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Anyone Want to Crash the Warren Commission Reunion?


Pat Speer
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Well, it looks like the Warren Commission, or what's left of it, is gonna have a reunion in October in Dallas. To all appearances, this will be done in a scholarly setting, without any input from those witting of the Commission's many many egregious errors. The thought occurs, however, that a few of our members may be able to get into the audience and ask a few important questions. I propose that we use this thread to find people to attend the conference, and fine tune the questions that we'd like to see addressed.

From the Liberty County Vindicator

DALLAS (SMU) — An unprecedented gathering of assistant counsel and staff members who served on the Warren Commission – appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to report on President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas Nov. 22, 1963 – will gather at SMU Oct. 11 to discuss their work and findings.

Nearly 50 years later, the Warren Commission Report continues to spark debate, controversy and conspiracy theories.

“The Work of the Warren Commission, Half a Century On: Its Methods, Successes & Questions” will be 12:30–4:30 p.m. in the Martha Proctor Mack Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center, 3300 Dyer St., on the SMU campus. The event is free and open to the public with advance registration: http://blog.smu.edu/towercenter/registerwarrencommission/.

“This is the first time this elite group will publicly discuss their work,” says SMU Dedman Law professor William J. Bridge, who is helping plan the event sponsored by SMU’s Dedman School of Law and John G. Tower Center for Political Studies, along with The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. “This discussion will provide a unique window into the still compelling, still controversial efforts of the Warren Commission, whose work was part of the largest criminal investigation ever conducted in the United States.”

As part of the event, Washington, D.C., lawyer and author Howard P. Willens will discuss his new work, History Will Prove Us Right: Inside the Warren Commission Investigation Into the Assassination of John F. Kennedy (Overlook Press), the only book ever written on this subject by a senior member of the Commission staff.

Willens was a 32-year-old attorney in the Department of Justice’s criminal division when asked to assist in the commission’s organization and staffing a week after Kennedy’s assassination. Ultimately Willens was involved in every aspect of the team’s efforts, which, after interviewing 552 witnesses and reviewing more than 3,000 exhibits, concluded in a 889-page report that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President Kennedy, and that Jack Ruby was solely responsible for killing Oswald.

Willens’ book reveals how the commission conducted its work, and also how the team learned a decade later that both the FBI and CIA had lied to them on critical matters. The book acknowledges some of the commission’s mistakes (leading to still-thriving conspiracy theories) and the report was subjected to four major investigations. Its title, and emphasis, stems from a 1965 comment from U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren, who said to critics of the commission he chaired, “History will prove us right.”

The event will be divided into two panel discussions.

During the first panel (12:45–2:30 p.m.), Willens will join former commission colleagues Burt W. Griffin, a retired Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas judge who was a Cleveland attorney in 1963; W. David Slawson, Webb Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of Southern California, a Denver lawyer 50 years ago; Richard M. Mosk, a justice with the California Court of Appeals, a recent graduate of Harvard Law School in 1963; and Stuart R. Pollak, also a justice with the California Court of Appeals, who worked in the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice at the time of the assassination.

During the event’s second panel (3–4:30 p.m.), SMU faculty members and others will join the five Warren Commission staffers in discussing continuing questions about the commission’s work.

SMU Dedman Law alumna Sarah R. Saldaña ‘84, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, will moderate the first panel. Assisting her, and moderating the second panel, will be SMU Dedman Law professor William Bridge.

The event is part of a yearlong collaboration between SMU and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza to commemorate the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. For related events, JFK experts and resources visit: http://smu.edu/smunews/jfk/.

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It seems a shame that they themselves are not searching out a scholarly venue to learn what they might have missed from folks who have seriously researched their work.

-- not likely to see them joining a self help program though, guess that's just human nature, who really wants to know they made such a colossal mistake...

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Guest Robert Morrow

I really don't think those folks want a "Question and Answer" session. Someone needs to call SMU and see if there will be one.

"SMU Dedman Law alumna Sarah R. Saldaña ‘84, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, will moderate the first panel."

Saldana worked for Barefoot Sanders who was a very important Lyndon Johnson crony who helped to cover up the murder of Henry Marshall in 1961 for LBJ. Of course, Barefoot Sanders, as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, helped to cover up the JFK assassination, too.

Edited by Robert Morrow
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It is highly unlikely that they will entertain questions [50 years after the fact] from those to whom they feel no particular obligation. After all, they never adequately responded to the many criticisms observed by the HSCA.

I find the descriptors: "egregious errors" (quoting Pat) and "colossal mistake" (quoting Larry) -- grossly inadequate, considering the depth of the perfidy.

Edited by Greg Burnham
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  • 3 weeks later...
Guest Robert Morrow

I attended the event on Friday, Oct. 11th in Dallas. It was held in a plush facility at SMU. The Warren Commission members all individually spoke. They did not entertain questions from the audience but rather from a panel of lone nutter professors at SMU.

Tom Stone - who teaches a course on the JFK assassination at SMU - opened up questions on the panel by asking them about the bullet entrance wound to the back of the head that exited the throat.

Yes, you heard me correctly and I heard Stone correctly: the bullet wound to back of JFK's head, coming out of the throat. I think poor professor Stone was referencing the Ida Dox drawing, which moved the supposed entrance wound in JFK's head from the lower part of his head to the top: https://www.google.com/#q=ida++dox+drawing

I think Stone must not have slept much the night before. He actually, of all the lone nutter panelists, asked the best questions of the Warren Commish staffers.

9/10ths of the room were lone nutters. It - a lone nutter conference at SMU in Dallas - was like going to a Holocaust denial conference at Auschwitz and having it moderated by David Duke.

