Tony Austin Posted March 29, 2006 Share Posted March 29, 2006 (edited) Part 1: A CRITICAL REVIEW OF THE TV DOCUMENTARY "THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION: BEYOND CONSPIRACY" In November 2003 a documentary programme appeared on BBC 2 to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of President John F Kennedy. This was a programme originally made in the USA as an ABC special and a version was shown in the UK with commentary by Gavin Esler. What follows is a critical review of that programme. INTRODUCTION The assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963 has always been a fascinating and controversial subject. Students of the case have tended to fall into two opposing camps. Firstly, there are those who favour the findings of the Warren Commission i.e. they believe that a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald killed the President and that nobody else was involved. On the other side, there are the critics of the Warren Commission who believe that Kennedy was killed as the result of a conspiracy. Arguments between these two opposing sides have gone on for years. I had hoped that this would be a fair and balanced programme that would allow us to hear both sides of the argument. I also hoped that the numerous controversial issues would be looked at in reasonable depth and independent experts used to help us decide which side makes the most convincing case. Unfortunately, I found this programme to be a huge disappointment. The whole programme was biased, one sided and grossly unfair to the pro-conspiracy camp. THE BEGINNING OF THE PROGRAMME The programme opened with somber music and comments being made about the assassination being a great shock to the American public. Soon after this, men in suits were discussing why the American public might want to believe that their President was killed as the result of a "monster conspiracy" when in fact it was the result of the actions of only one man. At this stage, the documentary had done nothing to prove that he was killed by one man acting alone. The biased nature of the programme was becoming apparent within minutes of the start. THE 3D COMPUTER SIMULATION Soon we moved on to the real "meat" of the programme, Dale Myers's 3-D computer reconstruction of the assassination based on the Zapruder film. Dale Myers is well known for his anti-conspiracy view point and we only had his comments on the model to go by. The serious limitations of the model and the way that certain findings from this model tend to contradict the findings of the Warren Commission were not examined in the programme. Mr Myers used the witness statements of John Connally and a sudden head movement that he can be seen making to show that the first shot was fired at around frame 160 of the Zapruder film. He did not tell us that this idea of an early shot was rejected by the Warren Commission but promoted by many conspiracy theorists. The rejection by the Warren Commission was because they felt that it was unlikely that Oswald would have fired at the President at a time when his view would have been blocked by a large leafy tree. From the computer model it can be seen that the sixth floor sniper would have to rise up out of his comfortable position on his gun rest, point the rifle at a steep downward angle and fire at the President when a tree was blocking his line of sight. It is also interesting to note that at this time the sixth floor sniper would be high above and only a short way to the rear of Kennedy and Connally and yet neither of them looked up. Myers tells us that Connally turned his head because he heard the sound of a gunshot over his right shoulder. None of the crowd visible in the Zapruder film can be seen looking up at the time Connally appears to be reacting to the first shot. The modern theory, promoted by Gerald Poner in his book "Case Closed", is that this early shot hit a thick tree branch and the bullet broke into two pieces which flew off in different directions. But none of the witnesses that day reported hearing a loud sound coming from the tree or seeing any of the tree branches move suddenly. Myers did not mention any of these things but he then moved on to the second shot which he said happened between frames 223 and 224 of the Zapruder film. He used a sudden movement of the right lapel of Connally's jacket to pin point the time when a bullet goes through him. He showed us the next frame where Kennedy appeared from behind the road sign for the first time and said "we see a kind of anguished look on his face and his hands immediately go up to his throat." What Myers failed tell us was that a visible reaction after only between one to two frames would be surprising. The time interval between two frames is one eighteenth of a second or 56 milliseconds. There is time to show a blink reflex, which is the fastest human reflex, but not any other reactions. It would probably be 4 or 5 frames before any physical reactions to being hit by a bullet would be observable on the film. Myers assumes that the first reaction of Kennedy occurs the moment he appears from behind the road sign. He has to in order to assert that