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House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA)


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There have been two government investigations of the JFK assassination. The Warren Commission and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. The first argued that Oswald was the lone gunman who killed JFK. The HSCA rejected this idea and suggested that there had been a conspiracy. Therefore, as the HSCA was the second investigation, officially JFK was killed as part of a conspiracy. It therefore makes more sense for researchers to concentrate on the conclusions of the HSCA than the WC.

In his book, Real Answers (1998) Gary Cornwell, the man who ran the HSCA investigation, points out the following:

The main findings of the Select Committee, as summarized in the Table of Contents to the final Report, were that:

(1) Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the president. The third shot he fired killed the president.

(2) President Kennedy was struck by two rifle shots fired from behind him.

(3) The shots that struck President Kennedy from behind him were fired from the sixth floor window of the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository building.

(4) Lee Harvey Oswald owned the rifle that was used to fire the shots from the sixth floor window of the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository building.

(5) Lee Harvey Oswald, shortly before the assassination, had access to and was present on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building.

(6) Lee Harvey Oswald's other actions tend to support the conclusion that he assassinated President Kennedy.

(7) Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy.

(8) Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the president.

(9) Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations.

(10) The committee believes, on the basis of the available evidence, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.

(11) The committee is unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.

(12) The committee believes, on the basis of the available evidence, that: the Soviet Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

(13) The Cuban Government was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

(14) The anti-Castro Cuban groups, as groups, were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.

(15) The national syndicate of organized crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.

(16) The Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

(17) Agencies and departments of the U.S. Government performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of their duties. President John F. Kennedy did not receive adequate protection. A thorough and reliable investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was conducted. The investigation into the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination was inadequate. The conclusions of the investigations were arrived at in good faith, but presented in a fashion that was too definitive.

(18) The Secret Service was deficient in the performance of its duties.

(19) The Secret Service possessed information that was not properly analyzed, investigated or used by the Secret Service in connection with the president's trip to Dallas; in addition, Secret Service agents in the motorcade were inadequately prepared to protect the president from a sniper.

(20) The responsibility of the Secret Service to investigate the assassination was terminated when the Federal Bureau of Investigation assumed primary investigative responsibility.

(21) The Department of Justice failed to exercise initiative in supervising and directing the investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the assassination.

(22) The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of its duties.

(23) The FBI adequately investigated Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination and properly evaluated the evidence it possessed to assess his potential to endanger the public safety in a national emergency.

(24) The FBI conducted a thorough and professional investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination.

(25) The FBI failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the president.

(26) The FBI was deficient in its sharing of information with other agencies and departments.

(27) The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was deficient in its collection and sharing of information both prior to and subsequent to the assassination.

(28) The Warren Commission performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of its duties.

(29) The Warren Commission conducted a thorough and professional investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination.

(30) The Warren Commission failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to assassinate the president. This deficiency was attributable in part to the failure of the Commission to receive all the relevant information that was in the possession of other agencies and departments of the Government.

(31) The Warren Commission arrived at its conclusions, based on the evidence available to it, in good faith.

(32) The Warren Commission presented the conclusions in its report in a fashion that was too definitive.

How many of these points do you disagree with?

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John,

I have touble with these:

(1) Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the president. The third shot he fired killed the president.

(2) President Kennedy was struck by two rifle shots fired from behind him.

(3) The shots that struck President Kennedy from behind him were fired from the sixth floor window of the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository building.

(4) Lee Harvey Oswald owned the rifle that was used to fire the shots from the sixth floor window of the southeast corner of the Texas School Book Depository building.

(6) Lee Harvey Oswald's other actions tend to support the conclusion that he assassinated President Kennedy.

(7) Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy.

(16) The Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy.

(20) The responsibility of the Secret Service to investigate the assassination was terminated when the Federal Bureau of Investigation assumed primary investigative responsibility.

(22) The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of its duties.

(23) The FBI adequately investigated Lee Harvey Oswald prior to the assassination and properly evaluated the evidence it possessed to assess his potential to endanger the public safety in a national emergency.

(24) The FBI conducted a thorough and professional investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination.

(28) The Warren Commission performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of its duties.

(29) The Warren Commission conducted a thorough and professional investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination.

(31) The Warren Commission arrived at its conclusions, based on the evidence available to it, in good faith.

John Hunt

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In my opinion, Gaeton Fonzi's The Last Investigation remains the definitive account of the failings of the HSCA. In the introduction, Fonzi writes:

I spent three years working for the Government as an investigator of the Kennedy assassination, and many more before that as a member of the community of private researchers following the case. I have seen it from the inside and from the outside and I am deeply concerned. I know how your Government failed in its investigations, what your Government didn't tell you and why, and what your Government was really doing when it told you it was investigating the assassination. I've seen how history has been shaped for you without your knowing it. I believe, also, that unless we do something about it, history will continue to be shaped by powers responsive only to the priorities of maintaining power. And that is relevant to the way we live, both today and tomorrow.

