Tuesday, December 27, 2011

End Note Follies

To me, the most interesting part of Vincent Bugliosi's 1600-page Reclaiming History isn't in the reams of text but in the End Notes he has on the CD-ROM which accompanies the book. Some have said that this where where Bugliosi places the more difficult aspects of the Kennedy assassination in hope that the reader won't pay enough attention to go back there and look into what he has to say about it. Maybe so. I have a theory, and general feeling, that Bugliosi started out with the End Notes first and the rest of his book was fleshed out from them, or used as a guide for the various ghost writers he employed. Sometimes the End Notes offer additional information on a subject covered in the main text and in other places it's the same information with little elaboration. Or, even information that seems out of place such as the mini-bio on Che Guevara.

Never the less, Bugliosi's writing style is evident throughout the End Notes, filled with sarcasm, straw man arguments, vicious personal attacks on conspiracy oriented researchers and the hypocrisy of accusing others of what he routinely does, which mainly, is omitting facts to make his arguments work.

What follows is a look into some of Bugliosi’s commentary and theory in the End Notes and what lengths (i.e., skating on thin ice) he goes to in his defense of the Warren Commission.

A So Very Comprehensive Investigation
(End Notes, p.579, Note 1037)

"Because the Warren Commission’s investigation of the assassination was so very comprehensive, it even included a 'limited background investigation' of Officer J. D. Tippit and found nothing suspicious (CE 2985, 26 H 483–492)."

This of course is hilarious. The declarations that Bugliosi makes like this make wonder about the esteemed prosecutor's judgement. Or if he actually believes some this nonsense he comes up with.

The fact of the matter is, what the Warren Commission did was hardly what one would call a legitimate investigation. After all, they had no independent investors on staff and instead had to rely mainly on Hoover's FBI for the facts in the case. They were supplied with only the evidence that verified the lone gunman theory as espoused by Hoover, the early author of the lone assassin story and the man behind the curtain pulling the levers. So what the Commission did was an evaluation of what they were provided and the FBI did not provide them everything. Meanwhile, the staff lawyers established six major areas of inquiry and four were on Lee Oswald. The actual investigation of JFK's death was conducted by the FBI, with narrow latitudes (no conspiracy) and totally overseen by J. Edgar Hoover.

There many good books on the machinations of the Warren Commission and one of the best is Gerald McKnight’s Breach of Trust.

The Minox Camera
(End Notes, p.394, Note 793)

Lots of controversy surrounds this piece of evidence. In a nutshell: Dallas police discover a Minox camera in Oswald's belongings. It’s a popular tool among intelligence operatives. The FBI gets wind of it and asks the Dallas police detective to change the description of it from a camera to a light meter. He refuses. Later, the FBI will rename it a light meter anyway in their evidence inventory. It will remain so for many years.

As Bugliosi notes, researcher John Armstrong made a trip to the National Archives to examine and photograph Oswald's Minox camera. There, he found the camera was sealed up so it couldn't be opened and that there was no way of observing the Dallas Police officer that initialed it or examine the camera's serial number. Armstrong rightly thought this suspicious and as usual, Bugliosi does not. And instead of figuring out why this camera had obviously been tampered with, Bugliosi resorts to his tried and true method of mockery against John Armstrong, who admits owning a Minox camera and asking him, "By the way, John, where were you at 12:30 p.m. on November 22, 1963? What did you say, John? Tulsa, Oklahoma? Can you prove it?"

What an ass.

At least John Armstrong actually made the effort to travel to the National Archives and examine the thing and report what he found. Something Bugliosi obviously didn't bother with as he practices research from the confines of the California state border.

Also, the serial number for the camera is listed as 27259 by the FBI. However, a Minox Corporation spokesman said that only six digit serial numbers were used for cameras sold in the United States. It is not a valid number as spokesman Kurt Lohn said. Once again, Bugliosi does not comment on this discrepancy or seek to resolve the issue.

