By John McAdams
"He didn't even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights . . . . It's it had to be some silly little Communist." Jackie Kennedy, on hearing that a leftist had been arrested for her husband's murder.
It's the most controversial case in modern American history. Did
Lee Harvey Oswald kill John Kennedy by himself, or did a conspiracy
do it? And if a conspiracy did it, did the conspiracy include Oswald?
If you are like most Americans, you believe that a conspiracy killed
Kennedy. And if you are like most Americans, you have heard a vast number of bogus factoids about the case.
This web site is dedicated to debunking the mass of misinformation and disinformation surrounding the murder of JFK. If you are believer in Oswald as a lone gunman, you are likely to enjoy this web site, since most of that misinformation and disinformation has come from conspiracists. But if you are a sophisticated conspiracist, you likely understand that the mass of silly nonsense in conspiracy books and documentaries does no service to the cause of truth in the assassination, and simply buries the "case for conspiracy" under layers of bunk.
Regardless of what you believe, several web sites, mostly conspiracy-oriented
are worth checking out. And you may also want to check out my list of recommended books on the assassination.
What sort of evidence is there?
What about those witnesses? Didn't everyone hear shots from the Grassy Knoll? What about the Tague wounding? Who was the
"Umbrella Man?" Was the rifle recovered really a Mauser? Does "acoustic evidence" show a shot from the Grassy Knoll? Were the Three Tramps suspicious? How could Kennedy's head go "back and to the left?"
The Single Bullet Theory
You've seen Kevin Costner give the conspiracy version of the Single Bullet
theory. You know: Connally seated directly in front of Kennedy, at the same
height, and facing straight ahead. Was that really what happened?
Lee Harvey Oswald
What sort of person was he? Did he really have "Top Secret" security
clearance? Did he shoot at General Walker? Were there two Oswalds? If Oswald shot Kennedy, what was his motive? Was the man exhumed
in 1981 really somebody besides Oswald?
Jim Garrison and New Orleans
Did Oswald really share an office with Guy Banister? Did Clay Shaw really
use the alias "Clay Bertrand?" Why did Oliver Stone make a movie about the
Shaw trial and not even mention Perry Raymond Russo? Did David Ferrie
die a "mysterious death?" What about Jim Garrison and the Mafia?
Did the bullet that hit Kennedy in the back penetrate only an inch and fall
out? Was Kennedy hit in the head by a bullet from in front? Are the
autopsy photos and x-rays faked? Did all the doctors at Parkland
Hospital believe that Kennedy was hit in the front of the neck, and if
so, are their opinions decisive evidence that that is what happened? Was the back of Kennedy's head blown out? Are the autopsy photos faked?
Did you know that all the evidence in this case proven
to be forged has been on the conspiracy side? One key piece originated with the KGB! Did you know that
the "mysterious deaths" are virtually all not so "mysterious" when you
look at them closely? Do you trust authors like Mark Lane to tell you the
truth about what witnesses said?
The "lone nut" theory of the assassination is really the "two lone nuts" theory. What sort of
person was Jack Ruby? A mobster? An intelligence agent? A small-time hustler?
The sort of volatile character who might really have shot Oswald out of righteous anger?
Oliver Stone's Movie "JFK"
We expect Hollywood movies to take some liberties with the historical record. But what do we think when Hollywood turns history on its head? Oliver Stone wants to overturn the verdict in the Clay Shaw trial. The jury found that District Attorney Jim Garrison had no case so Stone invents a case on celluloid. Just how honest was Oliver Stone, Shaw's Hollywood prosecutor?
John Kennedy: Liberal Martyr?
For some in the conspiracy crowd, John Kennedy was a liberal saint, who was going to implement policies that would bring America into a new Utopia. So, of course, a threatened Power Elite had to kill him. Was Kennedy the kind of left liberal who threatened established interests? Was he a hero of Civil Rights? Had he decided to pull out of Vietnam? Historian Eric Paddon dissects these claims in a series of essays based on his posts on the Internet.
Some notions about logic, probability and statistics necessarily underlie all discussion of "conspiracy" or "lone assassin." Does the lone assassination theory involve too many implausible "coincidences?" Are there a suspicious number of "connections" between various figures in the case? Is the Single Bullet Theory highly "improbable?"
In writings about the assassination, as in real-world criminal justice, witness testimony looms large. But just how reliable are the witnesses? How many witnesses are just flat out telling tall tales? How often are apparently sober and reliable witnesses just flat wrong?