both men are reacting to the same bullet at the same time. But this is just an assumption, there are about a dozen frames when Kennedy is behind the road sign and his face cannot be seen. He could have started to react at any one of these frames out of view of the camera. So the assertion that both men are reacting at the same time is based on an assumption which cannot be proven. Myers went on to look at the trajectory aspects of the second shot. He demonstrated that a bullet fired from the sixth floor "sniper's nest" could pass through the body of Kennedy and through the chest of Connally as described by the Warren Commission. At one point he showed us a three dimensional picture of Kennedy and Connally in the limousine at the moment the second shot was fired. One thing he did not point out was the position of Connally's right wrist at this time. The computer image showed it lying over his right thigh near the hip. Connally has just turned his head and shoulders 37 degrees around to the right and so this is where you would expect to find his right wrist. However, from this position it would be impossible for the bullet passing through the bodies of Connally and Kennedy to go through the back of the right radius bone (just below the wrist) and on into the left thigh as described by the Warren Commission. Later in the programme Myers goes on to look at the third shot which entered the back of the head of Kennedy and exited through the right temple. Not shown in this programme, but covered in Dale Myers's website, is a computer generated line through the entrance and exit wounds (as described by the House Select Committee on Assassinations) which is extended backwards where it goes high over the roof of the Daltex building behind the limousine. He explains this by saying that the bullet was probably deflected slightly on its path as it entered the skull. This is a reasonable explanation but it means that that, theoretically, the shot could have come from any of the buildings behind the limousine. This programme did not cover this aspect and failed to point out that the head shot has not been proven to come from the sixth floor "sniper's nest" by this model it has only been confirmed as a possibility. The main limitation of the computer model is regarding any shots fired which narrowly missed hitting anybody. If Kennedy or Connally did not react to the sound (because they were already reacting to being hit) then such extra shots would not be detected by this computer model. Myers used witness testimony (in this case from Connally) when assessing the first shot. If we do this with the third shot we run into a problem. According to Myers the last two shots were about five seconds apart. However, at about the time of the head shot many witnesses report hearing the last two shots very close together "bang-bang" less than a second apart. This suggests an additional shot around the time of the head shot. So, in summary, we can say that the first shot was fired when a leafy tree was between the sixth floor sniper and Preseident Kennedy. Kennedy and Connally might be reacting at the same time to the second shot but this is not as certain as Myers suggests. The second shot was probably fired from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository and, theoretically, it could have gone through Kennedy and Connally but could not have gone through Connally's wrist as described by the Warren Commission. A third shot went through Kennedy's head and could have come from any building to the rear of the limousine. Other shots could have been fired and not shown up by the model (for example, an extra shot could have been fired around the time of the head shot). This is hardly the definitive proof that Oswald fired all the shots from the sixth floor of the School Book Depository and that no other shooters were involved. One big limitation of the model is that it cannot tell you who fired the shots from the Book Depository. Two other limitations of the model will be covered later. THE SHOOTING OF POLICE OFFICER J D TIPPIT The murder of Police Officer J.D Tippit featured early in the programme. Two of the witnesses to this crime, Domingo Benavides and Helen Markham, probably had the best views of the man who shot Tippit. Benavides was never taken to a police line up. However, he was interviewed by the Warren Commission but when shown a picture of Lee Harvey Oswald all that he could say was that Oswald resembled the man he saw shoot Tippit. Mrs Markham spoke with a newspaper reporter not long after the 22nd of November 1963 and described the killer as being short, kind of heavy and with bushy hair. Oswald was reasonably tall, very slim and had short straight hair. She was interviewed by the Warren Commission and she told them that if she ever saw the face of the man who shot Tippit she would recognise him. However, at the start of her interview, she repeatedly told the Commission that she could not recognise any of the men in the police line ups that she had viewed, which of course included Lee Harvey Oswald. This did not stop the narrator from boldly asserting that it was Oswald that four people saw go over to the