Howard Brennan's Oswald Standing And Shooting
(End Notes, p.531, Note 956)

Howard Brennan is one of those star witnesses that the lone nut crowd hang their hats on. Here is one of the few people that actually (or claimed to) see the rifle out the window. Brennan is not without controversy for not only his failure in being able to pick Oswald out of the line-up (claiming fears of personal safety) even after seeing him on TV, but one of his other claims is that he saw Oswald standing up while shooting. However, the window is so low to the floor that Oswald would have been shooting through the upper window glass if that were the case. This is of course, ridiculous. Bugliosi solves this by having Brennan's position on the ground looking up to the sixth floor giving him an altered perspective for a mistaken impression of a shooter standing at the window. How convenient.

His highly accurate assessment of Oswald’s height at 5’10” is another matter.

Bugliosi ponders: “I don’t believe Brennan was asked this question but we can assume that he estimated Oswald’s height by extrapolation from what he could see of Oswald’s upper body.”

The subject of an early description of Oswald’s height is an ongoing controversy as the source of this information is confusing. Bugliosi is saying that Brennan could accurately judge Oswald's height by seeing him from the waist up–only. I don't see how this is even remotely possible or how Bugliosi could make such a claim and expect it to be taken seriously. If Oswald is leaning on the box at the window shooting, he’s not even going to be seen from the waist up–more like the shoulder up. So it’s impossible to make such a determination from Brennan’s viewing angle.

Typical of Bugliosi to give Brennan a pass. If he were a witness contradicting the official story, Bugliosi would tear him or her to shreds for getting off script, such as he did to Acquilla Clemons who he calls a "kook" twice, with no citation, once in main text and again in the End Notes (p.52, Note 78). (Clemons claimed to have seen two men involved in the Tippet slaying, where most witnesses see only one suspect.)

So here is a witness who said he saw Oswald shooting from the six floor of the TSBD, saw no flash or recoil, couldn’t ID Oswald from the police line-up then later changed his mind and said it really was Oswald when under oath to the Warren Commission. It’s funny to read Bugliosi’s explanations for witnesses as weak as Howard Brennan and what lengths he has flay about to work out the kinks.

Mr. Bugliosi, you make a fine contortionist if you ever took up the trade.

Judyth Vary Baker Character Assassination
(End Notes, p.539, Note 978)

Bugliosi saves some of his best (or worst) drive-by character assassination for Judyth Vary Baker. Baker's story of being Lee Oswald's lover in the summer of 1963 is not without controversy. She is one of those figures in JFK research that polarizes the community into camps of true believers and true disbelievers. I have given her a book Me and Lee, a good review here, as she does seem to have a good grasp of the JFK case, and seems to fill in a lot holes in the story of Oswald’s life in the summer of 1963. But even I have my doubts about some elements of her story. She claims to be involved with important events yet nobody documents her being there. One such event is the Oswald scuffle with anti Castro Cubans when he was handing out FPFC pamphlets. She claims to have been there on the street as a witness but nobody else reports this and the TV film footage does not reveal her. Her story is a long and convoluted tale that goes off into all kinds of tangents and Bugliosi does give a good accounting of the various winding threads.

The basic story is, Judyth, a whiz-kid science geek and Lee become star-crossed lovers and along the way Judyth becomes aware that Lee is an undercover agent (CIA and FBI) and gets wrapped up in a plot to assassinate the president. His goal according to Judyth is not to back out but to stay in and hopefully defeat the plot. He obviously fails and is framed as the patsy.

Her accounting of Lee Oswald makes him appear as a heroic figure, one seldom seen in the annals of JFK assassination research. Though it seems strange for this unsung hero to enter a movie theater with a loaded .38, resist arrest, assault a police officer, and attempt to shoot said police officer in the face.

Bugliosi can't help himself with her. He saves some of his best/worst invectives for driving his nails into her coffin. He starts out calling her, "Judyth Vary (as in very silly) Baker. " He further states, "Judyth’s story is so absurd that it is not worthy of citations to sources..." So unworthy he then precedes to ramble on for 21 paragraphs about her.

I think it is well established and she and Oswald both worked at the same time at William B. Reily and Company, Inc., a coffee company. But not for Bugliosi who doubts she worked there and says in this Note that she never establishes this face, and his gives as proof, no check stubs with her name on it. However, in her latest book, Me and Lee, she does feature a Reily coffee company W2 form with her name on it. So she is there as an employee the same time Oswald is.

