Jump to content
The Education Forum

The Case for Three Assassins; David Lifton; Ramparts 1/67

Recommended Posts

"The Case for Three Assassins", by David Welsh and David Lifton, Ramparts Magazine, January 1967, pp. 77-102


at the link above beginning at page 85. the copy is faded out quite badly, so try this link to Hood..



Edited by Bernice Moore
Link to comment
Share on other sites

"The Case for Three Assassins", by David Welsh and David Lifton, Ramparts Magazine, January 1967, pp. 77-102


at the link above beginning at page 85. the copy is faded out quite badly, so try this link to Hood..



Its interesting that these items are still around.

As a matter of general background: this article was originally written in the period June/July, 1966, when I was hired on a temporary staff basis by Ramparts Magazine, and lived in San Francisco for a brief while, for the specific purpose of writing this article. It was then "final edited" in late October/early November 1966, and was published as the main feature in the UCLA Daily Bruin on November 22, 1966, the third anniversary of the assassination; and then in Ramparts Magazine in January, 1967.

Here's what's important about "The Case for Three Assassins" (and the full story can be found in BEST EVIDENCE, by looking up the four major references to it in the index to any volume of BEST EVIDENCE, under the entry "Hinkle", who was the Editor in Chief at Ramparts).

First of all, this was my first published foray into the Kennedy assassination, and, when originally drafted, was based upon research into the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission, which I had purchased in May, 1965. My original introduction to the Kennedy assassination occurred as a consequence of meeting Ray Marcus, in either late 1964 or early 1965, and we had many conversations about the case. What impressed me the most--having been a physics major at Cornell--was the notion that the Zapruder film showed President Kennedy's head moving backwards in response to the fatal shot, whereas the supposed assassin was supposed to have been located behind the motorcade. (And as to the notion that this was the result of a "neuromuscular reaction," that was as invalid then as it is now). By the Spring of 1966, and viewing "conspiracy" as the "number of assassins," I was aware that there were two types of arguments that could be made against the Warren Report. The first pertained to the Single Bullet Theory; the second, to the matter of the backward headsnap on the Zapruder film.

If the first were valid (i.e.,if the single bullet theory was wrong) then that would place a "second assassin" behind the president; if the second were valid, i.e., if the backward headsnap were truly an indicator of a frontal shot, that would place a "second assassin" to the front.

Joining these two arguments together, I came up with the title "The Case for Three Assassins".

SECOND: I then set out to find a physicist who would be quoted on the backward snap of the President's head. That is all described in Chapter 2 of Best Evidence. I met for a good hour with Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynmann, at Cal Tech (we had a mutual friend); and that meeting is also described in chapter 2 of B.E. He focused on the 312-313 (forward) movement--which I had not known about until that meeting. In any event, it was clear that he did not want to become embroiled in this "political" controversy. Subsequently, I found a UCLA physics professor, Dr. James Riddle, who was more than happy to argue that the backwards motion of JFK's head, as seen on the Z film, was excellent evidence o a shot from the front. In a shooting gallery, he said, "the little ducks fall away from you, not towards you" (from memory).

THIRD: In connection with "Part 2" of the article, which focused on a shot from the front, The Case for Three Assassins presented a fairly complete (and highly accurate) compilation of all witnesses who thought a shot came from the front (i.e., the grassy knoll).

FOURTH: At the time this article was written, I was unaware that so many witnesses said the car stopped, and that (a) both the forward motion and (b ) the rapidity of the backward motion, was the result of editing of the Zapruder film, and NOT the simple consequence of a bullet striking JFK's head from the front (which is my present belief). Those insights didn't come until late 1969, and the interested reader is referred to my essay "Pig on a Leash" (found in the Fetzer anthology, HOAX, re the Z film).

FIFTH: On October 23, 1966, when I was back in Los Angeles, and involved (over the telephone) with polishing up the article for publication, I made the discovery of the first evidence that President Kennedy's wounds had been altered, prior to autopsy. Specifically, it was on October 22/23 of 1966 that I made the discovery that the FBI Report of the autopsy, written by FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill, had the statement describing the opening of Kennedy's coffin, wherein they state that it was "apparent" that there had been "surgery of the head area, namely, in the top of the skull." (The word "surgery of the head area," in that context, refers to pathological surgery to remove the skull cap, at autopsy, and not "clinical surgery" or "hospital surgery" done to save someone's life--commonly referred to as "brain surgery"--when someone is a patient in a hospital.) That discovery is described in considerable detail in Chapter 7 of Best Evidence (titled, "Breakthrough"). I was blown away by the notion that anyone would mess with Kennedy's body prior to autopsy, but it was perfectly logical and explained not only the differences in the wound descriptions between Parkland Hospital and Bethesda, but also why the Bethesda doctors (according to FBI agents Sibert and O'Neill) were "at a loss to explain" why they could find no bullets.