police car and then shoot and kill Officer Tippit. The killing of Tippit has always been controversial. The movements of Oswald on that day seemed strange. The movements of Tippit also seemed strange. Witness statements seemed to suggest that Oswald could not have been at the scene at the time the murder took place. There have also been concerns about ballistic evidence and finger print evidence on the police car that seemed to make it less likely that Oswald was the killer. These are only a few of the many issues relating to this case. However, next to appear was Gerald Posner who told us that "In the killing of President Kennedy the evidence is overwhelming, though some people would dispute that, in the killing of Tippit the evidence is overwhelming and iron clad." By phrasing his statement that way he seemed to imply that, in contrast to the Kennedy murder, there is general agreement about the Tippit murder and that it is universally accepted that Oswald killed Tippit. This is not the case; there are still plenty of researchers that believe that Oswald was framed for the crime. Incredibly, once Posner made this statement the programme left this issue completely. I am sure that Mr Posner is a skilful researcher and a good writer but since when did he become infallible? Since when was somebody guilty of a crime just because Gerald Posner says so? If this is the case the programme could have been made much shorter. All you would need is for Gerald Posner to come on at the start of the programme and say "President Kennedy and Officer J D Tippet were killed by Lee Harvey Oswald and nobody else was involved" and just leave it at that! THE LIFE HISTORY OF LEE HARVEY OSWALD The programme had now supposedly shown that Oswald killed Kennedy and Tippit so it moved on to look at the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. Robert Oswald appeared to give his own views on the life of his brother Lee Harvey Oswald. We were told that Robert was the person that knew him best. In fact Robert was 6 years older than Lee and he left home before Lee's 13th birthday. You could argue that the person who knew Lee best was his wife Marina. However, in recent years Marina has said that she now believes that Lee Harvey Oswald was completely innocent regarding the assassination of Kennedy. Is this why his brother Robert was chosen by this programme rather than his wife? Marina also told author Mark Lane that the biography of Lee Harvey Oswald's life by Priscilla Johnson McMillan was not an accurate account. She said that much of the book was false and known by the author to be false. Priscilla Johnson McMillan appeared in this documentary giving her account of the life history of Oswald. Was this another good reason for the programme to avoid interviewing Marina Oswald? The documentary showed that Lee Harvey Oswald grew up without a father, that he had a lonely and troubled childhood and that he was a social misfit. He went on to become an unhappy and lonely man going from one failure to the next. As a teenager, Oswald became interested in Marxism and he also decided to join the Marines. This seems strange because most Marxists would regard the armed services as "instruments of capitalism used to bring about oppression and the promotion of capitalism throughout the world." This documentary stated that he joined the Marines simply to get away from his mother. However, Oswald was so keen to join the Marines that he lied about his age and tried to join up when he was only 16 years old. When they found out his true age they refused to let him join. Instead of finding something else to do, Oswald then waited for a whole year so that he could join at 17 and he kept on reading the Marines manual until he "knew it by heart." This makes it unlikely that he joined the Marines simply to get away from his mother. The examination of Oswald's life was from the point of view that believers in the lone gunman theory would take. This meant that the strange and unusual aspects of Oswald's life were not considered in this programme. Former investigator for the House Select Committee on Assassinations ( HSCA ) Gaeton Fonzi reported that he found strong evidence of Oswald being in contact with the CIA. He wrote that there was ".. a preponderance of evidence that indicates that Lee Harvey Oswald had an association with a U.S. government agency, perhaps more than one, but undoubtedly with the Central Intelligence Agency." The former US senator Richard Shweiker also said of Oswald.. "I personally believe that he had a special relationship with one of the intelligence agencies, which one I am not certain. But all the fingerprints I found during my eighteen months on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence point to Oswald being a product of, and interacting with, the intelligence community." However, the documentary made no attempt to look at evidence for and against this idea of Oswald having links with CIA at any time during the programme. THE ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION OF EDWIN WALKER The documentary looked at the incident in 1963 when a shot was fired at former General Edwin Walker. Oswald