Never the less, Bugliosi can't just disagree with somebody with a story to tell, and in this case, an off-script story from the one the Warren Report relates. No, he has to be as ugly as possible about it. In this Note, he ridicules Judyth Baker with the same relish a twisted mind does when pulling the wings off a fly.

[Note: Currently Judyth Vary Baker has her own page and forum on Facebook. It’s basically queen Judyth holding court with her loving followers doting on her every word. I hate to say it but there is a preponderance of ignorance expressed by many of the posters there as well lack of maturity. Poor Martin Shackelford is trying to set the record straight and is being told, literally, to blow it “out of his ass.” It’s an uphill battle against an army of cultists and I don’t how he keeps it up. It’s like trying to herd cats. To his credit, he remains very civil. Keep up the good fight Martin!]

The Attack on Saundra Spencer's Credibility
(End Notes, pp. 264-268)

As Bugliosi states on p.268:
"We know she’s wrong when she says the photographs she saw show a 'blown-out chunk' in the center of the back of the president’s head. Why? Because apart from the observations of all three autopsy surgeons, the official autopsy photographs and X-rays conclusively, and without question, depict the body of President Kennedy at the time of the autopsy and show none of what Spencer described."

A strange response. Navy Photographic technician Saundra Spencer was responsible for processing the autopsy films. She said she saw a massive blow-out at the back of Kennedy's head in one of the processed images. However, the important point here, is that she is not the only witness to see this wound. In fact, it's one of the biggest, ongoing controversies in the annals of JFK assassination. Just about everybody that has close contact with John Kennedy's body saw the large rear head wound from all of the Parkland doctors and nurses, to the two FBI Special Agents, Sibert and O'Neil observing and taking notes, the two autopsy techs, Jenner and O'Conner, the many Dealey Plaza witnesses, to even the mortician who prepared Kennedy's body. And this is just a partial list of witnesses.

It comes down to this–the people with the responsibility to document the massive head wound, the three pathologists, Drs Humes, Boswell and Finck did not. This evokes a central mystery of the case. They were all military, so were they pressured to conform to the lone gunman theory early on? Some people think so. Basically, we are left with two camps of eminently qualified experts that don't agree. And frankly, there are more expert witnesses that saw the large wound to the back of Kennedy’s head than did not.

As far as autopsy photographs go, there is a lot monkey business going on there. Photographer John Stringer, when examining his photographs in the National Archives noted numerous problems. For example, he says the negatives he saw were not of the same brand-name film he used–which was Kodak. The film in the Archives is Ansco. Apparently, the negatives he was looking at are copies of the originals. And who would do that? My guess is the Kennedy family. After the autopsy they got their hands on all autopsy materials such as all film and tissue samples–yes the brain too. After negations, the returned back the films to the government as a deed gift but were allowed to keep the tissue samples I think they are the people who made the copies and have the originals locked away.

And on top of that, Stringer says there are photographs he took that are missing. Also, there other photographs he says he didn't take, such as the bottom of the brain. Who was the other photographer? At any rate, Stringer's experiences are just the beginning of the tampering of the photographic evidence in the case. Dr. David Mantik has a very good essay, "20 Conclusions After 9 Visits" where he uncovers the tampering of the X-ray films in the National Archives. Bugliosi has read it and knows what the implications are and does nothing about it. (Get the PDF HERE.)

Saundra Spencer is a highly credible witness to there being a large blow-out to the right rear of Kennedy's head. Bugliosi attempts to discredit her are weak and speaks of the desperate path he walks in defending the sloppy job that the Warren Commission did. Does he really believe what he writes?

Che Guevara Biography
(End Notes, p.998, Note 1345)
And what did the romanic communist revolutionary have to do with the JFK assassination? Answer: Absolutely nothing! This note is entitled "CIA’s attempt to murder Castro," though there is little written on that. Instead it ends up being a mini-biography of Che Guevara. This Bugliosi intellect works in mysterious ways that mere mortals can not begin to fathom.