Did a Secret Service Agent Shoot JFK by Accident?
It's plausible enough that some people accept it, although very few committed buffs do: the notion that assassination was a friendly fire incident. Supposedly, Agent George Hickey, riding in the follow-up car, accidently shot the president. This theory has been repeatedly debunked, most recently by Peter Mucha in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and by Dale Myers and Gus Russo in an article on Myers site.
The Assassination Context
What we think about the assassination is dependent on what we think about history, and about the behavior of government officials and bureaucrats. Was Kennedy a radical who threatened the status quo? Did top administration officials order a coverup of a conspiracy soon after the assassination? If the FBI and the CIA withhold documents, does this mean that they are protecting assassination conspirators?
Release the Documents!
This has long been the cry of the conspiracy theorists. Supposedly, the documents show that a conspiracy killed Kennedy. In fact, the government in the 1990s released a massive number of documents. The Assassination Records Review Board had a mandate to identify and oversee the release of documents in government hands, and in private hands.
Hear History Happen
Recording devices monitored the two radio channels used by the Dallas Police Department, and these recordings are a vivid "real time" account of the frenzy of activity that followed the shooting. Here are selected audio clips beginning a couple of minutes before the assassination and ending with the arrest of Oswald in the Texas Theatre.
A Half Century of Assassination Literature
In the more than half century since 1963, the literature on the assassination has taken several twists and turns, from early works that questioned the use of evidence by the Warren Commission, to examinations of the medical evidence, to more recent decades when theories of massive fakery of evidence have dominated. Webmaster John McAdams examines this progression, highlighting important works both defending the lone assassination theory and those (much more numerous) attacking it.
Do you want to ask for more information, or discuss or debate
some of the issues raised here? The moderated newsgroup:
Run by webmaster John McAdams, is the place to go whether you are a "newbie" with questions to ask, or a researcher with some evidence you want to present to the research community.
I don't necessarily agree with all the conclusions these authors have drawn, but everything here is a solid piece of work that deserves your attention. All are copyrighted, and all posted here with permission.
- Josiah Thompson was the author of a conspiracy classic titled Six Seconds in Dallas, and in the more than half century since has continued to study the case.
His most recent volume, Last Second in Dallas, shows him looking at a mass of evidence from Dealey Plaza, and putting it together in a vastly implausible way, as this review by Louis
T. Girdler shows. Girdler sees Thompson falling prey to what he accuses the Warren Commission and the House Select Committee of: confirmation bias.
- While Jim Garrison was was discredited, even among conspiracy-oriented researchers, some authors have tried to rehabilitate him. This essay from Fred Litwin’s book On the Trail of Delusion, documents the lunacy of the Garrison investigation with a plethora of heretofore unseen primary source documents. Many of these documents can be found online on Litwin’s blog.
- Joan Mellen's book Faustian Bargains: Lyndon Johnson and Mac Wallace in the Robber Baron Culture of Texas is a book by a conspiracy author that decisively debunks one conspiracy theory: the notion that one Mac Wallace was LBJ's hit man in Texas, and later in Dealey Plaza. Our review of the book points out some weaknesses, but also notes some strengths.
- David Talbot's book The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government fingers CIA director Allen Dulles as the person who plotted and directed the assassination, and protrays him as a generally evil person. Unfortunately, the book is rather deficient as history, as explained by David M. Barrett in this review.
- A good, well-reasoned overview of the assassination from someone skeptical of conspiracy theories is Dave Reitzes "JFK Conspiracy Theories at 50: How the Skeptics Got It Wrong and Why It Matters." It's a good "first read" for somebody who had read just conspiracy books (or seen conspiracy documentaries) and wants to see the other side of the issue.
- Richard Belzer's book Hit List has gotten a fair amount of attention recently. It's an extended explication of the supposed "mystery deaths" associated with the assassination. Unfortunately, as Marilyn Elias explains in her review of the book, it's the sort of book one would write if one surfs conspiracy sites on the Internet, and believes everything one finds there.
- Jeff Morley is a journalist who has gotten some good press recently for his attempts to pry documents he thinks are related to the JFK assassination from the CIA. Most everybody applauds these efforts, but some have taken him to task for making claims that go far beyond the evidence he (or anybody else) has. Dale Myers and Gus Russo critique a variety of Morley's assertions in "Drums of Conspiracy" and "Fanning Wisps of Smoke."