On Monday, October 24, 1966, I had the lengthy meeting with UCLA Professor Wesley Liebeler, who had been on the staff of the Warren Commission, and confronted him with my discovery of that passage in the Sibert and O'Neill FBI report, as well as the basic paradigm shift to which it led: that fundamental differences of opinion between the Dallas and Bethesda observations were not the result of either group of doctors either lying, or being incompetent, but because the wounds on the body were different--i.e., that the wounds had been altered between the time of the observtions of the Parkland doctors (circa 12:45-1:20 PM, CST) and the observations of the Bethesda doctors (which, officially at least, commenced with the start of the Bethesda autopsy at 8 pm EST). That is all described in great detail in Chapter 9, of BEST EVIDENCE: "October 24, 1966: A Confrontation with Liebeler."

As described in Chapter 9, Liebeler was astonished and dumbfounded that there was evidence in the record that indicated the President's wounds had been altered, prior to autopsy. He knew exactly what that meant, and grasped the implications immediately. For those interested in his reaction, read chapter 9. One memorable event was his calling Arlen Specter on the phone, and reading him the passage from the Sibert and O'Neill report. Specter hadn't known about it either. As Liebeler emerged from a private office where he had gone to make a telephone call to Arlen Specter, Liebeler described to me Specter's reaction (at the time): "Arlen hopes he gets through this with his balls intact."

QUOTE, UNQUOTE. Those were his exact words, describing Specter's response, and I quoted them in Best Evidence.

The main point I want to make is that, despite these new insights (which I found personally frightening, and kept to myself), Ramparts associate editor Dave Welsh and I kept up the process, which went on for hours, by long distance phone (between me in Los Angeles, and Welsh in San Francisco) of editing and polishing "The Case for Three Assassins," but, because of these discoveries, I knew that the basic thrust of the article was outdated even before it was published. I was very careful, in this "re-write" phase, to make sure that the text would "stand the test of time" when my "body alteration" thesis would be published--having no idea, of course, that that would take place fifteen years later.

In other words, starting in late October,1966, I had undergone a basic paradigm shift. I had the basic understanding, by October 24, 1966, that the Kennedy assassination "conspiracy" was not about how many shooters there were on Dealey Plaza, but whether the most basic evidence in the case, the body of President Kennedy, had been altered prior to autopsy.

That was the key: that bullets had been removed, and wounds altered, PRIOR TO the Bethesda autopsy, which began at 8 pm on the night of 11/22/63.

So "The Case for Three Assassins" was simply a stepping stone along the way to the point where I was fluent enough in the medical evidence to have understood the importance of what was written, in plain English, in the Sibert and O'Neill FBI report of the autopsy, and made the discoveries that I did.

As anyone who has read BEST EVIDENCE knows, Professor Liebeler's reaction was beyond astonishment. Because of the public appearances he had made, in which he had defended the Warren Report (e.g., a speech at Stanford University earlier in October 1966), he was very aware of the various problems with the autopsy protocol, and had an "explanation" for each and every one of them. But now, for the first time, he realized that this simple explanation--that the body had been altered--explained everything. As he told WC attorney Joseph Ball, in a phone call he made in my presence on 10/24/66, "Joe,. . did yhou ever get the feeling that we were being led down the garden path?" (I believe that I included that quote, too, in either chapter 9 or 10 of Best evidence). Liebeler told me he wanted to write a memorandum to Chief Justice Warren (and every other member of the Commission, and the staff) pointing to this major flaw in their investigation; specifically, by spelling out the fact that there was evidence indicating the autopsy had been falsified. This is all described and laid out in Chapter 10 of BEST EVIDENCE, "The Liebeler Memorandum."

Liebeler, I, and two of his top UCLA student assistants (one of whom co-founded Jacoby and Myers) met several times in connection with drafting that memo, which is today at NARA.

That memo was dated November 8, 1966, and went out on November 16. It went to every member of the WC, the entire WC staff, the White House, and Robert Kennedy (via his attorney, Burke Marshall).

Copies of Liebeler's memo are in Allen Dulles' papers at Princeton University, in Russell's papers in Georgia, and at the Ford Library. It is interesting to compare the various copies to see what marginalia were made by the reader, and on which page. Its my impression that not everybody understood the import of those words in the FBI report, or the sub-text that, to me, was rather evident in Lieb eler's memo: that if this FBI report was true, then the most basic evidence in the case had been falsified.

I have reason to believe that Robert Kennedy read, and understood the implications of my discovery, and will be writing about this in the future.

Within days of the initial discovery, I was on the phone with FBI Agent Sibert, and with Commander Humes, and with the Dallas doctors. All of this is laid out in BEST EVIDENCE. In particular, I read the critical passage to Sibert. In a phone call that I recorded, he said "The report stands." When I called Dr. Malcolm Perry and inquired about the lenth of the trachetomy incision, he immediately responded, "2-3 cm" (which was quite different than the "6.5 cm" with "widely gaping irregular edges" (reported by Humes, at Bethesda) or the "7 - 8cm" reported by Humes, under oath before the WC). Perry's estimate of 2-3 cm was echoed by other doctors, who I called in the days following.

The main point I wanted to make was that "The Case for Three Assassins" --published as a 30,000 word detailed essay in the January, 1967 of Ramparts Magazine--presented an organized way of looking at the medical evidence in the Kennedy case that was "pre-body alteration"--i.e., if one's goal was to define conspiracy as "the number of assassins."