For Now...
There are places where he doesn't expand on any knew information and repeats what is in the main text. Also, Bugliosi appears to have left the hard to suss out issues for the End Notes. Such as the controversy regarding Oswald's two wallets where he struggles with the issue and then concludes it was all a confusing mistake and the second wallet actually belonged to policemen Tippit. Or the lack of documentation for the bullet, the famous CE-399. Bugliosi thinks Special Agent Barnwell Odom simply forgot (a contention he denied to researchers when asked).

More End Notes follies coming. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Book Review: Last Word, My Indictment Of The CIA In The Murder of JFK by Mark Lane

The grizzled veteran of many a battle with the Status Quo, attorney Mark Lane has authored a new book, Last Word, My Indictment Of The CIA In The Murder of JFK. In it he covers familiar ground from his personal interviews with witnesses to his trials in getting his first book, Rush to Judgement published, the first popular book to question the Warren Report's findings. From there on, he battles with government and the media, where he suffers many nasty personal attacks but also wins a few victories along the way.

Mark Lane has a tendency to interject himself in the case. This is not without merit. Lane knew John Kennedy personally, was involved with council to Marguerite Oswald, attempted to represent Lee Oswald's case before the Warren Commission, provided testimony to the Commission, and in 1966 published the first popular book critical of the Warren Report, Rush to Judgement. Probably Lane's most noted achievement was successfully defending Spotlight magazine's slander lawsuit filed by E. Howard Hunt, when the magazine accused Hunt of being involved in the Kennedy assassination.

Ultimately, Lane concludes the CIA is the main culprit in the assassination of John Kennedy and the purpose of this book is to build the case.

Only The Pioneers Get The Arrows
Mark Lane takes a break along the way to relate some personal experiences of his years researching the Kennedy assassination. One standout incident he relates is the time he was pillared by New York Times icon Anthony Lewis. The long time liberal intellectual for the Times, attacked Lane in an op-ed piece calling him a ghoul, a pitchman, a creature and unethical among other things. And it didn't end there. According to Lane, Lewis accused him of selling JFK assassination bumper stickers; charing outrageous fees for lecturing; and forecast evil omens of civil cases and potential charges pressed against Lane at his state’s Bar.

As Lane remarked, "Everything that Lewis said was untruthful and none of his fanciful predictions were realized."

Lewis acts as if he was on the Commission and got his labors criticized by Lane. It's such a nasty, slanderous personal attack--so extreme in vitriol--I fail to understand the hostility. But this much hate and insults belies that a nerve was struck; a nerve nobody knew was there. Sent in like a raging pit bull, Anthony Lewis may have overplayed his hand to a hidden master he is serving. As CIA Director William Colby told the Church Committee, every major figure in the press is owned. It's an open secret that the mainstream media is littered with government shills.

Obviously these evil words wounded. Lane notes the irony of Lewis going on a rampage, demanding editors not publish anything Mark Lane writes, or talk show hosts to block his appearances to speak, while at the same time, Lewis wins awards for his alleged commitment to free speech and support of the First Amendment, holding the prestigious James Madison chair at Columbia University's School of Journalism. Indeed, the hypocrisy is glaring and these institutions seem to care little about it. The Big Man of free speech is fine with it till he runs into free speech he doesn't like and then the rules change. All Lane did was have the guts to say he didn't believe the government's story on how John Kennedy was killed. And all of this erupts.

One thing I do admire about Mark Lane--he does not respond back in kind when injured with verbal slings and arrows.

There are other slurs along the way, but one catches enough wind with Anthony Lewis' remarks. Basically all of these attacks ultimately fail. Lane is still writing and publishing books. The majority of the people don't believe the official story. Neither side is ever going away as the battleground shifts to the Internet and beyond.

The Bugliosi Rebuttal
One of my favorite parts of Mark Lane's book is a much needed rebuttal to Vince Bugliosi's slanderous attacks in his book, Reclaiming History. Actually, Lane's rebuttal has been on the Web in an essay he wrote a few years ago. This chapter in Last Word is almost word for word of that essay.

