cavity in the back of Kennedy's head and a side view with probes going through the body. (ibid, p.22) Unlike others, the views he saw showed the probes extending all the way through the body. Again, Purdy reminded him that no one else recalled such a photo. There was another photo of the chest cavity which Knudsen recalled that today is not in existence. (ibid, p. 39)

Now, Knudsen said that it took about two hours for him to develop the color photos at Anacostia. But yet he told Purdy that the four-day period of the assassination and its aftermath were like a fog to him. He recalled working continuously through it. (ibid, pgs. 9-12) This period roughly coincides with how long his family said he was gone from home. Incredibly, Purdy never asked the obvious question: "Mr. Knudsen, if the processing took two hours, but you worked for 3-4 days, what did you do the rest of the time?" And as Horne notes, even though Knudsen told the trade magazine the previous year that he actually took photos of the autopsy, Purdy never asked him any direct questions on this point. Like, how many pictures did he take, what kind of camera did he use, when did he take the shots, and did he give his photos to Stringer or Riebe?

Now, as is his usual tendency, Horne makes an extreme assumption: There were actually two sets of photographs made and Knudsen shot pictures of the intact back of the head. And he did it at the request of Humes, Boswell and Finck. (Horne, p. 247).....

To me, the incomplete evidentiary record does not conclusively lead to Horne's bold conspiratorial denouement. The case of Robert Knudsen, as I said before, is and remains a mystery. What it actually reveals about the JFK case is that there has never been anywhere near a first-class criminal inquiry into what really happened. In any professional inquiry, with say someone like Patrick Fitzgerald in charge, Knudsen would have been called in under oath with an attorney. He would have been warned in advance that he was expected to answer all questions under penalty of perjury. If he refused to answer he would be charged with contempt. He would have been asked to bring in any corroborative witnesses and exhibits. He would have been asked specifically, "Did you take any autopsy pictures at any time in 1963?" If he said yes, he would have been asked specific questions about when and where he took them and with whom. He would have been specifically asked if he worked with anyone else in making them. Stringer would have been asked the question, "Do you recall anyone else taking pictures at the autopsy?", and also, "If you did not know Knudsen then how did he get your name and phone number?" And this inquiry would have been followed to its ultimate destination: to find out if Knudsen took or did not take any photos. To me that is where the status is of the evidence concerning Knudsen. I believe Horne goes too far in making his assumptions about the man.

But to give Horne his due, at least he brings these matters to the attention of the reader. That is to his credit, since very few others have done it. And no one else has done so in such a complete way.

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