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Presumed Guilty: The Official Disposition

The discussion in chapter 1 did not disprove the Commission's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy. It merely showed that, based on the evidence presented in the Report, Oswald's guilt was presumed, not established. The Commission argued a case that is logical only on the premise that Oswald alone was guilty.
      The official assurance is, as is to be expected, the opposite. In the Foreword to its Report, the Commission assures us that it "has functioned neither as a court presiding over an adversary proceeding nor as a prosecutor determined to prove a case, but as a fact finding agency committed to the ascertainment of the truth" (Rxiv). This is to say that neither innocence nor guilt was presumed from the outset of the inquiry, in effect stating that the Commission conducted a "chips-fall-where-they-may" investigation.
      At no time after a final bullet snuffed out the life of the young President did any agency conduct an investigation not based on the premise of Oswald's guilt. Despite the many noble assurances of impartiality, the fact remains that from the time when he was in police custody, Oswald was officially thought to be Kennedy's sole assassin. In violation of his every right and as a guarantee that virtually no citizen would think otherwise, the official belief of Oswald's guilt was shamefully offered to a public grieved by the violent death of its leader, and anxious to find and prosecute the perpetrator of the crime.

The Police Presumption

      Two days after the assassination, the New York Times ran a banner headline that read, in part, "Police Say Prisoner is the Assassin," with a smaller -- but likewise front-page -- heading, "Evidence Against Oswald Described as Conclusive." The article quoted Captain Will Fritz of the Dallas Police Homicide Bureau as having said, "We're convinced beyond any doubt that he killed the President. . . . I think the case is cinched."[1]
      Other newspapers echoed the Times that day. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported: "Police on Saturday said they have an airtight case against pro-Castro Marxist Lee Harvey Oswald as the assassin of President Kennedy."[2] On the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was the headline "Dallas Police Insist Evidence Proves Oswald Killed Kennedy."

      Dallas police said today that Lee Harvey Oswald . . . assassinated President John F. Kennedy and they have the evidence to prove it. . . . "The man killed President Kennedy. We are convinced without any doubt that he did the killing. There were no accomplices," [Captain] Fritz asserted.
      Police Chief Jesse E. Curry outlined this web of evidence that, he said, showed Oswald was the sniper.[3]
      The following day, November 25, was the occasion for yet another banner headline in the Times. In one fell swoop, there was no longer any doubt; it was no longer just the Dallas police who were prematurely convinced of Oswald's guilt. "President's Assassin Shot to Death in Jail Corridor by a Dallas Citizen," the headline proclaimed. There was no room for such qualifiers as "alleged" or "accused." Yet, in this very issue, the Times included a strong editorial that criticized the police pronouncement of guilt:
      The Dallas authorities, abetted and encouraged by the newspaper, TV and radio press, trampled on every principle of justice in their handling of Lee Harvey Oswald. . . . The heinousness of the crime Oswald was alleged to have committed made it doubly important that there be no cloud over the establishment of his guilt.
      Yet -- before any indictment had been returned or any evidence presented and in the face of continued denials by the prisoner -- the chief of police and the district attorney pronounced Oswald guilty.[4]
It is unfortunate that this proper condemnation applies equally to the source that issued it.
      Transcripts of various police interviews and press conferences over the weekend of the assassination (which confirm the above newspaper accounts) demonstrate that, in addition to forming a bias against Oswald through the press, the police made extensive use of the electronic media to spread their improper and premature conclusion.
      On Friday night, November 22, NBC-TV broadcast a press interview with District Attorney Henry Wade, whose comments included these: "I figure we have sufficient evidence to convict him" [Oswald] . . . there's no one else but him (24H751). The next day, Chief Curry, though he cautioned that the evidence was not yet "positive," said that he was convinced. In an interview carried by NBC, Curry asserted, "Personally, I think we have the right man" (24H754). In another interview broadcast by local station WFAA-TV, Curry was asked, "Is there any doubt in your mind, Chief, that Oswald is the man who killed the President?" His response was: "I think this is the man who killed the President" (24H764). In another interview that Saturday, Captain Fritz made the absolute statement:
      There is only one thing that I can tell you without going into the evidence before first talking to the District Attorney. I can tell you that this case is cinched -- that this man killed the President. There's no question in my mind about it. . . . I don't want to get into the evidence. I just want to tell you that we are convinced beyond any doubt that he did the killing. (24H787)
      By November 24, Curry's remarks became much stronger. Local station KRLD-TV aired this remark: "This is the man, we are sure, that murdered the patrolman and murdered -- assassinated the President (24H772)." Fritz stuck to his earlier conviction that Oswald was the assassin (24H788). Now D.A. Henry Wade joined in pronouncing the verdict before trial or indictment:
      WADE: I would say that without any doubt he's the killer -- the law says beyond a reasonable doubt and to a moral certainty which I -- there's no question that he was the killer of President Kennedy.
      Q. That case is closed in your mind?
      WADE: As far as Oswald is concerned yes. (24H823)