Bugliosi's approach to critics of the Warren Commission is akin to an angry lab monkey slinging feces at anyone who draws near his cage. Every critic great and small gets insulted or else labeled a "conspiracy theorist"–even those people such as Dr. David Mantik, who do not craft theories. As with the Anthony Lewis attacks, I fail to see the rage. Simply saying the "Emperor has no clothes," supported with the facts, is not a cause for such nastiness. Unless of recourse, you are on the Emperor's staff (such as Max Holland is).

According to Mark Lane, everything Vince Bugliosi says of him is false. From being called a "fraud" to the most egregious–Bugliosi's false claim that Lane misrepresented himself as a police officer to get an interview with an important witness. That last issue is easily debunked by Lane since there is in existence, the original recording which was given to the Warren Commission in 1964. In the recording Lane clearly does not represent Capt. Fitz and only identifies himself in questioning Helen Markham's witnessing of the murder of Dallas police officer J. D. Tippet.

It's a strange blunder on Bugliosi's part, not to mention highly ill responsible. It's also odd that the publisher should have had a team of fact checkers employed to catch mistakes like this. Bugliosi's criticisms of Lane, besides being apparently erroneous, are also slanderous as impersonating a police office is a crime. But, it won't be the first time Bugliosi slandered someone. He was sued for slander by Herbert H. Weisel, his milkman, in the early 1970's and settled the case by agreeing to a $12,500 payment.

Mark Lane answered a question I have long wondered--why didn't he sue Bugliosi for character assassination? Lane's answer is that he didn't want to bring any greater publicity to Bugliosi and his book that flopped in the marketplace. I can understand that but winning a suit could also make a public disgrace of Bugliosi's faulty research and show who the real fraud is.

On the other hand, Lane has sent fair warning of a lawsuit to Tom Hanks and the producers are working with Bugliosi on a 10-part TV series for HBO to be broadcast for the 50th anniversary in 2013 should Bugliosi repeat his attacks on Lane for that show.

Top CIA Man Drops A Huge One
One of greatest admissions in the book is the one made by David Atlee Philips who is a legend in the CIA. He had his fingers in all the pies and knew where a lot of the bodies were buried from operations in Guatemala to Chile and beyond. He eventually rose to become the head of all CIA operations in the Western Hemisphere. Lane documents two incidents David Philips. One, is during the House Select Committee hearings on assassinations when Philips was caught red-handed lying about tape recordings of Oswald speaking which Philips said were erased. They had not been--Lane had gotten an FBI document via a FIOA request. Philips could have been indicted for contempt of Congress and perjury but the funding was cut and Philips skated free.

Secondly, at a USC debate a student asked Philips about Oswald in Mexico City and amazingly, the veteran intelligence officer volunteered that Oswald was never in Mexico City. It's an amazing admission and is documented by virtually no other researcher. Lane comments on how one Warren Commission supporter Bugliosi, who wrote a 1,600 book and never mentioned this fact in all of those pages. (And I should add, the book comes with 958 pages of End Notes on CD-ROM and it's not mentioned there either. At any rate Bugliosi can't because it contradicts the story he is telling.)

Lanes uses this information on Phillips to build his case that the CIA is behind JFK's murder.

Finishing Up
Towards the end of his book, Mark Lane builds a case for CIA wrongdoing. There are assassinations, overthrown governments, media manipulation, CIA run military operations (which still go on today) and wacky mind control experiments. No doubt a nefarious and Machiavellian organization. However, I don't see where Lane really pins down the CIA for John Kennedy's death. Yes, plenty of sins here to be sure. But there is still much that is not known, records still classified for reasons of "National Security" for a full case to be presented. Ultimately, big themes such as this must go conjectural in many respects.

Never the less, Mark Lane's, Last Word, is a lively and fast paced read with plenty of points to show that the Warren Report doesn't pass the smell test and more needs to be done. His response to Anthony Lewis and Vincent Bugliosi's ad hominem attacks makes for a satisfying rebuttal to bullies. Lane displays no bitterness, just an even keeled need to set the record straight.

Last Word, My Indictment Of The CIA In The Murder of JFK by Mark Lane
is available here: Link