In my opinion, although written five years later, Cornwell's book lacks the intellectual integrity and moral outrage found in Fonzi's writings. Cornwell was one of Blakey's appointees, coming on board after the coup on Sprague. Fonzi relates that Cornwell instructed him to "cease and desist" with any analysis of his research:

"I want your reports to be strictly factual, "he said. "Just give us the information. I don't want any of your analysis going into the record."

Then, a few pages later Fonzi writes:

In Miami, working pretty much on our own, Al Gonzales and I were making progress in what we considered potentially the hottest area, the association of anti-Castro activists with intelligence operatives. Then suddenly from Washington came the word that we were about to be rocked by a new strategy directive from Blakey. The warning came from Edward Lopez....Lopez was calling to tell me that Team Three had a major meeting with Deputy Chief Cornwell that morning.

"I think we may have some problems," Lopez said. "In our discussion with him, Gary (Cornwell) carefully manipulated the conversation around to Miami. Then he asked, 'What the hell are those guys doing down there? Someone call Fonzi and ask him to answer the question in twenty words or less.' So I raised my hand and said that I could answer the question in five words: 'Trying to solve the case.' Then he (Cornwell) said, 'Well, those guys are running around down there and they're never going to come up with anything we can resolve in time. I've got to bring them into our framework.' "

Just read pages 222-223 of Fonzi's book to see how Cornwell was instrumental in deflecting the HSCA investigation away from Miami and New Orleans and the intelligence community. Or read in Cornwell's book his brief treatment of the "Umbrella Man" and his blithe acceptance of Witt's testimony. He does not even mention Witt by name. Perhaps as much as anything else, this to me typifies the shortcomings with Cornwell's reasonings in many aspects of the Kennedy assassination.

Near the end of The Last Investigation, Fonzi concludes:

This was the last investigation and it did not do the job the American people asked it to do. I never took a poll of all the Committee's staff members but I know this: There is not one investigator --not one-- who served on the Kennedy task force of the Assassinations Committee who honestly feels he took part in an adequate effort, let alone the "full and complete" investigation mandated by Congress. In fact, most of the investigators have bitter memories of the limitation and direction imposed on them.

Fonzi adds:

Despite the disclaimers and all the rhetorical posturing, Kennedy's murder wasn't the real issue at all. In retrospect, perhaps it never was. It's quite obvious that it takes more of a leap of the imagination to accept the hypothesis of Arlen Specter's single-bullet theory and the "evidence" on which it's built--computer-composed charts of bullet trajectories and reams of neutron-activation analyses not withstanding--than it does to simply look at the hardest facts, such as the bullet holes in the back of Kennedy's jacket and shirt.

Fonzi concludes:

The Committee was simply afraid. Such a confrontation would be too large, too elemental, too risky to all the institutions of government that form the power structure of the Washington establishment. And much too politically risky. So in the end, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, like the Warren Commission before it, produced a report that looked comprehensive and complete, but which failed the American people.

Fonzi documents his conclusions with accounts of how Sylvia Odio and Antonio Veciana bravely agreed to come to Washington to testify about what they knew. At the eleventh hour, they were informed their testimony would not be necessary. Cornwell devotes two brief pages to the Odio incident, and although he acknowledges the Committee "believed Mrs. Odio's story," his superficial treatment of what Sylvia Meagher some twenty years earlier called the "proof of the plot" indicates that Cornwell's book is NOT the "true story." Fonzi's book comes much closer in my opinion.

I'll close my post by quoting Fonzi one last time:

After the disdainful treatment she received at the hands of the Assassination Committee, Sylvia Odio, whose testimony stands as the strongest witness to a conspiracy, permitted author Anthony Summers, then working on the BBC documentary about the Kennedy assassination, to film an interview in silhouette. As he relates in Conspiracy, Summers asked her why she was now prepared to talk, after refusing for so long.

Odio was silent for a long moment. Then she said: "I guess it is a feeling of frustration after so many years. I feel outraged that we have not discovered the truth for history's sake, for all of us. I think it is because I'm very angry about it all--the forces I cannot understand and the fact that there is nothing I can do against them. That is why I am here."

Bob Blakey and the members of the Assassinations Committee (read Cornwell, MH) never felt what Sylvia Odio feels. They never felt the frustration and anger that lives within her, the outrage that our Government still has not told the truth after so many years. I will always remember what she said to me when I told her the Committee had changed its mind about permitting her to tell her story publicly, to the American people. Her words echo in my mind, a soft shroud covering the years of my investigative sojourn through the labyrinth of the Kennedy assassination:

"We lost," she said. "We all lost."

Edited by Michael Hogan
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  • 3 years later...

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