The FBI Presumption

      That same day the FBI announced, contrary to the police assertion, that the case was still open and that its investigation, begun the day of the shooting, would continue.[5] This continued investigation climaxed after a duration just short of three weeks. In a series of contrived news "leaks," the Bureau added to the propaganda campaign started by the Dallas Police.
      The decision of the FBI and the Commission was to keep the first FBI Summary Report on the assassination secret.[6] However, even prior to the completion of this report, the newspapers carried frequent "leaked" stories telling in advance what the report would contain. The Commission met in executive session on December 5, 1963, and questioned Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach about these leaks. Katzenbach spoke bluntly. FBI Director Hoover, he related, denied that the leaks originated within the FBI, but "I say with candor to this committee, I can't think of anybody else it could have come from, because I don't know of anybody else that knew that information."[7]
      On December 9, Katzenbach transmitted the completed FBI Report to the Commission. In his covering letter of that date, he again expressed the Justice Department's desire to keep the Report secret, although he felt that "the Commission should consider releasing -- or allowing the Department of Justice to release -- a short press statement which would briefly make the following points." Katzenbach wanted the Commission to assure the public that the FBI had turned up no evidence of conspiracy and that "the FBI report through scientific examination of evidence, testimony and intensive investigation, establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald shot President Kennedy."[8]
      Although the Commission released no such statement, the conclusions of which the Justice Department felt the public should be informed were widely disseminated by the press, through leaks which, according to Katzenbach, must have originated with the FBI. On December 1, the Washington Post in a major article told its readers that "all the police agencies with a hand in the investigation . . . insist that [the case against Oswald] is an unshakable one."[9] Time magazine, in the week before the FBI report was forwarded to the Commission, said of the report, "it will indicate that Oswald, acting in his own lunatic loneliness, was indeed the President's assassin."[10] Newsweek reported that "the report holds to the central conclusion that Federal and local probers had long since reached: that Oswald was the assassin."[11] The New York Times was privy to the most specific leak concerning the FBI report. On December 10 it ran a front-page story headed "Oswald Assassin Beyond a Doubt, FBI Concludes." This article, by Joseph Loftus, began as follows:

      A Federal Bureau of Investigation report went to a special Presidential commission today and named Lee H. Oswald as the assassin of President Kennedy.
      The Report is known to emphasize that Oswald was beyond doubt the assassin and that he acted alone. . . .
      The Department of Justice, declining all comment on the content of the report, announced only that on instruction of President Johnson the report was sent directly to the special Commission.[12]
      All of these news stories, especially that which appeared in the Times, accurately reflect those findings of the FBI report which Katzenbach felt should be made public. The FBI has long claimed that it does not draw conclusions in its reports. The FBI report on the assassination disproves this one of many FBI myths. This report does draw conclusions, as the press reported. In the preface to this once-secret report (released in 1965), the FBI stated:
      Part I briefly relates the assassination of the President and the identification of Oswald as his slayer.
      Part II sets forth the evidence conclusively showing that Oswald did assassinate the President. (CD 1)
      The Commission, in secret executive sessions, expressed its exasperation at the leak of the FBI report. On December 16, Chairman Warren stated:
      CHAIRMAN: Well, gentlemen, to be very frank about it, I have read that report two or three times and I have not seen anything in there yet that has not been in the press.
      SEN. RUSSELL: I couldn't agree with that more. I have read it through once very carefully, and I went through it again at places I had marked, and practically everything in there has come out in the press at one time or another, a bit here and a bit there.[13]
      It should be noted here that even a casual reading of this FBI report and its sequel, the "Supplemental Report" dated January 13, 1964, discloses that neither establishes Oswald's guilt, nor even adequately accounts for all the known facts of the assassination. In neither report is there mention of or accounting for the President's anterior neck wound which, by the night of November 22, was public knowledge around the world. The Supplemental Report, in attempting to associate Oswald with the crime, asserts that a full-jacketed bullet traveling at approximately 2,000 feet per second stopped short after penetrating "less than a finger length" of the President's back. One need not be an expert to discern that this is an impossible event, and indeed later tests confirmed that seventy-two inches of flesh were insufficient to stop such a bullet (5H78). The Commission members themselves, in private, grumbled about the unsatisfactory nature of the FBI report, as the following passage from the December 16 Executive Session reveals:
      MR. MC CLOY: . . . The grammar is bad and you can see they did not polish it all up. It does leave you some loopholes in this thing but I think you have to realize they put this thing together very fast.
      REP. BOGGS: There's nothing in there about Governor Connally.
      CHAIRMAN: No.
      SEN. COOPER: And whether or not they found any bullets in him.
      MR. MC CLOY: This bullet business leaves me confused.
      CHAIRMAN: It's totally inconclusive.[14]
      Thus, by January 1964, the American public had been assured by both the Dallas Police and the FBI that Oswald was the assassin beyond all doubt. For those who had not taken the time to probe the evidence, who were not aware of its inadequacies and limitations, such a conclusion was easy to accept.

The Commission Presumption

      Today there can be no doubt that, despite their assurances of impartiality, the Commission and its staff consciously planned and executed their work under the presumption that Oswald was guilty. The once-secret working papers of the Commission explicitly reveal the prejudice of the entire investigation.
      General Counsel Rankin did not organize a staff of lawyers under him until early in January 1964. Until that time, the Commission had done essentially no work, and had merely received investigative reports from other agencies. Now, Rankin and Warren drew up the plans for the organization of the work that the staff was to undertake for the Commission. In a "Progress Report" dated January 11, from the Chairman to the other members, Warren referred to a "tentative outline prepared by Mr. Rankin which I think will assist in organizing the evaluation of the investigative materials received by the Commission."[15] [see Appendix A -- ratitor] Two subject headings in this outline are of concern here: "(2) Lee Harvey Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy; (3) Lee Harvey Oswald: Background and Possible Motives."[16] Thus, it is painfully apparent that the Commission did, from the very beginning, plan its work with a distinct bias. It would evaluate the evidence from the perspective of "Oswald as the assassin," and it would search for his "possible motives."
      Attached to Warren's "Progress Report" was a copy of the "Tentative Outline of the Work of the President's Commission." This outline reveals in detail the extent to which the conclusion of Oswald's guilt was pre-determined. Section II, "Lee Harvey Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy," begins by outlining Oswald's movements on the day of the assassination. Under the heading "Murder of Tippit," there is the subheading "Evidence demonstrating Oswald's guilt."[17] Even the FBI had refrained from drawing a conclusion as to whether or not Oswald had murdered Officer Tippit. Yet, at this very early point in its investigation, the Commission was convinced it could muster "evidence demonstrating Oswald's guilt."
      Another heading under Section II of the outline is "Evidence Identifying Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy," again a presumptive designation made by a commission that had not yet analyzed a single bit to evidence. The listings of evidence under this heading are sketchy and hardly conclusive, and further reveal the biases of the Commission. Some of the evidence that was to "identify Oswald as the assassin" was "prior similar acts: a) General Walker attack, b) General Eisenhower threat."[18] The we learn that Oswald was also presumed guilty in the attempted shooting of the right-wing General Walker in April 1963.
      Under the additional heading "Evidence Implicating Others in Assassination or Suggesting Accomplices," the Commission was to consider only the possibility that others worked with Oswald in planning or executing the assassination. The outline further reveals that it had been concluded in advance that Oswald had no accomplices, for the last category under this heading suggests that the evidence be evaluated for the "refutation of allegations."[19]
      The Commission was preoccupied with the question of motive. According to the initial outline of its work, it had decided to investigate Oswald's motives for killing the President before it determined whether Oswald had in fact been involved in the assassination in any capacity. At the executive session of January 21, 1964, an illuminating discussion took place between Chairman Warren, General Counsel Rankin, and member Dulles. Dulles wanted to be sure that every possible action was taken to determine Oswald's motive:

      Mr. Dulles: I suggested to Mr. Rankin, Mr. Chairman, that I thought it would be very useful for us, if the rest of you agree, that as items come in that deal with motive, and I have seen, I suppose, 20 or 30 of them already in these various reports, those be pulled together by one of these men, maybe Mr. Rankin himself so that we could see that which would be so important to us.
      Chairman Warren: In other words, to see what we are running down on the question of motive.
      Mr. Dulles: Just on the question of motive I found a dozen or more statements of the various people as to why they thought he [Oswald] did it.
      Warren: Yes.
      Mr. Dulles: Or what his character was, what his aim, and so forth that go into motive and I think it would be very useful to pull that together, under one of these headings, not under a separate heading necessarily.
      Warren: Well, I think that that would probably come under Mr. [Albert] Jenner, wouldn't that, Lee [Rankin], isn't he the one who is bringing together all the facts concerning the life of Oswald?
      Mr. Rankin: Yes, yes. We can get that done. We will see that that is taken care of.
      Warren: Yes.[20]
      The staff, working under the direction of Rankin, was likewise predisposed to the conclusion that Oswald was guilty. Staff lawyer W. David Slawson wrote a memorandum dated January 27 concerning the "timing of rifle shots." He suggested that:
      In figuring the timing of the rifle shots, we should take into account the distance travelled by the Presidential car between the first and third shots. This tends to shorten the time slightly during which Oswald would have had to pull the trigger three times on his rifle.[21] (emphasis added) (emphasis added)
At this early point in the investigation, long before any of the relevant testimony had been adduced, Slawson was positive that Oswald "pulled the trigger three times on his rifle."
      Another staff lawyer, Arlen Specter, expressed the bias of the investigation in a memorandum, dated January 30, in which he offered suggestions for the questioning of Oswald's widow, Marina. Specter felt that certain questions "might provide some insight on whether Oswald learned of the motorcade route from newspapers." He added that "perhaps [Oswald] was inspired, in part by President Kennedy's anti-Castro speech which was reported on November 19 on the front page of the Dallas Times Herald.[22] The implication here is obvious that the President's speech "inspired" Oswald to commit the assassination. Again, it must be emphasized that until Oswald's guilt was a proven fact, which it was not at the time these memoranda were composed, it was mere folly to investigate the factors that supposedly "inspired" Oswald. Such fraudulent investigative efforts demonstrate that Oswald's guilt was taken for granted.
      Rankin had assigned teams of two staff lawyers each to evaluate the evidence according to the five divisions of his "Tentative Outline." Working in Area II, "Lee Harvey Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy," were Joseph Ball as the senior lawyer and David Belin as the junior.[23] On January 30, Belin wrote a very revealing memorandum to Rankin, concerning "Oswald's knowledge that Connally would be in the Presidential car and his intended target."[24] This memorandum leaves no doubt that Belin was quite sure of Oswald's guilt before he began his assigned investigation. He was concerned that Oswald might not have known that Governor Connally was to ride in the presidential limousine because this "bears on the motive of the assassination and also on the degree of marksmanship required, which in turn affects the determination that Oswald was the assassin and that it was not too difficult to hit the intended target two out of three times in this particular situation." The alternatives, as stated by Belin, were as follows:
      In determining the accuracy of Oswald, we have three major possibilities: Oswald was shooting at Connally and missed two of the three shots, two misses striking Kennedy; Oswald was shooting at both Kennedy and Connally and all three shots struck their intended targets; Oswald was shooting only at Kennedy and the second bullet missed its intended target and hit Connally instead.[25]
Belin could not have been more explicit: Three shots were fired and Oswald, whatever his motive, fired them all. Of course, at that point Belin could not possibly have proved that Oswald was the assassin. He merely presumed it and worked on that basis.
      It is important to keep this January 30 Belin memorandum in mind when we consider the 233-page "BALL - BELIN REPORT #1" dated February 25, 1964, and submitted by the authors as a summation of all the evidence they had evaluated up to that point. The "tentative" conclusion reached in this report is that "Lee Harvey Oswald is the assassin of President John F. Kennedy."[26] However, Ball and Belin were careful to include here a new interpretation of their assigned area of work. They wrote:
      We should also point out that the tentative memorandum of January 23 substantially differs from the original outline of our work in this area which had as its subject, "Lee Harvey Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy," and which examined the evidence from that standpoint. At no time have we assumed that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of President Kennedy. Rather, our entire study has been based on an independent examination of all the evidence in an effort to determine who was the assassin of President Kennedy.[27]