God no - they were not going to take any questions from the audience!

I interviewed Howard Willens for a bit as I got his book signed.

Willens said that as part of his W.C. duties he went to the CIA in the company of Allen Dulles. Willens said at the CIA HQ "the place just oozed with affection and respect for him [Allen Dulles." Make note of that.Howard Willens interviewed by Robert Morrow 10-11-13.

I asked who was most active on the Warren Commission. He answered Earl Warren. Then he added Gerald Ford was "very active.."

He said "Ford - very active."

I asked "Did you know at that time in 1963 that Lyndon Johnson and the Kennedys were at loggerheads, that they were having great difficulties?" Willens replied "Everyone in Washington, DC knew that."

I said how could you trust what the FBI was giving you? After all LBJ and Hoover hated the Kennedys?

He said "We went outside the FBI for our investigations" he mentioned the ballistics evidence.

Willens told the crowd that Earl Warren saw the autopsy photos and x-rays. But apparently no other commission member or W.C. staffer saw any autopsy photos or x-rays.

Edited by Robert Morrow
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It's interesting that he referenced the ballistics testing, I wonder if he ever really read the Edgewood report - which adamantly disagrees with the official shooting scenario. The only person associated with that report who maintained a stance for the official scenario was the Commission liaison, the man who was promoting it. You have to wonder if it was ever "officially" reviewed with the Commission and if so how it was characterized.

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It's interesting that he referenced the ballistics testing, I wonder if he ever really read the Edgewood report - which adamantly disagrees with the official shooting scenario. The only person associated with that report who maintained a stance for the official scenario was the Commission liaison, the man who was promoting it. You have to wonder if it was ever "officially" reviewed with the Commission and if so how it was characterized.

Hi Larry:

If memory serves me correctly, and this is strictly from memory for I am away from home at the moment, the official Edgewood Arsenal ballistics report, CRDLR 3264, was not issued until March of 1965, though the testing procedures that resulted in the eventual report were completed at the end of October, 1964. The tests were begun in April of 1964 and though some of the individuals involved in these tests testified before the Commission in May [?] of 1964, the written report was still some 11 months away. However, it is apparent that Dr. Olivier in particular was working from and with a set of notes when he testified before the Commission. These notes in turn were designated with the nomenclature MN-1811. I looked for these in a trip to NARA in 2000 but with no luck. Whether they were ever turned over to the Archives for preservation is not known, at least by me.

FWIW

Gary Murr

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Thanks Gary, its interesting that the Howard Williens should bring up the ballistics study as his prime example given the details in your post.....

Larry, I think Willens was referring to the analysis of the bullets, and not Olivier's analysis of wound ballistics. When you study the FBI's files, you realize that the WC decided that they wanted a few non-FBI experts to take a look at the fingerprint and bullet evidence, and that this drove Alex Rosen, the FBI assistant director charged with investigating Kennedy's death, to blow a fuse. He wrote memos to his higher-ups complaining that if the WC didn't entirely trust the FBI's experts, and wanted to bring in some outsiders, then they should just investigate the case by themselves because the wonderful FBI shouldn't have to put up with such a thing. As the middleman between the WC and FBI, Willens was undoubtedly aware of this attitude.

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Robert Morrow: "Willens told the crowd that Earl Warren saw the autopsy photos and x-rays. But apparently no other commission member or W.C. staffer saw any autopsy photos or x-rays."

Robert, did you tape the session, or make detailed notes on this question? I submitted a question to one of the SMU professors, and I suspect this was my question. I was also in touch with Howard Willens recently. If Willens said that no commissioner or staffer other than Warren saw any autopsy photos, I would find that quite a surprise.

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It's interesting that he referenced the ballistics testing, I wonder if he ever really read the Edgewood report - which adamantly disagrees with the official shooting scenario. The only person associated with that report who maintained a stance for the official scenario was the Commission liaison, the man who was promoting it. You have to wonder if it was ever "officially" reviewed with the Commission and if so how it was characterized.

Hi Larry:

If memory serves me correctly, and this is strictly from memory for I am away from home at the moment, the official Edgewood Arsenal ballistics report, CRDLR 3264, was not issued until March of 1965, though the testing procedures that resulted in the eventual report were completed at the end of October, 1964. The tests were begun in April of 1964 and though some of the individuals involved in these tests testified before the Commission in May [?] of 1964, the written report was still some 11 months away. However, it is apparent that Dr. Olivier in particular was working from and with a set of notes when he testified before the Commission. These notes in turn were designated with the nomenclature MN-1811. I looked for these in a trip to NARA in 2000 but with no luck. Whether they were ever turned over to the Archives for preservation is not known, at least by me.

FWIW

Gary Murr

I bought the report on the wound ballistics of Carcano ammunition from NARA, a few years before Rex put it up on the Mary Ferrell site. I think you're wrong about the timing of the tests, Gary. As I recall, NO tests other than those described by Olivier in his testimony are described in the report. In other words, ALL the tests were performed prior to Olivier's May 13 testimony.

This makes the delay in writing this report suspicious. I suspect the writing of the report was delayed on purpose, so that Warren wouldn't be able to release it in the WC's volumes. It was not finished till the next year, and declassified until 1975.

This, for me, is outrageous. Warren said he didn't want the commission to look at the autopsy photos, because he thought that if he did so he'd have to release them to the public. But he had no problem building his case on testimony regarding the wound ballistics of an outdated rifle--and then having the report on this outdated rifle held back from the public for a decade or so, even though no issues of privacy or national security were involved. Hmmm...

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