- The notion that Kennedy was killed because he intended to withdraw from Vietnam has become the conventional wisdom among conspiracists, and a recent treatment of that theory, James W. Douglass' JFK and the Unspeakable, has drawn some attention. But unfortunately, the author not only distorts history, but unintentionally paints a very unflattering portrait of JFK. See our review of the book here.
- Zombie assassins? The notion that "Manchurian candidate" assassins might be "programmed" to commit murder has been a recurring one. Most often invoked in the murder of Robert Kennedy, it has also surfaced in the JFK assassination. British author Mel Ayton explores this issue in his essay "Bogus Manchurian Candidate Theories."
- A recent book by Abraham Bolden tells a most interesting story about the first black Secret Service agent who supposedly knew about conspiratorial goings-on in Chicago, and who was (he claims) framed, convicted and sent to jail on charges of corruption. The media have been rather credulous about his account, but in fact he was almost certainly guilty as charged. Indeed, when the House Select Committee examined his claims in the late 1970s, they found them to lack credibility. While the mainstream media is suitably skeptical when the conspiracy card is played, they suspend that skepticism when the race card is played.
- Garrisonites are a rather peculiar and paranoid cult among conspiracy believers, and Joan Mellen's book A Farewell to Justice is the latest to defend District Attorney Jim Garrison, whose ill-conceived campaign to convict Clay Shaw of the JFK assassination was the subject of the movie "JFK." Yet, like the movie, Mellen has fallen into the trap of believing
the most incredible sources and adopting the most outlandish theories in an attempt to vindicate the DA, as Patricia
Lambert shows in this review of the book. In another essay, Dave Reitzes discusses Garrison's central, critical witness, a fellow named Perry Raymond Russo. Mellen accepts his testimony, which Reitzes shows was vastly unreliable. Finally, Lambert shows how Mellen blew off the testimony of a key reliable witness, one Dr. Frank Silva, when it conflicted with the Garrison version of events.
- When a reputable historian publishes a JFK assassination book with
a reputable academic press, it should be judicious in its use of sources and prudent in its judgments. But, alas, David
Kaiser's book The Road to Dallas turns out to be just another conspiracy book, not too different from scores of
others. Read a review by webmaster John McAdams on the e-zine Washington Decoded.
- Nothing about the assassination is more important than the issue of
when the shots in Dealey Plaza were fired. Pick your timing, and it may be consistent with or entirely debunk a single
shooter in the Texas School Book Depository. A new essay by Kenneth R. Scearce supports a new theory about the timing that puts the first shot far earlier than anybody has heretofore theorized. Of course, this theory has generated controversy, so you might want to check out a reply from computer animation specialist Dale Myers.
- Author David Talbot ought to the the sort of sober and serious person we would expect a member of the mainstream media to be on the assassination, but alas he isn't. Veteran journalist Don Bohning, who long reported on Talbot's prime suspects in the Miami Cuban community, finds Talbot's book Brothers to be pretty much another buff book, with credulous acceptance of suspect witnesses and a very selective use of the documentary record.
- Mel Ayton has a new essay on Conspiracy Thinking and the John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Assassinations." Ayton believes that all conspiracy thinking has several common threads.
- There has been a recent spate of new books and new theories
about the assassination, including a German television documentary called "Rendezvous With Death" from Wilfried Huismann and Gus Russo and the book
Ultimate Sacrifice by Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann. Do we have any compelling new evidence or
interpretations here, or is this just more unsupported conspiracy theorizing? A new essay by Mel Ayton critically examines the evidence.
- "Rendezvous With Death", claims to have discovered
compelling new evidence that Fidel Castro had John Kennedy killed, using Lee Oswald as hit man and patsy. It has received a mixed reception, at best. A new essay by David Lifton accepts, for the sake of argument, the data produced by the authors of "Rendezvous With Death" and points out that it could be interpreted in a way very different from what the documentary proposes.
- The History Channel has a record of showing reasonably reliable documentaries on subjects like wars, Nazis, the history of popular culture and the like. But their record on the Kennedy assassination is abysmal. The series "The Men Who Killed Kennedy" has a record of touting the most implausible and bizarre theories. But they managed to reach a new low with an episode titled "The Guilty Men" which fingered Lyndon Johnson as the prime mover behind the assassination. In this article, journalist and historian Max Holland dissects the entire series, and especially the installment on LBJ. And veteran JFK researcher Dave Perry critiques the reliability of the supposed "evidence" in an article from his website. And one of the accused conspirators, Malcolm Liggett, sued The History Channel over the supposed "documentary" and received a settlement.