      Although this new formulation was no doubt the proper one, the Warren Report makes it abundantly clear that Ball and Belin failed to follow the course outlined in their "Report #1." As we have seen, the only context in which the evidence is presented in the Report is "Lee Harvey Oswald as the Assassin of President Kennedy," even though that blatant description is not used (as it was in the secret working papers). Furthermore, that Belin a month before could write so confidently that Oswald was the assassin completely refutes this belatedly professed intention to examine the evidence without preconceptions. It would appear that in including this passage in "Report #1," Ball and Belin were more interested in leaving a record that they could later cite in their own defense than in conducting an honest, unbiased investigation. Indeed, Belin has quoted this passage publicly to illustrate the impartiality of his work, while neglecting to mention his memorandum of January 30.[28]
      The Warren Report was not completed until late in September 1964, with hearings and investigations extending into the period during which the Report was set in type. Yet outlines for the final Report were drawn up as early as mid-March. These outlines demonstrate that Oswald's guilt was a definite conclusion at the time that sworn testimony was first being taken by the Commission. The first outline was submitted to Rankin at his request by staff lawyer Alfred Goldberg on approximately March 14, according to notations on the outline.[29] Under Goldberg's plan, Chapter Four of the Commission's report would be entitled "Lee Harvey Oswald as the Assassin." Goldberg elaborated:
      This section should state the facts which lead to the conclusion that Oswald pulled the trigger and should indicate the elements in the case which have either not been proven or are based on doubtful testimony. Each of the facts listed below should be reviewed in that light.[30]
      The "facts" enumberated [sic] by Goldberg are precarious. Indeed, as of March 14, 1964, no testimony had been adduced on almost all of the "facts" that Goldberg outlined as contributing to the "conclusion that Oswald pulled the trigger." Goldberg felt that this chapter of the Report should identify Oswald's rifle "as the murder weapon." Under this category he listed "Ballistics" and "Capability of Rifle." Yet the first ballistics testimony was not heard by the Commission until March 31 (3H390ff.). Another of Goldberg's categories is "Evidence of Oswald Carrying Weapon to Texas School Book Depository." Here he does not specify which evidence he had in mind. However, the expert testimony that might have supported the thesis that Oswald carried his rifle to work on the morning of the assassination was not adduced until April 2 and 3 (4H1ff.). This pattern runs through several other factors that Goldberg felt established Oswald's guilt before they were scrutinized by the Commission or the staff. To illustrate: "Testimony of eyewitnesses and employees on fifth floor" -- this testimony was not taken until March 24, at which time the witnesses contradicted several of their previous statements to the federal authorities (3H161ff.); "Medical testimony" -- the autopsy surgeons testified on March 16 (2H347ff.), and medical/ballistics testimony concerning tests with Oswald's rifle was not taken until mid-May (5H74ff.); "Eyewitness Identification of Oswald Shooting Rifle" -- only one witness claimed to make such an identification, and he gave testimony on March 24 (3H140ff.) that was subsequently rejected by the Commission (R145-46).
      On March 26, staff lawyer Norman Redlich submitted another outline of the final Report to Rankin; in almost all respects, Redlich's outline is identical with Goldberg's. Chapter Four is entitled "Lee H. Oswald as the Assassin," with the notation that "this section should state the facts which lead to the conclusion that Oswald pulled the trigger. . . ."[31] In general, Redlich is vaguer than Goldberg in his listing of those "facts" which should be presented to support the conclusion of Oswald's guilt. However, he does specify what he considers to be "evidence of Oswald carrying weapon to building." One factor, he wrote, is the "fake curtain rod story." Yet, when Redlich submitted this outline, no investigation had been conducted into the veracity of the "curtain rod story." The first information relevant to this is contained in an FBI report dated March 28 (24H460-61), and it was not until the last day in August that further inquiry was made (CE2640).
      The pattern is consistent. The Commission outlined its work and concluded that Oswald was guilty before it did any investigation or took any testimony. The Report was outlined, including a chapter concluding that Oswald was guilty, before the bulk of the Commission's work was completed. Most notably, these conclusions were drafted before the staff arranged a series of tests that were to demonstrate whether the official theories about how the shooting occurred were physically possible. A series of ballistics tests using Oswald's rifle, and an on-site reconstruction of the crime in Dealey Plaza were conducted in May; the Report was outlined in March. On April 27, Redlich wrote Rankin a memorandum "to explain the reasons why certain members of the staff feel that it is important" to reconstruct the events in Dealey Plaza as depicted in motion pictures of the assassination. Redlich stated that the Report would "presumably" set forth a version of the assassination shots concluding "that the bullets were fired by one person located in the sixth floor southeast corner window of the TSBD building." He then pointed out:
      As our investigation now stands, however, we have not shown that these events could possibly have occurred in the manner suggested above. All we have is a reasonable hypothesis which appears to be supported by the medical testimony but which has not been checked out against the physical facts at the scene of the assassination.[32]
      Thus, Redlich admitted that the Commission did not know if the conclusions already outlined were even physically possible. But his suggestion of on-site tests should not be taken to indicate his desire to establish the untainted truth, for he explicitly denied such a purpose in his memorandum. Instead, he wrote:

      Our intention is not to establish the point with complete accuracy, but merely to substantiate the hypothesis which underlies the conclusions that Oswald was the sole assassin.[33]
This is as unambiguous a statement as can be imagined. The reconstruction was not to determine whether it was physically possible for Oswald to have committed the murder as described by the Commission; it was "merely to substantitate" [sic] the preconceived conclusion "that Oswald was the sole assassin."
      On April 30, three days after Redlich composed the above-quoted memorandum, the Commission met in another secret executive session. Here Rankin added to the abundant proof that the Commission had already concluded that Oswald was guilty. The following exchange was provoked when Dulles expressed his well-voiced preoccupation with biographical data relating to Oswald:
      Mr. Dulles: Detailed biography of Lee Harvey Oswald -- I think that ought to be somewhere.
      Mr. Rankin: We thought it would be too voluminous to be in the body of the report. We thought it would be helpful as supplementary material at the end.
      Mr. Dulles: Well, I don't feel too strongly about where it should be. This would be -- I think some of the biography of Lee Harvey Oswald, though, ought to be in the main report.
      Mr. Rankin: Some of it will be necessary to tell the story and to show why it is reasonable to assume that he did what the Commission concludes that he did do.[34] (emphasis added)
      As late as the middle of May, long after the Commission and the staff had decided, in advance of analyzing the evidence, that Oswald was guilty, Commission member McCloy expressed his feeling that the conclusion as to Oswald's guilt was not being pursued with enough vigor by the staff. McCloy was not interested in a fair and objective report. This story was related by David Belin in his memorandum of May 15, which described his trip to Dallas with certain Commission members, McCloy included. One night in Dallas, Belin persuaded McCloy to read "Ball-Belin Report # 1," which by then was almost three months old. Belin recounts McCloy's reactions:
      He seemed to misunderstand the basic purpose of the report, for he suggested that we did not point up enough arguments to show why Oswald was the assassin. . . . Commissioner McCloy did state that in the final report he thought that we should be rather complete in developing reasons and affirmative statements why Oswald was the assassin -- he did not believe that it should just merely be a factual restatement of what we had found.[35]
      As quoted at the opening of this chapter, the Warren Report asserted that the Commission functioned not "as a prosecutor determined to prove a case, but as a fact finding agency committed to the ascertainment of the truth." This statement is clearly a misrepresentation of the Commission's real position, as expressed in private by McCloy when he told Belin that he wanted a report that argued a prosecution case, and not simply "a factual restatement."
      The Dallas Police and the FBI both announced their "conclusion" before it could have been adequately substantiated by facts and, in so doing, almost irrevocably prejudiced the American public against Oswald and thwarted an honest and unbiased investigation. The Commission operated under a facade of impartiality. Yet it examined the evidence -- and subsequently presented it -- on the premise that Oswald was guilty, a premise openly stated in secret staff memoranda and reinforced when the members met in secret sessions. Now, as the curtain of secrecy that once sheltered the working papers of the investigation is lifted, the ugly and improper presumption of guilt becomes obvious. Wesley Liebeler expressed the prejudice of the entire "investigation" when he argued to Rankin in a once-secret memorandum that " . . . the best evidence that Oswald could fire as fast as he did and hit the target is the fact that he did so."[36]