was officially blamed for this attempt on his life. Conspiracy theorists might point out that Walter Kirk Coleman, a teenage neighbour of General Walker saw two men flee the scene by car after the shot was fired. Officially, Oswald was acting alone, he did not have a car and he could not drive. A bullet was recovered from Walker's house and soon after this Detective Ira Van Cleave told the press it was 30.06 caliber bullet and one contemporary police report referred to the bullet as being steel jacketed. However, the bullet presented to the Warren Commission was 6.5mm and copper jacketed and could be matched to the "Oswald rifle." Edwin Walker was shown this bullet by the Warren Commission he said it did not look like the one he saw at his home. He thought the one found at his home was more badly damaged through having hit a wall than the one presented to him. The documentary did not mention any of this but it did tell us about a photograph of Walker's home and a note that Oswald wrote about the incident that were recovered from where Marina was staying. Testimony from Marina about the incident was also mentioned. This is difficult evidence for the conspiracy theorists to explain. PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON LEE HARVEY OSWALD Witnesses on the programme continued to give negative views about Oswald. Typical comments were: "He blackmailed them as he did everybody", "Home again in the United States, Oswald was a man of no importance to anybody but himself", "He found work demeaning" and "He had no deep connections to people other than Marina." However, many people who had contact with Oswald during his life had positive things to say about him but no mention was made of this in the programme. Writer Sylvia Meagher comments that most members of the Russian-speaking community in Dallas spoke well of Oswald were astounded by the news of his arrest. Sam Ballen was unable to conceive of Oswald harbouring any hostility toward the President; it was his impression that, on the contrary, Oswald had warm feelings for him. George De Mohrenschildt considered him to be a man "with no hatred in him." Anna Meller was "completely shocked" at the news of Oswald's arrest and could not believe that he had done such a thing. Buell Wesley Frazier, who regularly drove Oswald to work at the Book Depository, said of him: "The individual that I know as Lee Harvey Oswald I don't think had it in him to be a person capable of committing such a crime as murdering the President of the United States. I'll always believe that. The side I saw of him was a very kind and loving man, and that's the way I like to remember him." THE VISIT TO MEXICO CITY The documentary went on to discuss the alleged trip that Oswald made to Mexico City in September 1963. There he was said to have visited the Cuban Embassy and the Soviet Embassy. This has been a controversial area for many years as many researchers believe that Oswald never made this trip. The day after the assassination the head of the FBI, Mr J Edgar Hoover told Lyndon Johnson on the phone "we have up here the tape recording and photograph of the man who was at the Soviet embassy using Oswald's name. The picture and tape recording do not correspond to this man's voice, nor to his appearance. In other words, it appears that there is a second person who was at the Soviet embassy down there." In his book "Plausible Denial" Mark Lane recounts an episode in 1977 when the University of Southern California held a public debate between high ranking CIA officers and those critical of their actions. Former head of the Western Hemisphere division of the CIA, Mr David Atlee Phillips, was speaking in debate with Mark Lane. At one point he made the following statement which was recorded by a local reporter: "...Now I am not in a position today to talk to you about the inner workings of the CIA station in Mexico City. I am not in a position to talk to others about the details of my testimony, before Mr Sprague, in executive session; but I will tell you this, that when the record comes out, we will find that there was never a photograph taken of Lee Harvey Oswald in Mexico City. We will find out that Lee Harvey Oswald never visited, let me put it that is a categorical statement, there, there, we will find there is no evidence, and first of all there was no proof of that. Second there is no evidence to show that Lee Harvey Oswald visited the Soviet Embassy." He was referring to his confidential meeting with Mr Sprague the head of the HSCA when he was informing Mr Sprague about what the CIA knew about Oswald's visit to Mexico City and other matters. The documentary talked about the visit of Oswald to Mexico City as if it was a universally accepted fact. No attempt was made to look into the evidence for and against him making this trip and the claims of some researchers that an imposter was being employed to try and make it appear that Lee Harvey Oswald was in Mexico City trying to get a visa to Cuba shortly before the assassination. Edited August 10, 2012 by Tony Austin Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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