But in terms of addressing the underlying problem--which was the falsification of the medical evidence--that is represented by my work, BEST EVIDENCE, published in January, 1981. By that time, of course, I not only had a far more detailed understanding of the alteration of the wounds--both in the area of the head and neck--between Dallas and Bethesda, I also had two other things: first of all, I had basic FBI documents, obtained under the FOIA, that the Sibert and O'Neill statement about surgery represented an FBI report on what Commander Humes had stated, aloud, at the time of autopsy. Inother words, it was evidence of "an oral statement" made by the autopsy surgeon, at the time of autopsy, In addition, and as a result of much research, I had the basic elements of the case for covert interception; i.e., that the President's body did NOT make an uninterrupted journey from Dallas to Bethesda; i.e., that it left Dallas wrapped in sheets, and arrived in a body bag; that it left in a ceremonial coffin, but arrived in a shipping casket. All of that is spelled out in the chapters of Best Evidence starting with Chapter 25, the first published account of Dennis David, who was Chief of the day at Bethesda, on the night of 11/22, and who knew that the body was delivered in a black hearse, at the rear of Bethesda, about 20 minutes before the arrival of the Navy ambulance, containing Jackie Kennedy, RFK, and the Dallas casket, at the front (at about 6:55 pm EST).

Recapping the "difference" between "The Case for Three Assassins" and Best Evidence: These are two entirely different ways of looking at the Kennedy case.

Unfortunately, many people have really not progressed beyond the more primitive way of looking at the case. Conspiracy in the JFK case is not about "counting assassins"; it is about the deliberate falsification of the evidence, by removing bullets and altering the wounds contained in the body of President Kennedy, after his death. The body of President Kennedy (as would be the body of any deceased, in a gunshot case) is tantamount to a "diagram" of the shooting. By altering the wounds, or removing bullets, that diagram is changed.

The falsification of the autopsy was an integral part of the plan to murder the President. Although it was not carried out as originally planned (and I'll have more to say about that in a future writing), it was planned in advance to falsify the autopsy as part of the plot to murder the President. Vincent Bugliosi cannot grasp that fact--and probably never will (and neither can someone like Jim DiEugenio). But at least DiEugenio understands that the autopsy was in fact falsified in this case. Bugliosi cannot even get that far, much less that autopsy falsification was planned in advance. That's one of the reasons why (he thinks) he has "57 reasons" why LHO is guilty; and why, having played "prosecutor" in the televised version of the trial, in the mid-1980s, he continues to see Lee Oswald as Charles Manson. Bugliosi simply cannot get past the notion that the autopsy in this case was not just imperfect, but deliberately falsified. And that the Bethesda autopsy report simply records the appearance of a body with wounds that had been altered--i.e., that the President's body was, at the time of autopsy, a medical forgery. (Well,l that is his problem. And all the hundreds of pages of writing, done by Dale Myers, under a contract with Bugliosi and his publisher, and which appears basically intact in "Reclaiming History" is not going to change the basic fact that his entire case, like that of the Warren Commission Report, is based on a foundation of sand. Because the autopsy was falsified.)

Bottom line (and here I am recapping my views as expressed in Best Evidence): this was not an "after the fact" coverup; rather, it was part of the original design of the plot to murder the president, and alter the wounds, so as to tell a false story of Kennedy's death, and improperly link "Oswald's rifle" to the crime (as the murder weapon). And that is why any establishment lawyer can yell and howl, "But the 'best evidence' in this case points to Oswald as the killer!" Yes, it does. But that's because the "best evidence"--President Kennedy's body--was altered prior to autopsy.

In other words, the President's body, at the time of autopsy, was tantamount to a medical forgery. That's where those critical words in the Sibert and O'Neill FBI report--that it was "apparent" that there had been "surgery of the head area, namely, in the top of the skull" --ultimately lead.

Of course, there was more to this deception than merely "altering the body", important though that is; and those who are interested in some of the other implications are advised to read Chapter 14 of Best Evidence, to get a sense of how this deception played out in real time.

More another time.


Edited by David Lifton
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thank you David, I picked up ''Assassinations'' the other day again, and have been going through the orginal witness statements, as there are so very many within, i say original, as some have been changed over time and not necessarily by the witness,it had been years since I had read the book, there is always something you find within an older book, that has been overlooked now or forgotten,well I do, the'' 64 Witnesses Indicating Firing from the grassy knoll area'', for review is still of great value, imo.....I realise some earlier conclusions have changed down through time, we all have progressed, I recall Liebeler's (SP) reaction, in reading BE the surprise, and shall I call it excitement, a golden discovery, so i went looking to see if by chance your article was on the web, it seems very little is not. as it came up very quickly.......the body alterations were made to fit the evidence,therefore by not being able to follow the evidence,they did the job they set out to do imo, creating then an almost impossible task of confusion for manys a researcher, as of course the information in any area by not coming together as it should has created many a monster leading imo to so many theories , as the octupus arms, spread in manys a direction..as planned...Hope all is going well, take care thank you again for the reply post..best b

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Create New...