  1. New York Times, November 24, 1963, p. 1.

  2. Philadelphia Inquirer, November 24, 1963.

  3. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 24, 1963.

  4. New York Times, November 25, 1963, p. 18.

  5. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 24, 1963, p. 2.

  6. Transcript of the December 5, 1963, Executive Session of the Warren Commission, pp. 10-11.

  7. Ibid., p. 8.

  8. Letter from Nicholas Katzenbach to Chief Justice Warren, dated December 9, 1963. This letter is available from the National Archives.

  9. Washington Post, December 1, 1963.

  10. Time, December 13, 1963, p. 26.

  11. Newsweek, December 16, 1963, p. 26.

  12. New York Times, December 10, 1963, p. 1.

  13. Transcript of the December 16, 1963, Executive Session of the Warren Commission, p. 11.

  14. Ibid., p. 12.

  15. "Progress Report" by Chairman Warren, p. 4, attached to "Memorandum for Members of the Commission" from Mr. Rankin, dated January 11, 1964.

  16. The "Tentative Outline of the Work of the President's Commission" was attached to the memorandum mentioned in note 15.

  17. Ibid.

  18. Ibid.

  19. Ibid.

  20. Transcript of the January 21, 1964, Executive Session of the Warren Commission, pp. 10-11.

  21. Memorandum from W. David Slawson to Mr. Ball and Mr. Belin, dated January 27, 1964, "SUBJECT: Time of Rifle Shots," located in the "Slawson Chrono. File."

  22. Memorandum from Arlen Specter to Mr. Rankin, dated January 30, 1964, concerning the questioning of Marina Oswald, p. 3.

  23. "Memorandum to the Staff," from Mr. Rankin, dated January 13, 1964, p. 3.

  24. "Memorandum" from David W. Belin to J. Lee Rankin, dated January 30, 1964. This document was discovered in the National Archives by Harold Weisberg and was first presented in Post Mortem I, pp. 61-62.

  25. Ibid.

  26. "Ball-Belin Report #1," dated February 25, 1964, p. 233.

  27. Ibid., pp. 1-2.

  28. See "Truth Was My Only Goal," by David Belin in The Texas Observer, August 13, 1971, p. 14.

  29. "Memorandum" from Alfred Goldberg to J. Lee Rankin, dated "approx 3/14, 1964.

  30. "Proposed Outline of Report," attached to the memorandum referred to in note 29. This outline was discovered in the National Archives by Harold Weisberg and is presented in Post Mortem I, p. 123.

  31. "Proposed Outline of Report (Submitted by Mr. Redlich)," attached to "Memorandum" from Norman Redlich to J. Lee Rankin, dated March 26, 1964. This document was discovered in the National Archives by Harold Weisberg and is presented in Post Mortem I, p. 132.

  32. "Memorandum" from Norman Redlich to J. Lee Rankin, dated April 27, 1964. This document was discovered in the National Archives by Harold Weisberg and is presented in Post Mortem I, pp. 132-34.

  33. Ibid.

  34. Transcript of the April 30, 1964, Executive Session of the Warren Commission, p. 5891.

  35. Memorandum from Mr. Belin to Mr. Rankin, dated May 15, 1964, p. 5.

  36. Liebeler 9/6/64 Memorandum, p. 25.

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