- The "acoustic evidence" got a boost in 2001, when a scientist named D.B. Thomas published an article claiming to have corrected the statistical treatment in earlier studies and found clear evidence of a shot from the Grassy Knoll. However, a recent careful study of the timing on the events on the Dallas Police tape by Michael O'Dell shows that the "shots" happened too late to actually be shots. Thus the "acoustic evidence" was to acoustic science what cold fusion was to physics: an example of how even reputable scientists can jump to conclusions when faced with the possibility of an "explosive" discovery.
- Of course there are all kinds of wild and woolly theories connecting Oswald to the CIA. But some responsible and sober researchers have argued that the Agency knew more about and had a more intense interest in Oswald than they have ever admitted. One such researcher is Jefferson Morley, world news editor of washingtonpost.com. His article "What Jane Roman Said" outlines the evidence.
- Among conspiracy-oriented researchers, there is a deep gulf between the more moderate and sensible ones, and those who'll promote any bogus piece of "conspiracy evidence." Ulric Shannon is one of the former, and he explains in this essay why he thinks the "I'll believe anything that implies conspiracy" crowd is so harmful.
- Researcher Bill Drenas debuted his essay "Car #10, Where Are You" on this web site in 1997. The current version has some minor factual corrections and much new material. Not pushing any conspiracy theory, but not a debunking exercise either, it's a very careful attempt to nail down Tippit's whereabouts minute by minute on the day he died.
- A related essay from Drenas involves the Top Ten Record Shop. This classic Oak Cliff location was where Officer Tippit stopped shortly before he was shot. It's still in business, and you'll almost certainly want to visit when you are in Dallas.
- Long-time researcher Gus Russo, author of the recently released book Live By the Sword has an interesting story to tell about his own personal commitment to the case, and his changing views about who killed JFK, and his changing views of John and Robert Kennedy, excerpted from his book.
- Canadian Peter Whitmey is a conspiracy-oriented researcher who sometimes takes issue with conspiracy arguments and witnesses. His articles on this site deal with issues such as a possibly sinister conversation overheard in a Winnipeg airport, a little-known New Orleans figure named Clem H. Sehrt, an interesting connection between Oswald biographer Priscilla McMillan and a rather suspect New Orleans witness named Ron Lewis and the phone records of David Ferrie, accused plotter. Another essay outlines what Whitmey considers "Deception and Deceit" in the media in reporting the assassination. Finally, a long essay of his titled "Creating a
Patsy" brings his research up to date as of the release of the Vincent Bugliosi book.
- Gerald Posner and his book Case Closed have come under heavy attack from the community of conspiracy-oriented "researchers." In "Defending Posner" Michael Russ compares what the conspiracy buffs say Posner said to what Posner actually said. It seems buffs are no more accurate when attacking their enemies than when discussing the assassination.
- Michael Beck was once a JFK "buff" -- a believer in a Kennedy assassination conspiracy. He now believes that Oswald did it all my himself. How did his beliefs change? This is his personal account of an intellectual odyssey.
- Researcher David Perry has been "doing" the assassination for several years, and has seen a continual stream of "revelations" come and go. In his essay "A Few Good Men" he discusses publicity-seeking, and particularly the Loy Factor story.
- Tony Marsh's essay "Circumstantial Evidence of a Head Shot From The Grassy Knoll" is now available online. Based on careful analysis of the movements of the occupants of the presidential limo, of the HSCA acoustic evidence, and of a "jiggle analysis" of the Zapruder film, it represents a bold and interesting attempt to put the evidence together in a compelling way. It was originally presented at the 1993 Third Decade Conference.
- Just how many different people have been accused of being (or have confessed to being) either a shooter or an accomplice in Dealey Plaza? Researcher David Perry has compiled the most complete known list. His Rashomon to the Extreme! is that list. Of the 68 people on this list, at least one is guilty.
- The essay, A Conspiracy Too Big by Fred Litwin asks about the credibility of any theory that holds that a conspiracy faked all the
evidence that conspiracy theorists say is faked.
- John Locke's FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) outlines the evidence, from the perspective of a person who believes Oswald did it alone. A good briefing for someone who has only read conspiracy books, and wants the other side of the story.
- A Bad Case of Deja Vu, another essay by John Locke, compares the O.J. Simpson defense to conspiracy thinking in the Kennedy assassination. Would the intellectual habits of the conspiracy buffs have let O.J. go free? Locke says "yes."
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